Hidden Dragon

Session 2: A Visit with Master Tsing

Xain and Haomien are escorted across town by Col. Garn and his two companions, into a patrician residential district. The streets here are lined with 8-foot walls, making them appear narrow and the neighborhood deserted; there are gated openings every 1/8 of a mile or so. Colonel Garn and his men take Xain and Haomien to a gate painted green accented with gold leaf; on both doors are carvings of war dragons with gleaming ruby eyes, wound like asps around the capital letter ‘T’. The Colonel uses the brass door knocker; when a small window slides open he mutters his identification and the doors open.

Inside the riotous colors of the lush tropical garden almost make the eyes tear in contrast to the dull grey of the street outside. A servant escorts the Colonel, his men, Xain and Haomien along a stone path to the main house. Our heroes are asked to wait (with the Colonel’s men!) in the anteroom while the Colonel is taken back. While they are waiting, Haomien spots a caped man exit hastily through an adjoining room. The figure looks familiar… he is the assassin from the night before! Haomien and Xain choose to do nothing. It is not long before the servant has returned to collect the party. Everyone is instructed to remove their shoes, to kneel before Master Tsing and only speak when spoken to.

They are brought into a highly ornate room: tapestries of herons and dragons line the walls, black shellac cases showing off valued items about the room. Servant girls kneel in a line against the walls, heads bowed, and waiting for their next command. There is a long red rug down the center of the room leading to a raised dais. Here sits Master Tsing. He is a small and slight man, but wearing samurai armor that appears too big for him. The helmet sits a bit cock-eyed on his head. He tries to sit tall so he is above everyone in the room. He sits on a cushion in a bold warrior pose, sword lain at his side at the ready (for what, you’re not quite sure).

“It has come to my attention that you have in your possession an item that has been stolen. It belongs to my patroness. That is all I am asking for. If you will simply return it to me within 6 hours we shall lay this matter to rest and you may freely return to your quaint little lives. You may agree to my terms now.”

Xain and Haomien agree to the terms and are released to return to the shop (so they can get the crystal). They are accompanied by the two guards from Master Tsing.

When they return to Haomien’s shop, they find Wang Cheng there, but no Do Xian. After a brief interrogation of Wang, they realize that Do Xian has been kidnapped, and the crystal is gone. It is obviously not House Tepet as their guard is waiting for the party to retrieve the crystal; if they had it the guard would have been recalled.

Do Xian’s bedroom is disturbed (whether from the abduction or the scuffle from the night before, it is unclear). There is a marking carved in the wall just above her bed: an upside down A inside a circle. There is also a piece of fur caught on a sliver in the door jamb—fur from an arctic wolf, used in coats made by the people from the North.

After talking to neighbors for information, our party finds that several cloaked men had entered the shop, later leaving with Do Xian (she walked out with them). A chase through the city leads them to the docks where our party surmises the abductors(?)boarded a ship for the North. One had left earlier that day, and there would not be another for quite a while. The dock master points them toward some ships for hire down at the far end of the docks.

The Tepet guards have been informed of the situation (Do Xian has the crystal and is kidnapped) While negotiating with a ship captain for passage, the Tepet guards realize what is occurring. They know this is more than what Master Tsing would allow and attempt to stop our party. Swords are drawn and combat ensues, resulting in the death of one guard and the capture of another. Time was passing: within an hour Xain was able to locate David Watts in a tavern at the docks and carried him to the ship before disembarking.

Our party sails North from the Blessed Isle, the land of stability and safety due to the oversight of the Realm. Beyond the Blessed Isle there is increasing chaos, danger, and poor tea.

Will our would-be heroes overcome the ship carrying Do Xian and free her from her fur-lined abductors?

Will their voyage be free from interference by the dreaded monsters of the deep, or are these merely old wives’ tales to keep children from setting off to see the world?

Will they choose real arctic wolf fur for their jackets or the more environmentally friendly synthetic imitation?

Answers to these and other pressing questions will be revealed in our next adventure:
Go North, Young Man!

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Session 1: The Yasal Crystal

July 2, 2011

Players: John (Hiaomien), Steve (Xain), Emily (Do Xian) and Cindy (Do Xian’s assistant)

Scene 1: The Tea House of Resplendent Joys

It is the evening of a long day of an even longer week. It was only six days ago that the Imperial City erupted in lights, fireworks, parades, and streets flooded with people from near and far celebrating the coming of the new year. The new year brings hope for many, particularly those that are eager to leave behind the worries and trials of the past. For others there is a sense of foreboding, a fear of the unknown. And then there are those who call it just another day of work, no different from every other day (except the streets are clogged, making it even more difficult and annoying to get your work done).

At the end of such days our not-really-heroes wander to the local tea house to relax, enjoy the company of friends, and forget about the worries of the day. Their tea house of choice is the Tea House of Resplendent Joys. It is located in the Empyrean Bazaar, but back in the allies off the main drag. It’s location makes the tea house perfect for discrete meetings outside the watchful eye of the Black Helms. Customers range from frequent locals to those passing through but know this is the place to conduct business that best not be done on the main street. Sometimes others wander in, but in general it is a local secret.

From the outside it is not much to look at: a multistory building with faded wood paneling, humble but welcoming. They enter and are caught up with a noise and bustle that is antithetical to the quiet of the street. The tea house is lively with customers talking and laughing, girls running about to deliver orders, and in the center is a giant stove with three cooks tending it. There is water boiling, tea steeping and delicious bites cooking—the mix of aromas draws you in for a long sit. The center of the building is open, above the popping and steaming stove, the steam rising through the building to heat the upper floors.

The bottom floor is bustling with activity; the second floor and third floors are successively quieter, the tables surrounding the open center more connected to the activity, while those closer to the outside walls are more out of the way. The fourth floor is much more exclusive and private, with many screens and dimmed lighting.

As you enter, you are greeted by Madame Xiao, the proprietor.
“Master Xain, Master Hiaomien, Mistress Do Xian! Welcome to my humble tea house! We are so glad you have come to visit us! Come in, come in.”

Mdm. Xiao leads them to your usual table, asking after Xain’s latest cases and if Hiaomien still has that beautiful hearthstone amulet in his shop. After Mdm. Xiao leaves to welcome the next customers, a young gal comes to take their order. None of the party recognize her as they are pretty familiar with who works at this tea house.

Mdm. Xiao comes to the table and discretely whispers in Xain’s ear: a body has been found in the back alley. Perhaps Mr. Xian would want to come and take a look at it before the Black Helm is summoned. She is quite concerned that this death is not tied to his tea house, as she does not want to discourage any of his customers. Many of her customers have secrets, and Mdm. Xiao is very good at turning her head and keeping what happens in these walls inside these walls, but she will have nothing to do with murder. Her reputation is invaluable for the success of his establishment.

Xain inspects the body, now placed in a back storage room. The body was found in the back alley by one of the kitchen boys, taking out the trash. When the boy opened the back door, the light from the tea house shown on a man hunched over a body. He looked up when the door opened, then ran off. Xain notices the following:

• Less than 20 years old
• dark hair
• thin and wiry
• Skin weathered
• nondescript street clothes (loose pants and a tunic) with a heavy winter coat. They appear to be well-worn and in need of cleaning (as does the man)
• His clothes, however, have been pulled or ripped open, boots pulled off and were found laying next to the body; he has obviously been gone over by someone. There is nothing to be found in his pockets.
• The wound is from the back, a puncture that is torn around the opening.
• Death within the hour

Xain goes back upstairs and shares his findings with Haomien and Do Xian; the latter goes down and has her own look—she discovers a yellow crystal sewn into the lining of the heavy winter coat. It is about the size of her palm, and when she (or anyone) looks into it they see a swirling fog, sometimes forming into a vague face. Anyone who touches it hears whispering sounds.

Do Xian brings the crystal back to her companions. She recognizes it (the knowledge from a source she does not cite) as the Yasal Crystal. It has powerful magic and is used to trap a ghost and use its powers. The party decides they should not touch it with their bare hands again.

Xain notices a man in a dark cloak amidst the crowd at the tea house, eyeing them. Upon being noticed, the man runs through the crowd to the stairs and begins to descend. Xain, in an attempt to head him off, leaps over the balustrade. He catches the wooden barrier on the second floor, but it breaks off and Xain continues to fall to the first floor. Unable to intercept him, Xain chases the man out into the night and looses him.

The party decides to return to their homes and move forward with this mystery the next day. Do Xian takes the crystal and hides it under her pillow.

Do Xian is awakened in the night by a dark figure going through her things in her room. She gets into a scuffle with the man, waking Hiaomien in the next room. The man escapes from both of them and Do Xian follows him out into the street and around the corner. There the man pulls a knife and stabs Do Xian severely, fleeing. Do Xian is able to make it back to the gem shop and Hiaomien helps her back upstairs to her bed. Hiaomien summons Xain; they attempt to bind up Do Xian’s wounds, then go through the shop—things have been moved about as if someone was looking for something, but nothing has been removed.

Not long after dawn three soldiers come calling to the gem shop. They are aware that the party has found a crystal. Their master, Lord Tsing, would be greatly appreciative if they would accompany them to his home, with the crystal, and they will be rewarded handsomely for returning it to him. After a bit of negotiation (and pleading Do Xian’s case that she need to remain behind to heal), Xain and Hiaomien go with the guards.

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