The Spreading Shadow
Although pickpockets, sneak-thieves, cargo-lifters, and even lasses of the night who drug and rob clients still operate in Uthmere, crime is increasingly dominated and controlled by the Shadowmasters, who've come into the city from Telflamm and "opened a chapter" in Uthmere.
Although they're greatly feared and hated, the Shadowmasters have clamped down on "house stormings" and much crude back-alley thuggery, except on the docks (because non-Shadowmaster lawlessness there keeps the Cudgels busy) and right around their headquarters in the Shadowstreets, where they want to discourage both citizens and Cudgels from poking about too boldly.
More subtle, safe, and steady sources of income are cultivated: extortion of small amounts of coin from shopkeepers (forcing them to under-report transactions so as to render every eleventh 1 cp sale-fee to the Shadowmasters rather than to the palace; and "safe delivery fees" of valuable wares, unbroken and "in full" to the shop doors), blackmail of citizens who've done something criminal or extremely embarrassing, "stretching" wines with cheaper substances to make them go farther, and getting citizens addicted to drugs, so as to be able to steadily sell them small "pleasures."
The leader of Uthmere's chapter of Shadowmasters is Master Tintel Farpadden, a scarred halfling who sports an eyepatch (which no one takes too seriously, since he switches it from eye to eye occasionally). Aside from demanding free dalliances from several Uth ladies of the evening, he's free of most weaknesses and vices: He knows better than to let greed rule him or to ever try to deceive his superiors in Telflamm.
In truth, Farpadden likes Lord Uthlain and the way things are in Uthmere, and he doesn't want to rock boats too harshly -- except for any belonging to the Circle of Leth. Them he wants dead, because he wants Uthmere to swiftly grow large and prosperous, so it'll soon contain many more deep pockets his Shadowmasters can empty. Moreover, a building boom, if the Shadowmasters move to dominate the building trades, will give him ample opportunities to cover up widespread smuggling, in ship-hold-size amounts. Any bustling port of trade ruled by a just and fair lord easily also can be a bustling center of smuggling . . .
Farpadden (who has a ruthless, cruel streak) has therefore declared "covert open season" on the Circle and their supporters, scores of whom have accordingly been murdered over the last few years. He knows it's impossible for the Shadowmasters to infiltrate them, but he's working on ways of manipulating various groups to make war on the Nentyar hunters, try to settle in the Great Dale and burn woods to clear lands for crops, and so on. "A distracted foe is a weakened foe," as the Shadowmaster saying goes.
The Shadowmasters have already gained control of almost all of Uthmere's taverns and festhalls, and Farpadden has directed his agents to slowly and patiently work on infiltrating the ranks of lodging house and inn owners, the Cudgels, the lordlain, and the shipwrights.
He's also watching the Uthlains far more closely (through spies among the lordlain and the palace servants) than they'd believe -- because he wants to subvert Uthlain's successor, whether it be a man one of his daughters marries or the son the lord so dearly wants. If Farpadden can recruit both Uthlain daughters, he'll eventually win control of the High Seat one way or another -- and he admires them both: the first for her beauty and spirit, and the second for her brains, which the Shadowmasters could put to good use.
In the meantime, the Shadowmasters will continue to "gently bleed" coin from Uth-folk through smuggling, pilferage, fencing stolen goods, and the aforementioned methods. For some years they've employed elderly and maimed folk as spies, as workers in hidden workshops where the Shadowmasters now dominate the well-established city custom of rebuilding or reshaping stolen items to make them unrecognizable, as go-betweens for the spies, and as workers in the Shadowstreets kitchens where the Shadowmasters pay their poorest spies with hot meals and a safe, warm place to sleep. Patient Farpadden even pays some fines and bills of Uth-folk he wants to recruit, or who work for him already.
Farpadden is ably supported by two Assistant Masters: Adornen Zussrel (NE male human rogue 9; a tall, taciturn, strong, quiet, and competent man) and Ylantara Omrantle (CE female human rogue 6/thief-acrobat 2; a spiteful, lithe, coldly malicious sadist). Zussrel sees the wisdom of Farpadden's "softly softly" ways and is quite content to be his able inferior, but Omrantle secretly dreams of supplanting him and precipitating a bloodbath that will end with Lady Omrantle on the High Seat of Uthmere, openly ruling it for her masters back in Telflamm.
Uth-folk believe the Shadowmasters see and know everything that happens in Uthmere, and can send their enforcers anywhere, at will, to do anything. In this, they're not far wrong: only in the palace and the temple of Tyr are Shadowmaster activities sharply limited. Their strength is why the Cudgels increase patrols six-fold at night -- and why Lord Uthlain repeatedly hires any wizard he figures he can trust to magically pry into the minds of his Cudgel officers, to make sure of their loyalty.
1. The Shadowmasters are described on pages 84 and 85 of the Unapproachable East sourcebook.
2. Our real-world term is "home invasion" robberies.
3. Unlike most real-world blackmailers, the Shadowmasters are scrupulous about demanding money only once, and never a second time (once the full amount has been collected).
4. The Circle of Leth are described on page 83 of the Unapproachable East sourcebook.
5. Uthmere builds no ships, but has three small firms that repair ships and replace masts, lines (ropes), and sails.
6. So far he has been successful in limiting Cudgel corruption to a very few individuals of the lowest rank: Trusted Hand.
Cudgel ranks ascend as follows: Trusted Hand, Watchful Eye (equivalent to sergeant), Gategauntlet (captain), Lancer, Vigilant Shield, Helm, Vicecaptain of the Guard, Captain of the Guard. Wizards and priests serving temporarily with the Cudgels have the rank of Gategauntlet.
A typical Cudgel patrol consists of six Hands, two Eyes, and a Gauntlet.
About the Author
Ed Greenwood is the man who unleashed the Forgotten Realms on an unsuspecting world. He works in libraries, writes fantasy, science fiction, 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 . . .