Session 48

Shakkō (5/6)

The next morning, Saeko leads the group to the marketplace to do a little shopping. She needs a healer’s kit, and is determined to find a length of chain and some manacles to replace the ones that got blasted apart in the fight with the red shadow dragon. The marketplace is still a wreck: shopkeepers are slowly cleaning up their stalls and city workers are hauling away dead bodies to be cremated. Nevertheless, she manages to find what she’s looking for.

While looking around, Miyo asks about the Golden Hornets. She hears confirmation of what they’d heard the day before: that the big boss is dead and his son, Tetsuo, is in charge. Luckily, she also finds out that the contract on them has been rescinded for the time being.

Next, the characters head to the Palace District with the intention of demanding an audience with the daimyo. First, they stop to see Watanabe Isako, the Captain of the Guard. She’s busy directing cleanup efforts, and while it appears that her wounds have healed, her armor tells the story of a fearsome fight.

She tells them that most of the ashigaru that served within the city walls died defending the city. She has had to recall the two units that patrolled the lands around the city in order to keep peace until new guards can be selected and trained. She also informs them that the daimyo wants to see them, and offers to accompany them.

The characters, accompanied by Isako, head to the palace. The gardens are completely destroyed, but the bodies of guards and zombies have all been cleared away. Isako leads the characters inside and takes them to the daimyo’s office.

They stop right outside the daimyo’s door, as they can overhear her yelling at her brother, lambasting him for failing the city, their family, their ancestors, and just about everyone else she could possibly list. The dressing-down goes on for a while, and Isako looks extremely uncomfortable that the characters are there to overhear it. Eventually, the yelling stops, the door slides open, and Fujiwara Juro leaves looking as low as a human can possibly look.

Isako leads the group in, and Saeko introduces the characters with a dramatic and ingratiating flourish. Kumiko extends her sympathies to the daimyo on the loss of her sister, and Fujiwara Rei invites them all to sit and drink tea. She thanks the characters for all they’ve done to protect the city and the lives of its inhabitants.

Kumiko tells Rei about the challenges they’ve faced and what they’ve discovered about the cult. The daimyo is riveted, and listens intently. She agrees that they need to face down the threat, and suggests striking at the heart of the cult in Mizuta.

Following a hunch, Saeko mentions the coded correspondence to Rei, and shows her an example of it to look at. The daimyo thumbs through a few pages before stopping and looking puzzled. She gets up, walks over to a desk, and pulls out a black ledger before handing both back to Saeko.

When Saeko opens the ledger, she realizes that the handwriting matches that of the cult leader who goes by the name of the Pheasant. It’s Nemoto Kakuzo, the daimyo’s Minister of Finance. Upon learning that one of the cult leaders is a member of the daimyo’s council, Miyo casts detect magic to see if they’re being observed. She sees a luminous orb hovering by the daimyo’s head, which she tries but fails to dispel.

Now that they know they’re being scryed upon, they realize that the Pheasant also knows that his cover is blown, and is probably going to make a run for it, if he hasn’t already. Isako alerts the guards to look for Kakuzo, and then leads the characters to his office, which is unoccupied by the time they arrive. Miyo casts detect magic, but finds nothing. Saeko searches his desk and finds a secret compartment in a drawer in which another sheaf of coded correspondence is hidden.

Suddenly, Isako yells to the characters that Kakuzo was just spotted leaving the palace. They all rush outside, where they see a lone figure hurrying across the ruined gardens. Kumiko steps forward and yells for him to halt.

He stops, turns around, and smiles. As the characters look on in horror, his body begins to elongate, his cloak twists into a pair of black, leathery wings, and giant tentacles sprout from his back.

Session 47

Taian (5/5)

Seeing the outmatched guards attempting to fend off the dragon and its zombie followers, the characters spring into action. Kumiko runs up, tells the guards to flee, and then attacks one of the big, growling zombies. The guards, not knowing who this young girl ordering them around is, decide to stand fast and attack the dragon with their spears. They all miss horribly.

Three of the four zombies gang up on Kumiko, but their makeshift clubs — broken bits of wood and metal from the wreckage of the market — fail to connect. The last zombie, however, bashes in the head of one of the guards, killing him instantly. At this point, the dragon screeches and blasts the remaining guards with a noxious cloud of necrotic gas, causing their flesh to bubble and burst. They all scream and writhe in intense pain as they collapse — their faces frozen in agony.

Asami joins the assault and attacks the first big zombie, ripping a huge hole in its abdomen. Saeko follows up on Asami’s attack and almost, but not quite, drops the zombie, so Miyo steps in and destroys it with a fire bolt.

The zombies attack and miss Kumiko. The dragon, however, does not. It rends her armor with its claws and fangs, but Kumiko stands firm.

Asami continues to focus on the zombie threat. Between her sneak attack damage and Miyo’s fire bolt, they almost manage to take out another one. Saeko attempts vicious mockery on the dragon, but her potent words don’t find a home in the dragon’s ear.

Kumiko finishes off the zombie standing between her and Asami, does more damage to another zombie, and then uses menacing attack on the dragon. It recoils in fear from the sight of the mighty samurai standing before it.

Because it is menaced by Kumiko, the dragon has disadvantage on all of its attacks, and therefore misses. It’s a tactic that dramatically shifts the balance of power in the fight. With the dragon on the defensive, the characters gain significant momentum.

Sako moves out of range of the dragon’s breath weapon and opens fire with her longbow. Asami takes advantage of the dragon’s distraction to land multiple blows in vital areas. Miyo supports her companions with her ranged spells.

The rest of zombies die quickly, and Kumiko keeps the dragon menaced throughout the rest of the fight. Though it attempts to defend itself, the dragon succumbs to the combined might of the characters, finally falling to Kumiko’s blades.

Saeko revives the guard who was smashed by the zombie, but realizes that the other guards are too far gone to be helped. The characters catch their breath and tend to their wounds while Saeko plays a song of rest.

The group doesn’t debate for long before they decide to run to the Palace District to engage the third dragon. They get to the gardens in front of the palace, where they are confronted by a sea of carnage. Dozens of dead guards and zombies surround the very-much-alive, black, shadow dragon. Two brave guards stand between the dragon and the doors to the palace.

The characters spot Fujiwara Shizu, the daimyo’s sister, lying on the ground — her ornate kimono scarred by a blast of necrotic acid. Kumiko runs straight up to the dragon and focuses all of her resolve into a powerful scream that causes it to cower in fear.

Saeko, on the other hand, runs over to Shizu and checks for signs of life. Unfortunately, it appears that she took the full brunt of the black dragon’s breath to the chest, and is beyond help. Kumiko tells the guards to save themselves, but, bound by duty, they stand fast.

Miyo hits the dragon with a crackling, blue, witch bolt, shocking it and sending arcs of electricity cascading over its scaly hide. Kumiko follows Miyo’s attack with one of her own, and Asami gets in a particularly well-placed sneak attack. Saeko hits it with an arrow from her bow, and one of the guards actually manages to slip the point of his spear between the dragon’s scales.

Unhappy with the sudden onslaught, the dragon disengages and takes to the sky, flying in the direction, the characters realize, of Mizuta. With the dragon no longer a threat, the characters breathe a sigh of relief, and then switch into triage mode, trying to help out where they can.

In the hours that follow, the find out that Watanabe Isako, the Captain of the Guard, was seriously injured, and most of the city guard were wiped out. Sagawa Sadako, the four-tailed kitsune who ran the Shrine of the Southern Wind and advised the daimyo on matters spiritual, was killed. Mitsuhide, their shugenja kitsune companion who now runs the Shrine of the Frog King, was injured. They also find out that Suzuki Ichiro, the big boss of the Golden Hornets, is now dead, though his son Tetsuo survived and has assumed control of the organization.

As the characters discuss the increasingly severe attacks on the city, Kumiko becomes convinced that the city manager is behind the cult and doesn't believe that Ichiro is really dead. She believes that going to Mizuta is the next logical course of action.

They return to the Dancing Fans district to clean up the theater and take a long, well-deserved rest.

Session 46

Taian (5/5)

Saeko opens the encounter by casting hypnotic pattern, and manages to successfully transfix the dragon. With the biggest threat temporarily neutralized the other characters close in on the yūrei inu. One of the undead dogs open its mouth to howl, but instead lets loose with a blast of necrotic energy. The enervating blast takes out one of the urokobito and one of the ashigaru.

Kumiko tells the guards to flee, and the remaining urokobito and ashigaru run away. She then uses her sun blade to quickly silence the two yūrei inu. Saeko tries to use her medicine skill to stabilize the fallen ashigaru and urokobito, but fails, putting them closer to death.

While the dragon stares off into the distance, Saeko devises a plan to chain it down. She tosses Kumiko several sets of manacles and tells her to daisy chain them together then put them around the dragon’s neck. Unfortunately, while Kumiko does get the manacles affixed to the dragon, the effort rouses it from its stupor, and it rears back and lets out an angry roar.

Then it turns toward the characters and lets loose with a gout of black flame. Its breath weapon nearly takes out the entire party — Miyo is only left alive because of her arcane ward. Asami fares the best, as her finely honed reflexes allow her to dodge most of the blast.

Near death, the party fights even harder. Miyo uses witch bolt to deal a significant amount lighting damage to the dragon. Asami moves next to Kumiko, allowing her to take advantage of the dragon’s divided attention to get in significant sneak attack damage.

Saeko heals Kumiko, who then uses a menacing attack to make the dragon frightened of her. With Kumiko in its line of sight, the dragon is far less effective at dealing damage with its fearsome claws and fangs. The party trades blows with the dragon, and manages to kill it before it has a chance to use its breath weapon again.

Saeko uses cure wounds to bring back the ashigaru and urokobito who fell to the yūrei inn’s breath weapon at the beginning of the fight. They are extremely grateful and run off quickly. The characters discuss the situation briefly before deciding to fight another dragon.

They run to the Chrysanthemum district to tackle the green dragon and arrive to find a horrible scene in the marketplace: the area has been torn asunder and bodies litter the ground. In front of them, they see a line of frightened ashigaru facing down the green shadow dragon and a handful of growling zombies.

Session 45

Tomobiki (5/2)

The characters change into formal kimono with the expectation that they’re going to see the daimyo, then head off to the palace. Along the way, they discuss the cult and how they seem to be intertwined with the city leadership. Saeko points out the symbolism of the names of the cult’s leaders — Raven, Cricket, Cicada, and Pheasant — and speculates that someone in the Daimyo’s inner circle must be associated with the cult.

When they arrive at the palace, the characters are ushered in, but not to see the daimyo. Instead, they are taken to see the daimyo’s brother, the city manager, Fujiwara Juro. As they approach his office, the door slides open and both Juro and the Golden Hornets' big boss, Suzukio Ichiro, step out. They bow deeply to each other, and then Ichiro turns to leave. Kumiko can’t hide her surprise, and she tries to rile Ichiro, but he simply smiles and walks past them.

Juro ushers them into his office, and they fill him in on what they’ve accomplished. He’s keenly interested in the activities of the Eaters of the Dead, as he sees them as an existential threat to the city. Kumiko was hoping that this meeting would result in a joining of forces between the two han, but after seeing the depths to which the Golden Hornets are entwined in local politics, she all but gives up.

Nevertheless, Kumiko tries her best to be diplomatic. Unfortunately, she fails horribly, and Saeko has to step in to save her from making an enemy of Fujiwara. Kumiko explains that they characters want to keep doing what they’re doing the way they’re doing it without interference from the city. She also explains that they want to disentangle themselves from conflict with the Golden Hornets and asks Juro to help facilitate a treaty. Eventually, he warms up to them and gives them his blessing in ferreting out the cult.

He does, however, warn them to stay out of Suzuki-san’s way. As he’s an upstanding and powerful member of the community, he can’t have them continue to interfere in his business. Kumiko suggests that the Golden Hornets should stay out of their business as well, and Juro tells her that he’ll see what he can do as he shows them out.

On their way back to the inn, the characters discuss the fallout of the meeting. Kumiko feels sympathy for the plight of the urokobito, so she declares her intention to help rebuild the Yellow Lantern district.

After a brief rest, the characters split up. Miyo decides to investigate the Raven’s notes that they found in the underground caverns. She visits the library and several mages. The more she learns, the more she is horrified by what she finds. The other onmyoji she consults with are even more horrified. It turns out that the Raven has developed a blood magic version of Raise Dead that turns the victim into a jade ghost — a potent undead that is bound to a jade statue that gives it immortality in return for stripping it of its freedom. Worse, the undead ninja that they had encountered seem to have willingly partaken in the ritual that creates them.

Saeko decides to investigate the scented notes. She spends the better part of the day reading through them, and realizes that they are primarily love notes between someone called Tomoe and Yasu, the chūnin of the Mist Tigers that they’d encountered previously, and who they thought they’d killed. She asks Asami about Tomoe and finds out that she’s the jonin of the Mist Tigers — the local guild leader. As she reads through the notes, she also realizes that the handwriting belonging to Yasu is the same that of the Cricket.

While Miyo and Saeko are investigating, Kumiko and Asami hire a number of urokobito to help clean up the Fukuda theater in preparation for the Festival of the Banners. She puts out the word on the street that anyone put out of a job by the fires in the Yellow Lantern district is welcome to work at the theater. She promises honest work and fair wages. While she’s happy to see the work being done, Kumiko doesn’t want to supervise, so she promotes a promising young urokobito named Hasegawa Konoye to foreman and leaves him to run the cleanup.

After dinner, the characters reconvene at the Fragrant Fern and then quickly turn in for the night.

Senbu (5/3)

Work on theater and preparation for the Festival of the Banners continues. Teams of happy urokobito laborers spend their day building pinwheels and fashioning koi banners. Kumiko hires guards for the theater, after she notices that the presence of so many urokobito in the Dancing Fans district seems to be drawing stares from the locals.

Odo shows up and informs them that the Golden Hornets have put out a contract on them. Apparently, their meeting with Fujiwara Juro the day before didn’t buy them any leeway with Suzuki Ichiro. While the urokobito continue their work at the theater, the characters decide to talk to Mitsuhide about the jade figurines that they recovered from the Cricket’s lair.

As they cross town to visit the Shrine of the Frog King in the Chrysanthemum District, they run into a group of adventurers looking to collect the bounty on their heads: a spear-carrying ninja, a hanyo shugenja, a demure onmyoji, and a burly ninja. They are in the middle of the crowded Southern Winds Marketplace when the ninja points to them and shouts, “there they are!”

Saeko is concerned about fighting in the middle of the market, with lots of civilians wandering around, so she opens with hypnotic pattern. Dozens of peasants stop in their tracks and stare out into the distance as they are transfixed by Saeko’s illusion. The rival clan’s spear-carrying samurai and shugenja are also transfixed, so their onmyoji returns fire with ice storm. All of the transfixed peasants are shaken out of their revelry, and they run screaming. Mass panic ensues.

With two of their members out of commission, the rival clan puts up only a modest fight. Saeko slaps manacles on the shugenja, and the rest of the group quickly takes out the onmyoji and ninja. They tie them up, and Saeko stabilizes their downed members. Curious peasants watch from afar, and it doesn’t take long for the city guard to show up. Two ashigaru warily point spears at the characters as they explain what transpired. They successfully persuade the guard not to arrest them, but to arrest the rival clan instead, and then they continue on to the Shrine of the Frog King.

Once they reach the shrine, they are healed up by Mitsuhide and his new crew of shrine maidens. Miyo, Saeko, and Mitsuhide investigate the jade statues, and determine that, to destroy them, they’ll need to cast remove curse on each one, and then inflict a modest amount of damage. One of the shrine maidens casts the spell, and they destroy the first statue. It will take six days to destroy them all, so they promise to return each day until they’ve all been ground to dust. Before they leave, Mitsuhide gives each member of the party a healing potion.

Next, the characters talk to Watanabe Isako, the captain of the guard, and ask to be deputized. They want official sanction for their cult-hunting activities. She considers for a moment, and then grants their request. Then they ask to interrogate the prisoners that attacked them in the marketplace. She considers for a moment and then denies their request, citing the sub-optimal results of their last interrogation.

Before they leave, Kumiko asks for a recommendation on where to buy magical armor, and Isako points her to her favorite armorer in the city. On the way back to the theater, Kumiko stops by and buys a set of magical armor.

The characters then spend the rest of the day planning for their display at the Festival of the Banners.

Metsu (5/4)

Work continues on the theater and the display for the festival. The characters stop by the Shrine of the Frog King to destroy another of the small jade statues.

Taian (5/5)

Eager to make a good impression and guarantee a large audience for Saeko’s performance at the theater later, the characters head to the river and start handing out koi kites. With the assistance of few of their urokobito workers, they manage to put on a big display and attract a lot of attention.

Mid-morning, though, everything goes pear-shaped. Clouds begin to materialize over the city, blotting out the sun. A cold, brisk wind begins to whip through the air and the temperature drops about ten degrees over the span of a minute. People begin bundling up, bracing themselves against the wind.

Rain begins to fall - a slick, black rain, and people begin to panic. Though disturbing, it doesn’t seem to be having any effect on those on which it falls. However, after a few more moments, the river rises up in a great black wave, and three young shadow dragons — one red, one green, and one black — emerge from the fetid water.

The three dragons let loose on the crowd with necrotic versions of their normal breath weapons. Whole families are destroyed by blasts of necrotic energy. At this point, mass pandemonium erupts, and the dragons fly off into the city: the red toward the Yellow Lantern district, the green toward the Chrysanthemum district, and the black toward the Palace district.

The characters briefly debate about which dragon to chase and decide that the Yellow Lantern district has suffered enough. They sprint across the city, following the chaos left in the dragon’s wake. They cross into the Yellow Lantern district, winding their way through the narrow alleys of the urokobito slums, and are stopped in their tracks just before crossing a rickety bridge that spans one of the tributaries of the Nagara river.

A monstrous eel has been corrupted by the dragon’s tainted energy and has sprouted tentacles and a beak. It slithers onto the banks of the stream and menaces the characters. They are disgusted by the creature, but have little trouble fending it off.

Still, they cautiously cross the bridge, unsure of what else is going to pop out at them. Just as they reach the halfway point, a man comes sprinting around the corner screaming unintelligibly. He trips and falls just as two severed heads come flying around the corner after him. The heads are hovering four feet off the ground, with their spines dangling below them. The man grabs his head and screams again as it tears cleanly off his body, joining the other two rorukokubi. The three flying heads turn to look at the group.

Horrified, the characters nonetheless press forward and quickly dispatch the flying, undead heads, eager to reach the dragon before it can inflict even more damage on the city. They continue to run through the narrow alleys and finally hear the sounds of conflict in the distance. Saeko is the first to spot the dragon — it is in the middle of a small courtyard and is flanked by two yūrei inu. Bravely facing off against it are two city guardsmen and three urokobito; they are clearly outmatched.

Session 44

Tomobiki (5/2)

Kumiko asks Saeko and Miyo if they can close the portal. Saeko’s at a bit of a loss, but Miyo is confident that she can seal the rift in reality. Saeko uses bardic inspiration to boost Miyo’s chances, and Miyo casts dispel magic. Her attempt to undo the evil magic is wildly successful. Black tentacles lash out of the portal and are then sucked back in as the portal collapses in on itself.

As soon as the portal closes, the horrible drone that filled the cavern stops. Feeling a sense of accomplishment, the characters turn and rapidly leave the caverns.

Once they emerge from the underground lair of horrible evil, Kumiko realizes that they’re expected at the palace. She instructs guards to arrest anyone who tries to come in, and then the group heads back to the Fragrant Fern to clean themselves up.

Session 43

Kumiko fells the remaining wight and the kitsune ninja backs up to reveal a blood magic circle and frightening statue of Kobayashi. The scent of copper is thick in the air, and a fine red mist swirls slowly around the statue. The group is understandably wary of engaging the kitsune while she is standing in the circle, so Miyo casts an empowered Magic Missile spell, which does significant damage.

Asami and Saeko contribute with ranged attacks of their own, and then Kumiko closes in. She attempts to disarm the kitsune, but the ninja keeps hold of her weapon. However, Kumiko drops her with a subsequent hit, and then uses the sun blade to take her head off. The whole group breathes a sigh of relief.

Saeko and Miyo confer about how best to eliminate the blood magic circle while Asami and Kumiko poke around. As they beat back the shadows, they see a wooden cage holding a frightened peasant. When the peasant sees friendly faces, she plaintively whimpers, “Help, help, help, help...” Her mind has clearly been torn asunder by the horrors that she’s witnessed, so Asami opens the cage and Kumiko works to calm her down.

Asami then takes a closer look at a desk and workbench tucked into an alcove behind the cage. The workbench is covered in instruments that only have one purpose - to inflict as much pain as possible. Asami moves quickly to the desk, but forgets to check for traps before she opens it and gets stabbed with a poisoned needle. She curses her carelessness, but her curiosity is rewarded by a set of notes that are wrapped in a scented cloth and tied with a red ribbon. Whoever collected them clearly did so with care and affection.

Saeko uses Lesser Restoration to heal Asami while Kumiko manages to calm the peasant down. Once the blood magic circle is destroyed, the entire group demolishes the Kobayashi statue. They debate whether to press on, but Saeko convinces them to take the peasant back to the surface before continuing. Fortunately, they are able to drop her off with a guardsman before heading back in.

They make their way back through the complex and pass the statue that they just destroyed. The horrible drone gets louder and louder as they make their way through the twisting tunnel. Kumiko keeps tossing a torch out in front of the group, but still gets hit by an arrow out of the darkness. They toss the torch farther to reveal two wights waiting for them. Saeko uses Shatter to deal significant damage to the wights, gets an arrow to her chest for her trouble, and then lights the culprit up with Hellish Rebuke.

The wight who was set on fire by Saeko withdraws back down the tunnel, leaving the other to impede the group. Kumiko throws a shuriken and does significant damage. Asami gets up close, but misses, and Miyo misses with Fire Bolt. The wight tries to fight back, but, alone, it is no match for the characters and quickly succumbs to the next round of attacks.

The group takes a short rest, and then continues on. They push past two necrotic rifts, dodging black tentacles, and then enter into a chamber that is the source of the deafening drone. In front of them is a rift in reality itself: a portal to Mizuta, the corrupted town where Kobayashi was summoned.

Session 42

Saeko heals Asami and helps her to her feet the characters are pelted by arrows fired from the shadows. Kumiko charges toward the threat, and her sunblade illuminates a group of wights with longbows led by a gaunt, female kitsune wielding a light crossbow. Kumiko fells one of the wights, and Miyo carefully drops a Fireball into the remaining group of undead, significantly scorching the wights. The kitsune appears to be unaffected by the blast, however, having expertly dodged the flames.

The wights move up, drop their longbows, and engage Saeko. This allows the kitsune to deal sneak attack damage with another necrotic, black bolt from her crossbow, which fells Saeko in one shot. Asami feeds Saeko a healing potion, and the characters all decide that now is the time to use the anti-necrotic o-fuda that Mitsuhide provided to them.

Kumiko uses her sunblade to destroy one of the remaining two wights and knock the other one prone. Miyo finishes off the wight on the ground with Magic Missile, and Saeko tries to end the fight by transfixing the kitsune with Hypnotic Pattern. Unfortunately for the characters, she resists.

The kitsune hits Kumiko with a crossbow bolt, does a little damage, and then withdraws into the shadowy tunnel behind her. Kumiko realizes that the kitsune gains advantage when shooting out of the darkness, so she lights a torch and hurtles it down the tunnel. She manages to catch the kitsune in the torchlight, which causes her to retreat further.

Unfortunately for the characters, they’re still within crossbow range. The kitsune drops Saeko with a crossbow bolt again and falls back. The characters keep giving chase, picking up the torch and flinging it down the tunnel as the kitsune continues to fire at them. The tunnel twists and turns, and the characters continue the dance with their assailant until she stops and stamp out the torch in order to regain a tactical advantage.

Having extinguished the torch, she shoots Asami and steps back into the shadows. Kumiko races to keep her in sight, and the light from her sunblade enables Saeko to successfully target her with a Shatter spell.

The cat and mouse game continues, as the kitsune kites the characters past a necrotic rift. She effortlessly moves past the writing black tentacles while the characters have to contend with them snapping and grabbing at their legs. To complicate matters, a group of gricks, spawned by the necrotic rift, engage the characters, allowing the kitsune to further widen the distance between them. By the time they dispatch the rubbery, tentacled beasts, the characters have lost sight of their assailant.

The characters light another torch and toss it down the tunnel. Toss, grab, toss, grab, toss again as they press forward down the twisting tunnel. As Saeko bends down to pick up the torch in order to toss it again, she gets knocked out once again by another black bolt fired from the shadows. The characters all curse the situation and rush to heal their companion. After reviving her, they determine that they are in a precarious position - they’re nearly out of resources, and, even with Mitsuhide’s amulets, the kitsune is still doing tremendous damage with her necrotic crossbow bolts.

They decide to withdraw and retreat to the room with the blood magic circle. Saeko casts Darkness to obscure the entrance to the room, and Kumiko and Asami stand guard. Miyo and Saeko then get to work - as they drain the circle of its power, the blood hanging in the air dissipates, and the runes on the floor stop glowing.

Satisfied that they’ve done significant damage to the cult, they head back to the surface.

First, they find a local guardsman and ask him to send an alert to the Captain of the Guard. Second, they head to the theater to sleep and recover. The next morning, Miyo and Saeko decipher the letter written by the Cricket. It states that the attacks by outsiders require rethinking their plans, and that the Great Leader believes that accelerating them is the best course of action. It closes with the valediction, “There is no death. Only hunger."

Unfortunately, they fail to decipher the Raven’s notes, and realize that they will need outside assistance to understand them. Before tackling that, though, the group decides to head back to the safe house to try finish things off.

XP: 32,300 (8,050 ea)
Running Total: 15,103 + 8,050 = 23,153 (LEVEL UP!)

The characters find that the Captain of the Guard has sent ashigaru to keep an eye on the safe house. They are standing guard nervously when the characters arrive, and are happy to let them back in to the evil lair of evil so they don’t have to do it themselves. The characters cautiously retrace their steps, waiting for a reinforced and rested set of evil ninja cultists to jump out of the shadows. Fortunately, it appears that they really have done significant damage, as they see nothing until they head past the room with the now-defunct blood magic circle, and explore a previously un-searched tunnel, where they find a gibbering mouther galumphing around a storeroom.

Having tackled several mouthers already, the characters decide to stand out of the range of its babbling and whittle it down before it has the chance to reach them.They quickly dispatch it, and then search the storeroom, finding zombie poison ingredients and a basket of unworked jade worth 2,000 cranes.

The characters then head into the tunnel down which they had chased the kitsune the previous night. There, they get entangled by a roper. Kumiko gets bitten, but the group manages to take it out without suffering significant damage They take a short break from exploring, and Saeko sings a Song of Rest, which is just badly audible over the drone that fills the cave system. The farther they push down this tunnel, the louder the drone gets, and the more their skin crawls.

As they round a corner, they see four wights and the kitsune waiting for them. Miyo opens the encounter with a very effective Fireball. All wights take damage, though the kitsune avoids all damage due to her superior reflexes. To prevent a repeat of the previous night, the characters have come armed with a sack full of pebbles affected by the Light spell. They toss them out in front of and behind the group of undead in an attempt to push back the shadows as far as possible.

Saeko tries to use Hypnotic Pattern again, and only manages to entrance one of the wights. The other undead ninja spread out and try to improve their tactical position. Two of them step on the pebbles, blocking out any light they had provided, and take shots with their bows. The kitsune, now shrouded in darkness, uses her sneak attack ability to target Kumiko with a necrotic black crossbow bolt. Kumiko makes an inspired dodge, though, and the bolt narrowly passes right by her.

Another Fireball from Miyo whittles the bad guys down more, dropping one of the wights and seriously injuring the others. Sakeo follows up the Fireball with a Shatter spell, and takes out the remaining two wights. As they fall to the ground, they expose the glowing pebbles, illuminating the the kitsune once gain, which is fortunate for the characters, as, thus far into the fight, she has remained untouched.

Session 41

The characters face down the group of gricks: tentacled, squid-worm creatures that seem to fit well with the decor in the Mist Tiger’s hideout. Kumiko takes out one with her sun blade and Miyo kills the other with a Fire Bolt. They then back away slowly from the mass of writhing black tentacles protruding from the cavern wall.

The characters see light in the distance and decide to investigate. What they find tears holes in their psyches. A large magical circle sits in the middle of a chamber. The chamber is well lit, so they see a workbench at the back flanked by two wooden shelves. However, blood is everywhere — covering the walls, floors, and ceiling. A copper-tinged mist hangs in the air, randomly congealing into symbols associated with blood magic and Kobayashi as the air vibrates to the rhythm of the drone that fills the cavern.

Saeko and Miyo decide that this is too dangerous to leave intact, and want to destroy it right now. Kumiko suggests that they continue to investigate and come back for it, but the passion expressed by the two magic users wins her over. Miyo works her way cautiously around to the workbench, studiously avoiding the magic circle, and finds a set of arcane work notes, written in the Raven’s hand. The notes are fragmented and the subject matter is so alien that her mind has trouble processing them, so she files them away to analyze later.

She also finds a list of names: four of which are crossed out, ten of which have check marks next to them, and six of which are untouched, including the hapless ninja Yoshitoshi who they had trailed to the House of Red Lanterns. Carved into the wall behind the bench are a set of nooks, six of which contain small jade figurines - similar in style to the ones they fenced to the Jade Fist, but smaller and less finely worked. They decide to take them with.

Under the workbench is a locked chest. Asami picks the lock and Saeko uses a cantrip to open it once Asami has backed safely away. Their precaution appears to have been appropriate, as the lid makes an ominous clicking noise indicative of a trap as it is lifted. Inside they find:

  • A small cloth pouch containing 1000 cranes worth of gems
  • A potion of heroism
  • An oil of etherealness
  • A potion of gaseous form
  • The sheaf of correspondence that they had recovered from the sewers of the Yellow Lantern District and which had been subsequently stolen back from them
  • A key carved out of what appears to be human bone

Saeko and Miyo get to work on a purification ritual while Asami watches and Kumiko stands guard. About twenty minutes into the hour-long ritual, Kumiko gets pelted with arrows from out of the darkness of the cave. Kumiko falls back and Saeko responds with a Darkness spell to give Kumiko cover. Arrows continue to fly through the magical darkness but miss their mark. Saeko drops the Darkness to give Miyo a chance to light their attackers up with a Fireball.

They see that their two attackers are more of the undead ninja, and they mange to kill one, even as Miyo gets pelted with arrows. The other runs off into the darkness of the cave, and they choose not to pursue it - preferring to finish their purification of the terrible, horrible, blood magic circle. They take a short rest to recover from the attack and then get back to work.

This time both Kumiko and Asami stand guard, peering intently out into the darkness. It comes as a surprise, then, when Asami is killed instantly by a necrotic, black crossbow bolt.

Session 40

After a few minutes of tending to their wounds, the characters move on. As they wander farther into the cave system, they spot torchlight emanating from around a bend in the passageway ahead. They carefully survey the scene without being spotted. In a very large cavern is a set of tables clustered together — resembling a mess hall. At one table, a group of emaciated men dressed like Mist Tigers sits playing cards. The characters determine that they resemble the wights that had guarded the Raven.

Miyo decides to take no chances, and opens the encounter with a fireball. While it doesn’t take them out completely, it does surprise them and do a great deal of damage. Before anyone else can cross the distance and get into position to attack them directly, she finishes the job with a second fireball.

As they examine the smoldering wreckage, the characters notice that the un-damaged tables are filled with dishware that doesn’t appear to have been used within the last few days.

Down another tunnel, past the mess hall, the characters find a smaller cave filled with barrels and boxes of supplies and sundries. They’re covered with a very fine layer of dust, but they look like they’ve been decaying for months. Saeko surmises that the negative energy infusing the caverns is accelerating their decay, and that whatever foul program they have in place to turn their clansmen into undead has recently accelerated.

The group presses on and runs straight into another roper. Having learned from their first encounter, they optimize their tactics. Kumiko dashes straight in to deal as much damage as possible as quickly as possible, while the other characters stay out of tendril reach and provide support. This approach proves fruitful, and they dispatch it quickly.

The group takes another short rest before pressing on. Saeko sings a Song of Rest over the pulsing drone that reverberates throughout the cavern, accelerating their healing process.

Next, the characters find a large cave set up as a barracks. Sleeping rolls line the floor of the cavern, and the characters quickly search through them for any useful information. They do find a note written from one of the Mist Tiger genin. It is addressed to “My Dearest Little Flower,” and states that the author is looking forward to taking the recipient out to see the giant banners in a week’s time.

As they’re looking around, a gibbering mouther appears out of the darkness. Saeko counter-charms the mouther’s insanity-causing gibbering, and the group destroys it with little effort. They move on, and quickly find a grick waiting for them. Kumiko dashes in to engage it, and suddenly realizes, as she gets into torch range, that it is actually a group of gricks lying in wait. Complicating matters is a writing mass of tentacles originating from some sort of rift in the cavern wall - as she moves, the tentacles writhe and lash at her feet, causing her to move slowly and deliberately in order to avoid them.
 

Session 39

Before the characters return to the Mist Tiger safe house, Mitsuhide gives them each a charm that grants necrotic resistance for 10 minutes. Armed with the extra level of protection, they set forth. Saeko uses Minor Illusion to enhance the disguises of the characters and Major Image to create a simulacrum of Yoshitoshi, the hapless Mist Tiger they captured and interrogated at the House of the Red Lanterns.

They barge into the safe house like they own the place and Saeko makes a Deception check to try and convince the guards that they have the night off to go entertain themselves. She’s so convincing in her story that they all get up and immediately leave. The characters are surprised that their ruse worked so successfully, but they thank the spirits for their good fortune, and search the safe house.

They find a letter addressed to the Pheasant and signed by the Cricket. It looks like it was either just delivered or just prepared for delivery. It is, unfortunately, written in code, so they stash it away to analyze later.

In the back of the safe house, they find a set of stairs that winds down, deep underground. As they descend the staircase, they feel the hair stand up on the back of their neck. Everything feels wrong somehow, and the narrow stairs start to make them feel claustrophobic. They can’t help shake the feeling that they’re wandering into something sinister.

At the bottom of the stairs, they find out why they feel uneasy, as they emerge into a cave whose walls are covered top to bottom in scrolls extolling Kobayashi. The air itself seems to vibrate, causing little ripples of dust to dance across the floor, and a loud drone rises and falls, echoing throughout the cavern. As they start forward into the darkness of the cave, they encounter two gibbering mouthers.

The mouthers’ constant babbling threatens to drive them mad with fear, and the ground around them bubbles and roils as their unnatural presence warps reality itself. Saeko uses her countercharm ability to counteract the mouthers’ gibbering. Her tale of the brave heroes of old gives the characters something to focus their minds on, and they’re able to successfully filter out the insane rambling of the thousand-mouthed aberrations.

Fortunately, the characters have increased in strength and skill since the last time they fought a gibbering mouther, and are able to dispatch the pair of them fairly quickly. Miyo lands the finishing blow as per usual, blasting the last mouther with fire.

They head deeper into the cave system, passing through several passageways until they decide they’ve gone far enough, and stop to take a short rest. Unfortunately for them, a stalagmite at the edge of their vision turns out to be a roper lying in wait, and it shoots out its sticky tendrils. It grabs each member of the group in turn, pulling them closer to its maw of razor-sharp teeth as they struggle to escape. Miyo is the first to get close enough for it to attack, and it drops her in one savage bite.

The rest of the group unloads on it while Saeko heals Miyo. Kumiko does the most direct damage, and manages to goad it to death. Asami, with her alchemical training, recognizes the value of the roper’s digestive juices, and bottles some for later use. Semi-confident that nothing else is lurking in the shadows, the group once again tries to take a short rest.

Session 38

The characters wait outside the safe house, hoping that one of the Mist Tigers will leave for the night. Late in the evening, a likely candidate emerges and wanders off into the city. Asami trails close behind while everyone else follows at a distance. The ninja first heads to a late-night market and picks up some steamed buns from a street vendor. Then he gobbles them down while he heads to the section of the Dancing Fans district where the Golden Hornets run a brothel.

The characters watch him disappear into one of the buildings, and Asami fills them in on the House of Red Lanterns. She’s well-acquainted with the brothel’s bath house — the building the ninja entered — which surprises Kumiko, Saeko, and Miyo. She informs them that the House of Red Lanterns is run by the Golden Hornets, and that the madame is a hanyo woman named Fujiko. She’s been to the bath house often enough that she would recognize the madame on sight.

Asami decides to follow the Mist Tiger into the bath house. Kumiko stands outside, looking nervous, and trying not to make eye contact with anyone. Saeko and Miyo hang farther back. Asami takes a seat and watches as her mark talks to one of the geisha. They chat for a few minutes, during which time another worker approaches Asami and begins to flirt.

When the Mist Tiger and his companion get up to go somewhere more private, Asami turns to her companion and asks if she knows the man who just left. The geisha gives her a look, as the women of the House of Red Lanterns are known for their discretion, but since Asami is a regular, she offers up a name: Yoshitoshi.

Asami thanks her for the information, and pays her for her time, then exits the bath house. She and the other characters track the ninja and his companion to a small bedroom in one of the other buildings. Asami decides to bluff. She opens the door and tells Yoshitoshi that the boss has a message for him. She delivers the line so convincingly that he sends the worker away and looks at Asami expectantly.

As soon as the worker is out of line of sight, she grapples the surprised ninja and draws her dagger. Miyo steps in right behind her and tries to cast Blindness/Deafness, but he resists. Now that he knows he’s been tricked, Yoshitoshi draws his ninja-to and stabs Asami in an unsuccessful effort to break her hold. To mask the sounds of the struggle, Saeko uses Minor Illusion to create sexy time noises coming from the room.

Asami shoves the ninja back into the room, and tells him to drop his weapon or they’ll kill him. Kumiko emphasizes Asami’s point with the point of her sun blade. She menaces him, threatening his life in a series of very graphic descriptions, which causes him to surrender. 

Kumiko starts barking questions at Yoshitoshi, and asks who he works for. He stammers for a moment before revealing that he works for Yasu — the Mist Tiger that tried to recruit the characters but who they cut down instead. Kumiko laughs, and tells him that he doesn’t work for her any more, that she killed his boss. He looks at her puzzled, and replies that Yasu isn’t dead. He talked to her earlier today.

The characters collectively groan, displeased with the revelation. They continue shouting questions at him, and he reveals that his job is keep people from poking their noses around the safe house. He says that there are a lot of ninja there now, down in the basement where Yasu’s lair is. He things that there is something sinister going on in the basement, but he doesn’t know what — he’s never been allowed down there.

Kumiko once again threatens his life and he finally breaks down under the pressure, sobbing and holding his face in his hands. The characters decide that they’ve gotten as much as they can expect to get from him, and that they need to leave quickly to avoid a confrontation. They extract him from the brothel and take him to the nearest guard box, along with a note to the Captain of the Guard.

It’s now close to midnight, but the characters are eager to act before anyone can tip off Yasu, so they take a short rest and return to the safe house

Session 37

Senshō (5/1)

Having expanded their empire, such as it is, with the addition of the theater, the characters check out the neighborhood for other imperial opportunities. Nearby, they see the Sugawara Inn, and earmark it as another fixer-upper worth investigating. As they are wandering around, Odo returns with a message that Reiko wants to see them again — and that it is urgent.

Reiko is waiting for them at the Matsunaga Noodle House. She offers them noodles, but they’ve already eaten dinner, so they pass on the food. She informs them that, since their discussion earlier in the day, she’s been piecing information together and has come to a disturbing conclusion. She believes that the tainted statuettes that the characters had fenced to her after recovering them from the Mist Tigers may have, in turn, been fenced back to the cult.

She tells them that the statuettes had been sold to the head of the Golden Hornets, Suzuki Ichiro. She had assumed that he was reselling them elsewhere, but with the new information about a connection between the Golden Hornets and the Eaters of the Dead, fears that he’s been buying them for more nefarious purposes. She tells them that he employs a hanyo woman who specializes in blood magic named Kumiko, and that, if she’s tied to the cult, he could have been buying them for her.

The characters confirm that the woman Reiko knows as Kumiko is the cult leader they know as the Raven. Reiko tells them that she is an amoral opportunist, but she’s not a nihilist. If everyone is dead, she’ll have nobody to sell things too. Therefore, she suggests that they investigate the Mist Tigers, since they were ones in control of the statuettes to begin with, and points them to a section of the Dancing Fan district where she believes that they operate.

The characters agree to investigate. Before they leave, Reiko asks for a favor. She hands Saeko a letter and asks them to deliver it to her sister. It’s the first confirmation that either she or the Captain of the Guard have given that they are, in fact, related. She says that, if Isako refuses to take the letter, to tell her that it’s about their mother.

The characters return to theater to disguise themselves prior to scoping out the Mist Tigers’ safe house. Being in possession of a theater full of costumes and makeup gives them a bonus on their disguise checks. They turn themselves into junk peddlers and hang out in the area where they believe the safe house to be. After a short period of observation, they see someone suspicious enter a house with what they deduce to be armor disguised under clothing.

Saeko uses her performance skills to hawk their cheap costume jewelry and assorted crap procured from the theater. Her pitch persuades several passers by to purchase items, including one of the suspicious characters who comes and goes from the house. Satisfied that they’ve figured out which house is the safe house, and having gotten a good look at one of the Mist Tigers up close, they decide to talk to the Captain of the Guard.

While they form a plan of action, they decide to go talk to the Captain of the Guard. As befits her station, she’s working late into the night, so she is available to talk. She asks them about their interrogation of the Raven, and wants to know how she up and disappeared. Saeko inform her that the Raven seemed very confident when she was talking with them — too much so. The characters surmise that she’s either crazy, or there is something deeper going on which they haven’t uncovered yet — a possibility that is deeply troubling.

They tell Isako that they are on the trail of the Mist Tigers, and ask about their role in the city. She tells them that they are relatively new in town. They’re known to be assassins who use poison, and there have been several unsolved murders over that time period that fit their methodology. However, she doesn’t know who is directly employing them or what their goals are. The characters ask if she’d be willing to pay a bounty to bring the Mist Tigers to justice, and she says that she’d be happy to do so.

Before the characters leave, Saeko delivers the letter from Reiko. She broaches the subject discreetly, and Isako looks pained, but accepts the letter and bids them farewell. They return to the Dancing Fan district, discussing their next steps on the way. They plan to wait for one of the Mist Tigers to leave the house, and then subdue and and interrogate him.

In preparation, Asami uses her disguise kit to take on the appearance of a Mist Tiger.

Session 36

Senshō (5/1)

As part of their community rebuilding effort — and because they realize that the Fragrant Fern is a prime target as long as they sleep there — the characters offer to reimburse Nakashima Soshu, the proprietor of the Fragrant Fern, for the cost of hiring a few burly fighters that he trusts to stand guard.

Having swapped out armor and weapons, and restocked their bags, the characters rush to keep a late morning appointment with Reiko, the chunin of the Jade Fist, at Matsunasga’s Noodles in the Chrysanthemum District. Reiko greets them warmly and treats them to noodles, then steers the discussion to business. She offers to buy the exclusive rights to the zombie poison they have recently encountered. She reminds them that, via Asami, the Jade Fist has access to the recipe, but are willing to pay well to prevent the characters from making the recipe available to others.

Kumiko, Saeko, and Miyo step away from the table to discuss the offer without Asami. They debate the merits of making a deal. Kumiko believes that no one should have access to the poison, but Saeko points out that the Jade First already has access, so they’d just be paying them not to proliferate it, which is what they were planning to do anyway. Her pragmatism overrides Kumiko’s idealism, and they return to the table in order to negotiate.

Reiko offers them ten thousand cranes, which they negotiate up to twenty thousand, and both sides seem satisfied with the outcome.  The deal concluded, Kumiko attempts to pick Reiko’s brain about the cult and the Golden Hornets. Reiko laughs, and tells them that the word on the street is that they’ve pretty convincingly got themselves on the bad side of the Hornets. She warns them to be careful, comparing Hiro to a blunt sick and Tetsuo to a sharp sword. Thus far, they’ve picked fights with the far less dangerous brother.

She also confirms that the man they saw in the warehouse was actually Ichiro, the big boss, and mentions that they should also be careful of another lieutenant that they haven’t met yet, Fumi.

Kumiko then conveys the evidence that the Golden Hornets are inexorably entwined with the Eaters of the Dead, and that, from her standpoint, she would be happy to eliminate them so that a more reasonable organization can take over. Reiko seems bothered by their involvement with the cult and intrigued by Kumiko’s proposition of a shift in the city’s power dynamic. Before the characters leave, Reiko agrees to pass a message on to the Golden Hornets that the characters aren’t interested in messing in their business directly.

The characters head back to the Fragrant Fern and split up to do some more investigation. Saeko and Miyo sit down to look through the correspondence and the ledger that they picked up from the raid on the Golden Hornets' warehouse. Saeko recognizes the calligrapher of the letter as the Raven. It contains instructions for transporting a set of goods to “the lab,” though it does not provide an address. They presume it was the sewer hideout that they already found. Miyo analyzes the list of goods and finds that they match up to the mundane ingredients in the zombie poison.

When they look at the ledger, they find that it has records of transactions for nearly every merchant in the city. They’re mostly transactions of mundane, cheap goods, but it indicates that the Golden Hornets are tied deeply into the city’s economy. Conspicuously, they find no mention of the blood meal - one of the components of the zombie poison, which they had found plenty of in the warehouse.

Meanwhile, Kumiko takes Asami with her to engage in a charm campaign with the daimyo’s advisors. She meets with Sagawa Sadako, the Minister of Shrines, at the Shrine of the Southern Wind. Sagawa-san is very interested in their latest discoveries, and vows to convene a council of shinkan to discuss the Mizuta problem. She also grants Mitsuhide control over the Frog King Shrine, now that it has been cleansed by the party.

They also meet with Nemoto Kakuzo, the Minister of Finance who they originally met at the Ondara Theater. They don’t get into a deep discussion, but they exchange pleasantries and update him on their findings and concerns. He agrees that they should talk to the daimyo.

After she finishes examining the correspondence and ledger, Saeko decides to meet with Fujiwara Shizu, the daimyo’s sister. Shizu provides a thorough overview of the city’s arts scene: who is doing what, what she’s doing to stimulate the arts, and what will play well during the Festival of the Banners. Saeko offhandedly asks about Suzuki Ichiro, and is surprised by Shizu’s answer. She speaks highly of Suzuki as a great patron of the arts - he is actively involved in the community and has even donated money to the palace to revitalize their gardens.

Saeko mentions that they are interested in becoming patrons of the arts as well, and are looking to buy a theater. Shizu excitedly points them to the Fukuda theater - a once great icon of the Dancing Fans district that has become a bit worn due to age and neglect. Saeko promised to check it out and then leaves to meet up with the rest of the group.

Reassembled, the characters meet with the Captain of the Guard and ask for the opportunity to talk to the Raven. She tells them that she’s glad they are here, because the Raven has stated that she’s only willing to talk to them. She walks them over to the prison and introduces them to the warden, Nakano Naizen. Nakano arranges for them to interrogate the prisoner, and leaves them mostly alone, confident that they can handle themselves.

The characters discuss strategy: since Kumiko tends to react to provocation by lopping off heads, she will wait outside the interrogation room. Saeko will take the lead, playing the part of Good Cop. She attempts to convince the Raven that her cause is lost, that the cult will fail, and that she should join the side of the righteous. It doesn’t go quite as planned. Instead of being contrite, the Raven challenges each of Saeko’s assertions. Have they lost? Did the characters really defeat her?

Kumiko stands outside, seething in anger at the Raven’s insolence. It doesn’t take long before Saeko throws in the towel and motions for Kumiko to join them. At seeing the young samurai draw her sword, the Raven smiles, says, “Goodbye Tokugawa,” and then disappears. Everyone is caught off guard. Miyo and Saeko both fail to identify what spell she cast. Simultaneously, a great commotion arises out in the prison. The warden appears, fuming. He informs them that Enari, the City Guard lieutenant arrested for her ties to the Golden Hornets, is dead, and several of the guards are missing.

Feeling bewildered and somewhat defeated, the characters head back to the Fragrant Fern to clear their heads. They are pleased to find five burly urokobito standing around trying to act inconspicuous, but looking completely conspicuous for their efforts. Nakashima-san informs them that they are the new guards, and their rate is 10 cranes per day (2 cranes per guard). 

Then, a messenger appears with an invitation requesting their presence at the palace the next morning. Kumiko’s charm campaign appears to have worked.

To celebrate, they decide to check out the Fukuda theater. Is is indeed run down, and they stay to watch a bad dinner show. After, they find the proprietor, Fukuda Hideo, an older human gentleman. They discuss their desire to buy and revitalize the theater, and eventually negotiate him down to 2500 cranes. He seems happy that his family’s theater will see better days

Session 35

Shakkō (4/30)

Exhausted, the characters call for the city guard. They turn the unconscious Raven, the cultist, and the peasants over the the guardsmen who arrive, and suggest that they question the peasants before releasing them, to see if they know any information that could be of use. Odo tells them that Reiko, the Jade Fist chunin who they have been fencing tainted goods to, would like to talk to them about the zombie poison they uncovered.

Once stable, the characters say goodbye to Odo and make their way back to the Fragrant Fern, where Mitsuhide is waiting for them. He gives each of them a healing potion that he’s been brewing while convalescing. After some small talk, they all crash in bed.

Senshō (5/1)

The next morning, the characters go weapon, armor, and item shopping. They find an alchemist who has a small cache of healing potions for sale, and then visit an armorer who has a set of splint mail for Kumiko. They’re pleased to find that it fits right off the rack. They also find a longbow for Saeko and a set of shuriken for Kumiko.

Because they’ve been capturing a lot of bad guys lately, they invest in a set of manacles and chains. They then return to the Fragrant Fern, and donate money toward rebuilding the urokobito neighborhood that was burned by the Golden Hornets.

Session 34

The characters debate what to do next. Saeko advocates for leaving, fearing that they’re almost completely out of resources, while Kumiko wants to press the advantage. While they deliberate they take a short rest.

Asami checks the door on the far end of the zombie storage room and finds it to be untrapped. She picks the lock, and then cautiously investigates the hallway beyond, only to find the stairs where the group descended from the sewers. They carry the unconscious body of the Raven and lead the subdued cultist and the rescued peasants up to the back entrance of the Dancing Beetle Tea House.

As they begin dragging bodies out of the back room into the main dining room, the burly men sitting at two tables jump up in alarm. The two groups stare at each other for a second before the thugs attack the group. They pile on Kumiko, and nearly drop her in one round.

Asami, seeing an opening, climbs on Saeko’s shoulders, steps onto Kumiko, and then backflips over a thug, killing him the the process. Her acrobatics leave her open to attacks by the mob of thugs below her, but she takes very little damage as a result.

Unfortunately, the group turns on her, and she then gets beaten severely, forcing her to withdraw to the upper level at the font of the tea house. The characters manage to kill off a few thugs, but the thugs press the attack and take down Kumiko and Asami. Miyo uses Shocking Grasp to get away from the thugs, and Saeko steps in to pull Kumiko’s unconscious body out of harm's way.

The momentum seems to be on the side of the thugs, and they attempt to convince the characters to surrender. Miyo answers the challenge with a Fire Bolt that turns one of the thugs into a molten heap of melting flesh, at which point the few remaining thugs decide that momentum is not, in fact, on their side, and they flee.

With two unconscious team members, the characters are in a precarious position. Fortunately, Odo, the Jade Fist ninja, shows up with a healer in tow, and they manage to stabilize and heal Kumiko and Asami.

XP: 800 (200 ea)
Running Total: 14903 + 200 = 15103

Session 33

The characters take a short rest while the Raven is knocked out. Once they’ve had a chance to catch their breaths, they take a look around. In the laboratory, they find the recipe for zombie poison along with a very large mortar and pestle, a box of mushrooms, and a barrel full of blood meal.

Beyond the laboratory, Kumiko searches the library and finds a scroll that she turns over to Myio, With Saeko’s assistance, they find that it is a scroll of Bestow Curse. Saeko searches the Raven and the unconscious cultist, but does not find much of value.

  • Scroll of Bestow Curse

Then the characters decide to trash the Raven’s lair. Kumiko destroys the Kobayashi statue in the library while Saeko destroys scores of books about blood magic.

Before leaving, Asami makes one more pass of the laboratory to search for hidden doors, and is pleased to have found several. One set of doors leads the characters on a short loop that drops them back into the lab, but another leads down a long hallway and ends in a locked and trapped wooden door. She is able to disable the trap, but the lock proves resistant to her attempts.

Kumiko decides to bash the door down, and bursts into the room beyond, only to find six large, powerful zombies milling about between four wooden cages filled with frightened peasants. Miyo sets up a choke point using Flaming Sphere, and Kumiko positions herself to soak up damage. The characters then make use of the sun blade, sneak attacks, and Fire Bolts to make short work of the zombies.

XP: 2700 (675 ea)
Running total: 14228 + 675 = 1490

Session 32

Feeling somewhat recharged after their encounter with the black pudding, the characters continue to explore. They make their way to the next darkened corridor and cautiously make their way down. Their caution only partially pays off, though, as Kumiko narrowly avoids falling into a spiked pit trap, but Miyo does not. She takes falling and piercing damage from tumbling twenty feet into sharp, pointy, spikes. Saeko and Kumiko fish her out.

They take another short rest to heal, then continue, much more cautiously, through the corridors. Eventually, they happen upon a locked wooden door. Kumiko listens at the door and can hear muffled, almost rhythmic conversation coming from somewhere far beyond.

Saeko decides to take a shot at picking the lock and succeeds. However, she sets off a Rune of Paralyzation trap in the process, which freezes Miyo and Kumiko in place while setting off an alarm. Over the din of the klaxon, Saeko casts Lesser Restoration to un-paralyze Kumiko - just in time for an armored wight to appear in the room beyond, drawn by the alarm.

Miyo shakes off the paralyzation while the wight and Kumiko trade blows. The wight uses its glowing green katana to Life Drain Kumiko. Kumiko decides that being Life Drained is intolerable, and uses her considerable mastery of the katana to shred the crap out of the wight. Before going down, the wight shouts, “Close the gate!"

In the distance, they hear the clang of metal hitting stone, so they cautiously pass through the room into the twisty corridor beyond. There, they see a set of cultists waiting for them behind a lowered portcullis. Saeko uses Shatter and inflicts tremendous damage on them, but they get a chance to retaliate. One cultist casts Hold Person on her, the portcullis ratchets open, and a second cultist dashes out to cast Inflict Wounds on her. Because she is paralyzed, the spell is a critical hit and drops her to zero hit points.

Kumiko and Miyo revive Saeko with a healing potion and easily take out the cultist who hurt Saeko. The remaining cultists tie up the group with the portcullis, casting ranged spells through the iron bars. Kumiko, however, uses her sun blade to slice through the portcullis, creating an opening for them to get through. 

The characters kill off a second cultist, and intimidate a third one into submission. They see a large summoning circle with a flaming brazier in the middle of the room, and start to bind the intimidated cultist when another set of enemies appears at the door on the far side of the room.

A hanyo woman, dressed in a dark kimono, who the characters surmise is the Raven, a second wight, and a fourth cultist engage the group from afar. Because they are grouped closely together, Miyo decides to use Fireball. While it does damage to the wight and cultist, The Raven is resistant to fire. In reaction, she uses her hanyo powers to Hellish Rebuke Miyo, doing a lot of damage.

Saeko follows the Fireball with a Shatter spell, taking out the cultist. The Raven casts Blight on Miyo. Necromantic energy washes over her, draining her vitality and desiccating her body. It drops her to zero hit points.

Kumiko takes out the wight and menaces the Raven while Saeko heals Miyo. The Raven casts Antilife Shell to protect herself from Kumiko’s sun blade. Saeko pushes her back into the room, which appears to be a library, with a Thunderwave spell. 

The Raven then retreats to yet another room and heals herself. Miyo uses Flaming Sphere to annoy her, but the Raven uses Blight again on her, and drops her to zero hit points again. The group is trapped in a stalemate. Because of the Raven’s position, the Antilife Shell prevents the group from entering through the doorway into the room with her. With no ranged options, Kumiko takes cover on one side of the door, while Saeko pokes her head around just long enough to try attacking her with various ranged spells.

The group is low on healing and spells, so Saeko tosses Kumiko a dagger, which she chucks full force the Raven. Though she shrugged off the damage from another Thunderwave and Vicious Mockery spell, the simple dagger breaks her concentration and causes the Antilife Shell to fall.

Kumiko moves in and does significant damage, but the Raven channels the power of Kobayashi, infusing an Inflict Wounds with her Touch of Death power, and drops Kumiko in one hit. Saeko uses the distraction of Kumiko and the Raven trading blows to cast Cure Wounds on Miyo.

Miyo presses the attack, using Fire Bolt to create an opening for Saeko to heal Kumiko. With all three women on their feet, and with her Antilife Shell gone, the Raven’s advantage disappears. She tries to kill Kumiko again with a Vampiric Grasp spell, but does very little damage, and Miyo finishes her off with Shocking Grasp.

The group, exhausted and almost completely spent, breathes a deep sigh of relief.

XP: 1800 + 3700 = 5500 (1833 ea.)
Running Total: 12395 + 1833 = 14228 (LEVEL UP!

Session 31

Facing a group of burly, tough-looking men rushing toward them, Miyo casts Sleep. Unfortunately, the burly, tough-looking men seem to be a bit tougher than the Sleep spell is able to affect, so the table directly next to them falls asleep in their seats. Kumiko shushes the barista, and succeeds in getting her to stop screaming. This creates an opening for Saeko to cast Charm Person on two of the thugs. Now befriended, she convinces them that everything is fine - they just dropped a barrel of tea. The thugs buy her story and go back to their seats. To sell the deception, Saeko spends a few minutes tending to the patrons and even entertains the tea house with an impromptu performance.

Once things calm down, the group continues their investigation. Beyond the door that Miyo Knocked open is a smaller storage room and yet another door. Asami checks the door for traps, finds none, and picks the lock, which reveals access to the sewers beyond. Everyone groans at the sight of the sewers.

Kumiko questions the barista about comings and goings at the tea house. If the yakuza or cult were using it as a pass-through, certainly the barista would have noticed people disappearing into the back for long periods of time. Unfortunately, Kiko the barista claims not to have noticed anything - she’s too busy tending to her patrons to pay much attention. She reveals that the owner of the teahouse is Suzuki-san, which the characters recognize as the family name of the head of the Golden Hornets. Satisfied that they’ve gotten all of the useful information she possesses, the characters send her back to serving tea.

Asami searches the smaller storage room and finds a barrel of blood meal and some crates containing the mundane components of the zombie poison. They decide to dump the ingredients into the sewer to dispose of them.

The characters take a look around the sewers. There are three tunnels that run off into the distance which they decide to ignore in favor of an alcove containing a circle of inscriptions on the floor. Lining the circle is a set of candles. Saeko deciphers the writing, which appears seems to be a pean to Kobayashi, and decides that interacting with it from a distance is the safest option. She casts Shatter, which destroys the inscription and the circle of candles. When the dust clears, the characters see that a previously hidden door in the back of the alcove has been blown open by the force of the spell. They descend a set of stairs into another set of tunnels and start scouting around. 

They find a door, which Asami finds to be unlocked and un-trapped.

Kumiko pushes open the door and makes her way into the room only to discover a black pudding chilling out in the middle of the floor! Kumiko slashes at it with her sun blade and splits it in two, splashing herself with some of the acidic ooze in the process. Miyo casts Burning Hands and burns a portion of it away. The black pudding lashes out at Kumiko with its pseudopods, dealing a tremendous amount of damage and corroding her armor as a result.

Saeko heals Kumiko, who is near death. Miyo manages to cast two very low-powered burning hands. Asami throws multiple daggers. The characters begin an orderly retreat from the amorphous, armor-eating, ooze, falling back into the hall and closing the door.

Unfortunately, the ooze eats through the door and chases the characters. They fend off its attacks and then Saeko finishes it off with another Shatter spell.

Her armor and pride wounded in equal measure, Kumiko stomps off before coming back to stand watch. The characters search the room, and find it to be completely empty. Then they take a short rest.

XP: 2300 xp (575 ea)
Running Total: 11820 + 575 = 1239 

Session 30

In the morning, the characters confer on how to interrogate Enari. Saeko decides to set the stage by using Fog Cloud to obscure the boundaries of the room and Thaumaturgy to create whispers emanating from all around. It is a potent and disorienting enough environment that it gives Kumiko advantage on all of her intimidation checks.

After a brief discussion of what to ask her, Kumiko goes to work, using a variety of tactics to compel Enari into giving up information. While formidable in her own right, Enari proves to be concerned about her own self interest, and gives up the names of other City Guard members on the payroll of the Golden Hornets.

She names her own sergeants, Ito Ichiro and Sato Matsu, as well as Ozawa Nobu, one of the sergeants that reports to Oku Kotaro. When questioned about Oku, she is adamant that he is clean. She admits to the characters that she reports directly to Tetsuo, one of the lieutenants, and identifies the man that they saw in the warehouse as Ichiro, the big boss of the Golden Hornets.

Kumiko switches her line of questioning and starts to ask about the cult. Enari says that she doesn’t know anything about the cult. Kumiko knocks her off her stool and accuses her of lying, but she sticks to her story. She joined the Golden Hornets because the money was good, but she’s not a loyalist, and is certainly not a cultist.

While Kumiko accepts her story, she blames Enari and the Golden Hornets of abetting Kobayashi’s return. Enari reiterates that she doesn’t know anything about it.

Finally, Kumiko asks about Tetsuo. Enari gives the characters the address of another Hornet’s warehouse location, where she knows that Tetsuo occasionally works out of, but points them to the Dancing Beetle Teahouse as the place where she most often met with him.

In exchange for her life, Kumiko makes her sign a confession. Miyo casts Sleep on her, and then they take her to the Captain of the Guard. Kumiko talks to Isako, the Captain of the Guard, and gives her the confession. She explains everything they’ve found out, and ties the Golden Hornets to the Eaters of the Dead.

Isako is visibly shaken. She decides that her first order of business is to clean house, after which she will turn her attention to the cult. Kumiko suggests that the characters will keep pressure on the cult while the Guard is cleaned up, and Isako thanks her for the assistance.

The group heads to the Dancing Beetle Teahouse to investigate. They get there midmorning, while lots of people are drinking their morning tea. Kumiko begins chatting up the barista, bonding over their mutual appreciation for the art of tea. Saeko joins in, and they convince the barista to show them the back room where the tea is stored. 

Once back there, they notice another locked door, and Kumiko drops the charm. She threatens the barista and tells her to open the other door now. The barista screams for help, at which point a table full of burly men jumps up and comes to her aid.

Miyo casts Knock to open the second door

Session 29

The characters look around the warehouse and find the blood meal from the zombie poison ingredient list. The rest of the warehouse is filled to the roof with sundries. They search the platform where the mysterious man was sitting and find a ledger and set of correspondence. From the calligraphy, Saeko recognizes that the letters were written by The Raven.

Miyo examines Hiro’s body in an attempt to understand how he came back. She realizes that someone used a corrupted version of raise dead that turned him into a hungry ghost - a supernatural entity that is consumed by an insatiable hunger for human flesh.

They don’t want to attract attention by taking Enari back to the Fragrant Fern, so they find an abandoned house in the section of the Lantern District that had been overrun by zombies. They stay there overnight to recover, and Kumiko stays awake so that she can keep knocking out Enari