The Curse of the White Phoenix

Episode Six
What Zombis?

Our heroes are enjoying a well-earned rest in their nicely-appointed home. The front window has just been restored from when Captine Jaquline last leapt through it, Itsuki is brewing up a fresh pot of tea, and Hernandez hasn’t threatened to remove his loincloth in hours, at least.

There’s a knock at the door, and Sing Dog, always hopeful for more drinking partners, goes to answer.

He finds himself confronting a white-robed, motionless figure with a cowl draped over its face.

“Whaddya wa—KABOOM!”

Sing Dog doesn’t actually say KABOOM—but the noise of the white-robed figure

EXPLODING IN HIS FACE

is sufficient to put an end to whatever he was going to say. Instead, Sing Dog sails backward across the living room and lies in a smouldering heap. He groans.

Itsuki is by the newly-restored window, admiring the glaze and the beautifully-fitted panes, when Captain Jaquline leaps into action. And

THROUGH THE WINDOW.

And then, standing outside in the blasted street, gets plastered by a barrage of tiny crossbow bolts.

Itsuki shrugs off the loss of the window and zips out the back door. Seeing a host of ninja-like figures on all sides, he immediately dematerializes (he can do that), and drifts backward into the house. Our heroes appear to be surrounded.

Uncle leaps out to help the Captain, and the two spy a gaggle of ninjas atop yonder roof. They leap into action. Captain Jaquline tumbles a foe to the pavement, while Uncle wrestles to little effect. Meanwhile, at the back door, a trio of ninjas fire a

GIANT GRAPPLING HOOK

at Hernandez, catching him around the face and dragging him out into the alley. Sing Dog and Itsuki set out in pursuit, hurling pans and insults in the wake of the ninjas and their

GIANT GRAPPLING HOOK.

Captain Jaquline sees curious arm-attached mechanisms and, having no reason to be nice, cuts off a ninja arm to inspect the device for herself. Uncle’s wrestling partner breaks free and runs for it, so there’s a brief chase interspersed with a quick fondue-related sidebar. All the ninjas die.

Itsuki, Hernandez and Sing Dog also inflict ninja death, and our heroes troop back to the house with their assorted prizes in hand. Investigation reveals little other than nobody knows how to use these contraptions, but Itsuki declares these are the work of the White Phoenix Clan and that clearly the clan is out to get them all. Mysterious.

Somebody says, “Hey, where’s Dāwéi?”

Looks like the White Phoenix got one of them.

LATER

Hernandez is getting his

GIANT GRAPPLING HOOK

turned into a big club for hitting ninjas with, and has a terrifying vision:

Six babies, withered and dead, their skulls strung up in the hand of a dark evil man. A strange warehouse full of clattering animated racks. Drums pounding. Dāwéi strung up, ready for some terrible sacrifice. The evil man standing before a headstone and rising up out of the raw earth, a figure tall and dark and with only empty eye sockets.

Itsuki asks around for guidance on this curious vision and is directed towards a woman named Aunt Hemlock. Promising.

Captain Jaquline’s eager young followers help out by advising her to watch out for ninjas.

And then Itsuki prepares the house. It’s possible he’s taking the second loss of the window rather to heart: he leaves an identifying item of each member of the gang in the house and then

BLOWS IT UP.

Or at least, sets it on fire in a spectacular kind of way.

Ninja Arsonist, we can only suppose.

Then it’s off to Aunt Hemlock, a kindly little old lady in a slightly creepy shop with dried lizards and stuff out front. She seems to know something of what they’re up to. She tells them their friend is being held out at Logan House, a plantation on the outskirts of Chang Lao. The dream of the six babies refers to a sorcerer known as Six Lost Souls, who is every bit as bad as his name suggests.

Hernandez asks: “What’ll we see when we go in the front door?”

Auntie replies: “Don’t go in the front door.”

“What about the back door?”

“Don’t go in the back door.”

Hernandez is basically out of conversation at that point.

Sing Dog has a drink of Auntie’s moonshine and finds it… invigorating.

So it’s off to Logan House to rescue Dāwéi!

The plantation has perhaps seen better days. The cotton fields are overrun with towering stands of elephant grass, and the buildings are run-down and dilapidated. But two guards stand at the entrance to the fields.

Very large guards, apparently blind. Though one blocks Sing Dog as he attempts to enter and makes it clear he should leave.

Our heroes decide this might count as a “front door” and sneak part-way around and then begin making their way through the tall grass.

Which is, of course, full of zombis. And holes covered with grass and full of sharp pointy sticks.

Predictably, the zombis end up on the pointy sticks and our heroes make their way through the grass and up to the buildings. Beyond which they can hear frantic drumming, low chanting, and the peculiarly distinctive sound of Dāwéi swearing.

This should be a piece of case.

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Episode Five
The Lady Herself

With Captain Stenfahl in hand, Itsuki, Hernandez and the others make their way back to their canoe and paddle out of the thick mangrove swamps…

Only to find their way barred by a very fancy yacht. Gold detailing on the rails, all very swanky. The uniformed steward leans over the rails (did we mention the gold detailing?) and offers a cheery welcome.

Our heroes know better than that and just keep on paddling. Until they hear the familiar voice of their friend Shì Dāwéi, who’s on the yacht. In his pyjamas, smoking a water pipe.

Itsuki decides to go aboard, leaving Hernandez and the others in the canoe with Stenfahl.

Stenfahl takes advantage of the sly ninja’s departure to begin making overtures to Hernandez. The defeated captain offers up a ship he claims to have stashed amongst the fishing vessels out by Oyster Point. Hernandez at least is considering the offer when events distract him.

Meanwhile, on board the well-appointed yacht Itsuki discovers that Dāwéi’s been hanging out with the bitter rival of their supposed boss – the wealthy ex-pirate Masakumi Hataki, who, along with the heart-stoppingly lovely Kitsune, is exploring options for how they all might work together – assuming that our heroes can be persuaded to hand Captain Stenfahl over to him rather than Bessala Day.

“What’s Day paying you for this little job?”

Itsuki stays unspecific. “Let’s just say it’s more about opportunity cost, really.”

Dāwéi’s business sense (and greed) kicks in. “How much are you offering?”

As negotiations proceed, Itsuki makes his way to where Dāwéi is lounging. He whispers an urgent question.

“What are the chances you’re packing heat?”

Dāwéi ignores the young ex-ninja and tries to continue to conversation with Hataki. Things become complicated, however, when Itsuki snags Dāwéi’s gun from his belt and levels it at their host.

“We have to leave now, sorry.”

The gun goes off, the bullet (fortunately) going nowhere near its target, and Itsuki grabs Dāwéi and leaps over the gold-detailed railing and into the sea.

Hernandez is there with the canoe to pick them up, and as nobody starts shooting at them, the escape is made.

Stenfahl offers a ship if they’ll set him free. Several times, but to his horror, conversation amongst his captors settles around the question of whether or not it’s okay to just start cutting on people to get the truth out of them. Uncle explains that torture is in no way morally problematic.

“You can cut off a man’s ear or nose and he can still have a son. Or a nephew.”

Stenfahl takes advantage of the silence that follows this statement to explain that his plan was really very simple—he wanted the Stormy Blossom to catch fire and sink so that Bessala Day (who’d given command of the fine craft to that blasted Captain Dragonfly instead of HIM) would lose her investment.

“I didn’t send any goons after you!”

Itsuki punches him.

“Well, just the one set. And the ones at the wharf.”

Punching, you see, is different than cutting.

The decision comes down to should they take their captive to Hataki or to Bessala Day? Dāwéi argues for Hataki on the basis of he’s been nice to them, while Day’s people (well, specifically Tang Li) haven’t. Hernandez weighs in with a thoughtful comment.

“I don’t trust pyjama-man.”

“Which one?”

“Either.”

Uncle resolves this issue with further wisdom: “Clearly the people who treated us more poorly are more powerful.”

With that, the decision is made, the die is cast, and the captive is brought to the service entrance of Bessala Day’s great estate. Stenfahl is immediately dragged off for horrible punishment, still offering up a ship and claiming it’s not yet too late to make a deal.

And then Bessala Day herself appears, and invites the gang to sit down and enjoy a little meal. Confusion of all sorts ensues as she tries to get the story of what happened from our heroes. In the midst of the chaos Itsuki excuses himself. Hernandez, impressed with the statuesque Day, attempts a little flirtation. But perhaps he’s not quite the man for her.

Bags of money are distributed, a promise of more work to come, and even a polite bow from Li. The world is looking up.

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Episode Four: Under the Log
Hilarity Obviously Ensues

Itsuki is not welcomed by the elders of his clan, the Emerald Spirit Clan. Hitoki, the local elder, strips the young ninja of his clan membership. Itsuki is outcast.

The reason? That darn box, it turns out, was empty. And it wasn’t supposed to be. So until Itsuki can return what was in the box, he is without clan.

Of course, nobody was very clear on what WAS in the box, so this could be challenging. It was smaller than a puzzle box, at least.

Sad Itsuki returns to the clubhouse to find Sing Dog, Uncle, Captine Jaquline and Hernandez debating the finer points of interrogation while their captive writhes in more-or-less terror.

It occurs to someone that one cultist might draw others, and this turns out to be the case. Itsuki takes up the guise of a hardworking labourer long enough to clout a lurking cultist with a hammer, which presumably makes the cranky ex-ninja feel a little better.

Hernandez experiments with assorted means of attracting pterodactyls, with little success. The legend of his loincloth only grows, however.

Sing Dog and Captain Jacquline, on the other hand, bend their efforts towards their captive, and push him from more-or-less to actually terrified, and he provides them with a map of his cult’s secret headquarters.

It’s like a plan.

The secret headquarters helpfully includes a back entrance, and with the help of Uncle’s secret antidote to the cultist’s blowgun poison, the guards there are overwhelmed, and Sing Dog leads the charge into the complex. And right smack into the main force of some twenty or thirty cultists.

Captain Jacquline, Hernandez and Uncle are a good distance into the woods when they realise that Itsuki and Sing Dog are nowhere to be found. Or rather, they’re to be found back in the cultists’ headquarters, where they’ve been captured and are about to be subjected to fiendish tortures at the hands of Captain Stenfahl and Brigid, who are clearly in cahoots with this ragged band of cultists!

Oh no! Surely they’re doomed!

Well, no. Stenfahl is knocked cold and Brigid, summouning up ropes of fire and shrieking curses all the way, is dispatched in gory fashion. The remaining cultists scarper and it looks like our heroes have won the day!

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Episode Three: The Fire Swamps
No problem!

When Tang Li showed up previously, we neglected to mention his introduction of Sing Dog to the gang. Sing Dog is a slovenly drunkard who claims to have once been a ninja. He has no sword, no shuriken, no black catsuit to prove his claim, and the others are skeptical.

But skepticism is no reason to delay action! Without waiting for the return of their comrades Itsuki or Shì Dāwéi, our heroes commandeer a canoe and make for the dire and dangerous swamps out past the great shipyards of Bessala Day.

The shipyards are great indeed—quite awe-inspiring with hundreds of folks rushing about the immense dry-docks where the famed vessels of Chang Lao are built.

Paddle, paddle.

Beyond the shipyards a wide mud flat stretches across a riverbed. Keen eyes spot a clear path tromped from the shipyards, across the mud flat and into the jungles beyond. It’s a trail—it must be followed! And so followed it is.

The canoe is dragged along behind, and that turns out to be a lucky move, as the jungle is much more mangrove than jungle, and drifting between the thick trunks and sprawling roots is much easier than wading.

Soon enough the water shallows and disappears and now it’s time for dragging the canoe. Hernandez doesn’t mind. Besides, his baby pterodactyl “Ziggy” has spotted something interesting and is guiding them in that direction. It’s not clear what the interesting thing is—Ziggy’s none too bright, it turns out. But our heroes optimistically head in that direction.

ParasaurolophusTaking a momentary pause for the herd of ENORMOUS parasaurolophuses, who go past lowing like a herd of foghorns, leaving behind a trail of utterly flattened vegetation. Hernandez is love-struck by the placid beasts but his friends manage to get him to move on, but not without many sighs of regret.

The thing Ziggy doesn’t like turns out to be a burned-out fallen tree in an overgrown clearing. Our heroes push their way through the verdant growth only to find BLOWGUN DARTS whizzing past them. Quick-thinking Hernandez throws up the canoe as a shield, but more bad guys are apparently pouring out of the fallen tree, when Uncle throws up his hands, talks to the plants, and the verdant undergrowth becomes nearly impassable.

Clearly the tree is full of CULTISTS.

More blowgun darts are fired, and big Hernandez takes a few—and he’s feeling decidedly unwell after that. Captine Jaquline Highwater decides now is the moment to make peace, and with her charm she manages to calm the enraged tree-defenders-or-whatever, and is about to begin negotiations with the three representatives (who all have this curious iron torches), when Sing Dog decides to END negotiations.

By beating all three men into the turf with a blur of his staff. Before anyone can even speak, he’s knocked all three flying and our heroes (Captain Jaquline being philosophical about the whole thing) are making for the exit. Hernandez, always alert for a new loincloth, tosses a couple of Sing Dog’s unconscious victims into the canoe and drags them along, only just able to keep ahead of the pursuing cultists thanks to Uncle’s ongoing conversations with the surrounding plants.

That particular schtick runs out when our fleeing heroes run across the trail of the parasaurolophus herd, and there’s no stopping Hernandez this time as he leads the crew right into the midst of the massive creatures.

The cultists turn their torches UP TO ELEVEN, attempting to stampede the dinosaurs, which works great. Except that our heroes jump aboard one of the creatures just as the stampede begins, and ride the rampaging beast to safety.

Back at the house, there’s some kerfuffle about who’s interrogating who, but a bunch of useful things are learned:

  • The cultists are NINJAS! Sort of.
  • The cultists are led by a red-haired sorceress named Brigid
  • The cultists do indeed know Captain Stenfahl—indeed he’s hanging out at the burned tree right now.

Well, well. It seems the path is clear. All we need now is a way into a tree-trunk fortress staffed by insane pyromaniacal cultists.

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Episode Two: Never Drink Alone
We all know what happens when PCs enter a tavern...

Upon entering the Watery Rat and spying their target, the toothsome Kitsune, seated and evidently expecting someone, our heroes immediately split up. Shì Dāwéi makes for the hookah and exchanges pleasantries with the gentlemen there. Captine Jaquline, with her usual aplomb and flair, makes her way through the crowd, leaving a trail of outrageous stories and stunned expressions in her wake. Hernandez and Uncle, not at their ease among these curious civilized folks, decide the right thing to do is to fit in inconspicuously, and try to get jobs in the place. They fail. Meanwhile, Itsuki finds a comfortable viewing position—on the roof.

Dāwéi puffs on the hookah and passes the mouthpiece over to his neighbor.

“So, how’s business? Say, what kind of business are you in, anyway?”

The neighbor introduces himself as Figaro. He seems a little put off by the Imperial merchant’s bluff manner but shrugs.

“I run a construction company. We do okay. What’s that?”

Figaro points at the folds of paper Dāwéi is rolling into his tobacco.

“Just a trick I learned, travelling about. Uh, it saves on tobacco.”

Dāwéi does not tell Figaro that these papers were stolen from the White Phoenix Clan and are known to go up in a tremendous burst of flame. But he is very careful to store the finished cigar separately from the others he carries. The stout Imperial looks up as a dark-haired, good-looking fellow comes in and sits down next to Kitsune.

“Who’s that?”

“Ah, that’s Captain Dragonfly. Hear tell he and that there lady have an arrangement, if you know what I mean. Whoa. Hey, look, that big guy’s getting thrown out. Geez, the boss lady’s got a mean temper.”

Poor Hernandez only wanted a job, but he’s always being misunderstood. Whatever it was he said he’s not entirely sure, but now the little old lady who runs the place is shrieking and hollering and he just leaves, enormous shoulders slumping.

“Hey. You.”

At first he thinks it’s friends. But when he looks up he sees the evil fellows who already beat him up so badly earlier. They’re about to descend on him with bats and bricks when a sudden explosion of smoke erupts around the big islander.

“Get him! No, wait, the others are inside. Ouch, who stepped on my foot?”

Smoke bombs always leave confusion in their wake. Itsuki, having dropped the smoke bomb, gets Hernandez clear of the melee and the goons, unaware of their quarry’s disappearance, charge into the bar.

“You!”

Uncle sees the incoming goons and grabs a massive spit with a slab of trike leg roasting away on it, and charges right at them, slippery hot grease flying in all directions.

Captain Jacquline draws her rapier and leans just enough to let the goon’s first attack slip past her. He doesn’t even see her riposte and so only leans forward as he crumples over her blade, dead.

Figaro scrambles aside as another screaming goon comes charging at Dāwéi, but the stout little fellow stands firm, drawing a pistol and pointing it.

“Gah!”

The construction magnate shrieks as the goon’s head explodes into a gory mess. Dāwéi, giving no indication of any concerns, lights up a cigar.

And then hurriedly checks to make sure the cigar isn’t the one stuffed full of flash paper.

Itsuko, having secured Hernandez safely outside, clambers up on the roof and hurls a lamp into the main hall. As it erupts into flame, the graceful ninja composes an elegant haiku.

Punches are thrown and blades crossed, and the woman Kitsune disappears along with her date in all the excitement—although it did seem like maybe she wasn’t so surprised to see the goons coming in.


The prisoner (yes, there was a prisoner) lies on the floor, one leg severely damaged by the Captain’s keen blade. Dāwéi studies the man’s injuries, strokes his face and then mutters, “Well, we can probably salvage the skin for leather…”

“What? My skin? Look, honestly, I don’t know where Stenfahl is. No idea. Please don’t hurt me.”

The others shrug.

“Okay. Off you go, then. Dāwéi was just kidding about the leather thing.”

“I was?”


The next morning, our heroes were graced with the presence of Tang Li, Bessala Day’s right-hand man. While impressed with their handling of Stenfahl’s punks (and Itsuki’s impeccable tea service), Li is clear that unless the party can produce Captain Stenfahl, they will be held responsible (and more importantly, liable) for the destruction of the Stormy Blossom.

Captain Jaquline befriends some of the local street punks and sets them searching for Stenfahl. Meanwhile, Hernandez and Uncle find their way to the Market—the exchange where shares in piratical ventures are bought and sold. They don’t understand a lot of what they see, but it is certainly very impressive.

Jacquline’s diminutive friends tell her that Stenfahl is apparently entering and leaving the city via the shipyards of Bessala Day, but that can only mean he is living out in the swamps to the west of the city. Surely not! Only madmen and monsters live there!

Upon their return, Hernandez and Uncle find that Itsuki has acquired a dinosaur egg – reputedly of an ankylosaur. Hernandez is thrilled and more than happy to restore to Itsuki that little puzzle box Hernandez had acquired through an unintentional mix-up way back when. Itsuki’s sigh of relief goes unnoticed by the ecstatic native, who couldn’t be more pleased with his new acquisition.

While he’s being pleased, the place erupts in flame. FLAME.

Dāwéi and Itsuki manage to get the fire out while Hernandez confronts the redhead who apparently set the fire - with FIRE MAGIC, it would appear - and just as they put out the blaze without any serious damage to the room, Uncle and Captain Jack upend a massive RAIN BARREL in the window, engulfing the room in brackish water and ruining Itsuki’s robes.

Hernandez pursues the redheaded pyromaniac, but to no avail as she disappears in the streets of Chang Lao.

Itsuki changes and then rushes from the house alone. He travels through the streets, clutching the puzzle box.

The entrance to the Emerald Spirit clan house here in Chang Lao is an unassuming door in an unassuming street with only a sign saying “Emerald Spirit” over the lintel. It could be a shop, for all anyone can tell from the outside.

Inside, it is an elegant hall set with the swords and sigils of the clan. The local clan master sits in conversation with another senior official, but they bow at the young ninja’s approach.

Itsuki bows.

“My lords, I return to my clan that which I lost. Please accept from my humble hands the box that was entrusted to me. I apologize for the dishonour my actions have caused.”

“Young Itsuki. This will not restore your honour in the eyes of the clan, but if you have truly restored to us the treasure this box contains, perhaps the path to redemption shall open before you.”

The clan master takes the box. Shielding his movements, he taps, slides and twists and the box opens. With a frown, he turns the open box to Itsuki.

“I can only hope this is not your idea of a joke.”

The box is empty.

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Episode One: Fire On The Water!
Firesharks and Giant Mushrooms

Introduction

The Stormy Blossom, newest sloop in the service of Bessala Day, glides past the high cliffs opposite the Outer Harbour, where fishing vessels and shrieking gulls teem. As the towering headland slips sternward, the great walls of the Bastion come into view, the massive cannon poking their snouts through loopholes in the five-foot-thick walls of the fortress that guards the entrance to the Inner Harbour of Chang Lao.

There’s no escaping the stench of the Near Reach, the long spit of land that separates the Outer and Inner Harbours, but the Stormy Blossom soon passes that vile home of criminals and destitute. The pilot calls out and the helmsmen heaves the wheel and with a quick snap of the boom, the Blossom turns smartly to starboard, cutting across the waters of the Inner Harbour to where Bessala’s famous shipyards loom, cranes and scaffolds swarming with workers.

The Inner Harbour is less crowded than the Outer, but still, this hub of the islands is busy enough to stun anyone who isn’t used to it. The metropolis of Chang Lao stretches up the hills beyond, looking down on the harbour, where trading junks and heavy pirate warships, nimble sloops and squat caravels all jostle for anchorage, dozens of small boats zipping between the ships, ferrying sailors and supplies from the shore and back. A group of native women in bright saris paddle alongside the Blossom for a while, offering fresh fruit and laughing at the sailors’ jokes.

Captain Stenfahl hasn’t said much on this trip, only that Ms. Day had requested he bring these folks to Chang Lao to potentially join her staff. He says nothing now, brooding by the stern rail and watching the pilot and helmsman pick their way through the shoals in this part of the harbour. His gaze snaps up, however, when the ship’s bell begins to ring.

The forward lookout is hauling on the bellrope, pointing off the port bow.

“Captain, there’s something in the water headed straight for us. Under the water, sir. Coming in fast.”

The Episode

Captain Jacquline, Da Wei and Uncle are gathered at the bow, taking in the sights of the Chang Lao harbour, when the Captain’s lovely eyes narrow.

“Does anyone else see that?”

Uncle leans out over the rail.

“You mean that hissing, steaming mass under the water, heading straight for us? What of it? Isn’t this how new ships are welcomed to the harbour?”

“No.”

Further back, near the quarterdeck companionway, Itsuki turned at Captain Stenfahl’s quiet order to his cronies.

“Get the boat over the side. We’re leaving. Now.”

And indeed the Captain and his most favoured men quickly flipped the Stormy Blossom’s rowboat off the deck and into the water, and scrambled down. Itsuki levelled a stern gaze at the Captain.

“So, you seek to betray us. This will not go unavenged.”

Stenfahl stared at the young ninja for a second, then shrugged. He tapped one of the burly seamen on the shoulder.

“Punch this dumb punk in the face and come after us.”

Meanwhile, at the prow, Da Wei, Uncle and Captain Jacquline watched in disbelief as the whatever-it-was barrelled straight at them, crashing into the ship with alarming momentum, rocking the entire ship back and spilling what crew remained to the deck. A terrible roaring started up from belowdecks, where the thing had struck.

Water rushing in, certainly. Screams of doomed men trapped below, of course. But something else. Something even scarier. A roaring like an enormous bonfire had just erupted into life beneath then.

Sure enough, smoke began rising up between the deck planks.

Jacquline decided the time for decisive action had come.

“Abandon ship! Everyone into the water!”

And she leapt overboard, inspiring the greater portion of the crew to do likewise.

Da Wei caught sight of Itsuki’s plight and took a shot at the sailor about to punch the ninja, then jumped after Jacquline. Uncle, startled by Da Wei’s sudden action, grabbed a floatable crate and followed suit.

Hernandez, outraged that anyone should attempt to lay hands on the delicate Itsuki, charged the sailor, who, seeing the odds turn against him, simply took a moment to leap from the rail and into the quickly-disappearing rowboat. Itsuki immediately rushed to the Captain’s rooms, tearing apart shelves and drawers in the search for documents.

The ship burned. Long ropes of flame twisted up through hatchways, writhing like living things. The fiery ropes reached out, one nearly grazing Jacquline in the water, and another striking like a searing cobra at Hernandez, burning the massive native man as he pursued Itsuki. The rigging caught fire above him as the flames began to consume the Stormy Blossom.

Jacquline saved a couple of sailors from near-drowning and fought off a curious shark while following Uncle and Da Wei’s lead towards the nearby shore. Hernandez, panicking as the fire spread everywhere, charged into the Captain’s chamber and tackled Itsuki right out the stern window in a shower of glass and flaming wood. Itsuki hit the water, and, weighed down by his fancy kimono, promptly dropped out of sight. Only some expert swimming by Hernandez kept the ninja from drowning then and there.

Ashore, our heroes found themselves guests at a better-than-it-sounds joint called The Rathole, where the landlord, Robson, took good care of them and even sent one of his boys off to carry a message to Bessala Day.

The night passed peacefully enough. The morning, not so much.

A man calling himself Li arrived as our heroes were enjoying a breakfast. Li claimed to speak on behalf of Bessala Day, and made it clear he suspected them of setting the fire aboard the Stormy Blossom. He instructed them to watch a woman named Kitsune, and to report on who she spoke to that evening at the Watery Rat. He was not very polite. It also seems that the boy sent the previous night by Robson never arrived. Nor did he ever return.

Da Wei arranged for lodging (with improvements by Uncle), while Itsuki restored some missing gear, Jacquline asked around about Robson’s boy, and while she didn’t find him, she did learn that one Captain Dragonfly, favourite of Bessala Day, was on the board of the Harbour Market, gathering funding for a venture involving the Stormy Blossom. That money was all lost now, and Bessala Day was hurting. Her arch-rival, however, Masakumi, was known to have done very well.

Hernandez attempted to track Mr. Li, but got jumped by a trio of thugs and to avoid them, jumped into the harbour. Bets were immediately laid by all onlookers as to how far he’d get before getting eaten by a shark.

Not very far, it turned out. Hernandez was badly injured but still managed to assert his will over the great fish, getting it to carry him away from the scene.

Meanwhile Uncle got some tips on blending in from a palanquin bearer, and doesn’t look around nearly so much anymore.

Our heroes reconvened at the Watery Rat that evening, Hernandez still smarting from his encounter with the shark. The woman Kitsune was impossible to miss—a beauty in a vibrant yellow kimono, with her hair all up and about, long long fingernails and done up like a court lady (very out of place in this nasty little dive). She appeared to be waiting for someone.

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