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The Cabal of Eight Pt.39: The Black Tombs Pt.3

Gornix (played by Gil) led the group into a small room with white plaster walls painted with depictions of salt lotuses (room 11 on the map). To the east was a solid gold door emblazoned with lotus blossoms, gold bees and honeycombs (D8 on the map). The others saw the rune scribed on the door, which held it closed via the Wizard’s Lock spell. He cast Illuminate, inspected the paintings, finding that each blossom concealed a small hole. He suspected an acid spray trap triggered by trying to open the gold door.

Excor (played by Cris) was weak and still reduced to K.O. points from casting too many spells too quickly. He was not in a good mood and not feeling particularly brave.

Gil: “C’mon man! This is IT!”

Cris: “We’re not even close! Look at ‘em!” He made a dismissive motion at me (the GM). I have to say I was wearing it on my face. They were about only halfway through this thing or maybe almost two-thirds if you count the surface map.

The cabal mages made careful observations about the golden door and determined that only attempting to damage or pry the door would set off the trap, they hoped. Therefore, against his better judgment, Excor put his head to the cold metal door to see if he could hear anything on the other side at all, he couldn’t. So Szoo (played by Isis) gave it a try. Consequently, the naga did hear something that sounded like stone grating against stone.

Excor used the Amber Bee to open the door guessing that wouldn’t set the trap off. Holding his breath, he was the first to enter the burial chamber on the other side (room 12 on the map). As soon as he was through, he was face-to-face with a mummy. It was sitting up from its freshly opened sarcophagus.

The creature was wrapped in linen bandages carefully interlaced in a strange pattern each length bearing the faded black markings of an unknown language. At its side in the sarcophagus was a gold mace with a head fashioned to resemble a lotus blossom. At its other side were two sealed clay jars. It appeared to be confused at the sight of them and the Amber Bee in Excor’s hand. Being essentially near death and out of magic, Excor bluffed.

Excor: “We’re a part of the cleaning crew! Here to clean the tomb!”

The creature still seemed unsure as to whether or not to attack the mage. Seeing this Gornix pushed his way into the tomb and using a little Social Aptitude he managed to convince the creature that they were indeed neophytes and here to ensure the security of the tomb. The creature seemed to accept this but was keeping a suspicious eye socket on them at all times as they moved slowly and carefully around the burial chamber.

The chamber was long with a vaulted low ceiling and interior of white plaster. The sarcophagus dominated the center of the room but behind it stood a statue that barely fit. The statue was of ivory and had the form of a young woman with a pair of golden horns on her raven-haired head with four arms and a pair of solid gold wings. Meanwhile the white marble sarcophagus lid had a relief of a young priest in repose carved atop it.

Excor, wanting to get at the grave goods in the sarcophagus tried to bluff a hand into the stone coffin with the monster.

Excor: “Here um, let me um, clean that dust off those jars!”

Consequently it immediately knew something was wrong. The creature held up a boney hand bandaged in loose and decaying strips of filthy linen and coughed a strange hollow stream of sounds.

Immediately Gornix cast Comprehend Languages and understood that the creature had asked for a password. The Salt Lotus Wizard whispered this to Excor who cast Clairvoyance. As a result he spoke the first stream of alien syllables that entered his head. The mummy nodded and laid back as it pulled the heavy lid of its coffin back into place.

Breathing a sigh of relief the group proceeded to scour the room for secret compartments, hidden doors, cabinets, or for “anything out of the ordinary.” Eventually finding nothing, their attentions again shifted to the white marble sarcophagus and its occupant.

Excor: “Man, I don’t know. If I cast too many spells I could Kay-Oh myself!”

Gornix: “C’mon! This guy’s important! Look at all this!”

Excor: *Sigh* “Well, if you got a plan then.”

Gornix cast Mini-Portal on one side of the coffin. They had already elected Fauna (played by Jenn) to stick her hand inside to see if she could grab anything. This due to her DEX (dexterity) score being the highest in the group.

Fauna: “Does anyone have anything to keep the lid closed if he wakes up?”

None of them did.

So with more than a few reservations Fauna cautiously extended her hand and then arm into the mini-portal into the black of the sarcophagus interior up to her shoulder. She felt around blindly for a moment and then grabbed a handful of dusty bandages. Suddenly her wrist was snatched and her arm wrenched. She was within the vice grip of strong skeletal fingers.

Szoo readied to throw some magic fire if/when the mummy opened its sarcophagus. Excor cast Ghost Form on Fauna freeing her from the monster’s iron grip. He suffered more K.O. point drain from casting the spell. With one arm, the mummy tossed the heavy marble lid aside and sat straight up. Szoosha cast her fire spell but lost control of the magic. As a result the spell went wild and its magicks unleashed a black fire that engulfed Excor and Gornix burning away some of their intelligence. Gornix was rendered as a normal schlep, Excor was monosyllabic. Fauna sank back to the rear. Gornix couldn’t get his spell off as his lowered intelligence made it more difficult to cast the spell.

Excor activated the Shield spell on his magic amulet. Szoo summoned and struck out with his flaming naginata slashing a smoking black gash into the mummy’s side. Fauna moved back in casting Throw Flames dealing some damage to the monster lighting it aflame. However, it magically extinguished the flames with a wave of its hand. Gornix tossed a healing potion Excor’s way. Instead of drinking it, Excor cast Life Blast at the mummy dealing some damage. The singed and smoking mummy swung its lotus-blossom mace at Szoo but he parried the blow with his polearm. Gornix attempted and failed yet again to cast a spell. The monster cast its spell filling the chamber entirely with golden fire burning Szoo bad. Gornix avoided by pure luck (Nat 20 save), and Excor’s Shield spell was blasted away.

The mummies wrappings whipped from it and struck at the mages like tentacles missing Excor twice, being parried by Gornix, but entangling Szoo.

Fauna readied with a Throw Flames spell should the mummy approach. Szoo struggled to get free of the bandage tentacle. Gornix cast Slow at the creature but it shook off the effects with no problem. The mummy used its wrapping to move Szoo out of the way as climbed out of its box stepping to Excor. Excor moved back to the entrance and cast Slow. However, the spell went wild and he wound up affecting Fauna instead causing her to lose her ready attack.

Fauna activated her Shield item. Szoo broke free of the wrapping. Gornix successfully cast Amplify Magic on the mummy. The monster healed itself of some of the damage it had suffered. Excor tried to cast Shadow Ribbons but his reduced intelligence made that impossible.

Gornix cast Slow on the mummy but again it resisted his magic. It swung its mace at the Salt Lotus Wizard and missed. Excor drank the healing potion he still had in his hand.

The mummy healed itself again. However, the mages efforts had worn heavily on it. It’s wrapping-tentacles whipped again striking out at the mages. Excor avoided one but was grappled and enwrapped but another. Szoosha parried another and Gornix was snared by a fourth after a failed dodge.

The mummy brained the bound and helpless Excor injuring him badly. Fauna cast Throw Flames completely engulfing the monster. Her flames quickly consumed it.

Before its ashes were even cold, they ransacked the chamber and the sarcophagus. Hence, they took a jar filled with gold dust, the other with 1 dose of Gold Lotus Honey. Excor identified the Gold Lotus Mace. It was a solid gold light mace and a +2 magic weapon. He tossed the gold dust jar into the portable hole he carried. After, he rolled it back up and stuffed it in his robes.

Cris: “I need to rest.”

Gil: “Awe c’mon Cris! We can do this!”

Cris: “No! No! I have one K.O. point left! AND I’m down on Hit Points!”

Eventually Cris relented and the group pushed on with Gornix in the lead, back into the crypts (room 8). They explored its northern portion discovering a solid bronze door. It was wizard locked and warded (D7). Excor used the Pass Door spell on his Platinum Key to gain entry. The chamber was plastered white with a single niche to the north in the wall from which an amber firefly burned. Six large stone sarcophagi dominated the floor (room 9 on the map).

As a matter of course, they proceeded to open each sarcophagus and found and fought three undead mummies. They defeated them one at a time with little difficulty. They looted a pair of gold bracers, a gold ring, a gold pectoral plate, and a gold sickle sword from each. Finally, Excor tossed those in “the hole” as well. Afterwards they barricaded the door with a coffin lid and decided to rest for as long as they could. Before they went to sleep, they tried to contact the others but the cabal medallions could only pick up static or silence.

To Be Continued…

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

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

Isis: “Well that’s not GOOD!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excor: “WRAITH!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cris (to Isis): “Slow down!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gornix: “Maybe I should lead for now.”

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

To Be Continued…

 

The Cabal of Eight Pt.37: The Black Tombs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The GM (me): “Down here? Seriously!?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cris: “I’ll take ‘em.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Be Continued…

 

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The Cabal of Eight Pt.36: Serpent Haunted Ruins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jenn: “Druid-style!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Szoo: “We have the medallions.”

Fauna: “Oh yeah.”

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

Isis: “Um. No?”

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

Fauna: “Guys watch it we have company!”

Gornix: “They’re Nagas!”

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

Excor: “STOP that Shaman!”

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

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

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

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

Szoo: “Don’t you move!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Szoo: “Fine! I’ll LEAD then!”

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

To Be Continued…

 

The Cabal of Eight Pt.35: The Black Pillars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Be Continued…

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.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…

 

Off-Brand Adventurers

Here’s a little ramble about the traditional character class breakdown of the typified RPG Hands of Designadventuring group. This includes how this tried and true combination of classes helped to shape the core of the Dice & Glory game system. It’s not a history lesson or based in anything more than experience and opinion; just my two-cents.

The Standard Party

The bedrock of most fantasy RPG sessions is the Standard Party. This Standard Party consists of the Fighter, Mage, Thief, Healer class combo. That is four members of the group are playing characters of one of the aforementioned character classes. This combination of classes was born along with roleplaying games, consisting of primarily the Fighter and Mage classes. These shortly followed by the latter two.

This formula for group formation evolved out of necessity. It was shaped by the type of game that was dominant at the time of their creation. The Mage and Fighter evolved from the transition from war-game to the first tabletop roleplaying games. They serve as the group’s main firepower with the mage in the rear ranks and the fighter in the front.

The Thief came to be when games moved further from pure strategy and warfare into adventuring and dungeoneering. The thief’s place is either firing a crossbow bolt from the shadows or trying to sneak around for some good ole backstabbin’. They also often have the skills to try to carry out another task while the others hold off threats.

The Healer on the other hand is a support type character. They may have a certain level of combat ability but nowhere close to the Fighter. They may also have some interesting skills akin to the thief or even a few spells up their sleeves like the mage. However their primary purpose is healing the fighter and the others when necessary. The Healer commonly takes the shape of a priest/priestess or other holy type person, traditionally a Cleric.

Four Corners of the Square

These four (Fighter, Mage, Thief, Healer) are the core of the traditional RPG Player Character adventuring group. This type of group is equipped to deal with most challenges that have been formulated within the roleplaying hobby. They can meet most monsters or guardians or a challenge on par with their character levels blow for blow. These adventurers can tackle most barriers to their progress like traps and locked doors because of the thief. They have an extended endurance granted by the healer, and a few surprises in the form of the mage’s magic.

The Advantages of the Well-Balanced Group

This type of party is the easiest for Game Masters from the most experienced to the least to handle. There is an overabundance of material for GM’s (of all skill levels) where these types of groups are concerned. Often the Standard Party is referred to in the materials as “a well-balanced group”.

This allows the Game-Master to be able to make minor predictions of the outcomes of certain encounters with a reasonable amount of accuracy. The only factor in this foresight would be the randomness of the dice (to me the fun part). Certain game systems make attempts to regulate the randomness of dice in various ways. But I’m not concerned with those at the moment.

This basic type of foresight allows the GM to construct a story-like session, work from lists and such specifically crafted for their players, and to improvise when necessary. All of this with a fair amount of certainty. In a basic sense, the game is easier to run. You can even add in extra less specialized or more specialized characters to the core group.

Of course, this grants the Johnny-come-lately’s a more diverse choice concerning character class. Therefore, it has a disadvantage for the players if they desire a more variegated choice. Moreover, sometimes players that are the core group don’t want to play the traditional types of adventurers. Or they may be unwilling to serve their stereotypical group role leaving one or others wide open (often the mage). This may necessitate the selection of an unconventional mage type character to compensate.

Shaping the D&G System

The Core Group helped to shape the range of base character classes (or class types) in the Dice & Glory game system. First, I tackled the range of choice of course keeping the core classes: Fighter, Mage, and Thief, which I generalized into the Rogue but the Healer was split by more generalization into a number of possible different class types.

These other class types were add-ons but could also be a part of the “core” in certain types of campaigns. The new class types I added being: Adventurer, Brick, Clergy, and the Psychic (a classic add-on class in other fantasy games and an alternative to a mage in sci-fi settings). Potentially any of these could be included as a core member or substitution. For example the Brick was designed to be tougher than the fighter but with a focus on enduring damage rather than dealing it. A Brick was intended to be the defense for such rear guard character classes as the trad Mage.

The range of variations on each of these basic classes for Dice & Glory is potentially endless and can be used to assemble an Off-Brand adventuring group more often than not. This allows maximum player choice but may put more stress on the GM. The GM gains a steeper learning curve and needs time to acquaint themselves with the individual characters and their abilities. This typically by testing them with minor situations and simple mooks, glass-canons, and what-have-you.

The XP Patch

This difficulty for the GM and expansion of choice to near infinity necessitated that the experience point system (I chose to go with a point and spend system) give difficulty ranks to creatures, situations, and barriers as well as give specific challenge values to certain Player actions. It gives the players options to increase their Experience Points (XP) gains to adjust for any challenges that may slightly exceed their character capabilities in the potential future.

In summation, an Off-Brand Group is more difficult for a GM to handle than a Standard Party. However, players have more class options and the potential for off-kilter and non-standard adventures are greater. This necessitates an adjustment period, which can have its own advantages.

The Adjustment Sessions

A Game-Master when dealing with a non-standard party needs to delve into exploration sessions during an extended adjustment period. During this time, the PCs find and settle into their roles and the GM tests, prods, and poke the characters and group. This so as to find their strengths as well as their weaknesses. Personally I have found this adds a certain richness to the game. An ability that a core group ready to launch from session-one lacks.

These sessions can also have a trial-by-fire effect on the group. Uniting the players and hardening their resolve to play their characters through hardship. This odd group can be pretty far from the standard model altering the paths of adventure onto new avenues. The GM will find their alteration of standard adventures to fit the group as they get to know the characters and the overall group dynamic can take them far from the beaten track.

The Final Blathering

The Standard Core Group found throughout the history and the present of fantasy RPGs is a tried and true model for assembling adventuring groups. Nevertheless, it can be a little restricting and maybe a little boring as well. However, the class choice of a PC group influences the shape of the adventure that they can handle and concerning GM prognostication. The character composition of the group alters everything about the game and in certain instances can unbalance a ruleset not designed or capable of handling them. Although an Off-Brand group that is wholly off model is a challenge to the GM it can also take the game to strange and interesting new places. So GM’s select your medium (ruleset) carefully and don’t shy away from unconventional groups.

Afterword

Note that Race in RPGs is very similar in effect to Character Class and though it can have an effect on the game similar to class, it is often not as severe. The same issues can arise: game balance, player choice, and GM difficulty but if they are well designed these are mitigated by the setting and the GM themselves.

The Cabal of Eight will return next week.

 

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…