|"Whatever is not nailed down is mine and whatever I can pry loose is not nailed down."|| 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 Honeth Arcade
Rolling a Ten
Master Deng, Sei-Lin, Shen-Ji, Cai Wen, and Lijuan are relaxing at Tahiti, glad to not be still stuck in an interminable combat with kraken. Lijuan and Seilin requisition snacks from the butler.
Sei-Lin says he will be heading off soon, as he has sorted out his bargain with the Serpent and knows where the Strand is now. He'll be doing some more thiefing later, and plans to acquire the Necklace of the True Heart - does Cai Wen want right of first refusal on the necklace, or should he just sell it to Lady Jin? Of course Cai Wen wants right of first refusal, even if he ends up trading it to Lady Jin for political credit later. Sei-Lin is fine with that.
The group heads off to the no-longer-secret Benevolent Headquarters. At this point, the weapons check is just a formality, though no one decides to sneak any weapons in. Cai Wen announces that they are ready for another mission, and rolls a nine, which he bumps up to a ten with his shticks..
The Prince's eyes go blue and blue, as expected, and he intones "Illuminate the Invisible House." The group retreats to the map room, intrigued. Does this suggest "Illuminated Precincts"? With 24 successes on interpret omens: possibly yes, though the connection is small and maybe not relevant to the mechanic - but it could be another way in.
Cai Wen goes to the Harbor of Fortunate Arrival and looks for Inspector Li. He cheerfully informs her that he rolled a ten. (The last time they spoke, she was unable to investigate the sabotage in smuggling, and after some divination asking the Great Crane Spirit, had determined that the reason was that no one had rolled a 10, though she didn't know what that meant.) She is pleased to finally be able to work on the case.
Lijuan unveils her prophetic art:
While they wait for Cai Wen, the group is served snacks and tea. Sei-lin finds the snacks disappointing compared to those served by the House of Exuberant Interference, and starts wandering around the house. He soon finds that he is entering rooms just as an opposite door is closing behind him. It's like Lady Jin has the Crane Talisman! She keeps ducking him. He hangs out with some guards to card and dice with them, waiting to see if she comes back, but she does not.
Eventually, Cai Wen returns with Inspector Li, and everyone gathers in the map room.
- "You brought a cop?" -Sei-Lin, disgusted
- "You brought the Cat into Secret Headquarters?" -Inspector Li, disgusted
- "I've been here a lot more than you have."
- "We're going to have to get a more secret secret headquarters."
So... they need to find, or otherwise illuminate, the "invisible house". Inspector Li agrees that that would be one way to name it: the Invisible House of E-vil. Or at least the Invisible House of Crime. Sei-Lin is grumpy that there is an invisible house of crime that he doesn't know about. Inspector Li is grumpy that Cai Wen cheated at spirit dice to get a ten.
She explains that previously, when she tried to investigate, she would be tracking down leads as normal, but then they would interact with something that she couldn't put her finger on, and the leads would just dissipate.
Sei-Lin thinks about the question - he hasn't really tried fencing anything important in the Arcade yet. Obviously, he should know who to talk to. But he doesn't! If he had something, surely he'd know. But... he doesn't? Yet? It's a bit confusing.
Cai Wen looks at the various political maps and diagrams in the map room, looking for something that looks like a house-sized empty space, using True Minigames. Well, if they are not a Great House, then they would have to be confined to a single city. If they are a Great House, then they must have all four stats. However, if they are out there, one thing is clear: they have never rolled Military against the North, or even against anyone else in a way that would have left obvious damage. Weird, some of the maps seem completely unhelpful, like a map of the Arcade with no notes on it at all. (Almost as if the house being looked for in the maps is invisible!)
Inspector Li notes that this is just like last time. She figures that one of the servants is on the take and has wiped away the incriminating information - and, she is sure, left no trace as to who did it.
While inspector Li is out of the room, Sei-Lin suggests that he steal something good and fence it and then they see where that leads. Since the map room does not seem to be sufficient help, it seems that this may be the next best option. On her return, Inspector Li pinky swears with Sei-Lin that they'll work together on this one particular plan, and not thwart each other.
The party traipses off to the Harbor of Auspicious Voyage, where Cai Wen and Inspector Li get a nice room at the inn, and Sei-Lin considers who to burgle. There is a lot of argument between burgling the House of Judicious Increase and the House of Gainful Protection. The House of Judicious Increase will likely result in political fallout, but the House of Gainful Protection will have better guards and also Shen-Ji's sister works there.
- "There are seven other houses..." -Mike
The House of Judicious Increase it is! Sei-Lin decides to start at the top, and picks the manor house of the City Head of House.
With the Monkey Talisman, Sei-Lin is frighteningly stealthy. As he heads in through the side door, he hears two guards talking - contacts in the city say that one of the Great Houses is going to get hit today, so they need to be sharp on security.
Sei-Lin prowls cautiously into the house, listening at door and making sure to not go through if he can hear anyone on the other side. The central hallway in the house is somewhat fraught with peril, as there are guards to the south who can see the hallway, and he has to dash across while they aren't looking.
At this point, he thinks all of the biggest loot is still off to the east.
He ducks into the breakfast nook, and overhears a conversation.
- "My Lord, you wished to be apprised at the hour?"
- "Very well, shall I prepare it on the terrace?"
That sound promising, as if the lord of the house will be heading outside shortly.
Sei-Lin crosses to the far corridor and heads north, looking for any obvious loot options. When he checks again, he thinks that the political/blackmail loot is to the west, and the magical/valuable loot is to the south.
At this point, the rest of the party, hiding outside in the trees, notice that the guards are getting more alert.
Sei-Lin ducks into the lord's office, and looks briefly through the notes. The head of house in from the Port of Propitious Voyage has apparently been sent here to get him away from the war. His diary is a little cranky about that. Sei-Lin grabs it, and heads back out of the office.
Based on his triangulation, the loot is in a section of the building that Sei-Lin hasn't spotted a door into yet.
- "Maybe it's time to look for secret doors."
Having the Butterfly's own luck, Sei-Lin starts searching for secret doors at the secret door, and promptly heads into the loot room.
However, this appears to be the treasury rather than the magic items, which is no use to Sei-Lin at present.
- "I don't want 1000 li, that doesn't need fencing!" -Sei-Lin
The actual fenceable loot appears to still be to the north, through what proves to be another secret door. It takes a karma to find it, and the door is trapped, but Sei-Lin can get through both door and trap with work.
There are a lot of magic items in the back room, but the most valuable seem to be
- the Darkstone Ruby
- the Key to the Vault
- the Bracers of Pain
Sei-Lin grabs the Key to the Vault and the Darkstone Ruby, and gets ready to run. However, he thinks there is some sort of ... not a trap, but an alarm of some sort. He looks around for some way of disabling it, and finds a signout sheet on the desk. He buys a bunch of inherent forgery, and then signs the two items out using the name of the lord of the manor.
The guards outside start to look around more alertly, and Lijuan deploys Ho, who barks at some of the guards, providing enough of a distraction that Sei-Lin makes it out.
Sei-Lin and Master Deng head into town to look for somewhere to fence the Darkstone Ruby. Sei-Lin looks up some friends on the street, who direct him to the Hong brothers. They set up a meet for midnight - Sei-Lin and his guys can meet with one of the Hongs and his guys. Will Inspector Li be a problem? Nah - the Hong Brothers love talking to dirty cops.
The reference to the Hong Brothers sounds slightly familiar - there were a trio of three brothers who ran a huge crime syndicate years and years ago. But they all died in a big fight, as far as anyone can remember.
At midnight, the group heads to the Green Pod Teahouse, which is locked with a 24-success lock. (No amateurs need apply).
Sei-Lin explains that he has come into possession of this stone (he briefly shows the ruby), but there are other things he would rather have. Cai Wen adds that he would like to negotiate with the Invisible House on wider matters.
- "I'm not saying that there is an Invisible House, or that there is not one, but if you did want to talk to them, on behalf of who?"
- "My mandate is from the House of Benvevolent Oversight."
- "Oh, I'm sure they'd love to talk to us."
Cai Wen and Brother Hong chat further - did they intentionally become a Great House? Why, yes. Having a house wide chi stat is a lovely thing. Cai Wen suggests that if they're going to be a Great House, they are gonna have to play by Great House rules. Brother Hong doesn't think he’s gonna have to do anything, and Inspector Li begins to fume.
Cai Wen suggests that perhaps they could fully and openly join the mechanic, perhaps with a different focus? It's hard to have a monopoly on preying on the other houses. Brother Hong doesn't seem interested in pivoting his house into having a monopoly on fish or gambling or whatever, but does protest when his loyalty is impugned. They are loyal to the Arcade - they're just against the police and the guards and so on.
Well, at least, they'll have to start making MIL rolls, Cai Wen asserts. They say they have been helping - they've been smuggling supplies into Daizhou, for example. Especially all those cabbages.
AFter a bunch of wrangling, it comes down to it. When Brother Hong is offered the Darkstone Ruby in exchange for a Mil roll against the North, he is willing to take that deal.
How might they get in touch with the Invisible House in the future? Sei-Lin is a fine go-between, but he's on his way out. Well, they can stay in touch with Inspector Li.
There’s some discussion of if the Invisible house will be willing to indemnify the House of Exuberant Interference or vice versa in the event that the HJI discovers the location of the ruby, or who stole it. In the end nothing strong is agreed to, but Cai Wen does agree that HEI will come to HIH’s (House of the Invisible House?) defense should they come to take it down because of this.
Signalling the end of the meeting, Brother Hong throws Inspector Li a pouch of coins - "If you're going to be our person on the inside, you deserve a taste." She jumps to her feet, knocking over her chair, and is about to draw, but Cai Wen talks her down, and reframes it as exchanging gifts with a diplomatic envoy. She growls, and tosses the coins back. “Hey, if you want to be our person on the inside for free, we’re OK with that too.”
Business is concluded.
- "Usually we do a bit more of a song and dance, but you went straight to the top. Taking down the head of the House of Judicious Increase is serious business."
The group heads out, and looks more closely at the Key to the Vault. It's a blue item card, and appears to be spiritually forged or owned by Magpie. It doesn't yoshi Shen-Ji, though - he rates it as more powerful than the carriage, but less powerful than the Tortoise bracers. And it seems likely to be dear to Magpie.
Cai Wen puts the Key to the Vault in his holdout hat, so hopefully it will be a little harder to track down.Sei-Lin says goodbye, and takes his leave.