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The Cabal of Eight II Pt.13: Silver Collars

The blue dragon slave collars were stamped by the Golden Devil Company

Water came rushing at least six inches deep across the floor planks. Szoo (played by Isis) rushed up a slanted plank meant to substitute for the cellar steps into the main room just in time to see the barbarian in blue waving his massive tulwar as he roared charging Excor (played by Cris).

Jenn (Fauna’s Player; to the GM): “Wait! Wait. Didn’t I take that from him when he dropped it?”

Me (the GM): “Yes you did. But when Fauna looks for the sword, it’s not where she left it.”

Cris: “Yeah, that’s right, alright. It’s dragon treasure.” *shrugs*

The broad blade of the barbarian’s sword whooshed past Excor’s face. Excor took a 5-foot step back, drew his sword, and cast Mage Armor to protect himself. A human shaman with scaly skin moved in through the shattered doorframe bearing a polished black quarterstaff in quilted blue robes. He also wore a horned helmet on his head. Immediately he pointed his finger at Excor and a Lightning Bolt exploded on Excor’s mage armor. Following him was a mage in the same quilted blue robes but with a flowing blue-silk cape around his narrow shoulders. On his left hand, he wore a copper ring and on his right, a gold-ring with an inset ruby. Two more humans in blue came in behind the mage. These were twins, each armed with a high-quality silver cutlass. Fauna opened her bedroom door and the bleariness in her eyes instantly burned away.

Szoo began to slither onto the floor of the main room. The heavily muscled barbarian wheeled towards Fauna as he was within arm’s reach of her and slashed at her. Fortunately, the blade bounced from her automatic shield. Excor unleashed a Cone of Fire singeing the shaman, twins, and barbarian but burning the mage was badly. The shaman’s throat suddenly swelled to the size of a grapefruit and he spat a bolt of electricity at Excor blasting away some of his mage armor. The blue mage touched his gold ring encasing himself in mage armor. The twins continued to move into the room soon able to join the fight. Fauna tried to cast Wizard’s Trick on the barbarian but the spell fizzled.

Szoo finally got into a position to join the fray. Excor cast Shadow Ribbons on the barbarian but he easily overpowered the black tentacles of the spell. The barbarian swung at Fauna again but hit another shield. The dragon-shaman tried to cast a spell but it failed and only sparks flew in his face. The first twin cast a spell and a scintillating ray from his finger shot at Excor chipping away at his mage armor. The other twin was maneuvering closer trying to come at Excor form the opposite vector from his brother. Fauna successfully cast Wizard’s Trick but the magic went wild and after a multi-colored burst of light, the barbarian was squatting on the ground, hopping here and there with a rabbit’s head on his wide muscly shoulders.

Isis: “Ahahaha!”

Jenn: “Ewww!”

Fauna moved out of her room’s doorframe into the main room. Szoo moved to meet the advancing front of blue-clad invaders pointing his finger at the first twin. A Ray of Fire blasted a big black scorch mark onto his robes. The dragon-shaman shot a ray at Excor blasting away his mage armor. The blue mage pulled an onyx necklace from under the collar of his robes. Suddenly he popped from where he was to 10 ft. from the left of Excor. The first twin moved towards Fauna, she still just out of reach of his cutlass. The second twin slashed at Excor who parried causing their blades to clinch. Excor dropped his weapon and risked a spell in close quarters. The risk paid off. The second twin’s blade froze inches from his throat as the Paralyze II spell took effect just in time. The rabbit-headed barbarian continued hopping around.

Fauna cast Wizard’s Trick again, this time on the first twin turning him into a rabbit. Szoosha shot a Ray of Fire at the dragon-shaman wounding him. The dragon-shaman responded with a shock ray wounding Szoo badly after the naga failed to dodge. The blue mage waved his hands and water formed from the air encasing the naga in a floating bubble of water. The swirling waters caused his Elemental Half-Plate to boil away and disappear. Excor went to the rabbit-headed barbarian, lifted the collar off, and tossed it to the side.

In turn, Fauna stooped and lifted the silver slave collar from the rabbit that had been the first twin. The dragon-shaman spat more electricity at Fauna exhausting her magic shields. Excor stepped back from the direction of the blue mage and activated his jade amulet of shielding. Szoo was drowning.

The dragon-shaman moved towards the blasted front entrance shouting at the blue mage directing him to, “run we’ve got to retreat!” Fauna quickened another Wizard’s Trick aimed at the dragon-shaman but he easily resisted. Alternately, Excor quickened Shadow Ribbons at the same target but found it too difficult to cast.

The dragon-shaman steeled himself at the threshold. Fauna sent a rush of wind at him but he dodged out the door. Szoo concentrated harder than he had ever before in his life and his flesh became fire, the bubble of water exploded into a rush of steam. The blue mage once again grabbed his polished obsidian necklace and suddenly appeared near the threshold ready to flee. Excor cast Shadow Ribbons on the blue mage but the spell turned on him. Before he could act, he was entangled in his own spell. Fauna readied to cast Wizard’s Trick on the blue mage when she noticed he was glancing from a silver collar on the floor back to her and mouthing the words “do it”. Therefore, she obliged him. After Excor dismissed the shadow tentacles, the trio ran out of the front entrance and into the alleyway but the dragon-shaman was gone.

The group discussed quickly what to do. They had figured since the collars came off with ease after the dragon’s slaves were transformed into rabbits. Fauna, remembering the signal from the blue mage, convinced the other two to let her release the magic. After all, they could use some allies against the dragon. A few moments later, all four of the blue gang members were themselves sans the silver collars.

The former slaves were overjoyed at their newly realized freedom. Apparently, the collars prevented all disobedience to the dragon and her lieutenants. They were all adventurers; the twins were native Ezmerians, captured just south of the coast off the Pale Highlands by naga slavers who sold them to a vessel of the Golden Devil Company. They were purchased a handful of years ago by the dragon here at the slave markets. She calls herself the “Ocean of the Desert” and rules a small kingdom and fortress at the base of the Snaketeeth Mountains across the river and beyond the Wirgold Forest. Meanwhile, the mages took the time to inspect the collars. Excor could not directly identify the powers of the collars but all could clearly see the maker’s mark on all of the collars was the sign of the Golden Devil Company.

Excor: “Damn slavers working with the dragon.”

Fauna: “Really!? Why would they work with a dragon?”

Excor (shrugging): “Pfft, they’re all evil!”

Excor (to the barbarian): “Hey! Where is she staying?”

The Barbarian: “A fine house in the Western Cliffs District. She kept us in the basement.”

The Blue Mage: “There’s also a cave underneath that leads to some sea caves under the city. She acts as royalty, she’s a real admirer of Hyval. And beware the dragon shaman, he worships her. He draws his power from the spirit of a blue dragon. He doesn’t wear a collar.”

Unexpectedly there was a flash of blinding white light. After it faded, all could see the collars were returned to every one of their unfortunate necks. All four collapsed to their knees and cried in anguish.

Isis: “Aw, this isn’t going to be easy is it?”

Cris: “Of course not! It’s gonna be hard because it has to be! Of course it’s gonna be hard!”

Excor: *sigh* “Okay, I have a solution, for now.”

The Barbarian (through gritted teeth): “Hurry! We cannot resist the collars for long!”

The cabal mages pledged to the slaves to kill the blue dragon. Around the table, the players then mulled over their options even, at Szoo’s suggestion, considering killing them all. After checking their own characters’ alignments, the players made a decision. A short while later there were four new pillars of amber in the rear courtyard alongside the one containing the blue thief (see The Cabal of Eight II Pt.10: The Blue Thief). After the dragon was dead, they would free them including the thief.

They set the front door to the side and generally cleaned up the best they could. The group had decided to go to the White Prong come dawn not to purchase Thorn’s coin but to meet the dragon whom they believe to be Thorn’s employer. Fauna went to formulate four healing potions. Szoo slathered himself with healing salve and went to rest; the naga was in especially bad shape after absorbing some much of the dragon-shaman’s Shock Ray. Once the house was straightened up and Fauna had finished brewing her potions, the three mages went to their respective rooms to rest and heal.

To Be Continued…

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.10: The Blue Thief

20th of Monsoon – Dawn was breaking but the sun’s rays were stifled behind cloud-darkened skies and drowned in the heavy, humid air. Stray raindrops randomly pelted the roofs, and cobblestones of the city as well as the heads of retreating rag pickers and soot-brushes. The fitful sleep of two of the cabal members was disturbed by the approaching ringing bell of one of the many city criers.

The Crier: “Hear ye! Hear ye! The city marshal has declared that all those found to commit the crimes of theft, murder, and assault within the city limits that are not citizens of our great city and are found to be the crew of known freebooter and privateer ships will receive the penalty of death! Ships whose crews comprise of more than a handful of such criminals will be banished from harbor come hell or high water!”

Excor (played by Cris) and Szoo (played by Isis) stumbled and slithered from their rooms, slowly due to their bruised and aching bodies roused by the crier’s bell and spiel. Already, Fauna (played by Jenn) was grinding the remainder of her herbs into two doses of healing salve for her wounded companions. As both Szoo’s and Excor’s wounds were still grievous. Fauna, on the other hand, was in perfect health. After finishing the salve and having applied it, Fauna cleaned out the stable and left for the market district. The other two went back to their beds to heal.

Later, in the afternoon, the sun had peaked between the clouds and Fauna was returning from the market with her horse attached to a new wagon loaded with a few months’ supply of oats and hay. As she led the wagon back home she entered the alleyway and only then noticed a tail, someone was stealthily following her. Calmly, she unhitched her horse and put him back into the stall next to her giant frog, tossed that thing a bag of mice. She left the wagon just off the stables. Suddenly, she rushed through the door and shouted.

Fauna: “I’m being followed!”

Immediately, both of her companions leaped from their beds and met her at the door against which she was leaning.  All she could relate about her pursuer was that he was wearing blue with a short, matching cape.

Isis: “*Sigh* Is this the dragon again?”

Cris: “Who else would it be!? Of course it is! Blue cape, sheesh, of course it’s the dragon! Or her slaves.”

Excor rushed to the door and carefully, quietly, cracked it and peeked through. He scanned the scene outside the door from the alley wall to the stable. By a split second, he missed the fleeting glimpse of a blue cape disappearing into the hayloft above the stalls. Because of his spotting nothing, Szoosha cast Heat Vision on himself. In turn, Excor cast See the Invisible on himself.

Excor peeked back out the door and spotted Thorn the beggar ducking behind a rain barrel. He yelled at Thorn to leave while Szoo, head above Excor’s, spotted a heat trail moving from the ground and up into the loft. Thorn waved as he jaunted off after a shrug.

Szoo: “Guys! I got something! I think he’s inside already!”

Excor immediately slammed shut the door and turned. Almost by accident, he caught sight of a cape trailing behind its wearer as it flapped from above down behind a piece of furniture.

Excor (pointing the blue thief out): “Assassin!”

Fauna readied herself to cast Sleep as soon as she could see her target. Szoo moved around to get a better line of sight and was able to spot the blue thief. The short, brawny man was dressed in a powder blue padded/quilted robe with a bright blue silver-trimmed cape and cowl and a broad black belt. He was armed with paired superior quality silver daggers each with a large quartz crystal in the pommel. Excor cast shadow ribbons but the magic went wild. The black ribbons of shadow suddenly expanded into a cone of blazing red light and the thief shrieked in terror, he stood and turned to run through the back door. Fauna let loose her sleep spell but it had no effect.

The druidess let loose a lightning bolt; the thief dodged the bolt easily and tumbled through the back door into the rear courtyard. Szoosha charged towards the back door and made it outside into the small courtyard amongst Fauna’s chickens and goat. Excor moved up to where he could see the thief readying to scale the wall and cast paralyze I. The thief froze in his tracks.

Cris (to the GM): “That was some sort of crazy fear spell huh? Hey! Can I try to remember what I did with that spell with my spellcraft?”

The GM (me): “Yup, um DC uh 20, it was wild magic. Totally randomly rolled spell too.”

Cris: *roll*roll* “Damn, naw, I didn’t get it.”

Szoo had the paralyzed thief tied up with a rope he took from the thief’s belt. Fauna sensed some very strong magic from the silver manacle around his neck and the medallion with dragon-scratch runes that dangled from it. She simply tried to pull it off as it did not appear to be even locked or clasped but it did not budge. It even seemed bonded to the thief’s skin. Fauna then double-checked the ropes making sure they were tight. Szoo then inspected the collar and found the maker’s mark. It was the mark of the Golden Devil Company (The Cabal of Eight Pt.6: Gold Devil).

Szoo (panicking): “Oh no! We made some BIG enemies guys!”

Cris: “Whatever, we’re adventurers, it’s what we DO!”

The three mages stood around while the chickens clucked and gathered around their feet expecting to feed. They did not know what to do with the man. The magic slave collar without a doubt would lead the blue dragon straight to them. They quibbled back and forth for some time before they finally decided on what was to be done with him. They did not want to kill him; after all, he had no choice whether or not to obey the dragon. They also did not want to take him to the guards. The trio did not know how deep the dragon’s connections went. They decided to freeze the thief in amber.

Excor cast Amber Husk, an ancient spell obtained from a scroll they had found in the Lotus Vaults. Excor looked at his handiwork. The thief in blue could be seen at the center bottom of an iceberg of glistening semi-transparent amber.

Excor: “That’ll do it.”

That situation dealt with, for the time being anyway, the trio decided to try to rest until their next cabal meeting on the 24th. However, Fauna had a meeting with the Brotherhood of the Rope on the next full moon, the 22nd.

The next day, Szoo and Excor were sleeping the day away, Fauna, alternately, had hitched her horse up to her wagon and was going shopping around the Old Market District and the Bazaar. Soon her wagon was packed with a 1 lb. bag of healing herbs, another 1 lb. bag of yellow & pink lotus soaked smoking herb (of which she was currently partaking), a wood cage with four chickens in it, a sack of feed enough for a month, an empty 1-gallon ceramic jug, and 5 potion bottles for Szoo’s naphtha. She had watched Thorn while he had followed her the entire time as well.

She signaled the grey-cloaked beggar to jog up next to her she was riding in the saddle.

Fauna: “So…you old beggar… still spying on us?”

Thorn: “Yup! Just business y’know!”

Fauna (flipping Thorn a silver piece): “No info?”

Thorn: “Well, I’d be amiss in my duty if I didn’t ask about certain Pirate friends, ahem, certain friends of certain people maybe?”

He eyeballed Fauna for a reaction, there was none so he continued.

Thorn (pulling out his pipe; Fauna offered to light it): *ffwwwp* *exhaling* “Certain pirate friends of a certain party stealing from certain other people and yet other people, friends of certain people maybe? No. Well, those people hiding the treasure and those people’s friends maybe knowing something about it?”

Thorn glanced over at Fauna with a squint in his eye. Again, she did not react so he shrugged and took another tug from his corncob pipe.

Fauna (exhaling, her eyes sparkling with lotus): “Maybe we can hire you as…..our… houseboy? We could pay you a lot of money.”

Thorn suddenly tore off after shooting Fauna a polite smile. Someone was evidently waiting for him near the corner the pair quickly disappearing into an alley. However, Fauna could not focus enough to see who had been waiting for the old beggar. She lazily trotted her way home through the crowded streets as she toked on her pipe.

The following afternoon, Excor had spotted Thorn hanging out in full view around the house and he decided to see what he wanted. Excor tried to interrogate the beggar but found the old man was far too clever to get any useful information out of him. Even so, they conversed for quite some time. Eventually, Excor gave up and tossed him a silver to move off. As the grey-cloaked beggar walked down the alleyway towards the street he unexpectedly asked, “Hey! You know anything about a Cabal of Eight?” Excor was shocked but hid his surprise well enough that he was sure the old beggar did not read it.

Excor (waving bye): “No, no. Never heard of it! If I find anything out I’ll tell ya!”

Thorn (walking away): “I’m all ears!”

Cris hissed, “Dammit!”

Isis: “Whhat!?”

Cris: “They’re getting close! Too close! Dammit.”

Jenn: “Meh. We can handle it.”

Late that night when the full moon was high, Fauna found herself standing amongst a lineup of certain other characters, all drawn from the anonymous ranks of the cult, the Brotherhood of the Rope. Those in the lineup and her were all stark naked slick with sweat; the caverns under the old Amphitheater were sweltering. Those not participating in the “trial for high priest” were still in their dark blue ropes and hoods with a golden noose around their necks. Anishi, the caretaker of the grove, was presiding.

The cult had gathered in a deep chamber next to a very narrow entryway carved into the rusty, living rock. Vor Jetl “the dragonfly” had told Fauna that the trial would be a lethal one it would be the labyrinth. “Avoid the traps and you will make it to a final test, fail and no one will ever see you again.” Good advice as far as she could gather, after all, he was “on her side”. Apparently, the narrow opening was the entrance to this labyrinth.

Anishi gave the word and one-by-one the candidates walked up to him and he spat lotus powder into their faces, kissed them on the forehead, and pushed them through the aperture, “Tread with care my child and be humble”.

To Be Continued…