Heroic Adventure to Forge the Empress

Unexpected Visitors
10-14-2017

At Shi Long Tun

Akemi welcomed representatives of the dragonborn host into the keep to speak. The death of the blue dragon had brought this dragonborn clan to this place, and now they wished to ensure that they were present and involved in the destiny of the other dragons of the MIddle Isles.

Though Akemi was initially somewhat wary, the two sides agreed that the dragonborn could encamp outside the castle, and begin to integrate their forces with the garrison of the Keep. TheSulsashi clan leader’s son asked to accompany the party on their quests, assured that more knowledge of the dragons would be made known.

The rest of the party received Strawhat and the half-orc,and with the refugees in tow, the group made their way back to the Keep.They also uncovered the bundle they carried, the preserved body of Fini. Akemi was saddened again by the reminder of Fini’s death, but promised that she would contact the forest gnome tribes and ensure his body was buried properly.

The refugees were thankful for the protection, but some of them were skeptical that they had found a safe place to stay at Shi Long Tun. Akemi offered them a choice: if they remained, they would be under her protection, but any that wished to continue on could do so. The refugees went back to talk among themselves.

With final preparations made the next morning, Akemi’s advisors and Sulsashi left with a small entourage of dragonborn, intending to find the Butcher and put an end to his terrorizing of the north-west. Akemi was left to address the newly arrived dragonborn and refugees.

The reach of the war

After a few days of travel to the north, the party came upon a larger village, which met them suspiciously. After a brief stand-off with an ill-equipped militia, the village chief spoke to the group. A number of horsemen had been raiding villages, burning them to the ground, and leaving none alive. Though the village chief knew little about Akemi, she showed the party to a survivor of a recent attack on another village, three days previously.

The survivor was badly injured, and still healing from his wounds, but he reported a large number of horsemen falling on his village in the night. Those who were not killed were carried off, and the entire village was burned. With this village only a day’s travel away, the party decided they should set off.

They also discovered another survivor, of a much earlier attack. The man appeared to have lost his mind, and was difficult to understand, but he mumbled out a scene of terrible bloodshed, the riders clad all in black arriving at dawn out of the rising sun.

The party left for the raided village.

Scavengers or something more…

As they approached the village, Huijin took to the skies and saw the village burned down. Only a few buildings truly remained standing, and the rest of the area was filled with carcasses being picked apart by the birds. A large group seemed to have moved eastwards, leaving the town, but now little could be seen but a few travelers taking the same road as the party.

When they reached the village, it was already night, and the group attempted to set up camp. One part of the carnage stood out, and when they looked at it, they could find still-drying blood on the ground, but no sign of a body.

Just as they settled down in the mill for the night, the party was set upon by a group of warriors; not the Butcher’s men, but orcs. After a fierce and protracted fight, the party managed to defeat the orcs, leaving one of them pinned and unarmed by the party.

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Bad News in the Air
October 7, 2017

In Higayashima….

The Regent, High Priest of the capital city, entered a shrine within the palace complex to speak with his advisor, Kyoji. The regent was concerned with the actions of the hobgoblins that Kyoji had invited into Zhongdao, but the red-haired man assured the regent that the hobgoblins could be controlled, and kept from the capital.

The regent then shared another piece of news; there were reports that Her Highness Akemi had survived, and had gained the support of the dwarves of Kalaron. While Kyoji considered these false rumors, the regent asked that Kyoji dispatch a force of Acheron’s forces to deal with this illegitimate claimant to the throne.

In the council chambers of Stone Serpent Keep

Akemi called for her advisors to help her plan her next move. She had grown tired of waiting inside the keep, and needed to take steps to establish her claim.

The group brought a number of rumors to her attention.

Shiro mentioned that the hobgoblins seemed to have split their forces, half besieging Shizhou while the rest moved north, driving refugees before them. Deploying their forces to pick off isolated groups of hobgoblins could slow the advance, save innocent lives, and give their unseasoned forces valuable battlefield experience.

Lu Bu brought attention to the actions of the giants. They seemed to have dispersed their fleet and were searching for something. He suspects it is their ossuary, of great value to the haruchai. Aiding the giants might allow them to be brought into the fold.

Ivellios reported that while the hobgoblins were terrorizing the south, the black outriders of the Shogunate, the same men who had burned villages in Middle Valley, had been seen heading west. Stopping those men could save lives, and eliminate a dangerous adversary who had harried the party from the earliest days of their journey.

Huijin had heard rumors of a dark temple on one of the islands, a place where the Jade Empire had kept the bones of wizard-sages. Perhaps the forbidden powers of that place could be used to serve Akemi’s claim.

After discussion, Akemi chose to go after the outriders. They would mobilize their garrison and march west, to find and defeat the Butcher and his men. Before they had a chance to act, however, Captain Vondril entered the room with news; three haggard riders had appeared at the keep’s gatehouse.

Winged menace

The riders, atop their worn-down horses, reported that they were part of a group of refugees from the south. While they thought they were far enough north to escape the hobgoblins, they were being attack from above by terrifying beasts that devoured their horses and tore apart the people as they fled. The party ordered their troops to mobilize, and rode out ahead of them to see what they could do to stop the raid.

With Gin in the lead, they arrived to see hobgoblin harriers, atop griffon mounts, attacking the scattered refugees. After felling the griffons with steel and magic, one of the hobgoblins surrendered rather than be cut down.

While some of the party went to help the injured and dying, the rest interrogated the hobgoblin. Their flight of harriers had come been sent to bring the fight to the people of Zhongdao, and had been attacking the refugee column. 35 others were encamped a day’s flight away, though all had been dispersed to raid and attack villages in the area, while the larger army made their slow way across the land.

A new force arrives

Akemi and Gin took the prisoner back towards the Keep, but did not pass their forces on their return as they had expected. Instead, they found a force of dragonborn outside of the Keep, with the garrison inside manning the walls. While no arrows were being exchanged, the environment was tense.

Gin attempted to allow Akemi to climb the walls while invisible, but the soldiers were forced to help Akemi up the wall, and haul their captive into the Keep so he could be locked in the dungeons.

Going to speak with the host outside from the walls, Akemi asked what they wished, and after the dragonborn said they sought a possible alliance, Akemi invited a representative inside the keep.

Meanwhile, back with the refugees, while the party helped turn the survivors towards the Keep, Steve and Strawhat arrived from the south, carrying with them a large bundle…

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Act III: A Reign Begins
Spring, 51st year of the Crimson Moon

Previously…

At the end of Act II, the party had brought the famed warhammer of Ghal Muraz to the dwarf city of Kaleron, nestled within the north-eastern mountains of Zhangdao. To reforge the hammer, the party traveled to the top of the mountain, to the ruined Forge of Winds, where ancient dwarven smiths crafted magical weapons.

Atop the highest peak, the party met the Dragon of Wind, an ancient force of cold and ice. The Dragon attacked the party, seeking to consume the essence of Shiro and prolong his life, but the party defeated the dragon, and received an ice-white orb from the bones it left behind.

Traveling to the Forge itself, the party was able to reforge the warhammer by uniting dwarven and human blood, mirroring the pact that saw the original creation of the warhammer many centuries ago. With the warhammer reforged, and a vast treasury discovered, the party returned to make clear Akemi’s claim.

Before Akemi could speak, one clan of dwarves demanded an end to their blood-feud with Trogga, who had been responsible for terrible deeds during the civil war hundreds of years past. Trogga was defeated, but survived, and was cast into exile.

The dwarf-lords listened to Akemi’s claim, and proclaimed their support for her in the wars to come.

Now…

Over the past three months, skilled dwarven stonemasons have been tasked with restoring Stone Serpent Keep, a ruined castle complex in the foothills of the mountains. While they work on creating a base for Akemi’s supporters, the other members of the party have taken the chance to attend to their own objectives, and to learn new skills.

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Darkening the Clear Stone
The Spiders

Talls Peaks and Small Respites

As the party made their way towards the Temple of the Clear Stone, Strawhat remembered his arrival at the temple, which he located when he became lost in the mountains. His first meeting with the Master of the Clear Stone was somewhat uninspired, after he broke his fist against the walls of the monastery, but his cleverness and resilience gave him the first hint of respect from the Master.

Huijin noticed during the travels that the party was moving in circles, and as she questioned Strawhat about this, a snowball thrown by Princess Akemi struck her in the back. During the brief snowball fight which followed (which Gin became very invested in), Huijin and the rest of the party finally lost their concentration on finding the monastery, and Strawhat noticed the path that would lead to the front gates.

Cold Winds

Entering the Temple, Strawhat and the others found the training grounds to be covered in snow, and incredibly still. Moving into the area, the walking corpses of some of Strawhat’s fellow students rose from beneath the snow, including the formidable body of Apprentice Punching Bag.

As the party defeated the corpses, no longer filled with any of the skill they had as living monks, white, spectral spiders escaped from the destroyed bodies, dissipating into the wind, evidence of foul wizardry.

Pressing Forward

Entering the temple buildings, the party fought through a voracious ghast, the former cook who had developed a taste for raw flesh in his unlife. Setting the creature ablaze, the party sought out a way to put out the fire, and found the workshed filled with possessed farming implements. With the workshed burned to the ground and the ghast immolated, a number of other spiders crawled into the air and were swept away on the wind.

Moving into the meditation chamber, Strawhat found that one apprentice had been bound to the area as a spectre, and caused the shadows of the formerly serene room to attempt to snuff out the party. Defeating these remnants, the party gathered up the precious gems used as meditating foci, and put these representations of the temple in Strawhat’s hands.

Finally the party moved into the cells, where the novices had slept, and found that none remained. The animated skeletons, whole and partial, assaulted the group, and the fierce fighting within the cramped hallways left the party exhausted. Taking a quick break, they prepared to cross the passage to the upper portion of the temple.

The Bridge

While Huijin and Shiro discussed the nature of dragons, the party deliberated, deciding to press forward so that Strawhat could check the entire area for survivors and see if he could recover the centerpiece of the temple, the famed Clear Stone.

With night fully engulfing the party, they prepared to cross the thin stone bridge that spanned the two portions of the temple. Huijin, leading the way, almost walked straight into the webs of a group of albino, giant spiders, foul and unnatural creatures which had taken up residence.

While Lu Bu and Huijin fought from the bridge, Ivellios and Fini were set upon from behind, and both were paralyzed by poison. The spiders having captured their meal, the two were bundled up and dragged up the side of the mountain. With Shiro delaying the spiders with his ice sorcery, Huijin and Lu Bu finished off the other spiders. Transforming into a spider herself, Huijin was able to scale the mountain alongside Lu Bu, and the final spiders were slain just as they reached their cave in the mountainside.

Deciding the give the party time to recover after a close fight, the group retreated back into the meditation room to wait for dawn.

Items acquired: 7 gems (assorted, 50 gp ea), Keogthum’s Ointment (2 uses)

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The Green Ronin Inn
Birchburn and escape from the Butcher

Birchburn the Innkeeper

While a portion of the party pulled the Butcher’s army away from the Sacred Grove, the remaining members returned to the druids to retrieve Akemi. Explaining to Nako and Solli the situation, they took the Princess and returned to the inn to repair their wagon.

Tzzird was surprised upon entering the inn to find that it was owned by her old mentor, Birchburn. Birchburn welcomed the party in and set one of his workers to fixing their wagon, while informing the party of the goings on. The High Priest had managed to drive the Shogun off of Higayashima, but now the Shogun was beginning to collect his vassals and form an army large enough for total conquest of Zhangdao, in the missing Prince Yuudai’s name.

As Birchburn and Tzzird discussed their mutual acquaintance, a few of the Butcher’s soldiers entered the inn, attempting to make trouble with the party. Fortunately, quick thinking and quicker spellcraft from Shiro was able to send them packing.

Persistent bullies

Before the party left, Birchburn offered a number of small gifts to them: a lantern which shed light only for the person holding it, a bottle of sake that would leave only the person who pours it completely unaffected, and reeds which befriend animals.

Upon leaving the inn to travel to the meeting point, the party realized they were being followed by the same thugs from before. While the soldiers were defeated, they party was slowed down, and on the horizon were ominous warhorns; the Butcher’s outriders.

Flames over the Bridge

Beginning to pick up speed as they moved down towards a chasm which marked the edge of the forest, the party was surrounded by the Butcher’s outriders. While Trogga held the wagon steady, spurring the ox who pulled it to move faster, Shiro and Ivellios set part of the forest alight to dissuade pursuit. WithFini and Tzzird riding alongside the wagon, the group approached a long bridge over the deep chasm.

As they reached the midpoint, Ivellios lit the bridge on fire, but some of the last parting shots from the outriders knocked Tzzird and Shiro to unconsciousness. Trogga ensured that Tzzird’s horse keep her conscious, while Fini leapt back into the wagon to help the others.

The bridge disintegrating under them, the wagon raced for the edge, tottering on the precipice. Barrels and boxes spilled out of the wagon into the rapids below, while Akemi and the unconscious Shiro began to slip out. With Fini helping Akemi out, Ivellios was able to grab Shiro and hold him inside the wagon until the panicked ox pulled it back to safety.

The two halves of the party met back up, with Huijin seeing the burning forest from across the bridge. Also visible was the Butcher, infuriated by his prey slipping away. Wheeling, the army began to make the long march to the next suitable crossing.

As they made their way towards the promise of safety at Strawhat’s monastery, the Temple of the Clear Stone, Huijin was forced to confront the pull between her duty to find the Sphere and protect the Princess, and her loyalty to her circle. For now, she continues to travel with the party.

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The Swamp
A low place in the Middle Ilses

The Sacred Hotsprings

After being introduced to Gin, the party decided that to ensure that both the Sacred Grove and Akemi were protected, they would have to split up. Lu Bu, Gin, Strawhat, and Huijin would disrupt the leadership of the army by assassinating its leader. Knowing that he would make use of some famed local hotsprings, the party began to lay out a careful plan…

The next we saw, a disrobed Strawhat was fleeing pursuit from a number of soldiers. In the disorganized, inelegant, and steamy fight that followed, the group was able to defeat the immediate threat, and fled into the nearby forests. Drawing a vengeful army behind them, they set to lead the Butcher’s men away from the Sacred Grove.

The P.O.U.S? I don’t think they exist.

Knowing they would need to slow down the army, and seeing a chance to thin their pursuers numbers, the group headed towards the Grove of Carnivorous Plants, where plants of unusual shape resided.

While they were successful in bringing the army into the grove, the delicious heat from their non-photosythesizing bodies attracted a pair of carnivorous plants, which beset the party. Luckily, Strawhat was able to prove that fist beats plant, and with the help of the others the plants were reduced to a spray of pollen.

The party exited into the swamp, a dark and dismal place. Tired, injured, and soaking wet after a few missteps, the sight of a warm, spacious looking hut in the swamp brought the party to risk the hospitality of its inhabitant.

A Daughter of the Dark Lady

While drying off inside the hut, Strawhat discovered a few pages of a journal, written in a foreign script, as well as noticing a number of oddly shaped, strangely attuned gems hanging around the main room. Before they had a chance to investigate further, the owner of the hut returned, a dark-skinned woman.

While Strawhat hid from this threatening presence, the others spoke with her briefly. She extended her hospitality, and gave the name of Anah al-Firii. When asked about her reason for being in Zhongdao, she explained that she was interested in collecting things from across the world, and had come to the Middle Isles to collect priceless items.

Dismissing herself to sleep, the party set themselves up to rest for the night. Their rest was disturbed by a voice calling to Strawhat from outside. Strawhat approached the voice, and found that it was a spiritual form resembling his fellow apprentice, Novice Fieldstone, who had been dispatched on a separate mission the same time he had left his monastery.

With the spirit of Novice Fieldstone, dozens of undead arose from the depths of the swamp, and beset the party. While they first tried to barricade themselves inside the hut, the increasing number of undead soon caused them to flee, and they dispelled the tortured spirit of Fieldstone as they fled the swamp.

Unable to rest, the party began to slowly make their way back towards the rendez-vous with the rest of the party, so they could set out for their next destination, the Clear Stone Monastery.

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The Circle of the Second Moon, Part III
O-hikki-sama

The Three-Trees Spirit

Delving into the center of the desecrated forest, the party arrived upon three trees, intertwined together, which rested on a key focal point of the local leylines. The tree had been cut down at the base, and now a thick oily substance covered the tree. When they approached, two sacred elk stepped forward to block their approach.

The three trees were the embodiment of the forest god Hikki, a young forest spirit of Middle Valley. The elk explained that a horde of men had done this, desecrating the ground. Enraged, the forest god Hikki emerged from the desecrated stump and attacked the party. After a fierce battle, the spirit was defeated and destroyed, severing the desecration from the other leylines of the area. In time, a new path will be created that will revitalize the destroyed ground, restoring balance.

Te-Jia and Ji-Bao

Deciding to follow the regiment of Shogunate soldiers, the party followed the obvious trail they had left, and passed by Te-Jia, one of the druids of Huijin’s circle. In a hopeless attempt to remove the greensleeping Ji-Bao from his meditations, Te-Jia had cut him from his tree, killing Ji-Bao.

Though distraught, Trogga and Lu Bu’s persuasion managed to give her the will to take Ji-Bao back to the circle to be properly interred. Without returning to check on the safety of the Princess or the circle, the party continued to pursue the regiment.

Birchburn the Innkeeper

The party found the regiment encamped around a roadside inn not far from the Sacred Grove. Sending Trogga and Ivellios down into the inn, the party found that the regiment was exploiting the hospitality of the innkeeper, but were not overtly hostile. From the innkeeper, Trogga and Ivellios learned that a man called ‘The Butcher’ was leading the regiment, and was searching for something he believed was hidden in the Sacred Grove.

Meeting up with another patron of the inn who had a deep interest in confronting the Butcher, the two began to return to the rest of the party, and overheard in passing two men discussing their plans for the area. Still searching for Princess Akemi, the regiment was responsible for despoiling the Three-Trees god, and intended to continue to assault the forest until their quarry was forced into their arms.

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The Circle of the Second Moon, Part II
Sword oil in the forest

Bigger, Badder Boars

The party ventured out of the Sacred Grove to see what was assaulting the area, and found that it was a horde of boars, driven to violence by the desecration of the leylines. While Shiro Kisaragi was nastily torn at by some of the boars, they were slain, and a slick, oil-like essence was smelled around them.

Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites

Following the trail back towards the desecrated leyline, the party came upon a group of sprites beset by stirges, driven to attack the natural guardians of the forest. With some reluctance on the part of a few members, the party came to the sprite’s aid, managing to save one of their number after failing to stabilize another.

The sprite, in thanks, offered to escort the party wherever they wished to go within the forest, and the party asked to be led to the woodcutter village in the hope of finding more clues to the unrest.

Wood Cut Village

Reaching the woodcutter’s village, the party was met with very open suspicion. After a brief standoff, the party was permitted entrance. The village had been recently beset by a regiment of Shogunate warriors, led by a tall, hollow-faced man. After calming the villagers, the party settled in to rest.

During the night, Shiro asked around regarding tales of dragons, and was met by the typical myths, with little new information offered. Lu Bu wished to discuss the nature of the village, and learned how little the common folk care for politics, as their greatest concern was making sure any conflict with Shogunate forces occur as far as possible from their homes.Tzzird asked after the Warhammer of Ghal Maraz, but to the village, this too was no more interesting than any other fable.

Lu Bu, Huijin, and Fini also decided to try to report back to the circle, and the next morning received word that things had only gotten worse. The party set off towards the split in the leyline.

Mad with Grief

The party came upon an area of forest that had been horribly burned, very recently charred and left still-smoking. Within the few trees that remained, two distraught dryads met the party, and attacked them in a grief-maddened state. Huijin, affected by their charms, was pulled into helping to defend one, until a shower of spells and arrows brought it down, shaking off the effect.

Now, the party readies to reach the heart of the disturbance.

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The Circle of the Second Moon, Part I
A Bamboo Forest

Dreams and Waking

Lu Bu had a nightmare, remembering his time as an imperial observer during Shogun Shouta’s suppression of a rebellion in the heart of Middle Valley. While the Shogun’s lieutenant was able to take the head of the rebellion’s leader, and the remaining rebels surrendered, the lieutenant took it upon himself to make an example of the village where the uprising had started, putting it and all its inhabitants to the torch.

Akemi awoke, still recovering from her injury, and spoke with Huijin briefly. While Huijin was apologetic for her perceived failure, the Princess did not seem to know how to react to the deference offered by Huijin and Strawhat. A traveling monk approached the party, on his way to the shrine within Middle Valley, and asked to be permitted to travel alongside the party for better protection from bandits.

The Blights

As they entered the fresh growth of Middle Valley on their way to the Sacred Grove, the party came across an area of recently cleared land, chopped by woodcutters in the area. Huijin was upset by the discovery up further human encroachment into the forest, but the party set this aside for a time and pressed forward.

As they traveled through a sea of bamboo, the party was set upon by blights. Huijin demonstrated her ability to assume the form of a fierce beast, and a taxing battle followed. Both Ivellios and Strawhat were brought close to death, but the blights were defeated. Shiro, the recent addition to the party, discovered the nature of the party’s mission, and asked to join them, to help serve the Empire.

The Circle of the Second Moon

Upon reaching the Sacred Grove, the party met the members of Huijin’s circle, Soli, Nako, Te-Jia, and Ji-Bao. While Soli and Nako welcomed the newcomers, Te-Jia was outraged to find that two sorcerers had been brought into the Sacred Grove. The stress caused Ivellios to lose temporary control of his power, assuming a hideous beast form before being locked by Nako into a sheep’s body until he calmed down.

Huijin and the other druids began their Moot, and decided that Huijin must continue her quest to find the Darkwood Sphere, and discover the cause of the unrest in nature. The circle would protect the Princess for a time.

Before the party had a chance to rest, a great desecration was felt through the leylines. Soli and Nako set about maintaining the barrier around the Sacred Grove, but Te-Jia dashed into the woods to search for Ji-Bao. Without a third master druid to hold the circle, a stampeding presence outside the Grove threatens to breach the barrier.

The party prepares to step outside to confront this menace.

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An Obsidian Arrowhead, Part III
A Mess of Goblins

The Bridge and the Pools

Seeking a better way back outside, the party began to loop back through the goblin caves. Strawhat, scouting ahead, alerted a few inattentive goblins to his presence when he tried to signal his friends to fight, and was left somewhat wounded because of it. While the goblins were defeated (despite giving Huijin a dump in some nearby standing pools of water, one was able to escape and called for his allies.

The party prepared for the goblin charge, and dumped most of them down below by lighting the bridge on fire. After finishing off the remainder, the party took refuge just inside the cave to try to recuperate.

The Goblin Chief

While they rested, Lu Bu and Strawhat exchanged words over the proper way to protect the Princess. The rest was rudely interrupted by firebombs dropped from above, which drove the party into a flood of water that pushed most of them out of the cave entirely.

When Ash went to investigate, he was met by a trio of goblins, among them the goblin chief. After Fini and Huijin took care of the two bodyguards, Ash was able to pull the chief out into the open where the rest of the party could interrogate him.

Three arrowheads out of six

While the goblin pleaded for his life, the party learned that he had been contracted to watch the roads for a group of travelers and try to assassinate one of them in particular, the girl riding a horse. To this end, they were paid, and given three obsidian arrowheads out of a purported six owned by their contractor.

It was clear from the letter found on the goblin chief that a very wealthy noble was responsible for this attempted assassination, and the timing of the attack left little doubt that whoever paid for the princess’s death was aware of the imminent attack on the capital. Seeking a place to safely leave the princess, the party headed into Middle Valley to find Huijin’s circle of druids.

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