Ethan the Blackwing, Day One

Spring, 1372

Day 1

The trek from Melvaunt to Glister was an arduous twelve day task. The locals call the moor- and heathlands between the two cities The Thar. An infertile land, its acidic and rocky soil only capable of supporting hardy grass, thistles and some cotton. Despite the constant fog, the ground was dry and fresh water became scarce.

Fergal lead our caravan. A Melvaunteen and tradesman responsible for the delivery of many of the things which are scarce in Glister, like salt. Besides a tradesman, he is also a slaver. Jochi was a nomad before being captured and sold into slavery. He seems jovial enough as long as he can roam. Miggel was a Zhentarim foot soldier before becoming a prisoner of war. He seems rather resigned to his fate as a slave, saying that it could have been worse if he had been sold to a salt mine.

Every three or four days or so, we reached a cache of stored water. By the end of the trek, my own supplies were running low and due to my poor physical disposition towards cabbages and barley, I was forced to purchase some digestible foodstuffs from others in the caravan. As a result, when we finally reached Glister, was down to a handful of gold and silver.

We approached Glister just after dark. Fergal had been hounding us to move faster so that we could reach Glister before sunset and not be caught out after dark. The trek had been fairly uneventful but not without dangers. Jochi’s eyes had occasionally spotted rovers trailing us and he kept saying how they would have been more bold if we hadn’t seen a relatively mild winter.

The end of The Thar was like the end of the world. Suddenly the vulgar grass ended and we were staring down a chasm dropping several hundred feet straight down. Below we could see the reflection of the moon and stars upon a lake of fresh water. Two wide rivers, the Small Water and the Still Water met in the shadows of the The Thar’s high cliffs in what the locals call the Shadowed Lake. Between the two rivers lay The Oldmark, a stretch of fertile land upon which Glister sat.

Glister turned out to be nothing more than a large town with two villages within walking distance. To the north-west lay Wizard’s Hill and to the north-east lay The Hoof. We made our way down to the southern end of the Shadowed Lake by way of a collapsed bit of The Thar, which allowed us to get down safely. A muddy dike had been created across the Still Lake that allowed us to cross over to The Oldmark. I am quite curious as to how the locals manage to keep the dike from eroding; the Small Water must have enough current to slowly disintegrate the dike. I resolved to find out.

Glister had a wooden palisade surrounding it. Just to the south of Glister we found the Timber Keep Inn, which had its own fence. It appeared to be a different sort of inn than the usual fare I’d seen on my way north. It had a large communal tavern, several separate, wooden huts, two stables and several outhouses surrounded a shallow well.

I gave donkey to one of the stableboys and two coppers ensured he rubbed him down and gave him fresh oats. The huts were for rent, costing two silvers a fortnight. I paid the buxom Haéla who runs the inn one silver and was shown one of the huts. I left many of my belongings in the hut, but with no way of locking it from the outside, I made sure to take the essential things with me back to the tavern.

The tavern mostly serves porridge and stews. I asked for wine and received mead. I asked for boiled eggs and received one. My stomach isn’t made to digest oats and cabbage, so I will have to find my own food, it seems. After a short inquiry I found that a simpleton named Gilbert owns a duck farm on the banks of the Shadowed Lake.

Even though my mattress was nothing more than a hay-filled sack, sleep came easily, wrapped in as many blankets as they’d give me. My dreams were queer and disturbing. I’m not sure why I’m haunted by dreams and memories of my graduation now that I’ve arrived in Glister, but there must be some significance.

Day 2

The following day I got up on time for breakfast (more oats) and I made my way over to the duck farm. Gilbert turned out to have quite an operation running along the shores of the Shadowed Lake, with five scores of ducks and a handful of children to help him herd them and harvest their eggs. He turned out to be ever the simpleton that he was made out to be, but despite his diminished intellect, there was a simplicity in his observations that cut right to the heart of matters. I bought a dozen eggs and made my way back to the Timbered Inn.

After studying the spells I thought I would require, I set out on my way to Castle Glister on Wizard’s Hill, the home of Lord Dagobert Marbrand. I decided to cut through Glister to see more of the town. The only really remarkable thing was the standing stones at the top of the hill next to the timber long house that looked like it could house a significant portion of Glister’s population. The stones were large and dense and covered with a thick carpet of fine moss. They are likely to have functioned as a place of worship for whoever roamed the Oldmark before the days of Glister’s founding.

As I decended the hill on the northside of Glister I noticed smoke coming from the north-eastern part of The Hoof, a sign of the fire that had rumoured to have been broken out at the ranch of an important man by the name of Wulfric. Several people far more qualified than I were already on their way there to lend their assistance, so I made my way to the north-west, to Wizard’s Hill.

A small town with a lumber mill, ran by a woman everyone refers to as “The Widow”, and a brewery. The way to Wizard’s Hill had been lined with cultivated fields of tall grain stalks, which had awoken memories of Fulcestershire. The smell of hops took root in the fertile soil of the memories of my home and I instantly send me reeling with homesickness. I reminded myself how far I’ve travelled and pushed on.

A thick stone wall surrounded Castle Glister and the sturdy wooden gate was closed. The building peeked out over the wall and curiously looked more like a stone and timber keep than a castle or fortress. The stones were a deep dark colour, unlike the colour of the standing stones in Glister, and were dotted with tiny pink quartz and white crystals, making the stone glitter in the sunlight. I made a mental note to figure out whether the stones were local and if not, where the stones had been brought from.

When there was no answer at the gate, I talked to a local by the name of Creighton. It turned out I was fortunate enough to stumble upon Lord Marbrand’s steward. After a short chat he agreed to set up a meeting with the man and would seek me out in the Timbered Inn. When he finally came that night, he was joined by Lady Ulrikke with whom I had an odd conversation that afternoon after I came back from Wizard’s Hill.

Lady Ulrikke seems to be somewhat of a warden of the Oldmark, though she’s unwilling to admit it. She’s a follower of Shaundakul, the Father of Travellers and Exploration, and seems keen in promoting travel, commerce and the prosperity of Glister. Born into a Melvaunt noble family, she seems to be a veteran adventurer with a healthy dose of wanderlust and curiosity, and it continues to be a bit of a mystery to me what it is that keeps her Glister-bound.

Her curiosity didn’t contain itself to the secrets of the world, but also to me, it seemed. Her “subtle” attempts at gaining more information about me were feeble, at best, and it was indicative of the way people in Glister tend to deal with one another; fairly openly and honestly, which is surprisingly refreshing compared to the nest of vipers which is my homeland.

A few of the interesting points that she revealed about Glister, which I should keep in mind; Everything in Glister is decided by the entire community. In principle everyone in Glister gets a vote and a majority rules. However, in reality, several people of some standing gather supporters around themselves and cast the votes for all of them. Lady Ulrikke is one of such paragons. Wulfric is another. Gustav, the village elder, is another. And of course Lord Marbrand. The idea of having nobility make the decisions or inheritance and succession is something as foreign to Glister as their system of governance would be to Cormyr.

So Creighton and Lady Ulrikke found me at my book in the Timbered Inn, well past the point at which I thought Creighton would still come to me that day. They sat at my table and informed me that Lord Marbrand had died. I could feel the disappointment start as a great warmth in my face, sink down my throat causing brief nausea and settle in my stomach like a bag of water. I had travelled all this way to find a wizard only for him to die the day I try to obtain an audience with him.

Lady Ulrikke asked me to accompany her and Creighton to Castle Glister to investigate the scene of Lord Marbrand’s death. My first thought was that I had not prepared my spells properly that day. When we arrived at the gate of the castle, Creighton ushered us inside. The grounds had a stable, some storage buildings and a building where the groundskeeper, a mute named Mud, resided. The keep was a two-and-a-half storey affair, with a large double-level entrance hall, completely with grand stairway to the second floor and a balustrade looking down upon the hall. Four large rooms, two on each floor, made up the majority of the building.

The western room on the second floor was Lord Marbrand’s study, where we found his body. He seemed to have died quite suddenly while at his writing desk, old correspondence was laid about his desk and a quil and a vial of writing ink were in evidence. (Later I would divine that neither the quill nor the ink was poisoned and I returned them to the Marbrand household.) A small, bound booklet, which seemed to serve as a way for Lord Marbrand to jot down his thoughts and ideas was also present. One page was torn out of the booklet and seemed to have been placed inside Lord Marbrand’s mouth. His lips were blue, his hands somewhat spasmed and his body cold, as if death had come several hours ago. When I removed the paper from his mouth, I noticed several drops of blood on the paper. His tongue had been removed from his mouth. The paper read “that which is not dead may eternally lie, and with strange aeons even death may die.”

The books in the study were mostly mundane and much of his old correspondence was also in evidence. Nowhere did I find any of Lord Marbrand’s arcane books. When asked about a laboratory or library, Creighton maintained Lord Marbrand had no such place, which I believe to be false. It’s not unlike wizards of Lord Marbrand’s resources and renown to have hidden libraries. I checked the surroundings. Mindok pah lah! The traces of strong magic, slowly dissipating over time became clear to me as I peered through my clear crystal. Having searched through the rest of the home for signs of breaking and entering (and at the same time looking for possible clues to a second library or laboratory) but alas, we found none.

I asked Creighton if Lord Marbrand had a last will and testimony that could possibly shed light on who was to benefit from his death, and he revealed that he did. The testament would be delivered to Gustav, the village elder, for review the following day. I was to be present at the unsealing to be witness to the words within.

I returned back to the Timbered Inn, with much on my mind. Sleep proved not to be as elusive as it usually is. For a second night in a row I slept easily and well.

Day 3

When I awoke the next day I found that the brave adventurers that had accompanied me on my way from Melvaunt had returned from their mission to rescue Wulfric’s daughter from a band of raiders. As I sat to consume the dreariness of what should pass for breakfast, it struck me as no coincidence that The Hoof was attacked by a band of Gnoll raiders at the same time that Lord Marbrand was murdered. It seemed like the fire was a distraction for the real crime of the murder. Gnolls, while simple and unsophisticated, generally don’t leave a raid without any of the things they came to raid. Surely they wouldn’t just come in order to kidnap Wulfric’s daughter, who holds no intrinsic nor strategic value to them. And when I hear that they were paid with bright white, leather pouches, filled with silver, it suggests to me that they acted as agents for a much more sophisticated employer.

I was picked up by Lady Ulrikke who took me to Gustav’s home in Glister. Gustav looked every bit the part of a village elder. He was being attended to by two women, likely his daughters or perhaps even his granddaughters, and commanded respect and obedience from everyone in attendance. Later it would turn out that the respect was well-earned as his wisdom ran deep. Creighton, Gustav, Lady Ulrikke and I all witnessed the unbroken seal of House Marbrand upon the letter and when unsealed read the short, concise testament.

In short, it stated that Lord Marbrand wanted to be cremated upon the Thar. The redistribution of his possessions was to be decided by the village of Glister in the event that no heir had presented themselves by the time of his death.

Appropriate agents were sent to Wizard’s Hill and The Hoof to inform one and all of a village meeting to be held at the long house that evening to announce the passing of Lord Marbrand and his last wishes. I was excited to see such perfect lawlessness in action. The self-regulation of the villagers seemed to have served them very well and I was going to witness it first hand.

I retired to the Timbered Inn and stayed there to study my spells for the rest of morning and afternoon. I briefly spoke to Quentyn who revealed to me that he came to Glister to speak to Lord Marbrand much like I had. Apparently, Lord Marbrand is a distant relative and had invited Quentyn to visit and discuss the possibility of adopting him as Lord Marbrand’s official heir since Lord Marbrand had never fathered any children of his own. When I told him Lord Marbrand had died the previous evening, he angrily stormed out of the inn. I only saw him again in the great long house at the top of Glister’s hill that evening.

It seemed like almost every person of age had come to the long house to find out what the excitement was about. Many people had heard the news and were looking for confirmation of the wizard’s death while the news had not reached others yet. In the end, much confusion existed about the reason for the gathering. All of the villagers fell silent when Gustav the elder informed them of the wizard’s death. No mention was made about the nature of his passing, only that he had left a last will and testimony. The crowd erupted, everyone speaking at once. When the crowd went quiet, the four witnesses (myself included) to the unsealing of the testament were introduced and made to verify the piece of paper and its contents. Gustav read out loud the wizard’s last wishes and again, the crowd erupted.

It had not escaped my attention that slowly, groups of people started to clutter around several of the earlier mentioned paragons. Wulfric, The Widow, Widukin the hunter, Lady Ulrikke and even the simple Gilbert got a few followers. There were others I didn’t recognise, probably about a dozen in total. Most people were talking about what would happen to the investments Lord Marbrand had made in local businesses. It seemed the old wizard had put up quite a bit of his own coin to support starting ventures, help expand existing businesses and extended loans and hand-outs to those people falling on hard times and needing a helping hand. It seemed the wizard had touched the hearts and purses of everyone in town, and everyone wanted to know what was going to happen, immediately.

In the ruckus Creighton mentioned to Gustav that he would make arrangements for the wizard’s cremation upon the heath on The Thar. I offered him my help. It seemed like Lord Marbrand came from the fires of the arcane, and to the fires of the arcane he should return.

After about twenty minutes the crowd began calming down again. I had been making eye contact with Quentyn, who was waiting patiently for the moment to unveil himself as possible heir to the estate of Lord Marbrand. When Gustav asked whether there was an heir present that would present himself, I almost thought Quentyn had decided against it, but at the last possible moment he stepped forward.

I don’t quiet remember everything that he said, but I must commend him on his oratorical ability. It seems House Martell had made great strides in chivalry every since crawling from the Sembian cesspool several generations ago. He stated his case eloquently but was firm; he had received a letter in which Lord Marbrand had traced his lineage to that of House Martell, that he had determined them to be the closest thing to a living heir and that he had chosen Quentyn, House Martell’s youngest son who stood to inherit no lands or titles, to adopt as his heir.

The letter was presented to the four witnesses of the unsealing of the testament to validate its authenticity. Somehow, I now found myself on a panel to decide whether Quentyn was going to inherit all of Lord Marbrand’s posessions, lands and titles. It wasn’t the first time I asked myself how I had gained this prominent position.

I noticed a clear schism in the people of Glister. Some wanted to honour the wizard’s desire for Quentyn to be his heir, others believed that it was up to villagers to decide, but I strongly questioned what their reasoning was for that claim. Several people spoke, some in support of Quentyn’s claim and some in opposition of his claim. The opposition coming out of Wizard’s Hill was especially fierce, lead by The Widow. A surprisingly supportive voice was that of Wulfric, who had been very grateful for Quentyn’s help in returning his daughter from the raiders. Lady Ulrikke stayed quiet.

I was one of the last people to speak, explaining that according to Cormyrian laws of succession, the laws that Quentyn abided by, and obviously the laws that Lord Marbrand was using as his guide to find a successor, it is stated that Quentyn has few rights, being the youngest of his house, with a living brother, a living father and several living uncles, all of whom stand before him in line of succession, and that adoption was very rare and only saved for special cases in which the name of the house were to die out completely. He would have to forsake his house and adopt House Marbrand. No longer would he be Quentyn Martell of House Martell, he would then be Quentyn Martell of House Marbrand. It was the wish of Lord Marbrand, but the precedence unstable and furthermore, not in accordance with their own laws.

Quentyn remained steadfast, and the most shaken he seemed when I recounted his family’s history. His is a small and young house, but with a short but heroic history that is uncircumventable when growing up in Cormyr. Songs are sung about his lineage, even if some of the songs focus more on the roguish nature of Quentyn’s great grandfather, the Vagabond Knight. He quickly steadied himself and nodded approvingly of my logic. It was good to see that he saw that I was supporting his claim by restating the wishes of Lord Marbrand while cloaking it in a message of deliberate caution to the villagers. He played his part perfectly. Later, I would reflect upon this moment and concluded with some sadness that even I seem to have the Cormyrian propensity for schemes and politicking.

Lastly, Creighton spoke and said what I was loathed to point out; Quentyn hadn’t been adopted yet. He wasn’t an heir. I had hoped that the villagers would lack the sophistication to grasp that simple truth, but Creighton pleasantly disappointed me. Quentyn had to fulfill a year in service of Lord Marbrand, taking care of his household affairs in order to prove that he was worthy of being the heir. Creighton, who was best equipped to speak for the dead Lord Marbrand suggested that Quentyn fulfill this task and have the villagers judge his suitability in once year hence.

Gustav added to it that Quentyn must prove the lineage outlined in Lord Marbrand’s letter before the next new moon, in approximately two rides, and I immediately knew that the key would be to find Lord Marbrand’s secret library, which is probably where he did most, if not all of his real research on the matter.

A majority of the villagers voted to adopt the notion. Quentyn proves his lineage and then spends one year taking care of the late Lord Marbrand’s affairs, after which he will be considered adopted and the heir to the Marbrand possessions, estates, lands, deeds, titles and most importantly; the name. I wonder what his kin in house Martell think of this move. It would gain them a hold, some lands and wealth, but they would lose a valuable member of their family, one with a lot of potential, in my opinion. What if Lord Martell’s eldest son dies? Would he be so eager to see his inheritance pass to one of his younger brothers?

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