Silver Key of Artifacts (book)

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The Silver Key of Artifacts

by Sir Steelake Vrochren

I have always been intrigued by artifacts. Rare objects with extraordinary power, the stuff of myth...well, that's not out of keeping with being a paladin, is it? We are warriors of the spiritual plane. Swords and spells are our weapons. Maybe it's because I've spent all my life learning to fight well with the former that I've made a hobby out of collecting information about the latter.

There isn't a lot available. -Information, I mean. Not genuine, verifiable information. There are old folktales, the kind your gran used to tell on long winter nights around the fire. There are lies spread by hucksters, often elves, meant to get you buying imitation artifacts with a single magical charge...or worse.

But occasionally, just occasionally, you come upon one of those sorry, frayed rumors that hang around in the corners of an old down-at-the-mouth marketplace-- you know the kind I mean?-- or you find some stained, moth-eaten book. You listen, or you read. Then you think Ah, at last, I've come upon the real thing.

Most of what follows is a compendium of these "real things." No, I don't vouch for them all. I've only seen 2 artifacts in my lifetime, I'm nearing 215 and bedridden with the gout, so I don't expect to see many more this side of Hodierna's embrace. However everything that's listed here has been recorded by at least 3 reputable sources. What defines a reputable source? I do. If that isn't good enough for you, so be it. Go heed the tales of some huffing merchant who'll play at kneepalms with your wife under the table while he sells you a stick for 3 gold kronars. I can do no better than this.

I've found reports of a few pretty unpleasant artifacts in my travels and conversations, and I list the more creditable ones below, as well. Some of my colleagues will be inclined to censure me for that.

Let them. Artifacts aren't paladins. They aren't all good. They simply *are.* What's more, power is often unstable at the best of times. Add in tricky gods and proud mortals and you've got some strange results. "Consider Beylah the Stalwart, who wished to be strongest of all, and outlast kingdoms. They say he stands still, transformed into a huge stone arch by the gods, overlooking the Desert of Dismond where once the redoubt of Highhold proclaimed the might of Dwarven tenacity and wealth."

Of course, that's bard's nonsense! -But it holds the germ of a truth. Unbalanced desires have led in the past to artifacts that work for evil purpose. I've also heard tell that no mortal can wield *any* artifact for long unless they have completely pure motives. No mortal does, of course. As a result, all artifacts show a tendency to leave their owners after repeated use and seek balance in another's hands. This conduct is worthy of admiration, and not a demonstration of fickleness as some undiscriminating hobbyists have claimed (even comparing it to elven courtesans).

Two artifacts have remained in place for years: Jevilnor and Deeder's Ocular. (A third, the Talisman of Demetrios, keeps coming back to the tombsite of its original owner. I think that hardly counts.) The rest have vanished of their own accord-- or been placed into hiding. Or removed.

Out of sight, out of mind: an old truism, but dependable. An artifact's owner usually seeks no attention. Can you blame him? The temptation to steal an artifact and wield its power is often too great for even the normal citizen of our realms-- how much more so for those who scheme with evil intent. As a hobbyist, I deplore the fact that so few artifacts are available for examination. As a paladin, I applaud the efforts of those who seek to protect what is rightfully theirs.

Enough. My random jottings begin below. Little enough, but it's the best I can do. Time will cure the world of the flaws in my actions, and future generations will correct my manuscript's faults.


The Golden Crown

The Golden Crown, sometimes also referred to as The Golden Crown of Eredondo. However this is a misnomer, as Malicia Eredondo is the first known individual to have exercised the Crown's power, rather than the person who devised it.

Point of origination: unknown.

Powers: The Golden Crown apparently increases the charisma of the user and his/her ability to sway the opinions and beliefs of others. It vanished upon the dispersement of The Temple of the Silver Arm and the Golden Crown, at the end of the Tarnished Wars more than 800 years ago.

The Crown has not been seen or heard of since.

Deeder's Lockpick

From The Tales of Deeder Jonathan, by Alain Martel: "This was another remarkable creation of the inestimable Deeder Jonathan, halfling alchemist, seer and moon mage. The incident (as later pieced together from the Greenhollow criminal records) shows that Kelly, Deeder's thievish brother, got "an idea." Kelly's ideas invariably centered about harnessing Deeder's talents to some purely selfish end.

"Kelly told Deeder that he was going to set up as a locksmith, and desired an infallible aid for his craft-- even offering to split the profits (1/10th to Deeder) for the item. The good-natured alchemist took it on as a pet project, and gave Kelly the Lockpick. The latter resolved to try it that evening at a gala affair given to honor a visiting dwarven ambassador.

"But since Deeder had not been told by his brother about the scheme under foot (indeed, he never would have acquiesced) the matter went other than as planned. Suddenly in the middle of the reception a strangely metallic voice rang out, "Kelly, my master! I have detrapped and opened the large oaken chest of Hortel deBankoff! It wasn't easy, you might have had trouble without my assistance!" Instantly guards surrounded Kelly; and had Deeder not pulled all the strings at his disposal his brother might have ended up a foot shorter from his right hand's fingertips in.

"As to Deeder's Lockpick, it vanished after the affair. It has been surmised since that Deeder destroyed it, or Kelly might have secreted it away."

The Croc's Jawbone

Also known as The Jawbone of King Bear, though he understandably took exception to this designation during his lifetime. King Bear Orso (or Ray, as this informal leader preferred to be called) was a crafty barbarian warlord in a land where might belonged to all, but brains and patience to very few. He inherited little, but joined together by the time of his death a proud, fierce nation of tribes. They briefly conquered one-quarter the known world until internal squabbles and the sophistication of conquered cultures led to its demise.

Barbarians are notoriously magic resistant, which makes The Croc's Jawbone all the more interesting as a potential magical artifact. I say potential, because no one save King Bear ever used the item. One epic tells that he left his kingdom one morning, heading west towards the Mal-Tor Swamps, and battled with a fierce demon in the shape of an incredibly large crocodile. Another epic sings of his prowess against a confederation of S'kra Mur war mages, and that he ripped the Croc's Jawbone from around their leader's neck, effectively destroying his magic. A third epic claims that Bear won the Croc's Jawbone off a solitary hermit at the conclusion of a week-long cardgame.

Whatever the cause, Bear possessed the huge Jawbone, and claimed it was magical. He said that the Croc's Jawbone had been announced in a prophecy as belonging to the One who would lead all barbarians to their greater glory. The Archimandrite Nikos Orsus agreed in the matter of the prophecy, though the fact that he was Bear's younger brother probably raised some unspoken doubts in a few clanmembers.

At the time of Bear's death the Jawbone vanished. Some claimed it went to his first son, Varus Orso, who was treacherously slain in a mountain pass returning from his father's funeral by an erstwhile ally. Others say the Croc's Jawbone was withdrawn to the Gods until a worthy successor might be revealed...or that it was reverently buried with King Bear. The latter has resulted in many attempts to locate Bear's Tomb, though all such expeditions have met with failure to date. Whether magical or not, the Croc's Jawbone would be an artifact of great power should it ever return, since its wielder would instantly claim the allegiance of many scattered barbarian communities everywhere.

The Archbow and ShadowBlade

There are many rumors of weapons artifacts, but most of these rumors pan out as little more than "my third cousin had a boarder once who knew an elf who had an uncle that had heard..." Rubbish. I have been able to authentic only 2 weapons artifacts, though others of course may exist. The Archbow have been possessed by many of the best bowmen in the lands. It increases archery skill to a great extent. The competent become great, and the great archer becomes a legend.

Shadowblade is a normal-seeming knife, until waved. Then it turns into a standard greatsword. However, Shadowblade retains the weight and mass of its knife-like state while functioning as a greatsword. This means it requires little strength to do great damage, and recovery time is far quicker after a swing. Following a battle, Shadowblade becomes a knife again.

Jevilnor

I have a special interest in Jevilnor! It was supposedly created over 85 years by Evenight Aratan, a craftsmaster of my tribe many centuries ago. Jevilnor is a dwarven hammer unlike any other. It does not kill, it creates--and what wonders it creates! Jevilnor is a jewelsmith's tool like none other. A single tap anywhere on a stone will reveal a flaw. Another will remove the excrescence, while a third will smooth the bevel if no further blemish lies underneath. A regular hammer in an expert's hands will require weeks, perhaps a month to release beauty from the confines of stone. Jevilnor requires minutes in the hands of a babe, a halfling or a gor'tog. The owner of Jevilnor is rich beyond measure, because he owns not merely the source of great wealth, but the origin of reputation.

Jevilnor currently resides in Darvagai Anliker. It is used by Osi Hamesen, Royal Gemcutter to Lord Vynwreth Thibilig, to fashion works of extraordinary complexity. I have seen some of the results on display during state functions, and they prefigure a craft which lies beyond mortal management. Hamesen, great craftsmaster that he is, could have imagined those works. Only the Jevilnor's speed and accuracy would have allowed him to realize these. They are a perfect match: no greater praise is possible to Osi Hamesen, whom I count a friend.


The Veil of Arnor

From the Nysilian Mysteries:

"Then Aoethus lifted his right hand, and it was naught but a flame; and he lifted his left hand, and it was a charred stump. He breathed the words that had been kissed upon his lips by Neenana, and his hands were healed. The Ravens of Fornosti cried out Father, the thief lives! Deep in his waethre, Vaseo contemplated this, and frowned.
"Speak what you would have of me, he cried in a shout all the greater for that it was a loud whisper cast over a landscape of silence. Give me the Veil of Arnor, Aoethus replied as he had been told. No such Veil exists, the whisper continues. Then it will be so, Aoethus said.
"Vaseo summoned his son and daughter, Daeman and Maithe. Though they cried he slit their throats and cast them into the black glass pit; and he cast a pall of darkness over the earth that none may witness his shame.
"Then with mighty oaths and conjurations he summoned the 5 Governors of the Elements and the 36 Lords of the World. Thus the bond was formed, and lightning struck the fabled city that had stood since the dawn of Time, declaring it no more. But the Veil of Arnor was there in its place, clean and smooth, placid as a lake and gray as a pearl plucked from Havaena's brow. This Veil was given by Vaseo to Aeothus. Then Aeothus sought to thank Vaseo, but the latter was no more. Weeping, Aeothus left that place that had ceased to be, and the bane went with him."


I have seen the Veil...! I have seen it, observed its power. It resided 20 years ago at the Temple of the Pillars in Adamantia. It was to all appearances a smooth, smoky mirror, small enough to fit into a pocket. Oval-shaped, it bore a white horn frame that looked worse for the wear.

The cleric who led us, old Lord Emery, was permitted to look into it. When he did so, he vanished! A moment later he reappeared. Greatly thanking the Nysilian priests he bowed low, then ushered us out.

Emery, as skeptical as they come, was fascinated with the Veil of Arnor. He said that once his glance had fixed upon the mirror he was in a featureless room that seemed to stretch for miles. Nothing else was there. He glanced down at the mirror again, and imagined for a moment he saw a figure in it. Then he was back at the altar.

Physical displacement-- that was Emery's verdict. The figure he had seen briefly in the Veil was himself, and that had reversed the enchantment.

Emery, may Hodierna succor him, had a shrewd mind, and his educated guess was likely correct. Somehow, the Veil of Arnor had transported him inside itself, into a perfectly safe haven where nothing else might intrude. A second glance at the Veil had restored him to this world.

But how did this wondrous artifact pass from the legendary hands of the great thief Aeothus into the possession of the Nysilian theocrats? On that subject the Mysteries are ingenuously silent. And since the Nysilian High Priest Aenthen glanced in the mirror 14 years ago-- vanishing along with the mirror-- and hasn't been seen since, it would appear this mystery may never be resolved.

The Jester's Wand

One of the cursed artifacts referred to above. All sources agree, it appears to be an ebony wand with a cruelly smiling jester's head at the business end. Waved at an enemy, one of several things happen. It can turn into an enchanted longsword...or into a lump of charcoal. On one occasion it supposedly turned into a bronze bell whose sound knocked down all creatures within hearing distance. On another it became a flaming beacon that attacked both friend and foe alike.

All sources are also in agreement that after being waved the wand retains its current shape and function for several hours, during which it cannot be removed from the owner's hand. Location: whereabouts unknown.


Peska Mask

The Peska Tribe of Aivii are reported to possess a curious artifact, origins unknown. It is a mask that greatly increases battle prowess when worn by a woman. When worn by a man, however, it's only effects are to alter his race and features apparently at random. I'd dearly love to see something like this-- though frankly, not to wear it.

The Drum of Kaldukar

According to the gor'togs, the barbarian Silver Leopard beat the demon Kaldukar at wrestling. The price Silver Leopard extracted for Kaldukar's release was the Drum. When it is played, the drum calls forth the enemies of the musician. There is no guessing which enemy will arrive, or how many. They simply and immediately appear, fighting to the death. The Drum can be played indefinitely to similar purpose, which says much about barbarians and Gor'Tog musical taste.


The Talisman of Demetrios

When the elderly warrior mage Demetrios Chytros lay dying, he moved his restless spirit into a singularly enruned platinum talisman. It had been his desire to create an artifact that would move the user to whatever location they desired, be it near or far, as long as it was clearly envisioned and somewhere within the known world.

Alas, Demetrios died midway through the process, and despite the eloquent assistance of his colleague S'prntss, the procedure was flawed. The Talisman of Demetrios will indeed send the user anywhere in the known world, but the choice of location appears completely randomized. Several heroes have died, eager to tame and control the power of the Talisman, their bodies vaporized in the heat of a volcano or preserved, perfect but dead, in the ice flow of glaciers.

Each time the Talisman has left the body of its deceased owner and returned to rest atop the coffin containing the remains of Demetrios in his former estate in Nightvision. At the last such instance 125 years ago the Talisman was removed by royal decree to the province museum, from which it was stolen some 73 years later, still awaiting for paperwork to facilitate its transfer to Asemath Academy. The whereabouts of the Talisman of Demetrios have been unknown since that time.

Deeder's Ocular

From The Tales of Deeder Jonathan, by Alain Martel: "Kelly Jonathan was again the genesis for this remarkable device. He convinced his less-worldly brother upon this occasion that he (Kelly) would be setting up shop as a healer, and that some item which allowed him to find people in need and move quickly to their side would be advantageous to all. Deeder was very enthusiastic in his support, and set to work at once.

"Kelly employed the resulting horn-rimmed ocular to watch the head clerk at the First Elanthian State Bank. When he entered the vaults, Kelly tapped the eyepiece-- and was instantly transported to his side. The halfling thief grabbed a sack of gold from the astonished clerk's hands, and tapped the eyepiece again.

"Nothing happened. Kelly had never specified to his brother that there was any need to hurry back; and by making the ocular a single-charge item the alchemist had sought to let it recharge quicker...once every 24 hours, in fact. Of course this sensible decision was not on Kelly's mind when he found himself surrounded by guards and hauled before a magistrate. He only escaped prison that time by claiming to be his brother and feigning madness. Truth to tell, Kelly's state of mind at being cheated for still-another fortune which lay within his grasp can only be imagined."

The Ocular is in the possession of Asemath Academy. It resides in the Academy Vaults, and is shown to distinguished visitors upon rare occasions.