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The Cabal of Eight II Pt.2: A Letter and a Map

Draega's wrist tats and the letter seal

It was the 17th of Monsoon and the Cabal of Eight was in mid-meeting in their clubroom at the Red Helm Tavern. The city for the past couple of days had been very quiet probably due to the incessant rain and swampy air that could choke a horse. Around the table sat Excor (played by Cris), Fauna (played by Jenn), Szoosha (played by Isis), Bumble, Jirek acting as secretary, Riahm, and finally Belrae acting as the arbiter. Gornix was conspicuously absent. Bumble was visibly uncomfortable and very quiet.

Cris: “Yeah, she SHOULD be! Her and her master stole our stuff!” [Cabal of Eight Pt.44: Betrayed at Last!]

Jenn: “Awww, but I still like her.”

Isis: “Jeez! Why don’t ya MARRY her already Jenny!?”

A servant knocked on the door and Bumble let him in. On the wine tray with two fresh bottles of wine Excor and Fauna spied a wax-sealed letter. Fauna noticed the wax-seal bore the image of a scorpion and two crossed daggers. As soon as the tray was set upon the table, Belrae snatched up the letter and tucked it away. The servant exited with the empty tray.

Cris: “So they’re dealing with Draega huh?”

Jenn: “Well that is his symbol.”

She had spotted the tattoos of a red scorpion and crossed black daggers on the publican’s wrists ages ago.

Isis: “Hey! He’s never given us a LETTER, right?”

Excor [after lighting his pipe and taking a drag] : “So, anyone else notice all the dragons running around town in human guise? All these filthy beasts in the streets make me nervous.”

Both Belrae and Riahm turn from conferring with each other presumably about the letter.

Riahm [directly to Excor]: “Not all are beasts!”

Excor: “You talk like you’re dealing with one of them my friend.”

Riahm: “Well for your information the potential of working with them…”

Belrae shushed his friend.

Excor [waggling his pipe stem at the pair] : “You and Belrae better watch it or you’ll end up a couple of slaves, dragon thralls, er whatever. But since we’re all part of this Cabal, if you guys ever need help don’t hesitate to ask, we…”

Excor motioned to include Fauna and Szoo in his statement.

Excor: “…have experience with dragons and will help you if you ever need it. Just ask.”

Belrae [smugly] : “Well, there’s a blue dragon, a queen of some territory in the mountains that we hear is after four mages who killed her brother.” [Cabal of Eight Pt.28: Wagons and Dragons]

That brought a sudden silence to the room, which lasted until after the meeting officially adjourned.

The mages filtered out and down the stairs at the back of the tavern. As they hit the bottom of the staircase, Fauna jaunted after Bumble who seemed to try to outrun the druid. Excor noticed Belrae and Riahm just inside of the kitchen doorway speaking quietly with Draega. However, just as the rotund bald publican noticed the mage watching them he waved a hand dismissing the pair of cabal of members. Perhaps it involved the letter.

Draega [gliding over to Excor and Szoo] : “Ah my fine friends how are we this evening?”

Excor [gesturing] : “They have business with you…?”

Draega: “Ah! No need to worry yourself just business, it’s just business my friend. Don’t worry the job is beneath you. Nevertheless, um, I do have some news for you. Word has it that the White Swan is after your compatriot Gornix and his *ahem* accomplices, there’s a warrant and everything.”

Meanwhile, Fauna continued to chase after Bumble pursuing her out into the city streets and around several blind turns. Suddenly, Bumble stopped.

Bumble [turning] : “Stop following ME!”

Fauna: “Hey I just wanna be friends, I’m concerned about you …”

Bumble: “No! Leave me alone!”

Fauna: “But Ilna that master of yours…!”

Bumble: “No! Don’t follow me!”

Bumble stumbled her way down the wet street her shoes clattering loudly on the cobblestones. Fauna just stood there and then realized she was several blocks southeast of the tavern. As the druidess began to walk back to rejoin her friends, the rain fell in a sudden downpour. She put her hood up and continued walking.

Excor and Szoo relaxed with some food and ale in the theater of the Red Helm, on the stage a young mediocre bard was plying his trade. Excor had just finished cutting a business deal with Draega. The mage pledged to deliver a hogshead of high quality mead for a cut-rate price, the first delivery would seal an ongoing business arrangement. Where Excor was going to get the expensive spirit was the information that he had left out of the conversation. He planned to fill one of those massive barrels with his Bottomless Chalice of Fine Mead [Cabal of Eight Pt.38: The Black Tombs Pt.2].

Excor [as he sat down next to Szoo] : “Damn. Wouldn’t know where I could get a hogshead would ya?”

Szoo [his mouth stuffed with boiled meat and vegetables] : “Mmm, naw.” *munch* *munch*

Several minutes later, Fauna, drenched from the rain and a little down, walked up to the table and sat down with the pair. The night passed as usual as did several rounds of cheap ale. They caught each other up on any tidbits of information they had gleaned over the course of the evening. After an hour or so, they observed an old guy with shoddy adventurer-type gear on moving around the room from patron to patron trying to sell something. Eventually it was their turn. The little old man bellied up to their table, his craggy sun-browned face a crisscross of scars and deeply cracked by age.

The Old Man: “Hi there friends! I am so thirsty, and now don’t worry! I don’t need any charity, I do have something of value! Here’s an old map I dug up from the desert…”

All three mages wide-eyed leaned in to listen.

The Old Man: “I know it’s worth a few gold pieces since it is a map o’ the region, it’s only a little out a’ date. I’ll part with it for the low, low price of 100 gold.”

Szoo [shrugging] : “Meh. I can’t read it.”

Cris: “It’s a map; you don’t need literacy to read it.”

Isis: “Nah, it’s paper, the temptation for my guy to burn it would be too much. Then you guy’s would get mad at me.”

Cris: *roll* *roll* “This guy seems shady and the map paper is old but the ink looks newer – too new.”

However, the gold bee illustration on the map gave all three of them pause when the old man unrolled it to give them a glimpse of “it’s quality”.

Jenn: “Heh heh, I’m gonna talk this guy into selling it to me for waaay cheap!” *roll* *roll*

Fauna handed over a large emerald (worth 2,000 gold pieces) to the old man and he cheerfully handed over the map. Excor and Szoo exchanged a roll of the eye and finished their drinks. Soon after finishing the ale all three were walking the streets on their way home. The rain continued to drench them.

Szoo: “Yecch! I hate water!”

Excor: “Ha ha! At least it’s warm!”

Isis: “Hey, what do you think was in that letter anyway?”

Cris: “Draega’s letter? What do you care? Your character can’t READ! Ha ha ha!”

They were in the general area of their rented home when Fauna and Excor noticed a large group of beggars following them. As precaution Excor cast Mage Armor on himself, Fauna activated her robes of Mage Armor, and Szoo cast Elemental Half-Plate Armor (fire) on himself. Not long after, the three mages realized that the group was not of beggars but of pirates. The ringing of blades echoed in the mages’ ears over the hard rain as the twelve pirates pulled their blades.

Szoo [his glowing armor hissing and steaming in the rain] : “ALL RIGHT! It’s time to try out my FIRE FANG!”

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight II Pt.1: The Checkered Eye

eye ball

It is the beginning of the rainy season, in the month named Monsoon but because of the Dragon Summer, it had not stopped raining for several days. The rain was hot and the swampy air so heavy it mired the lungs making breathing difficult. Consequently, the three adventurers were panting, their chests heaving as they stood in the downpour. With a fierce side eye, Szoo the black scale naga (played by Isis) held his flaming naginata to the throat of a beggar backed up against the dead end of an alley. A few feet away, at the mouth of the alley stood the mage Excor (played by Cris) and the druid Fauna (played by Jenn) side-by-side.

Szoo [more fiercely than usual] : “Spill it! C’mon! Spill it! Or you’re DEAD!”

The pair behind the infuriated naga and panicking beggar was quiet. It was because they both recognized the beggar from back inside the Red Helm tavern. There, Szoo had been drinking alone all evening. In contrast, Excor talked with Draega about the Twin Swans and their and the checkered knights’ failed sting against an assassin called Ssthris the mage slayer. Meanwhile in a private curtained booth, Fauna was in a meeting with Vor Jetl “the dragonfly”, a merchant and power-player in the mutual cult with Fauna, the Brotherhood of the Rope. The fat merchant had mistaken the former cult leader’s interest in her for succession rather than a patsy.

While in the tavern, all of the mages had spotted the beggar in the blue-grey cloak creeping around the tavern keeping a subtle eye on them.  Though this spy seemed highly skilled chance kept cheating him of results (all-three kept Nat 20ing his prowl and bluff checks). Excor’s main take away was that the elderly beggar seemed to have a fat purse.

Fauna [pulling her knife and holding it to the beggar’s throat amongst the clatter of rain]: “YOU heard him! Talk or you’re DEAD!”

At both flaming naginata and knife point the beggar began to spill. His name was Thorn and he was a member of the Beggar’s Guild. Someone had paid for his services by purchasing his coin. However, he refused to name his employer because he was “bound by promise”; after all, “they bought me coin”. Without contemplating what Thorn had meant, the mages just shrugged and let him go after Excor paid him a platinum piece to deliver the message that they were up to nothing. Thorn quickly and expertly melted into the shadows.

Cris: “A damned beggar’s guild. Even beggars have a guild in this town huh? Damn.”

The three adventurers continued to the entrance of the alley that led to their rented house. Suddenly, Fauna spotted two rogues in black slinking along the walls coming in on either side with daggers drawn. Likewise though nonchalantly a third enemy emerged from the shadows behind the group. He was a young but bald pirate with a sunburnt pate tattooed with black serpents and an eye-patch over one eye. He drew his cutlass with a wicked smile and said, “Well there my lovelies, would ya mind parting with yer coins and valuables.”

Cris [disgusted]: “Stray sailors huh? Damned Dragon Summer!”

Isis: “um, What?”

Cris: “The rains from the summer are keeping all of the ships trapped in the harbor, a lot of those are pirate ships, so they’re robbing citizens as long as they’re stuck here.”

The GM [seeing Isis look to me]: “Um. Wow. He’s pretty right on about that.”

Above all the fight was brief, one of the rogues, a pickpocket, snatched Fauna’s coin purse and ran off. The second rogue, an assassin, managed to hit Fauna with a poisoned blade but retreated when he saw his eye-patched leader turn and run after Excor cast a Spook spell on him. Fauna downed a Neutralize Poison potion. Hence, the soaked mages continued home.

The following day, Fauna walked to Wensaer’s Alchemy Shop (Cabal of Eight I pt.7: Red Rat & pt.23: Trial of the Cabal) in the rain without her cloak to “feel the hot rain flow over her skin”. She beat on the door and the old brown-cloaked alchemist let her inside.

Fauna: “I need some Neutralize Poison potions, as many as you have!”

He looked her up and down with a critical and doubting eye. She was in an expensive tailored robe, which was also filthy, and somewhat worn and spotted with tears, burns, etc. Her shabby appearance filled him with doubt. However, she always had the funds in the past so he checked his stock.

Wensaer [suffering slight tremors]: “I believe I have just two vials.”

Fauna [holding out a handful of emeralds]: “Oh well, all I have is these to pay. It’s enough right?”

Soon after leaving the shop, the old alchemist tried to sell her up on more potions but she got what she was looking for, Fauna passed by the northern tip of the grove where the stone circle stood. Here, she spotted someone in bright yellow robes and a shining green sash spinning wildly at the center of the monoliths shouting incoherently. She recognized the resident tender of the grove, Anishi. She approached her strange friend with some concern but as soon as he saw her, he stopped.

Anishi: “Ah! Little sister, come experience visions with me and let us gaze into the sky and stars!”

 Anishi pulled out a small clay vial of yellow lotus and offered her some. She of course snorted some of the potent powder. Suddenly, he grabbed her by the temples and said, “I can help you see!” The vision came suddenly, a violent trip through a stone walled labyrinth but she was too disoriented to memorize the path she was shown. Then a sudden turn and a pair of heavy old bronze doors fly open revealing a high pile of gold coins and atop that a gold throne and upon it, a dried out corpse with a gold crown on its grinning skull. Her mind was slowly drifting into the hollows of its sad empty eye sockets.

Over the next 2 days, Excor developed the See the Invisible spell using the makeshift lab the group had set up in Fauna’s rental, where they were all currently staying. Additionally, Szoo began crafting the tooth he had extracted from a Wher (Cabal of Eight I pt. 35: The Black Pillars), into a rod of cone of fire (Cone of Energy (Fire)) dubbed the “fire fang”.

Later, Szoosha went to a Sapphire Guild magic shop to get his blue dragon eye put into a glass ball (Cabal of Eight I pt. 28: Wagons & Dragon) on the evening of the second day. It was the first step in making it into a magic scry item.  Later that evening, hearing Szoo’s outrage at the guild prices, Excor dropped the rose marble Scrying Pool (Cabal of Eight I pt. 41: The Lotus Vaults Pt.1) from his bag of holding (he had long since transferred it from his portable hole) next to the alchemy lab.

Cris: “Here, just use this to scry!”

Isis: “But I’m an elementalist! I don’t have the scry skill or the spell! I NEED it on an ITEM!”

Cris [shrugging]: “Oh well.”

The next day – 14th of Monsoon. Fauna finally stumbled in through the door at dawn, soaking wet and in desperate need of sleep. Consequently, she immediately stripped, as her clothes were drenched. Then after trying to wash herself in the empty scrying pool, she stumbled without a word into her room and shut the door. Meanwhile Excor and Szoo were just finishing a simple breakfast of thick porridge and stale bread. Then there was an authoritative pounding at the front door. So, Excor opened it to find a checkered knight standing before him with a wanted poster in hand.

Checkered Knight [thrusting a wanted poster into Excor’s face]: “Have you seen this man? He’s a mage named Gornix! He was said to be sleeping in this place!”

Excor mumbled and eventually relented when, suspicious from his nervous mincing (he natural 1’d the bluff), they demanded to search the place for their quarry. Szoosha tried to get in the way and protest but he also only helped to fuel their suspicions (Natural 1 bluff). Thus the checkered knight muscled his way in past the Naga and a group of six city-guards followed him in. That was when a very naked and still wet Fauna wandered in cursing the noise. The checkered knight was morally outraged, which became a palpable discomfort when the druidess refused to clothe herself and insisted on “keeping an eye” on the law enforcers. Hence, the search was brief. Failing to find Gornix, the guards left.

Isis: “Geesh, I thought the checkered knights all left!”

Cris: “I guess some stayed behind, the White Swan/Black Knight…Sir Illin, is still here hunting Gornix’s butt down.”

Later that same day, Excor went to Babia’s apothecary to pick up some smoking herb and maybe some info. Consequently, he wound up buying some special order leftovers. It was real dark and pungent with purple petals mixed in. Babia also told him that yellow lotus was scarce lately as the resident tender of the grove kept cleaning her out of stock. He always paid in gold coins however. Thus, she showed Excor one of the strange old coins; it was a single sided stamped coin of pure gold with a spiral knot design stamped onto the face. On his way out of the shop, Babia warned Excor that there were many sailors stuck in the city because of the storm; a lot of captains had laid off non-essential crew so “watch out!”

The following day, the 15th of Monsoon, Fauna caught up to her friend, the caretaker of the grove, Anishi.

Anishi: “Your vision! Did you see it! We are in a HOLY place!”

Fauna: “Hey! You wouldn’t know where I could find an alchemist that would sell me some potion formulas would you?”

Anishi: “Well. I am a skilled alchemist, I’m pretty sure. Don’t worry, I can get my hands on just about any ingredient regardless of the expense … as long as it’s necessary for the welfare of the brotherhood.”

Cris: “Dude is sitin’ on some cash!”

Fauna: “Yeah, I guess, um, are you going to back Vor Jetl for um, leader, er, high priest of the cult…brotherhood?”

Anishi: “Him? Well, he already submitted your name to me for consideration! You have some influential backers for some reason little sister. I hope you survive the trials amongst your competitors to lead us!”

Fauna: “Wait what?”

So to ease her mind Fauna left and bought a silk scarf embroidered with flowers off a cart for 50 gold pieces. The rest of the mages were either busy or busy resting for the entirety of the next day as on the 17th they had a cabal meeting at the Red Helm.

To Be Continued…

Onion, Arms & the Blog

Can an Onion Bleed

Well, there is no regular blog entry for today. The final writing and layout is being completed readying the Armatelorum for editing and illustration. The press kit is ready to go and promo banners are finished. Still no solid release date yet however. So, in place of the first part of the Cabal of Eight II campaign (which will return next week), here is an older article I wrote for Gnomestew involving my take on constructing Non Player Characters (NPC’s) titled Can an Onion Bleed?.

Can An Onion Bleed?: https://gnomestew.com/can-an-onion-bleed-2/

The article describes a methodology to creating fully realized and engaging NPC’s using the image of an onion and its layers. Moreover, please, if you are going to comment on it, at least read the first paragraph first! 🙂

I have thought about revising and expanding the thoughts presented in the article but as the initial response was lukewarm so I will probably just leave it as is.

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