Ryuutama: The Next Journey

Session 6, Woodmoon 10 - 12
Raika's Journal

10 Woodmoon – Papa, I know in my heart that I did the right thing when I broke the demon-drum. I took RESPONSIBILITY, Papa! You NEVER saw that in me, that I could do that, but I can and I did! Now EVERYONE hates me, but I stopped us going down a path of no return. If we had fought those soldiers for real we’d be in BIG TROUBLE, possibly even DEAD!

Anyway, I had to follow through on my intentions or the others would have been more cross with me, so I tried to track the mantis-dragon again, and…we got lost! EVERYONE STILL HATES ME! Papa, why is doing the RIGHT THING so hard? We camped in the POURING RAIN and had a miserable night in the dragon’s jungle.

11 Woodmoon – Papa, there’s so much mud! Everyone was geared up for a miserable day, but then that lucky fox showed up, and today we found the DRAGON! So I began to talk to the dragon, since I felt the BEST THING was to ask it to move around the land regularly and STOP the OVERGROWTH. Surprisingly it was Sakura who took up my argument, and we cut a DEAL with the dragon! We learnt that the dragons are under threat from the demons, and are reinforcing the BARRIERS to keep the demons underground…or something like that! Anyway, most of our group made a pact to save the dragons…Minami didn’t, because Minami just likes money, and San just seems to believe in the natural order of things. So everything was starting to turn out alright, maybe? We snuck back to town (Bloom…field…ville?) and spoke to the Ishida clan lady who was cross about the drum so we didn’t get paid, then Sakura got a bit weird about the Ishida lady’s clothes. She asked us to leave.

12 Woodmoon – Leaving town, the jungle was already receding a bit, and we encountered a trader’s caravan under attack by a BASILISK and some bamboo creatures! I got skewered by bamboo (OWIE!) but Minami saved me. We won the day and chatted with a lady, Anastasia, who survived the attack on the caravan. (I think she liked Minami but he didn’t notice). We escorted her to the next town, Highgate. She was a magistrate. There had been a MURDER in the town, a professor allegedly suffocated by his assistant. We found ourselves deputised to investigate the case! We interviewed some staff and investigated the body. We figured out that the professor was not suffocated, but was POISONED! We arranged to meet with Anastasia the next day…

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Session 5, Woodmoon 4 - 10
Jungle Boogie

Woodmoon 4

It is such a beautiful morning. Today is the day we leave the Great Circus and continue on our jouney. Everyone appears to be in high spirits – I think the festivities, even with the problems that occurred, were a much-needed diversion. I was against it at first, but being here helped to remind me of… happier times. I cannot dwell on those however. My new friends have only just learned about the Regalia and the part they will play in the fate of the world. They journeyed out to create a story, and reunite with their lost loved ones. Well, I suppose saving the world will make for a really great story… now I am getting a bad feeling, because all of my favourite books when I was younger were tragedies.
I think we are getting ready to leave. And, I have a sneaking suspicion that Nikki is going to steal my diary and plunder its secrets. The joke is on her, Poro has eaten most of the pages! I should still learn to write more in a manner befitting my… agricultural heritage. I mean, farm upbringing.
~
We’re at camp now, but I can’t sleep a darn wink. The day’s journey started fine enough – we entered the Forest of Flowers that surrounds Bloomsville. It’s such a beautiful place! The air is warm, filled with the exotic scents. There is such a variety of strange flowers everywhere – some biolu- … glow-in-the-dark plants, weirdly-shaped bug-eater plants, and plenty of small, delicate ones nestled between the big ones. More reminders of home. Oh, but the travel was slow going. Raika did manage to find the beaten path and me, San and Nikki had no trouble getting through, but the ground got very boggy in places, and Minami had trouble with the animals. Poro helped to get them moving again but he’s acting funny too. Maybe it’s because he’s a sheep dog, and San brought a giant white wolf from the circus. So dangerous, that young lady! What do giant wolves eat anyway? Giant sheep? She hasn’t started snacking on Minami’s pack animals yet, so she must be eating something. Actually, that explains why San’s hunting trip didn’t go very well today – Yuki (that’s the wolf’s name) ate it all!

Oh, and there are bugs everywhere! Buzzing, biting, bothering. There’s no way we’re getting a good night’s sleep tonight. I asked Akio if he could make a spell to keep the bugs away, like a magic lantern or something. He seemed to think about that, but then he went to cast some other magic. Or maybe he just forgot. When I went to ask him again later, he’d sealed himself in some sorta magical cocoon. Gross! But then again, at least it keeps the bugs out. Ironically.

Woodmoon 5

This morning I woke up late, so I didn’t have time to write anything until now. We’re still a long way from Bloomsville and I think everyone is in a bad mood because of the conditions. Nikki spiced our rations for breakfast and dinner, which made me feel a little better. I guess not much happened today, or maybe it did and I just didn’t notice? We didn’t really make any progress though, I think Raika lost the path and didn’t say anything. Camping was a bit better, Minami and I went looking around and we found a nice hill, with these little flowers around it – looks like their scent repels insects naturally. Neat! When it got darker, we sat and watched the fireflies flitting about beyond the hill. You know, it’s times like these that I really appreciate how beautiful the world around us is. It’s been rough getting through the forest, but it just doesn’t seem so bad right now.

Later on we were going over our supplies, and it looks like we only have two days of food left. If I remember right, Bloomsville is about three days away, so I hope we can find something soon. San’s hunt didn’t go well, but I think it might be because of the environment. Maybe there’s something wrong here, as well. Nikki suggests we try eating the flowers that are keeping the bugs away, but I don’t think that’s a good idea.

Woodmoon 6

We all slept well last night, and during breakfast we got to talking about what might be wrong with the environment here. The weirdest thing is that there aren’t any birds around – Minami thinks the forest might be too thick for them, but Hiro thinks that the bugs are poisonous to eat, and that’s why the birds are gone. I don’t think I’ve ever heard about bugs being poisonous to eat, but I wouldn’t know, and Hiro seems to know all about poisons and that sort of thing. The good thing about the forest being so thick is that it’s been easy for him to find herbs, that he can use to treat our injuries – we’re all getting worn down from how tough it is to get through the forest. Well, most of us – Nikki and San are doing fine. But San is a forest child, she’s had a lot of practice, plus Yuki helps her. I don’t know what Nikki’s secret is – youthful exuberance? Well, she’s only a year or two younger than me, but she acts even younger. So maybe she just doesn’t notice her legs hurting most days.

We crossed a creek bed, and by that time most of us had enough. I decided that I would be the one in charge of setting up camp today, and I think I did a pretty good job. Raika helped, though. Even though he gets lost a lot and doesn’t know how to pitch a tent, he’s a good helper. Maybe he’s just not the type to take charge? Oh, Nikki and San still had enough energy to go foraging, and they managed to find a bit of food. We still might run out before we reach Bloomsville, but if they can keep this up we’ll be fine. Akio mentioned that if we run out, we’ll have to resort to… “smelly” rations. Well, as long as I don’t have to inhale it I guess. It beats starving.

Woodmoon 7

Today was just exhausting. It feels so good to sit down and relax in camp.

We passed some old farmland which has been overgrown by forest. I didn’t think of it at the time, but doesn’t this seem kind of familiar? Like back in Arianna where the dragon was causing the forest to overgrow and take over the raspberry plantations? Anyway, since we’re finally seeing signs of civilisation, we must be getting closer. But today was so bad I almost couldn’t keep going. Then Hiro made me this special Chrysanthemum tea, and I felt a lot better after drinking it. I miss good tea. Well, Hiro’s brew wasn’t bad, but there is only so much you can get from a campfire and a grimey kettle. Maybe if I pretend I like the rustic charm, it will taste better?

Not much happened today though. Actually, I have a feeling we’re going the wrong way – the path we took seems to go around the edge of the fields, when we should be cutting across to get to Bloomsville. Foraging went well again today, so our food worries are over at least. Well, that is if we don’t go around in circles tomorrow…

Woodmoon 8

Today was pretty eventful! It seemed like we were almost there, and just as well because even San was getting tired. But before we could reach Bloomsville, we were attacked! By bugs, of course, with a side helping of vicious plant life. There were these huge beetles called Maximilian Kabuto, though I couldn’t appreciate how pretty their colourful shells were because of how tough they were to fight. Actually I was really worried about this fight – me and San were both too tired to fight all that well, and we’re normally right in the thick of it. I grabbed a spare pitchfork and managed to wedge a tine right into a weak point in a beetle’s armour, stopping it. San tried to do the same with a hoe, but… well it didn’t work so well. Minami used his magic to enchant Nikki’s axe with ice, and she easily took one down by herself – but then Minami was knocked down by some sort of tumbleweed monster, and Nikki was eaten by some sort of Pseudoparasol plant. Or something? Hiro had some sort of spell that summoned a magical book about it, though I still don’t really understand what that was.

Well, we managed to cut Nikki out, and somehow when the plant died it became a regular (but kinda slimey) umbrella, which I decided to keep. But even though we won that battle, there were still swarms of insects everywhere – it looked like we were in serious trouble. But then suddenly, these people in black armour suits appeared, wielding strange spray weapons – some sort of bug exterminator squad? They drove the insects away and led us towards Bloomsville. Civilisation at last! The squad leader introduced herself as Hanako, and said she was part of the Imperial army. More talk of this mysterious Empire, huh? Then she told us that journeys were forbidden under their law, so we told her that we were merchants from Stonekeep. Which is technically true, I mean Minami is a merchant, and we do have goods to sell (we managed to peel off one of the beetle shells intact – I almost want to keep it, but we need the money). Hanako took us to her superior, Captain Nagi, and she explained a little more about their strange laws. It looks like this Emperor is really against the dragons – Captain Nagi talked about how the worship of dragons is backwards superstition, and they want to stamp it out. Well, I don’t agree at all, but this wasn’t the place to make a stand. This “Emperor” will just have to see that the will of the people will stand up against his laws.

Oh, we did learn that the Forest of Flowers had been normal until 7 years ago, when the bugs started appearing and the plants grew out of control. The Imperials don’t know why, though I have a guess… We end up learning more about this later in the day, though. We left the command post and headed to the market – a bit of rest and relaxation was well-deserved after all that walking, although first we needed to make some money and buy travelling supplies. This was also a good time to ask around about what was wrong with the forest – what we learned was that there used to be a Bird Dragon in the area, ruling over the locals. But after someone (sounding suspiciously like San’s older sister) came and slayed the dragon, a Mantis Dragon moved in – it seems to keep its distance from the people directly, but it’s been causing the problems in the forest. Sounds like we’ll have to look into that. For now though, we decided to go our separate ways for the day, and agreed to meet at the inn. Nikki and I went to the bath house – a long soak in hot water is really the only way to recover after a trip like that. While we were there, though… a strange lady approached us. She tells us she is from the Ishida family… “farmers”, of course (I hope I don’t sound that transparent…) She asked me to help her and her allies regain power in Bloomsville by driving off the local Mantis Dragon. I told her I’d think about it and decided to talk to the others about it when we met at the inn.

After the Bathhouse we went to see the Fortune Teller – Raika joined us for this one. I guess he ran out of other stuff to do? Anyway, it was good to finally find a skilled practitioner of the art, and I was able to learn a great deal about my own destiny. I’ve visited fortune tellers many times in the past, but since my… new situation, this is the first time I’ve spoken to one. Hrm. A cage of fire, a labyrinth of thorns. The way must be unlocked with wisdom, she said. That is the way to the sceptre… oh, anyway! I shouldn’t write the details of Nikki’s fortune reading, since they are of course very personal matters about food, her pursuit of the culinary arts, family and of course, marriage. Raika asked about his career when it was his turn. Then finally we went to meet the others at the inn – we had a lot to tell them, and so did they actually. For dinner we had some sort of weird curry. I love a good curry dish, but this one had a weird flavour, and it was way too spicy. I had to drink a lot of yak milk to keep my cool.

It turned out that Minami had received an offer from Captain Nagi, to slay the dragon. It seems that they have some sort of secret weapon, and they would rather send us to do it for some reason. But that’s not all – San was asked by some of the locals – dragon worshipers – to bring an offering to the Mantis Dragon, so that they could make peace and maybe convince it to calm the forest down. Decisions, decisions. I decided the only we would get through this is by figuring out what we all wanted, as a group, and then pick the best option for us. Well, some parts were easy enough – no one liked the Empire, from all that we’ve heard about it so far, except Minami. Hrmph, I swear all he thinks about is money, though he should be the wisest of us, being the eldest. I can’t bring myself to think ill of him though, because he has been a good friend, and he is pretty smart. Next we talked about the dragon worshipers – none of us really cared about them either. I mean, we are dragon-pilgrims ourselves, but the local worshipers seem a bit extreme preferring to pay tribute to cruel and uncaring local dragons. In the end we decided that driving the Mantis Dragon off would be the best option, as it would help the locals and deal a blow to the mysterious Empire as well.

Afterwards, while I was doing our laundry, I met with Ishida again. She took me to her… um, “Farmhouse”. It seems their fortunes had fallen, much like… other families. They did have a beautiful, detailed tapestry – oh, but that isn’t important right now. We talked about her family’s heirloom, the Mantle of Wind – another piece of the regalia. I also learned more about the regalia the Emperor has – the Lead Crown, which we learned a few days ago that the Emperor had taken from the stone people, and used to open the gateway to the underworld. Troubling. Anyway, once the dragon has been driven off, Ishida could use the regalia to drive the soldiers away. All we needed to do was play a strange drum near the Mantis Dragon. A demonskin drum… pleasant, huh? Well, I agreed, and returned to the inn. Tomorrow, we go back to the Forest of Flowers.

Woodmoon 9

We’ve set off into the forest again. I’m not sure if we know how we’re going to find the dragon, but with our map-reading skills, we’ll do just as well whether we’re trying to find it or just wandering aimlessly. Oh, the others aren’t too happy about the demonskin drum – neither is that funny little fox that seems to follow us around now and then. We don’t really have much choice but to use it, though.

It turned out that even though Minami turned down Captain Nagi’s offer, she still sent Hanako out… San went to sneak up on them, and she told us that they were definitely up to no good. They’re probably following us, and plan to use their secret weapon on the dragon. Well, the joke’s on them – Raika’s leading us! We have no idea where we’re going!

Woodmoon 10

Could this day have gone any worse?!

In the morning, we started to talk about what we were going to do with the soldiers following us. Well, we agreed we would have to defeat them, but it seemed that one of them was spying on us and rushed to warn the others. When we went to see them, we found out that Hanako wasn’t with them – she must have been trying to sneak away from us with the secret weapon. San, Hiro and I managed to catch and ambush her, but… then things got complicated. The secret weapon she was carrying – a huge poison gas bomb, like their bug-slaying weapons – she blew it up! I got away from the blast and managed to hold my breath and San, somehow she was completely fine. Hiro got really sick and ran off to escape the smog, and Hanako… Even though she was our enemy, we didn’t want her to die. San and I rushed her back to the others, but with our healer gone and her being at the centre of the blast…

Luckily our magic saved her life. Somehow, Minami managed to convince the soldiers that we were still on the same side. They headed back to Bloomsville, but we still had a problem – Hiro had been separated from us, and he was probably not doing very well. We had no choice but to set off and find him – instead, we found the Mantis Dragon. Good, right? At least we could do what we came out here to do?

Wrong! I don’t know what happened, but for some reason Raika started talking to the angry and dangerous dragon. It said something about the land dying if it left, and that the drum was wicked. I kept hissing at him to play the drum and end this, but instead? He pulls out a sword (I didn’t even know he had one! He never uses it…) and broke the drum! The Ishida family’s drum, which was entrusted to me, that I was to safely return! He said that the drum was bad, so it had to be destroyed. I can’t believe this! We had a plan, and we were about to resolve everything. Sure, it wasn’t a perfect solution, but it was the best we could do. And now? We’re right back where we started, and I don’t even know what we should do next.

I’m so angry, I just broke another quill. I only have one left, but i

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Session Four: 25 Vinemoon to 3 Woodmoon
The White Death, Claymen and a Chef

25-27 Vinemoon

Woke up in Stonekeep this morning, feeling much better. I must remember eating lots of raspberries is a very bad idea. I t’s as bad as eating week old fish cowder.
What was intersting was finaly being able to sneak a peak into a few other journals. Good work everyone! Firstly, from now on i’m going to try and write more grown up. Secondly, I spell NIKKI with two K’s.

While acclimatising myself to waking somewhere completely new (see what I mean grown up sounding entries), I could hear Minami-san and the others discussing ‘economic practicalities in rural communities’, trying to sort out how to best help the town not collapse now that we’ve chased out the previously ruling demon overlords. Do we install a new leader? A council? I thoughtfully suggested we move the discussion to the newly reopened hot springs for a bit of much needed relaxation and cleaning. Who knows, maybe the healing steam will invigorate our minds?

While I knew little to contribute to the Great Debate I do know a thing or two about thinking, I think? Da. The steam worked! They talked for what I am pretty sure was hours about how the village worked and the state that our predecessors in Dragon questing had left the place. I’m still sure their story was great but wow, they seem to have left a mess bigger than Yana’s playpen behind them! I’m starting to form the opinion that they’re flashy half-job-Hiro’s. The winner of the day was Minami-san with her grand idea for Gentriocracy. Even now she’s formulating more plans to provide instruction to the village elders and with our help, demonstrate how their new systems should work and a new exchange rate. Its all rather exciting but over my head. On the bright side, I’m clean again. Feels nice.

While this was going on, Akio-san, practical soul he is, sourced some goat hides! At an excellent rate too. I hadn’t known that he knew armour crafting. I’m looking forward to seeing what he makes!
… Interesting to watch but I don’t think its for me. Hiro-san and I agree that it smells awfully strongly of wet goat. It does seem a practical thing to wear but only San-senpai seems properly interested. She’s already commissioned a full set for when he can get a full set of skins and the time. Good luck to you Akio-san! (remember to never tell San-senpai that San-san would be an adorable name.)

Sakura-san joins Minami-san in teaching the locals about crop rotation. Sounds like a smart idea to me, no wasting of land and seasonal food always available! Sakura-san is very smart and knows a lot about farming. Maybe she will teach me more about food? Maybe they should open a school? They both certainly seem very knowledge to me, and the townsfolk are learning fast. It certainly has given me an extra day for a new recipe and some much needed practice in a rustic kitchen. Cherve is a hit with me but not with Sakura-san.

(refer to RB page 27- recipe and commentary for Cherve, a kind of goats cheese)
Note: Sakura pulled me aside tonight, apparently I’ve been too formal in my writing! Guess I’m not the only one reading other peoples journal’s!

28 Vinemoon

Its a sad day today. It feels strange that today, for the first time in four years, I won’t be doing the prep for Seatown’s end of Vinemoon special supper. I’m still enjoying sleeping in each morning but I think I’m starting to feel homesick. I’ve not been away from Seatown for so long since my family moved there seven years ago. Will have to stay positive and maybe write them a letter. Think they’d like that.

1 Woodmoon

Woke up to another beautiful morning! Hiro and Riker are feeling unwell today. Was it something I cooked? Niet, we ate the villages food last night. Maybe they’re nervous now that we’re leaving the town to travel further. Riker hasn’t been lucky with reading the land or the weather lately. You won’t let us down again, I believe in you!

At camp that tonight I cooked a delicious goat while Minami and Hiro were try out magical armour. Are they jealous of Akio’s smelly goat armour? I hope not for the foods sake or everything will taste like goat no matter what I do!
Something strange did happen as we listened to the radio after dinner. There was an ad for a circus! A real live circus! With monster catching challenges, strange beasts and all kinds of events. We should hurry back to the Grasslands to catch it! Also, there was a weird, rumbly sounding chanting on a new channel … it’s probably nothing though.

2 Woodmoon

We have reached the Grasslands again! I’m personally hoping for more raspberries, they sold well and I know what not to do with them now. The weather is just as wet as yesterday so umbrellas, jackets and rain hats are all back out. We look a bit like the fishing fleet rejects in mismatched pieces.
After dinner we find that new gravelly sounding chanting channel again. I was about to ask to change the channel to the fishing forecast (da, I am feeling homesick) when Sakura jumped up excitedly. She knows what the noise is and I’m still a bit confused why a farmer would know what a stone elemental sounds like.

3 Woodmoon

Today we woke to yet more rain. It’s enough to get even me down despite rain is great for the plants, animals & fish. Riker is starting to look a bit pale – maybe it is my cooking? I’ll have to cook something special tonight just for him.

Just as we broke camp, ready to set out for the day there was a great rumbling of the earth, like I’d never known before. Was it the much told and feared earthquake? No! It was a small band of muddy, rocky creatures Sakura claimed were Claymen. Naturally, as we can’t speak rock and they weren’t listening to us, we got in a bit of a fight with them.

(to stick in: an epic stick-figure illustrations of the battle)

Featured in the fight: San heroically flinging herself from a various obstacles to spear the fearsome Clayman, swarm of pygmies, giant lily pads and our foes giving it their all. Don’t they know hitting San-senpai is a bad idea. It’ll just make her mad. No one wants to see her mad shudders. Hiro was able to heal me right up with a cup of chrysanthemum tea. Thanks!
Minami cast another great snowball spell and, after much hacking, slashing and some amazing acrobatics by San-senpai, including a neat piece of decapitation, we won!
Then a mole started negotiations. I didn’t know moles could talk. Basically, the Claymen didn’t want us to skin their brethren, they were upset about something else and took it out on us. We said we’d look into it, and harvested hides once they left. Minami said they’d be worth a lot of gold.

So with that done, we were on our way with Hiro’s friendly fox in the lead. Soon enough, we run into the trainee criminal and her Nekogoblin, offering to lead us to the circus. While travelling, they tell us of all the attractions, including Chef Melissa! I have never felt so excited before!

Naturally, we split up once we reach the camp of huge brightly coloured tents. San dashes off to the arena and is quickly signed up for a battle with the fearsome “White Death”. Having just witnessed Ravennha battle a tentacle beast I feared for her safety. As usual, she did the impossible and defeated it with the power of hugs! The wolfs name is Yuki and she belongs to her elder sister. Aww.

Akio met an old man at the Radio tower who’s “experiment” was the cause of strange broadcasts, Hiro went in search of the Healers tent, Sakura started following hooded figures while the rest followed me to Chef Melissa. Wow, is she amazing! She’s dedicated he last 15 years experimenting and developing an entirely new cooking genre – Monster Cuisine! Its not tasty for humans but Yuki thinks it’s delicious! Minami concocts a wonderful idea to launch a new product line and market Monster Snacks for Monsters! Chef Melissa is so happy I get a hug. I’ve never been happier. Papa will be soo jealous.

Somehow, I don’t remember exactly, we ended up wondering into the Freak Show tent while talking, running into everyone else. There, Dr radio-tower (Hensigenst) is offering to buy a Clayman child trapped in a cage from the Ringmaster for 500G! I instantly despise him, as does everyone else. How cruel can you be?

Apparently much crueller, as we discovered the cage is able to shock the child who starts screaming. A child who is a Prince! Sakura arrives with the hooded Claymen who were furious. Everyone was angry and yelling and the child was screaming and I just wanted it all to stop and go cook. Instead, we started what I’m calling our Three-ring Battle!

San & I jumped at the Claymen in an attempt to stop them. Minami and Riker keep attacking the cage until it’s open and the poor child is freed. Hiro found yet more midgets. I’m yet to work out how he keeps finding them. Maybe they’re following him around? Sakura runs over to join our efforts white fireworks and Minami’s giraffe before BOOM! Akio fired himself out of the cannon directly at the Radio tower!

It was very impressive, right before a great stone dragon burst through the ground and headed straight for us! I thought we were doomed. Bravely, we fought on. Thankfully, Akio was, while clinging to the tower, able to stall the Dr, just long enough and change the radio to turn off the chanting. Phew

( to stick in: three illustrations of the battle)

Minami, when things were quiet again, negotiated with the Ringmaster and Claymen successfully for the release of young Prince Clay and the dragon is called away! Hiro makes healing juice and we collect a nice reward of gold.
Akio runs back, shouting that the Dr. was trying to control the Claymen and had been lying to the Ringmaster. He also mentioned something about the long gone Emperor, the Underworld and an lead crown. I think he did a deal with a dragon & sealed gates? I’m waiting for someone who’s studied history to explain this to me. I’m confused, and not just that the fox is still hanging around.

BTW – I must tell the family that I got a new bundle of recipes for my recipe book but also TWO hugs from Chef Melissa and promise that she’ll write me!

( refer to RB page 30-45: recipes for Monster Cuisine. Yuki particularly fancies pickled Ochu eyes)

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Journal, Session 3
Embrace of the Demon!

Andrew – Smith, Quartermaster
Anton – San, Leader
Malcolm – Minami, Journaller
Matt – Akia
Michael – Raika, Mapper
Mish – Niki, Ill
Thomas – Sakura, Minstrel

Extracts from the Travel Journal of Minami

20 Vinemoon

By the time we returned to Ariana the landscape had already changed, the thick forest giving way to more open terrain around the village walls. The Shrine Maidens were very happy and gave us a blessing, and everyone celebrated.

San and Akia went to extra effort to hunt snakes along the way and collect their skins. I sold the skins in Ariana for a decent sum, but think we may have collected most of the gold they have here by now.

21 Vinemoon

After a days rest we restocked and did some trading Sakura suggested buying another pack animal for the group and I had to point out this wa an obvious waste. I managed to pick up some wooden tools and small furniture to trade, but I fear it will not be for much profit.

This time we travelled with with much greater ease. Without the forest we were affected by strong winds but things went well until the end of the day. Having no shelter on the moors the winds made most of us sleep poorly, although San brought down a mountain goat for a delicious roast dinner.

22 Vinemoon

Travel was more difficult today, but we still made good time and could see a town in the mountains. We found some rock to form a windbreak but had to settle for normal rations.

23 Vinemoon

Climbing into the mountains we came across some ruffians harassing a young lady. Sakura took offense to this and decided to fight the bandits, who declared themselves to be in some kind of gang. After a brief scuffle we saw them off and took a prisoner. The young lad – “One-Eyed Jules” was happy to talk, and soon we understood that the situation on the town was quite complicated – three gangs shared control and cooperated in exploiting the local townfolk.

The Silk Blossom gang was led by “Hiroko”, who owned the local gambling house. The Golden Horse gang ran a fortress and corral and were led by “Tagami”. The larget inn in town was the “Summer Cloud”, under the control of a gang by the same name led by “Junko”. A brief stop at the maiden’s hut to deliver healing herbs for her father taught us that the local used chits of debt as currency, and the poor soon built up a large collection of them.

The townsfolk also knew the name of Katia Ohka, who had apparently spread tales of me as her apprentice. Ohka apparently set up the system of commerce the town used, so I was most intrigued to see how it functioned.

Upon reach the town proper we headed for the Gambling House directly, to pursue our goal of find out what was going on. The town appeared fairly normal, although a little more run-down and impoverished than average. Hiroko, it transpired, was an opulently attired woman whose establishment was equally well appointed – it was clear where the town’s wealth went.

I used my infamy as Ohka’s apprentice to gain an audience, Hiroko was evasive but it was obvious something was awry at the town’s once-famous hot springs. She also mention an amulet she was wearing, and Akia whispered to me that it bore the symbol of a demon. After Hiroko’s multiple refusal to tell us anything I must confess I lost patience and put her to sleep with a magic spell. I took her amulet, and her form at once transformed into that of a wizened old woman – the demon had extracted it’s price, and clearly we had to stop the evil that was occurring here.

By then it was late in the afternoon anf the group retired to the Summer Cloud Inn. It was a clean and well-organised place, but the staff wore masks and identical clothing and seemed wary of us. We inquired after Junko but were told she was busy.

24 Vinemoon

After taking breakfast we again tried to meet with Junko but could not find her. In the village it a crowd had gathered upon hearing of us, and directed us to the Golden Horse Fort. Here we were shown inside, where a large and powerful man named Tagami was waiting.

San offered to fight Tagami in a wrestling match, but seemed outmatched. After a great struggle and some great cheering by some of the party, San prevailed. We claimed Tagami’s amulet, returning him to the form of a scrawny coward as the demon must have found him.

I decided I had seen enough of the town’s economy. It was obviously intended to enrich these gang leaders and keep the townspeople in poverty – I can’t imagine what Ohka must have been thinking. I collected the debt chits of all three gangs and went to the town square. I informed the assembled townspeople that they had been mislead and would have to change how their town was run. I had them build a bonfire and then destroyed all of the chits, debtors and lender’s alike. I had great faith that if they were to use a more straightforward currency and restored trade with nearby towns their lot would vastly improve. However, we still had the difficult matter of the demon to deal with.

Meanwhile, Aika, San and Sakura searched the Summer Cloud inn and found a secret room with a woman and a young girl – the girl was wearing the amulet around her neck. The woman pleaded with them to keep her daughter, while Akia tried to convince her that they needed the amulet to fix the town. Finally the woman agreed and asked for five minutes with her daughter. After 3 minutes, Sakura opened the door and found that the woman has taken her own life, and the daughter without the amulet was a wizened corpse.

25 Vinemoon

After a sober night of preparation we hastened to the hot springs. Using the amulets to open the doors we found a luxurious palace with servants and a very handsome host.

Then, something very strange happened. Each of us had a vision of what we wanted most in the world – returning to Sea town, making great riches, great understanding, reunion with lost loved ones. All of us were lost in a daze except for Smith. It seemed he could not decide – he had no goal in life and refused to fall sway to the demon’s trance. So the demon attacked instead, and there was a huge fight with succubi, flying cockroaches, blindness, butlers, and plenty of unconsciousness. Eventually we prevailed and the demon fled back into whatever foul realm it had come from.

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Journey Record, Page Two
Race Against Time! San and the Grasslands Dragon

15 Vinemoon

We have arrived in Ariana, Gateway to the Grasslands! I do not understand this name, because it is in the middle of a forest. Apparently, the town is “famous” for its raspberry jam, but they’ve been having difficulty finding the raspberries. While Niki and I took the opportunity to seek out masters of our crafts, Minami set up a market stall to sell the goods we’d found along the way. Minami’s already a master, clearly, as the townsfolk nearly rioted trying to buy some of our raspberry jam. It didn’t help that San was whipping up the crowd.
We seem to have picked up a little fox somewhere along the way. It’s a curious little thing, with very strong opinions. San, naturally, wanted to kill it.
Raika, meanwhile, met a young shepherd named Sakura, who is on a Journey of her own and got left behind, I think. I’m not very clear on what happened, exactly. I’m sorry, story dragon! Hopefully it’s not an exciting story. Sakura asked if she could come with us, and we all agreed it was the more, the merrier, except for San.
Late in the afternoon, we noticed some hunters arguing with the local shrine maidens. We found out that the forest was created by a grassland dragon that made a nest nearby ten years ago and refused to leave in all that time. That would explain why the so-called Gateway to the Grasslands isn’t anywhere near the grasslands. The hunters say they have orders from the local lord to go and kill it, while the shrine maidens want to convince it to leave so the town can recover. San interrupted and told them both they were weak for not tolerating the forest that’s choking their town.
I’ve decided San’s kind of a jerk.
In the inn that night, Raika’s radio, the one that Theo built, started picking up a signal. We managed to tune it with the help of that curious little fox, but the only thing we picked up was a voice constantly repeating the word ‘stay’.

16 Vinemoon
The hunters have already left! If we want to stop them from killing the grassland dragon, we’re going to have to go out in this weather! I hope it’ll be okay.

A list of things to watch out for in what I have decided is called the Unwanted Forest:

  • Bloodvine: this smelly vine attracts stinging insects. If it bursts, its juices get everywhere, including all over your skin. It is terrible.
  • Rain: it will not stop raining in the Unwanted Forest. My umbrella is wet inside somehow, and I haven’t had time to fix my raincoat.
  • Leaves: they are everywhere, and when it is constantly raining, they are very very slippery when on the forest floor
  • Curious foxes: they can navigate by smell and have fur cutes and more feet and aren’t as heavy, so they serve as effective navigators. At the least, I think it was better at it than Raika has been
  • Trees: as a magical forest, we’re pretty sure the blasted trees keep shuffling around behind us
  • Rocks: obviously they are everywhere and they have a right to be whereever they landed, but I wish they wouldn’t be directly under my sleeping bag no matter where I shift
  • San: not so tough now are you
  • Kineko goblins: please let me know if they still exist
  • Story dragons: maybe we should get the nearest fox to lead us to one so we know this isn’t all for nothing
  • Niki: HOW are you enjoying this
  • The Unwanted Forest: I WANT TO GO HOME BUT I DON’T KNOW WHAT DIRECTION THAT IS

17 Vinemoon
The rain is starting to clear up, which I’m happy about. We didn’t get much sleep last night, so we were taken by surprise when a strange vine monster attacked us. It very nearly ate me, and I think I blacked out. The next thing I remember, Hiro was standing over me, forcing some bitter magic brew into my mouth. It was a very tough fight, and Hiro ran out of his healing magic, but we managed to prevail, in no small part thanks to San.

We decided it was best to get out of the forest, and we managed to make it up to a rocky plateau before sundown. The grassland dragon’s cave is at the top. Hopefully, we’ll sleep a little better tonight.

I still want to go home.

18 Vinemoon

The problem with our very useful pack animals is that they’re not so useful when climbing up a steep rockface. This goes double for Minami, who is even more useful and a worse climber. He managed to find a path up that wound around the mount, but while we were waiting, we saw a flash of blue emerging from the forest. We’d beaten the hunters here, but not by enough.

A few of us snuck into the dragon’s cave, and almost immediately ran into a terrible smell! San snuck in all the way and discovered the grassland dragon was nursing what seemed like a baby dragon, but there was something terribly wrong with it, like it was sick. San wanted to kill the baby right there and then, but we convinced her that the mother dragon would become furious and would squash her flat, and the hunters would fall on the mother dragon in her grief and kill her easily. Instead, we’d take the baby dragon and lead the mother dragon out of the cave, out of the range of the hunters; once we got the baby into the sun and had a good look at it, then we’d decide what to do. San started to argue, and then, volunteered to lure the dragon out of the cave.

At that point, the hunters arrived, led by a woman named Ravenna. We quickly convinced her that we were there to help kill the dragon, so we all snuck into the cave. Then, San pounced, snatching the baby dragon and running for the mouth of the cave. The mother dragon roared, and tried to give chase, with the hunters leaping onto her back (but not for long, because we had a sleep spell handy!). Ravenna shot San, one, two, three times, but she still kept running! We wrestled Ravenna to the ground, and San leapt onto an ice toboggan we’d made to get her all the way to the bottom. Once she got down to the bottom, San took one good look at the baby dragon, and before we could stop her, she dashed it against the rocks, then collapsed.

The mother dragon tried to attack San while she was unconscious, but we managed to get down quickly enough to make her think twice. She wouldn’t leave the body of her child behind, and curled around it, grieving. We moved San away while Hiro tried to bring her back awake. Ravenna, the huntress, saw us, and told us she’d take her squad and leave, and that the Emperor (whoever that is) would hear of our interference. I figured I should write that down in case we ever do run across an Emperor, even though I’ve never heard of an Emperor and I doubt we’ll meet any Emperors. Every little bit helps the story, I guess!

San told us, when she came to, that she thought that the little dragon wasn’t sick at all, but dead, and had been a long time. Once she’d had a good look at it, it was obvious that whatever had made it keep moving and chewing and breathing wasn’t right, so she made it stop the quickest way she knew. San can be very abrupt, but I guess without San we’d still be talking over what to do, and I imagine things would be very much worse. We’d have to work out how to get the mother dragon to move on tomorrow; she would be grieving for a while.

18/19 Vinemoon

Niki woke us up because she’d heard something over the ridge, where the mother dragon was. We snuck over, quietly as we could, to have a look. There was a blue dragon there, of a kind I’ve never seen before, sitting next to the grasslands dragon. I don’t know what kind of dragon it was. Maybe it’s a dragon that heals? The mother dragon didn’t seem to be as upset with the blue dragon around.

19 Vinemoon

When we woke up this morning, we’d been moved a great deal higher away from the forest! Or, maybe, the forest had moved away from us. We went to check on the mother dragon, and to our surprise, it had disappeared, and in its place was a sprawling raspberry bush. Niki and I got to work making jam, while Sakura found a piece of radio equipment at the base of the bush. It was Theodoric’s work!

This was a very difficult adventure, but I’m worried. I don’t think it’s a co-incidence that Theo and the others passed through her at the same time as this mother dragon settled down to nurse its dead dragon child. I think something bad happened on that last trip, and there are things that need to be set right. First stop: back to Ariana.

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Journey Record, Page One
This Beautiful Forest Wasn't Here The Night Before...

12 Vinemoon

We’ve all decided to set off on a Journey! The shrine maidens tell me that it’s very important someone writes down everything we do so that the dragon will grow, because they eat stories. I hope they do not need to eat the pages. This journal was very expensive.

We have not seen any dragons yet. The shrine maidens tell us that this is nothing to worry about, but they are worried. We do not often go on Journeys in Seatown, so maybe they have done it wrong. Raika’s master is very cross that he is going, so we had to leave without saying goodbye. I put up a sign. I am sure that everyone will pitch in and help while we are gone.

Journeying is very hard going! We walked all day and Minami is sure we passed the same rock three times. We were attacked by some very cute wild dogs, and we managed to defeat them! It is good that we can defend ourselves, but I wish we were better at navigating. Hopefully someone will buy all the fangs we harvested. I tried to fix some of my equipment, but I’m not very good at working without my trusty workbench yet.

San is frustrated that she is having no luck at hunting. She will not say so, but I can tell. I am sorry, San, but we need to tell the truth. You’ll have better luck later, I’m sure!

13 Vinemoon

Niki is suited for travel, it seems; she has been chirpy ever since we left. I hope everyone’s spirits will stay high!

I think Raika is having trouble leaving home, because I think he keeps circling back towards the coast. We did not make much progress, but while finding our way, we discovered a patch of raspberries. Niki used my magic wooden spoon to turn it into lots of delicious raspberry jam. We’re having difficulty carrying it all!

14 Vinemoon

I had a great nights’ sleep. I’m enjoying the Journey life!

We met our first dragon today! It’s a grassland dragon, so it’s probably not interested in our stories. I suggested we feed it some of our jam, and it really liked it! It helped us cross the grasslands, and it was all we could do to keep up. I’m so tired from running that I might need to cut this entry short and go to sleep. Sorry, story dragon! I’ll do better tomorrow.

15 Vinemoon

We’ve woken up at the top of a tree! It seems a forest has grown up around us overnight. This must have been the work of the dragon we fed raspberry jam to earlier. It looks like it’s gone back to the grasslands, but that doesn’t mean we’re alone.

There’s a young girl and a kineko goblin in the tree next to us, and they have Hiro’s favourite necklace, and my favourite hammer! Those thieves! We rushed down the tree as fast as was safe, and one good shot was enough to make the young girl fall over onto the grass. We managed to retrieve what she stole, but we made a deal with her and her furry friend: if she led us to the next town, we’d give her some of our delicious raspberry jam. That raspberry bush really was a lucky find!

Poor Raika is having a tough time making it through the forest; he keeps hitting branches. But we’ve made it through to the next town. I wonder what adventures it will have in store for us? And I wonder if we’ll ever get to meet a story dragon?

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