Life in the North
Draft; notes taken by Meg.
Takanata shares his plan to take Hana over the wall for mid-winter. Ringmaster Te objects to the long-term borrowing of party horses, so Takanata arranges passage on a boat up the Pearl river. When the river splits the party travels by foot. No provisions (or ladders) are mentioned, but talismans are given much attention. Kasumi wears the Butterfly talisman (as status is her least important stat so she can presumably survive the lack of it), similarly Takanata wears the Magpie amulet.
Master Zhou gets lucky and find Mulan. She advices crossing at night; there have been more Northern incursions than in a usual summer. She is proud of the joint exercises between the East and West commands. She identifies some hills that will hide the party from view on the wall; recommends crossing at night, and she will instruct her forces to look southward. Master Zhou tells Mulan how the Northerners have been coordinating, and hints that he could use help guarding the White Pagoda. Mulan is confused; "like a security guard?", but once he explains she suggests he contact the Steadfast Heart Sect. Master Zhou persists, and she demurs, "we don't know how to do any of those flying leaping kicks." Time to train! insists Master Zhou. Mulan "can, in fact, arrange to give you access to the wall for a training montage." The rest of the group is left on its own to gain access to the wall.
Crossing the wall
Since no one brought a ladder, things are done the hard way. Kasumi climbs up and ties a rope. Takanata and Min Feng successfully climb up (Takanata not particularly quietly.) Hana cannot, so Kasumi climbs down, ties Hana on, climbs up, and pulls Hana up. Bored with this, Kasumi Yoinks Xian up the wall. Soldiers on the wall think they see an old man, so all but Kasumi descend rapidly. By the time the soldiers arrive Kasumi is nowhere to be found, and they can't see anyone on the bottom, so they cut the rope but sound no alarm.
The first night
The Butterfly talisman reduces Kasumi to half strength and Takanata to half energy. Hana also experiences some changes- she has Life/Death/Blood instead of the normal Tao stats (and her Death is substantial). She thinks she can control lesser spirits. This leads to some theological discussions. The monkeys are clingy and not helpful.
Meanwhile Min Feng and Kasumi sneak around the hills to find out where the bandits are hiding so the group can hide somewhere else. They see a group of four people with nets and spears. They slowly sneak up on each other until combat is inevitable. Min Feng opens fire and the Northerners shout. "it's not a <something> monster, it's bandits!" Several of them spear Min Feng and then the leader nets her. Kasumi leaps in with her katana at the leaders neck and asks, in broken Torghut "Why you hunt us?". After determining the bandits are two Southern girls, confusion wins the day. "It's an invasion, but they just send girls?" Kasumi tries to explain picnic in Torghut, but has no luck. Min Feng suggests running from marriage, so Kasumi translates that. The hunters spend some time considering marriage to Min Feng, until they decide a Southern wife would be a pain. They are hunting for dire wolves for the fur. Kasumi admits they netted Min Feng fair and square, so offers them a pouch of shiny crystals she picked up at a shop in exchange for Min Feng back, and they go their separate ways after telling them which way the Life Temple and Beast master are.
"Rosebud, except I make myself look a lot better, and Ming Feng hits me on the head a lot" - Kasumi upon returning to the rest of the group. The rest of the night passes uneventfully.
The day before midsummer: Life Temple
A large caravan passes in front of the group. Most hide, but Takanata does not succeed. Outriders from the caravan yell questions at him in Torghut. After a few rounds Hana pops up and says "We go, visit life temple!" This makes some sense to the caravaners (How else would southerners visit life priest? No temples, they have to come here!), so they watch carefully, but leave the party alone as they pass. They also send word ahead to the life temple.
Life Temple Arrival
Soldiers are in groups of five, each wearing different clan colors, and in best uniforms. The building is almost more palace than fort. Later learn that all the clans cooperate about the life temple, and that no one is allowed to interfere with someone's path there. Also that gifts are usually given.
One of the guards steps forward and instructs Hana "No weapons, no undead". "Whose undead are you?" - Guard "Not undead" - Hana "You kind of are" - peanut gallery "No, that's a technical term"- Hana
She agrees, but still wants to go in. After the guard seems distracted for a bit (like someone is talking to him that no one can see) he agrees that she can go in alone. She negotiates up to one person, and Master Zhou accompanies her. "Are you what Southern undead look like?" "Are you avoiding the realm of death because you don't want to go?"- Life Master "Personal!"- Hana "South let you wander?"- Life Master "No one own me"- Hana "That's clear" - Life Master "Let me try something ... I taste your life" This leads to some uneasiness from Hana, but the Life Master tries to explain it is a sense mode. Hana wants Shen-Ji present, the Life Master doesn't bargain for favors. Finally Hana gives in.
"You have a live person inside you? You are possessing ghost?"- Life Master "Sharing" - Hana
Eventually his questioning of Hana is satisfied and the rest of the party is let in.
Shen-Ji gives a leather pouch of ritual powders Takanata gives a watercolor of the temple (in the Imperial Design) Kasumi gives her very very fine spool of thread Later it turns out that furs, horses, money, and gold would have been good gifts, so Kasumi gives 20 li and Min Feng gives 5(I think).
Shen-Ji asks for help understanding Life Magics. Min Feng draws upon Yanyu's knowledge of Torghut to translate more fluently. Life Priest states "You cannot achieve understanding when you have master." He is quite disconcerted by the monkeys on shoulders, and there is a brief misunderstanding. "What are those?" - Life Master "Those are pets, animal companions." - Shen-ji (thinking that he had not seen monkeys before) "Those are NOT pets" - Life Master "No, they're not" - Kasumi "crazy southerners, wear their master on their shoulder..."
Shen-Ji's questioning is successful and he gains "the book of life magic". It's more about connecting things and helping the body heal itself than about repairing injuries. In the north there is no one magic skill that goes across all three tao (no equivalent to sorcery). The magic skills are Life, Blood, Death, Necromancy, Beast Mastery, and Battle.
The cosmology is different; in the Empire spirits are locked above and below. This keeps them out of day to day life, but makes them more powerful. In the North the small spirits get knocked off by the bigger ones, so you just have the big spirits to avoid.
Borgegen clan has a khan who wants to become a great Khan and is trying to unite the clans.
With Life Master's permission, Takanata uses eyes of the I Ching with Yang. He sees connections between the talismans and the empire, and a different connection between Min Feng and the Empire. The life Priest is yinny-yang? Yanny-ying? (Meg lost the thread of the conversation here, sorry.
The life priest looks through Takanata's eyes during this (with Takanata's permission). He and Takanata each gain a corruption point.
Takanata reads Life Priest's I Ching. He throws the reeds, writes something down, throws the reeds, writes something down, throws the reeds... and Shen-Ji interrupts him ("I've seen him do two times before, but never three"). - After a long life the priest will die and rot by the lake (blood?) - After a long life the priest will have a short time of howling before being pulled up into a greater work (death?)
The priest is disconcerted that his death is so short, as if someone had plans for him before he died, but happy to know that his life will be long.
Hana offers to let the priest "taste" Hiro, and he does so. Hiro's life doesn't go into his death, it just goes into Hana.
Life Priest thinks "Dreamworld is just in your own head". He agrees to let the group spend the night so Takanata can attempt to dreamwalk into his dreams. Takanata finds that he is walled off from everyone else in his dreams. Magpie does have some things to say to him though.
On another night Xian sends a dream of talking purple ferns to Takanata. Xian receives them himself, instead, and they are quite snarky to him.
The party reclaims weapons from the coatroom and heads out for more adventures.
Hiro steps on a rambling monster yeti thing. Kasumi grabs its nose. Min Feng, Kasumi, and Shen Ji poke it full of holes. Takanata knocks it down (taking more actions), and Master Zhou nerve strikes (twice?). It picks up Hiro, and swings him like a club into Kasumi, Xian, and Master Zhou before falling over full of holes. Hiro took damage from each hit, and decides Hana will have more luck walking back to the wall.
The group notices a war party, and follows them to the wall with the hope of lighting them up with a fire storm and bringing them to the attention of Mulan's forces. Then the group disappears. Xian spends a Yin and sees ten soldiers. Hana sees 20 undead. Master Zhou covers his eyes with silk and "sees" the whole troop of enemies. Hana starts running toward the group of soldiers. Suddenly two archers ride toward the party and say "Project of the Khan. Interfere and you will have the __ of all the clans". The group fells the archers quickly and most of the raiding party splits off to engage. Takanata, not liking the look of the fight blows the Guardian Horn, spends a karma, and gets a weird sounding Northern Horn in return. The party just has to survive one turn of combat and then reinforcements will arrive.