From the Desk of Maskar Wands.
First day of Winter 1370
My attempt at crafting a bonded wand for Smendric has met with failure. I have spent half the year empowering the wand's base components only to have the final enchantment miscast. I will consult with our diviners to know why, but I will document this: it felt like the magic responded but was pulled back at the last millisecond. My instincts say there is an intelligence or force at work. Concerning but most of all heartbreaking to see the Wands long family tradition of a father crafting his son's first bonded wand; to give to him upon his twelfth name day will sadly come to an end.
Smendric would not know this however, because he failed to come home last night. I admit am torn - punish him as would be expected, or perhaps give him some freedom that comes with his new age and new responsibilities. Both choices come with equal danger not just for him but for those closest to him.
Brother Rhone was the unofficial mascot for the students. Officially Specularum did not have a mascot, having only a complex symbol to represent itself. Nevertheless the passive gargoyle happily guarded and watched the scores of student that passed under its protective gaze. Brother Rhone's favorite student was of course Smendric Wands; he appreciated the young mage’s whit and tomfoolery, but most of all it was his honesty when it came to his friends.
The gargoyle recalled two years ago as a first-year student he told Brother Rhone, "One day I will be as famous as you." The gesture warmed Brother Rhone; yes Smendric was honest and true to his word.
"Hey Rhone! Brother down here." Smendric said to the gargoyle outside the school commons. It was a brisk morning, the north wind wrapped her arms around the boy necessitating the use of endure elements magic. Smendric's long red hair covered his features like a veil in the breezes.
"Friend Spendric." Brother Rhone growled happily, landing heavily on the cobbles shattering one.
Tossing his hair back revealing his best smile Smendric asked, "Rhone you see who comes and goes from the Specularum, did you see anything unusual yesterday?" Smendric asked casually.
"The Dean let the students out early, probably because it was your birthday." Brother Rhone said endearingly.
"Yea but Teena Tarm swears she saw a drow elf yesterday. What do you know about it? Is she crazy?" Smendric asked the gargoyle inquisitively.
"Not at all friend Smenric, she is right we do in fact have a drow visitor." Brother Rhone said innocently.
"Have? Luck of Tymora! You mean...where is it?" Smendric asked thrilled at the danger.
"He, friend Smendric. He was in the library when I was last there with..."
But Smendric did not hear the rest of the statement as he darted past Brother Rhone, into the Specularum, and toward the master library. The school's master library was filled with books and tomes donated or bought with assets and gold seized from families with known ties to the cult of the dragon. It was an ironic way of assuring Waterdeep's future prosperity and protection.
Coming up fast on the tall double-wide doors Smendric intended to skid to a stop, pull down on the release, and open the heavy door in one impressive move. But when the door opened and Priestess Rhodhan Eltorchul stepped out, Smendric slid right into a surprised cleric of Mystra.
"Smendric Wands! Where the hell are you going so hasted?" Rhodhan asked, her tone incredulous and her face twisted in outrage.
"I'm sorry I have a book to return." Smendric said snapping his fingers about magically straightening the Priestess' vestments.. and hair.. and
"Stop that, I'm fine. Now lets slow those quickling feet ok Smendric." She said, her annoyance now turned into a smile on her thin lips.
Trying to un-straighten her hair Rhodhan retreated into the morning bustle of Specularum's halls leaving Smendric holding open the door to the library. He crossed the threshold into musty library. Smendric knew the cavernous library well; it was multi-tiered with texts and tomes from the world over. Natural sunlight was used to illuminate the central study but Smendric noticed thick drapes now closed off the bright morning light.
A shuffling of pages and the thud of a book broke Smendric from his observations. The boy darted and tumbled under a table his heart now racing. Smendric saw a shadow move near a familiar scribe's desk. He could not see the drow elf but could see a shape; a silhouette of voluminous robes and long hair pulled up like an elf. Smendric dared to peek over the table to see...
"Mother?" His mother was the last person he was expeciting to discover, she was wearing not voluminous robes but a red dress with her hair pulled up as he would always remember her.
"Hello Smendric." Olanhr Wands said smiling at her son. She was standing near his scribes desk that was piled with books and journals; Smendric saw that most of these works were recent, having mostly to do with the godsfall. "We missed you last night. Why did you not come home?"
Smendric looked at her, "I was having fun, it was.."
"Your birthday yes, but you cannot just have fun regardless of cost or consequence. You are too important in ways you do not understand yet." Olanhr said with sincerest love for her red-headed son.
"I suppose father is angry, should I expect to be teleported home directly after class?" Smendric asked, knowing the answer before he asked.
"No son. You are have reached the age of maturity and with that comes responsibility." Reaching into her magical purse Olanhr produced and held out a folding knife. The knife had a dragon bone handle with a blade forged, fire-hardened, and sharpened from a dragon's single-toughest scale.
"It’s name is Avildar, it was your grandmother's and she left it to you for when you were old enough." Olanhr said as Smendric grasped the weapon. "She stipulated that you should discover the weapon's properties on your own, without aid. Those were her conditions son."
The weapon responded immediately conforming to fit Smendric's hand size. He could feel magic at work but Smendric could not tell its nature. Smendric looked for a way to unfold the knife but as soon as the thought entered his mind the blue blade sprung out.
"Come Smendric, I will walk you to class." She said escorting him toward the door and into the hall.
Students were filing to their respective classes as mother and son walked and conversed to Smendric’s first class of the day: Father Malusiel’s class for advanced creature studies. Father Malusiel’s lectures were utter torture for Smendric; boring did not begin to scratch the surface of the tedium of seminars on cave-fishes or rust monsters, but as the boy wizard neared Father Malusiel’s classroom a feeling of trepidation crept over Smendric.
After a brief goodbye in which Smendric promised his mother he would come home tonight- early in fact, he walked into the Father Malusiel’s class and what he saw in the center of the room filled Semendric with abject wonder.
“Well, hello Mr. Wands glad you could join us this morning.” Father Malusiel said smugly. Malusiel was a hard-assed cleric in service to Azuth and Specularum’s expert on magical creatures, outsiders, and dragons. Up until ten years ago Malusiel adventured with the famous Blinkstone Companions liberating the north from evil, now he taught his valuable experience to young aspiring spell-casters.
Bindon Salt and Alyssa Roaringhorn as well as other sixth and seventh year students filled most of the seats around the wonder positioned in the center of the circular room.
“Boys and girls can anyone tell me what this creature is?” Malusiel asked the class returning to his normal pompass composure.
“It’s a Kobold.” Smendric said flatly hoping to get back on Malusiel’s good side. Standing in the center of the room was a stuffed kobold in an attack stance. The creature looked every bit as menacing as in real life.
“That is very good Mr. Wands, now if you could next time raise your hand.” Malusiel said then continued, “Kobolds are often characterized as filthy little reptiles barely greater than goblins.”
As the cleric demonstrated different physical features on the kobold touching vulnerable areas Malusiel continued to lecture, “They’re malicious but of little actual menace. Catch kobolds in their lairs, where they are almost certainly hard at work mining, and such a description might be fitting.” He paused for dramatic effect, “No one ever suspected that being underestimated was the kobolds’ goal…”
Smendric could very well teach this class if he had the patience so he let the drone of Father Malusiel’s discussion carryon while he dexterously twirled Avildar in his palm and studied the stuffed kobold.
After school Smendric and his alchemy classmates where eating at the Castle Grocers; the day was late and a cold wind was whipping through the city streets and it was beginning to rain. A dog steped in from the rain and shook itself off prompting one of the Grocers to run the animal off; somewhere a dish breaks in the kitchen. A few moments later the Grocer reenters wet and flustered without the dog, but with an old woman obviously in distress. The woman’s wet grey strands covered her features like a web that hid her crying face. Bindon stood suddenly, somehow shaken by the old woman.
“What is it Bindon, what is wrong?” Mykka Cragsmere asked as several people including Alyssa and Tenna came to the distressed woman’s aid.
“In my homerand to harm a woman is to invite dishonor.” Bindon said calmly.
“In Thay?” Smendric asked, his face screwed up in disbelief.
Ten feet away the woman was pleading, “Please, someone come quickly.” Panic threatened to overcome her as she looks about for heroes. “Please there are creatures below my house… maybe spirits!”
At the sound of a possible haunting many of the patrons quietly excused themselves.
“Spirits?” the grocer asked fearfully.
“I heard them. They said they wanted me dead.” she whispered pointing to the growing night and her humble home. “Is there no one who will help me?”
“This should be fun and free from consequence,” Smendric said as the seven school mates descended into the old woman’s cellar where she said the sounds originated. At the bottom of the ladder was a dry dirt cellar. Bags were piled against the far wall and cobwebs filled the corners and rafters. There was two old chairs standing alone and a sack of dried apples that was spilled across the floor.
“This is where she was when she got startled,” Tanner Tarm correctly intuited.
A dissident squeaking began from the far wall where many of the bags where piled. Both Bindon and Smendric drew weapons; Bindon, a small katana the size of a dagger with a red weapon crystal and Smendric, Dreamcatcher’s Avildar. Alyssa picked up one of the chairs and held it defensively in front of her, the rest of the children backed away.
Then, without warning, a dire rat burst from the pile of bags. Grains and dried vegetables exploded giving it the element of surprise. On its flank the dire rat sported an injury and was in pain. The creature did not stop, only darted for the largest group of kids. The rat came at Alyssa who held the feeble old chair before her as she tried to defend Mykka, Tenna, Tanner, and...
Dimitros Cassalanter, in a shock of heroics, picked up the second chair and brought it down across the dire rat’s grotesque spine. Both the rats back and the chair broke apart leaving only the screams of the the girls and the matching looks of surprise form Smendric and Bindon.
“Well done sir!” Mykka Cragsmere said praising the first-year Dimitros.
To this Dimitros replied, “I was too small for it to notice me, so I was not afraid,” his smile beamed.
“That was next level Dimitros, good work,” Smendric said embracing the younger boy.
“I have found something,” Bindon said motioning to where the dire rat came from, “a rat hole.”
“Someone has been digging a tunnel,” Alyssa said looking into the rat hole and the crossing tunnel. “It’s big enough for a man.”
“It looks like the rat had found where the tunnel breached the old lady’s cellar and smelled food.” Mykka said after looking into the rat hole.
“The rat was injured, look blood,” Smendirc said pointing out the red drops of blood, “I wonder who or what...”
“and look I see footprints, the tunnel extends both north and south.” Bindon said affirming Alyssa’s observation.
“Shh I hear something.” Tanner Tarm said.
An unknowable distance away down the tunnel mage-children could discern two voices. As they listened the voices seemed to grow louder, “Delrach said we need to finish the job…” but then receded up the tunnel quickly passing the children. Each of the children let out a collective sigh of relief and huddled together.
“It’s just a couple of thugs, possibly burglarizing the neighborhood through these tunnels.” Smendric said intrigued. Thieves? “They went north, we follow them and subdue them from behind, should be easy.”
Lining up one by one each of the kids crawled into the tunnel and was soon following the foot prints north. Smendric took the lead, Bindon guarding the rear of the file and the youngest in the center with Dimitrous holding a light-stick.
“I heardz the voizez down herez..”
The strange speech froze the children in their steps, this was nothing like the voice of the two men they were folloing. Teena Tarm started to shake in fear; Alyssa took her briskly in her arms thinking suddenly that this was a terrible idea. They had traveled a good distance from the rat hole and it would only be a matter of time that one of them would alert the blood freezing voices.
Then from a previously unseen hole in the wall, three small scaled creatures jumped into the meagre light of Dimitrous’ light-stick. They were kobolds, but different from Malusiel’s model in class, they had shorter arms and large over muscled hind quarters like marsupials. Draconic spines grew from the sides of their temples coming together at the tail which was also over-muscled like its legs. In their stunted arms two kobolds held crude three-foot staffs defensibly as they menaced and frightened the mage-children. The third was marked with crude tattoos, had a skull for a helmet, a bone tabard, and lofted a terrible gnome-skull mace sheathed in green-fire.
“Kurtulmak!” it said as they advanced hungrily on the children.
For Smendric the sources of this morning’s trepidation stood before him. It was strange for the red-headed mage; it was like he could sense the kobold’s presence. He flashed out Avildar, but the blade did not respond. He tried his favorite command phrase, “turtle soup!” but nothing.
Bindon twirled his dagger impressively about while he surrounded himself in red disturbing illusions in an attempt to dissuade the hostile creatures. Mykka formed a magical breeze through the irregular tunnel blowing the kobolds a few feet farther away from the group. Alyssa spun defensively and threw a magic missile at the mace wielder striking true, blasting apart the bony tabard. Dimitros, still holding the light stick moved defensively behind Smendric covering his flank armed with a chair leg. Tanner and Teena Tarm, in synchronistic harmony cast identical spells targeting the two staff wielding kobolds hoping to make them unwitting allies.
The gnome-skull mace wielder leaped forward propelled by its meaty tail in an attempt to drop-kick Alyssa, but as he crossed between his two companions each of them spun about pivoting on their staffs one tail high, one tail low sending their leader face first onto the tunnel floor, prone right in front of Smendric. The two traitorous kobolds looked at each other in terrified confusion and tried to regroup.
Smendric felt trapped without an means of escape, tried to tap into his unbridled side hoping for a wild surge but the magic would not come. Next to him Bindon Salt closed the distance on the two confused kobolds with his wicked display continuing his efforts. Mykka Cragsmere pointed his finger at the standing kobold on the left; an icy ray of frost stung the creature briefly paralyzing its stunted arms. Alyyssa repeated Mykka’s example and loosed her own ray of frost to similar effect on the right kobold, she was now backed up defensively against a wall. Dimitros came forward from around Smendric bringing the old chair leg down across the prone kobold’s weapon arm breaking it in three places. The twin Tarms each stepped back while maintaining their enchantment over the strange breed of kobolds.
The two traitorous kobolds, too terrified to succumb as whiting allies again, darted for the rat-hole they emerged from chattering in panicked draconic. The remaining kobold, with a broken arm was slow to get up.
Smendric reached for an alchemist fire, Avildar flashing perceptively, thinking if they play this right they would all get extra credit. Smendric raised it above his head but before he threw it Smendric realized with astonishment that he had retrieved Dimitros’ potion and not an alchemist fire. Bindon did not hesitate with the opportunity attack and found the kobold’s ear canal with his dagger- just like Father Malusiel had taught them, killing the creature.
“What do you want to do with it?” Alyssa asked the over excited group. They had just fought and defeated their first a real monster and were in various stages of shock, anxious pacing, or as was in Smendric’s case confused frustration.
“The body or the mace?” Bindon asked rhetorically, he too was excited having made his first kill.
“Leave them both,” Smendirc said suddenly. “The other two kobolds may come back for the weapon and we do not want them following us and the besides body is not going anywhere.” The mirth returning to Smendric’s features.
Now that the combat was over, from further up the hall, they could hear sounds of banging and scraping as if to remind them they were following a couple of burglars. The sounds got each of them on back on alert; the kobolds it would seem was just a warm-up.
“Come on,” a voice said. “I think this is deep enough. Let’s get it buried and go.”
“No,” said a second man. I want to make the hole deeper. Delrach The Vile wants it deep enough that no one finds it.”
So something happened back there Smendric admitted to himself, but he had not lost any spell energy, it just would not come before. And what about the prestidigitation with the potions? To Smendric’s knowledge he was not in possession of any of Dimi’s potions. He did not feel limited now however and Smendric had a plan.
“Excuse me gentlemen, I am with the Waterdeep Public Works department and I’m here to inspect these tunnels.” Smendric said as he emerged formally from the tunnel into a cellar. The cellar was dry and smelled of meats, hams and plump sausages that hung from the beams. In the center of the room two men were busily digging up the floor. As the base of the ladder to the cellar was a large human-sized bundle.
Before the two could even respond Smendric continued. “…and what are your names?” Smendric asked as he pulled a quill and parchment from the sleeve of his robes. Above the three sounds of people moving about began where before there was only silence.
Standing in the rough hole was a balding man who was looking nervously at the celling and the source of the sounds, the other…
“I am Truemanhorn and that’s Durat. D-U-R-A…” a quick hit with Durat’s shovel cut the spelling of his name off, albeit by one letter.
“You fool, this is just a kid. Get lost kid- you weren’t here and you didn’t see anything.” Durat said climbing out of the hole shovel menacingly in hand.
“Oh but I am here and so are you Durat and ...”
“Truemanhorn.” Truemanhorn said earning him another bash with Durat’s shovel.
Above the beams the sounds were getting louder, and were changing somehow. Gone now were the marching feet but replaced with sound of fighting, swords clanging in some unseen duel.
“Did you bring the city guard?” Durat asked incredulously.
“As a matter of fact I did.” Smendric bluffed. “You see, I know what is really going on here…”
“YOU DOWN THERE SURRENDER, PUT DOWN YOUR WEAPONS AND COME UP REAL SLOW.”
“Ah, well now you see.” Smendric said apologetically as he motioned to the unseen sounds, pleased the plan was working.
As Durat and Truemanhorn threw their shovels into the hole and turned for the ladder, the noise and the commands to surrender ceased. One by one Smendric watched as Alyssa, Bindon and the rest were forcefully thrown out of the tunnel and into the crude hole by long links of hooked chains. Entering like a spider with chains for arms was a vile old-man battle scarred and crazy eyed, he held the gnome-skull mace high above his head.
“Oh Shit!” Smendric did not hesitate; he tapped into his unbridled side and cast a spell releasing a wild magic surge.