Battle for the Ice Pagoda
|"Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth."|| The run begins on the Day of the Late Crane in the Month of the Tiger in the first Year of the Magpie since the crowning of the Viridian Queen.|
The run takes place at the Ice Pagoda in the Strand, as well as several other places.
Last Loose Ends
Having all returned to the circus, the party starts briefing each other on their various adventures. Xiao Fa explains how he has delivered the Sankara Stone to Iala Mane, and is questioned about if that's really bad or not. He mostly shrugs - no one really knows, but at least no one here is carrying it anymore.
Then Xiao Fa takes Kasumi aside for a little guided meditation. She's not very meditative, but Monkey did apparently tell her to try new things, so she gives it a shot. Meditation is probably not what Monkey had in mind, they decide.
After a while, Xian shows up (with his hoop) and starts briefing everyone on his actual problem. He discusses the history of the Ice Pagoda, and even admits to having some small connection to the inhabitants. Everyone is very impressed by Xian's openness and forthright manner (with Takanata behind him coaching him when he starts slowing down.)
Xian then starts to explain how to free the people in the Ice Pagoda. The various visions, advice, and prophesies people have received these last two years indicate that there are basically four keys needed to free the people of the Ice Pagoda: star metal, seawater, dreams, and the assistance of the local populace. Each of Xian's undercover sisters who has been discovered thus far is responsible for one of these keys, although various party members are going to be helping out (such as the horn to assist with seawater.) People ask what Xian's role is.
- "I am the Keyring!" -Xian
People then ask why Xian is suddenly being so open about these things. Xian replies that her eldest sister gave her some advice.
- "You found trustworthy competent people and told them about your problem and you're surprised that they're working on it?"
So, in that spirit, Xian decided to bring the entire party in on the plan and go rescue the Ice Pagoda.
This plan needs to occur during a new moon, as that's when the Son of the Moon is weakest. That's just a few days away. the primary goal is to rescue the Countess - well, Xian's sister. They just call her the Countess although no one really knows why. She's is a very powerful healer and everyone else in the order is a very powerful talker so it is not entirely clear why she's running things. In any case, she is unlikely to leave while other sisters are still trapped, so it really boils down to saving everyone.
Xian then explains that the Countess is the Daughter of the Sun, and while the Son of the Moon is apparently courting her, she has no interest in that. However the Sun and the Moon themselves have this on-again/off-again relationship, so either or both might interfere, on either side or both.
Messengers and Xians
At this point deliberations are interrupted by the arrival of the messenger.
- "Message for the Confounding Xian!"
- "That's me!" -Xiao Fa
The message is from Mystic Chen, who says that he'll need some sort of spirit repellent in order to get the star metal. If Xian can bring a spirit repellent to Ancient Stones, they can get the star metal from the shrine and sneak away. Chen will be waiting in Ancient Stones for Xian's arrival.
People are just starting to recall where Ancient Stones is and arguing about whether he meant spirit-spirits or ghost-spirits when a second messenger arrives.
- "Message for the Confounding Xian!"
- "That's me!" -Ming Feng
This one is from Huian. He says he is in the Illuminated Precincts, and needs two Tael, as he is having difficulty purchasing the supplies necessary to make this much seawater. If Xian could bring the tael, he'll be waiting in the City of Light.
People start arguing as to whether they really need Huian's seawater, given that they have the Horn of Seawater. Also, wherever Huian goes, his sea serpent girlfriend Sai follows. People are briefly confused that perhaps she missed her deadline and the Harbor of Shining Reflections is already destroyed. Or perhaps her father destroyed the Shrouded Isle instead of the Butterfly Isle because they switched places and he wasn't paying attention. Just as they figure out that it six months too early to have this conversation (this is why there are professional calendar experts) a messenger arrives.
- "Message for the Confounding Xian!"
- "That's me!" -Kasumi
This message is from Yuwen, who assures Xian that she has mastered the secrets of dreaming without remaining in the Temple of Dreams. She can start sneaking into the Ice Pagoda through the back door in the dreamlands anytime Xian is ready, although would be helpful if Xian had a secret dream army. She'll be waiting at the Dream Temple.
Army? Dream Army? What the heck? No one said anything about needing a full army in the dream lands in order to do this plan. Wait, why are the dreamlands even in the plan?
Xian starts explaining the parts of the plan he's been made aware of but he doesn't really have all of the details. Takanata extrapolates some probable uses for the World of Dreams, but just before the discussion gets completely bogged down in speculative details, a messenger arrives.
- "Message for the Confounding Xian!"
- "That's me!" -Master Deng
This last message is from Chantou the Dark Sorceress. She tells Xian that his plan is doomed. If he wants her to fix it, he should meet her in Harmonious Endeavor.
- "They call her she who discerns and distracts, so we should probably go see what she discerned!" -Xian
- "So she can distract us?" -Min Feng
Xian considers sending letters back, but it seems like it is probably just faster to go to these places and get things going. In a fit of paranoia, Xian suddenly decides to check the handwriting of each message. Satisfied that they are genuine, the party heads out.
Red, Blue and Black
Deciding that fixing the plan is more important than executing the plan the party sets off for Harmonious Endeavor first. Arriving the party sees two large armies squaring off against each other across a battlefield. To Master Deng's trained eye, they seem a little textbookish in their deployments, but otherwise things seem competently arranged. The battle has not yet begun but that he expects it will start sometime later this afternoon. Heading into the town the party finds numerous people waving flags and questioning everyone on the street as to their loyalties.
- "Red or Blue?"
- "Um, Black?" -Min Feng
- "Black? Oh! You want the inn near the center of town."
- "Er, thanks." -Min Feng
Arriving at the inn, Min Feng and the rest of the party discover her brother (the Black Duke) presiding over a pre-battle reception. Min Feng tracks down her brother to demand explanations. Xian tracks down his sister to demand explanations.
After several round of interrogation, the story seems to be thus: the Dark Sorceress has arranged this friendly tournament of arms between the forces of the Red and Blue Dukes, but fanned tensions to the point of it being on the delicate precipice of actual warfare. The Black Duke, who has convinced the King to allow him to administer the tournament, will be unable to resist pushing it over the edge and revealing his inherent evil for all to see! Then she'll stop it in the nick of time.
- "Wait, does this help us in any way with our Pagoda Plot?" -Kasumi
- "No, I'm just keeping busy." -Chantou
Meanwhile, the Black Duke has arranged for his enemies to go against each other in a tournament of arms. When their men inevitably spill into some actual combats, without any help from him, the Black Duke will be on hand to break it up, scold both other dukes for their failures to control their men in this time of peace, and impress the King as the only reasonable man in this region.
- "Well, that sounds all fine, but you understand that a few skirmishes will instantly blossom into full scale civil war before anyone can stop it right?" -Min Feng
- "Er... That would be bad." -Duke Song
- "It seemed so much more reasonable when Chantou was explaining it to me than when you say it like that..."
Min Feng tries to convince Chantou that her brother is not in fact an evil mastermind.
- "He's called the Black Duke! How can you not see it?"
- "Is that like the Dark Sorceress?"
Setting that entire mess aside for a moment, Xian explains the plan to Chantou. She points out some flaws, and they slowly get ironed out. Then Xian tells Chantou about the requirements her other sisters have added in. Chantou opines that while she doesn't have much money for Huian, she has two fully equipped armies right outside, so it should be a fairly simple matter to put them to sleep and have Yuwen take them to the dream world. She asks how long they'll be needed for. Just a few days apparently.
- "A few days? OK, I'll just use a larger dose. The only real problem is waking them up again, but I'm sure I'll manage..." -Chantou
Xiao Fa, who up until this point has been desperately trying to not pay any attention to this whole mess suddenly wakes up.
- "Wait? What was that last part?"
Xiao Fa decides that this whole mess is going to turn into a disaster of poisoned and comatose armies, which will all get blamed on Min Feng's brother, so Xiao Fa demands that he and Min Feng stay here with Chantou and oversee the entire operation, while the rest of the party heads off to collect the other sisters.
Min Feng also take this opportunity to borrow a chunk of star metal from her brother, with her promise that she’ll have Shen-Ji forge it into a powerful star metal dagger that he can wield.
- "Now she’s arming him with mystic weapons. Are you sure they’re not bad?" -Chantou
There's some final muttering about a Toast of Peace that has to be carefully measured against the body weight of each soldier, but they'll figure something out...
Chantou, not entirely convinced, makes one last attempt to turn this whole thing into a test of the Black Duke's character. Min Feng finally manages to convince her that her brother is not an evil mastermind, but simply misguided by his annoying mother.
- "Hmm, you know, if you don't assume he's evil, a lot of the stuff he's doing makes more sense and is less sinister." -Chantou
Chantou promises that she'll stop messing with him, and concentrate her future efforts on this evil stepmother Min Feng seems to have. Min Feng rolls her eyes, but goes with it. What could possibly go wrong?
The three of them are left measuring out poisons and herbs while the rest of the party heads off to see Yuwen. Arriving at the Temple of the Eternal Dream, they fill Yuwen in on the plan so far. Yuwen explains that in the dream world, the pagoda is not covered with ice during the new moon. But it is surrounded by fierce moon warriors. It's unclear what a moon warrior is, but Yuwen assures everyone that they will recognize them if they see them.
- "Note - if you see any purple counters on the battlemap later on, they are obviously moon warriors." -Mike
Sadly, even if one can get past the moon warriors, one cannot rescue anyone in the dream. At best, messages can be given that will be received while still frozen, as they are essentially dreaming thanks to the Flame. Chantou indicated earlier, that Yuwen should inform the Countess to turn down the Flame just as the operation starts. Otherwise, the ice will reform too quickly for the seawater to be effective. Oh, Yuwen concedes that telling the Countess that is probably both useful and feasible - but they still can't get past the Moon Warriors!
The party explains that they've arranged two giant dream armies. People wonder how to make them do what you want. Yuwen proposes someone just telling them that he is Guan Shao, the greatest general in imperial history, and will lead them all in glorious battle over their enemies. Dreaming people often fall for that.
- "We might want to leave a PC along with any NPC in charge of a critical part of the plan." -Charles
Takanata stays behind to assist Yuwen since he has Worldwalking and can auspiciously arrive at any of the other locations if needed.
The rest of the party heads on to the City of Light to pick up Huian and his portable seawater factory. Looking around in the various trading district, people eventually run across Sai. She greets them enthusiastically and drags them all off to Huian who is in the middle of doomed negotiations. Apparently, salt, various minerals, and so on, are actually not free. In fact, in the quantities Huian wants, they cost about 2.4 Tael minus 0.1 tael for every negotiation success. He's managed to talk the dealers down to 2 Tael, and asks the party if he can borrow that?
- "Don't use The Voice on them! They're just innocent merchants."
- "He's saving 10 li a success! Li Merit will kill him if he doesn't use The Voice!"
Xian takes over the negotiations. He and the dealers settle on 70 Li, which Xian pays out of pocket.
Taking Huian and Sai with them, since only those two can actually mix the seawater, the party heads back to the Strand, though they do make a brief detour to negotiate with the House of Gainful Protection. They want some mercenaries, since Chantou rousing the populace might not be enough to take on the Son of the Moon and his goons. After many negotiations, they hire nine of the best mercenaries money can buy. The House of Gainful Protection charges 50 li a man, since they want them for several days in the middle of nowhere. People decide that Li Merit or no, the mercenary bodyguards that are defending your life from the Son of the Moon are not the place to skimp, and they pay the 4.5 tael. Xian covers half of the expense out of pocket and the party decides to use party funds for the balance.
Fully equipped, the party stops briefly at Ancient Stones, Xian deploys his Ghost Repelling Amulet (a fortunate Easter Egg.), and Chen gives them the star metal.
On to the Ice Pagoda!!!
Deciding to pull out all of the stops, Takanata pulls aside the veils that hide the future and looks to see what will happen if they ignore the Ice Pagoda and just focus on taking out the Son of the Moon first, allowing them to deal with the Pagoda at their leisure. Sadly, it seems that the Son of the Moon has some ability to regenerate his hit points, and if he does it too many times before enough of the sisters of the pagoda are saved, he starts regenerating them by stealing them from (and killing) sisters still trapped in ice.
So, there is a three pronged plan to be embarked upon. First, Yuwen, Takanata, and the dream armies will attack through the dream world and fight their way in to the Countess, getting her to turn down the flame. This will start the final countdown as the flame is what is sustaining the lives of the frozen sisters.
Simultaneously, the outdoor part of the party will split into two teams. One team will concentrate on moving seawater (bucket brigade style) from the seawater cart to the Ice Pagoda. Min Feng and Kasumi will do the same from the top of the pagoda towards those on the bottom using the Horn. Their plan is to meet in the middle having carved a path through the pagoda that can be used to rescue everyone.
Simultaneously, the other outdoor part of the party will keep the Son of the Moon busy by attacking him outright, and encouraging the local populace to keep throwing tomatoes and rocks at him to use up his dodge pools.
All of the highly coordinated events will culminate is a perfectly timed finale where the path is finished, just as the Countess and her sisters escape, just as the Son of the Moon goes down once and for all.
So that’s the plan. Kasumi, Deng, and Xian are issued star metal for chipping through pagoda hexes, and attacking the Son of the Moon if they get bored (apparently, Xian has his own dagger.) Everyone is assigned one of two elite bodyguards, for defending local villagers, and attacking the Son of the Moon. (Though it’s quickly realized that the bodyguards make an awesome bucket brigade if they just ignore combat and run around with buckets of seawater.)
Just before the combat starts, people suddenly notice the giant snake (poisonous) and tree (saparilla) on the map. Whew! That was close. Lesson: always look at everything on the map before the combat starts.
Having set up the plan and triggering it at the moment of their choosing, the party is shocked to discover that they get a surprise round. Kasumi and Min Feng scramble up to the roof of the pagoda, and Deng starts moving in towards the pagoda and positions himself to screen people from the Son of the Moon when he arrives. Takanata makes a Worldwalking roll and declares that riding dream horses is perfectly acceptable inside pagodas. (He gets the sense that someone with a lot more Worldwalking than he has gets the opportunity to oppose this roll, but declines.) Xian clarifies with the GM that this is still the surprise round. Everyone seems strangely busy, except for him.
- "Those must be some adjectives you have on that horse." -Xian
- "The only adjective I put on it is that it is MINE." -Takanata
Shocking no one, Takanata rides his horse around all of the moon warriors in the dream land and right into the pagoda, where he makes it to the Countess in round 1. He uses his reputation shtick and bypasses the need to convince her.
- "My Lady Countess, your escaped sisters are bringing forces to free you from the Ice Pagoda. It would greatly help them if you could reduce your power so that the ice would be meltable." -Takanata
- "So be it, let the clock be started. Our lives are in your hands."
The flame is turned down and now life within the pagoda is only maintained by the 10 points of solar power remaining in reserve. This may get spent for various other things, but one point will be spent every drift on life support. If it ever runs out, everyone still in the pagoda will die frozen.
Meanwhile, outside, the Son of the Moon arrives. He command everyone to disperse.
- "Leave now and you may live!"
- "Does he give us an action?" -Brian
- "No." -Mike
Xian, not realize the various dangers, runs through some prickly bushes taking armor piercing damage. Then he ends his turn in a hex with a piece of saparilla tree in it.
- "I hate this country!" -Xian
Meanwhile, up above, Min Feng and Kasumi are chipping their way through the ice on top of the pagoda, and starting to establish the top part of the escape path using the seawater horn. They quickly get to the countess, but the countess won’t leave until all of the sisters below are either on the path, or rescued.
Battle continues outside. The bodyguards distract the minions of the moon from the townsfolk, so people don’t have to feel guilty for leading them into a fight to the death. Talkers encourage the townsfolk to attack the Son of the Moon with rocks and tomatoes. The Son of the Moon reveals that he has SIX dodge pools, and of course, they refresh every time he gets an action. This will be a long fight...
In the dream world, the moon warriors start pursuing Takanata into the pagoda, giving the armies of the Red and Blue dukes the opportunity to attack them from behind. It’s really a bad day to be a moon warrior.
Since the Countess isn’t leaving, she uses her powers to let Xian roll for 6’s giving him a great deal of persuasion over the townsfolk. Between them, they can account for two of the Son of the Moon’s dodge pools every turn!
Once they’ve managed to taunt the Son of the Moon and his minions off of the townsfolk and onto Deng, the body guards form an awesome bucket brigade and start moving astonishing amounts of seawater around the map.
- "Worth every zhu!"
People finally manage to get the Son of the Moon down to having no dodge pools for a brief moment. Kasumi uses this opportunity to leap in and steal his nose, hopefully taking away all of his actions. Sadly, the Son of the Moon reveals that he gets as much lunar power as the flame gave the countess solar power. He spends one of his 10 points to simply ignore her attack. Then, of course, he gets an action and refreshes all of his dodge pools. Curses!
A few dodged attacks later, Xian, having had enough of that, calls upon the power of karma, and the Countess’s bonus and exhorts the townsfolk into a massive pogrom. This takes away three dodge pools from the Son of the Moon at once. This gives one of the mercenaries a change to slip in and attack while his defenses are down! First blood on the Son of the Moon goes to Yellow 13, forevermore known as Li Moonsbane!
In the dreamworld, the lunar warriors decide that they are all going to die. But if so, they are going to take Takanata with them. They manage to surround him. But at this moment, he auspiciously wakes up on the seawater cart, leaving the World of Dreams behind. Curses!
Xian, deciding he wants to move around instead of only talking, finally breaks away from the saparilla tree.
In this way, the battle carries on. Moonsbane gets a couple more chances to wound the Son of the Moon, the rest of the mercs keep carrying seawater around, solar points are spent every drift, and slowly the path through the pagoda gets made.
Every once in a while, people get the Son of the Moon’s defense down to the point where they can try something fancy, such as Takanata using his inauspicious step to trip the Son of the Moon and send him sprawling. Sadly though, at most of these occasions, the son merely spends a lunar power point and ignores the incoming attack.
Xiao Fa spends most of his time laying about himself with healing chi. The first serious casualty (other than lunar warriors and lunar minions) of the battle is one of the body guards who gets himself surrounded by three lunar minions and is taken down.
At one point, people dragging frozen sisters out of the pagoda look up and realize that they have deposited the poor things at the feet of the Son of the Moon. He attacks them! Two more of the body guards leap in the way and eat the attacks full on.
Xiao Fa decides that’s enough of this, and turns the full power of his chi blocking on the son of the moon. Ooops, lunar battery. Forgot. Dammit. He ignores him.
Takanata, getting out of the cart, take this opportunity to activate his Eyes of the I Ching and carefully studies the various connections between the Daughter of the Sun and the Son of the Moon. He does not like what he sees at all. So calling upon the power of fate, he simply Disentangles the Futures from each other.
At this, the Son of the Moon screams, “What have you done!!!” and leaps to attack Takanata bringing several lunar minions with him. Takanata says his good-byes as there is no way he can survive this. Suddenly, Xian leaps into the fray and quickly convinces the Son of the Moon that Takanata can only be killed by handfuls of warm rocks, like those that Xian is holding, not swords.
So, the Son of the Moon seizes the warm rocks, and attacks Takanata with them instead of his sword. This makes his attack only have a x2 modifier, instead of his usual x5 of x6 modifier. Takanata still goes down, and fails his death check. Xiao Fa senses his dying companion, looks around the battlefield and sees others (like Kasumi) in similar straits and charges into the middle of the combat. This, of course, puts Xiao Fa in danger of going down, so he calls upon his power to area effect heal all nearby.
Sadly, those nearby include the Son of the Moon, so most of Moonsbane’s damage to the Sun of the Moon is healed. Enraged by the injustice of it all, Chantou and Xian combine forces to inspire the townfolk to even greater heights! Most of the Son of the Moon’s dodge pools are washed away, and Deng takes away the rest. Nigh everyone else, burns two actions to go NOW, and the Son of the Moon goes down! Then, he spends a lunar point and is restored to full. Curses!
Enraged himself, the Son of the Moon spends a SOLAR power point to Entangle the futures of himself and Takanata. “I shall come for you!”
- "Wait! He can’t spend solar points!!!" -everyone
- "Oh, actually, he can. Didn’t I mention that? I read that in the I Ching a few hours ago." -Takanata
Takanata takes this as a sign that he has overstayed his welcome and escorts some of the sisters right off the map. Seeing his quarry escape, the Son of the Moon decides to eliminate his friends with all haste! He surrounds the party with his lunar minions and then attacks Kasumi, Xiao Fa, and Deng himself as well! Kasumi, seeing her death approaching, Superleaps off the map, avoiding all of the attacks. Xiao Fa, thanks to that guided meditation he performed with Kasumi at the beginning of the run, copies her shtick and Superleaps off the map, avoiding all attacks. Deng, seeing himself surrounded by even more power than he can handle... eats a magic bean and Superleaps off the map!
- "Seriously? You ALL have Superleap dodge!?" -Mike
OK, fine, the Son of the Moon, seeing no opponents worthy of him remain nearby, sacrifices all six of his fresh dodge pools to resurrect all 15 of his lunar minions.
- "Oh come on!" -everyone
Deng lands on the map once more and calls upon the power of karma to attack all of the lunar minions simultaneously. He grievously damages them all, and the remaining party members take actions immediately to finish them off. All 15 lunar minions are dead again.
- "Oh come on!" -Mike
Having had enough of this, the Son of the Moon ignores the party and charges into the Pagoda to at least get the Countess, who is undefended, spending all of her time rescuing sisters. At this moment though, Min Feng spirits the last of the pagoda sisters out of the ice. The Countess is finally free to exert her power. She faces the Son of the Moon and prepares to seal him away forever! But then drift happens and the last of her Solar power is gone. Powerless, she flees outside with the Flame. The Son of the Moon pursues, and everyone pounds on him using up all of his dodge pools as he emerges from the pagoda.
Seeing how things are going, the Son of the Moon concedes the battle, swears vengeance against Takanata for this disaster, and uses the last of his lunar energy points to Superleap right out of the world (presumably up to the Moon or the World Above or something). As he leaps away, Takanata takes one last observation action to analyse him. His best skill is Ice Shaping, his aspect is the Moon, and his highest shtick is currently broken and unavailable for analysis. Everyone opines that this must be why he hates Takanta so much now. How would you like it if an I Ching master came by and disabled your only seventh level shtick.
When the dust settles, the day is won and the remaining ice on the pagoda all melts. In fact, all Ice Chips of Doom in the possession of the party melt. People wonder if that giant bandit army in the north west just escaped their ice prison...
The Sisters of the Order of the Gentle Admonishers regroup and express their gratitude to the party. The Countess grants each of the party members present one minor boon from the Sun.
Xian announces that she had been planning to leave the party after rescuing her sister, her mission being accomplished. However, since Takanata has taken the full anger of the Son of the Moon onto himself, it would seem churlish to leave at this point. So Xian decides to stay with Takanata, but at least she can finally take off this foolish disguise!