A ghostly blue layer of spiced smog hovered high above the heads of the flowing crowd as they chattered, haggled with merchants, and carried their burdens of purchased goods in baskets, sacks, and small wagons along packed and narrow central pathways in each wing. From the oculi in the massive central dome shafts of smoky sunlight cut through the dim oil-lit atmosphere of the Great Bazaar. As a result, the multi-colored glass bottles of the perfume and potion sellers below glittered with cobalt blue, blood red, glistening green, and brilliant yellow.
Not far from the central dome around a corner in the short southern wing, one of many, many merchants’ booths lay two green banners sporting golden dragonflies hanging over the counter from the high peaked ceiling. Behind the rear drapery of this booth in a small pillowed-lounge, Fauna (played by Jenn) sat with Vor Jetl, his dragonfly brooch sparkling in the foggy lamplight.
Fauna (taking the long-stemmed pipe Vor Jetl offered her): “So, um, me and my friends need a place to “chill” if you know what I mean.” She takes a deep pull on the pipe.
Vor Jetl: “Well…” he exhales a torrent of acrid smoke, “a safe place perhaps?”
Fauna (passing the pipe back): “Yeah…” she blows a cloud from her lungs, “um, it’s getting tense on the streets and we need a safe place to hide out for a while.”
Vor Jetl (after taking another toke and blowing out yet another smoke cloud): “Sure, sure. Least I can do for the high priestess eh? Eh? Okay, you will owe me a favor to be paid later, not by you, by your associates. Let’s sit and smoke for a little and I’ll have my man take you to the place.”
She continued to watch her tail nonchalantly browse Vor Jetl’s wares from between the curtains. Eventually, a clerk shooed the dirty-faced beggar away. Consequently, Fauna breathed a sigh of relief and leaned back into the cover of the curtained lounge. She was not sure but Fauna did have a decent idea for whom the street urchin was working eyes.
Fauna (feeling a little light-headed): “Thanks! Hey what is in the pipe anyway?”
Vor Jetl: “Oh nothing just some above-average pipeweed… with a little Night Leaf mixed in.”
Elsewhere, in the Old Market District not that far from the Old Bazaar, Excor (played by Cris) purchased a Wand of Spell Penetration (+8) from the Sapphire guild Alchemist Shop. He handed over 8,000 gold pieces and 7 sapphires in exchange. As he packed it away, he watched as Szoo (played by Isis) slithered up to the counter after intent on selling his dragon’s eye set in a crystal ball. The blue-clad clerk was almost giddy as she was about to hand over a pouch filled with 1,000 gp. As a result of the clerk’s wild expression, Excor stepped in and publicly appraised the item for his compatriot.
Excor (to Szoo and scowling at the clerk): “Don’t accept less than 4,000 gold for this.”
Excor left before Szoo got his cash. He made sure to look out for a tail. He saw no one. Consequently, Szoo hastily accepted 3,500 gp for his item and hurried out the door sending its bell into a flurry. Subsequently, he spotted his friend a fairway to the north on the street amongst the light foot traffic. Someone was trailing suspiciously behind him. Szoo shouted for Excor to “wait up!” The mysterious cloaked figure that had been following Excor stopped, pivoted south, then hurried in the opposite direction. So, the pair decided to ignore the retreating spy and hurried onward.
Eventually, the pair found their selves in Baba’s Apothecary shop. The tiny shop’s atmosphere was heavy with assorted spices and pungent herbs wafting from the rafters that were crowded with an upside-down forest of drying leaves, fronds, and flowers. Here and there, a draft of an exotic scent would glide into their noses only to be overwhelmed by the general dense herbal ambiance a moment later. Meanwhile, Baba, the naga proprietor, sat coiled on a large purple pillow in a far corner smoking her long-stemmed pipe. Excor noticed the peppery scent that her pipe smoke carried.
Excor: “Got any uh, yellow lotus in?”
Baba (thick white smoke escaping as she spoke): “Yup, but yer too late. The same guy came by and bought it up again. Got some night leaf left over though.”
Excor declined the night leaf, as it was a strong narcotic.
Excor: “What about the stuff you’re smokin’?”
A few minutes later, the pair was on their way to meet Fauna at the White Prong over lunch. Excor purchased a small bag of the spicy mix that Baba had been smoking. Szoo was smoking his new short-stemmed carved bone pipe packed with a bowl load of the same spicy smoke mix. It was not long until Excor noticed that they were being followed. It took almost an hour to shake the tail but they finally made it to the prong and into a private booth across from Fauna.
After all three settled in, Szoo and Fauna had a weird and overlong argument over fire walking. In the meantime, Excor pulled out and set a silver ring set with turquoise and a silver bracelet with a large gem of turquoise on the table. These he had lifted from the blue-cloaked dragon shaman’s corpse (see The Cabal of Eight II – Pt.19: The Dragon & the Wasp). After casting Identify on them, he found that the ring was a level 10 ring of Protection from Water with constant effect. The bracelet was also a level 10 item with the Heal Self spell (healing 10D4 HP triggered automatically at zero hit-points once per day).
Szoosha took a break from his discussion with the woozy druid to trade his ring of Breathe without Air for the bracelet. Finally, the druid decided to “get serious”. They sat in silence for a short while trying to think of something to do. However, all the druid seemed to do was giggle. Certainly, the three needed a plan to deal with the dragon, the infamous Ocean of the Desert.
Cris (breaking the awkward silence of the table with a snap of his fingers): “I got it!”
Excor grasped the cabal medallion around his neck and sent a whisper to Jirek. “If you’re alright come to the White Prong until dusk, watch out for the Ocean of the Desert.” Jirek’s response came almost immediately, “I’ll be there!”
It took the better part of an hour before Jirek ducked into their booth. By then the table was crowded with empty cups and three pitchers all soaked in ale. As a result of Jirek’s lateness, Excor and Szoo had eaten to try to offset the effects of too much alcohol. Still eating, Excor told Jirek that the Wasp was in possession of “the item” and after getting Jirek to promise to pay them for the info Excor turned it over to Fauna. Subsequently, the druid explained about waking up in a strange extra-dimensional hideout that Xanto the Wasp was using and about the magic-key, the one that opens the portal in the mirror in the college library closet.
Immediately, the booth curtain zipped aside, and there stood the captain of the Grey Serpent Pirates to the consternation of the three mages, “WE are going to the Red Helm!”
The three mages cursed Jirek under their breaths and wordlessly allowed the swashbuckler to walk behind them all the way to the Red Helm, his hand on his hilt. Fauna had spotted two hooded men following them but said nothing to the others.
The tavern was in a sorry state the entire front quarter of the place was gone. There were several carpenters and several large wood beams holding the floor above, which was still intact, keeping it from collapsing. The three adventurers all hissed realizing for the first time the damage dealt to the place by the Wasp’s magic misfire.
The Grey Serpent Captain strutted up to Draega Skullshine as he sat on a stool outside his partially open establishment. The large publican stood up and captain demanded his “pay” a thick finger stabbing back at the three mages.
Cris: “I knew it. Never trust a Tanglenite. Damn Poisonwood scum!”
Isis: “What? Draega’s in with the pirates?”
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Cris: “Of course they’re in it together! Skullshine’s a CRIMINAL!”
Draega (pointing at the adventurer trio): “You THREE! Your deposit on the clubroom is gone and you owe me for the damage! Until that’s paid, no more clubroom!”
Excor: *Sputter* “Uh, um, hmm.”
Cris: “Yeah,…that’s about right.”
Draega puffed out his chest and tried to intimidate the pirate as he approached for whatever reason causing the three mages and Jirek to take a step back. The pirate captain convulsed, “I will not be intimidated!” He began to pull his rapier and Draega stepped back and reached with both hands into his black cloak.
Szoo: “Oh no!”
Excor: “Aw crap!”
Fauna (narrow-eyed and grinning): “Heh, heh. This is gonna be good.”
Excor jumped in between them only to have the captain sweep him aside with one heavily muscled and hairy arm.
Excor (shrugging to his companions): “Well, I tried.”
A few seconds later just as it seemed the pudgy publican and the pirate captain would finally come to blows Xanto the Wasp imposed himself between them unexpectedly. All stopped and glared at him wide-eyed.
Xanto: “Hey! My friends! Please, please. Calm down, the package is safe…please my dear purveyor of brew; pay the man his meager salary. As a favor to me eh?”
Szoo rushed up and greeted the Wasp who quickly brushed the fire elementalist aside as he put an arm around Draega’s shoulders. The captain was tossed a small coin bag and after jingling it a few times, weighing it by guess, and finally satisfied strode away in the direction of the harbor.
Jirek (via a whisper spell to Excor): “Let’s run while they’re distracted.” Excor acknowledged with a nod. He walked quickly but quietly over to his friends and they all rushed away at once. The Wasp and Draega never even turned around.
Fauna: “Hey! Where’re we going?”
Excor: “What!? Are you kidding me! We’re goin’ to the mirror door thing!”
Fauna: “But we need his key!”
Excor (stopping dead): “Aw crap! I forgot!”
Szoo: “Uh, guys? I used my gloves (see The Cabal of Eight Pt. 44: Betrayed At Last!) to pick the Wasp’s pockets.”
Consequently, Szoo produced a small golden key in the shape of a dragonfly. They ogled the key for a quick second and took off with even greater immediacy.
To Be Continued…