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The Cabal of Eight II Pt.14: Beggar’s Coin

Symbol on Ferenoi after winning bid on coin
A symbol of the Feren goddess Euornn Goddess of the Ocean, Treacherous Mother of the Gods, and Enemy of Men.

24th of Monsoon – The dawn was just a pink-gold band starting on the horizon and the great purple moon was fading into existence via the growing light yet the three mages had already risen. Soon the auction for Thorn’s coin would start and their opposition might be the blue dragon in disguise. As a result, the mages prepared for battle tossing on potion bandoliers and carefully selecting magic items and wands from their personal armories. Very soon, they were out on the streets with an energetic gait towards the southernmost part of the West Cliffs District and the White Prong Tavern.

The wet cobblestone streets were empty and the cool, moist scent of the city, not entirely unpleasant, a combination of the wet stone and the brackish run-off congealed with the smell of all the city’s kitchens and bakeries merged with the spicy desert scents of the headland as it drifted lazily away over the sea. The only traffic at this early hour was the scant presence of the rag pickers, muckrakers, and street-sweepers finishing their labors. Just as the golden light of dawn began to bathe the gleaming streets, the trio of mages arrived at the White Prong.

They entered the whitewashed establishment finding its many round tables and chairs empty save for in one corner. Those tables crowded with buccaneers. One was casually flipping a coin, slapping it to the table, and staring as they entered. Sitting at a table near the counter was the beggar Thorn, sipping a steaming cup of tea. Sitting up from the three tables worth of pirates was their leader, a young woman the mages had pegged for the blue dragon.

She was a dark-skinned beauty, darkened not just from the scouring by the sun at sea but by a detectable Creschan descent, her black hair was thick and hung heavily to her muscle rounded shoulders. She was wearing a suit of sleeveless brigandine armor with the chest buckled open exposing the black eagle tattoo covering her bared chest. A high-quality silver saber hung at her side its pale sapphire pommel stone glittered like a serpent’s eye. A silk blue sash girded her thighs with a knotted gold fringe that dangled over her loose fitting pantaloons and knee-high sealskin boots.

Her second mate also stood abandoning a hot cup of mead. He was a tall baldheaded Ezmerian with an eye patch over his right eye. At his hip dangled a heavy cutlass. His costume was much the same as his presumed captain. In addition, there were six other crewmembers at the tables wearing open-breasted black leather jerkins.

Isis (Szoo’s player): “Y’know I don’t think she’s the dragon.”

Cris (Excor’s player): “Well I already figured that!”

Jenn (Fauna’s player): “Oh yeah, I guess not.”

As the mages stood and stared at the pirate crew and the pirates glared back in perfect silence, the tension in the room might have been plucked like the string of a lyre. The woman’s deep green eyes narrowed on the three mages shooting daggers in their direction.

Thorn (abruptly breaking the awkward silence): “Okay! Everyone’s here! Let’s begin the bidding on me services shall we! Heh-heh. My coin will not be cheap!”

Cris (shaking his head in disbelief): “That b@st@rd Thorn.”

                After a brief but intense bidding war and a full breakfast the trio of mages found themselves outside of the White Prong as the breakfast regulars began to filter in. They had won the beggar’s coin and already sent Thorn on his way with a mission to find more information on the blue dragon otherwise known as the “Ocean of the Desert”. The buccaneers had left in a huff just moments after losing the bid-war.

                The mages decided to head home after all they had a cabal meeting come evening. So they walked for some time making their way onto Arena Circle headed into the Shop District going north towards the Tourney Grounds. The streets now teemed with people and the group’s progress became more difficult as they walked around knots of folk and had to wait for the occasional carriage, horse, or ox-wagon.

                After a while, Szoo turned to his two companions and insisted that two of the Black Eagle pirates were following them. Fauna and Excor simply did not believe him thinking he was a victim of his own paranoia. Partly to ease his own nerves as well as throw it in the faces of his companions, Szoo angrily slithered over to the two sailors. They were leaning against a wall acting as if they were just nonchalantly smoking their ivory pipes. The pair just turned and started walking away all the while keeping their eyes on the group of mages in a not so subtle manner.

This finally bringing Excor’s and Fauna’s attentions to the matter. Because of this minor confrontation the group picked up their pace and in an attempt to be clever they ducked into an alley. However, the path was much longer and circuitous than they had anticipated yet they tried to keep up a rapid pace. They had been moving along the narrow alley for some time with little hope of seeing an exit into the streets anytime soon when Excor stopped the other two.

Excor: “I can hear boots, lots of ‘em! Coming up from behind!” He drew his amber wand (see The Cabal of Eight Pt.37: The Black Tombs Pt.1).

Szoosha cast Elemental Half-Plate Armor (Fire) on himself. Fauna tried to duck behind a rain barrel and hide. But she only succeeded in knocking it over and drawing attention to herself. Moreover, the second-mate, the one with the eye-patch, drew his heavy cutlass, which now the mages could observe had a serrated blade. Then Excor activated his Jet Amulet of Shielding. Three of the foremost crewmembers drew their cutlasses. Lastly, the pirate leader drew her silver saber, which shone with a strange, ghostly light in the dimness of the alleyway.

Isis: “Oh great! A magic sword!”

Pirate Leader: “You all wouldn’t happen to know a mage named ‘Jirek’ would ya?”

Excor (putting on the air of a prototypical tough guy): “Never heard of the guy! Who the hell are YOU!?”

Pirate Leader: “Direnda, newly captain of the Black Flyer, the three-masted Vhalica in the harbor. Weeks back we were attacked by pirates bearing the image of a Grey Serpent. They have some of our client’s property and we were told that one-named Jirek is their main man in Ezmeria. We’ve also heard he’s a member of some cabal of mages.”

At the mere mention of Jirek, Szoo freaked out. Immediately he slithered away in the opposite direction of the pirates at full speed.

Cris: *Sigh* “Dammit Szoo. How am I supposed to bluff her now?”

Excor: “We have no quarrel with you, there’s lots of mages in this city!”

Consequently, Direnda stood like a stone pillar studying the wand-wielding mage through narrowed lids for several minutes. Finally, she relented and her crew followed suit. Without a single word or an apology, the sailors turned and returned from where they came from. Fauna and Excor let out a pair of loud sighs.

Excor: “Now where did Szoo go!”

A little while later, regrouped the three mages emerged from the end of the long alley onto the street. They were just in time to observe a large Ferenoi holding a dirty street urchin by his scrawny neck. Her grey cape billowing as she seemed intent on strangling the kid. All the while he held a coin purse in a death grip. Subsequently, the three mages could see the big white lightning bolt embroidered on it. Around her neck dangled a crystal-encrusted silver lightning bolt pendant. She wore a suit of black soft leather armor with a grey serpent coiling sown to the chest. These in addition to polished bronze bracers and greaves as well as a polished steel open helm with a red horsetail tassel attached to the peak.

Fauna: “Hey you! Leave that child ALONE!”

Consequently (Natural 1 reaction check), the tall amazon dropped the ragamuffin in a filthy puddle, turned to face the druidess, and pulled her falcata from its sheath. Fauna readied for a fight.

Szoo slunk to a fair distance to keep a lookout for any city guards. Excor cast Slow on the Ferenoi. However, the amazon grabbed her pendant and seemed to pray, instantly Excor’s spell was undone. Fauna cast Wizard’s Trick instantly turning the amazon into a snail.

The crowd that had begun to gather to watch the street fight began booing. They also began calling for the guards, “there’s rogue wizards!” Fauna picked up and chucked the snail before looking for the boy. The kid was long gone. Therefore, the trio too decided to run away.

Eventually, after ducking through a few different alleys, the three mages arrived home. The carpenters were measuring and sawing planks of wood out front. The head journeyman thumbed at the broken door setting against the outside wall next to the front entryway. “That’ll be 1 copper coin more for the door”. Excor tossed him the coin. The carpenter began to test the metal with his teeth when a large burp came from the stables causing him to jump out of his skin. The horse whinnied in his stall.

Excor (dismissively): “Don’t worry it’s just the druid’s giant frog.”

Jenn: “Oh yeah, I almost forgot all about him. I wonder if I can ride him around? Oh yeah, I also forgot about that horse.”

The GM (me): “Wait. You have been feeding them I hope.”

Isis: “Oh yeah, my guy and Fauna have an understanding, I feed her animals when she forgets or is gone.”

Later come evening, the trio was leaving to go to the Red Helm Tavern for their customary cabal meeting. Thorn appeared in the alleyway leading out into the street. He reported on the location of the “Ocean of the Desert” to the mages giving Excor the address. In return, Excor flipped him back his coin.

Thorn (as he walks away): “If ya ever need my services again, jes’ mention my name to any beggar on the street and I’ll hear ye!”

To Be Continued…

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The Cabal of Eight II Pt.12: Peek-a-Blue

Blue deluge at the door

Morning, 23rd of Monsoon – Fauna (played by Jenn) stumbled into the house from the street looking even more haggard than usual. Wordlessly she felt her way along the walls to her room and shut the door softly behind her. Szoosha (played by Isis) who just finished feeding Fauna’s animals had noticed the polished stones around the druid’s neck glistening in the strong early light. Mesmerized by the sparkle the black scale naga stared at them, his serpent-eyes tracking them until Fauna was behind her bedroom door. Excor (played by Cris) was reclining in quiet contemplation.

Szoo: “Oooh, shiny! I like shiny things!”

Cris (studying his character sheet and mumbling under his breath): “Hmm, huh, mmmr, okay, no, what, pffp, er, okay, alright. That’s it, that’s what I need.” Cris flipped his well-worn character sheet on the table in front of him.

Excor (giving the naga the c’mon hand signal): “I’m going to the bazaar to pick up some supplies, we better go together.”

They left the house headed towards the bazaar. The sky was a dull even gray and the air was heavy and moist and smelled strongly of brine. Taking a sudden detour they decided to stop at the Carpenters’ Union to hire some carpenters to repair the floor and trapdoor into the root cellar. Excor hired a local carpenter that served their row. He would send an apprentice for 1 copper to assess the job. A short while later, they arrived at the bustling indoor bazaar where Excor was looking for three one-gallon jugs (5 sp ea.), one copper funnel (2 sp), and a jar of glue paste for 1 silver piece. Szoo purchased 5 glass potion bottles at 1 gp each.

After finding what he needed, and stuffing the items in his bag of holding, Excor left for Wensaer’s Alchemy Shop (The Cabal of Eight Pt.7: A Red Rat), Szoo followed. At Wensaer’s however, Szoo purchased two bottles of Alchemist’s Fire at 100 gold pieces each. As the pair left, Wensaer inquired after Gornix, the old man seemed worried. The others simply said they had not seen him in a while now. The old wizard twirled a pinch of his white beard between his fingers.

Later, the pair of adventuring mages browsed Baba’s Apothecary, the air spiced with a pleasant mélange of exotic flavors and tobacco. Excor picked up 4 ounces of the mid-grade smoking herb mix and 1-ounce of Lotus Wort for 4 silver pieces. Lotus Wort is a hairy moss harvested from along the Serpent Coast that can reduce the duration of the effects of lotus pollen and in the case of the Black Lotus, change the death-effect to sleep if consumed before. Baba was not much for conversation but she was fretting about the next shipment of lotus and deep forest medical herbs, it was late. They left the shop, Excor packing his pipe with fresh herbs, and turned out onto the crowded street.

The pair of adventuring mages was walking at a leisurely pace finally on their way home. Unexpectedly, Thorn the beggar tripped directly into their path from behind a rain barrel. Szoosha jumped behind Excor and wondered aloud if they should do something, after all, it was obvious that he was following them. Excor, however, took this opportunity to engage him in conversation.

Excor (instantly putting on a false air of friendly joy): “Ah! My friend Thorn! So glad to see you!”

Thorn (a little leery): “Uh, yeah. Hey, uh you got any o’ those herbs to spare?” He pulled out a charred corncob pipe.

Excor (tossing his smoke pouch to him): “Of course my friend. Here. You, uh, wouldn’t happen to have any info for me would you? Anyone we should know about maybe following us around?”

Thorn: “Hehe, naw there’s nobody like that!” He tossed the bag back to Excor, lit, and then took a tug on his old pipe.

Excor: “So, what is your price anyway? We can beat whoever’s employing you right now.”

Thorn (suddenly stepping back and putting his hands up): “Whoa there! Whoa there. The guild would my head, there’s rules, ironclad, cannot be broken.”

Excor: “Well, we are interested in getting some eyes and ears on the streets if ya know what I mean!”

Thorn: “Well, my coin is up fer the bidding. She holds my coin currently but if ya outbid h…my employer tomorrow at dawn in the White Prong. I’m all yers!”

Isis (gasping): “Oh no! She’s got him too!”

Excor: “Well, my friend we need to be on our way. How about we walk and talk.”

Thorn (between puffs): “Okay.”

Cris: “He slipped up. The probably has his coin. Well, we know where she’s going to be at dawn.”

Isis: “Alright, we’re gonna fight a DRAGON!”

Cris: “We need to prepare! We can’t just fight her in the White Prong we’ll wind in guild court again!”

Isis: “Oh yeah, I forgot about that.”

Consequently, the pair of mages and Thorn the beggar were walking at a rapid pace in the direction of the alley through which Fauna’s rental sat. They were maybe two rows from their destination when without warning Thorn wheeled around.

Thorn (starting into a light jog): “Bye! Looks like I gotta go!”

Instantly, both Excor and Szoo spotted them. Walking directly towards them were 2 scrawny humans each wielding a high-quality silver cutlass followed by a large barbarian, probably Fuglotian by appearance, in a horned helmet with bronze bracers, a black leather war belt girding his waist and a very large superior quality Tulwar in his hands. To their left was another human, probably a mage of some type, with a quarter staff in his hands and bronze bracers on his wrists. All four were in quilted blue robes.

Szoo: “Crap! It’s them.”

So Excor swept up the Naga in his blue cape (The Cabal of Eight Pt.31: The Welfare of Rats) and teleported them both home into the center of the main room. Someone began pounding on the door. Excor approached cautiously telling Szoo to “get ready” before yanking the door wide open. A carpenter’s apprentice stood there a little surprised. He was here to take measurements and assess the damage. His work took little time, soon enough he presented Excor with a contract.

The price would be 1 gold piece and 5 silvers, Excor quickly signed it. In short, tomorrow the apprentice and two journeymen would arrive after breakfast. The young boy left as soon as he finished reading out the terms. Some time had passed since the pair of mages had spotted the dragon’s men, they were certain that the Blue Dragon Gang had not been able to track them back to the house.

Excor walked into the makeshift alchemy lab and began filling the jugs with the mead from his magical golden chalice (Cabal of Eight Pt.38: The Black Tombs Pt.2). Meanwhile, Szoo went down into the cellar and into the secret passage to bottle some naphtha. A very quiet hour passed then suddenly without warning with a thunderous rush of water the front door is blasted from its hinges.

Excor shouted out, “Assassins!”

To Be Continued…

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…