28th Day of the Sixth Month – 30th Day of the Sixth Month
The party approaches the apparently abandoned town with their bolts of silk and the last of their dead retainers in the back of the wagon. If there was a wall surrounding it, it has long since fallen. They move through the empty main street in the early morning light, and kick open a door.
A not-quite-startled old lady is inside, sweeping. She seems very calm and dreamy and distracted and doesn’t give much in the way of information. The party suspects vampires, but the sun is already rising without ill effect.
The party continues to the general store, but there’s not much to be had, and the interior is run-down and ruined. Inside, a friendly, dazed shopkeeper mans the nearly empty shop, apologizing for the lack of inventory. The party notes the man’s smooth, pale skin, and moves on to the tavern.
Inside, the barkeep mindlessly wipes down a warped and splintered bar, and a drunk snores at a table beside his empty mug. The bartender is also friendly, but also dazed and pale and smooth-skinned in a way that is beginning to freak the party out. That’s when somebody comes down from upstairs.
It’s a Gadaal man, dark skinned with white freckles. He’s surprised to see the party, and introduces himself as Domnal. He advises the party to leave before Kitano, the self-proclaimed high-priest of “the Jade God” comes for them. Domnal avoids questions about the weird townsfolk, and finally leaves the tavern on his own business.
The party decides to approach the weathered mansion at the top of the hill. A pale, dazed servant leads them to Kitano’s chambers. Despite the party’s suggestion that they are totally on-board with the Jade God, Kitano doesn’t trust them and so tasks them with finding out which of his traitorous followers have stolen his staff of office. He also promises them several thousand gold koku for their effort. He even agrees to heal them the next day, once he has communed with his god for the proper spell. The party readily accepts.
They spend the rest of the day and into the early evening hiding in their room at the inn. When they emerge, they again encounter Domnal, and they get the feeling that he’s hiding something about the staff. Threats (and actual) violence convinces Domnal to admit that he has stolen and hidden the staff to protect the world from Kitano, who, while crazy and dangerous, is also Domnal’s long-time friend. He refuses to reveal the location, lest Kitano find the staff. The party promises to take the staff and leave with it, and that, in conjunction with their generally threatening demeanor, convinces Domnal to take them to the staff. The party, ever wary, keeps the man tied up. That’s when Qiang, Vladimir‘s dead henchman, shows up. He’s pale and smooth and kind of out of it. The party starts to get the big picture.
When they get to the mine, it’s pitch black inside. Not wanting to give up the advantage of the darkness, Vladimir carries Domnal part of the way, but the going is slow, and Domnal can’t really see where to lead them. All of this slows their exploration greatly, and they are attacked several times by stirges in the caves, but eventually find the staff and make their way out alive, only to find somebody waiting for them.
It’s a snarky-looking fellow that Domnal identifies as Wang. They don’t seem to get along well, and when the party unties Domnal, the two get into an argument. Realizing the party’s inclinations, Wang suggests joining the party to take down Kitano. He offers his own meager reward, plus whatever Kitano has, in return for control of the town. Domnal is incensed, and while Wang and the party work out the details, Domnal disappears.
When the party sees that Domnal has fled, they make the decision to act immediately, racing to the mansion on the hill. Several guards block the way, but a Charm Person spell and several serious injuries remove them from the path. Rushing through the house, they encounter more of the pale, calm people, only now armed with swords. The townspeople attack, but are made short work of, but when the blades crack their bodies open, they reveal themselves to be skeletons encased in jade. Dashna realizes something important. “These townspeople will be back!”
Suddenly, Barrloff asks where Wang was this whole time.
“Right here,” Wang says with a smirk from the back of the party, safely out of the reach of combat. “I’ve got your backs!”
With barely a word between them, Barloff and Vladimir murder Wang for being a likely-traitorous douche. Bromski is somewhat taken aback, but makes note of what is apparently proper procedure. “Boy,” he says with awe, “do I have a lot to learn.”
The party kicks in the door to Kitano’s office and charge! Domnal’s Charm Person spell fails to overcome Barrloff’s dwarven fury, but Kitano’s touch sends a wave of green fear through Vladimir’s black heart, and the dwarf runs from the room like the Mother-Below herself was on his heels. But it’s not enough, and Dashna, Barrloff and Bromski cut the priest down, whereupon Domnal collapses in grief for his fallen, crazy friend.
While considering their next move, the party’s newly charmed guard (“Steve”) points out that it’s really too bad that Kitano is dead, since Steve was a serious convert to the Jade God and all. This is troubling, because Steve is just charmed, and will snap out of it soon. So Bromski murders him without warning, apparently being a fast learner.
The party loots Kitano’s room, finding a lot less cash than Kitano promised (that liar), but a fair amount of jewelry and precious jade statuary. Kitano’s shield also appears to be enchanted, as does Wang’s blade. Also, the tome containing Kitano’s long, rambling treatise on the nature of jade and geomancy offers Dashna a relative wealth of valuable research material, though a quick check in town of Wang’s belongings comes up with little worth mentioning. Some “merchant” he was.
Surprisingly, they leave Domnal alive. He’s probably pissed, but his heart was always in the right place, I guess. So, with Chang the former (and formerly dead) retainer waving them off, they pack up and leave town with the plan of getting out of the forest and making their way to Tongren.
Image from HERE.