The High Lady Alustriel is beloved by many in the Sword Coast North -- both for her personal charm, friendly manner, and helpful deeds, and for the relative peace, prosperity, and sophistication she has almost single-handedly brought to the "civilized" heart of the region through her rule over Silverymoon and her nascent League of the Silver Marches.
As such, and with the added incentive of her personal beauty and taste for pleasures (she's not called the "Queen of Courtly Love" for nothing), Alustriel draws interested eyes wherever she goes and whatever she does.
In recent months, her watchers have noticed that the High Lady has acquired a mysterious companion -- mysterious in that he is seldom seen with her in public and usually visits her only in private. Increasingly, he's suspected of watching protectively over her during some of her public appearances (in a variety of disguises), as a subtle backup for her more open protectors -- who are usually a handful of her sons.
Many Silvaeren are curious folk, for whom gossip is daily meat and drink, and some have the means to find out things (either by magic or through paying others to whisper secrets or track down lore). Once Alustriel's silent shadow was noticed, interest in him flared -- particularly after she smilingly deflected all direct queries about him and was seen enjoying the waters with him by moonlight in a forest pool (by envoys from Sundabar and Citadel Adbar who'd almost come to blows over a trade dispute and then gone together to seek her gentle words to settle matters).
The Harpers got to some truths about the mystery man before most curious Silvaeren did and spread what they deemed it most politic for the city to know: He was "an old friend" of Alustriel from years ago, Larlake by name, who'd come to her side to consult her about something and stayed by mutual agreement. He came from Tethyr, where he'd acquired the nickname "the Soft Sword." There, he'd been an investigator of crimes, and the "Sword" referred to his sharp wits, not a weapon. He was not a spy for anyone, and he poses no threat to the Gem of the North or the Silver Marches.
The Harpers took careful notes of those in Silverymoon and the wider Marches who were showing a continuing interest in finding out more about Larlake, and they discovered two things: that he personally fascinated many women who were interested in anyone who held Alustriel's interest so deeply, and that many sinister power groups (the Arcane Brotherhood and certain Red Wizards of Thay in particular, but also representatives of some city rulers in the League) wanted to speak to -- and presumably try to subvert or influence -- Alustriel's latest consort.
Two persons (Taern Hornblade and Alustriel's sister Laeral) and two groups (Alustriel's sons and the Harpers themselves) worked to protect Larlake from attacks by the dark organizations seeking to reach him, and at the same time to launch their own thorough investigations of the High Lady's mysterious lover.
Smilingly, Larlake watched them all right back, revealing little. His skin seems a shade too dusky in hue for Tethyrian bloodlines (though he might well have been born there) and his early history seems almost absent from all record -- though of course persons not born to prominence or importance, and who don't seek it, often escape all notice (particularly in lands torn by strife, as Tethyr has been).
What Larlake's investigators have made certain of is that whatever probing magic they use, they can find no hostility toward Alustriel in him, or any dark shadow in his mind of coming betrayal of her or her work (Silverymoon and the Marches). The Soft Sword said little to help such inquisitors, but willingly cooperated with their spellcasting. Most of them now know little more about the man than these points: Larlake investigated a variety of thefts, murders, and disputes in several Tethyrian cities, at first for free and, once his reputation was established, for a flat 2 gp daily fee; he's always alert and watchful, curious about certain persons and events to the point of spying; lives simply but has sufficient coin; and the sayings he utters most often are as follows:
- "And so the wind blows" (sometimes expanded with: "and life, it goes . . .")
- "I fear so."
- "Strike me!"
- "Wiser and more wonderful" (sometimes expanded with: "deeper and curioser . . .") and:
- "I'd stroll so far." (sometimes expanded with: "for that" or "as that" or "given a chance")
Read more about Alustriel's consort in the next article.
About the Author
Ed Greenwood is the man who unleashed the Forgotten Realms on an unsuspecting world. He works in libraries, writes fantasy, sf, horror, mystery, and even romance stories (sometimes all in the same novel), but he is still happiest churning out Realmslore, Realmslore, and more Realmslore. There are still a few rooms in his house with space left to pile up papers in . . .