[Fate RP] Romance of the Three Kingdoms: CE184

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Re: [Fate RP] Romance of the Three Kingdoms: CE184

Postby Kivutar » Wed Mar 06, 2019 8:30 pm

Dewang stares at the newcomer in confusion. This is no mere beggar, he can tell. Is it who he thinks it is? Impossible, surely.

"New god of death?" he hears his own voice say.
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Then the LORD said to me, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes."

Hosea 3:1
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Re: [Fate RP] Romance of the Three Kingdoms: CE184

Postby Scarik » Wed Mar 06, 2019 10:16 pm

Baozi

The older man prays quietly in traditional style. He chants his mantras and blessings as one would to any deity for several more minutes before invoking the goddess herself.

"Oh Lady Senlin, great queen of the dark wood, healer of the sick and ruiner of the false, bestow your wisdom on this insignificant servant so that he might render judgement in this life according to your divine mercy."


Dewang

"Ho oh!" the man laughs, "No, nothing like that. I am a traveler and a friend to the just and the merciful."

He changes how he is sat upon the low wall and the snake and the turtle both come up under him so that he can rest his bare feet on their backs.

"But enough about me, what brings you here to this forgotten place? You must be foreign to not know that the people here now pray to Senlin Gui to protect them in the afterlife."
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Re: [Fate RP] Romance of the Three Kingdoms: CE184

Postby CarrieVS » Wed Mar 06, 2019 11:04 pm

That sounds like what a magistrate might pray for, if he was sincere about his job. But it's not much to go on to form an opinion of the man, except that it seems likely this is indeed the head of the Hui family.

Baozi stares at the fish pond a moment longer, then at the nearest of the three gardeners, as though weighing up the safety of venturing closer. He yawns, and pads away from the main shrine, looking for an opportunity to slip out of this room into the north wing.
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Re: [Fate RP] Romance of the Three Kingdoms: CE184

Postby Kivutar » Wed Mar 06, 2019 11:24 pm

Dewang kneels hastily.

"I am honoured to be in your presence, Sir," he says. "How can I serve your purposes?"
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Then the LORD said to me, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes."

Hosea 3:1
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Re: [Fate RP] Romance of the Three Kingdoms: CE184

Postby Scarik » Thu Mar 07, 2019 4:53 am

Baozi

His chance comes quickly when a devilishly handsome young man in rich robes sweeps into the shrine accompanied by a woman of such stunning beauty that even the cat spirit stops for a moment before dashing past them into the high family wing.

The pair are accompanied by a dozen servants and they seem to have excellent timing as they come to stand by the older man just as he has finished his prayers.

"Father," the man says, "I trust your devotions are satisfactory to the goddess?" The woman says nothing though her eyes betray her alertness.

"Be still that arrogant tongue, Jiao," father rebukes his son. "Lady Senlin may indulge you and tolerate such familiarity but you will do well to remember whose house this is and who it was that raised you to such prominence."

Jiao does not seem very affected but he bows and apologizes anyway.


Dewang

The god nods in approval, "Well mannered and well educated, I see. And I can sense a great devotion and understanding of the Tao within you, Zhiteng."

Xuanwu stands up then and for a moment puts his full weight on his animal companions, who bear it without a sound, before he steps forward. As he does his demeanor grows more intense and his appearance more profound. The stick in his hand grows and widens until it is a strong staff fit for a warrior-monk and his clothes, while still un adorned improve in quality beyond any cloth not worn by an emperor.

"This is a dark time, when the Mandate of Heaven falls from the grip of its bearer, and is left to the deeds of the mundane and the ambitious. Sorcerer Jue betrayed the trust of the Yellow Emperor and allowed wickedness to grow like bamboo in his heart. Now all the world will suffer a full cycle* of war and none can know who will prevail."

He stops and appraises the prostrate magicians before him once more.

"The hearts of your students sing for you, their faith is strong and pure. There is no greater proof of a man's goodness than the love of his charges. No law or custom demands that you remain in this place or that you risk yourself for those who are missing. That you do will see you through many terrible days to come."

Then, as suddenly as he appeared, Beidi, the Northern Emperor, vanishes before their eyes. The snake and the turtle, however, remain.

"Beware the Lin Kuei," the snake hisses, "They will not forgive you lightly."

"But they are devout," the turtle croaks, "and they will attend their goddess on the new moon."

*60 years
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Re: [Fate RP] Romance of the Three Kingdoms: CE184

Postby Kivutar » Thu Mar 07, 2019 9:49 pm

Dewang and his clerks stay in place, awestruck, for several minutes. Eventually, they get up and look at each other, none of them saying a word, and all understanding.

Before they leave, they collect the bones of the unfortunate priests and attempt to lay them with more dignity.
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Then the LORD said to me, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes."

Hosea 3:1
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Re: [Fate RP] Romance of the Three Kingdoms: CE184

Postby CarrieVS » Thu Mar 07, 2019 10:41 pm

Baozi begins to dash for the door as it opens, but on seeing who is entering the shrine room he stops in his tracks an instant, and makes a split-second decision. Better to follow the twins than to poke about empty rooms.

He turns on his tail and bolts in the opposite direction to that he had been going, as though startled by the approaching crowd of people. He halts, bristling, tail straight out, still feigning fear, next to the wall, and watches the conversation between the magistrate and his son.
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Re: [Fate RP] Romance of the Three Kingdoms: CE184

Postby CarrieVS » Wed Mar 13, 2019 1:50 am

That was a bad move. The cat is now too much of an intrusion to be tolerated and some of the servants employ their brooms to chase it out. Baozi avoids the blows easily enough and once they have herded him to an outside door and sent him dashing out into the garden they leave him be, but he has blown his chance of seeing the family rooms.

He darts under a bush and turns to look back and survey the situation. He still might be able to discover something useful from the grounds - or perhaps even a way back inside. Nothing catches his eye, though. Except a building which appears to be a grain store, standing not too far from the doors where he was ejected.

All granaries are havens for rodents and it doesn't take too long to stalk and pounce on a fat mouse. The cat tastes blood and he has to resist the urge to eat his prey now. Instead, he carries it back towards the house: a good cat, a lucky gold cat sent as a mild favour from heaven to protect their stores. He lays his offering down and sits licking his paws and restraining the cat-spirit's urge to eat the meat. After a while his patience is rewarded by a servant returning to the house by that door.

She sees the mouse first, reacting with initial disgust, and then the cat. When she looks at him, Baozi raises his right paw for a moment to the level of his head, in such a way that he might just have been scratching his ear or batting away a tiny insect - but that it also looks very like a lucky cat beckoning good fortune to the house. She looks startled, but smiles, and although she disappears into the house she comes back a few minutes later with another woman - and some fish. Baozi stands up with his tail straight in the air and an excited "Mao." They watch him eat, purring, although when one bends down to touch him he backs away just beyond her reach.

He's been taking note of the comings and goings as he's sat there, and it starts to seem odd that with all the bustle across this huge complex no-one comes or goes to the pagoda that stands in the north-east corner.

He gets up with a yawn and saunters off vaguely in that direction, taking care to nose around in the gardens' plants and take a roundabout route. It's obvious before he gets too close that the pagoda is heavily guarded. The only windows are high, and the door is shut and flanked by armed men. Baozi flops down in a patch of sun with a good view of the door and pretends to doze while keeping a watch on the building.

There seem to be a dozen guards, stationed around the door, at posts to either side of the building, and patrolling its perimeter. Some with crossbows, some with halberds, all with heavier armour than the soldiers around the walls of the compound. There is a valuable secret in there for sure: but how to make certain of what?

His chance comes when a woman passes a short distance from him: the first person to approach the pagoda so far. She is bearing a tray and the cat's sensitive nose detects both cheese and tea. He jumps up, raising his tail in greeting and giving her a friendly, pleading mao. She is a little too well dressed to be a servant - some more trusted employee or lesser family member, perhaps? Whatever she is, he's misjudged his assault, or else she simply doesn't like cats. She glares, but her tray is heavy and awkward and she can't shoo him away without losing her balance, and Baozi follows close on her heels, still putting up a show of begging for the food he can smell.

One of the guards comes to the lady's assistance and aims a blow at the cat with the butt of his halberd as another opens the door to let her in. Baozi dodges easily but is unable to slip through the opening at the same time. Nonetheless, he manages to glimpse the interior: nothing on the ground floor but stairs: up, and down to what must be the tomb. The lady goes upward, and Baozi darts away from the pagoda. He turns once out of reach and hisses defiance, but again he has missed his chance. Still, food - and at least enough for two to judge by the weight of the tray - being brought into an excessively guarded outbuilding which no servants may approach is almost conclusive.

He trots back towards the southern gate where he came in, and leaves with no more difficulty. It takes a little while to travel back through the city to their camp, but it's uneventful.
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Re: [Fate RP] Romance of the Three Kingdoms: CE184

Postby Ladki96 » Wed Mar 20, 2019 10:53 pm

Baozi doesn’t see either of his brothers as he reaches the camp, which makes things easier. He simply trots up to his own tent and slips inside. A few minutes later, he steps out in his human form and goes to look for them.

Wenchang spots him first and beckons him over. “Baozi! Where on earth did you go? When did you come back? You lightly announced your intention to “seek information” and I just let you go and you were gone for hours and we were just discussing a siege and-”

Dewang coughs, and Wenchang finally tails off. Baozi looks at the ground.

“I’m sorry, I’ve only just come back. The Huis’ manor is so large that it took a long time even to cross it, and then I had to wait and watch to gather information.”

“The Huis’ manor! How could you possibly have got inside their home? How did you get out again? You know they want to kill you, how could you take such a risk?” Wenchang breaks off from scolding his younger brother to seize him in a crushing embrace.

Baozi submits passively to the assault. “I’m sorry,” he says again, “I thought you knew where I was going. But I couldn’t be recognised; I…” He should tell Wenchang the truth, he knows, but he can’t bring himself to. He only told Dewang because there was no choice, and other than him only Baozi’s grandmother ever knew. “I had a very good disguise,” he finishes, lamely, with a nervous glance at Dewang, who tilts his head ever so slightly. If Baozi doesn’t intend to tell Wenchang his secret yet, Dewang is not about to force the matter.

“I think I’ve found where the Huis are keeping them,” Baozi says, and explains about the guarded pagoda, hoping that his information will deflect attention from how he got it. He describes the shrine as well, seeming to combine all the stories of the Forest God, and relates the brief snippet of conversation he overheard between the Magistrate and his son. “The whole compound is huge and heavily guarded,” he says finally, outlining the scale of the defenses. “It would need an army to attack it, not a company. I’m not sure how we could get them out by stealth either: I need to think.” There has to be a way.

Wenchang looks at Baozi’s hand-drawn map. “That is indeed a lot of men. We could take the pagoda itself, though, and even these twin towers if it weren’t for the rest. Maybe Ge Dewang’s discovery will be helpful too.”

Dewang nods again. He’s been uncharacteristically quiet, and hasn’t told Wenchang much yet, save that he had visited a temple to learn more of the cult.

“Oh, what did you find out?” Baozi asks him.

Dewang wonders how much he can say without looking presumptuous, or simply insane. Eventually, he decides to tell the plain truth - they are his younger brothers now, for better or for worse.

“I dare not guess at what he meant about Heaven’s will,” he says, with a slightly wary glance at Wenchang. He is mildly surprised - he would have expected his proper-minded brother to bristle at the suggestion, but Wenchang is listening with keen interest. “But we now know for certain that in three days, the cult of the Forest God will be up to no good. I fear that the prisoners may be in danger - cults have done strange and terrible things to honour their strange gods.”

“If we can’t rescue them before then,” Baozi breaks in, “at least if they are going to bring them out of that fortress - I suppose it would be in the forest, not in their shrine? Then we may get our chance when they do.”

“We don’t know where this shrine is in the forest though, and they are a secretive lot,” Wenchang worries.

“It is possible that Magistrate Hui does not know that his children are bandits, or does not approve,” says Dewang, with a nod to Baozi. “At any rate, there is no chance whatsoever of success if we attack the palace, and waiting till the new moon would be taking a very great risk when we know nothing of what their plans are.”

“Perhaps they will be willing to negotiate their release? Or their father will, at least,” Baozi suggests.

“Perhaps it would be best to try,” says Dewang, slowly. “From what you heard, the magistrate is a reasonable man. But what if he does refuse? We will have revealed ourselves for nothing.”

“We are camped on their doorstep,” Wenchang points at the city walls.

“We will already have revealed ourselves,” Baozi adds. “It’s bound to reach the family that we are looking for them, after today. But I think I shouldn’t go with you; that would only place temptation in their path.”

“You will not come with us,” says Dewang severely. “You’ve risked your life enough already.”

“What can we offer them?”

“Our service, maybe?” Wenchang suggests. “We are not technically beholden to anyone anymore, and we don’t have any gold or slaves.”

Dewang simply stares, furrowing his brow. After what they have been through, perhaps Wenchang’s faith in the Han has been shaken, but for him to openly suggest working for a cultist? Truly, the supernatural experience has changed his friend - Dewang feels a twinge of worry, but they have other, more urgent problems at the moment. He resolves to investigate these ghosts of Yan further, when his apprentices are safe.

“If they would want it - and if we would be happy to work for such people,” Baozi says, slowly. “But we know one thing they do want. And if we’re right that they mean to use their prisoners in this ritual, they might be willing to exchange them for another prisoner - someone who they want dead anyway.”

Now it is Wenchang’s turn to stare. “You do not mean - no. Absolutely not.”

“It almost killed you last time and it will not happen again,” agrees Dewang. “I put them in danger, and I will go alone.”

Baozi almost forgets himself so far as to say that Dewang mustn’t go alone. “I don’t think you should go alone: you will be in much less danger if you two go together, and take some guards.” He thinks for a moment, “If you can offer them something else, then that will be best, but if they won’t accept anything else we can give them, we must try something. I am sure that I would be fine: if they want to use me in their ritual, they will lock me up until they are ready, and then I will have a chance to escape, the same way I did today.”

Dewang is about to argue, but concedes the point. Going alone would be foolhardy, and better to rescue his apprentices than to be unceremoniously killed. Instead, he points out the obvious. “I saw through your... disguise, before. If they examined you closely, perhaps they could too.”

“I don’t expect that they will. I hope that I would be able to slip out in … in disguise before they even realise that anything has changed.”

”When you are in disguise, do you have any ability to fight?” asks Dewang. “You may not be able to escape.”

“A little… given the element of surprise.” If only he could take the powerful shapes his ancestor could - an eagle or wolf, or best of all the great mountain leopard, “But I don’t intend to need to: I will be beneath notice and I can hide in places that they would never think to look for their escaped prisoner.”

“And what is this great disguise?” Wenchang interrupts. “Why would it hamper his fighting abilities? Why are you sure of being unseen?” He looks from one brother to the other in some puzzlement.

Baozi looks at the ground. He will have to confess: Wenchang is right, it would be quite ludicrous for any normal disguise to keep him safe in such circumstances. They would search any unrecognised person they saw - but not a cat. Why would they have any reason to look at a cat? “I… I can change my shape,” he admits, “take on the form of a cat. My ancestor’s spirit taught me, when I was a little boy.”

“...What?” Did Wenchang hear Baozi correctly?

“I’m sorry that I kept it from you. I… I’m sorry.”

“Oh, no, it’s just…” Wait, he’s actually serious. “I had no idea you were a sorcerer as well!” Wait, Baozi’s a sorcerer! “That’s amazing! How do you do that? Are there chants? What do you mean, ancestor’s spirit? That’s so cool! Can you show me? Since when has our brother known this? Can you do that too? Wait so you became a cat and snuck into the Hui Quarter?” Wow. “And you just roamed all around, and no one took notice! I mean, of course, no one took notice. Say, can you be a monstrous cat as well? Can you show me?”

Dewang hides a smile and leaves the explanation to Baozi.

“My ancestor could become many shapes, like a mountain leopard - a grey leopard. But I have only ever called on the spirit of a small cat. I am not much of a sorcerer,” Baozi says.

“That’s still awesome,” argues Wenchang. “You certainly fooled me.”

“I am sorry.”

“No, no. That’s amazing, that you could do that!”

“So you see how I will be able to hide and escape, right under the Huis’ noses. They will never suspect.” Baozi tries to turn the conversation back to their plans.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” sighs Dewang. “Well, I will seek an appointment with the magistrate as soon as possible. If he is willing to talk to me - perhaps we may yet come out of this without fighting or doing anything foolish.”

“That would be best,” Baozi agrees. “But in case we have to use this stratagem, you must take care not to let on that we are brothers, or even friends. I am just your employee, or else they will not believe that you will trade my life for your apprentices, and they will expect a trick.”

“It still feels wrong, somehow," frowns Wenchang. "To turn you over. But I suppose logically, it’s not as risky as, well, you being ordinary?”



Between the two of them, Dewang and Baozi put together a petition to be seen by the magistrate.

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Re: [Fate RP] Romance of the Three Kingdoms: CE184

Postby Scarik » Sat Mar 23, 2019 2:18 am

Between Baozi and Dewang it shouldn't be difficult to present a credible petition and see the magistrate quickly. Both are experienced officials and people in the commandery know of their reputations.

But it proves more difficult mainly do to the petty clerks who handle these things. The magistrate is well booked, they say, and does not wish to be overrun with additional petitioners and so on and so forth. He doesn't seem to know who they are, or indeed that there exists anyone aside from the magistrate in any position of power because he has no interest at all in their travel papers.

He doesn't even seem to know who the governor is, but eventually he relents and passes the petition along.

The next day Magistrate Hui agrees to the audience for the following day, leaving only one more day before the new moon.

Of course, that would require them to survive the night...

*************************

Their camp is a good one, made as it is by professional soldiers who tend to dislike being overrun in the night. So while it isn't fortified it is defensible. They have chosen a low rise away from other hills that allows a long, shallow approach on three sides. This maximizes their view and also happens to be excellent ground for a cavalry charge.

The fourth side is steeper, unsuitable for horses. The soldiers have dug several trenches for both defense and waste disposal and set stakes up at intervals to break the cohesion of any attacking unit. They congratulate themselves on how only expert skirmishers have any chance of taking them unaware.

Baozi orders them to fortify the steep side which causes some small amount of grumbling. They obey and they know that Master Mao is wiser in war than they but who would ever try and come up such a slope? Why bother to add stakes and torches and dig a ditch at its base? Why post a double guard just to look there?

When they realized they can throw refuse into it and not smell it at noon they changed their tune.

But that was days ago and now the routine has become, well, routine. Just after midnight they change the guard, Master Mao insists on short watch periods to maintain alertness, but there is no cure for the darkest stretch of night. Just before the dawn, people and horses are at their least alert, and even the bare sliver of the last day before New Moon is gone.

All they have are the stars and their torches.
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