Into the Labyrinth
|"What we all dread most is a maze with no centre."|| 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 Sea of Storms
A Quick Castle
A number of people are in Tahiti, when the butler, looking somewhat bemused, brings a wolf in. The wolf nods as if to say "follow me, guys!" and stands by the door.
Shen-Ji notes that they should be grabbing party loot first, and in the ensuing raid on loot storage, Xiao Fa accidentally picks up the Butterfly Talisman while holding the Sankara Stone of death.
- "Oh crap." -Xiao Fa
He gets a puzzling psych lim about getting someone else to do a large favor for Shen-Ji. Everyone else finishes grabbing things, and then they head off, following the wolf down the road and into the bushes. The path winds around through a copse of trees that doesn't seem to be anywhere near Tahiti any longer, and at one point the wolf stops for a moment and growls at something before continuing.
Then, they emerge in a clearing, where Sei-Lin and Lijuan are talking to Horse, but the other people from the previous run are gone. (The unconscious Dragon Army soldiers, and Cai Wen's vikings, are also gone).
Sei-Lin and Lijuan explain.
- "We have to break into the Labyrinth and destroy the ritual to free the World Gyre. It's right over there." -Sei-Lin
(In fact, there's a large foreboding castle in unknown architecture, looming above the trees.)
- "So, the Wu Xing goes back and forth between the worlds. The World Gyre is the thing that gets stuck between the worlds." -Lijuan
- "And Wolf says "shred everything" as the way to stop the ritual." -Sei-Lin
Sei-Lin also notes that Cai Wen was worried about the next mission roll, which seems likely to happen without the party there. Wolf says he took care of things and not to worry about the weird paradoxes, but it doesn't mean that there isn't another roll due. Sei-Lin, who has been prompted well by Cai Wen, asks Wolf for a miracle of "this roll is a 1 again and we get extra credit for this mission."
- "Unfortunately, I can do that. There are other people interested in how that works, so I will have to be persuasive. Very well - the die roll for the run is a 1, and it is being rolled even now." -Wolf
Still remaining as boons: gifts from Wolf and Horse and a miracle from Horse.
As people enter the Labyrinth battlemap, they discover that they have η stats, equal to 500 * Strength. Hmm.
They approach the entrance to the huge building, up some stairs, and people note the odd symbol, which seems to be of some sort of strange bull-crab hybrid.
Wei Han notes that there isn't a lot of dust, for a place as old and nearly abandoned as this seems to be, and Shen-Ji notes that it isn't intrinsically magical, though it is weird in a somewhat nebulous way. Xiao Fa pays careful attention while stepping into the new zone and getting his η stat and notes that it isn't a magical effect, it's crossing into a different rules-set.
The group enters the building, and notes that the weird mutated-bull art is still a theme.
Sei-Lin notes that there is treasure nearby in the rooms to the left and the right - as he and Shuyan (and Pao) scout that way, he is sure that there are several valuable nummies - but also horrible monsters emerging from the darkness.
When Wei Han parries the creatures, his sword rusts and corrodes (and when he drops it temporarily, his η goes up by 50 -- Ahah - η is some sort of "loot carrying capacity". ) He switches to his bamboo shinai, and that also begins to crack when parried with. Xiao Fa reaches an inner treasure room while Wei Han holds the Fomorians off - he finds a bunch of zhu, some li and tael, some gems, and a vial - which, the item card says, is a potion of treasure finding. He grabs the tael, gems, and vial, but the lesser coinage may use too much η.
In the southern side of the room with the Fomorians, Sei-Lin and Lijuan pick up some more treasure. Sei-Lin picks up the Flames of Faltine, a small orb with a flame inside - but the rest of the item card is in an unknown language. Lijuan picks up 1000 li, and, sure enough, her η goes down by 1000. The zhu will have to remain behind.
Shuyan sends her Snake of Secrets forth, people begin to venture into the labyrinth itself, and Lijuan is the first to find a trap. She steps on a pressure plate, and doors slam down before and behind her, and then small holes in the ceiling start dropping sand into the space. It looks like it won't fill up for another... six rounds?
Meanwhile, others are being distracted by the monsters in the right-hand chambers.
The big thousand-teeth lizards can't go through the door, and Sei-Lin slips by the first one to search for more treasure.
Xiao Fa, concerned about the scattering of the party into the land of traps and ominous bloodstains, calls on people to please regroup.
- "BUT THE LOOT!" -Sei-Lin
Sei-Lin finds a vial of "DNA Resequencing Serum", and then returns to help get Lijuan out of the trap, and the group heads into the maze in somewhat more orderly fashion.
Sei-Lin stays in the front to spot traps, and succeeds in jamming the pressure plate of the next trap they encounter, so the crushers never swing down...
Lijuan passes out her crayons so people can mark where they've been in the labyrinth, and Sei-Lin goes back to scouting. Soon enough, he senses another trap, though he doesn't find a trigger, and doesn't go far enough to see what it is. Pao fetches a nearby rat, and Sei-Lin throws it around the corner. Murder hornets gush from the mouth of the face on the wall, and eat the rat. Well, it's probably good no one went around the corner.
Another larger treasure/monster room is found, this one with spiders, and a webbed-up body.
After the spiders are defeated, Xiao Fa determines that the body is in suspended animation, not dead. Cutting the webs, the body proves to be Kiri, who is initially groggy but happy to be freed.
Meanwhile, Seilin, Lijuan, and Yanyu are picking up the treasure - another handful of tael and gems, and more li. Yanyu picks up a scroll, but can't tell what it does yet.
- "Are we protecting Kiri or just letting her tag along?" -Wei Han
- "We're protecting her!" -Xiao Fa
Off in the distance to the northwest, Ho begins to bark helpfully. Perhaps that is where the group should be going, rather than looting all the treasure rooms? They're fun, but time consuming.
Another trap is set off without being underneath: a gelatinous cube! It doesn't take a lot of damage from pointy weapons, but setting it on fire is pretty effective.
It's not clear how to reach Ho, though - there don't seem to be any passages in that direction. Maybe they can get around to the north?
Seilin finds a magic trap that he can get past but not dispel.
Shen-Ji thinks that the magical trap is either one thing or seven different things, in a tradition he is not familiar with. But it's hard to dispel without triggering it. He tries to dispel it, and manges to trigger the whole thing and dispel the yellow, cutting Sei-Lin off from the rest of the group.
Sei-Lin asks Wolf for a pickaxe of chopping through walls (once a turn) as Wolf’s gift, and he goes through a wall and back to the party. They circle around, trying to find the way to the center, but then when the next turn rolls around, they're not there yet, and Sei-Lin chops through another wall.
The explosion is a bit of a surprise, but the corridor leads quickly to the central room of the labyrinth.
The Snake of Secrets comes back, and gives Shuyan a quick briefing: there's a guy with a lot of minions doing a giant ritual at the top of the map. Go right past the deadly statues and you'll get to them. Shuyan gives him a snake treat.
The pools seem to be the most interesting thing in the central room. The water is blue, but not transparent enough to see to the bottom. Is it a trap? Strangely, no. Is there loot at the bottom? Strangely... no?
Well, since the ritual isn't here, should the group head north towards the ritual? On the other hand, Ho seems to think that it was important to come here. He's usually helpful, so the fact that he was barking here probably indicates something. Wei Han thinks maybe it was just that this room was on the way to the ritual, but Sei-Lin thinks this seems like an important place beyond that.
- "Maybe someone should oogly-boog?"
Xiao Fa analyzes the Tao of the Place, and concludes that this is the room that maintains the balance of the entire fortress. Shen-Ji checks with Magical Analysis, and notes that the important things in the room are the two hideously powerful magical pools. They are identical and opposed, very yin/yang but not actually that. And the south pool is sort of like Northern death magic, and the north pool like life magic. Lijuan drinks a healing potion and give Shen-Ji the empty vial, and he fills it with "water of life" - which is an item card with a long description in an unknown language. Then, the group heads northwards.
Seilin triggers a trap - the orb of teleport - and accidentally goes north, pretty much out of the labyrinth. Unfortunately, there's no good connector. Fortunately, Sei-Lin has the pickaxe. Unfortunately, there are some guards who seem likely to notice him if he chops through walls, and it will take some time. Fortunately, Sei-Lin still has a Horse miracle available, and uses that to summon the rest of the party.
The two red soldiers are Marines, and they shout and quickly swing into action, stabbing Kiri and Shen Ji before becoming instant targets for the fighters. But rather than stand there and continue to engage, people pile up the stairway into the next room, which has what the snake of secrets called the "deadly statues".
From a room to the right, someone shouts a trigger word: Abidai Gamonte! The statues shiver, and stand up, wielding their giant axes.
Xiao Fa tells the Marines to stand down with Imperial Command. Marine 8 backs off, and Marine 7 backs off and falls down, possibly playing possum.
One of the minotaurs swings at Yanyu, but Wei Han jumps in the way. The other minotaur attacks Wei Han, Yanyu, and Lijuan with a sweeping arc of the axe.
In drift, Kawaii attacks a statue, and Renyu's voice (to the north) yells "pull".
Xiao Fa runs for the room to the north, chi blasting both minotaurs. Sei Lin climbs a wall to stay out of the way and sneak northwards, though there is another set of stairs which makes it tricky.
The Sea Lord comes down the steps and shows for people to direct the minotaur statues, since they're attacking kind of randomly now.
Sei-Lin notices that the best treasure is off to the west, not in the room he's going into, and is torn for a moment or two before going after the treasure. Shen-Ji summons a small horde of ripper demons, and the statues promptly turn to go after the caster.
Sei-Lin gets to the treasure room to the best, and finds a bunch of coins and two potion bottles. He picks them up, but it doesn't seem as much like the best treasure as he was expecting.
Xiao Fa finally reaches the site of the ritual. There is a central freestanding whirlpool with four huge chains attached to it, and groups of people pulling the chains to keep the maelstrom open. The whirlpool itself seems to be generated by Renyu's magic.
Kawaii finally finishes off the first statue, while the ripper demons work on the second one.
Xiao Fa runs for Renyu, trying to skootch under the chain, but finds that it is difficult to get by (1d10 move) and he arrives out of breath. Wei Han runs north, yelling at the Dragon Army soldiers that they're on the wrong side.
Sei-Lin, leaving the treasure room, thinks that the best treasure is now behind him. Hmm. Maybe it's hidden in the wall? He starts circling around to see if he can break through.
- "I have been anointed by the water of life! Follow me if you dare!" -Renyu, jumping into the maelstrom
Wei Han spends some karma to call some of the Dragon Army here as reinforcements, and they drop the top left chain. He tells them to protect Xiao Fa, and two quickly go down to the blades of the incoming Marines.
The ripper demons finish off the second statue, which proves to be an incentive for the guys hiding in the room to the left to run in and finish off the rippers.
Renyu sends a waterbolt at Xiao Fa, who demonstrates his chi riposte. Shen-Ji melts a chain, and the soldiers begin to panic.
The soldiers start dropping their chains and running, but the Sea Lord stomps back in and calls battle stations, which teleports everyone back to their assigned chains.
Sei-Lin finishes tunneling through two walls to get to the treasure room, and finds Kiri searching it.
She gives him a choice of one of the three items she has found:
- Bracer of the Viper
- Rod of Flight
- Crimson Bands of Cytorrak
Yanyu shouts at the Sea Lord to surrender or feel the wrath of Phoenix.
Shen-Ji and Xiao Fa both think about going into the whirlpool. Shen-Ji is the only one who can melt more chains, but he's also the one who has the water of life. Xiao Fa ducks under a chain and runs to Shen-Ji for the handoff.
- "To anoint yourself properly you take a few rounds, make a ceremonies roll, etc. In an emergency, you dump it over your head and run." -Mike
The Dragon Army soldiers shout to Shen-Ji and Xiao Fa to not screw up the ritual, and try to grab them. Sei Lin asks Kiri what the plan is. She says that the biggest issue is to make sure the whirlpool doesn't run around afterwards, which will be a problem for the other ships. But she can get the party out if it all goes sideways.
The Sea Lord shouts that this is for the good of the Empire.
- "Just let Renyu finish and we'll have control of all the waters!" -Sea Lord
- "You're hurting Phoenix!" -Yanyu, setting the Sea Lord on fire
Xiao Fa dumps the water of life on his head and jumps into the whirlpool, and finds himself in a spiritual battle with Renyu.
Wei Han arguing with the Sea Lord, telling him that his plan is bad for the spirits of the Empire, but vehement assertion doesn't seem sufficient to change the Sea Lord's mind, so he doesn't get very far.
Sei-Lin tells Kiri to wait on pushing her evacuation button until he can tell if the rest of the party is trying to evacuate.
Then, Xiao Fa finally bests Renyu in the chi battle, and Renyu is sucked down into the vortex. Light bursts forth from under his shirt, and the great Talisman of the Whale flies from Renyu to Kiri just before Renyu is lost.
Xiao Fa controls the whirlpool now, and the Sea Lord declares "contingency plan 5", evacuating his people to the east via a magical ship's wheel that was stored in one of the side rooms. Alas for the Dragon Army soldiers, that only magically evacuates the Sea Lord’s Marines, so the remainder surrender.
Sei-Lin takes Xiao Fa's victory as license for more looting, so he picks up another seven tael worth of coinage, and finds the Notes Room.
Kiri is pretty sure that if Xiao Fa can keep control of the whirlpool, she can help get the boat out of the Sea of Shadows. Sei-Lin, eyes still on all the prizes, asks Horse for a gift: a saddle that lets the rider and horse make all the same rolls.
Xiao Fa can get everyone out to *a* boat, but hasn't ever been on either the Yamato or the Sea Fox himself. Hmm. Kiri suggests that he think about the Moon's First Daughter, which he has been on.
- "Whatever you do, don't think about... never mind." -Kiri
Everyone, into the whirlpool!
- "Wait, what?" -Dragon Army guys
And, in fact, when everyone jumps into the whirlpool, they show up on the Moon's First Daughter, in the Sea of Storms. In the distance, the castle on the island starts to shake and fall, and the captain shakes his head.
- "Do not mess with the Maelstrom of Madness."
The ship sets sail, and also in the distance, other ships are also winging for home.
Storytelling and Bitter Recriminations
Sei-Lin reminds Horse that he promised to tell the story of how he was stranded on the island, once the rescue was successful.
- "So... you understand the mechanics...?" -Horse
- "No!" -Everyone
Well, they at least understand about the part where a number is rolled? Yes, they understand that much.
So... Wolf is "in charge" of the Arcade, and Horse is "in charge" of the Steppes. "In charge" is an overstatement, since actually the cycle spirits are in charge per se, but Wolf and Horse are doing all the work while they hold things together. It’s complicated. But basically, each country has three Cycle spirits maintaining their anti-northern mechanics, a guest spirit doing all of the scut-work to make things happen, and an enemy spirit of some kind. Oh, and human pawns of various varieties. It breaks down like this:
|Honeth Arcade||Qin Chao Steppes||Craneslake Heights||Shrouded Isle|
|The party||The Marked||Chochiro's team||Houses & Firelord|
|Agrinja the Ravener||Horja Hellscreamer||He Who Walks Behind||Ifrit|
- "So we decided to get together with some of the other aux spirits and discuss ways to um… optimize outcomes.. So we said, Whale, do you want to do this deal? Whale said he was busy, but they could come out here to him, and we could talk about it."
That was true, they could come out, but Whale didn't actually want to make the deal. And neither Wolf nor Horse know how to sail very well. They found all these fascinating things, how the worlds work etc. - but the Sea of Shadows, between the different worlds, is very Whaley. They got stuck. It was very embarrassing.
So, the party has a bunch of things from different worlds, yes?
People bring out their semi-mysterious items, and Horse and Wolf take a look.
The Rod of Flight is based on the magics of the far west. (It lets you fly.) The Flames of Faltine are hard to explain, they're based on the magics of the up-down lands. They're a one-use item - throw the globe at something you want very burnt. The DNA Resequencing Serum is from the damned Technocracy. Those are the ones that sunk the boat Horse and Wolf were on.
The scroll Yanyu found is a Scroll of Levitate, which is like flying but less good. The problem is wind. Also from the far west.
Sei-Lin's two potions are potions of Greater Healing: two 9d10 potions.
Sei-Lin, feeling, somewhat reasonably, that his focus on the treasure and the spirit gifts caused the run to be quite a lot more lucrative than it would have been if everyone focused on chopping, says that he would like to keep the saddle and the pickaxe or the rod of flight. Shen-Ji takes point on Party Loot for Everything, though Sei-Lin is unlikely to have access to the party loot for much longer. After some further discussion, Sei-Lin gets to keep the pickaxe and a share of the money, and everything else goes into party loot.
Shen-Ji tries to get Kiri to turn over her items to the party loot as well, since they went and rescued her and all, but she's firm that she's keeping them in exchange for getting everyone a ride home on the Moon's First Daughter. The reason she was caught by spiders, she notes, is that she didn't want the whole Dragon Navy to have Fog Ship powers, and objected enough that the Sea Lord decided she was a liability.
The Sea Lord's and Renyu's plan (according to the notes) was to capture the World Gyre and bind it to the Dragon Army, so they could appear on any waters of the Empire, including lakes and rivers. The Sea Lord's plan beyond that was to leverage it into becoming Obsidian Warlord (especially in the case that the Obsidian Warlord becomes Emperor and leaves a job opening.)
So... is Renyu toast? Kiri shrugs. That's up to Whale, but she got the Talisman, so that probably says something.
- "In the future, Whale's plans will be much less ridiculous." -Kiri