Caveat Emptor

Caveat Emptor

Original Artwork & Interactive Companion Story.

Inspired by Classic RPGs & the Realms of High Fantasy

 

Begin your adventure below:

You, the intrepid seeker, have spent many years treading a winding trail through village and kingdom, forest and marsh, mountain and shore - in pursuit. 

Tucked in your pocket is a small, torn map corner with a gold insignia marking your destination, loot from a small-town tavern bet with a hooded stranger. You cannot remember catching a glimpse of the stranger’s face under their heavy cloak, and perhaps the memory is fogged by time, ale, or magical concealment.You do recall every word of the tale that the stranger had told, after you won the piece of map from them. The din and bustle of the tavern seemed to lower and fall away when they spoke to you.

“This would show you the way. Not all the way, of course, but you can’t get there without it. Some will tell you that it doesn’t exist, but I know what I have seen. Elarianthia Arcanum - a vast library, hidden deep within a forest. Which forest? You may never know. It is enchanted, and appears somewhere new at the start of the year. Every year, if you do not find the location, the map will shift, and you will have to start your quest over again. 

Listen to me carefully: The library conceals a repository for treasure, the likes of which you have never seen in this village. Objects of powerful magic and wondrous mystery lie within this vault. Do not enter this quest lightly. The price of entry can be insignificant, or all consuming, depending on your choices. May they be better than mine”

You awoke the next day in your bed, the map clutched to your heart like a love note. This little paper changed the course of your life and gave you a reason to leave your birthplace for the promise of adventure. A long time has passed since you walked away, though you still remember how the village looked from afar, cottages and farms fading away until they were tiny dots littering the gray flatlands. 

You don’t know exactly what you are looking for, as the memory of the stranger has faded into mist, save for their story. You never have. You only know that you must forge ahead. 

At times you think of returning to home, but the thought of arriving empty-handed, in defeat, gives you a sharp ache in your chest. No, you will not return to the muddy expanse of farms and fields. Pausing at your campsite after breakfast, you inspect your handmade map. A large scroll containing the cartography of the world as it is known to you thus far. You sigh as you move the scrap around, attempting to see if the shred will fit on the map as a puzzle piece would. 

It is December now, and snow covers the hillside where you stopped to rest for the night. 

You do this every morning, as you have for years. At midnight on the last day of the month, the scrawl on the paper will change. You have less than a week to locate the library for the year. You look off into the distance, wondering what you are missing, when a glint in the corner of your eye draws you back to the map. The insignia glows brightly in the sun, as the scrap absorbs into your own map, ink swirling beneath your hands. When the map’s reconfiguration comes to a halt, you see the insignia still positioned firmly on the page, about a mile from where you stand. Only this time, you know where it is, and you know how to get there.

Deciding to leave your camp where it is, in order to get to your quarry more quickly, you press on. Half running through the trees, nearly tripping over gnarled roots and slippery moss, you make your way towards the place the insignia marked, over the densest part of the forest. As you approach, the rushing of water fills your ears, and an otherworldly light shines brightly through the thick branches.

Moving swiftly beneath the emerald veil of leaves, tucking boughs tenderly to the side, You see the dazzling light fade slightly, and the library materializes from the mist.

Across the ravine, you see a huge, golden structure, like a small city with spiraling staircases connecting the buildings. The labyrinthine form juts out from the cliff face, as if it were carved into the mountain itself, and then drenched in molten gold. A waterfall thunders beside it, flecking the metal-coated stone with crystalline droplets that refract like a hundred prisms in the sunlight, and puddle in gleaming pools on the balconies. Plants and flowers climb up from the ground, spilling over the bridge to the gateway and seeping into the seams of the stones that pave every step you take to the gateway.

Elarianthia Arcanum. Finally, you have reached the subject of your quest. The promise of completion beckons you through massive doors 

Venturing forth, your footfalls echo through the quiet expanse of books, neatly lined up on polished wood shelves. A well kept collection, clearly beloved by whomever lives here, though you have not seen a soul since you entered. Your mind is filled with questions, dampened only slightly by the awe of seeing this place for the first time. Walking on through winding stacks, to the end of the largest hallway, you have found your way to The Keeper.

The Library’s Keeper, a lovely-looking woman of indiscernible age, sits behind a regal oak desk, beside a steaming cup of tea. You note that the desk is neatly organized, and she is steadily scribing, producing a rhythmic scratch as she catalogs the books stacked beside her. There is kindness in her eyes, like that of a mother gazing lovingly upon their child. 

Placing a hand under her chin and tilting her headin your direction, you see her lips part in a knowing smile, as if she had been awaiting your arrival. "Have you come for a book? Or something more intriguing?" She glances behind her at the massive golden door, bearing an inscription in a language you don’t understand. It reads  “CAVEAT EMPTOR”. Intrigued, you leaned closer, drawn by curiosity, and the knowledge you already possess of this place. 

"How might I enter?" You inquire, “and what lies beyond this door?”

With a nod of acknowledgement, she reveals to you the price of entry.

"To unlock the door, you will need to offer a solitary drop of your blood. No more, no less. I cannot tell you what lies in the room beyond, but only that you should heed the warning” pointing at the inscription, she whispers “let the buyer beware”.

Cautions plucked from the fairy tales of home fill your head, and you remember what happened to the girl who pricked her finger on the spindle and fell asleep. You hesitate, but the kind demeanor of The Keeper, together with the allure of the unknown eclipses your doubts. You glance at the heavy, ornate door, and only then do you perceive the peculiar design, a single, glistening spike where a knob or knocker should be. Indicating your agreement, you extend your hand. She smiles and returns to her cataloging endeavors. 

Your fingertip meets the metal's sharp point. A sharp and shortlived sting, as a single drop of blood appears and then evaporates. You pull your hand back quickly as the door responds with a nearly imperceptible sigh, swinging wide. A warm wind blows past you and then pushes you gently forward. You let the breeze guide you along in the darkness, as if helping you  make passage to a realm beyond mortal grasp. 

As you step out of the shadows, anticipation tangled up in your throat,you find yourself within a small chamber with a stone floor and walls of black draped velvet. The only objects in the room are on a wooden plinth, bathed in the soft glow of a solitary skylight. You feel pulled to the table, the light illuminating the table like the north star in the darkest of nights. 

As you put your hand over the table, a strange, lilting voice emanates from the shadows: “Welcome, little wanderer. Your passage has been granted freely, paid by a drop of your life’s precious essence. A choice now awaits you. Select one of the items on the table. Survey them with your sight alone, for the touch of your hand shall bind you to your choice…..choose with care.”

The voice disappears, and you are able to inspect the items. Each one could carry a wondrous, useful, and powerful enchantment, or it could curse you. You have no way of knowing which is which. You feel the wind trying to guide you back out, and you know now that you have only a few moments to make your decision. 

In this dreamlike moment, you reach out, your fingertips drawn to one of these treasures. You make your choice, but only time will reveal the path it unfolds, the stories it whispers, and the fate it weaves. As you touch your chosen object, you hear the turning of a page, and darkness fills the room once more as you are pulled out through the passage.

What do you take?
CHOOSE, AND CHOOSE CAREFULLY
Find your ending by clicking on the items linked below the artwork. I recommend reading them all after you find your item first!
Prints are available HERE

The Gilded Tome - Sits with its spine facing away, so you are completely unsure of the contents, the subject, or the title. The gilding on the pages is faded, but still catches the light.

The bouquet of flowers - A beautiful and vivid arrangement, You notice the petals moving ever so slightly, as if alive. dancing with a life of their own, 

A bundle of redcurrants - They look unlike any fruit you have ever seen. Glassine orbs, a sanguine, lush red. 

The book of music -  you can see it is a book of music, from the open page. It is a song whose combination of notes you've never heard before.

The hourglass - a simple wooden hourglass, its sands nearly spent. Only a few grains remain at the top.

A single, Tiny, pink Flower -a fragile flower, delicate and exquisite. 

A Skull - clearly timeworn and human - the skull has eye sockets so dark you cannot see into them, but somehow it does not make you afraid.

Endings below coming soon!

The Sword - ornate and weathered, clearly a relic used in battle before it came to lay on the table.

The golden chalice - a simple, yet beautiful drinking cup lying spilled on its side.

The book of poetry: Lying open to the "Lay of Sir Launfal," an Arthurian tale that weaves verses of chivalry, love, and adventure.

 A holy book -  it is written in a language you don’t understand. You can tell it is a religious text from the common formatting for such a book, but not what religion it represents.

A small book of unknown subject - You can gather this is a book of magical and/or scientific significance, You know this because you see one word on the page, a reference to a great wizard named “Einstein” who lived thousands of years ago.

A small, worn looking wooden bowl -The small wooden bowl, worn with the touch of countless hands, speaks of sustenance and simplicity. 

A few glassy, luscious looking raspberries - Luscious raspberries, glistening like jewels, hide behind the redcurrants tucked into the wooden bowl.

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