Authors: Jaleigh Johnson
Ed Greenwood Presents Waterdeep: Mistshore
By Jaleigh Johnson
I leave today on a new adventure. Faerűn calk to me, and I find I must answer her gentle whisper. You are too young, also write this, to understand such a call, or even to speak the name of your homeland. All I can tell you about Faerűn is that it is a vast, lively, and aching world. The adventures found on her soil incite equal measures of bravery, recklessness, glory, and tragedy. I have learned much of adventure, and much of Faerűn, in my life.
I hope to be able to return to you one day, to spin you tales of the places Vve been and the people I’ve met. But the decision is not mine. It is in. the hands of the gods. I can only write you this letter, before you are old enough to read it, to tell you not to be afraid for me, or for yourself. Leaving you behind was the hardest battle I have ever fought, but I believe you will have afar better life growing up in my brother’s house than traveling the dusty roads with me. Brant can give you the home I never made for myself. Your parents would understand. Someday, you will understand as well. I expect Brant will keep these correspondences from you until you are of an age to comprehend them, but I will write diligently, my dearest one, soyou will know you are never alone in this large world.
Night rises around my quill, and so I will close. There are many dreams I wish for you to realize. I beg that you remember two things: The past is part of us; it shapes us irrevocably, but never allow grief and regret to rule your heart. The second is that I love you, more than my own life. I act as I do out of love, and if I have acted wrongly, or hurt you by my absence, please believe the wound was unintentional. Adventure attracts the foolish as well as the mighty.
Someday, you will go forth into the world and find your own adventure waiting. I want this for you, above all things, granddaughter. The world is spread out before you, and life is meant to be lived. Be well, and be happy, Icelin.
22 Eleint, The Year of the Ageless One (1479 DR)
Icelin pressed her back against the warm chimney and watched an island of rock drift across the sky. Like a roughly hewn barge, it cut through cloud wisps and shrugged aside winging seagulls on its way to some unknown destination, far across Faerűn.
If any living beings walked upon its surface, Icelin couldn’t see them. Tiny lightning bolts chased each other across the rock’s surface, flashing bruise purple and deepest black. They might have belonged to some otherworldly creatures at play. Icelin ignored them. She was far more interested in the events unfolding below her tucked-up perch on the rooftop.
Dawn had come, and with the first rays of sunlight, the city of Waterdeep came alive.
She heard the wagons first. The commerce of South Ward turned on the spokes of caravan wheels. Merchants carting goods in from the trade routes formed a jagged line that funneled through the south gate from Caravan City. The scent of animal sweat, spices, and earth saturated the air, like threads in a familiar tapestry.
From her vantage, Icelin couldn’t see the lines of traffic moving up and down The High Road and The Way of the Dragon. But the huge dust clouds they caused drifted up from the streets to mingle with the dawn fog. The dry air stung her eyes.
Voices shouted from the alley below her. A rear door opened. Icelin caught the sharp tang of yeast in new bread. A tired-eyed woman of middle years stepped into the alley, lugging a bucket of soapy water. She emptied its contents into the alley and glanced up to where Icelin sat. She threw a careless wave and turned to go back inside the bakery. Icelin smiled and waved back.
Most of the buildings, including the bakery and her great-uncle’s sundries store, fronted The Way of the Dragon; behind they hitched up together against the darker shades of Blacklock Alley. Icelin preferred the quiet of her high perch, especially at dawn, when the rougher alley folk had gone abed or collapsed with a bottle.
Across the alley another door opened. Light spilled from the House of Dust, an affectionately named tavern where much of the caravan traffic ended up at the close of their long journeys. The tavern keeper, a man named Sintus Farlhor, shuffled through the door, sweeping out the leavings from the previous night’s business. Muttering and cursing under his breath, he beat the broom against the wall to loosen the dust.
Icelin watched the man impassively. She lifted a bulky sack from a nook behind the chimney and placed it on the ledge next to her. The small lump of burlap had been tied tightly with a leather cord.
“Not sleeping again, lass?”
The voice made Icelin jump. She hadn’t heard her great-uncle’s approach.
“I thought Waterdhavians considered it virtuous to rise before the dawn,” she replied, and she pressed an ivory finger to her lips. “Hush, now. I’m on a mission of deepest revenge this morn.”
“Oh, is that all, then?” Brant came to sit next to her on the ledge. He was dressed for work in breeches and a double-pocketed vest of moss green, exactly the shade of the sign over his door. Brant’s General Goods and Gear catered to the wagon folk, just like everything else in South Ward.
Brant pressed a mug of something steamy into her hands. Icelin inhaled the sugar and cinnamon in the tea and nodded her thanks, but she refused to be distracted.
“I heard Farlhor was at it again last night,” she said, nodding to the tavern keeper, who had not yet noticed them.
“Shouldn’t believe everything you hear.” Brant loosened the ties on Icelin’s sack and wedged a finger in to touch its contents. He brought the brown substance to his nose and gagged. “Gods, Icelin! You aren’t ten years old anymore.”
“My poor great-uncle,” Icelin said, “you have never appreciated the subtle art of revenge.” She put an arm across his thin shoulders. “Watch now. I promise you’ll enjoy the spectacle.”
“Whatever you say, lass.” Brant swiped her tea and took a sip for himself. He wiped his other hand on the shingles.
Three stories below them, Farlhor finished his mad beating of the broom and seemed about to storm back inside the tavern when the door opened in his face. A bouquet of blonde hair and lively chatter spilled out.
“Her name is Eliza,” Icelin said for her great-uncle’s benefit. “She is sixteen this winter.”
The girl was small but compact. Her brown arms showed a slight definition of muscle, but not so much as to make her unattractive. She was built well for barmaid’s work, with animate features and friendly brown eyes.
A shutter closed over Eliza’s face when she saw Farlhor. She started to back away, but the tavern keeper put himself in the path of escape.
“You’re late,” he said. He slammed the door, sealing them both in the alley. “I told you to be here before daylight.”
Roughly, he grabbed her wrists, hauling her away from the building. The angry glaze in his eyes softened, became something more personal and far more sinister.
“Gods’ teeth!” Brant hissed, slamming the tea cup down on the ground. He leaned so far over the ledge Icelin had to grab his belt. “I know that girl’s father. Son of a whore! He better not touch her.”
“I don’t think he shares your sensibilities, Great-Uncle,” Icelin said. She lifted the sack and let the cord fall away. In one motion, she upended the vessel of sweet revenge and emptied fresh dung into the alley.
The cow pies showered down on Farlhor, turning the tavern keeper into a mosaic of straw and animal filth.
Farlhor let out a lusty, inarticulate cry of rage and instantly released the barmaid’s wrists. Eliza, who had missed the worst of the dung, bolted down the alley and disappeared around the corner of the tavern. Icelin hoped the girl would be smart enough to find a new place of employment.
“Oh, that was glorious,” her great-uncle said. He rocked back on the ledge. “I wouldn’t have appreciated the story nearly enough if I hadn’t seen it!”
Icelin smiled. But she wasn’t done with Eliza’s tormentor.
“Sintus Farlhor,” she said. Her voice echoed off the surrounding buildings, carrying to the tavern keeper’s ears. “Heed me.”
Farlhor tried to look up at her, but there was dung in his eyes. Icelin wondered what he could see of her. Her voice was strong, almost masculineher great-uncle claimed that was because she used it so frequentlybut her body was small. She had a thin, pale face curtained by long strands of unruly black hair.
“There are no fouler men than you in this city. But darker still are the eyes that watch this alley,” Icelin said. “If you want to tryst here, let it be with yourself and not the girls under your care. If you forget, I will rain more than animal filth on you.”
“Who are you?” Farlhor yelled, trying to sound fearsome. He squinted at her. “I know you! You’re Brant’s little she-witch! Come down here, then. I’ll crack your bones.” He reached for his broom.
“Will you, now?” Icelin said. Her voice was very soft. She could feel Brant’s eyes on her as she started the spell. No words came to her lips, not at first. Instead she hummed, finding the tune of an old song. She could recall it without breaking her concentration on the magic. The rhythm of the song steadied her until she was ready to cast.
The words and gestures felt foreign to her at first. She used them so seldom that recalling each aspect of the spell was a chore. Patiently, she worked her way through the complex patterns.
When she was done, the air crackled. Farlhor’s broom snapped in half.
The tavern keeper shrieked and dropped the broken pieces. Cursing, he grabbed for a pouch that hung around his neck. The trinkets inside were meant to ward off harmful magic, but Icelin knew for a fact that they were owl pellets and painted stones, sold at the markets as arcane charms.
Rubbing his precious forgeries, Farlhor opened the door and darted through it into the safety of the tavern.
Icelin leaned back against the chimney, breathing hard.
“Icelinlass!” Brant grabbed Icelin’s shoulder as she swooned, but the faintness passed quickly enough. Then came the nausea, but she mastered it as well, swallowing and gulping air like a drowning swimmer.
It had been too long since she’d used such magic. She hadn’t been properly prepared. The spell was not difficult, but she had worked herself up into a fury before the casting.
“I’m all right,” she said. She squeezed his hand. “I’m just weak.”
“You shouldn’t have spent yourself like that,” Brant scolded her, his good humor forgotten. “It’s not like you to be so careless.”
“You’re right.” Icelin grinned and pulled back her sweat-soaked hair. “But revenge is such a demanding creature. You have to be patient, day after day, until your chance comes in a wondrous spark of inspiration. The stableman down the south end of the Way; his son has a devious heart the equal of my own.”
“I find that hard to imagine,” her great-uncle said dryly.
“He selected the dung personally: aged one day inside a fat, cud-fed cow. I’m told she has loathsome intestines.”
“Oh, I hope that’s so,” Brant said. “But you didn’t need to use magic, Icelin. The dung was enough.”
“I know.” Her gaze flicked briefly to his. “Eliza and I used to play together as children.”
“I remember,” Brant said. “I don’t fault your feelings. But you could have given Farlhor over to the Watch if you feared for her safety.”
“Yes, and you know precisely why I didn’t.” Icelin leaned her head back against the chimney and closed her eyes. “Hush, now, while I bask in the sweet glory of my victory.”
“Perhaps you should take to sleeping on the roof always,” Brant observed. “Up here, you seem to have command of the whole world.”
“If by world you mean Blacklock Alley, then I’ll warrant you’re right.” Icelin didn’t open her eyes. “I will reign over it as queenor witchand never have to sleep again. The Watchful Lady, I shall be, with her raven-black tresses and bloodshot eyes.”
“We all need to sleep sometime, lass,” her great-uncle said seriously. “Tell me truly: are the nightmares getting worse?”
“No. They are what they are.”
“It’s been five years, Icelin. Maybe, if we found you another teacher, he could help. You clearly still have the ability. It’s only the control you lack.”
“No,” Icelin said. “I don’t want to get into all that again. Today was a lapse. I lost my temper. It won’t happen again.”
She stared down at the alley, refusing to meet Brant’s eyes. After a breath, she felt her great-uncle take her hand. She leaned sideways and allowed him to gather her up. They sat together, silently, against the backdrop of the awakening city.
“You never knew my Gisetta. But when you were humming that song, you sounded just like her,” Brant said quietly.
“The music calms me,” Icelin said. “The rhythm it makes in my chest…. Spells are just like music, only more. And more frightening,” she added. “But the song braces me.” She looked up at him. “You used to sing it to me. ‘Give me eyes for the darkness, take me home, take me home.’ ” She knew Brant liked her singing voice. It was the only untainted gift she could give him, so she sang in his company as often as she could.
Brant patted her shoulder. “We should go below,” he said. “The day has started without us, and you’ve an appointment with Kredaron after highsunfest.”
“I haven’t forgotten.” Icelin said, wrinkling her nose.
“He’s a respectable merchant, Great-Niece,” Brant said. He always called her “great-niece” when duty and responsibility were involved. “You made a contract, and you have to honor it.”
“It’s not the honor part that I’m dreading,” Icelin said. “But you’re right. The price is more than fair, for one afternoon’s work.”
“What’s he having you guard?”
“He wants to sell jewelryfamily heirlooms, mostlyto boost his coin while he establishes his spice business. He’s offered me first selection of the pieces before he sells them. All I have to do is ensure their security before and during the transaction.”
Btant whistled. “That is generous. You remember what I taught you about appraising?”
Icelin shot him a wry look.