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 Buried Treasure Archive

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Vaudeville

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PostSubject: Buried Treasure Archive   Sun Apr 26, 2009 4:12 pm

A synopsis of the story thus far, and a place to squirrel away all the treasures we have taken with us from across the cyber sea.
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PostSubject: Re: Buried Treasure Archive   Sun Apr 26, 2009 4:14 pm

Gentleman Gemologist, practitioner of ‘the ancient and honorable craft of lapidary,’ and ‘world’s foremost amarite scholar,’ Erwin von Halde, arrives at a bustling traveler’s inn to set up an appraising business. He advertises that he will perform accurate and unbiased appraisals of gemstones collected by traveling adventurers in exchange for information. Von Halde is looking for specimens of the near-legendary amarite gemstones that form the foundation of all his scholarly work, and hopes to pick up a lead.

While staying at the inn, he makes the acquaintance of a swordswoman, Brynhild, called ‘Bryn,’ who eventually pledges her sword in service to von Halde, though she keeps her reasons for doing so to herself. She will accept no compensation for her services, but protects the gemologist faithfully.

Von Halde spends more than a month of fruitless searching and eavesdropping at the inn before two mysterious offers show up on his doorstep. A contact known simply as The Ferret gives him a message to meet with a sea captain, who will be able to help him get what he seeks. He also receives a proper letter from an unknown lady called Evangeline Dowd asking for his professional appraisal of some information she has concerning the near-mythological Amarite Pits.

With Bryn as his messenger (a task which briefly involves the swordswoman in a barroom brawl), von Halde enters a deal with Captain Raider, a privateer who, despite his cold-eyes, remains ever popular with the serving wenches. Raider is in possession of a map that shows the location of the lost treasure of Dread William, a wicked sinner and pirate captain who purportedly owned the largest trove of amarites ever known since the days of the First Explorers. All Raider needs is someone to finance the expedition.

Unable to resist the promise of such quantities of amarites, and awed by a sample Raider gives him in the form of a walnut-sized amarite (which he ever after keeps in his front pocket), von Halde immediately agrees to finance the expedition and split the treasure with raider, 60-40.

Later, after meeting with the lovely and congenial Miss Dowd, von Halde is moved to take her along on the expedition because of the unusual journal she possesses. The leather-bound, hand-written book contains diverse and surprisingly detailed notes and first-hand accounts of what is believed to be a legendary Amarite Pit.

Miss Dowd seeks von Halde’s expertise on amarites and gemology in general to help her interpret the information in the journal and locate the Pit. She claims to seek the Pit only to verify if the myth of immortality that surrounds it is true, for she wishes to carry on her deceased father’s research on myths and lore. She believes amarite gemstones are cursed and wants nothing to do with them. To von Halde, she sounds like a perfect research companion.

The affairs of the expedition are soon settled and Captain Raider and his crew, von Halde, Bryn, Miss Dowd and her mysterious manservant, Roubins, all set off on the Bill of Rights. After several days of perfect sailing, a foul wind blows up and carries into view a pair of frigates of the British Royal Navy. Recognizing the Bill of Rights as a pirate ship, the navy gives chase. But a foolhardy commodore dashes his ship on the rocks and the other frigate, under command of Admiral Galworth, strikes a truce with Raider in order to rescue the floundering men.

During this time, von Halde and Miss Dowd hide in a cabin for fear that they will soon be attacked. When von Halde becomes panicky, Miss Dowd hypnotizes him, though he does not remember the incident.

As the Bill of Rights continues to travel southwards, the unreadable Roubins, whose eyes are too old for his face, spends more and more time with Bryn in friendly card games and idle conversation, because he feels she, ‘understands, somehow.’ Meanwhile, von Halde dedicates himself to researching Miss Dowd’s father’s journal.

At last, the treasure hunters reach the near-frozen waters south of Argentina. Little do they know they are being followed by a French vasseu called the Aigle, captained by Louis Litellier. Furthermore, when the Bill of Rights is rounding the Demons Horn, they awaken the fabled Kraken and must fight off its roving tentacles. One man is instantly devoured and Miss Dowd almost becomes the next victim before Bryn saves her life. Von Halde is also in danger’s way, but Miss Dowd quietly speaks strange words to him, ‘Du bien de moi,’ and tells him to stay in his cabin. He acquires a glazed calmness and does exactly as she says.

Captain Raider is almost trapped by a falling sail, Bryn’s shoulder is dislocated and Roubins appears to have gone overboard before the islander harpooner, Ishta, halls him up by a rope that serendipitously entangled him. It seems that all is lost before the Aigle floats into view through the fog and joins its guns to the Bill of Rights’s, and together they send the Kraken into retreat.

Aboard the Aigle, Captain Litellier reveals to his men that he believes a French spy known as Le Cobra is aboard the Bill of Rights and that he will send word. When a cryptic message arrives on a rescued French matelot sent over from the Bill of Rights, Litellier’s hopes are confirmed.

The appearance of the Kraken has caused a superstitious stir among Raider’s men, worsened by Miss Dowd—who Bryn suspects of hypnotizing von Halde, and who claims that the cursed amarite in the pommel of Raider’s broadsword is the source of the evil jinx that called forth the Kraken. Raider says he’ll have no truck with curses and commands her not to speak the matter in front of his men. However, it isn’t long after this that a terrifying, shredded ghost ship appears, striking horror into the hearts of all aboard.

Upon seeing the ghost ship, Bryn is overcome because she alone can hear the cries of the trapped souls. She is tormented by the sound because she is a valkyrie incarnate, who possesses the ability to take these souls to eternal rest, if she would but guide them from this realm, though none of her companions come close to guessing the true cause of her dismay.

The Bill of Rights sails north for several more days with little incident except for Roubins’s sudden change of behavior towards Bryn. Unbeknownst to her, Evangeline Dowd has ordered Roubins to break off close association with Bryn, and appears to be blackmailing him with another person’s welfare—someone he later refer to as Elaine. Roubins also knows that Miss Dowd hypnotized him at some point in the past, though he remembers little about it. Why Miss Dowd is keeping such a tight hold on Roubins remains unclear.

The Bill of Rights arrives at the Galapagos Islands to gather supplies, namely fresh water and fruit, and also to allow the passengers reprieve from life aboard the brigantine. While exploring the island, they discover a rock where previous travelers have carved their names. Miss Dowd and von Halde recognize some of the names as being explorers mentioned in her journal, who ostensibly discovered an Amarite Pit a couple of hundred years ago. It seems they might be headed not only to the fabled Treasure of Dread William, but towards the Amarite Pit, as well.

Hidden in a rocky cove and watching the Bill of Rights at harbor is Admiral Galworth of the HMS Minerva. It seems he is attempting to investigate suspicious French activity in the area and, in his light and fast Leda-class frigate, passed the Bill of Rights during their voyage. Now, as he stumbles upon Raider’s ship, he vows to commandeer it in His Majesty King George’s name, in exchange for the other frigate that was lost on the rocks during their first encounter. During the night, his men cut-out the Bill of Rights from harbor, capturing the skeleton crew aboard, including Raider’s cabin boy, Jimmy.

Raider and his First Mate, O’Hara, awaken in the night to shouts and sounds of gunfire, and when Raider sees what has become of his precious ship, he is incensed and swears revenge. An unfortunate British petty officer, Christopher Lark, who washes ashore with a cutlass wound, is taken captive by Raider and bound to a tree under his orders. Bryn later intervenes on Lark’s behalf, saying he is more use to them alive and capable than dead, and Lark is left tethered to the tree only by his legs, his wound bandaged.

The marooned party spends their first day organizing supplies and seeking shelter, uncertain how long they will be stranded on the uninhabited island.
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PostSubject: Re: Buried Treasure Archive   Mon Apr 27, 2009 10:05 am

On Amarites: The Cursed Side



Evangeline Dowd was not goaded into more than a polite nod to Bryn’s pointed comment. She turned her attention to Raider and listened as he tallied the many dangers of sailing the South Seas. She made a tiny frown, a small crease appearing between her eyebrows, but when Raider asked her about her knowledge of the “Blood Stones,” her expression relaxed into something thoughtful but also uneasy, as if they were discussing the death of a relative instead of gemstone lore.

“I am not the amarite expert that Mr. von Halde is,” she said, “but naturally, as one who has spent her entire life studying myths and lore, I know most of what has been recorded on the subject.” She glanced over the assembled company, then addressed Raider. “The ‘blood stones,’ as you call them, are more properly referred to as amarite, because of their amaranthine color and because, like the amaranth flower of Greek Legend, the Amarite Pits can grant immortality—mythologically speaking. Now, most scholars agree, the myth of the amaranth flower has been disproved, and of course, the myth of the Amarite Pits has been neither confirmed nor disproved…yet...because no scholar has ever found one.”

Miss Dowd paused to gather her thoughts before she continued, speaking to everyone at the table by this point. “However, the lore of the ‘Blood Stones’ is quite a different thing from the Amarite Pits. These stones are also known as Dragon’s Blood did you know that? Or they were, in antiquity. And as anyone familiar with dragon lore knows, dragon’s blood will burn a curse into any who touch it. It all comes back to the concept of trespassing. Dragons are strident symbols of greed: they gather hordes and are extremely territorial in almost every tale. The curse of the dragon’s blood is the beast’s revenge for any who would dare steal from a dragon. Likewise, amarite gems carry a curse because they have been stolen from their cradles, the Amarite Pits. To carry an amarite is sacrilege, for the Amarite Pits are the secret places of the Gods.

“In the Days of Legend, before time, the Amarite Pits were everywhere and accessible to Man—or so the story goes. Man was granted the privilege to view these beautiful, consecrated halls, to enter them for sacred rites, but forbidden from ever harvesting the gems that grew there. In those times, Man was more like an animal in his ways, and the Gods knew that if Man unlocked the secrets of the stones, he would lose his innocence, and so he was forbidden from hewing the stones.

“But, as all these stories go, the First Man was possessed by greed for the forbidden crystals, and decided to break holy law. He cut one stone from the earth to keep for himself. It was the smallest stone, so he thought it would not be missed. But every stone was a piece of knowledge of the cosmos, and no sooner did the First Man posses it than he began to look at the world differently. Suddenly, he understood the secret of making fire, and this was the beginning of Man’s comprehension of the natural laws. When the Gods discovered what the First Man had done, they were furious and sealed away the Amarite Pits forever, promising that, if any stone was ever taken again, the gems would not grant knowledge but ignorace--which equates to suffering. As a result, Man was left with only partial knowledge of the world.”

As Miss Dowd talked on, it was clear that she was passionate about her subject. Her eyes became brighter and her manner more animated. It was possible to imagine she was addressing a schoolroom full of eager students. “You might recognize in this ancient legend a variation of the Eden story. Whatever else it may be, this myth has greatly contributed to the lore around the stones. Those who credit the story with elements of truth agree that when the First Explorers—more historic figures, though legendary in their own way—stumbled onto an Amarite Pit and looted the gemstones, they awakened the ancient curse.”

Von Halde snorted. He couldn’t help it. These fanciful tales always stirred up his disdain. Legends. Stories. What did they have to do with facts? What could you do with anything that wasn’t a fact? For that matter, how could those who dealt purely with the nonfactual even call themselves scholars? It was pure poppycock.

Ignoring von Halde’s scoff, Evangeline Dowd went on, “Evidence of this can be found around every place and person connected with these rare stones. Indeed, they are rare enough—thank heavens—that we can more or less keep track of the information about them. The First Explorers themselves all suffered tragic fates. To begin with, they no sooner made it back home safely than they began to quibble over who got what portion of the treasure. One decided to murder another and take his share. This caused another to seek revenge. The remaining two explorers agreed to split the gems fifty-fifty and travel in opposite directions.

“These two men chose very different lives, but they both suffered greatly. One became so paranoid about being robbed, he hid his amarites in a mountain and lived frugally in a barren hut. Whenever a traveler came by the mountain road, he was so sure the person was there to steal his treasure, he murdered them. Eventually he was caught and hanged. The other man sold many of his gems and lived like a king. He married a beautiful woman and the finest of his remaining amarites he fashioned into ornaments for her. However, she died in childbirth and the baby was lost. Overcome with grief, he killed himself. His lands fell to his wife’s family, and I could go on describing the feuds and power struggles, the poisonings and inexplicable accidents that speckle that family’s history, but I’ll spare you.

“This might all be thought coincidental if not for the piles of other stories. Look at anyone who has ever been known to own these priceless gems, and I guarantee you will come across horror and tragedy. There was Prince Adelbert of England who was crushed by his own monument for no apparent reason—the structure was sound. He always wore a ring of amarite. Grave robbers even unearthed his tomb during the war with William the Conqueror to steal that ring, and they are reported to have gotten lost in the fens while escaping with their booty, and while there went completely mad. When monks found these two men who carried Adelbert’s ring, they recorded that the two thieves babbled witlessly about bog wights and redcaps that chased them through the fens.

“And, much more recent in history, there is the sad end of the pirate, Dread William. I’m sure you know it, Captain Raider. By a dark and tangled road of cut throats and bloody deeds, Dread William gathered the largest collection of amarite gems rumored to exist—supposedly, a significant chunk of the First Explorer’s original booty. Some say it was the treasure that had been buried in the mountain centuries ago.

“Whatever the case, Dread William was the terror of the high seas, so it was only a matter of time before he was killed or captured. As it happened, his indulgences had left him with a bad case of gout and he was forced to visit a doctor in Europe who was most skilled at alleviating his symptoms. The doctor was too frightened to betray Dread William’s true identity, but his crew was another story. They no doubt saw their leader as aging and vulnerable and one fellow reported his whereabouts to the authorities.

“The pirate was too cagey to be caught so easily and he recognized at once that something was amiss when he arrived at the physician’s house—something about the physician’s expression when he greeted William at the door told him something was wrong. He turned hobbled on his painful foot as fast as he could. The authorities came out and gave chase. William stole a horse and made it back to the docks—only to find his ship had pulled out without him. Nothing left to do, he managed to flee from the town with only his payment for the physician and his jewelry—he wore a pendant of amarite—to sustain him.

“Trapped on land with never a day when he wasn’t running for his life, many report that the pirate began to go mad. We can be pretty sure of this because, when he was finally found again, he was with a band of circus performers who used him as a sideshow routine. Customers would pay to see the mad man locked in his cage, ranting and vomiting on himself. Yes, Dread William ended his days in a freak show. Someone finally identified him and he was taken to be tried and executed. Before he could appear before the judge, this filthy creature had to be bathed. However, when the jailors left him in his tub, he must have had a fit because they came back to find him face down and dead from lungs full of water. The Terror of the High Seas drowned in one foot of bathwater.”

Miss Dowd paused her narrative to let the chilling tale sink in. “Those who study lore often come across reports of people who carry amarite encountering not only freakish ends, but also mythic terrors—such as the thieves who claimed to have been chased by creatures of English fairytales, or…ourselves, who have today fought the Kraken itself.” She met the eyes of each person at the table. “We are lucky to have survived, but I’m telling you there is truth in these stories and we can’t afford to ignore them. The chances are very good—if not absolute—that we will encounter fabulous dangers on top of the ordinary ones Captain Raider has detailed.”

Miss Dowd looked to Erwin von Halde, who was looking supremely unimpressed by her story-weaving. His disdain was for what he saw as Miss Dowd’s naiveté and not Miss Dowd herself, however, so when she looked at him, he eased his expression and raised his brows.

“Now, Mr. von Halde, no doubt you could add a lot more to what I have said, for, as I stated, I am not the expert here. But perhaps this sampling of information is sufficient to give the layman an understanding of what is really behind these gemstones.”

“Or at least,” von Halde said, “believed by some to be behind them. But I dare say, you all know what I think of this lore business!”
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PostSubject: Re: Buried Treasure Archive   Mon Apr 27, 2009 10:07 am

On Amarites: The Gemological Side

“Well, if you’re interested,” von Halde said, looking flattered as he fingered his neck tie, “I would be happy to answer your questions. It may be said that I am the world’s foremost amarite scholar. If you really want a solid overview of the subject, however, I recommend you read my book, Amarite Essentials, but I am always happy to discuss my strongest subject.”

With this introduction humbly uttered, von Halde took a sip of his wine before launching the main body of his oratory. “No doubt you all know the basics—that amarite is the hardest gem, the rarest and most precious. It is rarely encountered in authenticity, but often in counterfeit, and specimens larger than four or five carats weight are extremely uncommon,” he eyed Raider’s pommel stone pointedly.

“The unpracticed eye might mistake an ordinary corundum that is less rutile than other specimens—that is to say, rubies with faint or violet idiochromatism—for amarite. The error can be easily sidestepped when one is familiar with the basic qualities of sapphire and amarite—ah, rubies are merely red sapphires, you know. Most obvious to the naked eye is the difference in dispersion. Sapphires are somewhat dispersive but compared to a true amarite they will appear dull or even lifeless. I may be biased, but the numbers are telling. The universal luminosity scale ranks most sapphires at point-oh-one-three, whereas amarite will rank with diamond at a full point-oh-four-four! And I hypothesize that we will discover amarites to average even higher than that, when we have more specimens for comparative study.”

As he rambled on, von Halde absently rubbed the left side of his lapel, as if patting his heart. “Which brings us to hardness—another area where amarite outstrips the competition. This is due to amarite’s crystal structures, of course. Under the lens, a practiced eye will see that the formations in corundum and other sapphires are a chaotic mix of hexagonal, trigonal and dipyramidal, rendering it a brittle mineral. Amarite, on the other hand, grows on a strong axes in an isometric-hexoctahedral crystal system…”

* * *


Roubins found himself threatening to drop off during von Halde’s jargon-filled lecture. It was a combination of the good food, wine, and the strain of the day’s hardships. He was longing to smoke a dash of tobacco, but it was impolite to smoke at the table, so he did his best to keep his eyes open as von Halde digressed into discussing volcanic vents and something called Kimberlite Pipes, which he gathered to be some specific variety of volcanic vent, though he could have been wrong about that.
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