Dark Tide Over Cormyr
The Winking Eye
(Stolen from Ed Greenwood’s realmslore)
“And don’t throw it away,” Filfaeril said crisply. “Give it here if you don’t want to carry it, and I’ll thrust it down my bodice. This is a state document, and I’m sure many assassins would give much to get their hands on it and learn whom to target and just how to select the best opportunities to do their dark work.”
Azoun surrendered the parchment, and sighed. “Now can we explore this passage?”
“Of course, my dragon. Draw your sundering steel, and lead the way.”
The King of Cormyr’s face darkened as he sheathed his dagger and drew his sword. Filfaeril promptly fisted her glowstone and winked it out, knowing that Azoun could dim the radiance of his sword to the merest glimmer.
He promptly did so, and they waited for their eyes to adjust to the gloom before advancing cautiously, Filfaeril falling into line behind her man.
Azoun took barely four steps to a corner before turning to murmur, “I think I know where we are.”
Filfaeril spread her hands in a wordless question. “The Winking Eye,” he explained.
The Dragon Queen’s eyebrows climbed her forehead, but “Oh ho” was all she said.
Folk in Suzail know The Winking Eye as a fixture on the Promenade, a quiet drinking house where old, bearded men — and old, bearded dwarves and gnomes, too — go to drowse over their tankards and mutter of bygone days and past glories “when things were better far than they be now — aye, so!”
“The Eye” is considered cozily shabby and well behind the times. Cheaply-priced but sparta, with no minstrels or jesters, and no (to borrow a favorite phrase used heartily by shopkeepers of Suzail, when describing attractions to visitors) “tickle-and-slap coin-lasses.” No young folk out on the town to make a splash or swash with the rich and noble would dream of setting foot in the Eye, and it rarely hosts brawls or happenings worthy of gossip (beyond regretful murmurs of this or that old whitebeard being found slumped dead with his last ale half-finished, dead of nothing more than the wear of years).
Yet certain folk of Cormyr know the Eye to be an establishment far more interesting than the rundown tavern it appears to be. It stands on a corner, and over the years, it has expanded into several adjoining buildings, all of them old and stout dwarf-work with thick fieldstone walls and slate roofs.
Inside most of those walls are secret passages connecting the backs of certain cupboards, jakes, and false greatkegs of wine. (These are gigantic, fixed-location barrels twice as tall as a man, which crowd the cellars of many eateries and taverns. They are filled from smaller, portable kegs through holes in the floors of rooms above via large funnels.) The passages lead to cellars in nearby buildings and similar wardrobes and cupboards in upper rooms of the Eye.
This network of hidden ways was of old home to smugglers, who met here (arriving and departing unseen) to buy, sell, and exchange illicit cargoes and kidnapped Cormyreans of note. Ladies of the evening rented rooms to entertain noble clients. Clergy of various gods (especially Loviatar, Sharess, and Talona) who desired to conduct rituals in private also rented chambers occasionally, and few pirates and outlaws sporadically rented space to hide for a night or temporarily conceal a body or easily recognizable contraband.
Then came a time when Prince Azoun (the same Azoun who later ascended the throne to flourish as Azoun IV) and his companions, the adventuring band known as the King’s Men (though it contained more women then men, most of them of noble birth and eagerly devoted to defying both royal and familial authority), rented the Eye’s entire hidden ways and upper rooms as a meeting place and refuge.
For more than a season they lived, loved, and schemed in the upper rooms of the Eye, which during their tenure hosted
“This was where I hid something I really should have retrieved years ago,” the King of Cormyr murmured, as he did something to the wall.
A large, door-like part of it slowly swung open, smoothly and soundlessly on well-oiled hinges ,to reveal a lamplit chamber nearly filled by a bed.
An occupied bed.
Two faces that had been ardent moments earlier dissolved into open-mouthed astonishment. One belonged to someone Azoun knew rather well — Eaeridran Toraene, his young and handsome Undermaster of Revels.
Alongside the gulping, trembling courtier lay a noble lady twice his age, Lady Ohrmatha Huntcrown, now smiling ruefully.
“Y-y-y-yuh —” Eaeridran stammered in staring-eyed terror.
“Well met, Undermaster Eaeridran,” Azoun said gently, reaching to draw the secret door shut again. “Pray accept my apologies for this untimely intrusion.”
“N-no harm done, Your Majesty,” the stricken courtier managed to gulp.
Then his eyes widened as he caught sight of Queen Filfaeril. Under her coolly amused gaze he went white, then green — then his head flopped onto the pillow in a faint.
“Lads these days,” Lady Huntcrown said crossly. “No spine and less stomach! Really! Fee, I ask you, is it too much to expect our yeomen to breed stouter stock?”
“Not at all, Ohrma,” Filfaeril said soothingly. “Just what Az and I were agreeing upon yestereve. A little wine should revive your young stallion. Don’t let him drink it — pour it down his nose. He’ll make a tremendous tumult, hacking and coughing and flailing about — but then you can comfort him.”
“That sounds lovely,” Lady Naeryme purred, stretching for the bedside decanter.
Azoun swung the door shut, turned to his queen, and arched one eyebrow. “We agreed upon several things yestereve,” he said, “but I don’t recall that particular matter being among them.”
“Poor Az,” Filfaeril said in the same soothing voice. “You’re forgetting so many little things these days.”
This time, the King of Cormyr let his queen see the rolling of his eyes.
The heady days of hosting the King’s Men are well behind The Winking Eye now, but its upper rooms remain busy. Those desiring to rent them who come to the bar of the Eye are directed three doors down the Promenade to the offices of Malagar of Many Marvels (which are above a glittering perfume shop, Antatha’s Scents. The tapsters will say Malagar has no direct connection to the Eye but “takes care of” renting out its upper rooms.
This is not, strictly speaking, true. Malagar recently became the owner of The Winking Eye, though its previous owner, the colorful, gravel-voiced Maraeda “the Minx” Halfeather, still runs the tavern. She spends most of her time out and about in Suzail buying the drinkables served at the bar but occasionally arrives of an evening to chat with patrons and flirt with her tapsters (who are all scared of her).
Orvarr Malagar is a young, dapper-looking dwarf with raven-black hair and a neatly-trimmed, spade-pointed beard, who wears a gold earring in his left ear, a huge gold ring on the middle finger of his right hand, and stylish, black leather breeches, boots, and tunic. He will present himself as a renter of rooms at the Eye plus cargo space in the holds of many ships based in Suzail and owned by various nobles and wealthy merchants (not himself). The “Many Marvels” are the exotic things these ships sometimes bring back from distant outland ports.
Malagar is scrupulously honest in his cargo dealings. The ship owners watch him closely, most of the nobles by using their ‘house wizards’ (war wizards stationed in their households, largely to watch over them for the Royal Magician). Glib and pleasant, Malagar tries not to make enemies, but if attacked can call on not just his personal magic but several on-duty war wizards (by uttering a specific word) who will teleport directly to him from the Royal Court armed with wands, spells, and attitudes.
Malagar loves to invest adventurers’ wealth in legitimate cargoes but more often finds himself making small, daily coin by peddling the services of the Eye — rooms ranging from 3 gp to 9 gp per day, plus the same again to keep the room through the night until just past dawn. Boldblades (trained bodyguards) to guard its entrances or a specific person or item cost 1 gp/day (or night) extra. Non-magical disguises are also available at rates ranging from 6 gp to 45 gp.
Coffins or carry-chests are also for rent, brought to your rented upper room for 6 gp and taken away again to a specific destination in Suzail for another 8 gp. Actresses can also be had, at negotiable rates, to pose as your lover, mother, the noblewoman or princess you’re meeting, hired sorceress, would-be client, or angry creditor.
Malagar is very discreet, and so are those who work for him. After all, they learned the rules of their trade from two experts — Azoun IV and the Royal Magician Vangerdahast.
“Az, tell me,” Filfaeril said as her husband deftly undid the half-seen catches of another secret door and swung it open to reveal a room empty of all but dust and a dim, soft glowstone. “What hidden thing were you hoping to retrieve, back in yon passion palace?”
“One of the true crowns of the realm,” Azoun replied. “I swiped it for a prank, more years ago than I care to count now. Vangey’s been searching for it for years, and from time to time I’ve frowningly recalled last seeing it on the head of this or that lover of mine from my adventuring days.”
Filfaeril decided it was time to roll her eyes. “I’m sure he soon grew tired of that.”
“Yes,” Azoun agreed, brightly and cheerfully. “But I haven’t, yet.”
- a restless (betimes wandering) golem;
- the entire stolen treasury of a Sembian trading coster;
- six bound and furious Thayan envoys who’d sold drugs and poisons to foolish Cormyrean nobles;
- a chest full of crawling claws;
- a princess of a southern city-state in magical stasis, hidden in a cask of zzar;
- a matched set of rubies whose owner, a matron of the Illance noble house, set half the realm into turmoil with an empassioned search (this was a golden opportunity for the King’s Men to wreak much subtle havoc among servants, their angry masters, and hired searchers by the score)