|"He who sacrifices his conscience to ambition burns a picture to obtain the ashes."|| The run begins on the Day of the Late Spider in the eleventh Year of the Spider since the Third Treaty of Houses.|
The run takes place in and around the town of the Gate of Shen just barely in the Hon'eth Arcade.
Leaving the Coast
Cai Wen shows off a sword that he has borrowed from the Merit Trading Company: a silver-chased masterwork sword (x5) with a crane imprint beneath the maker's mark, and characters etched into the blade: Wolf-Slayer. The company bought it for 99 li, and Cai Wen says Merit is curious whether it might be secretly worth much, much more. Shen-Ji thinks the silver might make it specifically useful against creatures like werewolves, but in general, those with knowledge of swords think that about a tael is a fair price, and wish they had it to spend.
Two monks approach the circus, and are pointed towards Cai Wen as the person currently in charge of the associated adventurers. Master Tsien of the Clear Melting Sect has heard that they will be heading westwards, towards the town called the Gate of Shen, and respectfully requests that these two monks be permitted to accompany them as they travel. The two monks introduce themselves as Chen-Su, a brother of the order, and Golden Flame, a novice. It has come to their attention that people from the town have been vanishing, and another brother from their order is already there investigating. Cai Wen notes with interest that Golden Flame is quite cute, and he determines that she has four levels of "dedication to monkly vows" in her personal mechanic.
Ringmaster Te briefs the circus - as they head west, the towns will be much smaller. Until they get to the capital of the Qin Chao Steppes, the circus will perform "carnival style", setting up different acts but not the main tent. However, this should not be taken as an opportunity to slack, so there will be practice tonight for all the non-headliners. Ringmaster Te also takes Xian aside to ask about the attempt at a comedy act that he and Lijuan put on - Xian assures the ringmaster that they won't be trying to perform that routine until all the kinks are worked out. In the practice, Anto is the most successful with his fire-juggling, so he's the one the circus crew is talking about (leading people to suspect Kuan-Xi has returned).
Anto talks to Chen-Su about the Clear Melting sect, and asks how it differs from the order of the Steadfast Heart, which is he is more familiar with. They do both stand against the North, but Clear Melting is more about putting down the undead - they tend to be priests and exorcists - and Steadfast Heart is more about fighting in defense of the people. The Clear Melting priests focus more on eradicating evil and less on saving individual people from looming danger, and Chen-Su has a rather fatalistic approach ("it's so rare that they can be saved") which Anto disapproves of.
That evening, Cai Wen attempts to lure Golden Flame into not-quite-breaking her vows; he is successful in his attempt, and her dedication to her vows drops to three points (not quite what he intended).
That night, Kasumi and Cai Wen are the only ones to hear a suspicious noise out by the horses. Kasumi immediately goes on the prowl looking for ninjas, and spots a scruffy-looking man attempting to steal one of the horses. Cai Wen heads horse-wards, but only spots a ninja sneaking around; he assumes this is Kasumi, and doesn't sound the alarm. Kasumi taps the man on the shoulder, and he yells "they found me!" and starts to run. Kasumi easily catches him, and Cai Wen catches a young boy hiding a ways away. The boy starts to shout that he's been grabbed by monsters, but Cai Wen manages to calm him down again.
- "Do you know that man over by the horses?"
- "He said no."
- "Don't try to fool me, boy, I'm the great Zhu Cai Wen."
Kasumi decides it's time to wake up someone with a more nuanced view on what to do with bad guys than she has, and finds Anto.
- "This is either a bad guy or someone who needs help; it's over my pay grade." -Kasumi
Anto takes charge of interrogating the horse thief, who says that his most unworthy name is Mi-Soon, and that he heard the horse cry out, and came to make sure that it was not injured. Cai Wen leans on him some more, and he confesses that he was stealing it because he and his son are trying to get to Daizhou but do not have enough food to walk all the way there. They are going to Daizhou to find honest work, as he is from the Gate of Shen, and there is nothing left for him there now. Kasumi complains - can they feed him and wait until breakfast and get some more sleep? She convinces Cai Wen to have the plan "feed them now, interrogate them at breakfast." to avoid having to wake everyone up.
Unfortunately, it turns out that horse thieves are too paranoid to wait to be interrogated at breakfast, and in the morning, there is only a hastily written note left behind, and one of the blankets is missing:
The party immediately forms up a posse to chase them down, and after a few hours' ride, catch up to the hapless father and son. The father immediately switches back to grovelling his apologies again.
- "Honored sirs, this one thought the blanket was a gift."
Golden Flame is assigned to talk to him and find out more about what has been happening in the Gate of Shen. He says that people have been vanishing for months. There was a great attack by shambling monsters, many months back - the army came and put them down and said they were bandits. But then people started vanishing, after that. Hmm, the party goes into speculation mode: Perhaps they had taken corruption damage and were controlled somehow? Had they been acting strangely before they vanished? Mi-Soon says that his wife, at least, was not acting strange. How many people vanished? Many! There are only several tens of people left in the Gate of Shen now. Was his wife injured or touched by the monsters? No, Mi-Soon fought the monster off that tried to attack his family. Xiao Fa notes that Mi-Soon has a corruption point, but his son is clean. Golden Flame asks if there is a monk from the Clear Melting sect there - Mi-Soon says that there was, but he vanished, and that was the last straw before Mi-Soon left.
Who is in charge at the Gate of Shen? They have a council of... three people. Or four. One of them is more like two people. This confuses people, and they decide to wait and see.
Mi-Soon really doesn't want to go back to the Gate of Shen, but the party twists his arm, and he eventually gives in, though he wants a whole pack of food in return. And maybe a tent. But mostly he doesn't think anyone should go, as the village is very cursed.
- "We are in a land plagued by curse-o-mancers, such that every small village we wander across is cursed." -Shen-Ji
The Gate of Shen
That afternoon, the circus reaches the Gate of Shen - it is in bad enough shape that the circus is now a majority of the population, as there are only 40-50 townsfolk left. Ringmaster Te is not happy - the town was much more populated the last time he was here.
Mi-Soon points out the elders of the town:
- Captain Shan, a retired soldier
- Mu, a wood sorcerer
- Gao Lin and Gao Lei, yak breeders who are conjoined twins
Captain Shan tells the party that the population of the Gate of Shen has been going down because so many people have run off since the bandit attack last year. Zhi-Hao looks dubious - run off? Really? Captain Shan notes that people are often overcome and do irrational things in times of trouble. He seems to be sticking to the Dragon Army party line of "bandits" and "no curses here", though his heart isn’t really in it. Captain Shan himself lives in the old gatehouse in what remains of the ancient town wall, which he claims is totally coincidental with the town being named the Gate of Shen; the party suspects he may be playing up the correspondence to enhance his own prestige.
Xiao Fa wanders around, looking for sweet-thorn, as that has previously been implicated in cursed villages. He finds some places where plants seem to have been burnt out, but he can't tell what they were.
Shen-Ji invites Master Mu to take tea, and Anto joins them; Shen-Ji starts by quizzing Master Mu about what he knows about the Wall itself. Master Mu notes that the Wall's purpose is to protect them, though it does not always succeed. Ah, has he seen any incursions, then? Yes, he was here for the great incursion last year - there were a number of fell creatures which destroyed the people here. (Shen-Ji notes that he's quite unhappy about this, though that is not so surprising.) Does he know about sweet-thorn? He does, though he's surprised that a metal sorceror like Shen-Ji knows of it. He says that he is afraid there is no sweet-thorn here for Shen-Ji to examine, as he has burned it all out. Shen-Ji nods approvingly, and asks if he has sensed any other magic in the area. Master Mu says he is not sure he follows Shen-Ji's meaning, but he has not sensed any magics other than his own.
The party verifies that the previous monk from the Clear Melting sect is gone. He was staying in a traveller's hut on the side of town, and his stuff is mostly still there, though his walking stick is gone. His (copious) notes are also still with his other stuff, though they are not so helpful as to point fingers at any bad guys. He has confirmed that the "bandit" attack was undead, and that the people vanishing have probably not all been leaving town. He has also found some tracks heading north after the vanishings, but the tracks all trail off fairly close to the town. Cai Wen's detective roll indicates that there are no signs of struggle in the hut, and that he probably left with an intention of returning.
Shuyan, accompanied by Kasumi, heads to an out-of-the-way corner of town, and puts on her serpent ring of death to fall over dead for a while. While dead, she doesn't see anything terribly suspicious, but this does cause Master Mu to startle during his tea with Shen-Ji, and make an excuse to head back to his house (followed by Anto). He goes into his house, and comes out five minutes later, to return to the tea tent with apologies to Shen-Ji - he had thought there was something he had to deal with, but he was mistaken. Shen-Ji offers his assistance "in confidence", and Master Mu says that when the "bandits" attacked, they left behind many dangerous artifacts. The Dragon Army took many of those artifacts with them, but he has a few, and they need to be properly contained. He was worried that one was being employed somewhere in town, but it was not. Shen-Ji offers to take a look - he is an expert in magic items!
Meanwhile, Captain Shan talks to Zhi-Hao. It looks good and all, but has he seriously joined a circus? Zhi-Hao demurs - they just happen to be going the same way. This placates Captain Shan's sense of propriety well enough that he's willing to fill in a few more details for Zhi-Hao. About a month after the attacks, Master Mu announced that sweet-thorn was bad after some research, and had it all burned.
- "A good precaution, but not entirely successful." -Zhi-Hao
- "Wait, is there still some out there?" -Captain Shan
- "No, it just hasn't stopped the bad things from happening."
- "Well, honestly, I didn't think eradicating a plant would really solve everything."
Man to man, Captain Shan is willing to admit that maybe not all the disappearances have been voluntary. There have sometimes been tracks left - but they just go a little ways north and then vanish. He finds that somewhat disturbing. Zhi-Hao also notes that his home is really quite well-furnished, and asks how he chose where to live. Captain Shan says he picked the town because that's where his wife was from - he was stationed on the Wall near here, and met her delivering supplies. And he has a taste for historical memorabilia. Zhi-Hao notes that it's quite an expensive collection - not a lot of spiffy functional things, but definitely valuable for a historian. It's certainly too expensive a collection for a standard captain's salary, but not for someone who was... supplementing his income in other ways. Zhi-Hao also learns that the Captain's wife was one of the first to vanish, and he has come to terms with the fact that she probably didn't run off (it is not clear whether he finds her leaving him or mysteriously vanishing more disturbing). As far as looking for someone who might be involved, he suggests looking to the Gao sisters, as they are seriously un-natural, though he can't pin anything on them. Zhi-Hao asks if that's a recent change, but no, they've always been that way. As for the monk, Captain Shan thinks he headed back to his temple to report back, and didn't actually Disappear. He offers the use of one of the empty houses, or the (empty) inn, if people want to make use of one as a headquarters, but this suggestion is deemed Creepy and Dangerous, so people stay with the circus.
Finally, the Gao sisters show up to meet Xian, as they hear that he is even more confounding than they are (they are joined at the hip, it turns out). He agrees that he probably is.
They say that they have come to seek or test his wisdom, depending on which of them he listens to. They themselves attribute the various dissappearances to entirely natural or supernatural consequences, depending on which he listens to. What insight does he have? None. That is what they expected, and feared - for he is but a traveller, and what could he know of this place, from his vast experience through the world. Xian notes to himself that they don't really seem to agree - as if they really are two different people!
- "The most wise people are capable of traveling to this village, and the most foolish are as well. So that we are travelers doesn't really tell you much." -Xian
They say that the town and the angry ghosts do not appreciate those who know too much. Wait, angry ghosts? Nobody has mentioned angry ghosts yet, and Xian enquires further. The Gao sisters note that something is carrying off the town's women - causing the entire run to look at Cai Wen suspiciously. Xian checks - is it really only women going missing? The sisters concede that the disappearances targetted women initially, but men are vanishing too now. They, are, admittedly, less concerned about the men. Xian wonders - why do they assume it's angry ghosts, rather than tigers or wolves or swarms of ants? The sisters say that there are no tigers this far north, for one. And there haven't been any more wolf tracks than normal.
Anyway, they think it's angry ghosts, brought upon the town by the doings of men, and they think Xian should look to the men of the town to find the source of the difficulties. Xian notes that most towns do have men, but don't have plagues of angry ghosts - is there anything more specific that the sisters can tell him, any evidence they can provide? The Gao sisters claim that they attempted to follow the path of evidence and proof, but they tried and failed. Men will stand together against the accusations of women. So, if Xian has a limited amount of time, he should not bother to search the women.
- "You have no idea, do you? You're just grasping at straws." -Xian
- "If you look to the destiny of a town, look among those who lead it." -Gao Lei
Meanwhile, Shen-Ji asks Xiao Fa to come with him to Master Mu's house to take a look at the evil northern items, and the two also have an opportunity to marvel at his furnishings, which are all of shaped wood. He opens a box with a complicated wooden lock, and shows them three things: a necromancy staff (like the one Shen-Ji has), a wolf's paw on a chain, and a collection of marked silver tags. Shen-Ji notes that the staff is basically the same as his, though more beaten-up and ill-used, and that the paw contains a meta-shtick that lets you more or less substitute "wolf" for another animal in a shtick (so Shuyan could heal people by having a wolf bite them, that sort of thing). Shen-Ji is also pretty sure that it wasn't made with sorcery - perhaps Life magic, from the Life / Death / Necromancy northern cosmology. He wonders whether this could explain the wolf trouble in the north, but Master Mu says that wolf trouble is as old as the wall itself, not a new thing. Anyhow, he keeps the items locked up because they are dangerous in the hands of the unwise - but he doesn't expect them to be making people vanish from inside the box.
Master Mu has begun to suspect that Shen-Ji has some knowledge of items like this, and asks if he's seen such things before? Shen-Ji admits that he has, and explains that to the best of his understanding, corruption points are caused by northern necromancy, and they can cause damage or compulsion, but that there always has to be an actual necromancer to turn the corruption to one of those ends. Perhaps corruption from the "bandit" attacks is being exploited? Mu asks if the party have some way of getting rid of corruption? Xiao Fa bows and says that he can do so. Master Mu says that they will speak on this further, and that he will gather a list of those people in town most likely to have corruption points. Then he puts away the necromantic items, and locks the box again.
Cai Wen and Golden Flame ask around the remaining villagers, and tries to check whether "people injured in the attack" is correlated with "people who vanished". It turns out that there is some amount of correlation, in that the early disappearances were somewhat rare, and tended to be injured people or smaller weaker people, but later disappearances have been more frequent and anyone can vanish. Mi-Soon is pegged as the only person to vanish and then return.
Cai Wen also flirts some more with Golden Flame as he tries to figure out her mechanic, and determines that the more he tries to tempt her, the more her resolve drops, and her dedication-to-monkly-vows goes down to 2.
The party meets back up again to exchange notes on what they've determined. Unfortunately, none of their investigations have revealed an Obvious Bad Guy. Chen-Su has been wandering around scattering ash to try to see if he can determine anything, but hasn't finished his mechanic yet. Cai Wen asks if they can help with that, and he notes somewhat pointedly that it would go faster if his novice were more attentive and able to assist him in his investigations. Cai Wen allows that he and Golden Flame can help with his investigations, then, and the three of them head back out. Chen-Su demonstrates his ash-throwing technique - most places, he throws the ash in the air and it scatters about as you would expect, but there are some places where it drops immediately to the ground, in the shape of a footprint - Chen-Su says that that is the print of a necromancer. (Golden Flame, impressed, ticks her resolve back up to 3).
Xiao Fa heads to the empty inn, and starts following the chi downstream, escorted by Anto and Kasumi. There is a vague drift of chi northwards - not a current so much as ripples from chi having gone northwards in the past. He wanders slowly northwards for an hour or so, until Anto looks for people who need help - that would be back at the circus. He and Kasumi head that way, leaving Xiao Fa to continue wandering north for a while longer. Once Anto reaches the circus, though, it's not as clear who in specific needs help, or if they need help yet.
Wolves in the Night
The circus wagons are circled, and the party keeps watch. Their nervousness proves well-founded, as once it nears midnight, a pack of wolves slips out of the night to attack the groom standing by the horses.
Anto leaps into the fray, grabbing one wolf, and Shuyan wraps another in a snake. Zhi-Hao dashes across the battlefield, and starts chopping. Anto puts a wall of earth up, which a flank of wolves starts to circle around, and there is much Biting. Cai Wen, assuming this is a distraction, looks around, but doesn't see any sort of main attack. Xian tries to sense the wolves' motive, and determines that they are WOLVES COMING TO CHOMP ALL HE HOLDS DEAR AND ONLY HE CAN STOP THEM.
- "Hey, wolves! Cut it out! Can we talk about this? If only I can stop them, we're in trouble." -Xian
Shen-Ji is pretty sure the wolves are real, not imaginary, but they've probably been magically summoned and commanded somehow. Between Zhi-Hao and Anto, the wolves start to fall, though both Anto and Shuyan are badly bitten. Shen-Ji decides that the wolves are being controlled' from somewhere on the other side of the map, and starts running that direction. At the same time, Cai Wen finally hears something from behind one of the wagons, and also shouts a warning.
Those not enmeshed with wolves head to the other side of the wagons, and see a cloaked figure running into the night.
- "Perhaps this one should get him." -Xiao Fa
Zhi-Hao does another long spring across the map, and he and Xiao Fa catch up nearly to the cloaked figure. Much to Zhi-Hao's surprise, whoever it is doesn't seem to have any weapons. Xiao Fa catches up enough to grab the cloaked figure, expecting a chop to soon follow, but Zhi-Hao circles around to unmask the figure (it's Master Mu) and demand that he surrender.
Instead of surrendering, Master Mu sprouts branches, and he and Xiao Fa are replaced by a tree.
Far away, where the rest of the party can not see, Xiao Fa finds himself in a cold dank room with an angry Master Mu. Mu orders the surrounding undead abominations to grab him and take him to the laboratory. Xiao Fa thinks this is entirely unacceptable and spends 7 karma overpowering his Restoring the Balance shtick to attempt to put the undead back to their natural state, which is to say, dead. A blinding light of pure chi energy springs forth and dozens of undead are burned away. Mu cries out, “Nooo!!! My army of vengeance!” and strikes Xiao Fa unconscious.
Even farther away, a northern barbarian clan notices a huge burst of southern energy in the distance and sends a small patrol with a shaman to investigate.
Back at the circus, Cai Wen notes that the wagon Master Mu was trying to search was Shen-Ji's - he was probably going for Shen-Ji's own necromantic accouterments, but he didn't have time before his distracting wolves started dropping, and had to flee.
Searching Master Mu's house doesn't turn him up. In his wooden box, which is quickly chopped open, the staff is still there and the silver strips are still there (Cai Wen translates them "Seeker of Blood", "Manhood", and "Wolf Brother"), but the paw is gone.
- "Um... should someone have stayed behind to watch the tree to see if it turns back into Xiao Fa?"
Into the North
Zhi-Hao wakes up Captain Shan, to tell him that Mu seems to be the bad guy. Captain Shan is rather surprised about this - Mu's wife was killed during the first attack, and he took her death poorly but he had seemed to have his act back together again more recently, and he's a significant source of income for the town (he sells arrows, staves, and bows to the Dragon Army). The captain doesn't know where else Mu might be now, if he's not in his house, but he declares he'll protect the town while Zhi-Hao and the others search.
Chen-Su casts ashes around the tree (which has not turned back into Xiao Fa and Mu), and notes that two people went north, very very quickly. The group heads northwards - every so often, Chen-Su casts the ashes again and confirms "yes, still north", until they reach the Wall.
At this point, Chen-Su bows his head, saddened at the loss.
- "I will make sure that the name of Xiao Fa is honored, as he fell fighting the greatest of enemies." -Chen-Su
The party is not quite so willing to give Xiao Fa up for dead, and Shen-Ji floats to the top of the Wall to see if there's any sign of him. There appears to be a single flame somewhere far to the north, and a handful of flames to the northwest moving east. Anto, pressing his ear to the ground, can hear a number of men marching in the distance.
As the group prepares to cross the Wall, Chen-Su frowns and says, looking specifically at Golden Flame, that crossing the Wall will lead, inevitably, to corruption. She looks at her mentor and Cai Wen, torn.
- "I need your help!" -Cai Wen
- "You unbelievable bastard!" -Xian
- "The monk needs our help. I am sorry." -Golden Flame to Chen-Su
Chen-Su draws a line of ashes at the base of the Wall, and begins to chant, but the party doesn't wait around to see what this produces, and climbs over and down to the North, whereupon they begin to run.
As the party heads northwards towards the single flame, the handful-of-flames group intercepts to them - it appears to be six Northern warriors and a shaman/necromancer. The party immediately attacks, piling onto the shaman in particular. There is much chopping in both directions - again, Anto manages to put himself in the center of the fray and takes a bunch of damage, as do Zhi-Hao and Kasumi.
Cai Wen pulls down his hood, and then staggers forward, shouting in Torghut "The prisoner is a trap, Mu has betrayed us." However, the only reply he gets is "Why are you attacking our clan? What prisoner? Who is Mu? You make no sense!"
Anto falls to the Northern warriors, followed by Kasumi - things are looking bleak. One northern warrior falls, but the shaman raises him again as a zombie before himself falling.
Cai Wen shouts "We don't care about you guys - retreat and we'll let you live", and shouts to the others to let them go, as Shuyan heals Anto and Kasumi. Since both sides are worried about losing, the fight is disengaged, and the warriors (sans shaman) flee into the night.
Looting the shaman doesn't turn up any money, but he does have a personal staff capped with a skull, and a bag filled with multi-colored powders, which are set aside for later.
There's a Light (over at the Frankenstein place)
At this point, limping rather than running, the party reaches the source of the single light - what appears to be a ruined stone fortress, with a torch burning in a tower on the second floor. It seems otherwise mostly deserted, until a zombie crosses the courtyard. The group also notes a live horse, tethered in the courtyard.
Golden Flame notes that that kind of zombie will cause a lot of corruption damage, but is not very difficult to kill (though it may stand up again afterwards).
In the tower, Mu the Mad rants to Xiao Fa as he necromantically drains away his Tao:
- "You will pay for destroying my Army of Vengeance! You have enough power yourself to become an important part of the new Army, and your chi shall be corrupted in the service of greatness."
Most of the group has to scramble up a collapsed section of wall, but Shen-Ji flies to the outside of the tower, and Kasumi climbs up to the second floor to lower down a rope. Cai Wen, deciding that not fighting zombies is the better part of valor, spooks the horse with a firework to cut off any escape atttempt by Mu, while Golden Flame fends off the zombies in the courtyard. People run around fighting zombies looking for Xiao Fa. He’s not too difficult to find as each drift Mu tears one of his Tao points away. They converge on Mu’s ritual setup, fighting through more undead and free Xiao Fa.
Mu himself retreats into one of the arrow-slit niches, but that brings him within Shen-Ji's reach who’s floating just outside the tower; Shen-Ji grabs him through the arrow slit and puts up a wall behind him, trapping him in the niche.
- "You too have felt the power of necromancy. Join me and I will teach you these secrets, and we will take our vengeance on the North." -Mu the Mad
- "Why would I share power with you?" -Shen-Ji
Shen-Ji sends his phoenix into the niche with Mu, which proves quite useful, as when Mu starts to transform into a tree, Pow sets the tree on fire, and Mu is unable to flee to the courtyard. With his escape cut off, Shen-Ji is able to take him down (and because he's killed by another sorceror, he will not be returning later as a lich.)
However, as he falls, all the corruption points his zombies have caused burn away, causing extra bonus damage for those who have been fighting, and Golden Flame also falls. Shuyan looks after both her and Xiao Fa (also unconscious), but neither of them is in immediate danger of dying.
Exploring the rest of the ruined fort, the party finds a few more things of interest: in the basement, there is a much larger horde of greater undead, all fallen in a ring as if felled by an explosion. Another basement room is the sweet-thorn storage area, with flowers, plants in pots, pollen in vials, and so on - this is promptly put to the torch. The last basement room has some odder necromantic experiments - plant/zombie hybrids. Apparently Mu was trying to combine a limited number of zombies into a larger number of plant-zombies.
Squeaky turns up a journal, written in a crabbed hand, which Cai Wen turns over to Shen-Ji - apparently Mu the Mad has been keeping a diary about his necromantic descent. The wolf talisman is also found and taken.
On the less creepy side of things, the front of the fort bears the sigil of the Dragon, and in the main room on the ground floor is a dust and grime-covered mural which depicts the fort in newer days, with soldiers marching proudly out the gate, led by a guy who looks a lot like Shen Wei Han. Hmm.
The party trudges southwards again, carrying Xiao Fa and Golden Flame, and is able to reach and cross the Wall with little excitement more - the wolf's paw grows hot as they cross Chen-Su’s line of ashes, but Shen-Ji is able to bring it with him.
Chen-Su stands up and bows to the group - he is glad that they have saved their comrade, and he respects Golden Flame for the great sacrifice she has made to help do so, for he explains that she has been corrupted and can no longer walk the High Path with him.
Once they return to the town, Captain Shan is briefed on the whole mess. He's glad to hear that the disappearances should be ceasing now, but the town may still be in trouble with Mu's loss and the loss of so many.
Shuyan manages to bring Xiao Fa and Golden Flame around, and he is filled in on the final fate of Mu the Mad.
- "There was a ritual, and you were all "aaaah!"" -Anto
- "Great apologies, this one hopes he did not disturb you with his screams." -Xiao Fa
- Master Zhou puts Xiao Fa through his paces to try and figure out how to fix him.
- Wei Han puts together an expedition to the ruined fort.