Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. Like I’ve mentioned before, I work at UPS, and have survived yet another peak season. Now I can get back on a more regular posting schedule.
This brings us back again to Dragon Magazine issue #92, and another spellbook by Ed Greenwood, Orjalun’s Arbatel, and two new spells, encrypt, which lets you send hidden messages, and secure, a beefed up version of arcane lock.
This volume consists of nine plates of beaten and polished mithril, stamped by the elvish smiths of Silverymoon with letters of the High Tongue, graven on small dies that are positioned on the page and then struck sharply with a hammer so as to leave their distinct impressions. The plates are pierced at the top and bottoms of their left sides (as they are read), and fastened together with bronze rings. The work had an ornate case of stained wood and was carried wrapped in canvas, but these may well have perished.
History and description
Orjalun, the white-haired High Mage of Silverymoon in the early days of the North (now believed dead), oversaw and took a large part in the construction of this work, designed to be a permanent repository for the most useful defensive spells he could provide for the continued safety and security of his beloved city in the years to come. But it never served so, for when Orjalun gave his staff of office to his chosen successor, Sepur, and left the city, Sepur revealed his true nature: taking the Arbatel and staff as his own, he also left that fair city.
Sepur’s fate is unknown, although the sage Alphontras recounts the finding of a broken staff atop a lonely, scorched tor in the Trollmoors. The Arbatel is first identified in the village of Longsaddle by Alphontras’s colleague Eelombur the Learned, who observed it in the possession of the sorcerer Arathur Harpell. Arathur was later slain in a magical duel by the necromancer Marune, who held the Arbatel only briefly. Marune lost it somewhere in the winter snows when fleeing from the Lords of Waterdeep, and it must have changed hands several times in the following decade, for many hints of it are found in various re-
cords of the North.
It is mentioned once in this period by the sage Maerlus, who is represented in the Letters to the Court of Elfrin (“Collected by the King’s Own Hand, being a record and discourse most fascinating upon our lands
and times”) by a letter he penned to the monarch, King Elfrin, wherein the sorcerer-sage described a number of items of power known to be within Elfrin’s realm. In the letter, Maerlus describes several works and speculates on their locations; the Arbatel, he says, is in the hands of the reclusive wizard Lios — unless Marune has overcome him and regained it.
Elminster believes that Marune did slay Lios, but says that the activities of Marune from that time to the present reveal that he has not recovered the Arbatel, despite his repeated attempts to do so. Its recent and present whereabouts are unknown.
Orjalun was tutored by The Masked, most mysterious of the Seven Wizards of Myth Drannor, and two of the spells in the book are believed to be of his tutor’s personal crafting: encrypt and secure (an improved version of wizard lock).
The first and last plates of the Arbatel are featureless, so as to reveal nothing of the contents within, but the seven interior plates bear one spell each (the method of scripting allows only one side of a plate to be used). These are, in order of appearance, mending, charm person, encrypt, dispel magic, identify, guards and wards, and secure.
All of the commonly known spells in the Arbatel appear in the standard form, and the two unique spells therein are reproduced below, from the books of Vauth, another apprentice of The Masked.
4th level illusion
Casting Time: 1 action
Components: V, S, M (a pinch of dust or grey lint fluff, and a feather, and are consumed in the casting)
You make a short message, up to 66 characters, or about 15 words, completely unreadable, even to magic like true seeing. The only ones that can read it are you, and any beings named or visualized by you at the time of casting. Such a message will appear to all others as an illegible, smudged area.
An encrypted message will remain until willed to disappear by you (no matter the distance), or a dispel magic is cast on the surface. Weathering and other physical effects such as burning, scrubbing, or defacing the smudged area will not destroy the message as long as the actual surface It was written on survives (encrypt can be safely cast on any reasonably stable surface, such as stone, wood, or paper, but not usually with success on messages scrawled in soot, dust, or snow); it will still be clearly legible to those identified above.
The message does not glow or in any way attract attention to itself; an intended recipient may well not see it if not looking for a message or not chancing to look in the right place. A message encrypted in a language not known to the intended recipient is not made understandable by means of this magic; nor will it magnify script too small for the recipient to read.
No part of any message longer than the first 66 characters will be obscured or protected by this magic: attempting to encrypt such an overlong message would result in wastage of the spell; the entire message could be read (or destroyed) normally. Additional writing in the same after the spell is cast will not affect an encrypted message — thus, a second message can be written on top of an encrypted one to further conceal the former, without rendering the original message unreadable by those for whom it is intended. Morever, adding words or characters to a message known to be encrypted will not cause it to appear; the additions will remain clearly visible and the original will remain concealed. Multiple encrypt spells cast on the same or adjacent areas will not allow messages longer than 66 characters to be concealed; rather, when a second encrypt spell is cast, the concealed message of the first encrypt spell will vanish forever, replaced by the second message. Writing used in encrypted messages can be very large or very small, written on walls, mountainsides, or even small bones or slivers of wood, and still be concealed so long as the maximum of 66 characters is not exceeded.
Encrypt may be used to conceal messages written by others, regardless of time elapsed since the writing, and will be effective in obscuring even runes deeply graven in stone, or letters formed by patterns of colored mosaic tiles. In such a case, the surface will appear faded, stained, discolored, or even covered with a smoky, sooty deposit so that the message is concealed. As aforementioned, no amount of physical cleaning will reveal the concealed message.
Casting Time: 1 action
Components: V, S, M (gold dust worth at least 25gp, which the spell consumes)
Duration: Until dispelled
You touch a closed door, window, gate, chest, or other entryway, and it becomes locked for the duration. You and the creatures you designate when you cast this spell can open the object normally. You can also set a password that, when spoken within 5 feet of the object, suppresses this spell for 1 minute. Otherwise, it is impassable until it is broken or the spell is dispelled or suppressed.
Secure also protects against passage by ethereal, astral or dimension altering means such as blink and dimension door. A knock spell is not effective against a secured passage.
While affected by this spell, the object is more difficult to break or force open; the DC to break it or pick any locks on it increases by 10.