Elminster's Guide to the Realms
by Ed Greenwood, illustrated by David Day, (Dragon #287)
Just inside the Sunset Gate, or western wall-gate, of the Sembian city of Daerlun is the great open Westmarket. On maps it resembles an eye or egg, exceeded in expanse only by the central Place of Banners, where stands the seat of local government, Bergun Hall.
The largest building in western Daerlun stands along the north side of the Street of the Dragon, and from above it resembles a hand or gauntlet poised to close its fingers. This is the well-known Black Banner Inn, long the most luxurious of Daerlunian inns. Although guests can enjoy both meals and the vintages of a very good wine cellar in their rooms, public dining and carousing such as one might enjoy in a tavern are impossible or frowned upon at the Banner. Guests desiring such amusements are directed to the Mighty Mace inn and tavern, the best carousing house in Daerlun. It's the largest building fronting on the Westmarket, filling much of the southeastern face of the marketplace. Directly to the south of it, fronting on Saurovin Street (a major, cobbled thoroughfare that links the Westmarket with Barrel Lane, the major route from the Place of Banners to the Sea Arch, the city's southern wall-gate), stands a row of typical city tallhouses, such as might be found anywhere in Cormyr, Sembia, Westgate, or even Waterdeep.
A tallhouse is typically high and narrow, often touching the walls of its neighbors. It usually has underground storage cellars, a shop at street level, another shop or offices above, and living quarters above that. In prosperous Northern situations, it's often of stone at street level, with upper floors sheathed in dark exposed beams with white stucco panels between.
One such tallhouse, the third building in on the north side of Saurovin going east from the market, is Shadowdark House. It lacks a street sign or a shop awning, has three floors above ground level, and appears old, well-built, and unremarkable - yet everyone in Daerlun knows of it, because it's the closest thing in this most peaceful and civilized of Sembian cities to a magic shop.
Beings of all sorts who enter the dim, cluttered interior of Shadowdark House find an ever-changing miscellany of magic for sale; in other words, beyond light stones (stones bearing continual flame enchantments, sold in carved, slide-apart, two-piece stone sheaths) and cure light wounds potions, the stock is unreliable and can range from a small armory of enchanted daggers to pieces of furniture that speak whenever moved. Oddities with several powers (some hidden and some that will be exhausted after only a few uses) are the rule, and prices range from 600 gp to 200,000 gp, with average prices in the mid-thousands.
Most customers, however, come for advice. For fees of 2,000 to 5,000 gp per attempt, depending on what she's being asked to do, how dangerous she thinks it is, and her opinion of the client (Mystra frowns on magic-hoarders or wizard- and sorcerer-slayers), Lady Shadowdark will try to discern the nature or properties of magic items or enchantments.
Thelbaerone Shadowdark is a grouchy old crone possessed of a strong chin, a beaklike nose, a balding head (surrounded by a halo of glossy white hair) and a direct, commanding, emerald-eyed gaze. Some who've met her in dim surroundings, like the interior of the shop in which she lives, swear that her green eyes glow in the darkness like tiny, angry lamps. Those who fear or dislike her call her "the Old Vulture."
She's operated the House for over forty years, and Daerlunian elders can recall her dwelling there for at least twenty years before that. Most folk avoid her, and if they've met her at all term her a "formidable woman" for her short temper, fearlessness, and snap-voiced manner. Most vaguely remember hearing that she was a real beauty in her days, one who had daring adventures of some sort.
Human Wiz10: CR 10; HD 10d4 hp 28; Init +2, Spd 30 ft., AC 15, Atk +5 melee (1d4/19-20 crit x2, dagger) AL NG SV Fort +4, Ref +6, Will +11; Str 10, Dex 14, Con 11, Int 18, Wis 17, Cha 16.
Skills: Craft (alchemy) +17, Appraise +10, Concentration +15, Hide +8, Knowledge (arcana) +17, Listen +8, Spellcraft +18.
Feats: Brew Potion, Craft Wand, Craft Wondrous Item, Scribe Scroll, Silent Spell, Still Spell, Skill Focus (Concentration), Skill Focus (Spellcraft).
Possessions: Quarterstaff, two masterwork daggers, scroll of fireball (10th-level caster), scroll of flesh to stone, scroll of teleport, potion of haste +1, cloak of resistance, +1 ring of protection, ring of spell storing, wand of lightning bolt (28 charges), wand of magic missile (34 charges), +2 bracers of armor.
Thelbaerone has access to many more magic items, but she always wears a ring of spell storing that contains teleport and wall of force. She uses this for personal defense but has been known to teleport clients along to specific destinations for a fee (typically 500 gp). Thelbaerone keeps a fully charged duplicate of the ring in the hollow heel of her left boot; her other boot contains 10 gp.
- 0-level: arcane mark, detect magic, mage hand, read magic
- 1st-level: detect undead, magic missile, message, reduce, sleep
- 2nd-level: alter self, continual flame, invisibility, levitate, web
- 3rd level: haste, fireball, fly, lightning bolt
- 4th-level: charm monster, dimension door, ice storm, polymorph
- 5th-level: hold monster, teleport
Thelbaerone has access to a large library of spellbooks and can study and cast almost any spell of 5th level or lower that can be found in the Player's Handbook. Most of the spellbooks can be found on bookshelves out of view of customers, but several are hidden in secret compartments or disguised by magic.
The city's pronounced "Dare-LOON," by the way. The most important warning or secret I can pass on about Shadowdark House is this: to further her own mysterious aims, Mystra often works through Thelbaerone (a divine whimsy that the Lady Shadowdark knows about, but has no control over, and won't willingly discuss) to grant extra charges, or to confer on an item additional, new powers it has never before possessed. These are often revealed only much later, when conditions desired by the Lady of Mysteries are met.
Oh, and don't try poisoning Thelbaerone or unleashing monsters in her shop: Mystra's anger will be swift. Tricking Lady Shadowdark, now that's considered fair fun.
Visitors should beware of reading aloud any words they see etched into door- and window-frames anywhere in Shadowdark House. Many, if uttered, trigger spells already cast but held in abeyance by other magics, waiting indefinitely between casting and taking effect.
Most "waiting" spells are defenses placed on the shop, but others teleport those speaking them to distant locations in Faerûn, open portals to unknown places, or put utterers in either mental or audible communication with unseen beings of magical power for hours or days; strange voices will mutter out of the empty air beside a shop-visitor's shoulder, or inside his head, saying cryptic and often alarming things. Other words instantly confer temporary "face masks" of illusory magic onto their utterers, altering their apparent age, race, or gender.
Helping wizards and sorcerers master spells is usually simple for Thelbaerone Shadowdark. Lady Shadowdark has a useful teaching power. She can send to the mind of any being touching her a mental picture of a still image or an animated scene from her own mind. Either message lasts only a few seconds, long enough to show one action or the gestures for a single spell. With the help of this ability, she instructs wizards and sorcerers. She identifies faults or omissions in their scrolls or incantations, then either suggests how they should experiment or research to correct the magic or else sells them a complete, correct scroll of the desired spell, at market price. Suggestions cost at least 25 gp but usually twice as much, and the price is 100 gp or more for help with spells of 6th level or higher.