At the Queens Command

Welcome to the end of a rather short week in retrospect where we looked at the aftermath of dinner after a hard week travelling through snow someone must have left a window open because the temperature is dropping in the dining hall and the Party could be next on the menu. Ok, enough with the bad puns and let’s write this up.


Food to die for

Following the stragglers down the carpeted hallways towards the dinner hall the party became ever so faintly aware of a few of the Shadow Curses refugees, Sailors and even Siu who floated through the halls whilst people moved around them oblivious to the presence of those afflicted.

Entering the dinner hall was a grand affair, people were announced as they entered the room with their weapons (obvious ones at least) taken and placed to the side of the room in a storage rack after which the party were eventually shown to their seats. Looking around the Large room with a crescent cut into the roof above them which revealed a second floor that was connected to the dining room by mirrored winding stairs that ended just at the end of the table, where an empty large throne-like seat sat next to a smaller but equally grand seat.

Judging by their previous scouting and the layout of the room their backs were to the kitchens and they sat opposite Kyoko and Kuang who looks worried but smiled when they realised that people were looking at them. A few moments later and Teng Toshio entered the room descending from stairways that were built in such a way that you could only see him when he was twenty feet from the dinner table, flanked by Lucian and Ruben who wore ceremonial armour and weapons that were polished but still looked functional.

The presence of the cursed and occasional flicker of Siu, who had all but disappeared since entering the walled fort could be felt from the back of the room, where the party had entered but the party caught Kyokos eyes wandering the faces at the table and along the walls as if searching for someone. When the Party caught her eye she smiled and whispered across the 5ft table. “I was hoping my cousin would be here by now, I haven’t seen her in quite some time and we get along well. She was a lot younger last time I saw her so I might just be misremembering her face and looking for a younger woman when she has blossomed into something more.” She said with a nervous smile.

After personally greeting his guests Tend eventually moved to stand between the two large seats “Lords, Ladies, Men and women and guests,” Teng said as he reached his seat after personally greeting his many guests, “It’s not often we get visitors let alone the Daughter of Harimasu family and it gladdens me that we are given this opportunity to give them our hospitality.” A few cheers and scattered claps came forth from the crowd of proud Toshio family servants and soldiers. “But, there is a arrow of sorrow in my side as my wife has been away from the family halls for a few weeks now as she extends the hand of aid and friendship to nearby towns. Let us rejoice now as my wife has returned and will be joining us tonight!” With this the room cheered loudly, but the party noticed that several servants and soldiers looked uneasy if they did or didn’t celebrate the lords wife returning.

A figure moved through the crowd, her head tipped forward as she carried a glass of water and a small scrap of parchment as she presented it to Kyoko before retreating to the back of the room, near where the party entered.

Kyoko sipped from her water as she looked confused and uneasy at the reaction and the party and her guardian, Kuang, felt it too. As the noise died down the click-clack of shoes on the stone steps from the second floor leading into the dining hall could be heard. Kyoko looked down from the stairs to the parchment the lay in front of her, unfurling it and reading it for a moment she was slow to mask her expression of alarm as she looked up at the party before whispering to Kuang who nodded and moved to the back of the room, excusing himself as moved through some guests and servants who stood transfixed as they looked towards the stairway as a glistening white pair of shoes and a robe appeared as Tengs’ wife descended the steps into the dining hall.

Siu looked towards Choi and the other three of the cursed that had made it to the hall as each of them glanced between Kyoko, the Party and the girl who stood behind them against the wall. The girl moved like one of them, invisible but present, undetectable but wanting to be seen and she could see them and them her.

As Siu turned around to wards the girl she made a symbol of respect, something that the Harimasu family would do towards his kind and it the copper piece dropped. Who ever was walking down those steps wasn’t Kyoko’s cousin and judging by the smell of fear and apprehension in the room she wasn’t a being that you wanted to be on the wrong side of.

click-click-clack

As the footsteps came closer an eerie silence filled the room, Kuang stood and moved towards the back of the room but a quick nod from the man, Lucian, “Choi” confirmed for Siu as both watchers of Kyoko noticed the man signal his men to intercept the captain who smiled and gestured that he was after something near the kitchens – the guards did not budge but commanded him to return to his seat – which he did begrudgingly.

The uneasy feeling quickly rose in Siu as the first pure white shoe and portions of a robe could be seen at the top of the stairs and sensing the tension in the air he involuntarily let out a low growl-like hum which the companions who he had travelled with for quite some time heard and jumped at the noise.

Kuang had asked the cursed to come with them to the hall, something about a chance to gain perspective and perhaps prove that they are more than just cursed. Siu didn’t understand but looking at the nod that Choi gave him as he moved off and started to pickpocket weapons, daggers, swords and the like from the guards standing close to Kyoko, Kuang and the party he thought that it made sense.

Without being able to be spotted, with people magically unable to recognise or detect them due to The Shadows curse they made the perfect people to keep Kyoko and those who can make a difference safe. Nodding towards the other cursed members he grabbed a few of the smaller weapons of the party members and some that they may be able to use, daggers, short swords and the like and moved over to place them next to the party out of sight. On the way back he noticed a few guards coming to surround the party of adventurers and intercepted them using his sharp claws to cut belts, draw strings to purses and the like and as they scrambled to stop their weapons and items falling to the ground the party was alerted to their movements.

Siu had his head turned towards the back of the door, working on the lock that had locked when he heard the footsteps stop, the steady clicking that was signalling time passing had finished and an audible gasp could be heard from the room.

Turning around his head and vision seemed to move in slow motion as his vision fell upon a woman in complete white at the bottom of the stairs that made his blood freeze like ice.

As the woman descended the stairs the room dropped in temperature so suddenly that the collective held breath fogged the air over the table when the guests exhaled. The woman was just over five feet in height and appeared to almost float across the ground despite her white slippers that stood on the slowly frosting carpets and rugs that covered the wooden flooring.

“Ah, my queen, you have finally arrived” Teng said, reaching out and helping her towards the larger of the two seats before sitting down in the less impressive of the two. “How was the village?”

A few moments passed as the woman sat, her hair and blindingly white robe seemed to float above her skin as she sat in her throne. Her shoulder length pitch black hair a sharp contrast with the pale blue-white skin that was revealed from underneath the robes. “They did not take the blessings we presented them Lord Teng so I showed them the mercy that we do bring them. Eventually they came around and I believe their leader will come pay homage within a few days to swear fealty” The woman’s drifted over the room, pausing to look directly at Siu as well as at Kyoko and the Party. “I see you have guests, foreigners even. I had thought that they were lost to a warband of Nats, or so I had been led to believe” the woman’s eyes narrowed as she looked at Kyoko. “Why do they sit at my table?”

“My Lady, they come to request aid and return horses that my cousin, Lady Toshio, provided them when they were in need. However I believe that they had lost some along the way – which surprised me to see them present themselves before me and asked for aid despite them being now in debt to our family” Teng said with a knowing smirk, the ploy and plots revealing themselves.

Gritting her teeth Kyoko leant over the table to the party and whispered “I hope you found some evidence” before she stood up to speak. The lady in white floated upwards to also stand, her feet leaving the ground so that her head was above everyone else’s in the room as waves of cold washed across everyone present at the table shaking any remanence of doubt from the minds of those present that she wasn’t a spirit.

“You Lordship, I come before..” Kyoko began before Teng scowled and stood up angrily.

“You will address My queen!” Teng roared, visibility shaking with anger of cold one could not tell.

The spirit smiled cruelly as she taped her finger on her arm while she stared down Kyoko.

NPCs

Kyoko Harimasu

Kyoko, despite her best tries to prevent confrontation may as well be laying siege to a castle as the Toshio’s walls and machinations are too well constructed.

Realising it is a fight and a plea that can’t be met she retreats from the engagement, defending herself with the blade that was given to her by Siu, or Choi, as she makes her swift escape.

Captain Kuang Ping

Quick to jump to his wards defence he is nearly impossible to provoke into reckless action. Kuang never leaves Kyoko’s side during the confrontation but in doing so leaves most of the fighting to the party as he helps Kyoko retreat from the room.

Lord ‘Teng’ Toshio

Teng is completely devoted to Yukri, whether by magical charm or by honest adoration one will never know.

Having a small mercenary force under his control Teng doesn’t shy from conflict but hates to get involved himself preferring to stand behind his queen whilst her magic whittles down who ever gets in their way.

Lucian

Lucians natural blood lust and hatred of the Harimasu family already makes him a prime candidate for Yukri’s charming effects but he is devoted to the queen second only to her husband.

Throwing himself into his duty to impress and prove himself to his Lord and Lady he is an expert in martial weapons and a brutal killing machine when his orders match his fury.

Sasha (Hana Toshio-Harimasu)

Helping the party escape, primarily focused on saving her cousin she delivers a note to Kyoko warning her of Danger whilst retrieving any items that she thinks the party may need in their escape.

Having had Yukri enchant the court to forget Hana’s marriage to Lord Toshio she quickly became forgotten and treated like a mute servant, her voice taken by the spirit (original I know) so that no one could be warned or told of what was happening within the forts walls.

Yukri Toshimo

Once a fair and sought after daughter to a lord she was tricked and turned into a Yuki-onna, spirit who controls the cold – a frost maiden. Setting her sights on an alliance with the Toshio Family at the command of The Shadow she commands the many of the ground troops and even has been given authority over some of the lesser Oni clans.

Discovering that the Kyoko heiress is in her halls she doesn’t hold back in commanding her husbands, Teng Toshio’s, family guard and elite mercenaries to try and kill Kyoko and her companions as she will not tolerate another princess with a claim to power.

Siu and Choi

Realising what was happening both Siu and Choi quickly moved to secure weaponry for the party members, proving their weapons where they could, and looked to secure an exit. Moving quickly to dispatch the guards that were blocking the exit before the final push to keep them from getting through the door and to their companions.

The other Shadow Cursed rallied behind Siu and Choi and fought as best as they could, being unnoticeable had its benefit however, the Yuki-onnas magic was too great and when the fallen rose again as rime covered undead their luck quickly started to run out. Doing the only thing they could think of to buy time for Kyoko and the party they sealed themselves in with the guard and undead and stared to fight not for their lives – but for Kyoko and the party.


Environment and running the adventure

Fighting

To find out what causes the fight we will have to wait for the weekend, but conflict is inevitable. As we had a few weeks ago the aim of this conflict isn’t to best the big bad but its to survive and escape the dinner hall.

The guards form a wall between the party and their Lord and queen (and blocking off the escape behind them – see below) while Lucian charges into the party outraged at the accusations, true or otherwise. The moment Lucian gets below half HP, Yukri (who is fond of her most loyal warrior), will order them to seize Kyoko and the party for treason and assault on a vassal of the Toshio family. And with a room filled with dinner guests who are more terrified of Yukri than the party witnesses to the Toshio’s side of the story will be in high supply.

The guards will try and keep the party at a distance, using longer ranged spears and forming two walls. There should be dozens of them to stress the dire-ness of the situation.

Once either Lucian falls, or a handful (6~10) of Guards start to crumble then Teng and Yukri will retreat up stairs to avoid the fallout and the guards will press forward to complete their orders.

End of the encounter

Kyoko shouts in surprise as she is grabbed and thrown backwards out an open door, several slain guards lay at the door as the Shadow Cursed and Siu took them out. Kuang beckons the party to retreat and as he does so Lucian stumbles to his feat, a thick coating of frost and ice starting to form on his body as his dead eyes flutter open and he begins to push his way through the guards.

The aim is to force the party out the doors, but as the guards and Lucian get close to the door they start to drop, blades and flashes of golden scales can be seen as Siu and his invisible defenders start to lash out to protect Kyoko and their friends. As the party leaves the doorway Siu and Choi flash into focus as they close the doors, the sound of a beam being pulled down to lock the door is heard before shouts of war and combat reverberate through the thick wood. Tugging on their sleeves indicates Sasha (Hana) is with them with any items that were left in the racks (they were gone if the party looked for them), and a few bags as she urges them to follow her as she runs towards the servants quarters. Once there she takes them through the servants entrance which leads them to a few quaint houses near the barracks.

Flight

From where the party leave the building they can see that the wagon is on fire, however there are a few guards horses not far from where they are standing next to the Barracks and the party are able to approach them with ease – The gates are also open but guarded so the party will need to deal with that (creativity is encouraged!).

As they leave they hear a terrible shriek and they turn around to see Yukri standing on a raised platform as the deformed, scaled horse (that died then came back to life the threw itself in the fire – yeah that one) walks up to her and nuzzles her hand before staring at the party.

Leaving the compound is easy as pursuit is slow (as there is still fighting in the building) and Kuang seems to the know the way as he leads the party east and away from the Toshio family.


Aftermath

The fight and following flight following Hana Harimasu through the halls, streets and then out the gate should lead us to tie the Shadow-mare (name pending) in with this weeks adventure and the plot of the Toshio family. This encounter, no fault of the Harimasu party will surely bring further conflict between the two families however there lies a bigger issue, escape to safe grounds and the warband that has a few days head start on them heading to the east.

This does mean that Choi, Siu and the other Shadow Cursed are gone – a long with any other guards that did survive the fight with the Nat’s from last week but I think defending their princess is a fitting end.


Well what a week. I had a bit of fun this week researching more into some folklore around the Yuki-onna as well as tying a few loose ends together to make this weeks adventure work. Don’t forget to come back this week as I will expand upon a few more things, tighten and tweak some items before getting ready to wrap up this month next weekend with the End of June write-up! Oh and, as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,
The Brazen Wolfe