Realms by Night: Part Seven
Kahla the Ghost of Heroes' Garden
Every ghost has a sad tale to tell, but figuring out how to communicate without getting attacked by them is always the hard part. What were the circumstances around their death, and what will it take to release their tortured spirit? Join designer Steven Schend as he reveals ghosts from Waterdeep, the City of Splendors.
by Steven E. Schend
Typical Location: Sea Ward, in and around the Heroes' Garden
On typical days and nights, the Heroes' Garden presents one of the most idyllic sites in the entire city in which to relax. However, no one can ever predict when one of a few ghosts materializes. The most active in terms of noise and notoriety is often known as the Deepwinter Ghost, the Child in the Bushes, or the Hostage of Heroes' Garden, though historians nailed down her name as Kahla, a child of seven winters at the time of her death in the Year of the Vigilant Fist (1259 DR).
Kahla manifests as a mischievous giggle and a pair of twinkling eyes staring out of a bush about 12 paces south-southwest from Lhestyn's statue in the garden. It rustles and shakes as Kahla's ghost invisibly skips across the distance to the edge of the pond 30 yards distant, her giggles trailing away from listeners unless they follow. Alert viewers have even seen the grass flatten beneath the ghostly child's feet as she skips to the pond's edge and another bush.
Most often, this bush near the pond becomes the place most associated with the ghost, as here she seems more active and frightening. The giggles continue, and a few ringlets of red hair can be seen along with the bright eyes through the bush. After a moment or two, there is an audible gasp and the eyes disappear with a corresponding rustle of the bush. While the actual words are inconclusive (as more than 100 authors have written different accounts of Kahla's words), it is obvious to any in earshot that this child ghost is scared but defiant. While disagreements abound on some muttered fearful words early on, the latter end is quite clear. A defiant child's voice rings out quickly with some small pauses. "You can't do that! Get away from me! Hey - that's mine! Give that back! Ow!"
Immediately after the last exclamation, the pond behind the bush (in a direct line of sight with the statue on the opposite shore of the pond, the Trades Ward hero Rann the Archer) splashes loudly, as if someone or something fell into it at the shoreline. The water splashes for a good minute, and sharp eyes make out spaces amid the splashes, as if two adult legs and arms were holding a small child under the water's edge. The splashing covers up any clear voices, but many claim they can hear a whisper of a man's voice desperately muttering "...the last one...no one left to fight...it's all mine..."
Kahla manifests like clockwork on the nights of the full moon year round, though most only notice her in Tarsakh. Her presence is simply most pronounced and partially visible during this time as a blurry image of a child with short red ringlets of hair and dimpled cheeks and a pale blue frock. Her attacker is never seen, though his hands are sometimes visible in shape if not details, as they hold her under the water. (Over the years, many have made claims of political assassination by claiming to have seen the crest of a noble house on a ring on the assassin's finger, though there are at least 40 different claims in as many decades.) The rest of the year, Kahla is at least a vocal ghost, the volume of her giggles and screams varying upon how close to Tarsakh it is (Marpenoth ghost hunters only detect slight whispers). Her splash in the pond becomes most pronounced in Tarsakh and it is at its weakest in Marpenoth, when it produces a splash akin to a small rock.
Kahla Deepwinter was hardly the last victim of the Guildwars that racked the City of Splendors after the death of Ahghairon, though she is one of the most active reminders of those events. Kahla was the youngest child of the since-destroyed Deepwinter clan, which formerly controlled the Guild of Silversmiths and Gilders at that time. Various sources conflict and are not entirely clear, but there seems some form of a plot formed between the then-powerful Guildmaster Yivvik Chourm of the Guild of Jewelers and the fourth son of House Deepwinter to claim the lordship and to merge their two guilds into one as a more powerful faction. Someone either was hired to do away with the other Deepwinters and their children, all who stood in Parnak Deepwinter's way, including Kahla, the youngest child of Parnak's twin sister Tasima.
Selchoun's Sundries and the six buildings to its east on Diamond Street and Staghunter's Way were all once part of the Deepwinter estate compound. To this day, Selchoun's holds the ghosts of some of the other Deepwinters, all slain there when the location held the family stables. They all manifest simply as wandering spots of cold or fear, which some times disturb customers enough to haggle for a discount for their troubles. Most often, the ghostly wanderings happen after store hours and bother few.
In relation, the final fates of the Guildmaster Chourm and Lord Parnak Deepwinter are anticlimactic. The two, who thought themselves quite crafty indeed, succeeded in forming a powerful coalition of guilds and nobles for about 14 months until they invited into their midst the Guildmaster Zoar. Details are sketchy of the activities, but within the scope of 10 months, Zoar had slain more than six rival or allied guildmasters and begun his march toward the rule of the Lords-Magister. Parnak died in a fire that consumed the Deepwinter villa with him and his henchmen barricaded inside. Chourm died while pilloried on the night of Leiruin (the tenth day of Tarsakh), the lackeys of Guildmaster Zoar drowning him in copper pieces heated to a nearly molten state. Still, neither of these men haunt the city to this day, though the screams and the smells of smoldering flesh and copper used to pollute one area of The Market for a few decades until exorcised more than a score of years ago.
Folks have learned at least one bit of lore or profit that makes this ghost's unnerving death scene worth watching. At least once a year, after the splashing dies down in the pond, items of some worth have been found deep within the mud at that very spot. Wotav the Curious was the most famous of treasure seekers, who claimed a pair of golden rings and a golden bracelet* of such quality (and marked with the nearly forgotten crest of the Deepwinters) that he sold them and bought himself a building on Sashtar Street. Others have found magical items or other curios, most commonly rings. However, what deters treasure hunters from these easy pickings is the fact that those who sought treasures and didn't find any all died of diseases within a year...
* Tamaera's Bracelet
The golden bracelet claimed by Wotav was an heirloom of the Deepwinter clan that prevented its wearer from all poisons.
After passing through more than a score of owners in seven decades, the bracelet found its way to a trader's cart in Calimport. Jamar al Kivars purchased the trinket for his favorite jhasina (courtesan) who wore it even after her escape from slavery. She fled north to Tethyr during its unrest and eventually found her way east to the newly independent Erlkazar. There she married and bore a son, the ranger Parak the Red, who wore the bracelet while on border patrols for the king. As Parak recently fell victim to a surprise ambush of hobgoblins in the Snowflake Mountains, the bracelet can be claimed by any who can find it and extricate it from its current hobgoblin owner . . .
Realms by Night Archive