Chapter 1: a discovery

He almost missed it in the pile of rubbish filling the bins of the shop that called itself a dealer in rare antiquities.

Forfar Marzipan, so named because of the reputation of his pastry chef father, was referred to by those who knew him as Forfar the Sharp. The thin, diminutive man was much shorter then average giving rise to the thought he must have some gnome blood in him. A buyer and seller of ancient artefacts Forfar never confirmed or denied the rumour. He'd never liked the idea of being a baker so had left his father's trade at the earliest possible age for one that seemed more suited for him.

Standing in the dusty, obscure shop in Waterdeep Forfar had one of those moments that reminded him of why he'd ever gotten into the trade. Shielding what he looked at from the bored shop owner the astute trader delicately picked the stone item from out among the others in a discount bin.

Forfar had absently stopped into the shop, as he did dozens regularly to scan for unusual items in the bustling city. He'd developed an almost sixth sense for the rare and valuable so when he'd entered this particular shop, Delray's Place of Wonders, he thought perhaps the dive may finally live up to its name. In the past the collector had never found anything there worth more than a few gold coins so it would have been better named a thrift shop.

But this day his senses told him it would be different.

Cradling the object, if what he gazed at turned out to be what he thought, it could turn out to be his greatest discovery. What had caught his eye was the embossed symbol that still stood out on the now dull item. It seemed to be the crest of the family of the Lady Alustriel of Silverymoon.

In the back of his mind Forfar remembered something about a lost and powerful artefact.

Could this be it?

He shook his head in disbelief. Logic told him there was no way this was the item.

To be located in some obscure shop after so many years, especially when others had searched for it? Impossible.

But then his past experiences reminded him stranger things had happened. He needed to find out.

Randomly picking a few other items to mask where his true interest lay, the trader made an offer for the lot with the owner of the shop not allowing the heavyset, oily skinned man to see his anxiety.

Of course the first offer was rejected.

Forfar knew how the game would play out, he was a master of it. But his third offer, still less then he would have paid, had been accepted.

A short time later Forfar plunked himself down on an overstuffed chair in the apartment he kept in Waterdeep after retrieving a volume from his impressive library. Besides a small table, a pair of chairs and a single bed the rest of the place was filled with books and relics. He considered this place his shop, the place where the possible became reality, as opposed to the large home in the country he also owned.

It had taken him fifteen minutes to find the right book. The thought of the one he'd sought had sprung into his quick mind far back in its recesses but he'd been unsure. The very thought of what this could be caused his heart to race. As he thumbed through this volume of ancient lore he knew he had the right one.

Now to find out if he'd been right.

The initial description seemed correct. The size, texture and markings of the items matched. His assessment proved true when he found the tiny hidden button. Unable to resist a sudden urge he pressed it. A faint black aura came from the item and in sudden terror he quickly clicked it again to turn it off. He had indeed found the Orb of Bera Shinar, for centuries thought lost but here it was. The value of the item was enormous, its power considerable. He could sell it to a hundred buyers for a king's sum within the ten-day.

But Forfar had no intention of doing that.

He had recognized the symbol of the Lady Alustriel's family because it was one familiar to him and his family. Years ago the High Lady of the Silver Marches had helped Forfar's grandfather's father out of a terrible situation for no reason other than the goodness of her character and the family had never forgotten. As a young boy Forfar had sat at the man's feet and listened time and again to the tale of their salvation. His own father's position had come out of that circumstance.

No, here was an opportunity to repay an enormous act of kindness with something that would surely catch the lady's attention and place his family in her good steed for centuries to come.

He knew he must set out north for Silverymoon as soon as possible to deliver this prize to the High Lady. Though late in the season snow had not yet fallen in a degree to make the roads impassable but the trail would be dangerous and uninviting to the trader. So going to the merchant district the next day he found an escorted caravan leaving in two days.

The night before his departure, Forfar celebrated his good fortune at the Jewelled Mace Inn. His pride in discovery, anticipated recognition for the discovery and excitement for the trip caused him to consume a bit more honey mead then he was used too. He began to talk loudly in the crowded tavern, boasting of his great discovery and the joy it would bring to Lady Alustriel.

Forfar forgot there were others in Waterdeep aware of this great and powerful item. In his time of revelry the man didn't see a small, cloaked figure slip unnoticed from the inn.

After saying goodbye to his family the gentle man set out on the road with the group of merchants to the north. Though well into the month of Nightal the snow wasn't too bad yet this far south. Besides, the colder weather usually drove many of the bandits who plagued the road into warm shelter. Walking or riding in a wagon Forfar had time to ponder what he was doing.

He spent a lot time studying the relic. The more he studied it, the more something didn't seem right. He'd read the entries in the journals and so thought he knew it well but something unsettled him in a way. It had almost a presence or aura about it. The second day something happened that caused him tremendous anxiety, no, more then that, caused him deep fear. There was more to this item then had ever been written about.

The unsettling realization gave a stronger sense of purpose that taking it to Lady Alustriel was the right thing to do. His mission became more then just about simple reward and recognition. Only a few more days and he'd be parted with it.

The fourth day, north of Beliard, Forfar began to feel like they were being shadowed. At first he thought himself paranoid since he'd not spent much time on the road but by the end of the day even the caravan's four guards were whispering to each other and maintaining a greater degree of vigilance. By the time the small caravan entered the village of St. Vincent, near the Calling Horns, a sense of dread overtook him and he felt certain he would never see Silverymoon.

Entering into an inn for a meal Forfar felt confident in the steps he'd taken to protect the orb. He'd discovered something about it that made his life seem of little value in comparison to ensuring it didn't fall into the wrong hands, a terrible secret he couldn't even whisper.

Sitting with his back to a wall, eating a bowl of venison stew, Forfar thought of slipping out in the middle of the night and going back to find it but he knew he would never survive alone on the road. No, the rune stones were cast. His haste to present this mighty gift likely would lead to his undoing. Now he had to trust to the gods and to the strength of the caravan he travelled with. For the remainder of the time in the village he never strayed far from those he'd paid to protect him, believing every shadow to contain an assassin.

In the end, Forfar had been correct in his anxiety but his demise came in one of those random, unexpected things that so characterizes life at times. Their first evening on the road out of St. Vincent a large band of brigands attacked the caravan. Cowering in a wagon as a sharp fight circled around him he penned a hasty note and sent it off by Quaal's Token right as the flap to the wagon was aggressively thrown open.

Minutes later Forfar Marzipan lay dying on the side of the road, regretting he'd never see his wife again but happy for the steps he'd taken to see the High Lady receive her gift and ensure the honour of his family.