Onmyodo Islands

Welcome to Saikon Chok

A friendly city where the streets are clean, the people are friendly, and the fear of god is maintained by worshipping a god of fear. Welcome to Saikon Chok.

Hello, listeners. It’s the hour of the turtle, and you know what that means: it’s time for the daily godcast. Tonight’s godcast is brought to you by the awesome power of our lord Xui Khan, who’s blessed me with the ability to beam my voice directly into your minds. So if you’ve got a spare moment right now—and you do, we cleared your schedule—bow your head and give praise to Xui Khan. Xui Khan: “He became a god by tearing out another dragon’s heart and eating it in front of his very eyes!”

The priesthood is working on the slogan. Sorry, we Mizu Crusaders are all kind of new at this.

Well, listeners, it’s been an absolute ride since we sailed into town and broke the chains binding you to the storm goddess Lo Shen. Food has been plentiful for productive citizens capable of supporting themselves under our mandated peacetime premium pricing. The incendiary removal of individual homes has encouraged the community to grow closer than ever before. And literacy is up five percent, thanks to the stringent penalties enforced upon those who can’t read our signs. Yes, things are looking up here in Saikon Chok for everyone. Everyone. Everyone.

A dangerous party of five bandits was apprehended outside the city limits last night. The bandits, who were completely unrelated to the five bandits that attacked the tower garrison the day before, were swiftly brought to justice at the hands of six of Xui Khan’s finest. The bandits are all dead, and all our soldiers are absolutely unharmed and untarnished, because Xui Khan has made us all invincible. Witnesses to the incident are encouraged to come forward, so that they and the faith militant can compare notes. You know, just to be sure.

Local community pillar Inferno Genenji reports that he and his Inferno Men have come one step closer to eradicating the dangerous criminal elements in the Flood District. Inferno Genenji, who earned his nickname because of how brightly he burns in service to others, has been waging a war against the Zi Tongs and their dastardly but nevertheless very handsome leader, Dagato the Phoenix. Well, Genenji, if you’re listening—oh, who am I kidding? Of course you’re listening!—we’d just like to say: keep fighting the good fight out there. We in the Upper City are proud of you.

A local prankster put a party of guards in near danger this morning. The five guards, returning from a nighttime patrol in the woods, did not realize that an enchanted rock had been slipped into their gear. When they passed through the gates, they tripped the magic-detecting field that’s been put into place for the protection and comfort of you, our dear listeners. Fortunately, one of the guards, whose accent was unusual for a Mizu Crusader, defused the situation with some quick thinking. He and his four companions, who as guards have absolutely no connection with the party of five bandits that were definitely killed last night, were described as “dashing,” “heroic,” and in one particular case, “scaly.” When asked to identify their unit, the guard with the accent said, “I got your unit right here.” Truly, he is a hero to Xui Khan.

A reminder from the Shogun Ryu to please pardon the nightly chanting that fills the air and chills the breath in your lungs as it pays homage to a dark and unforgiving god. “We appreciate the patience citizens have shown with our reconsecration ritual,” the Shogun said, seated atop a metaphorical throne forged from the equally metaphorical bones of his enemies. “This is a necessary step in making Saikon Chok all it can be, instead of all it is.” Shogun Ryu then stared out at the city within his metaphorical iron grip, closed one eye, and pretended to grasp the city in his literal iron grip.

Bad news, listeners. Noted terrorist organization Valiant has struck again, this time meddling in a municipal execution. Though ordinary citizens turned out in their finest clothes to mingle with their neighbors and watch the unfaithful taste the sharpness of our steel, what should’ve been a fun outing for all was ruined by the intervention of Valiant and their leader, Kagame.

Incidentally, we must retract our previous story, in which we reported that Kagame had been killed in single combat with First Paladin Amenji, when he had run her through with his blade and then kicked her into a large crate full of fire ants. We now understand that these events did not transpire as described, or at all, and we regret this oversight.

In addition to her normal cohorts, Kagame was joined on the field by five new warriors, including one who was large and scaly, and a masked man who could be heard shouting in a strange accent, “I knew it was a trap! We’re all gonna die!” Before he could say more, one of your noble public servants ran him through with a blade and kicked him into a large crate full of fire ants. He is dead now.

Though Kagame and Valiant tried to run, they found themselves cornered thanks to the brilliant strategies and maneuvering of First Paladin Amenji. With nowhere to run, Kagame and her disciples attempted a last stand, only for every last one of them to be cut down like dogs right next to an alley full of angry dogs. I repeat: Kagame is dead, as are her followers, including the five new ones that in no way bear any relation to the five guards menaced by an illusion-casting rock this morning. And that’s certainly a story we won’t need to retract anytime soon.

And finally listeners, tonight I wanted to share a special message not to the good citizens of Saikon Chok, but to the rest. You know who you are. And if you don’t know who you are, I’m referring to the Free People of Saikon Chok, the Wave Faith, the Dragon League, Maisanda’s Ronin, and the roustabouts of Xianji Alley. You’re the rest. If you are a good citizen, I encourage you to hum something catchy for the next few seconds or so. These words are not for you.

Are you humming? Good.

Then to the rest, I say: go ahead. Keep fighting. We’re almost done here. And as I remind you each night, it’s already too late.

That does it for tonight’s godcast, dear listeners. Stay tuned next for chanting that fills the air and chills the breath in your lungs as it pays homage to a dark and unforgiving god. And as always: good night, listeners. Good night.

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A Whole New World

Start on the Yamato. Decide to peace out. Say bye to roo and give him a tiara. And we get a nice boat from the captain. We decide to name it “Saito Bane” We head up to Seiryu and realize that the city has been set on fire and several people have been impaled on spikes and there is a big blue dragon flying overhead. So we don’t go that way and instead over to some mountains and then a jungle with big flowers and a giant mantice. The mantis picks up suny and throws her to the ground. I fly up with some rope and try to tie it round his head. He slices the rope, grabs me and eats my armor. I breathe fire down his neck while Kage cuts his belly open. Hooray! We meet sejiro and some chick. He’s married to the high priest. And is chilling in the lotus garden. We tell him about Sakon Chok. He freaks out and wants to leave but can’t cause he’s got a ritual to do. We say sorry and go north into the jungle. We stumble past some void dragons and manage to convince them we are with Knarix. They’re headin south to meet up with her for some unknown reason. We say we’ll catch up with them later and make camp. Suny takes first watch and hears and owl. In the morning we continue to head north into the mountains. There we find a great big monastery carved into the mountain side. We see about 200 men and women dressed plainly in a light blue fabric; mostly meditating. Warrior monks. We make our way there. A woman with a long braid and a pendant headband walks up to us. We learn that we are at the drowned given life temple. There is a tournament happening in two weeks. We all sign up and chill at the temple. SUNY talks cat gibberish to a man there (ros a, deadhead, jizzargo) we see the tinkerer so iltame isn’t naked anymore. He buys some armor with spikes. We head off toward the jungle catching a glimpse of the blue dragon heading off up north. We bump into a fire dragon drake thingy and it blows fire at us and I blow fire at it and chop his head off. We get to a spirit temple and meet the spirits that we free’d. Sleep inside the temple. 11 days to the tournament. At this point we’ve covered the northern peninsula of the island. As we head back towards the bottle neck we happen upon a tall tower in the jungle. And we knock on the door. Men in white and blue armor open the gates. We see bout 12 men. We bullshit them into thinking that we are just weary travelers. They decide to take us in and won’t let us leave so we tell them to go fuck themselves and kick their asses with tentacles and sticky blood an shit. We take two hostage after I fascinate them with my good looks and we retreat into the woods.

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So Say We Paul

“Aberrations,” Saito muttered as he laid eyes on the towering alien with a face like a Venus flytrap. “Everywhere on this gods-damned island, it’s frakking aberrations.” His sword was still awash in enhanced naga-ji blood from the last room they’d been in, where they’d euthanized Alakeem Dragonbone.

“At least they’re easier to kill than constructs, eh?” said Iltame. The massive and polite naga-ji thought a moment before adding, “Not that anything’s hard for me to kill.”

“Wait, did you say ‘frakking?’” piped up a voice from his waterskin. It sounded congested, and with an accent not far-removed from Saito’s own. The voice’s owner was the local water elemental Wu Di, who’d taken some time away from his favorite pastime of being a puddle. “You’ve seen Battorusta Garactica?”

“They’re my favorite plays,” Saito said. “Remember that one scene where Stabakku—”

“Hey, no spoilers!” Kai said in. “I haven’t seen all the plays yet.”

Suni rolled her eyes. “It turns out the captain’s first mate was a golem the whole time.” When Kai squawked in outrage, Suni jabbed a finger back around the corner. “We’re supposed to be dealing with these guys, remember? We can talk about Battorusta Garactica later.”

The party murmured in grudging agreement, then assessed the situation again. The gug was gone now, leaving two people in the room: a robed figure who’d begun to paint, and a familiar wayang bard who was plucking up a rendition of The Cosmic Horror From Beyond the Void and the Maiden Fair.

“Gee, this sure is bad and all,” said Iltame, “but at least Shub-Niggurath is a patron of the arts, eh?”

Kage narrowed his kitsune eyes. “Who’s the greater threat?”

“I don’t know the painter,” said Kai, “but the bard is Tsubasa. If a fight starts while he’s playing, it’ll go badly for us.”

“Yeah, and he gives me the fucking creeps besides,” said Saito. “First thing we gotta do is smash that bug.”

Kage said something. By the time the four of them were able to decipher it as “Accepted,” the ninja had already flitted around the corner, his standard-issue shinobi scarf billowing out dramatically behind him.

He approached with the speed and silence of a breeze, unsheathing his twin wakizashi as his feet padded across the floor of the Bakeo Seal. As the rest of the party looked on, two blades flashed, less than a heartbeat apart. The first one splintered Tsubasa’s instrument at its neck. The second did the same to Tsubasa’s actual neck. In a shower of wayang blood and sour notes, the bard didn’t even have time to draw one last breath before he collapsed to the floor and died.

“How dare you?” shrieked the painter, turning around. “That was my jam!”

The rest of Kage’s companions stepped out from around the corner. Kai was wreathed in the white aura of positive energy, ready to fill the room with it at a moment’s notice. “We’re the ones who destroyed your naga-ji army.”

Lightning crackled between Suni’s fingertips, while Tampopo the pipe fox wove a figure eight around her ankles. “We’re the ones who sent the dragon Kannarix to burn you alive.”

Saito hefted his flaming sword. Its cold iron blade flickered as if the whole thing were made of light. “We smashed the brains of Avinash, and cut off his heads.”

Iltame brandished a nodachi that looked like it could’ve butchered an elephant. His scaly muscles bulged with early onset rage. “And now we’ve got ourselves a summoning ritual to stop, dontcha know.”

“Fools!” the robed figure cried out, because that was what robed villains were supposed to cry out. “Do you know who I am?” He lowered his hood, revealing not a man, but a writhing collection of worms that had woven themselves into the outline of one. His form constantly shifted, and the air around him crackled with shadow. “I am he who has stared into the face of death itself, and seen death blink. I am favored servant to a power greater than your ken, and it is her power you stand before, not mine. I am Da Kang, painter of the dark tapestry, and each breath you draw is one I will take from your lungs, so that in your last moments, even screaming will—”

“Wait,” Suni said. “Da Kang, the painter?”

The interruption brought him up short. “Of course Da Kang, the painter,” he said. “It’s hardly a common name, and in life I was renowned—”

“You know,” said Kai, “now that I have you here, I just want to say that I really like what you do with light and color, but your brush technique is a little sloppy.”

“Yes,” Kage whispered as he sheathed his blades for a twin iaijutsu strike. “I would put your work up in an office, but not at home.”

“Well,” said Saito, “it’s like they say: never meet your heroes.” The party all began advancing on the tortured artist. “Now give it up, Vincent Van Goth. You’re outnumbered five to—”

A massive, screaming creature with a face made entirely of pink tentacles barreled into the room, immediately tackling Iltame. The naga-ji’s body was wracked with convulsions, his eyes lolling back in their sockets.

“Kai, help Iltame!” Suni called. “You two—”

“On it!” said Saito, as he and Kage moved to engage Da Kang.

By the time Kai managed to limp over to Iltame, the naga-ji’s eyes had gone glassy. A thin trickle of drool wended its way down his chin from the corner of his mouth, and he held his nodachi loosely at his side. “Iltame!” The naga-ji didn’t reply, or even give any indication he’d noticed Kai. Screeching, the tentacled monster lashed a claw out at the oracle, whose samurai training allowed him to sidestep and parry with his own blade. He summoned a cloud of healing energy around his palm, then drew his hand back. “Snap out of it!” he yelled, slapping the naga-ji on his scaly back.

The light surged back behind Iltame’s eyes. His posture straightened, and his grip tightened on his nodachi. He glared up at the beast that had stupified him, as it reared up and roared in challenge.

Across the floor, Kage and Saito darted and dodged around Da Kang. Kage’s blades were shining blurs around him, weaving a net of steel that would’ve diced anything to pieces. Saito’s own technique was more brutal, but he infused each strike with powerful enhancement magic that let him punch high above his weight class. It didn’t matter, though; the roiling mass of worms had no vital organs for Kage to pierce, nor weak points for Saito to exploit. Every so often they’d both step back to let Suni get in a clean shot with a spell of hers, but that was only a little better.

“Fools!” Da Kang said again. He hurled a bolt of dark energy at Kage. The ninja dipped out of the way, but it managed to catch the edge of his shinobi scarf and set it aflame. “I have transcended flesh and its limits! Your weapons and spells are nothing in the face of my divine inspiration, and the greatness to which it drives me! Yours are the fleeting powers of this world. The moon-beast and I serve a greater one…and an older one. A great old one. And we—”

Iltame chose that moment to slice the moon-beast perfectly in half with a single strike, as neatly as if he were slicing bread. The moon-beast let out one last scream as its two halves fell to the floor, then lit on fire. And as Iltame and Kai turned and began to walk towards Da Kang with menacing slowness, the halves exploded.

“I let your pet monster scream before he died,” Iltame said. “Which I guess makes me a nicer guy than you, eh?”

At last, Da Kang’s bluster faltered. “But that beast—you—I serve—”

“Blah, blah, Shub-Niggurath,” said Saito. “Like we haven’t spent all our time on this island pissing into her thousand mouths.” He pointed his sword at the robed swarm. “And now we’re gonna piss in one more: by going upstairs, killing Kyouya, and ending this.”

“Now you’ve got a problem there, sport,” Iltame said. “You’re kind of standing in our way. And by now, you’ve been enough of a jerk that we can kill you without threatening our alignments.”

“Which,” Suni said, “is exactly what we’re going to do now.” She glanced at her companions. “So say we all?”

Da Kang’s eyes—or the dark spots where they should’ve been—went wide. “You’ve all seen Battorusta Garactica?”

But he was drowned out by the resounding reply of the five-pronged death that rushed to meet him: “So say we all.”

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Obsidian Paw

We met the gargantuan wizard fish Lethobutet in his underground palace, and requested the obsidian paw. After some extensive verbal combat, we were forced to fight the creature, who had taken over a few party members’ minds, and eventually killed the great Lethobutet. We retrieved the obsidian paw and headed out of the darklands and back to Longfen Village.

From there, we found fire temple, one devoted to Amateresu, and fought the spirits within. We consecrated the desecrated temple and burned Rhadid’s trident as a sacrifice to Amaterasu.

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Donut Only Wanted to Step Outside for Fresh Air

Our most recent leg of our journey we began by buying and selling some supplies. I believe the name of the town was the Yamato.

From there we took a boat to a sea cave outside the Dark Lands to find the Obsidian Paw.

The mouth of the cave led us to a great underground lake, with a structure featuring Hung La Architecture on the shore beyond.

We moved around the shore to an alcove behind the building and had a victorious battle over two drowning demons who were submerging a purple man.

We question the purple man and find that he is a servant of Luthabu Tet. Saito names the man “donut” as he has no name of his own. We enter the back door of the building. We bluff the man telling him we are friends of Luthabu Tet and want an audience with him. He takes us into the grand hall. Inside we are attacked by two great renders. Naturally will kill them all. At this time however a few of us find ourselves hearing voices…. Voices which have absolute control over our actions….. The future from here has yet to be written.

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Entry from what you assume is Kai's personal journal
Challenged by Gods

After freeing the Young Crystal Dragon, we made our way North; through the mountain pass. We were flanked by two sheer cliffsides; one towering above us, the other shooting out below into complete darkness and what we could only assume was imminent death. After following this path for some time, someone called out that they heard something and directed our attention to the chasm below. She pointed out that there was an entrance into the Darklands directly below us. I couldn’t help but notice the sound of crashing waves somewhere far below, and remembered how I had marveled at an enormous cave jutting into the island’s West Coast while my party and I were on that two-day tour.

That night, the party suffers terrible nightmares. But I dreamt of something else, the Spirit of Fate returned to me. In the morning, we discussed our next course of action.

We decide to head to the Yamado.

But first, we had to make a slight detour. We Had to finish our Quest.

We headed to the sunken temple beneath the massive cyclone, finding the entrance to the Great Neogami’s lair to be far easier to traverse than it had previously been.

There, we found Naigi sleeping peacefully on a mound of gold. Then, rising behind the young dragon, Neogami revealed himself; coins dripping off him into a cacophony of clattering. The sight was simply awe-inspiring, and a little intimidating. But the beast looked at us with kind eyes and consulted with our witch; blessing her for all her hard work.

We left the Dragon’s Lair and headed North to Longfen Village, and thus to the Spirit Realm. Grabing the Eye of Nalinivati, we performed the Ritual that opened that portal to the Ether. There, we made our way up a long path to a Shrine devoted to the Goddess, upon which the Claw of Byakko was lain. When we grabbed Byakko’s Claw, H’skori was possessed by Nalinivati’s Spirit.

Recognizing the new Nagaji warrior in our midst, the Goddess presented Ithame with three tests to prove his worth; one of Knowledge, one of Battle, and one of Soul.

The Trial of Knowledge was a dangerous Test of Trivia, but Ilthame was able to pass it easily by summoning the answers from the memories of recent conversations he had (coincidentally?) had with his new companions; namely, with us.

The Trial of Battle was more difficult. Ilthame was separated from the rest of us by a Wall of Energy that could not be dispelled by any magical means. He was closed off from the rest of us to fight his own battle with a Powerful Spirit, a Champion of Nalinavati, while the rest of us were forced to deal with a challenge of our own.

A bolt of electricity exploded at the end of the hallway. Crackling into existence, an enormous wolf formed out of the lightning and attacked the five of us. With Riu in our ranks, we were able to hold our own against the massive Canine, but Saito went down for a beat. Each of us working together, we whittled away at the beast until it attacked Suni with its dying breath. It lunged at our Witch, its jaws agape with Bloodlust, only to have an Eruption of Negative Energy rip its mouth from its head.

I know not what transpired on the other side of that wall, but needless to say, Ilthame proved victorious in this task and we moved on as a group to the room which held the final challenge. Ilthame agreed to have Nalinivati’s Soul tied to his, and thus became her Champion.

(The page is torn here, though it seems like the entry was originally longer.)

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Hskori Blackblood Attempts To Be Helpful, And Is Not Helpful

“Would you just look at these guys?” Saito said, nudging one of the fresh corpses with his boot toe. Instead of the normal lobstershelled armor, they all wore whole plates of curved, beaten iron and steel, replete with colorful tabards. But their couture wasn’t nearly as strange as the wearers themselves: tall men with milky skin and long noses. Their unnaturally wide eyes were now stretched even wider, and to a man they stared listlessly up at the guard tower ceiling.

“Good job, everyone,” Kai said. “Except for you, Hskori.”

“Yeah,” Kyo whispered. “You’re the worst, Hskori.”

Hskori Blackblood hung her scaly head. It was true.

“We can talk about how Hskori’s the worst later,” said Saito. “First thing’s first: we kill all these assholes. And then free the dragon, I guess,” he added as an afterthought. Not too long ago, he’d succeeded in sending the dragon Knarix off to the Bakeo Seal, to give the Shub-Niggurath cultists there the inferno treatment, or die in the attempt. Part two of his glorious sneaky plan had been to send these dragon-slaying fanatics after Knarix in turn, resulting in a pile-up of everyone dangerous on the island. But these outlanders had thwarted his plan by virtue of being too stupid to even see his trap. They’d eventually agreed to head for the Bakeo Seal…but only after killing their captive, Niogami.

Which, as one could imagine, didn’t really fly for the group that had been tasked with her safe return to her incredibly ancient and unspeakably powerful father.

A rickety bridge jutted out from the guard tower, inviting them further up into the complex. They took it carefully, and only two of them at a time. The place’s new occupants didn’t seem to have taken any great care to preserve its integrity. Hardly surprising, considering their disdain for dragonish things made them go beserk at the sight of anything remotely reptilian. It was a fact in great evidence when they reached the next chamber.

In a past life—but not too far past—it had been some kind of dormitory. A row of cots lined each wall, with thin curtains providing the only privacy between bunks. But there was nothing left for any occupants to hide, nor any occupants to hide things. Instead there were only smears of crusted blood that the foreigners hadn’t even had the decency to scrub from the walls. They’d even left one of the dead, a naga-ji, chained up like a sacrifice.

No. Not dead. He was twitching. Which either meant he was undead (which wouldn’t have been out of step with their personal experiences), or…

“Cut him down,” Kai said, funneling positive energy into his palms. Saito obliged him, severing the chains with two quick swipes of his cold iron blade.

Kyo eyed the sword, wreathed as it was in ever-burning magical flame. “Did you have to use the fire one?”

Saito scowled. “It looks cool, okay?” he said, sheathing it.

Kai had taken the hulking naga-ji in hand, and began to channel energy into him. “Rest easy,” he said. “You’ve been badly hurt.”

Hskori approached, scaly palms glowing with her own positive energy. “I can help—”

“Hskori, you’re like a me that’s bad at being me,” Kai said, and the naga-ji withdrew her hands.

A moment later, the bigger, more useful naga-ji came to and ran his claws along his brow. “Thank you,” he said. “I’m Iltame.”

Saito shot him a sharp look. “Not Ketzal?”

Iltame frowned—or whatever the snake-person equivalent of a frown was. “No,” he said. “Iltame.”

It was Saito’s turn to frown. “Weird,” he said. “Why did I think it was Ketzal…?”

“It’s nice to meet you, Iltame,” Kai said. “I’m Rin Kai. That’s Kyo…”

The kitsune bowed.

“…and Saito.”

Saito nodded upwards. “How you doin’?”

Iltame leaned around Kai. “And who’s that?” he said, pointing to the party’s other naga-ji.

“Never mind her,” Kai said. “We seek to kill those who’ve wronged you. Will you lend your sword—”

“Nodachi.”

“—nodachi to our cause?”

But Iltame had already raced past him out the door, blade held high, ready to return every favor the outlanders had been kind enough to extend him.

#

Hskori came to on the floor of a tower just in time to see the two halves of a wizard’s corpse hit the ground. Both halves burned like kindling, his elegant robes only feeding the flames. She looked up and saw a bloodied and singed Saito floating in midair, his fiery sword in hand. There was still fresh blood on the blade, but it was in the process of evaporating away before her eyes.

She looked around to see the other outlanders all lying dead. In particular, she focused on the porcelain-masked man who had felled her with a single blow. A mighty warrior had bested her, but now he was a mess of blood, innards, and ruined armor on the stairs. She’d traveled with this group long enough to recognize the handiwork of Kyo’s exploding arrows—the only thing they had capable of reducing a strong man to the consistency of stew.

Iltame looked as though he’d dived into a pool of outlander blood, and set world swimming records along the way. He and Kyo were now busy looting the bodies, a task Saito was now descending to join them in.

She realized that Kai had been the one to heal her back to consciousness. “What happened? she said.

“Well, we managed to slice our way through all those anti-dragon people,” said the oracle. “A lot of us were pretty hurt—Iltame actually got knocked out for a while, Kyo kept getting chased around, and Saito basically took the sun to the face. We got through it okay. Though we probably would’ve been better off if we’d had another person on our team. You know,” he added. “Someone who could fight.” And after a meaningful pause, he elaborated: “Someone who wouldn’t get taken out, like, right away.”

She blinked her reptilian eyes, waiting for him to finish.

“…Like a chump.”

As he limped off, she took stock of the room. The young dragon was gone. Their enemies were dead. So few matters remained unresolved now before balance on the island of Byakku was restored. In her cold-blooded heart, Hskori knew that if anyone could do it, it would be her companions. And she’d be with them to the end.

Helping.

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In which a lot of weird stuff happens,...
the death (and rebirth) of Kyo

After a week of much meditating, it was time to rejoin the group. I heard tell that many strange encounters were had while I was away. I seem to miss all the alien fun.

A rather sneezy H’skori joined us on this adventure. As we were exploring, we found many strange metals in the sand. The group seems to think that this is where the aliens crashed. I’m still not sure I understand what exactly it is we are facing here…. But this 9lbs of adamantiam is certainly disconcerting (and will fetch a high price). As we are gathering the sky metal, we are attacked, again, by sandworms. Thankfully, I am able to scare one to death. I am very terrifying these days. Kai is also very helpful and scythes one into pieces. Ketzal also is very helpful and warhammers one…no two! but unfortunately amidst the slaying of sandworms, Kyo falls.

After Kai defeats the last sandworm, we notice that Kyo has fallen. We rush to help, but just as we get there, the light comes back into Kyo’s eyes. We notice something is slightly different, but none of us want to press the soft spoken kitsune who we are just finally getting to know. As we journey to the crater, Kyo begins to tell us what happened. Though, I must admit I could barely hear the tale as it was being told, so pardon the gaps in the wondrous tale. Kyo tells us that he did indeed die. However, upon the moment of his death, he was swept up into the spirit world. From what was described, it sounded like he was brought straight to Boo-yawn’s feast! Kyo tells us that his destiny is with Buyon. And because of this, he granted him a second chance at life. I am sure there was some soul selling that occurred in that instant, but Kyo remains quite on that front. The only other thing he mentions is that there was a lovely waterbender present at the feast with a beautiful owl. We all smile a bit as we realize that this must be our beloved Longtuk and my dear Pura. Kyo cannot know what this means to us, but I’m sure he senses our happiness.

We arrive at the crater. It looks as if an asteroid landed here before the godstorm. There is quite the frightful scene before us. On the ground there are a number of ruins, recently used. The ruins seem 1000s of years old, but appear to have been modified and used to summon a creature, that must have backfired.

We decide against our better judgement to enter what we have determined to be a ship. The door clicks open and we enter a metal room full of hounds of tindellos. Kyo seems to have aquired some nifty new powers and seems more powerful than ever. Once we defeat them, we notice that the ceiling of the area is a star chart. We continue and find a room full of dissected naga. It is absolutely disgusting. The next room contained weird trashed metal alien devices. Everything appears to be running on a battery, which I decide to operate. Unfortunately this wakes a dimensional shambler. Ketzal is very very helpful as he electroflies into it and does quite a bit of damage.

Saito is not at all helpful, and turns on a huge hologram during this battle. It is of Shubnagurith. The vessel was called down by dikang, the painter. Apparently Killdeer was trying to create a dark young of Shubnaguroth. And now that is what the aliens are trying to do.

We eventually kill the shambler, and continue on to the next room where we find large strange beds. An odd metal device glimmers at the end of the room. We rearrange the symbols and light becomes pulling purple around the device. It created a portal. We immediately restain ketzal from jumping into it and turn it off.

We head up an old elevator shaft. A dark blue crystal appears to power this shop. Ketzal takes it, and an enormous bird creature drops from the sky and tries to take Ketzal. Apparently this is called a Shantak, though really it is just a space dragon. I manage to blind the creature as it;s mate appears. A miserable fight ensues, with people being thrown every which way. Hskori uses a scroll of holy smite, and eventually we kill one of them. The other must have flown off, because we are able to rush to Kai and heel him. He tells us he had strange nightmares while he was out, and I begin to accept that we are dealing with things much greater than sandworms on this damned island.

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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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