Cassandra politely sipped the fragrant Gyuokuro tea, rather enjoying the sweet, warm taste of the drink. She sat cross-legged on a bamboo mat, the walls decorated with oriental characters and artwork interspaced with gracefully-hung colourful ribbons. To either side of her knelt her Coryphee, elegant dancer constructs in beautiful dresses. With their deadly arm blades folded away, they looked serene as they crouched motionless, their blank faces staring straight ahead.
Opposite them, flanked by two masked Ten Thunders Brothers, sat the man she had come to see. Sensei Yu was a contradiction to her – on the one hand he was polite and jovial, smiling at her as he sipped his own tea. However, his body was rippled with defined muscle, and tattooed with various Three Kingdoms motifs. She’d seen him fighting before too, when a Neverborn raiding party came across them. Despite his size and genial nature, he’d been a whirlwind of blows, leaving a trail of shattered bones and broken nephilim behind him.
‘Sensei’, she asked respectfully – they were big on that in the Ten Thunders, she knew – ‘forgive the direct nature of my enquiry, but I’m sure you know why I’m here.’ Yu nodded, motioning to one of the Brothers. The masked man drew a copy of the Guild Guardian from within his gi, dropping the paper next to the tea set between them. Emblazoned across the front, in bold capitals, was the headline; ‘COLETTE DU BOIS MISSING!’
‘I know why you’re here, Miss Cassandra. You’re a guest in my house, and of course I’ll be honoured to help.’ Cassandra smiled disarmingly at him. ‘Well, to cut to the heart of the matter, has there been any – well, ‘joint venture’ between our organizations that Colette may have been involved in that could account for her disappearance?’
Sensei Yu shook his head. ‘I know of no ‘joint venture’ between Miss Bu Bois and our organization. I confess I only know what the tabloids have printed regarding her disappearance.’ His eyes drifted to the Coryphee next to her. ‘But perhaps, with the assistance of one of your constructs, my Brothers could… uncover some further information on Miss Du Bois’s disappearing act?’
Long practiced in the art of verbal fencing, Cassandra saw through the lie and knew what he meant. ‘I’m sorry, Sensei, but as you know we cannot share the secrets of our Coryphee.’
Yu’s voice hardened, though his jovial smile remained in place. ‘I’m disappointed, Miss Cassandra. I had hoped we’d be able to come to an amiable arrangement.’
With a barely perceptible sigh, Cassandra placed her teacup on the floor in front of her, the Coryphee to either side sensing the change in the mood, their clockwork gears clicking almost imperceptibly as their arm-blades prepared to spring forth.
‘Thank you for your hospitality and the tea, Sensei’, Cassandra smiled without warmth, ‘and I’m sorry, but I need to know what you know about Colette’s disappearance. One way or the other.’
* * *
This week’s campaign game ended up being a three-player scenario – the ‘Loot’ one from the Strategy & Schemes deck that I played about a year ago. It seems that Barbaros and his crew of Nephilim crashed the ‘negotiations’, leading to a desperate brawl as all three forces tried to make off with the objective marker.
After a hard-fought game, none of us managed to even move the treasure marker, and the Neverborn won on scheme VP, with 4VP to my 3 and the Ten Thunder’s 0. I’m not sure how well the Loot scenario worked as a campaign game, since at least one person will score 0VP from the strategy – and, as you get scrip based on how many VP you score, this kind of limits how much each player can gain. Anyway, I’m still working out pairs for next week’s game, so it’s something I’m trying to work out for whoever’s in the three-player game next time.