SEE ALSO THE LILITH GALLERY, THE ART HISTORY ARCHIVE & THE LILITH EZINE.
Rise of the Blade
Learn more: Rise of the Blade
A semi-secret organization for Good, the Harpers fight for freedom and justice in a world populated by tyrants, evil mages, and dread concerns beyond imagination.
Each novel in the Harper Series is a complete story itself, detailing some of the most unusual and compelling tales in the magical world known as the Forgotten Realms.
Note on Pronunciation
Chev is pronounced with a soft C, like Shev. Marque Draque is pronounced Mark Drake.
The year is 1370.
Running his hands through grey hairs that betrayed his age, Witter sat quietly in the shadows of the early morning and waited. As the sun rose defiantly in the east, giving birth to the noisy bustle of the streets of Waterdeep, he remained there in his vigilant shadows watching the creaking timbers of a silent ship only forty paces away. Before him lay a simple task that he knew so well.
As simple and sharp as a saber's blade, as he stood and drew Spitzer from its sheath. He advanced confidentally on the ship, spotting the guard before the guard spotted him.
"Announce yerself!" spat the sailor into the fog that rolled in off the ocean to his back. He squinted into the sunlight surrounding Witter like a holy aura. When the newcomer did not respond, he reached for the weapon at his belt.
Which should have been a cutlass. In any other place along the Sword Coast, that's what it should have been, but not here. Indeed, one could easily say that it was that weapon alone that had drawn Witter here, blade in hand. It was a pistol.
This ship was a gun smuggler. Guns were outlawed in Waterdeep. Witter belonged to the group known as Harpers. Harpers live and die, protecting Waterdeep. Go figure, thought the warrior.
Witter charged at the man, Spitzer flashing in to cut the man's hand from his arm but not before he pulled the trigger. The slug took the Harper in the belly and he winced it away as a second saber, Planereacher appeared in his other hand and sliced across the guard's throat.
"My lucky day!" Witter spat with sarcasm and sheathed Planereacher, clutching the bullet wound. He would live, he had no doubt about that. It was the five more sailors, rousted by the noisy gunshot, that concerned him now. He had taken heavier wounds in his time, and no amount of grey hairs was going to change that.
With a silent prayer to his god, he touched the wound and it stopped bleeding. It still hurt like some fire demon was burrowing into his belly but he could ignore it. His healing skills would have to wait until after the battle.
Spitzer in hand, and Planereacher coming back out in the other, he met the five sailors with quick thrusts that fell the first three and made the last two wary as they levelled their weapons at him to fire. Witter was not about to be finished so easily and threw Planereacher towards one sailor, catching him in the side. Meanwhile he rolled desperately towards the other sailor and took the man's leg off with the extraordinarily sharp edge of Spitzer.
The man crunpled to the ground, his shot left to the open air as he landed beside Witter with a frantic scream. He grabbed at his leg in a bizarre attempt to reattach it. With pity in his eyes, the Harper removed the man's head.
"Wut in Cyric's black 'eart is going on up 'ere!" shouted a gruff voice, as a candle bearing captain appeared, lifting the latch with one hand and starting out.
Witter responded by cleaving through both boards and hand, ignoring the screams of the captain as he slammed a boot down on the latch and looked back at his only foe.
Who was gone except for Planereacher which lay on the deck, glistening red with blood. He scanned the ship quickly, trying to ignore the sounds below as more than a score of sailors rushed to the aid of their captain. Turning about, Witter saw the man scurrying up the ropes to unfurl a sail.
Looking to the docks of Waterdeep, Witter saw the beginnings of a crowd of spectators drawn to the sound of gunfire. No doubt a city watch patrol had already been alerted and was on its way. The watch rarely concerned themselves with gun smuggling, leaving that job to the Harpers who were more suited to intrigue.
The sailors, even the injured ones, knew the value of leaving the city and reaching the open sea before a patrol showed up and boarded the ship.
His originally purpose aboard this ship had been determine whether it truely held a vast hold filled with kegs of smokepowder. That had gone wrong the moment the sailor had chosen to carry a pistol instead of a cutlass which Witter could have handled quietly. Unfortunately, guns also happened to be very noisy and that plan had went overboard quite quickly and drowned. After all these years, Witter still had his sense of humour.
Now all that mattered was whether he could stall the ship until the patrol got here. Or at least, thats the way it should have been, were it not for the sudden emergence of sailors leaping out of the holds and diving overboard. More important than that was the presence of thick black smoke rising from latch where the captain had fallen.
On second thought, maybe it would be a good idea to get the ship as far away from docks and Waterdeep itself as soon as possible. Dropping Spitzer, he leapt up to the stern of the ship and wrestled with the wheel, turning the ship slightly to head out towards the open sea.
Already the sails were catching the strong wind pouring forth over the land, and pulling them out away from the dock. The mooring ropes reached their length and the entire ship creaked as it leaned to the starboard bow.
Even if the ship did topple, Witter doubted the water would douse the fire before it reached the volatile powder kegs. Vaulting back down to poop deck, he scooped up Spitzer and slipped across the tilting deck.
Stabbing into the wood with the saber like he mountain climbing, he scrambled up the deck towards the mooring lines that lined the port side of the ship. There was a loud snap as one of the lines broke under the strain of the large vessel and Witter clung to his sword as the entire ship shuddered, and took on an even more dangerous tilt.
Finally, with a groan that said his belly hurt like hell, Witter grabbed the railing and sliced the final thick mooring rope with a slash from Spitzer.
The ship gave a sudden lurch as it pulled away from dock, followed by a shift as it righted itself that would have left the Harper sick to the stomach had he not already been in so much pain.
The injured sailor, oblivious to the departure of his shipmates, was still up in the rigging, trying to untangle a knot desperately when the sudden lurch and shift through him like a boulder from a catapult towards the shore. He crashed into deck of another ship, breaking his neck in the process.
Witter, now alone on the ship with the exception of corpses, had come to the conclusion that a disaster was at hand, and that it was more or less his fault. Had it been someone else blaming himself, he would have said they had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time and that there wasn't anything else to do but make the best of it.
Which was precisely what the man planned to do as sheathed both sabers into his belt and ran back to the wheel. Grabbing the pegs, he pulled with his considerable strength and muttered a prayer to whatever gods were watching.
And thanked them many times over as the ship altered its course and started a healthy pace across the waves. For a mere moment time itself seemed to freeze and he was tempted to dive overboard. No, the wheel was too unsturdy. It would be better to simply stay and pray.
He was still counting himself as lucky when the bow burst upward into the heavens like a geyser of splinters. This was immediately followed by the main hull exploding.
For a record forty miles, over land and sea, the sound greater than a cannon shot across the land and in the distance faded into a sound akin to rolling thunder on a morning that had christened the sky a shade of baby blue. It was a sound many men, women and children would speak of in awe for years to come.
It was the last sound a number of spectators lining the docks would ever hear. Those that weren't killed in the heat wave that boiled their skin, were forever deaf.
The sound had been foremost among the history texts that scholars lined up to write. Next was the wave of heat that killed over a dozen people. Then there was the wave of water that had followed and left much of the docks in ruins. The last part, that only a few of the more detailed texts recorded, was the death of a Harper by the name of Witter.
No one, as far as history was concerned, mourned for this man. The essays written about the incident, and it was indeed recorded as only an incident and not a real threat to Waterdeep, were more concerned with the destructive power of smoke powder. Some essays were in favour of this invention, despite being frowned upon by fellows, while others declared that it was a pinnacle point in Waterdeep's history when it came to the banishment of guns and smoke powder.