"Here's to the City of Splendors
Deep water where the edge of the sea
Meets rivers of gold; all the coins ever made
Flow past - gods, throw some to me! "
(A traditional toast, sung in the taverns of Waterdeep)
Stedd was born into the Waterdhavian noble house of Melshimber on the twentynineth day of Elaint in the year of moonfall ( DR 1344 ).
His Father, Lord Osvald Melshimber, was pleased to see that his young wife ( Hlanta ) had given him a second son. Lord Osvald's eldest son, Khallos, was somewhat sickly and the Lord wished to insure his house a strong hier.
Smiling to his young bride he turned to depart the room and swatted at what felt like a small insect bite just as the guild mage he had hired to cast the enchantment that would protect the newest Melshimber from all mundane missiles for the remainder of his days entered the chamber.
Such protective enchanments were laid and then made permanet as a matter of custom among the Waterdhavian nobility and Lord Osvald's son would need that and more if he were to become the courtly warrior that he had envisioned.
" when he is old enough to ride I shall send him to Helm's Hold for Education" Lord Osvald thought as he strode from the chamber and down the hall toward where his gilded coach waited to wisk him off to a meeting with the local vinters guild.
Suddenly... he felt very warm, almost hot as he walked the chilly corridor. His vision blurred and swam. Osvald was confused as to why he would feel so ill so suddenly when his legs buckled and his sight grew dim.
" I am going to die." he thought with a bit resignation as he lay upon the cold stone floor of the hall, unable to move. He could hear what sounded like the roar of the sea and knew it was naught but the blood coursing thru his veins.
He felt a tinge of regret that he would not see his new son take his first steps or grow into manhood before his life ebbed....
... and he died.
29 Elaint the year of the morningstar. (1350 DR )
Stedd had several "uncles" as a child. most came and went but one remained constant. Unlce Miklos Melshimber was different. Unlike all of the the other uncles that came and went on a regular basis, Uncle Miklos took a geniune interest in the six year old boy who was the son of his brother. All Stedd knew is that Uncle Miklos actually came to visit him instead of his mother. Stedd really liked the the old man with the silver hair at the temples and the way his gray eyes wrinkled around the edges when he laughed at something or other that he said or did.
Miklos had Brought a special gift with him for the young Stedd on the day that was both his day of birth as well as the sixth anniversery of the death of his father. It was a Ironwood toy sword craved by gnomish hands in the distant city of Glister and was the apex of the woodworkers craft. Miklos had been surprised at how intuitivly he lad had grasped and held the mock blade.
Stedd was so excited that he nearly forgot to breathe. The sword was almost like the ones carried by the housegaurds save this one was made of wood! something about the way it felt in his hands just was...right. Stedd felt almost as if the sword was just something that had always been apart of him, kinda like an arm or something. He summoned up a threesome of fearsome kolbolds in his mind's eye and began to hack them apart in an imaginary fray whilst his uncle looked on.
It was as if the boy already knew the rudiments of grip and stance whislt he did battle with the imaginary foes. The way he kept his elbow in and gracefully slid his feet impressed the old man greatly. Miklos made a mental note to discuss young Stedd's education with Hlanta.
Perhaps he could persuede her to let him take the boy with him when he went to Saerloon in order to inspect the family held vineyards that produced the famous glowfire vintages. Hlanta would likely be glad to be rid of the lad that she seldom saw.
After all, she was so very busy with feasts, revels, and the many suitors that pursued her amid her busy schedule of indulgance and excess that she seldom remembered that she had children, let alone two sons.
Yes, thought Miklos, Hlanta would most certainly allow the boy to accompany him on the trip to Sembia.
A journey that would take several seasons to complete.
The journey to Saerloon took almost a year and in that time Miklos marvelled at how very much like his father Stedd was. He so very closely resembled the younger brother that Miklos had played with as a child that more than once he caught himself calling the young lad "Oslvad" in place of "Stedd".
Stedd thought the journey to Saeloon a grand adventure. He marvelled at the sights and sounds of the foriegn and strange lands that they passed thru on the way to distant Sembia. He had learned to ride and loved the lessons at arms that he received from the house weapon master "Magebane" John, but most of all he loved the scholarly lessons he received from Uncle Miklos.
Uncle Miklos would tell him stories of Netheril and Illusk and other empires of old. Together, they would go over his letters and learn strange and new languages. More than anything else Stedd just enjoyed the time Miklos spent with him and him alone.
He sometimes missed Khallos, his older brother, and looked forward to the day when he would return home to Waterdeep to share the stories of his grand adventure with his older sibling.
the sixteenth of Ches in the year of the dragon ( 1352 DR )
It was a moonless night in early spring when Stedd and Miklos disembarked from the costal cog "Marsember Maiden" and set foot on the docks of Saerloon. Stedd could hear the brisk trade taking place in the Dolphin market even at this late hour. If there was one thing that unlce Miklos had hammered home in his lessons recently it was the love and loyalty Sembians placed on coin.
They moved thru the streets with but a small honor guard of loyal house Melshimber troops so as to not have to wait for the slow unloading of baggage from the hold of the ship. Miklos had told Stedd that this would not only avoid delay, but also avoid trouble, as the entire compliment of troops from house Melshimber seen moving about the city in mass would likely cause unwelcome attention.
It was just before dawn when Stedd saw the country estate that would become his home for the next decade. Although he did not know it at the time, this was the place that molding him the most into the man he would later become. "Mistfields" was an expansive estate with over three hundred acres of vineyards and another two hundred of woods. The manorhouse was old. not in the Waterdhavian sense of old, but it had a well aged and comfrtable lived in look about. Vines of ivy clung to its walls and the roof was tiled entirely in bold blue slate. There were several outbuildings, mostly of wood and thatch, and a expansive and well manicured garden with a maze of sculpted rose bushes. Stedd spent all of his free moments for the next several weeks exploring the place with it variety of hidden alcoves and nooks, while his uncle went about his audits and inspections of the Family hoilding.
Stedd saw Miklos less and less as summer rapidly approached. One day while he was brushing "socks", his Hawkwinter bred horse, a strange lady clad in soft brushed leathers and wearing a mottled green cloak approached him.
"Well met, young master" she said with a hint of something that the seven year old boy could not identify in her clear soprano voice. " I am Sabre, your uncle has retained me to continue your studies in his absence." Her green eyes twinkled as she spoke. " We will be continuing where he left off and adding a touch of field craft to your lessons." Stedd drew himself up to his full hight and squared his shoulders. " I do not take lessons from girls!" he said a with a bit more bluster than he had intended.
Sabre laughed. The sound was similar to that of a mountain brook and only served to fuel the boys anger further. " Is that so? " she asked coyly. " I am a ranger, boy, do you know what that is?" Her face grew hard and stern while she wait on his reply. Stedd remember the tales his uncle had told of rangers and harpers. The strange thing was, they were always men in the tales. It had never occured to the boy that a woman could become one as well as a man. In the tales rangers knew all of the hidden things of the wilds. They could move without trace nor sound and strike down monsters and be gone before any knew that they had even been there. Stedd wanted as much as anything to be like that. He forced his anger down deep inside the way "Magebane" had taught him to do when fencing the blade before speaking again. " I...I...I am sorry, Sabre. I was...I guess I was wrong. Please don't be mad at me. I want to learn."
8 Uktar the year of the serpant ( 1359 DR )
The next seven years went by swiftly. Stedd learned a good deal from the mentors that Uncle Miklos provided. He became adept at riding, swordplay, music ( the harpsicord ) , as well as fieldcraft. His mind was also honed and sharpened in mathematics, history, heraldry, languages ( elven, dwarven, nethernesse, orcish, and the silent tongue of the Drow. ), vinting, among a myriad of other topics. Always Stedd hungered for more knowledge untill his uncle was hard pressed to keep the young man in tutors.
Finally the day came when Lord Miklos decided it was time to send young Stedd ( now 15 ) to study at the university in his native Waterdeep. All was made ready for the young lord to oversee ( while under the watchful eye of the House Melshimber weapon master "Magebane" John ) a House trade caravan of wines to the city of splendors.
Stedd was torn inside. He was leaving behind his beloved uncle and his new home "Mistfields". Yet, he was anxious to see the brother that was but a fuzzy memory held over from his early years. It was a bitter sweet moment for Stedd when he Mounted his aging horse "socks" and led the caravan from "mistfields". He knew that a chapter of his life was closing forever and was considerable anxious as to what the future would hold in store for him.
His held held high, he sat straight in the saddle and choked back the tears he felt welling inside of him as Unlce Miklos bid him a last farewell. "Sweet water and light laughter till next we meet, Stedd." said Miklos using the common tongue translation of the ancient elven traditional words of parting. "Till swords part, Unlce." answered Stedd trying to keep the emotion of speaking the warriors parting from making his changing voice crack.
Stedd wheeled socks around and signaled the caravan forward as he rode toward the gates of Mistfields. He did not know it at the time, but it would be the last time he would see his Uncle Miklos alive.
Greengrass the year of the maidens ( 1361 DR )
Stedd had looked forward to Greengrass all winter long. He had made fast friends among the other young noblemen attending the university. among them, Lords Helmfast and Tesper were his closest friends and also studied swordcraft at the Snookery with. From Garen Helmfast Stedd gained a love of of yachting and the sea. Toghether they would spend many a idle day racing the yachts of House Helmfast across the water of Waterdeep habor. From Gerath Tesper he found someone who pushed him in his study of swordcraft. Stedd and Gerath were constanly pushing each other in an ongoing contest to be the better with the blade and this friendly competition only served to improve thier skills faster than they would have otherwise. The thrresome od friends were seldom out of each others company and together became the scourge of the castle ward. Quickly making a reputatuon for themselves among those who frequented the sort of establishments that young people find appealing in that ward of the city.
Stedd's older brother Khallos was an upperclassman at the college and a tutor to the junior students. For reasons beyond his understanding, Stedd found his brother coldly distant during the early months of his return to Waterdeep. The young Melshimber found himself letting his scholarly studies slide in favor of more phyiscal pursuits. This only served to widen the rift between the two brothers. Stedd also found that members of the fairer sex were also taking up a bit more of his thoughts and time. Stedd liked many of the young noble ladies and to his surprise, they liked him. It was on one of these occasions that Stedd was changed forever.
Greengrass the year of the maidens ( 1361 DR )
Stedd, Garen, and Gerath laughed as they made thier way toward vigin's square. The snows had receded and the festival of Greengrass marked the resumption of trade into the city of splendors. They young men were anxious to witness the choosing of the mercenaries that would provide escort of the trade caravans by the famous Blazidon one eye. The boys had spent many nights developing various therories as to how the old warrior always seemed to select the right man for any given mercenary task and relished this chance to see him in action. That is when they spotted Belanna.
Belanna worked in the Jade Dancer ( a favorite haunt of Stedd and his fellow rakes ) clearing tables and performing other cleaning chores to earn a few extra coin to help support her family and was of the same age as the boys. A group of older boys from the university were gatherd about her in a small cirlce so she could not get away and she wept while they teased and jeered. The leader of the older students was Xavier Bladesemmer, the young scion of the noble house famous for its swordsmen and the mercenary companies they either funded or owned.
" ...perhaps I can hire her to give me a sponge bath. " Laughed Xavier as he groped his crotch. " She will do ANYTHING for coin....or so I hear."
The assembled boys laughed and pulled at Belanna's clothing as they pushed her around the circle. Belanna cried and tried vainly to protect her modesty from the groping hands of the boys. "Leave her be!" shouted Stedd as he and his friends approached. the boys stopped the harrasment of the young Belanna as they turned to regard the newcomers. "well look what we have here." sneered Xavier as he turned to regard Stedd and his companions with contempt. " A young Melshimber thinks he can give orders to a Bladesemmer, and he brought along a pair of lap dogs." Stedds friends instinctively reached for the blades that they bore in response to the insult when Stedd stepped forward to within swords length of Xavier. " If you have issue with her you have issue with me." said Stedd as he looked Xavier in the eye and fiegned a confidence that he did not feel. " What?!?" exclaimed Xavier " Does this wanton escort have you cuckolded? Is she that good in the bedchamber or is she just the best you can sample?" asked Xavier mockingly.
Stedd was astonished at what happened next. It was as if his body took over and he was just along for the ride. Stedd scissored in and launched a fist aimed at Xavier's chin at a slightly upward arch. Xavier had quick reflexes and had manage to take a half stride forward while pulling a punching dagger from a sheath on the back of his sword baldric. This Move brought Xavier in close but not close enough to negate most of the force of the blow as the young Bladesemmer had planned. Instead, the blow landed striaght on the young man's windpipe, crushing it almost instantly, and knocked him to the ground on his back.
Xavier kicked and worked his mouth as he struggled to draw breath. His eyes pleaded to the assembled boys for help while he clawed at his throat with his hands. Stedd watched with numb detatchment, unable to move or speak as he witnessed Xavier Bladesemmer turn blue and die.
Stedd had killed before. Goblins and even a feircsome orc or two on his travels from Saerloon to Waterdeep, but he had never killed a fellow human, and not one he knew. He loooked down at Xavier's corpse and thought of the hope and dreams the boy might have had that would now go unrealized when he felt something hard strike his chest then bounce away to clatter on the cobblestones at his feet. "You killed him! Murderer!" screamed one of the boys that had been with the young Bladesemmer as he drew another dagger from his belt to replace the one that had just struck Stedd in the chest with no effect due to his birth warding.
"The Watch! run!" someone shouted as all of the assembled boys began to scatter like mice before a hungry tom cat. "Stedd! come on, run!" someone else shouted, but the words would not register in Stedds mind untill it was too late. A heavy mailed hand came down to firmly grasp him on the shoulder and snap Stedd from his reverie.
"What have we here? looks like another alley brawl gone bad." said the Watch Civilar as he looked down upon the still blue body of Xavier Bladesemmer. " A noble lad too." the civilar tisked. "Son, I fear that you are in a spot of trouble." said the Civilar as Stedd was finally able to tear his eyes away from the corpse. Stedd spoke to the Civilar with an amazing amount of calm and detatchment. "You have no idea, goodman. You have no idea."
Stedd was relieved that he sentance light. He had been convicted of unlawful duelling (manslaughter) , a serious crime against the second plaint of the Watrdhavian code legal. A crime that could be punished severly by the hidden lords of the city. As it was, Stedd was exiled from Waterdeep for four years and forced to pay restition to cover the costs to house Bladesemmer for the raising of Xavier from the dead. Hlanta was publicly embarassed and privately furious about her son being branded a criminal exile. Arrangements were quickly made for Stedd to depart Waterdeep once again. He was saddened to be leaving the only friends he had ever known. The matron of house Melshimber thought that if her son must be exiled why not send him somewhere that he can be an asset to the family. Stedd was bound for Skullport. A city of rogues and cuthroats deep below Mount Waterdeep.
House Melshimber had a long history of trade with both the slavers in skullport and the drow that came up from the depths of the underdark to do trade with other races. It was the buying and selling of these rare vintages ( and often drugs and toxins ) that formed the foundation of the wealth of HOuse Melshimber. Stedd by this time knew quite well that his family was wealthy ( most waterdhavian noble families have a wealth that outstrips most nations of the realms. ) but was never clear as to how they could have so much from trading in wines and sagecraft alone. It was in skullport that he learned the truth. House Melshimber trafficked in slaves.
Stedd learned quickly the skills needed to survive the streets of skullport as he worked as the family trade ambassidor. He learned valuable skills as a negotiator and diplomat. He also learned the value of a well placed blade in the kidney of stubborn tradesman. He had carved out a place for himself far from the light of day as he filled himself with thoughts of amassing gold in order to surpress the thoughts of Uncle Miklos and Mistfields. Then "they" came.
Normally The tipsters and informants that Stedd had in place about Skullport would have warned him about unusual newcomers to the city. The problem was these newcomers did not appear unusual in the least. The Shadow Sashes had sent two veteran killers out of Calimnport to carry out the contract placed on Stedd by House Bladesemmer. One was a Halfdrow female. Totally unremarkable here inside skullport. The other was a human male of Chondathan descent that was disguised as her nearly naked slave. They were also wise enough to not wear the Sashes of rank that were the namesake and identifiers of the members of the guild.
Stedd Was leaving the ramshackle building that was made up of a variety of floatsom that had been skillfully cobbled together in an attempt to pass itself off as a tavern. His polished boots splashed thru the muck and filth that ran thru the alleys that the denizens of Skullport called streets and he was deep in thoughts about how best to approach a Nethalanther pirate captian about the purchase of his recently liberated cargo. That is when the duo struck at thier mark.
Stedd thought little of the sailor that ran towrd him down the filth choked street. The man was obviously fleeing someone or something from the way he kept glancing behind him as he ran. Early on, Stedd had learned to keep to his own affairs while inside Skullport. Those who pryed into the business of others did not live long.
Stedd was about to say something to the sailor to get the mans attention in order to avoid a collusion, when the man looked him in the eye and Stedd knew something was wrong. The sailor, already at a dead run, was moving too fast and was to close for Stedd to react. The man ducked his head and hit Stedd hard in the mid section with a shoulder while wrapping his arms about the Startled Noble. Stedd felt the air leave his lungs in a great "woosh" as he was lifted from his feet and driven back and then down to the ground.
The Sailor was a Shadow sash assassin and skilled in the art of killing with the bare hands. A skill learned from long, often painfull years of study among the monks of the order of the Dark Moon. As Stedd struggled to draw breath the killer moved swiftly to place himself at an even greater position of advantage over his prey.
20 Kythorn the year of the sword ( 1365 DR )
The Assassin drove Stedd to the ground on his back on the hard slime coverd stone of the street. Eve as they fell, the monk hit Stedd with a headbutt that snapped his right collarbone like a dry twig. The apin shot up thru Stedd's arm like a firebolt and he knew that if he did not get this man off of him quickly his life would soon be over. The half drow priestess of Shar watched the fight from the shadows nearby with grim satisfaction. This mark would prove easier they they had anticipated.
Thane had been calling on the adopted daughter of Mindogar, the Tanaruk dealer of exotic drugs and poisons, for almost two months now. She was a comely girl and Thane found that he enjoyed the excitement of visiting her inside her bedchamber in the home of her deadly stepfather. He was just starting such a tryst when burly Tanaruk arrived home a bit earlier than expected. Not wanted to die today, or the next for that matter, Thane grabbed his sword Baldric and lept from the second floor window with out so much as a second glance. He regreted leaving his boots behind. They had been made from the hide of a crag cat and had cost him more money than he normally made in a single season. Thane did not have long to mourn the loss of his boots before his fall ended. Instead of landing on the hard stone of the narrow street as he had expected, Thane came to rest on something fleshy that absorbed most of the energy of his second story leap.
The monk raised himself and drew back an arm for a palm strike that would crush Stedd's skull when Thane landed on him from above. The basket hilt of Thane's saber crunching down on the bone of the man's spine when Thane landed on him. The Monk in turn collapsed down on top of Stedd who both felt and heard his ribs crack under the combined wieght of the two men. Thane quickly stood "Thank you" he said as he rose to stand on his bare feet. "You broke my fall quite nicely."
The half Drow cursed and cast a spell that summoned an area of inky darkness to fall over the area. Stedd was not certain what happend next as he was unable to see in the magical darkness. He pushed the thrashing and screaming Monk off from on top of him and crawled in a random direction.The pain of his injuries made it difficult to breathe as he made his way thru the muck toward what he hoped would be safety. Sounds of battle rang out and Stedd could swear he heard the cursing of someone or something in a language that was a butchering of the orcish tongue.
Fumbling thru the darkness Stedd listened to what sounded like a growing battle as new combatants entered the fray he had just left. These newcomers spoke in undercommon that was heavily accented by dwarven. Stedd reached the edge of the Darkness spell and forced himself to stand and then to run.
It took Stedd nigh a tenday and plenty of coin paid out to discreet priests to recover from his wounds. During that time Stedd laid low inside on of the many bolt holes that he had prepared for just such an occasion. He also spent a good deal of coin to learn who had attacked him and why. Although only one of the two assassins had been caught and killed, his corpse had yielded up a great deal of information. The man who had been dressed as a sailior was from Calimnport and wore a grey sash under his sailors tunic.
This was all the information that Stedd needed to decide it was time for him to leave Skullport at once if not forever.
16 Alturiak the year of the shield (1367 DR)
Stedd was nearly out of money. He had quietly slipped aboard the ship of a less than honest Lantanesse merchant captain that he had dealt with in the past and sailed with aboard the vessel as far as Baldur's Gate. He quickly found that while he was aboard the close confines of a ship that it would prove very difficult for an assassin to catch him unawares. From Baldur's Gate he booked passage aboard a river barge that was bound up the river Chionthar to Iriaebor. He was not going to make good time, but this was not a race and he would avoid a good deal of notice by keeping belowdecks most of the trip. During his travels, Stedd often found himself idly fingering the Amulet given to him by his Uncle Miklos on his twelfth birthday. The amulet was enchanted to prevent scrying and other arcane means of detection or location. Stedd had longed to return to Mistfields and the Uncle that he loved but knew that would be among the first places the assassins that dogged him would look. After arriving in the city of the topless towers, Stedd purchased a swift palfrey and some supplies and took to the Trader's way heading east toward Westgate. He travelled the road alone and called upon the lesson's Sabre had taught him in woodcraft as a child. Using caution and speed he was able to avoid all folk that he might have otherwise encounterd along the long road.
In Teziir he bartered away the last of his gems to the first ship captain that was bound out of the small port town. All that remained of the small fortune he had carried with him when he had encountered the assassins in Skullport was a but a score of platinum coins and a handfull of gold from the sale of the palfrey that he had purchased in Iriaebor. Stedd had been wise enough not to return to his family owned villa in Skullport. He was certain that was likely why he was still alive. The gem had not been enough to take him as far east as he would have liked but it was farther than Stedd had ever been from Waterdeep in his life.
Stepping off the coaster and on to the docks at Raven's Bluff, Stedd knew that he would have to find a way to put a few more coins in his pocket if he were ever to outrun the assassins that would surely pursue him. He cast his gaze over the city before him. There was what made up a dock quarter nestled just outside of the outer walls of the city with a small market full of fishmongers and thier ilk in the square before the gates. Stedd drew his cloak up tight around him to ward off the chilly mists that seemed to cloak this city in the dead of winter. He had never felt so uncertain...or alone.
3 Tarsakh the year of the tankard ( 1370 DR )
Stedd was starting to like the city of ravens. He had joined the watch under the name "Stedd of Mistfields" and this had seen to his needs. Soon he found himself in the military of the city had been assigned to the watch due to his past experiance with that branch of the civic government. He had risen up thru the ranks and was now a sergeant earning a paltry 15 gold a month. He was assigned to the Scout rangers, a unit in the military that served as watchmen in the outlying areas under the city's control while performing scouting roles in times of war. He enjoyed his patrols out across the countryside and the company of his fellow soldiers.
It was on one of the rare occasions when Stedd was inside the city that he was approached with an offer that would not only change his life but alter the course of history in the realms. He was Playing at cards inside an establishment in the uptown district known as Volodar's Stardust and had been blessed by Tymora. Stedd had already sharped nigh a years worth of wages and was silently counting the coins in his head while waiting on the shuffle when an elderly man sat beside him and introduced himself as Lord Gaius Varro.
When there is blood in the streets
and people stand and gawk
the threat of foe greets
talons of the avenging hawk
from "The ballad of Raven's Bluff" (Anon)
(background information on the Knights of the Hawk)
In a world filled with foes, the Knighthood of the Hawk was founded to protect Raven's Bluff from those that wage open warfare and those who skulk in the shadows alike. Hawk Knights watch, wait, and-should they uncover some evil plot- strike with all of the ferocity of a bird of prey. When city officals need someone who is above suspicsion ( not a member of one of the local gangs or guilds ) to do surveillance work, act undercover, or scout enemy dispositions, they look to the Hawks. The enemies of Raven's Bluff don't play by the rules, and members of this Knighthood are expected to do whatever must be done to counter those threats. Hawk Knights are the city's shadow warriors, ready to blend in and walk unseen by the city's enemies until they are ready to pounce. This order is known to attract loners and those with the wits to hold thier tongues while listening and remembering what all others are saying. The best weapons of most Hawk Knights are thier wits. They pride themselves on trying to outwit or fool opponets, preferring to make such villains appear ridiculous and so destroy threats without creating another pile of corpses, However, if need be, the Hawks are expert slayers of the enemies of Raven's Bluff.
A Hawk does not brag nor boast. Hawk Knights learn to act in whatever guise is needed, from a humble beggar or town drunk to a menacing assassin available for some evil doer to hire. They go where they must and do what must be done to protect the security of Raven's Bluff. They are loyal to thier fellow Hawks and devoted to the ideals of the order. Loyal Hawks are often called upon to violate the city's laws in pursuit of its foes and Hawk's caught abusing his or her position for the sake of self enrichment are often dipatched at the hands of thier fellows for betraying the order. Sworn to protect the city and its inhabitants, they're prepared to go to ANY lengths to accomplish this oath.
"A known Hawk is a dead Hawk."
a common saying in the Shadystreets district of Raven's Bluff implying that death awaits those who would disrupt ( by snitching or other means ) gang activity.
1 Eleasis the year of the tankard (1370 DR)
Stedd had been been both afraid and delighted at what Lord Gaius Varro had to say. He had informed Stedd that the city knew who he was and of his past. Then the Lord offered Stedd the chance to squire with the Order of the Hawk. The city of Ravens would protect him if he would help protect the city in return. Stedd could not accept fast enough.
In Flamerule the armies of Myrkyssa Jelan had assualted the city by surprise in abattle that lasted for six days. Stedd's unit of scouts were overrun and wiped out in the second day of the fighting as they harrassed the ogres and giants that drug the massive siege engines toward the city. Stedd had survived only by being left for dead when an envenomed bolt from a drow crossbow took him in the thigh and put him in a deep sleep. The scouts had never seen the drow unit protecting the ogres until it was too late. Stedd awoke to find himself over a quarter mile behind the lines on the third day of the fighting. The humanoid army had crossed the fire river and were within sight of the city walls. So much battlemagic had been used in the heavy fighting that pockets of both wild and dead magic areas abounded. Stedd assumed that this was the reason the bolt had pierced his birthwards against such attacks. Moving slowly and with great caution he made his way back toward the city. On his way, he encountered a group of enemy mages arguing about the scope of the magically instability in the area. Seeing this as a rare chance to strike a blow of vengance for his fallen scout comerades, Stedd slew the group and returned the war dispatches that they carried back to the defenders of the city. After two more hard days of fighting the enemy was routed and driven from the field by a elder wyrm who had been convinced to change sides in conflict. Stedd found himself an officer in the Scouts and a full Knight of the Hawk.
The Agent of the Red wizards of Thay stepped out into the gowntown district alleyway from the backdoor to the Blackflame trading coster safehouse when a fist hammered into his stomache, knocking the wind from him and causing him to double over with the force of the blow. Before he could right himself, his cloak was siezed and pulled up over his head to blind him. A pair of Strong hands gripped him by the belt and neck and propelled him headlong into a wall. There was a flash of light inside of his head for a brief moment before he slipped into unconcisous slumber and fell to the ground in the alley.
Stedd had tracked this Agent for some four days now and was glad that he had finally been allowed to bring the suspected arsonist in for questioning. Two children had died in the blaze that also claimed the life of Borth Mrimmer, A Leader in the Cartmans guild. Placing a knee in the small of the Thayan's back, he began the task of placing a gag and shackles on the man when the door opened again.
He had not expected anyone to come out again and so soon. "This just is not my day." Stedd mused when he noticed who had just walked out into the alley. It was the Red Wizard known only as Pyre. A devout worshipper of Kossuth and famous for his love of fire based spells, this dangerous Mage also had diplomatic immunity as a member on record of the Local Thayan Embassy. Behind the red wizard was the suspected leader of his Thayan knights, a bald pated woman known as Ash.
Pyre's eyes narrowed as he looked over at stedd who was in the process of shackling the agent of the Red Wizard. "What do you think that you are doing with my servant?" asked the mage venomously.
Stedd swallowed back the cold fear that welled up inside of him as he looked Pyre over. Although he had suspected that the arson may have been the work of more than one foriegn agent, he had never considered that the crime could have been the handiwork of a cabal of Red Wizards. Stedd rose slowly being carefull to keep his hands well away from the obvious weapons he bore and tried his best to appear nonthreatening while inching his left hand toward the poisoned throwing spikes concealed inside of his jacket at the nape of his neck. "Your servant?" Stedd asked "I was bringing this man in for questioning in relation to a recent arson. ....I am......uh....most assuredly you had nothing to do with it."
Pyre narrowed his eyes and trembled a bit. For a heartspan Stedd was unsure as to weather the mage's trembling was brought about by fear or rage. The next few seconds removed all doubt. The staff that Pyre bore flashed briefly and then Stedd found himself surrounded by light and incredible heat. Even as he released the evenommed throwing spikes and witnessed two of them strike Pyre in the face, the air that Stedd breathed seared the tender flesh of his lungs while the flames scorched and blacked his skin. Stedd screamed and lost consiousness.
3 Eleasis the year of the tankard (1370 DR)
Stedd awoke lying in strange bed amidst unfamiliar surroundings. The chamber was small and spartan and stank with incense. He propped himself up on an elbow in order to better survey his surroundings. A single wooden chair, a table with washbasin, a footlocker of sorts and a wardrobe were the only furnishings save the bed he was lying upon. A quick peek under the blankets confirmed his suspicsions that he was indeed naked. It was at that instant two things occured at the same time. Stedd noticed that he no longer bore the enchanted signet ring of a lord of house Melshimber and the door to the chamber swung open.
A tall raven tressed young woman entered the chamber. She was nigh six and a half feet tall and appeared to be quite well porportioned. One would easily call her beautiful if not for the large tattoo that encompassed half of her face. A large blue open hand was inked upon her face with her eye centered upon the palm. It took Stedd a moment to realize it was a symbol of devotion to Torm the true, the god of duty. The field plate and mail that she wore was engraved with sigils and prayers to Torm as well. The way that she wore it was as if it were wrought of silk instead of heavy steel bespoke of years of training in the armor. The Last thing that Stedd's eyes took in was the helm that she bore tucked under her arm. It was a great helm of steel that had been skillfully covered with the preserved head of a great lioness with jaws open so that when worn one could look out thru the visor and between the great white fangs of lion. Such a helm was meant to demoralize and distract a foe, as well as to mark its owner as a member of elite order of Paladins based in the city of Tantras, The Lions of Torm.
"Ahhh...I see you have decided not to sleep your life away after all." she said in a sultry alto voice as she saw Stedd propped up on one elbow on the bed.
" I am Sword of Duty Lani Tormchilde of the Order of the Lion." she said matter of factly with just a tinge of warmth to her tone. Stedd rose from the bed and wrapped the blanket about his waist as he stood. " Well met and thank you, Sword of Duty Lani Tormchilde." he said as he stood and gave her a prefunctionary bow. " If you would be so kind as to return my clothing and my signet I will set about seeing to it that a suitable donation is made to the coffers of Torm in rememberance for this act of kindness and mercy."
"and you are?..." she asked letting the words trail off. Stedd blushed for a moment in embarassment at the oversight. He had hidden his true idenitity for so long now that it no longer required work of thought. "I am called Stedd of Mistfields, Captian of the the watch. The Reverand High Justice Lord Hykros Allumen, and most holy servant of Tyr can confirm my identity or the High Magistrate Tordon Sureblade." he replied.
"I'm sorry, Stedd. you clothing was burned so badly as to be unserviceable when you were found on our doorstep two nights past. We know naught of how you came to be there and were hoping that you could enlighten us when you awoke. Your effects are in yon footlocker. A signet was not among them. I will have some robes brought in for you. they are not much, but better than walking about unclad." although her tone was still flat her blue eyes sparkled with amusement at she spoke the last bit and Stedd wondered briefly about exactly how much of him she had already seen or tended while he slumbered.
"That would be very nice, again you have me in your debt." he said as he raised the lid to the footlocker and did a mental inventory of his belongings. "Tis a strange thing that you mentioned the Reverand High Justice." she said as she turned to exit the room. " He has ordered us to bring you before him the moment that you awoke....you see, Captian Stedd of Mistfields, this is not the house of Torm. You are a guest of Silver Halls and the clergy of Tyr." Stedd winced inwardly. What he would give to have a good day every now and again.
4 Eleasis the year of the tankard (1370 DR)
Stedd had done some fast talking to satisfy the questions of the Reverand High Justice of Tyr. He was not sure if the man bought the story hook line and sinker but he had belived enough to allow Stedd to depart the halls of silver. Stedd knew that the best way to lie to a priest of Tyr was to tell the truth, just enough of the truth in order to get them to draw the wrong conclusions. Stedd was certain of one thing, his idenitity and and the knowledge that he was a knight of the order of the Hawk were safe....for now.
He had to rendezvous with his knight commander to give a report on what had occured as soon as possible. Checking his back trail casually, Stedd made his way out of the gown town district of Raven's Bluff and moved toward the swords point district. It was in the alleyways of swordspoint that Stedd noticed the Justicars of Tyr that were tailing him. They were good. The Jusitcars were using a five man rotating tail. That was why it had taken him so long to spot them and also why they would be difficult to shake off. His advantage was that some of sidestreets in swordspoint were almost void of traffic and they would likely send some men around to cover the exit ahead of him in the case he should make a break for it. Stedd sighed heavily. The safe thing to do would be break the line of sight of the Justicar who currently had the task of trailing him and hide until they gave up this little game. Unfortunately, Stedd did not have the time to do this. He uttered a quick prayer to Tymora to ask for a small bit of luck. He would need that and more if what he was about to attempt was going to work.
Stedd turned up Griffon trail and headed north toward the five way intersection known locally as "bloody boots", named for the bloody footprints left behind by the survivors of many of the midnight duels fought in the great park known as "fiddler's green" just beyond. Stedd knew that his approach to the expanse of the park would cause the justicars following him a slight case of anxeity and grinned. Just before he reached "the bloody boots" he turned abruptly to his left and into the alleyway that ran behind "Griffon Hall", the home of the order of the knights of the Griffon. Griffon hall was a tall stone fortress like building with a flat roof for landings and launchings of griffonback knights.
The upper reaches of the building were ardorned with very lifelike gargoyles of spreadwinged griffons spaced along the parapet. The alleyway was narrow here, only three feet wide, where "Griffon Hall" sat back to back with "Broadleaf Manor".
Hiking up his borrowed robes, Stedd took a few swift and silent strides down the alleyway and then started to climb. Stedd sprang off the wall of the "Griffon Hall" and propelled himself forward and up toward "Broadleaf Manor" then rebounded toward "Griffon Hall once again before repeating the process, each spring giving him more altitude on the walls. "Broadleaf Manor" was an older wooden manse and Stedd would wince whenever the occasional board would creak or groan against the stress of his springing. The last thing that he needed was for the justicars to notice him.
The first of the justicars rounded the corner and entered the alleyway just as reached the slate roof of "Broadleaf Manor". He dropped to his stomache and tried to control his breathing after the rigorous climb while he peered down over the edge of the eave at the man tailing him. The man looked about furtively and peered into the shadows of the alleyway in search of Stedd when his counterpart appeared in the alley from the opposite direction. The two justicars exchanged glances and the first man simply shrugged in silent reply. The second began casting some sort of a spell and Stedd instinctively placed a hand upon the enchanted amulet that Uncle Miklos had given him for his twelfth birthday. He uttered a silent prayer of thanks to Shar for preventing it from being lost to him like his family signet after the encounter with Pyre.
Stedd supressed a chuckle as the spellcasting justicar looked puzzled at the results of his casting. Gingerly easing himself out of view on the rooftop, Stedd stood and walked westward toward the side alley where "Broadleaf Manor" and "The Santcuary" sat side to back. The traffic on the streets below was beginning to pick up as the city stirred to life and Stedd wanted to be away and clear of the rooftop before he was noticed and someone summoned the watch.
"The Sanctuary" was a five story apartment building filled with posh suites that catered to the tastes of well-to-do elves and half-elves and was famous for its huge indoor atrium that housed a pool, mosses, ferns, shrubs, and even a few great duskwood trees. Stedd was slightly above the level of the third floor windows and peered across the alley at them when he noticed one was open to allow a fresh breeze of air inside the suite beyond.
"Thank you Tymora, forgive me for ever doubting you." Stedd whispered and took a two running strides before jumping into the void between the two buildings.
For a moment he thought that he was going to make it. Stedd's forward momentum carried him thru the air and toward the open window ten feet away. Then gravity reared its ugly head and things started to get bad. He struck the wall of "The Santuary" with a meaty smack that made him see stars for a moment. The years spent training at the sword were all that saved him from falling as he somehow managed to grab and hold on to the bottom sill of the window with his strong fingers and supple wrists.
"Did you hear that?" said one of the justicars searching around the corner of the alleyway. "Yeah," replied his comrade. "Let's check it out." Heaving for all he was worth, Stedd hoisted himself quickly and less than gracefully thru the open window and out of sight.
He was in an elegant room that , if the decor was any measure, belonged to a person of the female gender. Stedd rolled over on to his back and tried to rest for a moment while deciding what to do from here. He must have a bit more tired than he thought for soon he drifted to sleep.
"Captain Stedd, wake up!" said a male voice that was tinged with a faint elvish accent. "What are you doing here? and why are you dressed as a priest?" Stedd opened his eyes to see a familiar face that he could not quite put a name to. He had always hated that. It was never a good thing when someone could remember your name and face and you could not recollect thiers. Stedd resigned himself to doing what he usually did in such circumstances, he would play along and pretend to know the person and pray that they would say or do something that would help him to remember who they were.