Your trek to the bamboo forest is both short and uneventful. Those spectators that you pass along the way wish you good fortune as they get out of your way. Soon, you find yourselves at the edge of the bamboo forest. The din of civilization is far away, replaced with birdsongs and the rustle of leaves as the wind causes the tall shoots to sway. The bamboo has grown to a height of approximately fifty feet, with bottom forty devoid of any sort of foliage. The canopy is a mass of thick leaves providing a deep shade inside the forest. Perhaps it is because of this that beyond the bamboo, no undergrowth exists within the forest.
The Boar and Tiger match was a bit after noon, and your qualifying bout with the Chanters was shortly after that. Let's say about 1:30. The forest is about a half mile away from the Pavilion, so it won't take long at all to get there. By my calculations, you can get there in about ten minutes just by walking.
That's an artifact from 3rd Edition, Simon. The grappled condition does not deny the target its Dexterity bonus, it gives them a -4 penalty. As a result, no sneak. I suspect it won't matter a whole lot, though...
Three arrows fly towards the tenor, but he is able to deflect two of them. The third sinks into his side, however, and the bravado he may have previously held begins to sink away.
The air elementals appear next to the second tenor, but before they can act, the sinewy tentacles grasp at them as well!
Reflex 1: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (13) + 10 = 23
And we're out!
Miraculously, none of the Chanters are dead, though one is in critical condition after the second blast of flame. The Emissary calls your group to the bottom of the ziggurat. "Warriors. Three times you have step foot into the arena's sands, and three times have you walked out victorious. Only three bouts separate you and your place upon the ziggurat as the 31st Champions!" The crowd cheers again, but the Emissary quickly brings silence to the Pavilion once more.
"Your martial prowess is not finished being tested this day, however. Behold!" He holds forth a bracelet, a braid of gold bedecked with tiny rubies throughout its body. "This bracelet is one of a set, and the other is currently in the possession of its guardian, Tsavati. She has taken it north to the bamboo forest at Yun Chumo's feet. You have until sundown to find the bracelet's missing twin, and retrieve it from her. Be warned, though. She has been instructed not to relinquish it under any circumstance, and she will defend it with deadly force."
"Depart when you are ready, but hurry! Powerful though you may be, the sun will not slow its march across the sky for you!"
There are some ranged penalties, but not so much that the grappled, flat-footed bards are actually difficult to hit.
The shuriken streaks through the air and buries itself in the shoulder of one of the unlucky Chanter. "Sing, brothers!", the Chanter shouts. "Let them hear the power within our cadences!" The strange droning takes an almost ululating timbre.
That is, for four of the quintet. The fifth member attempts to wriggle free of the writhing tentacles that hold him fast. CMB: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (16) + 6 = 22 He kicks free of two of the tentacles, and begins to crawl away, but three more grab him again and drag him back in, constricting tighter.
The air crackles with energy as the Chanters sing, and several things occur. The one that Asha's shuriken hit, a second tenor, begins by introducing a melody, which is echoed by the bass, and quickly sets up the foundation of the sacred song. They then struggle against the black tentacles as well. The second tenor is going to use Inspire Greatness on the bass. He then attempts to break free of the grapple, and needs a natural 20 to do so. CMB: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (10) + 5 = 15 The bass, however, is going to use Inspire Courage on everyone, which makes it a bit more likely he will succeed. Only a bit though. CMB: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (11) + 8 = 19
The other two seem resigned to their fate, and harness the power of the sacred song for other purposes. The first shouts a phrase in Minatan which takes physical form, and assaults Zak's senses. Zak takes 1d4 + 9 ⇒ (3) + 9 = 12 sonic damage, but this is actually halved. The tenor, however, sends a flurry of phrases given solid form towards Asha.
The crowd roars in approval as the Chanters refuse to quit the field. "Listen to the song!", cries the same Chanter as before. "It will exist beyond us or them! We sing to give the song shape in this world!"
I believe I've hit Asha enough times to garner enough bonuses to make that second performance combat check, which removes the morale penalty. Since they're bards, they're going to be eschewing doing any more checks, since they don't stack with Inspire Courage.
Round two begins now!
The crowd cheers at the little goblin's bravado, and hisses its displeasure at the bad fortune the Chanters have had in the scant moments since the bout began. However, the musician martial artists refuse to submit!
Thanks to Poog, the crowd is now friendly towards you, and unfriendly towards the Chanters. You all gain a +1 morale bonus to all attack rolls, combat maneuver checks, abilitiy checks, skill checks and saving throws, while the Chanters have a -1 penalty to the same.
Rereading evasion, I would say that it applies, Asha.
Poog throws a tentacle towards the Chanters, and though they had spread out some, the fight stage is just not large enough for them to be out of the area where the tentacles appear.
Tentacle Attack 1: 1d20 + 16 ⇒ (10) + 16 = 26, Damage if Successful: 1d6 + 4 ⇒ (2) + 4 = 6
To a man, the Chanters are grabbed by the tentacles. Zarina follows this up with a gout of flame that engulfs the Chanters as well. Only one of them are able to find cover inside the tentacles - the rest are severely burned by the fiery eruption. At the sight of the spontaneous inferno, the crowd gives a mighty cheer of approval!
Reflex 1: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (8) + 7 = 15
Poog, you may make a performance combat check as a free action, as you drew first blood. Since you're taking fire damage from the coals, and are not enjoying any resistance, you get a +2 to the roll. Zarina, since you cast a spell with an energy effect, you may also make a performance combat check, but as a swift action rather than a free action.
Once you have cast your spells, you and the Chanters take your places on opposing sides of the fight stage. The Emissary once again brings his hands up into the air to call for silence, and a hush falls over the crowd. "BEGIN!", he shouts, and the roar returns to the Pavilion. The Chanters begin humming their song again, and begin to move as a well-trained skirmish unit.
Perform (sing) DC 20 (use Int instead of Cha):
Based upon the song and the facial tattoos, you recognize the group as the Chanters of the Sacred Song to be a group of musicians that have dedicated their lives to studying and protecting the so-called sacred song. Their mastery of the song and their unusual throat-singing have allowed them to harness the song into physical form and weild it as a weapon.
"This is a standard bout," the Emissary continues. "But with one simple adjustment - both teams will conduct the battle unshod. Remove your shoes, and take your places inside the arena!" The Chanters remove their sandals, and begin to enter their side of the fight stage, stepping lightly upon the hot coals.
The crowd's cheering increases as they enter the arena without protection from the flames, be it mundane or mystical. One of the monks leads you towards the opposite sides of the arena. "You will have a few moments to make any mystical preparations before the combat begins," he explains. "Including, of course, something to protect against the heat of the coals. However, the crowd takes a very dim view of that. They see it as taking the easy way out, and you will have a harder time getting them behind you."
So, once again, remove any footwear you have on your character. You'll be taking 1d6 fire damage at the end of your turn every round, with a DC 15 Reflex save for half. You'll also get a +2 bonus on the save if you move at least 15' that round. So, feel free to cast any spells to prepare, and we'll get this party started!
Marythsan nods at Asha's report. "That's what I was afraid of," he quietly replies. "And it matches with what the monks have told me thus far - someone deliberately weakened the supports on the towers. That places the death of at least one contestant upon their heads." He frowns in obvious displeasure. "I had hoped that this year would be free from the taint of corruption that plagued the Tournament a decade ago, but it seems that unsavory elements have infiltrated the inner workings once again."
As he speaks, a number of scarlet-and-orange clad monks laden with buckets approach the fight stage. They begin emptying the contents of the buckets onto the floor of the stage - each of the buckets is filled to the brim with red-hot coals. As they continue to pile more and more of the glowing coals onto the ground, the temperature within the pavilion begins to rise significantly. The drizzling rain continues, and hisses and steams when it hits the glowing floor.
One of the monks approaches the six of you, and bows to Marythsan. "Champion, the Emissary requests your presence once again, so that the Battle of the Embers can begin."
Marythsan nods quickly. "Tell him that I will be by his side momentarily." The monk bows again, and begins climbing the ziggurat. Looking back at you five, he leans in again, speaking quietly. "Keep your eyes and ears open. I would like to speak with you more on this when we have the luxury of time. Meet me at Yon Loi's tonight at nine, and we can compare notes then." He tarries only long enough to respond to any last comments or questions, then hurries off to rejoin the Emissary.
Once the paladin stands next to the Emissary, the old man speaks again. "And now, warriors and spectators alike, we rejoin the thirty-first Ruby Phoenix Tournament! As you have no doubt noted, the stage has been prepared for the Battle of the Embers. Two groups of warriors will do battle upon its scalding surface, but only one will move on to the next round of the competition. I call upon the first team - the Chanters of the Sacred Song! Stand before me and be recognized!" The crowd cheers as a quintet of tall, dark-skinned men march out in unison before the ziggurat. All of them bear similar facial tattoos and their chain shirts and wooden shields all bear brightly colored emblems and runes. As they march, they issue a droning wordless chant that carries over the cheers of the crowd.
"And now, the second team - Warriors of the Five Elements! Stand before me and be recognized!"
Nearidei shrugged at Simon's words. "Nature is red in tooth and claw. You know nothing of the vows I took to learn the ancient secrets of the world, so do not presume to judge what is right and what is wrong. I will tell you quick secret - the world does not care one way or the other. Would the world care if these two magnificent beasts fought atop Yun Chumo? It would not. Why should the world care if they fought here?" She turns from the old man, and looks back to Zak. "Hopefully, we can continue this conversation later, and with less intrusive company." She smiles to him as she saunters away, Aop dutifully slithering behind her.
As you watch her go, Marythsan approaches the five of you. "Congratulations on another victory, Warriors," he says with a mirthless expression on his face. "I think I chose well when I suggested the five of you work together. I hope that if you five aren't the eventual winners, that the prize this year goes to some other worthy and honorable contestant." He leans in a bit closer, and speaks with a conspiratorial hush in his voice. "I've heard some rather disturbing things that have raised some of my concerns, but my time has been taken by my official duties this year, so I've not been able to look into anything. You all have a far closer perspective than up on the ziggurat. What have you seen and heard that I might not have?"
Nearidei curses under her breath as the boar gives its death rattle, and waves her hand to dismiss the elemental under her control. She gives an impish smile as Zak suggests a drink. "Now you're talking, handsome. I'll meet you at Yon Loi's tonight. You can buy me a drink, and Aop a small dog." She glances back at the huge constrictor that obediently follows her around. It yaps and growls at the snake.
"Keep that thing away from me! I'm not food!"
Spellcraft DC 18:
The aura suggests that it is a ring of animal friendship - perhaps not the most appropriate award, given the way it was won.
The boar is not flat-footed.
The arrow pierces the boar's eye, which squeals in pain. It thrashes in its bramble prison, and kicks in fury against the thorny walls.
Nearidei finishes casting her spell, and a giant cloud with vaguely humanoid features appears. "Get rid of that smoke for me!", she orders it, and the summoned elemental spins rapidly, turning into a tornado. It flies into the smoke-filled section of the fight, and begins to disperse the smoke.
"There's the tiger!", Nearidei says with a smile. "Now, let's end this!" She casts another spell, and a bolt of lightning slammed down from above into the tiger. Reflex save: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (10) + 7 = 17 Damage: 3d6 ⇒ (6, 6, 1) = 13 The cat, however, leapt out of the way, searing its orange-and-black coat.
The boar, however, was in its death throes, and attempted to break further out of its prison. Strength: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (1) + 6 = 7 Though it struggled against the brambles, its blind fury tore itself to pieces. The boar ends up killing itself, since its ferocity overrides its survival instinct.
The tiger is about to leap at Zak again, but a well-placed magic word halts the beast in its tracks again. The black-skinned oni approaches the two combatants within the fight arena. "The battle is over," Kiang Zhen calls out. "Warrior, it seems as though your arrow caused more harm to your fellow contestant than to the creature you were tasked to slay. You and a few of your allies expressed your distaste in this fight - therefore, take this ring. It will aid you in saving the lives of these lesser creatures you seem to care for." She offers him a silver ring with a simple small pearl set into it. Half of the band is a stlized boar holding the pearl in its tusks, while the other half is a tiger holding the pearl in its outstretched paws. Their tails intertwine on the other side of the ring.
Nearidei frowns as she hears the tiger roar on the other side of the wall. "Alright, that smoke is now officially bothersome. Let's change that up." She begins chanting again, but it is a longer spell, and it draws a great deal of natural energies to her.
Spellcraft DC 20:
Judging by the words, you believe she's casting summon nature's ally V.
The boar clearly has had enough of trying to make any degree of headway through the brambles, and lies there, snorting dejectedly.
The tiger continues to pace. Without a target, it can only pace and wait for its prey to return.
Under the concealment of the smoke, Zak strains against the tiger's weight, and the beast roars again in protest of being pulled unwillingly along. You drag the tiger fifteen feet in any direction. Straight towards her would put you just on the right side of the wind wall, but getting on her side would either involve another drag, or lowering yourself to the same plane as the tiger and moving five feet out. Of course, the tiger can't currently see you...
It does not - the fifteen foot length of chain means you can either be 15' directly up from the tiger, or 10' up and 10' over. (Three dimensional combat is weird.) You're basically about 20' away from being on the other side of the wind wall. In order to get there, you'll need to pull the tiger from its current position, which can be done via the drag combat maneuver. Should you succeed, it will also have the side benefit of not letting Nearidei know exactly where you and the tiger are at.
Nearidei studies the smoke cloud that has suddenly coalesced on the other side of her curtain of air, scratching her chin in surprise. "Alright," she says at last. "I'll admit, I didn't see that one coming. But you're not out of the woods yet. Now I just have to get indirect!" She chants some more words of power, and a column of fire erupts in the middle of the spot where Zak and the tiger were at. Damage, Reflex DC 18 for half: 10d6 ⇒ (1, 3, 1, 4, 2, 2, 2, 4, 4, 2) = 25 Tiger Reflex: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (15) + 7 = 22 The tiger leaps away, roaring in pain. The tiger has now taken 12 points of damage.
The boar struggles against the thorns again. Strength check: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (18) + 6 = 24 It digs in its hooves, trying to make headway, but the brambles are too tight. It ceases it struggles, and squeals in frustration and fury. The dire boar takes another 10 points of damage, for a total of 30.
The tiger leaps to where Zak used to be, but catches nothing, since the archer has moved on from directly above him. The cat begins circling, waiting for his prey to come back in view. A low grumble issues from deep within its gullet.
Your turn, Zak!
Like I said, there's a lot to like in the adventure. I think this one especially could have benefited from the new Module changes. The plot could have used a bit more depth than the 32 page format allowed. Of the module, one page is given over to the credits, another page to art and a bit of flavor text to set the tone of the adventure, a page of background, a page setting up everything, a page for the new monster you guys already fought, two pages on Xielan Island, and a page for the OGL and a Pathfinder Modules ad.
That's 25 pages to tell the whole story, not including incidental art and statblocks. It does a lot of things well, but the story feels very underdeveloped due to the space everything else takes up. I'm glad everyone's enjoying it, though. There's a very good framework on the adventure, it just needed some tinkering under the hood and some car wax in order to reach its pinnacle.
Yeah, there's a lot of cool ideas in this adventure. The only complaints I have are that these solo challenges don't translate to PbP well (for the very reason you describe, mott), as well as a space issue. Higher-level play means the stat blocks are much more involved, and that takes up a bunch of real estate in the adventure that could be used to develop the story. A metric ton of characters are introduced the moment you fight them, which is bad storytelling. I've been fixing that as best I can, though - combats are far more interesting if you've met the person before blades are drawn!
The bottle drops to the ground, and instantly Zak's half of the fight stage is obscured by smoke. The tiger roars in surprise as roiling clouds of smoke completely envelop everything on Zak's side of the curtain of wind. From beneath his goz mask, however, Nearidei is completely visible. That's a standard action. Anything else you'd like to do, Zak?
Spellcraft: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (2) + 9 = 11
Four shots snap off towards Nearidei - all four find their target. She cries out in pain from the grievous wounds, and the confidence that was on her face suddenly is replaced with fear.
"A minor setback!", she yells, though a quavering is heard in her voice. She waves her hands, and the dust of the fight stage kicks up, bisecting the two portions. "There! That should keep your arrows away from me and the boar! Now, on to victory!" She's cast wind wall on the dividing line, approximately 20' away from Zak.
The boar continues to try to force its way out of the briar patch. Strength: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (4) + 6 = 10 It makes no progress this time, but the squealing is still heard within. It's now taken 20 points of damage.
The tiger tries to leap at Zak again. Acrobatics: 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (10) + 14 = 24 This time it gets enough distance for its claw to reach the archer, but the flying archer is able to avoid the beast's claws...for now... Attack Claw: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (6) + 10 = 16
Your turn again, Zak.
Attack of Opportunity: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (4) + 10 = 14
The tiger swipes its paw at Zak, but he is already gone - it catches nothing but air. The great cat roars in fury as its prey flies up into the air out of reach.
"Not a bad idea," shouts Nearidei as Zak flies away from his animal. "Mind if I join you?" She walks into the air as though climbing an invisible staircase, ending at the same height as Zak. "Now, I can't have you hurting this poor creature - so..." With a gesture and a word, the ground erupts with thorny scrub brush which rapidly grows to wholly encase the boar. "Try shooting through that, Warrior!" A confident smile appears on her face, and she crosses her arms in bravado. Wall of thorns, if you hadn't guessed, and Nearidei has completely encased the boar in the brush. There's a 10' cube of thorns directly above it, two in front, two in the back, and one on either side, with three more cubes towards the front as well. Nearidei herself hovers over one such cube.
The dire boar squeals in frustration of this new predicament it finds itself in, and tries to move towards the last thing it saw - the slip of a girl that walked up into the air away from it! 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (19) + 6 = 25 The boar starts crashing through the thorns, and it squeals in pain as the scrub tears away its thick hide. It has moved 5', and has taken 10 points of damage.
The tiger leaps at the archer, trying to grab him and bring him back down to earth. Acrobatics: 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (4) + 14 = 18 The tiger's paw comes close, but the cat is unable to get enough height to catch Zak.
You're up, Zak!
Zak shoves the tiger away, which lands with a loud thump upon the ground. It yowls at him, hunger and predatory fury in its eyes, preparing to leap at him again.
You've still got a move action left to you, Zak. Obviously, moving more than 5' away from the tiger will prompt an attack of opportunity from it.
Nearidei smiles readily and answers without hesitation. "The boar. It brought me luck last time - I see no reason why it shouldn't do so again."
"Good, good, it is decided," Kiang Zhen hurriedly says, the coin disappearing as quickly as it appeared. "The monks will escort you to the fight stage, and shackle you to your chosen beasts. You will have a minute to prepare yourselves or your animal however you wish, and then the exhibition match will start. Any questions? No? Good!"
The monks escort Zak and anyone who wants to buff him or the tiger to the stage. The tiger is frozen in place across the stage from the massive boar, and a manacle on one of its hind legs bears a fifteen foot length of chain that ends in another smaller manacle. The monks affix this manacle to Zak's ankle, and retreat for any last moment magical augmentations. Across the fight stage, the same thing is happening for Nearidei and her boar. Once the monks retreat, she casts a trio of spells on herself.
Spellcraft DC 17:
You recognize her chanting and motions to be a barkskin spell.
Spellcraft DC 19:
You recognize her chanting and motions to be a air walk spell.
Spellcraft DC 19:
You recognize her chanting and motions to be a freedom of movement spell.
Once the minute has passed, Kiang Zhen yells out, "Begin the Boar and Tiger!" The spells holding the wild animals in place drop, and the fight has begun in earnest!
The tiger roars, venting its pent-up frustration on the nearest target - Zak. It leaps at the archer, all four claws and its massive jaws prepared to strike!
The tiger pounces at Zak, and makes its full attack. If any of them hit, it will attempt to grapple, after which it gets -2 to take the rest of its attacks. Zak's currently flat-footed, so it needs to hit an AC 23.
The tiger leaps on Zak, and catches him with a trio of massive paws. It struggles with the archer, attempting to bring him to the ground and sink its powerful jaws into the man's neck.
Bad luck for you, Zak, but now you're up! You're currently grappled by the tiger, since it just got its claws into you.
Feel free to buff Zak - Nearidei will be buffing herself as well.
"Both contestants will begin the bout on the ground - after that, whether you remain there is largely up to your own abilities. And the bout does not end until one animal or the other is dead, Warrior. You might end Nearidei's life, but should her animal slay yours, you will have lost the bout."
No problem, I saw this part and knew some people might have issues with it.
Kiang Zhen claps her hands thrice, which echoes across the fight stage. "Very well, Warrior Zakarras. Prepare yourself for battle." The handlers begin moving the aforementioned animals into the fight stage - while the tiger appears to be normal in every way, the boar is massive and is roughly the same size as the great cat, though far stockier. A slender Tian-Dtang woman with chin-length black hair and chestnut eyes approaches you all, a massive anaconda slithering obediently behind her. A predatory grin breaks out on Kiang Zhen's face as the woman approaches.
"Zakkaras, this is your opponent, Nearidei. She excelled in this fight a decade ago, and was chosen to make this the best show possible for the crowd. As you are the newcomer, you will be allowed the chance to make the call for the coin toss to decide who gets which animal." The oni stretches out her hand, and an oversized coin appears. One side has the faces of a boar and tiger, while the other has the respective hindquarters. "So, Warrior - heads or tails?"
The oni sighs and rolls her eyes (or at least, you think she does, since it's hard to tell when her eyes are a solid red) at Zak's question. "One of your number will be tethered to either a dire boar or a tiger, and your opponent is tethered to the other. Your goal is to kill your opponent's animal while keeping your own alive."
The little goblin examines the wreckage of the towers. He finds several thick beams that have snapped and splintered, though whether that's due to sabotage or damage that was caused during the fall, he can't say.
The monks continue to solemnly and quietly begin to cart away the wreckage of the triple towers. The Emissary stands and clears his throat, his voice echoing across the pavilion. "Honored guests, favored warriors, devotees of the Ruby Phoenix. This is a most unfortunate and tragic accident. The gunfighter known only as Helen was a very competent warrior, and we will mourn her passing. The clerics will be contacting her spirit to see if she wishes to return to this world.
"Despite this tragedy, the Tournament must continue. Every contestant knew that death was a possible outcome for them, and would not have entered if they feared such an end. We will have a fifteen minute intermission while my assistants remove the wreckage, and then we will resume the competition." The Emissary sits back down on the throne, looks to Kiang Zhen, and nods to her.
She nods back, and instantly disappears, only to reappear next to the five of you. "Nasty business," Kiang Zhen says in a disinterested tone. "We'll need a good fight to clear the distasteful end to that last bout, so you've been selected to participate in this year's Boar and Tiger. Which one of you will fight?"
The monks rush to Simon once he alerts them to the woman he's found, and they assist him in bringing her still form out from the wreckage. It's plain to see how she's died - one of the pieces of timber pierced her side when she landed on it, and the remainder of the tower crushed her when it collapsed on her. The monks solemnly place her onto a stretcher, cover her with an orange sheet, and carry her off the battlefield. Across the way, the man in black shakes his head as he watches the monks carry her off the field.
You sense the auras of magic all around you - not surprising, given the gathering of powerful and successful warriors competing for this prize. You concentrate, and don't find any auras that seem out of place, however.
Simon rushes to assist the monks, as do a few other contestants, Ganyavesha and Chung Po first among them. Alas, it is too late, as the still form of an Avistani woman dressed in leathers and carrying a pair of flintlocks lies twisted beneath the timbers, her hazel eyes staring unblinkingly up towards the heavens.
Welcome back, Zak!
You follow the monks into the pavilion, and find many of the crowd on their feet in shock. One glance to the fight stage reveals the cause - the three towers you fought Ganyavesha on have collapsed, and a quartet of red-robed monks work quickly to move the wreckage. Off to the side stands a man dressed entirely in black, including a headwrap that only leaves his eyes and the bridge of his nose visible. The monks appear to be examining him for injuries. Atop the ziggurat, Marythsan and Kiang Zhen confer with the Emissary, no doubt about the tragedy that has just unfolded.
I'll move forward with getting you guys back to the tournament grounds. If there's anything you want to do before you head back, feel free to retcon that!
Your trip back to the tournament grounds is unremarkable. The day remains gloomy and overcast, and while the rain continues to drizzle from the sky, it has not progressed into anything more than a nuisance. You head back north and rejoin the road that leads to the tournament grounds, and the spectators again greet you as you pass. You can hear the shouts and cheers of the crowd within - a bout is taking place as you approach. You are only a few hundred yards away from the pavilion when you hear a loud crack from within, and a terrible noise like thunder issues forth. The shouts of the crowd turn from cheers and jeers to cries of shock and alarm. Several monk assistants nearby begin to race towards the pavilion entrances, moving at top speed to find out what has happened within.
The monk escorts the Warriors around the temple, which is filled with lovingly handpainted frescoes that reinforce the illusion that the temple itself is one giant conch shell. The alabaster-painted walls show signs of constant upkeep, and indeed you occasionally see one of the monks repainting an area where the old paint has fallen away.
"My brothers and I work to keep up the vision that the Rose gave to Kun Pho Li, the man who helped create this temple. He was a moneylender from elsewhere in Tian Xia who had attracted the wrong sort of attention with his trade. He fled here and hid in the caves, living as a hermit to avoid revealing himself to the cruel men who he had evaded. As he lived in isolation, he received a vision one night of Shelyn, washing ashore in a massive conch, and she tasked him to create a likeness of it in this world. He dismissed this as nothing more than a dream at first, but the visions began coming to him during his wakeful hours, and he could no longer deny that some other agency was working through him.
"And so he built, first digging the foundation, then spending time cutting stone to creatre the spiraling interior and the spiny exterior. It took him years, but he eventually finished it, and set to painting it to match the brilliant otherworldly colors he saw in Shelyn's vision.
"It was a marvel to behold, and word spread of the beauty just off the coast from Goka. This was problematic for Kun Pho Li, and the men he had angered heard of the mysterious hermit who had built a shrine to Shelyn. They hired ten men, led by the assassin Rohaido, to confront Kun Pho Li and make an example of him. Rohaido and his men sailed to Xielan, and approached Kun Pho Li. It was dark, but the aging man was painting by candlelight. Rohaido shouted for the man to come forward and face his doom, but Kun Pho Li refused. 'I cannot do so, assassin. The work is not yet done.' It was at that moment the sun began to crest the horizon, and the light played off the brilliantly colored spines of the temple. Rohaido's eyes were opened then, and faltered in his grim task. The blade dropped from his hands, and he fell to his knees in humility and supplication. Eight of his men did as well, but two of them, the most stone-hearted amongst them, moved forward and painted the exterior walls of the temple with Kun Pho Li's blood. It is not said exactly what happened to these two men, whether Rohaido killed them himself, or if the Rose struck them down for their blasphemy, but in the end, it did not matter, for their lives were forfeit for killing one so favored of the goddess.
"Rohaido only took up a blade once more, and that was to shave his head before becoming the second abbot of this temple. His first action was to bury his predecessor, then pick up the paints and get back to painting the temple. That is our mantra here, friends. 'The work is not yet done.' Nor shall it ever be. If you would care to return at a time when you have several hours, I would be glad to assist you in this moving meditation. The Rose looks favorably on those who help keep up her shrine."
Meanwhile, outside the temple, It continues to play with Zarina, yapping excitedly and rolling around in the grass. He ends up finding a particularly stinky patch of mud nearby, and rolls around in it, matting his fur with the foul-smelling soil.
If the monk is disappointed by Simon's response, he does not show it, and instead turns to those who wish to pay homage to the Rose. "Please, follow me," he says, entering the Temple.
The interior is unsurprisingly beautiful, curved to resemble the interior of a multihued conch shell. The monk begins to light some incense to assist in your meditations, and chants some quiet prayers as you approach the altar.
It runs back to Zarina, then away from her again, circling around the draconic woman, enjoying a game of keep away with her.
The monk bows his head in apology to Simon. "I am afraid it is not. The Rose's peace watches over the temple, and as a result it is the most holy place on Xielan Island. To bring a weapon into the temple would bring the goddess's disfavor. If you cannot bring yourself to part with your blade, then you will have to remain out here."
It yaps at Zarina as the arcane warrior speaks to him, running away from her then looking over his shoulder, glancing back with his tongue hanging out of his mouth.
The monk bows his head in deference to each of Asha's companions. "I welcome you and your companions to the Temple, Sister Ghadvhi. If you would care to pray within its walls, then I would be glad to assist you. You step foot on holy ground, and I will need to collect your weapons. Instruments of war are not permitted within the Temple walls."
Your trek to the temple is rather uneventful - you pass by several late-arriving spectators on their way to the Tournament grounds on your way back to the crossroads, and they greet you as you pass. Many offer words of encouragement - a select few, however, scowl at you as you pass, but make no overt signs of malice. Once you reach the crossroads at Yun Chomo's foot, you follow the path southwards towards the temple. Foot traffic becomes virtually non-existent as you head in this direction.
After about an hour's travel, you arrive at the Temple of the Rose Shell. The outer walls of the temple are indeed a soft rose color, and it is settled atop a hill a short distance from the beach. Several cave entrances dot the hill on the side opposite the sea, and as you approach the hill, movement from one of them draws your eye. A monk in well-worn and unadorned robes approaches, and bows low to you all. "Welcome, honored travelers, and may the Rose's peace be upon you all. How may I assist you today?"
That's fine, Zarina - life's been hectic here as well. As evidenced by my 'updating next day' occurring a few days later!
Before Asha gets up to dance, Ganyavesha catches her attention one last time. "If you get some time tomorrow, you may want to go to the Temple of the Rose Shell. It's one of the most sacred spots here on Xielan Island, but most of all to your ilk. You might find the answers you seek there."
The next morning is dreary, and rain falls in a steady drizzle. Your trip to the Tournament grounds is unpleasant, but at least unremarkable as well. One of the monks bows to you as you approach. "Ah, Warriors, your bout is scheduled for later this afternoon, directly after your exhibition match. Xielan Island is at your disposal until such time."
Ganyavesha shrugs. "The thought has crossed my mind. But I can't fly - otherwise, your archer would have had some problems of his own in our fight. If I can't take him out, I probably don't stand a chance against a dragon." She leans back in her chair, slightly flushed from the alcohol.
"Criminal scum, opportunists chased from Minkai and found a second home here in Goka," Bao Gan replies. "If there's a criminal enterprise in the city, then you can bet they've got a piece of it. As for what you speculate, perhaps. Abadar's clergy wouldn't change a contract without making certain it was within the bounds of the contract, I would think, but I am no lawyer."
"Well, let's just say we make up for our lack of creativity with skill at arms. Like yourselves, we've advanced to the third day as well."
I'll give this one more day, and then move the RP into flex time. If you want to continue the conversations, just spoiler them as "Flex Time," and it will be assumed that RP exists during that point in time.
"Poisonings, no," Bao Gan replies, sitting down for a moment with Simon. He speaks in hushed tones, and keeps the teacup close to his mouth to hide his lips from prying eyes. "But trouble's followed ever since the Tournament officials broke with tradition. For the thirtieth game, they added an additional round, increasing the amount of people. The rest of those games were plagued with problems. Over thirty of the one hundred and twenty-eight entrants died in accidents, or exhibitions that were somewhat outside the tournament's strict ethical rules. One of the contestants, a sorceress from Lingshen, was disqualified just prior to the final match. Worst of all, the deaths weren't just confined to the contestants. There were a large number of gambling-related deaths in Goka, mostly from a spike in organized crime surrounding the games. The Tournament made the Golden League a lot of money a decade ago. I would be surprised to learn if they weren't trying to capitalize on this year's as well."
Ganyavesha nods. "You might have seen a village on the opposite side of Xielan Island from New Harbor. That would be Old Harbor, but about two hundred years ago, it was called Xielan. Since the island is off Goka's bay, the fisherfolk there never felt the need to have a militia or anything. Honestly, I don't think it would have mattered, since the brine dragon Huyanwo appeared one day, and demanded tribute from the village. The townsfolk refused to submit, and he laid waste to Xielan. The survivors fled to where New Harbor now stands; fortunately for everyone, Huyanwo seems not to care about this village. Still, the dragon is a huge temptation to many contestants. To those that have been knocked out of the tournament, slaying the dragon would mean walking away with its hoard. To those who have not, slaying Huyanwo would mean glory brought to their names." By the time the Vudrani is finished speaking, there is an excitement evident in her eyes.
Pirin snickers softly at the goblin. "That I am, and, yes, I am part of a team. We are The Four From Avistan. Not a very evocative name, but some of my allies are better at pointing out what they don't like instead of offering up ideas of their own. I wanted to call ourselves Destiny's Legionnaires, but there you are."
"Well, tomorrow, I will cheer on the five warriors who bested me in combat, surely. After that, it's on to the next tournament. None of them have the prestige as the Ruby Phoenix, of course, but a girl can still make a good living off such things. Tonight, though, I'm honoring the contestants that have fallen." The twinkle in her eyes dims as she speaks, and her voice fills with somberness. "The Naga's Children are dead. We only just found out a few hours ago when one of the locals came across their bodies at the Ridge of Graves. They had to use divination magics just to discover who they were, as their bodies had been scoured by acid burns." She herself and Asha another round, and quickly finishes the cup. "Bad business, but that's what happens when you start poking around Huwanyo's lair."
The priest nods. "I do not believe the use of poison is strictly prohibited in the arena - but it would have to be applied to weapons, naturally. Whoever is doing this is clearly working outside the tournament rules." After Simon's introduction, the priest bows to him. "I am pleased to meet you, Simon Greer. I am Bao Gan. I will be able to acquire the scrolls you seek for a like donation to the temple."