Legends of Rokugan

Story - Mokuteki

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Mokuteki (Purpose)

The quiet of the tunnel would go undisturbed for weeks, months at a time. Dust from stone and ash filled stale air. Tiny particles of earth floated on the wind. The elements intertwined beneath the Palace of the Iron Flower intermingled with the stagnation of death.

Amid it all was a man, unmoving in silent meditation, statuesque in his reverie. The Abbot Zenshin remained for three straight days surrounded by the dead. The urns of heroes, ashes of samurai of worth, ability, power, and renown stared back unfeeling.

Uncaring.

Unmoved.

Outside the door a hummingbird beat its wings. In the space of time between beats, Zenshin’s soul pulled back from its expansion and his heart began to beat once again. The door of the corridor opened. With the noise came the inevitable rush of air cycling out the neutral odor of death. The tunnel gorged itself on the sweet air of life above.

“Shut it, Hudan. You will release the power. You will accelerate the decay.” Zenshin’s voice cracked rough in his throat and he held out his hand. The other monk moved quickly to seal the chamber beneath the Temple. He then felt his way along the dark corridor and found the Abbot’s waiting palm.

Zenshin clenched the other man’s fingers in a vise grip and shot his other hand out to grasp at his servant’s belt. The water from Hudan’s clay bottle flooded him with the fresh agony of life.

“Come." Zenshin croaked. "We must check it before I can come out again.”

Hudan felt the hand release, but the two had followed this path often enough for him to navigate by sound alone. “My lord, certainly there are more pressing matters. The artifact has not moved since we placed it and it shows no sign of budging.” The younger monk’s voice cracked a little in fear, but he knew better than to hold back his reservations. The Abbot had a way of knowing the innermost fear.

“One does not reach the age of enlightenment by trusting that things will remain ever as they are, Hudan. I know your worry. It is healthy for you to be afraid of such power.” Zenshin traced fingertips along the walls as he turned right, then left, then twisted down a byzantine path towards the chamber below. He felt the urns of the dead, most whole, some broken, and he felt the tokens of their lives. All dead. All covered in the ash of death.

“Tell me how things proceed above.” It was a command in a firm, yet forgiving tone and it set Hudan at ease in this dark place.

“My lord, the newcomers succeeded in your task. The bandits have been dispersed and the ronin leader is at the Magistrate’s Station.” Hudan closed his eyes. The Sin of Fear gripped his heart in the catacombs. It helped him if he could imagine standing above, in the beauty of the Temple.

Hudan went on. “It is as you fear, Brother. They are not the weak-willed lackeys of some Imperial nobody. They have been chosen by someone with the skill to pick servants of talent and ability.” Hudan felt the air grow thick as the two monks of death walked on. Only the steady slapping sound of Zenshin’s bare feet on stone guided his way.

“Then we will find another way to remove the threat,” Zenshin said.

“Killing them is not advised. It will attract the attention of their true lord and until we know who that is we should not act so rashly.”

“Not death, Hudan. There are many ways to remove the threat.” Zenshin halted at the final turn and spoke backwards into the dark. “We will employ our newfound political authority. Let our allies take the brunt of the assault and do some of our work for us. I will not have these ignorant, unenlightened fools stepping in where they do not belong.”

Zenshin paused, as if to consider. “Tell the other members of the Council to prepare a debate. We will tear at our opponents’ heart, their reputation and renown. Without the backing of history, these ‘heroes’ are nothing. Only proper, since one day they will become nothing once more. Now, wait here, brother Hudan. I will return shortly.”

The sounds of steady footsteps echoed across the chamber and Hudan could only listen. He had never been allowed to see the item up close.

As a former student of the Kitsu, Zenshin could sense the power of the weapon long before his physical senses could place it. In the twisting maze connecting Temple to the Shiro proper, a single hidden corridor led to a door that had never been opened since its creation. Zenshin approached the heavy iron seal and stopped.

One on side of the door, a peaceful monk sat at a lakeside in a lotus pose. On the other, a forbiddingly empty suit of armor stared back with empty eyes. It was said that on the other side of this door waited enlightenment.

“I will have it.” Zenshin whispered.

The Abbot could see only because of the weapon. The broken haft of a massive spear stuck out of the ground before the door and glowed with a steady pulsating green. The color threw off the senses and distorted the air around.

“In your story, Lord of Death, you were born again into one-hundred-and-eight lives, each one closer than the last to a final goal.” Zenshin spoke soft, so as not to disturb the glow. “You prepared for one-hundred-and-seven days, meditating in this very place, and you were interrupted before you could attain true enlightenment.”

Zenshin’s hand reached up lovingly to caress the old iron.
“When I open this door, I will be prepared. I will not wait for my lifetimes to come and go. I will not meditate for days on end. The ability to seize my goal is right here, in the now, and fortune favors the bold.”

Zenshin’s eyes grew wide and he forced himself to look into the blade where it pierced the bottom of the door. It hurt to be so brazen, to look directly at the source of power, but the draw was too great.

“This must be one of the one-hundred-and-eight mortal temptations, Lord Emma-O, to endure such pain for the barest glimpse of hope.”

Zenshin reached out suddenly and grasped the haft of the broken spear. A shock of immense power flowed through him. Every moment of every lifetime lived by that spear’s owner raced through the Abbot’s mind. Every soul judged stared back at him in silent consideration of his worth. It was too much.

It was too soon.

“Too soon…” Zenshin whispered as he came to his senses. He was kneeling on the floor covered in his sweat and the ashes of the tunnels. Without comment, he rose and walked to the tiny outcropping that shared this room. He closed his eyes tight and reached up into a broken urn, an urn whose worth exceeded all the wealth in this province, and covered his hand with the ashes of an Emperor.

Hudan heard his master coming and looked down the tunnel, into that greenish glow. In the dark, he was just able to make out the smearing of ashes across the Abbot’s face. A sense of purpose filled him with a deep joy and he fell in behind his master.

“The goryo will respond when called." Zenshin said. "For now, we need only keep our enemies distracted with politics and false purpose. Our time is coming, Hudan. The time for waiting is nearly past.”

The two monks left the dark chambers filled with remembrance of the dead, but Hudan could feel the truth of his master’s words even as they departed. It would not be long.

It would not be long.

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Adventures

Rules

Rokugan


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Interlude - The Great Golden Victor

The Great Golden Victor (Kitsu Domen)

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The Glorious Tale of the Great Golden Victor

The scroll is a copy of The Glorious Tale of the Great Golden Victor. It has become one of the more popular stories in the Lion Clan and tells of Kitsu Domen’s defense of Kyuden Kurogane Hana against the army of Bayushi Rekisen-Jo. The events described therein take place decades earlier when Domen was a young man and before he married Yogo Amira.

According to the legend, Kitsu Domen boasted to the Scorpion general that he could complete seven heroic tasks that the Scorpion had never seen. The Scorpion Rikugunshokan called a temporary truce hoping to call the Lion’s bluff and demoralize the defenders. Domen lived up to his words and completed each of the tasks below:

  • He cut five arrows in half in mid-flight.
  • He wrestled a bull to the ground with his bare hands.
  • He swam underwater for the entire length of the moat.
  • He leapt from the roof of the Star Observatory.
  • He shattered a boulder from the local quarry.
  • He struck more quickly than his own shadow.
  • And he defeated the general’s personal champion.

Faced with such physical prowess, the Scorpion had no choice but to admit defeat. He led his forces from the field and Domen became known as the Dai-Kinboshi, the Great Golden Victor. It is known that not long after this the Bayushi made arrangements for Domen to marry his niece, Yogo Amira.

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Main

Adventures

Rules

Rokugan


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Interlude - NPCs from the Battle of Tsuma

Whatever Happened to…?

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NPCs from the Battle of Tsuma

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GM's Log - The Iron Flower Blooms, Part II

GM’s Log: The Iron Flower Blooms, Part II

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Mirumoto Shinbatsu, Master of the Taoist Style

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GM's Log - The Iron Flower Blooms, Part I

GM’s Log: The Iron Flower Blooms, Part I

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Rikishi, the Ronin Daimyo

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Lost Dream
Lost Dream

Disclaimer: Too lazy to clean it up. It gets the point across.

Lost Dream

The dream grew more vivid as it progressed. He could hear the thunder of hooves, the screams of the dying and of those who would continue to live when the dust settled. In the distance, he could see a small contingent of battle maidens, they could be nothing else sitting atop those monstrous steeds, charging down upon a group of Lion warriors. Jun could recognize their colors and mons quite easily as members of the Ikoma and a sense of pride at the way they stood their ground welled up within him. Standing tall in the face of probable death was a difficult proposition but the entire unit held their ground, spears held at the ready. Just before the two lines struck, the lead Lion threw his spear in front of the horses and the ground gave way beneath their hooves, the steeds too trained to fall, but the stumble was enough to break the momentum of the charge and a single shiotome was targeted and pulled from her saddle.

Jun’s vision lurched forward and he could see the combatants more clearly, making out the mons of the Ikoma Lion’s Shadow and his heart sank. Why his dreams would bring him here he did not know, but he knew who he would find throwing down his spear and drawing his sword to face the charging Utaku. Jun’s mind flashed back to another time when he saw that blade, his severed hand dropping away from it while the metal still rang around him. Ikoma Ijidai, Jun’s father, stalked forward in the dream and swung his blade below the parry the battle Maiden offered, severing the strap to her saddle. Before she could move, Ijidai kicked viciously at her face and smiled cruelly when her helmet rolled away. Jun’s heart sank when Lao-Kira looked up at his father. She swung her sword, attempting to force him to move away but despite her swiftness, Ijidai was an expert swordsman and as the scene played out, it seemed he had scripted a great deal of it. He easily swept aside the Unicorn’s sword and stomped on her elbow, placing the point of his katana over her heart. Crouching down, he sneered, his eyes sparkling maniacally to match the tone of his voice as he spoke, “Filthy little harlot. YOU are why he cast aside his bride and dishonored me? Well, let that ungrateful little disgrace understand the price of his actions.” Realization showed visibly in Lao-Kira’s eyes as she understood who it was that knelt over her but there was no fear, only sadness. Then there was nothing as Ijidai slid his blade into her chest, taking away the light and jarring Jun from his slumber.

Sitting up, Ikoma Jun shook uncontrollably, his mind trying to tell him that the dream meant nothing but his heart screaming otherwise. Taking a deep breath, he steadied himself and stood to go find himself some water. Or sake. Before he could make it to the door, movement caught his eye and he turned to where he was laying moments before and gasped. Lao-Kira knelt beside his pallet, staring up at him in silence. He rushed to her side and knelt, attempting to take her hands but passed through her ghostly grasp and merely closed upon emptiness. Unable to speak, Jun sat in silence beside the spirit, keeping her company until the spirit realms called her away. Tears slid down his face, wetting Jun’s kimono as he let his emotions for his own loss run free in this private place. There would be a reckoning for his father but for now, there would be a reckoning for a bottle of sake. Or three.

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GM's Log - The Topaz Report, Part VIII

GM’s Log: The Topaz Report, Part VIII

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Aftermath

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GM's Log - The Topaz Report, Part VII

GM’s Log: The Topaz Report, Part VII

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Hakai, the Onisu of Death

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Teacher and Pupil

Teacher and Pupil

She looked over at her husband and she knew she loved him. His ways were not her ways but she respected the strength with which he held to his convictions. Still, she could not help but think back to her first love and wonder about his fate and how her own had changed so dramatically since then.
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“Keep swinging, girl, you’ll succeed eventually. Or fall down on that tiny rump and give me something to laugh about for a few hours.”

The little girl scowled at the portly man as he avoided her strikes effortlessly, his smile never leaving his lips and the grace of his steps defying his bulk. As she swung again, he stepped lightly back and slipped forward, striking the underside of her tsuba with two fingers and launching her sword from her tiny hands.

“Yield, little girl. I mean you no harm. Tell me what has happened to this place.”

Ikoma gestured slowly with his hand toward the village around them, several buildings nothing but ashes, others significantly damaged by the fires that claimed the others. The little girl’s eyes followed his gesture before returning to meet his gaze defiantly. Fighting back the tears that wanted desperately to take her, the child responded with fire and venom coursing through her voice.

“We would not pay. My parents, they would not pay. And they killed them for it!”
Ikoma crouched, letting his eyes meet hers on an equal level before responding softly. “Why did they not pay, little girl? What did they owe?”

The child’s response was violent, and filled with spittle, her voice cracking, “Nothing! They owed nothing! We came to defend this village and those men killed them!” Before she could take a swing, Ikoma reached forward and pulled her close, holding her tight and letting her sudden tears stream into his kimono instead of onto the uncaring ground. Stroking her hair lightly, he spoke in a reassuring voice, the violence of his words belying the gentleness with which they were spoken.

“Don’t worry, little girl. They will come again and when they do, they will die.”
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The fight was a month later and very brief. Ikoma took an arrow to the shoulder but it was nothing he hadn’t taken before. Five ronin faced him in the streets of the tiny village and to their credit, it wasn’t until only two were left that they resorted to bows and arrows. Those two died beneath his fists instead of his blade. After bathing, he donned his kimono and grabbed his travelling pack, preparing to leave the village for another adventure and another story. As he reached the outskirts, he heard a scuffling behind him and turned. The child had her own travelling pack on and the sword of her father tucked into her obi. She stopped and looked up at him, no look of a question in her eyes. She was not asking permission. All he saw was resolve and courage. Who was he to turn away such things? Turning back around, he continued to walk and she hurried to catch up, taking her place at his side.
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“Well, little girl, you have definitely improved! I may actually bruise from that one!”

Ikoma’s boisterous voice echoed happily through the tiny dojo, causing a slip of a smile to break her lips. She did not let her guard down, however, knowing that the crafty old man was a dangerous opponent, especially when he didn’t seem to be. He slid his boken into the obi he wore, however, and sat down waiting. Understanding that the fight was over, she sat down and placed the boken at her side, letting her attention slip to where he was looking. The sun was setting behind the trees, lighting the sky in reds and purples that artisans would give anything to be able to duplicate. She had no such desire, but she could still appreciate the beauty none-the-less. After spending the last nine years with the rather verbose storyteller beside her, there was no way she could not have gained certain views. She was only half-listening until she heard a specific word crash against her. Daughter. She quickly went back in her mind to recall what he had been saying and her heart dipped when she put it together.
“You are like a daughter to me, little girl.”
Pride swelled through her body, but still she could not keep her heart from sinking. At first she was confused by the contradicting emotions but she quickly grasped what had happened. Her feelings for the man beside her had grown and blossomed in their time together and his for her, though not in the same manner. She knew he was right, that she should look up to him as a father but not all emotions were logical. He had said that before. She had seen him with countless women but had somehow still thought that in the end, it would be her at his side. It was not to be and now she knew that she could not watch any longer.
With an inward sigh, she replied somberly, “I know.”
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She turned away from her husband to look into the distance, watching the reds and purples dance in the sky.

“Are you ready to go?”

Ide’s soft but powerful voice penetrated Otaku’s reminiscing, drawing her away from the past gently. She nodded without a word and urged her steed forward, Ide sliding in beside her on his. As she left the scene and considered the gravity of her next task, she couldn’t help but hear an echo from an empire she would probably never see again in this life, “Keep swinging, little girl.”

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GM's Log - The Topaz Report, Part VI

GM’s Log: The Topaz Report, Part VI

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Yokubo, Onisu of Desire

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