Legends of Rokugan

Interlude: Kolat vs Kolat

Pupil,
I will not mince words.
You were once a valued asset, a rare find indeed. A man of honor capable of being indoctrinated into the ways of our organization and still holding on to the ways of Bushido is unique in this lifetime and I am gravely upset to lose such a find. However, lose I have done.
I admit my failing in this regard. I have been busy with my duties and have neglected to properly observe your proper upbringing within the philosophy. I have allowed your failures to compound from minor mistakes into absolute betrayal and it is not entirely your fault.
This cannot stand. I must rectify my mistakes. It is a pity that in order to accomplish this goal you must no longer live. You prove time and again your ability and value, yet simultaneously, you reveal your betrayal to the cause. The death of your sensei – another of my most prized pupils! – is the final straw. You cannot live. Your ways cannot spread.
I will seek out those who have allied with you. I have begun to identify some of them already and my agents will carry forth swift justice. Your treatise will not stand – I will find its bearer and destroy it. Everything you stand for is anathema to MY organization.
This is the last communication you will receive from me. It is the only warning you will ever get. You will die at the hands of the true Kolat. You will die at the hands of the true Master.
Tora,
Master Tiger

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Winter Court, Kyuden Seppun, IV

15DEC2011
Players: Eric, Bobby, Chris, JJ, Jack (absent), Kyle

“The victorious general strikes while the enemy plans.” – Otomo Madoko, Subtlety of the Court

Astrological Events:
Shiba ambassador, Katsuda, arrives with the bones of the star that fell from the Heavens in Phoenix territory. The meteorite bones are an especially important raw material for the creation of nemuranai and draws powerful spirits to it.
—> Increases the occurrence of all spiritual aspects in the court (Saku’s visions, the Mujina activities, divination attempts become clearer, spells become more potent, etc.)
—> Increases the experience of spirits (Gaki, Yorei, etc)

Matsu Tadaka —> Comes across a missive going between the Crane and Iuchi about the Unicorn/Crane/Lion/Falcon situation. Gossip TN 40 (information) on the situation between these clans.

CEREMONIES

  • Miya Yoto officially steps down turning over control of the Miya family to his son, Satoshi.
  • Isawa Eju officially steps down for Isawa Uona at Winter Court. The Phoenix go through the process of showing an Elemental Master achieving her position. The magnificent ceremony will be interrupted by Mujina.

RESOLVING THE AMBUSH

  • Yurei offers Unmei the ability to return to life in return for more Shadowlands Taint.
    —> Unmei absolutely refuses to accept the Taint in return for gaining power to fight off Hiroru
  • Mikado drives off Hiroru
    —> After fighting off Hiroru, Mikado drags Unmei’s body through the maze, eventually leaving him to go find Atari and Saku
    —> Mikado witnesses a brown-robed figure [Akodo Kage?]stabbing Daidoji Oshihime through the throat
    —> Mikado sees Akodo Kage speaking with Imperial Guards
  • Matsu Hiroru is found dead in part of the maze seemingly slain by a spear-blade (near Oshihime’s body)
    —> Hiroru was killed by Akodo Kage – as witnessed by Bayushi Aramoro.
  • Otomo Kikashi (Atari) and Isawa Ujina-uo take command of the investigation
    —> Atari vs. Ishikawa (causes enmity between the Seppun and Atari)
    —> Ujina-uo sends Seppun Ishikawa to retrieve Matsu Tadaka
  • PC’s witness Hiroru and Oshihime dead against each other – Oshihime has a yari in her throat; Hiroru has his own sword stuck in his chest.
    —> Imperial Guards who were to be guarding the Imperial Maze were Kolat Sleeper Agents (Soko’s agents) activated by Akodo Kage
    —> They do no remember because they were ordered not to remember.
  • Determination:
    —> Tadaka states that Unmei met with Oshihime in the gardens privately
    —> He and she were attacked by two individuals (one of whom is Hiroru)
    —> Unmei states that an unknown assailant is responsible for Hiroru and Oshihime’s deaths
    —> Seppun Ishikawa has the three wayward guards commit seppuku for failing in their duties (sleeper agents)
    —> Gossip spreads throughout the court that Matsu Hiroru was involved in an assassination attempt on Akodo Unmei and may have truly been a member of this “Kolat” organization.

Ujina-uo:

  • comes back to his room to find a Mujina rubbing urine all over his clothing
  • casts Rings of the Void to speak with the Void Dragon
    —> Dragon tells him that Akodo Kage and Isawa Tsuke can tell him what Hiroru’s Gi does (Amaterasu’s gi)
    —> Tells Ujina-uo that in order for Ujina’s spirit to be saved his killer must be avenged
    —> “The last Hantei will be the downfall of the Empire.” (He may be required to kill Hantei Sotorii).

Tadaka:

  • Meets with Matsu Tsuko about the events of the evening
    —> Gives her Hiroru’s Akodo Blade
    —> Demands that Hiroru’s Gi be returned to the Matsu Family! Isawa Ujina-uo assures that it will be done.
    —> Matsu Tsuko tells Tadaka that Kuwanan must remain in Matsu territory as a hostage
  • Tadaka learns that the Unicorn seek rice from the Crane; the Unicorn will give this rice to the Falcon in order to go to war with the Crab; also, they will give their own rice (because of the rice given by the Crane) to the Lion so that they can go to war with the Crane

Otomo Kikashi:

  • Meets with Bayushi Aramoro
    —> Aramoro informs Atari that Kage killed Hiroru for his “failure” and arranged the scene.
    —> Starts a rumor that Hiroru and Oshihime Kharmic struck each other in a duel (Lion v. Crane)
    —> Rumor: Hiroru attacked the Crane (TN 25)
  • States to Otomo Banu that Tadaka is at fault for the weakness in security
    —> Banu attempts to pin this on Tadaka, but the Seppun family refuse to allow blame to fall upon Tadaka, instead accepting responsibility for the failure themselves (in light of the Rumor spread)

Akodo Unmei

  • Meets with Daidoji Uji
    —> Returns Oshihime’s blades
    —> Informed that Matsu Hiroru assaulted them (Unmei and Oshihime)
    —> Unmei was rendered unconscious
    —> Uji believes that Hiroru assassinated his cousin alongside a ‘ninja’ of the Scorpion Clan (Matsu and Scorpion working against the Crane!)

Court Reconvenes

  • Otomo Sorai calls forth Tadaka and Ujina-uo to resolve the matter of the investigation
    —> Unmei says that he met Oshihime at Benten’s fountain; they were attacked by Hiroru; a fourth assailant appeared and attacked both other individuals; Unmei was rendered unconscious to awaken to Ujina-uo healing him
    —> Ujina-uo states that Matsu Hiroru is to blame for the attack and the death of Daidoji Oshihime
    —> Hiroru is further implicated as a Kolat
    —> Kage steps forth and proclaims his testimony blaming Hiroru for the actions that have been lain upon him
  • Daidoji Uji and Matsu Tsuko declare a blood feud upon one another. The Lion and Crane war peace-talks are all but destroyed by this action, though the Akodo and Doji families will continue to find some form of peaceable solution.
  • Ujina-uo returns Hiroru’s gi to Matsu Tsuko

Rewards

  • +11 xp (177)
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Winter Court, Kyuden Seppun, III

8DEC2011
Players: Eric, Bobby, Chris, JJ, Jack (absent), Kyle

“If the sun rises, it is out of love for the favored son. When the world ends, it will be from the hand of the Emperor. All things belong to the Hantei.” – Seppun Baka

CONTINUATION OF WINTER COURT PROCEEDINGS

Isawa Ujina-uo

  • Ujina-uo: Learns of the Mujina problem and Tsuke/Kaede’s opposition to one another regarding it. Learns of the Mujina “plans” (they want to humiliate and disrupt, embarrass and annoy).
    —> Mujina threat is from the Kuni family (Kuni Yori specifically).
  • Learns that Kaede does not have the spell “Drawing the Void” on her, but she knows that the Seppun Libraries hold numerous secret void spells hidden there by the Isawa family. If Ujina-o can gain access to these Libraries he can perhaps find the spell.
  • Ujina-o seeks out Seppun Baka in order to attempt to broker ability to get into the Library.
    —> When he meets with Baka, the Seppun lord is playing in the Go Masters tournament with Yasuki Aritomo in a Shinto garden.
    —> Discuss the religious implications of the Yasuki family’s spiritual responsibility regarding the Fortune of Wealth (Daikoku)
    —> Seppun Baka makes an agreement with Isawa Ujina-o to take a copy of Isawa Tadaka’s Journal PLUS a favor owed in return for Ujina-o owing him a favor.
  • Meets with Usuia again
    —>Makes him an Emerald Magistrate; holds a ceremony before the Imperial Court (minus the Emperor); Ide Tadaji spreads the information about Usuia
  • Meets with the Phoenix
    —> With Kaede: discusses the possibility that Yori is corrupt
  • Meets with Seppun Daiori
    —>Informs him that Yasuki Aritomo may be dangerous
    Tadaka:

SIDENOTE

  • Crane, Crab, Lion, and Unicorn relations (Tsuko considering going after the Unicorn for not giving them proper rice that was “stolen” by bandits) TIED with Crab Unicorn relations over Falcon Clan (Falcon giving Unicorn rice to give Lion; Unicorn trying to get rice from CRANE to give Lion).

Matsu Tadaka

  • Matsu Tadaka meets with Matsu Tsuko and Matsu Koekitemi at the Shrine to Bishamon (Fortune of Strength) after Court
    —> Matsu Gohei, the Butcher, meets with them as well
    —> Tadaka implicates Doji Satsume in a conspiracy threatening the Emperor
    —> Believes that the conspiracy intends to discredit the Matsu and Imperial Legions
    —> Implicates Akodo Kage and Toturi in the conspiracy with Satsume
    —> Implicates Doji Hoturi and Bayushi Kachiko w/Shoju
    —> Suggests that Toturi return to the Monastery

Unmei:

  • Requests a meeting with Otomo Sorai before the Court resumes
    —> Sorai learns that the Kolat have Masters, have a “base” and that Unmei knows where they are
    —> Unmei reveals that he is a Kolat Agent to Otomo Sorai
  • Relays for Backup from the Kolat Masters (Cloud Sect – Magician)
  • Daidoji Uji, daimyo of the Daidoji of the Crane informs Unmei that the arrangement between himself and Oshihime will be resolved before the end of court (by Imperial Matchmaker Seppun Kossori)
    —> Visits the Gardens with Oshihime
    —> Receives a secret message from Kage
    —> “Meet me here at midnight”
    —> Doji Shizue is activated by Taka to tell Unmei that Soko is on their side.

Otomo Kikashi:

  • Has Doji Hokaro hung up by Bayushi Denbe and wife (Akemi) in court
  • Asks Denbe to act as his Yojimbo while in the court
  • Asks Kakita Dejiko to help tie up Ikoma Zai’s allies. (Effectively prevents Zai from performing most of his behind-the-scenes activities that he is not directly a part directing).
  • Atari meets with Goshiu and Kachiko
    —> Has a tea ceremony
    —> Goshiu asks Atari to reveal all the information he has on the Kolat
    —> Goes over Tomaru’s situation
    —> Tells Atari to infiltrate the Kolat
    —> Goshiu/Kachiko bring Atari into the Scorpion Conspiracy
    —> The Hantei must be killed

Court Reconvenes

  • Sorai/Emperor asks Unmei to answer the question: “What ARE the Kolat?”
    —> Unmei speaks: They seek the overthrow of the Celestial Order.
    —> Reveals Daidoji Dajan, Soshi Seiryoku, Kitsune Hamato (Magistrate), Asako Nakiro (Inquisitor), Matsu Akira (Taisa of the 4th Legion), Shinjo Noriyori (Caravan Master)
    —> Yasuki Maemi and Bayushi Tomaru also implicated/accused
  • Akodo Unmei declares Matsu Hiroru to be an Agent of the Kolat
    —> Matsu Tsuko is PISSED at Unmei
    —> Ujina-uo declares that Unmei found this information from his “sensei”
    —> Atari suggests that Isawa Ujina-uo offer himself as the lead in the investigation to learn more (he does so)
  • Crab Issue before the Court
    —> Sorai reminds the Court of Kisada’s quote about the Hantei sucking balls
    —> Goshiu asks Tadaka to state what the Crab intend militarily
    —> Tadaka accuses them of planning a Coup
    —> Yori calls the Hantei the same thing as an eta
    —> Matsu Tadaka steps forward and cuts off Kuni Yori’s head. After, the body: Ujina-uo declares that Yori should be burned. Hantei declares that Yori’s body along with Oyo will go back to Hida Kisada
    —> Yasuki Aritomo is the last remaining member of the Crab as a representative to the court. It has been declared that the Crab will be allowed no official rights in any court until Kisada comes before the Emperor and declares his loyalty.
    —> Tadaka gains Infamy (1.0) and the nickname Wrath of the Emperor

Kolat Assassins

  • Hiroru and Oshihime ambush Unmei
    —> Mikado assists Unmei in the attack
    Leaves off as follows:

Unmei is garroted by Hiroru
Oshihime is running off.
Guards will not come because Kage has arranged it.

Current Kolat Split

  • New Kolat
    “Tiger” – Akodo Unmei
    Chrysanthemum – Seppun (Ikoma) Soko
    Silk – Kaouta
    Steel – Shino Yokatsu (simply opposes Kage) [Not yet confirmed, but assumed by Taka]
    Coin – Yasuki Taka
  • Old Kolat
    Tiger – Akodo Kage
    Lotus – Chinoko
    Cloud – Kereikado
    Dream – Kuni Shugenja
  • Neutral Kolat
    Jade – Emon
    Roc – al-Hazaad

Rewards

  • +10 xp (166 Total)
  • Matsu Tadaka +1.0 Infamy (Wrath of the Emperor)

Dead

  • Kuni Yori died.
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Winter Court: Kyuden Seppun, II

1 DEC 2011*
Players: Eric, Bobby (absent), Chris, JJ, Jack, Kyle

“Forget everything you have been told.” – Yasuki Taka, Yasuki Family Daimyo, Kolat Master

DOWNTIME DETAILS

Isawa Keikenna (Xengbo)

  • Informed by Kuni Bundai (his Kuni and maho-tsukai sensei) of the plan to meet up with a prominent member of their group at court.

Shosuro Atari

  • After careful political maneuvering by the Master of Lies (Bayushi Goshiu) and the Lady of the Scorpion (Bayushi Kachiko), Otomo Sorai, daimyo of the Otomo Imperial family, has arranged it so that Atari joins the Otomo through marriage. He will be allowed to take on the Otomo name early in order to cement the ties. Sorai is highly interested in Atari.

Isawa (Soshi) Saku

  • Gifted with full knowledge of his new position as Acolyte of the Void under the new Master, Kaede. They have 6 young potential candidates in the Phoenix Clan (ishiken). However, of these, only one is close to gempukku age leaving Saku and Kaede as the only real representatives of the Way of the Void in the Empire.
  • Saku beings to have visions (JJ, Remind me to tell you about this!)
  • Saku takes an honorific of Ujina’s name upon becoming Acolyte of Void, changing his name to Isawa Ujina-uo (Tsuke opposes this and the rest of the masters consider it an honorific; only Eju, Master of Air, remains neutral).

Akodo Unmei

  • Writes the New Dawn and literally pours his soul (Great Destiny) into the document in order to create a nemuranai that will help in changing the minds and policies of the existing Kolat conspiracy.
  • Learns of the true history of Akodo Yurei and his downfall in the Crab lands (he succumbed to a darkness, though not the taint, that required that the Crab slay him).

Matsu Tadaka

  • Spends quite a bit of time at the Dojo of the Emerald Magistrates with the Emerald Champion. Satsume, the Grinning Crane, has arranged to have a political gambit launch Tadaka’s report into prominence in Court.

In Court

  • Matsu Tadaka and Isawa Ujina-uo (Soshi Saku) are placed in Doji Satsume’s position. For the duration of the Court they have Status 7. Tadaka controls the Emerald Champion’s role as leader of the Imperial Legions while Ujina-uo controls his role as leader of the Emerald Magistrates.
    —> Tadaka requests from Satsume that his new karo at court be none other than Doji Kuwanan, the son of the Crane Champion, due to his knowledge and interest in both the Crane and Lion. This request is granted.
  • Isawa Ujina-uo bequeaths the hetman of the village around Kyuden Seppun with a write for 100 koku
    —> NOTE: The Seppun will inquire about this in future settings and it will circulate through the court as gossip (TN 30).
  • Akodo Unmei meets with Yasuki Taka.
    —> Also, offers himself as a servant in the Imperial Guard around Kyuden Seppun (Note: both Akodo Toturi and Matsu Tsuko have proclaimed the Lion in defense of the Winter Court and have personally taken it upon themselves to defend the Emperor during court).
    —> When meeting with Taka, he also meets another Kolat Master, Kaouta and learns of Seppun (Ikoma) Soko (Kolat Master). Kaouta takes the New Dawn to review. Kaouta also successfully entices Unmei with major seduction.
  • Keikenna meets with Kuni Yori and his new, secretive Bloodspeaker ally, Yasuki Aritomo!!!
    —> Keikenna is given a black liquid drink that “inoculates” him from a future harm
    —> Told that Aritomo is now his “superior” in the Bloodspeaker endeavor.
    —> Informed to be seen often at the Shrine to Seppun (makes it obvious that he ventures there that very evening and learns that the Shrine is in the center of the largest garden in Kyuden Seppun, a popular spot for courtiers and lovers)
    —> Implied that at some point he is going to use a powerful maho-tsukai nemuranai upon the body of Seppun herself to disrupt the Court.
  • Shinjo Usuia and Isawa Ujina-uo test their Iaijutsu Skills before the assembled Court, but before they do, Ujina-uo requests that a stipulation be placed upon their duel. When Ujina-uo wins, he is able to place the proscription upon Usuia that he may not perform any Iaijutsu duels against anyone without Ujina-uo’s permission (this is to give the Shinjo a chance to learn different techniques and “expand his mind”). Ujina-uo later informs the Shinjo that the proscription will ONLY apply to the Test of the Emerald Champion and dueling the Emerald Champion himself.
    —> This will not make Ujina-uo popular with the Unicorn at all.
  • Keikenna implies to Usuia after the duel that Ujina-uo may have “cheated” and Usuia becomes aware that Ujina-uo was once Soshi Saku, a Scorpion

READING OF A LETTER

  • Hantei XXXVIII brings the court together for the purpose of having Matsu Tadaka’s letter to Doji Satsume read before the court. The letter is read, in its entirety, before the assembled daimyo, courtiers, and politicians.
    —> This matter is overseen by the Imperial Advisor and Voice of the Emperor, Kakita Yoshi; the letter itself is given to Otomo Sorai, daimyo of the Otomo, to read.
    —Yoshi informs Tadaka that he is the Emperor’s “arm”
  • Hare Clan Situation
    —> After the letter is read through entirely, Sorai begins the proceedings with the issue of the Hare Clan. It is determined that Bayushi Tomaru’s testimony is invalidated and that Soshi Seiryoku, a member of the Black Watch, is a maho-tsukai.
    —> When Seiryoku is proclaimed a tsukai Soshi Bantaro takes affront and declares that Keikenna’s opinion (as the group’s Shadowlands Loremaster) is invalid and pits his own opinion against him. This eventually develops (with the help of the Master of Lies, Bayushi Goshiu) into a full-scale argument that resolves with Soshi Bantaro officially challenging Keikenna to a duel of taryu-jia (Shugenja Duel).
    —> Keikenna and Bantaro kharmic strike, but in the follow-up, Keikenna destroys the Soshi shugenja and burns him alive before the court. Soshi Bantaro dies and Keikenna’s testimony is held as true, having been defended by combat.
    —> The Emperor takes the words of the assembled group as testimony to reinstate the Hare Clan; however, he declares that Usagi Ozaki be allowed seppuku for failing to appear before the court the first time (when Tomaru declared him a tsukai) – he is labelled as a coward. Matsu Tadaka offers his wakizashi and acts as a second to the former Hare Champion. The Hare Sword is given to Usagi Tomoe, the Champion of the clan and the only member of that clan. Also, the Emperor declares that the Hare may take in any ronin they wish to refill the ranks of their clan and offer them the Usagi name.
    —> In addition, the Emperor declares (through Sorai and Yoshi) that every year, during Winter Court, the Hare will host a Kuni Witch Hunter or an Asako Inquisitor at Court to determine that they have not truly fallen to the plague of maho.
  • Isawa Ujina-uo informs Kaede that Keikenna may be a maho-tsukai

LIST OF THE DEAD (so far)

  • Soshi Bantaro, daimyo of the Soshi family (shugenja) of the Scorpion – slain by Keikenna
  • Usagi Ozaki, former champion of the Hare – commits seppuku with Matsu Tadaka as second

REWARDS

  • All PC’s lose -3 boxes of Glory for downtime.
  • 10XP (Total 156)
  • Tadaka and Ujina-uo (Saku) receive temporary Status 7 and glory accordingly (+3 boxes)
  • Glory for defeating enemies (Ujina-uo vs Shinjo Usuia and Keikenna vs Soshi Bantaro)
  • Isawa Ujina-uo bestows upon Shinjo Usuia the position of Emerald Magistrate
  • All PC’s gain +5 boxes of Glory for the Redemption of the Hare Clan
  • Keikenna gains +10 Infamy boxes (halved) for slaying the Soshi Daimyo
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A Tale of Winter Court, II

A Dangerous Game: A Tale of Winter Court, Part Two

The Kuni had been a fool.

Everyone in the Winter Court was whispering about it – the life of the daughter of the Shosuro daimyo, saved by the first son of the Crane daimyo. Really, it was too much to ask, that such a thing could occur. And to see it happen, in front of the entire assemblage of courtiers, well, that had been a singular event.

He had deserved his death. Any man foolish enough to stand between a Scorpion and their destiny can only receive a bitter end. It should be a lesson to those who would try.

In the wings of the Imperial Palace at Otosan Uchi, the courtiers were buzzing like the bees of spring, desperately searching for some reason, some blackmail or skillful political pressure that had been applied to the Crane. Why on earth would he have done such a thing?

Kachiko blessed the easy outrage of the Crab. Without a single push, he had risen to his fee,t screaming about her dishonor, and shouting the most outlandish stories. Under such circumstance, how could the ‘noble’ Crane refuse her?

The Crab are outraged. There may be war.

“Let war come,” Kachiko smiled to herself. “And I, as the Lady of the Scorpion Clan, I will be ready for it.”


“Meet me in the garden,” she had whispered.

Easy enough, for the daimyo of the Doji family. he could go anywhere, see anyone he wised with in the palace of the emperor – his Uncle. A cheerful smile touched Hoturi’s face as he strode toward his chambers.

It had been a simple thing, the duel. Once Hoturi had been told that the Shosuro maiden was breaching her engagement, the rest fell into place. One stroke, one dead Crab, and the Scorpion now owed the Crane the life of their daughter. Hoturi had known the night before, and had been careful to find the ideal location – not too close, and not too far away. Before the court, Kakita Yoshi had been quietly sent to speak to the Hiruma boy, raising his anger with talk of the Scorpion maiden’s unfaithfulness, and to spread rumors of a baby already in her womb. An accusation, a duel, had been inevitable.

When it came, Hoturi was there to collect the spoils.

The politicians will argue about it for days. He paused near a sliding paper door to look in at the giggling maids inside, rolling the blankets for the day.

“I will have her.”

The maids looked up, shocked, and Hoturi realized he had spoken aloud. As the giggling girls touched their foreheads to the floor, he smiled again, bowed slightly, and continue on.

Let them say that the Scorpions are masters of manipulation. I have used their compassion as easily as if they were no more than the youngest maiden of the Isawa. I saw the Lady’s eyes, and I already know her heart. Hoturi paused to allow the guards at the door to slide back the thin paper frame. I know how a woman’s mind works….

In the garden, three Scorpions – all maidens – looked up from their whispers. As he approached, the daughter of the Shosuro daimyo bowed slightly and her maids did the same, hiding quick, blushing smiles behind their lace masks.

…and I will have her.

“My Lady.” He bowed with practiced ease and a faint smile touched her features. With the maids a discreet distance behind they walked toward the water’s edge.

“Your arm, my Lord Hoturi,” she murmured. “Is it well?” He is beautiful, but there is no more intelligence to him than a used rag, she thought. He is worse than my brother, who inherits his position through birth, and wastes the strength of the clan on uselessness.


As the hour passed, the maids watched the expressions of the two. Though little seemed to pass between them it was a masterpiece of move and countermove, their eyes shifting like animals in cages of glass. Between them, something stirred. Some strange destiny, a thousand years in the making, twisted their lives to this point and the stars stood, breathless, to watch the game unfold.

“I am sorry that the Crab caused you such pain, Shosuro-san,” Hoturi spoke quietly, unwilling to disturb her beauty.

She sighed carefully, raising her fan with her dyed cotton glove. “My lord, you should not have concerned yourself.”

“While others lament what they should have done, the wise man prepares for what he should do next,” Hoturi stepped to her side, pushing one of the branches of the pine trees aside so that the snow would not fall upon her sleeve.

Kachiko smiled. “Shinesei’s Tao, Doji-sama?” She should not have been surprised, of course, she thought. All noblemen are taught to quote a few verses, here and there. Her brother had been carefully schooled in the Tao, quoting his recitations for hours on end with no sign of comprehension. Of course, the son of the Crane would known his share.

“My sister, Shizue, reads it to me when I practice kata at the Academy.”

Kachiko looked up, surprised. “Your sister? I had thought such tasks were ‘beyond’ the minds of noblewomen.”

Hoturi laughed. “My sister is unusual. Besides, why should women be refused anything?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Those who say that women are not ‘suited’ to learning are unaware of their abilities. I have met many Isawa and Shiba maidens,” Hoturi’s lips curled in a faint grin at the thought, “who are well-versed in such things, and that does not make them any less desirable as wives.”

Kachiko paused. Once, she had approached the sacred book, but Hametsu’s tutor had blackened her hand for it. Suddenly, this arrogant Crane had caught her interest.

“At the house of my father, such things would not be tolerated, of course,” Hoturi continued, “but I see no reason that she cannot aid me in my studies….”

“And of course, she is only reading the book for you, not for her own benefit.” She smiled and was surprised at the touch of true amusement in her motion.

“Of course.”

Two courtiers passed in the snow, whispering behind raised fans, One man, too fat for his elaborate kimono, seemed too calm, too sure of himself. The other had a face the red of the sunset, blustering and waving his arm in an exaggerated motion.

Kachiko raised her chin, amused at their ineptitude, and caught the same smile reflected in Hoturi’s eyes. He knows the game.

“Those two men,” Hoturi began, turning away. “one is the Unicorn ambassador, Ide Itagi. He has every intent of bringing home a rich wife so that his house will prosper.”

“Too bad Itagi is a self-absorbed, gaijin-smelling boor.” She smiled delightedly, again amused that he would share these thoughts with her.

Hoturi chuckled, surprised that she knew so much. Perhaps she is not the weak-willed harridan I had thought. “the other,” he pointed at the calm-looking courtier, “is Akodo Matsigoshi, a man with thirteen daughters, each uglier than the next. He plans to arrange the marriage with Itagi without allowing the groom to see the bride before their wedding day.”

“Perfectly suited,” Kachiko turned away, “save for the fact that Matsigoshi’s eldest daughter has planned to run away with a Matsu samurai this spring, despite her father’s wishes.”

At this, Hoturi raised an interested eyebrow. “Ladies’ talk, Shosuro-san?”

She looked up into his eyes, a touch of frank anger kindled in her gaze. “Do you believe that women have no skill in such matters?” His comment reminded Kachiko of her father’s disparaging remarks about the ladies of the court.

Amused, the Crane tilted his head to the side, appraising her beauty and poise. “No madam. I only imply that politics are not usually the province of women.”

“You underestimate us,” she snapped irritably, a touch of emotion sneaking beneath her mask.

“No, lady, I overestimate myself.” She raised her eyes at his disparaging comment, and then laughed.

“Do you enjoy go, Shosuro-san?” Hoturi smiled.

“Of course, Doji-sama.” Her eyes lowered. “I have learned much of it from watching my brother.” It was not the answer Hoturi had expected. A woman, skilled in the game of battle and strategy? Unusual.

“Do you play often, my Lord?” She moved toward a large stone board hidden beneath a lowered branch near a frozen stream.

“No.” A pause. “I once did, but that was long ago.” Images of his mother laughing on the beaches of Doji castle flooded his mind, and he turned his face to the sun.

Melodramatic fool. Kachiko forced a seductive curve to her lips as her hand brushed icicles from a nearby pine bough. “Do you think I would be challenge enough for you, Doji-sama?” A step closer, and the snow hushed around her feet.

Hoturi looked into her eyes, surprised by the intelligence there. “Yes, my lady Shosuro-san,” he smiled charmingly, and Kachiko felt her own smile turn genuine.

She was amazed at the tone in his voice, as if he truly understood the game she offered. Looking up at the tale, pale-haired Crane lord, she recognized not only a skilled opponent, but one who understood the game as well as she, and knew the price of failure….and the sweet taste of victory.

“So, Shosuro-san, shall we play?” Hoturi reached into the cups on the table and brushed a faint drift of snow from the marble board. Hidden beneath the limb of the pine, only the faint whispers of Kachiko’s maids penetrated the gentle stillness.

White and black. Two stones lay in his hand cupped in his palm. Kachiko reached for them, her gloved fingertips brushing against their cold surface without picking up either. Their eyes met for a moment and she murmured, “Of course, I shall be white.” White, the color of the board’s owner, the master of the territory on which the game would be played.

“Are you so sure, Shosuro-san?” His hand closed, nearly trapping her fingers. “I think, perhaps, that your color is black. After all, your skills at the game are not so great as my own.” His voice held a challenge that could not be denied.

“Do you believe that to be so?” She whispered, moving closer to him.

Her perfume was intoxicating – but not more so than hundreds of others. Her beauty dazzled him, but he had seen beauty before, in all its forms and colors. It was the intelligence in her eyes that caught his imagination, more than her seductive movements and the soft skin. “It may be, Shosuro-san,” he murmured, tasting the scent of her hair.

His gaze held lust, and lust was an emotion that Kachiko knew well. Men of all clans, all families and social strata had looked at her that way, form the day of her gempukku at fourteen. Her nurse had taught her to foster such feelings, to control men by their needs and desires, but Kachiko paused. More than mere lust, she saw another sentiment warring in the Crane’s eyes. Respect.

And respect was something Kachiko was unprepared to accept or control.

“We shall see,” she whispered, her body inches from his. Stepping away, she bowed slightly and turned , moving past the snow-covered branch.

As she walked with her maids back toward the awning of the Imperial Palace, Hoturi’s hand closed again around the two stones. “Yes, Kachiko,” he murmured thoughtfully. “We shall soon see.”

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Matsu Tadaka's report to Doji Satsume on the state of affairs in Crab territory.
ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?

The Crab have openly defied the will of the Son of Heaven.

Upon my arrival no attempt was made to show respect to the Emperor or his agents. This is unfortunate but not wholly unexpected from the Crab. What troubles me is upon meeting with Hida Kisada-sama he spoke for himself only very briefly before allowing his magistrate to take control of the Crab’s interests.

This man, Hida Fumoi, was immediately disrespectful to myself and to you. I did not feel the need to reprimand him until he openly insulted the Emperor himself.

In attendance were Hida Kisada-sama, Hida Yakamo-sama, and Kuni Yori-sama. All of whom looked on seemingly without dispute.

I offered challenge to Fumoi’s words which he accepted and the Emperor’s Justice was dealt the following morning in full view of the assembled court. Including the aforementioned lords of the Crab.

After events which will be reported below at the Hiruma castle, Kisada-sama showed that the punishment and mercy given to his magistrate had not been taken to heart. Kisada-sama has banned Imperial Agents from operating in Crab territories. An act of highest Treason against the Son of Heaven.

After the duel a spectacle was subtly displayed by the agents of the Miya, Soshi Saku-sama and Shosuro Kekashi-sama. (referred to as “Atari” by Kisada-sama) Acting as agents of the Scorpion a ji-samurai retainer of Kekashi-sama was called forth to answer for stealing documents from the Crab detailing their defenses. The man was executed for his crime seemingly as a show of good faith to the Crab.

Afterward Shosuro Kekashi-sama declared Soshi Saku outcast from the Scorpion to which Soshi Saku-sama had no objection.

I proceeded to meet with these magistrates at the behest of one Akodo Unmei. A nearby tea house was chosen by myself for the meeting. During this meeting I was given information that Bayushi Tomaru was acting with Daidoji Dajan under orders from Yassuki Maemi and an organization known as “Kolat” to attack a minor Hiruma daimyo under accusation of practicing maho. An accusation that has yet to have been made.

While feeling no love for a Crab daimyo no matter their distance from Kisada’s Treason, I felt it prudent to investigate these dealing further.
Before I was able to act upon this plan we were attacked by magic which nearly cost Unmei-san his life. Kuni Yori was summoned when we were unable to capture a perpetrator wherein he claimed a sinister scorpion statue believed to be the source of the attack.

I was forced to rebuke Kuni Yori-sama when he attempted to usurp control of the men under my command for his investigation. Given the circumstances of the day and the importance of urgency in the matter we gathered our troops and marched them hard to the Hiruma castle.

We were able to arrive just as Bayushi Tomaru was staging his attack on the castle. All messengers sent from the castle to parley were killed outright but Tomaru, his shugenja, and a retinue of men came to meet our representative, Shosuro Kekashi.

Negotiations quickly soured and the shugenja used magic to move himself and Tomaru back to their men. It should be noted that this magic cost the lives of Tomaru’s guards.

As I lead the charge to try to capitalize on Tomaru’s disorganization I noticed the unmistakable report and noxious odor of gaijin pepper from the rear of the caslte.

Akodo Unmei was able to match our outnumbered troops against Tomaru to such effect that Tomaru was quickly forced to desperation. His shugenja again sacrificed the lives of Tomaru’s men to summon a spawn of the Akuma no Oni.

Isawa Keikenna-sama was able to over-match and destroy the shugenja which incited a fury in the beast sparing our men as it rampaged indiscriminately among the Scorpion.

As Tomaru was approached by Unmei-sama and myself he relinquished control of his army to Shosuro Kekashi-sama. Suspicious of a ruse I dispatched Tomaru with the aid of Unmei-sama.

As seems the rule of the day Tomaru was acting quite suspicious after his death so I relieved him of his head. Afterward he was quiet.

I drew back my troops to regroup and fight the enraged oni. But, as the Scorpion seems to have the same idea the beast took leave of the field at an unmatchable pace, unfortunately escaping into Rokugan.

During the fighting with Tomaru, Soshi Saku was ambushed by Daidoji Dajan and killed by the shugenja. Dajan’s men fled the battle stripping themselves of Crane regalia.

Discussions were had with Hiruma Jinmei-sama, now daimyo of the castle, and Tomaru’s wife Usagi Tomoe that lead me to believe that Tomaru’s accusations against the Hare were also made under the orders of Yasuki Maemi and the “Kolat”. Usagi Tomoe will deliver her brother to the Emperor’s Justice at Winter Court to find the truth in his clan’s downfall.

The following day Kisada arrived with his thinly veiled threats to leave his lands. I did not challenge his orders as it was more important that the Emerald Champion receive this information.

I would ask that I be allowed to convince my cousin Tsuko to march the Matsu armies alongside our Imperial Legions to Kyuden Hida in the spring. I fear collusion from the Scorpion but the Crane could keep them from them from interfering.

If so we will hang Kisada and Yakamo from the gates of Kyuden Hida with their fiend Kuni Yori as a warning to Sukune and his whore sister that the Emperor is anything but weak while the Lion and Crane stand with him.

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A Tale of Winter Court

A Dangerous Game: A Tale of Winter Court, Part One

Note: This story is in the Winter Court: Kyuden Seppun book. I may put the entire thing here, if I have the time and energy to do so, but if you like it and want to read the rest, I will have the book around. My primary reason for posting this is to give some flavor to the upcoming Winter Court and set the mood for the next chapter of our story.

A Dangerous Game, Part One [From Winter Court: Kyuden Seppun]
The story you are about to hear is ten years past, laced with hearsay and romantic supposition. Certainly, the affair between Hoturi-sama and Kachiko-sama was not well-known, nor has it ever been published in any way. Only now, as war burns across our land once more, can I tell the tale, and only to you, my most trusted friend. I beg you, do not judge these lovers with the eye of honor, lest you forget that every man must fall. Instead, look upon their tale as a simple game, one commanded by, and at the last, destroyed with that most dangerous enemy…our own destiny. – Doji Shizue, Crane Clan Storyteller

KACHIKO
The winter wind whistled outside, sneaking icy pieces of snow within the cracked window. Glass, a rarity in Rokugan, filled only the windows of the very wealthy – and the Palace of the Emperor was the one place where it was used with indiscriminate taste.

Shosuro Kachiko rested one hand on her smooth cheek, watching the snow drift down outside. Her father, Shosuro Koshurin, gave final instructions to his young guardsmen before commanding that the doors to the private chambers of the Shosuro daimyo be closed for the evening.

Silence. The scuttling of her brother in the corner. The weight of her father’s eyes. “Kachichan,” his gruff voice demanded. “Come here, girl.”

Anger arched her spine, but she stood and stepped delicately to her father’s side. At seventeen, the daughter of the Shosuro was small, but beautiful. Her thickly lashed eyes rested, dark and heavy, beneath delicately arched brows. Each step accentuated the thin kimono draped over her perfect hips, sliding with the ease of silk along a marble statue. Her mask, delicate lace chosen to reveal and flatter her perfect features, clung to her face with courtier’s magic.

“Hai, Oto-sama.” She murmured the proper fatherly title, her voice a maiden’s whisper as she gracefully lowered herself to kneel on the pillow before the Shosuro lord.

For another long moment her father gazed down at her, his eyes a strange dichotomy of black and blue. As his eyes lifted to his son, Kachiko felt the tension grow. “Hametsu-san,” Koshurin called. “tell me about your sister.”

“Father?” Hametsu stumbled suddenly forward, surprised.

Her brother’s ineptitude.

“Kachichan.” His mismatched eyes returned to rest upon her lowered face. “Tell me what you know of her.”

“She…she is headstrong, Oto-san. Willful. She does not know a woman’s proper place.” Her fists tightened imperceptibly against her kimono as Hametsu continued. “For years, she has spoken of duty to the Shosuro, yet when you chose to send her to the Bayushi school, she refused you.”

And the old scares of bruises long healed still brushed Kachiko’s sleeve.

“…she is…not unattractive. Many of the men in the Imperial Court whisper about her exploits behind midnight doors…” Her father’s face grimaced, and he nodded.

Liars.

Hametsu continued. “She is clever, for a woman. Perhaps she inherited some small intelligence from you, Oto-sama, for I have seen her turn men against each other. We have all heard of her exploits at Bayushi palace.”

The Yogo had been a fool. He had tried to use force to take what she would not give.

His head still hung in Traitor’s Grove.

“But, father,” Hametsu continued lamely, his voice usure and halting, “she is… a Shosuro. One of us. I’m sure after her marriage to the Crab…ah, a few years at the Wall will end her arrogance and make her…more useful.”

“Yes. The Hiruma.” Her father’s voice was thoughtful, touched by bitterness.

“Perhaps as a dutiful wife, she will…”

“Enough.” Koshurin raised a hand. “Enough, Hametsu. She will never be a dutiful wife. She is not even worthy of the dogs upon the Kaiu Wall.”

Kachiko’s eyes flashed upward, filled with hate and anger, but before she could open her mouth, she saw her father’s fist clench. Shaking with fury, she tightened her hands and looked swiftly away.

“Oto-sama?” the boy was still confused.

“You wish her dead, do you not, Hametsu?” Koshurin whispered, reaching out with his fan to lift his daughter’s chin. Staring into Kachiko’s black eyes, Koshurin nodded, speaking again before his gape-jawed could manage a whisper. “Yet she still lives. And you, boy, you survive only by my will.”

“But…what…”

So that was how the assassin had been destroyed. Kachiko’s lips twisted slightly in frustration, her fingernails biting into her palms.

Koshurin suddenly barked, “Out of my sight, Hametsu!” The young man, startled and appalled, leapt back from his father’s command, bowing sloppily. Fear shone in his brown eyes as he dove for the doorway.

“Koshurin stood, pacing to the snowy window and looking down. Beneath the window, servants struggled to assist the last of the Doji courtiers as they stepped form their palanquins onto the ice-covered ground. “My only daughter, and my greatest failure. See how they scurry, there, below us? Cranes. As pathetic as mewling kittens, yet they are given the Emperor’s greatest blessings while we are condemned to bear the hatred of an Empire. Every family in Rokugan seeks to destroy us, though we serve a purpose they cannot even conceive.

“Even you, Kachichan. You turned against our family and sent a mercenary to kill your own brother.” Koshurin snarled, his blue eye gleaming in the candlelight. “Your brother is the Shosuro heir!” The Shosuro daimyo’s cane rapped the floor with a heavy cadence. “I should have you killed for your interference. I should send you to the Crab and let them bury you beneath their Wall!” His voiced hissed through the chamber like a striking snake, burying its fangs in her soul. “You should be sent to the Darkness…you are of no use to us.”

When she did not wilt beneath his venom, he raised his aged hand to his forehead. “But I cannot. There are other plans in store for you, if you survive the winter. If you can whisper your way out of your chains, girl, you could still prove useful to our clan. Do you hear me?” He turned and his mismatched eyes shone with the fire of anger. Bitter resentment warred with his famous restraint as he stepped to her side, crouching down to snarl soft, sharp words into her delicate, perfect ear.

“Do you hear me, Kachichan? I’m giving you a chance. One chance only. And if you fail, your pretty belly will be cut open for the crows.” Her father’s breath was warm in her ear, and her shoulders shook from the effort of restraint. “Hametsu tried to kill you…”
And failed.

“..and you dared to return his treachery in kind. For that, you deserve to die.” Her father stood before her again, his cane silent upon the floor. “Shoju-sama, daimyo of the Scorpion Clan, has asked the unthinkable. He wishes you to be his wife.” He paused to let the information sink in, watching her face. A faint glimmer of surprise rippled delicately across her features, ad he nodded, satisfied.

Inwardly, she smiled. She had known three days before.

“Your wedding to Bayushi Shoju, and the breach of your engagement to Hiruma Maruku, will be formally announced at the Emperor’s court tomorrow. Should you survive the dishonor, you are welcome to marry our daimyo.” His voice was filled with scorn and mocking laughter. “Good night, daughter of the clan.”

As Koshurin’s maid slid the rice-paper door closed behind him, his laughter filled the hallway. Only then did Kachiko notice the thin trickle of blood that stained her kimono, escaping beneath her fingernails from the palms of her clenched hands.

HOTURI

The sky was the color of a dove’s wing outside the palace of the Emerald Champion as to young men sparred. Weapons glistening as they wove spirals about their opponent, each strike, thrust and feint was matched equally, and no move could gain the advantage. At last, with a should, an aged samurai called the youths to order, watching with veiled pride as they bowed to one another, turned, and sank to their knees before their sensei.

Silently, Toshimoko sighed. His grey hair hung in a thin braid below his collar despite the wispy tendrils blowing in the chill breeze. His students – both sons of Doji Satsume – rested lightly, their breath turning to white mist as they struggled to calm themselves and reflect on the lessons of the combat The bitter wind which cooled his students’ ambition savaged his bones and turned his feet to ice. Stomping slightly, he stood from his stool and looked up at the wintering sky, watching the faint white clouds swallowed by the overwhelming grey. Blue robes fluttered beneath the banners, and the mon of the Emperor surmounted all. “Hoturi-san.” Toshimoko barked, and one of the two men bowed low. With a loud, “Hai, sensei," the student lifted his head from contemplation of his studies. “You did not do as badly as before. Both your swordsmanship and your chi have improved, though only slightly.” Toshimoko’s thick black brows knotted, his hands folded behind his back. High praise from their sensei. “Domo, Toshimoko-sama. Domo." The young man bowed again pressing his palms to the ground. As Toshimoko opened his mouth to continue, but was interrupted by a rough voice from the courtyard. “No, Toshimoko-san," Satsume growled as he stalked toward them. “Do not praise him. His footwork is that of a child, and his sword arm is as weak as a woman’s. He has little talent for the blade, for all that he whiles his lime away at your Academy.” Hoturi looked down as his father approached, moving back to sit in line with his brother. The sensei bowed, murmuring words of greeting as he silently cursed. The boy had done well and it was apparent Only Satsume’s stubbornness kept him from seeing the improvements. “Kuwanan’” Satsume gestured. “Your wrists are still too firm. I do not know what foolishness the Lion teach you, but you are in the Crane lands today, son. You must learn to loosen your grip, so that the sword will move more freely.” The younger man bowed and nodded, eager for the lesson. “Do not watch your brother for guidance. Your talent has already surpassed him, and you will only betray your technique.” As Kuwanan murmured thanks, Satsume turned to Toshimoko. The thin scar in his left cheek catching a faint ray of light from the castle. “Toshimoko-san, I wish to speak with you. Alone.” “_Hai,_ sama" Quickly, the sensei gestured to the young men to continue. With a single bow, they rose to their stances, and began the kata again as the two lords stepped toward the castle’s outer walls. Satsume was not a tall man. Toshimoko remarked to himself again. It was easy to forget that the Crane Champion stood barely to his shoulder, for the man’s swagger and hard eyes could intimidate the coolest Dragon. In a word, Satsume was commanding. His son, less so. Although both Kuwanan and Hoturi had inherited their father’s dear mind and ability with the sword, only the younger son had his father’s spirit Where Kuwanan was small and thickly muscled, Hoturi was thin and willowy. Kuwanan’s eyes were dark where Hoturi’s shone a bright grey, and though both inherited their father’s deep voice and rich laughter, only Kuwanan had the ability to make his father proud. “Toshimoko-san,” Satsume began, “The Emperor has called the Crane to go to his Winter’s Court. He has told me that my duty is in the court of the Asako, who are preparing for war. Yet, I must send a daimyo to attend the Emperor’s wishes.” “Yes. Master. There are many young lords who are prepared to serve. Your son …” ”Iie.” No. The rebuff was so sudden, so abrupt, that Toshimoko paused before he began again. “Hoturi is the Lord of the Doji in your absence. Surely he is capable …" “Iie. I will not have my idiot son cavorting with samurai•ko for three months and shaming our clan. His appetites are well-known in the Emperor’s court" “And mine are not?” Toshimoko’s eyes glinted with amusement. “There are many pleasures of the Imperial Court to hold a man’s attention. Satsume-sama Do you feel I have served the Crane any less well for them? Very well then. I choose Asahina Dorai.” Satsume stared at his councilor with a wry grimace. “Dorai is fourteen years old, and already a fool.” “Better a fool than a man who will enjoy himself… and bring the clan honor.” “Toshimoko-san, why have I not ordered you to the monastery?” Satsume growled good-naturedly. “Because they would not have me, even if you did.” “You would probably turn even the Shrine of Uikku into a geisha house.” The Champion of the Crane ran a thick-fingered hand through his thinning white hair. “He can be trusted?” “I will go with him, and bear his honor personally.” Satsume snorted but Toshimoko feigned innocence. “You have my word.” Suddenly cornered, Satsume’s eyes darkened. To refuse now would be to insult the word of his most trusted sensei…and friend. Annoyed at being trapped, he nodded briskly, turning on

his heel and marching back to the boys. His irritation showed in his walk as he approached them, barking orders about their footwork their breathing and their distance. After a moment, Satsume grabbed the bokken from his younger son.

“No, Kuwanan! Never take your eyes from your enemy. If you do, you will be no more than meat on a Scorpion’s sword. Here, let me show you the proper way to kill." Satsume lowered the boken into a fighting stance, facing Hoturi with a bitter grimace as his pale scar twisted his mouth into an obscene half-grin. Kuwanan fell to his knees a distance away as Toshimoko watched worriedly. Without a thought, Hoturi dropped into a shite stance, ready to defend against this new opponent. A flurry of blows struck like lightning on Hoturi’s rapidly raised defense. Hoturi fell back, outmatched and winded, as the more experienced samurai drove him to retreat “Fight, boy,” Satsume yelled, his boken ringing with the ferocity of the battle. "Fight, and prove to me that you are a true son of your mother’s blood!” With each desperate block the young lord of the Doji found himself outmaneuvered, his father’s speed and efficiency cutting off every attempt to retaliate. At last, Satsume’s shoved his boot between his son’s legs pushing against his wooden sword and shoving the young man to the ground. As he pulled away, Satsume drew the sword forward, a firm, final blow to his son’s shocked face. A trickle of blood trailed from Hoturi’s split cheek marring the perfection of his pale skin. Kuwanan leapt to his feet beside their sensei, concern for his brother covering his blunt features. With an oath, Satsume threw the bloodied boken to the ground, panting only slightly as he glared down at his eldest son. Before Hoturi could regain his feet, Satsume turned away bitterly. “Take him to the Emperor’s court and let him waste his life with indulgence. He is useless and weak and not even the Sun herself will save us from our enemies when I am gone. May the Fortunes take pity on our clan.” “Satsume…” Toshimoko began, but the Crane Lord’s obsidian glare killed his words before they were born. “He will never prove himself worthy. Not to me."
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Winter Court: Kyuden Seppun (Or How I Learned to Hate Ikoma Zai)

“He is a fool. The doddering, diseased product of a corrupt and dying bloodline. The Hantei are descended from the Gods, yes, but by how far?” – Hida Kisada, Crab Clan Champion

“Understanding the mind of an Emperor is like looking into the face of the Sun.” – Akodo Toturi, Lion Clan Champion

Winter Court: Kyuden Seppun

Note from the GM: Crab lands were easy; Winter Court is where the real hell begins.

The Guest List

Note: This list is by no means exhaustive and deliberately does not contain numerous minor functionaries, yojimbo, attendants, courtesans, diplomats, etc. In some cases, the breakdown is completely accurate (see: Crab, Dragon, any Minor clans, etc.), but in others you can safely assume that there are a handful, if not dozens, of other clan members present (see: Scorpion, Lion, Crane, Imperial, etc.).

CRAB
Kuni Yori, Daimyo of the Kuni Family

—> Hida Ekiken [Yojimbo]
—> Kuni Oyo [minor shugenja servant]

Yasuki Aritomo, Courtier and Commerce representative

Yasuki Taka, Daimyo of the Yasuki Family, Kolat Master
—> Taka is present in relative secrecy and his attendance is not made public; various important functionaries know of his presence, but he has bribed them to keep it quiet. He does not intend to stay long.

NO OTHER CRAB PRESENT.

CRANE
Doji Satsume, Emerald Champion, Crane Clan Champion, Daimyo of the Doji Family

Kakita Yoshi, Imperial Advisor, Daimyo of the Kakita Family

Kakita Toshimoko, Master Kenshinzen and Sensei

Daidoji Uji, Daimyo of the Daidoji Family

Doji Hoturi, Satsume’s son and Heir of the Crane

Kakita Dejiko, renowned artisan of the Crane
—> Dejiko has her grandson (Zai’s true son), Ichiro, with her.
—> Dejiko has a small entourage of artisans with her as well for the pleasure of the court.

Doji Hokaro, Imperial Magistrate (and ally of Ikoma Zai from the Emerald Magistrate dojo)

DRAGON
Togashi Mitsu, Togashi’s official representative
—> Togashi Gohan, Mitsu’s student

Agasha Hisojo, Emerald Magistrate (shugenja/courtier; follower of the Kitsuki method; renowned for his honor)
—> Mirumoto Otakan, Hisojo’s yojimbo

NO OTHER DRAGON PRESENT.

LION
Akodo Toturi, Lion Clan Champion, Daimyo of the Akodo Family

Matsu Tsuko, Daimyo of the Matsu Family

Ikoma Ujiaki, Daimyo of the Ikoma Family

Ikoma Zai, Lion Magistrate, Diplomat between Lion and Seppun
—> Akodo Shotako (Sworn Enemy of Shosuro Atari)
—> Kitsu Jimen (sodan-senzo who owes Zai an Obligation for gaining him his current position as head of the Ancestral Halls of the Akodo)
—> Matsu Atadanare, Ikoma Zai’s yojimbo (Sworn Enemy of Matsu Tadaka; Deathseeker; Rank 5)

Akodo Kage, Revered Sensei, Kolat Master
—> Matsu Hiroru (having not been seen openly in court for years)

Matsu Gohei, first cousin of Matsu Tsuko (Infamous 6.7 – known as The Butcher for his depredations against the Crane)

Numerous other minor dignitaries, diplomats, shugenja, courtiers, bushi, yojimbo, etc. present representing Lion interests.

PHOENIX
Isawa Tsuke, Elemental Master of Fire, official Phoenix representative to the Imperial Court
—>No yojimbo

Isawa Kaede_, recently appointed Elemental Master of Void, attending her first Winter Court
—>_Shiba Katsumoto
, Yojimbo

Isawa Uona_, not-yet Elemental Master of Air, to be appointed AT this Winter Court in the first such instance of an Elemental Master rising in station in public (outside of Isawa lands)
—>_Shiba Takao
, Yojimbo

Asako Togama, Asako representative to the Court, Imperial Librarian studying the Hantei lineage (recently learned of dangerous knowledge regarding Iuchiban and Bloodspeakers)

A small quantity of Asako diplomats, Shiba yojimbo, and Isawa archivists/shugenja/historians are also present.

SCORPION
Bayushi Kachiko, wife of Shoju – Scorpion Champion, official Scorpion representative to the court
—> Bayushi Aramoro, brother of Shoju, her yojimbo

Bayushi Goshiu, the Master of Lies, courtier representative

Soshi Bantaro, Daimyo of the Soshi Family

Bayushi Yojiro, the “Honest Scorpion”, Emerald Magistrate

Bayushi Denbe, Scorpion Clan Magistrate (Atari’s ally)
—> Bayushi (Kakita) Akemi, Denbe’s wife and Crane trained artisan (pregnant with child)

There are more Scorpion attendants, actors, courtiers, yojimbo, etc. than any other members of any other clan (except the Lion) in attendance.

UNICORN
Utaku Kamoko, Daimyo of the Utaku Family, here learning how to attend court under tutelage of Ide Tadaji

Ide Tadaji, Daimyo of the Ide Family, Official Unicorn representative to the Imperial Court

Shinjo Usuia, renowned Iaijutsu Master of the Unicorn

Numerous minor Iuchi shugenja/couriters, Ide courtiers, and Shinjo functionaries are in attendance as well.

MINOR CLANS
Usagi Ozaki, displaced Hare Clan Champion

Usagi Tomoe, Ozaki’s sister, former wife of Bayushi Tomaru

Toritaka Tsimari, the new Falcon representative at court

Suzume Mukashino, known Sparrow storyteller (Infamous [Boring Ass Stories] 4.7] (Winter Court: Kyuden Seppun p113)

At least one representative form each minor clan is in attendance, though most are not notable for any major endeavors and are far out of their depth.

IMPERIAL AND UNALIGNED
Hantei XXXVIII, Emperor of Rokugan (formerly known as Hantei Jodan)
—> Hantei Sotorii, Imperial Heir (not yet past gempukku)

Kaouta, the most renowned geisha in the Empire (Glory 8.7, Status 0.0) in attendance at the behest of the Emperor himself [Kolat Master]

Miya Yoto, aging and retiring daimyo of the Miya Family
—> Miya Satoshi, Yoto’s son and heir

Otomo Sorai, Daimyo of the Otomo Faimly (sneakiest bastard in court) [Winter Court: Kyuden Seppun p105)
—> Otomo Banu, Imperial sycophant, close-relative to Hantei XXXVIII (p104)
—> Otomo Godairu, Seppun trained shugenja (and spy) [Ally of Ikoma Zai]

Seppun Daiori, Daimyo of the Seppun family
—> Seppun Hotaitaka, Daiori’s young and happy son (never, ever seen out of Daiori’s sight)
—> Seppun Baka, Imperial Sycophant, Religious Advisor and Historian well-liked by the Hantei and his son; most renowned scholar of the Tao in the Empire
—> Seppun (Ikoma) Soko, Protector of the House of the Emperor [Kolat Master]
—> Seppun Ishikawa, Captain of the Imperial Guard
—> Seppun Uwaku, Commander of the Hidden Guard (secret Imperial shugenja in charge of magical defense of the Emperor and family)
—> Seppun Kossori, Imperial Matchmaker and Seductress (Infamous 5.1 [Temptress]); renowned for her ability to make “proper” political matches

Dozens of Seppun Guard, Yojimbo, Hidden Guard, monks, courtiers, functionaries, historians, diplomats, liaisons, attendants, etc. abound throughout Kyuden Seppun (it is kind of their house). The Seppun family has more members in attendance than any other family (though the Lion, Scorpion, and Crane are very close).

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The Carpenter Wall (Kaiu Kabe - Crab Lands Session 7 [END Crab Sessions]

12NOV2011
Players: Jeff, Bobby, Chris, JJ, Jack, Kyle

“An emissary of the throne should have the strength of steel that matches the strength of his honor.” – Seppun Katsura

Deconstructing the Kolat

  • PC’s arrange to hold a meeting privately after the morning’s interactions (Tadaka’s duel; Atari/Saku’s betrayal of the Scorpion; etc.). During the meeting, they go over Bayushi Tomaru’s duplicitous activities and the fact that he is on his way to destroy an honorable branch of the Hiruma family.

- While the PC’s are meeting in the “secure” tea house, a bolt of lightning (enhanced Fury of Osano-Wo) sets the place on fire and almost kills Akodo Unmei. When the PC’s fan out to find who attacked them (with Legions, ninja-servants, etc.) they are unable to find anything suspicious, at first.

- After a while of searching, the PC’s come across a small (fist-sized) obsidian statue laced with red in the shape of a Scorpion holding pincers in the air. An eta is ordered to retrieve the item, but when he reaches for it, the pincers grasp his hand and the tail stings him. He dies instantly.

- PC’s get the feeling that another shugenja is viewing them through the item. Eventually, Kuni Yori is brought to examine the item. He proclaims it to have the symbol of the Black Watch (Soshi Kuroiban) on its back and confiscates the item (SWEET! FREE MAHO MAGIC!).

- PC’s mount up and roll out to go after Bayushi Tomaru. They have Tadaka’s 1st Legion squad, Unmei’s gunso (Hida Etsui) and a few of his followers, and themselves.

  • Prior to departing, Soshi Saku is able to decipher the twin Kolat Scrolls:

- One is the secret Kolat scroll that details logistics and information about the Kolat and led to the destruction of the Hare Clan.

- The other is a missive from “Yasuki Maemi” ordering Tomaru to destroy a Hiruma vassal daimyo family.

RUMBLE IN THE ROCKY, DIRTY, PLATEAU OF THE CRAB

  • PC’s arrive on the field to see Bayushi Tomaru’s men have engaged before the Hiruma Castle. The Hiruma, unaware as to what the Scorpion are doing, send an outrider to speak with the general. The messenger is shot before he can reach the Scorpion encampment. In addition, the General, his shugenja, and a squad of 20 men break off to meet with the PC’s.

- Daidoji Dajan and his group are nowhere to be seen.

- Shosuro Atari (Kikashi) is sent out alone to parlay with the General. In the process, the shugenja (Maho-tsukai, Soshi Seiryoku) declares him an enemy, casts a maho spell that takes the lives of all 20 guards, and teleports herself and Tomaru back to their army. The PC’s engage in battle.

  • Round 1: Unmei, as General, beats Tomaru barely (PC’s winning)

- Atari walks through the battlefield “bolstering Morale” of the troops on his side giving the next round of rolling a +5 bonus

- Saku duels a Rank 3 Bayushi bushi in the field and defeats him soundly.

- Tadaka succeeds in a heroic opportunity to “Take the Enemy Banner” and destroys it (-5 Battle roll for Tomaru)

- Soshi Seiryoku slays another 5 men and summons her wild card, an Akuma no Oni spawn (+5 battle for Tomaru)

  • Round 2: Tomaru wins the roll

- Keikenna duels Soshi Seiryoku on the field and manages to unleash massive fire damage, destroying her physical body, her maho spells, and releases her control over the Akuma no Oni.

- Saku is ambushed by a disguised Daidoji Dajan, but manages to avoid being destroyed, duplicates himself with Void magic and defeats the Daidoji by utilizing a fire spell; when the fire spell lands upon Dajan he explodes gloriously from the amount of gaijin pepper he was carrying on his person

- Atari comes within sight of Tomaru and unleashes the held spell that Saku placed upon him; the spell allows him to command the general to speak a sentence in his voice; Atari has Tomaru relinquish command of the army over to Atari much to the surprise of the general.

- Unmei is attacked by Tomaru in a duel.

- Tadaka engages Tomaru as Unmei and he are dueling; on the way, Soshi Seiryoku binds him with Chains of Jigoku, which he promptly breaks free of.

- Tomaru attempts to disarm Unmei and fails; Unmei taunts him; Tadaka Full Attacks Tomaru; Tomaru attempts to disarm both Unmei and Tadaka and fails again (his overconfidence prevents him from backing down); he is finally slain by Tadaka and as he begins to rise again as a Revenant, Tadaka takes his head, ending the spell.

  • Round 3: Unmei winning

- Saku engages in a duel with Seiryoku’s spirit as she tries to take him over; the duel is Taryu-jiai (a shugenja duel similar to Iaijutsu) in which Seiryoku uses Air versus Saku’s Void; Saku defeats her and effectively destroys her soul completely.

- PC’s engage and combine their efforts to attack the Akuma all at once; the remaining Harriers, having set fire to the Hiruma castle, flee once their general (Dajan) is dead.

- the Akuma flees the battle to escape to the north; the (now-ronin) Daidoji flee as well

  • Post-Battle:

- Bayushi Omoigashi, one of Tomaru’s gunso, takes command of the Scorpion and he and an ally approach the PC’s with a blade held to Usagi Tomoe’s throat. Atari intimidates Omoigashi into standing down, releasing Tomoe, and turning over command to him (Atari).

- Hiruma vassal daimyo was killed, but son survives and most of his men as well. Hiruma Jinmei.

- Atari cuts off two of Omoigashi’s fingers and gives command to the next in line, Bayushi Todonei.

- PC’s determine that TOmaru’s accusations were false: the Hiruma are in no way corrupted by the Taint.

  • Usagi Tomoe: PC’s declare that they will bring evidence before the Emperor to redeem the fallen Hare; Tomoe utilizes a powerful water spell to find her brother and will go searching for him, to bring him to Winter Court.
  • The following day: Kisada and Yori arrive outside the walls of the Hiruma castle with a legion of men. Kisada speaks with the PC’s, praising their efforts and effectively telling them to leave Crab lands. He, once more, not-so-subtly insults the Emperor and the Emerald Champion. Due to Atari’s intervention, he gifts Aritomo with an invitation to Winter Court.

REWARDS

  • 18XP (Total 146)
  • Ally: (All PC’s) Usagi Tomoe (2/2); Saku/Atari (2/4) for their conversation after the battle
  • Keikenna – +9 Glory (halved to 4); 6 honor
  • Unmei 16 Glory; +4 honor; -2 Honor
  • Tadaka 18 Glory, +4 honor; -2 honor
  • Saku 12 Glory; 8 honor
  • Atari 10 Glory, 8 honor
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    The Carpenter Wall (Kaiu Kabe - Crab Lands Session 6

    Crab Lands Session 6

    “If you can go no further, change.” – Sun Tao (Tzu)

    “Victory is achieved by appearing to apply the orthodox when you have something very different in mind.” – Isawa Tsuke

    NEW PC INTRODUCTION

    Matsu Tadaka is a Chui (Lieutenant) in the 1st Legion and has been sent to the Wall to “assess” the condition of the Crab for the Hantei Emperor.

    • This request is separate from Miya Satoshi’s mission for the other PC’s and comes from the Emerald Champion (Doji Satsume) himself. Satsume seeks to confirm Satoshi’s information separately.
    • In addition, Matsu Tadaka brings with him workers and koku in order to maintain and upkeep his ancestor (Matsu Itagi)’s shrine near the Kaiu Kabe.
    • Finally, Tadaka is to tie with Satoshi’s Imperial Retinue (PC’s) for the purposes of determining the Crab’s willingness to venture against the Hantei.
      h5.

    Continuing Action at the Kaiu Kabe

    Soshi Saku

    • Forges documents (rolls: 72/79); one each from Unmei to Tomaru and Tomaru to Unmei telling them that they are to meet each other at a prescribed time. While they are out, Saku has Atari send his servant infiltrate Tomaru’s rooms.

    - Makoto succeeds in sneaking into Tomaru’s rooms and finds two very important and ciphered documents. However, she is caught by the exceptionally perceptive Water shugenja, Usagi Tomoe – Tomaru’s forced wife and last remaining member of the now-defunct Hare Clan. Tomoe informs Makoto that she wishes to betray Tomaru as he is an evil man, corrupt, and has destroyed all she held dear. Makoto brings this news and the scrolls back to the PCs.

    • Saku sent missives to the Elemental Masters (specifically Kaede and Tadaka) informing them about Ujina’s death.

    - Isawa Tadaka, Isawa Tomo, and Isawa Kaede (Elemental Masters of Earth, Water, and Void) all arrive by aid of the kami the following day to converse with Saku regarding the Oracle’s visit and Ujina’s death. All three are siblings (children of Ujina).

    - Tomo implies that someone of Ujina’s level of power killed him, but he is not certain who (has suspicions).

    - Saku details a linked future between himself and Isawa Kaede. Kaede offers the position of Elemental Master of Void to Soshi Saku, but Tadaka and Tomo are adamant in their refusals and demand that he turn her down. Saku declines the position after careful deliberation. In return, Tadaka and Tomo offer Saku officially the Isawa family name and Kaede grants him status as the Acolyte of Void (her former position), sensei directly below Kaede.

    Shosuro Atari

    • Now calling himself Shosuro Kikashi, Atari begins to learn this new body (formerly Seppun Do’s); Atari’s new name, like his old, is a term utilized in Go meaning a devastating move that forces an opponent to yield u certain ground.
      - Keeps his new body and his “survival” a relative secret. Few mention this information and outside of the PCs only Yasuki Aritomo, Kuni Yori, Hida Kisada and a few key retainers are aware of the truth of the situation.
    • Meets with Yasuki Aritomo and learns secrets about the courtier (lowest traits, skills, and Overconfident Disadvantage); plays go with Aritomo and deliberately loses in order to read his mind – Aritomo’s thoughts are murderous, malicious, dark and Atari sees Aritomo envisioning himself flaying Atari alive).

    Matsu Tadaka

    • Upon arrival, the Crab are exceptionally insulting to the Matsu Chui. One Hida Fumoi (Magistrate of the Crab) goes so far as to openly insult the Emerald Champion’s honor and Tadaka challenges the Hida bushi to a duel for the dishonor.

    - Prior to the duel, Tadaka rouses his entire squad and appears at the dueling ground prepared for an assault. The Crab did not seek to ambush, but find respect in his preparation.

    - Tadaka loses initiative and utilizes Full Defense and tactics to circle Fumoi until his initiative rises above the Crab’s. He then brutally attacks (Full Attack) the Crab and Cripples him in short order, leaving him alive and gaining both Honor and Glory.

    Isawa Keikenna (Xengbo)

    • The gaijin servant finally arrives (a Gaijin Sage, Untangsa-Hairto (sp?) – High numbers in Lore, Stealth (Hiding) and related abilities; also has a mystical telepathic connection to Keikenna). Hida Yotaru, a Crab Magistrate, finds the other gaijin with Keikenna’s servant insulting and demands that Keikenna put him to death. Instead, Keikenna arranges it so that the man is lowered over the Wall and left to fend for himself. Convinced the Crab that he has removed a powerful gaijin spirit from Rokugan and gains glory.
      [Gaijin Servant: Stealth 7 (Sneaking), Agility 4, Stealthy Advantage]
    • Kuni Yori offers Keikenna a position as an Acolyte in the Kuni family (implying that they will teach him Maho). He gains Kuni Bundai, an Earth Tensai (and bloodspeaker) as a Sensei in this regard. Keikenna begins a Musha-Shugyo (spiritual quest), gives up his Isawa name (supposedly temporarily) and begins serving under the Kuni.

    Akodo Unmei

    • Invites Keikenna to breakfast and discusses the situation with Tomaru with him, bringing the shugenja up to speed.
    • Meets with Yasuki Maemi (slutty-looking, opium addicted Kolat servant); she attempts to seduce him and almost succeeds; she arranges a meeting between Unmei and Yasuki Taka

    - Unmei meets with Taka and refuses to accept his conditions to slay the Hiruma Child. The two have a long conversation regarding the true nature of the Kolat ending with Unmei stating that he will “cleanse the Kolat” of the evil that besets it and set it on a righteous path. This will include removing Akodo Kage from power as “Master Tiger – the leader of the conspiracy” and eventually will result in Taka’s own demise. The Yasuki sneers, but is willing to go along with the Akodo on the grounds that he seeks to bring down the Kolat from within – if Unmei succeeds, he will not need to do that; if Unmei fails, he will have removed some powerful allies from Kage.

    Happy Endings
    • Atari speaks with Hida Kisada, Crab Champion, regarding his real purpose for being in the Crab territory; he emphasizes the tie between the Crab and the Scorpion and the importance of the Empire as a unified structure. Kisada demands that Atari speak for Shoju, the Scorpion Champion, and prove the Scorpion’s loyalty to the Crab.

    - After Tadaka’s duel and before the crowd leaves, Atari and Soshi Saku (as his last act as a Scorpion), declare Bayushi Mizuru (a low-ranking Scorpion Courtier sent to the Wall for being ineffective) to be a traitor to the clan and to have been stealing from the Crab. This is a blatant lie, but they still kill him (losing honor for betraying a Scorpion) before the eyes of the Crab, gaining recognition from that clan for dispensing Scorpion justice.

    REWARDS

    • 12 xp (Total: 128)
    • Tadaka: +2 Glory, +4 Honor (defeating Fumoi)
    • Keikenna: -8 honor (for becoming Maho-tsukai), +2 Glory (halved) for slaying the gaijin; gains 4 maho spells (2 Rank 1, 1 Rank 2, 1 Rank 3)
    • Saku: Becomes Acolyte of the Void (direct servant and sensei of the new Master of the Void) – Status 5; becomes Isawa; -6 honor for betraying the Scorpion (Mizuru)
    • Atari: gains the ability to pretend to be Shosuro Kikashi (Do’s body); -6 honor for betraying the Scorpion (Mizuru)
    • Unmei: +3 honor for “accepting responsibility for a superior’s shameful action” (Kage)
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