Death and Beyond
|"When people are no longer afraid of death, there is no use threatening them with it"|| 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 World After
An Unexpected Mechanic
At Tahiti, our heroes discuss how to get items to the World After. Shuyan experiments with her serpent ring, and discovers that when she is dead, she is wearing clothes, but not really specific clothes, and she has nothing that is an item card. Perhaps the items can be delivered by ninja, like they were last time the party tried this?
Is Yellow Bonesap still the best way to get into the World After in a returnable way? Probably, especially for the non-world-walkers (and even the world-walkers will have some trouble getting out of their bodies). They head to the Strand to buy some yellow bonesap beetles, and are pointed to the area of the swamp where they can be found.
The poison of a Yellow Bonesap beetle is optimized in killing its targets very peacefully, and it generally preys on larger sleeping creatures. So, the way to find such beetles is to go into the swamp and pretend to sleep on the ground, and lure out anything nearby that might want to eat you.
People spread out into the swamp, luring wildlife towards them from nearby hexes.
Min Feng nearly snatches a sonic gnat with her chopsticks (showing off her kung fu). Master Zhou catches a nose-biting parrot. A crayfish comes for Master Zhou, but Shen-Ji iron arrows it.
People get more familiar with the mechanic:
- the better you are at "baiting" the more hexes you can cover
- each hex lets you roll a d20
- sometimes creatures come out and then flee
They were told by their guide that if they bait well enough, the beetles will be easy to catch, but they aren't finding any of the right beetle, and nothing seems to be easy to catch. Additionally, the water seems full of perilous monsters that will try to get you if you play dead nearby, and Xiao Fa is bitten by a fish.
Min Feng lures another fish, and both Master Zhou and Shen-Ji go on fish-killing duty after Xiao Fa gets bitten again.
Takanata tries a crossroads: Will we get the beetle we are looking for by rolling double 1s or double 20s ? The answer is No.
Master Zhou baits some Fizzy Green Beetles. He catches one with chopsticks, and hands it off to Xiao Fa to put in his ingredients box. Shen-Ji, next, discovers that not all the monsters are hiding underwater.
Shuyan spends a karma to summon the snake over to her. It bites her, but she is unimpressed by poison.
Cai Wen is lucky and baits several types of worms at once! Shen Ji gets some blood beetles, and another snake! Shuyan summons that one too, and the two snakes try to double-team her.
- "I am the boss snake and they should calm the hell down." -Shuyan
After some more thinking about the mechanic, and going over the other numbers that have been rolled, it seems likely that the yellow beetles are on double-13s or double-15s.
Cai Wen baits a large area and cheats 14s to 13s on the roll
He manages to bait a yellow beetle and a blue beetle, while backing into a saparilla tree.
So... the yellow beetles were either the 13s or the 15s, but they still weren't easy to catch. After more speculation, the party guesses that rolling triple of the number will get easy to catch critters.
Master Zhou tries to punch Cai Wen out of the saparilla tree, but the light pummeling he does is insufficient and Cai Wen stays stuck.
Xiao Fa discovers some sponge fungus, which is useful for anti-bleeding and he harvests as much as he can for his herb satchel.
Master Zhou catches a translucent beetle with his saparilla-sticky hands, and wakes another snake.
- "Cai Wen needs rescuing, Master Zhou does not need rescuing by me." -Min Feng
Shuyan learns from the snakes that the yellow bonesap beetles nest under the 15s, and Cai Wen (finally free of the tree) starts ramping up his minigame cheating. He gets three 15s, and grabs a dozen beetles and the group escapes the mechanic.
Some amount of time later, the group finds themselves in line to be processed by the civil servants of the World After.
A guy with a clipboard comes up, and Takanata steps forward.
- "Oh my goodness. The Immortal Tokai Tokanata, murdered by Po the Panda Warrior.
It is an honor. I can have a page escort you to processing quickly, and we can get you on to the ... rest of processing."
Takanata asks if he can have his friends processed quickly as well. The guy with the clipboard is impressed that Takanata has brought a suite of attendants with him into death, and starts to run through their names.
- "The Serene Zhu Cai Wen, murdered by Po the Panda Warrior. I see we have another murder spree."
- "The Entrancing Lo Xiao Fa, murdered by Po the Panda Warrior."
- "The Enlightening Wu Shuyan, dead by suicide. Oh, she isn't with your group?"
- "I have a visa!" -Shuyan
- "Of course you do."
- "The Beloved Yang Shen-Ji, murdered by Po the Panda Warrior."
- "The what?" -everyone else
- "The Compassionate Zhou Wei, murdered by Po the Panda Warrior."
- "And the Fiery Song Min-Feng, murdered by Po the Panda Warrior. It must have been quite a battle."
Since Takanata has been checked in before, he only needs to update them with his two greatest accomplishments since the last time he was processed. He says that he has taken service with the Prince of the Golden Palace, and crafted a masterwork ceremony to honor the Jasmine River.
The clipboard servant allows as how Takanata is not likely to need a lot of cleansing, so suggests that he proceed to the Room of Calming Sweet Water and prepare for eternal repose. Takanata does so, and dips a goblet in the fountain. Mmm, sweet water.
A page enters.
- "I understand you are the Immortal Tokai Takanata murdered by Po the Panda Warrior. How long do you expect to stay? Do you need a palace prepared for you?"
Takanata clarifies that he will not be staying long, and no palace is necessary.
Back in line, the Serene Zhu Cai Wen murdered by Po the Panda Warrior is up next. He is asked to list the six great accomplishments of his life, which he says are:
- Helped found the Cup of Five Virtues
- Arranged and founded the Great Horse Race, a yearly extravaganza.
- Broke the bribery mechanic of the Hidden City (the civil servant approves of this)
- Helped found the House of Exuberant Interference in the Honeth Arcade
- I saved the Town of Three Piers from being lost forever in time and space.
- I named one of the Twelve Kingdoms: the Foxwoods
The civil servant is a bit dubious about that last one, but Cai Wen tells him to ask Fox. Another servant with a clipboard comes up, and escorts him to the room of Authentication and Verification, just to cross all the Is and Ts. Shortly thereafter, he is presented with a form for "Information Confirmation from Great Spirits." Cai Wen, intrigued by this whole Verification thing, says there will be plenty more forms to fill out, and the servant bows.
- "Yes sir - you name the forms and we'll bring them."
Cai Wen asks for a Records Authentication & Verification of the final resting place of Shen Dai Han, but the servant says that they can't verify a claim without it being claimed. Oh. Well, he requests information on that too.
- "Shen Dai Han murdered by...?"
- "I'll need that too." -Cai Wen
Also, he needs to look into all the records to do with the current Commander of the Fallen. And also the death of the Mayor of the Dragon's Throne.
Back in line, the Beloved Yang Shen-Ji, murdered by Po the Panda Warrior, is up next. Before the clipboard guy can ask anything, Shen-Ji says that the last time he was here, he filed for a complete administrative review. Has that been completed? Some more servants come over, and one of them puts a gem to his eye, looks at Shen-Ji, and gasps. The servant runs for the side of the room and pulls a rope, and quite a few more servants run over, dressed in smocks and heavy gloves and hoods. After that, Shen-Ji is hurriedly escorted into the Room of Secure and Persistent Containment, which consists of three blank walls and a glass partition. On the other side of the glass partition are a number of servants, eying him in concern.
Shen-Ji lets them know that he wants to file some amendments to previous forms, while the servants confer worriedly: do they have enough pumice?
The Entrancing Lo Xiao Fa, murdered by Po the Panda Warrior, is next. He gives his great deeds:
- After fighting a vile southern efrit I descended in light and glory to the Jade Palace
- I wrested the chi of the Empire from my enemies and held it in my own hands.
- I destroyed the nascent army of the undead.
- I was made Governor of the Tanzhe Plain
- I helped return the rightful king of the Craneslake Heights to his rightful place
- I arrested one of my enemies, making him my student and forcing him to do my bidding.
They are interested in any documentation he has on the chi of the Empire one, and so he also gets to go to the Room of Authentication and Verification.
Xiao Fa notes that Cai Wen is ensconced in a comfy chair with a little table, and servants are bringing him tea, while Xiao Fa himself is put in a hard wooden chair with a light shining in his face.
Next in line is the Compassionate Master Zhou, murdered by Po the Panda Warrior.
- I am Master of the White Pagoda, having attuned its senchi chamber. Twice
- I learned the Epitome of Kung Fu as practiced by their peoples, from Phoenix and Bear themselves
- I earned a green sash fighting against the Tiger in the Sands of Blood. (He is wearing the green sash).
- I learned the secrets of Cosmology from the reserve section of Tortoise library with access that Tortoise gave me on the Night of Gates (He has the card)
- I am the trainer of two Wu-Xings
- I fought alongside Dog, Crane, and Magpie against Agrinja the Ravener.
- "You know, normally I might ask for verification for that last one, but I'm going to let it pass."
Master Zhou is escorted to the Suite of Spiritual Complications.
Next up is the Enlightening Wu Shuyan, dead by suicide.
- "I assume you will be wanting the sharp and cleansing pumice water room?"
- "I can leave any time I want. I have a visa." -Shuyan
The servants are dubious, but she shows them. They reprimand her for not having had it stamped yet, and they stamp it as ENTRY.
She lists her two accomplishments from last time:
- I led the cleansing of the House of Jade
- I acquired the favor of the Great Serpent
Then, Shuyan lectures the servant about being respectful, and what seems to be a three-karma effect goes off. The servant bows very low, and suggests that the others escort her with all respect and speed to the Room of Sharp and Cleansing Pumice Water.
Shuyan is having none of that, and shows them her ring - as she said before, she can leave whenever she likes. In the meantime, she wants to stay with her friends. After a bit more argument, she is escorted to the Room of Calming Sweet Water to stay with Takanata.
Back in line, the servants are still extra-respectful. They politely inform Her Fieriness Song Min Feng, Murdered by Po the Panda Warrior, that they would be most honored if she would list the six great accomplishments of her life. She lists:
- Commander in the Dragon Navy
- Minister of Ramifications for Bear Mountain
- Won the loyalty of a phoenix
- Member of the triad that renamed the Hearthstone (renamed, you say?)
- And saved the Great Phoenix Spirit from an Efrit (can you document that)
- Severed Autumn Rose from the Marked (Autumn Rose murdered by... ? No, she's not dead)
- Also, she is Tokai Takanata's granddaughter
The servant with the gem-lens examines her, and it is clear that while they are trying to be respectful, they're really not very good at it. They bring her to the room of Calming Sweet Water, to hang out with Takanata and Shuyan, but then she asks to be taken to Xiao Fa.
So... where was Xiao Fa again? He was in the Room of Authentication and Verification, but is now being escorted to the Room of Identity Confusion. Min Feng is escorted into the Room of Identity Confusion as well, though she's just here to keep Xiao Fa company and not particularly confused about her own identity.
- "I understand that you have been through Intake but you gave the name Lo Xiao Fa. Last time you were here you gave the name Han Xiao Fa."
- "I took the name Han because I did not know my family name. Since then, with much library work, I have learned the details of my family."
- "We love library work! Tell us the story!"
He throws in his free karma to be Entrancing, and they hang on his every word, declaring his confusion All Sorted Out. Where would he like to go next? He (escorted by Min Feng) are taken to the Hall of Imperial Descendants.
Meanwhile, in the Room of Persistent Containment, the servants tell Shen-Ji that they're going to finish his intake RIGHT HERE and he can stay on the opposite side of the glass. He says that he wants his own copy of the forms. He argues that as his investigative request was made last time, technically, they can’t really proceed with his intake until he’s confirmed all the information obtained then.
- "'Technically' is the best type of correct."
A copy of the amendment to previously filed forms is passed through a slot to him, to fill out.
- "Give him your pen."
- "But I like this pen."
Shen-Ji continues stalling, filling out the forms as slowly as possible with the pen that will no doubt be disposed of with prejudice afterwards. The servants mutter darkly to each other on the other side of the glass.
- "Surely they didn't mean for us to be respectful in here."
Meanwhile in the Hall of Verification and Authentication. Cai Wen is filling out a records search for Shen Dai Han, to find out the "murdered by" form of his name. (It seems unlikely that he died of old age.)
Cai Wen identifies the search target as Shen Dai Han and makes 27 successes on his bureaucracy roll. The servant waits for Cai Wen to finish. Cai Wen pushes the form at him, puzzled by the hesitancy. The servant asks, confusedly, if Cai Wen wishes to seal the forms. He searches his pockets, and, finding no seal, asks for a Seal Request form.
Off in the Room of Spiritual Complications, Master Zhou finds that it looks a lot like the room at the top of the Golden Spire. The servants tell him that they want to make sure that NO ONE is offended by his eventual disposition - so if he could just detail, for the next several cycles, all of the entanglements with Great Spirits that have happened to him.
- "Just so we don't offend anyone more powerful than we."
They direct Master Zhou to start with the Spring, so he tells of how he fought Tiger in the Sands of Blood (and is still owed a favor...)
Meanwhile, in the Room of Calming Sweet Water, the servants have brought Takanata tea. He asks for pen and ink, and enquires if his sister Kiyasa killed by an ice wyrm, is still in the Palace of Wilful Harmony? They will check. What of Master Tenzin of the Meihua Sannong, who ascended into the chi? If his working is not yet completed, then he is probably still in the chi.
What of the kami-brothers of the Spirits of the Double Caldera, murdered by the Obsidian Warlord? (The servants confirm that the Obsidian Warlord has no authority to execute). They will determine where those are, and let Takanata know.
Shuyan contemplates whether she wants to speak to her grandmother, but the prospect is rather alarming.
A dossier is delivered to Cai Wen: the Life and Times of Shen Dai Han executed justly under the law by his Imperial Majesty Lo Hao. Huh. When he signs for it, he realizes that it only requires a few successes with True Bureaucracy to seal a form. Ah, so that is why the previous servant was so puzzled.
The dossier indicates that Shen Dai Han's body was sent back in shame to his family, and was buried in a small town in the Steppes. His head was buried in the Field of Traitors outside the Dragon's Throne.
Cai Wen requests more copies of the forms that put Shen Dai Han on detached duty, and the forms that appointed the Obsidian Warlord as Commander of the Fallen.
Meanwhile, Xiao Fa and Min Feng head to the Hall of Imperial Descendents. It's like... the world's lowest key cocktail party. Xiao Fa looks around for anyone familiar, and spots a face he recognizes, coming towards him.
- "Cousin! I see you didn't make it either. Made a good try, I trust. " -Lo Su Song, Murdered by Kuan Xi
- "We always try." -Xiao Fa
- "How far did you get?"
- "Things went well...until they didn't."
- "As I recall."
- "How have you been?"
- "It's not that bad - you do get used to it. In fact, this place was hopping until recently. But a little while ago, all the Bear Emperors and their descendants left for greener pastures, as it were."
The Cartogramancer asks after his daughter. Min Feng says rather pointedly that she is doing well now, free of his entanglements. He seems genuinely pleased.
- " Do you know if she took the name? Is she sporting the Lo to which she is entitled?" -Su Song
- "She is holding it back for a surprise, no doubt." -Xiao Fa
Xiao Fa boggles at the idea that they are cousins, but the Cartogramancer means it in the more general sense of both being descended from the same Emperor if you go back far enough. He also raises an eyebrow at "murdered by Po the Panda Warrior", as that's someone he doesn't know.
What is Min Feng doing here, anyway? She says she is Xiao Fa's guest. Su Song looks thoughtful, then looks enlightened. Is there any good reading in the hall? Apparently it's mostly genealogies.
When servants ask about drinks, his eyebrows go up at the Entrancing and Fiery adjectives.
- "How did you manage that?"
- "We're not entirely without skill."
Xiao Fa requests brush, ink, and paper, and then writes a note to the Serene Zhu Cai Wen, currently in residence at the Hall of Verification and Authentication.
Cai Wen gets his dossier on the Commander of the Fallen - there is an incomplete and somewhat sketchy story about leading an army across the Bridge and holding off the invaders from the North, whereupon he was rewarded in reputation and status, and appointed Commander of the Fallen.
Under what authority, Cai Wen wants to know. Under the Authority, they say. None of the servants here are True Bureaucrats. Cai Wen examines the document in which the appointment is made. Is it secure? Can he just countermand it if he wants, or give the position to Xiao Fa? He thinks he can make an attempt, but there is no "just" about it. However, it may be easier to make Min Feng an Inspector of the Fallen, or something like that. And he can send the Shen Dai Han file to Takanata without problem.
A ninja arrives and hands Cai Wen five passes of obligatory and compulsory attendance. Also, the Seal of the Imperial Seneschal. Also, one of the Soul Seals from the party loot. He adds that to the note to Takanata - "can the objects come back with us?"
In the Room of Sweet Water, Takanata is delivered the notes from Cai Wen, and also a note in his own handwriting, explaining that he has written a eulogy with Ordination, that, if properly delivered, would give each comrade adjectives that count as +1 karma to actions within the adjective, and one use of +3 karma.
In someone else's hand, another note follows:
Takanata believes that the most reliable way to get the items out of the afterlife is to send them to someone's descendant, but sneaking them out might work.
Back in the Room of Authentication and Verification, Cai Wen determines that in order to give the post of Commander of the Fallen to someone else, he has to beat the True Bureaucracy successes of the person who wrote it. He gets 27 on appointing Lo Xiao Fa as Commander of the Fallen, and submits it.
Over in the Hall of Imperial Descendants, Xiao Fa tries to entrance the Cartogramancer into dishing on the Alchemist. Su Song doesn't really have a lot of bitter recriminations, but does note that he's really hard to defeat. Basically, you have to hit him with an apocalypse-level threat - then he'll burn all of his once a book shticks on surviving that and only after that can someone take him down. He considers the Empire his own project/playground, he doesn't want the Empire destroyed, so you can force him to burn his shticks on preventing the Empire from going up in flames, not just him personally.
And - Su Song notes equitably that the party is just as bloody-minded about brinksmanship as the Obsidian Warlord - they clearly tried that once, when Shen-Ji triggered a rebellion in the World Below, and it took him a book to fix that.
Elsewhere, Master Zhou says that he wants to learn more about the death of the Large Spider Spirit, murdered by Aku, but the servants think that's crazy talk. Also, spirits don't show up at the World After like that. They just get destroyed. After some more persuasion towards research, the servants note that there was a report of a large spider spirit being destroyed, but the Great Spider Spirit was certainly around after that, so it seems unlikely that the reports meant him. The only real evidence was some unverified reports, filed by Tai Fong murdered by the Imperial Alchemist.
Takanata is informed that Kiyasa is still in the Palace of Wilful Harmony, while the Bandits of the Double Caldera are in the Fields of Redeemed Warriors. They are preparing to join the reserves if they are called to arms by the Commander of the Fallen, or the recently appointed Subcommander of the Fallen (Lo Xiao Fa). Huh.
Shuyan stays in the Room of Sweet Water, waiting for word on where her great grandmother is, while Takanata goes off to investigate.
Master Zhou asks for forms to lay to rest a spirit that has been murdered, but the servants really don't think that's a thing, and if it were a thing, it wouldn't be their jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, Shen-Ji is delivered some information on his parents: Yang Jian and Yang Chen Lei, murdered by Lord Yu Han. They are currently being tended in the Fields of Recuperative Blessings. He declares that he's ready for his pumicing, but the servants don't think the sharp and cleansing pumice water will be nearly enough.
He is escorted down a bunch of halls, passing by both the room of sharp and cleansing pumice water, and the pumice recycling center. Eventually he is led to the door of the Furnace of Cleansing Purification, where the servants unbolt and then open the door for him.
- "Don't worry, this won't hurt for long."
As it turns out, this is not entirely truthful. Still, despite the pain, Shen-Ji is fascinated. It's definitely a magical effect, but more Flamey than Phoenix-y. It feels more like the Sun, but it's not that primal. It's still Imperial.
Shuyan receives a note that her Great Grandmother is in the Palace of Deposed Remembrance, and she heads there. It is, of course, jade. Lady Wu comes from the palace, wearing far too much Royal regalia, and Shuyan bows deeply.
- "I understand you are one of my descendants. How was life, deprived of all that should have been yours?"
- "I did not know I was deprived. My mother could not endure the deprivation, and fled."
- "Do you have many children who will rise up, now that you too have failed?"
Alas, Shuyan does not have many children, but she offers to haunt those who have harmed her house. Lady Wu is not sure that will be sufficient, but nevertheless, she will tell Shuyan of her "forever accursed sister and the architect Huan Ken." Shuyan kneels and looks fascinated. Lady Wu explains how Huan Ken filled her mother's ears with tales of glory and secrecy. He offered to build a great edifice, to let her pry the secrets out of her enemies. Her mother fell for it, and as a result, she disinherited her and her progeny and banished them, thus playing into the hands of those who would change the very nature of the Strand. For - it was not always dark and foreboding. That came afterwards. In her time, it was about remembering the ancient traditions, such as the rule of the Tripartite Queen. Her story is a little odd - she describes it as everything changing, but also as if those things that happened before the change are how it has always been. It may be an effect of the country's name changing, but most people don't seem to be in such a muddle afterwards. On the other hand, most people the party talks to aren't dead. Lady Wu directs Shuyan to start by haunting the Viridian Queen, and to, of course, curse her children.
- "Once that is done, come back and I will share more secrets with you."
Cai Wen has time to get in one last form, and he asks for all paperwork pertinent to current and past mayors of the Dragon's Throne. Yes, in fact, the current mayor died - murdered (accidentally) by Sen Hua (a carpenter). He stayed for a few days and then used True Bureaucracy to leave. They hadn't seen anyone use the true form of the art in at least a great cycle, and were very impressed. Elsewhere, Master Zhou is deeply offended.
- "People don't just randomly die! By accident!"
His six great accomplishments were:
- Mayor of the Hidden City
- Regent of the Empire
- Becoming one of the Marked Servants of the Spider
- Acing his civil servant exams
- Rediscovery of the true art of bureaucracy
- Filing the forms of resurrection
Elsewhere, Takanata finds shades of the Bandits of the Double Caldera at the Fields of Redeemed Warriors. He plays the praise song about them and the curse song about how the Obsidian Warlord is junk for killing them, and they (and many of the other warriors) appreciate them both. Elsewhere, Min Feng goes to see her father, in the Manor of Paternal Pride. He is in fact proud of both of his children, though he knows quite a lot more of the doings of his son, the Black Duke. Apparently that side of the family burns more ghost money for him. Min Feng asks if he has any messages for her brother, and Dad says he knows Yuanjun is proud, but to go easier on his mother. She has had some hard times. Min Feng notes that hard times don't really justify telling her mother Min Feng was dead, but Dad didn't know about that. Then, he suddenly realizes that she is dead, which throws him into a spate of grief.
Back in the Hall of Imperial Descendants, Xiao Fa mentions to Su Song that he made a very nice map in Petal Bay for him. The Cartogramancer is pleased by that.
Takantata sends a note to his sister on all of what has been happening, and then, as it is getting time to make an exit, everyone goes to the Room of Pleasant Sweetwater, except Shen-Ji, who is still locked in the furnace.
Cai Wen requisitions Shen-Ji, who gets wrapped up in a cloak and is still rather smoldering. On Master Zhou's behalf, Cai Wen files a form to amend the deaths of the Steadfast Heart monks to be "murdered by Tai Lung" instead of "murdered by Zhou Wei".
Takanata tries to send the soul seal and the seal of the seneschal to Min Feng as an ancestor blessing, but Min Feng is dead, so that doesn't work. Instead, it is delivered to Li Merit as a House Blessing.
Shuyan is going out with her visa (and gets to skip the Oblivion), Takanata is leaving as an immortal, with passes. The servants do try to stop him for obliviation, but his Immune To Bureaucracy goes off and he can leave. Xiao Fa also dodges the bureaucracy, so three people remember the run and can brief the others.When everyone awakens, Yanzi and Po are seriously worried - Shen-Ji burst into flame for real! His body has been soaked and wrapped in damp rags, and still looks burned. Xiao Fa thinks he will not be magically healable until the damage has healed naturally.