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 Post subject: Chapter 1: Happy New Year
PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2006 2:49 am 
Adroit Pirate
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Joined: Mon Mar 01, 2004 12:00 pm
Posts: 5899
Location: 612 Wharf Avenue
The Characters:
Wang Hsi Ping, "Golden Tongue Blade": A noble Courtier of the Qichao clan.
Scholar Xi-Tong: Daoist Scholar and sometime assassin, he's also Wang Hsi Ping's tutor.
Settling Stone: A Warrior and Zan monk who's currently hanging out with the Heaven Sword clan and instructing Princess Song Blossom (qv.) in the ways of Buddhism.

The Scene:
[size=100]The Qichao clan’s New Year celebration is particularly extravagant this year. For two weeks, all of Winding Silk City will revel in the festivities, including lion dancing, music, countless lantern riddles, and contests of every variety, including a martial arts tournament gathering select invitees from all over Shen Zhou.

The reason for all of this is an impending economic alliance between the Qichao and the Eight-Way Union. Qichao’s second son, Wang Hsi Ping, is to marry Princess Song Blossom of the Heaven Sword clan (the rich, gooey center of the Eight-Way Union). The idea was proposed by Dutiful Fei Qichao, Wang Hsi Ping’s long-lost older brother who showed up a year ago to claim his birthright. This supplanted Wang Hsi Ping as the next in line to lead the clan, and he’s not particularly happy about it. In fact, he even suspects that Dutiful Fei is an impostor, but he’s keeping that to himself for the time being. As a courtier, he’s also irked that he’s being used as a political pawn when he should be the one doing the using.

In any event, their father, Ten Eagles Qichao, found Dutiful Fei’s proposal highly persuasive. The Qichao’s main source of wealth is their sericulture. Though located in Northern Yang, Winding Silk City is nestled in a temperate green valley, and has been cultivating silkworms for centuries, ever since the progenitor of the clan brought his knowledge of sericulture from western Shen Zhou. Most of their silk trade is done along the Emperor’s Road, but the Eight-Way Union controls the territory in between and charge stiff tariffs for transporting goods through it. By allying with the Eight-Way Union, the Qichao gain easier access to the Road by paying lesser (or no) tariffs, which means greater prosperity for the clan. The Eight-Way Union, for their part, are always looking for ways to gain influence and rise in status comparable to the Great Clans. Surely with the addition of the Qichao clan somewhere down the line, a Nine-Way Union could easily stand as one of the most powerful clans in the East. And it all begins with the marriage of Wang Hsi Ping to Song Blossom after two weeks of New Year’s celebration.

So now then.

The Eating Contest:
Nine-Devil Chen, personal chef to Ten Eagles Qichao, is contributing to the festival by hosting an eating contest. But it’s not just any eating contest: the food in question is his Nine-Devil Dumplings, one of the spiciest dishes in Northern Yang. As threatening as that may be, there’s still a big turnout, including Wang Hsi Ping (who’s only participating because Dutiful Fei is), Xi-Tong, and Settling Stone. Also taking part is Calm Blue Ocean Chien, a member of the Qichao clan.

It’s close, but in the end Xi-Tong wins over Settling Stone. Wang Hsi Ping stays in longer than Defiant Fei, but in the course of the contest both he and Xi-Tong contract a Minor Yin-Yang Chi Condition: a Silver weakness and a Crimson hyperactivity (-1 Silver Chi, +1 Crimson Chi). Calm Blue Ocean accuses Xi-Tong of cheating; Wang Hsi Ping uses Calm Blue Ocean’s Anger Passion to attempt a Yin-Yang Technique towards a Fidelity Inspiration. This is rather unfortunate, because, despite the usual associations one might have with the word “fidelity,” in this case it apparently equates to violence (according to the MRB). However, he phrases it in such a way that Calm Blue Ocean is encouraged to seek satisfaction in the martial arts tourney instead of in the street. Xi-Tong uses the man’s Anger Passion and the Internal-External Technique to slap a Wood Curse on him in the form of crippling abdominal pain as Wang Hsi Ping has a word with his fellow clan member, then the scholar detects a Fear Passion in Calm Blue Ocean and uses it to create an Internal-External Water Curse: Calm Blue Ocean will have a hard time coming within 15 yards of the martial arts ring. The guy’s having a bad day.

The Lantern Riddles:
Like everyone else in Winding Silk, our three heroes eagerly tackle the many lantern riddles scattered around Winding Silk. Settling Stone does an Impressive job, making quite a name for himself. Wang Hsi Ping and Xi-Tong, however, are another story: their Learning rolls are Embarrassing and Mortifying, respectively. Looks like they managed to find all the especially hard riddles that nobody’s been able to solve. It’s hard to believe that two such learned men could be stumped by New Year’s riddles, but most people suspect that they’re simply keeping the answers to themselves out of modesty. Admirable.

The Martial Arts Tournament:
Seeking a little redemption after his less-than-stellar turn in the eating contest, Wang Hsi Ping heads for the martial arts ring. He squares off against Righteous Hand Li, a Gaibang clan noble. RHL is getting the upper hand with his Dragon Saber style over Wang Hsi Ping’s nonetheless impressive Heart Breaking Blade. Wang Hsi Ping uses his Anger-Inspiring technique in an attempt to throw RHL off his game by accusing him of fighting like a footman. RHL’s Confidence is more than a match for Wang Hsi Ping’s Inspire roll: “Last time I checked, that wasn’t my blood on the ground.” He then proceeds to give Wang Hsi Ping a serious thrashing. Dutiful Fei and Ten Eagles Qichao, watching the match with interest, are visibly disappointed; Dutiful Fei whispers something inaudible to Ten Eagles, who only nods somberly in reponse.
[/SIZE]



_________________
Mike Olson
‎"In this economy, it's not easy to feed a growing family. So we eat Haunkkah gelt for dinner and look at a picture of broccoli." --Paul F. Tompkins
Spirit of the Blank: A blog.
Roll Some Dice: Another blog.
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2006 2:53 am 
Adroit Pirate
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Joined: Mon Mar 01, 2004 12:00 pm
Posts: 5899
Location: 612 Wharf Avenue
The Next Day:
Scholar Xi-Tong waits patiently for Calm Blue Ocean to show up for their appointed match, knowing his curse from the day before will doubtless make things difficult for the poor fellow. Still, here he comes, angry as the day before and clutching his aching gut. “Xi-Tong!” he calls out, but before he can issue a challenge he’s unexpectedly struck by a large flying object: an unconscious man. The perpetrator is an intimidating Warrior dressed in iron armor and wielding what looks like a greatsword with a thick cylinder of studded iron in place of a blade. Ten thugs back him up, each armed with a pair of hammers.

“I heard there’s a fighting tournament here, and yet I received no invitation! Iron Tower Po of the Earth And Sky Demon Gang will not take this insult lying down! I demand recognition!” He points to Xi-Tong, who regards the blowhard with a raised eyebrow. “You there!” shouts Iron Tower Po. “I’ll fight you first, since you’re already in the ring!”

As he stomps towards Xi-Tong, Settling Stone interposes himself between the two. “If you want a real challenge, you’ll fight me instead,” he says, trying to spare the scholar from what he guesses would be a one-sided fight. However, he’s not quite persuasive enough.

“Out of my way, you!” Iron Tower Po retorts. “First I’ll deal with this one—then you’re next!”

Xi-Tong wins Initiative, and immediately uses the Terrible Rising Water Technique to prevent Iron Tower Po from getting within melee range. As Xi-Tong backs away, Iron Tower Po discovers that the straps of his iron armor’s greaves have been improperly adjusted, slowing his movement to a crawl. He’s simply unable to keep up with the scholar. Xi-Tong lashes out with his secret assassin’s weapon, a string from his lute with a weight attached to one end, and scores a massive hit against the lumbering Iron Tower Po. It’s a Critical Success, and the metal string wraps around the warrior’s throat (the weapon Strangles on a Critical: as Entangle, but 1d+5 damage which bypasses Armor every Round as long as the wielder maintains a hold on the weapon; as a Full Action, the wielder may instead use Lift to inflict damage) so completely that he’s affected for the entire Scene unless he can make a Legendary (40) Lift roll, which he doesn’t.

Xi-Tong then uses the Summoning Earth’s Folly technique—just toying with the guy now—to encourage Iron Tower Po to act foolishly. This he immediately does by croaking out a command to his gang. “Attack!” If he can’t get show off for these yokels, then his gang’ll have to do it for him.

Everyone scatters, leaving Wang Hsi Ping and Settling Stone as the only ones still holding their ground. Each gets 5 Gang Minions on him. Wang Hsi Ping wins Initiative, activates his Killing Frenzy Spree and effortlessly takes out all five of them in one blow.

Settling Stone must’ve been targeted by the gang's elite, because they pound on him mercilessly with two hammers apiece while he struggles to fight back. Wang Hsi Ping tries to intimidate them into complaisance: “If you don’t want to join your brothers here in the afterlife, I suggest you leave that man alone.” Two of the four thugs still facing Settling Stone look at each other fearfully and cease their attack, but the other two apparently don’t get the memo.

Settling Stone doesn’t let that slow him down, and immediately whacks them all senseless with a one-handed blow of his wolf-teeth staff (“Do you want to spare the two who stopped attacking you?” “Um… no.”).

Xi-Tong, satisfied, and Iron Tower Po, terrified, watch these two decimate the gang members with relative ease. The scholar instructs Iron Tower Po to leave the city and never return, then releases him. The once-proud warrior beats a hasty retreat away from the unassuming Xi-Tong, tripping over his own feet more than once and utterly humiliated by his tragic miscalculation.

Calm Blue Ocean, meanwhile, is having the worst day of his life for the second day in a row.

The Silkworm Hatchery:
No more than a handful of seconds after Iron Tower Po (now known as Mud Hut Po) scampers off, a retainer of the Qichao clan runs up to Wang Hsi Ping, hands clasped in obeisance. “Wang Hsi Ping, there are intruders in the silkworm hatchery!” This, of course, is a massive emergency; the secrets of Qichao sericulture are the lifeblood of the clan. The retainer says he saw five black-clad men enter, stealthily though a little unsteadily, and, knowing he couldn’t take them all himself, his first thought was to get help. Wang Hsi Ping and Xi-Tong go to check it out, as does the Zan monk Settling Stone who, after fighting alongside Wang Hsi Ping, has quickly (really quickly) become an ally.

When they reach the sericulture building, there’s no evidence of anything unusual. The long, single-story structure is filled with row upon row of tall columns formed by broad, shallow baskets of silkworms stacked atop one another. Upon entering, our heroes’ ears are overcome with the sound of thousands of silkworms chewing thousands of mulberry leaves; it’s as if a heavy rain were falling on the roof. In this environment, it’s nearly impossible to hear someone trying to move quietly. However, Settling Stone, with his superior senses, spots a flash of movement about halfway down the building. It’s a man in black running, apparently towards a side exit, one arm wrapped around a basket of silkworms. Wang Hsi Ping attempts to head him off at the pass and runs back outside to catch the interloper. Settling Stone leaps up and uses Surefoot to run atop the towers of silkworm baskets. From his elevated view, he’s able to spot four more: one running the opposite direction of the first man (who Xi-Tong immediately pursues), two running for the far end of the building, and one panicked fellow standing there totally at a loss. Settling Stone drops down in front of one of the fleeing thieves and engages him in combat.

Outside, Xi-Tong launches his assassin’s lute string at the second basket-bearing thug, who turns to face him, saber in his free hand. He closes to melee range and slashes at the scholar, who narrowly avoids the blow and responds with the Terrible Rising Water Technique to prevent that sort of thing from happening again. This takes the form of the thug suddenly realizing that he’s got no interest in this fighting business, and promptly Runs Like A Deer. Xi-Tong, not to be denied, catches him round the neck with a quick throw of the lute string as he flees. Down he goes, gasping for breath.

Wang Hsi Ping wastes no time with his silkworm thief, first relieving him of his saber with a well-placed kick, then relieving him of his hands with a savage swipe of his jian. That’s what he gets for trying to steal from the clan. Down he goes, spewing blood from his two stumps like a grisly fountain.

Inside, surrounded by silkworms, Settling Stone swings his wolf-teeth staff in a deadly arc, nearly—but not quite—toppling the columns of baskets on either side. Using a combination of Subtle Hand and Thunder Hammer, he renders the thief’s attack ineffectual, then knocks him into next week with a Rain of Blows. Down he goes, little stars and planets circling his head.

Wang Hsi Ping spots Thug #4 running at top speed from the silkworm hatchery and is on him in an instant. He pulls the same trick, disarming him before striking the killing blow. This time, though, instead of lopping off the man’s hands, he carves the Chinese character for “Qichao” into his abdomen. The thief just has time enough to look down and read the courtier’s bloody calligraphy before his intestines burst forth. Down he goes, and just as well, because that was disgusting.

On the other side of the building, Xi-Tong sees the last of them making his getaway. Suddenly, from around the corner an arrow flies towards the thief and impales him through the throat. Up runs Dutiful Fei, bow in hand. “I came as soon as I heard!” he calls out to Xi-Tong. Soon Wang Hsi Ping, wiping blood from his blade, and Settling Stone, dragging an unconscious thief by one leg, join them over the relatively intact thief slowly being strangled to death by the lute string.

“Who are you?” Wang Hsi Ping demands of the man. “Who are you working for?”
“Yes, who indeed?” chimes in Dutiful Fei. “What is the meaning of this?”
The smell of alcohol is plain on the captive’s breath, and the only words they can make out in all his hoarse babbling is “Please, don’t kill me!”
They decide to take him back to the Qichao palace for questioning.

...and that's where we left things.



_________________
Mike Olson
‎"In this economy, it's not easy to feed a growing family. So we eat Haunkkah gelt for dinner and look at a picture of broccoli." --Paul F. Tompkins
Spirit of the Blank: A blog.
Roll Some Dice: Another blog.
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