Bridge Over the Northern Wall
|"Time is short. All men will work."|| 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 a number of places, but mostly near the North Wall.
A Delayed Lunch
The party, relaxing at Tahiti, discusses the initial important question - who is supposed to die for Yanyu. Shen-Ji agrees to take the hit, but Lijuan, declaring sorcerers Fragile and Easily Killed, volunteers instead. As she has ten hit points more than he does, she is not completely wrong.
The important question out of the way, the party finds themselves somewhat hungry. Surely the butler was supposed to bring lunch at least ten minutes ago. Since everything the butler does or does not do is considered to be an omen (plus Lijuan is always hungry), she goes to look for Butler. She finds that Meilin is in the hallway to the kitchen, blocking the staff from bringing lunch. Lijuan scolds her, and she is unhappy - not that she’s being scolded, but at the fact that Lijuan is here at all. She needs to wait, Meilin declares - it's not time yet. Lijuan blows past her and commandeers the food.
Lijuan is eating all the pork buns as Yanyu and Xiao Fa arrive, wondering what is going on. Meilin appears to have given up, and is now eating lunch herself in the corner of the kitchen. She waves at her mother and Xiao Fa.
- "Sweetie, why did you tell Lijuan it wasn't time to eat?" -Yanyu
- "Oh, did I do that? I'll have to remember to do that. Be on the lookout for issues." -Meilin
Yanyu presses for more details, and gets a somewhat confusing explanation.
- "Remember how everything is taking a really long time and not really happening and doing it wrong? It's worse. It just got worse. I think someone messed up their job because they were busy or distracted or something. I tried to fix it, by making sure it isn't lunchtime yet. *looking down at her food* Oh, wait. This is all messed up."
Then, she rushes off to attempt to convince the butler to delay lunch.
Yanyu and Xiao Fa report back to everyone else on the fact that something odd is going on.
- "I think about it with True Minigames - what is wrong?" -Cai Wen
- "In the pipe, five by five"
- "Did that sound like Horse?" -Cai Wen
- "Yes, yes it did."
Huh. Cai Wen checks the scoreboard, but since they don't have a mission yet, there isn't a relevant one.
Using Interpret Omens on all of this, Cai Wen concludes that his True Minigames roll was in fact intercepted by an omen. And Meilin isn't an omen herself, but she is likely to be reacting to omens that she is getting, and not sure how to interpret.
Since it was Horse who seems to have sent the omen, Cai Wen suggests that the group go and talk to him. Li Merit's horse is stabled in the Plains of Honor now, but that's not a problem with Kuan-Xi's carriage available. Kuan-Xi wonders, somewhat concerned - shouldn't they be getting a mission? Well, as long as the side trip is quick, talking to Horse will be okay.
The group heads off in the carriage, but soon hears a thumping from the storage trunk, as Meilin thinks it is too dark inside.
- "I'm supposed to be here..." -Meilin
- "You're supposed to let me know where you are!" -Yanyu
- "Hello! I'm here!" -Meilin
Basically, Meilin thinks that Horse should be yelled at, because he was bad, and she gets yelled at when she is bad. Speaking of yelling, has Meilin been going to House Suzuki after she was told not to? She says she hasn't been there in days.
- "If you go there again without asking permission, there will be Consequences." -Yanyu
- "Well, that's why I didn't do it!" -Meilin
When Meilin complains about the ponchos in party loot not fitting her, the party loot is declared to be off-limits and For Grownups Only. She is most put out.
Bitter recriminations over, the carriage finally reaches Shen-Ji's horse farm, and the group talks to Li Merit's horse and asks to talk to the boss.
- "Hey, what's up? Don't you have missions?" -Horse
- "Are you enacting a plan that might affect us as we go on the mission? Or, a gambit? "
- "Nothing at all is broken! Everything will be fine. "
- "So it isn't fine now? "
- "I tried to fix it by holding up lunch, but no one would let me." -Meilin
- "How would that have fixed it?" -Horse
- "I wasn't going to fix it while they were going to eat it."
- "Okay, hmm, that could have worked."
The conversation continues in this confusing and evasive manner. Meilin complains that everyone will have to do everything three times at once, Kuan-Xi presses for an explanation so that when the party has to fix it all later they understand what is going on, and Horse eventually gives a little bit more of an explanation. Because Horse and Wolf are the ones explicitly running around and doing things (Wolf for the Arcade and the party, Horse for the Steppes and the Marked), and they were gone longer than expected, things are more out of sync and whoozhy. More time is happening at the same time. But it's spread around, so the Qin Chao Steppes shouldn't actually fall. It's just that Dog and Magpie and Crane didn't get quite as much mediation time as they normally do.
That seems to be all the explanation that they are going to get, so after a bit more grousing, the party heads back to the carriage. Yanyu declares that since Meilin stowed away, she has to come to the battle. Cai Wen is dubious about this, but Yanyu says it will be fine (she has a Child Protection Officer shtick). Kuan-Xi offers Yanyu her nearly-passable tinfoil hat, as protection against beastmastery.
And then, it is off to the Backup Benevolent Headquarters, while Lijuan draws some prophetic art in the carriage along the way.
- "How come I'm not in the picture?" -Meilin
- "Because you're sneaky." -KX
- "Oh. Then I'm probably in all three of them." -Meilin
Does this depict us being split up between multiple objectives? The art is the same mission, not three missions (unless it is three missions in one). And it doesn't require splitting the party, since Shen-Ji is in two.
- "Are we doing *everyone*'s four?" -Xiao Fa
- "That doesn't make sense, you'll just get yours three times because the spirits are blurry. And he didn't even get in trouble." -Meilin
So... are they going to have to do three separate missions? Cai Wen becomes demoralized and says maybe he doesn't want to roll a 4 to get Chiyo's secret mission after all. Well, maybe the art is just for the three different spirits' take on the same mission. That would be okay.
The little carriage arrives at the no longer obscure at all Benevolent Headquarters. The prince is alone, though there are two sets of uncleared lunch dishes, as if Lady Jin has just left.
The group asks the Prince for a mission. His eyes turn blue-and-blue, and he says, in three voices at the same time... something that proves quite difficult to understand. Meilin is able to make the moment repeat itself several more times, and everyone concentrates hard on understanding it, and then the group retreats to the map room to compare notes.
After quite a lot of thinking, and repeated passes of Interpret Omens, the three prophecies seem to be: Save the bridge-builders Free the architect Destroy the bridge over the wall
The trip to the north requires the standard stealth and scouting. Master Deng takes point on scouting, and spots a group of Northerners who see the party and then start going in the other direction, which is unusual. He charges and kills them, so whatever the mystery there was, is unlikely to be discovered.
On the next rolls, Kuan-Xi gets separated from the party and finds herself surrounded by ninja. But before the ninja can do or say anything, she teleports away. She reports this to the rest of the party, but no one understands what’s going on.
When the party reaches near the Wall, they can see that there is a huge construction project, with a bridge being built on both sides. The workers on the south side of the wall look like Dragon Army with northern supervisors, while the ones on the north side look like Dragon Army with northern prison guards. The bridge itself is being built out of black wood and stone, and looks rather ominous.
Orders appear to be coming from inside a giant keep at the north end of the bridge - a much larger structure than would normally be expected so close to the Wall, and not one that was there the last time anyone was in this part of the map. Kuan-Xi looks carefully, thinking about the magic rituals involved, and thinks that physically, it's a normal bridge, but magically, it is super friendly to the Dead.
The northern workers look to be working in shifts, and are swapping for others coming from the north.
So, wait. Didn't people think that the Obsidian Warlord was the one constructing the bridge? Or, at least, didn't he have something to do with it? This seems to all be built by Northerners, and it seems unlikely that the Warlord is working quite so directly with them.
People who can see ghosts notice that there are a lot of ghosts milling around the keep. In addition, nearby, there's the ghost of an Imperial soldier, waving his arms and pointing at the party. Master Deng uses a dose of ghost tincture on his sword, and chops the ghost in half.
As Deng goes after the ghost, Yanyu spots some ninja closing on them. As they close, Deng chops them all as well, and they quickly go down. When their masks are removed, they proved to be Imperials rather than Northerners (not that there tend to be Northern ninja). One of them is wearing a choker which the mages identify as enabling the wearer to see ghosts. The group tries to figure out if the ninja are beastmastered, or if they are werewolves. Yanyu, offended by the equation of werewolves with bad guys, says they are ninja, they're probably being paid and, in fact, they do not seem to be werewolves. One of them has some corruption points, but a lot of people in the north do. The choker is not necromantic, as far as Shen-Ji thinks, and the core of the magical functionality is a piece of black stone.
One of the ninja is still alive, so Lijuan ties him up before he wakes up on his own. Interrogating him does not go smoothly, and there is a lot of shouting back and forth as to who exactly the traitor is. Obviously the ninja is working with Northerners because he tried to get the party. Obviously the Arcade forces are working with Northerners because everyone knows they leak all the battle plans to the North. Obviously the ninja is a lookout for all of the Northerners working on the bridge. Obviously there are no necromancers among the ninja and the party is attempting to join the Northerners on the bridge. There does not seem to be a great deal of meeting of minds going on.
In any event, he does eventually explain that his team is there to make sure that the arcade does not disrupt the bridge building. Moments before it is finished, the Obsidian Warlord will take his forces across the bridge in the other direction, and then the Northern invasion will be put down once and for all.
So, why are Northerners overseeing the bridge-building, then? The ninja rolls his eyes. Northerners are building the bridge. The Obsidian Warlord is just going to take advantage of it, because they don't know... well, there's a lot of things the Northerners don't know. Where did they get the ghost? The Obsidian Warlord assigned them some ghost scouts. They can cover more area as scouts than a ninja can.
The ninja also happens to know that there is a special forces unit infiltrating the camp to free the prisoners - a small group of commandos and a sergeant with a spirit blade. Ahah, that's where Chiyo is.
So... go after the prisoner camp, then go after the keep, then burn everything down? That seems as good a plan as any.
Between the ascension grapples, the various leaping and climbing sticks and "plus one Chi Master", everyone gets over the Wall without too much trouble. Cai Wen quickly tracks down Chiyo going around the back of the camp, and realizes with True Moll skill that her long term goal is "get out of this damned month to stop being the damsel in war movies and then deal with the other molls." Hmm.
The prison camp is similar to the last prison camp that the party infiltrated - it has a number of yurts scattered around, as well as Northern guards. However, since there does not appear to be an alarm mechanic this time, having Master Deng chop everything in sight (including a lot of skeletons) is a bit more effective. While the fighters go after the enemy, others search the tents for prisoners.
Xiao Fa finds a prisoner, who quickly warns him to get out of here before the guards see him.
The prisoner has some necromantic corruption, which is not surprising, and some battle corruption, which is more surprising. Chiyo's team proves to be able to evacuate prisoners quickly, so they are tasked with doing this once the party has dealt with enemies in the tents.
Shen-Ji finds some battlemages, and one holds a knife to a prisoner's throat - make any sudden moves and the prisoner dies.
Shen-Ji hesitates, then Deng comes in and, having not heard the warning, chops the mages, and the hostage dies. None of the surviving battlemages are long for the world after that.
Necromantic chanting begins to the southwest, and the skeletons get larger. Additionally, Ho begins to bark in the west, as if he has found something interesting.
Shouts of pain start coming from the smaller huts - the chains have begun to heat up. Kuan-Xi reminds Deng he can pick locks, and he starts getting the chains off of the prisoners as quickly as he can.
More prisoners are freed and sent with Chiyo's commandos. Then Deng finds the group of mages who seem to be heating the chains.
- "I told you if we stayed inside we would not be inhibited by the terrible rain!"
Lijuan catches up to Ho, and is appalled to find what might be a hole in the world with stars in it, a potential sign of Toro. She scribbles on the surface of the pool with an elemental marker, and then heads back to the combat to alert others.
Kuan-Xi uses ice cubes and lockpicks to start freeing prisoners. Since the mages are now distracted by Master Deng, the chains stop heating up any further.
One of the Danger Squad finds an interesting axe, and some swords. Could be valuable!
The last of the battlemages start ramping up a fiery explosion, but Kuan-Xi puts it out before Shen-Ji and Deng finish killing them .
The enemy are mostly dispatched at this point, so Chiyo's guys finish freeing the prisoners while the party gathers to regard the mysterious pool with suspicion. Chiyo and the Son of the Moon are both tempted to jump in. Saner heads prevail, at least for the moment.
The mages think that it seems like someone was trying to make a water gate, but used water magic corrupted by battle magic and a little bit of blood. It lets you go somewhere that would be Battle-flavored and strategically important. At least, if you got rid of the crayon scribbles.
Lijuan is still concerned about the potential that this is a hole in the world with stars in it, but the Son of the Moon says he has met stars and whatever those little white dots are, those aren't stars.
Time is passing, so rather than spend a long time carefully investigating, it seems like the plan should be to blow it up and call it a day. Kuan-Xi destroys it, but the scribbles are still causing problems, and in the ensuing magical explosion, everyone is gated to a strategically poor location, and scattered onto the next battlemap: the Bridge.
Xiao Fa, Shen-Ji, and one of the commandos, are up at the base of the spooky keep, and there are a lot of ghosts near them. The only positive is that the ghosts don't seem to be triggered to attack live humans...
Xiao Fa thinks about using the Rod of Flight to fly south, but he doesn't have skill in magic items, and hasn't done anything like attuning to it (Does he have to? It's a magic item from a different system, so who knows what the rules are...)
The Death Lord, to the top of the map, calls to his ghosts to go forth and destroy. The banshees start to wake up...
Cai Wen summons Chiyo from the western tower where she was stuck. Meilin climbs onto Cai Wen's horse, and they begin to leap across the unbuilt section of the bridge. It's a long leap for a horse, but it seems to be taking more time than a single jump would, either...
Deng climbs down from the Wall and starts crossing the spooky terrain to the stairs up to the keep. Unfortunately, he doesn't have any more of the ghost tincture, so Cai Wen gives it to Squeaky and tells him to catch up to Deng. Unfortunately for Squeaky, Master Deng runs very fast, even without a Talisman.
The ghosts are converging on Xiao Fa, Shen-Ji, and Commando #3. The commando tries to chop a banshee, but the sword goes right through. Xiao Fa tosses him the ghost hook.
One of the ghosts claws Shen-Ji, doing pi damage - he's not sure what that is yet. It's not standard corruption.
Deng, rolling his move, runs past the ghost-fighting group, up to where the Architect is standing next to the Death Lord, and uses his cut-away-magic shtick against effects on the Architect.
Then Shen Ji rescues Xiao Fa, leaving the Commando #3 behind to be swarmed by ghosts.
The oogly-boogers determine that the structural integrity of the bridge is maintained by the three towers - two in the south anchored to the ground, and one in the north to the west, anchored to... something else. Kuan-Xi starts summoning a storm out of the general rain going on, and Yanyu stands next to her, adding the Phoenix blessing to the speed of the storm.
Shen-Ji flies to the northwest tower, and hits it with Destroy Wood, taking out much of the wooden infrastructure and leaving it vulnerable to a future lightning bolt.
Cai Wen gets the Architect onto his horse - it's time to go! The whole thing will be coming down as soon as the towers are destroyed. But getting everyone from the north half of the bridge to the south half is still tricky.
Deng lowers a rope from the bridge end to the Wall, and the Danger Squaddies on the south wall set up a climb-back-up station.
The storm arrives in full, and Kuan-Xi calls lightning on the northwest tower.
Now that Cai Wen has taken his horse back across the gap, Meilin doesn't have a way to get out, but Deng grabs Meilin to carry her. The ghosts start to converge on Chiyo and her commandos still partway up the north bridge end.
Cai Wen hands the architect off to the Danger Squad, and then heads back for Chiyo. Xiao Fa starts hitting ghosts with the Bright and Dark costs of imbalance, which is pretty effective. Lijuan jumps from the bridge to the Wall, which proves more painful than she was expecting.
Note on bridge-builders: The Dragon Army prisoners (on the north side) have surrendered and are trying to flee; the Dragon Army soldiers who were Beastmastered (on the south side) have been slain.
Everyone left gets to the southern end of the north bridge end, and starts to jump or climb down.
Shen Ji destroys the wood in the two other towers, in preparation for Kuan-Xi lighting them up. Yanyu shouts to Yin-Xiang to not get trapped, and he leaves his fun fight with the ghosts behind.
Meanwhile, Pao and Kuan-Xi's wall of ice try to stall the ghosts. Normally, ghosts can walk through walls, but Pao can infuse it with enough magical energy to delay them for an action.
Then, the bridge-end people finish jumping/climbing to the Wall, and while the ghosts have no trouble with coming down from the bridge end, they cannot cross the Wall since the bridge is not finished.
The third tower is destroyed by lightning, and the bridge starts to crumble.
Then, surprising everyone, Commando #3 stabs Chiyo. The other three commandos jump on him in fury, and he falls. As he dies, one of the purple ghosts flies out of him and attempts to flee along the Wall, but is quickly dispatched by the people who can hit ghosts.
Apparently, that's what happens when you take too much pi damage - you get possessed.Of the three parts of the mission, the bridge has been destroyed, the architect has been freed, and most of the bridge-builders have been saved.