|"Dice have their laws, which the courts of justice cannot undo."|| The run takes place on the Day of the Late Dog 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 Hon'eth Arcade
Investigation of Rain
People are chilling at Tahiti, where the butlers have stoked the fireplaces against the incessant rain outside. Various people have been investigating wetness, and report on their findings.
First, it is an ablative defense against fire, and fire magic. It is definitely not sorcery, And it has a flavor of the South, but it's not Southern holy magic. It is also partly Imperial, and combines water magic and wind magic in a way that sorcerers find disconcerting, because wind is not an element.
An interesting question is whether it is raining across the entire Empire, or just in the Arcade. No one has come through a water gate in the past several days, so Cai Wen jumps through the gate to Bear Mountain. When he emerges, he is completely wet (because water gate) but has a wetness stat of zero. He also visits Shen-Ji's family estate in the Precincts, and finds that it is raining but again he has a wetness stat of zero. On the other hand, when he gates to the Shrouded Isle, it is in the middle of a storm, and when the door blows open, he gets a wetness stat of two. Then he heads back to Tahiti to report.
The foreign flavor is odd, and the focus on the Shrouded Isle is also interesting. Could it be Whale? Thunderbird?
Is it safe to investigate the rain instead of getting a mission? Cai Wen figures that it is safe to stall getting a mission for a while, but if no missions are done, the run will probably have one go off without them.
Lijuan draws some more art, and compares it to the previous run's art.
The rain is definitely symbolically separating the party from the people on the other side, in the first art. Are the eyes focusing on the party? (Yes, sort of) Does the new art also have a separation theme? Not so much in the second one as the first, since the party is on both sides of the rain.
It would be unfortunate to spend all run looking at the rain, and run out of time to do a mission, so the group decides to roll for a mission and then pick up with rain analysis afterwards.
Master Zhou spends some time training people in a dining room with tables moved on how to parry. (Yanyu even trains, which is unusual). Master Zhou throws rocks and tells people to parry them, which is kind of a cruel trick, because it requires a shtick to parry ranged attacks.
Having trained Yanyu, Master Zhou uses True Kung Fu to look at her combat potential. There's a lot of fire, and a lot of untapped potential labeled "werewolf" though he is pretty sure that is a "once you go go down the dark path forever does it dominate your destiny" type of potential. Interestingly, he can detect her werewolf nature using True Kung Fu, despite the moon not being out.
He also tries to see what he can find out about her destiny (which Phoenix has apparently told Shen-Ji to help with). It seems to have a general nature of "If you love something, burn it down, because only then can it be reborn better" that is peculiar to Phoenix. Something she loves needs to be reborn, but it can't be until it is burnt down. He also notes that her destiny shticks are undefined, with the plusses and minuses that go with that. He could possibly figure out more by forcing them to define, but then they would be defined.
Next plan: shopping! More rain ponchos are acquired for party loot, but riding around with umbrellas does get people wet.
A Mission... or not
The group heads to the Moderately Obscure Benevolent HQ, where Cai Wen rolls a seven. His shtick to cheat at minigames is burnt out - can Master Zhou refresh it? Yes, but that would mean Master Zhou takes the burnout. Well, they've been doing pretty well at the missions, so they decide to take the seven.
The prince tells them that there have been a number of incoming reports from the military - there's a lot of action happening, and he doesn't have time to give them a mission. They should go see the King instead.
Before doing so, everyone takes a quick trip into the map room. Cai Wen looks for information about Great Houses of the Arcade, and Master Zhou looks at the rain patterns. Wei Han looks at the tactical situation - on the Northern front, there's the fire monster rampaging around, and reinforcements are coming in from the North, but the lines have been pushed back due to a good roll last time.
Then, it's off to the Harbor of Fortunate Arrival, and an audience with the Lord of Benevolent Oversight. While waiting, they see the head of the House of Judicious Increase, who looks slightly smug, and the head of the House of Gainful Protection, who looks grumpy. The audience with the latter involves a lot of shouting. Then, the House of Exuberant Interference gets its audience.
The King says that they should be in decent shape, provided the armies actually show up. Along those lines, he has three things he would like to talk about.
- The House of Ornamental Purity has been created. It would be disastrous for the political situation should they not roll military. However, it would also be disastrous for them if they roll MIL, because they only have a stat of 2. Perhaps there is something that can be done, such as an infusion of supplies or a commander of note, which can increase their stat. He believes they are suffering from supply issues, which is odd and may need looking into given that they have a huge RES stat. If the party could get them a bonus or a reroll or something, that would be appreciated.
- In general: at the moment, three of the nine great houses are known to be planning to roll Mil. Could that get shored up?
- Better coordination with the Dragon Army is needed. The Obsidian Warlord is sending notes saying it's under control, but more communication would be an improvement.
The three houses already promised to roll on Military are:
- Benevolent Oversight
- Beneficent Travel
- Gainful Protection
Cai Wen mentions the theory that in Week Three, the Obsidian Warlord is likely to requisition Arcade forces to combine power. On the upside, he's a professional, so that will probably go well for the war effort. Downside, he's likely to optimize damage onto non-Dragon Army forces. (That second factor is probably why he isn't being communicative). The King doesn't think that requisitioning forces should just work - you can't just do that with other people's militaries. Still, he's likely to have something up his sleeve.
Which of the King's people should be the one to arrange greater contact with the Dragon Army with? Lord General Izumi of the House of Gainful Protection.
The party considers regrouping to their townhouse in the capital, until they realize they don't have one. So, instead, they head to the House of Ornamental Purity, where they are shown into a nice waiting room where they can get dry.
Lijuan goes to visit the kitchen and talk to the urchins that might be there. It is strangely devoid of urchins in the kitchen, but she returns with a pork bun. Yanyu begins to wander the house, looking for people to gather information at. Even with the Crane Talisman, people keep being distracted before answering any of her questions. All of this is rather weird in how uninformative it seems to be.
After some more ineffective waiting, the butler returns to tell them that the Lady Lisan will see them. They are shown into her office, where she is sitting at a desk with stacks of papers looking rather happy.
Cai Wen says they are here on behalf of His Majesty to get their military support and to see how they can help make that a viable move. That is of course the problem - under what circumstances would that be a viable move?
Yanyu broaches the idea of helping the Ornamental Purity forces with a notable commander or filling in their supply issues. Lady Lisan admits that she has confidence in Sergeant Chan, head of her house guard, but he's trained to make do with smaller numbers. However, she doesn't think that putting the house forces under a different house is a good idea. No, Yanyu says - they are suggesting a notable commander who might join the House of Ornamental Purity. Lady Lisan says that that would certainly be welcome, if there was such a commander. But she is also not sure what His Majesty was thinking with respect to supply issues - they do not have a ton of army supplies, but they were also not expecting to have to head into battle immediately, having so few soldiers.
Cai Wen suggests that they all talk to Sergeant Chan, to see if they can find some ways in which Exuberant Interference might exuberantly interfere, while Yanyu rolls True Conversation to try and ascertain why Lady Lisan is so focused on a defensive military stance. Well, the main reason is that she knows with a military stat of two, it is foolish to go on the offensive. She doesn't want it to go from two to one in the first round. The House of Quiet Concordance is the other house with such a low military and it doesn't have to roll military - it has figured out something else to do. She thinks that this would be a reasonable option for Ornamental Purity as well.
The other thing that Yanyu determines, however, is that there is a house level defense in "no messing with the newbies" that True Conversation cut through. That's why everyone's attempts to get her information earlier came to naught.
Well, shall they talk to Sergeant Chan, then? Lady Lisan rings a (very lovely) bell, and a servant comes to escort them. As they leave, contented happiness flows across the desk at them. (Cai Wen is unimpressed by the butlers, who are not from the House of Butler).
As the group enters, Sergeant Chan jumps up, dropping some papers on the floor. Wei Han picks them up, sneaking a look, but finds out that they are either blank or unhelpful. The "don't mess with the newbies" defense seems to have kicked in.
Yanyu pulls out her True Conversation again, to find out what he needs. Sergeant Chan says that he's good at taking minimal resources and upgrading them to something more substantial. He can get ten guys to do a fifteen-person job and it works. And, right now, he has ten reliable guys from his house guard, and a hundred, hundred-fifty new scrubs. He knows he doesn't have a ton of battlefield strategy and tactics - House Guard type stuff is his forte.
- "If you had to march out to war immediately, what would you do?"
- "Update our wills."
More seriously, he says that he might try to find a spirit to bargain with and sell his soul in order to get a better roll. While he seems serious about that, the party doesn't think that's the best idea.
Master Zhou trains with him for the afternoon, and tours the troops; everyone else takes their leave to think about what to do and figure out how to scrounge up an epic general.
Come to think of it, how does "supply problems" mesh with a house with super-high resources and a supply sergeant with shticks in making resources go farther? Why are they undersupplied in the field? This is probably actually a Plot, not just a failure to do the obvious things. But shouldn't they be immune to plot? Since they have that "don't mess with the noobs" thing going on and they don't seem to be down -2 RES the way everyone else is? So maybe it's a country-wide problem, and not an Ornamental Purity problem.
Lijuan asks around after the urchins outside the house. She says that she hears supplies are limited. Are they having trouble? They say no - things have never been better! There are boxes falling off carts left and right! Huh. Well, that could be a cause for supply problems.
Cai Wen looks up an old girlfriend, Inspector Li. He has a present for her - a fancy spyglass from his Artifact Set. She looks around with it, and is very impressed and drags him away for a pleasant afternoon.
Wei Han goes carousing to see if he can find a retired military commander hanging out at a bar. He doesn't find anyone promising in his first foray, as anyone sufficiently epic to boost a house stat is already employed. However, as he asks around, people remark that the person he really wants is that guy, the Enforcer, from back before the tongbusters broke up the tongs. The Adjudicator went down, but the Enforcer slipped out all quiet-like and nobody has heard from him since.
Seargent Chan trains with Master Zhou. Since Master Zhou is training with True Kung Fu, some of his info-gathering shticks can sneak through but the rest bounce off the newbie shields. He finds out that Sergeant Chan is Dog aspected, and his greatest potential is to be the perfect XO. He's a lot like Commander Yao's XO, standing behind the guy in charge and acting as a force multiplier. His training is in protection rather than field warfare, and he could probably level up into elite special ops more easily than into battlefield strategy.
Cai Wen has a delightful afternoon with Inspector Li. When things turn to conversation, she asks what brings him to town. He says that he's looking into this issue of things falling off the backs of wagons. She looks suspicious, but then admits that yes, it's a huge scourge on the whole country. There seems to be a whole huge invisible black market that she can't get at. She even had someone make sacrifices and ask the Great Crane Spirit, and got an answer that no one has rolled a ten. WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? Cai Wen looks as if he understands what that might mean, but does not explain. Well, she'll be watching him for the rest of the run, at least.
When people get back together, Wei Han mentions the Enforcer. The party has never met anyone named the Enforcer on screen, but there were always rumors. Master Zhou suggests that Shan-Xi might have an idea where to start. Lijuan, wondering if this is a terrible idea, asks Zhuai, but he agrees that talking to Shan-Xi to track down the Enforcer sounds like a good suggestion.
Then, it's back to Tahiti, where people explain the plan to Shan-Xi. He turns pale, and comments that they don't think small. He's really not supposed to talk about this sort of thing - he left that life behind. But, anyway. The Enforcer is a "she" rather than a "he", for one. And she's really terrible (in the "vast and terrible" sense). When the tongs were going down, she took out the large number of the forces that were sent after her, but as he hears it, she is now the prisoner of the Dark Lady of the Shadow Castle.
Hooray! A new step on the quest! The party (plus Zhuai and Inspector Li) gate from Tahiti to Bear Mountain, and then ride North to the Craneslake Heights, where the Shadow Castle is. The trip is mostly uneventful, until the horses spook as they approach the castle, and a voice calls for the passphrase.
- "What blade cuts out the corruption of the soul?"
- "Yoshi!" -Lijuan
- "Having spoken the name of Yoshi, you get a second chance. What blade does the great one wield?"
- "Yoshi wields redemption." -Wei Han
- "... Yes, but with what blade?"
- "Can you just tell him Lijuan is here?" -Lijuan
The party whispers among themselves. What was Yoshi's sword's name? He had some sort of wooden sword, didn't he? Eventually, someone remembers that his organization is named the Secret Swords - that is accepted as the password, and the group is permitted to pass.
Yoshi is glad to see them all, and Cai Wen explains how they need a military leader. Really? He supposes that he could send the Secret Swords and Johnny Tong? Yanyu says they were actually thinking about the Enforcer.
- "Surely not!" -Yoshi
The party happily explains that they want to redeem her. Yoshi thinks that is in fact a good idea, though he isn't sure the party's track record is the best about redemption. But he and Reiko were working on that, and she isn't ready yet.
- "If you install her into a Great House, that Great House is going to do well, but on the back of the other Great Houses." -Yoshi
- "That's what all the Great Houses do." -Wei Han
Yanyu does her best to persuade Yoshi that this is all a good idea, and Lijuan notes that Zhuai thinks it's a fine plan too. Yoshi thinks Yanyu is on the "ends justify the means" side already, and Zhuai being on board is not a large ethical point in their favor. The Enforcer is a very powerful tool, with not enough philosophical bindings on her. He and Yanyu bounce True Conversation off each other, while everyone else listens in awe.
Yoshi says that Reiko would have refused, but because of their friendship he will agree, but be disappointed.
Master Zhou asks about the redemption mechanic. Yoshi asks if Master Zhou has progressed enough towards enlightenment that he can be trusted with the tools of redemption? He thinks he has. Well, what are Master Zhou's tenets of right action? Master Zhou thinks about it for a minute, and says: Acting in a manner that is Just and Proportionate, where the ramifications are considered to the extent that one can know them. Yoshi thinks justice is overrated, but notes that Reiko would agree, to a point.
He warns them that as they attempt to influence her philosophical outlook, so will she attempt to influence yours.
- "Upon your head it shall lie!" -Yoshi
Then, the Enforcer is escorted out by the Secret Swords. She is a surprisingly young woman, who looks them over and is clearly evaluating their combat weaknesses. Yoshi introduces her by the name Shikosha, and says that these others are his friends, who have a proposition for her. He, of course, encourages her to stay here and continue her studies, but he has agreed to let them make the offer.
She looks over the group and decides that Cai Wen is clearly the leader. Just what sort of offer does he think would interest her? Cai Wen says that he offers military leadership of a Great House of the Arcade, under the conditions of accepting certain tutelage from Master Zhou.
- "This tutelage is the only condition?" -the Enforcer
- "And act in good faith on behalf of the people of the Arcade and the people of the Empire."
She frowns at the second condition, and notes that you can't serve all the masters at once.
- "Which should I serve? The Empire, the Arcade, or the House whose forces I command?"
- "Your oath will be to the House."
She looks at Yoshi, who is impassive, as if to say " this is your test".
- "An interesting challenge. How could I say no? It is certainly better than continued torture."
Yoshi frowns at this, and she chuckles.
So... which of them is the leader of this house? Cai Wen says it's the House of Ornamental Purity, and the negotiations will finish with them.
- " A new house with a new lord? Yes, I accept." -the Enforcer
- "She is unlikely to be much worse for their house than I was for yours." -Zhuai
- "Thank you, honey." -Lijuan
- "That's not nearly as bad as I feared." -Cai Wen
- "That's not as encouraging as you think." -Master Zhou, simultaneously
After some more tea and cakes, the group takes their leave again, and heads back to the Arcade. It proves to be rainy the whole way back. As they ride, she starts talking to Cai Wen about the past, and gets a little flirty. She's clearly luring Inspector Li into going ballistic and attacking her, with the presumption that if that happened, it wouldn't be her fault. Cai Wen does his best to not respond to the flirtation, and notes that the house needs an excellent tactician and also an excellent strategist. She says that if they give her a free hand, she'll be all over it. Cai Wen adds a codicil - as long as they know what they're signing up for. She says that she would not swear a false oath to an employer, but that the employer is not Cai Wen.
Once they all arrive back in the Arcade, Yanyu gives herself a makeover before they all head to sell this new commander to the House of Ornamental Purity.
- "Great news!" -Yanyu
Shikosha bows to Lady Lisan. She is not sure that she accepts everything Yanyu said in the introduction, but she does think she can do something effective. Lady Lisan makes it clear that she is not handing over her military to another house. Shikosha says she will take proper oaths, and binding oaths, and assures that Lady that for the many complaints people have had about her, her word has always been good.
- "Does Lord Zhu vouch for her in this capacity?" -Lady Lisan
- "He does." -Cai Wen
- "Then it is worth talking about." -Lady Lisan
- "Perhaps we could discuss things privately and see what is acceptable before we involve other houses?" -Shikosha
After a rather long discussion offscreen, Lady Lisan returns.
- "She is a treasure. Thank you for bringing her to our attention. We will be making a long term arrangement, and the House of Ornamental Purity owes you a favor."
Rounding Up the Military
Next step, all the other houses that are not rolling their military yet.
Master Zhou suggests that as a possible tactic for the House of Enticing Vintage, they could offer to figure out how to resolve the Liet/Myo love plot in a way that does not provoke any possible curses based on the Arcade's penchant for Shakespearean drama.
The group heads to the House of Enticing Vintage, where they visit Liet. She complains that they failed their military roll last time, and it was a complete fiasco.
Cai Wen tries to persuade her that the House of Enticing Vintage should do its duty in the upcoming turn. Liet thinks that surely that means rolling influence to gather foreign aid? She has a plan to recruit some allies from the Dragon's Throne. (The Steppes might be easier, but they need their own soldiers. Though maybe not as much as the Arcade does.) When Cai Wen presses her, she whispers that she has a line on the Butterfly Guard, via Illumineaucracy.
He's a little puzzled as to how Illumineaucracy would let her actually send the Butterfly Guard out of the country, and Liet preens. She spent most of the last season in the Dragon's Throne herself, remember? She has been building a social edifice that is vulnerable to an influence roll from outside, and she thinks she might be able to get them to roll their Obstruct dice against the North. It does require feeding them some money somehow - and that's the part that she's a little fuzzy on the mechanic, but she's pretty sure it involves the Golden Artists.
Cai Wen thinks that the thing she's overlooking is that the Butterfly Guard would end up neutralized and drifting out of the Butterfly Regent's power structure, which would cause a lot more damage to him than Liet is expecting, and make him a more direct enemy. He also worries that this might impact any arrangements between the Butterfly Prince and the Magpie Prince, though Liet doesn't see why it should.
Cai Wen and Yanyu decide to head this whole Illumineaucracy plan off, and suggest that they instead offer a way to marry Myo without curses or political repercussions. Liet thinks that the whole house-merger thing is still likely to be unpopular with other houses, even if the whole drama issue is avoided. After all, Myo and Liet are both heirs to Great Houses. Ahhh... but what if there was a new Treaty of Houses?
- "Okay, if Yanyu is going to burn the country down and make a new one, can Myo and I be king and queen?" -Liet
- "It's on the table." -Cai Wen
Liet perks up quite a bit at this. So... if they roll Mil, the party will get Liet and Myo married and ruling the country? Cai Wen isn't willing to go quite that far. But he does offer that they'll explain and coordinate and not play false with the pair - their interests will be guarded even if they don't get the full scale of objectives.
Liet looks to Master Zhou. What does her old teacher think? He thinks there is a time of great change, and Cai Wen is honorable in his desire for an alliance that does not betray them. The new Treaty of Houses is coming soon - maybe the end of the week, maybe the end of winter.
Okay, Liet is on board, and starts thinking about how to go into overdrive. The House of Enticing Vintage will roll Mil, and she'll darned well end up Queen. Cai Wen briefs her on the whole House of Judicious Increase plan, which they can hijack for their own purposes, and Yanyu agrees to investigate how to make the marriage alliance work.
The next house to visit is the House of Resplendent Decoration, and Myo. He says that his last attempt to influence the Precincts failed, and he was going to try again. Nope, the party says, time to roll Mil. Plus there will probably be a new treaty of houses soon.
- "Your plan to stop HJI from blowing up the government is to blow it up first?" -Myo
The conversation nearly ends with Myo resolving to roll influence to line up for a third Treaty of Houses, but at the last minute it becomes clear that everyone has been speaking at cross-purposes. The Hard Sell commences. Even the House of Ornamental Purity is rolling Mil! Okay, okay, Resplendent Decoration will roll Mil too.
The last item on the to-do list is to get communication sorted out between the Dragon Army and the House of Gainful Protection. The group heads to the headquarters for the Arcade forces, and talks to the XO. Basically, all their requests for information are denied, and there has been no satisfactory response from either the Obsidian Warlord or Northeast Command. No one in the Arcade forces is able to get a meeting with Commander Yao, so the party says that they will try to do that.
Off, then, to the Dragon Army HQ. In addition to the normal soldiers, there are black uniformed guys stationed as guards as well. Wei Han uses an older clearance code, and gets in to see Commander Yao's XO (shadowed by a black-on-black soldier).
- "Ma’am. I am here to try to open a discussion between Commander Yao and Lord General Izumi, as he is having trouble getting enough information to coordinate his troops." -Wei Han
The XO says that information is currently being restricted on order of Shen Dai Han, and Wei Han has to invoke his Dragon Army Politics shtick in order to get any more of an answer than that. Apparently, the Invisible Web has determined that the Arcade is suffering from a massive security breach - there is significant flow of information from the Arcade to the North. So the Obsidian Warlord has ordered that no critical information be shared until the leak is plugged.
Wei Han notes that he needs more details about what information was leaked, in order to pursue the problem. According to their investigation, the disaster at Xiulon Field indicates that the leakage is at a very high level, and they don't know exactly how high it goes. It could be someone in Izumi's office, or it could be his superiors. They can't say. They also don't want to put the source of the leak on guard, which is why no information about the lack of information is being conveyed.
- "Maam, why are we sharing this with this... retired soldier?" -Security guy
- "He has earned the respect of Commander Yao. You can't honestly believe this man is the traitor?" -XO
- "Well, I think if they wanted to plug the leak, they would have rolled a 3." -Security guy
- "What are you talking about?"
- "They know."
Wei Han says he'll work on getting that rolled, and heads back out to report to the party.They head back to General Izumi, and report that while they couldn't solve the problem, they have hopes for next time.