Prologue

Sam crouched in the darkness, waiting for the patrol to pass. He had decided that tonight was the night. The night he was going to escape his servitude to the Shadow Orphans. The night he was going to leave the trade city of Scornubel and make his way toward Neverwinter.

He had been hearing rumors for weeks about the plan to rebuild that city, and he wanted to be a part of that plan. It had to be better than here. The problem was, Neverwinter was five hundred or more leagues from Scornubel, across some of the most hostile and wild lands Faerûn had to offer. And he was a lone little man, the size of an average twelve-year-old. He might be able to use that to his advantage, he knew. He would just have to be careful who he allied himself with.

The patrol passed, and Sam scurried out of the corner he had crouched in. Shadowing the patrol for several blocks, he veered down another alleyway and climbed a drain spout onto a mostly flat tiled roof. Careful not to loosen any tiles, the little man scampered across the rooftop, running, jumping, adjusting his balance as the surface he traveled across shifted in height and texture. It was a route he had journeyed a hundred times before.

Halting to catch his breath in the shadow of a seedy tavern’s chimney, Sam listened to softly spoken words wafting up the stack with the smoke. Cautious and secretive, the conversation gave him pause, as the acoustics worked in his favor.

“… but The Traveler di’na say that…exactly. He said jus’ tha’ they be called ‘Nashers’ in mem’ry o’ Nasher Alagondar who was ruler of Neverwinter’s golden age. They be fightin’ for the little people from the shadows… fightin’ against The Pretender, Lord Neverember.”

“Balls of a Bullock!” another voice exclaimed, “I heard him me-self! He be lookin’ fer recruits from the Orphans ta fill this Nasher gangs ranks. Me take is, they be takin’ a royal whippin’ from Neverember, now needs fresh blood to stiffen the spine of the rank and file. They needs more fresh blood ta spill, fightin’ a top dog army o’ real soldiers. Gots’ta fill their ranks with back alley footpads, gamers’ den leg breakers, an’ cloaked assassins with garrote and dagger! Yer better off buyin’ that bridge old Tolbert tries to sell when he’s in his cups and outta coin.”

“So… is Boss Boy sendin’ a Shadow Orphan crew all that way?” The third voice was youthful, female, and sounded frightened at the prospect.

“The Boss an’ Rat be talkin’ in the den now,” responded the first voice. “I would’na care ta make a guess, one way or…, anyway, if they send a crew, it will be a change from this old hole of a sewer. That can’t be a bad thing. Can it?”

Sam caught a rattle of armor and shields at the door, and soft scamper of feet away from the fireplace below. Almost immediately, he heard the loud, cheerful voices of a guard patrol calling for drinks. The rear door to the tavern squeaked as it opened, and the talkative Orphans made their escape into the night. Sam continued on his way, now armed with a bit more information, and a bit more wariness about who… and what… he might be sharing his trail with. Once in Neverwinter, he’d have to choose his alliances very, very carefully indeed.