Latest Entries »

Scrying Notes, Isawa Korimi – Continued

 

Tatsumaki drew his sword after Iwemara left.

After Toshinobu left, Iwemara did her very best to heal Sonia, unskilled though she was and managed to somehow stabilise her condition, but she was still unconscious.

Toshinobu entered the inner sanctum to find Maho scrolls on fire in one corner, screaming at being burned. The egg is was in anothher corner undamaged, the lamp in the fire is also undamaged, even though it was sitting in the middle of the burning, screaming and wailing Maho scrolls.   He saws Tatsumaki with two katana out, and Himaru facing off with him, both in full defensive stances staring at each other.

 

“What’s going on here?”

 

 

“Tatsumaki picked up the artefact the investigator was trying to destroy. He went into a trance and I knocked it out of his hand, to which he responded “You dare to strike me?” Himaru reported “And he appears to be trying to find an opening to get through my armour.”  Tatsumaki remained silent.  Toshinobu believed this report as it was the same report Iwemara gave him.

 

“You hit me unprovoked, you scumbag false Crab. For that you shall face my steel” Tatsumaki hissed.

 

“His story matches what your Kitsuki clan mate reported when she came and got me.” Toshinobu said, taking a centre stance.

 

Iwemara, now Utaku Sonia was stable, looked to go outside and find some assistance.

 

Himaru waited for Tatsumaki to act, as did Toshinobu. Tatsumaki launched himself at Himaru and missed, his second attack hitting him in a full all out crazed attack severely wounding him.  Himaru tried to hit him back and missed.  Toshinobu attacked Tatsumaki, hit him and knocked him out.

 

“He insulted my honour and my clan to my face, but I am a warrior. What are your commands?” Himaru says to Toshinobu

 

“If this was the work of the egg, and not the Dragon himself, he may deserve a chance.  I will defer to you.”

 

“I knocked it out of his hand and he turned on me.” Himaru coughed up some blood, and wiped it off on his armour absent mindedly.  “I do not know if the act of knocking the egg from his hands or the new sword he carries gave him that edge of devilish aggression.”

“I’m no expert on any of these things” Toshinobu said, deferring to Himaru

“I would rather have someone more knowledgeable look into them.” Himaru said.

“I’m inclined to allow him to regain his honour with the three cuts” Toshinobu said

“I bow to your magnanimous generosity” Said Himaru nodding.

“I appreciate it’s a stain on our honour how he was beaten, but we must be careful it does not escalate and engulf far more of Empire than it should” Toshinobu said looking towards the egg.

“If we place the egg in the box, it doesn’t seem to have as much effect.  The fire doesn’t appear to be damaging the lamp either.  We could place that in there too to cut off any influence it has until they can be looked over by shugenja.” Himaru suggested.  “I recommend the Kuni as part of the investigation into them.”

“I have no objection to that, the Kuni are more versed in corrupted magics then the Seppun.  I would like one of my own to report to the Empress as well.”

“If your shugenja went to the kuni shop…” Himaru suggested.

“Yes.”

“I’ll get the box,” Himaru sayed.  He didn’t touch the egg at all, but placed the box over it, and closed the lid so that it scooped the egg inside.

“Who is head of the Dragon in the city?” Toshinobu asked

“I’ve no idea.”

“We will ask the Kitsuki who it is and I will summon him.”

Himaru wrapped the sword up in some rags and placed it in his saya, picked up the box and slung the unconscious Tatsumaki over his shoulder.

“With your leave General, can we burn this place as we are leaving? No evidence should be left.”

“I have no objection. But we will get the Phoenix. They should answer for their clan members.”

“General, may I request guards be set up so no other Maho Tsukai get in?”

“Of course.”

“Let’s see the Kitsuki then.”

 

 

While Toshinobu and Himaru dealt with Tatsumaki and the ‘evil’ objects, Iwemara left the shop to find help.  She ran into the Kuni and some of Toshinobu’s guards, and they returned with her to the shop as Toshinobu and Himaru emerged from the inner sanctum, Tatsumaki slung over Himaru’s shoulder, box under the other arm.

 

“You didn’t touch the egg did you?” she asked as she saw them.

“It is safe.” Himaru said.

“You didn’t touch it?” She asked more sharply.

“No.”

“Good.”

“Who is the Head of the Dragon in the city?” Toshinobu asked her.

“Mirumoto Joben-sama. Toshinobu-sama” She replied promptly.

Toshinobu snapped out orders to the guards Iwemara brought. “I want Mirumoto Joben, I want the Phoenix representative. I want my shugenja, I want Kuni O Yasu….Ah you are already here,” he said as he noticed the Kuni’s presence once guards began to leave to carry out his orders.

O Yasu thanked the group for their good work, and noticed the box under Himaru’s arm, and with complete respect asked “May I ask what is in the box?”

“Maho artefacts in that need to be destroyed” Himaru told him.

“When my Seppun shugenja arrive, I would like you both to look over the Maho artefacts and identify them before they are destroyed.” Toshinobu told O Yasu. “I want to send a report back to the Empress herself. Corruption is rife in the colonies, and this is something that needs actioning immediately.”  He then ordered one of the guards to put the banner of The VII Imperial Legion in the shop window.

 

It took about half an hour for the Dragon representative to appear, during which time Kuni O Yasu healed Himaru and Utaku Sonia, though Tatsumaki was left in his unconscious state, and bled over Himaru’s armour from minor wounds he had taken in the fight with the oni. Himaru didn’t seem to care much about this however.  The guardsman sent to the Dragon Embassy didn’t appear, nor did the Seppun shugenja. The Dragon representative that did appear Iwemara recognised instantly.  The others saw a Togashi Monk, and had no idea of who it was. She saw Togashi Noburo, Togashi Satsu’s son.  Iwemara bowed very low as he entered.

He strolled up to them, and nodded to Iwemara in greeting. “Seppun Toshinobu-san, It is good to meet you.  I had heard reports of you being in the city.  I have heard of your battles and victories.”  Toshinobu nodded, still no idea who he was talking to. “I am sorry to report that Joben is not available, nor are your Seppun shugenja available. They are currently indisposed.”

“Why?” Toshinobu asked sharply.

“Shibatsu requested their immediate assistance.  Can I help you?”

“We have a traitor to the Empire that is wearing your clans colours.”

“Indeed.” He says, glancing in Himaru and Tatsumaki’s direction. “That is a very interesting box you have there, samurai.” He said.  Himaru prevaricated, and Toshinobu turned the conversation back to the ‘erring’ Dragon. Noboru turned to Toshinobu “Tatsumaki-san will be dealt with appropriately.”

“We know of an appropriate punishment” Toshinobu said, indicating his wakizashi.

 

“Oh and you have the authority to order such?” Noburu said sternly

“Considering I answer only to the Emerald Champion and our beloved Empress…”

“I am Togashi Noburu-san, Satsu is my father and is Voice of the Empress.  Consider carefully before you take the route you espouse.” Noburo warned, in a disapproving tone.

“I am here on the Empress’s business” Toshinobu said, holding his ground.

“I know. I still don’t see how you have jurisdiction over a member of the Dragon clan” Noboru says.

“If we send a petition to the Empress, we will see which arrives quicker.” Toshibnobu replied.

“I don’t need to send letters” Noboru said, inferring a link with his powerful parent.

“We will see” Toshinobyu said, temporising.  Noburo nodded shortly and turned to Iwemara.

“Iwemara-san what is in the box?  These two are being quite reticent.”

“That will require a great deal of research.”  She described the egg, the lamp and the sword that were recovered, as well as the recent events that led to him being summoned. “He did manage to kill an Oni with it however.”  She concluded, mitigating the rest of Tatsumaki’s actions.

 

“Indeed.  May I see the sword?” Noburo asks Himaru

Himaru defers to Toshinobu-sama, bowing to him “I am under Toshinobu-sama’s jurisdiction.”

Togashi Noburo sighed and turns to Toshinobu “May I see the sword?”

“Later perhaps.”

“You let hubris and pride get in way of knowledge.”

“You might have a look at it later.”

Noboru went silent.

“It might not have to be this way” Toshinobu says.

“No indeed,” Noburo says, “Making direct orders to one of the Dragon clan to make the three cuts is not wise.”

“No, I requested clan Daimio to be present and witness it.” Toshinobu says

“You do not summon Mirumoto Joben, but very well.  I shall take Tatsumaki to the Temple District where he will be under direct supervision.”

“You will be given a report on the findings of the shugenja on the artefacts that were found.” Toshinobu says

“I know Kuni O Yasu well, we get on quite famously, I am sure he will inform me on what is discovered.” Noburo said, nodding.

“You are dismissed.” Toshinobu said to Noburo. Iwemara’s eyes widened at Toshinobu’s behaviour.  Noburu ignored the dismissal and turned to Iwemara

“Iwemara you may finish the investigation as you see fit, apologies for the presence of such… interesting… people, I will no doubt see you in embassy later.”  Iwemara nodded and bowed deeply to Noburo, who nodded briefly, and picked up Tatsumaki as if he weighed no more than a feather before leaving.

After Noburo left, Himaru approached Kuni O Yasu.  “O Yasu -san, is there a way to reverse a Maho spell that ages one to kill the intended target?”

“I am sorry, no. Maho Tsukai speak with the Kansen who are elements of destruction as much as the kami are of creation, and I have no knowledge of a way to reverse the effects of Maho.”  He paused briefly “A Master of Water may, know of something, but at my level I cannot think of anything.”

“Oh well. I was still young, I will come to terms with it” the Kuni nodded, and asked to examine the items in the box.  Himaru flipped the box open, then hesitated. Kuni O Yasu looked at the items without touching them.

“Hmm…that’s interesting” He said as his eyes roved over the egg and lamp.  “I may need to take the items back to the shop for further testing.”

“I will retire and stay with you. So the box is protected.” Himaru said.

“I’m afraid my accommodation is not large enough or appropriate.” O Yasu said apologetically.  “I do know of a sake house with an impressive Crab lady who would allow you to stay there in full accommodation.” he offered.

“I’m used to sleeping in the wild and on crevices on the Wall” Himaru said stoically giving the impression it was how he preferred things.

“Considering what we faced, and what spreads from one of the items, I would feel uncomfortable leaving them un-guarded.”

“As would I.” Iwemara chips in.

 

“I do have assistance noble Hida san.  I will commune with fellow Kuni shugenja.” O Yasu says

“And I will stand guard.” Himaru said, not giving an inch. “My duty to defend against the darkness does not stop.”

“Let me prepare accommodation for the Kuni and your arrival then my friend.”

“Thankyou.” Himaru said

“You are lying, Kuni-san.” Iwemara said suddenly, having assessed his words and sincerity as he spoke with Himaru.

“Excuse me Kitsuki-san?”

“You are lying.”

“I beg to differ.” He counters.

“I would take Iwemara’s word over yours” Himru said.

“You would take her word over one of your clan?” O Yasu asked belligerently.

“O Yasu-san.  This is a Kitsuki investigator who has been trained to identify lying.” Himaru explained as if to a small child.  “She identified the Maho Tsukai through deceit, she turned in her Dragon companion. She says you are lying, what is it you said that is untrue?”

“I was merely concerned that the Dragon would know the location of such items, I believe they should be locked away.” The kuni said.

“I know you are very friendly with the son of Togashi Satsu, so why should you be concerned?” Himaru asked.

Toshinobu who had been observing the exchange and making up his own mind on the Kuni, who had been caught lying for a second time by Iwemara spoke up.  “I do not believe we need your expertise.  We have asked the Phoenix to come, they will know what to do. You are dismissed.” He said regally.  Kuni O Yasu with no other choice, nodded and walked away.

 

When after a further half hour of waiting around has passed with no Phoenix representative showing up, Hida Himaru spoke, voicing something he had had on his mind.

“Toshinobu-sama.”

“Yes Himaru-san?”

“If even a trusted shugenja who has dedicated his life to fight against the shadowlands can and apparently was corrupted simply by observation, I have no comprehension on how these can be safely investigated or done anything with.”

“If they can corrupt from just looking they cannot be investigated.” Toshinobu agreed.

“If you wish I can walk into the wilderness and bury them.” Himaru offered

“But if it is that strong it can take you and you won’t have anyone to stop it.” Toshinobu sayid.

“It seems like no one is immune.” Himaru agreed, glancing briefly at Iwemara who appeared to have been so briefly affected when she picked up the egg in its silk.

“What you are saying is not a bad idea however, with a little modification.” Toshinobu said.  “What if it was just us three?”

 

“The Kitsuki Invstigator can sense things, she knew not to touch from the start. You speak for the Empress, if we were all to go and bury them, it would be much safer.”

They mull the plan over before Toshinobu eventually vetoes it. “I’m going to move the Legion out of the city. Between the four of us there are things going on beyond politics, and action needs to be taken, I don’t feel that can be done with my army in the city, I need to have it ready if we need the resources.”

“I believe the true governess needs to be liberated from the Mantis,” Iwemara said, chipping in.

“Where? This should be looked into.” Toshinobu said sharply.

“I have heard she is under Yoritomo Hiromi’s …care… at Kalani’s Landing.”

Toshinobu offered Iwemara and Himaru the chance to join his legion, to avoid the politics of the clans, and to work together.  “I understand that this means you may potentially need to discard you clan loyalties.” He said.

“I would have to consult Togashi Naburo and Joben-sama, but I would be interested in joining. Iwemara said, looking thoughtful

“Of course.”

 

– Join him… I would advise that you walk his path….-Fudo told Iwemara.

Toshinobu offered Sonia command of the heavy cavalry.  A battle maiden in charge would massively improve their discipline and effectiveness.  He offered command of the heavy infantry to Himaru, as most suitable. To Iwemara he offered command of the scouts if her superiors allowed her to join his legion.  Iwmara headed off to court to find Mirumoto Joben.

Toshinobu gathered his army, deciding to take the box and other dangerous artefacts with them and that he would later decide what to do with them, especially the box with the egg.  Himaru took charge of them, having the most experience with artfacts of the ‘shadowlands’.  He took his nondescript travelling pack, and buried the box and lamp deep within, wrapped in rags to indicate itwas not valuable if anyone should go through his pack, and underneath other items to hide them.  The sword Tatsumaki used to slay the Oni, is also heavily wrapped, and he kept in his saya.  He would hold onto them until they were removed or destroyed.  As Toshinobu approached his legionnaires, he could see that the majority were there; his high command and shugenja were all missing however.  He recognised it as a ploy by Shibatsu to weaken him.

As Iwmara walked into the Imperial District she noticed more and more Spider around.  There were loads, absolutely loads.  The closer she got to the governors estate the more there were.  They were crawling around estate and on guard duty.  She could see fresh heads on pikes.  She didn’t recognise any of them, but some looked well groomed, some looked like they had been through serious battles.  She managed to maintain a bland, neutral couldn’t care less face over the horror and revulsion she felt.

 

Authors note:  She must have been an excellent courtier to have been able to pull that off.  The sight was truly horrific

 

As she entered the court, there were a lot of Spider eyeing her. Many wore black obsidian amour. They looked like they were a hard as nails.  Court was very busy.  There were lots of courters, and a new figure in court, which explained Joben’s absence, and why Noburo had to come to Toshiobu’s call when summoned.  He stood there next to Iweko Shibatsu, completely assured, and she recognised him instantly as Daigotsu Kanpeki.  They were both heavily guarded by the obsidian clad Spider. Shibatsu was chatting with clan members, and laughing like nothing was happening.  Iwemara noticed that other people look afraid.  When she found Joben among the crowds, his eyes were fixed on Kanpeki, hand wavering on his Daisho, ready to go at him at a moment’s notice. He heard her greeting, and nodded, but his gaze did not waver.

 

“Iwemara, I am busy. If you need to talk then you can do. Please be aware I will not be able to give you my full attention.”

“Of course Joben-sama, your duties are more important.”

“I have no idea why he is here, there was no warning” he said, his tone on edge.

“Understood.”  Iwemara gave Joben-sama the gist of why she was in court and seeking him out in a concise, polite way, and asked his permission to join the legion and why she thught it would be a good idea. “As an assist to one who has the ear of the Divine Empress.”

“Intriguing.”

She mentioned the items of suspected Shadowlands manufacture that should not be in the city with so many Spider to him as well. “Toshinobu-sama takes them withhim.”

There was a screechy laugh, and she glanced over to see Isawa Koiso surrounded by Phoenix shugenja and bushi.  Koiso was laughing at something Shibatsu had said, and Shibatsu glanced her way and smiled.  The courtiers that surrounded Shibatsu whispered amongst themselves, smiled and sniggered at Koiso. She giggled among her Phoenix associates.

At this point a Bayushi courtier walked up to Shibatsu, who welcomed him with open arms. “Ah my friend!  Tama-san how are you!”  The Spider guards parted for the Bayushi to close the distance between himself and Shibatsu.

“I’m fine thanks, may I discuss a matter of business with you?”

“Of course, come closer.”

Bayushi Tama moved closer to Shibatsu until he was within arms reach, then drew his Katana and tried to kill him with a powerful and deadly slash.

Soshi Mai looked horrified.  Nirav shouted loudly, “Stop him!” and drew hisown Bayushi blade.  Shibatsu, not a coward any more like he was against Tsudoken, nimbly leapt out of the way.  The Katana got stuck in the Governors Throne.  Kanpeki walked over to the Bayushi picked him up by his arms, and casually broke his arms, and smashed him to the ground.  The court went into a frenzy, fights breaking out throughout.

Joben looked at her.  “Go, get out of the city, do what you can for the Dragon. Take care of yourself Iwemara san.”

“Take care of yourself Joben-sama.”

Joben drew his katana and wakizashi, and plunged into the fray towards Daigotsu Kanpeki.  Iwemara picked up her skirts and ran.  As she ran out of the Ivory court, leaving the sound of a raging battle behind her, she noticed Soshuro Nirav, who gave her a little respectful nod.  She made a beeline for the Dragon embassy, informed them of what was taking place, and that Joben had given her permission to join Toshinobu’s legion as an advisor.  She briefly informs one of the Kitsuki of the outcome of the investigation she was conducting, and that they should inform the Gaijin raja his people were dead, and why, and what had been done to combat it.  She then headed to her room, collected all her possessions, her money and the precious twin sister blades Yozo bequeathed to her on his retirement.  Then she found the hidden tunnel and made her exit from the city.

 

 

 

 

If you /really/ enjoyed this and want to contribute more (amazing person that you are) buy me a Ko.Fi (I’m VERY British and actually I drink tea ;) ). at:  https://ko-fi.com/K3K58V5G

Advertisements

Scrying Notes, Isawa Korimi – Continued

 

Iwemara walked up to her and requestedd information in a respectful manner.

“Ah a Kitsuki Investigator” Hayana said in an almost dreamy voice.

“Have some investigation scrolls that may be of interest to you.”

Iwemara gracefully declines these and began explaining about the missing Gaijin.  When asked about the disappearances Hayana was nonchalant. “I dismissed the gaijin. They were lazy and did poor work for me.  You can’ really expect better though.  Filthy gaijin that they are.”

Iwemara and Toshinobu both saw that behind her kind veneer and lovely appearance, and appearing to be nice and helpful, she was lying through her teeth. Iwemara looked at the Seppun general.  “She’s lying. “

“Would you like to try this again? this time with the truth.” Toshinobu said sternly.

“I do not appreciate you intimidating my charge” The Shiba said, his voice icy cold.

“If we are you will know.” Toshinobu said dismissively.

“I think you are, please leave.”

“Do you knowwho you are talking to?” Toshinobu asked.  “The charge of lying to directly to a representitve of the Empress can be dropped, but the Kitsuki is on a very important investigation. If you charge tries again, this time with the truth, we can leave peacefully.” He said directly to the yojimbo.   Tatsumaki hoveredd behind Iwemara hands over his swords, letting the Yojimbo know that he would defend her.

Hayana patted her yojimbo on the shoulder – “No, no relax, let’s diffuse this as much as possible.  I will be happy to answer questions, just allow me to lock up my store.”

“No, I was not born yesterday” Toshinobu said “When asked, you did not give truth, Give it now.”

“I will be quite happy to give conversation here, just allow me to lock up my wares, I’m sure you don’t mind that.”  Hayana repeated.

Hida Himaru walked around, and blocked her path. “You will stand there and you will answer questions to the Imperial representitve” The Shiba yojimbo as not happy at this, but Hida Himaru’s look –effectively try me and you die – stopped him.  Tatsumaki was thinking the same thing.The Shiba was not intimidated by Himaru, despite his tone of voice however.

“Very well let the servants make us some tea.”

“I will not drink your tea” Himau said

Toshinobu took charge again “This has gone beyond that, confess your crimes now and we can end this.”

At this the four or five young scholars, got up simultaneously. One pressed down on a button which unlocked a sliding door. “Now now samurai. The door is over there I suggest you walk away” Hayana said with evil smile.

 

Himaru unlimbered his tetsubo. A student ran through the false wall.  Iwemara used Fudo’s powers of Hatred and Envy to protect and aid her and chases after the girl, drawing her katana as she ran.

 

Tatsumaki, Himaru, Sonia – who had joined with  them just outside the shop – and Toshinobu faced off against Hayana and her students. One of the students bared her arm to Hayana, who slashed it deeply.  She cast a spell on someone, the group thought it might be defensive, and Hayana was surrounded by a red-black aura of darkness.

 

Tatsumaki attacked her, slashing her with his katana and injuring her badly, but whatever magic Hayana just cast, caused most of the damage to be transferred to someone else. Utaku Sonia grunted in pain as she took most of the damage, andwas almost killed by it. Despite her injury, she and Toshinobu attacked the Yojimbo, who was injured sufficiently that he wouldn’t be a threat to the party.  Toshinobu took some damage from that skirmish. Himaru killed a student who was trying to look threatening.

 

In response Hayana slashed the other arm of the student who willingly offered it, almost to the bone.  She cast a spell that encased Tatsumaki in stone where he stood.  Toshinobu attacked another student, killing them, and Himaru took on the yojimbo, who despite his injuries was still doing his job.  Himaru wasn’t impressed, and finished him off.  Sonia, understandably pissed off that the Blood Speaker was using her to soak the damage she was being dealt, attacked her, slashing her in the face and nearly killing herself in the process.  She collapsed unconscious to the ground with a huge wound to the face herself, but whatever the spell was, this attack appeared to have broken it and the strange defensive aura disappeared.

 

Desperate now, Hayana worked a major spell, screeching incantations, and almost cut her student in half, gutting them and allowing the blood to spray everywhere.  The red black aura appeared again and rushed at Hida Himaru.  Another student ran for the inner sanctum.  The spell Hayana cast appeared to age Himaru by over a decade, and he already looked aged for his years.  She looked at him disblievingly when the spell dissipated, as the spell would have killed any other man.  Hida Toshinobu attacked her, injuring her, and Tatsumaki, who finally managed to free himself from his earth encasement while she was casting the death spell finished her off, cutting her in half with his swords.  The one remaining student was cowering in a corner. Toshinobu knocked them out when they tried to run, so that they could be appropriately dealt with at a later date.  Tatsumaki and Himaru followed in the direction Iwemara and the two students went as there was a strange noise and a lot of shaking coming from that direction.  Toshinobu remained with Sonia to look after her, barely in better condition than she was, and to keep an eye on the unconscious Maho student.

 

While all this was happening, Iwemara ran into the tunnel leading to the inner sanctum.  It felt strange, and like a very long run going deeper and deeper into the ground.  Her ears popped from a pressure change and it felt like time was acting strangely too. She ran into a darkly lit room. She could see the missing gaijin men arranged in a circle, bound to chairs or other items of furniture, for the most part gagged, except for those who had had their tongues cut out.  Not one of them was unharmed, all were bleeding and badly injured. There were also three magic items in a circle, a sword that she thought might be an awakened nemuranai, an ornate box, that when she looked closer at was something Fudo wanted – He identified that it contained the Egg of Pan-Ku and the final item was a battered old lamp with faded inscriptions.  There were many, many Maho scrolls on the recessed shelves.

 

 

Iwemara found that some form of Maho ritual was ready to go.  The gaijin were deaf and bleeding, tied up with missing body parts.  The blood speaker she chased was standing in the middle of the circle praying loudly.  Iwemara attacked her, and injured the blood speaker.  She did some void shenanigans using Fudo’s powers stealing the void the blood speaker tried to use for her own use and managed after a tussle to knock the student out, but not before the ritual had been begun. Behind her she heard a sound, and turned from the unconscious blood speaker to find another of the students behind her. She spun around at their mad laughter to see the student plunge a knife into the heart of the nearest Gaijin, killing him instantly and completing the ritual begun by her comrade.  Iwemara stopped and watched in horror as the student started transforming into a hideous black scaly thing with wings.  It looked like a very painful transformation, but the students face suggested she was in the throes of something else much better.  Iwemara suddenly realised the ground beneath her feet, was moving, and twisting and wobbling in a very unstable manner, she realised that was a bad sign and dashed for the edge of the circle she was almost in the middle of.

 

Himaru and Tatsumaki arrived then hard on the heels of the student.  Himaru assisted Iwemara to the safety of firm ground, offering his hands, which she grabbed. She was so light and he was so strong, he almost picked her up like he would a doll, and placed her next to him. Tatsumaki, very interested in the artefacts, picked up the sword, assuming that whatever it was there for, it was probably for the blood speakers to use against the creature being summoned from the pit that was opening, if it got out of their control, especially since the artefacts seemed to be resistant to the pull of whatever magic was creating the pit.

 

Himaru recognised that the pit opening was opening directly to Jigoku, and that it was summoning something too, and suggested, from prior experience that the group retire away from the pit, preferably into another room until it was safe, as there would be a lot of goo and nasty putridity coming through with whatever was summoned.  He offered jade powder to Iwemara to put on her sword, as it was the only thing that would damage a creature from Jigoku.  She gratefully accepted it.  The gaijin were already mostly dead, but as a huge oni ripped the pit open wider, it dragged them all in, the living ones still screaming along with both blood speakers.  Before the Oni was able to break through to the surface, Iwemara briefly considered going for the box holding Pan-ku’s egg, but decided it could wait until they had dealt with the Oni.

 

After a short while, a Kami-no-Oni –A  Killing Maw – made it’ lumbering way out of the festering pit.  It was a nightmarish looking thing with an enormous mouth of razor teeth and huge muscular arms. It took an effort of will just to not run away from the creature screaming in terror, but Himaru, Tatsumaki and Iwmara were made of stern stuff, they had seen worse, or asbad before, and would handle this creature now.

 

Tatsumaki attacked the oni, slashing it deeply then stabbing it somewhere very sensitive. It stood there bleeding and screaming. He slashed it again. “Finish him” He shouted to Himaru.  Himaru tried to knock the creature over, but it had gotten a very firm footing and he failed, so he slashed it.  Iwemara swiped at it with her tiny katana, but did no damage.

 

 

The Oni tried to claw Tatsumaki, trying to rip him limb from limb, it missed on its first attack, and hit him on a second swipe, gouging at his stomach.  It only managed to scratch him, as Tatsumaki had his armour on but Tatsumaki looked peeved, and attacked it.  He hit it, the nemuranai sword glowed red with magic, and the Oni was hacked in half. It started bubbling and turning to a slimy black ichor which seeped into floorboards and into the ground. Everyone realised that a shugenja would be needed to purify the area.  Tatsumaki made a victory roar.

Iwemara congratulated Tatsumaki and then went to examine the box with the egg in.  Hida Himaru went and piled up the Maho scrolls in a corner and began burning them. Tatsumaki went over to help him.  Himaru threw the strange lamp in with the scrolls to burn it.  Tatsumaki examined it briefly, then said “Yes my Crab friend, burn it.”

 

Iwemara opened the box.  It was a beautifully crafted onyx black chest with intricate markings, and lots of imagery dating very far back into the dawn of the empire.  The lock was extravagant but a single click opened it. Inside was padded with the very finest of silks.  It smelt beautiful.  She saw a beautifully proportioned object that looked a bit like an egg, with gold red and black markings in intricate patterns.  It looked like it was worth many thousands of Koku.

 

Iwemara realised suddenly that the voice of Fudo in her head had gone very quiet.  Silent even, but that she still had her powers.  Iwemara tried to smash the egg, her thought process being that Fudo’s heart was egg shaped, and he had said if it was destroyed, he would be killed, she assumed that smashing Pan-Ku’s egg would do the same.  So not touching it directly – she gathered it up in the silk, she tried to swing it and smash it on the floor… and got told “NO!” by a voice in her head, which she thought initially was Fudo, and paused in her actions before the egg was smashed.  Himaru noticed her actions, and hesitation.

 

-What do you want me to do?- She asked

The voice that replied was soft and smooth-Why so rash young Kitsuki……My gifts are quite spectacular….much better than that fat Monks…..-

“What’s going on?” Himaru asked her.

“I need to examine this a bit more before it is destroyed.”

 

He came over.  Iwemara tried to smash it again, realising the voice was not in fact Fudo, but the mad dragon himself.  As she attempted to smash it, she hit it on the side of the box.  It looked like it had not been damaged in the slightest, and it bounced out of the improvised sling, and rolled across the floor, ending up next to Tatsumaki.  He turned around to pick the egg up.

“Don’t pick it up its dangerous!” Iwemara called out…too late. Tatsumaki picked it up and a look passed across his face as Pan-Ku started talking to him.

 

Fudo’s voice returned to Iwemara’s head…..

-He has the egg!!!!!!!!!!!! The vessel of Pan-Ku himself….-

-What did you want me to do with it?  You went so quiet.- Iwemara asked.

 

 

Himaru tried to disarm Tatsumaki, who didn’t seem to want to let go of the egg now he had it.  He managed it, and the egg rolled away into the corner, still completely undamaged.

“Why did you pick it up when the investigator told you not to?” Himaru asked

-We cannot co-exist so close together….-Fudo told Iwemara-Your friends mind is gone I suggest you get some help…-

“You dare to strike me, Crab? You will pay!” Tatsumaki responded before they both went into defensive stances.  Iwemara slipped quietly from the room while they were having their show down to warn Toshinobu of the danger.

“I say again, why did you pick up the artefact, and why is your mind now befuddled?” Hida Himaru asked, seeing the egg as a corrupting force both from what he had seen – it looked like even Iwemara was swayed briefly by its corrupting power when she tried the first time to smash it, and from her words, which had not yet led the group wrong on this investigation.

“I was already picking it up, when Iweamra said not to.”

“You could have decided to stop when she said it though.”

“Stand down and relax your stance.”

“You stand down yours.”

 

It took Iwemara a minute to make her way out of the sanctum and back into the shop.

“Toshinobu sama, there’s a problem, an Oni was summoned by the blood speakers. It’s been dealt with, but there’s a Shadowlands artefact that seems to have taken the mind of Tatsumaki after he touched it.  Himaru is trying to stop him going crazy. Uh…orders?”

“I don’t want to leave Sonia alone, but I can try to diffuse the situation if you stay.”

“I will stay with her.” Iwemara said, moving to stand near the unconscious woman.

 

Toshinobu nodded and hobbled off on his peg leg into the inner sanctum.

 

Scrying Notes, Isawa Korimi – Continued

 

Iwemara and Tatsumaki returned to Modokai’s temple the next morning. Tatsumaki was effectively acting as Iwemara’s Yoriki for the day.  It was still closed, though they could hear strange noises within, shuffling and scuffling and scratching noises.

 

Iwemara got a puzzled from Tatsumaki.  “That sounds like animal.”

Iwemara nodded, and stepped forward to knock on the door. There was no answer, so she opened it any way.  Inside wasn’t very dark thanks to the holes in the roof.  They could see on the floor a tattoed monk, old, dirty, and naked, making scratches on the floor.  Iwemara and Tatsumaki recognised the rings of Fudo among scratching of lions, hawks, unicorns and bamboo.  He ignored them when they entered the shack.

 

-Troubling-Fudo said in her head -This man’s mind is not of solid foundation.  I do not sense the dragons influence however…-

 

On examination, the entire shack was very minimalistic.  All there was were a sleeping bag and a locked box with the five symbols of Fudo on it.  Iwemara went to look at the box.  The monk stood, finally noticing them and spoke to Iwemara saying “Never eat the rice balls after dark, they make you see all sorts of lovely colours…”

 

-MY HANDS!!!!!!!!!  HE HAS MY HANDS!!!!!!!!!!! – Fudo shrieked in her head as she got a good look at the box.

 

The monk put his head to one side and looked Iwemara up and down. “Thank you for the advice.” She said politely.

“What do you hear?  Does he talk to you?  He talks to me.” The monk said

 

– I don’t. He is not of my flock….-

 

Iwemara gives him a strange look. The unstable monk pointed to Tatsumaki “And you, why so nervous, you should be right at home lord of bamboo.”

 

-DO NOT LEAVE WITHOUT MY HANDS!!!!!!!!- Fudo ordered her.

-Don’t worry I won’t- 

Iwemara moved so she could get closer to the box.  He stood in the way.  “May I look at what is in the box?” She asked.

 

“When the sun rises in the west, sets in the north, it’s warm in the south and returns from the east you may look in the box” He said in a resonant, booming voice as if he was addressing a congregation.

 

Tatsumaki began scuffing out the marks on floor. He walked around Modokai, partly so he could distract the monk from Iwemara so she could access the box but mostly because he hated the blasphemy that was the Fudo rings in a temple of the Isezumi.  Modokai pointed at Tatsumaki “Desist in your heretical actions!”

“You are the heretic here desecrating this temple.”

“This is my temple.  Do not desecrate my teachings and my beautiful beautiful markings.”

 

Iwemara had been quietly moving around the other side of Modokai while he was shouting at Tatsumaki so that she could get closer to the box. “The man is clearly mad Tatsumaki.” She said over her shoulder.

“Are they not beautiful?” Modokai said turning to Iwemara “I feel one or two of them are with you at this point in time.”  Iwemara gave him anther odd look and then he noticed Tatsumaki scuffing out another mark and the shouting at Tatsumaki resumed. “I demand you desist!  I will eject you from this premises.”

“The temple should be purified,” Tatsumaki told him, disgust clear in his tone.

“The temple should be purified.” Iwemara agreed “and he should be with one of the healers.”  Tatsumaki scuffed more marks on the floor, distracting the man, so Iwemara could look at the box.  Tatsumaki brazenly scuffed them out with his feet deliberately, looking at Modokai’s reaction with each one.  It was very petty, and meant to annoy the man.  Iwemara, now at the box, tried to open it.  It was locked.  She hesitated for a long time, fighting against the knowledge that to break the lock and take the hands was a greatly dishonourable thing to do.

-do not resist me…-  Fudo forced her will, and she drew her katana to break the lock. Two massive hands lay there. They were an odd colour, not flesh.  Cut off at the wrist and a greeny blue colour, they did not look human.  They were big too, probably twice as large as the largest Crab samurai’s hands she had ever seen.  Iwemara decided that since they didn’t resemble flesh they weren’t unclean, but still promised herself a bath afterwards.

-what areyou?- She asked

-I am Fudo… now I will ask you nicely..pick them up…there are bigger things at stake then honour…-

-Fine-She didn’t sound happy, but she complied, picking them up and putting them in her bag.  She shut the box.  As she walked through the door to leave, the mad monk Modokai, patted her on the head and he giggled before he went back to his drawings.  Tatsumaki saw that she had taken something, though not what, and tried not to let on to Modokai that he’d seen something happening over his shoulder.

 

Iwemara walked out as if nothing untoward or dishonourable had occurred.  “Lets get out of here, he’s obviously no use in this investigation.”  She nodded to Tatsumaki in gratitude for the distraction he provided.

 

“So are we any closer to finding the missing men?” He asked

 

“No. But that evidence will be useful to me.”

 

“What is it?”

 

-Don’t tell him anything….-

This proved to be a massive moral dilemma to Iwemara. She’d already taken a massive hit to her honour for theft, even if her will had been forced by a higher being. She refused to add lying to it too. She was quiet briefly, considering her answer.  “Just some evidence that may be useful in one of my investigations.” She said, being suitably vague. “Let’s check out the calligraphy shop.”  They headed over to the Merchant District.

 

*****

 

In the Merchant District Toshinobu was examining his map while sipping at some sake. Hida Himaru was there too, drinking a bit more heavily. The Hida was looking nonchalant or at least trying to act nonchalant, but he was staring really intently at everyone like a very poor spy. He saw Toshinobu sitting there and scruitinised him, while trying to appear like he wasn’t. The Hida didn’t recognise Toshinobu despite his reputation, but saw that everyone treated him quite deferentially.   Himaru resembled a walking spiky tank, with a huge tetsubo and large axe over his back and daisho at his waist.  Both saw the Mantis Storm Legion, who Toshinobu recognised, even if the Hida didn’t. They only followed the orders of the Clan Champion, and when they died their armour went in Kaimetsu Uo’s tomb.

 

*****

 

Also in the Merchant District, Iwemara was trying to find the scroll shop.  She came across the storm legionnaires first.

 

The young man they were following around talked to a trader as Iwemara watched; the presence of the storm legion intimidating the trader and he pretty much gave his wares away to the young man, who looked a bit bemused.

 

Intrigued at the apparent importance of the boy, when as far as she knew the clan champion was Yoritomo Hiromi, she approached and asked one of the stern looking Storm legionnaires. As she approached he said “Please stand aside and do not get in our way.”  She asked what was so important about the young man when he was not the clan champion, as she knew they only defended and took orders from the clan champion. “He is the clan champion.” She was told. She was surprised.  “Are you a Mantis to know such things?” He replied.

“No, but I was under the impression that Yoritmo Hiromi was clan champion for the Mantis.

“He is not the true champion.” The man said.

“I apologise for being mistaken then,” She said, bowing to the legionnaire and continuing on their path.

“These Mantis are weird” Tatsumaki said.  Iwemara nodded in agreement.

 

*****

 

Toshinobu was looking over a map figuring out troop dispositions on the veranda when he observed the Crab, not so subtly staring at him. He walked over and they got talking in a fairly amiable way, with plenty of sake, ordered by Himaru. Himaru was in his early 20’s, but had very strained eyes. Toshinobu saw two young Dragon, a tiny Kitsuki and tall lanky Mirumto bushi who was shadowing her like a bodyguard examining a piece of paper and looking around as he walked over to the Hida.  Toshinobu discovered his name was Himaru. He asked Himaru what he was doing in the city.

 

“The Crab sent me here to perform the cleanup of remainders of old legions of the lost and dammned.  There are rumours of their presence, and so I was sent to clean up the mess, so it doesn’t stain the Crab’s honour.  I have just finished my work and arrived back in the city.  There is something wrong here, it feels unclean. I can’t put finger on it, but I am looking.”

 

They began to discuss the situation in the city, as Toshinobu, too was uneasy.  They talked of the curfew and the punishments meted out and the heads now lining the entrance to the governor;s estate.  Toshinobu, mentioned he would like to find out who the Kuni was that Shibatsu had summoned to perform the ritual so that they would be preserved for seven days. The Hida heard a rumour about that, and shard his knowledge.  “Kuni O Yasu did the ritual on the heads.”

“I find it a barbaric, and very strange. I had thought that there was some semblance of Rokugani etiquette in the Second City.” Toshinobu replied.

Iwemara overheard this snatch of conversation.  It caught her attention and she walked over, Tatsumaki following.  Himaru stared at them trying not to be conspicuous.

Iwemara greeted Toshinobu-sama most respectfully having easily recognised him. The Hida turned, waveed to someone, and someone came out with more sake for them.

“I couldn’t help but overhear you talking about Kuni O Yasu.” Iwemara said, getting straight to the point after the pleasantries had been completed.

“He did the cleansing of the heads.  That is all I know of him, I would very much like to learn more.”

“I only returned yesterday.” Himaru said indicating he did not know of O-Yasu either.

Iwemara explained what she is investigating

“A Kuni weapon shop?” Toshinobu asked intrigued. “What is your interest in the Kuni and your missing natives? And what is going on?”

Iwemara explained her mission, and asked for the Hida’s name after introducing herself and Tatsumaki, even though she already knew Toshinobu-sama’s.

“Hida Himaru, I am just one of the many.” He told her gruffly.

“It is an honour to meet you Himaru-san”

She said politely. The name rang a bell in iwemara’s head. She had heard of him in certain circles and of his nickname being ‘The Exterminator’. He was part of an elite team sent to destroy Maho Tsukai temples and hunt down anything shadowlands related. Of his squad, he was the only survivor.  The squad had not been re filled due to the Daigotsu situation.  He was young when he started on this path and had spent the past 8 years killing shadowlands creatures.  He was a little bit infamous, in that normally he toed he line, but when he went for something, he went for it full throttle, not caring about anything but getting the job done.  She also knew that he was fine with the Spider as he was of the Dragon unless they showed any signs of turning.  Then he executed Dragon mandate for them. He hunted down all evil and had very clear lines of white and black, good and evil.  Iwemara bragged a little bit about killing the Dark Naga, and that if they were in the city long enough they would hear of it. ”The Dark Naga was here?” Himaru asked, looking at her with respect.

She nodded.

 

“No wonder place looks like shit.” Himaru said.

Iwemara suggested checking out the Kuni together, even though they were heading for the Isawa’s shop

Toshinobu wanted to know where the Kuni stood on the necessity of the ritual and the necessity of displaying the heads in the first place. He wanted to know why Shibatsu thought the purification ceremony and display was necessary but it was a delicate matter where he had to tread carefully so as to not insult the Imperial heir.

“I would be interested in learning that too,” Himaru said.

Tatsumaki had no idea what they were on about, but Iwemara had heard of the rumours, she nodded and suggested they go together.

“If you will wait a few moments, Himaru-san and I must discuss things, we will accompany you.” Toshiobu said.

Iwemara nodded acceptance.  “Of course Toshinobu-sama”

 

Seppun Toshinobu talked to Himaru – He was worried about the excess of Spider influence at court. There were far too many for his liking, and he suspected that the example that Shibatsu set with the heads was their idea, rather than Shibatsu’s.  The heads being on display was a major dishonour and done in name of the Imperial family.  Toshinobu would not have that stain on it, but he had to be sure before he acted out of turn.  As it stood it would be helpful if Himaru could accompany him, it would be better to have a Crab for this investigation, for the sake of unity.

“To cleanse the honour of the Imperial Family I will happily accompany you, I have completed my mission  and have received no other orders as yet.” Himaru said, bowing. They return to the waiting Dragon, and thanked them for their patience.

 

The party headed to Kuni O Yasu’s shop in the Merchant District. It was a half finished weapons shop, and he was in there, looking over weapons stock.  He saw them enter and greeted them warmly “Welcome, please check out my wares, I’m free to help you with your purchases.  Then he went back to looking at his stock, nodding to attendants pointing out little defects and things that need improvement.

 

Toshinobu spoke – “Kuni O Yasu-san.”

“Yes my lord, what brings your presence to grace our noble city?”

“There are a lot of events which you are privy to.  For your own sake I ask if you are willing to speak in private regarding the details of ritual performed on Shibatsu’s behalf.”

He looked at the group. “Is it necessary?”

“Yes.”

“Very well, please excuse me friends,” He took Toshnobu aside.

“So Imperial general, what do you want to know? Do you think I feel guilty?”

“Tell me the events, tell me your…feelings on the matter, your…” he paused “just tell me how this ritual came about, who ordered you to do it and the full extent of your involvement, any observations you have had regarding the intentions of such a display – positive or not and tell it true.”

“With all due respect my friend, what would you have me say? That I feel disgraceful on behalf of Imperial family, that I am concerned that I was woken in middle of night to perform such an odd task at Shibatsu’s request? You can tell I wasn’t particularly pleased.”

“I am glad to see you didn’t do this gleefully and had reservations.”

“My gut is still rolling after committing such acts. But who am I to question authority of an Imperial heir?”

“Rightly so, see to your own honour, I was only asking if you had. My companions seek you on another matter, I hope you will be as helpful to them as me.”

“Am I free to go after speaking with them?”

“Yes.”

 

Iwemara explained her investigation to him. The Kuni gave descriptions of the men, and told her that “No I’m just as clueless as you, they were supposed to arrive four or five days ago to construct more of my building which was left unfinished.  Gaijin. What can you expect.  I don’t know.”

Iwemara saw he was holding out on something “What are you holding out on O Yasu-san?”

“I don’t know what talking about.”

“I can tell you are omittingsomething.”

“My business is my own.”

“Not right now it isn’t.  Answer the Kitsukis’ questions.” Toshiobu said bluntly.

“Very well.” He paused “Very well but I have the honour of my family to consider.  Being asked by commoner to do such…I am currently investigating the disappearances as well.  I have heard disturbing reports of screaming coming from the scholarly section of the Merchant District in the dark of night and rumours of gaijin disappearing over a period of time.  I have not pinned down the location but am getting there.  You have to understand, any corruption, it is responsibility of the Kuni family to root it out.”

“Of course, and I have an idea where the source of these disappearances might be.” Iwemara told him.

“Himaru can corroborate that we prevent corruption in the Empire and its colonies. With so many other influences in the city, there are hardly any I can trust, and fewer that would help unravel the disappearance of a few filty gaijin.”

“I have some more avenues of investigation, if there is any sign of corruption, than we will call on your assistance.” Iwemara told him

Hida said to the Kuni “Your duty is done, my watch begins.”

“Thank you”

“This is my duty, the execution is mine.” Himaru said.

Authors note:  It had the sound of ritual words between the two, but I’m not quite sure.

The Kuni showed them the group of shops he had pinned it down to.  There were about 20 of them, the calligrapher’s shop Iwemara was interested in was smack in the middle.  Himaru asked for the  Kuni’s blessing on the mission.  He was happy to give it to all of them.  The party went to the scroll shop, as Iwemara flagged it as the best place to start given the missing workmen were working on it among the the other sites when they disappeared.  There was some construction going on there.

 

They entered and saw a fair few Phoenix shugenja just past their gempukku, and a rather pale tall Phoenix lady, presumably Isawa Hayana. Beside her was an old veteran Shiba just coming up to retirement who was obviously her yojimbo as he stood there looking stern.  There were scars on his hands and head, and he looked almost emotionless.  She had large eyes and wwas reading intently.

Using he first look, Iwemara saw that she seemed like a normal level headed lady…but could tell she had a rather poignant desire for knowledge in all its forms…she worshipped Isawa and had a painting of him on the wall and every now and then shot glances at it and stared at it as if mesmerised…

Scrying Notes, Isawa Korimi, Imperial Archivist

 

 

There were a lot of Mantis bushi in one side street that Iwemara and Tatsumaki passed as they followed after Sonia.  They were standing in a street with an interesting young man, about fifteen to sixteen years old, gaijin and Rokugani heritage mixed in his features, and the Mantis appeared to be revering all he said, and following him wherever he moved.  There was the bug eyed old man with the boy, sitting near him cross legged.  The boy carried some veryinteresting Kama, very extravagant, vicious looking weapons, with the Mantis mon all over them.

 

 

Iwemara and Tatsumaki passed the Mantis by, and found themselves in a very slummy looking area of the Ivory District when they got to the area the men they were investigating the disappearance of lived. The men they can saw were all in bad shape, looked like they had been travelling for some time, were ill or injured as if they had been fighting and their wounds were bandaged.  Iwemara made note this as Mala Singh hadn’t mentioned fighting anyone.  The accommodation was still very basic – the tents in poor condition.  When the men noticed Iwemara and Tatsumaki’s approach they looked quite scared of her, possibly because Tatsumaki was shadowing her in a threatening body guard sort of way.  They acted very subserviently, the ones in beds going tight lipped and quiet. It was left to one of the hand maidens who were tending to their wounds to point Iwemara and Tatsumaki in the direction of the specific tent they were looking for.  Looking at one of the injured warriors, who she tried to speak to with her school skill, she could tell that the man was warrior caste, as he was treated with respect. He was prideful; and distressed at the state he was in now.  He was very fearful, of the surrounding area and in general.  She could tell that despite his fear, he was very loyal to the cause of what his people were doing.

 

Entering the tent the missing men lived in they discovered it was large enough to accommodate nine to ten adults, and was filled with spicy smells.  Iwemara could tell that for builders, they were quite well off, and had plenty of tools etc. There were dusty outlines of tools that had been taken off shelves or racks to do a construction job.  The beds were made.  Between the dust and other clues, Iwemara thought they had been gone about 4 days, and left in a hurry.  She found three order papers for clients that they were doing work for in one chest.  She examined them.  It looked like they were trying to do all three jobs simultaneously, working all the hours they could to complete them all.  The clients were all Rokugani.

 

One was a weapons shop in the Merchant District for a Crab called Kuni O Yasu, including blueprints etc, The second was for repairs to a Temple in the Temple District ordered by Hitomi Modokai. Iwemara wasn’t familiar with him, and hadn’t seen him around the embassy. The third work order was for a scroll and calligraphy shop in the Merchant District, owned by a woman called Isawa Hayana.  The plans for this shop were detailed, intricate and had a strong feel of gaijin inspiration.

 

Iwemara was debating investigating one of the customers in the Merchant District, when Tatsumaki reminded her of the curfew and mentioned the time.  They didn’t have enough time to go to the Merchant District, but did to have a quick look at the temple of Hitomi Modokai on the way back to the Embassy.

 

As they passed back through the Ivory District, they passed back past the young half gaijin man with the intricate Kama.  The Yoritomo appeared to be setting up some form of a camp in the Ivory District. The old bug eyed man had an arm around the young half gaijin man, and was whispering in his ear, slapping him on the back and telling him jokes.  Yet again, this intrigued Iwemara, but she had duties to perform, and little time to perform them in, so continued back to the Temple District to the temple of Modokai. She overheard gossip as she passed through the districts. “What’s going on…they will destroy the economy…complete disgrace….’ Etc.

 

 

They got directions to Modokai’s temple when they got into the Temple district. Neither Iwemara, nor Tatsumaki being familiar with it.  It was on the outskirts, near to where Dark Naga broke through.  The temple was in a terrible state.  It was more of a dilapidated, run down shack than a temple. The wood was going rotten, there were holes in the roof. A little gardening had been done, but very little work had been done on the place.  It had a door on, but it didn’t look open to the public, not that many of the public if any would have come to this temple given its state and the much better cared for and tended temples elsewhere in the district.  Iwemara and Tatsumaki noted the interesting patterns on the walls of the shack.  They reminded them both strongly of patterns adorning Isezumi in the Dragon clan.  The place looked truly terrible, and neither of them could comprehend why an Isezumi would associate with such a place when there were other perfectly good temples around.  The place was falling apart and would be better being raised to the ground, and re-built from scratch, and properly, something Tatsumaki voices.  Their time before the curfew coming into effect almost up, they both returned to the embassy.

 

Tatsumaki had a bath. He felt like he’d been soiled being so close to a temple then retired for the night.

 

Iwemara met with her fellow Kitsuki (there were only the five of them in the city) and suggested to one of them who had strong medicinal and judicial skills that that they spend some time with the Natives, teaching them Rokugani laws and likely punishments.  She also suggested that learning the antidotes and symptoms of native plants illnesses and poisons may become very useful to the Kitsuki in the future.  The Kitsuki were all very reserved, and standoffish on the matter. One of them was concerned that the Rokugani as a whole were associating themselves with them so much given all the problems and the relationship between the rokugani and the natives.  All of them called them Gaijin scum.  They wanted to sit back and investigate them and observe them and “God knows what the Mantis are doing, there are more flooding into Ivory District by the second”.

 

Iwemara mentioned what she saw there. Kitsuki Hanbei. (next in line rank wise to Iwemara in the city) and Iwemara had an argument on the treatment of the native children.  He was of a mind that Kemuri was completely in the right, Iwemara stood by her stance of it was wrong to kill a child, and they could not learn if they were not alive. She agreed that the children must be punished for their theft, but stood by her thought that death was too harsh – to which Hanbei’s response was “if you string them up, then they would be an example for the rest to learn from.”  He didn’t think that the natives should have been permitted into the city and didn’t think that the Dragon should associate with them at all, to which Iwemara quite tartly replied that it was not her decision it was Joben-sama’s for the clan to associate with them, and Iweko Shibatsu’s and the majority of Clan heads to let them into the city.  If he wished to dispute this decision with any of themhe was welcome to.  They had been ordered not to antagonise them, and so they the Kitsuki would not. Justice would be served, and they would learn about Rokugan laws and punishments and that if hewould not teach them,shewould.  This pretty much shut Hanbei up.

 

The next day reports came into the embassy of arrests in night from those not taking curfew seriously.  The punishment of beheading had been summarily meted out and was thought by all to be more than a bit harsh.  No clan was spared and there were now a row of heads on spikes lining the way to the Ivory Court to serve as a warning that the curfew wouldbe obeyed.

 

*****

 

Seppun Toshinobu, an old man, with a face like a dried river bed and a peg leg received the same reports from where his legion (the 8th Imperial) sent from Rokugan and billeted in the Merchant District only the day before by Shibatsu-sama, decided to attend court, concerned about them. He saw no less than 30 heads on spikes lining the entrance to the court, and already there were shugenja on their knees at the feet of the spikes, praying for the Fortunes forgiveness for the dead or for themselves, or both. Court was full of tearful, angry and frightened people, there was a lot of gossip being exchanged.  Shibatsu was protected by a literal wall of bodyguards, both Seppun and Spider (mostly the latter).  He seemed quite happy and comfortable where he was sat, His personal advisor Kudo stood beside him, and Doji Hakuseki in full Ivory Champion armour sat on the throne of the Ivory Champion beside him.  She looked thoroughly disgusted, but hid it (badly) behind a veneer of doing her duty, something that did her no harm in the eyes of the court, and possibly a little good.

 

Toshinobu requested a private audience with Shibatsu, as Kudo, knowing him very well from his reputation alone, let him pass the barrier of guards to speak to him.  Shibatsu agreed quite amiably, but brought along a group of Spider guards to an inner room of the palace. The guards were encased in black armour, had absolutely no flesh showing and smelt awful.  To a normal Rokugani samurai they would be terrifying, Toshinobu looked them over once, then proceeded to ignore them.

 

Shibatsu greeted Toshinobu warmly, “How are you and your men settling in?” etc.

 

Toshinobu thanked him for the accommodation that had been provided, but said they would have been happy to camp outside, they don’t want to be a burden on a city already stretched for resources.

 

Shibatsu told him that they needed more troops in city. Toshinobu repeated that he didsn’t want to strain the city’s resources.  Shibatsu said that he would have orders from Iweko-sama soon, and would let him know as soon as he got them.  Toshinobu told him that was fine.  He said “I am curious as to how long the heads will be left outside the estate” – getting to the true point of his meeting.

 

“Seven days” Shibatsu replied diffidently

 

“They will get quite ripe in this weather.”

 

“I have already had a Kuni shugejnja come to place a spell on them so that they remain visible for the seven days.” Shiatsu said.

 

“You seem to have that in hand then.” Toshinobu said,

 

“Anything else?”

 

“No. “

 

“I was just wondering why you asked.”

 

“I just want to make sure etiquette standards aren’t slipping. It could be very costly to the appearance of the Imperial families.”

 

“I am very much aware of that and agree in practice, but for you to think I haven’t considered that is interesting to say the least.”

 

“I just wanted to make sure that the benefit to morale from such an obvious display must be weighted up against hygiene considerations, that’s all, but as you say, a Kuni has already been brought in, you know what you are doing.” Toshinobu said, backing off from the topic.

 

“Very good. Return to your Legion Toshinobu-san.” Shibatsu said, dismissing him.

 

Toshiobu remained in court for a brief time, but soon returned to the Merchant District where his legion was stationed.  Making sure he was not followed, he decided to send a fast courier reporting events to Empress Iweko, his ally and superior, after which, he decided he needed a drink, and headed to a sake house where he pulled out a map and began to look over it to examine his troop dispositions.

Scrying Notes, Isawa Korimi – Continued

 

Tatsumaki drew his blade at that pronouncement and stepped in front of Iwemara, guarding her.  Iwemara took a defensive posture too, drawing her sword once more. As they got into the fray, the ground started getting very dark, almost as if something was casting a shadow. Tatsumaki looked up, but there is nothing there.

 

-Fine I could have shielded the blows from your companions…and whisked you away to safety but if you wish to spurn my gifts for my weaker brother’s that is your choice….-the dark voice told Kemuri

 

-HES HERE!!!! Pan KU is HERE!!!-Iwemara heard Fudo scream in her head.

-Shit. What do I do?-

Fudo’s voice modulated to confusion and something else is here….another dragon…-

Can you tell which?-

-Your friend is being possessed it seems the monk is on the path to madness-

-Damn. Can you tell what the other dragon is?-

-No…he’s very tricky….constantly changing….and moving…like air but not really any more…. but something else…-

 

Kemuri attacked Iwemara all out, and missed her as she dodged away.  Sonia turned to Kemuri, having noticed what none of the others had seen; The shadow on the ground was dragon shaped, and the clouds above were starting to form a similar shape… “ I feel I should defend my families honour, but I have noticed something that suggests we should move away from the area quickly, I advise you all to come with me” She said before turning and riding away towards where the men they were there to investigate lived.

 

-Should I do as she suggests? Or should I kill this madman?-Iwemara asked.

-Kill him with extreme prejudice…he will be fallen-Fudo told her.

 

Kanto cast a spell on Kemuri then he started speaking.  “My brother you must follow the path you’ve been following all your life.  Come back and meditate with me.” He placed his hands on Kemuri’s forehead.  Kanto began to hear two rumbling voices in Kemuri’s head…One was hissing and quite seductive saying that his gifts could give him wealth and riches if he destroyed the heart of his nemesis in Iwemara’s travel bag…the other was dark and strong and suggested that instead he should swear fealty to him instead and choose the path of walking through walls and get the gifts of invisibility and ultimate power…

 

After a few moments they stopped as they realised Kanto was there…The seductive voice echoed… -Kanto……greetings…why do you follow this social order that made your love of your wife seem like dirt in societies eyes?….Join me and you can follow any lifestyle you choose with my protection…I have many followers that would love to meet you…-The other voice echoed,-He is not the true darkness…I AM!!!!!!!!!-

 

“I lived my life with my wife happily until she died, now I live to die, but I will help people until I die. I won’t sell my soul to darkness.”

 

– YOU WILL FALL AND SUFFER BEYOND YOUR PETTY COMPREHENSION!!!!!!! LEAVE HIM! HE IS NOTHING!!!-The darker voice screamed

 

Kanto was visibly shaken by something he hears, and screamed back “Scream all you will, you may break my mind, but my soul remains with the Kami!”

Iwemara looked at Tatsumaki “I think they’ve both gone mad” She said.

 

“I think we should follow Sonia” He replies.

 

As his spell took effect and cleansed Kemuri of the madness and his greed.  The slithery voice stated -I will keep my eye on you my young koku eyed friend.. Farewell for now…-
The darker voice stated -…HOW DARE YOU SHRUG OFF MY OFFER!!! YOU WILL BE REMOVED FROM EXISTANCE! BE READY. YOU WILL NEED ALL THE BLESSING YOU CAN MUSTER!!-

Kanto passed out, and slid to the ground.  Kemuri bent over to Kanto to check him as he became aware of his companion’s illness.  He was not happy, but was no longer in a murderous rage. Kemuri picked Kanto up and took him home back towards the city.

 

Tatsumaki picked Iwemara up  as she lunged forward again but she struggled.  He carried her after Sonia much as Kemuri picked Kanto up and took him back towards the city.   “He’s mad he needs to die!” Iwemara shouted as she was pulled away from Kemuri.

“That makes you sound mad.” Tatsumaki said patiently.

-You are on the true path…-

-I will kill him…at some point. But I can’t make myself look like Iam under Pan Ku’s influence. Next time I will not be stopped.-

Ok that is fine…this is your path…-

 

“Right. Fine. Ok.” Iwemara said in a surly voice, and stopped struggling. Tatsumaki let her go and she stomped off after Sonia.  The shadows dissipated.

 

Authors note – from what I just witnessed, it appears more than one celestial dragon was working it’s whiles in the city in this era.  The suggestions of being able give someone the power to become invisible and walk through walls strongly suggests the influence of the Celestial Shadow Dragon…

 

The Letters of Kitsuki Iwemara

 

…The natives are settling in well.  I attended Ivory court today after a lengthy absence researching the Fudo Cult.  The more I study it, the more it interests me.  I promise, I willtell you why soon, I know that you will be sceptical.  A Miya herald was announced and she presented a note with the Imperial seal.  Shibatsu-sama read it, and then immediately ordered that the herald be taken away for questioning…then he announced a curfew for all samurai class members because “The Attack of the Naga was the reason why the madness was spread’ and wouldn’t change  in effect in the city. The hubris has made samurai lazy and not committed to their duties.”  He would not change his mind, even when petitioned…The Mantis then accused the Crane of re-starting the old conflict; They’ve lost contact with Koshin Keep, and of course the Crane denied this.  It devolved into an argument, and Court was concluded to separate the disputing parties, who had their respective allies weigh in on either side.

 

One of the natives came to the embassy requesting an audience with Joben-sama, and requested the aid of the Dragon in locating several of his people.  He was rich and offered to ‘make it worth our while’ so Joben-sama sent me and the rest of the group that went to the Fudo Temple to investigate, Utaku Sonia decided to join us. When we entered the Ivory District, we were robbed by several children.  Sonia noticed (to my shame I did not, I was busy taking in the strange and enticing sights, sounds and smells of the native culture).  She alerted us, and I caught the one that had stolen from me.  Kemuri killed the child that had taken his koku with a single punch.  I do not dispute that the children needed punishing for the thievery, but death is an ultimate punishment that is a little too far.  If it had been an adult I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid, but we are in a delicate situation, have been ordered not to get into conflict with the natives, and he went muchtoo far.  He wasn’t even repentant about it.  He seemed to be proudof what he had done.  I was disgusted, as was Utaku Sonia, and then he went further and insulted the natives, calling them scum. He was acting like a common heimin, and I lost all of the little respect I had for the man. I admit I lost my temper and struck him. It seemed to unhinge him, and he threatened to break my neck.  Tatsumaki-san, to his credit, brought me to my senses after my disgraceful loss of face, and defended me when Kemuri attacked me after I saw sense and desisted.

Kanto and Sonia meanwhile discovered that the natives are short of food supplies, and this is why the children had stolen from us  It is not excusable and I will be discussing the matter with Mala Singh, the theft must be punished, and the natives MUST learn our laws to prevent another occurrence like this. I am under no illusions that any other samurai will be as lenient as I was this day.  They are more likely to be offered the same treatment Kemuri gave them.  Sonia noticed a threat to our party while Kemuri and I fought.  She suggested we leave the area and left.  Whatever madness that had taken Kemuri, Kanto tried to heal, and it knocked him out.  Kemuri didn’t look happy, and took him back to the city as Tatsumaki pulled me away after Sonia. We found the Natives home and there were several lads to follow, I took the evidence needed, and we returned to the Temple District, as that irritating curfew was rapidly approaching.  In the morning we investigated what appeared to be a mad Isezumi Monk by the name of Hitomi Modokai but found no leads relating to that investigation.  We then went headed towards one of the other leads, a scroll and calligraphy shop in the Merchant District, but bumped into Seppun Toshinobu-sama, and the Hida Himaru. They were discussing one of our other leads, so we joined forces and went there first.  It turns out the Kuni we went to see had also been investigating the disappearances of natives, though it took a little poking to get him to reveal that.  We go now to investigate the Calligraphy shop, as it is right in the middle of the area the Kuni has narrowed down as the likely source of the disappearance of the natives…

Scrying Notes, Isawa Korimi, Imperial Archivist

 

I think about 2 weeks have passed since the Battle of the Black Serpent and the arrival of the Ivindra to the second city in this viewing, I’m not sure.  It could be a little more. The Ivindra section of city has been measured out, and partly laid out, though little building work had commenced, and most of the natives still lived in tents.  They had basic accommodations and were adapting the area to their needs and requirements.  They were already starting work on rebuilding the Second City and the Great Clans had already begun to commission them to rebuild at cheaper rates than the samurai artisans could, but they can only do the commissioned work when Shibatsu said they could so they could travel through the Districts with the proper travel papers.

 

Iwemara attended Ivory court.  She had found the references she was looking for in the library on Fudo and his time in the priesthood.  There was very little information, but enough to piece together that his statement about once being a man was truthful.  Mala Singh and the Guru were the only natives who were permitted in the court.  Things had gotten quite interesting with the gaijin around, and the city was slowly getting on its feet.

 

About mid-morning on the day I am scrying – I have correlated this event with the records.  It was indeed approximately two weeks after the arrival of the Ivindra – a Miya herald was announced, a Messenger of the Empress with a missive for Shibatsu.  He steped forward and the herald handed to Shibatsu a note with the Imperial seal.

 

He read it, got to the end, sighed and tore it in two, demanding that the Second City guards take the herald away for questioning. It sent the court into uproar. The herald was as confused as everyone else, but allowed herself to be led off by one of the guard.

 

Shibatsu announced some changes almost as soon as the herald was out of the room.  The attack of the Naga was the reason why madness was spread and in effect in the city according to his announcement and the hubris had made samurai lazy and not committed to their duties.  He declared that he was putting into legislation a curfew for all samurai class individuals from 10pm onwards. Anyone who was not a Second City guardsman who was caught out on the streets would be brought in for questioning.  The Crane and Scorpion immediately petitioned for the legislation to not be put into effect and were met by a blank stare and a cold shrug.

 

The Mantis claimed that the Crane had started their old conflict with them again.  The Mantis declared that they had lost contact with one of their strongholds, Koshin Keep.  They had had no word in days, had sent scouts, who also hadn’t reported back. The Crane denied the accusations. The Spider supported the Crane, the Crab supported the Mantis, and it looked like the whole conflict would be starting up again.

 

Authors note:  Records indicate Koshin Keep was destroyed by an advance party of Yodotai at about this period in time.

 

Iwemara approached Shibatsu to speak with him, but was intercepted by one of the Spider Courtiers.

 

“Who are you?”

 

“I am Kitsuki Iwemara.  I want to speak with him and ask him of Empress.”

 

“I am Daigotsu Kudo, advisor of the Governor and son of Iweko the First. He is not able to speak to you, he is busy.  The city is in ruins, The Naga escaped into the forest. This is hardly the time for frivolous talk of the Empress.” Kudo told her sternly.

 

“Very well, have it your way.” Iwemara said curtly.  She nodded her head, not bowing deeply to him at all and turned away.  Kudo grunted at her incivility.

 

Tamori Kanto was approached by Mala Singh.  “I have a small entourage of herbalists that I have made sure will be at your disposal.  I understand you are able to improve weapons with potions?  Could you potentially share this knowledge with your gaijin brothers? I find that aspect of your skills very appealing.  In the past, previous maharajas have been resistant to magic.  I realise that our survival is crucial to adaption to the ways of our new rulers, and I would quite like to figure out how to do it.”

 

“I am not sure how it would transfer to people, I make the potions with the blessings of the Kami.”

 

“Kami? Please explain.”

 

Tamori Kanto and Mala Singh had a basic theological discussion on the kami and how Rokugani magic worked.

 

“I could possibly create a small Dragon shugenja training school for your people.” Kanto conceded.  “If you are willing to understand and follow the kami and, try to understand how it works, I could set up a shugenja school as an enhancement to the herbalist shop. I cannot promise anything will come of it. It all depends on whether the kami are willing to bless those who follow me. I can’t guarantee anything.”

 

“So when do Vishnu and Shiva enter the equation?” Mala asked half way through the discussion about the kami and how magic works for the Rokugani.

 

“I’m not very familiar with the Ivory Kingdoms, but from what I’ve heard, the Celestial Heavens cover everything and there are different realms where different beings belong.  Considering the number of realms we know of, it’s possible your gods go to a different realm that we have not learned to communicate with in our homeland and you talk to different beings.”

 

“Intriguing.”

 

“Your world is different.”

 

“We will have your shop constructed in the next fortnight, and will take into account your request for small side room for training.”

 

“It will be good to have small temple in the Merchant District for those without time to get to Temple District.” Kasnto said.  Singh nodded. But even after all the destruction he said that space was tightly constrained, and that may not be possible.

 

Utaku Sonia had been staying at the Dragon embassy with Ide Shen acting as a diplomat to the Dragon. She had been treated well and with respect and they were now on good terms.

 

Iwemara had been searching out and speaking with other sympathetic persons to Fudo.  They wanted to build a secret temple to Fudo.  She did not know of a suitable site and asked that they suggest one, but offered to fund its construction, and provide it with the scrolls she and Tatsumaki took from the other temple.

 

Kemuri asked Kanto to show him the spell he gave Tatsumaki.  He wanted to practice with it.  Kanto gave him two bottles, explained about putting things down, and then picking them up again with the spell active, would damage if not destroy them, and other tips for what to do while the magic was in effect.

 

One of the Ivory Kingdoms natives paid a visit to the Dragon Embassy.  He said his name was Rakesh.  The guards announced that he requested an audience with Mirumoto Joben.  Joben allowed him in.  Rakesh was plump, with a very interesting native outfit, covered with lots of jewels and made from rich silks. It was better quality even than Kemuri wore, and Iwemara knew that was the finest quality materials available that he was wearing.  Rakesh requested the aid of the Dragon Clan.

 

 

When Joben asked the nature of the aid he requested, Rakesh proceded to explain about how recently some of his people had been contracted to work on repairs in the city, but they had been missing for 3 days now and he was concerned for them.  They did not return to camp or to the place they had been employed to repair. The missing men went to the merchant district and had been commissioned by Hiruma Kiada, to restore his weapons store the Jade Tetsubo. He had asked the other clans for help and they didn’t seem to be interested. He did however know that the Dragon and Unicorn and those in high position in the Scorpion were receptive to his people, but he was not able to reach Scorpion due to the travel restrictions. He followed that up with the offer of if they did help he would make it worth their while.

 

Iwemara assessed him as he spoke, and informed Joben of her assessment.  He was very merchant based, and did show genuine concern for his charges.  She did get the impression that at any other time, when the populace wasn’t as small he wouldn’t care about their loss.  He was quite concerned to get them back and was getting emotional however.  He was capable of living up to his words of making it worth the Clan’s while she deduced. He had a high integrity, and was not lying to Joben.  The Hiruma that hired his people was paying a higher than going rate wage, so he was confused as to what was going on.

 

Joben asked Tatsumaki, Kanto, Kemuri, and Iwemara to go, Sonia volunteered to accompany them.  Iwemara reassured the man that they would do their best to discover what had happened to his missing people.  The group decided to investigate the living quarters of the men first, and then the work site.

 

As they entered the Ivory district, and as they passed the Guards they were remind about the curfew.  They nodded, accepting the warning.  As they passed into the new district their senses were assailed with strange new smells, enticing scents of the native cuisine.  In two weeks, the natives had been very busy.  The foundations of interesting looking buildings had been laid down, but the area was filled mostly with large ornate tents, marquees and less ornate, more temporary tents. It was very lively with lots of laughter and exotic native music.  The Ivindra seemed to be happy to be there.  Iwemara saw no conservative behaviour at all.   As they walked through the district to get to the living quarters of the missing men, a group of kids brushed past them.

Sonia, riding her horse saw the kids playing around the group. Simultaneously three managed to attempt to slip things from the samurai’s garments.  One patted Kanto on the back and grabbed a bottle from his bandoleer.  Another tried and succeeded to take Kemuri’s money bag.  The third had a golden egg in his hands, that Sonia had never seen before, possibly belonging to Iwemara and the fourth urchin looked confused at not having found anything on Tatsumaki worth stealing.

 

Sonia caught one trying to nick something from her horse’s saddle bags too.  She shouted to her comrades that they had had items stolen from them by the children. Iwemara quickly made a grab for the golden egg the child stole, but the child shielded it from her with their body, so Iwemara grabbed the child instead, so they couldn’t run off.

 

Kanto looked at the children with the items and said in a fairly level voice.  “If you don’t want these samurai to kill you, you probably want to drop what you are holding or run faster.” – not a wise choice of words, it caused the child carrying his potion to nod and run faster.   Kanto was an old man, and while it would have taken little effort to retrieve the stolen item, at the moment it was a bottle, and he could instantly cancel the spell within, so he didn’t bother chasing the child.

 

Kemuri attacked the child nearest to him, furious that he stole all his money.  He swung and missed the child with his first furious swipe, but the second punch connected. It was a powerful hit, and killed the urchin instantly, shattering his spine in several places.  The child dropped to the floor in a lifeless heap. Iwemara was disgusted that he would kill a child, and her face showed it plainly.

 

The child backed away from Sonia when he realised she had noticed him trying to steal from her.  She wanted to find out why they were pilfering from them, and grabbed the one that had had his hands in her saddle bags.  She would deal with Kemuri later.  The rest of the kids splintered in opposite directions, running as fast as they could go.

 

Tatsumaki turned around and saw the child at Kemuris feet. “What happened to the kid?”

 

“I punched him.”

 

“That hard?”

 

“He stole from us why is that even a question?”

 

“You could have made the earth move to knock their feet out from under them” Kanto suggested.

 

“If I had gotten this one down faster, I’d have done that on the other” Kemuri said, defiantly.

 

“You are dishonourable scum!” Sonia declared “There are other ways of dealing with children without resorting to violence. How could you kill a defenceless child?”

 

“Have you considered the fact that they outnumber us here?” Iwemara asked, looking around the district, where attention was beginning to focus on the group.

 

“We shouldn’t have let them in, in the first place, this thievery proves my point.” Kemuri said, in a mulish tone.

 

Iwemara shook her head looking disapproving.  “Shibatsu made the decision, and we do need their help, or would you prefer to see the city fall?”

 

“You are all blind to what’s going on here.  You don’t have to like it but I don’t care.” Kemuri retorts.

 

“If Shibatsu comes looking for the one who broke the alliance, I’ll be happy to point him in your direction.” Iwemara said sternly.

 

“You do that.” He said stubbornly.

 

“You killed Raka! Why did you kill Raka?” The child Iwemara still helds cried

 

“Because you stole from me.” Kemuri told the child, with no pity in his voice.

 

“But you have plenty of money, we wanted to buy bread, we’re starving.” The child saids in a pitiful tone, trying to swing at Kemuri from where Iwemara firmly held him.

 

Kanto spoke to the child then “Do you know who Mala Singh is?”

 

“He is our glorious leader.  We would follow him to hell and back.”

 

“Why do you go without bread?”

 

“We are building some of the buildings to provide food, our shortages are severe. It took almost all the supplies we had to get here.”  The child told him.

 

Kemuri heartlessly looked at the body of the fallen child “Then there’s more food to go around now.”

 

The child begain to struggle fiercely in Iwemara’s arms trying to attack Kemuri, and she struggled to hold him, she was not sure if she wanted to let him have a go at Kemuri, when she dearly wanted to do so herself, all that held her back from letting the child go was that there was already one dead child at his feet.

 

Kanto asked the child Sonia helds to speak to his king and let him know that Tamori Kanto was coming to his herbal shop, and would try to assist with things as well as he could, and then cast a spell. A large bowl of rice appeared, enough to sustain twenty people for a day.  “Take this for now so that those who need it most don’t starve, I can only do enough for about twenty people a day, but I will help all I can. The child took the bowl, a tear running down his cheek and he nodded.  Kemuri looked disgusted that the children had been let go.

“You don’t belong here. I think you are scum” Kemuri stated angrily “The gaijin scum shouldn’t be here.”  Iwemara lost her temper, released the child she was restraining, and swung at Kemuri herself, slashing him with her katana as it drew cleanly with her swing.

 

Tatsumaki tried to grapple her.  He grabbed her from behind held her arms back, “Not now! We can’t afford this madness.” He said, trying to get her to see reason.  Iwemara stopped struggling “You are right Tatsumaki, this scum isn’t worth it. He’s pathetic.”  She put her sword away when he let her go.

 

Kemuri lunged at her to punch her at that comment but failed to hit her as he misjudged the distance.  Sonia drew her Katana and pointed it at him. She demanded an apology and would not accept her family name being slandered. Kemuri, sensibly kept silent.

 

Kanto went up to Kemuri, “Kemuri my friend, the madness is taking you it seems.  You complain about the gaijin coming into the city, yet you are behaving like an upstart rather than a samurai.  Come to your senses, apologise to your fellow samurai. You are still my yojimbo, if this is the last thing you as my yojimbo, do take my advice so we can complete this mission.  Then you can meditate with me so we can see how you came to this position.”

 

“I have never been so sure of something in my life, this madness is everyone else’s.” Kemuri said stolidly.  He began to hear whispers in his head as he spoke the first was light, and caressing, with a seductive feel of power to it, and also curiosity  -…My, aren’t you an interesting one…would you like power and riches beyond your wildest dreams?…Your companion has an egg that bears the heart of my greatest enemy…break it. And you will have all these, and my guidance…-  Kemuri then heard a second voice, deep and malevolent, redolent with power in his head, a lot darker in nature a lot less seductive.  -This fool is no real offerer of power… the true ability…is one of darkness…you can steal everything you like when you can pass through walls or be totally invisible…” –  He started to speak to thin air beside him. “Of course I would. Only a fool would turn that down.  I will do exactly as you ask…right after I break her neck.”

The Thoughts and Whims of The Rani Sita

 

Well well well!  Mala HAS been busy these past few months… I didn’t know so many of our people still lived…It shall be fun to spar with new Kshatriya nobles.  My usual sparring partners are getting SO predictable.  Boring.

 

Mala has heard that the Serpent men have attacked the City, and they have lost many people…this could be the right time to make our move…

 

The Letters of Kitsuki Iwemara

…I was quite surprised today to learn that Ivory court would convene as normal.  I know Shibatsu-sama had been unwell in the night, and Kanto-san spent most of the evening tending to him with shugenja of the other clans, even that an Iuchi shugenja had died in attempting to heal him.  The city is also in a state of complete chaos, there are bodies everywhere and the Eta struggle to cope with the numbers.  I went to court of course, braving the unclean streets.  The court was held in the gardens, since there isn’t much of the estate left standing after what I hear Renyu-sama did, and then what the Dark Naga did.  I tried not to boast of my feat, to the samurai gathered there, yes the feat was one that will probably put my name in the history books, but I did not do it unaided and cannot claim all the credit.  There were many Unicorn of course, quite a few Mantis, of the Moshi family too.  I hear they fought valiantly against the Naga outside the city.  Naleesh-sama approached me, offering to ease the tension that has stood between our clans ever since and I quote ‘the Dragon Champion spurned my offer of love.’ I think she still loves Shikei-sama, but that is just speculation.  The Unicorn show her great reverence, and I feel her actions showed wisdom.  I accepted her offer on behalf of the clan, and so we have played host to Ide Shen, and one of Naleesh-sama’s travelling companions, Utaku Sonia, who looks like she is descended from the people of these lands. Both are good people, and the relations between the Unicorn and Dragon have been less tense as a result. Both clans now work together to defend the temple district from outside incursions, as our numbers were greatly reduced in the recent battles we have fought. I missed the most interesting part of court that day.  A gaijin Guru came with an offer from the native Maharaja Mala Singh, I’ll copy what he said to Shibatsu sama… it was certainly quite a shock to us all.

“I bring great tidings Lord Governor. The Great Mala Singh, last surviving son of the last Maharaja has united his people.  He has brought us here and we are willing to assist you in the rebuilding of this city.  Outside the city are 10,000 Ivindra who were hiding in the west of the Ivory Kingdoms in Dread Skull Pass.  Will you accept our assistance in rebuilding your famous city?  We come in peace.”

Shibatsu sought the opinion of the clans on the offer, and personally asked my opinion on the matter.  Personally I think it will be good for us.  The natives know these lands, and how to survive and exploit them to best benefit.  They know the illnesses that are common, and how to cure them.  Their ways are strange yes, but they are willing to live under our rule.  Giving the natives a few concessions could potentially reap rich rewards for the Empress and Rokugan. I should have gone with one of the embassies, but Joben-sama was going, and he is wise, and does not need my council. He already knew my views and approved my wish to study the writings we retrieved from the Fudo Temple, I have already made a good start on the translations, and want to see where they differ from what is officially recorded in the histories…the Fudo scrolls tell it as if certain prominent figures from history were…affected…by the celestial being that the Fudo cultists so oppose.  There is still an embargo on the whole Fudo cult, which I’m beginning to think may not be wise. From my studies, I can well see that it can sound extremely blasphemous if the samurai chooses to follow a path of dishonour…but it’s the choiceof path that is the crux of the matter…if the samurai chooses the path of honour…it is neither blasphemous nor does it conflict with the Tao or the tenets of Bushido.  I’ll have to tell you more about that another time however, I must do more research…

 

 

The Thoughts and Whims of The Rani Sita

 

 

So the Guru has gone off to make the offer.  I wonder what the famed Ivory Court will make of him?

 

Well! The Guru seems to have made quitethe splash.  A large contingent from the Clans has come to speak with Mala.  I did not expect them so quickly, or I would not have been sparring when they arrived.  I must wash and change quickly.  I think I shall shock them and wear my summer sari…the one that bares so much flesh and has the Daidoji mon on it.  I would have put the mon on my formal robes…they are far more modest, but they are completely the wrong colour in ivory and gold and red!

 

The clans were speaking in different groups when I entered Singh’s tent.  I made myself comfortable and he introduced me to one of the Scorpion.  Shosuro Nirav and his wife Saru.  I’ve not been around the Rokugani long…but I think she might have been Crane before she married…she’s got the right bearing for it.  She seemed to be quite impressed with me.  Is it my sword or my clothes I wonder?  I’m certainly no shrinking violet like most of the Doji maidens seem to be.  They left to talk with other Scorpion and the other clans after a while.

 

The Clans are still divided. This does not surprise me if what the Daidoji guru tells me of their history is anything to go by. Singh has given them our Nation’s flag to fly as a sign that they accept our terms.  Is he madletting such a precious relic of our once proud and powerful nation out of his control?  I shall accompany it and guard it, and retrieve the flag if the answer is no.

 

The crowds gave me so much attention as I passed through the city.  It was a lovely experience, and only right and fitting since I am the first Ivindra princess to set foot in the capital since it was destroyed.  The Guru was still at court and I said hello.  I managed to surprise the Governor Prince with the Mon on my sari!  Ha.

 

 

The Scorpion Nirav gave the governor the gist of the conversation that went on.  Personally I think Singh is selling himself and us short allowing the governor to rule him and our people, but they did agree to our terms…well most of their court did.  The filthy Spider conquerors are worse than the Destroyers and the cult of Rhumal combined and I’m convinced they are the semi feral beast of the Empire kept on a leash only through allowing them bloodshed.  I have heard of others facing them.  They are a hard foe to bring down, but when they fall, they can die just as quickly as any other man.

 

One of them called my people filthy scum!  I could not endure such insult, we are as clean, if not cleaner than they are…and we wear the clothes suitable to the climate, so they do not get sweat stained as quickly as theirs.  Well I couldn’t let such an insult stand.  He acted like it would be nothing to just kill me, because I don’t carry on of those silly knives they call daisho.  It’s just barely practical as a weapon, and fartoo short for my tastes.  However lack of oneapparentlymeans I’m not ‘worthy’ or some such horse muck.  Another man also contested my right to trial by combat. He said it would be wrong for me to stand intheirduelling circle.  Of all the cheek, this was OUR city long before they came and began taking it from us piece by piece.

 

I heard the guru being told that he had dark powers I couldn’t comprehend.  If he’s a Rhumal Cultist I can well believe it, and if that is so he will have to die. No way was I going to back down. Unfortunately I was not able to battle him myself.  One of the People of the Unicorn stepped forward and offered to duel him in my place. It was good of her.  I will have to get to know this Utaku Sonia woman better, she looks like one of our people in any case.  I will have to see what family her line comes from.  The Court was abuzz with talk after that.  I didn’t catch much of it, I am still getting my head around the harsh Rokugani tongue.  The spectator area was crowded for this ‘honour duel’.  Sonia beat him easily, and while he accepted it, he snarled like the beast he is when he stalked off.  I thanked her most graciously.  I may even offer to do her some henna tattoos if she wishes.  I am very good at them, and it will be a great honour for her to receive them from a Princess of the Ivindra.  The Governor Shibatsu had the flag flown afterwards, and so Singh brought our people into the city.  Of course the Gurus made a beeline for the Temple District.  Singh has claimed an area to the side of the …from what I can see of it, utterly destroyed Merchant District.  He has declared that it shall be called the Ivory District.  I like it.  Certainly it’s better than what the Rokugani wanted to call it – the Gajin district.  Such a harsh word Gajin. GA-jin, ga-JIN, G-ajin.  Ivory is much better.

 

 

 

The Letters of Kitsuki Iwemara

 

…I heard that when the delegates to the Ivindra returned they had one of the natives with them, who wore the Daidoji mon.  It went through the city like wildfire, and even reached the library where I was.  I didn’t believe the rumours at first, but later I heard that she had caused quite a stir. One of the Spider was less than tactful, and the native princess…I’m fairly certain that’s what ‘Rani’ stands for…was offended and caused a rather unfortunate scene.  Utaku Sonia stepped in and offered to defend her honour on the duelling field.  Given the delicate nature of the talks of an alliance, this was a very important duel, and so I went to observe.  I have heard that Daigotsu Tenbatsu was a fiersome duellist, but Sonia was quick to strike, and the duel was, thankfully only to the first blood.  I saw the princess standing to one side of the duelling field.  Imperious, with the same strange beauty all the native woman seem to have and scandalouslyclad in almost see through clothing – though they were the correct colours for the Crane – and she did indeed have the Daidoji mon sewn onto the shoulder of the top.  Not long after the duel, what I gather was the Native’s flag for the Ivory Kingdoms was raised, presumably signalling that Shiatsu-sama accepted the terms as the natives quickly moved in to an area beyond the Merchant District and are supposedly calling it the Ivory District.  Gurus quickly made their way to the Temple district, I’ve seen several walking around.  As I understand it, they have offered to help rebuild the city, in return for living in the city, under our rule, a pretty good trade off, though there is probably more to it.  Natives are limited to their area, the merchant district and the temple district, and must have travel papers to travel anywhere else.  We have been ordered to not get into conflict with them. I spoke with their leader at court the today, he was amused that I was so small, covering nervousness with joviality. He has a very high integrity, and the burden of protecting his people weighs heavily on him.

 

I have been sent by my superiors to discover the whereabouts of Otomo Sukihime, the Governess nominated by Empress Iweko-sama, but events and Joben-sama’s orders have side tracked me.  I was quite pleased therefore that an old man the Moshi priestesses showed much respect to, and who I have noticed trying to get Shibatsu-sama’s attention to speak in private for some time instead decided to air what he wanted to say to the entire court.  He shouted that “The true Governess of the Second City exists.  Otomo Sukihimi still lives, held captive in Mantis lands at Kalani’s landing and held by Yoritomo Hiromi.” Yoritomo Hirumi apologised for her brother’s actions.  “His head has not been his own for some time.  I will assist any samurai in securing the true governesses position”.  Of course I volunteered.  I noticed that Shibatsu-sama looked horrified at the announcement and stated that he will send investigators, but followed that up with an announcement that he would look into it as soon as he could. It was as if he didn’t want Sukihime to be rescued from Hiromi.  He is acting quite oddly since his injury…it worries me.  Did the sickness he suffered after Kanto had healed his wound do something to him?…

 

 

The Thoughts and Whims of The Rani Sita

 

 

Singh had the traders and merchants set to work immediately helping to rebuild in parts of the city, while the lower Castes set up the tents for our own temporary accommodation.  We should have seen to our accommodation first then seen to the rest of it, but Singh’s in charge…he seems to know what he is doing…so I will trust his judgement…for now.

 

 

How DARE they?!  How DARE THEY?! Restricting me..ME! A Princess of the Ivindra! A member of the Daidoji, The Great High and Mighty Mala Singh’s cousin from free movement through the city!  Bloody Singh, always forgetting the courtesies.  I’ll have to have a few words with him…and the Daidoji guru too…But I have to wait because Singh is Vishnu-knows where in the Imperial District, and the Daidoji guru is in their city of Twin Forks, and I am not permitted to go to either of them. I think I’m going to go practice my swordsmanship.  Hardev hasn’t had a good thrashing in an age…

Scrying Notes of Isawa Korimi – Continued

 

The Ivindra moved in, deciding to make their ‘Ivory District’ beyond the ruined merchant district.  In the Temple District, which was already mostly comprised of Dragon, lots of gurus started appearing, ten or twelve of them at least wondering where the statues to Vishnu & Shiva were. Tatsumaki didn’t think that that would go down well with less open minded monks and samurai.  Traders moved into the Merchant District and began to help rebuilding. Shibatsu placed strict travel rights on the Ivory Natives initially.  Mala Singh had free reign, and quarters in the governor’s mansion, but the natives were not allowed to move between districts unless they had papers or places they were helping to create.  They were permitted in their own district, the merchant and temple districts only.  Even Sita was under these restrictions. Sita pouted about it for a while, but then swanned around practicing with other Ivory Kingdoms Kshatriya warriors.  The workers were treated as peasants, anyone with ‘breeding’ – the heads of families, or those with influence were given respect however.  The Samurai had been ordered to not get into conflict with the warrior class.

 

The next day court was convened, and Mala Singh was there, Sita is still in the ‘Ivory’ District, practising with some of the other warriors. Iwemara iwas there though, so she saw the old man the Mantis were so reverent of finally lose his temper and demand that Shibatsu take his council in court.

 

There had been rumours before, but he confirmed them, and he shouted at Shibatsu and to the entire court that the true governess existed. Sukehimi still lived, held captive in Mantis lands at Kalani’s landing and held by Yoritomo Hiromi.  Hirumi apologised publicly for her brother’s actions. “His head has not been his own for some time.  I will assist any samurai in securing the true governesses position”. She declared.

 

Shibatsu looked horrified at this but stated he would have to send investigators.  Iwemara volunteered, her boss set her the job in the first place after all, events had just gotten in the way somewhat.  Shibatsu announced that he would look into it as soon as he could. Iwemara got the distinct impression that Shibatsu would put that off for longer than was strictly necessary however. The Nirav volunteered the Scorpion clan to work with the Mantis to retrieve the governess telling them that he could add the ‘Crane’. Add ‘his’ fleet to theirs.

 

In the Temple District, Kanto was approached by two warrior class native men.  They had sought him out, asking for him.  He greeted them with respect, and they spoke to him in Rokugani.  “My friend, I was wondering if we could enter into some sort of partnership.” One of the men said.

“In what way?” Kanto asked.

 

“My clansmen and I are attempting to rebuild the Merchant District.  You are quite a concocter of potions we have heard.”

 

“Yes, I do make potions.”

 

“Obviously we can’t build a site in the Merchant District on our own, but we could save a spot for you if interested.”

 

“The kind of potions I create are an extension of myself. They are not the kind of wares sold as merchandise.”

 

“Can you make other tonics and potions?”

 

“I am versed in medicine and can create those kinds of things, just not potions from my innate talent.”

 

“We can have all the promotion and resources we have made available to you.”

 

“Why?” Kanto asked, curious as towhy they were making such an unexpected – and generous – offer unasked.

 

“The Maharaja took great interest in your potions. Could he sample some of your personal potions every now and again?”

 

“For what purpose?”

 

“In case we need to join forces and ride to war.  We look to the Maharaja’s safety and heard your potions are very good.”

 

I have heard of your gurus and some of ways they work with healing and potions, maybe I could spend some time with your people and learn more of your ways of healing.  A joint venture, and in return if the Maharaja could be found to be needing protection, I’m sure we can make an arrangement.  It may be wise to train in your language however, I have not been here long.” Kanto said, making a decision.

 

“I can teach you” the quieter of the warriors says.

 

“Show me where you are thinking of setting up.” He asked. They took him to the Merchants District and showed him the plot.  It looked very nice, and have probably been a prime street location for a reputable weapon smith, or tea house or other well established building before it had been destroyed.

 

 

Iwemara payed her respects to Mala Singh at court.  Heds been given the rooms of one of the Yojimbo, and was the only Gajin allowed there and allowed to walk freely without papers or restrictions.

He greeted her warmly “I have met many Rokugani today. You are by far the smallest.” He said amiably.

 

Iwemara bowed respectfully a smile tugging at her lips “Size does not matter. It is what is within that counts my lord.”  She observed him with Idhi Maru, and discovered that he was a man of high integrity, but that he suffered a burden, and his mind was heavy with responsibility… he seemed nervous and uncomfortable and was dreading the future…though to a casual observer none of this would have been noticeable.

 

“You seem nervous, my lord”. She says respectfully.

 

“I hate to be rude. But wouldn’t you be?”  She acknowledges in the same situation she would, “You wear green so you must be Dragon.”

 

“Of the Kitsuki family my lord.”

 

“They are an Interesting clan. Introspective. I’m sure the gurus will get on well with them.”

 

“They will have much to discuss on matters of theology.” They got into a discussion of the Dragon Clan in general, and the monks in particular, especially the tattoed orders.

 

Singh asked about after of the Tattoed men. “The one that hangs around with you.”

 

“Tatsumaki?”

 

“The one with money.” The maharajah clarified.

 

“Oh.  Kemuri. I do not understand him.  He craves wealth, even though he is a monk.”

 

“Ask him?” Mala Singh suggested.

 

“In time perhaps I will.” She said smiling.

 

“I am afraid I must leave you little one, I have many duties” Singh said, binging the conversation to a close

 

“Of course my lord,” she bowed, treating him with the respect a Daimyo would receive.

 

After court Iwemara was told by Fudo that Shibatsu was fully consumed by the Celestial Dragon… only a shred of his former self remained… Just enough to pull Shibatsu’s personality off. She knew this wasn’t going to end well, for her, and put her in an incredibly difficult situation. She was going to have to be watchful, but wouldn’t act against him. Not until he did something overt, and even then she knew she would be reluctant since he is…well…was the Empress’s son.  With Pan Ku as the governor of the Second City, Fudo mentioned the possibility that she may need to summon him eventually, and to do so she would need to find other ‘artefacts’ of his, namely his belly, limbs and head in order to do so.  She was more than a bit squeamish over this – understandably so, but he reassured her that they weren’t actualbody parts, and he was a God besides so they would not be ‘unclean’.  She asked what happened to him to separate the ‘parts’ of his body…he agreed that it was strange, but said it was related to his secret of gaining immortality. She eventually agreed to do as asked, she was still not happy she will be collecting body parts of Fudo, but as she still thought of the heart as a metaphor, she assumed the other body parts would be the same.  She thought it would be an interesting quest at the very least.

 

Kitsune Shiro, having great respect for Unmei-sama after he helped her get rid of her need for alcohol …and other things intoxicating requested permission of Lady Hirumi and himself to spend time in the jungles. She missed her home forests, and didn’t think that court was the right place for her.  The city had a corrupting influence on her.  She wanted to work on understanding and making friends and allies among the Ivory Kingdom animal spirits, and she wanted to solidify her relationship with the elephants she summoned to the Battle of the Black Serpent, and learn more about her new skills in being able to become an animal…after a fashion.  This they permitted.

 

 

Mala Singh, had been approached by the Yodatai from the unknown mountains.  They gave him the offer of surrender to be ruled under a Yodatai Empire when they invaded the Ivory Kingdoms. Singh refused, saying he would prefer to die than loose his nation’s culture, just like the Lion did.  He was now hedging his bets on Rokugan and the Second City so he was putting himself in a position where the Samurai had the best chance, but also so that he could have some connection with the old Ivory Kingdoms capital city which was now the Second City.  He was thinking of using his people’s assistance against the Yodotai as a bargaining chip if it worked, so that his people did have something that was their own, in their own lands, but he was holding that back until the Yodotai showed their heads over the horizon, and the samurai of the Second City realised that they couldn’t defeat them alone…. Singh knew that the Yodotai would attack from the west as well as the north when they felt the time was right to invade.  He also knew that the Lion had only fought the Yodotai recently with border skirmishes in the north with both sides testing each other.  He didn’t realise that casualties had been enormous on both sides…but Singh believed that his people would be able to give the Lion some interesting tactical options, especially with their shield techniques. Sita was in his confidence and knew all this, and why he didn’t want the Rokugani to know it…yet… and she supported him.

Scrying Notes of Isawa Korimi, Imperial Archivist.

 

At Court the day after the attack on the Second City.

 

To say Shosuro Nirav was a bit upset to see Ide Shen alive and walking around Ivory Court was something of an understatement given he saw him die only a few weeks previously. But his mask hid his reaction from all. Before he could question him, the Miya herald announced a new person to the court.

 

“A travelling Gaijin. The Guru.” Miya Yunkai announced in sonorous tones. A bald headed Ivory Kingdoms man, with dark skin, entered and sat in the lotus position in the middle of the court.  He spoke to one of the Crane.  “I would like to speak to your lord.”

 

“The Lord of my Clan? Or the Governor?” The Crane asked, confused.

 

The man snapped his fingers “Yes, yes…The governor.”

 

Everyone watched the strange man.  Iwemara was quite intrigued.  She couldn’t read him with her school skills.

Nirav, who had met the Guru before, and recognised him walked up and said hello to the guru.  The guru greeted him, and they spoke for a few minutes.

 

“The Last surviving son of the Last Maharaja has been busy the last few months, I wish to speak to the governor Nirav.”

 

“Ok, let’s get you an audience.” Nirav said respectfully.

 

The crowd seemed to be quite relieved that the situation was being dealt with, and not by themselves personally, and the Guru stepped forward. Shibatsu acknowledged him.

 

“I bring great tidings Lord Governor. The Great Mala Singh, last surviving son of the last Maharaja has united his people.  He has brought us here and we are willing to assist you in the rebuilding of this city.  My Lord Mala Singh has been busy gathering his people.  Outside the city are 10,000 Ivindra who were hiding in the west of the Ivory Kingdoms in Dread Skull Pass.  Will you accept our assistance in rebuilding your famous city?  We come in peace.” The Guru announces to Iweko Shibatsu and the court.

 

The whole court gasped at the announcement.  Shibatsu went an interesting shade, and explained to the Guru that he would have to send mediators to discuss terms with Mala Singh.

Nirav immediately volunteered, he knew these people. Shibatsu asked the opinion of the court to see what views the clans had on the offer and their views on the growth potential of the city with the aid of the natives.  The Mantis and Unicorn thought it’s a great opportunity. Unicorn relations had always been pretty good on the whole when working with the natives, and the Mantis had been working with them for the past three centuries and also respected them.  The Crane were mixed about it, reminding Shibatsu of the Battle of the White Stag where Gajin wrecked Otosan Uchi and murdered the Empress.  The Crab hated the idea, potentially it left the city open to pillage and rape and siege.  The Lion stressed the need to make friends, and suggested that they could be useful for military tactics against ‘other’ foes.  Mirumoto Joben simply stated that “Whatever will be will be” but that it would be interesting to get into theological discussion with their guru’s. The Phoenix were in complete agreement with that.

 

The Crab most unusually ended up siding with the Spider on an issue. Possibly for the first time ever.  Both parties were surprised in that agreement with each other. It showed on the faces of their courtiers.  The Spider said they were brought there to conquer land from the natives and present them to Rokugan. And yet the natives have brought a huge force here 10,000 strong. They strongly believed that it clashed with their role, so they supported the Crab in saying it was a bad idea.

 

Shibatsu sought Iwemara’s opinion too.  She thought that it could potentially be a good move, giving the natives a few concessions, could potentially reap Rokugan and the Empress benefits and rich rewards.

 

Nirav brought up the Spider delegate that denounced the idea of the natives joining the population of the Second City telling him that the order of Venom Spider Clan Monks had defended the native village against the Legion of the Dammned.  The response of the Spider delegate in charge at court was that the Order of Venom were a group set apart from the Spider, and were not under the orders of Daigotsu Kanpeki. Nirav responded that allies that offer help are potentially better than an enemy that smashes the walls down. He adds that if not, the Scorpion Clan should be quite happy to take them off and build a city elsewhere.

 

Shibatsu, based on the majority of the clans being in favour, assembled a diplomatic party to discuss terms with Mala Singh.  He asked for those with dealings with the Gaijin or the Ivory Kingdom Natives to step forward.  The Unicorn step forward to a man, Utaku Sonia was chosen to represent them by Naleesh.  Nirav of course represented Scorpion interests.  Joben asked Kanto and Kemuri to accompany him.  He would have asked Iwemara but she wasn’t within his view at the time he asked, and she’d been looking quite distracted and thoughtful when he had seen her in court.   Over fifty samurai formed a diplomatic party, to speak with the Ivindra, and representitives from all the great clans were present, even the Spider.  Iwemara didn’t feel left out however, she used her time well, going to the great library to study the texts, searching for records mentioning the monk Fudo, and any references to Fudoism, as well as studying the Tao more.

 

When the party approached they could see it was not just warriors in the native contingent, but women, children and the elderly as well, all ready to move either into the city, or on to somewhere else.  They all looked clean and civilised in their own way, and didn’t look institutionalised or look barbaric.  They looked like they had retained all of their heritage. None wore Rokugani style dress.  Their clothes were completely suited to the climate unlike many Rokugani styles however. As the party got closer they could see a large contingent of richly dressed men and a few women fighting in an unusual style, practicing with an odd wooden device on their arm to deflect blows.  Nirav recognised it as the Sainika style that Akai was taught in the village.  The Ivindra all seemed to be very reverent and respectful to them.  They may not have what the Rokugani classed as honour, but they seemed to have what amounted to a high level of integrity.  The highest ranking of the diplomats sent to discuss terms with Mala Singh, were led to an impressive tent in a native style, with impressive colours, and paisley patterning.  Among the detailing were snakes and tigers and elephants.  The rest dispersed to speak with other natives in the camp, and observe them.  The high ranking diplomats found that sitting at a campfire was a royal looking gentleman, looking completely different to the last time Nirav saw him, richly dressed and in robes of cream and purple. He had an ornate and richly jewelled sword at his side.

 

Mala Singh greeted the group of diplomats and laughed.  He ordered a beverage that looked like warm milk be brought instead of sake or tea for everyone.  Everyone was settled down around the fire and made comfortable.

 

“The Guru said that you want to come into the city and help rebuild it?” Nirav asked starting the conversation properly.

 

“Yes. What does Shibatsu want? I’m willing to bend to what great clans see as good for them.”

 

Kemuri couldn’t help but think that they should of course give them all their gold and jewels and make him the custodian of it all, but sensibly didn’t voice the opinion, though Kanto was probably aware that those would be his thoughts as he glanced over at him.

 

Nirav introduced all of the highest ranking diplomats from other clans including Mirumoto Joben, Ide Shen and others he knew telling Mala Singh that these were the important people from the clans.  As Nirav introduced himself and everyone Singh stepped forward, he bowed and laughed “If I remember correctly I’ve met you before Nirav.”

 

“You do remember correctly Singh-san.”

 

“It’s been awhile.”

 

“It has.”

 

“I always knew you’d do well.”

 

“That’s more than I thought.” Nirav said, politely.

 

There were clan translators for those who couldn’t speak the language of the Ivory Kingdoms, but Singh was speaking fluently in perfectly legible and cultured Rokugani.

 

“What do you want to do in the city?” Nirav asked.

 

“We have noticed that the serpent creatures have made a move for your city.  We are here to help with our own strength and are willing to aid in rebuilding your city. With the damage sustained to the lands the city is not in a position to sustain itself, and you have lost a lot of people in your recent battles.”

“Yes potentially, the city will struggle this winter.” Nirav said tactfully.

 

“My people can help bring the city back to its feet and make it self-sufficient” Singh said.

 

“What do you want?” Nirav asks.

 

“To live in your city alongside you.”

 

“Are we talking second in command of the City here or what?”

 

“I will happily command my own district, but would request un-restricted movement within the city within reason for my people.  It was once our city.  I am happy for you to rule it, but would like some part within your court.  We wish to live in a part of our history and culture, and would like to retain some connection to the city.  I do not think we are asking a great deal.”

 

Nirav turned gauge the responses of the other diplomats. The Crab were still dead against the entire idea.  They thought that it would be like letting the enemy inside the walls, and who knew what filthy gaijin were capable of – they weren’t even bothering to be diplomatic in front of the Maharaja.  The other clans went for private chats with each other about the terms.

 

Kanto was quite reserved.  He didn’t believe that the gesture was fully altruistic.  Kemuri just wanted all of their gold, and mentioned this.  Joben accepted their advice.  He said Kemuri’s theories about how the Empire was out of elemental balance, and how people should be helping the empire back on its track to enlightenment, and the gaijin are another imbalance were “quite interesting, but I will stick with my initial thoughts.  I would be more than happy to welcome them into the city.” even as he was wondering why he had brought Kemuri with him on a diplomatic mission, the man clearly needed to be sent back to Rokugan.

 

Kanto countered Kemuri’s argument against admitting the gaijin, bringing up the point that the empire thought the same about the Unicorn when they returned to Rokugan only a couple of centuries before.  Kemuri agreed that the Unicorn were one of the finest of the great clans, he had nothing against them and that they had great prowess on battlefield, but he still didn’t think the gaijin should be admitted.

 

In the Unicorn group Ide Shen stated “We’ve developed strong relationships with gaijin in the past, we have been on good terms with the natives here. What is wrong with them?” Sonia had no problems.  The Ivory Kingdoms natives were practically family to her.

 

In the Scorpion group, they discussed how it would be a good opportunity to make friends and money.  The Scorpion were less in trouble than they were before the Battle of the Black Serpents as it was beginning to be called, but they believed that they could potentially use them for their various machinations.  “Be friends and stout allies to them, be friends with their leader… and if they betray is we slit their throats.” was the general consensus. Then one of the shugenja mentioned the destroyers and the possibility of some of the natives being part of the cult of Rhumal.  “If they are cultists then we are all fucked” the Soshi summed up. “Who could trust their intentions if that is the case?”

 

“You Make a good point” Nirav said, thinking for a moment “Ask the air kami if they are being truthful?”  The Soshi nodded, and bowed.

 

Nirav introduced Singh to his beloved wife, Soshuro Saru, and they continued discussing the matter.  “Why are you leaving the village?”

 

“I don’t want my people to lose their culture,” He responds wording things carefully  “Why leaving the village? Too long have my people tried to eke out a living scared of threats from all sides.  I want my people to live free from threats. I want to revive our culture and not let our race die out among the ruins.  We are happy to live by samurai rules, if it keeps us alive.” Saru recognised that he was withholding something.

 

“The Guru and I have worked hard to bring all of my people in one place gathering them together so we don’t die off and our culture with it in small pockets of existence when together, we can work to rebuild our population, and coexist peacefully with the people of Rokugan.” Singh concluded.  They chatted amiably for a while, Nirav mentioning that some of what Singh said didn’t make sense, and Mala Singh, sidestepped answering neatly. A richly dressed native woman in Crane coloured native style clothes with a small mon of the Daidoji embroidered on the shoulder of her top swanned in. She greeted everyone, and made reverence to Singh, who introduced her as his cousin, Daidoji the Rani Sita, of house Maharanjani.  She took a drink and settled down.  She was slender, and muscular beneath all the gauzes and organdie, and had a ornately jewelled scimitar sword at her side, sheathed in equally jewelled scabbard.  It was impressive, but not as good as Mala Singh’s.  Saru was quite impressed by the other woman. Another diplomat claimed Singh’s attention for talk with him and so Nirav and Saru walked away after taking their leave of Singh and Sita..  Saru told Nirav that Singh was withholding something. He was not letting something on, and she was unable to get to the bottom of it.  Nirav agreed that some things did not make sense.  While they talked together Sita whispered quietly to Singh.

 

As a cousin of Mala Singh she was very aware of what actually stemmed this manoeuvre.  Singh was here to co-exist and seek refuge in the city, as he said, but he wasn’t giving the full truth to the Rokugani.  He knew that the Yodatai were coming but didn’t want to let the Rokugani know that yet.

 

“Cousin, do you think they will accept us?”

 

“I do not know, they are a proud race but hopefully they will see sense…”

 

“I believe they will see the sense of taking our numbers among them, the Mantis took Yoritomo to them, and The Daidoji have been very good in educating me in their customs. They are strange, but not incompatible with ours.”

 

 

When the clans got together to discuss it, Nirav was cautious; though they were offering a great trade for Rokugan.  The Crab were still very unhappy with the prospect.  Mala Singh gave them the flag of the Ivory Kingdoms. It was a lush green and orange colour with lion and tiger rampant on the field.  “If your leader agrees to the terms, fly the flag, and we will move in.”

 

Nirav told Singh that he looked forward to seeing him and gave him the address where he was living.  Sita, in a moment of pique, decided to accompany the great clans back to the city. She knew how much rode on this, and wanted to know the decision as soon as possible, so she hopped onto her black Arabian steed, accoutred in a native Ivindra warriors tack and went with them.

 

There were a lot of awed slack jawed gasps as she went through city, and she preened at the attention, nodding regally to people.  At the court, she saw the guru.  Sita paid her respects in Ivory Kingdoms style, slapping him on the back and grinning. Shibatsu was quite surprised to see the Daidoji mon on her clothing, he didn’t think the Crane adopted gaijin into their ranks.

 

Nirav gave Shibatsu the gist of the discussions that went on. That they would be happy to live in a Gajin quarter where Singh would be in charge, but ceded command overall to the governor, and would cede command and control under Rokugani rule as long as his people had free rein to travel in the city without harassment.  He offered to fix the city and get the farms back up and running so the people of the city could survive the monsoon season, the winter, and more dark Naga, and he presented Shibatsu with the flag to raise if the answer was yes.  When Shibatsu asked opinion of the court, all but Crab and Spider thought it was a good idea to invite them in.

 

“We should clear the gaijin scum from the face of the earth once and for all” One of the spider, Daigotsu Tenbatsu said.

 

“Mala Singh would not risk women and children in an attack, and they have all ages in their encampment.  It is not an army.” He was told.

 

Sita taking umbrage at Tenbatsu’s words had a flare of anger. She was hardly filthy.  Far from it, in her robes, and her people were not scum. She stalked over “Would you like to back that insult with steel?” She declared.

 

Tenbatsu states “I could kill you outright right here. You have no daidsho to discuss the matter with steel.”

 

Kemuri stepped forward too insisting that the duelling circle not be used in such a way.  “The Duelling Circle is a Rokugani practice, we cannot allow the fight to take place there, the fight shall not occur in the duelling circle.”

 

Nirav asked guru about Sita  “She’s very spirited.” Was his response.

 

“He has dark power beyond her comprehension.” He warned. Sita just stood there. She woldn’t back down, and he wouldn’t either.  Utaku Sonia stepped forward.  “I will defend the Princess.” She declared, eyeing the Spider.

 

This caused a huge amount of talk in court, and almost everyone attended when they made their way to the duelling circle.  It was agreed the matter was to be settled at first blood. As many people in the city who can go to watch do.  Iwemara and Tatsumaki were among them.

Tenbatsu looked horrible, grinning evilly and was very confident of his chances.  Iwemara, aware of all that had happened at court and the delicate position that the City was in acted in the interests of the city and swayed the duel in Sonia’s favour by making it more difficult for Tenbatsu with Fudo’s powers, stealing his Void energy as he tried to use it to beat the Unicorn. He was obviously insulted a native princess, but if he won the duel and she died, as he would expect her to do, the maharajah will not be pleased, and she knew they couldn’t win another battle right now.  The Unicorn and Spider faced off against each other, assessing and focussing.  It was Sonia who struck first, and won the bout, scratching him.  He seemed to be surprised he lost.  He kept a calm head however and took the defeat like a samurai, but he snarled at anyone that got in his way has he left. Sonia gained much glory from defending Sita, and Sita thanked her graciously for defending the integrity of her people from the insult.   After the duel, there were no more disputes, and the flag was flown.

Letters to Mirumoto Shikei,

 

…To: Dragon Clan Champion Mirumoto Shikei

 

Shikei Sama,

I believe information that I have just uncovered may be of great interest and significance to you, and so write to inform you of it.  Whether you chose to act on the information I leave to you, but be assured I have and will continue to keep my own council on the entire matter.

 

I have recently discovered that the Unicorn Clan Champion Moto Naleesh, is believed by the Unicorn Clan to be the Lady Shinjo re-born.  The entire clan defer to her as such, and I believe that this is the reason the Unicorn insisted that you be introduced to her, rather than her to you as had originally been arranged.  They truly did not intend to insult you and were not trying to force the wedding to be broken off by doing such; they simply wished to show their devotion to her as their goddess re-born.

 

My duty and honour to serve,

A Kitsuki.

 

Note: This letter is believed to have been penned by Kitsuki Iwemara. I have compared the script on this letter with those she has sent to family.  Further, she is known to have travelled with Moto Naleesh, prior to their battle with the Dark Naga at the Second City in 1198… – Isawa Korimi, Imperial Archivist.

 

The Letters of Kitsuki Iwemara

…I found my way to the governors estate through back and side alleys to avoid all of the conflict in the Imperial district.  There is a hidden side entrance to the estate (you know how good I am at finding such things mother), and I entered that way, quickly finding the pearl – as I suspected it was un-guarded.  There was fighting even in the estate.  Akodo Tsudoken was leading a band of samurai from all clans against Shibatsu-sama and his Imperial and Spider guardsmen.  If circumstances had been different it would have been a pleasure to watch Shibatsu-sama ply his skill with a blade so deftly, even against so skilled a warrior as Tsudoken.  I had planned to act as a sniper from the balcony I stood at, as the rabble looked to be beginning to overwhelm the guards, and Tsudoken looked to be getting the upper hand in his duel with Shibatsu-sama but I was warned that something was coming, something that was beyond the battle below.  It was the hardest decision I have ever had to make.  Should I shoot Tsudoken and save Shibatsu-sama from injury and potentially see the city and everyone within destroyed? Or should I stand firm and prepare to fight the threat I had been warned of but could not yet see to save the city, potentially at the cost of Shibatsu-sama’s life?  I have never been so conflicted before.

 

In the end I took a leap of faith.

 

I shouted to the guards to defend Shibatsu-sama, but it was too late to fully protect him, and Tsudoken managed to badly injure him.  I will forever be ashamed of not preventing that injury when I could have, and was greatly relieved when Tamori Kanto san healed him after the battle. Barely seconds after Shibatsu-san was injured I saw the threat I had been warned of.  It was the Dark Naga.  I was afraid when I saw it.  Larger than an embassy building, and eye height with the balcony on which I stood it carried a fearsome weapon part axe, part spear that a Crab would be proud town…if he had the strength and size to wield it.  The tenets of Bushido, and the courage of my ancestors pulled me through the fear.  The pearl I had retrieved was glowing with a magical light.  That gave me courage too.

 

If you hear rumours of a tiny doll like Kitsuki killing that fearsome creature, do not scoff, for I truly did manage to defeat that fearsome creature, small though I am.  I cannot say I did the deed un-aided, for no one person alone could have done so, save perhaps the most powerful shugenja in the land, or the fortunes.  The fact of the matter is that I was blessed by a higher power to be immune from the madness that spread so rampantly that day, and granted, however briefly the power needed to defeat the Dark Naga.  I still cannot quite believe I survived the encounter, for I was quite prepared to die fighting that fearsome being.  He was not killed however, and I was completely uninjured (I thanked the fortunes in a suitable manner, donating most of the koku I confiscated from a mad trader to the Temples of the Rising Dragon and the Seven Fortunes in gratitude, though I had planned to do so regardless).  The Dark Naga is trapped in the Naga pearl that I retrieved.  I’m still not sure how that happened, it was not of my doing…well as far as I am aware it wasn’t.  I know people in the clan have ties to the Naga…Do we?  I can’t remember.  Anyway, the pearl has been left in the care of Moto Naleesh-sama, as the pearl also contains her mother somehow.  I do not understand the magic that was involved, but she will keep the pearl safe and from ever being broken.  She says that to do so, would release both her mother and the Dark Naga and no one wants the latter to occur……

 

Notes from Scrying – Isawa Korimi, Imperial Archivist.

 

The next morning there were a lot of bodies in the streets.  The Eta worked round the clock to clear them, but the sheer numbers of bodies was overwhelming, and everyone knows they will start smelling soon as they will decompose rapidly in the oppressive heat.  There is blood everywhere, and there is only so much the eta can to do before they are exhausted.  Surprisingly, Ivory Court was announced as normal, despite the recent events.

 

Iwemara attended.  She was very unassuming despite the fact she was known to have brought down the Dark Naga.  She isn’t quite sure how to respond, what with Genshin still going all out against Fudoists.  She knew she walked a very fine line, and so thanked the fortunes for granting her the ability to do her duty for the Empress, the Empire and Ivory Kindgoms when praised.

 

She knew that the embargo on Fudo was still on the city and that Genshin had no intention of stopping his crusade against it. But she also knew that the Lion had alienated many clans with their approach to dealing with the Fudo threat, so she believed that she could find friends for the Fudo cause amongst the sympathisers.  She believed that bringing up the topic with more liberal samurai, possibly the Phoenix could be a good start given their pacifistic nature.  She started working on a speech in her head to convince samurai that the teachings of Fudo weren’t blasphemy…so long as a person made the right choices and continued to follow the path of bushido…and it needn’t work against the teachings of Shinsei.  When alone she muttered lines and fragments she wanted to say, re working and re framing them, and I think, trying to convince herself as much as anyone she meant to target with the words.

 

Everyone saw that the court had been established as everyone approached the imperial district.  The governor’s estate had suffered substantial damage, it had barely been held together after Renyu escaped, pretty much the only solid part of the estate sill standing was the small balcony Iwemara leapt from to kill the Dark naga.  They heard that after the Iuchi jumped to his death, Shibatsu was moved to underground chambers. Surprisingly, Shibatsu was there presiding over the court – this has been corroborated by the court records – which was being held in the gardens of the estate grounds.  He looked well from all reports, and was walking around talking to people, a wrap around his wound, but otherwise fine.

 

Kanto asked the guards how he is.  They said he’s fine.  That he got worse before he got better.  He almost died, he almost stopped breathing, and then rapidly rallied over an hour, woke up, spent the morning in bed, had tea and rice and was now on his feet. Kanto asked him how he feels after approaching him.  Shibatsu replied that “He was feeling as strong as an ox now”.  He believed that his will was quite strong, and said he was raised by the finest warriors in the empire and didn’t need assistance.  Shibatsu proclaimed himself governor of the Second City and Ivory Kingdoms not long after.

 

The court was filled with lots of Mantis, mostly Moshi priestesses, a Kitsune looking a bit out of place, an old, old man that the Moshi and the Kitsune paid every reverence to, and Yoritomo Hirumi.  The old man was trying to get Shibatsu’s attention, but Daigotsu Kudo was pushing him away saying Shibatsu’s had far more important things to deal with.  The Crane and Scorpion were essentially smarming and generally boot licking to gain favour in Iwemara’s assessment.  Iwemara quietly observed Shibatsu.  He seemed very distant..his mind in conflict with itself…he was full of doubt.. .and… something else.. He seemed far more darkly charismatic then she was used to.. Fudo began shrieking in her head… -Its him…. Kill Him!!-

-I can’the’s the Empressesson!- She responded, deeply conflicted, trusting Fudo’s judgement, but unwilling to act on it.

-Not anymore…he was…his body is just a vessel now-Fudo told her

-Shit-she responded, with no idea how to deal with the situation, but knowing she couldn’t even think about harming the Imperial son.

Naleesh approached and bowed to Iwemara, breaking her observation of Shibatsu, and conversation with Fudo.  “Iwemara, it’s a delight to see you.  I’m here to discuss something with you.” She said.

Iwemara bowed back very respectfully. “I am of course delighted to speak with you Naleesh-sama” Iwemara responded

“There has been an obvious tension between our clans ever since the dragon champion spurned my offer of love.  I feel that we need to smooth relations between our clans in city.”

Iwemara bows, accepting Naleesh’s assessment.

“As such I wish to offer the assistance of Unicorn warriors to protect the Temple District and the embassy. Sonia is a fine warrior, and we have a fine diplomat and can help with any inter clan relations.  This is Ide Shen.” She says, introducing them properly.

“I thank you for the gracious offer and accept on behalf of the Dragon.” Iwemara said gratefully.

 

 

 

 

If you /really/ enjoyed this and want to contribute more (amazing person that you are) buy me a Ko.Fi (I’m VERY British and actually I drink tea ;) ). at:  https://ko-fi.com/K3K58V5G