Friday, June 19, 2020

Part 11: Everyone Likes The Water Temple, Right?

A few days after the absolute mess that was the last session, word had gotten around about the party's exploits as well as their current goals in the Shenzhou region. While the arrests of the local crime syndicate upset some people (namely the hopeless gambling addicts of the region), their positive reputation allowed them to have a greater glimpse into local rumors, chief among them being that an old Tortle had been making his way to a place known locally as The Temple By The Sea. About a half day's journey south from the city they had landed at, the Temple By The Sea was a shrine to a dragon known as the Qingtong Long, supposedly a coastal guardian.

Deciding that that lead was as good as any, and warned that, because of rough terrain, they'd have to make the journey on foot, they left the ship under the watch of Bubbles' goblin entourage and set out. The cliffside road that they took wound between the coast and, when adequate land was available, farm plots.

After a brief interlude of hiking through the nice, coastal summer weather, the temple came into view. A stone staircase cut into the cliffside descended to the temple's compound which was comprised of a number of buildings, presumably living quarters for the monks, educational facilities, and such, with a large building in the center as the primary place of worship.

As the group got closer to the main building, they heard shouting coming from within.

"You're Chen's pet, you must know how to get into the inner sanctum!"

A string of insults from a female voice followed.

At the sound of possible danger, the party quickly, but quietly made their way into the building, trying to assess the situation and get the drop on those who might be out to hurt Yesmae's master Don Chen. Which turned out to be two bandits, and Master Chen's pet? A talking cat, like Jangle.

Upon seeing another talking cat, something snapped in Bubbles, and...well...

Nah I'm just kidding. Not that Bubbles didn't want to, but Savin, knowing exactly what Bubbles was going to do before he asked, in all seriousness, "Can I shoot it?" gave Bubbles the look.

The look, of course, that needs no introduction or clarification. The look that parent and child alike recognize that can be a message as simple as, "No," yet as complex as, "I know what you're thinking, and if you do, I am going to make the rest of your now very short life still seem everlastingly too long because of how painful it's about to get."

While this exchange was going on, Jangle ambled out of cover to attempt to flirt with the cat/distract the bandits? I'll be honest none of us know what he was doing here. Anyway, while he continued meowing (not even speaking common, meowing) to the new cat, the rest of the party discussed the best approach. Savin decided to cast Hold Person on the bandits, paralyzing them long enough to figure out what they were doing there.

The bandits, seeing that they were hopelessly outnumbered once their paralysis ended, stammered about how they were chasing after Chen because of a bounty placed on his head, how their leader had followed him into the inner sanctum of the temple before the door closed, and how the cat supposedly knew how to open the gate.

"I don't know what you're talking about!" the cat shouted. "I'm watching the doors, yes, but I don't know how to open it any more than you do!"

Savin smirked. "Well, it happens that we're here for the same thing."

One of the bandits blinked. "Y'mean you guys are after the bounty too?"

"No, not the bounty, just Chen. In fact, we can take this from here. You two better leave. Now."

I had Savin roll for Intimidation, but I may as well not have because really, the bandits had no reason to think that they stood anything remotely resembling a chance. Anyway, they quickly made themselves scarce, and Savin started talking to the cat while Bubbles wandered around the inside of the building to figure out a) where the door even was, and b) how to open it.

While Bubbles examined the room, Savin addressed the cat. "Why is Chen here?"

"He came to commune with the Qingtong Long, to ask its protection against the empire."

"And what is the Qingtong Long?"

She nodded at the statue in the center of the room.

The room was large and round, with a large statue of a bronze serpentine dragon in the center surrounded by benches, with a dais in front and a large tapestry of a koi beneath a waterfall behind the statue. Anyone familiar with the Japanese folk tale can figure out where this is going, but the hint was:

"Once the dragon is born, the way shall appear."

Once the hint on the dais was read, the cat spoke up, "Oh, that's what those idiots couldn't figure out? That's easy! It's in reference to an old story of a koi fish that swam up a waterfall to become a dragon!" And indeed, upon closer investigation, the koi on the tapestry could be moved. As the koi slid to the top of the waterfall, a click was heard as something snapped into place, activating a series of mechanisms that moved the wall the tapestry hung on to the side, revealing the entrance to a spiral staircase descending into the darkness.

The party agreed that, with little time to lose, they should make their way in. While descending the staircase, Savin asked the cat her name.

"My name? Oh, it's Mei-mei. It's a pun. It means 'little sister', but mei is also the pronunciation for the word for beautiful. I don't remember which one Master Chen used for my name."

Suddenly, memories flooded back to Yesmae. "Oh! I remember when you were a kitten! I didn't realize you could talk!"

"At the time, I couldn't. Just, at one point, something happened, and suddenly I was able to communicate."

For whatever reason, Jangle decided to try to keep up the facade, meowing at Mei-mei, "Wow, the fact that you can talk to the people is really nice. You must be really smart!"

Mei-mei, confused, responded, "I mean, it's not that special. Also you seem to communicate with them just fine."

"Oh that? They're just my people. They take care of my bed and my litterbox. They feed me. It's pretty great."

Naturally, this was the first I, as the Dungeon Master, had heard of this, so I asked the players if that was at all accurate. And was greeted with a chorus of, "No," topped off with Bubbles' player adding in, "He's an intelligent creature. He can do it himself!"

Jangle's player then retorted, "But she doesn't know that!"

Once the party reached the bottom of the staircase, they found a doorway leading into a tunnel. After solving the problem of vision in the dark, the party proceeded in. A little ways in, the tunnel turned to the left at 90 degrees, with a corpse stapled to the wall with arrows.

Naturally, this put the party on edge, especially after the party examined the corpse, realizing that it was dressed in a similar manner to the bandits on the surface.

Mei-mei shuddered. "I was afraid of this. You know how dragons are rumored to keep treasure? Well, as a means of protecting the inner sanctum from thieves, certain measures needed to be put in place. We must proceed carefully."

Jangle, wasting no time, began feeling the floor for pressure plates, quickly mapping out a path for Mei-mei (or as he kept calling her, Moo-moo). Of course, she wasted no time explaining to the rest of the party, who was able to slip by the trap unscathed.

Further into the tunnel, the party came to a T-intersection. To the right was an opening into a large square chamber with a single treasure chest in the center. To the left, a staircase going further down.

Naturally, upon hearing of a treasure chest, Savin and his player both responded. "Yep, we're going downstairs." Clearly, both Savin and his player are familiar with the concept of Schmuck Bait. Basically, in a dangerous place, do not trust the lone chest.

The players immediately assumed mimic. But on the of chance it was legit, Jangle wandered into the room and started tapping at the chest to see what it felt like. Naturally, I explained that it felt normal. Like wood. Nothing nefarious.

This got Bubbles' attention, and he pulled out some tools to try to open the chest. I had Bubbles make a roll to unlock the chest, and it sprung open, revealing...nothing.

Bubbles muttered a curse under his breath, thinking that someone got to the treasure before him. This was before he and Jangle heard a ticking noise that, after ten seconds, stopped, after which the floor opened beneath them into an empty pit that quickly started filling with water. Jangle quickly scampered along the wall to safety in the hallway outside, while Bubbles quickly downed a potion of flying that he had brewed that morning, allowing him to levitate in place as the floor replaced itself.

It was then that, out of spite, Bubbles pulled out a pen and a piece of paper, scribbling out a lewd doodle and, while floating off the floor to avoid the trap again, opened the chest and dropped the doodle in. I'm not going to say what the doodle was. You can probably guess it in three tries.

Anyway, the party continued down the other hallway to the stairway, which led into another room with a puzzle. I screwed this up so I'm just going to say the party figured it out, which opened the the door as well as the wall on the opposite side of the room, letting out any water in the trap (I had to make a plan in case someone got caught in the trap, so that someone might be able to save them).

The door led into a large, surprisingly bright chamber with a tree in the center. Basically, like the Dark Link room in the Ocarina of Time Water Temple.

And fight it was. For in the center of the room, sitting against the tree, was an old, emaciated monk. As the party entered the room, the door behind them slid shut, and the monk awoke from his meditation. He greeted the party, stating that he was to serve as the interim test, extending his hands out to indicate the walls at the side of the room, where multiple more undead monks walked out and took fighting stances.

The fight went by relatively quickly (I consider this the miniboss room), creating a place for the party to rest before continuing on into the temple, but not before Yesmae picked up a nice new quarterstaff stamped with the Shenzhou word for "master", and this is where we called the session, with the rest of the dungeon to be completed next time.

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