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The Cabal of Eight Pt.27: Farmers Cross Fiasco

The great purple moon and its ring gave way in the gloaming to the gold-red then orange-white of dawn. The sun rose over the far off farmhouses and laborers’ hovels as the sky went blue then shone on the banners of Farmers’ Cross Lodge as they unfurled over the front gates. The four mages of the cabal walked into the tavern side of the lodge from the reception area after coming down from their rooms on the upper floors.

They saw the Blue Stranger sitting at the first table beyond the door and spread out before him was a feast of roasted ribs, steaming vegetables and heaps of fresh flatbread. It smelled sweet, savory, exquisite. He motioned for the mages to join him addressing Gornix (played by Gil) by name. Excor (played by Cris), Fauna (played by Jenn), and Szoosha (played by Isis) shot him dirty looks. They joined the stranger regardless that they already knew to be the blue dragon in disguise.

After Fauna and Szoo started eating the Blue Stranger asked, “How’s the food” he had not touched any of it.

Gil (horrified): “It’s POISONED! I didn’t eat anything! Wait. Would he…”

Isis: “WHAT!? NO! WHY DIDN’T SOMEONE Tell ME!?”

Jenn (shrugging): “My girl doesn’t eat meat so…”

Cris: “No. He’s a dragon, hell it is a blue dragon…No. We’re eating our oxen.” He shrugged. Excor dug into the ribs, they were as good as they smelled.

The Blue Stranger smirked in entertainment at Gornix’s and Szoo’s wave of initial horror. Hence the mages and the dragon finished their meal under a cloud of weird tension. The Blue Stranger was the first to take his leave and then the mages left after and tried to refocus on their mission.

By late morning, the mages were circulating amongst the flood of wagons, merchants, and farmers that were making their way through the crossroads with destinations in all eight directions, some close by others as far away as Ezmer. Szoosha kept a vigil at the front gates, namely due to his ability to remain in direct summer sun for extended periods of time and keen eyesight, for the arrival of their target.

Suddenly, Szoo caught glimpse of a cloud of dust riding up from the south cross. He thought its size indicating the caravan that they were waiting for. It wasn’t long before the Black-scaled Naga’s sharp vision picked out a caravan of a covered supply wagon, 3 armored wagons, all protected by a small force of horsemen led by a knight bearing a white longshield with a black swan upon it.

Isis: “Guys! I think he’s here, I think Hufom’s here…”

Cris: “You have to come get and tell us.”

Isis: “Well. Where are ya at?”

Excor was wending his way through a dusty crowd to a large covered area on the east side of the lodge building where most were parking their wagons and tending their animals. He was trying to find Corje and the wagon. It wasn’t long before he bumped into him, the cloaked driver had two others with him.

Corje introduced them as “reinforcements” for the mission. Excor was less than thrilled and quickly made an excuse to get away from the wagon-driver-probably-assassin-in-disguise and his similarly dressed two pals. They were looking for Fauna. The only positive as far as he saw it was that Corje had managed to replace the oxen on the wagon.

Utterly paranoid and a little exhausted already, Excor quickly retreated to his tiny corner room on the third floor. To try to gain a little “insight” into his and his companions’ situation he decided to take a dose of some yellow lotus that he had lifted from Fauna without her knowledge. Its quality was a little higher than expected. As a result he fell into a drug-induced coma. As he collapsed onto the sleeping mat, an intense vision ripped through his brain, a chaos of shattering wood, smashing stones, a blue dragon and roaring lightning, and a black mace whistling through the air.

Fauna was wandering aimlessly around the lodge-enclosure talking to the occasional stranger that might peak her interest. Eventually Corje and his two allies found her.

Corje: “There you are little sister! I’ve made contact with our two allies!” He introduced them but Fauna did not pay attention to their names.

He went on about how they were ready to deal a blow for “our good lady” and if need be do it here if the chance should present itself “even at the cost of all our lives”. Fauna humored them and mentioned it would be a good idea for her to track down her friends and formulate a plan before Corje and his compatriots should do anything. Meanwhile it would be best if they would get the wagon ready to leave at a moment’s notice. She parted ways with them and disappeared into the road-weary press of the yard.

At the same time, Gornix joined Szoo as the caravan the naga was spotting rumbled through the gates, a blast of yellow dust preceding them. The three armored wagons had shutters over the windows and thus any passengers hidden from view. On each wagon were a driver and a crossbowman. The wagons also bore the pennants of the Iron Wheels of Ezmer. The emblem of the Iron Wheels being an iron grey wagon wheel against a crimson field. The horsemen on the other hand bore the arms of the Yellow Spears on their wooden longshields, wore chainmail shirts with steel open helms and were armed with light lances. Their heraldry being a yellow diamond-headed spear against a field of orange and azure bent sinister. Leading the whole lot was a white knight in a checkered surcoat, atop his white great helm was a carved wooden black swan.

The Black Swan/White Knight was as a towering and intimidating figure as his brother in full regalia. However, when he removed his helmet he was the spitting image though his brow was more prominent and his chin stronger. He also had a wide scar across his face and another across his lips to his chin. He was very systematic in habit, the stripping down of his equipment even his dismount. At his hip was a great sword with a gleaming golden grip and pommel.

The pair of mages tried to approach the White Knight but he kept them at a distance while he stowed his equipment. Even when he was finished, he arrogantly brushed off any attempt to engage him. Therefore, Gornix and Szoo were trying to gather as much info as they could just hanging around and keeping an eye out on the whole scene. Gornix spotted out someone moving between the armored carriages but he could only catch a glimpse of a long wormy tail.

Szoo: “Is that our guy?”

Gornix: “I don’t know.”

Eventually Fauna met up with the pair and without waiting for Excor, who was still unconscious, they tried to formulate a plan. They would wait for the horsemen and most of the guards to go into the tavern and then Szoo would set the wheels of the carriages on fire so they couldn’t get away and then Gornix would use his Summon Elemental IV spell to summon a giant earth elemental to cause a diversion. After that, Excor could keep guard with his magic and Fauna and her crew could move in with their daggers to finish off the job. They hoped they could escape in the ensuing chaos.

The mages held and waited while the carriages were parked. After they had been parked near the front wall in their own special cordoned off area, Fauna went to scoop up her people and Excor. She soon found Excor completely knocked out and realized he would be out for quite some time. However with Corje’s help she dragged him to the wagon.

Not long after the carriages had been parked Sir Illin, the White Swan/Black Knight, met his twin brother with a roar of a greeting and they started to the tavern. The dismounted mercenaries and crossbowmen followed. Left behind the drivers tended the carriages and draft animals. The passengers within had failed to disembark. It was still early in the afternoon.

Isis: “Can I BURN things now?”

Gil: “Do it.”

Szoosha kept his distance and using the minimal somatic components to remain unseen set the first two carriages wheels ablaze. Unfortunately when he targeted the third carriages wheels, the magic got away from him and nearby piles of hay and the supply wagon burst into flames letting loose a massive fireball into the sky.

Isis: “Hee-hee, YES!”

The Lodge guards were panicking and ran to the well attempting to establish a bucket line. Meanwhile, Gornix cast his spell at the rear of the lodge. As a result, a giant semi-humanoid earth elemental rose from the ground.

Gil (*roll*roll*): “Uhm. Oops.”

Isis: “What’ya mean OOPS!?”

Gil: “I can’t control it.”

The elemental giant immediately smashed its massive fists into the corner of the lodge building tearing out an entire corner. It had completely taken out what had been Excor’s room. Then the creature swept its arm across some nearby guards killing them all.

Isis: “This is not going well.”

Fauna: “Corje! Get the WAGON!”

The Black and White Swans ran from the tavern weapons drawn. They gathered up their mounts and ushered the last remaining armored wagon to the gates. So Gornix approached as close as he dared and shouted to the White Swan/Black Knight. The knight shouted back that if he wanted to caravan with them they were pulling out NOW. Four of the horsed lancers were already galloping through the gates. The cabal’s wagon pulled up with the unconscious Excor in back along with the pair of cloaked men he had met earlier that day.

Isis: “Wait. This might be perfect!”

Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere a very fancy blue coach with a train of six horses rode up to the gates from the yard driven by a very familiar hunchback. The Blue Stranger opened the door into the vehicle and shouted to Gornix to get in. He would also be joining their little wagon train.

Isis: “Oh gawd NO!”

Gornix of course leapt right into the Blue Stranger’s coach followed by Fauna and a reluctant Szoo. In a storm of chaos and fire, the makeshift caravan fled north from Farmers’ Cross.

To Be Continued…

Moths of Tanglethorn

After a full year in the Game-Master’s chair, I finally was going to get to play. Of course, Cris was GMing Tanglethorn - City of mothsand going to set his campaign in the Poisonwood capital of Tanglethorn. It was going to be an “Evil Game”, a campaign where all of the Player Characters have an evil base alignment. Everything was fine and dandy, everyone showed up to the table with their characters already done for the most part. However, as with most of Cris’ games the ending would be abrupt.

Four Evil Characters Enter a Bar

Seated around a small dagger-scarred table in the Bronze Tankard Tavern sat four villains. The place was small and cramped due to the briskness of its business. It was a repurposed ruin of strange orange stone and as dark as a cave. It was also dank but with the stench of spoiled ale and the noxious sweat of generations of drunks.

Around the small table awash in the stale smoke of scavenged pipe weed sat Suttradra (played by Jenn),Xiani Weiren (played by Isis), Vorahk (played by Gil), and Aigi (played by me). The four were contemplating on ways to make money, wet their blades, or both. Suttradra was a poisonborn human blackguard wearing studded leather armor and a demonic bronze mask. A great sword hung at her side.

Suttradra was the only Tanglenite, a native of the Poisonwood, and was essentially the de facto leader of the gang for the time being. She had been a black guard of a rather strong cult of demon-worshippers whose makeshift temple within one of the old orange ruins was raided and burned not long ago.

Xiani was an Ivoran Death Grin, an assassin/juggler dressed as a clown. She leaned back in her seat in fuchsia and yellow jester’s clothes. Her weapons were a pair of iron claws she wore on her hands. She gave some ‘tude to Suttra whom laughed at her and replied, “You’re lucky I like you’re looks and clothes”.

Vorahk was an Arborean Rune Warrior. Every inch of his ugly knotted wooden hide was covered in deeply carved runes that granted him various magical powers. He was from the Granfor Forest, an ethnic Arborean, and looking for mercenary work. He had a great club next to him and wore a bronze pectoral plate. His hollow black eyes swept the crowded tavern. He noted that only a single patron was unarmed. The man who was sitting at the bar bore a red rose and a black scorpion embroidered on his waist sash. Suttra said that the guy was a proxy champion for members of the Bottled Rose, best to avoid him.

Aigi was a young Hyvalian man from the crumbling empire’s western reaches. He had been a temple orphan and trained in the martial arts as a temple defender. He was a Sword Saint and very skilled with his paired “Lion Swords”. They were modified long swords with straight dual-edged blades and bastard grips with bunches of brightly colored ribbons and tasseled cords hanging from the pommels. He had wended his way to the Poisonwood on various ships and caravans that needed a swordsman. Across the chest of his dirty tunic was embroidered the image of a dog, the symbol of the common soldier of the imperial armies.

His sole purpose in life was to test his metal against “worthy opponents”. He was told that he would definitely find plenty of those in Tangelthorn. Suttra was sure she could make some money on him somehow. He was sure that XIani was thinking of stabbing him in the back the first chance she got just for fun.

The four villains were drinking the last of their coin except for Aigi but he wasn’t about to let them know about his small reserve of gold coins and bronze thorns (the bronze currency of Tanglethorn). Just then, the sound of a wagon sliding to a stop in the road preceded the blast of road dust that whooshed in through the entryway. A stranger in leather armor bearing the mark of a gray moth on his chest strode in after.

The stranger walked up to the bartender and began to haggle. Suttradra said that he was a member of the Moths, a street gang. One of the largest in Tanglethorn and there were a lot. XIani pranced up to the moth and said in her most charming tones, “is there a problem here sir?”

The Moth: “Who’re you foreigner?”

Xiani: “Just a simple entertainer, hee-hee.”

The Moth (tossing Xiania a small vial of yellow lotus): “Here. Take this. If you want more you can find us, the Moths, everywhere. I’m Fenik. I have no need of entertainers at the moment.”

Aigi shot up and walked over to Fenik with his hands in the air, “Sir, what about swords?” Fenik said that if Aigi and his companions were warriors go see Vornor at the Empty Bottle, tell him Fenik sent you. Not long after Suttra led the foul four to the Empty Bottle Tavern.

The Empty Bottle was an even smaller bar though fortunately mostly empty. Only the afternoon rays that seeped in through a long horizontal window next to the bar and the entryway lighted the place. It wasn’t long before the crew of four had their marching orders, kill a Hill-Lander Whiskey Merchant named Ba’acor. He was staying at the Long Rest Inn and had two heavily armed human bodyguards with him. The job paid 1,000 bronze thorns apiece.

The Long Rest

By evening the group found themselves in the Long Rest Inn. It was a three-story structure housed in a restored orange-stone ruin. The taproom and reception shared a large common room, which was packed with merchants and foreigners as well as the occasional inattentive city guard. Xiani was disguised as a whore (an unguilded prostitute).

It wasn’t long before they located their prey. Ba’acor, a faun, was in a far corner at a table guarded by his two very large Tanglenite bodyguards, one armed with a great club, the other a claymore. The guard with the claymore appeared to be the more experienced of the two.

Thinking quickly Aigi goes to the bar and buys their cheapest grog in a glass, a glass being somewhat expensive. The others hung back at a table and watched. The young Hyvalian swordsman walked carefully through the place and when he got in front of the great club-wielding bodyguard, he stumbled and dropped the glass.

Aigi then challenged the club-wielding guard to a duel but botched the language and thus the guard looked dumbly at him. Therefore, Aigi spat in his face and the fight was on.

Aigi swung with his swords scoring a single hit as one of his blades was parried. However, he scored another two hits on the backswings horribly wounding his opponent. As his blood gushed over the floor the bodyguard swung his only to be parried by one of Aigi’s blades and the other opened his belly spilling his intestines over the filthy floorboards.

Isis (to the GM, indicating Aigi): “Um. I’m not gonna stab that guy in the back now.”

The GM (Cris): “Why not?!”

Isis: “He’s SCARY!”

Suttra fought with the Claymore wielding bodyguard and Vorahk fought with Ba’acor who wielded a knobkirri against him. Xiani snuck in behind the whiskey merchant and managed to coup-de-graced him with her claws. After the slaying his compatriots the last bodyguard surrendered and Aigi let him flee after he dropped his coin purse and sword.

A city guard intervened shouting, “Enough! Fair fights only!” He pointed to the killers, “You clean up the bodies!”

Aigi hacked off the merchants head and left the Inn headed for the Empty Bottle. The other three assassins looted the corpses before they paid a couple of drunks to haul the bodies to the charnel house.

Not long after Aigi delivered Ba’acor’s head to Vornor in the Empty Bottle did his companions follow.  They were each paid 1,000 bt as agreed and given a free bottle of Hill-Lander whiskey which was watered down by almost half. A few wagons trundled by outside each loaded with hogsheads of whiskey and each bearing the mark of Ba’acor on the side, a whiskey bottle crossed by a knobkirri.

Vornor: “You guys did good. I don’t know if anyone’s hiring right now but I’ll put the word out. Oh, there’s a city Lieutenant of the Guards named Neelom at the Bronze Tankard after dusk usually. Tell him I sent you.”

Vorahk pulls out some coin to pay for drinks, Vornor stoops him.

Vornor: “Ahh! My friends your money is no good here. Barkeep! More drinks for my friends!”

After several rounds of water-diluted Hill-Lander whiskey Vornor appears to be very drunk. Aigi had been careful to not drink too much.

Vornor: “Ah! I like foreigners, so quick with swords. The drink has loosened these lips! Ask me anything!”

So, Aigi asked him who the best match of a swordsman for his caliber was in Tanglethorn. The answer was Drox Bloodsword, a Hill-Lander Duelist. The Empty Bottle began to become very busy. Aigi noticed that a couple of guys were filling the bottles of whiskey that they were selling through the window to customers on the street with water thinning the whiskey down by half.

Aigi (somewhat outraged): “DO your customers know that you’re diluting their drink!?”

Vornor: “Ah my friend, you know Tanglenites cannot handle Hill-Lander whiskey at full strength!”

Aigi: “Ha! You’re right! Tanglenites are weak; I should know I’ve faced a couple in battle already!”

Vornor shot him a dirty look.

Suttra had already done a little recon the said duelist and found out that he was a member of the Blood Moths street gang, a subset of the Gray Moths. She also knew that he could be found at the Blood Moths favorite hangout, a tavern called the Broken Cask. The Blackguard offered to guide the group there; she knew the way like the back of her hand.

Scuff Up

Hence the four criminals were traveling down a back alley headed towards the Broken Cask Tavern in search of the Hill-lander Duelist Drox Bloodsword. Just as they neared the end of the wide alleyway with the tavern within sight, a couple of cloaked thugs stepped out to block their way.

One of the Thugs: “Stop there foreigners! Drop yer coin and we might let you live!” Both had red moths painted on their chests.

Three more were suddenly behind the four adventurers. All five were armed with shortswords, dirks, and bronze bracers.

Suttra pulled her greatsword and charged the lead thug, he parried her sword slash easily with his dirk. She in turn parried his dirk. Another at the rear struck at Xian, she used her claws to parry his dirk. Aigi flew at the second thug; all his blows were either parried or missed. The last was clinched on the thug’s bracer. Xiani’s claws were parried and her attempt to kick dirt in her assailant’s face failed. Vorahk rushed to the rear and let loose a powerful swing missing his target but catching him on the backswing. Surprisingly his weapon spewed acid upon contact horribly wounding the street gangster. The street gangster replied with his dirk but it glanced harmlessly off Vorahk’s bark on a direct hit. So the gangster turned to flee and Vorahk splattered him on a wall on an attack of opportunity

The thug clinching one of Aigi’s swords stabbed the young Hyvalian wounding him but in turn took a slash to the belly nearly killing him in a single swing. Another thug stabbed Vorahk but only managed to score his pectoral plate even on a critical strike. A Darkthorn Arborean suddenly appeared out of nowhere and punched at Vorahk but missed. Suttra cut into the lead thug horribly wounding him. Xiani parried a dirk blow and struck back ripping a nasty wound in her foe. A few more thugs came out of the woodwork and made it hard on Xiani wounding her to near death but the tide had turned. Soon each adventurer was dropping an enemy at a time.

The fight was over and the street thugs that had stayed to fight were dead. Xiani was barely standing. The last one left on his feet was the Darkthorn who was smashed to bleeding splinters by Vorahk’s greatclub. The four battered adventurers had barely time enough to take a breath before they were surrounded by dozens of Blood Moth gang members to the front and rear and all along the roofs.

They begin to close the noose when Vorahk shouted that we were looking for Drox Bloodsword. A very big human pushed his way to the front of the mob, “that’s me”. He was huge, about 7 ft. tall and a over 300 lbs. some Hill Giant’s blood probably coursing through his veins. He was armed with a Claymore and a buckler. So Aigi challenged him to a personal duel come next morning. Drox was about to charge anyway until he saw the wound in the Hyvalian’s side and thus agreed to the duel after a full day’s healing.

The Duelists

Finally the day of the duel with Drox Bloodsword came and the group found themselves in a massive crowd of Blood Moths and various others in an unfamiliar part of town. At the center of the rowdy mob was a small clearing made by arm linked city guards to be used as the arena. The captain of the city guard was refereeing the fight. He was a fat man in bronze scale mail with an open-faced peaked bronze helmet with a white and black feather plume and a green cape thrown over his shoulders.

Bets had been made throughout the crowd with Xiani and Suttra betting 100 bt apiece on Aigi to win. Vorahk however, had bet 10,000 bt (which he didn’t have) on his companion with the only one in the crowd who could cover that kind of money. The guy was dressed in green robes with gold trim and bore the symbol of the Bottled Rose Guild on his chest, a red rose surrounded by a ring of thorns. They were one of if not the most powerful guilds in the city.

Meanwhile at the center of the roaring crowd stood Aigi stripped to the waist his swords still sheathed and looking supremely confident, his only bit of armor were the chain mail gloves on his hands. Opposite him towered his foe, Drox Bloodsword the Hill-Lander Duelist. The duelist was similarly stripped to the waist exposing his scar-matted flesh, his claymore in one hand and his steel buckler in the other. His claymore was rusty and blackened as it had never been washed.

The captain shouted, “As soon as this gauntlet hits the ground FIGHT!”

Aigi had it all figured out in the second before the gauntlet clunked onto the cobblestones. He was going to wait for his opponent to attack him and he would defend by simultaneously attacking and parrying with either sword. He maintained his middle stance. Of course, when the gauntlet hit the floor Aigi broke his stance and charged flailing wildly with his paired blades. Drox parried both in a single swipe of his claymore. Then Aigi came with the backswings and nearly fumbled the first and clinching the claymore with his second.

Meanwhile, the Captain approached the other three adventurers and warned them that if Aigi should lose the Blood Moths WILL swarm them.

Aigi kept the clinch on Drox’s claymore easily preventing his attack. He struck and then backswung with his free sword but Drox easily deflected the belly blows with his buckler. Drox used his superior strength to break his claymore free of the clinch. Aigi struck again but his third strike was parried and he fumbled his second sword throwing it 12 ft out of his reach. Consequently he made use of the bastard grip of his one remaining blade.

Drox swung with claymore and scored a nasty hit nearly killing Aigi in a single blow. The younger fighter was bleeding out and would soon drop. Meanwhile Vorahk tried to get to the thrown sword in order to throw it back to his horse but the guards stopped him. Xiani tried to bluff a guy to throw a rock at Aigi, in hopes that would stop the fight, but failed. However, Suttradra successfully cast Pain on Drox causing him some penalties.

Drox struck again but Aigi parried it. Aigi took the middle stance, struck his first blow, and then followed it up with a nasty backswing horribly wounding the Hill-Lander. Suttra cast Wound on Drox hurting him a little bit more. Drox swung again and struck the young Hyvalian hard nearly killing him. It was a miracle that Aigi was even standing (it was a very high recovery check). It was clear that the Hyvalian was going to drop soon. In anticipation of this Vorahk quietly pulled his club. That was when he noticed the subtle sounds of a legion of daggers being stealthily pulled from their sheaths. Suttra cast Wound again hurting the Hill-lander a little more. Xiani tried to bribe the Captain with a ruby, he refused.

Drox swung and very nearly fumbled his sword. Aigi swung and hit and again with the backswing almost dropping the Hill-Lander. It was down to whoever could get in the last lick would be the winner. Drox got the last hit in immediately after hacking the young swordsman in twain. Xiani flung her dagger at Drox nailing him in the back killing him.

Gil: “Well. Some dice are good guys but other dice; those dice, they’re motherf@#%ers.”

The Captain strode out into the clearing and shrugging picked up one of Aigi’s swords and dropped it on the dead Hill-Lander’s chest, “There’s his trophy”. Hence the guards quickly snatched up the bodies and began to depart. That’s when the Blood Moths descended upon the surviving three adventurers.

The first to fall under a rain of daggers was Xiani, the second was Suttra. They had at most taken out only a handful of the moths.

Isis (in response to Gil’s “why didn’t you just runaway?”): “Aww man! I couldn’t run! If I did they would’ve all taken their attacks of opportunity on me and would’ve killed me anyway. At least I took some out with me!”

In conclusion, Vorahk, the sole survivor, ran away ablaze as several alchemist fires had been hurled his way. He continued to run right through the city gates having a greater chance than a fleshy creature for survival in the Poisonwood. Besides, he couldn’t stick around now that he owed a guildsman so much money.

Isis: “Death? Screw death we have new character sheets!”

The End

Campaign Played between July and August 2017

Afterword: Gil let us know that due to work and potential move he has to leave the group.

The Cabal of Eight Pt.26: The Stranger

Leaving Corje with their wagon the mages of the cabal of eight stumbled into the tavern half of Farmers’ Farmers' Cross Lodge emblemCross Lodge through the saloon doors from under the covered porch outside. The place was busy but not overcrowded mostly farmers, grain traders, and produce sellers. The ceiling was high; the entire log and timber structure of the lodge was three stories, the tavern ceiling reached all the way up past a long balcony on the second. The blue smoke that clouded there from the mass of pipes below concealed the timber ceiling. Scattered beams of light shone from various small square windows. Along the walls, the dusty preserved heads of pronghorn, wild bulls, and a few lions hung. Between those trophies dangled the hunting horns of lost hunters.

The bar was at the rear of the place behind it were massive hogshead-barrels half-built into the rear wall. Therefore the gang of adventurers/would-be assassins took an empty table nearest the east wall. Excor (played by Cris) led because he wanted to keep his back to a wall. A waitress approached the table. She was a well-fed country girl and awesomely attractive (very high BEA and CHA). So Gornix (played by Gil) made multiple attempts at seduction and failed every single one to the amusement of Szoo (played by Isis) and Fauna (played by Jenn).

The mages ordered an entire roast pig, a cask worth of ale, and a bottle of Breadbasket whiskey. A virtual feast was laid bare before them and they partook of it vigorously, especially Szoo. Not long after did a stranger of note stride heavily into the tavern.

Those heavy steps belonged to an Ivoran Knight shaking off the dust of the road. At his right hip was a straight bladed longsword, a black mace dangling on the other. He wore a full chainmail suit covered by a checkered surcoat. The knight removed his steel great helm and a gush of dirty sweat dumped onto the floor. Atop the black helm was a carved wood swan painted white. His face was perfect, unmarked by blade or talon, and beautiful framed by long blonde hair. If he was Hyvalian then he was from its farthest northern borders.

Cris (Excor’s player): “Lemme guess. So that guy’s with Hufom.”

Gil (completely lacking sarcasm): “You think so?”

Cris: “Pfft! Jes’ look at ‘em! C’mon! I pass the barmaid a gold coin for some info on tha’ stranger.”

The barmaid tells Excor that the Ivoran knight’s a foreign knight, probably Hyvalian, of some renown. He’s the White Swan of the Twin Swans, his brother being the black. They have quite a reputation as marshals of the prairies and guardians of travelers in the Breadbasket and Ezmeria. They’re also serving as the personal bodyguards of the Landsmen’s Representative headed to Ezmer city.

Meanwhile the knight approached the bar; the trembling bartender passed him a mug of ale free of charge.

Isis: “Yup. That’s one of them alright!”

Gornix immediately stood up and invited the weary knight to eat with him and his companions. The White Swan graciously accepted introducing himself as Sir Illin. After the player jeers and chants of “Sir Illin be chillin’ at the bar” subsided, he took a seat at their table and immediately began stuffing his face and gulping down lakes of ale.

Sir Illin turned out to be an amicable guy. He cracked a couple of jokes, charmed Fauna, and even got on the good side of Szoosha. At first, the black-scale naga was more than a little wary of their guest-soon-to-be-enemy. Apparently, Illin was sent ahead of the caravan which consisted of his brother, 3 armored wagons, and 10-horsed guards from the Yellow Spear security outfit.

At that, Excor told the knight about their encounter with a blue dragon on the road not far from this very place using his best manners. Sir Illin waved away his concerns and did not seem to care a lick about social protocol. Regardless he thanked Excor for the skinny on the dragon and as long as they had their own wagon anyway, invited the mages to travel with the caravan. They seemed all right to him (he couldn’t sense any evil from them anyway). Besides he and his brother had faced dragons before and come out unscathed. Granted they have always been Whers, not a particularly strong sort of dragon but not weak either.

Excor: “So. Tell me my friend, what’s the purpose of your caravan?”

Sir Illin: “Just escortin’ a politician but don’t worry about that. There’s drinkin’ to be done!”

After quaffing a full mug of ale, Sir Illin bragged about the speed and power of his warhorse. But the mages did not catch its name. However, the heroic amounts of booze and food began to loosen his tongue and he regaled them with his past adventures. This and as he took a liking to Gornix so he let them in on a little secret. His brother was the stickler for the law of the pair but he, the white swan, was the truncheon of justice.

One time his brother let a known criminal go just because he was “starving “. His excuse as to why he stole that loaf of bread in the first place. So after his brother rode off he circled back around and laid the man’s head open with his mace just like that scum deserved. He burst into uproarious laughter. The mages shrank into their seats.

After an hour or so, the White Swan excused himself and went to procure room and board. The night was almost upon the four mages before they knew it. Hence Excor and Szoo went to procure rooms, a wide doorway opened up in the west wall to allow entry from the tavern into the reception area. Excor got a room for the night for himself, a tiny room in the northeast corner of the second floor. Szoo paid for a room for both himself and Fauna on the second floor as well. Gornix and Fauna meanwhile were pounding down whiskey and ale in the tavern. Szoo had rejoined them only long enough to give them the room number and then retired for the night.

Later the place was beginning to empty save for a few armed guards in studded leather taking a break from the ramparts. As a result of the late hour the servers had all been dismissed and a new younger bar-back was slinging drinks. Suddenly the saloon doors burst open and in stepped a stranger dressed in vibrant blue.

Jenn: “Aw crap.”

This stranger wore blue robes with black and silver embroidery, a billowing blue cloak with a silver clasp, and a scimitar and curved dagger at his hips. Silver-wire wrapped the grips of each weapon and large sapphire pommel-stones glittered. On his feet were purple velvet shoes with gold tracery. Behind him hobbled into the tavern a bent and hideously pathetic creature.

The unfortunate man was a disagreeable mix of naga, human, and faun. Patches of alternating scaly skin, hairy hide, and bare human flesh covered the visible portions of his twisted body. His fingernails twisted into mostly useless talons, one of his feet was a hoof, a tail protruded from his rear, and his misshapen head appeared as if horns would burst any moment from that clammy forehead. Over one shoulder swelled a large hump.

The hunchback led his master to the bar, tossed a heavy red leather sack of coins onto the board, and ordered a meal.

The Blue Stranger (smacking the hunchback about the head): “No Onions you fool!”

After he was served and as the hunchback looked hungrily on, the Blue Stranger gorged himself.

The Hunchback: “Master! I’m sooo hungry!”

The Blue Stranger: “Shut up. You will eat when I say. Besides, do you want to make these good people sick should they see you stuffing that thing you call a face!”

Jenn: “I really hope he’s the dragon in disguise. I really hate that guy!”

Gornix, very drunk, stumbled up to the Blue Stranger and sat next to him. The hunchback hissed and put his claw on the handle of his dagger. The lotus mage engaged the stranger in small talk and then began to try to glean some information from him. However, the tables quickly turned and Gornix gave away that he and his companions, he named each, were going to travel to Ezmer with a caravan that was to arrive probably tomorrow with the Twin Swans. Realizing what he had done Gornix immediately walked away at as a fast as pace as he could manage with Fauna following shortly thereafter.

The Blue Stranger (after Gornix): “I hope you and your friends will join me for breakfast!”

Cris (scowling at Gil): “What did you do!?”

To Be Continued…