Our story begins in early 1479 DR, a pivotal moment for your party. Hired by the enigmatic Dagult Neverember, Open Lord of Waterdeep, your task was to retrieve sensitive documents, allegedly pilfered by a political adversary.
Picture the Gilded Lion, a tavern and social club teeming with the whispers of Waterdeep's aristocracy. It's here, amidst clandestine murmurs and the clink of fine glassware, where Neverember, a man as ambitious as he is enigmatic, entreats you. His words, laced with urgency, reveal a scandalous tale — a rendezvous with an elven artisan, known for her exquisite perfumes, ending in a disoriented awakening hours later, his prized documents missing.
Before the ill-fated night at the Gilded Lion, your party's path had crossed with Dagult Neverember's on more than one occasion. Known amongst the circles of adventurers and mercenaries as a man of influence and ambition, Neverember had a penchant for employing skilled individuals for tasks that often skirted the edges of legality and in at least one occasion, morality. You had become somewhat accustomed to his cryptic summons and the lucrative, albeit risky, ventures that followed.
In the past, these 'projects' ranged from the retrieval of obscure artifacts to negotiating delicate alliances, tasks that, while challenging, never ventured beyond the realm of the expected for a man of his stature. Neverember, with his silver tongue and deep coffers, had a way of making even the most dubious of jobs seem like opportunities not to be missed. Your company had navigated these undertakings with a mix of skill and luck, earning not only gold but also a reputation for discretion and effectiveness.
However, this time, as you stepped into the dimly lit backroom of the Gilded Lion, there was an unmistakable air of urgency that deviated from the usual pomp and circumstance of Neverember's meetings. His eyes, usually a wellspring of confidence and control, flickered with a shadow of desperation. The way he spoke, his voice tinged with a barely concealed anxiety, hinted at stakes far higher than anything you had encountered in your previous dealings with him.
The job, as it unfolded, spoke of not just political rivalry but of secrets that held the potential to shake the very foundations of Waterdeep. It was this air of dire consequence, this departure from the familiar patterns of intrigue and power plays, that caught your party's attention. There was something in Neverember's demeanor, a certain frantic edge, that suggested this was more than just another assignment. It was a plea, a man grasping for a lifeline in a sea of uncertainties he was unaccustomed to navigating.
"I was unnaturally charmed, I am certain of it!" he proclaims, his voice a mix of indignation and bewilderment. His gaze drifts, lost in the haze of that fateful night. "In any case, she drugged me... I awoke, alone, my dignity scattered like the morning's first light. My papers... All, taken. Gone."
He speaks of Yan Shiobin, a name whispered with both reverence and fear, a fellow aristocrat, now the prime suspect in this web of deceit. Neverember's words are sharp, accusatory, "It is more than mere implication - I have him fully ensnared in the conspiracy."
The offer is lucrative — gemstones worth a fortune, a promise of more upon successful completion. But the task is cloaked in secrecy; exposure could unravel everything. "If you fail, yet maintain my confidence, I shall still reward you," he assures, his eyes gleaming with a mix of desperation and cunning.
As he spins his tale, a faint, alluring scent lingers in the air, a reminder of the enchanting encounter that started it all. It's an aroma that seems to bring his words to life, fresh yet complex, compelling and, in retrospect, unnaturally charming...
Whatever the case his story, however embellished, coupled with the promise of substantial reward, steeled your resolve. You took the job.
Armed with inside information from a servant in Shiobin's household, your party devised a meticulous plan, the party would infiltrate the lair of the Mage Yan Shiobin. A door, left open and unguarded in a forgotten alley, would be your silent entrance, then to the study on the third floor, where the documents lay hidden inside an enchanted mirror. It was simple really.
Imagine, if you will, a moonlit night casting its silver gaze over the grandeur of Yan Shiobin's manor. Nestled in an affluent quarter of Waterdeep, the manor stands as a testament to the mage's wealth and influence. Its towering façade, adorned with intricate carvings and shimmering stained glass, reflects the moon's glow, creating a play of light and shadow.
As your party approaches by rooftop, the hush of the night is palpable. The manor, surrounded by small but meticulously manicured gardens, exudes an eerie stillness, as if the very air around it is holding its breath. The scent of exotic flowers mingles with the cool night breeze, creating an almost hypnotic allure as you move closer.
The entry, discreetly arranged by Neverember's informant, leads you to a door in the alleyway, its heavy wood barely a whisper against the cobblestones. You slip inside, the door closing with a soft thud, enveloping you in the manor's secrets.
Inside, the manor is a labyrinth of luxury and shadow. Hallways lined with velvet drapes and paintings of Shiobin's ancestors whisper tales of power and legacy. The flickering candlelight casts dancing shadows, making the opulent furnishings seem alive, as if they're watching your every move. The floors, covered in plush carpets, muffle your footsteps, lending an air of surreptitiousness to your mission.
The stillness of the house is almost tangible, broken only by the soft crackle of a distant fireplace or the occasional creak of ancient wood shifting underfoot. The air is heavy with a blend of aged wood, leather-bound books, and the faintest hint of incense, suggesting a history as deep and complex as the man who dwells within.
As you ascend the stairs to the third floor, the ambiance shifts subtly. The corridors here are narrower, the air denser, as if laden with the secrets and strategies of a man who plays at the highest stakes. The study, your destination, awaits at the end of the corridor, its door slightly ajar, beckoning with the promise of answers and yet more mysteries.
Upon reaching the study, a discovery chilled you to the bone – footprints, traced in blood, leading away from your goal. And as the study door is opened, the flickering candlelight reveals a scene of macabre theater. Before you, a man is strapped to a chair, his body contorted in a grotesque display of suffering. His mouth gapes open in a silent scream, blood oozing from wounds unseen, a testament to a recent and brutal end.
The air in the study is thick with the metallic scent of blood, mingling with the mustiness of old paper and leather. The dim light flickers, casting long shadows that seem to dance with a life of their own.
Suddenly, the hallway outside is bathed in an otherworldly light. An archway materializes, framing a scene from a land far different from the night-shrouded streets of Waterdeep. Bright blinding sunlight, the golden hues of a desert, and the warm tones of sandstone walls form a stark contrast to the dark interior of the manor.
Looming between your party and the bewildering portal are two figures, shrouded in an aura of alien sunlight and dread. The first, clad in robes that swirl with shades of amber and red, moves as if the fabric is alive, a vivid contrast to the darkened corridor. His skin, an ashen grey, is framed by a long, unkempt beard and a finely-trimmed mustache, lending him an air of ancient wisdom corrupted by malevolent forces.
Beside him stands a young child, no older than six or seven. The child's demeanor is marked by a mix of fear and a hauntingly rigid obedience. Every tremble and hesitant step betrays a profound terror, yet there is an unsettling sense of compulsion in his actions, as if drawn forward by an unseen force.
As the figure stands illuminated by the surreal light of the portal, he exudes an air of malevolent glee. His grin, wide and chilling, reveals teeth unnaturally sharp, like the fangs of a predator. A wisp of smoke curls from his lips as he speaks in a thick, unplaceable accent, that chills you to the bone. "He didn't want to talk, I think he was feelin shy," he says, glancing past you at the lifeless body in the study. "But in de end, he had soooo much to say."
His hand, stained with blood, moves in a grotesque mimicry of conversation. It's then that the horrific realization dawns upon your party: the nature of Yan Shiobin’s grotesque injuries. The poor soul, now nothing more than a lifeless marionette, had been manipulated in the most macabre of fashions. This monster had turned him into a literal hand puppet, his arm thrust up through the body, controlling it in a perverse display of power and cruelty.
The sight is stomach-churning, a tableau of terror that sears itself into your minds. Shiobin's body, manipulated like a child's toy, is a testament to this demons disregard for life and his twisted sense of entertainment. The blood, still fresh and dripping down his arm, glistens under the light of the portal, painting a picture of the recent and savage violation of Shiobin’s body.
The young boy, stands a silent witness to this horror. His eyes, wide with a mix of fear and something darker, follow the monster’s every move. Despite his apparent terror, there's a chilling acceptance in his demeanor that conjures the stuff of nightmares.
As this demon turns to leave through the portal, the scene around him seems to distort, the lines between reality and nightmare blurring. His hair and beard, illuminated by the harsh desert sun, give off an illusion of being ablaze, adding an infernal aspect to his already daunting visage. To the more attuned members of your party, his form appears to burn and smoke from within, a spectral entity drifting between worlds.
"Well, goodnights to yous all," he mocks, his voice echoing in the suddenly oppressive silence of the manor. He steps through the archway with the child in tow, the portal vanishing as though it were a mirage, leaving behind only a mundane doorway and darkness.
In their wake, the shouts of the City Watch rise from outside, a jarring return to the reality of Waterdeep.
In the shadowed depths beneath the Poet and the Patriot, a humble tavern in the bustling Trades Ward, your party found a fleeting sanctuary. The escape from Yan Shiobin's manor had been a harrowing dash through the labyrinthine streets of Waterdeep, evading the relentless pursuit of the City Watch. Your hearts pounded in unison with the echoing footsteps on the cobblestones as you clambered out of a window, darted across rooftops, and wove through darkened alleys. It was only in the anonymity of the sprawling city's architecture that you finally shook off your pursuers.
As the first light of dawn began to pierce the darkness, threatening to expose your presence, a concealed sanctuary beneath the bustling streets of Waterdeep became your refuge. In this hidden grotto, long forgotten by the city above, you found a momentary respite from the chaos that had engulfed your lives. This clandestine hideaway, nestled deep within a secret tunnel under the Poet and the Patriot tavern, was your safeguard against the imminent peril.
The tavern's proprietor, Faraji, was the architect of your escape. A half-elf whose features were a mosaic of diverse heritages, his appearance was a riddle that defied easy answers. His hair, streaked with silver and pepper, spoke of a life rich in experiences, while his eyes, as deep and perceptive as they were green, hinted at secrets held close to the chest. Faraji's accent was an enigma, tracing no known lineage, sometimes imbuing his words with an air of exotic authority.
Faraji had been more than just an acquaintance in your journey; he was an ally, as steadfast as the north star in a tempestuous sea. His actions in the early hours of the morning, guiding you to safety with a sense of urgency and precision, were testament to a bond that went beyond mere friendship.
In his presence, you felt a curious blend of comfort and curiosity. There was an unspoken understanding, a recognition of shared adventures and unvoiced stories that lay beneath his surface. Faraji, with his enigmatic heritage and unplaceable accent, was more than the proprietor of a local tavern; he was a guardian of unknown depths, a silent sentinel whose watchful eyes had seen worlds beyond the confines of Waterdeep's walls.
As you settled into the shadowed confines of the grotto, you couldn't help but wonder about the untold stories that Faraji carried within him, stories that were perhaps as entwined with your fate as the threads of destiny that had brought you to this hidden chamber beneath the streets of Waterdeep.
For four days, you remained cloistered in the damp, cool confines of the grotto, the weight of your situation growing heavier with each passing hour. The body discovered in the study, bound grotesquely to a chair, had been none other than the Mage Yan Shiobin, along with two of his unfortunate servants. The revelation that Shiobin had been a clandestine member of the Masked Lords of Waterdeep, akin to Neverember, had sent shockwaves through the city. His death, now labeled a brutal assassination, was being attributed to your party—a damning accusation that put you all in grave danger.
Despite the looming threat, the Poet and the Patriot remained untouched by the authorities. But Faraji, with a furrowed brow and a gaze that missed little, was certain it was only a matter of time before they came knocking.
As you grappled with the realization of your predicament, Faraji worked tirelessly, his connections throughout the Sword Coast becoming your lifeline. On the evening of the fourth day, he emerged into the grotto with news that sparked a glimmer of hope amidst the despair.
"Ambassador Mzuka, a dear old friend, a shipmate from distant and sunlit shores we once called home, has anchored his ship just outside the great harbor, near Deepwater beach," Faraji whispered, his eyes alight with a mixture of relief and urgency. "It's a fortunate coincidence, or perhaps a miracle, that he's here at all. His crew is in town tonight, and they have a plan to smuggle you aboard his ship the Kunguru Nyumba under the cover of darkness."
He detailed the plan with precision, emphasizing the importance of stealth and speed. "Pack everything but the clothes on your back into burlap sacks. Be ready to move at a moment's notice," he instructed, his voice low and steady. "This crew is trustworthy. I'd trust them with my life, and tonight, I entrust them with yours. If anyone can get you out of Waterdeep safely, it's them."
As the sun dipped below the horizon, casting long shadows through the streets of Waterdeep, a palpable tension filled the air. The crew of the Kunguru Nyumba would soon arrive at the tavern, their presence a beacon of escape from the city that had turned against you. Faraji's trust in them was unwavering, and in the darkness of the grotto, you prepared for the next chapter of your journey, uncertain of what lay ahead but resolute in your will to survive.