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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isis: “Oh great! A magic sword!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excor: “Now where did Szoo go!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Be Continued…

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The Cabal of Eight II Pt.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.2: A Letter and a Map

Draega's wrist tats and the letter seal

It was the 17th of Monsoon and the Cabal of Eight was in mid-meeting in their clubroom at the Red Helm Tavern. The city for the past couple of days had been very quiet probably due to the incessant rain and swampy air that could choke a horse. Around the table sat Excor (played by Cris), Fauna (played by Jenn), Szoosha (played by Isis), Bumble, Jirek acting as secretary, Riahm, and finally Belrae acting as the arbiter. Gornix was conspicuously absent. Bumble was visibly uncomfortable and very quiet.

Cris: “Yeah, she SHOULD be! Her and her master stole our stuff!” [Cabal of Eight Pt.44: Betrayed at Last!]

Jenn: “Awww, but I still like her.”

Isis: “Jeez! Why don’t ya MARRY her already Jenny!?”

A servant knocked on the door and Bumble let him in. On the wine tray with two fresh bottles of wine Excor and Fauna spied a wax-sealed letter. Fauna noticed the wax-seal bore the image of a scorpion and two crossed daggers. As soon as the tray was set upon the table, Belrae snatched up the letter and tucked it away. The servant exited with the empty tray.

Cris: “So they’re dealing with Draega huh?”

Jenn: “Well that is his symbol.”

She had spotted the tattoos of a red scorpion and crossed black daggers on the publican’s wrists ages ago.

Isis: “Hey! He’s never given us a LETTER, right?”

Excor [after lighting his pipe and taking a drag] : “So, anyone else notice all the dragons running around town in human guise? All these filthy beasts in the streets make me nervous.”

Both Belrae and Riahm turn from conferring with each other presumably about the letter.

Riahm [directly to Excor]: “Not all are beasts!”

Excor: “You talk like you’re dealing with one of them my friend.”

Riahm: “Well for your information the potential of working with them…”

Belrae shushed his friend.

Excor [waggling his pipe stem at the pair] : “You and Belrae better watch it or you’ll end up a couple of slaves, dragon thralls, er whatever. But since we’re all part of this Cabal, if you guys ever need help don’t hesitate to ask, we…”

Excor motioned to include Fauna and Szoo in his statement.

Excor: “…have experience with dragons and will help you if you ever need it. Just ask.”

Belrae [smugly] : “Well, there’s a blue dragon, a queen of some territory in the mountains that we hear is after four mages who killed her brother.” [Cabal of Eight Pt.28: Wagons and Dragons]

That brought a sudden silence to the room, which lasted until after the meeting officially adjourned.

The mages filtered out and down the stairs at the back of the tavern. As they hit the bottom of the staircase, Fauna jaunted after Bumble who seemed to try to outrun the druid. Excor noticed Belrae and Riahm just inside of the kitchen doorway speaking quietly with Draega. However, just as the rotund bald publican noticed the mage watching them he waved a hand dismissing the pair of cabal of members. Perhaps it involved the letter.

Draega [gliding over to Excor and Szoo] : “Ah my fine friends how are we this evening?”

Excor [gesturing] : “They have business with you…?”

Draega: “Ah! No need to worry yourself just business, it’s just business my friend. Don’t worry the job is beneath you. Nevertheless, um, I do have some news for you. Word has it that the White Swan is after your compatriot Gornix and his *ahem* accomplices, there’s a warrant and everything.”

Meanwhile, Fauna continued to chase after Bumble pursuing her out into the city streets and around several blind turns. Suddenly, Bumble stopped.

Bumble [turning] : “Stop following ME!”

Fauna: “Hey I just wanna be friends, I’m concerned about you …”

Bumble: “No! Leave me alone!”

Fauna: “But Ilna that master of yours…!”

Bumble: “No! Don’t follow me!”

Bumble stumbled her way down the wet street her shoes clattering loudly on the cobblestones. Fauna just stood there and then realized she was several blocks southeast of the tavern. As the druidess began to walk back to rejoin her friends, the rain fell in a sudden downpour. She put her hood up and continued walking.

Excor and Szoo relaxed with some food and ale in the theater of the Red Helm, on the stage a young mediocre bard was plying his trade. Excor had just finished cutting a business deal with Draega. The mage pledged to deliver a hogshead of high quality mead for a cut-rate price, the first delivery would seal an ongoing business arrangement. Where Excor was going to get the expensive spirit was the information that he had left out of the conversation. He planned to fill one of those massive barrels with his Bottomless Chalice of Fine Mead [Cabal of Eight Pt.38: The Black Tombs Pt.2].

Excor [as he sat down next to Szoo] : “Damn. Wouldn’t know where I could get a hogshead would ya?”

Szoo [his mouth stuffed with boiled meat and vegetables] : “Mmm, naw.” *munch* *munch*

Several minutes later, Fauna, drenched from the rain and a little down, walked up to the table and sat down with the pair. The night passed as usual as did several rounds of cheap ale. They caught each other up on any tidbits of information they had gleaned over the course of the evening. After an hour or so, they observed an old guy with shoddy adventurer-type gear on moving around the room from patron to patron trying to sell something. Eventually it was their turn. The little old man bellied up to their table, his craggy sun-browned face a crisscross of scars and deeply cracked by age.

The Old Man: “Hi there friends! I am so thirsty, and now don’t worry! I don’t need any charity, I do have something of value! Here’s an old map I dug up from the desert…”

All three mages wide-eyed leaned in to listen.

The Old Man: “I know it’s worth a few gold pieces since it is a map o’ the region, it’s only a little out a’ date. I’ll part with it for the low, low price of 100 gold.”

Szoo [shrugging] : “Meh. I can’t read it.”

Cris: “It’s a map; you don’t need literacy to read it.”

Isis: “Nah, it’s paper, the temptation for my guy to burn it would be too much. Then you guy’s would get mad at me.”

Cris: *roll* *roll* “This guy seems shady and the map paper is old but the ink looks newer – too new.”

However, the gold bee illustration on the map gave all three of them pause when the old man unrolled it to give them a glimpse of “it’s quality”.

Jenn: “Heh heh, I’m gonna talk this guy into selling it to me for waaay cheap!” *roll* *roll*

Fauna handed over a large emerald (worth 2,000 gold pieces) to the old man and he cheerfully handed over the map. Excor and Szoo exchanged a roll of the eye and finished their drinks. Soon after finishing the ale all three were walking the streets on their way home. The rain continued to drench them.

Szoo: “Yecch! I hate water!”

Excor: “Ha ha! At least it’s warm!”

Isis: “Hey, what do you think was in that letter anyway?”

Cris: “Draega’s letter? What do you care? Your character can’t READ! Ha ha ha!”

They were in the general area of their rented home when Fauna and Excor noticed a large group of beggars following them. As precaution Excor cast Mage Armor on himself, Fauna activated her robes of Mage Armor, and Szoo cast Elemental Half-Plate Armor (fire) on himself. Not long after, the three mages realized that the group was not of beggars but of pirates. The ringing of blades echoed in the mages’ ears over the hard rain as the twelve pirates pulled their blades.

Szoo [his glowing armor hissing and steaming in the rain] : “ALL RIGHT! It’s time to try out my FIRE FANG!”

To Be Continued…