|"It is hard to steal where the host himself is a thief."|| The run begins on the Day of the Late Butterfly in the Month of the Tiger in the twelfth Year of the Bear since the Regency Council was formed.|
The run takes place in the Hon'eth Arcade and the Dragon's Throne.
Burning A Hole
Sei-Lin awakens from vivid dreams of it being the Big Day To Go And Rob The Cartogramancer, to realize that he has THIRTY TAEL that he didn't have yesterday, and that it is his birthday! It is time to buy all the pork buns in the world, and go shopping. Kuan-Xi is a little concerned about the wanted poster that people mentioned seeing in Magpie's realm, so she makes sure to take Sei-Lin and the others only to perfectly normal shops.
He buys a fast, pretty horse which turns out to be named Big Day, and then Kuan-Xi finds him a store named Final Destination which sells weapons, where Deng tags along to. Deng asks for swords which are good against ghosts and demons, and they admit to having one, but don't think it is for him. The sword is translucent and Deng's hand passes through its hilt - yeah, perhaps that is not the sword for him. His "hits desolid" sword Rising Smoke touches the hilt, but having a sword that you can only wield by using another sword would be a little weird. The shopkeeper says that he is waiting for the right wielder to come along.
Sei-Lin looks at the daggers - they have several x5 daggers, one with a black blade edged with silver, one solid-looking dagger, and one very shiny dagger. Loot sense indicates that the black dagger is extra-deadly in some mysterious way, the dull one is extra sturdy, and the shiny one is extra shiny. Sei-Lin buys the sturdy dagger and the shiny dagger.
Kuan-Xi brings him to one of her preferred clothing stores, but they don't seem to specialize in the clothes Sei-Lin is interested in, that being flashy street clothes with a lot of bling. This store does not seem to believe that the word "bling" exists in world. In the end, he gets some brightly colored clothes with shiny chains attached, and Kuan-Xi gets a set of +3 grace robes. The shop keeper wishes Sei-Lin luck on the big day, though.
After lunch, Sei-Lin wonders where to find some good lockpicks. Kuan-Xi is less clear on that, so Sei-Lin asks around his friends on the street. A guy who knows a guy is interested to see Sei-Lin - wasn't he already out on some big job? Oh, if he's in preparations for the big day, the guy is honored, and offers Sei-Lin a pair of good (but not enchanted) magical lockpicks for free. A couple of contacts later, Sei-Lin picks up a pair of slightly magical lockpicks, a ninja escape smoke, and a cloak of stealth. The ninja supplier wishes Sei-Lin luck on the big day.
From a magical shop that Kuan-Xi locates, Sei-Lin orders a cloak of "weird detections don't notice me", paying half up front. It'll be ready in seven or eight weeks. They don't have invisibility potions or rings, or powders of magic detection, though they do sell him a box that contains a vial full of light that will detect magic and an ascension grapple. The shop keeper is concerned that if Sei-Lin needs all this stuff for the big day, he might not be ready for it.
Lijuan draws some prophetic art - it looks like Lijuan and other people with talismans, though where they are is somewhat unclear. Xiao Fa considers where the moving platforms are moving, and decides that it's... the battlemap? (Further consideration indicates that it is the temporarily instantiated battlemap, which is maybe not much clearer, though probably a Cartogramancy thing).
The group heads back to Tahiti. There don't seem to be any clear indications of anything that needs to be done. Perhaps it is a vacation day!
- "We wait for the butler to come and give us the plot."
The butler arrives, with a letter for Shuyan. It is a letter of introduction, requesting (in complex and flowery language) that the master of the House of Butler grant immediate sanctuary to the bearer and seven companions, to provide protection and prevent anyone from pursuing them. It's about a favor's worth of letter.
All right, maybe there is something to these omens, if the House of Butler is involved. There is a ceremonial reading of the Omens of Toro, just in case any of them come up.
The group checks the Master Map:
- The Fox talisman is in the City of Spires.
- The Butterfly and Monkey talismans are at Tahiti.
- The Bear and Magpie talismans are at Bear Mountain. Oops, Master Zhou has wandered off with the Magpie talisman.
- The Dog talisman is in the Port of Propitious Voyage.
- The Phoenix talisman is in the Shrouded Isle.
- The Tiger, Tortoise, Crane, and Serpent talismans are in the Dragon's Throne.
- The Sankara Stone of Kali is in the Forest of Chin.
Kuan-Xi makes some maps from the Master Map for Tortoise, Crane, and Serpent. By now it is mid-afternoon of the Big Day.
Sei-Lin goes through the party loot one last time to see if there is anything worth bringing, and Xian tweaks him about it.
- "So, why do you think someone might let a thief claw through their loot?" -Xian
- "Because you're careless!" -Sei-Lin
- "No, that's not it." -Xian
- "You already promised you weren't going to kill me!" -Sei-Lin
- "I didn't." -Xian
Finally, the group decides to head to the Dragon's Throne, taking Kuan-Xi's carriage to the outskirts but not trying to bring it in.
The Gate Town gates to the Pewter District seem to have some issues - one gate is missing entirely, and the other is covered in scaffolding. There is a sign up:
Please pardon the construction. Guards will return in 30 minutes for inspections.
People seem to be waiting, only slightly impatiently, at the open gate. Shuyan asks around - the guards just left about ten minutes ago and put up the sign. Lijuan asks around, and the local urchins say that if you don't tell anyone, you can just run in. The group decides to head in through the open gate - some sneakily, and others less so. The people waiting call out that the guards should be back soon, but don't seem inclined to stop them.
Lijuan meets with her secret dojo of Pewter urchins - they've been training enough that they're thinking of moving to Bronze. She gives them five li to throw a celebratory party.
Kuan-Xi decloaks to use her full (Butterfly-assisted) status, and brings everyone into Gold. The guards make sure that they were briefed on the Investigation Mechanic when they entered the city - Kuan-Xi says yes.
The maps indicate that Tiger, Serpent, and Tortoise are in the Cartogramancer's house, and Crane is in the market.
A surreptitious passerby checks to see if Sei-Lin needs anything. He asks about anti-sorcery toys, like "nothing can detect me until daybreak" and the like. The passerby says he's part of the Gold Black Market, not the Sorcerer's guild; he can provide things like a servant's livery, more ninja smoke, or another +3 stealth cloak. Or he can put them in touch with the Gold Bureaucracy and the Gold Key Distributors. Sei-Lin considers further, and says that he needs some water, and an untraceable sword, and some snakes. The guy says he doesn't do black market snakes. He can round up all the rest of it and meet back with Sei-Lin. Sei-Lin points to a nearby roof to meet later - on the roof is a dramatic figure, backlit against the sun, cloak waving in the wind.
- "Um, okay..."
The cloaked figure vanishes from the rooftop, and after a moment or two, dashes up to Xiao Fa.
- "Master Xiao Fa! Is it time to save the maiden?" -Po
- "Not quite, but stay close." -Xiao Fa
Po forms up behind Xiao Fa, ready for anything.
In an hour, the black market contact returns with the items requested. The water is "high end black market water", filled from the Fountain of the Golden Secretary in the Hall of the Grand Secretary in the Jade District, and the "untraceable" sword turns out to be a x7 sword which disintegrates and vanishes after a combat. No, there's no charge - it's just part of the Big Day.
- "The part where people keep showing up and giving us stuff for free is much more troubling than the part where I can't escape and will be executed." -Xian
The map indicates that the Crane talisman is still in a market in Gold. Sei-Lin tries for a while to see who is wearing it, but by the time he gets to where the map pointed, the person has gone elsewhere.
Xiao Fa meditates on the chi. Whose Big Day is this, anyway? The answer is "Willow's", which makes the whole everything-is-creepily helpful vibe much more reasonable. According to the previous investigation, Willow is barred from contacting anyone she knows - but Sei-Lin has never met her.
What does Po know about Willow? He knows that today is they day that they break her out!
- "Do you know where she is?"
- "In Durance Vile! That's a place, right?" -Po
He was only able to talk to her once, and he couldn't get the forms filled out that she needed.
Sei-Lin asks around Pewter after Willow, on the theory that while they might not know anything there, he can make the roll. Instead, he spots someone trying to pick his pocket. People with better rolls ask around in Gold. Everyone has heard of the Girl Who Can't Leave, who insulted the Lord Mayor, or something like that. She apparently is waiting at the House of Silent Discretion, because that's where her friends always go when they're in the Dragon's Throne, except this time apparently.
Sei-Lin sneaks into the House of Silent Discretion, and finds Willow. Sei-Lin briefs her on the plan to steal the Talismans, and Willow briefs Sei-Lin on what he needs to know about breaking into the Cartogramancer's house. He manages to remember most of it, and returns to let the party know.
- "Get into the house. Get the tokens. Avoid the guards, and definitely avoid the guardians. Five tokens will let you get to the virtual map. Once you're there, grab the talismans and run like mad to the boat to get back to the real world. Willow will be at the boat, so don't skip that step. Then once we're back in the real world, we run for the House of Butler. I think that's it." -Sei-Lin
- "And the guardians are...." -Xiao Fa
- "I don't know" -Sei-Lin
- "...to be avoided" -Xian
- "Oh, fuck, a boat?" -Xian, suddenly realizing
An additional question is whether to arrange for the Cartogramancer and Autumn Rose to be out of the house, with their talismans - this will make breaking in less perilous, but means less loot. At the moment, the Tortoise talisman is out of the house at a theater.
Bian Mei-Ling's parents, who are important Ivory merchants, can arrange to invite both people to a dinner party for the evening, if the group wants. After some consideration, Mei-Ling is asked to make that happen - both the Crane and Tortoise talismans go to the Ivory district, leaving Tiger and Serpent back at the house.
Kuan-Xi starts it raining, to decrease the sight lines, get people off the street, and increase the puddles everywhere. Most of the group starts sneaking into the house (which bears a totally coincidental odd architectural resemblance to the house in which the Marked ghosts tried to destroy Ringmaster Te).
Most people start sneaking in (Xian disguised as a servant, in the black market livery). Lijuan, Xiao Fa, and Kuan-Xi start outside; Kuan-Xi's theory is to wait until someone creates a puddle inside to puddle-gate to, and Xiao Fa will follow her.
People start searching rooms, keeping away from the servants and the guards, who are circulating from room to room, and dodging the guardians who are also on patrol. Xian cleans the rooms, which is much like searching but can be done with other servants there. Searching different rooms turns up tokens of various flavors (though continuing to search the same room is less effective), and is not amazingly interesting beyond that.
When Xiao Fa accidentally bumps into a servant, the alert goes up, and the servants hide in safe rooms. One of the guardians catches a servant who has not made it to a safe room, and the servant vanishes.
Xian senses the mood of the people in the house - about half of them are terrified, and half are determined. Also, there is an overlying mood which is somewhere between "greedy" and "hungry".
Once people get a full set of five tokens, they may choose to spend them to leave the map; getting more will probably help in the later mechanic, but the guardians are coming perilously close. Eventually, everyone flees to the "virtual map" with five tokens.
The virtual map has four chests - Sei-Lin makes a beeline for the orange chest, which is protected by both a mapp-y trap and a name-y trap. He gets the traps disarmed (which causes a faraway rumbling to begin), unlocks it, and grabs the Tiger talisman (which causes things to begin to shake). People start to run for the exit, which appears to be a Cartagena trail that the tokens can be used on. Xian realizes that a thing Sei-Lin forgot to mention is that bringing more than the minimum of five tokens was probably going to be necessary - they'll end up encountering perilous challenges on the way out if they don’t have another five tokens on the other side.
Sei-Lin stops long enough to get through the chest with the Serpent talisman and let someone else take it, and then everyone dashes for the exit, trying to get as far as they can as the map tiles fall away behind them.
Shuyan proves mostly up to the task of dealing with the poison gas challenges, and Deng is able to fight the ghosts without dying. Xiao Fa gets through the final locked door, and the group reaches the boat. Willow is there, and the boat casts off, heading for the exit back to the real world.
Sadly, it seems that when you sail a boat through the World Above while cursed to encounter sea monsters, Whale shows up. He stops the boat and prevents them from leaving until they negotiate with him.
Whale suggests that the party offer him the Illuminated Precincts as his country. Xiao Fa frowns - didn't Whale have Phoenix in mind as his only target? Oh, if the party is offering Phoenix up.... Kuan-Xi leaps in to say that no, they are not. Well, then, he is suggesting a coastal country which is not in the highest favor with the party.
The group confers. Maybe they could offer him a major tag on the Precincts? Or a minor tag? Deng considers whether the Monkey talisman will let him escape, with a boatful of people, from Whale's clutches. However, simply putting his hand on the tiller does not magically free the boat, and he is not willing to actually declare that he is being Unjustly Restrained, and does not find out how Monkey would deal with it.
Xiao Fa offers a minor tag on the Precincts instead, but Whale is not impressed by this, especially as it doesn't help him much at all if his target country is the Precincts.
Lijuan worries that Bear and Crane will be angry if the group pushes a Great Spirit out to put Whale in. Whale notes that if they are already planning to push multiple spirits out, they should be prepared for various Great Spirits to be angry. Whale also suggests that Lijuan convert to his team; Lijuan is also concerned about Bear and Crane there. Whale thinks that Bear would not be mad at Lijuan, for she will still be who she is, but Crane might take it as a slight.
- "Take my aspect upon you, carry my Talisman among men, and work to put me in the Cycle, and I will protect you from Crane and her servants." -Whale
- "I'll ask Crane if that's okay." -Lijuan
- "Well, next time I capture you, we can talk about it then." -Whale
So... is Renyu no longer favored? Whale thinks Renyu is proving somewhat ineffective.
In the end, the party offers a major and minor tag (Whale to choose the countries and supply a plan and timing), in exchange for being freed and a briefing on Coyote's plans. The Butterfly talisman thumps.
The boat makes its exit, and the party finds itself in a giant wooden boat in the middle of a stage at the front of a theater.
- "Exit, pursued by bear..."
Down at the end of the street, the Butterfly Guards catch sight of them as they leave the theater, and the group runs for the House of Butler, which takes them in, tends their wounds, and promptly smuggles them to Tahiti.
Lijuan checks in with Horse, talking to Li Merit's horse. Horse is a bit sulky that Lijuan is bargaining with Whale for an exit instead of Horse, but she notes she didn't have much choice. She emphasizes that House Sung has gone to a lot of effort to protect Lijuan, and House Zhen could cause them trouble due to the Night of Gates. Horse agrees that is not unlikely. Could Horse just... look out for them? Horse thinks that if Lijuan drops off Li Merit's horse, he can help them out. Lijuan protests - she doesn't want them to have to pay for protection, she wants Horse to protect them because of the Night of Gates. Oh - is this the bill?
- "No!" -everyone else
Horse promises to take Lijuan's wishes under advisement. Lijuan's briefing on the state of House Sung is submitted as Addendum B to Appendix 8 of the bill as submitted by Cai Wen.==Puttering==