The Harpers of Thain

We roam the lands of Thain, seeking mischief and upsetting the plans of the powerful and avaricious. We defend the common folk from the whims of the mighty, we defend the forests from the advance of civilization. We defend the libraries of the island against those who would seek their destruction, or who would use the knowledge within for evil ends. We fight for liberty and justice for all.

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The Harpers would like to issue an open invitation for any who might be interested in joining the Guild. The secret nature of our Guild means that it and its members are not easily noticed by those who might find being in the Guild interesting and fun. Thus we accept OOC application for the IC recruitment of members.

Harpers work to defend the realm against those of evil intent, they work for the advancement of justice and freedom, and they promote learning and the dissemination of knowledge. They work behind the scenes, each Agent being semi-independent, working on his or her own projects, using his or her own front(s), while contributing to the information reservoir and common goals of the group. Most are rather like spies for the Good.

Pushing for Balance as well as what is right, they oppose all evil organizations such as the Zhentarim and the Red Wizards of Thay and any other group who openly or secretly do evil actions. Many people call the Harpers meddlers, for the Harpers often interfere with local politics with the aim to stop evil influence. The Harpers recruit a variety of people of most all classes and races, but the majority tend to be elves, rangers, and bards. The Harper Scout prestige class is not necessary to become a Thain Harper.

You can find some more about the Harpers and the Harper Code below, and in the Forgotten Realms Wiki. However, do keep in mind that some of those things delineated in the FR wiki are not fully, or just not, practised in Thain, as we adapt the Code to the Golden Rule of Thain to keep the fun-factor for both the Harper guild and the opposing players in consideration.

All non-evil alignments are acceptable, as long as the character is in accord with Harper ideals. Although the Lawful Good alignment is likely problematic because the Harpers may find it necessary to take what seems to be an unlawful action to further a good purpose. The basic alignment could be called Sneaky Good.

In order to avoid conflicts of interest and loyalty, we do prefer that the Character has no other memberships in what are considered major guilds (those guilds whose area of influence encompasses politics across the entire Island). Membership in a minor racial or regional community guild is acceptable, and at the Character's discretion can in fact be used as a front for the character's covert Harper activities.

Just do keep in mind that this application is completely OOC, your Character does not know anything about this, and in fact except for the OOC contact persons listed below, you the Player will likely not know who is observing you. And please be aware that application is not a guarantee of admission to the Guild, as the exact same IC vetting process must be done for a Witting Candidate (one who applies OOC), as if your character's suitability as a candidate were being considered as an Unwitting Candidate (without your OOC knowledge). Of course, Harpers ICly also watch for people who seem to fit into their vision of the guild and will approach those characters in time.

For anyone who might be interested, who has a character that you think would be appropriate to and have fun in the guild, then please PM AtanatarAlacarin (Tanna Nightsong), Evendithus (Lomir Kelmont), DavidtheGreat, or any Harper character player, with any questions or inquiry. We can then proceed to IC 'notice' your character to start the RP of surveillance and engagement for vetting.

Healing the land, providing for the people's needs, and protecting the populace

Reporting to Colonel Bennars

Healing Hamley (Again)

Of Air and Earth

Hamley - The Battle to Restore The Balance

Operation: Rainy Day

Fortress in the Sand

In the Line of Fire

Hiding In Plain Sight

Education and political movement

(De Re Publica)

(Letter to Anders)

Community Outreach - Academy of the Silver Scroll

Search for the Sovereign

Search for the Sovereign II

(The Tyrant's Progress)

Opposing oppressors: Thayans and Zhentarim

Operation: Fuzzy Bunnies

An Letter Sent to the Village Green Preservation Society and Various Hin

Wrath of the Eye

Defending Davenshire

Declaration of War

The Siege of the Ridgeshield

Through a Northern Pass

The Banifaction

Towards healing the Poisoned Woods

(Three Branches, One Wood)

(Return to a tainted wood)

(Poisonwood Traitors)

Searching for one of their own

The Search for Dirk dem Vald

Of Individual Harpers

Harp of Shadows

For those who wish further information to see if their character may be in sympathy with the Harper ideals, we present the following.

Though there is no formal, written Harper Code, there is a general set of rules all Harpers promise to obey when they are inducted into the organization. They are:

"Harpers work against villany and wickedness wherever they find it, but they work ever-mindful of the consequences of what they do."

A Harper is required to seek out and destroy that which threatens liberty. The definition of liberty, though, differs slightly from Harper to Harper. Some are fairly conservative in their outlook and others almost radically liberal. It is generally accepted amongst members that liberty consists of the innate right of all creatures to live as they please. Anything which threatens to interfere with this right is to be avoided. However, a Harper is to fight threats to liberty with an altruistic eye; the fight is only important so long as the greatest freedom for the most folk is the end result.

"All beings should walk free of fear, with the right to live their lives as they wish."

This is the most passionate belief of all Harpers. It basically means that all beings have the right to blaze their own path in the world. War banishes freedom, slavery eliminates it completely, and so they are to be avoided whenever possible. Bearing this in mind, tyrants, slavers, and all oppressors are to be restrained, destroyed, weakened or transformed, so that they do as little harm to the freedom of others as possible.

"The rule of law aids peace and fosters freedom, so long as the laws are just and those who enforce them are lenient and understanding."

Harpers aren't Anarchists. They work against rulers and such only to make the laws they enforce equitable, sane and sensible.

"No extreme is good. For freedom to flourish, all must be in balance; the powers of realms, the reaches of the cities and the wilderness into each other, and the influence of one being over another."

Harpers prefer many smaller, weaker rulers and realms, to larger, stronger ones. They especially like weaker rulers who have more than enough to keep them occupied in just meeting the daily needs of their subjects, lest they find time to plot and scheme. A Harper works to establish checks and balances within a system of government, supporting those who believe in freedom and fairness, opposing those who seek tyrrany and repression. Harpers also spend considerable time tending to the wilderness, planting trees in abandoned farmsteads, helping to erect hedgerows around farmhouses, helping to build (and thus limit the size of) settlements. Most Harpers are veteran gardeners and tend to small patches of growing things, whether it is an ancestral farm or merely a flowerbox in an apartment window.

"Whatever it takes, a Harper will do. Pride never rules the deeds of a true Harper."

No task is too menial, demeaning or too dangerous. The cause of freedom requires often great, personal sacrifice.

"Harpers can spare themselves less freedom than those they work to protect when the need presents itself." -but even a Harper must be free.

In other words, Harpers may pursue their own interests and accomplish things in their own way, so long as their deeds and manner don't endanger others. It is not unusual for a Harper to announce that he's simply leaving the group for a while and then return years later, still a Harper. One never leaves the Harpers unless one is asked to, made to, or simply makes his wish to leave known.

"The Harpers police their own. A Harper who hears the call of personal power can no longer hear the sweet song of the Harp. A Harper who siezes power and holds it above all else, is a traitor to the Harp. Traitors must die, for freedom to live."

This is a warning: the Harpers kill traitors in their midst. They also punish those who subvert Harper work, or use their station for personal gain. Harpers ensure that Harper justice is meted out fairly, and publicly, so that all who see its results know it. The most famous example is that of Finder Wyvernspur. Only through such public display of fairness and justice can the Harpers gain the trust and respect of the common folk. The Harpers also ensure loyalty by hunting down those who cheat them, are traitors to the Code, or those who murder and kill their fellow Harpers.

"Without a past, no being can appreciate what they have, and where they may be going."

Harpers record the stories of those who have passed before, usually by giving written accounts to the Heralds. They note dates, deeds and happenings, important beings and their ideas or sayings. They also record the legends, ballads, poems, jokes, folktales, written works, and even plays, that they come across in their travels and travails. To a Harper, written lore is as precious as gemstones or powerful magic; destroying such things is crime.

A general outline of Harper aims and activities and an expanded explanation of the Harper Code

Part I - What IS a Harper?

"We are the Harpers. We are the Lord Protectors of the Realms. Fools, all - but the Gods look down and smile glory on us. Weep for us, watch for us, and hope in us. We shall not fail thee!" -Harper chant, composed by Ailadrea Stars-in-Mist, Bard of Neverwinter, Year of the Buckler

A Harper is a person, typically a human, elf or half-elf, who is one of a company of like-minded individuals, usually idealists and meddlers, who share a common goal; the restoration of civlization as it existed in the days of the ancient realm of Myth Drannor.

What do Harpers Believe in?

Basically, Harper aims can be summed up thusly:

They hold the civilization of Myth Drannor to have been the highest achievement in the history of civlization. In Myth Drannor, all races lived in peace, it's society valued and promoted learning and the dissemination of knowledge, fought for justice tempered by mercy, and defended the realm against those with evil intent.

A Harper will always seek to advance the cause of freedom. Freedom is not just limited to personal rights under the law; it includes economic freedom and the right to seek your own fortune by virtue of your own wits and talents. Conversely, these liberties are balanced by a corresponding set of responsibilities to the greater society.

Harpers seek to maintain balance between civilization and the wild. Civilization must be allowed to grow (so long as it provides freedom and justice), but it must not be allowed to ride roughshod over nature. Conversely, while nature is something to be revered and preserved, it does not hold that it is so sacred as to preclude those in need of it's resources from taking advantage of them. So long as neither infringes upon the peace and prosperity of the other, civilization and nature can exist side-by-side.

The Harper wishes to avoid war and the spilling of blood by those who are driven by motivations in direct opposition to freedom. The avaricious lord who seeks conquest in the name of self-aggrandizement is to be opposed. Those that would enslave in order to enrich themselves, must be opposed. Those that would restrict trade or seek monopolies on it, must be opposed. Any threat to the common peace must be opposed.

The Harper tries to record and preserve all manner of information; knowledge of crafts, music, literature, art, history, magical research and spells, politics, geneologies, local gossip, etc. They fight against those who would keep knowledge secret, destroy knowledge or libraries, or plunder and raid them for their own selfish ends. Art, both magical and of the aesthetic-self-expression type, and all crafts are also to be presevred. Such things have a intrinsic value not only in the present, but to generations yet unborn.

Harpers work against that which is dangerous to the personal freedom and security of all races, and ocassionally fight on behalf of those who cannot fight for themselves. This brings them in to conflict (often) with groups like Zhentil Keep, The Red Wizards of Thay, The Cult of the Dragon, The Shadow Thieves, the merchant princes of Amn, and just about any petty tyrant and would-be "Doctor No"-like character they come across.

A Harper tolerates many faiths and ideologies. So long as they do not threaten the general welfare, they are tolerated and defended from persecution.

Polticially, Harpers seek to keep kingdoms small and their lords too busy with the day-to-day running of their realms, and the needs of their people, to have time for thought of conquest or personal aggrandizement. Any ruler who grows too strong and who constitutes a threat to take by force that which he cannot gain by peaceful discourse, is someone too dangerous to stay in power. Whenever the empire of the bully falls, as all empires must, more knowledge and Art are lost with it. The Harper seeks to halt that process.

The Harper believes that it is not always necessary to fight with sword or spell; that small acts of kindness, true friendships, aid freely given, and mutual trust, are much stronger weapons. These are weapons that evil cannot defeat in a test of raw power, and therefore, these are the most effective weapons in the Harper arsenal.

Harpers are not warriors (unless need be), but rather motivators and facilitators, obstructors and apple-cart upsetters. They seek to direct people into doing the "correct" thing, rather than forcing them to. What the "correct thing" is sometimes changes on a daily basis as the Harper is not motivated by any strong ideology, except that which preserves what they value or advances their causes. Conversely, they also seek to prevent people from doing the "wrong thing" i.e. that which threatens that which they hold dear. "The Right" and "The Wrong" are not concepts that are strictly tied to the tenets of law and chaos, good or evil. Rather, the Harper is expected to judge his/her course of action based upon what he/she feels would advance his/her cause while preserving a balance. This balance must ALWAYS be predicated upon doing the greater good. To many a Harper, this very often means that the end justifies the means. A Harper can very easily justfy the spreading of lies, murder or theft, if doing so would thwart an effort to bring tyrrany, to destroy nature, or upset the general peace. A Harper who gets carried away, however, is very quickly (and often, permanently) reigned in by his fellows.

Who Wears the Silver Harp?

The Harper symbol is a silver harp enclosed within the horns of a crescent moon, often surrounded by seven stars, and typically displayed on a field of black or royal blue. This harkens back to the days of Myth Drannor, when the "Lady Steel" (Dathlue Mistwinter), the last survivor of a once-great elven house, became, in effect, the "first" Harper. The symbol was the coat of arms of her house, and in honor of her and her example the Harpers took it as their own upon her death in battle.

As to who is a Harper, the answer is rather complicated; anyone can be a Harper, except the truly vile and evil of this world. Many a Harper is an adventurer (bard, rangers and druids are most common), more women than men seem to gravitate towards the ranks, and there are vast numbers of Harper agents who have never picked up anything heavier than a flagon or done anything more dangerous than muck a stable. Men and women of all ages, crafts, races (although humans, elves and half-elves seem to predominate) can all be Harpers. Harrpers come from all walks of life simply because all walks of life have an interest in what the Harpers represent. The lone wolf adventurer, the disfigured street scamp, the brilliant-but-unbalanced alchemist, are tolerated within the Harper ranks, perhaps even encouraged. It certainly adds many a misfit to the ranks, but it also brings some very powerful, wise, and creative elements into them, as well.

This is the key reason why the Harpers are such an effective, and elusive, group: they blend into the woodwork. They come from a variety of backgrounds and bring a varied set of skills. You might make the Bard singing for his supper as a Harper, but you very well might not make the Scullery Maid who serves it to him to be one.

A few of the Faerunian pantheon have been associated with the Harpers, most notably Azuth, Deneir, Eldath, Lliira, Mielikki, Milil, Mystra, Oghma, Selune, Sylvanus, Tymora and the elven deities. In some cases, the clergy of these faiths wear the Silver Harp proudly. However, one does not need follow one of these faiths to be a Harper.

Harpers do not gather in large armies to do battle with their foes in a glorious clash of arms worthy of song. More often than not, a single Harper slips into a place that has fallen under the sway of some evil and does his best to thwart it. Not a few have given their lives. The Harpers will send a single agent in where an army cannot often go, and if the agent fails, they've lost but one, but if he succeeds…. Most Harpers are sent on a mission with little more than a general order, their faculties, and perhaps information on one or two potential allies or fellow agents who might be nearby.

What Do Harpers Do?

Harpers have been called "the meddlers of the Realms" by many folk, and "idealists to the point of lunacy" by others. Both of these are true statements, and many folks in the Realms owe their lives and security to it.

Harpers perform a laundry list of often mundane, but useful, tasks: they spread rumors, aid merchants, travelers and common folk in small ways, upset the schemes (and sometimes, end the lives) of the wicked. They attempt to manipulate the affairs of kingdoms great and small to keep the peace between them. They are invariably collectors of information — who is in town, what are they doing, who did they meet with, why did they meet with them, where did this happen? This information is freely shared amongst Harpers and with those the Harper believes might be in need of it. Information, to a Harper, is more valuable than gold.

No task, no matter how menial, is beneath a Harper. If a Harper is required to help a peasant muck his stables, then the Harper does it. Swimming through sewage, selling one's body in a brothel, helping to birth a calf, these are all things a Harper will willingly do in the execution of his overall mission. The reputation of the organization is often an important tool in the fight against tyrrany. Helping a shepherd, seeing to the sick and elderly, helping to clean a city's streets, are all acts of good public relations and help the Harper to cement relationships with the common folk. A Harper's primary function is to be aware of his/her surroundings, in every detail, no matter how seemingly insignificant. Having information, or access to reliable sources of information, is of paramount importance in this regard.

All Harpers are, by definition, spies. But, mostly they seek to motivate people to act in their own interests, often by leading by example.

Part II - The Watchwords

As inveterate collectors of lore, folktales, etc., the Harpers have come across (or invented) words, quotations, verses and phrases, often containing wisdom and common sense, and sometimes whimsy, which they use to convey lessons on the organization, how it works, and the individual's role within it. Occasionally, even the words of the Harper's enemies makes it into the collection of Watchwords, if only to give you some sense of what your opponents might think of you, or for the subtle lessons they might provide. Mostly, they are examples of what life is like as a member of the Harpers (mostly they're an example of what life isn't, like easy, comfortable, or even long).

All junior Harpers are instructed in this collected literature, a collection which the Harpers call "The Watchwords". All junior members are required to learn the Watchwords, an often long and involved process of memorization, coupled with exercises in direct application. For the purposes of our chapter of Harpers, this will not be necessary. It is included in this Handbook in order to give the individual players some idea of what it is to be a Harper, and as a tool that can used to better role play your Harper character. Some might find this useful to them, others might derive entertainment value from it, but again, it is only presented here as window into the world of the Harper.

"We are the Harpers. We are the Lord Protectors of the Realms. Fools all - but the Gods look down and smile glory upon us. Weep for us, watch for us, and hope in us. We shall not fail thee."
(Harper Chant, Composed by Ailadrea Stars-in-Mist, Bard of Neverwinter, Year of the Buckler.)

"Fight not always with blade or spell. The slower ways are the surer - aide freely given, friendships and trust built. These things evil cannot abide. It shrinks away from what it cannot destroy with fire and blade."
(Storm Silverhand, Bard of Shadowdale, Year of the Prince)

"It is my duty as a Harper to die if necessary in the task of defending others."
(Reisz Roudabush, Harper, shortly before dying in the arms of his comrades, Year of the Serpent)

"Listen! I hear the sound of the Harp, crying for me. So sad, so sweet…I'm coming! Soon, soon.But help me up, friends. I must die on my feet, in battle, singing.Don't weep, lasses —- look for me when you hear a harp at sunset, and I'll be there. Smiling. And why not? I've done good, laughed a lot in the doing, and can die content. Look for me at twilight, when the shades of Harpers walk."
(Naerthiiya Asuantlar, Harper, to her Harper companions before her death in Harper service, Year of the Turret)

"Working for good and maintaining balance are often matters of small degrees. If you wish to shape a bush you must prune it gently, not take a scythe to it."
(Danillo Thann, speaking to Master Harper Bran Skorlsun on receiving his Harper pin, Year of Maidens).

Harpers live - and die - to keep the Balance"
(Harper saying, anonymous)

May your harp be unstrung, your dreams die, and all your songs go unsung."
(Harper curse, Origin unknown)

"Had I known quite how bad a Harpist I'd turn out to be, I'd have chosen some other symbol. But by then, of course, it was too late. It almost always is."
(Elminster, the Sage of Shadowdale, Master Harper, Address to the Lord's Alliance, Year of the Turret)

"What makes a Harper? Well, different folk'll tell ye a lot of grand and high things, but t'me it seems the only crucial talent - the one they all have - is the ability to turn up at the wrong time in a place they're neither wanted nor expected, and plunge right into whatever trouble's afoot…"
(Darblin Melorinrose, Master Merchant of Neverwinter, Year of the Leaping Dolphin)

"When next you move to cruel pride, know that Those Who Harp are watching. And know we watch far better men than thee."
(Unknown Harper, to an unknown King, Year of the Wyrm)

"What's a Harper? Good question, aye - and like most good questions, it has a lot of right answers. As many, in fact, as there are Harpers…and if that's too cute an observation for your liking, then you have my condolences. A mind so closed can only find life a sad, small cage.
(Ranthlin Starshann, Bard of Berdusk)

"The soft caress moves more than the brutal fist."
(Origin unknown)

"One of the things so-called 'civilized' folk do often is to manipulate their fellows. When a Harper seeks to sway others, it must always be done for good ends."
(Elminster, the Sage of Shadowdale, Master Harper)

"A Harper always seeks to narrow the gap between good intentions and good results."
(Elminster, Sage of Shadowdale, Master Harper)

"Harpers command the most varied, powerful, and interesting collection of magical spells in use anywhere on Toril today; no prizes for guessing which Harper wields what…save thy continued survival."
(Eliminster, Sage of Shadowdale, Master Harper, threatening an arrogant Red Wizard who has annoyed him)

"Ye have enemies? Good, good…that means ye've stood up for something sometime in your life."
(Eliminster, Sage of Shadowdale, Master Harper, to a young Harper, Year of the Wyvern)

"Everything is a game to the Harpers…they manipulate folk like pieces on a gaming board, seeking ever to best us."
(Whisper, Zhentarim Leader, before being killed by the Knights of Myth Drannor, an adventuring band allied to the Harpers, in a conflict brought about by Harper manipulation)

"A Harper is always alert, living his life as if every hanging moment is his last. Soon enough, he's right about that."
(Maldeth, Sage of Calimport, and Harper Agent)

"I'm a Harper, and helping folk help themselves is what I do. Peple deserve to live in freedom. I'm not going to let the Zhentarim take that away from the people who live in this city.
(Mari Al'maren, Harper, to the citizens of Iriaebor)

"Whisper something in a Harper ear, and all Faerun'll know it before a moon passes…"
(Folk saying of the Northern Realms)

"Never undress in a room with a window; A Harper may be near!"
(Warning given by Waterdhavian noble matrons to their daughters)

"The trouble with Harpers is, they'll never stop talking, even when you desperately wish they would."
(Cormik, Proprietor of the Prince and Pauper Gambling house, Iriaebor)

"No kicking under the table…it annoys the Harpers hiding there…"
(Ritual joke at all Thayan gatherings)

"Don't think too much about your orders - A Harper might hear what you are thinking."
(Zhentarim officer's warning to his soldiers)

"Guard gold coins well until they are in the keeping of a Dead Dragon, or they'll turn into Silver Harps."
(Proverb, Cult of the Dragon)

"(The Harpers) are like two roads taken to the same gate; one seen more often, the other never late."
(Alither of Telflamm, Harper, in reference to the two major branches of Harpers in Faerun)

"We all have the freedom to find foolishness enough in ourselves to get killed."
(Bedelve Grimnar, Harper Ranger of Iriaedor)

"What am I doing today? Ask me tomorrow - I can be sure of giving you the right answer then."
(Askarran of Selgaunt, Master Sage and Harper Agent, Year of the Helm)

"Know ye lad - some Harpers have powers granted 'em by the gods, they do. Ye'd best kill 'em quick before they can remember just what those powers are…"
(Gurth Aglathyln, Biting Blade of Thay, to his students. Year of the Adder)

"Stand back, lads, if ye've any brains - the best and the brightest blades have arrived. Stand back, and mayhap ye'll live, to tell your younglings how once we saw great deeds done by the famous…"
(Guldark Orthorm, Warrior of the Blacktalons Mercenary Company, to his colleagues as they were rescued by a company of Harpers, Year of the Turret).

"A hero? Someone too foolish or stubborn to be a coward. Thank the gods we have 'em though - these days, they're needed all to often."
(Zosker Anthalar, Sage of Escalant, Harper Agent, in speech to the city council, Year of the Shadows)

"There are things in our hearts that only we can dispel."
(Myrmeen Lhal, Advisor to the King of Cormyr, Harper Agent)

"..One moment he is a canny fighter, next an understanding friend, and the very next a worthless twit…"
(Arilyn Moonblade, the 'Elfshadow', Harper Agent, on her human companion, Danillo Thann, Harper agent).

"No organization is greater than the folk who make up it's membership. Remember that, when next ye disagree with a lord or high priest or tax collector… it may cheer ye a little bit. Ah, a very little bit."
(Aber Olsiver, Sage of Myratma, Harper Agent, Year of the Struck Gong)

"No one loves or trusts you enough to stand beside you in battle? What good has your life been, then?"
(Gothlinn Shalara of Baldur's Gate, Harper Agent, Year of the Bright Blade)

"Never cross spells with gods, archmages, liches…or Harpers. Of all these, Harpers are the most persistent, and most unpredictable."
(Gulden Thorib, High Gnome of the Council of Amry, Harper Agent, Year of the Blue Flame)

"Magic? Aye; Harpers always seem to have some magic up their sleeves…even when they're not wearin' sleeves."
(Taerth Shindlestar, Master of the Pride of Reddansyr Inn, Harper agent, Year of the Singing Skull)

"What it is to be a Harper" -Mirt the Moneylender in Crown of Fire, pp173-174, explaining the Harper's purpose to Shandril:

''Right, then, good Lady Shandril, I shall try to tell thee something of what it is to be a Harper."

''"A Harper holds peaceful sharing of the lands above all other goals."

"By sharing, we mean all the races living in and under the land, where each prefers to live, trading together where desire and need stir them to, and respecting each other's holds and ways -without the daily bloodletting that all too often holds sway in the Realms today."

"True, we must fight, it seems often enough to keep our swords and our tempers both sharp enough. Yet, know ye; all of us fight when we must, or die. Moreover, ye only hear of blades drawn and death and spells hurled, and never know of the many, many times that a quiet word or a skillful deal has turned enemies aside from each other, forced a way clear where none was before, or distracted foes from the eager task of tearing each other's throats out. That is the true Harper way: subtle and quiet, behind the shouting. Trust and wisdom, and outfoxing others is what we deal in."

A Typical Harper's Year

Those who wish to undertake the Harper life might benefit from a survey of the accomplishments of one Tarros Bluecloak, a sample Harper. This is a diary of Tarros' activity over the space of one year:

Hired on to guard a caravan carrying Harper messages and magical items amongst it's cargo overland from Baldur's gate to Irieabor, via Elturel and Burdusk, helping to fight off two brigand groups and an orc raiding party en route.

Located a known agent of the Red Wizards in Irieabor, and in disguise took hire as a guard on the same caravan the Thayan traveled east on — right into a "brigand" ambush that the Thayan spy had helped to arrange. Tarros escaped the slaughter, and trailed the spy and the "brigands" (Thayan slavers) to their encampment in the Far Hills. While they were storing and arguing over the spoils seized from the caravan, Tarros freed most of the slaves and in the confusion that followed, stalked and slew many of the slavers. He then trailed the fleeing Thayan agent east across country to Westgate, where he identified the superior that the agent was to reporting to. He enlisted the help of a Harper wizard then transiting through the area, to kidnap and interrogate the Thayan's superior to learn as much about Thayan contacts and operations in the area, before killing the superior.

Learned from his Wizard ally that a slave shipment (consisting mostly of the idle young of the prosperous merchant classes of Westgate) was being assembled in the tunnels under the City for shipment east to Thay. Tarros let slip this information to a known spy for the Pirates of the Fallen Stars. He then hired his own ship and commandeered the services of a handful of local Harpers, bolstered by a group of down-on-their-luck adventurers (The Shining Sword band) who were promised all the loot they could seize. The slave ships set sail, the Thayan agent with them. Tarros revealed evidence of the slave-trading to certain Lords of Westgate, and left a list of known Thayan agents in the city with them for arrest and trial — and swift execution. The Tarros set sail in his own ship, lurking behind the slavers.

As expected, the pirates attacked, captured the slave ship, and took the slaves and Thayans. Tarros' ship attacked the pirate ship at night as it turned north into the Dragon Reach, and slew the crew. He found and released the slaves, sending them back to his own ship. He found the Thayan slavers cowering in the hold of the pirate ship, in irons. He hung them all from the yardarms, piling the pirate bodies on deck, and set the vessel adrift for other pirates to find.

He took his own ship to Yhaunn, where he set the slaves free and gave the ship and all the treasure to the Shining Sword Band, letting them claim credit and the rewards heaped upon them by the grateful families of the captured and the nation of Sembia for freeing their citizens.

Tarros and his band of Harpers quickly donned disguises and melted into the city's background to watch and listen.

Tarros soon learned that a few Red Wizardsand Cult of the Dragon agents planned to steal some of the riches heaped upon the adventurers (Shining Sword Band). The Harpers took careful note of who the agents were, and trailed the survivors (the adventurers fought them off) to their homes and businesses. Tarros then sent his Harper allies back to Westgate, carrying reports of what he had learned. Then he slew a Red Wizard or two, taking careful note of who arrived to take their places, before deciding that Yhaunn had become too hot for him to remain for much longer.

Upon leaving Yhaunn in disguise, he came upon a woman in distress on the roads of Sembia. She was a priestess of Tymora, and she was being robbed by a band of ruffians. He helped her fight off her attackers, and then safely escorted her to the nearest temple of her goddess. The temple rewarded him with a bag of coins.

A bit further on he noticed an elderly farmer standing helpless on the roadside, fretting over a broken wagon wheel. Tarros helped the farmer repair his wagon, and then to bring in his grain crop for milling.

Beat up a local bully in one of the many nameless villages of Sembia, and paid off the tavern debts of a crippled veteran who was about to be arrested.

Picked up messages form Harper agents in Battledale and Daerlun, and helped one of them spy upon a suspected smuggler and slaver.

Masqueraded as the long-lost husband of a widow about to lose her farm to debtors in Saerb. There, he made contact with a novice Harper, installing him as the widow's guardian and farmhand, instructing him to keep a careful watch on the comings and going of folk on the busy roads nearby.

Uncovered a caravan thief on the road to Orduluin. He made a deal with the lass for her freedom — all the information she had concerning The Cult of the Dragon. He learned the location of a high-ranking Cult member from her, slipped into his home in the dead of night, and set traps on the Cultist's store of magic items, taking several gems to fund his own operations. He then set fire to the mansion, knowing the Cultist would make a beeline for his precious magic before leaving his burning home.

Spread rumors that a skeletal dragon had been seen flying over Archendale in places where he knew Cult of the Dragon agents were within earshot. Later he warned some traders from Archendale that the Cult of the Dragon was planning a raid into their dale in the next few days. When the Cultists arrived to seek the undead dragon, they were met by a large, and heavily-armed, contingent of the Dale's militia. A rather bloody fight ensued, and the Cultists were all killed.

Located two Cult agents (whose identities he had learned from the lady thief) and drew them into a confrontation with a visiting wizard he had recognized as an ambitious Zhentarim. Before the donnybrook, he made it perfectly clear to the Zhent, over drinks, that he knew the Cultists were wealthy, loaded with magic — and totally unconcerned about their personal security. He watched the resulting fight from the shadows, taking careful note of who fought in support of whom. He then wrote a report on all of his recent activites, and sent it to a Senior Harper with a caravan leaving the next morning for Shadowdale. Tarros slipped out of town and headed for Hillsfar.

Along the way, he helped a farmer plough his fields. He also showed him how to plant hedgerows for shelter and winter berry yields.

Heard rumors of a marauding owlbear in the neighborhood and decided to investigate. He found that a local mage was using his power to extort money and property from the local villagers, polymorphing those who refused him into all sorts of wicked monsters. He then turned the monsters loose on the villages to terrorize others into compliance. The mage had also hoped that the rumors of dread beasts would draw adventurers whom he could rob. Tarros stalked the mage's tower, and then broke in in the dead of night. He slew the mage, and hung his body out the window over the front door, painting the mage's chest with the symbol of the Zhentarim, knowing the villagers would find it soon enough.

Tarros' year was a busy one, indeed!

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