Miyo and Asami do more research on Zombie Poison, reverse engineering the recipe. They determine that it is a necromantic version of Midnight Tears. A creature that ingests this poison suffers no effect until the stroke of midnight. If the poison has not been neutralized before then, the creature must succeed on a DC 16 Constitution saving throw, taking 31 (9d6) poison damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. If the poison kills the creature, it immediately turns into a zombie.
The poison has three major unusual ingredients, each of which was sourced from a specific location:
- Tainted matsutake - Matsutake are a mushroom that grows in the wild near the base of beech trees. They are rare and expensive, and are prized for their earthy and intense aroma. Mushrooms are one of the ingredients often used in purification rituals, so intentionally creating tainted mushrooms would require growing them at the base of tainted trees. (Sourced from “The Shrine”)
- Powdered zombie bones (Sourced from “The Tea House”)
- Bloodmeal (Sourced from “The Warehouse”)
As they finish up their research, a tiny finch flies through the window, lands on their table, and speaks with the voice of Mitsuhide, the kitsune shugenja. “I have news,” it says, before giving them instructions to meet him outside the city. Feeling cautious, Asami tries to help the group lose anyone that might be following them, but Miyo and Saeko aren’t being particularly inconspicuous.
Once outside town, they find Mitsuhide and realize that he’s been very badly injured. The last time they saw him, he had three tails. He now has two, and a bloody stump where the third used to be. He informs them that he had gathered a group of six shugenja and shunkan to assault Mizuta and take out Sokuke. However, one of the group, Handa Okakura, shinkan of the Frog King Shrine, turned on the others, and the group was routed. Mitsuhide barely escaped with his life, two others got away, and two died at the hands of the villans.
He also lets the group know that Sosuke seems to have grown in power, and now has the attributes of a Hungry Ghost. He was surrounded by lesser Hungry Ghosts as well.
The characters fill Mitsuhide in on the zombie poison and ask about the Frog King Shrine. While Mitsuhide doesn’t recall whether there are beech trees in the shrine, he does remember having received matsutake mushrooms from Handa in the past.
Saeko casts an illusion to disguise Mitsuhide, and then carries him on her back as they head into town. The characters drop him off at the Fragrant Fern to recuperate, and then head to the Chrysanthemum district to check out the Frog King Shrine. They find that the front doors are locked, and offerings are beginning to accumulate outside. To avoid attention, they locate a side door down an alleyway, pick the lock, and then head inside.
The shrine is quiet. Too quiet. Based on their knowledge of the Shrine, they expect to meet four shrine maidens, but see no one. There are no birds in the trees, no buzzing of insects, and the noise of the city outside is strangely muted. They make their way to the center of the shrine, where the Frog King’s altar resides. As they approach, the stone statue opens its mouth, shoots out a very big tongue, and ensnares the three young women, pulling them into its mouth.
The world shifts around them, and they find themselves in the middle of a forest filled with beech trees. The sky is overcast and the air wet, cold, and heavy. In the far distance, they hear the sound of water falling, and decide to head in that direction. Before they can move, though, four specters, dressed as shrine maidens, appear and attack.
They fight the specters, though the apparitions are formidable foes. Their touch is withering, draining not only hit points, but reducing the characters’ maximum hit points. Miyo casts fireball and hits three specters in one go. Saeko, Miyo, and Asami take out last one.
The characters are drained, but push on. They find a robust stream powered by a waterfall that winds its way deeper into the forest. The characters follow the stream, at which point a giant spirit frog leaps out and grapples Saeko in its mouth. The group beats back the spirit frog before it eats Saeko, and moves on. Through an opening in the trees, they see a ring of standing stones with an altar in the middle, and a dark, malevolent figure floating nearby.
The dark, malevolent figure turns out to be a wraith, and it it drains a lot of life from the group. Its withering touch is similar to, but more powerful than the specters they previously encountered. Though it is tough, it eventually succumbs to the combined might of Saeko, Miyo, and Asami. However, once defeated it does not disappear. The characters note that it remains, suspended as a fine gray mist that begins to drift slowly toward the altar.
The group races against time to prevent the wraith from reforming. Saeko finds the Frog King statue missing from the altar, and hefts it back. Once atop the altar, it demands to be fed. They use their survival skills to catch some local wildlife and then use their knowledge of religion to purify the offering.
When the Frog King happily gulps down the food, the sky immediately begins to clear, the chill disappears from the air, and the sun begins to shine. With his realm cleansed, the Frog King sends the characters home.
While Saeko, Miyo, and Asami are fighting undead in the tainted pocket dimension of the Frog King, Kumiko talks to the Watanabe Isako, the Captain of the Guard, about the Golden Hornets. Isako welcomes Kumiko warmly and provides some tasty tea while they chat. Isako laments the existence of the Hornets, but doesn’t feel that she can risk going to war with them at present. She would not be opposed to the characters acting as a thorn in their side, however.
She directs her to Enari Sakura, the lieutenant who is in charge of the Chrysanthemum and Dancing Fan district for more detailed information. Enari offers to fill her in on the family that runs the Golden Hornets, but Kumiko wants to have the whole group present, so she asks to come back the next day.
The characters reconvene at the Fragrant Fern. Miyo, Saeko, and Asami need to sleep overnight in order to recover from their fight. The next morning, Saeko notices that the sheaf of correspondence they had been studying has gone missing. She briefly suspects Mitsuhide, but eliminates him as a suspect when he shows up to breakfast, looking as battered and weary as he had the day before.
The four women, return to the guardhouse to talk to Enari. She fills them in on the power structure of the Golden Hornets. The clan has been run by the Suzuki family for generations, and had under the previous leadership, had achieved an equilibrium within the city. However, the old boss died off two years ago and his son took over. Unfortunately for the guard, the son, Ichiro, seems to be far more ambitious than his father. Ichiro’s two children act as his lietenants. Tetsuo is the smart and strategic son, while Hiro is the dumb and thuggish one. All three of them have been trained as swordsmen.
Enari and the characters discuss plans to take on the Golden Hornets as retaliation for burning the urokobito’s quarters. They agree to hit one of the Golden Hornets’ warehouses in the Chrysanthemum district, and concoct a plan to create a diversion by rounding up some of the usual suspects, giving them a hard time, and then conducting a raid on a different warehouse. Enari will spread the word that they are trying to get to Tetsuo in order to try to drive him to the warehouse they will really be targeting.
The characters show up at the warehouse and are greeted by Enari and four of her trusted ashigaru. She informs them that the raids are going well and having the desired effect, and offers to act as backup for the group. Kumiko gratefully accepts, and then they get ready to assault the warehouse.
Asami unlocks a side door and the group bursts through, led by Kumiko. The warehouse is filled with boxes, barrels, and crates piled nearly to the two-story high ceiling. On the far side of the warehouse is a raised platform with a table and chair. The man sitting at the table spills his cup of tea as the group bursts through, with Kumiko dashing across the warehouse toward him.
Kumiko runs toward the man and attempts to vault up to the raised platform, but she can’t quite clear the railing. Out of the corner of her eye, though, she spies an armored figure hiding behind a stack of crates. It’s Hiro, who the party killed, except that he is back, and his eyes are now glowing red.
Kumiko unleashes the full might of her sun sword on Hiro, dealing a tremendous amount of damage. He disappears in a puff of smoke, leaving behind a group of thugs to take on Kumiko.
XP: 3100 (1030 ea)
Running Total: 9640 + 1030 = 10670