The Cabal of Eight II Pt.27: A Reunion Amidst the Winds of War

The 1st of Ranat (approx. 18 days since last we joined our heroes) – The grand city-state of Ezmer is at war with a pair of far Western townships rebelling against Ezmerian rule. There has yet to be an armed confrontation, but the townsfolk of the two large towns of Denelton and Fenumton have driven out and even murdered several Ezmerian officials. Fenumton is on the main trade road and the other, Denelton, is just north of that on the coast.

It is common knowledge that the Hyvalian Theocracy has been agitating the rebels from afar. The rebels are led by the descendants of a long-dead imperial colonial Regent named Xanjin Doulin, who still hold high positions in the coastal town of Denelton gaining assistance from a small group of Ivoran templars (the Knights of the Rose). The leader of this rebellion is known to be one self-anointed King Han-Morro of the Doulin Dynasty (Anoro to the Ezmerians) and is based in Denelton. Denelton was a failed Creschan colony later dominated by the Doulin family and Hyvalian crusaders but still boasts the highest Creschan ancestry in Ezmeria as does Fenumton due to refugees from that conquest though they mixed more easily with the native Westlander population but adopted the Hyvalian Theocracy as a bid to maintain peace.

This town is still the first stop by any Creschan vessels on this side of the world even before the Ezmerian port, a historical point of contention. Denelton has a small fleet of Creschan War Traders (this was also probably the destination of the Creschan Fire fiasco a while back; see Cabal of Eight II: Introduction). At Han-Morro’s side is Zavan the Red, the famous Westlander bandit.

In addition, a ramshackle group of peasant highwaymen has been attacking a large portion of the caravan traffic headed to Ezmer along the trade route and Ezmerian officials believe that the always rebellious peasant farmers of the Mezrin valley and Snaketeeth Mountains may be lending them aid. In Ezmer, political tensions are at an all-time high. Criers ring their bells and deliver the news every morning and evening, crowds were never so dense at the billboards every day.

Szoo slid down the creaky stairs to the ground floor aimlessly. He had won his duel some weeks ago very easily (see last episode). Szoo’s magic shields had taken care of the water mage’s spells while the naga cracked him repeatedly about the head with his new magic staff. The naga had left him purple-faced and unconscious in a pool of his own blood. The fire elementalist had not heard a peep from the water elementalist nor his allies, the Grey Serpent pirates, since.

The other two adventuring mages, Excor and Fauna, were still setting up their rooms in their new digs. Fauna had rented a four-story building owned by Vor Jetl. The ground floor had a split level, one side had a large, shuddered picture window having once been a shop of some kind. Fauna had paid her White Star Guild contact, Kosapio Belahgastro, to exorcise the place the previous day. Spirits had haunted it and none of the adventurer-mages were equipped to deal with anything of the kind. The place had operated as a mafia abattoir under the previous owner’s auspices. After that, all three spent the rest of the day cleaning and debating whether or not to open up a shop of some kind, they had plenty of loot.

In the following days, Szoo picked up his pouch belt and a coin purse made from the blue dragon’s hide. He also had a naga bed (a giant wood bowl with pillows) custom made for himself and another simpler one for his brand new protégé. The naga also purchased a bronze brazier, a desk, and an armoire for his room.  Excor developed the Iron Grip and Doomscythe (Acid) spells, recharged his copper spike, and spent 200gp purchasing furniture and “amenities” for his rooms. Fauna bought and stocked a full alchemy lab and a “comfy” silk pillowed bed.

Soon enough, a cabal meeting commenced. Again, Belrae dominated the meeting and again the details of the planned expedition for the golden lotus were hammered out. Later, night fell, the meeting adjourned, and the trio wearily plunked down the rear stairs of the newly repaired Red Helm with heavy footsteps determined to get their fill of ale and wine. As they drearily passed the bar making their way to the theater section Excor suddenly perked up and went right to the table under the (brand new) front window where two cloaked figures were sitting. One was in black, the other in white but Excor had recognized the image of the salt lotus on the back of the white cloak.

Excor: “Ah! My friend Gornix where have you been!”

Immediately Gornix threw back his hood and shook Excor’s extended hand vigorously. Gornix was trying to signal him with his eyes, but very badly.

Cris: “Yeah, I already know man.”

Gil: “You do?”

Cris: “Yeah! I rolled a nat-twenty on it!”

The other figure was the Black Knight sans his trademark white swan heraldry. He was in disguise. Consequently, he threw back his hood with a disgusted sigh to the utter shock of Fauna and Szoo.

Fauna: “Oh no!”

Szoo: “What!? It’s him again!?”

Jenn: “I guess we’re gonna have to kill this guy huh?”

Isis: “What Jenn!? Why do you want to kill everybody!? He’s a cop we can’t kill him… in the city.”

Cris: *Shhhh* “Let’s just let this play out right now.”

Gil: “Oh boy. Let’s just calm down.”

Jenn (to Gil): “Really?”

Excor (formally addressing the Black Knight): “So, do we surrender to you, Marshal?”

Sir Illin (standing up, he was in a chainmail suit with a blank steel carapace): “Well, all of you are under arrest for the assault against my brother. I have filed the warrant for each of you with the city.”

Gornix: “Oh yeah. I forgot about that…”

Szoo: “Really!? You’re the one who almost killed him!”

Gornix: “I thought it was for the rat fighting thing…”

Excor (interrupting Gornix): “Shut up!”

Sir Illin: *clears his throat* “Anyway,” He eyeballed Gornix, “All four of you are officially under arrest. However, as Marshal, I do have certain privileges.”

Fauna: “Oh yeah! Well, what privileges?”

Excor: “Let the man talk!”

Fauna: “I’m not going back to court dammit.”

Szoo: “Woah there, Fauna, c’mon let the swan talk.”

Sir Illin (a little exasperated): “As I was saying, I have an offer for you guys. As you know there’s a small rebellion to the West.”

Szoo: “There is?”

Fauna: “I didn’t know this.”

The GM (me): “Didn’t you listen to the info dump at the beginning of the game?”

Jenn (Fauna’s player): “No. I think I was busy.”

Isis: “Sis! You were sitting right there when he told us this!”

Jenn shrugged.

Excor: “Yeah, I know about it.”

Sir Illin (giving Fauna a thousand-yard stare): “Well, there is a rebellion to the West…”

Szoo: “Wait! Are we going to war!?”

Sir Illin (through his teeth this time): “No. Now, as I was saying, because there is a rebellion over there, there have been raids on all the eastbound caravan and trade traffic going through the Mezrin Valley portion of the trade road. I know the value of mages and know what you bunch have accomplished against the blue dragon queen.”

Jenn: “He knows about that?”

Excor (rolling his eyes): “Of course he does.”

Sir Illin: *sigh* “I’ll deputize you under my authority and you will come with me to investigate it. Otherwise, I’ll take you to your cells.”

The adventurers exchanged glances then shrugged with a communal, “Meh, okay.”

As they walked back to Fauna’s new rental, Sir Illin spelled it all out for them. The true mission was to clear a path or at least get some valuable intel about the enemy forces in the Mezrin Valley so that the city could move forward with its plan to send a sizable force along the Trade Road to take up a strong position in the Serpent’s Back Ridge presumably after a battle to take it from the rebels.

However, several scouting parties and a small military unit had been nearly wiped out by what survivors had described as a group of warriors and maybe a mage possibly led by a knight on the back of a black unicorn with a blood-red alicorn. Their commanders had also been turned to stone. Consequently, this tidbit seemed to turn a light on in Fauna’s and Szoo’s minds for a brief second. So, Sir Illin volunteered himself and some “specialists” to go and deal with this enemy-occupied ambush point. As a result, the mages only shrugged, the sole thing that had sunk in was the full pardon for all past crimes that the marshal was holding over their heads.

Meanwhile, Excor was quietly chatting with Gornix about his absence. To sum up, Gornix had the heads-up on the warrant for his arrest and the personal vendetta that the Black Knight had against him. So, he went on the run splitting time between random rented rooms in the worst of the city dives and the rooms of his Ratter’s Guild contact, Doubab. He had occasionally been back to feed the fighting rats and had hired someone to tend them in his absence.

He was doing fine until a messenger from the Salt Lotus Guild came to town to collect guild dues and information from him. The White Swan had finally caught up to Gornix by accompanying the guild messenger shortly after he had disembarked. Consequently, the guildsman already had an appointment set up with the Salt Lotus Mage. The only reason the other three had not been arrested first was that the White Swan wanted to get Gornix into custody first.

Eventually, the ragtag group reached the house. Immediately after entering the place, Szoo and Fauna went right to the detailed satyr statue at the foot of the stairs. This statue, which was out of place for the general décor of the place, had fascinated the pair from the start. The Black Knight set up a sleeping bag by the door determined to watch the wily mages though he hoped that a looming pardon would keep them honest.

Sir Illin: “Where’s the wine!”

Excor: “Well, there’s plenty of mead.”

Szoo carefully inspected the statue oblivious to all other goings on. His imagination peeked by the Black Knight’s unrelated exposition.

Szoo (after a Nat 20 detection): “It’s a person! The statue, it’s a person! They’re petrified!”

Fauna sent a servant, the mages had already surrounded themselves with a handful of hirelings, to go fetch a potion of Stone to Flesh. She was determined to “de-petrify” the statue, but the servant returned empty-handed, no alchemist shops were open at this time of evening. The petrified faun would have to wait.

The following Dawn – The mages were alighting the mounts already packed and requisitioned by Sir Illin from the city stables, a teamster driving a two-buffalo wagon packed with camping supplies followed them. The morning was cloudy and grey, at least it would be cool for their trip south. Soon they were trotting in line out of the city gates past the burning pits and the wayman’s and nomad camps outside of the city walls. After a few hours, the city was far behind. The afternoon sun was beating down on their heads and shoulders, the horses were spread out loosely across the road, and the Black Knight was leading somewhat further ahead than the rest of the party, clouds of yellow road dust puffing up around his mount’s haunches.

Excor (riding up next to Gornix): “Y’know we can take this guy really easy now.”

Gornix: “I don’t know about that.”

They both stared at the Black Knight’s back as he continued to lead unaware of their scheming.

Excor: “Well, we can.” He implicated himself, Fauna, and Szoo.

Cris (turning to me, the GM): “You know that right? He’s no problem now. We can kill Sir Illin just like that.”

The GM (me, with a wry smile): “Yup.”

Gornix: “What about the pardon?”

Excor: “Yeah, I know that’s why I’m thinking about it.”

Cris (suddenly): “Damn! Damn! Dammit!” He stared at his character sheet for a few seconds. “My guy wouldn’t do it. Hey,” pointing at Jenn, “can you guys take him, and would your characters kill him?”

Jenn: “Nope, I like him. He’s Sir Illin! He’s jes chillin’!”

There was a collective groan around the dining room table.

Isis: “Yeah, I wouldn’t stab this guy in the back, plus he’s the marshal so my guy would be too paranoid if we did.”

Cris: “Hey, you’re not paranoid if everyone’s out to get you!”

Isis: “Yes! Exactly!”

Cris: *sigh* “Dammit. Okay, I guess we’ll just follow him then.”

Soon, the sun was sinking fast under the Western horizon painting a sliver of sky blazing gold while dark storm clouds moved in from the blackened East. They had taken the road spur that went East into the Necropolis. The Black Knight reasoned that it was the “safest” place to camp to preserve the secrecy of the mission. Excor spent several minutes mocking him.

Excor: “I hate this f#$*ing graveyard… necropolis. Especially coming off a Dragon Summer! Sheesh, we’re getting attacked. No! We’re getting attacked. I already know it. I just know it.”

The Black Knight found a place just inside the boundaries of the Necropolis, a sunken portion of open dirt between several large mausoleums and fringed with tall standing stones. The teamster was not too far away, he and the wagon were tucked behind a half-fallen mausoleum camouflaged under a painted tarpaulin.

Sir Illin: “We should be safe enough camping here…”

This elicited an exasperated gasp from Excor.

Excor (in a mocking tone): “Yeah, right, okay, sure!”

Cris (pointing at me, the GM): “I know, I already know!”

Well, on second-watch he was proven right (it was a random encounter I swear!). Szoo and Fauna were on watch when the creature thundered into camp both heads roaring waking up those sleeping with a shock. It killed a horse.

Fauna: “Oh no! The horses again! They always go for our horses!”

If you want to show your appreciation for what we write take a look at our Catalog or Buy Us A Coffee!

Sir Illin leaped up with his sword in one hand and his mace in the other but then turned and fled behind a mausoleum (a Natural 1 versus Horror Factor). The beast was a Dagorro, a blue-scaled wingless dragon with two whip-like tails and two heads each at the end of a long neck. The battle was brief, a few tombstones were shattered by the dragon’s fiery breath. The mages, on the other hand, were unharmed. The dragon lay dead and before the dawn came, Szoo had taken an eye, and Gornix a claw. By morning they were already on their way with a slightly less proud White Swan still in the lead.

It was night by the time they had finally arrived at their destination, the horses were exhausted, and the expected fresh mounts and a hot meal promised by the Black Knight were nowhere to be seen. They moved east off the road into a grassy depression dismounting and leading the horses into the tall grass to both let them eat and at least partially conceal themselves, leaving the wagon on the road with a very nervous teamster. All could see the foothills of the southernmost tip of the Snaketeeth Mountains rising a few miles away. Sir Illin tried to figure something out while noticeably disturbed. The group noticed several small ribbons of smoke rising in the distance all around them some as close as within a mile.

Sir Illin (trying to assuage the mages’ concerns, although badly): “Just the hovels of farmers and petty ranchers.” He was about to say something else, but the words caught in his throat and his eyes widened.

Naked steel sang as the Black Knight yanked his sword from its scabbard just in time for the horses to panic and gallop back towards the road. The group gathered back-to-back at the center of the clearing made in the tall grasses by the fleeing horses. They could take no real action until they could see their enemy. However, they could hear them from all around running towards them through the grass. They were surrounded. Dirty, unarmored wild-eyed men armed with pitchforks, iron spades, and scythes emerged first.

Excor: “Farmers.”

Sir Illin: *sigh* “Farmers.”

Another man emerged clad in studded leather armor a longsword in his hand.

The stranger in studded leather: “Get in there! Get them! The mages first!”

The Black Knight immediately disarmed one then shield bashed the other of the two farmers closest to him. Fauna stepped up with a sneer on her dirty face and began to cast a spell. There was a loud pop, some sparks, and a puff of acrid grey smoke. The spell had failed. Gornix then wasted no time casting a spell. He cast Fear and as soon as he finished, the farmers dropped their implements and fled back and away from the tightly formed core of adventurers. Alone stood the man in studded leather.

 As a result, he immediately surrendered.

It only took a few minutes for the Black Knight to scare the information from the rebel thug. There was a farmhouse and barn not far from here to the West of the road tucked in between some low foothills that served as a hideout as the family there were true believers in the cause. There were no crests or marks to look out for, they were just simple farmers.

The Black Knight satisfied that the rebel had been telling the truth pronounced, “With the powers of law and order as marshal invested in me by the Ezmerian High Council, I condemn you to death for treason!”

The White Swan struck his head from his shoulders before he could even turn to look over in shock.

Szoo: “Whoa!”

The other mages just shrugged.

Sir Illin wiped off the blade of his sword before slipping it back into the scabbard. He dismissed the teamster who was ready to bolt judging by the expression on his face. They left the body of the executed man still with his wrists bound behind his back.

They were breaking through the high grass onto the jagged uneven but open ground when Gornix said, “Wait! Did anybody check that guy, I forgot to loot him!”

The marshal had already frisked the man when he had tied him up. There was nothing on him of note but a dagger, a longsword, and the studded leather armor, and a red waist sash.

After about an hour they found a narrow bright yellow dirt road headed behind a hill and followed it to an isolated farmhouse and barn. It was a dark moonless night by this time and the place seemed deserted. At first, the mages worried that somehow one of the fleeing farmers had made it back here before them, but their worries disappeared when they saw firelight shining through the small square windows of the squat adobe farmhouse.

All they find there is the farmer’s wife and her three small children. She immediately answered all the Black Knight’s questions. After a quick search of the place, the mages found a small hidden basement filled with weaponry, though of low and poor quality. So, Fauna torched the barn.

Szoo: “No! What’re you doing!?”

Isis: “Jenn, c’mon, No! I won’t put up with this!”

Fauna: “Oh yeah! Watch this!”

Consequently, she pointed her finger of fire at the squat farmhouse setting its thatch roofing alight. The farmhouse burned to the ground very quickly and the farmer’s wife and her children hung their heads and wept into their hands.

Szoo: “Aw man.”

Fauna: “Now what cha gonna do?”

Szoo just shrugs and lets out a disappointed sigh.

Fauna: “Well, that’s what those traitors get!” She stumbled off after the rest of the group, obviously under the influence. Szoo stood there for a few moments and watched the buildings burn. He sighed, and shaking his head, turned and followed the group. The farmer’s wife and her three children watched them go.

Sir Illin: “We have em now! The woman tells me that the highwaymen have gathered with their leader. They’re camping out in a small canyon a few minutes to the southeast amongst some ruined adobes and an old temple. The fane is what she called it. Let’s double-time it!”

He turned and scowled at the druidess.

Fauna: “What?”

Excor: “They know we’re coming now.”

Szoo (rather flatly): “They can see the fires.”

Fauna (with more than a little attitude): “Oh well.”

So, the intrepid mages were led to the mouth of the box canyon. There was an obvious trail through the high grass that into the tumbleweeds that choked the narrow rocky entrance. Cliff faces rose high and sheer on either side. They could see nothing. The Black Knight took point and crept between the towering cliffs; the others followed trying to stay low as they moved. Szoo simply crashed through the grasses into the canyon and three arrows zipped from the cliffs above at him.

The naga fire elementalist was unperturbed as he expected his shield from his magic necklace would neutralize the surprise attack. However, the large gleaming ruby flashed red, and the arrows struck the naga wounding him, the shield spell popped into existence immediately after then disappeared just as instantly.

Isis: “Awww man! It’s cursed!”

Cris: “Of course it is! We all knew it! But you had to put it on!”

Isis: “Well, yeah it was shiny! Really shiny! My guy couldn’t resist! He likes big shiny things!”

To be honest dear reader, I, the GM, had completely forgotten about the cursed gold necklace with the large ruby (see the Cabal of Eight II Pt 9: Fungus Force Five). So, I guess the fungus curse begins here.

Cris: “Damn! You gonna be okay?”

Isis: “Yeah, I’m hurt but not that bad.”

Gil: “Well, let’s do this.”

The interior of the small box canyon was completely clear of all overgrowth and there was a visible path winding up the canyon walls connecting a series of ever-higher ledges. Flattened tents and a few extinguished fire pits dotted the canyon floor. It appeared that the rebels had been breaking camp. A large temple-like adobe structure stood at the far end of the box and several smaller buildings, many completely collapsed into simple piles of disintegrating adobe brick, dotted the upper ledges.

Six shortbow-wielding scouts were running around on those ledges sighting the invading adventurers while trying to find some kind of cover led by a gorgon wearing a red turban and silver mask with polished sapphire eyes. All had red waist sashes. Directly in front of the old temple was a fully armored knight bearing no heraldry mounted on a black unicorn with a blood-red alicorn sprouting from its head. In between the adventurers and the unicorn were six spear-wielding men-at-arms in horsetail-tasseled helmets, red waist sashes, chain mail armor, and steel longshields with maces at their sides. Taken aback were the mages when they could see the unicorn shout orders to the spears and archers.

The gorgon unleashed three poison-tipped arrows at Szoo, whose shield spell worked this time. The spearmen quickly surrounded the mages. Szoo cast Fearsome Form I and prepared to fly at the scouts and the gorgon. Excor cast Mass Paralyze I freezing all six of the spear-bearing men-at-arms in place. Gornix cast Cone of Fire mercilessly immolating them. The rebel knight leaped from his saddle to the ground and charged Sir Illin with his battle axe. A ratling swerved from behind the unicorn and drew paired superior-quality magic bowie knives, his image immediately split into six and each blurred as he charged towards Szoo. The black unicorn charged Excor hitting his shield. Fauna stepped up and sprayed the cliffs with her Throw Fire spell, immolating the scouts and horribly wounding the gorgon archer as she took them unawares (they rolled natural 1 saves).

After the first round of battle, the mages were unharmed, and the rebels were already on the ropes. By the second round, all the rebels were down, the gorgon falling first to Szoo’s Cone of Fire, the ratling paralyzed by Excor then coup de graced by Szoo, the Knight was eventually cut down by Sir Illin, and it took three lighting bolts from Fauna, an Alchemist’s Fire from Szoo, and two Force Ram spells from Gornix to kill the black unicorn. None of our heroes were even scratched in the fight.

The battle won, far too easily, the White Swan spoke up rather dourly: “When we get back to the city, I’ll file your pardons.”

Excor (jumping onto the body of the black unicorn with his knife in hand): “Mine! The alicorn is mine! I don’t want anything else; this is mine!”

Gornix: “What about the rest of the loot? There might be some good stuff on the Knight and that unicorn?”

Excor: “I don’t want anything else! This is mine!”

Isis: “Geeze!”

The rest of the mages loot the corpses but find very little other than a small horde of coins stamped with the Hyvalian character from the heraldry of Denelton and a chalice; possibly illegally recoined from proper legal tender. They also had taken the superior quality paired magic bowie knives, and a gold necklace with a large sapphire (shield spell 3 x day). Everything else was cinders. After an hour, the bodies were all searched and Excor was cradling the red alicorn in his arms. The group left the burning canyon behind them.

Excor (gazing madly at the still-bleeding horn): “Man, the things I can do with this!”

Upon their return to the city of Ezmer, Excor locked himself in his rooms, the White Swan filed their pardons, and Gornix set up a room for himself in Fauna’s new rental. Fauna noticed one day that Szoo’s scales looked strange, some appeared loose and covered in a whitish powder, but Szoo was more interested in the Faun statue near the stairs to care.

Szoo (to Fauna): “So, when were we going to de-petrify this guy?”

The End

Campaign Played 6/1/18-1/26/19, 6/22/19.

Leave a Reply