Onmyodo Islands

Saito Tries To Play It Safe And Fails A Lot

“Alright,” said Saito. “Here’s how it’s gonna happen.”

His companions exchanged glances. Of the group, only Kai was used to his plans. The two naga-ji just looked on with their blank reptilian eyes, and there was no telling what Kyo the kitsune was thinking. His eyes were pretty much inscrutable.

“This here’s a tower,” Saito said. “A wooden tower with one exit. We know there’s bad stuff happening inside, and we know it’s probably dangerous as all hell to face head-on. What I’m saying is: for once, let’s not and say we did.” Of course, that was Saito’s entire overriding philosophy. Stories were full of gallant heroes striding right into danger, but Saito wasn’t in a story. He was a guy trying to live long enough to die instead of getting killed.

“What you propose?” said Ketzal. He was Devana’s brother, and he looked the part—at least in the sense that he was a scary, hulking snake-person. His grasp of Common wasn’t as good, though; when forced to speak in it, all he seemed able to manage were broken half-sentences. And yet he knows the word ‘propose,’ Saito thought.

“Simple,” said Saito. “You use those big muscles of yours to pile heavy shit in front of the door. We put pitch all around the base of the tower. And then, once we’re sure there’s no way to get in or out without us seeing, we light the fucking place up.”

It was a foolproof plan. Zero risk to them, a hundred percent risk to whomever was inside trying to curry favor with the dark goddess Shub-Niggurath. If they stayed inside, they roasted. If they tried to bust out, they’d have a hell of a time of it. And if they did manage to break out somehow, there were five seasoned warriors ready to get the drop on them.

The rest of the group didn’t seem to share his enthusiasm. Kai, who’d adventured with him the longest, was well-used to shooting down his plans by now. Hskori Blackblood, whose bleached scales suggested it was about time for her to look for a new name, seemed reluctant to destroy any part of the Venema tribe’s village, even though its occupants had all vanished like smoke into air and the village had been turned into a cosmic horror playground. Ketzal, for his part, had just gotten his nodachi repaired on the Yamato and seemed keen to test its edge in a proper fight.

Saito sighed, ready to give up. This always happened whenever he tried to propose something sensible. No matter what, his group would always ignore his sage advice and go rushing straight into the teeth of—

“Very well,” said Kyo in little more than a hoarse whisper.

Saito did a double-take. “Sorry, what was that?”

“Your plan makes sense,” Kyo rasped. “I think it’s the safest course of action.”

The others all glanced at each other, then nodded. Deep down, Saito noted that of course his plan hadn’t been approved until someone other than him had put his weight behind it.

But whatever. Beggars couldn’t be choosers, and he knew much and more about being a beggar.

They each set about tasks he assigned them. He, Hskori, and Kai found fuel, while Ketzal barred the doorway with debris and Kyo synthesized alchemical fire to help kick things off right. It took all of half an hour before everything was ready and in position, but at last the five of them were able to step back and admire their handiwork.

He withdrew a torch from his pack. He’d been carrying it since Genbu, but it still looked as if it wouldn’t have trouble lighting. He willed a spark of magical energy into his hand, then snapped his fingers. A tiny flame spouted from where they met, jumping straight onto the torch. The entire thing came alive all at once, the fire hugging the torch’s tip as if for dear life.

With a grin, he tossed it onto a pile of alchemically-infused hay.

The fire roared right to life, following the line traced by pitch and fuel until it perfectly encircled the whole tower. In moments, the base of the tower burned merrily while still more flames scaled its walls like ninja.

He sighed contentedly and breathed in smoky air. With a theatrical pivot, he turned to address his party. “You see?” he said. “This is what happens when you listen to—”

Behind him, two enormous creatures burst through the wall, as if the tower had just birthed them. They were hulking beasts, covered in muscles and stitches and wires and runes and the gods knew what else. Perhaps at one point, they’d been naga-ji. Now, though, they were something else entirely.

And that something was a big, gaping hole in Saito’s foolproof plan.

They looked out into the night with big, dead eyes. And then, with the help of the firelight, their shared gaze fell right on the collection of adventurers standing on their lawn.

Saito gulped.

#

“This is what happens when we listen to Saito,” Kai said, holding up a vomit-encrusted breastplate. His boots were hardly in better shape. Even his axebeak’s feathers were matted down with puke.

“It was a good idea on paper,” Saito snarled, fully aware he’d never live this down. Of course the one time they’d finally listened to him would be the time that setting a fire would awaken two giant naga-ji abominations, and then trigger a long and arduous chase with a slippery wayang cultist.

It was the next morning, and a full night’s sleep had done little to ease the ill effects of last night’s encounter. At least the evening had been mercifully free of sand-worms or fever dreams, both of which happened on this stupid island far too often for Saito’s liking. He’d come to hate Byakku so much that he was almost willing to get on a boat just to get away from it.

“Besides,” he said, trying to salvage his pride, “at least we got some good info, right?”

“Only because the wayang escaped,” whispered Kyo.

“Which you plan no take into account during formulation process,” said Ketzal.

“Never mind my plan, alright?” Saito said. “We know Ngashnagatl’s at the Bakeo Seal, and that if we don’t do something, Shub-Niggurath will be there soon after. And the spiderling they’re offering up as a sacrifice was after the Tiger Spirit. If Kyouya already had it when the Me-Go grabbed him…”

“Then we’re looking at an island spirit possessed by a cosmic horror from the outer reaches,” said Kai. “Yes. We know. We were there.”

“Just like we were there to see those impossibly huge tracks at the Burning Sigh Oasis Shrine,” Kyo said. He had to repeat himself several times before the entire party heard him.

“Yes,” said Ketzal. “You no need to recapitulate events for benefit of group.”

Saito resisted the temptation to pry into the disparity in the naga-ji’s vocabulary. “Well,” he said as they rode for the top of the nearest hill, “what we’ve been running into lately is corpses. Lots of them, wherever we go, and we weren’t even the ones to put them there.”

The others grunted their agreement. In the distance, they could hear the waves crashing against the coast just out of sight.

“Now up ahead is that Myanmirene flag we saw when we took our little sailing trip,” Saito said. “And I figure there isn’t anything too corpse-y about a flag, right?”

As one, they all crested the hill.

And in the distance, four silhouetted bodies swung from an improvised gibbet.

Saito hung his head. “Gods dammit.”

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Tales From Under A Starless Sky
Longfen Village - Years Later

Lightning strikes, cracking the sky in half with its electric ferocity; illuminating the wet desert for a second before letting the darkness take over once again.

It was the ‘rainy season’ on Byakko, and the Naga-ji women and children of Longfen village had huddled into the elder’s hut to tough out the storm. The rain had been falling unusually heavy and the population of Longfen had been confined to the mud house for the past three days. The Naga-ji mothers spent the majority of these three days trying to calm their children and keep them safe inside, but by nightfall their energy had been spent and they were desperate for help.

As though on cue, the blanket folds of the entryway parted, revealing the currently-drenched elder of the village: Jenkin Rattletail.

“Elder!” an excited roar rose to welcome the patron of the tribe. The mature Rattletail responded with a modest smile and a hushing motion as he wrung out his robes and took his place around the fire. He was about two generations older than the oldest mother in the room, and his appearance showed it; deep wrinkles carved his age onto his face and an arthritic hunch gave him a weakly posture. Dispite his physical disadvantages, however, his powerful energy commanded attention from every soul in the room.

He sat, and after a moment of dramatic silence and brow-wiping, the elder addressed the huddled mass.

“…….I suppose you all want to hear a story?”

Another excited roar exploded from the Naga-ji children as the mothers sighed in relief. They had been trying to keep the children calm all day and they knew the elder’s tale would pacify them.

“Well then,” Rattletail scratched his chin, staring into the fire. “Where was I?”

“Ooooh, OOOhhhh!” an excited Naga-ji boy exlaimed, his hand seemingly pulling his arm out of its socket as it shot up in response to the elder’s rhetorical question. Rattletail nodded to the boy, giving him permission to speak. He was slow and methodical in his speech, but he eventually got it out.

“Da he-woes… went back… to da big ship… to get weady for da big fight.”

Muffled giggles arose from the many mothers who found the boy’s speech impediment to be intolerably cute.

“That’s right”, a knowing Rattletail smiled. “The Heroes had returned to the ‘Yamado’ to get ready for an event they knew would occur durrinnggg..” The elder stressed the last word; holding it out, encouraging the children to finish his sentence. After a few seconds of stressful recall, the young naga-ji responded eagerly with a resounding, “THHEE ECLIPSEEEE”.

“That’s right! Very good,” he smiled, unable to suppress his delight in his listeners before continuing. “Now, once they had made their preparations, our heroes headed towards the giant tornado in the desert. There, a cellar door was unearthed and unlocked as the moon moved in front of the sun. On the other side of the door was a tunnel full of danger, leading deep underground. The heroes had to travel past numerous monstrous creatures and a number of challenges before reaching the inner-most sanctum, but none of you want to know any of that.”

The elder had tagged on that last little bit as a story-telling tactic; purposely leaving out the juiciest bits and then fishing the excitement out of his listeners with a sarcastic flash of reverse psychology. It was a testament to his skills as a leader, as well as a storyteller.

“What monsters?” a little, naga-ji girl asked on cue. Her eyes were filled with wonder and excitement as the other kids chimed in.

“Tell us about the monstahs!”

“Tell us!”

“Alright, Alright,” Rattletail said with feigned annoyance. “I didn’t realize you cared so much. Well if monsters are what you want to hear about, then you shall hear about monsters. The first thing the group came upon as they entered the cellar door were four massive scorpions. With tails as tall as a Sootscale Warrior, shells as hard as steel and claws sharper than any sword, these creatures made death worms seem like a walk on the beach. Our heroes, however, made short work of them and were headed deeper underground when they were confronted once again. The ground quaked, and the walls of the underground cavern cracked as a group of monstrous landsharks known as Bullets set upon the party. These bullets had the face, teeth, and tails of sharks, with the body of a land dragon. They too, could make a grown man cry, but were no match for the heroes of old. But that wasn’t even the best part, for what lurked in the deepest parts of this catacomb would prove to be more interesting than anything that came before.”

The naga-ji children’s eyes widened as they imagined the events their elder was detailing to them. Their glares grew distant as they balanced between equal parts attentive interest and exhaustion. Most of the younger children had dozed off, huddled into their mothers’ bosoms for warmth and protection, but there was still an attentive audience among the older kids.

“Neogami,” the elder said with dramatic sovereignty, his face glowing red from the fire. “The Ancient Crystal Dragon from the myths of our fathers stood before them, his many-colored scales projecting beautiful shapes onto the walls and filling the heroes with awe and wonder. He had locked himself under the island for thousands of years, and now our party had arrived at an incredibly opportune time. As fate would have it, Neogami’s daughter, Naigi, had just recently ran away from home, and the Ancient Dragon needed help in securing her safe return.”

“Seizing this chance to be in a Dragon God’s favor, the party headed south immediately. They passed the Oasis and were coming to the Venoma Village, but that….” the Elder trailed off, acknowledging the fact that his audience of children had all finally passed out for the night, “… is a tale for another time.”

The mothers who were still awake mouthed ‘thank you’s’ as Rattletail moved to the exit. He nodded graciously before leaving the hut; telling tales had always been a passion of his. But he had work to do; thankless work, but necessary nontheless.

Magical energy sparked from his hand as he cast another round of cloaking spells to keep the village safe.

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ALIENS

Hastily scribbled notes from the alchemist journal of Kyoto Makoto

We come across a cyclone in the desert. I believe this may be the Taigong cyclone which was created in tribute to Neogami, the man who brought the countries together. We find a door close to the cyclone. In closer inspection the door has some sort of inscription which I am unable to read. My friends read that it will open during a solar eclipse. Which by my approximations should be in seven days. We also discover what seem to be small footprints coming in and out of the door. We will return when the sun is blackened.
My comrades and I decide to head west. When night falls we once again encounter a pair of strange red eyes. We try to pursue it but accomplish nothing but attracting a group of death worms. Luckily we were able to dispose of them and extract a few samples. I am surprised that my friends are avid collectors of materials. I suppose we do have some thing in common.
Setting up camp is always an arduous task but I am glad to finally be able to rest and spend time with my formulae book. During my watch I see the red eyes once again in the distance. My hands tremble as I reach for my arrows. I think about my brother, Tiz, and take in a deep breath. The thought of him gives me the courage not to wake up my party members.
Luckily my shift was uneventful after encountering the mysterious eyes. However, all my comrades entail vivid dreams they had experienced that night. They all had similar dreams but Kai’s was the longest. It started with them in the supposed ship they came on. There’s a huge storm and the ship cracks in half. They end up in a cave without color. In the middle of the cave is some type of object draining color and life from the world around it. They also mentioned seeing Naga eyes with madness in them like they’ve never seen before. The dream then shifts to some petrified forest they have visited before and a graveyard filled with worms that start to take shape of something. Kai mentions in his dream he wakes up on the Nishimaru with a giant moth man floating at the edge of the boat. The moth man tells him he was saved by the goddess Lo Shen, and because of that occurrence he will cause the next god storm destroying the Omyodo islands. He tells him he must collect the two tiger paws, one obsidian and the other jade. This will free the tiger spirit and put him on the course to saving the islands. The jade paw is said to be near the sootscale village and the obsidian in the underground summer palace of Luthobutet. He also mentioned he woke up saying the phrase “La la shub-niggurath”
As we head to the sootscale village we find the plants are fading in color and mutating. We then come across a strange pole that seemed to have been projecting a wall of force. We then continue into the village and see a large metal box the size of a building. Our nose hairs bristle at the terrible stench of rotting corpses. Ketzal mourns his dead brethren as we explore the area. Saito alerts us of some strange creatures in the temple. We rush by his side and fight them off. When they emerged from the temple I was in dismay and excitement. A peculiar creature that may have never been discovered before. They were very insectile but they seemed much more intelligent, performing complex surgeries with the power of technology much more advanced than our own. We quickly killed two of them and as the last one flew up to retreat I managed one last bullseye with my bomb, allowing me a dramatic slow walk exit. Hopefully my comrades think I am competent in battle now. We find a nagaji woman on the experiment table babbling incoherently. She seems to have some sort of wound on her head that Kai quickly mends with his magic. The woman comes to her senses and starts communicating with us. She tells us of strange creatures that rained from the skies and slaughtered and experimented on her fellow tribesmen. She mentioned that the sootscales worked alongside the longfen village and that two of their men were taken in the night. More and more men started disappearing until an all out attack broke out where these creatures they call “mi-gos” took over the meadery. We find out she is a cleric of Lo Shen and goes by the name Astor a Blackblood. She tells us the statue in the corner holds one of the eyes of Nalinivadi and that the Venoma tribe holds the other. She mentions something to Ketzal about going into the spirit world by performing a ritual with the eyes. She leaves the town to wait for us and we proceed to the giant metal box. We find one mi-go that seems to be doing experiments on what I believe to be blood golems. They spot us and attack. After defeating them we rest before heading into the meadery.
We head up into the meadery and in the front office we find 200 gold on a desk. We spot a safe in the ceiling and Ketzal breaks it open drawing unnecessary attention to us. Out of the safe falls 2000 gold and a helmet called the Maw of the Crystal Wyrm. We head into the next room and on the banister we see a Naga below us. This Naga looks strange in some way that I can’t really describe – it’s almost as if he’s possessed. We kill it and Ketzal gathers it’s head. Perhaps for experimenting? We then venture into a broken part of the wall and find a large glowing sphere that seems to be draining color from the world around it. We barrage it with a slew of attacks and end up defeating the strange creature. In the room we find a magical adamantine warhammer. We then meet up with Astora Blackblood out of town. I wonder what the meaning of all of this is? Hopefully we will soon find answers.

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Killing Elder Hatimel and saving Haru's Bride
and the stories of the Nagaji Pit-Brethren

Writings from the Travels of the Chieftain of Longfen Village, Devana:
Translated from Nagaji into Common

As I sat, resting, if only for a moment, I thought – why did I come here? I wanted to help these adventurers who saved me from my capture. After all, we had become friends, and they had helped me reach my status as chieftain. But as I sit here, my bones aching and my skin burning from these disgusting demons we had fought, I had wanted to turn around and go home.

I thought about something an old friend once told me:

“Nagaji are strong warriors. Naga believe that they are stronger, yet they are wrong. They enslave us and try to control our entire race, but what if the Nagaji would turn on the Naga? If every Nagaji would betray their master – turn around and cut his throat – what then? The Naga would be the ones who are enslaved.”

These words from Ketzal echoed in my mind, as I remembered the deal I had made with the Dragon Knarix earlier – Kill Elder Hatimel and his southern nagaji. Elder Hatimel, the naga controlling the southern nagaji, was supposedly in the next tower. Though I was rattled with disease, these words from my pit-brother Ketzal echoed in my mind, and gave me the courage to pick up my greatsword and keep going. I am strong, and I will kill this Naga.

My companions proceeded to open the door, and the witch fell unconscious when a blade struck her. As we enter, I see Hatimel disappear and send his two elite guards to fight us. Silver and I charge at a guard and kill him with Saito’s help, and our companions deftly deal with the other. I look around the empty room, trying to decipher where this slippery Naga is hiding – as Saito shoots something at the ceiling, causing dust to fall down and reveal its location. I charge at the invisible figure and cleave my greatsword into its flesh, as Silver digs his teeth in. My companions and I continue in this fashion and eventually Hatimel falls.

Ketzal was right, these Naga are not so strong after all. Even the Elders fall at my blade.

As we continue up the stairs, we find Motoko, our companion Haru’s bride, in a cage. He runs up to the cage, releases her, and embraces her. As my companions and I search the room, we find an ancient holy tome on the rituals, lore, and worship of Nalinivadi, and my companions graciously agree to give it to me. We also find a letter that explains that the Naga on the island are related to a person named Yura somehow.

We then escort Haru and Matoko to the shoreline, where we say goodbye to them and the other Aidonese nobles that were here for their wedding. These adventurers have many adventures ahead of them, but I as Chieftain of the Longfen Village cannot assist them with all they must do – I must go back to my village to lead. I tell them of a friend that should be arriving on the Yamado that may be more helpful than I – my pit-brother Ketzal, the great Nagaji that is an inspiration to his brothers, that led me out of slavery and to this land. I wish them luck and head back to the village.

Entry from the Account of the New Adishesha, Ketzal’s Memoirs -
Translated from Nagaji to Common

After escaping from Nagajor, me and my companions decided to search for a land that one of them had heard of – a place where Nagaji are no longer slaves, and serve their own purpose – The Island of Byakku. We decided to head there, and send one of strongest men, Devana, as a scout.

Devana has recently written to me that the island is indeed inhabited by free Nagaji, and he has successfully assimilated himself into the Longfen Village – he’s even become their chieftain.

This news brings me great joy, as the weight of responsibility has been lifted off of my shoulders – I was not meant to lead by practice, I was meant to lead by example. I must show my fellow Nagaji that our race is stronger than Naga, and that with practice even a “lowly” Nagaji can fell the strongest Naga.

I decide to tell my companions on the Yamado, a ship that is docked near Byakku, to head to Longfen Village and that Devana will take care of them. While saying farewell, I was approached by an odd adventuring party – A man named Saito, a woman named Suni, a man named Kai, and a young fox-boy named Kyo. They told me that they knew Devana, and that they were told to look for me if they needed any assistance. When I found out they were enemies of the Naga in the south trying to enslave my brethren, I decided immediately to join them. I will lead my brothers out of slavery, if not directly, then by example.

I will kill every Naga on this island, and the bards will sing songs of my conquests.

I will sever their heads, and mount them on mountains, and all will know of the Nagaji’s strength.

I am the new Adishesha, the new First King of Nagas, as I will be their conqueror.

My new adventuring party and I head out and land on the main island of Byakku, discovering an abandoned campsite that presumably was occupied by worshippers of some water-god. We picked up a few journal entries that we found, and they detail the movements of the group and also mention some creature called Death Worms nearby. As Kai, the oracle, reads that part, I start sharpening my nodachi.

We eventually camp for the night on the north side of the river, and Kai explains to us in the morning that he saw large, glowing red eyes in the Desert on the opposite side of the river staring at them in the middle of the night. I double-check the sharpness of my blade, just in case there’s trouble.

As we head south through the desert, we see a large cyclone. My companions explain to me that this must be the Taigong cyclone that they’ve heard about, and supposedly its rumored that there’s a dungeon underneath it. We spend some time searching around the harsh desert storm, and eventually find a cellar door.

I pull out my nodachi and rub my thumb against the blade. The warm liquid on my palm tells me it’s ready. The cellar door opens…

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THERE BE DRAGONS HERE
(well, really just one dragon)

Today, we were very fortunate to have had the help of Haru, and Davana.

We decide to go rescue Haru’s bride. We were almost certain she’s was being held at the pillared city. In preparation for our adventuring we study painting out painting, and receive +2 healing each round. When we arrived at the city, we came across a rope bridge that appeared to have been used recently. I cast invisibility and flew up to take a look. Atop the tower, I saw two nagagi from the Venema Tribe. The bridge seemed to lead to a door into that tower.

Davana crossed the bridge and opened the door. Inside he found that the round had a stone bridge along the perimeter, with ladders leading down into the water. All of a sudden the tower filled with mist. Davana fell into into water where a water naga was waiting. It attacks Davana. All the while, Tampopo and I are handling the ugly guys on the roof. After many periods of six seconds, we slay the attackers and proceed down the hallway.

There is this weird intense heat…. in addition to monster poop. It’s all very unpleasant, and rather frightening. I hear someone speaking draconic. We stealthily peer into the room and see a very large female red dragon yelling at a Nagagi. She is telling him that she will not give up any more of her resources to help him, and that all of her Drakes are dead. Despite our best efforts, we are noticed in the room.attempts to make peace and negotiate.

We learn that the Dragon’s name is Kanerix, and that she has been dealing with Hatimel, who is the leader of this region’s Nagagi tribe. Eventually after it becomes obvious that Kanerix is not trusting us, Davana asks for a trial by combat. An epic battle ensues, but Davana comes out the victor. Kanerix says that she would like our loyalty. To repay her for her killed drakes, we must kill Hatimel and all the southern Nagagi. She even tells us which tower he is in.

As we enter the other side of the structure, we cross a bridge and 2 daemons are summonded. Again, unpleasant. But this time it is much much more disgusting, because the daemons have gross rotting flesh and are full of diseases. Throughout the battle we all become sick. Eventually, Saito slays one of the beasts, and it explodes into maggots, and flies, any other incredibly gross bits. We finally get rid of the other daemon. IN the adjoining rooms we found a Jade sword. Saito babbles on about how it is a naginata, hilted, green snake something or other. And we decide that it is definitely inspiring enough to bring back to our friend the blacksmith on the Yamado.

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Tampopo is my favorite
oh yeah and other stuff happens too.....

We are standing in the chambers where the ice toads had just been vanquished when we notice the creepy frozen monkey. We think it’s strange, but proceed on anyway. We enter the next room and see a jade kimono, and get a feeling that there is necromancy at work here. All of a sudden there is this adorable little girl peeking into the room. I send dancing lights her way, and she comes out to meet us. Her name is Ona. She says she was traveling with her mother some 200 years ago on this mountain. We should have taken this as a warning….but I had a moment of motherly weakness and allowed her to hug me. Upon doing so I am told I became completely useless. Longtuk later recounted for me that she was a Yukiada, and had a snow dependency. Apparently we have a rather rough battle where most people get pretty near frozen to death (or eyebited if you’re Kai), but eventually we do enough fire damage to kill the silly thing. Longtuk takes the Kimono, and the monkey began to de-thaw.
His name is WooKong, and he was the monkey lord of the temple. He serves Master Boo-yawn. Kai, out of nowhere, volunteers us for a repair job, which we immediately back out of. There is a broken doorway to the spirit world in this temple. When repaired, we could enter that world. While we rest up, we eat delicious food prepared by wookong, and Kai speaks with him about a fortress that the Masters Rhonan want to build here. Wookong agrees to meet with Dimyo Anguo to determine if he with give him permission to build the fortress. So the next morning we begin the trek back to the village to get Dimyo. On this glorious day, I make my very first wand!

Along the way we run into a shrine of Ama Teresu. It’s pretty small, and on the back there is a painted golden symbol of amateresu in flames. Apparently there are linked shrines all over the island. If we light incense at all of them, we will cleanse the shrines. While we are cleansing this one, a fire elemental attacks, and we defeat it with ease.

We finally make it back to Longfen, and upon our arrival we learn that Divana is now the village leader. He tells us of Hscorey Blackblood, a cleric of loshen in the soot-scale tribe, who works for all three of the nagagi tribes. We immediately decide to spend the next few days taking Dimyo back up the mountain. While we are walking he tells us of all the crazy things he’s done in his lifetime. There are a lot of stories, since it is a 4 day walk….again.

Once we get back to the top of the mountain, we see that the temple has been completely restored. There are 2 Kitsune clerics taking care of the temple now, in addition to Wookong. We decide to ask wookong about lifting Dimyo’s curse, and he agrees, if we go into the spirit world once he opens the path and find a fountain. He reminds us that we must find the same Torii in order to come back to this world. We contemplate our pretty pretty painting and then jump right through.

Everything seems so much more alive in the spirit world. And it is incredibly beautiful…but also dangerous because all of a sudden, there is a huge plant monster attacking us. Longtuk and I are caught by a root and dragged in. And epic plant battle ensures. Even my lightning bold is powerless against the damned plant. Rue eventually kills it for us. Thank the NPC gods for her! All of a sudden we hear tiny laughter… it’s a delightful tiny pipe fox! He says his name is Tampopo, and he is carrying an acorn because it is apparently Boo-yawn’s birthday! I think this is absolutely the greatest thing ever, and decide that I would very much like to bring Tampopo with us everywhere from now on.

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The one where the party takes a tour of the island
and stuff happens
  • Journal Entry – Presumably Kai’s *

It has been a moon or two since I’ve had the chance to write in my journal, which is unfortunate, but now I have a moment of respite to log the events our party encountered.

We had just returned to Longfen village and discovered it had been destroyed. Elder Razmaga had been acting suspicious, so we followed him and soon found out that he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, so to speak – Razmaga was actually an evil naga in disguise.

We face him in epic combat, but his control over the undead proved to be his weakness as I channeled positive energy across the battlefield.

We returned to Longfen village and reported the news. Elder Rattletail directed us to Razmaga’s hut, and after carefully searching through the home we discovered two things of note: a masterwork adamantine scythe (which I took greedily), and a journal. The contents of the book were indecipherable, save the last two pages which mentioned the “Hung La ruins in the Ravine”.

After uncovering this exciting clue, our party decided to take a break from adventuring and make a trip to the moving, mechanical island: the Yamato.

On deck, Bao and I meet a decrepit old man who stands under the flag of Maisanda’s Ronin. After hearing his story, however, we discover that this man’s elderly façade is a side-affect from an arcane infection; a spell he was hit with a couple of moons ago. His name is Daimyo Anguo, and we agree to take him to Saikon Shock.

We meet up with Saito, who reminds us of the apprentice blacksmith who needed inspiration; we swing by and I begrudgingly drop off the scythe. Hopefully we can get something useful out of this.

While Longtuck and I were meeting Daimyo, Suni had been off doing her own thing. She and I get along pretty well, so she felt comfortable sharing that she had caught word of a pretty, young Lady and her four handmaidens who were on the ship for a sort of vacation. This news brightened my day, but little did I know things were about to get extremely dark.

Coming to the crew quarters, it doesn’t take us long to realize that panic is in the air and energy is chaotic. Crew members are running around as though the end of the world were upon us; some are clasping their heads and screaming, some stoically removing buckets of blood from a particular hallway. We head towards the chaos and are abruptly stopped by a guard. Saito puts on an air of superiority and bluffs his way past the guards, granting us entry.

We saw blood covering walls, ceiling, floor – every inch. Bodies and body parts were strewn everywhere, making it hard to walk. We approached an open door, taking note the room we were coming to was the captain’s body guard, Gar Lee.

Once inside, I suffered a traumatic flashback to my farm on Genbu. Gar Lee’s body was mutilated and displayed on the floor in the very same fashion my brother had been. There is also a bag of soul gems in the corner of the room. I have no doubt the murderers are one and the same. And the zodiac wheel seems to me to be a clue as to their motive. They’re obviously collecting soul gems from people who fall under specific astrological signs. What this could mean, I have no idea at the moment.

After all the emotional trauma we had been exposed to, we decide to visit the tavern and hopefully dull the pain. There, we meet our bartender friends and a bunch of beautiful, young women who happen to be on vacation.

We drink, we flirt. We drink some more.

I don’t remember much from that night, but I do recall the kiss of one of those young ladies. I guess I do alright, for a cripple.

The next day, we didn’t feel ready to take on a new adventure. So we decide to take a two day lap around the island and become more familiar with the territory.

The following are notes I took on the pleasure cruise. We hired a shipmate to point out major landmarks, so you can be sure of the factual accuracy.

First thing we see is Longfen Village, followed by a massive mountain called Mt. Fushiyama. Daimyo exclaims that this mountain would be perfect for the first Shenmen Fortress, and we later help him start this dream.

Passing the mountain we see a massive cave going into the side of the island straight from the sea. Past that a mountain range borders the southwest shore of the island, but Suni’s owl manages to scout past them and uncover an abandoned Lao Shen temple. We pass the Venoma Tribe and we see Myanmir Flags flying deep in the desert.

We next docked at Longfen and heard about a mysterious dungeon underneath a perpetual Sandstorm.

We traveled west toward Mt. Fushiyama and eventually found ourselves in a petrified forest, and discover beyond all odds a strange case inside one of the trees. The case contains a Di Kang painting of a naked woman. There’s a strange power emanating from this painting, but before I have a chance to realize what its source is, giant worms burst from the ground.

The last thing I remember is Suni summoning an awesome wave of ice that decimated the emerging creatures before the adrenaline took over and the details become cloudy.

After surviving this assault, we made our way to the great mountain, where the heat from the desert soon turned into a blistering cold. Half way up, we were attacked by the spirits of monstrous Yetis, but we survive and continue to climb.

At the top we are greeted by a large, ocean facing statue of Bu Yan guarding the entrance to a stone temple set into the mountain side. We cautiously enter the temple and discover four massive sleeping frost toads in the corners of the entry way. We manage to slip past them easily, and at the top of some stairs we find a Monkey Man trapped in a block of ice.

Just past this frozen vanara is a doorway to the inner sanctums of the temple, but as we try to go further a Gong sounds and awakens the frost toads. They attach viciously and without mercy. Their suction-like tongue grab Saito and Suni and the two seem to be lunch for a couple of frogs. But in a matter of seconds Saito’s katana burst through the frog’s face, letting the inquisitor emerge victorious. Almost in unison, a fiery explosion bursts through the other toad’s throat, allowing our witch to rejoin the fight.

I send out a couple waves healing energy, but just as I thought we were in the safe zone -—-

The rest of the journal entry has been torn away, but can be found in the vicinity

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Rhapsody in Rue
Once More, With Feeling

Rue shifted again in her axebeak’s saddle. The beast was ungainly, its saddle doubly so, and in the past three hours she’d yet to find a comfortable position astride either. She was undine. She was of the salt and tide, not the sand and smelly birds. But the undine also served, she reminded herself, minus a few deviants. Rue was no deviant, and so she served.

Still, she wished her duties could have taken her somewhere more pleasant at least once.

She glanced at the four she’d been dispatched to aid. Kai, the cripple with faraway eyes. Suni, the owl-keeper with skin as blue as Rue’s own (What is it with this party and birds? she wondered). Saito, the fast-talking drifter with a hard face. Longtuck, the quiet old man whose affinity for water surpassed even Rue’s own. They were as odd a bunch as any Rue had seen on her travels. They’d also walked into the jaws of every danger Genbu and the Yamato could throw at them, and ended up as the ones doing the chewing.

As a bard, she knew that image made no sense. Then again, neither did their continued survival.

And yet, here they were.

Saito and Kai rode at the front, discussing the finer points of swordplay. “Your scimitar’s nice and all,” the drifter was saying, “but it’s got no reach.” He patted the katana sheathed at his side. “Those extra inches can mean a lot when it counts.”

Kai grunted. “Is that wisdom you’ve heard often, Saito?”

Saito rolled his eyes. “You can do better than that.”

Just behind them, Suni kept flicking her wrist. Every time she did, four small lights appeared in the air around her. They would bob up and down a bit, then wink out of existence. The witch clapped and squealed her amusement, then summoned the lights back again. Next to her, Longtuck sat straight up in his saddle, arms folded and eyes closed. Rue was fairly certain he was actually just asleep.

Her left fingers tapped across the strings of her pipa, but her right didn’t dare pluck them. Now was not the time for a serenade. “How much further?” she said.

Saito glanced back at her. “Right,” he said. “You water types probably don’t like the land so much, huh? Should be in the next mile. And don’t worry,” he added with a grin. “Last time we were there, we gave them all the water they’ll ever need.”

#

By the time they arrived, the water had become something else entirely: so thick with blood now it had practically turned black. Rue couldn’t help but stare at it. She felt a connection to any water nearby, but she shrank from this. Water meant life, and this naga-ji blood was anything but.

The village looked as if it had been through a typhoon. Houses lay ruined or burned. The ones still standing had naga-ji cowering inside behind locked doors. It had only been a day, but already the bodies had begun to stink. They were laid out in a line, covered in blankets that seemed more meant to keep the flies away than anything else.

“Listen, you wrinkly sack of scales,” said Saito to an elderly naga-ji, whom Longtuck had called Razmaga the Elder. “Do you not see us covered in naga-ji blood here? And naga blood, while we’re at it? If we’re naga spies, we’re really doing a shit job of it, don’t you think?”

The old naga-ji’s eyes burned intensely enough that Rue had to take a step back. He spoke in the strange hissing language of his people. As he spoke, another naga-ji, the oracle Anil Rattletail, translated: “He says that an attack so soon after your last visit is too much of coincidence. Freeing the traitor Devana did not help your case, either.”

Saito gritted his teeth and looked ready to bark back with something nasty, but it was Kai who spoke. “When last we were here, you mentioned a burial site,” he said, “with weapons your people could use to defend themselves. If we bring them to you, would that coin to buy your trust?”

The two village leaders immediately began hissing at each other. Rue was completely lost, but their body language wasn’t hard to read. The elder grew more and more agitated, while the oracle never lost his cool. After a few moments, Razmaga bared his fangs at all of them, then turned and shuffled away as fast as his old legs would carry him.

“He is not distrustful without reason, and with our leader Sharyrar Spike-Tongue dead, it is to him we look for wisdom and guidance,” said Anil. “Do not mistake my leniency for trust.”

Longtuck crossed his arms. “Noted,” he said.

“But hey,” said Saito. “We’ve learned our lesson about going in without backup. You want us to do this for you, we’ll need the best warriors you have.”

In reply, Anil nodded grimly to the line of rotting corpses behind him.

#

To Rue, the idea of a graveyard seemed itself barbaric; the only proper place for the dead was beneath the waves, not rotting underfoot. This place did little to assuage her feelings. It had been hastily thrown together, a pit that had been filled with the dead and then topped off with soil. Something in the air seemed to whisper: Keep moving. You have no place here.

It was midday on a desert island, and yet she still shivered.

“The nerve of that guy!” Saito said as they dismounted.

“Saito, that happened, like, four hours ago,” said Suni.

“He could’ve just said, ‘No.’ Wouldn’t have been that hard.”

Rue allowed herself to smile. She’d begun to understand how the four of them worked. In a way, they were like the iconic players in traditional theatre: Kai the hero, Saito the clown, Longtuck the sage, and Suni the…

Well, it wasn’t a perfect analogy.

“Where’d they say it was buried?” said Suni. She looked around, hand visored across her forehead, as if expecting to just see a sign pointing to the exact spot.

Longtuck jerked his head towards the edge of the burial mound. “They said that way.”

Rue hung back with Suni as the three men trudged off to start digging. She slipped her pipa free of its strap, once again fingering frets but not playing strings. She knew plenty of harmless songs, but some deep-seated instinct told her that in this atmosphere, her music would be somehow disrespectful.

Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Suni staring at her, head cocked. From atop the witch’s shoulder, the witch’s pet owl was looking at her in precisely the same way. Awkwardness bubbled up inside her. She’d briefly adventured with these four, but she barely knew a thing about them. Now would be the perfect time to say something to Suni…but what?

“So,” said Suni. “…You’re blue.”

Rue nodded. “Yes,” she said. “Yes, I am.”

Suni nodded back. “Me, too.”

And that was the last time she and Suni tried making conversation.

Not that it mattered; soon enough, the air was full of enough words to make theirs unnecessary. At first, it was just Saito’s constant stream of curse words on the wind. But after a few moments, Rue’s pointed ears pricked up as they detected something else.

“Suni,” she said. “Do you hear—?”

A skeletal arm erupted from the ground like a particularly terrifying daisy. And then another, and another, until the five of them stood amid a prairie of bones.

“Necromancy!” shouted Kai as the skeletons hauled themselves up to the surface like swimmers from a pool. “Everyone stay back!” He hadn’t drawn the curved sword at his belt, but white nimbi of energy had begun to coalesce around his hands. He bowed his head and immediately began chanting.

As the others armed themselves, Saito smirked. “Nothing we can’t handle, guys,” he said. “After the shit we went through yesterday, a pile of bleached bones’ll be a wash.”

“Speaking as resident magical expert-slash-owl tamer,” said Suni, looking over the shambling horde surrounding them, “if there’s necromanc_y_, there has to be a necromanc_er_. Also: dancing lights!”

Saito shrugged as the glowing orbs flitted around them like fireflies. “Some egghead with a scroll and something to compensate for,” he said. “Bring it on.”

Sure enough, the next being to step into sight was none other than Razmaga the Elder, ever-irate leader of the Longfen tribe. Rue’s brow knitted. Had the old naga-ji followed them here to lend his assistance? Had he just wandered here on his own by accident?

A moment later, a third possibility presented itself.

Razmaga’s mouth yawned wide—wider than possible, so wide no set of jaws could possibly stretch that far—and from it erupted a massive, horrifying snake with a screaming human face and curling, ram-like horns. As its old skin crumpled to the ground like an empty bag, it righted itself and then immediately streamed for the five of them, murder in its eyes and a spell on its lips.

Rue felt a jolt of terror at the sight of it. She’d just done battle with those monsters and their armies, and somehow managed to survive. But open war wasn’t a life she was meant for, and she didn’t like her odds facing a naga again.

Her ad hoc companions didn’t show nearly as much concern. “Naga’s mine,” said Saito. “I could use some snakeskin to go with my pelt collection.”

“If you can get to him first,” said Suni. The air around her eyes had begun to coil, as if heat were radiating from them.

“We should leave it alive,” said Longtuck, whipping up his water. “It may tell us where to find Motoko.”

The old monk said her name so casually, but those three syllables caused shame to spread through Rue like blood in water. She was undine, and undine served. Hers had been to serve Lord Onizuka in battle, and she had proven unequal to her own task. The kidnapped bride was proof of that. Though she dreaded the howling beast before them and its sickening perversions of the magic arts, what she dreaded more was leaving a task unfinished when its fulfillment still fell to her.

“I don’t believe we’ll be getting a very warm reception the next time we visit the Longfens,” said Kai.

“I don’t believe I care,” said Suni.

“On three,” said Saito. “One—”

Everyone surged forward.

“_Hey!_ I said—oh, by the tanuki’s mask…” he muttered.

And so as Kai’s first wave of energy stopped the skeletons in their tracks…

As Longtuck unleashed a spray of ice shards, glittering and deadly…

As Suni’s eyes turned an angry red, making all they looked upon ripple and boil…

As Saito brandished his green blade and threw himself into the fray with a roar…

…Rue’s fingers slotted themselves into familiar places along her pipa’s neck.

And as the battle sounded its first chords, she began to play her counterpoint.

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Tales from the Dry Lands...
Beginings of Byakku

10th Day of the Rat

After causing much ruckus aboard the Yamato, we’re finally venturing to the Island of Byakku. I am not looking forward to it. Too much sand and not enough water. While all of the Earth is sacred, I can’t help but be biased towards watery areas.

We have arrived at Sun Rise Rock at the most northeastern part of the island. This land is over 1,000 years old. I have heard that there used to be large metropolitain areas, but the God Storm destroyed them and they have since become another part of the earth, hidden under the sand below our feet.

There are three large tents not far from where we docked. We can tell they haven’t been there long, but it is unusual for there to be habitants on this part of the island -or really much of the island itself. “Let’s go bring them a fuckin’ casserole,” says Saito. Despite his crude demeanor, we go over and investigate the tented area.

The first person we met was a large woman –perhaps even larger than myself- named Ki-juun. She is the bodyguard to Eikichi Onizuka. The group is here for the marriage of Haru Pike and Motoko Onizuka.

We inquire about any disturbances in the area, just so we can know what might lie ahead. The nagagi tribes on this island are at war. They used to attend the Onizuka family weddings every time they came to Sun Rise Rock. Now the nagagi have decided to stay away –they even scared two young children. We know that the Longfen –green- tribe is in the north not far from here, the Sootscale – black – tribe is in the middle of the island, and the Venema – red tribe is in the south.


Noon

With the help of the groom, Haru, we decided to investigate the Longfen tribe to try to get some answers. On our way to find the tribe, we were stopped by some of their warriors. A large man approaches us – clearly he must be the chieftain of their tribe. He tells us his name is Sharyrar Spike Tongue. Hi group brings us to back to their village to be investigated. When we get there, we see that there are about 100 nagagi inhabitants living here, rice fields surrounding the area and Lo Shen statues standing guard. We speak to Spike Tongue, their elder Razmaga, and then we speak to a man named Anil Rattletail. He has one blue eye and one yellow eye, a curse that has rendered him blind. After a spiritual ritual done by Anil, we are welcomed into their village.

Our group has learned much about the nagagi inhabitants on this island. 400 years ago, a huge group of nagagi, lead by three brothers, escaped to the island of Byakku. There they found an ancient Hung-la temple dedicated to Lo Shen. The nagagi dropped their worship of Nala Nevati because the spirit of Lo Shen protected them when they arrived on the island. This is what started the war with the naga. The naga have since then started to make these tribes their slaves. They are angry that these nagagi no longer worship Nala Nevati.
We also learned that Razmaga does not trust humans. He believes he saw a human kill one of their warriors. But, thanks to Anil’s ritual, we are the exception.

Later in the day we meet a merchant named Sing-ha. He asks us to find 20 death worm fangs during our travels on the island.

In the most unfortunate circumstances, we found Devana being held hostage! Devana did not fully understand what was happening on the island, so he did not realize that his worship of Nala Nevati would be unwelcome in these tribes. The Longfen tribe thought he was a spy. We were able to convince the tribe to let him go, in trade for us to create rain for their crops (this island is unfortunately dry).

Day 11 of the Rat

Spent the day creating rain. I finally feel a little more comfortable in this environment.

Day 12 of the Rat

We leave the Longfen tribe on a good note (with Devana). We’re worried that there’s still another threat out there waiting for the day of the wedding. We will all keep on guard during the day of the big event.

Day 13 of the Rat

The wedding has happened… we were attacked… stuck in a huge battle…. we may not survive…

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Steam rooms, fire benders, and Yasha, OH MY!
in which Saito nearly dies (or dies and then undies).

After our encounter in the hallway, and some hilariously-dialected negotiating work by Saito, we brought Pheonix to the Captain. Pheonix gives us some information about the attack as we walk. He tells us that Yasha is carrying out the attack even though the other members of the Triad have already left for Seiryu. Saito (still talking in his ridiculous accent) asks Pheonix if he would abandon the attack on the Amado and if we let him live. He tells us that a lot of his men are headed to Si-con-chalk, and that he will head to Seiryu to meet up with Genengi. So we send him off in a boat, hoping that Saito has made us an unlikely friend.

We continue on to inform the captain of the attack and happen upon Rue. Turns out she’d been promoted. We tell her of the plans to overthrow the ship and she takes us to the Captain. We also run into Garalee, the guard of the captain ( whose name is Gogi Blue Shadow). I, and I would assume everyone in our party, was shocked by the size of our captain. He is rather obese. We told him all we had learned and he immediately called to the engine room, but there was no response. We ask rue to come with us to take on the bad’ns, but not without a blessing from Kai.

As we come down the corkscrew elevator to the “iron works” we smell burning. Everyone is dead. There is a lone female survivor, whom Long-tuk heals.

All of a sudden there is a firebender attack! The room is full of steam and it is incredibly hard to see. Long-tuk does a good deal of damage with her water blasts, and after much spell debating I send a lightning blast. I hear Saito shriek like a girl, so I can only assume I hit him on accident… Oops. Later in the day Saito tells me that he had the most epic of ninja struggles with a firebender during this part of the battle, involving much stabby stabbing and grapplely grappling, culminating in pushing a guy off the Amado to his death. However I saw none of this.
Eventually we kill everyone and disable the engine. By doing so we gain a couple of wands of hydraulic push.

There are stairs leading up. There are two robed women with Yasha in there. I fly up and begin attacking. Saito shoots a man bane arrow at Yasha from the level below, and with some mysterious power I can only call DM-writeup-writing-bonus-power, hits her. We have a small issue climbing the ladder as it would take Kai far too many seconds to climb up and join the fight. But eventually we get everyone involved and Long-tuk triple water blasts an enemy clear off the side of the ship. Yasha smashes a white gem and an air elemental appears. While attempting to fight it, Long-tuk gets pushed off the boat! He begins to swim for dear life. Everyone is casting spells left and right, and all of a sudden a lightning bolt hits Saito and he falls down dead. Like really dead. Like dead as a doornail dead. And then this funny thing happens, that I would liken to the Munchkin card “clerical error”, and Saito seems far less dead. People are pissed off, and we struggle for many many series of 6 seconds. But eventually saito manages to kill Yasha with a mane-bane arrow. When we get a moment to breathe, we notice that the ship is filling with water. Kai uses a scroll of water control and we try to stop the valves. We just barely do it and prevent the ship from sinking, but it has sustained lots of damage.

We go back to the Captain to tell the tale of our battle with Yasha. We notice that he has a painting of a woman standing by the sea by Di-Kang. We sell him our similar painting for 3000 gold.

We learn from Rue that she has a series of tasks she must complete before receiving her rank, and that the first mate needs us to honour the Sun Goddess by taking the trident to the temple of the fire goddess Ama Teresu on Biaku. Long-tuk learns that Chiwayloon from the temple on the Amado needs us to look for the wild stallion with writing across the sky in a crater. Kai and I exchange funny glances, and agree to keep an eye out for this oddity.

We rest up for awhile and sell our loot before disembarking at sunrise rock.

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