Mists of Akuma

Cleansing of the Kami Shrine
Capture of the Deathcap Myconids

With the Jade Prayer Disc secured, the party gathered up the treasures unearthed in the Oni Island Cave and returned by boat to the Myconid area of the Bakemono caves. Kataashi Kikku was still rather terrified of the boats, but this time Wang Shu lit their path through the water filled tunnels with his Dancing Lights and tossed fish over the side of the boat when hearing the ominous thump from underneath by the eel hounds. With the eel hounds placated, they were able to pass unmolested to the myconid caverns. There they found that the Myconid Deathcaps were still in their evil and corrupted state. The death of Yorozu Oni had not freed them from their corruption. Subotai Korusu and Wei Tai were keen to destroy the deathcap myconids in order to honor their bargain with Grandfather Basidio. However, Kai Winding was once again the voice of dissent. She argued that there must still be a way to cleanse the souls of the DeathCap Myconids and be able to return them to their community. Wang Shu agreed and thought that if the creatures could be captured, he could try and use his skills as a Yamabushi together with Kai Winding to cleanse the corruption from the Myconids. A plan was hatched to try this, but it would require larger amounts of Yamabushi Cleansing Fire Incense than Wang Shu currently had. They would have to return to the caravan to purchase more.

Kai Winding liked the plan, but she did not wish to insult Grandfather Basidio by leaving without completing their task. So the party went before Grandfather Basidio and explained what they wished to do. Kai Winding used her grace and eloquent dignity to with great cultural sensitivity propose their alternative plan. The thoughtful ruler of the Myconids was won over by Kai Winding’s beauty and charm. He was grateful for the destruction of the Oni and their wish to restore the deathcap myconids rather than to destroy them. So he granted their wish to leave the mushroom caverns in order to return with enough incense for the ritual. Wang Shu had learned that there were 4 Myconid Deathcaps that needed cleansing. So Wang Shu determined he needed at least 400 GP worth of incense to give the Yamabushi Cleansing Ritual a chance for success. So the party gathered up their treasure and left the mushroom caverns to find their way back to the shrine that had been destroyed by the bakemono and shikome.

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Securing the Jade Prayer Disc
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After reviewing all of the riches that lay in the cave Kataashi Kikku said, ‘I wish to destroy everything I think Yorozu Oni valued. Subotai Korusu replied, ’Kataashi! There is no need for more destruction. Using these valuables to better our cause will create more anguish and dishonor to the Oni and his ancestors then simply trashing it. Remember we travel with a trade caravan who would love to buy these goods.’ Kataashi stared at the samurai blankly and said in return, ‘That just sounds like justification for greed. Those with wealth seem to learn that skill so well.’

Wang Shu continued to study the Oni Altar hoping to find some way to free the Jade Prayer Disc. Meanwhile Kai Winding cast a ritual detect magic spell and swept the room for magic. Kai’s divinations revealed a field of magic surrounding the jade disk on the altar that seemed to be tied to the two rune inscribed stone blocks on either side of it which also radiated as magic. Kai found five of the scrolls on the table to the west of the altar were magical. She also detected magic inside the large chest surrounded by mushrooms on the western wall of the cave complex.

Wei Tai approached the chest containing the magic items cautiously and checked for mechanical traps. He found none but noted that the chest was locked. He pulled his lockpicks out of his sash and set to work. After about 10 seconds there was a satisfying click. Wei Tai went to open the chest when two of the mushrooms – one on his left and the other on his right suddenly opened massive jaws and bit down hard on his arms.

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Wei Tai pulled his left arm out quickly and the jaws clamped down on air. But his right arm was pierced by the mushroom teeth and poison seeped into the wound. In a surprisingly nonchalant manner, Wei Tai calmly reacted by wrenching his right arm free of the the mushroom with a mighty pull. Both mushrooms then ,melted away into puddles of black tar. Wei Tai then opened the chest and saw 4 items laying within. Kai confirmed that all 4 were magical. There was a monkey knot of thin blue cordage, a red silken handkerchief with the image of a Geisha, a potion, and a Kimono Bag. Wei Tai set them aside as it would take an hour or so of meditation with the items to determine their magical properties.

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After more intense study, Wang Shu could tell the magical field surrounding the jade prayer disk served two purposes. First it held the jade disk in place physically with force magic that prevented its removal from the altar. Secondly, it released an electric charge against anyone attempting to touch anything on the altar. Wang Shu thought that he could possibly use his arcana skill to suppress the field long enough for the stone rune covered blocks to be removed. But some sort of divine magic was present that Wang could not make sense of. He asked Kai Winding’s help to understand. Wang was confident, however, that with the rune covered blocks removed from the altar, the entire ward should be brought down.

Wang Shu began to describe what he had discovered to everyone when suddenly Kataashi Kikku strode boldly towards the altar and spoke with a deeper more echoing voice. He said, ‘I care not for these Oni magics! I will bend them to my will and retrieve the disc! Your failure will be complete Yorozu!’ Kataashi’s pants began to billow and his hair swirled around his head as if some mighty wind were blowing in the room yet to everyone else it seemed quite calm. His entire body began to smolder with red energy as he grasped hold of the jade prayer disc with both hands and tried to pull it loose. Kataashi seemed to be pulling with all his strength and screamed through clenched teeth. The disc moved maybe an inch up from the altar when suddenly the air around Kataashi exploded in a blast of lightning. Kataashi was hurtled backwards across the room about 20 feet to land on the Oni’s bed with singed skin. He had taken 42 points of lightning damage.

Subotai Korusu rushed forward and placed his hands on the still smoking body of Kataashi Kikku in order to heal him. Subotai shook his head. Kataashi was at 1 hp when the blast went off. He should be dead, but the Samurai found him charred yet still breathing. Kataashi’s physical wounds were substantial, but they paled in comparison to the sting of his failure. Kataashi seemed to be living by an act of sheer will.

Subotai healed Kataashi’s body. When he returned to consciousness, he suddenly sat upright with wide eyes of uncertainty. When he realized where he was, his face creased with fury and shame. He lurched to his feet and rushed out of the room seeking the solace of solitude for a time.

After a brief pause of uncertainty Kai finished her assessment of the altar and the wards. She unfortunately had nothing more to add to Wang Shu’s assessment. She could not properly assess the divine energy. Wang Shu frowned and decided to examine the scrolls on the table. Wang Shu then moved to the table with the scrolls and reached out to pick one up when suddenly another mushroom opened a gaping maw and tried to clamp its teeth down upon his arm.

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Wang Shu spoke a warding word of power and the air in front of him hardened into a barrier. The shield spell blocked the gaping maw of the mushroom from finding purchase on his tender arm flesh. As if disappointed by its inability to bite Wang Shu, the mushroom melted away into a pool of black ichor.

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Wang Shu then proceeded to examine the scrolls. The magic scrolls were in fact spell scrolls. Three of them Wang Shu identified but the other two were divine only. Kai Winding looked at them and related what they were:

Sorcerer Only:
Fly Spell Scroll

Cleric Only:
Sanctuary Spell Scroll
Lesser Restoration Spell Scroll

Either Sorcerer and Cleric:
Protection from Evil/Good
Dispel Magic

The nonmagical scrolls included travel papers from the Torii gate between Ikari and Hofuku prefectures which granted Satsuko Ikari permission to travel into Hofuku prefecture in search of stolen goods. The travel papers were dated 3 weeks ago. Some of the other nonmagical scrolls were in a language that Wang Shu could not read. He showed it to each party member and Wei Tai was the only one who could read it for it was in the Aklo language of the greater Oni. Wei Tai explained that the writings appeared to be written by Yorozu Oni and were prayers to his Oni Ancestors. Some of them are rather nihilistic and strange speaking about grinding beneath his heel all that exists and such. But other writings spoke more eloquently about avenging Yorozu’s Oni’s ancestors who met their end at the hands of Lady Yuki Ikari. His prayers entreated his ancestors to inhabit the stone blocks and draw the power of Yuki Ikari out of the jade prayer wheel to bestow the power upon himself.

Returning his attention to the Oni altar, Wang Shu cast prestidigitation and the blood vanished from the altar and the stone rune inscribed blocks. The light being emanated from the Jade Disc noticeably diminished but was still present. Wang Shu then waved his calligraphy staff over the altar and furrowed his brow in concentration. Using his arcana ability he suppressed the lightning field for a round. Sweat began to bead on his forehead but Wang Shu smiled and said, ‘Everyone, be quick and remove or destroy the two stones. I am not sure how long I can keep the Lightning at bay. Work together if you can!’

Kai put her shoulder against the stone block and pushed as hard as she could while Kataashi closed his eyes and put his hands together in front of his chest becoming completely still for a moment. Then suddenly Kataashi opened his eyes and Kai was surprised to see his eyes were replaced by glowing orbs of red energy. Kataashi thrust his hands forward and Kai saw Kataashi’s hands become wreathed in red energy. Kataashi yelled out a powerful ’Ki-Ah!’ in a strange deep and echoing voice as the palms of his hands struck the stone block and with the aid of Kai WInding sent the block toppling off the altar to smash onto the floor and crumble to dust. Kataashi raised his red glowing hands over his head, brought them together, and then brought them down clasped together in front of his heart. The red energy faded away from his hands and his eyes returned to their normal look.

The stone block on the right side still remained, however, and although the glow surrounding the Jade Prayer Disc faded further, it was still present. Wang Shu urged Wei Tai and Subotai to remove the other stone block. Wei Tai put his shoulder into the block and pushed with all his might giving Subotai advantage on his strength check.

Wei Tai and Subotai worked together to put their shoulders to the stone block and push hard against it. Slowly it started to move grinding across the stone of the Oni altar. Bolstered by the sight of it moving, Subotai let out a loud war cry of ‘Yabakugi!’ and the stone block flew off the altar to smash against the stone wall of the cave. As the stone block crumbled away into small chunks that rained upon the floor, the light surrounding the Jade Prayer Disc went out completely. Wang Shu with his calligraphy staff raised before him and sweat pouring from his brow, finally ceased his chanting. Exhausted, went down on one knee while wiping the sweat from his brow. Wang Shu then stood up and strode over to the altar. He picked up the Jade Prayer Disc with one hand and looked at it closely. ‘Well done everyone! We can now return this relic to the shrine and restore it to placate the Kami.’

The party then got to rounding up the treasure from the Oni’s cave. The large treasure pile contained:
1,463 CP
1,574 SP
782 GP
3 Jade Necklaces = 50 GP each
2 Crystal Pendants = 50 GP each
15 Banded Agate Gems = 10 GP each

The Chest in the Treasure Pile contained a full suit of expensive and finely decorated Tosei Gosuku Armor – Subotai notices that the Ikari Clan Code of Arms is prominently displayed (800 GP) and an Ikari Clan Personal Banner (20 GP) is also with the armor.

The Katana (300 GP) and Wakizashi (150 GP) from the sword stand next to the Oni’s bed are very finely crafted and Subotai recognizes them as bearing the mark of the Ikari Clan. These most likely belonged to a Noble Samurai of the Ikari Clan.

The Magic items from the Chest:

Potion of Climbing

Kimono Bukaro:
This small bag measures only 6 inches by 3 inches with a beautiful floral print. it can magically hold 1 Kimono or 1 Suit of Armor and magically allow the user to switch between the two quickly. The owner of kimono bukuro touches the bag to a kimono or a suit of armor and says the command word ‘Kigae’ using an action. The kimono or suit of armor will magically disappear into the bag to be stored. When the owner of Kimono Bukuro wishes to change they simply hold Kimono Bukuro in their hand over their head and speak the command word ‘Kigae’ using an action and the armor or kimono they are wearing will be absorbed into the bag and replaced on their body with what was stored in the bag.

Monkey Fist Knot:
This small blue piece of cordage is wound up and knotted together on itself to form a monkey knot. It is meant to be attached to a set of armor as an adornment. It is enchanted to magically keep whatever armor it is attached to completely clean and impossible to soil. Any blood, dirt, or other foreign matter simply rolls off and never sticks to the armor. If the armor is ever perforated, pierced, or broken, it is instantly repaired in 1 round. As long as the monkey knot remains on the armor, it maintains a perfectly buffed, shiny, and well maintained look.

Hankachi:
Hankachi is a red silken handkerchief with a beautiful print of a geisha upon it. It is magically enchanted to enable the user to cast the mending spell 3 times per day by rubbing Hankachi over the object to be repaired and speaking the command word ‘Hoshu’.

The Master Treasure List was updated.

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Yorozu Oni Battle
The Cave on the Island Within a Cave.

Deathcap_Mycolid.pngAs the deathcap myconid fell still, everyone in the party stopped and listened hoping that the short battle had not been heard by anyone. Kataashi Kikku looked within the cave on the Island within a cave to see if anything else stirred. The two Shikome still slept on their tatami mats and the other deathcap myconid had its back to the cave opening as it tended to the mushrooms. Communicating telepathically, Kataashi gave the all clear and Wei Tai slipped into the room as silent as a shadow. He moved around a bit to see what else he could find. He saw one other deathcap myconid on the far west of the chamber tending to the mushrooms there. In the northern section he saw an altar with a jade prayer disc casting off bright light. There was also a large bed of silken sheets. Wei Tai silently moved back to the party and they decided to try and lure the closer deathcap myconid out of the room to deal with it.

Unleashing a surprise round of attacks, the myconid was blasted by fire magic, arrows, kunai, and electricity. In response the myconid made no noise as the creatures do not speak, it just turned and ran towards the cave entrance where the attacks were coming from. There just outside the cave entrance the party surrounded the myconid and focused their attacks until the creature perished. Kataaashi was covered with spores spewed by the creature but he made his save and resisted their sleep inducing properties.

A quick decision was made to try and sneak in close to the two sleeping Shikome and to perform a Coup de Grace. First Wei Tai soundlessly moved up to the two sleeping Shikome. He drew his Katana with practiced ease making no noise. With a clean and swift stroke the blade cut through the neck of the Shikome and his head rolled on to the floor again making no sound. Kai Winding moved into the room but slid her boot across some loose gravel making a scraping sound. The noise had attracted the attention of the third Deathcap Myconid. It turned and looked right at Kai. She put an arrow to the string of her bow and let it fly. The arrow struck the myconid in the leg as it ran towards her with anger in its eyes. Wang Shu hurled a bottle of Shiranto Sap at the oncoming creature to try and slow it down. The bottle hit but the strong myconid ripped through the rapidly expanding and hardening sap and was unaffected. Kataashi Kikku ran up to leap over the dead Shikome and came down hard on the last sleeping shikome with his left leg. The critical hit smashed down into the creature’s face killing it instantly.

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With the sleeping Shikome dealt with, the party turned its attention to the onrushing Deathcap Myconid. Subotai Korusu boldly moved in front to meet the creature and protect the rest of the party. But the noise from Kai’s movement and the sound of battle had attracted other enemies. Two more Shikome emerged from passages to the East and West. Both were wearing armor and looked ready for war. One carried a huge ODachi (Greatsword Katana equivalent) and the other wielded a Tetsubo (2 Handed Great Club).

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Another figure emerged as well. At first it looked like a Samurai wearing red armor, carrying a katana, and wearing a demon mask helmet. But upon closer inspection the demon mask was no mask – it was in fact the face of an Oni.

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The creature strode confidently into the room and laughed. In a deep and echoing voice it said, ‘I am Yorozu, the horned one. I shall grind beneath my heels all that exists. It’s too late to stop me. Lady Yuki Ikari will soon be destroyed and I will have vengeance for my ancestors.’ The arrival of the Oni instantly drew the attention of Kataashi Kikku. The monk’s usual demeanor of indifference was replaced with a wide-eyed look of pure fury. Kataashi disregarded the Shikome and Myconid and went straight in on Yorozu. He connected a flying kick to the Oni’s hand forcing the creature to drop its Katana. Kataashi then shot out a roundhouse kick to the head of Yorozu snapping it back and wreathing the Oni in electricity and fire. He then spun around with a backfist that smashed into the creature’s face. With a flick of his foot, Kataashi kicked the Oni’s sword up into his own hands and smiled grimly now holding his foe’s weapon.

Yorozu shook his head in disbelief and said, ‘Eh? What’s this? Your kung Fu is strong. Where did you learn Hagane Budo? I thought we had killed all the students of Hangane Budo Monastery along with your pathetic Master – Wei Lo! So, one survives? I will have to tell Hachiman how tasty your flesh is after I sample it in short order.’

Kataashi Kikku glowed with red energy as he seethed with unbridled rage and replied through clenched teeth, ‘Where is Hachiman? I will tell him myself how I destroyed you and how you disgraced your ancestors!’

Breaking through the powerful Bromance between Yorozu and Kataashi Kikku, Subotai Korusu cried out ‘Yabakuji!’ as he deftly drew his Katana from its sheath and in one motion cut a deep slash across the chest of the Oni using his iajitsu strike. The blade seemed to come alive as it struck bursting forth with a magical light as Subotai powered the blow further with a divine smite. The blade cut through Yorozu’s armor to leave him bloodied and badly hurt.

Wei Tai hurled three kunai at Yorozu who like Subotai could have cut them out of the air with his Katana, but alas his Katana was not in his hands. The kunai ripped into the Oni causing rivulets of blue blood to seep down his body. Kataashi grimly smiled again.

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With everyone’s attention drawn to the Oni, Wang Shu and Kai Winding were left to handle the Deathcap Myconid. The mushroom creature belched spores on Wang Shu and the sorcerer fell prey to their effects. Wang toppled over and fell to the ground unconscious. Kai Winding was able to use her skill with medicine to apply some powerful smelling salts to Wang Shu and rose him from his slumber.

Yorozu Oni laughed as his wounds began to evaporate before everyone’s eyes as he regenerated. He flipped over Subotai Korusu and Kataashi Kikku to land behind them. He then began to grow and transform. He took his true giant form and unleashed a blast of cold magic that cut through Subotai, Wei Tai, and Kataashi.

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Yorozu grabbed the bulk of his large red potbelly and said, ‘Perhaps you are looking for that fool Satsuto Ikari? Well you will have to look for him here!’ The Oni shook his huge belly back and forth as it jiggled and roiled on his enormous frame. ‘I have dined upon his flesh and it was exquisite. One so young is always a delicacy. As all of you shall be!’

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Subotai, Kataashi, and Wei Tai continued the onslaught pounding into the Oni with everything they had. Finally Subotai’s blade cut through the creature’s form and it evaporated into mist. Kataashi Kikku screamed to everyone to keep attacking it. The Oni could change into mist. It was not yet destroyed. Wang Shu moved around the myconid and was able to get a good hit on the misted form of the Oni with his Calligraphy Staff using its reach. But the mist was floating up towards the ceiling of the cave. The shikome rushed in and badly hurt both Wei Tai and Subotai. They then regrouped and flanked Subotai focusing their attacks on him and brought him down under a rain of devastating blows.

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Kai Winding had her dagger fans out and was warding off attacks from the myconid when she went down into a low crouch while chanting prayers to her ancestors. Motes of white light danced around her as she seemed to draw them in and fuel them to more and more brightness. Then suddenly she stood up and thrust her hands outward sending streams of light in all directions. As the light bathed over Subotai, Wei Tai, and Kataashi their wounds faded away. The healing light brought Subotai back to consciousness. He leapt to his feet and got back in the fight. Together with Wei Tai, they flanked one of the Shikome and brought him down with a combined assault. Kataashi Kikku was unable to reach the misty form of the Oni. Still with a wild fury in his eyes, he ran over to Wang Shu and delivered a flying kick to the myconid, bloodying it. He implored Wang Shu to kill the Oni with his magic. Wang Shu obliged spinning his calligraphy staff over his head and then thrusting it towards the vaporous oni releasing a thunderwave spell. The thunder waves dissipated the mist for a moment before it reformed and slid out through a crack in the ceiling to the larger cave beyond.

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Subotai Korusu and Wei Tai continued to deal with the last Shikome and Kataashi Kikku took out his frustration of not being able to pursue the Oni on the hapless myconid. He pounded into the mushroom creature tearing out large portions of its body with his tiger claw strikes. The myconid responded by blasting Kataashi with poisonous spores. The monk staggered back as the poison took hold. It coursed through his system causing damage and impeding his ability to function. Wang Shu took a mighty swing with his Calligraphy Staff and its blade cut the mushroom top right off the head of the myconid and the creature fell down dead.

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Kai Winding used her skill with medicine to remove most of the spores from Kataashi Kikku’s body and adminstered some herbs to try and and stop the poison. It soon worked and Kataashi was able to throw off the poisonous effects. Wang then sprinted out of the cave to look up and see the Oni’s misty form making its escape towards another crack in the cave ceiling. Wang Shu then brought his hands together as his calligraphy staff hung floating in the air beside him. A small spark of electricity appeared between his hands. Then another and another. He kneaded the lightning into a ball between his hands like a ball of dough. He then suddenly stopped moving his hands and flicked his fingers up and out towards the misty form of the Oni. The chromatic orb ball of lightning went hurtling up and smashed into the Oni which suddenly changed back to his true giant form and came hurtling back down to earth landing in a heap at the feet of Wang Shu.

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Wang Shu looked at the enormous creature at his feet and smiled at his accomplishment in stopping Yorozu Oni from escaping. His smile faded quickly as he remembered the regeneration abilities of the Oni. He removed a vial of oil from his pack and poured it over the oni’s corpulent body. He then waved his hands and a magical spark ignited the oil. The oni’s body began to burn very intensely. Kataashi Kikku ran out still carrying the Oni’s katana. With a few wild swings he hacked the head of Yorozu from its body and dragged it out of the flames. Kataashi cast aside the katana and it clattered to the ground. He then picked up the Oni head with both hands and gazed into its eyes.

Wei Tai buried three kunai in the back of the last shikome and Subotai Korusu spun around bringing his katana high past the shikome’s guard. The blade cleanly cut through the neck of the creature, removing its head and toppling it to the ground. Everyone gathered around the burning body of the Oni to watch it completely dissolve away under the intense flames. Kataashi Kikku clutched the head of the Oni tightly like some sort of hard won prize as the reflection of the burning fire danced on his eyes.

When at last the flames died out and all that remained of the Oni’s body was a black puddle of tar, the group went back inside the island cave to ensure it was secured. They found no more immediate threats and began the process of examining what was in there. A large altar made from stone rose up from the floor to a height of 5 feet. Three stone stairs led up to the altar. A jade prayer disc was setting on the top of the altar between two large blocks of stone covered in runes. It looked like there was dried blood on the two blocks of stone and the surface of the altar. A bright light seemed to be emanating from the Jade Disc.

A large bed with green silk sheets and silk pillows was opposite the altar. Against the stone wall next to the bed were two pieces of furniture. The first was a finely crafted wooden bench. The second was a table with a black lacquered wooden sword stand resting on top of it. A paired Katana and Wakizashi set were displayed in the sword stand.

To the west of the altar a small table on the floor of the cave was nestled between the copious mushrooms and a stone wall. On top of the table were several rolled up paper scrolls and paper scrolls in lacquered wooden scroll tubes. To the west, a large solitary chest sat on the floor of the cave surrounded by mushrooms. The chest was wooden and banded with steel. It looked well made with a lock set into the front.

A large pile of treasure was on the floor near the entrance to the cave. Gold, silver, and copper coins were most plentiful with a smattering of gems and jewelry, 5 large bolts of beautiful patterned silk, a large purple tapestry, and a large wooden trunk. A room off to the south where a shikome had emerged had in it large wooden barrels along with what looked like a bar and a multitude of drinking vessels. There was a kitchen off a passage to the east including tables with various foodstuffs and supplies. Three statues of dragons carved from stone are against the cave wall near the entrance to the kitchen. Two tatami sleeping mats (which the Shikome were sleeping on) were rolled out in front of the statues.

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Everyone gathered around the the large stone altar with the glowing jade prayer disc. Kataashi stood before the altar still clutching the Oni head bathed in the light from the jade disc. He raised the head before him towards the altar and said, ‘Yorozu Oni you are nothing. Your weakness is evident to your ancestors as I stand here with your death in my hands. You swore to fill your belly with my flesh. Oni’s ancestors, I stand before you and expose his weakness as I twist his vow and fill my belly with his flesh instead.’ Then as everyone watched in macabre fascination Kataashi used his strong fingers to tear a small piece of flesh from the face of Yorozu and put it in his mouth. Kataashi stared at the altar with steely determination as he chewed the Oni Flesh and swallowed it down.

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After looking obverse and over at the Oni head, Kataashi finally decided just to keep the horns and teeth. He slowly pulled each one out with care. Once removed, he casually tossed the Oni Head into a large brazier and watched as it burned away to nothing. Kataashi later started to spend his resting hours slowly carving into the teeth and horn.

Wang Shu and Subotai approached the altar. Subotai looked closely at the Jade Prayer Disc noting the intricate shapes carved into it as Wang Shu got out his drawing from the shrine. Subotai, said, ‘I recognize this symbol here – this references the great hero Yuki Ikari. She plays prominently in many of the stories from the Ichizoku Wars which were fought long ago. She is a powerful ancestor of the Ikari clan.’ Wang Shu holds up his paper with his drawing and smiles, ‘…a perfect match.’ Subotai reached for the disc but Wang Shu grabbed his arm, ‘There seems to be more to this light than meets the eye. The prayer disc is surrounded by some sort of magical field.’ Wang Shu waved his Calligraphy Staff over the altar and frowned. ‘It seems Yorozu Oni is draining the magic that resides inside the Jade Prayer Disc to pollute and corrupt these caverns. We must cleanse the Prayer Disc and remove it from the altar. But I do not think it will be easy.’ With a snap of his wrist, Wang Shu tossed a copper coin at the altar and it exploded in an electrical blast. Subotai’s eyes went wide and he took a step back cautiously.

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Should We Feed the Fish?
So close and yet so far.

After waking from their long rest within the safety of the Myconid community, the party prepared to travel by boat to take on the remaining shikome and possibly the Oni on the island cave they had heard about. Wang Shu asked Ascome if he had healing magics and if he would be wiling to use it on the party after they returned. Ascome agreed. Wang Shu also asked if Ascome had magic that could deliver a message to General Hu Ban but alas the Myconid Druid did not. Kai Winding astutely asked Ascome if he could draw a map of where they were going. Ascome did not have that sort of talent with maps but he explained some of the terrain that they would face including a long tunnel of water that would need to be traversed by boat and a small island in an underground lake that was home to several caves and shikome. The telepathic bond that connected the party to the myconid community was still in place and would be for another day according to Ascome.

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The party opted to leave the Myconid Deathcaps that had been cast out of the community for later and to focus on the water passage to the shikome island. They found their way to the boat and found it was well made and seaworthy with 2 oars and 10 seats. As they were clamoring into the boat, Wang Shu noticed the 2 baskets of fish. ‘These might prove useful,’ he said ruefully as he put both baskets of fish into the boat. Kai Winding cast a light spell on a coin and carefully put it in a pocket of her Do-Maru Jacket so that its light would be temporarily hidden. Wei Tai sat in the front of the boat and used one of the oars to guide the boat through the dark water filled tunnel. He saw Kataashi Kikku grip the side of the boat tightly as the monk’s brow began to furrow in fear. He nervously fidgeted as the boat slipped into the water, the gentle current carrying it into the darkness. Kataashi was clearly frightened of the water.

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They had not gone far before there was a bump underneath the boat as if something had lightly struck it. Hoping it was just a rock or some such, the group continued forward in a calm manner. Then two stronger thumps came from underneath the boat. Kataashi Kikku began stuttering about something under the boat. Wei Tai looked but could not see below the water’s surface. Wang Shu, sitting next to the forgotten fish, urged everyone to stay calm and continue. He would learn later that if he had only tossed some fish into the water to pay the creature a toll of sorts, what was to follow could have been avoided. Suddenly something large struck the boat with a huge amount of force from underneath sending everyone splashing into the water and the boat was overturned.

Wei Tai calmly sank below the water until his feet touched the bottom which he found to be 30 feet deep. Now underwater, his darkvision allowed him to look about for what caused the flipping of the boat. He saw the creature quickly as it swam swiftly through the water. He saw a grotesque beast with the muscular tail, bulbous head, and the rubbery slime covered flesh of a hideous eel, the torso and webbed paws of the creature resembled a misshapen canine. Its menacing jaws were bristling with needle sharp teeth. It was an eel hound. Wei Tai communicated all of this telepathically to everyone as he hurled three kunai through the water to strike the beast.

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It was Kataashi Kikku’s worst nightmare. He plunged into the water in the pitch black surrounded by the chaos of his comrades splashing and trying to swim. He heard Wei Tai describe the hideous beast as a chorus of voices in his crazed mind. Kataashi managed to swim and keep his head above water, but he had no idea what was happening. Thankfully a moment later Kai Winding began treading water and managed to pull out the light coin. The light filled the tunnel above the water and below as everyone tried to make sense of what was going on. Wang Shu saw the flipped boat right next to him, it looked like it was still intact. So he swam over to the boat, grabbed hold of it, and with a feat of astonishing athletic acumen flipped the boat over right side up. He then pulled himself into the boat and started furiously splashing the water inside the boat back out. Subotai Korusu was weighted down by his wet heavy armor. He struggled mightily trying to swim but was pulled under. He held his breath as he sank but before he could be too concerned about drowning, the eel hound was on him. The creature’s jaw snapped around his legs and tore open fresh wounds. The eel hound’s teeth remained clamped on the now grappled samurai as he was dragged to the bottom and smashed against the hard stone river bottom.

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Wei Tai walked along the bottom of the river towards the eel hound and Subotai Korusu who was struggling in its jaws. Wei Tai hurled three more kunai through the water to strike at the creature. This time due to the proximity of Subotai, he was able to sneak attack and strike the distracted creature in the neck. Subotai managed to draw his katana but could not effectively wield the weapon underwater being at disadvantage. Kataashi Kikku grabbed for the walls of the tunnel but found them smooth and slippery with algae and slime. Wang Shu urged Kataashi to swim to the boat and held out his hand. The crazed monk swam furiously to the boat and grabbed Wang Shu’s hand. He pulled hard and launched himself into the boat where he tried to slow down his ragged breath and calm his mind. Kai Winding tried to swim to the boat but failed her swim check and began to sink beneath the water.

Suddenly something else smashed into the boat. This time it did not capsize but it did move causing Wang Shu and Kataashi Kikku to have to hold on dearly to keep their feet and not fall back into the water. Kataashi held onto the boat with an iron grip as fear of falling back into the water began to seize him again. Wei Tai could see that it was another eel hound who swam right for Kai Winding. But Kai managed to spin out of the way of the snapping jaws and avoided being dragged down further.

The first eel hound kept Subotai Korusu gripped tightly in his jaws as he thrashed his muscular head back and forth tossing the samurai around like a rag doll. Subotai’s blood began to fill the water but he refused to try and escape the grapple instead he gripped his katana tightly and yelled into everyone’s mind’s ‘Yabakuji!’ as he drove the point of the blade deep into the eel hound throat doing max damage on the attack. Wei Tai kept up the pressure as well with his kunai. The eel hound was wounded so badly that it finally spat Subotai out o fits mouth and swam with great speed back down the tunnel.

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Wei Tai let the first eel hound flee and focused his attacks on the second one that was continuing to harry Kai Winding. Three kunai bit deep into the creature’s flank. It spun around and snapped its jaws once again at Kai Winding but this time they came down on a dagger fan that Kai had somehow got hold of to keep the eel hound at bay. Now free of the eel hound’s grapple, Subotai Korusu managed to swim over to help Kai. Wang Shu dove into the water and swam down to lend a hand. They had the eel hound surrounded. Kataashi Kikku nervously whistled as he stuck one leg in the water and the eel hound was wreathed in flame for an instant before the water put the fire out. Wei Tai finished things quickly by throwing 3 kunai and scoring a critical hit with one of them. The throwing spike went in the eel hounds mouth and came bursting out the top of its head. The creature began to slowly sink to the bottom.

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Running out of air, Kai Winding managed to swim to the surface. In the boat, Kataashi Kikku saw her burst out of the water, draw in a huge breath, and flip her sparkling silver hair sending a glittering spray of water flying across the passageway. Kai reached a slender delicate hand up towards the boat. Kataashi found himself staring at Kai for a moment before breaking out of his private moment and grasping her hand to haul her into the boat. Kai gracefully slid into the boat and began to wring the water out of her robes.

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Wang Shu swam over to Subotai Korusu who was still struggling with swimming due to his armor and was running out of air. With Wang’s help he was able to use his athletic ability to swim to the surface and take a huge gasp of air. The two had trouble swimming over to the boat so Kataashi Kikku used his bo staff to push the boat closer to them and helped haul them into the boat. Each of them bailed water out of the boat as Wei Tai managed to swim up to the surface after much difficulty probably dealing with his armor like Subotai.

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It turned out that Subotai was the only one wounded. He cast one cure wounds spell on himself and then used 5 points of his lay on hands healing to bring himself back up to his max hit points. Then much to Kataashi Kikku’s dismay, Kai Winding put away her light coin and plunged the passageway back into darkness again. Wei Tai resumed his paddling and sailed the craft into a large lake. The entire lake was lit so everyone could see. There were multiple sandy beaches at the edges of the lake. Most had mushrooms growing on them and some had ornate carp statuary finely crafted from brass that were covered with brightly burning braziers. In the center of the lake was an island with another boat beached on shore. There was also a cave opening with light spilling out of it. To the west Kai Winding spied the gravely injured eel hound that had escaped curled up on the beach licking its wounds. She put an arrow to the string and let loose her longbow. The arrow sailed in a high arc through the large cave to come down and swiftly strike the eel hound through the eye and put it out of its misery.

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Wei Tai quietly beached the boat on the far side of the island as the party prepared to investigate the island cave. It was decided that Wei Tai would sneak to the entrance first and peer inside while everyone else waited at the boat.

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Like a shadow, Wei Tai moved around to the cave entrance without making a sound. He peered inside the cave and it glittering with treasure. A Dragon statue made from finely lacquered wood covered in lit candles was strategically placed in the center of the room to spread light throughout the cave. A pile of coins glittered in the candlelight. There were several bolts of silk and a large chest next to the coins. Two shikome slept on tatami mats on the far side of the cave and two myconids tended the plentiful patches of mushrooms that grew throughout the cave. There were additional empty bed rolls and 3 dragon statues made of iron.

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After communicating with the others via his telepathic bond, Wei Tai stayed hidden and watched as Kataashi Kikku, Kai Winding, and Wang Shu stealthily joined him by the cave entrance. Subotai Korusu stayed with the boat. The party did not want to risk his movements alerting anyone inside. Unfortunately it was Wang Shu who was attracted some attention. When he was repositioning himself, the blade of his calligraphy staff rattled against the rock. One of the deathcap myconids heard the noise and poked his head out of the cave to investigate. He came face to face with Kataashi and a fight instantly broke out.

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Kataashi Kikku was first to react. He pulled back his arm and lightning began to crackle around his fist. He lashed out with a punch right to the face of the myconid and released an electric charge in addition to the bludgeoning damage. Kai went next. She stepped back and loosed an arrow into the creature. Subotai Korusu saw that battle had broken out so he moved swiftly around to the cave entrance and was actually silent and stealthy much to everyone’s surprise. When he rounded the corner he let loose a javelin which sunk deep into the side of the myconid. Wei Tai drilled it with 3 kunai and then slipped back into the shadows. Wang Shu tried to use a lightning lure but his spell was resisted. The Deathcap Myconid spewed forth a stream of spores from his mouth that covered Kataashi Kikku but the monk managed to resist their sleeping poisonous effect. The myconid threw a fist punch at Kataashi as well but the monk simply ducked under the wide arcing swing.

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Everyone was surprised how tough the myconid was as it survived repeated blows from all sides, but finally it fell to the ground dead. Kataashi poked his head into the room and looked around. Miraculously no one had heard the battle right outside the cave. The two shikome were still asleep and the last remaining deathcap myconid had his back to the cave opening.

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View
Parlay with the Mushroom Folk
Birth of an Alliance?

The party retreated back down the tunnel they came from to try and occupy superior ground. With a wave of his hand, Wang Shu bid his magical dancing lights to float after them illuminating the passage so that the party could see. The four remaining bakemono ran after them in hot pursuit but now the narrower walls of the tunnel prevented them from surrounding Subotai Korusu as they had done before. They had to engage the samurai one at a time. And as they did they were cut down by his katana, felled by arrows from Kai Winding’s supple bow, smashed by Kataashi Kikku’s powerful kicks, and hewn by Wang Shu’s calligraphy naginata. But right behind the bakemono came the Shikome and they were screaming for blood.

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Wei Tai hurled two kunai throwing spikes at the first shikome. The first bounced of the creatures armor but the second found its mark in a crease under the creatures armpit. Kataashi Kikku whistled, planted his right foot, and then spun around launching a spinning wheel kick with his left foot that not only smashed into the face of the onrushing shikome but also somehow caused him to burst into flame. Seeing the creature hurt badly by the monk’s attack and knowing the shikome’s vengeance would be swift and terrible, Subotai Korusu insulted the shikome in the addedo language and attempted to goad the creature into attacking him instead of Kataashi Kikku. The noble samurai’s plan worked all too well as the shikome thrust his giant spear past Subotai’s guard and plunged it into his chest. The shikome and samurai stared into each other’s faces mere inches apart. Subotai Korusu allowed no grimace or hint of pain to cross his placid face until suddenly with a jarring amount of force, the shikome yanked the spear free of Subotai’s chest and the mighty samurai fell to the ground unconscious and bleeding out.

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Kataashi Kikku once again looked down upon the fallen samurai at his feet and shrugged. He took one step towards the shikome with his right foot and then launched a viscous front kick with his left foot that caught the shikome under his chin and snapped his head back. As the monk whistled, the shikome burst into flame once more. Kai Winding gracefully and swiftly moved up next to her fallen comrade and placed a long fingered hand on his head. She said a prayer to her ancestors and Subotai’s wounds stopped bleeding. He was still unconscious but he was no longer dying. Using his long reach, Wang Shu snaked his calligraphy naginata between his friends and into the chest of the shikome. He yanked it out in a shower of gore thinking it a fitting end to the horrible creature.

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The last shikome surged forward swinging his tetsubo (great two handed club) once at Kai Winding who parried the blow with her steel fan and another swing at Kataashi Kikku who managed to duck the powerful attack that struck the cave wall beside him and caused chunks of stone to fall away from the tunnel. Two kunai throwing spikes flew out of the shadowy area of the tunnel where Wei Tai was hiding. Both hit the shikome in the leg and at least one found a major artery as blood was coursing down the creature’s leg and pooling underfoot. Wang Shu brought the full weight of his calligraphy naginata down on the shikome in a sweeping arc and cut deep into the creature’s shoulder causing it to fall to its knees and then expire.

Kataashi Kikku cut all of the ears off the 19 dead bakemono and 2 dead shikome. And then the party quickly regrouped and made its way back to the lair of the Serpopard they had battled previously. There they decided to hole up and rest. Wei Tai hid himself in the dark near the entrance with a good vantage into the large cave and waited and listened. Kai Winding used a ritual to cast detect magic but found none on any of the bakemono, shikome, and no magic in the serporpard nest. However, a careful examination of the nest revealed 12 silver coins and 8 star rose quartz (gems worth 50 GP each). The Master Treasure List was updated.

The short rest lasted an hour and it was not disturbed by anything. Everyone who was wounded used hit dice to heal themselves. Subotai Korusu began to stir. He returned to consciousness and found that the poison from the Serpopard’s musk had finally left his system. Subotai also used his healing magic to heal the wounds of the others who were still not fully healed. Subotai asked Kataashi Kikku for the ears of the fallen bakemono and shikome. The monk shrugged and dropped a bloody bag with the ears at his feet. The samurai dutifully cataloged the ears and put them with the others.

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Wei Tai began once again to explore the cavern complex. He found an empty cave that had evidence of the bakemono having been living there. There was a pig roasting over a fire pit on a skewer. There were bedrolls – some of which were still warm. Other provisions were strewn about including barrels of water, vegetables, and other things but nothing of any real value.

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The next room seemed to be where the shikome dwelled with two large hammocks for them and 4 smaller tatami mats for the bakemono A large fire pit had a large pot over it with a boiling stew. Firewood and other supplies were strewn about but again there seemed to be nothing of any monetary value.

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Down a side passage Wei Tai found a nice looking boat. It was clearly seaworthy and made by a human boat-wright most likely and stolen by these creatures. It was beached on the shore of a deep stream that was flowing along through the tunnels. It went the to the northwest towards a bridge and to the southeast into darkness. Two large baskets of dead fish sat next to the boat on the shore. The boat had oars and looked like it could easily accommodate 10 human sized people.

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Wei Tai continued his reconnaissance of the complex. He found a hidden cache of weapons. There were about 40 newly made spears with the mark of the Ikari prefecture upon them. They were clearly human made and were no doubt stolen.

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There was also a bridge crossing the underwater river which separated the cave complex clearly. Wei Tai saw tracks of bakemono who had been camped out around a fire on this side of the bridge but their tracks and that of the shikome had certainly crossed and were seen on both sides of the bridge. Wei Tai also spied some mushroom folk in the tunnels across the bridge.

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There were two men made of mushrooms seemingly on guard in the tunnel across the river. They each had brown cloaks and broadswords strapped to their backs. Wei Tai returned to the rest of the party unseen to explain what he had found and to talk it over.

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There were many opinions as to a course of action. At first Wang Shu and Kai Winding thought it best to leave the bakemono caves not wanting to get involved with the mushroom folk. Their thought was that their mandate was to destroy the bakemono and shikome. Kai Winding in particular was very concerned that the battle had taken away a lot of resources and that they were not prepared for another fight without more rest. She suggested they return to General Hu Ban and explain their progress so far. Subotai Korusu was not convinced that all of the bakemono and shikome were in fact destroyed. There were parts of the cave that had not been explored. The other side of the bridge past the mushroom people and down the stream beyond where they found the boat to the southeast were still a bit of a mystery. Subotai Korusu did not want to return to General Hu Ban without making sure they had destroyed ALL of the bakemono and shikome that were here. Wang Shu had read about the mushroom folk and knew them to be called myconids. They were generally known as peaceful creatures.

Since it appeared that the myconids may be in league with the shikome, Wei Tai dressed himself and Subotai up in the shikome armor and used his disguise skill to make them both look convincingly like shikome. Then the two carefully crossed the bridge and approached the two guards. The myconid guards warily waved a hand to stop. Sobutai tried speaking to them in adeddo – the language of the bakemono and shikome, but the myconids did not understand. They spoke a different language of which neither of them understood.

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Soon another figure came up behind them. It was a taller myconid with a staff. The runes on the staff looked druidic in nature. There was still a significant language gap and some tense moments as Wei Tai and Subotai Korusu retreated back across the bridge with the 2 guards and druid following them. When the druid spotted Kai Winding, the myconid to spoke to her in a different language that they both seemed to understand. Kai learned that the myconid’s name was Ascome and that he tended the mushrooms here in the caverns and was a leader of sorts to the myconids who lived here. It seemed clear that Ascome had managed to see past the disguises and knew the 2 party members were not in fact shikome. When Kai Winding explained to Ascome that the party was here to destroy all of the bakemono and shikome from these caves, Ascome invited them to speak with the myconid elder, one named Grandfather Basidio.

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The party was led through many warren like caves filled with mushrooms and myconid villagers. There were large myconids, small, warriors, and villagers. They were tending the mushrooms and working calmly. The warriors eyed the party warily but most everyone else paid them no heed.

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Finally they were led into a large cavern filled with mushrooms that coalesced together into a giant throne. Sitting on the throne was a an old looking myconid.

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Sitting on his throne, the elder myconid was about 4 feet tall with a white beard dangling from his chin and a white capped red mushroom flaring out from his head. He wore a beautiful crimson and gold silk jacket and smoked a long stemmed pipe. He carried a wooden cane in one hand. His keen eyes looked thoughtfully and his mouth always seemed curled up in a playful grin.

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Ascome introduced the elder myconid as Grandfather Basidio and asked permission for him to provide spores which will allow for free telepathic communication amongst the group. Kai Winding acquiesced. Each party member was presented with a handful of spores which they were meant to eat. Subotai Korusu was first to eat them and then explained that his mind was now telepathically linked to the myconids. As each person ate of the spores they too joined the collective and shared their thoughts through their minds.

Subotai Korusu began with a formal bow and introduced himself and the group. With practiced grace, he looked straight ahead and brought his feet together stopping exactly 3 cm apart. He then placed his hands lightly on his thighs at a diagonal keeping a fist-worth of space between his body and his elbows and he initiated seiritsu (standing bow) keeping his back perfectly straight and inclining at the waist deeply towards Grandfather Basidio. Subotai then slowly removed his Korusu noble family silk sash from his chest and bowed again before Grandfather Basidio while holding the sash in outstretched hands as a gift for his host. Gandfather Basidio accepted the gift and put it on immediately in a sign of great acceptance. The colors matched the myconid’s finely tailored silk jacket perfectly. The elder myconid puffed on his pipe and smiled broadly at his guests. Proper respect had been paid to protocol and the party’s good manners had made a very positive impression. Grandfather Basidio was swayed by the cultural skill check of Subotai Korusu and was ready to telepathically speak freely.

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Grandfather Basidio spoke directly into the minds of all party members and explained that this entire cave complex is the myconid’s ancestral home. They once thrived throughout this cave system in much greater numbers. But about 6 months ago the bakemono and shikome arrived. They fought with the myconids killing many of the community’s sons and grandsons. After much death and destruction, Grandfather Basidio brokered an accord of peace. The bakemono and shikome stay on their side of the river and the myconids stay on theirs. In return for peace, the myconids provide the shikome with poisons and food.

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Subotai Korusu explained the party’s charge to destroy all of the bakemono and shikome in these caves and managed to convince Grandfather Basidio to allow this to continue and to provide them safe harbor in the myconid caves. The party would be allowed to rest and heal under the protection of the myconids before they continued their quest. Subotai got grandfather basidio to reveal that there were more shikome down river in a cave on an island.

Grandfather Basidio warned that a great evil had come to the caves of late beyond that of the bakemono and shikome. There is an Oni here. At the mention of the Oni, Kataashi Kikku turned pale white and something in his face hardened. The elder myconid related that the Oni darkened the caves and made some of the myconids tainted and hostile. They have been forced to cast out those who have been changed. These others can no longer speak to the collective in their minds. Their only thoughts are of death and destruction. These myconids are called the deathcaps. In return for the aid of the myconids, Grandfather Basidio asked that the party cleanse the myconids by destroying the deathcaps. Subotai Korusu pledged that it would be done.

Wang Shu asked Grandfather Basidio if he knew of the shrine outside of the caves on the surface not far from here. The myconid elder said that he had been to the shrine and knew of it. He related that a powerful kami in fact dwells there. Wang Shu showed his drawing of the altar and described the missing piece that seemed to have been taken. Grandfather Basidio explained that the missing piece was a prayer disc made of solid jade. Kataashi Kikku hypothesized that the Oni had taken it.

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Wang Shu tried to convince Grandfather Basidio to provide them with poisonous spores that could be used against their enemies. But the elder myconid was not swayed. He feared that if the group failed, their possession of such a weapon would give the shikome proof that the myconids had broken their peace accord. The retribution would be terrible indeed.

So the group made themselves comfortable and took a long rest in the halls of the myconids. And under their protection they were unmolested. At the end of the long rest, each character was fully healed and reached 3rd level.

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As they woke they gathered their things and prepared to finish their work of cleansing these caves of the evil that dwelt within. There were the deathcaps in the adjacent caves that needed to be destroyed. There was also the boat that could take them down river to an island where more shikome make their home.

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View
Into the Bakemono Caves
Mind the Net Trap

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The battle with the Serpopard continued. Subotai Korusu could feel the poison coursing through his system. In the poisoned state he was at disadvantage on his attacks and had a hard time hitting the quick creature with his katana. Kataashi Kikku, however, used his flurry of blows to land 2 strikes upon the beast with a swift kick to the serpopard’s midsection and reverse punch to its face. The rest of the party held back, wary of the large cloud of poisonous musk that still hung in the air cutting them off from the battle.

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Wang Shu used his prestidigitation cantrip to create a small gust of wind in an effort to disperse the cloud of musk and dissipate it to the point of no longer being a threat. Kai Winding fired her bow and the shaft of the arrow bit deeply into the flank of the serpopard. In response the creature howled in fury as it went into a berserker like rage unleashing 2 bite attacks and 4 claw attacks. Kataashi Kikku got hit by a claw as it raked his chest but he managed to shake off the pain and keep fighting. Subotai Korusu did not fair as well. The Serpopard smashed a claw into his hip and then clamped down hard on his left arm with its jaws, lifting the samurai up off the ground and shaking him back and forth before dropping him to the ground in a bloody mess that was bleeding out.

With no-one else able to get through the poison cloud to lend aid, Kataashi Kikku got a healing kit out of his pack to help the fallen samurai. But miraculously Subotai Korusu suddenly sat bolt upright and sucked in a large gulp of air as Phil had rolled a 20 on the die for Subotai’s death saving throw and brought him back up to 1 HP and back into the fight. Wang Shu’s efforts with his prestidigitation magic to use magical wind to disperse the poisonous cloud finally proved fruitful as the greenish mist fell away. The party rushed in to attack the terribly wounded serpopard from all sides. Feeling the need to flee, the serpopard tried to leap over Kataashi Kikku and run down the hall but Kataashi thrust upward with his bo staff with tremendous force catching the creature on its solar plexus. The chain reaction of trauma set off by the rupturing of the serpopard’s solar plexus turned off the creature’s life force like a light. Its outstretched paws crumpled beneath its weight as it landed from its jump in a heap.

Kai Winding and Subotai Korusu used healing magic to heal the party as best they could. Wang Shu examined the fallen serpopard. It was a fascinating creature that he had only read about previously. It was interesting to see one in the flesh. He knew that the musk glands of the monster were prized for making perfume. In fact, he knew of several traders in the trade caravan who would pay good gold for the glands or the perfume. Wang Shu carefully cut away the 4 fist sized musk glands, one from each leg of the serpopard. He figured he could get up to 2 GP each by selling them outright. But Wang Shu had an even better idea. He could use his herbalism skill and some of the herbs and oils he had to turn the 4 musk glands into 10 vials of perfume worth about 5 GP each. Meanwhile Kataashi Kikku cut out 4 large claws from the beast to later clean and fashion into a necklace. The Master Treasure List was updated.

Wei Tai continued to sneak ahead and explore the caves. He followed the tunnel from which the serpopard had emerged and found a large cave that was clearly its den. There was a large pile of torn up mushrooms, sticks, leaves, and bones formed into a very large mound with several depressions in it about the size of the serpopard. A closer look revealed human bones, fish bones, and small mammal bones – rabbits, rats, etc. But the pile was left alone and not touched.

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Wei Tai went down the opposite tunnel and found the passageway opened up into a much larger room. There he saw one bakemono standing on one end of the room and another standing at the other. Both were clearly on guard and both sides spotted each other at the same time. Wei Tai reacted first by moving swiftly back the way he came and alerted the others.

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Kai Winding, Kataashi Kikku, Wei Tai, and Subotai Korusu rushed into the room to silence the bakemono. As they ran ahead, Wang Shu waved his hands and his 4 dancing lights floated into the large chamber to illuminate its expanse. Wang also reminded them to beware the net trap the bakemono prisoner had told them about. But unfortunately no one looked up to see the very large net hanging on the ceiling of the cave some 40 feet overhead. The southern bakemono yanked his hand backward and the net was released catching Wei Tai, Kai Winding, Kataashi Kikku, and Subotai Korusu. All but Kai were knocked off their feet from the force of the net but all were restrained and trapped under the net.

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The bakemono fired arrows with advantage at the party members trapped under the net as they struggled to free themselves. Kataashi Kikku pulled a knife from his belt and cut his way through. Kai Winding followed suit by drawing forth her Katana and slashing it in a wide arc to cut the net and have it fall to her feet on either side of her. Wei Tai also cut his way out using his katana as did Subotai Korusu. Everyone could hear the scuttling feet of more approaching bakemono. Two large groups came from the north and the south to investigate the noises of battle and entered the fray. Kataashi and Wei Te moved to intercept the group to the north while Wang Shu and Subotai moved to take on the the group to the south.

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Wei Tai hurled kunai throwing spikes at the oncoming bakemono wounding two of them. Kataashi Kikku unleashed a roundhouse kick that caved in the side of the head of one of those wounded bakemono. Subotai Korusu struggled to hit the fast moving bakemono due to his poisoned condition but Wang Shu leaped into the air and held his Calligraphy Staff high over head as he came down he smashed it into the ground unleashing a powerful thunderclap that reverberated through the caves and sent the torn and broken bodies of four bakemono hurtling backwards through the air.

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Wei Tai could see beyond the edge of Wang Shu’s dancing lights. He called out that there were two shikome coming in addition to more bakemono. Kataashi Kikku called for a retreat to get to better terrain where the enemies large numbers could not overwhelm the group. He leaped into the air doing a mighty flip and landing on the other side of the net running back down the passageway from whence they had come. Everyone heeded the request and moved swiftly into the passageway as the Shikome and bakemono gave chase through the caves. Everyone that is except Subotai who hesitated to retreat in the face of his enemies. He wanted to make sure he did the honorable thing. But in the end he decided a tactical withdrawal to gain superior ground in this case was indeed honorable. Kataashi harrumphed at the mention of ‘honor’. He said, ‘Wading into battle to predictably fall like a leaf in autumn, then leaving your companions vulnerable? is this ’honor’? Calling bakemono ‘honorless ones’… is this honor to judge others with ignorance of their condition in order to self-satisfy one’s callow creed? You all keep using this word, honor. I do not think it means what you think it means.’

Wang Shu smiled and winked at Kataashi, but said nothing in response to his rant. Wei Tai stopped and turned to Kataashi speaking in a chorus of voices, ‘Honor and wisdom are not synonyms. A fool can act with honorable intent. An honorable man can act without honor in order to do something for the greater honor of all. Honor is intent. Honor is expressed through action. The bakemono are honorless because their intent is to harm and they offend the gods and their ancestors. Wading into overwhelming battle is foolish. Acting without thinking of the repercussions is foolish. It is still honorable if the intent is to protect your companions. It is not if the intent is for ones own personal glory. We are here to protect the caravan. That is honorable. Consider your actions and the intent behind them and determine if they are honorable. I am here because my current liege charged me with protecting my kinsman. Consider your in intents and reasons. Cast no derision upon me without consideration. If you think my actions dishonorable speak to me and if I judge you are correct I will make amends. Until then, we have evil creatures who cause harm for pleasure to deal with. They are not honorable.’

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The bakemono were slowed by the difficult terrain of the fallen net but some had bows and fired arrows at Wang Shu and Subotai. Wang Shu put up a shield spell to keep the arrows at bay and Subotai cut the arrows right out of the air with his Katana. The shikome finally came into the light and one of them hurled a huge spear at Wang Shu catching him in the hip. The Ju-Hai Shu bloodline sorcerer cried out and yanked the spear from his body casting it aside in disgust.

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Two bakemono caught up to Wang Shu but Subotai leaped back into the fray to help Wang escape. With a mighty swing of his Katana, the poisoned samurai finally hit a bakemono cutting the hapless creature completely in half. Wang Shu used his Calligraphy Naginata to skewer another pursing bakemono freeing the pair to move freely down the passageway. Wang Shu went first followed by Subotai Korusu who got into a defensive stance as the rear guard.

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In Search of the Bakemono Caves

As per their orders from General Hu Ban, the party set off to find the bakemono caves with their prisoner in tow. On the way they passed the previous battle site in the mountain pass on the road and found the shrine Wang Shu had built was still in place and unmolested. Kai Winding said a prayer to the Kami in front of the shrine and carefully put the silk handkerchief she had received from General Hu Ban as an offering on the shrine.

The party continued their journey following a bakemono trail that lead off the road and deeper into the mountains. Further on the party heard some strange noises coming from down below them. Peering over the edge of a cliff they saw a bakemono down below at the edge of a clearing keeping watch some 50 feet below them. Beyond him hidden by thick trees and foliage were noises of shouting, smashing of wood and metal, and the cracking and splintering of wood. Kataashi Kikku slowly crept forward to the edge of the cliff and peered down. He could not make out what was going on beyond the treeline where all the noise was coming from but he did spot a second bakemono hidden in the brush at the edge of the tree line. Both were alert and on watch but had not noticed the party on top of the cliff.

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Slowly and carefully each party member moved into position at the edge of the cliff. The goal was to take out the two bakemono sentries with ranged attacks so that the cliff could be scaled and the noises be investigated. Kai Winding took out her bow, put an arrow to the string, drew back, and took careful aim at the northern bakemono hidden in the brush. It was a difficult shot as the creature was partially behind the cover of the branches. She gently exhaled as she loosed the arrow and it slipped through the narrow window of brush and hurtled towards its mark. The tip of the arrow pierced the bakemono through the eye, exited through the back of his skull, and buried itself deep into the tree he was leaning against. The bakemono died instantly with the critical hit – pinned by the arrow to the tree. The bakemono made no noise and did not move as it expired.

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Subotai Korusu drew a javelin from his pack and shifted his weight as he prepared to hurl it down at the remaining bakemono to the south. But as he did so, he stepped on a fallen dry tree branch and made a loud crack as his weight snapped it in two. The bakemono heard the noise and looked up to see two kunai throwing spikes hurled by Wei Tai smash into his face. The bakemono died instantly and crumpled to the ground.

Moving quickly Wei Tai tied a rope around a large tree near the edge of the cliff. He tossed the other end of the rope down the cliff somewhat behind another tree for concealment and cover. Kataashi Kikku then grabbed hold of the rope and deftly rappelled down the cliff with well placed feet and hid behind the tree. He tried to look beyond the tree line to see what all the noise was coming from but he still could not see beyond the wall of foliage. He did not see any other sentries, so he motioned for the next to come down. Subotai Korusu grabbed the rope and slid down the rope using his strength to slow his fall. Wei Tai slid swiftly down the rope with practiced ease and hid behind the tree at the bottom. Wang Shu grabbed hold of the rope and rappelled down the cliff to join his comrades. Kai Winding forced the bakemono prisoner down the rope which he seemed to negotiate without any issue. Then she followed down. Unfortunately, Kai lost her footing and smashed her body against the cliff side as she descended. It hurt badly but she made it down safely.

Kataashi Kikku was first across the open area and break the treeline into the foliage. As he got closer he began to see a large number of bakemono led by a shikome destroying some sort of shrine. They were hacking into the wooden posts holding up a large bell and a separate large structure holding up a collection of prayer wheels. The altar was covered in blood and was filled with human looking bloody bones. Subotai Korusu ran across the open area and breached the line of foliage to gaze upon the same. He motioned to Kataashi trying to get his attention and communicate some sort of plan but it seemed to be lost in translation. Kataashi saw Wei Tai run across the open area and vanish into the dense and thick underbrush. Wang Shu tried to move across a little further south. Kai Winding tied the bakemono prisoner to a high branch and began to run across to join the others.

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Subotai Korusu boldly strode out from behind the cover and out into the open. His left hand casually rested upon the hilt of his Katana intentionally mimicking the pose of General Hu Ban. The seven bakemono and one shikome suddenly stopped their crazed destruction of of the prayer wheel, large bell, and shrine. For a brief moment their was total silence as the creatures froze and turned to face the Soburi Samurai. Subotai calmly faced them staring with an intensity that gave the creatures pause.

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Subotai moved forward slowly with purpose and called out a challenge to the Bakemono and Shikome. He invoked the name of one of his Korusu noble ancestors, ‘Yabakugi!’ whose exploits from the the Ichizoku wars were known throughout Soburin. The stunned bakemono hesitated nervously gripping their weapons and looking around for possible avenues of escape until the Shikome roared in anger and in the broken language of adeddo commanded the bakemono to attack the samurai and rip him to pieces. Buoyed by the strength of the shikome, the bakemono drew their weapons and surged forward. The first bakemono to get adjacent to Subotai Korusu paid a steep price as the samurai’s right hand went to the hilt of his sheathed katana in a flash and drew it forth in a flourish with such speed that the bakemono did not even realize it was dead. As subotai slowly returned the blade to its scabbard, the bakemono crumpled to the ground completely cut in twain.

Again the bakemono hesitated but the shouts of the Shikome kept them moving. The swarm of bakemono surrounded Subotai Korusu and attacked him with advantage. The brave samurai took hit after hit and slowly fell to his knees and then to the ground as blood poured out of his many wounds onto the earth.

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Having just born witness to Subotai’s sacrifice, Kataashi Kikku simply spat on the ground and shrugged as he moved forward through the thick cover of the foliage to emerge next to the Shikome. He whistled as he rushed out and raised his staff over his head. But the Shikome was ready, he saw Kataashi coming and spun around swinging his Tetsubo (huge two handed club). The mighty club smashed into Kataashi’s face knocking him backwards, his limp body landing on the ground in a heap. The Shikome laughed and beat his chest in triumph. But as he did so 4 of the nearby bakemono inexplicably fell asleep. Much like in the previous battle on the road at the mountain pass, the bakemono just dropped to the ground and fell asleep for no apparent reason.

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Wang Shu moved around the foliage to get a better look at how the battle was unfolding. To his dismay he saw both Subotai Korusu and Kataashi Kikku down on the ground bleeding to death. He pointed his Calligraphy Staff at the Shikome and an electrical spark erupted nearby, but the Shikome saved versus the effect and took no damage. The creature laughed and urged the bakemono to attack. Wang Shu moved away and yelled to Kai Winding who was still by the cliff and Wei Tai whom he had lost sight of to get into the fight and that both of their comrades were down.

Suddenly two kunai throwing spikes came hurtling out of the foliage. They both sunk deeply into the back of the Shikome. The creature spun around and tried to find Wei Tai who had hurled them. But he was too well hidden amongst the thick bushes and trees. Unable to locate his assailant, the shikome screamed in frustration and then decided to give chase to the retreating Wang Shu. The two bakemono managed to use a double move to get on either side of Wang Shu. The shikome ran up behind them and hurled a javelin at Wang. The javelin struck true and Wang was bloodied.

Kai Winding finally got into the fight by firing her longbow. The arrow struck one of the bakemono adjacent to Wang Shu straight through the chest. The creature crumpled and expired on the ground dead. Wang Shu followed up with a wide slicing arc from his Calligraphy Naginata. The blade cut the bakemono in half and killed him. Wei Tai still unseen by anyone hurled two more kunai at the Shikome. Both struck the creature in the head and the shikome fell to the ground dead.

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With the battle seemingly won, Kai Winding cast healing magic on Subotai Korusu causing his wounds to fade away. When the Samurai got to his feet, he laid his hands upon Kataashi Kikku and his magic healed the tattooed monk. With everyone up, Kataashi Kikku set about killing the sleeping bakemono and cutting off an ear from each one. Since General Hu Ban had ordered the death of the bakemono, Kai Winding did not object this time to their slaying. However, she asked that one of them be roused for questioning. Using his knack for the adeddo language, Subotai Korusu asked the bakemono why they were destroying the shrine. He replied simply that they were following the Shikome’s orders. They confirmed that this group was from the same cave system as the others they had encountered and then killed all the bakemono save for their original prisoner. Kataashi Kikku moved all the bodies away from the shrine and cut off each one’s ear putting it on a string. Subotai Korusu opened a cloth bag and asked that the ears be placed inside so that he may ensure their safe return to General Hu Ban. Kataashi simply spat on the ground and dumped the string of ears into the cloth bag. There were a total of 9 bakemono ears and 1 shikome ear so far to return for the bounty. The Master Treasure List was updated.

Meanwhile Wang Shu busied himself with a cleansing of the shrine area. He found human blood and remains scattered over the shrine. He removed the bones and used his prestidigitation cantrip to remove all the blood from the altar. He cleared away the debris from the broken prayer wheels and large bell but found it was beyond his skill to repair the significant damage that had been done to them. Wang Shu said prayers of thanks to the Kami and tried his best to cleanse the evil presence that the shikome and bakemono had brought to this place. In so doing he noticed something on the altar seemed to be missing. There was a circular depression in the stone about an inch thick and 1 foot in circumference. Something had once laid there set into the altar which had been pried loose. There were clear pry marks around the edges. Wang Shu took careful notes of the dimensions and made drawings and sketches of the altar.

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The party scaled the cliffs carefully using the secured rope and found a good place to camp. After a long rest without incident everyone was healed up and each character was now 2nd level. They then continued following the directions of their bakemono prisoner who guided them to the cave that was the entrance to its lair.

Subotai Korusu spoke to the prisoner in the adeddo language and discovered that there was usually 1 bakemono sentry always on guard at the end of the first tunnel. It’s job was to alert the community if intruders came to the cave. Deeper in the bakemono also told of a large net trap used to ensnare intruders. The cave entrance was on the side of a cliff. Sunlight spilled into the entrance for only 15 feet or so before it turned completely dark. Any light sources would certainly have alerted the sentry, but Wei Tai volunteered to go in himself and remove the sentry. He explained in a voice that shifted with a strange auditory effect modulating into a chorus of voices that he could see well enough in the dark and should be able to scout ahead.

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Wei Tai slid silently into the entrance of the cave. He moved quietly hugging the right hand wall as the tunnel banked to the right. After 60 feet Wei Tai saw a patch of large mushrooms growing out of the floor and wall on the left hand side of the cave. He could not identify what kind of mushroom it was but he was careful not to touch or step on the mushrooms. He did see knife marks and cut stems that indicated perhaps something had harvested or tended to the mushrooms in some way. He continued down the tunnel and after 120 feet the tunnel ended in an intersection continuing both left and right. And just as the prisoner had described, a bakemono guard stood idly gazing about. He seemed quite bored leaning against his spear. Behind the cover of the wall, Wei Tai was still hidden from the bakemono who could clearly see in the dark. Wei Tai silently slipped two kunai throwing spikes out of his bandolier and hurled them in rapid succession at the guard. The first kunai tore through the bakemono’s throat and the second buried itself deep in his chest. The bakemono fell to its knees and then slumped over forward to expire on the ground without making a sound. Wei Tai waited and listened. Complete silence told him it was safe to move forward. Like a shadow he moved forward to the intersection and recovered his kunai from the dead bakemono. He also cut off the creatures ear and tucked it away in his pouch.

Wei Tai looked right and left and so the passage continued in both directions. He chose to explore to the left. He found the passageway bisected again and went left and right again. Having traveled far and wanting to check back in with the party he began to move back to return to them. However, when he reached the dead bakemono at he first intersection, he heard a soft barely noticeable noise behind him. Looking over his shoulder he saw a spotted and scaly quadruped with a lion’s paws and a cat-like head sitting atop a long sinuous serpentine neck. Measuring 13 feet long and weighing some 600 pounds, Wei Tai was unnerved by its draconic like head swaying back and forth in constant motion swaying like a cobra. This was a serpopard and it clearly wanted to eat him.

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The Serpopard sprinted towards Wei Tai lashing out with its retractable claws and deadly teeth. Wei Tai managed to dodge the bite and one set of claws, but the other claw caught him on the shoulder and raked down his chest. Wei Tai disengaged from the Serpopard and moved swiftly down the tunnel back towards his comrades. He called out to them in warning. Wang Shu clenched his fist and then opened it swiftly while thrusting forth his hand. Four little balls of dancing light bounced down the tunnel illuminating it for all to see. Kataashi Kikku and Subotai Korusu
moved swiftly forward down the tunnel to meet up with Wei Tai.

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The Serpopard flew down the tunnel in pursuit of Wei Tai and came face to face with Kataashi Kikku. It stopped adjacent to him, reared its head back, and belched a cloud of foul smelling musk out of its mouth that filled the area surrounding Wei Tai, Kataashi, and Subotai. Each of them made their saves and dexterously slipped out of the musk cloud without being saturated by any musk. The group was split, however, with Kataashi north of the cloud and adjacent to the serpopard and Wei Tai and Subotai south of the persistent musk cloud. Kai Winding ran forward and cast a bless spell on Wei Tai, Subotai, and Kataashi.

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Subotai Korusu saw no way through the cloud other than to move directly through it but he could not leave Kataashi Kikku to fight the Serpopard alone. So the brave samurai drew his katana and calmly moved forward through the musk cloud. In so doing he became saturated in the foul smelling musk and in effect poisoned. But he and Kataashi moved into flanking positions. As Kataashi spun and kicked, his hands and feet smoldered with an eerie red energy as he struck the serpopard in the back. Subotai slashed his Katana with a good strike across the front of the creature’s jaw.

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Return to the Caravan
Meeting with General Hu Ban

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Kataashi Kikku kept a watchful eye on the 6 bakemono he had tethered to ropes that bound their hands. The bakemono prisoners were strangely compliant. Every once in a while they would get unruly but a swift command from Subotai Korusu at the creatures in their crude language of adeddo put them back into line. Soon enough the large collection of wagons, horses, camp fires, and merchants of the Tanaka Trading Company came into view. The guards at the periphery of the encampment greeted the party and quickly led them to General Hu Ban.

The General’s private tent was surrounded by guards and many high level merchants looking on to see if they could find out if the bakemono threat was dealt with and if the caravan would be moving again any time soon. As the bakemono were led through the throngs of onlookers, they were occasionally shoved and spat upon or at least had profanities in Soburin yelled at them. But the crowd gave each party member approving nods, claps on the back, and Soburin words of thanks and appreciation as each passed by. Finally the private guards of General Hu Ban took the end of each rope leash from Kataashi and roughly moved the bakemono into a line in front of the general’s tent. The guards also directed each party member to stand in a line opposite the bakemono.

As Kataashi scanned the assembled caravan folk he catches the eye of a Soburi woman in silk robes with an ornate Katana sitting under a large tree by herself off to the side of all the commotion but with a good view of all the goings on. Her long red hair is quite striking as it is an unusual hair color for the Soburi. But suddenly the flaps of General Hu Ban’s tent fly open and Kataashi’s attention is drawn away as a hush of respect falls over the assembled caravan folk. General Hu Ban walked out of his tent with long confident steps. His elaborate O-Yoroi armor comprised of layers of silk, lamellar, chain, and plate looked extremely heavy requiring one of enormous strength to avoid being crushed by its components. But the old man underneath his immaculately clean O-Yoroi moved with grace and ease. The General’s thick left hand rested on the hilt of his Wakizashi just above his Katana on his left hip. He strode down the line first looking at each Bakemono in turn. He stopped at the end of the line and turned to face the party. General Hu Ban’s black mustached face was stern and stoic. In a deep and commanding voice he asked, ‘Who is responsible for bringing these filthy Bakemono into my presence?’

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Kai Winding clasped both her hands in front of her hips and brought her feet tightly together. She then initiated seiritsu (standing bow) keeping her back perfectly straight and inclining at the waist deeply towards Hu Ban. Keeping her gaze downward and avoiding eye contact she said, ‘General, it is I who am largely responsible for their presence before you. We had met them and their comrades in battle, however, these bakemono were affected by some spell or magics of resident kami during battle. I refused to let this one…’ Kai gestured to Kataashi ‘…from slaughtering them while they slept. I do not kill needlessly. The blood of countless centuries of war and death have decimated our land. I mean to cleanse it, not to further degrade it with meaningless slaughter. If you must assign blame for this, I will accept it.’

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General Hu Ban moved to stand directly in front of Kai. She continued to keep her gaze low and to avoid eye contact as she slowly moved into a seiza (seated position) by putting both of her knees on the ground at the same time. With the tops of her feet flat on the ground and her toes pointed straight back behind her, she rested her hindquarters on her calves and heels. Kai’s arms gently drifted to her sides and she put her hands palm-down on top of her thighs. Keeping her back perfectly straight she bowed again to General Hu Ban completely prostrating before him.

In an incredible gesture for one of his station, General Hu Ban bowed ever so slightly towards Kai in return and said, ‘Your words of wisdom temper an old man’s anger. Rise and speak your name then explain to me more of what happened on your mission.’

With delicate graceKai Winding seemed to float up from her seiza to stand before the general continuing to keep her gaze lowered and spoke…

Again initiating a seiritsu, Kai began, ‘you honor me, great general. I am Kai Winding, a healer who seeks to tread on the path of light in these troubled days. Per your order, the five of us took to the mountain pass to discover and ensure the path for the trade caravan was clear. With little grace, this one’ Kai gestured to Subotai, ‘walked into an ambush in a ravine and was quickly surrounded by a small group of these bakemono. We were surprised by flanking bowmen atop the ravine. Many other bakemono joined the fray along with a huge shikome warrior wielding brutal, cruel Odachi. Notwithstanding the inartful tack and much spitting from this one,’ again extending a long arm towards Kaatashi, ‘they proved their mettle and many fell. But many more of these beasts fell, we believe,’ Kai gestures to Wang ‘from the kami who inhabited that ravine. As I mentioned many fell asleep inexplicably during the battle. Afterwards, the spitting monk found traces in and among the underbrush in the ravine that seemed to have been recently disturbed as well as the slightest hint of tobacco smoke on the wind. Believing that this confirmed our suspicion as to the presence of the kami, we consecrated a small shrine in thanks and in the hopes that the kami would grant us, and this caravan, safe passage through the area.’

With that Kai, brought her long limbs back in, bowed deferentially and waited for the General’s response….

General Hu Ban nodded with respect to Kai and said, ‘Thank you Kai Winding. You bring great honor to this trade caravan and the Tanaka Trading Company. You defeated a foe with much greater numbers and with the advantage of terrain and surprise. The rest of you would do well to follow the lead of Kai Winding and learn from her honorable example. These bakemono are filthy savages but they hold information that could be of great value to us.’ (Due to Kai Winding’s actions in sparing the bakemono and her dignified exchange with General Lo Ban, Kai’s dignity score goes up by one point and her Haitoku score goes down by one point.) General Hu Ban then turned to face one of the bakemono prisoners. In Soburi he said, ‘You there. Are there more of your kind nearby? Do you have a village or settlement?’

The Bakemono simply stared blankly at General Hu Ban with an empty expression on his face. The general’s face tightened and with a flash he drew his wakizashi from its scabbard and the bakemono’s head tumbled to the ground. General Hu sheathed his wakizashi before the bakemono’s body slumped to the ground. The other 5 bakemono began babbling incoherently and tried to get away but General Hu’s soldiers kept them in place.

General Hu Ban stared intimidatingly at the bakemono and repeated his previous questions and added, ‘The first bakemono to answer my questions will live. The others will be executed.’ With the bakemono still seemingly confused he turned back to the party and asked, ‘Are there any among you who can speak their language?’

Subotai Korusu stepped forward and with his hands behind his back he bent at the waist to a 45 degree angle into a futsuurei (respect) bow towards General Hu Ban. He then said, ’General, my uncle Sho Korusu fought alongside you in Emperor Hitoshi’s rebellion. I am honored to do the same under the banner of the Tanaka Trading Company. I am familiar with the adeddo language and would be willing to translate. I am at your service.’ General Hu gave Subotai the slightest of nods in return and said, ‘Sho was a good man and brought much honor to the Korusu clan. I hope you will do the same. You may proceed.’

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Subotai spoke in the adeddo language, ’Are there more of your kind nearby? Do you have a village or settlement?’ Four of the remaining bakemono shook their heads defiantly and spat on the ground near Subotai. But the fifth remaining bakemono stepped forward and said in adeddo, ‘Don’t kill me. We live in mountain cave close to where we fight. More bakemono and shikome there.’

Subotai Korusu translated the Bakemono’s response into Soburi for General Hu Ban and added, ‘General, with your permission, I can ask this one further to find their lair or even lead us there so we can make this pass safe for the Tanaka trading company.’

At this point Wang Shu stepped forward and spoke, ‘Honorable General I am Wang Shu. I wish you a good day. The pass is clear and this fiend has led us to more of his kind, but most importantly the Kami has been appeased and the caravan may pass safely through the mountain pass. We are at your bidding, how do you wish to proceed with this new information of more Bakemono near the pass?’

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General Hu Ban frowned and said, ‘I do not agree with your assessment Wang Shu. But the power of the Ju-Hai Shu bloodline magic is strong. All the bakemono must be destroyed before the pass will be safe for our slow moving caravan. Kai Winding, I want you to lead Subotai Korusu, Wang Shu, and the other two back to the mountain pass. Use this bakemono as a guide to lead you to their lair. I will give you each 1 silver coin for every bakemono ear you return with and 1 gold coin for each shikome ear.’ General Hu turned to his soldiers holding the bakemono prisoners and said grimly, ‘Execute the 4 bakemono who refused to speak..’ General Hu’s soldiers quickly followed his orders and used their Katanas to behead the 4 bakemono. General Hu turned to Subotai and said, ‘Tell the remaining Bakemono that if he leads you to their lair, he will be spared. Otherwise he will be executed like the rest.’

During the entire conversation, Kataashi Kikku stood absolutely still in a relax stance, not moving a muscle – except when referenced as the ‘spitting monk’ and a barely controlled smile softened his face for a moment. His eyes, however, were carefully scanning. In particular, he kept a fascinated yet wary eye on the woman in silk robes.

Kataashi scanned the crowd. Most of the soldiers and caravan masters watched the exchanges between General Hu Ban and the rest of the party with rapt attention. Most nodded their heads in approval at the exquisite formality and respect with which Kai Winding addressed General Hu. Kataashi looked back to check on the red haired woman in silk. She was still there continuing to sit under the tree. There was a large wide brimmed straw hat laying on the ground next to her side by the tree. She removed a small flask from under her robe and brought it to her lips to take a drink. Later she filled a long stemmed pipe with some sort of pipe weed and lit it. There she sat smoking and watching and listening.

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Subotai Korusu bowed to the General Hu Ban and turned to the last remaining bakemono who still lived. ‘Lead us to your lair and you will be spared. Otherwise you be will executed like the others.’

The last bakemono standing looked at the decapitated bodies of his comrades and nodded solemnly. General Hu Ban looked at Subotai’s wounds and said, ‘You fought bravely and your command of the adeddo language has helped me greatly. Rest tonight and tomorrow at dawn set out with your companions and see this done. We need to get the caravan moving again. Ikari prefecture awaits.’

With that General Hu Ban spun around and marched back into his tent. The general’s soldiers kept guard over the bakemono prisoner and the party retired to take their rest. In the morning as they were preparing to leave, one of the general’s servants approaches Kai Winding and Wang Shu. He bows to each in turn starting with Kai and finishing with Wang and said, ‘General Hu Ban would like me to ask of you a favor.’ He then carefully unwrapped a silken handkerchief. ‘This handkerchief belonged to General Hu Ban’s mother who passed many years ago. General Hu Ban wishes for you to place the handkerchief on the shrine you constructed as an offering to the Kami.’ The servant handed the handkerchief to Kai, bowed, and scurried away.

The General’s guards had replaced the ropes binding the bakemono prisoner with iron shackles around his wrists and a rope tied to the shackle to act as a tether. The prisoner was discharged into the party’s responsibility as they prepared to head out towards the mountain pass.

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Welcome to Soburin
On the Road to Ikari Prefecture

The Tanaka Trading Company has been running a huge trade caravan from Supai prefecture all the way down the east coast of Soburin to its final destination in Ikari prefecture. On the Imperial road through the mountains between Yokuba and Ikari, General Hu Ban called a halt. He gathered a small group of 5 caravan guards from different places along the train of carts and wagons. He told the assembled group that scouts had reported possible bakemono activity in the mountain pass ahead and that it was a dangerous place to take the caravan. General Hu commanded the small group of caravan guards enter the mountain pass and destroy any bakemono or other threats in the area and then report back.

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The group included a young male Soburi Samurai Lord named Subotai Korusu with beautifully crafted Tosei Gusoku armor bearing the code of arms of the Korusu Noble Family. A finely crafted family Katana was sheathed at the samurai’s hip also noting his noble birth from Korusu prefecture. Another member was a male Soburi yamabushi sorcerer from the deep wild forests of Sukochi prefecture Wang Shu. He wielded a huge Naginata with intricate calligraphy carved along its wooden haft.

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The third member of the group was a yet another male Soburi who was clearly trained in the martial arts. His arms and legs were covered with vivid tattoos of coiled snakes and he carried a stout bo staff. He said very little responding to most questions by spitting or shrugging. But he did in fact say his name – Kataashi Kikku.

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The fourth member of the group was a beautiful and graceful Soburi female Yamabushi wielding a katana, longbow, and steel fans. Her name was Kai Winding.

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The fifth member of the group was a male Soburi warrior with a wide brimmed straw hat that kept the sun from his face and kept an elaborate samurai demon mask coverin ghis face in shadow. He went by Wei Tai.

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There was little introduction to one another before setting to the task of their work. For not long into their scouting of the mountain pass, they encountered a large group of bakemono led by a shikome. The creatures were waiting in ambush where the road turned through a mountain pass with large cliffs on either side. Three bakemono archers hid some 50 feet up the steep cliffs.

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A large group of 10 bakemono swarmed out from hiding to attack . The goblin like creatures were led by a large Shikome who wielded an Odachi – a Katana with a 5 foot long blade.

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The archers rained arrows down upon Subotai Korusu who was in the lead. The arrows either missed their mark, bounced off his ornate Tosei Gusoku armor, or was cut in twain by a swift swing of his Katana. The bakemono on the ground swarmed forward and tried to overwhelm Subotai Korusu and Kataashi Kikku. Kataashi was fast and quick enabling him to dodge most of the blows. As he fought his hands and feet seemed to smolder with red energy.

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Subotai Korusu cut bakemono down like wheat with clean strong swings of his beautifully ornate Katana. Kataashi Kikku used his staff to smash the faces of the bakemono and used powerful kicks to kill more. Kai Winding gracefully moved across the battlefield using her magic to bless the attacks and saves of the assembled heroes. Later she fired her longbow to great effect – putting an arrow through a bakemono’s throat.Wang Shu called upon his magic to summon lightning around another bakemono electrocuting it. Later he cut down another with a mighty swing of his Naginata. Wei Tai hurled kunai – specially weighted throwing knives to bury them deep into bakemono flesh.

Everyone fought bravely but the bakemono were too many. Another group of 6 were charging up the road to join the fight, replacing those that had fallen. An arrow struck Kataashi Kikku and then a small bakemono blade found its way into his back. The martial artist pitched forward to the ground blood pouring out of the horrible wound in his back. Kai Winding said a prayer and cast her arms towards Kataashi and his wounds were magically healed. He was able to get back up and rejoin the fight. Later Wei Tai was cut down a with a viscous jab from a bakemono blade. He fell to the ground apparently bleeding to death. But a minute later he miraculously stood back up having rolled a 20 on his death save. Finally the shikome swung his huge Odachi and got past Subotai Korusu’s guard. The blade cut deep into Subotai’s shoulder as the mighty samurai fell before the shikome.

Things were looking very grim when suddenly a group of 3 bakemono fell asleep for no apparent reason. A round later another 3 bakemono fell asleep again – some sort of magic was at work but no one seemed to know the source of it.. The party fought on with renewed vigor. Kataashi Kikku sent a powerful kick completely though the chest of the shikome to explode out his back in a shower of gore that covered the fallen body of Subotai Korusu in its filth. Kai Winding used her dagger fan in one hand to block and parry attacks while in the other her Katana cut down bakemono with clean and precise strikes.

The tied had turned as another 2 bakemono suddenly fell asleep like the others. Shortly thereafter the last of the bakemono were slain. Wang Shu drank a healing potion himself as his wounds were mighty. He then tended to the fallen Subotai Korusu and told everyone that the noble samurai still lived and that he was stable. Kataashi Kikku casually walked over to one of the sleeping bakemono and stomped on his skull crushing it beneath his foot. Wei Tai drew his knife across another sleeping bakemono throat to bleed him out. Suddenly Kai Winding yelled a command to stop. The sleeping bakemono were under her protection and were not to be slain. She drew her katana and unfurled her dagger fan stating that anyone who wished to further harm the bakemono would have to go through her.

Everyone stared at her somewhat dumbfounded. Wang Shu quickly came over to her side and said that he agreed. He would defend them also. Wei Tai said that the bakemono had no honor and should not be allowed to live. Kai Winding replied that all life was precious and that the creatures were under her protection. Kataashi Kikku simply shrugged and spit on the ground.

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Kataashi Kikku searched the fallen bodies of the bakemono and the shikome. He found 36 CP and 22 SP total amongst the bakemono and 12 GP on the shikome. The Master Treasure List was updated. While gathering up all the coin he noticed something moving in the shadow of the trees up on the mountain. Wang Shu lit the area up with a dancing lights spell and Kataashi investigated. He only saw some small whisps of smoke gently floating on the breeze through the trees lit up by the dancing lights. He sniffed the air and it smelled of tobacco.

Kai Winding and Wang Shu spoke aloud their thoughts that they had been visited by a benign Kami spirit. They even posited that the Kami had cast the magic that put the bakemono to sleep. In order to honor the Kami spirits of the area, they worked together to build a small shrine with bits of wood and rock. Inside the shrine they each put an offering the the Kami. Wang Shu placed 2 copper coins. Kai Winding placed 6 copper coins. Kataashi Kikku placed a tiny wooden donkey he had whittled. And Wei Tai placed a bowl of bakemono blood in the shrine. After that Wang Shu used his Saxian – stringed instrument to perform a song to honor the Kami. He sang of the far away forests of Sukochi prefecture. He loved their peace and beauty and wished to return there some day.

And with that Kataashi Kikku tied up the bakemono by their hands with a leash like rope so he could control them. Wang Shu and Wei Tai carried the still unconscious body of Subotai Korusu. And Kai Winding kept a watchful eye as the group marched back towards the Tanaka Trading Company caravan. After an hour of travel, Subotai Korusu regained consciousness and walked using his own power. Wang Shu filled him in on what had happened after he fell to the Shikome’s Odachi.

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