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One step in destroying a creature that possesses the template vampire lord (Monster Mayhem Web column "The Vampire Lord (Template)") is immersing the ashes of the creature's head in holy water then burying those ashes in consecrated ground.

One step in undestroying a vampire lord is unearthing those ashes then somehow separating the ashes from the holy water. (That somehow, by the way, isn't mine but actually in the vampire lord description.)

Is there a spell, magic item, mundane item, special ability, or some other specific in-game effect that can decisively and beyond reproach separate those ashes from the holy water… and possibly from all that other gunk that got mixed in with the buried ashes, too?

To be clear, I'm after game material not real-world methods.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Would holy water evaporate over time? Is it distinct from regular water in that regard? \$\endgroup\$ – Corrodias Apr 9 '18 at 8:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ If ever there were an opportunity to invent a lesser centrifuge spell, this would be it. \$\endgroup\$ – Crashworks Apr 9 '18 at 9:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Or Mordenkainen's Freeze-Dryer. \$\endgroup\$ – Sneftel Apr 9 '18 at 9:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Corrodias Holy water's probably like regular water for computing evaporation; the game doesn't say it isn't, anyway. That said, I'm certain someone knows the answer to How long does it take moisture to evaporate from ashes if the ashes are buried in earth in different climates? but I suspect that, for my purposes, the answer to that question is Longer than your plot. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Apr 9 '18 at 11:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ This seems like one of those things where the intent of the game designers is that you have to develop, in-character, a custom ritual for the purpose. \$\endgroup\$ – zwol Apr 9 '18 at 13:48
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Dust of dryness is the go-to object for removing water

The dust of dryness (Dungeon Master's Guide 255) (850 gp; 0 lbs.) affects water and only water (although the description listing several kinds of water). It gathers up to 100 gallons of water and turns it into a bead. If you throw the bead later it breaks and all that water reforms in that spot.

Please note that the target in question must either have accessible water that is recognized as water (ie: I doubt that the water which composes the human body counts, maybe stomach acid at best, or blood if you break it inside of an open wound... which would be a very nasty way to die...), or be a body of water. In the case of the proposed ashes, you might need to mix it with water to make it "wet enough" to trigger. (DM call, I presume.)

The dust has famously been used against creatures vulnerable to holy water… absorbing holy water in advance and then breaking the bead and deluging the undead or other target creature with 100 gallons of holy water yields an absurd amount of damage, the ramifications of which are beyond this question's scope.

As the dust is specifically called out to only affect water, it leaves all else untouched, which should result in your bead sitting in a pile of now de-watered ashes. Any irony is a bonus.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ There we go! A magic item that's been around for nearly 40 years that I've honestly never used. I'll wait a little while, but this sounds like a winner. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Apr 9 '18 at 14:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ I always wondered if this was specifically created for such a purpose back in the day, or was intended to be one of those canteen-substitutes with a potentially dangerous twist. "Oh, you got struck by a fireball back in 1st or 2nd ed? Well, looks like your bead didn't make the saving throw and there goes your water... Too bad. Hope you have enough torches and rations to last your way back out of the dungeon! At least losing all your water put out those fires, though now you may catch a cold or something...." ^^ \$\endgroup\$ – nijineko Apr 9 '18 at 14:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ I always assumed that, like, at least 1/4 of the magic items Gygax dreamed up were included solely to see the creative ways in which players would use them. (And, by extension, the old-school identify spell was so difficult to use so that he could, when players got too creative, say, "No, that wacky plan doesn't work.") \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Apr 9 '18 at 16:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ This would require you to submerge the ashes in additional water, as the dust must specifically be "thrown into water" -- without meeting that requirement, the item will not trigger. \$\endgroup\$ – Wannabe Warlock Apr 9 '18 at 17:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @WannabeWarlock Good call! I mean, were that not the case, one cringes at the prospect of accidentally swallowing dust of dryness! \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Apr 9 '18 at 17:29
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Sort of

Prestidigitation can clean items in a 1-foot cube, subject to not being able to duplicate the effects of any other spell. So long as there isn't another spell that can decisively and beyond reproach clean out the ashes, prestidigitation works. There is no other spell that explicitly cleans things, I think, so prestidigitation works (and if it doesn't because some other spell does, ask your GM what that spell is and use that one).

There are, of course, a decent number of spells that might do this, but none of the other ones rise to the bar of 'decisively and beyond reproach', at least in my mind. Again, if prestidigitation doesn't work because e.g. curse water or fabricate or purify food and drink should be used, according to your GM, just use whatever spell they've decided is okay instead.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, prestidigitation sort of feels like the solution, but it also seems a little—I dunno—obvious, I guess, what with that pregnant somehow lurking in the text. :-) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Apr 8 '18 at 22:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Well, if your vampire lord was really big maybe his head's ashes can't fit in a 1-foot cube? Then you'd be screwed, as far as I can tell ( I mean, short of wish et al., obviously). \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Apr 8 '18 at 22:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think cleaning would apply. I would not think you could clean mud to make stacks of dry dirt and water, for instance. That would be filtering, which seems beyond the purview of prestidigitation. It is a useful spell, but I don't think it should be allowed to separate at that level. The cleaning is more "clean your clothes" or something along those lines. \$\endgroup\$ – Wannabe Warlock Apr 9 '18 at 6:12
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Another option is to transform the holy water into unholy water via curse water. That approach makes more sense thematically. The DM might require the ashes to be deposited into a minimum amount of water, and then any holy water would be converted to unholy water along with the rest. Note that the spell does not require purified water, so impurities (read: ashes) in the water would not interfere with the spell.

The most evil option to remove the holy water rather than transmuting it would be to force a living creature to consume the vampire's ashes and then to cast horrid wilting or desiccate [Sandstorm] on the creature.

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The spell-like ability of a blue dragon could do it

Any blue dragon possesses the spell-like ability create/destroy water that, in part, says that

It works like the create water spell, except that the dragon can decide to destroy water instead of creating it, which automatically spoils unattended liquids containing water. Magic items (such as potions) and items in a creature’s possession must succeed on a Will save (DC equal to that of the dragon’s frightful presence) or be ruined. This ability is the equivalent of a 1st-level spell. (Monster Manual 72–3)

(Links added.) As this answer suggests, the 0-level spell prestidigitation [univ] (Player's Handbook 264) is probably the easiest solution if the DM allows it, and, as this answer suggests, the dust of dryness (Dungeon Master's Guide 255) (850 gp; 0 lbs.) is likely the most readily accessible irreproachable method, but it seems that the blue dragon's spell-like ability create/destroy water when used to destroy water could also purge any holy water from a vampire lord's ashes.

However, convincing the blue dragon to use its create/destroy water ability on the vampire lord's ashes is another story… probably a very expensive story, too.

Further, it may be possible, as per answers to this question that if there's a blue dragon that can be dealt with amicably, in conjunction with a craftsman that possesses the feat Craft Wand (PH 93), the blue dragon need only take one day out of its undoubtedly extremely busy schedule and need only trigger one time the spell-like ability create/destroy water to enable that craftsman to create a wand of create/destroy water (1st-level spell at caster level 1) (15 gp/charge; 0 lbs.).

While the only way to activate that wand is by making a Use Magic Device skill check to activate a wand (DC 20)—because not even blue dragons themselves have a spell named create/destroy water on their spell lists—, that's probably the least of an Oh,-noes!-My-vampire-lord's-dead-again servant's problems.

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