Into the Hive

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"The axe forgets, but the tree remembers" 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 Below

Previous Run


Our heroes (including Anto) are gathered at Tahiti, with no thought of missions for the Prince - today, Shen-Ji has a plan to finally destroy No Face Ko. Shen-Ji has paid Maelstrom a favor for No Face Ko's location, and a boon from Speedy will make Ko flee slowly, if he flees. Shen-Ji has some demon smite saved up, and he has invited Master Deng Demonbane, and anyone else who chooses to come (which includes Jia-Jia).

No Face Ko has been Hit with a Smite previously, and he's expected to be holed up somewhere safe. Be warned: if he can cause you to show emotion, he will steal your face, which is not good for your health.

Master Zhou contemplates what he knows about No Face Ko's fortress. Legends (and previous travels in the world below) indicate that he used to have a hollow tree in a plague swamp, but Anto chased him away from that lair. In general, his tendency is to have a smaller fortress inside a larger secure realm, belonging to something dangerous. His defenses can depend on which faces he has acquired, and many of them will require a resolve roll to resist. (Deng admits he's not so good at those).

"We're all going to die." -Master Zhou
"Yes." -Xian
"We're all going to die today." -Master Zhou

The group heads first to Dutiful Serenity, to talk to Maelstrom. The wind picks up, and Shen-Ji speaks to the twinned voices which can be heard above the gale.

"No Face Ko has taken refuge in the Hive. With the assistance of the Swarm he has moved the Hive to the Darklands, deep in the World Below."

Anto doesn't like the sound of that, and asks some extra questions about exactly where the Hive is, and thinks for a bit. Then, he says that he can bring them there, but not in a single step.

As for the Hive and the Swarm: The Hive is the home of the Swarm, which is made up of bees. Apparently the Swarm used to be a large number of bee spirits, but they were somehow corrupted, and went to the World Below, long long ago. The Swarm is now a demon, and the queen stays in the Hive while the Swarm makes forays into the nearby realms.

The bees, like mundane bees, have venom in their sting, which varies based on the type of bee. At least one of the bee types is likely to have paralytic venom.

Anto explains that there are two principal choices that must be made for the journey. First, they must decide whether to spiritwalk, or go fully physically. If they go physically, they can bring all their stuff. But that can have problems - if someone's face gets stolen, they'll die very quickly. Going spiritually, there is more room for chi / mojo / other messing around to prevent death. (Faceless spirits are a thing. Faceless people not so much.) But going spiritually will require remembering what you have, as part of "you".

The second choice is which route to take. The first route goes via the realm of the Demon of Loss, who will ask a price from each who passes. The second route goes through multiple smaller realms, each of which has its own peril.

After some contemplation, it seems likely that going spiritually and passing multiple trials will have the most short-term risk and the least long-term risk, so they decide to do those two.

Shen-Ji goes shopping for antivenom, and finds a number of doses of an anti-paralytic.

Everyone trains with Master Zhou.

Takanata draws a picture:


There are fewer clues here than they might like - who are the fish? Is the dark Toro? Is this some sort of distraction? - but Takanata decides to keep Toro in mind just in case.

World Below


Anto opens a portal, and everyone spiritwalks into it. He leads them around several ominous-looking realms, until they have to go through the realms that cannot be avoided.

Anto explains that the first trial is "Do not breathe", which requires resolve and health checks to avoid poisoning and stat damage.

The second trial is "Do not look" which requires traversing a narrow ledge while avoiding looking at the bright light and being blinded. (Xian and Shen-Ji are partially blindsided, limiting their range of sight in the Hive)..

The third trial is "Do not doubt", which is an encounter with a chattier demon, who likes the "lies" that some of the party has. It offers to buy the "DO NOT DESTROY THE EMPIRE" psych lim from Xian, and gives her one reroll for it. It offers Shen-Ji an immunity for a bee sting to Shen-Ji for his psych lim, and when Shen-Ji asks for three instead, tells him that he is too greedy and gives him nothing to take the psych lim after all.

No one else has any psych lims to steal, so they receive some instead:

  • Master Deng: Vegetarians can eat pork
  • Takanata: Zhu are horribly unlucky. Never use them.
  • Master Zhou: Green is the most ugly color. Don't ever wear it.

The next trial is "Do not disturb", which involves walking very carefully across unstable terrain, lest ROCKS FALL EVERYONE DIES. Xian is not so good at this, and takes some substat damage.

But then, the trials are done, and they have reached the Hive. Anto stays outside to keep an exit open, and everyone else starts to head in. Xian plays the ocarina, while Takanata and Deng try to persuade the bee worker/soldiers that they aren't there to harm the Hive.


There is water flowing along the wax path into the hive, and Takanata thinks that the water isn't normally there. Others notice that the water is very slippery, and makes moving more than their normal move somewhat perilous.

Master Deng quickly takes the lead, with Shen-Ji keeping close behind - Deng has the Magpie Talisman, and Shen-Ji is on his flying disk so not bothered by slippery floors.


Taking stock for a moment, Master Deng notes that the biggest source of danger is the Hive itself, but there is something else really dangerous to the east, and another danger to the north.

Some worker bees start to build a wax wall to keep the invaders out (since they can't fight them), but Deng and Shen-Ji get past it before they can finish. Deng gets close to the edge of the ocarina effect, and sees an area with thicker honey, but doesn't venture far enough to see into the area.


Deng checks if he can melt the wax wall with his flaming sword, but it's just the one that adds fire damage, not the one that has an area effect damage, so it doesn't. He'd have to attack the wall to melt it, which he can't do in the ocarina zone. So he ventures north, and discovers No Face Ko, suspended in honey. Ko reaches out a hand, imploringly. Huh. This is... unexpected.

The bees finish the wall just after Master Zhou makes it past, and Takanata, on the other side, tries to interpret omens on his art. Are the fish the party, or the bees, or what? He concludes that they are "seekers" but beyond that isn't clear.

Master Zhou wonders about the honey, and decides that leaping into it will not immediately trap the person who goes in. Deng checks if he can detect whether No Face Ko is an enemy of the empire, but doesn't think he is.

The Hive is alive enough that Takanata suspects that he will not be able to see through it with Eyes of the I Ching.  

Deng runs ahead a bit more, and finds more path, and more bees. The path doesn't seem to be branching at all yet, except for the small rooms to the side.


Takanata shouts a warning, pointing out that everyone is walking on water.

"Nobody swim in any honey!" -{{{2}}}
"If Ko is already swimming, I call shenanigans." -Master Zhou

Are the fish in the art floating in a lake of dark water? Sort of, but no.

The worker bees continue to build walls, splitting up the party into smaller groups.

During drift, people have to remember what they are carrying, and the Hive tries to take down the ocarina down, but doesn't quite manage it yet.

Jia-Jia draws a door in the wall without triggering combat, and Xian steps through it and then southwards, pulling the ocarina zone alarmingly away from the fighters. Shen-Ji decides that it is time to start the combat.


At this point, the party is now badly split into the fighters, who are happily killing bees, and non-fighters who are surrounded by other bees.

Takanata contemplates the deepest connection between the Swarm and the Hive: they failed to merge the way Swiftgreen and Spiral did.

Master Zhou rounds a corner and discovers another No Face Ko. The group decides that obviously these are decoys - the real No Face Ko will be at the end, and not trapped in honey.


Master Zhou discovers a strange room which seems new, and is not influenced by Ko, or the Hive, though it has been constructed with the assistance of the Swarm. Shen-Ji determines that if you stand in the center, one of the gems will begin to glow. Hmm. True magical analysis provides some more detail - it will tap the magical power of those who stand in it, in order to make the gems glow "enticingly". Double hmm.


The fighters have been killing bees left and right, but eventually there are enough that they can get some hits in of their own. When Deng parries and kills a bee, Xian notices that the bee near her gets a little bit more powerful. .

Jia-Jia melts through another wall for Xian (checking with Shen-Ji first, as she has been warned about Xian). Xian pokes the wall with her hoop, which has been tuned to Interview and Poke, and requests an interview with the Queen of the Swarm. She is directed to the heart of the Hive, "where she has always been", and Xian gets the idea that it is about ten hexes to the north of her.

The Hive has taken down the ocarina effect at this point, and one of the now-buff bees gets through a sting on Cai Wen, doing a bit of damage and some venom for later.

Shen-Ji tries a "command demon" on Ko, to explain why there are multiple copies of him and why he is mired in honey. Ko swims out of the honey, and looks as if he will explain next round.


Cai Wen instantiates a scoreboard about Signs of Toro:

Walking on water: 85 of 12
Swimming on land: 2 of 12

"Nobody swim in the honey!" -Cai Wen

Ko is explains: I am commanded to wait for you to attack or free me, at which point I will remove my mask and burn you. Whereupon he does so, revealing a demon of Immolation under the mask.

When Drift hits, the Hive dispel's Shen-Ji's disk, and he slides downstream on the slippery wax. Also, people who have been stung by bees lose some physical stats.

Deng finally reaches the center of the hive, and is hit by a water bolt from a spirit. He parries the water back, and it is absorbed by the water spirit. Then Deng runs off again, catching up to the non-fighter group that has been working its way up through the walls from the south.


Shen-Ji engages with Immolation, and Cai Wen works on keeping the bees from stinging Takanata until the latter can put up an earthwall.


Jia-Jia keeps dooring her and Xian towards the heart of the hive (Xian still has her interview to get to).


The Immolation demon takes down Shen-Ji, whereupon Jia-Jia and Ghost Flame merge and vanish from by Xian to appear by Shen-Ji (still up in the north Enticing Gem Area).

Deng goes back into the heart, and is astonished to discover that the bees have gotten big enough that he can't just take them out in a blow. He chops a second bee, and the non-honey Ko, who puts on the face of a little girl to make it harder to attack him.

Cai Wen thinks about the hidden opportunities, and concludes that there could be opportunities from either the Hive or the Swarm.

The bees, up to about 30 dice, go after Cai Wen and Master Deng.


Takanata calls for a vision of an interesting event from the Hive's past. He sees the Wu Xing - not Anto, but someone else - and the Queen of the Swarm going to meet the Hive. At the moment of joining, there is treachery, and the Hive imprisons the Queen in the heart. The bees fight the Wu Xing, and he eventually falls to the venom.

Master Zhou drinks from the gourd of inner peace and punches the little-girl Ko in the face.

As everyone fights the little-girl demon at the center, the real No Face Ko starts to make his escape, sliding out along the slippery wax, until he runs straight into Shen-Ji, who has not managed to join the central combat.


Takanata tries to talk to the Queen of the Swarm, but she is too far away. Master Zhou puts his fist through the Ko mask, and it shatters, revealing a bee underneath.

"My name is Yang Jia-Jia. You killed my mother, prepare to die!"

Shen-Ji unloads with karma and Smites Ko, and Jia-Jia uses her wood sorcery, though she isn't as demon-smitey as Shen-Ji is.

"You are supposed to be in the center of the hive, attacking the other one. Why are you here?"

Neither Jia-Jia nor Shen-Ji is fazed by Ebon Brush's face when Ko pulls it out, but her brush swipes down Shen-Ji's tao.

Back in the heart of the Hive, one of the bees is starting to summon the entrapment honey around Master Zhou.

{{QQ|Lady, if I break you free, you will owe us a large favor, yes?|Takanata}

"Free me from this place and thy will be done."

Takanata hits the Hive with a combined Curse and Disentangle (powered by some karma to smush them together).

"Hive: your betrayal reveals your heart is broken and worthless. It can hold nothing and no one, now and forever."
"Takanata is one for the gordian knot. Simple spiritual solutions to complex ethical problems."

Master Zhou notes that the Queen is obviously a spirit and will deteriorate rapidly in the World Below.

"I'm here for my interview." -Xian, poking the queen with her hoop

She does get some questions:

"Can you get your bees to quit attacking us? We were originally here to kill No Face Ko, but we'll help as much as we can. What do you need from us ? Can we get just you out?"

The Queen indicates that the Hive can hear everything, so Xian switches to Inscrutable Conversation to tell the Queen that Anto, the Wu Xing, is not far off. The Queen is dubious - the Wu Xing has failed her before - but Xian says if she has a better option feel free.

Ko dons the face of a mighty swordsman and chops Shen-Ji. Master Zhou punches a hole in the wall, and Deng goes for Ko, and also spends karma to break the doubling cap (just beating Shen-Ji's record of 93 dice).


That takes Ko to holding on by just a face. Jia-Jia defers to Shen-Ji, but he is out of actions until Master Zhou gives him one. Father and daughter attack, and Ko crumples. (Deng has to make a resolve roll to not smile.)

Back in the heart of the Hive, the water spirit explodes. Takanata can dodge area effects and Cai Wen uses wall of fate, but Xian is having a bad day.

The green bees and Master Zhou tunnel out through the walls of the Hive, back to Anto. Anto adjusts his portal exit and sends the Queen through to the World Above, and Takanata receives a boon: "I summon the Swarm to [do something]"