Friday, July 31, 2015

Pyramid of the Dragon: Aftermath

With the help of Blood Ruby Crucible, the party kenned the location of the Blood Ruby itself, first noting that it seemed to be moving through an area of light forest.  Further scrying showed that it was being carried by a strange beast with scaly red arms.  They deduced that this was Deng-Sheng, and went to find him at the mill pond.  Mustapha held Deng-Sheng magically transfixed and Bangqiu removed the pouch from around the boy's next-- sure enough it contained the Blood Ruby and Bangqiu claimed it as his own.  Mastopha released Deng-Sheng and, over the next hour, Deng-Sheng recovered from the magic of the Blood Ruby.

And all was happy in the Happy Valley, at least for a time. Bangqiu did not turn into a dragon creature, but he did begin having some strange dreams.  He convinced the others that they should travel to Khanbaliq in order to make a report on the progress of the castle-- and also so that he might research the powers of the Blood Ruby.

In the course of their journey they met another group of adventures, led by a woman warrior who called herself Red Nar.  Red Nar made it clear that she knew the party had recovered the Blood Ruby and offered to trade for it, also threatening the party with the wrath of  Xuexing if they insisted on holding what clearly did not belong to them.  Bayan did not take well to this kind of talk and told Red Nar to go away.  The two groups parted ways with a few choice words.

The party spent several weeks in Khanbaliq.  Bayan gave a report to Beatriss, who was sequestered in the Women's Palace.  Tetsukichi visited his family in the Imperial City.  Bangqiu sought out and found a wu jen who could teach him more magic.

One fine day, the party encountered a woman who introduced herself as Bāhén.  She acknowledges that she was a compatriot of Red Nar-- but she hoped she might talk with them over some tea or a meal.  Everywhere they wished was fine with her.  Bayan, after some discussion and led the way to a noisy noodle shop.  "This is good," Bahen said. "So no one can hear us."

The conversation was awkward and pointed.  Bahen wanted to know why the party had refused to deal with Red Nar and was pleased when, after minimal equivocation they answered that while they had some fear of evil dragons such as Xuexing, they saw little value in trying to appease him.  They would rather have him hate them for being a threat than be loved for being weak.  Bahen explained that she had been sent by Red Nar to find them and steal the ruby.  She would report that she had failed and then Red Nar would plan an ambush.  Where would they like to be ambushed? 

"Why are you telling us this? Why should we trust you?"

 Bahen told the sad and predictable story of her village being destroyed and enslaved by mercenaries-- Red Nar and her band.  And she countered that it was not a matter of trust.  In choosing an ambush spot, they gave away nothing.  And they might gain the benefit the element of surprise-- or at least take it away from their enemies.

At last they named a bridge only a few miles from Khanbaliq.  Red Nar and her band would attack once the party crossed the bridge.

The party devoted little time to planning for the potential ambush.  They hired 5 guards and carefully arranged their formation in crossing the bridge. Bangiqu, using the Blood Ruby, scanned the area for any red dragons that they might press into service, but found none.

The ambushers acted as expected-- two men charged out from the thick foliage on the far side of the bridge, but were rebuffed by Bayan and Tetsukichi.  Arrows shot by archers hidden on the hillside opposite the bridge missed their targets.  The party responded forcefully-- with the warriors charging forward or shooting their own missiles.  And Mustapha summoned a black dragon from the clouds to attack the hidden archers, finding the one who favored red and blasting her with acid. 

Red Nar's band held their ground against the dragon as it descended on their leader-- and discovered that it was only an illusion, evaporating into black mist when blasted by a bolt of magical energy.  Tetsukichi & company took advantage of the temporary distraction.  The warriors and guardsmen overwhelmed Red Nar's warriors. The enchantress who had dispelled the illusionary dragon gave away her position and was hit by magic missiles from Bangqiu.  And Bahen showed where her loyalties lay, shooting arrows at Red Nar.

After firing a last attach at the party, Red Nar's enchantress transformed into a bird and took to the sky.  Mustapha pointed his wand at Red Nar and fireball engulfed her in flames.  Bahen caught in the fringes of its blast was knocked to the ground and did not get up.  The guardsmen overwhelmed one of Red's warriors.  As Bayan charged her horse at the other, an unseen assassin, sprung out and dragged Bayan to the ground.  Bangqiu and Al-Fitar rushed to her defense. Bayan  pulled herself up and killed the assassin herself.

Soon only one of Red Nar's band-- a strong warrior who seemed energized with unnatural speed. He landed three blows for every one that could be dealt by a normal man.  And when he realized that he would fall under sheer numbers and took to flight, his speed easily outstripped that of a horse.  A second fireball from Mustapho's wand did little more than singe his clothes. But then two glowing green missiles streaked down from the hillside-- and Bahen's hand-- and the bandit stumbled and skidded across the ground, dead.

The company congratulated each other and thanked Bahen for her help.  Badly wounded, she accepted their offers of succor and healing ointments, and even joined them in their relieved retreat to the safety of Khanbaliq.  She politely declined their invitation to join their company, promising that she valued their friendship and hoped that another time would come when they could assist each other.

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