It was late morning; some carpenters were measuring the warehouse. Vor Jetl was overseeing a crew with a winch and chain by the large hole in the dock floor. He was going to recover the dragon’s corpse; it was simply too much money to just leave it to rot. He promised each of the trio that they could claim a share at the safehouse sometime tomorrow evening. Jirek had taken his leave and Fauna and Szoo had left together to breakfast at the safehouse. Excor, still mourning the unicorn wand, decided to breakfast at the White Prong. From there, he would head to the Red Helm hoping to smooth over the situation with Draega.
It was nearing afternoon by the time he reached the Red Helm tavern. Draega was out front overseeing some workers. They were constructing a new framework and facade over the gaping hole in the front of the place.
Draega (taking time from setting up a sandwich board with a red helmet next to a frothing mug of ale painted on it): “oh… it’s you.”
Excor (handing Draega a large sapphire and emerald): “This should cover everything.”
Draega: “Ha! I knew you wouldn’t leave our friendship in the dirt to die! I suppose you and your friends might still come around for your meetings and whatnot. But this does not cover the clubroom rent. And no more complementary drinks!”
His aims met, Excor was about to walk away and head to his apartment far to the south. However, as he turned, Belrae and his right-hand man Riahm were in his face—the de facto leaders of the Cabal. Belrae was a fresh-faced young Ezmerian, his purple robes fluttering in the breeze with a prominent green frog on his chest. Riahm was a young Ivoran man with a sun-kissed face his half brown half green cloak testified to the fact that he was a graduate of the Ezermian Bardic College.
Belrae: “There you are! You interfered with a very important deal we had with the dragon queen! You screwed up a prime bit of cabal business!”
Excor: “Whoa! Whoa! That dragon business was going to go bad no matter what! Even Draega warned you.”
Belrae: “Shut up!”
Cris: “Oh? Well, that’s it I’m through with this guy!”
Belrae: “Now I hear you’re telling everyone that you’re the leader of the cabal!”
Cris: “Sh*t! It’s that damned Wasp, he’s been workin’ Belrae while we were dealing with that dragon sh#t.”
He was not wrong although he had no real reason for believing so other than being familiar with Xanto the Wasp’s modus operandi.
Belrae: “Y’know what! Y’know what!?”
Belrae: “I challenge you to a duel for leadership of the cabal, a wizard’s duel! Anytime you want it!”
Excor: “Fine. Let’s duel. You pick the time.”
Belrae (after consulting with Riahm): “In two days’ time at dusk in the Star Sapphire guild house.”
The pair stomped off. Excor just shrugged.
Isis: “Oh! It’s those two connected to the Sapphire guild!” (see The Cabal of Eight II Pt.24 – Wrath of the Dragon Queen)
Morning of the 28th of Monsoon – The trio of Excor, Fauna, and Szoo sit around a table in a bustling and already smoke-fogged common room of the White Prong the board brimming with steaming meat, fresh fruit, and foaming tankards of dark ale, morning conversations sizzled through the greasy air.
Fauna (lifting an overfilled tankard to her mouth): “Aaah! Breakfast ale!”
Szoo and Fauna had slept at the safehouse and Excor had taken a room for the night at the Shield & Helm Inn. They discussed the battle with the Ocean of the Desert, mentioned how none of them wanted to deal with the Wasp (Szoo still had his key) for a while and ran through the list of loot. Excor had spent an hour before sunrise identifying all four pieces of the dragon queen’s jewelry.
There was the silver and diamond necklace with five silver acorn charms, a silver bracelet, a gold bracelet, and a diamond-encrusted silver diadem/tiara. All were insanely valuable and somewhat magically powerful. The gold bracelet had the constant ability of Death Armor (1D4 + 5), and the silver bracelet had Heal Self (10D4) three times a day. The silver diadem on the other hand, had the abilities of Track Enemy (98%) once per day, Scry twice a day, Soul Armor at will once per day, and the central sapphire held the ability to cast Negate Magic I at will three times per day. However, the necklace was something else altogether.
The necklace was a legacy item, and each acorn charm was able to control the mind of a slave. Clairvoyance had revealed to Excor earlier that it was an item of legacy and only fire intense enough to shatter the diamonds can destroy it. Unanimously they decided to destroy the necklace as legacy items are not only useless but also can be dangerous to those who are not part of that legacy. For that they would reconvene at Fauna’s rental, or in what was left of it anyway.
A little more than an hour later the group was back in the old rental in the north quarter. The trio voted three to one that the fire elementalist would be charged with the necklace’s destruction. After all, if the fire elementalist couldn’t create flames hot enough to destroy it, who could? Szoo lit the hearth with his fire magic and the other two backed off, trying to find cover as Szoo prepared to throw the necklace into the roaring flames.
Szoo (the necklace dangling off the end of his naginata): “Oh boy! Okay! I’m doing it!”
The other two ducked behind what cover they found and the naga tossed the diamond necklace into the flames. A blinding flash of magical light caused him to jump backward and shield his eyes in the crook of his arm. When he looked again the flames of the roaring fire had been frozen and turned to solid ice. Szoo used his fire touch ability to recover the necklace from the ice and then took it into the alley to try to use his Encase in Element (fire) spell.
Eventually, after building what amounted to a bonfire in the alleyway, Szoo, through superior concentration (N20), encased the necklace the flames shattering the gems and melting the rest. The trio sighed in relief Szoo had successfully destroyed the necklace without much incident. They finally settled down to split the loot; Szoo kept the tiara, Excor took the gold bracelet, and Fauna the silver bracelet. A few moments later, they went their separate ways.
Szoo hoofed it down to the seafront looking for Paej (see The Cabal of Eight Pt.20: Rats, Rowdies, and Imps) as a favor to Excor. He was to inquire about “any important info about the brewers and distillers in the city”. Whatever that meant. The naga eventually found Paej at the bar in a scuzzy pirate-infested dive. She had a crew and a boat and was just looking for a job. As it turned out, there was only a single brewer within the city, the Red Scorpion Barrel. Otherwise, there was no other information.
Szoo: “Oh hey, you know a bone carver that can enchant stuff?”
Paej: “Yeah, yeah I know a guy, but he can be a little paranoid.”
Paej gave Szoo the location of the bone-carver, it was a rickety staircase deep in an alley in the West Quarter just off the Shop District. Szoo shrugged and thanked Paej then went off to check to see if the dragonhide and bone was ready at the safehouse. A few hours later, and to his delight, he found that his share was ready and waiting. After packing up his wealth of dragon bone & hide, he went to find the bone-carver.
Another couple of hours later, Szoo easily found the rickety staircase on the alley side of a low-end apartment building. After he took a few minutes to remember the specific knock that would get the door opened, he was face-to-face with a wild-eyed, skinny, pale, man with a heavy Hyvalian accent and a bush of wild, gray hair dressed in a dirty, tattered robe. After convincing the twitchy nervous guy that he wasn’t any kind of authority, Szoo revealed his purpose to the “bone-sculptor” as the guy insisted that he was though he was likely some sort of bone-specialized necromancer.
Szoo wanted help in creating a magic staff with a star metal inlay and a large moonstone at its top out of the dragonbone with the Elemental Blast (fire) spell on it. After showing the bone-sculptor he had the means to pay, they embarked on creating the magic staff that would take 13 days to complete.
Meanwhile, Fauna was heading out unsure as to what to do as a messenger reached her while departing the old rental with two messages for her, Draega wanted them out of the rental as did Vor Jetl from the safehouse. So, she went apartment-hunting. She was talking to barkeeps and paying criers 1 bit to read board posts for her. Eventually, she found herself somewhere in the South Market District near the Main City Gate chasing down a lead when she ran into a familiar face. A longtime contact, Kosapio Belahgastro (see The Cabal of Eight Pt.24: Plate of Scorpions), the Creschan woman was wearing a white robe and blue apron with a white star on the chest. They talked for a few minutes and Fauna lamented that she did not keep in contact like she should. Then they parted ways again.
Cris: “You had a contact in the White Star guild this whole TIME!?”
Isis: “What!? Really!?”
Cris: “Yeah! She was wearing the White Star, they’re the biggest healers’ guild in the city!”
Jenn: “So what?”
Cris: “So what!?” He went into fits of incomprehensible sputtering.
Cris (his outrage finally subsided after several minutes): “Ya know, having a contact in the world’s largest healers’ guild could’ve been helpful.”
Jenn just shrugged.
Fauna finally found a place she liked and put down a deposit.
At the same time, Excor had walked to Baba’s Apothecary to “smoke and chill” with the naga apothecary. They were calmly discussing various herbs, especially lotus. She mentioned she had a new supplier for lotus. He wears a gold mask with a gold bee and flower blossom on it. She did have a backup supplier, a smaller-time guy in the city. Excor knew who that was (Anishi the Grove Tender, Fauna’s friend and co-cultist). After a few hours of smoking, Excor decided to go to the safehouse to collect his share of the spoils. From there, he went back to his room at the Shield & Helm. The duel with Belrae was ever-present in his mind.
Morning of the 1st of Low Harvest – Excor sent a whisper to Jirek and Fauna inviting them to breakfast at the White Prong. There he asked Jirek to be his second in the duel at morrow’s dusk. He would also need access to Jirek’s warehouse. The scribe also agreed to this. Excor then departed to a tailor. He wanted a purse, cowl, gloves, and potion bandolier made from the blue dragon hide. With a 10gp deposit, it would take 10 days to be ready for pickup.
Then he went to a cooper near the docks purchasing two empty hogsheads. He had them delivered to Jirek’s warehouse where he had hoped to fill them with his magic goblet. (Cabal of Eight Pt.38: The Black Tombs Pt.2 for the chalice, Cabal of Eight II Pt.2: A Letter and a Map for the birth of his scheme). However, he realized too late that it would take forever to fill them that way. Seriously, we ran through the (approximate) math for about half an hour.
Later, as the sky darkened and the sun was nearing dusk, Fauna went to find Vor Jetl. However, she couldn’t find the Dragonfly anywhere. In his stead, she sought out Anishi. But he was busy directing initiates of the Southern Order in maintaining and landscaping Central Park. Both with druidic magic and standard gardening tools. So, as she wanted a magic cloak made from her share of the dragonhide, Anishi suggested a member in the Old Market District. She got there close to dusk and put in an order for a Cloak of Many Pockets. It would take 10 days for the seamster to complete. He guaranteed his work would be of high quality and gave her a great price with a wink (he was a member of the cult she was head priestess of as well).
Cris: “Geesh, must be nice to have a cult! Y’know, we need to think about how to use them in the future.”
Isis: “Yes! We really need to.”
Jenn: “Hey, that’s my cult!”
Cris: “Well! You need to start using ‘em!”
Jenn: “That’s what I just did!”
Both Cris and Isis sighed with disgust.
Fauna eventually found her way back to the safehouse where the servant still let her in. The first thing she did was plop down on the sofa and dose herself with some yellow lotus powder. She passed out immediately and was tormented by a disturbing dream about Vor Jetl. She dreamed that he was nude laying on grey silk pillows with the general feeling of undefined dread.
Elsewhere, Excor spent 5 hours filling the hogsheads in the warehouse then quit and retired to the Shield & Helm. When in his room, he laid back onto the feather pillow and bed after a hot meal and bottle of wine. The duel was now only a matter of hours away.
To Be Continued…