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The Cabal of Eight Pt.33: Night of the Moon Rat

The corpses of a sailor and hill-giant blocked the narrow alleyway that led to Fauna’s rental. A few Map of Fauna's rental with each character's respective roomof Gornix’s bodyguards were starting to drag the corpses to the street. In the brief but brutal fight two bodyguards had been injured. Fauna found a note on the sailor along with 1,000 gold pieces. Finally, the mages were upset with Excor. During the fight he had simply walked away.

Cris: “What!? I knew you guys could handle it. None of you are even hurt!”

Gornix: “Oh yeah what about my bodyguards? Those guys are not cheap!”

Excor (sarcastically): “PFFT! Body guards.”

The mages went into their separate rooms. Fauna settled in the main room at a small table. She studied Haxat’s notes by candlelight late into the night.

The following afternoon Szoosha accompanied by two of his guards walked to the tailor shop that had sold him his cloak. The black scale naga was clothes shopping. He spent almost an hour in the shop but couldn’t find anything to his liking even considering a pair of breeches or even silk slippers.

Jenn: “Um aren’t you a snake person? Half snake?”

Isis: “Oh yeah I forgot I don’t have legs!”

After he was finished looking around, he was hoping that by chance he might run into Virtra Wefa, he walked out the door. Both guards were gone. A little miffed and with paranoia stroking his scaly neck, Szoo turned to a vagrant in a dirty robe face covered in long yellowed white hair.

Vagrant (pointing at a nearby alley): “They went into that alley.”

Szoo dropped 10 silver pieces into his begging bowl.

Vagrant: “A little guy in black stole something from one and they both chased him into the alley.”

With that, Szoo rushed up to the entrance into the alleyway. However being of a slightly nervous disposition he flattened himself suddenly against an adjacent wall and peeked around the corner. Lying in the alley on the ground were the two guards, dead, with their throats cut.

Isis: “Oh BOY! Oh NO!”

Szoo jerked his head to the beggar but saw only a fake white beard lying on the ground right next to where he was. Because of that, the naga beat it back to the house. He was in such a panic that he did not take into account that the potential assassin was following.

Gil: “Aw man!”

Cris: “Now he knows where we live!”

The group secured the house the best they could. Gornix posted two guards inside at the entrance, two in the main room, and one at the inside back door. The back door led to a small-enclosed courtyard that Fauna used as her room. They had to drag her into the house. She remained in the main room lying on an old couch that had come with the place.

Gornix locked himself in his room to do some spell research. He had built a makeshift laboratory within. Excor had locked himself in his room. He had built a lab in his room as well. Szoo locked himself in his room and hid under his bed sheets.

The day passed into evening and then into late night. Fatigued the guards carried on with their duties. The mages continued their research, Fauna was growing bored, and Szoo was asleep, his window shutters firmly jammed shut with a dagger.

Fauna yawning turned to strike up a conversation with the guard at the back door. However, he wasn’t there. Instinctively she looked down. There was his body lying in a pool of blood, a shuriken lodged in his neck.

Fauna (frantically motioning to the guards): “HEY! HEY!”

The lead guard immediately knocked on Gornix’s door asking for him by name. The Lotus Wizard opened it and the guard apprised him of the situation. The guards had gathered in the main room and were searching the rafters and the darkness beyond with their eyes. Their agitated spears were ready to thrust at the slightest movement. After the Westlander style, the rafters were exposed with a walkway above the bedrooms.

Gornix joined his men. Excor remained in his room but was prepared to “blast the f@c#in’ door” if anyone should try to get in. He had also jammed his bedroom shutters with a dagger. Fauna was standing at the ready next to Gornix and his guards. Szoo readied himself should anyone or anything try to break his door in.

Fauna spotted a small black shadow darting about above them.

Fauna: “THERE! He’s THERE!”

The guards blindly jabbed with their spears but hit nothing. A blade whistled through the air and hit a guard in the throat. Arterial blood sprayed over the floorboards as he fell dead.

Gornix: “$#&t! He’s picking us off!”

Gornix cast Illuminate through his staff creating a makeshift arcane spotlight. For only a moment they all spotted a small black clad ratling caught in the light.

Gil: “Whhat!? A ninja ratling!?”

Jenn: “Aww! How CUTE!”

The GM (me): “HEY! He’s not cute he’s freakin’ DEADLY!”

Cris (beginning with a sound of disgust): “A moon rat! Great.” A Moon Rat is a ninja variant for ratlings in the Arvan setting.

The mage led the demoralized guards up a stepladder to the walkway above the rafters. The ratling assassin engaged one guard and wounded him badly with its razor sharp sword. It quickly retreated out onto the rafters as the guards tried to stick it with their spears. Gornix bided his time hoping to cast the fight-ending spell but he was also having a hard time keeping an eye on the quick and elusive creature.

The ratling soon realized that it had been a mistake to retreat to the rafters as the guards’ spears had the reach to make his position a disadvantage. As a guard began to shakily step onto a narrow rafter against Excor’s advice, he somersaulted over their heads towards the hayloft door at the front of the house at the end of the guard-populated walkway.

The assassin immediately ducked through the door and into the hayloft above the stable. The guards immediately followed as did Gornix. As soon as he got a clear-shot Gornix cast Inferior Fireball at the moon rat but it easily avoided any damage. The guards leapt down to the stables floor from the hayloft and pursued the ratling into the alley, out into the street, and out of view.

Gornix just shrugged and went back to his room to continue his research. Fauna went to check on Szoo who eventually let her into his room.

After almost half an hour there was a knocking on Gornix’s door. He immediately stopped what he was doing. Whoever it was hadn’t called for him by name as the guards had. Gornix then asked “who’s there” but was met with silence. Therefore, he readied a spell and opened the lock.

The door burst open and the ratling charged over the threshold. Gornix cast his spell just in time. Black ribbons of shadow energy snagged and entangled the little killer. Its sword on the floor, the curved blade oiled with a strange substance, poison.

Gil: “I’m going to lose another guard.”

Cris: “Another guard! They’re all dead.”

It chittered angrily at the Lotus Wizard. Gornix tried to interrogate the creature but got nowhere fast. So he cast Spook to try to loosen the ratling’s lips a little. In response, it had turned its ring that concealed a poisoned needle into its palm and squeezed. It was dead in seconds.

The mages gathered in the main room and tried to “strategize”. After several minutes of bickering Gornix got fed up and asked Fauna for the note she took off the sailor’s body the night before. She handed him the scrap of paper. On it was descriptions and names, their names and their descriptions. He cast Clairvoyance on the note and knew immediately who wrote it.

Gornix: “Virtra Wefa sent the two thugs. She probably sent the rat.”

Isis: “So what’re we gonna do?”

Excor just shrugged and started walking back to his room. Just before he shut and locked his door to continue his arcane research he said, “We’ll get our throats cut when we sleep”.

Isis: “What!? I’m not coming out of my room until morning!”

Undaunted Fauna went out to the stables, cast Communicate with Animals, and told the horse and then her chickens in the courtyard, to let her know when “anyone’s around”. The rest of the night passed quietly enough however.

Over the next five days the group brewed potions, researched, and Excor tended the fighting rats. Eventually the time for the next cabal meeting arrived.

To Be Continued…

 

The Cabal of Eight Pt.32: The Gold Lotus

The 14th of High Summer – The cabal of eight once again found itself convened in the close Gold Lotus Illustrationquarters of the dingy clubroom on the second floor of the Red Helm Tavern. At the head of the table the dusky Belrae Crokosa his purple robes emblazoned with a green frog. To his left sat Riahm Iziani in patterned blue silk and his half-brown half-green cloak thrown from one shoulder, his yellow silk neck sash exchanged for a white lace one.

Continuing to the right around the table sat Ilna of Nezorik aka Bumble in her yellow and black stripes, next to her was Jirek the Scribe of Arebas in his plain brown robes diligently scrawling down the minutes. Next to him sat Gornix in white robes and grey cloak with the salt-water lotus and starfish emblem on the back. Further right sat Excor dressed in fine patterned burgundy robes with a purple waist sash and a blue cloak around his shoulders with a silver clasp at his throat. Fauna sat quiet wrapped in a dirty but stylish green cloak with gold trim. Szoosha sat coiled next to the south window his copper bracers gleaming in the white beams of sunlight, his red cloak and cowl with gold trim draped over his black scaled shoulders.

A round robin began at the table with Jirek whom recounted his rescue from Haxat the Greater menace of Skullhead [see The Cabal of Eight Pt. 21: Blood Red] mostly for Belrae’s and Riahm’s benefit. Bumble didn’t have much to report other than her mage training and attending a few functions with her father. When it came to Belrae and Riahm they revealed that their nearly four week adventure had led nowhere.

The Bardic College had hoped to find the remains of an ancient library in the Red Waste in some newly discovered ruins. However, all they found was a hard to access overgrown mess where a few black pillars on a hill were the most interesting thing about it. The others asked about who led their little expedition but the names were not familiar. Jirek had gasped at the part with the black pillars but nobody noticed.

It came to Gornix; his companions were eyeballing him hoping that he’d keep some of their secrets. He spilled his guts about almost everything though he still had sense enough to keep the political assassination thing close to the breast.

Gil: “I can’t really lie. I feel like I have to tell them.”

Gornix went on about the rescuing of Jirek and the trouble with the Sapphire Guild [see The Cabal of Eight Pt.23: The Trial of the Cabal]. He spilled the skinny on the rat-fight scheme, Jirek kicked him under the table. Then he started to talk about his bodyguards.

Belrae (acknowledging the men in the hallway outside the clubroom door): “I was about to ask you about that.”

Gornix then began waffling as Belrae then asked about how were they able to afford guards from the Yellow Spears Company. Szoo cut the stammering Lotus Wizard off and told Belrae that they managed to slay a dragon on an “herb hunt” outside of the city. It was apparent on the faces of Belrae and Riahm that they knew their compatriots were leaving something out but had already decided to drop it.

Gil (with genuine concern on his face): “Ya know I feel we’re distancing ourselves from the cabal, keeping secrets and stuff from them.”

Szoosha and Fauna proved to be tight-lipped and nobody expected Excor to be forthcoming about much anyway. Therefore, the conversation inevitably turned towards politics. It happened that the Oaks nominated a favored candidate, not Virtra Wefa [see The Cabal of Eight Pt.24: Plate of Scorpions], and the Gold Sashes nominated one Anat the Gold-Lipped. The Gold Sashes man had promised to “bring the South-West District to order and to cancel the franchise of the Bronzeheads so all of Ezmer’s citizens can share in its good fortunes.” All present agreed that that was generally a bad idea.

Then as the conversation wound down Belrae mentioned the gossip of the day: The hit on the swans. The guilty four plucked at their collars.

Belrae: “Can you believe it!? Somebody actually thought to get away with almost killing the White Swan?” He chuckled, as did the rest.

The players all laughed along with the rest though as more of a nervous reflex than anything else. Jirek had something to say and by appearances was barely able to contain himself though he politely waited until Belrae finished.

Meanwhile Belrae cleared his throat and announced that the medallions they had all chipped in for at the very beginning (I forgot to blog it) were finished. To each cabal member he passed out a Copper Medallion of Whisper. Engraved on the smooth faces of the medallions were the eight representations of its members, they had no guild symbol. Belrae’s frog, a flute for Riahm, a bumble-bee for Ilna, for Jirek a compound Hyvalian glyph for “Scribe of Arebas”, a lotus and starfish for Gornix, a druidic symbol for Fauna, and Excor’s Sigil. Each medallion could send a whispered message to one or all medallions once a day.

Jirek put his medallion on and impatiently snatched a partial scroll from a leather scroll case. He turned to Gornix and presented him the scroll. He found it while doing research. The group had him doing research for them concerning golden bees and lotus in the college library since he had access. On the partial parchment was the picture of a black columned gazebo surrounded by golden honeycombs. A single golden lotus grew from the black floor. The scene was set in a barren red landscape though flowering greenery surrounded the gazebo and honeycombs.

Jirek gave the White Lotus Wizard the scroll in exchange for his life debt. It was a very old parchment. It also seemed that the picture had long ago been cut from whatever text it had been a part of. The scroll probably had been sold as an art piece somehow finding its way into the college library.

Voices raised and began to speed into excited chatter and the entire cabal gathered around the scroll as Gornix kept it flattened on the table. As Belrae and the others surmised that, the black pillars from his and Riahm’s expedition were the same as those pictured on the scroll Gornix cast Clairvoyance. The White Lotus Wizard realized through his psychic vision that the black gazebo indeed lay somewhere in the farthest region of the Red Lowlands, in the Red Waste.

Gil (shrugging): “I needed confirmation.”

Suddenly, our heroes became paranoid barraging Riahm and Belrae with questions. They did find out that the pair were never told exactly what they were looking for. That is aside from the ancient library line which they had suspected was a put on.

Our four heroes decided to embark on a new adventure, a quest to find the golden lotus and golden bees, with the help of the full cabal. Jirek accompanied by Belrae and Riahm would do more research in the college library and present their findings next meeting. Fauna would continue to dig through Haxat’s notes (she had been perusing them here and there even during the meeting).

It turned out that Haxat had been after the royal jelly of the gold bees. In his quest that had spanned years, he had trekked the vastness of the Skullhead Forest. There he had discovered the artifact, Bumble’s “paperweight”. He had also murdered his adventuring companions in the process.

Bumble mentioned that her master could help. After all, the “paperweight” was his. The players let out an audible groan. Then Cris had second thoughts and the arguments began. Eventually they agreed that Bumble’s master might be helpful. So they allowed her to go tell her master, Xanto the Wasp. With that, Belrae adjourned the 6th meeting of the Cabal of Eight. Belrae, Riahm, and Jirek broke for the college.

Bumble stood up as if she was on some sort of official mission and turned to go fetch her master. As she hit the door Fauna suddenly jumped up and ran after. The druid grabbed the pudgy girl by the elbow. Fauna turned to her companions and said, “Getting the Wasp involved is a BAD move guys!”

Fauna: “Let’s keep this in the cabal. If I can find out more info about the bees and the red lands that would be better.”

The others grudgingly agreed and Bumble seemed defeated as she agreed to keep the cabal’s adventure from her master. After that, they retreated to the bar. Draega immediately fluttered up to Fauna just as she stepped into the taproom.

Draega Skullshine: “So where were fearless leader and his groupies off to in such a rush?”

Fauna: “They had to take a s#*t!”

Laughing he put his hands to her dirty cheeks “Oh my charming lovely girl, Come let’s get you a free drink!”

Gornix slapped down 10 gold pieces for a bottle of Hill-lander whiskey and left with Szoo following. Behind them Fauna and Excor followed shortly thereafter.

Gornix and Szoo approached the alley entrance as they returned home. They kept an eye on a suspicious character leaning against the wall. He was a bare-chested human in a brown leather vest, probably a scurvy ridden seaman. On his bare chest was the black tattoo of a coiled serpent. He was cleaning his dirty fingernails with his dirk. The mages watched him as they moved past him into the dark alley. Suddenly as if from nowhere, there stood a hill giant with a two-handed mace and a similar tat on his bare chest. When they looked back the suspicious sailor and stepped into the alley behind them.

Isis: “We’re TRAPPED!”

Suspicious Sailor (drawing a cutlass with his free hand): “Well, well, a pair of soft young mages eh? This’ll be easy money.”

To Be Continued…

 

The Cabal of Eight Pt.31: The Welfare of Rats

After about 2 days of straight travel, using a combination of the black knight’s warhorse (stripped of its barding and equipment) and the blue Cloak of Teleportation the cabal mages found themselves within the walls of their beloved city. Fauna (played by Jenn) released the hapless snow-white charger from her control at the gates. It ran away starting eastward then suddenly it turned and shot southward instead. Over the next four days, the cabal mages went their separate ways planning on meeting up on the 14th of High Summer at the scheduled cabal meeting.

During this stretch of time, Excor (played by Cris) bought a change of wardrobe complete with gloves and spent most of his time drinking in the Red Helm tavern. Gornix (played by Gil) and Szoosha (played by Isis), both sharing a common paranoia about the twin swans catching up with them, went to the Yellow Spears to contract out some bodyguards (oh the irony). Szoo hired two lower ranked spearmen for 50 gp per month and a 110 gp contract. In comparison Gornix hired three lower-ranked spearmen and two “top ranked” fighters for 175 gp per month with a 110 gp contract.

They went to Virtra Wefa’s abode to collect their reward. The ill-tempered servant tossed the sack out into the street from a gap in the gate. They were then unceremoniously shooed off.

Cris: “Awww man she’s gonna have us whacked.”

Hence they rushed back to the cabal room and split the 8,000 gp bounty. They had also split the take of the dragon’s treasure. Szoo took the superior quality scimitar with silver wire wrapped grip and large sapphire pommel (with +3 magic attack modifier). Fauna got the dagger that was identical to the scimitar. Excor got the blue cape of teleportation, and Gornix the purple velvet shoes with gold tracery. They granted their wearer a +3 bonus to Dodge and a +5 ft. bonus to Speed. The blue robes with black and silver embroidery would be stowed away in the cabal room with their hidden trove.

Fauna decided to rent a property for 45 gp per month from an associate of Draiga Skullshine (the Red Helm’s Publican) and bought a horse for 200 gp. She didn’t lose any time letting the others know and thus was quickly joined by them at the aforesaid abode. The property appeared long derelict and encircled by several high apartment and shop buildings. Therefore from the street only two narrow alleyways could be used to reach it.

The place was a single story house after the Westlander longhouse though it showed Creschan influences. It had a four stall open-faced stable to the left of the front door built directly onto the house. Its hayloft led back into the rafters of the main house. There was a slate-tile roof and tiny two-by-two square windows with wood shutters in the thick stonewalls. It was located in the North-Quarter district, very near the Bardic College and Guildsman’s Square. There were only two ways onto the street from the house. There were other narrower alleyways leading to the south-west, deeper into a small maze of hidden courtyards and dead-ends.

Soon the old house began to fill with the strange artifacts that inevitably accompany mages. Szoo had his dragon’s eye encased in glass and a polished bronze stand made for it. Fauna purchased some healing herb seeds, some vials of yellow lotus, and eight alchemist kits. She also purchased a potion formula for healing potion from Wensaer’s Alchemy Shop. Szoo also purchased a large iron banded chest with built-in lock and put in an order for a naga bowl-bed of rich wood and a superior quality engraved ruby and gold ring on the hard sell.

Isis (to Gil): “Be jealous! Ha! Ha!” He responded with a pained and puzzled expression.

Later Excor met with Jirek at the Red Helm to discuss the welfare of the rats and if any were showing any kind of “promise”. Hence the conversation moved smoothly along that track as the pair talked and drank wine from tin cups in the murky atmosphere of a busy pub. Then Jirek asked about where and what Excor had been up to, out of curiosity. So Excor hand-waved his and the others’ absence away as a minor political adventure, Jirek reminded him that Belrae had warned everyone to avoid politics. He added, “Did ya hear? Someone assassinated Hufom the representative of Bread Basket and waylaid the twin swans? Can you believe it that someone would piss those guys off like that? Could anyone be that stupid?”

Gil stood halfway up from his seat.

Meanwhile in the yellow-lit taproom of the tavern a fight had broken out between some Ivorans and a group of Creschans, which Draiga was trying to break up. As Excor left, he noticed that the Ivorans were wearing black and white checkered actons with the image of a purple axe on their chests. They were knights.

Gil: *face palm*

Later that week Fauna purchasing a goat and five chickens (for some reason), Excor and Gornix began formulating a spell, and Szoo was finally taking it easy somewhat believing that the twin knights had died in the desert. Fauna later sought out another member of the Brothers of the Rope (a secretive cult of which she was a member) at the city gates. She found a captain of the guard named Nelig, he also volunteered to teach her horsemanship due to her semi-successful “holy mission”. Vertra Wefa (the cult leader) had failed to get the nomination of her party and her plans went completely awry from there. This news increased the tension of the already frayed nerves of the cabal mages.

Fauna: “Don’t worry guys. He’ll send a messenger to alert me when the knights show up.”

Isis: “WHEN!?”

Cris (to Isis): “What? You know they’re both alive!”

Isis: “I know! Can’t we just pretend so I can RELAX!?”

It was the morning of the 13th of High Summer that the entire household shot straight from a dead sleep to wide-awake as the news of a distant crier met their ears. The twin knights were both alive and well and had just entered town. There was a knock at the door and it was a messenger for Fauna. Indeed, they had entered the city just before dawn and were meeting with the city guard.

To Be Continued…

 

The Cabal of Eight Pt.30: Black Day

The impact of the magical force tore off the black swan’s/white knight’s great helm and sent himBlack, White, & Bloodied and a few splinters of carriage flying. A blast of ice spears hit Szoosha (played by Isis) through a window from inside the carriage. The naga attempted to dodge but failed. Gornix (played by Gil) cast mass Ghost Form again. The white knight pulled out a potion of maximized Heal and drank it. His wounds miraculously closed restoring him to full health. In the distance, the black knight, in full control of his mount now, was charging back towards the fray. Fauna (played by Jenn) tried to command the black knight’s horse once again to turn tail but failed as the animal was too far away.

Hufom peaked out of the window and ghostly white flames erupted from his palms in a cone at Gornix. The flames only slightly singed his phantom form. Gornix responded with an Elemental Blast (frost) which the ratling easily dodged landing near Fauna. The white knight stood up and pulled his weapon, his war-hammer. The black spurred his charging mount forward. Fauna attempted to cast Wizard’s Trick on Hufom but couldn’t get the spell off. Szoo threw flames on Hufom but the fire didn’t even singe his whiskers.

Gornix summoned two large-sized earth elementals next to the white knight. He was forced to dodge their stony grip. The black knight was near and very soon would charge right into the fray. His light lance lowered and aimed at Szoosha. Gornix slung chrono-missiles at the white knight injuring him even through his armor. The black knight came roaring into battle trying to skewer Szoo though the naga was still able to dodge away.

The GM (me): “Um. You know you’re still under his Ghost Form spell right?”

Meanwhile 10-miles north of the battle on the trade road Excor was trudging along the dusty road having finally reached it from where he had teleported. From behind him, a small caravan of Southern Nomads came trundling along. They asked if he wanted a ride but he refused.

Cris: “Hell no I’m not taking a ride with gypsies! They’ll rob me blind and leave me naked and tied up out in middle of the desert!”

The nomad caravan trundled away into the distance, a gaggle of young women (each an exotic mix of human, faun, and naga) waved and winked to him from the back of a covered wagon as it disappeared into the distance. The bitter mage just kept walking north along the road.

To the south however, the battle raged on. The white knight gripped his war-hammer with both hands and said a prayer but nothing else seemed to happen. The black knight shouted out what also seemed to be a prayer as he reared about on his horse. Szoosha suddenly became solid losing all bonuses and abilities from the active mass Ghost Form spell. Fauna once again attempted Wizard’s Trick this time aimed at the White Knight but again she failed the casting. Hufom cast Ghost Fire at the druid. Her shield spell caught the damage. The earth elementals slammed their fists into the white knight injuring him badly. Gornix attempted to cast Force Ram on him again but failed.

The white knight’s hammer did little to the stone behemoths assaulting him. The black knight circled around and decided to try to stick Fauna but his lance passed harmlessly through her as he rode by. Fauna tried to use Wizard’s Trick yet again, on the black knight this time but again her spell failed. Hufom tried to cast Ghost Fire but the spell went wild resulting in a sudden explosion of magical energy. Fauna dodged away from the blast as it would have injured her even in ghost form. Szoo was caught and needed to do a recovery check or be instantly killed. The white knight also dodged. The elementals were chipped and pitted but were still almost at full strength. Gornix cast Force Ram at the black knight knocking him from his horse and horribly injuring him.

The black knight threw his helmet to the side and drank a potion as he sat up. Hufom cast Ghost Fire again catching Fauna and Gornix in the silvery flames but causing only a little actual damage. Gornix cast Force Ram again at the white knight but he dodged.

Gornix’s elementals attacked the white knight. He dodged the first blow but the second smashed into him. Blood spewed from his mouth and nose. Gornix cast Force Ram once again at the white knight forcing him to dodge yet again.  The black knight got to his feet and drew his black mace. Szoosha still on the ground from the magic explosion simply stayed down and “played dead”. Hufom cast Ghost Fire again at Fauna, who bumbled right into the blast in her effort to dodge it. She was in bad shape.

Gornix cast Force Ram again on the white knight forcing him to dodge again but this time the spell still smashed into him pushing him into the carriage. Luckily, he wasn’t pinched in between the wagon and the magic force avoiding crushing damage (he got a successful luck roll to avoid the crush). The wagon overturned with a crash. He was barely staying on his feet.  The black Knight screamed at Gornix and attacked but his mace passed harmlessly through the mage’s ghostly form. However, Gornix felt as if the strange weapon had stirred his ghostly vapors. Hufom cast Ghost Fire at Fauna again forcing her into a recovery check to avoid death.

Gornix tried to cast another spell but the spell failed. The black knight swung again and this time his mace connected dealing minor damage to the salt-lotus mage. Hufom again cast Ghost Fire at Fauna catching her again. With a shriek, she collapsed to the ground.

Meanwhile in the north, a group of farmers drove by Excor but completely ignored the lone and dirty mage. He sighed and kept walking. A sudden gust of wind blew a small cloud of yellow dust across the road.

The first elemental smashed a fist into the white knight flinging his body like a ragdoll into the air. His limp form fell into a clump of high yellow grass off road. The second tried to grapple the black knight but he was able to stave it off. Gornix tried to cast Cloud Memory on Hufom but the ratling wizard fought off the magic, barely (he rolled within 1 pt. of the save). Hufom moved up towards Gornix and cast Ghost Fire at the salt-lotus mage dealing a little damage to him. The black knight swung on Gornix again but his weapon passed harmlessly through. Szoosha meanwhile crawled to Fauna and pulled out a potion uncorking it with his teeth.

Again Gornix tried to cast Cloud Memory on Hufom and again the ratling was able to fight off the magic (again he saved successfully by 1 pt.). From the corner of his eye, Hufom spotted Szoosha pulling out a potion and shot Ice Spears from the tip of his staff at the naga injuring him badly. The black knight furiously swung at Gornix but his weapon again passed harmlessly through. Szoosha poured a healing potion down Fauna’s throat.

Gornix cast Slow on the black knight but a Shield spell saved the white swan. Hufom moved further away from Szoo and Fauna’s position. The black knight swung impotently at Gornix again working himself into a frothing rage. Gornix again cast Cloud Memory at Hufom which took this time causing the ratling wizard to take pause as he forgot what he was about to do.

The first earth elemental tried to stomp on Hufom whom easily dodged. The second elemental grappled the black knight. Gornix then moved towards Szoo and cast Close Wounds on him. Fauna came to and prepared to cast a spell at Hufom. Meanwhile the black knight struggled valiantly to free himself from the stony grip of the elemental, in vain. Szoo cast Elemental Half-Plate Armor (fire) on himself.

Gornix cast Chrono-Missile on Hufom but to no effect his robes protecting him. The black knight broke the elemental’s grip. Fauna successfully cast Wizard’s Trick on Hufom turning him into a harmless snail. Szoosha coiled and then whipped his tail crushing it. The black knight wailed in rage. Gornix cast Slow on the white swan.

Fauna took control of the black knight’s warhorse and her and the naga leapt onto it and rode away. Gornix commanded his elementals to grapple the black knight, which they did. Sir Illin was helpless within their crushing grip. He was shouting “I’ll KILL YOU ALL!” at the top of his lungs repeatedly. Gornix cast Nature’s Ability on himself, grew wings and flew away.

Meanwhile to the north Excor continued his slow progress towards the city. He was covered in road dust and sweating profusely. Occasionally he grumbled to himself.

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight Pt.29: Knight Crash

The dense musk of damp earth crowded the desert air. The light rains had just subsided and the dark grey clouds were in the distance, only bare bright blue sky was above. It was nearing the tail end of early afternoon and the sun was high and blazing. Already the temporary mire that the storm had created hardened and the vaporized rain hit the air thickening it to the point of making every breath a sluggish chore.

It was second watch and the cabal mages and their three draft horses had gotten approximately 4 hours of shut-eye. Excor was keeping lookout and noticed in the distance about a thousand feet or so away a small group breaking camp and packing their horses. He could also make out the presence of a carriage or wagon. He immediately jumped down from the carriage and woke everyone inside.

Gornix got out and used his magic ring of Call Nature’s Ally (Eagle). He had the eagle fly in towards the knights at a low altitude and circle a few times to catch their attention. The eagle then flew back over the mages and flew in a low circle over them a few times.

Gornix (to his companions): “It’s them alright!”

The knights were easily able to pick out the cabal mages in the distance. They waved in response although they still packed up and rode out at high speed on three horses leaving the wagon behind.

Fauna: “Well, I guess the chase is back on.”

Szoosha: “Aww. I didn’t get enough sleep!”

Excor: “None of us did!”

Wearily Fauna took the driver’s seat and spurred the horses into a full run. The elegant blue carriage was off with a jolt and a spray of pebbles and moist clods. They passed the former campsite of the knights and could see the ironclad wagon and what were they assumed the driver and the crossbowman tending to a broken wheel. Hufom’s wagon had sustained damage in the battle with the blue dragon after all.

Excor turned his head and happened to glance out of the open window in the opposite direction. He caught a sudden glimpse of an abandoned wagon in an open field. In that field, he could clearly see three headless corpses and the distance a pair of oxen grazing on the sparse, rain freshened grasses.

Excor (leaning out of the window): “Fauna! Stop! I think I see Corje!”

Fauna: “Does he look alive!?”

Excor: “No!”

Fauna: “Then we don’t stop!”

Thus inside Excor and Gornix decided to inspect the blue dragon’s/blue-stranger’s gear. The curved dagger and scimitar with silver wire wrapped grips and large sapphire pommel stones were superior quality weapons with a +3 magic modifier each. The purple velvet shoes with gold tracery granted their wearer a +3 bonus to Dodge and a +5 ft. bonus to Speed. The blue robes with black and silver embroidery granted the spell Elemental Alter Self (Water) twice a day and Conjure Water once a day to the wearer. The blue cloak with the silver clasp was a level 10 item with the ability to cast Teleportation I once a day. The two mages gathered the gear together and left it in a neat bundle on the floor of the carriage when they finished identifying the loot.

It was late afternoon as the blue carriage was rumbling up behind the twin knights on their warhorses, a third horse in tow. On the third steed was a small hunched shape in a powder blue wizard’s robe with silver fringing, a small lacquered staff on his back, and a long wormy tail trailing behind from under his robes.

Jenn: “Guys we got ‘em!”

Cris: “Ugh. It’s a ratling isn’t it?”

Gil: “Can’t you like put his horse to sleep!”

The black knight, Sir Illin, turned towards and glared at the mages as they drew in closer.

Fauna: “Um guys? I think they know.”

Cris: “Of Course they KNOW!”

As the black knight was looking away from his charge, he didn’t notice when Hufom’s horse fell out from under him. However, the small ratling wizard leapt easily from his horse as it collapsed into the road dirt onto the back of the white knight’s horse.

Jenn: “Damn!”

Hufom turned and taking his staff in hand began waving it around obviously targeting the carriage horses. However, he was unable to cast the spell due to the rough ride of the chase.

Gornix: “Fauna! Get me in closer. I got this guys!”

Jenn (to Gil): “Hey! Aren’t you still high!”

Gil: “Oh yeah.”

Excor cast Neutralize Poison on Gornix. The salt-lotus mage instantly regained his wits and climbed out an open window.

Excor (to Gornix): “What are you doing!?”

Szoo (to Excor): “You know I think we should cut our losses and get out of here! This is a disaster!”

The wind whipped through Gornix’s hair and gouts of dust blasted into his eyes and mouth as he strained to make his way to the seat next to Fauna. Eventually he made it. Both knights were on guard with light lances couched. The knights on their steeds tried in desperation to outrun the carriage spurring their mounts on but Fauna was somehow able to keep on their tails and even ride up even closer on their tails. Gornix took his chance and cast Force Ram at the white knight’s warhorse.

The column of force smashed into the unfortunate animal crushing its ribs and throwing it and its riders into the speeding dirt road. The white knight flew head over heels into the air and crashed into the ground with the crunching of metal. Fauna yanked the carriage to a screeching halt nearly turning it over in the process.

A cloud of yellow-red dust enveloped all save one. The black knight, quite a ways ahead, was turning his horse around. None of the mages could see where Hufom, their target, had been thrown by the crash.  Excor cast Shield on himself and stepped out of and away from the carriage. Gornix used his acrobatics skill to roll with the impact of the crash when he was thrown from the carriage landing on his feet. Fauna smashed hard into the dirt road headfirst but the shield ability on her magic necklace saved her from damage.  The white knight/black swan achingly got to his feet on shaking legs. Szoosha slithered out of the opposite side of the carriage to try to remain hidden from the knights and Hufom.

As the dust cleared, the Black Knight lowered his lance and began to charge, targeting Fauna as she slowly got to her feet. A Bolt of Stunning shot from an unseen position striking Gornix. Fortunately, he was not stunned. Excor cast Invisibility I on himself and disappeared from sight. Gornix successfully cast Mass Ghost Form. Three of the cabal mages faded into incorporeal phantoms, Excor had resisted it for some reason. Fauna took control of the Black Knight’s warhorse causing it to turn and flee from battle. The White Knight suddenly had a silvery war-hammer in his gauntleted hand and struck at Gornix but the weapon passed harmlessly through him.

Suddenly and unexpectedly, the mages just surrendered.

Cris: “WHAT THE HELL!?”

Excor rushed around back into the carriage and picked up the blue cloak of teleportation. The White Knight shouted at him and charged swinging his hammer in a devastating arc. The weapon hit its target but only served to dispel the active shield spell on the mage. Excor took the opportunity to use the cloak and disappear from the carriage reappearing about one mile north on the road.

Jenn: “I don’t believe you just deserted us!”

Isis: “YOU RAN AWAY! What the HELL!?”

The White Knight (pointing his hammer at Gornix): “I command YOU to return to flesh you COWARD! You are ALL under ARREST!”

Ultimately, Szoo was able to convince the white knight to take to the carriage and Hufom and leave them alone as they were proof against his weapon and were out of “tricks” so to speak. Therefore, the white knight convinced that they were more concerned about their own skins than fulfilling their mission climbed into the driver’s seat. Hufom’s tiny frame leapt from seemingly nowhere straight into the carriage. The white knight readied to leave.

Gornix (to the White Knight): “This isn’t personal. We weren’t trying to kill you. Just business. … Oh hey! Let us get our equipment first before you go!”

The White Knight ignored him and was about to spur the horses. Gil was twitching.

Isis: “Bro! What are you doing?”

Jenn: “Guillermo I’m pretty wounded here and out of magic!”

However it was apparent that he was not about to just let it go.

Isis: “Okay then, I start getting ready to cast something!”

Jenn: “NO! Don’t encourage HIM!”

Gornix got the drop on the white knight and cast Force Ram.

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight Pt.28: Wagons & Dragon

The motley caravan began to slow and the dust clouds that the wagons had sent billowing as they tried to maintain top speed for the past few hours inevitably shrank as they slowed. The lead wagon was iron plated and assumed to be carrying one Firstborn Hufom, target of the cabal mages. Leading that were the twin swans, a pair of twin black and white knights. Two horsed lancers were riding alongside either side of the lead wagon.

Behind the lead wagon was a blue lacquered coach being driven by a hunchback and pulled by a team of six horses. Aboard was the Blue Stranger, dragon in disguise, and three of the cabal mages: Gornix (played by Gil), Fauna (played by Jenn), and Szoosha (played by Isis). A ways behind them was a rickety farm wagon driven by the cloaked and mysterious Corje. Aboard it: a pair of cloaked associates of the driver and an unconscious Excor (played by Cris).

It was late in the day though evening was still a few hours off. The horses were tired and the black and white knights relented allowing the caravan to slow. They figured they had left behind the enemies that had attempted a hit on their charge back at Farmers’ Cross Lodge. Meanwhile on the boards of the rear wagon Excor was tossing and turning in the grips of a fitful nightmare. He was mumbling something unintelligible over and over again.

Fauna, Szoo, and Gornix were stiff as boards as they sat with what they knew to be a dragon in the fancy blue carriage. Its interior furnished in black leather and the seats padded. The rear bench had small table that projected out from one side and stretched about halfway across the width of the cabin. To the left on the bench was a built-in cabinet/bar tinkling with bottles of all kinds of liquors. Only Gornix had indulged in some of the wine offered by his host. The others just stared wide-eyed at the Blue Stranger.

Meanwhile Excor continued to toss but ever more violently. The cloaked pair beside him noticed his eyes had almost opened. His words were becoming ever clearer.

Excor: “Lightning…..dead horses…”

In the blue coach the stranger seemed bored of the terror he inspired and of drink as did Gornix, both were visibly agitated.

Isis: “Oh boy…”

Jenn: “Uhm. Bro. Be careful…”

Gornix: “So you’re a dragon huh, the blue one that killed our oxen.” Szoo and Fauna face-palmed.

The Blue Stranger turned slowly to the lotus wizard and suddenly a wide toothy grin broke across his mirthless face.

The Blue Stranger: “Well. Let’s stir things up and see how luck favors the bold shall we?”

With that, the Blue Stranger opened a window shutter and began screaming at the top of his lungs: “No! Watch out that mage is casting a spell at YOU!” He lunged forward sticking his head out the window, suddenly his jaw dropped absurdly extended his gaping maw, and his teeth lengthened into fangs.

Excor (leaping to his feet wide-awake): “The DRAGON IS ATTACKING!”

A blinding blue-white bolt of lightning shot from the dragon’s throat at the two horsemen on that side of the caravan blasting them and their horses to bits. In response the twin swans reared their war-horses. The other horsemen began to circle around the carriage.

Szoosha leapt from the carriage out the opposite side from which the dragon blew its breath weapon and cast Elemental Half-Plate Armor (Fire) on himself. The dragon leapt out of his finery leaving it a heap on the carriage floor as he took his true form that sprung from the carriage in time to blast away the last two horsemen with another bolt of its breath. Excor leapt from the farm wagon and activated the Shield spell on his amulet. Fauna exited the carriage and cast Throw Flames at the dragon but to no effect. Ice Spears flew from the general direction of the lead wagon striking the dragon only slightly scratching it. Gornix cast Mass Nature’s Ability (Flying and Thermal Vision). Unfortunately, as it caused everyone besides the dragon to sprout wings the twin swans fell from their horses in excruciating pain as their wings sprouted under their armor.

Gil: “Um. Whoops?”

Szoosha immediately flew next the lead horse on the ironclad wagon. The dragon had snapped its jaws at him but missed by a hair as the winged naga flew past. Excor cast Slow on the dragon breaking through its magic resistance. The players cheered. Stepping from the carriage Gornix cast Cone of Energy (frost) at the dragon but to no effect. Fauna cast Air Flurry at the dragon successfully knocking it from its feet (it rolled a Natural 1 to maintain balance). More Ice Spears struck the dragon from a slightly different angle from the last time hurting it a little.

Cris: “That’s Hufom!”

With a little luck, Szoo unhitched the lead horse from the ironclad wagon. The dragon flung its tail at Excor smashing down his Shield spell. Gornix failed in an attempt to cast a spell but quickened a Force Ram at the dragon but could not break through its resistance. Three more Ice Spears flew from a random direction nailing the blue dragon.

Gornix cast another Force Ram striking the dragon and dealing some damage this time.

Gil: “Yeah! When in doubt cast Force Ram!”

However, as the spell failed to push the dragon’s mass the white lotus wizard was flung to the ground instead.

Szoosha cast Elemental Alter Self and grew a pair of fire tentacles. Fauna again cast Air Flurry at the dragon successfully keeping it down with another bout of winds. More ice spears flew from an unseen location dealing some damage to the dragon. Excor cast Mass Shield erecting protective fields over all of his companions as well as himself. Excor cast another Force Ram at the dragon dealing it a serious blow. The twin swans, the Nature’s Ability spell having expired, shook off the lingering effects of extreme pain. The dragon regained its footing.

Szoo cast Elemental Half-Plate Armor (Fire) on Fauna. Fauna again attempted an Air Flurry against the dragon but to no effect. Some ice spears flew at the dragon but shattered harmlessly on its blue hide. Excor tried to cast Force Ram but failed. Gornix got to his feet. The swans got to their feet and drew their weapons. The Black Swan/White Knight drew a war-hammer from nowhere and the White Swan/Black Knight pulled his black mace. The dragon inhaled and blew a lightning bolt at Fauna. Luckily, she was able to dodge the earth-shattering bolt.

Gornix tried to cast Blinding Flash on the dragon but somehow the magic got away from him and went wild. He nearly blinded himself. Three ice spears stuck into the dragon dealing some damage.

The angry young blue dragon got to its feet and unleashed a blast of lightning from its mouth blasting Fauna. Fortunately, it only managed to blast away her magical protections. Excor dodged because he was in a direct line with Fauna. The White Knight attacked the dragon with his war hammer but missed. The Black Knight missed with his mace. Szoo for some reason leapt onto the back of the horse he had unhitched and as a result was promptly bucked off as he was covered in flaming half-plate armor. Gornix using his staff to channel the spell cast Force Ram yet again at the dragon. The force of the spell smashed into its side dealing significant damage.

The chromatic blue dragon beat its mighty wings flinging itself 15 feet into the air and blasting its attackers with a wave of dirt. As a result the twin swans were blinded as was Excor. Fauna cast Air Flurry again in a desperate attempt to keep it from flying away but it had no affect other to clear the lingering dust cloud. From somewhere out of sight there was a burst of blue light and an alarmed shout. Hence, the cabal mages knew that the invisible Hufom had fumbled a spell. Excor tried to clear the dirt from his eyes and Szoosha got up off the ground. Gornix again channeled Force Ram through his staff and the spell smashed into the hovering dragon crushing its ribs and throwing it to the ground in a flurry of gushing blood.

Immediately Szoo and Excor fell upon the dragon’s corpse like hungry hyenas hoping to dismantle it for components. Gornix rushed to the carriage and began eagerly searching it picking up the dragon’s finery in the meantime. Fauna decided to Commune with Nature in order to try to find the dragon’s lair but she failed. That was when she noticed that the hunchback was gone.

Excor broke a dagger trying to cut off a claw. Szoo managed to “pop” out an eyeball. Fauna and Gornix joined them but like Excor were unsuccessful as they were not dragonslayers. After a long while, Excor remembered that they had a job to do and looked around for the other members of the hasty caravan. All were gone.

He could see a slight dust cloud far north of them on the road assuming it was the ironclad and the knights riding for Ezmer. He could only assume Corje and his pals were following because they were nowhere to be seen either.

Eventually the cabal mages gathered their wits and prepared the blue carriage to ride. Fauna tried to cast Control Animals on the draft horses but the magic went wild and she turned three of the six animals into mummified corpses. She instead cast Communicate with Animals and got the remaining horses to agree to pull them along the road at a reasonable speed.

The clouds moved in as they took off and it began to rain. Szoo noticed Gornix counting a handful of gems. He had taken 100 sapphires and 2 large diamonds from a purse that he had found among the dragon’s things. Of course, they split the take getting 25 sapphires apiece. While Gornix retained the diamonds for safekeeping.

The white lotus wizard leaned back and presented the gear he had picked up that the dragon had dropped when he had shed his human guise. Gornix then picked up a crystal decanter filled with what appeared to be a very dark wine. Of course he took a big swig of it and fell back very high and barely functional. Fauna snatched it up and identified it as Assassin Berry Wine.

Szoo: “What the HELL are you doing here!?”

Fauna: “What?”

Excor: “Aren’t you DRIVING!”

Fauna: “It’s okay I talked to them. It’s fine. Besides it’s raining I don’t want to be out there.”

Finally, after some protest, Fauna with a sigh climbed back out of a window and took her seat as carriage driver. The storm grew quickly in ferocity. The road became a yellow quagmire hot wind howled, lightning cracked. Fauna drew the carriage to a slow stop and cast Calm Storm I creating an eye in nature’s fury. She drove until they reentered the storm from sunlight through a wall of humid gloom.

All night long, she pushed the hapless horses. The storm subsided near dawn and as soon as the great-ringed purple moon made its appearance, she spotted for a suitable turnoff and campsite. They eventually turned off the muddy road and stopped for rest.

To Be Continued…

 

The Cabal of Eight Pt.27: Farmers Cross Fiasco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isis: “Well. Where are ya at?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Szoo: “Is that our guy?”

Gornix: “I don’t know.”

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

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

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

Isis: “Can I BURN things now?”

Gil: “Do it.”

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

Isis: “Hee-hee, YES!”

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

Gil (*roll*roll*): “Uhm. Oops.”

Isis: “What’ya mean OOPS!?”

Gil: “I can’t control it.”

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

Isis: “This is not going well.”

Fauna: “Corje! Get the WAGON!”

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

Isis: “Wait. This might be perfect!”

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

Isis: “Oh gawd NO!”

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

To Be Continued…

Moths of Tanglethorn

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

Four Evil Characters Enter a Bar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Moth: “Who’re you foreigner?”

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

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

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

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

The Long Rest

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

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

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

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

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

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

The GM (Cris): “Why not?!”

Isis: “He’s SCARY!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vornor shot him a dirty look.

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

Scuff Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Duelists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The End

Campaign Played between July and August 2017

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

The Cabal of Eight Pt.26: The Stranger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jenn: “Aw crap.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight Pt.25: Wagon East!

The group of young mages found themselves being beaten down on by the sun while breathing the dust Helpful map for a wagon tripof the road once again as they traveled south along the Trade Road East. Fauna (played by Jenn) in an effort to relieve her companions of the blistering rays used her pup tent as a covering for the rear of the wagon. Excor (played by Cris) sat shotgun next the driver, Corje whom he engaged in conversation. Corje believed that their goal laid 3 or possibly 4 days ahead if all went well.

The wagon wheeled along at a somewhat frantic pace. The crew had decided they should push the oxen to the limit to reduce their time on the road. They also feared overlapping by their mark and that they should somehow miss them. However the mages wanted to be prepared before they ran into Hufom and his guards.

It was late afternoon, the unforgiving sun continued to blast the land with its shriveling rays. The sky was smeared with a few clouds here and there. The air grew heavy and increasingly humid as they continued south. They had made great time although the pair of oxen was losing speed and strength. They needed water. Therefore, the wagon stopped for a break near a low scrub thicket that partially leaned over onto the road.

Suddenly a lion leapt from the underbrush onto the back of one of the oxen tearing open its back with a great gush of blood and pulling it to the ground. Gornix (played by Gil), having spotted the lion the second before its leap, cast Spook. This causing it to turn tail and run away disappearing into the thicket. Gornix and Excor cast Close Wounds on the oxen as the lion’s attack had nearly killed it. It took Corje an hour to calm the animals and tend the still open though not bleeding wounds. They continued as soon as the animals were ready.

The landscape changed gradually from barren desert slopes with small tufts of woody tangled thickets and clumps of pale thread grass to flat spans of weedy fields of tall grasses and increasingly large thickets of yellow pine. It was early evening by the time they crossed the bridge over the River Wuhar stopping at the small hamlet there. The pennant that hung limp over the open-air tavern there bore a gold sun on a green field.

The hamlet, they failed to get the name of the place, was surrounded by a water filled moat carved directly from the river and instead of walls to protect it on the other side of the moat it had porcupine hedges, large shaved logs bristling with sharpened wooden stakes. They pulled into the wagon-park area just beyond the bridge and a gate and went to the tavern for food and drink.

Fauna commented on the amazing speed and endurance of the oxen having covered such a great distance in such short a time. Excor and Gornix innocently acknowledged as much and then exchanged a knowing glance as they took their seats at a table.

The group ate grilled fish and drank a couple of pitchers of ale. Gornix talked to the waiter as he delivered their food. More than likely the guards around Hufom would be guilded spearmen of the Yellow Spears outfit operating out of the city and not the Iron Wheels, which Gornix had surmised. Fauna asked the waiter about the safety of the road and the waiter replied that there have been plenty of dragon sightings lately, Wher mostly. Fauna turned to her companions and explained that Whers were nocturnal so they should be fine. Szoo (played by Isis), still chewing a fish, asked if there was another nearby settlement. The waiter said that the closest were back northwest and into the interior, mostly small ranches. Further south following the trade road, at least 3 days, there was Farmers’ Cross Lodge just before the territory of the Breadbasket.

Tempting fate the group decided to head out and try to close more distance in the few hours of daylight they had left. As soon as they finished eating and interrogating the waiter, they headed out at full speed. Only a few hours out a giant constrictor came alongside the moving wagon probably aiming for the oxen. Gornix easily spooked it away.

As night fell Fauna guided them to a well-hid campsite where they bivouacked. The night passed uneventfully.

The 2nd of High Summer – they had been on the road for some hours when suddenly just before noon Fauna shouted at Corje to stop. When he brought the oxen to a halt, she leapt out of the wagon and ran to a large blue-green bush specked with white blossoms growing a ways from the side of the road. Her companions looked on as she simply stood in front of the bush for some minutes before they realized something was wrong.

Cris: “Ha ha! I thought she was just taking a piss break!”

Fauna tried to back away as her mind reeled from a sudden psychic surge but found that some invisible force grappled her. Szoo leapt from the wagon and slithered close enough to conjure flame on the bush but to no effect. The strange flowery bush didn’t seem to do anything at all. Gornix jumped down and moved in as close as he could. He was unable to identify the plant. Excor jumped from the wagon and moved 15 ft. from the road towards the plant. He pulled his copper spike and shot a lightning bolt at the bush dealing a little damage.

Fauna again struggled in vain to free herself. Szoo summoned his fire naginata and slashed at the bush hacking free a few thick limbs. The strange flowery bush didn’t seem to do anything at all. Gornix pulled his sword and cast Brighten Blade upon it. Excor once again shot the bush with a lightning bolt dealing some damage.

Gornix slashed at the monster plant with his brightened blade chopping away a few blue-green leaves. The strange flowery bush didn’t seem to do anything at all.

Then Fauna winced as if in pain and the wounded bush seemed to heal a little.

Fauna again struggled redoubling her effort, as she knew the thing was now draining away her life but again failed. As all of the mages were close enough to be sensed by the plant’s tremor-sense it unleashed another surge of psychic energy stunning all of them. As a reflex Szoo struck with his flaming naginata but it simply glanced harmlessly from the plant. Gornix slashed with his sword and again only managed to hack free a couple of round leaves. The salt-lotus mage then quickened a Cone of Frost dealing some damage but nowhere near expected. Excor again shot a bolt from his copper spike but this time it had no effect. So he quickened a lightning bolt which upon striking its target blasted the bush to smoking bits.

Wounds were tended, the battle was over. Fauna was finally able to identify the plant as a Mind Trap Flower bush. She collected a few of the white flower petals veined with red and peach patterns akin to the striations of the mammalian brain. After this, they hopped back onto the wagon and Corje drove the wagon on.

Come evening however Coje suddenly stopped the wagon dead and pointed out a bright green bush growing at the side of the road ahead, its umbrage hanging over their path. Excor identified it as a Spring Jaw Plant. He quickly spotted for more as “they tend to grow in patches”. He saw no others. So Fauna cast Call Lightning on the plant from a safe distance successfully 3 times (out of an overall total of 6 attempts).

The bush was a smoldering wreck but not yet completely “neutralized” so she went to cast her spell for a fourth (technically 7th) time. However, the magic got away from her and went wild (Natural 1 casting check) with the spell detonating in a magical explosion. Gornix was able to dodge, barely. Szoo and Excor taking the brunt had to make recovery checks to stay alive. Both managed to remain standing but they were still badly injured. Fortunately, the plant had been completely obliterated.

Gornix cast Close Wounds on Excor. Fortunately, Szoo was able to use his Silver Ring of Close Wounds and using up its uses-per-day was able to fully heal himself. After the healing had been dealt with, Gornix sifted through the ashes and found two of the Spring Jaw’s poisonous red speckled fruits. He stashed them in his robes.

They moved further down the road from where the Spring Jaw had been and pulled off the road to set up camp. Fauna handed Excor a healing salve as they settled down in a reasonably concealed area that the druidess had already scouted out.

The night was relatively quiet, almost too quiet as the natural sounds of insects, distant night birds seemed to be absent, and if present, could only be heard with some strain. They set the watches as usual with Fauna on the first watch, Corje on the second, and both Gornix and Szoo on the third. Excor needed to rest and heal and so was exempt this night from a watch assignment.

The night had been quiet for the first and second watches. When it came to third watch Gornix had his nose buried in a spellbook with his staff providing the light. Szoo on the other hand, was jumping at every sound real or imagined. Suddenly Szoo froze with terror as he saw a massive blue-scaled dragon sitting right across from him just staring with a mocking and somewhat amused expression on its beastly visage.

From somewhere deep inside, Szoosha was able to pull some strength and resist the need to flee from the utter horror that he felt. He demanded what the beast wanted.

Young Blue Dragon (in an ultra-deep rumbling voice): “Maybe I’ll pull your arms and legs off and leave you to die if you’re lucky.”

The hideous voice alerted Gornix to the intruder and trying to think his way out of the situation started with some light flattery. Excor had awakened and was feigning sleep with one eye open. Fauna was dead asleep and still snoring.

Gornix: “Oh bright blue beautiful scaly one! Oh mighty dragon we are but lowly mages! We could um help you maybe uh sir, lord, dragon? Blue mighty, uh, giant, scaled one?”

Cris: “You should’ve asked for its name first. C’mon!”

Isis: “Yeah, geez!”

Gil: “Sorry guys I was too busy s#!ting my pants.”

In response, it lunged lightning fast and leapt into the air. Before any of the mages realized what had happened the dragon had absconded with their last ox.

Cris was notably upset.

By morning (the 3rd of High Summer) the mages and their driver headed out trying to maintain their highest rate of speed (without any experimental potion meant for a rat). However, the landscape was working against them. It began to undulate as the road passed over a series of low hills and into oblong depressions. The morning was utterly quiet as was the afternoon. Around evening, they spotted the young blue dragon flying above them. It was intentionally letting itself be seen circling like a vulture above.

By sundown, the dragon had disappeared again and Fauna spent some extra time seeking out a well-hidden campsite. They packed into a small hollow in the side of a high hill a ways off the trade route surrounded by high, dense, and pungently fragrant bushes. The night passed uneventfully but it was still just too quiet.

Come morning (the 4th of High Summer), Corje prepared breakfast. Meanwhile Fauna scouted the wider area around their camp. She found that the dragon had indeed been prowling the area last night. By the circular paths it took, she surmised it had been looking for them. They decided to move as fast as possible even if it meant driving the ox to death.

Breaking camp they sent clouds of yellow dust up as they fled tearing the sod from the road. The day passed quickly without a sighting of the dragon.

Cris: “The dragon won’t show up near civilization and we should be close by now.”

They then came to an especially high hill that the ox struggled to surmount. From its summit, they could see what they assumed to be the lodge just a few miles away. They cheered. The players cheered.

Suddenly a lightning bolt shot from the sky and blew their last ox apart. They looked up in time to see the young blue dragon turning flying away laughing. Cris cursed.

The group of mages and Corje pulled the wagon the rest of the way themselves. A few hours later at sundown just before the gates of the wooden ramparts shut, they dragged their wagon in. The filthy, sweaty mages collapsed into the dust before collecting their wits enough to look for the saloon. They ponderously dragged their road-weary hides from the lodge courtyard into the lodge proper.

To Be Continued…