So, you want a story? A thrilling tale of yester-year? Something relating to my youth, you say? Ah, yes, I see, you want to know how it all began! Well, I could entertain you with tales of my childhood, growing up on my father's farm in the Yeomanry. Or perhaps regale you with my first adventurous journey to Greyhawk, after having gained my apprenticeship with my Master. But neither story is how my adventuring career really began. Well, it all started with . . .
It was in the City of Greyhawk, during my youth, of course, as all such things commonly are. It began when I was still officially residing in the Students' Quarter of the Clerkburg, quite near the junction of Eastwall Street, College Road and the Street of Temples. I had just finished two years of study at the University of Magical Arts.
I ended my day by delivering a message from my Master to the Sages' Guildhall on Hardcobbles Way and had decided to stop off for an evening of leisure at the Blue Dragon Inn, located in Cairn Court.
(Back then I called exploring the Foreign Quarter 'living on the wild side.' What can I say? I was a mere stripling lad, just experiencing my twenty-third summer. And yes, I know what you're thinking, but the Blue Dragon Inn was a different sort of place in those days, just a cheap imitation of the Silver Dragon Inn and not a serious rival. You must remember that this was long before Gustin Longpike, the Perrenlander, acquired the establishment. Anyway . . .)
I was enjoying my ale and watching an all night game of Linn Lan; some dandy from Leukish was attempting to fleece a couple of fat merchants. That's when I heard a commotion outside in the common. Curiosity and the 'thrill of adventure' made me go to the door for a quick look. The night sky was just beginning to turn gray in the early morning, though it was still one half of a turn of the hourglass before actual sunrise.
It turned out to be nothing too terribly serious, just some shopkeeper making noise about his place having been robbed. I shrugged my shoulders. I mean, really, in a city that was practically ruled by the Thieves Guild this sort of thing was not exactly an unusual occurrence, especially in the Foreign Quarter.
A hodgepodge of people had initially gathered in the street to witness all the hullabaloo, but it seemed that the culprits had been caught and most of the spectators were now drifting off to other interest. Two men were to be seen sitting on the curb and were being guarded by yet two other people, one a large northern barbarian, judging by his dress and the other a young Baklunish woman, dressed in the gray tabard of a cleric of Istus, her holy symbol prominently displayed; a golden spindle, wrapped in a sort of shroud and capped by a white faced death mask.
I recalled having seen the two of them earlier in the evening inside the Blue Dragon Inn and remember thinking that they seemed a rather odd pairing; a man of obvious Suel descent and a Baklunish woman . . . together? Really?
The barbarian stood at least four inches over six feet and weighed maybe two hundred and thirty pounds, though you would have been hard pressed to find any fat on the man. He was clad in leather breeches and the long sleeves of a woolen shirt could be seen protruding from under the elbow length sleeves of his chain mail shirt. Over all of this he wore what could only be a white bear skin vest; one of the great white bears of the north, no doubt.
(I had learned of these animals in my studies at Grey College, but had not yet actually seen one. According to what little I then understood of Ice Barbarian culture, I knew the warrior would have killed the animal himself, in a rite of passage; such garments are not bartered among his people).
He carried an uncovered, double headed Great-axe of considerable size in his right hand, while on his left arm was a round wooden shield with a roughly painted white bear as its device. A horned, steel helmet sat upon his head and from under this protruded shoulder length yellow hair. He also wore a leather belt around his waist, from which hung various pouches, as well as a great knife. Another knife handle could be seen protruding from his right boot.
The cleric was perhaps five feet, seven inches tall and no doubt in excellent shape, given her apparel. In addition to her tabard, she wore chain mail, gauntlets and greaves of what looked to be elven make. A belt of ornamentally embossed leather -- dyed black, but with the embossed figures outlined in silver -- girded her waist. From this belt hung various pouches, and two daggers; one obviously a weapon and another smaller, jeweled dagger no doubt used for ceremonial purposes. She carried a Heavy mace in her right hand; a Spiked-gauntlet encased her right hand as well. A small shield adorned her left forearm, her helmet was slung over her shoulder, revealing straight, shoulder length hair, glossy black, like a raven's feathers.
A man that could only be the establishment's proprietor was busily rummaging around his ransacked shop, apparently trying to determine exactly what had been taken. The two thieves had seemingly been searched already, since various items were spread out on the street in front of them.
I happened to look up the short street which connected Cairn Court with Horseshoe Road and noticed a halfling looking on with what appeared to be wide-eyed wonder. I recognized him as a member of the Hairfoot clan. I remember chuckling to myself at the wide-eyed innocence of halflings and was turning to go back inside. That's when the sign above the shop caught my attention, it read 'Meldorp's Locksmithy;' the man was a locksmith. That fact made things just a little more interesting to me.
I now took particular note of the obviously mounting frustration of the locksmith, which clearly demonstrated to me that it was probably more than just the contents of his money box that had gone missing. This fact, coupled with the pairing of a Suel barbarian with a Baklunish cleric, made the entire situation simply too irresistible for me.
The proprietor came out of the shop all in a huff and began picking through the various items spread out on the street. The thought then occurred to me that the missing item must not have been very large. Not finding what he was looking for, 'Meldorp' stood over the two thieves shaking his fist at them and demanding to know where 'it' was. I decided to move closer and so did the halfling.
"The Watch should be notified at once," the cleric of Istus was saying.
"No, no, no," the locksmith hurriedly replied, waving his hands. "That simply won't do."
"The thieves were caught red handed with the proceeds of your strong box," the cleric insisted.
"Yes," agreed the barbarian. "Turn them over to the City Watch and have done with them."
"But if the Watch takes them, I may never recover my property!" countered the locksmith.
"We have your money here, as well as other items of property belonging to you," insisted the cleric. "What else is missing?"
"It is a key," the locksmith replied softly, casting furtive glances left and right. "A very special key; made for an important person." This explanation seemed to lack a certain sincerity. He continued, "If it should be discovered that the key is missing, there could be serious trouble for me. If the Watch starts investigating all will come out and I may never get the key back!"
"Then let us put them to the question," said the barbarian, testing the edge of his weapon. "They'll tell us about this key, or suffer the consequences!"
I stepped into the street then and approached the group. The halfling also boldly approached, but the five of them looked my way and the halfling escaped their notice. They could easily discern that I was a wizard; I wore a red robe embroidered with golden runes of protection and carried a staff of bronzewood, capped with a large ruby, clasped in a Bronze Dragon's claw.
"Perhaps a further questioning of these two would prove useful," I acknowledged, as I approached. "But not if that method is used."
Meldorp quickly turned upon the thieves again. "Where is my key? What have you done with it? Answer me!" He kicked the closest one.
The kicked thief spit at Meldorp. "Piss off!"
"As I said, that's not going to get you the answers you seek, master Meldorp," I continued. "Perhaps if I were to speak with them?" Saying this, I pulled a blue vial from out of my robe. It brought an instant reaction.
"Here! What's that?" demanded the second thief, somewhat alarmed.
"Something that's going to get master Meldorp the answers he seeks," I replied. "Although you might not find it quite so enjoyable." I smiled at him.
"Now wait a minute!" said the first thief, truly alarmed now. "You can't use magic on us! It . . . it ain't legal in the city!"
"That's right!" shouted the second thief.
"Is this true?" asked the cleric, turning to look at me.
I shook my head at her. "Actually, you're a bit misinformed," I replied to the two thieves. "I am free to use magic in the city of Greyhawk to assist in the apprehension and the interrogation of criminals." I smiled at them. "That would include the two of you." I waved my vial at them.
"That's not necessary, master Magician!" cried the first thief. "Really!"
"Yeah!" the second thief affirmed. "We'll tell you anything you want to know!"
"Well, it sounds as though they're going to cooperate with us after all," said the cleric. She chuckled.
"Too bad," chortled the barbarian. "I would have been very interested in seeing just what that potion did to them." His smile revealed strong white teeth.
"Now, now, there's no need for that!" cried the first thief, shaking. "Didn't we say we'd tell you what you wanted to know?"
"We're listening," I replied, once again waving the vial before their faces.
"Sure, sure. I'm Marek and this here's Flegon. We were out drinking last evening, over in Barge End and were just making our way back to The Strip. Well, we just came through the Cargo Gate when we meet this fellow who tells us about this here shop and how it's easy pickings. So we came on up to look it over. The shop door was wide open and so we started to help ourselves. That's when these two showed up." He jabbed his thumb at the barbarian and cleric.
"So, who was this 'fellow' you met?" asked the barbarian.
"Uh, I can't really say for sure," replied Marek furtively.
"We ain't never seen him before," Flegon volunteered.
The cleric laughed at that. "Certainly. A complete stranger stopped you and told you to come and rob this place . . . and you did it?"
The barbarian used his huge axe blade to lift the chin of Marek. "What about that? Eh? You trusted a complete stranger?" Then he looked at Flegon.
Flegon swallowed, hard. "Well, he might not have been a complete stranger. We might of seen him once, or maybe twice before," he stammered.
The barbarian lifted Marek's chin still higher. "Well?" he growled. "Did you or did you not 'see' him before?" There was no mistaking the menace in his voice.
"I . . . I could've been wrong," admitted Marek. "Yeah, yeah, I remember now! We was drunk and . . . and I didn't recognize him at first. Right Flegon?"
"Yeah! Yeah! We was drunk!"
Squatting down, I looked at Marek over the blade of the axe. "I think my rather large friend would like to decapitate you." I spoke softly and held the blue vial before him. "This would be . . . unpleasant, its true, but at least it won't kill you."
"No!" Marek cried. "I'll tell you anything you want to know!"
"So, then, who is this friend of yours?" I asked.
"Ain't no friend, I mean, not really. Err, he's called Irontusk. He's a half-orc and hangs out in Barge End," Marek answered.
"Does he have my key?" demanded Meldorp.
"We don't know nothing about no key!" insisted Flegon.
"You lie!" Meldorp screamed and kicked the thief.
"That's not accomplishing anything." I stood and placed a restraining hand on the locksmith. "And I don't think they do know anything about your key."
"Then we'll probably need to find this 'Irontusk' person," said the cleric.
"Anything else that you can tell us?" asked the barbarian.
"That's everything we know," Marek swore. "May Osprem drown me if we're lying!"
"Would the two of you, or maybe this 'Irontusk,' be connected in anyway to 'The Weasel'?" I asked. "Or maybe 'The Duke'?"
"No, not us!" said Marek. "Flegon and me only works the docks!"
"Well, sometimes . . . that is, I think that sometimes Irontusk works with the Green Daggers," supplied Flegon. "But they're not with the Guild though. They work out of Barge End, I think."
At that point we were interrupted by the sound of marching boots. A squad of the City Watch, no doubt from the Horseshoe Road Watch station, came around the corner and marched down the street and into Cairn Court.
"Ah, now that's a bit of a relief," I said. The cleric of Istus gave me a questioning look. "Several establishments on this street pay the Guild of Nightwatchmen to patrol the area." She raised an already arched eyebrow. "The Nightwatchmen are mostly comprised of Cuthbertines." I supplied.
She sighed and kissed her holy symbol. "Thanks to Istus."
It was the barbarian's turn to look puzzled.
I answered his unspoken query. "I am an adherent of Boccob, your friend is a disciple of Istus. The followers of Saint Cuthbert are rather . . . 'devout,' to say the least. Their 'questioning' of us in this matter would have quickly become one long and boisterous religious debate."
He gawfed loudly.
Theldrat Meldorp, for that was the proprietor's full name, gave his story to the Sergeant of the Watch, but curiously failed to make any mention of the missing key. The rest of us therefore followed his lead and said nothing of it. Not having participated in the actual apprehension of the thieves, there was little for me to say anyway.
Interestingly, the Sergeant of the Watch questioned each of us as to our whereabouts on the previous evening, specifically whether or not any of us had been near the Great Library at anytime during the night. I could only speak for myself, but each of us denied being anywhere in the vicinity of the Library.
(It seems that a very rare book had been stolen by a cleric of Boccob. Being an adherent of Boccob myself, I found that fact hard to believe, but filed the information away in my mind for future consideration.)
So, having given our names and residences within the city to the Watch, we were done and allowed to continue about our own business; the barbarian was sternly warned to return his Great-axe to its leather head case while in the city. I was also now a little more acquainted with my two new 'companions.'
The warrior was Wolfsire, an Ice Barbarian of the far northern Kingdom of the Cruski, located on the Thillonrian peninsula, in the far northeastern corner of the Flanaess.
And the cleric was Eileen, a servant of Istus, from the Caliphate of Ekbir, located on the Dramidj Ocean in the Baklunish west.
Apparently, Eileen and Wolfsire had been traveling together for the last couple of years in pursuit of some item and had arrived in Greyhawk by way of Rel Mord. Not knowing any better, they were staying at the Blue Dragon Inn.
(I knew the 'item' searched for had to be something rather rare and special, if a cleric of Istus cared enough to search for it. In such matters, Istus is almost as uncaring as Boccob himself!)
And then there was myself, originally from the Yeomanry, but having been in Greyhawk for the past eight years. A student, formerly of The University of the Flanaess (two years) and Grey College (four years) and the University of Magical Arts (two years), a protégé of Maldin, Arch-mage and co-owner of 'Maldin and Elenderi's Shop of the Arcane' in the Artesian Quarter and serving my final four years of a twelve year apprenticeship with him.
(There remain few today who know my 'true' name. Given that such knowledge can grant the possessor mystical power, you will forgive me if I withhold it here. I am now known to most simply as 'The Mystic Scholar of Darkgate.')
After the Watch had departed, Theldrat turned his attention back to the three of us. "Please good sirs and lady, I will pay you what I can to retrieve my key for me."
"And what can you pay?" Wolfsire quickly asked.
"I . . . I can pay as much as . . . ten gold pieces," answered Theldrat.
"Ten gold pieces?" repeated Wolfsire, incredulously. "That's not much of an offer, considering that there's three of us!"
(Wolfsire was apparently counting me in on this.)
"Please, sir," Theldrat implored, wringing his hands. "The key is for an important person. If this person should discover its loss, I could be ruined! My reputation means much to me, but I am not a wealthy man!"
"I don't mean to sound greedy, master Theldrat," Wolfsire replied, touched by the shopkeeper's plea. "But I don't think Eileen and I are going to be able to do this alone. We don't know Greyhawk and will certainly need help."
"True," admitted Eileen. "I've only passed through Greyhawk once before and Wolfsire's never been here at all." She turned to look at me. "Perhaps, if the Magician were to help?"
I shrugged my shoulders. "I'm not sure how much help I can be. I've lived in the city for the past eight years, it's true, but I've spent most of that time in the Clerkburg, or the Artesian Quarter and I've only just emerged from two years of intense and secluded study, confined within the great pyramid of the University of Magical Arts. I've never been to Barge End and only know it to be a gathering place for the Rhennee boat people." I shrugged again.
I turned and found the Hairfoot halfling now standing behind me. He was dressed in clothing common to his kind, woolen breeches and shirt, with a leather vest. One small pouch hung from his rather broad leather belt, along with a small knife and what looked to me like string. There was a larger pouch slung across his right shoulder and hanging at his left hip and – given the bumpiness of the pouch – I realized that the 'string' was actually a sling and the pouch held his sling stones.
"Perhaps I could help?" he stated.
"You?" asked a surprised Wolfsire.
"And why not?" demanded Eileen, reproachfully. She grasped her holy symbol and her eyes took on a far away look. "I see him woven into the thread of this escapade, though I cannot see the part he is to play."
"Who are you, my friend?" I asked.
"My name is Bubbagump," he replied. "Bubbagump Grumblefoot. I know Barge End and have heard of the Green Daggers. And I believe that I've seen this 'Irontusk' person a couple of times. In any event, I think I know a woman of my people, living in Shack Town, who may be able to help."
"That's wonderful!" exclaimed Theldrat. "Then its all settled!"
"Not so fast, master locksmith," Wolfsire cautioned. "We haven't agreed to help yet. There's still the matter of the money."
"Actually," I interjected, "I'm more interested in this escapade for other reasons. I don't require any money for my help. At least, not at this time."
"The same for me also," agreed Eileen. "Wolfsire, you concern yourself with money when your fellow man is in need of your help?"
"If it hadn't been for my concern for money, these past two years, we'd have starved to death already!" countered Wolfsire.
"If that is to be our fate." It was Eileen's turn to shrug.
"Now, hold on a minute," I said, coming to the barbarian's defense. "Wolfsire's concerns shouldn't be dismissed so easily. What say you, master Theldrat? Ten orbs apiece for our friends, Wolfsire and Bubbagump?" The halfling's eyes grew wide and I realized that ten orbs were a great deal of money for him.
Theldrat alternated between wringing his hands and twisting his mustache. That the key was important to him was obvious and my suspicions grew.
"Very well," Theldrat agreed. "Twenty gold pieces to be shared among you, however you wish!"
And all my suspicions were now confirmed. No key in all the Oerth could be worth twenty gold pieces, unless it was something very special indeed. There was more to this than met the eye and I was too curious not to participate in the escapade.
So Eileen and I looked at Wolfsire.
"Very well," he agreed. "We will do this."
"Excellent!" cried Theldrat.
Eileen and I nodded agreement. I slapped the halfling
on the shoulder. "Well, Bubbagump, lead on my new friend! We head for Shack
Town, then on to Barge End!"
Next... Go to That Infamous Key, Part 2
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