Malicious Intent

Welcome to another end of week writeup and this week we were introduced to the Locust clan and their dealings with the rival families to the Harimasu family. This weeks adventure plays on from the bonus content last week and directs us towards a confrontation that will take us to the final six months of the yearly campaign.

So sit back with a warm beverage, as its that close to snow here in the south of Australia at the moment, and enjoy.


Locust

As the path from the mountain finally intersects with the road towards Shuimu and in the other direction, further into Ryokughan they take a moment to stretch and rest, having travelled from dawn after their night with the Golden beast – which turned out to be a guardian of the last Monks of Shuimu’s tail, they were exhausted but content that they had finished their task and would soon see an end to this shadow bruise curse.

Up ahead a large convoy of wagons with several mounted warriors moved down the road in the direction from Shuimu. The warriors moved with confidence and purpose, watchful of the surrounding travellers and even more wary of the adventurers as they sat and ate from their supplies. “Hold” a voice sounded from one of the caravans, a particularly looking lavish looking one made from a rich red-brown wood with ornate brass detailing and spokes on its six wheels. The caravan came to a halt in front of the adventurers and several warriors dismounted and moved to stand next to the door as it opened revealing a young lady dressed in emerald green.

“My, my what do we have here. Four foreigners and their guide?” The voice was kind but devoid of all warmth. “And their guide is none other than Takeo, my, would you be on an errand for lady Harimasu?” the lady moved to sit more in the light from the sun, her long dark hair was separated into two long plats that went across both shoulders and into her lap. “What ever would you be doing here, and from the looks of it you’ve run into some trouble,” the lady exclaimed but the shock never reaching her eyes.

“Lady Toshio, we ran into some beasts along the forest path but my companions managed to fend them off and defeat them. We also lost our horses to a beast in the mountains but will make good time back to Shiumu as we are expected back shortly.” Takeo said, a glance of warning going to the party members.
“I thank you for your concern though we shall be fine” he added bowing to Lady Toshio.

“Nonsense, lady Harimasu is the daughter of my fathers childhood friend, I can not face my father if I was not to provide her servants with aid in their moment of need.” She commanded, a touch of mirth touching the corner of her mouth as she spoke the word servants. Clicking the gestured to three warriors. ‘You two, you shall give your horses to our friends here, you can continue on foot back to my fathers castle.” the warriors bowed and retrieved the horses walking over to Takeo and the adventurers “give my regards to lady Harimasu, when she visits us next you can return the horses then” she said as the warriors bowed to the party and moved to be next to lady Toshio.

“Lady Toshio, this is not necessary..” Takeo began

“Nonsense, give lady Harimasu my regards” she said as she closed the door, a hand coming up briefly to wave to the party signalling that there was no arguing the point.

The caravan then lurched on with a moments hesitation before a dozen less opulent caravans rolled on by with twice as many mounted warriors passed on by. After they were almost out of sight Takeo spoke up, breaking the silence. “That was Lady Toshio, as devious and cunning as she is cold. We would do well to make sure that these horses get back to her safely and soon as to not give her or her father a reason to spur or hold a grudge against Lady Harimasu – Kyoko.”

Mounting the horses the party and Takeo set off with speed to return to Kyoko to ensure that what transpired here, the cure and the damning scroll case were discussed as a matter of urgency.


As the caravan moved further down the road away from Shuimu she rolled shoulder as the weight from the unfamiliar armour bit into her shoulder – and she couldn’t help but grin.

The distant plume of dust, and the presence in her mind told her that the horses, particularly the one she handed over to the party of adventures, were moving away from her and back towards the large port city.

“Karyn,” the voice of lady Toshio sang out from the carriage. As she jogged to catch up with the ladies carriage and the open windows. “I don’t see why I had to give horses to those peasants” Lady Toshio said, her eyes narrowing as she questioned the warrior. “my father said you can be trusted but I fail to understand why” the irritable lady asked.

“It’s best to have rivals in your debt for little things, rather than having them owe you more.” The warrior replied as she picked at something from under her nail with a small knife. “They look petty to squabble and reject small things but are looked upon more favourably for larger things. Besides I have a feeling that we will see them again soon and I’d rather be on home soil rather than on the road from a neutral city”

Sighing the lady picked at some dried fruits from a silver platter and poured herself some mild wine. “It makes sense but I dislike helping the Harimasu’s.” She muttered after a moment when she realised the warrior was watching her.

“Oh I don’t think we have helped them all that much, just laying seeds that will soon take root.” The warrior, Karyn, replied as she walked away from the carriage ending the conversation with her allies daughter. She liked this form the most out of her humanoid from, other than her own skin that is, and she had maneuverered herself to be in a position of influence where she was able to tip the scales in her favour. Looking up at the blue sky she smiled and began to whistle, a haunting and cold tune that carried in the wind. The other warriors, merchants and dignities that travelled in the caravan shuddered as they heard the tune – visions of things moving in outside the candlelight and skittering amongst trees filler their minds and somewhere in the procession a matching tune or victory started, soon drowning out her whistles. This made her grin grow wider as they travelled further into Ryokughan.

This was going to be fun…


As the morning sun rose the party stretched and were thankful for the warm, comfortable mattresses that were underneath them and the filling meals they received at the house that they were granted rooms to rest in. Kyoko’s families reputation and the tales of the parties bravery and prowess spreading during their quest up the mountain were resulting in the adventurers from across the sea becoming well known, idols to some and for others the targets for scrutiny and ill intended gossip.

The reception back into the city of Shuimu was a mixture of relief, amazement of the tales that they and Takeo told, keeping Shiku, the scroll and the state of the monastery a secret, and unknown to them, the revelation of the kappa cave and the remains of travellers before them were creating concerns and alarm bells of what damning items could’ve been found amongst those remains. Kyoko, Liz and Siu, who was sometimes visible and other times appeared out of no where – a result of Liz’s prayers and charms no doubt, were excited to be filled in when the party returned.

When the party finally found a moment of peace and quiet with Kyoko they revealed the cure for the Shadow Bruises first.

“Interesting, Lotus flowers hold a mystical connection to our ancestors and the dragons that bonded with our families. Some families the dragons took upon other forms but their spiritual essence was always the same and they all had some connection to the lotus leaf. The Harimasu lotus’s have not bloomed since before I can remember,” Kyoko said before wincing, Siu looked ashamed before drifting to the corner of the room towards a small statue of their ancestral guardian Huangdi. “There is but one place where we can receive the waters of the Lotus flower within any amount of reasonable time and it is with the Toshi family, I believe you received some horses from them as a way to return to the city quickly. Although this bothers me that I am in some form of debt to them I do have someone looking after the horses to ensure that nothing foul goes a foot whilst they are in our care. The value of the horses is negligible but to be in debt to another family, small or large, can cause strife within our tight knit communities and that is something we must avoid. What was the second thing you had to show me?” Kyoko asked as she reached for the scroll which revealed the plot on the Harimasu family.

“Ah, this is interesting and potentially damning evidence if we can seek an audience with the head of the family. As long as everything goes fine in our visit there we should be able to request some of the water from their lotus pond – a strange and audacious request but something we can probably navigate around.” She continued as a knock on the door came urgently, rolling up the scroll and placing it by her side she allowed the visitor to enter.

“Lady Harimasu. Urgent news,” it was the one of the men she had requested guard the horses, “One of the Toshio mares has fallen ill suddenly, and died. Our shamans did not make it in time but they have yet to detect any poison or foul intentions on the beast.” the man said bowing to Kyoko. “Forgive us please lady, we did our best but we have failed you.”

“Nonsense – you are not to blame for this. Ensure that no one else finds out about this and we will investigate the mare. You did your best and that is all we can ask of you and your men. Thank you for the news although I wish it was more pleasant tidings” Waving her hand she dismissed the man with mercy before waiting for the door to close. “This is bad timing, a coincidence I think not however. Can you take Siu, Takeo and Lady Liz to check on the mare to ensure that there as no foul play. I don’t trust the shamans as they hire themselves out to the deepest pockets these days. It does not add up, the omens are not good and as it stands we are both in debt to the Toshio family and hold damning evidence of their people committing open hostility against our own. This could have gone a lot better.” Kyoko concluded as she sighed and poured herself a small cup of a strong distilled alcohol.

“please be discrete if you can. The less people that know about this incident the better.” Kyoko said as she started to fetch some parchment, ink and a quill.


As the party left the room where Kyoko sat and headed towards the stable where the fallen mare lay Takeo rushed ahead to make sure that the area was secure and Liz strode next to Siu who hung back with the others, his presence still flickering in and out of peoples perception.

As the party reached the stables they were stopped at the door by several men dressed in Reds and greys.

“You five seem to be out of place here,” a older and serious Ryokughan man said as he stepped in front of the door – his hand moving inside of the sleeve of his robe. “I’ll ask you politely to step away as my lady does not want any disturbances to befall these animals.”

The man waits for the party to introduce themselves before turning to Liz “you don’t seem to be with these four, who are tasked by Lady Kyoko to visit these stables. What business do you have?” The man asked as the other Red and grey dressed men walked purposefully around the building.

“I am here to examine the horses to make sure they are in good health” said Liz, careful to not reveal too much to ensure that the man could be trusted.

Sighing and smiling a toothy grin the man withdrew his hand from the robe “Apologies lords and ladies, I had to make sure I could trust you. Please, allow me to get the door for you.” he said as he moved towards the door, a mixture between a stride and a waddle – the movement almost purposeful to the trained eye. “A mystery it is, the shaman couldn’t tell what was the matter and we were asked to quickly seal up the area and not allow anyone other than those entrusted to enter. I don’t even quite know myself what is going on as I have come at the change of the shift and been told to show the authorised people into the building.” the man said, a small change in his tone as he spoke almost undetectable.

Knocking on the door and stepping to the side a small wooden panel was opened and Takeo’s eyes were revealed. Moments later the door was unlocked and the door opened – Takeo walking deeper into the stables “come in, towards the back” he called in a carefully measured voice so that only those by the door could hear.

Moving through the red robed man closed the door behind them, or so it sounded like it, and carefully walked in behind them. Moments later the sick mare was revealed, her hide was normally brown with patches of white was now a dark grey, the hair slowly falling out in great patches as the body of it lay unmoving.

“I can’t detect any poisons, curses, wounds, cuts, bruising. Nothing.” Takeo said as he looked down at the mare, crouching down. “there is a build up and a large amount of mucus near the mouth as if the horse spat up as it collapsed but that is all I have found that is odd. Strange..” he said as he turned his head towards the party, his eyes following a moment later “Liz, maybe your divine magic can identify what is going on here…” he stopped as his eyes met the man in the red and grey robe.

“what is he doing in here. None of the hands were meant to enter the room.” he said standing abruptly. Just as quickly as he stood he started to shake, his legs wobbling as his shivering hands reached up to his neck and plucked a tiny fluff covered spike from his neck. His eyes lost focus as they moved between the party and the man at the back of the room then to Liz as he fell to the ground.

Liz shrieked and dashed forwards, a prayer already on her lips as she met his side and a golden glow covered his body, a greenish tinge flowing from a minute puncture wound on his neck flowing through to his limbs. The glow spread down and focused on the puncture which seemed to stop the tinge and slowly it receded.

“Interesting..” they heard on the wind as the door behind them slammed shut – whirling around the man in grey and red had gone, disturbed hay the only evidence that he had been there at all.

NPCs

Sai Tsugen – Locust Clan operative

There isn’t much that is known about the man who goes by Sai Tsugen. He is a member of the Locust Clan and exceptional at gaining peoples trust in order to extract information or items from them. Although trained to assassinate and fight with his blend of magic and martial arts he doesn’t like killing and rather relies on the poisons he uses to blur the lines of memory and delusion of those who he fights with.

Environment and running the adventure

The Plaza– see map.

The Plaza has a central fountain where buskers are busy singing songs and dancing for the enjoyment of those around. Stalls have set up shop here, out of the way and at the back of a building where they weren’t getting into trouble with the houses and stores that also share the space with a tavern, currently blocked by two feuding (or chatting but we can’t understand them) bovine who have blocked the only way out of the plaza.

The stores sell weapons, meats and vegetables – all the things that people may want where as the stores near by consist of a tailor and general supplies merchant who may have some oddities inside.

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Encounter

Just moments after the door closed behind the party tore off behind them, Takeo coming through and attempting to mention something but his words “Locust clan” were lost to the wind that the party left as they dashed out the door in pursuit of the man in red and grey.

It took a moment to see where the man had gone and only the flash of coloured cloth and the wide birth as if a beast had just punched past them into the road behind. It didn’t take them long to cross the distance to where they saw the man disappear and their experience of tracking beasts through the snow in Bracken hollow or being on the look out for shadow stitched in Daye came through where a boot print could be seen in a small path of wet soil on the side of the road led them further down the streets of Shuimu.

The chase, the quarry moving deeper into the streets whilst the party seemed to be gaining, footsteps, a wisp of cloth, or people helping them by pointing in a direction led them to a plaza where several merchants were bickering over some oxen-like beasts had stopped in the middle of the street and their cart had effectively blocked off the road – standing there looking for a way around the beasts and shouting at the merchant and beast alike was the man in Red and Grey.

Noticing the party had appeared behind him, or hearing their approach one may never know, the man whirled around and movement appeared from the sleeves of his robe as three miniscule darts flung forth – clattering harmlessly off the parties weapons and armour.

“I see you are much more aware and prepared now, but I fear that my patron will be disappointed if I do not return to their side again.” The man smiled, a genuine smile that lacked any malice that one may expect from someone who uses poisoned darts so easily.

“I will say that it has been some time that I have been corned like this but I do not believe that it will end favourably for you. I will grant you the opportunity to retreat now and grant you a boon. You may know my name and the name of my patron and you get to keep your memories and life. Or you can attack me and find out how far our power levels differ.” the man smiled, pausing for but a moment as the party looked amongst themselves. “To make it easier for you I will throw in one for free – I go by Sai Tsugen, my real name was lost many years ago when I was taken in by my clan. Now that was easy enough, I suggest you retreat before things get serious.”


The encounter can be either diplomatic or a combat one where Sai will constant try and escape using his tricks and abilities to disorientate (through his poisons) the party members. If he does fall (which is fine) or if he escapes he will still reveal the name of his employer on his death as a final honour to worthy combatants, with a slight twist if he does die (releasing a swarm of identical insects that scatter in all directions, each of them with a small piece of parchment wrapped around them.



Aftermath

“You found me it seems, well done. It seems out power levels are not as different as I was first to assume. But there is something you need to remember about the clans in Ryokughan – we always have another trick up our sleeve as our mission is our reason for being.” As the man finished talking the remaining insectoid body doubles mirrored the movement of the first and suddenly insects burst outwards, biting the people and animals alike in the plaza sending them running through the clearing. “I will keep my word and give you the name of my patron, there may not be many of my kind that keep their word and show honour but I am a man of my word.” a voice said from amongst the blinding haze of insects. “My patrons name is Karyn. You will meet her soon I am sure but whether you remember my generosity or not depends on your fortitude to my clans poisons.” and with that the insects slowly faded from the plaza – some still insisting to bite and sting the party as their heads throbbed painfully from the poisons that had been injected into them through mandible, fang or stinger. Looking around for Sai the party were unable to see him any where, a robe, red and grey was discarded at their feat with a small dagger that was a single main blade with two offshoots that came out to the sides to form a bladed guard, each mirroring the insectoid handle and pommel giving the blade the look of locust with a blade coming from where its wings would unfurl from.


Well that’s it for tonight, this week has had some new developments and its not the first development we will see this month! Thanks for dropping by to look at the week as a whole and don’t forget to come back each day next week to continue on the journey and, as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,
The Brazen Wolfe