|"Conquerors are kings; the beaten are bandits."|| 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
Sharing the Intelligence
Lijuan draws some art, which, surprising no one, is more rain.
Takanata also attempts to draw some art, but it's difficult. He draws numbers from one to six, but then it all catches fire. Or, drawing numbers down from 12, it also catches fire after 8. The "catching fire" seems to be different from whatever was making the art hard in the first place, but additive. This is a lot like the Spider Talisman, but whatever it is, is making it both difficult, and disastrous to think about sevens.
Kuan-Xi briefs everyone on what was learned in puttering about the rain and the water - it seems to be a joint effect from Whale and a Southern demon called a genie or an efrit.
Shuyan and Xian trade a speed egg (from Easter) to Speedy, in return for some help with die-rolling. The conversation is, as always, interminable, but Xian gets four pips to be used on any die rolls.
Takanata notes that since Xian can save them from over-rolls, he can turn the die roll into something like "double the first die and add a second die".
The group heads for Moderately Obscure Benevolent Headquarters, where the Magpie Prince and Lady Jin are waiting for them. The Prince seems to be less enthusiastic than usual about suggesting a mission, and Takanata looks suspiciously at Lady Jin. (The deepest connection between the two of them does appear to be political).
Takanata manages to hint that it would be nice to have something to do, without actually asking a question, and the Prince says that he can probably find something from the reports.
- "You do not have a mission in mind?" -Takanata
- "I suppose I could come up with something." -the Prince, sipping tea
- "I think it would be appropriate if you came up with something yourself." -Takanata
Kuan-Xi, watching all this, thinks that the reason he's stalling is that the idea of doing the prophecy is terrifying him, but he's trying to put on a brave face.
- "Your Highness, would you share your insights as to what we could do to help the Arcade?"
- "Oh, very well."
Then, there's an explosion of chi, as if a bubble has been broken. The Prince stands up, his eyes turn blue and blue, and (after a 5(x2) and a 3 = 13 is rolled) he declares "Flee, before we die!" and collapses.
Flee or we die
A horn sounds in the distance, and some guards burst in to find the party standing over the unconscious prince. However, Lady Jin can confirm that it wasn't the party who did it, and the guards tell them to get the Prince out the back while the guards hold off the invasion at the front. Oh dear.
Min Feng disguises the Prince as a guard and herself as the Prince, and most people go out the back while Lijuan heads back to the front to pick up the party's weapons, putting her in the middle of the combat with the invaders. She manages to grab the weapons locker and flee with it, using Flying Squirrel, leaving the guards to their fate.
Out the back, however, are fewer mook invaders but several more hidden competent fighters. Kuan-Xi gets the attackers to dress appropriately, and they end up being dressed like people from various countries. Strange.
Takanata and Kuan-Xi put up protective walls as everyone runs for the stables and ninjas start stepping out of bushes. Kuan-Xi puddle-jumps with the Prince (and Xiao Fa), while Shuyan takes Lady Jin and Min Feng ("the prince") hops on Xian.
Takanata is attacked by a hook-wielding ninja, and hooked so he can't leave. He curses the ninja: "Fishermen are not welcome in Whale's waters. While you stand in the rain, all will regard you as their enemy." This causes a lot of his comrades to turn on him, but Takanata is still far behind the other people fleeting, and more foes are starting to crowd the grounds between him and the stables.
Lijuan gets the box of weapons into the carriage, and Kuan-Xi helps the Prince in. Xiao Fa hooks Xian to the front of the carriage, but then a sniper shoots Lady Jin and Min Feng, hitting them with drift poison.
Back at the house, Takanata considers whether there will be more Arcade points for burning the map room or leaving it to fall into enemy hands. Given those choices, he concludes it is better to burn it, and heads back into the house.
The drift poison damage starts to escalate, as Lijuan gets Lady Jin aboard the carriage. Everyone but Takanata is there, so, on the theory that he can make his own way home, the carriage leaves to get help from elsewhere in the Arcade.
Takanata heads for the map room, and tries to start packing it up, but there is too much to just put in a sack and flee with. He further realizes that the question is about who is in control of the headquarters at the end of the plot - the invaders won't be able to take everything quickly either, but if they hold the building at the end of the plot, they will have accomplished... something. But, is the plot over when everyone has fled? Well, that depends. The prophecy said to flee, so having fled, the plot can be declared won. But Wolfing it up includes "adding mission creep".
Takanata decides to instantiate mission creep, so he grabs some flowers and declares his area a non-combat zone, but it turns out that this isn't sufficient to actually get him past people who don't want him to leave, and he is non-violently captured.
Since the party has rescued the Prince, they can quickly get in to see the Lord of Benevolent Oversight, who, much to their distress, cannot simply solve the issue. He can't send the house's soldiers, as they are dedicated elsewhere, but he can send a strike team by the end of the day.
The group agrees to meet the strike team at the No Longer Obscure Headquarters, but regroups elsewhere to plan what to do. Could someone sneak in with some escape smoke and use that to get Takanata out?
Meanwhile, two cloaked figures have arrived at the headquarters, and are in discussion with Takanata, and have an offer to make him. They open by offering to let him go if he agrees to not interfere, as they don't want to deal with the trouble the party or the Golden Prince can cause, but Takanata wants to know what they're actually doing.
The first cloaked figure says they seek to temporarily turn the focus of the headquarters, away from strictly Arcade points and towards gaining Empire points instead. He seeks a mission, but a less limited one than Takanata's friends have been doing - but it will aid the Empire, rather than only the Arcade.
Takanata approves of the goal but doesn't want to harm the Arcade in the process. Couldn't they ask the spirits for an idea some other way? The figure says that the mechanic is useful, not just the prophecy.
- "I'm afraid I don't know much about the Empire mechanic so I don't know what scores points there." -Takanata
- "Spend a Yin." -Mike
Wait, are they talking about the Imperial Status Score points? The figure doesn't come out and say so, but he thinks that there are ways to defeat the North that will score points. So he seeks to temporarily untether Magpie and replace him with Lord Dragon in the Arcade prophesy mechanic.
- "Well, Master Chang, that is fascinating." -Takanata
The figure chuckles. Takanata asks if the working would be reversible. The figure says that he would need certain guarantees in order to reverse it, but he expects Takanata's friends could do so.
- "You have someone who has been overly touched by Magpie - they should be able to accomplish the task."
The second cloaked figure comes in (this one a grey cloak instead of black) and asks if they are ready to proceed. Black Cloak says that he would really like to finish the discussion quickly, as Takanata's friends are troublesome and are unlikely to stay away for long.
Seeing Grey Cloak, Takanata wonders what the direction to Tsai Su-Yin is, but she is in the Forest right now. So perhaps this isn't Lucky Chang after all. His sense of the mechanic is that it will be something that scores 0-5 points on the Emperor mechanic, and while Takanata could tell Xiao Fa what the mission is, that won't have the plot pushing him along the way the mechanic does.
Black Cloak says that he would be willing to accept Takanata's parole, if he is unwilling to provide assistance, but Takanata says he can't agree to put that number of points in play without getting a share for his candidate.
- "Declare on your honor an alliance between your faction and mine for the duration of the one mission, and at the end of it we will split the proceeds."
- "I will agree to that offer with Lucky Chang, if that is who you are." -Takanata
- "It is not."
After a few more quibbles - the mission and the alliance will take no longer than the week, but they must be done next run (since this run has gotten late) - Takanata agrees.
Black Cloak takes out a small vial.
- "Crane's blood?" -Takanata
Black Cloak tells Takanata to swear on the blood of the Dragon, and declare that they are allies.
- "We are allies in the ways we have discussed." -Takanata
The Butterfly Talisman thumps, and it is sealed.
The cloaked figures go into action - it seems clear that they have been investigating for a couple of weeks and understand the way the mechanic works. The Blood of the Dragon is used as a focus in the working, which temporarily swaps Dragon for Magpie, but still uses Crane for Sight and Dog for defense of the Empire.
Meanwhile, the party has gathered near the Headquarters, and Ho and the Snake of Secrets are dispatched to reconnoiter. Shortly after, the heroic animal duo are brought into the map room by a guard, who has captured a suspicious dog and snake. Takanata tells the animals that they have made an alliance and that nobody should attack, and the guards release them again.
- "Message by snake. I had not... considered that."
The snake tells Shuyan a secret: Takanata has made an alliance and doesn't want them to attack. Did the snake bring back a duplicating paper? No, snakes don't work like that.
The strike team will be there in six hours, so there's plenty of time to cause trouble before that. Xian suggests that if Takanata were asleep, Xian could dreamwalk to him and ask for more details. So... maybe Min Feng could sneak in with some drugs to knock Takanata out, and some duplicating paper for him to... use while he is asleep? (Laura claims to have faithfully transcribed this plan, but in retrospect is a little confusing).
Min Feng sneaks towards the headquarters, and overhears some guards patrolling outside. They're complaining about their plans changing too! They break in, fight everyone, and then the boss makes a deal and they're allies? What's up with that? And if the old guy's friends come back, they have to not fight them and invite them in. What madness!
A guard reports to the cloaked guys that someone is sneaking around. Grey robe gestures in exasperation. Takanata shouts that whoever it is should come in, and Min Feng does. She tries to study the grey robed figure, but the cloak bounces the effect - it seems to have shticks in being incognito.
Completing the ritual, Black robe asks Takanata "What can we do to defeat the North and bring glory to the Empire?" and Takanata's eyes go blue-and-green, and he says "Free the younger brother and his love, the sorcerer's daughter." Takanata being the Bearer of Auguries works to smooth over any rough patches in rewriting the ritual/mechanic, so there is no thwackback, etc..
Black Cloak gives Takanata the service of Lady Blades, Lord Morningstar, and Master Knives. They (plus the rewrite) are, he considers, more than sufficient for his part of the alliance. He will start withdrawing his people now, and Min Feng points out that there will be a strike team here soon. Well, then, he will withdraw his people quickly.
The three fighters will go with Min Feng to meet everyone else, and Takanata stays in the headquarters to confirm he understands how to retune it back to Magpie.
- "Takanata walks you through a quick working to banish Dragon and summon Magpie."
- " WHAT? What the hell is going on?" -Xian
Takanata explains. Next run there will be no Arcade points, but there will be Emperor points. Xian, though, is most wroth, and spends some time explaining why teaming up with the people who kill a bunch of the Prince's guards is Not OK. She doesn't think that promises made after murder should be binding, but Takanata thinks that promises made after being captured in fair combat are still promises. Xian is dubious that the promise wasn't coerced, but Takanata notes that Black Cloak had offered to let him go if he promised to not interfere, so he wasn't as coerced as all that.
- "It is not traditional to backstab your own side in the middle of a war." -Xian
- "You have not been paying attention." -Takanata
Xiao Fa looks at the Prince's chi, and notes that a little smidge of the anti-prophesy binding chi that was in effect before, is starting to slowly come back. It's suppressing omens, and going for him really hard. Takanata is also getting affected, but much less than the Prince. But Lijuan isn't being so affected at all. Maybe because her art focuses more on the rain, and Takanata's often focuses on the dice and the mechanic, and the effect is against the mechanic?
Xiao Fa finally puts his finger on the flavor of the effect - part Toro, and part Horja the Abomination. (The party may recall that one of the Northern Horrors left the Night of Setag with the Magpie-flavored door prize...)
Next time: saving the younger brother and his love, the sorcerer's daughter!
- Various people spend some time thinking about the rain
- Some people visit Da-Xie and ask her about the genie.