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The Cabal of Eight II Pt.5: The Mushroom Kingdom Pt.2

mushroom map
The Map

The blood magus Umwin (played by Natalie) gazed through the open doorway into the ruined chamber from the hallway (R1). It was an old storeroom, the plaster and some of the stone of the walls had crumbled and laid in moist piles and clumps. He replied to the other mages behind him that the room was full of trash but appeared empty otherwise. With Umwin’s signal, the party of adventurer mages continued further down the very long narrow stone & plaster corridor (H1).

The cobweb-draped passageway was dark and the air increasingly stunk of polluted moisture as they shuffled carefully along the smooth but dirt caked floor. They could also tell that the hallway was angling down going deeper under the city as they continued to follow it. Behind Umwin followed Fauna (played by Jenn), Excor (played by Cris) holding his oil lamp aloft, and Szoosha (played by Isis) taking up the rear with flaming naginata.

As they carefully inched their way down, Fauna spotted and picked up a black haired sewer rat asking it if there was anything to worry about in the passage. The rat replied, “No”. Of course, Fauna acted as interpreter.

Umwin stopped at an alcove in the wall on his left. It was a badly rusted iron door (D1 on the map). Its lock so badly corroded that even if they had the key it would still be impossible to open. Each mage insisted in inspecting the door personally and thus the group spent some time rotating position. Each tried sensing magic on the old door, they finally determined there was no magic to speak of and thus Fauna and Szoo wanted to try to open it. Excor voiced his concern that it may lead to someone else’s basement. Umwin had no opinion on the subject.

Consequently, Fauna consulted the sewer rat she was still holding. According to the rat, no one had opened that door in forever. After a brief discussion, they decided to leave the door for later and started south again. Suddenly, with a sharp yelp Umwin fell from sight. Fortunately, he was able to catch the edge of the ragged pit in the floor with his red stained fingertips. The blood magus struggled to pull himself up but lost his grip and fell. Fauna caught him by the wrists and pulled him back up and out of the pit.

The pit was a large hole in the floor from where the flagstones had long ago fallen in. Excor leaned over the edge with his lantern and found that still the bottom lay hidden in darkness. In addition, they could all smell the stink of sewage mixing with the fresh briny scent of seawater.

Excor: “Phew, it’s gotta be deeper than 20 feet. And with water at the bottom, who knows how deep that is!”

In turn, each leapt easily over the pit; Szoo just slithered over it with no problem and no risk of falling. Umwin continued to lead them down the passageway but insisted none of this was familiar to him. The group stopped at another recessed door this time on their right (D2). It was another rusted iron door but it was in much better condition than the last. It too was locked and they could all see the faded red emblem emblazoned on the ancient door. Though only Fauna was able to make out the faded mark, it was a red eagle carrying scales contained in an octagon. For this reason alone, Szoo and Excor voted that she take lead.

With Fauna leading they finally reached the end of the passageway. The group of four mages found themselves at the threshold of yet another rusted locked iron door (D3). It had been lacquered black at one time but only traces now remained. Plainly emblazoned in faded shades of green, blue, and brown at the center of its face was an inverted city seal. Below the inverted seal of Ezmer lay a wavy water line and a rat at helm. All of the cabal mages thought that they should try, for some reason, to get through this door.

Excor: “No problem, I got just the spell. Everybody stand back!” Cris actually stood up and motioned with his arms at the table.

Excor cast Force Ram, which slammed into the door making a frightful racket that temporarily deafened all of them. The slightly dented door still held fast.

Excor: “DAMN! It’s still UP!?

Jenn: “Oh you learned that one from Guillermo’s guy huh?”

Cris: “Gornix, yeah. It’s one of my most powerful spells!”

Isis: “Well, use your magic key! C’mon guy!”

Cris: “Nah, that’s limited per day I’m not gonna waste it here. Let’s go back.”

Natalie: “Well… everybody knows we’re here now.”

The group proceeded back to the first iron door that they encountered and decided, for some reason that they should not stop until they had opened it. Consequently, they had not yet decided on how to do that.

Isis: “Aw man! C’mon! I wanna see what’s behind that door! C’mawwwwwn!”

Fauna: “Man, what I wouldn’t give for a good crowbar.”

Cris: “Naw. I don’t think any of us are strong enough to get through that door like that.”

Umwin: “Well. I could, um, give the one who wants to knock it down the Greater Strength I spell… just let me slit my arm and drip some blood into a vial. Like a… potion?”

Fauna: “Wait. You mean like drink it!? ”

Umwin: “Um. Uh-huh.”

Utterly disgusted by that suggestion, Excor used his magic key’s Knock ability to open the door. The room revealed by the opened door was a large 5 ft. by 5 ft. closet (R2). The walls were white plaster with a few cracks. Above, the ceiling was plank wood, possibly the floor of someone else’s basement where long ago an old trap door was removed and sealed. Immediately, the strong smell of petroleum scorched their nostrils.

Inside the closet was an old saturated 50 gallon barrel labeled Naphtha (Excor translated the old oil-translucent label). There was also an old rotten sack of grain and a single small box of old corroded cosmetics. Fascinated by some very flammable liquid to play with, Szoo whipped out an empty glass bottle and filled it with naphtha from the barrel. After this investigation concluded, they unanimously decided to approach the gap to where the glowing footprints had led from their cellar.

The gap appeared to be a large and ancient crack in the bedrock, which had reopened shortly after multiple attempts through the centuries to patch it with plaster. Through the gap, a cavern and from this wafted the strong swampy scent of sewer water mixed with the sea. Fauna communed with nature to make sure that the rain above had ceased after Excor’s insistence: “I’m not going down there into sewers during a rainstorm! C’mon! There’s storm drains! Especially in this city!”

Surefooted Fauna carefully guided the group into the crack (H2 on the map). The floor was savagely uneven and angled, even more sharply than the hallway, downwards this time to the southeast. They proceeded down into the cavern and found the rocky walls sweaty and the air permeated by the strong scent of mushrooms. To her right Fauna noticed a ridge rising to a full five feet high as they continued to move. Then as she looked up by chance, her eagle eyes spotted three mushroom men on the ridge their bodies were fleshier looking and very pale mostly white unlike the first creature they had met back in the cellar (see The Cabal of Eight II Pt.4: The Mushroom Kingdom Pt.1). Their stubby arms were high over their faceless mushroom-cap-heads each ready to hurl a large rock.

The first myconid, Excor had recognized them as such, hurled its large rock at the gambler-mage but missed by an inch. The large rock smashed into the rocky ground with a heavy thud its fragments stinging the mages. Fauna threw a lightning bolt at the third mushroom roasting its tender flesh but still it lifted its rock. Umwin threw a blood bolt at the same creature blasting it apart. The stone it was holding tumbled down the ridge but managed to miss the mages below rolling to rest at the bottom of the ridge. Szoo cast a fire ray at the first creature hurting it some. Excor pulled his Copper Spike and shot an electrical bolt from it at the first creature wounding it badly. The second myconid heaved its rock at Umwin striking the blood magus. However, the rather large stone hit and bounced off the skinny but broad man not hurting him at all!

So, it turned out that Natalie had rolled high for his Constitution and selected the Raw Hide feat and gained the Armor of Scars feat as a class ability resulting in a Damage Reduction of 12! Hence, the other characters were a bit suspicious after this display of unnatural toughness on the part of this subterranean stranger.

The first creature grabbed up another rock and tossed it at Excor who attempted to dodge but took a nasty blow to the head. Fortunately, his shield-item activated in time to prevent any damage from the small boulder.

Cris: “Man! That could’ve KILLED me!”

Fauna threw another lightning bolt at the first monster wounding it badly. Umwin in turn, threw another blood bolt at the same creature killing it. Szoo stiffened his body, rose above the height of the ridge, and faced off with number two. The naga swung his flaming naginata wounding the creature. The second and now last remaining myconid grabbed up a stone and smashed it into Szoo who in an attempt to dodge the blow opened himself directly up to the attack taking the rock full in the chest. Again, a shield item protected the mage from potential lethal levels of damage. Excor shot a bolt at the creature adding to its wounds.

Fauna cast another lightning bolt hurting the pale myconid but it fled behind and down the other side of the ridge out of the sight of all.

Cris: “Aww man! We need to take that guy out before he alerts the others!”

Jenn: “What? How do you know that?”

Cris: “They’re myconids, they live in colonies so there’s always more!”

Jenn: “oh.”

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight II Pt.4: The Mushroom Kingdom Pt.1

mushroom man aka a myconid

It was the wee hours of the 12th of High Summer, about 11 weeks ago, and Gornix (played by Gil) found it difficult to sleep amongst the crash after crash of thunder in his new digs, a still dirty with dust bedroom in Fauna’s new rental (The Cabal of Eight Pt.31: The Welfare of Rats). He had abandoned his apartment for a room there in an effort to stay hidden from the wrath of the Black Knight.

He had already set up a laboratory in the small basement/cellar of the house and was contemplating starting formulation of a new spell when he heard something. It sounded like breaking glass coming from – the lab! Consequently, he jumped up from his bed and ran to the cellar door. Putting his ear to the floor, he could hear something moving around down there as well as the sound of breaking wood; the fate of the new table he had placed down there.

Gil: “Dammit!”

Hence, Gornix, without thinking, carefully opened the trapdoor and lighting the crystal at the tip of his staff slowly stepped down into the cellar. He found his new lab destroyed and some strange footprints all over the dirty flagstones of the floor. The tracks were of some kind of slime and smelled strongly of fungus, mushroom maybe? There was nothing there but the results of vandalism.

The salt-lotus wizard sighed and inspected the walls for some sort of secret door but was confident that the walls of the cellar were solid. As he ascended the stair back up into the house, he halted for a second after putting out the magic light of his staff. When he gazed back down, he noticed that the footprints were emitting a sickly bluish green glow.

Later that day Gornix talked with Excor (played by Cris) of his pre-dawn experience.

Gornix: “I think that this house might be haunted.”

Excor laughed and then shrugged it off, no one thought any more of the incident since.

The pre-dawn hours of the 19th of Monsoon – Excor was suddenly awakened from sleep by the sound of breaking glass afraid of another assassination attempt in the house (The Cabal of Eight Pt.33: Night of the Moon Rat) he jumped out of bed and geared up. Before long he, Fauna (played by Jenn), and Szoosha (played by Isis) were up, dressed, and creeping towards the trapdoor that led to the cellar.

Szoo slowly opened the trapdoor. Excor extended his lit oil lamp to spot down the hole, once cleared Fauna proceeded down to investigate followed by Szoo wielding his flaming polearm and Excor taking up the rear. Fauna spotted several glowing footprints and handprints along the floor and walls. Likewise, all noticed the strong, wet fungal scent that choked the small 10 ft. by 10 ft. cellar. The stench had a very strong essence of mushroom.

Fauna (pointing with her dagger): “Hey! WHO THE HELL are YOU!?”

She was addressing a strange, scrawny but finely muscled, dirty looking man leaning in the far corner against some shelves. He had various sharp implements hanging from his thick black leather belt and was shirtless. His heaving concave yet insanely broad chest covered in strange black tattoos and crisscrossed by innumerable scars as well smeared with blood and sweat. His skin was dark, a Creschan, and his dreadlocked hair, light-brown, his eyes a piercing emerald green.

Umwin: “Uhm..Umwin and they’re coming?”

The three mages could hear several things, soft and squishy, slopping against the flagstones as they moved into view through a previously unnoticed aperture in the stonewall at the bottom of the stairs on which Excor was still standing. A small spear shot from the darkness and struck but bounced off Umwin’s scar-hardened skin. A squat ugly, creature shuffled into view. It had a head like a mushroom cap and fat cylindrical body like a stem with two short, thick legs. Its warty skin resembled rotting leather. Umwin gouged himself with a sharp implement from his belt and instead of blood, a crimson bolt of energy shot from the open wound blasting the ugly mushroom creature to wet bits.

As a result, four more of the mushroom creatures shuffled from the dark to attack all four mages. However, the battle was brief, after a storm of lightning bolts, fiery energy rays, and blood bolts the four mushroom-capped creatures were ash. None of the mages was so much as scratched.

While Excor inspected the opening in the wall Fauna questioned Umwin (played by Natalie). Umwin had sailed via a Creschan war-trader to the Serpent Coast where he had taken a young girl, a street urchin, under his wing. They had become close during their travels to Ezmer where Umwin was talked into accompanying the girl and some new “friends” on some sort of job where they had to travel through the sewers. The crew had run into a large group of these mushroom men and the girl was taken the rest of Umwin’s companions were either slain or lost. Consequently, Umwin had become lost in underground caverns in pursuit of the girl and soon stumbled his way into this cellar. Umwin also mentioned that he was a Blood Magus, for some reason.

Fauna figured that though blood magic seemed utterly gross that Umwin should prove valuable as they were about go exploring through that secret door anyway.

Excor: “Looks clear to me. There’s a very long hallway slanting down though, can’t see much else until we go down there!”

Not long after the group was proceeding down a long dark hallway. The ground and even walls were caked in layers of gray dust save for where there were slimy footprints. Umwin lead the way followed by Fauna, Excor and Szoo took up the rear.

Excor: “Wait! What direction are we traveling in?”

The others sort of looked around in confusion and then shrugged. Hence, after a deep sigh, Excor cast Magic Navigation on himself to know instinctively the compass directions.

Cris: “Guess I’ll keep track of our position on the map.”

To Be Continued…

Zombie Horror Release Date

old zombie horror cover by Leonard Y.
The cover to the first edition. Art by Leonard Y.

Ranger games is proud to announce the release date of a revised edition of our long out-of-print survival horror book. The Halloween season will see the release of Zombie Horror (RGS1011)! Moreover, the initial release date is October 23. However, depending on editing and the cover art finalization, the release date may be earlier but will be in October.

Zombie Horror contains information on the Zombie Genre and how it applies to a Dice & Glory campaign. It also details various game-applicable aspects of zombies and their sub-types. Also, the book discusses the zombie sickness in detail with playable game aspects. There is also information on creating characters suited for such a campaign and detailed info on modern weaponry & vehicles. Additionally, there is a full chapter for the Games-Master with bullet points for running a horror and walking dead based campaign. Finally, there are several semi-populated maps of modern locations that are applicable to the genre as well as an NPC rich appendix.

A full press release will follow in October.

The Cabal of Eight II Pt.3: Blue Robes & Bankers

Blue Dragon Banner

There was a break in the incessant Dragon-Summer rain, the street and alley mouth choked with a thick roiling blue fog. If there had been onlookers at this time of night, they would see the triumphant outline of Szoo (played by Isis) erect in the middle of the street. The fog was in actuality steam resulting from two blasts of fire from his Fire-Fang. The stooped form of Fauna (played by Jenn) was feeling about on the ground. The dozen or so pirates that had tried to waylay the trio of mages had since fled with no casualties on either side.

Szoo: “Alright let’s go home.”

Fauna: “No! I’m not going anywhere without my knife!”

During the brief skirmish with the pirates, the druidess had thrown her dagger and missed her target. Meanwhile, both Szoo and Fauna could see Excor (played by Cris) casually puffing on his pipe as he continued down the alleyway towards home.

Szoo [after a quick detection check]: “Found it! NOW let’s GO!”

                The morning of the 18th of Monsoon – Excor, Szoo, and Fauna all decided to go to the bazaar for some shopping however, their first stop was Babia’s Apothecary [Cabal of Eight Pt.6: Gold Devil], Excor and Fauna needed some smoking herbs.

In the fragrant shop, bundles of various herbs hung from the rafters to dry, Excor bought the usual but Fauna purchased “the good stuff” paying a gold piece for an ounce and some high quality healing herbs. Szoo bought some of the “house mix” which cost him 1 copper. Fauna inquired about a pipe and Babia directed her to a peddler named “Vez”; he likely had his cart around the bazaar.

A little while later, all three were cruising the bazaar, Fauna remained outside after immediately finding the pipe vendor. The plaza around the bazaar and the bazaar itself was crowded and bustling with people. The constant chatter of a million conversations and the occasional yell or shout from a merchant trying to attract customers mixed with the smell of food, herbs, exotic oils, fresh fish, and the butcher stands all merged into a thick atmosphere familiar to all residents of Ezmer.

Eventually, Fauna settled on a pipe akin to the vendor’s masterwork. It was a carved ironwood pipe. The stem was long and flat with a dragon holding the bowl. Afterwards, realizing she had spent all of the coin in her purse she decided to exchange the gems in her pockets for gold. She headed for the central market district to find a jeweler to cash her gems.

At the same time, Excor was seeking an “ivory-handled horsetail flyswatter” preferably with jewels set into the handle. However, he could not find what he was looking for. Although he had found several gold-leafed wooden handled swatters with a few bearing “jewels” which turned out to be polished beads of glass. Nevertheless, he did purchase five scrolls of paper at 5 coppers per and 1 blank dragonskin scroll though it looked somewhat aged. Szoo purchased a gold chain because “it was shiny” and then headed home.

A short time later, Fauna wandered into a jewelry store the doorbell ringing as she entered. Just inside the store waiting impatiently, was a regal looking woman in a blue silk gown with a diamond tiara in her long black hair. The druid immediately received a rude remark about her “stench” from the woman. Fauna pushed past the exasperated blue clad noble and dropped a handful of gems on the counter in response to the jeweler’s snotty attitude. However, he tried to rip her off by under-valuing her haul so rightfully taking offense, she grabbed her gems and left.

She started home but ran into Szoosha along the way.

Isis [to me, the GM]: “Wait, how likely is it that we run into each other?”

The GM: “Pretty likely if you’re taking the main streets and going directly home.”

Isis: “Hmm, I don’t think Szoo likes that, what if he gets ambushed or somebody’s waiting to get him?”

*Roll* *Roll*

After Fauna spent some time calming down the naga, who kept mumbling something about “changing up the routes”, they both decided to go to the bank. Fauna needed to convert her gems and Szoo needed to stash some cash. They caught a rickshaw to the bank, which was located among the city administration buildings.

The building was large and constructed of marble blocks with a large dome on top. The bank doors were a solid bronze double-door and to each side was a guard in half-plate. At first, Fauna thought that they were city guards but noticed their equipment was of a much higher quality and the men appeared better trained and far more experienced. Inside the massive white stone interior, inlaid tile floor, and its painted walls depicting unicorns of all colors and bright fields of stylized crops of grain, vegetables, and fruit blew the minds of both mages.

Szoo: “Wooow!”

All of the light was bright, natural sunlight shining down from the multiple openings in the grand white dome above them. There were massive white columns along the walls and several heavy wood tables where scribes and presumably bankers were weighing coin, shuffling, signing, and reading through paperwork. Against each column there stood guards in polished black full-plate armor each bearing a short-spear. At the rear of the building, there were vertical slits in the wall akin to arrow loops. A skinny old man with oiled hair  wearing a purple and green silk gown with a gold-colored shoulder sash with a gold and crystal clasp immediately walked up to them and blocked their path.

The Banker: “Ahem. This is a place of business…”

                The druid whipped out a handful of gems.

The Banker: “Oh! Well, right this way, I’ll be helping you today, my name is Xander.”

Fauna opened an account and deposited 10 sapphires, 10 emeralds, and cashed out a single emerald getting 900 gp as the bank took 10% for the exchange. Her account would also be charged 1 copper piece per gem per month as long as she kept her gems there. Szoo also opened an account and deposited 10 sapphires and 16 emeralds. He also cashed 25 obsidian pieces and 25 pieces of tiger’s eye for 450 gp. Both left the bank at the same time but split up, Szoo was headed home but was going to take a different route than usual and Fauna wanted to go to the harbor for some reason.

A while after, Szoosha was pushing through a throng of people in the North Quarter determined to cut through guildsman’s Square (for some reason) when he spotted a pair of blue-cloaked men each armed with a high quality cutlass.

Isis: “Aw jeeeesh! Two!?”

Szoo took off in an attempt to flee and evade his pursuers. However, they eventually caught up to him a few blocks south of the square. Therefore, Szoo decided to turn and fight. As the pair approached, the naga could see that they were twins. They appeared skilled in arms and may have had magical talents though these were probably minor in compared to his own. Steeling himself, the naga elementalist cast Elemental Half-Plate Armor (fire) on himself. As red flames swirled around his black-scaled body and hardened into plate, the blue-cloaked twins lost their reserve, turned, and ran.

City Guard [from behind Szoo]: “Hey YOU!”

                The guardsman warned Szoo about casting magic without a special license and the guard, along with two other partners (who were pointing halberds), recorded the naga’s name and address with a stylus on a wax tablet. After that, Szoo was free to go, hopefully the Sapphire Star Guild, who had authority in such matters, would ignore the write up.

                Elsewhere, Fauna had just finished strolling near the cliff at the far north of the North Quarter and enjoying the sea air and the sound of seagulls despite the gray sky. She was walking back southwest on her way home. Suddenly, a large muscular warrior with a horned helmet charged her his light blue robes flying backward held only in place by his thick black belt. Above his head raised with both hands was a tulwar aimed for her head.

                His weapon smashed into her Mage Armor instead of splitting her skull in two which if she had not been wearing her gold-threaded robes of Mage Armor she absolutely would have been killed in a single stroke. She threw a Lightning Bolt his way hitting him but to little effect. He drew back and swung his massive weapon again but missing badly he lost his grip and the big sword went flying clattering onto the cobblestones of the street. She struck at him with her dagger, which he easily parried with his bronze bracer. The guards began shouting and Fauna turned to see six guards running towards her wading through the crowd, when she turned back the barbarian was gone.

                Fauna spent some time getting smart with the guards whom recorded her name. They let her go when she claimed that the barbarian was simply trying to mug her especially after she slipped them a gold piece each.

Fauna (pointing at the tulwar cradled in a young guard’s arms): “Oh yeah, that’s mine too, hand it over.”

Jenn [to the GM]: “Hey what was I doing here anyway?”

The GM [me]: “What!? *sputter* Why’re you askin’ ME!?”

After packing up his haul, Excor made his way back towards Fauna’s house. However, he had not gotten far when he noticed that someone in a blue cloak was following him. As a result, Excor dodged into a nearby alley and cast Invisible to Sight on himself. He waited as the blue cloak followed stealthily. As the man walked past quiet as a cat, by the looks of him a professional thief. Excor spotted a silver neck manacle on him a silver medallion dangled as his throat with black enameled dragon-scratch runes on it. It was not long before the blue-cloaked thief realized that he had lost his prey and fled the area.

Cris: “Damn! Poor guy’s a slave!”

Isis: “What?”

Cris: “That thing on his neck, it has dragon writing and I sensed magic on it. He’s a slave to a dragon!”

As usual, Fauna was the last to get home. She entered while Excor and Szoo were already huddled in conference.

Fauna [throwing the tulwar onto the edge of the hearth]: “Guys! I think we have a problem!”

                The other two stared at the superior quality tulwar with a blue crystal pommel stone and a dragon-scratch marking enameled onto the blade.

To Be Continued…

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.

The Cabal of Eight II: Introduction

A cabal enemy the Checkered Knights
Symbol of the Checkered Knights

This campaign is the continuation of The Cabal of Eight. So, for those who did not read the first half, it takes place in the city of Ezmer at the tip of the Ezmerian headland extending into the Silverset Sea. This sphere is collectively named Ezmeria. All characters are mages and involved in a secret cabal with the mission of enriching members and gaining influence.

The Player Characters are Fauna a Druid played by Jenn, Szoosha a Black-Scale Naga fire elementalist and high-strung paranoiac played by Isis, and Excor a Mage played by Cris. Fauna is a young Southlander woman, dark-skinned, red-haired with violet eyes, and a demonstrable tendency towards hotheadedness. Excor is a young Ivoran mage but still dresses and tries to speak as a Westlander. Although he has a tendency to being a schemer and gambler, he has found the rat fights are magnetic more so than any gaming table. Above all, his secret of being of noble blood remains unknown to Fauna and Szoo.

Nearly a full month and a week and a half have passed since our fine adventurers had last had an adventure. The story thus far is Captain Nelig, the captain of the gate guard has finished his lessons in training Fauna horsemanship, Virtra Wefa and her man-servant have since drank poison in lieu of execution, and Xanto the Wasp and his pupil, Ilna of Nezorik aka Bumble, have made themselves scarce as a result of their shady actions.

In addition, Belrae the cabal “leader” and Riahm, his right hand, have become somewhat secretive with the other cabal members and have seemingly struck up some sort of business relationship with Draega Skullshine, the publican of the Red Helm Tavern and all around shady person. The Bronze Heads as well have been keeping an obvious eye on our heroes whenever they wander the Eastern District and Old Town. The gang has been deliberately obvious but has otherwise left the adventuring mages alone.

On a positive note, Jirek the secretary of the cabal maintains his friendship with our heroes and Paej, Szoo’s primary contact in the city, has managed to purchase her own ship. Apparently, she used her life savings being a successful and avid gambler as well as saloon bum. The ship is named the Angry Sea-Lion and is an 8-oar Feren Merchant with a triple rig of a Thrahssk’ Tradesman (Arvan pg.103) and an artemon foresail with a small rear cabin.

Helpful map for a wagon trip
Ezmeria

Rat fight season, winter, is 3 months away though the weekly exhibitions continue under the wall with Excor and Szoo occasionally entering a “good candidate” from their stable and watching and betting more often. So far, no real progress on the rat-fighting front. Both PCs are however looking forward to full on fighting season.

Gornix the salt lotus wizard (played by Gil) was understandably AWOL since the Black Knight (aka the White Swan, Sir Illin) was still seeking his blood. None of the cabal members has seen much less heard from him in about a month. Although Excor has seen a courier, a foreigner of Ivoran extraction, with the same salt lotus imagery on his cloak asking about town for his missing friend.

However, rumors have it that the Black Swan, the white knight (Sir Illjin), and the brotherhood of knights that they lead, the Checkered Knights, had gotten into a scrap after setting up a sting on an assassin named Ssthriss when he made an attempt to kill the head of the Gold Sashes (political party). They pursued him into the area around the Rum Palace where he evaded them. The Black Knight decided to stay and keep the heat on the assassin as well as Gornix. The white knight and his men have left Ezmer sailing north after receiving word that a Creschan ship has sailed carrying a secret weapon back called Creschan Fire back to friendly territory.

With naga bar marked
Straight from the GM notebook; Map of the City of Ezmer

Fauna, Excor, and Szoosha found themselves stumbling home from an ale-soaked dinner at the Red Helm down a narrow alley headed home. Hence, they were about half the distance home when Fauna and Excor noticed a beggar in a grey cloak following them. He ducked into a side alley as soon as they turned around. Immediately Szoo whipped around and charged in the man’s direction…

Ratlings of Tanglethorn Pt.16: Judgement Night

Visual of the final confrontation with the roaches

It had been a week since the last street fight with the Roaches. Afheesh had just finished guard duty, already changed out of his colors, and bopping his way to the Dancing Rat. Surprisingly, it had been an interesting day. Near the end of the shift, he had ended up in the Bronze Tankard with his squad. Not much earlier, the ratling had single-handedly helped to avoid a confrontation between his squad and a group of Moth gang members. At the Bronze Tankard Afheesh paid for the entire squad’s drinks and on top of that, he had sprung for “the good stuff”.

Random Guard (the same one that started the trouble with the Moths earlier): “Haw, Haw! Didn’t know that ratlings were so RICH! Maybe next time we make your cut a little SMALLER! Haw, haw!

Afheesh (pulling one of his weapons): “Oh yeah! I’ll make YOURS a little smaller!”

Afheesh proceeded to try to mash the butt-spike of his troll-make weapon into the eye of the offender. The guard parried with his short-sword and their weapons locked.

Sergeant: “Knock it OFF! The ratling has purchased us some fine drinks!” He saluted Afheesh with his overflowing cup.

Afheesh holstered his dagger slapping over the offending guard’s full cup spilling it.

Afheesh (to the bartender and pointing at the rude guard): “I’m not paying for HIS!”

Afheesh strutted through the saloon doors of the Dancing Rat. Inside he spotted Wufcor (played by Isis) already bellied up to a table along with Needles (played by Natalie) and Sikeek (played by Jenn). Sikeek was in the middle of an all-day bender; she was flush with cash from gambling most of the day.

Wufcor motioned his fearless leader over. The canny-jack had been scoping out the alley where the Roaches had “handed them their  @$$es”. He had also been roaming through the series of alleys and streets for the past week that the Roaches had led them through that night. That path was the Roaches primary trafficking route for stolen goods and what-have-you. Because of his extra effort, Wufcor was eager to get to bloodletting. Afheesh cheerfully agreed.

Wufcor (angrily gulping down his jack): “Let’s go find us some Roaches!”

Sikeek: “Yeah! I have some bones to pick with them too!”

Later after dark, the ratling gang found themselves hiding in the alley across from the East Stacks and the Red Rose Well. They observed six Roaches (3 thugs and 3 gangsters) walk out of a side alley to loiter on the corner. Wufcor strained to listen in on their conversation. However, unable to control himself Afheesh immediately began to make a beeline, though prowling, directly to them. A second later Wufcor jaunted up to his side just before contact.

Wufcor: “Uhm. They’re on the lookout for three ratlings.”

Afheesh (yanking his troll-make weapons): “Well ain’t it their lucky day!”

Both ratling killers, undetected so far, leapt from the shadows each dropping a gangster before the Roaches knew what hit them.

One of the three Roach thugs frantically shouted a signal call and ran away towards the Stacks. Afheesh turned on the nearest gangster but the target easily parried his savage thrusts. Wufcor stabbed the same gangster in the back wounding him horribly. The blow forced the gangster to recuperate from the blow or drop immediately. Sikeek prowled around behind the remaining two thugs and got in a sneak attack against one wounding him bad. Sikeek easily avoided their clumsy retorts.

Afheesh fumbled one his weapons but stuck the other hilt-deep into the last gangster killing him instantly. Wufcor turned his attention towards the unhurt of the last two thugs and slashed him badly. The last two thugs turned and ran and the ratlings were ready to run them down but then heard the boots of reinforcements running in from all sides.

Dozens of Roach gangsters and thugs charged in from every alleyway flooding the plaza and crowding the area at the corner of the building that the ratlings had killed three of their brothers. Wufcor engaged a gangster who was able to keep up with the ratling’s speed and Sikeek got in a good blow on another but left only a scratch. A gangster covered in tattoos charged Afheesh. His dirk was easily parried. Another thug slashed at Sikeek striking only air. Yet another thug hurled himself recklessly at Wufcor and missed by a mile. Afheesh easily dropped the tattooed gang member.

Another thug attacked but missed Afheesh; Sikeek attacked another thug but got clinched. Another gangster struck at Afheesh with his dirk easily auto-dodging the ratling’s counter-attack. Afheesh then turned and killed another thug. Wufcor attacked the thug clinching Sikeek’s weapon wounding him badly, the bloodied street thug was determinedly keeping Sikeek’s weapon tied up no matter the cost. Afheesh dropped another Roach. There were now too many gang members to easily tell them apart. It was a mess of blood, struggling bodies, and death shrieks.

Even in this violent, tangled mass of humanity and ratling, our heroes could hear yet another wave of gang members running in all the while shouting, “it’s them! The ratlings! Get ‘em!” In response, Wufcor screamed, “Give me Phenor or there’ll be MORE bodies!” Immediately he dropped another thug with a single blow.

The ratlings found that in the current wave of Roaches their numbers were bolstered by knife-fighters using paired daggers. The numbers of thugs surrounding them precluded strategically focusing on any one target but instead flailing at the nearest foe. The storm of thirsty blades rained on the ratlings opening dozens of little cuts. Stomps, kicks, punches, everything from the gangsters was slowly bleeding and beating them down. Bouncing around between gangsters the ratlings transformed into bleeding bruised danger-balls with their flying blades finding random targets including eyes and testicles. However, the ratlings despite their wounds and suffering a few severe wounds from the knife-fighters continued hoping that victory was just a few more corpses away.

Suddenly, several quarrels thudded into the ground and walls near each ratling. Some of these appeared tipped with an oily poison.

Sikeek: “Aww crap! They have CROSSBOWS!”

Each ratling was close to losing consciousness from their wounds thus each decided to run for their lives. As they fled, they barely avoided the opportunistic knives of nearby foes. Once again, Afheesh found himself dropping barely conscious to the floorboards of the White Star healer’s guild. He looked over and found Needles standing over him soaking wet.

Needles (almost proud of himself): “I was hiding in a storm barrel.”

Natalie: “Seriously, no way I was gonna survive that.”

The next evening, Afheesh and his crew had gathered in the backroom of a shop backed by the Obsidian Brotherhood Mage Guild. Out front below the signboard hung another sign escutcheon shaped and painted brown with a black border and a golden eye at the center. The seal of the brotherhood. They were meeting with the owner, a mage by the name of Cankilnor. The fragile old man was dark of skin and in the drab plain brown robes common to his order. The ratlings were taking their turns making their marks on a scroll that the wizard had presented them at their leader’s behest.

Earlier, Afheesh had shirked guard duty and found a mage after he had had an idea. It turned out that he could get the old mage to cast a spell that could grant him a vision of his lost weapon and use it to track whoever had it, presumably the Roaches if not their Mantck leader. However, it would cost him 2,800 gold pieces or 56,000 bronze thorns. Nevertheless, the wizard had offered him an exchange. It was that he and his crew were to steal a tome bound in black dragon’s hide from one Malrig. This mage currently resided in a tower at the northwest corner of the Tin Well block. He and his crew would have to sign a pact of sorts, a Geas Quest. The rest of the crew could split a 5,000 bt reward amongst themselves after the job was done. Of course, the 5,000 was coming straight from Afheesh’s pocket.

Afheesh did understand what a Geas was generally, his crew did not and all signed. It was not long after that they were all on their way to Malrig’s tower. They were in view of the four story square tower its plastered exterior painted in yellow and black bands with red and spirals. However, just as they had gathered in its shadow and were contemplating a plan of attack…

Scarred Mantck Bounty Hunter (drawing his paired rune inscribed scimitars): “Well it was easy to find all of ya, probably be just as easy to kill all ya too!”

Behind the bounty hunter were a dozen charging Roach gangsters. Out of nowhere, Needles screeching a war cry leapt out and did a flying punch against the lead thug. He bounced off dealing no damage.

Cris the GM (to Natalie): “What!? Where’s all your ninja gear!? You have some bad @ss ninja stars that I gave you too!”

Natalie: “Oh all that’s back in my nest, I don’t want any of these people to know that I’m a ninja they’re evil.”

Isis (commenting on Needles total lack of a weapon): “Oh yeah I took my dagger back so I could sell it! Hah HAH!”

Needles was in reality a Moon Rat, the Arvanian version of a ninja along with specialized equipment and armor. Natalie had decided when roleplaying her character that Needles would strive to keep all of that secret from everybody.

Afheesh charged the Mantck with a pair of powerful strikes. Both attacks simply swept aside. As a result of the charge, the Mantck struck back at Afheesh and the ratling barely auto-dodged both blades. Sikeek struck at a nearby gangster who parried her blow. Needles bouncing around easily dodging the strikes aimed his way but got nailed by a natural 20. The blow forced Needles back to recover. Another gangster buried his dirk to the hilt in Afheesh getting in a lucky gut-shot wounding the ratling badly. A wave of knife blows fell all around the ratlings fortunately missing them all.

Afheesh dropped a nearby gangster. The Mantck struck again at Afheesh but the Quickling easily dodged (Natural 20). Wufcor turned on the Mantck and jabbed him good but leaving only a scratch. Sikeek dropped a gangster. Another storm of blades fell on the ratlings from the large group of Roaches. Needles was nearly killed but was able to endure long enough to run away (he rolled a natural 20 recovery). Afheesh dropped another gangster. The Mantck scored a double hit on Afheesh wounding him horribly. The rune covered scimitars glowed evilly and the Quickling realized he was no longer as quick as he had once been. The Mantck swung at Wufcor missing both times and then backed out of the pile up and drank a healing potion healing him completely.

The Mantck bounty hunter charged back smashing his magic weapons in a double-weapon power attack at the ratling leader catching Afheesh completely off guard (Natural 1 auto-dodge). The paired blades sheared through the little ratling’s scant flesh and fragile bones. Before either of the two halves of his corpse hit the ground and as his fading vision beheld his companions in full retreat, his last thought was, “Heh, Geas Quest, at least those wimps will soon be joining me in HELL!”

The End

Campaign Played between September 2017 and February 2018

Rats of Tanglethorn Pt.15: Gangsters in Paradise

colors of roach gangsters

Early evening over the city of Tanglethorn, the dimming sky was aflame with yellow, red, pink, and smoky orange. Already a deep bluish gloom shrouded the narrow alleys completely and the already long shadows of buildings flowed like widening black rivers on either side of the wide paved boulevards. Along these murky paths, the group moved through the streets like the murderous thieves in the night that they were in pursuit of gangsters. The group of shadows led by Afheesh (played by me), was followed by a zigzagging Wufcor (played by Isis), the pad foot Sikeek (played by Jenn) taking up the rear.

Afheesh had thought that the scrawny Needles (played by Natalie) had not been able to keep up but was proven wrong when the group came to a stop under cover and where they had a superior vantage, behind some rain barrels. Needles had just appeared from seemingly nowhere when Afheesh turned to survey his troops.

The ratlings had been tracking a small group of low-level Roaches (a little history and a little more). The street thugs led them to an old tree growing near the thorn wall to the far east  of the city but still adjacent to the East Stacks. However, there the small gang of five thugs had joined a contingent of 10 full-fledged gangsters hanging around the tree where a human, presumably Phenor the Knife, leader of the Roaches conversed with a Mantck with a cutlass at each hip. Undoubtedly, that was Ikeek the Roach lieutenant.

Afheesh: “I guess they’re planning something. Let’s hang abouts and wait until they get on the move.”

Sikeek: “Then what?”

Afheesh: “Then we follow ‘em wait until it’s time to strike and go after the leaders and kill ‘em.”

Wufcor: “Yeah! Let’s kill ‘em all!”

Sikeek: ‘What are you CRAZY? There’s too many, they’ll kill us all!”

Needles: ‘Yeah. Especially me.”

Afheesh (turning to Sikeek initially): “Shut up you. By the way, that’s what the RIGHT TIME means! Now shut up and follow.”

Soon half of the gangsters broke off towards the west end with the Cutlass leading. Thus, the ratlings decided to follow them. Meanwhile, Afheesh kept an eye on Needles as they traveled in silence and recognized the wimp’s superior stealth, even when compared to his own. He became suspicious of the slight ratling.

The Roaches stopped in the plaza of the Pink Rose well to the north of the Pit. Subsequently, they walked to a tree across the street from where the group of ratling adventurers hid in an alley. Three merchants emerged from a nearby doorway and rushed south. Their multicolored silk robes ruffled and their cheap bronze jewelry clinked. Consequently, the gangsters and the ratlings followed them all the way to Mezcor’s Tower where the Roaches relaxed and waited.

Not even the Roaches were going to interfere in the paying of Mezcor’s tribute. The gates slowly creaked open by themselves as the last purple-red flames of dusk faded into night. So the lead merchant tossed a bag of coins onto the white flagstones of the forbidden courtyard and exhaled a sigh of relief. That was when he noticed the gangsters and he and his two cohorts began to move at a more rapid pace south pushing past and through other merchants that were converging on Mezcor’s black tower.

The gangsters kept up and the ratlings kept pace with them. During the moderately paced chase, it seemed to Afheesh and Wufcor that the gangsters knew that they were being followed. However, suddenly both ratlings and Sikeek spotted another group of five thugs with the Roaches leader waiting in an alley just ahead of the merchants. In an instant, the merchants were surrounded and pleading for a cheap exit.

Afheesh: “That’s it! Let’s get ‘em!”

Wufcor: “Alright!”

Sikeek: *exasperated sigh*

Needles (drowsily): “Well. Okay.”

A thug charges Afheesh missing by a mile with his dagger. Ignoring this lesser enemy, Afheesh in turn charged the Mantck leader but both of his weapons were easily parried. Wufcor stabbed a thug with his new dirk drawing some blood. Seeing that, Sikeek flanked the same opponent and nailed him with her dagger severely wounding him. Several of the thugs tried to overwhelm Sikeek and Wufcor with a rain of slashing blades but the ratlings avoided their clumsy strikes. Meanwhile, Afheesh and the Mantck fell into a lightning round of simultaneous attacks and counters leaving the Mantck barely scratched by a powerful blow and Afheesh suffering multiple, deep wounds.

The Mantck attacked again, Afheesh tried to anticipate but failing that tried to intervene with a final simultaneous attack but although wounding the Mantck badly he was also barely standing having failed to intercept the paired blows. Consequently, Wufcor rushed in and buried his blade in the Mantck’s back wounding him horribly. A mass of thugs surrounded and attacked the trio of adventurers from all sides while the Mantck was able to withdraw and drink a healing potion. Additionally, the ratlings could see Phenor, the Roach leader, whistle and be joined by five more full-fledged gangsters.

The trio of raltings was overwhelmed as Phenor and his gangsters attacked. In short, from the very first blow, the ratlings were obviously outnumbered. A series of parrying multiple blows and barely defending against the higher level and better-equipped gangsters ensued. However, Phenor attacked and nearly killed Sikeek with a single blow. She dropped to the ground and Afheesh moved in and slashed the gang leader. So, Wufcor ran away. At the edge of utter and thorough defeat, Afheesh roared and redoubled his attacks.

The Quickling managed to avoid the flurry of blows made at him lucking out when a few thugs had to retreat after fumbling their weapons. Vastly outnumbered he fought head-to-head with their leader, wounding him but nearly killed by a glancing blow. Then, suddenly, Phenor caught hold of one of his hook guard daggers with his knife and disarmed the ratling. Fortunately, Afheesh had been fighting with his old weapons and not the new troll-make daggers. It was obvious that the ratling in his current state and under these circumstances was no match for Phenor especially as he was without a single ally and outnumbered.

Because of his utter desperation, the ratling gritted his yellow teeth and dashed for freedom avoiding knife-blow after knife-blow leaving the brief battle behind. As a result of this flight, Phenor strutted after roaring in triumph through his broken teeth, every muscle in his slender frame flexed to bursting. Later, Afheesh flopped onto the floor of the nearest White Star guild. There he also met up with Wufcor. Here also was Needles.

Afheesh (to Needles): “Where the HELL were you!?”

Needles (shrugging): “Hiding. I ran away when I saw Wufcor running.”

Afheesh: “You spent the whole battle HIDING.”

Needles: “It’s what I’m good at.”

Isis (thumbing towards Natalie): “Yup, she’s really good at it; I’ve seen her character sheet.”

Immediately after his restoration, Afheesh dashed back to the scene to retrieve Sikeek who was barely alive. He also noted that his hook-guard dagger was gone, taken probably by a gang member after the fight. Back at the guild house, Wufcor paid for Sikeek’s healing. It later turned out that Wufcor had pickpocketed Sikeek on the way to the fight and used that money for his own and Sikeek’s healing costs.

Jennifer: “Aww man! They looted my body!”

Isis: *shrug*

Sikeek (to Wufcor): “Hey! Do you have any money I could borrow to buy new stuff?”

Afterwards, thoroughly beaten down, the four split up and limped off to their respective rented rooms. Needles slipped off to a hollow in the Thorn Ring amongst its thorns, a traditional thorn-runner nest. As a precaution, Afheesh switched establishments that night from the Long Rest Inn to the Yellow Lotus Inn.

The Quickling struggled for sleep although he was more than exhausted. He could not stop yearning for vengeance not just against the Roaches but Ikeek the double-cutlass and Phenor the knife. He would not stop until they were dead. His last try at sleep was ultimately successful. After all, he had guard duty in the morning.

To Be Continued…