The morning brings surprise and controversy. Yojira awakens to find that the wasp-man’s wakizashi had been stolen from him in the night. His rice bowl was broken and one of his chopsticks sliced lengthwise in half. No other possessions were disturbed.
At breakfast Yojira seats himself with Mustachi, and a quiet mercenary of the Mantis Clan who does not offer his name (played by T.D.) Shosuro Yama is not present.
Neither is the shugenja. Takashi had been shaken by his experience on the road yesterday and has abandoned his pursuit of the 20-Goblin Winter opportunity. He departed the inn early this morning, explaining himself only to Mustachi.
Four warriors enter the dining room. They are all Crab Clan. One is shugenja; the other three are bushi. They approach the group having breakfast.
Awash in bravado, the largest of the bushi (played by Q.D.) sets into Mustachi, warning that those akin to women and children might best find themselves on the road to the safe, soft Crane Clan lands. Mustachi responds weakly. The Crab bushi provokes him with more insults.
The insults lead to a fistfight. Mustachi has the initiative, but cedes it with a bow. The large Crab warrior responds with a punch to the face.
The Mantis Clan mercenary remains seated. He is watched closely by the other Crab bushi. Yojira considers it dishonorable to intervene in a one-on-one fight. He continues to enjoy his breakfast.
Mustachi and the large Crab bushi exchange punches for what seems like a long time. The Crab shugenja, KUNI DAICHI (played by E.G.) desires to halt the fight with magic. His leader prevents him from acting. Finally, as the combatants fight themselves further into injury with no clear winner emerging, the Crab leader calls a halt.
There is uneasy peace. The Crab leader issues orders. He knows where Yojira, Mustachi, and the Mantis mercenary are headed. He assigns Daichi, the large bushi that had just fought Mustachi, and the other Crab Clan bushi (B.P.’s character run as an NPC by the GM) to accompany their group. He exhorts them to get to a city called Shinsei’s Last Hope, in Crab Clan territory, within two weeks. A caravan leaves for there tomorrow morning. Before he leaves, the Crab leader states that travel papers may be acquired from the local Crab Clan garrison.
At Yojira’s request, Daichi investigates the room where the wakizashi was stolen. The shugenja’s magic turns up no useful leads. Yojira and the Mantis mercenary leave the inn, and make contact with the caravan master; obtain their travel papers from the garrison; and report the theft of the sword to the local magistrate. The magistrate is doubtful of Yojira’s story and acts in a condescending manner, unwilling to investigate. Yojira leaves before losing his temper.
The group debates travel plans. The safe option is to join the slow caravan and its considerable host of escorts and mercenaries. This route will take two weeks to reach their destination.
Or the group could travel much faster on their own, by a road that leads through a dangerous part of a vast forest in their path. If they survive, the group will reach Crab lands in a week.
Feeling goaded by ancestral spirits, the group opts for the faster and more risky route without the caravan.
Wasting no time, the group departs the way station. On the road, little happens of note for the first day. The group is surprised by a herd of deer, and equally surprised that skilled archer Mustachi decides against felling one for food.
Nothing happens overnight as the travelers camp in the open countryside. Moving on at first light, the group draws steadily closer to the thick, foreboding forest ahead. Before noon there is a most unexpected ambush; both Yojira and Mustachi are swarmed by some kind of venomous insect swarm and poisoned. Daichi is able to cure them.
The group enters the forest, and cautiously proceeds. Around lunchtime, they suddenly notice that the usual forest sounds are absent from the area they are entering. Evidence of unusual spider webs grows hard to miss.
Without warning, the party is attacked by two giant spiders. The group fends off the attack, and the spiders withdrawn into the trees. Several party members are poisoned by acidic spider venom.
Employing torches and Daichi’s fire spells, the party creates a defensive circle which allows them to limp unmolested past the spider-ridden tract of forest and through to safer territory.
Stopping to assess the severity of their injuries, the group hears something approaching. It is a Naga – a sentient half-man, half-snake creature. The Naga is not aggressive; in fact it offers assistance, along with admonishment for traveling carelessly in so dangerous a place.
The Naga negates the spider’s venom from both Daichi and Mustachi. Mustachi is extremely wounded, and would have died if not for the Naga.
The Naga invites the group to lodge at its underground caverns overnight, as the thick forest canopy is rapidly darkening with the descent of the sun. The group follows the Naga to its subterranean lair.
(end Part 2)