Hunters in the Dark

Welcome to the end of week writeup for the second week of August. This week saw the party taking a moments rest in the village where Mugrave gets her night prowlers to attack them. However its not only Mugrave who wishes the party harm as dark pacts are also made in the shadow laden alleyways. What can the party do against such Hunters in the Dark when their own allies plot against them?


Hunters in the Dark

Mugrave passed the guards at the gate and smiled at them, giving a little wave as she walked with a bucket in hand towards the stream. The guards waved back and cautioned her to be careful of the stream as it wasn’t safe at night. Little did they know.

As she approached the stream she placed the bucket down at the edge of the water and continued past the edge. Striding through the waist deep stream was effortless for her being an Oni in the skin of a human and soon she was standing at the edge of a small orchard.

Growling echoed forth from the trees as four feline like shapes stalked forth from the trees.

“Hello my pets,” Mugrave cooed as she patted the first large scaled head that nuzzled her. “Yes you are hungry things aren’t you?” she asked as she patted a second.

A third and fourth waited their turn and she approached them and patted them affectionately, all four creatures reached out with tentacle like appendages and caressed her in return.

“I have a job for you four. There are some people that pose a threat to us. They don’t want us around and master has ordered their deaths. You four are going to give that to them aren’t you?” she cooed as she patted the first two creatures again. The feelings of hunger, acceptance and thrill of the hunt resonated from the creatures like pulse.

“Tonight you will find a mark on the door to where they stay. Find it and kill all who reside within. Leave before daybreak” she said as she stood to leave. The creatures patted her as she left them, their hissing snarls greeting the heels of her feet as she strode back to the village.


Doorich Cottage

“Make yourself comfortable. You seven have been through quite a lot” Yulve said in soft tones as she busily hurried around from person to person.

“There is no need to fuss Yulve. You have done more than enough” Kyoko said as she accepted the hot tea that was handed to her. Glancing towards Kuang she could see that the venerated general was regaling stories of past conquests and battles with Yulve’s husband, Peruve – one of the first foreigners who Kyoko had met all those years ago. Hana busily tried to help Yulve who just as quickly tried to shoo the young Harimasu family member back to her seat.

“Now we don’t have much,” she explained, “but we have some venison stew”. The stew itself may have been plain but it was delicious and hearty and the party could not refuse a warm meal. After explaining what they had encountered on the streets, the shape shifters, Peruve looked up at Yulve.

“Wasn’t there an old folk tale that your folks used to tell me about?” he asked. “You know, the one about the monk who refused any offers of help on the road or something.”

“Yes, you’re right. The Quaigin. A race of cheeky shape shifters who take the form of any they touch. They are immortal spirit folk who unfortunately serve the Shadow.” she continued to explain as she collected cups and plates. “I say unfortunately as the legends say that they once stood against the Shadow but because of their nature no one trusted them to keep their word. They dissolved all ties and retreated back into the mountains I think was the last we heard of them.”

Night fall

After supper and the last of the light had faded from the sky the party retired to the three rooms that were available with Kuang opting to sleep in the hallway outside of Kyokos room. As Peruve walked through the building he heard a scratching on the wood. Moving to the front door with a short blade in his hand he opened the door. Outside the nights sky was cold and contained no clouds whilst guards and refugees walked outside. Closing the door behind him and locking it he didn’t notice the glyph scratched into the door or how it glowed slightly.

Mugrave watched the Doorich cottage from across the road as she ate some bread. Transforming her finger down from its Oni sized to a form more fitting a humans she waited for her pets to visit the house.

“The plan is in motion. We have tested them and found that they are formidable but none have survived the four of them before.” She mumbled to the dark, a cold tendril of shadow touching her arm. “We will have our answers soon, from their living lips or driven out from their dead flesh.” she said after chewing through a chunk of bread and salted meat.

“You there. Miss.” a guard said as he approached Mugrave.

“what can I help you with guardsman?” Mugrave asked in a cheerful sweet one.

“I want to warn you that some refugees have been reported to be going missing. So I wanted let you know that we have placed extra guards around the refugee camp in case you need protection.”

She smiled – humans had the potential for great kindness and great malice. “That’s very kind of you. I shall send my thanks to the guards tonight.”

The guard smiled and shook his head, handing a flask of liquid to her. “No need to thank me, Lady Kyoko ordered it and we are happy to oblige.” he said before walking off down the street.

As the party left the Village and headed north she watched from the side of the road. Posing as one of the refugees from an earlier village she had made it to this small town without any real issue. Now that she was seen as one of those who drifted, one of those in need it was easy to move from place to place without questions being asked which suited her purposes.

“Soon we will be rid of that princess. Once she leads me to the light.” Mugrave muttered quietly to herself as she moved to get some food. “Once I have taken care of the light then our plan wont fail” she said to the voice in her head. The Shadow was pleased with his servant and retreated back from the busy street.


Mugrave licked her fingers clean of the blood that was dripping from them as the distant lights from fires and starts flickered through the alley. Even in her Oni form the alleys were large, big enough for a horse or two to fit down which was their purpose. Smiling she looked down at the pile of body parts and picked up a flabby arm. It wasn’t her favourite cut of meat, but it will sustain her for a little while yet.

She stopped her biting and slurping and looked towards the entrance to the alley as she sensed a presence there. After a few moments of sitting and waiting she looked down at the arm and the congealing fat around the muscle. Sighing she discarded it and added it to the pile of unappetising body parts. With an utterance of a dark phrase the pile of burst into a dark flame and she shed her Oni form returning to the human she had been wearing.

Stretching her now-cramped feeling bones she went to leave the alley and stopped when she felt a presence next to her. Shifting her glance she mocked surprise and restrained her violent response.

“You surprised me!” she said after giving a small shriek.

“Apologies, but may I be direct?” the man said to her.

“Depends on what you are asking I suppose” she replied coyly, panting and patting her chest as if trying to fan air into her lungs. “In fact, it also depends on who is asking also” she mused as she looked towards the man in shadow.

Stepping forward the sharp looking man looked at her with piercing eyes which she knew could see her Oni self. “Shall we cut the pretence Mugrave and talk business, or I can cut you down here.”

Interesting, she thought. It as not often that humans willingly reached out to her and even more infrequently those who knew her true form. “I guess we can” she replied as she revealed her palms – the signs of blood and gore removed from her skin with the transformation. A boon of being a skin walker.

They walked for some time through the streets discussing the battles they had been in and making somewhat pleasant talk. When they were far enough away from the refugees or polite company he turned to her and looked her in the eyes. “I want a truce. You are not to harm, curse or place dark pacts Kyoko or her family.” he said bluntly.

“What makes you think I am after them?” she replied as she sat down on a box in the street they found themselves in.

“The foreigners. I thought as much. If you leave the Harimasu and can swear and oath that they will not be harmed in any way by your or your masters power. Then you can have the foreigners and I nor my soldiers will stop you.” Kuang said.

Thinking about the possibility of having her mission handed to her on a platter she thought about the consequences. Not my masters or my power. Hard to move around as her masters powers were vast beyond compare. But he didn’t mention natural influence. Kuang extended a hand towards Mugrave, an unwelcome gesture to her as her kind had to be wary of pacts.

“I will agree to these terms if you answer me a question,” Mugrave said as she stood upright and allowed her form to half-shift, “How long have you known I was who I was and how.” she was curious. After all mortals generally were able to see her.

“I was cursed as a child. I see all spirits in their true form.” Kuang said, his eyes flashing in the fire light of a nearby torch as if to emphasise his point. Mugrave smiled and shook his hand.

Broken

Hana was preparing for bed. As she fluffed the pillow and rolled over to blow out the candle she smiled at her cousin. It was nice to be back with her family.

“Goodnight Hana” Kyoko said as she propped her sword up next to the head of the bed.

Hana smiled and mouthed her response. “Good night” the soft sound of her voice came out which cause Kyoko to start and nearly fall out of bed. “I spoke” was all Hana could say as Kyoko stared at her, a look of concentration and puzzlement crossing her features.


NPCs

Kyoko Harimasu

Kyoko disappears during the night with Hana to go and seek someone who can provide insight and wisdom into the sudden return of her voice. Guided and guarded by Kuang (who was all too eager to be out of Doorich Cottage) they are no where to be found when the Night Prowlers attack.

Captain Kuang Ping

Believing that the party members and Liz are the reason that Kyoko has been directly targeted by not only the shadow but by the Toshio family he seeks to separate the two. What he doesnt realise is that Mugrave and the Shadow are using his superstition against him and that they will quickly turn against his pact when the timing is right.

Sasha (Hana Toshio-Harimasu)

Shocked with the sudden reappearance of her voice Hana is quickly taken to a local herbalist who specialises in the magical phenomenon of the Ryokughan region.

Mugrave – Human form

Seeking the end to the Harismasu reign she will do just about everything, sacrificing her beloved pets included, to ensure that no one stands in her way. Letting lose her Night prowlers to be hunters in the dark she even goes to make a pact with Capitan Kuang as a way to see her masters plans come to reality.


Environment and running the adventure

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Encounter – Hunters in the Dark

The new and improved Kobold-fight club is beautiful. The improvements made on the UI and the ability to generate encounters is phenomenal and I can say that it made balancing this encounter easy. For this encounter 4 of these creatures is what we are targeting. Attacking in pairs at a minimum and trying to use their grapple to an advantage is what the general play would be before going in for the bite attacks on those restrained.

The idea behind this fight is that they will flee when the fight looks rough and re-ambush the party in the streets. Using the height of rooftops to their advantage and pouncing down upon their prey. These creatures aren’t meant to be pushovers and they aren’t dumb hunters. They know when to retreat and will retreat as a pack rather than individuals.

Description

Inspiration comes from, duh, the displacer beast but I also would add certain fey like inspirations. Only 4 legs, 2 tentacles that are sensory primarily (hence the blind sight) but a row of frills around the back of their skull that gives the look of a Dilophosaurus. Relatively fine hair is sporadic and in tufts whilst a thick scaly hide sits under their skin.

This with their muted colour, silent approach make them perfect urban ambush creatures and ideal Hunters in the Dark.

Night Prowlers

Made with Tetra-Cube


Well here we are, at the end of another week. Thanks for joining me as I continue this journey across the Ryokughan continent. Now don’t forget to come back for the next week of content where we watch Mugrave get more aggressive. Oh, and as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,
The Brazen Wolfe

Form Shifters

Welcome to the first of the end of week writeup for August. This week saw the party moving through ruined villages and towns as they head towards Heavens Reach, Kyoko’s castle. While moving through the refugees of the ruined villages the party come under attack from form shifters.


Form Shifters

After the party had found some horses that were in need of some new, living owners they continued north. The hope of a warm bed and hot meals quickly fades when they passed another village that was in the wake of violence left by the Shadows minions. As they passed through the village they noted that only some of the houses were destroyed whilst others looked like they had sustained minimal damage. But regardless of which of the villages along the northern road they travelled there were always bodies in some stage of mutilation or being devoured.

About three days travel from the Kunagi Ranges the party came across a village that was untouched. In fact as they asked around they quickly became aware that many of the people in this village were refugees from the previous village or some to the East.

“What’s east?” asked one of the players.

“The wall, our last defence from the shadow and the hordes of creatures that it commands in the mountains” Kyoko replied.

“We best make haste to your home Lady Kyoko, I fear that we spend too much time on these roads” Kuang said as he analyses the buildings and faces nearby.


Begging

As the party left the Village and headed north she watched from the side of the road. Posing as one of the refugees from an earlier village she had made it to this small town without any real issue. Now that she was seen as one of those who drifted, one of those in need it was easy to move from place to place without questions being asked which suited her purposes.

“Soon we will be rid of that princess. Once she leads me to the light.” Mugrave muttered quietly to herself as she moved to get some food. “Once I have taken care of the light then our plan wont fail” she said to the voice in her head. The Shadow was pleased with his servant and retreated back from the busy street.


“We won’t stay long in this village on our way to Heavens Reach.” Kyoko explained as she moved down the street, greeting villagers and guards like she was an old acquaintance of some. “I don’t like the idea of that spirit harming these innocent folk because we stayed a moment too long.”

“I agree. It’s best for your safety and the safety of others if we can return you home.” Kuang said as he uncharacteristically bent down and handed some food to a few small children who were begging for it.

Without warning one of the guards that had approached Kyoko drew their sword and lunged at the princess. The party sprang into action and within moments the guard lay at their feet. After a few moments of looking for other threats the body of the guard shuddered once and a gargling wheeze came forth from the body. As the shuddering stopped the body separated into finger length slugs that crawled into the ground leaving nothing behind.

Staring at the creature, the place where it was to be more exact, the party were unable to identify the creature. Kuang, Hana and Kyoko stared at some of the fleshy slug like creatures as they buried in the ground. Scooping one up and putting it in a glass bottle Kyoko examined the creature.

The skin of it appeared to take on the texture and colour of what body part, clothing or item it was imitating before it was reverted back to this fleshy slug form. After a few moments of it being captured in a bottle it slowed its twitching and writhing before stopping all together and appearing to be dead. “Gross little creature,” Kyoko muttered as she stared at it, “some of the studied men back home may know what it is.”

Walking down the road once more, this time more cautious they met with no difficulty or hostility for quite some time. The group even let their guard down as they approached a vendor selling breads and street food. As they went to hand over the bartered for coin a knife dashed out from behind the counter and after another intense fight another mass of fleshy slugs wormed their way into the ground.

“These attacks are not enough to get past us.” Kuang mused as he looked at one of the slugs he had impaled on his sword. “They die quickly, inflict little to no damage but its the same type of creature attacking us in different ways. There must be a plan or intent behind these attacks.”


Walking through the streets trailing the foreigners and the Harimasu princess was easy. Dressed as she was, with the skin she was wearing she could blend in any where. Mugrave moved through the streets, appearing hungry and confused, a look of fear and a touch of despair tugging at her voice helped to sell the act.

As she moves from door to door, vendor to vendor she asks for food, spare coin or clothes to keep her warm. Her comely appearance, soft voice and youthful skin draw more than one glance from the men but that doesn’t concern her. She watches as one of her agents moves closer to the party, glancing back knowingly towards the her and receiving a signal from Mugrave before lunging at Kyoko.

The panic that ensued was sheer bliss. Mugrave relished in watching the streets erupt into chaos as the adventurers and Kyokos guard erupted into action easily cutting down the would be assailant. As she pretended to scream and scramble to safety as the violent response came Mugrave studied them. She watched their moves and the assessing their capabilities as was her plan. She could not attack the group without knowing what she was up against and now she knew.

As the day went on more of her agents attacked the group and she learnt more about their strength. She would need to be careful with this lot.

Settling down in a refugee camp for the night she enjoyed the comforts of poverty. Free food, blankets and different faces, emotions and personalities to learn and perfect. For a skin walker such as herself having a supply of inspiration and a list of faces and voices to use was of most importance.


NPCs

Kyoko Harimasu

Kyoko is a bit of a celebrity in the villages as she moves through and helps those she can.

Captain Kuang Ping

Kuangs warmer now he moves amongst his people. Helping families and people and even sparring with some refugees to demonstrate his skill. As the captain of the Harimasu guard he is well celebrated. Once the attacks start he is in his element and not a single blow lands on kyoko as he intercepts them all.

Sasha (Hana Toshio-Harimasu)

Hana is much like Kyoko without the celebrity status. She helps where she can and people celebrate her passing along with Kyoko and Kuang. The three are well loved and despite the trauma the villagers and townsfolk have endured these past few weeks they try and protect and help the harimasu heir where they can.

Mugrave – Human form

Mugrave is a skin walker, a form shifter like none before her. She is here to find the light, the one they call Liz but she found something more. Kyoko and the adventures. Not wanting to let go of a chance to gain further Intel she launched into action using her Quaigin’s to test their strength.


Environment and running the adventure

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Encounter

The panicked streets is an easy enough gimmick with people running around and looking for a place to hide. This means that for our party they now have to deal with this movement and shift of potential threats. As DMs we need to really sell this. Describe the moment that the panic sets in or just simply emphasise that these people, refugees or farmers are just trying to get away from the spark of violence.

These small details can help drive the narrative of the encounter and enrich it from just being “Combat” to being “roleplay”.

The actual encounter should be one or two Quaigin attacking at once. Trying a different approach or tactic each time as they test how the party react.

Lore: Skin Walker

Legend has it in Ryokughan that under the right circumstances one can become a skin walker. In fact the ability to shape shift and assume any form, voice and personality is not something that is unobtainable but in some cultures, it is something that is routine.
The Oni and those who are born tied to the shadow are frequently blessed with the ability to shift appearance, taking a new form and voice to help reach their goals. These Skin walkers form the strongest and most prized of The Shadows champions and are frequently the cornerstone of its plans.

Skin walkers – Quaigin

Made in Tetra-cub

As she moved forward across the wet grass her anticipation fluttered in her chest. It wasn’t because she liked these creatures, they were below here, far, far below her but they were loyal and obedient. She appreciated their skills, the abilities that made them formless, that gave them an edge when interacting with the real world. These spirit-folk, the fey as the foreigners had called them, were not evil or malicious by nature but they respected their place in the world and did as they were told. The squirming prisoner, a guard that had strayed too far away from their post, looked up at Mugrave with horror in her eyes as she tried to back away from the Oni.

“Hush child,” the Oni said through sharpened teeth, “I wont harm you”.

The faceless creatures near by moved backwards a few feet away from the huddles guard. “Thank you.” she stuttered as she looked around at the creatures around her. “What are you going to do with me?”

“I will release you once I get some information from you.” The Oni said as she squatted down in front of the human, the sheer difference in size enough to make the warrior pale.

“What do you want to know, I’ll tell you anything” the guard caved quickly.

“I don’t want you to tell me anything. I want you to show me everything” Mugrave said as her arms darted forwards. Wrapping her hands around the head of the smaller humanoid she began to extract the information from her memories. Orders for movement of guards from the wall, the size and strength of the battalions and a titbit about Kyoko being spotted coming through the Kunagi ranges. The final piece of the puzzle was the reports of a fair foreigner who could heal wounds and the earth having appeared at Heavens Reach castle.

“The light. She has arrived. Interesting” Mugrave said dropping the human like a dirty dish cloth. “You are free to go” Mugrave said as the quivering human rose to her hands and knees and began to run off towards her barracks.

“Get her.” Mugrave said as the faceless shapes ran after her and dragged her silently into the earth.


Well here we are, at the end of another week. Thanks for joining me as I continue this journey across the Ryokughan continent. Now don’t forget to come back for the next week of content where we watch Mugrave get more aggressive. Oh, and as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,
The Brazen Wolfe

The Laelóng of Lanidaye.

Tonight we continue our journey through Ryokughan and encounter a Laelóng and the town of Lanidaye. This week is a level 7 (if not 8) adventure so our party of adventurers better be up for the task in travelling through the Kunagi ranges.

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. Now including the original content, and some bits added this is a mere 11961! 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, Art was created in Artbreeder and the statblocks were created in Tetra-cube.

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


Part 1 – Desecration – 227MoWaRo

Moving forward was slower going since the attack from the Onikage and undead wolves but they were finally seeing less and less snow settling on the ground as they progressed further east and towards the Kugani Ranges.

“About half a day ahead we should reach a village, they are not part of any family but they usually have an Inn to stay at and are normally friendly to strangers and those who need help” Kuang announced as he finished drinking from his water skin. “And I hope they have some supplies for us as that river was a quite some distance back”.

The ground descended slowly which made the the walk some what easier and soon they found a well worn path that head off towards two peaks at either side of the ranges that created a valley between them, a highway for travel that was frequented by merchants and the like so finding a ride through should be easy. Not more than a mile after joining the road they heard the sound of approaching horses and a wagon approached them heading towards the ranges.

After some discussion the party and Kyoko, Kuang and Hana jumped on and for the first time in what felt like days they were able to rest up and relax as they marvelled at the views of nature. Still descending towards the valley the grass was green and littered with specs of snow with infrequent trees dotting the landscape. Strange elk-like creatures walked through the lands here but the long fox-like tail that trailed behind them spoke of something more mystical than the mundane elks that the party would encounter back in Faerun. Pointing out something odd one of the parties noticed a few deep furrows in the land, like something had dug up a large patch of grass, earth and dirt in a straight line heading in the direction that they were going. Kuang nor the merchant Jason Keening, who happened to also be from Faerun, knew what had caused them or could even make a wild guess.

As the sun began its descent and the afternoon was well on its way the horses of the wagon slowed down as Jason urged them to slow with repeated ‘woo’s’. “You, uh, lot. You better see this.” he called back towards the party and as they climbed out of the comfortable wagon – much to the protest of their bodies – The village up ahead looked as if it had been through a war, or an attack of some sort. Continuing on their way but having the party ready for combat they saw that the people were not dead as feared and were walking around but they shied away from the visitors and even the children did not run out to greet them.

“Normally this village is happy to see my wagon, excited even. I don’t understand what could be the cause of this but these are good people.” Jason said as he moved his wagon over to the inn. A few houses either side of the road looked like they were in the midst of repair and there was a chill to the town that was unlike the meadows a few hours before.

Walking into the inn a nervous and skittish man stood up abruptly from behind a desk “Welcome to the Will’o’wisp inn” he said before a long pause, “We don’t have much room at the moment so I would suggest travelling until the next Village on the other side of the valley” the man said to the party, his posture and demeanour changing as Jason walked in.

After a few moments of talking to Jason quietly and the exchange between Jason and the inn-keep ‘yeah, not good Jason, were’ empty here but I cant take you. I cant risk it‘ were overheard Jason clasped him on the shoulder and walked to the party.

“Well we can get some supplies here but that’s about all we can do unfortunately. As you heard the man, they don’t have rooms for us” Jason smiled but his heart wasn’t in it before he walked back to his wagon to fetch a few supplies to go about his business.


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.


The plains were just as beautiful on sunset as they weren’t hours earlier and as the sun turned the sky the colours of autumn the party set up tents that they adorned with a charm that supposedly would keep spirits and the fey away from them. Sitting down to a meal cooked over the coals the party made small talk with Jason who had joined them to camp out on the plans as the town had shunned him just as they did the party.

Jason revealed more about his past, about how he had lost his father early in his life, a mercenary fighting for gold and glory whilst his mother had worked hard to give him the opportunities in life and now he was selling wares on a distant land so that he could provide a comfortable life for his mother who lived in Shuimu.

Saying goodnight to the party Kuang went to his own tent while Kyoko and Hana went to separate tent leaving the party and Jason to organise watch rotation for the night – just in case the night and light from the fire brings the creatures that hunt in the dark.

It wasn’t until after the moon reached the cusp of its travels across the night sky that the first signs of something amiss appeared. A vibration through the ground that the person on watch noticed first before waking the others. Gathering around the firelight heartbeats turned into the vibrations continued and gradually increased as the moonlight shone across the plains catching movement across the plains like a drift of snow moving in a straight direction – but the light from the fire, distance and how the moonlight trickled through clouds above made it difficult to see what was going on. Soon though the ground began to shake with such ferocity that lose stones, the utensils used to cook dinner and even the doors on the wagon began to shake and bounce in place as the vibrations turned from a little tremor to a thunderous cacophony.

As the party went back to back around the fire a gust of wind rushed past them all but extinguishing the fire as dozens if not hundreds of white shapes darted towards them from the darkness from the direction of the village. Thundering hooves, broad antlers and glowing white coats meshed together to form a wave of flesh as the crashes around the party, forming a wide berth around the tents as if it was a boulder in the path of a raging river. The tall fox-tailed elks madly rushed around the camp, pushing each other to avoid the camp but also driven by fear or madness to stampede past the party in a blur of white fur, broad antlers and the thunderous explosion of noise that their hooves on chilled soil created.

After a minute the last of the stragglers ran past and into the distance, the plain flattened in a straight path that was easily sixty feet white and went on for as far as the moonlight and the parties vision could see. Looking in the direction they came from the party could see them continuing to stampede into the distance until the moonlight no longer revealed the beasts in their frantic pace to get to where they were going, or away from where they were leaving.

The rest of the night went fine with the party and those on watch who had a quieter duty, albeit more alert and potentially spooked, and by the mornings first rays of light the full devastation of land was revealed. Several dead or dying Elk were found scattered across the hills, gored and crushed by their own kin as they stampeded which Jason, Kuang and Kyoko aided in their passing to end their suffering where possible. Looking in the direction they had come from it was plain to see that the source of their stampede lay back towards the village some way and the party would need to make a decision to investigate or move on and through the pass.


Areas and places of note

Lanidaye – A small village of no real fame or note other than it sitting a few hours ride from the Kunagi Ranges. Generally used as a bit of a pit-stop before heading through the ranges it has been unfortunately visitied by the Toshio Yuki-onna, Yukri and made a deal they dare not refuse.

The Camp-site – Less than an hour outside of the town the party set up a camp – far enough away to not draw too much attention from the creatures that plague the town at night but close enough that its not unfeasible to make a mad dash their.

Environment and running the adventure

Lanidaye – If the party ask around town they would eventually find someone who would explain that the Yuki-onna betrothed to the Toshio family visited a few weeks back and after commanding them to swear allegiance to them and allow passage to spirts and fey-folk, which was refused, one night they woke up to the sound of their homes and businesses being torn apart by a roaring wind, the cold set in freezing their well and stopping the hot spring that kept the town warm and well supplied with water. The day after the queen returned and this time made the same request, noting that freak storms were seen on the horizon but she may be able to spare the village from another visitation. This time they accepted and removed the wards that kept out malicious spirits and fey-folk. From that night onwards, about a week ago, each night they would wake up to find their doors open and food stuffs, or items, missing and two nights ago some visitors to the inn were taken in the middle of the night – their screams woke up the town as they were dragged into the dark. The villagers are terrified at what the Toshio Yuki-onna will do to them next time and, more importantly, don’t want the violence to escalate. So in order to make sure it doesn’t happen they are stopping all visitors from staying in the village for their own safety.

The villagers don’t know where they go, or what they are doing but every night they are visited and each morning something else is missing with tracks covered in the snow.

If the party investigate the houses or buildings that were damaged during the storm they will find one house who is much less repaired than the others which appears to have deep cuts or abrasions in the side of the house like swords or daggers or axes cut in perfectly straight lines to damage part of the roof and wall.

The Camp-site – Less than an hour outside of the town the party set up a camp – far enough away to not draw too much attention from the creatures that plague the town at night but close enough that its not unfeasible to make a mad dash their.

Notable NPC interactions.

Jason Keening – A seasoned merchant in Ryokughan, Jason travels across the main roads within the central area of the continent taking wares from one city to the next bringing back his profits to get items from port cities to take them inland for resale. Well versed in the land and handy with a sword and bow he doesn’t shy away from conflict but is highly superstitious and based on what he has seen and gone through no one can blame him. Although able to defend himself he would rather barter for a peaceful approach and keeps a bunch of oddities and trinkets behind his seat at the wagon for the fey and spirits that would request a trade – his life or something of value.

Ester Yukimono – One of the Villagers who was willing to talk to the party as they approached her store that sells predominantly hand-crafts and some minor blessed talismans that her aunt creates. After the party show interest in her wares, or not, she reveals that these are the last of the talismans her aunt would be making as the villagers wont let her make any more. She specialises in warding talismans that keep the spirits and fey-folk away but according to the deal made with the Toshio Yuki-onna spirit all such wards and talismans were banned in the village until further notice to avoid the queens wrath. She explains that her house was the first one to be destroyed by the wind, but she seems a bit uncertain about this

Hugh Grohw – Hugh is not native to Ryokughan and came over on a trading vessel chasing his then love of his life. Older and more jaded now he doesn’t chase beauties any more and instead runs the local inn at the village before the Kugani Ranges take hold and travellers decide to run the gauntlet between the towering peaks. Nervous and more cowardly than the average mouse Hugh is susceptible to intimidation, persuasion by force or any form of deception – probably how he found himself running an inn at the edge of civilisation – but he fears the safety of others more than his own. He believes that to die with blood on your hands by any means will leave a debt upon his soul and in doing so he wont be able to pass on, cursed to wander the world as a vengeful spirit who prays on those braver than he was in life.

Kyoko Harimasu – Kyoko puts on a brave face but the loss of her crew, the afflicted and Siu have taken a toll on the normally bright young lady. She seems to agree with most suggestions without any deeper thought’s of the consequences of such action’s. Her change in demeanour is quite obvious to those around her and to those who have known her for some time.

Captain Kuang Ping – Kuang is always alert and seems to only confide and trust Kyoko of late, even shying away from discussing plans or thoughts with the party. Despite being grateful of those who protected and aided in the protection of Kyoko he has started to become suspicious at the number of omens and bad luck that seems to follow them around.

Sasha (Hana Toshio-Harimasu) – Quiet but helpful Hana cooks and makes sure everyone is comfortable. She spends most of her time with Kyoko and is constantly writing in what ever she can get her hands on so she can communicate with her cousin or the party.

Encounter

Wounded and Dangerous

After the stampede the party may find wounded or lost Glimmer stags who are frightened and alone who may attack the party out of fear. They would start with 2d6 less hp but are ferocious despite being wounded. However if they can they will retreat and rush on past the party of there is an opening.

The Voltrix is likely to be found if there is a dead Glimmer Stag or something else in the parties journey. Its gorging on organs sees its head buried in the body which when startled it will wrench out before launching itself at the nearest creatures before flying off. Its not a solitary creature but will fight other Voltrix’s for food which can lead to several of the creature feeding in the one corpse which can be a bit of a surprise for the party when several startle and lash out in fear.


After the encounter:

The party can do what they please, but to head back into the village of Lanidaye will help drive the story forward. Whether it is to buy supplies or say farewell the village should be provided as the suggestion from Jason and the other NPCs.


Hunting grounds of the Laelóng

Welcome to the last of the end of week writeup for July where our party met the creature that has been terrorising a nearby village and has been leaving grizzly warnings throughout the Kunagi Ranges. This week picks up from the last week but I will be a bit cheeky and leave some bits out of it for next weekend as I work on some other things in the background. So enjoy the end of week writeup and look out for changes coming here!


Hunted and pursued

As the rabbit with horns erupted from the bush and ran off across the edge of the road, darting behind bushes and around trees, branches and rocks in its escape from the humanoids that had discovered it in its hiding place the party watched it with weapons at the ready lest it was another beast ready to attack them, or worse. As the parties tension eased in the following silence they moved about the snow covered road they put their weapons away and started to move across the road to check for anything else that was nearby. No matter how far and thoroughly they looked they were unable to shake the feeling of being watched, or a predator being nearby – the cold and fatigue of the last days travel taking its toll on the adventurers making shapes in the snow look like beasts and spirits getting ready to lash out at the party and strike them down where they stood.

After they were certain nothing was near by the party and the wagon rolled onwards down the road, returning to being alert and keeping an watchful eye on the walls of the valley, the trees and the snow.


She watched from a nearby wall of ice and rock through the sporadic leaves and branches between her keen eyes and the humans that were travelling through her lands – the one that had been marked by the shadow and the queen. Twisting her neck around she moved away from the rock, her strong neck moving away from the wall of rock and ice as her claws and broad axe-like graft of everfrost that adorned her forelimbs dug into the rock, dirt and ice to secure herself and support her weight. As she moved her body upwards to a crouching position she compressed her body until it was like a coiled spring and released, spreading her forelimbs wide as the framed membranes spread wide and her weight was caught by the wind and she soared higher into the sky as the wind tunnel help carry her higher into the sky quickly – her eyes never leaving the humans and their wagon as they moved onwards.

Creatures scattered in the forest as she revealed herself from her hiding spot, she loved this feeling, the fear, the reverence. She was the mountain itself and those who lived in these rocky outcrops were her subjects, only fit to live her by her good grace. As she soared higher she saw the sun setting on the end of the valley causing the spikes of ice she had created sparkle like jewels through the rift between her rock and snow. Latching onto the tallest rocky peak, digging the ice blade in deep to secure purchase, she watched the humans, they not being aware that they would be dead with the coming sun. A smile formed on her lips, rare for her species but she was an oddity for her kind any way and as long as she was still ruler of these rocky lands she cared not for the wars that happened to the east and west of her, for here she was queen.

Content to watch and plan she climbed to the peak, using her four limbs and he thick and wide tail to give her balance as she gripped into the cold earth. Reaching the peak she sat there and preened her feathers, the yellow sunlight causing her white and blue feathers and scales to glow like the snow that surrounded her as she made sure that she looked her best for the guests she had in her hunting grounds – for the hunt was about to be on and she did not want to disappoint.


The cold wind nipped at her exposed nose and ears as she looked up at the wagon in the distance and sighed with relief. After finding her aunt half eaten by the creatures that came at night she didn’t care about the warnings of the Yuki-onna or even the creature that had been destroying her village – nothing had bothered her, even the cold didn’t bother her half as much as normal. But the things she had seen on her pursuit of the adventures and the wagon had worried her, the creatures big and small, malicious and marvellous all threaded upon everfrost like grim warnings of what travellers in the valley could expect between the valley walls.

That is why she needed to find them, those foreign adventures the one from the same place as Hugh and Jason, her aunt had tons her the night before that they were the only ones that could stop the attacks and had left a single talisman out for their good fortune. Ester was sure that is what had drawn the creatures to her aunt’s room and they had decided to make a spectacle, a statement from her defiance. And now she was racing to them, making up lost ground as they seemed to be moving slower now, whether by choice or not was yet to be determined but it gave her a chance to catch up and ask for help.

Running across the snow was nearly impossible but she moved as quickly as she could, holding her fathers bow with a notched arrow ready to defend herself if anything thought her an easy meal. The talismans and charms draped around her neck should keep most things away or help her natural senses keep her from harm but there was always a cost to such enhancements and she had trouble hearing anything over the wind in the valley. Her heightened senses seemed to be picking up the overwhelming noise of the mountain itself, animals and creatures as well but the wind, groaning trees and cracking twigs – everything was loud.

Surprisingly so she didn’t notice the massive white creature until she nearly bumped into it.

Large thick claws adorned the rear feet and powerful legs, claws and a large blade made of everfrost capped the middle of two large wings that where covered in feathers and scales that made it blend in perfectly to the surrounding snow and frost. A large avian head and sharp beak with Jagged teeth contrasted with the highly intelligent eyes that looked down upon her with amusement and mirth.

Raising her bow she pointed it at the creature who’s beak twisted into the mimicry of a smile. “A brave one to point such a small arrow at the mountain itself” the massive creature said in a chirpy song-like voice. “You get one shot so I’d make it count. But to shoot me results in only your death and not mine little creature” and Ester knew it was true. The creature was as big as the trees, the scales were like metal plates and the volume of feathers made it hard to see where flesh was beneath them. She considered her options and looked towards the wagon, a few hundred feet away, the wind whipped her hair and covered her eyes as it fanned out in the direction of her gaze. A carrying wind she thought. Grabbing one of her talismans, one of luck, she wrapped it around the arrow slowly as the large creature watched her with amusement and curiosity. “I’m afraid to tell you that those talismans don’t work on me little one” the monster said as it moved forward, the everfrost blades biting into the snow and earth giving its massive form purchase. As quick as she could, drawing from her talismans to augment her speed and skill with a bow Ester raised the bow and loosed on a single shot, carrying the talismans with it.

The arrow soared past the creatures head who turned its to watch the arrow fly off into the distance, a breeze pick it up and push it into the wood of the wagon next to the rear door.

“Very clever” the creature said as she turned to look at he girl. “Very clever indeed” it repeated as it lunged upwards grabbing Ester and carried her in her powerful hind claws into the sky, the sudden appearance of a flurry of snow blocking visibility and shrouding the creature and Ester in white as it ascended into the mountain peaks.


Hana stared at the snow as the talisman swung backwards and forwards in the rocking motion of the wagon. She had seen it, she was sure she saw a massive creature fly into the sudden snow flurry and ascend into the sky. As the party arrived around her, and Kyoko gripped her shoulder she realised that she was shaking. Grabbing a quill, a pot of ink and some paper she started to sketch what she thought she saw, but no matter how she tried to describe it with words, or she tried to draw it no one had a clue of what was out there – but they recognised the charm attached to the arrow embedded in the door.

After half an hour the party returned with a bow and reports of the same large scrape like markings in the snow.

NPCs

Kyoko Harimasu

Kyoko won’t leave the caravan this adventure – more to the point Kuang and Hana wont let her, but she will duck out now and again and fire an arrow at the Laelóng in an attempt to aid the party.

Captain Kuang Ping

Kuang won’t be seen outside of the wagon unless its to usher Kyoko back inside the walls. When he is seen he has his sword drawn and is watching both the skies, the valley walls and Kyoko an attempting to do all of it at the same time.

Sasha (Hana Toshio-Harimasu)

Hana tries to describe the creature but having not recovered her voice yet she barely manages to describe anything of note.

Jason Keening

Jason just wants to get out of there but trusts the party to be able to hold their own as he manages the wagon and drives it forward and through the valley as quickly as he can. Apart from giving advice to the party i.e. “Run” he focuses on getting the wagon and the people within to safety.

Ester Yurimono

After finding her Aunt killed by the creatures either in spite or by orders by those who have set their sights on the town, Ester hurries off after the party to try an convince them to come back to help the town, little did she realise that she would force their assistance one way or another.


Environment and running the adventure

Made with Inkarnate.com < click here to view the original.

Part 1 – Fight.

So the first part of the encounter is a slog fest with some hindrance or handicaps on my creatures due to holding Ester. The creature moves slowly, half speed, with disadvantage on attack rolls and dex saves as it’s currently carrying a prisoner and because one of its back feet is occupied in its attempt to stay upright in the snow its a bit more clumsy. This however doesn’t restrict some of its abilities which it will use as often as it can. The goal of the creature is to immobilise or cause as many of the player characters to become restrained by the ice or environment so it can savour their death.

The snow it self makes the players move at half speed but wont affect the creature, as its already slow. This evens the Playfield a smidge and grants a small advantage for the creature as it can cause parts of the battlefield to become hazards where they are nearly impossible to cross over. The goal of this round is to shatter the ice that cover the front clawed sections of wing which will cause it to slip over until it puts down Ester. The creature will also throw Ester at a party member that is within 30 feet as a reaction to their action (movement, attack, spell cast) when its at or below 50% health. Once it does this it will leap into the sky and summon spears of everfrost into the mountain peaks nearby creating an avalanche.

Ice Blades

For the purpose of damaging the ice blades they have resistance to all piercing and slashing attacks, take normal damage from Two handed melee weapons (as they take more muscle to wield) but vulnerability from bludgeoning. the blades have AC14 (as the creature needs them for balance, but they are durable) and 40hp. When ever the Laelóng uses its ice breath attack the ice blades heal 1d10hp.

Part 2 – Avalanche.

Round 2 is avoiding a terrain hazard, the avalanche, whilst fending off the creature as it swoops down to try and kill or drown (in snow) the party. It will always move in, attack once then bonus action disengage during this phase whilst sparing its ice breath. After the avalanche begins they party has five rounds until the avalanche his them and the exit/entrance to the valley is 300 feet away. The in party’s goal is to get out of the valley alive whilst the creatures goal is to prevent them from doing so (but not make it impossible). The wagon is back a further 200ft. If the party are caught by the avalanche they have 3 rounds of fighting a against the avalanche with a mixture of either skill and saving throws before being dumped onto the soggy ground at the end of the valley, just past its walls, from up high a battered creature is now furious for being denied it’s prize, but its now un-inhibited and mad gaining some additional combat options.

Swooped

Dexterity contests are in order to avoid the creatures attack. DC is the attack roll vs the Dexterity checks. If you fail then the creature can still miss based on AC but you are knocked prone in your attempt to avoid the attack. If you succeed then you don’t get knocked prone and suffer no damage.

Caught up

If the Avalanche hits a party member a Strength saving throw (DC15) is required immediately or they are taken under, if they succeed they maintain their footing and are considered to be 5ft away from the avalanche.

This taken under by the avalanche are considered to be restrained and suffocating. The Party member can repeat their saving throw at the end of each of their turns in which they at restrained to attempt to surface and break free.

A creature can hold its breath for a number of minutes equal to 1 + its Constitution modifier (minimum of 30 seconds). When a creature runs out of breath or is choking, it can survive for a number of rounds equal to its Constitution modifier (minimum of 1 round).)

Regardless of constitution modifiers after 3 rounds they stop moving through from the avalanche and end up at the mouth of the valley looking at a very angry Laelóng, (mixed between Laniidae which is greek for Shrike and Fēilóng which is Chinese for Wyvern).

Final confrontation

Now some of this will come during this week as the complexity of making it challenging but not overpowering after the ordeal of the avalanche is something I want to spend more time on but the creature will have access to more legendary actions to use against the party will be able to spend its frost breath charge on repairing its ice blades and will no longer have disadvantage (unless the party inflict it) on any rolls as it fights at full ferocity. It is however at half health or wounded to some degree due to the previous confrontation.

I would assume that the party is at level 7 but will not be fully rested (due to the earlier fights or encounters) – this is intentional to make the fight feel more desperate but it should be balanced to not make their failure a sure thing.


Well we are at another end of week where we also find ourselves looking at the end of the month! Next week come and join me as I reveal the Laelóng in more detail and fill in what the next step is for our adventurers. Don’t forget to come back for the other gradual changes I am making this week and, as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,
The Brazen Wolfe

Valley of Frost

Welcome to another end of the week in which our party discovered more ice – who would have thought it? But its what lays impaled upon the ice, around it and what makes it is what has the party both intrigued and worried. The party commence their journey through the ranges this week and onto the home stretch as they push from the cold north east past the Kunagi ranges and onwards to the Harimasu lands beyond.


The Inn of no Vacancies

As the party walk back into the village they are see many of the people that call this place home are busy repairing doors, windows and shutters that look as if they were torn open or broken into forcefully but despite the party offering help they receive a brief, fake, smile and their help is refused.

As the party move through the village they see that the inn seems to have received the worst of the attacks that happened the night before as the owner, Hugh, and a few other villagers were busy rebuilding a wall. Upon seeing the party he moved towards them looking nervous.

“You cant be here, the spirit-folk somehow knew that I had spoken to you and I woke up to one of the inns walls being ripped down.” He paused as he nodded to Jason “when this is over please do come back, but I can’t lose the inn, not after all it has cost me.” As clasped Jason on his should and nodded a sorrowful nod to the party, Kyoko, Hana and Kuang he looked at the wall as it was put back into place and stood there with his hands on his hips.

Following his gaze the party noticed that the wood itself looked like something large, wide and sharp had bit into the wood on one corner of the wall and ripped it out with very little effort – no evidence of blade, club or other known weapon seems to have caused the damage. Moving up towards the wall while Jason took the princess, her cousin and the general to get more supplies for crossing through the ranges the party noticed that large shards of extremely hard ice were imbedded into the wood along the mark where the wall had suffered the blow that tore it from its housing. Taking a shard of it the shard of ice seemed to permeate cold through the holders hands and only several layers of cloth, or two bags could stop the chill from numbing the flesh. Whilst holding and examining the ice Ester appeared behind them “It wont melt. We tried everything the first time we found it -in our well – we call it forever frost, or permafrost for those who found that the name sounded too much like an attempt at poetry. Don’t hold it for too long as it will bond to your flesh and start to freeze your insides. Shen found that out when we had to cut off his frozen finger before it spread to his hand.”

Jason arrived not too long after and after Ester did and after some some quick goodbyes they jumped into the back of the wagon and were heading off – towards the Kunagi ranges whilst the weather was still on their favour.


The dusting of snow between the ranges was miraculously thin on the frozen mud of the road yet it piled up next to the rocky cliffs and trees either side of the road where the wagon squelched behind an anxious draft horse.

The weather had turned slightly to the worse, small flurries of snow had begun to drift down upon the wagon but it it wasn’t the weather that was cause for concern, the sheer number of tracks from spirit folk and the creatures that called this valley and mountain ranges home were the source of growing concern. It was beginning to be unusual to see a section of snow that didn’t have discarded cloth, foot prints or even bones of a meal and they all seemed to be heading in the same direction. The trees offered some protection from the snow regardless and while the party wasn’t used to this level of snow and cold but the wagon was kitted with double walls and a level of cloth and material on the inside that made the inside comfortable if not cosy.

The old grey stallion whinnied and the wagon came to a stop as the horse spooked and started to retreat backwards causing the wagon to lurch before the wheels met snow by the side of the road and stop abruptly. “It may take me some time for me to be able to convince this old thing to move forward. But what ever is spooking it isn’t far from here and I’d rather be prepared than having to make a quick exit from this valley.” Jason called as he tried to pull the horse into line.

Leaving the wagon and moving forward as quietly and stealthily as possible the party moved further into the valley as a strange and foul smell crept down from the wind that swept down into the valley from the peaks above them. Up head the snow had been disturbed and great furrows had been embedded into the frozen soil, similar to the ones that they saw on their approach into the village before the ranges. A wide crescent of fresh footprints gave a wide berth to the marks and from the looks of them the creatures that made them were scared, terrified even. Looking around for traces of what could have caused the owners of the footprints to act as such they eventually drew their investigation to the valley walls above them and there they saw the cause.

A great rupture of spikes made from the same ice that they had a shard of burst forth like lightning made from ice. The dark blue of the ice as it erupted from the stone face extended into the middle of the valley, a good sixty feet from the wall and at the end of each of the spikes that had erupted forth resided a skewered creature. Oni, ogres, Nat’s and even bears the size of the wagon they travelled in lay skewered on the ice, pushed on with enough force to pierce even the stone-like hide of the Nat. Looking at the ice as it had exploded out the trees themselves had their upper branches frozen, splintered and a few shards of frost encrusted splinters of wood lay just under the surface of the snow.

The ice must have been so cold that there was very little blood from the creatures that hung their, rigid and dead and what blood there was hung like frozen spears of ice suspended fifty feet in the air above the area where the scrape was. Something or someone would have had to have done this and to best that many creatures at once would indicate something both large and strong beyond anything that the party would have faced thus far.

Returning back to Jason they found him having blindfolded the horse and moving towards them and when he saw the gruesome display the colour drained from his face. “I have known some of the creatures of the ranges to be vicious but to be cruel like this is another level. We can make it through the ranges today if we hurry but it will get dark early inside these ice covered walls so we can’t dally any more.” he urged as he ushered them into the back of the wagon to join Kuang, Kyoko and Hana. “Hold on, we won’t be slowing down for some time and I pray that the old horse makes it.”

NPCs

Kyoko Harimasu

Kyoko is quiet but stays in the wagon with Kuang and Hana once they are moving – she seems alert and has procured a bow from somewhere which she seems to know how to use well enough. She watches the walls of the valley and keeps an eye on the path behind them – calling out if she see’s movement to alert the party.

Captain Kuang Ping

Kuang is never seen without his hand on his sword during their procession through the valley pass as his first order of business is to defend Kyoko and now Hana. Having seen the impaled creatures he looks concerned as if he may know something but truth be told he has forgotten what it is – but the identify of the creature is just on the tip of his tongue but he can’t remember it. What ever it is – he hasn’t encountered it personally and it is very rare.

Sasha (Hana Toshio-Harimasu)

Hana avoids the combat as much as possible and sticks pretty much exclusively with Kuang and Kyoko. She is by no means rude to the party but doesn’t leave the wagon.

Hugh Grohw

Hugh this week is rattled, having something rip open his inn and leave shards of this everfrost lying around seems like a bad omen to him – perhaps he is right. Regardless its bad for business and he cant take another hit or loss so he, against his true wishes, requests for the parties to leave so he can protect his investment.

Jason Keening

Jason is a bit annoyed about being pushed out of the town so early, but understands well enough the reason for it. That annoyance quickly turns to urgency as they begin to find the threaded and impaled creatures upon spikes of everfrost and he urges the party to move as quickly as they can so they can clear the ranges and get distance between what even lives in the mountains and themselves.


Environment and running the adventure

The cold air blasted along the rocky outcrops high above the valley below like a great exhale from the frost itself. As the mountains awoke, small creatures scurried forth from their dens to begin a day of foraging for food and keeping an ever watchful eye above and around them for predators.
The trees braced against the wind as flurries of snow and frost spattered their frozen trunks with the white powder, great long icicles growing from branches like teeth from the jaws of a many jawed creature that waited for the foolish or unprepared to wander within. As the wind jostled the branches high in the ranges a wagon crossed beneath down far below the edge of the lip of a crater that has been carved out by sharp ice over many years.

The groan of axle and call of great of burden could not be heard over the wind, the mountains song, but creatures spooked by the presence in the ranges dashed for cover, a fox cowering under the roots of a tree that clung onto the edge of the cliff. Scenting the air around it the fox moved out on soft deliberately placed paws, its eyes darting around as the sense of danger was strong and it had a burrow to return to.
Dashing across the snow, its twin tails leaving a wisp of a trail as it moved from hiding hole, to bushes, to ledge as it slunk towards its den. A final check to see if the coast was clear before it darted for the base of a tree where the entrance of its den lie. The Fox should have moved slower, or kept one eye on the sky or simply should have waited between the cage of frozen roots as no sooner than it leave the seclusion of the ledge a sickening thud followed by a crunch as a row or everfrost descend down upon it, piercing and severing multiple organs at once.
The warm red blood splattered across the snow, a similar contrast to the colour of red of the for from the fox as it died shredded by ice.

The creak of an axle, groan of a wheel and cry from a hawk high above the scenes below joined the wind in praising the strength of the mountain, a song for its power and its unquestioned rule.

Shapes behind the flurry of snow

The image of those creatures, large and small alike threaded upon those needle like spikes of ever frost was enough to rattle even the bravest of souls. As the party moved through the valley more large scrapes, cuts, and spikes of ice with threaded animals and creatures were encountered but all other evidence of the cause, natural or otherwise were no where to be found.

As the party turn a bend around a particularly expansive spire of ice a sudden flash of movement in the ice and snow gave them cause to pause and press themselves up against the spire of ice, well close to it at risk of freezing themselves. Focusing on where the movement was, their heart beats fluttering like mad, a tentative white rabbit with little stag-like horns appeared, sniffed the air a few times before quickly hopping from the bush it hid behind to another one further down the road.

This wasn’t the only such encounter that set the parties senses on edge as they continued, slower since they wanted to scout the way for the wagon a few hundred feet in advance, but after seeing, and continuing to see the threaded creatures on spikes of un-melting ice they were not going to take any chances.

Potential Encounters

Horned Rabbit – the Jackelope

The Horned rabbit (Jackelope) is a strange creature. Small, non vicious but adorned with razor sharp horns that could gut a non defended man these creatures dart around skittishly without warning and their white coloured fur makes them difficult to see amongst the snow and ice.

Giant Boar/ Giant Goat

Although two distinct animals the giant boar and giant goat play the same role in this adventure – something that may attack if threatened, whether they believe they are or are actually in danger. I’d say a low perception check would lower the distance between the party and the creature before they are discover each other – if its within 20 feet (which, lets be reminded is only 3.5 times the height of an average person) then the Goat or Boar is spooked and will charge at the party.

Dire Wolf

This one is simple – its hungry, maybe in a pack, maybe its stalking the Goat/Boar/Jackelope and it meets the party. Either it feels cornered or its just hungry but either way the party look mighty tasty to the Dire Wolf.

The encounter(s) should be suspenseful, moments of fear whether its something that summons ice, or one of the spirit folk or more undead creatures sent after them. What ever it is we want the party to guess the worse because, oh, its coming for them next week.

Between this adventure and the next I would assume that the party are at level 7, if not there already, as they will need it.


Aftermath

As always its up to you, but for me I’d have them finish the last combat with the feeling of a presence, something looming near by in the white.

This adventure flows onto next weeks which will be centred around an encounter between the party and what has been watching them and leaving little gifts for them so whether the party fight it tired from a fight or fresh faced is up to the party.


Another end of week write-up down and one more to go before end of month. Don’t forget that this week coming is the last week of the month where we finish our trip through the valley pass and things start to look brighter.. Well whiter at least. So in order to make sure you don’t miss a beat don’t forget come back every day and, as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,
The Brazen Wolfe

Ranges shrouded in fog

Welcome to the end of the week where this week we visit the attacked and desolated (desecrated even!) town before the Kunagi ranges. This week we find the party unwelcomed into a town where there is no hostility present, just a overwhelming sense of dread and misfortune that seems to permeate through the walls of the buildings and into the very core of the people that call the shell of a village home. But enough cheery thoughts, lets roll on with the adventure!


The Inn of no Vacancies

Moving forward was slower going since the attack from the Onikage and undead wolves but they were finally seeing less and less snow settling on the ground as they progressed further east and towards the Kugani Ranges.

“About half a day ahead we should reach a village, they are not part of any family but they usually have an Inn to stay at and are normally friendly to strangers and those who need help” Kuang announced as he finished drinking from his water skin. “And I hope they have some supplies for us as that river was a quite some distance back”.

The ground descended slowly which made the the walk some what easier and soon they found a well worn path that head off towards two peaks at either side of the ranges that created a valley between them, a highway for travel that was frequented by merchants and the like so finding a ride through should be easy. Not more than a mile after joining the road they heard the sound of approaching horses and a wagon approached them heading towards the ranges.

After some discussion the party and Kyoko, Kuang and Hana jumped on and for the first time in what felt like days they were able to rest up and relax as they marvelled at the views of nature. Still descending towards the valley the grass was green and littered with specs of snow with infrequent trees dotting the landscape. Strange elk-like creatures walked through the lands here but the long fox-like tail that trailed behind them spoke of something more mystical than the mundane elks that the party would encounter back in Faerun. Pointing out something odd one of the parties noticed a few deep furrows in the land, like something had dug up a large patch of grass, earth and dirt in a straight line heading in the direction that they were going. Kuang nor the merchant Jason Keening, who happened to also be from Faerun, knew what had caused them or could even make a wild guess.

As the sun began its descent and the afternoon was well on its way the horses of the wagon slowed down as Jason urged them to slow with repeated ‘woo’s’. “You, uh, lot. You better see this.” he called back towards the party and as they climbed out of the comfortable wagon – much to the protest of their bodies – The village up ahead looked as if it had been through a war, or an attack of some sort. Continuing on their way but having the party ready for combat they saw that the people were not lost and were walking around fine but they shied away from the visitors and even the children did not run out to greet them.

“Normally this village is happy to see my wagon, excited even. I don’t understand what could be the cause of this but these are good people.” Jason said as he moved his wagon over to the inn. A few houses either side of the road looked like they were in the midst of repair and there was a chill to the town that was unlike the meadows a few hours before.

Walking into the inn a nervous and skittish man stood up abruptly from behind a desk “Welcome to the Will’o’wisp inn” he said before a long pause, “We don’t have much room at the moment so I would suggest travelling until the next Village on the other side of the valley” the man said to the party, his posture and demeanour changing as Jason walked in.

After a few moments of talking to Jason quietly and the exchange between Jason and the inn-keep ‘yeah, not good Jason, were’ empty here but I cant take you. I cant risk it‘ were overheard Jason clasped him on the shoulder and walked to the party.

“Well we can get some supplies here but that’s about all we can do unfortunately. As you heard the man, they don’t have rooms for us” Jason smiled but his heart wasn’t in it before he walked back to his wagon to fetch a few supplies to go about his business.

NPCs

Kyoko Harimasu

Kyoko puts on a brave face but the loss of her crew, the afflicted and Siu have taken a toll on the normally bright young lady. She seems to agree with most suggestions without any deeper thought’s of the consequences of such action’s. Her change in demeanour is quite obvious to those around her and to those who have known her for some time.

Captain Kuang Ping

Kuang is always alert and seems to only confide and trust Kyoko of late, even shying away from discussing plans or thoughts with the party. Despite being grateful of those who protected and aided in the protection of Kyoko he has started to become suspicious at the number of omens and bad luck that seems to follow them around.

Sasha (Hana Toshio-Harimasu)

Quiet but helpful Hana cooks and makes sure everyone is comfortable. She spends most of her time with Kyoko and is constantly writing in what ever she can get her hands on so she can communicate with her cousin or the party.

Ester Yukimono

One of the Villagers who was willing to talk to the party as they approached her store that sells predominantly hand-crafts and some minor blessed talismans that her aunt creates.

After the party show interest in her wares, or not, she reveals that these are the last of the talismans her aunt would be making as the villagers wont let her make any more. She specialises in warding talismans that keep the spirits and fey-folk away but according to the deal made with the Toshio Yuki-onna spirit all such wards and talismans were banned in the village until further notice to avoid the queens wrath. She explains that her house was the first one to be destroyed by the wind, but she seems a bit uncertain about this

Hugh Grohw

Hugh is not native to Ryokughan and came over on a trading vessel chasing his then love of his life. Older and more jaded now he doesn’t chase beauties any more and instead runs the local inn at the village before the Kugani Ranges take hold and travellers decide to run the gauntlet between the towering peaks.

Nervous and more cowardly than the average mouse Hugh is susceptible to intimidation, persuasion by force or any form of deception – probably how he found himself running an inn at the edge of civilisation – but he fears the safety of others more than his own. He believes that to die with blood on your hands by any means will leave a debt upon his soul and in doing so he wont be able to pass on, cursed to wander the world as a vengeful spirit who prays on those braver than he was in life.

Jason Keening

A seasoned merchant in Ryokughan, Jason travels across the main roads within the central area of the continent taking wares from one city to the next bringing back his profits to get items from port cities to take them inland for resale.

Well versed in the land and handy with a sword and bow he doesn’t shy away from conflict but is highly superstitious and based on what he has seen and gone through no one can blame him. Although able to defend himself he would rather barter for a peaceful approach and keeps a bunch of oddities and trinkets behind his seat at the wagon for the fey and spirits that would request a trade – his life or something of value.

Jason revealed more about his past, about how he had lost his father early in his life, a mercenary fighting for gold and glory whilst his mother had worked hard to give him the opportunities in life and now he was selling wares on a distant land so that he could provide a comfortable life for his mother who lived in Shuimu.


Environment and running the adventure

The small village on the road through to the ranges is dwarfed by the Kunagi ranges to the east and the valley between the mountains is long enough that it takes the fastest of horses a day to travel through. Snow-capped, cold and desolate the ranges themselves are home to wandering spirits and creature’s that would love nothing more than to catch a party unaware.

Rumours from the villagers would speak of a shadow that has come over the mountains, a creeping entity of malice that seems to bode all that travel ill in their journeys but no one has seen, heard or experienced anything other than the normal creatures and spirits of the lands.

The road heads due east and to the south east of the village there is the campsite for this weeks adventure, well part of it – but more on that tomorrow – and further south is one of the only fresh water sources for days travel, except for the well that froze solid mysteriously a few weeks back.

Investigation

If the party ask around town they would eventually find someone who would explain that the Yuki-onna betrothed to the Toshio family visited a few weeks back and after commanding them to swear allegiance to them and allow passage to spirts and fey-folk, which was refused, one night they woke up to the sound of their homes and businesses being torn apart by a roaring wind, the cold set in freezing their well and stopping the hot spring that kept the town warm and well supplied with water. The day after the queen returned and this time made the same request, noting that freak storms were seen on the horizon but she may be able to spare the village from another visitation. This time they accepted and removed the wards that kept out malicious spirits and fey-folk. From that night onwards, about a week ago, each night they would wake up to find their doors open and food stuffs, or items, missing and two nights ago some visitors to the inn were taken in the middle of the night – their screams woke up the town as they were dragged into the dark. The villagers are terrified at what the Toshio Yuki-onna will do to them next time and, more importantly, don’t want the violence to escalate. So in order to make sure it doesn’t happen they are stopping all visitors from staying in the village for their own safety.

The villagers don’t know where they go, or what they are doing but every night they are visited and each morning something else is missing with tracks covered in the snow.

If the party investigate the houses or buildings that were damaged during the storm they will find one house who is much less repaired than the others which appears to have deep cuts or abrasions in the side of the house like swords or daggers or axes cut in perfectly straight lines to damage part of the roof and wall.

On Watch

Saying goodnight to the party Kuang went to his own tent while Kyoko and Hana went to separate tent leaving the party and Jason to organise watch rotation for the night – just in case the night and light from the fire brings the creatures that hunt in the dark.

It wasn’t until after the moon reached the cusp of its travels across the night sky that the first signs of something amiss appeared. A vibration through the ground that the person on watch noticed first before waking the others. Gathering around the firelight heartbeats turned into the vibrations continued and gradually increased as the moonlight shone across the plains catching movement across the plains like a drift of snow moving in a straight direction – but the light from the fire, distance and how the moonlight trickled through clouds above made it difficult to see what was going on. Soon though the ground began to shake with such ferocity that lose stones, the utensils used to cook dinner and even the doors on the wagon began to shake and bounce in place as the vibrations turned from a little tremor to a thunderous cacophony.

As the party went back to back around the fire a gust of wind rushed past them all but extinguishing the fire as dozens if not hundreds of white shapes darted towards them from the darkness from the direction of the village. Thundering hooves, broad antlers and glowing white coats meshed together to form a wave of flesh as the crashes around the party, forming a wide berth around the tents as if it was a boulder in the path of a raging river. The tall fox-tailed elks madly rushed around the camp, pushing each other to avoid the camp but also driven by fear or madness to stampede past the party in a blur of white fur, broad antlers and the thunderous explosion of noise that their hooves on chilled soil created.

After a minute the last of the stragglers ran past and into the distance, the plain flattened in a straight path that was easily sixty feet white and went on for as far as the moonlight and the parties vision could see. Looking in the direction they came from the party could see them continuing to stampede into the distance until the moonlight no longer revealed the beasts in their frantic pace to get to where they were going, or away from where they were leaving.

The rest of the night went fine with the party and those on watch who had a quieter duty, albeit more alert and potentially spooked, and by the mornings first rays of light the full devastation of land was revealed. Several dead or dying Elk were found scattered across the hills, gored and crushed by their own kin as they stampeded which Jason, Kuang and Kyoko aided in their passing to end their suffering where possible. Looking in the direction they had come from it was plain to see that the source of their stampede lay back towards the village some way and the party would need to make a decision to investigate or move on and through the pass.


It’s a relatively easy part of the adventure, build up the tension for the party with the increasing temp of the vibrations, then the cacophony of sound, then the faint movement at the edge of vision before the wave of white furred flesh breaks around them – the creatures themselves are not malicious by any meaning of the word but they are affected by the charms to some degree and treat the tents and camp as if to enter it or go near the charms would be a worse fate than potential goring or crushing.

Potential Encounters

Glimmer Stag

The glimmer stag is an elk like creature from the Kunagi Ranges which typically has white or light grey fur, large antlers for the males and shorter sharper ones for the females and a long bushy fox like tail.
Herbivorous by nature but territorial by temperament these creatures are not any when it comes to fighting especially when feeling threatened, cornered or in the mating in season.
They attack with a goring charge and stamping hooves which bruise and lacerate their targets.


Voltrix

Appearing something like a serpentine, winged and scaled vulture, the Voltrix is a flying scavenger the size of a large dog with a beaked reptilian head, bat like wings ending in gripping hook like claws which they use to grip and cut into their food, cutting and ripping open skin and middle to expose softer tissues like organs and fat.

Whilst not aggressive they generally are encountered when they are feasting with their heads buried into a carcass or corpse. This brings us to their nature, they are quick to startle and have a habit to leap and scratch in their desperate attempt to escape from what ever has startled them, this can leave the person with nasty infections or worse due to the lack of hygiene that these reptilian birds display.

After the stampede the party may find wounded or lost Glimmer stags who are frightened and alone who may attack the party out of fear. They would start with 2d6 less hp but are ferocious despite being wounded. However if they can they will retreat and rush on past the party of there is an opening.

The Voltrix is likely to be found if there is a dead Glimmer Stag or something else in the parties journey. Its gorging on organs sees its head buried in the body which when startled it will wrench out before launching itself at the nearest creatures before flying off. Its not a solitary creature but will fight other Voltrix’s for food which can lead to several of the creature feeding in the one corpse which can be a bit of a surprise for the party when several startle and lash out in fear.


Aftermath

It’s up to you, or the dice rolls whether or not we have an encounter this week – but the intent of the week is to have the party questioning what happened to the village and also, to start thinking about what that means for them and their trek through the pass – because it wont be a piece of cake.


Well thanks for joining me in the week that is building up anticipation and tension for this weeks adventure, well it’s an adventure that spans the length of a month but really that is yet to be seen. Don’t forget to come back each day this week to stay up to date with the adventure and the next steps forward, we are back to a 3 week cycle and the 4th being our end of month wrap-up so make sure you don’t miss a beat and, as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,
The Brazen Wolfe

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.

Encounter

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.

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

Dinner is a great distraction

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.

NPCs

Kyoko Harimasu

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.

Ruben

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.

Lucian

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.

Sasha (Hana)

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.


Actions

“Stealth”

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.

Rumours

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.

Evidence

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.

Planting

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.

Other options?

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.


Aftermath

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

Frigid winds bring foul omens

Welcome to another end of week writeup and this week winter had come to our parties doorstep, or at least it feels like it. A flurry of snow dances around the light of the camp fires and the party and travelling guard for Kyoko are on high alert, but will it be enough? The shadow moves its pieces into play and strikes viciously at two fronts causing the vision and attention of the warriors of the land to shift and move away from its true ploy. Its agents are in place and its waited many years for this moment.


White snow amongst fire light

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.

NPCs

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.


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.


Environment and running the adventure

The 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.

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.

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Encounter

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.


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 thats 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.



Aftermath

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..”


Well that’s it for tonight, trust me when I saw that its call coming together and the final dish is looking good enough to eat! Don’t forget to come back next week as we continue with another 4 week adventure (rarely happens but 4 parts is better than one! or so I heard) and, as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,
The Brazen Wolfe