Small Presses of Waterdeep, Part Three
II: Titles of Note, Part Two
By Ed Greenwood
Our roster of notable chapbooks continues:
That Old Cask: A Drinker's Tales
That Old Cask: A Drinker's Tales is a compendium of colorful but simply told yarns, all of the "I was told this good story of Waterdeep in a tavern" sort. Most are clever little tales of revenge, farce, or strange gods-fated happenstance and are entertaining rather than moralistic or useful. It is a standard book in Waterdhavian households, where many old folk read it aloud to younglings around the evening fire or low-lamp.
Format: 28 pages, bound in black with copper corners; a copper-painted metal cask badge is claw-stamped into the center of the front cover (the corners go green very swiftly, and it's rare indeed to find a cask badge with any paint left on it).
Typical Resale Price: 4 gp.
Sample Passage: But the miller was not quite ready to give up on his gold just yet. Down he came a-creeping, with three stout friends and all of them bearing cudgels, too, to where the proud knight lay sleeping, and they set upon him like thrashers in a hurry to be done before a windstorm, flailing with their cudgels until blood flew like raindrops and cracks and splinters beset the wood that had bludgeoningly served them for lo these years. . . .
The Exploits of Roral Readysword, Knight-Adventurer
This chapbook tells a grand, stirring tale of rollicking derring-do in light, arch prose, of the seemingly endless rescues, fights, pranks, and monster-slayings practiced by the smilingly empty-headed hero Roral (pronounced "ROAR-all"). Set in an imaginary landscape of always summer where roads wind through lush farms and deep forests populated by endless bad barons and sinister always-helmed knights (and by legions of beautiful damsels who lie fetchingly bound and oppressed by aforementioned barons and knights), this sprawling tale of bold action after daring escapade strays neither into foul language, bawdy description, nor truly frightening description, and reading it can lift spirits.
Format: 36 pages, bound in red, with covers embossed with a large "RR" (most editions).
Typical Resale Price: 4 gp.
Sample Passage: But Roral came down then upon him like a child upon hot tarts. Zish went his bright blade, and zlosh, and at each stroke gore gouted like wine and evil men cried out as they perished, until all the guards lay fallen and Roral faced his foe alone. And then the bold knight drew his dagger sharp, and then he let it go -- and then the air itself screamed loud, a-sliced both high and low! The Baron of the Black Jaws darted he to the left and then to the right, belly and mustaches bobbing wildly, as Roral's sword and hurled dagger sought his vitals. . . .
The Ramath Saga
The long-running series called the Ramath Saga deserves special mention. Although it never achieves the splendid tone and humor of the Roral tome, it has been the daily reading fare of men of action -- and the vastly greater ranks of men who idly dream of being men of action -- for two decades. Greater numbers of these chapbooks have been sold than any other series, perhaps because readers of romances have more to choose from. Ramath is a grim, darkly handsome hero who calmly and tersely handles all perils in stride, never seeming to change in character from one book to the next. All of the anonymously-penned Ramath books are dreadfully written, but those listed hereafter contain such striking tales that they remain popular while the others are now largely forgotten.
Format: (most volumes) 22 pages, bound in crimson with a diagonal silver stripe emblazoned in black: Ramath.
Typical Resale Price: 3 gp (for titles listed hereafter; 3 to 6 sp for other Ramath titles).
Sample Passage: The dark figure laughed coldly, but Ramath strode forward undaunted, the sword that had slain seven sorcerers in his hand. When he was but a pace away, the cowl facing him grew empty and fell to the stones in a heap, and his foe was not any longer there. Ramath turned as swift as any serpent, questing alertly in all directions for the peril he knew to yet be assailing him. . . .
The valued volumes include the following:
- Ramath the Rake, Volume the First: Young Ramath
- Ramath the Rake, Volume the Twelfth: Slaying Six Kings
- Ramath the Rake, Volume the Sixteenth: The Skull Beneath the Crown
- Ramath the Rake, Volume the Twentieth: Reigning Over Three Empires
- Ramath the Rake, Volume the Thirtieth: Castles Burning
- Ramath the Rake, Volume the Thirty-Second and Last: Ramath's Waiting Grave
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