Welcome to another end of week writeup where we follow our adventurers into the second week of adventuring into Ryokughan proper. This week we find our parties making a mistake and camping by what they believe is fresh water and a peaceful night as predators seem to avoid this small fresh water pond – or so they think..
As I mentioned in last nights post I almost went too deep this week, exploring and delving too deeply into several additional complexities once I started to try and put together a logical reason for the creatures (crew, refugees and the like) to be shadow bruised and both undetectable yet not invisible or silenced. But I think settling on the points that I have will be a good middle ground for the adventure so, let’s kick it off.
Danger in the waterfall
As the sun rose on the third day after they had left Jade Point, the Dancing Drake sailing a bit slower due to the hasty and crude repairs done to the breached hull, the Dock city that controlled the Bay of Five Tails was in sight.
“It’s called the Bay of Five Tails,” Kyoko said, watching her most trusted men stand around the central mast where she noticed some crew and refugees from Jade point tied up, it was reported that there were eleven in total but she could only count five, Choi amongst on of the afflicted. “It’s called such as it is believed that one of our great ancestor dragons, a water spirit that had five tails fought a great battle here and as it brought its great many tails down on its foe the earth shattered before its might and five great channels were carved into the land. Soon these channels filled with rushing sea water as the wounds caused by its strike spread out far and wide forming the marshes, the ones we sailed through and the others further west, and inlets to the sea not far from here.” Several other passengers, Liz and Siu included listened intently to the tail.
“This city we call Shuimu, after the ancestor spirt that fought here and opened up what once was a land locked area and brought trade, wealth and prosperity to the people of this region.” she said smiling as she her remaining crew helped position the ship to dock, her hand reaching out to stroke the wings of a hawk, Takeo, that had flown to her side just as the last of the Shadow Bruised were being rounded up. She looked from the Hawk to the adventurers for Faerun. “He will have to remain in this form for a few days, it seems that he had to call on too much of his clans magic and the change is, not as easy to flow back into human shape as it is to shift to an animal. He did discuss with me before he left his plans, to talk to his master and then to seek out the monks that live within the mountain ranges nearby the City, about two days walk, a week round trip to find the monks and return. I believe this is the best chance we have to learn how to cure and help these people afflicted by the shadow’s curse as well as cure Siu as he has been unable to shake the stone for days and, between you and me, he is not himself.” Kyoko said looking concerned at her ancestor-come-shipmate.
Looking towards the city, the vast open market covered in red, gold, green and blue flags representing different family houses the party were welcomed with a chorus of noise, sights and smells that wafted across the waves and up to the boat as they docked.
“We will keep the afflicted behind bars for a week, then their families may begin to ask questions and I cant risk bad relations with the other major families. In this time I need you to seek out the monks and return with the cure, or knowledge of the cure, so we can begin the process of fighting back against the shadow.” Kyoko said as she picked up the hawk on her arm.
“Takeo will help you, as much as a bird that cant talk can. Just ask and he will do what he can – this mission is as important to him as it is to us. As soon as Siu and the others are healed we will head to my city, where my family rule, and we can begin the fight in earnest.” Kyoko said, grasping the hands of the party members “I am grateful the ancestors let your path cross mine. Please seek provisions with this bag of gold and return back as quickly as you can. I am sorry you can’t rest for long, perhaps half a day at most, but we know nothing of this affliction only that it appears to be from the Shadow in nature and that it makes the host simply not exist. We need to know how to stop it before they get lucky and something irreversible were to happen.”
As the boards were lowered and trade goods, people (some in chains) and the host of other things were taken across to the docks where important looking officials dressed in white robes stood waiting the party set their first foot down in Ryokughan proper.
The purchasing of provisions was made easier due to the gossip that spread like wild fire from the ships crew and the refugees. Tails of the foreigners that has stormed an Oni bastion and bested their leader only after convincing an entire race of notoriously vicious marsh dwelling tribes of toad-kin to turn on their chiefs to fight with them soon spread. Soon the party were aware of people staring and whispering amongst themselves and when a calculating or criticising eye was cast towards them it was a moment before someone leant against their ear and soon the gaze changed to one of reverence and respect, or fear.
The party were able to acquire most of their supplies with a heavy discount, their newfound fame and reputation preceding them in most vendors but a few, those sponsored by a rival family to the Harimasu’s. Here the prices were increased so much that the savings from the other vendor’s were taken up nearly instantly.
As they left the city the now familiar tawny hawk flew from the top of the gatehouse and drifted along the wind currents above the road towards the mountain ranges in the distance. The horses that Kyoko had found for them proved strong, reliable and fit which enabled them to make good time.
Watching the hawk dart ahead under the canopy of leaves and branches above was the only sign that they were still on the right track, maybe. The hawk had been disappearing for a few moments piercing through the top of the trees before returning a few minutes to indicate the party to continue following. About a day up the mountains the party stopped nearing a small waterfall fed crisp cold pool of water.
Setting up camp not wanting to be travelling these parts at night the party watched as Takeo, the man-hawk flew off towards the mountain peak again to scout the way forward for the next morning, but the party got the feeling that they were lost. Soon the crackle of wood splitting and burning on the firepit greeted the setting of the sun and soon the sounds of singing insects and calls from Nocturnal animals joined the fires chorus.
As the party settled down they marvelled at how quite the surrounding area was. A few birds were high off the ground in nearby trees and calling to one another but the movement of beasts and creatures in the darkening woods beyond their campfire light was never towards them, as if they hesitated to approach the light and party.
Areas of note
Shuimu – A trading hub of a town, many buildings, crowded colourful streets and market stalls as far as the eye can see – if you’ve got the coin someone will have something that you want somewhere within the depths of the city. Notorious for being a neutral city – trading to all folk it is also rife with rivalry with many merchants showing an allegiance to a family or province and in doing so they show preferential treatment, or discrimination, against those who either are allied to their province or family or those who find themselves out of favour.
The Mountains, Shuimu’s ridge – A tall set of mountains to the north of Shuimu, known as Shuimu’s ridge, are the source of many folk tales and stories surrounding nightmarish creatures, strange yet benevolent creatures that take more pleasure in assisting people rather than harming them. Somewhere within the mountains lies a monastery where the monks and sages that call its walls home are both masters in martial arts as well as extraordinary scholars who may know the cure for the Shadow Bruises that are appearing on the crew and passengers of the Dancing Drake.
Takeo spends most of the adventure in hawk form scouting the area ahead before he notices that the party are in danger where he forces himself to transform into human form and in doing so injures his arm badly.
Environment and running the adventure
The Waterfall – see map
The quiet constant bubble of the waterfall in the background, the thick perfumed flowers bushes and trees all trees give this waterfall a peaceful yet haunting feel. The deepness of the water is deep enough towards the centre of the pool that its above the heads of all but the tallest of humanoid races.
Dark Waterfall cave– see map
Inside the cave, behind the waterfall is a dimly lit area – bioluminescent mushrooms providing some dim lighting throughout the cave which only reveals the source of the sour taste of the pool and the foul smell that greets the party as they enter the cave. A pile of humanoid bones leads up an incline to an elevated natural platform overlooks the dark, deep pools of water beneath.
As the night went on the birds started to get quieter until the only sound was the bubble of the waterfall and crackling of the fire. Despite the coldness of the water there was a sourness to it that caused the party to decide to drink from their water skins instead. Cracking of twigs near the waters edge caused the party to flinch but apart from moss covered rocks and bushes. A few moments later and a hawk crashed through the branches above, shifting and turning into a human as it crashed amongst the group.
“Run you fools. It’s upon you!” Takeo cried as he nursed his left arm.
The creatures that attacked the party from the waterfall pool are short, between that of a dwarf and a halfling, scaled with webbed feet and hands each ending in three vicious fingers complete with long sharped curved claws. Each of them have a bony ridge on top of their heads that created a bowl with water that, by some magical or mystical nature, never spills unless an external force forces the water to spill.
A large ridged shell covers its back and, for some, a bit of their chest. Despite being humanoid almost no body hair grows for both males and females and generally its just enough hair to surround their head bowl. They have enlarged nostrils that flow into a bony growth like beak surrounded their teeth filled mouth and their eyes seem to bulge lightly from their tiny-constantly scowling eye sockets.
The Kappa will fight for food quite viciously but they are also smart enough to know the value in their own lives and are more than likely to flee if the alternative is their death. In this encounter 2-3 Kappa’s should be attacking the party – by now I would believe we would have level 6 characters in the party so that should make the encounter easier. Once one Kappa falls the next wounded most wounded Kappa will retreat and swim back under the waterfall, the next Kappa will do the same but will try and bring down the party member who struck its fellow Kappa down.
Inside the waterfall cave everything is dimly lit, so the Kappa are considered to be lightly obscured. The Kappa female is twice the size of the normal Kappa and so her HP should be doubled. It will be her any any wounded Kappa that managed to escape +3d6 hp healed back to their wounded HP score if they had water left in their head bowls.
Within the cave they find discarded cloth and mundane items that look to belong to travellers and farmers, some farming instruments and daggers / knives would be find discarded. However in a sealed scroll case against a smooth, sloped stone at the top of the ridge (where the large Kappa stood). Inside the scroll case is letters that express dealings between a Junko Toshio and a mercenary gang called “The Fallen Crescent” which appear to be discussing actions taken against Harimasu trading and supply wagons to the north east.
Well that’s it for tonight – including updating the waterfall forest map to include some added effects as well as correcting some layering options. This next week is the last week for the month (that went fast!) where we look at the monastery and what lies beyond that.
Don’t forget to come back each day this next week and as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,
The Brazen Wolfe