Saturday, December 15, 2012
Panyus led the group up to Burne’s laboratory, a dusty, cramped room halfway up the tower. Moving aside a large oaken table, Panyus slid two large stone blocks out of the wall revealing a narrow chute illuminated by a soft amber glow. Panyus led them down the ladder to a larger laboratory underneath the tower. This room was large and bright, illuminated by unseen light sources. An assortment of oddly-shaped glassware sat on a steel table, several of the containers holding brightly colored fluids, bubbling over brightly colored flame. A soft warm breeze wafted through the room. Panyus did not allow the party to tarry, but opened a set of steel doors and led them into a small chamber. He closed the door, the room trembled slightly and another set of doors opened. “Here,” he said “is where things get weird.”
He showed them a map, illustrating their way to the engine room. They were to discover the source of the weirdness and correct it. The weirdness, he explained consisted of lots of mud, things being moved around, and weird creatures. No, he wouldn’t come with them, but would wait for them in the small chamber. They should signal their return with a special knock. And he would let them borrow his special glowing wand. The party stepped into the corridor and the doors closed behind them.
About thirty feet down the corridor, they began to notice the mud Panyus had told them about. It was black and slick, and a thin layer covered the smooth stone floor ahead of them. Cautiously, they walked onto it, and noticed no ill effects. Continuing, they saw a bright, pale light ahead of them. Approaching, they found a stone column, clouded in steam, and encircled by a pit. An iron bridge crossed the pit to the column. Ropes made of braided metal hung from the unseen ceiling. When Thundar stepped onto the iron bridge, a ferocious-looking creature covered in white fur dropped down and grabbed him. His companions pulled him to safety while Thimbur rushed at the weird beast—a bipedal combination of a bear and a man, but stronger and more agile than either. It grabbed Thimbur and threw him down the pit to land in hot mud. But having been shot by several arrows and stabbed with spears, the creature jumped across the pit to the far side and ran away. The party helped Thimbur out of the mud and continued their exploration.
The party decided to harvest some of the giant mushroom caps, turning one of them into a “sled,” for continuing down the sloping mud passage. They placed the dead blue men on the mushroom sled, and, let it slide down the passage before them, and then anchoring a rope to follow after it. Hearing the sounds of their mushroom sled meeting living—and alarmed—creatures, the party hurried back up the slope to find easier ground to fight on if necessary. The party caught only a glimpse of the humanoid forms that were climbing up their own rope after them before another one of the exploding cans landed among them, killing Johnny the Morose and injuring other party members severely.
Leaving Johnny’s body behind, the party fled, and took refuge in a nearby side passage. From there, they waited and watched. They saw five of the blue men who, seeing Johnny’s body, scrambled to examine it. The party seized this opportunity and attacked with a volley of arrows. In the ensuing melee, Young Edward lost his footing and slid down the slope. Thimbur, after ambushing and killing one of the blue men, slid down after him.
After the main party had killed the blue men, they followed after Edward and Thimbur, arriving on the shore of a vast mud lake just in time to see Thimbur kill the shaggy white-furred monster with his spear. Edward had been killed by the monster. Thimbur skinned the white furred monster while the rest of the party worked to carry Edward up the muddy slope. Together, they returned with both of their dead hirelings to the steel doors. They knocked and Panyus opened.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
In protest, about half of the monks chose to banish themselves with the Abbot. As the monks prepared to leave the monastery they agreed that the Shining Path had caused them this dishonor. They should be punished. Gwinch and his sohei agreed to support them in breaking into and vandalizing the main temple of the Shining Path.
About 75 monks, marched through Pasar with long knives hidden beneath their robes and bows hidden in a cart of firewood. They convened near the Temple of the Shining Path and, finding the front gate hanging open and unguarded, charged into the courtyard with their weapons!
But the warrior monks of the Shining Path were ready and waiting. Archers shot them from the walls, and spearmen emerged from the temple, followed by about two dozen of the mercenaries commonly employed as Silk Merchant bodyguards.
The Two-Fold Path monks were less disciplined than those of Shining Path, and were guided by fury and revenge rather than well-conceived tactics. Many were shot with arrows, and when they broke ranks, killed by the well-organized Shining Path spearmen and battle-hardened mercenaries. Gwinch’s sohei, on the other hand, responded to the surprise attack with level-headed confidence. They escaped the courtyard into the Shining Path Temple. When the Shining-Path monk pursued them, Saisho suddenly appeared and with a magical blast of steam killed their leader and his lieutenants. At the death of their leader, many of the Shining Path monks and the mercenaries were put to flight. The remainder fought to the death.
Victorious, the Two-Fold Path monks began appropriating the Shining Path prayer banners, while Gwinch searched for evidence that they were responsible behind his own temple’s recent misfortunes. A letter on the body of the dead leader showed that someone had warned Shining Path that they were going to be attacked, and had offered both weapon and the mercenary support. But there was nothing to confirm that they had planned or caused the death of Jiro.
Saturday, December 8, 2012
Gwinch, Kishi, and Gunjar have spent the past year as guests of the Two-Path Monastery in the market town of Pasar. Pasar is a peaceful town, having benefited from the age-old wisdom of its Founding Families, who continue to direct its administrative affairs and staff the militia. The Founding Families aversion to both violence and commerce have made Pasar an ideal place for foreign merchants from all corners who know it as a place where they bring their goods to market without fear of criminals or corruption. Tariffs and duties are high, but it’s a small price to pay knowing that the businesses they build are well-protected.
The foreign merchants bring their foreign faiths with them and the most prominent temples are those dedicated to One Law and to Shining Path. Both have multiple temples and monasteries throughout the town. The Two-Fold path is one of several faiths whose place in the town is currently small but may be larger in the future.
The merchants also organize themselves along commercial lines and most belong to one of two merchant’s guild. The Silk Guild is the older of the two, but The Spice Guild may have more members today. Most Silk Guild members are dedicated (in varying degrees) to the Shining Path faith while most Spice Guild members have submitted (at least nominally) to One Law. That said, neither guild is restrictive as to membership. At the same time, both guilds expect loyalty of its members—especially with respect to what territory each member may buy and sell in and the prices charges for various goods.
In the past, when controversies have arisen among guild members or, more seriously between the two rival guilds, one of the temples of the Shining Path has offered its priests and facilities as a neutral meeting place for the resolution of differences. In response to complaints of bias, the merchants recently met at a One Law temple—but merchants from both guilds found the priests too intrusive and the atmosphere generally inhibiting.
So, in response to the latest controversy, the Abbott of the Monastery of the Two-Fold Path offered to host negotiations, pointing out that the Two-Fold Path claimed few adherents from the merchant class. His offer was accepted, and a meeting scheduled. The Abbott asked Gwinch and his associates to delay their pursuit of Goyat and Kawabi until after the meeting so that they could help ensure everything ran smoothly. He was excited about this opportunity to raise the status of his monastery, but had strong concerns that something bad would happen. His long-time visitors agreed to repay his hospitality by preserving peace at the event.
With about a week to prepare, Gwinch, Gunjar, and Kishi decided they should get to know what they could about the most prominent invitees. Jiro, as the de facto leader of the Spice Guild was their first person of interest. With the help of Saisho’s magic, they made themselves invisible, and after a couple hours exploring the streets of Pasar and were able to find Jiro. They trailed him for the rest of the day, watching him interact with customers, share a lavish dinner with other members of the Spice Guild and, at the end of a long night, retire to an inn. They heard him refer to the upcoming negotiations in conversations with both customers and his associates, but did not hear say anything that suggested any underhanded plans.
When the day of the meeting arrived, the adventurers divided themselves into six patrols and circulated throughout the monastery grounds, giving special attention to the entry points and the rooms where the merchants were meeting. Jiro and the other Spice merchants had just finished a private meeting and were leaving it to rejoin the Silk Merchants in the larger room where negotiations were taking place when— one of the Two-Fold monks drew a sword from under his robes and charged Jiro. Gunjar’s patrol was passing nearby; the priest responded quickly, using his magic to apprehend the attacker. Unfortunately, Jiro’s bodyguards regarded Gunjar as a threat and drew their swords on them. Other monks joined the fight and for several minutes confusion and chaos reigned.
Gwinch’s efforts were unsuccessful. The chaotic fight among the monks, the merchants, and their bodyguards ended without any deaths— except Jiro’s. The other Spice Merchants did their best to save their leader, rushing his unconscious body to the One Law temple. There the priests determined that he had been poisoned, probably by a dart, and administered their most powerful drugs. Despite their efforts, after a few hours, the priests of One Law announced that Jiro had died. Before dying, he expressed remorse for the dissipation, pride, and occasional deception that had marred his life, exhorting all people, and especially his fellow Spice Merchants to adhere more closely to One Law. The priests announced that they were organizing a procession to carry his body back to his home village for burial.
Meanwhile, at the Temple of the Two-Fold Path, the Silk Merchants expressed their outrage at the poor hospitality and despite the Abbott’s apologies, departed very soon after the Spice Merchants. Gwinch questioned the servants and learned that they had noticed a new laundress among them. He searched the servants’ quarters and found several scrolls inscribed with prayers characteristic of the Shining Path. The monk that attacked Jiro was also found to be carrying Shining Path prayer scrolls, although he claimed he had not seen them before. He was turned over to the City Guard.
The Abbott was disappointed. But more than disappointed, he was absolutely furious.