The 2nd of Low Harvest – It was high noon at the White Prong and Excor and Fauna were sitting around a table enjoying a lunch of honey-drenched vittles, greasy squab with roasted onions, and plenty of cool, foaming ale. Both were solemnly awaiting the imminent wizard duel. They were halfway through their meal when Xanto the Wasp burst in through the door setting the spring-bell into a cacophonous fit of ear-battering ringing.
Xanto the Wasp (gliding over to Excor): “My friend! Oh, my friend! I have heard the dreadful news of your impending duel!”
He emphatically drew up his striped cape as a flourish.
Excor: “Here it comes.”
Xanto: “Oh! My dear friend! I will be your second, trust me! I have had plenty of experience in duels both as second and as duelist! And a fine duelist I am.”
Fauna: “How many duels have you been in!?”
Xanto: “A duel? A few in my time.”
He whipped his cape from his shoulder, “I have yet to lose an honest duel!”
Excor: “So where’s your apprentice Bumble?”
Fauna: “Oh yeah I was lookin’ for her.”
Xanto (waving away the question): “She’s off with her family somewhere, I don’t know family duties or whatnot. Anyway, I will be proud to back you as cabal leader and will stand by your side in the guild house! They cannot prevent me this …”
His words sort of fade into a mumbling mess.
Cris (Excor’s player): “I sense motive. … Nat-Twenty!”
Excor got the sense that Xanto was just using him to gain access to the Star Sapphire Confraternity’s guild house for whatever reason. Additionally, he probably also knows exactly where his apprentice is, he just isn’t saying.
Cris: “Screw it! I accept him as my second, might as well have this guy in my corner.”
Jenn (Fauna’s player): “Yeah you don’t want the Wasp in the other guy’s corner!”
Xanto (throwing his arm in the air to signal a waitress): “Ah, my friend it pays to have Xanto in your corner.”
Excor (his finger in the Wasp’s face): “No cheating.” With that, he drained his jack of the last swallow of ale.
The odd trio sits and drinks on the Wasp’s tab (mostly grog) until evening. They conducted various conversations and fragments of just killing time until the common room of the Prong was noticeably darker, and the golden sky of approaching dusk shone through the windows, the great purple moon and its rings dominating the sky. The Wasp proposed a final cheer before the three got up from their table, quiet and sullen (save the Wasp). They started on their way through the dusky streets to the Star Sapphire Confraternity’s Guild House.
Later, in the Star Sapphire Confraternity Guild House basement – The entirety of the cabal was there in the large dark dirt-floored chamber. They were somewhere underneath the main guild house in one of its many cellars. The air was heavy with must and the candles and lanterns that lit it caused the moist air to become heavy and sweltering. Around the perimeter awkwardly stood Szoosha, Fauna, and Excor who occasionally tried to say something inspirational but failed each time. Across from them in a far corner were Bumble and Rhiam huddled around Belrae next to who stood a middle-aged guild wizard none of the others had yet seen. At the center of the chamber carefully scribing a circle in the dirt were three mages in silken blue robes overseen by the old wizard that had taken the unicorn wand from Excor. Jirek was there sweating bullets alone in another corner.
Cris: “Yup. There it is. Bumble’s in Belrae’s corner. … Hey wait a minute! Where’s the Wasp!?”
After the circle was complete the old wizard stepped into the center of the circle, “I am the honorable Xendo Zhaivo! I am a high-ranking member of the confraternity in high-standing and will serve as the official arbiter to this duel! If there are no objections or protestations from any present we will continue, and the dueling process shall commence! … No one? Good. Attention seconds! It is time to set the terms of this duel! We must confer with the participants’ seconds! To the circle, now!”
Xanto (appearing from nowhere eagerly stomped off from behind the trio towards the circle): “Ha! Time for me to shine!”
Minutes passed as the three mages and the seconds announced and negotiated terms running them back and forth. Finally, terms for the duel were reached, recorded, and signed. Excor had tried to include that the winner would take control of the cabal. However, he learned that the winner of a duel over the leadership was automatically the leader of the Cabal of Eight. It was already written in the charter.
Cris: “Aw man! I should’ve got a copy of that damn charter!”
The GM (me): “Or read it.”
The terms were these: no magic items, no physical binding of your opponent (Belrae’s stipulation which caused some contention), no weapons only spell magic, no total immobilization (Excor added in response to Belrae’s previous stipulation), and the duelists would enter the arena with 3 active spells to be prepared directly before the fight (as was traditional).
After this stage in the duel ritual, Xendo advised all witnesses to stand away from the circle. Then he and Xanto, as well as the three other mages in guild garb, began chanting casting a chain spell (led by Xendo) on the small circle of open ground within the scribed dirt circle. A crackling, mostly transparent dome of pure magical energy faded into existence and enclosed the area within the circle. Those who could see directly into the area of effect found that the ground contained within seemed to be a much larger area than what could possibly be contained within the circle’s circumference. The magic caused a strange lensing effect while looking through the field. Most observers had to turn away as the effect hurt their eyes. The actual diameter of the duel area was about 10 ft, within it was 50 ft.
Meanwhile, Excor cast the Mage Armor, Breath Without Air, and Shield spells on himself. Unbeknownst to team Excor, Belrae cast Death Armor, False Image II, and Invisibility II on himself. As soon as the dueling arena, as it was referred to, was up and functioning, both duelists were asked to enter from opposite but facing sides. With no further ceremony, the duel commenced.
Belrae got the jump on Excor and began casting flamboyantly but the spell fizzled. Excor cast Slow on his opponent however the spell did not take effect for whatever reason. He watched carefully as Belrae tried to cast the same spell but again failed. Excor then took the time to size up his opponent and tried to guess what the spell was that he was trying to cast. A quick Spellcraft check revealed that Belrae was trying to get a Bolt of Stunning off. Belrae then cast Daggerfall instead on Excor destroying his shield. Excor hit Belrae with a cone of fire (Cone of Energy: Fire) visibly scorching his purple robes.
Excor moved away and cast See the Invisible. He rolled a Natural 1 on a general detection check of his surroundings which cost him a move equivalent action. Belrae immediately cast a fireball (Energy Ball: Fire) catching Excor in the blast reducing his mage armor by half. Excor shot a Lightning Bolt at Belrae but it fell short. Belrae appeared to flinch as if hit anyway. Visible scorch marks appeared on his robes. Then Belrae began a spell which quickly got out of his control and went wild. He twitched when a poisonous green bolt of energy blasted from his hands and struck Excor’s mage armor, destroying it. Excor charged forward and let loose a Force Ram spell, Belrae amazingly dodged with a natural 20.
The opponents circled each other like dogs in a fighting pit, each looking for an opening that would end this contest. Belrae seeing his chance, tried to cast a spell, but it fizzled out. Excor let loose a Bolt of Stunning striking Belrae but to no effect.
Excor: “What!? Hmm. Dammit!”
Belrae went to cast another spell and again it went wild in his clumsy hands. The skulls of both opponents flashed with a blast of purplish-white energy causing each of them to shudder with pain. Both had suffered temporary wisdom (WIS) damage from the wild magic. Fortunately, not enough to render either completely insane. Excor shot Belrae again with another Bolt of Stunning. Again, it was to no effect.
Belrae began approaching and carefully sidestepping, motioning as if casting a spell. Excor fell for the ruse and prepared to take a hit, but nothing came. Excor then unleashed a Paralyze II spell trying to cripple one of his foe’s arms thereby preventing his spellcasting. However, nothing happened again.
Isis: “Aw man!”
Jenn: “Oh no!”
Cris: “Sh*t. What the hell? … I’m missing something.”
Suddenly, Excor was smashed from behind by a Force Ram spell strong enough to put him out of action. The dome of energy faded away and all wounds suffered during the match likewise disappeared. Excor got up dusting himself off. Xanto was already congratulating Belrae on his “flawless” victory.
Cris: “Shit! Good one.” (Directed at me) “Damn!”
Then he realized something and groaned loudly before face-palming.
Isis: “What? What’s going on?”
Cris: “The spells he used to get me in the duel. False Image II, Invisibility, and Force Ram?”
Me (the GM): “Hey, you guessed it!”
Cris: “He got those from my and Gornix’s grimoires! When we traded spells way back when! He learned that from us!” (I don’t think the actual moment is recorded dear reader, but they traded spells at the end of almost every cabal meeting while Gil (Gornix’s player) was still playing, so I probably truncated the actual occurrence in the blog).
With the match over and leadership of the cabal settled Excor limped back to his room in Fauna’s new rental and went to sleep. The others, however, had their own plans, and as all were shuffling from the guild house Szoo and Fauna decided to invite Bumble along for a drink at the Red Helm. They had intended to ply her for information over drinks. They were convinced the Wasp was planning something. However, Bumble collapsed after the first tip of the mug. Fauna had dosed her ale with yellow lotus.
Szoo: “Ugh! Why did you do that!”
Fauna: “I dunno, we were trying to get her f*&%ed up right?”
Szoo: “Not that messed up!”
Fauna then left Szoo there to take care of the Wasp’s apprentice. She went to see the grove tender in Central Park, Anishi, and after a brief discussion, while Anishi was busy leading a chant around the central tree with his pupils, she found he was a member of the Southern Order of Druids. After that brief and mostly fruitless adventure, the druidess shuffled back to the new rental and did some yellow lotus.
The following day, the 3rd of Low Harvest, the three adventurers plus Jirek and Bumble found themselves around the old round table in the club room. Belrae lorded over all of them and most of the time it was him making speeches and plans that would eventually require the assistance of the rest. They all pretty much just tuned him out. All save for Excor as Belrae couldn’t help but send a verbal jab his way every now and then. Szoo, as usual, was gazing out of the window most of the time but looked over at Belrae just after he had finished his last vainglorious speech and loudly uttered, “Ugh!” Before the meeting was dismissed it was declared that Xanto the Wasp would be donating his “consultation services’ to the cabal. Belrae prevented Excor from talking when he piped up with his objections.
Over the following eight days, Excor brewed mead and Fauna brewed several potions. She had gone to the bank to make a withdrawal realizing that the banker, Xander (see Cabal of Eight II pt.3: Blue Cloaks & Bankers), was a member of the cult she was leading. The next meeting was dominated by the superstar team of Belrae and the Wasp who ultimately decided, with the input of Fauna, to begin planning an expedition to find the Golden Bee. Apparently, the Wasp had “come upon some valuable information concerning” it.
12th of Low Harvest – Szoo had just put the finishing touches on his brand-new staff and had exited the “bone sculptor’s” hole in the wall into the narrow maze of narrow back alleys that hid him. The naga was strutting his way to the nearest main street with his new staff in hand. It was made of dragonbone with a starmetal inlay that wound up along the length of it to a single large moonstone embedded at its head. It was a staff of elemental blast (fire) and could deal +1D6 fire damage on a strike. Suddenly, Szoosha’s shield spell was triggered by a blast of concentrated water. He spun around and prepared for battle.
Before him stood a slight, fair-skinned human, a Fuglotian mage, wearing soft leather armor with a grey serpent sown on the breast, and a wolf skin mantle on his shoulders. It was the water elementalist who had accompanied the Grey Serpent Pirates (The Cabal of Eight II Pt.15: Something on the Table).
The Grey Serpent Mage (pointing accusingly at Szoo): “You’re too close to the sea fire tosser!”
Szoosha could feel his hatred. It was instinctive between the two of them. They were each harnessing opposing elements by instinct. So, it only followed logically that casters of opposing forces would instinctively hate each other. Apparently, the water elementalist had taken his lack of facing down Szoosha in battle as a personal insult.
Szoo (hissing angrily): “Alright! Let’s do this!”
To be Concluded…