What do you do when you land out of the sky in a foreign land in a big mansion surrounded by peculiar foreigners who are steadily approaching you with spears drawn?
You get down on your motherfucken knees and pray they don’t stick you with the pointy end. That’s what Liliana and Wilfred, her trusted companion and butler did. Well actually, running is also a viable option but when you got a near 20 stone butler and a one-armed frail girl, your not going to get very far…
After stepping out of their now shattered house, and praying they didn’t land on someone, they are approached by a dozen spear-wielding foreigners dressed in fancy regalia and strange armour of a design that they’ve never seen before. They approach, spears lowered and only a few inches away from them.
Liliana shouts out in Reikspiel her full name; Liliana de Karling-Satou, which does not get a response other than a shout from one of the guards in foreign tongue.
As they are kneeling and hoping not to get speared, a man dressed in finery robes approaches. A long golden dragon coils down the side of his robes and the guards part way to let him through.
He looks at the house behind them, frowning, and then returns his gaze to Liliana. Interestingly, he points at Liliana while talking to one of the guards. Then, weaving his hands together and uttering something in foreign dialect, Liliana and Wilfred soon feel something grip their wrists. Looking down they see a magical thin blue energy coil around their wrists in the shape of a snake. Magical bindings no doubt! In Liliana’s case, the one-armed bandit that she is, the energy coils around her only wrist but she finds her arm sluggish and painful to move.
The guards pick them up and march them off towards a great walled city that they happened to land not far from.
– Wei-Jin, Capital of Cathay
Marched through the archway at spear point, Liliana and Wilfred step into a world that is both beautiful and terrifying.
All around them are market stalls containing exotic species that they’ve never seen before. The architecture fills them up with wonder as they gaze upon it, particularly Liliana who mentions she now knows why her father wanted to go back here. She even spots a few ornaments that her father used to trade in back in Marienburg, so so far away now…
As they are walking through the streets, Liliana spots a very strange creature on the shoulder of an old man.
– Known as a Catmonk.
– Another creature she spots, known as a Barktail.
Dazzling with confusion and wonderment, she spots an even stranger sight; a woman with scale-like skin and tattoos has a small winged creature perched on her shoulder that Liliana swears she’s only ever heard about through fables and children’s books.
“Is that a dragon!” Liliana shouts with excitement, pointing to it and poking at Wilfred.
“I… do not know ma’am, I’ve never seen a dragon,” he replies.
As they continue their path through the streets, it dons on Liliana that this city is immense. Probably even bigger than Altdorf. All around her she can hear the native tongue flapping about as its citizens go about their business; trading, gossiping.
Yet her ears perk up at something familiar; an accent, Reikspiel! She turns and sees two merchants having a chat amongst each other. Hoping to gain their attention, she purposefully tries to fumble forwards and does a pretty good job at it and succeeds in getting their attention. Unfortunately, the guards are not having it and pick her straight back up and give her a sharp point in the ribs for her efforts. The merchants simply look on and refrain from getting involved. Who’d blame them?
Soon the hustle and bustle of the busy streets start to die down as Liliana and Wilfred get brought to a quieter part of the city. Unfortunately they can now make out the unmistakable sound of soldiers training in a barracks, and a barracks that they are marching towards.
They are led in and promptly shown to their cells. Liliana gets the strong impression that her magic is being suppressed here, and actually feels her body temperature warming up, and not the usual chill that accompanies her.
They are both dumped into a cell. Yet they are not without comforts; the cell is pretty big. A 6×6 room with a bunk bed, clean sheets, a basin with fresh water and a jug of water for drinking. Even the toilet grants privacy. Both of them remark how well they are being treated, and Liliana ponders whether they know her mother is a Satou. But Wilfred points out that all the cells seem to be of this size and possess similar comforts.
After scrubbing up and getting clean, a couple of hours pass until they get their food handed to them by a guard.
Yet where is the forks? And why is the food on a plate made out of wicker, and why are there two bamboo sticks! “Savages don’t even know how to eat,” remarks Wilfred.
Both Liliana and Wilfred dig in. Liliana has a hard time trying to eat using the sticks and just gives up, resorting to using her hands. Wilfred however has mastered the art and eats his grub. His offer of assistance is rebutted by the ever-proud Liliana.
Liliana remarks at how well they are being treated, but Wilfred makes a point that maybe they are just warming them up for the slaughter to come, a sort of last meal and all that…
“Sometimes I wish you weren’t so… logical, Wilfred.”
Another couple of hours pass. They hear footsteps approach. A man soon appears at their cell. Cold dead eyes stare in at them, belonging to a face that is heavily scarred.
– Qin Taoi (Qin – Pronounced as Chin)
He steps into their call, pulling up a chair and sits down, facing them.
“We have not been properly introduced. I am Qin Taoi, and who might you be?”
Liliana is taken back, “You speak Reikspiel?”
“No. But I speak your tongue. Names.”
Both of them give their names, but Qin takes an interest in Liliana’s name. “Satou? Curious. How did you come by a Cathayian name?”
Liliana was about to go into a full-fledged story about her father and how he met a woman in Cathay when Qin waves a hand in protest, “Enough. I’ve not got the time for it. Perhaps later. Now to more pressing matters… My superiors tell me that you dropped out of the sky, quite literally. And in a house no less. I know you possess magic, but not of the sort that could do that. How exactly did you come here, by what means?”
Liliana is up front with him, telling him everything he wants to know. He simply sits quietly and listens intently. When she finishes, the man finally speaks.
“An orb you say? Well we have this orb in our possession, and we will study it in detail. Jianguo will see to that. But you tell a very tall tale. A remarkable one at that. Indulge me…” The man stands up and approaches Liliana, his hand gestured towards her. She feels herself become stiff, unable to move.
He puts a hand upon her forehead and right away she can feel a pain at the forefront of her forehead. The pain increases. Wilfred shouts out but Liliana tells him not to do anything. The man steps away as Liliana stems the flow of a nosebleed.
“Interesting. It seems your mind is heavily fragmented. I could not learn much from it.”
“As I said. When I used the orb with my father, his memories became mine.”
Qin nods, “It seems you may be speaking the truth after all. It is time to leave. It will do you no good to remain locked up here. Put these on and I’ll have you released.”
He hands both of them two jade bracelets that on any other given occasion they might be regarded as a beautiful gift, but in this instance… they knew better than that.
“These bracelets will allow us to monitor your activities, among other things… I would not recommend removing them. You are permitted freedom of movement within the city and outside the city, provided you do not travel far. Understood?”
They nod and put the bracelets on, feeling them tighten around their wrists.
They follow the man that Liliana has now dubbed ‘Cold Eyes’. Along the way, Qin inquires further as to Liliana’s surname. Liliana tells him that her mother is Ao Sueh-Satou. Her father was a merchant from Marienburg and spent much of his fortune committing to a travel to Cathay many many many years ago, using the silk road route through the perilous region known as the Darklands, a desolate and inhospitable wasteland. He spent many years in Cathay, and had married a young nobleman’s daughter, attaining her hand in marriage. This would be her mother. Her father had journeyed back to Marienburg, but sadly her mother had died on the route giving childbirth, and the event has haunted her father ever since, giving him a profound sense of guilt over it.
Qin listens and replies, “Well. That’s a good story. But frankly that’s impossible.”
Liliana is surprised, “Why is it impossible?”
“Because Ao Sueh-Satou is not dead, as you say, nor has she ever been married, to the best of my knowledge. Right now she is up for auction on the slave market. Her father had gotten himself involved in some nasty business, and put the family name in shame. As I said, quite impossible.”
Liliana is speechless, and doesn’t know what to believe. Has everything her father told her been a lie regarding her mother?
They enter the main foyer of the barracks. There, they see an old man staring at them intently.
– Yan Hong
“This is Yan Hong. He’ll be your guide throughout the city, and will see to it that you do not fall foul of our customs here or become prey to any misunderstandings. As for me, I will no doubt have more questions for you later once we find out more about this orb of yours.”
Qin heads off but not before making an exchange with Hong in his native tongue.
Hong turns to them, saying, “I have been whisked off my feet and have had my whole day ruined because of your abrupt arrival. Lets get this straight; I am not going to show you every corner of the city and I am not a tour guide. I am here to keep you out of trouble. That’s it. We are not friends and we are not here to have fun. Understood?”
Both of them reply that it’s understood.
“Good. Now. Where too?”
“Has accommodation been arranged. We are quite tired…”
They follow Hong out of the barracks and do not travel far to reach their hostel. A rather simple affair that consists of beds under a roof, and not much else. Liliana however wants to see this slave market, to which Hong replies “I did not peg you as a buyer of flesh.”
“I am not, but I am curious regardless. We do not have such things from where I come from. Everyone is free to do as they please.”
Hong agrees, and Wilfred stays back in the hostel to get some rest and much needed shut eye. The poor butler has been through a lot, and certainly deserves a pay rise after this.
They travel down towards the market area and Liliana hears the loud boisterous voices of a foreign tongue shouting and bargaining. No matter the language, one cannot mistake the sounds of trading taking place.
Liliana perches herself down and watches with keen interest. Slaves are not the only merchandise up for sale. Livestock and valuable material goods are also being traded. By the time the slaves start to line up, an hour has already passed by.
The first one up is a young muscular dark colored man, baring his chest and standing proud as the auction is underway. Liliana asks Hong what his crimes are, if any.
“Murderer. He killed a family of outcasts.”
“Outcasts? Like strigany? Nomadic peoples of a sort,” Liliana replies.
“I do not know what a strigany is, but yes, nomadic outcasts that wander without a purpose. The law does not protect them, and this man was found with their blood on his hands. But murder is murder, and he still had to pay, and this is his punishment. A life of servitude.”
“Back home, he’d have gotten a hanging.”
“Here, death is saved only for the few and sometimes, privileged. A life of atonement is usually preferred, to give back to society that the sinner has wronged. Ah… He’s just been bought.”
Liliana watches as the man descends down towards a young attractive woman flanked by two burly looking bodyguards. “Perhaps he’ll make do as a fine warrior.”
Hong smirks at that, “I think she bought him for other reasons…”
Another slave is brought towards the auction, and Liliana sees a young beautiful cathayian woman brought up onto the center platform.
“Now she’ll fetch a handsome price… noble blood that one,” Hong states.
Liliana tries to look away, and asks Hong as to who she is.
“That is the only daughter of Satou senior, the traitor who put his family in shame.”
Liliana looks towards the stage. Could it really be her mother? And if so, will she share the secret to her youth, perhaps a cream of some sort?…
The trading is fierce and there is a lot of back and forth motions, but finally a victor emerges. A plump sort of man steps up onto the stage to aid his new purchase.
Liliana remarks at how she hopes the new owner will treat with her with respect and dignity. Hong replies, “He seemed like a nice enough man. Met him earlier when he was seeking directions. Emmy I think he called himself.”
Liliana perks up at that, “Emmerich?”
“Yeah, that was it. Emmerich Karling. Nice man. A merchant from some place called Marry or something.”
Liliana is flustered and in disbelief. Words are coming out but she is struggling to piece them together.
Wanting to find out for herself, she strides over as the man known as Emmerich takes his purchase and makes his way out of the market. Liliana stops him, “Excuse me sir… but…”
He turns around and sure enough, standing there in the flesh, is Liliana’s father!
Albeit, a younger fitter version of her father.
Liliana tries to explain who she is, and how she knows him. She starts rambling on, throwing little facts she knows about her father at him, confusing the man greatly.
“Away with you! I know what this is about, some clever scam you dream’t up! Well you’ll not have my money!”
Liliana tries to explain when Wilfred comes around the corner, looking somewhat distressed. Not even noticing Emmerich, he strides up to Liliana, “Ma’am! You won’t believe this but something is not right. There’s a crack in the su…” Liliana guides Wilfred’s head towards Emmerich and Wilfred is utterly speechless.
Well, not entirely. He tries to slur out a response, but faints.
“Tell me what year it is!” Liliana cries out.
“2486 you mad woman!”
“But it can’t be… it should be 2512!”
At this point, Hong strides over, pointing an accusing finger at Liliana, “I knew it! I knew you’d be trouble!”
She tries to defuse the situation and pleads with Hong to show Emmerich to Qin, aka Cold Eyes. After Emmerich declares he’ll do this if it shuts her up, they agree. Wilfred comes around and wakes up groggily.
But something is amiss…
All around them, the scenery is changing. Quite literally. Emmerich and all the bystanders start drifting away, piece by piece, as if slowly dissolving into the wind. All the buildings around them start to fade, and now… they find themselves in a desolate dark-bleached desert. If you can call it a desert…
“Ma’am I was trying to tell you! Back at that hostel, I noticed a crowd staring up into the sky. I looked up and saw the sun, but… it was cracked! As if thorn in half! And then a desert like this starting to encroach upon the buildings and expand…”
Looking around them, they see nothing but a desolate wasteland as far as the eye can see.
They get a great sense of dread and foreboding just standing in this wasteland of ruin. Then they notice something… on the ground not far from them, only a couple of feet, a sort of glowing … portal?
They approach it and indeed see a portal in the ground, big enough to fit one person at a time, but they do not know where it leads.
Wilfred is about to go first, but Liliana beats him to it and jumps through, followed by Wilfred.
They find themselves in a house, but not just any house. This house is quite big and rather fancy. A statue stands in the corner near the doorway depicting Handrich, a minor god that is popular with merchants and traders.
They hear footsteps above, and decide to hide. They see a cloak wardrobe and try to fit in, but Wilfred’s girth forces him out as Liliana fits in nicely.
“Well. This is unexpected,” a mans voice is heard. Wilfred looks up and see’s a well dressed handsome man looking at him from the foot of the stairs.
“Tell the woman to come out.”
Liliana steps out, “Hel…” she stops when she realizes who it is…
“Wilfred… Leave.” Liliana says as her eyes lock onto Gideon. (For those that don’t remember, Gideon was the daemon that the party fought in Bogenhafen who attempted to open a portal for his master, Tzeentch. He had also kidnapped Liliana, tortured her and was going to use her as a sacrifice, until she escaped. He was subsequently killed.)
“Well now… You are full of surprises, little mortal. You are supposed to be tied up…” Liliana does what she does best… she rambles on and talks shite. She does a pretty good job at confusing Gideon who is mightily confused as to how she’s missing an arm, but her rambling only pushes Gideon’s amusement so far when he shouts “Enough!” and sends Wilfred flying against the double doors. Liliana sends a magical dart of energy towards Gideon, surprising him and drawing blood. It only angers him…
Gideon starts to transform into his true image when Liliana feels a tight grasp around her shoulder, and is pushed through the door. Unbeknownst to her, but known to Wilfred, there was another portal behind the door. But where did it lead? Anywhere but here, they thought, as they ran through it while Liliana shouted at Gideon “Tzeentch likes me betteeerrr!”
They find themselves in Liliana’s old cell, one Gideon had used to chain her up on the wall. (This was established on a random roll with both Wilfred and Liliana providing 3 locations that they’ve been to in the past. The roll landed on Liliana’s cell.)
But they notice something odd. On the wall they see two figures, but occupying the same place in time. They appear to be fading in and out. And they can hear “Heeeelp…” from the two figures, but it is the voice of a man and a woman. Liliana suspects it might be herself, and that the man might be none other than Karl Teugen, Johann Teugen’s missing brother. Both seemingly stuck in time. Shits getting weird…
Liliana freezes the bolt on her cell door, and Wilfred breaks it open, smashing it easily. Liliana recalls the exit is a flight of stairs leading up and heads that way with Wilfred.
As they come to the top of the stairs, they suddenly realize they are falling!
The land is coming up on them fast when something swoops by. They hang on for dear life and only when they have a moment to think they come to realize they are on the top of a dragon!
Their insanity is already at its limits but now a dragon?!? They realize that the dragon is being ridden by a rider who is strapped in at the baseline of the neck of the creature. The rider notices them and curses at them in a foreign tongue, they recognize it as Cathayian. But the rider is not pleased, nor does he want them on his dragon as he attempts to knock them off. It’s a struggle but eventually he succeeds, knocking both of them off as they continue to free fall to their deaths.
Just as the land is about to say HELLO they feel a painful stinging sensation in their wrists. The bracelets…
Then they vanish.
And just as quick as they vanish they reappear in the cell that greeted them upon their first visit to Cathay, and a familiar scarred face is staring at them.
“It seems you two have been having a lot of fun lately… We have been monitoring you through those bracelets, yet… it seems at one stage you managed to travel a thousand miles from here and at another point, you appeared directly above the skies of Cathay. It is fortunate that you are here now and I acted when I did. Explain.”
Liliana does her best to explain the crazy last few hours. Her story seems completely unbelievable and crazy, but Qin does not show any sign that he doesn’t believe her.
Once her story finishes, he speaks, “So it’s true… and our worst fears have been realized. What I’m about to tell you might seem bizarre, even more so than the story you shared to me. We have been studying the orb. Not I but those who are my superiors. What they tell me is quite disturbing. Even trying to fathom it is… hurting my brain. It appears that I am not real. None of this is real. Except… both of you. You see… you are trapped within the orb.”
“WHAT!?!” is the collective response from Liliana and Wilfred.
“Indeed. When you used the orb with your father, it ensnared you. Both you and your dead father. It collects memories you see, it’s not a teleportation artifact. Rather, you are experiencing the memories of your father, yourself… and I dare say, anyone else who has ever been ensnared by it. If these other memories have not surfaced, then it is only a matter of time. Furthermore, through careful study of this orb… we have been unable to determine its origin. We originally thought that it might be an elvish creation, but… it seems it is much more ancient than that. Yes, even more ancient than the elves. So you see… the crack you see above in the sky is in fact the crack in the orb.”
“How do we get out? Can we not simply fly out of the crack?”
“I would not… recommend it. I do not know. We do not know. Frankly the notion that we do not exist is completely terrifying. The dragon emperor has not been informed of this. Not surprising as I believe nobody wishes to inform him that he simply does not exist.”
“So what now…” asks Liliana.
“You spoke of an elf that your father betrayed? Torendil, correct? And your father used the orb to send Torendil somewhere? In reality… he trapped Torendil inside the orb. He could be found, but, where would your father have sent him? Another consideration is that Torendil could be experiencing rifts of different memories, like you two have been.”
Liliana points out that her father once trekked across the Darklands, that he may have sent him there.
“If so… finding him will be difficult. But I believe this is the only way. He is a scholar and he may have studied this artifact in detail, although I believe he may not have attained the nature of its true purpose, and we only have through great effort and using much of our knowledge of the ways of magic.”
Liliana agrees its the only viable lead they have. Qin leads them out, after handing Liliana the broken orb which is altogether useless, but hopes that Torendil might be able to work something out.
They head out and are greeted by four fearsome looking warriors.
“These are the Tsayian. Our best warriors. They will accompany you on this task. They have been informed… Now, stand together.”
As they get together and bunch up according to Qin’s instructions, a rift starts to form… “I must ask quickly!” Qin shouts as he starts to weave his magic. Unknown to them, Qin is casting a magical binding that will, in theory, ensure that when they travel through a portal or in this case, a rift, they will travel together. He finishes his spell as the rift consumes them whole…
*Liliana and Wilfred are given the option of rolling a 1d20 and then deciding between them which location they would like to go to. The list of locations are a combination of their memories and memories of others.
Liliana rolls a 16 and gets Nippon, a fabled land that is said to exist east off Cathay, although not so fabled to Cathayians as they know it well…
Wilfred lands a 20…. ‘Where no man has gone before’ at which point I, the GM, ask them ARE THEY SURE they would like to go with Wilfred’s choice. Then the two options are left up to a roll, a 1d6.
123 is Liliana’s choice, while 456 is Wilfred’s choice. A single 1d6 is rolled and it lands on 6!
So as they are consumed by the rift, they will be transported to a place where no man has ever gone before…
Get those fate points ready!