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The Cabal of Eight Pt.38: The Black Tombs Pt.2

The group of mages walked slowly down the steps with the black-scale Naga Szoosha (played by the path of the group through the tombsIsis) in the lead. The chamber before them was vacuous and pitch-dark. Szoosha slithered down onto the flags and proceeded five feet into the dark chamber. Suddenly magical torch light burst into existence from both of the torch sconces mounted on the large round pillars to either side of him.

Isis: “Well that’s not GOOD!”

The large chamber (#3 on the map) was octagonal in shape and its walls were of the now familiar dull black stone. Above the ceiling was a deep dome with a blue sky and white clouds painted on it. The small niches in this chamber housed the decaying remnants of several skulls stacked in each. Polished bronze doors glittered dully recessed in the west and east walls. Each of these bore a gold bee and honeycomb motif (D3 & D4 on the map). Directly to the south was a 5 ft. tall dais with an ivory throne atop it.

The throne was carved into the semblance of naga skeletons twisting and intertwining creating the form of the chair. Sitting on that white throne was a skeletal corpse with some shreds of dry yellow skin still clinging to its bones. Its deep purple priestly robes were still intact, appeared free of dust, and not faded by time. An amulet wrought in gold dangled on its hollow chest and clutched in a skeletal claw was a gold chalice with a wide shallow bowl. It had a gold bee motif and was bejeweled with tiger-eye and emeralds.

The rest of the group consisting of Fauna (played by Jenn), Excor (played by Cris), and Gornix (played by Gil) approached Szoo’s position. Excor immediately began eyeballing the chalice.

Cris: “Pff! Hell yeah I’m checkin’ out that chalice!” He turned to Isis, “Well Naga! Lead the group. C’mon!”

Isis (indicating the skeleton in purple robes): “That guy is FREAKING me OUT!”

After a little more prodding Szoosha slid past the pillars and immediately the skeleton sprang to life. Its head darted up and glared at the black-scale with red pinpoints of fire floating in its hollow sockets.

The Crypt Thing: “What!? More!? After all this time!? More trespassers for the grave, haw haw!”

It lifted the chalice to its mandible and gulped though no liquid came from the vessel. The undead creature wiped its desiccated jaws on its sleeve.

Gornix using his Dark Secret ability identified the creature as a Crypt Thing (Monster Magnus Vol.I) and shouted a few pointers to the group. He also noted that normally they cannot speak. Excor pulled his copper spike and shot a bolt at the monster but his spell hit the Mage Armor spell emanating from its robes. Szoo cast a ray of fire at the creature again hitting its Mage Armor. The creature stood and raised its arms shouting, “Be gone!” but all of the mages were able to resist its power. It seemed at a loss for words when Fauna lobbed a Lightning Bolt at it. The bolt struck the armor as well.

Gornix unleashed a barrage of Chrono-Missiles on the Crypt Thing’s Mage Armor. Excor tried to cast Slow on it but the creature resisted his magic easily. Szoo charged forward and summoning his flaming naginata struck a lucky blow nearly bringing down the creature’s magic armor. The monster shot a Bolt of Energy (Frost) at Szoo. Fortunately, the naga took very little damage due to swift reflexes and hard scales. Fauna lobbed another Lightning Bolt at it finally blasting away its Mage Armor.

Not losing anytime, Gornix unleashed a Life Blast spell on the creature completely blasting its bones to dust. The robes, chalice, and amulet fell into a neat pile on the dais.

Pooling their resources, the group immediately identified the items at hand. The amulet was a level 5 item that granted Levitation & Propulsion at a 20 ft Spd/20 ft max Height at will. The purple robes were a level 5 item that granted constant Mage Armor to the wearer once per day. The gold chalice was a level 18 item and was a Bottomless Chalice of Strong Mead. A single drink could grant Close Wounds (max 3/day), or Neutralize Poisons after two (max 2/day), or Inspiration (Spellcraft) after three drinks (max 1/day). Of course even after the spells were used it could still give endless mead but to only living lips.

Gornix searched around the throne and found several ancient discarded booze bottles of various types. The players joked that the Crypt Thing had been an alcoholic priest in its previous life and tricked into taking up its position as tomb guardian with the chalice. They were not totally off base in their assumptions.

Excor on a hunch decided to recheck the Lotus Mirror they had taken a few rooms back (from 16). Using his last Identify spell, he found that they had misidentified it earlier. The mirror was actually a level 11 intelligent item that granted Demonic Resiliency and Vision of the Slayer to its wielder.

Finally, the group realized that they were all exhausted and both Excor and Gornix were out of spells. Szoo and Fauna were nearing zero spells per day as well. So they decided to rest determined to spend the night in the entrance vestibule (1 on the map). They agreed on the watches and Szoo stayed up for the first.

For some reason about half way through his watch, Szoosha decided to walk back up the spiral staircase and take a gander outside. It was the wee hours and all was dark but seemingly peaceful under the moonlight. The fresh air was a badly needed relief. However, just as Szoo was beginning to enjoy the open air again he heard several roars echoing in the distance. The mating calls of Wher dragons. He beat it back down below and warned Excor when he woke him for second watch.

Excor decided to go into meditation for his watch gaining his rest while still being able to keep an ear out. The strange sound of crying stirred him from his deep thought. It seemed at first to come from a great distance then it gradually came closer and closer until he could see it creeping into the room from the shadows. The ghostly creature appeared as a priestly youth in fine silk robes until it wandered into his lamplight. Then Excor saw its features shrivel into a hideous corpse.

Excor: “WRAITH!”

Gornix, Fauna, and Szoo leapt up shocked from a badly needed deep sleep. The wraith moaned as it hovered before them. However, the intense waves of sad hopelessness it emitted did not overwhelm them. Gornix cast Life Blast at it but the magic went wild blasting outward in all directions damaging the wraith and restoring some vitality to the others. Excor took a defensive position should the thing try to touch him. Szoo did the same. Fauna cast Lightning Bolt on it to no effect.

The wraith floated towards Fauna trying to touch her with its shriveled claw-like hand. The druidess dodged its boney grip. Gornix cast Life Blast again this time blasting the thing wholly from existence. The remainder of the night was quiet.

Come morn the group set out to open the eastern door (D4) in the large chamber. They found easy access as Excor used the Amber Bee to open it. Behind the door, they found a smaller octagonal chamber (4 on the map) again with smooth black lusterless walls with a domed ceiling covered in gold leaf. Dominating the room was a man-size statue of a cobra in finely wrought iron. The group gawked in awe for a few seconds until they got suspicious. Szoo was able to sense strong magic on the statue.

The mages proceeded with caution but as soon as the last one was inside the room, the iron cobra animated and attacked. Fauna tried to cast Sleep on the creature but it had no effect. Excor cast Shadow Ribbons on it in an effort to immobilize it but it easily dodged. Szoosha hit it with a fire ray in an effort to “melt it”. Gornix cast Portable Hole and used the hole to hole it up. He then dispelled the hole. The fight was over.

Szoo took the lead and the group moved rapidly into the next room (5 on the map). This chamber was a small octagonal chamber with unadorned walls and flat ceiling. At its center was a masterly crafted ivory font with a series of horned women with four arms and insect-wings cavorting around the base in gold relief. It had long been dry. They searched the font for a little while and finding nothing they continued.

They found themselves in a room dominated by a raised slab fit for a body (6). All around were shards or pottery and rotten wood. From that room Szoo led them south into a larger room crowded with sealed terra cotta amphorae (7).

Cris (to Isis): “Slow down!”

Excor moved ahead with his oil lamp held high. As soon as he raised it as he turned, its light revealed three mummies shuffling in through the western entrance to the room. The four mages battled the mummies for a full round finally gaining the upper hand by the 2nd. By this time two more warrior-type mummies and a priest-type appeared. The priest and a summoned swarm of scarab beetles lasted until the 4th round having nearly pushed the cabal mages back into room 6.

After the battle Fauna revealed that she was badly injured in the fight so the group let her drink from the chalice. Meanwhile, Szoo pried open an amphora discovering what looked like fresh wet innards that shriveled and dried before his eyes and crumbled into dust. He swore he had seen a heart among the tripe and it had been beating before it disintegrated.

Undaunted Szoo turned and made sure everyone was ready to get on the move again and so immediately led the group into the next chamber. This they found was another mausoleum with body niches in the walls from floor to ceiling (8 on the map). Szoo immediately guided the group along the southern route through the dirt-floored mausoleum into yet another small octagonal room (10).

This small chamber had glowing firefly amber pieces glowing in its niches and a gold leafed dome ceiling that glittered ominously in the strange light. Embedded in the floor at rooms center was a solid gold plate depicting lotus blossoms each set with a different colored gem. After careful inspection, Gornix declared this a trap. He was positive that if pried the gems would unleash a spray of poisonous gas or acid. He was certain of it. Regardless Szoosha pushed on into the hallway.

Cris (to Isis): “Hey! You’re moving too fast!

As soon as Szoo turned the corner in the hallway, he ran face to face with two mummies standing abreast blocking the passage. Behind them was another strange looking mummy. That one had thick black ooze dripping from its mouth and nose. It had a gold necklace with the image of a black enamel lotus dangling from its neck and on its right hand, a gold ring set with an obsidian stone.

Gornix cast Life Blast at the first mummy somewhat damaging it. He then quickened Breathe Without Air on himself. Szoo summoned his flaming polearm and chopped at the first mummy smashing it down. Excor cast Life Blast at the second mummy damaging it. Fauna, being at the rear, readied should she be able to do anything. The third black lotus mummy exhaled a blast of black gas right into Szoo’s face. In a single violent convulsion, the naga flopped to the floor apparently dead. The second mummy tried to slam its fists into Gornix so he used his Battle Magic feat to simul the creature with the Life Blast spell blasting it into oblivion.

Gornix again cast Life Blast finishing off the black lotus mummy. Excor cast Neutralize Poison on Szoo fortunately being in time to save the black-scale’s life. At least, in time to prevent the poison from killing him. Fauna grabbed one of Szoosha’s healing potions and dumped it down the naga’s throat. After a brief fit of gasping for air Szoosha half rose and then quickly drank down his last remaining healing potion to regain full health.

Gornix: “Maybe I should lead for now.”

Szoo (out of breath): “Yeah, yeah, You lead for a little while.”

To Be Continued…

 

The Cabal of Eight Pt.37: The Black Tombs

The four mages wound their way down the spiral stair their way lit only by Gornix’s (played by Gil) light sphere spell. Szoosha (played by Isis) the Black Scale Naga led the way. Excor (played by Cris) followed behind Gornix and taking up the rear was Fauna (played by Jenn) the druid. Szoo halted the group as they neared the bottom. They could all see a fairly bright but warm yellow light spattering across the landing through a narrow archway.

The walls were all of smooth black stone that reflected light poorly. The atmosphere was heavy and would have been overbearingly stale had the air not been freshened by having been opened for some time above. A tomb like must, a grave stench lay underneath the fresher drafts ever-present and eerily moist like a low fog. After staying stark still and listening intently for any sounds at all, for what seemed like ages, the mages decided to move into the strangely lit room.

The walls of the octagonal room (1 on map) were of the same smooth but powder-dull black stone as the spiral stairwell. It had a domed ceiling with an apex at 20 ft. There were small niches in each of the diagonal walls in which rested small egg-shaped pieces of amber containing a single firefly at the center. It was from these that the eerie light emanated. To the west, the walls opened into a large hallway, which sank 5 ft. via steps to a lower landing, also lit with weird light.

Excor admired the amber fireflies and noticed that they rested in small indentations in the black stone.

Excor (mostly to himself): “I just might grab me one of these ambers.”

Meanwhile Gornix was busy inspecting a suspect wall. Soon he found a secret door but before tripping the mechanism to open it he “poked it” with his staff to make sure that it wasn’t trapped. Behind it, he found another set of steps about 5 ft. wide headed down into more firefly glow.

Excor was inspecting a piece of amber with full intention of pocketing it. However, his Indiana Jones routine was interrupted when he was certain that all of the ambers were booby-trapped (he rolled a Natural 1 trap detection).

Gornix: “Hey Szoo! Lead us down there.”

Jenn (to the GM): “Hey. My frog is still with me.”

The GM (me): “Down here? Seriously!?”

Jenn: “Hell yeah! He’s my cool @$$ mount. And he’s medium size, it’s in the book. But I’m gonna leave him in this room so he doesn’t die.”

As the rest of the group began to move down into the secret stairway, Gornix loitered. When the others were out of sight, he snatched up a firefly and tucked it away under his cloak. He noticed that the gem stopped glowing when he had picked it up. He followed the group down taking up the rear.

After 5ft., the steps led to a landing lit by two more pieces of amber in niches. The steps continued west down five more feet into a short hallway. They stopped at a solid bronze door with a honeycomb and bee motif (D2 on map). Szoo could feel the magic radiating from the door and spotted the magical script engraved upon its surface. In response, the group cooperatively read the mystic script.

The door had the spell Mass Sting on it, if touched the door would fill the hallway with a spray of magical stings. As a result, Excor used his Platinum Key to Passdoor finding only an impenetrable darkness on the other side. He stepped back through and then spotted a depression where the latch and locking mechanism would normally be. He found that the amber bee fit into it and unlocked the magically sealed door. The group moved into the darkness and realized as Gornix’s globe illuminated that walls that they were in a dirt-floored mausoleum with body niches along the walls to the ceiling.

As they bickered as to which way to go, north or south, Excor spotted something shuffling in the dark. At his warning Szoo summoned his fire naginata. The fire light of the magical weapon revealed four mummies within 10 ft. of the group.

Each mummy was armed with a bronze sickle sword and wearing a bronze pectoral plate embossed with a lotus and bee symbol. The battle was short but intense. The mages used a combination of fire magic and the Lifeblast spell to eliminate their undead foes. Szoo and Excor took some punch and slam damage with Szoo contracting Mummy Rot.

Fauna cured Szoo’s disease and Gornix used Lifeblast to heal him. Excor, meanwhile, was searching the mummified corpses in the body niches for “something of value”. He found only a handful of copper rings and a couple of old copper necklaces.

Cris: “I’ll take ‘em.”

They maneuvered their way to the other side of the mausoleum coming to an iron-barred door (D9 on the map). The lock mechanism was corroded shut. Even if they had the long lost key, it couldn’t open the door. The badly rusted iron bars were still impossibly solid. They could see a short hall behind it lit by another piece of fire amber in a niche at its end. In the same niche behind the amber firefly was a figurine in rose marble of a bee from which they could all sense a powerful magical aura. They could see open passages to the north and south.

The players spent 15 minutes at that door trying to think of a way through it until…

Gil (slapping his forehead): “I have Ghost Step! WTF are we thinking!”

Both Excor and Gornix ghost through the bars and Fauna and Szoo follow in Gaseous Form. From there Cris, Isis, and Gil argued for several more minutes as to which way to go from there “up or down”, “north or south”, or “left and right” respectively. Eventually they decided to go north with Excor leading the way.

He stepped up to the doorway and saw that it entered a small vaulted tomb dominated by a large central stone sarcophagus (16 on the map). With Gornix just behind him, Excor decided to use the Energy Tentacle spell to open the sarcophagus. As soon as the heavy lid moved it unleashed a blast of poisonous gas that filled the tomb and small passageway. Fortunately, Fauna and Szoo were still in gaseous form and unaffected. However, the gas poisoned Gornix and Excor.

Gornix resisted the primary effects of the poison. However the secondary toxic effect still left him rigid of limb. Excor suffered the full effects and was very near death and total paralysis. The mages cast Neutralize Poison on each other.

Lying within the tomb was a rapidly decaying corpse, which at first shriveled into a mummy, then began to disintegrate into bones then into dust. Among the remains, the group scrounged a silver necklace, a copper ring, and a pair of bronze bracers all lotus themed. They also found a silver mirror with a lotus design on its reverse. When they identified the item, they found that it was indeed magic and granted a +3 bonus to Sense Motive. Szoosha and Fauna regained their solid forms.

Gornix cast Mass Breathe Without Air and they proceeded to loot the tomb to the south (17 on the map). They found much the same except that instead of a mirror they found an amber wand. When they identified that item, they found that it added a +6 to damage to any damage inducing spell cast through it.

They ghosted back through the bars and before they turned to leave the area and backtrack, Gornix cast Mage Hand to snatch up the bee figurine. Behind the bars spikes as long as spears shot from the ceiling of the short hall biting into the floor. The trap would’ve killed anyone stuck in there. Gornix was disappointed to find that the figurine’s magical aura was gone. It had been just a part of the trap.

Soon they back where they started (in 1). Szoo began to slither carefully down the wide stair leading west. As the others started to follow, they all picked up a whiff of rotting meat. On the rather large landing (2 on the map) they found the blasted remains of two mummies scattered across the stone-flagged floor and the rotting corpse of a young torchbearer. On the young man’s corpse, they found an Acton bearing the arms of the Bardic College.

The wide steps continued down to the south leading into a large unlit lower chamber.

To Be Continued…

 

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The Cabal of Eight Pt.36: Serpent Haunted Ruins

The group circled around the corpse of a large serpent. Fauna (played by Jenn), Szoosha (played Serpent haunted ruins indeedby Isis), Excor (played by Cris), Gornix (played by Gil), Belrae the cabal leader, Riahm his right hand man, Ilna aka Bumble, and Jirek the scribe all stood around it. Xanto the Wasp poked his head from the carriage then uninterested, went back to his book. Just outside their perimeter stood and squatted two statues their faces frozen in petrified horror. They were the last remaining crossbowman and the last driver, victims of the serpent-monster’s supernatural glare.

The serpentine corpse’s scales were a dull magenta. It had an evilly curving beak and a pair of bat-like wings on its back. Gornix the Salt-Lotus Wizard leaned in and studied the corpse a little while longer than the others did.

Gil (to the GM): “Man! What is this thing called!?”

The GM (me): “A cockatrice, it’s in the new Monster Magnus.” I was referring to the as of yet unpublished Volume 2.

Finally, after a brief description the players had a laugh, as fundamentally the creature was a snake with a rooster’s head. It had been killed on first watch when it appeared and petrified the unfortunate hirelings.

Gornix (leaning towards the carriage): “Hey WASP! You talk a big game. Let’s see what you can do for these two!” He gestured towards the two statues.

Of course, Xanto couldn’t resist so he blithely stepped from the carriage. Gornix went further and tried, mostly in vain, to humiliate the elder mage by snidely inviting him to “de-petrify” the hirelings. Therefore, the Wasp pulled out a Flesh to Stone potion and did just that with a twist of the wrist pouring the arcane libation over the driver statue. Unfortunately, he had only the one bottle.

Xanto: “But! The crossbowman will be fine as long as he doesn’t tip over. But by all means be MY guest mageling.” He motioned towards the last statue. Embarrassed, Gornix just gave a shrug.

Come morning as the red and pink horizon began to burn ever-brighter gold, Arcan cooked up the last of the remaining food for breakfast, salt pork and hard tack in lard. They also split Szoo’s 45 days’ worth of rations amongst themselves to make sure nobody starved.

The sun was directly overhead beating down upon the barren red mars-scape of the Red Waste as the cabal’s carriage rolled towards the ruins that jutted up from the red plane like bleached ribs. Just behind the pillars of the ruins, they could see a steep rise, a low hill with the remains of black columns atop it. Around the area, they saw large thickets of dense pale green broad-leafed woody bushes. Also they noticed that surrounding the ruins was a deep gorge, at least 20 ft. deep with a mostly bush-concealed bottom. Below they could smell the brackish scent of moisture and hear the trickling of water.

Eager to get adventuring the party disembarked en masse leaving Arcan and the revived driver to find a concealed location to park and set camp. The rest of the adventuring party searched around the area finding another wagon laden with supplies but deserted. Marked with the arms of the Bardic College of Ezmer, it had been hidden in the bushes in a small clearing to the northwest. Excor grilled Belrae and Riahm whom told him it was indeed a college wagon but not one left behind on their previous expedition.

Excor: “Uhg. We have company. The college seekers came back lookin’ for somethin’.”

As a matter of caution, the cabal decided to circle the rim of the gap as a group. After circumnavigating the place, they determined that the best way across the chasm was most likely in the front (south on the map). However, Riahm and the other NPCs disagreed and wanted to try to find another way across that they had pointed at during the circumnavigation. The nearly hidden path they had used during the college adventure.

So the PCs and NPCs (led by the Wasp) split with the NPC party heading west from the wagons as Belrae and Riahm said they had the sure way. The reason the PCs did not follow them or argue the point was to put some distance between themselves and the Wasp.

The player group stood at the precipice at the southernmost point of the ruins. The sides of the cliff were shear on both sides and seemed a little “crumbly” in many places with most of the face composed of compacted dirt and clay with gravel and the occasional large rock. Simply put, climbing would’ve been suicide for most of them, maybe not for Fauna though.

Cris: “Well, yeah! We’re a bunch of damn wizards!”

While the others planned and argued about how to cross the gorge Fauna found a small depression on the cliff that allowed egress down onto a very narrow ledge in the face. It was a fissure carved by ages of rare rainfall. Of course, she began to climb down without alerting the others. So unnoticed she moved carefully and somewhat clumsily down. Without a rope.

Jenn: “Druid-style!”

She slipped and fell all the way to the bottom landing in knee-deep mud with about a foot of water on top. Completely hidden from those on cliffs edge by a canopy of leaves she got to her feet. Gornix noticed that the druid was suddenly gone. Szoo had heard the tumbling gravel and the splash. The next thing that the three mages atop the cliff could see was Fauna backing out into an area where they could see her in deeper water surrounded by four giant frogs.

Though the unnaturally sized animals were unexpected Gornix, Excor, and Szoo managed to collectively kill two of them. Fauna put the other two under her mystical control. The druidess then used her new giant frog mount to take her to the top of the other side. Gornix cast Mass Nature’s Ability: Winged Flight allowing him and the other two to get across.

They all landed on a paved area covered with several inches of dirt and debris. What they were standing on was an elevated solid stone foundation that set about 10 ft. above the actual cliff. Those that had flown had barely made the miscalculated journey before the spell expired. Before them was a depressed area that sank about 5 ft. via steps and had a dry fountain at its center. On a hunch, Excor pulled out the Amber Bee, Bumble’s paperweight, and noticed that it was vibrating in pulses. They proceeded.

The fountain was certainly dry but the thick layer of dirt and stone debris had been carefully cleaned from its basin revealing a tiled mosaic. The fountain mosaic portrayed gold lotuses and beehives in gold, brown, white, turquoise, and dark blue tiles.

Fauna: “Well. We’re in the right place.”

Excor: “Too bad we can’t ask Belrae if they didn’t clean this out when they were out here.”

Szoo: “We have the medallions.”

Fauna: “Oh yeah.”

Cris: “Okay. You use the once a day charge on yours then.”

Isis: “Um. No?”

Gornix began to work his way carefully up the steps at the far north side of the fountain courtyard when he suddenly stopped. He had spotted something, as did Fauna.

Fauna: “Guys watch it we have company!”

Gornix: “They’re Nagas!”

Excor moved towards Gornix and activated his Shield. Fauna cast a Lightning Bolt at a warrior Naga crouching behind the other side of a nearby column. The warrior wore a peaked bronze helm, a bronze pectoral plate, and was armed with an Eagle Rake polearm. The lightning bolt had injured him. Gornix made it to the top of the steps and spotted a shaman just about 20 feet from him to the west. He cast Cloud Memory but the Shield from the shaman’s fetish that hung around his neck absorbed it. Another naga wearing only a bronze pectoral plate stepped out from behind a pillar and whipped his bullwhip at the second of Fauna’s frogs scoring its soft hide. A serpent creature slithered from out of nowhere towards Excor.

Excor: “STOP that Shaman!”

The shaman tried to cast a spell but failed (it was Mass Animal Form). Staying on the higher ground the warrior moved to where Szoo would be in his reach. Szoo hit the Shaman with a fire ray again hitting his Shield.

Excor cast Energy Tentacle at the long-snouted dull earth-colored serpent. It dodged easily moving closer to him. It struck suddenly wiping out his Shield. Fauna cast Wizard’s Trick at the Shaman; the fetish around his neck stopped her spell via the Shield spell. However, it fell apart and dropped from his neck. Gornix again tried to cast Cloud Memory on the Shaman who barely was able to resist its magic. The whip baring naga snapped at Fauna’s second frog again laying more of its soft skin wide open. The Shaman again tried to cast Animal Form Mass the players held their collective breath but he failed. The warrior used his rake to slaughter Fauna’s second frog. Szoo summoned his flaming naginata but stayed put.

Gornix turned and seeing that the warrior was bearing down on Szoo cast Paralyze I at him but the naga warrior was able to resist. The serpent reared and struck at Fauna. She parried its needle fangs with her dagger. Gornix slung Chrono-Missiles at the Shaman wounding him.

Gornix cast Chrono-Missiles at the serpent blasting a large section of its dull brown scales away exposing raw bleeding muscle. The warrior slithered down into the courtyard and swung his Eagle Rake at Fauna who parried his blow with her dagger. Szoosha used his polearm to strike at the Shaman’s throat but stopped short holding the burning blade to his throat.

Szoo: “Don’t you move!”

The serpent reared again and struck at Excor sinking its fangs into his arm. He took the full dose of its venom. It significantly weakened and horribly injured him. Excor took a step back and was able to cast Slow on the creature. The naga with the whip slithered down towards Fauna and tried to entangle her with his bullwhip but missed. Fauna tried to cast Lightning Bolt at the warrior but he took an attack of opportunity narrowly missing her. She failed the casting still distracted by the crack of the whip.

Gornix moved to a pillar for some cover. Szoo singed the shaman’s neck with his weapon holding him hostage. Excor pulled his copper spike and shot a bolt of electricity at the serpent killing it. The naga with the whip cried out in sorrow as he watched his pet die and seeing his shaman at the enemy’s mercy threw down his whip and surrendered. Fauna shouted threats to the warrior but was not at all intimidating in the delivery. However, seeing his shaman with a flaming blade to his throat, he too surrendered.

The mages grilled the nagas, they appeared to be Scael naga though of the lower classes. Their scales were a pale green scattered with black, brown, and pale yellow. A pair of corrupt college officials, a high-ranking curator and a seeker, had hired them as mercenaries. They were paid to protect them and guard the ruins while they were within. The mercs pointed to the northeast and said that a newly unburied passageway lies not more than 50 ft. away. The mages let the nagas slink away with their lives but not their weaponry.

The cabal mages moved into the large courtyard further north. It was dirt floored but they were positive paving lay under a thick layer of the earth. They all touched down from the 15 ft. height of the previous foundation; Fauna on her frog and the others using their wings from another Nature’s Ability spell from Gornix. By a large copse of dense bushes, they spotted a number of white rabbits tied to a stone near a pile of iron shackles. Fauna stooped down to talk to them.

They had been slaves brought to dig out the passage to the east transformed by the shaman after they completed their work. All Fauna could do for them was to free them.

Fauna: “I knew we should’ve killed those guys when we had the chance!”

Cris: “Says you! They would’ve killed me!” Excor cast Close Wounds on himself.

Fauna investigated the marble statue entangled half-hidden in the copse. The head recently hacked from the shoulders.

Over this courtyard towered a stony conical knoll with a black foundation and broken black pillars crowning it. The steep wide white steps that led up from the courtyard to the top were badly damaged ceasing to exist halfway up. The mages discounted going up the hill, as they’d have to climb or fly. They didn’t want to waste any more spells or risk the climb. They found some steps going up from the courtyard between two foundations headed east.

Gornix cast Alter Self to give himself winged flight and on a hunch flew up the hill to “check out” the black pillars. However, he didn’t see anything special. He had failed to spot the egg-shaped hollow in the black stone altar up there. He flew back down to rejoin his fellows as they moved up the steps to the east and onto another detritus strewn foundation. This one however had an open passage and steps leading down at its center. Freshly unburied piles of dirt and stones surrounded it along with the discarded tools. Gornix elected Szoo to take lead.

Szoo: “Fine! I’ll LEAD then!”

Excor used his medallion to communicate with Belrae. The other party had found another entrance and was heading down also. Gornix cast Magic Globe and Illuminate in tandem a glowing globe of light appeared before him under his mental control. With Szoo in the lead, they began their descent below the ruins and the broken black pillars.

To Be Continued…

 

Sick Day – No Post This Week

Unfortunately, the Cabal of Eight actual play blog will have to wait another week. I’ve come down with a nasty cold. I really hate being sick.

However, that gives me an idea for another Tabletop Meditations entry. Actually I have another as well. The Cabal of Eight will continue next week. That campaign blog is reaching its terminus soon btw.

More bad news it looks like there will be no new books for this year. The Dwarven project has fallen through and the company coffers are at an all time low. Life also became very busy this year swallowing up all of my time.

Next year the aim is to release 3 new books. Among those is the Ezmer Gazetteer for the Arvan campaign setting. The Dwarven project is on hold until late next year or until I can muster some resources.

Sincerely,

Robert A. Neri Jr.

The Cabal of Eight Pt.35: The Black Pillars

The group had traveled with no incident from the city of Ezmer. The train of two wagons and Helpful map for a wagon tripcarriage rolled along the Trade Road West out of the Ezmerian Headland. Under the experienced guide of Arcan the Wanderer, they were seeking the Black Pillars. All the while Excor (played by Cris) kept his eyes peeled for any shenanigans coming from the Wasp.

Cris (to the other players): “All of us, each of us, need to make spot checks constantly on the Wasp.”

Their first stop was within a few miles of the Necropolis. A driver was killed during the night, torn apart by some animal. The footprints into camp and around the corpse resembled a lion. However, Fauna (played by Jenn) couldn’t identify the creature though it seemed similar to a lion it had walked two feet as much as four. Unlike a lion it had not killed to eat, it seemed to have just killed the man then left the campsite. They buried the mutilated body after breakfast. Arcan took some time to get his bearings in guiding the adventuring party to the pass into the Mezrin Valley.

Around noon, they stopped the caravan to allow the horses to rest. As they munched on their rations, Xanto the Wasp regaled Belrae and Riahm with tales of his adventures. The thin villain claimed that he had slain a dragon rescuing his companions, a gaggle of sloppy, blundering dragonslayers in the process. Excor and Fauna shot him suspicious narrow-eyed glances. Soon enough the caravan moved on along the narrow path south.

Mountains rose to the immediate west and dense clumps of trees and thickets began to multiply in the distance. A few miles northeast snaked the Dragon’s Tail River. The road was a mix of yellow and white with large patches of mundane earth brown. The wagons came to a stop at Arcan’s signal. It was again time to camp.

On first watch, a scorpion stung a footman and on the second, a thunderstorm moved in dumping hot rain onto the brave adventurers. At first, the rain released the sweet scent of the prairie from the arid soil. It was fresh, a mix of rich clay and the mild reek of straw and yellowed grass. However, shortly after their departure, the desert freshness was gone and the atmosphere in the carriage cab was stifling. Thunder rumbled in the distance.

Trees, yellow and scrub pine, approached the road in clumps and patches. After a few hours, they began to encroach upon the road itself and soon the travelers were rolling through a thin wood. Shortly after they spaces between trees again began to increase and sun drenched glades started to break the wood apart more and more frequently. Another day passed as they traveled on. When they broke through the last clump of trees The mountains and low hills were close poised on either side of the road .  It was the pass into the valley.

Arcan guided the wagons slowly and carefully off the bend of the trade road as it turned west. The terrain flattened out though high purple mountains could be seen to the north and west with a distant ridge of hills rising in the south. The ground became lush with long pale green grass. Soon they surrounded on all sides by the tall grass. When they stood to see over the tops of the blades, they saw a seemingly endless shimmering sea of pale green. Arcan found a small clearing approved by Fauna for their campsite.

During the night, a pack of four dragonsauri attacked the camp during Gornix’s (played by Gil) and Szoo’s (played by Isis) watch. The mages managed to kill two while the other two were spooked away. They only lost a single footman who was dragged away by an unseen fifth during the fray. The only trace left of him, a long ragged red trail of blood leading deep into the tall grasses. Belrae had been wounded but healed himself after.

Morning. Arcan said he estimated about a day or two through the tall grasses when asked by Excor how much further the Red Waste was. The billabongs and hidden mires aside from the dragonsauri would be the worst risks now.

By around 3 pm they broke the grass and a light hot rain started as they rode out onto the Red Waste. The drizzle awakened an alien scent, a bitter smell with only the scant metallic hint of dead soil underneath it. Before them sprawled the Red Lowlands in every direction.  It seemed lusher with the harsh and fibrous flora of the desert than would be hinted at by the name the Red Waste. The sand was not even that red being more of a rocky reddish brown. Arcan assured them that the red waste was closer to the center of the Red Lowlands.

Arcan the Wanderer: “You’ll know when we’re within it. It’s unmistakable.”

The great purple moon appeared on the horizon as the sun slowly melted into an orange and red sea in the West. The ever-diminishing Wuhzigvir Mountains were sinking into the eastern horizon. Excor and Arcan were on the lead wagon along with a crossbowman and a footman. The carriage following the lead contained the cabal along with a driver and a crossbowman. Bringing up the rear the last heavily laden supply wagon had a crossbowman, driver, and the last of the footmen. The adventurers were shouting back and forth while the wagons slowed about where to set camp when a giant winged silhouette swooped out of the purpling blue of evening. It was a dragon.

The creature swooped down and blasted the last wagon with its fiery breath killing the horses and all aboard. The remaining drivers and Arcan spurred their horses on hoping in vain to try to outrun the dragon.The dragon had bronze colored scales and glowing jewel-like eyes, it was a Wher.

Fauna readied a spell in case the dragon should target the carriage. Excor pulled his Lightning Spike and activated his Jet Amulet of Shield. Gornix cast Amplify Magic on the dragon successfully enchanting the creature despite its resistance. The carriage driver spurred his horses on and turned away from the lead wagon. The wher swooped in again with its gnarled claws at the lead horse on the last supply wagon. Arcan tried to drive the animal to avoid the dragon’s talons but failed. It got the horse. He was able to maintain control of the wagon. Szoo cast Elemental Half-Plate Armor (Fire) on himself.

Fauna cast Wind Rush at the dragon to try to push it to the ground but it had no effect. Excor shot a bolt of electricity from his spike also without effect. Gornix cast Force Ram nailing the dragon badly injuring it. The Wher unleashed its breath at eh carriage but Szoo was able to divert the draconic flames harmlessly away. Arcan tried to turn the supply wagon in a directin directly opposite the carriage but instead flipped the wagon and crashed throwing him and Excor to the ground. The footman and crossbowman were killed.

The rough ride as the driver tried to outrun the dragon caused Gornix to fail in casting another spell. The wher with a mighty flap of its wings landed with a crash onto the roof of the carriage. Its claws pierced the ceiling visible from the inside of the cab. Gornix cast Force Ram through his wizard’s staff. He tapped the creature’s side as he leaned form a window crushing its ribs. They heard a sickening sound like a water-filled drum hit with a sledgehammer.

The dragon used its tail to batter at the carriage door causing splinters to fly but the wood held.

Excor stood up and dusted himself off. He survived the crash without injury due to his shield amulet. The carriage was a few hundred feet away. Gornix again channeled the same spell through his wizard’s staff but the dragon was able to resist his magic this time around. Distracted by the chaos of the fight Fauna found it impossible to cast Lightning Bolt. However, Szoo summoned his flaming naginata and dealt the deathblow causing the creature to unlatch its claws from the roof of the carriage and lurch into the air before it came crashing back down.

The carriage came to a stop and Gornix immediately jumped out. Fauna followed and they both raced to “harvest” the dragon’s corpse. Szoo saw that the Wasp had been gripping a medallion under his robes and had one of Bumble’s hands clasped tight. When he let go of the medallion Szoo could see that its gem seemed to be amber that contained a piece of what looked like mushroom.

Bumble ordered the driver to circle around and scoop up any crash survivors. Meanwhile Excor and Arcan inspected the wreck. One horse was fine. They gathered some essential supplies and waited for the carriage. Arcan was dirty and bloody but his wounds were mostly superficial. After an hour, the group left in search of a safe campsite far enough away from the dragon-corpse to avoid monstrous scavengers. Szoo bummed a jar of Hill-lander whiskey from Gornix so he could preserve the Wher eye he had cut out.

Come morning they left their campsite and a few more of their number behind after breakfast. They were now short of supplies, especially water, but were close to their goal. Arcan had wedged himself between the driver and the crossbowman.

The land had become increasingly desolate as they traveled on at an alarming rate. Any vegetation seemed to recede and shrivel away to nothing. Before they knew it, the land was flat and mostly barren save for the numerous rocks and gravel of varying size. The earth here was as red as blood. At the advice of Arcan they made a wide berth around a large and dense area of woody bushes that were very out of place against the barren prairieland. By evening, they could see the Black Pillars in the distance. Fauna cast Commune with Nature. In the direction of the Black Pillars, her spell was blocked.

With one more day of travel to go they set camp and settled in for the night.

To Be Continued…