In one of the rented clubrooms in the back of the Red Helm Inn, a cabal of young mages meets to discuss its mission and commit its member’s signatures to its binding charter. At its center, around the worn and marked mahogany table sit the seven mages, all known to one another for quite some time, colleagues, maybe even friends.
The foremost of these is Belrae Crokosa, an Ivoran of Creschan descent his purple robes bearing his chosen heraldic symbol, a green frog. Likewise, the second officer of this secret cabal is Riahm Iziani in patterned blue silks with a bright yellow waist and neck sash after the Hyvalian fashion, an Ivoran Bard/Sorcerer and the group’s link to a choice few contacts in the college as displayed by his half brown, half green cloak.
The clubroom itself was a small octagonal affair paneled in old dark stained wood decrepit with craquelure. Additionally, he small and sparse shelves were overrun with the detritus of past guests, empty inkbottles, scraps of rotting paper, multitudinous candle stumps, and decomposing ink quills. All peppered with a fine sheet of pale dust. The old moth-eaten red curtains were thrown back letting in the light of early evening which wandered into the small chamber from over the tops of much taller buildings and houses. Two windows lay to the southeast and northeast, a small stone wood-fronted built-in fireplace in the north wall, and the door, currently shut and locked, lay in the west wall.
Another of the group was Ilna of Nezorik or “Bumble” as the other members nicknamed her. A native Ezmerian, she’s the eldest daughter of a prominent merchant in Ezmer, her membership in the cabal doubtlessly due to her family’s resources. She’s short, overweight, and wearing a patterned yellow silk robe with a black silk cord belt fixed with a jade clasp. Her cloak and apron bear a pattern of alternating black and yellow chevrons. Her painful shyness is apparent, as is her uncommon clumsiness.
Next, the secretary of the cabal, Jirek the Scribe of Arebas, is a lifelong scholar with access to the College Library where he works as a librarian. He has no life experience outside of it. He wears a simple brown tunic and pants secured with a black leather belt. With him is his portable writing desk and writing kit as he is also a scrivener.
Opposite these were Fauna the rogue druid (played by Jenn), Gornix the Ivoran wizard (played by Gil), and Excor the mage (played by Cris). Excor being the last member to sign the cabal’s charter slid the parchment to Jirek after he had finished scratching his name. With that, Belrae brought the first official meeting of the unnamed cabal to order. However, after deciding there was no business as of yet to bring to the table the members brought up random points of interest.
Jirek: “There’s a funded expedition going for a 7-day south of the city into the Red Lowlands to some ruins. It’ll be under the oversight of a cloaked Surveyor and Curator. Might last a while though.”
Bumble (snorting and bouncing in her seat as she pulled it out): “Ooh! Ooh! Here’s something! I think it might be magic. I sensed something weird from it onetime.”
Nearly spilling the open bottle of wine in the process, she revealed a palm sized piece of polished amber with what appeared to be a golden bee caught at its center.
Bumble: “My master uses it as a paperweight.”
Accordingly, the PCs grunted as they had already guessed as to whom her master was and it figured he would do something like that.
Excor (played by Cris): “So. Who exactly is your master? His name?”
Bumble: “Xanto, a master mage from Skullhead.”
That elicited a collective groan from the players.
Excor (pointing his pipe at Riahm): “Well! What about you! Got any bardic knowledge for us?”
Riahm: “Well, I know a shipment of naphtha is coming by ship from the Hill-Lands within the month or so. Something going on concerning ‘Creschan Fire’ around the harbor district. There’s an alchemist there leasing a warehouse guarded by Bortorro mercs and a Creschan Captain with a ship. Don’t have any names yet. The Hyvalians and the Ivorans are lurking; something’s gonna go down.”
Gornix (played by Gil): “Interesting.”
Belrae: “There’s also a black ship from the Deadlands docked at Slavers’ Wharf. The Silver Owl is the name I think. A famous fight manager came in on it with his fighter Skullsmash, a half-giant. The manager’s name was Xinn. Their working the fighting pits in the Slavers’ Quarter.”
His tone shifted to a humorous one though it still seemed that he was only half joking.
Belrae (smiling): “Maybe we should buy a zombie from the ship eh! Eh? *ahem*”
Gornix fake laughed as a result of Belrae’s weak attempt at humor and engaged him in “small talk”. The white wizard poured some wine from the dusty bottle delivered from downstairs, compliments of the publican. The bottle was a good vintage though not very expensive.
Excor: “So. Anyone know where to get some Yellow Lotus? No? Hmm.” He then realized he had a contact which could “hook him up”. He made a note to visit her when he had the chance. He lit his freshly packed pipe with a prestidigitation spell.
In due time, Gornix and Excor spent an hour copying down a spell from the other’s grimoire (these being Neutralize Poison and Ghost Form respectively). After finishing this task, Gornix tried to engage the bard for a beer downstairs but Riahm said that post-meeting him and Belrae had some “business” with which to attend.
The gang sat chatting for only a few more minutes and when the chatter died down Belrae adjourned the first meeting of the as-of-yet unnamed cabal. He mentioned that meetings would be end-weekly at dusk. Each member in turn took a small brass key that opened the simple iron lock on the clubroom door for his or her own. The librarian and part-time scribe packed up his writing equipment after recording the last hour of the meeting and headed out the door answering an invite from the PC’s with a terse “I have a scribing job after”.
So the remainders decided to go down into the tavern. Without delay on the way out Excor snatched up the wine bottle. Fauna noticed that Bumble was lingering behind with a bowed head seemingly disappointed they didn’t invite her.
Jenn (Fauna’s player): “Awww. I feel bad for her. I invite her!”
The young mages began to depart their meeting as the orange-gold light of dusk fell through the leaded diamond pane windows . In time the purple moon in the eastern sky would fade as night slowly rose. The cabal room overlooked the corner of Silver Circle and Western Avenue the streets of which were teaming with people of all stripes. The Red Helm Tavern itself sits on this corner straddling the edge of the West Quarter with the start of the Shop District just across Silver Circle street to the northeast, these being only two districts of the many comprising the whole of the ancient city of Ezmer.
The ancient city survived the Druid Schism from which the Bardic College of Ezmer arose and a shift of faith from that of the founding Druids to that of the Brighthouse imported from Crescent Moon by Creschan sailors and missionaries. When the verminous hordes (savage ratlings) raged across the west of Arvan the city itself was at the very edge of its ravening only suffering through the short threat of the hordes final phase, the Red Horde. But all that was 600 years ago.
The gang tumbled down the narrow wooden stair onto the ground floor of the tavern walking around from behind the bar into the taproom. They found the place was jumping and crowded with the usual clientele; laborers, clerks, and shopkeepers. A white but fragrant stratum of smoke hung in the air. Floating over that layer of pipe-smoke, they could hear the sweet music of the songstress from the small theater at the other end of the place.
Thereupon Draiga Skullshine, the publican of the Red Helm glided over the well-worn floorboards to accost them.
Draiga: “Ah! My young friends! Come, come. Did you like the wine I sent up to you? Good, I’m happy. Here let’s all chat a little the drinks are on me!” The gaudy costume jewelry on his fingers clinked as he put his left hand to his chest.
Draiga was a tall heavy-set man with a clean bald pate. He was in his early to mid-forties and spoke with a Poisonwood accent. His clothing was of fine patterned black silks with a broad crimson waist sash. He was a charming fellow and always curious about and eager to talk to his “young friends” whenever he saw them. Of course, he didn’t occupy the apartment traditionally reserved for the publican in the tavern, Draiga lived in the well-to-do Western Cliffs District.
Gornix, Fauna, and Bumble take Draiga up on his offer. Excor on the other hand simply kept on walking eventually settling into an open table in the theater. Those at the bar with the publican chatted some until Draiga revealed that he had the inside skinny on the pit fights. His contact was the newly arrived manager of Skullsmash, if anyone should want to make some bets. He was also a bookie.
The young mages raucously drank ale for a couple of more hours until Fauna made a comment about Bumble chowing down on a big plate of Bittles (balls of ale-soaked bread drizzled in honey) and how much it might cost.
Bumble: “But he, he said it was free! *sputter* Why’re you laughing? … I’m going home!” She leapt off her stool and nearly tripped before leaving in a sudden huff pushing past an approaching Excor.
Excor (wine drunk and with a belly full of fish and fish sauce): “What’s her problem?”
Jenn (Fauna’s player): “Aww. I feel so sorry for her. *gasp* Oh no! Her master’s gonna be mad at her!”
Fauna picked up Bumble’s paperweight from the ale-soaked bar. She put it in her robes with every intention of returning it to her later. Meanwhile Excor, unconcerned, turned the conversation between Fauna and Gornix towards the question of finance. Suddenly, Draiga who had buzzed away quite a while ago appeared out of nowhere.
Draiga: “Well, my young friends I might have a happy solution for you.”
Thus, he quickly gathered them up and hurried them down to the basement after signaling the bar-back. He sat them down at a small table after lighting an oil lamp and began to talk.
Draiga: “So. Let’s talk business, shall we.”
To Be Continued…