Saving Spear Carrier Ri
|"Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons, and they will follow you into the deepest valley."|| The run takes place in the early First Month of the Dog in the Tenth Year of the Dog since the Third Treaty of Houses.|
The run takes place in the Northerner-held territory of the Arcade
A Mysterious Heir
The party gathers at Tahiti to discuss the missions that have been done for the Magpie Prince. Yanyu notes that, astrologically, the next few days are a Time of Binding, which is particularly spiritually auspicious for marriages and other forms of bindings. (Like the Night of Gates and some other similar times, it is hard to predict in advance.)
As there are no pending extra-difficult missions, people head back to the Secret Benevolent Headquarters, and ask for another task. Shen-Ji rolls an 8, and is told "Return to Daizhou, and help those you harmed." It isn't immediately clear who was harmed - the rioters? The talking fish? Surely the Northerners don't count. Well, perhaps once they get there, it will be clearer.
Cai Wen takes point scouting, and Xian proves that she is still not very good at sneaking. However, Cai Wen is perceptive enough that the non-point people get a second chance to hide, and Xian burns a lot of karma on not being spotted.
Daizhou hasn't changed much - there's still a line to get in, but the guy checking for weapons looks a little more experienced than the guy who was there the last time, and instead of a Dragon Army soldier to fight (for those who don't want to give away their weapons), there's a burly Northerner.
Xian, Cai Wen, Shuyan go in as refugees, leaving their weapons with Wei Han. As before, they are asked if they have promised their souls to anyone, and directed to leave their weapons in the pile. Shuyan says that she has no weapons - she's a dancer! - and the gate guard eyes her a little more closely. He breaks a stick at a particular mark, hands it to her, and tells her to take it to the Red Fort if she wants "special treatment".
That night, Shuyan sneaks up to the wall and lowers a rope to let everyone else over. Wei Han covers his armor with a gaudy Southern poncho that Cai Wen had, to be a little less noticeable. They hurry to the inn, as there is a curfew, but Cai Wen thinks that that was all a little too easy.
Because of the suspiciously incident-less journey to the inn, the first pass at stealth is a counter-surveillance exercise. Shuyan and Cai Wen go out to sneak around the block, while other people look out the window to see if people are watching. Cai Wen thinks that the same cat has been watching the inn the whole time, and Shen Ji confirms it's a beastmastered surveillance cat. It would probably be boring to watch through the cat's eyes the whole time, so maybe it just alerts the beastmaster if it notices anything, or there's a check in at some point. Cai Wen sneaks out again, and notices a few other things. There are far fewer horses than there were the last time, and not all of the other inns have their own surveillance animal. Cai Wen also spots what look like smaller creatures like patrolling the wall - so the group was probably noticed crossing, and followed to the inn.
The next morning, Shuyan heads to the Red Fort to see what exactly is going on there. Shen-Ji follows, lurking in a nearby alley. It looks like it used to be a nobleman's townhouse, but it has been painted red, and seems full of northerners now. Shuyan puts on a perky demeanor and explains that the gate guard sent her with this stick. She is told, in somewhat broken language, to go in and talk to the people who know how to talk to her. Once inside, she is sent to an office, where a northerner nods, and looks her over with some sort of discerning sight. He asks if she speaks their language, and she claims to speak only a little. He nods and says, in Xiang, that it is difficult to learn. Then, he asks if she has any other pets, or only snakes? Only snakes, she says. He says that she need not be so limited, and they can make a beastmaster out of her yet. Many focus on a favorite animal, but the true beastmaster has mastery over all animals. (Outside, Shen-Ji mutters darkly about not being permitted to learn necromancy.)
They spend the morning doing various training exercises with the adorable snake, but Shuyan says that her friends will be worrying about her. The beastmaster says something to the adorable snake, and then tells Shuyan to make her goodbyes and come back first thing in the morning - show the adorable snake to the people at the door, and they'll let her in.
Shuyan and Shen-Ji head back to the inn and report on the Red Fort. Wei Han notes that the adorable snake is beastmastered, and Shen-Ji dispels the effect. Shuyan goes to find another inn, one that doesn't have animals watching it, and then everyone sneaks from the current inn to the new inn, in disguise.
Cai Wen wanders about town, chatting people up and finding out what happened in the Great Vault Heist. Apparently, there was a small riot, but it was put down with prejudice (a few rioters killed, a number injured) and a leader of the protesters (called the Heir) was "arrested". People try to find out why Cai Wen is asking, but he manages to keep from giving anything away.
There are three prison camps; two are work camps, and one, in Market Square, is a "troublemakers camp". Cai Wen swings by the troublemakers camp, and notes that there are seventeen people, who seem surprisingly cheerful about being locked up. Hmm.
Wei Han wanders around, separately, and manages to get into contact with the Liberation Front of Daizhou. It is run by two brothers - Lu Yin and Lu Yang. They don't seem to agree about much - feed the people versus attack the Red Fort, as one example - but they both clearly disapprove of the Daizhou Liberation Front, and spit on the floor when it is mentioned. He asks what they need him to do, and is a little cagey about what he actually can do for them, but one of the things they need is a way to contact the Dragon Army. So he leaves them some of Cai Wen's duplicating paper, and says that he'll pass the other side to the Dragon Army outside Daizhou.
- "Yin and Yang must work together." -Wei Han
- "You think that's the first time we've heard that?"
The next morning, Shuyan skips going back to her beastmaster training. Shen-Ji volunteers to go in her place, but is vetoed.
Wei Han skulks around town again trying to find the underground, and again finds the Liberation Front of Daizhou. They are pleased to see him - has he given the communicating paper to the Dragon Army? No, not yet. Lu Yang is not impressed - why did he come back, if he hasn't done anything else? He says he'll let them know when he has more news.
- "We will wait for your signal."
- "Not that patiently."
- "Somewhat patiently."
Wei Han wonders if they have a brother named Lu Chi. Both brothers spit on the floor again and tell him to never speak that name. Hmm.
Shuyan's snakes start to pester her - she's late. They aren't quite sure on the details, but they're pretty sure she's late to something. Shuyan reassures them that she's good, and not to worry.
Cai Wen and Xian wander around looking for the underground, rolling better than Wei Han, and figure out that there are three undergrounds that can be contacted. The third one is the Dragon Army infiltrators, and they make contact with that one. This group seems a little better informed and less internally squabbly than the LFD. The thing that they are looking for is a way to contact the House of Gainful Protection, or the Daizhou Liberation Front. They don't need to contact the LFD - they founded it. However, they know (through divination) that the DLF was founded by an Arcade house, so they suspect the House of Gainful Protection. Some other notes of interest - the troublemakers camp is being pacified somehow, and the Dragon Army / Arcade communication outside of Daizhou is broken somehow. Cai Wen and Xian get a contact protocol, and then head out again.
Wei Han and Yanyu go out again looking for the underground, and find the Liberation Front of Daizhou yet again. Yanyu, wanting to confirm that their brother is the imprisoned head of the DLF, persuades them to come by the troublemakers' camp so they can identify the "people most likely to be dangerous when the Northerners turn them." Yanyu checks them for connections, and spots that one of the prisoners, sitting down and bent over, is their ex-wife. (She's a Tiger, Yanyu notes.)
Yanyu continues to pester the Lu brothers until she has their ex-wife's birthday, and draws up a quick horoscope sufficient to memorize her. (She has been married to first one and then the other - not at the same time.)
- "I have a very particular set of skills." -Yanyu
The party regroups at the new inn, and thinks about how to break Lu Chi out. The stick that the gate guard gave Shuyan was probably a token indicating something in particular - there is written Torghut, but literacy is a lot less common in the North. They make a similar stick with symbols and break it, but they don't know the code. Xian's "this is that" can make something look like a broken stick, but not like a broken stick with a particular meaning.
The three talkers (Cai Wen, Xian, and Yanyu) are disguised as Northerners and Yanyu gives them makeovers. They show up at the troublemakers' camp as a "special debriefing team" here for Lu Chi, and Xian plants a thought in one of the guard's minds that this is probably preparation for Lu Chi being turned by the Beastmaster of Men, but they can't call it that. The guard, a fanboy of the Beastmaster of Men, is suddenly very excited. Is he outside Daizhou now? Xian hushes him. It's secret.
The extraction is a success, and they take Lu Chi to a nearby alley where they explain that they're friends, from the House of Exuberant Interference. When Lu Chi pulls her hood back, Cai Wen has the option to mollify her, but he refrains, as Yanyu has other plans. (Xian recognizes her, but doesn't say anything.)
Wei Han explains that they have to get Lu Chi's two ex-husbands here. Lu Chi doesn't see why, as she thinks they're useless. Xian thinks that explaining will not lead anywhere helpful, and cuts the explanation off. Wei Han writes a note on the duplicating paper telling the Lu brothers that their presence is required, and to proceed to the Inn of Secret Meetings.
The party troops back to the inn, and Wei Han starts blocking the door so that Lu Chi can't escape, and then, once the brothers arrive, so that they can't escape either.
Yanyu calls on the power of the Night of Binding, and drops three karma into The Stars Dispose to push Lu Chi's horoscope into having her married to both of them at the same time. Yanyu then declares that they are "mystically married", which none of them understand, but it seems to come with some ability for Lu Chi to boss the other two around and tell them to stop squabbling.
Shuyan's snake of secrets goes off to run an errand.
- "Okay, we're on the clock now."
The party tells Lu Chi that the Prince of the Arcade sent them to tell the Daizhou Liberation Front to unite with the Liberation Front of Daizhou and the Dragon Army. But - the important thing is that they need to get out of here now, because something bad is about to happen.
Lu Chi leads a charge out of the inn, and to a barn that she says should be safe for about ten minutes longer.
Wei Han tells her that they'll give the other side of the duplicating paper to the Dragon Army (it gets left in the drop for the local Dragon infiltrators), and the group flees into the night.
Yanyu protests - Shuyan is supposed to stay in Daizhou. Wait, what? Shen-Ji notes that both Yanyu and Shuyan's snakes are under some sort of beastmaster-ish effect.
The group sneaks (again, despite Xian's best efforts and Yanyu's protests) away from the North and back to the Arcade.
A Mystery Heir
The group heads back to the Secret Benevolent Headquarters, and asks for another mission. The Prince's eyes turn blue-and-blue, and Wei Han rolls a 4.
- "'Save the heir to Beneficent Travel"
Nobody is familiar enough with the House of Beneficent Travel to know offhand who the heir is, but Cai Wen asks to look through the notes. He determines that the Lord and Lady of the house had six children, but two of them recently died in the invasion. The group travels to the house estate, and finds it shrouded in mourning, where they learn that three more of the potnetial heirs died when direwolves attacked the funeral for the first two deaths.
Only one of the children is left: the youngest son, named Ri - and he is an infantry soldier, currently stationed at the front.
Hmm. From the previous few days of Travels With Xian, getting back to the front could be troublesome. Cai Wen arranges to have Lin Fortune and the Danger Squad help with that - they offer to run some distractions to avoid the party having to make stealth rolls.
They reach the command tent for the part of the army that Ri was stationed in, under the direction of Captain Teng. They find that Captain Teng was wounded, and Chiyo is in charge now. Chiyo is happy to see Cai Wen, especially when he tells her that they are here to rescue everyone, but more taken aback when it turns out they've only brought six reinforcements. Well, it's still enough to assist with the evacuation.
So... where is Spear Carrier Ri? Chiyo looks sad - his column fought a delaying action after the ambush, so the rest of them could escape. Their position was overrun...
- "Uh. We came here for him." -Xian
- "You came for him? " -Chiyo
- "I came for you. They came for him. " -Cai Wen
The Army continues to put things together for its retreat, but the party consults with Chiyo - they'll have to keep going to reach Ri's column. Chiyo is still unhappy about having to leave people behind, so she declares she's coming with them. Wei Han makes sure everyone gets there in time, and they arrive to see what looks like a hopeless fight.
A small group of Dragon Army (yellow) is defending against
- attacking Northern warriors (black)
- strangely coordinated Northern forces (blue)
- elite escorts (purple)
- skeletons (red)
- battlemage escorts (green)
- a dozen necromancers, battlemages, beastmasters, elite fighters, and monsters
(There are also thirteen mysterious spots of interest on the board: the pennies).
It is a grueling fight. (Some events of greater or lesser note follow, but a lot of other things happened too.)
Yanyu attempts to put the blessing of the Phoenix on the combat, but something else happens - one of the pennies evaporates, and all social rolls are for 6. Xian senses that the mood is particularly anticipatory from the Cycle, except for Fox, who has just left.
Wei Han adopts the Dragon Army squad as his reinforcements, so they can count as his teammates for Hold the Line. When the skull-necromancer and his forces close with the central area, Skull puts "everyone fails their death checks" on all the nearby foes. The hex-battlemage demonstrates the ability to reposition people on the map - swapping people, and putting pairs in combat off in the corner together.
Yanyu triggers her blessing again, and again it triggers a random penny, which turns all grabs on the map to rolling for 5s. Xian is pretty sure that the pennies are interesting trigger spots, but it's hard to get to them while fighting. But she's not much of a fighter, so she might as well run around and tag pennies with Yin rolls.
Xian tags the Dog penny and gets a personal power-up: free teleport to an ally. Cai Wen gives Chiyo the ivory handled sword (he has bought fancy magic items for all his molls), and spends seven karma. She gets all three of the Fox, Spider, and Dog effects already triggered, and all future pennies will affect her, no matter who triggers them. This puts Cai Wen on the penny-tagging plan too, while Chiyo fights. Cai Wen triggers the Tiger penny (an extra attack pool), and Shuyan triggers the Wolf penny (double damage).
Shen-Ji flies to the center section, and spins around in a death blossom, putting an iron arrow in half of the combat, and then starts adding iron walls to block off the gaps in the defensive circle. Wei Han ends up in combat with Axe (a battle mage), and identifies which of the soldiers is Spear Carrier Ri, ordering him not to die. Shen-Ji decides that there aren't enough counters on the map, and summons some ripper demons. Shuyan throws her castling-snake, and gets to the center ring.
Xian triggers the Monkey penny, which lets her swap two counters as long as it's funny. She stuffs that through her mystic hoop, so now everyone can do that. Cai Wen triggers the Tortoise penny, giving him answers about what's going on. Xian triggers the Bear penny for triple hit points, and swaps a ripper demon with one of the battlemages, putting them into the center of their escort formation.
Skeleton (a necromancer) demonstrates the ability to resurrect named characters / PCs as zombies, which Shen-Ji studies with interest.
- "It's time to turn on the "should we kill Shen-Ji" watch again." -Xian
The swapping snake gets hit with several beastmaster buffs, and gets up to a Giant Dire Warsnake, which is able to leap over the fortifications. Both Shuyan and the beastmasters are able to give it orders, which ends up being somewhat confusing.
The compass-battlemage puts a dotted line on the map.
- "Cross it if you want." -Mike
Xian promptly swaps some bad guys across the dotted line - they take 100 damage each. Then she triggers the Butterfly penny to get a mysterious power. Compass deactivates the dotted line, since the party is getting more use out of it than the bad guys. Shen-Ji turns the archer's bow wiggly and unusable, and keeps making the knife fighter drop his knife over and over.
Xian swaps Spear Carrier Ri with a bad guy, but Compass has sneakily put the Line of Damage back up when no one was paying attention. Xian doesn't notice that she has nearly taken out Ri, and then starts to run around the map, nearly crossing the Line of Damage again twice before the butterfly-effect goes off and tells her not to. Compass takes the Line of Damage down again.
Thus ends Turn One.
Hex moves Yanyu into a mob of purple and green soldiers. Shen-Ji sends Pao over to try to protect her, and then sets off death blossom again. Xian gets stabbed, and then manages to fix her assailant with a paralyzing gaze. Wei Han continues to work his way through the enemy, and leap in front of half of all incoming damage. The Son of the Moon fights his way towards Yanyu.
- "Get the kid out and I will cover your retreat." -Chiyo
Cai Wen thinks that's seriously out of character for her since eight more of her guys are still in the center - having been forced to leave them behind once, there's no way she's doing it again, He spends several more of his mini-game answers on figuring out that this is the Magpie effect, which also seems to have hit Xian extra-hard.
Yanyu castles with the Giant Dire Warsnake (which is particularly funny since Yin-Xiang has just gotten to her.) Then Xian swaps the snake with Yin-Xiang, putting him in the middle of the mob that had been surrounding Yanyu. Then they all attack him, and he goes down. Yanyu, irate, castles Xian into the center of the mob and Yin-Xiang out. Shuyan castles with the snake too at this point, but the log has lost track of where it is by now.
All of the Black warriors get a coordinated attack on Wei Han, but he invokes the Wall and gets to ignore them all. Cai Wen tells Shen-Ji to seize the moment, and there's another death blossom. Then he tells Chiyo that he's got the kid, and will deal with getting him out.
Xian, getting low on hit points, decides it's time to make her exit too, and castles with Yin-Xiang across the Line of Death, which for the second time she has not noticed being put back up, and then runs off the map. Having inflicted 100 damage on herself (but not Yin-Xiang, since he's already down), she falls over once off the map. With sufficient karma, she doesn't fail her death check, but then she loses the Bear triple-hit-point buff, and is unlikely to ever get up again, and it seems likely that Yanyu, who is getting quite angry at Xian's continued attempts to accidentally kill her husband, will convince everyone she's fine.
Cai Wen has left his (underestimated) horse off the map, and gives it the "perspicacious" adjective. In addition to anything that might be happening off the map, this causes a new penny to appear, which he leaps on, and has a quick conversation with Horse. After a quick bargain, a number of horses run onto the map.
Shen-Ji and Wei Han have managed to whittle the besieging forces down enough to make a path out for the yellow soldiers, so the horses manage to evacuate everyone (except Xian, who will no doubt be fine.)When Spear Carrier Ri is returned to the House of Beneficent Travel, that gains the house's gratitude. They were planning to support the House of Benevolent Oversight for a turn or two, but in exchange for the rescue of their last son, they will stick for the full three.