Chapter #1007

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                                   +   +
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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:          midday                                                 +
+   Place:         a dungeon within the northeastern Yatil Mountains      +
+   Climate:       cold                                                   +
+   "I welcome any enterprise that will increase my stock...which is      +
+    considerable."                                                       +
+                                 - Auric Goldfinger, from _Goldfinger_   +

                   MVII.  Hidden Hoard

  After using powerful magic items to find and bypass the various traps
and other protections guarding the secret lair of the slain purple dragon
Mesoloth, the adventurers stand before the final portal.

Belphanior:  (grabs the massive iron ring set into the rock wall at one
  end of the cavern)  See?  No traps here.  I know this from my scrying
  of the past, and also from what I can see here, now.  (his crystal eye
Mongo:  Fine, but it doesn't look like you have the strength to pull it
  open.  Stand aside.

  The dwarf put his hammer back on its belt hook, grabbed the thick ring
of iron, set his feet...and pulled.  With a deep rumble, a ten-foot-wide
(and about three-foot thick) section of the stone wall opened on unseen
hinges.  Behind this portal was a stairway leading down; it was ten feet
across at the top but widened as it descended, curving away slightly to
the right.  From the top of the steps, just inside the stone door, they
could see that the bottom of the stairway was about twenty feet below,
opening into a much larger room.  They could see this because something
in that chamber below shone brightly, illuminating the as-yet-unseen area.

Otto:  What the hell?
Belphanior:  Prepare yourselves.  (without another word, he begins to
  walk down the wide but shallow stone steps)
Hope:  This is weird.  It's like he knows everything.
Neera:  In this case, he probably actually does.

  They followed the elf down the stairs, turning slightly to the right
near the bottom, and finally got a look at the room beyond.

Skektek:  Whoa.
Otto:  Damn.
wispy thing:  spaaa.
Neera:  By the gods...

  They were standing at one end of the topmost floor of a massive, multi-
tiered room with an open center and vaulted ceiling.  The ground floor
was about sixty feet long and half that wide, while the floor above was
simply a ten-foot wide walkway above and around the lower floor, with
an open center.  Similarly, the third floor was a ten-foot wide walkway
above and around the second floor, also with an open center.  Thus, each
level was a bit larger than the one below it.

           ____//  \\____  <--- sitting room
          |  __________  |
          | |          | |
          | |          | |
          | |   open   | |
          | |   space  | |
          | |          | |
          | |          | |
          | |          | |
          | |_________@| | <--- spiral staircase down
         / ______________|
        / /
        \ \
         \ \               <--- stairs up to entrance

            |  ______  |
            | |      | |
            | | open | |
            | | space| |
            | |      | |
            | |      | |
            | |_____@| |   <--- spiral staircase down
            |_________@|   <--- spiral staircase up

              |      |
              |      |
              |      |
              |      |
              |      |
              |_____@|     <--- spiral staircase up


                ____             _ 
               /    \             \
              /      \             |
             /        \            |   vaulted ceiling
            /          \           |
           /            \        _/
          |_            _|       <---  third floor
            |_        _|         <---  second floor
              |______|           <---  first floor

  As noted, the party had entered this chamber at one corner of the long
rectangular walkway that made up the third and topmost floor, with open
space within.  The second and first floors, each successively smaller,
were visible from above; the second floor contained an open space which
overlooked the first floor.  To the right, the walkway wrapped around a
spiral staircase of finely-wrought iron which wound its way down to the
second floor.  Another such staircase, just below and displaced about ten
feet, could be seen connecting the second and first levels.  To the left,
the walkway led to the far end of the level and a small niche containing
a semicircular ring of plush leather couches.  The ceiling stretched up,
a good fifty feet above the third floor, and was vaulted, with elaborate
stonework along the massive supporting arches.

Otto:  What the hell _is_ this place?
Mongo:  Really.  It doesn't look like any dragon's lair I ever saw.
Skektek:  It's...a library.
Mongo:  (shaking his head in disbelief)  What?!?
Hope:  Skektek's right.  This is a sight familiar to those of us who must
  do research, whether for spell information or just...for the sake of
Neera:  (nods)  And quite a library it is.
Irina:  Is that area at the end, with the couches...a reading room?
Neera:  I believe it is.

  The adventurers began to spread out into the topmost floor - or more
accurately, the rectangular walkway around the larger open space - but
were quickly cautioned by Belphanior...

Belphanior:  Nobody wander away.  There's more to this place than meets
  the eye, and we need to be cautious and methodical.  One floor at a
wispy thing:  fssss.  (it floats down the passage, slowly)

  The outer edge of the rectangular walkway, for its entire length, was
covered with sturdy wooden bookshelves.  These in turn were filled with
books, literally - wall to wall, all around the perimeter of the room.
While most of them were of reasonably normal size, some were hefty tomes
of larger size, thickness, and weight.

Otto:  This isn't what I expected.  The dragon would have had to be in
  human-sized form to do anything here.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Mesoloth was a dragon, but one that coveted items
  mostly made for, and used by, much smaller races.  Thus, it would have
  had to assume similar forms to properly use such items.  (he looks all
  around the room)  After centuries, this was the logical outcome of that
  situation, that thinking...a hidden library to house gathered lore and
  other things.
Mongo:  Well, that's just great.  I'd joke that we should burn it down,
  except you wizards would collapse in shock at that idea.
Belphanior:  Actually, if we tried that, I think we'd find this place
  proof against fire, lightning, acid, and other harmful magic.  And I'm
  pretty sure the books have all been magically preserved, to resist age
  as well as any normal wear and tear.
Otto:  Now that's a dragon with a lot of time on its hands.
Belphanior:  Exactly.  Centuries, to be sure.
Hope:  Aren't all dragons like that?
Mongo:  Books, books, books.  (he stomps around, irritated)  Bah.
Neera:  (to Belphanior)  Are these books trapped in any way?  Or can we
  examine them?
Belphanior:  Go ahead.  As I said, they're protected...but not trapped.
Neera:  (removes one tome)  Hmm..."A Complete Ecology of the Deep Gnome
Irina:  (eyeing the nearest book on the nearest shelf)  "The Master's
  Treatise on Mystagogical Spells"...what the hell does that even mean?
Skektek:  (flipping through another book)  This one's a history of the
  Sueloise Empire.  (he frowns)  Oh, look.  It's part seven of an eleven
  volume set.
Razor Charlie:  Funny, how you always seem to find the good stuff.
wispy thing:  (hovering near a random tome)  pfsss?
Hope:  (walking up and down past the shelves of books, searching for a
  pattern or method of organization)  This is fascinating.
Mongo:  No, it's not.  It's not!  (he looks around the room)  Where the
  hell's the treasure?  A dragon's supposed to have treasure...I mean
  real treasure!  Gold, silver, gemstones, jewelry, magic items, that
  sort of thing!  (he frowns angrily)  Forgive me if I don't share your
  excitement about a few thousand old books.
Ys:  (talking to himself quietly)  Probably more than that.
Neera:  (gestures around with both hands raised)  This _is_ the treasure.
  All around us.  It's not gold, or gems, or anything like that.  It's
  knowledge.  From what we've seen so far, this library rivals the finest
  anywhere in the Flanaess, and understandably so.  The dragon had many
  centuries to find and hoard books.  Some of these are surely priceless!
Mongo:  (still grumbling)
Belphanior:  You're both right, actually.  This is a library, and a damn
  good one...but there's more to it than that.  Come with me.  (he heads
  for the spiral iron staircase leading down to the second floor)

  The second floor was somewhat smaller, and thus had less space, but its
outer walls were also completely covered in shelves.  Instead of books,
this floor held maps and scrolls...hundreds of them, rolled up and stored
all over this level.  Some were in sealed tubes of different shapes and
fashioned of various materials - ivory, metal, wood, bone - while others
were loose.

Neera:  Wow.
Hope:  Just figuring out how this is all organized could take hours.
Belphanior:  Or days.  (he glances at the assorted scrolls)  As with the
  level above, some of these shelves' contents bear magical enchantments.
Neera:  I'd imagine that some of these scrolls, and some of those books,
  contain spell formulas.
Skektek:  And maybe some of the books have other powers.  This place is
  a wizard's paradise.
Belphanior:  Quite possibly, but let's still be careful.  There's no need
  to remove anything right now...there's plenty of time for that later.
  For now, let's just look around.
Mongo:  (walking past the shelves of scrolls, still grumbling to himself)

  Eventually they made their way to the next spiral staircase, which led
down to the bottom floor.  This level was the smallest of the three,
although at sixty feet long by thirty feet wide it was still spacious.
The shelves lining its walls were larger, vertically, because they held
something besides books and scrolls.

Mongo:  (whistles)  Now this is more like it.
Ys:  Agreed.

  The bottom level was an armory, its shelves filled with weapons and
armor of all types and sizes.  The majority of the former were swords,
ranging from shortswords to two-handed swords, broadswords to scimitars,
plain simple blades to elaborately-decorated works of art.  There were
also battleaxes, smaller hand axes, spears, and pikes...morningstars,
maces, flails, and even a club or two.  Still larger areas of shelving
held shields, everything from small light ones to gigantic ones...they
were round, square, rectangular, triangular...flat, curved, concave, and
convex...steel, iron, bronze, and even a wooden shield or two.  But the
largest sections of shelving contained armor of every type, from leather
jerkins to shirts of chain or ring mail to full suits of plate mail.  At
least a dozen helmets were visible, some belonging to complete suits and
others resting alone on shelves.  Similarly, there were multiple examples
of gauntlets, belts, boots, backpacks, and so on.  Another shelf held a
variety of miscellaneous magic items; just at first glance, they could
see several rings, an amulet, several wands, a couple of rods, and at
least a dozen other assorted things.

Skektek:  (just gaping in amazement)
Hope:  Wow.
Belphanior:  These items are all magical.
Mongo:  (pumps his fist in the air)
Otto:  Well, I guess we know what happened to all of those adventuring
  groups that sought the dragon out over the centuries...

next:       they must decide what to do with it all, and how
released:   4/29/2016
notes:      I've always loved my ASCII maps.  Given the technology now
  available, I could definitely make nicer maps/blueprints...but since
  I've always included maps within the stories, ASCII makes sense in a
    At this point, you're probably wondering why I got rid of so many
  of their magic items in the fall of the sky castle, only to give them
  all of these.  Well, don't worry.  You'll find out in the next episode
  or two.  And for once, I won't have to collapse/flood/destroy the site
  of all the treasure!
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