When our last session left off, we were all thrilled to finally have cleared out the House of Withered Blossoms and to leave Munusukaru behind. With Jira resurrected and our new friends accompanying us, it was time to depart the Forest of Spirits and continue south toward our final destination. This account covers the next month and a half of our adventure.
September 13: We depart, wishing the Kami all the best. Our goal is to seek out Hirobashi Jiro and recruit his help.
The rest of September: The month proves fairly unexciting as we trek through rural areas without much action. Jira celebrates a subdued birthday party with a few rounds of drinks. The morale of the group rises considerably a couple of weeks later when enough time has passed that we can resurrect Rika. After a brief explanation of where we are and where we are going, we continue on toward Minkai.
October 13: We finally arrive in Minkai, coming to a lake. We spot some young fellows practicing archery with some targets under the leadership of a woman wearing an exotic hat and red robes. We notice that the would-be archers are not overly talented, and Skizzik even says so aloud. The woman notices us and asks us what we are doing here, as we clearly look foreign to this land. Skizzik and Hiroko both attempt to explain who we are and why we seek Hirobashi Jiro, but she isn’t having any of it. It takes Ameiko herself to convince the woman to introduce herself as Hotsu and tell us that she is Jiro’s second in command.
She leads us to a nearby hut, sitting down beside what appears to be a chessboard. We pass the time waiting for Jiro to arrive by listening to Hotsu’s excited explanation of the rules of the game. After a few moments, Jiro arrives and introduces himself. Jira starts to explain that our goal is to safely escort Ameiko to her rightful place on the Jade Throne, prompting dismissive laughter from Jiro and Hotsu. Ameiko explains that she is the last heir to the Amatatsu family, gaining Jiro’s attention.
Hotsu poses a riddle to us about a dilemma involving a samurai, a peasant, and a ruthless daimyo. Skizzik gives the riddle some thought and comes up with an answer that they find acceptable. They note that the riddle is a metaphor for the dire situation Minkai finds itself in right now. Jiro further explains that while he would like to help us, he is busy trying to handle the situation up here. Crops are hard to grow, and the region has been under attack by a group of barbarions that the local daimyo is doing nothing about. Specifically, the barbarians operate in two groups. One goes around on horses pillaging the countryside while the other maintains a headquarters of operation at a fortress a few days from here. Jiro requests that we tackle the fortress while he and his Ronin defeat the horsemen. Jiro also wants us to try and locate an armory that only a member of the royal families can open and retrieve his family sword for him. If we both accomplish our missions, he will be free to help us in our quest. We agree to these terms, and spend an evening preparing for the journey. Skizzik trims his new bonsai tree, Rika and Shalelu scout around the immediate area, and Jira trains with the new naginata in his possession. The next morning, we set off for the fortress.
October 17: After three days and 50 miles, we reach the fortress. We see that it’s built into the side of a large rock formation, and decide it would be best to scout it out before an assault. Titus and Hiroko remain back to guard Ameiko and the others while the five of us (as Porthos is finally back in the game!) go forth toward the gate. We find a western entrance with one guard, but also spot a seemingly-unguarded secret entrance on the east side. Being the most stealthy of us, Skizzik goes invisible and sneaks into the fortress through this entrance. He creeps around the corridors, spying a spellcaster woodworking in one room while also saying a dead guy impaled on a spike. Taking as much time as he feels he can to scout out the area, Skizzik eventually returns just in time before his invisibility wears off.
We decide to begin by going in through the secret entrance and confronting the woodworker. A tattooed servant girl opens the door, the druid woodworker sees us with widening eyes, and he turns stone-gray. Jira rushes into the room, bypassing the servant girl to attack the druid. From behind him, the servant girl transforms into what can only be described as a slutty were-tiger before flanking him and biting him. Thom, considering this the worst in manners, charges the were-tiger and impales it in one shot from his lance. The druid looses a fireball that gets the attention of anyone in the fortress that didn’t already gather that we were here. A mustached man enters the room from the staircase on the opposite side just in time to see Jira behead the druid. Thom charges the man with the facial hair, tripping him up. He gets back up, only for Skizzik to finish him off with a targeted explosive bomb.
We hear more enemies approaching and decide to cause them some problems. Rika creates an acid pit in the doorway. Some of the barbarians attempt to jump over the pit, but only a couple succeed. The others frantically try to crawl out of the pit as they burn to death. We take some of them out, more coming from both the west and the north. We make out the sound of an angry orc cursing with one group, but continue battling the foes in front of us. Another would-be challenger comes up the stairs, but Jira and Thom descend on the dapper gentleman and take him out.
Meanwhile, Rika’s chain lightning and Skizzik’s dragon breath both prove useful in thinning the ranks. Skizzik peers out the doorway and manages to spy Ferra Kirark, the orc barbarian that appears to have taken over this clan. He singes her with a bomb that makes her retreat. The other enemies continue to die, the Subchief even killing himself due to confusion. The pit does an effective job of keeping the enemies out, but also makes it hard for us to take the fight to Ferra. In the end, both Skizzik and Rika fly over the pit to begin dueling the orc. Thom and Jira wait for the pit to disappear before charging out to join their friends. Ferra lands a few hard hits with her bardiche, not going down easily. In the end, however, Thom stabs her to death.
With all of our enemies seemingly vanquished, we take some well-earned loot before heading for the main gate and beckoning our allies to join us. All of us proceed to explore the rest of the fortress. We find a stable with 18 war-trained horses, as well as a room full of frightened servant girls. Jira doesn’t do a good job at all of reassuring them, earning him an elbow from Ameiko. She quickly tells them that we aren’t there to hurt them and that they can stay in whichever room they want from here on out.
Sandru stays behind to comfort them and regale them with tales of our gallantry while we venture on to see a few more rooms. Finally, we come to a room with a defaced statue of a kind Tian Xia Goddess. When Ameiko touches one of the inscriptions near the statue, we’re hit with a blinding light and a panel opens in the floor. Looking down, we see we’ve found the armory. Along with it, we spy a kitana with the name Hirobashi inscribed on it. We retrieve the blade, Jira holding on to it to give to Jiro. We conclude our exploration by checking out the dormitories upstairs.
By now, it’s getting dark outside, and we decide to lock down the fortress as best we can for the night. Skizzik locks up the secret passageway while Thom, Jira, and Titus go out to close the main gate. Without warning, the trio is suddenly attacked by two giant wooden tree statues that come to life and decide to bludgeon us with splintery attacks. Skizzik and Rika hear the commotion and rush to assist us, but arrive just after we’ve finished killing them. We maintain watches that night, rising with the sun. Hiroko, Spivey, Shalelu, and Jira ride off to go find Jiro and the Ronin while the others start cleaning the fortress and preparing it for new ownership. It takes the four on horses three days to reach the group, and both sides report success. Jira hands Jiro back his kitana, the latter happily taking some practice swings and agreeing to take the camp to the fortress.
October 23 – By the time the others return to the fortress, it is much cleaner, better organized, and habitable than it has been for some time. The samurai all pledge their service to Ameiko, and Jiro decides to give Jira (and the party at large) a Minkai Redwood Longbow with a gold string. Given its royal status, we know it will come in handy.
We celebrate that evening with the greatest feast we’ve enjoyed since Hongol. And with no servants dying this time around, we like it even better than those.
October 24 – Miyaro tells us that the time has come for her to return to the Forest of Spirits. We thank her, graciously sending her off with the hopes of seeing her again sometime. Jiro and Hotsu also ask to meet with us in private to discuss the next step in our quest. They reiterate that the nation is in grave danger, that Kasai is under the control of the Jade Regent, and that the Emperor has been in seclusion for years. However, we do have some hope of starting something in the north, where the Jade Regent’s control isn’t as strong. Hotsu recommends we gain support from three distinct groups: (1) The Ninja clans, (2) The Geisha, and (3) The Daimyo. None of this will prove easy, but they are necessary steps to beginning a true revolution. After some thought, we agree that our best starting point will be to journey to Sakakabe to speak with the Geisha at a renowned tea-house. In all cases, we know we need to be subtle and not reveal the Seal if possible.
Before our session closes, we share a conversation with Ameiko in which she thanks us for our loyalty and bravery to this point. She assures us that places of leadership await us if we achieve our mission of crowning her as Empress, and that she truly appreciates having us with her. We know we should treasure this moment of success right now, as who knows what pitfalls await us on our next session of Jade Regent?