The light seems to be coming from a small ceremonial candle as well as four large ceramic jars filled with an opaque milky liquid. Kneeling in front of the blue flame is the ethereal figure of a robed man. He looks up at the party, slowly standing to greet them and gesturing to another sealed bronze passageway.
“I am a servant of the holy dragon Yongmunguwan. My spirit remains to guide the worthy to the city of dragons. Those who have passed through the great seals have proven their cleverness but now must show that they are worthy of the Dragon’s blessing.”
He gestures to the four man-sized bronze urns.
“These are paths towards the end of war. The holy dragon gave his life pursuing the end of war and you must select your own path with honesty in your heart.”
Three of the four paths presented have items hanging from chains above them. The spirit of the guardian references each of the paths in turn.
“The path of bloodshed.”
Above the first urn hanging from a chain is a jagged, grisly blade with a handle made from a humanoid thigh bone.
“The path of sacrifice.”
Above the second urn hanging from a chain is a rusty sickle, a farm tool that seems well used.
“The path of bargaining.”
Above the third urn hanging from a chain is a golden set of merchant's scales
“The path of pacifism.”
Above the fourth urn is an empty chain.
The party pause for several moments. The spirit stands patiently, but doesn't seem to take much notice of the party's other questions. He simply directs them to climb into the vessel of their choosing.
Jin is the first to volunteer, carefully submerging himself in the opaque liquid under the set of golden scales. Jin looks frightened as he freezes in place and slowly sinks into the liquid. The party rush to his aid, fearful that the little dokkaebi may drown, only to see a vision on the surface of the darkened water.
"Your pathetic wall will not hold us for long."
A deep and grating voice suddenly jolts the little goblin awake, but he isn't a goblin. He's a human man staring down at a set of golden scales.
Jin starts at his own voice and looks down at his hands, not recog
nizing either one. He turns to find himself in a yurt, richly decorated with the spoils of war. Seated behind him, a monstrous blue skinned man grins at him with jet black teeth.
"We've been at this for too long. Make a decision or starve in your besieged city."
The ogre-mage snaps his clawed fingers and a small kith goblin runs in, handing Jin a document. Briefly reading through the document, it seems to be the terms of surrender to the Violet Queen. The ogre-mage demands an additional term, and gives Jin a choice, a path to the end of this war.
- Every child born in the next seven years will be given as an offering to the great Violet Queen to do with as she will. The siege will be lifted and the city will retain its autonomy.
- Every man and woman of fighting age will be permanently blinded, rendering them incapable of posing a threat or supporting itself. The siege will be lifted and the city will be incorporated into the territory of the Violet Queen.
- All people shall be spared, but will be made slaves by the Violet Queen. The city will be sacked and the people scattered to the four corners of her territory.
- Do not surrender, but instead allow the army to take the city in the night. You and all the descendants of clan Wei will be made wealthy beyond reason.
Jin pauses for a long time, not entirely sure if what he is seeing is happening or is just some strange illusion. He eventually settles on the first option.
The ogre-magi grins a disturbing black grin.
"I was hoping that would be your decision."
He leaps to his feet, rushing to Jin and plunging his oversized thumbs into the screaming man's eyes. The vision fades and the liquid becomes milky again. Jin doesn't reappear and the party begins to pace nervously as the spirit beckons them to choose a path for themselves.
Kimchiwei cautiously steps forward to the path of sacrifice, stopping for a moment to remember the words of the guardian spirit.
"You must select your own path with honesty in your heart."
He backs away from sacrifice and enters the urn of bloodshed. Screams, roars, and the beating of massive wings shake Kim from his stupor. He awakens on an ancient battlefield, the bodies of men and guaiwogs litter the field. He is quickly being approached by a group of armed men, His muscles ache as he lifts his sword, a crude longsword with a hilt made of bone. He slashes at the men, trading blows back and fourth, eventually overcoming the simple soldiers. Large cuts cross his chest and back while a spear cripples his leg, pinning him to the blood soaked dirt. He shouts to the sky swinging his blade as a massive scaled form glides overhead, washing the battlefield in amethyst flames.
The vision fades and the liquid becomes opaque white once again. As before with Jin, Kim is nowhere to be found. The party begin to panic, unsure if their companions have succeeded or if the visions were real. The spirit offers no comfort, stating once again that
"You must select your own path with honesty in your heart. The path of bloodshed may end a battle, but such savagery will likely make war eternal"
Hauri carefully approaches the path of sacrifice, hoping to avoid the fate of Jin and Kim. He submerges himself in the thick liquid which goes dark with a vision of a small farm. A little girl's voice snaps Hauri awake.
"The soldiers are here! The soldiers are here!"
Hauri looks down to find a 6 year old girl hugging his legs. He recognizes her as his daughter, Kie. Memories flood into his mind. He's a farmer, a husband and a father. He lives under the protection of the lord Dohanwei, however, rumour has it that Doweihan's city has been conqured by Oni Xungo, a powerful warlord that serves the Violet Queen. He sees his wife, Gan and son, Jo, come running across the field, they verify the young girl's news of Oni Xungo's soldiers in the city.
"They are demanding our entire harvest! We have only until sundown! I can't imagine what that demon will do to us if we disobey."Gan begins to weep and hugs her children tight. Hauri grabs what tools he has and sets his family to work harvesting as much as they can for their new lord. They pause only once to see a neighboring farmer run down by horsemen while fleeing with his family.
Night falls and Hauri packs what his family managed to gather and heads to the castle. He passes unfamiliar soldiers, who snap fanged jaws and clash weapons as he passes. He approaches the checkpoint to find The son of his former lord, Doweihan speaking with who can only be Oni Xungo.
The young lord greets the farmer informing him that his farm and harvest now belong to Oni Xungo and the Violet Queen. He takes measurement of the harvest.
"I'm sorry, but this is insufficient. You will need to make up for the lost grain... with meat."
Hauri looks confused for a moment before answering.
"But, my farm has no livestock."
Oni Xungo grins a disturbing jet black.
"My eyes say you have three."
Hauri's eyes widen as memories of his family, Gan, Jo, and Kie flood his mind. He can not bring himself to sacrifice them and offers himself instead. He is led out to the square, surrounded by the gnashing teeth of Xungo's army. His last thought is of Kie hugging his legs as a sword is brought down upon him.
The image fades and the urn reverts to its milky state. Finellen and Irome, are now alone in the room with the spirit who urges them to choose a path.
Irome volunteers to go next, entering the urn of sacrifice after Hauri.
"Kei wake up!"
Irome stirs awake. She's sleeping on a straw mat in a small house. She stands, noticing that she is in the body of a child, no more than seven years old before doubling over in pain. She's starving. The boy she recognizes as her brother Jo. He looks emaciated.
"Don't stand up too fast. We can't have you getting sick like mom."
He points to another mat where an unconscious woman lays next to a small fire. Irome recognizes her mother, Gan.
"She's not going to make it. She's been sick for weeks."
Jo pulls out a small knife.
"She's not going to make it... but we might. We need food Kei and I've searched everywhere."
Irome looks at the knife and back to her mother. Her eyes well up.
"We can't eat our own mother. How could you suggest such a thing?"
Jo begins to cry.
"We have no food! We haven't had food in weeks! The city was burned a year ago and we are the only ones left. She is going to die of her sickness like all of the others, but we may starve before then."
Irome grabs the knife from her brother and brings it to her own arm.
"We'll deal with this one day at a time."
She begins to saw at her own arm and grits her teeth while it comes loose from her shoulder.
The vision fades and Finellen is left alone in the chamber with the spirit.
“A life dedicated to producing commodities, makes you little more than a commodity. Sacrifice of oneself is not a reliable method for ending war. A single sacrifice rarely makes a significant difference.”
Finellen chooses the urn of pacifism. The spirit warns her that this path is the most difficult of the four. She briefly considers her options before entering the urn of pacifism.
She is met with the sun and the sea. Standing on a cliffside, the ocean waves lap against the smooth rocks below. The sun's rays are warm and inviting. She turns to find herself surounded by yellow robed Jing monks. They bow to her as she notices that she is dressed likewise; human man, a monk, a master. There is a village in the distance. Finellen knows this is a peaceful farming village. Approaching along the road from the North is a column of armed soldiers. Bronze spears glitter in the sunlight.
Her monks move into the road, putting themselves in the path of the soldiers. The column stops, pointing weapons at the monks who bar their path. A captain comes forward.
"You there! I order you to move aside! Or do you serve the village chief?"
He draws his sword and approaches Finellen.
"I serve no one."
Finellen refuses to move and allow the army to attack the village. The captain becomes noticably frustrated and orders his soldiers to butcher the monks. The soldiers draw their weapons in an effort to intimidate them but are unable to bring themselves to harming unarmed monks. The captain becomes furious and slashes at Finellen who attempts not to flinch as the scimitar bites into her shoulder. The soldiers immediately turn and disarm their captain. They apologies to Finellen and her monks claiming that attacking unarmed people is not the way of the holy dragon. They bow to the monks march back to the North.
"The fourth path is the most difficult. This path is one of piety and pacifism. You need nothing other than yourself. Wars will come again and again until there is true peace in the land. You set an example to others by sparing your enemy and have earned the blessing of the holy dragon."
Finellen appears among her companions in a darkened tunnel, the bronze seal of Yongmunguwan now behind them. Each member of the party is shaken by their experience, with the exception of Finellen who feels a renewed vigor from the blessing she received. Strangely enough, each person is holding the item that was previously hanging above the Urn of Memories that they entered. Kim has a sword, Hauri and Irome have sickles and Jin has a set of heavy gold scales.
Their hearts sink as they reach the end of the tunnel to find another bronze seal. Murals cover the three walls, many are damaged and only three can be made out. One of a city being sacked by a blue figure, one of a pointed eared man in a snowstorm and one of a city under the ocean. An inscription is scribed around the edge of the bronze seal. The party wracks their brains attempting to figure out the odd language but are unable to. Hours pass and they notice something is wrong. Everyone but Kimchiwei is starting to get lightheaded. Kimchiwei recognizes that they are running out of air and what little air they have smells slightly of vanilla.
Jin pulls out his gold scales while the others are attempting to open the door. He drops them in surprise as a small black blob covering the gold reaches out to him. Jin let's out a startled yell claiming that something is eating his gold. The blob let's out a small shiver and a small amount of violet syrup bubbles to the surface. Kimchiwei is astonished to find that this small ooze has a mind.
"Hello? Hello! I eat this gold! Gooooold!"
The little creature doesn't seem exceedingly intelligent but it must at least understand a language. Kimchiwei asks the creature if he can read the inscription and it acknowledges the mystic, reading the inscription and having Kimchiwei parrot it.
As the inscription is read, the bronze seal fades into an etherial form followed by a rush of cold air, allowing the party to pass. Jin immediately falls in love with the small creature, naming it Plort. It happily quivers at the thought of having a name of its own and squirts some violet syrup. Hauri recognizes the syrup and is mildly disgusted.
The party find themselves on a cliffside overlooking a small crumbling city. The runins below are bathed in a strange blue-green light. Looking above, they notice that they are under water, a massive bubble of air keeping the ocean from rushing into the city. Echoing through the streets is the
sound of musket fire. Four distinct shots ring out. The party suspect that the westerners and old man Wei are making their way to the castle in the city center. They hurry on.
As they pick through the streets, they come accross some buildings, half buried in loose sand. Rounding a corner Hauri spots a red humanoid and doubles back to the group. He describes the creature as 7 feet tall and covered in chitinous plates. The go to spy on the creature but are cut off as two large lobster-like creatures unbury themselves from the loose sand.
They battle the crab-like creatures, prove to be strong opponents, their armor turning away most attacks. The red crustacian like man rushes to them. A debilitating sound drops all of the party to their knees as images of horses flood their minds. The lobster creatures move behind the red crayfish-man who introduces himself as best he can. Even Kim is unable to communicate with him. His lack of a language means he can only communicate with images. He introduces himself with an image of himself eating a drowned sailor.
Another volley of musket fire echos through the city and the ebi-kreen flinches noticibly, terrified of the dragonpowder weapons. EXP and Journal