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The Cabal of Eight II Pt.19: The Dragon & the Wasp

blue dragon that faces the wasp

Excor (played by Cris) under the influence of the Ghost Form and Invisibility I spells trailed just behind the blue dragon-shaman as he in turn followed the blue lady into the caves from the dusty tunnel. The blue-lady was sniffing the air, apparently tracking the others via scent quite accurately.

Meanwhile, Fauna (played by Jenn), Szoo (played by Isis), Bumble, and Xanto the Wasp were picking themselves up from the wet gravel beach they had landed on after sliding through a slimy chute and over the edge of a 10 ft. cliff.

Szoo: “Hey! At least she can’t follow us through that chute!”

Jenn: “Yeah,” looking over to the GM (me), “right?”

The GM (me): “Um, you guys know she can transform back and forth from human form so…”

Isis: “Aww crap.”

The Wasp chanted a spell and giant wasps appeared under him and Bumble his apprentice. The pair rose above the heads of their former two companions and began flying over the reeking green body of water before them. It was at this moment that Szoo realized that the Wasp was cradling the case. Szoo had forgotten to pick it back up after sliding down the chute distracted by his concern over the dragon.

Cris: *disgusted sigh* “Damned Wasp.”

Suddenly a deafening roar shattered the quiet atmosphere of the cavern. The four mages could see the glowing eyes of the blue dragon in her full draconic form just 20 ft. southwest of them on another bank of gravel & sand.

Excor moved in range of the Dragon Shaman, both still in the passage coming out of the previous cavern (R5 on the map) into the water chamber (R8 on the map). He began to cast Force Ram but fumbled the casting. His invisibility spell dispersed. Fauna rushed to the water’s edge and shouted for Szoo. The Wasp and his apprentice flew their steeds further north turning just in time to avoid hitting the cavern wall.

The blue dragon’s throat swelled and glowed intensely blue before she unleashed a massive blast of lightning at the two wasp-riders. Bumble easily dodged but the bolt hit the Wasp and his mount blasting it to smithereens causing him to drop splashing into the water below. Szoo transformed into a large black sea turtle and began to slide into the water. The Dragon-Shaman spat a lightning bolt at the ghostly form of Excor but it passed harmlessly through.

Excor cast Slow on the Dragon-Shaman but the shaman resisted the spell. Fauna leaped onto the back of the turtle as it slid under the water. The Wasp meanwhile was swimming to the beach immediately to his west his white knuckles still clutching the case. The Blue Dragon jumped into the water plowing through it like a giant shark heading straight for Xanto. She snapped her jaws at the turtle and his unfortunate passenger but the turtle dodged by the slightest margin (by 1 point). The Dragon-Shaman charged Excor and swung his quarterstaff at the adventurer, the blow passing straight through. The Dragon-Shaman looked up possibly re-thinking his combat strategy.

Excor backed up and cast Force Ram again targeting the Dragon-Shaman. The Dragon-Shaman dodged to the side taking a glancing blow. Fauna jumped off the turtle and clawed her way onto the beach near the Wasp (R7 on the map). The Wasp checked the case; it was intact and still sealed. The dragon swam up near the beach on which the Wasp and Fauna were standing rising like a titan from the water. The Dragon-Shaman began casting a spell but a stitch in his bruised side caused him to falter and the spell fizzled.

Excor cast paralyze II on the shaman paralyzing him.

The Wasp took a stance meant to increase agility and focused his light-starved eyes on the dragon before him. The Blue Dragon surged forward to stomp on him but he easily evaded the blow. Szoo as he was right next to the Wasp forced to dodge as well wound up on the opposite side of the monster from that of the Wasp. Bumble flew her giant-wasp-mount over the dragon’s head in an effort to get near her master. Grinning maliciously, Excor canceled Ghost Form and pulled out a magic dagger (+5) and stabbed the paralyzed Dragon-Shaman in the throat but failed to kill him in a single blow. Fauna moved around next to the Wasp.

The Wasp took the same stance and readied. The Blue Dragon blew its breath at both the Wasp and Fauna. Both managed to avoid the lightning bolt completely. Szoo transformed back into his true form and withdrew his Fire Fang (see The Cabal of Eight II Pt.1: The Checkered Eye). Excor again buried his dagger in the Shaman’s throat this time mercifully finishing the job with that final blow. Fauna dissipated into a cloud of mist as she cast Gaseous Form on herself.

The Wasp again took a defensive stance but was also able to quickdraw a scroll from his sleeve. The Dragon snapped her razor-studded jaws at the Wasp missing by a hair. Szoo moved further around to the opposite side of the dragon from his companions and blasted the dragon with a cone of fire from the tooth, to no effect. Bumble flew down next to her master.

Cris: “Man! They’re gonna run! Somebody get on ‘em!”

Jenn: “I’m on it! I’m going to stick to them no matter what!”

Excor looted the still-warm corpse of the dragon shaman. Fauna, in gaseous form, floated up to the dragon’s face, flew up her nostrils, and immediately canceled her spell.

The Wasp leaped onto Bumble’s wasp-mount and read the scroll. A golden glow surrounded him and his apprentice as they began to fade away. Reflexively the dragon sneezed shooting the druidess from one of her nostrils directly into the area of the teleportation spell. In a flash, the Wasp, Bumble, and Fauna were gone.

Immediately, the Dragon swiveled around and grabbed at Szoo who was barely able to avoid the massive claw. Meanwhile, Excor after packing away the loot in his portable hole twisted his silver ring activating the ghost form spell as he rushed towards the commotion. Szoo activated the Temporal Jump ability on his phoenix feather cloak and took a step into nothing completely disappearing. The dragon sniffed around then as she turned to leave, she spotted the faintly glowing ghost form of Excor standing on the opposite shore.

The dragon charged him and stomped around snarling and proclaiming herself “the ocean of the desert” and “the great queen of the mountains, pale yellow forests, and desert sands”. After a few minutes, she lowered her face to his ghostly visage and growled, “I’ll track down that lowly wasp and crush him slowly beneath my feet and then when I reclaim my property, I’ll find all of you!” Excor just shrugged and waved goodbye. The dragon stomped off.

Isis (to Cris): “Wow, dude.”

Cris: “Pfft! She can’t do anything! The Ghost Form on my silver ring lasts for over an hour!”

After waiting a few minutes, Excor started on his way back up unexpectedly joined by Szoo. Together they decided to rent a room for the night in a place called the Shield & Helm Inn near the new amphitheater on the corner of Arena Circle and Tourney Way. They paid the 10 gp for the night and an additional 20 gp for a security detail. Not soon enough did they both collapse exhausted, bellies full of wine and food, onto their soft feather beds.

*And yes dear reader, Fauna the Druid did transform into mist and then went up the dragon’s nose in the game. It worked to stall out one of the dragon’s turns although she did have a chance of falling back into the throat and getting swallowed. I did roll for that.😁 *

To Be Continued…

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Brilliant Botanics #3: The Dichromata Fruit Tree

The legendary Dichromata Fruit Tree, a pre-generated magic plant for Dice & Glory. It adds a different type of wonder to a campaign. This large tree produces a tasty and magic fruit with each half a different solid color. The tree also attracts flightless dragons and nature spirits that jealously protect it. The tree itself is not that physically formidable but it is highly valued for both its magic fruit and its bronze-hard wood. It is not uncommon for this tree to highly sought after lending another dimension to an adventure that includes one. Opposing adventuring parties, greedy villains, and evil mages may become competitors or enemies to adventurers that are seeking or have found one of these trees. Likewise, the magical properties of its fruit may intrigue the adventurous mage.

Brilliant Botanics is used at the discretion of Game-Masters to add variety to their game worlds easily and quickly. This tree is fleshed out enough for GM’s to drop it into game-sessions with little prep-work beyond reading the document. Finally, the Dichromata Fruit Tree is a great addition to any GM’s bag of tricks & treasure. Well, a treasure for those with an alchemical edge, a desire for spell components, and a sweet tooth.

Brilliant Botanics also includes a brief Magic Abstract. This describes how mages may use these supernal vegetables in their spells and potions as components.

Brilliant Botanics #3 – 220k

A miraculous tree whose fruit is worth fighting over!

If you enjoy my content I would highly appreciate it if you could

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The Cabal of Eight II Pt.18: Be Water

The Grey Serpent Captain stood in the entranceway to the Red Helm Tavern’s barroom. Next to him were Jirek the cabal’s scribe and just behind him, the Grey Serpents’ mage who was scowling at Szoo. Gathered against the wall near the bar and the Grey Serpents were the blue lady (aka the Blue Dragon) and her four sword-bearing mercs.

Just past the bar was the publican Draega. Leaning against the bar Fauna (played by Jenn) was staring at the disguised Bumble. Before the bar at a table was Xanto the Wasp and his apprentice and member of the cabal, Bumble, both under the influence of a disguise spell. At a second table in front of the window opposite the bar was Excor (played by Cris) his lit pipe drooping from his lips. Szoo (played by Isis) was just behind him next to the window. Between the Wasp’s table and the bar were Direnda and the Black Eagle Pirates.

The very air itself was still, all the dust and smoke in the room seemed suspended in air as if time had stopped. Even the normal racket from the rest of the place had stopped and those not gazing wide-eyed with anticipation from the other room were filtering out the back way.

Isis: “Aw man, this is TENSE!”

Cris: “Just stay calm, be ready.”

Jenn: “Ready to do what? What’s the plan?”

Cris: “I dunno whatever, just be ready to do something.”

The grey captain began to pull his blade but as soon as the slightest shimmer of blade shone, the room filled with the sound of singing steel as both the Black Eagles and the Mercs pulled their weapons in unison. With a click, the captain pushed his sword back into the scabbard.

Direnda (pointing her magic blade at the Wasp): “THAT is our client’s property thief!”

The Blue Lady (motioning as if the case would just be handed over): “Hmm, Looks like you’ve lost your commission Draega. THAT is mine.”

The Grey Serpent Captain put his hand on Jirek’s chest and began backing out of the tavern with his two companions.

Szoo (almost hyperventilating): “Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!”

Cris: “Crap! I was hoping they’d do each other in. C’mon, fight!”

Draega, with a dumb grin pasted on his face, backed slowly out of the room before disappearing completely.

Suddenly, the Wasp stood up, his disguise spell shedding from his bright yellow and black striped form, and a black cloud of stinging-wasps poured from his sleeves flooding the room. The place was in chaos; the mercenaries and the pirates were screaming and flailing their swords wildly. Excor leapt up towards the window followed by Fauna. The shields of the druid and Excor shimmered as a charge was spent. Szoo suffered a few stings. The Blue Lady’s chest swelled immensely as her eyes began to crackle with electricity.

Cris (referring to the black cloud of wasps): “A death cloud huh? Damned Wasp!”

Jenn: “What? Death Cloud?”

Cris: “Yeah, he summoned a Death Cloud, it’s a wasp swarm gestalt.”

Jenn: “Oh yeah, I remember those.”

*I used the creature a few times in another campaign a long time ago.*

Excor (trying to signal to his companions): “Get by the window, cut him off!”

The Wasp and Bumble ran right into the three mages. Without warning, a thundering blast of blue-white electricity filled the room destroying the black cloud of wasps and shattering the lattice window. The three mages could see the blue lady right behind the Wasp and his apprentice. Xanto had just enough time to smile once at the trio and then unleashed a spell in desperation. However, the magic got out of his control and the last thing the Wasp, Bumble, and the three adventurers could remember was a flash of crimson light and the sensation of falling in complete silence for an interminable amount of time before they came crashing down.

As the dust settled the trio of mages, Xanto the Wasp, Bumble, and the Blue Lady gathered their senses. The Wasp had cast a teleportation spell that got out of his control the magic going wild. The Wasp had teleported away all those near him and the front part of the tavern including the floor, the lower part of the façade and the front door. They had landed wedged into the alleyway just in front of Fauna’s rented house.

Fauna and Szoo ran to the brand new front door of their home. Excor cast Invisible to Sight on himself. Bumble twisted a ring on her chubby fingers without hesitation teleporting away in an instant. The Blue Lady charged the druid and punched her hitting her shield with a powerful thud. Xanto spotted the lost case. It was almost 10 feet from where he was.

Fauna drew her dagger and stabbed the Blue Lady, a violet filed of energy emanated from her gold bracelet and zapped the druidess with negative energy. Fauna moved away from the house. Szoo opened the door and moved in. Excor cast Shadow Ribbons on the Blue Lady but she easily resisted its shadowy energies. The Blue Lady charged Fauna again, her small pale fist whistling by the druid’s head, missing the target by a hair. Xanto charged to the case and bent to pick it up.

Fauna grabbed a dose of yellow lotus from her cloak and readied to toss it into the eyes of the dragon. Szoo used his Ring of Fearsome Form to transform into a hideous winged shape and shot towards the case. Excor used his Silver Ring of Ghost Form. The Blue Lady moved swiftly next to Xanto. In a panic, Xanto cast a teleportation spell and disappeared leaving the case and its invaluable contents behind.

The Blue Lady blew a blast of her electrical dragon breath at Fauna dispelling her last shield for the day. The druid responded by deftly tossing the yellow lotus dust into the monster-lady’s eyes temporarily blinding her. It did not have any of the poisonous effects that Fauna had hoped for, however. Suddenly, a distant roar sounded.

Fauna cast Gaseous Form on herself and drifted towards the house. Excor hovered through the walls into the house and Szoo snatched up the case and then flew into the open doorway. They had the intention of hiding out in the secret tunnels below.

As they fled inside, Fauna saw the blue dragon retreat away around the corner still in her human form. Szoo the last in line to get into the house saw a gigantic shadow lift off from the top of the slavers’ castle and fly in their direction. They barred the door behind them and then stood there for a second listening. After a few minutes, they could hear a loud sniffing sound, as if two large nostrils were investigating the teleported tavern wreckage in the alley. Then they heard a loud blast, the air from the wings of a dragon taking off. It had been the resident dragon, Gristle-Talon. The mages let out a collective sigh and then Fauna and Szoo ran down into the cellar.

Excor canceled his ghost form spell and ran to his room to gather his stuff. He shut the door to his room and began gathering some “essential” items and spell components. After several minutes, he hears something like footsteps just on the other side of his bedroom door. He carefully moved to the door and cast Scry: Simple. The spell allowed him to see through the door. He saw the Blue Lady and her shaman walking away from his door and to the cellar door. A gem on her tiara was glowing stronger as she neared it. Suddenly, she reached down, wrenched the heavy wood trapdoor from it hinges, and tossed it across the room.

Meanwhile, Fauna and Szoo were moving as fast and quietly as they could down the long hallway and into the caves to try and “find a way out”. They both hear a pair of feet following them. Szoo turns and looks down the hall behind them, with his heat vision he could see the Wasp and Bumble following them. Fauna calls them out.

Xanto the Wasp: “Heh, heh. So, um, we find ourselves in a mutual rock-and-a-hard-place situation, eh, friends?”

The pair of adventurers debated only briefly about what to do about them. Szoo wanted to kill the Wasp but Fauna was dead against it.

Cris: “Pfft! Kill the Wasp!? Good luck. That guy is probably pretty powerful plus he’s higher level than all of us!”

Jenn: “Then why doesn’t he just fight the dragon?”

Cris: “Because she’s a DRAGON, she has high spell resistance. She shook off my spell like nothing.”

The companions in the mushroom caves moved into a chamber in the north (R6 on the map). The cavern was covered in mushrooms and there are uneven clumps of giant mushrooms that were glowing faintly blue and leaking a clear, slippery slime all over the cave floor. Foothold was precarious over the slimy uneven floor.  Fauna inspected a pit that she found at the far north of the chamber. The other three as they moved past her slipped almost in unison and slid as they fell into a smooth chute like passage (the slime chute on the map). Fauna maneuvered her way to the mouth of the chute and yelled to make sure everyone was okay. They were fine so she jumped down to them.

Meanwhile above in the cellar, Excor watched as the Blue Lady and her mage descended. He quickly cast Invisibility I on himself and followed as quietly as he could as the pair found the secret door that had been left open, and they moved into the tunnel.

To Be Continued…

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The Cabal of Eight II Pt.17: Finding the MacGuffin

Excor (played by Cris) and Szoosha (played by Isis) found themselves escorted by the Grey Serpent pirate crew to the Western Cliffs District. The pair had surprisingly talked the pirates out of murdering Jirek right there, by selling out the Wasp. As they neared the gates to the northern half of that section of the city, they both could see Fauna (played by Jenn) waiting in a rickshaw across from the gate under the shade of an aqueduct arch. Excor had managed a Whisper spell to her during the long walk.

Essentially, the plan was to get the pirate captain to meet with Bumble who would hopefully turn on her master. It was a longshot but the mages had nothing else. Jirek and the captain walked to the gate while Excor, Szoo, and the other five pirates including the half-giant, waited a short distance away.

The two mages and the ill-tempered pirates waited in awkward silence. Fauna kept her eyes locked on the group. Suddenly, the Ferenoi cleric turned her head and locked eyes with the druid.

Ferenoi Cleric (pointing at Fauna): “YOU!

Isis: “Aw, crap.”

Jenn: “C’mon! We can take ‘em!”

Immediately, and as she approached, Fauna cast Wizard’s Trick on the Ferenoi Cleric. The cleric shrunk into a snail. Szoosha tossed an Alchemist’s Fire at the second Ferenoi, the swashbuckler, singeing her armor. The swashbuckler replied by throwing her javelin at Szoo whom parried the projectile. Excor cast Invisibility I on himself. The half-giant surged forward swinging his heavy claymore at Fauna barely missing her. The mage with the wolf-skin mantle cast Elemental Blast (water) at Szoo but the Naga’s shield protected him. The Feren pirate unslung his steel shield and ran up next to the Ferenoi swashbuckler.

Fauna stomped on the snail.

Jenn (addressing the shocked look on her sister’s face and Cris’ laughter): “Hey I was gonna let her go but she just had to keep it going!”

Szoo tossed another alchemist’s fire at the swashbuckler but the Feren pirate immediately blocked the flask with his shield. The swashbuckler pulled her falcata and slashed at the Naga but the blade was stopped by the Naga’s shield. Excor twisted his Ring of Verminous Might and grew large insect-like wings. The half-giant swung again at Fauna striking her shield. The mage waved his hands and a small ball of ice formed before him that suddenly shot at Szoo who dodged it. The shieldman readied to defend the swashbuckler with his steel shield.

Fauna cast Wind Rush forcing the Half-Giant to dodge as well as knocking down, and blowing away the mage. The swashbuckler drew her dirk, slashed with her sword, and stabbed at the same time with her dirk. Szoo parried both weapons with his flaming naginata that instantly appeared in his scaly hands. Excor cast Amber Husk on the Half-Giant instantly trapping him in a large iceberg of solid glistening amber. The shieldman continued to ready to defend the swashbuckler.

Fauna tried to cast a spell but it fizzled. Szoo used his magic bracers to use Armor Bane via touch on the shieldman’s shield. The shield immediately crumbled to dust. Excor activated his Jet Amulet of Shielding. The swashbuckler again took a double strike with dirk and sword against the Naga striking and dispelling his shield. The mage, on the ground almost 100 ft. away, melted into a flow of water that quickly disappeared down a gutter. The shieldman got a javelin from his back.

Fauna cast Wizard’s Trick on the swashbuckler transforming her into a snail. Szoo touched the swashbuckler’s leather armor, which rotted away and fell off.

Isis: “I LOVE THESE BRACERS!”

Excor used his Copper Spike and shot a bolt of electricity at the shieldless shieldman wounding him slightly. The shieldman in turn, tossed his javelin at Fauna missing badly. Fauna stomped on the snail and the shieldman cried out in grief. Szoo swung at the shieldman with his naginata but tripped over his own tail. Excor caught the grieving shieldman in an amber husk ending the skirmish.

The three mages were unable to savor their easy victory however as the alarm bell began ringing above the gates. Guards began streaming from the guardhouse surrounding the great monoliths of amber. The mages quickly realized that the guards were focused on carrying away the two large pieces of semi-precious amber. Excor, still invisible, flew over the gate and headed towards Bumble’s house. Fauna and Szoo slunk away and through the gates while the guards were distracted.

Excor made it to Bumble’s family property and dropped himself in front of the Wasp’s hovel. It was wide open and he could see both Jirek and the pirate captain tossing the place. Suddenly, Jirek shouted, “I found it!” The captain immediately ran over to him and they both pulled the iron sea chest into Excor’s view. The captain yelled, “No, no, no!” He flipped open the chest lid. “Someone opened it!?” It appeared to Excor that the chest had contained a case according to the lining, one that was narrow and long.

Excor (mumbling to disappointedly himself): “Of course the Wasp already opened it.”

Excor flew back to the front of the property in time to intercept his companions. He canceled his spells and filled them in on the news. They decided to go back to the White Prong for some food and ale and wait to see if Thorn the beggar would make an appearance.

Later that afternoon around a table in the bustling White Prong, the trio of mages sat around a table after finishing their meal and ordering a second round of dark ale.

Excor (to Fauna): “You did find Thorn right?”

Fauna: “Well, I was asking around for him.”

Excor: “Good enough. He’ll hear us.”

As if on cue, a young street urchin wandered into the tavern and walked up to the mages’ table. He introduced himself as Xete and told the mages that Thorn’s coin has been bought but he could help them granted they could buy his coin for the day. Excor promised him a platinum piece if he could locate Xanto the Wasp who was probably in disguise and traveling with his protégé Ilna of Nezorik aka “Bumble”. It was test to see if his coin was worth purchasing of course. The boy bowed and jaunted off.

For a few hours the mages sat and drank, Excor smoked his pipe. It was nearing evening when the street urchin seemingly appeared at their table. The Wasp and his apprentice were sitting in the barroom of the Red Helm. Excor flipped the boy the promised platinum piece with the promise to buy his coin tomorrow morning.

The three mages virtually ran to the Red Helm and as soon as they were inside of the door, Szoo spotted an old man sitting at a table nearest the bar and a young girl pacing back and forth next to a black leather case that leaned against the table. The pair looked nothing like the Wasp or his apprentice but the three mages surmised they were under a Disguise spell. Excor took up a position at table exactly opposite them. Szoo slithered up to a position next to the front window in case they made for the door. Fauna sauntered up to the bar; she caught the young girl eyeballing her from the corner of her eye.

The three mages were just starting to decide a plan of action when the Black Eagle pirates with Direnda in the lead filtered into the place. They crowded the space just in front of the bar their hands on their weapons.

Isis: “Oh no.”

Three warriors in blue followed by the blue dragon in her noblewoman form strode in. The warriors immediately took fighting stances at the sight of the pirates.

Jenn: “aw man.”

A few seconds later, Jirek, the Grey Serpent Captain and his Mage jogged in through the door and spotted Excor but as the captain’s hand met his weapon, he noticed the crowded room as did his companions.

Cris: “Sheesh!”

At that moment, Draega fluttered in from behind the bar on his way towards the blue lady but then noticed the full and very tense room.

Draega: “Aw crap.”

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight II Pt.16: Dragon Chase

The wheels of the rickshaw were clattering on the wet cobblestones as it zoomed through the dark streets. Intermittent drizzles had glazed the city deepening the shadows and causing even the smallest candlelight to glare off the wet stone and plaster. Great clouds of steam rose all around from sewer grates helping the mages’ rickshaw to stay hidden in their pursuit of the dragon’s coach. Szoo (played by Isis) slithered at top speed next to his companions ridding in said rickshaw. The rickshaw-puller was pumping his legs furiously and panting heavily.

Eventually, the carriage slowed after arriving at the far northeast sector of the city. The rickshaw in turn kept at a two-block distance. The coach turned onto Slavers’ Circle and into the Slavers’ Quarter. It stopped in front of a slave mart flying the flag of the Golden Devil Company the gravel of the auction yard crunching under the iron-shod wheels as it pulled alongside a colonnade.

The rickshaw stopped around the corner from the coach on North Avenue, a drift of sewer-fog helped to hide the three mages from the coachman’s view. As Fauna (played by Jenn) and Excor (played by Cris) leaped from the rickshaw, Excor dropped another 2 silver pieces into the puller’s sweaty palm who then immediately took off in the opposite direction.

Excor and Fauna cast Invisible to Sight on themselves and Szoo with little trouble. They waited and watched. The carriage departed shortly after a footman from the mart appeared and guided the lady dragon inside the yard. As far as the mages could tell the mercenaries in blue left with the carriage.

Isis: “What’s she doing here!? Looking for slaves?”

Cris: “Maybe, we did put her guys on ice er, in amber. Ha, ha, ha!”

Jenn: “She’s in league with the slavers?”

Cris: “Naw! Yes she is! We know who made those collars!”

                The mages hurried, invisible, to the iron gates. The lock was built into the gate and very solid. The gates themselves were set in a whitewashed adobe wall, twelve feet high, behind a gallery its roof supported by a colonnade. The gallery roof was tiled in copper rather than the typical red terracotta or blue slate so common in the city. Szoo easily slithered over the wall next to the gallery and helped Fauna over. They kept hold of each other’s hands in order to stay together. Excor used his gold Ring of Verminous Might (The Cabal of Eight Pt.44: Betrayed At Last!) growing insect wings and flying over the fence.

They were now in the gravel yard within the bleach-white walls of the slave mart. The yard, bounded by the 12 ft. tall adobe wall, was large and of packed gravel. To their immediate right was the locked iron-gate and to the left was a longhouse, with whitewashed plaster walls and terracotta roof. It had small barred square windows and a large barn door on the front and back. From it oozed the hideous stench of rotting corpses. Further away at the center of the yard, was a large round stone-lined pit surrounded by a collapsed wooden structure, probably a fighting pit and collapsed bleachers.

Immediately to the right of the pit sat another longhouse that boasted three smokestacks, a kitchen the mages surmised. Further north of that was a smaller longhouse, yellow firelight shone from the two square windows that the mages could see. The footman and the blue lady were just entering this building. Fauna and Szoo hustled towards it. At around 100 ft. above them, hovered Excor.

He saw that a larger building took up the rear of the yard built right up against the rear wall. Its tiny windows were barred and the arched front entrance appeared as the caged face of a prison. From this building, the reek of human misery drifted. This was the slave barracks. Excor sneered and realized that the rear wall abutted against the crenulated wall of the Slavers’ Castle. He gazed up at the massive stone structure only a few windows lit in the pitch black of night. Then he saw the thing that froze his blood solid in his veins.

Resting atop the large keep was the shadowy outline of a full-grown dragon. It was the resident brown-fang dragon paid by the slavers to guard their castle and service the city when required. This dragon’s name was Gristle-Talon. Its great shadow limned head swung, the eyes gleamed white for a second reflecting the scant light of the city. Excor froze in mid-air and waited to make sure that that great beast had not detected him. The pair of white pinpoints passed over him without reaction. When he was satisfied that he was indeed safe, he floated gently down to the gravel.

Meanwhile, Szoo and Fauna were peeking through one of the small square windows of the only lit longhouse in the yard. The pair realized that this building housed the guards, footmen, and a few servants. The footman who had guided the dragon into the house pointed to a guard sitting at a table, his dice game apparently cut short. Szoo could overhear the dragon demanding her “dinner” as she was “hungry”. The guard looked reticent as he rose and fumbled with a key ring on his belt. He gestured her to follow as he led her from that building. They were heading southeast at a rapid pace.

Szoo and Fauna maneuvered around taking shelter behind the corners of the few buildings trying to follow their quarry at a distance. In their excitement, they had let go of each other’s hands and thus had no idea where the other was. Excor immediately flew back up into the air trying to keep out of the dragon’s sensory range.

Jenn: “Okay, so she’s headed to the kitchen right?”

Isis (looking at the crude ad-hoc map): “I don’t think so, that would be here, so…”

Cris: “Kitchen yeah, pfft, that kitchen doesn’t have enough food for that dragon!”

The blue lady slowed her pace and in the blink of an eye, her humanoid form rolled out and elongated into that of a very large adult blue dragon. The tiara, necklace, and rings all still adorned her true form; they had changed as well to fit the creature. All three mages felt a twinge of fear but were able to maintain their wits. Meanwhile, the guard had jaunted to the building that sat at the far southern corner and left of the gate. He unlocked and threw open the barn door and ran away back to the guardhouse at full speed not once looking in the blue dragon’s direction.

The dragon stuck its head into the open door and began pulling out the corpses of dozens of humanoids, most were Meren frog and lizard men but others were human. The mages were meanwhile trying to maneuver as close as they dared. Then bones began to crunch. Fauna could barely contain herself.

Jenn: “Ugh! That’s DISGUSTING! I wanna kill this b!#%h right now!”

Isis: “YES! Let’s do THIS!”

Cris: “Whoa! What about that other dragon, the brown-fang!”

Jenn: “Damn.”

Isis: “Oh yeah, I forgot about him.”

                The mages maneuvered themselves to the iron-gate and decided against attacking the dragon outright, especially since the current circumstances were against them. They did argue for a little about if they should just “get her now” but ultimately they decided to flee and look for a better chance to face her down.

                Fauna cast Gaseous Form on Szoo and herself and they floated away towards the street. Excor flew to the copper roof of the gallery, carefully looked around for any watchers, and then flew straight home.

By the time they had arrived home, the door and the floor were fixed. The first to arrive was Excor, one of the carpenter’s apprentices was there waiting to hand him the key. He sat down after taking the key and dismissing the boy then lit his pipe. The other two walked in a short time later. A few minutes after that, they had formulated their plans for the next day. Fauna would scour the streets for and hire Thorn. Excor and Szoo would show up at Jirek’s warehouse to “check up on the rats”. Actually, they were using that as an excuse to see what he was up to and if that had anything to do with the dragon.

The next day – the 25th of Monsoon, the shouts and ringing bell of a town crier woke the three mages at the crack of dawn.

The Crier: “Marshaling in the South Market District Plaza! Rebels must be quelled in the far west at Serpent’s Back Ridge! All healers, men-at-arms, warriors, and mercenaries welcome, good pay!”

After breakfast, the trio split up to carry out their plans and investigate some leads. Excor and Szoo headed towards the harbor and Fauna decided to head back to the Slave Mart. After paying for a rickshaw ride, she soon found herself standing before the gallery of the mart she had burglarized the previous night. The slavers were hanging up colorful strings of pennants and installing chains to iron loops between the columns. She approached a fancy looking gentleman who seemed to be in charge. He immediately swung around and yelled, “get lost wh@!e, I’m not interested!”

She balled her fists and started walking away but spotted Vor Jetl in a trademark green silk jacket with gold dragonfly clasps. He was filing towards the gravel auction yard with a small group of other merchants. The chubby merchant was there to purchase some more servants. He would speak to her later, over lunch at the White Prong.

Vor Jetl (to Fauna): “Frankly, I cannot be seen with you little sister, er, priestess.”

He whispered the last word so only she could hear. With that, he wandered away from her and she similarly began to walk away. She had no idea how she was going to find Thorn.

Meanwhile, Szoo and Excor had spotted the pair of ratlings trailing them. Szoo spotted some sort of insignia on them but did not recognize it. It was a pair of black daggers crossing over a red scorpion. Excor cast spook and frightened one away. His companion followed, unwilling to confront the pair of mages alone. Not long after that mild inconvenience, the pair arrived at the warehouse. It was locked tight. Szoo used his cabal medallion to Whisper to Jirek. They consigned themselves to waiting.

Meanwhile, Fauna was at the bank depositing 5 emeralds and 5 sapphires. She also cashed out 3 emeralds (with a 10% surcharge). She figured she would use that to pay Thorn if she could find him. However, she was still unsure of how she would find him or where.

At the warehouse, after about an hour of waiting, the cabal scribe finally arrived. Jirek apologized to Excor and Szoo but as he had a working warehouse now it had to be secured when he was not there. The pair shrugged and followed him inside after he unlocked the door. The place was only about a quarter full stacked with several crates and barrels in one corner. A large sea trunk made of iron sat by the stairs to the basement.

The place was well lit the light beaming in from the small glazed windows above. When they were last here, the windows had been filthy and muddied the scant light they did let in. The crates and barrels had several different marks on them including a few with a big black eagle painted on them. What really caught their eyes though was the trunk by the stairs. It not only had a large black eagle painted on it but also had several runes on it, it was magically sealed.

Isis: “Aw man! He’s got Direnda’s stuff!”

Cris: “Relax, play it cool. I’ll talk to him while we’re checking the rats.”

                The two adventurers began checking their rats in their cages they were in great shape. There was also a makeshift bed in the corner that had been slept in recently. Excor surmised that Gornix might have been hiding out here. Excor then turned to Jirek and began to ask him about his pirate friends when the crash of breaking glass from the floor above interrupted. The three dashed upstairs in time to see the large iron trunk whisked out of a broken window by four giant wasps.

Excor: “The WASP! Dammit! I knew it! I knew he was gonna show up!”

Isis: “Oh gawd, the Wasp! Of course he would show up!”

                The warehouse door flew open. Standing there were Jirek’s pirate friends, the Grey Serpents. Their captain in the lead they shuffled into the warehouse. Following the captain were the Ferenoi swashbuckler, the mage in soft leather, and a man in full scale-mail and horsetail-tasseled helmet. Following him was another tall amazon Ferenoi. She appeared to be a priestess or maybe cleric of some type her grey cape adorned with a large white lightning bolt billowing behind her. Outside was yet another member of their crew, a Hill-Lander Half-Giant in scale-mail and leather gauntlets armed with a heavy claymore.

Grey Serpent Captain: “A-Ha! Jirek my friend! We have found our buyer and we are here to pick up the *ahem* cargo. We have your coin! Congratulations! We are out of your hair ha ha!”

Cris & Isis (simultaneously): “Aw crap.”

Jirek was at a loss for words.

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…

The Cabal of Eight II Pt.9: Fungus Force Five

Map of the Fungus Kingdom
Fungus Kingdom full map

Fauna the druid (played by Jenn), Excor (played by Cris), and Szoo the Black-Scael naga (played by Isis), were surveying the post-battle damage. A few shouldering clumps of slime remained not giving a hint to the tiny creatures’ formerly humanoid shapes. The statue of the four-armed goddess with dragonfly wings had fallen into the cellar up to its golden breasts (The Cabal of Eight Pt.41: The Lotus Vaults Pt.1). The floorboards around it were shattered, soggy and warped.

Cris: “See! I told you we should’ a killed that thing yesterday!”

Jenn: “But we didn’t fight these down there!”

Cris: “What dya think sent those!”

Fauna continued her brewing of healing potions while Szoo inspected the hole. The gap between the statue and the floorboards was enough for either of the human mages to crawl through but it was too narrow for Szoo to slither into the cellar. As the sunset and sky burned gold and pink, Fauna was finished, the trio decided to go back down into the caves below to provoke a final confrontation with the mushroom boss.

Excor holed the statue up in his Portable Hole revealing that the steps into the cellar were completely flattened. He activated his Ring of Ghost Form to float down to the cellar floor. Alternately, Fauna just jumped down after tying a rope off to the marble scrying pool that they had looted from the Lotus Vaults and installed in their makeshift lab-niche (The Cabal of Eight Pt.41: The Lotus Vaults Pt.1). Szoo slithered down into the small root cellar. Fauna took up the lead after finding the secret door wide open, smeared with fishy-smelling moisture and reeking of fungus.

The druid took a few careful cat-steps into the gaping portal into the dark passage. Her nostrils immediately assaulted by the choking stench of wet fungus. She saw about eight tiny sized humanoid creatures identical to those they had already faced above running towards her. The wet sounds of their tiny pseudo-feet slapping on the stone floor alerted the other two mages. As the tiny fiends hit the light of the lantern they appeared composed of black-spotted spongy material with grains throughout and covered in white and greyish hairs.

The battle was brief. Fauna slaughtered them with her dagger and Szoo scorched them with fire. Excor had flung chrono-missiles at them. During the battle, all of the creatures, the mouldmen, had swarmed poor Fauna and dealt some acid damage and drained some of her health (Constitution points). The mages lost no time in rushing into the caverns with Fauna in the lead.

Cris (to Jenn): “See! I told you that thing sent those things to screw with us! Hey, you better let Szoo lead for a little bit!”

Szoo moves into the lead to try to allow Fauna to recover. However, as soon as he took the lead, Szoo immediately spotted the oozing form of a violet blob slithering towards them from further down the main cavern.

Again, the battle was brief but Szoo had been engulfed, as this creature was much bigger than the violet blob that they had faced before (The Cabal of Eight II Pt.6: Facing the Fungus). Likewise, the creature had scored a critical hit on Fauna with a tentacle causing some serious damage to both her and Szoo using its dissolve flesh ability.

Suddenly without warning, a myconid astride a giant centipede charged from the somewhere further down the main cavern followed by two more mushroom-men covered in a thick crust of lichen-like plate armor wielding granite maces followed by an ice imp flying above amongst the dripping stalactites.

Excor whipped out his magic spike and shot a bolt of electricity at the centipede wounding it. Fauna tried to cast Lightning Bolt but the magic got away from her and went wild. A crackling burst of tiny electrical bolts filled the area. Fortunately, Excor was a ghost and unharmed. Szoo was able to avoid the bolts. Unfortunately, their enemies were just outside of the area of effect. The myconid centipede rider held up a small rod carved from red stone and the centipede surged forward heading straight for Fauna, she dodged its venomous fangs. The ice imp soared above the mages and blew a cone of icy breath at Fauna. Her magic shield absorbed the damage. Szoo shot a ray of fire at the centipede dealing some damage to it. The lichen-armored myconids leaped from the wood sled that the centipede was pulling and both attacked Szoo with their bludgeons. Szoo’s shield absorbed both hits.

Excor shot an electrical bolt at the centipede rider wounding it. The rider swung a sling above its head and let fly a stone at Excor but it passed harmlessly through his ghost form. The centipede again struck at Fauna but missed. Szoosha pulled out his fire fang and unleashed a cone of fire at the pair lichen-armored mushroom men barely singing them. The ice imp flew down and tried to kick Fauna in the head with its hooved feet. The druid easily parried the blow. The pair of lichen-armors again attacked Szoo, one missed by a wide margin the other successfully dispersed the shield spell protecting the naga.

Excor cast energy tentacle. Shooting from Excor’s hands a blinding bolt of energy took hold of the centipede rider like a tentacle. Fauna threw a lightning bolt at the imp wounding it. The giant centipede struck at Excor but again his ghost form protected him. Szoo backed up a few steps and cast elemental half-plate armor (fire) on himself. The armored myconids again struck at the naga but parried by his flaming naginata.

Szoo pulled out a bottle of naphtha and tossed it at the armored myconids splashing them both with the pungent substance. Fauna cast a fire ray at the ice imp wounding it badly. The imp again blew a blast of frost at Fauna. The centipede again fruitlessly snapped its jaws at Excor. Excor used the energy tentacle to pull the rider from his saddle and lifted him 20 feet into the damp cavern air. The armored myconids again swung at Szoo who once again easily parried their blows. The rider struggled in the grips of the energy tentacle but was trapped.

Szoo used his fire fang and blasted the pair of armored myconids with fire also igniting the naphtha spattered over them. They took a little damage but were also on fire. Fauna cast another fire ray at the ice imp burning it badly. The imp kicked at and hit Szoo in the head with its hooves but the naga’s fire armor protected him. Again, the centipede struck at Excor’s ghostly form. Excor used his tentacle to toss the unfortunate rider 20 feet down the cavern, a sickly thud sounded from the darkness. The flaming armored myconids both struck at Szoo again, one was easily parried but the other scored a critical hit dealing Szoo a mild wound.

Szoo again unleashed his fire fang on the pair of myconids again causing their armor to start to burn away. Fauna again struck the ice imp with her fire ray this time killing the creature. It disappeared with a blood-curdling scream and a burst of blue energy. The centipede continued to try to attack Excor. Excor tried to cast Force Ram on the giant centipede but failed the chaos of battle overwhelming his senses.  The burning pair of myconids again struck at Szoo but the naga again easily parried the both of them.

Szoo slashed at one of the burning myconids with his naginata but the myconid parried. Excor successfully cast Force Ram and squished the centipede against the cavern wall. Fauna flubbed her spell too anxious to slay her enemies. One of the flaming myconids attacked Fauna and was easily parried. The other attacked the naga and struck home with a massive lucky blow dealing Szoo a mean wound. The battle continued for a few more actions until the last pair of enemies collapsed into flaming smoking heaps.

Isis: “Jeesh! How many more of these guys are down here!”

Cris: “Yeah, he’s trying to wear us down before we get to him!”

Jenn: “Well it’s working! I’m out of shields and low on spells. And I’m kinda hurt.”

Isis: “Same here sis. But I’m still in okay shape!”

Cris: “I’m still pretty good but yeah, I’m out of shields too. … Screw this.”

Excor was going to cast Ghost Form on himself again but thought better of it.

After surveying the carnage and taking time to imbibe in some healing potions, the mages charged deeper into the cavern turning south to where they had previously encountered the boss mushroom. As fortune would have it, they ran straight smack into the monster.

The first round of battle was a blur of lightning bolts, a hurling destructive ball of fungus, a slashing flaming polearm, and a well-placed slow spell. The second was a cacophony of energy rays, chrono-missiles, and repeated thorn blasts that left Excor resembling a porcupine.

The battle raged on and slowed Boss Mushroom went on the attack as the trio of mages went on the defensive casting healing spells on each other, drinking potions, and Szoo casting elemental half-plate armor (fire) on his companions. The monster’s club swept repeatedly catching Szoo once and Excor twice. A well-placed fungus ball spell nailed Fauna wounding her horribly.

The final round found the mages exhausted and all badly wounded unable to take even a mild hit. However, Boss Mushroom was just as wounded. Thorn blasts and energy rays again flew then Excor captured the monster with a shadow ribbons spell. While the horrid thing was trapped, the mages beat and stabbed it to death.

The battle was finished and the trio stood over the large bloated body of the giant mushroom creature. Its flesh was starting to break down and liquefy. Excor observed the still brightly glowing ruby embedded in its chest. He shrugged and reached out to pull the gem from the monster’s melting flesh. To his surprise the gem was set into gold and attached to that was a fine gold chain, it was a necklace. He continued to pull the treasure free though there was some resistance so it took an effort on his part.

He almost had it free of the gross corpse and gave a mighty final yank. The warty skin of the chest split open and a human skeleton, the necklace still about its neck bones, was pulled out with a gush of yellow pus-like liquid matter. The skull clattered to the cavern floor, pulled off in a nervous reflex action by Excor. The necklace was his.

Cris: “Yech!”

Excor identified the gold necklace bearing a large central ruby that sparkled like blood-fire. The gem enraptured Szoo. His eyes sparkled in time with the strange light of it. Excor described the magic abilities of the necklace. It was a necklace of Shield three-times-a-day at level 8. However, something about it was bothering him but he just could not put his finger on it. Szoo grabbed for the gem, Excor let the naga have it. The naga Elementalist immediately donned the magic necklace.

Cris: “I don’t want that stinking thing! It was embedded in a monster-mushroom’s chest!”

Szoo wanted to explore the cavern further but everyone was suffering significant wounds including Szoo who only just realized his condition when prodded by Excor. Disappointed the naga relented. To satisfy the naga at least a little, Excor cast ghost form on himself once more and scouted the cave getting a general sense of where all of the passages and chambers were. The naga seemed even more disappointed afterward.

Exhausted, the trio moved back up into the house for some well-needed rest. Excor grumbled something about having to hire some carpenters to fix the trap door and floor.

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…

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…