Fire in the Rain
|"The fire you kindle for your enemy often burns yourself"|| 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 on the Shrouded Isle and in the northern Hon'eth Arcade
The group is gathered at Tahiti, wondering what to do. The obvious choice is to go and get another mission. However, several people note that for the past few runs there has been an intention to investigate the rain after the mission is over but then time runs out. So perhaps they should start by fretting about the rain, rather than plan to end with it.
There has already been some preliminary investigation. Master Zhou notes that in scale, it might be similar to something like Maelstrom, but a combination of a water spirit and a wind demon. Takanata notes that the Jasmine claims that it is not entirely Imperial. Kuan-Xi adds that part of the effect is anti sorcery, and anti Phoenix. All of this is interesting, but it doesn't actually explain precisely what is going on, or how to defeat it. In fact, it doesn't really address how to defeat it at all. Kuan-Xi notes that she has a bag of storms, which she can use to let some storms out. Perhaps she can use it to put the rain storm in? Maybe it's something they can try.
Anyhow, time for more testing!
Shen-Ji goes outside to get Wet. Though strongly tempted, he does not throw his arms wide and shout "bring it!". Then, Kuan-Xi uses her "dry" shtick on him. The first use gets rid of the weird Wetness but leaves him wet, and the second drying gets rid of the actual water.
Also, Lijuan has been producing a lot of art about the rain. Is there anything else that can be determined from it? For example, are the eyes in her drawings phases of the moon? Takanata considers this, and concludes that at the time, the moon was watching intently, but those are not Moon's eyes in the rain. Probably, Moon was watching intently because Yanyu was in the run.
Takanata draws some art, as well. Unusually, it is neither about the rain nor allows him to ordain a roll.
Back to the investigation! Some of the other countries in the Empire have been checked for rain – pretty much everywhere, it's raining, though Wetness seems confined to the coast - but the group hasn't gone to the Shrouded Isle yet. They head through the water gate to the Suzuki gate building. They're greeted there by guards who hand them towels.
Isle of Storms
- "Thank goodness you're here!"
- "What do you need?" -Takanata, surprised
The guards say that they were hoping that help would arrive once it became clear how badly they were cut off. With the storm, there is no way in or out, and they admit they could use some supplies, as no one has been out of the house for days. There is some confusion, as Suzuki is allowed to gate to Tahiti, but the guards say that they were hoping for some of the improved protocols. For example, like when people come through and raid the Suzuki kitchens without talking to the guards. Er, what? There isn't a protocol for that. People speculate to themselves that maybe the kitchen raider is Meilin. Technically, she is allowed to use the gate. The party offers to pay for the missing food. The guards ask if they could replenish the food instead, as things have gotten a little crazy here. Several people have gone out into the storm, and not come back.
Well, that calls for going out into the storm!
Several people head to the door and try to head outside (much to the consternation of the guards, who shout to not open it), but nearly everyone finds that walking into the storm is a lot harder than it seems, and Kuan-Xi can't even get past the doorway.
Wei Han and Lijuan make it aways out, and Takanata leaves, but then shifts into worldwalking and vanishes. Wei Han, alarmed, herds Lijuan back in again, but Takanata is gone.
Takanata finds himself outside House Suzuki, on the house grounds. There is normal wind and light rain - but outside of the house grounds, it's not the Shrouded Isle at all, just grey mist.
If he squints through the mist to the northeast, he can make out a smaller manor house in that direction, in another bubble. When he looks with Yin, he can tell that it is precisely three hexes away in the Shrouded Isle Mechanic, looking along the northeasterly hex line. He can just make out some banners, which identify it as House Saito, and he can also discern that it is under the influence/protection of House Suzuki (that is, scoring points for Suzuki).
Next, Takanata invokes the Eyes of the I Ching, which lets him see Lady Suzuki's influence more clearly. She seems to be one of the linchpins driving the mechanic, but there are several others in play as well. He is also able to identify the Song of the Phoenix two hexes to the northwest. And, in fact he can hear the song – which is being sung directly to him. He listens to see if it's on repeat, but it isn't – it's not an automatic song but it doesn't seem to have any additional message other than that it is being sung to him. The existence of the song is itself the message.
Takanata considers what is powering the effect - is it Whale? Something here reminds him of Whale's piece of the Empire, but it clearly isn't the Whalesong Sea. There is, however, a distinct lack of Phoenix. And, now that he's here, it's a little clearer to discern that Whale maps to the rain, and anti-Phoenix maps to the wind.
Since he is in the World Above, more or less, Takanata performs a polite summoning on Black, and the other spirits of the Double Caldera. The spirits do not arrive, and he gets the feeling that they don't want to come to where he is, but he can go to where they are. As it turns out, the Double Caldera is three hexes to the southwest.
The spirits are there, dressed as high nobles of the realm of the Shrouded Isle, and sitting around a five-sided table. It appears that choosing a table side is a significant choice in some sense, and Takanata decides to sit with Green. The spirits say they are surprised to see him, and he explains that he and his friends are investigating the rain, and it's stronger on the Shrouded Isle. The spirits clarify – the rain is not stronger here, but the resistance to the rain is weaker. Red adds "and engaged."
Takanata wonders if he could be helpful. The spirits cannot see beyond the confines of their hex, and do not have a quest to send him on immediately. But they can be a resource for any who come here, and strengthen them for the fight. (What fight, exactly? Well, the nature of the fight is somewhat elusive.)
Takanata tells them the lay of the land, so far as he has discovered: Suzuki and Saito and the Song of the Phoenix. Suzuki is one of the "players", the spirits agree. They go on to add that there are six players and five teams. The obvious players that Green can see are Suzuki, Kobiyashi and Minoru. Then, one team is made up of the two players of the adversary. The fifth team is not in Green's purview.
Since Takanata has made his way here, they can offer him a boon which can enhance his sorcerous abilities in and against the rain. Unfortunately, he doesn't really have any sorcerous abilities, so he asks if he might bring the boon back, or give it to someone else. It's not really transferable, so Takanata puts his hand on the pattern to bring Kuan-Xi to him through a puddle.
Back at the Suzuki estates, Wei Han is worried about the fact that Takanata seems to have vanished into the storm. He finds a rope, and starts tying people together so they won't be swept away. Master Zhou, who can locate his students as well as having a sense for how they are doing, says that Takanata is curious, fascinated, and in the rain but not getting wetter. Well, that probably means that he's not in immediate danger.
Lijuan unveils her prophetic art - surprising no one, it is about the rain!
Since it seems that Takanata is okay, Wei Han thinks they should be going and looking for the lost guards, instead. Master Zhou isn't ready to go out into the rain yet, and wants to look at the art first. Interpret Omens suggests that the two people on the hilltop watching are definitely the same as the two people in the previous picture. But they might not actually be people - it might be two spirits, or something else. And they are definitely watching - either Master Zhou, or the party as a whole. Actually, they're looking at the guy in blue in particular - Cai Wen thinks that's Takanata. He seems to have come to their notice for something that he has done. Looking at the watchers, the fact that one of them is blurry and one of them is hard to see as interesting - they seem to have different effects obscuring their identity. The lightning, on the other hand, will come for Kuan-Xi if she does... something.
Into the Storm
Now, it's time to go and look for the missing guards. Wei Han ties himself, Lijuan, and Master Zhou together with rope. Then they set out into the storm, following Wei Han's nose for trouble. They make slow progress against the rain, but Lijuan thinks that as far as hunting and tracking go they aren't actually moving. After some consideration, Master Zhou thinks that there is some sort of a mechanic going on that requires all three of mind, body, and spirit. Wei Han is taking care of the body, doing the physical moving. Master Zhou is doing the spiritual part, and Lijuan is doing the mental part. They make enough progress that they finally reach the southeast corner of the hex, at the border of the Suzuki grounds.
They go around the pole at the border, and on the other side, find a pair of guards, one of whom has a broken leg. The ensuing conversation is a bit confusing, as neither the party nor the guards is willing to admit which house they come from. Master Zhou gives in first, and says that they have most recently come from House Suzuki. The guards are unhappy - oh no, they have failed. Wei Han asserts that the group has not come from House Suzuki, but Master Zhou thinks that he doesn't actually have the authority to say that. In fact, it seems to be Master Zhou's decision which house they are associated with. For the moment, he avoids doing so.
The group helps the guards back towards Suzuki - whether they like it or not. When they reach the border, they have the option of capturing the guards, or letting them infiltrate. This doesn't seem like a great choice either way, but it seems to be part of the mechanic. Master Zhou chooses "capture" and they proceed back to the estate.
The guards at house Suzuki are quite pleased. The party has captured an enemy patrol for them! Good job! The prisoners will be presented to the lady of the house. This is all very confusing. Is the Shrouded Isle at war with itself? Why are the neighboring houses enemies?
At this point, the drippings from the newcomers form a puddle which appears to Kuan-Xi to be the perfect puddle for traveling and puddle jumping. So she jumps in.
In the World Above, Takanata introduces Kuan-Xi to the spirits of the Double Caldera. White offers her tea, and she takes a chair at Blue's side of the table. The question of how they will get back is more interesting, as Kuan-Xi has now been briefed that traveling takes three people. Takanata can go back by joining another scene in progress, but Kuan-Xi doesn't have that ability, And the puddle jumping trick may not work a second time. On the other hand, since this is the world above, Kuan-Xi could summon her friend Anto. Then there would be three of them. Or, potentially, Anto might be able to get them all back on his own.
- "Would it be a problem if my friend the Wu Xing showed up?" -Kuan-Xi
- "He is most freely invited."
A piece of paper that Kuan-Xi is carrying starts to write words on it. The spirits look, disapproving, at someone who would interrupt tea by taking messages from somewhere else. Kuan-Xi scribbles a quick reply, and puts the paper away.
Back in the material world, The remaining party members try to figure out what to do. Both Wei Han and Lijuan have Wetness stats of two now, So perhaps they should just all stay here long enough to get dry again. The fact that people keep mysteriously disappearing one after the other is a little disconcerting, though.
- "Okay, do we want to sacrifice anyone else to the Takanata-is-pleased maw?" -Shen-Ji
Wei Han stamps about in the puddle, trying to join Kuan-Xi. However, he has no talent for worldwalking, so nothing happens. But wait! Kuan-Xi has one sheet of duplicating paper, from Master Zhou.
Hmm. Well, there seems nothing to be done but wait by the fire and dry off.
The spirits explain to Kuan-Xi and Takanata a bit more about what is going on. There is a Mechanic (with the hexes and the houses), but instead of banding together against the common enemy, the houses are taking individual turns to accomplish their own goals. The spirits are rather disapproving of this, though Takanata can't be surprised. There is much commiserating as the Arcade Houses are often doing the same.
Since Kuan-Xi has reached the double Caldera, the spirits will give her a boon. Until the end of the week (until they roll a seven), she has no trouble using water sorcery in the rain. And, her successes are doubled against the rain and against wetness itself.
As far as getting back goes, Kuan-Xi summons Anto and the three of them prepare to head out. The spirits warn that both butterflies and birds are prone to being tossed about by the winds. They might make it as far as the Song of the Phoenix, but if they go that far, they might not get back.
They decide to make their way back to House Suzuki and not press their luck. On the way through one of the intervening hexes, they see the House Amari gatehouse. Kuan-Xi recalls that that's a minor house associated with Minoru. They don't stop at Amari, and do finally reach House Suzuki in the Material World.
After traveling through the storm, Takanata has three Wetness, and Kuan-Xi and Anto have two. Takanata explains about their travels, and about the map they discovered. Sadly, they didn't have Zhu Cai Wen with them, so they didn't really find anything out about the scoreboard. But Takanata can sketch a map.
Trouble in Town
The investigation into the rain has taken quite a long time at this point, so it is really time to get back to the Arcade and get another mission. Back through the water gate they go, in time to hear that they just missed a messenger from the Prince, who may have been wondering where they were. They head out, picking up bits of the party loot, and leaving word with the house to send replacement supplies to Suzuki.
After a bit of riding in the rain, they arrive at the Moderately Obscure Benevolent Headquarters. Security continues to be stricter, and they have to leave their weapons behind before they're shown in to see the Prince.
Lady Jin (of the house of Beneficent Travel) is leaving as they enter, and the more observant note that the Prince looks a little mussed.
Cai-Wen uses one of his cheat at mini games shticks to roll 3d6, with the understanding that if he gets higher than a 13 he will use the second shtick to delete one of the dice. He rolls an 11.
- "Turn Back the Abomination."
Everyone recalls the Abomination that tried to burn the army at Donkiruku, and that it has been rampaging around the North Arcade since then. But where is it exactly? The Prince's map room does not say, precisely.
The group takes their leave of the prince, recovering their weapons, and head to the Dragon Army headquarters. Wei Han gets in to see Commander Yao's XO, and says that they have been tasked by the Lord of Benevolent Oversight to find the abomination. The XO says that she is officially under orders to not give them information, because the Arcade has been leaking to the enemy like a sieve, but she can sneak him into the Dragon Army's map room. She warns him to be more circumspect next time, because she doesn't want to get in trouble for leaking to him either.
The trail of the Abomination is fairly clear on the Dragon Army's maps. At present, it seems to be heading for a small village near the coast. Notes indicate that there are about a dozen stubborn inhabitants who refused to leave, waiting out the occupation. As Wei Han leaves, the XO warns him to not use fire against the giant fire monster.
People wonder if they can pick up another sorcerer with some anti-fire abilities. They drop by the Cup of Five Virtues, and Takanata auspiciously summons Ni Junxian. Can he help them? Will he help them? What kind of anti-fire powers can he recommend? He points out that it's raining heavily, and the rain has pretty good anti-fire power. People admit that they were hoping for something a little more direct.
He wants to know what exactly they want, and at first there is a bit of hedging, but Takanata comes out and says that they want to go and fight a Northern fire abomoination.
- "Thanks, but I'll pass." -Ni Junxian
There's a bit of talk of Duty and Defending the Arcade, but then Master Zhou claims that fire monster is on its way directly to the Port of Propitious Voyage, and Must Be Stopped before it gets to the city and burns it down. (Fact checkers would rate this as not entirely truthful, but luckily there are not any immediately in evidence.) Ni Junxian grudgingly allows as he will go in order to defend the port, but he wants danger pay. And first pick of the loot. Master Zhou glowers, not wanting him to get any Northern loot, and Shen-Ji doesn't want to give up whatever the choicest bits are, so they offer him one and a half shares of whatever the monetary value of the loot they pick up is, and persuade him to come along.
Wei Han trains people in Fa's Parry, and then the party (including Ho and Kawaii and the Danger Squad) heads northwards to the little village.
The party enters on the road to the west of the village, and it is difficult to see anything through the rain except for the glow of the giant fire monster entering from the east of the village. Master Zhou and Shen-Ji run by the houses along the south, telling people to evacuate, while Lijuan and the Danger Squad loop around to the north, also getting people to evacuate.
Wei Han and Lijuan charge full tilt at the Abomination, encountering some Northern fighters as well. There are a double handful of warriors, and some of the Northern mages - so whenever a northerner falls, they stand up again as a skeleton to fight for a while longer.
After the Abomination is first attacked, it starts immolating portions of the map, but true to form, it rolls very poorly and only destroys locations with nobody in them.
After both of the Beastmasters are slain, the Abomination gets smaller, and eventually succumbs to the pile of damage being poured on it. It finishes in a cloud of miasma, which rises into the air, warning that it will return as it races away towards the north.