Merit's Encoded Message
Obtained by Li Merit in the Gate of Shen, along with two very old tael and a statuette.
These are the words I found upon the remains of the tablet, as I found it, and as I transcribed it, before it was destroyed. May these words not fall into the hands of the enemies of the Dragon.
"And in the last days of the great Lo Tan, did he give his blessing and protection to the brotherhood of Keepers. And as the Cycle itself turns, with each Great Spirit rising to ascendency and then falling once more only to rise again, so did the auguries predict that the Dragon Emperors would return. And so as the line of Emperors slept, the Keepers would protect Their legacy from those who would plunder it and cause the downfall of the Dragon's land. And thus did the thirteen Keepers receive their charge, and take the three Keys to the Vault and hide them behind the three Flames of the Dragon. And the Flame of the Yin was in the body of the land, and it was deep beneath the earth, where it would not be found. And the Flame of the Chi was in the heart of the land, and it was deep within the tree, where it would not be found. And the Flame of the Yang was in the spirit of the land, and it was deep within the waters, where it would not"
These are the words I found upon the scroll, as I found it, and as I transcribed it, before it was stolen. May these words not fall into the hands of the enemies of the Dragon.
"The Great Keeper is not able to stop us. The first four are dead, though they did manage to destroy the mine and bury their Key beneath Heaven, never to be recovered. The second four have made a dealing with demons and torn a piece of the land away from the Forest, where it can not be reached. But the third four were corrupted and have revealed their charge. We shall dive into the pool of the Emperors and bypass the Flame this very day, and the Dragon's Hoard will be ours."
These are the words I have read and I believe they are true. Thus, I am the last Great Keeper. The rest of the thirteen are dead, or lost, or worse, and so it is only I who remain to fulfill our trust. Though I do not have the Keys, I do have the blessing of Dragon. I shall cast his Command forth to those who would defy his will, and they shall be bound to His purpose, as if they were Keepers themselves. Until freed by touch of the Dragon, they shall serve, even unto their deaths, as shall any who join with them. The Dragon's will shall prevail until He returns.
1) There are three physical Keys. All three are needed to open the Vault of the Dragon if one is to take something out. However, the vault can be entered and items can be borrowed if only one of the keys is possessed. Thus you expect that the Keepers of the Hoard (the group of thieves you've encountered), possesses one of the three keys.
2) Thanks to the curse of the last Great Keeper, the Keepers of the Hoard are unlikely to be able to voluntarily reveal the location of the Hoard. On the other hand, they can't use anything in the hoard for purposes that do not increase the Hoard itself, so they probably don't get too much benefit from it and are likely disgruntled about it.
3) One of the Keys is likely in the Mountains of Heaven. You'd want to search records for a mine that was lost around the appropriate time. Sadly, such records would have to be searched locally.
4) The second key is likely in the World Below. Search for some sort of tree/forest related demon. Odd, as those sorts of things are usually spirits.
5) The third key is likely in possession of the Keepers, but the guardian flame associated with it is likely in the Hidden City.
6) The Keepers of the Hoard can not number more than 12.
7) The "touch of the Dragon" sounds a lot like something Xiao Fa was talking about.
That night you have a dream. You hunker down cozily in your nest, surrounded by the other eggs. Far above you, a voice which is not a voice sounds:
"We appreciate the impulse to carefully curate your own collection, taking the time to closely examine each piece, and lovingly fit it into the greater whole. But now that the first is past, be watchful for the second."