Fauna (played by Jenn) rapped on the black lacquered wooden gate beyond a rounded plaster archway sunk into a white plaster wall. Meanwhile Excor (played by Cris) cast Prestidigitation on himself to clean up and produced a 15gp bottle of fine wine from his robes hoping to allude to his social refinement (an Ivoran noble enraptured with Westlander chic).
The cast iron peep opened and through the iron grill, they could see the sour-face of an aged servant. He immediately admonished Fauna to use the bell-pull, which was right next to the gate next time. So she pulled it as the servant opened the gates to let them in eliciting a disgusted sigh.
Cris: “Ha-ha! Typical druid.”
The servant was a skinny hunched Ezmerian of advanced age. He had a short but pointed white beard, a polished sun-darkened pate, and a well-worn dark blue cloak hanging from his boney shoulders. They entered the gate and thus the servant guided them through the short outer courtyard into the entrance foyer. The primarily Hyvalian style home was a luxurious two story which they could see as they walked through the courtyard.
The entrance foyer had red plastered walls with a black lacquered double door in each with only the one through which they were to be led ajar. The ceiling was open to the sky with the tiled roof over-hang angled down to direct rainwater into a shallow central tiled pool, a water collection basin. Tucked in a corner, a plaster model of the city surrounded by bronze dragon on a columnar pedestal. The dragon’s gold plating was flaking from the collecting verdigris of the bronze underneath.
He led them through the open door into a colonnaded walkway surrounding a formerly lush atrium through which they could see the shuddered windows of the story above that overlooked it. They walked to the right where three archways opened along the walkway, the first being the dining room. All three white plaster walls of this room bore murals depicting well-dressed diners, though in archaic fashion, enjoying drunken feasts of plenty. However, the paint had fallen away with some of the plaster in several places due to neglect.
The group took their seats in high-backed chairs set around the rectangular dining table. The dark wood table was set with gold candlesticks and plates of fresh fruit on a plain white cloth. The group was jenky about sampling the fruit and the hors d’oeuvre when served fearing poison or drugs. Gornix (played by Gil) and Excor were loath to eat until Fauna having faith in her cult leader partook. Szoo (played by Isis) was stuffing his face regardless.
It was during hors d’oeuvres that their hostess made her grand entrance and introduced herself as Virtra Wefa. She carried herself with great confidence in her elegant attire. Sweeping into the room she glided to her seat after the refined manners of an Ivoran noble. She was quite a beautiful older woman. Although worn deep into her face was a permanent bitterness. She had stark black eyes with straight dark auburn tresses that fell well below her waist. Her hair was secured with two large gold hairpins and pulled back tight from her high ivory forehead. Gold raindrop earrings dangled from her ears.
The Ivoran dinner tradition was followed ritualistically not out of a true sense of tradition but out of habit carried out joylessly by the lady and her servants. Excor and Gornix were the only members of the cabal to interact at this time. They exhibited a refined social aptitude and understanding of formal Ivoran tradition. This prompting questioning glances from Fauna and Szoo that were left unanswered. Dinner started with an aperitif, a strong syrupy yellow wine-liqueur. Awkward conversation and pleasantries ensued.
Virtra told them that they were awaiting a late and for now nameless dinner guest so seconds on the aperitif would be permissible. For some reason this prompted Gornix to try to charm the stone faced and grim woman.
Gil: “It’s so I can get in there. I want to marry her for her money.” Cris high-fived him.
Nevertheless, it was all in vain Virtra easily saw through his clumsy overtures. Clearly, she considered him her social inferior though he decided to give his full name and aristocratic lineage in the effort. His full name was Achiren Gorenix and he was the youngest son of a minor noble family in an Ivoran city-state to the north along the Ivoran Coast.
After an hour or so according to the candle-clock at the rear of the room, the last guest finally arrived. To the consternation of the young mages, the long awaited surprise guest was Crochi Aengham. The very same Crochi Aengham that was the Sapphire Confraternity Seeker that summoned them to the guildhouse for a discovery hearing. As he sat, Excor spotted a similar rope scar around his collar as Fauna had also happening to spot the same on Virtra even under her heavy gold and silver necklace. He did his best to not share this observation via voice or expression.
Cris: “D@%n! Why didn’t I notice before?”
The GM (me): “Because you didn’t bother to check.”
Cris: “D@%n guilds! D@%n cults! Screw this I’m not doing anything she wants us for!”
Dinner ensued. Bread and ale soup with bits of smoked meat and onions sprinkled with dried seaweed along with a platter of smoked fish, fried eel in salty sweet sauce, stacks of steaming flat bread, roasted mild yellow peppers, and a very dark purple wine in clay decanters were served. The few bits of conversation had in between dishes and dripping mouthfuls acquainted the young mages with Virtra’s dwindling family fortunes. As well as her plan to run for mayoral office on the Green Sash (the Oaks) ticket since she could no longer afford to be a part of the Gold Sashes (for a description of Ezmer’s political parties see The Cabal of Eight Pt.8: A Second Meeting).
Once upon a time her family had been of the top nobility but the current era had diminished her inherited holdings a generation prior and prevented any reclamation on her part by any effort. Excor thought that the candidates had already been declared. She explained that the vote to officialize them had not yet been made. There were just no other contenders currently. However, she had a plan.
Cris: “Ugh, I f@*#in’ hate politics.”
After the meal the digestif arrived, a berry-brandy served on a wooden tray, and the pipes came out. It increasingly seemed that Virtra and Crochi had something to say to the group. Nevertheless, they were saving it until their hospitality had relaxed their guests. Again, the young mages, save Fauna, became paranoid after realizing such.
Isis: “Let’s just hear what they got to say and get out of here!”
Gil: “Yeah man, before they try and do something crazy to us.”
Virtra began by telling them that the Dragon Summer (see The Cabal of Eight Pt.8: A Second Meeting) could be an advantage to her and her comrades’ goals but didn’t elaborate. Her “plan” implied that it would attract Whers to the city somehow. Then she dropped that she wanted the mages to do a job for her.
Virtra: “A representative from the Breadbasket is arriving in a week or two under guard to confirm the Oaks’ candidate, one Firstborn Hufom.”
Excor: “Reasonable people for reasonable cost.”
Cris: “Wait man, they may want us to assassinate him.”
She explained that if Hufom did not attend the inter-party vote those who would normally vote with him could be easily swayed. Therefore she could swoop in with her confederates to become the chosen candidate.
Virtra: “It would be best if he were to be permanently in dispose.”
Isis: “No WAY!”
Fauna (still internally trusting her leader): “I dunno guys…”
Excor: “Hell No!”
The group had made their decision and in no uncertain terms carved it in stone. Full-well knowing that they were now privy to information that could get them all killed they prepared to take their leave . It was likely that assassination attempts were to come their way shortly.
Excor (taking a rare break from his pipe): “Well. Just out of curiosity. How much would it pay?”
Virtra: “10,000 gold pieces.”
Fauna: “We’ll do it!”
Gornix: “Well we just have to stall the guy so he can’t vote right?”
Szoo: “Hell YES!”
Excor: “Okay we’ll do it but we won’t kill him. We’re not assassins. Also a 2,000 gold piece advance from the 10,000.”
Before they departed, the time-scale would demand their leaving the city heading towards the breadbasket along the Trade Road East. They hoped that they would run into Hufom already in transit in 5 days’ time on the road. Virtra was to supply the driver and a wagon.
Over the next three days the young mages divvied up Virtra’s advance into 500-gp apiece shares, Gornix studied Haxat’s spellbook, and Excor busied himself transferring the rat cages housed in his and Gornix’s apartments to Jirek’s warehouse with a pair of porters he had hired for the job. Fauna on the other hand embarked on a small adventure on her own.
In preparation for the coming adventure, Fauna went to pick up alchemical supplies and components to brew some potions in the bazaar. She also wanted to stock up on yellow lotus and unable to secure a supplier on her own tracked down her contact, one Kosapio Belahgastro. Kosapio was a Creschan ex-pat and somewhat successful sea-trader. From the dusky Creschan woman Fauna learned of some adventurers of the Brighthouse faith, Kosapio being one of the faithful, newly arrived in town that have encountered something that they called The Tower of the Lotus (see A Mage from Poisonwood II Pt.8: Tower of the Lotus) in Rockhollow in addition to a possible lotus dealer. Therefore, the druidess decided to track a lotus dealer in a seafront dive that Kosapio had warned her against doing.
By late that afternoon, Fauna had found her way to the aforementioned locale in the harbor district alley-side between the shipwright and the Rondel (see The Cabal of Eight Pt.7: A Red Rat). It was an infamous bilge-polluted watering hole called the Black Barrel due to the scorched rotted wood barrel hanging over its saloon doors. From just outside she could smell the gross stink of ammonia, sticky dried ale, and a hint of the soaked lemon peel used halfheartedly to scrub the bar. As she entered, she saw a mostly naked corpse lying face down in a dark pool of its own coagulated blood. The Black Barrel was full of salty sea dogs, some obviously pirates mixed with thugs and various other shady individuals. Their bodies certainly added a palpable spice to the already thick and foul air within. None acknowledged the corpse.
So ignoring the corpse and the thick atmosphere Fauna surveyed the scummy crowd. She located her man holed up in a far corner surrounded by Bronzehead bodyguards who occupied the tables to either of his sides. Without much issue, she was able to procure some yellow lotus, 5 doses at 100 gp each. After that she continued to the market district to purchase more supplies amounting to a half wheel of cheese, 2 shovels, two 50lb. sacks, and 40 days trail rations.
Cris: “Man! One-Hundred Gold Pieces a Dose! You should’ve went for my contact um … Babia’s shop she might have a new shipment.” (see The Cabal of Eight Pt.6: Gold Devil for more info on Babia)
The following day before their departure the young mages continued to hurry to prepare and finish a few things. Excor & Gornix spent the day copying spells from Haxat’s book and Fauna brewed a See All potion. Gornix also managed to brew a Bear’s Endurance potion but which had the opposite effects (a fortunate[?] roll of a Natural 1). Finally they attended their cabal meeting on the 28th of Early Summer of which their leaders (Belrae and Riahm) were still absent yet to return from their expedition. The meeting itself was uneventful. The young mages had enough courtesy to alert the other present members (Jirek and Bumble) that they were also due to depart and would miss the next meeting on the 7th of High Summer.
The young mages filtered into the taproom of the Red Helm after the meeting. Gornix demanded from his companions that they have a “real plan” before they left on “the mission”. The players actually did spend about an hour arguing back and forth and coming up with various plans and ideas. Ultimately, however, they decided to “just wing it”.
The next morning of the 1st of High Summer as the golden orange of dawn was still just peaking over the walls the integral four mages met at the city gates. There they found the wagon waiting and its almost too friendly teamster, Corje ready to move out. They began to ride away through the massive city gates at opening. As they passed under the great arch, Excor spotted the ever ubiquitous noose scar around Corje’s throat.
Cris: “They sent that guy to make sure the job’s done. Whatever. Long as I don’t see ‘em do it.”
His tone of voice suddenly switched.
Cris: “Or to get rid of us after it’s done!”
To Be Continued…