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The Cabal of Eight Pt.19: Mage Life

As he faced a High Born Sailor with paper and quill in hand Szoosha (played by Isis) was still in a groggy stupor and Cabal leader Belrae's Iconspeechless.

Naga Sailor (in Split-Tongue): “Ah! You’re awake. Your friend said that…”

Szoosha: “Where the HELL am I!? AM I AT SEA!?”

The young elementalist shot erect and took a look around. The calm morning sea surrounded him on three sides and the air was cool and briny. He was on deck of a three-masted High Born Thrahssk’ Tradesman that was readying to disembark. Needless to say, he was greatly relieved that the ship had yet to set sail.

Szoosha (to the Naga Sailor): “Yeah, um, hi, um, I … well, I dunno…”

Szoosha kept trying to explain himself, for some reason, and slowly backed away from the sailor towards the gangplank. This went on for a few minutes.

Jenn: “You know you can just go right? Why’re you trying to explain yourself?”

Isis: “I DON”T KNOW!”

Szoosha rushed off the ship hurried back to his quarters just before the gangplank was raised. He shared the attic room of a boarding house at the far west end of the Harbor District near the Rondel, a large round stone tower formerly a lighthouse currently the city’s largest brothel. He ducked in, locked the door behind him, and hid under his bed determined to stay there until the next scheduled Cabal meeting on the evening of the 21st of Early Summer, two days hence.

Disappointed that the firepower he had hoped to add to the crew had just run away the bewildered High Born sailor shrugged. At least he didn’t have to pay a finder’s fee for an unsigned contract.

Across town, Excor (played by Cris) finished his spell research (for the Mass tandem spell) at his apartment. Meanwhile Gornix (played by Gil) was also deep into arcane research at his place though he had two more days to go before he had a working spell. Fauna (played by Jenn) spent the day, the 19th of Early Summer, “bumming around the park”.

The evening of the cabal meeting came, the 21st of Early Summer, the previous day spent by all resting, researching, or hiding. They again found themselves around the table in the cramped and dingy club room above the Red Helm Tavern. The cabal leader and his left-hand man however were absent. Jirek, the acting secretary, told the group that Belrae and Riahm were away on an expedition accompanying a pair of Bardic College curators into the Red Waste. They’ll be back in two weeks.  Therefore Excor put forth a motion to put electing an Interim Cabal Leader on itinerary for the next meeting (on the 28th of Early Summer). It passed unanimously.

At first, the meeting began to fall apart as Gornix was eager to get back to his spell research, he had to take a break to make the meeting, and Bumble was curiously silent. Excor and Szoo started a collection among the present cabal members to fund their plan to train rats as to enter the rat fights under the old wall. Jirek was interested but was bust when it came to actual funds.  So he volunteered to help them any way he could for a small cut of the “projected” winnings. However, Fauna absolutely objected, “I think its SICK”. Though she pounded her fist on the table, Excor, Szoo, and Jirek were undaunted.

Finally, the group began to chat about the things they had yet to accomplish. Of course, each mage was interested in something different. Excor was still curious about Ssthris and the bounty on his head (see The Cabal of Eight Pts. 6, 7, 8).

Gornix: “I want that gold bee back, the amber…”

Excor: “NO! We don’t want that THING back! No way!”

So, conceding to Excor’s outrage Gornix brought up Haxat (see The Cabal of Eight Pt.17: Enter the Wasp). Gornix noticed out of the corner of his eye, that Jirek winced at that name.

Gornix (pointing at Jirek): “SO what do you KNOW!?” He jumped up and everything.

With Gornix leading the charge the entire group began grilling the slight scribe. It didn’t take long for the Scribe of Arebas (Jirek) to cave and reveal the location of Haxat’s hideout.  The place was an empty warehouse, near the lumberyard in the Harbor District. An inherited property of the scrawny scrivener. The demon summoner had promised to teach him some of the more potent spells in his repertoire.

Excor: “Damn! We could use that place to house our rats after we get rid of Haxat!”

The meeting adjourned.

Gornix began heading back to his apartment to continue formulating his spell (Force Ram). The salt lotus wizard brought Jirek along as assistant. The scribe was terrified that Haxat would know that he had been betrayed. Otherwise he would have slept in the cabal room.

About half way to Gornix’s apartment they realized that an imp was following them. They spent the better part of the night running circles throughout the city in an effort to at least confuse the small demon but to no avail. Eventually Gornix had an idea and the pair ducked into a small side street that ran behind his apartment building. Gornix cast Ghost Step on them both and they walked in through the back wall finally losing their tail.

Szoo on the other hand had gone to the taproom of the Red Helm to get a beer and try to relax. He took a seat at a table with Excor in the theater to listen to the troubadour who was on stage. He was singing the well-worn saga of the Slayers of the Golden Tower, terribly. As a result, Szoo left Excor’s table to talk to Draega Skullshine whom he spotted buzzing up to the bar. The young naga thought to ply the flighty publican for some information. However, Draega charmed info about Jirek and Haxat from Szoo. Because of this sudden and foreseeable turn-around, Szoosha suffered an attack of paranoia, panicked, and fled back to his room in the harbor district.

Meanwhile, Excor spotted a town guard leaning against the entryway to the theater eyeballing him, the guard immediately left when he realized that he’d been made. Excor kept drinking but kept an eye out over his ale for anything else out of place.

After the meeting, Fauna parted company quickly and without a word. She rushed towards the city center careful to stay hidden. The druidess was careful to make sure that friend or foe did not follow her. She stealthily slipped into the Grove, the city’s central park, and crept into the old amphitheater under cover of darkness. There she waited nervously until midnight always cautious to stay hidden. She was to meet up with the druidic cult, the Brotherhood of the Rope, for her initiation into their organization through the ordeal of the threefold-death.

Jenn: “Um, What!?”

To Be Continued…

 

The Cabal of Eight Pt.18: Two Birds

The young mages, Fauna the druidess (played by Jenn), Szoosha the black-scale naga fire elementalistWith naga bar marked (played by Isis), Excor the mage (played by Cris), and Gornix the wizard (played by Gil), walked into the Red Helm tavern. They noticed a wizard in powder-blue robes by the windows smoking a pipe. Noteworthy as he seemed out of place. Disregarding this Fauna immediately jaunted up to the bartender and paid him to let them know when the Bronzehead thugs on their tails entered the premises.

The young mages then went to the table farthest west in front of the windows below the booths so they could clearly see the streets outside. The table was empty and adjacent to the table with the blue wizard with another table in between, that table with a handful of drunken townsmen. Not long after the spring-bell rang as the Bronzeheads entered led by Drazra, the Bronzehead that they had waylaid little more than a week ago (see The Cabal of Eight Pt. 7: A Red Rat) and took his dagger. Behind him were the staff-wielding thug (see The Cabal of Eight Pt.10: Tunnel Rats) and two other brawny street toughs with short-swords at their hips, chainmail shirts across their chests, and bronze open helms on their heads.

Of course the group of thugs quickly moved across the floor to the mages’ table. Due to the tavern’s floor plan the bartender was unable to warn the mages ahead of time. Thus the lowly bartender walked up behind the thugs as they took the bench at the PCs table pointing at the thugs and mouthing “they’re here” to Fauna followed by a thumbs up before he retreated back to the bar.

Jenn: “Well. That was helpful.”

Drazra (with a crocodile smile): “Well, well, well. We have some unfinished business don’t we? I’m gonna mop the floor with all of yous’ and leave behind a big mess as I’m gonna be moppin’ your blood all over the place. Haw, haw.”

Szoo: “Ah geesh, oh boy! Um, um! … HERE!”

Szoosha unsheathed and slid Drazra’s dagger across the ale-damp wood to him. He snatched it up and inspected it a little bit surprised. Satisfied it was indeed his dagger, his eyes narrowed as he buckled it to his hip.

Drazra: “Well then. I guess this is a good as time as any to give you your bill. Seein’ how you’re now under the protection of the Bronzeheads. You owe us, uh, how about 30 silver pieces a week.” He leaned back and folded his arms with snide arrogance.

Gil: “What!? He’s not going to leave us alone? He has his dagger what does he want!?”

Jenn (to the GM, me): “Well if we pay him will he leave us alone?”

Cris: “No! They’re not gonna leave us alone! They’re gonna charge us protection money because we’re a bunch of weak @$$ mages! … At least they think so.” After checking his sheets, “and I kinda am right now”.

Cris’s outburst gave Isis an idea and thus Szoosha offered the Amber Bee to the Bronzeheads as a “first installment” as he pulled it from the scroll in which it had been enwrapped. The young thug snatched the gem up and with a “that’ll do … for NOW” he took it to the window.

Drazra admired his prize as he turned it in the direct sunlight. He was absolutely sure it wasn’t a forgery or costume jewelry. A mysterious thud hit the window glass surprising the thug shocking him from his reverie. The mages surmised, correctly, that it was an invisible imp hopping onto the outside window pane when it saw the gem glistening like wet honey in the light. Undaunted Drazra led his men out of the tavern. He took a moment to glance back at the young mages before leaving.

Drazra: “Be seeing you around … haw, haw.”

Fauna (to herself): “Not likely.”

Isis: “Sis! Sssh!”

The GM (me): *roll* *roll*

Jenn: “See its fine he didn’t hear me!”

A few minutes after the thugs shuffled out of the tavern with their prize the mages got up and began to go up upstairs to the cabal room, the next meeting was actually on the morrow. Suddenly they heard a ruckus explode unexpectedly outside and spotted the thugs through a window running aimlessly away dodging through the street traffic apparently dodging invisible attackers swooping down on their heads. The mages laughed to themselves as they walked upstairs though they also spotted the blue robed wizard eyeballing them from the side of his face and scrawling in a ledger.

Gornix: “What is that guy’s problem?”

Excor: “Probably some mage guild $#!^ right there.”

Gil (checking his notes): “Oh right the other guild had blue robes … the sapphire guild?”

The mages went upstairs to the cabal room. They settled in and after deciding to wait for the cabal meeting before starting anything else Gornix and Excor decided to trade spells. The pair spent some time exchanging and copying exchanged spells into their respective grimoires. After that, Fauna, Gornix, and Excor begin to decipher and read the first section of Vordan’s Tome (see The Cabal of Eight Pt.8: A Second Meeting). Szoo spent his time gazing out onto the street from the window and happened to see the blue wizard talking with some city guards in front of the tavern. So he decided to go downstairs to get some drinks for the group and maybe spy a little, Excor tossed him a gold piece.

Szoo slithered downstairs and bellied up to the bar, ordered a round of ale. He noticed a half-naga with a recurve bow on his back was drinking there. The half-naga struck up a conversation with Szoo, his name was Ssskrha. The both of them bonded over being outcasts of naga society, one of impure blood and the other cursed with black scales. Ssskrha told him about a naga place, a hookah bar called Ahsh Khhas’ Coil. The stranger said he might have a job “worthy of a black scale” and to meet him later that evening at said hookah bar. After agreeing to meet him Szoo slithered back upstairs with a tray of frothing mugs.

Meanwhile upstairs the others began to read the first section of Vordan’s Tome. Both Excor and Gornix were deciphering and then reading the text to Fauna in case she had any insights. It was a collection of various notes and sections of other books and journals bound into a single book, a codex. It had 12 distinct sections or chapters written in Magical Script all in the same hand. They looked at the very first page of the book and noted that it bore a personal sigil of Vordan the Magnificent and a spell ward of stun bolt, which was triggered when touched.

The first section was a Botanical Treatise. It was heavily illustrated with approximately 20 different plants and herbs native to Ezmeria (basically grants a +2 misc. bonus to I.D. flora and to the Holistic Medicine skill). The three were so entranced that they continued until the sun went down.

The second section of the tome was a collection of out of order diary entries most about the day-to-day misgivings of Vordan. Along with a few awkward entries about an unnamed woman that he was fixated on. A few bad love poems with clumsy erotic overtones followed that, presumably about the same woman. They continued on to the third section, even Szoo was paying attention at this point.

Isis: “Well, YEAH! I mean that was GREAT! ‘Clumsy erotic overtones’! Great!”

This third section was an Alchemical Treatise. It included some uninteresting talk and speculation as well as illustrations of chemical glassware. It also talked about potion components and mentioned Mind Root and Mind Trap Flowers in conjunction with Mystic Lotus pollen. On a mismatched page Vordan rambled about wine. He appreciated Assassin Vine berry wine but only from the ‘darkest of berries’. They also were able to find a potion formula scrawled in this section, Bear’s Endurance (the section also grants a +1 to the Alchemy skill when referred to while performing the skill). By this time Szoo had fetched 2 more rounds and the others decided to stop, the time being around 2 pm. They all went their separate ways with Szoo heading to the Hookah Bar.

On the way out Excor lent Gornix 185 gold pieces for spell components (Gornix was broke) and went to the bazaar to purchase said components. They left to their separate apartments.

Fauna went to the bazaar shortly thereafter. She picked up her custom green with gold trim robes ordered 8 days prior. She then looked around for healing salves. She found a small niche shop and recognized the merchant giving her a secret handshake so she just improvised it back (natural 20) and mentioned that he had recognized her as the groundskeeper’s friend. He gave her a deal on the healing slaves and she quickly excused herself and left.

Szoo had navigated the maze of city streets through the inner gates into the far northeastern corner of the South Market District. It was early evening as he neared his destination. The place was a fair-sized cubic-rectangular building near the 3 big civic grain-stores not far from Excor’s apartment building.

Where the plaster was falling away revealed that the building was constructed of large age-beaten limestone blocks. It was older than the other newer adobe, plaster, and wood buildings especially those that made use of concrete like the apartment blocks. The serpentine split-tongue script was engraved around the circular doorway, too bad Szoo was illiterate.

So the young elementalist slid into a sea of fragrant pipe-fog through the saloon doors. It was spacious within with a tiled floor and the pale plastered walls undulated creating fair-sized niches where the floor sank into a bowl shape with a small table and hookah-pipe standing at center. Some were pillow lined, most were occupied. Brass oil lamps and large finely wrought censers hung from the ceiling by thin chains populating the ceiling like swamp moss from the branches of water-rooted oaks. Directly opposite the entrance was a large mural of the city. It depicted Ezmer encompassed by the neck, body, and tail of a yellow-green dragon. Finally, to the left of and perpendicular to the entrance was the bar tended by a Scael Naga with silvery light green scales spotted with the occasional black patch. Ssskrha, already bellied up, hailed Szoosha over.

Various mixes of pipe-weeds, herbs, and powders populated the shelves behind the bar and it’s tender. In addition, the place served weak ale, grog, and ‘grey-milk’. Grey-milk was soured ale watered down and mixed with herbs. Ssskrha paid for Szoo to use a finely wrought brass long-stemmed pipe from behind the bar. The elementalist selected a 10 gold piece priced ‘special gold blend’ to smoke. Szoo was surprisingly forthcoming with information on himself to his new friend despite his typical paranoia.

Szoo drew in a full lung of the gold blend. He was dizzied temporarily but enjoyed its visual effects. He carried on with some more small-talk while colored lights popped in his eyes. So of course He ordered a drink, and then drew another hit. However, the second toke was one toke over the line for the young mage. He blacked out just as he blew the smoke from his lungs.

It was the burning white light of the morning sun directly on his face that woke the young black-scaled naga. He found himself on the deck of a High-Born ship. A gold scaled High-Born naga crewman was standing over him.

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight Pt.17: Enter the Wasp

It was two days after their return from the Under-City Vault and the young mages were on their wayHeraldry Wasp Shield to Bumble’s house in the Western Cliffs District of the city of Ezmer. They had already delivered the mysterious Dungeon Heart gem to the ratling antiquarian Afsik the strange in his sea-salted, musty, crowded shop in the Harbor District the previous day. They were hoping to gain an audience with Bumble’s master, Xanto the Wasp.

It was the 18th of Early Summer and the better part of the officially nameless cabal stopped at the gates that led into the Western Cliffs District. The guards didn’t want to let them through as they “didn’t appear the sort to be let through”. After some haggling, failed attempts at charming the guards, and bluffing at being “couriers”, the downtrodden mages turned to leave but the lead guard held out his hand and coughed lightly.

Fauna (played by Jenn) the only one to take the hint, dropped a platinum piece into his grubby palm.

Lead Guard: “Well. Since yer a mage…”

Cris (Excor’s player): “Whoah! What’re giving him a PLATINUM for!”

However many objections the others had to such a significant bribe, it expedited Fauna in her goal to fetch Ilna, aka Bumble, and bring her back to the gate to meet with them. Of course, it took zero time for them to convince Bumble to lead them back to her master, known as the Wasp. He lived in a small cottage behind her family’s estate across a small but verdant garden.

The cottage was a small longhouse after the Westlander fashion of old with a high thatched roof though with a small covered porch before the heavy dark-wood front door. Bunches of creeping vines and dark ivy covered most of the plastered walls and kept the small porch dark, damp, and fragrant with the musk of decaying vegetation. Bumble rapped on the door.

Suddenly, in mid-knock the door was thrown open and Bumble’s master, Xanto the Wasp, thrust himself over the threshold, inflated chest first. He was an older effete gentleman of the Ivoran persuasion. He had on plain yellow patterned silk robes with a jeweled necklace dangling over his breast and a precious ring on each finger. His hair and pointed beard were jet black with white streaks over the temples. His hair and beard slicked with scented oil, a pair of bejeweled red felt slippers on his feet.

Xanto the Wasp (pointing a long mandarin-nailed finger at Bumble’s nose): “What is the meaning of all…” he made an emphatic gesture with his left hand, “this!”

Bumble was speechless and couldn’t stop nervously shrugging. The others were at once appalled and entertained by the scurrilous dandy before them.

The Wasp: “Don’t you magelings know who I am! I am Xanto the Great! Known as the Wasp for my …”, he relaxed his stance and dropped his arms that had been outstretched to the sky and assumed a more friendly position, “deadly demeanor and rapier wit!” His left hand bent at the elbow, fingers rigid and apart, and his hand shot up.

Gil (Gornix’s player): “Guys! We can’t trust him he’s in on this! Remember the last game and the mushroom…”

Cris: “No. That was another campaign, our guys, these guys don’t know any of that!”

Gornix (to the Wasp): “Well, can we come in?”

The Wasp (looking outraged): “Why of course NOT! What would appearances dictate ME the mighty Wasp; slayer of dragons, CONQUER-OR of the millennium mushroom! A MAN whose reputation extends from Hirok-Nor to Skullhead!”

His mouth opened wide and they could all hear the air suck in as he took in a massive breath in preparation for a monumental and scathing screed on how such a man as he should have his important work interrupted, to be so inconvenienced.

Fauna (unimpressed; Jenn rolled her eyes): “We have the Amber Bee; some demons have attacked us and are chasing us. I just spotted a red wing beating on the other side of your cottage’s roof.”

The Wasp (immediately ushering them into his abode): “Quick! Quick! Come in my friends my good good young friends!”

Jenn (to me, the GM): “Y’know he reminds me of that guy… y’know THAT guy from that documentary we watched about that band you like?”

The GM: “IGGY POP!?”

Jenn: “Yeah that guy.”

Cris: “Nooo! Naw. I imagine him more like Alice Cooper all dandied-out with the black eye-makeup on!”

As soon as she could fit a word in edgewise, Bumble grudgingly admitted to taking his gold bee and amber ‘paperweight’ and that her friends may be in some sort of trouble because of it. The Wasp chided Bumble and knuckled her scalp. She voicelessly yelled in pain. He snatched up the Amber Bee and pointed to a parchment laid out over a desk at the other end of the small room.

Jenn: “Hey! I don’t like how he’s treating Bumble!”

Isis (Szoosha’s player): “Geez sis, why don’t you marry her already!”

Xanto went on to tell them that the one sending the red imps, or rather fire imps, was one Haxat the Great an outlaw demon-summoner from Skullhead. As he placed the ‘paperweight’ onto the parchment within the circle of carefully drawn runes he explained that the scroll shields the Amber Bee from magical detection and scrying attempts. He turned suddenly and boxed Bumble’s ears for good measure. She was now grabbing her ears and silently enduring the pain with a pained grimace.

Jenn (to the GM, me): “Ooh! If he does that again! Fauna is making an angry face at the Wasp!”

The Wasp turned back to the desk and rolled the gold bee up in the runic parchment and held the scroll out to Szoo who immediately took it in hand. Excor immediately turned and left not wanting anything to do with “that thing”.

Gil: “No! What’re you doing!? Don’t take that!”

Isis: “SOR-REE! He just handed it to me so I took it!”

Szoo tried to hand it back to the wiry wizard. He held up his hands and shook his head.

The Wasp (waving): “Well! I’m sorry my young friends! I wish you all the best of luck! Goodbye!”

All were magically expelled save Bumble. They found themselves teleported to the overgrown front porch of the Wasp’s cottage. The front door was behind them and shut tight. They could hear multiple locks locking and bolts thrown on the other side. Then they heard the Wasp excoriating his young pupil at the top of his lungs.

Jenn: “Aww! Poor Bumble, I feel so bad for her.”

Isis: “Jeez Jenn!”

The young mages decided to gather their wits over some ale at the Red Helm and so made it straight for the tavern. They met back up with Excor and noticed shortly after reaching the West Quarter that they were being followed.  A small group of thugs and rogues that was being led by the Bronzehead they had waylaid a week ago (see The Cabal of Eight Pt.6: Gold Devil & Pt.7: A Red Rat) was directly behind them. There were also a few red imps in the air trialing them staying hid near the tops of the buildings. Luckily, neither group seemed aware of the other.

Isis: “Oh man! Oh man! This is making me nervous! I mean this is SO suspenseful!”

To Be Continued…