The Free Ogre leaves the party of humans to rest in the main chamber of his underground dwelling. Takeshi and Huni barely have their equipment set down before they are overtaken by a powerful sleep.
Akihiro hears a persistent hissing sound from somewhere in the room. He suspects it is connected to why his two bushi associates just fell unconscious. Akihiro voices this concern. Tensi chooses this moment of urgency and danger to search his pack for tools that are not entirely relevant to the setting.
Kenshin and the quiet ronin fail Stamina checks, and pass out. Akihiro holds out a moment longer, then succumbs. So too does Tensi, without even noticing what is happening.
The party wakes up. They are sluggish and hungry. They are still in the Free Ogre’s chamber. One, perhaps two days have passed since they were gassed and knocked out. Their possessions are all accounted for and the ronin are unharmed from the experience. They have healed Wounds during the extended rest.
The Ogre is nowhere to be seen. He has left a note for the humans :
The party hurries to leave. They do not want to further annoy the Ogre. Their host left each ronin a large burlap sack, so they may carry the heads of Shadowlands creatures. It is a strange parting gift.
The bushi gather up the goblin heads they left at the top of the stairs into the Ogre’s cave. Each ronin takes only those heads he won in combat. Two goblin heads are left over. These were goblins killed by the Ogre. Takeshi does the honorable thing and smashes the heads with his tetsubo so that none may take false credit for those kills.
The group retraces its steps back to the last cairn. From here they travel north-west. Four hours pass without sighting anything. Dejected, the bushi turn east and set their bearing on the distant Wall.
As they travel back to Shinsei’s Last Hope, Akihiro spots a glint of light, a reflection of sunlight off metal. He alerts the others. Kenshin sees it on top of a hill not far away. What causes this flash of light cannot be identified.
The ronin leave their path to investigate. They find two mounds; the larger stands about twenty feet high at its peak, the lesser only about ten feet. This face is inaccessible. Around the other side of the hill, the slope is gentle.
Akihiro, Takeshi, and Huni decide to climb up the taller mound. Kenshin, Tensi, and the quiet ronin elect to remain at the base.
Reaching the top of the hill, out of sight of their fellow bushi, Takeshi, Akihiro and Huni walk into a pit trap ! The ground suddenly gives way. Two trap doors drop, spilling the three bushi into a narrow chute that funnels them down twenty feet into a broad stone chamber. The fall is painful but they avoid landing on rusty metal spikes set into the chamber floor. Mechanical gears retract the trap doors, closing out the light.
Outside, none of the bushi hear the others fall into the trap. Kenshin goes for a walk to scout around these mounds. He finds nothing unusual. Tensi and Huni are enjoying a rest and a snack.
Ten minutes pass. Kenshin grows concerned. His associates have not returned. The swordsman decides to investigate. Swiftly mounting the hilltop, the virtuous bushi is swallowed up by the pit trap. Groaning on the stone floor, he finds himself imprisoned with the others in the dark, bone-littered tomb.
Tensi and Huni heard something when Kenshin fell. Carefully, they follow the bushi’s path up the hill. They are clever and spot where the trap doors lay. Searching around, the two ronin discover the mechanism to open the pit. Thirty feet down, they can see and hear their allies.
Of the entire group only Takeshi was wise enough to have purchased a length of rope before setting out into the wild. He hurls one end of this rope at Tensi.
One by one the ronin climb up out of the trap. When gathered around the trap doors, Akihiro notices the glint of light again. It is a polished metal disc, tied to cord. It dangles and twists in the breeze, catching sunlight and attracting victims for the pit. The party examines the trap mechanisms. They agree that it is Crab engineering. This trap may have been in operation for the last fifty years, dutifully swallowing Shadowlands creatures to their death.
Looking over at the smaller mound, the ronin see that its top had been dug out to form a shallow bunker for archers. It will make a defensible camp site. The day is getting too late for travel.
The first two watches of the night are uneventful. On the third watch, Akihiro and Tensi hear a buzzing sound. It is a large, annoying, persistent flying bug. They fan at it with their hands but it will not leave. Akihiro draws a knife and slashes at it.
The bug takes offense. It morphs from an insect into a tall, ghostlike creature. Akihiro is struck with Fear. The other ronin are shocked awake by shouts and the sounds of combat. Huni looks at the lanky, ghoulish creature attacking them and is also weakened with Fear.
The creature is a quick, agile adversary. It cannot easily be hit by the scrambling bushi. The creature stings Tensi with its venomous tail. Then it grabs and throws the archer out of the bunker and down the hill. Takeshi attempts to grapple the monster. Instead, he is flung out of the battle as well.
Other ronin are unable to land significant damage. The creature grows bored of the fight, and reverts to insect form. It flies around, taunting the ronin, then flits off into the darkness.
There will be no more sleep tonight. The camp is in disarray and Takeshi and Tensi were wounded from their tumble.
At dawn the party breaks camp. They continue toward Shinsei’s Last Hope. On the way, they see a patrol of mounted Crab soldiers. The Crab warriors take only a passing interest in the ronin.
Back at the gates to the town, the party passes a magical scan for Shadowlands Taint. They turn in the goblin heads they have captured. Some of the ronin had only one; others had two or three. The count is recorded for each bushi in the official ledger, and the goblin heads tossed into a burn pit.
The party shuffles to their accommodations. Takeshi takes the letter received from the Free Ogre to a local Temple of Earth. He suspects that the message is meant for Kuni Yutagi, or relates to the shugenja in some fashion.
(end Part 10)