Ciceros Skullduggary Page

The Guild house for the Guild of Brewers and Vintners was a large and imposing structure. It size and eminence reflected the importance that the people of Waterdeep attached to the art of producing beverages of an alcoholic nature. In the Grand hall the weekly guild meeting was winding down and the 5 Masters of the Trade that made up the Guilds Council were enjoying a Vintage Brandy before retiring for the night. Loud masculine laughter could be heard echoing around the large chamber. It was almost tradition that once important guild business was dealt with meetings always turned to laughter, gossip, and political maneuvering.

As the hour grew late the esteemed council members began to say their goodbyes and leave. Finally only the elderly guild master, Razzar Slissin, remained. As was his habit he dismissed the remaining few servants and walked around the Guild Hall checking doors and windows and shuttering the continual light Lanterns. A Widower, Razzar had lived in the Guild Masters quarters since the death of his wife 20 years before. This was despite being immensely wealthy and owning the 3 largest Breweries and distilleries in the city.

After checking the building he retired to his chambers. His room was lit by the dancing lights of the fire set in the large fireplace. His servants knew to have the fire blazing before they left and to have a glass of Milk waiting beside the large chair that stood next to it. However on this night there was already someone in the chair.

Although elderly, the Razzar was not one to show that he was intimidated. “an uninvited guest!” he exclaimed “ to what do I owe this honour?
When no response was forthcoming he added “I think this situation calls for a drink, he walked unhurriedly towards the large ornate drinks cabinet “would you care for one?” he asked over his shoulder.
The shadowy figure remained silent, his hooded face following the old man as he strode to the bar and poured two glasses from a decanter. As he put the decanter back down on the bar he triggered a hidden pressure plate. With a hiss two sliding secret doors opened. Two large stone Gollums within were supposed to lurch forward and attack anyone not the Guild Master. Instead there was only silence. It was soon clearly obvious that there were only two neat piles of rubble in the alcoves.

Razzar glanced nervously from the silent figure to the piles of rubble. He quaffed the drink in his hand and in a now slightly shaky voice said “who are you? what do you want?” The figure in the chair laughed gently at the old man’s discomfort. “I have come with an offer for you” he said.
“And what would that be” said Razzar. “It’s quite simple really” replied the hooded man ”we use the guilds stranglehold on alcohol production to force all the taverns to sell controlling interests to us and then we sit back and become very very rich”.
The old man was so outraged that he forgot his fear and shouted “NEVER!” visibly calming himself he continued in a quiet voice “who exactly do you think we are you scoundrel, we are an ancient and proud organisation, why would we lower ourselves to such base thuggery”
The shadowed figure chuckled and said” I knew that is what you would say” he got up from the chair and started slowly towards Razzar” The Old man backed away until he was pressed against the bar. He pulled the dagger from his belt.

As he walked into the light the visitor reached up and lowered his hood. The Guild Master gasped in shock as he saw his own face revealed. His own voice suddenly sprang from the mirror image “I knew you would say that. Which is why we poisoned that drink”
Razzar gasped in horror as he realised what his duplicate had said was true. His vision began to dim and felt himself fall to the ground. He was still alive as he was stuffed in a Barrel and rolled from the back of the building, but he was dead by the time the pigs began to feast.

PART TWO

Roberto Beurmeister had been a member of the Guild for his entire life. He started working for his Grandfather as a vat worker at age 9 he had spent 25 years slowly working his way through the ranks. By age 30 he was the youngest full member of the Guild in almost 200 years. And here he was destined to stay for at least the next 20 years. For it was unheard of for one so young to ascend to the Guild Council.
That was until his parents had been killed in what authorities described as random bandit activity. On a trip to their Cormyran holdings a large group of bandits had wiped their caravan leaving no survivors
The death of his parents had thrown him into a position of responsibility much earlier than was the norm. His father had been on the Guild council for only a few short years after the death of Roberto’s grandfather. His parent’s death had created a conundrum for the council. Given the size of the family holdings and Roberto’s obvious talent he was the obvious replacement for his father, but it had galled the Council members to have one so young sit among them.

In the end it had been politics that had decided it. Roberto was considered too young to be taken seriously and so was considered far less of a threat than some of the more esteemed Guild members jockeying for a seat on the council. So he sat, week after week. Politely listened to at the Council meetings, but equally politely ignored and routinely overruled by the other 4 Council members and the cantankerous old Guild master.
However in recent weeks Roberto had the unsettling impression that Guild Master was actually listening to him. On several occasions when he had been advocating a more modern business orientated approach to Guild management he could have sworn he caught him nodding slightly. Clearly it was just his imagination because he always led the chorus of disapproving admonishments that his ideas were usually met with, and he never failed to vote him down on every single occasion.

One morning a messenger arrived at his door. He bore a note that simply read “

Tonight at Midnight, Guild hall, tell no one.
I will know if you do,
GM”

Mystified as to what this could be about Roberto none the less made excuses to his wife about a Warehouse emergency and arrived at the Guild house just before midnight.

As he approached, the great building seemed shrouded in darkness. Once through the imposing front doors he could make out a light coming from the second floor landing upon which The Guild Master kept his quarters. Feeling a little unnerved he made his way up the great stairs until he stood before the large door. As he was about to knock a voice called. “Oh do come in Roberto” He entered. There sitting in his large comfortable chair in front of a roaring fire was Guild master Slissin. “Help yourself to some wine dear boy, and come sit with me” said the old man gesturing to the empty chair on the other side of the fire. After Roberto did as he was bid. The old man said “Thank you for coming Roberto and apologies for the cloak and dagger nature of the invitation. I have matters to discuss with you that I could not raise at the Council meetings. I have grown to believe that you are right, that the way forward for the guild is to take a more Business orientated approach. And with that in mind I have a proposal for you”
Roberto was stunned. “Guild Master” he said “this is most unexpected….”

The old man held up a hand and gestured for him to stop “wait until you hear what I have to say before you say anything “he said” Firstly I have done a bit of digging around your activities and I think you should know that I know all about you hiring those assassins to kill your parents”
Roberto was too stunned to speak. How could he know that! In that instant he saw his future turning to ash before his eyes. The silence began to draw out as Roberto struggled to pull himself together. Finally in desperation he drew his dagger and lunged at the old man. Before he could even leave his seat a hand grasped his shoulder and wrist and held him in place. A grey Dwarf stood beside him grinning. His vice like grip not yielding an inch no matter how much Roberto struggled.

“Please” said Razzar “there is no need for unpleasantness, we are not here to judge you. On the contrary we find your ambition refreshing”
Still suspicious but realising that resistance was futile Roberto dropped the dagger; the grey dwarf picked it up and held it up for Roberto to look at “try anything else and I will make you eat this” he said in a voice full of gravel and malice that left Roberto in no doubt that he would do exactly as he said.
“So to continue” said Razzar “we want to make the guild a power to be reckoned with, and we need your help to do that. In return we will make you very very rich”

Roberto rubbed his sore wrist and said “go on, I am listening”

“It is a simple plan really” continued Razzar “the guild has a stranglehold on production of alcohol within the city of Waterdeep. We make a healthy profit selling our wares to an appreciative public. What I am proposing is that we take a bigger slice of the profit. We use our supply monopoly to force Taverns to sell us a share of their business and a share of their profits. In return we give them a more profitable product at a cheaper price. We sell more, they sell more and we skim more profit off of both transactions”
As the plan unfolded Roberto’s mind began to race with audacious potential of the plan. His mind filled with questions “This kind of thing would require the council to unanimously agree and for a majority of the entire guild to vote in favour. That would simply never happen. They are too bound by tradition

The old man laughed “the same thing had occurred to me” He gestured to the grey Dwarf “Mr T my good dwarf, would you be so kind as to fetch our other guests” Thraim gave a grunt and a short ironic bow” and said in a gravelly voice dripping with sarcasm “oh of course Guild Master”
“In answer to your question” continued the old man “we may well need to restructure the membership of the Guild. But human nature being what it is I am sure there are many amongst them that are not averse to making more money. In fact I am betting on you being just the man to tell me who we would be able to rely on”

The dwarf re-entered the chamber again and held the door open for two others. Roberto was stunned to see two of his fellow Council members Lady Rosseta and Stevio Brewerson. They both nodded to Roberto and then stood on either side of Razzars Chair. The lady Rosseta addressed him “oh don’t be so surprised young man; we are not as averse as you may think to making more money. Oh don’t get me wrong” she said with her trademark cackle “I was as surprised as you are that our stuffy old Guild Master could change his mind in such an interesting way. But stranger things are happening in these odd times”

“Exactly” said Razzar “Needless to say we all have our own reasons and secrets that we would prefer to remain private” Both the Lady and Stevio seemed decidedly uncomfortable at this statement but Razzar continued as if he had not noticed “there is no need to dwell on such things when we are united by a single purpose and have so much to gain”

Roberto as excited and afraid as he could ever remember feeling went down on one knee before Razzar “Master I am your man in this enterprise, I swear by the gods that walk amongst us that I will do whatever you require”
Razzar stood and drew a sword that was hanging over the back of the chair. He slowly walked three paces towards the kneeling young man. In a blindingly quick movement before Roberto could react he brought the sword flashing up to rest against the side of his throat. Roberto could feel its sharpness and wondered how it was not drawing blood. “Razzar smiled at him with his best Grandfatherly smile “oh my dear boy” he said “you are swearing on more than the Gods. You are swearing on your life”

Suddenly the Grey Dwarf was standing beside him whispering in his ear ““not just your life laddie, the lives of your wife and little nibblers, and everyone who is even remotely Kin. Believe me when I say that bad luck will come to all ye kin if ye ever think of betray’n uz. Now you just look me in the eye and tell me it ain’t so” With that the grubby little dwarf casually pulled his head back moved closer and stared into his eyes. As Roberto looked at the dwarf in the eye he suddenly gasped and spluttered, he could almost see the unfortunate events evolving ahead of him. He went limp and began to nod his head in agreement. With a final pat on the cheek and malevolent wink the dwarf let the brewer go.
Then suddenly the sword and the Dwarf were gone and Razzar was helping him to his feet patting him on the back. Lady Rosseta handed him a glass of fine vintage wine. “To our success and the rich rewards that await us” toasted Razzar. The clink of glasses that followed seemed to Roberto to have the faint note of a Tomb clanging shut.

PART THREE

Razzar called the Full guild meeting of the Honorable Distillers and Brewers to Order. Banging his gavel repeatedly until finally silence descended. All fifty members were seated in the Great hall dressed in their guild finery abuzz with speculation. For whilst the Guild Council met on a 10-day basis the full guild gathering only happened once per Month and was a matter of some occasion. To be summoned to the guild hall in the middle of a month was an almost unheard of event.

Furthering the speculation was the fact that two of the council seats that sat before the grand Guild Masters Chair were empty, and the meeting had been declared closed to anyone but accredited Guild members.

When silence had descended the Elderly Guild Master, after a short pause, began to speak in a surprisingly loud and clear voice “As you all know, this meeting is closed and anything that is discussed is for the ears of Guild members only. Be assured that I am invoking the law of Silence, and anyone caught breaking this sacred trust will be stripped of membership and privileges and be banished from this esteemed company forever”
Utter silence greeted these grim words. All of those gathered knew what this would mean to those punished in such a harsh manner. Those blacklisted in such a way would be forever banned from practising their craft within the city of Waterdeep and so would have no choice but to leave. That the situation called for enacting such seldom used Guild laws spoke to the seriousness of the situation.
Razzar let this sink in. Then continued
“I have brought you here today to bring you grave tidings. You will have noticed that two of our council seats are empty. It greaves me to have to inform you that the eldest of our number the esteemed Counsellor Giuseppe was found dead in his bed yesterday morning”
This news was greeted with a rumble of muted conversation. The Grand Master paused to let the news sink in then raised his hand for silence.

When all had quietened he continued
“Would that this was all the evil tidings I had for you, but alas I also bring you news of black betrayal. Amongst Counsellor Giuseppe’s effects were found documents that implicated Counsellor Gerado in the embezzlement of vast amounts of Guild funds. The sum of 300 000 Gold was found to be missing. Almost the entire wealth of the guild”

With this the room exploded with angry shouts and accusations. Everyone was on their feet demanding an explanation. It took five minutes for Razzar to quieten things down enough to be able to speak again.
“I know my brothers and sisters that this has come as a great shock. For a trusted Brother Guild member, a council member no less, to betray us in such a manner is unspeakable. But not only is it true but it is not the entirety of the betrayal. For we are certain that councillor Giuseppe was murdered by the vile Gerado because he discovered that he had been stealing guild funds to pay for his secret double life of exorbitant gambling, loose exotic women and unwise investment. When we confronted him with these charges he fled, further proof of his guilt. And in a final and perhaps ultimate betrayal he was found a few hours ago dead by his own hand. Hanged to death in the basement of this very building. Thus ensuring that he escapes any restitution or vengeance that we might had enacted upon him”
There followed a stunned silence as this news was absorbed. Finally an angry muttering filled the room, someone cried out “how could this be allowed to happen”

Razzar again motioned for silence and continued “I cannot help but take some of the blame for the actions of this foul betrayer” This was met with cries of denial “No” and “You could not have known” For the Elderly Guild master was well loved and known to be scrupulously honest.
He continued “I thank you for your support my friends, but I am determined that the damage shall be repaired and that this never happens again. Speaking to the former I shall outline my plans to restore our lost wealth when they are more fully formed. As to the later I propose that we change Guild Law to allow a Neutral party to sit upon the Council to oversee all dealings and ensure that this never happens again”
Roberto stood and declared “I second this motion” Lady Rosetta and Stevio Brewerson also stood and added their approval. Cries of affirmation and support echoed around the great hall “YES!, NEVER AGAIN!” IT MUST BE DONE”

Razzar called for Silence again and then continued “I have already selected a citizen of great knowledge and integrity to fill this role. His name is Thraim, known as Thraim the True amongst his own people. He is a Dwarf from the distant east, from a race renowned for their skill with numbers and their integrity. It is widely known that it causes them actual physical pain if they lie. If you read the news sheets you will have heard of this upright citizen and his attempts to bring peace and stability back to the city. Please allow me to bring him before you”

General approval was indicated by applause and from the back of the Hall the Dwarf Thraim approached, resplendent in rich looking clothes, his bearing and stride exuding a sense of arrogance, confidence and power. He walked up the steps and stood beside Razzar.
“I be a simple Dwarf from a plain speaking and honest folk” he said in a loud gravelly voice. “I promise yee I will be the pickaxe that digs out the rot of corruption”
Someone cried out “I have heard foul rumors surround you, Dwarf!”

“LIES!” Bellowed the Dwarf his eyes afire with anger.

Before he could continue Razzar was on his feet, a calming hand upon the Dwarfs shoulder “Please” he said “let me address these foul allegations.
It is often the fate of those who do good to be the target of those of no morals or integrity. Mr Thraim played a pivotal role in defeating nests of Thieves, foul daemon worshipers, and a cult of Banite scum that had gained a foothold in our beautiful city. It is these foul elements who have spread the filthy lies you may have heard. But let me assure you they are all utter fabrications I declare that in my long life I have never met a truer more honest chap than this stalwart fellow”

The impassioned delivery from the mouth of their trusted Guild Master mesmerised the Guild Members. So much so that when the vote was called for, not a single vote was cast against the motion to elect Thraim to the Guild Council as Auditor General.
When the vote was done and Thraim was properly robed for his new position and seated in a councillor’s chair. Razzar spoke once more to close the meeting

“My esteemed colleagues” he said “Let us put the unfortunate events of the last few days behind us. Let us join together and face the challenges before us. Firstly we must somehow replace the esteemed Councillor Giuseppe, a difficult task to be sure. A nomination process will begin immediately after we assess the feelings of you all. Secondly we must somehow replace that which we have lost. I and my fellow council members will formulate a strategy and present it in 2 Tendays time at the next Full Guild Meeting. Remember that not a word of what has happened here must ever leave this room. I hereby declare this emergency Guild meeting closed”

The assembled members slowing filtered out leaving the 4 Council members and Guild Master alone. “I cannee believe that worked” muttered Thraim.
“That was the easy bit” said Razzar “First up we need to draw up a list of those who can be counted on. Use the pretense of interviewing for the new council position to weed out those we need to dispose of”
“And the money” said Roberto
Razzar threw Roberto, Lady Rosetta and Stevio a pouch each. “As promised 25000 in Diamonds to each of us. The rest will go to funding research of our new product. Remember this is just a taste of the wealth that awaits us. Now go, and remember you speak of this and you die”
After they had departed Thraim and the old Man sat by the fire. “So what’s our real cut” asked Thraim.
The old man laughed. A rich hearty youthful laugh that seemed wrong coming from one so old. “Why 50 000 GP my dear chap” he said in a rich and youthful voice that did not belong to the old man
“Only 50” asked Thraim his eyebrow raised “where’s the rest?
“Like I said “replied the Old man “it’s for research and development”

Part Four
The Guild Council of the most splendid Brewers and Distillers Guild sat around the grand table in the Guild Halls grandiose council chambers. The six ornate chalices of office sat before them on the table, although one of these sat before an empty chair. The Elderly Guild Master sat at head of the table, the other council members sat intently hanging on his every word. All that is except for the grey dwarf who sat hands on chest, feet on table, gently snoring.

“First order of business, selection of a new council member. We are down to two candidates. Firstly the Lady Isabella and secondly Augustine Smedly”
Lady Rosetta spoke up “Well I for one vote for Isabella. It would be a genuine please to have another woman in a position of power”
Stevio Brewerson snorted and replied “Nonsense that is the very last thing we need
Reberto retorted “Yes but that Smedly chap is an Ass-Hat of the first Water”
Guild Master held up and hand for silence to forestall further bickering and said “Apologies my friends, I did not mean to imply that this was actually a choice. The Lady Isabella will be our new council member for three very good reasons”.
“Mr Thraim and I interviewed the good lady just a few hours ago. Our little chat uncovered some very interesting facts. Firstly, she is a member of a rather evil cult. A fact that she is rather anxious to keep secret, least her families reputation be destroyed, secondly she is an extraordinarily gifted herbalist and alchemist, thirdly she is quite wonderfully greed and amoral. In other words she is absolutely perfect for our little enterprise. So shall we vote with a show of hands?”

The hands of all around the table were immediately raised….almost all. Thraim’s continued snoring announced his un-readiness to vote “oh for goodness sake” muttered Razzar “his feet are up and I know he approves of her breasts so we will take that assent shall we” the other council members readily agreed. “Motion Carried” intoned Razzar with a bang of his gavel.
“huh!? Wssserfrz “said Thraim startled awake “what I miss?”
“Nothing Lord Thraim, we just voted in Isabella” said Roberto
“Aye she’s a grand lass that one,” said Thraim admiringly “Great …….”
“Yes, I filled in the other council members on her talents” said Razzar interrupting. “Next Order of business: Councillor Beurmeister to give us a report on Miscreants Malcontents and those who might cause a problem

Roberto Stood cleared his throat and said “thank you my esteemed fellow Council members. During the selection process undertaken last week I interviewed all 44 our colleagues. As part of this I presented them with a number of hypothetical scenarios and asked them what their reactions would be. I also informed them that there would be a short test, made sure they saw where I put the answers, and then made an excuse and left the room.

The results were surprising. 35 of them gave answers in the scenarios that suggest little or no moral compass. Lying cheating, greed and general nastiness would characterise the answers. On the mock Test 32 of them cheated. Two of them actually asked for more time to copy the answers when I came back into the room. There seemed to be a direct correlation between word and deed. It would seem that the cut-throat nature of our craft and limited entry opportunities has created a guild that is ripe to undertake our enterprise”
“what of the others? growled Thraim “exactly how honest where they”
“Worryingly so” replied Roberto “I suspect they would be a barrier to the success of our venture”
“The answer is simple” said Razzar “They must be removed. They are a threat to us all”
“Yes I agree” said Councillor Stevio “we can replace them with more like minded candidates”

All the others indicated that they were in agreement, a vote was called for and carried unanimously.
“I propose that we invite all members to attend a meeting to further the creation of an ethics committee for the Guild. That should draw out all of those we are after”
“What then” asked Thraim “I canny sanction wanton violence and bloodshed”
“Why my dear Dwarf” drawled Razzar “There will be nothing of the sort, the Gods are with us. I am sure they will think of something”

Waterdeep Weekly Article
_Citizens of Waterdeep. If further evidence was needed that the Gods have deserted us then this was it. In yet another example of the very forces of nature turning against us twelve members of Ye most Esteemed Guild of Brewers and Distillers were yesterday killed when they fell to their deaths whilst attending a Guild Meeting. Witness report that the unfortunate victims were “hurled into the air like they were falling a great distance”, and “slammed most cruelly into the ceiling and then floor” Had it been a smaller room they probably would have lived. However the fifty feet to the Guild Halls Grand Hall ceiling proved fatal.

Similar incidents have been reported throughout the city and a number of prominent citizens have been killed. However this is the first case where the deaths have all occurred within as prominent an organisation as the Brewers Guild.
When asked to comment Razzar chose only to say “oh fate! thou hideous Bitch! Take the young maidens, innocent children and elderly, they are to be found everywhere. Why would thou take the Brewers when they are so rare and precious?”
Wise words indeed and a question we are sure will be oft repeated by drinkers in mourning throughout the city tonight.
In related news, applications for twelve guild memberships within the Most Esteemed Brewers and Distillers Guild have been announced. Applications are being accepted by Guild Council Auditor General, Thraim the True_.

Part Five

The Elderly Guild Master Razzar Slissin and noted Dwarf Thraim the True climbed down from the well-appointed carriage. They were greeted by finely dressed and rather sombre looking Butler “The lady Isabella is expecting you” he intoned, if you would be so kind as to follow me”.
He led them through the mansions giant doors and down a lengthy hallway with the Lady Isabella’s formidable looking ancestors frowning at them from dozens of paintings. Finally he showed them into a luxuriously appointed drawing room where the Lady waited for them.
She held out her hand to be properly kissed and received a polite kiss from the elderly Guild Master and a long lingeringly inappropriate one from the Grey dwarf. “My Lord Razzar, Auditor Thraim, welcome to my humble abode” she indicated for them to sit and motioned for a servant to pour them refreshments.

When the servant had departed Razzar said “If you don’t mind milady we will get right down to business”
The lady Isabella nodded her assent and Razzar continued “As promised you are now raised to the honourable and esteemed Council of the Guild of Vintners Brewers and Distillers”
“Why Guild Master” she said in mock surprise “how unexpected”
“Indeed” said Razzar with a wink “Have you had time enough to think on what we proposed”
“Yes” she said, suddenly serious and professional “You required an undetectable additive that could easily be added to a Barrel of Ale at some point during its production that would give it a Euphoric and addictive effect without being too obvious”
“Aye” said Thraim “that’s bang on lassie. Can you do it?”

Lady Isabella picked up a small container from the table next to her chair. “This gentleman” she said opening the small box and showing them the contents “is a seed from the Dragonfire Poppy. It is native to the distant land of Kara Tur and is extremely rare. When one crushes these seeds into a fine powder and then adds this powder to the Hops at the beginning of the Ale Brewing process, you will end up with an Ale that produces not only the normal alcoholic buzz but also an extremely pleasant Euphoria equal to being extremely happy. This effect will last for approximately 15 minutes after consumption and will impart the mild addiction that you are looking for. Whilst not physically addictive to any great degree the psychological effect of this substance will create an urge to imbibe more to maintain the Euphoria, until of course the effects of the alcohol eclipses the effect.
“Impressive” said Razzar “what do you calculate will be the increase in consumption before alcohol cancels out the effect?
“About 300% percent current levels” said Lady Isabella

“So if they keep buyin it till the alcohol builds up why dunne we just lower the alcohol?” asked Thraim
“Because as the alcoholic intoxication grows it completely obliterates any symptoms of our additive” replied Lady Isabella “nobody will suspect that there is anything going on except people drinking more in these difficult times. And that our Ale is exceptionally delicious of course”
“Perfect!” said Razzar it is better than we ever imagined”
“I do hate to pour cold water on your enthusiasm Guild Master” said Lady isabella “ but there is a problem. As I said these seeds are exceedingly rare. To gain access to them in sufficient quantities would be difficult even in Kara Tur. In Waterdeep, impossible”
“Ah my beautiful lassie” replied Thraim “that is just where you are wrong. If you would be so kind as to give me a few of those” he said indicating the Seeds.

The Lady Isabella did as she was bid and gingerly placed two of the tiny seeds in his outstretched hands. Thraim bowed his head and began to mumble in prayer. As he went on a light could be seen glowing from within his hands. With seconds of him finishing a steady stream of the seeds began to fall from between his fingers. The stream got larger and larger and became a rushing stream. For the next five minutes the stream continued to pour increasing in volume until Thraims hands were lost from sight underneath the torrent. Finally they stopped flowing leaving a pile that was taller than the dwarf and Lady Isabella on her feet, her mouth open in shocked astonishment.
“How often can you do that” she said breathlessly
“I reckon a pile that size every day” replied Thraim in a smug tone
The Lady Isabella reached down, clutched each side of the Dwarf’s face and kissed him deeply and passionately. The kiss went on so long that Razzar started to get uncomfortable.
Finally she released the slightly stunned Dwarf and said breathlessly “thanks to this wonderful little creature we are most certainly in business Guild Master”
Thraim, recovering enough to speak said “I don’t suppose yea would like to get a drink with me later would yee?”
Within a 10-day there was enough of the additive prepared to add to the next batches of Ale. The Guild members were supplied with a Barrel of Additive and tutored by Lady Isabella in exactly the amount to use per batch. The Guild Master instructed all members to quadruple the size of the next batch and despite some being dubious they did as they were told.
By the end of the month Hundreds upon hundreds of Barrels were leaving the Guild Breweries every day, headed for Taverns throughout the city. Painted upon every barrel was the slogan “GUILD ALE! VBDG: Except no imitations”

WATERDEEP WEEKLY
GUILD ALE WOWS
A new product from Waterdeeps own Guild Of Vintners, Brewer’s and Distillers has proved itself to be wildly popular. Usually an ordinary batch of Ale would take a good month to be consumed but new Guild Ale has completely sold out in a single Week.
Despite the huge increase in levels of drunkenness throughout the city, the city watch have reported a massive decrease in violent crime, aggressive behaviour and reported cases of alcohol related incidents.
When asked for comment new Guild spokesman and renowned person Edwardo Shakesword said “it’s the smooth taste and purity that makes drinkers too happy and content to start fights” he also noted that “it is the impurity in most alcoholic drinks that caused so much misery” and that “competitors were deliberately harming society by not supplying pure enough products”
Tavern owners all over the city were reportedly ecstatic, demanding to be supplied with more and more of the product. This reporter has tried some of this miraculous brew and can report that it sure does put a smile on your face.

Part Six

The Weeping Widow was an old Tavern. It was located in the Castle Ward in a quiet street and had been a fixture for close on 240 years. It had twice been destroyed by fire and rebuilt and had changed hands many times in its long history. Its current owner was an Ex Mercenary by the name of Gustaff Wrenstaff. A huge barrel chested man renowned for his skill with his Giant Warhammer Crusher! Though his huge bushy Red Beard was now shot through with Grey he was still renowned thoughout Waterdeep for his fiery temper and fearsome reputation in a fight.
It was approaching Midnight. It had been a particularly busy night and after throwing out the last drunks, Gustaff was wearily doing a final check of his Inn. Righting a Chair checking that all the doors and windows were locked before heading upstairs. He had just finished when he heard the door open and close. He turned around and no one was there. He walked over and checked the door and found it was open. Locking it and mumbling about losing his mind he headed back to the stairs only to find a strange figure standing before him. Dressed in faded and tatty nobleman’s clothes, a Rapier upon each hip. The figure wore a theatre mask locked in a terrible grimace like grin. He bowed deeply to the startled inn keeper ,
“Who in the name of Tempests great and heavy Balls are you” Bellowed Gustaff “ And what do you think you are doing breaking into me Inn”
“who I am is not important, Mighty warrior” said the figure in a silken cultured voice “what is important is the offer that I bring and whether you except it”

“What is this offer you speak of you freakish creature? Said Gustaff backing away from the strange figure towards where his Hammer Skull Crusher hung behind the bar.
“Why a chance for you to embrace the future and double your profits” said the stranger. “please, you don’t have to creep, by all means take up your mighty Hammer if it makes you feel more secure.

Gustaff reached over and took the weapon down from where it hung “you may regret your cockiness freak” he said seeming to grow in size with the hammer in his hands. “Never let it be said that Gustaff Wrenstaff did not repay a favour no matter how foolish. Make your offer but know that it had better be good or I will decorate these walls with your brains and use your fancy pig stickers for decorations”

The stranger nodded in acknowledgement and said “I am a representative of the Brewers Guild, I have come to offer you a choice. You are aware that we have a new brand of Ale that is wildly popular. You know how profitable this could be for you?”
“Aye” said Gustaff “I know of what you speak”
“Well here is the offer”continued the strange man “you will sign a contract with the Guilds management company that signs over a controlling interest in your Tavern , 51% to be exact”
Gustaff cut him off with laughter tinged with anger “Are you as insane as you look? Coming here at this hour with such an offer” he said tightening the grip on his hammer.
“And in return” said the stranger ignoring the interruption “we will double your profits. Of course If you refuse then we will black list you and put you out of business. That sounds fair doesn’t it?”

Furious at this threat Gustaff bellowed and swung his great Hammer at the stranger. The swing had all his strength in it and the two handed hammers arc began at his heels and ended directly on the stranger’s forehead. The Stranger made no effort to avoid the blow and took all the full brunt of its fury.
The impact was titanic. Gustaff was certain that he had killed the masked man, but was taken completely by surprise to find him standing as if nothing had happened. With a whisper and a gesture there were suddenly eight identical copies of the strange man arrayed around him. His voice seemed to come from all around. “Really, I am sorry. I tried to give you a way out with your honour intact but clearly you are not interested. If you do not sign the contract then you will not only go out of business. But afterwards I will murder you and your family in cold blood and make it look like you did it in a fit of depression. Or you double your profits, retire a rich man and die many years from now surrounded by your wealthy family. It’s your choice Gustaff”

The eight figures slowly circled the huge man and all drew their Rapiers with casual slowness. Gustaff stood with bowed shoulders as he realised that he was outmatched. The huge hammer fell from his hands with a loud clank. “Yea evil bastard” he muttered after a long pause he came to a decision and straightened “Where do I sign, he said in a resigned voice.
Afterwards Cicero walked from the Tavern with the signed document. He walked for a few blocks until he arrived at the place he had agreed to meet Thraim. He was already waiting for him in the shadows.
“How did ye get on” he enquired
“Chalk up another one” replied Cicero “that’s 60 so far isn’t it?
“I think it is closer to 70 counting the Inns and Taverns “replied Thraim.
“A good start, but we still have a ways to go” said Cicero “perhaps we should do one more each and then call it a night”
“Aye, Champion idea” said Thraim
With that they both disappeared into the night towards their next unfortunate victims

Ciceros Skullduggary Page

The Thieves of Waterdeep PaulHyman