Elminster's Guide to the Realms
The Missing Minotaur
by Ed Greenwood, illustrated by David Day, (Dragon #293)
The Missing Minotaur of western Everlund is a newly built tavern catering to adventurers, mercenaries, treasure-hunters, explorers, and other rough folk not welcome elsewhere. Such folk eat hard, drink hard, and play hard; openly-worn weapons are the rule in the "Map House," and so are knife-throwing games and open talk of planned lawlessness and butchery.
The Minotaur acquired its "Map House" nickname thanks to the hobby of its proprietor, a weatherbeaten retired adventurer by the name of Elsk Thavarask. "Squarejaw Thavarask" is a mapmaker - not a skilled cartographer, but simply a man who loves maps - and is slowly crafting a huge, as-detailed-as-he-can-make-it map of the known North behind his bar. Folk come in to give or sell him little scraps of map (snatches of city streets in Silverymoon and Sundabar, sketches of woodland trails and traplines, and even written notes of landmarks, water sources, and ruins), and he tacks them up beside his slowly-growing master map. Sometimes he trades away or sells pieces of these maps, but none of them ever go on display until he's made two painstaking copies and hidden them elsewhere.
The Minotaur is a rough, late-night-roaring place, specializing in potent brews (Thavarask doesn't hesitate to slip "knockout" poison into flagons when patrons become too rowdy or aggressive) and in becoming useful to half a dozen upstart merchant cabals and shady organizations seeking to take advantage of the developing North.
Naturally, the Harpers are busily planting agents here to keep watch over the goings-on, and it seems the Arcane Brotherhood of Luskan is also interested in keeping a presence in this "opening eye on Everlund."
Besides the aforementioned organizations, a few local cabals and shady alliances have spies among the regular patrons of the Minotaur; interesting things said and done in the taproom will be passed on to any and all of the following:
The Black Buckler: This is a loose confederacy of mercenary warriors and rogues who help each other gain employment by paying close attention to the needs of travelers and locals alike. In Everlund, active rogues are considered to make excellent guards, because among locals active in such professions, "loyalty to the patron who hired you" is absolute.
Sarthuri's Shield: This semi-retired adventuring band of some fourteen aging human men and women love to parade, do bodyguard duty, and do work not likely to be deadly or to take them away from the environs of Everlund. They often help search for runaways or stolen goods, put on uniforms to help visiting merchants give the appearance of having large body- guards or cadres of servants, bolster wedding or funeral processions, or help the overly timid go out at night by surrounding them with formidable personal protection. Their ranks include some capable rogues, and they're always alert for news of treasure they can acquire to live on in their graying days - particularly if they can swindle it from unscrupulous passing merchants.
Tathtard's Rose: This cold-blooded cabal of merchants is spreading with the growth of the Silver Marches. Its dozen or so members employ their most trusted personal servants as spies and agents to further the work of the Rose - which is to make its members rich, by fair means and foul. Tathtard is a furniture-maker of Silverymoon and a ruthlessly brilliant man; he prefers to work within the law whenever possible and to be secretive and subtle, simply to avoid reprisals. Long ago he decided that if a small, elite group of merchants worked together to arrange goods shortages, fix prices, direct business opportunities to each other, and share inside information they should all profit handsomely - yet never see short-term personal gain enough to be worth betraying each other. Neviol Tathtard himself, however, has secretly arranged the death of one rival in the Rose, poisoning the man's entire household and sweeping in with his most trusted agents to plunder the rival's hidden coinage before anyone else discovered the disaster - and he plans to serve other members of the Rose in the same way, if circumstances ever make it profitable enough.
The Master of the House
Elsk Thavarask was born in Neverwinter but spent much of his youth in Waterdeep (where his parents ran a now-vanished laundry and seamstress shop in the Castle Ward "as far away from the Palace as it's possible to get, an' still be in Castle Ward"). At an early age he discovered he loved coins, gems, and danger, and that he was both swift and strong. He soon joined an adventuring band and fell into a life of Sword Coast piracy - staying alive by sensing when to flee or drop out of sight (as fellows who didn't tangled with foes beyond their handling and died).
After years of this, Thavarask grew tired of the cold, of pain, of always needing to be alert for danger, and of not having time to sit and drink in a place he was welcome in for more than his coins. Harboring a lifelong fascination with the "wild, unspoiled North" and an enjoyment of boar and deer hunts, he dissolved his last and most famous adventuring band, The Men of the Mask, came to Everlund with some friends he suspects were Harpers who'd been keeping an eye on him, and opened the Minotaur - which is named for the first monster he ever slew.
Elsk is a brown-haired, green-eyed, weatherbeaten man who likes people, often senses danger before it erupts, and is slow to anger. He dislikes untended fires and folk who hurl magic about carelessly. Thavarask has a covert agreement with a local Harper; as long as he maintains one private sleeping-chamber at the Minotaur that has its own well-hidden entrance, and feeds and houses therein without charge anyone who arrives and gives the right password, he'll be paid 500 gold pieces annually.
Elsk Thavarask, Male Human Ftr8: CR 8; Medium-size Humanoid (5 ft. 4 in. tall); HD 8d10+16; hp 60; Init +7, Spd 20 ft.; AC 22 (touch 13, flat-footed 19); Atk +12/+7 melee (1d8+5/crit 19-20, +1 longsword) or +12/+7 ranged (1d10/crit 19-20, heavy crossbow); AL NG; SV Fort +8, Ref +5, Will +2, Str 15, Dex 16, Con 14, Int 15, Wis 11, Cha 13.
Skills: Climb +7, Hide +3, Jump +5, Listen +4, Move Silently +3, Ride +12, Spot +4, Swim -5. Feats: Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Expertise, Improved Initiative, Improved Disarm, Leadership, Mobility, Weapon Focus (longsword), Weapon Specialization (longsword).
Possessions: +2 scale mail, +1 large wooden shield, +1 longsword, boots of speed, masterwork heavy crossbow with 10 bolts, 340 gp and 1d8 gems (worth 2,800 gp) hidden around the Minotaur.
Thavarask's Sleep Venoms
The Master of the Minotaur employs at least three rare and expensive venoms to prepare sleep-inducing drinks. He acquires these from traders who buy them covertly in Waterdeep and Skullport from pirates of the Nelanther (who in turn get them by milking poisonous fanged fish and island vipers). All of these are cloudy white liquids of faintly sweet taste and viscous consistency that can be diluted in either water or alcohol and still be effective. Typical prices are for one dose of the poison. It is not effective to apply the poison in any quality smaller than one dose. Thavarask has been known to sell poison to trusted friends, but he is insulted when other would-be purchasers approach him.
- Slarkfish - Type: Ingested DC 14; Initial Damage: 1d4 Dex; Secondary Damage: Unconsciousness; Price: 100 gp.
- Nightviper - Type: Ingested or injury DC 14, Initial Damage: 0; Secondary Damage: 3d6 Wis; Price: 600 gp.
- Saldruth's Viper Venom - Type: Ingested or injury DC 16; Initial Damage: 2d12 hp (subdual); Secondary Damage: 1d6 Con; Price: 300 gp.
- Udderfish - Type: Ingested DC 12; Initial Damage: 1d4 hp (subdual); Secondary Damage: 2d12 hp (subdual); Price: 400 gp.
- Numbfish Jelly - Type: Ingested or contact DC 16; Initial Damage: 3d6 Dex; Secondary Damage: 1d6 Dex + 1d2 Wis; Price: 300 gp.
- Pauper's Poison - Type: Ingested DC 12; Initial Damage: 0; Secondary Damage: 2d6 hp (subdual); Price: 40 gp.
Not much, know ye; I'd just as soon ye not know who's a Harper and who serves the Arcane Brotherhood, and out swords or start whispering plots the moment ye sit down! But, if ye must, know this: Asking Thavarask or the tavern-maid Elanthra to meet with "Old Thammas" means ye want to talk privately with a Harper; telling them you need to see "Larlaun" means ye need the aid of several armed Harpers, in haste. Try not to look surprised at who appears.
If ye espy a slender, darkly handsome man with eyes the hue of old honey, who can't seem to stop smiling, 'tis likely ye look upon Thold Ramaeras (NE male human Rog4/Ftr7), an Arcane Brotherhood agent who trades in wines in Everlund and is forever sponsoring novice adventuring bands to explore this or that nearby tomb or ruin. Another Brotherhood agent betimes seen in the Minotaur is a slender young man with snow-white hair, Selth Dorlanneir (CE male human Ftr 3/Wiz 9), who works as a guide and caravan guard locally - when he's not out murdering people on the sly.