or, enter your birth date.*
The market buzzed around me. Virgin’s Square was teeming with people, some trying to cut line to get the best fruit before it was sold, others busy shouting, hawking their wares, yet others inspecting the hopeful mercenaries that were lined up like bored pieces of meat. Still more had come for they had nothing better to do than to people-watch, adding to the throng. I hurried past – I hate markets and their crowds - growing up in the forest and then spending a great deal of time in quiet libraries will do that to your nerves, they become sensitive to too many stimuli and leave you easily overwhelmed. I quickly entered Meiroth’s Fine Silks, hearing the little bell chime above me and closed the door, feeling bliss at the quiet inside. “Master Meiroth” I called. “A fine establishment and you know I will continue my patronage, but by the Gods and all that’s holy, whatever prompted you to open shop across the square?” Meiroth the Fourth appeared from behind a counter where he was squatting on the floor putting away a bolt of silk. His face was red and stout, and his little round glasses were slipping down his small pudgy nose. He sighed and lifted an eyebrow. “What can I do for our lovely Miss d’Argenti? Surely not go over the same conversation again? This is where we have always been! My father, and his father and one day my only son. Are you preparing for the ball?” “Oh no, that’s months away. I’m afraid I only came in for a small order today… I want to have a sash made for my new mage robes. Here, have a look.” I carefully opened the thin paper in which my beautiful new silk robes were folded in. “Hmm… A fiery red with a wide eggshell-blue border. I can recommend silver with silver-thread embroidery for a tasteful contrast, otherwise the same eggshell blue in plain silk if you would like to keep it simple… Or perhaps a gold brocade with twisted tassels if you would rather go extravagant, mm?” Despite his portly appearance his movements were nimble and he had already expertly produced all three bolts of fabric he’d recommended. “I will go with the silk eggshell blue then, thank you.” “I have your measurements here…mmm yes…” he said, as he rifled through his carefully handwritten customer book. “I will cut you a suitable piece.”
With my shopping in hand I turned around and headed in the direction of the City of the Dead, close to which the tailor, Patient Fingers, Fine Work was established. It was a lovely spring Ches* day and we had been spared much rain this year. The sun felt lovely on my skin and I was walking the streets with a smile on my face, lost in useless thought about my robe, its sash and how soon it would be ready. Tomorrow perhaps? Perhaps, if Missus Dinanne did not have much work. A sash would be short work for her hands of wonder. Such thoughts I was thinking when a fresh-faced, freckly human girl with bright red curls spilling from under her hood stepped in front of me, blocking my way. I glared at her when she offered no apology and tried to pass. Again, she stepped in front of me. “Move, girl.” I said coldly. She lifted her gauzy grey scarf to reveal a round brooch with a harp next to a silver moon, surrounded by four stars. I groaned audibly. “Those who harp will have your company” she said quietly. “That ship has sailed.” I responded and tried to pass again. Once more she blocked my way. I was severely tempted to blast her into smithereens in the middle of the street. “You are testing my patience. You will move out of my way right now.” “I think not. We will have your company today. Why so testy? You used to crave a place among our ranks if all the rumors are true.” “That was a long time ago. Before I knew that your ideological doctrine on balance was just talk. You serve one side only, tipping the balance dangerously and precariously. Our world suffers and you are too blind to see! And why have they sent you to fetch me? So green, so wet behind the ears. It is an affront, really.” She smiled calmly, not taking my bait. “You have thwarted one of our missions and killed several of our ranks in the process. You will come or there will be repercussions.” Who had I killed? I had no idea what she was talking about. “You do know I could take out your entire building in the space of an hour, yes?” “And then what? Our cells are active across the land. Where will you go? How long will you run? Or will you serve the balance by exterminating us all?” I sighed. She was right of course, not to mention that the Waterdhavian Lords had particularly good relations with the Harper cell in our city. Normally shadowy, secretive and independent, our local cell had entrenched itself deeply within city politics. “When?” “You may finish your business and then come to our door. Your personal password is…” and she leaned close to my ear to whisper. I burst out laughing in spite of myself. Then I managed to put on a grave expression and replied: “That’s offensive.” “But true!” she said with a smile and a wink. “See you soon then!” and off she went, annoyingly perky and self-satisfied.
I made my way to the Harpers’ Hall the moment I was done at the tailor’s. The sooner this was over with, the better, I reasoned. “Password?” asked the bored guard outside the gate. “You know who I am, just let me in.” I responded, in no mood to repeat the ridiculous password. He winked and nodded. “They are expecting you, come right through.” I was led to a large meeting room where I experienced the first trace of fear and shock when I realized that next to the local leader, Eldrin Vale, was seated High Harper Iillura Calandriel. “Ah, Divina, please do come in.” said Eldrin with a smile. I sat down across from them, feeling more uncomfortable by the minute. What exactly was going on here? “We have a little favor to ask you. We would like you to lead one of our missions.” “And why would I do that?” “We will then forget the debt you owe us” he said, waving a hand absently in the air. “What debt are you referring to, exactly?” Iillura rolled her eyes and pursed her lips. “Don’t pretend you do not know. You killed an entire party of expert dragonslayers. They were ours!” The pieces finally clicked into place. I got up indignantly, my legs noisily pushing my chair away on the wooden parquet floor. “Those men were yours? I would do it again! Gladly!”
It had been about a month and a half ago when I found out a party of six had slain a Red up in the Sword Mountains, taking her away from her mate. While it is true that Reds are the most evil, ferocious, rapacious and prideful of the chromatic dragons, like all dragonkind their numbers over the last centuries were dwindling with alarming rates. The act had enraged me – this pair may well have been one of the few if not only of their kind remaining in our area. Before the party decided to descend upon the male as well, I decided to take action. I utilized my network of Funambulists* to find their identities and locations and killed them one by one over a period of two days. Once I was done, I teleported to the Sword Mountains around the area where I had heard the deed took place and hiked for the better part of a day until I found his lair. I walked in carefully and saw the beast in his grand hall. With one hand behind my back I started quickly gesturing spells to lower his resistance just in case, spells that I had taken great pains to memorize without a verbal component, meaning that I had much fewer spells at my disposal that day. I certainly had the feeling I was walking a tightrope. “Since when does food just walk in through the proverbial door, human?” he rumbled lazily. I breathed a sigh of relief. Had he not been fed or was he feeling particularly irate he would have already swooped down from his perch.
“I am not human” I said. “Just a half-elf.” “Ah, my two favorites combined. How lucky for me then.” Still he didn’t move from his perch. Having silently cast my spells, I freed up my hand to open a sack I had been carrying with me. “Please, most beautiful of the mountain range, do hear me out and forgive my impertinence for walking into your magnificent lair.” He immediately started looking slightly perkier and flew down to have a better look at me. He towered over me, but I was quite familiar with the temperament of the Reds and knew they found flattery irresistible: He would listen at least for a while longer. A spell trigger with teleportation was set to fire at any sign of trouble. “I have come bearing gifts for your greatness.” “Oh? And what might you have that would interest me?” My eyes glimmered with mischief, trying to make this irresistible for him. “Trophies. Trophies from your enemies, I gathered just for you.” I opened the bag and brought out the Dragonslayer - an awful double-axe, the Shield of Falling Stars, the Cloak of the White Magus, the Club of Nature’s Wrath, the Golden Ring of Displacement and the Gauntlets of the Dexterous Knight. “Six in total, do you see, my beautiful red king of fire?” I was laying it on thick with the flattery, but it was going down a treat. He was completely pacified. “Please accept my gift and add them to your hoard. I have vanquished your enemies to avenge your fallen mate and to please you.” The enormous lizard eyes flashed with greed and then narrowed with suspicion. “And what do you wish in return, human girl?” “As I said, I am a half-elf.” He shook his head with disinterest. “Mmm what would I like… Why don’t you show me your human form so that I may look at you in the eyes and then we can better discuss?” Trickery 101: Gain one easy acquiescence first, then when you make your second, bigger request it becomes ten times more likely that you get a yes once again.
Red dust fell around me, glittering like a magic spell. When it settled, I saw a youth at the precipice of manhood lying on his belly on the floor. In human terms, he looked to be eighteen years old. I felt my hair raise at the cruelty. This dragon was young. Very young. He might have to spend the next thousand years alone if people like the ones that took his mate did not leave him alone. His torso was naked and on his legs he wore snakeskin leggings of blood-red tinged with black. His tousled hair reached his shoulders in uneven points, black as the night. Two horns started from the middle of his head and curled backwards, while in place of ears he had pointed red fins. His skin was pure white and his eyes yellow with slitted pupils. “So beautiful…” I whispered and he smiled, rolling slightly on his belly and making his feet which were in the air wiggle provocatively. “Aren’t I just, though?” I looked down to hide a smile. I switched to draconic: “How old are you, my beautiful red king of fire? You seem young to these eyes.” He stopped moving his feet and tilted his head to the side curiously. “Did you cast a tongues spell without me noticing, mageling?” I shook my head. “I speak draconic.” “How is that possible?” he hissed. “You will permit your humble friend her little secret? What is a woman without mystique after all, oh great one?” He huffed and a tiny cloud of sulfur escaped his nostrils. “Fine. I am a hundred years old. How about you? Or is that part of your female mystique as well?” “Mmm, normally I might say yes, but for you I will make an exception. I am only a hundred and fifty young this year.” I could tell from the lack of reaction on his part that the number in combination with my race was meaningless to him. “Now give me those things. They will do nicely for the ignominy I suffered. Do not think that I enjoy the fact that you stole my kills. Still, it befits one such as me to use a lackey rather than to have to round all these mice up myself.” “But of course, happy to serve you.” I said, inwardly rolling my eyes. I needed to find a way to close this conversation. “And now to your original question, what I would like in exchange.” He quickly rolled up and sat cross-legged on the floor looking mildly furious. “YES?” he bellowed, a surprisingly deep voice suddenly escaping his supple, ephebic form. “I only wish that you relocate to a more remote area, away from the city. Please do understand that I would hate to see those impudent adventurers continue to attempt raids upon your domain. That would be senseless for one as wise as you! You must move your valuable treasure to a place where greedy human and elven hands will find no temptation and where they do not perceive your magnificent threat upon their lives.” I was by now thoroughly disgusted with myself and my speech, but this marvelous creature really had to move away before our world had none of his kind left. “Please heed my words and fly away, find another mate, live away from humanity, I beg of you.” I laid the sack with the adventurers’ trophies at his feet and crouched close to him. He smelled of sulfur and brimstone and radiated heat. “I will do so half-elf. But not because of your counsel. Only because I tire of these surroundings and long for new adventure.” “But of course.” “Your name?” “I am Divina, and you?” “Phlegeth.” “Well Phlegeth, thank you for showing yourself to me and for listening to my boring tale.” “Yes. I tire of this conversation. Perhaps we shall speak another time.” He looked cross, biting his lip rather petulantly and in that moment I knew that he was lonely, something he would stubbornly never admit, not even to himself. I really hoped he would keep his promise but I had done all I could. I spoke a few words tracing a circle on the floor and teleported away, back to Waterdeep.
Iillura gave me a penetrating glare, like shooting daggers. “You persist in helping these disgusting creatures! We have been watching you. And now you have taken down our men. Good men that had received years of training in order to efficiently slay these wyrms without suffering death at their claws! Our investment has been utterly ruined by your outlandish morals!” “Outlandish? Wishing for balance in the world is outlandish? Was it not this very ideal upon which the foundations of your organization was built?” She waved my arguments away with a gesture that spoke her distaste loud and clear. “Do not question us, outsider.” “Very well. Then if this little lecture is over then I presume I am free to leave?” I was seething. “No, of course you may not! You owe us a debt, have you not heard a word we said? Our investment was ruined. We have sat on our hands for the last couple of months waiting for just the right toll to appear. And now it has. Sit back down and listen, for you will repay us by fulfilling a mission. And do not think this will be something you can magically resolve by tomorrow. No. Training will be necessary. Prepare yourself to feel right at home here in our Waterdhavian Headquarters for the next two months.”
I was speechless. I sat back down on my chair as if someone had dropped a heavy sack of potatoes on my lap. “Two months? I have a house just on the other side of the Sea Ward wall you know. I can simply come every day. What is it that you wish of me anyway?” She raised a hand with an annoyed look as though to put an end to my questions. “You will need complete immersion for this mission. Bring whatever clothes you may need tonight and make yourself comfortable. As for the details, Eldrin will fill you in.” Eldrin cleared his throat. “Yes, well… I am sure once you hear our story you will see sense and gain a more positive attitude, Divina. I am sure you are aware that small-scale raids from the Underdark have been plaguing elven, and sometimes even human settlements close to the entrances to the Underdark for centuries. This is nothing new. We have, however, recently uncovered a plot to reclaim the High Forest, obliterating all elven communities within. This… this would lead to war, you do understand, don’t you?” I blanched. “How did you come across this information?” “Our sponsoring of the Eilistraeean community of the Waterdhavian Promenade has proven most fruitful. Truly a win-win situation for all parties involved. Don’t forget, it was our coffers and political influence in the city that enabled them to erect the surface shrine above the Promenade. Due to us, they are slowly but surely becoming a part of city life, no longer confined to the shadows.” “Can we please get to the point? I know all this.” “Well isn’t it obvious then? They have portals all over the Underdark to assist refugees and to find new recruits to their cause. They have been functioning as our eyes and ears – one would say it is the first time in history we have eyes in the midst of the dark ones. Not long ago they found out that the Matron Mother of the First House of Menzoberranzan has been plotting with her daughter to get the rest of the eight noble houses and their resources behind them in order to launch an all-scale attack on High Forest. It was your home, surely you feel as keenly about this as we do?” I remained silent, keeping my face blank. “Surely you care what happens to them?” he persisted. “If not about them, surely you care about the possibility of war?” I cared about them well enough. Not that they had given me much reason to. I sighed and looked at the ceiling trying to make the pressure in my eyes subside. The last thing I wanted was to cry in front of these people. When I was certain that no tear was about to be shed I blinked a few times and looked back at Eldrin. “What is the best course of action against this plot according to you, Eldrin?” He looked visibly relieved as he answered: “The Matron Mother of House Baenre and her daughter have to be assassinated. This is the only way to stop their plans in their tracks, before they garner enough support from the other noble houses. Moreover, with the First House leadership gone, drow will do what they do best: Vie for supremacy and resume their ceaseless infighting. Most importantly, their assassination will send a powerful message to all those already cognizant of the plot: The surface watches and any such action will be met with a swift death.”
“I see – and I see no fault with your syllogism. But what do you need me for? Clearly, it is an assassin that you need, not a mage”, I said, eyebrows raised. “But you are not any mage my dear. With the old guard gone – the wizards of old that had lived more than a thousand years – who is more powerful than you? Your name is starting to gain traction all over the Sword Coast!” “Oh, I can think of a few Thayans. One in particular…” He harrumphed loudly but made no retort. Instead, he continued with his flattery: “What truly matters my dear, is that this is your age. The longer you live, the more conquests you make, the more your myth as well as power shall grow…” “Enough, Eldrin, please… Have mercy.” I said, exhausted and embarrassed from his clumsy attempts to flatter me. “I need to know how exactly you envision my power being of any use whatsoever to you down there? The drow are highly resistant to magic - and I certainly do not have the capacity to lower the resistances of a large enough group of drow, let alone an entire city of them.” “Your increasing power has granted you extraordinary feats has it not? Spells that bypass resistances? Spells that call godly servants to your side?” “Oh, yes, I can just picture myself sauntering down Menzoberranzan with a Planetar in tow. Very subtle. We won’t even make it past the city gate, let alone to the First House itself” I responded, rolling my eyes dramatically. “You need an assassin, not a mage.”
A smile crept on his lips and I realized I’d been had – he had me right where he wanted me. “And what if we had an assassin? And your role was to infiltrate and ensure his success and escape to the surface? A drow assassin is all well and good, but he would not act if it cost him his life. Assurances must be made. His safety must be ensured.” “I love how I went from myth to bodyguard in the space of a few sentences Eldrin, thank you, I think this was the quickest and most severe demotion in history.” A hearty laugh escaped his lips. “Sometimes I wish I had not turned you away all those years ago. At least we would have had a little more fun around here. Iillura gave him a poisonous sideways glance, her mouth contorted in disgust. “With missions as exciting as bodyguard duty you will forgive me if I do not find the prospect as rivetting as you do. I presume the two-month training has to do with cultural immersion so that I do not give myself away?” “So smart…” “So smarmy…” I responded, matching his tone. Iillura unsuccessfully tried to suppress a giggle, while Eldrin tsked loudly at me but made no counter. “I will do as you ask. I will get my things and return tonight. One more question though… How will I get passage into the city? I do not exactly have the… right appearance. Moreover, are you sure this drow will willingly slay the most important matriarchs of his city? Are you sure he wishes to escape to the surface?” “We are sure. He prays to Eilistraee deeply every day for an escape from his current life and the bleak future he sees ahead of him. The Dark Maiden has heard his call and has intervened on his behalf with the High Priestess of the Promenade. You should know that he might be a male – lowly and insignificant in the eyes of his society, but he is also a noble from the Third House. I believe he is the second son. His pride will not be insignificant. Even a peasant drow would be prideful, but a noble especially so. Try to not insult his pride too much... You are not exactly, uh, famous for your, uh, courtesy. You of course as a female will always be superior, but you will also be a foreigner. These will be things to keep in mind. The priestesses will guide you better over the coming months. As to your other question, we count a Master Illusionist among our ranks. A mere illusion cast on your person would be too dangerous with the females’ clerical abilities to dispel even the most adroitly designed illusions. Our fellow however has encapsulated his illusion in this ring.” He produced a gold ring with a black signet seal and handed it to me. “It is cursed and will not be forced from your body without this curse removal scroll. The signet bears the seal of House Despana, First House of Ust Natha city. You will be impersonating their third and youngest daughter, Maelthra. I suggest you wear the ring tonight upon your return and immerse yourself in your role immediately. Two clerics from the temple of Eilistraee will oversee your education for the next two months. Good luck.” With this, he pressed the scroll into my hands and got up to leave, followed by Iillura who only nodded curtly my way before turning her back and heading towards the door. “Eldrin you better prepare a legally binding document stating that this service will be the first and last one performed as repayment for your lost investment” I said to his back. He briefly turned his face to look at me “Still unable to trust anyone Divina… Very well. I will send someone for your signature when it is drafted and send you an official copy when it has been declared binding by the Lords’ administrators.”
I breathed a sigh of relief when they were finally out the door and slumped a bit further into my chair, letting some of my tension dissipate. “Shall we go pick up your stuff?” the annoying redhead appeared from the shadows cast by the chartreuse velvet curtains, startling me back to full alertness. I cursed under my breath. “You again? Why, do you not trust I will come back? I have already agreed to this! I am not as finicky as you think girl.” She wrinkled her nose. “Are you always this barbed? I am Anna by the way. Anna. Not girl. Anna. Let’s go get your stuff. I only wish to make you comfortable. I’ll help you while you are here, introduce you to people. Okay?” “Very well, Anna, lead the way.”
or, enter your birth date.*