Shadows in a Tavern – a Lady Mara Hornraven tale


She lingered at one of the tables, red hair hanging in ringlets over her shoulders, eyes with a soft blue on the lids, and her dress both full yet clinging to her buxom form. She had been in the festhall for the better part of the evening, watching the show, refreshing her drink, and making small bon mots about the noble families of the city to the glee of those sitting with her.

Some mistook her for a highcoin lady, but the truth was that Lady Mara Hornraven was far more than that. It took her a bit of time to get where she wanted to be in the room, keeping an eye on the door.

“Isn’t that Mara?” one of the highcoin lasses who did business in the festhall said to another. “Isn’t she looking like she’s come up in the world.”

“I thought she was some kind of priest,” came the reply. “Slumming here, I suspect.”

“Priestess of Sune,” a third noted. “A paladin took her there. Now she’s called ‘Lady’, they say, got herself some noble title. She still started on her back, same as the rest of us.” She slipped a yellow lozenge into her mouth, letting it melt. “I suppose we’ll see what she’s up to soon enough. She doesn’t look to be working, at least.” All three of them nodded together – her grace and beauty made it probably that, if she wanted, Mara could take all of their business – and her reputation after all this time still made people remember she’d have been able to handle all three men.

“What do you think brings her here, then?” the first asked. “No freelancing, just… what?”

“Enjoying herself?” said the second, then all three laughed. In their business no one just “enjoyed themselves”; it was always work with an eye on getting out of the business.

For herself, Mara was watching the crowd carefully. One of the men rose from his table, where he’d been partaking of a drink and some snuff, which left a red tint on his nostrils. She narrowed her eyes, having found what she was looking for.

“Pardon me, sirs! I feel a need to return the water to Eldath, but I shall return. Do keep my seat warm?” She rose, giving each a kiss, then walked towards the door to the privys. As she did, the man looked at her, his eyes wide. The number of drugs he’d consumed covertly overcame his good sense, and he reached into his belt to grab a dagger. As he drew it, it changed into a full-sized longsword, shimmering with black energies.

As happened in Waterdeep when this happened, everyone was smart enough to move away from him. He stared at Mara – especially the symbol of Sune on the bodice of her dress – and his eyes came into focus. “WITCH!” he cried out. “You won’t get me! My mistress will break you and all the others and you’ll only know loss and pain!” He took a faltering step forwards, and raised his sword in one of the better-known Sharran combat techniques, one designed to be cripplingly painful.

Mara reached for the sash around her waist, and pulling it free, it changed into a whip tipped with a small dagger. A quick snap of it, and a gash appeared on his face.

“Yes, yes, oh yes, GIVE ME THE PAIN!”  He strode forwards, bringing his sword down, and it clashed on her dress with pale sparks. She twisted, stepping back, wincing at the force of the blow even if it hadn’t cut through her (magically hidden) armor. Her eyes flashed with blue light, and she whispered a prayer to Sune, a matching flash of blue glowing momentarily around her opponent. He growled, and tried to hit her again, but something seemed to push it away.

She stepped back again and lashed out with the whip, aiming high, and wrapping it around his wrist.  The knife-end struck his hand, and the cut weakened his hand just enough for the followup yank to force him to drop the sword.

He did so, then tried to punch her. His eyes were wild, pupils so narrow they couldn’t be seen in the dimness of the room, and he snarled in some dark language, and tried to punch her, but his strikes were simply flails in the air, the drugs making him incoherent. She reached into a pouch on her belt, pulled out a small pouch, then smashed it into his face. He inhaled from the sudden burst, and the enchanted powder flew into his nose and mouth, and he simply fell down.

She wrapped the whip around her waist, as it turned back into a sash.

“Beg pardon, gentles,” she announced. “I shall need someone to call the watch to help me get this fellow out. And as we wait for that,” she continued, digging into a pouch and pulling a small purse out, “for atonement for disturbing the good evening, the next drinks are mine to buy!”

The Watch arrived quickly, and dragged him out. She followed the Watch patrol’s leader out.

One of the three ladies who’d been cattily discussing her earlier shrugged. “I suppose she was working after all.”

They all nodded.

Outside, Mara presented her credentials to Watch Patrol Leader Valhavrsen. “He was moving some illicit chemicals, making money for the church of Shar, and I am here following him to stop him.”

“Well,” he nodded, taking a note, “Thank you much, ma’am. We’ll find his stash where he was staying.”

“Good, good. Well, off to my rooms, then.  Good evening.”

He scratched his head. “Not going in again?” he asked, gesturing at the door.

“I’ve already ruined the party,” she replied airily. “Let them recover their good cheer.”


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