[Wuxia][Flying Swordsmen] The Mystery of the Dragon Pearl
#1
Video 
At the moment I'm trying to put together a face-to-face tabletop game featuring the Flying Swordsmen rules. A session was held as a one-off, and it's my intention to keep the overarching story going with whomever happens to be playing.

Since the group isn't yet together, I made a character of my own and had a test session. This is the result.

=====

This is a martial arts story about a China that never was.

17 = 17[d20]

It is the story of a quest.

18 = 18[d20]

A quest for enlightenment.

3 = 3[d20]

A story in which the characters begin as adversaries.

=====

We find Fu Zi on the road to Quxiang in the spring of the Year of the Dog. Behind her, the city of Henglong, home of the magistrate, Zan Peng, whose daughter is to wed the wealthy scion of a family from the capital.

In the weeks previously, the capital received word of a strange event: a pair of men from Quxiang, a wizened Taoist sorcerer and his drunken manservant, who brought a valuable wedding gift to Henglong on behalf of Quxiang's administrator. Their identities are largely a mystery, and the gift even more puzzling: a perfect pearl said to have been the property of the Jade Emperor himself.

Fu Zi is well-dressed, and is known as "Lady Zi" by intimates. She has no husband, and a strange past of her own. As she sits behind the curtains of a sedan chair borne by a quartet of men from Zan Peng's household, she listens to the summer sounds and lets her thoughts go idle.

=====

Does Wu Jin show up?

No

=====

The journey to Quxiang passes uneventfully. The bearers bring Lady Zi to the home of Deng Zhou, the local administrator.

Is he home?

Yes, and...

...he is in the company of a man Lady Zi wasn't told to expect.

Is he a servant of Zan Peng?

No, but...

...he is an officiant from the magistrate's CHARGE, just not attached to the Zan household itself.

The Deng Zhou hastens to make Lady Zi welcome, ordering his few servants to give her a place to cool off. She's served tea and simple food.

Does the man from Henglong visit her?

Yes

A panel slides aside to admit the man from Henglong. He introduces himself as Quan Wuhan, a tax collector for the magistrate. He's come to collect a sum from the administrator.

Is it related to the pearl?

No, but...

...it's clear something significant is going on. A servant pours Quan Wuhan tea and brings more food. Lady Zi uses her conversational skills to turn the conversation toward Quan's genuine business in Quxiang (TN 15).

6 = 6[d20]

3 = 3[d4]

Quan Wuhan is craftier than Lady Zi expected. He leads her in conversational circles, deftly batting aside her probing questions.

Does he know who she is?

No

Luckily he doesn't seem to know who Lady Zi is, otherwise he might want to know exactly why she'd be in a little town like Quxiang. But his curiosity is piqued, and he begins to ask questions of his own.

13 = 13[d20]

1 = 1[d2]

To which Lady Zi responds.

11 = 11[d20]

4 = 4[d4]

She is not so easily bested in the social arts. But clearly they have revealed themselves to be rivals to each other. Tax collection is one thing, but Quan Wuhan is more than he seems. This isn't just about money.

Is it about Master Gong and Geng Gang?

No

=====

They are interrupted with apologies, and Lady Zi is ushered in to meet with the administrator, Deng Zhou.

Does he know who she is?

Yes

Which begs the question: why would a woman of refinement (no one knows the whole truth about that) come all the way from the capital city to a backwater like Quxiang? To which Lady Zi offhandedly explains away as a curiosity by one of her patrons, one Liu Jing, about the origin of Deng Zhou's fine wedding gift for the lovely Zan Yi and her fiancé.

But this immediately puts Deng Zhou on his guard. The question is: will he give away some secret he clearly doesn't wish to betray?

3 = 3[d20]

1 = 1[d2]

He is not the wit Quan Wuhan is. Lady Zi has made a living wringing information out of pliable men who think they're smarter than her.

18 = 18[d20]

2 = 2[d4]

And just like that, Deng Zhou lets slip that someone like Liu Jing understands the nature of these things. That sometimes certain tasks (or objects) must pass through other hands in order to throw suspicion off the REAL decision-maker. Of course the administrator doesn't have the wherewithal to obtain something like the Dragon Pearl on his own. Like Lady Zi, he has benefactors.

Is it someone opposed to Zan Peng?

No, and...

... whoever Liu Jing is, he's clearly someone with considerably more pull than a merchant family gotten in good with local government. Even Deng Zhou isn't stupid enough to tell ALL, but it's enough to let Lady Zi know the answers aren't in Quxiang, but back in Henglong, at the very least.

Deng Zhou insists Lady Zi stay in his household a while and enjoy his hospitality. Lady Zi, ever the polite one, accepts but only for a couple of days, as she simply CAN'T be a burden on the administrator for longer than that.

Is Quan Wuhan also staying?

Yes, and...

...he is given the quarters directly adjoining Lady Zi's. She hears him moving about in the small bedroom, and pokes a small hole in the rice-paper screen between her place and his to observe what's going on.

16 = 12[d20]+4

She sees him, and it seems for a desperate moment he might have noticed her prying, but he continues about his business.

Is he doing something suspicious?

No, and...

He seems to be exactly what he says he is: a tax collector from Henglong. He even has a tax collector's ledger, which Lady Zi tries to read from where she's looking.

18 = 14[d20]+4

Unfortunately it's too far away, and the angle is wrong. But she sees where Quan puts the book and determines to get a look at it later. Perhaps knowing how much Deng Zhou owes and for what tax, will be enough for her to get some inkling of Deng's secrets.

=====

Does anything awkward happen at dinner?

No, but...

...it's clear Quan Wuhan is taken with Lady Zi's charms. As a single man, still young, this isn't inappropriate. The much older (and married) Deng Zhou wouldn't dream of saying anything even remotely suggestive to a woman like Lady Zi. This goes double for Lady Zi specifically, because Deng knows her and therefore knows her reputation. Perhaps this is why he suggests Quan join him for pipes after dinner, thus steering the younger man away from potential danger.

Does Quan accept Deng's offer?

Yes, and...

...he insists Lady Zi join them. Not to smoke, of course. They can all simply take tea in the evening air before retiring. Which is something Lady Zi doesn't want, because she has to have access to that ledger! So she turns her charm toward Deng Zhou, explaining that she would only cause boredom, since the men wouldn't be able to speak freely with a woman present.

11 = 11[d20]

3 = 3[d4]

To which the administrator replies:

5 = 5[d20]

2 = 2[d2]

She is absolutely right. She's had a tiring day, and the talk of men is too much of an imposition. This doesn't make Quan Wuhan happy, but he can't refuse his host so blatantly. He knows Lady Zi's up to something, and he gives her a significant look when she leaves the dinner table, ostensibly to go to bed.

But of course she's not going to bed any time soon. Once she's sure she's alone, and Deng Zhou has Quan Wuhan trapped in conversation elsewhere. Lady Zi sneaks from her room to Quan's.

13 = 9[d20]+4

... only to attract the attention of one of Deng Zhou's servants. Lady Zi gives the woman quite a fright, and there's a bit of commotion.

Does it attract Deng Zhou and Quan Wuhan?

Yes

The two men come hurrying at the sound of the servant's squawk. Which leaves Lady Zi in the position of trying to explain why she's out of her room and going into Quan Wuhan's. She decides to go with the most obvious explanation, which is virtually guaranteed to embarrass her and therefore seem like the truth: that she was going in there to wait for Quan's attentions.

16 = 16[d20]

3 = 3[d4]

Deng Zhou completely buys this story, and hastens to ameliorate any embarrassment which might arise from this apparent situation. But is Quan Wuhan buying it?

17 = 17[d20]

1 = 1[d4]

It seems so, and he gets a touch embarrassed himself for thinking Lady Zi was up to no good earlier. Clearly this was all flirtation, and not anything untoward. But of course Lady Zi can't see him NOW, she says, because it's all so scandalous. She'll have to bid him goodnight and perhaps some other time — in Henglong? — they might encounter each other again.

=====

Do the next two days pass without incident?

No, and...

... it has to do with a servant of Bai Tian, a man formerly one of Henglong's foremost merchants, but now a fugitive from justice after an attack on the magistrate's house. This servant, Zeng Ah, is one of Bai Tian's personal guards, now unemployed, and he's come to pick a bone with someone.

Is it Quan Wuhan?

Yes, but...

... in the process of making a scene at the gates of Deng Zhou's home, Zeng Ah reveals Quan Wuhan was not always a simple tax collector, but a soldier like himself. He came to Henglong from the imperial city a year previously, ostensibly with some darkness in his past necessitating such an exile, which makes him no better than Zeng Ah. At least in Zeng Ah's estimation.

The situation doesn't come to violence, especially when Deng Zhou's lieutenant, Tai Ding, separates Zeng from Quan. Zeng stomps off in the direction of the local inn. Deng Zhou takes Quan away for some refreshment and private talk to settle things down. But Lady Zi isn't all that interested in listening to Quan right now. It seems Zeng has a far more interesting story to tell. Consequently, she is soon on her way to the inn, dressed well but not opulently.

Does Wu Jin show up?

Yes

Along the way she encounters the strangest... person she's ever met. A young man(?) sitting in the branches of an apple tree, snacking on a fruit and generally seeming like he has nowhere else to be and nothing else to do. He calls to Lady Zi by her name, which is bizarre, since she would have remembered encountering Wu Jin before. He offers her an apple. She tries to figure out how he knows her.

4 = 4[d20]

4 = 4[d4]

But Wu Jin is a wily one.

1 = 1[d20]

1 = 1[d6]

Though not quite wily enough, it seems. Wu Jin reveals he's heard of Lady Zi all the way from the capital city, as he's wandered near and far in this land seeking interesting things to do and see. Where does he come from? How does he support himself? From the fruits of the trees, and the generosity of passing folk. People are, he believes, trusting souls and they do well when they feel it's in their interest to do so. Which is something Lady Zi also thinks, though for far more mercenary reasons. Or is that what he's saying, too?

Whatever the case, Wu Jin seems happy to talk about how Lady Zi is something of a sneak and provocateur, which is pretty alarming considering how she's tried to keep that under wraps. Wu Jin also seems like he wants to accompany her to the inn to see Zeng Ah, which is NOT happening. Lady Zi shoos him away, definitely shaken, and continues on to the inn.

There she finds Zeng Ah drinking and being generally abusive to everyone around him. It's not going to be easy to talk this fellow down, but that's what Lady Zi is best at, isn't it?

14 = 14[d20]

1 = 1[d4]

Zeng Ah IS pretty ticked right now, so maybe...?

13 = 13[d20]

No, he's definitely the sort to bend to a woman's will if it's applied in the right way. Lady Zi woos him aside to discuss his issue with Quan Wuhan, which he gladly shares. The rumor is that Quan Wuhan stole from the government in the form of land deeds, but it was never proven. However, it's widely believed Quan implicated Zeng's master, Bai Tian, in the scheme. Zeng is absolutely certain Bai Tian is innocent of the crime, but it was enough to push Bai into a foolish plan to intercept the Dragon Pearl, leverage it against the magistrate and buy back some face.

Zeng is convinced Quan has come to pay off Deng Zhao for participating in this whole sham somehow, though he has no proof. But Quxiang is a dead-end town like any dozen others, so why bother coming here without ulterior motive? To collect taxes, maybe? Lady Zi suggests. No, it couldn't be so simple... could it?

Lady Zi leaves with no solid answers. To make matters worse, Wu Jin is RIGHT THERE when she leaves Zeng behind, and he's gleeful about all the machinations in play. He regales her with the story of how he met the wise Master Gong and Gong's brave manservant, Geng Gang. The two of them braved impossible odds to prevail against the forces arrayed against them. They're HEROES. Wu Jin has the greatest respect for them. Maybe they have the answers Lady Zi seeks?

No, she's not going to talk to some Taoist wizard in the middle of nowhere, and the word is his manservant is a drunk, so what possible use could they be? The key here is Quan Wuhan. Yes, taxes appear to be the issue, but taxes on WHAT? And why collect them now, right as other intrigues have happened?

Wu Jin shadows her all the way back to Deng Zhou's home, where he is thankfully locked out by the servants.

=====

Does Lady Zi see Quan Wuhan before he departs for Henglong?

No

Shock! Quan Wuhan left while Lady Zi was gone, gathering up his things without further explanation and departing (on horseback!) for Henglong. Deng Zhou seems to be in something of a tizzy about it, but is it because of the scandal of Zeng Ah, or something else?

Is it Zeng Ah?

Yes

Lady Zi doesn't want to stay here a moment longer than is absolutely necessary. She's here about the Pearl, of course, but SHE doesn't know Quan's business is about something else. The whole thing smells of a coverup, and she's determined to find out why. She simply has to talk Deng Zhou into allowing her to leave as abruptly as Quan Wuhan.

13 = 13[d20]

1 = 1[d4]

14 = 14[d20]

2 = 2[d2]

But Deng Zhou isn't having it. He's already been shamed by the whole Zeng Ah situation, and likely word's going to get back to the magistrate about how he failed to provide adequate comfort for Quan Wuhan, so he's SURE not going to let Lady Zi pull the same sort of disappearing act. What's more, he's going to double his efforts to make her at home. She simply must stay another couple of days. He will provide her every luxury.

====

Lady Zi has to get out of here. Yes, Deng Zhou has brought the best food to the house, and even a musician to entertain them after dinner, but staying for two or three more days isn't going to work. She already knows Deng Zhou's involvement with the Dragon Pearl extends to Henglong, and perhaps even the imperial city. Deng is the last link in this chain, far from the first. To get the answers her benefactor wants, she has to leave. Now.

So it's a matter of sneaking away in the dead of night with only those things she can carry with her. Dressed in dark clothing and masked (because sometimes a girl has to do things under cover of darkness), she takes a bundle of her belongings and slips out of the house.

16 = 12[d20]+4

It's a close thing. The same servant who gave her away the last time is awake and moving around the house, even at this hour. Lady Zi gives her the slip, and dashes away into the darkness. With luck she can be miles away before false dawn pinks the sky.

Does Wu Jin show up?

No, but...

... shortly after dawn Lady Zi spots a group of unkempt men heading toward Quxiang from the direction of the tea house and inn she knows is in that direction. Bandits haunt this region and the roads, most notably the Bamboo Union, and they aren't known for their gentlemanly behavior with woman traveling alone. So Lady Zi sneaks into the trees.

14 = 10[d20]+4

But she wasn't quick enough. The men see her try to get out of their way, and like a pack of dogs, they come running. Lady Zi has changed into a peasant-woman's clothing, but she's no farm-girl. She steps out to give herself some room and slips a painted fan from beneath her simple blouse. The Bamboo Union bandits find this hilarious, and charge in.

6 = 6[d20]

They are clumsy and clearly drunk despite the hour. Lady Zi avoids them, slipping between two of the bandits and whipping open her fan at the same time, striking to the right in a gesture almost too quick to follow.

19 = 19[d20]

2 = 2[d4]

This fan is no ordinary fan, the paper edge concealing thin blades along each spine. Lady Zi opens a long cut across the bandit's cheek, but it's certainly not a killing blow. And with four of them to contend with, she's going to have to do better than that.

Dancing on the tips of her toes, whirling a series of kicks, Lady Zi strikes for the throat of another bandit. The wasp's sting of the flat of the fan, closed into the equivalent of a tiny club, all her energy directed into a single spot.

17 = 19[d20]-2

SNAP! The blow is enough to send the bandit reeling, clutching at his neck. He's out of action, though not forever. And that leaves the other three still free to do their worst.

7 = 7[d20]

They are no match for the ducking, twisting, leaping Lady Zi, who moves around them as if they were standing still. As his comrade writhes around in the dirt trying to breathe, a bandit manages to get hold of one of Lady Zi's sleeves just long enough for her to loose a vicious scorpion kick.

18 = 18[d20]

1 = 1[d4]

It's enough to get him to let go of her, but only just. The choking bandit makes it to his feet. They're all around her and they're taking her seriously now: daggers have come out. If they can't subdue her with fists and feet, they will at least put an end to their irritation.

17 = 17[d20]

As they close a ring around her, Lady Zi springs vertically into the air, letting them crash together. Executing a perfect twist, she lands behind a bandit and strikes him with the closed end of her fan, directly in the kidney.

13 = 13[d20]

2 = 2[d3]<div

4 = 4[d4]

(damage is doubled because of "backstab")

With a bloodcurdling howl, the bandit pitches forward, incapacitated by the pain. His face is red with agony.

Do they make a Morale check?

No, and...

... they come at her with renewed force. Two form a pincer to catch Lady Zi on either side, while the third comes up the middle to open her up with his dagger.

6 = 6[d20]

It's almost a comedy of errors. Lady Zi charges straight at the central bandit, and drops only at the last instant to let his dagger pass by. Skidding in the dirt, she brings her fan sharply upward into his groin.

4 = 4[d20]

2 = 2[d3]

But this bandit seems to be the one with iron balls. The blow doesn't even faze him. What's more, he's enraged enough to come at Lady Zi in a whirlwind of blade strikes, slashing wildly, but not so wildly he has no chance of catching her with his weapon.

16 = 15[d20]+1

He cuts open the sleeve of her blouse, exposing the skin. Lady Zi has no choice but to fall back. Despite her best efforts, there are still three bandits with whom to contend, and they're getting angrier by the second.

SESSION ENDS
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#2
If anyone is interested, the character sheet for Fu Zi (Lady Zi) can be found here, whereas the write-up for Quan Wuhan is here. Enjoy!
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#3
Thank you for sharing this story. Neat genre and cool characters.

Also, thank you for your generous donation. I'm about 95% done with the new, multiple save slots feature. When I get the beta in place I'll grandfather you in with some free slots.
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#4
(01-31-2018, 02:32 PM)Mark Wrote: Thank you for sharing this story.  Neat genre and cool characters.

Also, thank you for your generous donation.  I'm about 95% done with the new, multiple save slots feature.  When I get the beta in place I'll grandfather you in with some free slots.

You're absolutely welcome.  I've donated before, but only as a one-off thing.  I hope getting the steady drip of cash will be helpful, even though the monthly amount isn't huge.   Wink
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#5
Thanks for sharing. Good writing and storytelling!
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#6
(02-03-2018, 04:26 AM)Jingo Wrote: Good writing and storytelling!

Thanks!  I'm still getting used to the system, obviously, but I hope to make more in-depth use of all Mark's tools as my facility ramps up.
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#7
THE STORY CONTINUES IN A CHINA THAT NEVER WAS

In our last session, the agent provocateur Fu Zi (also known as "Lady Zi" to intimates and those with a sense of irony), was dispatched from the Imperial City to investigate the strange case of Zan Peng and Deng Zhou. Zan Peng is the magistrate in the prosperous, but small city of Henglong, and Deng Zhou is a lowly bureaucrat in the obscure town of Quxiang. It seems Deng Zhou came into possession of an extremely rare, even legendary, pearl which purportedly once belonged to the near-mythic Jade Emperor, who united all the land under a single ruler.

How someone of Deng's relatively low status, and limited wealth, could get such a thing is a question certain people in the Imperial City want answered. Not because they are so interested in the goings on in Quxiang, but because the Dragon Pearl was offered to Zan Peng as a wedding gift for his daughter, Zan Yi, on the occasion of her marriage to a wealthy scion of the Imperial City. Young Xie Heng is destined for great things in the imperial court, as his father already is. Zan Yi is something of a cipher, closeted away in the family's country home, educated by tutors and rarely seen, though she is known to be quite beautiful. But beautiful enough to be worthy of such a stunning gift? From an obscure administrator in a nothing town along the Yellow River?

Something is afoot. Lady Zi must find out what, and who's involved. In swift pursuit of the mysterious Quan Wuhan, who may be a simple tax collector or possibly more, Lady Zi has run afoul of Bamboo Union thugs on the road to Henglong and things are not going well...

=====

Though to this point Lady Zi has seen fit to defend herself primarily with a reinforced and bladed fan, the situation has deteriorated. Faced with three angry men armed with daggers, she needs to even the odds. A slash cut from her sleeve provides a glimpse of the sheath secured to her forearm. An instant later, she has her own blade in hand.

She strikes!

19 = 18[d20]+1

2 = 2[d4]

Launching herself into the thicket of the men, taking them off-guard, Lady Zi opens up a bandit's arm from wrist to elbow, drawing copious blood but not cutting deeply enough to put him out of the fight. Mad with pain, he swings backhanded at her.

1 = 1[d20]

The backhanded blow comes nowhere near to connecting. Lady Zi is entirely two quick for such an oafish fellow. And it's not the first time she's dodged an angry man's attack. It's not even the first time today. The other two try their best to catch her on the tips of their daggers, and perhaps bring the fight to bloody close.

5 = 5[d20]

16 = 16[d20]

She dodges one blade easily, but very nearly catches the second in her side. The situation has worsened rapidly, and barring a break of good fortune, she may have no choice but to run. If only she could reduce their numbers! A flashing fan to the face of the wounded bandit, and a dagger directed below, might be just the trickery needed to end this quickly.

1 = 2[d20]-1

An attempt which backfires spectacularly. The enraged bandit wrenches the painted fan from her hand, flinging it into the mud, and surges into her, sending Lady Zi stumbling (-1 on next attack). He commands his comrades to kill her, KILL HER. His wound bleeds freely.

8 = 8[d20]

8 = 8[d20]

Now armed only with a dagger and her martial skills, Lady Zi keeps her distance, and daggers from piercing her skin. She falls back and back, blocking metal to metal with her dagger edge, and using her free hand to swat away another clumsy attack. She goes low with weapon a second time, hoping to catch her opponents off-guard.

14 = 15[d20]-1

2 = 2[d4]

The ploy works. Moving forward, abruptly reversing her retreat, Lady Zi finds her way inside the guard of a remaining bandit. He's stung by her dagger, but as before the wound isn't serious enough to do more than temporarily slow the rate of attack.

20 = 20[d20]

4 = 4[d4]

And Lady Zi pays for her mistake. The second bandit drives the tip of his dagger beneath her arm in the same moment she strikes his comrade. His blade tears through the material of her blouse and carves a nasty wound across her ribs [4 HP, reducing her to 5 HP]. The pain and blood is a major shock. This is not how it was meant to go, or what Lady Zi was prepared to deal with. If she doesn't escape NOW, they will surely kill her on the side of this empty road.

She chooses flight. The bandits pursue, making one last attempt to snare her before she can get away.

4 = 4[d20]

10 = 10[d20]

20 = 20[d20]

4 = 4[d4]

A dagger strikes her in the back, as Lady Zi flees into the trees [4 HP, reducing her to 1 HP]. The pain nearly fells her, but she keeps on, dashing away into the deeper woods, putting thickets of close-set tree trunks and obscuring bushes between herself and her pursuers. Blood falls on leaves and in spots and spatters in the litter of the woodland floor. Thankfully the bandits aren't trackers, and she's able to leave them behind.

Does she find a safe place to hole up?

Yes, but...

Lady Zi hopes to find a friendly home or some other haven. She's badly hurt, and even carrying her things is difficult. She spots the ceramic tiles of a roof ahead and breaks through the tree-line, only to discover the house is abandoned, gutted by some long-ago fire. It is a place to hide, but it isn't the safe space she wanted or needed. Still, it's better than nothing.

Does it rain?

Yes

She shelters under the broken roof for a day. Rain comes, and sweeps the woods, falling in a steady drone on the remaining tiles over Lady Zi's head. She only has rotten wood on which to rest, but at least an old clay pot provides a catcher for drinking water.

2 = 2[d2]

[heals 3 HP after a full day of rest]

Does anyone come upon her hiding place?

No, and...

...she's able to rest an additional day, growing stronger from the time spent. The rain brings edible mushrooms, which help in her recovery (+1 HP).

1 = 1[d2]

After two days she's feeling at least well enough to get around, though not at full strength [additional 3 HP in healing]. By now Quan Wuhan has surely gotten where he's going, and her mission might be an utter failure. She's no closer to learning the secret of the Dragon Pearl, and the mystery surrounding it and Deng Zhou has only grown deeper. Her traveling clothes are stained with blood, so she's forced to tear cloth from her finer garment to create makeshift wraps to cover the worst of the stains. It looks odd, but better to look strange than bloodied.

She sets out for Henglong.

Does Wu Jin appear?

Yes

She is a half-day's walk from Henglong when she spots a now-familiar figure under a tree up ahead. It is Wu Jin, the odd young man(?) she encountered in Quxiang. He is pleasant, even solicitous, and he picks up on Lady Zi's injuries immediately. He insists she sit with him a while. From his small bag he produces a few things with which to make a simple poultice for the worst of Lady Zi's injuries. It is not much, he admits, but is better than nothing. And it smells pleasantly of apples.

He would like to know more, but Lady Zi isn't telling. She's also too tired to object when Wu Jin suggests walking with her the rest of the way to Henglong, so as to ensure her safety and wellbeing. He doesn't seem like a sturdy enough fellow(?) to provide much protection to anyone, but Lady Zi is thankful for any assistance she can get at this point.

Does Wu Jin provide her with useful gossip?

Yes

Along the way, Wu Jin speaks of the situation in Henglong. He talks about the assault on Zan Peng's household by the men of Bai Tian, the merchant rival to the magistrate. Wu Jin was there to help the great Master Gong and his drunken manservant, Geng Gang, though they had little need of his assistance. This is doubly so because of the amazing martial prowess of Zan Yi, the daughter of Zan Peng.

This piques Lady Zi's interest. Zan Yi is known to be a proper young woman, and the idea that she would be possessed of ANY martial skills is bizarre. What's more, her new husband was sure to take her to the Imperial City, and his family has direct access to the Emperor. The Emperor's fear of assassination is no secret, and those with access to the inner city, where the Emperor makes his home and court, are forbidden to have any knowledge of the martial sciences. Only his personal guard are exempt from this rule. How did Zan Yi receive her training? And WHY?

Once in Henglong, Lady Zi makes arrangements to stay in a modest room at a local inn, sending word to her benefactor, Liu Jing, of her need for more money to continue her investigation. Wu Jin bids her a reluctant farewell, then strolls away with his staff over his shoulder, singing a folk tune brightly. He is very weird.

Do the next few days pass without incident?

Yes

Left with access to a good bed, hearty food and general rest, Lady Zi is herself within a couple of days. Word comes from Liu Jing that Quan Wuhan has been seen in the Imperial City. Liu Jing received warning of Quan in Lady Zi's letter and, sure enough, Quan Wuhan appeared. Liu Jing has had someone watching him where he's taken a room, but as of the writing of the latest letter, there's nothing to report. When will Lady Zi return? What is Quan Wuhan's connection to all this?

But Lady Zi is not quite ready to leave Henglong. Once she's replaced her good hanfu, she pays a visit to the home of the magistrate, Zan Peng, ostensibly to offer her well-wishes as a traveler from the Imperial City on the occasion of Zan Yi's wedding.

Is Zan Peng available?

Yes

Does Zan Peng know who she is?

Yes, but...

Lady Zi is received warmly. The house is still under repair, with large parts damaged by fire. The smells of ash and sawdust mingle. In the company of Zan Peng's advisors, Lady Zi presents herself as a woman of means (a frequent guise), and is lucky enough that though the magistrate has heard of her, he is unaware of her less upright occupations. She claims a gift is on its way from the capital, but she wanted to be there personally to make her well-wishes known. By any chance is Zan Yi available?

Yes, and...

...here she is! Having heard a visitor from the Imperial City has come, Zan Yi wished to meet with them and thank them personally for stopping by. Polite conversation is made, during which time Lady Zi tries to glean some sense of these martial skills of which Wu Jin spoke, but there seems nothing untoward about Zan Yi at all. By every appearance, she is the refined and innocent young lady she is purported to be. So Lady Zi asks a few gentle questions, hoping to probe Zan Yi's defenses, and get her to reveal something she might not wish to.

12 = 12[d20]

3 = 3[d4]

3 = 3[d20]

4 = 4[d4]

Zin Yi lets slip the name of Yin Fu, then immediately looks to regret it. Zan Peng looks equally distressed, though he covers up as best he can. But surely the priest Yin Fu is a martial artist of some renown, living on a great hill not far from Henglong. A strange place for a young, cultured woman to receive instruction.

Zin Yi and her father hastily explain that Yin Fu is not a martial artist first and foremost, but a priest of the Tao, known as much for his wisdom as for anything else. The Zan family is a faithful one, with great respect for the Tao. And besides, Zan Yi hardly spent any time there. It's really nothing. But is it?

Lady Zi pretends to let the matter drop without question, moving breezily on to other things. Zan Yi's impending wedding to Xie Heng, for example, and the fabulous gifts which must have come from all over to honor such a pairing. Lady Zi has heard of some — she's not specific, but she's fishing for mention of the Dragon Pearl — which are quite dazzling and unique.

11 = 11[d20]

2 = 2[d4]

15 = 15[d20]

3 = 3[d4]

And now it's Zan Yi's turn to be suspicious of Lady Zi. It seems Fu Zi has pressed things a little TOO far, and she sees Zan Yi close up tightly. The young woman makes her excuses and departs. Zan Peng, seemingly oblivious, offers Lady Zi and opportunity to stay for a meal, but Lady Zi respectfully declines. She has been in Henglong too long, and needs to return the Imperial City as soon as possible. Left unsaid is her knowledge that all this information needs to be relayed to her benefactor in short order.

Oh, one last thing: she had a chance to meet with the lovely young man, Quan Wuhan, while in Quxiang. He left without a goodbye, and she hoped to see him here.

4 = 4[d20]

4 = 4[d4]

19 = 19[d20]

2 = 2[d2]

Zan Peng says he regrets to say Quan Wuhan's duties preclude him from meeting with anyone, as he's headed west to Guanggong on tax business. But he'll certainly let Quan Wuhan know Lady Zi asked after him.

If Lady Zi didn't know Zan Peng was lying, she would completely believe him. Zan Peng is as cagey as his daughter. Something odd is happening here, and potentially quite dangerous. What does the Taoist priest have to do with all this? Why has Quan Wuhan gone to the capital? How is the Dragon Pearl significant to this charade, and who is orchestrating it all? Deng Zhou intimated the true master of the piece is in the Imperial City, someone similar to Lady Zi's benefactor. But whom? And for what purpose?

SESSION ENDS
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#8
THE STORY CONTINUES IN A CHINA THAT NEVER WAS

In our story thus far, the spy Fu Zi, also known as Lady Zi to some, was sent on an information-gathering assignment by her benefactor in the Imperial City. It seems a series of strange events surrounded the wedding of a minor government official's daughter, most specifically the rumored gift of a rare and significant pearl. But Lady Zi has stumbled into something far greater: a complex situation involving a disgraced tax collector, unknown actors in the Imperial City and the magistrate's daughter herself, who appears to have received secret training by a Taoist monk renowned in the martial world.

After a close call with a group of bandits and a chance to recover, Lady Zi is headed to the Imperial City in search of Quan Wuhan, once a favorite of the Emperor's bureaucracy, but now a lowly rural tax collector... it seems.

=====

The first order of business after Fu Zi's recovery in Henglong is a trip to the Imperial City. To this end she hires a horse to carry her the several days' journey to the capital. She is well behind her quarry, Quan Wuhan, and it may already be too late.

But first... experience points! Lady Zi hasn't received any for previous sessions. Oops.

XP Rewards: 100 XP for her verbal jousting and intrigues with Deng Zhou and Quan Wuhan in the home of the administrator; 50 XP for defeating one of the four bandits on the road; 100 XP for prizing information from Zan Peng and Zan Yi about the questionable past of the magistrate's daughter. Total: 250 XP. Lady Zi reaches Lvl. 2 at 1,250 XP. Her character sheet can be seen here.

With that taken care of, we rejoin Lady Zi on the road. Having already run afoul of Bamboo Union thugs on her trip from Quxiang to Henglong, Fu Zi is extremely careful to monitor traffic along this road. Though it is often used, running parallel to the river as it does, that doesn't mean bandits don't haunt its blind turns and concealing hillocks.

Does she have any trouble on the way to the Imperial City?

No

Caution pays off. Before long she sees the roofs of the Imperial City, and then its mighty walls. More and more people and wagons appear on the road, and the soldiers of the Imperial Guard. Inside the city itself, policemen roam the streets keeping order, though "order" is a barely controlled chaos. Everyone has somewhere to be, and business is conducted in every corner. The smell of food is always on the air. Conversations happen at every turn, the air a constant babble. So much to do, so much to see, so much to learn. This is Lady Zi's favorite place in the world.

Is anyone following her?

No, and...

All that bustle hides other agendas. Lady Zi's aren't the only eyes watching and ears listening. Using her talent for blending in as a woman of some (but not a lot of) wealth, Lady Zi makes herself invisible among the other fortunates in the city. Both beggars and lords are found on the streets of the Imperial City. It is a place of great contrasts. Lady Zi uses these to reach the house of Liu Jing, her benefactor, and does such a good job of it no one is aware of her arrival, not even Liu Jing's household staff.

She appears before Liu Jing's desk in his private rooms. One moment she's not there and the next she is. He practically drops his brush and mars the document he's writing.

Her benefactor got her letter some days previously, and Lady Zi has little else to report, as she's been on road. But does Liu Jing have news?

Yes

PC positive

Stop

Quan Wuhan, having reached the Imperial City with some sort of purpose in mind, has been asking trying to meet with someone. Every day he goes to a specific teahouse and sits alone, clearly waiting, but no one ever comes. This works to Lady Zi's advantage, because whatever is supposed to happen hasn't happened yet. She still has time to figure out how Quan Wuhan fits into all this

For the moment, Lady Zi withholds information regarding Zan Yi and her connection to the priest, Yin Fu. That's a complication with which she's not ready to deal, and the less Liu Jing knows about it, the better. The Quan Wuhan situation she can handle out in the open (so to speak), but the magistrate's daughter is a mystery unto herself.

After taking a day to rest in the home of Liu Jing after her tiring journey, Lady Zi travels to the teahouse where Quan Wuhan makes his daily vigil. As a woman, she's allowed inside but would stick out, so she finds a vantage point where she can see Quan in his seat well back in the corner. He takes tea and eats pork buns and waits.

Does the meeting take place?

Yes, and...

Sloppy immortal

It's someone Lady Zi has seen before, an old man who goes by the name Lan Wang. A practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, he's an eccentric fellow to be sure, and certainly NOT the sort of man Lady Zi expected. As far as she knows, Lan Wang is not a spy or a provocateur or anything of the sort. He's drunk half the time, even when he's working, and more than a few people have had their prescriptions filled incorrectly because Lan Wang has been in his cups.

But now Quan Wuhan meets with the old man in secret. They're too far away for Lady Zi to hear their words, but it's clear something important's passing between them. Afterward Quan settles the bill and leaves Lan behind to continue eating.

Lady Zi is torn. Follow Quan Wuhan, or continue to monitor Lan Wang? She decides on the former. She's tracked Quan this far, she may as well see where he leads.

Does he go back to his room at the inn?

Yes

Lady Zi shadows Quan Wuhan through the busy streets, making herself as inconspicuous as possible.

14 = 10[d20]+4

16 = 13[d20]+3

They are within a stone's throw of the inn when Lady Zi realizes she's lost him. One moment he was there and the next he's gone. She looks around desperately for some sign of him among the people in their constant to and fro. And then she finds herself face-to-face with Quan Wuhan, who skirted the block through a set of alleys and came up behind her.

No lie is going to cover for this completely. Lady Zi wouldn't be here if she wasn't up to something, and it's clear he was onto her tail from the start. She saw him at the teahouse with Lan Wang. What did she hear? What does she know? Who is she working for? He comes closer with every question. Lady Zi prepares for a fight.

5 = 5[d20]

3 = 3[d4]

13 = 13[d20]

2 = 2[d3]

She tries to deflect Quan Wuhan with a series of lies that are ALMOST, but not quite, the truth. She throws out some false names, claims this is all about the land deed scam which supposedly drove Quan Wuhan from the capital and ties it all up with a more or less admission that she is paid to find out things from people from time to time.

It's a good attempt, but Quan Wuhan sees right through her. It's no coincidence she was at the house of Deng Zhou, and no coincidence she met with Zan Peng on her way to the Imperial City. Oh, yes, he knows about that. A letter was sent ahead by the magistrate warning Quan of Lady Zi's questions. If Lady Zi hadn't needed that extra day to rest, she might have been able to beat the news, but it's too late now. Again Quan Wuhan asks who she's working for, and how much she knows.

Does something interrupt the scene?

No

It's the moment of truth: Lady Zi has to come clean. She doesn't think Quan Wuhan will try to murder her on the street, or anything, but he has enough pull to get her arrested and make things difficult. Lady Zi thrives on her relatively upstanding reputation as a first-class gossip. Actually getting outed as a SPY would not be good for her at all.

She confesses the purpose of her mission: to uncover the origin of the Dragon Pearl, which was far too extravagant a gift ever to pass through the hands of someone like Deng Zhou, let alone be offered to the daughter of a magistrate on the occasion of her wedding. But now she wonders if the Dragon Pearl isn't the real thing of interest here, because the appearance of Quan himself, plus other factors, leads her to believe some sort of plot is afoot. If the truth is Zan Yi is the martial expert she's rumored to be, the pearl may constitute payment for an assassination. With Zan Yi placed in the Imperial City, one step away from the Emperor by virtue of her husband-to-be's family... is this a conspiracy for assassination?

Is Lady Zi on the right track?

No

Remote event

Increase

[Lady Zi and Quan Wuhan don't know this, but the REAL power behind the plot just took a step toward its goal, one Quan Wuhan wants to prevent. But read on.]

Quan Wuhan insists they get off the street. He takes her to his room, which causes some consternation with the woman who runs the inn, but he pays her for silence. They close themselves in. It's a very close environment. Quan Wuhan is a handsome man. Fu Zi is an attractive woman. This is not a situation she's unfamiliar with. If things go that way, she thinks maybe she can turn Quan Wuhan's agitation to her advantage.

But it's time for Quan to confess: he is not part of a conspiracy to kill the Emperor. Quite the opposite. He wants to PREVENT the assassination of the Emperor, but the parties who wish the Emperor's death are still unknown. All Quan Wuhan knows for certain, and this through a confidential source in the capital, is that an assassin of the Poison Clan has entered the city, ostensibly as a member of the Imperial bureaucracy. They don't know his face or his name, but he is definitely here.

Who is the confidential source? Lady Zi needs to know what she's dealing with.

13 = 13[d20]

3 = 3[d4]

11 = 11[d20]

2 = 2[d2]

It takes some doing, but she gets Quan Wuhan to reveal the identity of the man supplying Zan Peng with information: Liu Jing.

SHOCK! Liu Jing is Lady Zi's benefactor, and it was he who sent her on this assignment in the first place! He must already know the things she's only just begun to learn, but why would he go through the charade? Suddenly Lady Zi feels trapped in a situation not of her own making. Too many things are happening outside of her knowledge or control. Any one of them could be deadly. To run afoul of the Imperial Court is to be summarily killed without even the semblance of a trial. Good man, or no, the mere fact that Quan Wuhan is this close to the flame puts his life in peril. Now that Lady Zi knows, she is in similar jeopardy.

She decides to slow things down. Certain facts need to be established. One, where does the Dragon Pearl come from? Does Quan Wuhan even know?

No

All Quan Wuhan can say is that it was passed along by sympathizers to the cause. Somewhere along the line news got out that it was headed toward the capital, so it was sidetracked into Deng Zhou's hands with a cover story about a wedding gift. What Lady Zi mistook for a payment is actually a way to fund this secret operation.

And Zan Yi? She's been trained in the martial sciences, has she not? Was she meant to get close to the Emperor as part of this plan?

No

That was the original idea, but it was considered too risky. Her training under Yin Fu was a secret, but not a TOTAL secret. Even Lady Zi was able to find out. Surely the Emperor would have, too, and Zan Yi would have been arrested, exiled or executed for setting foot inside the Emperor's demense. So her skills were turned toward a different purpose: stopping the assassin or assassins from ever reaching the Emperor. She'll marry Xie Heng, come to the Imperial City with the perfectly normal explanation that she's joining her husband's household, then prepare to strike once the killer(s) have been identified.

This whole plan was thrown into disarray by the interference of Bai Tian, and the torching of the Zan household. Quan Wuhan can't be certain if this was part of the plot, and Zan Yi has already been discovered, or if it was just bad luck.

WAS it just bad luck?

Yes

Whatever the case, Zan Yi's marriage was delayed, and so her arrival in the capital is delayed and, as Lady Zi now knows, the assassin is already within the walls. He might even be in the inner city itself. The Emperor could be dead right now!

So this is bad. Far worse than anything Lady Zi might have suspected. And Liu Jing has been playing multiple threads at the same time. At the end of the one string, Zan Peng, his daughter and Quan Wuhan. On the other string, Lady Zi herself. Everyone checking on everyone else. The Imperial City is a nest of intrigues. But armed with this information, what is Lady Zi's next move?

Does something happen to interrupt this meeting?

Yes

NPC Action

Dominate

The sound of a sudden squabble downstairs carries through the drape closing off Quan Wuhan's room. Footsteps on the stairs prompt Quan to draw his dagger. Lady Zi withdraws into a corner, though there's no real cover. She conceals her dagger behind her back. More steps outside the room. The drape is thrown back. Lady Zi sees the black uniform of an imperial assassin. Far more than a simple policemen.

Quan Wuhan? Yes. Come with me. Now.

Do they want Lady Zi?

Yes, but...

The assassin tells Lady Zi she's to come with him, as well, along with the other two assassins outside the room. Lady Zi complies, but keeps her weapon well-hidden. They proceed to the ground floor, whereupon the the innkeeper, rushing to bring wine to the assassins as a gesture of goodwill, trips and sends catties of wine everywhere. In the resulting confusion, Lady Zi meets Quan Wuhan's eye. He nods in understanding. She makes a break for it.

The inn has a back exit. Lady Zi runs, knowing at least one assassin is on her heels.

19 = 19[d20]

3 = 3[d3]

20 = 20[d20]

He is quick. Even as Lady Zi vaults over cages of chickens, cuts between men carrying yokes heavy with sacks of rice, slides under a rolling wagon, he's with her. It's only when Lady Zi reaches a canal and spots a passing boat that she has her chance. She leaps, landing in the boat. The assassin follows, but misses his jump. He swims for the edge of the canal as the terrified boatman speeds away under Lady Zi's urging.

This is only beginning.

SESSION ENDS
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#9
Wow I loved your story the setting is very interesting and not something I've tried. looking forward to more.
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#10
(02-11-2018, 07:02 PM)Hyfrydle Wrote: Wow I loved your story the setting is very interesting and not something I've tried. looking forward to more.

Great! Glad you're enjoying it. It started out as an experiment using Mark's engine, and now I find I look forward to writing more every couple or three days. It's fun.
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