Chapter #1006

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                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic V      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of Wizards of the Coast  +
+   which has in no way endorsed or authorized their use.  Any such       +
+   property contained within these stories are not representative of     +
+   Wizards of the Coast in any fashion.                                  +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2016 by Thomas A. Miller.  Any resemblance to any persons        +
+   or characters either real or fictional is utterly coincidental.       +
+   Copying and/or distribution of these stories is permissible under     +
+   the sole condition that no money is made in the process.  In that     +
+   case, I hope you enjoy them!                                          +
+   Belphanior     18th/18th/18th level elven fighter/wizard/thief        +
+   Hope           16th level female human wizard                         +
+   Irina          7th/14th level female human warrior/priestess          +
+   Neera          12th level female human wizard (sage/astrologer)       +
+   Otto           12th/14th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Razor Charlie  12th level human fighter                               +
+   Skektek        14th level human wizard                                +
+   Ys             14th level reptilian fighter                           +
+   wispy thing    strange, intangible sentient being                     +
+                                                                         +
+   Mongo          19th level dwarven fighter                             +
+   Date:          6/4/581 C.Y. (Common Year)                             +
+   Time:          late morning                                           +
+   Place:         a dungeon within the northeastern Yatil Mountains      +
+   Climate:       cold                                                   +
+   "It wasn't humanly possible for anyone to follow me!"                 +
+   "Then someone has inhumanly followed you."                            +
+            _The Six Million Dollar Man_ episode _Carnival of Spies_     +

                   MVI.  Draconic Motivations

  In pursuit of the dragon Mesoloth's treasure, the adventurers have
used powerful magic to locate and travel to a specific site within the
Yatil Mountains.  Now, they stand within the mountain, facing a massive
portal of wood, bolstered with iron bands.

Mongo:  I've seen tougher doors.
Belphanior:  Maybe, but you haven't seen one with a trap like this.  The
  section of floor just in front of the door is actually an iron plate,
  disguised as stone; the door itself holds a powerful electrical charge
  which will fry anyone who touches it while standing before it.  So the
  solution is to not be standing on the ground when opening it...flying
  or levitation.
Skektek:  Or to have a lightning rod.  Damn, I miss that.  And all the
  other good stuff I've lost over the years.  I sure hope this second
  lair has some good treasure.

  Once the trap was bypassed and the door opened, there was a lever on
the other side which disarmed the electrical charge.  Beyond the door was
a roughly-cut passage, averaging ten feet across, that gradually sloped
downward.  They now saw the first real sign of actual habitation:  iron
sconces containing torches were set into the wall every twenty feet or
so, and these lit themselves as the adventurers approached.

Hope:  Well, that's convenient.
Belphanior:  It's also meant to lull us into a false sense of safety.
  There are some dangerous traps ahead.  (he unrolls a parchment)  But
  fortunately, I made detailed notes after I looked into the past.  (he
  advances into the corridor, followed by the others)  Everyone follow
  my lead and be careful, and we'll be fine.

  As the passage wound its way down into the heart of the mountain, the
floor occasionally changing from a simple slope to a few steps cut into
the stone, Belphanior identified and disarmed other traps.  A pair of
well-concealed large, razor-sharp blades swung down from the ceiling as
a particular section of stone floor was trod upon...a false section of
passage floor gave way to a pit of deadly spikes below...the walls to
the left and right fired volleys of small, sharp, poisoned darts that
would have turned an unsuspecting explorer into a pincushion...a glyph
of warding, powerful but invisible, had to be unseen cloud
of poisonous gas the same color as the air hung amidst the passage...
these were just some of the perils that Belphanior, with his knowledge
of the dungeon, safely guided the group past.  The elf's research had
been extensive, his preparations careful and thorough; for each obstacle,
he was ready with the proper solution.

Belphanior:  (opens another door from the far side)  That one had a trap
  geared to an intruder in physical form, thus the potion of gaseous form
  that I used to bypass it, disarm the trap, and open the door from the
  other side.
Skektek:  Okay, I'll admit it.  When I first saw the loom, I thought it
  was some silly, artistic item not worth having.  But the thing sure did
  come in handy for this purpose.
Belphanior:  (furrows his brow)  And I'm just getting started.  But first
  things first.  Let's get through these traps and into the dragon's lair.
Mongo:  How much more is there?
Otto:  Yeah, really.  This seems like it'd be an awful lot of trouble for
  the dragon to have gone through every single time it came home.
Belphanior:  Honestly, my impression was that this was its second home,
  and it didn't come here that much.  The other lair was used most of
  the time, while this one was more of a storage place or archive.
Skektek:  Storage?  Archive?  (he sighs, grumbling to himself)  I hope
  it doesn't turn out to be a pile of dusty old crap.
Belphanior:  (smiles vaguely to himself)
Hope:  Maybe each of the dragon's heads preferred a different lair, and
  so it - they - made two.
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces, unable to embrace this thought process)
Mongo:  So, I ask much more is there?
Belphanior:  Oh, sorry.  To answer all of the questions...first, getting
  through these traps wasn't a big deal for the dragon, due to all of its
  spells and powers...a bit tedious, perhaps, but you can't leave a vast
  hoard unguarded.
Mongo:  Nor should you.
Belphanior:  And the traps are done.  There's just one more antechamber.

  They had moved into a larger area, a natural cavern roughly a hundred
feet across and almost that high.

Otto:  Looks like the sort of area where a big monster or other guardian
  might be stationed, to stop intruders.
Belphanior:  Yeah, it does...except there's nothing here.  The dragon may
  have intended to put a sentry here at some point, but as of the day we
  fought him, it hadn't happened.  (he points to the far wall)  That big
  iron ring there is bolted into a section of cavern wall which can be
  pulled open by someone with great strength, like a giant or a dragon.
Mongo:  (smirks)

  The group began crossing the cavern floor, heading for the far side of
the chamber and the iron ring that Belphanior had pointed out.

wispy thing:  (floating through the air to the side of the party)  spaaa. 
Ys:  (looking around, eyeing the empty cavern)  Odd.
Otto:  Yeah, I know.  This bothers me.  It somehow feels like it was too
  easy...there should have been more traps, or guards, or SOMETHING.
Razor Charlie:  (nods, grimacing)
Neera:  (frowns)  If you think about it, this place is actually fairly
  well-protected.  First, you'd have to know that it was here, and second,
  you'd have to know exactly where it was - both of which we only did
  because of the Loom of Ages.  We're hundreds of feet into the heart of
  the mountain.
Otto:  A thousand, more like it.
Neera:  Right.  So third, there were thirty feet of solid rock to be
  bypassed, which is well beyond the ability of the average person or
  monster alike.  Fourth, there was a series of formidable traps that
  would have stopped ninety-nine out of a hundred people, especially
  ones who didn't know that they were there or how they worked.  As far
  as I can see, the only way to make this place more secure would have
  been to shroud it in an anti-magic zone and then protect it with a
  bunch of deadly physical traps.  And a highly magic-oriented dragon
  would never have a lair within an anti-magic zone.
Otto:  (shaking his head)  It's still tough to accept.  (he turns toward
  Belphanior)  Are we sure?
Belphanior:  I'm sure.  Remember, this isn't the lair of some long-dead
  person who wanted their treasure protected.  It's the lair of someone,
  or should I say something, that lived and breathed, and actually came
  here now and then.  It wouldn't have wanted to deal with too much of
  its own security every single time.  The way I see it, just knowing
  where to go, and flying or assuming gaseous form at the right times,
  would have gotten Mesoloth past most of the obstacles.  And again, I do
  believe that the dragon someday planned to put a guardian or guardians
  in this cavern, as a final barrier to its lair.  (he grabs the massive
  iron ring set into the wall)  Fortunately for us, it hadn't yet gotten
  around to that.

next:       the true treasure of Mesoloth
released:   4/15/2016
notes:      Every time I design a lair for some powerful monster or bad
  guy (or maybe even a good guy) I try to think about its security vs its
  ease of entry.  What I mean by that is, yeah, if you have a cool home
  full of cool treasures, sure you need to protect it...but not to the
  point where there are a dozen traps that would have to be bypassed each
  time you, the legitimate occupant, wanted to come home.  No sane being
  would have a home like that - only insane ones, or dead ones who knew
  they were going to die and didn't want anyone to get their stuff.
    Mesoloth was neither.  It was an intelligent being with a true love
  of magical lore and items, and as such, I believe that it would have
  built a repository for such possessions, to store and display them, if
  for no other reason that its own private gratification.
    And so, after originally writing a lengthy section of prose for the
  entry to Mesoloth's second lair, including detailed accounts of the
  explorers bypassing a score of traps thanks to Belphanior's ability to
  look into the past and see when and how Mesoloth set those traps...but
  I scrapped that whole section and instead used a shorter, streamlined
  version.  I also nixed the idea of there being some tough monster set
  up as a guardian in the final antechamber (after all the traps, before
  the lair.)  Why?  Because enough was enough.  I point you back to what
  I first said in this section:  if you have to go through a lot of work
  to enter your home, it's not a home.  I have gone through this exact
  same logic in real life when thinking about how I'd display my valuable
  collectibles while also still protecting them, and there's just no good
  way.  If you have good stuff, you just can't show it off without there
  being some risk of thievery.  You have to draw a line at some point,
  and have some balance.
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