Night of Gates VIII
|"Ceremonies are the first thing to be attended to in the practice of government."|| The run begins three days before the Night of Gates.|
The run takes place in the Tanzhe Plain
The traditional dividing up of the party loot runs into catastrophe when it is noticed that the Magpie Talisman is missing. As the GMs seem to be mystified as well, it is probably not thieves, but it does seem as if the Talisman may be missing or lost. Everyone is sure that Merit is going to kill them.
Fretting over the Talisman is interrupted by the butler, who says that the House of Benevolent Oversight requires a House member to attend upon the King. Deng is the only member of the House of Exuberant Interference around (as Shuyan is unwell), so he brings Xiao Fa just in case the meeting is to talk about Governorship. When he arrives at the House of Benevolent Oversight in the Harbor of Fortunate Arrival, he does have to wait for a while, and the Secretary of the King's Agenda does not have the topic of conversation available, so the waiting is a bit tense.
First, "Lord Gi-Su" is called for, but he is not there. Then, Master Deng is summoned. The King lets him know that he has had some trouble in communication with the House of Quiet Concordance, but the House of Exuberant Interference should be prepared to receive the Lord of Benevolent Oversight in three days' time, in order to invest Lord Xiao Fa with the powers of the governorship of the Tanzhe Plain. They should make sure that there are appropriate representatives of both the Forest and the Plains in attendance, as well as other suitable witnesses and "anyone else you feel is appropriate".
Deng bows in acknowledgement, then leaves to pick up Xiao Fa and head back to the Tanzhe headquarters to explain. In the meantime, Takanata has unexpectedly arrived, and started to sketch on a last-minute painting.
There are some low-hanging fruit to invite - Zhuai can be roped in for a Forest house, and Shen-Ji can get a representative from the Myeong Clan, and Takanata can recruit his nephew Tokai Namokori from House Seomun.
Inviting rulers of the neighboring countries is probably one level too high to aim, so an initial list is drawn up for people and places to send invitations to:
- Butterfly Meadows
- All the Arcade Houses
- All the Plains Houses
- All the Forest Houses
- Scholar Turtle
- Temples in the Tanzhe Temple District
- Mayors of the Tanzhe Towns
- Fa Mulan
- Taiga Dukes
- Shen-Ji's family
- Ambassadors to the Arcade
- Father Changling / Sister Aiya
- The Populace
Takanata learns that Tokai Won is now in charge of the training battalion in the Plains, and Eto the Wolf is now at the Dragon's Throne in the Obsidian Warlord's command structure.
Takanata finishes his quick sketch:
People peer at it in confusion. Are the people on the bottom turning into the spirits on the top? What is that thing Tiger is wearing? Or is it a bee? Yanyu has warned everyone that the Night of Gates is coming, so the spirits probably have something to do with that.
Stuffing the Guest List
Invitations are sent. The messengers to the Forest Houses are the first to return. Apparently nobody is home in the Forest. In fact, when messengers knock on the door, anyone inside is quick to say that nobody is home, and go away. Right. Nobody in the Forest of Chin likes the Night of Gates.
Deng does receive messages saying that Zhuai will come, as will Su-Yin. Other quick replies include one from Lord Kinoze, who is happy to attend, and Scholar Turtle, who is honored to attend. More mysteriously, there is an RSVP from Lady Xian's +1, whatever that means.
Shen-Ji writes a codicil to the invitation to his his family, suggesting Elder Brother, then goes to visit Myeong. The Plains clan doesn't see why they should attend, but Shen-Ji hints broadly that there could be unspecified trouble .
- "Un. Speci. Fied." - Shen-Ji
They take the hint, that they should come and cause trouble, and agree.
Wei Han heads up to the Winter Academy and asks Master Hong to round up some students for extra security , as well as a faculty member as a chaperone. He hears that Pak Suk is looking into the recent student disappearances, but they can find some students who are definitely not involved, plus Colonel Lam. He decides not to pursue this at the current time, take g the students and Lam back to the plain.
Takanata goes to the Court of Distinction to grab someone, and gets Katsuo Nerina. (Deng gets an immediate reply.)
Deng himself heads to the Warlord's Throne, to try to get some local nobility who aren't party members or party spouses. He reaches the keep, and they open the gates for him, telling him that he made it just in time before the Night of Gates. He tells them that he's there to escort some local nobility to the Tanzhe, and everyone thinks he is mad. He convinces Shen-Shin Gao to talk to the High Warlord, and after some persuasion/argument, the Warlord agrees.
- "I of course wish to do appropriate honors to the new Governor. Lord Xing would be happy to attend." -Warlord Ze
- "Wait, what? No!" -Lord Xing
- "Lord Xing would be happy to attend." -Warlord Ze
Xiao Fa invites the Research Assistant's family.
Master Zhou goes to visit Master Bao at the Temple of Eternal Dream, and sweeps while he is waiting. His persuasion focuses on the party being concerned that there will be some... crossing over... at the investiture, and they seek Master Bao's help in guiding them should the world of dreams impose itself. That proves to be the right tactic, and Master Bao assents.
The RSVPs continue to arrow in on Deng in a somewhat odd way. At least, from some of them. Others of them are delivered to the Tanzhe HQ butler in a more normal fashion, and he hands them over to Deng in a bunch.
Lu Xu, Shen-Ji's family Little Sister will attend, and that message reaches Deng immediately. The Black Duke wishes Xiao Fa well, but is in the middle of things, and that message is left with the butler.
Xian goes to the major towns of the Tanzhe to invite the mayors, and is reminded several times to invite Galuki of the Stone House as well. She has no idea who he is, but makes sure to give him an invitation.
Takanata considers the question of the instantly-responsive messages versus the normal messages, and it occurs to him that the most important thing not yet considered is that they might not have gotten all the ones they wanted.
Master Deng has not been paying particularly close attention to which invitations arrived immediately and which didn't, but he thinks about it to try to recollect. He thinks hard, and gets to ask six questions.
Question 1: Did House Myeong's invitation generate an instant reply?
Answer: It did.
Takanata realizes that this isn't just six questions about the rsvp messages, it is six questions about the mechanic as a whole. Whatever that is.
It seems apparent that there is a correspondence between the instant replies and Great (or Very Large) Spirits. So which spirits have been invited, and which have not? A list is drawn up of instant rsvps:
- Master Bao
- Colonel Lam
- House Myeong
- Lord Kinoze
- Scholar Turtle
- Tsai Su-Yin
- Katsuo Nerina
- Xiao Fa
- Little Sister
Some of these are more obvious than others. Takanata notes that Phoenix is not invited yet, and is startled to learn that this isn't true. Is Master Bao Phoenix-aspected?
Question 2: Why are the spirits all interested in representatives?
Answer: Because spirits who have a rep can move between the worlds.
Question 3: What great spirits don't have representatives yet?
Answer: Bear, Fox, Serpent, and Monkey
Hmm. It wouldn't be so bad if Monkey wasn't there, but Fox is a favorite, as is Bear. Should they make sure to invite everyone?
Question 4: What are the ramifications of not inviting a few spirits?
Answer: Depending on which spirits, it may disrupt their plots, and/or yours.
With less than a day before the investiture ceremony, another round of invitations are quickly sent out, trying to catch all of the Great (and Very Large) Spirits who have been left out.
The Pearl of the Taiga (for Fox), and her husband, both reply. Quan Lo is invited (for Bear), but does not reply - but both Chu Ox-head and Po do. Shen Mei (for Wolf) and Kiri (for Whale) also both reply.
Pho (for Horse) and the Serpent Regent (for Serpent) are both invited, but do not reply. There is much consternation. Do Serpent and Horse not want to come? Are they snubbing their invitations?
Master Zhou goes to the stables to ask Li Merit's Horse to talk to the boss. Horse is enthusiastically happy for the invitations, and clarifies that the Master of Horse of the Taiga (the Pearl's husband) did rsvp. Master Zhou wonders if Horse knows what the topic of spiritual conversation is likely to be, and Horse doesn't know the details, but thinks that Magpie wants to talk to all the other spirits.
- "I hear you might have thrown away his talisman, so maybe you're on the outs, but the word is that he wants everyone there." -Horse
- "Are there going to be mechanics we need to know about?" -Master Zhou
- "Almost certainly." -Horse
However, if they need anything, just let Horse know and he's happy to help. Master Zhou thanks Horse for the information, and heads back to brief everyone else.
- "Magpie wants all the spirits to agree to something, and that's too dangerous unless we approve it first." -Xian
Question 5: What deal is Magpie trying to cut?
Answer: That is beyond the scope of these mechanical questions.
Takanata invites Tokai Namokora, and Xian visits some of the the ambassadors to the Arcade from neighboring countries. The ambassador from the Qin Chao Steppes and his wife are persuaded, as will the ambassadors from the Dragon's Throne and the Precincts. The former mentions that there will already be a large delegation from the Throne - there was a Dragon Army escort arranged and everything. Well, that's interesting. The ambassador doesn't know any more details, though.
Master Zhou invites that Countess, and Chochiro, and then summons Rubberlegs to help with the organization.
- "Oh, I see, I'm not actually invited to the ceremony..." -Rubberlegs
Lord Xing sends a somewhat belated instant RSVP, which is interesting. Willow gets invited, but declines.
Wei Han tries to think about serpent-aspected people they know, and realizes that it isn't a question of serpent aspects, it's a question about representatives and symbolism. Keepers of secrets, binders, that sort of thing. Willow and Ando are sent invitations, and Ando will attend.
Xiao Fa sits vigil and meditates overnight.
Takanata cashes in a minor favor from the Sun, asking for an omen of thrones for Xiao Fa.
People decide it would be a good idea to investigate the visitors from the Dragon's Throne, whoever they are. It turns out that they are protesters with signs.
A lot of them seem to be armed, as well. The party sets Xian on them, which really is overkill. It turns out they were hired in the Bronze and Pewter districts, and escorted here by the Dragon Army. Xian finds that there are about two hundred, all told, and only about twenty are likely to be inside the tent at the time of the ceremony. They are being paid two li each, plus food and transport, and will be paid double if they're injured. Xian is offended - the "food" they've been paid in is the food being provided by the House of Exuberant Interference, so it doesn't seem fair to count as a benefit for paid rabble-rousers.
Anyhow, she offers them double if they will protest in favor of Xiao Fa instead. Some of the protesters are a little concerned that their transport home will no longer be available, but Xian says she can arrange for that as well, and ups the offer to five li each.
Soon, she is besieged with people who hear that she is offering good money to protest in favor of Xiao Fa - some of them are the Dragon's Throne paid ruffians, but others were in favor of Xiao Fa to start with, and don't see why they shouldn't make good money in the process. In the end, she pays seventeen tael in bribes, but thinks there should not be more than a handful of anti-Fa protesters left.
Master Zhou makes a bunch of posters and signs for the new protesters, and with the help of Xian's magic ocarina, has enough time to make them for all of them. Additionally, there are some torches that have been written on with the elemental marker, for bonus production values.
Master Deng wonders who the most dangerous person nearby is, but the answer is Su-Yin.
In order for Xiao Fa to be invested, both the Lord of Benevolent Oversight and Xiao Fa need to be on the dais at the end of the first turn. (Or the end of some subsequent turn, if something has gone wrong.)
The party begins, as people mingle about. Takanata apologizes to Ando for the late invite, but Ando is pleased to be here.
- "If half the stuff I've heard about this party is true, there's nowhere else I'd rather be." -Ando
Deng makes a quick speech thanking everyone for coming. The Pearl chats with Xiao Fa about the markets of the Tanzhe being open to all countries, not just the Arcade, until Su-yin cuts in and asks if Xiao Fa can join her for a moment.
A voice in Xian’s ear says to "meet me in the supply closet", but she drags her feet and refuses to go there.
Xiao Fa wonders who in the room is most related to the Imperial Succession - that would be the Countess at the moment.
Xian has an Inscrutable conversation with the Countess - one, there's a little voice in her ear telling her to go to the supply closet, and two, she has discovered this mysterious sign written in crayon - should she wear it? The Countess eyes the sign and speculates that it might be protection of some sort. But protection for who - Xian, or her new patron?
- "Spirits tend to not destroy their tools... unless it's in their nature." -The Countess
- "That was a lot more reassuring before the codicil." -Xian
Takanata apologizes to Ando for his late invitation, and asks if Ando has heard anything recently about Fu Sen. Ando has heard that he has recently returned from a trip, but no more details than that.
Then, suddenly (in drift), Ando is replaced by an elegant woman in a green gown, Su-yin is replaced by a breathtaking woman in red, and Kinoze is replaced by a small dapper man in dark blue. Master Bao glares at the shift - that is not supposed to happen. Meanwhile, Ando, Su-yin, and Kinoze are all in the other party, surrounded by any number of Great Spirits and other denizens of the World Above.
Takanata, ever suave, apologizes to Serpent for the late invitation as well.
Xian puts on the sign.
Phoenix suggests to Xiao Fa that he move along quickly to the supply closet, and Deng follows close behind.
Question 6: What's going on with the supply closets?
Those are the portals to the World Above. You have to keep things balanced - make sure things go through in both directions.
Xiao Fa dutifully goes into the supply closet and finds himself in the Party Above while the Lord Dragon appears at the investiture party.
Xian wonders what Coyote will offer her in order to go into the closet.
- "I will be able to rain power down upon you!" -Coyote
- "Nah, I'm good." -Xian
Takanata persuades Zhuai to head away from the supply closets, and Zhuai is willing to hold a grudge against Spider for kidnapping.
In the next drift, Scholar Turtle, Po, and Ando swap - now Ando is back where he started.
The last of the protesters pull anti-Xiao-Fa signs from under their cloaks, triggering the fighters into action. Colonel Lam asks Wei Han for direction, and Wei Han suggests that they be removed without hurting them. Colonel Lam coughs in a staccato pattern, and the Winter Academy students head for the nearest protesters.
Horse finally manages to swap via a supply closet, and Coyote thinks of a better bribe for Xian.
- "You have a number of people who you wish to bring down, but never get around to it. I offer you foolproof plans to humiliate the people you want humiliated - just as much as they deserve and no more, in poetic and appropriate ways - and all you have to do is press the button." -Coyote
- "Now you're talking." -Xian
Xian, with the choker of fast talking, can get to pretty any supply closet in the room in an action, and does so
Wei Han grabs another protester, covering his mouth, and Master Zhou kicks a protester across the room and into unconsciousness. This alarms a number of the guests, including the Pearl of the Taiga (who the protester flies by) who thought that this was a party mechanic and not a combat mechanic. She goes to speak to Master Deng about the combat breaking out. The students punch another protester and hide him under a table.
Spider gets an action that Zhuai doesn't, and heads towards the supply closet. Coyote and Monkey have a private conversation in the VIP box of the World Above.
Sam (who has swapped with Lu Chu) chats with Shen-Ji.
- "Interesting choice, I didn't picture you for the priest route. You think Yama is going to deliver it?" -Sam
- "Negotiations commence apace." -Shen-Ji
- "Negotiations? I'd say he's winning."
- "Should we be talking? Your attitude has been unconventional."
- "See, I don't think you want to get where you're going - I've been there, and it's just here.
But it costs a lot."
Shen-Ji wonders if Little Sister has talked to Sam about his project - he just wants to figure out what Phoenix figured out. Sam thinks that Phoenix figured out that you have to get out of the game - but also, Shen-Ji shouldn't confuse Phoenix with real people.
Takanata checks in with Dragon - it's getting towards the end of the turn. How and when does Dragon expect the investiture to take place? Everyone seems to be in the wrong place, and Takanata made a deal for cool omens. Dragon expects that the Sun will preside over Xiao Fa's investiture, which can be in the World Above, while Dragon is presented by Phoenix to the people in the Material World at the same time. So everyone is in closer to the right place than expected, though not quite.
Sam and Shen-Ji continue to chat. Sam thinks that Phoenix doesn't choose to be Phoenix-y, she just does Phoenix-y things. The path Shen-Ji is on doesn't lead to a lot of latitude. Shen-Ji doesn't see why Sam thinks so. Well, when you get great power and worshippers, then you don't have to do things, but you have a lot of people who want you to. So your choice is to ignore people who need things from you, or spend the rest of a very long life doing things for everyone else. It takes the right mentality to sacrifice eternity on behalf of others, and Sam isn't sure Shen-Ji has that mentality.
- "And your alternative is?" -Shen-Ji
- "Have you considered -- well, no, you wouldn’t have. But have you considered eternal life without vast power? It's really the best of both worlds. Talk to your friends - I know you have some." -Sam
Shen-Ji thinks the eternal life part isn't the important point there. Sam looks unhappy, and notes that Shen-Ji has expanded from sorcery to "how to slay people with demons" and "serving the god of death", so maybe Shen-Ji has already found his focus and just isn't admitting it. But, for example, what if Sam gave Shen-Ji the ultimate healing power? What would he do all day? Not heal people all the time, Shen-Ji says.
- "All right, I think we understand each other. It's good we had this talk - it clarified a number of issues for me." -Sam
Xiao Fa uses "talk to Dragon" to get much the same explanation that Takanata did, and starts heading for the dais.
- "You should, very soon, take three or four steps to your left." -Sam to Shen-Ji
Master Zhou tries to catch Monkey's attention -he had hoped to speak to Monkey. Monkey points to the line between them, indicating the VIP area, and that Master Zhou is on the other side of it. Master Zhou considers eavesdropping on the Coyote/Monkey conversation, but decides that might be a good way to Yoshi himself.
Then Monkey accidentally castles with Po.
- "Po, you're in the VIP area. Get out of there." -Master Zhou
Xian, in the World Above, introduces herself to Monkey, and indicates her sign. Monkey is impressed by it.
- "So, that other guy, what's your deal? You his guy? Girl? Slave? Master?" -Monkey
- "We don't get along that well. But I figure your compatriots would like to get rid of him." -Xian
- "Well, yeah, they're dull."
- "But we don't need them, we have you. You're the best. We don't need him."
- "But he makes a lovely distraction, doesn't he?"
Monkey has a proposition for Xian - help him give Coyote just enough of a boost that everyone else spends all their time chasing him all over creation. Xian and Monkey can just sit back and laugh. And Monkey will even guarantee that Coyote doesn't get in at the end - he’ll get his proper comeuppance instead. He's willing to stake his reputation on that. Xian frowns - "the end" is a lot longer for her than it is for Monkey. She's not sold on the idea.
- "Well, if you change your mind, go find the seven good monkeys and we'll talk." -Monkey
- "But I already did that!" -Xian
- "And here I am. "
Xian thinks Monkey is a bit better at tempting than Coyote is, but the answer is still no.
Master Zhou chats with Tortoise, to ask him about the nature of Monkey kung fu. He was hoping that Tortoise might be able to turn the Ring of Monkey into something more kung fu in nature. Tortoise allows as he might be able to help, but is Master Zhou offering him something? Well, he's offering the Ring of Monkey, but that would be the thing that Tortoise would be distilling into a thing for Master Zhou, so that doesn't really count. Master Zhou offers to write up his treatise on the Ultimate Kung Fu, but he was going to do that anyway, and he offers to return his library books to Tortoise's library, but this also doesn't seem like very much of an offering, exactly. Tortoise looks up and appears to consider the time. He gives Zhou a Tortoise token, and agrees to continue negotiations later.
In the Material World, Phoenix, Dragon, and the Countess are on the dais, as Phoenix presents the Dragon Spirit, returned from his imprisonment. In the World Above, Xiao Fa, the Sun, and Tsai Su-yin are on the dais, as the Sun invests Xiao Fa as Governor.
- "This will hurt a bit, but you will learn from it." -Sam, to Shen Ji
The speeches finish at the same moment, and then there is a beam of sunlight from the tent door to the dais, shining on Dragon / Xiao Fa. But Shen-Ji, having stepped to the left, is caught in the beam, and part of the sunlight shines directly into his eyes - he is blinded.
The Night of Gates begins to unravel, quite quickly. Dragon tells the other spirits that they should return before it is too late, and the Sun is giving the same warning to the mortals in the World Above. The Pearl / the Fox are the farthest from the supply closets, and have no action before the next drift.
Wei Han, professing his humility, offers the Fox Spirit an action. She's not sure he quite understands humble, but will take it. Master Zhou runs into the nearest supply closet and over to the Pearl. However, as he has no spirit to swap with, a demon emerges from the supply closet in the Material World. It proves to be a demon of unlife, and starts heading for the Lord of Benevolent Oversight.
Master Zhou leaps back through the closet with the Pearl, and another demon (of good intentions) emerges in the World Above, to be promptly pounced on by Fox and Crane.
Xian leaps into the World Above in order to put Coyote on top of the unlife-demon, but it is too focused on the King to really mess with Coyote.
Magpie and Tortoise (and Coyote and Xian) are on the wrong side still, as linkages begin to snap in drift. However, none of the linkages for the wrong-side people snap, so things are not as bad as they could be, and the dice are unusually beneficent.
Takanata carries Magpie into the closet - Magpie says that his kindness will be remembered, and to please extend his thanks to Takanata's lord.
The demon is pummeled mercilessly by the fighters, and explodes - Xiao Fa spends a karma with leadership, getting the locals out of the way.
Everyone manages to get back to the right side of things, and then the closets are carefully guarded until the last of the Night of Gates gate mojo runs out.
The Pearl talks to Xiao Fa, to make it clear that he has two options. Either the people who started fights at the party will need to be subject to some fairly significant punishment, or the precedent will be established that combat is not gauche at Tanzhe parties under the new regime.
Wei Han has a shtick in not being gauche, which he spreads to the students with a karma, but Master Zhou is sentenced to fifty hours of community service.