The Book of Inner Alchemy was a book written by the Ren Brothers of Shou Lung. It detailed ki techniques in martial arts and healing, the creation of magic items and weapons, and ways of achieving immortality.[note 1]
Description[edit | edit source]
In appearance, it was an unremarkable book of average thickness in olive-green covers. It was very well made and in excellent condition, bar slight damage to the corners. Within, it had both paper pages displaying and silk sheets with painted illustrations, with silk threads used to sew them into the binding. While the paper had aged, the illustrations on silk remained fresh and clear by the late 1400s DR.
The text was written in the Shou language in Shou Chiang characters,[note 2] in columns that ran from top to bottom and right to left. The illustrations were medical diagrams indicating the flow of ki through a humanoid body and methods for its cultivation.
History[edit | edit source]
The Ren Brothers were three early masters of the Way of the Open Hand who transformed its martial arts techniques into tools for attaining immortality. They compiled their research and discoveries in The Book of Inner Alchemy and kept it to themselves.
Regardless, rumors of an ancient book holding the secrets of immortality through martial arts spread through the martial world and the Ren Brothers expected many would come hunting for it. Although conflicted in their need to preserve their knowledge and their guilt of using it, and fearing the chaos such knowledge would cause in the world, the Ren Brothers placed it in the immense Candlekeep library, hidden and forgotten amongst countless other books. Exactly when it first appeared in the library was lost to history, but it remained there for centuries and was known to be one of the oldest works there by the late 15th century.
Then, in the Year of Three Ships Sailing, 1492 DR, The Book of Inner Alchemy was found by the corrupted monk Bak Mei of the Order of the Immortal Lotus. He sent his apprentices Steel Crane and Jade Tigress to steal it—they murdered two Avowed monks, ransacked the library, and cut several pages from the book, namely those detailing the gloves of soul catching. Adventurers who'd come researching The Book of Inner Alchemy for unrelated reasons may have been informed, retrieved the missing pages, and defeated the rogue monks.
Contents[edit | edit source]
The Book of Inner Alchemy contained much esoteric lore on ki and the mental, physical, and spiritual techniques used to cultivate and manipulate it in healing, martial arts, or other extraordinary acts. These focused on meditation, controlled breathing, and a disciplined spirit. However, these were but the fundamentals of ki.
It went on to detail martial arts techniques involving the pressure points on humanoid bodies and how to strike at and even steal ki from another. It presented theories on how to combine the natural energies of "the primordial trifecta" of essence (that is, body), mind, and soul and even how one might join their physical and spiritual parts of oneself to become immortal. However, it observed that one embarking on his was likely to encounter obstacles: a lack of wisdom could corrupt the soul, violent acts could taint the body, and ego and emotional attachment could weaken the mind.
Subsequently, there was a section on rituals for fashioning magic items and magic weapons to enhance combat prowess and shortcut the process for combining the primordial trifecta. This was accompanied by accounts of gruesome experiments the Ren Brothers carried out on captured animals and people for their research and development. In particular, the gloves of soul catching required the sacrifice of three great people to craft and their necromantic power permitted one to drain life from others and cheat in combining the primordial trifecta. The instructions were hidden, revealed only in the light of the moon on diagrams showing ki flowing through hands.
Because of this dangerous lore, the Avowed of Candlekeep refused to make copies of The Book of Inner Alchemy, but would provide translation.
Appendix[edit | edit source]
Background[edit | edit source]
Despite the subject matter, the cover of the book appears to depict a limited form of the Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci, a work of art and geometry.
Notes[edit | edit source]
- The actual origin of the Ren Brothers and the The Book of Inner Alchemy is not stated in Candlekeep Mysteries, but given the Chinese theme, the close association with the Way of the Open Hand, and the great age, this article assumes it to be Shou Lung.
- Again, Candlekeep Mysteries only specifies "the language of the lands to the east of Faerûn", which could be any one of many Kara-Turan languages. Given the assumption of Shou Lung, this article assumes one of the Shou languages and the Shou Chiang script.