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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…