This may have been our—or at least my—darkest day yet. It’s not even noon and I’ve lost my best friend, almost died, and done things I’m not proud of. I’ve behaved rashly and impatiently, and I may have betrayed my Circle, and set in motion its revelation and destruction at the hand of the Harpers.
All this to save a city. A godsdamned city. I know when my friends look around Waterdeep, they see the City of Splendors. Or the home of their childhood. Or a place for fellowship with their fellow man. Or a city of opportunity, a place to make money.
I see none of those things. I see animals bred for docility and stupidity so they can be slaughtered without honor. I see trees felled before their time. I people leaving in squalor, out of tune with nature. I see corruption and oppression. I see the upset in the balance.
This is what I’ve decided to save. Bravo, Carric. Really. Bra-godsdamned-O.
I knew my friends would be upset when I told them the truth about Ophilin—which I’ve known for 2 days—and the Blackstaff and Clara’s Uncle, which I’ve known for only a few hours.
I wish I could’ve explained myself better.
I wish I could’ve better explained to these impatient, short-lived people the value of the long game. The need, sometimes, to hide what you know, to wait until the right opportunity. To meet challenges sideways, instead of head on. To not strike until you know the moment is right, even if that has consequences, even if people die. Because the consequences of the head-on approach are almost always more severe, particularly when your opponent is more knowledgeable, organized, and powerful than you.
I can’t expect them to understand, I suppose. They’ve never had to maintain a cover for very long. I’ve had to live as other people, allowing things I hate to transpire for years, because my Circle’s goals required it.
Here’s what I told them, although in not so many words. When I first discovered Ophilin was involved with the common alliance, I assumed he was working to help the green roots gain power wihtin the movement, that he was hoping to find a way as peacefully as possible to return the city of splendors to harmony with nature. To that end, I agreed with him to convince you to help.
Then I discovered what Ophilin really planned: He wanted to destroy Waterdeep. When he first told me, I didn’t take him seriously. I agreed with him, and agreed to help, but it was such a pipe dream, I thought the worst that would happen is a rioting, some chaos in the city, maybe. After all, no one has wiped a city off the map before. Raise an army and kill a bunch of people? Sure. But destroy everything? All the buildings, the animals, the people, the books? Wipe it out and start again? I’ve never heard of anyone seriously attempting such a thing. I know Ophilin is tired of what he calls “failing slowly to keep the balance.” I thought he was just ranting.
But no. He wants to, in his words “wipe Waterdeep off the map,” and he doesn’t care how many people he kills to do it.
And what’s more, I think— no, I know, now— that he can succeed. And I know that because of what I learned last night, which is that Ophilin and Clara’s Uncle conspired to kill the Blackstaff, and as far as anyone knows, they have succeeded.
What’s more, Ophilin had a list of tasks he wanted me to do. He wanted me to:
- Convert Clara to our cause
- Return the stolen piece of paper to Lord Arundel
- Deceive the group into thinking the Open Lord is connected to the Black Staff’s disappearance
- Figure out ways to continue to eliminate the Harpers
- Encourage Ges’s work at the docks (as it is a “distraction”)
- Cause as much chaos as possible
Val was unbelievably upset with me. I can understand it, even if it stung. He’s a good person. He believes in being straightforward and honest, in achieving good by doing the right thing.
But what has doing the right thing or taking the straightforward approach gotten us? I wish I could get everyone to understand this, the value, particularly when you don’t have power, of doing what is necessary instead of what is right.
After all, it was only through going slantwise and not caring about “right” that I found out what’s planned for Waterdeep. It’s only through doing this that I found out what’s happened to the Blackstaff, what’s happening to the Harpers, what the real story behind the Common Alliance is. It’s only through doing this that I’ve been able to protect my friends from Ophilin, convincing him that they can be persuaded to go along with the destruction of Waterdeep so he won’t try to eliminate them.
I did this, me, alone, by myself, while the Harpers sat around congratulating themselves on how great they are, somehow blind to the fact that they’re being picked off, slowly, one by one. And it’s only by continuing to work the way I do, and by keeping my betrayal of Ophilin secret, that I’ll find out the details of what’s coming next.
Yet, instead, perhaps out of anger with me, Xavi and Val seem determined to tell as many people as possible—including people who might be Ophilin’s spies—about his plans. Which means every time I go to see Ophilin from now on, I am taking my life in my hands.
Yet still I will go. Because it is necessary that I do so. There’s too much at stake to worry about myself. I am not afraid to die.
Our eventual decision was for Xavi and Val to go to Blackstaff tower while the rest of us inspected the scene at the docks and tried to knock off the considerable amount of gold they have stored at the makeshift police station. This has four important benefits: helping the dockworkers strike—we’ll need a peaceful alternative to Ophilin’s madness, and Ges plan for a workers’ union is a good one—helping to maintain my cover, helping to further the story that Clara is coming around to Ophilin’s point of view, and raising some much needed funds for our efforts. Who knows whom we’ll need to bribe, what supplies or artifacts or information we might need to buy? Ophilin has spent ten years planning. We’ve been here for four days. The four longest days of my two hundred fifty years on this Earth.
I don’t want to write about what came next. It breaks my heart. It turns out that somehow Val was able to pierce the magical cloak of shadows that enveloped Clara and myself as we went about framing Softshade last night. I underestimated him, both in his abilities and his distrust of me.
When he confronted me, I told him everything. How I had snuck into a healer’s house to procure a dead body, found a man on the edge of death and eased his pain, and then used the body to frame Softshade. The eventual goal seemed like a good one: create a problem for Softshade. Solve the problem. Have her be indebted to us. Leverage that for information about her clients. Use that information to expand our influence amongst the nobles. It’s a classic move for those of us who work in the shadows, it’s been effective before.
I would learn later that it didn’t work out as planned. Yorienne simply left town to return to “the Farm,” which is some Harper getaway somewhere. I wasn’t there, having left to go meet Ophilin and Lord Arundel, which is when I learned about the Blackstaff. Even though our plan didn’t work out how we wanted, it had the surprise benefit of endearing both Lord Arundel and Ophilin to Clara and myself, and the request that I recruit her to help Ophilin’s cause.
Val was furious, as I harmed an innocent and framed another, and he accused me of breaking a solemn vow. He is misremembering our conversation. I said that I don’t like killing people unless it is necessary and that our definitions of necessary might vary. Our argument was about whether it is okay to kill people over political disagreements. I said no because killing over politics is an absurd, frivolous waste of life. I never swore a vow. I abide by my vows. Which is why I’m very careful as to when I make them.
I was so flustered by being discovered and by his anger that I was at a loss for words. But I doubt this explanation would’ve changed anything. I’m sure he would’ve told me I was being lawyerly, and it was yet more evidence that he can’t trust me.
I tried to explain myself to Val, but my words came out like old porridge. I tried to explain that I respected him, that I understood his goodness, that I thought we needed it, but that I needed him to respect me. To understand me. That I am an instrument of nature, and that nature is not good, or evil, it just is.
Honestly, I think I was more articulate as a dancing bear last night.
It seems that nothing I’ve done can outweigh what Val sees as a series of betrayals. The significant gains in intelligence about the Common Alliance, the Blackstaff, Ophilin and Lord Arundel, keeping Val’s secrets, protecting his life, our wanderings here with Xavi, none of it matters. Our bond is sundered, our oath is void, our friendship is over. I don’t see a way back from this.
In my anger, I called Val a child, and told him he was acting childishly. I don’t think that helped matters. I was just so angry. This morning I decided to do the right thing, betraying the confidence of a sworn brother of my Circle, perhaps setting in motion my own excommunication or death. And all it got me was the hatred of one of the few people I could call friend still living.
The truth is, we need each other, all of us. We are the only thing Ophilin didn’t plan for, and it’s only by working together that we’ll be able to stop him. We don’t know all the details of his plan, we don’t know the centuries-old factional intricacies of Waterdeep, we are at a distinct disadvantage in terms of numbers. We must stick together and we must be willing to work from the shadows, if we’re going to accomplish anything. What’s the life of one almost-dead plague victim up against the million of Waterdeep?
In addition, I must contact my Circle. They must know what Ophilin is up to, I must get them to secretly exile him so that I can move formally against him, and they must bring their strength here. It will take four days to get a message there and back.
Before I can do any of that, however, I must enter my trance and recover. Our misadventure this morning nearly cost me my life, and I feel my connection to The Weave has weakened. We will need to be together, and at our full capacity, for tonight’s investigation of the crypts. That’s assuming Xavi and Val ever return.
I will know more and have more freedom to act in four days. If I survive that long. If we make it through this, then I hope the Oak Father is merciful enough to keep me away from these damnable cities for a few years.