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The Cabal of Eight Pt.12: The Under-City Vaults Pt.2

Szoosha the black scaled Naga (played by Isis) continued to lead the group into a smaller chamber The vault map with each dooradjacent to the spider-gallery they had just survived. He burned away the cobwebs that choked this room as well to reveal a roughly 10 x 10 room, barren with a floor strewn with dirt. To the north was another stone staircase winding down.

The naga continued carefully down the steps and around a corner to come to a short hallway which turned west sharply just ahead. Excor (played by Cris) put his lit torch in the iron torch-loop set into the wall at the bottom of the steps before lighting another. There were spider webs covering the ceiling. Szoo set them on fire and after the flash fire a couple of hand sized spiders, burnt crispy, dropped to the floor.

Excor: “HEY! Let us know when you’re gonna do something like THAT!”

Shrugging, Szoosha continued ahead while the rest of the group tried to organize themselves. He saw an open archway to the north from which he could see a constant white light shining from beyond the chamber through it. He could also make out the backlit and squatting form at the center of the room ahead. As that did not move he looked to the west and saw a closed solid bronze door bearing the same strange face in relief at its center. This time the face had two opal eyes.

Having come to a fork in the road the group of young mages debated as to which way to go. The form that Szoo first saw in the other chamber was a kneeling behemoth of bronze plate-mail with a large spiked mace in one gauntlet and a standard flanged mace in the other. The mass of bronze was on one knee and was lacking a head. In place of the neck was a gaping hole rimmed with corrosion that also opened partway onto the chest.

Excor: “If we go that way that thing will get up and KILL us! It’s some kind of construct or golem or something weird. Our magic might not do anything to it!”

Gornix (played by Gil): “How do you know?”

Excor: “Because I do! I know!”

In a similar fashion, they discussed the bronze door to the west, whether to open it and/or pry loose the gems. In turns, they checked the door and trying to sense magic on it. None could get a solid read on it other than it lacked a lock. So they continued arguing about what to do for about a half an hour. Eventually a frustrated Szoo simply opened the door.

Behind the bronze door was a 5 x 5 closet with a shelved alcove in each of its three walls stocked with various vials, jars and bottles. Each sealed with a preservation spell in wax. They found a jar of Mandrake Root, a jar of 6 Blue Lotus Seeds, a jar of 3 Grey Lotus Seeds, a jar of Purple Lotus Seeds, a jar of 8 Mantrap Seeds, a packet of 3 Dragon Teeth, and 4 potions of Healing.

Finding that they had only one way left to go and perhaps emboldened by the extra healing juice they continued north. The chamber before them was about 15 feet by 15 feet with a thick round stone support pillar in each corner. To the west in this room was another bronze door with the same face save the glittering ruby eyes. In the east lay an open but dark passageway. To the north was an archway from behind which a brilliant light source blazed into their eyes. The source, a large blood-red ruby on a white marble pedestal.

Szoosha began to move past the squatting armor towards the brilliant archway. Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye he caught some movement from within the neck hollow. He leapt to the side. The thing that burbled and oozed from the corroded hollow appeared as a semi-gelatinous blob of blood red slime with several dark patches over it akin to scabs. It was a Red Ichor, a type of slime monster (see MMII).

Athfonia (played by Perla) readied her spear to jab at it if got close to her. Excor shot a bolt of lightning at it with the copper spike to some effect. Gornix cast Chrono-Missile dealing some damage to the strange creature. Fauna (played by Jenn) moved past the squatting armor hoping to be out of the ooze’s path. Szoo threw a blast of fire at it reducing it to a crystalized heap of granules.

Afterward, Excor looted the solid bronze maces with Szoo volunteering to carry one in his pack. Fauna wandered over to the archway. She saw runes carved into the greenish stone all around the edges. After a group-inspection they worked out a constant Wall of Force with no apparent way through filled the archway.

Through the impassible archway they could see their prize, the so-called Dungeon Heart only a few feet away. The chamber where the treasure rested was diamond shaped. Its floor, walls, and domed ceiling were constructed of a polished green marble. There were other archways possibly leading into it to the north, east, and south but in between these were large bronze reliefs of the same face with open, gaping mouths.

After some belly-aching, the group decided to inspect the bronze door in the west wall leaving the dark passage for another time. The door was the same as the previous doors save for the ruby eyes. It also visibly lacked any locking mechanisms but shut tight. It also seemed warded against any kind of magical attempts to see through it or “ghosting”. However, there was a riddle inscribed on it in Ivoran:

I consume all that I touch, without a mouth I roar, by my black touch only I may open this door.

Szoo solved it immediately and conjured some fire, touched the flame to the door, and it opened just as quickly. Szoo slithered into the dark room beyond. It instantly lit up with a magical light its source not readily apparent. The chamber walls, floor, and ceiling were covered in polished white marble tile. An empty wall niche laid to the south, to the north another bronze door, and in the west a narrow short hallway continued west with empty niches and an archway opening north lay at its end.

They inspected the bronze door recessed into the center north wall. It was solid bronze with the relief of the same face though this time with sapphire eyes. In addition, this door was also shut tight with no apparent locking mechanism. The riddle inscribed on it read thusly:

A proper guest knows how to open me.

So Gornix tried to talk to the door receiving no response. Excor used his Social Aptitude skill but to no avail. They stood there for a while trying to figure out the riddle. Still perplexed Gornix then tried to charm the door open. They were truly stumped this time.

The players sat there for a while scratching their heads until Cris excused himself from the table to go to the bathroom. Isis, Jenn, and Gil threw out a few wild guesses before falling into quiet contemplation.

Cris (on his way back to the table from the bathroom): “KNOCK on it! I KNOCK on the door!”

The door swung open after Excor’s rapping.

Cris: “Ha ha! It came to me while I was standin’ there pi$$!n’ ‘We should knock on it!’”

As a group, the young mages moved north into the newly revealed chamber. This chamber was very similar to the previous as its walls, celling, and floor were of white marble. It also lit up with magic light as they entered. To the north was a small empty niche in the wall and to the west, a short hallway that opened to the south. However, to the east was a recessed archway through which blazed a familiar white light.

As soon as the last mage in line, Excor, stepped over the threshold, the door slammed shut and a strange creature materialized at the center of the brightly lit room. This creature was a large serpent whose body split at its rear into six separate tails. Two of these were wielding a club and a spiked mace. The others were lashing the air like whips.

Isis: “What the HELL is that THING!?”

To Be Continued…

 

The Cabal of Eight – Pt.11: The Under-City Vaults Pt.1

The Underlings, after a confusing and circuitous route, led the young mages to the goal. They were in a large sewer tunnel on a narrow walkway above a flowing river of filth. They showed the mages a small hole bored through the slimy brick and mortar wall. Beneath was a thick oak double-door its bronze hardware severely corroded. Fortunately the ratlings had also tunneled through the moldy wood.

The mages also noticed a bricked up archway in the same sewer wall about 5 feet over. Shrugging all climbed through the ratlings’ hole. Beyond was a 10 ft. wide hall. It was damp and smelled of a strange mixture of foul sewer gas and a dry mustiness. Offset from each other and along either of the western and eastern walls were verdigris covered bronze faces with gaping mouths from which orifices dangled spider-webs and streams of slime dripped.

The bronze faces were a stylized representation of a human (the mages hoped) with a strangely blank, stony expression. Ahead of the group at the other end of the hallway was a set of bronze double-doors scaly with green corrosion and each with the same strange face on it though the mouths closed into a straight stern line and fist-sized diamonds set in the eye sockets. However, the face on the left door was missing one of its precious eyes. The damage on the old bronze was obviously new. As a result of the mages noticing this, the ratling leader felt the need to speak.

Dusk (the ratling gang-leader): “One of ours did that. He tried to pry the gem. It’s just cut glass filled with acid. It broke and destroyed one of his arms. Leave the gems alone.”

Excor (to Dusk): “You SURE there’s no traps here?”

Dusk: “Oh yeah, don’t touch the door, a lightning bolt killed another of ours.”

Cris (Excor’s Player)(in a mocking tone directed at me the GM): “Oh yeah, huh? Forgot to tell us about THAT huh!? Yeah I bet damned little ratling.”

So, the mages carefully studied the doors. They were airtight, and shut-tight with no evidence of any locking mechanism. However, they did find an inscription on each of the doors that read:

Often silent, sometimes gentle, and others a hurricane, cities fall to me and only I can open these doors.

Of course, they easily solved the riddle. Athfonia (played by Perla) cast Wind Rush blowing the doors open. It was as the group began to move over the threshold that Excor remembered that he was still badly wounded from the previous two skirmishes. Consequently, he took the center position within their group formation.

Gornix (played by Gil): “Well that was easy.”

Cris: “It was supposed to be. Just keep a lookout. You never know what could happen!”

Szoosha the Black Scael Naga Fire Elementalist (played by Isis) conjured a flame into his palm for light since Excor had lit a torch. They moved into a small 10 by 10 chamber with an empty alcove in the north and eastern walls. In the west was narrow archway opening onto stone steps going down. The floor was a thick layer of dirt and dust possibly over stone. The room choked with dusty cobwebs that dangled from the domed ceiling.

Cris: “Spider webs huh? So there’s giant spiders down here huh?”

Gil: “How do you know?”

Cris: “There’s always spiders.”

The noses and eyes of all of the mages began to burn due to the swamp gas that had collected in the small room possibly over centuries. Suddenly, Szoo’s flame and Excor’s torch exploded with a blinding blast of flame.

Fortunately, no one was injured perhaps though slightly singed. They waited for a few seconds and sniffed at the air before relighting their lights. Meanwhile Gornix lit the crystal on his staff (the crystal being enchanted with the Torch Light cantrip) ‘just in case’. They elected Szoo to lead them for the time being. The naga’s Detection skill was the highest of the group, which wasn’t saying much. Needless to say Szoo was a bit reluctant.

Szoo: “Me!? What about the ratlings!?”

Dusk (waving from the hallway): “Ha! Yer on yer own. We’ll wait for ya here for a couple a’ days before leaving!”

Isis: “What!? They’ll just leave us here!”

Cris: “No. If we don’t come back they’ll assume we’re dead and they won’t come down and check.”

Isis: “Oh. That makes sense.”

After some prodding Szoo reluctantly began to lead the group down the long case of stone steps that sank down into darkness. The room that dimly unfolded before him had a 12 ft. high vaulted ceiling and four thick stone columns standing along its center. There were multiple empty wall niches and a thick netting of dirty spiders’ webs strewn over the whole drastically obscuring his vision. The room also stank strongly of sewer gas.

Isis (Szoo’s player)(referring to the spider webs): “I set them on FIRE! I like to BURN things!”

So of course Szoo threw fire at the cobwebs and not only did most of the webs in the room burst into intense blindingly bright flames but a pocket of sewer gas exploded as well. Szoo was slightly injured by the blast. Webs continued to veil the vaulted ceiling and the far corners of the room however.

The other mages moved into the room one at a time until all of them gathered at one end of the gallery. They slowly began to move forward to the other when Gornix spotted something and alerted the others. It was a large spider’s egg suspended and pulsating between the second and third pillars at about the center of the room.

Excor: “$#!t! BURN it! BURN it now!”

Excor glanced at the niches in the walls nervously. All the while something in the webs above crept over them. Suddenly, a giant black spider dropped onto Szoo’s shoulders sinking its fangs into the naga mage’s scaly flesh. The spider’s venom paralyzed Szoosha as well injuring him.

Szoo: “Um. Guys? I’m a little HURT here!”

Gornix cast Illuminate lighting up most of the room and revealing two more giant black spiders scuttling on the ceiling towards them. Athfonia cast Neutralize Poison on Szoosha in time to negate both the paralysis and the damaging effects of the venom. The third spider leapt at Gornix biting him injecting its paralyzing toxin into his bloodstream. The second spider leapt at Excor but failed critically falling to the floor injuring itself. Excor blasted the second spider with his copper spike further injuring it. The first spider grappled with Szoosha. Szoo tried to shape-shift out of the grapple but failed. Fauna cast Neutralize Poison on Gornix.

Gornix cast Chrono-Missile at number three. It tried to dodge but got hit anyway suffering moderate injury. The second spider flipped over and sank its black verminous fangs into Excor paralyzing him. The first spider maintained its grip on Szoo and tried to bite him but missed by a hair’s breadth. After that scare, Szoo was able, just barely, to break the grapple and throw the thing off of him.

Gornix let loose more chrono-missiles at number three horribly wounding it. In response, the creature spat webbing at the salt-lotus mage but missed. The second spider crawled onto Excor’s boneless body and number one spat webs at Szoo fortunately also missing its target.

Gornix (using his Spell Slinger feat) cast more chrono-missiles at the third spider. Its verminous body bursting splattering custard-colored crud everywhere as a result.  Its black legs curled and it crumpled into a hideous black ball.

Gornix then cast Neutralize Poison on Excor. Fauna dropped her lantern and whipped her staff at the nearest spider. The staff flying from her hands to clatter into a niche. Spider number two grappled Excor as he tried to move. Spider number one tried to grapple with Szoo but failed to gain a grip. Szoo called forth his flaming naginata. Athfonia pierced the first spider’s abdomen with her spear. Excor tried desperately to break spider number two’s grip.

Cris: “Man, if that thing bites me one more time I’m dust!”

Gornix cast Chrono-Missile on number-two wounding it badly and drew his scimitar. Spider number-two tried to gain a grip in order to try to bite but failed (N1) and fell from Excor. Spider number-one bit Szoo after the naga failed to dodge paralyzing him with its venom his fire weapon fluttering out of existence. This caused Szoo to make a recovery roll to prevent from being killed by the damaging effects of the spider’s poison.

Finally Gornix stepped into the fray and slashed at the second spider hacking the already badly wounded spider in two with his sword. Athfonia lunged at the last spider with her spear impaling it through its abdomen killing it. She pulled her viscera greased spear from its still twitching corpse.

With the battle over Excor cast Neutralize Poison on Szoo and Close Wounds on himself. Athfonia cast Heal Other on both Excor and Szoosha. After first aid, their attentions turned towards the pulsating giant spiders’ egg still in the room. Surprisingly it hadn’t burst during the commotion of the fight. Apparently, it was not yet ready to hatch and release its swarm of deadly young spiders.

Szoo: “I should set it on FIRE!”

The rest of the group (collectively): “NO!”

Therefore, they left the egg unmolested and continued on with a somewhat disappointed Szoosha in the lead. The rest kept their eyes glued to the ceiling as they proceeded.

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight Pt.10: Tunnel Rats

In front of the heavy just shut door of the Pesters’ Guild, Gornix (played by Gil) introduced Doubab the ratter to the group. After a short time he agreed to guide them into the rat fights underneath the Ruined Wall. It would be in a few hours at sundown that evening. As they departed their guide on their way to kill the last remaining few hours at the Red Helm Fauna (played by Jenn) pulled a bundle of rat-tails from her cloak.

It was the bunch that the pickpocket (see The Cabal of Eight Pt. 6: Gold Devil) had dropped when Fauna caught him trying to pick the golden bee. The bunch tied with a broad yellow ribbon. As she handed it to Doubab, “for your troubles” Excor (played by Cris) and Athfonia (played by Perla) saw a slight change pass over his already pinched features. They walked back across the city to the Red Helm tavern to wait until near sundown.

Later, as they stumbled out of the Helm’s door into the street they realized something. They were still wounded from their fight with the red imps. Gornix tucked a dusty carved-glass bottle of whiskey he had bought from the bartender for 8 gp into his robes. He cast Close Wounds on Szoosha (played by Isis). Excor followed suit casting Close Wounds on Fauna who had just chugged a full tankard before hitting the door.

They tried to avoid the main streets deciding to weave through the alleyways as they headed east towards their appointment. This was due to their fearing that jumping one of the city’s criminals might have dire consequences. They reached a fairly wide, round mini-plaza as the building dwarfing aqueducts worked their way north to a public fountain across from the Old Amphitheater. The place was quiet, dark, and deserted save for the small clumps of garbage that lay everywhere. Some of the lighter bits of the detritus stirred and slid across the old paving in a chill evening breeze.

It was when they neared a massive arch that three thugs stepped from behind the wall. One armed with a pair of knives, one in each hand, another with a crude wooden cudgel and the apparent leader was armed with a quarter staff. All were wearing scavenged soft leather armor reinforced with a maddening number of studs and rivets.

Staff-Bearing Thug: “So what do we have here? Y’know we followed you guys for quite a while. You remember what you Did! You robbed a Bronzehead, now’s yer gonna give us back his dagger and suffer the consequences!”

Athfonia immediately tried to cast Call Lightning but failed. Excor drew his copper spike and zapped the Cudgel bearing thug hurting him. Gornix tried to summon an earth elemental but failed. Szoo cast Elemental Half-Plate Armor (Fire) on himself. Fauna cast Sleep on the Pole-Fighter but to no effect. The Pole-Fighter ran up critically striking Fauna with one end of his staff. Fortunately Fauna parried the other with her dagger. The knife-fighter slashed at Szoosha but was unable to penetrate the Naga’s fiery armor. The cudgel-thug attacked Excor but missed with a clumsy swing.

Gornix cast Summon Elemental IV summoning two medium sized earth elementals which erupted from the ground right next to two of the young thugs. The first humanoid rock creature snatched up the pole-fighter in an unbreakable grip. The second monster body slammed the knife-fighter wounding him badly after the mugger failed his dodge. Szoo summoned forth his fire naginata and slashed at the cudgel thug opening his belly killing him. Meanwhile the thug-leader, the pole-fighter, strained desperately trying to break the stony grip that held him fast. Gornix cast Chrono-Missile on the knife-fighter wounding him horribly.

On Gornix’s orders one of the elementals squeezed the pole-fighter. The thug-leader screamed at a high pitch and they could hear some of his ribs crack as blood ran from his nose and mouth. The second elemental slammed into the already wounded knife-fighter. His corpse reduced to a wad of blood-soaked rags flew about 20 feet through the air ultimately splattering all over the wall of a nearby building. The pole-fighter began pathetically begging for his life and crying that he “didn’t want to die”.

After a brief interrogation Gornix got the name of the Bronzehead whose knife they took when they tried to capture him (see The Cabal of Eight Pt. 7: A Red Rat). It was “Drazra”. These three were just wannabe’s that Drazra had recruited to get his dagger back and teach the four mages that accosted him a lesson. After a brief speech on the perils of street life by Gornix, they let the beaten and bleeding pole-fighter limp away into the shadows of the darkening city. After Excor and Szoo looted the corpses they continued on their way to the Rat Fights.

They eventually met Doubab in a small building-locked plaza in front of the ragged end of the Ruined Wall. The old archer galleries served as an enclosed and self-governed town within the city. There was a long line of people representative of all of the social strata of Ezmer. They were waiting their turn to walk under makeshift stone archway. It seemed to lead through a flickering firelight to a stair down under the open face of the Ruined Wall. A pair of chain-shirted Bronzehead thugs were acting as security and charging a door fee.

Doubab the ratter shuffled them into line and eventually down into the excavated pits in and below the foundation of the old wall. Of course, after they each paid the 1 silver piece cover charge. They walked down into a large rectangular chamber with a terraced floor at four different levels. The rats were unleashed on each other in a small depression packed with cages and trainers at the deepest level over which all the other levels looked over.

There were several open archways some undoubtedly led into the sewer system underneath the city. A few had doors which perhaps led to the upper levels of the Ruined Wall. Each guarded by an armored Bronzehead.  On the top tier floor were the betting tables with a visible and small force of well-armed thugs. The golden light of torches, braziers, and oil lamps permeated the place as did the overpowering scent of strong incense leaking from large brass censers hovering like a thick fog over the slight moist stench of the city sewers.

Fauna spotted a fat merchant in blue robes running a table that she recognized from the Druid Cult (see The Cabal of Eight Pt.2: Wagon Ho!) by his golden necklace, a jeweled dragonfly. She leaned in and eventually clued him in on how she recognized him. He referred to her as “little sister” and warned her not to be too public about their “thing”. She walked away and they both nodded as she departed.

Szoo (to Fauna): “What the hell was THAT?!”

Fauna (with a sly smile): “Oh nothing.”

Cris (Excor’s Player)(sarcastically): “Oh yeah, nothing! Right. It’s her little stupid cult thing! Yeah, nothing. Don’t get mixed up in that s#!*!”

The young mages gathered about the edge of the second from the bottom tier to watch the sport.

Fauna (after the first match): “This is DISGUSTING guys! I refuse to watch this!”

Excor: “Why? You knew what this was. It’s called the rat fights! The RAT FIGHTS!”

At about the third match, the match announced to pit the Pesters’ Guild Rat named ‘Old Man’ against ‘a promising newcomer’ named ‘Gnaw-Skull’ owned by the Underlings. The Old Man was a rather large rat missing large patches of hair and its body a scorecard in scars of its brutal career. While the Underlings’ rat was a slightly smaller black rat with long yellow teeth. The Old Man was fat and calm as the cages were held and paraded for the benefit of the gamblers. In contrast Gnaw-Skull was hostile to its handler through the woven wood bars of its cage.

Hence Excor and Szoo rushed to the tables to place their bets on the ‘Old Man’ whom the odds favored by a mile. Predictably the Old Man tore Gnaw-Skull apart in record time. As a result, the Underlings, a group of sketchy looking and filthy ratlings wearing crude leather armor and armed with fairly nice daggers and short-swords, were in an uproar. Excor and Szoo won 1 silver piece each.

The Underlings were preparing to cut their losses and leave when the mages decided to approach the one that appeared to be their leader. As a result of Excor dropping Afsik’s name their leader, a ratling with an eye-patch and whitening gray fur, approached from a dark corner of the pits. He lit his pipe while appraising the young mages one at a time with his blood-shot eye.

Dusk: “I’m Dusk, the ratling yer lookin’ fer. Afsik’s got faith enough in ya to send you ta us then I guess we’ll take you. Now. Follow us magelings.”

Gornix was going to say goodbye to Doubab but his contact to the Pesters’ Guild seemed utterly consumed in the sport of the rat-fights. So he decided to simply leave with the rest of the cabal mages. They were led down into one of the large lower archways and continued around a bend until the air signaled that they had left the fighting pits.

At first it was a relief from the pungent scented smoke until the cool air became even more pungent with the metallic smell of fresh, wet sewage. The only light came from Fauna’s lantern which she had lit as they disembarked and the glowing crystal on top of Gornix’s staff.

Dusk: “Oh yeah, if ya see a fog creepin’ over the waters or clingin’ to the ceiling don’t stick yer face in it.”

Szoo: “Why?”

Dusk: “Its sewer gas and it’ll kill ya. It’s flammable too.”

Fauna: “Great.”

To Be Continued…

 

The Cabal of Eight Pt.9: Imp Attack!

Szoo (played by Isis), Gornix (played by Gil), led by Excor (played by Cris) left the Red Helm after Impbreakfast and ‘swooped’ by the Grove to ‘scoop up’ the druidess Fauna (played by Jenn). They were on their way to see Afsik the strange the antiquarian at his shop in the Harbor District.

Szoo, Gornix, and Fauna related the previous night’s shenanigans to Excor. Bumble was fine the stun bolt to the head had just knocked her out. They had ‘confiscated’ the book ‘for her safety’. Excor couldn’t wait to ‘dig through that book’ when he got the chance.

Excor: “Vordan‘s tome huh?” Cris scratched the name into his notebook.

It was not long before they were walking into the tiny shop stuffed with every kind of knickknack, odd-and-end, and curious object. All of it was obviously very old and most was not very well cared for. Some however, did appear to be some sort of plunder. All was covered in dust, cobwebs, and all the iron was rusty and the bronze covered in verdigris.

The dark shop was damp and smelled strongly of a salty must that collects in derelict buildings close to the sea. A sudden disembodied exclamation from the piles of junk surprised the young mages, “What’re ya here for?”

Excor: “Belrae sent us; we were told there’s a job here?”

Afsik: “Oh yeah. Ya look like mages, yes. Okay. Sure you don’t wanna buy nuthin’, no? No. Okay, well then…”

They heard a couple of unseen objects fall to the floor. Glimpses of the shadowy figure of a rat leapt back and forth through the tangle of junk. A ratling, landed with a light thud on top of an old trunk before them. His light brown fur tinged with white especially that on his face. He was also a bit more rotund than most other ratlings that they had heretofore seen.

Afsik: “I do have some work. It is dangerous and requires you to go below the city to the sewers.”

Excor: “What does it pay?”

Afsik: “500 gold pieces each. I’ll pay half upfront. Yes?”

Excor (looking back at the rest): “Sounds good to me.”

They had accepted Afsik’s job, they were to seek out something called the “Dungeon Heart”, a red gem that shone with white light, and bring it back to the ratling antiquarian. They were to contact the Underlings, a ratling gang with control of the Ezmer sewers who would guide them to its location. Their Underling contact was one named ‘Dusk’. They were going to have to go to the rat fights held under the Ruined Wall in the demesne of the Bronzeheads to meet the ratlings.

They decided to seek out Gornix’s contact, Doubab of the Pesters’ Guild. The guild was a frequent participant in the rat fights that occurred every other week under the old wall. As the group left the small, dusty shop the tall figure of a young woman jogged towards them from the east. It was Athfonia (played by Perla). She had been sleeping on the beach near the lumber mill essentially ‘bumming it’ around the Harbor District of Ezmer.

So Gornix, Excor, Fauna, Szoo, and Athfonia together at last, began their long walk to the Pesters’ Guild House to see Doubab, Excor’s contact. Hopefully he could guide them to the rat fights helping to avoid any potential fatal pitfalls.

They wended their way along the foot of the beach cliff that stood between the Harbor District and the city proper. They walked up the ramp towards and then through the Four Gate Tower at the top along with an increasing flow of foot and light wagon traffic. Their path took them along the Outer Rung, a wide avenue that ran straight over the face of the Slavers’ Quarter. One side of the wide street lined with pens, pits and slave-marts, the other, shops and other common places of business.

They continued through the increasing press of traffic until they reached a public fountain that lay along their road. They turned off into the small circular paved plaza that surrounded it to refresh themselves. The plaza was mildly crowded with several folks sitting along the high stone curbing of the massive fountain. Some were dipping their buckets or jacks others were wetting rags and wiping themselves down.

A short distance across from the fountain some carriages had stopped in front of a large multistory shop of some sort. Painted on the sides of three of these carriages was an orange escutcheon bearing a barrel and a grain sack as charges with oak leaves and an acorn at helm. A family motto scrawled in Hyvalian characters along the bottom. The young mages saw a man in his late forties with a cruel expression stamped deep into his sunbaked features make his way to the central carriage dressed in finery of the most current fashion. Several armed footmen also in fine threads and arming doublets the orange shield emblazoned on their chests accompanied him.

Gornix: “Wow. Who is this guy?”

Excor: “According to the motto, the family Nezorik?”

Fauna: “Why does that sound familiar?”

As they gawked, a sturdy but short girl dressed in a fine silk and lace gown followed her elder. The girl turned and seeming to recognize them shouted “Hey Guys” and proceeded to jog clumsily to them waving her arm as if they couldn’t already see her. She tripped a few times but the pair of footmen accompanying her were able to prevent her from eating the age-worn paving.

The Players (pretty much all at once): “Bumble!?”

Of course, she was wondering what they were up to and was begging to come along. Excor was extra charming as he chatted her up finding out the older gentleman was her father. Baerox was his name. They were there to bid at one of the slave-marts. However, that ‘was sooo boring’.

Bumble: “Father wants a real fighter. He wants to get into the games.”

The group eventually decided to take her along. Of course, they had to allow her footmen to accompany them due to her father’s distant orders. Bumble had one of her footmen act as the back and forth messenger. They were on their way again just before high noon.

As they continued, Bumble and her men began to lag behind, the footmen duty bound to keep pace with Ilna. They had just made it about a block past the city offices and turned onto a narrow street that took them into the East District.

Isis (Szoo’s player; looking at the group copy of the city map): “You can sure tell this is the POOR district!”

Suddenly Bumble screamed and her guards shouted as they surrounded her. There were four red bat-winged imps snatching with their horny claws at bumble’s dress.

Fauna: “CRAP! I gave her the BEE back!”

Jenn: “She didn’t give it back to her father?”

The GM (me): “Apparently not.”

Fauna cast Wind Rush sending the nearest imp careening into Bumble knocking her to the ground and the imp out. Imp number four reared and blew its fiery breath at the young mages. Szoosha making a simultaneous attack diverted the flames with his elemental power. Excor pulled his copper spike, a level one rod of Lightning Bolts, from under his robes and blasted the grounded imp hurting it. Athfonia cast Throw Flames but to no effect. The imps were fire imps. Gornix cast Chrono-Missile at the grounded imp hurting it badly. Imp number two burst into flames and clawed at Gornix narrowly missing. Number three also burst into flames and raked Excor with its claws wounding him.

Bumble’s footmen had already dragged her from the fray and were running away as fast as they could whilst dragging their burden. Imp number four cast a curse in Gornix’s direction but he was able to resist. Szoo cast Elemental Half-Plate Armor on Excor. The flames engulfed his body before hardening into a glowing glass-like material. He was wounded more than he had at first realized. Gornix attempted to cast Chrono-Missile yet again but the magic went out of his control. The resulting explosion blasted them horribly injuring all and killing Imp number four. The hideous hoof-footed creature screamed as it disappeared in a puff of flame and fetid sulfurous smoke.

Fauna, Szoo, and Athfonia were stunned by the blast (making Recovery checks to keep from dying). Gornix moved to Fauna and cast Close Wounds. Imp number one came to; he had completely avoided the magic explosion by a razor thin margin, and snatched something up as he snickered maniacally. Excor tried to blast number one with his spike but the creature was completely unharmed. The remaining two other imps leapt up from the ground to which they had been thrown. Gornix let loose more chrono-missiles at number one but did no damage. So Szoo summoned up his fire naginata and stabbed number one killing it instantly. As a result, Gornix jumped to where it had been laying and snatched up the gold bee trapped in amber stuffing it in his robes.

Gornix then cast Ghost Form on himself. Szoo cast Elemental Half-Plate Armor on Fauna to protect her. Fauna tried to cast Lightning Bolt at number three but the magic got out of her control and instead healed the creature slightly. Athfonia applied her Heal Other spell to Szoo. Number three surged at the black scaled Naga and scratched him. Number two followed suit and also scratched Szoo with its claws. Excor leveled his copper spike at Number two and blasted it away back to whatever fiery hell it came from. Gornix unleashed a Lightning Bolt at the last remaining imp blasting away most of the flesh from its chest. Immediately Szoo slashed at the creature cutting it. The little monster backed off and disappeared in a puff of acrid yellow smoke. Finally, Gornix cast Close Wounds on himself.

Afterwards they assessed the situation and finding the battle done decided to carry on. Bumble and her footmen were long gone.

Fauna: “Aww man. We got the BEE again.”

Excor: “We better keep it. Something wants it bad so it’s some weird artifact or something.”

Szoo: “Those things were tough!”

Excor: “Yeah, whatever summoned ‘em is probably tougher!”

Fauna: “Well, here YOU take it.”

Excor: “What are you kidding!? I don’t want that THING!”

They double timed it to the guild house and were soon playing a game of door tag with the unseen doorman through a shudder-slit in a heavy oak and iron door.

Isis: “Y’know I don’t think we’re in the MOOD for THIS!”

To Be Continued…

 

The Cabal of Eight Pt.8: A Second Meeting

The cabal’s newest member had just made his mark on the contract. Ilna (aka Bumble) jerkily leaned Nezorik Family Seal (Bumble)over the octagonal meeting table to shake Szoosha’s scaly hand knocking over her own ale. In a clumsy effort at a greeting Bumble also casually mentioned that her ‘father has two Naga slaves’. She stopped suddenly when she realized what she was coming out of her mouth.

Isis (Szoosha’s Player): “Oh gee, that’s GREAT!”

Jenn (Fauna’s Player): “Aww, don’t hold it against her.”

Excor (Played by Cris) raised a toast to new members noting that the Ferenoi, Athfonia (played by Perla), was strangely absent. All raised their cups in Szoo’s honor and drank up.

Belrae (the cabal leader): “I suppose all of you know it’s been declared a Dragon Summer this season?”

The cabal leader continued to explain after Excor and Gornix’s inquiries as to exactly what is a Dragon Summer. Basically, the summer is unusually hot and humid with frequent thunderstorms occurring just off shore. It occurs every 8 years or so, the cycle is not consistent. It’s also dragon mating season when the Whers of the Southland tend to congregate on and around Ezmeria especially the Ezmerian Headland.

Cris and Gil’s heads bobbed vacuously acknowledging the info-dump as probably did their characters. Cris consulted his notes.

Excor (to Belrae): “Hey, isn’t this an election year? So what’s going on with that?”

The political body of Ezmeria is housed entirely within the city walls save for the administrators of the Breadbasket and the surrounding terrain. The body politic is composed of the Electorate (citizens with the power to cast votes), a small body of representatives from the Breadbasket, and two of what can be called Political Parties.

These parties are the Gold Sashes and the Oaks. The Gold Sashes, supported by the Golden Devil West Company, represent business interests and rich merchants. The Oaks pander to the majority landowners but money and contributions tend to direct their politics. As the Oaks are concerned with placating the poor with bread, they typically have the support of the Breadbasket.

Excor: “So whose side are WE on?”

Belrae (somewhat sternly): “Neither. Stay out of politics.”

Belrae went on to mention that a Blackship of the Deadlands is at port in the Slavers’ Castle. Aboard is a gladiator of renown, Skullbash, and his manager. It was obvious that he and Riahm were curious about the Deadlander manager and even half-jokingly mentioned something about ‘purchasing a couple of zombies’. However, their joke fell flat.

Gornix (Played by Gil): “So, um, anyone hear about this Ssthris guy? No? Oh, ok.”

Gornix also mentioned his run-in with Wensaer the Obsidian Guild alchemist and asked about the Sapphire guild. Belrae and the rest agreed that a guild contact would be great but the Sapphire guild, which is typically restricted to nobility or the like, has a traditional and tight grip on the city.

Smalltalk ensued as no one else seemed to have any information of note until Excor, Gornix, and Fauna began complaining of being broke and looking for a job. Belrae told them that he knew of one Afsik the strange, an antiquarian in the Harbor District, who was looking for some mages to hire. But for what he didn’t know. Although, he had it on good authority that Afsik paid well. He gave the three mages the antiquarian’s address.

As the meeting began to wind down Belrae stood and made an announcement that he and Riahm will be absent the next meeting (the meeting of the 21st of Early Summer) and possibly the next as they are joining the College Expedition into the Red Waste beyond the Southern Grasslands to investigate some ruins. Belrae adjourns the meeting.

Before the cabal’s young leader and his compatriot can even rise to leave Excor & Gornix get Riahm to exchange some spells from his grimoire. The plucky pair traded the bard/sorcerer Summon Elemental IV for Invisibility I. He gave them Appraise & Far Hand for Magic Globe & Clairvoyance. When Belrae noticed, he acquired the Lightning Bolt spell in exchange for Potion Formula: Slumber.

Meanwhile, Fauna asked Bumble to join her at the bar. Ilna bounced in her seat and snorted in excitement. Downstairs, Szoo joined Bumble and Fauna as they bellied up to the board. Fauna asked after Bumble’s master as the ale was served. Ilna happily told Fauna his name, ’Xanto some people call him the Wasp I guess’. He had apparently found himself in some sort of trouble somewhere far northeast of the city in a town called Skullhead. Her father was sheltering him on condition of her apprenticeship.

Jenn: “Aww man! It IS him! The WASP!”

Cris: “OF COURSE it is! You didn’t think her master was anyone else did you?”

Later, after copying spells, and as Jirek was packing his secretarial kit away, Excor invited the young scribe to drinks. After getting a table in the theater and getting a ‘decent but not expensive’ bottle of wine Excor led Jirek into a conversation. A minstrel was on stage singing a fine rendition of the Ballad of Redtooth. It was a very prosaic song prolific throughout the Westlands and Southlands.

In the course of their conversation, Excor found out about Jirek’s lack of family and his inheritance, which consisted of a completely empty storehouse at the far eastern section of the Harbor District. Excor began chatting him up about getting access to the college library his original intention behind the invitation. One successful Charm roll later and Jirek said to get a hold of him in a few days and maybe he can see about doing something for him.

Excor (to Jirek while preemptively refilling his cup): “Have some more wine my friend.”

Meanwhile at the bar, Fauna and Szoo continued to chat up Bumble who volunteered that her father had a substantial collection of books in his library. It wasn’t long after that, by coincidence or not, that Gornix strolled up. Bumble began to clumsily flirt with the young Ivoran wizard, he flirted back (using his +5 Bea and CHA to his advantage) and the tipsy girl was smitten.

It was not long before he seduced her into taking all three of them back to her family’s place and into her father’s library. Outside of the tavern she hailed a coach to the other mages’ elation and they rode ‘in style’ to the Western Cliffs District past the security gate and wall up to a large stone block manor complete with footmen awaiting her arrival.

Less than an hour later in the private library of the Nezorik family manor the young mages were already eyeballing the spines of the books that crowded the packed shelves of the lone bookcase as Bumble lighted the candelabras.  Fauna sensed a magic tome and pointed it out to Gornix.

Jenn: “I’m not touching it.”

Gornix lifted the hefty leather-bound book from its bowed shelf.  He cracked open the large book and tried to decipher the markings, which were in magic script on the first page but failed. Fauna was able to make out an enchanted signature next to a sigil, which read Vordan the Magnificent.

Bumble had been telling them that her father couldn’t read but enjoyed having the luxury of books. He enjoyed showing off the illustrations and illuminated texts to his guests. When she realized nobody was listening she turned from the tapers. She saw her friends were hunched over a select tome.

She squeezed between them and said, “I haven’t seen this one before”. Before those words had even completely passed her lips, she poked the magic sigil on the very first page with her plump finger.  Immediately a bolt of blue energy struck her in the head and she collapsed to the floor.

Isis: “Oh GAWD! We killed her!”

To Be Continued…