|Depends on how many naps you'll need.|
Before leaving the little hamlet, the party popped into the local wind palace to unmask the moki that was masquerading as the Wind Princess. I don't know if this was mentioned by the townsfolk when the group first arrived, but I was more intent on getting them another party member. The disguised moki turned out to be one of the generals, who, just like the previous one, had a fully terrifying animated intro. I was too paralyzed in revulsion to get proper screencaps but, rest assured, it was totally scary and completely sweet.
|Or you could just play the game|
yourselves, you lazy bones.
After defeating this cousin of a beholder, Madara gets his real eyes back, replacing the two rocks that had been crammed into his sockets. I suppose the eye replacements could also have been made of wood, but I think Tatara had more originality than that. The Wind Princess also grants a major boost to Madara's weapon power by merging two swords together. Heading north, the trio came upon the town of Seirin, which also has some problems that need handling. This time there's a moki fortress near the town that keeps pestering the townsfolk, what with all the murderin' and pillagin'. At the local bar, a man named Loki spills his plan about infiltrating the fortress. He's furious since his brothers were killed by the fearsome Shadow Warriors of Shumi who are stationed there. As the group leaves the bar, who shows up but public arsehole #1, Jato, who brags about how he eavesdropped and is going to set a trap for poor Loki.
|Ugh, even his laugh ticks me off.|
Of course Jato doesn't stick around and instead sends one Shadow Warrior to attempt to kill Madara and friends. While the fight could have been fairly tough, it was here that Hakutaku unveiled his incredibly useful spell, Goriki. This spell gives temporary invulnerability to the recipient, although using the word temporary might be a little misleading. The shield lasts until it brought down by an enemy attack; tougher enemies can bring it down quicker. This is the only way to bring down the shield. If it's not down by the end of combat, it carries over to the next, and the next, and the next, until something gets a strong enough hit in. Needless to say, this is a huge advantage and I made sure they lost no time in exploiting it. This also helped Hakutaku's rep a lot since, up until then, he was kinda sucking in combat (wandering off and what have you). In addition to finding out Hakutaku's inner strength, the group also picked up another member, a fighter named Kaos who hates Jato as much as I do. Kaos serves Emperor Miroku but hates moki even more.
|He even comes with his own equipment!|
Now this is a proper group. Two fighters defending the flanks while the spellcasters attack from the middle with their bows. With confidence in every stride, the party approached the guards at the entrance, then were captured and put into the dungeon. Good job, guys. Luckily, Kaos has some connection with the leader of the fortress, Jamira, who also hates Jato. She arranges for Kaos to escape so that he can deal with the furry little bastard. Though released, that still doesn't mean that there won't be random encounters as the fortress is explored, giving Kaos an opportunity to show me what he's made of.
|Fight's over there, Kaos... ah,|
never mind, Madara's got it.
Jato was found but, to no one's surprise, he threw another Shadow Warrior at the group and hightailed it out of there. Loki is found in the next room, down but not out. Kaos decides to leave as he still feels loyalty to the emperor, conveniently leaving room for Loki to join up. Heading north seems to be the order of the day, and the party quickly stumbled across an old temple. There's a ghost to talk to inside but before that can happen, there are more Shadow Warriors to deal with.
|How could one respond to this?|
Does a response even exist?
And it's not just this Shadow either, the rest of them talk in a similar manner. Kinda makes the whole clan less intimidating when all I can do is picture them prancing about, delivering their lines with over-the-top sarcasm. Anyway, the ghost informs Madara that the only way to get across the Great Wall of Sand to the north is to retrieve the Orb of the Orochi Tribe. The orb is being held in the kingdom of Soma, which lies on an island to the south. Soma is rumoured as to not having any moki on it, due to its connecting underground tunnel being blocked off. The cave entrance is right next to the village of Ikaruga but before heading out, the party decided to take a year off and soak up the idyllic scenery before progressing.
|Vivaldi would be proud.|
The same blockage that was keeping moki out of Soma gets removed after a battle (not directly by the party, but certainly because of the party) and this causes a problem when the group asks for the Orochi Orb. When the princess of Soma, Romi, goes to retrieve the orb, she gets princess-napped by moki and needs to be rescued. It is here that Madara finds out that Jamira is Romi's sister and, therefore, also a princess. Apparently when the tunnel was initially sealed, the king didn't realize that Jamira was on the other side and so she felt betrayed and joined forces with the emperor. At any rate, Romi was an easy rescue and soon the orb was in Madara's birchy little hands. After entering the Great Wall of Sand, Madara learnt that a moki general was currently residing here. It came as a surprise to find that there were actually two generals, each having one of Madara's real hands.
|With Goriki in full effect, they were defeated|
quite handily (h'yuck yuck yuck).
Before continuing north of the wall, the party did a little backtracking to investigate a strange, dilapidated pod that lay just south of the wall. Inside held a lamia who said that the pod is actually an ark built by the ancient Agarthians to protect against a flood that happened ages ago. Didn't Tatara mention something about using Agarthian technology? I was pumped that they were possibly getting an airship but it just turned out to be a time machine instead.
|Dr. Whodara and companions enter the Arkdis.|
After sliding a few eons back, the party arrives just before the big flood is about to happen. They discover that the flood is being caused by a giant star coming close to the planet. I would think that this would cause more problems than just tidal flooding, but what do I know? Anyway, the captain of the ark needed Madara's help to evacuate a sickly lady named Nayuta from her temple so they all climbed down the high-tech rope to the surface of the planet.
|Sweet, it's an ark AND an airship!|
The temple is guarded by a man named Garuman who the party lets know that, since Nayuta is ill, she must be be placed into a stasis pod and brought aboard the ark. After seeing him leave with the capsule, Madara discovers that Garuman actually took a different capsule which held a golden statue he wanted for himself. The captain is so upset with Garuman that he curses him to have to watch over Lady Nayuta until she is revived (also included was immortality so he can't get out of it by dying). Knowing that Madara is from the future, he entrusts to him the Silver Staff, which is the only item that can revive Nayuta from her slumber.
|Yes, would you like me to go back to it?|
3500 years later in an instant and the party was back in their own time and they wasted no time freeing Nayuta and breaking Garuman's curse (he then immediately died). Making their way back through the Wall of Sand and who should the party come across but their old friend Jato, who is hanging out with Kaos. Just when I thought we'd be facing off against Kaos, the ghost of his sister appears and pleads with him to quit fighting for the emperor. The appearance of his sister's ghost understandably upsets Kaos; he had agreed to serve the emperor only if his sister's life was spared. Kaos turns on Jato and Jato does what Jato does best and disappears. Exiting the other side of the wall led the party into a vast desert. At the nearby village of Kugutsu, Madara pencils in two new quests. The first is to gain access to the rebel hideout by receiving the Mark of Cain and the other is to investigate the withering of the Rain Tree (save point) located in Mitama village, far to the east. Also of note is that Madara can now choose to swap out an ally at the inn (excluding Kirin). Lady Nayuta is the only one listed but she's probably a shaman like Kirin and I don't need two healers. Having another fighter in addition to Madara and a source of Goriki is making the battles very easy; it more than compensates for the times during combat when the characters act like morons. I'm expecting Kaos to be available at some point, so I may switch out Loki for him. Until then, we'll see what adventures await our stalwart heroes as they explore the gritty expanse of the sea of sand.