Into the Web
|"There is no way to heaven and no gate to earth"|| The run begins on Day of the Early Butterfly in the Month of the Phoenix in the Tenth Year of the Bear since the since the Third Treaty of Houses.|
The run takes place principally in Spider's Realm.
Since the last run declined to rescue Zhuai, he is trapped in Spider's Realm and needs more rescuing now.
Kai, who has still been hanging around Tahiti since the party is off of Butterfly's plan, wanders by, looking for Li Merit. Since he's not around, she offers to tell everyone else the things they don't want to know.
- "Your plan to rescue Zhuai is doomed to failure since Spider is right there. The last time you went to Spider's realm, he was significantly distracted. However, fate will not have conspired to distract him this time, so you will have to do so yourself, knowing that the last time you distracted Spider, you broke your Patron." -Kai
(There is some confusion as to whether she is referring to breaking Ti Wren, which happened, or breaking Takanata, which also happened.)
Kai also notes that once there is a plan for the distraction, Takanata should create some prophetic art specifying that it will work.
The group brainstorms some ideas that might count as distracting Spider. The principal contender appears to be taking the Sankara Stone of Destruction to the Golden Spire, standing on Spider's sigil, and summoning Kali.
- "This is a terrible plan. But I have nothing else on scale." -Takanata
Another possibility involves trying to burn away the darkness preventing the other Cycle Spirits from knowing Spider is Aku. Maybe the Moon could be prevailed upon to do that? Or Tortoise?
Kuan-Xi cashes in an essay from the Scroll of Answers on the best way to distract Spider. The scroll clarifies that while Cai Wen initially said that one can distract Spider with either a threat or an opportunity, all the example they've thought about have been threats. Of the threats they've thought of, summoning Kali is the one likely to work best (for a somewhat complex definition of "best" but more or less that the GMs think the players will be least unhappy with the consequences). Because of the way Cycle Spirit Politics works, if Spider is the one who notices first, he's obliged to be in the front line. Standing on his sigil in the Golden Tower would work, as would being in front of the Spider Talisman or in front of one of the Marked. The best opportunity, rather than threat, is to give him the chance to steal a couple of Talismans in a way that will only work if some spiritual assistance is needed. The main flaw in this plan is that it's not likely to work as a distraction unless it's likely to work as a theft. This is something that could be handed off to the NPCs, with hints from the Scroll of Answers.
Losing the Talismans is clearly no good, so the party kind of prefers summoning Kali at first, though the longer they think about it, the more their minds start to change. Standing in the Golden Spire and summoning Kali is likely to get the rest of the Cycle angry in a way that losing the Talismans does not. And letting the Prince end up with a Talisman would make Takanata happy.
Possibly adding more NPCs and more resources will make the plan more tempting for Spider while perhaps protecting the Talismans, so the group starts going through the party loot to see what else they can bear to lose. Some of the more esoteric items are examined - the Pagoda of Heavenly Light (The Imperial Job got a deed) is dedicated to the Sun and the Moon, so now Yanyu is interested. And the portrait of Lisan Tan is a real portrait, painted by a real master, but, judging from the hesitation marks (which Takanata can read), it was not actually Lisan Tan but an imposter, and the artist knew that.
Many lists are made.
Goals in order of priority
- Must distract spider
- Protect yourselves
- If Talismans are lost, the Prince should get them rather than other Marked
- Try to not lose the Talismans
Assigned to the upcoming NPC run
- Jin (perhaps he can encrypt the forged Sankara stone to be mistaken for a Talisman)
- Merchant Siri
- Master Hong
- The Jasmine River (3 karma spent)
- Great Talisman of the Magpie
- Great Talisman of the Serpent
- Lesser Sankara Stone of Night (forgery)
- Armor of the Bear
- Ivory Crown
- Dice Pouch of Fortune
- Page from "The Triumph of Law"
- Escape Smoke
- Potion of the Final Charge of the Bull
- Colored Smoke Eggs
- Bonsai of Truth
- Talisman Bandolier
The NPCs are sent off - they will report again after their run is over.
The White Pagoda
The White Pagoda has become a place of worldwalking, and Yanzi has been studying. The group decides to spiritwalk rather than go through the Path of Five Elements, so they can take those items that they have shticks in while the White Pagoda lets them brings some few more. Merit's advice provides 30 free fortune dice (some of his research covered things that were in the logs from Touched by the Dragon).
The decide that Takanata will officially be the questor for Zhuai, which will give him a slightly different movement mechanic when they get to the web.
The group decides to follow the path of the previous mission - going into Fox's realm and crossing to Spider. They choose encounters and travel arrows from the hat, but like last time, decide to go slowly until they have fully arranged for their evacuation with the spirits and demons they encounter on the way. If it all goes wrong, they’ll call upon the WuXing for emergency extraction, and so are keeping him in reserve rather than calling him in early.
A pleasant orchard with fruit trees of every variety is the first spirit that they encounter. The grass does not appear to complain about being walked on. Wei Han compliments the trees, but they do not reply. Takanata notes that the different trees fruit in different seasons, and the peach tree is stolen. He frowns at the peach tree, and uses Contact Spirit.
- "That does not belong here." -Takanata
- "That was freely offered. Perhaps not by its owner."
- "What is the cost of passage, and what is the cost of the name of the person who gave it to you?"
- "Anyone who chooses to eat of the fruit may leave, but if you choose to leave without eating it must be worth my while."
- "What are the consequences?"
- "It depends on who, and what they eat. If you wish the name of the one who brought the peach, you need only draw me a painting of someone walking through my fields - and I will tell you who it is to be of after you agree."
- "Will I know their appearance?"
- "Of course."
Takanata agrees, and eats a peach, which is a very good peach but not as good as the last one that he had. Wei Han eats an apple, which is the best apple he has ever had, and Yanyu eats a red plum. Master Zhou eats a strange armored-pear sort of fruit, which he thinks is good for strength, Cai Wen eats some cherries, and Min Feng eats a dragonfruit.
Kuan-Xi offers rain to the orchard instead, and it accepts, if she will spend a Tao on it. She does.
Takanata notes that he is the only one to have left the pit behind, and he pockets the peach pit. As they leave, the Orchard wishes him luck in his encounter with the Monkey King.
Wei Han accidentally remembers that he brought boots, and loses them from back in the Material World; Min Feng loses an incense.
There are several bushes, and a doglike creature with a lolling tongue is sneaking from one bush to the other.
Takanata and Cai Wen both spend three karma, and when Coyote finishes sneaking to the other side of the bush, there is Fox on the other side looking back at him.
- "Oh." -Coyote
The party flees before anything else happens.
A Friendly Face
The next encounter is Yin-Xiang. They ask if he can get them out if they need to go. He thinks he can get Yanyu out, and the rest of her triad, and any of their spouses, but neither Kuan-Xi nor Min Feng is married.
Well, that's at least partly solved, but getting some more help on the escape would be good.
Some Friendly Feet
Cai Wen cheats to make the next draw a spirit. He gets the feeling that it would have been Fox, but She is busy right now, so Horse arrives.
Takanata offers two horse points for getting the rest of the party, plus Zhuai, out of the web if needed. Two is a little low, but Horse can let Takanata throw in his karma doubler to power up the horse points, and bring the escape up to a party of people (so they can rescue a few more if needed).
As extraction is now settled, they can draw sufficient arrows to cross the rest of the spirit plain and enter Spider's Realm.
As before, the web is populated with demons (and other enemies), temptations, and mirrors. Unlike last time, the mirrors do not let you choose who to fight, but the mirror-enemies can be fled. Both Tai Lung and Li the Wanderer are also in the web - Li is at the center, speaking to three webbed cocoons, and Tai Lung seems interested in fighting Master Zhou.
- Wei Han encounters Ignition, who burns many of his items but doesn't hurt him beyond that.
- Kuan-Xi is tempted by a book: a full briefing on the Golden Palace and everything that her destiny encompasses.
- Cai Wen encounters a mirror, but instead of an enemy, he sees Mei-Zhen. She can only be in one mirror, though. His temptation is a locket - if he gives it to Kiri, she will be free of any obligations and debts to Whale or Renyu.
- Yanyu encounters the Woman with White Wings, who tells her that she doesn't want to pass. She can only do so if she promises to do something that she doesn't want to do. With a fast talk roll, she convinces the Woman that she really doesn't want to go forward to fight the demon in the next mirror; the Woman lets her past, but now she cannot leave until she is done fighting mirror-Wei Han.
- Master Zhou flees from the Black Tortoise of Winter and Despair, to a mirror, where he seems himself. Unfortunately, he's defensive enough that fighting himself is very boring, but his mirror image doesn't seem interested in teaming up to fight Tai Lung.
- Min Feng is tempted by the option of picking up the Red Jade Key with no obligations to anyone.
- Takanata chats with Li the Wanderer, and mentions that he found a stolen peach tree on the way in. Are they supposed to do something about that? Li says that the stolen peach tree is the end of a story. Takanata could start a new story - the I Ching Master and the Stolen Peaches - that would be appropriate, but not required.
- Kuan-Xi meets the green lemmings, which mob at her, waggling their large ears. She screams at them, but they don't think that is a very good story, and bite her. Her cloak of evasion protects her from the first round, but it will be worse now that they are a pile of two-die creatures.
- Min Feng meets the Hunger demon, which eats the spiritual dragonfruit she consumed earlier.
- Wei Han is offered a medal proclaiming him the Hero of the Empire rather than an Enemy for his temptation.
- Master Zhou flees from his mirror, though this will lead to the mirror Zhou running into Kuan-Xi while she is trapped by lemmings, and will not end well.
- Yin-Xiang eviscerates mirror Cai Wen, but is the first to actually fall prey to his temptation (not having been given Li Merit's briefing), and suddenly Yanyu is pregnant with twins.
- Cai Wen tells the story of the Bandits of the Double Caldera to the lemmings, calming them somewhat, and tries to insult the Best demon into silence.
- Mirror Zhou takes down Kuan-Xi, and Mirror Wei Han nearly takes out Yanyu.
- Cai Wen thinks all three figures in the center are recurring NPCs, and that they all could be male Spider-aspected people, but can't tell much beyond that.
- Takanata checks the future of Mystery Figure A and the past of Mystery Figure B. A's future is unclear - he could become one of the Marked, and stay behind the scenes in the Dragon's Throne pulling strings, or he could stay stuck in the web. No one else is likely to rescue him. B was the scion of a noble house with a feud, who betrayed them and was betrayed, before surrendering to his enemies and declaring victory over them. Both A and B could be Zhuai, though B does seem like a good match. He also checks the strongest connection between C and Master Zhou. It's kind of iffy, but appears to be "they haven't met each other, but he helped kill some of Master Zhou's friends, and helped rescue one of his teachers." Hmm. Master Zhou, peering through silk, thinks that none of them are really enemies, but A Is the one closest to enemy-ish right now.
Takanata chooses Figure B, and Yin-Xiang is called on to pull out the Triad while Horse evacuates the rest of the group and B, which does in fact turn out to be Zhuai.
While it would be nice to rescue the other two, Kuan-Xi is down and Yanyu is nearly down, and last time, the second time through was harder than the first. So a second pass is not going to happen.
The Moon takes her son away for some scolding, and congratulates Yanyu on her additional blessing. Kuan-Xi awakens refreshed, and the Triad can return to Tahiti.
The others reawaken in the White Pagoda, with a document. It appears to detail Zhuai, with a stamp, as if it is... power of attorney over his soul? It's not clear.
Takanata thinks that whoever made the document was rolling for 13s, but now that the document exists, anyone can use it. No, wait - they rolled for 7s, but had the effect of rolling for 13s. He can't quite figure that out. He’s confident however, that now that the party has both Zhuai’s body and Zhuai’s Soul Document Thingy, Xiao Fa can sort things right out.