Thursday, October 27, 2005

Stardate 59820.44 - While the King is Away

Here is a little more of my writing. Started this a couple of years ago and have not gotten back to it yet.

While The King is Away…
A Forgotten Realms Novel

© 2004-5, Curtis M. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved


Vangerdahast, royal mage of Cormyr, looked wearily at the piles of papers still on his desk. Glancing out of the window, he noticed that the sun was setting over the capitol city of Suzail in a spectacular display of reds and oranges. The clouds looked like feathers, he thought, as he set his feather quill down onto the table and reached for a glass of wine. The glass was just hidden between two precariously stacked mounds of papers and scrolls. Affairs of state sat heavily on his shoulders that day, as they had for the week prior. Vangerdahast did not relish the monotony of dealing with these magical issues. He had a staff for that effort, and besides, he felt he was getting too old for it. Not that he looked his age. Vangerdahast had been King Azoun IV’s personal tutor when the King was but a child, and the King was now a man of more than 60 winters. It was rumored that Vangerdahast was more than 100 winters old. Yet, he looked barely as old as the King.

It was his staff that had caused the current situation, he mused; specifically, two inexperienced apprentices who had permitted official matters for his office to accumulate like snowflakes—slowly at first, with a piece of paper here, a scroll there, and suddenly a blanket of papers covered their desks. Now Vangerdahast was sweeping up their mess. For two straight days he been working his way through the drift, and as the stacks of paper melted away he vowed to never again hire on children of friends without references.

Returning the wineglass to its place, Vangerdahast picked up the next piece of paper. It was a copy of an adventuring party charter from the city of Arabel, marked with the seal of Baron Thomdor, the Warden of the Eastern Marches, and cousin to the King. Vangerdahast took notice that it was dated more than a year prior. Vangerdahast silently shook his head. The further he worked his way through the documents, the older they became. This particular matter should have been resolved at least a year ago! He quickly scanned the document. It was an adventuring party charter renewal.

The military history of Cormyr had long been one of guerrilla ambushes and running skirmishes, with its army only conducting set piece battles outside its borders. The Court was thus very sensitive to the presence of armed people within the kingdom. Lawless freeswords could not operate within Cormyr. Mercenaries couldn’t gather, while armed, in groups of more than five in any place save public markets or inns and taverns. Violators faced immediate disarmament, forfeiture of goods, and imprisonment at the hands of the local watch or soldiers of the king. The exceptions to this decree were when such fighters were operating under hire; under contract to someone authorized to hire them as caravan or warehouse guards, or as bodyguards; or by permission of the King. Save in times of war, permission of the king was granted only in the form of a royal charter.

“Renewal of the Adventuring Charter of Damage Inc. Be it known that the group formerly known as the ‘Knights of Mistmore’ is now incorporated into the adventuring group known as Damage Inc., with locations in the Thunder Peaks and the city of Arabel.”

The document continued by listing the names, experience, and professions of each member. There was also a notation, marked with another seal, indicating that the renewal fee had been collected. Vangerdahast recognized the names of both groups, as well as several individual names. They had been involved in several high profile events in Cormyr over the years. One of their early exploits had been to rid the city of Wheloon of a force of evil lizardmen, set to invade from The Vast Swamp to the south of the Thunder Peaks. They had also acquired a fair amount of power and wealth, and they now occupied a formidable keep in the Thunder Peaks on the eastern border with Sembia when not adventuring or hanging around Arabel, where they also owned property. He also knew that several members were all but retired; however the actively adventuring individuals were still powerful and numerous—even more so now.

Vangerdahast rubbed his chin and took another sip of wine. Two strong groups were now one. He was slightly concerned about the power Damage Inc. now commanded. There had been an incident in Arabel a few years back, he recalled. The Red Wizards of Thay, and evil organization seeking to dominate the land one kingdom at a time, had taken an interest in the group when they thwarted one of that organization’s plans for Cormyr. According to the telling by Damage Inc., they had been ambushed by Red Wizards to the north of Cormyr. The Red Wizards were defeated, but their leader escaped. One member of Damage Inc., a rash young wizard named Niteshade, was almost killed. While looting the bodies of the mercenaries, Damage Inc. had taken a powerful magical sword. Damage Inc. then continued on to Arabel. Unknown to them, the leader of the Red Wizards returned with a cleric and raised his troops from the dead. The lead mercenary took his troops to Arabel to retrieve his sword. They found several members of Damage Inc. in a tavern and challenged the keeper of the sword to a duel outside the city gates.

Several members of the city guard overheard this conversation, and they made sure that the ruler of the city, Myrmeen Lhal, knew about the duel. She arrived with a score of soldiers prior to the duel, and demanded fair play by both sides. The duel had taken place, and the mercenary leader was victorious. Since this outcome had not been to the liking of Damage Inc., they had rashly attacked the mercenaries. A terrible battle had ensued outside the gates of the city, and it was all Myrmeen Lhal could do to reestablish order afterwards. As punishment for their egregious violation of Arabel and Cormyrean law, she had sent Damage Inc. to the north on what she considered a suicide mission to defeat a blue dragon. They had killed the beast without losing a single person, however, and returned with the head to Arabel, delivering it personally to Lhal herself. Damage Inc. was almost so strong that if they decided to cause problems, nothing short of a party of Vangerdahast’s war wizards could stop them.

A second paper was attached to the first. Vangerdahast flipped to it. It was a complaint sworn out against the group by Baron Thomdor. One of their wizards had apparently forgotten to register his personal symbol with Vangerdahast, as required, upon reaching a specific level of mastery. The individual named in the complaint was known as “Misery” and he was actually quite delinquent, having surpassed the required skill level a significant time period ago. Apparently Misery had not been in Arabel for some time, and no action had been taken on the warrant. Vangerdahast was not surprised that no one from Arabel had been sent into the mountains to speak with Misery personally. The Keep was not in the safest location, and Damage Inc. may have simply refused to open the door.

A thought occurred to Vangerdahast and he quickly rifled through another stack of papers he had set aside to deal with later. When he found the one he wanted, he pulled it into the light. The city of Valls in the Duchy of Arcata was looking for adventurers to solve a little problem. That Duchy was once part of a Kingdom known as Damara. Their neighbor Vassa had invaded and the land was now fractured, consisting of autonomous duchies and baronies paying an oppressive tribute to Vassa in order to ensure some level of peaceful existence. He smiled to himself. Yes, this would do nicely.

Pleased with his decision, he once again brought the glass of wine to his lips, and relaxed into his chair, placing one foot against the corner of the desk. His dark cloak draped to the floor. He could finally envision an end to the mountain of paperwork on the desk, and he had deduced a method of sending a very powerful group of adventurers and potential threat to the Throne far away from Cormyr. He gazed out at the approaching darkness; the courtyards below were already in deep shadow. He briefly closed his eyes.

King Azoun IV swept into the room, trailed by two guards. He was a regal figure, still very strong and impressive regardless of his age, with a long purple robe trailing slightly behind him. He wore a beard, and his brown hair was shot through with silver. He was clothed in a white shirt with the Cormyrean coat of arms occupying most of the front and purple trousers. He was wearing low, soft boots. He smiled when he saw the wizard with his eyes closed.

“Taking a break, Vangey?” he inquired playfully. Vangerdahast scowled, but only to himself. This pause was the first time all day that he had stopped to admire the view out over the castle and courtyards below. Of course the King would choose this minute to stop in. Vangerdahast stood, pulling his cloak around him as a cool breeze wafted through the open window, and briefly bowed to his King and friend.

“Never again, your highness, will I trust to children what should be handled by men.”

The King smiled. “Almost out from under it?”


Azoun looked at the remaining papers rather doubtfully, but accepted his royal wizard and personal advisor’s assessment of the situation. “Anything else while I am here?”

Vangerdahast smiled. “Actually, yes. I think you know of an adventuring party we have had some help from and trouble with in the past, called Damage Inc.?” The King nodded and Vangerdahast continued. “I believe I can get them out of Cormyr and into a place where they are no threat to the Throne and might actually be able to do some good.”

The King raised an eyebrow. “Were they really ever a threat?” he inquired.

“Not to the Throne, but they could have easily taken any of our smaller outposts, if they had decided to.”

The King now frowned. “Would they have attempted it? I was under the impression they were mostly loyal to the throne?”

Vangerdahast nodded. “They were good at heart, I believe, and had actually helped Cormyr in many areas, but the group tended towards rash acts. They were somewhat unpredictable, and followed their own moral code, which was not always in conformance with Cormyrean law.”

The King chuckled. “What do you intend to do with them?”

“Send them to Damara, or at least, what is left of Damara.”

The King nodded. “Sounds fine. I’m never thrilled about a group of high level adventurers running around Cormyr, deciding when and where to follow the law.” The King thought for a few seconds, and then slowly nodded again. He felt good when a decision had been made. Better to decide and act wrongly than to delay, he believed. Vangerdahast ‘s mission, according to Vangerdahast, was to make sure the King acted correctly. “Let them go to Damara. At worst, Vassan forces will kill them. At best, perhaps they can be a thorn in the Witch King’s side.”

Vangerdahast smiled. “I agree with your assessment of the worst case. But I would not recommend underestimating this party. They may yet surprise us. And the Witch King as well.”

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