Life with your adoptive parents wasn’t really a “childhood.” More like “indentured servitude.” All day long you would muck stalls, mend fences, and pluck chickens. Every evening you would sweat by the firepit turning the meat spit, relieved only occasionally when your father would tell you to go “fishing,” which meant you were to attempt to lift coins from the purses of the inn’s patrons. This you hated worst of all, because you were never very good at it, and anytime you were caught your father would pretend to be incensed that the “help” was stealing from his guests and give you a public beating to mollify the mark. Your parents treated the dogs better than they treated you, and this was your life for years.
Not that you had never tried to run away. You had, but you’d quickly discovered that your parents had purchased insurance on their investment–at some point in your early years, they’d had a tracking spell laid upon you, and no matter where you ran you would inevitably be found out, dragged back home, and beaten again. After a while, you stopped trying.
Until Avarice showed up.
With her alabaster skin and chiseled features, the tiefling looked like a statue of some demon or goddess from the temples in the far-off cities you’d heard travelers mention. She seemed utterly above all the sordid affairs transpiring at your parents’ inn. Your mother loathed her. Your father feared her. And you loved her for how petty she made them look.
Of course, it wasn’t long before your father came to the kitchen with a special fishing expedition for you. Whether he was looking to profit from the tiefling or simply humiliate her you didn’t know, but your father insisted that you steal the little leather-bound book Avarice carried with her at all times. More afraid than you’d ever been, you slunk into the common room, edged your way over to the tiefling, and reached for her bag.
Inches from the book, your hand was arrested by her sudden grasp, and the tiefling’s face, usually so cold and impassive, now rippled dangerously with anger. “Not if you value your life,” she hissed behind her teeth. You cringed, wondering whether retribution would come from your father, or from her. But then Avarice’s countenance smoothed, and she released your arm. “You’re better than this,” she said quietly, and by “this” you knew she didn’t just mean pocket theft, but everything about this life. “Why don’t you leave this place? Come with me to Luskan. There is always opportunity there for those willing to seize it.”
Your face fell at her question, and the answer came unbidden to your lips. “I can’t.” In that moment, you hated your parents and your life, such as it was, more than you ever had.
Avarice reached beneath her tunic and pulled out a small pendant shaped like a black sword, strung upon a leather thong. She pressed it in your sweating palm, and you remember how cool it felt to your touch. “When you are ready,” she whispered, “press this to your lips and tell it your heart’s deepest desire.”
With that, Avarice stood abruptly, startling your father, who was striding across the room with a curse and a fisticuff ready for his larcenous kitchen help. “I no longer require your accommodations,” she told him, and the words seemed to hit him like a slap. “You may send my bill to the Hosttower of the Arcane. I will be sure to tell them how well you treat your guests.”
As your father blanched and backpedaled into the kitchen, his anger momentarily forgotten, the tiefling turned and looked down at you once more. “Find me in Luskan,” she said. And with that, she left.
Of course, your father’s abashedness left as swiftly as the tiefling’s horse, and his wrath at you was the worse for it. The beating he gave you had you in bed for three days after, and by that time your chores had piled up such that the next tenday passed in a delirium of exhaustion. It wasn’t until after another beating a month later that you finally resolved to test the sword pendant’s power. Crouched in the stall where you slept, peering longingly out at the moonlit forest, you pressed the cool, black metal to your lips and whispered your heart’s desire.
“I wish I could leave this place, and never come back.”
Suddenly, the chill of the night breeze blew across your back. You were no longer in the stable. The black silhouettes of trees rose around you, and there, a little ways off at the edge of the wood, you could see the glowing windows of your parents’ inn. Fear at what you had just done thrilled through your veins, and hesitating only a moment, you turned and ran.
Every minute you expected to hear your father’s curses echoing in the woods behind you, but the minutes became hours, and eventually the hours stretched into days. When twelve days later you arrived barefoot and hungry at the gates of Waterdeep, you realized you had done it. You had left home, and you were never going back.
Upon entry to Waterdeep, you were taken in by the charity of the church of Helm. Young, strong, and eager to make something of yourself, you were quickly inducted into the knightly orders, sponsored by a warrior-priest named Bishop. When, months later, Bishop accepted an assignment to the far north to investigate the darkness that had purportedly fallen over Icewind Dale, you also applied for the assignment, eager to help others as both the tiefling and the church of Helm had helped you.
Since then, you and Bishop have traveled together. You’ve told him only a little of your life before coming to Waterdeep, and nothing about how you escaped your parents’ bondage. When your travels brought you to Luskan’s doorstep, you had hoped to perhaps seek out Avarice to thank her properly, but Bishop insisted that “there is nothing for righteous souls in Luskan that is worth the finding,” and with your orders bidding you to make all haste for Icewind Dale you gave up the thought and continued on your way.
You still carry the black sword pendant, wearing it close to your skin where you can feel its cool, reassuring presence. You have only used its power a few times in your travels, for it leaves you feeling ill at ease afterward, but its powers of escape are undeniably useful. You’ve never shown the pendant to anyone else, as it feels like a secret between you and the alabaster tiefling. Perhaps someday, you think, you’ll see her again.
Black Sword Pendant
Wondrous item, rare (requires attunement)
The bearer of this pendant is under the constant effect of a nondetection spell. In addition, while you are attuned to the pendant, you can speak a command word as a bonus action to cast misty step. Once you have used this power, you can’t use it again until you have completed a long rest.