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Travel Journal of Agasha Sanra

 

Entry 19c – Court and War Planning

 

Last night was surprisingly good. I’ve not slept with anyone since Shen (I’m fairly certain I didn’t sleep with the guy that first night I went out with Koiso) and that was weeks ago. I never realised what I was missing until him, and now I do, so, since Togo brought up healing the breach between our clans, I figured we could enjoy ourselves; well, as far as we can anyway. It wasn’t as bad as before. I realise now that while he wasn’t trying with the relationship, I wasn’t really trying in bed. Tonight I tried. It wasn’t half bad either. Enjoyable at least, though still not as good as with Shen, probably because he’s the first man to truly set me alight in that way. Togo and I have too much history between us.

 

I woke up feeling very relaxed, and was pleasantly greeted by Togo. Was it the sex or his new leaf? Whatever it was, it was a nice change from the usual. He invited me to go to court with him and Nirav. I had to visit the estate first to see if Koiso needed anything, but I agreed. He said they’d wait outside for me. I had a good long bathe, and dressed as befits a representative of the Elemental Masters in a new set of robes Koiso and I found out shopping (the ones I hid in mothers rooms) that are part fire embroidery (below the obi) and part water embroidery above. It was almost as if the robe were designed for me the way the water embroidery matches my ocean tattoo, We HAD to get it when we went shopping. The obi combines the fire and water elements in a complex twisting pattern that looks lovely too…and for once I actually had the time to make a proper job of it instead of hurrying to keep up with Koiso, who ALWAYS seems to be several steps ahead of me, so I was also perfectly made up. I even had time to pin my hair up in an intricate style I know Togo likes. He did look me over and nodded before we left the Embassy, I guess that’s the best compliment I’m likely to get out of him.

 

In daylight the estate looked even more awful. The areas that were blackened by fire were much more obvious in daylight. The place was crawling with Shiba Guards, and they seemed to be very happy to be back at their duties and greeted me quite cheerfully, happy to see me. I was told Koiso-sama was up and about though no one had spoken to her yet. The screaming coming from her rooms had gone on all night at hourly intervals, and so they weren’t quite sure how to handle or approach her, especially as there was a rim of ash around the door to her rooms. I told them it was best to never ever ask what had happened, for her and for them. I have a very good idea what she did, and wish I could bleach the memory from my mind like the blasted Crane can bleach their hair of colour. They told me where she was and that she was in fresh robes and breakfasting. I went to find her

 

 

She greeted me very cheerfully when I entered the breakfast room. And the Shiba were right, her clothes (My favouriteset of court robes embroidered in flames I noted) were perfectly laundered, and she was perfectly made up, as if she hadn’t been injured in a battle overnight, nor had a busy evening torturing a Crane to death. It’s a good thing that we went shopping the other day or I’m sure I’d have ended up in a smoky cast off. I asked if she was well because she had been injured and I was concerned for her welfare. Her eyes glazed over a bit. I’m not sure…but I think she was more upset by it than she lets on, certainly she threw the whole thing off as a small scuffle and that she was fine. I apologised for summoning the guards, saying I thought it was safer to have them. She was subdued, but agreed that it had been foolish to not have them here where they belong. The fight’s definitely affected her, but she’s hiding it all behind her face. I applaud it, but…I worry for her.

 

After making sure she was ok, I left with Togo and we went to court separately. The Shiba in court were having a right go at the Crane that were there – mostly the Doji. They were calling them on the ‘special relationship’ they had said existed between the Crane and Phoenix. They pretty much told them that in attacking Koiso, they’d declared war on the Phoenix! I knew they would react that way. If the Crane had thought to break the link between the Mantis and Phoenix, it’s backfired on them, it’s only made it stronger. I made the correct decision to side with the Mantis when Koiso pushed me to choose the night before last. They aren’t perfect by any means, no clan is, not even the Phoenix though we are better than most at it. Koiso is a living reminder of that, but at least they aren’t so lost to reason that they would attack and Elemental Master.

 

Koiso arrived, looking all perfect and pristine andwith a Shiba yojimbo accompanying her, I was close enough to see that the moment she saw the crowds and the arguing Crane and Shiba something wasn’t right. It was like she went inside herself, going all glassy eyed. She looked at the ground, and started breathing carefully, she definitely didn’t look happy. I went to stand with her in case she needed any help.

 

Of course the Crane declared war on the Mantis, there were a lot of gasps from courtiers, but what were they expecting? Everyone to kiss and make up? The attack on the Elemental Masters estate was one push too far for the Crane. That they’ve lost their heads is obvious, and the Kakita and Daidoji were cheering. The Fools. What do they think they can accomplish? Do they not realise that there is a far bigger threat to the Ivory Kingdoms just waiting to take advantage of any small amount of weakness? Governor Katsuru knew, he said we’d need everyone…everyone…including the natives. We can’t afford the petty power plays, but now we are in it too far to pull back. The Phoenix will honour their commitments to the Mantis whatever the outcome. Talking of the governor…I wonder what’s being done about that….thing…that killed him? That’s as much a danger to the Second City as the threat to the Ivory Kingdoms.

 

The only good thing to come of the entire matter was that it snapped Koiso-sama out of her introspection. She looked at the goings on most interestedly, she made a passing comment wondering how the Crane thought that they’d win when they had the combined might of the Scorpion, Mantis and Phoenix against them.

 

I told her that they appear to have the Spider on their side somehow, and that it was a bit foolish to choose such a tainted clan to ally with, but I’ve seen them in battle and they are fierce fighters. I also said that given history, I would not count on the Scorpion since they are known for turning against those with which they are supposedly allied. Not to disparage my husband, but the Scorpion chose what’s best for them, so I’ve no doubt he’s got fingers in both pies.

 

The biggest surprise today was death of the Crane magistrate we met on the return to the city in the middle of court. It is nice to know that there was ONE honourable Crane in the Ivory Kingdoms. He was arguing with other members of the Crane and the court when he caught my attention. I caught him saying “One day you’ll see who the villains truly are” and he made a dramatic flourish gesturing at the massed Mantis contingent, and I definitely heard him say “the Crane are forgetting who they were and that ‘they’d’ destroyed the clan” which is probably one of the greatest truisms I’ve heard in a long while. Crane are courtiers. They battle in court, not in the field, no matter what the Daidoji think.  The Doji are the strength of the Crane, battling with words rather than weapons. Just because they got bested in court once by the Mantis, they throw all their toys out of the crib like children. True they have been provoked, but there was NO cause to take it as far as they have. They are fools to think they will win a war.

 

Clearly Doji Gozume agreed. He performed Kanshi on himself, and did it elegantly. He spoke to one of the Kakita – Akinori I believe, he was the one that declared war on the Mantis for the clan saying that he hoped that Akinori found peace in battle, as he found peace here, for he feared that in declaring war he had destroyed the Crane clan and their honour. He coughed into a hankerchief. I saw it came away spotted red. I saw the blood at the edge of his mouth, he opened his robes, showing the bindings that had kept him alive so long. And then he died. I tried very hard to not look at the body, and thankfully the Ivory Champion wrapped up court quickly, closing it for several hours until everyone had time to calm down.

 

Koiso-sama didn’t need me, and Togo wanted to spend some time with me, mostly to talk war, typical male occupation that it is. There was a very awkward moment when Shen walked by. I spoke to him asking about the riding lessons. It appears he’s too busy. But I saw him look at Togo, I saw the look on his face before he looked away. Has he threatened Shen in some way? How could he know about us? I was sure we were being discrete. Has he had someone following me? Is that why he’s being so nice to me? It doesn’t seem like the reaction he would have given how he reacted to the nights out I’ve been having with Koiso-sama. I don’t love him. Togo destroyed any chance of that early on in our marriage, but he ismy husband. In public I have to show a united front with him. I will have to visit Shen in the guise of visiting Koiso at some point to see what truly is wrong.

 

We returned to court at the appointed time, Most of the Crane had gone, presumably to prepare for their war. What few remained, mostly the Doji were still being interrogated by the Shiba. The Mantis on the other hand were swarming about. I swear there are even more than there were earlier. Shen was looking quite depressed among the small contingent of Unicorn. I wished I could have gone to him, to bring a smile to his face. What he shared with me… he’s not had much luck with relationships, and I don’t want to be another failure for him. I really like him, I know we haven’t been together long, but the sex is fabulous, and he seems like such a genuine, kind man.

 

Nirav came by while I was with Togo, I heard him mutter something about the Crab being fully invested with the Mantis (that doesn’t surprise me given how together they seemed in the Sake house last night), and that the Dragon were being their stoic selves, which even Togo agreed was to be expected. They are fence sitters par excellance, and only rarely weigh in on anything. If they do, I suspect given the way the Spider seem to be leaning, that they will side with the Crane. Togo thanked Nirav for his help, and even suggested that he might be in line for a promotion. I left them to it to do my duty by Koiso.

 

I heard rumours coming from the Shiba that another Elemental Master is being sent to the city, they are always the first to hear such rumours, though I should be notified officially so I can prepare for them. Is mother listening to my thoughts? I only wished for that to happen a few days ago! Naturally the Shiba are veryexcited at the prospect of guarding two Elemental Masters, I have to admit I’m pleased too.  Koiso went quiet though, and asked whichmaster was coming.  Hopefully Mitsuko-sama can bring some order to the estate and rein in some of Koiso’s wildness, certainly the threat of her arrival made her a lot more sober.

 

She asked me to employ some artisans to help to rebuild the estate to return things to the way they were for Mitsuko-sama’s arrival and that if it could be done at a reasonable cost, so much the better. I agreed to take care of it. It gave me the opportunity I needed to see Shen without having Togo be suspicious.

 

Our talk was interrupted by the Maia herald announcing the Mantis Clan Champion arriving at court. He’s tall, good looking and wore some very beautiful green armour but Yoritomo Hiromi has a demeanour that reminds me verystrongly of Togo at his most supercilious. He looked smug. Strode confidently over to the Ivory Champion, introduced himself, and then summoned Kiyomi and another Mantis to play Go. I have been invited to go to the war talks this evening at the Mantis Embassy. The Crane weren’t amused of course. Kudo I noticed appeared to be a bit worried. I wonder why? Well it’s none of my business.

 

I went off to start the process of restoring order to the chaos of the estate. It was busy in the artisan district, but the architects were more than happy to reconstruct the estate for a moderate fee. One gave a very impressive talk about improvements he could make, making the estate even better, with statues of Shiba in the house and gardens, hidden alcoves, the works, and while he was selling it, it sounded wonderful. After all, nothing but the best is suitable for the elemental masters, but later…well…perhaps I was a little bowled over by his fast talk. The cost was a littlebit more than Koiso anticipated. She wasn’t exactly happy with that, but agreed I could sign off on the drafts. I know that if the other masters don’t approve that I’ll be the one who gets told off, but I can defend myself. I did my best, it’s not like I’m trained as a merchant or anything. Such a distasteful thing commerce, even if it is necessary. She’d have been better suggesting one of the Phoenix trained in such matters dealt with it…or I should have. I really need to learn to delegate more.

 

I went to see Shen on the way back to the estate. He slammed the door shut when he recognised it was me. He apologised saying he has no time for visitors at the moment, but it hurt. What is keeping him so busy he can’t see me for a few minutes, or even be friendly? I couldn’t understand it, so I sent him a note. I probably wasn’t thinking straight. I don’t deal well with rejection I think…not after having to live with Togo for so long with him rejecting me every day. The gist of it was “I can only assume that the time we spent together meant more to me than it did to you, or that the scar I now carry gives you a disgust of me. I do not love my husband, I never will, I was hoping that we might have a discrete relationship, obviously I was wrong. I apologise for having caused you the discomfort of having to show me my error.”

 

Perhaps it was a bit much?

 

I still haven’t heard back from Shen yet. I’m really beginning to wonder if Togo’s said or done something…or is it just that Shen has a disgust of my scar? He did seem more interested in Koiso than me at court that first day back…or is it that I’m going out every night with Koiso-sama? I thought it was because she is so much more beautiful than I am…but maybe it’s me. I didn’t think he was that shallow. I don’t know. I will keep trying to remain friends with him, maybe in time his cold demeanour will thaw. In the meantime, I have the war embassy to prepare for.

 

*****

 

I went to the Embassy with Togo and Koiso, it was very typical of a war planning session I believe. The bushi on the entrance looked us over, asked us if we were there for the war council, Togo and Koiso agreed and they waved us in. I’ve never been to one before. I’m not a tactician after all. The place was packed with Mantis bushi of course, the armour was very intricate, with thunder signs. It was very impressive, and they had verynice weapons. I could tell because Kobi was eyeing them with that LOOK on his face. Get a load of bushi in a room and it’s the first thing they do…compare their weapons. I swear they think it’s comparable to their prowess in some cases…in andout of bed.

 

The room we were directed to was packed. It was a nice room too, full of coral & artefacts from the Ivory Kingdoms, the main Mantis were looking at the map. There were markers for the Crane, one inland and several along the coast and a LOT of Mantis markers, a large, heavy looking one in the Second City. We were offered a seat, it’s mostly the strategies of Koiso & Togo they wanted so I sat and observed.

 

They seemed to be wanting us to move all our troops to Kalani’s Landing. Koiso seemed quite shocked they weren’t mustering in the Second City, They asked if Koiso would lead the forces, but she declined quite gracefully, then they looked to me, but I’ve seen enough battle to last me a while, though I was far less graceful in slipping out of it. My duty is to Koiso and the other Elemental Masters, I should have stuck to that. I backed off, blaming the recent battle scar. Of course the Mantis wanted to know ALL about it and where the village was, everything. I never thought I’d be grateful to Nirav-san, but when they brought him into the questioning about the village, he respectfully declined, saying it was the business of the governor and the Ivory Champion and that we weren’t at liberty to discuss it. They dropped the questioning. He has his uses.

 

Koiso asked me to advise what I recommend for our troop declaration. I suggested we send half our troops, but the Mantis wanted far more. Three quarters! I didn’t want to strip the City of that many, Not with Koiso still in residence, and Mitsuko-sama on the way. We ended up bargaining. I agreed that we would send 2/3 of our troops. When did I end up in charge of the Phoenix? Koiso’s making me make all the difficult decisions. Is she frightened of making mistakes? I know I am. I want to see the Crane crushed as much as anyone after what they’ve done, but with the combined forces of the Crab, Mantis & Scorpion the added levy of 2/3 of the Phoenix troops is more than enough to crush them. They finally agreed to that provided we had them mobilised in a week, and Koiso finally stepped back in, saying that could easily be done. Why do I have to be the one making all the hard decisions? I don’t have the training. I’m constantly terrified I’m making mistakes. Is this what it feels like to be a leader? It’s not worth the perks.

 

Notes From Scrying – Isawa Korimi

 

On ‘The Winds Grace’ kobune back to Rokugan…

A monk lies in chains beside a host of other criminals to the empire…

 

Kitsuki Daisuke: “How many more days to port sailing master!”

 

Sailing master: “About two weeks if the wind is good noble magistrate, possibly three…”

 

Daisuke: “That’s two weeks too long!… It may take years to get this filthy gaijin smell off my flesh… At least I have the criminal responsible for the murder of our beloved Turquoise Champion. Who do these “Ivory” Magistrates think they are?”

 

Sailing master: “What the hell is that on the horizon?!  Can’t be ship, maybe an Island?”

 

Daisuke: “I mean to question the authority of Emerald magistrate on this issue!”

 

Sailing master: “Hida’s Ghost! It’s heading straight for us! Is that a Mon? What!? Noble magistrate please brace yourself!”

 

Daisuke: “Who are they to address me as such! If only the Governor was still alive, I would have given a dose of reality on the situation. Empress Iweko did not give him such a position out of hand!! and he repays her such!”

 

Sailing master: “ALL SHIP HANDS, BRACE FOR IMPACT!!!”

 

Daisuke: “What in Amarasu’s name are you blathering about?”  He looks to the horizon “Oh……… may the Kami protect us…”

 

The winds Grace is broken apart like a simple toy as a vessel like no other before it or ever again crushes it beneath its mighty hull… Survivors float to the surface as the lumbering attacking vessel speeds over the remains of the Winds Grace.

 

Akai: “Glub… Glub, How am I going to reach… Glub… Roku… Glub… Now?………………………………….. Glub…….”

 

 

Travel Journal of Agasha Sanra

 

Entry 20a – New Arrival

 

Nirav-san came to visit me after I returned to the estate with Koiso. Apparently the Ivory Champion has requested that we take up or magistracy roles and act as body guards to him at court tomorrow. I can’t think why he would need one, but I agreed to the request. Once I had Koiso-sama settled, I returned to the Scorpion Embassy and Togo. The Bushi on duty were all polite to me, bowing in the correct manner and Togo greeted me most warmly, offering me tea, and something to eat. I don’t really need to eat, but I accepted. He took me to a much smaller more intimate tea room than the large one we were in for the other times. That must be the public rooms, for it was right next to his bed chamber as I later discovered. We talked of many things, he asked my opinion on some of them, and I actually think he took that on board. What has occasioned such a change in him? It can’t be my scar surely? Ok, I nearly died in the battle, but he didn’t know that, not until I returned to the City. It’s MUCH more likely he’s discovered that I was sleeping with Shen, and wants to put a stop to it, and is dressing it up as a need to unify our clans. I have to admit the political reasons are more likely. The Ivory Kingdoms are not Rokugan, there are intense rivalries here. Perhaps he’s just ensuring that his clan, and mine are capable of working together for mutual survival? Whatever the reason, it’s a nice change not to have to control my temper.

 

*****

 

That was most definitely a very good night, and I’m glad I chose to stay at the Embassy. Togo has definitely been holding out on me. He’s marvellousin bed. No wonder the Scorpion have a reputation for seduction. He started while we took tea, a look here, touching my hand as I served the tea there…moving closer to me…and…well…I’m definitely going to enjoy this new Togo if things continue like this.

 

We rose late, after Togo woke me in a most interesting way…and I could very definitely get used to that! After, I bathed and dressed and went to the Estate to see how things are progressing and oversaw the Crane Artisans arriving with all of their equipment and beginning the repair work. There are a LOT of Mantis on the streets I’ve noticed, but they did say they were going to protect the Second City, so I guess that is the reason. The estate needs some management so I must spend the morning doing that, though I would love to get back to my potting wheel and clay. It’s so therapeutic. But I did my duty and then returned to the Scorpion Embassy to prepare for court and lunch with Togo.

 

*****

 

When I arrived at court there was a rank of Second City guardsmen in front of the Ivory Champion. Nirav stood with Hotaka-sama, with Kudo and that other Spider nearby. He is obviously taking his security to heart. I went to stand with Hotaka and Nirav, and of course Kobayashi joined me as always. Looking out on the court, I could see few Crane, all Doji, with no Yojimbo’s among them, so they must be very low ranking members. There were slightly more Unicorn, Dragon & Lion. Far more Phoenix, Scorpion & Crab. The Mantis were without a doubt the ones in the Majority at court.

 

Doji Saru was trying to catch Nirav’s eye. Nirav, doing his duty, moved her on. She did look disappointed, but I caught the look on her face, she’s not going to give up easily. I have no doubt that the Scorpion did some negotiations with the Crane, for all they are supposedly allied with the Mantis, perhaps Nirav & Saru figured in the negotiations. Koiso arrived in court not much after Togo and I, and she came straight to me, asking why I was not standing with the Mantis. I explained that I’d been asked to perform duties of Ivory Magistrate today, guarding Hotaka-sama against undesirables. She didn’t understand the need any more than I did. There are so few Crane in court, they could not constitute a threat, and wanted me to stand with her. Hotaka-sama nodded, giving me permission, so I stepped off the dais and followed her over to the Mantis, where we had a chat with Kiyomi about the plans in train. Koiso keeps asking my opinion on these matters, as if I were the one in charge. I agreed that the preparations were going well.

 

One of the Yojimbo from the estate – Shiba Seido – interrupted our talk wanting to speak to me. He told me that there was a Monk wearing the Asako Mon who arrived on the Estate not long after I left, completely out of the blue, and without invitation. He told me that he refused to leave. He was apparently meditating and the guards didn’t know what to do, and what were my orders?

 

I decided that I would go and speak with the monk before I decided whether to have him removed or not, and Koiso came up to ask what was going on while I was considering my options. Siedo-san explained to Koiso and she told me that I should nip such behaviour in the bud, but be polite to them and that she could handle court until I returned. Again, she’s acting like I’m the one in charge and that she’s the subordinate the way she speaks. It’s most unusual. Nevertheless I bowed to her and Seido, Kobayashi and I hurried back to the estate.

 

The Crane are as good as their word, and I could see that the estate repairs were well in train. The Asahina are truly skilled. If there wereany other artisans as skilled, I would not have chosen them to repair the estate of course, but the Elemental Masters deserve the best and it is appropriate that they should repair what others in their clan destroyed. I was greeted by the Artisan in charge and he updated me on their progress before Seido-san led me to one of the gardens. It’s a very harmonious place with acer trees, and a small rivulet and waterfall trickling into a koi pond in the part of the estate that is assigned to the Elemental Master of Water, so I’ve not spent much time there. Most of the guardsmen were gathered there watching the monk meditate.

 

I was greeted by Shiba Saburo, who thanked the kami for my arrival. And he explained that there was a pilgrim sitting here, and they were concerned what he was doing on my estate, especially when the estate held so many secrets, and that the secrecy of the Elemental Masters needed to be preserved. MY estate, not the estate of the Elemental masters, not Koiso’s, since she is in residence, but MINE. What is it with everyone? I’mnot the owner of this estate, I live here, I manage it, but its Koiso’s estate, and Isawa Mitsuku, Isawa Norimichi, Asako Chukage and Mother’s estate, not mine! I told him I would speak with the monk, and he said that the guard would be available to provide assistance if it was needed, they wouldn’t be far away.

 

I walked into the garden, and sat by the monk, who wore a very modest robe and had a Bo staff resting across his folded knees. As I drew closer I could hear him humming quietly.

 

I asked him respectfully what brought him here, and watched him for some time, and got no response. It was some minutes before I noticed the water in the pond twinkling and circling with the shape of the ring of Water. It was most unusual, and I was confused; water is not my strong point, yet I could see that the water Kami were excited, and that’s why they were making this shape. I did say that I was going to return to court and the Elemental Master of Fire, but the water changed gain and I could see the most beautiful shapes and forms, as well as the forms of Asako, Isawa and Shiba…though I noticed that Agasha was not represented. Whatever he was doing it was like he was using the water as his canvas like an Asahina would use canvas for his artwork. It was most intriguing and took me a few minutes to put the pieces into place. The guard were confused to a man (and women). Monks aren’t supposed to be connected to the Kami in such a way…But I do know of one monk that is…I have to in my position, for all I’ve never met the man before.

 

I rose, bowed deeply to the monk and told Asako Chukage-sama that I would leave him to his meditation, and that he was welcome in the Second City. The guard looked shocked, and as a body drooped to their knees in front of him. Bless them, I don’t blame them for not recognising Chukage-sama as an Elemental Master. He’s an unusual personality, but I have no doubt they would have been kicking themselves for whatever they tried to do to get him to move on when they found him after he arrived, certainly they will be for not extending the proper courtesies!

 

Do you want to know what his response was? Not a word. He opened his eyes, looked around and sighed. He jumped up and, with cat like agility leapt into the middle of the construction area, onto the top of a post and stood there, like a statue, perfectly balanced, apparently meditating again. The guards were concerned for his safety, though Kobi seemed to be a bit less surprised or worried. He sighed, looked at me, smiled and shrugged. Which was pretty much the reaction I would have shown if I’d been in his position. It looks like he’s getting as used to the foibles of Elemental Masters as I am. Mother’s quite distant…with everyone, though I think she triesnot to be with Father and me, but she can’t help it when she is. I’ve always understood that she is an Ishiken-do and that always has an effect on the person. It would be quite interesting to see what the other masters are like, I think their position affects them more than they could or would admit. I told the guard to just keep an eye on him, but to not interfere. He must know what he was doing after all. I told the guard that I’d return to court and inform Koiso-sama of the new arrival, so she isn’t surprised when she arrives back at the estate. I’d imagine she won’t be best pleased, not when Fire is the antithesis of Water as I well know. I’m just jotting this down before I return. They won’t miss me for an extra few minutes at court.

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Notes From Scrying – Isawa Korimi

 

Note: In scrying, normally I am able to focus on a particular subject or person.  This time, and most unusually, I ended up seeing a scrying by another who was also scrying for what I wished to see, and saw what I was looking for through this shugenja instead. I tell this section as I saw it through them.

 

Yogo Mei, holding onto a fairly plain Scorpion mask in her hands as a focus blew on the water, quietly asking the water spirits to take her back to the Second City and show her what the Scorpion who had owned it had been doing there.   The water rippled, and then cleared like a mirror revealing not an image of a face, but of the Scorpion embassy, or from what she could tell, the barracks attached to it.

 

From her records she determined that the figure she saw there was Shosuro Nirav.  He was leaning back on his tatami mat, and appeared to be thinking. Then he jumped up and went into the embassy to Bayushi Togo.  She only managed to make out some of the words that came from their lips – she was still getting the hang of lip reading, but she got the gist.  Nirav was confident in the Crane’s Martial prowess, and was proposing a plan to Togo on how to derail the peace summit the next day. Togo approved it.  Nirav, detailed to perform the deed left the embassy stealthily in Daidoji colours, and the image followed him.

 

He wove his way through the city to the Mantis Embassy over the roof tops, very agile, and entered by one of the windows.  He looked purposefully for the young Mantis courtier who so closely resembled Kiyomi. Making sure the girl slept soundly, he checked her belongings to specifically make sure it wasn’t Kiyomi.  Sure he had the one he wanted, he killed her quickly and efficiently, before slipping back through the window and into the night.

 

Well, that was interesting Mei thought, writing it down in her records to be compiled about the first decades of the Ivory Kingdoms when there had been so much unrest and the madness had come upon them.

 

 

Diary of Yoritomo Kiyomi

 

Entry 3

 

My task was to either sleep with Akinori or some other important Crane and get them to declare war on us.

 

Never one to do things by half. I scoured the city for a white wig. Not easy to find. I then disguised myself as a Crane maiden and started looking for some appropriate marks. I started randomly passing the time with a few Daidoji boys explaining to them the problem with the Phoenix, that Koiso was the only reason why they were allied with the Mantis.  Later I sought out Akinori and moved onto the main event. With a little bit of pillow talk and a few well-placed fake tears he nearly ran off immediately to declare war on the Mantis.

 

All too easy.

 

Hiromi is coming to the city. He has sent several legions of Mantis ahead. They have slowly swelled our numbers in the city and its becoming hard to keep it hidden. But that doesn’t matter, it will all be over soon.

 

It doesn’t take long for the Crane to declare war and one of their courtiers commits Kanshi. That was surprising but it’s reassuring to see how much they have lost their focus. They also attacked the Elemental estate in the night cementing our alliance with them. Things couldn’t have gone better really. Now we just need to finish the last stage of the operation.

 

On a side note, if that Spider idiot gets in my way again then I may just have him whipped naked through the street. Who does he think he is?

 

Travel Journal of Agasha Sanra

 

Entry 18: A Peaceful War Summit.

 

I didn’t sleep well last night. Actually I didn’t sleep at all. Thank the fortunes I have the ocean tattoo, or I’d look horrendous right now. So I stayed up doing some of the tidying that servants should be doing. I’ll get them to do the rest, but at least my room and mother’s area were returned to the pristine state mother and I prefer. I couldn’t even settle down to meditation. I couldn’t settle my thoughts. I’ve never had that happen before.

 

At an appropriate time, I got the servants to sort the rest of the estate out to a level of tidiness tolerable to Koiso, who wants the place to look lived in. I bathed, made myself presentable for the day. The Hida left early looking very happy, and said, in a LOUD voice so everyone could hear that they should do that again. I wonder if she will? She’s had a different bed partner every night since we met so I doubt it. She was quite chipper, so he must have been quite good in bed, but they are the only ones who were. What she did broke the pacifistic stance the Phoenix have always tried to hold. Koiso and Kiyomi are getting like a house on fire gossiping away like they’ve known each other for ages. I don’t know how they do it.

 

We went to court for the peace summit. I followed Koiso around as was my duty, and she had a good chat with the Mantis and I did some mingling. It’s not great. Half the Phoenix are following Koiso’s lead without question like sheep, the other half are in conflict with themselves because it goes against our tenets of peace. I heard some of them wish another Elemental Master was here. I do too. Mother would know what to do. Asako Chukage is known for his level headedness. He’s such a talented water shugenja, and he’s a monk, so he’d never condone harming others the way Koiso did. Isawa Mitsuko knows all the things that threaten Rokugan, she’d know exactly what to say and do to calm the situation. Isawa Norimichi wouldn’t have made such a rash decision either. I don’t know much about him, but Earth shugenja are always well grounded. It’s in their nature. There were so many other ways that the situation could have been diffused.

 

The Shiba guards in court seem lost too, they are meant to Guard the shugenja, the Elemental Masters especially, it’s their reason for being, and she just casually dismissed them from duty. I tried to soothe their ruffled feathers. She feels invulnerable. I told them I was working on it, and I have been making some progress, but I doubt I’ll make any headway with her on that point.

 

Koiso is delighted with the Mantis, and seems to have taken what I said to heart…in all the wrong ways. Though…I do have to admit, the Mantis havemade a very generous offer to us. They’ve offered us ships to explore the hidden temples in the Ivory Kingdoms. I wasn’t very enthusiastic in my reply to Koiso-sama, but on reflection the chance to gain such knowledge wouldbe invaluable to the clan. There could be nothing, but as she said to me, there could be untold power and knowledge hidden out there for us to find. She made a joke saying one day I could be standing in her robes with the kind of power that’s hidden out there. I doubt that. Fire is my affinity, true, but I don’t have the drive and passion to focus on it to the exclusion of the other elements, I can see the uses of all of them. She pointed out that things were different out here in the Colonies, and she’s right, they are. I tried to argue that we needed to remain neutral; but I could see she was just humouring me, and was very seriously interested in the Mantis offer. I understand why. The chance to find hidden knowledge would be very tempting. IS very tempting an offer. It’s not my decision in the end. I’ll abide with what she decides.

 

The Crane came to speak to Koiso of course, they were working on the basis of old alliances, and their shipping routes, but I could see Koiso had already decided who the Phoenix would side with before Doji Hakuseki came to speak with her.

 

I noticed the Mantis speaking with the Ivory Champion, and they were interrupted by a Crane. They got into some sort of argument, and I could see Hotaka-san was not pleased with them, but then Togo came up to us, he was being very polite and courteous, even to me, and he talked quite amiably to Kiyomi, giving his condolences. He pulled us aside while Koiso was making nice with one of the male Mantis courtiers. The gist of what he had to say was that the Scorpion had not picked a side, he was ready to play his hand and offer the Mantis an alliance if they were interested. He has to be up to something. I’m suspicious of his demeanour, it’s completely unnatural, though it could be due to the close proximity to Koiso and what happened last night…I kept quiet. It’s Scorpion business not mine, and if the Mantis wantto get into bed with the Scorpion, it’s their fault if they get stung. Kiyomi seemed to be interested. Togo said his terms were simple, koku (naturally), defence of the shipping lanes and routes (which isn’t surprising, they are pretty much the masters of shipping and sailing), and a political marriage between the clans, (also predictable).

 

Kiyomi said something about the difficulties behind protecting the shipping lanes from the depredations of the Crane being horrendous…and that doesn’t tally with what I have seen of the Crane and Mantis. Again, I kept quiet. It was Togo’s business and Kiyomi’s. He said that they’d discuss it more at length that evening. He totally blindsided me by calling me his noble wife and inviting me to join them at supper. I have to admit, the chance for a quiet evening was tempting, even if it was in hiscompany. But he’d put his request formally, so I think he wanted me to perform my duties as his wife and show a united front. I can hardly go against that so I said what was proper and agreed to go. His smile was so fake. He’s definitely up to something, but at least I can keep my eye on him this way, and I much prefer him being nice to the snarky comments and indifference I usually get. I’ll take what I can get while it lasts, which I know won’t be long. It all has to be on his terms, and when showing a united front as a married couple no longer suits his need, he will revert.

 

He certainly fooled Kiyomi, who was impressed with our ‘family togetherness’ I almost laughed. It was VERY difficult to keep a straight face. In fact I think I strained a muscle doing it. Koiso did indeed give me leave to attend the meeting and Togo came to escort me there. I thought that very unusual until we arrived at the destination where we would be having supper. The Scorpion Embassy. I’d never have been permitted to enter there on my own! I wouldn’t have wanted to either. Togo thinks it’s some special favour to me to allow me in there, and he pretty much told me that my role was to sit there looking pretty. I did my duty. It was interesting that he still thinks me pretty despite the scar. He’s never given me such a compliment before.

 

The evening was as I expected very formal, the food was delicious (but I had taken the precaution of casting Juroijin’s balm justin case), and Togo and the Mantis hammered out the terms of their alliance while we ate. There was to be a marriage between the recently widowed Soshi Mai and a Mantis by the name of Yoritomo Sakuma to seal the deal, but essentially it was a non-aggression pact, or defence treaty and if the Crane declared war and reasonable evidence was presented in court, the Scorpion would defend the Mantis. They offered half a legion of troops, which for Togo was probably a good deal considering what the Mantis were giving him.

 

Kiyomi also fought hard for acknowledgement of their support in court, making points like she was one of very few courtiers skilled enough to match the Crane, and that most of the Mantis weren’t courtiers, they were sailor and traders and explorers, and that in Ivory court she was pretty much alone, which to be fair to her is true. The girl does have a good head on her shoulders. Togo wasn’t keen to do this, he spoke of the Scorpion alliance with the Crab, but Kiyomi was wise and was perfectly willing to compromise, if the Crab and the Scorpion were to stand with the Mantis, she would be happy (of course she would be, the Crab are enviable warriors), so they discussed bringing the Crab into negotiations, and where their respective clans would stand in court. I almost feel sorry for the Crane.

 

 

Travel Journal of Agasha Sanra

 

Entry 19 – A quiet night out

 

I returned to the estate after the dinner and negotiations. At the entrance to the estate Togo made a most unusual offer to me. He wants to dine with me tomorrow, and even suggested that I move into his estate in the Scorpion Embassy compound if my duties become too onerous here. I’m not sure what to make of it. I’m sure he’s up to something, I just haven’t figured it out yet. Not quite sure what to say, I went for the polite dutiful wife option, and said I would be happy to spend time with him. So long as he isn’t horrible to me, I will be friends with him. It’s less exhausting than hating him, and I won’t have to go out with Koiso for second night in a row.

 

Koiso was very eager to go out for the evening despite what happened last night and how tense things are in the city. She asked me if I wanted to go out with her and I couldn’t very well refuse when she will not take a Shiba guard as a yojimbo. The city is so unstable right now, despite the veneer of peace, and I won’t shirk my duties. I can’t let her go out unprotected. At least I can keep an eye on her and help keep her safe if problems do arise.

 

We ended up back at the same sake house as last night. It was quite different from last night however when it was just the Crab and us, tonight there were quite a few Mantis in here too, fresh in the city and wanting to drink and gamble. The patron of the sake house was quick to serve us our drinks however and Yasuki Jekku greeted us too. She had saved us a table as if she knew we would come back. It was kind of her, and the place wasbusy. She also presented us with the promised crystal teardrops. I thanked her gratefully, so did Koiso before she went off to charm the Crab, she was soon back with a Hiruma in tow. I was friendly with everyone, and I matched Koiso in drinks until her attention was off me, but I spent most of the evening gazing at that gorgeous crystal teardrop. It’s just mesmerising and I definitely let my guard down for quite some time. I kind of feel bad about that, but nothing happened, it was really quiet in fact, and if we’d been in an up market tea house, I’d even have called it a cultured eveni…

 

Where was I? Oh yes, I remember. But the crystal, it’s so mesmerising. I really should stop looking at it and finish writing so I can get some sleep. So after a quiet evening, Koiso, the Hiruma she had attached and I returned to the estate. I don’t expect to see either of them until tomorrow. At least she’s happy rather than annoyed or frustrated. I’ll take anything rather than see her do what she did last night again.

 

 

Notes From Scrying – Isawa Korimi

 

Note:  After the first scrying through Yogo Mei, there were several others.

 

Yogo Mei, holding onto the plain Scorpion mask in her hands once again to use as a focus blew on the water, quietly asking the water spirits to take her back to the Second City and show her what the Scorpion who had owned it had been doing there.   The water rippled, and then cleared like a mirror revealing the handsome face of Bayushi Togo.  He was in the Scorpion embassy talking to Nirav.  He was discussing the treaty plans with the Mantis with Shosuro Nirav from what she could see from lip reading.

 

Nirav suggested that they also make a treaty with the Crane so that the Scorpion clan could get as much as they could out of the other clans for the minimum of effort, setting conditions up so that if one or the other declared war, they would chose the ‘other’ side.

 

Mei thought that a very fitting suggestion, very Scorpion.  She made a note on the rice paper by her side, and then continued to observe the scene.

 

Nirav was very confident that the Crane would win the day, especially since the Scorpion now knew that the Crane had re-formed their elite group of infamous Harriers thanks to the diary of Daidoji Kanawan that had been left in Nirav’s posession.

 

Mei made another note on the rice paper.

 

 

Notes From Scrying – Isawa Korimi

 

In the “Finger of Jade” Sake House… a few patron traders gather round a tucked aside table in a quite low lit corner…

 

Yasuki Jekku: “They have taken the Crystal tears as predicted master… I was not at all surprised. The Phoenix are known for their love of curiosities.”

 

Old man dressed in Traders clothes: “Yes but Rumour has reached me of Mitsuko’s potential arrival in the city, this could ruin all that we have worked for… “

 

Yasuki Jekku: “Master may I make a humble suggestion? Could we manoeuvre a ship to interject her arrival?…perhaps the Mantis? “

 

Old man: “A possibility…although the Mantis would not want to risk their alliance with the Phoenix over this dispute…what about?…”

 

The Old man starts to grin from ear to ear.

 

“Oh that would work…Jekku Summon the master of Coin…we have much to discuss…”

 

 

The Travel Journal of Agasha Sanra

 

Entry 19b – a WILD night in.

 

OK…you see that last sentence up there? I take it back. In spades. Those bastards totally and completelydeserved what they got for having the NERVE… The ABOSOLUTE EFFRONTERY to attack an Elemental Master at home ON her estate!

 

I thought being on the estate would provide some measure of security, even without the Shiba guards, so I was asleep. DEEPLY asleep. Kobayashi woke me, though how I wasn’t woken up by the racket I’ll NEVER know. Perhaps the multiple late night’s out are taking their toll?

 

He was panting as if he’d been in a race, and was bowing and apologising for waking me like he thought I’d order him to commit Seppuku for waking me up, or that I’d do what Koiso did to the Crane last night. He told me he thoughtwe were under attack. That wasn’t the biggest understatement I’ve ever heard, but it comes close. I could hear the battle cries outside, and shouting from Koiso’s rooms and could feel the fire kami going crazy. Then my door flew off its hinges & hit the wall closely followed by something in blue that was most definitely on fire. HE ended up in a heap in the corner, clothes still smouldering. That’s when I saw Koiso. She. Was. FURIOUS. Red eyed, smoking, and if I hadn’t known she was the Elemental Master of Fire, I’d have mistaken her for an Oni or some other demon or evil fire spirit.

 

There were four others, all in dark blue clothes tightly bound around them. I was groggy, but grabbed my staff and prepared to defend Koiso, as it was obvious that she was the target. It was a quick hot battle between us all. They had these strange round spheres, and smoke came out of them, obscuring my vision for a while, but I could still see enough to see Koiso defending herself. One of them stabbed her with this weird trident like spear. A huge mistake on his part, and the last thing he ever did because Koiso quite rightly unleashed the spell she cast last night, incinerating the bastard. I love Kobayashi, he’s a wonderful Yojimbo and friend but he was guarding me as if Iwere the important one out of us all and not her…but then again he is my yojimbo, not hers.

 

They attacked her again, and I weighed in, not that I did much good, but with me in the fray, Kobayashi had to join in too, and he’s a reallygood fighter. He hit one of them, I completely missed. I’m going to HAVE to get the Shiba guard to give me some training so I can use this staff properly!

 

By this point Koiso was, if possible, even MORE pissed off. So much so she failed to cast the incineration spell again. Luckily for her, Kobyashi proved himself to be enough of a threat to the attackers that some had a go at him, and the pressure was off Koiso for a while. He was slightly injured, but he killed one of his attackers. Koiso, resorted to doing whatever it was that sent the first guy past my bedroom in flames. HE ended up by the first one.

 

One of the attackers pulled a vase from his undergarments and lit some kind of fuse like the fireworks have at home. Kobayashi tried to kill him, and almost did. He dropped the vase, but it wasn’t ceramic. That would have shattered. I called the water Kami to douse the flame. Koiso tried to throttle him. I tried to stop the one that she’d tossed across the hall in flames from committing Seppuku, but he was very strong, and did a good job with the cuts despite my interference. He bled out fast. The other was passed out though, so HE will pay. I told Kobayashi to guard him while I saw to Koiso-sama, she was hurt quite badly and the wounds needed tending. She was still choking the man that she’d gotten hold of. He collapsed at her feet and she was STILL fuming.

 

I could see into her room then. The Crab was dead. They must have underestimated the threat of an Elemental Master and gone for the Crab first. He was strong enough to take them on and win. A fatal mistake on their part. And the Cranes. What were they thinking? WHAT. WERE. THEY. THINKING?? Attacking an Elemental Master with a friendship and almost allied with the Mantis. Either the Doji can’t control their own clan, or they have totally lost their collective minds!

 

I was on the fence before. Now? The Mantis can go to war with them and I’ll…well I won’t dance on the bodies…ugh, definitely not, but the Crane have lost any sympathy I may once have had for them.

 

Koiso demanded Sake when I asked if she was ok, smashed a statue of Shiba when I didn’t go fast enough for her liking. I RAN. Kobayashi came with me, apologising again like a raw recruit for…get this…letting them get into the estate, as if he wasn’t working double, probably triple duty guarding me, Koiso and the estate already because of that woman. I just told him to shut up. SHE was the one who dismissed the guard. It’s just coming home to roost in the worst possible way. I got a LARGE bottle of sake for her and ran back through the wreckage that was, once a very beautiful estate. Half of it is smouldering. After she had that she ordered me to leave her alone, in a VERY firm voice. I asked her if she needed help again, that I could tend her wounds, which she hadn’t actually noticed, but in an even more firm voice she told me to LEAVE, grabbed the Crane collapsed at her feet, dragged them into her room and SLAMMED the door. The last thing she said was “Go back to bed Sanra-san.” The screaming started in her rooms shortly after that.

 

Did she reallythink I could go back to bed after something like that? With no guards on the estate to deal with the surviving attacker? NO. I had to deal with it all! Kobi and I took the surviving attacker back to my rooms. We searched him thoroughly and bound him so he couldn’t escape. He had some veryinteresting things on his person, lots of interesting little devices, the spherical objects with wicks, white powder with that sulphurous smell that fireworks have. He had one of those trident weapons with a Mon I don’t recognise. It’s an odd symbol in dark blue on a coin about the size of a koku. I’ll have to do some research into it. The most incriminating thing was when we disrobed the blue wrappings over his face. His hair was classic Crane white.

 

I’d suspected of course. Who else wears that shade of blue? It couldhave been a set up, but not with thathair. Kobayashi watched him and I summoned the guards. In my nightwear…and a warm robe since nights in the Second City are quite chilly. I had I admit forgotten that was what I was wearing, but I blamed it on not wanting to waste time getting myself dressed when there was a prisoner in the house to those who asked, those that didn’t probably thought it was an eccentricity of a high ranking person.

 

There were a LOT of Mantis on the streets. They smiled at me, and I asked them to summon Second City guards because the estate had been attacked. They looked confused, and quite rightly too. No-one in their right mind would attack an Elemental Master. They fetched the guards who came to look over the estate. They were quite perplexed about the surviving attacker, but arrested him and took him off for questioning. They wanted to go into Koiso’s rooms. I STRONGLY recommended against it, but it took a lot of convincing…especially since there was still screaming coming from the room. Eventually one of the elder guards saw sense and they left her alone. I sent Kobi off to summon the Shiba Guards, she can’t argue their recall now. I can bring this incident up if she does. She almost died.

 

I was so glad to see Shiba Saburo again. The Shiba guards were pleased to be back in place again too, and put on a full guard rotation to protect the estate, though even THEY gave Koiso’s rooms a wide birth given the noises coming from it. It’s disturbing, especially as little puffs of smoke keep coming out from under the door from time to time.

 

I decided to go and speak to Togo about the equipment that we found on the Crane attacker. The Scorpion have fingers in so many pies, they are bound to know what they are, if they haven’t created the devices in the first place.

 

Not unsurprisingly, he was quite surprised to see me, though by now I had had the time to get properly dressed. There was no WAY I was going all the way across to the Scorpion Embassy in my nightwear! He was perfectly polite, calling me noble wife again. Asked me what I was doing there. It was very late… or early…so I told him about the attack on the estate and he asked me if I was in a state for tea.  I have to admit, a cup of tea and a quiet sit down sounded like heaven. I was quite hyped up. He asked if I would mind another person joining them. I thought he meant his mistress, but I was to drained to get aggressive, so I agreed. He brought me in to his rooms, and ordered tea, and we chatted and made pleasantries. Surprisingly, it was Nirav-san that came.

 

Then Togo asked me to give the full details of the attack on the estate. So I did, giving him all the details about what happened, to us and to the attackers, what the Crane was wearing, and what he was carrying. I’d brought a few of the things with me, like the sphere with the wick, and the powder and the coin. I’m fairly certain the powder is Gajin pepper, but I just want to see if Togo or Nirav recognise it and tell the truth. Togo looked quite amused for some reason and asked Nirav if he recognised any of it. Nirav said he didn’t, apparently neither had Togo, clearly they were lying, now I look back, but I was too tired at that point to notice. They didn’t even recognise the Mon either, which is a pity. He did identify the gaijin pepper and explained how it was used. As If I didn’t know already! I’m an Agasha. Father has made fireworks before. It’s outlawed in Rokugan for any other use! but I’m SO glad I dowsed that vase, if the wick had gotten to the powder… if it was mixed correctly…it could potentially have had the strength to take out half the estate. It could be useful to keep hold of that to use at a later date. I’ll suggest it to Suburo-san. He identified the other thing I brought as a smoke bomb. Thought it was quite interesting, and said he’d never seen one in use. I told them about it.

 

He asked about what the situation was on the estate, and I told him about the damage and that the guards were back in place. He suggested that I stay at his estate, and asked how my head was. I told him it was fine, and he almost reverted to the Togo I know and hate, making a snarky comment about the amount of sake I was consuming.  I reassured him that the tattoo helped to soak most of it, and what the tattoo didn’t Jurojin’s balm did. He said he’s glad it’s not just a pretty tattoo. Can he be that stupid? Surely he knewthe Agasha tattoos DO things for their wearers?

 

Nirav asked about the robe colour, and we discussed the stupidity of the Crane. They aren’t NORMALLY this stupid, but if they thought that having removed Koiso from the equation the Phoenix would have no reason to ally with the Mantis… AS IF! If Koiso were killed I would be going for the Crane’s throats, if only so I could regain the honour lost by her dying while it was my duty to see she was safe. And I have no doubts Asako Kaitoko-san and the entirecontingent of Shiba in the City would be rightbehind me!

 

Togo was kind to me, saying he was sorry that the estate had been so badly damaged, that it had been very beautiful. He repeated his request that I stay with him at his estate, making the case that it would be a good idea to give Koiso her space. I have to admit, having heard what was happening in her rooms, I’d be quite happy to give her some space, especially now the Shiba are back in place so she is protected. He was quite persuasive about it all even to the point about saying it might be a chance for the Phoenix and Scorpion to repair the damage done ten years ago. He sounded so …sincere. I’m sure he’s up to something…but of course, I am his wife, and if he’s willing to try, I must do so as well, so I accepted his offer graciously, until my rooms at the estate have been repaired at least.

 

Togo said he’d have a place prepared for me. I asked about Kobayashi. He goes everywhere with me. Togo says there is no space for him but he could be housed in the Scorpion military barracks saying he hoped Kobayashi wouldn’t mind. He’ll probably be a bit uncomfortable, but he’ll get over it, I’m sure. I returned to the estate to gather some clothes. There were still screams coming from Koiso’s rooms, and black ash across the door. There was a disturbing flame flickering in the room that could be seen in the dark. It was disturbing and even the guard were studiously avoiding looking that way. I think that they’d have blocked their ears if they could have. The more I see, the more I’m willing to avoid her. I asked Kobayashi what his preference was, as regards living quarters. He can stay here and collect me every morning from the Scorpion Embassy. Togo is my husband so is capable of protecting me over night, or, as Togo suggested, he can reside in the Scorpion Barracks to be closer to me. He paled quite a bit when that option was mentioned, and his eyes went quite wide, but, to give him all credit and honour, he chose the braver option, and will stay close to me, and live in the Scorpion Barracks. I’ll have to make sure that the estate gets repaired as quickly as possible, so that I can return. I reassured him it wouldn’t be a long stay. So here I am. In the Scorpion Embassy. With Togo. At his invitation. And he’s being NICE. How strange is that?

Diary of Yoritomo Kiyomi

 

Entry 1

 

Nobukatsu was not really convinced, but he asked me here to be the Mantis representative in court. I have to do this my way or there isn’t much point doing it at all. The Crane have responded to our attacks on their holdings and their shipping lines with more force than we expected and yet we have been able to disrupt their courtly games even going so far as to getting both of our clans kicked out of court by the Governor. If the Crane were really on their game then we would never have even gotten the chance to speak in court. Their reactions make me think the Daidoji as opposed to the Doji are running the show in the Second City. That’s why I convinced Nobukatsu to let me do their job for them in court. It cost him 50 koku for the prize to the tournament and when I told him I wasn’t going to fix it he was really worried that he was just handing a Masahime Katana to the Crane, but I assured him the loss of face for the Crane would be worth it. He wasn’t convinced.

 

With the Governor dead, the Ivory Champion was struggling to control court, there was no focus at all and everyone had broken off into their own groups to gossip. There is nothing wrong with that but it was the perfect opportunity I needed to make my move against the Crane. I removed my flute from its case and began playing the most emotional piece I could think of, an obscure variation of the death of Hantei. I didn’t think anyone would recognise it but I put my own little spin on it anyway. A small silent prayer to Hantei’s tall Dark and handsome brother and my hands were imbued with the grace of the Kami. Soon a hush fell over court as my music captured the attention of the entire room. The Phoenix and the Lion were the first to approach me and congratulate me on my playing. The Elemental master of Fire seemed very impressed as did the Ivory Champion and I took the opportunity to present the idea of an Iaijutsu tournament to these prestigious folk and they immediately jumped on the idea. I think the Ivory Champion was happy for something to distract court with enough of a martial focus that he didn’t feel completely out of his element.

 

The Master of Fire and her assistant Sanra invited me to join them for some evening entertainment after court was finished. I couldn’t have hoped for a better result. Nobukatsu wasn’t as doubtful now; in short order I had shown my point exactly and now the court was talking about the Mantis and my performance. I expected at least some resistance from the Crane but they seemed to be in shock unable to process what had actually happened.

 

The Crane didn’t do very well in the tournament at all, there were the usual congratulations at the honourable draw between the Crane and Dragon, With the Crane emphasising how an honourable draw was the very best way to follow in Kakita’s footsteps. Nice attempt to save face but do they really think we will believe that they have the greatest duelling academy in the Empire teaching its students how to draw?

 

With the Crane out of the competition it opened up opportunities for clans that would normally be overshadowed by the Kakita. For once the people organising the tournament were not automatically granted the prize. I made sure court saw the significance of that and that they appreciated it. I may be reading into the reactions of the people I spoke to but I think this has been a much more enjoyable Iaijutsu tournament for all involved (except maybe the Crane) than any Crane won tournament has been in the past. A ronin eventually won the tournament and was presented with the Katana.

 

The tournament couldn’t have gone better we embarrassed the Crane and won the heart of Ivory Court. Now we just have to keep hold of it.

 

Nobukatsu has asked me to speak at the peace treaty on behalf of the Mantis. I pointed out that I should have the authority that goes with such a task and that the title of Hatamoto would sound far more plausible in such a discussion. I expected more resistance but I obviously impressed him as he agreed.

 

Notes From Scrying – Isawa Korimi

Koiso and Sanra left Togo and Nirav in Kobayashi’s company, as Koiso ordered the loyal yojimbo to stay home saying ‘This is a girl’sonlynight out’.  They met up with Kiyomi as arranged and Koiso took her companions to the pleasure area in the artisan district.  The evening started out in a quite refined manner with tea in a reputable tea house, all formality and mundane conversation, but over time Koiso started to introduce gossip into the conversation and eventually she suggested moving onto “something a little stronger?” and suggested a Crab run sake house she knew of in the merchant district.  Sanra kept a straight face and of course agreed with Koiso.  Kiyomi thought it a good idea too, so Koiso lead her companions out into the night. The Second City guardsmen treated them all with the utmost respect as they passed between districts.  Koiso giggled under her fan about it and shot Sanra a look off conquest.  Sanra grinned at her knowing what was on her mind.  Kiyomi acted as if it was only their due as the three most important women in the city walking past.

 

The Crab house seemed to be pretty rough to Sanra’s eyes, not brawl based but very raucous. As they entered, the whole house stared at them in surprise, and Sanra saw that they were the only non-Crab in there.  Sanra smiled at everyone in a friendly way, mentally preparing a protective spell just in case it was needed, as there was an obvious tension in the air. A Hida bushi walked over to protest but Koisio made a ‘shh’ sign with her fingers to him and beckoned the Crab to sit by her with a ‘come hither’ motion.  A young Hiruma who had accompanied the Hida looked at Sanra shyly from beside where the Hida stood glowering at Koiso, and Sanra smiled encouragingly, wanting to diffuse the tension in the room.  He shuffled up beside her.  Sanra noted that for a Crab he really did look very shy.  The party, with the two Crab sat at one of the tables and drinks were ordered.  In an attempt to draw the shy Hiruma out and to be friendly in the hostile atmosphere Sanra began to chat with him, asking him about himself.  He was a nice young man, unlike his Hida companion, who not only looked the Primitive, but was barely a few steps away from beating his chest to impress Koiso. Kiyomi, not favoured by a Crab companion for the evening sat observing the people in the sake house.

 

The drinks ordered, Sanra and Koiso kept chatting with their companions, so only Kyomi noticed the plain looking Yasuki girl taking an interest in them, looking like she wanted to ask to join the group, but not yet having the courage to ask. Kiyomi invited her over, and Sanra welcomed her to the table when she came.  The girl sat next to Kiyomi and introduced herself as Yasuki Jekku.  As she sat, the group got a waft of a quite pleasant scent, obviously a spicy and expensive fragrance.  She and Kiyomi got chatting, and Sanra introduced Koiso and their Crab companions, though Jekku probably already knew them.  She introduced Kiyomi to the Hiruma, as the musician that had played the flute so amazingly at court that day, hoping to deflect his attention away from herself.

 

The Hida talking to Koiso was completely lost in telling tales of glory on the Wall to Koiso, who seemed to be very much impressed by him, but the Hiruma seemed to be impressed with Kiyomi and while Koiso and the Hida spent the evening partly wrapped up in each other, they all had a really pleasant evening chatting together.

 

The tension in the sake house disappeared after a while and the evening went really well and despite the environment. The sake flowed, and Jekku appeared to be quite amusing, and very much in on allthe gossip. The Hiruma was quite charming when he got warmed up, and despite herself Sanra was charmed.  Much to Koiso and Sanra’s surprise Jekku asked everyone if they would like to see something wonderful after a while.  Everyone was interested of course and she rooted around in her knapsack and pulled out a beautiful, almost ethereal glass or crystal tear. It was beyond beautiful and Koiso looked very impressed at its wonderful design and eyed it with desire.  Kiyomi looked intrigued too, and it interested Sanra enough that she asked Jekku if she had made it.  Jekku told her that she knew the maker very well and if they should ever want one she could pick one up as a token of their hospitality. Both Koiso and Sanra requested that she ask the maker to provide them with one. Jekku said she could make it happen, and that they would both have one by court the next day.  Kiyomi, while interested, declined the offer, suspicious of free gifts.

 

Late in the evening they began to hear rumours circulating and then they heard a loud Hida speak a table over “What, those Crane fops attacked the embassy!?”  That piqued Sanra’s interest, and she began to listen in.  The Hida continued “I knew they took a pasting in court today but who knew they had the balls to attack the Mantis in the city!!!!” before laughing as if it were the most hilarious thing in the world.

 

Sanra glanced quickly over at Kiyomi to see her reaction. She appeared perfectly calm at what she had heard.  Kiyomi didn’t rise to it, she said she was sure Nobukatsu could handle the situation without her.  More and more tables around the group started talking about it and start looking at Kiyomi. “It happened tonight…apparently they tried and succeeded to assassinate a courtier in the Mantis embassy…The courtier looks a lot like the one who played the flute in court today… The dead girl is called Yoritomo Hakusumi…”  Out in the streets the group could hear it getting louder as people went outside.  A young boy shouted out “The Mantis are getting ready, what a fight. Taking bets 2 to 1 for the Mantis!”

 

Sanra was tempted to go and mediate in her capacity as Ivory Magistrate, and if Koiso had had a personal Yojimbo, she would have, but she didn’t, and so the duty fell to Sanra to protect her until they reached the relative safety of the estate. Koiso didn’t even look up, too involved with her prize for the night.  Concerned, Sanra asked Kiyomi if she was alright. Completely calm, Kiyomi responded “I hate to impose on you Sanra-san, but it seems I need somewhere to stay tonight.” Jekku offered her bed, and Sanra offered one of the guest rooms at the Elemental Master’s estate since Koiso was far too occupied to pay any attention.  The Hiruma shyly offered to walk Sanra home.  Kiyomi thanked Jekku but declined, saying it is probably best she stay with Sanra for the night.  Koiso, in one of her mercurial changes of mood declared that all would return to her estate.  Sanra accepted the Hiruma’s offer and thanked him kindly, and the Hida, Hiruma, Kiyomi, Koiso and Sanra returned to the streets

 

A Mantis bushi ran up to Kiyomi and bowed very low.  She bowed back in return. “My lady, they have gone and done it, the bastards killed her, in cold blood in the night like a dog. My heart swells with rage!” He told her.

 

“I think it was meant for me. For the embarrassment I gave them.” Kiyomi responded. “Tell me what happened.”

 

“A Crane snuck through the window and stabbed our beloved Hakusumi with a Crane spear.  The guards caught a glimpse of the Daidoji bastard before he leapt onto the roof!  The guardsmen have been notified and our force is mobilising. Orders my lady?”

 

Koiso stared at the players and how this little conversation was unfolding with great interest; Sanra observed it quietly as a totally disinterested party to see what happened.

 

“I heard about this through the Crab, so already a description of what has happened is circulating. But the description could have been Hakusumi or myself, so let’s find out which one was the real target. We willof course retaliate but we shall do things a little differently this time.”  Kiyomi told him.

 

The Mantis grinned “Yes my lady of course. What are your ideas?”

 

“For now I want to find out who the target was, but let’s not make the Crane think they got away with it. Go rough some of them up and call them out for being cowards who attack at night – no deaths unless they fight back hard though.” She added, mindful of how it would look both for the Mantis and Crane.

 

“Indeed my lady it will be done… travel safely! I can send for an escort if you wish?” The bushi said, not having noticed her companions.

 

“I will be fine with my friends for now.” She said evenly.

 

He looked at Koiso then immediately looked back to Kiyomi “Of course my lady” He bowed and then disappeared shouting out to some nearby Mantis Kiyomi’s orders and they all splintered and ran off.  Koiso nodded sweetly to Kiyomi and the group continued their journey to the Elemental Masters estate.

 

The journey was uneventful until they were half way through the military district. There a Crane walked up to the party and declared “How dare you accuse our noble family of such atrocities! This is beyond even the most terrible of insults” and pointed directly Kiyomi.

 

“You have me mistaken with someone else. I don’t make accusations. I tell the truth.” Kiyomi responded, a little heat in her words.

 

“Well you speak with a forked tongue! I demand you name your second!!” He cried, and a small crowd began to gather around the party.

 

“I recommend you bring this up at tomorrow’s summit.” Sanra said in a loud voice, thrying to calm the situation, though she knew it was doomed to failure. “Everyone should return to their dwellings and allow tempers to calm a little.”

 

“This is not of Phoenix concern. Back away. It’s herI’m after!” The Crane declared, pointing once again at Kiyomi, and completely missing the symbol on Sanra’s robes that marked her as an Ivory Magistrate.

 

“And she is the valued guest of the Elemental Master of Firewho is losing patienceand wishes to continue her evening with her guest undisturbed” Sanra said, noticing the look on Koiso’s face…and the steam that her eyes were beginning to give off.  “Leave NOW before she does something she may regret when sober.”

 

“I regret nothing.” Koiso proclaimed and huge white bang knocked much of the crowd to the floor. When everyone looked again, where the Crane had once stood…was now a pile of ash.

 

Sanra went white and swore under her breath with great range and pungency – certainly nothing a courtier trained lady should ever know -at what Koiso had just done, but Koiso just locked arms with her Crab companion and moved the party on again.  Sanra followed, but kept looking behind her almost disbelievingly at what she had just witnessed.

 

“Well done Koiso! I was just going to have him whipped through the street but this is much cleaner. Let’s retire for the evening shall we?” Sanra heard Kiyomi say in a congratulatory tone as she caught up with them.

 

“Yes my Mantis courtier, lets. What an ignorant man! Such audacity… don’t you agree Sanra-san?” Koiso said, looking to Sanra.

 

“Who did he think he was? AsifI was going to accept a challenge from someone like him.” Kiyomi said pitching in before Sanra replied in a very subdued voice and with a tone that did not match the words that she voiced. “Of course Koiso-sama.”

 

 

 

 

Diary of Yoritomo Kiyomi

 

Entry 2

 

You would think the Phoenix would stick to the cleaner sections of the city when organising a night out but Koiso led us straight to a barely presentable sake house run by an unsavoury Crab. I felt rightat home.

 

We spent some time drinking with the Crab and speaking with an interesting Yasuki lady who was keen to gift us all with perfectly crafted crystal tears. She seemed a bit too keen to give us these tears so I am suspicious of her motives.

 

Rumours are spreading through the other patrons about an attack on the Mantis embassy by the Crane. I’m a little upset that I am not with Nobukatsu to help deal with this situation. The only victim of the attack was a young woman who looked a lot like me. I doubt she had done anything to really upset the Crane so it becomes obvious that I was the target of the attack.

 

A Yoritomo samurai comes up and asks for instructions on how to respond. I tell him to let the rest of the Mantis off the leash to go and retaliate on the Crane. However I tell them not to kill anyone.

 

On our way back to the Phoenix estate we are ambushed by a very rude Crane who challenges me to a duel. Sanra and Koiso step in and intervene, the Crane makes the mistake of insulting Koiso and she burns him to ash.

 

At court the next day I make apologies to the Ivory champion regarding the behaviour of our samurai but explain that it was understandable given the act of war by the Crane. We however are big enough to let cooler heads take over after the events of the previous night. Our position with the Phoenix is strong, we have an Elemental Master on our side but some other members of the Phoenix are not happy with the alliance. I will have to do something to mend the rift between the two sides of the Phoenix later.

 

The Scorpion also seem to be interested in joining us in an alliance of sorts. Nobukatsu wants me in the meeting to meditate the terms. However he practically agrees to everything the Scorpion propose without any negotiation at all. I’m wondering why he even brought me along.

 

After the meeting he gives me a personal task to do. So now I’m going to have to find a wig. I hate these pointless tasks. I’ll have to make them work for us somehow.

 

 

 

Notes From Scrying – Isawa Korimi

 

In the First Temple of Fudo, Cultists gather for a meeting of the highest importance…

 

Miko: So I see you’re leaving the city, a shame but understandable. What do you hope to gain with this conflict with the Mantis young one?

 

Kakita Akinori: Do you really need to ask that brother!? That pathetic excuse for a great clan will feel the fury of Kakita’s perfection before long. Where have you been Master? You have been sorely missed at court, what with the removal of that brotherhood fool that had caused you so much discord.

 

Miko: I have been exploring the frontier… and found some very interesting artefacts and “followers” along the way. Yes it is a pity about Akai, I would have loved to have had more debates of spirituality with that one, and to have seen his face when his beloved temple district turned to ash.

 

Kakita Akinori: More visions master? Tell me how will the Crane’s conflict fare with the Mantis? Please I must know!

 

Miko: Must you indeed! Such audacity from one so young. Your petty conflict is irrelevant compared to the larger threat to these Rokugani. The Second City will burn and not by Mantis hands, The Governor received but a taste of the mercy of this ancient race.

 

Kakita Akinori: The Naga? Their numbers are too few to amount to a real threat to the Colonies! Besides our numbers are surely greater!

 

Miko: “Our Numbers”? A Nation of nine squabbling divided clans!? No young one. The Akasha has spoken to me and their voices are many, with one purpose, one ideal…. the City will burn and its people will be slaughtered. I’m glad you’re leaving the city young one….

 

Kakita Akinori: Visions from the Mighty Fudo are certainly strong Miko-sama…

 

Miko: Visions? Oh no Akinori san, not visions….Voices…

 

Miko proceeds to pull out a beautifully designed, yet alien long Sword from his Kimono, covered in designs from Naga lore and mythology and various snake species with pearls

 

“They have told me everything…..and they are terrified….”

 

 

Travel Journal of Agasha Sanra

 

Entry 17: A Grisly Girls night out.

 

I was quite pleased to leave Togo and Nirav to their own devices, though it would be better if the guard were here to see them out. However, since Koiso has categorically banned Kobayashi from joining us on our girls night out tonight, I will have to leave it to him. I apologised to Koiso for inflicting Togo on her, but I had to for proprietary’s sake. I also suggested I could have the areas of the estate that the guests see be tidied slightly, not made pristine, just tidied.  Surprisingly, she’s listening to me, and agreed to it. I doubt she’ll agree to having the guards back as easily, but I’ll work on that. I’m really not comfortable with what she’s done with them. It’s not right. It’s not safe either.

 

The evening started off much like the last two, only with the substitution of Kobayashi for Kiyomi. We went to several up market tea houses, and it was formal and cultured, just the type of evening I enjoy. Of course Koiso soon brought the tone down to the level she’s more comfortable with. It started with the gossip slipping in, then she suggested we go to this ‘nice little sake house run by the Crab’. It was in the merchant district, and it certainly wasn’t the nice little place she painted it to be. I knew it wouldn’t be so I kept a straight face and agreed it was a good idea. Kiyomi was agreeable too. I wonder if she knew what she was in for with Koiso?

 

We headed there, and passed some of the guardsmen on our way into the merchant district. They were properly respectful to us, but Koiso was eyeing them like they were sweet-rice balls, and all she had to do was to lift a finger to have one of them. She probably could too without even half trying. She giggled behind her fan. I grinned back. They wererather good looking, I have to admit, not that I’d doanything with them. …But they were nice to look at.

 

As suspected, the sake house was a pretty rough place, very loud, and raucous though thankfully there was no brawling while we were there.  It wasn’t quite thatbad a place. When we walked in, the place went silent. When Koiso had said it was run by Crab, she didn’t mention that it was also patronised ONLY by Crab! I did my best diplomatic smile while I prepared a spell to defend all of us in case the Crab didn’t take to us. It was tense for a while, but one of the Hida bushi came over, and Koiso, being Koiso smoothed it all over, beckoning to the Hida to sit with her in a very seductive way.

 

At least it smoothed things over. There was a shy Hiruma with the Hida, I invited him to join us and we got chatting while Koiso got on with her seducing. He shuffled over and joined me. I’ve never met a shy Crab before. It’s quite refreshing. We got talking. He told me about himself and his family. He’s not been here long. He asked me about my battle wound, and I told him about it. He was very impressed I threw myself into the thick of battle. Very impressed indeed, and he became quite animated after that. Hiruma Zemko is trained as a scout, though he has never scouted beyond the Wall. He came here because he’s a younger son in a large family, so he’s come to seek his future in the Ivory Kingdoms. The Hida Koiso seduced is a friend of the family and helping him get his first steps here. I wished him well, and gave him some advice. From what I saw the Hida is a typical male of his type, very chauvinistic. Koiso was her usual self, and the Hida of course was lapping up the ego massage. Zemko was very charming, and if I were more like Koiso, I’d have done what she did, but…I’m not. He was lovely though. I liked him.

 

Kiyomi didn’t have any male company, but she seemed quite happy to listen and she wasn’t left alone for long. I introduced Kiyomi to Hiruma Zemko, as the amazing flute player from court. He was very impressed. The Hida was completely lost telling tales of glory on the Wall to Koiso who appeared to be engrossed, but I know she wasn’t entirely blocking out our conversation. I was kind of hoping Zemko would transfer his interest to Kiyomi, but I have Status and fought in a battle which left me honourably (sort of) wounded and apparently that counts for more than musical skill. She was alright though. She invited a young girl who was watching us over. I’d noticed her too. She looked like she wanted to ask if she could join us but was too shy. Yasuki Jekku sat by Kiyomi and they got chatting. I caught a waft of a very expensive fragrance, so she’s probably got good connections, or is from a wealthy family which is something. I hope she is at least.

 

It was turning into a really good evening, considering where we were. The sake was flowing, and thanks to Juruojin’s Balm, I remained completely sober. Jekku was an absolute hoot and was completely on the bead with all the current gossip, much to Kiyomi and Koiso’s delight. It was quite juicy stuff too. She surprised us all by asking us if we would like to see something wonderful. Of course we did, and she rooted around in a knapsack she had with her and pulled out the most beautiful tear made from glass or crystal. It looked almost ethereal. Koiso was very impressed. I could tell she wanted one from the look in her eye. I was intrigued too, it was exquisite craftsmanship. I asked her who made it. I want to buy one, I knew Koiso would want one too. She skirted around who made them, but she knows the maker, and can get us one as a token of our hospitality. I thought it a little odd, but then, Koiso is an Elemental Master, she must get all sorts of perks like this for acknowledging people. I’ll go along for the ride…especially if it’s something as beautiful as that teardrop. She said she could get them for us for court tomorrow.

 

Unfortunately, the night didn’t end as well. Late in the evening, we began to hear rumours circulating the house of something happening outside. We all heard one Hida ask his friend rather loudly “What those Crane fops attacked the embassy!?” Well I had to listen to thatconversation! He continued, slurring his words slightly from too much sake “I knew they took a pasting in court the other day but who knew they had the gall to attack the Mantis in the city!!!!” Of course the Crab all thought it was hilarious. I knew better. They’ve been sniping at each other for months. This could be one provocation too many. I was concerned and asked her if she was alright. Kiyomi-san seemed to take it all very well. I was impressed with her composure. I would have been furious, or at the least upset. More and more tables around us start talking about it and people started looking at her.

 

Slowly we heard more information come in from the Crab in the sake house. It happened while we were in the sake house… they tried and succeeded to assassinate a Mantis courtier inthe Mantis embassy where Kiyomi was staying…and the courtier, one Yoritomo Hakusumi looked a lot like her apparently. We heard a lot of people running in the streets, and I heard a boy shouting “The Mantis are getting ready, what a fight! Taking bets 2 to 1 for the Mantis!”

 

Koiso was far too involved in the Hida to be paying any attention to it all. I know I’m an Ivory magistrate and should investigate, but I had to stay with Koiso. My duty is first to Koiso and the other Elemental Masters, and then to the Ivory Magistracy….and then Togo…though he’d probably shout at me for that, but how can I put him before duty when we hate each other? If we loved each other it would be different, but there’s no one I love save for mother and father, so my duty to the Elemental Masters and my clan is all I have to fall back on…the marriage was all part of a peace treaty. It was never going to work. He’s never even tried. So why should I put it first?

 

Kiyomi-san asked very politely said she needed somewhere to stay the night, and while the Yasuki girl offered a place to stay, I offered her one of our guest rooms to stay in. Zemko-san shyly offered to walk me home, which was very sweet. I think he thought he might get lucky. Poor guy. I’m too sober, but…Shen did seem more interested in Koiso than me. Is my scar putting him off? I don’t think he’s that shallow, but we didn’t exactly get to know each other thatwell before… If it is that, I might consider a discrete liaison with Zemko. He was interested in Me, not Koiso, even with the scar on my face. And he was very sweet.

 

About that time Koiso decided she’d had enough of the Tête-à-tête with the Hida and wanted to move straight into the next phase of the evening and decreed that we should ALL return to the estate. Of course Zemko accompanied us. Who am I to disagree with my superior? We hadn’t long left the house when a Mantis bushi ran up to Kiyomi, bowed low, as if she were a Daimyo of the Mantis and told her exactly what happened. Koiso looked quite interested. I just stood there observing as a disinterested party to see what she decided. The Mantis are well within their rights to retaliate, but I hope they go through the right channels. We don’t need another riot in the city. It was a cold blooded murder. Kiyomi knew it was meant for her too, after the triumph she had had at court. She asked for the details. Apparently one of the Daidoji snuck in and stabbed the girl that looked like her with a spear before escaping across the roof. The bushi then asked her for orders, telling her that the Mantis forces were mobilising. Her response was quite measured. She requested an investigation on who the target was meant to be, but retaliation was permitted. She stressed the fact they couldn’t think they had gotten away with it, but she stipulated no deaths. I’m realistic enough to know that peace between the clans under such circumstances is impossible, so the fact she didn’t go for all out vendetta was pleasing.

 

What was MUCH more difficult were the questions Koiso put to me while Kiyomi-san dealt with the bushi. She leaned in and whispered to me, that the Crane had certainly gotten themselves into a sticky situation and what I thought our stance should be if war was declared and they came to petition us to be their allies. I tried so hard to council for neutrality, and I’m ashamed to say, something of Togo must have rubbed off on me, or the balm wasn’t working as well as it should have because I also suggested that we wait to see what each clan offered, and opt for what would help our clan the most. I don’t know what came over me. Though to be fair, neither side is truly innocent in the situation. The Mantis have been harrying the Crane shipping lanes for months, the Crane have beaten them in court and there’s been a stalemate.

 

The Mantis triumph at court must have been too much for the militant Daidoji, though Kanawan-san was a peaceable enough man. But SUCH a retaliation! It is so dishonourable. I swear Koiso was enjoying the situation. I certainly wasn’t. She pushed me to give her an answer, so, based on what I knew had happened, I did. What the Mantis have been doing, while annoying, could have been resolved in court. What the Cane did was open and dishonourable and very poorly timed. It could even be construed as a declaration of war, when I know there are problems of greater import, and an inter-clan war is the last thing we need. Katsuru-sama said we would need everyone. Everyone. Including the native population. Which means he believes that the clans combined cannot protect the Ivory Kingdoms from whatever threat is coming alone. We do not need a war right now. The Crane have not been wise. So, on balance, I told Koiso that if forcedto pick, making it clear I did not want to at this time, I would side with the wronged party, in this case the Mantis.

 

Her response worried me. I think she just made ME make the decision for what the entre clan’s stance will be, and it’s not the stance I want to choose. The Phoenix are a peaceful clan, as my mother’s staff once had to remind me. Our path is peace, and knowledge, enlightenment, not war and picking sides.

 

The bushi Kiyomi was speaking to obviously hadn’t taken in her company. He asked if she needed an escort. She said, quite sensibly she’d be fine with us, and only then did he look. One look was enough to convince him shewouldn’t have any problems tonight, not in the party of an Elemental Master, especially the Elemental Master of Fire. He left then, presumably to spread her orders, and we continued on to the estate. A pity we had to pass through the military district to get there. A Crane saw Kiyomi and tried to pick a fight with her, saying she was accusing his family of an atrocity and it was beyond even the most terrible of insults. Kiyomi’s response was quite measured, but he wanted to fight her. And that wasn’t a good thing, because he was interfering with Koiso’s evening. And I now realise I will have to add another duty to the things I must do…protect others from her. Her patience is short. Her temper hot, and her punishments…permanent.

 

When the Crane accosted our party I saw the look of annoyance on her face she sighed and muttered “I need to be back at the estate, please move along” under her breath and her eyes started to go red…

 

I’ve never seen that before, but I easily guessed what it meant. I stepped in, recommending that the Crane brought his problems to tomorrow’s summit, and that everyone should return to their dwellings.  The idiot didn’t listen, told me it was not a Phoenix concern that I should back off, but Kiyomi was our guest, I couldn’t do that, Koiso wouldn’t have either. There are RULES to having guests. You protect them. You give them hospitality, and they repay you in kind. I warned him Koiso was getting impatient, any idiot could have seen it if they’d looked. Her eyes were very red by now, and starting to give off steam. I’ve seen a LOT of magical things in my life. And that scared me.

 

I may have mis-spoken in my fear, setting her off. I told him to leave now before Koiso did something she might regret later. I should have just told him to leave or face the wrath of the Elemental Master of Fire

 

She said she regretted nothing and just….incinerated him. No other warning, one minute he was there, the next…ash. I’ve…It was…so wrong. I don’t know what to do, I can’t tell her off, I don’t have the authority, but…she can’t just go around…doing that. It makes me feel sick remembering it, and…she… scares me. And the way she just carried on with her evening as if it was perfectly normal…If I had been in the mood for sleeping with Zemko, that right there would have put me right offanything.

 

I followed her, I couldn’t notfollow her but…I kept looking back at what had once been a proud Crane bushi. I’ve sent word to Asako and Saburo telling them of this…there will be ramifications…perhaps I should send word to Mother? I don’t know what to do, and she’s always given me good advice. Perhaps she could do something, or empower me to do something…but…I don’t want to be constantly bombarding her with requests for advice. She has far more important things to be thinking about, and she told me she had every faith in me when I last saw her…

 

I really didn’t like the cavalier way Kiyomi responded to Koiso afterwards. She congratulated her! Said she was going to have him whipped through the streets but what Koiso did was much cleaner. She’s gone down in my opinion. Any sensible person would be horrified by what just happened. At least the Crane have SOME refined sensibilities. But Koiso was proud of what she did. Asked if I agreed. I was so stunned, and I admit, scared of her…I agreed.

 

I did my duty and entertained Kiyomi and Zemko, since Koiso retired straight to her rooms with the Hida. After Kiyomi retired, I saw Zemko out, and only then filled Kobayashi in on what had happened. He looked sick. I don’t blame him. It’s how I feel.  I have sent him with notes to Saburo and Kaitoko-san informing them of what’s happened so they can be ready for whatever eventuality occurs.

Diary of Yoritomo Kiyomi

 

Entry 0

 

My great aunt kept a diary of her actions in the court of Ryoko Owari. It is a semi interesting read. Many of my family say I take after her.  I don’t see it but I thought I would try and keep a diary myself. The Ivory Kingdoms are vastly different from the Emerald Empire.

 

My father has sent me here to help cement Mantis power with a marriage. However he has not yet arranged it. I am here early. I have been well trained by my tutors in the ways of court and my skills are sorely needed. I will have to make sure that when Daddy decides who I will marry it will be someone of my choosing.

 

I am no wall flower like my great aunt I mean to stand up for my rights and take what I am entitled to… and more.

 

 

Travel Journal of Agasha Sanra

 

Entry 14: A Girls night out

 

Oh god my head hurts! Koiso has just woken me looking all perfect and pristine. We are late for court and my court robes are stained from last night’s revelry. My OTHER robes are my travel robes, and they are dusty and smell of long travel in them. What do I do? Which do I wear? I can’t NOT go to court. I’m expectedthere by the Kitsuki, there’s no time to go out and buy fresh, and I can’t wear mother’s robes to court! How does Koiso do it? Look so perfect after partying so hard last night? It wasa very good night out…what I remember of it at least.

 

We went to the pleasure sections of the artisan and merchant districts. It started out perfectly well, perfectly cultured and refined, as befits an Elemental Master and her aide. We went to take tea, and then went to see some light theatre. She snuck sake into the theatre though, and I couldn’t refuse to join her in drinking it when she asked me. She was looking at me so expectantly, as if it was some sort of test I had to pass. The evening did become more fun after that. We were soon having a very good time, laughing and talking. I’m fairly certain we went to a sake house in the merchant district, but things go a bit fuzzy after that…I remember Koiso inviting some off duty guards to join us, and given recent events I think they were glad to blow off some steam having some fun. The Scorpion avoided us as if afraid of Koiso-sama. That really amused me. I do remember that. It’s the last clear thing I do remember before Koiso woke me…and one of the guards was passed out or asleep at the foot of my bed. By all the fates and fortunes, I pray I didn’t get so drunk as to lose all sense of honour and slept with the man. Koiso gave me some packets of THAT tea. I’ll have to take it. I can’t take the risk that I slept with…whatever his name is. I’m going to HAVE to use Jurojin’s balm when I go out with her. I’m just not used to drinking so much, even with the tattoos to help me soak up the effects, and if Togo finds out whatI woke up to he’ll be pissed, and I don’twant to give him the pleasure of telling me off.

 

Koiso however seems to be very pleased with me and all but said that she’s glad she has someone to enjoy what she calls ‘all the passions life have to offer’. If that means getting drunk every night and sleeping with a different man each time count me out! I’ll accompany her, drink with her, have fun with her but I’ll not copy her in sleeping around. A discrete liaison with someone however…that would not be so bad. She did tell me that Fire is all about passion. I knew that already, but I also learned that passion should be balanced with moderation…a term I’m fairly sure Koiso has never heard of. I sent a letter to Saburo-san, but have yet to hear back from him. Hopefully he can guard the estate in a discrete a manner. Certainly Koiso doesn’t believe SHE needs any protection. I’ll have to do my best with Kobi to assist me. Now WHICH robe should I wear to court? They’re both awful! I can’t…just can’t go to court in stained robes. I’ll just have to do my best to shake the dust from my travel robes and douse myself in scent to mask the other smells.

 

Travel Journal of Agasha Sanra

 

Entry 15: Court with a Hangover

 

Poor Kobayashi was grey when I met him this morning. He didn’t weather last night very well either. I think we both might have over indulged a bit because of what we saw in the Governors estate.  I know that’s why I drank faaaaar too much… He thinks its madness the situation Koiso has put us all in. I agree it’s really bad. How can the honour of the clan be upheld when such a high status personage is carrying on the way she is? I told him we will have to do our best and if worst comes to worst, he’s to guard her.

 

Koiso-sama is new to the Second City, and so doesn’t yet know anyone. She asked me if I knew anyone who could join us for tea, suggesting we could find some female accompany to spend time with outside of court, her only stipulation being ‘just no slinky Scorpion harlots’. That’s fine with me, though I suspect it’s because she doesn’t want to be out-slinked. I introduced her to those I know at court and updated her on the progress I have made in making allies etc. I wonder if Kaitoko-san has any interesting Phoenix that Koiso-sama would accept who have some yojimbo training? I shall have to have a word with her if I can get the time. Koiso-sama probably wants to form a gossip group, certainly she wants it to primarily be from the other clans. It wouldn’t surprise me if she’s trying to hide just how outrageous her behaviour is in private from the rest of the clan. But the contact with other clans, and the allies we can make through it could come in very useful. I hopeKoiso knows what she is doing, so I will do my duty and assist her to the best of my ability.

 

We arrived at court and the Ivory Champion was absent. I saw Togo across the court. He looked disgusted with me. Perhaps he had heard about my night out, but then that’s the usual look he has on his face around me so I’m not quite sure. The court was in chaos, both of the thrones were empty suggesting we are at this time leaderless. Kudo stood next to the Governors throne, another Spider standing behind him. He looks familiar, and must be the one we saw the other night.  He’d take charge if the other great clans would allow it, but they will never do that.

 

The Kitsuki tried to interrogate me in front of Koiso-sama. The bastard. I thought Koiso-sama would rake me over the coals for getting into trouble so soon on this assignment. However, she was cool, and collected, asking him who he was, and basically telling him to go away. I believe her exact words were “Leave us to our courtly business or feel the wrath of the Elemental Masters”. He looked awkward and left. I guess this job has some perks if I can get protection from one of the Empresses representatives! I think I’m starting to like her. She thought telling him to go away was fun. Told me I should get into trouble more often! I explained what had happened when she asked, and she wanted to know what Tomo was like in bed!

 

I put her straight on that point and she looked at me like I was strange. She said ‘He was staying with you, why shouldn’t you have slept with him?’ It’s a good thing Shen interrupted or I’d have had to explain about Togo, and then introduce her to him. He waved at me, and walked over. Koiso suspects there’s something between us from the look she gave me I’m sure. At least she won’t make any negative comments.

 

He asked me if I was ok, and about my journey to the frontier, so I told him. He was really struggling to focus on me though, with Koiso standing next to me looking so perfect and stunningly beautiful. I don’t blame him for wanting to stare at her. I’m scarred and will never be as beautiful or as influential as her. I think she was encouraging it too. I will not be surprised if she seduces him. But I will be disappointed in him. For all we have only been together twice, I like him. I didn’t think he was like that.

 

Shen suggested we all take tea, and Koiso-sama agreed to it readily when I said I was at her disposal. It was suggested that he come tonight, but it’s not happening now, we are going out again. I had to look away from them, it upset me to see him looking at her like that, so I saw Nirav making a hash of returning Fubuwari and Kanawan’s daisho to their respective clans. Doing it in court was a stupid move. He made an ally of the Crab, for handing Fubuwari’s blade over first, and the Crane are NOT amused to be the second recipient. I’m sure that will come back to bite him in the future. I hope I’m there to see it.

 

The doors swung open then and the herald announced the Ivory Champion. Everyone tried to question him at once and he had to raise his hand to silence them. He announced to court that Katsuru-sama’s replacement had already been sent, would arrive in the next few weeks and that in the meantime he would temporarily be in command. He refused to name the new governor. I wonder who it is? The Kitsuki walked up to him then and spoke to him. All I heard in response was “Do what you have to do and get out of my sight.” It was a rather brave thing to say to one of the Empress’s representitives. He must be under a lot of stress. The Kitsuki clicked his fingers, and left court Akai-san following. I believe, being bilked out of myself, and possibly Togo protected Nirav…it would be like him to do so only to throw the boy to the wolves later, Akai is the Kitsuki’s scape-goat. I feel for Akai, and hope the Empress sees reason.

 

 

Personal Sutra – Tategami Akai

 

Entry 9

 

“You cannot live while hiding from Life” – The Little Master

 

There is much to tell but this entry is only about the Dragon. Kitsuki Daisuke. He has brought us up on charges for the death of the Turquoise Champion.

 

“Every day of his life a man has only one judge and that judge is himself” – The Little Master

 

I could try to deny these accusations but I know my part in this. Never let it be said that I have not upheld Honour when I had the chance.

 

Chikai, I leave this Journal to help you understand my actions at the end and to guide your actions in the future. I go to my judgement not afraid. Be honest and unafraid in everything you do. I have complete faith that the temple is in good hands.

 

Tategami Akai formerley Akodo Tagemai

 

 

Travel Journal of Agasha Sanra

 

Entry 16: Courtly Duelling

 

This morning Koiso and I went shopping, and thankfully I managed to acquire one or two robes I can use for nights out, so I can keep my court robes clean…though given they are covered in flames, I won’t be surprised if Koiso ‘borrows’ them if her robes aren’t absolutely perfect. I’ll have to make sure the staff at the estate are very much on the ball at keeping her clothing perfectlyclean. But just in case, one of the robes I’ve bought is quite nice and goes well with my ocean tattoos, and that’sbeing hidden in my mother’s rooms…not that that’s likely to stopKoiso using them, but mothers robes are stored in a more obvious place.

 

In the afternoon we went to court. This time I was as perfectly made up as Koiso, in clean robes and I wasn’t hung over (Thanks to the fortunes whoever created Jurojin’s Balm!). It was a great day.

 

When we arrived at court, the Mantis were in their corner as per usual looking suspicious, and the Crane mingling with the other clans, as is their custom, and studiously avoiding each other, also as per typical. Akodo Hotaka looked completely out of his depth, bless him. The court is not under his control in the slightest, he looked harried and tired and troubled…and I feel for him. He’s a tactician and a general not a diplomat or courtier. He’s way out of his depth, just like I felt when I first came here.

 

I introduced Koiso-sama to him and he went through the motions, Koiso seemed to like him, but he is very handsome, so that wasn’t at allsurprising. We had a brief exchange and he acknowledged our status and position. I invited him to take tea with us when he is not under so much stress. He was short with me saying he has no time to do anything, let alone take tea. I can believe it. So I reiterated that the invite stood for when he does have time. He probably won’t even after the new governor arrives, and even then he’ll probably be busy, but it’s worth a try.

 

We went to mingle with the rest of the courtiers after that. I updated Koiso on how things stood last time I was at court but was stopped by the most beautiful and haunting melody I’ve ever heard. Everyone was entranced by it. We all ended up staring at the beautiful Mantis girl sitting in the lotus position in the middle of the court playing a most beautifully crafted flute. She has amazing skill. It was stunning, moving, haunting, emotional, and if I were not a samurai, honour bound to retain my face of composure, I would have been in tears it moved me so much.

 

When the music died away, the whole court gave her rapturous applause. Koiso approached the girl, and I was not far behind her to congratulate her on her skill. Koiso rewarded her with a public acknowledgement, asking her name, and introducing me. I was not slow in praising Yoritomo Kiyomi for her skill with a flute. She told us it was her joy to play, and her family had encouraged her, if she brings joy to others then she feels she has done her duty. She actually sounded sincere about that too.

 

The courtiers noticed that Koiso-sama went to talk with Kiyomi-san of course. It will do the girl no harm to have such an admirer. Koiso-sama asked what the source of the tune was, it being such a mournful piece. Kiyomi said the mournful times had inspired her, because two great men had died. She acknowledged the governor first of course, and then named one of her own clan, one Yoritomo Imoto. The Crane seemed to be disgusted, but the clans don’t get on, so it’s probably sour beans that they hadn’t thought of such a tribute to the governor and one of their own. Togo laughed. I wonder why? No matter. I’m sure if I’m meant to find out I will.

 

Koiso invited Kiyomi to take tea and spend the evening with us and sought my opinion on the matter. I’ve made NO headway at all with the Mantis since my arrival, and whatever makes Koiso-sama happy is fine with me, so long as it doesn’t require me to bed anyone like a Scorpion woman might. I do have my limits after all. Kiyomi however seems exactly the right sort of person to spend time with us, so I said she’d definitely be an asset. Certainly her skills with a flute will keep us well entertained, I am sure.

 

After we had spoken with her, she stepped up to Kudo, bowed and introduced herself to the Ivory Champion. He acknowledged her, and she proposed an Iaijutsu tournament in honour of the dead to Hotaka-san. That was an exciting thought. Kobayashi looked very happy, though the Crane were a bit confused. Are the Mantis starting to beat them at their own game? That could prove quite interesting. Dangerous too if they end up warring with one another, given what I think is going on in the Ivory Kingdoms. Hotaka-san didn’t seem to be very impressed with the idea at first…until Kiyomi brought out the most beautiful katana I have seen in a long time. It’s a perfect presentation piece and Hotaka-san relented, even to permitting the tournament to take place in the court which is unheard of! He was very impressed with the piece, Kudo less so. Kobayashi was looking at it in a doey eyed way one would look at the person they very much love and desire. He really wants to try to win that sword. He looked to me, seeking my permission. For the honour of the Phoenix, I gave it with my blessing.

 

I noticed Togo talking to Nirav. Presumably he wants the boy to enter. Then the rules are announced. It is to be a duel to the first blood. I took the opportunity to get over one of the less pleasant tasks I had to perform; introducing Koiso-sama to my belovedhusband. He was pleased to meet her, or appeared to be at least, but was quick to pull me aside and tell me off for my night out. It’s not like I wanted to sleep with anyone. I still don’t, but he accused me of acting as he did, and being a hypocrite! I don’t have bastards spread around half of Rokugan! It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s already made a good start on fathering more children in the city either. I accepted the criticism with good grace, though he took things a shade too far in telling me to not embarrass him in court today. He’s obviously referring to the attire I wore yesterday. If I hadn’t been requiredin court yesterday I would not have attended. It couldn’t be helped, and won’t happen again now I have new clothes. I slip up once and he’s all over me for embarrassing him!  I was embarrassed enough for myself to have to present myself at court like that.  It was disgraceful.

 

The tournament was fascinating and fun to watch. Nirav was one of the first to be called, and I understood from Kobayashi he has little experience. The Akodo he was facing didn’t look very impressed with him either, and went at him with what appeared to be a perfect strike. He stumbled though, and Nirav took the first blood. I could swear that was staged somehow by the Scorpion. But I didn’t see anything obvious.

 

There were several more combatants including Mantis, Crab and Lion before Kobayashi was called to face a Unicorn woman of the Shinjo family. He seemed confident as he left my side and made an elegant strike, hitting her on the arm a bit harder than he planned if the look on his face was anything to go by. He looked quite smug as he returned to me. I congratulated him of course.

 

There were more contestants, including the yojimbo of the Doji courtier we met on our return to the city and more Crab. Then Nirav faced Mirumoto Joben, one of the most skilled Duellistis in the Ivory Kingdoms, and head of the Dragon in the City.  Quite unexpectedly he told Nirav that he appeared to be outmatched, bowed and walked back into the crowd. That hadto be a fix by the Scorpion. I’ve heard of Joben’s prowess with a sword. I shot a glance at Togo, but he had that bland look of innocence on his face. The Scorpion definitelydid something there. I can’t wait to see it come back to bite Nirav, better yet if it were to bite Togo too…

 

Kobiyshi faced Kakita Akinori next, the Crane that was going to represent Shiba Tomo in the honour duel over the painting he did, and Kobayashi beat him with a light tap on the arm. He had the right to look smug after that. I felt smug too. Akinori has a reputation as a great duellist. But they bowed perfectly honourably to one another after wards.

 

Kiyomi-san asked me to sit with her to watch the rest of the competiton, so I joined her to chat for a bit. She congratulated me on how well Kobi was doing. I told her about his part in the battle of the village, and she offered me a mask to wear to hide my scar, but I won’t copy a fashion so popular with the Scorpion. I thanked her politely enough when I declined though.

 

The Doji yojimbo – Iza her name is I think – faced a Mirumoto for nearly half an hour before each bowed and walked away. Karmic strike. They are a match for one another, though I could hear rumours of a vendetta between the two from some of the courtiers standing nearby. To the first blood would not be enough for them.

 

In the semi-finals, Nirav and Kobayashi were both knocked out. Kobayashi faced a bushi of the Monkey clan. The monkey drew a katana that was more No-datchi than katana, and they too made a karmic strike, making tiny nicks in each other’s arms at the same moment. It was the ronin Sahara that was the eventual winner. I commiserated with Kobi, who was being a bit stroppy about karmic striking with a Monkey – a samurai from one of the minor clans. I salved his pride (why is it men as such girls about things like that?) telling him he’d done really well, which he had, and that the monkey are known to be tricksy, which they are. He accrued no dishonour this day, and acquired at least some glory to his name.

 

After the prize presentation, the Spider who I have seen attending Kudo-san who I have learned is called Oham tried to speak with Sahara, but he was very dismissive of the Spider, possibly even disgusted. I don’t blame him, that one is quitecreepy. Sahara announced to the court that he was remaining in the city, and will train those that wish to learn from him. I suggested to Koiso, that perhaps some of the guard she sent back to the barracks might be sent to learn from him, and she agreed it was a good idea. She asked my opinion of Nirav too, and I was truthful. For a Scorpion he appears to be quite competent. For a Scorpion.

 

The Doji magistrate congratulated the Mantis on following in the Crane’s footsteps (he has such a lovely voice), and made an excellent speech, praising the music as a highlight of the day, which, to be fair it was, but if the Crane and the Mantis are fighting for the favour of the court, the Mantis won the round this day.

 

Akodo Hotaka requested the presence of all the heads of clans and all the diplomats to attend a peace summit tomorrow between the Crane and the Mantis, saying that any interested persons would be welcome, and concluded the court. Koiso invited Togo and Nirav to dinner with us. I noticed Togo looking at the estate as we passed through. He looks far too smug. I’m going to have to mention it to Koiso-sama later. The place could do with a few repairs and cleaning, and could still retain the lived in feel that she likes.

 

We discussed the tournament mostly. Kobayashi was less impressed than Koiso was. Kobayashi was more deserving of his wins than Nirav, that’s for sure. Though Togo was gracious in agreeing he was unfortunate to be knocked out by a karmic strike. Nirav tried to Impress Koiso with a haiku, and failed miserably; for all it was elegant and cultured, it was quite grim. It was very hard to not look amused. The rest of dinner felt very awkward. I was relieved when Koiso-sama excused us as ‘we have things to do’ also known as going out for the evening. I wonder if Togo will remain this evening to see if I do bring anyone home. I’m almost tempted to see the look on his face…but I won’t. If he is there when I return it will almost certainly only be to do his duty as my husband, and for that I willneed alcohol!

Travel Journal of Agasha Sanra

 

Entry 12 – The Dammned, Battle & Aftermath.

 

Nirav came back at a run “We have Dammned Crabs.” was his report. I can see why he hurried. Crab aren’t a pushover at the best of times, take Fubuwari-san for example. An ordinary bushi would have died several times over on our way here with the injuries he has for the most part shrugged off. These ones, the Dammned are even worse. They have Shadowlands taint and are a loooong way from home. I wonder why they are here? Time will tell.

 

Kanawan asked if they were coming here. I wasn’t overly surprised to hear that they were following our trail. Slightly more sensibly Kanawan suggested that Fubuwari-san talk to them, which he agreed to. He and Nirav head into the forest. I hope they are successful, but we had better prepare for the worst….just in case. The others agree.

 

*****

 

Sometime later the Dammned walked out of the forest, Fubuwari and Nirav with them. I watch from a distance in my assigned position. If things go badly I can retaliate with Osano-Wo’s fury.

 

I overheard the white haired child arguing with the Sultan, who she seems to be related to. She is refusing to go with the other women and children, wanting to fight. The sultan doesn’t seem to know what to do so I offered to keep her by me and protect her, as I am unlikely to be anywhere near the battle and if she thinks she is acting as my body guard so much the better. I don’t think he liked the idea, but at least the child will not be in the thick of things if it does go badly.

 

Akai and Kanawan and the others go to parlay with the Crab legion.

 

*****

 

I don’t remember much of the battle. I know that Fubwari made the first move, trying to hit the Kuni shugenja. We all tried to take him out before he caused too much havoc. I know I hit him with lightning, but his retaliation had the ground flying around like a lethal weapon. I need to find out what that spell was. It would make a very good offensive spell when I am unable to cast any more fire spells and cannot use my school technique to use others.

 

I remember Kobayashi guarding me as was his duty, even though he really wanted to join the fight. I remember seeing Spider in the trees. They seem to be in and around the village now, so I think that they helped in the fight. Kobayashi says they were of inestimable help.

 

Akai tells me he managed to take the Kuni’s head off before the fight devolved into a mass battle. He said the Spider flanked the Crab and tried to smash into them (if bugs can smash into giants). I do remember one unexpected and unpleasant side effect of my attack. I deafened everyone in the vicinity of the Crab, meaning that we had no general. Me, being the highest status person should have taken over as a general but I have notraining or experience in tactics, or leadership in general, least of all in battles. I can only thank the fates and fortunes that I had Kobayashi. He at least has a littletheory, even if he’s had little chance to put it into practice. I gave it to him, and he did beautifully. I remember him being conflicted, he wanted to guard me, but we needed a general. I remember telling him to do his best, and I don’t remember anythingelse of the battle.

 

*****

 

I woke up in a cot next to Akai several days after the battle. His head was bandaged and he was sitting up writing in a journal. I soon learned that he had lost an eye. Kobayashi looked exhausted, he was unwashed, didn’t look like he had eaten, I think he has been watching over me. His face lit up when he saw me wake. Nirav tells me he stayed with me the entire time I was unconscious. Several days at least. My face hurt. There was some kind of silky wetness and bandages.

 

I soon discovered why my face hurts.  It is from the battle wound I received. I will forever bear a thin scar across my face according to the Guru, from forehead across the bridge of my nose to my cheek. He says there should be no physical impairment though, which I am grateful for. I still can’t decide whether it’s a disfigurement or if I should be proud of my battle wound. I guess I should wait until the swelling goes down and it heals to new skin. The Guru did a good job healing me though. Whatever he did, it isn’t as agonising as I thought it would be. It hurts of course, but only if I make large facial movements or try to touch it or when the bandages are changed.

 

I should never have gotten into the thick of battle. It was stupid and reckless and I’m not sure why I did it. I should have stayed in reserves and allowed Kobayashi to shine. I think I wanted to prove myself. I don’t deserve my position, I only have it by right of my mother and I keep feeling like I have to prove I am worthy.

 

I asked Kobayashi what happened. He reassured me that we had won the battle. He apologised for failing to protect me properly. Apparently I got pretty deep into the fray before being injured. I really don’t know what possessed me. And THEN he apologised for dropping mother’s staff when he was getting me out of the thick of battle safely. He went back and found it after the battle was over, and it’s totally undamaged, but he still felt ashamed for having lost it temporarily. He’s so good to me bless him. He offered to commit seppuku to clean the stain on his family’s name! In my opinion, he brought both honour and glory to his name and of course I refused him. I told him he did well under the circumstances. I even apologised to him, for causing him conflict in his loyalties. Me or the battle. He told me he stepped down as general when he saw me get injured, but Kanawan-san took over.

 

The Crab were killed to the last man thankfully, but sadly Kanawan-san and Fubuwari-san were killed in the battle. There have been a lot of fatalities and injuries; the tent I am in is packed, but I was glad to see the white haired child still lives. She looks very sad though, and her hair is starting to go grey now she no longer has any hair whitener. It’s starting to wash out. If I ever come back here, I must remember to bring her a bottle. She’s being very helpful to the injured mopping foreheads and soothing the injured.

 

 

Personal Sutra – Tategami Akai

 

Entry 8

 

“Hesitation is the seed of defeat” – The Little Master

 

The Damned Legion attacked the village. There are few forces more feared within the Empire but until now the Crab have always reserved them for fighting against the Shadowlands. Their Leader a Kuni Shugenja made some pretence of corruption within the village but it was a feeble excuse to justify his dishonourable actions.

 

The battle is fierce, the enemy contain significant numbers of Berserkers. Add to that the fact they are tainted… well let’s just say they don’t go down easy.

 

The battle gets harder as my wounds begin to worsen. Kanawan manages to get hold of the Enemy banner and I join him in the battle. He will never get it back to our supply lines without my help. I shadow him and act as his Yojimbo helping him move through the ranks of battle.

 

We are nearly at the end of our journey, but we are struggling to even stand. I know Kanawan is down to his last few spells and my wounds have seriously hampered my effectiveness in combat. But we should be free and clear now… but then we see one of the Damned feasting on the flesh of one of the villagers. He sees the banner and charges us. Kanawan casts jade stirke and evades the Crabs attack. I strike him hard with my No-Dachi. That gets his attention and his next attack collides with my head and the lights go out.

 

***

 

I wake up in the Guru’s tent. Sanra is next to me in a different bed with Kobayashi hovering over her. Her wounds look severe but it’s hard to focus on them for some reason. There is something covering my eye. I go to remove it and the Guru tells me not to. Then I realise what has happened, my eye is gone. There is no sign of the others so I don’t know their fates. Hopefully they are waiting outside for us. I will have to wait and see.

 

 

Travel Journal of Agasha Sanra

 

Entry 13: Return to the Second City. Month of the serpent 1198

 

It took Akai and I several days to recover from the battle well enough that we could travel, and we decided that we needed to return to the city to report to the governor what had happened as soon as possible. The sultan was so grateful for our assistance that we were offered a safe passage out to the edge of the frontier or the nearby temple, wherever we wanted to go. He thanked us for our help and told us that we will always have friends in the village and are welcome to stay if we wish. If I did not have duties I might even have even tempted by the offer to escape Togo, and set about teaching the people of the village of the Ivory Dawn the way of the Tao and the Kami and the fortunes. The Spider I have seen around the village since the battle stay on, so it is up to them I suppose. No doubt they will put their own flair on things, but the people have the statue of Shiba, and one day I may return to teach them more about our ways and religion if they wish it.

 

We were escorted to the outskirts of the jungle without mishap and made our final farewells. We had sent the horses back to the city, so it was a long and dusty walk back. I’m glad I had my straw hat. The sun was very hot and made my scar itch. That’s supposed to be a good thing though, it means it’s healing properly or so I have been told. It should take us about a week to get to the city, as opposed to the two days it took to get out here.

 

*****

 

Well I never! Of all the cheek! We are about two thirds of the way back to the city. While walking we noticed a horse and rider in a green kimono. He had a fan and appeared to be the pampered type. He seemed to be meditating while fanning himself but stopped as we approached and sought words with us. Kitsuki Daisuke has been sent to investigate the death of Shiba Tomo. Apparently he was a favourite of the Empress, and if that is the case the Kitsuki and the Imperial guards are definitely slipping in their screening process of those suitable to be close to her. But the man – Daisuke – does have the reputation as one of the finest investigators in Rokugan, so I guess even the line of Kitsuki can slip up from time to time or their investigation techniques are flawed. The man was certainly biased by his own opinions. I thought that the Kitsuki were supposed to be very much in the line of collecting evidence and working from that rather than pompous opinions!

 

He asked if we were the magistrates that had investigated the painting, seemed confused as to why Kanawan-san and Fubuwari-san were not there, so we explained about the battle and our losses. He interrogated us about our investigation, despite the fact that magistrates, Ivory or Emerald have the right to execute someone when guilt has been proven. Akai even pointed it out to him, and an awkward interview followed…in the hot sun, with us on our feet and tired from travel, while he sat there all cool and calm on his horse. The man informed us, and I’m sure he made it up (or what is the point of having Ivory magistrates in the Ivory Kingdoms as Rokugan has the Emerald magistrates for the Emerald Empire?) that Ivory magistrates don’t have the same rights as Emerald magistrates and threatened to have Katsuru-sama removed and us dragged back to Rokugan to face the wrath of the Empress.

 

I’m fine with that, I have no guilt in the matter, and if the Kitsuki does try to get me into trouble, mother or the fact I am her daughter might protect me from the worst of it. No-one messes with mother when she’s on the warpath. I did not kill him, and for almost re instigating war between the Phoenix and the Scorpion for such a base reason even the Empress will see reason. She wants war among the clans as little as anyone else…though I’m not sure on that score with the Mantis…but it could just be sour bean-curds that the Crane are doing as well at what they specialise in – trade and sailing, and they are such a young great clan, they wish to prove themselves…probably. The Kitsuki then had the effrontery to request us (in tones that pretty much made it an order) to be at court the next day to make our statements as Ivory magistrates (and spiritual advisor in Akai’s case) and then rode off leaving us there in his dust wake! Bastard. The dust got everywhere and made my scar itch. He could have offered assistance at least, even if he couldn’t help us. It’s common courtesy. I feel bad for Akai. The blow if there is one will fall heaviest on him, because it was his blow that killed Tomo, and Akai will not shrink from telling the true facts of the matter, and the Kitsuki will not take it well, however tactfully it is told.

 

We reached the city at sunset, hot, tired and dusty and aching for a rest. People were just going to bed after a long day in the sun, or just rising from their afternoon repose to take advantage of the coolness of the evening. All my thoughts were on a long cool drink, a wash and a good night’s sleep. It was not to be. Everything looked peaceful initially, but as we approached the merchant district we could hear excited gossip and people running then came the screaming and hysteria. Of course as Magistrates it was our duty to investigate. I noticed we were followed by a Doji courtier and his yojimbo and we found the most horrendous scene of carnage down a side street. It was all I could do to not lose face and I was unable to speak to the Kami it affected me so.

 

The…bodies…were unrecognisable and high above the ground pierced on spikes. We were approached by the Doji, who looked immaculate in a cool blue kimono. He had a lovely smooth voice, and the typical Crane white hair. He looked quite peaceful which, given the situation seemed a bit out of place. His yojimbo, equally white haired also wore a kimono, and had the most gorgeous sword. She was quite pretty. The Doji saw Kanawan-san’s wakizashi in Nirav’s pack and looked briefly sad, before suggesting we look for witnesses. Nirav approached the….spikes. I was only too happy to go with the Doji and assist him if it got me away from that sight. Akai was interested in talking to the guards to see if there were any other incidents like this that they knew of. They had arrived en-mass and closed of the area just after we arrived.

 

The Doji gave the guards a report on what was going on and Akai mentioned that the Kitsuki was in the city and could help out. The whole thing came out of the blue according to the guards, certainly something like this would have been pretty memorable. I think it was a distraction given what happened, Akai was the first to point it out to the guards though. Tsudoken-san (head of the guards) arrived then, and welcomed us back but then he saw the spikes he leapt to the same conclusion Akai had come to. He shouted Katsuru-sama’s name, drew his sword and headed for the palace at a dead run. We followed. The way was cleared, horns were blown and we raced straight into the governor’s mansion, through the sections we had seen when he spoke to us in private and into an area decorated in a very traditional Rokugani way, very tasteful. We were too late, even with half of the city’s guards behind us. Kudo was there of course looking very worried now I look back, with a Spider bushi, in black robes over armour with a black featureless mask and a red jewel on it.

 

Katsuru-sama was already very dead by the time we arrived. It was a monstrosity beyond imagining that did it. Part snake, part man, allmonster. It had…chunks of flesh… in its claws. One look at us and it fled, too quickly for any to be able to follow. Kudo went white at the sight, Tsudoken looked like he wanted to cry, or commit seppuku on the spot…possibly both. The Spider with the blank mask asked Kudo if he should follow, but Kudo had already seen it was too swift for us. Tsudoken ordered the guards out to search for it in any case. I just had to leave the room, the sight of…well. I had to leave. I was not capable of maintaining my face at such a sight, so found a private room to cry in. He was mother’s friend, and a good governor, for all it was such a stressful position, and what that creature did…It’s simply the worst thing I’ve ever seen. I’m sure I’ll be having nightmares for months about it.  Kobayashi was a jewel of a man, standing stoically with one arm around me as I cried onto his shoulder.  He looked quite grim.

 

I returned to the estate wanting nothing more than to sleep, and have another good cry. That didn’t end up happening either. The estate was deserted, none of the guards in position, the gardens looked unkempt (well as unkempt as they can get from several weeks lack of tending) and here and there were broken pots. One of the windows was smashed. It immediately put Kobayashi and I on the defensive. The place looked like it had been completely ransacked by thieves, or worse. We heard a rustling upstairs and it thoroughly unnerved Kobayashi. I admit to being a little scared myself. Who on earth could take on and defeat the Shiba on guard? Where were they? And why wasn’t I told of it when I returned to the city? Kobayashi told me he should go first as my body guard, and together we went upstairs.

 

For there to be no guards, and the place to be in such a state something must have gone horribly wrong, right? Nope. It was only Isawa Koiso. Elemental Master of fire come to stay at the estate. She was in my room in one ofmother’skimono. She claimed all of hers were stained. She’s very beautiful, especially when she’s sober and made up, but was less so in her current state of inebriation. I bowed very low to her. It’s a good thing I recognised her, and restrained Kobayashi from throwing her out or worse, or she might have incinerated him.  She is well capable of it I know. She recognised me and we spoke. She led me into her part of the estate. One of the imperial guardsmen was in her bed.  I think I managed to keep my face straight.  I told her about my time here and she thought it sounded exciting, and ‘unfortunate’ for the governor. It was all I could do not to cry. Poor poor Katsuru-sama

 

She started giggling when she looked at the guardsman in her bed and told me that the estate had looked so perfect, like a painting she had made it a bit more lived-in looking. What kind of a woman is she? She’s obviously drunk, sleeps around, and has all but destroyed the beauty of the state. And worse in my opinion, she’s sent the guards and staff away, saying she didn’t need them! She may not, but for proprietary’s sake she should have her own yojimbo, and the estate should be guarded to protect her privacy. How amI to protect her with just Kobayashi and myself living on the estate? And she’s asked me to go out with her this evening. I’m so tired, and depressed and how could I say no when she had no yojimbo to go with her? Kobayashi was a bit upset she’s sent the guards back to the military district ‘for more training’ as Koiso put it. He wasn’t the only one. I felt quite panicky in fact, but I’m sure this can all be figured out…somehow…if only I could get some more sleep! I’ll send a note to Saburo-san asking he guard the estate discretely and Kobi and I will just have to do our best. Must go now, she’s calling for me to hurry.

 

Excerpt from the Journal of Daidoji Kinawan & Kanawan

 

I have read my father’s journal…but never thought to write one of my own, however with the current events I have decided to continue my father’s.

 

Apparently the village I have come across supplies the Daidoji with gaijin pepper. I would be happy to be more integrated with the Crane already in the Ivory Kingdom, apart from for two things.

 

1, I am with other Ivory magistrates, and it seems this deal with the village is only with the Crane, and the rest of the Rokugani don’t know of it. I feel this is going to go badly when the other Ivory magistrates arrive, and I am going to have to use all my tact and diplomacy to not make the fallout of this as bad as I fear it will be.

 

2, The mon on the spear that hit Fubawari had the Harrier on it. They have been disbanded due to the methods they employed. However they appear to have been recreated in secret through need in the Ivory Kingdoms. I hope this has been sanctioned by the Crane champion as the Crane cannot afford an internal war with the Mantis breathing down our necks.

 

This means I now walk a fine line with three sides: The Ivory Champion, the Crane and the Harriers. I feel a long drop beneath me, and the line getting thinner as the time passes, especially as I am now in an alien village with their own agenda and a very different mindset.

 

May the kami protect me.

 

 

 

Travel Journal of Agasha Sanra

 

Entry 10 – Arrival in the Village

 

It was a long night following the natives back to their village. They did it at a run, and we had to keep up. It’s a good thing samurai are required to keep fit, though how we didn’t trip on the vegetation strewing the ground I will never know.

 

When we got to the village they took Fubuwari-san to a tent, and stripped him to his waist. Kanawan-san assisted so that his armour was properly placed in the correct manner. The tent was very crowded and one of the villagers, known as ‘The Guru’ started to take blood from Fubuwari, and began sticking needles into him. It looked disturbingly like Maho, but he seemed to know what he was doing and when questioned explained it was something called ‘Science’ and that it would help heal him. We will have to trust the man, as all Kanawan-san’s magic did nothing to help Fubuwari heal, though if this ‘guru’ doesn’t succeed in saving our companion, we can always take his head as a Maho-tsukai. I left the tent, as they were stripping Fubuwari further, the men can do that well enough without me watching, and watching what the guru was doing was making me quite nauseous.

 

Kobayashi looked very…very uncomfortable too. I don’t think he likes this place. I can’t really blame him. It is so very different from what we know from Rokugan. He can’t stop looking around. I think he’s trying to take his job as my yojimbo very seriously, but can’t tell what will be a threat and what won’t be. Certainly what we saw in the tent was difficult to not object to. No samurai in their right minds would permit a Maho-tsukai to live, but what else is there to do? If we do not take a leap of faith, then Fubuwari will surely die.

 

In the absence of anything else that I could do, I prayed to Osano-wo, whom Fubuwari-san seems to revere the most, to Bishamon to give him the strength to pull through this and Ekibyogami to request that he remove whatever plague or pestilence that has befallen our comrade. I was interrupted by a very pretty child with very white Crane like hair. She asked me about my ‘invisible’ friends. I explained to her in a way she could understand. Apparently their gods no longer speak to them, or at least aren’t answering their prayers and that the adults are losing faith in their gods. Perhaps they could be converted to our faith? Certainly the Kami are active, and the Tao may help them in their lives as it does ours.

 

We are permitted to stay here by the sultan who says that we are welcome provided we follow one rule, which is that we don’t cause conflict with his people. That won’t be a problem for me at least, and we were shown to accommodations which were very comfortable. I was advised that Fubuwari-san’s condition can be caught by others and that my possessions and clothes needed to be cleansed. My clothes were badly in need of cleansing in any case after the blood bath the Sosuro gave me killing that tager. I changed into my clean kimono and permitted one of the natives to take the soiled ones away. I will perform a cleansing ceremony of my own when they are returned. An invitation by the Sultan or leader of the village to eat with him was delivered. I graciously accepted his hospitality. There was a sticky point though before we entered. Native tradition is that no bladed weapons are permitted in there.

 

This was a tricky problem that only diplomacy could solve. I knew Kobayashi would neversurrender his honour. He wanted to leave this place really. Nirav went as far as to slap the hand of the native that went to take his. A mistake I think. I believe he insulted the native, who was only trying to assist him most respectfully. I distinctly heard the man muttering about barbarians. There was a bit of a standoff. Nirav refused to let go of his honour. Kanawan-san asked about it, we do not after all go anywhere without our wakizashi. In the end, and in the interests of diplomacy I made the decision that Kobayashi could guard Kanawan’s and my honour, while we dined, and Kanawan would guard me. Not that I really need it in a diplomatic situation, and I was permitted to take my staff in with me, so I wasn’t completely un-armed.

 

I was surprised that Kobayashi offered to guard Nirav’s honour as well, considering how much he dislikes the Scorpion. He must place the honour of being a samurai above that. I can’t say I blame him, but a diplomat must on occasion do what is personally distasteful to them, in order to achieve the honourable ends they wish to meet. Nirav placed the blade into the dirt, stating that it would be an honour if he would use his if worst came to worst. Kobayashi-san naturally preferred to use his own weapon which is a perfectly good blade.

 

The natives asked Nirav to remove the mask as well. He took his blades back and walked outside. He has a lot to learn about diplomacy, even if he does wear the mask to honour his ancestors. Sometimes it is better to bend a little. Kanawan smoothed things over with the natives, and we went in. The place was like a lavishly decorated geisha house, and I would love to acquire some of the items here for the estate. The colours were very bright, and everything looks lavish, and is in truly royal colours. The sultan must be a personage of great affluence among his people. There were so many strange and interesting smells, some of them quite appetising. The food looked interesting, but a lot of it contained meat and smelled strange, so I decided to not eat it. If we stay here long I must ask if they can prepare the dishes with vegetables instead, though the natives appeared to enjoy it very much. I do not think I could stoop to eating animal flesh. It’s a good thing I do not needto eat. But there was plenty of rice for the others. I ate a few mouthfuls to be polite, and slowly so it did not appear that I was eating only a little.

 

The sultan asked to speak with us. He seemed to know Kanawan. I can only assume they spoke with each other when Kanawan went to the village to get help. So he took the lead. He explained about the Yodotai in the area and our wish to have closer relations and to assist in protecting the natives. The sultan was at first a little reluctant, but he was interested in talking religion with Akai. We talked too. He asked me about my companion, and I explained Kobayashi’s function as a body guard, and how he took his duties very seriously. I wasn’t planning to tell him just how high my status was, but Akai filled him in, adding that my coming showed the serious nature of our intent to be friends. Which I thought was a brilliant bit of diplomacy on his part. The sultan was far more respectful of me after that, though he still called me -san. I suspect, as the leader of his people, he feels that our positions are equal, I cannot argue with that. Not that I would have, given we were trying to make a good impression.

 

We must remain here until our comrade recovers, and I am told it will be at least a week, so I will try to get to know these people so I can understand their culture, and their religion more. Akai plans to visit their shrine tomorrow, and I think I will accompany him.

 

 

 

Travel Journal of Agasha Sanra

 

Entry 11 – A week in the village

 

I rose early, bathed and dressed. There were more of the strange dishes served to me. I ate the rice, and asked the servant if there were any dishes that did not contain flesh. I’m not sure if she will be able to get the cook to make fleshless meals, but it is worth a try. If not, I should be fine in any case.

 

I went to the shrine of these people with Akai, though they call it a temple. There were many small statues there. I did not recognise most of them, they were mostly unfamiliar… though… one looked very much like Lady Doji… they must have had contact with the Crane before. When I asked Kanawan about it he mentioned that they have had contact with the Mantis, so they could have had contact with the Crane as well. It sounds convincing… buuut…I suspect that he’s concealing something. Certainly that statue suggests strong connections to the Crane rather than the Mantis!

 

I suggested that I could create a statue of our main religious leader, such as Shiba, or Osano-Wo, who’s been of such use to us of late when Akai pointed out that there were no true representatives of Rokugni religion. He suggested that I depict the current representatives of the sun and moon, but I don’t think they would approve being depicted in that manner, and Shiba wrote the Tao, which Akai seems so eager to disseminate among the populace, so I will make a statue of him to place in the shrine.

 

Kanawan has decided to make a peace garden around the shrine. I’m sure it will be pretty. But I believe providing a statue of Shiba would be more useful to these people. Then they will have a new figure and his teachings, for I always carry a copy of the Tao with me to focus on.

 

* * *

 

It’s taken all week, but I have made a statue of Shiba. It looks amazing if I do say so myself, with the Phoenix rising behind him, and him surrounded by scrolls. While I worked, I chatted with the natives learning more about their culture and history. Kobayashi has been uncomfortable all week. He doesn’t like this place at all, though he does his duty. He’s been very quiet and solemn. All week the little white haired child has attached herself alternatively to Kanawan or myself. She hasn’t left either of us alone. She’s very sweet. Fubuwari-san has finally emerged from the tent with the guru. He seems well, so I presume whatever Maho magic the guru used on him was successful. His armour is clean too.  It was awfully grimy when we first met.  He doesn’t seem pleased about it though.  Strange man.

 

Not long after he emerged from the tent we heard a commotion in the jungle from the direction we came. There was a horn. The sultan sent scouts out. They didn’t return, which made the sultan very nervous. His people are vulnerable here, and I get the impression their location was their protection. He tells us that he does not want to ask for assistance but that it would be dangerous to leave as our only exit is the way we came…and that’s where the horn sound and commotion is coming from. He said we don’t need to feel like we have to work in their politics. But we need these people, so of course we will help. Nirav-san took off to go scouting, I have to admit he is quite suited to the task. Akai, Kanawan and I are consulting with the Sultan as the best way to defend the populace and the village as a whole. I hope we are successful. Saving these people could bring them over to our side in its entirety.

 

 

 

 

Personal Sutra – Tategami Akai

 

Entry 7

 

The villagers take Fubuwari into the Guru’s hut and he begins his strange medicine. It is highly suspicious and even with Kanawans assurance I am not convinced I didn’t witness maho. We are ushered out of the hut the Guru needs room to finish his treatments.

 

The leader of the village, a sultan, invites us to dine with him. But before we go we have to leave our weapons behind, no bother for me but it’s bound to cause problems when they try to take the daisho from my samurai companions. As predicted Nirav and Kobyashi refuse to relinquish their swords. Myself, Kanawan and Sanra attend the meal where our host makes inquiries as to our intentions in his land. There is obviously something going on with the Crane in this village and it seems they have not been entirely honest in their representation of the empire as a whole. I try to repair some of that damage diplomatically but I don’t think I have completely fooled our host. I am certain our presence has convinced him the Crane have not been totally honest.

 

We spend several days in the village during which time I visit the temple and take on the job of bringing the Tao to these people. Nirav expresses an interest in the fighting style of the natives and one day I agree to practice it with him. He doesn’t seem keen to implement it into his techniques, it is just an evening’s distraction. But I can see many applications for training in their ‘shield’ technique.

 

Fubuwari is doing better but we have just heard of an impending attack on the village. Nirav heads off to scout the enemy. I look around at the village, there is little in the way of defensive options, this battle will be bloody. We might stand a chance if we can funnel the enemy into an archery zone but Fubuwari wants to fight them in the jungle to keep them away from the village. The jungle would reduce our archery options to a minimum it would also impair our enemies ranged capacity, however we have no idea of numbers or compliment of our enemy rushing into close combat with them removes all of our tactical options. I suppose his thinking in this is down more to his career choice. I can’t imagine berserkers have much use for bows. We will wait and see what happens.

 

 

 

Excerpt from the Journal of Daidoji Kinawan & Kanawan

 

My father always taught me treat every battle like it will be your last. That way you will never be disappointed only pleasantly surprised.

 

I fear diplomacy will not go down well and have a foreboding feeling about the approaching Crab. There are stories in this journal about the dammed. And if they are to be believed, which I do, they are not sensible and some may say slightly crazed.

 

If my life ends I feel sad that I shall not get to see my son grow up.

 

Doji Tempeky and I may have had issues, but Ganwei was the one good thing I felt we had.

 

I also forgive her the things she said. I took them to heart, spurned her for them, and left for the outlands.  I realise now she maybe saw where my path was headed when I did not. And I took her words of safety as a slight on my honour as a Daidoji.

 

But here I do feel I have found myself and can hear my father on the wind.

 

If this is my last message I pray this journal is found and can be given to my wife so she knows I would have mended the barrier between us, and to my son so he may know of me, without me being by his side.

 

 

Kanawan

Dungeon’s & Disorderly 2:  The Sheep on the Borderlands

 

I went to Dungeon’s & Disorderly for the first time at Last Year’s fantasy con and it was a new and really fun way of doing a role play game, live and with audience participation.

 

Needless to say I HAD to come to this one too.

 

Also I have a habit of taking down session logs and making extensive notes at conventions so I tweeted out the last one.  I’m pretty sure I also posted it here.

 

So, to the sequel!

 

 

Our Games Masters were:

The Superlative David Thomas Moore of Rebellion Publishing

Nate Crowley, Innovator extraordinaire (I mean who else would come up with 1000 plausible computer games that never existed? – among other works of fiction).

 

Our Panellists were:

David Tallerman (who played Raig, the Barbarian Accountant)

Eliza Chan (Who Played Cuddles the S&M Cuddly Teddy Bear)

Anna Smith Spark (Who Played Red Sonja! The Short Tempered Barbarian Librarian!)

Ed Fortune (Who Played Weeble the Wobbly Druid)

And (Last but not least)

Helen Arnfield (Playing A Nameless Naughty Dwarf)

 

Our Excellent Game Masters began with a re-cap

 

One year ago our fearless heroes (different Fearless heroes) where in a pub when a person staggered in crying danger from the Terrible sorcerer in a Tower! It was a harrowing quest! One person died!  But eventually the hero’s conquered the Sorcerer and peace came to the land.

 

For a time.

 

For Evil never rests!

 

Dun! Dun! DUUUUN!

 

Preeeesenting:  The Sheep on the Borderlands!

 

The heroes are in another pub where they hear rumours are afoot about a giant and powerful sheep of great power on the Borderlands eating all in it’s path!

 

Our heroes introduce themselves!

 

Then our Games Marters ask each hero what their visions and values are.

 

Our Barbarian Accountant is a drunk who likes spreadsheets.

 

Cuddles is flatulent and kinky (because some naughty person put some kinky things on slips of paper that were drawn from the wizards hat)

 

Red Sonja likes the dewey-decimal system and double headed axes.

 

Weeble is a Master of nonsense.

 

And our Nameless Naughty Dwarf has not had enough Prosecco.

 

 

Into the pub comes a caterpillar that thinks it is a dragon!

 

I have a terrible warning! Aaaagh!  The Sheep.  On the Borderlands!

 

The wind slams on the shutters (the audience were encouraged to provide the SFX)

 

Sonja who as it happens has a caterpillar phobia “A caterpillar! Nooooo!”

 

Weeble: “A caterpillar. We must flee….or alternatively does anyone have a glass?”

 

The Caterpillar that thinks it’s a Dragon: “I AM a Dragon!”

 

Raig, the accountant decides the matter with the use of some balancing sheets (and a D20 roll): He is in fact a very creditable Dragon in fact he’s even a very fiscally responsible one.

 

Caterpillar: “I assert my right to be Identified as a Dragon!”

 

The party accept this.

 

Cuddles: “I’ve heard of the sheep.  It uses teddies as stuffing!”

 

They decide to deal with it

 

 

It’s very windy (the audience provide the SFX), a wolf howls.  Lightning strikes!

 

KRAKA-BOOOM!

 

On the path they travel they encounter a Cabbage Man! Silent yet deadly.

 

Sonja: “He’d make an excellent Bubble & Squeak”

 

(Anna Smith Spark as an aside:  Bugger, and I was just saying Potatoes had no place in mediaeval fantasy!)

 

Cuddles saves the day: Cabbage man may be silent but deadly, but I will Out smell you with my incendiary farts any day!

 

(there followed a LOT of fart jokes that I would not be able to give justice too in the copying based on my notes)

 

Weeble is the judge.

 

This cabbage man’s farts are a little bit over seasoned.  Cuddles wins.

 

There is a dirty giggle from the Nameless Naughty Dwarf.

 

The Cabbage man drops a potion of Bi-location as he runs away ashamed.

 

The nameless Naughty dwarf picks it up and casts it. “Please bring me someone pretty!”

 

Nothing appears to happen. The party continue on into the wet stormy night and find themselves on the edge of a ravine.  They slip in the water and roll!

 

They roll all the way down until they are caught by a roll of duck tape!

 

The ribbon like ducks are trapping our intrepid team!

 

Sonja saves them, by stuffing the duck-tape into her bottomless bag

 

A stealthy leopard print duck tape appears! It swoops!  Raig the Accountant deals with it, and the ducks expire.

 

Unfortunatley, before our intrepid heroes can continue 19 very rangy and very furry Lemurs collectively carrying a halberd.

 

Cuddles sashays over to them “Can I suggest we be furry together?” to the team.

 

Sonja “I have some Bondage tape you might want to use when you seduce 19 lemurs”

 

Weeble: “Aye Aye”

 

Cuddles takes a shot at it “Sooo…do you come here often?”

 

(The D2 result is “truth”)

 

“I’ve literally only been here once before”

 

There’s a bit of an awkward impasse.

 

How about I come back after I’ve defeated the Sheep on the Borderlands.

 

The Naughty Nameless Dwarf has a speedboat, you all climb in and Cuddles speeds past the lemurs with the promise of a fuck later.  The Lemurs drop the Crown of Mirth into the speedboat.

 

The party enter a valley. It’s U Shaped.

 

(Nate gave a glorious and geologically accurate description of how it formed due to Glaciation, including terms like Terminal Moraine and Scree and it made my little Geologist’s heart glow <3 )

 

They search through the scree and discover a coffee that is a narcotic to gnomes (and dwarves)

 

And a spell that makes the dwarf recite spells correctly every time.

 

The team climb up the terminal moraine and encounter Evil Carl Pilkington riding on the back of a Steed ™.in the first cave they come to. He has the power of incomparable tickling.

 

Raig our accountant puts on the crown of mirth!  “I feel better about this situation”

 

He find’s 3 boxes – Gold, Frankincense & Mirth at the bottom of the land travelling hover speedboat.

 

“If we pay you will you go away?”

 

“We could steal his club and hit him with it?” one of them suggests.

 

Weeble has the solution: “I’m quite concerned that he looks very dry.”  He offers over an amulet – which happens to be the amulet of uncontrollable dribbling.  Evil Carl Pillkington is defeated.

 

 

When the party come to the second cave they encounter Ghoastus! The Roman Ghost.

 

There is a mechanical crunch with all of the characters stat sheets of our Accountant!

 

Ghostus summons Cicero to give him all his speeches!

 

Raig files him in the corner of a library where no one will find him!

 

Sonja wants to roll the special Death D20 dice.  It rolls…Death!

 

Raig points out – he can’t be dead twice therefore Ghostus must now be alive!

Ghostus: “I’m alive!!!” He turns on Weeble. “Go On Druid. BE somebody!”

 

Weeble offers Ghostus the secret of engorged member.

 

“Ah, a Giganticus phallus!”

 

(The dice is rolled. It stops on….Gary Gygax! – which for the uninitiated into D&D – he wrote the original and by the rules of this game, rolling this means you get to take over the plot for about a minute and do whatever the heck you want and it’ll be canon)

 

Ghostus is dismissed a very happy man, and the speed hover boat speeds on towards it’s final destination with jelly & Ice cream for all! Also balloons. Balloons made out of sheep’s bladders.  The party manage to skip past 4 caverns and reach the borderlands before reality reasserts itself and puts the GM’s back in charge.

 

The wind is whistling here, and it’s very dry.

 

The party encounter:

 

One the dreaded Dust bunny dwarf!

One is a Zombie Traffic Warden (actually a skeleton so technically a lich buuut that’s semantics. It’s undead.),

One is a Demonic traffic warden dwarf

One is a vampire combine harvester.

 

and The Sheeep.

 

 

Violence ensues.

 

In a druid versus vampire combine harvester match to the death!

The combine harvester mows Weeble down…but it runs out of fuel in doing so!

 

Cuddles is a teddy bear, and therefore is a friend of Totoro.  Totoro is friends with dust bunnies.  (And the dice rolls another Gary Gygax!!)

 

Cuddles brings the dust bunny over to our side – it covers everyone with soot, traumatising the traffic wardens who run away!

 

That leaves them with just one other being to confront:

 

The Sheep on the Borderlands!

 

It’s HUGE.

 

(The wonderful Lee Harris played the head of this terrible beast!)

Also to be defeated are it’s guts, it’s legs, and it’s bum.

 

Raig takes out the head with some filled in tax returns and a well placed audit.

 

The lungs have the power of Vomit! And Sonja tries to capture it in the bottomless bag!

 

The dice say no!

 

The duck tape has stick the mouth of the bag closed! And the vomit takes out our barbarian librarian! Unfortunately for the lungs the vomit destroys them also

 

The guts have the ability to tie shoes together.

 

Out Naughty Nameless Dwarf and the guts have a dance off and the dwarf wins with an excellent showing of a Scottish jig versus some tapdancing. (there was actual dancing!)

 

The back legs are quickly taken out by Cuddles who charms the bees that they set on our party

 

Cuddles then sacrifices themselves to soak up all of the coca cola that the bum unleashes. Leaving just our brave Barbarian Accountant and A Naughty Nameless Dwarf to take on the Sheep’s heart!

 

There is dramatic music! (mostly Star Wars)

 

The heart unleashes unending rivers of slime!

 

Our Barbarian Accountant performs an audit to see if the heart can afford all this slime and horror!

 

It’s over budget! And the sheep is defeated by it’s own insolvency!

 

I was VERY sad I couldn’t attend the second run of Dungeon’s & Disorderly.

 

With any luck, there will be another showing in Glasgow.

 

So..

 

Tune in Next Year for another episode of…

 

Dungeon’s & Disorderly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing about Disability in a SF/F Setting.

 

This Workshop was run by Ruth De Haas and I attended it because my current work in Progress’s protagonist is disabled.  She has severe burn scarring and is missing finger tips to the joint, and one of her lower legs.  Some of this was caused magically, some was due to infection that got out of control.  I wanted to make sure I was on the right track with my work given I am not disabled myself, though my partner Ian does live with a spinal injury and has to use a wheelchair for travelling any distance that doesn’t involve a car.

 

I am not going to lie, I did make a bit of a cock up in describing my partner as wheelchair bound in my introductions which one of the workshop attendees with… I think it was Cerebral Palsy? (don’t quote me it could have been something else my memory is shockingly bad) pulled me up on the terminology – for which I apologised.  I’m human, I’m still learning the rights and wrongs and terminology of the disabled community.  My partner is a wheelchair USER.

 

Ruth started with individual introductions – including telling us about her own disability – not a visible one – chronic back pain as well as having had bouts of ME and how she makes adjustments around her needs.

 

 

We then made Lists.

 

Examples of people with a disability in Sf/F settings.

 

Girton Clubfoot (R.J. Barker’s Assassin books)

Bran Stark & Jaime Lannister from A song of Ice & Fire

Hiccup from how to train your dragon

The Brain Ship series and the Talent series by Anne McCaffrey

 

All of the above have characters that have – or get – visible disabilities

 

The protagonists of Emma Newman’s Planetfall and Before Mars have much less ‘visible’ disabilities – but they are debilitating none the less.

 

There were also examples from:

Vikings

The Dark Knight,

Outlander,

Otherland

Avatar The Last Air Bender

Avatar (the one with the Blue aliens)

Station 2

The Sharing Knife

Altered Carbon

Lock In

Head On

Daredevil

Elektra

The Good Doctor

Dark Pines

The Girl who Navigated Fairyland in a ship of their own making

Accessing the future (an anthology dedicated to protagonists with a disability)

Disabled People destroy Science Fiction

The Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix

Star Wars

Treasure Island/Black Sails

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue

The Demon’s Lexicon

Nine-fox Gambit (Yoon Ha Lee)

 

 

So there is a fair amount out there if you know where to look.

 

 

Next, we discussed what is GOOD about disabled characters in a SF/F setting

 

 

The first real BIGGIE is that the fact they have a disability is NOT the only thing about them.

 

The second is that the depiction of the disability MUST be realistic.

 

The third:  Always ALWAYS get a sensitivity reader.  Pay them if you can, offer a copy of the book when published if you can’t afford much, but don’t expect them to do it for free – it’s the same as asking artists to do free art ‘for exposure’ otherwise.

 

They need to have a strong physical presence – and most especially that they are self-reliant.

 

They have agency to act and react to plot and be good at doing things while they are disabled not because they are disabled.

 

The character is respected. If you MUST write in a bigot into the plot, the disabled person can and indeed SHOULD call them out on their shit.

 

Research is a very good thing so that you can learn about the condition you are writing about – some conditions have a spectrum of symptoms, some are more strictly defined.  Don’t fall into the trap of stating THIS.  This is the disability – it Boxes in the disability for the wider audience and excludes those with the same disability – just a different flavour of it.

 

Also, don’t project how you would feel onto the protagonist – empathy doesn’t work as well as you would think.

 

 

Consider the differences within a community – the deaf community for example are split over cochlear implants.

 

Another thing to consider is that people congregate into a community if they can.  The like will migrate to live with those like themselves if they can.  For example, there is an excellent deaf community in Derby. The internet also aids inn connecting people into a community of geographically disparate people which may be something to consider for the sci-fi elements of fiction at least.

 

 

 

The Workshop then moved onto what is a BAD portrayal of disability in a SF/F setting.

 

Disability as a marker for being evil/bad (Richard III)

 

Euthanasia or suicide as a plot device BECAUSE they are disabled. (Station 2 had several members of the workshop full of ire over THAT one being used – and used more than once!)

 

A Seamless prosthesis so that you can’t tell the person has a disability

 

A Magic Power that negates the disability (Looking at you Daredevil!)

 

A Disability that IS the superpower or having a disability means you have a super power

 

The disabled person being an object of Pity (Avatar with the blue aliens I’m looking at you and Quaritch in particular)

 

A ‘Cure” for the disability being available (and not necessarily being offered to everyone) – see the cochlear implant debate for more of an idea of how much dissent there is within a community about this.  Also consider a disabled person who has adapted their entire life to live with the disability suddenly being 100% fine – they wouldn’t know how to deal with it as pointed out by the guy who pulled me up about wheelchair user and wheelchair bound – and he has a point – change is scary – in whichever direction it goes. The fact is, we are creatures of habit and are comfortable with what we are familiar with.

 

 

 

We then discussed the Levels of Worldbuilding within a SF/F setting.

 

Level 1 – Personal Technology.

 

Make the disability aids cool, but make them have some friction – so the prosthesis has weaknesses – it’s not a seamless continuation of the lost limb.

 

Think:

Steampunk altered wheelchairs

Service Dragons

A swiss Army Knife arm.

 

Dark humour is always good.

 

“Can I give you a hand?” – the disabled person detaches the prosthetic hand and chucks it over to the person needing help being a great example.

 

(Personal thoughts: Think how a druid would adapt to living in a forest as opposed to an artificer living in a city, as opposed to a disabled shaman in the mountains or a disabled necromancer anywhere. – how do they adapt to their different environments so it works for them? – relevant to me because I want one day to run a fully accessible LARP with just such considerations being relevant)

 

 

Level 2 – Environmental

 

Ramps, Steps, Lifts

 

Braille Labelling

Audio Description

 

The legal bits like infrastructure requirements (many hotels/lifts are wide enough to allow the wheelchair past – but not the hands making the wheels move resulting in bruised fingers)

 

Personal Note: Carpet is HELL to wheelchair users because of the friction so those lovely carpeted halls of your space ship or mansion – EXHAUSTING to manoeuvre over for the wheelchair user due to the increased friction. (of course hover chairs negate that in a sci fi setting at least…)

 

 

 

Level 3 – Social/Culture

 

Dyslexia was not a problem for society until the ability to read became a social requirement

Therefore, the disability was NOT the problem.  People functioned perfectly happily before the requirement to be able to read came along. It was Societies attitude to it that MADE it a problem.

 

Also consider the culture clash between society that wants to preserve historical buildings AS WAS, and the need to make it accessible for ALL – there is a clash as often there’s no place to fit a lift without changing the structure of the building in some way.

 

 

The Workshop concluded with some homework.  I haven’t done it yet, but I plan to in the new year when I will be focussing on writing (up to the new year I want to clear as many books off my TBR pile as possible!)

 

 

So, Homework:

 

Pick a job.  Any Job in a Sci-Fi or Fantasy setting.

 

It could be a trainer of service dragons

It could be a battle mage.

It could be a Cloning technician on a generation ship

 

Pick a disability (Visible or invisible)

 

 

Write a scene with the character doing their job perfectly well, even brilliantly.  Then add something unexpected in.

 

Mention in this scene what the person has to enable them to do their job and live a full life with personal technology, their environment, and society and culture.

 

Then, write in another scene with a new character who helps the first protagonist with the problem they are having.

 

This person must also have a disability.

 

How do they interact?

 

 

 

John Scalzi did this well in Lock In with paralysis and technology.  There was a lot of difference even when the people had the same disability – and different ideas – because people are individuals.

 

There can be lots of things that cause friction:

 

The prosthesis/chair runs out of power because the battery has died being a good one.

 

 

 

Personally, I think I’m going to do a scene with the Cloning technician on a generation ship (It does help I’ve read a few clone centric books lately – Death of a Clone by Alex Thomson was good – a murder mystery in space throwing Miss Marple into the mix, but Six Wakes by Murr Lafferty was infinitely better (and also a murder mystery).

 

I think the entire ship of clones will have a disability of some manner because the DNA is either degrading or was sabotaged or the vats are old and liable to break down resulting in injury of some manner to the growing clone and the ship’s society has had to adapt to this.

 

This allows me to have multiple characters with different disabilities

 

Lots of opportunity for different kinds of personal tech

 

An environment that has been adapted to cater to the disabled crew

 

And a society where disability is not a bar to rank or expertise and fully able-bodied clones are the ones seen as ‘other’ (not that they won’t have their own disabilities – there’s MANY mental health issues out there and all sorts of ways they can be neuro diverse)

 

 

 

 

 

Writing Warfare.

 

This was a really Excellent Panel, and the fact I didn’t take my usually extensive notes is a testament to that – I was too engrossed.  Also I didn’t go in planning to share the notes I did take, but…well. Why not?

 

The Panel started with the usual introductions

 

The only Panellist I remember vividly is Anna Smith Spark. It takes a while for faces and names to sink in and gel together for me.  Anna is memorable partly because of the very distinctive (classy) dress style, but also because she’s a lovely person I’ve bumped into at other conventions and remembered as a result.

 

(sorry other panellists and moderator!!!)

 

Why Warfare?

 

Anna immediately had an answer for that:

 

Killing is the Ultimate act of power and can feel very erotic – Just read Freud – there’s a reason a sword looks like a penis!

 

It is also a huge Taboo – war is an outlet for this that is acceptable to society.  You can stab people, you can shoot people and you will get rewarded for it, rather than getting locked up.

 

Killing is therefore constrained by society, the capability is there, it is part of you, and if you let it free it is an immense feeling.

 

There is also the element of camaraderie in killing from being in the army – you are a part of a unit.  You are ‘free’ together.

 

 

One of the panellists mentioned the famous quote: “The point of warfare is not to die for your country but to get the other person to die for theirs”

 

We are essentially still animals – apes fighting over territory, the survival of our offspring, and for food and resources when it comes down to it.  Civilisation just gives us bigger ideas of what the territory, offspring and resources are defined as.  We rename bits of it that result in war as things like religion, and organised politics etc.

 

The panellists gave us a thought exercise:  Imagine the Pope held all the nuclear weapons.  Does he spare the sinner /heretic in this life, knowing they will burn in hell or burn them now to spare himself from burning when he reaches the afterlife for having spared them?

 

No talk on warfare would be complete without discussing the wars the British Empire fought and the panellists quite rightly pegged the Victorians as deluding themselves in thinking that they were creating something ‘better’ and that the war and expansion of the empire was a mission of peace.  It wasn’t.

 

They then discussed Alexander the Great, who would have been quite at home with modern day warfare, unlike the Victorians.  He was used to Total War – if not with the same weaponry.

 

Another Historical event – where even contemporary writers thought the ‘warlord’ had crossed a line was the Harrowing of the North by the Normans for civil disobedience by the local populace.  The Normans used it as an example to cut resistance right out of the population by decimating them (and a good deal more than decimate as that’s only one death in ten).

 

The Panel then moved onto what is good in Fiction about warfare:

 

They like the POV jump, from say the grunt on the front line, to the general with their chessboard pieces, to the medic in their bloody tent.  They suggested we read Wilhelm Klemm’s poem “The Clearing Station”.  I do too.  It’s quite evocative.

 

They suggest really pulling in the focus of the ‘camera’ to bring things into sharp relief rather than giving the broader view – War and Peace is a good example of this (when not philosophising – No one knows what is going on – and in a war on the front lines, or anywhere else no one DID know what was going on, so you don’t have to be a military genius to write military fiction

 

 

An Important aspect of writing about warfare is how the generals communicated to their forces.  There are many methods and about as many ways it can go wrong.

 

An example of this is the Drum relay. It’s a good way to get orders through the dust and/or smoke of battle but they can get drowned out or mis-interpreted.  The drummers could be targeted by the enemy and be killed.  All of which can influence the tide of battle.

 

One thing that is prevalent – the dying all call out for their mother at the end.  Not their sweetheart – their mother.

 

 

Humour is another very important aspect of warfare – it’s how the soldiers cope with the awful things they have seen and done.

 

The humour is coarse, and generally happens while sitting around a fire after the battle, but the absurdities can bring a bit of fun to the text and lighten the mood.

 

The panel closed with a few books that are worth reading generated as a result of one of the audience questions (I think)

 

Esmond Romilly: Boadilla (an account of his experiences in Spain fighting against General Franco with the Legitimate Spanish Republican Government culminating at the battle of Boadilla del Monte)

 

I’m afraid my notes aren’t as clear about the rest, and I can’t find them on a google search – but there is a LOT of soldier experience literature out there from the Napoleonic wars to modern day.  It is a really excellent resource.

 

 

 

 

Extracts from the inner monologue of Hida Fubuwari

(scryed by Isawa Korimi)

 

 

-Journeying through this place is like the Shadowlands, only without a battalion of Crab that I can trust.-

 

-I like the Bayushi. He faces battle well for someone so small and frail. I respect that.-

 

 

Travel Journal of Agasha Sanra

 

Entry 8 – Night time on the Frontier

 

It took a long time to get to sleep, even Kobayashi was uneasy here. It didn’t help my confidence at all and in the end I didn’t get much of sleep anyway; certainly not enough to be able to cast many more spells, which was unfortunate, as we were attacked by tigers. Good thing I hadn’t cast many spells yesterday.

 

I woke up to hear Akai-san screaming…everybody scrambled to deal with it. I even prepared to fight with my staff, though I was holding back as I’m not a great fighter with weapons. Magic on the other hand…but I heard mother’s voice again telling me to “Swing true my dear, swing true” as I rose, so gripped the staff firmly.

 

The tiger was mauling Akai, who was grappling with it. Kobayashi of course stepped in front of me as any good guard should. Another tiger sprang out of nowhere and attacked Fubuwari. I called lightning down on it, and hurt it a little; then I turned my attention to the one on Akai. I probably should have attacked that one first, but I’ve had little opportunity to use that spell offensively, so I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t hurt the monk with my magic. He was badly enough injured already.

 

At some point a third tiger appeared and attacked the Shosuro. It was mauling his leg as he also went to Akai’s aid, but I was too busy bringing the fury of Osano-Wo down on the tiger attacking Akai to notice its appearance.

 

He cut the tiger attacking Akai in half and so Akai was soaked in blood. It didn’t stop him though, even with the injuries he’d sustained.

 

Fubuwari hit his with the tetsubo and killed it, then went to help the Shosuro. I was too busy trying to help Kanawan-san fend off a fourth tiger that had appeared from nowhere. I was proud of him. He managed to cast the Fury of Osano-wo on his second attempt, and he not a fire adept! My spell went astray. I think I was getting a little tired, and it hit a tree instead, but Kanawan-san shot the tiger with his bow and arrows, and it ran away as the Soshuro was trying to assist.

 

Fubuwari was in some kind of berserker rage. I’ve heard of it, but never seen it before. He couldn’t stop fighting and chased the final creature into the jungle. I heard screaming shortly afterwards, and ran to assist him. I don’t know what he had done…the tiger had gotten away, so he must have been taking his rage out on something…possibly a tree…but he was entangled by the most enormous snake I’ve ever seen. The screaming became a wailing as the creature began to constrict.  I hit it with my staff hard. Mother’s staff made a loud bang when it hit the snake. There are 3 void symbols on the staff. One of them one glowed red. I damaged the creature quite badly; far more than an ordinary staff should be able to do. After, the staff changed from black to bamboo colour, and while the other two symbols are still black, the one that went red is the same colour as the staff. I wonder if it is a limited ability, or if meditation with the staff might somehow ‘recharge’ the void in the staff. It is certainly a most useful property to have.

 

Fubuwari-san eventually managed to kill the creature and we went back to camp. Akai and Nirav appear to not have heard the screams. The fury of Osano-wo must have deafened them. Fubuwari is no longer in his berserker rage, and is badly injured, as is Akai. Kanawan-san and I will have to do our best to heal them, but we will need a full nights rest before we can do much more.

 

I am so tired now. I will have no trouble falling asleep. Hopefully Kobayashi can keep me safe until I wake. I can do no more this night.

 

 

 

Extracts from the inner monologue of Hida Fubuwari

(scryed by Isawa Korimi)

 

-I’m not sure having a campfire is the best idea… I don’t like how far we are away from… Wait, is that a noise?-

 

-What *is* that beast….-

 

-KILL CRUSH MAIM. TURN THEIR BONES TO DUST! BEAT THEIR BRAINS IN. PULL OFF THEIR LEGS AND WATCH THEM BLEED!-

 

-That was a big snake-

 

 

Travel Journal of Agasha Sanra

 

Entry 9 – Adventures in the Jungle

 

I never did get the chance for a proper sleep. I had to make do with three hours later in the day. Because everyone else was injured, and as Kanawan-san is the only shugenja who can do the required healing spells and so HAD to get a good night’s sleep, it was left to Kobayashi and myself to stand watch.

 

It wasn’t completely uneventful. Some lizard creature crawled over Kanawan, waking him up and I had to tell it to move on. It was interested in the tiger carcasses I noted, I think Kanawan was simply between it and the food. The fact he was sleeping may have made it think hewas food, but it didn’t do anything. The carcasses should have been moved away from camp. I’m surprised the other bushi didn’t think of it, though to be fair, they wereall injured. They were attracting wildlife with the smell of blood and I reluctantly made the decision that we had to move them. It was disgusting, and we did what we could to limit the contact with such unclean things but Kobayashi and I moved them. Kobayashi was utterly disgusted that we’d had to sully ourselves, muttering something about it being beneath a representative of the Elemental Masters…even though I performed a cleansing ritual on us both. I don’t blame him, but it didneed doing, and we were the ones on watch. The others needed their rest, or I would have asked for assistance, and I couldn’t just order Kobayashi to do it on his own. I may have the status, but I only have it by right of who my mother is. I can’t ask others to do what I wouldn’t do myself, it doesn’t feel right.

 

We let Kanwan-san have a few extra hours sleep to get the full benefit of his rest, and Kobayashi and I had a few hours after the sun had risen and the others woke to take daylight watches.

 

I made very sure that the others knew the inconvenience we had been put to while during the watch when the Crane woke and made a snide comment about our observational skills while we were on watch. My staff has gone black again over night. It must be a void ability that recharges, not unlike me getting a good nights sleep to be able to cast magic every day.

 

We continued through the forest today and heard the strangest noises. There were some gorgeous birds that flew away from the sound, they were not unlike the ones Kanawan used to announce his presence at court. They are much prettier in their natural environment. There were sounds of trees being pulled up from that direction too. Kanawan told us that it was the Zo. Something like a giant horse with horns that’s too big to ride. I didn’t see an adult, but the little one we saw was not even close to that description! Fubuwari-san thought Kanawan was talking about Ki-rin, or maybe something else mythical like the supposed Orochi riders of the Mantis. Apparently the Native Ivindra use the creatures for transportation as a status symbol. If they can tame the creatures, they have my respect. Kanawan seemed to think we could so I followed his lead.  Idiot. We didn’t have a chance. He did say that the adults were very protective of their young, and easily angered. It was a pity that we came across the baby first rather than an adult, though from their reaction I doubt they were the friendly type. Poor thing was frightened and called for the adults. Naturally they were furious the youngling had been endangered. They absolutely tore the jungle apart. Equally naturally, we made a quick exit.

 

We were off the route that was suggested, and it was very difficult going, though none of us fell. But there were some kind of traps set up. Fubuwari-san got hit by some kind of a dart or stake though it only brushed him. It was filthy. It had a Crane mon on it too though I didn’t recognise the family. Kanawan was most interested and kept hold of it. Better him than me with the ordeur it was plastered in.

 

Unfortunately, Fubuwari wasn’t the only one to get caught in a trap. I must have put my foot into another one. I ended up being pulled into the air and hit my head against a tree. It dazed me and I only really came back around as I was lowered back down. It’s a pity it was the Shosuro that got me down safely. I’ll have to be grateful to him for that now. I hate having to owe a Scorpion for anything.

 

I felt dizzy for some time after that, and Kobayashi was most concerned about me. At least he no longer looks at me with disapproval, though he seems to have some kind of a problem with Akai-san. I wonder what? I may have to have a quiet word with him if it continues. It’s disrespectful to one who has dedicated his life to Shinsei. Fubuwari-san wasn’t feeling well either and took his mask off. His face was very, very puffy and red. I can see where he got his name from. Kanawan healed me and tried to heal Fubuwari-san. I permitted Nirav to bandage my head wound, and Kobayashi watched him veryclosely, so he didn’t try anything.

 

We didn’t travel very much farther before Fubuwari-san passed out. His armour made a massive clang as he hit the jungle floor. Kanawan suggested Kobayashi & Nirav drag him towards the village we are supposed to be going to while he and Akai went ahead. I felt that this pushed the boundaries of his duties. He is a Yojimbo, not a pack mule. Kanawan tried to insult his honour and there was a short discussion on the matter. In the end I agreed that Kobayashi and I would remain and assist the Shosuro. Kanwan-san needs lessons in basic etiquette too. He suggested that it “would be a good idea to build bridges while we are gone.” As if we are ever likely to be best friends. I will tolerate him, and treat him with courtesy, but I will never respect or be friends with a Scorpion. You can’t trust them.

 

So Kanawan-san and Akai went off into the jungle, and Kobiashi and Nirav dragged Fubuwari. I lit their way when it got darker. There was no way Kobayashi would have respected me if I had offered to assist to carry Fubuwari-san, not after what happened earlier, so I did not even make the suggestion, though I would have helped if I could have. Fubuwari is a big man, far too heavy for me to be of much use, and his armour only adds to the weight. Nirav was at least quite pleasant to us, and even offered Kobayashi sweets, which he accepted. He was even sensible enough to know not to offer any to me. I wouldn’t have eaten them if he had offered.

 

Nirav got attacked by a tiger. It looked like the one that ran away from Fubuwari last night. I lightning bolted it, and it decided I was more tasty and attacked me… Nirav cut its head off before Kobayashi could and I was drenched in blood.  Kobayashi asked if I was ok and was most concerned to see my injuries. It had mauled my arm and it hurt. Nirav helped to tend the wound, closely looked over by Kobayashi. He is at least able to do some healing, even if neither of us really trust him, and I did need to have my wound tended.

 

Poor Fubuwari, whatever is wrong with him, it must be agony. He wouldn’t stop screaming, and Nirav had to muffle it with a blanket. Kobayashi looked sick. I don’t blame him. It’s disturbing, but we continued towards our destination with him. We didn’t really have much of a choice. It took hours for Akai to return with some of the native population. They seemed to be very interested in the colour of our robes muttering something about not seeing our colours before and being intrigued by it. No doubt this interest will be useful in our interactions. It turns out Fubuwari-san has a dangerous tropical illness. The natives sped him back to the village, and we followed behind at a slower pace.

 

 

 

Extracts from the inner monologue of Hida Fubuwari

(Scryed by Isawa Korimi)

 

-Really? In the Shadowlands, the only reason we sought out beasts that big was to kill them before they hit the wall. You want to *talk* to them?-

 

-I knew that was a bad idea.-

 

-This jungle is hard to run thro… What the hell was that? Where did that dart come from?-

 

-I don’t feel too well-

 

-AAAAAAAAAGH AAAGH AAAAAAAAAAAGH AAAGH AAAAAAAAAGH AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH AAAAAAGHAAAAAAAGH AAAAAAAGH AAAAAAAGH AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH AAAAAAAAGH AAAAAAAAAAAGH-

 

 

 

Personal Sutra – Tategami Akai

 

Entry 6

 

We are in bad shape after the attack.

 

After another day of rest we are ready to continue on our way. Kobayashi is looking at me strangely, he seems upset about something.

 

On our travels we come across a herd of elephants apparently. We nearly walk right into a baby one spooking it and attracting the rest of the herd. We run from the stampede and Sanra and Fubuwari fall foul of some traps set by the Daidoji. Sanra is suspended by a rope. Kobayashi doesn’t want us to cut her down with a rope cutter arrow but he also gives me a look that I can only interpret as “do something” I assume he was only keeping up appearances in front of the others, and knowing my position as a monk puts me out of the samurai chain of command, is secretly hoping I will use the arrow anyway.

 

Nirav saves the day though and arranges to get Sanra down. Fubuwari however is not looking good. He seems to have picked up an infection from the trap. Magic doesn’t seem to help so Kanawan and I head off to the village to get help. The village treats us with mixed reception. There is something odd going on. The girl we met mentioned grey powder and I have my suspicions as to what that means. Kanawan asks me to keep quiet about the village before I leave to help Fubuwari along with a party from the village.