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The Cabal of Eight Pt.24: Plate of Scorpions

Fauna (played by Jenn) rapped on the black lacquered wooden gate beyond a rounded plaster archwayGornix mages guild insignia 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.”

Gornix: “Nope.”

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.”

Virtra: “Done.”

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…

The Cabal of Eight Pt.23: Trial of the Cabal

Dawn broke over the high walls and battlements of Ezmer. The sky was aglow with deep gold and streaked with shadowed purples, pinks, and reds. The large purple moon and its great ring was but a shadow quickly fading. Similarly the lurking dregs of the city that lurked sank back as the sun rose. The foot traffic over the cobblestone streets turned from rag pickers to early rising laborers, merchants, and then tradesmen. The filth that had spent the night fermenting in the gutters began to flow anew as fleets of chamber pots emptied and faulty jakes began to overflow with the city’s morning movement.

It was the morning of the 24th of Early Summer, Excor (played by Cris), Gornix (played by Gil), Fauna (played by Jenn), and Szoosha (played by Isis) gathered for breakfast at the Red Helm tavern. They were uncharacteristically silent during their meal as the cool salted morning air was heavier than usual. After finishing breakfast, they had uniformly decided to leave all of the items that they had stripped from Haxat’s corpse in the Cabal Room upstairs for safekeeping. In preparation of the mandatory hearing that afternoon, they agreed to meet back up in front of the Red Helm on the eve of the hour of their appointment. From there they would then swing by and “scoop up” Jirek as a friendly witness and go as a group to the sapphire guildhouse.

Gil: “What if we don’t show?”

Cris: “Man they’ll just hunt us down!”

Gil: “We can hide or something.”

Cris: “They’ll find us! We can hide outside of the city.”

Gil: “Well…”

Cris: “Do you want to leave the city! ‘Cause that’s what we’ll have to do!”

Gil: “Oh.”

Until then they were on their own and free to finish any business they had before the trial. Hence Excor went to the shop district and there he bought a silver chain. Fauna went to Wensaer’s little alchemy shop and bought an Alchemist’s Kit. The old shopkeeper kept trying to engage her in conversation and asked about the Sapphire guild. Wensaer asked if she knew Gornix, she lied and said no, the old brown-robed alchemist believed her (successful bluff). Therefore she left with her kit. Szoo put in an order at a tailor shop for a new cloak, red with gold trim. Gornix was in the cabal room copying spells later joined by Excor. Eventually came the fateful hour and they gathered in front of the Red Helm before scooting off to the college library and from there to the Sapphire Confraternity Guildhouse in Guildsman’s Square.

The Sapphire guildhouse was a large multi-story expensively masoned stone-block building with a bronze mansard roof bearing a turquoise-green patina. The guards showed them through the finely made bronze double-door into a cathedral-like main hall with a huge dragon’s skull set into the floor among the flags. Guards herded them into a side passage then through a plain wood double-door and into a high ceilinged drearily plain room with unadorned stone block walls. The only light was from three tall and narrow glass paned lancet windows with intersecting tracery crisscrossing in black over the white sunlight.

Directly under the windows and limned by the blue shafts of light beaming in from the outside was the high bench upon which the stern-faced arbiter sat and on either side of that was the council-box where 12 council members of the guild sat and heard the evidence. In front of the tall and intimidating bench stood the Bailiff, a large humorless man with a brown beard striped with white and a well-made longsword at his side. The defendants’ box was before the bailiff and under the bench, a raised platform surrounded by a high wooden railing.

To the right of that was the Advocate’s table. An advocate being a guild official that presented the defense. On the left was the Informants’ table that acted as the prosecution or investigator for the guild. Behind a short railing which separated the front of the room where the tables, the Defendants’ box, council-box, and the bench were two rows of benches in the rear. Among the sparse pew-like benches meant for an audience sat a city magistrate and a few city guards should the need of arrest arise.

Cloaked in various elaborate clothes and robes with a blue and silver motif all of the guild officials were all old Ivorans. Some bore the silver acorn symbol of the Ezmer branch, some the eight-pointed star, though most bore a combination. Among them there was not a finger, neck, chest, or wrist that did not sparkle with expensive jewelry. It was also apparent that each was a wizard of some consequence. Along the lower gallery where the seeker (as Informant) and the young mages’ Advocate and themselves would stand adjudged stood several city guardsmen at attention armed with halberds just behind should the committee find them in criminal offense.

Thus they were put in the Defendants’ Box and the gate shut and bolted behind them. The arbiter banged his gavel and addressed the defendants.

Sapphire Guild Arbiter: “This court’s purpose is to assess the evidence before them concerning the slaying of one Haxat the Greater and to see if it warrants a trial or the involvement of any other authorities including the civil. There are no charges as of yet and any necessary fines will be levied for any violations of city statute or guildlaw due to our investigation. Do YOU understand?”

The wide-eyed defendants all nodded silently.

Excor (to his compatriots): “Aww man, these guys are here to find us guilty.”

The first order of the court was the checking of their paperwork to make sure that they were all licensed mages (the licensing fees and licenses being issued by the guild of course) within the city walls. All practicing mages were required to register with the guild office and obtain a license to practice magic with certain restrictions, which can be overcome by purchasing additional licenses and/or extensions. Otherwise, a mage cannot practice any magic or cast any spells whatsoever and is subject to fines and/or imprisonment possibly even indenturement to the civil authority or the guild. Certain other things such as brewing potions and even medicines are license extensions of which the alchemists’ guild and barbers’ guilds get a taste. After a few hours it was determined the defendants had all of their paperwork in order.

However, as the court made its way to the story of the incident with Haxat it was found that Haxat did not possess the proper paperwork. Thusly, he was deemed an outlaw mage. This boded well for the defendants. Of course, the story was told, retold, and recounted ad nauseam until the committee was satisfied that they had the whole story with every mundane detail no matter how trivial as a part of the “official record”.

This continued until the council decided that they could tease out the facts which were then scrutinized for any violations particularly those that the committee could levy fines against. The long silences between each question of the court was not only frustrating but also agonizing for the defendants.

The extreme boredom of listening to the ritual monotone readings of law and legal regulation and the signing of documents made even longer by Excor’s insistence to read everything thoroughly in addition to the group’s anticipation as to their fates was definitely wearing on them (as well as their players).

Gil: “Damn. Should we just tell them everything.”

Cris: “NO! Don’t anybody tell them anything!”

Isis: “What!? Why’re you staring at ME! I don’t know anything!”

Jenn: “F@*k these GUYS!”

Isis: “SIS!”

Fauna: “SO you didn’t find anything right?!”

Arbiter: “NO.”

Fauna: “So we’re innocent then right?!”

Arbiter: “This was not a trial. This is a fact-finding committee to assess if anyth…”

Jenn: “F@#$ you guys then! I’m outta here!”

Fauna tried to open the latched gate to the defendants’ box but a guard stopped her.

Fauna (to the bailiff): “Are we free to go yet?”

Jenn (copping a ‘tude): “I’m just going to leave I don’t care what they do!”

So Fauna leapt over the railing ducking the guard trying to block her way. The Bailiff shouted, “Hey you street urchin you can’t leave!”

Fauna (at the top of her lungs and with the dismissal of her hand): “That’s what your father said to your MOTHER!”

As a result the entire courtroom burst into laughter. The guards at the entrance smiled but crossed their halberds to prevent her leaving; the Bailiff was not so jovial.

Isis (face palming): “Oh No Sis! You don’t get us off the hook like THAT!”

Several hours later the proceedings finally adjourned. In conclusion the young cabal members were acquitted of any wrong-doing. They did garner some commendation for rescuing their comrade Jirek. However, they were also admonished to apprise the proper authorities instead of taking matters into their own hands if similar circumstances should arise.

Hence they burst out into the waning sun and tangerine pink striped sky of evening from the main doors. Fauna chose that time to inform her companions that an acquaintance of hers had invited them for dinner. Of course, they all agreed to go never ones to turn down a free meal. It was when she guided them to the gate into the Western Cliffs District that they became a little wary.

Gornix: “How do YOU know someone who lives here!”

Fauna: “Well, we all know Bumble!”

She remained vague in any answer she gave to any question related to their host so eventually they gave up. Excor was the only member not to grill her, he just watched her intently. Regardless of any doubts they followed her anyway. The guards let them through the gate as their names were on the list for the evening. Then gave them directions to the house.

Gornix: “Uh. Wait. You don’t know where she lives? HOW do you know this person?”

Needless to say, Fauna was not forthcoming with that information as she lead them following the guards’ directions.

To Be Continued…

 

The Cabal of Eight Pt.22: Cloak and Blather

Excor (played by Cris) cut Jirek’s bindings. The young scribe was visibly in shock. He stared blankly as his rescuers fell icon on blue robeupon the gory remains of Haxat’s corpse looting anything that appeared valuable or that they recognized as magic. Afterwards, the young mages decided to take their loot back to the cabal room and properly identify and divvy it up. Jirek, traumatized, decided to stay behind in order to “clean up” and assess the damage to his warehouse.

Later in the cabal room in the upper floor of the Red Helm tavern, the young mages commence to inspect and identify their booty. What they had was: a polished red agate necklace (level 1, Shield, 1/day), a silver ring (Level 2, close wounds 3 x day), a gold ring with turquoise (Level 4, circle of protection I), and a gold ring with a large ruby (Level 8, scry, 3/day; scry image appears in the ruby).  They also had a set of purple robes (Level 6, grants a Damage Reduction of 12), a High Quality light silver longsword, and a high quality alchemical-gold dagger with a curved-blade and black enameling with an emerald pommel stone. They also came away with 2 potions of healing: a potion of Dispel Curse, and a potion of Impervious to Energy (Frost).

Gornix (played by Gil) took possession of the robes. Fauna (played by Jenn) took the necklace. Szoosha (played by Isis) took the silver ring. Excor claimed the gold & turquoise ring. As the characters had some left over items after the even split the players decided to have a roll-off for the remainders between those who wanted them. Cris and Isis rolled-off for the Dagger, which Isis won. Cris and Gil had a roll-off for the sword; Gil won but let Excor have it. The gold & ruby ring went to the group hoard hidden behind the false brick in the fireplace (see The Cabal of Eight Pt.16: Fight for Sleep).

After this acquirement phase concluded, their attentions turned towards Haxat’s spell book. They were careful not to directly touch the book itself as its leather cover bore a magic ward and it had an iron latch with a small key lock as well. Excor identified the mark as the Burning Symbol. If anyone besides Haxat touches the book, the ward and book would burst into flames burning the hands of the interloper. Gornix just decided to “go for it”. Therefore, Excor handed him a small key he had fished from the purple robes when he had first “salvaged” them. Gornix positioned the book on the table using the sack to cover his hand, inserted and twisted the key, and then opened it. The ward flared as he touched the book but his new robes granted him full protection against the flames.

Within Haxat’s spell-book, they discovered 12 spells and 2 potion formulae. The spells were, in no particular order: Inferior Fireball, Cone of Fire, Imp Summoning Circle, Pain, Bolt of Stunning, Blur, Burning Symbol, Mass Pain, Shield, Slow, Close Wounds, and Ring of Blades. The potion formulae were for Blur and See All.

After the group decided that Szoo should take the Impervious to Frost potion and Fauna the Dispel Curse potion Szoo got up to go grab a round of celebratory ales. Excor tossed him some silver. While the naga was downstairs the remaining three stashed the papers (Haxat’s notes on the Gold & Amber Bee; seemed he was looking for a hive and wanted the queen) and the Amber Bee with their other treasure behind the false brick.

Suddenly Szoo rushed back into the clubroom frantic.

Gornix: “Hey! Where’s the ale!”

Szoo: “That guy in the BLUE ROBES was watching ME! He’s downstairs RIGHT NOW!”

Excor (bluffing humorously): “Well Naga, sounds like the sapphire guild is after you because you’re a Black Scale! Ha …”

Szoo believing him immediately ran away home in a state of utter panic. After that incident, the others checked downstairs for the “blue-robed guy” before calling it a day and going their separate ways.

Fauna was retreating to her spot in the grove (essentially Ezmer’s Central Park) when, while passing through the Old Market District, she spied a woman she recognized as her cult leader entering a high-end dress shop. Of course, Fauna decided to follow ducking into the very same shop just behind her quarry. The woman tried to deny that they knew each other but eventually relented when it became apparent Fauna was not backing down and willing to make a scene.

After some extended awkwardness, she learned the woman’s true name, Virtra Wefa, and eventually spilled the beans about “her friends dealing some justice to a demon summoner”. As a result, Virtra invited Fauna and her friends to a dinner at her residence in the Western Cliffs District the following night (the 24th of Early Summer). After the invite, Virtra had an accompanying footman boot the young druid from the store. Fauna continued on to the park with a big smile on her face.

Later that evening Excor dropped by Gornix’s apartment. It took very little convincing to get the salt-lotus wizard to take a break from his spell research to accompany the other to the meeting with Doubab at the Red Helm.

Meanwhile Szoosha was slowly learning to read going through dozens of old water-damaged ships’ logs and manifests piled in the corner of his flat by his roommate Paej. Most likely a resource kept by the Ferenoi to sell for the paper when in need of some scratch.

Later on in the evening at the Red Helm, Gornix and Excor met up with Doubab. They sat in a curtained booth against the wall that separated the theater from the rest of the tavern. They began with small talk, Excor asked where the “goods” were, and Doubab punched the squirming sack he had set on the seat. Gornix however was getting bored so he offered to fetch a bottle of “something good” from the bar.

On his way to the bar, Gornix spotted the mage in powder blue robes. For the moment, Gornix feigned disinterest. However from the corner of his eye he noticed that the blue-robe was eye-balling him. He bought a bottle of Hill-Lander whiskey from the bartender. Then told him to send a barmaid to the booth to serve them. He tossed a silver piece on the ale-soaked board and returned to the booth.

A few minutes later, the server hobbled up to their table and introduced herself as Stranez. She was a half-faun southern nomad woman with messy coarse grey hair over most of her body. Excor butted in. He paid to send a bottle of “decent quality but not too expensive” wine to the blue robe’s table. He offered a gold bit should she return with his name. They soon learned their stalker was one Crochi Aengham. He was a seeker for the Star Sapphire Confraternity (the sapphire mage guild).

Excor also paid her to go back to the seeker and “keep him busy while they talked business”. She tried, half-heartedly, but the seeker wasn’t having it, old Stranez had seen better days (see The Dragonslayers II Pt. 9). She had done so mostly for her own entertainment. Besides she managed to lift the man’s purse before she limped back to her job.

Meanwhile Excor and Gornix paid Doubab for the bag of rats. The ratter was their “rat hookup” and a possible ringer when it came to betting on the rat fights. He was also well informed as to when and where the fights were held. After a few minutes, Gornix got antsy and decided to approach the seeker. So, Excor and Doubab retreated to the theater. There they drank and listened to the performer, a young minstrel fresh from the bardic college. He was singing a rendition of the Dragon-Wars epic poem, very badly.

Gornix sat down at the table with Crochi the blue robed mage and introduced himself. The sapphire guild seeker was not amused especially when Gornix went on about “a good business opportunity”. The salt-lotus wizard began talking about how he and his comrades were looking for investors for their soon to be operational rat-fighting outfit.

Crochi (in disbelief): “Wait. Are you telling me that you guys are rat-fighters?”

Gornix (shrugging as if it were obvious): “Well, yeah! And we need money… investors.”

Crochi (he finished off a small glass of fine red wine): “You and your companions are nothing more than rat fighters. Bunch a’ gutter-mages. Well-then…”

Crochi (getting up to leave): “Well, what a waste of mine and the guild’s time. We’ve been watching you and your friends for nothing.”

He motioned to a city guard posted at the entrance that they were to leave.

Inexplicably Gornix kept following him on his way to the door then shouted something to the effect that he and his friends are more than ratters “we defeated a demon summoner named Haxat”. That made the seeker turn around.

Cris: “WHAT! What’re you DOING! We had him and the guild off of our @$$es!”

The next hour was spent at the bar conversing with Crochi. Of course, Gornix told him everything about the confrontation with Haxat that very afternoon. A messenger that Crochi had sent off just after his talk with Gornix had started returned and handed him a sealed scroll. With a grin, Crochi handed it to Gornix telling him that he and his companions were summoned to the Star Sapphire Confraternity’s guild house in Guildsman’s square for an “initial appearance before the guild court for a fact-finding session”. The scroll was a court summons for the following high noon.

Cris: “He thought we were just rat-fighters! He wasn’t going to pay any attention to us! That guild doesn’t care about the rat fights! We were FREE and CLEAR!”

After some justified belly aching from Excor, both Excor and Gornix took the sack of rats back to their respective apartments to transfer the rats from the bag to the cages. They lost quite a few rodents in the process. Soon they realized that their apartments and buildings would soon have a severe rat problem.

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight Pt.21: Blood Red

As splinters of wood sprayed into the dim, fire lit chamber the semi-transparent form of the red imp was thrown from Spell summoned Impthe remains of the shattered door.  Its diminishing screams continued to echo as it fell back down into hell. Gornix’s new spell, Force Ram, had smashed down the imp-possessed door and laid open the basement of the small warehouse to the cabal of young mages.

Open flame torches and a pulsing venomous red light sparsely lit the dark basement. It was a rectangular chamber studded with many wood studs supporting the plank floor above. The cabal mages were at the entrance in a far corner and their target, Haxat the demon-summoner, was at the opposite corner next to a desk. Their ally, Young Jirek, tied to the chair next to him. Around them four small winged imps whom immediately went invisible.

Dressed in fine purple robes, rings aglitter on his fingers, and a gold and red agate necklace around his neck Haxat the demon-summoner had shiny blood red skin. His long oiled hair and beard were coal-black.

Suddenly the evil red light grew in brightness then disappeared with a bloody flash leaving behind a tall wingless imp its eyes burning in its sockets like orange embers burning in bleeding flesh. In its twisted clawed hands it wielded a long-handled battle-ax.

Excor and Fauna readied to charge into the fray spells blazing. Gornix moved inside and to the side casting Illuminate fully revealing the big imp and the rest of the room. Excor moved in after shooting a bolt of electricity at a suddenly visible imp as it made a flying kick at Gornix’s face wounding it. Fauna moved in but the wrack on her nerves caused her to flub her Lightning Bolt. Another imp appeared also kicking at Gornix’s head but missed. Haxat grabbed his red agate necklace activating Shield. Suddenly from the dark of the ceiling, two vipers dropped onto Excor, one striking but hitting his Shield dispersing it immediately. The second missed and hit the floor. Both reverted to their imp forms. The big imp missed Gornix with its ax. Szoo produced his fire naginata and struck the axe-wielding imp etching a neat rut in its vile hide.

Excor shot another electrical bolt at an imp but the imp jerked out of the way at the last instant. Gornix cast Chrono-Missile at the big imp injuring it. The first imp kicked again at Gornix but he parried its hoof easily with his staff. The second imp missed Szoo’s head as it too kicked. Fauna threw a Lightning Bolt at the first imp gravely wounding it. Haxat cast Mass Pain but all of the young mages were able to resist his evil magic. Imp number three sank its pointed teeth into Excor’s shoulder. The fourth exhaled his fiery breath catching all of the mages in the area of effect but Szoo was able to divert the flames around them blackening the wooden support beams surrounding them. The floor above groaned painfully.

Gornix cast Chrono-Missile on imp number one blasting it to screaming bits. Haxat hurled an Inferior Fireball at Gornix dealing very little damage to the young salt-lotus mage.

Excor cast Spook on the third imp who backed off and began to retreat towards the feet of its master, Haxat. The second imp made another kick to Gornix’s head nailing him. A trickle of blood ran down his forehead. Haxat hurled another small fire ball this time aimed at Szoo whom easily diverted it harmlessly away to crash into and scorch a brick wall. Gornix cast Ghost Form on himself as a precautionary measure. Fauna tried to lob a Lightning Bolt at imp number two but failed to get the spell off in the turmoil of battle. The fourth imp, who was still on the ground at Excor’s feet, went to kick the young mage in the shin but was parried. The big imp raised its axe over its head for the second time and hacked into Szoo’s flesh.

Excor stepped back from imp four and summoned three medium-sized earth elementals but was unable to control them. The first of the elementals slammed Excor significantly wounding him. The second stomped imp three horribly injuring it as it fled and the third punted the imp that was at Excor’s feet nearly killing it. Imp number two kicked at Gornix yet again its evil hoof passing harmlessly through his ghostly form. Haxat readied himself should a raging elemental approach, otherwise he was somewhat amused by the chaos. Gornix used his Dark Secret class ability on the Big Imp granting his companions a bonus to attack it. Szoo stabbed imp two drawing some blood with his fire naginata. Fauna tried to cast another Lightning Bolt at imp two and again failed. Imp number three ran under its master’s purple robes. The fourth imp’s kick had no effect on the third elemental.

As the earth-elementals were a greater danger to him and his allies, Gornix attempted to reverse the summoning spell but failed. Haxat’s mocking laughter rang from the basements stone walls. This bumbling bunch of wannabes only threatened him by way of their stupidity.

The big imp swung his axe at Szoo who easily parried the blow. Haxat crossed his arms and waited for the fools to do themselves in. Excor tried to reverse his summoning spell as he moved towards Haxat. He was unable to undo his own summoning. Szoo struck at the big imp. The naginata blade deflected by the axe. Gornix tried to cast an inverse summoning spell to undo Excor’s summoning but the magic got away from him going wild resulting in a blinding magical explosion. Szoo and Fauna tried to dodge the blast, failed, and were nearly killed. Both forced to make recovery checks to stay conscious. Gornix being at the epicenter was unharmed as was Excor, Haxat and his imp.

Shocked by the explosion and seeing that the earth elementals were following Excor towards him, Haxat began sweeping his papers and notes from the desk into a sack. Fauna cast Wizard’s Trick on Haxat in an attempt to reduce him to a “chicken” but the spell was stopped by the Shield spell protecting the evil mage. Gornix was finally able to reverse Excor’s summoning and the elementals instantly melted into the dirt floor of the chamber. Excor moved closer to where Jirek was tied. Imp number three lurched from his position near his master and spewed fire at Excor who was miraculously able to avoid the sulfurous flames completely. The flames had completely missed Jirek.

Haxat swept the last of his notes into his bag. Fauna tried the same trick but again it met another Shield spell. Gornix charged up towards Haxat and cast Chrono-Missile. The missiles of which dissipated harmlessly as they hit the purple robes one after the other. Excor slipped behind Jirek and pulled his dagger ready to cut his comrade’s bonds. After collecting his wits, Szoo slithered closer to the blood-skinned wizard.

As a result, Haxat let loose a cone of fire from his hands catching only Fauna in the flames. It stopped her dead in her tracks and forcing her to make a recovery check in order to “not die”. Gornix within range of his new spell cast Force Ram crushing Haxat against the brick cellar wall. Caught completely by surprise (Natural 1 dodge) and all of his Shield spells spent he had been helpless. A shocked silence followed the sickening crunch of bones and squishing of organs. Finally the third imp disappeared in a reeking puff of flame and brimstone.

All that was left of Haxat the Greater self-proclaimed menace of Skullhead was a puddle of squashed meat and blood, lots of blood.

Cris: “What about those robes?”

His robes were apparently intact but soaked in gore with large chunks of mutilated flesh ground into the enchanted fabric.

Cris: “Ughk. I pick ‘em up … Carefully! And cast Prestidigitation to clean ‘em and put ‘em in my pack. Oh and I uh, cut Jirek’s bonds.”

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight Pt.20: Rats, Rowdies, and Imps

Gornix (played by Gil) the salt-lotus wizard was huddled over his makeshift lab and deep in study over a length of scroll Imp Doorcut for scratch as he continued his formulations. Jirek who had been acting as lab assistant through the night excused himself come dawn and left for his job at the Bardic College library.

With sunrise, the streets of Ezmer were beginning to awaken with street traffic, wagons, vendor carts, and all kinds of pedestrians. Among the teeming crowds and busy-bodies weaving through the tangle Excor (played by Cris) headed to the Red Helm tavern for breakfast. After a simple breakfast of eggs, salt fish, and honey-drizzled bittles he left to the Bazaar on a mission.

He was looking for small cages, grain/feed, and 2 gunny sacks. He bought 10 cages (3 sp ea.), two 5 lb. bags of feed (1cp/lb.), 10 clay finger bowls (2 cp ea.), and hired a porter at one silver piece for the day. Then the young mage and his hireling went to the lumber mill in the harbor and filled the two gunny sacks with saw dust for 1 copper piece per sack. After that, Excor and his porter dropped 5 of the cages, a water bottle, 1 sack of sawdust, and feed at Gornix’s apartment, the Salt-Lotus wizard barely paid heed to them as he worked at his makeshift spell-lab. After dropping the remaining 5 cages, 5 bowls, and 1 sack of sawdust at his own apartment he released the porter from his duty.

Meanwhile across town in the Harbor District, Szoo (played by Isis) left his attic room with his roommate Paej Hagída (“Paeng”) leaning on the naga using him as a veritable walking stick. Peaj was still “pacin’ the deck” from the previous night. Paej, a consummate saloon bum and an experienced Ferenoi sailor. She was a nearly seven-foot tall woman with a face as sunbaked and salt-cracked as any of the oldest of the salty dogs but also possessed of an exquisite Amazonian physique. These hardened and statuesque features cut an impressive visage and coupled with fists like barnacled mallets she was downright intimidating. One of her finer points was that she knew every watering hole in the city very well. Szoo had invited his under-the-weather roomy to Ahsh Khhas’ Coil for some hair-o-the-dog, his treat in the hopes the Ferenoi might have access to some info.

The pair limped their way across town hoofing it all the way to the hookah bar. Unsurprisingly, Paej was already well known there. The bartender without a word prepared and slid her ‘usual’ over to her as soon as she plopped down. It took several rounds for Szoo to start getting some valuable intel courtesy of Paej’s charisma massaged straight from the Scael bartender.

Isis: “Good! I’m almost out of money!”

The black-scale naga found out that Haxat the magnificent hung out at a place called The Rum Palace in the Eastern District. In addition, there’s a “black market” behind the place in a hidden courtyard which can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Also the Bronzeheads were currently protecting the wanted Naga assassin-sorcerer Ssthriss somewhere in the old broken wall.

The 23rd of Early Summer, Gornix being finally finished researching his spell (Force Ram) headed to the tavern to join Excor, Szoo, and Fauna (played by Jenn) for breakfast. During the meal, Excor noticed that Fauna had burns on her palms and a fresh rope burn ringing her throat. He decided to keep that information to himself as the others didn’t seem to notice. After the meal they, as a group, decided to head over to and check out the Rum Palace.

First however, they decided to stop at the Pester’s Guild and find Doubab at Excor’s urging. They were seeking the rat-catcher in order to purchase some rats offering 1 gp each up to a max of 6 rats. So Doubab said to meet him that evening back at the Helm and he’ll have their rats “alive and bitey”. From there they doubled back west to the Rum Palace, which was not far from the Pesters’ guild house.

The Rum Palace as it turns out is an open front building in the small dirt courtyard before the broken wall where they had attended the rat fights more than a week ago. The split logs scattered in front were a place for its patrons to sit and drink. The Rum Palace consisted of a rundown single-floor building where open shudders revealed a bar from which the bar-back served the drinks. There was a gaggle of ruffians sitting on the split logs drinking and laughing spasmodically over crude jokes.

The young mages felt out of place and more than a little uncomfortable save for Gornix. He walked right up to the drunken ruffians and asked if any of them had seen a mage named Haxat. He was very nearly assaulted and just to avoid a fight he endured numerous mean-spirited insults thrown his way.

Fauna: “Maybe we should just get out of here.”

Isis: “I’m with her, we don’t belong here!”

Gornix: “No way! Let’s get one round of drinks and then go.”

Surprisingly they all agreed and elected Gornix to approach the bar. The bar-back was an obese human of Westlander extraction with an eye-patch, long, stringy, grey hair, and a rotten-toothed sneer. It seemed every time the mage asked for something the bar-back laughed at him and hurled “we don’t got that either” with an attached insult or joke at the mage’s expense. Eventually, Gornix found out that the place only served grog. Therefore, he tried to buy a ‘jack of grog’ for ‘two bits’ but he also found that he didn’t have a jack so he had to rent ‘the loaner’ for a silver piece, an obviously deliberate overpricing, from behind the bar. It turned out that it had a leak. The uproarious laughter of the ruffians and the bar-back answered the frustrated look on Gornix’s face.

Gil: “Aw man! I’m just a joke to these guys!”

Cris: “Yeah because they can probably kick our @$$es!”

As a result Szoo dropped some coin on the bartender. In turn the codger said, “Okay you can sit here at the board”.

Isis: “Um I was trying to bribe him for some info!”

The young mages rightly decided to not stay much longer. Just before they rose to leave Gornix suggested that they should find Wensaer the alchemist and see about joining the Obsidian Guild but the others declined. Instead, they decided as a group to go find Jirek to see if he didn’t find any more out about the golden bee. So they footed it to the Bardic College library. At the front desk, the clerk passed them a sealed note, an unfamiliar sigil stamped into the red wax. Gornix cracked the seal and began to read the note aloud.

So, there are those who would seek to keep me from my rightful property and interrupt my important work. I know of your pitiful little cabal and know each member’s name. I will seek each one of you out and destroy you. The first to face my wrath would be the betrayer Jirek Scribe of Arebas. If you would seek to seize your fates in your own two hands and value your comrade’s life meet me at the warehouse, I’m sure you know what I mean. Signed, Haxat the Magnificent the Menace of Skullhead.

Of course they knew which warehouse Haxat had meant and thus with great haste made their way to Jirek’s warehouse. On the way, Excor heard wings flapping overhead tracking their progress. When they reached their destination, they could hear wings flap over and behind the warehouse.

Gornix immediately tried to cast his new spell in order to knock in the front door. It seemed barred from the inside. He failed to correctly work the magic and the spell failed. In the meantime, Excor prophylactically activated his magic amulet of Shield. Gornix tried to cast his new spell again this time the magic got away from him (Natural 1 casting check). The spell was somehow inversed. As a result he was thrown back 50 ft. and suffered some mild bludgeoning damage to the chest. They all could hear the snickering of invisible imps on the roof.

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

Fauna in turn cast Gaseous Form and slipped under the door. In the dark, dusty, and mostly empty warehouse she spied a stair down before lifting the bar opening the door. Gornix, last in line, was still dusting his cloak and pride off as he walked in. They decided the best course of action was to sneak down the stairs while being careful for traps.

That plan went mostly belly-up as Szoosha proved to be somewhat incapable of being quiet at all when he moved. Though, Gornix still kept his eyes out for any traps while they descended the short winding wooden steps. They stopped at an iron-bound wood door at the bottom of the stair. On the door was the red twisted face of an imp its mocking features twisting into a perverted grimace.

Door Imp: “Ah! Guests! The master said that I should greet you!”

Szoo was barely able to divert the flames of the creature’s breath weapon harmlessly away.

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight Pt.19: Mage Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isis: “I DON”T KNOW!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The meeting adjourned.

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

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

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

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

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

Jenn: “Um, What!?”

To Be Continued…

 

The Cabal of Eight Pt.18: Two Birds

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

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

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

Jenn: “Well. That was helpful.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fauna (to herself): “Not likely.”

Isis: “Sis! Sssh!”

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

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

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

Gornix: “What is that guy’s problem?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight Pt.17: Enter the Wasp

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

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

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

Lead Guard: “Well. Since yer a mage…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The GM: “IGGY POP!?”

Jenn: “Yeah that guy.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isis: “Jeez Jenn!”

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

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

To Be Continued…

 

The Cabal of Eight Pt.16: Fight for Sleep

The young mages had split their take from the Under-City Vaults and looked to hide the undivided booty someplace in the cabal room. After thoroughly searching the chamber Gornix (played by Gil) was able to find a small alcove behind a false brick in the hearth. They stashed a bag of gems (3 diamonds, 3 sapphires, 2 jade pieces, 1 emerald, and 3 moonstones) there along with some dragon’s teeth and the lotus seeds.

While they had done this they failed to notice that the amazon Athfonia (played by Perla) had slipped away just after they split the talons. The Ferenoi had absconded with her fair share of the gems and currency so the young mages simply shrugged her absence off.

Concerning the gear, Excor (played by Cris) took the Platinum Key encrusted with diamonds (Level 12, Knock 3/day used by inserting and turning the key, Passdoor 1/day used by tapping the key on the door), 1 healing potion, and the Jet Amulet (Level 5, Shield at will 1/day). The Jet Amulet won in a roll-off between Cris and Jenn.

Fauna (played by Jenn) took the polished bronze dagger with the carved jade grip (Level 8, +2 magic modifier, +4 to Luck level while being wielded), the mantrap seeds, the mandrake root, 1 Neutralize Poison Potion, and 1 Heal All Potion.

Gornix took the Electrum Ring with black enameled runes (Level 20, Call Nature’s Ally [Eagle] 2/day) and a Heal All Potion. Excor put the heavy bronze spiked mace under his chair as nobody wanted to actually continue carrying the weapon around.

Szoosha (played by Isis) took possession of the ruby-studded Copper Bracers inlaid with silver (Level 16, Armor Bane at will 1/day, +2 magic modifier to hand strikes and to bracer parry), 1 Neutralize Poison Potion, and 1 Claws of the Beast Potion.

Equipped with their new gear and their purses fattened with their shares of the loot the young mages decided to accompany Gornix to his apartment since he was still carrying the Amber Bee. It was still night though the wee hours. Black storm clouds filled the sky.

As the small group of mages walked through the city streets the lighting flashed and thunder cracked across the sky. They were about half-way to Gornix’s apartment when Fauna spotted the dark outlines of four winged imps following them.

Fauna: “Guys! We have company!”

Excor pulled his Copper Spike and shot a lightning bolt at the lead red imp barely scratching it. The third imp flew up to Gornix to smash its tiny split-hooves into his face as lightning flashed the sky. Fortunately he parried. The first imp exhaled a cone of fire catching both Fauna and Szoosha in the area of effect. Fauna lucked out and took no damage (Natural 20) but Szoo was badly burned and stunned by the blast (forced a Recovery roll so he didn’t die).

The second red imp did the same catching Szoo and Excor in its fiery breath. Szoo dropped into unconsciousness from the burns. Excor lucked out and took no damage (Natural 20’d it as well). Fauna forced her Heal All potion down the Naga’s throat. The fourth imp blasted its fire breath at the young mages singing them all. Gornix whacked imp number three with his staff but dealt no damage.

The first imp kicked Excor in the head drawing some blood. The second imp kicked Fauna in the face whom walked right into the blow while trying to avoid (she rolled a Natural 1). Fauna was stunned and bleeding from the monster’s nasty hooves, she was forced into a Recovery roll to stay on her feet. As Szoo got up imp number four kicked him in the face with a critical blow (N20) horribly injuring the black-scaled naga. Gornix unleashed Chrono-Missile at number three, twice, significantly wounding the small demon.

Imp number one burst into flames (it’s Blazing Aura [fire] ability) as did number four. Szoo cast Elemental Half-Plate Armor [fire] on himself. The flames coursed over his scaly flesh and hardened into strange looking plates of a mystical nature. Excor leveled his spike at number one slightly nicking the demon with his lightning bolt. Imp number two and three ignited their blazing auras as well. Gornix blasted the third imp again with his chrono-missiles horribly wounding it. The first imp kicked at Excor’s head drawing some blood.

Cris: “Damn these things! I’m hurt BAD!”

The fourth imp tried to kick Szoo in the head but missed. Excor quickened a lightning bolt on imp number one but only slightly scratched it again. Szoo cranked back his staff, swung a mighty blow at imp number four, and nearly threw his weapon away as lightning flashed overhead. Luckily he snatched it back before it fully escaped his grip. Fauna slung a lightning bolt at number two dealing some damage to the little monster. Number two responded with a fearsome face kick but was parried easily by Fauna. Gornix again shot chrono-missiles at number three finally blasting it into oblivion. He then cast close wounds on himself.

Fauna cast another lightning bolt at number two dealing some damage to it. Number four tried to fly over and kick Szoo in the head again but locked its hooves with his staff. Excor leveled his spike at number one hurting it some with an electrical bolt. Number two tried to smash Fauna in the face again but she parried. Number one tried to cast Pox on Excor but he was able to resist the curse. Gornix took some time to check his array of wizardly knowledge about the imps (his Dark Knowledge Wizard specialist class ability) shouting out to the others where the creatures’ weaknesses lay. Szoo kept the fourth imp’s tiny hooves locked with his staff.

Jenn: “Gawd! These things are tough!”

Cris:  “Yeah! No duh! These are TOUGH, there’s still THREE of ‘em! I’m BAD with hit points how’re you?”

Jenn: “I’m hurt!”

Fauna cast a lightning bolt at number two severely wounding it. Imp number four tried to break the lock with Szoo but couldn’t break loose. Number two tried to kick at Fauna but missed horribly and fell to the ground from the air. Number one tried again to stamp its hooves into Excor’s forehead but was parried due to pure luck (Cris rolled a natural 20 parry). Gornix swung his staff at the imp on the ground but missed. Szoo maintained his lock on imp number four. Gornix made another swing with his staff before the fallen imp could leap into the air and bashed its skull.

Gornix swung again at number two’s head cracking its dome. Fauna cast lightning bolt at number two but the creature avoided the bolt. Number two leapt into the air and kicked at Gornix but missed. Excor used his spike again at number one adding to its multiple abrasions. Number one failed to cast Pox at Excor. Number four failed to break Szoo’s lock. Szoo, overpowering imp four, swung his staff and slammed imp four into the ground.

Gornix swung his staff at number two again but the blow was easily parried. Fauna launched another lightning bolt at imp number two and finally blasted it to bits. Number one kicked at Excor again but missed. Imp number four tried to break the naga’s grapple again but again found itself too weak. Szoo maintained his grip. Gornix used his electrum ring to summon an eagle and sent it to attack number one. It missed.

Isis: “Ugh! I want to STAB this guy so BAD!”

The Other Players (in unison): “NO! Maintain your grapple!”

Excor leveled his copper spike at number one again but did no damage. Gornix attempted to perform a coup-de-grace on number four but he only slightly wounded it. As a result of Gornix’s strike it got free of Szoo’s grip. Imp number four jumped up into the air and took wing. Fauna cast a lightning bolt at number four dealing some damage. Szoosha dropped his staff and unsheathed his dagger. Number one tried to kick Excor again and again missed.

Gornix cast chrono-missile at number four which it tried and failed to dodge. It was somewhat wounded now. Fauna tried but failed to cast lightning bolt. Szoo tried to stab number four but wound up flinging his dagger about 10 ft. away. Number one again tried and failed to kick Excor in the chops. Gornix’s eagle struck at number one again but its talons were parried. Gornix then pegged number four with some more chrono-missiles.

Cris: “S#@%! I’m on K.O. points!”

Excor cast Close Wounds on himself. Gornix’s eagle again struck at number one but missed. Gornix let loose another barrage of chrono-missiles at number one finally blasting it from the stormy sky. Fauna cast lightning bolt on number four wounding it. Number four went to kick Gornix in the face and he took the damage and simul-attacked (using his Battle Magic feat) with the chrono-missile spell finally killing it. Excor found Szoo’s lost dagger. All were badly wounded, nearly out of magic and the vitality needed to work it.

The mages limped back to Gornix’s apartment as fast as they could. They barricaded the door and secured the window shudders. Gornix cast Close Wounds on himself and Fauna applied healing salve to everyone including herself. They figured they were safe enough to not set a watch, as if they could if they wanted to.

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight Pt.15: The Dungeon’s Heart

All of them gathered into the central chamber of the under-city vaults cast in the strange white glow of the blood red gem known as the Dungeon Heart. None of them wanted to stay behind for caution’s sake in case the others should discover any treasures apart from the McGuffin.

This chamber, the gem heart’s cell, was an octagonal chamber its floor, walls, and domed ceiling constructed wholly of green marble. Large bronze reliefs of the same face that had plagued them throughout the vault took up the walls to the Northwest, Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest each with an open gaping maw. The Dungeon Heart sat upon its white marble pedestal at only an arm’s length.

Cris (at the GM, me): “You Sonuvab!*@#! If we try to take the gem something’s coming out of those mouths Huh? What sand or poison gas! Or ACID!”

Strangely enough he didn’t name the most probable thing that would kill them, sewer water.

Cris (directed at Gil): “Dude check for traps.”

Therefore Gornix (played by Gil) checked and easily spotted a pressure sensitive trigger underneath the gem. If they tried to lift it from the pedestal it would spring a trap. He then prepared to disable it then got a better idea. Rather he appraised the gem and found it to be a fake. It was cut glass and filled with some sort of liquid. In actuality, it was an alchemical trap. If the fragile glass gem was broken or cracked the liquid would instantly turn into a deadly fume gassing the thieves.

Gornix: “Okay, the gem is a decoy! Hmmm.”

The young wizard inspected the false gem and its pedestal a bit closer. It took little time for him to detect that the pedestal itself slid to one side revealing a secret door in the floor. So he unilaterally decided to move it on his own and saw a ladder going straight down into the hidden chamber below.

Excor (played by Cris)(at Gornix): “Aww man! Don’t, no! *Sigh* There could’ve been a trap.”

Gornix (looking down into the secret chamber): “But there wasn’t so let’s go!”

Excor: “Okay. You first.”

So Gornix led the crew down into the hidden chamber. This chamber was a large octagonal chamber. Finely carven runes covered the walls. Not an inch of the immaculate green marble walls were unwarded.  It had human sized niches carved in each of its eight walls and six thick green marble pillars supporting its middle. At the southern half of the room between four of those pillars sat a short white marble pedestal and on it sat the true Dungeon Heart which lit this room. Immediately Gornix saw two bronze chests against the western wall.

Suddenly, a blast of air from nowhere buffeted Fauna throwing her to the floor. The young mages saw what appeared to be three dusty whirlwinds take form before their eyes. Each had a yellow glowing pair of its own. They were inferior air elementals.

Fauna leapt up from the ground. Athfonia (played by Perla) readied her spear to defend any attacks against her. Szoo (played by Isis) summoned forth his flaming pole-arm. Gornix summoned three inferior earth elementals which immediately attacked the air elementals. As soon as they met, all were annihilated.

Szoo: “Well that was EASY!”

With the last of their foes obliterated, the young mages went about collecting their prize. Gornix checked the gem for traps before picking it up and pocketing it. They then turned their attentions to the chests. Gornix immediately tried to pry one open with his dagger but only succeeded in bending the blade. Athfonia on the other hand cast Bull’s Strength on herself and easily pried open both bronze chests.

Inside of the first chest, they found 5 gold talons, 2 potions of Heal All, 1 potion of Neutralize Poison, 1 Scroll with Curse: Sleep Walking on it, a Platinum Skeleton Key encrusted with diamonds, and a polished bronze dagger with a carved jade grip. Under all of these was another scroll.

On this, only the title could be made out, it read: The White-Light Ruby. The scroll was written in spider-runes, blobs of black ink that moved and swirled about the page changing form. It was nigh impossible to decipher. Gornix snatched it up and stared at it intently hoping to luck out and read it.

In the second chest they found 5 silver talons, a bag of gems (3 diamonds, 6 emeralds, 3 sapphires, 12 pieces of jade, 8 moonstones), 1 potion of healing, 1 potion of neutralize poison, 1 potion of claws of the beast, a bag of coins (100 gp, 150 sp, 10 pp, 8 bt [bronze thorns], 100 cp, and 20 star pieces), a scroll of Wild Spell, a Jet Amulet, an Electrum Ring with Black Enameled Runes, and Ruby-studded Copper Bracers inlaid with silver.

They quickly packed up their booty and high-tailed it out of the hidden chamber. Above they found the walls of force that had served to seal off this chamber through all but one archway were gone. They also noticed that the place seemed darker, and quieter. The plaster on some walls was actively falling off onto the floor and slime seemed be seeping in were there was none before.

Fauna: “Man, let’s get outta here!”

It wasn’t long before they met back up with their ratling allies who had a fully equipped delving party ready to go clean up after they emerged. It wasn’t long until the ratlings quickly guided them through the maze of Ezmer’s sewers. They emerged from a manhole not far from the Red Helm Tavern.

Excor (to Fauna):  “Did you get the path back to the dungeon memorized?”

Fauna: “Yup.”

They promptly limped back to the tavern only to find it closed. It was late at night after all. Therefore it took some pounding on the door for the irate bartender to answer through the delivery slit. Of course, he wouldn’t let them in until they bribed him with 6 gold pieces. Hence the dirty mages went up to the cabal room to identify and split the take.

To Be Continued…