Monday, March 29, 2010

Return to the House of Lord Jourdain (Part II)

In the week or so since B&T’s first successful venture into Jourdain’s house, words of their having successfully lifted the curse had spread throughout Khanbaliq. A small crowd gathered around the party as they passed through the outer city, and once outside the city walls, they found a larger crowd, perhaps two hundred people milling about on the flood plain between Khanbaliq’s walls and the river, with Jourdain’s house the focal point. They spectators kept a safe distance; many perched in trees or in the remains of other buildings at least one hundred yards from Jourdain’s compound. Likewise, the hangers-on fell away as the party neared their objective.
As they reached the gates, however, they met another group, about a dozen men, armed with swords, spears, and an abundance of bravado, patrolled the area just outside the gate. They were making sure nothing comes out. “And to keep everyone safe, no one goes in.”
“No one” did not mean Tetsukichi and Beatriss. Of course they could go in. And maybe they’d like some assistance. The leaders of the group, Ho-Jun and Chong, were accepted to accompany the party.
The party revisited some rooms on the main level, this time looking especially for objects of value. Ho-Jun and Chong were willing to open doors, and took first choice from Jourdain’s liquor collection. The party went upstairs and went wandering around, looking for locked doors to open. Behind one, they heard a woman’s voice: “Jourdain? Please. I forgive you. Let me out now. Please?”
When Beatriss answered, “It’s not Jourdain,” the voice inside turned angry, and a vengeful spirit stepped through the wall. Between Cair’s magic and the swords of Beatriss and Tetsukichi, they made short work of her and, with nothing left to talk about, opened the door. Here they found the look dead body that had once belonged to the angry spirit. After removing the body’s jewelry, they decided to leave the house. Ho-Jung and Chung loaded up on more alcohol on the way out, and all were greeted as heroes by the gang outside.
The party returned the very next day, this time determined to take a more methodical approach, and to make a map of the upstairs rooms. The tough guys outside had adopted a new strategy themselves. There were two guards outside the now padlocked gate. After paying a small courtesy fee, the party passed through the gates and entered the house where they found Ho-Jun, Chung, and the rest of the guys, several of whom had invited dates. Having drunk most of Jourdain’s alcohol, they had found his opium. Chung did not seem to be in any condition to do anything that required standing upright, but Ho-Jung was invited to once more assist the party. One of the women insisted that she wanted to see upstairs, too, and no one objected.
The Cursed Chateau @ iMOCA
It was a short trip for Ho-Jun and his friend. Both were killed in the explosion triggered by the opening of a secret door in the library. And in the little room behind the door, the party found the dead, but well-preserved corpse of Jourdain, a collection of magical implements and, sitting cross-legged inside a chalk circle, Bayemon, the demon.
Beatriss refused his request to erase the circle, and while Tetsukichi was curious, he acquiesced to Beatriss’s command. Likewise, Beatriss wouldn’t allow anyone to search Jourdain or take anything from the room. The demon became threatening. Someone, he suggested would erase the circle eventually, and wouldn’t they rather be his friends than his enemies?
They hurriedly left the room, and closed the secret door, intent that no one else would see where it was.
They explored most of the rest of the upstairs, and looted the belongings of a dead wizard after dispatching his invisible guardian.
Finding themselves both wounded and semi-encumbered with treasure, the party decided to leave the house. Downstairs, they were confronted by Chung. They admitted his friend was dead and offered him 10 taels. He wanted more—he demanded “that whole bag.” The party backed out of the room; Chung and his men followed them. When they reached the gate, Cair cast a spell to knock of the lock, and the party fled successfully.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Return to House of Lord Jourdain (Part I)

Since their arrival in Khanbaliq roughly six months ago, both Gwinch and Beatriss have heard rumors that there are people “like them” in the city. When they heard this in Zipang, the people “like them” turned out to be simply foreigners from Zhou-dang, or even “barbarians” from the far north of the country. But Khanbaliq is cosmopolitan city. Most of the people are native to northern Zhou-dang or have emigrated from the “Horselands,” but besides the Zipang contingent, there are representatives from most every known empire, kingdom, nation between the Sea of Zipang and the Western Mountains.
And, rumor has it, even beyond. But while Beatriss has met someone who swears that she knew another woman who looked just like her—pale skin, pale hair, wide eyes, she had not met another Cynadicean. Likewise, Gwinch has not met another traveler from Alyan.
Enter Myrrha and Cair.

Myrrha tried to speak to Beatriss in a couple different languages, one of which sounded somewhat like Cynidicean, but was functionally unintelligible to Beatriss. (So they were forced to communicate in Zhou-dang.) Her features were similar to those of a Cynidicean, but her skin was darker than a Cynadicean's, and her hair nearly as dark as anyone in Zhou-dang or Zipang.
And Cair (the same shadowy man who had pointed out to Beatriss where to find Myrrha’s apartment) was also from a distant continent. According to Cair, he was in fact related to Lord Jourdain. Their common ancestor had visited Zhou-dang, and started a family in the predecessor city to Khanbaliq, but then had chosen a second wife to take back with him to his own country. Thus, while Cair stood out as a foreigner in Khanbaliq, he was also regarded as an outsider in the city of his birth. Although, overall, he had been disappointed to have not found a “real home” in Zho-dang, he was interested in paying his respects at the house of his long lost relative.
And so an agreement was soon reached. Beatriss, Tetsukichi, and Hatsu would be joined by Myrrha and Cair in making a follow-up visit to the House of Jourdain. Cair and Myrrha needed special permission to exit the forbidden city but the House of Mehwa was able to arrange this. Su-Laing’s relatives seemed to understand Cair’s sense of filial duty was at least partly pretextual, but they were also interested in getting a share of the wicked old foreigner’s fabled loot. Askaa and Ganbold would join the party to represent the family’s interests.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Play Report: The House of Lord Jourdain (Part IV)

After winning the keys from Jourdain’s servant, the party decided to try some of the locked doors in the basement. They discovered first an alchemy lab, and then some asphyxiating mold. Afu, somewhat panicked by the mold wanted to try to exit the compound, but as expected the gate would not open and there wasn’t even a keyhole to try one of their keys. Concluding that there must be another way out, the party ventured back into the house, checking out some of the rooms they’d missed on the first floor.
Will o' wisp ILord Jourdain seemed to have a lot fun with is visitors, the high point for him being when Beatriss, in trying to open the door to his drinking parlor, came under the effect of a powerful hallucinogenic. White Bear raised some angry objections, and refused to roll “to hit” when I explained her friends had suddenly taken on demonic aspects and she had no choice but to fight them in deadly earnest. Lord Jourdain’s laghter increased with the party’s despair, and then at once fell silent, to be be succeeded by a flash of light and an explosion in the courtyard. In trying to grapple with the deranged Beatriss, the party lost both Qasqari and Hajip; they retreated to another room and barred the door. White Bear suggested, and I agreed, that Beatriss need not pursue them, but since she perceived them as a danger, flee in the other direction.
After poking around in the drinking parlor, the party decided to see what might have happened to Beatriss. They went back into the courtyard and saw two of Jourdain’s hounds, both standing tentatively in the arch of the now open gate, one of them holding something in its mouth. The party fired a volley of arrows and both hounds, turned and barked threateningly (the one dropping the thing in its mouth), but after being hit with a couple more arrows, ran away—out the gate.
The “thing in its mouth” turned out to be boot—chewed and charred, but still with traces of blue dye, and a couple of crushed bells attached.
The party left the compound, and found Beatriss, distraught over what she had done, but reconciled with her more customary perceptions of reality. Relieved to have escaped and with some evidence of what happened to Ikhbayar , the party decided to retrieve the bodies of Qasqari and Hajip and then returned home. Even in the ruins of the old city, carrying dead bodies invites questions. The party freely explained where they had been. And that wicked man was supposed to be rich? Maybe. They hadn’t found anything worth taking.
Back at the House of Mewha, there were questions about money. Tetsukichi gave the boot to Su-Laing and left with her the job of deciding what to tell Kei-lo.
Finally, on her way out of the forbidden city, Beatriss was approached by a shadowy man with a message. A priestess named Myrrha, who had quarters in the forbidden city would like a meeting at her convenience. The man pointed out where Myrrha could be found and then slipped away.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Play Report: The House of Lord Jourdain (part III)

Again, Lord Jourdain:

"These hounds are like nothing on Earth, lean and muscular, and large as ponies, they have black mouths and black teeth. When they bark, they breathe fire. But my visitors, they have spirit, they killed three of my hounds, and put the other two to flight. There’s nothing to do with a beaten dog, but butcher it for the servants, but that pale lady is sick with pity and she let those two run away.

"But no matter. My visitors decided to return the ground floor and then to the top story of the house, and snoop around in the bedrooms. They were finding lots of locked doors and this made them all the more curious to go where they obviously were not wanted. And then who should could sashaying down the corridor, but Landri, shaking his big ring of keys like he always used to do. Making those same jokes he’s always made to visitors who think he’s their servant, and they’re asking him for one thing or another. They don’t find their bed comfortable and want him to bring them a softer mattress. Or they think the food isn’t agreeing with them and they want a glass of water. Or like these visitors, they’ve lost track of one of their friends and think he might be inside this room with the locked door.

"These visitors however, when they saw Landri and the keys they wanted , exhibited their perfect stupidity by allowing the priest among them to puff out his chest and lift whatever holy doo-dad he wears on the chain around his neck, and “command” this tortured spirit from the land of the dead to “return to that place from which he came.” And, I wanted to say, “Excuse me, your holiness, but I haven’t let Landri have a day off in nearly 100 years. He’s not going anywhere. And don’t you want those keys he’s shaking and jangling?” Completely unnecessary. Landri wasn’t hearing it, and never did fat priest lose so much weight. After shivering at Landri’s touch, the priest cowered once more behind the warriors. The pale lady drew her sword and that was soon the end of Landri. Well, I told him to keep the door locked to my wine cellar."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Play Report: House of Lord Jordain (Part II)

In the words of Lord Jourdain:

"When I saw them approaching the house, I knew they were more than lost travelers or timid, second-hand curiosity seekers. They had a certain look their eye. A look showing ignorance of those who had entered this house beforehand and died without a sympathetic witness. Or better yet, stupidity, knowing all the stories, the lies, but believing they were better. The kind of company I like.

"The pale lady I’d seen before. And as much as I wanted to see her die when I first saw her now I wanted it even more. She pried the boards off the gate herself. Once inside the gates, she consulted with one of them. Not out of deference or submission, but something else. Pity? Strange. He was a foreigner, too by his arms. He wore a laced breastplate from Zipang like the one my father left for me. This, the Zipangnese warrior, nodded in the direction of the house.
And so the pale lady walks up to the front door and opens it, without a half-step, without a cocked ear. Not like a burglar, but like someone who thinks she has a right to something. Or like a child hoping to scare away the ghosts before he enters a room.

"Sorry pale lady! The look on her face when the statues leapt off their pedestals will stay with me for centuries. Like it, the way the wrenched his arm landing a solid blow with his sword on hard stone. And again, the look on his face. But the pale lady’s sword for such things, and soon my statue lay shattered on the floor.

"They proceeded from the foyer to the dining room where they dispatched some of my poor, malnourished servants. And then through the kitchen and straight to the cellar. What were they looking for? And why so easily defeated by a locked door? This gave me some amusement, but then the real fun began—my hounds had picked up their scent . . . "

Der Hund

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Play Report: The House of Lord Jordain (Part I)

Beatriss and Tetsukichi have been typecast. (Or perhaps White Bear and Isa?)

Following a conversation with his future in-laws about his lack of money and with his future wife about the lingering depression of her handmaiden Kei-Lo, Tetsukichi agreed to investigate the house of Lord Jordain in hopes of finding some trace of Kei-Lo missing boyfriend. And depending on what traces they would find, recover them or perform appropriate rites.

The “priest,” whom Isa suggested should be called Afu, and who had accompanied B&T on their last body-recovery mission would go with them. As would the “guards” (Askaa and Ganbold, Hajip and Qasqari) and Afu’s assistant, Ju-May (again, Isa’s name suggestion.) Hatsu, Tetsukichi’s friend from Zipang brought the party to nine.

Afu made appropriate divinations and suggested that they undertake the planned venture in 3 days. Beatriss and Hatsu returned to Gamo’s house to prepare, while the others remained in the Forbidden City.

Omesa, Beatriss’s guest from Jangze found that the city did not agree with. He wished Beatriss well and disappeared overnight.

On the day planned for departure, Beatriss was found bed-ridden and weak, so they postponed. To get her strength back, Beatriss practiced her Blackbird exercises. She made the acquaintance of Kwan Wan Lo, a guest of Gamo’s who had come to Khanbaliq to participate in the martial arts tournament. He complimented her skills and recommended that she also participate.

And so at last it was time to visit the house of Lord Jordain. As I may have explained before, the city of Khanbaliq is built on the remains of an older city, destroyed some 50 years ago by Kam Kobra’s grandfather. These ruins are found outside the walls now being constructed around the new city, on a flood plain closer to the river. Most of the old buildings have been complete destroyed, one exception being the Temple of the Two-Fold Path, another being the house of a mysterious foreigner known as Lord Jordain. Sei-Lo believed that her boyfriend had gone into the house, looking for money.

The party of nine, as named above, went outside the walls of Khanbaliq, located the house, and entered . . .