Sealing the Portal
|"Ruthlessness is key to a man's accomplishment."|| The run takes place late in the Month of the Dog in the Tenth Year of the Dog since the Third Treaty of Houses.|
The run takes place in the Hon'eth Arcade
The group gathers, as always, in Tahiti to discuss if there is anything that needs to be done before they go and talk to the Prince. Lijuan starts drawing her art, but Takanata doesn't have anything yet.
Master Zhou suggests that the Crown of Imperial Wisdom might be useful, so the party should consider keeping rather than giving it to Lady Jin. (However, it was last seen in the possession of Lady Jin, who was soul-drained but not unconscious, so "giving it to" is more like "refraining from taking away from"). Cai Wen is dubious that breaking the alliance with Lady Jin at this point (rather than accidentally, later) is the best policy, and Master Zhou is unable to bring the rest of the group around.
Lady Jin appears, having changed into yellow silk with blue highlights, and clearly quite statusful and too dignified to have been anywhere near combat. Cai Wen, having made an arrangement to trade information about previous missions, asks if she recovered the statue from Fort Chang? She says that she did, and that it was most informative. To the best of her understanding, it was carved with intent rather than artistry. She thinks it was intended to be a first attempt at Ordination. While the statue itself didn't work well, it laid the foundations for his future attempts. How does she mean, not work well? Well, she thinks it didn't directly alter his destiny, but was a step on the path to doing so. Cai Wen wants to know if she picked up any nuances about things like "running roughshod over opposition". She can't tell that particular nuance from the statue, but he's definitely putting some amount of mojo behind "overcoming obstacles". Thinking about it more, she thinks that the statue was an attempt to force a destiny of being Emperor rather than becoming Emperor - trying to shape the present world instead of the future, and that's harder; thus its failure. Anyway, she would be happy to let Cai Wen study it - it's at her house now.
In return for this briefing, Lady Jin is interested in knowing what happened when the Party rolled a 7. (They tell her). Speaking of which, since it has only been a few days, Madame Song is still available to help avert rolling a 7 in this round.
So, what does she know about the Obsidian Warlord, commandeering the troops? One thing she discovered when investigating the House of Gainful Protection - they were deeply concerned about that, and we're looking for leverage that they could use against the Invisible Web, to exempt themselves from the draft.
Cai Wen is concerned that the Week Three army turn is going to be their backstab, but she doesn't have data on that at this time. She notes that during her investigation, she was being chased by Gainful Protection ghosts, not Invisible Web ghosts.
Hmm. Maybe they should roll a 6, and see if they can find out any more about what Gainful Protection is up to.
Can Lady Jin help with rolling a 6? She notes that in her mechanic, most of her numbers are gone. However, if they ever want a ten or a seven, she can roll those on demand. All her other choices are used up. (She thinks she could roll a 10 to crush Sei-Lin and get the necklace back from him).
The group decides to use Takanata's cheat to roll a d8, and then Cai Wen will use karma to buy the roll to a 6.
Lijuan finishes her art.
Hmm, interesting. Takanata wonders, with Interpret Omens, whether Lady Jin is giving Takanata paint, or taking it away? She seems to be providing paint collaboratively. Is it a choice between five options? No, they're more like five vignettes.
The party heads to Benevolent Headquarters, where Lady Jin and her escort are easily admitted. When the group asks the Prince how things fare, there is a delay as one eye turns blue and the other does not, for a moment, and then finally does. He goes to one knee but does not collapse, and says "Seal the portal within the house of sword and shield."
The party retreats to the map room, while Lady Jin remains behind to make sure the Prince is okay.
Is he burning out again? Is there something else wrong? Takanata thinks that the mechanic was expected to kill him quite a while ago, and the party has buffed the Prince with Bear points, but that just gave him more resistance; it didn't fix the problem completely. Hmm. Can people swap in and out with him to take the spiritual damage? It seems possible to swap someone else in, but not in a way that makes it trivial to exit again.
The map room indicates that a lot of the members of the House of Gainful Protection have gone to the Grand Fortress. So that seems likely to be the destination of the mission. Lady Jin, joining the group, says that when she investigated she didn't find anything that would have been considered a portal, but she never made it to the southwest wing of the fortress. She notes that there are three flavors of guards - the black are Elite guards, the blue are quite competent, and the red are the least competent - but this is Gainful Protection, so really, all of them are pretty good. The House Nobles are likely to be even more spiffy in battle.
The next question that is discussed is whether the party should disguise before going in. It is always a little awkward to charge into an Arcade House manor as the House of Exuberant Interference - such as in the raid on Resplendent Decoration - but the party is also often rather obvious when they bring a panda and a kung fu master and the best swordsman in the Empire.
Master Zhou invites Lady Jin and others to training, and he learns that her kung fu training is in White Pagoda kung fu, which is interesting, and that she is level 7***. With True Kung Fu, he learns instead that her training is what she is borrowing, she is level 4 with 3 power ups, and that her aspect is Fox. Her general potential is something like ruler in her own name, and she completed 1/5 of Lijuan's prophecy just now.
Takanata asks her for prophetic art suggestions, and she considers it. She thinks that moments before combat is not the time to create new art, but Takanata should keep his cards handy. Interestingly, she doesn't seem to know what cards she is referring to, but Takanata does.
Cai Wen invites Ayuki on a combat date, and people disguise themselves as nobody in particular. (Takanata wears his clothes of 3 status.)
Lady Jin says that the courtyard is the main entrance into the southwest wing - there are no good approaches that involve being hidden behind trees. The fortress is perched on a cliff, which requires 18-20 successes of climbing to navigate at all.
Happily, the party has a lot of ascension technology – Lijuan can use Scared Squirrel, Takanata has yoinked the Rod of Flight from party loot, and Master Zhou uses the Ascension Grapple. They arrive outside the building, clinging precariously to the cliff. The only windows in are arrow slits and cannot be climbed through.
Master Zhou punches a hole in the wall, and people charge in. There are three cages that have emaciated prisoners in them, so while Deng starts chopping Gainful Protection guards, Master Zhou frees prisoners (and also chops guards). Lady Jin, entering the room, is beset by guards, but Cai Wen jumps in the way, telling Ayuki to help free prisoners too.
In drift, there's a thrummmmm sound, and a high pitched screech/scream coming from elsewhere in the castle. Hmm.
- "Master Deng, er, Blademaster, attack those guys!" -Master Zhou, giving Deng an action but forgetting the plausible deniability
An old guy (purple) comes in, and then flees again. Orange 3, who seems to be a Gainful Protection lord, takes Lijuan down, but Takanata gets her back up again with a healing potion.
Master Deng heads through the north door into a hallway that opens up into what looks like a map room. He rushes through, chopping the Blue guards and the Purple old guy, and the old guy crumples and dies when Deng does 270 out of 15 damage to him, even if it's non-lethal. He seems to have been a little fragile.
Cai Wen gives a healing potion to one of the emaciated guys, which gets him a little more coherent. He says he is a soldier in the house of Gainful Protection, who failed on the battlefield. They put him in the cage when he refused to cooperate with the starvation protocol. The starvation victims are all in the northeast corner of the map - the ones there are sheep, he says.
A ghost rises out of the body of Purple 1 and heads eastwards - Deng pursues the ghost and chops it as well.
Takanata draws a card, and places it in the room with the cages. It's the Page of Staves, and everyone in the room gets a free action in which they can pass wands (like the Wand of Healing) to their allies.
Lady Jin and Lijuan head through the northern door (Lijuan shoots at Orange 3), and Master Zhou and Takanata head through the eastern door.
Cai Wen and Ayuki free the next prisoner and heal them up - they are similar to the first, having been transferred here for failure on the battlefield, and they also know about the starvation chambers in the northeast. It's disappointing that each prisoner doesn't have a new set of information, but freeing the prisoners still seems like a good idea.
The party is getting kind of spread out, and the guards are tough, so a call goes out to regroup. Takanata puts up a wall of stone to block stairs into the hallway from the second room.
The third caged prisoner is freed - he knows that the red guards train in the front courtyard - and the three prisoners are sent through the hole in the wall for the Danger Squad to help them down the cliff.
The guards surround Deng, and his ripostes are taking them out, but they are also whittling him down. While they're blocking his way in the halway, he also can't use his ridiculous move, so he may be in trouble.
Master Zhou joins Lijuan and Lady Jin in the hallway and helps clear out some breathing room, while Lijuan holds down a line of fire keeping the further guards at bay.
The alert goes up: "An archer, a kung fu master, a pair of heavies, and some support. " Cai Wen heads up to investigate the map room that Master Deng discovered, though the Red guards from the outer courtyard are on their way in his direction now. The map room seems very similar to the one in the Benevolent Oversight headquarters - there are notes on the war, notes on the Dragon Army, notes on Exuberant Interference, and so on. It's an entire resource, so he can't just pocket it and go, but he can investigate particular things. He checks (Intelligence Analysis) for what Gainful Protection's plan is for turn 3.
While there are several options, the option that is currently planned is "roll Mil in defense of the Arcade". Huh.
Takanata butterfly-walks eastwards, to where Master Zhou is holding off the black guards.
Between that and the "the starvation chambers are in the northeast", the fighters head that way. The guards in the next room use tactics on Deng - the black group attacks him first, using up some of his dodges before falling to his riposte, and then the blues throw knives at him. Orange waits until everyone else has gone, and uses a wooden mace, which gets around a lot of Deng's anti-sword defenses, but Deng burns karma to refresh his fortune and blocks it.
Master Zhou ripostes an attack of Orange 2's, and declares that he can only attack Master Zhou now.
Deng pops his head into the south room, and takes a bunch of ranged attacks from the people inside. But it looks like this is the location of the portal.
He ducks out and Master Zhou comes in.
- "You dare challenge the Lord of Protection?" -Orange 1
Even Master Zhou isn't able to parry the entire incoming attack, so he calls for his students to help. Orange 1 demonstrates some True Dodge, allowing him to dodge attacks that can't be dodged.
- "If you can get him to use all three dodge pools, I can take him." -Lady Jin
Takanata, now inside the doorway of the south room, has the idea that Butterfly really wants him to be somewhere else, and skedaddles to the rooms to the north instead.
Lijuan finishes off Orange 2, which Takanata realizes is the thing that Butterfly was moving him away from, though the prisoners are still an issue.
- "Why are you here?" -Lord of Benevolent Protection, giving Cai Wen an action
- "To save this country." -Cai Wen
- "If you would save this country, let me finish my work."
- "The portal is the danger to the Arcade!" -Master Zhou
Lijuan decides that the hallway is no place to be, and goes back to rejoin the rest of the party.
Then, she leans against the door, in the hopes that the reds won't be able to bust through.
Cai Wen runs around healing everyone in the portal room, including Grey 8, which seems to thwart the Lord of Benevolent Protection particularly.
Takanata, in the north room, looks at Purple 3 for a significant moment in his life, and sees when Purple 1 accepted him into the Cult of Death. It left him frail and weak but now he has vast knowledge.
Masters Deng and Zhou go all out against the Lord of Benevolent Protection, burning karma to break their stat caps.
After they've hit him, Lady Jin looks at Cai Wen - if there was time and she were to ask if killing the Lord of Gainful Protection is acceptable, would he say yes or no? Cai Wen tries to remember which side the Lord of Protection was on, in the map room argument about what to do in Turn Three. While he made the final decision to be the heroes and save the country, he did not start out on that side. Cai Wen decides his answer would be no, and Lady Jin does not attack.
The Lord of Protection surrenders.
- "Fine. Close the portal, doom us all."
- "What was it necessary for?"
- "Without this plan, we won't have any forces to resist the north. So it's all on you."
- "So be it. " -Master Zhou.
The portal shuts down, and emaciated guys in the northern room with Takanata appear to be less emaciated. The red guards show up to restore order; the Lord of Protection tells them to stand down.
Cai Wen wants to take the prisoners - the Lord of Protection tells him to take them, they're useless now.
Master Deng notes that the three swords on the altars have some sort of terrible corpal/death abilities, but "loot the fortress" may trigger an un-surrender.
Cai Wen notes that he is also working on a plan to avoid their forces being commandeered, and wonders what Gainful Protection's plan is. He says he was planning to blackmail Shen Dai Han. His ghosts were close to finding the secret to banishing him, which they could threaten to use in order to force him to not grab their troops. They had to do it this way because they are not experts in (he waves his hands contemptuously) paperwork.
- "If you tell me what you learned, I will see to it that this is one of the houses whose forces are restored, if I am able to do so." -Cai Wen
- "You interrupted. We did not learn anything of use." -Lord of Protection
Takanata and Master Zhou are perplexed as to why the prophecy sent them this way, since it seems to be good for the Arcade, but conclude that the Great Spirits are not keen on existential threats used for tactical advantage. (That seems to be something Gainful Protection is fine with, given their frequent flirtation with the signs of Toro).
Cai Wen thinks he should mention this to Madame Song and Xian - this may count as chastising the Lord of Protection, which she had asked for.
(People also note that while the guards don't seem to have recognized the party, the Lord of Protection doesn't seem to have spent any time asking who they are.)Lijuan offers the prisoners jobs at Foon/Siew keep, which they are happy to take.