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The Cabal of Eight Pt.44: Betrayed at Last!

Nighttime – the four mages stumbled into camp, beat-up and dirty. Gornix (played by Gil) was nursing a gut wound. On their way out from the treasure vault, they had backtracked to a few rooms that they had missed. Gornix had been gored by an animated obsidian rhino statue. Szoosha (played by Isis) and Fauna (played by Jenn) had been trampled but their shield items had saved them from everything but a dirty floor. Excor (played by Cris) emerged relatively unscathed from that encounter.

The porter and Arcan the wanderer were waiting for them with a hot dinner. Behind them, there was the carriage and three other wagons painted with the college arms with draft animals. They had found two more wagons hidden around the area.  In answer to an innocent “how long have we been here” he answered that “tomorrow will be the first of Late Summer”. The four mages also found that the pair hadn’t heard from the others since their departure days ago. Soon after eating, they settled in to sleep and the night passed peacefully.

Come morning the four mages began to patrol the perimeter hoping to get a bead on their lost companions. Fauna used her cabal medallion to try to contact the others but she got nothing. As they rounded the eastern portion of their clockwise run, Gornix tried his medallion. He got a static obscured reply with a faint voice that seemed to sound from a great distance. They continued south and as they came to the southeast corner, Szoo spotted a large red dune and a young swordtail dragon slithering over the crest towards them.

Excor got the drop on the beast and snared it with his Shadow Ribbons spell. From there on the fight was a slaughter until Gornix knocked it out of the ribbons with his Force Ram fortunately in the process killing the dragon. It had even managed to resist about half of the spells they had slung at it but the mages had attained a plateau of power that was beyond the unfortunate creature.

They wandered west then north, Szoo used his medallion and got a stronger signal. The words, “Yeeeargh! We’re comin’ through! WATCH OUT!” blasted into his head. At that moment, Gornix found a half-buried stone door and wanted desperately to get it open. Excor used his medallion to try to contact them. He was able to find out that they were fleeing a cave-in down a long hall that slanted steeply upward towards a stone door. However, they were all out of spells.

They backed off from the door and Gornix smashed the stone doors in with a well-placed Force Ram spell. Suddenly, through the door, their companions ran up and out one after the other. Belrae in dirty purple robes a green frog on his torn breast, Riahm his tattered half-brown half-green cloak flying behind him, Jirek in his shabby robes nursing a broken arm,  and Xanto the Wasp and his apprentice Bumble followed by two large wasps each hauling a large sack of booty.

Out of breath Belrae turned a finger towards the Wasp and shouted “we were almost KILLED because of THAT GUY!”.

The Wasp: “What me? No. I was looking out for all of our welfare, what would this little venture of yours be without the wealth I collected? We are all now very rich, celebrate my friends, we have all survived!”

Just then, a blast of sand, pebbles, and dust engulfed them from the open passageway. Later the four adventurers led their companions back to camp. They later prepared for dinner and were ready to ship out come dawn.

As they ate they talked excitedly amongst themselves with the Wasp being mildly ostracized, his apprentice next to him. She was somewhat reticent to talk to Fauna when the druidess tried to strike up a conversation. Gornix left the group for a quiet rock a ways outside of camp, a place where he could “see the stars”.

He sat lotus style on the pale stone in an area of hardened red waste and gazed at the endless Elysian field above. Studying the stars he used his astrological knowledge trying to divine whether their passage home would be a safe one. He also gathered some mana points and stored them in the crystal that topped his staff, just in case.

Seeming about to make an announcement the Wasp stood up, the two bags of loot just behind him and Bumble.

The Wasp: “Well, my friends though I regret to leave this little party despite the undue treatment, Adieu!” He waived his hand and both bags and Bumble all teleported away.

Cris: “F@#k’in Wasp! I should ‘a grabbed Bumble!”

Excor had tried to beat the Wasp to the punch and made a snatch for his arm. Unfortunately, he had been just a hair too slow. Cris was right though. With his roll, he could have easily grabbed Bumble leaving the Wasp in a precarious position when he arrived back in town sans pupil. Her father would have killed him. However, Excor went right for Xanto and thus missed, not by much, but missed all the same. The mages were disappointed the villain had flown. The missing loot just added insult to injury.

Paradoxically the players actually seemed quite relieved that Xanto the Wasp had finally betrayed them even as they griped about it.

About one week later, the mages arrived back in Ezmer sans Arcan. He had parted company just before they hit the headland. As they pulled the wagons to the city gates, they saw the city bulwarks singed and blackened. In places, they were nearly completely demolished. Dozens possibly more Wher dragons laid in several rows and clumps, most dead some still twitching and being speared by the legion of guardsmen cleaning up the battlefield.

Fauna: “What the hell happened here!?”

Isis: “Yeah, geesh!”

Cris: “Oh yeah, it’s a Dragon Summer. They converge on the Ezmerian Headlands to mate.”

The crowded corner of Silver Circle street and Western Avenue was bustling with wagons, carriages, pedestrians, and horse riders. A group of agile street urchins weaved through them all before disappearing. Szoosha ineffectually watched the scene coursing around the street level of the Red Helm tavern from the window above in the cabal clubroom.

Fauna, Gornix, and Excor were sitting around the table dividing the loot that they had won. Each of the four had received a gold ring and necklace with a bee motif as well as a gold dagger as their share. Fauna claimed the gold skullcap that granted a +4 bonus to I.Q. when worn. Gornix took the bracers that granted +2 STR. Szoo claimed a gold ring that granted the Fearsome Form I spell and a constant +5 bonus to resist poisons. Excor took the ring that granted the Verminous Might (Winged Flight) spell and a necklace that granted the Sting spell 3 times per day (after a roll-off between the players).

Excor pulled the small silver chest from the portable hole and found it empty; it had a felt lining that had an indentation in it that fit the Amber Bee. They left the lotus mirror, an intelligent item, hidden in the cabal room, as none of them wanted it. They hung the lotus maces that they had captured on the walls of the tiny chamber as trophies.

After that had been accomplished, Excor pulled forth the first large chest that Gornix had holed up from the lotus vaults. The chest was oak banded with black iron. In place of a lock, there was a polished gold skull with a large ruby, citrine, and emerald in the eye sockets and nasal cavity. The jaw was jointed. Showing restraint Gornix “clairvoyanced” the lock finding out that the gems were buttons and to unlock it, the correct two must be pressed. However, the wrong combo would unleash a blast of toxic Grey Lotus spore.

Suddenly the mechanism unlocked and the top popped open as Fauna pushed the yellow then green gems without prompting. They admonished her lightly and then turned their attentions to the contents.

Within were a high quality nega-steel bottle with an aquamarine stopper carved into a flower that contained three doses of water charged with anti-magic energy. There was also a phoenix feather cape (Level 7 item, fire proof, Charm Against Evil (constant), Temporal Jump (1 x day), Seal of Health (10 charges)), a copper armlet with a large emerald carved into a lotus (level 8 item, grants a +1 I.Q. to wearer), 10 platinum talons, an alligator hide sack filled with gold bee husks (approximately 10 lbs. of gold), and a Drake hide sack filled with 100 pieces of tiger’s eye.

They each took 2 platinum talons leaving 2 for the cabal coffers. Finding that the locking mechanism could reset itself they closed it intending to leave it in the cabal room. Excor then withdrew the second chest.

It was another large iron-banded oak chest. Its locking mechanism was a solid gold faceplate inscribed with a honeycomb pattern where four of the cells had holes and three were buttons. Each button was inscribed with a black wasp, a gold bee, and a gold lotus. They argued a little back and forth about which two buttons to push after Gornix used his clairvoyance to confirm that was what they had to do.

Isis: “I got this! Um, the people there had a religion centered around gold bees and lotuses so…”

Szoo pushed the gold bee and then the gold lotus buttons. The chest popped open. The naga released a held breath.

Within the chest were a pair of highest quality leather gloves with amber buttons (level 7, +8 to sleight of hand, Quickness (constant), Counterspell: Curse: Affliction by touch 1 x day), a highest quality mirror-polished mithral priestess figurine (level 8, a command word grants a +9 to diplomacy and Owl’s Wisdom (1D4 + 3) 2 x day), and a highest quality stiletto with a clear quartz pommel stone, a blue-dragon-hide grip and decorative runes along the starmetal blade (level 14, +1D6 acid damage, keen weapon (18-20 critical)). There were also 10 talons of ice-steel, a silk sack filled with 100 pieces of obsidian, and a superior quality silk sack filled with 100 emeralds.

From that hoard, each mage got as their share 25 emeralds, 25 pieces of obsidian, 2 ice steel talons, and 25 pieces of tiger’s eye. Szoosha took the phoenix feather cape (after a player roll-off), Excor the armlet (after a roll-off between Cris and Gil), Fauna the gloves (after a roll-off between Jenn and Gil), and Gornix took the stiletto. They left the cabal coffers with 2 ice steel talons and the priestess figurine.

The following day the mages decided to finish off their reading of Vordan’s Tome. They picked up at the fourth section. The section began with a brilliant full-page illuminated gold lotus illustration. The section goes on to discuss the gold lotus giving a location where it could be found describing the location as “southern ruins alongside a billabong overseen by a warlord’s red edifice by a river at the foot of a bloody spire far southeast of the old black temple”.

Cris: “Well, there it is. Guess that’s next?”

They read on. Several gold gilded pages made up the meat of the section. They described the spell of legend Alchemical Gold but it was incomplete. The pages following those were from an old accounting ledger with pictures of various types of gold coins.

The fifth section was composed entirely of more entries from Vordan’s diary. All lamented or cursed something. The most interesting parts were of Vordan lamenting the loss of his ladylove to a lying, handsome, & corrupt official followed by several bad poems, revenge fantasies, and laughable schemata to win her back. There was a potion formula however of Allure and the spell Eatables to Maggots.

The sixth section consisted of several pages of reproductions of familial heraldry, only some of which were recognizable as those still in use. Vordan’s personal arms occupied a page. A black, white, grey, green-eyed Karkadann head on an orange lozenge like a longshield with an open book at helm and crossed green-leaved branches at bottom composed the wizard’s arms. Following were some more accounting pages with an address in the Market District. They also found the Luminescent Sigil and Harmless Beam spells. A large illustration of a key was on the page with the latter.

The seventh section was a beautifully illustrated catalog of mystic lotus types. Its final page was about the gold lotus and mentioning, “The royal jelly of that certain bee is required to grow them”. The section ended abruptly however cutting off the text. A few almost incoherent poems in a loose and sloppy hand occupied the margins. The section also talked about the refinement and use of the mystic lotus in alchemy. When using this section to identify lotus flowers the reader would get a +3 to identify and a +2 skill bonus when using alchemy.

The eighth and final section was simply a fusion of three sections taken from Vordan the Magnificent’s autobiography. The three sections concerned a torrid love story, a wizard’s duel in which Vordan lost, and the laments of an aged shop-keep. There were also three amateurish sketches of an alley shop front, an old man, and a small room with a chair in front of a strange circular window. There they found the spells Alarm, Amulet of Power, and Tele-Location.

They had heard that the twin swans had left on a ship with their brothers in arms in pursuit of a Creschan vessel, something to do with Creschan Fire. They had also heard that their former benefactor Virtra Wefa had poisoned herself along with her grim servant when faced with arrest by the black and white swan knights.

Later that week they tried to track down the Wasp at his house behind the Nezorik family mansion. He wasn’t home. So Szoo and Excor deposited the animated armor in the portable hole in his living room and left.

The mages found that Bumble became scarce at the next few meetings. Also the two ‘leaders’ were becoming ever more secretive as they seemed to get closer to Draega Skullshine the publican. However, Jirek was still chummy with them.

As the Dragon Summer ended, the mages prepared for fall. Fauna readied to make certain necessary political maneuvers involving the Brothers of the Rope. The other three were gearing up their operation for the rat fights, which would go into high swing come winter.

End of the Campaign (played between June 2016 and June 2017).

The Cabal of Eight Pt.34: Expeditious Retreat

In one of the clubrooms on the second floor of the Red Helm Tavern Bumble regaled the Cabal of Eight with her news. Her father had conducted a dinner with the Black Knight/White Swan Sir Illin. She liked him; he was very nice and charming. The players all shrugged they actually liked him too.

Her father also had a closed door meeting with her master, the Wasp for some reason. She wasn’t able to listen in and her master has been tight lipped about it. She didn’t dare ask her father about it.

Her father, Baerox, also had a strange and tense meeting with another fellow just a day ago as well. The man was a half-naga in disguise. He appeared as a generic Ezmerian merchant or shopkeep. However, she was able to discern that he was cloaked in illusion. So, using a special hand lens she had lifted from her master’s desk when he wasn’t paying attention.

The stranger was a half-naga with black and red scales over his face. He had a pair of curved daggers with bejeweled pommels on his hips and a black cloak over his shoulders. Around his neck, he had a pet cobra! She was sure money exchanged hands from her father to the stranger’s purse.

Riahm, the bard, cut in and began to relay the information he was barely able to keep in as Bumble stumbled about. The seeker and curator that had led the expedition that he and Belrae had joined went missing about three days ago. The scout that had led the expedition was long gone and even then, he didn’t speak the Westlander tongue. This intriguing bit of information convinced the group that they have to move as quickly as possible.

The group began planning their trip and assigning roles to each. Gornix (played by Gil), the Salt Lotus Wizard, turned to Ilna.

Gornix: “You know you need to keep everything in these cabal meetings secret, right?”

Bumble: “Oh yeah. Of course everything in the Cabal is secret. Uhm. But I did tell my master about how you guys killed that devil summoner. He was very impressed.”

She smiled at Gornix, the players face-palmed.

Excor (played by Cris) extracted a diamond and a sapphire from the group stash hidden in the room to Bumble for her to procure a carriage, wagon, and supplies. She told him that she was sure her father would cut her a good deal.

Just before Belrae adjourned the meeting, the Cabal agreed to gather at the city gates on the 25th of High Summer, four days hence. The group rose from their seats. Riahm decided it was a good idea to accompany Bumble on her mission to get supplies and transpo. The mages filtered down in tote h tavern save Excor and Gornix. The pair had decided to plan which spells to exchange and study over the next four days before they left.

Szoosha (played by Isis), the black-scale naga fire elementalist, decided to just go back home. Fauna (played by Jenn) the druid decided to stay behind and sling a few down. It wasn’t long circulating amongst the rabble that Fauna spotted an interesting character loping into the taproom.

The man was wrapped in badly worn robes and shedding red dust as his leather boots, stained yellow form the road, plodded along the floorboards. A leather thong served as a belt with a simple dagger in a wooden scabbard tucked under it. His skin was burnt dark by the sun and his features cracked and chiseled by experience. She was able to make out a symbol on his robe that she didn’t recognize. Therefore, she decided to memorize it for later. He reminded her of some sort of shabby cleric or priest.

The stranger went up to the bar and Fauna immediately strolled up and paid for his drink. She found out that he was a “wanderer of the waste and deserts”. When he spoke, she could hear a slight Southland accent. Of course, she asked after the Red Waste and found to her delight that he indeed “knew it well”. It wasn’t long after getting his name, Arcan the Wanderer, that she had hired him for 8 gp a day to guide the Cabal to the Black Pillars in the Red Waste. She looked forward to seeing him at the city gates in four days.

The next day, while Gornix and Excor copied spells into their books, Fauna went back to the Black Barrel Tavern in the harbor district. There she found her “connect” and purchased 5 doses of Yellow Lotus for 2 sapphires and 500 gp.

Cris: “Sheesh! That’s expensive! You can just go to my contact, Babia.”

Jenn: “I thought she was out!”

Cris: “Oh yeah, I bought the last of her stuff this last time.”

As she left, one of the Bronzehead bodyguards seemed to recognize her but didn’t bother to say or do anything. Meanwhile Szoo went to the city bazaar and picked up some rope, a month’s rations, and at Gornix’s request, a cask of ale.

Later that afternoon Fauna met up with Szoo at Wensaer’s Alchemy Shop. They purchased 10 smoke bombs for 100 gp. Szoo bought 3 healing potions for 2 sapphires and 100 gp. Finally, Fauna bought 1 potion of Disguise. The druid went back to the bazaar to pick up some insect netting.

By evening, the pair were back at the house in the North Quarter. Szoo and the druid decided to smoke some Yellow Lotus in the courtyard, which Fauna referred to as “the garden”. Consequently Szoo was knocked out by the drug and suffered a strange vision. She dreamt of an old wizard with weird eyes that cast a spell trapping a golden bee in a piece of amber. Not long after Szoo went unconscious, Gornix and Excor took a “lotus break” as well.

The following day Excor purchased an arming doublet for himself and Gornix decided to hunt down his contact in the Pesters’ Guild, Doubab. Eventually he caught up with Doubab at the Rum Palace (see The Cabal of Eight Pt. 20: Rats, Rowdies, & Imps). After having a “talk” with the rat-catcher in “a very quiet place” that accomplished nothing, the Salt-Lotus Wizard left. He wanted to look for a fighters’ guild so he could hire more bodyguards.

While on his way along the main drag heading south to the South Market District, he spotted a group of checkered knights and leading them? The White Swan accompanied by a Hyvalian paladin. He immediately ducked behind a corner and went invisible. He waited where he was as they passed and overheard something about Creschan Fire. Just as they passed, he also heard Sir Illin, the Black Knight/White Swan, mentioned that the White Knight/Black Swan was hunting down some mage-assassins in the city.

The morning of the 24th of High Summer – Excor decided to hire a courier to deliver a message, written the night before, to Sir Illin. It read: The people you seek work for Virtra. – Signed a Friend.

Cris: “There. Now they’ll be looking for her. Hopefully it’ll buy us some time while we get out of here.”

On their way to the main gate, the mages stopped by the cabal room to retrieve the amber bee. They had hidden it there for safekeeping. Eventually they got close enough to catch a view of their expedition’s caravan. There were two supply wagons and a carriage. All marked with the Nezorik family arms.

There were a few footmen, a driver and a crossbowman on each wagon and among them a familiar warhorse. They ducked as soon as they saw the Black Knight mount it. The mages held up behind the corner of a building for many tense minutes. They had no idea what to do. Suddenly, a messenger jogged by, a sealed letter in his teeth.

Hence Excor peeked around the corner and watched the runner make a beeline right to Sir Illin. Suddenly the Knight tore off at full gallop as a result of reading the note. The young mages mashed themselves against the wall trying to stay as hidden as possible as he charged by.

Cris: “Damn. I guess he knows who she is.”

Isis: “So much for time!”

The group ran to the carriage. There they met up with the other members of the Cabal. Ilna told them how her father gave them a full load of provisions and plenty of water and ale as well as a few troops and drivers. The mages finally let out a breath of relief. Almost as a result of their ease the carriage door opened and out popped Xanto the Wasp in his yellow and black stripped glory.

Xanto (his arms stretched open above his head): “Ah! My friends, dear friends! Are you ready for adventure this will be such an adventure! But never fear I am here!”

Bumble: “My father said he had to come to keep watch over me. But you guys said it was okay already right?”

The players rolled their eyes and let out a collective groan.

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…