Dawnbringer

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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