|"A dream you dream alone is only a dream.
A dream you dream together is reality."
| The run begins in the late Month of the Dog in the Tenth Year of the Dog since the Third Treaty of Houses.|
The run takes place muchly near Xiulon Field
Fussing with Items
When last we saw our heroes, they were at Tahiti, as has become expected. Merit looks around for the butler in case a plot is about to be delivered. Sure enough, there is a messenger who wants to speak privately to Merit. He turns out to be from the Q Division of the White Lotus - he's a specialist in high-level detects and figuring out subtleties. At Merit’s request, he produces a pair of spectacles and looks through them at the Amulet of Kali. Meanwhile, Merit looks covetously at the pair of spectacles.
The specialist agrees that the amulet is definitely sort of more "anti-Kali" than "Kali" aligned, but technically it is not a question of withstanding her attack, so much as that the amulet will cause it to not be by the time it gets to the wearer. It is focused not on her herself, but her attacks. Though, he thinks that if the amulet were directly embedded inside her - well, it would not destroy her but it might stop her being able to attack at all.
- "He makes a lot of distinction between very close synonyms." -Mike
Merit decides that the specialist is competent to take the amulet back to the shop. Does he want an escort? The specialist ponders that question longer than most people would. Merit loans him the "what happens next?" shtick, and he decides to not take the escort. He leaves with the amulet.
The butler brings everyone lunch, and then it is time to proceed to the Somewhat Obscure Headquarters and roll the Dice of Doom.
An 8 is rolled, and the Magpie Prince announces portentously "Fulfill the commander's request". Merit carefully phrases a suggestion that they should look at the map room so as to avoid triggering a second mission, and the group heads to the map room.
Intelligence analysis on the contents of the room provides a deep, yet curiously insubstantial understanding of the state of the country: instead of a list of facts, it is a set of one-shot points in KS: Honeth Arcade. It is as if the papers have been assigned value but don't contain any actual value. But they can be used to get value. It's very odd.
Similarly, when Master Zhou studies the map, he sees the location of all of the military units scattered around in the obvious places. However rather than a list, he gets 10 one-use skill points in KS: War Effort.
Lijuan shows everyone her prophetic art.
Master Zhou reminds everyone that Lijuan drew the art before the dice were rolled, but it will probably become relevant anyway.
The group heads to the Port of Propitious Voyage, where Commander Yao's headquarters is. They begin to notice that passersby are pointing at them = in particular, pointing at Lijuan. Merit slips into an alley to disguise himself, and mingles with the crowd. They are excitedly talking to each other - is that him? Should they try to claim the reward? Merit asks who they're talking about. The martial arts master, or the sorcerer? No, no, the dog! Merit is baffled. He returns to the group, and briefs Lijuan, who is also baffled. She stole her dog from House Zhen three years ago - why would they be fussing about it now? Zhuai hurriedly protests - don't blame Siew/Zhen for this.
- "Maybe we could go to collect the reward and kill them all."
The party ducks into a different alley to disguise Ho, while Shuyan blocks the entrance with a distracting snake dance. She's quite distracting, and claims not to have seen any dogs, so she keeps them away from the group, and ends up leading them on a snake-juggling parade. While they are all out and about, the dog catching peasants show Shuyan the wanted poster: there is a two tael reward offered for the return of the Vice Mayor's dog.
Everyone realizes that they have forgotten to squabble over the party loot, and who gets which Talismans. (This whole virtual running thing has everyone somewhat discombobulated.) Since Kuan-Xi is here, a quick side trip is made back to Tahiti in the little carriage to pick up some more party items.
Merit talks to his Dragon Army contact. Does Commander Yao need anything? Other than to defeat the North? Well, he has been sending teams on missions. Ahah! Merit says he will be bringing some folks over to get a mission.
Lijuan chats with some local urchins, but while they know about the reward, they don't know why there is such a large reward being offered for the dog. Obviously, because it's the best dog ever.
After some more gathering information, people begin to learn (and remember) that at present, the Vice Mayor is running the city because the Mayor and Commander Yao were injured in a werewolf attack, but were saved by the Vice Mayor's dog, which turned out to be Ho. Is this the plot? There's some discussion of how to sort out the attacks, or investigate the vice mayor, until Kuan-Xi recollects that Ho saving the Vice Mayor happened off screen in a previous run, so it's probably not the immediate plot.
Merit manages to extract Shuyan from the snake-watching dogcatchers, and she points out the poster with the reward for Ho. It's quite obviously Ho, and is a very well done and evocative sketch. Hmm.
Once regrouped (and with Ho disguised), the group heads to Dragon Army headquarters. Merit's status is only sufficient to get a meeting with Commander Yao the following afternoon, so Lijuan suggests that Lord Foon pull rank and get everyone in. This works, though Zhuai looks vaguely displeased to have used the shtick.
Commander Yao is walking with a cane and a limp, but is up and around. He raises an eyebrow - is there another world-ending disaster to be dealt with?
- "Yes, but we're here to fulfill your request."
Well, if they have some spare time, he suggests that the party deal with the zombies near Xiulon Field. He is grateful that they recovered the code book, but when they burned the uniforms to keep the undead from infiltrating our ranks, that just left a bunch of naked zombies with swords and hats running around the area.
Master Zhou, suspicious, wonders with Interpret Omens if this is the run plot. Yes, it seems to be.
This seems fairly straightforward, so they head northwards in the little carriage to an area nearby Xiulon Field, where Master Zhou recalls from the map that there are a lot of zombies.
The carriage parks in the corner of the battlemap, and Master Zhou looks around. He hears a stick hitting a rock, and sneaks up to see a zombie standing behind a rock, much like in Lijuan's picture.
Elsewhere on the map, there appear to be three major groups of zombies, and three necromancers controlling them.
Shen-Ji has been waiting for ages for the chance to firestorm the whole map, and he does so with enthusiasm. However, in addition to all of the zombies taking damage, so does the little carriage, the dog, and the panda. (The carriage horse, on the other hand, does not.)
Master Zhou and Kuan-Xi pummel one of the necromancers, and Lijuan shoots him. That is sufficient to take him down, but when he dies, he reincarnates in the place of a zombie. Okay, that just means finishing the battle will require taking out all the zombies, and not just the necromancers. The party is itching for a good fight, and feels up to the challenge.
However, since Shen-Ji's firestorm is the most effective anti-zombie technology currently available, Lijuan shoos Ho and Kawaii into the carriage, and it takes off towards the Port of Propitious Voyage.
A lot of zombie punching, firebolting, waterbolting, shooting, and chopping ensues.
Merit wonders whether healing magic damages zombies. After some consideration, he thinks that it depends on the type of healing. The wand of healing, which is the thing he currently has, will probably just heal them. Other more esoteric effects, like Chi healing, or life magic, might do something else. Shuyan's healing-via-snakebite might not do anything.
After a lot more zombie punching, firebolting, waterbolting, and shooting, the last of the red zombies falls, and the red necromancer can no longer resurrect himself. He looks a lot more decrepit, and the group pounces. However, when he goes down, he explodes into a strange deathly miasma.
Luckily, most of the damage has been at range, and Master Zhou and Kuan-Xi have both been knocking the bad guys across the map, so when the necromancer explodes, nobody is inside the horrible miasma.
Several zombies charge through the miasma, and grow to a scary size as they travel through it, but they exit again and shrink back to normal just before hitting Shen-Ji.
With a lot more careful knocking back and targeted zombie killing, the zombies and the necromancers are finally defeated, without hitting anyone with the miasma.
- "The next group that rolls an 8 is going to have to come up here and clean up the miasma."
Into the Miasma
Shen-Ji investigates the miasma, and concludes that it is much like necromantic power hovering in the air to cast a spell, but without anyone directing it. He thinks it could be absorbed, or directed.
Kuan-Xi experiments by pouring some ultrapure water through the miasma. It doesn't seem to wash it away, but neither does she get corrupted. Speaking of which, people notice the streams flowing through the area where the miasma is - water enters, but the streams are flowing with blood on the way out.
Shen-Ji guesses that he can dispel the miasma, but at a cost of a lot of corruption points. On the other hand, with the Bloodspear he has, he could soak up the necromantic power, and possibly get some northern stats (or, at least, life/death stats) to play around with. He dips the Bloodspear in the first pool, and the necromantic power is sucked in. The spear now radiates a palpable aura of doom, and Shen-Ji, holding it, is obviously a necromancer of great fearsomeness.
Hmm. Getting rid of the toxic waste by turning Shen-Ji into a full-on necromancer isn't popular with anyone else, so Kuan-Xi summons Anto to see if he can help. Anto says he really isn't a great expert in necromancy, but he agrees that looks bad. He can't just make it go away, but he could help with transferring it elsewhere. Possibly it could be traded to the North? Or given to some sort of a spirit or demon of death?
Nobody thinks giving it to a Northern spirit/demon (except maybe Hana) is a good idea. Merit thinks about what might happen if an Empire spirit were to absorb the miasma. In order to absorb it, it would have to be already inclined towards a nature of that kind. It would end up being somewhat corrupted - nothing as simple as corruption points, but its nature would be warped towards the North, or towards necromancy. It wouldn't become loyal to the North, but it would be more Northern-ish.
Well, if the north is out, maybe the South? Master Zhou suggests Yama.
- "Even I think that's a bad idea." -Shen-Ji
Hmm. On the other hand, it does seem somewhat practical. Necromancy is a combination of life and death, and Yama is interested in death, so he might take the death out of it, leaving a miasma of life. "Miasma of life" sounds a lot better. How could that be bad? And the power in these two pools would probably be worth a favor.
Merit thinks about the idea as well. Yama is definitely lawful, and should abide by any bargain that was made. Summoning him is probably easy, with the Wu-Xing here and Shen-Ji's ability to contact Yama.
Well, maybe it's not actually a bad idea. At any rate, it seems to be a better solution than any of the others so far.
Having come to an agreement, Anto and Shen-Ji work together to call Yama, and open a portal to where he is.
Everything gets really still and quiet, and Yama steps from behind a tree. He seems taller now than he has been in the past, and everyone is struck by the realization of how easily they could be killed. Yama looks at the miasma, looks at Shen-Ji, raises an eyebrow.
- "My lord, I think you have evaluated the situation." -Shen-Ji
- "What is it you seek?" -Yama
- "We offer you all the death here."
- "But what do you expect?"
- "A favor, for the future."
- "Who claims ownership of this death?" -Yama
- "I guess I do at the moment..." -Shen-Ji
Yama looks around to see if anyone objects to Shen-Ji's claim. No one does. Then, he extends his hands, and the horrible miasma of necromancy shifts into an... insistent miasma of life.
Now, laying in the center of each of the two circles, is a necromancer, starting to moan and wake up. Shen-Ji leaps into one pool to drag the necromancer out, and Master Zhou drags the other out.
- "One favor. For the future."
Shen-Ji thanks him, and Master Zhou gives a fist-in-the-hand bow. Then Yama and Anto clasp hands and vanish again.
The pools of Life are beginning to fade, so things seem mostly wrapped up here. The two necromancers get tied up, though since all of their death stat has been drained, they're kind of powerless. Master Zhou cleanses some of his own corruption, and then cleanses some of Shen-Ji's (but does him Imperial corruption in the process).
Merit wraps the Bloodspear in a sheet - now it's a menacing sheet, but nobody is obviously a necromancer any more. The captive necromancers can probably be prodded into walking, but they are unlikely to be convinced to make stealth rolls on the way out of the North. So they get knocked out again, and carried.
Master Zhou takes point on the stealth, and the group manages to escape back into friendly territory.
The captives are given to Commander Yao, who plans to interrogate them quite extensively. He agrees to let the party ask their own questions as well, during puttering.
When searched, one of them is found to have a small pouch filled with eight orange stones. They don't appear to be magic, and after some more investigation, they turn out to be hardened amber. They aren't smooth and polished, but scuffed and hard to see through. Shen-Ji has some jewelsmithing, so he polishes them up. Seven are clear, smooth, and shiny, and one has a couple of bugs in it. They're probably valuable.
No one can think of any obvious use of amber in necromancy, so the fact that there's a dead bug in one is clearly suspicious. Maybe Yama already absorbed all the death-power out of them, so that's why they aren't magical? It is a mystery (though it seems to match another part of Lijuan's sketch!)
So... where is the little carriage, and where are Ho and Kawaii?
Kuan-Xi locates the carriage behind City Hall. Kawaii and Ho aren't in it, though. Shen-Ji burns his reputation to get into City Hall with his entourage. The group finds Kawaii guarding the Vice-Mayor's office, and Ho is inside the office, undisguised, and with a key to the city hanging from his collar again.
A conversation at cross-purposes ensues, in which the Vice Mayor wants to give Kuan-Xi the two tael reward for returning her lost dog, and Lijuan wants to take her dog and go. Apparently Ho is a key to the war effort, having been able to identify werewolves when no one else can.
- "If Ho wants to live with me, I would like him to live with me. We've been through a lot together." -Lijuan
Ho certainly seems inclined to go with Lijuan, but the Vice Mayor would like him to stay long enough to understand his powers of detection. Lijuan is dubious - they aren't going to dissect him, are they? The Vice Mayor is horrified at the idea.
- "It's settled, then! I'll stay here and help you with your werewolf detection project." -Lijuan
After a good Charisma roll, it is in fact settled. The Vice Mayor is beginning to understand that Ho was Lijuan's dog before he was her dog, but she seems to have a very strong blind spot about the idea of whose dog he is now.Everyone else returns to Tahiti for a nice dinner.