Three groups of gaijin approach the Son of the Heavens, ruler of the Empire of Mists, in his palace in far Lanzhu. A great war is underway in the west, this is known, but what could these strangers want?
Khangzhi relaxes from his stance, and leans towards Azami. "Pardon my, what may appear to you, out of place enthusiasm. While I normally stay apart from the local politcs, I have had incidence with the Plum Blossom Syndicate today. The mountain is patient, but the dragon is not. But truly, it would be appreciated if somebody could fill me in on what in Gozreh's name has happened in Lanzhu in the recent past."
Female Human Samurai 11, HP: 84/128, 3/4 Resolve, 1/4 challenges
This talk of mountains and dragons does not serve to ease Azami at all. "Enthusiam for battle is not something I would chide, especially not when dicted towards the Syndicate," she remarks. "How far back is recent past? Much has happened even in the last three days even. But this crowd is not the place to share it."
With the odd, hushed discussion between Sera, Shoto, and Erodal complete, the group follows the unfailingly grouchy Envoy-Six back into Tokine's temple. The huge portal door that opened this morning is open again, and the dim interior of the unpleasantly moist corridor at the bottom of the stairs is lit by stinky and guttering torches held by oddly rust-free braziers. Once all 300+ of you are inside, Envoy-Six pulls the lever that closes the portal and moves back to the head of the group. "I can go with you as far as the Winter Crossroads, then you must decide for yourself what route to take." It gurgles crossly. It's impossible not to notice the sleek being stays very close to Tokine, not venturing near any of the rest of you. Sera Zhongyi watches it with cool appraisal. "I cannot be seen to take part in any sort of partisan bickering."
The first part of the trip is vaguely unpleasant but also uneventful. The moisture on the stones seems to increase and decrease as you watch, like the pulse of a living thing. There are strangely sweet-smelling breezes wafting around, bringing the smell of crushed pine needles, deep bamboo forests, and perhaps inevitably; spring plum blossoms. Aside from these smells the gentle breezes also bring eerie whisperings and shushings, a susurrous of not-quite audible speech that teeters agonizingly close to being understandable, but in the end defies perception.
The tunnel takes a few corners, and you pass several side tunnels, but Envoy-Six pays them no mind; his metal visage remains fixed on the path ahead. Eventually, a buzzing noise becomes apparent up ahead, while a low scraping sound is audible from behind you. Your erstwhile guide makes a distressed choking sound. "No! Not here, this can't happen here! Run! RUN!" Without any explanation, the envoy takes off sprinting forward. You notice that the stretch of hallway you're currently occupying is a sealed box; there are no side tunnels or other ways out that you can see.
The gaijin warriors and the Seras all run after Envoy-Six, assuming if the metalshod scout is running, they should too.
Just seeing if anyone wants to be a hero here, or if y'all are staying with the group. If you wish to find out what either noise is, well, the rest of the group is currently running pell-mell towards the buzzing, and the scraping is a ways behind you.
Khangzhi experiences a feeling of being uncomfortably off-balance, now that he is far from the things he is used too. When the commotion happens and the warriors all charge off, he immediately enters into his dragon style stance, the pauses for a second and looks to Tokine and Chu, waiting to see how they react.
Chu nods to Wei, the slits of his eyes expanding and extracting as he listened to the sounds intently. His own powers were halfway depleted but if he had to he would shield the group as best he could... For now it was time to stick with the strange Gaijan, he couldn't let them run off to Emperor knows where. Nodding to Wei and the others Chu speaks calmly, despite the crashing storm of Samurai and their armor jangling as they ran away. "I agree with Envoy-Six and retreat for now. I will guard our rear." With that Chu focuses on gathering his Ki in this dark place and after a few moments he summons forth invisible plates of force to protect himself in ways that regular armor could not.
To call Kyras brash does not do sufficient service to his recklessness. He soars backwards, taking as much advantage of his power of flight as he can in such a small corridor. He is not one to run in fear (although that is essentially what he has been doing all day since the death of Na-Calanon, an irony that he would not like pointed out). Whatever the scraping sound is, Kyras wants to know. "What's the worst that can happen?" He speaks to on one in particular.
@Kyras: You go sailing back down the corridor, and quickly come upon the source of the sound; a 12-foot tall moving statue is plodding after your group, dragging a mammoth sword behind it. The statue -- or golem -- looks like it was originally intended to be a faithful rendition of a samurai, but now the right arm is distended and hypertrophic, too big for the rest of the body, and the sword is a gross, saw-toothed falchion of some sort.
Worst of all, though, is the head -- the head is much too big for the body, but instead of looking comical it appears hideous and grotesque. Where you would expect the noble, armored visage of an imperial soldier is instead a bare head, mostly humanoid save for the glowing green eyes and strange round lumps arrayed around the neck.
The thing clearly sees you and stops as you approach, waiting for you to make a move.
@Tokine, @Wei, @Chu, @Azami As Kyras abandons you all and flies back the way you came, the rest of you plunge ahead after Envoy-6. "Prepare yourselves, " it gurgles, "for you are about to see a sight that very few surface-dwellers have ever encountered."
Sure enough you burst into a massive chamber and are brought face-to-face with a sight so tremendous that even some of the samurai let loose coarse oaths.
You have entered a massive cylindrical chamber some 300 feet in diameter and with a domed roof at least 200 feet up -- you must have been going down at steeper angles than you thought -- covered in murals and friezes depicting life and activities in the Empire throughout the years. On the walls are ancient and tattered tapestries in suprisingly good repair depicting similar scenes. All are extremely tall and of tremendous quality.
Most astounding, though, is the statue. Standing in the center of the chamber is a 180' tall statue of The Uniter. This in itself would be worth note, but this statue is frighteningly -- luridly -- life-like. The robes look like cloth, and are the same deep blue as most other things associated with the First Emperor. High up over where the heart would be is the usual symbol of a crescent moon surrounded by seven stars, done completely in mithril and silver and moonstone. One of the hands is held out, as if the subject were caught in the act of delivering a great oration, and the other hand holds a book. The eyes and face are blank, staring out ahead.
There is a terrible buzzing sound, and you can see large bell-like contraptions hanging from chains of various length from the ceiling and the statue. These things -- clearly a later addition -- are emitting a loud, nasty, metallic buzzing sound that is nearly deafening. There are 21 of these containers.
"Come!" Shouts Envoy-6 over the din. "We are most fortunate! The Wasps of Adamant are all contained! If we hurry, we may make quick progress!" He begins to lead you around the statue. "We must continue in this direction, down the corridor directly across from us-" The envoy suddenly stops talking, looking straight ahead. There are six corridors that lead into and out of this room, including the one you were just in, and in the one directly across from you, just about 300 feet away, are two goblins. They grin mischievously. Right in arms' reach of them is a big iron lever. They begin to reach up for it...
"Oh no! Stop them!" yells Envoy-6.
If you want to try to stop the goblins, first roll initiative, then what it is you wish to do, and I'll roll counter-init for the gobbos and we'll see how it shakes out.
Kyras stares at the thing for a long moment, strongly considering attacking it. Or burning it. Or throwing his sword down and just going at it with claws. Kyras is as reckless as always, but that doesn't mean he is stupid. He stands there, floating in midair, as he stares down the strange samurai construct. He floats backwards a little bit, ready to turn and flee if the thing turns out to be unfriendly and more than he can handle. "Uh, hello. How's it going?"
Azami is silent as they travel, listening to the strange metal man. When he mentions the Winter Crossroads, she is reminded of the suihan sanyou-the smell of pine and bamboo and plum blossoms aiding her in this connection. However did the plum blossom become the Syndicate and perform such terrible acts?
She doesn't even spare the sound behind them a glance - it is downward she needs to go, towards the Syndicate. But the buzzing ahead is...familiar.
Upon hasty entry into the chamber, the grandeur strikes the guard as near overwhelming, causing in her the same uncomfortable feeling as when she remembers the Red Dragon's challenge, the Gold Dragon's destruction, the huge events of the last few days.
"So this is the Uniter," Azami murmurs, staring up at the massive statue. It's disconcertingly alive-seeming, and for a moment she wonders if Baslav shouldn't be with them right now. "A buried worship." It has to be worship, doesn't it, with a statue so large?
Her grey eyes catch onto the bells of wasps - the same adamantine swarm that was chasing Naradil and Gwen when they had Rhon. If his soul is gone, don't they need the body in order to put it back in? I'll never understand how magic works.
Envoy 6 cries out and she notes the goblins; pulling her blade, Azami sizes up their positioning. It's in that moment, as Chu speeds forward with unnatural alacrity, that she notices...
Chu responded quickly and calmly, grabbing the loosely hanging Kotei no kiba strapped around his right shoulder. Taking a firm grip of the handle he raised it quickly and easily fired off the first bolt at the closest of the goblins. With practiced grace he snapped the reloading arm back with his firing hand. He slipped his scaled hand back over the trigger, adjusting his aim slightly to the left and fired off another shot at the second goblin in the hopes of bringing them both down swiftly...
MA: Draw Kotei no kiba SA: Kotei no kiba (Darkwood Heavy Repeating Crossbow +1) -2x Range increments1d20 + 16 - 4 ⇒ (8) + 16 - 4 = 20 Reload: Free Action 4/5 bolts left HP = SA: Second attack1d20 + 11 - 4 ⇒ (13) + 11 - 4 = 20
Two crossbow bolts are rocketing through the air before anyone else can bring a weapon to bear. With a crunching wet *SHHHHHHTHUCK! THUCK!* the bolts hammer through the misshapen skulls of the gobbos, who both fall to the ground dead with sad little thumps.
Envoy-6 looks over at Chu, and inches closer to Tokine, as if for safety. Sera Zhongyi narrows her eyes at the Imperial Advisor, clearly re-thinking her appraisal of his abilities.
After an awkward silence, Envoy-6 makes a strangled sound and then gurgles "Errrr...come, then. Forward." and starts toward the hall where the goblin corpses lay.
He doesn't notice everyone looking at him, not at first, as he stands there for a moment gripping the darkwood crossbow. Having already snapped another bolt in place and patiently waiting until the goblins had crumpled to the floor. Once he was sure they were finished he lowered Kotei no Kiba back down and stood calmly once more, he nodded in response to Tokine's bow. He had promised to aid her and nothing would get in there way if he could help it, but he felt fatigue gnawing at him under his scales and hoped he could aid her until the end.
Chu focused on moving silently and kept a wary eye on their surroundings, he eyed the lever the goblins had been about to manipulate and wished he could destroy the mechanism. However he resist the urge and instead focused on the bodies. As everyone moved forward he paused long enough to search the two bodies for anything important, possible insignia's depicting there allegiance or any other useful items they had before catching up to Tokine again.
Female Human Samurai 11, HP: 84/128, 3/4 Resolve, 1/4 challenges
Azami replaces her bow with a sigh; as the Advisor and the Curator leap forward, she touches the arm of the monk. In a low voice, she says to Wei Khangzi-Lung, "We've lost a member of our party - the man I was traveling with. I will retrieve him and rejoin you."
Without another word, she turns back towards the odd sounds they had left behind and hopefully where Kyras is. There's little fear that they will miss out on the destruction of the Plum Blossom - most of this feels as though they are being led into a trap anyway.
Khangzhi nods to Azami as she leaves, and then goes to Chu. "I do not care for this place. It is discomforting to not have the sky over my head. Do not mind me if I stick close to you for the time being, as the forward is unclear to me. I wonder I should have gone back to the shrine... but it is too late to change my course now. The dragon has come down from the mountain, and will nor return until his wrath is spent."
Azami rounds the corner looking for Kyras, only to find him barreling at full speed towards her through the air. He easily picks her up, armor and all, in his enormously strong arms. She protests (naturally) but he shouts over her, "Hang on, Red! Hang on!" From behind him, she sees a half-dozen or more lumbering constructs coming down the hallway inexorably. Kyras rockets forward to catch up the others, who look at the sight of him carrying Azami with varying mixtures of shock and surprise. He puts her down - very gently, far more carefully than any other reckless thing he does, she notices - and shouts to Sera Shongyi, "Yeah, so, there's a bunch of giant angry samurai statues headed our way. We might want to keep going forward." He goes on to shout further at Envoy-Six, "Thanks for the heads up! Good work, Gears!"
Female Human Samurai 11, HP: 84/128, 3/4 Resolve, 1/4 challenges
Despite ignored protests, she hangs on, squinting to see the constructs fade into the darkness as they speed away.
Being set down like a china doll, however, flusters her significantly more for some unknown reason; it's fortunate that her awkward, stammering failure to retort is lost amid his yelling. By the time Kyras is finished bellowing, she's gathered herself.
"Aaaand now every monster ahead of us is aware too," Azami mutters, rolling her shoulders to readjust how her armor has shifted its lay in the impromptu flight. She gestures roughly for him to follow the others, picking up the pace to keep at his side.
Chu holds back the flood of outrage that wells up at Kyras's continued recklessness, his response to Wei is colder then he intended as he turned to look at the fool he had decided to save. Whatever the Emperor saw in him Chu did not know, it is the only time he has ever thought to question his Lord's decisions and this child continued to run rampant. He shook his head at the Warbanians continued foolishness and followed close by Tokine. "Your shrine will wait for your return as the Empire is in need of a dragon now. Especially when foolishness runs rampant within its borders. The path ahead will be fraught with peril until these children decide to wake up or perish."
He turned his golden eyes on Envoy-6, regarding the constructs back coldly as he asked it a question. "The child speaks of constructs and we run from them. Why are they so dangerous to us when we outnumber them?"
Female Human Samurai 11, HP: 84/128, 3/4 Resolve, 1/4 challenges
Azami perks up her ears, her gaze hardening at the word children and child.
"Advisor, I saw them - nothing like that." She points to Envoy-6."Kyras is right - better that we move forward, as your two lucky shots have allowed us to do unassaulted. Your crossbow will be of little use against what follows us. We have a goal here." She certainly hasn't stopped moving forward as quickly as possible, and no amount of the Advisor's bitterness will hinder that.
I had assumed you were both in the back of our massive group if Kyras was shouting to Envoy 6, who is next to Tokine and where Chu is as well. Oh well though~
Chu regards Azami cooly he wasn't surprised how quickly she moved and it wouldn't change his words, except she hadn't been included in them. He never spoke down to her but in the last few hours he was starting to question why she defended Kyras so. Was this the meaning of loyalty, to her oaths. To her friend or was it more? Chu couldn't comprehend her defense of this man. With his usual indifference Chu shook his head at Azami as her biting remark went unnoticed. "I didn't question what you saw Azami, I merely asked why we should fear them so. Now that you are both with us we can continue forward. I'm glad your unharmed."
He had thought of turning back to make sure the pair were okay and despite his outrage he was glad they were unharmed. He watched Azami stride ahead bristling in her usual way and he sighed inwardly still unable to comprehend her. What will loyalty cost in the end?
k-arcana: what does Chu know of the Wasps of Adamant? 1d20 + 16 ⇒ (14) + 16 = 30
k-History: what does Chu know of the Wasps of Adamant? 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (11) + 11 = 22
Khangzhi raises what approximates an eyebrow on his reptilian face at Chu's uncharacteristic rashness, and when an appropriate time presents itself, he interjects, "Indeed, my friend, but is it not the obligation of the ELDERS to show the children the way? Of course, I am still a foreigner here, and the nuances of the empire sometimes escape me." He the pauses to observe the individuals as they move along.
So many of us estranged from our homes, and somehow fate seems to have brought us all here to to this land... but for what purpose?
"Continue forward, I will guard the rear...," and he assumes his bastion stance.
Distracted with searching his mind about these strange Wasps everyone feared, he barely heard Wei's words. Finally Chu shakes his head at Wei, he wished he could explain but his hands were tied and more then likely he was going to pay for his foolishness in the worst kind of way. "By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest. I find I am ill-equipped to teach Samurai or Gaijan Shugenja Wei, their duties and purpose is beyond my comprehension. But your words do wound me, I have been rash in my judgement and perhaps they will ask for wisdom eventually..."
His hopes weren't very high but perhaps they would, he hadn't forgotten the offer from Madam Daiyu but he knew he'd never act on it. No information was worth debasing himself or an ally. He wasn't like his father...
"Yes, onward..." With that Chu takes hold of Kotei No Kiba and holds it, at the ready incase he needed to prove his swiftness again...
"Ah, my friend, you misunderstand me. I am somewhat disoriented, and perhaps my words came out poorly. I was merely pointing out that while wisdom might go unasked for, sometimes it ought to be given freely. Occasionally via a blunt instrument. With you at the front, and myself at the rear, perhaps we can contain any more foolishness." He winks at his fellow serpent.
"I will see you at Madame Daiyu's, one hour before the state dinner, tomorrow. There we may speak of guilt and innocence, enemies and empires."
So it is, once again, that you find yourself at Madame Daiyu's tea shop. The streets leading up to this place were dead silent as you traversed them; not a citizen nor official nor any manner of man or beast was present. Even the air was and is bereft of birds. The wind is still unseasonably cold and dark clouds whip across the sky, making the late afternoon feel more like sunset.
As you approach, you can see through the large windows of the shop that the Madame is not present, though one of her most trusted shop girls is manning the till. The only patron is the old man, his hair visible from across the block. He is seated before a cup of tea, his eyes closed as if in meditation or contemplation or -- just as likely -- both.
@Everyone Else: Your large troop hustles through the corridor. Ahead of you are booming noises. "AAAAACK! NO!" Envoy-6 seems geuinely aggrieved by these sounds. You all burst into a massive pentagonal room with what looks like the remains of another huge Uniter statue in it; only the stumps of the feet and ankles remain of what once was undoubtedly a colossus similar to the one you just left, only on a slightly smaller scale.
This room is about 180' across at its widest point, and on each of the five sides, smack in the center, is a large set of double doors. The doors are all made of metal, 13' tall and 10' wide. The ceiling is another gigantic, domed affair, but this time the murals have all been hideously defaced and painted over with startlingly accurate and life-like renditions of many disgusting and debaucherous acts of violence, sex, magic, and various combinations of the three. The walls and floor are the same stone as the other corridors. In this room, no tapestries hang, though high up you can see the metal rods from which they probably once did.
Next to each of the five doors is a statue. Each statue is about 15' tall and made of stone. They each depict a courtesan in the act of some kind of performance -- none of which match the carnally despicable acts on the ceiling, thankfully.
One of the courtesans is playing a shamisen.
Another is holding a tea cup.
The third has a fan.
The fourth is depicted as holding a canvas, upon which she paints.
The fifth, which is right next to the doors you just came through, has had both arms lopped off, though it looks conceivably like she may have been depicted in the act of dancing.
All of the doors are shut fast except the ones you came through, which look as if they haven't been moved in a very long time. Judging by the freshly-disturbed dust, it seems that the closing doors were the booming noises you heard not seconds before.
Envoy-6 seems quite distressed, and runs to the nearest set of closed doors and starts pulling, then pushing, to no avail. The doors do not so much as groan. "These have never been shut!" He gurgles, and he sounds panicked. "These have never been shut! We cannot get out! Oh no! Please, Madame Nagano, Your Highness, please! Can you do something?!"
From behind you, the inexorable trudging of constructs gets closer. Zhongyi arranges the Black Orchids into a defensive arrangement, and the gaijin do the same.
Chu looks to the statue with the shamisen and quickly opens his backpack and pulls out a beautifully crafted Shamisen. He eyes thestatue for a long moment searching his thoughts for what could be the answer to their plight. "Envoy-6 Do you remember what used to be painted on each of these doors? It may help us understand what we need to do to open them." Not really waiting for an answer Chu strums a couple strings on his Shamisen idly, he looked from each statue and tried to understand the meaning behind them. Whether they were singular acts or perhaps had to be performed altogether...
Cast Detect Magic - focus on Shamisen statue. If magical aura is detected he will focus for three rounds to identify whats going on.
@Wei: As you stand your ground, some of the Black Orchid samurai come up to stand alongside you, as do several of the other warriors, the gaijin. All stare grimly ahead as the first construct comes into view and stops about 50' away, staring stonily back at you.
Chu stops casting and looks at the statue oddly for a moment before starting to play. This time his fingers move with the skill he has worked to hone for almost a century. After only a few strokes of the strings the room is filled with the sound of his Shamisen as it seems to come alive in his reptilian hands. He watches the statue and tries to mimic tune it had just played in the hopes of understanding what he needed to do.
@Chu: The statue did not play any melody from any song you know; the figure it played seemed more like a warm-up or etude. You finish the exercise, unsure what to do next, and the statue likewise does nothing. As you contemplate what you should do, the door next to the statue makes a thudding sound, and there is a whirring from inside, as if a lock or trap or some other mechanism were being disarmed or unlocked. Or, perhaps; armed or locked.
DC25 Disable Device:
A trap in the door was just disarmed and moved out of the way. The door itself is still locked and immovable, though.
Despite his wandering thoughts Chu plays his futozao shamisen just like he had in the old days. He had many roles while living in the empire and one of those roles was that of a wandering minstrel and using his varied abilities to remain in hiding. When he found Bura-sama, she too aided him in that guise and for years the two of them survived off of their skill at being musical entertainers. However he had never gained the knack for singing as his natural voice was incapable of carrying a tone above the hiss of an angry viper. So while his helper sang, Chu played the shamisen in an unforgettable manner. It was one of the few roles he missed and today everyone would get a taste of his playing, in the best possible way...
Another of Chu's 101 talents~ Crossbowman, Musician! Not as good as Dan though. :D
Female Human Samurai 11, HP: 84/128, 3/4 Resolve, 1/4 challenges
Azami takes full stock of the room, from undone Uniter to lurid "art" on the domed ceiling (eliciting a furrowed brow and shake of the head) to the courtesan guards to each of the sets of doors. The whining plea of the Envoy-6 does not assist in making the experience more enjoyable, and, near the back, Azami takes up position at the doors through which the constructs will eventually come.
With the Curator, the Advisor, and the Sera scion up there, they hardly need her ignorance of arts and magic contributing to the mess. So while it is not surprising to suddenly hear beautiful music from the front, it's not the first thing she expects, nor to hear a musical response. To Kyras and Khangzhi, Azami murmurs, "What is happening?"
Chu stares at the door, unsure as to what the sounds from the door mean't, it still wasn't open. At least not yet and he wasn't about to go pushing on the door as he had the oddest feeling that if that was just a warm up... Then he would be in for an even greater challenge. He mumbled to himself as he scrambled to move more quickly, his mind spinning with the many possibilities as to what he had to do next. "Curious, something happened but indeed what? Locking, Unlocking, Arming, Disarming or Worse?"
He sweeps forward then circling around the statue, searching for anything he could have missed before when he had been too focused on what it appeared to be doing.
Perception1d20 + 13 ⇒ (6) + 13 = 19
Seeing the warriors arraying themselves Chu shakes his head, time was short but what could be the answer. "Each of these statues is performing a ritual of sorts, dancing, painting, playing an instrument and the like. Whether this unlocks the way forward is not known but i'm unsure as to whether not they must be done in sequence or separately." Regarding the statue curiously once more he strums the strings of his Shamisen its long thick neck carrying the noise and amplifying it wonderfully. "Lets play shall we? Ichi, ni, san..." With the last word he plays the first tune to come to his mind, a swift and light melody that he hadn't heard in at least a decade...
@Chu: You finish the song, and for a few seconds there is no response. Then the statue springs back to life, perfectly playing back the melody you just performed, even adding a couple tasteful flourishes that you recall reading about in histories of P'eng Ran, a famed bard who lived in the Empire some centuries ago; the arc of the ornaments is unmistakable.
There is another pause, then the statue begins playing a very ancient song, simple in structure but very tricky in the fingerings. It is performing this piece at a slightly faster tempo than most would, but the speed is still well within the bounds of good taste. It plays flawlessly to the end of the short song, then stops, and does not move.
Kyras looks upwards as they enter, taking in the lurid and violent sights. "My kind of place," he murmurs to no one in particular. The raw emotion of the fresco in all its violence, lust, and life speak to both his elven and Warbanian heritages. He eyes the statues warily, after running from their counterparts earlier. When Chu starts playing his whatever-that-is, Kyras isn't remarkably surprised when the statue comes to life. When Azami makes her query about what to do next, he looks at the other statues. "Maybe we reenact all of them to get it open?"
Raising an eyebrow at the Warbanian's remark, Khangzhi spares a second glance at room. "Curious indeed, perhaps I should go drink tea at the statue over there," and he looks uneasily back towards the approaching constructs.