It’s a keep for books, not candles
Candlekeep is a fortress like no other. Ensconced within its protective walls is the greatest library on the face of the Forgotten Realms. A bastion of knowledge, insight and learning. The place is the home of the Avowed, a group of scholars that maintain the libraries, share knowledge and revere the great seer Alaundo whose prophecies foretold of many events that occur in the Forgotten Realms.
Candlekeep can be found at the top of a rocky outcropping along the Sword Coast and overlooking the Sea of Swords. It’s situated 120 miles south of Baldur’s Gate and can be accessed via a path known as the Way of the Lion. The waves of the Sea of Swords often splashes up towards the walls of Candlekeep with mists rolling in from the west. The winters there are often cold causing an icing over of some of the towers of the keep, making them uninhabitable for months at a time.
The walls of the keep are 50ft tall, solid stone structures set around the even taller walls of the keep and the towers. The gates of the keep are 3 times the size of a man facing Eastward, away from the sea and the sigil of Candlekeep (a castle with flames) adorn the tall turrets of the keep. On top of this, Candlekeep is protected by layers of magical wards designed to protect the inhabitants and the contents of the library. Wards against teleportation, flame and even degradation of literature from mold or insects are maintained around Candlekeep. Each of the Avowed are powerful archmages capable of defending the keep from an overwhelming force if necessary.
Within the keep itself is the majestic library, rows upon rows of books. To enter the keep itself, one must provide a book not already found within the walls of Candlekeep. Within the cloisters of the keep dwell the Avowed.
Beneath the keep are vast catacombs and sewers that are only accessible on occasion by those with permission to enter. Typically, such places are only accessed by the Avowed when seeking greater knowledge from a deceased scholar who might be summoned to enlighten them. When this occurs, they will do so within the Chamber of Lost Lore.
Candlekeep is not a highly populated place with inhabitants of a similar number to that of a large village, they are led by the order of the Avowed who follow, practice and maintain a code within the walls of the keep. At the top of the Avowed’s hierarchy is The Keeper of Tomes. His word is considered law within the walls of Candlekeep and it is he that determines the other positions of members of the Avowed. The Keeper of Tomes is served the First Reader whose primary function is to obtain new literature to keep within the great library. He serves with 8 highly learned scholars, each specialising in a different field, known as the Great Readers. They are considered the eminent experts in their particular field of study.
Candlekeep enforces a unique and absolute rule forbidding the destruction of knowledge, no matter its form. Banishment is the punishment for any that would be destroyers of knowledge. Most other laws are common to those of other civilisations such as the prohibition of violence, theft and damage. Those within Candlekeep are also forbidden from copying any of the documents held within the library.
Candlekeep is a well-known location in the Forgotten Realms and has appeared in various media. Most notable is in the Baldur’s Gate video games (and the books detailing these events) in which the Bhaalspawn protagonist is raised there by their adopted father, Gorion. It is not until the keep is threatened by Sarevok Anchev, another Bhaalspawn, that the protagonist is forced to abandon their home. On their return, the protagonist discovers that dopplegangers have infiltrated every layer of the keep’s inhabitants and seek to murder the Bhaalspawn.
Wizards of the Coast also released Candlekeep Mysteries in 2021; a series of 17 Dungeons & Dragons adventures where each adventure starts with a book from Candlekeep that leads to a door through which danger and adventure await. These adventures can be played as one off sessions, added into an existing campaign, or easily adapted to another setting.