Legend of the Five Rings: The Fallen Mountains

Session Ten: For the good of the Empire

We defied heaven
For the good of the Empire,
Willing heresy

From conversing with the Naga it became apparent that while Blade Terrel was almost certain to take the monastery at Redemption Peaks it would likely take some time for his forces to secure the complex. Drained and weary from their skirmish with the gaki they chose, therefore, to take the time to rest and recuperate while they determined the best course of action. The rest was of particular value to Shugeki, who was able to regain much of her strength over the course of the day.

Atarashi decided to tempt the fates by attempting to divine the coming future, a practise frowned upon by many shugenja. She was able to reveal that not only would Terrel reach the lost valley but that at its centre sat a maelstrom of spiritual activity, with the souls of the legion locked in an apparently eternal battle. Between this knowledge and that drawn from Naruto’s forbidden spell scroll they were able to form a hypothesis. The souls of the legion were being used to power a great maho spell that had slowed time in the centre of the valley to a standstill. With the breaking of the seals surrounding the mountains the spell was weakening and would soon fail entirely.

Knowing the scale of the task before them the magistrates came to a reluctant decision – they would have to recast the spell themselves and drag yet more souls from the celestial cycle of death and rebirth. Knowing they would require a substantial number Shugeki volunteered to carry a message to the governor in Shirayama Toshi, using the tunnels connecting the valley to cut under the mountains themselves. The remainder of the group would make their way to the valley and prepare themselves to both complete the sacrilegious ritual and to delay the forces of Blade Terrel.

Shugeki, astride her war horse, made good time through the mountains and soon found herself beneath the main temple of the city. She created quite the stir when she emerged from the trap door into the middle of the evening ceremony and was quickly taken to the governor. Governor Saburo, aware of part of the truth about the Lost Legion, was not surprised to hear Shugeki’s tale, up until the point she requested as many able bodied soldiers as possible to lead to their deaths in the mountains. The governor, his carefully cultivated control slipping, let it be known that such an action would lead to the fall of the city, for Shugeki’s aunt Asano was already building a force to take the city. The trainwreck of Shugeki’s wedding had not been forgotten and the blame had been conveniently laid at the feet of the Scorpion. The revelation merely provided an opportunity to Shugeki, she would ride out and take command of the force herself.

Under the mountains the remaining magistrates were faced with the tedium of waiting for their coming doom. Over the course of a few days Shin’ichi and Hotaka fortified the camp and worked to narrow the tunnel they expected Terrel would use while Naruto and Atarashi prepared themselves for the task ahead. Two days into the wait the watchers heard the first sound of footsteps echoing down the tunnel. Naruto spoke to the spirits within the rocks of the tunnel and finished the job of drawing it inward, creating a bottleneck that would force the monks to exit one at a time.

Down in the valley Atarashi’s attention was drawn to a sudden stillness in the valley. The spiritual maelstrom parted for a moment to reveal a lone glowing figure, holding back an enormous stone fist that was threatening to crush them. Drawn towards the individual she stepped through row upon row of samurai held in the middle of committing seppuku, their spirits standing quietly behind their physical form. As she neared the figure in the centre she made out a mon upon their standard… that of the Imperial family itself. Before her stood a direct relative of the divine Emperor, holding back the force of the mountain that consumes with a single hand…

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Session Nine: The Cost of Death

My life
How much more of it remains,
The night is brief

Shugeki, adrenaline pumping. was moving in a blur as she awoke her comrades, “To arms! TO ARMS!”. Without waiting for their response she leapt atop her horse and urged it forward. She may not have been able to save the love of her life but perhaps she had a chance to save his spirit from being devoured.

The rest of the party, aroused by shouts from Shugeki and then Shin’ichi had a few scant moments to prepare themselves. The shugenja’s drew forth the kami to first protect themselves and then to try and foil the spirits. Naruto summoned a great glowing tetsubo which he handed off to Hotaka while Yogo Atarashi demonstrated her mastery of water by trying to drown one of the gaki as it charged forward, her perfect incantation spoiled only by the incorporeal nature of the beast. As they prepared for combat Shugeki hurtled forwards and attempted to grab a familiar arm. It slid through her hand with only a hint of contact but he managed, somehow, to keep alongside the warhorse.

Battle was met and proved almost futile, the gaki merely slid through the weapons of the samurai. Only Hotaka’s weapon had any impact, infused as it were with jade. The gaki, ever needing to satisfy their hunger, took chunks from the samurai and as they did became ever more corporeal and susceptible to the steel of a blade. The question, therefore, was could the magistrates survive longer enough to overcome the gaki once they were vulnerable. Shugeki, having seen the effect the living had upon the spirits made a choice, if Takenshi could grab her long enough to manifest she would carry him away from the field of battle. Aided by Naruto’s earth magic she was aided by a sudden change in the behaviour of the spirits who suddenly turned their full attention towards Shin’ichi. As the Scorpion took wound after wound his colleagues took the opportunity to attack unopposed and succeeded in destroying their attackers. Only Takenshi remained. With Shin’ichi acting as interpreter he explained that he had been sent on a vital mission to support the Legion and that with the weakening of the seals the ‘mountain that consumes’ would soon awaken and bring forth a great tragedy. The magic that bound his soul would weaken with the sunrise, though he could not say whether it would banish him or merely return him to where he had come from. The shugenja were likewise unsure, this was magic beyond their training.

Shugeki, unwilling to say goodbye again took a chance, kissing Takenshi and allowing him to drain her lifeforce. At the last moment he pushed her away before the agony and hunger overcome him. Gone was the samurai, all that remained was a gaki. Only through quick thinking was the now corporeal spirit dragged into the first rays of light which consumed him in a blaze.

Reluctantly continuing their journey they arrived at the Nameless Monastery to find it abandoned though torches shone in the window. Shin’ichi’s eyes, having awoken their true heritage, could make out a figure at the back of the main room and he proceeded cautiously towards it while the rest of the group fumbled about in the darkness. As both Naruto and Atarashi summoned forth light the figure through a short spear towards Shin’ichi which he easily deflected away. The pale light revealed a lone Naga while Naruto and Hotaka found themselves surrounded by a group of the snake warriors. The Naga revealed that they were Tokana, guardians in the human tongue and had been placed here to protect the seal beneath the monastery. Awoken early they had slain the unsuspecting monks and blamed the short memories of the samurai for failing to fulfil their duty. With the destruction of two seals and weakening of the third at the southern Temple (likely due to an attack by Terrel) it was only a matter of time before the entire pattern broke and the mountain awoke from its slumber. Of particular concern was that it appeared both the Scorpion and the Dragon had forgotten their role in protecting the Legion and that the spells required were no longer known by the shugenja of the Dragon. It was at this point that Naruto produced the scroll he had been carrying for some time. Taken from the temple some time ago it was the reason for the bounty on his head and bore a joined seal combining both the Dragon Clans and that and that of the Imperial Families. The Naga took heart, if Naruto could cast the spells he carried then there may still be a chance to return the mountain to its slumber.

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Session Eight: A conspiracy unfolds

One soul in many
Like a bee amongst the hive,
Sacrifices self

With Chiaki’s sacrifice the buzz in the city died down somewhat and the remaining magistrates were able to return to a semblance of normal, for at least a short time that is. The questioning of the prisoner went slowly for he had clearly been trained to resist interrogation. Eventually a plan was formed – to drug him with the powder Naruto had confiscated and simply see what information he revealed. Shin’ichi injected him with a substantial dose and proceeded to guide the conversation though much of it was useless. They learned that the man intended to break the cycle, for man to break free of the tyranny of the Kami by themselves ascending to godhood. He spoke of a great heresy in the mountains that had been covered up for centuries and of his intention to break the trust between the peasants and monks by revealing their complicity in the act. This was only one part of a greater conspiracy, of something called the Kolat and it was everywhere… or so he said. Having passed the information on the magistrates wondered whether the monk Terrel was in fact a Kolat agent, or merely being used as a pawn. His brewing rebellion was already playing its part in breaking apart the religious orders in the region and given the information that they had learned it appeared likely he would be heading towards the southern temple complex in due course.

Thoughts on how to deal with Terrel were derailed by a summons from Governor Saburo, a messenger had arrived bearing word that the Imperial Herald Miya Tomoko was at Lake Ishi and urgently required the presence of those in direct service to the Emperor. The magistrates were ordered to attend to the matter, alongside a mysterious Scorpion shugenja from the Yogo family. The party rushed off towards the Lake, with the exception of Shin’ichi who doubled back to the city at the last moment to investigate the Temple which the murdered shugenja Ki had led. True to his expectations he found a trapdoor leading down into the caverns below the city – it seemed likely that this temple possessed a seal and contingent of Naga much like the Thunder Monastery had.

Moto Shugeki, astride her warhorse, reached the village by Lake Ishi first and found not one but two familiar faces. The first was Soshin, the ronin they had encountered in the mountains and who appeared to have been responsible for the summons. The second was Miya Tomoko, who was knelt beside the water cleaning her blades over and over again. She spoke with a faint, ethereal echo – she bore the sins of a thousand upon her shoulders and sought the ultimate forgiveness. All she awaited was a second and Imperial witnesses. Shugeki, ahead of the others stalled – the witnesses would be here soon and when they arrived she quickly brought them up to speed. The more learned amongst them recognised the words spoken by Tomoko, they were those of Miya Ishi, the Imperial Herald of the Lost Legion almost 700 years before. Legend spoke that she had come to the lake and committed seppuku, with local ronin acting as her second.

They learned little from her beyond the need to atone for the sins of many and that the mountain and the legion were awakening. The new Shugenja proclaimed that the carried two souls in complete harmony and eventually the group relented. Shin’ichi stepped forward as second and when the time came his blade flashed true.

With the situation worsening the magistrates decided the best course of action would be to head towards the south peaks, with a short detour to the small Nameless Monastery on the Crab side of the mountain range. There they could question the monks before continuing on and hopefully arrive before Terrel did. They rode hard, making good time and within two days were only a few hours away. During the night Shugeki was visited by a now familiar dream, of her beloved being chased down the mountains by gaki, the hungry dead. As he neared her his shouts became audible for the first time. “Shugeki! Shugeki! WAKE UP!”

Thrown awake the nightmare did not fade as usual for the gaki were there in front of her, chasing the fog down the mountain in pursuit of her love.

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Session Seven: Honour redeemed

In falls fading light
Will a soul, their true love lost
Yet die with honour

Chiaki’s actions had an immediate effect, though not of getting everybody to leave. Hida Sato, who had triggered the command subconsciously implanted into her mind made the most of the opportunity, loudly denouncing her as having snapped and probably being responsible for the murder. She had already attempted to disrupt the ceremony and was also absent from the hall during the time of the murder. There were murmurs of agreement from the rest of the guests, her actions indeed spoke towards her guilt.

Shosuro Ami, who Chiaki had earlier identified as carrying an array of concealed weapons, was having none of it. Drawing one of her concealed blades she launched herself at the shugenja and despite Chiaki summoning a protective cloak of water succeeded in drawing blood. Chiaki’s response was extreme – dazing Ami with the touch of the void while simultaneously appearing to blast the immediate area around her with an intense blast of fire that caught both Sato and Ami.

This escalation finally spurred the guests to begin evacuating the hall while the explosion alerted those nearby. as Shugeki and Shin’ichi rushed back towards the hall Hotaka stayed with the governor to ensure his protection. Naruto, who had observed Chiaki’s sudden outburst decided he couldn’t wait for assistance and called forth the grasp of earth, grabbing both Chiaki and Sato with the hands that burst through the floorboards. As Chiaki continued to struggle and attempt to cast spells he was forced to tighten his grip on the pair, leading to the death of the already heavily wounded Sato. Shougeki arrived to a scene of chaos, just in time to stop Shosuro Ami from continuing her attack on Chiaki, whose continued struggles had resulted in Naruto continuing to tighten his grip upon his colleague. Seeing that she continued to reach for her spells Shugeki took the opportunity to grab it away while shouting at her to stop cease her actions for they would not have any impact upon the fact that her true love was now married to another.

Amongst all of this Shin’ichi had taken a longer route to the hall and been waylaid by the escaping crowd. Amongst the crowd he spotted the robes of their prime suspect, Shosuro Oka, fleeing down the corridor. Grabbing a knife he hurled it as hard as he could, embedding it in the shoulder of his target, who paused and turned to face him. Instead of Oka he found himself squaring off against a naga, raised to its full height. He stepped forward, curious rather than cautious and for his trouble found the knife he had just thrown thrust into his stomach, it’s blade white hot. The serpent man in front of him faded away and he was faced with Oka, the shugenja’s illusion no longer required.

In shock Shin’ichi fell back on his training, reflexes drawing his katana and almost succeeded in taking off the hand of his opponent with a single strike. Oka only smiled in return, stating that he had heard of the speed of his opponent. The two drew into a vicious battle. As the battle turned in the magistrates favour Oka’s outline faded to mist, like a breath of the wind before suddenly retaking solid form. Stunned by the failure of his magics and heavily wounded he fell to a masterful strike that left him on the edge of death. Shin’ichi, realising the value of a prisoner, took action to ensure he did not bleed to death.

Back in the hall Chiaki finally broke free of the cloud on her mind, in part due to the immense pain of being crushed by Naruto’s spell. She had only vague recollections of what she had done. The change in attitude, from aggressive to broken, plus the fact she was on the edge of death, was enough for Naruto who finally released her and the dead Sato from his grip. Within Sato’s robes they discovered the missing spell scroll, though why it had been stolen remained a mystery.

The chaos of the wedding had consequences. Shugeki went from the darling of the court to being shunned and whispered about across the city. The guests had seen enough to form only a confused picture and from that the story built. It was an event that would be infamous for years. Chiaki was painted as the clear villain of the piece, the jilted lover who had snapped and murdered the only person she could, Shosuro Ki. For this she was condemned to death. The governor visited her to inform her that he had no choice as justice must be served but that she still had one final decision to make.

Chiaki did not hesitate and thus at dawn the next day her former companions were summoned to witness her final act. She entered the courtyard of the palace in the traditional white robes, her wakizashi in hand, and stepped behind the screen which had been set up in the centre of the room. Binding her legs as she had been taught she drew blade and breath one last time before plunging it into her neck.

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Session Six: Light of Shosuro

When the heavens fall
Will man ascend triumphant
In death, truth revealed

A quick search of the room revealed only a few clues. It had not been ransacked or visibly searched and even Ki’s spell scrolls remained in place. Shin’ichi’s keen eye noticed that the door had been rigged to ensure it made noise when opened while drawing upon their medical knowledge both Chiaki and Naruto came to the conclusion that Ki had been killed in a single fell swipe. It was, therefore, unlikely that she had been able to grab the piece of cloth found in her hand, the killer may have planted it. A number of the guests were wearing purple in honour of the unicorn bride. Both Shugeki’s aunt and sister were clothed in it, as was Ide Ojong, who Shin’ichi had noted was absent during the time of the murder. The final individual was Miya Tomoko, the Imperial herald Hotaka had been pestering for much of the evening.

With that knowledge in place the magistrates dispersed to pursue the investigation. Hotaka went to question Shosuro Oka, the shugenja who had been assisting Ki. Shugeki stalked off to her Aunt’s room, looking forward to the chance to formally question her while Naruto returned to the main hall to question the guests.

Only Chiaki and Shin’ichi remained at the scene of the murder to investigate further. Chiaki brought forth the spirit residing within the candle, learning that the murderer had walked through the door without opening it and that they had indeed planted the scrap of cloth in Ki’s hand. Shin;ichi, following the departure of Chiaki searched the room once again, placing an emphasis on hidden entrances and discovered a panel above the door could be silently slid back. What was more interesting was that a mirror on the wall was positioned such that Ki would have been able to easily observe anybody attempting to enter through this route. Perhaps, he surmised, the murderer was a student of Ki’s from one of the more secret of Scorpion schools. He resolved to investigate the room of Oka while he was distracted by Hotaka’s questioning, though that would have to wait until after he had searched Ojong’s room.

Hotaka, having caught up with Oka was direct and to the point, learning that the shugenja had arrived in the city only a few days ago to apprentice under Ki thanks to her unique knowledge of the arts. While a man of few words he let it be known that he had been sent by his Lord Soshi Hanzo, though did not seem to know of the Bayushi Hanzo family when pressed by Hotaka. Shugeki meanwhile took the time to interrogate her Aunt, learning that she had had a rivalry with Ki in their younger days and that, according to Asano, ‘the bitch probably arranged this all herself’ Apparently there was little love lost between the two.

Naruto’s questioning of the guests was going slowly and yielded little until he noticed that Ide Ojong was no longer wearing the purple kimono he had been seen in earlier. He professed that he had had an accident during dinner, necessitating a change of clothing. An unusual statement given they had so far only been offered light snacks and refreshments. His search was cut short by the arrival of Chiaki, who proceeded to use the Kami to reveal what had been hidden from her sight. The result was enlightening, most of the Scorpion guests and a few of the others carried concealed small arms while Hida Sato, Miya Tomoko and Tsi Shiori all had scrolls or notebooks folded into their robes. The scrolls of Sato and Tomoko both bore the Imperial seal, which burned bright to her vision.

Only one individual in the room escaped Chiaki’s sight, Soshi Mirai who had rapidly removed herself from the room and was now fleeing down the adjacent corridor. It was in vain as an earthen hand directed by Naruto gently, but firmly, lifted her into the air. In her hand he discovered a considerable bag of narcotics, enough supply a dozen or more clients. Having retrieved the drugs Naruto released the angry Mirai to the floor, just in time for Hotaka and Oka to see the end of the confrontation. When the sobbing Scorpion attempted to grab the robes of Oka his reaction was a swift and forceful kick to the face, stunning Mirai and surprising Hotaka.

Shin’ichi, searching the rooms of first Ojong and then Oka learned gained valuable intelligence. Ojong’s kimono was indeed missing a scrap of cloth but was also marked with a small amount of mud and a fresh flower had caught in the tie. Questioning of the servants revealed that Ojong had been seen in the gardens with the Crab Yaksuki Ami and were likely having an affair. In Oka’s room a thorough search revealed a stash of kimonos bearing the mons of each of the great clans and the purple coloured robe was stained with blood. Definitive evidence if it was required. He returned to his colleagues, detailing the finding of the robes but omitting the affair blurring the loyalties of Crab and Unicorn.

With the evidence mounting the magistrates put their case to the Governor. When Shin’ichi handed over Ki’s spell scrolls he instantly knew that one was missing. Chiaki, knowing that two of the guests carried scrolls in their robes returned to the main room. Miya Tomoko quickly caved under the questioning of the Phoenix, revealing a scroll bearing a crude love letter. The Crab merchant was not so easily intimidated, refusing to hand the scroll over due to it concerning a private matter of the Crab. Drawing up to his full height he leaned in to Chiaki and whispered in her ear

“Shosuro light my way”

The effect was instantaneous. Chiaki pulled out her wakazaki and brandished it in the air declaring that if the room wasn’t emptied quickly then blood would be spilt. Only Naruto, having followed the Phoenix back, was in a place to witness the sudden turn of events…

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Session Five: A fragile marriage

True loves last lament,
The lightning strike tears apart
a hearts fragile peace

Having returned to the White Mountain City the magistrates found themselves with some time to pursue their individual needs. Hotaka spent time with his wife, Shin’ichi developed his skills and understanding of his heritage, Naruto worked on improving one of his spells while Chiaki dived into her research, ignoring a building concern at the back of her mind. For Shugeki the time was primarily spent in the company of her aunt, preparing for her upcoming wedding. Much to her displeasure there was little time for riding. As the day approached she found herself being pestered by Soshi Mirai, eager to gain the friendship of the courts current favourite samurai.

Thanks to their role as magistrates the Governor allowed for the ceremony to take place within the confines of his palace and was himself in attendance. Most of the primary members of court were present, after the recent union between Crab and Scorpion the need for parity by joining Unicorn and Scorpion was well understood. The magistrates, with the exception of Shugeki, were able to mingle with the guests, though Shin’ichi was politely ignored for the most part. Representatives from many of the major Clans were present in addition to the Imperial Herald for the region, who became frustrated with the unsubtle yet indirect badgering by Hotaka with regards an undeclared love. Naruto, finding himself in the presence of another Dragon for the first time in many months, expressed his expectation that there would be trouble. This was, after all, a wedding in which the Scorpion Clan were heavily involved.

Shugeki meanwhile was busy receiving final, yet apparently never ending, instructions from her Aunt. It didn’t help that she was more concerned with the wellbeing of her Utaku steed than the matters at hand and only the arrival of her perfectly presented sister provided any respite as they headed to meet the guests.

The rites, led by the senior shugenja Soshi Ki, had not gone far before they were interrupted by none other than Chiaki. Declaring her love for the groom she protested that it was her he should be marrying, that they were fated to be together and that Shugeki’s heart still belonged to another. The protest fell on deaf ears, Utaku Asano letting it be known that matters of the Clan were more important than love. Shin’ichi led Chiaki away, with the Phoenix protesting the injustice for as long as the wedding party were in sight. The distant look in her eye departed the instant they were gone from her vision as Shin’ichi led her to her room. Shin’ichi, ever observant on his return, noticed that the Unicorn bushi Ide Ojong had departed, though to where he did not know.

With the distraction removed the ceremony concluded and events turned to gift giving. The Governor presented his ‘face’, gifting the couple the mask that covered his face, revealing another beneath it much to the amusement of the groom.

Hotaka presented a painting of the groom on behalf of his wife and himself. Only those who knew the family well could tell that it was actually of his deceased brother, Shugeki’s true love.

Naruto presented a matching equestrian grooming kit, like his comrade choosing to honour Shugeki over her new husband.

Chiaki’s gift went ungiven, the shugenja not having returned from her room.

Shin’ichi gave the most Scorpion of gifts, a war diary of a legendary strategist from which the complete pages had been removed.

With the party moving towards one of celebration the guests began relaxing, helped by the energetic dancing of Hotaka, stomping along in his war boots. Shugeki, finally free of her Aunt’s oversight took the opportunity to start moving towards the exit, considering her duty to her clan now complete. She was foiled by the arrival of a palace guard, who took the Governor aside for an urgent conversation. The shugenja Ki had been found dead in her room and all the guests were now suspects, which Shugeki took great in emphasising to her Aunt.

The magistrates were ordered to investigate with all due haste and after summoning Chiaki from her room went in search of the scene of the crime. They found Ki face down over her writing desk, a single wide stab wound in the back of her neck and a scrap of purple cloth in gripped in her left hand. She had been killed quickly and efficiently without the chance to draw upon her magics to protect her…

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Session Four: The Face of change

Golden autumn leaves
Fall like tears from heights above
For whom do they weep?

With their presence known the headman of the village expressed his desire that the shugenja Naruto and Chiaki finish the ceremony to remember the dead. Given the lowly status of those being remembered this was a bold request, but one to which the two agreed while Shin’ichi stayed at the back of the assembled village, watching. He quickly spotted one individual that seemed particularly nervous, constantly shifting in his position and paying little attention to the ceremony.

Shugeki and Hotaka returned from the lords mansion in time for the end of the ceremony and were waiting outside as the peasants departed the longhouse. Shin’ichi took the opportunity to grab the nervous individual, who almost fainted on spotting the samurai assembled outside. Questioning him they quickly discerned that a few months prior he had apprenticed at the destroyed monastery, hence his scare when foreign samurai had arrived in the village and confirmed that the villagers had mounted an attack on the order of their lord Shinjo Yatada.

Inside Chiaki and Naruto were beginning to fill in the gaps in the story. The headman told them that three days ago the elderly monk Komatsu had descended from the monastery and entered the village offering to fulfil his duty of service. He had been welcomed as a guest by the Yatada and spent some time providing religious instruction to the samurai’s daughter before guiding the peasants in more practical matters. The next morning both he and the young samurai were missing and her desecrated body was found not far from the base of the mountains.

Needing to see the evidence for their own the magistrates, guided by a member of the village, went to investigate. They found two cremation piles, one properly prepared and cleaned while the other was a crude bonfire. The peasant with them informed them that the first was where Shinjo Jun had been found. The elder Yatada had ordered her body cremated where it lay, directing two eta in the process. Once their duty was complete he had cut them down lest they themselves had become tainted by contact with the body. The villagers, fearing such a possibility, had constructed the crude bonfire as best they could before being led to attack the monks on whom they laid the blame.

Chiaki, drawing forth the vision of the kami discovered a small bundle not far from the site. Monks robes wrapped around a set of surgical tools, hints of blood still on the blades. Naruto questioned the few water kami in the area, revealing a vision of the face of Komatsu that contorted and shifted into that of a young man. Questioned further the kami showed him donning a kimono bearing the Scorpion mon before riding away on a pony.

The group were halfway back to the village when the servant from the house ran up to them. Prostrating herself before Moto Shugeki she hurriedly apologised and let them know that they were urgently required at the manor. It appeared that Yatada had been angered by her refusal to let them enter earlier and had sent a boy out to find the samurai visiting the village, unaware of the presence of the Crab warriors. Learning of the mix up she had rushed out to find the magistrates, fearing that her lords anger may boil over at the mistake. Shugeki took the lead, rushing back on her steed and arrived in time to see Yatada being flung backwards through the door of his own house by the Kaiu Kichi. While the Unicorn samurai bore his katana the Crab warrior was unarmed and unarmoured, neither of which appeared to have limited her ability to deal with Yatada. Intervening Shugeki learned that the young Hida Chiyoko had let her temper boil over once again, drawing the ire of the grieving Yatada to the point that he drew his blade in an attempt to defend his honour. With neither following the proper tradition for duels Chiyoko had intervened while Jimunsha restrained the shugenja before she summoned the destructive magics she knew.

Shugeki, positioned between the two parties, was able to get both to back down and over the next few hours made their conclusions known to both Yatada and the Crab. The monks were innocent, with Komatsu dead long before his ‘appearance’ in the village. The monk that had appeared was an imposter who had succeeded in laying blame at the feet of the monks and who had almost triggered another war between Unicorn and Crab. They chose to omit his apparent use of magics or that he had departed wearing the mon of the scorpion, knowing that information drawn from the kami was not considered a reliable source. All that was left was the matter of the insults thrown by both Chiyoko and Yatada. With neither willing to back down Jimunsha was stepped in as the shugenjas champion. A more skilled duelist he ultimately lost to the Unicorns driven attacks, which were crude but relentless. Those with a more astute eye for the art of the blade might have come to a different conclusion, with the elder Crab appearing to step into the blade of Yatada as his own attack went wide.

Having concluded their business the magistrates departed and a few days later Shugeki and Chiaki took the solemn duty of burning the body they had carried with them. As the flames engulfed his clothing Shugeki caught a brief glimpse of a tattoo upon his chest, a phoenix in the style of the Togashi monks. Outside of the Dragon such tattoos were rare if not unheard of.

The search for Terrel ultimately proved fruitless, the monk having disappeared once again into the mountains. With her official betrothal date approaching the group returned to Shirayama Toshi. Over the following weeks tragedy befell a second monastery, with the monks reportedly disappearing in the middle of the night. Peasants openly voiced their building distrust of the monks while they became a regular topic of gossip amongst the upper echelons of the samurai class.

And south of the city, at the foot of the mountains he called his home the samurai Shinjo Yatada committed seppuku, despite his daiymo refusing him permission to do so.

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Session Three: The Sleeping Vigil

The sleeping vigil
disturbed by lifes crimson blood;
What waits down below?

The trap door was not as simple as they had expected, being inlaid with elaborate metalwork and traces of purified jade. Beneath was a mere storeroom, however, an exposed opening revealed a ladder that descended into the mountains. When dropped Hotaka’s torch required 10, maybe 15 seconds to drop to the floor below, whatever this was it was deep and cut into the rock itself. Shin’ichi and Hotaka took point, pushing themselves to climb quickly down while Naruto and Chiaki climbed with more care. Shugeki, not wishing to abandon their prisoner and servants (nor her trusty steed), remained on the surface.

Hotaka reached the bottom first, finding a large cavern like room with half a dozen stone blocks haphazardly dotted around it. The torch, struggling in the stale air, was severely limiting his ability to make out more than that. In contrast Shin’ichi appeared to have no trouble with the lack of light and started exploring eagerly. It was almost as if there was a faint light illuminating everything in the room. He quickly pointed out there appeared to be script inlaid upon the blocks, in addition to a semi-circle of symbols etched into the far wall. It was as he was pointing this out to the more scholarly Naruto and Chiaki that he noticed the source of the light nobody else could see, a second script faintly glowing on the stone blocks.

Working her way around the room Chiaki began to decipher the writing, which used formal Rokuganese from the early period of the Empire. A sudden insight from her childhood provided context to the words. The stone blocks were sarcophagi and contained within them the sleeping warriors of the Naga. The half serpent, half human race were the thing of legend and childhood nightmares, though Chiaki was able to recall that they had an uncanny knack for being present at critical junctions throughout the history of the Empire. So rare were their appearances that most doubted they even existed.

Up above Shugeki, having claimed authority over their new prisoner, was not surprised to find that the eta carrying the body were preparing to make a break for it. Simply riding over to them was enough to put a stop to that, it also allowed her to spot what had finally pushed them towards action – a small group of figures slowly making their way down the nearest mountain. After Hotaka’s re-emergence the two samurai watched together as the new group approach, slowly discerning that they were likely samurai dressed for battle.

Within the pit Naruto, building upon Chiaki’s incredible recollection, was examining the script on the wall. It was not only of the ciphers used by shugenja but appeared to be almost identical to a spell he was privately researching. Drawing forth the drowsy kami embedded within the stone he sought clarification and learned that while the spell had been laid down 362 years earlier they had been refreshed within the last decade. Further discourse with the kami revealed that there had once been a passageway to the Nobu valley of the Legion Eternal. Neither names meant anything to the assembled samurai, though they wondered whether the Legion Eternal bore any connection to the Imperial legion which , centuries before, had gone missing in the region.

With their investigation drawing to a close Naruto and Chiaki prepared to leave, but not before Shin’ichi’s curiousity got the better of him. He had discovered that the top of the stone blocks were in fact lids, which moved with an unnatural ease. He managed to slide one far enough to see the Naga resting inside before he was spotted and admonished by Chiaki. Naruto took a more direct approach, grabbing him with a hand of earth summoned from the floor. Shin’ichi agreed to leave the Naga in peace, having already seen what he needed.

Once all had returned to the surface they decided to wait for the approaching visitors and made their presence and status as emerald magistrates known. Three samurai of the Crab Clan, two elders and a young shugenja, descended into the ruins of the monastery, each heavily armed and wearing protection more suited to the Great Wall than a contentious border. Knowing the value of first impressions the magistrates, led by the former Crab Hotaka were direct and to the point. They let it be known why they were there and what they had learned, including the accusations of maho and the likely involvement of the nearby Unicorn daiymo.

The youngest Crab was aghast at the accusations and claimed lies were at play. She had apprenticed under the head monk Kommatsu and could not believe he would fall to the taint. There were several indirect remarks about whether Hotaka’s honesty had been affected by his new allegiance to the Scorpion, there were also more than a few rather direct accusations made at Shugeki given the likelihood that members of her Clan had attacked the monastery. It was on the path down to the nearby village where things came to a head, with the young Hida demanding to know why they were bringing dishonour upon them all by carrying round a dead body. The elder Kaiu, who had for the most part been content to observe, echoed the demand, though in a much more agreeable manner.

The scroll and Imperial seal were not sufficient to appease the young shugenja who was ready to start calling forth the kami to right the wrongs in front of her. Her elders on the other hand, advised a more cautious approach. They would give the magistrates until sun-down the following day before they dealt with matters as only the Crab could. As the elder Hida Jimunsha later recited:

As winters cruel frost
Gives rise to the spring blossom
Our blades yet bring life

The village was not what they had expected. Paddy upon paddy of rice lay unattended save for a couple of peasants who knelt in fear at the approach of the samurai. The Lord’s residence, they learned lay on the other side of the village which was equally deserted save for a faint sound of prayers coming from the communal building at the centre. Leaving their Crab guests at the edge of the fields Hotaka and Shugeki pressed forwards towards the residence while the rest made for the communal building. They were quickly rebuffed by a servant stationed outside who was quite insistent that her lord was, unfortunately, unavailable and that they should return tomorrow.

Announcing themselves with a quiet knock Chiaki, Naruto and Shin’ichi found themselves face to face with almost the entire village who were conducting a traditional funeral ceremony. Politely enquiring as to what had happened the head of the village told them that two of their number had been taken by their lord Shinjo Yatada and would continue their service to his only child in the heavens…

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Session Two: Burning Faith

Session haikus:

Pillars of smoke rise
lazily from Northern flames
But Terrel heads south

Is true love broken
as the cherry blossom falls?
A body, no soul

While Hotaka and Shin’ichi quickly organised the burning of the weapons cache Shugeki and Chiaki came to the realisation that they did not know the true identity of the body. Chiaki had been unaware that her true love had an identical brother, while Shugeki knew both of the twins and revealed that her love had died recently, necessitating her upcoming betrothal. They came to decision to bring the body with them, with Chiaki barely leaving his side for much of the upcoming journey. Naruto, meanwhile, found no evidence of the scroll having been a conduit of magic that could explain the lack of decay on the body.

Pushed on by Hotaka the group trekked through the rest of the day towards the pillar of smoke, despite the claim of the ronin that Terrel was heading south to the Redemption Peaks. The reluctant camp they made that night was restful for only a few of the group. Neither of the Eta with them appeared to have slept at all while both Shugeki and Chiaki found themselves drained by nightmarish visions of their loves being chased from thunderous clouds by gaki, the hungry dead. Chiaki’s sleep was particularly fraught, likely thanks to the natural sensitivities of shugenja.

After a quick breakfast the group made towards the monastery, with Hotaka instructing the agile Shin’ichi to ‘scout’ ahead on foot, the suggestion as much driven by stereotypes of the Scorpion Clan as it was Shin’ichi’s actual abilities. Shini’ichi was not subtle, taking the path to where he could oversee the monastery which had been razed to the ground. In the centre was a crude funeral pyre, as he watched a small group of individuals came into view dragging a monk behind him. Stabbing him repeatedly they threw the body onto the pyre, at which point Shini’ichi decided to attract their attention. A couple of arrows whizzed past him as he turned and ran back to his group, hollering at the top of his voice as he did so.

The resulting fight was brutal and quick. Alerted by Shin’ichi’s call and their reflexes bolstered by Naruto’s magics the samurai quickly took apart the peasants. Shini’ichi, showing his skill with his katana removed the hand of one attacker with a surgical strike before requesting Chiaki’s aid in ensuring he did not die. They would need somebody to question later. A lucky strike got past Shin’ichi’s flashing blade, with only the will of the heavens holding back the brunt of the harm before the attacker fell to Hotaka’s great tetsubo. Shugeki’s bow sung true, gravely wounding another before she charged into combat on her great steed against the final man. Naruto attempted to call forth the earth to prevent one from escaping but found himself frustrated by a lack of concentration in the heat of battle and resorted to taking the peasant out with a burst of fire.

With the rush of battle over questioning of the peasant began. They learned that his lord, Shinjo Yatada, had ordered the attack on the monastery due to the use of maho. The peasant was unclear as to who exactly was using maho, though was under the impression that it was the monks. He claimed that the small group had been left behind to deal with any monks who had been absent and that they had panicked when they spotted Shin’ichi on the ridge. The monastery was, as Shin’ichi had said, a shell of its former self. A brief search determined that a sizeable group, including at least one horse, had trodden the path from the nearby Unicorn territory. The tracks and extent of the destruction were consistent with the pillar of smoke that they had seen earlier – this was a surprise attack which the monks had been unprepared for.

Taking advantage of the awakening of the fire kami in the area Naruto called them forth asking them what had happened in the last day and whether there had been any unusual chanting that might indicate maho type rituals. The excited kami responded to the first question by stating that many people had come to the monastery, people had died and those alive had departed. With a burst of flame it ended its answer AND THEN I BURNED! The second question was answered with a simple “there was chanting as usual, to the great Kyufoki, fortune of thunder and earthquakes but nothing out of the ordinary or unusual.”

Chiaki, drawing forth her own magics discovered yet another body hidden within the ruins of the forge in addition to a trap door in the monastery itself. Extinguishing the flames the group investigated the body first, finding an old monk wrapped in a funeral shroud and surrounded by simple offerings of worked iron and tools. The state of the body suggested he had been dead for a day or two. What was under the trap door remains to be seen…

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Session One: Sedition Revealed

Session Haiku:
Through ancient forest
Guided by emerald light;
Sedition revealed

The group, Emerald Magistrates under the authority of Governor Bayushi Saburo, have been dispatched to stop the extremist monk ‘Blade’ Terrel who has begun enforcing a strict view of the celestial order. Having travelled into the mountains they discovered a small camp populated by a mixture of monks, peseants and a lone ronin. Rather than charge in they approach openly from the path and request discourse with the ronin, who they assume to be in charge. Bayushi (Hida) Hotaka, married to the Governors niece, takes the lead.

Soshin, the ronin, invites them to join them to discuss matters over their midday meal to the visible displeasure of Okari, a monk from the same order as Terrel. Hotaka is clear but polite – he would avoid rather avoid bloodshed by having the camp disperse but other magistrates may not be so lenient. Soshin meanwhile is clear that the members of the camp seem set in their path under the leadership of Terrel. He, however, does not seem to be entirely comfortable with the situation and seeks to avoid bloodshed by suggesting the party should seek out Terrel. The monk is apparently heading towards the Redemption Peaks, the temple complex that dominates the southern portion of the Fallen Mountains. He lets it be known that Terrel believes that there is a great spiritual imbalance in the region and that the monk claims to be guided by a series of visions.

Having finished their meal the magistrates prepare to leave, with the situation no closer to resolution. Shiba Chiaki takes the opportunity to discretely scry on the camp. She discovers a cache of weapons concealed in one tent and more troublingly spots the outline of a body in another. Bayushi Shin’ichi meanwhile, sensing an opportunity, challenges Soshin to a duel even though no slight or insult has been given. Soshin accepts, if he wins the magistrates will head south to the temple. If Shin’ichi wins then the ronin will depart from the group and find a new path. Facing off against one another the Soshi magistrate easily gets a read of his ronin opponent but is unable to use it to gain the initiative and the two samurai strike in sync with each other. Soshin’s attack is direct and draws blood from the arm of his opponent. Shin’ichi, in contrast, is surgical, nicking his opponent just above the eyebrow. It is clear that had his blade fallen even slightly differently he would have administered a killing stroke.

Taking direction from the will of the fates the ronin declares he is leaving, angering Okari into action. He attempts to attack Soshin from behind but is swiftly stopped when the tetsubu of Hotaka breaks his arm with one fell swipe. Declaring the monk a criminal for daring to attack a man following the will of the heavens he places the right to administer justice with Soshin, who promptly decapitates Okari. The remainder of the camp, their moral broken by the loss of their leader, accept the order to disperse.

Tamori Naruto, Shiba Chiaki and Bayushi Shini’ichi, disturbed by the possibility that there is an uncremated body in the camp investigate further. They find an individual Chiaki is deeply familiar with, the love of her life lying dead in the tent. She manages to get out his name, Shosuro Takenshi, before breaking down into a flood of tears. Takenshi is laid out in a formal style, wearing his scorpion armour and with his daisho by his side. A scroll beside him, marked with the Imperial and Dragon mons declares that the body must not be burnt until 4 weeks past the death of the individual carrying it. Soshin confirms that the deceased had joined the camp almost 3 weeks prior and that they had found him like this the next morning. Not willing to disobey an apparent Imperial order most of the camp they have left him be and have avidly avoided the tent, thus not noticing that there are no apparent signs of decomposition or decay.

Naruto, seeking knowledge as to the origin of the scroll summons the earth kami residing within it. He learns that it was carried from the city and never left the side of the one it was meant for, a soul sundered in two of which Takenshi is one half. Chiaki, already inconsolable, believes this to refer to herself.

The investigation of the weapons by the battle maiden Moto Shugeki determines that they are of high quality and likely produced in the forges of the city to the north. It is interrupted by the arrival of Shini’ichi who inform her of the identification of Takenshi’s body. It takes a second but she finally recognises it, the name of her new betrothal and twin brother to true love who died only recently. Rushing to the tent she finds herself confronted by an all too familiar face while outside the attention of Shini’ichi and Hotaka is drawn to a plume of smoke rising from the north…

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