Welcome to another end of week where this week we are out of the weather, enjoying the hot springs and looking to uncover plots against the Harimasu family within the sacred Toshio family halls – or so the party think. Meanwhile a figure has been seen walking the halls, causing servants and soldiers to quake in fear and wish to leave the fort but will it be too late for the Party to do so? Well, that reveal can wait until next week.
As mentioned I added a bit more content in this end of week post – added some actions, fleshed it out a bit and put in some spoilers for plot that may hint at the plot lines without exposing it wide open, well yet any way. Without any further discussion let’s roll on with the writeup!
Unexpected dinner guests
The remaining of the cursed and members of Kyoko’s caravan and escort moved along much slower than they had yesterday after spending the night fighting off the attackers and then repairing one of the caravans from using salvageable parts from the other ruined ones. Those that remained were sore and tired and looking forward to getting out of the chill that was now sitting in great clumps of snow on the ground where they walked.
“It’s not far now,” called out Kyoko as she could see the dark shape through the snow, looming ahead even above the next ridge of the mountains “they say that the Toshio family built this estate in such as place as its soo easily defended and the area’s below that ridge are frequently populated with unfriendly creatures and spirits that only the mad or foolish would dare lay siege to their family home. It’s also the only place for days around that has hot springs that give hot water and make the land somewhat fertile so that the Toshio family can actually live there.” Kyoko sighed as he pulled up the cloak around her coat she continued to march through the cold.
Kuang, the Party and the remaining cursed walked more sullenly having watched the soldiers and those inflicted by the shadow bruise curse be cut down, or smashed in most instances, by the Spirit folk named the Nat and none felt it as keenly as Siu who seemed to seethe with both anger and regret as he disappeared from the parties, and Kyoko’s, senses more frequently than not.
Luckily Liz and Takeo had moved a more secretive route earlier to reach Kyoko’s families house before they were ambushed, and to reduce the chance of the Toshio family head from learning about the divine energies that Liz brought from across the sea to Ryokughan. But despite them not being involved in this conflict and being safe, to the best knowledge of the party and princess, it was little comfort.
The thundering hooves of a horse or several nearby broke the party out of their trance as they soon found wild looking mounted warriors riding towards them bearing the colours of the Toshio family. Stepping forward Kuang and Kyoko addressed the warriors and a few brief exchanges were spoken they returned to the group. “We are in luck, Lady Toshio had visited my Cousin and her husband a few days ago and had presumed we would return the horses to here, so we are expected. However I would not expect a warm greeting as during the attack we have but one of the three horses remaining, the other, the once-dead mare, has not yet shown itself and we believe has become tainted by the shadow somehow. Watch what you say, the Toshio family’s honour only goes so far when they feel slighted but we will have a roof over our heads and warm water to soothe our injuries and fatigue. I am told the Princes’ wife, my cousin, is currently out visiting a nearby village and according to the escort group should return in a few days time giving us time to work out how to navigate the situation with the scroll and horses.” Kyoko said as she lead the remaining half-dozen horses, including the Toshio horse, towards the building as the warriors formed a defensive barrier.
“Heard you guys ran into some problem with the locals,” one of the soldiers, a gruff man with a scar running down his face from his right eye, “I hope you got them back for what they did to you, these creatures get more and more bold the further The Shadows influence spreads and they have started to attack villagers and even make the occasional appearance near our fort.” he said, the dislike for these creatures obvious in his eyes.
“Ruben, that’s enough” barked a massive man who was clad in steel plates as well as thick, hairy hide. “I want silence from all until we get to the building – especially from those who know how dangerous these lands can be for the ill prepared or untrained” the man said, shooting a brief mocking smirk towards the Captain and Kyoko who just nodded in return, not worth creating a dispute or drama between the family houses.
Within the hour Kyoko’s party were at the gates to the fort, and family compound, large thirty foot walls met a large gatehouse and surrounded the building, one side backed up to a tall mountainous peak where a flight of steps lead upwards into the cloud and out of view – but even so often large braziers burned on either side of the steps and their glow could be seen through the snow flurries and into the first part of the clouds.
“Welcome Kyoko” a man said as the gates opened, a few heavily armoured and masked guards stood around the man dressed in a large robe, “It’s been too long. Please come in before you catch a cold” the man said but the smile he wore held no warmth. “We will see that the horses are taken to the stable, and that we have room for your small party”
“We will require more space and impeach upon your hospitality more I am afraid.” Kyoko said with a bow. “We have some refugees from the coast where their town was attacked and it has left them afflicted with a peculiar mark which causes them to simply not appear. They can stay in the Caravan if it pleases you but will require some food and form or warmth so don’t be alarmed if something seems off.” Kyoko said, trying her best to not reveal the full truth.
“Ah, I had heard rumours but I can see, well I can’t really!” the man said after a pause those men and women that served him laughed heartily before he continued and the laughter died down a moment after “We will make sure that there is food provided to the Caravan but until the nature of the affliction is revealed I can’t risk it spreading through the family house now, that would be ill advised.”
Kyoko bowed deeply and nodded to the men moving the caravan which, with the other horses, headed towards the stables. “Now let’s get you warm and dry then hmm?” said the man in the robes as he moved off.
“That’s Lord Toshio, Teng Toshio, my cousins husband and the lord that lives here. He is our host and has some influence with the Toshio family so we best tread respectfully around him” Kyoko said in a hushed whisper to the Party. “Now, I need to be rid of these cold damp clothes and to get some real food into me” she declared loudly as she followed the lordling into the buildings.
The halls were filled with noise, gossip from the families servants and guards all talking about the presumptuous arrival of the Harimasu heiress and the wounded and weary people that travelled with her. Hana didn’t see that, she saw her family and hopeful salvation. As she crept along the hallway, keeping to the shadows and doorways she watched the visitors from a distance away.
Her cousin seemed well, the foreigners she kept around here seemed strong, she even thought the powerful suited them as they walked with no sign of the conflict that she had heard about.
“You’re saying that that princess and her pets defeated a Nat army? Lead by an elder?” She heard muttered from one doorway over, peering across she saw one of the ladies of the house, one of the soldiers wives if she wasn’t mistaken.
“Yeah, we found the bodies on our patrol the day after they got here. Either the Nat’s had a turf war and the Harimasu girl came in and mopped up the fighters after they were tired or she has an army hiding in the woods outside of our lands. Either way we are to keep an eye on them, especially the foreigners.” The man who was leaning against the doorframe next to the gossiper replied, sipping from a cup of warmed alcohol. “Regardless of orders I wouldn’t trust what they have to say. I heard that the horses they brought with them were stolen from Reagent Toshio’s daughters very own escort. I knew the Harimasu family was corrupt.” the man spat onto the ground to emphasise his point.
Hana clenched her teeth at hearing the lies and if it wasn’t for her standing in the family she would correct the gossips right away, but she had learnt over the last few years that she needed to watch what she did, as she didn’t have a voice to stand-up for herself in these walls.
Moving from the doorway she followed the Harimasu party through the halls, carrying a pile of dirty linen as a way of trying to look like she was going about her daily duties. As she turned a corner down a hallway that the people went down she came face to face with the foreigners who greeted her, smiling briefly she bowed and rushed past them hiding her face from Kyoko as she rushed to deposit the dirty laundry.
Hana sighed, about the only noise she could make, as she reached the room and opened the door to the heated room. Metal pipes lead to the hot springs below and through some artifice working a lever would see that hot water enter the room and the steel basins so she could wash the fabric she unceremoniously dumped onto the floor. Looking out a window she could see the stables nearby, the wagon that was once would have been part of a caravan stood near the few horses that were lined up in the stables. She had seen the creature and rough looking people moving around the caravan, and in and out of it over the last day but it appeared that they were ignored by most other people which she found odd. She was so lost in thought that she didn’t hear the door open and close behind her.
“Have these washed for dinner” she heard as she snapped out of her thoughts. Turning she saw one of the heads of staff for the family house. Who sighed “Lost in thoughts again Sasha..” the older lady sighed. Hana, who didn’t understand why everyone had suddenly started to call her Sasha, around the same time her voice disappeared, looking around to make sure there wasn’t someone else here the head of staff sighed. “You, yes you maid. Make sure you wash these clothes for Lady Harimasu and her guest. Lord Toshio’s wife is returning tonight and it’s been requested that everything is ready for dinner for our guests.”
As the lady finished her instructions she left Hana alone in the room to hold Kyoko’s and the parties clothes. Smiling he saw hope, since that woman arrived, her voice disappeared and people forgot who she was Hana had lived in constant fear and worry of that woman. Kyoko visiting gave her an opportunity, one that meant her freedom if she could play her cards right and maybe in some time her voice and her identity would return to her.
Kyoko ushered the party over as soon as the unnaturally quiet maid was gone. “I need to ask something of you, something is not right here. Things have changed drastically since I was last here and I cant be sure but that quiet maid has been following us for the whole day. I need you to look around while all eyes are on me and Kuang at dinner. Find evidence if there is corruption and listen to rumours but you can’t be caught as it will only end poorly for us. When the dinner gong sounds then return to the hall as you’ll be expected then as guests.” After s few moments of thought she left for the door, “if you can’t find any evidence, making some may buy us some time while Takeo looks elsewhere.” With that Kyoko was gone and the party was left to work out what their next course of action was.
Working with the party Kyoko is looking for a way to find evidence of the Toshio families corruption and any plans to engage in direct conflict between the two families.
Having evidence of the their involvement with attacks on Harimasu merchants and trader is damning but it is not enough as a old piece of parchment in the den of Kappa is hardly proof of corruption and conspiracy.
Captain Kuang Ping
Long cursed with visions of spirits he uses his curse and lifelong haunting of the death of his brother to defend lady Kyoko and the Harimasu family. A great warrior and general he puts the safety of his ward first but understands that her safety means that he must be there to defend her.
Lord ‘Teng’ Toshio
Teng Toshio is a a cousin to the heir to the Toshio family and holds some small amount of power and influence over the court. Given his title and the family lands near the Rimespire mountains he is tasked with guarding the families Lotus pond which lives at the peak of the mountain where the keep is situated. He married the cousin of Kyoko Harimasu several years ago at an attempt to have mutual bonds between the two great families however due to the distance from the main families inheritance and status neither he or his wife hold much power in either family.
One of the newer and younger into the Toshio’s house guard he rides With Lucian – both of who were hired (or purchased as slaves) by the Toshio family to guard the keep and in doing to the Lotus.
Not as jaded or hate filled towards the Harimasu family he is extremely confident in his ability but hold no animosity to anyone other than the spirits and their shadowy puppet master.
Unlike Ruben Lucian has grown up to hate all other families other than the one who he serves, the Toshio family. Bitter, resentful and sick of the cold he takes particular delight in goading people who be knows he can outmatch in a fight, or those who would lose face if they were to dare to fight him. Generally unpleasant he has a fondness for animals and will care for them above all else, except for power – power is what he cares for above everything else.
Lord Ten Toshio trusts Lucian and they can be seen walking together with Lucian being the muscle to Teng’s quick wit.
A mute girl who works in the Toshio household – a familiar face to some she goes by the given name of Sasha and can be seen following and watching the Harimasu heiress and her party of adventures from the shadows.
Choi limped through the courtyard as the whispers continued to try and goad him to turn against his captain and Princess, Kyoko.
“You’re wasting your time Shadow, I grew up alone so this moment of silence and isolation is nothing compared to life before the Dancing drake” he muttered, receiving a cautious glance from the golden dragonoid from next to the wagon, Siu. Smiling he was grateful that at least Siu could see him, the golden scaled creature was about the only one who could see all the cursed at once and had kind of become a beacon of unity amongst what they had been told were all that remained, the survivors of the Nat attack.
Moving away from the damaged and ramshackle wagon he move about the people of the fort listening to the rumours flittering around about the Harimasu visit – all of which were lies and made his blood boil. But, he had remembered what the captain had said and as he moved around the soldiers, staff and the well off members of the court when he could he lifted a dagger, cut a belt or tie and otherwise created little inconveniences for those who spoke ill of Kyoko or those who had saved his life, the adventurers from across the sea.
“So I spat in the bitches tea before giving it to them” one servant, a oily looking man of middle age, said before breaking into laughter, those around him joined in and some with particularly fervour.
“Couldn’t find the waxing petal? I’d pay to see the daughter of the Harimasu’s shite herself in public!” roared another man, this one a soldier.
“Good, serves her right. What does she think she is doing here in the first place, taking up space, impeaching upon our lords hospitality like that. The Lady of the house will sort her out when she returns tonight I’m telling you that now. ” Said an ugly mostly bald man, the captain of the guards. “If I had my chance I would slip something a bit more permanent than waxing petals” he snarled with a vicious grin.
Choi had enough, remembering the tools that they used to fix the caravan he sprinted off and rummaged through the box.
“What are you doing Choi?” Siu said, drifting nearby as he entered the caravan as well.
“I can’t take it, these bastards are threatening Kyoko now. I wont have it.” Choi said as he found the little vial that they had used to adhere the leather patch to the roof where a boulder had ripped a hole.
“Don’t do anything rash now, we need these people to help us lift this curse” Siu said, but something in his eyes spoke the same language, vengeance.
Grinning Choi walked to the door looking over his shoulder. “It wont be anything permanent, not what these assholes deserve any way, plus I think the Captain is right..”
“What’s that?” Siu asked looking at him with interest as Choi head off towards the captain of the guard.
“It’s only a curse if you don’t use it for good.”
Environment and running the adventure
The halls and courtyard
The halls are relatively uniform with room spread out logically and in some pattern which makes it easy to find your way around. Towards the centre of the building, following carpeted areas of the wooden and stone flooring the party can find the dining hall, reception hall and stairs that lead up to Lord Tengs chambers.
Outside the building is a large courtyard that hosts a few smaller houses for those that serve the family, a smithy for the guard, a barracks (more like a drinking hall as the guard seem to drink their time away) and the stables where the Harimasu wagon and those that are cursed with the shadow bruises stays, well most of the cursed stay there.
Encounter The objective
The objective, as mentioned before with the short scene with Kyoko is for the party to find evidence of wrongdoing, mercenary actions, written documentation that proves that foul play is at hand. As this is a half-way point and more of a sacred site than a fortified position of note many dignitaries and higher ranked family members travel to this fortified house to stay, visit the lotus pools and conduct business where their clients wouldn’t want to move deeper into the Toshio families territory.
Spoilers (from actions!)
Evidence – This household is very clean – The biggest thing to note, which should signal the gong (see the aftermath section) the only thing that they may find (if they search the bedrooms/guest rooms then they could find this under a loose board) is some correspondence between Karyn and Yhin Toshio that are very cryptic but appear to be discussing movement of troops to the north and east.
Evidence – Some guards rooms, or those of who the guards may visit and trust more than normal, may have some belongings that look out of place – either looted, robbed, or scavenged from the wreckages of merchants wagons and the like. If you (the DM) see if as fit to put in a robe/clothes in the Harimasu colours or something that looks to belong to the Harimasu family or their warriors then feel free to but I wouldn’t count it as solid evidence (see red herring) .
“Stealth” / Other – They also find the mute Maid again, following them. If the party have a way to communicate with her (she has a magical curse on her that prevents her from talking which is equivalent to a level 4 spell) then she will reveal that she is Hana, Kyoko’s cousin and that she has been replaced by the White Queen who silenced her and convinced the entire court that she was a maid and she has been treated as such for nearly eight months.
Rumours – Many servants discuss in quiet tones how they say Lady Toshio walking the halls last night, almost glowing and how they feel a bit un easy around her. Soldiers mutter discontent around how there is something wrong with Teng Toshio and his wife, those who are new or who have been there a while (like Ruben) seem to want to leave as soon as they can – however Lucian, if the Party are unfortunate to run into him, believes that everything is fine and that nothing is wrong.
The halls will be busy so performance, and other social skills (persuasion, deception, intimidation, etc.) are just as valuable to the stealth aspect or this. Moving around the halls will have a good chance at being noticed and quick thinking on the players end and a subsequent contesting roll (with advantage or disadvantages based on what the party are doing, how they do it and/or what they say to try and convince those who discover them that they are not up to no good.
Listening to or sewing rumours is both charisma heavy, stealth and perception based. Listening to those in the court, the soldiers, staff and servants or attendants at court could provide valuable information.
Whether breaking and entering, casting spells, sneaking, bribing, or persuading this one is really the crux of the adventure. Gathering evidence through what ever means possible to help prove Kyoko and the Harimasu family’s claims that the Toshio family has been attacking through mercenary companies or conspiring elsewhere against the other prominent family in Ryokughan.
Decoys, forgeries or the real deal – planting evidence to strengthen the point or persuade individuals to side with the Harimasu’s is also an option. A word of warning on making the deceptive evidence too fat fetched as something will be obvious falsified documents or things and it would damage the Harimasu’s reputation.
If the party have a good idea this week roll with it, adopting a “that’s cool, what does that look like?” Approach will enrich the game for everyone involved.
Whether they find and can talk to Hana and/or find the correspondence between Yhin and Karyn (Our Oni mage in disguise from a few weeks ago, and more time before that…) or not is up to the players and how far they want to go. If they plant evidence then the believability and what it is should be up to the players and how you, the DM wants to run with it.
After they have done something, searching (to success or not) and / or realising Hana is trailing them (or not), or planting evidence / listening to rumours (or not!) then a gong sounds and they are summoned to dinner.
Well that’s it for tonight and I want to say thanks for joining me for just over 300 writeups now. Not quite 300 in a row but I believe tonight marks 302 posts in total on Brazen Wolfe Tabletop – soon to be 365 which will be a big achievement for me! Don’t forget to come back this week for the final twist of the month, and probably one of the biggest weeks of the year (if I dare to talk it up) and, as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,
The Brazen Wolfe