A SPIRIT ATTACKS
Weeks pass after the group, without Ranya, leaves Shenliang, headed through the windy mountains on a long journey toward the Forest of Spirits. They visit Loyiang, a strange city ruled by a council of nobles, as the dowager Princess Selusstian has not made a public appearance in over thirty years. On the road just past the city, however, they are again attacked by another band of Five Storms Ninja. This time, the party is traveling on a lesser road, and avoiding the Spirit Road.
It is time for the heroes to do the ambushing, but as they wait, no prey presents themselves. Perhaps this time, they’ve seen the last of the annoying assassins.
Nearly two weeks later, the group arrives in the small village of Min Yu, where they are surprised to be greeted by their ward, Ranya. She is tight-mouthed about not only what she’d been up to, but also how she managed to get ahead of the party. It is soon apparent, however, that their young companion has taken a large step toward a change of attitude (not to mention that she has picked up some new talents – not unlike those the party encountered whilst battling the ninja).
While in Min Yu, the inn is attacked by an old nemesis. Himura Takahito, the vile sorcerer and agent of the Shogun Taira no Kiyomori (the military ruler of the Kaidanese Empire), sends swarms of shadows into the inn where the heroes are celebrating Ranya’s birthday. The shadows consume the patrons and staff at the establishment, turning them into shadows themselves, who must be destroyed. Unfortunately, the only means to dispatch these created spawn is to decapitate their former, now slain, owners. In the aftermath, it takes much explaining, and many tasks in penance to atone (to the other villagers, at least) for the slaying of the townsfolk.
After another week, Shikibu escorts the Wheel-Breakers to the Forest of Spirits, where they first encounter a simple guardian kami, who rewards them after they fix his home, a waymarker that has toppled due to its age and the inclement weather. Wikkit, who was the first to suggest the marker be righted and secured, is given a magical bracelet which is sure to benefit the group in the future.
Before the heroes reach the sacred grove of the kami, they discover the reason for the forest’s name. Countless incorporeal spirits wander the Forest of Spirits, and are attracted to those living creatures that wander inside the forest’s boundaries.
Several of these haunts attempt possession of the heroes. Most were foiled, but Ranya and Kwok Wen succumb to spirits. The rest were destroyed or driven off. Thanks to little Sky Blossom and her handy protection spells, the spirits did not plague their hosts for long.
After trouncing a small gang of giants, the group encounters a grieving dire tiger. Tieqing, mourning the recent loss of his kami companion, charges the party, insane with grief. Smriti realizes that killing such a magnificent creature would be wrong, and she shows the creature kindness, even as it rushes to kill her. Tieqing is swayed, and now has a fast friend with whom he can share his affection, and Smriti gains a new pet.
At last, the group approaches twilit clearing where the kami wait for them.
What will these strange spirits ask of the party? We’ll find out next session.