|"In order to achieve something, it is inevitable and necessary that something should be destroyed."|| The run begins on the Day of the Early Spider in the Month of the Bear|
The run begins in the Hon'eth Arcade, and heads to the North Wall
The party has regrouped at Tahiti, and is discussing recent events, when the guards outside begin to shout. There is apparently a fire in the garden, and the guards are trying and failing to put it out with buckets of water. People unleash their detection fu at it (and Kuan-Xi hits it with a waterspout) - it seems to be some sort of magical fire, behaving like a very slow water gate, with a box slowly uncharring back into existence. After a few minutes, the fire goes out and an unharmed box remains, labeled "Open only under magical supervision." Kuan-Xi and Shen-Ji think that the gate isn't very long range, probably from less than a country away, but the source is unclear. The "water gate with fire" also sounds a little familiar, like things Ming I has done in the past.
- "Do you want me to open it? I have a lot of hit points." -Lijuan
After some further stalling, the box is opened. There are five long curved spans, and a whole lot of glass vials packed in straw. The long arcs are glass, stone, iron, and two of wood - each forms a fifth of a circle. It appears that the glass arc is hollow and can be filled with water, and one of the wood arcs should obviously be set on fire. After that, when joined together in a circle, the items will call up a grand ritual. The ritual takes corruption points from the other side of the wall, and concentrates them into an item that the person in the circle is holding. There is a lot of consternation about what "the other side of the wall" means, and whether that means the ritual is Bad and Wrong if it generates corruption points. On the other hand, if the ritual is performed north of the Wall, then the corruption would be Imperial Corruption, which is true and right and not bad at all. What would hitting a zombie with "imperial corruption" do - well, it could probably be triggered into damage, or people with shticks in controlling corruption might be able to do more.
While this discussion is going on, Dragon Army courier shows up looking for Cai Wen - he and his forces should meet the Obsidian Warlord at at his headquarters, currently north of Base Watch Hill, before the upcoming battle.
Lijuan's prophetic art is somewhat alarming, and Master Zhou thinks that the green stick figures are probably zombies. Wasn't Master Deng supposed to be in the run? That could be a problem.
Shen-Ji takes a quick side trip to the Harbor to find a magic item expert, who says that the vials have a liquid for putting on blades or arrows, to distribute poison or some other functional substance. The arcs of grand-ritual-creation seem likely to be the Alchemist's work; the vials are less terrifyingly powerful.
The group heads towards the Dragon Army camp that the courier has summoned them to, leaving the three talismans behind at Tahiti, under house guard.
Lijuan asks around the camp, explaining that they have been sent by Zhu Cai Wen, looking for the Obsidian Warlord. Zhu Cai Wen is insufficiently famous for the random soldiers to have heard of him, but they do know where the Warlord is.
- "You're late." -Obsidian Warlord
- "We had to deal with something with the Alchemist. You know how it is."
The Warlord says that the attack will be tomorrow, spread out along the Wall. He's been told that they will have the tools to deal with the communications for the enemy - it would be good if they weren't able to coordinate the way the Warlord's forces will. If they can sneak across to the command center and disrupt communications, he will consider that adequate.
Lijuan says that her art indicates that they will be fighting zombies rather than disrupting communications, though she likes his plan better. The Warlord likes his plan better too, and suggests they do it instead.
The group gets to see the Warlord's map. It has three possible command centers, though he notes that two of them are traps. They'll be well defended, especially the fake ones. He does not deign to mention which ones are the fakes, though. There is also a particularly large group of Northerners indicated on the map, but the Warlord says the party doesn't have to deal with it, as he has a plan for them. (Across the Wall from the group of northerners is some sort of Secret Weapon, but he also does not go into more details about that.) Master Zhou asks if the Warlord has any more resources that he can spare for them. He frowns - he was told that they would be properly equipped, but since they seem to be missing Master Deng, he is willing to loan them a first-rate Deng-level fighter in exchange for getting to borrow Shen-Ji, who could be useful for the secret project, since Shen-Ji is familiar with demons. The group declines to trade in Shen-Ji.
The Warlord believes that the command center is using some sort of magic communication, not just runners. The attack will be at dawn, he believes, so the party agrees to start scouting at midnight.
As they head for the Wall, Min Feng overhears some guards discussing a roundup of criminals over in the direction of the Secret Project. Well, this is sad and clearly a sign that the Marked are bad guys, but there's nothing to be done about it now.
Shuyan sneaks forward to the first potential command center. There are figures milling around, and every so often someone releases a wolf, which dashes away.
Lijuan sneaks forward to the second potential command center. Again, there are some figures milling around. Every so often, someone goes to a pen and thumps the ground with a staff, and a rolling underground mound heads off from the pen. Lijuan sneaks over to where one of the mounds has passed, and thinks that the tracks indicate a land shark - a creature usually of the deeper north, not seen near the Wall.
While dodging a patrol approaching the group, Min Feng overhears some Northern soldiers talking amongst themselves - they are optimistic that success is already assured, because their necromancers believe that half of the barbarian army has killed itself (down near the Secret Project area).
Shuyan sneaks forward to the third potential command center. This one is releasing birds every so often, but unlike the other two, there is the occasional incoming bird as well. Ah ha! This one seems likely to be the real command center - should they just run in and start chopping everyone?
Shen-Ji opens the scroll from Ti Lao, which should indicate whether the path they are on is the correct one.
Okay, so maybe they should just run in and chop the aviary, and not the entire camp? Master Zhou considers the tactics of the situation. Chopping the aviary is the only viable plan they have, right?
- "Yes, that's the only viable plan if you ignore the crate you lugged all the way here..." -Mike
Okay, so maybe the plan is to throw Empire-corruption-vials at any zombies, and shoot at the birds? That could be a plan.
Kuan-Xi imbues a handful of vials with Imperial Corruption in the surprise round, and everyone else engages. Birds are flying in and out of the aviary every action, as dawn arises, but they prove reasonably easy to kill. Master Zhou smashes some vials onto two zombies and a bird, and all the birds in the aviary scream.
Hmm, maybe the plan should be to get the communication birds with the vials?
Combat continues; once the party has gotten onto the actual plan, it goes fairly smoothly, except for the part where the foes keep increasing, and the ones that have fallen get up again at the end of the round. Shen-Ji firestorms the map several times, and Master Zhou punches zombies away, while Kuan-Xi imbues vials, Lijuan shoots things, Shuyan tries to keep everyone from dying, and Min Feng alternates between imbuing and shooting.
One of the guys seems to be in charge - Master Zhou thinks he is both level 2 and level 6. Shen-Ji shoots him, but then another similarly-dressed Northern soldier takes over, as if the Beastmaster of Men is controlling them one at a time.
Min Feng notes that each of the buildings in the camp is its own battlemap. Master Zhou charges into one of them, but finds that the swordsman inside is a little too much for him.
The zombies begin to charge the circle, burning through Imperial corruption and making it harder to use on birds. Only two birds escape, though some are killed without imbued weapons.
After two turns of shooting birds and becoming increasingly overrun by zombies, the group flees again. The corruption perfused into the messenger birds is sufficient to disrupt the Northern communication, though not sufficient to do so beyond the current battle.
As the party heads back to the wall, they see an area filled with necromancers and death knights and other terrible foes, all lying dead and unmarked. As they cross the Wall, there seem to be a number of people on the Empire side, similarly dead. Master Zhou thinks that looks like the work of barrels of horrible deadly poison - and it's probably a sign of Toro.
The group reports to the Warlord. He seems a little surprised, and perhaps not completely pleased, to hear that all of them survived, but he says that they disrupted communications at a crucial moment, and the battle was won.
- "If you will be speaking with the Alchemist, let him know that the great massacre of men, swift and silent as night, probably counts as a sign of Toro." -Master Zhou
- "I'm sure he noticed. But one does not have to stop the apocalypse by stopping all the signs - only by stopping the last one. And it is not possible to fight a war and avoid massacres."