(The Underdocks; Art by Ian Jun Wei Chiew.)
Sometimes people ask me rhetorically how I manage to remember so much game detail for these recap posts. The answer is a combination of factors. One, the marvel that is my brain! It might not remember what people's names are, our what faces belong to who, or what I did yesterday, but the plot of a book I read as a kid is crisp & clear! Two, I normally start writing it down early, right out of the gate. At least the broad strokes, or the vivid scenes, or just to get the ball rolling. This is why so many of these recaps start with a disclaimer about them being stream of consciousness & unedited; I try to keep the act of doing them as stress free. Sorry everybody, I like doing write-ups, but I don't feel obligated...which not surprisingly is why I'm happy to keep doing them.
Why do I bring this up now? Because I let myself get hit with the whammy. Last Oubliette session was a big one, a fun one, with lots of events on the main stage & the side stage, player driven & narrative driven. With all those details looming over my head, I procrastinated. & then kept on putting it off-- well, to be fair I've also been otherwise occupied-- until now, when the edges of some of the details have faded from sharp creases. Hey, maybe it will work out, & it will lend some brevity to these proceedings, since otherwise my plan is just to start rambling, see what gets typed out, lather, rinse, repeat, until I've gotten caught up to the end.
This session was Christine's time to shine & she dazzled, all the luminous puns intended for the Miko of the goddess Kaguya, Lian. Introduced at the tea ceremony with the Lung family, she is a priestess of the otherworldly lunar goddess, assigned to purify Luke's character Haru o-Kitsune before his nuptials by his mother-in-law to-be, Nerai Lung. In a twist, Iroha isn't present for the purification ceremony, & Nerai stands in her place. In a shrine amidst the bamboo, with woven walls & an open roof, Lian invokes the ancestor spirits of the Lung & the Kitsune.
(Nerai Lung's ancestral spirit; Art by Chris Cold.)
The spirit of Nerai, the Lung ghost, is clad in raiment held aloft on ancient pillars. The Empire existed centuries before the Shogunate; in fact, the Shogunate is just the ruins of their reach, the provinces re-conquered by the fleeing houses of the Lung & the ancestors of the modern Kirin, the Qilin. This Lung ancestor sat upon the Throne of Heaven, once upon a time, & by the slightest incline of their head, the priestess Lian says they approve.
(Haru o-Kitsune's ancestral spirit; "Corruption" by mangycoyote.)
Haru's spirit, on the other hand, is a mangled, cackling, bloody fox, dancing frantically in the sky. The party, minus Lian, has encountered the Kitsune ghosts before, in some form or another. (There is a shrine to Tenku & the grave of the Butcher in the Skull Fort, after all, which Amina o-Kistune's husband Goro is tending with his Broken-Hearted Shoshin warriors.)
(Iroha Lung in her wedding o-yori; Tomoe Gozen by David Calhoun.)
Christine's moon priestess gives her blessing, & despite some misgivings on Iroha's absence, the wedding commences, & once it is underway in full swing they see the reason why Nerai has been keeping her sequestered; she is pregnant, as was one of their theories. The time line easily fits with her & Haru being intimate at the Skull Towers, so that's sort of a best-case for the party, who was worried about far darker things than that. Nobody besides Nerai cares about this, apparently, & Iroha rides down without her cannon arm, wearing her family o-yoroi armor, her gift from the clan. Haru, of course, wears his spider silk kimono, an engagement gift from his mother, & a sign of respect to the Spider House, which Iroha's father once belonged to.
(Haru's wedding gift from Iroha; Emperor's Hand Cannon by M. James Austin.)
The wedding itself goes off without a hitch. In fact, at this point, I have to kind of high five myself: I really under sold it. I mean: let's be real. The wedding violence in Oubliette is prefigured by Game of Throne, & we all see it coming. I think I managed to put a pretty good spin on it, if I do say so myself: it's become a bit of a signature move. It is always funny to me how themes & archetypes develop in game with or without intervention. Emergent complexity. Haru's present from his wife, as a newly minted Lung, is a pistol, & he shoots a special "firework" charge over the bay. Goro gifts him one of the years of study he's earned with the Gaki Goldur bint Agrat, same as he gifted his bride Amina.
(The Wedding of Haru & Iroha; Photo by Christine F.)
It has been weeks since I've started writing this, returning to jot down a paragraph before getting distracted. Weeks, hell, it has been months; this write-up is now compressing two sessions together...though the second session, while tense & action packed, does not need much description, as we will address below. I've got Dungeons & Dragons this week, so I best get cracking. Well, in a nutshell: BUGS! Not an intentional nod to Shadowrun, but at the end of the day...but I'm getting ahead of myself.
(Monk Sha & Monk Zhu, & mutated versions; photo by me.)
To stop beating around the bush: at the end of the wedding, when all is said & done, like Maleficent sweeping in from the wings come the monks of the desecrated shrine. They recognize Monk Zhu, Iroha's brother, his face smeared with ashes, & the other must be Monk Sha, who they never met. They come out from a side door, & open a jar. Not just any jar. One of the canopic jars, the weapons of mass destruction that Goro's auction was held over.
(The mutated Nerai; "Razorback by Dorian Cleavenger.)
Haru, warned by supernatural whispers, has come prepared for a strange paranoia: filtration masks. He & the woman who would become the Royal Physician travelled there as young adults, & he knows their construction; with a significant outlay of coin & favours, he scrounges together almost enough for everyone in the party. With a few tweaks, he manages to make just enough sub-par masks...not counting Christine's newcomer.
(Gong & the Lung family, & mutated versions; photo by me.)
His fears are well warranted, as a typhoon of spores pours forth from the jar, an unending torrent of mutagenic pollen that takes root in flesh, whose roots are cancer & whose blossoms are the vicissitudes of flesh. Iroha's mother & father & uncle all twist & warp horribly, over the course of faint moments growing monstrous. The monks grotesquery knows no bounds; at the epicenter of the jar's curse, willing agents of it, they are humanoid arachnids with eyes of glowing hate, joints seething with tentacles instead of tendons.
(The mutated Goro; "Leto Atreides II, God Emperor of Dune" by Gorrem.)
Gong, Haru's every loyal & omnicompetent manservant, in his final act-- struck by the arrow of love!-- thrusts his mask upon Kaguya's priestess, & is thus afflicted. From his head splits a worm-like collar. Disgusted, terrified, battle is joined...& it goes poorly for our protagonists. The odds are stacked against them & to say the dice are fickle would be a lie: the dice outright betrayed the players. & so Haru was gutted through, dropped down. & Amina failed her save against the infection & grew an eye on her forehead. & the Royal Physician fled, absconded by Ren. Lian rang one of her jade bells, & while the gaze of the insectoid horrors was dimmed, it also silenced Amina's connection to Kreecher.
What will happen next? Frankly, I'm just as curious as you are: I have ideas on where to go if things end up a TPK, but I haven't given up hope that the players will turn it around. If there is one thing I've learned about PCs, it is that they can do ridiculous things when you least expect them.
(Amina's new third eye; art by Seungyea Park AKA Spunky Zoe.)