|"When the wind blows, some build walls and others build windmills."|| The run begins on the Day of the Late Magpie in the Month of the Serpent in the seventh Year of the Bear since the thirty-fourth Great Northern Invasion|
The run takes place principally in Tahiti
Wei Han wants to figure out what the Empire will be facing next winter; Master Deng has some persistently corrupted Northern shticks, for which Xiao Fa has assigned him homework of defeating Northerners without using those shticks; Lijuan's panda Kawaii has also been corrupted, and needs to refrain from some combats to be cured. Kasumi has agreed to go with the three of them on a jaunt to the north while people poke around and get into fights.
Wei Han is disguised, since he's an enemy of the Empire and some soldiers can notice that, but everyone else heads to the Northeast Command of the Dragon Army to ask for news on what's going on north of the Wall. Unfortunately, the whole party has been declared persona non grata with the Dragon Army, so that doesn't work so well.
Kasumi sneaks around and eavesdrops, hoping to hear something interesting. She overhears several scouts talking about their recent mission, which involved watching zombies fight other zombies in what appear to be war games. That's new and different, and as far as Northern barbarians are concerned, new is bad. Trying to gather information in disguise isn't very effective, unfortunately.
The party (including Kawaii) manages to sneak over the Wall without being spotted, and past some initial Northern scouts. Once out of sight of the Dragon Army, they head northeast.
They creep to the top of a hill and see in the valley below, a small group of zombies, fighting each other in pairs. There are several Northerners watching carefully, and a number of posts in the ground with necromantic totems hanging from them. The zombie pairs fight until one is defeated, and then the three remaining zombies fight until only one is left. The winning zombie is walked over to one of the totems and made to lie down. The second-place zombie's body is dragged over to another totem, and the remaining zombies are dragged into a pile to burn.
Wei Han has seen enough and suggests that everyone involved should be killed, but Kasumi doesn't think the Northern plan is entirely clear yet, and votes for watching further. She sneaks forward (causing one of the zombies to start moaning at her), and she grabs a pouch from one of the poles. It feels as if it has pebbles in it. She grabs several more pouches, but then the zombie starts shambling after her, and she retreats back to the hillside where her companions are hidden.
One pouch has three white pebbles and a black pebble. Another has three white and two black. Each pouch seems to have a different combination.
The pile of zombies gets set on fire, and then the necromancers start looking at the contents of the pouches. They'll notice that the ones Kasumi stole are missing shortly, so the jig is up.
Wei Han suggests keeping the highest-ranking of the necromancers alive for interrogation, but killing the other three. Lijuan is dubious - Yoshi wouldn't approve of just coming north and killing people willy-nilly, but Wei Han is confident that any Northerner who is found in the vicinity of zombies needs killing. One of the Northerners whistles, and four desert ponies come trotting up - well, if they're going to be able to escape, that's definitely unacceptable, so plan Get 'Em ensues.
Kawaii is told to not attack anyone, and Lijuan launches the combat by shouting (in Xiang) at the Northerners to surrender, and then shooting them before they have a chance to do so. She shoots one dead, and a second is injured. The ranking necromancer waves his hands a few times, and the dead necromancer gets up, his hands shaping into terrible claws and a spooky light glowing in his eyes.
Wei Han charges at the horses to scare them, and takes out the ranking necromancer, and Master Deng chops the necro-zombie. The black ichor rusts his sword, and gets on him (more corruption points!), by the time the zombie falls again. The final Northerner is slain, and the ranking necromancer is tied up and gagged. All of their stuff is judged to be suspicious, and is thrown on the fire, as are the totem sticks.
Lijuan befriends one of the ponies, and the necromancer is thrown on its back to carry along with them, as he doesn't seem to be waking up. The party heads west, with all of the Northern ponies, while Lijuan covers their tracks in case any other northerners find the carnage suspicious.
Kasumi scouts forward, followed by everyone else with the ponies, and she spots a small hut, with two of the most incompetent zombies ever, fighting. There's a guy watching them, and a huge adorable dog, though it is frothing as if it has rabies. Kasumi watches the zombies fight for a while, but it's really boring, as neither of them seems to get any successes. The dog is cute, though.
Wei Han declares that it's time to kill the northerners. Lijuan continues to have moral qualms about coming into the North to kill people because they live in the North, but she is outvoted, and the unconscious necromancer is left behind with the ponies.
- "I really don't want to be the one to go to Xiao Fa and say I have rabies..." -Lijuan
Lijuan shoots the dog, and it runs up to lick her. Wei Han and Deng chop at it, but it's very large and doesn't die immediately. The dog's owner screams, so Deng runs over and chops him too.
- "The dog stops being adorable. " -Mike
- "That's kind of a relief." -Lijuan
Now that the dog is angry, it runs at Deng and bites him. They finish killing the dog, and knock the dog owner out.
The house doesn't have much of interest in it, but the dog's owner has what appears to be a wand of zombie control, which Wei Han snaps. There's also a little book in which the guy appears to have been taking notes on which days he had the zombies fight, and which ones won.
The dog's owner wakes up again, but he is gagged and tied.
- "What are you doing? Tell us!" -Wei Han
- "Mmff mff mff!"
A pony runs up and tries to kick Wei Han, but it is mostly ineffective through his armor. Lijuan brings the other ponies and Kawaii over, which starts up combat time again, but she gets Kawaii away again before the beastmaster can control the panda.
The party interrogates the beastmaster.
- "Who told you to keep this journal?" -Wei Han
- "You killed my dog!"
- "You're bringing things back from the dead!"
- "No I'm not! I'm a beastmaster! Don't you barbarians know anything?"
There are more demands that the beastmaster tell them what he's doing with the zombies, but he doesn't see the upside for him if they're going to kill him anyway. The party veers between making veiled threats about torturing him or bringing him south of the Wall to kill so that his soul will be subject to pumice, or offering to let him go if he tells them.
Eventually, they mostly kind of promise to not kill him, but they won't take a blood oath on it, and aren't really sure how to take a blood oath anyway.
He explains that the local necrolord offered "good hard iron coins" if he kept track of which days the zombies fought and how much damage they did - he's trying to figure out when the Day of the Dead is. Who does the necrolord work for? He'll work for anyone who pays him - even the Great Khan.
The necrolord is probably nearby, but the party is getting tired, and decides that if they go have a big fight, they'll be too tired to do anything sensible getting back across the wall, so perhaps it's time to go home.
But what to do with the unconscious necromancer? The "soft touch" damage is supposed to have all come back by now, but it doesn't seem to have, and nobody has enough medical skill to figure out why not. Well, perhaps they can donate him to the Dragon Army to wake up and interrogate. It seems a shame to leave him behind after they went to all this trouble to get him in the first place.
The group heads back to the wall, leaving the ponies behind, and sneak back over. Wei Han, Kasumi, and Lijuan can all climb magically, and Kasumi can yoink Deng up, so it's just Kawaii who has a chance of being spotted. Luckily, the guards on the wall are not paying sufficient attention to notice, and the group is back in the Empire.
Wei Han notes that a powerful necromancer just crossed the Wall into the Empire - possibly other people will be able to tell as well. So... what to do with him? Kasumi doesn't think that they can just wander into the Dragon Army camp and donate a necromancer without things going sideways, but there's no other good place to leave him. Passing the problem off, the group intercepts some of the Dragon Army scouts, pretending to be other scouts, and foists the necromancer on them.
The army scouts are kind of appalled at the whole "kidnap a necromancer and smuggle him into the Empire" idea, and insist that they file a report. Kasumi sneaks a report into the sergeant's tent claiming that "Li the Samaritan" crossed the Wall and brought back a necromancer to donate to the army. Then the party flees the scene, leaving Kasumi to spy on the army to see if they get anything interesting out of waking and interrogating the necromancer.
However, shortly after that, a bunch of monks from the Steadfast Heart show up - they sensed that a powerful necromancer crossed the Wall. The explanation given by the scouts is a little confused, and the report about Li the Samaritan does not shed any light as far as the scouts are concerned. However, the monk recognizes this pattern.
- "I've seen this before. Li the Wanderer does this sort of thing, and your memory may never return. Try not to think about it."
The monks confiscate the necromancer, and the party returns to Tahiti, where Deng and Lijuan look for Xiao Fa to explain about the rabies.(For reference, Deng has gotten credit towards fixing one of his shticks by defeating the named necromancer; the little beastmaster will be back and will be named next time.)