The party was joined by the druid Atkin and his tiger companion Mittens and became Team RASN (pronounced “raisin” cuz they be raisin’ the roof, son). Then Twilight teleported them to the place closest to the Key of Slow Time as she could: that one town in the Esterlands. There the party checked into the Brown-Fourmen hotel and asked around for the local wizard or sage. They were directed to a certain Walker, but were informed by the townspeople that he was out of town. Upon inspection of his house, Rom and Sara confirmed his out-of-town status. Niachi was less than impressed and used his new shadow walk spell to inspect the house. Sure enough it was present in the shadow plane (which was having some strange weather) and well warded. So he knocked. A magic mouth appeared and took a message. When he told the others, they felt silly and did the same.
In the meantime, the party went to look at the local temples of Lachesis. At the first one they visited, they encountered a friendly Fatespinner and a strange ranger with corrupted skin. The Fatespinner introduced himself and then Raniy touched his soul just long enough for Rom to punch his head off. The ranger attempted to flee but his elven ancestry doomed him to failure. He was briefly imprisoned in a coccoon and surrounded, but barely escaped through a fortunate tree stride. Niachi knocked over a font of baptismal corruption while Sara and the others gave chase. As they ran through the streets, they were stymied by a dispute between a peddler with a cart and an old woman in a crimson cloak. Rom resolved the dispute while Sara and Atkin took wing and flew after the ranger. They encountered him in the forest and trapped him in a reverse gravity field. He was dead within seconds.
A few days later Niachi received a message from Walker, asking to meet. He was very impressed with the ninja’s shadow walking skills and took him and Atkin on a short visit to the Astral Plane to explain the Key of Slow Time. He showed them a great door, fancy and wondrous and white. He said it was a portal to a plane where time flowed slower than normal, a boon to any crafter of magical items. Whoever holds the key can open the portal and access the plane, and once in, they can determine who is allowed in and from where. Since the plane had been accessible in the past, Walker assumed that they had been very generous but had probably hidden the key. That’s why, when Zerstorung happened and Lachesis began to isolate the material plane, the connection was shut. So now the key is the only way in, but the key is lost. Walker also said the dwarves might once have known about it, but such was only legend.
They returned to the material plane to inform the others. To scry out the key, Walker used a piece of planar wall, a powerful spell additive, and very shiny. The scrying revealed a cart full of goods, a peddler, and a young woman inside the city. Rom realized a moment later that it was the same cart he had seen a few days ago! The party dashed off. When they arrived, they worked with quiet efficiency. Atkin distracted the peddler, looking through his furs and armor for anything that would be interesting to buy. Rom spoke to the girl, who introduced herself as Holo. She seemed to recognize him and he felt strangely cautious around her, but couldn’t figure out why. Niachi noticed something was up and cooked up a plan with Sara. As he took a turn talking to Holo, Sara used her psionics to pull one of the cart wheels out of place, very sneakily. Holo fell and Niachi caught her, feeling that she carried some sort of case beneath her clothing and also concealed a tail. She felt somewhat indignant and demanded that Lawrence, the peddler, take her away to meet with the Merchant’s Guild. Raniy fixed the wheel for them and they took off quickly. As they left, Rom chased them to ask Holo something, but she turned and told him to STAY. The order shook him to his inner wolf and he stopped, confused. Niachi and him realized that the strange thing about her, was that she smelled like Rom.
Having tagged the pair as she had tagged the ranger, Sara tracked Holo and Lawrence to a large house bearing a chrysanthemum. A few questions told them that this house belonged to Mirumoto Rai, the chief of guards of the town and a once-friend of Manny (and Severus, but that was long ago). So they waited until it was night, and then snuck in. Niachi took Mittens to speak with Mirumoto. They woke him gently and explained they were from the Resistance of Manny. Mirumoto remembered the barbarian, but asked for a demonstration of trust before he sided with them. He instructed Niachi to meet him with one party member under a certain sakura tree at 11:30 the next morning, and he would then arrive with one of his guards. If Niachi kept him alive and did as instructed, then they would talk. Niachi agreed and began to keep watch.
Sara and Atkin followed the tag to Holo’s bedroom. Inside, Sara began to search for the Key. She didn’t know what it would be like, but under Holo’s clothing she found a very elaborate wakizashi, barely magical. She took it but wasn’t sure if Holo had decided to sleep with the key or not. Via Mittens, they sent for Niachi. He arrived and felt around but didn’t find anything. Not wanting to miss anything, he pulled down the covers and realized that Holo didn’t prefer pajamas. He tried to put the covers back up but it was too late, she awoke. Holo howled.
The howl of Holo is not one that can be ignored by any wolf, dog, or lycanthrope. Rom felt a call to come, an instinctive response of the wolf inside him and dashed up the stairs. Sara ran into him on her way out, panicking, but she didn’t say much. Niachi, Atkin, and Mittens all jumped out the window and when Rom arrived upstairs he was met with a confused Lawrence, some guards, a suspicious Mirumoto and a very grumpy Holo. The guards looked to give him a hard time, but Holo took charge and demanded that he bring his friends back. He resisted enough to give them warning to escape and returned to her, lying that they got away. Grumpy, she ordered him to stay with her and pointed to a spot on the floor. Saying he’d be more comfortable as a dog she attempted to force him to change, but his sanctified nature and years of training as a paladin allowed him to resist. Holo continued to push but he explained that he couldn’t remain in his form for long and she relented.
In night the Dog sleeps,
but at sakura’s morning,
the Cat meets the Sword.