This week I return to the amazing work of Larry Elmore and a piece that I have adored for years. This one is entitled “Cities of Mystery” and was the cover art for a boxed set in 2nd Edition of the same name. Incidentally, if you’ve never had the chance to look at that boxed set, I highly recommend it. It was full of great ideas, plotlines, and NPCs that could be used in any urban setting.
Getting back to the artwork, I love this piece because it grips the viewer immediately. I think the first thing that draws your eye is the grinning character (Gnoll? Werewolf?) on the right side. It’s only after closer inspection that you realize that he is very well hidden and the real focus should be on the “beggar” luring in the two unsuspecting travelers. I’d also like to think that those two travelers are spending their very first day inside the walls of the big city. Unfortunately, they seem on the verge of learning the hard way that cities can be full of deceitful people.
Looking at the details of the piece, the “beggar” seems to be trying to attract attention by the use of a small pendant, perhaps asking the travelers if they are interesting in buying it. However, I’d also like to think that perhaps the pendant has magical properties making the “beggar” appear friendlier and more inviting than he really is. Either way, he seems to have the travelers’ attention as they are turning inward for a closer look. Interestingly, the travelers do have their weapons drawn and that could be a hint that these folks won’t go down without a fight.
My intuition tells me that the next few moments after the one depicted here will result in a very interesting fight. But who will be the winner? You decide!