A Friendly Warning

Dear Reader,

As Springtime progresses into Summer here in the States, I will be culling entries from my blog in order to place them into my Cormyr sourcebook.

Thus, if there is anything here you find useful or if you like returning to specific entries in order to read or reference them, then you would do well to save a copy of that content to the storage device of your choice.

I will continue to generate new content and ideas. As before, it will be posted here first.

Thank you, Dear Reader, for the privilege of allowing me to speak inside your brain. I hope you continue to find what I have to say useful.

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Devoting our attention to what remains of Sraece

1. The mind of Sraece Telthorn is trapped between two magical Portals (Gates for us old timers). One opens in the vicinity of Waterdeep. The other near Yhaunn.

2. I figure Sraece is some sort of ghost-like creature. How about a Gate Haunt?

3. This would be a new kind of monster. Something that you can see out of the corner of your eye when the creature is not lurking in the in-between–the indefinable something that was forged when two places far part were linked together. The Gate Haunt watches both Gates, waiting to see if someone is coming.

4. I figure Sraece can implant ideas in people’s heads when they pass through the Portals, or if they camp near to one of the Portals. Like visions of who or what he was, and the last thing he saw/experienced (the dragon Iymrith ripping him apart in the in-between), to try and get recipients of his visions to search for the dragon’s lair, or to send messages to his loved ones, or find a way to free him.

5. I can’t imagine Sraece can possess someone like a standard ghost–at least he can’t yet. If a PC or NPC figured out someone was in the space between the gates and willingly tried to reach out while stepping from one side to the other, well then Sraece might be able to free himself. Developing stats for a Gate Haunt will be a Topic For Another Day.

6. As for his items: These need to be moved forward in time and separated from the direct control of Iymrith. Sraece was captured around 1375 DR, which is before the Spellplague. And the Spellplague is just what we need. Let’s say that the unseen servant-like aspect of the animated swords and gloves and cloak and boots and hat that once belonged to Sraece was either washed away or consumed outright by the Blue Fire, leaving the items behind.

7. Iymrith had probably grown fond of using the servant, and may have sent it further afield over time. After all, the Dragon of the Statues was becoming known for using gargoyles as its eyes and ears in the world, so why not keep an Ace under its wing for use in matters most important to the dragon?

8. So when the Spellplague hits, the magical servant made of force wearing Sraece’ gear could have been just about anywhere in the Realms. And when you advance the timeline to 1479 Dr, then there’s a good century for them to have been recovered, lost again, and spread out across the continent of Faerûn.

9. There’s also the fact that the dragon may well want her prized possessions back. And that’s good, because any character/party trying to complete a magic item set ought to face opposition on par with an ancient blue dragon.

10. The magic items bear the essence of Sraece’ swordfighting talents. In game terms these are maneuvers granted by the items plus one superiority die, even if you’re not a Battle Master. So…

  • Disarming Attack – Either his secondary rapier, or possibly a long dagger. Sraece’ fighting style was that of the Duelist, so he didn’t fight two-handed unless he had to, and he likely kept a backup rapier in the event he was disarmed, as well as one dagger.
  • Evasive Footwork – why of course, Sraece’ boots.
  • Feinting Attack – Sraece’ buff coat. A good sturdy buff coat, such as one made of fine leather and quilted on the inside, can turn away daggers and blunt the attack of swords. All the better when you feint and leave yourself open in order to draw your foe in.*
  • Lunging Attack – His primary rapier. It’s his signature move, man.
  • Parry – His gloves. These ran from the tips of his fingers to just below his elbows, and were threaded with steel wire. So they were sturdy, but not true gauntlets.
  • Riposte – Sraece’ cloak. A cloak can ward off more than the rain. Used wisely, it can bind a foe’s weapon long enough to turn their missed thrust into your successful counterattack.

And that’s the first set done. I suppose a couple of these items could find their way into the Sundered Tomb. Perhaps the Mercenary Captain owned them right up until the point where she died.

* As noted in Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s Captain Alatriste, page 18.

Playing Around With Attunemnt (DMG 136)

1. Warships, sailboats, wagons, carriages, horse-drawn carts, huts, houses, towers, castles…all of these can be magic items, and it follows they can be attuned to.

2. I think a magical property that magic conveyances and magic structures could posses is something called Shared Attunement: The owner of this magical structure/conveyance may share the magical properties of any other magic item to which the owner is attuned to with the structure or conveyance. This is accomplished by placing the item on the structure/conveyance (hanging a magical shield on a bracket on a wall), and spending a short rest linking the attuned item to the c/s. Once this is done, the c/s is considered to have all the magical properties of the magic item, and the owner of the c/s may use the shared properties from anywhere in the structure, or while in physical contact with the conveyance.

…a DM would have to decide odd cases or corner cases, but I think this basic idea is workable.

2. So, let’s do that. If a player builds a castle, gives it Shared Attunement and decides to hang his or her trusty Flame Tongue on a wall in the sitting room, what can happen next? Well, according to your description, the PC should be able to speak the sword’s command word and cause the castle to erupt in flames that shed bright light in a 40-foot radius (really this ought to be farther–I mean, we’re talking a freaking castle here). Presumably the interior rooms wouldn’t light on fire, and the castle exterior would remain as immune to the flames as the blade of the Flame Tongue.

3. What if the sword was a Luck Blade? Hrm…well, the PC wouldn’t gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls unless he or she was actually wielding the blade. They should benefit from the +1 to saving throws, since they are in their castle, which is about the same as the sword being “on their person.” That means the PC would be able to activate the Luck and Wish magical properties of the sword from anywhere in the castle.

4. Forget swords. What about Staves? Specifically, the mother of all staves: Staff of the Magi. As with the Luck Blade, the owner would not gain the +2 benefit to attack and damage rolls because they’re not wielding the staff; it’s hung up somewhere in the castle, in a (presumably) safe location. The owner would gain the +2 to to spell attack rolls, since being within the area of the castle (and in contact with it) is similar to holding the staff. Therefore, all the other magical properties of the staff that require it to be held in order to be used (Spell Absorption, Spells, Retributive Strike) can be used from anywhere in the castle.

5. [Encounter Idea]Whoa…that’s pretty powerful. But if we switch this scenario from a PC to an NPC, then you have the makings of an interesting ongoing set of encounters in the dark castle of a Big Bad Evil Guy NPC, who just happens to have one or two secret rooms in which their Staff of the Magi and another powerful magic item are kept, so the bad guy NPC can keep their hands free to do other nefarious things to the PCs while being able to call on those two items’ powers. If they PCs can get to the items first, though, they can limit the bad guy’s power by destroying the items or maybe turning them to their own use somehow. The PCs could also figure out how to levitate the NPC so he’s not in physical contact with the structure, since this would be like taking a magic item out of his hands.

6. I figure a Retributive Strike called up by the bad guy NPC in the scenario above would not destroy the Staff, it would explode the whole freaking castle. <insert evil DM laugh here> The description does say you have to break the staff, but I suppose the rules could be bent if the NPC could break something else attached to the castle (like a window).

7. Hmm…what if we power everything down a bit…maybe an item, like a wrought iron decorative hook–like a coat hook or something you’d hang your walking cane from–that can be placed on a conveyance or fastened to a wall in a room inside a larger structure. The owner of the magical iron hook would have to be attuned to it, and any magic item hung from the hook would be considered as still in contact with its owner. This way, a sleeping NPC (or PC) who doesn’t want to have to lug their Staff of Power with them to the jakes in the middle of the night would at least have a shot at using the powers of the staff to defend themselves if they were caught unawares in the structure. An NPC riding in a wagon would probably be using both hands to hold the reigns controlling the draft animal(s) pulling the wagon, so this item would allow the NPC to fight back without having to let go of the reigns and grab their magic item(s) up.

8. Another Minor Property: Faraway This item never becomes unattuned to its bearer as a result of being separated by a distance of 100′ or more over a 24 hour period. This property does not extend beyond planar boundaries; the bearer and the item must be on the same plane for this property to function.

9. There ought to be objects or compounds or alchemical mixtures or spells or magic items that modify the process of attunement during a short rest, for better or worse. This is a topic for another day.

10. Regarding Attunement in general: Maybe some items that must be attuned to be used, and that remain with one owner for decades or even centuries (think: Liches and Dragons) end up becoming tethered to their owners in ways mysterious. For example, if a PC finds a magic item that requires attunement, and then discovers that they can’t attune to it, then the spellcaster in the group might be able to deduce that this means the ghost of the last owner of the item is still on the Prime Material Plane, and that former owner needs to be put to rest permanently.

11. This could be a simple “slay the evil ghost” adventure, or something more involved where the PCs have to figure out what wrong was never righted before the former owner died, or something similar. Succeeding in this way might grant the PCs a boon of other magic items tied to the ghost, that are now free to be attuned to the PCs.

More Magic Item Ideas

Not much time for writing full magic item entries. But that’s OK. This thread is supposed to be about idea generation, not finished products.

1. A wardrobe closet that carries a spare set of equipment.

Backup Wardrobe
Wondrous item, legendary (requires attunement)

This tall, rectangular wooden closet is about the size of the Police Call Box (aka the TARDIS) from Doctor Who. The frame is supported by sturdy iron wheels at each corner that remain perpetually lubricated and rust free.
Three of the wardrobe’s interior walls contains hooks, shelves, hangers and numerous means of storage for clothing, armor, shoes, jewelry, and all manner of objects that may be worn, as well as the ceiling. A full-length mirror backs the entrance to the wardrobe. Facing the mirror is a fully articulated mannequin that changes height and shape to match the proportions of the creature it is attuned to. The interior of the wardrobe is always lit comfortably by magic from an unseen source.
If you are standing outside the wardrobe, and are on the same plane as the wardrobe, you may use an action to teleport all of your worn and held objects to the wardrobe, and replace them with whatever objects are worn and held by the mannequin. The wardrobe can’t be used this way again until the next dawn. When you use this property of the wardrobe, its magic automatically ends all spells effects, other ongoing magical effects, and any other effects active on your person that were caused by your first set of worn and held items

2. Monty’s Haul:
On a successful attack, this magic weapon steals a one of a creature’s three attunement slots and gives that slot to you. You can receive no more than three attunement slots this way. That creature can take back its slot by making a successful melee attack against you. While you have an attunement slot from another creature, you may attune to one extra magic item beyond the normal limit of three (DMG 136).

3. Shield of the Wounded Warrior:
A shield that drinks evocation magic and provides you with hit points.

4. (spell) Ride the Lightening:
Summon the fury of Talos to be struck by lightening and teleported to a random destination within the same region of the storm, or to someplace where the deity determines you are most needed.

5. Gems of Whiplash:
Say the command word and get rocketed back to the location of the last gem in this five gem set, and at an awesome rate of speed. You will hurl. You’ll be yanked into the sky like the unfortunates in the movie “The Forgotten”, except that you get to land somewhere and (hopefully) walk away.

6. Hellwalk Boots:
Active a blazing inferno at your feet with the boots, or jump in a fire on the Prime Material Plane, and then step lively as you race through the Hells for a short while until you find the second fire conjured up by your boots to jump through to make your way back home and to your destination on the Prime. But beware: the denizens of hell love a free meal and a chance to torment, and they always know to toss the boots back through the fire so the next fool and his friends will come, because they’re the ones that made the boots.

7. Ring of Combat Critiquing:
This magical ring “remembers” the last combat you participated in. A combat is as any encounter where you rolled initiative, and the ring records everything from your point of view until the combat ends. Any time before your next combat, you may command the ring to replay the last encounter. The replay consists of a Programmed Illusion that fills up to 30’ space, includes sight and sound, and lasts for no more than 5 minutes. There is no limit to the number of times you may replay your last encounter. The last replay stored in the ring is erased the instant a new combat starts .

8. Shield of the Fire Thief:
Although this surface of this ornate shield is carved to resemble a flattened red dragon’s head, it plays no favorites when it comes to dragon breath weapons. Any time the wielder of this shield is struck by the breath weapon of a dragon, the shield automatically prevents all damage and deleterious effects to the wielder, and it steals the dragon’s ability to use its breath weapon. The dragon’s breath weapon returns at dawn on the day after its breath weapon was stolen. This shield may steal no more than one breath weapon this way.

9. Gauntlets of the Pious Mercenary:
These simple gauntlets provide healing to their wearer. Whenever bearer of the gauntlets provides food and drink to the needy, to the wounded, or to the starving by handing it to them and assisting them to consume it (if necessary), the bearer is healed 8 hp per person fed. For up to one day after feeding others while wearing the gauntlets, if the bearer harms someone they fed, the bearer is then cursed: he or she may not benefit from healing magic of any kind for one year per person harmed, and the gauntlets may not be removed by any power short of a Wish spell or divine intervention.

10. Gauntlets of Extra Hands:
Whenever you require extra help with a physical, non-combat task (such as lifting up a heavy object, carrying a fallen comrade, steadying a ladder from falling, etc.), these Gauntlets create a second set of your hands that may be “set” in place and then commanded to act as you would act while performing the physical task. For any of the tasks listed under Other Strength Checks in the PHB, p.176, these gauntlets confer advantage on your Strength roll. These extra hands disappear when you stop performing the physical task. They may not be used to make attack actions of any kind.

Thoughtstream: Mike Mearls, Chris Lindsay on Dungeon Masters Guild (Podcast)

Podcast made available 01/14/2016.

Direct link to podcast audio.

Mearls calls it a “marketplace of ideas.”

You can create whatever you want.

They will look at content, create categories, and creators, and focus their attention: three featured categories.

“Background Check” for new backgrounds for the Realms.

“Monstrous Compendium” they will make resources available, as in the art archive, and uploading bundles of art they haven’t updated to 5E yet. Create a new monster or update a classic monster. Plus art for creatures from other non-monster sources.

If you meet the guidelines, then you qualify to get tagged as part of that category!

“Sidetreks” basically short adventures. DMs want this but WotC isn’t producing it. This will be a featured category on the marketplace. For the sidetreks they have a collection of maps! Use that to write your own adventure and upload it. Again, bandwidth (in this case, human eyes to review the work) will limit what they look at. 100 page epics won’t necessarily be reviewed.

Building on what’s in the DMG, roleplaying game design is a skill. People that produce by the pound (read: by the page) do better work than those who go for making one awesome thing.

Make all that CK stuff free?

Again, they are focused on SHORT stuff so they can read through it. THEY SAY TO START SMALL!

Mearls wrote 1000 word essays to start.

Promote your work. (Yeah, they want you to do all the social media work yourself.)

They are going to watch how people use it, and adjust accordingly. It will adjust and be adjusted as time goes on.

To make a background, check the PHB, or look at HIGLY RATED backgrounds by others. Mearls may have written something too.

Templates for backgrounds and adventures will become available to use, in Word.

As new stories and expansions to the game come along, expect new templates.

The Realms!

A feeling of shared ownership in the Realms. The D&D team will always be responsible for establishing Canon in the Realms, but there are other people out there that have equally good ideas, maybe it will give users a chance to write into canon at some point.

20m
They want us to use the novels and everything else as fodder, sort of. Core rulebooks, Sword Coast Adventurers Guide, Out of the Abyss. Start small and add more resources to that list. Future products, and then past products, and then possibly the novels. The novels are OFF LIMITS for now.

They are nuking the gatekeeper steps. Instead of submitting, you just post it to the community, and the community act as initial gatekeeper, then WotC final call (on what gets promoted to something like canon).

They’re trying to eliminate the divide between caretakers of D&D and the Community. It’s beneficial for them to have new ideas improving on the setting and skilling up over time, to improve things.

They are ready to shift things, to support the community of creators and increase the overall quality level of work.

On the DMSG right now, there’s the Adventurer’s League content. Going forward, AL authors stuff will go up on the DMSG, and their stuff will sell and the authors will benefit.

AL coordinators will look at DMSG offerings to offer people writing opportunities.

29m
OGL is for the wholly original campaign setting. Or I want to publish on my own and also do DMsG…(does that mean what I think it means?)

OGL is 5E, plus anything in the OGL in the past.

OGL they imagine you will create your own subclasses, and only use their iconic subclass (they keep the rest).

Anything totally unique, or a knock-off (i.e. your take) on a classic setting like Spelljammer.

32m
DMSG is meant to be “push button,” as in simple, easy to upload. If you want art, layout, design, etc., they assume OGL people will do that sort of thing.

41m
Reading the material just for the fun of reading gaming material; they remember doing that. This program opens that up again.

Christopher Lindsay hasn’t gotten any questions about program on twitter. He’s at @onnatryx. I will hit him up on the Realms. Ask him if it’s OK to expand on Volo’s Guide to Cormyr.

The Books That Kill

The Books That Kill

Arabel is filled with merchants, bards, and travelers, all of them carrying the latest news and gossip from far off lands. Most of this information is passed along by word of mouth, but much of it is written down in chapbooks and tomes sold individually or in bulk to buyers ranging from day laborers to the most jaded of nobles. Not all books sold in Arabel are about news and gossip, nor do they come from other places; it’s quite legal, for example, to copy the stories of others without attribution, or to make changes and combine parts from multiple works, and resell the result—this being one reason why Arabel produces nearly as many new tomes as it takes in, these works bumping along in merchant wagons departing the Caravan City for destinations beyond Cormyr.

A few priests of the Binder object to the practice of copying the work of others in this way, but they claim no part in the string of strange deaths of guild heads and booksellers in Arabel. Nor have they an explanation for the appearance of persons claiming the identity of characters right out of the most popular of books and plays, all bent on murder. Who are these people? And who is slaying purveyors and printers of books? Is this the wrath of the Lord of Knowledge? Or the work of outlander merchant cabals?

Maxralam’s Demise

Maxralam “the Weathered,” owner of Maxralam’s Curios and frequent visitor to the Old Red Sword tavern, is dead.

In addition to the Curios, which stands a longbow shot north of the High Horn Gate in Arabel, Maxralam held part ownership of several caravan ventures, the majority traveling west into the Heartlands. He was a trustworthy businessman and easily recognized, for his was the face of a veteran caravan guard, the features worn smooth by hard winds, bad weather and long days spent in the sun. Some decried Maxralam as careless for selling almost anything out of his shop, the accusations relying on the occasional mishap suffered by those who bought one of the odd somethings found in the Curious that did more than buyer or seller expected.[1] These complaints never found attentive ears next door at the Old Red Sword, where Maxralam held court nightly, his drinks paid for thanks to his booming voice, which attracting passersby into the establishment as he shared stories told to him by the many caravan masters and warriors who visited Maxralam’s shop to sell items they couldn’t find a buyer for anywhere else, and to check in on an old friend. Until recently, visitors to the Sword could be expected to show up the next morning at the Curios, there to purchase whatever interesting item they heard Maxralam talking about the night before.

The floor above the Curios is occupied by Maxralam and his personal collection of items acquired far and wide, the center of the room filled with a large bed covered in a riot of mismatched pillows and furs that Maxralam did not sleep in so much as disappear into. The foot of the bed faces a trapdoor that leads downstairs, the remainder of the floor and walls filled with shelves, oddments and a small desk, this last made of sturdy duskwood and just tall enough for Maxralam to stand on and reach a trapdoor overheard. His old body protested the climb onto the roof, but such pains were easily forgotten when Maxralam sat down to take in the view of Arabel and to look east to the Gate, his thoughts drifting inward as he pondered the world beyond.[2]

The old duskwood easily supported Maxralam’s weight, and it held him gently enough on the day Darlock Dreadsword walked into the Old Red Sword, announced his presence to all and commenced to slaying. Darlock was cornered and felled, but he’d taken a half-score patrons with him before a sword in the throat ended his rampage. None thought to ask about Maxralam that night, nor the following night when Darlock returned to commence slaying anew. By the third night the Sword was filled with Purple Dragons and a pair of war wizards; they captured a newly risen Darlock just after he stepped out of the Curios, a search of which revealed Maxralam facedown on the duskwood, his emaciated torso laying atop on an open book of plays.[3]

Weary Dragons kept onlookers away as war wizards searched the Curios, and the street outside stood silent as friends of Maxralam spoke in whispers inside the Old Red Sword. Most of the Sword’s patrons were asleep in their cups when shouts rang out overhead. Two of the watch Dragons left to guard the Curios overnight made their way onto the roof of the shop, but were too late to apprehend the hooded form they’d been chasing, for he (or she) had already made the roof of the Old Red Sword, and then leapt onto the rooming house next door before disappearing into the night.

An angry Wizard of War was overheard to say, “Only the books. He took the books and nothing else.”[4]

A Rare Find and Deaths In Abundance

“Thieves thieving the dead and dying with their writings!” This headline graced the top of The Handkeg Hears All, a daily broadsheet familiar to the residents of Arabel, the morning after the robbery within the Curios. A fierce call rang out for the head of Maxralam’s killer—one the Purple Dragons answered later that day when they found the thief who’d escaped over the Old Red Sword’s rooftop. His body was discovered halfway up a wall and motionless, the corpse transfixed by crossbow bolts fired with such force that they penetrated the stone wall the thief was climbing when he was shot. That wall and the small but grand castle it was a part of belonged to the House of Baerlear, long a merchant family and now the seat of power for the Guild of Binders, Printers and Copyists in Arabel. Servants of the House observed a Purple Dragon garbed in chain armor and sword climb up the crossbow bolts readily enough to inspect the corpse, then continue his climb to an open window. The Dragon was too large to fit through the window frame, but War Wizards assisting in the investigation concluded it must have served the dead thief’s competition well enough, because someone found their way inside, robbed the Guildmaster of his life, and departed with a collection of priceless tomes from the Guildmaster’s personal collection.

Crown investigators surmised the Guildmaster—one Nelezmur “the Book Tyrant” Baerlear—must have caught an intruder unawares, and paid for that surprise with his life. He was found dead at the end of a long passage, the door to his office propped open by his feet, with a hole in his chest where a crosswbow bolt passed through before lodging deep in the bust of a former King’s Lord of Arabel that graced the far end of the hallway.[5] The investigators discovered an open, empty coffer set into the floor of Nelezmur’s office. Under questioning the Baerlear seneschal affirmed that none of the rare books and treasures to be found in the House were missing, and that the coffer held a few simple blank tomes that Nelezmur treated as though they were made of platinum and jewels. According to the seneschal, Nelezmur could be found some nights with one of the blank tomes open to the first page, writing quill in hand and inkpot at the ready, but he always seemed to think better of it and put the book away.

When asked about recent visitors to the House of Baerlear, the seneschal was quick to point out that representatives from far off Candlekeep regularly called on Nelezmur, whether he was interested in seeing them or not. The visitors were all monks by their dress, but carried themselves like adventurers; the seneschal claimed he had to threaten them every time to surrender their weapons and magic before he would let them anywhere near the Guildmaster. The first meetings were cordial, having to do with matters of book trade and the continuation of the Baerlear tradition of sending one wagon per year loaded with first printings of new works to Candlekeep. But in the days that followed the meetings turned nasty, demands were issued, accusations were made and then parried by recriminations. The last meeting ended with Nelezmur declaring henceforth that no book printed in Arabel would ever find its way to Candlekeep.

The seneschal claimed no knowledge of the source of disagreement, as Nelezmur did not confide in his servants, and could only provide snippets of conversation overheard when he entered the meeting room.[6] These were: a matter of the protection of Candlekeep; requests for donations to pay for the renewal of its magical defenses; word spreading that Candlekeep’s walls were not so impregnable as many believed; whether or not Candlekeep should disperse its collection to better defended places (such as the House of Baerlear) in the short term; thefts of priceless works from Candlekeep; feuding among the monks amid accusations of betrayal, heresy, and even murder.

All Eyes Look To Candlekeep

The same day the seneschal was questioned, an All Horns Hunt was called for the capture of the monks from Candlekeep. Agents of the Crown searched from one end of Arabel to the other, but no sign of the monks turned up until three days later, when a furious Daluthra Ravendarr stabbed her father through the eye in the common room of the High Moon Inn.

According to one of the hireswords employed at the Inn, Daluthra and her father kept separate rooms at the High Moon, and deigned only to speak to each other in public. There’s were a series of increasingly heated, nightly exchanges in the common room that culminated in Daluthra producing a dagger and plunging it into her father’s head.[7] The hiresword’s description matched that of the other guests, their accounts ending in unison with the recital of the last words of one Resaugiir Ravendarr, shouted into his daughter’s face ere she struck, “Is there not Hell enough awaiting you, that you must go seeking it in books and spells and consorting with strange wizards!?”

While Daluthra was being restrained, a quintet of green and black robed individuals, their faces obscured in deep hoods, stood up from their table and padded upstairs on soft slippers. According to a serving lass working the topmost floor of the Inn, the five robed figures forced open the entrance to Resaugiir’s rented room, then two of their number promptly died in a fusillade of crossbow bolts. One of the survivors produced a large tome and flung it into the room, a bright flash like lightening erupted from it and out into the hallway, and with it came an end to the brief conflict.

The Purple Dragons had arrived by then, and followed the commotion upstairs. By the time they entered Resaugiir’s room (after being guided by fearful guests exposing just enough of their hands and fingers to point through cracked open doors in the direction of trouble), the Dragons encountered two men and a woman, hands empty and palms facing forward, and three corpses: two wearing cloaks matching the survivors, and the body of a woman laying on a bed, a book of plays clutched in her thin, emaciated hands.[8]

Were there dueling factions from Candlekeep warring with each other in Arabel? Had someone hired Nelezmur’s slayer, only to be double-crossed? These and other questions were on the minds of senior Dragon officers and Wizards of War as the monks from Candlekeep were manacled at hands and feet, and led away from the High Moon Inn.

A Warning From the Monks

A cast of characters was already imprisoned in the Citadel when the three monks from Candlekeep were led inside. Questioned separately, each monk began his or her tale the same way: they were trying to save a life, but were too late.

According to the monks, the book of plays resting atop the dead woman was what slew her, and it is just one example of several such tomes circulating in Arabel, each a dangerous object capable of trapping an unwary reader and slowly draining his or her life force.[9] The monks insisted the books are not cursed, rather that their purpose is to provide the most realistic of performances possible. They do this by causing the scenery and characters from the plays collected in each book to come to life—literally—and that life essence of a reader makes this possible.

None of the monks claimed to be able to control the magic of the books, but each swore the tomes were the property of Candlekeep. They warned that anyone reading a book was doomed, and that without a mind to control them any characters conjured forth were sure to go mad.

 

A motley force of crofters, merchants and swordsmen led by a white-haired woman wearing out of date clothing and wielding an elegant longsword with a wolf’s head pommel somehow made their way into the Citadel without being seen. They fell upon the Crownsworn men and women charged with investigating the mystery of the recent deaths in Arabel as they were questioning the monks of Candlekeep. The battle that followed was close quarters and bloody. The tide turned in favor of the Crownsworn when their attackers started screaming and howling, and began stabbing and hacking at each other. Only the white-haired woman, bloodied from the fray but unwounded, survived the frenzy. She regained her composure, took in the sight of the dead all around and announced, “I am Lady Halaunt, Lady Lord of Oldspires and matron master of the House of Halaunt. You may address me as Lady Oldspires. To whom do I address myself?”

A Naga Gets Loose

At about the same time that Lady Oldspires turned on her followers, an enormous naga crashed through the floor of a warehouse standing two buildings over from the Bent Bow Tavern. According to Bow patrons and onlookers, the snake-like creature’s roars could be heard from inside the warehouse; they became all the louder when it tore through a section of warehouse wall, its momentum broken by its impact with the much sturdier wall that surrounds Arabel. The naga fell over and howled in agony as it clawed at a sphere of blue that floated within reach of its face. Purple Dragons responding from High Horn Gate watched the naga’s tail spasm and thrash; its whole body shriveled as it died. Whatever was in the sphere fell atop the naga’s gaunt face as the magic holding it winked out of existence. War Wizards found it to be a simple book of plays that lay open next to the creature’s fresh corpse.[10] Other war wizards enspelled the creature’s corpse and floated it atop a long wagon destined for the Citadel, while soldiers made for the hole in the warehouse. Inside they found underground cellars filled with floor to ceiling iron cages populated with nagas and other intelligent creatures. A tunnel ran from the cellars to another cellar dug out from the earth beneath an abandoned building that stood between the Bent Bow and the warehouse. The soldiers must have set off a trap when they entered the building, for a blast of fire erupted from inside and set it to blazing. The Dragons were competent enough to fill their hands with whatever was in reach as they fled, including stacks of tomes.

In the days that followed Arabel stirred like an ant hive kicked over. The Six Coffers Market Priakos—owners of the warehouse damaged by the naga, as well as the next three warehouses along the city wall—were hauled in for questioning, while their buildings were searched top to bottom. Guard details were doubled at all of Arabel’s Gates, all carts and wagons carrying printed materials of any kind were made to pull aside for inspection by cautious war wizards. The King’d Lord of Arabel dispatched criers to warn against reading any of the tomes found to have slain residents of the city, and books of plays in general.

{Back to My Eye on the Realms}

[1] The incident depicted in the popular chapbook The Lady Turns Blue, as well as the coughing sickness that briefly infected a score or more of Purple Dragons (causing them all to croak like swamp frogs for a tenday), are widely attributed to items purchased at the Curios.

[2] Sitting on rooftops is a popular pastime in Arabel on summer nights, this activity punctuated by the rumbling sound of thunder rolling in from the north while viewers take in the varicolored displays of lightning.

[3] Maxralam had been reading the play Dread Triumph and Fall, featuring the character Darlock Dreadsword, among others. This information was coupled with a description of Maxralam that indicated his body was desiccated and lifeless, and forwarded to Crown officials in the Citadel. This report sat atop another, indicating the Crown had possession of two bodies of individuals who looked and were dressed exactly alike, both having claimed to be Darlock.

[4] This brief statement, made by the war wizard Authkant “Old Codpiece” Melevor, prefaced an outburst aimed at the watch Dragons, as follows, “Next time let me through, idiots! I can’t blast someone off a roof if I can’t see anyone to blast!”

[5] Nelezmur had a reputation as a voracious reader and a fearsome Guildmaster. He filled his home to the ceiling with books and tomes from all over the Realms, and he treated guild members like family, but this treatment clashed with his requirements for the very best work from all he employed, and the nigh-endless workdays required to meet his demands. Some say Nelezmur hired bullyblades to pay a call on individual printers and copyists who combined parts of the best works of the Guild and resold it all under a new title to fill their pockets with coin, even though Nelezmur had made an art of doing this very same thing with works sourced from outside of Arabel. His feuds with rivals in Suzail had many convinced the man was marked for financial ruin, if not death. Whether Nelezmur’s plans to fund the construction of a temple to Oghma in Arabel will come to fruition is anyone’s guess.

[6] A regular practice of the seneschal, who had leave from Nelezmur to interrupt whenever a meeting turned sour or was about to get violent (that is, if the seneschal could hear shouting through closed doors—usually the voice of the Guildmaster), as well when Nelezmur yanked a pull rope beneath the desk he sat at while conducting meetings, that sounded a bell where the seneschal was stationed.

[7] “With all the speed of a striking snake,” according to the hiresword, one Orndamar Windwise, who is one of a handful of individuals charged with keeping order at the Inn and preventing trouble from spiraling out of control.

[8] The book open to the last lines of the play Bold Hearts Broken, by Nargustarus Grithym, playwright of Athkatla. The hands holding the book belonged to the seller of rare books Lathlandra Gelzunduth, an Arabel-based bookseller who insisted on meeting other buyers and sellers of rare and hard to find tomes in the cloaked and curtained tables of exclusive eateries and the finest rooms of Arabel’s best inns, so as to appear far more sinister and mysterious than she actually was.

[9] “This much is truth,” according to the rotund Wizard of War and dragon expert Imdar the Stout. “A few dragons have mastered such magic down the centuries, some reading the plays and fueling the tomes with their own life force—and then reclaiming it by eating the cast of characters and scenery—while others formed cults from which to draw the most talented of readers. Some dragons enslaved sturdy beings such as dwarves to power the books–dwarves were the first to invent them, in fact. In any case, trained readers can direct the flow of their life energy to and from a book, willing various elements of the play into and out of existence. This last is essential as the play comes to a close, otherwise a reader cannot hope to survive the experience.”

[10] The tome open to the last pages of the play Lady Oldspires Has Her Revenge. Commissioned by admirers of a noblewoman who disappeared under mysterious circumstances, this play claims to depict the last days of Chalassandra Halaunt, known in her day throughout Cormyr as Lady Oldspires. One other play makes a similar claim: Lady Oldspires: The True Telling of Her Life and Good Works. This play was commissioned by the Lady’s fifth and youngest son, Hornsar, who was named after the Lady’s older brother, who by all accounts died in a conflict that erupted between adventurers and Halaunt elders on the ground floor of Oldspires some two centuries past, yet the True Telling hints strongly that Hornsar the elder survived, and even had a hand in Lady Oldspires’ disappearance.