The City, Hidden
|"I'm not sure where we're going, but surely we'll recognize it when we get there."|| The run begins on the Day of the Early Tiger in the Month of the Crane in the eleventh Year of the Bear since the Third Treaty of Houses.|
The run takes place mostly in Tahiti and the Harbor of Shining Reflections
You Seem A Trustworthy Sort
The party gathers in Tahiti - Master Deng is going to be attacked by a Doomhunter at Celestial Sunset, and they intend to spend all of the time between now and then planning for this event.
Xian notes that she is owed a favor by the Blue Dragon, and that at the Doomhunter Party, Lucky Chang seems to have had a Doomhunter-related idea. Lucky Chang tends to have good plans, so perhaps the plan can be co-opted for use against this iteration of the Doomhunter.
The second butler knocks at the door of the meeting room - there are two messengers here, if anyone would care to see them.
- "Is this because there are two messages, or it is a very heavy message?" -Xian
The first messenger is dressed somewhat splendidly in whites and yellows with gold trim. (The second messenger is dressed more shabbily and practically). The messenger in white and yellow says that he has a message for the great Lord Takanata. Nobody moves. He scans the room - is anyone here Lord Takanata? Nobody acknowledges being such. The messenger begins to look puzzled.
Finally, someone explains that while they can get the message to Lord Takanata, he is not currently receiving visitors. Those with Sense Motive note that the messenger thinks that it is totally unacceptable to just leave the "message", but that he is also going to do so anyway because he's already exasperated.
- "Sonwu, Lord of the Royal Clan of the Savanna of Tears, gives you his greetings. Given the failures of both your men and his in attempting to recover what was lost, he has decided to repay a favor long owed by sending this most excellent assistant to serve until the items are recovered. He is both loyal and faithful and will be so for the duration of this affair."
He indicates the second messenger, apparently not a messenger at all. The "excellent assistant" introduces himself as Sei-Lin; he is perhaps fourteen, dressed in leather armor underneath unremarkable clothes, and has a dagger on a belt.
- "He's fourteen. We offer him pork buns." -Kasumi
The Tahiti staff has, in fact, set up the tea room for lunch, and Sei-Lin tucks in. As he does so, Deng has some questions, such as what exactly Sei-Lin is good at.
- "I hear something needs stealing. So where does the guy live?" -Sei-Lin
Yanyu throws in some Good Listener in order to get the new arrival to talk about himself some more.
- "I am the well-known Sei-Lin the Cat! I have been a remarkable plague on the clans of Jabon for several years now, and his Majesty has chosen to pardon my prior activities if I assist you in this matter."
The party briefs Sei-Lin: the "guy" in question lives in the Dragon's Throne, and is one of the eight most powerful people in the Empire. So there is no going after him today - especially when there is a Doomhunter to worry about. So Sei-Lin should make himself comfortable in the meantime. He takes this to mean he can have seconds and thirds for lunch.
After lunch, Deng spars with him - he isn't as weapon-focused as the weapons master is, but he does have more reflexes. (Deng decides that this is the start of a Dex-stat arms race, though Shuyan points out that she has as much reflexes as he does already).
Inokora Izumi talks to Cai Wen about Sei-Lin and is familair with his reputation. After that, there is always a house guard somewhere in line of sight of Sei-Lin.
Yanyu, who has begun to think that Sei-Lin looks somewhat familiar, asks after his birthday and birthplace, and draws up his horoscope.
Destined to be just on the outside of great happenings, now and in the future when his path diverges from the party, Sei-Lin is on a speedy ascent which will probably culminate in yet an another speedy fall. This cycle will repeat until something or someone breaks his self-enforced isolation.
Sei-Lin tries to convince Kasumi (who seems to be the person most interested in listening to him) that even if they can't rob the target today, perhaps they can do a preliminary casing-the-joint on his house. Kasumi says that they can't do that today - it requires a big plan, and there's no time to go to the Dragon's Throne, because that's a pain due to the keys and passes and such. However, since a country estate is So Terribly Boring, he persuades her to take him to the Harbor of Fortunate Arrival for a while, and after the pair of them wander through the Grand Bazaar for a while, Sei-Lin picking up this and that without having to pay for it, Sei-Lin acquires some rapid carriage tickets to the Dragon's Throne. Oh, very well, they can take a carriage trip.
Back at Tahiti, Xian sends a note to the Blue Dragon, courtesy of Lucky Chang, at his house near the Harbor. The note invites him to visit that he might have the opportunity to discharge his debt.
Kuan-Xi and Yanyu take Kuan-Xi's carriage to visit the Reflected City to look for the Son of the Moon. There is a winehouse where he usually drinks at the full moon, but it is closer to the new moon at present, and he isn't there. The pair ask around the city - people do seem to be familiar with him - and get a list of his traditional haunts. They poke their head in all of them, and let the proprietors know that they are looking for him, and eventually Xingfu Yin-Xiang catches up to them. He is pleased to see Yanyu again, though he notes that it has been some time.
- "Well, we accidentally founded a new noble house..." -Yanyu
- "What? With whom?" -Son of the Moon
- "No, no, with paperwork."
- "I am confident that that is not how new houses are founded."
- "It is in the Arcade, it's strange."
So... what has he been up to while they were founding noble houses? He notes that the islands have moved back.
- "I believe I understand who was responsible - it is not a problem, but there was a level of arrogance involved that might have to be answered."
- "Indeed, but there were sad and unfortunate consequences for Lord Takanata. It is not for me to speak of them."
- "I would not want to compromise your honor, but I am sure I can find out."
- "Oh, I have no doubt. You are most honorable, and I am afraid that in his present condition, pressing your argument with him would have no sport."
But... if he is interested in sport, how does he about fighting demons? She and her friends have a minor Doomhunter problem. Well, a major Doomhunter problem. It is not going after her, but another of her friends. She will have to return to fight it, but alas, combat is not her strong suit. Yin-Xiang allows as he can't have her rushing out to protect some fool from a Doomhunter; he can protect her. She says that he can find her later, and in the future, at Tahiti, and that the Doomhunter is expected at Celestial Sunset. Then, they take their leave.
(On the way back, Kuan-Xi and Yanyu shop for a good cute outfit for a combat date.)
Meanwhile, Sei-Lin and Kasumi are off to the Dragon's Throne in the hired carriage. Some hours later, the carriage arrives, at what Sei-Lin thinks is the largest city he has ever seen, and Kasumi thinks is in the middle of nowhere - possibly the city is over the next hill. Each of them assumes that the other is messing with them, or possibly crazy. The guards at the gate want a key, which Sei-Lin doesn't have, and Kasumi doesn't believe in the guards; after a lot of confusion, they get out of the carriage, which starts heading back to the Harbor.
The pair head to where Sei-Lin says is a little ways around the city, at the city wall. When he climbs the wall, from Kasumi's point of view, he has vanished, and rocks that he throws against the wall bounce off as if he is using a clever rock trick to throw returning rocks. When he tries to carry her over the wall, she can't see anything, and finds the whole experience disturbing.
Sei-Lin decides that he is going to scout out the target's house, but doesn't know where it is. He wanders around the Pewter district for a while, unimpressed by what he has heard is the grandest city in the Empire, and then starts sneaking over walls. He gets all the way to the Obsidian District, but since he doesn't have a key or appropriate clothing, if he stops sneaking, people call for the guards. Since the people in Pewter don't know where the Imperial Cartographer lives, and people in higher districts won't talk to him, he gives it up eventually and returns to Kasumi, and the pair returns to Tahiti.
Everyone shares their adventures over dinner at Tahiti, and Yanyu notes that Master Deng can hide behind her so that her date will chop the demon. That seems unlikely.
People recall that the Cartogramancer has lived in the Butterfly Meadows for at least a year, though rumor says he has only just recently moved back to the Dragon's Throne. Well, there is no point in trying to rob his old house, presumably.
So... what is up with the Dragon's Throne? If it were back to the Hidden City as a whole, then the carriage driver and the guards and the inhabitants would have thought so; is it just Kasumi? Kuan-Xi contemplates trying to scry Shen-Gao's house, but since she doesn't think that's really a place, it doesn't work.
Cai Wen sends a request for a report to Fou Zan, the head of the Bureau of Weights and Measures in Illumineaucracy, on the duplicating paper that he has given her. About half an hour later, he receives a report on the status of the mechanic, and who is doing what. It is an impressive document, in that it completely avoids mentioning any locations at all. (While thinking about this, Cai Wen realizes that there is a particular skill being used against him in his game, and buys four ranks of what turns out to be "KS: Cartogramancy").
Iron Shirt Jojo is summoned, and instructed to do what he can to stand between Deng and the Doomhunter, if he can do so without dying.
The next day, Cai Wen zips to the Cup of Five Virtues, looking for members of the Eternal Braid. Eternal Redoubt is the only one there. He mentions the Great Debate that has been going on between Hsu Verity and Shen-Ji. About what? About whether to become more awesome!
- "What if he's trying to lead you to his doom for his own personal aggrandizement?" -Cai Wen
- "Oh, I see, you've already been talking to Verity." -Eternal Redoubt
Cai Wen offers Eternal Redoubt the opportunity of a lifetime - to come and observe another Doomhunter fight. In exchange for the invitation, would Eternal Redoubt be willing to help them with a little cartogramancy problem they've been having? The sorcerer is dubious.
- "I get to help you with your cartogramancy problem, and in return I get to help you with your Doomhunter problem?" -Eternal Redoubt
Cai Wen thinks that's unfair - if it was Shen-Ji, he would surely consider it a worthwhile investment to get to carefully observe an infinitely dangerous demon. Why is Eternal Redoubt not jumping at the opportunity? Eternal Redoubt says he's willing to help, but he'll want something for it - how about letting him keep the body of the Doomhunter? Cai Wen counteroffers - how about Eternal Redoubt gets to have a few pieces of the body? After all, Shen-Ji might want to have the rest of it, so giving away the whole thing wouldn't be right. Eternal Redoubt notes that "Shen-Ji might want it" is one of the reasons that he wants it first.
After some further haggling, they agree that Eternal Redoubt will show up and attempt to help with walls or moving people out of the path of the Doomhunter, and if he actually succeeds in saving someone, or if he gets seriously injured (small injuries don't count), then he can have the Doomhunter's body. Otherwise, he gets nothing!
Kuan-Xi takes Zhi-Hao shopping; with a karma point, she finds a most interesting little traveling cart shop, where she tells the proprietor that she is looking for defenses against demons with edged weapons, for her friend here.
- "Does it help to tell you it's a Doomhunter?"
- "No, ha ha ha, that would not help at all. That is a funny joke."
This friend, how many EPs does he have? Does he have room in his tree for a fourth-level shtick? He does have the EPs and room for such a shtick, yes. The shopkeeper will sell him, then, a ring which will let him always take half damage from demons. In exchange, the shopkeeper will take one of his attacks, three times (not against the Doomhunter). Three times he will take one of Deng's attacks and use it for his own purposes. Deng agrees. When he puts on the ring, it disappears, and he has the shtick. He also has the concept "Demonsbane" added to his sheet.
Yanyu also goes shopping, and buys Sei-Lin some sensible warm clothes; there are not so many mysterious shopkeepers on this trip.
Cai Wen goes on a date with Chau Mei, and goes through the plan of all the defenses and favors-being-called-in that they have thought of. Does she think this is likely to be sufficient to do the impossible? Chau Mei wants to know what their goal is - to defeat the Doomhunter or keep Deng alive? One option, for example, is to go get his soul back after he dies.
- "Well, we had considered that." -Cai Wen
- "Okay, more outside the box, then. Who commands the Doomhunter?" -Chau Mei
- "The Imperial Alchemist, our arch enemy."
- "Well, never mind that, then."
Her guess as to the best use of the options is to buff him up a lot, let the Doomhunter take out some initial aggression on him, and then have him "die" with the serpent ring.
- "But make sure he doesn't run into the same Doomhunter again later, because it'll know that something is up, then."
Shuyan and Xian spend their Bear Points for general defense helping Master Deng withstand the Doomhunter.
Sei-Lin tries another few times to drag people back to the "I'm here to help you rob this guy" plot, but he is not really very convincing when people want to spend all the time Thinking About Doomhunters. Kuan-Xi considers the cartogramancy effect on the party, and notes that first, cartogramancy is technically a very narrow and rare subspecialty of wood sorcery, so there is likely to be a wood or paper map controlling this ongoing effect, and second, it is likely to be not in the Dragon's Throne, because you can't have the source of the severing be severed from the targets of the severing. So perhaps the offending map is hidden somewhere in Tahiti! Sei-Lin starts searching the estate (and all of the party loot) for things that could be the map. He finds some interesting Deeds of Property that (as far as anyone but him can tell) don't have any locations, and an atlas, and a map of the Jade District that looks like abstract art to everyone else, and any number of other pieces of paper and books, but nothing that appears to be the Cartogramancer's map. Well, it was probably too much to hope for that he would have broken into Tahiti to hide his focus. Are there any other constraints on where it is? Well, it's probably not in the World Above or Below. It might be in the World of Dreams, but that would have more side effects, like nightmares about the Hidden City.
- "But it could be anywhere in the Eleven Kingdoms." -Xian
Cai Wen shows Sei-Lin his Illumineaucracy report - yup, Sei-Lin thinks that there are locations in it. Sei-Lin also starts to get a sinking realization - the only reason that the Secret Conspiracy Mastermind is going to show you his Secret Conspiracy Report is if he's planning to kill you later. They're just going to kill him as soon as he finishes helping them rob this guy, aren't they? Cai Wen says of course not. Sei-Lin gets him to pinky-swear - no killing him when he leaves, and in exchange, he won't tell anyone about the contents of the conspiracy report, or about the stuff of theirs he's told about or looked through. They swear, and the Butterfly Talisman thumps.
Now that he is Officially Sworn In, Sei-Lin tries again - if the guy has a house in the Butterfly Meadows, they should totally loot that one for practice. That's in the "easy noobie area" of the Eleven Kingdoms!
Well, that almost makes sense. Maybe the map is there. There's still close to two hours before Celestial Sunset, so why not?
A Practice Break-In
The group takes Kuan-Xi's little carriage to the Butterfly Meadows (Sei-Lin is impressed). It appears that while Su Song has moved out, his house isn't standing empty, and it still has staff, including a guard detail.
Kasumi, Sei-Lin, and Shuyan sneak in past the guard in the front hall, and split up to start searching. Shuyan finds a hidden compartment in the master bedroom with a sword in it, but as she continues to search, and finds some mapmaking tools, she starts to get the feeling that she is finding things that she is expected to find. Sei-Lin finds a pouch of jewels, but after pocketing it, he starts to get the feeling that it is a trap, though not one which can hurt him. Creeped out, he puts the jewels back.
Kasumi bumps into a guard as he goes through a door right next to her; he sounds an alarm, and everything switches into combat time.
Sei-Lin keeps searching, and finds a storage room with things like nice china and silverware, boxed for storage or shipping. Cai Wen goes around the outside of the house looking in windows, spotting a guest bedroom and an art room. Kasumi gets past the guard chasing her. Sei-Lin finds a locked room which proves to be completely empty, which he is sure is a lie of some sort, and he stays to investigate it. Cai Wen smashes a window, and rides around the corner on his newly Sneaky horse.
Kasumi decides that trying to evade the guards is too tedious, and switches to stabbing them. Master Deng doesn't want to be left out of the chopping stage, and heads in. The guards recognize him, though, so now they all have to die - between Kasumi and Deng, they can accomplish this without much trouble, leaving just the servants cowering in the back room with furniture in front of the door. Xian shouts at them through the door to shelter in place and not come out.
- "Are the guards all dead, or just down?"
- "Now that you check, three of them are dead and one is bleeding to death."
- "Oh, um, okay."
Yanyu has put a Phoenix blessing on the whole event, so Sei-Lin figures out that, once the door behind him is shut, it's vault-like in some sense, but also just a door to the hallway.
Kuan-Xi and Yanyu sneak into the house - in Kuan-Xi's case, her idea of stealth involves whistling, but since there is really no one looking, it doesn't matter much. Cai Wen stays on watch outside, in case anyone shows up to visit.
The door to the empty room seems to be the significant thing, but it is not clear what can be done to it. With a handful of karma, Kuan-Xi puddle-jumps to not-quite-water, bringing Sei-Lin with her, and they find themselves standing on a large wooden map, in the painted ocean, inside a large room full of maps. The wooden map has a line around the Dragon's Throne, with the names of everyone in the party (though not Sei-Lin) inscribed in the line.
After a lot of experimentation, it appears that from inside the map room, the door can be opened leading back to the hallway in the house, but then Yanyu and others are trapped in the empty room because their door no longer opens. After some fussing around, everyone gets into the map room.
The group loots the map room of all the paper maps tacked up to the walls, and then Yanyu sets the wooden map on fire. There is a giant magical explosion, and the remnants of the Cartogramancer's working shred and attach to people.
- Everyone present is absolutely sure where the Dragon's Throne is, and as long as the associated disad is in place, KS: Dragon's Throne is an inherent skill. It is fairly obvious that the way to get rid of the disad is to do a substantial favor for either the Cartogramancer or his daughter. The associated disad is that everyone present completely loses one country from their mental map drawn randomly (Cai Wen gets to draw two and pick one).
- Shuyan: Savannah of Tears
- Cai Wen: Qin Chao Steppes ("I should probably remember where the Arcade is")
- Kuan-Xi: Jade Taiga
- Yanyu: Roof of the World ("Good thing I told my boyfriend where I live.")
- Zhi-Hao: Shrouded Isle
- Kasumi: Forest of Chin
- Sei-Lin: The Strand (but he can be taken there and see it once he's there due to his partial immunity to magical traps.)
- Xian: Illuminated Precincts ("Argh! This destroys my plan to get Takanata back!")
With little time left before Celestial Sunset, the group heads back to Tahiti. The various NPCs who they have summoned are there: the Son of the Moon, Eternal Redoubt, Iron Shirt Jojo, and the Blue Dragon
The Son of the Moon, initially somewhat grumpy at having been made to wait, cheers up on seeing Yanyu and kisses her hand.
Master Deng chugs a bottle of Golden Palace Rice Wine. He gains a very large number of charisma, and loses a very large number of dexterity. Oops, wait, that wasn't his plan. Old Hop is impressed - even he doesn't usually drink it that fast. With a handful of karma, he manages to shift the dexterity loss to a loss of resolve and grace.
Xian chats with the Blue Dragon.
- "A mutual friend of ours had some sort of cunning plan about a doomhunter..." -Xian
- "Unfortunately, you and I have very few mutual friends who are not here." -Blue Dragon
- "Well, not a friend. But someone very close to you."
In any event, the Blue Dragon agrees to do what he can to protect Master Deng.
Yanyu puts the Blessing of the Bear on the occasion (this will let the Bear Points spent shift around a little, and will help save Iron Shirt Jojo's life later).
Deng puts on both the Magpie and the Monkey talismans, though Kasumi wants it on the record that this is a bad idea.
At Celestial Sunset, the Doomhunter shows up. Kasumi chops it, using one point of Hirasoto's boon. Yanyu flamestrikes it, and Xingfu Yin-Xiang, not wanting to be out-damaged by his girlfriend, chops it.
- "Why is the Son of the Moon here? Why is he kissing people?" -Xian
Iron Shirt Jojo puts himself between the Doomhunter and Deng, and the Blue Dragon gathers up his chi and pushes it into Jojo. Eternal Redoubt puts up a wall between the Doomhunter and his targets.
The Doomhunter plows through Eternal Redoubt's wall, and into Jojo, but bounces off Jojo, which is pretty impressive. However, that means he attacks Jojo instead of Deng, with four separate attacks. Jojo takes a lot of damage, but does not quite fall. Ahah! The Doomhunter is a wuss! Victory is assured!
Alas for the group, the Doomhunter's nose is not stealable, nor is he distractable by snakes. The thief's backstab does work, though.
The Doomhunter attacks Deng twice, which he ripostes (hmm, his attacks are getting larger), and then Old Hop switches places with him to dodge the second two (larger still).
Jojo and the Blue Dragon repeat their act, but this time the Doomhunter's attacks are about a hundred damage each after Jojo's formidable defense, instead of thirty each, and Jojo goes down hard, but thanks to the Bear blessings in effect (and the Blue Dragon's chi buffs), does not immediately die. Kasumi, Cai Wen, and Shuyan leap on Jojo, healing him back up.
The Doomhunter goes back for Deng again, with no more intercessions by Jojo. Deng isn't able to riposte four attacks by the same person, but Old Hop takes some of them, and is badly wounded.
Blue Dragon aims his chi at Old Hop.
- "Have I your permission, elder master?" -Blue Dragon
- "No! Begone!" -Old Hop
Sei-Lin gets the final killing blow in on the Doomhunter, much to his glee. Sei-Lin is the awesomest!
- "Well-struck!" -The Son of the Moon, thumping Sei-Lin on the back for twenty points of damage.
Deng collapses in Talisman fatigue, and Old Hop also goes down. He calls for rice wine, and Kasumi brings hers. He chugs it, and looks much better, declaring it an awesome fight.
- "I will have Hirasoto bring you more." -Old Hop after drinking all of Kasumi's wine.
The group carefully takes the Talismans off Deng - the Son of the Moon thinks that Yanyu should get to wear one, so she gets one of them for the remainder of the run. The Son of the Moon kisses her hand again, and says he will call on her in the future.
The Blue Dragon takes his leave as well; Iron Shirt Jojo bows formally to him and thanks him for the infusion of chi. He has learned much.
And then, it is time for the victory celebration!
- A messenger arrives from the Butterfly Meadows summoning Kasumi and Master Deng. Deng is not up for traveling, so Kasumi goes on her own to suffer the wrath of Ti Lao