The Taralon Antiques Roadshow
Erik Fischer Entries
1. THE COINS OF KHRYPHOS: It is unknown whether the artifact known as Khryphos Coins really exists, or is merely part of a cautionary tale told by wizards to greedy and overly reckless apprentices. The uncertainty of its existence hasnt however stopped much speculation over the centuries on the actual methods employed by Khryphos in its creation, and how to possibly reproduce the enchantment on a grander scale. Should it ever resurface it would be sure to generate a strong and widespread interest, both for research and ...other reasons.
The mage Khryphos is believed to have lived in Riale about 900 years prior to the reign of Auric the Great and was considered not only one of the premier sorcerers of his time , but also one of its preeminent skinflints.While nobody dared tell it to his face, it was a common joke, that no one got as far on a goldpiece, as Khryphos did on a copper. It wasnt so much that he was obsessed with amassing a vast fortune (though his wealth reputedly was remarkable ), than that he found himself unable to part with so much as a single copper without agonizing about its loss, as if it was a quart of his very heartsblood.
Driven by his obsession Khryphos turned all of his considerable talent and knowledge to the task of solving his problem. After having spent several years in seclusion his efforts finally bore fruit and he succeeded in the creation of his magnum opus, five silver coins, each carrying an unique and extremely powerful enchantment *.
Being of standard size and weight common for Alyeciran silvers of that period, the only way to distinguish them from regular currency were the decidedly non-standard bands of tiny, odd looking scratches running around their edges. These markings were in fact the highly stylized characters of an obscure and by that time, having failed to survive the civilization which had spawned it, already long dead language. The engravings on the five silvers each make up one part of an incantation that, when arranged in the proper order, allows the performance of a ritual. By in turn placing a single drop of ones own blood on them and reading the inscriptions out loud, the objects in question are, until death, irrevocably bound to their true owner and cannot be kept from him for longer than a day or two.
Whenever Khryphos parted with one of the silvers, their new owners invariably found themselves incapable of holding on to them. The nature of the enchantment was such, that the greater the resistance and obstacles to its fulfilling its purpose, the more powerful and volatile it became.
Whether through an everyday purchase, a once in a lifetime bargain, a hole in a purse, a lucky roll of the dice, the nimble digits of a pickpocket, the knife of a mugger, the ruin of a Great House, or floating ashore on the corpse of a drowned sailor whose fleet was shattered by a freak squall while hardly out of the harbor, nothing could stop a coins passing from one person to another, slipping through fingers like the proverbial sands of time themselves, until it finally infallibly found its way back to its master before two days had gone by.
Khryphos seemed to have indeed found the perfect answer to his dilemma. One hot summer day, on a sweltering Epidamnum street, however his own creation should turn on him and prove his downfall. Having recently returned to the city from a successful expedition into the interior he was just on his way to the harbor to board his ship for the voyage home, when the draft horses of a transport cart suddenly panicked, running him down , and crushing him beneath the heavy, ironshod wheels of the out of control carriage.
Though ruled an accident, the horrified and guilt ridden carter still felt moved to provide at least part of the customary passage money for the man in whose lifes ending he had been involved. He donated the two silver pieces the foreigner had paid him for transporting his belongings to his ship only hours before. These and other moneys found on Khryphos person were used by the custodians of the Nef, the giant, walled off Necropolis which dominates the northern quarter and much of everyday life in the death obsessed city of Epidamnum, in the preparation of the corpse for a proper burial, filling the mouthcavity with coins as payment for the guide to the Gray Lands before sewing the lips shut and starting a long, complicated embalming process.
Thus both the mage and the artifact he had created were interred together deeply within the catacombs running beneath the Nef. Though most believe them to be to this day still down there, there was a rumor, that claims the coins were stolen a few decades after Kryphos death, together with other valuables, during one of the infrequent rashes of grave robbery which plague the Nef despite the custodians fearsome, well deserved reputation for both, their fanatic implacability in tracking down those who disturb their charges, as well as the monstrous punishments they meet out to the transgressors.
As legend has it, when the custodians caught up with him the thief was already dead with a Sharib stranglers cord around his neck and the loot gone.
*= Five silvers may seem a paltry sum nowadays, but was considered in those times though maybe not quite a small fortune, definitely a substantial amount of money. Furthermore, while there may be a special occult significance, or other practical limitations, the real reason for Kryphos choice of number and/or material of the coins, can probably be found in his famous statement, that "anything worth the having can be bought for five silvers or less... by the right person".
2. THE BOWL OF THE BEGGAR KING: According to legend the Beggarkings Bowl, also known as Mother Pitys Palm, originally belonged to the heir of a rich merchant house who, upon the death of his father, to the horror of his relatives, gave up his entire inheritance as well as all of his personal possessions save for a loincloth and a simple, wooden bowl to the poor.
Thus having himself divested of all material shackles but his alms bowl and a single piece of clothing to cover his nakedness, the young man left his home to take up the life of a wandering mendicant. Preaching the virtues of charity, compassion, and mercy, living off alms, donating anything he collected beyond that which was necessary to sustain his body to the needy, he wandered across the continent of Alyecir from one end to the other for many years, until finally, a very, very old man by than, he felt his end approach.
Laying down in the shade beneath a tree he prayed to Mother Pity, consigning himself to her hands to guide him to the Gray Lands. Upon hearing the old mans prayer, Mother Pity appeared beside his deathbed and told him, that in recognition of his life of selflessness and true charity she would fulfill his hearts desire.
The old man answered, that though he desired nothing for himself , he felt a great regret, that there had been so many people during his life whose suffering he had been be unable to alleviate and now that he was about to die he never would. His hearts desire was a way for him to be able to continue to help those who needed it the most and promote the virtue of charity after his death.
Mother Pity granted the old mans wish and upon his death bound his soul up in his alms bowl, creating a powerful artifact imbued with the ability to generate a strong feeling of goodwill and contentment in those around it, precluding any form of aggression or violence in its vicinity. The holder of the bowl will be able to collect considerable sums (for alms that is) within a short amount of time merely by holding it up to passers by.
The bowl however does not exert any kind of control over the minds of the donors (which would negate the principle of charity ). Those who choose to give do so out of their own free will, the bowl merely encourages the better natures of those within its sphere of influence. The giving isnt one-sided and to the givers disadvantage either -- far from it. The people who donate will find their own fortunes increase manifold, consummately to the amount which they put in the bowl (this however will only happen, as long as the donor is unaware of the bowls true nature).
As a divine artifact it does not lend itself to misuse, i.e. a person abusing its power to enrich themselves (nor is such a person likely to come into its possession in the first place). In the hands of the unworthy it will never be more than crude, wooden vessel utterly without any special properties.
Since the bowl is considered a major relic of their goddess, there isnt a hierarch of Mother Pity worth his robe that wouldnt (for prestige reasons, not to mention the increased tithes from larger numbers of pilgrims, if nothing else) give his left arm (his right arm too, plus any other assorted limps and organs) in order to gain the bowl for his temple. So far however it has eluded all attempts to locate it and put it in a shrine.
3. NAHARJAL: It is said, that a Sharib could walk by a thousand guards and not be seen even once. While there is certainly some hyperbole in that statement, there is more than enough evidence to suggest that it wasnt too far from the truth.
The Naharjal, also known as Deceiverbeetle, or Murderbug, is a distant relative of the Khefrean Empire Scarab. Mainly at home in the marshlands of the Mherut riverdelta, which makes up the majority the kingdom, it is about 3 inches long, 2 inches wide (with the females being slightly larger), and in a world whose gods have displayed an inordinate fondness for beetles during its creation, has two characteristics to distinguish it from the teeming multitudes of its brethren.
First is the fact, that its an aggressive predator not only of fellow insects, but also frogs and the occasional unlucky small lizard, or rodent. It hunts by lying in ambush, waiting for a victim to wander into range, pouncing to deliver a poisonous bite, quickly retreating until the paralyzing agent has taken hold, then moving in again to rapidly dissect its prey with its vicious mandibles before other, bigger predators can drive it off its kill *.
The Naharjals second and more widely known claim to fame is its legendary ability for disguising itself. By carefully rearranging and changing the coloration of the particularly intricate chitin plates of its exoskeleton the Naharjal is able to take on not only the appearance, but also the shape of several types of harmless insects and some inanimate objects. I used the word legendary with intent, as there is nothing magical about the Naharjals mimicry. With no more than 11 different, distinctive shapes (all off them creatures or things common to its natural habitat) ever having been observed, its camouflage abilities, while astounding, even unique, are subject to some definite limitations and certainly a far cry from the overblown reputation popular myth has endowed it with.
Still, its ability for perfectly blending with its surroundings is said to have inspired the Nadim, the feared priest-sorcerers of the Sharib, to develop the talismans bearing its name, which would later on be used to such devastating effect during that sects reign of terror in the region. Made out of silver and intricately shaped in the form of its namesake the Naharjal was worn as a brooch , a cloakpin, or a badge.
Much subtler, and in some ways more powerful, than straight forward invisibility it enabled its wearer to escape detection and hiding in plain sight by radiating an aura of "belonging there". The eyes still see, but the mind refuses to register, insisting on making the cloaked person part of the background, becoming pinnacle of inconspicuousness. Even when actively drawing attention to themselves (i.e. attacking somebody, shouting and waving their arms in front of somebodys face) observers have an extremely hard time tracking the wearers of a Naharjal, as any attempt of looking directly at, or focusing on them by anyone are doomed to failure, eyes invariably slipping from them as water does from a duck.
Though the crusades of Pradhan VII. and later his son Godhal IV. against them (686-671 a.A.) completely annihilated the Sharib along with all of their works, including the knowledge of how to create the Naharjal, which had become the assassin cults trademark, rumors persisted, that a few of the amulets themselves might have survived Godhals extremely thorough and merciless purges.
Whether there is any truth to these rumors or not, you will find that there is, as anyone who has ever traveled the cities of the east can attest, even now nearly 1000 years later, no shortage of individuals of dubious characters either seeking to obtain, or willing to sell you one of the infamous strangler charms.
* = The Naharjals poison is harmless to anything larger than a young mouse or a (very small) snake or lizard. While the bite itself is supposed to be somewhat painful there have been no reports of humans suffering from worse than a temporary numbing around the bite area. Being neither a colony building or swarming insect the Naharjal therefore poses no threat to a human despite popular believe.
Efforts to make use of the Naharjals (or rather their poison) as an anaesthetic for medical purposes have proven unsuccessful due to the solitary insects relative rarity. Repeated attempts by the author at breeding them in captivity failed mainly because of a previously unsuspected strong sociopathic streak of these solitary insects, who would, unless kept strictly isolated from one another, even in the face of an overabundance of other, easier prey insist on ambushing and cannibalizing each other until only the largest most aggressive specimen is left.
Or in the words of my assistant "They sure like to have their family for dinner".