Something We Forgot
|"Absent friends get further away every day."|| The run begins on the Day of the Early Butterfly in the Month of the Butterfly in the first Year of the Bear since the White Pagoda was abandoned|
The run takes place principally in Bear Mountain
Crossing the Streams
The party begins the day, as is often the case, in Tahiti. Less traditionally, Yanyu accidentally decides to experiment with what happens if one holds both a Great Talisman and a Sankara stone. She feels fine for the moment, but Deng, concerned, looks at her with the Orb of Light, and notes that she is the Assassin of Fate. Anyone who she is displeased with shall have all the forces of Fate bent towards their death.
The junior butler brings in a note for Cai Wen, written on the yellow paper traditionally used by the Silken Wings Circus.
- "Oh dear. I've forgotten the circus. And I'm a headliner." -Xian, somewhat prophetically
Unfortunately, Master Zhou is still off talking to the Countess, so he cannot be brought. People wonder how the whole "talk to the Countess about the frame" mission went, and enquire with Xian. Well, um, she got sidetracked and put her acolyte in the Coil. Master Zhou was left behind too, though in the Pagoda rather than the Coil.
- "Straw poll, who wants to give Xian a hard time about that?" -Cai Wen
Xian also warns everyone that they should not try to find out about the plot happening in the Strand with Chochiro, while the party was renaming the Craneslake Heights.
Exposition finished, the group decides they should catch up with the circus, and takes the water gate to the Three Pagodas. A number of monks in green are before the Green Pagoda, doing exercises. A number of monks in red are before the Red Pagoda, doing somewhat more strenuous exercises and being shouted at by Ting Ting. A monk in white is drilling a large novice, shaking her head at trying to get through to him. And Yanyu is lying next to her horse, having passed out when she reached the next scene.
Shen-Ji takes the Butterfly Talisman from her, and the party carries her to the Green Pagoda, where there are said to be healing monks. The monks lay her on a tidy mattress, and summon a healer, who asks after what she has had to eat and drink. Cai Wen explains that it is more of a chi problem, and a chi healer is summoned instead. The healer meditates over Yanyu, and notes that her chi has been pushed to its utter limits, as if the weight of the heavens was pressed down upon her. They will tend to her until she recovers. However, they do not have rooms for the entire party to stay in the Green Pagoda. Shuyan offers to stay with Yanyu, while everyone else sees to business. The meditations of the chi monks do appear to be pushing chi back into Yanyu, though her status seems to Shuyan lower than it "should" be.
Cai Wen guesses that the Iron Fortress command performance will be in two days, in the evening. Has Quan Lo been invited? Yes, the monks inform him that invitations to the Most Enlightened have arrived, but it does not seem likely that his meditations will allow him to leave the Green Pagoda for a circus performance.
Others head to talk to Yanzi about the training, both Po's and otherwise. She says that the Green and Red pagodas are preparing for the upcoming war.
- "Um... maybe we should segue into news?"
Rumor has it that the new King of the Craneslake Heights has been leading raids across the border and harassing the nobles and generally testing the resolve of Bear Mountain. Thus, the Pagodas have been instructed to prepare for the defense of Bear Mountain. Yanzi notes that Master Zhou has instructed her that there will not be a war, and it's all foolishness, so the White Pagoda is keeping to a more normal training schedule (though Po needs more help, so she was putting in extra sessions with him). Both Broken Sword and Yue Mei are off investigating personal matters. Broken Sword is looking for Lucky Chang's headquarters, and Yue Mei has gone north about an "overly troublesome beastmaster". Both promised that their missions were investigation only, and that they would take no precipitous action without reporting their findings first. (Yanzi's tone suggests that this promise was the only reason she let them go.) Yanzi also asks that if anyone sees Master Zhou, to let him know that the Circus urgently requests his presence.
A Tea Tent Long Deferred
Everyone but Shuyan and Yanyu heads down the mountain, arriving in Iron Fortress late in the afternoon. They head for the circus.
Rubberlegs rushes over, welcoming Cai Wen with great enthusiasm. Did he bring the headliners? Cai Wen admits that Shuyan is still up at the Three Pagodas, but Xian is here.
- " All doubt is banished from my heart!" -Rubberlegs
The assistant props master starts redoing the rehearsal schedule, and rushing to get tents set up for everyone. Plus the tea tent should be set up again - it hasn't been used for a few months.
Cai Wen heads to confer with Melina, who looks a little more harried than usual, but very pleased to see him. By any chance did the Ringmaster bring Master Zhou? Alas, no. She has had portents that it would be politically destabilizing were they to perform for Lord Yu without having a Great Master of Bear Mountain also present.
- "Having all three there would be a coup. The good kind. For the circus, that is. Not the bad kind." -Melina
It being a vision of the future, she isn't sure of the details or why a Great Master needs to be there, but she is confidence that the country will be destabilized if they can't get one to attend. Cai Wen mentions the rumors of the war with Craneslake Heights. She has also heard the rumors, and assumes that it is related.
- "I have been relying a bit more on portents of the future. While Rubberlegs is highly skilled and very effective, he does not secretly command an Empire-wide intelligence service." -Melina
Cai Wen uses the shadow quills to write to Shuyan. Has Yanyu recovered? Also, please find out if Kar Fai is in residence - the circus really needs one of Kar Fai or Quan Lo. Shuyan writes back that Yanyu is awake (and starting to partake of tea and nourishing broths), and that Shuyan will investigate.
Shuyan heads to the Red Pagoda, and asks to see Kar Fai. She is permitted to speak to the monk in red outside Kar Fai's study, but when Shuyan says it is about a circus invitation, the monk says that Kar Fai is "not here".
- "The master is attending to important matters of the nation, possibly the world, and those of us who have brought him circus invitations have learned to not do that any more."
Shuyan heads back to confer with Yanyu. Perhaps mentioning the circus is not the best way to go about this. Yanyu takes a turn, and lets the monks of the Red Pagoda know that she needs to talk to Kar Fai about the stability of the country. That is sufficiently dire to get in to see the Master.
- "You have information about the stability of the country?" -Kar Fai
- "I have learned that there will be a crisis unless one of the Masters of Bear Mountain is not in the fields outside the gates of Iron Fortress, two evenings from now..." -Yanyu
As she says this, she spends a yin and realizes that it isn't true.
- "Hmm. That is not entirely correct. I will need to consult on this." -Yanyu
- "Perhaps you should." -Kar Fai
- "But can I count on you to do what is necessary for the stability of Bear Mountain?"
Yanyu and Shuyan confer with Cai Wen via the shadow quill. He checks with Melina, and her best guess is that the causality is the other way - if the country is destabilized, the masters can't come? She throws in some Analyze Prophecy, and thinks that is the issue. Yanyu writes Kar Fai an extra-polite note explaining this, and then she and Shuyan head down the mountain.
Master Deng goes to shmooze with the soldiers around Iron Fortress about the upcoming war. As far as they're concerned, the Heights have been making up pretexts for a year now. They've been talking about mysterious kung fu conspiracies to take over their throne, and border incursions that never happened. But now men serving under the new king have crossed the border and attacked northern Bear Mountain lords, and since the king convinced the Dragon Army to pull up stakes, the border is less protected.
Master Deng also wonders: what do people here think happened in the Craneslake throne war? The local rumor says that King Hawk broke the Steward's resistance by killing his son, and now he serves the new king, while Lord Du went into exile.
Cai Wen ponders - could there be something to the fact that the rumors don't clearly specify the name of the king, could that be part of the fact that it wasn't clear whether the King was Hawk or Du? Could this be some clever trick of Lord Du pretending to be King Du? Could Bear Mountain be confused about who the King actually is? None of this goes very far, though - the circus folk seem clear that the new king is King Hawk, and the coronation should have put a stop to the Heisenbergian confusion between Du and Hawk.
Shuyan and Yanyu reach the foot of the mountain, and Rubberlegs presents Shuyan with her rehearsal schedule (basically just "rehearse three times before the performance"). She does her first rehearsal, and notes that not as many circus folk showed up to watch as she is accustomed to.
Cai Wen decides it is time for some more relaxation, and takes his new picnic basket and a blanket out to try out a starry evening picnic. As he begins to unpack, he spots a horse and rider, heading for the circus at a good clip, and he waves the rider, who proves to be Merchant Siri, over.
- "What are you doing out in the middle... - how could you possibly have known? You must have already gotten my messages, then. Anyway, he's fine, don't worry about it." -Siri
- "Um, fill me in?" -Cai Wen
- "Sei Lin was very concerned that it not look like he was running out on the circus. So I'm just officially letting you know that he's fine, he's just doing the cryptic dance of stealth and thievery." -Siri
- "Oh... yeah, he was working for the circus, wasn't he?" -Cai Wen
- "So you don't have to sidetrack to rescue him, just deal with the others." -Siri
- "So... Lord Du is totally not involved?" -Cai Wen
- "That guy from the throne war? Is there anyone not in your circus?" -Siri
Cai Wen explains that there are rumors of a possible invasion up north. Well, Siri just came from up north, and there isn't any invasion that she noticed. What was she doing up north? Well, she was following Sei-Lin, who was following the other guy. But Sei-Lin is fine - Cai Wen only has to worry about the others.
This is all very confusing, and Cai Wen has had a long day, so he diverts Siri with tidbits from the picnic basket, and a pleasant finish to the evening is had by both of them.
An Uncomfortable Realization
In the morning, Cai Wen and Siri show up to breakfast in the tea tent, and Cai Wen explains that Siri says that there are no invasions up north.
- "Also, Sei-Lin is missing and is totally fine, which probably means he needs rescuing." -Cai Wen
- "No, no, weren't you listening? Sei-Lin is fine. Everyone else needs rescuing." -Siri
- "Wait. What?" -Everyone else
Siri realizes maybe Cai Wen didn't get her messages after all. Akimoto and Mondo and some others were all captured. Did nobody notice?
Apparently, nobody has noticed. This seems a little implausible.
- "Rubberlegs, where is Mondo?" -Cai Wen
- "Who's Mondo? Is he someone else you just hired?" -Rubberlegs
- "There's some crack ringmastering right there." -Xian
Melina is summoned to the tea tent, where Cai Wen asks her to go over the main acts. She doesn't know who Mondo is, nor Kar Lo. Gipeno she recognizes, but he took leave to pursue his Steppes princess. Akimoto is unknown, as is Min Su. Iron Shirt Jo Jo is still here, though!
Melina does admit that the circus has a lot of monkeys which are trouble to take care of but don't do much.
- "Melina, does that make any sense?" -Xian
- "I'm just the assistant ringmaster. I didn't implement this policy!" -Melina
This seems fairly terrible. So where are they? Siri says that they're in the Shale Pass mine. The what? Master Deng remembers Shale Pass - that's a little town that Merit learned he had a house in. It has to do with that whole deal with Magpie. Siri clarifies - they were dragged off in the night, but Sei-Lin managed to follow one of them.
With the Orb of Light, Melina's chi looks okay and smooth. Melina reads Jo-Jo's palm - what has he forgotten? Well, half the people in the circus, for one. That takes Melina aback - she hadn't quite believed Cai Wen until that point. What should she know? That three members of the circus are currently trapped in the mine awaiting rescue.
- "It would be really useful if we had a riddle master, for times like these." -Melina
Rubberlegs notes that there have been a few too many tents up in the past few days - he's been packing them up.
Melina checks checks the future. It is shrouded by an uncompleted quest. She has missing comrades: Five are gone. One escaped the trap and is lost but safe. The other avoided the trap and knows where he is but is in danger from himself. The other three need rescuing.
Well, of those two, one is probably Mondo and the other is Sei-Lin. But which is which?
Cai Wen directs Rubberlegs to pack up a barrel of monkeys to take with him to the rescue, and then they are off, led by Siri.
- "I really like this 'dinner and a night out' before a rescue mission. It's so much more civilized." -Siri
- "Wait, you knew about this yesterday?" -Xian
Shale Pass Mine
Since Siri knows where it is, the Shale Pass mine is not hard to find. It appears to have had a great deal of rubble blown outwards, and there are two extraordinarily unimpressive guards, though they are dressed in something faintly reminiscent of the Dragon's Throne guards, with a Magpie/Serpent/Dragon sort of flair. Something about the whole thing reminds Xian of the Coil.
Siri says that Sei-Lin was preparing to go in when Siri accosted him; after various discussion, it was agreed that he could not leave the circus folk unrescued, but Siri would go inform Cai Wen and Sei-Lin would go do the dance of mystery. There may have been pinky-swearing involved.
Xian hints very strongly that there is something in the mine that could be Inconvenient to find, and this might be a problem. However, people do not have much patience for Xian being cryptic and confounding, and do not seem interested. Xian insists that there be NO LOOTING, and this is IMPORTANT, but she still will not explain why in front of the master thief and Shen-Ji, so her point falls on somewhat deaf ears.
Deng declares the Plan to be to stick together, not kill anyone, get the three party members, and leave with them. Xian confounds the two guards into leaving, so the not killing anyone part is at least off to a good start.
The mine branches as things get deeper; the branches are part of a mechanic, splitting the challenges into stats, then many opponents / one strong opponent, then substats. As the mine gets deeper, it also becomes possible to trade more things between people who are in the same place.
The mine also seems to have, oddly, crowds of people in some of the branches. Xian is pretty sure that they are not real people, but when she tries to figure out what they are, she gets distracted. Deng tries to figure out where the greatest danger, but he has already used that shtick.
Yanyu puts the blessing of the Butterfly on the group, and she, Xian, and Shuyan head down the branch to Social.
Siri notes that all the loot is farther forward, but also, the farther forward they go, the more like loot they are.
Shuyan and Xian head towards Social/Few; Yanyu heads to Social/Many. Yanyu ends up at a lovely party, while Shuyan and Xian are with the Count, who has to split his dice when faced with two strong social opponents, so they can resist his wiles.
Everyone else (the ones not heading towards Social) head back gatewards and manage to deduce which the other stats are. Kasumi heads down the Body path, and encounters sumo wrestlers and a climbing wall. Shen-Ji follows Tao, and figures in mystic robes bow before him and enjoin him to share their hidden secrets. He tells them that the Great Spider spirit is really a skinwalking demon in disguise. Someone nearby makes a cutting remark about Takanata, but Shen-Ji can't remember it. Cai Wen heads into the maze of Mind, where it appears that Mondo has gone before him, and Deng heads to Reflexes, where they are preparing for war.
Having hit the end of Social/Few, Xian and Shuyan are in the interrogation room, which Xian realizes with dismay is not as unreal as the rest of the challenges. Xian is pressed to confess what she doesn't want Li the Wanderer to know, but here being a bit scatterbrained helps, and all she can think of is that Xiao Fa wants to be Emperor, which is probably not the biggest of surprises.
At the end of Social/Many, Yanyu is questioned by reporters - she thinks that the best way to defeat the party's fighters is through seduction, though she is not confident in that.
Deng fights many foes, which is not a problem; Cai Wen reaches the end of Mind/Few and finds the place where Mondo has left the world. (Not died, but something-walked). Shen-Ji is beset by ripper demons, and Shuyan faces the interrogator. Shuyan manages to steal the spotlight and turn the tables, and asks what Li the Wanderer's weakness is. The answer is his brother - he can be manipulated by threats to or pressure from his brother.
Once people pass their challenges, they find the pathways beyond, which are where the cells are. Unfortunately, none of the cells first encountered has a prisoner in it (and due to some very poor drawing of chits from a bag, this will continue for an improbably long time).
Beyond the empty cells are three choices: back the way you came, Freedom, or Fire.
Shuyan and Xian are the only people in the third level together, and they are not interested in trading anything. Shuyan chooses Freedom, and finds herself back on the hillside overlooking the mine (the guards have returned); Xian and Yanyu choose Back.
Kasumi takes damage against the foe in the Health/Few room, and Shen-Ji is hit with chi balls over in Tao.
Five turns into the mechanic, things become more difficult.
Shuyan chases the guards away with a terrifying snake and heads back in to search further. Siri and Cai Wen get past Mondo's empty cell, and Siri recognizes the flame as the Flame of the Dragon - through that is one of the keys to the Dragon's Hoard. Cai Wen insists that trying to go through will result in being burned to a crisp, with no way around it, and persuades her to not try to get to the key.
Xian bounces back through the interrogation room, without Shuyan this time, but manages to keep from leaking anything more.
Shen-Ji goes through Fire, and being somewhat fire resistant and chi resistant with Pao's help, gets through without being completely burned to a crisp. He takes the Key, but in the round after succumbs to the flames.
Kasumi uses the ring of What The Heck on the fire, and gets a quick briefing: this is one of the three Flames of the Dragon, each of which guards one of the three keys to the Dragon’s Hoard. Li Merit had previously made a deal with Magpie stating that Magpie would provide Merit with pointers to the keys, and when he acquired all three, he would get to enter the Hoard and pay himself out of the what he finds there. The remainder would go to Magpie. He’s since been avoiding this deal, so has basically been ignoring this place to leave the hidden key where it is.
People continue to struggle their way through the various challenges, only to continue to find nobody in the cells. Xian is crushed socially by having to defy the (probably not real) Countess.
Yanyu and Deng head through Fire to try to rescue Shen-Ji; Deng uses his "just missed me" shtick to jump back out to avoid being damaged by the fire, and finds himself in a different cell. Yanyu manages to drag Shen-Ji (and his key) back out to Freedom, and Kasumi gets out, seriously pummeled by the Body side of things. They all find Shuyan's terrifying snake guarding the entrance, and are stymied by it.
However, Deng starts jumping into and out of the fire, and this proves a reasonable method of searching more quickly without having to deal with challenges. In the end, he brings out Akimoto, Min Su, and Kar Lo. They are unconscious, and, more ominously, each has a page of the Palimpsest Book tattooed on their backs. Shen-Ji can't tell all of what that does, but what it does here and now is make them able to clearly remember things about the circus and the party, including weaknesses. Shen-Ji also isn't sure how to turn it off - tattoos are traditionally altered by turning them into bigger tattoos, rather than erasing them, and adding more tattoo probably won't completely get rid of the magic.
Siri points out that since there is definitely no invasion going on nearby, they should get an important local to go and testify at Iron Fortress. A local lord, Lord Sanshou, is off speaking with the Dragon Army, but the Northwest Commander has met the party last winter, and is willing to let them in. Lord Sanshou has heard some vague rumors of trouble, but doesn't know where they come from. But he thinks there should be even less trouble now, since Lord Yu will be sending reinforcements. Well, about those reinforcements... they might cause trouble rather than avert it.
Lord Sanshou is hesitant to traipse off to the capital, as he has been waiting to speak to the Obsidian Warlord, who is en route and the withdrawal of the Dragon Army is waiting for him to arrive. But Cai Wen is able to persuade him that the consequences of not quashing the rumor are fairly dire, so he is willing to come to speak to the lack of a current invasion, if the party promises to get him back to his lands quickly.
The group heads south to Iron Fortress at top speed, stopping first at the circus, to reunite the lost performers. Unfortunately, no one there remembers them, and Shen-Ji confirms that the tattoo is causing that effect as well. Dispel Magic on the tatoos temporarily lifts the effect, though Mondo is still not remembered. But the tattoos only affect the people who were there when it was placed, Shen-Ji thinks, so the rest of the word (and probably Gipeno) would remember them.
The party gets an audience with Lord Yu, with Lord Sanshou's help, and the northern lord explains about the lack of invasion. Well, then, why are the Great Masters warning of imminent attack and warning Lord Yu to mobilize? He has a letter, written and sealed by all three of them, that bore the warning to him.
Yanyu and Lord Sanshou head up the mountain. Lord Sanshou is a practitioner of kung fu, so they do not have to wait long. Lord Sanshou explains that nothing is happening in the north. Well, then, why is Lord Yu demanding that they mobilize to defend the mountain? He also has an obviously-authentic letter.
If the monks do not have to be prepared immediately for battle, then Kar Fai can come to the circus then, Yanyu suggests. Kar Fai is displeased - this must somehow be Master Zhou's fault, dragging him into circus politics. Yanyu is willing to let things be blamed on the absent Master Zhou, and Kar Fai is willing to come down the mountain to "sort things out".
- "There is a long standing tradition of Lord Yu and Kar Fai shouting at each other."
Yanyu heads to the Green Pagoda to see Quan Lo. After a time of meditation, she traverses the rice paper hallway to kneel before the master.
- "Great Master, I am disturbed because there is no trouble on the border." -Yanyu
- "And that troubles you?" -Quan Lo
- "No, the thing that troubles me is the letters. Someone has forged letters between the masters and Lord Yu trying to stir up trouble."
- "So. You understand the problem and you understand what you want. Why did you come here?"
- "To confirm that you did not write the letter."
- "You know I did not."
- "I know you did not."
<Quan Lo raises an eyebrow as if to wonder why she asked, then.>
- "Did you receive a letter from the circus?"
- "I did."
- "You should come to the performance. There was a prediction that one of the masters would be there if the country was stable."
- "That master would be Kar Fai."
Yanyu concludes that there is not much to be gained at present from the Green Pagoda, and heads to the White Pagoda, where she persuades Po (who does not need much persuasion) to come to the circus as the official representative of the White Pagoda. He doesn't have the money for a circus ticket, but she allows that Master Zhou's official spokesman would get a free ticket. Po is thrilled at the opportunity to denounce a nefarious war in the name of Master Zhou.
Back at the foot of the mountain, Shen-Ji has been examining the tattoo, and thinks that a more permanent solution will need to have all the missing people back. As a temporary measure, he can continue to use Dispel Magic, and as a slightly less temporary measure, Cai Wen can tell Melina that he has hired the three performers.
But what about Sei-Lin? Is Siri willing to send him back? She allows as she could pull some strings, if Cai Wen were willing to let her have the Key. Cai Wen is not.
The circus performance happens - Lord Yu and Lord Sanshou make an announcement beforehand about there being no invasion from the Heights. Then a great warrior with a long flowing cape appears at the top of a tent pole, backlit by the circus lanterns.
- "Hear me, people of Bear Mountain! The great Master Zhou condemns your war. There will be no war, or you will suffer the consequences of the White Pagoda. You have been warned!" -Po
Cai Wen sets off the Fireworks of Peace, and the ensuing performance is a success.
- Xian writes a curse-song (22 successes) about Lord Du being a jerk.
- and Master Deng