Legend of the Five Rings: The Fallen Mountains

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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Setting background

In mountains fallen,
Secrets hidden wake from sleep,
Order is challenged.

Taoreta Sangaku, the Fallen Mountains, stretches almost 80km end to end and forms one of the many disputed borders between provinces of the Great Clans. Despite it’s treacherous terrain and limited number of crossing points the mountain range is claimed almost in its entirety by two Clans due to the rich metal deposits scattered across it, with active and abandoned mines dotted across it’s lengths. The peasants that inhabit the temporary hamlets of the mines share the peaks with friends and foe, with both the Brotherhood of Shinsei and countless bandits attracted by the isolation of the peaks. Only the southern most portion lays uncontested, controlled by the Dragon Clan and Brotherhood of Shinsei. Together they guard and maintain the temple complex honouring Otomo Kei, the younger brother of Hantei XIV who, alongside an entire Imperial Legion, gave his life in defence of the region.

To the north of the mountains lies the great Lake Ishi, fed by the numerous streams coming off of the mountains and named after Miya Ishi, senior herald of Otomo Kei’s legion. Local legend tells that a month after the legion disappeared into the mountains Ishi alone walked out along one of the rivers leading to the lake. Instructing the peasants to gather the nearest samurai she proceeded to the lake, where she began the ritual cleaning of her armour and daisho in preparation for her final duty. When a small group of ronin residing in the village approached Ishi charged them with delivering a single scroll to the nearest Imperial representative before requesting a second so that she could commit seppuku on the shores of the lake. Looking back towards the mountains she spoke one last time before plunging the blade into her stomach.

“We acted for the good of the Empire. May the heavens be merciful in their justice, for I bear the sins of a thousand upon one soul.”

Shirayama Toshi, the White Mountain City, sits upon the northern banks of Lake Ishi and is as disputed as the Fallen Mountains themselves. A hub of activity that has grown up around the port it is the centre of traffic in the region and co-ordinates the shipping of ore down from the mines and out to the empire at large along the Tamu River to the north. Over the years its ready access to high quality metals and quasi-unaligned status the city has attracted craftsmen, blacksmiths and merchants eager to obtain the patronage of Clan samurai and as a result the city has sprawled far beyond the original city walls, which now forms the Samurai quarter. Following repeated clashes between the Great Clans over ownership of the city control was granted to the Scorpion Clan under an Imperial mandate. With no provinces of their own nearby the Scorpion have gained a valuable foothold in the region while their reputation and limited military options ensures their opponents remain weary without being overtly threatened. The Scorpion, currently led by Governor Bayushi Saburo, have sunk countless koku into the development of the city, cementing its position as the political and economic hub of the Fallen Mountains while ensuring its success is reliant upon their continual presence.

Seeking to maintain the delicate balance of the region the Governor has recently appointed a group of samurai to serve as his Emerald Magistrates. Drawing together samurai from across the Empire they are tasked with maintaining the peace, beginning with the hunt for a monk who has taken up arms in order to enforce his interpretation of the Celestial Order.

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