Part 1: Legacy of the Forge
Our heroes make their way towards Toshi Ranbo wo Shien Shite Reigisaho to meet with Tankenka the Imperial regent. However, once they arrive the see that the Lion and Crane armies are just about to engage hostilities. At the gates they encounter a group of lion Junshi, and their honourable conduct allows the heroes to add these to their travelling troupe.
When they arrive in the location where the meeting is supposed to take place they learn that the imperial official has already deceased. The follow him in the afterlife where they see a host of spirits possessing both armies and degenerate the scene in an all encompassing slaughter, with no regard for sides. The spirit of Tankenka explains the Legacy of the Forge and gives the heroes a spell scroll to stop it. It's two prerequisites are: a battle of significant worth and a sacrifice in the ritual to return the Legacy.
Knowing that Daidoji Uji will lay siege on Shiro no Yojin, the heroes quickly make their way to where this battle will take place.
Our heroes arrive to see that Daidoji armies are already preparing their siege. . With a quick decision from Hida Buruke they charge towards the Shiro no Yojin while the Lion general is assassinated from somewhere within the fortress.
Once they start the ritual the heroes are suddenly attacked by Goju Ninja. A fierce battle ensues but in the end they succeed in returning the Legacy to the proper spirit realm. In hindsight it is clear that The Lying Darkness was behind the summoning of the spirits from the Realm of Slaughter.
At the end of the battle, an imperial messenger delivers them the following letter:
A quick examination yields a hidden message, when folded correctly the letter reads: "Be careful in the Imperial court. Our Emperor is not himself. Great danger awaits all of you. Do not stay long in the forbidden City"
Part 2: The Sentaku Tribunal
The heroes arrive in the capital of Rokugan; Otosan Uchi. They are welcomed by Hida Kosuga, who governs the Kosuga district. He explains that their letter is no free pass into the Forbidden City but that they must apply to see the emperor trough the Sentaku tribunal.
The heroes relocate to the Karada district, governed by Hida Reitaan where they recieve the information about three possible Sentaku backers: Yasuki Maro, Daidoji Jikkyo and Otaku Geshiko. Each of these have their own idiosyncrasies and prerequisites before they will pledge to back the heroes.
Furthermore, the heroes are required to display their cultural skills by folding an origami crane.
By performing various tasks and investigating several options the heroes finally get the backing of several Sentaku members.
Part 3: The Emperor Retuned
Finally the heroes are allowed to enter the Forbidden City. They are summoned to court where they enjoy a lavish feast. Kuni Shidjiro is almost poisoned here but is warned by his Jade chopsticks. When Kyoshi and Yorito use their shadowsight they immediately see that the emperor has been compromised by the Shadow. However, at this point they get an uncontrollable urge to kill the emperor.
Meanwhile the heroes have received the new status of Emerald Magistrates. Yorito manages to suppress his feelings but Kyoshi starts casting a spell in the middle of court. This results in the entire group being arrested and thrown in jail.
A week later, all are released and the magistrates learn further news about what transpired in court:
The Emperor stalked forward without warning, cutting off the sentence mid-query. His hand fell to his sword and he struck with Akodo precision.
Isawa Osugi’s headless corpse slumped to the ground. “Kolat,” Toturi the First whispered. The word reverberated around the silent court chamber with the force of an Imperial decree. He sheathed his blade with slow deliberate motions. A hundred courtiers watched in stunned silence as the Emperor of Rokugan gave his victim a disinterested glance. Without another word, he turned and sauntered out of the room.
Silence reigned in the Imperial Court long after the Emperor’s last steps faded into oblivion. Every samurai in the room was trained from childhood to navigate the treacherous waves of political intrigue, but their training had not prepared them for this.
“I had always heard of the Kolat as a myth,” Kitsu Sanetori said slowly.
“The Kolat is a myth,” Yasuki Tansa quickly interjected.
“They are peasant tales, myths of boogeymen and phantoms creeping in the night…” His voice trailed off into an embarrassed silence. No one stated the obvious: when the Emperor of Rokugan publicly named them, the Kolat were no longer a myth.
“We are fortunate the Glorious Emperor is ever vigilant,” Kakita Aihara murmured. His small voice was barely audible in the quiet room. “He has only just returned to us from his difficult ordeal, and he is already protecting the Empire from those who would threaten it.”
Sanetori smiled and his foot stamped the floor in approval. “The Emperor is a true warrior who will not hesitate to act! True Lion blood courses in his veins! Our enemies stand no chance, and no Kolat could ever stand his might.”
Shinjo Tanimuro smiled, but it did not reach his eyes. “You cannot defeat every enemy with your katana, Kitsusan. The Emperor’s disappearance was not solved with brute force but by the cleverness of our Otaku Battle Maidens. No one knows how much this… Kolat infestation… has spread. We should proceed with caution.”
Yoritomo Hogosha raised his wrinkled hands into the air with a theatrical flourish. Despite his advanced age, his voice rang clearly through the court. “You ignore the obvious! The Emperor has spoken clearly with his actions. The young Isawa was the pearl of the Phoenix Clan and she was a treacherous whelp. Their entire clan is suspect and they cannot be trusted. Surely now no one can protest the Mantis Clan’s rightful claim of our Imperial Charter. We will continue our venture into unaligned lands as per our mandate from the Emperor.”
The room silenced once more as all heads turned toward the Phoenix detachment. They shared quick glances, struggling to ignore Osugi’s cooling body. Finally, a young girl stepped forward and cleared her throat.
“Your armies march into Phoenix lands, Hogosha-san. They are Phoenix lands, and Phoenix ancestors tended to those lands. You cannot confuse the issue. We will not stand idly by while your tyrannical Champion attacks us.” Hogosha snorted. “Your brightest was a traitor, and the rest of your—”
“Enough,” Bayushi Muraisan shouted. “Your petty insults can continue soon enough, Hogosha-san. You cannot ignore the threat of the Kolat. We have heard the tales. We have heard of their strengths. They are our true enemies. The Scorpion stand ready to face them. Do you?”
After they learn about this events the magistrates confer about the nature of the Kolat, most of which is unknown to them at this point. Mitsurugi leaves to warn his wife-to-be and she explains much more about the Kolat.
However, when he returns to discuss what he has learned, that the Kolat is a powerful enemy of the Lying Darkness, suddenly the conversation switches towards the loyalties of the two shadow-tainted companions. Tempers flare up and katana's are drawn.
Kakita Yorito decides to leave his companions but Yasuki Kyoshi sees no such alternative as a solution. Realising his tool has been compromised, the Lying Darkness floods Kyoshi with shadow taint and transforms him into a shadow-beast.
A brutal fight ensues but in the end the magistrates are victorious and succeed in defeating the shadow...
Children of the Crane!
Hear me now, as I write my last letter to you.
Our Champion has commanded me to hold my ground at Bayushi Palace, but I will not. I have marched the army of Daidoji through beiden Pass, toward Shiro no Yojin and victory. Kuwanan-sama chases the Mantis. Though some say they only try to fulfill their charter of peace and marshal the unaligned lands, we of the Crane know that Yoritomo-sama seeks a greater prize – not gold, or silver, or gems, but Jade. And Kuwanan-sama will give his life to see that the Throne is safe from a petty upstart. And he is right to do so. But I cannot. I have spoken with the Mantis champion, and I know his ways better than any man. He seeks power, yes, but only as much as he can protect – and the Jade Throne is a prize too many men covet. It would be his, and gone again, before the sun set.
There is another enemy which must be stormed. The Matsu, confident in our weakness, have left their lands lightly protected, sending the mass armies to assault the Crab. Again, they attack helpless peasants and defenseless lands, as they did when they seiged lost Doji palace. This cannot be allowed. We must strike now, before they raise an army of black fiends and Oni, before the sorcerer they serve raises the head of his beast and sends it toward our children. My honor demands that we slay Okura, retake Shiro no Yojin, and return it to the hands of its rightful owners.
My ancestor, Daidoji Yurei-sama, swore to defend that palace, and my honor demands I fulfill his oath. Further, it is the duty of every Daidoji to protect Crane lands against the black grip of the Lion. Their Jade Champion, Kitsu Okura, is a blasphemy to his rank, and to the Empire. They are a soil upon the brow of the sacred land, one which I cannot allow to live a day longer. They must be destroyed, as they once tried to destroy us. If my life is forfeit, then I will gladly sacrifice it so that the Crane may rise. Once I have taken the palace and destroyed this blood Sorcerer, I will send my head to Niwa Shita no Kage Toshi in recompense for my treason.
Most heinous assassination of Otemi's second while comiting seppuku
Since the grave events of the night before, all court activities have been cancelled. Only the Ikebana flower arrangement contest continues.
By mid day, the heroes are expected at court to inform it of their findings and dealings with the Shadow. First the Unicorn Emerald Magistrates tell their tale of the Lion treachery they encoutered. They were hot on the heels of a Maho-Tsukai who escaped to Lion lands and hid in a local village there. the Magistrates assume the Maho Tsukai got aid from the local population.But before they were able to investigate the village, Jade Champion Kitsu Okura appeared. Kitsu Okura was the first to hold the Mantle of the Jade Champion since centuries. But his victory at the championship was marred by rumors of dark deals being the source of his power. Okura unceremoniously ousted the Emereld Magistrates from Lion lands claiming they had no juristiction. This and other rumours and events will prompt the Unicorn to send an army to Lion lands In order to force the issue.
Next, Kuni Rashomon presents his case, allowing Kuni Shidjiro to retell all the events involving the Shadow. However, Daidoji Uji voices the thoughts on this for most of the gathered clans. The Lying Darkness seems a minor problem compared to what is happening in Rokugan and mostly a Crab Clan problem. As such, Uji claims its is no different from the Shadowlands and thus a Crab responsibility. Futhermore Daidoji Uji presents his intentions to declare war on the Lion clan and retake Shiro no Yojin, The Castle of Vigilance. As his ancestor Daidoji Yurei had commanded him to do so in a dream.
Kitsune Ryoshei promises to look into the matter of the Lying Darkness.
Before more discussion can be held a gong sounds, announcing the time of Ikoma Otemi's seppuku. A light drizzle falls as the samurai completes his ritual but just as his yojimbo is about to strike off Otemi's head, the bushi is felled by an arrow to the neck. Shame and outrage erupt. Shidjiro spots a small, dark figure escaping in the woods. Misturugi goes in pursuit and manages to take the assassin down. She is a young and beautiful woman but immediatly tells Mitsurugi that this is all part of the plan and shows him a crane tattoo on her shoulder. Mitsurugi decides quickly to let her go.
Meanwhile Daidoji Uji takes the opportunity to shame the Lion emissaries further, claiming their dishonest conduct solicited the underhand ninja attack. Tempers flare and the Lion declare war on the Crane.
Just before the botched seppuku ceremony Mitsurugi was approached by Yoritomo Masasue. He is a Bushi with a deep love for arts and philosophy who has read the transcript of Misturugi's play about Emperor Tutori and the nature of Ronin. He is highly impressed with the work and asks Mitsurugi to write a new commissioned play for him that delves deeper into the topics of man, being responsible for his own fate and actions instead of the widely recognised machinations of fate by the Kami.
Although apprehensive at first, after a long debate and the exchange of idea's about the self-sufficiency of men and Masasue's guarantees of a receptive audience all over Rokugan. Mitsurugi agrees.
Meanwhile Kuni Shidjiro and Yasuki Kyoshi have been invited by Iuchi Karasu (who has gained the nickname "inside-out man" from the Crab magistrates). He has information on the Lying Darkness that he did not wish to reveal before the assembly. The Doomseeker explains more on the modus operandi of the Lying Darkness, who corrupts and claims people in high places in order to have spies everywhere. Karasu also tells a tale from when the Unicorn travelled the burning sands. In this tale, the Unicorn discovered that By shining light trough a cristal they could see when someone was taken by the Shadow. See the complete story here.
Fox Clan Temple of Ancestors
Kyoshi, taken by the Darkness
That night, the heroes convene to discuss their findings. Afterwards Kyoshi finds himself unable to sleep. He feels strange and when he returns from an unfruitful cleansing ritual in the woods, while using his Kuni crystal, he discovers that his features have vanished.
Even though he is loathing to do so, Kyoshi finds no alternative way but to seek help from his rival Kuni Shidjiro. The two meet and their conversation attracts the attention of Buruke and Mitsurugi as well. All can now plainly see the evidence before them. Kyoshi has been infected by the Darkness.
Unsure what to do the heroes discuss this problem. Kyoshi cliams he has full control of his actions and since previous attempts (Kakita Yorito's stain) have failed to cut away the taint with the Kuni Tanto, kyoshi returns the Kuni Crystal and they decide to leave it at that, pending new information.
The next morning, Kuni Rashomon declares that our heroes cannot continue their investigations by remaining in Crab lands as magistrates and declares Kakita Mitsurugi as the new leader to perform covert operations away from the Crab. Accompanied by this surprising news is a letter from the right hand of Chancellor Takuan, Tankenka (see below).The letter asks the heroes to come to Toshi Ranbo wo Shien Shite Reigisaho or Violence Behind Courtliness City, also just named Toshi Ranbo by most.
Tankenka also speaks of a common denominator who is behind several insidious plots to raise animosity between the clans.
As the crew rejoins, a high-pitched, fevered battle ensues. The elemental terrors are the most powerful adversaries the heroes encountered thus far. They manage to defeat them without too much trouble, Mitsurigi performs the killing shot, thereby gaining respect amongst his fellow magistrates. He also proposes to the Otaku Battle Maiden who is only too happy to speak to her father about this. While the magistrates recover, they talk about their plans. Buruke explains that there must be a traitor amongst them and he suspects the blind seer Itako. His companions agree that there is a traitor but do not believe it to be the seer.
Meanwhile, both Kakita Yorito and Yasuki Kyoshi are becoming more erratic, discontent and sometimes downright disrespectful. Yorito voices his concern to Hida buruke that he no longer wishes to be a "Koma".
A few day later the caravan arrives at Kyuden Kitsune, a lush and beautiful forest surrounds the location. As soon as the heroes arrive they notice they are being followed. Later it turns out these are "spirits of the forest" but Yorito is gung-ho and jumps into the dark forest to find out what is going on, once there, he uses his new found abilities of the Darkness to remain unseen. In doing so both he and Yasuki Kyoshi recognise each other as being tainted by the Lying Darkness. From this point on, Kyoshi acts very hostile towards the cocky duellist.
Luckily there are no witnesses to this exchange as the heated emotions would cause a stain on their honour.
After their arrival the magistrates convene in the bathhouse to discuss their plans. While Kyoshi is absent Yorito shows up wearing some kind of toga, which is a bit weird Another heated discussion flares up, this time between Yorito and Buruke on the subject of Yorito no longer wanting to be a Yojimbo for the large Crab. As the duellist stomps out the bathroom, the others are left baffled and shocked by his words.
That evening all the visitors are gathered for a banquet. The heroes learn the following:
The Mantis Daimyo has proposed to the Fox Daimyo.
- The Lion and the Crane are on good terms with eachother.
- A blight is ravaging the lands of Rokugan.
- The Crane and Mantis are at war over the abandoned Scorpion lands.
- The Lion and the Unicorn are about to declare war on eachother.
- Kakita Yorito has been freed of his duties as Buruke's Yojimbo by Daidoji Uji. Yorito's father did not agree but must comply to the Daidoji Daymio's wishes.
That night after long sessions of boring peace talks, a scream awakens the Magistrates. In the central courtyard they find Doji Harudoki on the ground, here kimono torn open with the Lion Ikoma Otemi standing over her. She accuses him trying to rape her. Even though Yasuki Kyoshi learns trough spellcraft that she is lying, Otemi says nothing. Harudoki chooses Yorito to defend her honour in a duel with Boken. The Kakita wins the duel easily resulting in a proclamation that Ikoma Otemi will commit Sepukku at dusk...
List of NPCs: http://l5r.weebly.com/handout-9-diplomacy-at-kyuden-kitsune.html
The Bandit Rodrigo
While the others travel towards Kyuden Kitsune, Hida Buruke, Toritaka Hideaki and Yasuki Kyoshi are charged to find the Bandit Rodrigo who has been attacking caravans in search of the Masks of Iuchiban.
They meet the Emerald Magistrate Shinjo Haruko and perform an Ujik-Hai Tea Ceremony with her. She explains that she circulated rumours that the Yasuki caravan they will be guarding has one of the masks. She hopes this will lure the bandit to them where they will defeat and capture him.
The heroes encounter a ronin village where the population is reluctant to speak with them. An old woman warns them of danger and gives them some poisoned rice balls.
That night the bandits ambush the caravan and after a brief but brutal fight manage to capture most of the guards. This leaves the heroes no choice but to lay down their weapons and surrender.
On top of that, Kuni Raiden, the Kuni shugenja who accompanies them is a creature of the Lying Darkness.
The heroes are taken captive and get tortured for no apparent reason. At night the Ghost of Yasuki Kyoshi's forefather visits him trough dreams and is quite persistent to have Kyoshi swear fealty. Kyoshi resists but caves in after a couple of days and is granted powers of the darkness which he uses to escape and free the others.
While sitting in the cell, the heroes learn of the bandits plans to steal a shipment of Phoenix gold and use it to assassinate a Crane diplomat, they also learn that there is another traitor in their midsts and that the bandits have summoned two elemental terrors to stop and kill their companions.
They decide to send the remains of the caravan back to Crab lands who can then take care of the bandits while they themselves rush to warn their companions. They arrive too late when they see the Elemental Terrors of fire & air attack their comrades...
Shinjo Shirasu, head of the Emerald Magistrates and Daimyo of the Shinjo.
Our heroes meet Kuni Rashomon in the house of Magistrates. He briefs them on recent events and informs them about the mission. A band of emerald Magistrates is coming to the village and will accompany them to Kyuden Kitsune where the diplomatic meeting will take place. It is imperative that the Crab Magistrates keep their best face when meeting with them.
In light of recent events the heroes decide to guard their Dragon companions even here. even when this could imply that the Crab cannot protect their friends.
That night Kuni Shidjiro is attacked by a ninja who uses a poisonous blowpipe in a futile effort to kill him. It is suspected that Shidjiro's arch-enemy is behind this.
Meanwhile Kakita Yorito has his recurring dream once more, and after deliberating heavily he has an answer to the ghost of his forefather. He will pledge fealty to his cause and even when the ghost warns him that he must cut himself loose from the Celestial pattern, Yorito agrees. at that moment the ghost's face becomes an empty eggshell and he floats into his body. thereby enlargening the dark spot on Yorito's ribs. He feels invigorated and alive with new purpose.
The next day, at sunrise, the Emerald Magistrates arrive, headed by a band of Otaku Battle Maidens and accompanied by a small band of retainers and Ashigaru. Our heroes are somewhat taken aback by their strange, barbaric appearance and Gaijin ways. Nevertheless, they put on.their best diplomatic face and go trough the welcoming ceremonies with
honour. After the niceties the assembled magistrates discuss the events in the empire and the next course of action.
Iuchi Karasu, Uichi Daimyo, Shugenja and Doomseeker
Moto Gaheris of the Ujik Hai Tribe
The following day the adventurers depart for Fox lands, where they will meet diplomats from the Lion, Crane & Mantis clans. After a couple of days riding the travellers come upon a dilapidated hut with a large swath of burned grass in front of it. A quick investigation reveals that some kind of Maho-ritual too place. A summoning of some sort.
No other trace or clue can be found so the group ventures on yet after a couple of more days they encounter a massive air and fire kansen, bent on their destruction...
Elemental Terrors of Air & Fire
I have spent my days scourging the Shinomen Mori for signs of our emperor. I have found remnants of tainted Crab Bushi, leftover from the Clan Wars. I have found Gaki, Ronin bandits that call themselves the Forest Killers. I have found ancient ruins of the Naga, talked with roaming Nezumi tribes and fought with Oni and Bloodspeakers and suffered terrible wounds. But nowhere have I found any sign of our beloved Emperor.
I have further discovered that a bandit leader who is half Gaijin and goes by the name Rodrigo is currently looking for the Masks of Iuchiban, to this end he attacks Crab, crane and Phoenix caravans. Our Daimyo Kuni Utagu-Sama has charged me to find this bandit and to protect our caravans. It has also come to my attention that a secret meeting is taking place in Kyuden Kitsune, between the Mantis, Crane, Lion and Unicorn. We will accompany the Unicorn Emerald Magistrates to Kyuden Kitsune to determine what is being discussed as the result of this meeting could impact both the Crab and Crane clans as well. I will await your arrival in the House of Magistrates in Kuda Mura village.
As for the rest of the empire:
The dragon surrounded by the indomitable peaks and crags of the northern mountains, the dark crasp of the Champion's black hand tightens around the Dragon Clan, driving them farther into the enigmas they once sought to understand. The last bastion of magic and myth, they struggle against waves of invaders, striking back with a fury that comes from the heart of madness.
From within the deep forests of the Empire, the ancient race of Naga stirs its mighty armies. The Daini, once a brother of the Dragon Clan but now sworn to lead his new allies, commands the slaughter of the Clan he once served. Soon they will climb the peak of the Mirumoto mountains and conquer the secret heart of the Empire beneath a blackened sky.
From the wide oceans, a fleet of ships bearing the colors of the Mantis have set sail toward Otosan Uchi, the heart of the Empire. Led by Yoritomo, the boldest warrior in Rokugan, the Alliance is forging a new house to lead the Empire into its new age. Some say he vies for the throne himself. The Mantis say they come in the name of peace, with the Emperor's seal to defend their actions, but now the Alliance must choose between duty and power.
There are shadows on the wall, and strange figures in the southlands. Know that a Crab has no fear of the demons of that dark realm, but these are something different. Something we have not seen before... Deep in the Twilight Mountains, near the ruins of the Boar Clan Palace, our scouts report strange markings in the trees and unknown tracks. The moon shines brightly over those forsaken lands, and the men whisper superstitous nonsense- of ninja and ghosts. I have removed these men from active duty. Perhaps the strain of constant fighting along the Wall has broken their minds. Yet, I cannot forget the faces of the men who have died under my command these last months, and when I hear their voices calling me from the western mounitains, I can only question my own sanity. It is as if Jigoju itmself has refused their souls, forcing them to walk the empire forever, lost to the fortunes. The dead walk in the Shadowlands, but these spirits are nothing I have ever seen before.
The Crab will prevail.
Our magistrates arrive at the Watchtower of the east. This tower predates the Kaiu Kabe itself. It once served as a northern guard, looking for signal fires from the south from troops stationed to defend against a Shadowlands attack. Since the building of the Carpenter Wall it had been rendered almost completely useless, and had remained largely abandoned. Those who now served here were mostly criminals, dishonored samurai and those fallen into disfavor.
The athmosphere is grim and reminds our heroes of a prison, The Tower's Taisa (captain) Hida Banruken welcomes the magistrates and their traveling compainions and appoints them their rooms. Some time after dark, Kuni shidjiro joins them and they discuss what happened before and their next course of action.
Being a bit paranoid, the group decides to post guards throughout the night.
During Yasuki Kyoshi's watch, he lights a quick opium pipe in his room whe he suddely hears the blood curdling scream of someone falling to his death flashing by his window. However, when he looks outside, there is nothing to be seen. Kyoshi summons an air spirit that confirms to him something is amiss, the Tower is haunted. He goes out in the yard where he encounters some Hida.
Meanwhile Hoshi Eisai has come under attack, the Magistrates wake up to the sound of fighting. Mirumoto Sadamasa is fighting a Ghost Maho Bujin and with the help of our heroes the attacker is defeated.
While Kyoshi continues his investigations, Kakita Mitsurugi prepares to do another performance of his play. he recieves help from a local Kaiu with building a proper stage.
Kyoshi discovers there are three power groups operating in the tower: The Iron Pincers, backed by the Hida, The Syndicate, backed by the Yasuki and the Ghostfaces, backed by the Kuni. It is clear these groups operate outside the laws of Rokugan and that at least one of these had something to do with the death of the ronin. The other members largely ignore his investigations and the athmosphere is getting grimmer by the minute, leaders of the three groups all claim innocence and point fingers at the others. Only when Kuni Shidjiro and Hida Buruke interfere the magistrates make a break trough. Apparently the Ghostfaces killed the ronin in order of the Yasuki Syndicate whom the victim owed money to.
Heads roll and tainted individuals meet their death at the hands of the Magistrates and in the end, the leader of the Syndicate is granted permission to ask his lord for Sepukku.
In the evening Kakita Mitsurugi performs an excellent rendition of the play with suberb Mae Dancing skill, all the onlookers are greatly impressed and Doji Harudoki even comments she will sponsor Mitsurugi should he ever wish to perform the play in Otosan Uchi.
Content with their actions, the heroes continue their journey and arrive a couple of days later in "The Belly of the Crab" Kuda Mura village.
Dream sequence 1: Kakita Yorito: Showdown at high noon.
Yorito and an unknown Bushi face off, Katana's drawn in Iaijutsu stance. The Chi of his opponent is powerful and opressing, pushing on his chest, tugging at his hair, his hakama and kimono.
Flashback: Yorito loses his first duel, in front of his Sensei and entire Dojo. He feels naked.
Que back to the duel: They eyes of both duelists are locked. His opponents gaze pierces Yorito's soul. Their stances shift slowly, Yorito is forced into a defensive stance.
Flashback: Yorito lies in the dust, spitting blood after the Boken of Seppun Fujiwara's Jojimbo hit him hard. Toritaka Kenzo loses his honour...
Que to the duel: Tension builds, cold sweat breaks as Yorito realises he chance of winning is small but he has no other choice than to push on. A flash of light, pain and numbness, Yorito is defeated.
Hida Buruke prepares his sepukku ritual, as his Jojimbo, Yorito has the dubious honour of being his second, forced to chop off Buruke's head. The guilt of losing becomes unbearable.
Darkness, a floating face of his forefather, Kakita Rensei speaks with a disembodied voice: "This can be prevented when you accept my gift. Pledge fealty and become the most skilled duellist of Rokugan..."
Dream sequence 1: Yasuki Kyoshi: Home is anywhere but nowhere.
Kyoshi as a small child. Holding his teddy bear by the leg, crying. A grou of older kids, mainly Hida & Kaiu are laughing at him, calling him a skinny Crane traitor.
Kyoshi as a young teenager. Lying awake in bed, listening to his parent arguing. Kyoshi 's application into the Kuni Tsukai-Sagasu school has been rejected. His mother wants him to train with the Yasuki, but his father refuses. The arguments go on to late in the night, making Kyoshi unhappy.
Kyoshi as a young adult in Phoenix lands. Despite being at the top of his class, he eats alone, away from his fellow students. Rumours presits that he has gained access to the Shugenja school trough dishonest machinations of his father.
Kyoshi on the wall. Despite being a full fledged Inquisitor, soldiers around him keep on going to the Kuni with their problems and questions. He is not taken seriously, Crab soldiers are largely ignorant of the office of Inquisitor.
The Lesser of two evils: Kuni Shidjiro defeats Kusatte-Iru-no-Oni, Hide Buruke defeats the Bog Hag, Yasuki Kyoshi lies bleeding against a wall while faces float around him, repeating over and over: "You are not Crab, you are not Crane, you are not Phoenix, you are not Yasuki, you are not a witch hunter, you are not an inquisitor, you are not..." The faces dance and merge into the image of all his companions, save himself, before the Imperial throne, honoured by the emperor.
Kyushi floats to enlightenment where the ghostly for of his forefather Kuni Osaku says: "It does not have to be this way. Pledge fealty and join me and you will become the most renown Inquisitor of Rokugan..."
The Magistrates return to Kyuden Toketsu, where they spend Spring preparing the castle.
Workers and ashigaru are hired, letters are sent and recieved, reparations made, etc...
The heroes also improve their abilities by honing their skills.
As part of the arrangements made, a distant relative of Yasuki Kyoshi joins the retainers. Yasuki Ikke is a happy-go-lucky , talkative trader. He is more than happy to help the Magistrates (he recieves part of the profits arranged with the Yasuki family) and he promptly pledges fealty. Ikke is appointed as the caretaker of Kyuden Toketsu when the Magistrates are away.
Kyuden Toketsu is on the right path into becoming the outpost the Kuni Daimyo wishes it to be.
The heroes prepare themselves and travel south towards Mura Sabishii Toshi (lonely shore city, the Crane trade hub) from where they will embark on a ship that will take them to Phoenix lands.
Itako, the blind seer
The first stop our samurai make is Shiro Kaotsuki no Higashi (Face of the East Castle).This northern castle which would host the Yasuki's diplomatic endeavors. It was also the major centre for lumber harvesting. The castle stood on a wide hill overlooking the Shinomen Mori on one side and facing the ancestral mountains of the Boar Clan on the other, within the Kaiu Hokufuu province.
In the town surrounding the castle was the Golden Carp Marketplace. The locals were apathetic about where the merchandise came from, and therefore it was a known place for pirates to rid themselves of cargo.
The magistrates see that many ronin are visiting here and they come up with a scheme. Kakita Mitsurigi will perform an epic play, detailing how the emperor Tutori has become ronin and regained his honour after the 2nd Day of Thunder. The play will end with the glorification of Kyuden Toketsu and proceed to indicate that hard working, honest ronin have a chance of redemption when they would pledge fealty to its lord.
Toritaka Hideaki meanwhile, has become indisposed after eating from the wrong street food vendor and it remains to be seen how he will react to his companions' schemes.
The Magistrates also visit the castle, where they meet up with its Yasuki lord: Yasuki Daiki who promises to send Ashigaru troops to their Kyuden if they agree to help some refugees from Dragon lands. They agree and meet up with Hoshi Eisai, a nun who has taken a vow of silence, she is accompanied by an aged woman called simply Itako, the blind seer. Hoshi is clearly from a high ranking noble family and is also accompanied by a yojimbo named Mirumoto Sadamasa, who does most of the talking.
Being discrete and polite fellows, the magistrates do not interrogate these refugees and simply agree to take them along to Phoenix lands.
A couple of days on the road the Magistrates are looking for a place to camp when a lone stranger challenges them, stating that his master has noticed their interfering in his plans. He names himself Goju Adorai and dissapears in a flash. At that moment countless of shadow-ninja hurl trough the night sky, throwing shuriken at the travellers, All of the magistrates are hurt badly, the weapons take then within an inch of their death but suddenly, the ninja dissapear.
Puzzled and weary, the travellers continue their path and arrive in the Face of the East Tower a couple of days later.
Watchtower of the East
The Watchtower of the East was a tower that predated the Kaiu Kabe itself. It once served as a northern guard, looking for signal fires from the south from troops stationed to defend against a Shadowlands attack. Since the building of the Carpenter Wall it had been rendered almost completely useless, and had remained largely abandoned. Those who now served here were mostly criminals, dishonored samurai and those fallen into disfavor. Being assigned here was a great dishonor, as you would be a Crab stationed on the middle of nowhere, rather than where the battles occur.