Magic Books of Faerûn
By Sean K Reynolds
Lesser Testament of Vraer
The Lesser Testament of Vraer is about 1 foot across and 2 feet high, and it possesses a textured black rothé-hide cover with no title. The spine is a long, straight human thighbone, with knobbed ends that extend beyond the covers. Each end is carved into the shape of a grinning human skull.
Last Record: Dasmer Stamaraster, Halruaan thief, Baldur's Gate, 21 Uktar, 1371 DR.
Description: The book's cover is heavy black leather made from rothé-hide, which makes it quite sturdy, and it is oiled to prevent damage from water. Since the book is not much more than a year old, it still smells of the glue used to bind the leather cover to the thin wooden plates underneath.
The interior pages are vellum bleached to a clear, bright white. The black-inked Chondathan text on them is written in a clear, patient hand by someone almost certainly trained in calligraphy. The first page contains an illustration of a human skull, underneath which is written the book's title and this comment:
"A derivation of the important sections of the cursed tome The Testament of Vraer, which should not be handled except with extreme care. That tome and this belong to the Kelemvor, Lord of the Dead."
The book has a magical aura (moderate necromancy).
History: The Lesser Testament of Vraer was written by Prendael Bardlinel, a Kelemvorite cleric of Baldur's Gate. A cloistered and scholarly member of his faith, Prendael's passion was cataloging books and lore relating to helpful necromancy and the office of the Lord of the Dead. These issues were of particular concern to him as a priest of Kelemvor, for many former clerics of Myrkul (the previous god of death) joined Kelemvor's clergy when the young god gained the portfolio of death, and their philosophical and doctrinal differences with the mainstream faith caused a few conflicts in the church. Prendael catalogued the more famous episodes of these conflicts.
One of the more famous troublemakers of this type was Vraer of Scornubel, a proud Myrkulite cleric whose mind apparently shattered when Myrkul was destroyed and his portfolio passed to Cyric and then Kelemvor. In 1368 DR Vraer was "wildly inspired" and created a book he called the Testament of Vraer, which he claimed was proof of Kelemvor's favor in him and established that he should be the supreme cleric of the faith. Another cleric named Nalauthiir of Reth disagreed, claiming Kelemvor spoke directly to him and that the book was a fraud. Vraer publicly challenged Nalauthiir to read the Testament and still maintain that view; Nalauthiir had no choice but to accept and was found dead in his chambers the next day. It turns out that Vraer had bound magic into the Testament that he could activate against the next person to peruse it, and over the next few years he used this secret to eliminate several rivals within the church (meaning any cleric of power who disagreed with him or merely seemed indifferent to his plans). Vraer was last seen in 1370 DR. The location of the Testament was unknown for several years but was believed to be somewhere in the Western Heartlands. It came to Prendael in 1371 DR.
Prendael had heard the stories about the Testament and eventually discovered the keys to the traps on it (some of which conjured undead to attack a reader who examined the pages without the proper precautions). He found several valuable spells in its pages and decided to transcribe them into another book; this book he later dubbed the Lesser Testament of Vraer. The location of the original Testament is unknown, but Prendael may have turned it over to senior officials of the church for safekeeping or destruction.
Prendael made the Lesser Testament to resemble the book it is based on. The main physical differences are the original's cover and three of its interior pages. The original's cover appears to be very old, with fissures in the leather like the bark of an old tree, while the Lesser Testament looks new. The original's title page is glossy black with a painted image of a human skull, and no text whatsoever. Another black page halfway through the book shows a skeletal human right hand (and attached to the bottom of this page is a black ribbon bearing Kelemvor's holy symbol multiple times), and the last page is also black with a skeletal tail from some sort of mammal or sea creature. Treasure-seekers should beware should they find what they believe to be the Lesser Testament and discover these black interior pages, for it means that somehow the original Testament has been liberated from the church of Kelemvor and may be primed to kill those who read it. However, the Testament contains all the prayers listed in the Lesser Testament, as well as a few rare and destructive spells.
Unfortunately, Prendael was found murdered on 21 Uktar 1371 DR, and the Lesser Testament was one of the items missing from his ransacked room. Church authorities suspect one of Vraer's disciples (for there are still a few like-minded former Myrkulites in the church) or an agent of Velsharoon are responsible for the murder and robbery. It turns out the latter supposition is true, and a clever thief named Dasmer Stamaraster is now bearing the Lesser Testament back to his masters somewhere in Faerûn. (So far divinations from the church have given only the man's name).
Contents: The Lesser Testament of Vraer contains the following Kelemvorite prayers in order (though specifically written to call upon the power of Kelemvor, the wording of the prayers is adapted easily by other faiths).
- Hide from undead
- Death dragon
- Death ward
- Ghost knight
- Kelemvor's grace
- Undeath to death
As a book of clerical prayers instead of an arcane spellbook, this book serves mainly as a learning tool. A divine spellcaster who has access to the spells on the cleric spell list can learn to cast the two new spells (ghost knight and Kelemvor's grace) just as though that character had independently researched those two spells (see page 180 in the Player's Handbook). It takes one day to learn each new spell from the book, and the reader must be of high enough level to cast the spell to be learned (otherwise, the effort is wasted). The remaining spells in book provide no benefit to the reader. (The author included them to provide the reader with a context for understanding the two new spells.)
The book has only one secondary ability, which is more of a magical lock than a useable power or a trap. While anyone who can read Chondathan can translate the titles of the prayers, the specific words beneath them appear to be nothing but blurs. To make the text readable, a person must use a turn undead attempt; if the turn attempt would affect an undead of 5 or more Hit Dice, the text on all pages becomes readable for 24 hours. Rebuke attempts cause the text to become blurry again (or have no effect if the text is already blurry). Prendael included this protective feature in the hopes of keeping evil clerics from accessing or using the spells within it.
Price: 1,350 gp (spellbook value only), assuming the buyer knows how to make the text readable and has access to the "key." As a book of blurry prayers (if the buyer doesn't know how to unlock it) the LesserTestament is worth no more than 100 gp. Members of the Church of Kelemvor who recognize the book would pay an additional 25% over the book's full value. Members of evil churches, particularly those that use undead, might pay up to 1,000 gp so they could destroy it.
Last Known Bearer: Dasmer Stamaraster, Halruaan assassin.
Dasmer grew up in Halruaa, where he received the standard magical testing and training, but he never felt like putting effort into learning more than the most rudimentary aspects of arcane magic. He was more inclined to sneak into places where he didn't belong and interfere with wizards' experiments. He eventually found himself exiled from Halruaa for such activity (and bears a quest spell that prevents him from returning home). His talents for infiltration and dabbling in magic let him fall in with a group of Velsharan necromancers, who eventually introduced him to some of their religious leaders. These leaders saw Dasmer's potential for spying and stealing from enemies of the faith, and he has been employed on many successful missions of both types. The church elders learned of the Lesser Testament in their searches for the original book and sent Dasmer to infiltrate Prendael's temple as a lay guard with the intent of grabbing the book; killing its creator was just a side benefit. Dasmer is making his way south with the book to a rendezvous point where he'll turn it over to a Velsharan cleric or wizard and get news of his next assignment.
Dasmer has a very casual attitude about everything. He doesn't seem to care about the state of the world, or other peoples' rights to property, or loyalty. His indifference can irritate those with whom he works and socializes. The only things that truly interest him are playing with magic items -- having the fun of being a wizard without all of the work in becoming one -- and visiting his homeland. Dasmer hopes that if he continues to serve the Velsharan church well, they'll remove the spell preventing him from going home and possibly even magically disguise him so he can visit without being recognized. Until that time, he is content to sneak into places of magic, sometimes pocketing choice items for himself as well as the object of his mission. He prefers to work alone, but he has hired local thieves to cause distractions while he makes his entrance. He has no loyalty toward these hirelings, though, and doesn't hesitate to leave them in the path of enemy guards or spells if a job goes bad.
Dasmer Stamaraster: Male human rogue 8; CR 8; Medium humanoid; HD 8d6+8; hp 36; Init +7; Spd 30 ft.; AC 18, touch 14, flat-footed 18; Base Atk +6; Grp +6; Atk +7 melee (1d6+1/19-20, +1 short sword) or +7 melee (1d4/19-20, masterwork dagger); Full Atk +7/+2 melee (1d6+1/19-20, +1 short sword) or +7/+2 melee (1d4/19-20, masterwork dagger); SA sneak attack +4d6; SQ evasion, improved uncanny dodge, trap sense +2, trapfinding, uncanny dodge; AL NE; SV Fort +3, Ref +9, Will +6; Str 10, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 14, Wis 14, Cha 8.
Skills and Feats: Appraise +5, Balance +6, Climb +11, Diplomacy +1, Disguise +10, Gather Information +3, Hide +12, Knowledge (arcana) +4, Knowledge (religion) +3, Listen +11, Move Silently +14, Open Lock +11, Search +11, Sense Motive +8, Sleight of Hand +9, Spellcraft +6, Spot +12, Use Magic Device +12; Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Magical Aptitude, Magical Training.
Evasion (Ex): If exposed to any effect that normally allows a character to attempt a Reflex saving throw for half damage, Dasmer takes no damage with a successful saving throw.
Improved Uncanny Dodge (Ex): Dasmer can no longer be flanked, since he can react to opponents on opposite sides of him as easily as he can react to a single attack. This defense denies another rogue lower than 13th level the ability to sneak attack him by flanking him.
Trap Sense (Ex): Dasmer gains a +2 bonus on Reflex saves made to avoid traps and a +2 dodge bonus to AC against attacks made by traps.
Uncanny Dodge (Ex): Dasmer can react to danger before his senses would normally allow him to do so. He retains his Dexterity bonus to AC even while flat-footed or when struck by an invisible attacker.
Magical Training: Dasmer can cast dancing lights, daze, and mage hand once per day as an arcane spellcaster. Caster level 1st (save DC 12 + spell level; arcane spell failure 15%).
Possessions: +1 studded leather, +1 short sword, masterwork dagger, ring of protection +1, boots of elvenkind, striped toadstool poison (3 doses, see DMG), wand of cure light wounds (4 charges), wand of detect magic (5 charges), wand of invisibility (3 charges), wand of cat's grace (2 charges), 25 gp.
About the Author
Sean K Reynolds lives in Encinitas, California, and works for a video game company. His D&D credits include the Monster Manual, the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, and Savage Species. He'd like to thank Brian Cortijo for his advice in this article series.
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