@Tokine: As you complete your meditation, you feel a...shift around the temple. Something in the air changes. You are reminded of the spirit-spider caging your home in its great, horrid legs.
Thunder booms in the distance.
Suddenly the sound of trampling feet and squealing voices shatters your concentration and almost all of your staff and interns come gathering around your door, so excited they cannot maintain any discipline at all. Izumi is leading them and at least has the good sense to bow properly, but she too is quivering with joy as she hands you a scroll that bears the Seal of the Secretary of Palace Events, whose is Kouhei Makoto, a delicate and lovely old man with whom you are good friends and have had many dealings; he often seeks your opinion on matters requiring cultural sensitivity for the comfort of guests, or how to maintain a proper balance between martial might and displays of great beauty. Attached to the scroll by a thin red ribbon is a handbill that explains instantly everyone's extreme giddiness; Kano Toshiro, one of the greatest actors in the Empire as well as one of its most popular recluse celebrities, will be giving a poetry and solo theater recital at tonight's final State Dinner.
My friend, I hope this finds you well, and your studies progressing, and Shelyn's Grace and Beauty flourishing in your heart and all places. Things are quite sad here today as you may have heard. Just such dreadful news.
Thankfully I am writing about a more pleasant topic; I need to ask a favor for our event tonight. In honor of the great Kano Toshiro -- I have attached a handbill -- agreeing to do his recital on the theme of mono no aware, the Son of the Heavens humbly asks if you would provide a small bouquet of Sister's Tears, as well as an appropriate backdrop -- I'm thinking a tapestry or subtle series of framed paintings, perhaps. We can talk if you wish but as always I trust your judgment.
Please let me know if this is in anyway an infringement and we will make alternate arrangements.
Sister's Tears are a sacred flower that only grow in the empire, and only in places specifically concecrated to Shelyn. It is said that this is because they are the flora that sprouted up where Shelyn cried after witnessing her brother's transformation into Zon-Kuthon. They are quite rare and very precious, hence Kouhei's hesitance about asking.
1d20 + 10 ⇒ (17) + 10 = 27
Xun looks a bit startled when you enter, but quickly settles, a broad smile spreading over his rugged features. "Package? Ah, yes. Yes. Arrived in one piece, going out in one piece; all is well." He takes a clipboard from its hook on the wall and sets it on the one desk in the room. He then disappears through another door -- into the warehouse, you'd guess -- reappearing just a few short moments later with a fairly large box. He sets it with a THUD on the floor. "Boy, it's a heavy one! Sign here, please." He indicates an empty line on a sheet of paper. There are many signatures already on this paper of people who have received packages before you.
The box is long, easily long enough to hold a katana, and is several inches deep and wide. It is made of rough wood, but that wood is of high quality. You count four locks and can see arcane writing up the seams where the lid meets the body.
@Chu: You enter Madame Daiyu's tea shop and are instantly taken aback by how elegant, refined, and incredibly busy the place is.
Daiyu herself still runs the place and is currently holding court with a group of customers in one well-pillowed corner. They are all nobles, you recognize them all from various palace functions they have attended. Tea girls and tea boys walk calmly from place to place delivering tea. The smell is, frankly, intoxicating. Madame Daiyu was once a geisha, then a courtesan, and was one of the most revered in the Empire. Late in life she managed somehow to extricate herself from capitol politics and settle down to open a tea shop -- her lifelong dream -- and her fame as a tea artisan now threatens to eclipse her fame as a courtesan. She is always tastefully dressed, elegant in bearing and manner, and a delight to speak with.
Even now, while entertaining a group of nobles, she notes your arrival and makes a small, polite joke that gets her current guests laughing. She uses their laughter as a cover for her to politely excuse herself; all of them cheerfully letting her go about her business, now that they're chuckling amongst themselves.
The great Daiyu approaches you with her faultless and gliding gait and bows deeply and respectfully to you. "Noble Advisor Kage, right hand to the Son of The Heavens, to what do I owe this great honor? You bless my humble shop with your very breath, the shine of your scales like my own private sun on this rainy day."
"Thank you," the Hoshi functionary says. It is the tone of habitual politeness, rather than respect. "May I trouble you for a sheet of canvas and some string to cover this? Also a small sheet of paper and a pen. I was told not to attract any attention, and it is much more distinctive box than I was expecting. I'm not sure what all the secrecy is about, but my lord was very clear."
He throws a couple of silvers from his purse onto the counter to pay for the requested supplies.
Bluff 1d20 + 18 ⇒ (15) + 18 = 33
|Chujitsuna Kage -Loyal Shadow-|
As he stood in the doorway, Chu banished the water from his robes with a simple wave of his scaled hand and a quick focusing of his Ki. As the water fled out of Madam Daiyu's shop he reflected on his walk through the pounding rain, had he not had his artifacts he would be shivering from the cold, thankfully his boots kept his body warm no matter the season. The laughter brought him back to the present and he noticed the Madam approaching him. He stood at his full height bowing his head respectfully to the Madam as she spoke. "You honor me far too much Great Madam Daiyu, please forgive me for not coming to experiancing your wonderful Tea shop sooner. The stories I had heard pale in comparison, as do the ones about you. You are far more elegant and well versed then the rumors give light to." He bows even lower to accentuate his words.
"It would be a great honor if I could have tea and speak with you somewhere quiet about important matters. I do not wish to impose though, If you wish, I can return at a time and place of your choosing." He stands patiently his scaled features a blank mask, serpentfolk were hard to read as it is, merely watching her with his molten gold colored eyes.
The hard rain helps Imuri sleep during the night, deeply and restfully. When he wakes to the mild incense burned by Shoto servants, he allows the morning fog to burn away from his mind while he meditates on last night's events. So many details, so much trouble. Only a clear mind will serve the Empire today.
He stretches briefly and performs his morning exercises, counting in various languages or receiting the names of rising courtiers as he stand upside down on his hands and lowers his body slowly, balancing his mental burdens as well as his physical weight.
After this, a brief kata. Imuri feels that today there will be more martial trials, but the puzzle pieces are mounting faster than even he can put them together. He selects a kata designed to focus his mind and improve his alertness to latent details.
Though it is not his normal routine, he demands a plate of fruit and thin milk be carried with him as he moves from one room to another, adding his chop to relevant papers, selecting his kimono for the day, and, finally, taking a report from last night's shugenja on the state of Wong Tsai. He also requests a statement from those who transported the Scarecrow to her hidden location. He prepares for a full breakfast with his gaijin friends and rivals, and of course Tokine and her companions. Finally, he requests an audience with his mother. Even as her son, he does not presume to impose on her schedule on any terms but hers.
Shoto Imuri does not feel the need for a day of rest, but he does hope tomorrow has fewer developments than today already promised.
Kyras ignores the sounds from outside. So long as they are not screams of terror or the sound of battle, it is nothing to worry about and something he can find about later. Instead, he focuses on Azami's words. For once, he has little to say. His normal wit would be wholly inappropriate here, and Azami's revelation is a true moment between them that he should avoid ruining. "I'm sorry..." He struggles for the words and says, "I'm very sorry for your loss. How do you not let the thirst for revenge consume you?"
Kyras looks down at the teacup and then back at Azami. Since she had shared the history that made her into who she is, he tells the same to her. "Before I was forced to sleep, I was a mercenary. Big surprise, I know. I traveled the world with the group, until I went on an expedition to Iridian. While heading there, I fell in love with one of the members of the group that hired us, a beautiful woman named Larissana. I learned that she was pregnant and I was happy. Once we arrived, though, I discovered that she had played me for a fool. She was a hag and a witch, and she killed all my friends after taking control of my mind with her magic. For me, though, she put me to sleep. I awoke a good thirty years later to learn that she'd been killed." He growls in frustration, still boiling in him almost two years later. "The Lionhearts killed her, apparently, breaking the curse. When I woke up, I was so angry. She had betrayed me and killed my friends, and they denied me the revenge that I had dreamed of for decades. In a way, though, I'm glad. Not only did they wake me up, it helped me let go as best I could. I can't get revenge, so I can't let it consume me."
At the sound of joyful cries outside the door, Azami's eyes flicker over to the door, but return to Kyras once he starts talking. Unused to receiving sympathy, when he continues with his own story instead of waiting of an answer to the question on revenge.
His story causes a series of expressions to cross her face. The mention of Iridian causes her brows to rise appreciatively, aware of what skill is required to attempt a foray into the cursed land. As he delves into the details of his romance and betrayal, Azami's brow draws downward, her lips pressing to a thin line.
While several thoughts arise in her mind around revenge and its consumption, she focuses on the other question that has been present since she met him.
"From where did the dragon in you come?"
that's what I get for posting before caffeine consumption and while on the road: half-sentences.
Unused to receiving sympathy, she is slightly relieved when he continues with his own story instead of waiting of an answer to the question on revenge.
@Dare Mo: Mr. Bao looks at your silvers, then back up at you. A strange expression crosses his face. "My lord. I thank you most humbly for your show of generosity, but it is not necessary. I will be glad to provide you with this service. I pride myself on taking good care of my customers; it is what keeps them coming back, after all, and your House has many accounts in good standing with me, so please; keep your money. My house will gladly do you this tiny service." He bows again, then turns and sticks his head into the warehouse door. You hear him yell out "LU!"
As he waits for his erstwhile manservant to arrive, he pours you a cup of tea, and then one for himself. He makes a grim face as he looks out a window. He sips his tea. "This is grim weather. It is as if you could float a boat down Market Street. But better water and sleet than a rain of blood, hm?"
@Chu: Daiyu-san bows deeply in return. She composes her features carefully, her eyebrows rising in a pair of perfect arches above her shiny eyes. "Oh! Goodness me. 'Important Matters', you say?" She loops her tiny arm through yours and begins walking you towards the back room of the tea shop, where there are booths and sunken dining areas, for those who wish to partake of the shop's sweets, dumplings, and other delicacies. Neither Madame Daiyu nor her staff create these foodstuffs, they are brought over from the restaurant at the Inn of the Graces. She continues to burble happily as the two of you stroll like old friends towards the back. She smiles disarmingly at other customers, but still speaks to you. "You flatter me with your very presence, Advisor, and even moreso with your dapper spech. So much happening these days in our city, so many elegant and lovely visitors, it is an honor to receive you all, and to be allowed the privilege to serve you my humble teas."
As you cross the threshold into the room, you sense magic washing over as the sound of music and laughter suddenly fills your ears...
Chu Will: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (14) + 12 = 26
Chu Spellcraft: 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (2) + 15 = 17
...and you are in a strange, wild place. You do not know exactly what spells are at work here, but you do know that you are in a very different where and possibly a different when than that to which you are accustomed. There are many illusions at play, but your iron will permits your eyes to pierce the many veils placed before them. The back room is perhaps 60' by 60', and is very crowded. It is arranged in tiers; at the top tier, where you are standing, the walls are lined with booths, all of which are rather tiny -- each is barely a 5'cube -- but have doors and walls. You hear no sound from any of them. Indeed it is impossible to tell if any of them are inhabited at all. The second tier, which is an inner ring down seven feet from where you stand, is lined with tables. Each of these tables is 6' long and 3' wide and packed with people. The bottom tier is also seven feet down and features a 20'x20' square stage around which many patrons are arrayed. Some of the patrons do not appear aware that any other patrons are around them. It is possible they are laboring under the illusions you are able to see through. On the stage a trio of handsome young actors are performing a flawless rendition of Peng's The First Romance of The Uniter, a popular, if somewhat lesser, work of the master playwright. You are able to see that the actors, however, are not actors, but shadow-figments, human puppets controlled by a bulbous and many-armed celestial being. The creature has several giant eyes and slightly scaly skin that shines gold. You do not see any mouths.
Among those assembled in the back room you spy an incredible array of personages; at least two great chirurgeons of the empire, a man you thought was a woman and now think might be a spy, a pair of nobles from House Hoshi, a great dancer from House Edo, high-level bushi from Sera and Shoto, and several figures from antiquity whom you cannot tell are real or figments, all are gathered at tables or before the stage.
Daiyu-san guides you to one of the closed booths on the top tier. She waves off your protestations that you won't fit, and you notice for the first time that celestial beings, perfect and glorious like angels, are making the rounds at all tiers, including this one, carrying serving trays. They knock at a door, and enter at some unheard command. So clearly at least some of these booths are populated.
You have to duck way down to get in, but you are astonished when you cross into the booth and find another room, identical to the one you just left, but empty of people. None of the celestials, the guests, nobody is here. It is completely quiet. There is just Daiyu, yourself, and the door you walked through, which the greatest courtesan the empire has ever seen closes gently, and locks behind her.
Her bearing is a bit different here, her voice a little less mellifluous and her posture a little more stooped, but she has lost none of her grandeur. "So. What is it you wish to speak to me about, Loyal Shadow? I could guess, but I know neither of us has time for games." Her eyes flash dangerously. She is revealing something to you, you realize. She is still polite, but it is clear you may speak directly in this place.
Fires crackle in the braziers that line the walls. Shadows jump and dance and cavort, obscuring your faces from each other.
@Imuri: The leader of the bushi who escorted the Erodal woman bows low before you and gives his report. "My lord. We were set upon on the road by three undead warriors; vampires. We were able to fend them off long enough to get to the Black Silk Castle, where they were so badly outnumbered they were forced to retreat. The prisoner attempted to break free during the fight, but was unable. Her bonds were secure. She seemed quite frightened of these things. It is our shame to report that Han Lin is now with his ancestors; he died at the hands of our assailants, and the shugenja and the priests determined his body must be destroyed so he would not rise as one of them. But the prisoner is now at the Estate, as you commanded."
The sorcerer who dealt with the fourth Wong Tsai rises from his arcane studies and also bows, when you meet with him. "My lord, the shell of the man that the spirit of the demon inhabits will not live to see another sunrise. If you wish to interrogate him, I would recommend you do so soon. The demon we have captured and he is a fierce thing; neither devil nor demon nor daemon it is, capable yet of changing its form into whatever will be most deadly at the moment. We have it captive as well, but it speaks only a strange devilish tongue, and is not civil. You may question it if you wish."
Regardless, you know the answer to this one; "Even blood runs off a well-built roof."
There is no hesitation in Shoto Imuri's voice after the samurai gives his report. He bows slightly before the warrior. The Spider are proud to enjoy your loyal service. You will be honored in your next life for your valor. I require a full report to your commander regarding the vampires you fought, and then your sepukku by morning. If you wish to have on of the artisans assist you with your haiku, give them my name. You will not be kept waiting.
Imuri does not give the man time to question his new orders - among the Shoto, there is no question. The man's death will purchase enduring silence and keep Black Silk Castle safe from attempts to find its prisoner. He bows again and gives him a scroll regarding the command. Your family will be rewarded for your loyalty. May we serve together in your next life.
When he hears the information from the shugenja, he summons two yojimbo to his side. These samurai will accompany us to the cell where you will call on the kami to allow us to understand the beast. We go now.
I also give orders to have BSC fortified against undead and for scouts to find a potential site. Nothing better than finding the vampires today instead of tonight.
@Imuri: The samurai who accompanied Bethany Erodal bow and immediately depart to receive their final reward. "Hai, Lord Shoto. Thank you for this honor."
The Sorcerer takes you deep into the heart of the Gossamer Palace, down to the deepest oubliette. The room is small and circular and quite unpleasant, by design. The torches are a little too warm, the stone unpleasantly damp, the air too close. It is here that you see two egg-shaped containers that seem to be made of pure energy. One contains the form of the old gardner. He still bears his wounds, and is unconscious. The other one contains only a fine red mist, swirling and twisting. It snarls and spits and gibbers, it howls and croons and slobbers, and it throws itself repeatedly at the walls of its prison. Arcane characters describe twin circles that the eggs float within and above. Both prisoners are at about eye level. Four sorcerers mutter softly from their positions agains the wall, maintaining the complex net of magic required to keep the prisons in their current condition and at this level of power.
"My Lord." Says the sorcerer. "As I said, this creature is a proto-daemon of some sort, capable of manifesting in a variety of forms. We are keeping it stuck in its raw form, as simply a mobile coalescence of pure hate, here made visible as a mist of boar's blood. What is it you wish to ask? Do you wish us to awaken the gardner's spirit?"
The red cloud boils and reforms before Imuri's gaze. He studies it, speaking without turning his eyes from it. Does the proto-daemon speak? Or do we require the host to bond with it?
@Imuri: The shugenja bows. "You may speak to it directly if you wish my lord, though its speech is so foul I would not wish you to endure it. But I am here only to obey, as always. I can either translate, or imbue you with the necessary magics to talk to it."
Basically you need Tongues to talk to the hideous thing, which your sorcerer will cast on you if you want him to.
@Azami and @Kyras and @Tokine: There is a lull in the excited chatter of the interns, and before anyone else can speak up, you hear a low scraping sound coming from one of the exhibition rooms in the back of the temple. You're not sure if anyone else can hear it. It sounds like stone-on-stone. Like BIG stones rubbing on other stones.
Tongues it is, then.
The Shoto priest obeys Imuri's brief nod and bows. From his kimono sleeve he produces a small clay ziggurat covered in simple kanji. One for elves, one for dwarves, one for giants, one for demons, and many more. The shugenja waves his hands over the miniature and the kanji glow a dull amber for but a second. He then places his fingers just before his master's mouth, careful not to commit dishonor by actually touching him.
Imuri feels the sudden awareness of a vile tongue. The beast within the egg writhes as the Shoto scion forces himself to accept knowledge of its rasping, gutteral language. He opens his mouth to speak the common tongue of the Empire, knowing it can understand him, but even then his voice bears a dark, thick accent.
Your are the fourth of five. Tell me, does your remaining counterpart live, or are you the last?
You follow my movements. You knew of my infiltration of the Syndicate. You attacked the palace. Whom do you serve and why do you do these things?
Sense Motive 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (15) + 12 = 27
|Chujitsuna Kage -Loyal Shadow-|
Chu took in the vivid and grand scene with appreciative eyes, he did his best not to marvel at what the Madame had setup within her Tea shop. As his mind combed through the many spells at work or the possibility of planar means being utilized he ducked and sat down in the small booth. When the Madam eyes flashed dangerously in the dark he found it oddly refreshing not to be hiding behind niceties and get straight to the point.
With her features obscured it made it harder for him to read her face, he kept his thoughts orderly and avoided thinking about anything more then what was in the room. He had no doubt of what other spells she employed to make this fantasy all the more believable. Chu was relaxed as he leaned towards Madam Daiyu and spoke. "An Alliance, in the last few days I have found more questions then answers. So I thought I would come to you and propose a mutually beneficial alliance, with your connections and my rank we could improve the Empire a great deal."
He lets the Madam digest what he said for a moment, watching her as his molten gold eyes danced in the light of this strange room they were in. When it was polite he added. "I came here today seeking any information on San Pen that you may have, I had heard you were counted among one of his few friends and I thought perhaps you would know what he has been up to as of late."
Adding to the previous post I made, mostly because I'm dissatisfied with it.
Realizing she may have asked too personal a question or come off too callously, Azami continues clumsily, "I... saw the dra--I saw you rip that blood reavers' throat out, stepping between it and myself." It is not the memory of his rage that unbalances her, but the attempt to offer belated appreciation. More firmly, she adds, "I did not thank you at the time--I should have. You have my gratitude-- I will not forget it."
"We both have scars," she offers quietly, thinking of wounds deeper than those that mar her skin like a convoluted map. "I am sorry to hear that you have suffered such loss and betrayal. It is a pain I understand." The nightmares of the previous day return to her mind: her husband and the children they never had...the massive red dragon that engulfs her in flames...inviting her to tea.
The last memory causes her brows to knit at Kyras, as if considering. Azami retakes the small cup, defiantly downing the rest of the tea in one swallow before rising to her feet. She heads to her pack (ostensibly still listening if Kyras chooses to respond), extracting a carved boxwood comb (certainly the most ornate item she owns) and a bar of lye soap wrapped in waxcloth.
Tokine smiles upon reading the announcement. News must travel fast. All the staff seems aware. Kano Toshiro is to perform tonight. Perhaps as a favor to the Emperor to recover from the disaster that was last night's dinner. TO come out tonight and to perform mono no aware, this will require some thought for tonight's decoration.
She tucks away the scroll, checking the the scroll tube with the paintings was still in place, then enters the hall to get the giggling staff organized for the day.
It is then that the grating noise is heard.
Untrained Know. Dungeoneering -> 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (15) + 3 = 18
It sounds as if the temple walls are moving....but only in one place...back there! Can there be?" The temple far older than her short time here, Tokine is sure she does not know all its secrets. It is very likely a passage into the temple could exist, and she has no idea who would know of such a thing.
To her attendants...Quaterstaves and armor. Quickly. I want everyone on guard. Alert our guests. I will be in the rear of the temple...the exhibition rooms. Go..Quickly."
Glaive in hand, she hustles to the source of the sound.
A Hoshi code phrase? Curious. Perhaps the Plum Blossom syndicate has infiltrated the Hoshi more deeply than was suspected.
Dare Mo cocks an eyebrow in mild surprise.
"Even blood runs off a well-built roof."
Bluff 1d20 + 18 ⇒ (4) + 18 = 22
@Imuri: A horrid braying laugh fills your mind. The creature's voice is a terrible, rough, liquid sound, like someone squeezing blood out of flesh as they tear it from bone. "BAHAHAHAHAHHAHAAAAAA! WHY SHOULD I ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS YOU PIECE OF S*~#! YOU INSECT! YOU MEATBAG! YOU'RE NOTHING! YOU'RE SCUM! YOU'RE A SCAB ON A PUGWUMP'S ASS! TO HELL WITH YOU! I'M GONNA BREAK OUT OF HERE AND FEED YOU YOUR OWN GENITALS YOU MISERABLE LITTLE PUKE!"
The thing is throwing itself at the energy barrier as it screams its epithets into your mind. The sorcerer next to you, who did not cast the spell on himself so as not to eavesdrop on any information he should not be privy to, watches expectantly, waiting to hear the outcome.
The sorc can hear you two gurgling and spitting at each other, though, and it'll haunt his nightmares for years hence.
@Chu: "Alliance?!" Daiyu's eyebrows shoot up. "That is a big word in these parts, advisor. A big word not used lightly. It took me years to extricate myself from the many-armed embrace of the palace, and I've no desire whatsoever to get re-entangled. So I'm afraid what you offer is no incentive to me." She looks searchingly into your eyes. "I can tell you about San Pen, but you're not going to like it. So think twice about offering me something for this information, and if you do decide to offer me something, make it something better. For example. There is a palace guard. A gaijin named Azami Ito. If you were to arrange it such that she were to be fired by the palace and come into my employ, now that would be something I'd be willing to trade for."
Xun Rui Bao nods in satisfaction. He looks like he is considering speaking again when a shuffling, loping walk can be heard and in walks Lu, Bao's lame and dumb manservant. "Ah! Lu!" The merchant sets down his tea and steps over to the man. "I need you to get coverings for this box, I--" He is cut off as Lu slowly holds up a length of paper and twine to tie it with in one hand, and a large, oiled canvas bag in the other.
"Ah! Excellent!" The older businessman claps Lu on the shoulder. "It's like you can read my mind sometimes, Lu, I swear on my ancestors." As Bao sets about wrapping the bag, talking about the weather and other trivialities, Lu stares at you, his heavy brow making him look phenomenally stupid.
Suddenly you realize; Lu is neither dumb nor lame. He is deep undercover, in disguise.
But for whom?
"There you go, my lord, all set for you!" Bao gets up off the floor and hands you the handles for the oiled canvas bag that now contains the box.
@Tokine: You are the first to arrive in the back gallery where the noise was heard. You see a large square door, perhaps 8'x8', has opened in the floor. It is dark, but there are steps leading down into the darkness. You hear someone coming up the steps, they are moving slowly and heavily.
It is either that, or this is a large underground creature of some sort, one with a thick tail.
You have two rounds before whatever it is will reach the doorway.
The calm in Imuri's voice is unsettling, as it translates as a slow gurgle, much like a blood-rich death rattle. You have no power here except to die. And that will only be once I have confirmation that you are the last. Your eternity is determined by whether you calm yourself enough to tell me what I want to know. If you are a mindless beast full of insults and death, then I will simply leave orders for you to be maintained in this prison, with no guests and no bloodshed, until I know all four of your counterparts have been eliminated. Then you will be ended forever. He pauses, giving the beast an opportunity to register the seriousness in his voice.
If you give me information about recent events I can use, I will allow you to escape once your other counterparts are destroyed, and you will be thought dead, free to appear elsewhere in another form. Do you have value to me, or not?
|Chujitsuna Kage -Loyal Shadow-|
Chu leans forward, emphasizing his words as he continues to speak respectfully to the Madam. "I wouldn't use the word lightly Madam and I've lived within the Empire long enough to know of your struggles. Among others. So let me clarify by saying, that I would never entangle you with Palace affairs again. This was to be between you and I, but that is past now." He looks her in the eyes as he continues speaking. "I will have to find something else of interest to you, Azami Ito despite being a Gaijan is too well respected by her peers, to be dishonored in such a way. Besides, how would she benefit from such a dismissal?" He watched her as best he could in the strange dark of the room, watching her eyes mainly, because the eyes were always the first to betray ones intentions.
Politics, not one of my strength but I try. ^^;
Kyras simply listens to Azami, his eyes fixed intently on her. It is an intimate gaze, full of the weight of the knowledge that she has shared a part of herself with him that she would not share with anyone else. It is a gaze that is full of understanding, as the pain of their histories and futures is similar in nature if not details, and gratitude for her having shown herself to him. "In truth, the Dragon is not a companion I enjoy having. I don't know where it came from or what it wants, but much of my energy is devoted to controlling it. I would have much preferred a life of quiet with the family that was stolen from me. I--" He stops speaking when he hears the sound of a scraping door.
Knowledge: Dungeoneering 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (20) + 1 = 21
The sound instantly transports him back to a memory, unbidden and unwanted. When Larissana had betrayed the group of mercenaries and adventurers that they had called friends, she had done so by opening a secret door in the ruins that they were exploring. Kyras was far from the others at the time, checking for threats ahead of the others. The sound of stone scraping on stone was followed by a terrible sight of dozens of glowing lights rushing out from behind the hidden door. For a moment from his vantage point, it had been beautiful. It quickly turned to terror, though, when the globes had turned on them as skulls floating in the nebulous depths of the lights. For two days, the evil beings had hunted them through the ruins. When the others had discovered her treachery, she called upon the will o' wisps to defend her; they had come to her in the dozens, sparking with horrible blasts of energy that finished off the few that remained once she had seized control of his mind.
Suffice to say, the sound of a secret door opening is one that Kyras knows well. He is up and moving quickly, taking a moment to cast a spell upon himself rather than waste time donning armor. "That is the sound of a secret door opening, and in my experience, secret doors do not hold good surprises behind them. The Temple may be in danger. Let's go."
1st Level Spells: 7/8
@Imuri: Your offer seems only to bring the demon to further heights of rage. "USEFUL TO YOU! USEFUL TO-! WHY YOU PRESUMPTUOUS LITTLE SON OF A WHORE! YOU FILTH! YOU FESTERING SCAB! I'LL CRUSH YOU! I'LL CRUSH YOU! I'LL CRUSH YOU!" Its words trail off until it is simply hammering itself against the energy barrier, screaming incoherently. You notice that the head sorcerer has had replacement sub-focus magicians come in to help maintain the shield barrier against this demon's onslaught; two of the original ones appear to have fallen unconscious, both are pale as new snow, their foreheads beaded with sweat.
@Chu: Daiyu shrugs. "An alliance with the Palace is an entanglement in my book, Loyal Shadow. Any connection to that place breeds other connections, despite anyone's better intentions." She takes a deep breath and gives you a curious look. "And who cares if the deal benefits Ito? She's the trade, not the trader. The chip, not the gambler. How she feels wouldn't weigh into it. She'll do as she's told. But if you're not willing to deal...hmmm...okay, how about this, then; I want an hour alone in the emperor's private garden. That should be easy with Ryo dead."
|Chujitsuna Kage -Loyal Shadow-|
What does Chu know, if anything, about the Emperors garden?
Chu nods in agreement with Daiyu's words conceding the point of how an alliance could, no matter how secretive, be found out. His features remain unbroken as she speaks about Ito like the samurai was a simple token in a game of Go. It was easy to tell the small amount of curiosity in the Madam's tone and Chu remained stonefaced as he realized his error. He wasn't surprised though at the fact that she knew of Ryo's death. It would be foolishness on his part to believe that this woman didn't have an ear in every part of the city. He would have to tread and speak carefully in the future.
He rubbed his chin feigning thoughtfulness as he responded to the strange request of Madam Daiyu. "I will see what I can do, it may take time to have any access at all to the Emperor's Garden. With what happened last night, it will make for some increasing difficulties in the coming days." He steepled his hands for a moment as he thought about information on the demon incursion and after thinking better of it, he settled his hands back in his lap and bowed his head respectfully to Madam Daiyu. "It has been an honor to speak with you Madam Daiyu and even more refreshing to be so straightforward in our meeting. Sometimes niceties can be such a bother when your trying to make a point. I do not wish to impose further on your time and hopefully I will bring better tidings the next time we meet."
Azami does not recognize the sound, but Kyras' instinctive response has her dropping soap and comb to pull her katana from the bed. She thrusts the sheathed weapon through the belt of her kamishimo, striding after him, her socked foot inadvertently kicking aside the tea tray.
AC 14 with no armor
Imuri is satisfied with the response from the beast within the egg. We will provoke it no further. No one interacts with it. Maintain its prison until it is time for it to die. If we begin to lose the struggle, we will it. These necklaces and rings associated with the monster, will destroying them weaken it?
Shoto Imuri assuming this situation remains under control leaves the priests to their duty and moves to a more refined region of the Gossamer Palace. There he finds a group of artisans. He shows them the necklace of the Uniter and asks that an exact copy be made. It was described as a simple necklace and won't take years to eprfect, yes?
He then searches out a historian to prepare information on thie Uniter and other references to the Empire's older history that have been made.
Of course, after making these orders, he prepares for morning tea with his new gaijin associates.
Kyras pulls his own katana out, ready to fight. He runs his eyes up and down Azami, noting that without her usual armor, she is far less well-defended. "Come here. Wouldn't want any more scars." He lays a hand upon her shoulder, the arcane energy flowing through him and over her body. He doesn't let her break physical contact as he finishes the spell. "It's not your armor, but it'll do."
There you go. Mage armor to the rescue.
1st Level Spells: 6/8
It surprises her when he claps his hand on her shoulder. The arcane energy surging from his touch causes her to blink rapidly, drawing in a sharp breath at the sensation; gooseflesh rises over her arms as the forcefield coalesces into place invisibly around her body.
Azami nods her thanks, taking the opportunity to head out the door in front of him.
AC 18 - Thanks!
@Chu: Daiyu arches one perfectly-drawn eyebrow at you. "'Straightforward'...?" She rises with you. The flames in this room (if it even is actually a room and not some elaborate illusion) jump and twist as the two of you get up, echoing your movements.
You know only two hard facts about the Emperor's Private Garden; 1. No one else is ever supposed to enter it without the emperor's explicit permission. 2. There are plants that grow there that do not grow anyplace else in the entire Land.
The former madame leads you out of the booth/room and back into the main area of the back room where things are just as busy as they were when you passed through earlier, then out into the front of the tea shop, the part that is all most of her guests ever see, and ever need see. She looks up at you, once again the picture of perfect manners and timeless grace. "Will you stay for tea, advisor? First cup is on me."
At The Temple: As Tokine mentally prepares herself for whatever is coming up the stairs, her interns and staff come rushing up behind her. Not a second later, Azami and Kyras, both in a state of minor dishabille, come careening around the corner and stand next to the curator, in front of her staff, which is perhaps for the best as it spares them from having to endure the multitude of bemused looks from Izumi and the others arrayed behind them.
Another thud-thud-scraaaaaape from the dark square in the floor focuses everyones' attention in an instant. There is flesh, then blood, two humans...
No. It is Naradil, and Gwen, and they are carrying an unconscious Rhon between them. Both are horribly injured, barely walking. Naradil is out of arrows, all his quivers empty, and the handle on his greatsword is covered with blood, presumably his own, based on the shattered and ruined state of his hands. His dragonscale armor is in tatters and pieces and hangs uselessly off his broad torso. Gwen is missing one of her beloved longswords and pieces of her plate mail are utterly ruined. A large gash in her head is hastily covered by a part of her cloak. Her right eye doesn't seem able to focus. Both warriors are breathing heavily and losing a great deal of blood. Rhon is slumped between them, a large cloth tied tightly around his waist and one around his head. His skin is terribly pale, even for an elf, and his breathing, too, is ragged.
Naradil speaks through cracked and bloodied lips. "You gotta...close...this door..." With a final lurching step, they haul themselves over the last stair and into the temple proper. Both Gorumites remain upright, but with obvious effort.
Behind them, far down the way they came, there is a clattering/clanking sound like someone throwing wood and metal against stone. If the sound is footsteps, they are moving fast. There is also a loud, metallic buzz.
Naradil and Gwen are both at 1HP. Rhon is 2HP away from being dead (-10), but stable.
@Imuri: I think my notes are messed up. Who's your first meeting with?
The sorcerer nods at your orders. "It will be as you say, my lord. It will remain here in the oubliette until you command otherwise. The ring will be helpful in the near future; its composition, if discovered, will hold the key to keeping this thing in a simple stone, instead of the energy shield in which it currently resides. I expect my assistants to divine this secret very soon. The amulet is useless now, being half-spent and stuck between planes. I advise we have it destroyed. Its only purpose was to provide strength to a ritual form of scrying that has not been practiced for centuries."
Shoto artisans inform you they can easily copy the form and design of the necklace, but the metal is an odd composite that will take them a few days to procure as it must come from Maho, from the dwarves there. It is said the metal comes from the powdered bones of destroyed devils, and can only be forged in hell, or in the heat of the heart of the volcanoes that ring that city. But they assure you that as soon as the metal arrives, the copy will be made, and will be indistinguishable from the original.
Is there anything specific you're looking for w/r/t the Uniter? I can write a lot on that subject but would rather keep things focused to save time (and effort) if at all possible.
Perception -> 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (1) + 7 = 8
Something opened that door and Tokine busies herself with basic defensive measures.
Tokine hums quietly to herself, a melody that calls up a blanket of protection around her. Her gentle tune prevents her from listening, but she knows being prepared is more important.
She stands outside the room, peering around the edge of the opening, awaiting the first view of what was coming unbidden to her temple.
Casts Protection from Evil +2 AC, +2 saves and awaits the intruders.
For the horror that she prepared herself for, what she saw left her mentally stunned. Azami rushing into the room resets her mind and she springs into action herself.
She rushes forward and takes Rhon from the two warriors. A wave of radiant warmth spreads from her and washes over the wounded. "I got him. See to the door."
Azami immediately runs forward, applying her strength to push the door to a controlled close as best she can, muscles straining against the weight.
Azami rushes forward, but cannot easily find a door to shut. Some sort of mechanism is involved, as this functioned like a large-scale pocket door.