Greyhawk At War
Half-Elf, Gambler, Identity Thief
Malik is a Half Elf, about 5’9 in height with a small but athletic build. He has naturally blonde hair which hangs low enough to be able to hide his elfish ears. He often assumes different identities and so dresses appropriately to his current persona.
Normally he signs his real name as Malik Falathrimir, his mothers maiden name. This is mainly to avoid being linked back to his true identity of Malik Sterling-Benbow.
“Ok… You won that hand and I shall of course pay up. What was it you wanted? The story of why I’m lurking here in this prison cell? As I know you’re not in a rush to be anywhere then I might as well give you the long version… You can deal while I talk.
My father was a wealthy cartographer and explorer. He didn’t start that way though and had to slog for many years as a deck hand on merchant vessels until one fateful voyage where a storm forced the ship off course and onto unknown islands. He helped to map out and explore the islands and his talent for cartography was revealed. Through his fine and detailed maps of the islands he was able to find work on science vessels searching for forgotten lands and eventually he was leading expeditions of his own. He amassed his wealth from these trips as well as meeting my mother, herself a wealthy heiress of an elven trade fleet. Although our family had a lot of material wealth most of the liquid assets were tied up in fleets and wages.
My father wanted me to have the best start in life so at a very early age I was packed off to the best boarding school in Greyhawk, where I studied a wide range of subjects but never really excelled at any of them. Instead I spent most of my time working out ways I could scheme and plot to get other students to cover for me, while I explored the city. I wasn’t given the allowance that most students got, and so I would dream up inventive ways to bolster my meagre pocket money with that of the super-rich surrounding me. At 13, I tricked a student to sit all of my mock exams while I climbed the wall and hitch-hiked to Ybent. In Ybent I discovered a casino and posing as a halfling I managed to take the house for 500 gold pieces at the card tables and hitched back to the boarding school to find that I had attained a B average score in all of my mocks.
By the age of 16, I had made a habit of visiting Ybents seedier casinos and had an arrangement with stabling houses along the route. I could skip out over the wall on a Friday afternoon and with a series of fast horses would be in Ybent ready to gamble by Saturday lunchtime. Win or lose I would then take the same route of fast horses back to Greyhawk without any of the school wardens realising I had been gone. By now I had enlisted an entourage of younger boys in the school who would do all my weekend and evening chores in exchange for contraband brought in from Ybent. At 17, just before leaving the school, I convinced the Schoolmaster to let me take a field trip of students to visit my Fathers harbour offices in Ybent. While most of the students took tours of the ship yards and mapping offices I took a group of Maths students to a casino intent on taking down the house through an elaborate card counting system. The plan backfired, when an astute dwarven bouncer spotted the ruse and a small riot broke out. I escaped unharmed. 2 students wound up in hospital, 3 in Jail and 1 hid out as a deck hand on a ship bound for the Skitter Isles. My winnings for the evening and most of my other cash, was spent paying for the silence of the hospital staff and bailing out the imprisoned mathematicians. The missing boy eventually returned from the Skitter Isles a week later, with some interesting tales and a curious rash.
Returning to the school with the remainder of my classmates, I was called to the Headmasters office. The Headmaster explained that although it has been covered up and the schools name had not been marred, he couldn’t take the risk of having me around and so I was to be expelled. I was taken to his room where I gathered my belongings into a packing trunk and I was escorted off the premises, and taken to the coaching station. They watched me board the coach bound for Ybent and ensured I stayed on it until it departed.
At the first stop on the road home, I gave my cloak and hat to a beggar and paid him a handful of copper coins to take my place on the coach, and I made the hike back to Greyhawk.
That night I broke into the school, intercepted the letter to my parents explaining the expulsion, and replaced the contents with a forged thank you letter (for allowing the students to visit the offices).
I was near broke, so I took all the money I had left and played as many games of chance as I could until I had enough to open up a small gambling operation near the University. I Enlisted some of the students from the school as dealers and a couple of Minotaurs to discourage the wrong types. Operating at irregular intervals and using empty buildings or back rooms of inns, I ran my casino when I needed the money only and kept it as low key as possible.
When my schoolmates moved onto the University, I followed them, and managed to enrol using a false identity and forged papers. I soon acquired 3 dorm rooms for myself and my 2 minotaur companions and continued running the casino nights from within the university. Most of the time I didn’t even need to try to take their money. Students would line up to drop stacks of gold coins onto my roulette tables.
One night I was engaged in a high stakes game of poker. A nice pot had built up and 1 player, tapped out of cash produced a large clear crystal from his pouch, which he wanted to exchange for chips. As my banker was inspecting it and trying to appraise it’s value, The door was kicked in by campus military, followed by Professor Thorne. The player with the crystal was actually a lecturer in runes and divination and the crystal was a 4000 year old scrying stone taken from the university collection. They had been tracing it with a spell and when it had been taken from the pouch they had locked onto it and rumbled him and indeed me.
Once again, I found myself out on my ear, although my 2 minotaur henchmen were allowed to stay and went on to gain Honours Degrees in Geography and Dwarven Classics. I was able to keep up the ruse about being in University by paying a monthly retainer to one of my friends to send a letter a month to my parents. As far as I’m aware he’s probably still sending them. I’m probably a doctor of something by now.
I moved back into the city, found a local alehouse, hired 2 bedrooms and opened a casino in one of them. This time I made it invite only, and new players were only allowed in after a couple of recommendations.
Word had spread about my gambling club and local mob bosses were eagerly hunting me down to enquire why I had been running the casino without paying the necessary taxation to them. After an encounter with a couple of ogre enforcers, in which I had to throw myself out of a 5th floor window into a canal to escape, I decided that I should move out of Greyhawk.
I realised then that staying in 1 place left me vulnerable and so I started on the roadhouses. I travelled around trying to stay ahead of the Greyhawk villains who I “Owed” money to. As I moved from roadhouse to town I would switch my identity so that my pursuers would have to work to take me. A drow bounty hunter by the name of Krazzt tracked me down to a small fishing town and was seen asking questions of me. I was alerted by a sailor I was in the middle of a game of cards with after he had been outside to the privvy and had seen the drow with a rough sketch of me. The sailor mentioned that if I wanted to get away from the drow and from whoever had sent him then Deepship was the place I needed to be. I conspired with my new found friends to help me out in exchange for the contents of my purse, not my real purse you understand. While I slipped away up to the bedrooms, they started an argument with each other which turned into a fight which spilled out into the street. I had by this time procured a large dress and floppy ladies hat. At the most opportune moment when the sailors had moved their scuffle over towards Krazzt I slipped out of the door with a cheery “good bye” to the revellers and a shocked “Oh my dear lord” to the drunken sailors and stepped off into the night down to the harbour. There was an unattended fishing skiff tied up against the pier and a bit of swift rowing out into the winds and I was able to set sail and tack my way up the coast and around towards Deepship. A couple of days later I found myself at a lighthouse where I left my skiff and boarded the ferry into Deepship itself.
In Deepship I soon established a reputation as a skilled poker player and any table I played at would be surrounded by onlookers. My winnings in the first few weeks secured me seats at some of the higher value tables in town and soon I was sent an invite to play in the backroom of “The Swinging Man” inn.
Once again though, I found myself in trouble with undesirable types. During a long drawn out hand a particularly big pot built, with me holding the top hand. I played it through to the end completely cleaning out 3 of the opponents at the table. Unknown to me, 2 of my opponents were vicious gangsters and they were quick to accuse me of cheating. I knew that I wasn’t going to get a chance to defend myself against such libel, so with the aid of some strong rum and a candle I set the dwarf beside me on fire and turned the table over. The ensuing chaos of a flaming dwarf and the scuffle from all and sundry to claim the coins scattered all over the floor turned out to be the prime opportunity I needed to get a head start out the nearest window. I sprinted back to my lodgings and collected my travelling bag and then made for the docks, where I boarded the first ship going anywhere. Anywhere turned out to be a spice ship heading to Llewellaf. A couple of weeks into the voyage the crew mutinied against the captain and for some reason made me their new leader, deciding that instead of moving spice from Llewellaf to Deepship and lining the pockets of the wealthy dwarves they would move it and line their own pockets. This action had nothing whatsoever to do with anything I might have suggested over a game of cards and a flagon or two of ale.
The ship was renamed “The Polka-Mor” and we roamed between ports as a free trader trying to find good deals. Sometimes the deals were so good they were still locked in the warehouses at night when we went to “collect” them.
It wasn’t always robbing warehouses though, sometimes I’d go on smuggling runs to keep the black marketeers happy. I was nearly caught 6 months ago, in Ybent. I was working with another smuggler by the name of Mr Hancock. We were about to leave port when this warning goes up that an Iuzian fleet was moving in to blockade Ybent and that no ships will be able to leave. My ship in Ybent during daylight hours would have me swinging from the nearest yard arm before you can say “Piracy” so we hoisted the sail as quick as possible and got out of there just before the Felix Rex ships moved into their defensive lines. Poor old Hancock got trapped in the harbour with his ship and last I heard he had been caught by the Rex and was being pressganged into their service rather than being hanged.
So with the war in full swing, we found that we could operate a nice little trade by unloading military surplus onto the smaller militias that were springing up all over the place. You’d also be surprised what a Quartermaster stuck in a remote outpost will pay for a fresh supply of swords or potions. And so that leads me to the particular run of bad luck that brings me here and now.
I got word from a contact that the warehouses of Tradeport were brimming with crates of potions and ammo all bound for the forward lines. I visited the warehouses that afternoon posing as a rat catcher and could see all the crates, stamped with Felix Rex crests piled high. After scouting the locations I returned to the ship to go over the details. That night we sailed into the harbour, only to see hundreds of Felix Rex troops milling about on the jetty we had chosen. Undeterred, we diverted the ship to the back of the warehouse and moored up against the wall. We removed a fence panel allowing us access to the warehouse and climbed up onto the ground level. The clouds broke and bright moonlight lit the warehouse, robbing us of shadows to hide in. From bad to worse as I found that the doors which were unsecured earlier now have large brass padlocks sealing them. After breaking a decent set of pick locks I was finally able to get the lock open and we were into the warehouse. My sources had told me that the crates with the red crests on them were the potions, so we went for those first. Moving the first crate we discovered that it was a little too heavy to be a box stuffed mainly with straw. I had Johann crowbar the top off only to discover 8 metal shields, painted and embossed with Felix Rex iconography. We tried the next crate and it was the same. We tried other crates only to find dress uniforms and wooden training swords. I was just beginning to think that the gods hated me, when I received the true sign that they did. Alarms started sounding in the distance, growing closer and closer. One of the lookouts passed word that Zeppelins were heading over the city. Then all of the troops around the warehouse, rushed in to shelter from the air raid. We were all captured red handed and brought here.
Where, Of course, you recognised me, and I thank you for not mentioning all those times I’ve dropped by the island with gifts for the inmates and your colleagues. I trust that your wife enjoyed the fine silks and I see you still have half a box of those Orcish cigars.
So Warder, You have a full house, Kings and Tens, That’s an impressive hand… Don’t be so quick to reach for that money though, My 4 Aces have something to say about that!"