Chapter #1008

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                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic V      +
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+     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 afternoon                                         +
+   Place:         a dungeon within the northeastern Yatil Mountains      +
+   Climate:       cold                                                   +
+   "If you see anything strange, I want to know."                        +
+   "You kidding?  The whole place is strange."                           +
+                - from _Riptide_ by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child    +

                   MVIII.  The Vault of Mesoloth

  The adventurers have spent some time exploring the great hidden vault
of the slain purple dragon Mesoloth.  A three-tiered subterranean chamber
of considerable size, this hidden lair contains shelves upon shelves of
arcane tomes (some of them magical) and scrolls (some of them magical) as
well as dozens of weapons, suits or pieces of armor, shields, and other
miscellaneous items (all of them magical.)

Neera:  So it's more than a library, and more than an armory.
Belphanior:  It's a place where the dragon stored not only knowledge,
  but also keepsakes from its battles with adventurers and other foes.
  (he eyes the suits of armor and assorted weapons)  And those battles
  were many.
Hope:  This place is almost like a shrine...(she shakes her head)  Wait,
  that didn't sound right-
Neera:  No, I get it.  A shrine to magic, to knowledge.  This place was
  beyond the dragon's concerns about intruders or theft...a place where
  items and other possessions could be displayed, admired, and studied
  when needed.  From what little we know of purple dragons, they valued
  magic above all else.  It's not a stretch to claim that they - or at
  least this one - valued magical _knowledge_ as well, and perhaps...just
Hope:  (nods)  There comes a point when a being, no matter how powerful,
  has to stop worrying about others getting its treasures...and simply
  enjoy those treasures.  This is the place where Mesoloth could do just
  that.  (she gestures toward the third floor above)  Hell, it's got a
  couch.  What better place to relax and read an ancient tome, or learn
  a new spell, or perhaps study some strange magical item?
Skektek:  Well, I'm glad you two have figured it out.
Hope:  It's not really that complicated.
Neera:  (smirks)
Belphanior:  From what I've seen using the loom, your theories about this
  vault are pretty much accurate.  Mesoloth was an odd creature, perhaps
  even unique, but also predictable in some ways.  One such as him - it,
  them, whatever - needed a repository for all the magic and knowledge
  gained over the years.
Irina:  Maybe we'll get lucky and find his autobiography here somewhere.
Belphanior:  Heh.
Neera:  Or a catalogue, documenting all of the magical items.
Skektek:  A catalogue?  Really?
Neera:  (shrugs)  That's what I'd do.
Otto:  (looking around)  So...what do we do next?
Neera:  Well, speaking only for myself...not even counting the magical
  things, this place could occupy my time for, oh, the next year or two.
Hope:  Or ten, if we go through all the books and scrolls.
Mongo:  Can't we just take what we want and-
Belphanior:  No, we really can't.  There's a lot here, and we need to
  make a careful inventory of everything, otherwise we're liable to miss
  something, or worse.
Skektek:  (to Mongo)  Much as I hate to say it, he's right.  While I'd
  like nothing more than to go through this place and re-stock my magic
  arsenal...we need to see what there is, before we act hastily.
Mongo:  (sighs)  Well, it could be worse.
Otto:  How's that?
Mongo:  Bosco could be here.

  After some discussion, the adventurers decided that it would be best
to break up into three groups, each with a specific mission.  One team
would walk the three floors, checking for both traps and magical auras,
and cataloging all instances of either.  Thus, each such item's general
description and exact location would find their way onto a master list.
This team would consist of Belphanior, Otto, and Skektek.  The second
team would follow the first, using spells and items to scan the notable
items and see which ones were the most powerful (or dangerous.)  This
job would fall to Hope, Irina, and Neera.  The third team - composed of
Mongo, Razor Charlie, and Ys - would only be in charge of securing and
guarding the entrance to the vault...just in case.

Mongo:  And maybe after we do that, we'll make some food.
wispy thing:  (hovers near Neera)  brrrb.

  And so it begun.  The warriors found the process not only boring but
also frustrating; for example, Mongo could see all the various weapons
and suits of armor on the lowest floor, but wasn't able to touch them,
or examine them.  It didn't matter that he already had powerful armor and
weapons - he just wanted to see these other ones.  Razor Charlie had a
similar outlook but also more patience; the lean, scarred knife-throwing
warrior was content to lean against a wall and rest.  Ys wandered up the
entry passage a short way, but decided not to get anywhere close to the
nearest of the traps disarmed on the way in, just in case they re-armed
themselves somehow.  The big reptilian would have asked Belphanior about
that possibility, but he didn't want to bother the other right now...for
the elf was completely focused on the task at hand.  Walking along the
row of bookshelves that made up the third floor, Belphanior methodically
scanned each tome with his magical eye, noting which ones were magical.
Skektek had cast a spell to detect magic, and used this second method,
just so that there would be two different methods of detection at work.
Otto then marked them using thin paper cards from an old deck of gambling
cards that he happened to have in his pocket.

Skektek:  Why in the world are you carrying a pack of cards around?
Otto:  (shrugs)  What can I say?  I like to gamble in my spare time.
  Besides, they'll serve the purpose now.  (he frowns)  I just hope I
  don't run out of cards.

  The top face of the cards - which was identical for all of them - was
a dull blue in color, so sticking one card next to each book that had an
aura of magic made for an easy way of spotting those tomes if one walked
down the hallway in a particular direction.  Belphanior and the other two
moved down the line of shelves, doing the basic job of flagging magical
books; they were followed by the second group.  Between Neera's scrying
magic and Irina's ability to detect curses and danger, they were able to
make note of anything that was either unusually powerful or unpleasant.
Hope took these notes, recording everything diligently on a blank scroll.
  The second part of this process actually took longer than the first, as
Belphanior's team was merely noting _anything_ with a magical aura, while
Neera's team had the more time-consuming task of actually analyzing those
auras.  Of course, the real work would come even later, when every single
item would have to be thoroughly studied with scrying magic.  For now...
by the time Neera had finished with the third floor, Belphanior was done
with the second floor, and in fact just starting the first.  By that time,
Mongo had gotten bored with guard duty and was beginning the process of
preparing a meal.  He'd found it necessary to situate this work in the
passageway outside the third floor of the chamber, because - true to
Belphanior's earlier prediction - fires wouldn't light within the vault
proper.  The dwarf's flint and steel made sparks, but the tinder simply
wouldn't light.  However, this same process, using these same materials,
worked just fine...outside of the vault itself.

Mongo:  (grumbling about dragon-magic, he makes a note to tell the wizards
  once they're done with their explorations)

  By the time Neera was done on the second floor and descending to the
first, Belphanior was re-writing the master list into a neater and more
concise version...and Mongo had filled the library with the smells of
cooking meat and spices.

Mongo:  (chatting with Ys as he removes foodstuffs from his portable hole
  and gradually incorporates them into his meal)  Yeah, I always stock up
  at whatever city or town I'm in, before leaving for an adventure.
Ys:  Are you not worried that someone will have issue with you cooking,
  when we are supposed to be securing and guarding this passageway?
Mongo:  (irritated)  I _am_ guarding it.  But my patience for such work
  wears thin, so if someone wants it guarded more closely, they can come
  up here and do it their damn selves.  (he pats his warhammer)  Besides,
  anyone or anything that comes down that passageway has to get past us.
  And I don't think that's likely.

  Ys had to concede Mongo's point.  The other end of the passageway, far
above, was blocked by thirty feet of solid rock plus some warding spells
that Hope had cast...and the dragon that used to inhabit this place was
dead...and Mongo did possess the strength to smash almost any opponent
into paste.  Still, the reptilian knew he'd feel better once the others
were done with their thorough inspection of the underground chamber's

Ys:  (regards Razor Charlie, who actually is still standing watch, eyeing
  the passageway up to the surface every so often)
Razor Charlie:  (shrugs)
wispy thing:  (hovering a few feet into the passage, as if to help guard
  it)  nrrrf.

  There was no way to properly tell time down here, away from the sun and
the stars, but by the time the others had completed their assessment of
the vault, it felt like dinnertime, and Mongo's cooking efforts were
finished.  Those who had known the dwarf the longest were not surprised
at this seeming coincidence.

Otto:  Damn, something smells good...
Belphanior:  (mildly annoyed at the idea of Mongo cooking while most of
  the group was busy with more important things, he remains silent, as
  this is worth ceding in exchange for the dwarf's strength and prowess
  in battle)  Is that steak?
Mongo:  It is, plus soup and bread and butter and a few other things.
  And there's enough for everybody.  (he glances at Ys, whose stomach
  just rumbled loudly)  Even you.

  The meal actually proved to be a suitable background for the discussion
of the massive underground chamber's contents.

Neera:  It's good news, really.  (she smiles triumphantly)  As might be
  expected when dealing with the secret three-floor treasure vault of a
  rare centuries-old dragon who had an affinity for magic.  (producing
  a rolled-up sheet of white parchment, she pauses for a moment before
  unrolling it)  Of course, we haven't yet identified anything, but we
  do have a list of what's magical...

  (third floor)
    17 different books, each containing at least one spell formula
    11 other books
     1 table (in the semicircular niche area)
  (second floor)
    29 different scrolls, each containing at least one wizard spell
    13 different scrolls, each containing at least one priest spell
     1 map
     5 scroll tubes/cases (1 ivory, 1 wood, 1 bone, 1 iron, 1 brass)
  (first floor)
     3 complete suits of plate mail armor
     5 complete suits of chain mail armor
     6 complete suits of leather armor
    11 helmets of various shapes/designs
     9 shields of various sizes and shapes
     3 two-handed swords
     2 bastard swords
    14 longswords
     7 shortswords
     1 broadsword
     2 scimitars
     4 battleaxes
     3 hand axes
     4 warhammers
     7 spears
     2 pikes
     6 maces
     5 morningstars
     3 flails
     2 clubs
     1 whip
    12 daggers or knives
     5 longbows
     3 shortbows
    37 assorted arrows
     1 quiver
     4 crossbows
    29 assorted bolts
     1 sling
    11 sling stones
     3 small multi-pointed metal stars
     6 pairs of gauntlets
     3 different single gauntlets
     4 belts/girdles
     9 pairs of boots
     3 backpacks
     6 bags/sacks
     9 rings
     1 amulet
     8 wands
     2 rods
     4 staves
    57 assorted potions
     2 crystal balls
     1 large metal sphere
     1 small metal pyramid
     1 small stone cube
     1 large mirror
     1 human skull within a sealed glasteel case
     1 small metal urn
     1 pair of horseshoes
     1 saddle
     1 well-sealed flask containing a bit of ever-churning water
     1 small, worn stone brick
     1 dog collar
     1 farming hoe
     1 small folded-up sail
     1 tiny vial of liquid
     1 small spoon
     1 sewing needle
     1 feather duster
     1 broom
     1 small figurine of a cat
     1 small iron chest
     1 nail

Belphanior:  Wow. the treasure hoard of the century.

next:       they begin to identify the many magical items
released:   5/13/2016
notes:      Just a random plug:  the novel from which this episode's
  quote was taken (_Riptide_ by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child) is
  one of my all-time favorites.  It basically takes the 220+ year old
  mystery of Oak Island, gives it background, and tackles it.  The
  Panagaea story arc from 400 episodes and 15 years ago owes much to
  this novel, as it really inspired me at the time.

    In episode 1003, I told you about how my 2016 output was steadily
  increasing and on pace to eclipse my total 2015 output.  Well, as of
  the last episode (1007) that has actually happened:
    - in 2015 I wrote 4 episodes (996-999) and they totaled 139K
    - in 2016 I wrote 7 episodes (1000-1002) in March, totaling 142K
    - this one (1008) was the first one written in April, adding 16K

    As you read this, I'll be in Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic,
  at the front end of a ten-day vacation without phone or internet.  I
  seem to be one of the rare people who still intentionally take those.
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