The young mages, Fauna the druidess (played by Jenn), Szoosha the black-scale naga fire elementalist (played by Isis), Excor the mage (played by Cris), and Gornix the wizard (played by Gil), walked into the Red Helm tavern. They noticed a wizard in powder-blue robes by the windows smoking a pipe. Noteworthy as he seemed out of place. Disregarding this Fauna immediately jaunted up to the bartender and paid him to let them know when the Bronzehead thugs on their tails entered the premises.
The young mages then went to the table farthest west in front of the windows below the booths so they could clearly see the streets outside. The table was empty and adjacent to the table with the blue wizard with another table in between, that table with a handful of drunken townsmen. Not long after the spring-bell rang as the Bronzeheads entered led by Drazra, the Bronzehead that they had waylaid little more than a week ago (see The Cabal of Eight Pt. 7: A Red Rat) and took his dagger. Behind him were the staff-wielding thug (see The Cabal of Eight Pt.10: Tunnel Rats) and two other brawny street toughs with short-swords at their hips, chainmail shirts across their chests, and bronze open helms on their heads.
Of course the group of thugs quickly moved across the floor to the mages’ table. Due to the tavern’s floor plan the bartender was unable to warn the mages ahead of time. Thus the lowly bartender walked up behind the thugs as they took the bench at the PCs table pointing at the thugs and mouthing “they’re here” to Fauna followed by a thumbs up before he retreated back to the bar.
Jenn: “Well. That was helpful.”
Drazra (with a crocodile smile): “Well, well, well. We have some unfinished business don’t we? I’m gonna mop the floor with all of yous’ and leave behind a big mess as I’m gonna be moppin’ your blood all over the place. Haw, haw.”
Szoo: “Ah geesh, oh boy! Um, um! … HERE!”
Szoosha unsheathed and slid Drazra’s dagger across the ale-damp wood to him. He snatched it up and inspected it a little bit surprised. Satisfied it was indeed his dagger, his eyes narrowed as he buckled it to his hip.
Drazra: “Well then. I guess this is a good as time as any to give you your bill. Seein’ how you’re now under the protection of the Bronzeheads. You owe us, uh, how about 30 silver pieces a week.” He leaned back and folded his arms with snide arrogance.
Gil: “What!? He’s not going to leave us alone? He has his dagger what does he want!?”
Jenn (to the GM, me): “Well if we pay him will he leave us alone?”
Cris: “No! They’re not gonna leave us alone! They’re gonna charge us protection money because we’re a bunch of weak @$$ mages! … At least they think so.” After checking his sheets, “and I kinda am right now”.
Cris’s outburst gave Isis an idea and thus Szoosha offered the Amber Bee to the Bronzeheads as a “first installment” as he pulled it from the scroll in which it had been enwrapped. The young thug snatched the gem up and with a “that’ll do … for NOW” he took it to the window.
Drazra admired his prize as he turned it in the direct sunlight. He was absolutely sure it wasn’t a forgery or costume jewelry. A mysterious thud hit the window glass surprising the thug shocking him from his reverie. The mages surmised, correctly, that it was an invisible imp hopping onto the outside window pane when it saw the gem glistening like wet honey in the light. Undaunted Drazra led his men out of the tavern. He took a moment to glance back at the young mages before leaving.
Drazra: “Be seeing you around … haw, haw.”
Fauna (to herself): “Not likely.”
Isis: “Sis! Sssh!”
The GM (me): *roll* *roll*
Jenn: “See its fine he didn’t hear me!”
A few minutes after the thugs shuffled out of the tavern with their prize the mages got up and began to go up upstairs to the cabal room, the next meeting was actually on the morrow. Suddenly they heard a ruckus explode unexpectedly outside and spotted the thugs through a window running aimlessly away dodging through the street traffic apparently dodging invisible attackers swooping down on their heads. The mages laughed to themselves as they walked upstairs though they also spotted the blue robed wizard eyeballing them from the side of his face and scrawling in a ledger.
Gornix: “What is that guy’s problem?”
Excor: “Probably some mage guild $#!^ right there.”
Gil (checking his notes): “Oh right the other guild had blue robes … the sapphire guild?”
The mages went upstairs to the cabal room. They settled in and after deciding to wait for the cabal meeting before starting anything else Gornix and Excor decided to trade spells. The pair spent some time exchanging and copying exchanged spells into their respective grimoires. After that, Fauna, Gornix, and Excor begin to decipher and read the first section of Vordan’s Tome (see The Cabal of Eight Pt.8: A Second Meeting). Szoo spent his time gazing out onto the street from the window and happened to see the blue wizard talking with some city guards in front of the tavern. So he decided to go downstairs to get some drinks for the group and maybe spy a little, Excor tossed him a gold piece.
Szoo slithered downstairs and bellied up to the bar, ordered a round of ale. He noticed a half-naga with a recurve bow on his back was drinking there. The half-naga struck up a conversation with Szoo, his name was Ssskrha. The both of them bonded over being outcasts of naga society, one of impure blood and the other cursed with black scales. Ssskrha told him about a naga place, a hookah bar called Ahsh Khhas’ Coil. The stranger said he might have a job “worthy of a black scale” and to meet him later that evening at said hookah bar. After agreeing to meet him Szoo slithered back upstairs with a tray of frothing mugs.
Meanwhile upstairs the others began to read the first section of Vordan’s Tome. Both Excor and Gornix were deciphering and then reading the text to Fauna in case she had any insights. It was a collection of various notes and sections of other books and journals bound into a single book, a codex. It had 12 distinct sections or chapters written in Magical Script all in the same hand. They looked at the very first page of the book and noted that it bore a personal sigil of Vordan the Magnificent and a spell ward of stun bolt, which was triggered when touched.
The first section was a Botanical Treatise. It was heavily illustrated with approximately 20 different plants and herbs native to Ezmeria (basically grants a +2 misc. bonus to I.D. flora and to the Holistic Medicine skill). The three were so entranced that they continued until the sun went down.
The second section of the tome was a collection of out of order diary entries most about the day-to-day misgivings of Vordan. Along with a few awkward entries about an unnamed woman that he was fixated on. A few bad love poems with clumsy erotic overtones followed that, presumably about the same woman. They continued on to the third section, even Szoo was paying attention at this point.
Isis: “Well, YEAH! I mean that was GREAT! ‘Clumsy erotic overtones’! Great!”
This third section was an Alchemical Treatise. It included some uninteresting talk and speculation as well as illustrations of chemical glassware. It also talked about potion components and mentioned Mind Root and Mind Trap Flowers in conjunction with Mystic Lotus pollen. On a mismatched page Vordan rambled about wine. He appreciated Assassin Vine berry wine but only from the ‘darkest of berries’. They also were able to find a potion formula scrawled in this section, Bear’s Endurance (the section also grants a +1 to the Alchemy skill when referred to while performing the skill). By this time Szoo had fetched 2 more rounds and the others decided to stop, the time being around 2 pm. They all went their separate ways with Szoo heading to the Hookah Bar.
On the way out Excor lent Gornix 185 gold pieces for spell components (Gornix was broke) and went to the bazaar to purchase said components. They left to their separate apartments.
Fauna went to the bazaar shortly thereafter. She picked up her custom green with gold trim robes ordered 8 days prior. She then looked around for healing salves. She found a small niche shop and recognized the merchant giving her a secret handshake so she just improvised it back (natural 20) and mentioned that he had recognized her as the groundskeeper’s friend. He gave her a deal on the healing slaves and she quickly excused herself and left.
Szoo had navigated the maze of city streets through the inner gates into the far northeastern corner of the South Market District. It was early evening as he neared his destination. The place was a fair-sized cubic-rectangular building near the 3 big civic grain-stores not far from Excor’s apartment building.
Where the plaster was falling away revealed that the building was constructed of large age-beaten limestone blocks. It was older than the other newer adobe, plaster, and wood buildings especially those that made use of concrete like the apartment blocks. The serpentine split-tongue script was engraved around the circular doorway, too bad Szoo was illiterate.
So the young elementalist slid into a sea of fragrant pipe-fog through the saloon doors. It was spacious within with a tiled floor and the pale plastered walls undulated creating fair-sized niches where the floor sank into a bowl shape with a small table and hookah-pipe standing at center. Some were pillow lined, most were occupied. Brass oil lamps and large finely wrought censers hung from the ceiling by thin chains populating the ceiling like swamp moss from the branches of water-rooted oaks. Directly opposite the entrance was a large mural of the city. It depicted Ezmer encompassed by the neck, body, and tail of a yellow-green dragon. Finally, to the left of and perpendicular to the entrance was the bar tended by a Scael Naga with silvery light green scales spotted with the occasional black patch. Ssskrha, already bellied up, hailed Szoosha over.
Various mixes of pipe-weeds, herbs, and powders populated the shelves behind the bar and it’s tender. In addition, the place served weak ale, grog, and ‘grey-milk’. Grey-milk was soured ale watered down and mixed with herbs. Ssskrha paid for Szoo to use a finely wrought brass long-stemmed pipe from behind the bar. The elementalist selected a 10 gold piece priced ‘special gold blend’ to smoke. Szoo was surprisingly forthcoming with information on himself to his new friend despite his typical paranoia.
Szoo drew in a full lung of the gold blend. He was dizzied temporarily but enjoyed its visual effects. He carried on with some more small-talk while colored lights popped in his eyes. So of course He ordered a drink, and then drew another hit. However, the second toke was one toke over the line for the young mage. He blacked out just as he blew the smoke from his lungs.
It was the burning white light of the morning sun directly on his face that woke the young black-scaled naga. He found himself on the deck of a High-Born ship. A gold scaled High-Born naga crewman was standing over him.
To Be Continued…