Lost and Found
|"The secret of two no further will go; the secret of three a hundred will know."|| The run takes place during the Month of the Spider in the third Year of the Spider since the crowning of Ti Lao.|
The run takes place on the Isle of Beauty
Finding the Secret Port
Kasumi and Shuyan are having tea in the tea tent, when outside, a voice says Psst to Xian, and suggests that he bring the other two out.
- "Hey, guys, how's it going?" -Horse
- "Greetings, Great Horse Spirit" -Shuyan
- "Ooh, I like you."
Do they need anything? He'd be happy to carry them off to some distant land to do great and horsey things.
- "There was that thing in the Roof of the World that we forgot..." -Xian
- "I told Laura at lunch today there was a twenty percent chance the run would be about something totally different..." -Mike
But, no, the group says - they have a lot of exciting things to do in the Butterfly Kingdom. Horse agrees that it does seem to be full of all sorts of interesting things going on. He also notes for the future, that he's going to have to be more clear upfront about the exact circumstances allowable for calling in favors in the future. As an example, arranging for a ride from Horse is going to be more expensive if the party is in the middle of running from barbarians.
Horse put off, the group heads back into the tea tent, and discusses what exactly they want to do about the Secret Port. Kasumi is the one most concerned, as secret ports seem very Spidery. So if the Prince wants the secret port as a seahorse base, that makes the seahorses more spidery - could they somehow manage to Butterfly it up? Make it prettier and more impressive, so it's more Butterfly/Horse than Spider/Horse?
Step One is to scout out the secret port! But as it turns out, none of the three of them have been there before, or have a good sense of where it is. That is something of a drawback to the plan.
Step Zero is implemented instead - Kasumi heads to the traditional eavesdropping spot in the Gardens of Harmonious Contemplation, to see if the Prince wanders by to talk to himself. He does not, but after a while, two of the gardeners wander by. One is scolding the other - they need to get a lot of trimming and replanting done before the Prince gets back from the south shore.
Well, that's a direction to head in, so the group heads southwards along the coast. Not far south of the Harbor of Shining Reflections is a section of shore where the seahorses seem to be being trained. There are a number of men out in the water with the seahorses, and the Prince seems to be supervising. This doesn't seem to be a very secret area, though, and there aren't as many seahorses here as Kasumi expects.
The prince waves, and waves them over, though there's a moment of caution and second-guessing himself that he quickly masks. He asks them if they're out for a picnic, and if they like the lovely seahorses. Kasumi asks what happened to the riding whales, and Ti Jun explains that that turned out to be simply a confusion of nomenclature - it turns out they're the same creature. Xian admits the confusion was understandable, as they did look like riding whales to him. The Prince can sympathize with Xian's confusion, but assures him that they are all seahorses.
Is this the first time the Isle of Beauty has had cavalry? Well, there were once mounted troops, the Prince notes, but they weren't part of the army, more like the police force. They rode between the three major cities, but didn't use the horses tactically, just for transportation. This will be different - not only the Isle's first cavalry, but the first "sea cavalry" anywhere.
Xian contemplates what was up with the flash of caution when he waved them over. Probably it was that he waved first, then wondered if he should be talking to them, but then decided he shouldn't look like he shouldn't be talking to them. But he doesn't totally trust them to not say anything secret to him, which is why he leapt into the small talk.
The group watches the training area, keeping an eye on the seahorses. They go out to sea and back in again, but at one point, a guy comes in with two seahorses who they are pretty sure were not here before. So they're occasionally being brought from somewhere else. Perhaps he could be followed back to the secret port! However, he's travelling via ocean, so that might be tricky. Perhaps he can be followed later on foot, if he walks back to the other seahorse area.
- "If Li Merit was here, he would look for where their supplies are coming from, so I do that." -Kasumi
However, there aren't any big loads of supplies coming in. Watching the people, the guy who brought in the two horses does look like he's somewhat in charge - he's giving orders to some of the others, though he takes direction from the Prince. Well, he probably knows something, then.
Eventually, the operation closes for the evening, the sea horses are penned up, and many of the people involved start heading home. Kasumi sneaks after the two guys who seem to be the Prince's lieutenants. They head back to the capital and to a bar where they get a table in the corner and chat (eavesdropped upon by Kasumi). They mention whether to go to the pen or the port tomorrow, but don't say much else about seahorses.
- "We're going to need the hat soon. Where's the hat?" -Mike
- "We're actually doing this right?" -Cael
How else can they find the port? It's probably being built up by a handful of trusted people, not by random day laborers. But they still probably need materials from somewhere. The pen on the south shore is made from fishing nets and wooden floats, though, so it's not like these are rare materials.
Xian vaguely remembers that people in Information Hunt mentioned that the port was somewhere off to the northeast, so the next morning, they meander in a northeasterly direction. A hay wagon passes them going one direction, and a beet wagon going the other. There is some discussion as to whether behaving like true Butterflies requires them to jump into the hay wagon and hide under the hay, or possibly follow the beets.
- "There's a long tradition about cabbages being plotworthy, like boats being cursed. There's nothing about beets!" -Kasumi
Shuyan spots the two lieutenants riding seahorses northwards along the coast, far out to sea, but chasing after them only leads to a cliff that can't be crossed, and the trail is a dead end.
Kasumi suggests going to House Tokai and talking to Takanata's butler and asking to borrow a boat. Takanata's butler, at Takanata's house, is actually in the capital, not out in the Tokai lands, so there is some initial confusion, and Xian expresses general bafflement as to why trying random things is helpful. Kasumi explains that flailing around randomly is actually a very Butterfly way of finding answers.
- "The important thing is to keep flapping." -Kasumi
Takanata's butler arranges for the three to take out a launch, but as it turns out, none of them has any skill at all in boats. As the sun starts going down, they are rescued by some passing fishermen and towed back to the Harbor of Shining Reflections.
Kasumi suggests getting a ride with some fishermen the following day and seeing where they go, but Xian protests - this seems to him like forcing the Butterfly. Kasumi notes that fishermen are explorers of the ocean, going all sorts of random places, but the other two think that just because they don't know where fishermen go, that doesn't make it random. Don't they go where fish are? They're not really Sea Explorers. Kasumi thinks Shuyan and Xian are terrible drags.
As a different, possibly more successful, method, Kasumi follows one of the two lieutenants from the Harbor, and gets a little ways to the northeast before losing them. She goes back to get the other two, and everyone hides in the bushes to wait for more potential seahorse workers to pass them to follow. Xian manages to blend into the group of workers with Ally of Obscurity, and between that and Kasumi's stealth, the group is able to actually reach the secret port.
Okay, now what? Was there a further plan? The group is briefly at a loss. The seahorse pens being built here look more solid, with poles being sunk into the seabed, and things covered with brush and painted in earth and water tones. The mouth of the cove has two overlapping peninsulas, so from the sea, it will probably look like unbroken coastline unless you look closely.
Well... now what? Could they figure out something to do to decorate it in a more Butterfly, less Spider fashion? A really nice lighthouse, or a really big horse statue on the peninsula?
Kasumi suggests that they stick around in case someone does something nefarious, in which case the party could leap in and get them. However, Xian is not keen on sitting in a tree near the secret port all night. Kasumi complains - it's not reasonable for Xian to veto her idea if he doesn't have a different one, so he says they should look into commissioning a giant horse statue. Kasumi also notes that Xian could send a dream to the artist to Inspire him, making it extra artistic, or extra near the secret port, or something.
Shuyan mentions giant engravings of horses on the cliff, as an alternative to a giant statue. That could work too.
Finding the Secret Port Again
The group heads back to the capital, and asks around about the local artists. It sounds like the best candidate for a sculptor is Myeon Kyu, originally known as a wood carver but quite versatile in other sculptures. Kasumi vaguely recalls that they spent a whole night staking out this guy's room. He was the frontrunner in the competition to become the Master of Perfected Distinction before Yoshi inspired Katsuo Narina.
Xian notes that before he can send Myeon Kyu an inspirational dream, he should see what the port looks like from the sea side. They should be able to hire someone, right? Maybe they could arrange for a seahorse watching cruise? The trio finds a captain of a small junk who is willing to take them on a three hour tour of the coast of the Isle of Beauty. However, when they try to reach the port again, their memories of how to get there are a little fuzzy.
- On the correct path to the secret port, how many tiles are there? Kasumi says four (five is correct).
- On the correct path to the secret port, how many tiles are green? Xian says three? (nope, two is correct)
So while it is a nice tour, they do not run across anything that looks like it could be the coastal side of the secret port, and they are beginning to think they don't correctly remember where it is. Kasumi thinks there is probably some sort of Secret Mojo on it, though Xian just thinks they're no good at remembering.
Shuyan turns on her "see as snakes do" shtick, which lets her see the warm-blooded sea horses under water, and try to see where they might be congregating. That gets them a bit of a clue.
Xian asks about where the Northern ship was last year when the undead attacked. The captain definitely remembers the undead, but doesn't think they arrived in ships. Now he's more confused.
- "I didn't know that all barbarians were undead. I thought some of them were people!"
- "I don't understand what our cover story is here..." -Kasumi
Continuing on her "try anything, as long as it's random", Kasumi goes to her best guess at near the port, and spins around and around until she's dizzy, and then points in a direction, shouting "Ta-Dah" and rolling her Tao. Then the group goes in that direction for a while. Giving into the craziness, Xian tries to read Kasumi's I Ching, and reads:
Magic must defeat magic
Only an apprentice can pluck the pebble from the master's hand.
Riches are needed to dispossess the wealthy.
Only the spider can safely tread on the web.
There is normally truth is this.
Okay, so ninjas can beat spiders. But how does that work as far as finding the port? Does that mean she can cheat? Has she already been cheating?
The group continues to traipse around the coast of the Isle of Beauty, looking for construction people, and anything else they can find to give them clues. Eventually, after nearly getting back to where they started, they find the port. This time, the Prince is there, supervising.
Shuyan disguises Xian as a worker. That, plus his shtick, should make him able to fool everyone but the Prince, but, luckily, the Prince is leaving since it’s getting to be late in the day. Shuyan disguises herself to look like a lost hiker, putting leaves in hair and tearing her blouse artfully. But nobody spots her hidden in the trees, so the imposture is not needed.
Xian, working to install pens, does his best to get the idea of how the secret port seems, artistically and spiritually, and then the group retreats again. Xian sends a dream to Myeon Kyu, playing up the idea of Great Horse Art, especially on top of dramatic coastal peninsulas. Like that one.
This time, they are more successful in remembering where the cove is, in part because of Xian's meditation.
- How many colors are on the path? Four
- How many tiles have rocks on them? Two (Kasumi helps Xian with this)
- How many tiles are there total? 10 (Shuyan helps Kasumi with this)
Then, Xian goes to pitch the plan to the Large Horse Spirit. The Isle of Beauty is known for its art, and horses are certainly majestic. So any sort of collaboration between the Butterfly Kingdom and a grand Horse spirit should include horse-themed art on a grand scale. Horse wonders who would be worthy of making such a thing, but luckily, Xian has already thought of someone! Horse is impressed - he's got a whole plan?
Well, it's not so much of a plan as an offer. And he's certainly open to suggestions to make it better. With his persuasive Voice and natural persuasion, he does his best to talk the Horse into this plan, and is fairly successful. Horse notes that now is a good time to go in for making a masterwork of art, since the last masterwork art made on the Isle was cursed. Anyhow, he offers them two horse points for every tael used to underwrite the project.
Xian was saving money for his sisters, so Kasumi and Shuyan put in half a tael each, as no one feels right spending party funds on it.
- "I think Li Merit set some guidelines, but the email was really long." -Xian
Shuyan goes to Myeon Kyu, impersonating a Lady of Means who wishes to commission a dramatic public work of art of a horse, and gives him a tael to begin his work. With just a tael, it'll be grand, but not epic. (So, Lord Nelson's Column, not the Argonaths). Myeong Kyu seems taken with this idea, and has some inspiration as to the sort of place it should be put.
That seems likely to accomplish the "butterfly-ication" of the secret port, though it will take a while. There is some worry that the port will just vanish or move, though, as it seems to the trio that it moved around while they were trying to find it.
- "You defeated the mojo of the secret port with the mechanic." -Mike to Kasumi
- "I'm still not sure there was any mojo. We were just incompetent and barely managed to avoid dying in the woods or at sea." -Xian
- "I'm proud to have been a part of this... gaudy horse statue... out in the middle of nowhere. I can't think of a wiser investment." -Xian