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Rise of the Blade

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Chapter Two

In 153 years Waterdeep had changed in more ways than one, but the landmarks were still the same. Perhaps the biggest change had been during the Time of Troubles when denizens from the abyss had poured through a hole in reality to lay seige to the city. The fighting had taken to the streets and the battle had raged back and forth within the city, many buildings being destroyed in the process.

Regardless, Chev knew instinctually the places where he would best find rest and time to lick his what little wounds he had. In a dark alley along the docks he walked into an inn called the Last Hammock, and promptly killed the one-eyed innkeep with a single sword thrust. There were no patrons and no other staff to notice his actions as he nailed the front door shut. He worked until the sun peaked the cliff to the east, boarding up the every corner of the slummy inn, preserving his safety when he finally lay down on top of the bar to rest.

From behind the bar he grabbed a bottle of old black rum, broke the neck of the bottle off and poured the thick black stuff into glass after glass. When the bottle was empty Chev threw it across the room and closed his eyes. The confusion in his mind, the fury that had come with it was starting to level out.

From stone eyes he had seen everything before him in the last 153 years. He knew countless secrets and horrors about the d'Or family. This time however he would not be protecting them. They had wanted him dead. Now it was their turn to die.

"Holy Sword of Ao," swore Pierce as the cleric probed his wounded leg. "Why can't you just heal it and be done with it?" He was in too much pain to read the man's thoughts, and trying to concentrate on pink butterflys so he could ignore the pain wasn't exactly helping right now.

"Because if it hurts as much as you seem to think it does its probably infected and I can't heal that," the cleric of Konarr replied sternly. He pulled a quill from his vest pocket and poked the deep wound.

Pierce's leg spasmed and he nearly blacked out from pain. He grunted and gritted his teeth. He spat out blood from biting his tongue and looked up expectantly as the door opened.

Marque Draque smiled and led several students within. "Now class, as you can see this is very painful. Just look at the sweat pouring down the dear Doctor's face!" He winked and Pierce made a conscious attempt to smile. "Keep that in mind when you go out adventuring, its not wise to go running off into a fight without properly bandaging any wounds so they will heal without infection." He paused for emphasis. "And trust me, infection alone can kill a man. At the very least they can embarrass you!"

Pierce cursed Marque Draque mentally for this embarrassment but supposed he deserved it. He could have waited a while longer to tighten the bandage better but he hadn't. One of his weaknesses of not being able to foresee anything beyond the near future he supposed.

He did however foresee the dinner bell ringing and the students racing out of the room like a stampede of minotaurs towards the dining hall. Thank the gods everyone likes my father's cooking, he reminisced. He was about to grin up at Draque when he foresaw intense pain and looked down at the cleric sharpening a scalpel with a spell.

A moment later he passed out from the sheer pain.

"Well, its certainly turned into a favourite topic for gossiping," Hiram grinned and wiped his thick hands on his apron. He jocked a finger towards a group of serving girls who had stopped to talk with several students about last night's excitement. "Strange how rumours of a fight can get around so quick even though there were only a few people involved, eh?"

Draque smiled briefly and sat down at his table in the corner of the packed dining hall. "Did I mention that Martinez was a bard before he started to lose his hair?" He motioned the ex-boxer to join him as he popped the cork off a bottle of drow vodka. "No doubt he went out, got drunk and wandered from every inn and tavern in Waterdeep spreading the tale."

"Wasn't he injured too?" The broad man sat down and studied the clear liquid that poured from the bottle. The smell alone made him thirsty.

"Aye, Chev seems to like aiming for the legs. Doesn't matter to Martinez though. He's built like stone and even tougher when it comes to pain. He'll be healed up in no time." The elf smiled fondly. "There is a persistant rumour that when he was in his youth, at a mage school, of course, he developed and fermerted a wine that worked as a healing potion."

Hiram grinned and did his best imitation of a drunken sailor's drawl: "And any sailor worth his weight in whiskey will tell ye he didn't stop drinkin' when he was all heal'd up!"

Draque laughed heartily and drew stares from several nearby students. It was rare that the elf ever broke a smile let alone laughed. Reminding himself of his reputation, he frowned and drew out two halves of a black adamantite sword and laid them on the table in front of Hiram.

The longsword was flawlessly smooth and well crafted, the crosspiece was etched with ruins while the handle was bound in gold chain for extra grip. Hiram stared at the skull-shaped pommel most of all and it stared back at him with ruby eyes that seemed to follow his every movement.

Pierce's father pursed his lips and picked up the hilt. He dropped it immediately and it fell with a hollow clunk. He could feel the evil in the blade. With a look of wonder, he stared up at Draque.

"It's Chev's magical sword, Gravebringer. When Brek's blade exploded, one end went flying across the amphitheatre and broke the marble sword of Chev's statue. That was what released him from the spell. Now," Draque said, lifting the two-foot long piece of black adamantite. He sighed. "This was a magnificient sword. Evil, yes, but a magnificient sword nevertheless."

"And you want to fix it?" Hiram said, eyeing the evil blade.

"It was crafted by a master drow craftsman. Unlike other drow blades it hasn't rusted away on the surface. Perhaps because of the special way it was forged-"

"How do you know all this?" Hiram demanded abruptly.

"I asked it."

"Oh! And I suppose it answered you eh?"

"As a matter of fact it did. The blade is sentient. Alive and quite aware that we are talking about it." Draque looked down at Gravebringer, studying it speculatively. "And it knows I'm going to disassemble its enchantment too, thus killing it."

Hiram swallowed and looked at the skull-shaped pommel. He wasn't so thirsty anymore.

Pierce grimaced from behind his oak desk as he sat down and looked out the bay window of his office. Normally, such an office would be positioned at the back of the huge building in the centre so to achieve symmetry and balance, something that tended to bestow a sense of authority, but the Doctor had decided against that formality, wanting it to be less formal and more open. In the end he had chosen a room on the third floor off to the side of the stairs. It was adjoined to his private chambers and had a glorious view of the gardens and orchard outside, and in the distance, a view of Waterdeep itself.

There was no knock on the door as Mitch entered followed by his father, Lord Clinton who owned a castle south of Waterdeep. The man was more merchant than noble and that fact was reflected in the new age architecture of his fortress, which had been built to impress people, and in the event of a true battle, would be almost useless. Nevertheless, the merchant-lord commanded a great deal of power with his own small army of men in his service to protect his goods.

Among these men were several hired wizards who manufactured magical weapons and items for both use by his men and for sale. The manufacture of magical items however was costly in the extreme, each casting of the spell Permancy, according to Marque Draque, weakened a mage and stole from his lifeforce. Yet the three mages working for Lord Clinton suffered no hazards of health and were still turning out large numbers of magical weapons, something that intrigued many wizards, Draque among them.

Lord Clinton himself was an imposing man, a fellow adventurer in his youth who had retired in luxury to raise a family. He suffered no wrinkles or gray hairs yet, his mages undoubtably being well paid to prevent that. Another intriguing fact that bothered Pierce.

The Doctor ignored that focusing on the fact that Clinton was boiling mad at having his son expelled from the Academy. This would prove to be a sticky situation, Pierce foresaw immediately, seeing many random possibilities for the future ranging from Clinton leaving happily with his son re-enrolled or trying to kill Pierce and swearing vengeance for his humiliating defeat.

Time to change the topic and give Clinton the political run about, Pierce almost muttered under his breath as he stood and held out his hand. "G'day Lord Clinton, I'm sure you're here concerning your son's recent expellment. Please take a seat, both of you."

Clinton shook it and sat down, motioning his son to do the same. "I'd like to talk about that. Don't you think that was a bit rash expelling him without taking the time to talk it over with me?"

"No. In fact I deemed that move best for your son's safety," Pierce replied, thinking quickly. "He was in direct violation of the boarding rules. You could, of course, have him board within the city, and he could walk to the Academy everyday, as many of my students already do. The more important fact is that the Academy is not a place for private duels, at any time whether it be night or day." He made a point of looking directly at Mitch, who lowered his eyes and stared at the floor. "That is a law that surrounds all of Waterdeep and the Academy is no exception. He could have easily have been thrown in jail last night for tha havok he caused."

"And what of the Victor boy? Brek?"

"He's still in our infirmary being treated for his injuries. He asked to resign as soon as he was well enough to walk. He's not injured that badly, its more shock from the magical explosion. I doubt he'll ever be an adventurer now. He said he was going to pursue his first love and try to become a bit of a bard. Seems to think it will aid him in the merchant trade."

Coward, thought Mitch bitterly.

Pierce ignored the boy and focused on his father, who was confused as to why this was for his son's own preotection. He loved his son dearly and wished he had more in common with the boy other than the thirst for a good fight. "Back to Mitch however." Pierce said with a smile, deciding to play on the father's feelings. "He's got the guts in him no doubt and could go adventuring any time he wants but I suggest you invest some of your own time in teaching him yourself. No doubt you miss the road yourself right?"

That surprised both father and son and they looked at each other and back to Pierce. Clinton spoke first: "I hadn't thought of that, but it might prove to be a good idea." He tapped his belly. "I've been getting too lazy of late and could use the exercise no doubt!" Already the warrior in him was coming back and he was remembering all the places he had wanted to go looking for adventure but had never had the chance. It wasn't too late was it? He looked at the older Pierce closely.

Reading his thoughts, Pierce stood and stretched. "I'm not used to being indoors this much. Much better to be outside," he said, leading the way to the door. He grimaced inwardly whenever he put weight on his right leg but refused to show it, sensing Clinton's thoughts. "After all, I have a runaway statue to catch," he said with a wink as he walked down the hallway.

Clinton stopped in the doorway and looked at his son fondly. "What say we go find ourselves some horses and supplies?"

Mitch looked up at him with newfound love and respect.

Pierce turned a corner and scanned the almost barren street. This was a ritzier part of the city where the only thing that plagued the streets was carriages, servants and beggars looking for a generous noble. Of which none existed. If they did, they wouldn't be rich for long when the beggars flocked to their door.

He had a good idea using his foresight of which direction was more likely to find Chev, and with a small group of veteran Harpers following closely behind him he had no doubts that they'd probably find the warrior within the hour. It was when it occurred to him that the d'Or Estate was just down the street that he decided it was time to pay the family a visit as this was most likely Chev's destination.

The elderly ceremonial guards at the estate's gate were actually members of the family, showing that they couldn't afford to hire guards. The pair didn't seem to mind however as they sat at the gate exchanging tales over a game of cards.

The band of warriors coming to the door surprised them a fair bit and then they saw Pierce's tell-tale antique bronze armour and relaxed. Were it not for the fact that it had become his personal symbol, Pierce would have dropped the armour years ago in favour of a suit of field plate. Now however, it was like a second skin to him. Its lack of protection in certain places had been fixed by Marque Draque's enchantments combined with Pierce's own ability to optimize the plates to maximum protection.

The problem was the lack of protection on his legs as the sharp pangs told him everytime he took a step.

Ignazio opened the door for Pierce and ushered them into a parlour room. "Would you care for anything to drink?"

Pierce held up a hand. "No, thats not necessary." He studied the boy, his mind probing into his subconscious thoughts. "We're here to speak with your grandfather and any other elders in the family."

"The statue?" Ignazio blurted.


"I better get mother too then," he said and disappeared with a quick bow.

Pierce glanced around the quaint room at his fellow Harpers. Only Martinez stood at ease, although that was probably due to the bottle of elvenquisst tucked into his belt. He leaned against the wall with his longflail dangled from his shoulder as usual, his leather armour worn a different colour where the chain rubbed constantly.

The Doctor yawned and knew this would be a long wait. He looked around at the other four Harpers: Iacova, a simple swordsman perhaps but his skills at stealth were superior to the average assassin; Thirza, a half-elf enchantress; Kanute, a large and highly skilled warrior with a honest face; Cap'n Tyn, an old seadog. They were all uneasy about this assignment, more because it really had nothing to do with the Harpers' goal than they were afraid of Chev.

Pierce looked up expectantly as a withered old man, Ignazio the Third, hobbled in using a cane for support. Martinez stood up straight and helped the elderly man into a seat. Silence as he turned to face Pierce, his wrinkled face turning red with anger. "You wake me up to tell me something I already know happened? What do you want from me?" he rasped.

"I meant no disrespect sir. We only seek to learn more about the history of that statue your family gave us," the Doctor replied stoically. His mind delved past the older man's raw, harsh exterior and saw he was quite senile. Memories of his youth floated eternally on his thoughts, nagging him with all the mistakes he had made. "Could you tell us anything that might be of use?"

"No," the old man snapped, despite his thoughts which Pierce concentrated on. Ignazio the Third was seventy-eight but he had been related the tale by his nanny when he hadn't even been ten. This thought was followed by fond memories of the nanny telling him bedtime stories and nursery rhymes. It was amazing how easily the old man's mind wandered.

Kipriana d'Or had been Ignazio d'Or the Second's favourite daughter. When she was kidnapped by a rival merchant family, Chev completed a daring one man rescue and returned her, yet was for some unexplained reason punished and turned into a statue. It had been the nanny's theory that Chev had demanded a huge pay increase and Ignazio the Second had refused. The old man sitting before Pierce doubted that theory however, not wanting to believe it. Instead, his version said that Chev had tried to kill his grandfather and had been turned into a statue by a mage in self defense.

Nevertheless, Pierce was positive that this would help him somehow. The question was how?

He turned abruptly towards the window in fear, foresight warning him of the onslaught to come. He hurled himself at the old Ignazio, pulling him to the floor using his body as a shield as the window exploded inwards, showering everyone with glass. The old man would have died under such an assault. Instead he was only unconscious and already dreaming of warmer days.

Crouching over the old man's body defensively, Pierce turned to face Chev.

The warrior shook the glass off his armour and held Mitch's longsword out in front of him. The Harpers looked at the warrior in awe for a moment. Chev, now that Pierce could finally see him in daylight, was no small man. He towered about six-foot-four with a body build any warrior would envy. Strength and grace combined into an almost perfect warrior. He had executed the jump through the window perfectly, much like the backflip the night before.

As if he wasn't already incredible, Chev's square jaw, clear complexion and sharp blue eyes made him quite handsome judging by Thirza's immediate hopes that they didn't have to kill him. Pierce stepped forward into the light, using the symbol of his armour shining in the light to remind her who's side she was on.

The warrior's face broke into a grin and he stared directly at Pierce even as he watched out of the corner of his eye, the Harpers circle around him in a ring. "We meet again Doctor Pierce. Do you know why I'm here?"

Chev's mind was open to the headmaster at last. He sought revenge. The annihilation of every member of the d'Or family. Of which there was quite a few.

"The two guards at the gate?" Pierce asked, already knowing the answer.

"Quite dead."

Vicious and without mercy, Chev slashed out with the longsword as quick as lightning, taking Cap'n Tyn's head from his shoulders. Even before it hit the ground he had blocked Iacova's swordthrust and disarmed the swordsman with a quick slash to the man's wrist.

Kanute stepped forward swinging his huge two-handed sword and was blocked easily by that annoying buckler which absorbed the blow. He stepped backwards while Chev pressed forward with a thrust, which turned out to be a feint. The gullible warrior took the bait however and swung downwards, his huge sword getting knocked out of his hands when it struck the floor.

Thirza, startled by the sheer speed in which Chev moved, fell backwards over the sofa, coming to her feet with her spell component already in hand: a piece of solidified milk fat used normally for making cheese.

Suddenly, Pierce felt somewhat awkward and unsure. He glared at her questioning.

"It's an area spell! It's centred on Chev!" she yelled in response as she backed away and tripped on a rug. "It makes everyone clumsy!"

Moving slowly and deliberately, Pierce stepped backwards and lifted the old Ignazio over his shoulder.

Martinez held out a hand and motioned to Pierce. His thoughts told the Doctor to hand the old man over. With a quick grunt, he passed the man onto the bald warrior's shoulder and stepped back to face Chev. Pierce's skills would be needed now.

Chev, as the centre of the spell, was also moving slowly and deliberately. He backed towards the window, knowing his skills were being hampered and that perhaps now was not a good time. He growled in anger and leapt backwards out the window.

And tripped on the sill, falling headfirst into the grass below.

The fighters charged after Chev and tripped over themselves in their mad rush, sprawling on the floor in the broken shards of glass.

"Thirza," Martinez said from the hallway. "Isn't there another version of the Fumble spell you could have cast? The one which only affects a single person?"

The enchantress swallowed and nodded. "Yes, but I didn't memorize it. I was meaning to use it during a bar brawl sometime." She gave a weak smile. "It worked though right?"

Pierce groaned from the floor. He had hit head against the wall and it smarted more than he cared to admit. "Yes. It definitely worked. I just wish it hadn't worked on me." He sighed and sat up, eyes immediately going to Tyn's head beside him. "I think we can officially say Chev is a threat to Waterdeep," he said, dusting himself off.

He looked about at his fellow Harpers, seeing their anxious expressions. Martinez and the others didn't agree, as it was obvious that Chev's focus was primarily the d'Or family. A family composed of more corruption and greed than the average Waterdhavian could imagine.

Perhaps they were right, but Pierce didn't like ignoring his instincts.

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