Takanata will look around to see if boats are making the trip to the Shrouded Isle yet. (The blockade is down, but people may not actually know that.) If they are, he'll go over to visit, and invite Min Feng and Yanyu and Kuan Xi to come with him if they're interested.
- There are no ships in the City of Light publically advertising that they're going to the Shrouded Isle. But if you ask around, it is easy to find ships which are willing to take you unofficially - there are almost no ships in the so-called blockade, so it's very easy to run.
- (We charge you 10 li each for being smuggled to the Shrouded Isle).
The big thing he is looking to find out is what happened to the Bandits of the Double Caldera. He's inclined to ride up there looking for them, rather than just asking around. He also socializes in town a bit, but is just socializing, not trying to do anything in particular.
- You go up to the double caldera, but there's nobody there.
Takanata: Hrm. Min Feng, can you make a gather information roll to try to find out whether they were actually killed in that vision we had from the sun, or if they could be in hiding somewhere?
Min Feng: Okay, then I make a gather information roll in the nearby town or village to see if I can find out what happened to them. (5 successes)
- The Obsidian Warlord tracked them down, caught them, and hung them. He was really angry, because they made him look pretty stupid for a while.
Hrm. Were they buried somewhere in particular?
- You can find out where they were buried - if the Warlord hadn't had to leave in a hurry, he might have done something less honorable, but they were buried in a graveyard outside the city. (People leave little trinkets and burn ghost money for them, but there's no official shrine).
Well, Takanata will go there, and burn some ghost money with apologies, and a request that if possible, they ask their bonded spirits to have one of their new points of contact with the Middle Kingdom come speak with him there. He will spend several hours meditating there with Eyes of the I Ching turned on.
In the meantime, he asks Min Feng to see if perhaps she could ask around and discover if there was a particularly notable bard or musician in the area around the time that the bandits were hung.
- After about half an hour, you start to get an ominous feeling; Eyes of the I Ching says that the gravesite is slowly starting to get dark.
Sigh. Black would not have been my choice of who to speak with, but I can see where he might be easiest to talk to with Ghost Money. I continue meditating and watching.
- Things start to get very cold around you, and it's impossible to see.
- Make a Yin roll with Meditation + Chi Mastery + Interpret Omens.
- (From Min Feng and Yanyu's point of view, things are dim near Takanata, and his breath shows in the air, which doesn't make much sense, as it's quite mild.)
Huh. This is getting exciting:
- You can "hear" up to 13 replies from the Black Spirit.
- 1: What do you want? I'll give you a hint, if it involves vengeance, I'm a lot more likely to say yes.
"I want to stop the Obsidian Warlord and his Master's plans for the Empire."
- 2: "And you think there's more help here? News flash - your friends already squeezed all the blood out of these guys for your crusade, there's no more they can give you."
Takanata nods sadly. "Indeed. I... confess I had not truly believed that was so, until now. When last I was here, the signs indicated that they had a Destiny together. I expected to arrive and find they were in hiding on the Isle somewhere, having distracted the Warlord as long as they could."
- 3: (Still dark and bitter, but maybe a little less so)
- "A destiny is not a promise that the universe makes you, soothsayer. Do you think the Obsidian Warlord does not have a destiny as well, to sweep his foes before him?
- They distracted the Warlord as long as they could, and then they hid. And then he tore the island apart to find them."
With a sigh: "I do know that a Destiny is not guaranteed. But each time one fails, I am surprised again. If you can, would you convey to them that the blockade is down, and that I said their efforts assisted greatly in that result? And if there is anything they have left undone... my list of tasks is long and growing, and my years are shrinking, so I cannot promise it will be done, but I will add it to the list."
- 4: "Some of them would say, the people of the Isle need protection from the machinations of Empire. My kami-brother and I are less benign, and I have never believed in self-sacrifice; we would have Vengeance, against the Warlord and against those who persuaded ours into their last folly."
Takanata is silent for a few moments, then says (thinks? is he actually speaking, or is this like Mystic Tikon?):
- You're not actually speaking.
"I cannot assist you in the last of those. But my own homeland is also resistant to the Empire impinging unduly on our shores, and I will do what I can to keep this land free of its machinations as well. I have already set my hand against the Warlord, - I will attempt to ensure that his downfall includes his death, and that he remembers his wrong against the Bandits of the Double Caldera when it happens. Is there more you would seek there?"
- 5: (Dark laughter.) There is always more that I would seek, for that is my nature and you are careful to offer little that you were not already doing. But it will suffice.
Takanata nods and smiles slightly. "I admit that in my initial offer, I was thinking more of carrying word to family, or providing a shrine here, or a song in praise of their works, rather than empire spanning efforts. But I shall do as I said."
- 6: (bitter again) "Granting satisfaction against those of yours who lured mine into their doom is not empire-spanning. It is beyond your inclination rather than your ability, curse-master."
He pauses a moment, and then ventures: "You are a spirit of darkness, and say your nature is always to want more. It is my understanding that a demon of similar nature stands behind the Warlord. Can you tell me anything of Aku?"
- 7: "I might. What are you offering me in exchange?"
Takanata considers again for a time. "Very well. You name me curse-master, and ask for vengeance. Then, I will make of you my curse. I offer you, and if you wish it your spirit brothers, presence at and participation in the Warlord's death, in exchange for all you know of Aku."
- 8: "Ah, and it it worked out so well the last time we were used against the Warlord. I think not."
Takanata shrugs. "Vengeance is all you have asked for, from the first you spoke to me. If it is not what you desire as payment for this, what is? A shrine for the lost bandits and a song to keep their names fresh in the minds of the people of the Isle? Volunteers for a new set of mortals for you and your brother spirits? The ability to travel off the Shrouded Isle? Those are all things I could see pleasing you, or being of no interest whatsoever.
- 9: "But you've already promised me vengeance against the Warlord. I haven't lost sight that that leaves some others free and clear. Perhaps you don't want them dead - there's surely room for haggling.
- A shrine will grow here of its own accord, or it will not, but those of my kami-cousins who would care, will care more if it is built by their "people". And while they might care about pretty songs, their weakness for pretty words is what brought them here."
"Perhaps something simple. A point of spirit power?
"These are not all things I have on me today, you understand, but they are all things that might be possible for a future exchange."
- 10: "A point of spirit power? Interesting, an appeal to raw greed. I can't say it's not appealing, but it does my kami-brother a bit less good. But if you don't have it on you, I'd rather haggle about the vengeance."
Takanata shrugs again. "I prefer something artistic and appropriate, but sometimes raw greed is what motivates the one I am dealing with.
"Indeed, I will not agree to seek their deaths. If there is a degree of vengeance less than death which you would accept in exchange for information on Aku -- which I note you have not yet actually said you have -- I would consider it, but have no suggestions of my own to propose. As to offerings that would assist your kami-brother, I have little to offer one in the World After. I know one way to perhaps make a brief trip there and return, if something needed to be delivered, but have never done so myself, and do not know what it is possible to take with one to be delivered. I understand Phoenix did discuss a boon of rebirth with the ghost of my great-grand-niece at one point, but I expect such boons are more expensive to acquire than your information, if you have it, is worth."
- There is a long pause.
- 11: I do have information on Aku - I do not know if it is what you're after, or if you know it already, but I am not so peevish as to waste time haggling over the cost of something I cannot grant.
- Perhaps you will agree to curse them to have their persuasion powers fail them...
- (there's another pause, and then he sounds more irritated and less bitter)
- All right, all right, until they come here and atone. Sap."
Takanata also pauses for longer than usual.
"I did not mean to imply that you would negotiate for something you could not deliver, but I have dealt with people who would think that a promise to "tell what I know" would be satisfied by saying "nothing" - and possibly even an appropriate beginning of vengeance. I am glad you are not such a one. At this time, I can only guarantee that my curse would hit one of those of mine who were present that day, but I believe it is likely that it would hit all of them, and possible it would hit all who are mine in that way, whether or not they were present that day. I find casting the curse you request, understanding the uncertainty as to who precisely it will hit, is reasonable payment for substantial information on Aku, recognizing it may turn out I already know it or cannot use it. If you find that satisfactory for the provision of your information, then we have an agreement."
- 12: "The agreement is satisfactory.
- Those who have an imperfect understanding of the Worlds Above and Below might say that my nature is more demon than spirit. This stems from oversimplification, but nevertheless, I am interested in other darkness, both above and below.
- Aku and Giichi and Toro are three true brothers: you would call them the Hungry Darkness and the Shadowed Darkness and the Ending Darkness. The Hungry Darkness has the nature of hidden envy and ambition and insatiability. The Shadowed Darkness is the darkness that corrupts - that turns compassion to pity to contempt, that turns stoicism to indifference, that finds the dark reflection of virtue and makes a mockery of it. Similar to the Hungry Darkness, but he is a force of change, not of constancy. The Ending Darkness is the void at the end of all things, and there is nothing human in him. Of the three of them, it is interesting that you should ask after Aku, for it is Giichi, the Shadow, that is the most active in the Material World. Toro waits, and I have heard little from Aku for many many winters."
Takanata places his hand on the Butterfly Talisman on his chest, considers a moment, then says:
"The powers of persuasion led to the deaths of those who lie here. In their memory and as their vengence, those powers are now stripped away until atonement is made."
And think at the Butterfly Talisman "I leave it to you Lady whether to share that among any or all of the rest of us."
And to Black: "You are in error in your assessment. Aku is the most active, but he hides his actions behind another guise. Do you know this: Do the brothers work together in their plans?"
- 13: "I do not know. It seems unlikely the Ending Darkness works with anyone."
- Then, the darkness clears up and you can hear Min Feng and Yanyu instead of the bitter dark voice.
After some time in the darkness, the darkness clears, and Takanata stands up from his meditation at the graves.
"That... was somewhat disquieting. But I hope in the end productive.
"It does appear that the bandits have truly passed away. Thank you for accompanying me."