Night of Gates V
|"If you play the pipes, you must listen to the song."|| The run takes place on the Day of the Spider in the Month of the Spider in the twelfth Year of the Magpie since the Forest Wind changed direction.|
The run takes place in Lijuan's new house and in the World Above.
Most of the House of Exuberant Interference is still in the Arcade, but Lijuan has gone off to meet Zhuai, who has acquired an estate in the Forest of Chin for the two of them. The party is invited to a housewarming party, in a few days. Shortly after they leave, the Royal Astrologer announces that "in a few days" will be the Night of Gates. Well, that could be a problem. And, it's on the Day of the Spider. Takanata thinks that Zhuai should know better than that, but then, he is touched by the Spider, so he might not be as paranoid about it.
The group heads out the next day for the housewarming party, and considers if they should bring any circus employees with them. Or Bobby Li!
- "Best night of gates ever!"
On the theory that sometimes you should bring someone who isn't Mondo, Takanata summons Bian Meiling.
As the group reaches the Forest of Chin, there are many people leaving it, who warn them to not go in, and if they must go in, to get behind closed doors before nightfall.
Takanata draws some art:
The twelve large houses plus four small ones could be the Cycle plus Whale, Horse, Wolf, and Dragon, but it's not clear which the two "bad" houses are, especially if they're Spider and Phoenix. Master Zhou thinks that it's probably the Cycle, but the order isn't invariant, which makes everyone even more concerned - does that mean that this is the run to change the entire Cycle?
The group reaches the clearing where Zhuai's invitation map has indicated they should go. Wei Han notes that the house is well defensible, on a hill with good sightlines. Takanata tries to figure out if it is House Foon or House Siew, but there is no sign outside. The group wonders if possibly the Cartogramancer could have messed with Zhuai's map; Shen-Ji doesn't see any signs of that, but he's not a cartogramantic expert.
House on the Hill
The group knocks on the door, and the door creaks spookily open, but there doesn't seem to be anyone there. Wei Han shouts for Lijuan, and there's a rustling from inside.
- "I'm trying to decide how blonde I'm feeling." -Shuyan
Wei Han goes in, and starts figuring out the "House on the Hill" mechanic.
Master Zhou finds the gardens, and triggers an "Angry Being." Out of the wall strides the ghost of Zhuai. He looms over Master Zhou as he declaims ominously.
- "Where were you? Where were you all?" -Zhuai
Master Zhou considers laying him to rest with his new shtick, but settles for asking Zhuai's ghost what occurred.
- "This is one of the few places in the house where nothing occurred." -Zhuai
Then, Zhuai's ghost vanishes into the wall again.
Shen-Ji finds a ballroom, and sees a spooky image in a large mirror. In the mirror, he sees himself building a ritual circle, putting pieces of spirit essence in a multi-pointed star. The Shen-Ji in the mirror looks at the "real" Shen-Ji, and tells him to pass the death-be-gone to him. Shen-Ji passes his vials of death-be-gone over, and peers through the mirror at the ritual. It looks like it only has a little necromancy in it; it's much more of a world-walking ritual.
Xian joins Wei Han on the landing, on the theory that Wei Han will be able to protect her from most things found in haunted houses.
Xiao Fa discovers the library, with two skeletons: a woman and a baby. They aren't moving, but they are still pretty creepy. Xiao Fa manages to not run away, and searches them to find a skeleton key. He has the immediate option of spending up to seven karma to instantiate the key; he asks Dragon if he should spend seven, and Dragon thinks yes. Xiao Fa pockets the world's awesomest skeleton key.
Min Feng joins Xiao Fa in the library, and searches the books. She finds a book on politics, and gets +5 to All Politics until the beginning of the next run.
Shuyan finds the Junk Room, and the ghost of Zhuai comes out of the wall again. Again, he looms over her and speaks ominously.
- "This is one of the places they did the ritual. They started with the smaller spirits. They had taken things from their various realms, things that must be returned." -Zhuai
Shuyan finds a "wolf omen" (a sort of indistinct spirity energy) in the junk room. More will probably need to be found.
Takanata and Bian wander through a dusty hallway into a patio, where plaster falls from the walls and ceiling. Bian dodges, but Takanata gets buried in debris. Bian shouts for Wei Han, who gets the next action and is able to get Takanata out.
Master Zhou finds the kitchen, and acquires a Tortoise omen. Zhuai appears again.
- "Once they had enough smaller spirits, they moved on to the larger ones. They must have acquired it at the source. Find all the ones they used, though one is more important than the others."
Shen-Ji finds the dining room, and a Tiger omen, and Zhuai appears again (he seems to appear as part of all the "omens").
- "This is where the combat began. We were setting up the refreshments when they stormed the house."
Shen-Ji asks if Zhuai knows where Shen-Ji was when he was doing the ritual in the mirror, but Zhuai is confused. Shen-Ji wasn't here, and hasn't done a ritual (yet).
Xian picks up the Fox omen, and Zhuai makes another spooky appearance.
- "There were many of them, and they were not what they seemed to be, but they had just returned from the realms of the spirits." -Zhuai
- "Is the cryptic part really necessary?" -Xian
- "They were demons from below!" -Zhuai
Xiao Fa finds a Secret Passage, which just takes him elsewhere on the ground floor. Shuyan finds a blood-covered room, and spends seven karma on a protective charm bracelet.
Takanata finds an ancestor shrine to the Foons and Siews, but some horrible noises make it too distracting to meditate at. Bian plugs his ears with silk, and he offers prayers to their ancestors.
Wei Han finds the attic, and is, luckily, immune to possession from the new ghost that appears.
Master Zhou finds a room where the floor has collapsed, and falls into the basement. There, he finds a pentagram and a Snake omen.
- "This is where they did it. This is the only place it can be undone." -Zhuai
Xian finds a room where Lijuan's screams still echo, making it rather disturbing.
Xiao Fa finds a burnt room, and the Monkey omen.
- "By this time they were desperate; I made her hide, because I knew they couldn't stay much longer." -Zhuai
- "Who?" -Xiao Fa
- "Lijuan, of course. This was all about finding Lijuan." -Zhuai
Min Feng finds people (or ghosts) hanging from the rafters in the Conservatory; one body falls, and she avoids choking. Shuyan discovers the Organ Room, and plays on the organ for a bit, making horrible sounds heard in the basement. Luckily, Master Zhou is able to resist the horrible noises.
Wei Han finds the the Servant's quarters, where he finds the Bear Omen.
- "This is where they found her. I should have expected her to hide in the servant's quarters - she was always like that." -Zhuai
- "Where did they take her?" -Wei Han
- "To the world above! Where you must follow her! Do the ritual! Now!" -Zhuai
The house begins to shake, and people start running for the hole in the floor leading to the basement.
Master Zhou thinks the walls between the worlds are thin here, and someone did a ritual to tear them further asunder. When the sun rises and the night of gates ends, things will likely reassert themselves.
Min Feng finds the graveyard, where mysterious footsteps approach her and then vanish, leaving her suspiciously buff. (Xiao Fa will later note that there is something very wrong with Min Feng, but he can't figure out what).
Shuyan finds the Spider omen.
- "Why are you making things more difficult?" -Zhuai
Takanata wonders whether he will be happier if he cheats to get another omen, or just goes to the ritual. Probably the latter. Bian lowers them both through the hole on silks.
Master Zhou helps Shen-Ji set up the ritual. It might kill people without some death-be-gone,which Shen-Ji no longer has, but Xian has some. With a lot of help and a little karma, Shen-Ji successfully makes the ritual roll, and the group passes through to the World Above.
The party swirls through the swirling vortex, and lands in a little grassy plain. There's a hill, with a hole leading into it, and several wolves lounging in front of the hole. When the group arrives, the wolves stand up and growl. Shuyan offers the Wolf omen to the wolves, but they just growl at her some more. The growl seems to indicate that the omen has to be delivered into the wolf's den, but they aren't willing to let her in. Shuyan puts the spirit essence on the ground, and they sniff at it, but that doesn't seem to be sufficient.
- "Show strength!" -Master Zhou
- "'Show strength' could be it." - Takanata
- "Spend a yin, that's not true." -Mike
Shuyan tries a mesmerizing snake dance, which actually mesmerizes the nearby people more than the wolves, but everyone watches her dance. The Wolf omen doesn't move, though. Xian picks it up, and uses Puppy Dog Eyes on the wolves to convince them to not attack her, and she is able to go in and return the omen to Wolf's pack.
Leaving Wolf's domain, the worldwalking ritual swirls the group to Serpent's domain, where everyone (except Shuyan) is wrapped in the coils of a snake. Shuyan is in a nice little room, having tea with the White Snake Spirit.
- "So, what brings you here?"
- "Well, it's the Night of Gates, and we have stumbled upon some items that need to be returned." -Shuyan
- "Returned? That's a pleasant change from earlier."
Min Feng, wearing the Monkey Talisman, can easily escape from a coil, and pokes at one of the mounds of dirt between coils. She finds a secret: her position in Bear Mountain is being tarnished.
Master Zhou escapes his snake coil with some kung fu (and karma), and heads to Shuyan's room to return the Serpent omen. The White Snake Spirit notes that those who took it appeared to be "trick and treaters", but they were disguised, and took something that they weren't supposed to have. Master Zhou gives it back, and the White Snake Spirit says she will give it to the Mistress upon Her return. Takanata takes the opportunity to arrive, and ask after the dragon who was recently in her care. She notes that it was recently in her captivity, but it has escaped.
Shuyan suggests that since they've been so nice as to return the spirit energy, they should get their friends back. The White Snake allows - for the returning of a thing, they may take a thing. Choose wisely. Shuyan uses Boss Snake to pull rank, and the White Snake says that if she wishes to play that way, then she will give Shuyan an extra one, but Shuyan must give her an extra one for the secret that has already been stolen, so it is even again.
Master Zhou asks after the Viridian Queen. There is a secret that they know, that they don't know if she can know. Can Serpent know it? The White Snake Spirit believes that the secret would be in Her realm, even if it was shielded from Her.
Shuyan frees Xian and Xiao Fa, and Wei Han can free himself. That leaves only Shen-Ji, who can be pulled out by everyone working together.
They leave for the next realm, and swirl to…
The group stands in a vast library, with shelves upon shelves of books. Some... people?... are sorting the books, and reshelving others. Looking around, they appear to be in the Arrivals section, and there are arrows directing them towards the Acquisitions desk. The desk worker at Acquisitions suggests that they want Returns, rather than Acquisitions, and directs them there, where the group returns the Tortoise Omen.
That seemed a little too easy. Some pondering suggests that getting in is easy enough, but wanting to leave can be difficult; this provokes the spirits into realizing that they are mortals in the Tortoise's realm, which is unusual. How did they get in? They explain that it is the Night of Gates. Wait... are they trick and treating? No, no, they were just here to return something. The shadows which had begun to appear around them fade away again.
Master Zhou offers the Acquisitions desk his original research on the nature of kung fu, in exchange for a library card. They take a tome of his research to date, and give him the card. Wei Han asks if he already has a library card, and they offer to call down to the Archives for him, but he doesn't have time to wait. He tells them to have the Head Librarian send word, and then hurriedly adds "at his convenience."
To leave with what they brought, each person has to remember what they brought. To everyone's glee, Shen-Ji forgets his opal of demon-summoning. Then, they swirl to...
Everyone is stuck tightly in a web, though Min Feng can escape from it with the Monkey Talisman.
Shuyan returns the Spider omen to a small spider in the web, and gets out. She suspects that the spiders might be supposed to do more, but the spider doesn't want to let its boss know that the omen was lost in the first place, and is kind of willing to overlook a quick exit again.
Shuyan stabs Min Feng, on the theory that Wei Han can jump in the way, but he's too stuck for that to work. Shen-Ji threatens to set the entire place on fire, which would cause problems for Bian and Rubberlegs, since they aren't immune, so Shuyan and MinFeng help the two of them escape just enough to get out of range of Shen-Ji. Once Shen-Ji torches the place, the burning webs stick to everyone, as if the web is angry, and people take damage from the burning sticky webs as they flee to...
They enter a dark space, filled with archways and other door and portals large and small. A small being greets Min Feng and welcomes her to the central terminal - if she needs assistance, please let them know.
- "We have something to return." -Min Feng
- "Trick and treat!" -Xiao Fa
- "Emergency! Stations!"
Monkeys start dropping from the sky onto everyone, except Min Feng; her “monk”s hold a defensive position around her.
Wei Han pulls two monkeys away from himself, and his dexterity drops by two. He follows this by pulling eleven monkeys off of Xiao Fa; Xiao Fa promptly collapses onto the floor, not having eleven dexterity to spare.
Takanata convinces his monkey to join him in an Interpretive Monkey Dance Performance sort of thing, which keeps things from becoming more troublesome.
Master Zhou decides that violence is not the answer, and looks for a Second Way. He exhorts Xiao Fa to stand up and dance - with no dexterity and three more grabbing monkeys, Xiao Fa's staggering dance is either pathetic or hilarious. Whichever it is, his last three monkeys let go to watch in awe.
The monkeys guarding Min Feng whisper to her in confusion.
- "There's something weird about this attack."
- "It's a joke. They got you." -Min Feng
- "Woah. That's dedication. Sacrificing his dex for a good joke. The boss would probably give him a present, if He were here."
Xian is the only one still grabbed at this point, but she convinces monkeys to not jump on her for a while, and Xiao Fa convinces the monkeys that it was all a joke on his part.
- "Now you should give us our dexterity back." -Wei Han
- "Nah, you play the pipe, you gotta hear the song."
Min Feng hands them the Monkey omen.
- "Well, why didn't you say so in the first place?"
- "This way was funnier."
Since the party has been so kind as to return the spirit energy with a comedy routine, the monkeys offer to tell them where any door of their choice goes, so they can pick where to go next. Most people think that they might as well go to one of the places they're supposed to go, though Xian argues for a little while to go to somewhere more interesting that the ritual isn't already taking them to.
In the end, they choose to go to Fox's realm, which the monkeys describe as "Level 1, section 1, subsection 1, door 7." They lead Min Feng there, and everyone else follows, to the largest set of arched doors, and proceed to...
The group enters a plushly appointed room, where an elegant gentleman rises to meet them from where he was rearranging pillows on the couch.
- "Oh, visitors! Be welcome. What brings you to My realm, on this night of nights?"
Xian waves the Fox omen at him, and he deftly takes it from her fingers and tucks it into a pocket. He turns the charm on Xian, grateful for the gift. She's reasonably strong-willed, so while she appreciates the charm, she does not go completely gushy.
- "Hang on... Fox is a girl." -Xian
- "Are you telling me what I can and cannot do?"
Hmm. The group came here through a Monkey door - does that mean that maybe this isn't Fox's realm? Though the servants and the like seem to be fox spirits.
- "Do you think, if this is Monkey playing a trick on you, that any of us can tell? Because if not, we might as well go." -Takanata
Everyone else is mostly willing to write off the question, but Xian is still worried, and so the gentleman continues to try to convince her.
- "Why don't we just settle this reasonably? Companions and honored guests, I will summon a meal and drinks, and you can stay while I convince the honored Xian of my Foxiness.... unless you just want to take it on faith?"
- "I, uh, don't, okay." -Xian
- "Quite reasonable."
Everyone else thinks this seems reasonable too, and waves Xian off with the Spirit-who-might-or-might-not-be-Fox. Xian has a lovely time, and returns convinced, while everyone else eats the tasty snacks that the fox spirits bring.
Takanata tells Fox that the Ringmaster would probably like to talk to him, and he says he'll remember that.
- "I am learning about all kung fu, and would be interested in learning about kung fu in the Fox aspect. Can you help?" -Master Zhou
- "Kung fu, you say..." -Fox
Fox summons a servant, and directs him to find someone foxy who knows all about kung fu, and send them to Master Zhou. They will do so.
And then, the group heads off, to…
This area seems to be larger and more complex than most realms they have visited yet, but is oddly empty. There is an arena, and a training area with dummies, a faraway field of battle, an arms college...
They wander through the areas, but continue to encounter no one, though there are sounds of fighting, off in the distance in no particular direction. Master Zhou suggests fighting amongst themselves, but nobody is interested in fighting him.
The arms college area is broken into multiple teaching areas, including a lecture hall with a wide circle for demonstrations, and a library (with sections on Kung Fu, Aikido, Basic Brawling, Generalship, and so on.)
Master Zhou spends an hour training various people to hit ghosts; they discover that in the Tiger's training yard, they can all buy the shtick in major concept. Wei Han, Min Feng, Shuyan, and Xiao Fa all do so.
But the fields are still empty, and do not seem to have hittable ghosts in them. Takanata's Eyes of the I Ching indicate that there are people (or other beings) here, but they all have belts of ranking, and they are more here than the party is. Ah, it is that they have not yet fully entered the Realm.
- "I am Master Zhou of the White Pagoda, and I call upon the Tiger to come here!"
He heads down to the fighting circle, while everyone else finds themselves in the stands. A tiger spirit shows up, and bows.
- "My regrets that the Master is not available, but perhaps I will provide you with some small workout."
There is a brief fight, and Master Zhou is eventually victorious, though it is not an ill-matched battle. The tiger spirit presents Master Zhou with a green belt, and he is then able to see the others who have white, yellow, and green belts. He can see a lot of training, sparring, and fighting going on. Occasionally a tiger spirit comes by and corrects someone's form; everyone is deeply respectful of the tigers.
Master Zhou bows again to the tiger spirit, and lets him know that they have recovered something that belongs to the Master. The tiger spirit can't really see Shen-Ji, but Master Zhou takes the Tiger omen from him and gives it to the spirit.
- "I will inform the Master of your service and your victory, though I think you have been well compensated already."
The group asks how to find the Realm of the Bear. The tiger spirit says that the Realm of the Bear is close - just head to the battlefield. They do so, and reach the fortress of the...
There is a group of demons outside Bear's fortress, standing at the points of a pentagram. The demon at the center of the star has Lijuan's ghost, and stabs it. There is a great roar from inside, and one of the last remaining spirits guarding the fortress runs inside, shouting "Master, no!" (This happens every drift.)
A fight ensues, obviously.
Master Zhou nerve strikes the Power demon, which zaps him back but then doesn't do anything for quite some time.
Xian falls under the sway of the Nightmare demon, and sees that the demon is actually Katsuo Narina, who Xian saved too late from wearing the cursed shawl, and the artist has become too corrupted and trapped in rage and despair.
- "The Confounding Xian and the demon of Guilt have gone after each other." -Takanata
The Backstab demon proves able to get past Wei Han's shield, but can't attack from the front. Master Zhou finds some throwing knives for Shuyan, who had decided that the best way to not lose anything was to not bring anything.
The inner circle of the pentagram bounces attacks - Lijuan and the Portals demon are inside, and unable to be attacked until all the demons are off of the points of the pentagram.
The Directions demon whammies some people, which causes them to move in the wrong directions, but they can attack if they stay put. Master Zhou gets on one of the points and tries to power the shield down, but it's slow going.
Takanata sends the demon of Nightmares a dream: a nice peaceful field on a pleasant sunny day, with a little path. In the World Above, that comes across as a chi blast, impressing everyone. Shen-Ji learns that his nightmare is to become less powerful, and does so. Xian disguises herself as Lijuan, but her attempt to sway the Portals demon to think she could really be Lijuan bounces off the shield.
Wei Han takes out Backstab and Power, just after Power wakes up again to zap Min Feng.
The Portals demon moves the Reaper demon around to attack some of the more vulnerable people, like Rubberlegs, but it eventually falls to Master Zhou.
Takanata uses Hand on the Pattern to move Nightmare away from the point on the pentagram where it is, and the wall finally goes down. Bian wraps up Portal, and that's mostly it for the combat.
The demon gets one last stab at Lijuan, causing the last of the guardians to run inside. Wei Han tries to leap in the way, but his ability doesn't seem to protect the already dead. Xiao Fa tries to pick up her ghost, but his hands portal out the other side.
Takanata summons Kawaii, who appears inside the fortress.
Kawaii rushes out and gets ready to slay everyone present once she sees Lijuan. Xian gives her the bear spirit omen though, and that calms her down. After a quick discussion between Kawaii and Bear, Kawaii presses the spirit omen into Lijuan's form, and she’s easier to maneuver and take back to the real world.
The swirly portal appears and everyone jumps in returning to the House on the Hill.
They head down to the Crypt room, where the bodies of both Lijuan and Zhuai are, bringing the ghostly glowing form of Lijuan with them. Zhuai's ghost is not evident, but Shuyan puts on her Ring of Death to look for him. The token from Bear should be enough to put Lijuan back, he thinks, but they don't have a necromancer to fix him.
- "Ask Takanata if it is okay if I cheat." -Zhuai
- "I suppose it will have to be." -Takanata
Lijuan and Zhuai wake up from being dead (Wei Han thinks there's something necromantic going on, for a moment there), about the same time as Xian comes to a sudden and unpleasant realization.
Both Lijuan and Zhuai are alive now, and their chi seems more intertwined than usual. Takanata thinks that their deepest connection is that they're both the leaders of House Siewfoon, which is new and different.
Okay, then, what's up with Xian?
- "That... wasn't Fox." -Xian
Xian thinks that she saw him once before, with Min Feng, on the voyage with Whale. The wolf-dog-thing across the ocean. And Shuyan confirms that Xian's aspect is now Coyote.
- "You're going to have to apologize for that." -Takanata
So... what was the whole purpose of what the demons were doing? To lure Bear out of his fortress? Because... they think they can do something to Bear, or his Citadel, or something. They seem to have some sort of anti-Bear demon plan, because they tried to do something at the wedding, too. Maybe just provoking Bear into some sort of rampage.
The group also considers the prophetic art. Interpret Omens suggests that one of the "monster" pictures was a fake, and one was more of a trap/monster, so probably Spider and Fox? But maybe it was one of the spirits that didn't get visited.
People settle in to ponder these questions as the sun rises...
- Min Feng and Shen-Ji visit the Shrouded Isle to look for phoenices.