Crouching Bird, Hidden Wolf
|"If rain bothers you, you can always jump into the sea."|| The run begins in the late Month of the Dog in the Tenth Year of the Dog since the Third Treaty of Houses.|
The run takes place in the Hon'eth Arcade
Puttering in the Rain
As is usual, the group is gathered in Tahiti, having just finished a shopping expedition. The butler brings tea and cookies, for it is a cold and rainy day. This is all very pleasant. Maybe they should just sit here and drink tea all afternoon? Xian, still surprisingly single-minded since her encounter with Magpie, insists they should get a MISSION. SAVE THE EMPIRE. Oh, fine, the party agrees, and heads off to the Somewhat Obscure Benevolent Headquarters.
Xian, being a horse, arrives at the stable, where it is dry. Everyone else, traveling through the rain, gets a wetness stat of 2.
- "Where is Kuan-Xi, to protect us from this dread Wetness?"
Once they are in the parlor, the fire allows them to dry off some, and they lose one wetness. They notice that some of the guards around the headquarters are also wet, but the Prince is not wet.
The prince says he has been thinking about things, and that there are... forces... which are attempting to push time forward, as it were. For the moment, they aren't getting much traction.
Yanyu asks the Prince for a mission, and rolls a 7! She spends one of the pips from Speedy, and turns it into a 6.
- "CONTAIN THE HIDDEN BEAST."
- "Can we check..."
- "No! To the map room! No questions!" -Merit
Everyone heads to the map room, where they can discuss things without it being interpreted as another mission request.
- "I wonder if an invisible dire wolf counts as a hidden beast." -Xian
Xian's hoop has Changeover, Inquiry, and Capture in it.
There's some discussion of corruption. Master Zhou does have some lambda, but nothing else.
Should they be worrying about the rain? Or about the mission? What is a hidden Beast, anyway?
Yanyu puts a set of facts in the following order, using Winnow The Truth:
- The Prince tasked us to contain the hidden beast.
- Beastmaster Ze had an invisible Dire Wolf.
- Lijuan's art shows something watching us from the rain.
- It's raining now.
- Forces are trying to make time move forward.
This this seem to indicate that the rain is a lower priority, it is still interesting. Shen-Ji thinks that no sorcery is involved, but when he immerses himself in the magical effect, he gets quite wet, and concludes that it is kind of like an anti-Phoenix effect. It's definitely watery, and it's anti–sorcery. It's a little bit South flavored, and definitely anti-Imperial.
Master Zhou checks for weather forecasting maps in the map room. He finds some maps, indicating that it is raining everywhere, though more so to the north.
Xiao Fa regards Shen-Ji using true chi mastery - is wetness a type of corruption? Yes, it is, but it is the sort that does not corrupt the chi at all. A physical corruption, not a spiritual corruption. There is an argument as to whether all of that is just fancy chi-masterese for saying "wet".
Kasumi suggests for the fifth time, buying umbrellas, but Xian, impatient, thinks the wolf will have eaten several people by the time they finish shopping. The Prince sends servants to hold umbrellas for them while they buy their own rain ponchos and umbrellas.
Then, finally, the group sets off for Beastmaster Ze's old compound.
Mistresses of the Compound
Xian arrives in the stable, and goes to let everyone else at the main gate.
- "The Compound knew we were here, and opened to us." -Master Zhou, portentously
- "It's a door." -Xian
People proceed into the main building in the compound, and find two little girls (Jin Fa, and another girl whose name has not been obtained yet) eating soup, who gasp in surprise to see them. The party is somewhat surprised to see the little girls, as well - are they still working here? They say that they were well paid by the people who took Beastmaster Ze away, so they are still coming here to work. Oh, er, those people were these people, sort of. The girls remind them to close the main gate so that the terrible monsters don't get back in. So... are there terrible monsters around?
- "Maybe you didn't notice, but this is kind of a terrible monster factory." -Jin Fa
She also gives them a safety tip - if a hummingbird hovers in front of you, kneel down.
Shen-Ji starts reading Beastmaster Ze's notes again, to see if he can figure out what horrible monsters might be around. Some of Ze's projects included:
- A dog with the roar of a bear.
- A small bird that charges like a bull.
- His crowning animal achievement: he took the appearance of dire wolf and gave it to a frog, leaving the dire wolf with no appearance.
Kasumi takes a key to the front gate, so they can return captured animals - but she promises to give it back again.
The girls offer their soup - Lijuan and Master Zhou and Shen-Ji and Xian drink it, but everyone else politely declines.
- "Direwolf tastes like chicken." -Xian
- "It might." -Jin Fa
The girls agree that you could give the flavor of one animal to another using Beastmaster Ze's talents. They look fairly grave, and those who have had the soup note that it tastes entirely vegetarian.
Into the Woods
Having failed to find the wolf at the compound, the group decides to head out again. Lijuan does her best to track dire wolf prints at the gate, but there's not much she can do with a muddy road in the rain.
There’s a lot of stumbling about and searching the surrounding forest area, but eventually they do come to an area with some dire wolf tracks.
The first animal that they encounter (it is hard to see because of the rain) appears to be a chicken. Xiao Fa does a chi diagnosis, and concludes that it is a reasonably healthy chicken-viper, which is extremely wet. It is rather irritable, though, and it charges Shen-Ji and pecks him (doing drift poison damage to him, which everyone forgets later). Luckily, he gets healed.
A duck wanders onto the map as well. Kasumi experimentally chops it, but it just ruffles its feathers and shakes off some water, despite 89 points of damage. It doesn't look happy, but it only seems to have taken a few points of actual damage.
Lijuan gets the chicken to obey her, and then wanders to the edge of the river, where she finds a fish. (Xiao Fa thinks the fish is mostly fish with a little bit of sea serpent.) Kasumi jumps to a fallen tree over the stream, and encounters a hummingbird. Master Zhou senses enemies using True Kung Fu, and thinks there is something to the southwest, approaching Kasumi.
Ho growls at an empty space near Kasumi, and Lijuan shoots the empty space, hitting what people assume is an invisible wolf.
Xiao Fa begins to play music for the fish, and, astonishingly, the fish begins to sing and the combat suddenly ends as all listen to the astonishing fish song!
- "I don't suppose this is a private one on one conversation?"
Xiao Fa sets his guzheng on automatic repeat (even more astonishing), and keeps it playing the song that the fish sings along to, while people try to figure out what to do with the wolf.
Lijuan tries to tame the invisible wolf with some treats and animal handling. It will eat pork buns and dog treats that she tosses to it, but when she tries to toss it a horse treat, it doesn't catch it and starts to leave. It sidles up to Xiao Fa next, and gives a rumbling growl. He thinks it is frustrated, but its frustration is directed at the fish (possibly for preventing it from getting what it expects to be its dinner).
Xian gives Lijuan the hoop to capture the wolf, which works, and puts it in a strange sort of captured-prisoner state, in conjunction with the singing fish's no-violence field, so the group interrogates it.
When is the next big attack coming? The wolf thinks it was supposed to be in a week, but is confused as to how long a week is, and whether that is the same as forever.
- "Can we ever leave this battlemap, or do we live here now?" -Kasumi
So... is the wolf going to try to escape or kill them as soon as it gets away from the fish? Well, it is a prisoner, and it probably won't attack first, but it is the duty of all prisoners to try to escape if they have the opportunity.
However, it proves to be possible to get the dire wolf back to Beastmaster Ze's compound in a still-captured state. (Xian contemplates how she might use a wolf in her Horse/Wolf homework. It doesn't quite fit, but perhaps Mystique could come up with something.)
- "Let us make sure we do not put it in a town or a keep where the dead walk and the living do not." -Master Zhou
Jin Fa says with a few more friends from their town, they could take care of the dire wolf for another week or two. Xiao Fa gives them twenty li to basically hire her and her friends forever, and they give the hoop back.
The Silent Master
There is some discussion as to whether or not to investigate the rain, or go on another mission. Doing another mission wins. Lijuan (whose art focuses on the rain) reserves the right to say "I told you so".
Another seven is rolled, so the last two of Speedy's pips are spent to buy the roll down to a five (because they can't do two sixes in a row, and no one wants another Commander Yao mission today): "Recover the Silent Master".
Well, that's probably the Gate of Shen, because that's what previous fives were, but who is the Silent Master? Xiao Fa notes that Master Tranh of the House of Quiet Concordance was going to the Gate of Shen to try and fix the squares back into hexes. .
Xiao Fa, riding Xian, just happens to coincidentally encounter a giant horse on the road while they are resting. Apparently, they are taking a very strange route even for horse shenanigan standards. Horse reminds Xian about her mission and also makes some elliptic comments about the nature of reality, etc. Eventually, they finish their talk and go try to join up with the rest of the party.
Xian (and her rider) arrive in Lord Nikoze's stable, and head in to talk to Lord Nikoze. They learn that Master Tranh and Gi Su were leading two different teams, one to the northeast and one to the northwest. Does Lord Nikoze know about the squares-versus-hexes issue? Not enough to let him figure out where Master Tranh is now, unfortunately. Can he loan them some soldiers? He specifies that he can provide them some "goons", for a small contribution to the widows and orphans fund. Apparently he is having some trouble with his House giving him permission to have official house soldiers in a town that apparently doesn't exist.
Meanwhile, the rest of the party gets to the area outside the Gate of Shen, and looks around. Lijuan finds some tracks indicating that two riderless horses showed up coming from two different directions. They spend some time poking around in the rain at the tracks and trying to figure out if they can deduce which horse might have belonged to which chi master, and soon they are joined by Xian and Xiao Fa and the "group of goons".
They decide to follow the tracks from the northwest. Despite the rain, Lijuan follows the trail back for about an hour and a half, until she spots a Northerner hiding behind a rock.
In the surprise round, both Kasumi and Master Zhou paralyze him, so the assault on what proves to be a Northern encampment can proceed. The rain makes it difficult to see very far, but there seems to be a bonfire in the center, and a number of tents. Yanyu places the blessing of the Phoenix on the combat, hoping to counter the rain. The soldiers in the camp are wearing somewhat different garb - nothing as formal as uniforms - and Yanyu determines that two soldiers of different colors are "uneasy allies".
Xiao Fa pokes his head into a nearby tent, but botches his stealth roll, and the soldiers inside the tent shout an alarm and grab him.
Xian senses mood on the camp, trying to discern the chi, in particular. The chi seems rather neutral - Phoenix and Anti-Phoenix are cancelling each other out. Socially, the Northerners seem to be principally surprised and angry.
The leader of the encampment shouts to Yanyu to surrender and her friends will be spared, and gives her an action. She shouts back that if the Northerners hand over the prisoner they will leave - and has a very successful fast talk roll. She gives him an action back.
- "If no more of my men are harmed, we may discuss terms." -Northern commander
- "Well, I don't speak Torghut, so I'm shooting those two." -Lijuan
The fact that the soldiers are spread out through the camp means that the party can fairly efficiently take them without being mobbed. The leader proves troublesome, though, as he seems to be able to burn off wetness in the bonfire for healing, and he does manage to take out Lijuan before he eventually falls.
Ho indicates that Master Tranh is being held in a tent to the northwest, and the fighters cut their way in that direction.
Kasumi spends 3 karma with her "What the Heck?" ring to figure out the tactical situation. The things of highest importance are that the two guards on the prisoners are immensely dangerous and the primary objective is in the second tent. .
Master Zhou sends Xiao Fa in the back of the tent to free the prisoner, while Xian starts infiltrating the Northern soldiers and sowing dissent, before rescuing the other prisoner, Master Tranh's apprentice. (Unfortunately, Xian is chopped by the dangerous guard, though she’s a horse and has plenty of hit points).By the time everyone gets back to the Gate of Shen, Gi Su has managed to escape from his own captivity (though his apprentice is still missing). The squares-to-hexes project is close to done, but not completely. However, when they go out again to finish it up, the practitioners will have some "goons" with them for protection.