Before the last stroke of the gong in the House of Heroes, Tempus’ temple, had echoed away, Royce stood on the border of Waterdeep’s Sea Ward, looking west and squinting into the setting sun. There used to be a street here that gave a view of the harbor, a perfect vantage point to see if any new ships had come in that day. However, some new construction around the Hall of Shipwrights now blocked the view.
The cleric begins the walk down to Dock Ward. Soon, it would be prime dinner time in the taverns on Fish Street, and if he wanted to find who he was looking for, he should expect to hit at least a half-dozen of them before the sailors got too drunk to respond to a description. Should he start at the Cat O’ Wine Tales? The Mainstay Inn? The X Marks the Spot? No, not that one. He’d just run into all the acolytes he’d dismissed from weapons training at last bell. They’d just ask him to tell them more stories. He could hear their voices even now. Olaf: “Can you tell us more about the man who rode a dracolich?” Seriah: “No, no, about when your friend sacrificed his own pet basilisk to save a Drow maiden!” Jessup: “I want to hear about how you revived your friends when they had been petrified!” Dytre: “I think you should tell us about when your boat was sunk in the Dark Lake and the undead tried to pull you under the wa…” Royce cuts off the thought with a quick hand gesture. He’d only tried to reach Jimjar a fortnight ago, and while the deep gnome turned Deva did not seem to mind his attempts at conversation, it was poor form to dwell on him so much. Unbecoming to someone meant to show Tempus’ less experienced champions what it means to fight and worship as one, decisive action.
His musing is interrupted by the smell of tar, old sweat and cheap beer and the sound of someone scratching out a tune on a poorly-tuned fiddle. Royce looks up to read the weathered sign. Safe Harbor. Picklock Alley is probably as good a place as any to start the search. If Tempus has faith in him, he might get a dinner here that wouldn’t leave him puking later, and maybe the apprentice tariff clerks would be in there sharing gossip.
More than an hour after his planned time for ‘just dinner’ had passed, he steps out of the door of the bar. His pace is hasty. Behind him, a slurred voice calls “Hey man, just let me buy you a drink. You’re a real hero, man. Come oooonnn…” After a minute’s brisk walk past the now-lit lanterns of the bars, he swears. He’s left his cloak behind. Luckily, the night is windy but not cold – a good night for a place at this latitude. Tomorrow, he’d send one of his charges to fetch the cloak for him. They’d probably think it was an honor anyway. He shakes his head.
Just as he suppresses a smile at the thought of one of the acolytes bragging to the others about the silly errand, a suspicious noise gets his attention. He tries to whip around, but is stopped when a pair of arms grabs him from behind. “Ho, mate. You’re late for deck swabbing duty.” says one familiar voice. The other, also familiar, responds “Nah, he’s too good for that now. Little Roycey the cabin boy is faaaamous.” A calloused hand swats the back of his bald head, he is released and hysterical laughter erupts behind him. Royce himself begins to laugh as he turns around.
“I’ll swab the deck with you Erich. And when I’m done, I’ll make you famous, Terka. But not in a way you’d like” He exchanges hugs, first with a rawboned man whose heavy tattoos obscure his pale skin, and then with an exceptionally tall, dark-skinned woman with a cutlass at her side. He continues. “Has either of you made captain yet? Or is old White Hair so desperate at your stupidity he still hasn’t let go of the big wheel?” Terka responds with a raised eyebrow. “You know as well as we do that no one’s taking Captain Mollor off of The Flaming Sword with anything other than a piece of sailcloth and a prayer. And you’ll be pleased to know that hasn’t happened yet.” Royce nods. “I’d heard a rumor you might have come into port. Thought I’d see how you fared.” “We’re on pier sixteen.” Terka says. “Had to offload a passenger, so it was civvie docks for us this time.” Royce snorts, but looks pleased. “I’ll go pay a visit, then. Enjoy the night’s leave, you two.”
Some time later, a curly-haired boy hails Royce with rapid-fire speech. “Welcome to the finest vessel on the Waterdeep docks – a beauty called The Flaming Sword, good sir! What is your name and purpose good sir?” The cabin boy doesn’t stop when Royce has proved his credentials and is admitted aboard. “Please follow me to the quarterdeck sir, no sir, please let me be your guide sir, I shall inform the captain of your visit, sir, yes sir, I will ask if he will see you sir, please wait here sir!” With that, the cabin boy slips behind a massive wooden door and closes it in Royce’s face.
The cleric smiles, and when the door swings open and the boy gestures to welcome him in (please come in sir, the captain will see you now, sir), he grabs the boy’s hand and presses a silver piece into it, giving him an exaggerated wink.
From behind a desk laden with papers, a man gets up. He isn’t as old as the wild shock of snow-white hair seems to imply, but there is a touch stiffness in how he rises, and when he smiles at the sight of his visitor, his face wrinkles and folds with age as well as joy. “I rejoice to see that Tempus has kept you safe.” he says, before enveloping the cleric in a rib-cracking hug. “It does me good that you come see me, when – if the rumors are anything to go by – you could be in the company of fine lords and rich ladies.” Letting go of Royce, the captain pulls on a thin rope on the cabin wall and asks “Drink?” Royce smiles, but shakes his head. “I’ve done enough of that, cap. Thank you. Care to tell me how you and the old tub are doing, these days?” The captain makes a sound in the back of his throat. “Sit down. I’ll tell ya. We’re the same, mostly. Got my letters of marque to patrol the waters south from here. The pickings aren’t quite as fat as they were when the conflict was at its peak, but merchant shipping is picking up and most know me as a man worth his salt. Sometimes we serve as armed convoy to a trade fleet. Other times, I pick up a little business myself. That’s how I took on a passenger this time. Came with little requirements, destination Waterdeep and a big, big sack of gold. I had said yes before she’d even finished telling me about this beast that she also wanted me to take aboard.”
At that point, the boy stumbles back into the cabin, still chewing. “Waffan I do fow youw, siw?” “A pot of tea, please, Rodi. And a bottle of the Calimshan brandy. Tell Gerey to bring it, so you can finish your supper and get to bed.” With a nod, the cabin boy is out the door again. “Good kid,” the captain says. “Reminds me a little of you at that age.” He pauses briefly “What did you do with your curls anyway?”
Royce stares down at the polished wood of the cabin floor. “It’s a long story. How much of it have you heard?” “Songs and whispers, really. The songs are all heroics and battle and sacrifice. The whispers are of madness and great evil come to corrupt those very same heroes.” The cleric grimaces “Half of one, and most of the other. But mostly there was exhaustion, endless darkness and the deep hopelessness of almost everyone you meet being divorced from reason and sense. Suffice to say that…”
Conversation halts as a portly female dwarf with an apron and a kerch steps through the cabin door, carrying a bright blue teapot and a fat glass bottle on a small tray. She places the tray on a corner of the desk, and disappears, but not before giving Royce’s shoulder a very firm squeeze.
“Well.” Royce continues. “… I caught a glimpse of what awaited me… them… all of us at a very crucial moment. I knew then that I needed to understand Tempus’ teachings differently in order for us to complete our task. My hair, the drinking. Those are details.” The captain eyes his former crew member with worry, but continues pouring tea.