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The Cabal of Eight II Pt.8: Of Black Eagles & Dragons

Black Eagle Tattoo
The Black Eagle Emblem

The morning of the 19th of Monsoon – our heroes were relaxing inside the main room of the rented house. Fauna (played by Jenn) pulled out her map (The Cabal of Eight II Pt.2: A letter and a Map) while Szoo (played by Isis) ate one of the druid’s smaller itinerant chickens. The naga mostly swallowed it whole with minimal crunching. Excor (played by Cris) was next to the druid hovering over her map. They were trying to decipher it as well as coming up with ideas as to how to pursue their goal. Their goal was obtaining a gold bee queen as well as the mystical honey they can produce with the golden lotus their ultimate goal (see The Cabal of Eight Pt.44: Betrayed at Last!).

They discussed where on the map would be their destination, probably somewhere near the golden bee panted on the map. They assumed it just was not a decorative touch. The map, for the most part, appeared to be accurate and somewhat up to date at least judging by the heraldic marks present on it.

Cris: “Whew. That’s a long distance. And it’s probably mostly desert and scrubland except for these forests here.”

As a group, they contemplated the major undertaking that an expedition would be. They were not sure that they could depend on Bumble’s wealth this time around and they were uncertain about the web of loyalties within the cabal at the moment. Fauna was not willing to try to convince her fellow cultists to fund the adventure either. With some shoulder shrugging and mumbling, they ultimately decided to focus on what was directly ahead of them; namely the blue dragon behind the scenes and the mushroom creatures below them.

Fauna: “Wait. Where’s the blood magus?”

After a brief investigation, they found a note written on the back of the bedroom door. Of course, it was written in blood. The note said that Umwin had left in pursuit of the little girl that he had in his words “adopted”. In fact, the last time that anyone had seen him was when he asked Excor about sewer access outside of the house. Excor had directed him to the Eastern District and the plaza at the end of the old wall (The Cabal of Eight Pt.10: Tunnel Rats). In other words, Natalie (Umwin’s player) bowed out of the game.

Fauna: “Good. He was gross!”

Excor spent the next one and a half hours copying the Amber Husk spell into his spellbook. He handled the brittle scroll as delicately as he could. The parchment was very old and only kid-gloves would do. He had found it in an ancient rotting scroll case found deep within the Lotus Vaults (The Cabal of Eight Pt.42: The Lotus Vaults Pt.2).

Szoo and Fauna wanted to go find the blue dragon on their own but thought better of it when they realized they had few leads. Several skilled slaves dressed in blue had attacked them and they had caught a beggar of the beggar’s guild trailing them presumably in the employ of the said dragon. After giving up on that idea, Fauna brewed some healing potions for Szoo.

Later, after finishing copying the spell into his book Excor left for the Bardic College with Szoo in tow. He was going there to “hook up with Jirek”. Soon after finding Jirek in the library office, the young scribe offered to treat them to lunch at the White Prong.

Excor (to Szoo): “White Prong. Why does that sound familiar? Have we been there before?”

 The players suddenly remembered the other words of the stealthy beggar named Thorn, words that they had previously completely ignored. They did not even seem to make a note of it so I excluded those very words from that blog entry (The Cabal of Eight II Pt.1: The Checkered Eye). They recalled that he had mentioned that his coin i.e. services were for sale each dawn at a place called the White Prong and to look out for a dark-skinned woman, a sea-farer, the other bidder and presumably current employer of said beggar.

As the three rode in a rickshaw, Excor struck up a conversation with Jirek.

Excor: “So, uh, what’s been going on man?”

Jirek: “Well, I rented my warehouse, it’s full up. Some sea traders er… probably pirates. It helps to pay the seasonal taxes on the place tho. Making a pretty penny also, those guys are loaded but kinda serious y’know. Real tough guys.”

They arrived shortly at the eatery. Upon entering, Excor was distracted by the delicious smells of spiced meat and rich broth.  Szoo, however, spotted a young swashbuckler, a dark-skinned woman with long black hair, a very expensive looking saber at her side, her sleeveless leather arming doublet was open and on her bare chest was a tattoo of a black eagle its wings spread. On her waist, she wore a wide blue silk sash. She was carrying a tray full of drinks to the private booths in the back. After a failed paranoia roll, Szoo was certain that she was the blue dragon in human guise.

Cris (referring to the tattoo): “Well I guess a dragon can appear as any human form they want right?”

Isis: “It’s gotta be her!”

Cris (shooting me a narrow-eyed glance): “I dunno… maybe.”

The pair of mages tried to spy where the young swashbuckler had gone. They only found that she was not alone but in the company of what appeared as the top command of a ship. The crew, each sporting a black eagle either as tattoos or on their clothes, shuffled into several of the curtained booths at the rear of the place. Eventually, the mages found a table, sat and Excor ordered an expensive, but not too expensive, bottle of wine dropping 10 silver pieces. Jirek ordered the house roast seasoned with sour-grass and roasted onions.

Meanwhile back at the house, Fauna was busy brewing the potions she had promised to the Black Scael naga. Suddenly the druidess heard a subtle creaking then the sound grew louder into a painful arthritic wooden shriek.  She looked over towards the source of the sound to the statue atop the trapdoor. The large white marble statue was starting to sink into the mushy wood of the floorboards.

Jenn: “Aww man! It’s those mushroom guys again!?”

Fauna immediately sent a whisper to her two companions currently at the White Prong via her cabal medallion. Her message was, “Fungus guys are back, statue sinking into the floor!”

Back at the White Prong, after receiving the message Excor tossed down a single silver piece and tells Jirek, “Sorry but we gotta go!” With that, he and Szoo walked outside and around a corner to an area with some cover. When the coast was clear, Excor used his blue cape of teleportation (The Cabal of Eight Pt.31: The Welfare of Rats) to get himself and Szoo back to the house in a magic flash.

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight II Pt.7: Enter Boss Mushroom

Crop of the boss

The heavy thudding of the large mushroom-man began to shake the cavern in pulses as it neared causing the four mages to sweat. Those enemies currently surrounding them prevented their flight. Fauna (played by Jenn) was low on magic and Excor (played by Cris) was in danger of passing out. Umwin (played by Natalie) and Szoosha (played by Isis) still hopelessly glued to the ground by sticky spore; the grease spell had fortunately worn off however. Surrounding them was a zombie with a fungal growth exploding from its skull and three leathery soldier myconids, each wielding a granite mace.

Szoosha suddenly broke free of the glue and slithered around to get a better angle on his enemies. The zombie swung its arms like clubs heavily at Szoo the naga dodged the hit. Fauna drew her dagger and slashed at the zombie dealing little damage to its shriveled, pale, leathery flesh. Excor aimed his magic spike at the first soldier and zapped it with an electrical bolt wounding it pretty badly. The first soldier moved in and made a power attack at Excor with its mace shattering his Mage Armor. The second and third soldiers swung at Szoo who parried the blows one after the other with his fire naginata. Umwin found that the sticky spore had finally melted away and stood up on shaky legs.

The giant mushroom and its smaller violet companion thumped closer. A few pebbles fell from above to the floor.

The zombie turned its attentions towards Fauna and tried to slam her. The druidess tried to dodge but took the full brunt of the blow. Fortunately, her shield item absorbed the damage. Excor activated his Ring of Ghost Form. The first soldier took a swing at him but the weapon simply passed through his insubstantial form. The second followed suit. Szoo parried the blow from the third. Umwin cast Life Blast at the zombie damaging it severely.

Excor: “Look guys! I’ll back you up while I can but all I got is my spike! When my ghost form expires I’m outta here!”

All of the mages knew that they would soon be within the reach of the giant mushroom’s great club.

Szoo cast Cone of Fire catching the first and second soldier in the blast of flames. The first soldier burnt to a blackened crisp fell dead to the cavern floor. The second was badly roasted but still alive. Fauna cast lightning bolt at the zombie finally blasting it to bits. Excor zapped the second soldier hurting it badly.

Jenn: “Mmm, I bet the cave smells like roasted mushrooms now!”

Isis: “Yeah! Mushroom PEOPLE sis! Jeesh!”

The giant mushroom, “the boss” as the Players called it, and its violet fungus companion moved into attack range. The giant mushroom “boss” was a much larger version of a soldier. Its skin was leathery and brown with patches of pale white and green glowing blotches of slime all over it. At the center of its broad featureless chest was embedded a large ruby which glowed like a red star in the cavernous gloom. The violet companion appeared as a man-size capped mushroom, which was semi-translucent and glowing with a strong violet light. From under its cap were four writhing flat ribbon-like tentacles.

Umwin shot a blood bolt at the third mushroom soldier barely scratching it. The violet fungus struck at Szoo with a tentacle but missed by a mile. Szoo cast another cone of fire catching only the violet fungus in the area of effect singeing it. Note it smelled wretched. Excor aimed his spike and shot it at the second soldier scratching it. The boss heaved its massive club in both hands making a sweep over the battlefield catching the four mages without hitting its allies. The club passed harmlessly through Excor, in contrast Fauna and Szoo ducked. Umwin tried to dodge but caught the tree-like club full in the ribs. The blood magus coughed up a little blood, that blow badly injured him. The second and third soldier continued to swing dumbly on Excor.

The violet fungus tilted its cap exposing its gills and sprayed a noxious spray at Szoo whom quickly dodged. Excor shot a bolt at the third soldier but the electricity did no damage. The boss wound up to bat Szoo but nearly fumbled his weapon in the swing missing the naga entirely. Fauna cast lightning bolt on the third soldier blasting a part of its body away but it was still standing. The second soldier let loose a power attack with its granite mace against Umwin but missed. The third soldier likewise made a power attack against Fauna but also missed.

The violet fungus whipped a tentacle at Fauna whom parried the blow with her dagger. Excor sacrificed some K.O. points to cast Lightning Bolt at the second soldier, dealing a little damage. The boss swung his weapon again at Szoo whose shield item spared him the damage. Fauna stabbed the third soldier killing it.

The violet fungus struck again at Fauna who parried again. It then sprayed poison again at Szoo whom dodged again.

Isis: “Crap guys I think my shield’s dead!”

Jenn: “Same here I think!”

The Boss swung again at Szoo who parried (Isis realized she was also a large creature and could parry the monster as technically they were the same size). Fauna cast lightning bolt at the boss but found that her spell only served to cancel out a shield spell that seemed to emanate from its gem. Umwin tried to touch the last remaining soldier but missed. The violet fungus struck at Fauna but missed. The last soldier clumsily swung at Umwin but missed and threw its weapon in the process. Excor shot his copper spike at the last soldier adding to its numerous wounds.

Szoo cast cone of fire catching all three enemies in the flames. The fire badly burned the soldier and the violet fungus; the boss simply lost another shield for the day. The boss swung again at Szoo but the black scael naga parried the blow away. Fauna stabbed the violet fungus causing it drop and curl up dead on the ground. Umwin grabbed the last soldier and using the Vampiric Touch spell caused the poor creature to shrivel into a dried husk on the cavern floor. The spell also healed some of Umwin’s wounds. Excor readied a spell.

Jenn: “Ha ha! Stabstab!”

Szoo shot a fire ray at the boss that dispersed its last shield spell. Taking advantage Excor cast shadow ribbons on the boss catching the monster in the strips of shadow energy. However, the mushroom boss almost broke free of Excor’s ribbons. Fauna shouted that she was “outta there” and the others quickly followed. Thus, they retreated leaving the boss mushroom. The mages retreated the way they had come. When they emerged into the cellar of their rental, Szoo set up some shoddy dart traps at the secret door to protect from any other mushroom folk seeking revenge while the mages slept.

When they finally got topside, they realized that it was the evening of the 18th. They assumed this judging by the time of day and the time when they had first departed. Excor pulled out his portable hole that had been rolled up in his robes. He turned it over and out dropped the large four-armed statue with dragonfly wings on top of the trap door [The Cabal of Eight Pt.41: The Lotus Vaults Pt.1].

The mages utterly exhausted and completely tapped out decided to go to their respective rooms and catch some shuteye. Consequently, Umwin claimed the empty bedroom that once used by the currently absent Gornix the salt-lotus wizard. Just as the blood magus closed the door, Excor knocked. When he opened it, Umwin found Excor standing there with his hand out.

Excor: “Ahem! Hey! Rent! First month at least if you’re gonna stay here!”

Umwin: “What. Um,… don’t have any.”

Excor: “Well then you gotta sleep in the main room or on the streets somewhere.”

Fauna, too tired for this business paid Excor the blood magus’ first months’ rent. Afterwards they all slept like the dead.

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight II Pt.6: Facing the Fungus

Fungus Kingdom Map
The Map so far

The blood magus used his Close Wounds spell four times on Szoo (played by Isis), the naga had taken the brunt of the damage in the previous battle. After Umwin (played by Natalie) finished nursing Szoo the small group of adventurers continued with Fauna (played by Jenn) in the lead. Excor slipped but fortunately was able to save his lantern. The wet gravel-strewn cavern floor continued steeply down.

Fauna noticed even in the half-light that ahead a 5 ft. high ridge rose to the left and the low path directly in front of them led to a pit. Therefore, she led the troop up and along the ridge. This cavern (R5) was much the same as the previous, sweaty rock walls and the heavy air polluted with the smell of mushrooms. When they got to the top of the ridge, they could see random clumps of mushrooms in the corners along the walls and the flows of slime molds on the walls themselves.

The mages looked around and found that there were three openings into other adjacent chambers. There was a large one to the north, another to the east, which dropped sharply in elevation. They decided they definitely did not want to go further down. There was another peculiar opening about 10 ft. up the northern wall, which appeared to be rectangular and cut into the stone. Upon investigation, it was determined that it was a drain originating from the sewers above.

Natalie: “Hm? …oh yeah…”

Umwin (pointing to the drain opening): “I guess that’s how I got down here.”

In the south, there was a very large opening and the ground sloped down there as well but more gently than the eastern passage.

The mages were at a loss as to which way to go until Fauna discovered some faintly glowing tracks. She was able to track them to the southern passage. They began to move down carefully when Fauna spotted the wounded myconid that had fled from the previous battle apparently nursing its glowing wounds. It did not take long for them to slaughter it.

For safety’s sake, Umwin performed yet another Close Wounds on Szoo. After a brief consultation as to continue deeper into the unknown cavern or retreat, the gang decided to carry on. So, fauna worked her way slowly into the next, deeper chamber of the cavern system (R11). This chamber was much larger than any before with a much higher ceiling rich with stalactites.

They could smell the scent freshwater and could see a body of water to their northeast beyond a pebble-beach. Large clumps of mushrooms were everywhere, especially near the water with several larger mushrooms that were purple and slimy glowed with enough light to allow them normal although limited sight. Fauna soon realized that the hand that she was using to guide herself in the dark was upon the cliff face of another ridge that rose 5 ft.

Suddenly, Fauna shouted a warning to the others. “On the ridge and near the water!”

Atop the ridge was what appeared to be a shriveled corpse with a large growth, some sort of swelling fungus, erupting from its skull poised with a large rock above its head, ready to hurl. In addition, oozing slowly across the pebble beach towards the mages was a glowing violet blob covered in a thick layer of clear slime spotted with light blue spots resembling eyes. Then a viciously noxious stench that shot from the violet blob filled the cavern. Fortunately, none of the four mages was sickened; Umwin did not even seem to notice it.

The blob suddenly launched itself rolling at Fauna but missed her entirely stopping just short of touching her. In response, Fauna blasted the thing with a lightning bolt blowing a crater in the gel-like creature. Szoo following Fauna’s lead roasted the thing into a crystalline ash with a ray of fire. The mages could hear a large group of things heading from the south towards them. Then Excor entangled the zombie with the Shadow Ribbons spell. It struggled and strained but found itself trapped nonetheless. Umwin finished it off with a Disrupt Undead spell. This brief scuffle was over but the mages hardly had any time to recover when several other creatures were already upon them. On top of that, they could also hear something large moving in the distance somewhere in the dark.

The oncoming group consisted of two more zombie-type creatures, their heads completely over taken and skulls bursting with fungal growth, three leathery looking mushroom men armed with granite headed maces, and two pale softer looking myconids flanking a sickly yellow squat egg-shaped creature with stubby arms and legs and a pair of droopy crimson eyes. It was something called a Lumpus, it bore a wooden stave in one of its small hands. Fauna recognized the creature and knew that this small intelligent fungus-creature had some spell-casting ability.

Fauna unleashed a lightning bolt at the first zombie. The lumpus twirled its stave and cast grease at Szoo’s feet; the naga promptly slipped and fell onto his back. The pair of zombies continued to move slowly towards the mages. Excor cast Mage Armor on himself. The first two leathery myconids moved towards the rear ranks of the mages while the first lurched forward and struck at Fauna. The creature’s mace struck the druid dispelling the shield spell protecting her. Umwin damaged the second zombie with another Disrupt Undead spell. The two pale myconids that flanked the lumpus moved forward their fists clenched.

The thumping of heavy footsteps moved closer to the ongoing battle.

Fauna blasted away the second zombie with a lightning bolt. The lumpus spun its stave again and grease pooled at Umwin’s feet causing him to slip and fall onto his butt. The first zombie stumbled up to Fauna and tried to slam a balled fist into her. Fortunately, she parried the attack easily. Szoosha stood and threw a fire ray at the third leathery soldier mushroom singeing it. Excor tried to cast a spell but it got away from him and went wild! However, nothing happened the spell just fizzled out. The second soldier mushroom struck Umwin but dealt no damage due to the blood magus’ supernal toughness. The third soldier swung its granite mace at Fauna but she parried the blow with her dagger. The first soldier moved towards Excor. Umwin desperately tried to stand but found the magic grease too slick and slipped onto his back. The pale myconids moved into more advantageous positions.

The lumpus shuffled onto the ridge above the mages and spores burst from its body in a sticky spray then in a yellow cloud settling over the battlefield. The sticky stuff failed to adhere to Excor or Fauna but it glued Szoo and Umwin to the cave floor. Fortunately, the toxic effects failed to affect the mages as all of them save Umwin had breathe without air items. Umwin however found it even more difficult to move due to numbness. The fungus creatures were unaffected by the spore. Szoo was unable to free himself from the lumpus’ sticky spore. Excor pulled his Copper Spike and shot the first mushroom soldier with an electrical bolt. The first mushroom soldier struck Excor’s mage armor. The second hit Umwin for no damage again. The third missed fauna with a clumsy swing.

The two pale myconids jostled for position again.  Fauna cast wind rush but only caught the first zombie and the third mushroom soldier. They flew back slamming into the ridge and fell down. Szoo was unable to find footing due to the magic grease to try to break loose from the sticky spore. The lumpus moved north along the ridge. Excor cast Force Ram but the magic almost got away from him however, the spell went in the wrong direction striking a cave wall. The zombie stood back up. The first soldier hit Excor’s Mage Armor. The second power-attacked Umwin but again was unable to even scratch the blood magus. The third soldier stood back up. Umwin found it impossible to stand up or even move.

The first pale myconid moved around to mount the ridge. The second picked up and tossed a small stone at Fauna, she dodged. Szoo struggled valiantly but between the greased floor and the net of glue, he was immobilized. At the bottom of the north end of the ridge, the lumpus readied itself. Excor realizing he was out of spells for the day shot the first mushroom soldier with his Copper Spike. The zombie started shambling towards Fauna. The first soldier again struck Excor’s Mage Armor. The third soldier moved towards the mages. Umwin was utterly stuck and hopeless.

Fauna cast Sleep on the second soldier but to no effect. Szoo was hopelessly stuck. The lumpus cast Harden as Iron on its stave. Excor took a 5 ft. step back, sacrificing some of his vitality cast Mass Shadow Ribbons but the magic went wild, and a cone of negative energy shot forth at the lumpus and caught the pale myconids in its area of effect causing all three to melt and wither into blackened piles of rot.

The mages were in bad straights, Umwin and Szoo were stuck, Excor had to sacrifice K.O. points to cast spells, and Fauna was out of ideas. Still there was the zombie and three soldiers before them. They could just make out a giant sized myconid with a great club moving into the half-light, a glowing violet mushroom shaped creature with four tentacles at its side.

Cris was letting loose a stream of expletives.

Isis: “We are SO screwed!”

Jenn: “Awww, we’re gonna die aren’t we?”

Natalie just shrugged.

To Be Continued…

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…

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…

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…