Nurneene's Marvelous Masks was a clothing boutique[1] that sold stylish hand-made custom masks and costume accessories to the Waterdhavian elite. It was a well-known and well-established business by the Year of Wild Magic, 1372 DR,[2] and was still selling masks as of the Year of the Ageless One, 1479 DR.[3]

Location[edit | edit source]

This establishment was tucked between two larger shops on the east side of the Street of Bells[2] in the Castle Ward of Waterdeep.[4][note 1]

Structure[edit | edit source]

Nurneene's was a very thin, four-story building about ten feet (three meters) wide, set back from the street and its neighbors by a pace. It had a sharply peaked roof that provided space for an attic. Below ground were two levels of cellar and a third, secret subbasement. At ground level, the front of the store was just a door and a large display window. The upper stories each had one window that was barred from within and had shutters on the outside, except for the fourth floor window, which could be opened. The attic had a round door in the peak of the eaves that gave (very dangerous) access to the roof. The roof and gutters were sloped such that rainwater drained to downspouts on the rear of the building. The front of the store was surfaced with fieldstone.[2]

Interior[edit | edit source]

Cutaway view of the below-ground portion of the shop showing the storage cellars and the secret shrine to Mask.

The first floor was the main showroom with mannequins displaying fashionable dresses complete with masks and a counter in the back for purchasing and wrapping the merchandise. Many masks in styles raging from gorgeous to hideous were mounted on the walls.[note 2] The second floor contained a fitting area with a few mirror-closets where customers could try on a mask and view themselves from many angles. There were also cabinets of drawers that contained common masks for those that did not want something custom-made. The third and fourth floors were filled with cutting tables, dyeing pans, drying racks, stretching frames, sewing stations, and many light, wooden heads for the construction and display of masks. The top floor also had a few beds and a sitz bath for the workers. The attic was the repository for old furniture and shop records from years gone by.[2]

The cellars were mainly used for storing bolts of cloth and other materials used by the shop. They hung from the rafters on hooks and were wrapped in linen to keep them clean until needed.[2] A dumbwaiter connected all the main floors and the cellars for easy transport of most items. There was also a speaking tube that could be used for communication once a person's attention was attracted by ringing a handbell.[5]

The subbasement was accessed by releasing a catch and sliding a section of four steps in the middle of the lowest staircase into a niche in the wall. This revealed a short drop and another staircase that led down to a full-height chamber that was used as a chapel for worshiping Mask, the Lord of Shadows.[5]

The Lurking Mask watches people on the Street of Bells. Click to enlarge.

Atmosphere[edit | edit source]

The main attraction that set the tone for this establishment was a giant-sized, free-floating, sinister-looking mask that hovered about the display area behind the front window, known as "the Lurking Mask". It was quite visible at any hour because it was illuminated by three lanterns hung behind a valance across the top of the window, and the diorama was backed by a cream-colored sheet that hung from a rod and draped over a counter. The material was held in place by black wooden letters on the counter that spelled out "Nurneene Masks". The eerie mask turned to follow passers-by as if watching them suspiciously. Occasionally, it flew up to the glass and startled a pedestrian or a gawker, appearing to stare at them appraisingly. The effect of this animated object was so spooky that some Waterdhavians refused to walk by the shop, choosing to cross to the other side of the street or go around the block to avoid it, while others stopped to marvel and admire.[2]

Services[edit | edit source]

A selection of unusual masks for purchase.

In 1372 DR, Nurneene and the six staff members she trained could do everything from making beautiful and unique masks, to fitting and customer service, to sales and accounting, although Nurneene made sure that the most attractive women on her staff greeted the majority of the visitors. She usually stayed back and let her staff handle things, making an appearance only if a customer became difficult.[6]

Activities[edit | edit source]

Unbeknownst to the public and local law enforcement, Nurneene was a priestess of Mask and had a flock of about sixteen street thieves that were loyal to her to the point of adoration. She took care of them, healing their wounds, providing food and a safe place to sleep, fencing their stolen goods, passing along useful news or gossip, and encouraging them in their chosen profession. They met and worshiped in the small chapel below the cellars.[6]

Defenses[edit | edit source]

The two male members of her staff were part of her congregation of rogues and she could summon them if needed, usually by ringing a handbell. They were strong, fast, and carried daggers, saps, darts, and slings. The floating mask was oversized, made of thick material, and instructed to protect itself and the shop. It also obeyed simple commands spoken by Nurneene.[6] The wooden ornaments atop the newels of the staircases could be released for removal by pressing buttons concealed in the decorative carvings down the sides. Removing a cap revealed a cavity for the quick hiding of contraband.[5]

History[edit | edit source]

Nurneene opened Nurneene's Marvelous Masks after years of toiling as an apprentice in another shop where the proprietor took credit for all the work done by his staff. She worked hard and alone, but struggled to make a profit even though her masks were superior to the competition.[2] One day, an old man who had complimented her on her work as an apprentice (over the objection of her master) reappeared in her shop and asked her to make an oversized mask with the same attention to quality and detail that she had demonstrated years before. When the mask was completed, he returned to the shop, set the mask in the front window, and cast a number of spells on it. The mask levitated into the air and began attracting customers, thrilling children of all ages, and made Nurneene's Marvelous Mask the premier shop of its kind in Waterdeep.[6]

Rumors & Legends[edit | edit source]

A drunken oaf once took it upon himself to rid the city of "that haunted mask shop" and tossed a cobblestone through the front window. Before he could follow it with a lit torch, the Lurking Mask flew out and attacked the arsonist, wrapping itself around his head as if to suffocate him. He managed to free himself and fled, chased by the mask through the streets until he was caught by the Watch.[2]

Appendix[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. The exact location of this shop was left off the maps in City of Splendors: Waterdeep. It was supposed to be map location C84, but this does not appear on any map in that book. One possible location that fits the description is the very thin building one door north of Buckle Alley.
  2. Some descriptions are based on the artist's rendering.

Appearances[edit | edit source]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Eric L. Boyd (June 2005). City of Splendors: Waterdeep. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 18. ISBN 0-7869-3693-2.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Ed Greenwood (July 2004). “Elminster's Guide to the Realms: Nurneene's Marvelous Masks”. In Matthew Sernett ed. Dragon #321 (Paizo Publishing, LLC), p. 80.
  3. Erik Scott de Bie (April 2009). Downshadow. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 157. ISBN 978-0-7869-5128-4.
  4. Eric L. Boyd (June 2005). City of Splendors: Waterdeep. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 100. ISBN 0-7869-3693-2.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Ed Greenwood (July 2004). “Elminster's Guide to the Realms: Nurneene's Marvelous Masks”. In Matthew Sernett ed. Dragon #321 (Paizo Publishing, LLC), p. 83.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Ed Greenwood (July 2004). “Elminster's Guide to the Realms: Nurneene's Marvelous Masks”. In Matthew Sernett ed. Dragon #321 (Paizo Publishing, LLC), p. 81.
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