Dawnbringer

Chapter 8: Dreaming

Ren once again ferries Kagari, Kazuo, and Miyo in his cart as the group leaves the capital city of Shinonome. The group passes through placid farm communities that permit them a night’s rest and some food. In one mountainside village Kazuo observes the road is lined with small statues of foxes in white and black, identified as having some association with Kikonon. While our heroes are asleep, a shining white fox-creature sneaks into their camp and steals away Kagari in her sleep. Ren and Kazuo pursue it, but it dissapears in a swirl of sparkling light some ways into the forest. Referencing their map, they wager a guess that Kagari is being taken to the feudal holdings of Reako Narihara, just across the narrow point of the mountain range. They decide to leave their cart behind for now and try to follow on foot.

Their walk is long and uneventful for a time, but several days pass and they are approached by a strange talking crow. Speaking in vague poetics with the voice of an old man, the bird suggests he can point them in the right direction to find Kagari…but first they must make a detour. The crow directs them to a crumbling village nearby, where an elderly kitsune woman is fighting off a pack of feral inugami near a large, beautiful tree. They assist her in slaying the dogs (driven mad by the death of their human masters), and join her in her small home for a cup of tea. Her name is Sachi, and she has resided in this village for her entire life, staying long after the other kitsune abandoned the region. She shares a bond with the cherry tree in the village square as a kami medium, and can’t bear to abandon it.

Sachi shares with the party a story about her daughter, Yayoi, a radiant woman with amazing celestial powers who eventually left home to become a lady-in-waiting at court. Disguised as a human, Yayoi felt she could never be in any danger and used her powers freely as she charmed her way into becoming the young emperor’s favorite. However, he once became deathly ill, and a young onmyouji realized her true nature and blamed her for the emperor’s state. The courtiers convinced him his lover was a foul creature in disguise, and he ordered her banished from Shinonome. As she wandered heartbroken across the westward plains, the emperor was further swayed to believe she would bring down a curse on his head, and he sent a regiment of soldiers to shoot her down with arrows. Sachi believes that her daughter may have been the divine incarnation of a kami, and that the present plague is some form of punishment for the sins the men of the capital comitted against her.

Considering recent events surrounding the haunting of the palace, Kazuo and Ren suspect Sachi may not be far off the mark, and hypothesize that Ohirume may be trying to once again incarnate herself through a mortal woman. Set in their resolve to ensure Kagari makes it to the Well of Souls, the party thanks Sachi and returns to the crow. After some needling and cryptic questioning, the bird tells them a shortcut to Narihara’s estate.

As Ren, Kazuo, and Miyo come down the mountain and approach the farm town surrounding the estate, they expect stealth to be required; however, an old woman is waiting for them on the road. She greets them calmly, and says she has been instructed to see that they get a good meal and then proceed to meet Narihara in her mansion. Confused, the party nevertheless conceeds that the element of surprise is clearly gone and they play along. Everyone they meet is polite but distant, and they make their way up to the seemingly abandoned residence.

Inside, all the rooms appear empty, until the party finds one open chamber where a ritual spellcasting space has been erected. Inside the boundary rope, Kagari is unconscious and can’t be woken up; Kazuo and Miyo determine that her soul (as well as the soul of Ohirume) have been removed using powerful magic, and unless they are retrieved soon she will die. In an adjacent room Narihara is waiting for them, fully armored but aiming to negotiate. She attempts to convince the party that she and Chiyo Kirihara have taken the best course of action; Ohirume must be allowed to rest peacefully until things have taken their course and they have had a chance to cement the social and political changes Shindai Kyoukai has been implementing. Ren retorts that such goals can’t be worth the deaths of innocent children, and when Narihara dismisses this he and Kazuo end the conversation. The fight that follows begins with respectable martial arts and ends with Ren and Narihara having a slapfight on the floor until Kazuo knocks them both out. Narihara is disarmed, bound, and stuffed in a barrel. (So much for cool boss fights)

All this still leaves the party looking for the missing souls on a fairly tight timetable. In the garden, they find a large pond with a small island in the center bearing an enclosed gazebo; thick incense smoke is pouring out the doors and windows. Though the smoke is clearly magical, they see no choice but to enter, and upon doing so each party member finds themselves in a different location.

(tbc)

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Chapter 7: Liars and Theives

(Order of events for this post in particular may not be entirely linear. A lot of subquests were being juggled and at the notes became somewhat messy)

In order to restore peace to the capital, Kazuo believes it is paramount to first heal all the ill members of the government to prevent Princess Ama from further undermining the empress’s rule. After some inquiry around the city, he is able to establish a meeting with a young councilman who has eagerly been seeking out more leads on how to cure the senior advisers. This young man, Ono-san, arranges for Kazuo to meet with and heal two cabinet members in order of seniority; should both recover, the party will be granted an official invitation to attempt to heal the young prince. Since this process will take the better part of a week Kazuo patiently sets up these appointments, making sure to take Kagari and Miyo with him as assistants so that he can create the appearance of an elaborate healing ritual while Kagari applies her healing.

Meanwhile, the ever-confident Kuuya Yuusha sends a messenger to deliver a letter to the party; he offers to trade information the party seeks for custody of the princess, who he would then see returned to her mother to complete other deals with nobles who would take the credit. Ren scoffs at this barely-concealed attempt to get back into the Empress’s good graces and declines the offer. However, later that night the party is attacked at the inn. A lone assassin breaks into the girls’ room and attempts to kidnap the princess; her attempts are foiled, and she is apprehended by the party before she can make her escape. Unmasked, the ninja is a dark-furred catfolk woman named Ayaka who Ren instantly recognizes as a high-ranking member of the Mu clan. She does not divulge much helpful information before freeing herself and making a hasty getaway across the rooftops of the city. Tracking her to the Red Palace, the party concludes that she must be hiding there under Ama’s protection, and decides to make a break-in to investigate.

On the following night Ren and Kazuo enter the palace through the bedroom of a high-ranking woman, who is asleep in her bed. Poking around the grounds, they find Ayaka’s bedchamber, which contains a secret passageway to the first floor of the Red Palace. A sweep of the first floor seems to reveal only a few insomniac staff members (one of whom mistakes Kazuo for a member of another monk order, and loans him a powerful tome containing ki techniques). In the library however, a single lady-in-waiting is milling about suspiciously. Kazuo confronts her alone while Ren dallies about pickpocketing various items found around the palace; she seems agitated with his presence and eventually admits that she is Ayaka in disguise as a human. However, they are in a stalemate; either Ayaka or Kazuo could call for the guards and expose the other at any moment, though doing so would be disastrous for all of them. She instead offers to negotiate a sort of cease-fire, and eventually comes to agree with Kazuo that since the party has thwarted her assassination of the princess, she will lay low for a few days to monitor the situation. Should her foes succeed in saving Izuna and her children, Ama’s schemes will be for naught and she will be unable to offer the special compensation promised to the Mu, at which point Ayaka would merely return home with no consequence.

On their way out of the palace Ren decides to steal the pricey outfit laid out in the bedroom they entered from, and hawks some of the items therein to Kuuya Yuusha; during this sales process it is revealed that the outfit belongs to none other than Princess Ama herself, who used the magical properties of the items to enhance her ability to sway others to her ideas. While there, Kazuo conceeds that Hinata would be safest staying at the shop for a few days until things quiet down. In exchange, he tasks the spirit doctor with identifying the black substance being secreted from the royal family’s private shrine in the White Palace. Kuuya Yuusha confirms that this substance is a powerful necromantic by-product normally only found in the underworld, and that if touched by a human man would infect him with the plague. As for why the holy statue of Kikonon would secrete such a substance, there are no concrete answers. While they are there, Kuuya Yuusha performs a medicinal ritual to allow Kagari to release excess celestial energy building up in her body to mitigate the symptoms of her pregnancy.

Finally, after days of waiting the party is invited with Ono-san to visit the white palace and administer healing to the young prince himself. However, when they arrive they discover that Izuna has requested that Chiyo Kirihara, a close confidante of hers, accompany the party to visit her son. No one in the party is comfortable with this idea but Kazuo cannot find any legitimate cause to decline this requirement. Kirihara, for her part, performs a consecration of Prince Yukiteru’s chambers, aligning the room with the energies of the goddess Kikonon. Kazuo attempts to quickly heal the prince in such a way that Chiyo (an accomplished caster) will not be able to detect that Kagari is the real source of the magic. However, Kagari is behaving strangely; upon seeing the young prince she seems strangely entranced by him, and behaves jealously towards him. Kazuo is only barely able to prevent her from touching the child, an act which doubtless would have seriously injured a child in his condition given the burning touch many are afflicted with upon contact with her. Suspecting some manner of possession, Ren asks Kagari who she is and what the date is; she reports her name is Yayoi, and the date is some 50 years prior. Confused but successful, the group retires to their inn once more to await signs of Yukiteru’s recovery.

Unfortunately more trouble arises at the palace. By evening, small fires and disturbances have begun that draw everyone back to investigate. According to guards along the first few palace walls, people in the inner sanctum have been attacking each other and they have no idea whether the royal family is safe with all the chaos. The Flower Guard, under the direct command of their patron Lady Narihara, are preparing to mount a rescue assault; while urging her to be cautious, Kazuo discovers that Chiyo Kirihara is inside, and fear over her lover’s safety is spurring Narihara to be somewhat reckkless. The party offers to head inside first and see if stealth will get them inside.

Within the inner walls, servants and staff have seemingly lost their minds. Many are asleep in random positions while others wander wailing and attacking people on sight. Strange obsidian elementals scurry about the gardens, but don’t pose any real threat. Inside however the party finds that dangerous haunts have sprung up, afflicting the party with emotional manipulations that tempt them to flee one another or do each other harm out of sexual jealousy. Troops of spirits emerge from the walls to attack them with hexes, each ghost a cackling woman wearing a fox mask. Kazuo is stricken blind during combat as they push their way to the upper floors. As they proceed they discover the necromantic fluid has begun flowing much faster, and is flooding the castle with runny, sickening tar from the topmost floor down. At the top floor, they find a grim sight; an enormous black fox with many tails is doing battle with a beleaguered Chiyo Kirihara, who has set herself between it and Izuna, who is cradling her son. Unable to move lest she lose control over the magical shield she has erected, Chiyo entreats the party to aid her. The strange creature’s negative energy attacks prove difficult to combat, but even blinded Kazuo is able to put it down with his mystic techniques. Once the fox is defeated the castle begins to return to normal, and the necromantic tar dissolves; the Kikonon statue appears quiet once more after Chiyo instructs Kagari to help her cleanse it by channeling her celestial energy through it.

The next day our heroes returned to the palace to check up on things and see how the young prince is faring in his recovery after the supernatural ordeal. But already it seems pandemonium is breaking out again inside the palace walls; Princess Ama has set her husband’s samurai against the Flower Guard, bearing the accussation that Izuna was responsible for the haunting of the palaces and was attempting to assassinate the royal family. (While some members of the party may have simply neglected to check on the Red Palace, others seem to not have cared what became of Midorikawa’s family). Given this golden opportunity to give voice to her distaste for Izuna, Ama appears ready to seize the throne for her own children by calling in the famed onmyouji, Kawataka, to seek out a kitsune witch in the palace. Righteously offended on her mistress’s behalf, Lady Narihara is intent on holding back Ama as long as possible, but she cannot stop Ama from bringing her concerns before the royal council, which still sits in her husband’s favor with several crown loyalists still recovering from the plague. The heroes consult with Izuna, who fears that she will finally be exposed and executed along with her children. She laments that Ama’s many attempts to wrest the throne away from her may finally succeed due to lucky opportunism rather than crafty plotting. Kazuo, who still suspects that Shindai Kyoukai and the ladies Kirihara and Narihara are plotting to use their magical container to steal the third regalia, asks where it is held. Izuna informs him that the Gem of Compassion is actually held in Lord Midorikawa’s Red Palace, and has been ever since the shrine to Kikonon in the white palace became tainted. Ren remembers a locked door in the Red Palace, and the two conspire to sneak back in during the night and retake it for Izuna, solving a number of problems in one fell swoop. Meanwhile, they urge Izuna not to panic when the onmyouji arrives, as her marriage to the late emperor will do much to shield her from his examinations if she does not change her behavior significantly.

Breaking into the Red Palace a second time proves a bit more difficult, with many more guards posted. However, Ren’s training easily overcomes these obstacles as he carries in Kazuo, shapeshifted into a small fox. The two combine their skills to break into the magically fortified, trapped room, and retrieve the Gem of Compassion from a basin of water within. Ren and Kazuo return the gem to Izuna, who places it in a warding box among her posessions.

All that was left to do was to take away Ama’s influence in the court, to prevent her from making further moves against her sister-in-law. To this end, Ren and Kazuo visited the high council to answer questions from Lord Midorikawa about the recent troubles in the palace. Thorugh a skillful combination of the truth and lies of omission, they were able to convince Midorikawa that the Mu clan had stolen the Gem of Benevolence, and his reaction suggested that he had not been privvy to his wife’s negotiations with them. Furthermore the party managed to make Ama (unable to represent herself at the meeting) appear paranoid and troublemaking, damaging her reputation enough to make her witch-hunt seem pointless.

Peace had thus been restored to a capital on the brink of disaster. After receiving a few rewards from the emprss, the party quietly departed, hoping to complete their journey before high summer.

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Chapter 6: じりじり
Wherein history catches up with us

The party finally arrives in the capital, Shinonome. The largest city in the world, Shinonome has been hit particularly hard by the plague of the son. As positions in the highly clerical and bureaucratic government were vacated, there was strong resistance to pushes for SK members to be promoted to these jobs. As a result, men are constantly being brought to the city to work jobs for which they are not fully qualified, leading to much confusion and stagnation of productivity. As they enter the city, Kazuo and Kagari notice that a small shrine is selling foxtail omamori to interested locals; Kazuo decides it’s better to pass this by.

Our heroes arrived just in time for the Fire Festival held only once every five years. During this holiday a large offering is torched for Ohirume to honor her blessings to the country. During the last festival, just before the plague of the son began, the offerings did not light well, as if the kami were unsatisfied and had turned their back on the proceedings. This year, the as yet uncrowned Prince Yukiteru will be lighting the pyre, and the public is very excited to catch a glimpse of his retinue procession. Kazuo decides to attend this event while Ren takes Kagari shopping for a nice new kimono to better help her blend in the fashionable city. At the ceremony Kazuo witnesses the lighting of the pyre; the young prince is wracked by coughs during the event, which begins a serious of terse rumors that his health might be failing.

Later that night, having overheard that Chiyo Kirihara would be attending a play in the area, Ren follows her to a potter’s workshop, where she purchases a strange custom urn. The man has been working on such an item for years, and is being paid a handsome sum for his efforts. Ren and Kazuo interrogate this man, who reluctantly reveals that he and his family defected from the inugami clans, and have been using their knowledge of conjuration and necromancy to aid Kirihara in creating an urn that will pacify anything held within it.

Rumors of unrest give Ren all the reason he needs to take a stroll through the walls of the palace grounds. During his first reconnaissance he is turned back, unable to find a way around a regiment of the Empress’s Flower Guard, a group of female bodyguards drawn from the ranks of SK. Ren makes his way inside the final walls on a second try, noting that the White Palace where the royal family resides has been joined by a Red Palace where the sister of the late emperor, the Princess Ama has taken up residence with her husband, the regent and minister of the left Lord Midorikawa. While trying to sneak into the White Palace through a window Ren encounters the empress Izuna herself, sitting solemnly in a high chamber. During a conversation with her, Ren learns that Izuna believes her sister-in-law hired the Mu ninjas to help her steal control of the throne by stalling the coronation until Yukiteru is dead. Ama probably poisoned Yukiteru to give him the plague of the son; a private shrine contained within the White Palace has been excreting a mysterious black substance ever since the late emperor’s death, which gives the plague to any man who touches it. The shrine is dedicated to Kikonon, who Izuna believes is somehow tied to the curse.

During this conversation a sudden commotion breaks out across the grounds. Smoke is visably rising from the Flower Guard’s training field, obscuring much of the gardens. Guards rush into the chamber to inform Izuna of terrible news while Ren hides; the princess Hinata who was observing today’s training exercises has gone missing after a sudden smoke bomb went off. Though the Flower Guard intuited what was happening, with their obscured vision they were unable to defeat their foe, who presumably carried off the princess. Izuna orders search teams to be sent out, but for news to be kept quiet, for she is certain her sister-in-law is responsible. Ren pledges that the party will aid in the search, and returns to the inn to gather his comrades. On his way out he briefly investigates the site of the attack, and notices the princess left faint footprints heading into the stream that cuts through the gardens, which lets out past the walls. A slim girl of 12 could easily shimmy through to the outside.

Kazuo, Ren, and Miyo return to the outer walls, where Kazuo shifts to the form of a fox in order to follow Hinata’s trail better. Her scent winds through the city, eventually making its way to the Floating District, and adults-only neighborhood of entertainment. Although Ren would gladly bluff his way into the geisha house the trail leads to as a customer, Kazuo opts for the direct approach. However, the bemused staff say they haven’t seen any little girl, and seem to be truthful. Sneaking around the upper floors, Ren sees a geisha presenting an expensive platter of food to a small boy in a private room. When confronted, the startled child makes a run for it.

Kazuo confirms the scent matches that of the princess, and the group eventually finds the child sleeping under a small shrine. Kazuo shows his true form to encourage the child to drop their disguise; sure enough, the little boy was actually the princess, using an alter self spell. Hinata had used enchantments to woo the geisha into taking her in and sheltering her. The group takes Hinata back to their inn for the time being, while Miyo muses on the strangeness of the situation on the way home. With Hinata’s permisson, she casts detect magic, and realizes Hinata is still under the effects of an alter self spell. Hinata reluctantly allows Miyo to break it, though she says her mother told her it was unsafe to do so around humans. With her final illusion broken, Hinata is revealed to have hair the color of fire, and two small fox ears where her human ones should be. Miyo says this confirms her hypothesis, that Hinata is a sorceror of the rare kitsune bloodline; however, the girl’s appearance is quite unorthodox, and would only make sense if she was a first-generation sorceror.

After a good rest, Hinata explains what happened the previous day. During the exercise she saw one of the new recruits unleash a bottle of smoke on the field; her private guard pushed her out of the way and told her to make a run for it. Ren confirms that this is a likely ninja hit; the aim was probably murder, not kidnapping. That evening, Ren and Kazuo leave Miyo to guard the princess while they sneak back into the castle to report to Izuna, who is waiting as expected in her private tower chamber. She is glad to hear her daughter was found unharmed, but surprised when Ren inquires about the girl’s appearance. Laughing, she says she is surprised he missed her veiled references during their last conversation, and unveils herself as a six-tailed kitsune. Kazuo is overwhelmed with emotion; this is his first meeting with any other kitsune, and he has no idea where to even begin speaking to her, aside from asking if they are the only kitsune left. Izuna attests that this isn’t the case; though many of their kind remain in hiding, much of their race left the mainland to live on a hidden island to the north, created for them and concealed by a powerful druid. Torn about whether or not he’d ever want to go there, Kazuo puts it off for the time being ,prioritizing the quests at hand.

Ren asks Izuna how she’d like her daughter returned to her. For the time being, it’s too dangerous to do so; if Ama really is out to kill her neice while her nephew wastes away, bringing her back now is a poor plan. The current threats have to be completely eliminated, which would entail:
- curing the prince and cabinet members who are ill, likely poisoned by Ama
- Tracking down the would-be assasin and defeating her
- Finding some way to to stop the castle shrine from oozing “essence of plague” , and
- politically undermining Ama’s relationship with the Mu to prevent future schemes

Ren and Kazuo agree to address these issues as best they can while keeping a low profile, and return to the inn.

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Chapter 5: Rabbit Horns
Wherein the party meets a sorceror from the moon

After passing through several unstable settlements the party decides to traverse along a higher mountain road at the recommendation of a traveling peddler coming from that direction. Kagari’s wolf pack makes another appearance, which no longer bothers anyone. During the second day of the journey in the mountain trails the party is beset at sundown by a crowd in kitsune masks, who jubilantly declare Kagari has been chosen to play the part of a moon rabbit in their yearly Jishin-Matsuri (festival of mercy). This festival, a well-kept local secret, is attended by gripplis and oni from nearby villages. In addition there are several vanarans, a catfolk ranger named Kurin, and an old tengu hermit visiting for the occasion.

Recently several people, mostly elderly or infirm, have gone missing from the oni village. With security extra tight they’ve elected to send just a single child as a representative, per an old custom. This particular child is seen engaged in an argument with a human boy about whether or not the human child had managed to spot an Usakin, or rabbitfolk, fleeing from local legend “longtooth”. The Usakin are regarded as long extinct or moved on from Nijii, and the Jishin-Matsuri is performed in their honor.

During the festival, Kagari is dressed as an Usakin princess and accepts offerings and prayers from the kitsune-masked revelers, who recount the legend of how the Usakin were created by Ohirume and then lifted up to the moon by her brother Yomuyubi, as penance after he was tricked into killing some of them to impress his sister.

In the morning an injured oni rushes into the village to report that his own has been attacked in the night by a vicious monster. The party takes the ranger Kurin to investigate, and finds evidence of a giant arachnid dragging victims away with it. The trail leads back to a large cave system where the creature has set up elaborate webs that require care to navigate, as some strings are dangerous traps and others alert the creature’s babies to intruders. After surmounting the web Kazuo and Ren find the victims, many of them still alive, bound to stones in a rear chamber. One hostage is bound up particularly high and tight, and as Ren cuts her free a tiny white paw touches him and imbues him with a spell. Longtooth the spider returns and the heroes slay him, freeing the remaining oni as well as the topmost hostage that blessed Ren, who appears to be an extremely short human sorceror. She flees quickly; however, while Kazuo and Kagari are relaxing in a clearing later in the day Ren sees this girl watching them, and pointing a strange glowing crystal in Kagari’s direction. After scooping her up and dealing out a small dose of humiliating jokes at her expense, Ren forces her to confess that she’s an Usakin named Miyo from the moon, and was sent to locate “the vessel” and rescue her. Her people had been trying to track the vessel down for six years but found her signal too erratic to track; now that Kagari has been located it’s Miyo’s duty to escort her to the well of souls to ensure Ohirume is born. The heroes decide to allow Miyo to join them so they might take advantage of her skill in sonic magic and illusions.

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Chapter 4: The Creeping Morning
Wherein things become clearer

Sen has an ominous dream that seems to fortell danger for Ren, and which hints at a shadowy purple building. After a few more days of travel our heroes have reached Suiko, another large city along the trade roads. A historic city with a great history of magic and religion, Suiko is in the grips of a paranoid racist panic thanks to Lord Raicho, a bigoted old man who routinely sends his agents to hunt out non-humans in his city and banish them. Currently he has checkpoints at every gate to the city. More than a few of our heroes are hot under the collar, as almost all of them are visibly outsiders or have things to hide; however, Kazuo’s strategy of smiling honesty wins the vote. At the gate everyone presents their papers and explains how they came by Hiiro honestly as the wizard Lilie inspects their cart. Lilie is greatly annoyed that students of the arcane with better things to do are at Raicho’s beck and call, and gruffly befriends the group.

At Sora’s request the group heads to the local shrine to see if the regalia stored there, a holy sword, is safe. There they find a crowd of locals watching a magic contest taking place between the twin priests; brother Saroku, a cleric of Takahaya, has challenged his sister Kureha, a cleric of Ohirume, for control of the shrine. Overconfident Saroku rubs the party the wrong way, so they side with Kureha; Ren seeds the women of the crowd in her favor while Sen playfully trips him up with her own spells. After Saroku huffs off, the group introduces themselves. Kureha confesses that her magic has been highly unreliable for several years, though on this occasion it was much stronger than ever before. Normally she finds her magic waning seasonally, with a sharp dropoff after midsummer. Noting that this is the deadline for getting Kagari to the Well of Souls, the party begins to suspect Kagari may be influencing Kureha’s magic. Kazuo sends for Lilie to investigate.

Expecting trouble, the party splits up; Kazuo, Sora, and Kagari stay at the inn while Ren, Sen, Hiiro, and Genbe guard the shrine from any attack. A minor scuffle breaks out and is quickly thwarted, as the intruders are quickly deterred. During dinner Kagari suddenly enters a fit, poisoned by the tea she requested as her supper. Sora holds her steady while Kazuo runs for help, fetching Sen and healing cures. By the time help arrives Kagari has entered a strange stasis, glowing blindingly bright. After she is healed the party finds that the maid who served dinner is not an actual employee of the inn, but may have been an SK member.

Meanwhile, Ren’s underworld contacts have led him to believe there’s something afoot in town that may threaten the shrine. He and Sora comb the city and begin to notice communications left by tengu; these avian residents have been hassled into hiding by Lord Raicho, but are apparently communicating with a criminal element familiar to Ren. He and Sora find a young catfolk girl, Mimichi, destroying the kites the tengu use to communicate, and the pair decide to interrogate her. After some highly impolite coaxing Ren finds that Mimichi primarily speaks the language of money, and pays her for information. At the direction of a mysterious source the tengu have gone underground (quite literally) and are planning some kind of attack on Raicho. She insists that the adventurers spare any tengu children they find before fleeing. Ren continues to investigate this info by nightfall.

At the shrine Lilie is investigating the effects on Kureha’s divine magic when a tearful mother comes to thank Kureha for saving her son. When the infant fell into the river the omamori he carried held him buoyant above the surface until his father could rescue him, a true miracle. Lilie reports that the omamori to Ohirume has an unusually strong connection to the divine energies, such that it enacted magic on its own. Kazuo discovers a koropokkur yosei named Monashir being heckled by a crow in a tree, and befriends her. Crows around town are behaving strangely, acting as sentinels for someone, but they won’t tell Sen who they serve.

With Monashir’s ability to see the invisible, Kazuo stumbles upon the purple building from Sen’s dream in an empty lot. Monashir reports that an otter answered the door and told her to come back another time. Kazuo brings Lilie to the location where she finds herself overwhelmed by the various spells that keep the place undetectable. The building is the storefront of one “Kuuya-Yuusha, spirit doctor”, and is only visible to those who have something with which to barter with the owner, an arch-mage sylph.

In a private display of uncharacteristic cunning, Genbe manipulates Saroku in attempting to infiltrate the group of thieves intent on stealing the sword so that he may claim the resulting glory for himself. By the next morning however Saroku is nowhere to be found, and Sora’s attempts to divine his location suggest he is no longer even alive. Attempting to locate the AWOL tengu leads the party to a mortuary near the river, but they are unable to find any evidence of secret passages.

Genbe, Sen, and Hiiro elect to depart from the group in order to go on ahead at a faster pace and ensure that safe passage through the Dragon’s Skull will be possible; Genbe knows of a fanatic cult that is better dealt with to clear the way early. After they depart, Kureha is suddenly exhorted to bring the holy sword to Lord Raicho’s next dinner party as a show of his power. Due to her questionable status as inheritor of the shrine she can hardly refuse; Kureha explains that her father was dishonored after he performed a secret marriage for the late emperor Kuranosuke and the mother of his children. Kuranosuke was convinced that his love would be driven from the palace should he not bestow her with royal status before his death. The party decides that the best solution to their predicament is to attend the dinner party as a group, disguised as shrine attendants. At the party Raicho is heady with power, and gloats about his bigotry and oppression of non-humans in Suiko. In attendance is a Lady Sanjuu, a charismatic female samurai. As Raicho’s raving reaches a fever pitch the hall is stormed by a crowd of tengu, who incapacitate the party-goers with a trance spell. A tengu ninja leads them in an attempt to steal the sword, but the group’s combined talents along with the aid of the fiesty Sanjuu overcome the attackers. After sending the ninja, Kusuk Gozen through the storehouse roof, Kazuo takes the sword back to the shrine while Ren questions Kusuk privately. Ren finds out that the Mu ninja clan has been hired to steal at least one regalia by an unknown client who stands to gain from even temporary disruption of the whole set.

Ren, Kazuo, Sora and Kureha visit the spirit doctor Kuuya-Yuusha, who will only accept the sword itself as payment for information on who hired the Mu and what they want. Everyone rejects this trade out of hand; however, Kuuya will trade information on Kagari’s condition for the chance to examine her himself. After curiously performing several divination circles on her, Kuuya reveals that Kagari is pregnant not with a flesh-and-blood child, but with the sun kami Ohirume herself. All of her strange powers and ailments are attributable to the influence of the solar powers she carries, and the child likely has to be born at the Well of Souls before midsummer for reasons of its own. Their suspicions confirmed, Kazuo and Ren then head to Raicho’s manor to deal with his unjust rule. The pair convinces Raicho, a notoriously superstitious man, that a powerful kami has called him to a sacred mountain to devote himself to enlightenment; this leaves his grateful son-in-law to take control of the city. Having hopefully put the city in better hands, the pair departs with Kagari, leaving Sora behind to help Kureha restore her shrine.

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Chapter 3: Pulchritudinous Panacea
Wherein a revelation is uncovered

Kagari’s constitution continues to worsen as the travellers head into a rural area. Tatsuya has expressed an irrational dislike of Kagari, which spurs Hiiro to accuse Kazuo of hiding information about the girl. Sen also suspects demonic possession may be at work, and the party clashes about whether escorting her to an unknown destination is wise. Kazuo proves unwilling to break his oath of secrecy to his master about the reason for the journey.

The group finds itself pursued by an okuri-inu as they continue; this “send-along wolf” does not attack and, according to Sen and Genbe, should not be dangerous if everyone keeps their wits about them. The next morning they enter a small farming village with a dwindling population. Some women greet them warmly, others with disdain. Travelling the village as a monk offering prayers, Kazuo finds that the town is supposedly “protected” from the plague by the town head Noboru’s companion Kaori. Kaori used to live alone in the nearby mountain until Noboru’s father died on a hunting trip. While no man has died of the plague during her tenure, many women in town bitterly report that their devoted sons and husbands suddenly vanished, abandoning their families and setting off into the mountains with no explanation.

As Kagari is getting very ill, the party leaves her with local midwife Toko, a no-nonsense elderly woman who dislikes Kaori and is housing a young boy who has the plague in her own home while trying to help him. She takes in Kagari for the night while Sen, Ren, and Genbe head to Noboru’s house to see what’s up with the town’s suspicious state. The maid answered, thoroughly at the end of her rope with Kaori’s abuse, but sees them into the sitting room. Genbe follows her to the courtyard where he talks to her while helping with laundry. He finds that Kaori is a tyrant, who runs the town for her own benefit while sending Noboru on constant hunts. The maid reports Noboru has not had a thought of his own in his head for months and used to be hardworking and considerate. Genbe pays the maid a large enough sum to move to the city and better her life. Meanwhile in the sitting room Kaori has rudely confronted Sen and Ren for waking her from her nap, and quickly enchants Ren after he flirts with her. Fully under the witch’s spell Ren lures his friends into the forest that night where he tries to convince Kazuo to turn on the others with him. Kazuo sees through Kaori’s enchantment and confronts her. However, she attacks with the Okuri-inu, which is enthralled under her command. Desperate combat ensues; Sen’s druidic abilities prove the key to the witch’s undoing. Striking both her and Ren down with lightning, Sen manages to free her comrade, and everyone is released from the spells controlling them. The witch was in fact an old woman disguised with illusions, who had been controlling Noboru after killing his father. The town’s state was her fault; each time a man fell ill, she convinced him to walk off to his doom, death at the hands of the okuri-inu.

The next morning the party collects Kagari from a troubled Toko. Toko reports that Kagari is 3 months pregnant, the source of her woes. Kazuo reveals he knew this all along, but had been sworn to secrecy. However, Toko is surprised to find that a mere healing incantation from Kagari has completely cured the sick child. Realizing the implications of this information getting out, the group decides to fool the town. Kazuo reveals himself to be a kitsune, and teams up with Sen and Sora to use this to his advantage. With the aid of a little magic he poses as the kami Okanari incarnate, and “cures” the child himself, sending him off to spread the word before our heroes make a hasty exit.

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Chapter 2: Tinder and Treachery
Wherein a theft in Mihara is thwarted

The heroes finally arrive in Mihara, the first city along the major trade roads. This city is known for it’s textiles, artistry, and jubilant atmosphere. Recently the city has been revitalized by the hopeful reformist messages of Shindai Kyoukai, a sorority of women pushing the revision of inheritance laws and social mores about women, catfolk, and other groups taking on positions in business and government. Members are easily identified in a crowd by their masculine dress and enamel pins of the group’s symbol, a rising sun. Local SK members are gathered in the streets to get a glimpse of one of their leaders, Lady Chiyo Kirihara. Though not a real noble, Kirihara is the consort to the samurai lord Lady Reako Narihara, and has the guard retinue to prove it. Kirihara has inspired numerous urban legends and rumors about her talents in combating the supernatural and quelling angry spirits. Even those with no care for such things take an interest in her because both she and her lover are tennin women, revered as holy by many.

While watching this procession, Kazuo is suddenly chased down by a catfolk woman who tearfully embraces him, claiming to be his mother (much to Genbe’s confusion). Kazuo explains that Runya Umigiri is one of a group of catfolk women who raised him in a brothel after he was abandoned as a child. Runya now owns a classy inn called The Sunbathing Cat, which she insists everyone stay in for free. Before going there the party heads to the Hizashihime Shrine to meet the head priest Jun Furukawa and his apprentice Sora. Sora is the cartographer who has made the map for the heroes at Shiro’s request. Furukawa takes the party on a tour of the shrine, which houses the royal mirror, supposedly a gift from Ohirume to her lover Ashihide, father of the Phoenix Queen Hitomi-no-Tenka. In addition he conveys the story of the prince Mitsutaka-no-Tenyou who unified Nijii’s central island with help from the kami of fate, Kikonon. As they leave, the party notes that at Sora’s request there are many guards posted by the shrine, as he had an ill vision several nights past.

Runya runs her business fairly, and has even offered shelter to the onnin summoner Hiiro and her inugami Tatsuya. The party meets her at a fancy dinner being offered by Lady Kirihara, who offends Hiiro and offers to see to Kagari (who has become increasingly more ill and unable to eat with each passing day). Kirihara is ultimately little help, though she makes most everyone uneasy with her strange interest in Kagari.

In the middle of the night a large fire breaks out in the tenement district. Guards are vacating the shrine vicinity to go help; the party decides to join them, and helps rescue a family from their burning home. Suspecting the fire was a mere distraction, the party proceeds to the shrine, where Sora has already discovered Furukawa murdered by an intruder. This ninja is busy making off with the holy mirror until Genbe’s arrows fell her; the assailant is revealed to be a black-furred kitsune woman with no tail. Deeply saddened, Kazuo requests a moment alone with the corpse before Ren performs a burial for it. Sora exchanges last words with Furukawa’s spirit, which urges him to move on from the shrine and seek his true destiny.

The next morning the Blue Swords come to arrest Hiiro for the arson, and Kazuo vouches for her and provides an alibi to convince the guards to remand her to the party’s custody. Sora also joins the party, as he is convinced that the other regalia may be in danger of theft or sabotage. Runya reports that Kirihara left town just before the blaze started, and Sen and Kazuo find that Kagari has bleached all color from her futon during the night, which is causing her great distress.

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Chapter 1: The Moidon Tree
Wherein the party begins their quest

It is the first week of the third month; spring has just begun to crawl up the length of Nijii. Lord Tamura is readying various servitors, warriors, and adventurers for the spring Caretaking, and has put out a last-minute call for an additional, highly-skilled party. Answering the call are Sen, a druid of the mystery sect of Tsubaki; her companion Genbe, a cynical Kino fighter; and Ren, an itinerant “antiques dealer”. They gather at the Kinrei Temple where they meet Abbot Shiro and his student Kazuo. Shiro explains that there is a girl in the custody of the temple who needs to be escorted to Yukunya, a town on the northern island of Hyoubito (the Dragon’s Skull). This is at the request of the famous Lady Hayate, a cleric with talents in exorcism; because the girl is fragile, a driver with a cart has been arranged. The abbot advises that the party first proceed along the city roads to Mihara to pick up a map at a certain shrine, but he says dallying in inhabited areas for long would be bad for the girl’s health.

After accepting the job, the party is introduced to Kagari Ume, their escortee. A shy and serious girl of 16, Kagari is hesitant to speak to or touch the party and wears a large sunhat to avoid socializing with everyone but Kazuo, whom she already knows and trusts. Kagari is a bard of minor talent, and won’t offer up much more about herself. As the party progresses through the forest they find themselves surrounded by hundreds of kodama, which are peering down to get a good look at Kagari. Kazuo speaks to them, and finds that they regard the meeting as auspicious. Farther on, they find the central tree of the forest is surrounded by monkey goblins being organized by an oni who uses a magic hammer to shrink them so they may invade the tree to steal it’s treasures. After restraining the oni, the party shrinks down to enter the tree, where monkey goblins are already assaulting the kodama. On the way down to the root level Sen discovers that not only does touching Kagari cause her sharp pain and burns, but light sources in Kagari’s vicinity glow far brighter than normal. After offering to take over guarding her Ren finds that he is not subject to any damage from touching Kagari. The party confronts the monkey goblins in the roots of the tree where they are assaulting a single enormous kodama; in gratitude for the rescue this kodama offers each member of the party a special magatama as thanks, though Genbe finds himself conflicted about having offered a kami aid through violence. Kagari’s touch heals the kodama kami much to her own shock.

Outside the tree, the party discovers locals looking for their stolen hammer, a local artifact of religious portent, which they reclaim. They also take the oni into custody for punishment. As the party departs Kagari sings a small song to herself.

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Prologue

After the end of the last great war, when the warlords laid down their weapons and order once again blanketed Nijii, an era of peace opened up. The people were reassured; a few years went by with plentiful harvests, profitable business, and peaceful politics. Lord Mifune had triumphed over the other warlords, and had situated himself in the capital beside the emperor, laying down new regulations for samurai to abide by and fostering a new wave of creativity and innovation in the cities. Self-absorbed politicians began making plans for social changes; perhaps, they said, we can finally chase the tengu and catfolk from the cities, expand foreign trade, and claim the Dragon’s Skull to cement the emperor’s rule over all of Nijii…
These things were not to come to pass so easily however. 6 years ago, at the start of the tenth month, Emperor Kuranosuke-no-Homura unexpectedly passed away. He died young, and the government reported no cause. The public was uncomfortable; rumor spread through the cities and farming villages that perhaps it was an ill omen. Such rumors are common, of course; to a superstitious gossip, anything is worth calling a sign. But then Lord Mifune disappeared from the courts, ill with some strange malady the priests and onmyouji could not cure. He soon died as well. Shortly thereafter people were falling ill everywhere. A cursed disease was running across the land, from the largest cities to the smallest villages. The plague was slow-working, and did not appear to spread; rather it seemed as though it had struck all corners of the country simultaneously. Alchemists, healers, and onmyouji studied it, and soon came to name it the Plague of the Son, for only human men were taking ill and dying. Those who took ill began to show sores and pox, and were dead from wasting and and a choking cough within three months.
Although the curse only took a few at a time in any one place, it continues to hit again and again in waves across the kingdom. As a result, a great deal of social chaos has arisen in the nation. After the death of Emperor Kuranosuke-no-Homura, the throne remains empty. His son Yukiteru has been named successor, but the young boy has yet to be coronated. The death of various lords across the kingdom has thrown other lines of succession into chaos, as the curse naturally dampens efforts to patch failing patriarchal lineages with male heirs brought in by marriage. In some places, the daughters of samurai lords have taken up the spear and inherited the feudal holdings, while in fighting and squabbling leaves other areas in sore need of central leadership. Merchants, farmers, and craftsmen are similarly struggling to see their trades carry on, and smaller communities are committing more open-minded and eager social restructuring to ensure their survival, even at the expense of the traditions of the Noble Code. The cities have become hotbeds of political discord and social unrest; traditionalists are not pleased to see women and catfolk emerging from their traditional professions to take up openings in businesses, trade organizations, and social leadership positions. As a result, the police samurai of the Blue Swords have had to increase their patrols to deal with the increase in disruptions to the peace. Meanwhile, a social movement known as the Shindai Kyokai has seen increased membership as they enthusiastically back the social changes taking place. Led by a charismatic woman, the group’s open-membership policy has nonetheless created a sharp divisionist feeling in the capital, where the group is viewed as an extremist organization by those in power.
In the southern islands of the Dragon’s Tail, things are looking less unstable; the Noble Code’s system of sex and class division never took root there, and most noble families shared rule between lords and their ladies equally, so even the death of a clan head only amounts to an added burden on his widow. Meanwhile, the northern island of the Dragon’s Skull has become even more isolated. Kino people have been sighted south of the divide less and less frequently, and have been reported to chase out intruders from the south with even greater vigor than before. Merchants on the undine trade routes have perpetuated rumors that the Kino shamans may have found a cure for the plague, and while this is not widely believed to be likely it has spurred on politicians in the capital to reopen the possibility of a full-scale invasion of the island, in order to save the kingdom…

Meanwhile, at a small monastery, a battered criminal pursued by literal wolves has dropped off a teenage girl who had been his hostage, begging for the forgiveness of the heavens. Suspicious of the girl’s mysterious condition, the abbot sent for a famous exorcist…

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Welcome to your campaign!
A blog for your campaign

Wondering how to get started? Here are a few tips:

1. Invite your players

Invite them with either their email address or their Obsidian Portal username.

2. Edit your home page

Make a few changes to the home page and give people an idea of what your campaign is about. That will let people know you’re serious and not just playing with the system.

3. Choose a theme

If you want to set a specific mood for your campaign, we have several backgrounds to choose from. Accentuate it by creating a top banner image.

4. Create some NPCs

Characters form the core of every campaign, so take a few minutes to list out the major NPCs in your campaign.

A quick tip: The “+” icon in the top right of every section is how to add a new item, whether it’s a new character or adventure log post, or anything else.

5. Write your first Adventure Log post

The adventure log is where you list the sessions and adventures your party has been on, but for now, we suggest doing a very light “story so far” post. Just give a brief overview of what the party has done up to this point. After each future session, create a new post detailing that night’s adventures.

One final tip: Don’t stress about making your Obsidian Portal campaign look perfect. Instead, just make it work for you and your group. If everyone is having fun, then you’re using Obsidian Portal exactly as it was designed, even if your adventure log isn’t always up to date or your characters don’t all have portrait pictures.

That’s it! The rest is up to your and your players.

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