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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Per Multiversum
Chapter 3 — Yu Lung
~ 12th Term (Major Heat), 6th of Chu, the Year of Ji Chou, morning
Uwaji, Wa


The contingent of bushi and samurai sent to escort the party to the castle that morning had only been half as numerous as the previous day. They were only taken before Harada Seikwa, the shogun's Voice — and his tiger. Shogun Nagahide was absent. Seikwa confirmed that the shogun was very interested in the information that had been presented and was willing to give his blessing for them to travel freely about his country, provided that they abide by its laws. However, he was untrusting that they would report their findings back to him. He had asked that Hakam, the only "non-oni" in the group, voluntarily submit to being placed under a magically enforced oath, what those in Faerûn would call a geas, that they would not deviate from the course of their investigation and that they would return with a report at the end of it.

   Hakam had willingly agreed to this stipulation, provided they were provided written license to move about the nation and provided that nothing in the enchantment would force him to go against his own god and his laws. The magic compulsion placed upon Hakam would last for 30 days, and they had been told that, if they did not return to Uwaji Castle by the end of that time, they would be hunted down by the shogun's samurai and learn the strength of his wrath.

   From the tenshu-kaku, they had been led by Fujisawa Yorifusa to the chamber hall of the Council of Elders called the roju, where the chief councilor, or kahan, Fukazawa Michichika, scribed a license for them on a sheet of rice paper and stamped it with the seal of a large circle surrounded by eight others. (When asked, Michichika had explained that the nine circles were the monogata for the Matasuuri Clan.)

   While there, they had also requested a copy of the laws of Wa for Hakam and a book for teaching young children how to write for Solisar.

   Now they were walking out of the western gate of the city of Uwaji toward the village of Bunden. Bunden was on the trail leading from Uwaji to the Hayatura Road, which was the major thoroughfare through the Ikuyu Mountains that they could see to the west. It was along this trail that Yunoko had been found slain, and it was yakuza from Bunden who had been executed in response. They figured that it was a good place to visit for more information, since Yunoko's spirit was not likely to be able to reform — if it did at all — for a few more days.

   The road narrowed to a path, and the roofs of the houses switched from tile to thatch, as they headed farther from the center of the city of Uwaji. After a mile, the houses had shrunk to mere shacks before dwindling away and leaving open countryside.

   The landscape here was gently rolling hills specked with scattered deciduous trees of varying types. Atop most of the hills were farmhouses, and cattle were seen about grazing. In the distance, probably more than five miles away, was a forest. Beyond that were the foothills of the great mountains, now even more majestic when seen outside Uwaji's many walls.

   After a few miles, they saw that they were coming down from a hill to a creek. To the south, the creek had been flooded, filling rice fields with the water that they needed to thrive. Throngs of rice farmers in conical hats were in the water cultivating their crops.

   North of these crops, the natural flow of the water had been reduced to a stream, and the trail led down to it, crossing it over a set of flat stepping stones. Beyond this crossing, the waters cascaded into a tiny lake. After crossing the water, the trail took a turn to the north to run parallel to the stream.

   On their right, before the submerged stones, up a steep, rocky ledge sat a small tile-roofed structure. The building itself was only one-story and about ten feet wide, but it sat on a raised porch, as nearly all Wanese buildings did, and this porch was double the width of the building itself. It was the size of a shed but much too fancy to be one.

   Someone had also placed red paper lanterns to mark the path here, spread out every ten or fifteen feet.

   Kamil ducked his long neck down to drink the fresh water from the stream, while Kytharrah crossed it effortlessly and climbed up onto a rocky hillock on the other side to get a better view. Sif splashed into the cool water, and the others carefully moved over the stepping stones.

   "It is beautiful here," said Sofi, from the back of the chain. "Someone has cared for this place."

   "What do you see, minotaur?" asked Leokas.

   From his higher viewpoint, Kytharrah could see a rock garden and gray sand to the northeast, beyond the tile-roofed building. "Rocks and sand," he told his little friends, "and bridge." The single-arch wooden bridge crossed the stream as it left the small lake farther north. Belvin, riding atop his camel, could see the bridge as well. It seemed to lead away from the main trail to the little house.

   Kytharrah sniffed and smelled the aroma of herbs coming from the tiny building.

   As they continued along, Solisar wandered down to a beach of dried mud on the western edge of the lake. At other times of the year, he imagined that the water level would be higher, filling this area up to the rocky embankment just shy of the trail. "Leokas," he called, "perhaps you might look for tracks here."

   The wood elf came over and crouched low to the ground. "These are strange tracks here." He pointed. "They seem like lizard claws, but the animal seems to have been walking with only two legs and dragging the rear of its body behind."

   "A mud eel?" asked Belvin, but Leokas did not know of such an animal to be able to confirm.

   "It is larger than any eel that I have ever seen," said Leokas.

   Rounding the corner in the trail, they came near the bridge. The path forked to continue on to the north and to turn right to go over the bridge. A large stone lantern stood here on the side of the road to mark the fork.

   "We know that she was found near a bridge," Hakam reminded them. "I suggest that we cross and speak to anyone within the building about the bridge." He moved closer to it.

   Something flapped on the bridge. It seemed to be a fish, a very large one, with grey-blue scales, more than a yard long. Had it not flapped once, he would have thought it dead. It was barely moving, presumably suffocating out of the water. There did not appear to be a rope or cord leading from its mouth as if it had been caught by a hook.

   Solisar joined the cleric on the bridge. Approaching closer, the two soon realized that it was not a fish at all. It had an arm, a short, stubby, finned arm, but an arm nonetheless. The arm ended in sharp claws. Its head was not that of a fish either; it was rather more reptilian, and sharp fangs protruded from its closed mouth. From its chin hung a series of long, wispy strands of thick hairlike material, like a sort of whiskers. The rest of the creature's body indeed looked like a four-foot long blue carp.

   The creature had a nose at the tip of its snout, but it seemed to be trying and failing to breathe through a set of gills at its neck.

   "Is it magical?" asked Hakam.

   "Indeed, it is," said Solisar. "Moderate though, not strong. It is not any sort of planar creature about which I have read, however."

   "It is the creature that left the tracks," said Leokas.

   "It made quite a jump, if indeed it jumped," noted Hakam. The bridge was five feet above the water at its highest point where the fish-lizard hybrid creature lay. "Should we put it back in the stream?" Hakam asked.

   "I should think so," Solisar replied, "but it seems to have sharp claws and fangs. It is too large for me to move with magic."

   "The bridge has walls," said Hakam, "I cannot flush it back by creating water, else I would do that."

   At this point, Kytharrah simply hopped up onto the bridge and picked the creature up. It remained limp in his large hands, but it looked up at the minotaur with one of its yellow cat-like eyes. Kytharrah brought it down to the water south of the bridge.

   Suddenly, the creature opened its mouth weakly, and a single syllable came out? "Shu...?"

   Belvin tried to speak calming words to it in Druidic, while Kytharrah crouched lower to the water. Solisar cast his spell to speak and understand other languages. Then he instructed Kytharrah to place the creature in the water.

   Immediately, the creature darted away and began swimming rapidly back and forth, up and down the stream with powerful kicks of its fish-like tail and then vanished in the deeper part of the lake.

   About half a minute later, it popped its head out of the water. Its reptilian face was surprisingly expressive, and it clearly seemed elated.

   "Xiexie, xiexie, xiexie!" it exclaimed, but Solisar heard, "Thanks, thanks, thanks!" Then it said, "Wo de mingzi shi Tanoshihire, Tano, Tano." It had a voice similar to that of a young male child.

   "I am Solisar Keryth," said the sun elf. "We are glad that we were quick enough to save you. I apologize for the delay. We have never seen your kind before and did not know if you were a fish or something else."

   The creature's face showed sudden anger. "Wo bushi yu; wo shi lung." The creature then opened his mouth wide, closed its eyes tightly, and attempted a roar, but the sound that came out was a pitiful croak.

   "He informs us that he is not a fish; he is a dragon," Solisar translated for the others. "His name is Tanoshihire, or simply Tano."

   The elf turned back to the so-called dragon. "Forgive us, but we have never seen your kind before."

   The creature's anger seemed to have passed, and now he happily stated, "I am the god of this lake!" Then he made another failed roar attempt. "Do you want to see my mud castle? Do you, do you? It is really, really, really, really grand, but you cannot touch it or I will have to eat you!" Tano's words were coming so rapidly that Solisar did not have time to translate.

   "Where is this castle?"

   The creature swam to the center of the lake. "In the lake! Come on! Follow me!" He disappeared below the surface.

   Solisar explained what was happening to his companions and then said, "If he comes back up again, I will inquire as to his age. If truly some sort of god, he may have witnessed the murder of Yunoko."

   Tano's head popped up again and immediately began talking. "Why did you not follow. Are you scared? You must be scared. Scaredy-rat! Why are you scared? I do not really want to eat you. Ew! Okay, I kind of do, yes, but I do not know why. I have never eaten people before. People are usually nice. Are you nice? Do nice people taste nice or nasty? Do nasty people taste nasty? Do you taste better than dead fish? I like dead fish. Do you like dead fish? Dead fish are great. I also like rocks. Rocks are shiny." Tano vanished below the water again.

   When he reappeared, Solisar quickly answered, "I cannot follow you to see your castle, because I cannot breath under water like you."

   Tano, however, seemed to have no interest in discussing his castle anymore. "I want to eat a lot more lately. I think it is because I am growing into a big dragon."

   "How long have you lived in this lake?" asked Solisar.

   "I thought that it was my birthday, but I am not very good at counting. I am a big boy though; I am 25 years old!" The 'dragon' began counting now from one to 25. Solisar quickly took this opportunity to translate the gist of Tano's earlier comments to the others.

   "Yunoko died 35 years ago," said Hakam, "before this thing was born."

   "Do you count time by the revolution of the planet around the sun?" asked Solisar.

   "What is a planet?"

   "How do you count the time?"

   "The leaves on the trees change pretty colors sometimes. Then they fall off. I count them when they do that. I thought that I saw one fall off, but maybe it was just a wind spirit trying to trick me."

   "Ask it if it knows the king of the lake before it," said Hakam.

   Solisar translated, but Tano had swum over to Kytharrah's feet. "Ni shi oni ma?

   Kytharrah had no idea what was asked of him, but he sensed it was a question and shrugged back at the silly fish creature.

   "No, he is not an oni," said Solisar. "He is called a minotaur." The elf then tried to ask Hakam's question again.

   "I have no idea!" said Tano, and he then began rambling again at Kytharrah. Solisar's magic translated. "Maybe I can grow big horns like you. Will you be my friend? Will you? Will you? Do you want to play a game? We can swim and jump over the bridge and see if it is our birthdays!"

   This time Kytharrah nodded. Even though he had no idea what words the little guy had asked him, he had a hunch that it was a request to play, and of course, his answer to such a question was always yes.

   "I am the only one who can understand you, god of this lake," said Solisar. "Is that how you landed on the bridge, by trying to jump over it?"

   "Yes! I thought it was my birthday, but I must have been wrong." The fish-dragon looked sad, though only momentarily.

   "What would have happened if it had been your birthday?"

   "I would have grown up! Is not that what happens on your birthday?"

   While Solisar paused to translate things to his companions, the creature continued, oblivious. "I really am hungry. Do you have any rats? Do you have any dead rats?"

   "He is hungry," said Solisar. "Do we have any food?"

   They mainly only had simple sailing rations with them, stored in Kamil's saddlepacks.

   "We do not have any rats, and I am not sure that you will like this, but this is what we eat." Solisar offered some to the god of the lake.

   Tano made a face of disgust, but he did say thank you as politely as he could. "It is not as tasty as the rocks at the bottom of my lake, but it is okay, I guess."

   "He likes to eat rocks. Do we have any low quality gems, Szordrin?" Solisar asked.

   "We gave them all to the crysmals," said Szordrin, mostly honestly.

   Kytharrah knelt down to the water and extended a shiny blue-violet gem that he had, an iolite of low value.

   Tano swam over and removed the gem from Kytharrah's open palm with a long, forked tongue. He chomped it down. "Mmm!" There was a pause. "Are you sure that you cannot swim? It is dumb that you cannot swim."

   "Kytharrah, he is asking if you want to swim with him," said Solisar.

   Of course Kytharrah did.

   "Kytharrah, do not touch its mud castle!" warned Hakam.

   The water was too murky for Kytharrah to see much of anything as he tried to follow behind the fish creature, but it was a fun swim anyhow. Tano continued to speak while underwater, which only sounded like bubbling to the minotaur, but this at least allowed him to follow roughly behind until he had to rise to the surface again for air.

   Tano popped up next to Kytharrah, did a few flips out of the water, and then said, "That was great, right? It took me a long time to build." He continued rambling, but the words went untranslated. Kytharrah did not mind.

   Tano then swam to the shore and hopped out, awkwardly waddling along on his two stubby arms. "Why can you not swim? I can walk like you. See?"

   Kytharrah swam to shore as well and climbed out of the water. He then pretended to have a little race with Tano, who was about as slow as a tortoise.

   "Where are you all going? Did you only come here to visit my lake?"

   "We are here to investigate the murder of someone," said Solisar.

   "A murder? That sounds horrible! Can I come? Can I come? I can find clues. Oh! and I can eat the murderer and spit him out again."

   "We heard that her body was found near these waters," said Solisar, "maybe 35 years ago."

   Tano seemed to be doing math in his head. "35 is bigger than 25, is it not? Let me check." He began counting aloud from one to 25 again.

   Solisar interrupted his count. "Do you know of anyone who was alive then, before you were here?"

   "There are lots of old people! The lady in the house is old. She has gray hair. You people with four legs and hair have gray hair when you are old. What does it mean that he has yellow hair?" Tano was looking at Leokas when he asked this.

   "Do you ever talk with the lady in the house?"

   "Sometimes, but she does not like to play much, and she told me that I have been mean lately, so she said no to playing until I stop being mean."

   Solisar translated again.

   "The woman in the house can understand this creature?" Hakam asked.

   "Apparently so," said Solisar.

   "I do not think that it is speaking Wa-an," said Szordrin, "but something else Kara-Turran."

   "What is the old lady's name?" Solisar asked Tano.

   "Hina."

   They asked if she was here now, and Tano told them that he thought that she was.

   "Ask it why this Hina did not help it back into the water," said Hakam.

   Tano shrugged as best he could with his underdeveloped shoulders and then squirmed back into the water to take a breath of water.

   "Ask if it ever found any jewelry or other items from humans in its lake," said Hakam.

   It took a few attempts for Solisar to explain what he meant by jewelry to the lake god, but Tano had not found such items. Apparently, the bottom of the lake was mostly mud and rocks and roots of lilies and was free from lost human objects.

   Figuring that this childish fish-dragon could not be of much further use to them, they told Kytharrah that he could remain to play while they went to the house to meet this Hina.

   "I hope that you have a good day, Tanoshihire," said Solisar, "and may your birthday find you soon."
Session: 124th Game Session - Monday, Nov 23 2020 from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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Tags: Chapter 3 , Recap , Uwaji , Wa