Silence is Crimson
|"He, who denies his faults, makes no atonement for them."|| The run begins on the Day of the Late Butterfly in the Month of the Serpent in the thirteenth Year of the Magpie since the Regency Council was formed.|
The run takes place in Caldera, on the Shrouded Isle.
Cai Wen, before retiring offstage, lets the circus know that tonight's performance will be a big one - the Firelord will be making an important announcement at the end of the circus. So everyone should put on their best performances, and please avoid any shootings or stabbings. Some guards from the Shrouded Citadel show up to make sure there are no overly dangerous acts - no archery, no sword juggling, that sort of thing. Shen-Ji demonstrates his extra-harmless paintballs, and Wei Han's "panda wrestling" is deemed okay because they've heard that it's just a dyed puff-bear.
Wei Han checks in with the Dragon Army - the local garrison is particularly busy, because they've been told that Sea Lord Miyora will be arriving soon.
Shen-Ji wonders why there's no circus NPC in attendance on the party, but apparently Li Merit has renegotiated the deal. He's disappointed - his demons have to do a minimum amount of damage if he summons them, so it's good to have more people around to soak up hit points.
- "I think that's why Merit told them to not come to the combats."
Lady Suzuki is disappointed to find her VIP box taken by the Firelord's staff. Kuan-Xi tries to find out for her who else will be sitting there, and pulls status to get the last seat. As it turns out, the other of the Firelord's guests is Minoru Katsu, and Lady Suzuki rolls her eyes at Kuan-Xi. Now she's willing to play nice with Katsu?
The performance goes well - outstanding acts are the Confounding Xian, and Wei Han's "panda" wrestling. For his successes, Wei Han receives an invitation to Minoru Katsu's reception later.
At the end of the circus performance, the Firelord rises to address the crowd. He would like to formally present his heir...
... and then trumpets sound from the entrance, as Sea Lord Miyora enters.
- "Wait, not him." -the Firelord
The Firelord is clearly angry about having been interrupted, and the Sea Lord is irritated by having his grand entrance shushed. It looks like they are about to start arguing in earnest, when an old lady dressed in blue whispers something to Miyora, and he says that they can discuss things later. The Sea Lord and the mysterious woman leave, and everyone whispers to each other, wondering who it is. The Firelord doesn't recognize her, nor does anyone in the party, though Xian thinks there's something vaguely familiar about her.
Katsu issues an invitation to a reception at his estate tomorrow, where the Firelord’s announcement can be made properly. Lady Suzuki grouses - a party with such short notice is very unseemly. There's no time to find out who the other guests are! She also apologizes to Kuan-Xi, as the little carriage has been damaged, after a visit to the Dragon's Throne. She’ll have it repaired soon though.
That evening, Kuan-Xi, Wei Han, Min Feng, and Xiao Fa stay at the nice inn; Shen-Ji and Xian stay with the circus at the reasonable inn. The latter two people hear some voices being raised in the common room - initially somewhat boisterous, but tempers seem to be rising. They head downstairs to see what's going on. Some of the locals are angry over the Sea Lord's disrespect towards the Firelord. The circus folk are more used to being interrupted and don't seem to think that it's that big a deal.
- "We should do something about him!"
- "No, we should tell the Brotherhood to do..."
- "Shhh! We should go home!"
As people start to leave, Xian intercepts the guy who first shushed the guy who mentioned the Brotherhood.
- "A word to the wise - remind our friends what happened to the Bandits of the Double Caldera." -Xian
- "Indeed. Silence is crimson."
- "Yes, and discretion is the better part of valor." -Xian
- "Er… I'll take a note of that. Bye."
Xian looks crestfallen, like she forgot the right counterphrase, and wishes she knew the "Glib Guesser" shtick.
Shen-Ji tips the bartender, and says he assumes that there aren't any problems with the Brotherhood.
- "Nope, no problems. After all, silence is crimson."
Shen-Ji nods as if to say that he knows the counterphrase but there are too many people listening, and withdraws.
Silence is Crimson
In the morning, having breakfast in the tea tent, Xian and Shen-Ji explain the Incident in the Common Room. Maybe the Brotherhood is the male counterpart to the Song of the Phoenix? Min Feng thinks that if people are dropping the code phrase left and right, it's probably a fairly common group, and it's also not all that professional.
- "Yup, it's the male version. Drinking beers and keeping secrets." -Xian
- "The Belching of the Phoenix, the Farting of the Phoenix..." -Shen-Ji
Xiao Fa asks around the city - who speaks for the little people now? He doesn't quite get an explicit answer, but a lot of people note that the bandits had brothers, and he doesn't need to worry about it. There's definitely some sort of Brotherhood, but nobody invites him to join. Min Feng has to disguise her status to be lower, but finds out a little more - the Brotherhood tries to help with issues caused by pushy foreigners. They're very Shrouded-Isle-patriotic, and they don't much like the Dragon Army. She says that she needs help with issues caused by pushy foreigners, and can be found sleeping with the elephants at the circus - the circus hires locals all the time. She’s told someone will meet her soon.
Wei Han burns some ghost money at the shrine to the Bandits, and hangs around for a couple of hours. A few times, some people start to wander over, spot him, and wander off again. He uses Nose for Trouble on the way back to the circus, and breaks up a mugging. He interrogates the mugger, who claims to be poor, and starts to drag him towards the Dragon Army garrison to be hung, until the guy promises to never do it again. Wei Han tells him that the guy is lucky he's retired Dragon Army, and lets him go, after a few more shakes. He stops by the Minoru estate to get another invitation to the party for Xian.
Kuan-Xi asks around about the old woman in blue, and anything else going on. The locals don't know who the woman is, other than "someone with the Sea Lord", and in general they hate the Sea Lord for the blockade. Rumor has it that the Sea Lord has been invited to Minoru Katsu's party, either because the Firelord is trying to mend fences, or kowtow to the Dragon Army, depending on the opinion.
Min Feng and Kuan-Xi stop by the Song of the Phoenix headquarters, to ask if they know who the woman in blue is. They don't. She arrived with the Sea Lord, and she's the one who finagled the invitation to Minoru Katsu's party, having hit the clerk with an impressive amount of status. She clearly has hidden depths, but they don't have any other information about her. Kuan-Xi also gets the vague feeling that she's... similar to some other recurring NPC, somehow.
Min Feng disguises herself as a Dragon Army soldier (the Sea Lord's party doesn't appear to have any local servants), and sneaks into their camp. They seem to be being very cautious about possible enemy action, but don't quite manage to spot her. The old woman gives the Sea Lord a uniform that has been modified to give him +3 status, noting that she bullied some tailors into making it - humans are easy to push around. He wishes she wouldn't talk like that, but she says he won't have to put up with her much longer, if he can get her what she wants. The Sea Lord doesn't think the Firelord will agree, but the woman says that if he wants her assistance, make sure that he does. A soldier arrives with a folder of documents about the Shrouded Citadel, and then there's a shift change, and Min Feng has to duck out again, after memorizing the Sea Lord.
Xiao Fa and Xian head to the bandit's shrine next, and burn quite a bit of ghost money. (Though Xiao Fa thinks that with the amount of ashes there, there has already been quite a bit burnt.) A few people come by, but aren't as spooked by two priests as they were by Wei Han, so they burn their offerings rather than wander off again, and offer respect and a few whispered prayers. Listening to the whispers, one guy whispers something about vengeance, so the pair follow him when he leaves, wanting to talk to him about the Brotherhood.
- "It's probably best to not speak out here, because silence is crimson."
- "Er, we aren't members, but we still want to talk to you. How can we help?"
The guy says that he's not saying that there is such a thing as the Brotherhood, but if there was, help would probably be something like gold or weapons. Xian and Xiao Fa say no, no, no, not weapons!
- "We'll level with you. A friend of ours named Yoshi turned the Bandits towards helping the people, and I turned them towards annoying the Obsidian Warlord. They were brave - braver than they should have been - and they were dedicated to the cause of the people, and we admired that, and we let them get in over their heads. We don't want to see that happen again. But direct action against the Dragon Empire will lead to a lot of bloodshed, and we don't want to see that. And, we don't want the deaths of the bandits to have been in vain - we want the cause that they held so dear to succeed. If we didn't mind shedding blood, then weapons and blood it would be. If we wanted peace at the price of justice, that could also be arranged. But, sadly for us, we want both." -Xian
- "Well, if you want to honor their memory, be ready to protect the downtrodden when the Dragon Army comes for them tomorrow, because they are too foolish to know when they have lost. Be ready!"
- "No! It can't go down the same way again!" -Xian
- "No, it won't! It'll go down completely differently. This time, we will win!"
They try to persuade him, but they're both cursed, so it's tough.
- "I guess this is irony. Damn it!" -Xian
The guy hasn't changed his mind, but they keep him talking. He insists that it will be different this time. They have new allies, weapons, and safe houses. They can defy the Dragon Army, and when they come for vengeance, they will be walking into a trap. Many traps!
- "I would defy with you, but everyone is going to die!" -Xian
- "You have to have faith."
- "I did. And now they're dead." -Xian
- "But soon they will be avenged! And then when the Dragon Army comes to take vengeance on us, we will fall on them from our hidden safe houses with our undetectable weapons and smite them down!"
The argument continues, but the main problem is, this guy isn't in charge. Xian thinks maybe they should arrange to be captured, so they can argue with the leader, but there doesn't seem to be any reason to capture her. They try to persuade the guy that if they have a powerful ally, that ally must have its own (evil) agenda. Maybe it has to do with the South, which is about to attack soon. There's a boat invasion coming!
- "Nonsense! You're just making that up to prevent us from assassinating the Sea Lord later today! You've failed!"
The guy tries to flee, and Xian and Xiao Fa give chase. But Xian gives chase very very slowly, and Xiao Fa doesn't know what he would do if he caught him. They confer briefly.
- "What are you going to do when you catch him?" -Xiao Fa
- "Surrender? I don't know! ....So... maybe we kill the Sea Lord before the party..." -Xian
- "Okay, never mind." -Xiao Fa
Xian briefs the rest of the party on the Terrible Plan, and the Mysterious Ally who has talked them into things.
- "We see what sort of horrible ally the Sea Lord has and what sort of horrible ally the Brotherhood has..." -Wei Han
- "And they're the same horrible ally making them fight!" -Xian
Kuan-Xi briefs everyone on Shrouded Isle parties. So... the thing to learn is what the other guests want, in particular, the woman in blue. Xian thinks that "Humans are easy to push around" doesn't mean just a Southerner. Maybe it's a southern god? Maya is yellow... are there southern gods who are blue? Shen-Ji thinks she's more likely to be a demon.
A Short-Lived Party
The group heads over to the Minoru manor; Xian is officially Wei Han's date.
- "Where's your wife, Shen-Ji?" -Min Feng
- "She's back at the estate performing her wifely duties." -Shen-Ji
- "Not all of them." -Min Feng
The party guests include a water mage from House Muro, the artist laureate of the Firelord's court, an astrologer, and a phoenix egg farmer.
Min Feng and Xian notice that some of the servants at the party are carrying trays which are actually swords with illusions covering them. Xian picks one and gets in a staring match with him, and Wei Han swipes his "tray".
- "Abort!" -Xian to the "servant"
- "Silence is Crimson"
- "But the melody is gold." -Xian, guessing and leaving
Xian heads to the Sea Lord, and presents him with the parrot feather amulet and a ninja escape smoke.
- "Your Excellency, on behalf of grateful subjects, may I present you with these inadequate tokens? Please wear this during the party, as it goes so well with your current uniform." -Xian
Kuan-Xi notes that the old woman in blue is wrapped in layers and layers of "non-sorcerous water magic", just before Xian puts the Cursed Hat of Annoying Annoyance on her head. The old woman tells the Firelord to stop yapping with the help and get on with it, but before anything else can be gotten on with, Xian smashes a vial of smoke in the garden area, triggering all sorts of people's plans.
The Firelord's guards start evacuating the firelord, first towards the "safe room", and then out of the building entirely when they can't get past Shen-Ji who happened to be standing in front of the safe room door.
A voice rings out: "For the Double Caldera!". The Sea Lord's parrot feather amulet squawks, and then the Sea Lord vanishes in ninja smoke.
The assassins are somewhat at a loss for what to do, and Xian spends a Yin to spot little puffs of air, or something like it, travelling from the astrologer to the assassins' ears.
- "It's invisible air, instead of actual air." -Laura
- "That clarifies a lot more than it ought to." -Cael
Wei Han grabs one of the Brotherhood assassins, but Xiao Fa whispers to him to let him go again. He growls to the assassin "The Bandits died so that the North Wall would hold. Don't make their sacrifice in vain" and shoves him away.
Min Feng tries to study the old lady in blue, but it bounces off her hidden depths. Kuan-Xi finally realizes what she's been trying to remember - the old lady looks like a much older and far more venerable version of Sai.
Minoru Katsu starts trying to get things under control again, and the non-assassin servants try to help. The assassin servants mostly try to slip away.
- "That is enough of this! This is what happens when you deal with humans. If they want my help, they'll have to bring me a lot more than this!" -Old lady in blue, stomping off
Min Feng chases the lady in blue. What sort of help does she need? She doesn't need any help. She's not the one having trouble with boats.
- "Are you Sai?" -Min Feng
- "Oh, don't even speak that girl's name to me. She's going to be in such trouble."
The old woman jumps into the water garden, and vanishes. Min Feng thinks the Sea Lord is back on his flagship. With the Firelord also gone, there's no chance for any sort of announcement here, and the reception breaks up.
The party captures one of the Brotherhood assassins on the way out. Xian convinces the man that she's way too inquisitive, and probably a security risk, so he should take her captive and take her back to the safe house. He is (for good reason) not initially willing to do so, but after 20 successes of fast talk, it begins to sound like a good idea after all (even after a puff of invisible air boosts his resolve to 8).
The guy ties Xian up, and brings her to the "safe house", which involves walking through a brick wall into the back of a tavern. Min Feng follows, and sneaks in stealthily. Everyone else heads to the tea tent, until Kuan-Xi remembers that she knows where Min Feng is so they can follow, and the group relocates to nearby the tavern.
The Brotherhood meeting has about two dozen people. One of them is making a speech - they'll have to take the Sea Lord tomorrow before he sets sail. They'll have to storm the ship, and many will fall, but those who do will be venerated as the Bandits are. They will meet tomorrow at noon, and he'll provide the cloaks that will let them get onto the ship.
After the speech finishes, Xian thinks that the motive of the speaker was "Convince the dupes". The guy who "captured" Xian explains her presence: she foiled the assassination attempt and then turned herself in as penance. He wants to stay for the interrogation, but one of the others puts a hand on the guy's shoulder, and convinces him that he would be better off leaving. He agrees, somewhat vacantly and leaves.
Xian does her best to keep the five remaining bad guys talking while they drain her resolve and ask her more questions.
The short version of why Xian interrupted the assassination is "to prevent bloodshed and retribution". They tell her to be more helpful, but she protests that it's hard to know how to be helpful without knowing who they are.
- "All right, tell me the first thing that pops into your head that would be helpful for Maya to know."
- "Kalkin's back." -Xian
Min Feng quickly disguises herself as Mola Ram, and then shoots one of the Maya priests ("Mask"), as Wei Han leads the group in. The priests shout to "Dreamer" to let Maya know, and he begins to pray. "Sad" stares into Xian's eyes, causing her to feel guilty and angry at her friends, enough to attack them. "Mask" asks what the archer's (Min Feng) secret weakness is, and Xian says it's Xiao Fa. "They make such a cute couple!"
The rest of the party bursts in, and a less unequal combat ensues. Kuan-Xi and Wei Han both paste Dream before he finishes his prayer, and Xiao Fa starts dispelling some of the southern chi that Xian is swimming in. "Sun" points at Xiao Fa. "That one is named Xiao Fa! Take him out first!"
Most of the priests fall fairly quickly - "Sad" is the last left, and expends his death curse on Kuan-Xi and Min Feng: any time they damage someone, they are wracked with guilt and cannot attack the same person again without a serious resolve roll. (Shen-Ji thinks that's a dharma power).
Once the bodies are searched, there is a sword, a list of Brotherhood members and possible recruits, a bottle of wine, a mask, and a silver holy symbol of Maya. The holy symbol is communication-related, Shen-Ji thinks, but he's not sure if it's active. The mask and the holy symbol are both Light, and the wine is Dark.
Wei Han stands guard in the Brotherhood "safe house" while everyone else goes to House Suzuki so that Lady Suzuki can report this all to the Firelord (and get the credit for it). Lady Suzuki isn't really clear who Maya is, but "Southern Priests" are no good. Lady Suzuki reports to the Firelord, carefully explaining that "these guys" (the party) unmasked and slew the priests who were behind the potential attack on the Sea Lord at the party; her gestures manage to include herself as one of these guys.
The Firelord's guys show up at the safehouse and examine the place and take the bodies, but all the interesting loot (and the notes) have already been pocketed by the party. Wei Han copies the list of Brotherhood members before giving the list to Xiao Fa.
That night, the non-intimidating party members meet the Brotherhood contact at the elephant pen, and explain about the Southern sorcerers. They give them the list of Brotherhood members (which he tears up into little pieces and eats), and he says they'll have to go underground. Min Feng emphasizes to them that they shouldn't believe anyone who offers them help, as they're probably bad guys with an agenda. Xian says he'll put them in touch with someone who was helpful to the Bandits of the Double Caldera, after a month.
Xiao Fa thinks the Brotherhood guy has been affected in the past by "Wine" dark chi, but it's mostly faded now. He removes most of the effects on the party, except for the death curse, which may require more work.
Xian finds that she has atoned sufficiently, that Takanata's curse on her is broken.
- Xiao Fa sets up a travelling healing house with bonus nutrition for the Shrouded Isle. This counts as atonement.
- Shen-Ji talks to some wise women, who assign him homework of doing a bunch of smithing for various villages. This counts as atonement.
- Wei Han talks to the Brotherhood about the villainy of the Obsidian Warlord.
- Cai Wen sets up a circus performance telling the story of the Bandits of the Double Caldera
- Cai Wen also sets up a performance in which he paints himself as the villain for talking them into their doomed assault on the Obsidian Warlord, and the other people in Midwinter apologize for having been duped by Cai Wen and for having helped convince the Bandits. Everyone who hasn't already atoned now counts as atoned.
- Takanata, Yanyu, and Merit arrange to meet up with M.
- Cai Wen introduces Xian to Mistress Song of the Hidden Orchid.