Barrel of Monkeys
|"Those who wish to live in interesting times must explore both the mountains and the valleys."|| It is a little while after the defeat of the Shadow.|
The run takes place mostly in the City of Spires and elsewhere.
Festival of Hats
Hoping to trade the cursed bolt of silk to Monkey for a new monkey cart, Lijuan, Kasumi, and Shuyan loot the party treasury for all the cursed items, and set off towards the City of Spires. On the way, Lijuan draws a picture. As the group approaches the city gates, several guys on the side of the road, sitting on some large crates, wave them down.
- "Greetings, noble ladies - surely you are not going to the City like that?"
They appear to be hat salesmen, as there is a Festival of Hats in the City of Spires, in honor of the birthday of the Taiga's Imperial Regent.
- "I'm sure there's a rule about not buying hats from people at the side of the road, but I don't remember it." -Kasumi
Lijuan haggles over hat color and feather length, and demands a pheasant feather, but alas, the salesman has none such. Shuyan is not impressed by the hats - they seem to be simple peasant garb, and adding a feather or a bunch of ribbons does not make them fashionable. Plus, she doesn't believe in the Festival of Hats. Kasumi figures there are ulterior motives somewhere.
- "Did we wait long enough for the ambush?" -Kasumi
- "Wait, what?" -hat salesman suddenly alarmed
Lijuan offers to buy a panda hat, but when she summons Kawaii to try it on, the hat salesmen realize that this is clearly the ambush, and flee, leaving their boxes of hats behind. Well, that seems to solve the question of who is ambushing who, so the party continues on to the city gates.
The guards at the city gates have little snappy black hats, and ask a few questions about who the ladies are and what they're doing in the City - their information is taken down as "pilgrims", and they say they'll be there for three days.
The group proceeds to the fancy hotel that Takanata usually picks, and the horses (and Kawaii) are put in the stables. The horses already in the stable are not pleased by this, and the stableboy (wearing a plain grey hat) is very grateful to Lijuan for telling Kawaii to not kill him. They ask about his hat - he says it's the for the Festival of Hats (running for another two days), and recommends purchasing hats from the Street of Shoes, off of High Street. There is some argument about why the Street of Shoes should sell hats, but the stableboy notes that you wouldn't rename the street for just a few days, and he isn't the one who names streets anyway.
There are, alas, no pheasant feather hats being sold in the Street of Shoes - apparently a mysterious hat buyer in a large brown hat bought the last of them earlier - but Shuyan buys a fancy fashionable hat, Kasumi buys a souvenir hat with the characters for "City of Spires" on it, and Lijuan buys a big floppy red hat for Kawaii.
The Bluest Curse
The group heads to the Golden Spire, with the bolt of cursed silk, and Kasumi explains to more hat-covered guards that they wish to meditate, and not to put any elephants on the roof. When they reach the top of the spire, there is a monk in orange robes, meditating on the sigil of the Tortoise. They don't want to disturb him, so they head halfway down the stairs and play several rounds of Rock-Paintbrush-Paper. The guy doesn't leave, so they decide that maybe the Spirits have put them there to help teach the guy to be steadfast in the face of distraction, and they head back up to the sigil of the Monkey (right next to the sigil of the Tortoise), where they attempt to meditate.
As it turns out, all three are very bad at meditation. In the first attempt, there is a lot of shushing and poking. In the second attempt, Kasumi keeps accidentally whacking Shuyan with the hilt of her katana. They make a third attempt, in which Shuyan spends a karma to get up to three successes, giving everyone three. By the Rule of Threes, that's three threes!
- "Okay, okay, that's enough, just cut it out." -Monkey
Monkey declares himself, in stentorian tones, to have been Summoned by the Rule of Threes. Lijuan apologizes for not dealing with the flag, but could they have a new monkey cart? They have brought Monkey this most excellent cursed silk, cursed by Ezokin himself.
Monkey does not seem to find the cursed silk the best gift ever, but does find Lijuan's sorting funnel interesting, and tweaks it a bit. He does, however, agree that if they cause some trouble for Him, then He will give them the Arms of the Monkey King. Though, of course, by the Rule of Threes, he can only give them three pieces.
He converts some of their skill into sewing (again, by the Rule of Threes), and says that he has a list of people who could use some comeuppance. They can take the cursed silk and, using their newfound sewing skills, create some article clothing or useful silken thing for them, and then curse them with it. Monkey will handle the details of the curse, but they will need to get the target to voluntarily accept the item and wear it / use it / whatever. For each target they curse, they will get one piece of the Arms of the Monkey King.
- "Once they're cursed, will this help redeem them and make them better people? Yoshi would want me to worry about that. You could just claim it was true." -Lijuan
- "You may choose to consider that to have been said." -Monkey
Monkey gives them a choice of which target on His list they want to start with - the nearest, the farthest, the biggest, the smallest, the bluest, or the greenest. They choose the bluest target, and when they awake from their quasi-meditation, there's a piece of paper at their feet, reading "Pearl of the Taiga". Interestingly, there is also a sewing kit, with thread and tape measure and scissors and the like.
The group heads back to the inn, where Lijuan sews a rudimentary bag out of white silk. This uses up the tape measure, though the kit still has eleven other tools. The bag turns out surprisingly well, and every time they look at it, it seems nicer. This could be a little bag that the Pearl would be willing to carry. So... how to present it to her?
A note saying it was from Cai Wen or Takanata might work, but would probably get them in too much trouble. Maybe there is an enemy of hers that they could pretend it was stolen from? Nobody can think of one offhand. Perhaps if it was a gift with something interesting inside - but nobody can think of a good present that she might like.
In the end, they write a note "from a secret admirer" (Shuyan has the best handwriting) and hire a courier to deliver the bag, with note, to the Pearl.
A guy wearing a pot on his head stumbles in, and Lijuan offers him some pork buns. He offers them their choice of the Monkey Barrel, the Monkey Weapon, or the Monkey Shield. (By the rule of threes, he cannot give them the Monkey Helm.)
They choose the Monkey Barrel. He notes with disapproval that they just sent a note to the Pearl, and takes a small barrel out of the larger barrel he is carrying, and presents them with the small barrel.
- "Throw it at your enemies (or your friends, as you choose), and trouble will come out."
The Biggest Curse
Since they have already picked Bluest, their choices are Nearest, Farthest, Biggest, Smallest, and Greenest. They choose "Biggest", which turns out to be the High Warlord of Chin. Kasumi notes that she is obliged to not act against the Warlord or his people, due to a previous bargain with An Ming, so she says she'll stay at the inn for this one.
Shuyan takes a fur hat and lines it with cursed silk. That makes a very fetching hat and uses up another piece of the sewing kit. Lijuan and Shuyan disguise themselves in House Zhen livery, and ride off to the Warlord's Throne, on their courier-horseshoed horses.
Eventually, they arrive. The gates, as always, are closed and guarded. Lijuan and Shuyan claim to be Pir Gao and Su Gao ("We have the same name! It's great!"), from House Zhen, bringing a gift for the Warlord in honor of the birthday of the Imperial Regent from the Taiga. The guards find this all a little implausible, but after a fast-talk roll by Shuyan, the guards agree to take the hat, with a note from the pair, to be delivered to the Warlord's exchequer.
Then, they head back to the City of Spires, where Kasumi is having a hard time keeping Kawaii under control without Lijuan in the country. (Also, her ninja friend appears to be missing from the city.)
The guy with the pot on his head returns, and is still somewhat unimpressed with their curse delivery service. They sent it with a note again? They ask for the sword, and he turns the Monkey Weapon into a Monkey Sword and gives it to them - it's about twice as tall as Shuyan - and tells them that if it they had done a better job, it would have been a true Weapon, but now it's just a Sword.
The Greenest Curse
Do they want to keep going? They do! They choose the "Greenest", which turns out to be Li Kao.
Hmm. Who is that again? Kasumi thinks he's that guy with the golden prayer beads, maybe? Yeah, that's right. Well, he's kind of an ally of the party, so maybe they don't want to curse him. They could just bring him the cursed thing and tell him it's cursed.
Kasumi makes some slippers (the sewing kit is down to nine tools left), and the group, plus panda, goes to visit Li Kao's spire, where they request an audience with the revered sage to discuss "Monkey and hats". They (but not the panda) are invited in for tea.
After a little while, they are invited into the Master's study, as he has a message that he wishes them to deliver.
- "How might I be of service?" -Li Kao
- "Monkey thinks you need a comeuppance, so we brought you these cursed slippers. You don't have to take them. " -Kasumi
- "Well, I have no choice but to praise you for your honesty. What is the nature of the curse?"
- "We don't know."
- "You are handing out random curses? Who else did you curse?"
- "Do we really have to tell you?" -Lijuan
- "You do not."
Kasumi asks about the hats. Why are there hats everywhere? What is up with the Festival of Hats? Is something nefarious going on with hats? Li Kao says that the hats are fine, and tries to drag the conversation back to the Random Handing Out of Curses. The group admits that it's Ezokin's cursed silk, but Monkey is doing all the cursing.
Li Kao doesn't think that they could curse others just by Monkey doing all the work - they would have to be the instrument somehow. Are they making any rolls? Well, okay, they have been making sewing rolls, using different stats. Li Kao thinks that those stats are probably the target of the curses.
- "For the hat, we said we were messengers from House Zhen, and we gave it to the guards of the Warlord."
- "Oh, we're telling him about it now?"
So... since the hat was a Wits roll, they have probably cursed the wits of the nameless warlord whose guards they gave them to (assuming he wears the hat). The slippers used Dexterity, so that is probably a Dexterity-based curse. And the first object used Int, so they probably cursed the Int somehow of the anonymous person they sent that to. Okay, okay, they sent a cursed bag to the Pearl of the Taiga they admit.
- "This is the part where you confess and hope they don't expel you." -Kasumi
Li Kao is a bit disconcerted that Monkey has explicitly named him as "someone who needs a comeuppance" but declines to take the slippers.
- "While it is an interesting notion, I regret that I must decline your gift."
Will they be giving out any more cursed items? Probably not.
- "But monkey gave us sewing skill and a sewing kit! So we could!"
Kasumi asks after the message - they can be relied upon to pass a message back to those of their comrades who Li Kao does like to interact with.
- "Please tell Han Xiao Fa that I have noticed the change in his brother's condition and would like to discuss this with him."
The group takes their leave, with the slippers, and finds that Kawaii has eaten one of the bushes planted outside the spire. They offer to buy a new bush for the door-servant, but he firmly states that they do not need anything at this time.
On the way back, they find a previously-nonexistent pork bun stand next to the inn, with a "Closed" sign on it. No pork buns are available. Apparently Monkey is deeply disappointed in their curse-delivering, and when the guy with the pot on his head comes out, this appears to be true.
- "We're good at getting into trouble, but not convincing others to get in trouble." -Kasumi
- "Ah! Good point! OK, you can have the Monkey Shield, as soon as one of you puts on the slippers yourself."
- "..." -everyone
None of them want to be cursed, either.
- "Well, who do you think needs a comeuppance?"
- "Master Zhou." -Lijuan
- "...but I'd really rather curse my own dex than try to curse him." -Lijuan