[Scarlet] Sunless Citadel (Chapter One)

edited March 2014 in In-Game
Laughing Crane and Ba Jiao,

It's a few weeks before summer solstice and the hills are lush with growth, though the heat sometimes grows oppressive. You're both sitting at a tea house in Guobei, waiting for the arrival of an older Imperial Woman named Hu Yiping. She's requested a meeting with you through ugly little Sharwen, one of her underlings who approached you where you were staying here in Guobei.

Laughing Crane, how long have you been in Guobei, and how did you hear of the legend of the Sunless Citadel?

Ba Jiao, you heard a rumor that Hu Yiping recently lost both her son and daughter, that they "simply disappeared without a trace". How did you find that out?

The Happy Songbird Tea House, the place you're in right now just after midday, has tables under a wide roof, with huge open windows letting in the breeze and the sun, with small birdcages hanging throughout the place. Small singing birds sit in these cages, chirping and singing their odd tunes. The people of Guobei feed the birds when they like their songs. The birds are well fed. The young women who serve tea here are of mixed Imperial blood, with long, fine black hair and almond eyes, tight smiles that they offer to those who seem like they are good tippers.

Both of you, have you been to Happy Songbird Tea House before? What is it that you find most pleasant about this place?

You see Hu Yiping arriving in a small palanquin. Ba Jiao, you recognize her family seal on the palanquin. Laughing Crane, you note that Sharwen was walking behind the palanquin. The palanquin is carried by three stout Kueh men and one Kueh woman, all wearing simple gray robes cut short to maximize freedom of movement. They move to help Hu Yiping out of her seat, but she's obviously not so aged to be infirm. It's merely a formality. She steps with a practiced grace down the lacquered wooden steps and with Sharwen behind her, she slowly makes her way towards the tea house. The Kueh stay behind. It's obvious to the two of you that they are laborers, not warriors.

What do you do?
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Comments

  • I quietly enjoy a rice beer while we await Hu Yiping. It has been a month or so since my last visit to this tea house. I rarely come into this section of the city. When last I was here I was buying the layout of a family crypt from a down on his luck nobleborn. He wanted me to retrieve certain items to allow him to continue his pastime of gambling.

    The singing of the birds is beautiful. However, it is also sad. These beautiful song birds that wish to stretch their wings and flutter around freely. People are not so different from these birds. Like the birds many of us are locked up and made to sing. And, like the birds, whether locked up or free, songs are carried, bird to bird, until they reach my ears.

    As Hu Yiping approaches, I break off a piece of bread and toss it into a nearby cage and finish off my beer.
  • Guobei, being far enough from Liu Clan lands that I remain pretty anonymous, has been my home for a few weeks. My usual hangout has been the Moon Fan Inn. It has a veneer of class and respectability that I find comforting. Plus, the Innkeeper, Madame Xi-wei, let's me work as a bouncer for room and board. And the girls tip me a little coin when I have to throw someone out. One night I overheard a patron sharing rumors of the Sunless Citadel.

    This is my first time to the Happy Songbird. I enjoy some tea as I contemplate the birds. The tea is much better than Moon Fan Inn serves, I may have to start coming here more often.

    Dipping my finger in a puddle of tea, I write

    The caged bird sings
    most beautifully for her captor
    Her happiness is a mask


    Then I see Lady Hu and write a linked verse.

    The Matron of the Clan
    rides in her cage
    to meet the Youxia
  • Hu Yiping, shadowed by Sharwen, comes to sit at your table. After pleasantries and ordering some black dragon oolong tea with a tiny bit of honey, Hu Yiping says in her quiet, still voice, "My man Sharwen tells me that the two of you might aide me in my time of need. I am a mother of two very senseless children. My daughter, Jiaohua, and her younger brother Jianmin, fancy themselves adventurers. Last month, the pair of them traveled with some friends to explore the Sunless Citadel. They have not returned."

    She pauses, takes another sip of her tea. You see the careworn lines on her forehead now, the creases of tension at her brows, the redness to her eyes. She continues, "I no longer hope for their safe return, but I do pray for it. If only I could know their fate, it would at least settle my heart. Each of them carried a signet ring, bearing the mark of my family. I offer you, if you are also senseless as Sharwen suggests, one hundred twenty-five gold for each signet ring returned to me." She takes another drink of the tea, finishing the cup, "If you bring either, or both, to me again in good mind and body... I would double that payment. What... do you say to that?"
  • edited April 2014
    "So, The Sunless Citadel. Did they go alone? No porters or other servants? No guide?"

    I don't really know much about this Sunless Citadel, just a general direction. I've heard it's haunted and I gather by the name is deep in the forest, how else could a citadel be sunless? Any stories didn't make it north to my Clan's homeland, so I don't know much.

    While I may be a noble at heart, I have an image to keep up here. If I want to be taken seriously as a wandering swordsman I need to be a bit more brash than normal decorum would allow.
  • Sharwen pours Hu Yiping more tea as she waits patiently, calmly. "No, they refused porters or servants. They called themselves an adventuring party, said they would return as heroes. My children traveled to the Sunless Citadel with Sito, a devout follower of Mimamsa, and Luli Gongsun, who my son fancied. She didn't live in the town, but somewhere in the forest. None have returned."
  • I bring my hands together and make a small bow at the mention of Mimamsa
    "I too give reverence to the Azure Scribe."
    I lean back and take on an air of nonchalance.

    "As to the matter of recompense, your offer is good, but it lacks something."
    I tap my finger against my chin as if pondering some difficult matter of business. Then I continue, in a theatrical manner. "Ah yes, provisioning funds. You see, meeting here just about used up my last penny. We'll need food and supplies for the trail. And horses would carry us to the Citadel much faster, and be absolutely necessary should we find...well should someone be alive, but unable to walk. And lanterns. Rope, oh yes, rope. Lots of rope. Anything to add, Master Ba?"
  • At the mention of the their destination I exclaim, "The stories of the Sunless Citadel are very.... unpleasant."

    The stories that Liu has heard of the hauntings are widely known. Recovering these rings will pose no small task. Should one of the children be alive, our troubles will only grow. While Hu Yiping and Laughing Crane discuss the terms of our employ I drift off thinking of the ghost I encountered last fall. I subconciously rub my left hand. Sometimes, even in these warmer summer months, it throbs with an icy cold.


    My companion's question rouses me from my memories.

    "That seems a most complete list of supplies, Laughing Crane."
  • edited April 2014
    Hu Yiping looks at each of you calmly, considering. She takes another sip of her tea, then answers, "Very well. My man Sharwen will assist you in supplying your expedition. I will provide him with the monies needed. How soon until you leave?"
  • "Well, my ties here are easily cut."
    I rise with a slow flourish, then bow to Lady Hu.
    "And for such a noble endeavor, I gladly cut them immediately."
    I position my sword and tighten my sash.
  • I stand, notice my companion's actions, and mirror his bow then slowly stretch my arms.

    I look to Liu and nod in agreement. I then turn my attention to Hu Yipping.
    "Certainly the more immediate our departure the better our chances of a rescue."
  • --End Scene--
  • Ba Jiao,

    You were able to score a map to the Sunless Citadel from somewhere in Guobei. How did you swing that?

    Here it is, by the by:
    image
  • edited April 2014
    TRAVEL TO SUNLESS CITADEL:

    The overgrown Old Road winds through rocky downs, near stands of old-growth oak, and past two abandoned farm shacks. The lonely road is empty of all travelers except for the two of you. The distance between Guobei and the Sunless Citadel, via the Old Road, is seven miles. This distance requires half a day of walking.

    It's a few weeks before summer solstice. The hills are lush with growth, though the heat sometimes grows oppressive.

    ---------------------------------------------
    image
    The Old Road passes to the east of a narrow ravine. At the road's closest approach to the cleft, several broken pillars jut from the earth where the ravine widens and opens into something more akin to a deep, but narrow, canyon. Two of the pillars stand straight, but most of them lean against the sloped earth. Others are broken, and several have apparently fallen into the darkness-shrouded depths. A few similar pillars are visible on the opposite side of the ravine.

    The ravine runs for several miles in either direction, with an average depth and width of 30 feet. At the point where it most closely intersects the Old Road, it widens to 40 feet. It also plunges much deeper into the earth near the pillars you see above. The pillars are generally worn and broken, and from horseback, you can see that graffiti in the Dwarven alphabet covers most of them.

    What do you do?
  • I hobble the mount and begin investigating the ravine.

    Do I hear anything?
    Do I smell anything?

    I want to find a pillar that looks sturdy and tie one end of a rope to it, the other end I tie around my waist.

    Then, sword ready, I begin investigating the edge of the ravine.

    Specifically I am looking for 1) something I think would be the Sunless Citadel and b) a way down the side of the ravine.
  • Laughing Crane, you find that the area in and around the pillars has hosted countless small campfires—some of them recent (probably weeks old, not years). However, someone went to some effort to hide the evidence of the camps from casual scrutiny.

    As you come nearer to the ravine, both of you see a sturdy knotted rope tied to one of the leaning pillars. The rope hangs down into the darkness below. Judging by its good condition, the rope couldn't have been tied there for very long. You can also see older and weathered hand- and footholds carved into the cliff face. The hand and foot holds are small, like they would be useful for a large child, perhaps a teenager?

    Looking down into the chasm, you see a sandy ledge about thirty feet down. That ledge overlooks a subterranean gulf of darkness to the west. The ledge is wide but rough. Sand, rocky debris, and the bones of small animals cover it. A roughly hewn stairwell zigs and zags down the side of the ledge, descending into darkness.

    You can descend the rope already in place, or use your own. Either way, you can reach the ledge. It does not appear your rope is long enough to reach the bottom of the chasm, which is perhaps a hundred feet down (I assume you drop a rock and use that for a guess? If not, then it disappears into darkness, your call).

    What do you do?
  • I will closely examine the rope and pull it up. Then I will sit quietly on the edge of the ravine and listen. And smell.
    The mongoose circles and waits. He sniffs the air and listens to the grass. Only then does he attack the cobra.
    -- Tzu Han. Heavenly Strategy. Forest Scroll
  • I will tie up the donkey to one of the pillars farthest from the edge of the chasm. From the supply bags I'll take my satchel of "exploring supplies" and toss it over my shoulder. I causually flip an iron spike in my hand as I go examine the ravine's edge.
  • "So, Ba Jiao, " I rise and prepare my gear, "As far as I can tell, the way to the Citadel is down to the ledge, then down the steps. You ready? "

    If he agrees, I will begin climbing down the knotted rope.
  • image

    Laughing Crane,

    You lead the way down the rope. It's knotted, which makes it easier. By the time you reach the sandy ledge, your arms are slightly tired, but some time to recover should take care of that...

    EXCEPT!

    image

    As you're waiting for Ba Jiao, a three foot long dire rat comes out from a hole in the rubble at your feet and attacks!
  • Dire Rat surprise attack
    D20 roll plus HD 1+1 plus Laughing Crane's AC of 5
    #DiceRoller(1d20+6)

    Attacks work like this.
    1d20 PLUS class attack bonus, PLUS relevant attribute modifier AND THEN enemy’s armor class.
    If the total is 20 or more, the attack hits. A natural roll of 20 always hits and a natural roll of 1 always misses.
  • Wow! Nat 20! This rat got your ankle something fierce!

    Now, I'll roll it's damage, which is a 1d4 bite
    #DiceRoller(1d4)

    Enemy damage to PCs works like this:
    For each die that comes up 1, no damage is done. For each die that rolls from 2 to 5, one point of damage is done. For each die that rolls 6 to 9, two points of damage are done, and for each result of 10+ four points of damage are inflicted.
    This counting method applies whenever damage is done, whether from spell, trap, misfortune or blade. Count each damage die individually; a 3d6 attack is three dice from 1 to 6, not one roll of 3 to 18.
  • edited April 2014
    Laughing Crane, you take 1 hit point of damage from the bite.

    The rat tears into your ankle, biting off a small chuck of flesh. It hurts quite a lot.

    You see two more rats scurry around to flank, they seem to be working as a little pack, but won't reach you this round. That's the end of round one.

    Their AC is 5.

    You go first in the next round, Laughing Crane.

    Ba Jiao, you may also act.
  • I stomp and kick my leg to shake the vile thing off, then slice at it with my Jian.
  • Attack (attack bonus+str bonus+ac)
    #DiceRoller( 1d20+8 )

    Fray
    #DiceRoller( 1d8 )
  • Laughing Crane, your main attack misses, but the rat trying to move around you gets close enough for you to kick it off the ledge. It squeaks as it falls, falls down into the chasm.
  • Hearing the commotion below alerts me to the danger my friend is in. I'll drop down to the ledge and draw out hook sword.

    "Crane, these nuisances will not compare to what awaits us in the Citadel!"

    If one of the other two giant rats is too close for comfort, I'll take a swing at one hoping to send it flying off into the ravine's abyss.
  • Go ahead and make an attack roll, Ba Jiao.

    You'll roll 1d20 plus your attack bonus plus 5 for their AC.

    Don't forget your fray die attack as well.
  • edited April 2014
    Attack (attack bonus+str bonus+ac):
    #DiceRoller(1d20+6)

    Fray Dice:
    #DiceRoller(1d6)
  • Ba Jiao,

    You swipe at the dire rat with your hook sword, clip it's right ear off and cut into it's neck. It tries to scamper away, but you side-step and stomp the damned thing's neck, breaking it.

    Both of you,

    The third dire rat scurries away with a squeak, ducking into rubble and trying to disappear. It won't bother you again.

    -----------------------------
    The 5-foot-wide stairs leading down from this ledge are not particularly well made. However, they are not dangerous to any except those who move quickly or without caution. Three switchbacks
    are on the stairs, each of which opens onto a small landing.

    There is nothing on the stairs, just cracks and broken pieces of stone. The area is getting darker, and soon you won't be able to see by the sunlight above.

    What will you use for light?
  • "Whew. Thank you mister rat for the warm-up!"
    I bend over to wipe my bitten ankle and tie a bandage around it.
    Then I light a lantern.
    "I understand the ancients sometimes left traps in these kinds of places. Do you think these steps are safe?"
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