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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
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 avoided...an 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
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 again...how 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
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.
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
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
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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