… the party lands.
The six passengers scramble from the salt skiff and onto the jetty of the island with a quick wave to the swiftly departing Mantis crew. Yonaka explains to Nakamuro that his plan to find the missing Phoenix is to retrace his steps as best they can until they find him or evidence of his fate, and that as a last resort have the Tamori try to contact the spirit of Hiditsugo if he is departed to learn what he was searching for. (He admits he is unsure of the second plan after taking into account what happened last time.)
Quick work is made in discovering evidence of the Phoenix’s path and the base camp is found, with a few fire pits and only a simple lean-to and no tents of any kind. Following the tracks from the camp a single person salt skiff is found, its frame having been smashed to bits and the evidence of claw marks along what remains, a bladder of rudder oil is all that can be recovered. More tracks which are days old, followed by other tracks which seem to belong to a scaled creature, causing the tracking Hida to ready his hammer.
Meanwhile the whisper of a sutra chant is heard by the Tamori and Mantis-ko, the latter following it to its source and failing at the last moment to notice the ground giving way until it’s too late. Hurting her leg as she lands there is the sound and smell of water, and Michiko draws her knife as she senses another presence in the darkened chamber.
Her yell is heard by the Hida who initially rushes over and shoves the Tamori to one side, but as he approaches thinks better of his haste and is careful to spread his weight over the ground to avoid falling in as well, but to no avail as the edge collapses even further under his weight.
Yonaka remembers the sail that was mostly intact from the small boat on the beach near the salt and tells the Tamori to keep an eye on things while he goes down the hill to fetch it so it can be used to pull his friends up from the pit.
The unlucky pair in the pit are greeted by a stranger’s voice in the dark, and as their eyes adjust to their surroundings they can make out the shape of a man dressed in monk’s robes and sitting in a meditative position near the wide pool of water, but before he can make proper introductions and offer assistance to the Hida who is helping the injured Michiko to her feet there is a spray of water as a scaly form bursts from the pool and reaches for the monk.
The Troll ambushes the small group; its skin an eel-like sheen, knobby fingers tipped with jagged claws, short legs as stubby tree trunks that hold up its square shaped bulk, and from its jutting chin a barbed tongue protrudes as if to scent the air. The creature rakes a claw across the chest of the surprised monk and then passes a shock of pent up electrical energy into its prey as it wrestles him towards the well.
With no time to be gentle Hida Nakamuro drops Michiko to the ground and makes a mighty swing against the massive flank of the monster, the chamber filling with the sound of bone crunching and flesh bruising, but with little visible effect against the troll.
Tamori Yuriko, watching from above, quickly drinks her prepared potion to call the fire kami into the whip known as Tail of the Dragon and uses it to strike at the Troll, burning a line of pain into the same shoulder of the arm that now struggles to keep a hold on its prey.
(The still new and somewhat shocked Ashigaru run, seemingly to get away from the horrors in the pit, but afterwards they explain it was in order to bring the Mirumoto to aid in the fight.)
Angered by this unwelcome interference the Troll lashes its barbed tongue at the Hida, splitting through armor and giving as equal a wound as was received from the Crab, but while it delayed to take its revenge the Monk seized the opportunity to reverse the hold the Troll had and take control of the struggle, making it easier for the now focused Michiko to show her skill as a Mantis and loose a flesh cutting arrow that tears through the center mass of the creature.
The troll is finished by a crushing blow to its head from the Hida’s war hammer, its battered form sliding over the edge of the pool and into the water.
The monk now gets the opportunity to introduce himself as Toro from the Temple of Osano-Wo. Toro was running down a mountain in the Phoenix lands when he fell into one hole, and came out in the cave here. While speaking he performs a quick kiho to help the Hida recover from the worst of his recent injury.
Yonaka arrives with the sail and with the Ashigaru helping they pull their companions from the chamber as the waters from the wide pool slowly bubble.
The Hida is the last to come up and as he clasps hands with the Mirumoto at the top he asks where the Dragon Bushi was during the fighting. Yonaka starts to indicate the rope which pulled the Crab up from the pit, but instead shakes his head and falls silent in embarrassment.
(Epilogue by Ednoria and Edwardstanford)
Nakamuro catches the Tamori’s attention as the chaotic scene after the attack calms a bit.
“Your pardon. In my haste earlier, I pushed you aside. I meant no offense.”
He bows deeply, then looks up at her with a hint of a smile.
“The whip of fire — I have never seen the like! Ho! Thank the Fortunes you are on our side!”
He bows once again.
Tamori smiles slightly, and bows deeply in return.
“Nakamuro-chan. When you wish to push me back from a troll-pit so that you may fall down it, then by the Mountain, I shall do my duty and go unscathed.
“As for the fire, it is both pretty and useful, but without your mighty hammer, I think we would have no guest to entertain. The kami are a mighty aid, but it is the bushi who act.”
Two experience points.