Thursday, November 20, 2014

(Shadows of Waterdeep) The Assignment


From the desk of Maskar Wands
Fifth day Winter 1370

I often look back to the events taking place during Smendric’s birth. It was a time of troubles when the gods of magic perished leaving the weave unguarded and vulnerable. Waterdeep was at war with Luskan; The Order of Magists and Protectors were targeted by the Arcane Brotherhood; and all the while noble houses battled each other in the city. Our house was attacked that night, and powerful spells were exchanged between wizards which may have had something to do with the young boy’s wondrous magical nature. Perhaps the wild magic surges are Smendric’s way to vent an overabundance of arcana within him or worse, and my greatest fear, that the chaotic fey discovered a way within Smendric to avenge the terrible things we did to the fey during the godsfall in order to survive. Whatever turns out to be true, chaos magic or no, it saved his life and the lives of six of his friends. 

Lydda Artemel was horribly murdered recentlly and two suspects are in custody although Smendric and his friends maintain there was a third individual named Delrach involved; nevertheless, the investigation is only beginning. The victim was the first Artemel cleric to depart from her family’s patron deity and embrace a post-godsfall new Tymora. It is a definite setback for the Artemel family and the financial community but one, with the right help, will emerge stronger for it.

In the meantime, in light of Smendric’s recent involvements, Bryan Kormallis has agreed to look into any correlation between the Brown Back Hard Men scuffle with the Parade of Maidens clerics of the and Lydda Artemel’s murder. 


“Nobody puts their hands on Smendric Wands and gets away with it,” He said to himself watching Mister Broken-thumbs, the drunkard who manhandled him behind the Pampered Traveler. It took Smendric a series of obtuse questions before Bryan Kormallis would give up the name of Mister Broken-thumbs without suspecting something, but eventually Smendric had the man’s name- Vicarzo DeMarcain

Over the weekend Smendric devoted himself to Vicarzo from a far, employing all the techniques taught to him by Bryan, Greywolf, and Wykkar to identify a pattern in Vicarzo’s activities- and before long Smendric saw a rich opportunity. 

*******

Vicarzo was shadow of his former self, aged and gaunt, as if he wagered everything on one bet and had lost it all. To Smendric he seemed to wander about Waterdeep looking for where it all went wrong, searching for something. Vicarzo visited many places over the two days Smendric trailed the unkempt noble. Smendric saw that having broken thumbs presents a host of inconveniences the least of which is pulling one’s boots on but another is a release of one’s tensions wether by sword play on the battlefield or solo sword play in privacy. 

Vicarzo had a bunk at Storm Keep, but would wander shops during the day, resting briefly at Heroes’ Garden before finally settling on a swanky establishment late Saturday night. The Efreeti Bottle it seems was Vicarzo’s choice for the release that he himself could not provide with his broken thumbs.

Smendric, having never been inside such an establishment, had no idea of the inner layout. He was not ignorant of what took place inside but Smendirc would rather not subject himself to the depravity. He considered, and remembered the tunnels; perhaps there were underground ways into the Bottle. And of course there was. 

*****

Coming out of a lower level and into an adjacent room inside the Efreeti Bottle Smendric found the old noble relaxing in a pool, the purpose of his visit served. Pale skin pulled taught over a bony skeleton, Smendric could hear sultry music playing unseen somewhere close but was nearly overcome with the rich perfumes laden in the air. The pool in Smendric’s adjacent room was empty unused, there were several broken piles of furniture each spotted with many stains. The young mage gathered the necessary props lying about for his ruse and approached the vent separating Smendric from Vicarzo. 


YOU DISHONOR ME VICARZO!” said a high ear-ripping, banshee-like voice. “WHERE IS MY RING?” Admittedly it was a ridiculously fabricated wail, but it was Smendric’s only other ‘voice’. 

Vicarzo reacted immediately, standing up causing water to splash about, obviously expecting to see an irate woman but when he looked about there was no one, just a disembodied voice.

“What ring? I…” the naked Vicarzo said as he pawed in vain for his clothes and spectacles. 

MY RING VICARZO? YOU PROMISED ME A RING BUT INSTEAD YOU HAD ME KILLED. I WANT MY RING!”

“Dear spirits,” Vicarzo said dismayed. “I thought you…”

MY RING YOU MURDERING…” but as the banshee wailed, Vicarzo puled off a ring from his small finger and offered it to the voice. The iron ring was hardly fit for a woman, but Smendric did not care- he was having too much fun at the old noble’s ‘expense’. The duality made Smendric giggle. 

“Take this and be gone vile spirit.” Vicarzo said tossing the jewel onto the wet stone floor as if it were on fire. Vicarzo bolted for the door sliding on the wet floor disturbing many patrons along the way. 

*******

“Are we having fun Smendric?” Bryan Kormallis said as Smendric was inspecting Vicarzo’s ring. He thought himself alone, but the appearance of his mentor did not surprise Smendric. Obviously Bryan successfully discerned why Smendric was so interested in Vicarzo and tracked them both to the Efreeti Bottle. 

“Nobody puts their hands on Smendric Wands and gets away with it,” he said insistently. “Mister Vicarzo DeMarcain here is simply paying recompense for his assault on my person.” Smendric finished, approximating the ring’s value to be just higher than paltry. 

“He did pay, I broke his thumbs,” Bryan said evenly, always testing Smendric’s actions, reactions, and motivations. 

“So I am to rest easy knowing you are satisfied?” Smendric said in a sarcastic tone. “No, he put his hands on me, and here we are.” Smendric finished offering Bryan a sly grin as the young mage offered the ring to the man. 

“Keep it, I have come bearing a message for you Smendric.” Bryan said with gravity implying that Smendric would want to devote his entire attention to this. Bryan held out a roll of parchment sealed with a familiar but exclusive alchemical substance that burns the message away once the seal is broken. One only has but a moment to decipher the inscriptions before the substance consumes the parchment and the message contained therein. 

“An assignment?” Smendric asked Bryan with unbridled excitement taking the message greedily. Taking a deep breath Smendric broke the seal and quickly unrolled the message…

S.W.

Your impressive heroics on the streets during Moonfeast and your sly cunning in discovering the Artemel murder has got you noticed and eligible for your first task. An old evangelist has come out of retirement and is causing undesirable ripples in Waterdeep’s financial district, his name is Randal Flagg- a follower of the Grim Lord and he is not working alone. Find out where he is speaking, who he has with him, who he may be preaching to, both 
publicly and privately; and report to B. K., do not under any circumstances engage Flagg or his associates. 

The Master of Shadows

*******

It was later that evening on the High Road when most of the stalls in the financial district had closed for the night, there were many people are still in the open market. An orator stood at the edge of the market easily attracting a crowd around him. 

“People of Waterdeep. The Cassalanter’s are dangerous and are still a threat to our way of life. Do not trust them with your gold! Lest not forget that eleven short years ago the Cassalanter’s were known cult of the dragon-financiers bent on seeing the North fall to dragon rule.” The orator shouted over the growing crowd causing many to nod in dumb agreement. 

Smendric listened to Randal Flagg a safe distance away and watched as the crowd begin to get restless. Flagg did have an assistant that aided his huckstering by offering words of either protest or support depending on how the crowd swayed. Wow, he thought either the orator was that good or the people of Waterdeep are thick in the skull. This was over ten years ago, Smendric mused. Had not the Cassalanter’s proven themselves since then? They had turned their backs on Waukeen, who was really behind the infiltration of the house, and embraced the new Tymora like the rest of the city. Something was not right here.

“… and food from your children’s mouths to fatten themselves in luxury!” Flagg said bringing his diatribe to an end, presumably to find another corner of the district to preach upon. But as several men began to shout in shared protest against the Cassalanter’s throwing their fists in the air, lead by the mysterious second man, a clatter of horse hooves and the ring of steel being drawn made the crown turn. 

Ringing the outer edges of the market stood thirty financial-district guardsmen ready to break up the angered crowd. These private guards, commissioned by moneylenders like the Cassalanter’s and the Cragsmere’s, now became the object of the orator’s protests. The crowd grew silent as three of the riders slowly kicked their mounts towards the center of the crowd. 

“The markets are closed people, please disperse immediately.” One of the private security guards said. 

Without warning a fowl cry erupts from somewhere in the thick crowd, then something flew through the air; Smendric observed it was Flagg up to mischief. The object struck the speaking guard knocking him off balance, the other two raised their shields as the crowd transformed into a mob swarming angrily towards the riders. The other man made a sign in benediction then suddenly channeled wave of power that rocked the crowd enraging them further. 

“Ok I see Mister Randal Flagg, get the crowd worked up and evacuate.” Smendric said aloud. “Your friend too? now where are you going?”

The orator, Flagg, slipped out of the mob and turned down a corner that, because of a good angle, Smendic could see. Looking back Smendric lost the second man in the mob. Then with a speed that none of Flagg’s earlier movements hinted at, the evangelist bounded down the street taking long magical strides. Oh that’s cute, Smendric thought as he stood up and secured his equipment, but he doesn’t have these... Smendric then took a deep breath and vaulted into the air. 

Three-league boots, an exclusive item of the mages of the Order, allowed Smendric to jump from one side of the city to the other in just a few magical leaps. Travel in this way was a hazardous because folk could not see where they were going to land, but the trick was to know Waterdeep three-dimensionally not two-dimensionally. To know the tallest buildings in each ward and to jump to those first, then to shorter buildings like great steps down a staircase of rooftops. 

Following the evangelist was not easy, not only was the man magically aided in his strides he was also sensitive to his surroundings. Smendric saw that Flagg was retracing parts of his route to evade followers, but what Flagg did not account for was a mischievous mage-thief wearing his father’s magic boots. 

After about an hour of tracking Flagg, losing him once, and finding him again, Smendric watched intrigued when the evangelist stopped to speak with a group of ten men keeping warm around a small fire behind Gounar’s Tavern, among them was the channeler. The wind was up and that made it impossible to hear what the evangelist was telling the men, but when Smendric saw Flagg produce gold he intuited Flagg was hiring them for something. But what surprised Smendric the most was when the channeler passed out iron rings just like the one Vicarzo had. 


Smendric dared to get closer, he wanted to impress Bryan Kormallis and the Master of Shadows with good useable information. Eventually the wind picked up again, this time from the other direction carrying with it some of the conversation. 

“Ca...dorn… Jade Sea… drow… tonight...” Was all Smendric could make out before the wind reversed itself again. The reversal caused the fire to flare up and briefly illuminate Smendric’s hiding spot. Without waiting to see if he was noticed, Smendric jumped and was landed heavily in front of Gavin and Hextor’s Haberdashery

It did not take long to relay the story and even shorter amount of time for Bryan to tell Smendric he is suiting up on this one- as a Shadow Thief.