The battle against goblins is ended, and it is still the middle of the night. A waning moon gives light to the battlefield, now quiet once more.
The party is wounded from combat. Akihiro is in the best shape, Kenshin the worst. This is no place to linger or make camp; the ronin must leave here, and soon.
The bushi have collected their goblin heads. None will search the corpses of the four unknown ronin. Kenshin collects the dead ronin’s daisho. He does not want their blades to fall to the Shadowlands. Takeshi and Akihiro gather up feed bags from the slain ponies.
The party leaves the battle site; heading off into darkness in the direction they believe lies the valley of Shinsei’s Last Hope. They are not traveling quietly, nor are they traveling carefully.
An hour into their trek, Akihiro and Kenshin unwittingly walk straight into a ravine. The two bushi tumble headlong down a steep slope, then off a cliff to fall thirty feet. They slide to a halt in the mouth of a cave. Akihiro is hurt. Kenshin is unable to move.
Takeshi and Tensi had barely seen the edge of the ravine and stopped short before their associates tumbled into the inky blackness. Takeshi still has rope. He ties it securely around his waist and braces against a rocky outcropping. Holding on to the rope, Tensi carefully climbs down the steep embankment after those who had fallen.
Akihiro and Kenshin are a jumbled mess. In the fall, both held fast to their bags of goblin heads, but lost the feed bags and slain ronin’s swords they had been carrying. Blinded by darkness, they fumble around their possessions and find a lantern. Lighting it and sheltering the flame to narrow the light, the bushi discover where they have ended up. No sounds come from deeper inside this deep and dark cave. Neither ronin wants to stay here. Akihiro sets Kenshin with the lantern, and leaves the cave to make contact with the others.
Tensi, not sure where Kenshin and Akihiro might have ended up, strains his eyes and ears against the dark. Fortunately, after only a few minutes of searching, Akihiro and Tensi locate each other. The two bushi meet Kenshin and carry him to the rope.
Akihiro takes hold of the rope and climbs the sharp rock face towards the crest of the ravine. Left to his own cleverness, Tensi uses his skills as a Sailor to fashion a number of questionable knots and loops of rope around Kenshin. The crippled bushi has reservations about the plan but trusts his associate.
Kenshin’s concerns prove well grounded. As the combined might of Takeshi and Akihiro drag their injured ally up the steep slope, some knots fail and Kenshin slides back down the rough ground. The knots are fixed and Kenshin is pulled up to the top.
Misfortunes continue as Tensi, following after Kenshin’s ascent, loses his grip on the rope and falls down the slope. He is knocked unconscious. Brave Akihiro ventures back down the steep incline, retrieving and hauling Tensi’s prone body back to the group.
Sunrise brightens the eastern sky and brings form to the black void of night surrounding the party. Daylight reveals the ravine. It is a lifeless gash in the earth, two hundred feet wide and half that deep. The narrow defile seems even more treacherous in the light. Takeshi has serious misgivings against suggestions to explore the ravine and its cave.
Taking stock of their situation, the party now has a dilemma. Akihiro was seriously injured in his fall. Medical attention helped Kenshin; he can walk but not quickly, or burdened with extra possessions. Tensi was down and out, but rudimentary medical care returned him to wakefulness. The archer will have to be carried; he is unable to move at all.
Consequently, the party cannot carry the full compliment of goblin heads it has won. They must either leave the heads here, or bring the heads but take many days to make it back to Shinsei’s Last Hope burdened with them. Kenshin objects to the plan to bury the goblin heads and come back for them later. Takeshi and Akihiro insist it is the only option.
The party buries the heads, suspecting something is watching them. Takeshi chooses to bring with him the head of the goblin’s undead leader. Kenshin has the strength to carry only one of his many goblin heads.
With Akihiro’s skill at Hunting and land navigation leading them, the badly wounded party heads off in the direction he thinks is correct.
For several hours the party limps along. Kenshin’s slow pace tarries the group. Takeshi and Akihiro take turns carrying immobile Tensi. As the sun climbs higher and the heat of day beats down upon them, the ronin remain wary of ambush from Shadowlands creatures.
As he watches the horizons, keen Takeshi spots a dust cloud rising at a distance behind them. Over the next twenty minutes, this dust cloud resolves into a company of human riders, headed their way.
When the riders arrive and encircle the party, both Takeshi and Kenshin are quietly apprehensive. It is the hunting party of twenty ronin, including the charismatic leader, from Shinsei’s Last Hope.
Their leader is haughty and abrupt. He sees that the party is badly injured, and that they possess nothing of value to him. To the ronin’s request for aid, the leader instead offers advice. At a site ahead, about four hours away from the wounded ronin party at their current pace, the leader warns of a place Takeshi’s party might avoid at all costs.
Interest in the party lost, the leader motions to his men and the hunting band resumes their ride. Akihiro takes the advice, and changes the party’s course away from the alleged danger.
Time passes as the party makes slow progress. Akihiro hears sounds of battle coming from behind some hills, in the approximate area about the direction and distance the mounted ronin warned the party to avoid. Kenshin is interested to go and look. As with bringing all the goblin heads, he is again out-voted.
The party gets the impression that something or someone is following them. Try as they may, they cannot verify their suspicions. The ronin stop to rest, and eat an early afternoon meal. Not having slept in more than a day, the party becomes Fatigued. They press on.
Akihiro makes his best guesses at navigation, and the party hikes on through the rest of the afternoon and evening. They expect to eventually come upon the valley of Shinsei’s Last Hope.
A few hours before dawn, Fortune smiles on the party. Akihiro has led them to the edge of a broad valley, almost certainly the right one. Cautiously they descent a path into the valley, and are relieved to find Shinsei’s Last Hope.
As evidence of their importance, Kenshin and Takeshi think of their goblin heads before the barracks and well-needed food and sleep. The Crab official notes Takeshi’s unusual find. The undead creature’s head is actually that of a Mummy. And given the tattoos and markings on the mummy’s head, the Crab clerk can tell it had been a person of some fame and importance, likely having died 150 years ago. This head is worth twice the usual amount.
The party stumbles into their barracks, dumping gear and armour and falling into their cots. Akihiro and Kenshin have no problem falling asleep. Tensi and Takeshi were Cursed by the Mummy in battle, though they do not know it. Neither bushi can sleep. They toss and turn, rest eluding them.
Around noon, those bushi who could sleep have woken to find those bushi who could not sleep still awake and in a sour mood. Akihiro boasts of his sublime rest. Takeshi is annoyed and threatens to punch the rested bushi. Akihiro is in a far better physical state and intimidates spiteful Takeshi into silence.
The party intends to remain in their lodgings for the day. Kenshin, in much better shape but not about to flaunt his good fortune, goes to the temple district of the town. He asks around and enlists the help of a monk healer to come and attend to Tensi and Takeshi’s mysterious malady.
The healer is able to heal Kenshin and Akihiro. However, he is not able to diagnose or cure Tensi and Takeshi’s problem. The two ronin are now Exhausted from lack of sleep. The monk advises rest and patience.
The party rests this day, and then the entire following day when it is clear that the Takeshi and his archer companion are not better.
Again Fortune blesses the party. On the following day, Takeshi and Tensi awaken to discover that they have slept. The Curse ran its course. Normal healing and recovery is again possible.
(end Part 12)