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Authors: Brian Thomsen

The Mage in the Iron Mask

BOOK: The Mage in the Iron Mask
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Scanning the residue of slaughter, Volo thought he recognized one of the corpses. He was about to stoop to get a closer look when he barely saw a moving blur out of the corner of his eye, and reacted in a second, raising his dagger to a defensive posture.

He was half a second too slow.

The master traveler felt the coolness of a steel blade against his windpipe, and heard an authoritative voice say, “Drop it, or breathe blood.”

Realizing he had no alternative if he wished to live long enough to get to the bottom of the bloodbath, and to eventually complete his guide to the Moonsea, Volo dropped his dagger, and prepared to do whatever the other visitor to the Retreat requested.

THE NOBLES

King Pinch
David Cook

War in Tethyr
Victor Milán

Escape from Undermountain
Mark Anthony

The Mage in the Iron Mask
Brian Thomsen

The Council of Blades
Paul Kidd

The Simbul’s Gift
Lynn Abbey

THE MAGE IN THE IRON MASK
The Nobles: Book 4
©1996 TSR, Inc.

All characters in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or unauthorized use of the material or artwork contained herein is prohibited without the express written permission of Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Published by Wizards of the Coast LLC. Hasbro SA,
represented by Hasbro Europe, Stockley Park, UB11 1AZ. UK
.

F
ORGOTTEN
R
EALMS
, Wizards of the Coast, D&D, their respective logos, and TSR, Inc. are trademarks of Wizards of the Coast LLC in the U.S.A. and other countries.

All Wizards of the Coast characters and their distinctive likenesses are property of Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Cover art by: Walter Velez
First Printing: August 1996

eISBN: 978-0-7869-6415-4
640A2927000001 EN

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www.DungeonsandDragons.com

v3.1

For Donna,

my tolerant wife, patient proof-reader, and loving soul-mate,

and
My mentors:

my parents—Arthur and Eileen Thomsen; my teachers—Kathy and Terry Malley, Monsignor William F. Burke, Frank Walsh, Robert Sabatelli, Seymour Kleinberg, and Hildreth Kritzer; my advisors—Richard Allen, Tom Doherty, Charles N. Brown, and Mike Resnick; and my alma mater—Regis High School.

Acknowledgments

This book could not have been written without the gracious help and input from the following: Patrick McGilligan, Jeff Grubb, Ed Greenwood, James Ward, Michele Carter, Donna Thomsen, Jon Pickens, Julia Martin, Anthony Hope and Alexander Dumas.

This book could not have been written without the musical inspiration provided by the artists who contributed to the following CDs:
If I Were a Carpenter, Stepping Out—The Very Best of Joe Jackson, Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66 Greatest Hits, Music from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Streets of Fire
, and
Music from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Clueless
.

Table of Contents
Prologue

Donal Loomis was a dwarfish gnome of a man, which is not to say that he claimed any blood lineage to either the dwarves or the gnomes but rather that his overall appearance, unfortunately, seemed to emulate the least favorable attributes of both races. With his bulbous features, stunted stature, and obese waistline, he was easily considered an unsightly wart on the face of humankind.

The jagged facial scars that decorated his hairless
head, unsightly reminders of the painful removal of tell-tale tattoos, did not help the ugliness of his physical appearance. Had he not retired to “the Retreat” he would have been a focal point for ridicule and persecution almost anywhere he went.

The Retreat, as the members called it, was originally a place of study, refuge, and retirement for those who wished to devote their lives to the study of mage-craft and other magical arts. Scholarship alone, however, ceased to be enough of a reason for being or means of survival in the dour political climes of the Moonsea region, and the elder wizards who founded the Retreat many years ago decided that it had become necessary to widen their membership to certain other members of society who might help to subsidize their institution through financial endowments, political protection (whether by favors, military aid, or just good old-fashioned blackmail), or diplomatic influence. As a result, the institute of learning and refuge also became a place of sanctuary for political outcasts whose assets or knowledge could benefit their foundation, spies from the south or the west en route to the east or vice versa (Harpers were usually particularly welcome temporary guests whose incurred debts were always paid in a timely and generous manner); or just a convenient and permanent hiding place for offspring born on the wrong side of the blanket by royals or soon to be royals whose legitimate heirs had reason to worry about potential rivals.

As long as the accounts were met, no questions were asked, nor information given out. As a result, numerous members of the peculiar institution who had come to accept their lives of study had no knowledge of their parentage or lineage, and possessed memories solely of their lives within the monastic walls, nor did they desire such information nor opportunities
for adventure. Loyola Ignato, one of the Retreat’s founders and, according to legend, a mage of some note, had prided himself on his abilities to indoctrinate the young and inexperienced into the ways of life in the monastery. He was known to boast that if you gave him a youth between the ages of two and twenty, the Retreat would have him for life, and many nobles were more than willing to accommodate him. Without exception the Retreat had never lost an initiate to temporal temptations that lie beyond the monastic walls.

Donal, however, was not one of these members for he had actually chosen the sanctuary of the Retreat (seeing few alternatives) for himself, and, furthermore, was more than partially acquainted with his own lineage and parentage, no matter how hard he tried to forget.

The self-labeled wart of humankind rubbed the scars that adorned his bald and wrinkled pate. I wore my tattoos with pride, he thought to himself, if I regret anything it is their removal. With them, I had respect, power, and prestige despite my godsforsaken appearance.

BOOK: The Mage in the Iron Mask
5.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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