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Magnus Grendel

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On ‎9‎/‎22‎/‎2019 at 3:44 AM, neilcell said:

Pretentious Cranes always have to ruin everything with their extravagance, don't they?  Frickin' premadonnas strutting around and preening like **** peacocks.

The worst thing is, Riku is genuinely making an effort to dress down and look inconspicuous. The problem is that it's like going and asking a runway designer what they think 'normal people' wear on a night out...

  • The arrival was fairly easy - we only had a very short session for various reasons.
  • Essentially, they turned up, Riku went on up to Kyuden Mantis to present herself (having sufficient presence of mind not to say either "Shiro Gotei" or "scandalously underdressed and obviously gaijin peasant" despite the fact that was clearly what she was thinking), whilst the Magistrates made their way to the Sen'in Brew House to meet Taito no Gotei.
  • The Napping Sailor took a bit of finding, but they eventually made it. There was - inevitably - a brawl going on downstairs when they arrived. Obviously the Magistrate's quarters were in private rooms upstairs, so they could either wait for the brawl to blow itself out, or make their way through.
    • Uiri and Horonigai did themselves impressive credit making their way through the brawl defending themselves and flattening the odd individual who refused to be intimidated. Horonigai's decent martial arts unarmed rank and air rank meant she didn't actually take a hit, whilst Uiri was pleased to discover Way of the Dragon works perfectly well in unarmed fights and between them they managed to get cleanly through to the stairs.
    • At this point a tall, dark haired samurai slammed open an upstairs door and hammered an axe into the balcony.
      • "I have a Magistrate's Seal, an Ono, and a Headache! Everyone Be Quiet!"
      • This, of course, proved to be Taito, a Mantis Clan magistrate and their host for their time on the island. He greeted them warmly, and led them into the slightly more salubrious guest quarters above the back of the inn.
        • They were pretty open - they were tracking a Maho-Tsukai, and trying to do so discretely. They asked if there had been any disappearances - Taito reassured them that brawls, cons and pickpocketing was far from unusual but that Gotei port was actually very safe - murders and disappearances were rare, especially amongst visiting samurai. He was not aware of any but he would check with his Yoriki for anything unusual, and send inquiries to magistrates in the Mantis' other settlements.

 

That's pretty much where it was left.

I was going to basically translocate the 'chasing Kitsu Sokorii' events from the east coast of the mainland to dotting around various Mantis islands (the Mantis are a melting pot of bloodlines, have decent relationships with the Crab, and their oldest, finest families are Hida's descendants, after all....). The library of Kanidoko Itte sounds like a perfect place for Sokorii to want to steal her maps of Shiro Hiruma from....

I'd like them to have a degree of success - and challenge - so I'm thinking of introducing one of Sokorii's other apprentices - an equivalent of Gaku who was on the other ship Sokorii fled to.

Sokorii has all the Maho abilities going thanks to Maho-Sensei, so it makes sense she might well have been using Dark Reflection now and then to watch the people she knows thwarted her apprentice in Slow Tide Harbour. She's sent her other apprentice to take some revenge.

I'm taking a slight liberty with the rules - I was taken by the Shikigami rules a while back and wanted to introduce them but not immediately offer them to the players (there are balance issues with the rules and I don't deny that) - but I have the idea in my head of "is there any good (narrative) reason why a Maho shikigami couldn't exist?".

Sokorii has all the Maho abilities going, and could easily sacrifice a few temporarily to provide her apprentice with a scary weapon/minion.

Having a letter or map find its way to the PCs that....late at night.....folds itself back up into a spider or centipede sounds creepy as heck. And taking the five 'basic' Maho invocations in the book.....if it sneaks into a room late at night

  • Incite Haunting can afflict a target and once afflicted, Sinful Whispers allows it to interrogate them with them retaining no knowledge of what was asked
  • Grip of Anguish can spontaneously inflict bleeding on a target, and, once dead, Mark of Desecration can raise them as a zombie peasant or even skeletal bushi (which can be healed and enraged with Unholy Fervour)

 

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1 hour ago, Magnus Grendel said:

The worst thing is, Riku is genuinely making an effort to dress down and look inconspicuous. The problem is that it's like going and asking a runway designer what they think 'normal people' wear on a night out...

That is kind of my point.  Even when they are not trying to show off they still manage to be flashy.  Even the Peahens have iridescent heads despite being more subdued than the males.  While I will complement Riku-kun for at least trying, she seems to have brought MORE attention to herself because of how obvious it is in her attempt to be subtle.  Hence why calling cranes glorified Peacocks should still be a very cutting insult, especially if told to their face in public.

Edited by neilcell

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So  - after a night's rest, the magistrates started their investigation.

  • Taito was able to confirm that Kitsu Sokorii had arrived a month or so ago - travelling under her own name - in the company of a ronin called Ayoi.
    • It took the PCs a minute to figure out that this wasn't someone they'd met before.
  • She had been in the city for a  couple of weeks, before leaving south for Toshi no Isazuma, the 'City of Lightning'. Taito's yoriki had, at the time, no particular reason to pay attention to her, but she was a great clan samurai, so her departure was noticed.
    • One thing that the Yoriki was able to confirm was that she'd left alone, about a week before the Magistrates arrived; meaning Ayoi was still in the city. She had, as she boarded her ship, handed a scroll or sheaf of papers to the ronin, which the Yoriki recalled he seemed deeply unhappy to be given.  
    • Whilst in the city, she had stayed at a guest house attached to the temple of Rumhal; a gaijin shrine from the Ivory Kingdoms.
      • Passing a (rather hard) Theology Check, Horonigai recalled that Rumhal was a divinity with multiple names and aspects, including "Siva" and "Kali-Ma".
      • These alternate names left the players rather unhappy, and they decided to check the temple out immediately.
  • Uiri and Horonigai went to the temple, whilst Goriate went to Kyuden Mantis itself to investigate there, make contact with Hitoshi (nominally their reason for visiting the islands!) and take the opportunity to flirt - cringingly badly - with Kakita Riku.
    • Uiri managed to talk his way into the temple's guest house, implying he was a friend of Sokorii's who'd arrived from the mainland and didn't know she'd left
    • As he did so, Horonigai attempted to get a sense of the spiritual nature of the temple. She was distinctly uneasy - which, given Rumhal's darker aspects in the cycle of rebirth, is perhaps not too unexpected - but got little direct sense of anything useful. She kept having a persistant feeling of being watched, though.
    • Goriate....realised that since the magistrates were definitely not magistrates, he couldn't use Agasha Sumiko's letter of introduction or his authority.
      • Which meant being stuck trying to charm his way through the Golden Masugata Gate.
      • The Hida Samurai.
      • With his  awesome courtesy skill, water ring, and Short Temper disadvantage.
      • This went "well".
      • One brief outburst of "Who do you think you are!?!" "The gate guard, samurai-san." later, he ended up slinking off, and sending a message inside to Riku for help.
      • Comparing notes with Riku, he found out that Kitsu Sokorii had supposedly met with Kanedoko Itte, the city's 'chartmaster' during her stay. She had also found out that Hitoshi was not in the city - he was part of the crew of a ship carrying a detachment of Mantis Elite Guard to Toshi no Isazuma.
  • Comparing notes back at the Sen'in over lunch, the magistrates decided to seek out Kanedoko Itte.
    • Before they left, they were interrupted by a gaijin-looking fellow who claimed to be called Alhundro Cornejo no Gotei, a 'loyal vassal of the Mantis Clan', and an apothecary. He had been asked to speak to them by Taito, after Taito discovered that he had had dealings with Ayoi - who had sought to buy some festival fireworks to be shipped south to Toshi no Isazuma.
    • After a degree of confusion about the difference between (totally banned) Gaijin Pepper and the simple flashpowder in Alhundro's fireworks, the magistrates determined that Ayoi had bought them during the week he'd been in the city alone.
    • Horonigai also kept feeling the sensation of being watched. By this time, the others were intermittently getting it too. Worryingly, she found a few small flakes cracking off the bottom of her finger of jade... (This was Sokorii using Dark Reflection to search out the people who'd thwarted her in Slow Tide Harbour).
    • En route to the chartmaster's house, Horonigai was interrupted by an elderly woman begging. She handed over a few coins without thinking - and then, realising that peasant beggars harassing armed samurai wasn't normal, turned to investigate - but the beggar was gone. Not "round the corner" gone, but "vanished" gone.

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  • Arriving at the chart-house, they had a brief discussion with Kanedoko Itte and discovered that 'a Kitsu Samurai' (Sokorii didn't give her name) had visited and purchased a map of the southern islands around Toshi no Isazuma, showing the smaller villages and fishing settlements.
    • They also found that a samurai fitting Ayoi's description had visited recently and respectfully asked to see various historical maps Itte held of parts of Crab lands.
    • Goriate's instant reaction was "Wait, what? What parts of Crab lands." "Oh...everywhere. I have some old woodblock prints of Kyuden Hida" (Thump) "Some maps of Friendly traveller village" (Thump) "a sounding map for Earthquake Fish Bay" (Thump) "Charts of the Golden River" (Thump) "Even some old maps of Hiruma lands....now where in the Kami's name have I left the Hiruma maps? I'm sure they were over here somewhere...forget my own head next..."
    • On discovering that a map of former Hiruma lands south of the wall had 'gone missing' after Ayoi's visit, everyone's paranoia level cracked new heights. Extricating themselves as best they could without suggesting the map had been stolen, they returned back to the inn.
    • Back at the inn, they were met by Taito. He had continued to do some research, and mentioned that he had found a death which might be relevant; Kanaka, a mantis samurai had 'died in a brawl' several days after Kitsu Sokorii had left the island. What was significant is that (1) according to rumour she had seduced him and the two had briefly become lovers during her stay, and (2) no-one who witnessed the brawl saw him struck hard enough to explain his death; he was left doubled over, vomiting blood, after the fight, and the blood loss ultimately killed him.
      • Taito's yoriki confirmed that he had a small cut one one hand when she inquired about unexpected wounds - the magistrates (correctly) assuming he'd been unknowingly used in some sort of blood magic. He was a relatively low-ranking mantis samurai, though, without access anywhere important - so it was hard to figure out why Sokorii had picked him.
      • They explained what they'd found at the Library of Kanedoko Itte, which resulted in Taito interrupting and saying Kanaka's mother had been a Hiruma samurai who'd married into the Mantis.
      • Goriate's first response was to send a letter by the fastest courier he could find to his aunt - a Kuni-born Witch Hunter - which basically said "Maho-Tsukai! Hiruma Lands! Bad Stuff! PANIC!"
      • Horonigai tried to commune with the spirits - concerned that the party was being watched. She performed a tea ceremony, and was rewarded with a brief vision of Doji Satsume - who apparently hadn't given up watching over them from time to time, especially since his (secret) nephew Hitoshi was in danger. He didn't say much, but Horonigai was able to learn that Sokorii was indeed watching them via some form of Maho. That her blending of Maho and Kitsu Ancestor-magic meant she could compel and bid ancestor spirits from the blood of their descendents. Which was - amongst other things - why manifesting was dangerous if Sokorii was watching them - she might see him.
  • At this point, a servant for the inn announced a letter had been left for the magistrates. Opening it with some trepidation, they found it was a threatening letter telling them "not to pursue Sokorii-Sama" or they would suffer a horrific death. It was presumably from Ayoi.
    • Before retiring to their rooms for the night, Horonigai trudged up to Kyuden Mantis and basically dragged Riku back to the Sen'in - with one attendant struggling with a travelling case and others instructed to bring 'the rest' later; if Sokorii and Ayoi knew where they were, they needed to regroup and protect themselves as best they could.
      • Using Threshold Barrier, Horonigai, with Goriate's assistance was able to seal the corridor leading to their rooms against otherworldly spirits.
        • It was a good idea, but sadly the threat was of a different form....and was already inside. After they fell asleep, the letter began to fold itself into the shape of an shiver-inducingly realistic forearm-sized origami centipede, and scuttling up the paper wall, slipped into the room of Taito no Gotei....

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So...that session involved a lot of freaking out.

  • The players were woken by a stumbling sound. Uiri and Goriate rushed out to investigate.
    • Goriate rushed next door to Kakita Riku's room, and was greeted with a "what? Also WHY ARE YOU IN MY ROOM!?!?!"
    • A second later there was a bestial snarl as Uiri, who'd gone to investigate Taito's room found a stumbling, reanimated corpse (technically a Skeletal Bushi) tearing its way through the shoji door at him.
    • "Wrong room!" the crab apologised and rushed off to help.
    • Uiri started with Heartpiercing Strike, impaling the former Mantis Magistrate cleanly through the chest....and was most disturbed to find his opponent not discommoded in the slightest (Skeletal Bushi ignore non-Sacred critical strikes!).....he then received a vicious backhand from the undead samurai for his troubles.
    • Horonigai used Tempest of Air to try and push the monster back...which she succeeded in doing. Along with lightly injuring Uiri and Goriate, and sending Riku - who, half-asleep, having just woken up to find a Crab samurai bursting into her room, stood up to find an indoor hurricane smash its way through the shoji screen between her room and Horonigai's, sending her flying in the tempest.
    • The two bushi moved to attack the undead Taito, but as they did so, Uiri doubled over and started vomiting blood.
    • No-one had up until this point noticed the shikigami, which had just used Grip of Anguish to some effect on the Dragon Samurai.
    • This took quite a toll, as the Mirumoto very much prefers fire stance - he and Goriate were able to bring Taito down over the next round - the dragon cleanly removing the undead magistrate's arm with his sword (at a cost of incapacitating himself with the fatigue from Bleeding!) whilst Goriate then crushed Taito's ribcage with a tetsubo swing.
    • Sensing the Maho, Horonigai realised the shikigami was there, and rushed past the bushi into the room, snatched the shikigami from it's hiding place on the ceiling and tore it to pieces as it tried to bite her with its paper fangs. She continued tearing and stamping for some time. (both in and out of character she is rather phobic of bugs....)
    • Horonigai and Riku were able to help Uiri, and the bleeding was contained before it became life-threatening.
  • With a Mantis Clan magistrate having been murdered with Maho, they decided subtlety was officially off the table. Dressing in Emerald Magistrature robes, they dug out the letter to Yoritomo and - collaring some hinin to transport the corpse - made their way to Kyuden Gotei to speak with the Son of Storms.
    • This didn't actually happen per se.
    • Goriate found passing through the Golden Masugata rather satisfying; the same obstructive guard was on duty but this time he was in character as an emerald magistrate, flanked by two peer magistrates. His water/courtesy dice pool isn't great but fire/command is not a problem.
      • "Get this door open now. We need to speak to your lord."
      • "What...who...?"
      • "The words you are looking for are 'Yes, Magistrate-sama', I believe"

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  • Despite the hour, they were presented to Lady Linmei, Yoritomo's Komori wife, acting in his stead whilst he was absent.
    • Presenting the Ruby Champion's letter and informing her what had happened, they warned that they believed Ayoi, the maho-tsukai, was trying to flee the city that morning to Toshi no Isazuma.
    • They confessed they had been in the city more-or-less secretly, attempting to hunt the Maho-Tsukai Kitsuki Sokorii without detection.
    • "Given Taito-san's death" Linmei said "It clearly didn't work."
    • After a degree of grovelling diplomacy, they persuaded the Mantis Clan to seal the harbour briefly and help them search the ships. Linmei wasn't pleased, but recognised the threat.
    • They realised - on pressing the matter further - that the Son of Storms was on the same ship as Hitoshi, on route to Toshi no Isazuma. Which might explain why Linmei was taking things so seriously.
    • During the discussion, Horonigai realised (with her high vigilance and void) that Linmei wasn't just a Komori-born tribeswoman, but was at least partly Komori - one of the Island's native bat-spirits. She took this rather better than discovering Doji Kunozobu's nature, and settled for an extremely formal obeisance when leaving the audience.

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  • With a bunch of Mantis Guard in tow, the party stormed down to the docks.
  • They sent word ahead (fortified with Linmei's authority as locum Clan Champion) to seal the harbour, and the harbour chain was steadily 'clank'-ing into place as they arrived.
  • They steadily then realised they knew that Ayoi was trying to leave the city but that was basically it.
    • And they'd shut down the busiest commercial port in the empire because one person they wanted to find was on a ship in it somewhere and they had no idea how to find them.
    • Fortunately for their continued survival, at this point they eventually remembered Alhundro's message about fireworks. That was a rare enough cargo that they could talk to the dockworkers and find out which ship that was loaded onto.
    • One series of command and skulduggery checks later they surrounded a somewhat piratical-looking ship docked on the far end of the Gaijin's path.
  • It proved to be the right ship - Ayoi materialised from below decks, saw them, and incited the crew to attack en masse.
    • "Just like that?" "Smuggling ship. Emerald Magistrates. They basically assume we're after them." "Oh. That."
    • Horonigai took an early shot with her bow and inflicted a fair amount of fatigue. Uiri and Goriate engaged a trio of crewmen each, whilst the main 'rush' of the ruffians in the crew was checked by the mantis guard accompanying them (basically taking both parties out of the skirmish).
    • Ayoi used Grip of Anguish, and netted enough opportunities to affect all three magistrates - Horonigai's sanctified robes prevented the worst of the damage, but a chunk of fatigue straight through Goriate's armour left him not happy at all.
    • He dealt with this anger by essentially liquefying one of the crewmen with a massive double-handed tetsubo strike, whilst Uiri disembowelled one of his opponents with a nasty critical strike.
    • Both samurai took some fatigue from the ruffians attacking.
    • Horonigai took another shot but this time missed.
    • Ayoi ran next to Uiri, punching down at the ruffian the Mirumoto had slain. The spilling blood lanced upwards into the Maho-Tsukai's hand, crystalizing into the shape of a katana which Ayoi immediately swung with. Fortunately, with Way of the Dragon, Uiri was able to fend off the strikes; chips of crystalized blood cracking off the blade edge and sparking to the floor.
    • Goriate dealt with another henchman, whilst Uiri swung at the Maho-Tsukai, wounding him.
    • Horonigai switched targets, and shot down one of the ruffians facing Uiri, leaving him free to engage Ayoi.
    • Ayoi swung again and his sword was deflected again.
    • Goriate pulverised a third henchman, and charged in to engage the last one facing Uiri.
    • Uiri struck again, this time running Ayoi through. As he did so, though, the Maho-Tsukai's face melted away like cheap wax, leaving the terrified expression of a peasant who was gutted by the Dragon samurai's swords.
  • finishing off the fight didn't take much longer but the samurai were left with Ayoi having vanished. Swapping places with someone in the crowd, he had escaped, presumably hoping they would believe him killed.
    • As the PCs searched, Horonigai noticed one old woman in the crowd who was looking straight at her. The beggar she'd given a coin to before.
    • She went to speak to the beggar, and - seemingly without  a shred of fear or much respect for their different status - the beggar told her that the Maho-Tsukai was headed inland, looking for a cave. The events in the harbour were merely 'play-acting' for the magistrate's benefit, and they needed to hurry.
    • Horonigai was a little taken aback until the took a Void check and realised who she was talking to - Airi the Tengu, who the party had met between Tsuma and the Emerald Fortress - who had taken it upon herself to help them stop Kitsu Sokori by 'doing what I'm allowed to - and maybe a little more, but don't tell anyone!'
    • She warned them the cave held an old sword, once belonging to Hiruma Daisuke, one of the first samurai to come to the Islands of Spice and Silk, guarded by a very old Komori spirit - and not to take things without asking. She also said the sword should go back to the family who made it, "but they didn't make the scabbards".
    • With this, the old woman hobbled off, and - true to form - vanished. This time, Horonigai was sure she heard a whoosh of wings...

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So....the magistrates (and Kakita Riku) have followed Ayoi into the jungle across the Islands of Spice and Silk, eventually reaching the far side of the island.

  • They had hired a komori tribe guide, who helped with tracking. They were able to determine Ayoi had six men with him, and wasn't too far ahead of them. The horses the mantis had provided helped them catch up, but - jungle being jungle - wasn't going to let them overtake given that they didn't quite win the sequence of survival, labour and tactics tests.
  • They eventually almost caught up with the maho-tsukai's men near a fordable stream running down from the coastal hills, where they found two decapitated heads nailed to trees by crude iron bolts through the forehead. The Komori guide freaked out and ran - rather understandably as they felt similar themselves.
    • Worse, as they approached, something uncurled from inside one head and dropped out of the severed throat to the ground with a wet splat.
    • Then another something, from the other head. Then many more somethings.
    • Within seconds, a tidal wave of snakes, eels, unnaturally long slugs, and other less recognisable beasts with eyes and spines running down the length of their bodies.
    • The creatures started to coil round one another, taking on the rough shape of a man - albeit one twice the height of even Hida Goriate. A gap between its coils opened like a maw and it bellowed in rage, then reached up and pulled a hole in its 'chest' open, reaching in to draw out a cracked and rusted iron tetsubo, studded with crude but vicious looking spikes. It charged.
  • "So....Oni?" "Oni." "And the plan?" "Try to not die." "This doesn't sound like a well thought-out plan." "It's a work in progress."
  • The fight was pretty messy. The creature was 'just' a Savage Brute, summoned with the sacrifice of two of Ayoi's men.
    • The beast and both the bushi closed and guarded, the beast dropping strife onto Goriate with an opportunity, whilst Horonigai hurriedly started blessing an arrow - for the sacred quality more than anything.
    • The beast (who's initiative was higher thanks to the Savage Brute's scary focus of 7) moved up smartly and hammered Uiri, seizing the moment and landing a nasty amount of fatigue despite guarding and Way of the Dragon, topping this off with a critical strike (reduced to an armour-damaging close call by Uiri, but applying Afflicted).
    • Uiri and Goriate both battered the creature, doing a fair amount of fatigue damage and damaging its Thick Daemonic Hide armour - though Uiri was forced into water stance to catch a calming breath first to un-incapacitate himself and Goriate suffered yet more strife from his Fear of Corruption anxiety. A sacred arrow from Horonigai did more damage still.
    • Since the beast had been able to use fire opportunities not only to apply strife but also to create the 'any attacker suffers two strife' effect, everyone was struggling for composure.
    • The beast thundered past the bushi, smashing its tetsubo into Horonigai and landing an afflicted-causing critical on her as well, damaging her robes' resistance.
    • A second round of attacks from the samurai, including an unarmed blow from Horonigai and Goriate unmasking by becoming Enraged, finally incapacitated it, and the following round it was rendered unconscious - splitting apart into its component beasts - and killed.
    • The ground for several metres around was littered with mutated snakes and eels and drenched in oni blood. Goriate and Horonigai insisted on gathering dry firewood to burn the ground clean as best they could, and - since they lacked the means to destroy it (it would take a mundane forge in the best case) Goriate was unwilling to leave the beast's tetsubo - wrapping it up in cloth with the magistrate's fingers of jade tucked in the folds - and took it with him in the hopes of turning it over to someone more qualified to dispose of it (such as his Kuni aunt, if they ended up heading to Crab lands).
Edited by Magnus Grendel

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The Magistrates - bruised, battered but victorious - made their way to the entrance to the cave, to be treated by, if anything, an even more repulsive sight than the oni they had just fought.

  • It had been - presumably - human, a third of Ayoi's six henchmen. Now it was a misshapen sack of flesh, burning in the sun, skin splitting and bleeding as bones and muscles swelled unnaturally beneath it. Its tongue lolled out of one mouth whilst vestigial other mouths and teeth protruded from its ribcage and atrophied limbs. Its face was covered in eyes, swivelling wildly in all directions. It couldn't stand and sounded like it was in agony.
  • Hida Goriate took one look at it and chose to put it out of its misery - being very careful not to let any of its viscera splash on him.
  • Proceeding into the cave, they found a staircase twisting downwards, elegantly carved from the stone but covered in roots. An archway over the gate showed a set of cosmological symbols - which Horonigai recognised as symbolising the realms of Yume-do, Ningen-do, Jigoku and Meido and how they interconnected.
  • As they proceeded along, they found "down" twisting wildly, and the roots started showing flowering blossoms in what was becoming lighter without any obvious light source.
  • At the bottom of the stairs they encountered a single shoji door, stood alone in the midst of a cave whose elegant sculptures no longer looked carved so much as grown.
    • Entering they found themselves in a deeply unpleasant dream sequence - Goriate forced to re-live a childhood experience of being caught up in a breach of the wall, Horonigai watching Haji cradling her dead 'mother' after the bandit raids whilst her laughing natural parents abandoned her, Uiri sat as a hunched-over elderly man in a court office stamping one meaningless document after another and aging in front of his own eyes, Riku killing Hitoshi over and over again in the sabotaged duel.
    • Each of them needed the help of their peers to pull them out of their fugue state and back to reality.
  • They found themselves at the top of a final set of stairs leading to an underground lake. Daylight was visible through a side tunnel and a smell of salt confirmed it led out to the sea - they'd reached the foot of the cliff from the inside.
    • Two more of Ayoi's minions - leaving one more, if anyone's counting - were stood in the middle of the lake.
    • The sight was so incongruous they were confused before they realised there were stone pillars just below the surface - allowing someone to walk across the water, or at least to wade somewhere between ankle and waist deep, by stepping carefully from pillar to pillar,
    • The henchmen were armed with slings and saw the samurai as soon as they saw them. Uiri, Riku and Goriate charged whilst Horonigai tried to cover them with bowfire (though the darkness meant her shot went wide.
    • The bushi quickly discovered Entangling terrain is a pain in the neck when trying to close with an enemy. Fortunately, the obscuring darkness meant they didn't suffer too badly from the slingstones.
    • Eventually, the bushi reached them and in quick succession Goriate shattered one with a tetsubo and Uiri disembowelled the other with his swords (and Riku's assistance). The two dead mercenaries fell away into the lake, leaving the victorious samurai stood on the cluster of pillars in the centre.
    • "So....that was easy." "Don't say that!" "But it was. Ayoi's not an idiot. There's no way those two were even going to slow us down. And now they're dead...and bleeding...into the ocean...oh bugger. RUN!!!!!!"
    • Goriate - the one PC not vigilance 1 due to Afflicted - had just seen the shark fin surface on the far side of the lake.

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On 9/22/2019 at 4:44 AM, neilcell said:

Pretentious Cranes always have to ruin everything with their extravagance, don't they?  Frickin' premadonnas strutting around and preening like **** peacocks.  That should be the clan's symbol rather than the more subdued bird.

 Can't wait to hear how Kaito-san's inner Artemis reveals itself when she unleashes that withering barrage of flesh ripping arrows.

Peacocks kill cobras and eat scorpions for breakfast. Never underestimate the fashion-conscious that know how to kick.

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4 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:
    • "So....that was easy." "Don't say that!" "But it was. Ayoi's not an idiot. There's no way those two were even going to slow us down. And now they're dead...and bleeding...into the ocean...oh bugger. RUN!!!!!!"
    • Goriate - the one PC not vigilance 1 due to Afflicted - had just seen the shark fin surface on the far side of the lake.

Hilarious! 

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  • The PCs had just realised why it was a bad thing that they were on none-too-stable stepping stones in just short of waist-high water.
  • Fortunately, there was only one shark. Unfortunately, it was rather large (basically identical to the Mantis Clan DLC version but with 'adversary' not 'minion' status)
    • Unfortunately, it proved rather faster than them thanks to a slightly terrifying base focus of 8.
    • It moved in and used Blood In The Water to slam Goriate, leaving him Dazed but (fortunately) not bleeding, and giving the pillar he was stood on the Dangerous quality.
    • Goriate used water stance to swing at the shark and then move twice. With Dazed, he needed TN4 to hit it, which - unsurprisingly - failed.
    • Uiri (and Riku) and Horonigai went for the alternate plan of "RUN AWAY!", using Air Stance and a manoeuvre action to cover more ground whilst (hopefully) not getting bitten.
    • The shark rushed in again and attacked Goriate just before he reached the far side of the lake. Catching him in Water stance, it delivered a massive chunk of fatigue with a chain of explosive successes (enough to incapacitate him) and a critical to boot which (fortunately) between Way of the Crab and his high fitness rank he reduced to merely damage to his armour.
    • Thinking better of trying to fight, all four samurai spent their turns moving out of the water. Running like heck is not the most courageous action (and I'm going to give them a trivial hit for courage) but it was probably the more sensible thing to do; getting killed by a wild animal when the Maho-Tsukai up ahead was planning Kami-knows-what would benefit no-one.
  • On the far side of the lake, some carved steps with more reed torches led back up to a well-lit section of cave, with the sound of raised voices arguing.
  • The PCs rushed up, weapons drawn, to see a corridor leading to a dead-end to the final section of the cave, with an altar with an elegant daisho stand, and two figures.
    • One was a whip-thin ronin they knew as Ayoi. Horonigai's high vigilance picked out something odd or different about him but failed the void check to sense what.
    • The other was an elderly-looking man in a tattered black robe.
    • When they emerged at the top of the stairs, they rushed down the corridor.
      • Ayoi's response - which surprised them a touch - was to point and yell "You see, Komori-sama! I warned you!"
      • The other figure's response - which surprised them even more - was to look at them, sniff the air, and, eyes widening, roar "Maho-Tsukaiiiii!". His face and fangs lengthened and he rushed at them. As he did so, every one of the torches went out simultaneously, and a moment later Goriate (who was in the lead) received a nasty Heartpiercing Strike critical from the Komori's claws, reducing his armour to destroyed.
    • "Okay. So....we're basically being attacked by Frenzied Indonesian Dracula?" "Yup. Wonderful how things can always get worse, isn't it?"
    • The result was essentially a simultaneous skirmish and intrigue.
    • Uiri and Goriate rushed up the corridor to try and reach Ayoi before he...did...whatever he was doing. Both took some fatigue from the Dangerous dark tunnel.
    • Horonigai tried to reason with the Komori; warning him that they were not the Maho-Tsukai, Ayoi was.
      • For her troubles, she received a nasty raking talon across the back. Fortunately, even damaged, her robes had some supernatural resistance, which the armour of her compatriots didn't, and she was not incapacitated.
      • "Your lies are air and mist." came a whisper from right behind her. "I can smell the taint of Maho on you."
      • This claim - especially with an actual Maho practicioner a short way up the corridor - really upset and confused the PCs.

 

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So....the players - rather concerned that 'Frenzied Indonesian Dracula' had decided they were the bad guys, had to react rather swiftly.

  • Uiri continued his near-blind charge towards where he reckoned Ayoi was, and received a claw in the back for his trouble, as did Goriate
  • Horonigai tried to reason with him again, pleading that Ayoi was the maho-tsukai and was taking advantage of the guardian spirit's distraction - she passed her sentiment check, but less than an opposed roll for Ayoi (the maho-tsukai's Excellent Liar advantage sadly tilting the balance).
  • Uiri's player, at this point, had actually started thinking.
    • [Uiri] "You said Ayoi looked different?"
    • [Horonigai] "Not looked. Felt different. Seemed different. I don't know. Why?"
    • [Uiri] "The third henchman. The deformed spawn. What was it there for? It didn't do anything, it was just a bloodied, fleshy sack of tainted meat."
    • [Goriate] "So? I killed it."
    • [Uiri]"I think he....pushed his taint into it? Is that a thing?"
    • [Horonigai]"I don't know. Maybe? You mean the Komori doesn't think he's tainted because he isn't?"
    • [Uiri]"Not enough to matter, anyway. But Uiri and Horonigai are afflicted because the Oni's tetsubo was unholy, which probably 'smells' like a tainted person that's trying to hide the taint, and Goriate is carrying..."
    • [Horonigai]"THROW THE ONI'S TETSUBO!"
    • [Goriate]"At Ayoi? I can't see him!"
    • [Horonigai] "NOT AT ANYONE! JUST! THROW! IT! AWAY!"
  • Horonigai threw her void point into the following sentiment check, using void instead of water as she stopped trying to be convincing or intimidating and just tried to let the komori sense her intent and nature. "If it is the only way to convince you." she finished, drawing her wakizashi "then I will take my life here to show I am not tainted."
  • The combination of a sincere offer of seppuku, the realisation that Goriate was not tainted but the sense of the taint had been coming from something he was carrying (and the sight of the jade tied into the wrappings) - and and an impressive string of explosive successes took her over the threshold for her persuade objective.
  • The torches flared back into life. Uiri rushed forwards, blades out - and impaled a startled and terrified looking ruffian stood where Ayoi had been. The upper brackets of the daisho stand, where Hiruma Daisuke's katana had been, were empty.
    • The PCs are really learning to hate Fiend's Retreat.
  • To her credit, Horonigai's player did not realise what was going to happen with regards to her Honour attribute at this point. A sincere offer of seppuku is a massive sacrifice for Honour, and worth an increase of 9 points of honour, catapulting her to the next rank.

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So....the PCs managed to survive - and Ayoi managed to escape, with Daisuke's katana.

  • Despite the komori accepting they weren't maho-tsukai, this was 'bad' - not least because they'd been used; Ayoi had been able to trick the komori and steal the sword whilst the spirit was distracted because he'd 'set them up' - the oni had never been intended to kill them, just leave them afflicted and too exhausted to plead their case effectively..
    • They rushed back to the entrance of the cave to find four pools of blood, three of them surrounding the slain bodies of their horses - this was evidently what Ayoi's sixth henchman had been doing whilst everyone was inside, before he was switched with Ayoi in the latter's escape. The fourth horse's corpse was....missing.
    • The PCs gave chase, but with the maho-tsukai mounted they couldn't catch up. They were able to keep close enough to watch, from the distance, as he arrived on a beach further up the coast from the komori's cave, where a ship was anchored off-shore, and a small boat with an elegantly-dressed woman aboard was waiting on the shoreline.
      • Ayoi dismounted, bowed, and handed over the katana.
      • Kitsu Sokorii too the sword, nodded, and then drew the blade in a sudden iaijutsu strike, cutting the ronin almost clean in two. The skeletal onikage collapsed back into a pile of bones at the same moment. With that, the boat made its way back to Sokorii's ship, which swiftly weighed anchor and set off to the southwest into the setting sun toward the mainland.
  • Returning to the cave, they spoke to the komori. He was able - at least - to purge the affliction from Horonigai and Uiri, and promised to see to the destruction of the one's tetsubo.
    • He told them he would send word of their plight - since they were stuck in the jungle with no horses.
    • Horonigai also asked - and received - permission to take the empty scabbard for Hiruma Daisuke's missing wakizashi.
      • The Komori told her that the stolen Katana had some sort of link to Yume-do, the realm of dreams - hence the nature of the cave - and so to, presumably, did the wakizashi (if it still existed).
      • The scabbards had been made for the blades by the komori people, from copper and shark-hide, and were capable of 'a few tricks' - namely hiding and containing magic, which in part was why the cave had remained hidden for so long - it could not be located by supernatural means (other than Sokorii's unpleasantly direct method of finding someone who's ancestor knew where it was and torturing the spirit for the information). One positive benefit from carrying it would be to hide the PCs (or Horonigai at least) from her scrying.
  • Eventually - a week or so later, Riku spotted a mantis ship on the horizon, which came and anchored in the same bay Sokorii had set off from. It turned out to be the ship which had conveyed Yoritomo and his guard to Toshi no Isazuma, and amongst other things, the former Topaz Championship competitors were able to meet with Hitoshi, who was one of the ship's junior officers.
    • The vessel was en route to crab lands anyway, and with the warnings of the Emerald Magistrates, set full sail to close down Sokorii's lead as much as possible.
    • The journey took six days - two less than on the way out, thanks to a combination of gifted seamanship and urgency amongst the crew.
    • It was long enough for the characters to recover their composure and endurance, but Goriate failed his downtime check to repair his armour - the mantis ship not having the facilities to properly fix lacquered plate.
  • Eventually, the ship made port in Earthquake Fish Bay, not far from Kyuden Hida. The PCs were met by a cadre of Hida soldiers who were to escort them to the fortress, whilst the crew began unloading cargo into a convoy of carts.
    • Horonigai passed her Scrutinise/Smithing check to realise that a sizeable portion of the cargo she could see as the PCs headed out of sight of the coast were racks of new-looking naginata, forged in a distinctly crane style, along with a large number of crates bearing Doji family mons.
    • She (wisely) decided not to mention this to the others until she could do so whilst Kakita Riku wasn't in earshot....
  • Uiri, Horonigai and Riku were suitably intimidated by the sight of Kyuden Hida. The Oni Skull Gate was a sight to see in and of itself, and the fortress was pretty imposing.
    • The party were taken through the fortress to a smaller reception hall in the upper towers. They were at first worried they were being taken to talk to Hida Kisada himself, but were reassured by gossip with the guards (the Shadowlands rule for 'bored and gossipy' Crab palace guards is very nice!) that he wasn't in residence, visiting the capital in accordance with the 'one-month-a-year' rule.
    • Instead, they were led into the presence of Kuni Yori, the Kuni family daimyo. Given that he is a cloaked and hooded figure in possession of an impressive-looking Fu Manchu moustache, they were suitably concerned (especially Uiri's player, who'd read 'Trust Me' earlier in the day).
      • Far more worrisome - for Hida Goriate, at least - was the other figure present. Kneeling on some cushions off to one side, with her head covered by a large, ornate straw hat (despite the meeting being inside in a relatively dark hall) was Kuni Haruna. His aunt.
      • Yori listened politely, promised them assistance provided they were reasonable in their requests, and was intrigued to look at the scabbard, but essentially left the matter in Kuni Haruna's hands. "A Maho-Tsukai has arrived in the south and is planning to do something incredibly evil" was a warning he took very seriously, but at the same time for the head of the Crab Clan's witch-hunters, that's basically an "Oh, is it Tuesday already?" situation. The only unusual matter was the possible connection with Daylight Castle.
  • The party were taken to Kuni Haruna's quarters. En route, Horonigai was able to tell Goriate and Uiri about the Mantis cargo whilst Riku talked to his aunt, who seemed fascinated by the Kakita samurai.
    • The PCs were invited to take tea with Haruna (good for a void point for everyone - and resulting in the PCs realising how awesome knowing the Tea Ceremony ritual actually is...) and discussed Daylight Castle and what would be needed for an expedition.
    • Each of them made a request for something to assist in the journey, passing the courtesy check in each case.
      • Goriate - given to direct measures and lacking his lacquered armour - asked for the loan of a suit of O-Yorio heavy plate for the duration.
      • Uiri asked for some blades better suited for engaging spiritual opponents. A pair of Dao swords with Jade Inlay were made available - frankly worse than his regular daisho against mundane opponents, but Sacred.
      • Horonigai asked for some advice on surviving in the shadowlands. The extended advice was....slightly traumatising, and basically consisted of Haruna listing in exquisite detail all the ways she'd seen the shadowlands kill someone. Horonigai began to understand how Goriate's childhood phobia developed. The upshot was that she'd add  1211841275_OpportunitySmall.png.acf413431518491343_StrifeSmall.png.6434e11e967f0 as a kept die to every survival check in beyond the wall.
  • As they were getting ready to leave, Kuni Haruna asked her nephew to stay for 'a brief word in private'.
    • Goriate's player gulped a bit at this.
    • Uiri, Riku and Horonigai bowed and left, closing the shoji door after them,
      • Riku - a crane and the soul of courtesy, would never dream of eavesdropping.
      • Uiri was far less picky, but failed his scrutiny/skulduggery check to overhear what was being said
      • Horonigai heard everything and after a minute or so was clearly trying hard not to wet herself laughing....

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The voices were muffled by the door, but audible enough....

"So. Goriate-san"

"Yes, Haruna-san?"

"Sit down."

There was the sound of Goriate settling back down at the table.

"You're not eating well. You look pale and exhausted."

"I am sorry, Haruna-san. We've been on the road - and the sea - for..."

"It's not really that important. I didn't keep you back to criticise your appearance. Your uncle is not here. He left for the capital some time ago as part of Hida-ue's retinue. When I received your letter I told him you would most likely be coming here."

"Yes, Haruna-san."

"He sent me a very interesting letter to read to you."

"Yes, Haruna-san?"

There was a brief rustle of a scroll unfolding.

"Nephew. - Let my recent experiences be a salutary lesson; never be conveniently to hand at a politically inconvenient time.

For my failings in previous lives  – which I am coming to suspect must have been many and grievous – His Imperial Majesty, Hantei no Kami XXXVIII, Holder of the Mandate of Heaven, Emperor of the Emerald Throne, Son of Heaven, Sovereign of the Empire of Rokugan, Keeper of the Ancestral Blades Kunshu and Shori, Master of the Imperial Legions, Liege of the Jeweled Champions, May His reign endure for a Thousand Years, has seen fit to commission me to command a peacekeeping force of half a dozen guntai from the Imperial Legions to protect merchants travelling the Imperial Highways until tensions over succession in the Kintani Valley have settled down.

To put it another way, the court heard of the mess my Son and his friends have made of the place, and since I had accompanied Hida-ue to Otosan Uchi and arrived at the Capital on the same day Lady Tsume no Doji Itsuyo-sama’s letter reached the palace, I was called into the presence of Hantei XXXVIII, etc. etc. – may Heaven forgive me but I’m not writing all the rest of it twice in one personal letter -  and handed a bucket and mop.

I anticipate spending the rest of the year leading thinly stretched troops, trying to chase down bandits without causing a major incident in a warzone where as I understand it the bulk of both armies consists of hired ronin of dubious character.

I hope I will have the opportunity to fully express the true depth of my gratitude to you in person at a later date."

Goriate made some nervous and non-committal noises, but the letter wasn't finished.

"I also wish to discuss with you the matter of Shika Yuki-san.

Whilst I am pleased to see you are taking an interest in the prospects of the Family and your dynastic duties, I was surprised to learn you had retained a matchmaker at the Imperial Court without consulting myself or your aunt first."

Horonigai could basically hear Kuni Haruna's glare at this point. Goriate was confused and goggling, as this was the first he'd heard of it!

"She took the time to discuss her endeavours to date after you asked her to act on your behalf. She has been in discrete discussions with various noble families, and apparently has reached an agreement in principle with the Grey Crane, given your known friendship with Kakita Riku-san and your actions at the Topaz Championship at Tsuma. This was somewhat unexpected, but I do not wish to ruin your prospects, and have given her my approval to proceed and negotiate for us on behalf of the Hida.

Please try to avoid springing surprises like this on me - and particularly your Aunt - in the future.

Hida Akiyama, Chui of the Imperial Garrison of Kintani Valley."

 

 

 

There was quite a long silence at this point, before Haruna spoke again.

 

 

"So? This would be a very good point for you to say something, Nephew."

 

 

 

 

@GM Hooly - It felt like an appropriate point to drop the consequences from his foolish decisions in The Scroll or The Blade on him...

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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10 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:

for the head of the Crab Clan's witch-hunters, that's basically an "Oh, is it Tuesday already?" situation.

Hilarious!  Crab deadpan snark on full display.  I love it!

And Goriate being set up with Riku?  I am shocked to hear that the Crane would approve.  But since the Deer clan is who suggested it, well, the clan of Peacocks would be more inclined to accept the proposal coming from them.  Kind of explains why auntie took Riku-kun aside as soon as they met.  Talk about being in a VERY sticky situation.

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On ‎11‎/‎8‎/‎2019 at 12:20 PM, GM Hooly said:

Please continue, and I'm keen to hear what his next words are :) 

...So am I! The session ended at that point.

In discussions post-game as we were packing up, Uiri's player helpfully mentioned several things 'just to bear in mind'....

  • He hasn't mentioned his intentions to her before approaching Toshimoko and Yoshi (he didn't know Yuki was doing it himself to be fair!)
    • And she's currently stood right outside and given Horonigai's in-character reaction she knows something weird is going on in the room
  • She may or may not have noticed evidence that the Crab are fencing stolen Crane goods for the Mantis
    • Not strictly relevant to any wedding negotiations but certainly not likely to put her in a good mood
  • At some point in the not-too-distant future we're going to catch up with the LCG storyline and there's going to be a letter informing her of the events of Roar of the Lioness.
  • She is probably of higher status than Goriate - she may not be a magistrate but she is a relative of the Kakita's ruling family and hence arguably a distant in-law of the Clan Champion herself
    • Firstly this means negotiations are likely to be long-winded and sensitive (fortunately Shika Yuki is very good at her job and genuinely thinks she's doing Goriate a favour)
    • Secondly this means that by traditional Rokugani precedence a marriage would see Goriate join her family rather than the other way around. The idea of Hida "Self-Propelled Siege Weapon" Goriate as a member of the Kakita family borders on the comical.
On ‎11‎/‎8‎/‎2019 at 7:41 PM, neilcell said:

But since the Deer clan is who suggested it, well, the clan of Peacocks would be more inclined to accept the proposal coming from them.

That, plus at least one other well-connected party in the capital "helping" behind the scenes as well that they haven't heard about yet, with what Shika Yuki hasn't realised is rather more spiteful intent; looking to saddle her personal rival with a politically embarrassing spouse.  

 

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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8 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:

Secondly this means that by traditional Rokugani precedence a marriage would see Goriate join her family rather than the other way around. The idea of Hida "Self-Propelled Siege Weapon" Goriate as a member of the Kakita family borders on the comical.

I dunno - The Crane might like having such a figure on hand to throw at the Lion....

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9 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:

Secondly this means that by traditional Rokugani precedence a marriage would see Goriate join her family rather than the other way around. The idea of Hida "Self-Propelled Siege Weapon" Goriate as a member of the Kakita family borders on the comical.

That, plus at least one other well-connected party in the capital "helping" behind the scenes as well that they haven't heard about yet, with what Shika Yuki hasn't realised is rather more spiteful intent; looking to saddle her personal rival with a politically embarrassing spouse.  

 

I got the hint about the ally behind the scenes, but I just can't seem to figure out who.  I guess I did not roll enough successes on my dice.

Yes, his bull in a china shop personality would naturally offend delicate and dare I say "dainty" Crane sensibilities.  And I seriously doubt the Hida would want to part with one of their Jar-heads, I mean meat shields, woops, loyal soldiers to a rival clan.  Personally, while I am hoping that the two have an opportunity to back out gracefully, it is possible that their paring may give rise to a new minor clan.

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Well....Goriate's "next words" in-character turned out to be pretty much the same as last week's "next words" out-of-character:

A half-strangled "Erk."

Not exactly inspirational, but summed up his feelings pretty well, I think.

He went for honesty, in the end. He outlined what had happened from his perspective, summarising the events around Miya Masayo as best he could - somewhat limited by the fact it had been several months both in and out of character - how he had made the acquaintance of Shika Yuki, and his assumptions about her profession. The explanation tailed off into silence after a couple of minutes

Kuni Haruna sat still and silent for several more seconds, and then sighed.

This was a family-only, not-for-public consumption sigh. It started somewhere around the small of her back, reached her throat via slumping shoulders, and went on for some time afterwards. It encompassed the stupidity of men as a gender in general and the ineptitude of socially colour-blind Hida-born lummoxes - both her Nephew and her Husband - in particular.  

The irritation had drained out of her, replaced by a weary frustration.

"You, Goriate-san, are an idiot." She said. Goriate didn't even try to argue, but just nodded in agreement.

 So what," she asked, "are you planning to do about this?"

"I'm not sure that there is anything to do. If Akiyama-sama has already given Shika Yuki-san the go-ahead to arrange it, everything will either be sorted, or be rejected, before we return to the capital."

"Perhaps, but I had a rather more pressing matter in mind. Namely when, and how, and what, are you going to tell Kakita Riku-san?"

 

 

  • The pause continued for some time.
  • Goriate eventually suggested he would tell Riku himself - he wasn't sure exactly what, yet - but that he would rather do so after he and the other PCs returned from the shadowlands.
    • Out-of-character Goriate's player did observe there was a pretty good chance he would die a horrible maho-related death "and that would make all the problems go away"...
  • He and Kuni Haruna did agree that, by comparison, as a moderately important member of the Crane, and a personal friend of Goriate, and as possibly his betrothed, it would probably be a good thing if Kakita Riku didn't die a horrible maho-related death in the shadowlands.
    • Fortunately, this was something Haruna could help with as the group's 'host' - Kakita Riku was nominally with the group as a young samurai on a 'grand tour' of iconic places in Rokugan.
    • Visiting Kyuden Hida and seeing the Oni Gate and the Kaiu Wall might be a relatively extreme choice for a 'tourist', but it was a credible one.
    • By comparison, no money or influence would justify allowing her to pass the Kaiu Wall without explicit permission from the Crab, and since - unlike the PCs - she wasn't an Emerald Magistrate, there was no particular shame in declining to give said permission.
    • Since Riku is Kuni Haruna's guest, she would see to entertaining and occupying her (and keeping her safe) and would take the opportunity to get to know her better - and giving the Magistrates a 'head start' to avoid her digging her heels in and trying to come with them anyway.
    • Goriate thanked his aunt.
    • "Don't thank me yet." Haruna commented. "Because if she is quick-witted enough to ask where the decision came from, I will let her know it was your idea."
    • There was another silence, in which Goriate's PC was increasingly considering the benefits of maho-related death.

 

 

  • Goriate left at this point, opening the Shoji door to see Horonigai trying and failing to look innocent, and Uiri and Riku looking at him inquiringly.
    • He defaulted to "it's important, but I'll explain to all of you later. 'Later' being 'not now', because maho-tsukai and potential apocalypse."
    • Throwing his newly-acquired void point into a courtesy check to invert his Bluntness disadvantage, he managed to pass, and - for the moment - the matter was shelved.
      • I suspect said shelf is going to be used to beat him about the head in a few weeks time when he actually has his 'talk' with Riku...
  • The Magistrates and Riku slept fairly well - though Horonigai was woken in the night by a sense of a supernatural presence.
    • She was probably less surprised than she should be to find, in the outer room of the magistrate's suite next to her weapons stand, a tea set with an exotic blend of tea carefully brewed. There was no sign of Doji Satsume's ghost, but evidently he was still keeping an eye on the magistrates.
  • The following day, the Player Characters departed Kyuden Hida - now loaded with Uiri and Goriate's new loaned wargear and sans Kuni Haruna and Kakita Riku - and headed for the Spear of Dawn Watchtower.
    • Alerted by a courier sent by Haruna, the magistrates were met by a senior gunso and taken directly to Hida Hachiro. Who, given that they thought they were arriving with high-ranking permissions to go where they wanted, proved spectacularly unhelpful.
      • They were able to convince him Kitsu Sokorii might have landed on the east coast and made her way through the shadowlands, but his view was that that would most likely kill her long before she reached Shiro Hiruma.
      • Crossing the wall at Spear of Dawn made the magistrates his responsibility, and letting them get killed would be a big issue for the crab, no matter what testimony they left that they accepted the risks (they did offer to do so), and whatever concerns the Kuni might have, it was the Hida -specifically him - who held the command in the field.
      • With a shadowlands army poised to attack the wall nearby, he wasn't happy throwing them in its path until either he knew it was headed to attack the wall elsewhere or he could muster a big enough scout cadre to escort them safely past it (which amounted to the same thing, since the bulk of his scouts were currently shadowing the army).
      • They failed to change his mind thanks to some awful rolling.
  • Fortunately, at this point, whilst being escorted to their quarters by a cadre of soldiers who totally-weren't-placing-them-under-house-arrest-honest (Hida Hachiro wasn't stupid and suspected they might try and sneak over the wall anyway), they encountered Bayushi Tsubasa.
    • Tsubasa was a mid-ranking courtier assigned as liason to the watchtower by the Scorpion from the capital after 'a minor issue at court', and had been given a position on Hachiro's staff, looking after the scouts.
      • Horonigai smiled and asked if the 'minor issue' had involved a young lady. Everyone's eyebrows went up a bit after he admitted without further details that it had involved two*.
      • Tsubasa had heard their arguments, and agreed that their mission was important - important enough that if they agreed to give him a share of the credit (which they did) that success might well give him the 'clout' to get himself re-assigned back north. To scorpion lands, or the capital, or the scorpion's new "totally-managed-on-behalf-of-the-emperor-and-not-just-ours" holding of Toshi Ranbo - he didn't really care which, he just wanted away from the wall.
      • The players agreed, accepting a minor loss of honour for going behind Hachiro's back, and Tsubasa also - since they got all the successes they needed with Hida Hachiro here instead - offered to arrange them a single guide. One samurai was all he could offer without Hida Hachiro's permission, but since they were headed to Shiro Hiruma and Sokorii intended some devilment involving the family's ancestor's, he was confident it wouldn't be hard to find a Hiruma willing to volunteer.
    • They had the rest of the day to talk to other people at the watchtower, since they'd be waiting 'some time' for Hida Hachiro's permission to cross.
      • Goriate arranged for rations and water with Yasuki Ippei, along with a set of ponies to help them cover the ground faster. It was made clear the nature of the shadowlands meant the horses may need to be killed, but with unpleasant pragmatism they accepted that getting a few days ride was better than nothing.
        • Since at this point he was being tailed around by Hachiro's escort, he had to discretely ask Ippei to talk to Bayushi Tsubasa (who would tell him to have the supplies ready that night, rather than for a few weeks time!)
      • Uiri talked to Kaiu Riko, and got a good outline of the history of Shiro Hiruma, including a vague outline of Masami's actions (though without her name). He also noted that the fact that it had been about two centuries since anyone had come back alive from Shiro Hiruma sounded bad....
      • Horonigai went to talk to Kuni Takeko, who....turned out to be in the cells below the watchtower, checking wounded for signs of taint. Her first response after Horonigai introduced herself, whilst saying "yes, yes, very interesting..." was to grab her hand and stab her thumb rather painfully with an jade-tipped acupuncture needle to check the blood, before leading the magistrate - still sucking her thumb to staunch the bleeding - to her rooms.
        • She alternated between gabbling bizarre visions and being seemingly quite lucid if a bit confused. Horonigai did catch reference to 'the three keys' in one element, which she (rightly) recognised as probably important, but it was interrupted mid-prophecy by her being offered a honey cake, and Takeko had quite forgotten the rest afterwards.
        • She did come with her to meet the other two magistrates, having offered to perform a divination for them.
          • Kuni Takeko came to the magistrate's quarters, and set up her divination set.
            • Uiri received the omen of the Vermillion Bird, which ended up not being especially useful.
            • Goriate received the omen of the Weaver and the Cowherd. Since they were setting off into the shadowlands, and Survival is a Trade skill, this proved a good thing.
            • Horonigai.....received nothing. "You....don't appear to have any detectable future. That feels like it could be a bad thing." said Takeko.
              • Horonigai was freaking out as much as you might imagine at this point, before she realised she had the scabbard for Hiruma Daisuke's wakizashi in her belt, which the Komori had said blocked scrying on its owner.
    • Later that evening, with the changeover of guards temporarily delayed, Tsubasa took the magistrates down to a sally gate hidden in the outer face of the wall. Ippei's horses - with supplies on their packs - and a guide named Hiruma Kurumi were waiting for them there, and the quartet set out through the gate onto the blasted grey earth of the shadowlands....

 

 

 

 

 

 

* The two ladies in question - which Goriate figured out after eventually passing a recall check to remember hearing Bayushi Tsubasa's name talking to Ryu about goings on at court - were not involved like that.

  • Bayushi Tsubasa had been attached to the Imperial Advisor's office and as such had been one of Bayushi Mei-Lin's main 'runners' in her rumour campaign against Kakita Riku.
    • It went well, then for some reason Prince Hantei Daisetsu and his friend Bayushi Dairu, son of the Scorpion Clan champion, suddenly started getting involved in the gossip about what happened in Tsuma - on the 'wrong side'. 
    • What Tsubasa didn't realise was that at the same time, Mei-Lin's 'backup plan' (to make sure no blame splashed on her) was setting up more discrete rumours within the Scorpion Clan itself implying Tsubasa was connected to Bayushi Sugai's attempt to sabotage the tournament, and as such wasn't doing this on her behalf.
    • When the weight of public opinion started turning in favour of Riku, she 'discovered what he was doing' and (predictably) threw him under the bus, and the Scorpion hurriedly reassigned him out of the capital.
  • Fortunately for the magistrates, their involvement and that of Doji Shizue was't public knowledge, none of them had mentioned Riku's name anywhere within Tsubasa's earshot prior to this point and Mei-Lin's précis of the events at Tsuma hadn't included the PC's names... But Tsubasa is still probably not going to be happy with them when he finds out!
Edited by Magnus Grendel

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