Mount Tapaku

Tonight we continue north into the Toshio family’s fort at the base of a mountain called Mount Tapaku, home to the Toshio families Lotus pool and where Kyoko’s cousin, Hana, resides with her husband Teng Tashio. But the journey there is dangerous and there are greater plots at foot with the sudden death of one of the mares that the Toshio heiress, Yhin, had leant them spurred them into action to take the long trek into the northern mountain pass to return the horses and, seek the last ingredient for the cure to the Shadow Bruise curse. But the journey will leave them weary, battered and wondering if the ordeal was worth the effort, surely the halls of a fellow prominent family must be safer than the wilds where spirits and creatures are drawn towards the warmth of life.

As with last time Pages 1, 2 and 3 are content pages, the description, flow, random tables, etc. and such that you’ve previously seen.
Page 4 contains all NPCs and portraits to help the DM describe them and a bit about them to help play them out.
Page 5 will be stat blocks and map(s) – all that D&D encounter goodness that you want.

Now I will assume you have read the entire post which has had some bits modified over the months content (and some bits added) then I will applaud and thank you for sitting down and reading through a mere 16386 words long!). I really do appreciate the time you take to read through these end of month adventures.

All Maps were made in Inkarnate using their Pro license.

Don’t forget to come back next week and, as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,
The Brazen Wolfe

Part 1 – Ill Intentions – 222MoBD

The night that they return from Shuimu Ridge they are greeted by a cosy room and warm food. Not long after they have started to relax the door to the room bursts open and Kyoko is standing behind a few City guard.

The guard clears his throat nervously as he looks back at what would appear to be his captain standing next to Kyoko, “we are in need of your assistance, we need heroes. A man was found exhausted and injured coming down from the mountains nearby, a hour away or so, it appears as though his village was attacked by the risen dead and he alone escaped. If we don’t do something now the undead will get to the city where the noise and amount of life will be too much for them to ignore and we will have a many casualties outside the city and within. Please go and investigate the claims and if there are any risen there, dispose of them.”

Kyoko smiles to the party after the guard has finished his plea. “I know that asking this of you so soon after you have returned from another mission for my people is to much, but these are good innocent people and the guard are not equipped to deal with this. If you can help please lend us your aid”

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, and the night before, 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.

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 back off before things get serious.”

A few moments later, words being spoken in hushed tones amongst the party he smiled. “It looks like you need some persuading – then let me open up the dialogue”. A flurry of hand gestured combined with martial arts and the man in front of them started to emit a strong buzzing noise and in heart beats insects flew to him from the plants, beasts of burden and buildings around him. Jumping forward, covering ten feet in an instant he landed in a crouching stance – his arms spreading out wide as the insects followed his lead and spread out as if a wave had crashed upon the ground. The insect crashed against the party, those not swift enough to avoid them were covered in biting and stinging insects – wasps, bees, flies and locusts climbed on the party as they flew through the air while a tide of spiders, centipedes and crawling insects rushed across the ground at frantic pace to do the bidding of Sai. Another snap motion and his hand extended towards the ground where the crawling insects gathered and as if by an telepathy command they crawled over his body, and gathered into a shifting crawling mass before four heaving masses of insects stepped forward from the centralised blob – the man appeared to have disappeared into mass of insects himself.

A the attacks flew forth from the party their blades, bolts and magic sent hundreds of crawling, biting, stinging insects to the ground from their allies and from the four identical masses in front of them but as they swung, stabbed, shot and spelled their way through the bugs they would suffer a brutal biting counter attack and even the stoutest of them could start to feel the affect of one if not many of the insects poison affecting their coordination and concentration. Attacking more frantically, or targeted – who is to say, suddenly one of the shifting blobs stumbled backwards, a splattering of blood lining the ground as Sai’s form was briefly revealed.

“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.

Areas and places of note

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.

Environment and running the adventure

The Plaza– see map.

People moving through the zone may give partial cover or make movement hard as people run for cover to get away from the combatants, this with stalls, fountains and other miscellaneous items that are strewn about the plaza. For attacking or shooting around people provide the target with +2ac and if moving across loose scattered items (or running over stalls / tables) then I’d have a dexterity check (DC12) or falling prone/off the stalls.

Notable NPC interactions.

Koyko Harimasu – While the party go to investigate the mare, and subsequently investigate the would-be assassin Kyoko organises the next stage in their journey – heading north into the colder lands of Toshio territory.

Elizabeth “Lizbet” Scaulder – Liz goes with the party to look for magical reasons for the mare to have died and then stays back to ensure that Takeo is healed as the poisons surge through his body.

Siu – Siu stays with Liz and Takeo to ensure that no one else sees the state of the mare, or can interfere in Liz healing Takeo.

Takeo – Takeo realises that the man has snuck into the room before he is attacked with poison darts that quickly take him out, luckily for Takeo Liz is with them and quickly beseeches Chauntea to rid his body of the poisons.

Sai Tsugen – Locust Clan operative – Sai is the antagonist of this part of the adventure and sees to the party being taken away from the mare as he speeds off to send his report containing what was seen regarding Liz back to her employer, Karyn.

Glacial Ridge223MoGlRi

After the party returned from their confrontation with Sai, their heads burning and buzzing from the poisons that the swarms of insects had graciously gifted them, returned to check on Takeo finding that the door was open and Kyoko was talking in hushed tones with Liz and Takeo. Noticing that the party were approaching she ushered them inside the door where Takeo quickly closed the door behind them.

“You fools, you could have died fighting one of the Locust clan – many have and many will continue to do so if they keep under estimating them.” Takeo berated them the moment the door was closed behind them. “Anything and everything that man, if it even was a man, has said is likely a lie. They can change their voices, their faces with a moments thought and..” Takeo was interrupted by a whinny from across the room. Next to Kyoko stood a mare, the one that was most definitely dead the last time the party saw it.

“There has been a development. Sometime during Liz healing Takeo the mare convulsed, wretched violently and stood up. There is something unnatural here so word of the mare’s death and sudden miraculous healing is not to leave the room” Kyoko began, tightening a muzzle around the mares mouth. “It’s also different – this beast is not the same we walked in with, this one is feral, vicious and there is a cunning in it that has me concerned” Kyoko said staring at the beasts eyes as it shook its head and relieved itself into the straw.

“Before something else foul happens to us or the horse” Liz commented as she began casting a prayer of healing over the party – the last of the affects from the poison slowly disappearing.

“I agree, I have made preparations for us to return the horses to a minor Toshi house, a cousin of mine married into the family and their husband has been perhaps the most welcoming to us in many years.” Kyoko said as she stepped away from the horse – making sure it was secured tightly to the building. “We will return for the horses and then leave to head north.

The road was well made, smooth but worn and relatively flat. Either side of the road lay distance mountains and forests that made up Shuimu’s ridge and to the east, opposite the ridge, lay farmland, rolling hills and snow capped grey mountains in this distance. “Beyond those is what we call the Shadowlands. It takes a long time to cross those mountains and those who complete that feat are rewarded with the regret that they did for beyond those ice capped teeth lie a foul waste land where beasts, demons and spirits hunt for humans to feed their monstrous brood, or, to corrupt and bolster their forces. They are the thralls and the armies of The Shadow and those mountains, and a great wall to the south of them are all that keep the endless tide of darkness from corrupting these lands” Kyoko said as she rode up next to the party.

The mare had caused little trouble as they made their way up the road towards their destination, a few days at worst they had been told but the Mare was showing some signs of ailments with some hair falling out in small clumps despite it eating, drinking and walking well – the exception being that it was dead at the start of the morning.

As the party continued on, the nights got colder and the days seemed to become gloomier. Kyoko’s men and the party started having to take more watch shifts at night as strange things walking in the hills and rocky outcrops of this unwelcoming part of the land. “This place is normally rife with deer and other passive creatures, but it looks as if even this far to the south east the shadows tendrils have crept in some how. We will see my cousin and her husband, the lord of these lands by tomorrow and we should be able to request the rest of the cure for these men and women who are afflicted by the shadows curse.” Kyoko said as she handed food towards the multiple wagons and caravans that contained those afflicted by the shadow bruise curse. Amazed that although she couldn’t detect many of them that the food still disappeared without her noticing it was gone from her hands – such was the curse.

“We will set up camp at the base of the next ridge, its most protected from the elements, easily defensible as well as only half a days travel to our destination. If we continue on we will arrive after dusk and will have to be prepared for fights in quite hostile and unforgiveable areas amongst the rocks and winding passes as we climb to the top of the ridge.” A woman, one of Kyoko’s guards, called out as she rode up and down those who travelled with the princess. “Check your gear now, there isn’t room for error or mistakes in the coming days travel so you best be prepared.

Moving through the tents, caravans and bedrolls – hastily put down and then abandoned just as quickly as people huddled near the fires to shake off the chill that seemed to be rolling down the ridge above them.

“Look alive, I don’t like how the chill settles on the grass while the sun still pokes her head above the horizon” the Captain, Kuang Ping, muttered as he placed hot soup in the hands of the handful of troops he had with him to protect Kyoko.

Reaching the bubbling pot in front of a gathering of refugees from Jade point he turned around and started to place bowls of the hearty meal in their hands. The people stared at him in shock as he jiggled the bowl around in front of them. “You going to take it so I can continue to monitor the perimeter or not?” he asked a tired, gruff man who had the appearance of a sailor.

“How can… ” the man began looking at his fellow shadow bruised, “Is the curse lifted?” he asked a tinge of excitement touching his voice as he grasped the hand of Kuang.

Smiling down at the man and those who clambered around him he shook his head, his smile unable to mask the sadness in his voice as he spoke “The Shadows taint has not yet left your body, but you are not cursed.” the man said as he sat down in front of the gathering of men and women. “When I was a child I wandered the Forest of screams, not its actual name but when the moon was dark and the wind pushed through those twisted branches,” he stopped a warm smile appearing on his face, “My brother used to tell me that there was nothing in those woods, he was strong, one of the last blessed by the lotus in my clan before the harrowing…” his smile dropped. “One night one of our dogs, my mothers prized bitch, ran into the woods at night. She was ready to pup you see and tried to find a place that she could get away from the other dogs. I couldn’t handle seeing my mother that distressed and so I chased after he dog into the woods. It wasn’t long until I became lost, but I was not alone in those twisted branches for like I chased after something that gave my mother joy my brother did also – and he chased after me into those woods.” a crowed gathered, people who could not see the shadow bruised and those travelling with him and the adventurers and, Kuang paused as his eyes met those of Siu, the ancestors emissary, after a nod of reverence towards the golden scaled creature he continued. “My brother was so fast, I did not even see the Oni and the Gaki before they were on me,” Kuang stood up and drew his sword as he began to spar with the fire – his movements like if a snake and the wind had created a being of war, “he drew his sword, this sword, and defended me for hours. Constantly in motion; striking, fading, feinting before decapitating another horrid creature as we constantly moved out of the woods. He was a being of fury, or righteousness but a beacon of light.”

The old mans voice wavered as he stared at the fire dancing along his polished silver of the blade, the reflection of the moon on one side and the flickering flames on the other. “As he pushed me out of the woods he drove his blade through the throat of the most monstrous Gaki I have ever seen but not before one of its limbs pierced him in his side causing him to lose his grip on the blade as he was thrashed around. I did what any brother would do, I rushed forward and ripped the blade out before cutting my brother free, wrenching the limb out as the beast thrashed and wailed. I stood and attempted to lift my brother up but the beast wasn’t done with us yet. I received another one of its barbed limb through my thigh, severing it and pulling it through I moved myself and my brother to a safe distance, bandaged our wounds with my robe and we made as much haste to the safety of the walls of our keep, supporting each other until we made it through the gate.” Kuang sheathed his blade and sat with his back facing the fire a dance of light and shadow. “The wound carried some taint of the shadowlands. I was wracked in pain but I refused to leave my brothers side,” he scoffed with a smile, “they set my bed next to his so I could be next to him as he fought for his life.”

“He did not make it.” Kuang said looking up towards the gathered audience to his tale. “Before he did he imparted some wisdom to me which I want to share with you now. Do not dwell on what can not be changed. Every power in the land has both a light and a shadow, a yin and yang, and only when there is balance and understanding of such can true power be realised.” Kuang stopped and swallowed. “you see, the power of the lotus that he had received was balance. He could see both sides and in some way that night, the taint of the Gaki that courses through my veins is also a power. After my brother died I could see spirits, benign and malicious, light and shadow and I thought it a curse. But after joining her ladies guard I can tell you now – that the curse has a light to its shadow. Being able to see the taint in others, to see the dark has saved my life and hers more times than I care to count. Don’t view your curse as one, but look for the light to its shadow. You are unseen, unremarkable, unnoticed whilst you bear that taint. That’s a blessing. Imagine what you could do with the power to be a presence in the crowd, maybe you just need to make use of the curse for it to no longer be one.” he said as he stood, looking towards a few men who were meant to be on patrol with a frown.

“Captain,” a timid voice, a young boy who survived Jade Point but was lucky to be untainted. “What happened to the dog?”

Kuang grinned. “The bitch had nine puppies, she had returned home at the first howl of wind through those cursed branches.


Frosted Ridge – See map.

The icy cold wind blustered through the pines causing the fresh slow to scatter amongst the bed rolls and tents. The gathered soldiers huddles around the fires and walked between the tree trunks alert for any changes or creatures that were lurking amongst the flurries.

The ridge that they had camped next to provided a tall barrier to defend their flank reducing the amount of areas of possible ambush or attack that they had to be alert to but despite this the captain and a few heroes of some repute kept a wary eye on the steep craggy rock face – experience trumping expectation in this instance.

Despite the vigilance the snow and icy wind blowing from the east brought more snow as the night went on, dusting the trees and dulling the mood. The howling of the wind coming down from the rocks above masked the sound of yipping and the crunch of snow from above them as the creatures that the Shadow commanded moved towards the light, and their quarry.

To start off the encounter I want to have the seed planted hatch. The encounter itself is a fight amongst the trees where the Nat spirit folk attack the travellers and Kyoko’s escort below the ridge. A few thrown boulders would be the First known signs of the attack before fast moving little Nats’ would dash into combat and a few bigger in ones in would wade through and smash trees and wade into the humans swinging weapons both natural and crafted.

To start the encounter the sick horse would scream, buck and break the bindings it had on before throwing itself into the first. The smell of burnt horse hair wafts through the clearing while it screams in pain. The horse stands and runs out, instead of hair its covered in a wart-like scaled hide now that is blotchy and the colour of fresh bruises. It hisses, revealing a tongue that’s been ripped in two as its head and skull cracks as its face distorts before their eyes as its transformation continues. After its done clawed feet, a snake like tongue and sharp fangs greet the petrified onlookers as it darts off down the road away from the convoy.

For this week let’s assume that our party were level 6. Several smaller creatures and a few bigger ones shouldn’t be an issue. Have the creatures attack the camps and NPC’s to give the party less attacks coming their way. After some time, during the first three or so rounds of combat have the elder appear and attack the caravans before, obviously begrudgingly, attacking the party and Kyoko.

After the encounter:

The corrupted horse has fled off to who knows where, one or two of the three caravans are broken and only the Captain and two of his soldiers remain. Only five Shadow bruised remain including Siu and Choi. Those that remain aren’t badly injured and most of them picked up some weapon to defend themselves with and did well.

Upon death the elder Nat mutters strange words as it dies, which the captain translates. “All I wanted was my den back and the shadow to leave me out of his war with the wall..”

The milling bodies and withered husks that shifted around the rocks, roots and rotting logs did not phase the hunched creature who stared into the encroaching darkness, its unblinking orbs of inky blackness darting from noise and burst of light in the distance.

As the sun fell and the dark moon begun take its place in the sky the creatures began to move out from the twisted trees, caves and shadowy alcoves to gather under a tall twisted rock. The creature who watched this unfolding snapped harshly at a young excited creature with long arms as it bumped into his side. Growling it unfurled it’s large limbs which it preferred to lay on and began to stride towards the gathering rock, as tonight in the pale luminous moonlight they would receive instructions.

The bouncing, snapping throng formed a single breathing entity as the same manic energy buzzed around the gaki and half-breeds gathered, largest and eldest of their kind stood closest to the pillar of stone and dirt. A figure in white drifted above them, ascending the rock as if climbing into the skies itself as a Oni wearing the skin of a human stood beside it.

“Tonight,” the voice boomed from the humanoid – causing the entire congregation of beasts to still and silence, “tonight you make good your oaths to the shadow. Tonight you storm the walls from the inside, you smash their defences and, some of you may impress our Lord enough to strike a blow that the mortals won’t soon forget.” The human said causing some of the gathered to roar.

The creature below sat on its limbs again, this was hardly worth the effort of getting up from its cave. Shaking its head in disbelief as the throng of creatures rushed towards the east it wondered how long until it was told to move.

“you’ve lived for quite some time old one,” a soft cold voice spoke in its mind. “Head to the west instead, gather the stragglers as I have a more important job for you.

The creature looked around to find the source of the voice and finding nothing it decided to ignore the command.

As it stood to leave back to the dark and damp hole it lived in a cold presence shot up its side. “You are not so old to ignore me young one. This comes from the shadow as its interests are threatened. Succeed and be rewarded, ignore the call and be punished. My lord awaits your decision”

The presence drifted off, and the creature still looked towards where it’s home was. The wrath of the shadow is not something it wished for. Shaking its head it turned towards the west as dozens of smaller creatures started to skip, jump and yip around it like young excitable pups.