Welcome to the first end of week writeup for September where our princess has returned home! However she has come back to an overshadowed return with the revelation that all is not well at home. A creature has taken up residence within the castles wall and not even the spy Takeo has been able to find it yet. But perhaps our party can help?
As always portraits are created in Artbreeder and the normal wonderful tools like Kobold-fight-Club and D&D Beyond are used frequently.
The familiar sights of the city were a welcome blanket of comfort for Kyoko, Hana and, although he would never admit it Kuang. As the party moved down the streets the busy merchants, artisans, guards and farmers stopped and cheered for the return of Kyoko. At the intersection of a busy street where their was a five feet wide line of red bricks that ran the length of it, perpendicular to the one they were travelling on Kyoko turned with a bright smile and looked in the direction of a massive tree.
The tree was ancient. Easily taller than the majority of the buildings around the city and Kyoko searched for when she returned home. In fact it was the first thing she always checked. Amongst the branches of the tree was a strip of red cloth hanging from a branch, fluttering in the wind loosely. Kyoko turned to the party, still smiling and walked closer. “I feel like a drink in celebration of returning home.” and amongst the cheers of those on the streets around her she head down a road to a the Jade Cup.
The Jade Cup was a well known establishment in Heavens Reach providing good food and drinks to the public. As Kyoko ordered a round of drinks for the table a cloaked stranger sat down next to the party.
“I am sorry Lady Kyoko for interrupting your return to the capital but I hoped you had remembered the training.” the stranger spoke softly as he looked nervously around the room.
“I saw the warning.” she said looking around the room, mimicking the stranger. “So what news do you bring Takeo?”
Takeo leaned in, nodding with a smile to the party. “It’s been some time my friends,” he said before leaning in closer to the table. “I can’t confirm it but there is something in the castle that I can’t detect nor find. I spoke directly to it and discovered no taint, no malicious intent but it intercepted your letters to me and somehow got to the vault before I could. There is also something else in the castle, something that eludes me still.”
“So what do we do from here?” Kyoko asked as she drank from her cup.
“Trust only those you rode in with” Takeo said as he stood from the table and stumbled towards the door. The performance he put on as being drunk and being asked to leave was impressive, but perhaps not his most believable one.
“Well. It’s not quite the welcome I was anticipating, but it’s not the first time we have had this situation.” Kyoko said. “So are we up for a bit of a witch hunt?”
“Now,” Takeo began as he walked down the halls of the castle, “the creature is likely posing as a servant, a guard or part of your family…” Takeo added as if almost an afterthought. “we must be careful of what we reveal here as to not give away us being aware of it.” He took a breath after checking around a corner for others. “Likely someone it has killed. I dare say that it wont risk being exposed by wearing the form of someone it may have the chance of being in the same room as.”
“But if it was able to so convincingly deceive you how will we tell it apart from the others?” Hana asked, her voice still sounding uncertain of itself.
“I was hoping our friends or Lady Liz would be of assistance there.” Takeo said smiling at the party as he approached a grand double door.
“Fathers through there isn’t he?” Kyoko said as she smiled and walked towards the door. “It’s been months since I have seen him.” she added as she pushed on the door.
“Remember what I said my lady.” Takeo said as he pushed the doors open for the princess.
The room on the other side of the doors was flooded in light, airy and had was almost serene. The dozen or so guards, members of court and family and the assistants at the castle all knelt in front of an kind faced man who sat at the top of a dais. As Kyoko entered the room the man looked up and his face broke out into an enormous smile. “Praise and thanks to the ancestors, you have returned safe and with companions I see. Takeo and Lady Lizbet have explained that you are the reason that I have my daughter safe at home.”
The emperor said to the party. “You have my sincerest thanks. If we were meeting upon better times I would have you dine with me for a week in celebration and you would want for nothing. But alas I have restricted the banquets until we can sort out our supply lines with the wall.” he emphasised the situation with a loud sigh. “We are having trouble sending supplies and food up there. When ever we do the caravans and their guards are ambushed and the brave men and women fighting back The Shadow go hungry.”
“Father I am sure that my new friends here would be able to assist us. They have bested a Laelóng, defended me from the Yuki-onna that has allied herself with the traitorous snakes the Toshio family. And they brought back my cousin safely home. I am sure that investigating the happenings with our supply lines is child’s play to them at this stage.” Kyoko said with a broad smile towards the party.
The emperor smiled. In fact he beamed. “Hana. It has been far too long.” he said as the quiet young woman moved from behind the party. “If I had known what was happening to you I would have sent troops to rescue you from your corrupt husband.”
“I dare say that she would have joined us sooner or later” a voice cut across the tender moment between family members as the rustling of feather and the slightest gust of wind sounded from outside an open door. A short, slightly hunched man stepped forward and guards rushed to intercept him.
“Halt!” The emperor called as he stood and moved down the steps to his dais. “I dare say that if you engage that man in combat you cant hope to win.” he said as he reached the bottom of the stairs. “It’s been some time Master Fukiyomo. What dark tidings do you bring?”
The old man smiled. “You know me too well it seems. Unfortunately armies of spirit-folk are ambushing your caravans, but it sounds like you have a plan for that.” the man said as he nodded to Kyoko, the party and Takeo. “But I also believe that we have more to worry about from our neighbours than what comes form the walls at this stage. A sizeable force is marching through the Kunagi ranges as we speak. Slowed down by the collapse of some of the large peaks I will add.” the man nodded respectfully to the group again. “But on this way none-the-less.”
The emperor moved down to a map of the lands as his war council positioned more wooden blocks on it to represent the new information. “Are you sure of this Master?” Takeo said as he stepped forward towards the table, noticing that there was a lot of dark coloured blocked near the wall, about two days ride from here.
“I saw them attempting to clear the rubble from your battle with the Laelóng myself,” he paused as he rested heavy on the hilt of a cane-sword. “As I chased down a Lóminau. One who is without Shadow. A demon of the shadow fell.” The court hummed with the panicked murmur from those who had attended the court. “But I lost it when I felt the presence of a Shadow born. And witnessed it being felled by a party of foreign heroes. So I went to pick up where I left off but could not find where the creature had gone to.” his statement causing a different type of murmur to spread through the room. One of disbelief and awe.
“It seems daughter, that we have much to catch up on. And I expect that Takeo also will want to have words with his master too.” the emperor gravely stated.
Kyoko’s return home is overshadowed as she receives a warning signal from Takeo as she enters the city. Following through with the agrees process with her spy she uncovers that the shadows taint has even spread into her home. Now she asks the party to help expel this darkness from Heavens Reach Castle.
Captain Kuang Ping
Happy to be home Kuang is a bit more relaxed, however quiet and a bit reserved. Feeling guilt for doubting the party and betraying the trust of Kyoko he hides his secret shame and does his best to make up for it in his own way.
Happy to be home and safe Hana is a more vibrant person and is quick to step into the affairs of state where she can. However as she has been with the enemy for a number of years, even married to one of the families that has betrayed them and march upon their gates, reportedly, she isn’t trusted with much.
On the hunt for the creature that thwarted him in the castle Takeo appears calm but highly alert.
Despite his hunt he welcomes Kyoko, Kuang, Hana and especially the party back with open arms and acts as their guide around the castle.
NPC’s and faces of the Void
We have a few NPCs this week and a creature that can make itself appear like any other creature through illusions. Any portrait or description of a NPC will function for this – even NPCs previously met which could lead into some interesting conversations or interactions with the creature where they are appearing as a NPC that the Party may recognise.
Environment and running the adventure
Inside of the castle – A few hallways but it’s a well flowing castle that provides ample hiding positions for the creature to disappear from sight.
Now in order for this week to go smoothly we need to have a few things ironed out. In fact we need to know exactly what the end goal of the month is and for me that’s easy. I want the party to find, confront and then defeat the creature that is so well accustomed to lies and illusion that its existence is in fact one. But how do we confront an illusion. This is the question we need to answer tonight by the following.
- Strange happenings
- Mirrored espionage
For our party to be truth seekers we need them to have leads. Takeo, Kyoko or even the members of the household may come forth (indeed a few of them will) and advise that they saw other members of staff different ones, acting strangely. The common denominator is that all of them cant remember who it was. but give a generic explanation that they feel as though they were friends and remember them at dinners and festivals.
Each person though, when questioned more, had a jade serpentine bracelet on their right wrist. The party can either ask the question outright or if they are a bit stumped we can assist. To assist the party the second person they question would look uncertain and come back to bring it up that they remembered something that stood out. The jade bracelet. They would explain that the Jade bracelet normally was reserved for a certain level of staff as a symbol of their favour from the emperor.
When finding the member of staff, the keeper of Jade, who is responsible for these bracelets is the next step. Once there they show off the five bracelets they have – as they are returned and stored in a chest every night at which point the party can investigate them.
The Jade bracelet is our first clue. One of them is an illusion and DC 15 investigation or arcana check will see through it. Those with witch sight or the ability to detect magic can tell that all of them have an enchantment placed upon them but one of them has a strong illusion magic placed on it.
The Keeper of Jade goes into panic mode and wants to raise the issue with the emperor. The party can let it happen at which point it makes the third step harder or they can urge them to remain quiet – Something that both Takeo and Kyoko would have mentioned to them.
The Jade Bracelet that is missing and an illusion (its a rusted copper ring with fell writing inscribed into it) belongs to a member of staff who deals with serving food, primarily to the emperor and family.
When the person is questioned about the bracelet, if they are, they snap out as if coming out from a trance and become extremely disorientated. Upon questioning they cant remember the last two weeks. They remember walking into the library to take a scholar there some food and that’s the last thing they remember. The staff member has flashes of dream like memories of conversations with new staff where parts of the memory are disjointed or blurry.
As part of this dream memory they distinctly remember that one of the staff had their shadow shift and stir as if a candle was flickering on the other side of them but there was nothing there. The staff of house show the party to the library and to where the new staff reside.
The library has an entire book shelf cast in illusion which is only broken by DC 15 investigation or arcana check. Once broken the party realises that he books are either missing or strewn around the shelf and floor. The illusion is powerful enough that physical interaction from our seekers of truth doesn’t break the illusion.
The staff quarters has no illusion on it.
During their investigation a successful DC17 perception check will reveal that they are being followed by someone who knows how to tail them. This person (creature) wears an ordinary face of a member of staff. In fact they may have spoken to this person already who came to them to report something odd or out of the ordinary that was completely different to everyone else.
If confronted the creature will move swiftly but in a calculating way through the halls and the party will lose track of them in a door way. The doorway wont be to anything in specific but I would maybe have it lead to a lesser family members room who wont take kindly to being interrupted or questioned.
If not confronted they will tail the party for the rest of the session unless they go to the library – at which point it will hurriedly leave.
Well another week come and gone and its been great having you along for the ride. and as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,
The Brazen Wolfe
You must log in to post a comment.