"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
- 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);
We've turned only the first page of the lorebook of the Winking Eye. Learn more in our next installment!
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 . . .