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  #51  
Unread 10th of May, 2007, 10:30
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26: The Dreaded Tower

Interlude 26: The Dreaded Tower

Takeshi and Daisuke spend a refreshing night in comfortable quarters. After a hearty breakfast, they set out for Ichiba. It is a long day’s journey across three provinces. Near each provincial border He leaves the road and travels across the country in a wide circle around the military checkpoints.

In a couple of villages he overhears the locals still telling tales about the strange group that passed through over a week ago with a clay giant.

Miao Province is quite rustic, but QingShan is more cosmopolitan, and ZunYan Province is as heavily populated as the “rice basket” provinces where he started his quest. It was wealthy but has suffered from the refugee problem. It is now mobilized for war. Takeshi sees militia performing drill practice and craftsmen working on weapons and war supplies.

It takes their full ten hour day of forced marching to reach their destination. Takeshi arrives at Ichiba as the sun is low in the sky. It is a prosperous- looking town with stone walls and tiled roofs. The setting sun reflects off of the Bronze River behind the town. Beyond the Bronze River, he sees the ruined landscape of Dian. Dominating the landscape is Shan Mountain. Illuminated by the setting sun, the palace at the crest is clearly visible even from ten miles away.

A quarter of a mile before the gates of Ichiba he sees a tall tower rising from a jumble of smaller buildings. They are on a low hill to the left of the road. Arcane symbols are painted on the sides of the tower. A trail leads from the road to a sturdy wooden door. A sign at the entrance to the trail proclaims "Dreaded Tower of the Wizard Golock."

At the sturdy door to the compound is a heavy brass knocker. A minute or so after he bangs it, the door to the peephole is drawn aside and one eye (the other is covered by an eyepatch) glares out at him.

“Who dares disturb the mighty Wizard Golock!” demands a gruff voice.

When Takeshi requests an audience, the gatekeeper snorts. “Golock is busy. Why should he grant you an audience?”
  #52  
Unread 10th of May, 2007, 14:09
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Takeshi speaks in the formal language used by the imperial court, his speech punctuated by a respectful bow.

"I am but a simple gardener: one who answers the call of the great spirits of the world, and your master shall wish to meet me because I have been blessed by the five martyrs themselves."
  #53  
Unread 11th of May, 2007, 06:39
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Interlude 27: The Dreaded Tower

Interlude 27: The Dreaded Tower

The gatekeeper stares at Takeshi for several moments and then the peephole door slams shut. Takeshi is left outside without explanation. His patience is tested as time passes. After several minutes he hears the door being unbolted. The door opens to reveal a burly man only one hand, a pegleg, a missing eye, a missing ear, and other visible scars.

"The wizard doesn't know about any business with the 'Five Martyrs' whatever that is, but he's curious enough to listen."

The servant hobbles inside, waving for Takeshi to follow him. He leaves the stables and crosses a small courtyard then climbs an outer staircase to another building. Inside Takeshi finds a comfortable lounging room, with a fireplace (not burning since it is midsummer), rug, and cushions. The servant stands in the corner, watching Takeshi intently. Fortunately the hospitality improves when an attractive maid appears to serve a tray of tea and hors devours while Takeshi waits. It is well over an hour before Golock appears.

When he does, it is suitably impressive. Golock is a tall and thin old wizard with a long white beard and eyebrows so long that they are combed to the side and hang down past his ears. He wears a robe of shifting colors and carries a rune-carved staff.

"What is this about the five martyrs?" growls Golock.

Last edited by crueldespot; 22nd of May, 2007 at 11:57.
  #54  
Unread 11th of May, 2007, 13:21
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Takeshi bows respectfully to the old man.

"I am Takeshi of clan Sato, servant of the emperor and caretaker of his imperial gardens. Or, at least, I was before these dark days. For a time after the dread arrival of the spirits I wandered among the children of the empire and tended to them as I used to the gardens. One night a short while ago, I was visited in a dream by a totem spirit. I was visited again several times, in sleep and awake, by that totem."

Takeshi shows Golock the driftwood chipmunk.

"My totem called me to visit the shrine of the five martyrs, in Miao province. Upon my arrival there, I was visited once again by the spirits, this time by the spirits of the five martyrs themselves. I was victorious in the trial they set me to, and they gave me a blessing which they said would protect me from the evil spirits. I am told by the people of the villiage in which is found the shrine of the five martyrs, that your henchmen underwent a similar trial only eight days prior. I do not know what the spirits have in store for me or for your and your henchmen, but it seems that our destinies are intertwined."

With a deep bow, Takeshi falls silent and gazes patiently at the old wizard.
  #55  
Unread 14th of May, 2007, 10:42
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28: Auspicious Timing

Interlude 28: Auspicious Timing

Golock is skeptical, and insists on casting divination spells to verify Takeshi's story. He cross-examines Takeshi, looking for inconsistencies in his story. Eventually, he relents and accepts Takeshi's claims.

"This blessing of the Five Martyrs will allow you and my henchmen to explore the palace without fear of the spirits that haunt Dian Province. Your timing is auspicious. At least some of my henchmen probably survived their latest mission, and they should be returning any day now. In fact, I expected them back already. Once the arrive, we can undertake our final quest to restore the emperor. I have ascertained the cause of the haunting and the emperor's disappearance. I was able to determine it through researching books I acquired from the Imperial library, and from the notes of my colleague Mikon, who was assassinated on the day before the haunting began.”


Last edited by crueldespot; 22nd of May, 2007 at 11:57.
  #56  
Unread 14th of May, 2007, 12:10
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Takeshi's eyes brighten, and in a very respectful tone he speaks up,

"If I may, I wish to ask you a few questions of my own. What did you discover about the cause of the haunting? What can be done about it? Is there a role that I might play? As caretaker, it is my duty to rid the imperial gardens of this menace if it is possible for me to do so."
  #57  
Unread 15th of May, 2007, 19:04
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Interlude 29: The Cause of the Haunting

Interlude 29: The Cause of the Haunting

Golock strokes his beard.

"In recent generations, we have not emphasized one of the major roles of the Emperor. In ancient days it was understood that the Emperor's duty was to defend the mortal realm against the powers of the spirit world. Much of the Emperor's schedule involves performing sacred rituals, guided by the Ministry of Rituals. These have become routine, but each is derived from an ancient cause."

"The third emperor, DiSan, expelled the God of Evil, Angara Mainu, from the mortal realm after a great battle. To prevent his return the Emperor DiSan relocated the capital to Shan Mountain, which was previously the High Temple of Angara Mainu. Every emperor since then has performed the proper rituals to seal the gateway and prevent the return of Angara Mainu. Over time these rituals came to seem quaint or symbolic. The Emperor performs many rituals, and the importance of each one is often forgotten."

"For some reason, the current Emperor must not have performed the ritual to prevent the return of Angara Mainu's forces to our world, or not performed it properly. I believe that someone in the Ministry of Rituals conspired to mislead the Emperor in order to throw the Empire into turmoil. I suspect the Aikou faction since we have learned that they had foreknowledge of disaster. They arranged an 'accident' to kill Termix' teacher Mikon the Evoker just before Angara Mainu's spirits returned, and they were already mobilizing an army before the disaster."

Last edited by crueldespot; 22nd of May, 2007 at 11:58.
  #58  
Unread 16th of May, 2007, 05:48
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"There I go again, asking the wrong question," Takeshi mutters, almost to him self, "The real question, I suppose, is not how did we come to be in this situation, but what can we do about it? More specifically, what can I do about it?"
  #59  
Unread 16th of May, 2007, 12:34
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30: What to Do

Interlude 30: What to Do

“This news of you and my henchmen being blessed by the Five Martyrs is causing me to reconsider all my plans. I did not think the henchmen would be useful in an expedition to the Palace, but now I think they should come.”

“So I must rethink the specifics, but essentially we must search the palace to find and rescue the emperor. I am convinced that the traitors who engineered this plot are keeping him captive. If he were to die, then the legitimate successor to the throne would inherit the right to perform the ritual that could expel the spirits of Angara Mainu and end the haunting. As long as the emperor lives, no one else can thwart them, so I believe they are keeping him helpless. He is probably being held in the palace still.”

“For now we must wait on my henchmen to return from their latest mission. In the meantime, allow me to offer my hospitality. I can provide you with a bed in the henchmen’s quarters.”

“They should be back soon. They were supposed to deliver a golem, but it seems that they have also started a war by killing the nephew of another faction leader, performed a challenge set by ancient spirits, and now I suspect that they are invading a province. So as you can see they are prone to being sidetracked. Still I am hopeful that they will run out of adventures soon and get back here. They are in for a surprise if they think I am paying them for the time they have spent on unauthorized heroics.”

Last edited by crueldespot; 22nd of May, 2007 at 11:59.
  #60  
Unread 18th of May, 2007, 07:29
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Takeshi gratefully accepts the wizard's offer of hospitality, and passes his time while waiting for the arrival of the henchmen tending the gardens if there are any, or the surrounding wilds if there are no gardens, playing with Daisuke, and putting the finishing touches on his driftwood chipmunk.
  #61  
Unread 20th of May, 2007, 07:22
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31: Welcome to the Dreaded Tower

Interlude 31: Welcome to the Dreaded Tower

The gatekeeper’s attitude warms somewhat once Takeshi is welcomed by Golock. Takeshi learns that the gatekeeper’s name is Barnabus. Barnabus serves as Golock’s chamberlain and majordomo. He shows Takeshi around the tower.

The pretty serving girl is named BiBei. She lives in the compound in a room she shares with Kierna, a female henchmen (though Kierna is rarely there).

Barnabus leads him upstairs, through the bath into the men's barracks. This room is shared by all of the male employees. This includes the male henchmen, Barnabus, Nwrgh the goblin muck servant, and four guards.

Golock explains that the guards are named Yi, Er, San, and Si. They are equipped with breastplates, large shields, swords, and bows. Two of them are on duty each night, and one is on duty during each day.

Yi is sleeping on his mat when Takeshi enters but the noise wakes him, so he rises and cheerfully greets his new roommate. "Do you play cards?" he asks. "What about dice?"

The barracks room is simple but clean. There are 16 raised platforms. Each has a sleeping mat, a brazier, and a sturdy locked chest. The chest that is assigned to Takeshi has a key in the lock.

The barracks has large windows overlooking the courtyard, and narrow barred windows above the main gate. In the corner is a chamberpot behind a screen. The room also has a table with several low chairs near the larger windows.

GOlock angrily denounces Takeshi’s request to plant a garden. “This is a dreaded tower! It’s not allowed to be pretty! Besides, my damned henchmen had better not take long enough for a garden to grow before they get back!”

Fortunately, Takeshi can exercise his green thumb at the local druidic grove, which is located on the estate of a wealthy patron on the outskirts of Ichiba. Takeshi is welcomed there. He recognizes some of the worshipers from their visits to the Imperial gardens. Many of the druidic worshipers are halflings, and they welcome Takeshi in the halfling neighborhood of Ichiba. One fo the local halflings proudly reveals that he sold ponies to Golock’s halfling henchmen.

When Takeshi begins to whittle his figurine, it jumps to life in his hand immediately, gushing blood from the area he was shaving. “Treachery!” It cries. “I am your spirit guide! What have I done to deserve this?”







Last edited by crueldespot; 22nd of May, 2007 at 11:59.
  #62  
Unread 21st of May, 2007, 14:37
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Takeshi promises the guard that he will take some of his money later in the evening before heading otu to accomplish the tasks he has set himself. He very much enjoys his day, until his knife cuts into the figurine and it comes to life in anger. Takeshi looks on in horror as blood spurts from the chipmunk's side. His mouth hangs agape as he quickly works healing magic to mend the wound he caused. He tucks the driftwood gently into his belt and hurries back to the druid grove.

Within the confines of a small grove of trees with a stream flowing through it, he works quickly, using a well worn stick to draw intricate symbols in the soil. He sprinkles rice pollen on the symbols, and tosses a small pinch of it into the air in each of the four cardinal directions. He draws a pinecone with a group of pine nuts around its base from a pouch, smashes one nut to a paste and smears it on his forehead and on the chipmunk's forehead. He then plants the cone in a gap among the trees, makes a small cut along his forearm with his dagger and squezes three drops of blood onto the small mount of turned earth and one drop onto the chipmunk's tail, then gently placing the chipmunk on the ground he prostrates himself before it. He stammers for several moments, trying to explain that he only intended to improve upon the totem, that he didn't realize that the spirit still resided within the wood. He grips both sides of his collar and rips his shirt nearly in two.

"Oh sacred spirit," he continues, his face pressed to the ground, "I beg your forgiveness. I have performed this purification ritual in the hopes that you may find me worthy of your continued favor and guidance. If there is anything else I may do to atone for my carelessness, it shall be done. Help me to know, oh honored ancestor, where my destiny lies, and how I may serve you."
  #63  
Unread 22nd of May, 2007, 11:55
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Interlude 32: The Fate of the Empire

Interlude 32: The Fate of the Empire

The figure comes to life again. "You are forgiven. We are pleased with your endeavors, Sato Takeshi. You have gained the blessing of the Five Martyrs and found the home of your fellow champions. Rest and prepare yourself. The fate of the empire depends on you."


OOC: Where do you intend for Daisuke to sleep?
  #64  
Unread 24th of May, 2007, 08:12
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Takeshi returns with Daisuke to the dreaded tower, where he sees about Daisuke staying in the stables. If the stablemaster is not comfortable with the idea then Takeshi will direct her to find a comfortable place to dig a burrow to sleep in. Upon ensuring that she is taken care of, he sees to his own needs. After a quick meal he tracks down Yi. He spends the time untill the other henchmen return making frequent visits to the druid grove, gambling with the guards, and luxuriating in the baths.
  #65  
Unread 24th of May, 2007, 12:56
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33: A Crashing Noise

Interlude 33: A Crashing Noise

Barnabus has no objection to Daisuke being quartered in the stables, especially once he sees that the only horse in the stables isn’t spooked by the rodent. “We’ve had a lot weirder mounts than this in here, let me tell you” he says. “Just make sure he doesn’t dig a tunnel outside.”

Takeshi is warned about the dangers of the dreaded tower. Magical traps ward the door down to the dungeons, the door upstairs to the fourth floor, and the door to the workshop in the courtyard. Besides the human guards, he is told that there are magically animated defenses, though they aren’t obvious.

Takeshi finds the guards to be congenial company. After returning from his evening visiting the druidic grove and repairing the chipmunk, he joins the other residents of the tower for a fine meal. There is little conversation while Golock is present. Golock finishes his meal hastily and withdraws, after which the others relax and speak freely.

Then he has leisure to soak in his bath. By the time he is done, Takeshi finds the barracks dark, with Barnabus, Er, and San asleep ( Yi and Si are on duty). Takeshi slips into bed and falls asleep.

He is woken by a scream and a crashing noise. He sees through the darkness with his gnomish vision that Barnabus, Er, and San are also sitting up in the beds. Barnabus and San both draw out everburning torches. Another crash is heard. Er leaps out of bed and opens the door out to the battlements. “Si is dead!” he cries. “We are under attack!” announces Barnabus, grabbing a haversack and battleaxe from his footlocker.
  #66  
Unread 25th of May, 2007, 13:23
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Takeshi wastes no time, immediately begining the prayers and incantations which will add an ally to the fight. He briefly wishes that he had thought to have Daisuke sleep in the Barracks, but there is nothing he can do about it, so he resigns himself to fighting without her and hoping that she is safe down in the stable below.

ooc:
5' step out of bed and begin casting summon nature's ally II

spells prepared:
0th light, virtue, resistance, create water, create water
1st cure light wounds, cure light wounds, goodberry, faerie fire
2nd flaming sphere (sacrificed for summon nature's ally), flame blade, bear's endurance

Last edited by Boomlaor; 25th of May, 2007 at 13:25.
  #67  
Unread 25th of May, 2007, 19:19
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34: Ready to Go

Interlude 34: Ready to Go

Takeshi has time to cast as the guards grab their weapons. "Go to the main tower!" orders Barnabus, "to Golock's chambers upstairs. Don't wait on me!" He hobbles in that direction on his pegleg. Er and San don't bother with their armor, time being of the essence. In a few moments they are ready to go.
  #68  
Unread 26th of May, 2007, 05:23
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Takeshi rushes out the door, heading for the small bridge toward the main tower. He takes notice of the enormous dire bat flying about above him as he moves, and smiles in the darkness at the surprise he had created for whatever was attacking the tower.

ooc:
Summon Nature's Ally II completes and a Dire bat appears just outside the open door, flying in the air. Takeshi moves toward the tower, I'm not sure where he started, so I don't know how far he can make it, but he's running.
  #69  
Unread 26th of May, 2007, 06:26
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35: Guards and Wards

Interlude 35: Guards and Wards

Barnabus had a head start, but the peg-legged veteran is quickly overtaken by the two unarmored guards, with the smaller Takeshi following behind.

They race through the bath chamber and the trophy room, both of which are well-lit by ever-burning torches, and arrive on the balcony above the audience chamber. This area is also bright, due to an an ever-burning flame in the middle of the ceiling overhead. This allows them to see that the stairway across the tower is filled with cobwebs. A broad pillar of cobwebs fills both the stairs up and the stairs down.

"It's a spell of guards a wards" explains Barnabus. "There's a mechanism that sets it off. It affects the level above us, these stairs, and part of the dungeon and workshop. It fills the stairs with webs, the corridors with fog, locks the doors, and does some other things, too."

As Barnabus explains this, smoke and then flames appear at the top of the stairwell as the web burns down from above.
  #70  
Unread 26th of May, 2007, 06:43
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Takeshi acts quickly, reacting on instinct. If the webs are a protectionary measure, he thinks, them being on fire is not a good thing. Takeshi calls again on the natural spirits and peers up the stairs to see the results of his casting.

ooc:
cast create water targeted in as broad an area as possible directly above the flames, attempting to extinguish them. If Barnabus moves, follow after him.
  #71  
Unread 26th of May, 2007, 18:50
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36: Webs Ten Feet Thick Remain

Interlude 36: Webs Ten Feet Thick Remain

Takeshi's spell puts out the fire that was burning the web downward. Webs ten feet thick remain to bar their way upward. Beyond that ten foot thick barrier, the stairs are clear as far as they can see at this angle.

Barnabus hobbles up to the stairs. "Curses! The intruders are above us on the stairs. Otherwise, where did the fire come from? So the fire is still burning upward to clear their way towards Golock, but not burning downward to clear the way for us!" He howls in frustration.

Barnabus and the others don't seem to realize that Takeshi put out the fire. After all, he cast another spell earlier with no visible result. Perhaps they think he is casting to boost his own abilities?

"Does anyone have a fire so we can burn our way through? Otherwise..." Barnabus prepares to plunge into the web and bore his way through.
  #72  
Unread 29th of May, 2007, 01:15
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Takeshi makes a mental note to check with somone who knows more about the tower before acting in the future. However, since fire has been requested, he does his best to oblige, and as he casts his spell a scimitar shaped flame springs into being in his hand.

ooc: cast flame blade and attack the web.
  #73  
Unread 29th of May, 2007, 07:47
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37: Black Tentacles

Interlude 37: Black Tentacles

The fire spreads through the web after Takeshi lights the edge. They follow the flames upward. Shortly the web blockage is removed and the stairs are clear.

The hallway at the top of the stairs is filled with fog. The topmost steps sprout long black tentacles. More tentacles can be seen dimly behind them, within the fog.

Two of the nearest tentacles are wrapped around a prone and unconscious person in dark armor. Just as Takeshi and his allies arrive, the tentacles finish squeezing the life out of their victim and release him.

“It’s a spell of Golock’s!” announces Barnabus from the rear of the group.

  #74  
Unread 29th of May, 2007, 13:29
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Pulling slightly on the hem of Barnabus's tunic, Takeshi asks him, "Has the dread wizard thought to include a password for those of us who would defend his tower?"
  #75  
Unread 29th of May, 2007, 19:44
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38: The Old Fool Is On His Own

Interlude 38: The Old Fool Is On His Own

Barnabus rolls his eyes.

"I asked for such, but he told me 'Your will is not strong enough to resist mindreading.' I didn't even know about these tentacles. Maybe they are part of a trap, or maybe he just summoned them. Now the old fool is on his own."

Barnabus swings his axe against the wall in frustration, scarring the stone. They hear muffled cries from victims of the tentacles deeper in the fog.
 

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