L5R - Great Stone Bridge

Session 11
Bridge Ambush

Game Time: 4 March 1175 (Early morning)
Location: Bridge encampment
While the bushi prepare for a nighttime attack, Masataro is invited to chat with Mizhime and Megumi. During the discussion, Megumi primarily sits and meditates, while her sister prattles on about the bridge project. Through his Doji courtier training, Masataro is able to glean the following interesting information:
-While the Otomo sisters are part of the imperial bureaucracy, and thus of higher than normal imperial standing, their position does not appear to be rock-solid. It seems that the change from the previous dynasty to the new Iweko dynasty (a former Dragon) has put the historical imperial families into a weaker position as Iweko’s former clan grows in prominence. As a result, the Otomos took up this bridge project as a way to prove their use in advancing the empire. They are desperate to have the project succeed.
-In addition to occasional whispered conversation with Tomus that sounds unintelligible, there are various notations on the bridge plans which appear not to be of Rokugani script.

After setting a number of traps (with the help of the Otomo sisters’ troop of peasants) and establishing a watch for the night, the party waits for any sign of disturbance. Hours pass uneventfully before Shoutaro and Masataro catch sight of movement from the direction of the hidden riverside cove hazily illuminated by the light of a waning gibbous moon. Gradually, a half dozen or so figures resolve out of the darkness, slowly approaching the camp, and eventually coming into view. Shoutaro maintains watch as the figures slowly approach, while Masataro rouses the rest of the party. Six of the figures appear to be of nominal height, while one appears to be literally head and shoulders above the rest.

As the figures eventually come close enough to make out details, the party at first thinks they are a group of injured sailors before eventually realizing that they are clearly animated corpses, bloated from long rests in the river. This realization is first made as the wind changes, causing Utamuro to nearly retch at the foul stench of rotten flesh. It is further cemented by Toshiro communing with a very angry earth spirit, who confirms that the approaching figures are “foul ones” who brother water has brought forth. One the corpses’ true nature is fully revealed, each party member steels his will against the supernatural horror. While all struggle to various degrees, Akiyama and Toshiro have the most difficulty, with Toshiro eventually overcoming his terror, while Akiyama (boosted by encouraging words from Masataro) fights on despite his fear.

The party fights bravely, as the waterlogged zombies trudge towards the camp, heedless of the traps prepared to fight them. Utamuro makes quick work of some of the zombies by repeatedly knocking them down onto Akiyama’s punji stick traps, while Byakuya fends some off and Shoutaro, Masataro and Akiyama finish off the rest. Toshiro also uses the powers of the kami to both hurt and slow one zombie which makes it around the melee line.

While no one is hurt, Byakuya is barely saved from some damage due to deft defenses andhis armor, which bears a few gruesome scratches. The party notes that regular blows seem to be less effective against the creatures while blows to the head and using jade weaponry seem particularly effective. Additionally, the creatures seem to fight on regardless of severe wounds until they are completely destroyed.

The last zombie slips past the party, and heads towards the earth shrine, but stumbles into a series of Akiyama’s traps, and is dispatched before it can complete its journey.

Notable Attendees:

Imperial:
Otomo Mizhime – Architect
Otomo Megumi – Earth Shugenja
Hachi – Yojimbo
Tomus – Assistant

Session Rewards:
XP
All Players receive 4 XP
Honor
All: +2 points Braving the terror of the undead and/or fighting through it
Glory/Infamy

All: +2 points for dispatching supernatural evil

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Session 10
Peculiar Architects

Game Time: 3 March 1175 (Afternoon)
Location: Shorai no Kiban (Bridge Village – Foundation of the Future)

Finishing up at the site of the Peasant/Unicorn ambush, the party decides to send three of the peasant prisoners back to the town garrison withIuchi Yori, but only after ensuring that they are all securely bound. Kuro, the 15-year-old noncombatant who had surrendered is brought along for the time being in an attempt to help mollify the rebellious peasants.

As the party leaves the ambush site, Utamuro catches sight of a strange shirtless, tattooed man sitting in a tree about 20’ above the forested pathway. After some awkward and cryptic attempts at conversation, the tattooed man leaps down from the tree and begins following the party. The party quickly pieces together that this must be the Dragon clan monk who Daimyo Tanitsu seemed so interested in, and who some of them had seen previously perching atop a roof at the docks. His shirtless chest is covered in tattoos, notably a dragon clutching a phoenix, a hawk and a disturbing, black circle. While starting at the black circle Byakuya is momentarily mesmerized and very disturbed by the sight, while Shoutaro swears he saw the wings of the hawk tattoo flapping when the monk jumped down from the tree.

In brief, halting conversation the monk admits that he is here to watch and help ensure that balance is maintained, mentioning both an imbalance between earth and water, and an imbalance in the celestial order with the peasantry rising up against the samurai. As the group continues on towards the bridge encampment, he follows along a little behind the rest, occasionally being accompanied by Shoutaro and Byakuya. Toshiro communes with an air kami the monk had been breathing, which reveals his name as Togashi You, and confirms that while mystical in some way, he is not a shugenja, and is (in the opinion of the kami) a very trustworthy soul.

As the party approaches the construction camp, they see a partly-constructed palisade surrounding a large number of tents, and large piles of construction materials stacked about. A simple, stone altar also stands outside the camp. The altar is dedicated to the local earth spirits, and seems to have been disrupted recently (with the offerings scattered around instead of nicely placed). You immediately begins meditating at the shrine while Byakuya and Shoutaro attempt to re-present the offerings.

While the party spends a little time at the shrine, the earth trembles and a loud crack can be heard from the direction of the bridge. Peering intently, they can see a 5th island support slowly raise out of the river. Shortly thereafter, a well-dressed shugenja (Otomo Megumi) staggers back towards camp with the aid of a monk. Clearly exhausted, she immediately goes to the shrine and stops to pray, which seems to help her recover from most of her exhaustion. In fact her seemingly withered muscles seem to re-inflate as she meditates. Meanwhile the monk, apologizing for his exhausted companion, introduces himself as Brother Osen and the shugenja as Otomo Megumi (one of the imperial sisters). He also thanks the bushi for putting the shrine back together and mutters about this having happened before.

After a few minutes, now mostly recovered from her exhaustion, Megumi makes an attempt at a more formal introduction, accepting Masataro’s formal presentation of the party’s writ and names. She welcomes the party to the camp, and offers to introduce them to her sister, who is a bit more of the talker.

The sound of raised voices can be heard from over the palisade walls, and as the party approaches the gate, a faint stench of rotten fish can be smelled, large muddy footprints can be seen in the area and a man’s body is impaled on one of the palisade logs. Initial scouting by Akiyama shows that these muddy and smelly tracks lead towards the river to the northwest, rather than due-west to the bridge.

Just across from the encampment, the party can make out the bridge, which currently spans approximately 1/3 of the river, anchored at strangely uniform and evenly spaced islands. The first two spans appear to be essentially complete, constructed of stone, the next two spans are clearly in-work, consisting primarily of wooden scaffolding.

Within the camp, a gathering of peasants appears to be arguing with a well-dressed saumrai-ko, flanked by a bushi and a weasley-looking man. The peasants appear to be lobbying for greater protection, clearly concerned by the body outside the gate (one of a few over the last few days) and peasant/ronin threats and attacks. Masataro, Utamuro and Byakuya step forward, offering some mollifying words that the party is here to ensure the safety and success of the bridge project and that the peasants should get back to work.

As the peasants disperse back to their duties around camp, further formal introductions are made to Otomo Mizhime (Megumi’s twin) and their bodyguard (Hachi). When Masataro explains the recent peasant attack, Hachi immediately rushes off to ensure that the camp is secure, and that there isn’t another party of angry peasants looming around the corner.

Meanwhile Mizhime excitedly welcomes the party into the command tent so that she can show off her work. Once inside, she enthusiastically shows off a number of engineering drawings for the bridge and gives an impromptu lecture on arches and various other architectural concepts which go almost entirely over the heads of the party. A few party members note that the design seems unusual, and doesn’t resemble any construction that anyone has seen before. Additionally, every once in a while Mizhime says something but is seemingly corrected quietly by her quiet, weasely servant, and the more astute of the party think that these corrections may be in another language.

After an extensive lecture on bridge architecture, Akiyama eventually steers the conversation towards the recent disruptions. Mizhime admits that some of the quarry shipments have been delayed or missing, though she’s not aware of the pirate attacks, just that her stone is not here… She mentions that she’s sent letters to the Crane quarrymaster, and is on the verge of starting discussions with the Lion quarries further inland. She also dismissively reaffirms that there have been some kind of peasant disturbances as well as a few “distasteful” events such as the impaled peasant currently on the palisade.

Mizhime also mentions that there have been some disturbances of the bridge foundations. Megumi responds defensively to this criticism and explains that there have been disturbances of the earth shrine offerings that are required for her work, which have caused some minor tremors and failings in the stoneworks. Toshiro begins a conversation with her about possibly needing to balance offerings to the water kami with the current offerings to the earth kami, and Utamuro repeats one of the cryptic phrases uttered by Togashi You earier in the day. Megumi agrees that this warrants further thought.

Outside the tent, Hachi shares a bit more with the party about the recent attacks. He mentions that there have been three mysterious deaths, two like the one currently impaled on the palisade, and another closer to the bridge project that appeared to just be shattered. When asked about details, he does seem to recall rotting fish smells near each of these bodies. Apart from that, occasional peasant workers have gone missing, reported threats from other, local peasants, or mentioned armed peasants in the woods nearby.

The party agrees to set up at the encampment for the time being to keep watch and prevent further attacks/disturbances. In the last couple hours before dark, Akiyama and Utamuro follow the muddy tracks down to the river and find evidence of multiple muddy footprints (including one oversized set) seeming to come from the water up to the camp and back. Additionally, in a slightly hidden wooded cove, there is also evidence of a boat being pulled up onto the beach, though nothing is currently present. Along this path Akitama sets a few pongi stick traps.

Along the main path from the bridge, Akiyama also sets a rope trap and near the earth shrine he also sets some pongi stick and pitfall traps, while Toshiro adds some offerings to the earth shrine, attempting to make it more enticing.

Before dark, Utamuro sends Kuro back into town to round up additional peasants to work on the bridge. He is instructed specifically to find other peasants who might be on the fence about joining the rebels, and convincing them instead that gainful employment is available here. He works with Toshiro (and/or Masataro) to give him a writ authorizing this recruitment.

Utamuro and Akiyama also start to brainstorming a missive explaining the bridge project and requesting additional support for the project, to be sent to Daimyo Tanitsu. Utamuro suggests that sending further workers and supplies will result in an increased skilled work force which could then be used on other construction projects such as building roads, fortifications, and the (presumably) soon-to-be-growing town at Shorai no Kiban. Akiyama suggests sending this message back to the Daimyo with captain Shara and her ship the Dawning Moon, when it arrives in the next day or two.

Notable Attendees:

Imperial:
Otomo Mizhime – Architect
Otomo Megumi – Earth Shugenja
Hachi – Yojimbo
Tomus – Assistant
Gudeta – master mason
Monks
Brother Osen
Dragon
Togashi You

Session Rewards:
XP
All Players receive 4 XP
Honor
Utamuro: + 4 Showing kindness towards Kuro and the rest of the peasants
Akiyama: 0 (1 for Following orders despite personal misgivings, -1 for “dishonorable” use of traps and ambush tactics)
Byakuya and Shoutaro: +2 for respectful actions at the shrine
Everyone else: +1 for appropriate interactions with the imperials
Glory/Infamy
+1 Rank for anyone who gained an insight level
Misc
All: +1 Lore Architecture (for free) from sitting through Mizhime’s lecture

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Session 9
Ambushed Unicorn

Game Time: 3 March 1175 (Afternoon)
Location: Shorai no Kiban (Bridge Village – Foundation of the Future)

The party leaves the Genial Blossom Tea House a short while after the Lion party. Prior to leaving, the party notices that the Unicorn samurai appear to have snuck out a back door during the tussle with the Lions. The party is directed north through the town toward the bridge construction camp, where they will meet the Otomo sisters.

Walking through the village, which is nestled amidst a series of steep, forested hills, they begin to near the construction camp. Just south of the camp is a short forested path, which winds along a tall, forested hill on the east. As the party rounds the hill, they begin to hear sounds of a struggle, and are startled by a riderless horse charging past them from the north. Shoutaro calms the horse, and eventually mounts it as the horse pulls him back north from whence it came.

Behind a large boulder and series of trees, the party discovers the two Unicorn samurai beset by an ambushing party of peasants, who seem strangely well-armed. The female Unicorn lays unmoving on the ground, surrounded by peasants, and her male companion sits up against the boulder, wounded.

During the battle, the party notes that while the peasants have clearly advanced weaponry, they are poorly trained. Additionally, the bows wielded by the archers seem to be very brittle, as two of them snap when the peasants attempt to wield them. While most of the peasants seem desperate and willing to fight to the death, one (on seeing the party) drops his unused knife and huddles in terror against the boulder, while another appears almost rabid as he repeatedly stabs the fallen female Unicorn. The male Unicorn is saved by the party, but by the time they arrive, the bloodthirsty peasant has killed the armored, female Unicorn and her horse.

After the battle, the party inspects the peasant’s weaponry, revealing a few interesting pieces of information. The bows, while well crafted, appear to be exceedingly old and dry. The Naginata and Swords are of odd designs and also seem very old. The Naginata are inscribed with serpentine patterns, and one of them seems awkwardly over-sized, as if intended for someone significantly larger than even Utamuro. The swords are even more odd, seeming to be at best distantly related to the shape of the familiar katana.

Behind some stones and shrubbery, Toshiro also finds a narrow path into the hill, which leads to a hidden valley with the remains of an encampment. In addition to personal goods, there is a large crate of additional weaponry (including 12 jade armor piercing arrows, two jade tantos and a very brittle scroll containing two spells (Minor Binding & Jade Strike), all inside a very ancient, wooden crate. Also, in the camp is found the bloody tonfa of a village Doshin (presumably Junpai). Utamuro’s keen eye also spots the remnants of some additional scrolls which appear to have been used as kindling.

Summoning a very sedate air kami that lives in the hidden valley, Toshiro is able to confirm that the weapons crate had arrived a few days past, and that the burned scrap was an earth-oriented scroll of some sort. The spirit mentions that it particularly liked the arrows, but comments that they contained very little water.

Shoutaro and Masataro attempt to tend to Yori’s horse (before tending to his wounds), which he seems to actually view positively as he also attempts to calm the horse. Meanwhile Byakuya introduces himself while he tends Yori’s wounds. Yori explains that he and his companion were sent to establish more permanent relations in the area, and brought a contingent of Unicorn peasants along to help with the bridge construction, as well as a small herd of horses. Both the peasants and horses are still on the Lion side of the river, but Yori, and the late Keira were on their way to discuss things with the Otomo sisters when these peasants ambushed them.

Four of the peasants are captured alive, two archers (one who attempted to run), the cowering youth and one of the naginata-wielders who was knocked unconcious. The party disarms and secures them before questioning the youth. He reveals that they are local peasants (ferry operators) who are afraid that the bridge will steal away their livelihoods and that they’ll starve. They were incited to revolt by one of the others who now lies dead, and who also was somehow supplied with the weapons crate which was dropped off in a small cove north of town a week or so ago. He doesn’t know who was supplying them, but knows that another shipment is supposed to be dropped off there in two days time. He, and the others, were stirred up with stories of the poor treatment of peasants who were not needed by the Lion clan, and promises that as soon as the bridge is completed, they will all be left to die as the river trade withers.

Wounded, and limping severely, Yori asks for assistance re-mounting his horse, but offers to lead the bound peasants back to the garrison for imprisonment/judgement.

Notable Attendees:

Unicorn:
Iuchi Keira – Utaku Battle Maiden (Deceased)
Iuchi Yori – Horsemaster

Session Rewards:
XP
All Players receive 4 XP
Honor
All players receive 3 honor for merciful treatment of the peasants
Byakuya receives +1 additional honor for skillful interaction with Yori
Toshiro receives +1 additional honor for attempts to incapacitate the enemy rather than kill and save the fallen samurai-ko
Glory/Infamy
All players receive +3 glory for winning the battle and saving Yori (a status 2 diplomat)
Misc:
Shoutaro, Masataro and Byakuya gain an Influence 1, Devotion 1 ally in Iuchi Yori
The party finds 2 jade tantos (see above)
The party finds 12 armor piercing jade arrows and 40 willow-leaf arrows (see above)
The party finds a bloody Doshin’s tonfa set (see above)
The party finds a crate of 12 strange swords (see above)
Toshiro finds a scroll containing an un-encrypted copy of the Minor Binding and Jade Strike spells and a charred scroll containing part of at least one additional earth spell

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Session 8
A Tense Tea

Game Time: 3 March 1175 (Late Morning)
Location: Shorai no Kiban (Bridge Village – Foundation of the Future)

The party begins in the wealthy Water shrine adjacent to the ferry docks, speaking briefly to Abbot Ikage, and Brother Toketsu (the one-armed monk). The temple contains an elaborate purification fountain in the central courtyard, a series of prayer strips hanging from a wall above a series of altars well-supplied with offerings. The altar to Daikoku (the fortune of wealth) is very large and well stocked with offerings from travelling merchants. Nearby is a second set of altars (much smaller) to the spirits of the river which are overflowing with poorer offerings clearly from local fishermen and ferrymen.

Toshiro is welcomed warmly by Abbot Ikage and taken to a special scrying alcove when he asks if it is appropriate to commune with the water kami here. While it is much easier to commune here in the temple than previous attempts, there is still a lingering resistance by the local water kami to Toshiro’s call. He speaks to the water Kami and recives images of how to appease the water kami, seeing images of the maho-tsukai (blood caster) going away, the bridge falling apart and a vision of balance in the elements.

On the way out of the temple, the party is officially greeted by Ranmaru, a strikingly beautiful woman casually dressed in an exquisite kimono, which shows off hints of tattoos at her neck, ankle and wrist. She is very friendly, and welcoming, guiding the party to the Onwana Hana (Genial Blossom) tea house, frequently touching each of them and complimenting them, especially Utamuro. Her bodyguard, Yoshi, accompanies as well, sizing up each of the bushi in the group, and focuses on Byakuya, offering unsolicited advice about loosening up his stance.

The Tea House is part of a multi-building complex surrounded by a stone wall near the town center, and the party are ushered to the main dining room to relax, while their baggage is taken up to their rooms. Byakuya takes up the offer of a hot bath and is led to the Inn building, where the first floor is dedicated to a number of bath and massage rooms, where he is thoroughly cleaned and relaxed via the ministrations of skilled spa technicians.

Within the Genial Blossom Tea House, a number of samurai occupy tables, relaxing and enjoying tea and food. Notably, a large table of Matsu (Lion) bushi sits on one side of the chamber while a smaller group of Daidoji guardsmen sit at another table, watching the Lion. The Kitsuki (Dragon) samurai that were previously met on the dock also sit in a separate room, while a pair of Iuchi (Unicorn) samurai sit at their own table, looking slightly odd and out of place.

Toshiro in particular seems fascinated by the Unicorns, who are unusual to see in Crane lands, and just seem slightly foreign and uncomfortable in dress, mannerism and facial appearance.

Utamuro offers a friendly warning to the Daidoji guardsmen about the party’s recent encounters with Matsu Umasu, and is welcomed to sit at their table, where they confess that they are here primarily to keep an eye on the Lion and make sure no trouble erupts. During the stay, Utamuro and the guardsmen chat about a number of local happenings including:
They mention that the peasantry have been getting more restless of late, and they are irritated that they’ve had to take up the slack over the last few days since Doshin Junpai (Peasant Magistrate) hasn’t been seen in about a week.
They mention that the bridge project has been having various troubles, though none of them have been directly involved or gone to the camp.
They mention that the local garrison is primarily a way-station for the border patrols in the region, and that at any given time there’s typically only a few Bushi on local guard duty.
They mention that the Lion here could be some kind of covert scouting party, but are most-likely just off-duty soldiers who come over to enjoy the much nicer accommodations/food/sights/etc on the Crane side of the river.
When asked about Maho (blood magic) they all seem aghast and legitimately know nothing about it.
When asked about the very large peasant dock worker who the party thinks they saw at night rising from the river, they all perk up and agree that it must be Ume, who is a very nice, if somewhat simple, dock worker who they all know.

Akiyama asks Ranmaru to alert the party when Hiramichi Miliko returns to her estate, and she offers to have a calligrapher write a letter to be delivered to Miliko’s estate in the mean-time. A beautiful young Geisha arrives and takes Akiyama’s dictation, creating a very beautiful scroll and has it delivered to the estate.

Later, Masataro and Toshiro also engage the Geisha’s skills to write a poem about the glory of the bridge project, with the intent of possibly giving it as a gift to the Otomo sisters. When Ranmaru is asked about how to be properly introduced to the Imperial sisters, she struggles a bit and mentions that the Dragon samurai, as well as Commander Bakin have had dealings with the sisters, but she also mentions that (from her understanding) the sisters are a bit on the odd and rustic side, and may not actually require a formal introduction.

Spurred on by their Matsu nature, as well as Utamuro’s inflammatory behavior and witty insults, one of the Lion bushi attempts to tackle Utamuro in frustration as the rest of his party leaves the tea house. While Utamuro and this Lion grapple (poorly) a full-scale battle is narrowly averted through the skillful words of Masataro, Toshiro and Akiyama, accompanied by the deadly promise of Shoutaro’s partly-unsheathed Katana.

Utamuro and one of the Matsu tussle a bit while the rest are talked down, but some of the statements including Akiyama’s name seem to inflame one of the other Matsu, who nearly turns the brawl into a more deadly melee. In the end, this last aggressive Matsu spits a curse against Akiyama, buries a tanto into one of the tables and stalks off, ranting about Akiyama lecturing the Lion on a lack of honor.

After the battle, the Daidoji guardsmen exchange bets which they had made on how many Lion would have to be killed, before the party even arrived.

Notable Attendees:

Crane
Daidoji Guardsmen
Lion
Matsu Guardsmen
Ronin
Ranmaru – Geisha/Tea House Mistress
Yoshi
Brotherhood of Shinsei
Abbot Ikage – Water Temple
Brother Toketsu – Water Temple

Session Rewards:
XP
All Players receive 2 XP
Honor
Utamuro: +2 (-2 for manipulating the Lion into acting dishonorably, +4 for assisting the old serving woman who was knocked down)
Remainder of party: +1 for attempting to diffuse the fight
Glory/Infamy

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Session 7
Foundation of the Future

Game Time: 1 March (Evening) – 3 March (Morning) 1175
Location: Aboard the White Sparrow, and on the docks of Shorai no Kiban (Bridge Village – Foundation of the Future)

In the aftermath of the encounter with the Dawning Moon, Chiroku expresses displeasure at the party’s gentle encounter with the ship. She explains that a ship that damaged and crew that bedraggled could only result from some combination of a cursed ship and/or incompetent captain. The Mantis believe it would be better to put them to the sword, but defer to the Crane in their territory. The party defends their actions well, but notes the captain’s displeasure.

That evening, the day shift of the crew relax a bit, and some friendly games of Fortunes and Winds are played before everyone retires for the night.

As the following day progresses, Byakuya notes an inked handprint on his kimono which may have had something to do with the snickers from the Mantis crew the day before. He assumes that Shiba Masaru had something to do with it and enlists Masataro’s skills in cleaning the stain. Additionally, while there are clearly no Iaijutsu students aboard the ship, Byakuya does draw some interest as he practices his forms, attempting to compensate for the motion of the ship. Eventually he teaches some pointers to a couple mantis crew and performs some practice sparring with Shoutaro as well.

During break times Utamuro valiantly attempts to keep up with some of the physical contests of the Mantis crew, such as racing to the top of the ship’s rigging and such. Akiyama entertains the crew, and furthers the renown of Utamuro, regaling everyone with the stirring tale of the party’s first encounter with the Three Boulders Falling bandits. Toshiro also continues to befriend Masako, eventually proving his use in summoning the air kami to speed the ship along. Despite initial misgivings, he performs this skillfully, and does not damage the ship. He also creates a beautiful origami white sparrow for her amusement. In general, the crew seems increasingly impressed with the Crane, who were initially assumed to be bumbling, pompous idiots.

Late in the day of nominal arrival to Shorai no Kiban, the river becomes very turbulent, forcing all hands on deck to help save the ship. Everyone pitches in, to varying degrees of success, and manage to safe the ship until the turbulence passes. While the ship is still a ways off from the docks, some of the party note one or more figures on the docks at this time. Given the lateness of the evening, and the unusual turbulence, Chiroku decides to stand off at anchor for the night and dock in the morning.

As they approach closer, the party can make out the bridge, which currently spans approximately 1/3 of the river, anchored at strangely uniform and evenly spaced islands. It’s arches stand high enough and wide enough for at least one kobune, such as the White Sparrow to pass underneath with reasonable clearance. Near the bridge is a large, high island which appears to house some sort of ruined buildings. To the west, lies a small port village on the Lion side of the river, while the town on the Crane side appears to be fairly large and bustling, with an extensive dock network making up most of the riverfront.

While the boat is anchored, Toshiro summons a still angry water kami, and questions what has made them so angry, to which he is shown flashing images of the small, regularly spaced islands which are serving as anchor points for the bridge construction, and a man standing at the docks gesturing and cutting his arm, to let blood drop into the water. Toshiro knows that this seems to be blood magic of some sort, which is a forbidden and rarely spoken of practice. Masako, seems to concur that evil magic is at work, and is very disquieted, but knows little more of the subject than Toshiro. Additionally, Toshiro asks where the man pictured is, the kami rushes off in the direction of the Crane docks.

In the middle of the night, the entire boat is woken by some sort of strange nightmares, which sap the energy of half the party. Shoutaro and Utamuro go up onto the deck, and Illuminated by a full moon, they can see a very large figure emerge from the river and walk into town, as well as another figure standing on the docks. Both move into the town and don’t return for at least fifteen minutes, after which both go back below to get some further sleep.

As the party arrives at the docks of Shorai no Kiban the next morning, they tie up at the dock and see the following:

1) Three well-dressed peasants standing nearby, having a discussion.
The party asks the peasants for directions to the Imperial (Otomo) sisters, and immediately gets the peasants off on bad footing. The peasants appear to be full of themselves (being wealthy business men in an area with relatively few local samurai) and clearly displeased with the Imperial presence.

Quickly put in their place by the party, and instilled with new-found humbleness and respect, Kinen, a portly, and fairly disgusting middle-aged peasant is roped into guiding the party around town, after initially attempting to pawn the duty off on a local messenger boy. He also mentions some places in town to relax and get something to eat, such as the famous Geisha house ( Shinju no yuri – Pearl Lily), the local tea house ( Onwana hana – Genial Blossom), both of which also have rooms to rent, and the local sake house ( Nodo ga kawai – Thirsty Heron) which is a little on the less reputable side of things. He also mentions the few locals of note:
Kakita Bakin, the garrison commander, who stands nearby
Ranmaru, the Geisha mistress, who stands nearby
Hiramichi Miliko, the famous sculptor who is not currently here

Toshiro is able to summon an air kami that confirms that the previous night “brother river” was very angry two times, in addition to its generally irritated nature of late. It is also asked if the very large dock worker nearby (Ume) was the one coming out of the river the previous night. The kami inspects Ume to check, and returns, but seems oddly uncertain. It doesn’t think that Ume was in the river, but isn’t entirely sure. Toshiro also struggles to converse with a Water kami, which, when asked further about the figure seemingly performing blood magic, darts away under the dock, and causes Toshiro to note the odd looks from Yomi and Domogu, the other two peasants.

Toshiro sends them to arrange rooms for the party at the Genial Blossom tea house, and instills in them the fact that they should not be talking about what they may have overheard. They rush down the dock to Ranmaru, who sends he Geisha companion into town, presumably to arrange rooms. Akiyama also eventually enlists them to gather cartography supplies for him.

2) Two Dragon samurai examining the docks, and talking with a Crane bushi
On introducing themselves and declaring their charter as magistrates, the Crane, who introduces himself as Kakita Bakin, a Kakita duelist and local garrison commander, expresses relief and quickly punts responsibility for the area’s woes on the party (including the responsibility of dealing with the Dragon and Imperial presence). He lists the following recent events, but quickly establishes that he has his handful managing the military post in the area, without having to deal with all this other hullaballoo. The party is welcomed to contact him later at the garrison’s barracks.
a. The local peasant Doshin (magistrate) hasn’t been seen in about a week, and thus his duties keep getting foisted on Bakin, who has neither the time nor inclination to deal with them
b. There have been various reports of sabotaged building materials, workers and even an emergency at the bridge building site in recent days
c. These “illustrious” Dragon representatives are here also investigating the happenings related to the Bridge, and are now the party’s problem.
i. The Dragons are introduced as Kitsuki Doreni, a rude courtier, and Kitsuki Lixue an almost equally stand-offish bushi.
ii. They mention that they are here to learn more about the happenings about the bridge construction process, and repeatedly insult the party and the Crane, begrudgingly offering to introduce the party to the Otomo sisters, before the conversation escalates. Eventually Masataro and Toshiro soundly send them packing with razor sharp Crane with and intrigue
iii. As the Dragon leave, Toshiro catches sight of an odd event, as a shirtless, tattooed man, who had previously been standing absolutely still on one leg atop the roof of a nearby warehouse, turns to watch the departing Dragon and jumps out of sight off the roof.

3) Two lion samurai discussing something with a very large dock worker and a ferry operator with a notable wine-stain birthmark on his face.
a. Bakin mentions that the Lion have been causing a little trouble since they got here, but doesn’t go into more detail
4) A beautifully dressed, tattooed woman accompanied by a Geisha, and an armored samurai

As the party are about to retire to the tea house to refresh themselves before continuing on to the Otomo sisters, Shoutaro catches sight of the local water temple, and rushes off to pay his respects and purify himself. The rest of the party tag along, and step into the fairly large and well-appointed temple devoted to the water Kami and Diakoku (the Fortune of wealth). There they are greeted cordially by Abbot Ikage, the head monk at the temple, and shown to the elaborate purification fountain, as well as the altars where offerings are left, which are generously filled at present with small trade goods, fish and fruit from the local populous and travelling merchants.

Notable Attendees:

Mantis
Yorimoto Masako – Shugenja
Moshi Chiroku – Captain
Crane
Kakita Bakin – Garrison Commander
Dragon
Kitsuki Doreni – Investigator
Kitsuki Lixue – Yojimbo
Peasant
Dayu – Ferry Owner
Kinen – Older Ferry Owner
Domogu – Kinen’s Son
Yome – Disgusting Ferry Owner
Ume – Large Dock Worker
Ronin
Ranmaru – Geisha Mistress

Session Rewards:
XP
All Players receive 3 XP
Honor
Net 0, as the party encountered a lot of disrespect towards the Crane clan and/or the Imperial government, but responded appropriately and courteously while correcting the inappropriate comments and/or returning the insults skillfully. The party has reasonable cause (if desired) to issue a challenge to a duel to the Dragon clan samurai for their comments.
Glory/Infamy
+1 pip for everyone for impressive skills aboard the White sparrow, and/or bragging about previous glory
Status
As it becomes known that the party are provisional magistrates, all (except Utamuro) are now recognized as Status 1.5 (Utamuro is Status 1)

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Session 6
Aboard the White Sparrow

Game Time: 1 March 1175
Location: Shiroi Suzume (Mantis Ship – White Sparrow); Shorai no Kiban (Bridge Village – Foundation of the Future)

The party sets out from Kosaten Shiro just after dawn (and very little sleep) on March 1. The Mantis representatives at court (Yorimoto Masako and Moshi Chiroku) have offered passage aboard their vessel, the Shiroi suzume (White Sparrow), towards the site of the stone bridge construction.

As they are preparing to leave, Akiyama is summoned to meet privately with Daimyo Tanitsu, who awkwardly and secretly bids Akiyama to be on the lookout for “strange equipment” and if found, to bring it back to Tanitsu.

The party boards the vessel and takes in the nature of the Mantis crew. Unlike the very precise and erudite Crane, the Mantis seem to be a very laid back group. The crew is composed of a number of samurai, in relaxed, but rich garb, who seem quite friendly with their peasant crew companions. The crew seems initially ill-at-ease with the Crane contingent, seemingly very aware of the Crane tendency for “proper” behavior. Masataro and Byakuya in particular appear to be viewed unfavorably, and Byakuya in-particular appears to be the butt of some whispered joke.

Additionally, Chiroku and Masako, who were maintaining a delicate courtly presence on land seem to quickly relax once on board. The crew is clearly very competent, quickly casting off and making way up-river, with Masako using her Shugenja abilities to guide the boat and alter wind-patterns.

Byakuya, tired from a very short night’s sleep, and waking extra early to get in his Iaijutsu practice quickly retires to the cabin prepared for the Crane and naps for the morning. Shoutaro, Masataro and Utamuro do their best to appear busy, stowing gear and generally taking in the ship. Utamuro is eventually put to work, primarily based on his large frame, moving and securing heavy objects in the hold.

Akiyama, meanwhile strikes up a quick friendship with Moshi Takuji, one of the samurai crew, bonding over talk of Fortune and Winds, and learning more about the crew, their experiences and their views on piracy. He learns that the crew is newly arrived to the Daidoji lands, and hasn’t encountered any pirates in the area thus far, but has had experience hunting pirates at sea. It is revealed that the Mantis have at times been “erroneously” associated with piracy, and that in fact one of the prime charges of the clan is to eliminate pirates at sea wherever possible. Eventually Captain Chiroku also chimes in that the imperial edicts are murkier where it comes to river-based piracy, but that the clan is interested in expanding their interests to this area as well. She is not entirely delicate when she explains that the Mantis are clearly best suited for this, as other clans are lacking the ships, resources and skills to deal with piracy.

Toshiro continues to get to know Masako, in particular inquiring about her role on the ship, to which he gets somewhat curt responses until she turns her entire focus to her task at hand. He is able to glean that she uses her powers with the Kami to do such things as alter the winds, calm waters and otherwise assist in guiding the ship safely. He continues to gradually endear himself to Masako, and also watches, trying to learn how she interacts with the spirits.

Eventually the party is also introduced to the interesting alcoholic drink: Shochu, which is a harder liquor which the Mantis are fond of and pass around in lieu of beer or sake.

In the mid-afternoon on March 1, the lookout spies a set of sails of another ship, and Chiroku steers the ship to intercept. As the White Sparrow approaches the other ship, a few things become apparent. First, the new ship does not fly any clan flag, unlike the Sparrow, which flies a Mantis banner along with a smaller Crane banner, which indicates the presence of the Crane party. Additionally, the new ship, a smaller kobune, appears on closer inspection to have been horribly damaged at some point, and heavily repaired.

Approaching even closer, Chiroku demands that the new vessel stand by to be boarded for inspection, and after some negotiation, the captain relents, allowing a couple Mantis and the Crane party to board. Akiyama remains on the White Sparrow, readying an arrow to eliminate the captain if required, and Masataro remains aboard until a plank is extended between ships, while the rest of the party leaps across to the new vessel. Shoutaro barely makes the jump, thanks to a quick, but rude shove by a friendly Mantis crewmember, which sends him sprawling onto the deck. The ship is the Akenotsuki (Dawning Moon), and is captained by Captain Shara.

After a spirited negotiation, in which Shara, a very rigid and legalistic Ronin defends her ship’s sovereignty, she eventually relents and begins providing information and allowing an inspection of her ship. The following details are learned:
1) Shara and her skeleton crew are much more disciplined than the Mantis crew appear, but are also tired, and poorly outfitted.
2) The Dawning Moon appears to be very sparsely supplied and has no apparent smuggling capacity or other untoward cargo
3) Shara appears very touchy about her ronin status and the fact that the ship is not flying any flags, and is very offended when it is suggested that they are pirates
4) Shara appears very antagonistic towards piracy and aloof about her vessel
5) Through communing with the earth kami in the ship’s wood, it is revealed that the damage to the ship was due to a massive storm some time ago
6) Shara has had some encounters with local pirates over the last few months, encountering one group fairly closely, and two others at a distance.
a. The first pirate group pilots the kobune Fukushu (Revenge), and was seen in the vicinity of the River of the Hour of the Wolf, a famously haunted river to the south and east that cuts through the mountains towards Scorpion lands. She expresses shame that her ship and crew were not well enough to fight the Revenge when they encountered her. She also seemed fairly uncomfortable speaking of the haunted river area.
b. The second group of pirates is apparently a more rag-tag group that uses local fishing vessels (she states with disdain) and has only been seen from a distance, and/or heard about.
c. The third group she is very loathe to talk about, but eventually Toshiro is able to coax out a description of a winged vessel made of ebony and crewed by dark-skinned demons which spewed fire and thunder. She was uncomfortable talking about this due to the forbidden nature of the taint, demons and spirits.
7) The Dawning Moon is en route to the ferry port, where the bridge is being constructed, in search of honest work. The party is able to capitalize on this encounter, and the desperate nature of Shara’s situation to set a good negotiating position to enlist her aid once she arrives in a couple day’s time.

Just as the encounter is nearing completion, Akiyama spies a familiar tattoo on the arm of a peasant crew member who is approaching Shara with a knife drawn. Waiting until the very moment where the peasant is about to strike Shara, Akiyama unleashes a perfect arrow strike through the man’s eye, halting the attack, and dropping him with one blow.

The party quickly defuses the situation, explaining that they had previously battled the “Three Boulders Falling” bandits to which this man clearly belonged, and that their fast action just saved the life of Captain Shara. Further inquiry reveals that this man was a new recruit from a local fishing village, but that the rest of the crew (including, to some affrontery, Shara) bears no damning tattoos, and can be vouched for. The fishing village in question is one that was represented at the recent court session, and its representative mentioned “pirates” who didn’t attack, so much as demand tribute for protecting them from other pirates.

On the way back to the White Sparrow, Utamuro disdains the use of the plank, and instead uses some of his new-found sailing skills to deftly swing across, impressing the Mantis crew.

Notable Attendees:

Mantis
Yorimoto Masako – Shugenja
Moshi Chiroku – Captain
Moshi Takuji – Friendly Mantis
Ronin
Shara – Captain of Akenosuki

Session Rewards:
XP
All Players receive 4 XP
Honor
All players (except Akiyama and Toshiro) receive +4 honor points for deftly dealing with a potential piracy situation, clearing the air, and offering aid to the bedraggled crew
Akiyama gains +3 honor points (minus for use of Stealth, and being less accepting of the crew initially)
Toshiro gains +3 honor points (minus for use of temptation and less-than-tactfully impugning Shara’s honor)
Glory/Infamy
All players receive +2 points of glory for skillful negotiation and resolution of the encounter with the Dawning Moon
Akiyama receives +1 additional point of infamy for his soon-to-be famous arrow shot
Misc
Akiyama and Toshiro Gain an Influence 1, Devotion 2 ally in Captain Shara
The rest of the party gain an Influence 1, Devotion 1 ally in Captain Shara

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Session 5
Investigating the Attack

Game Time: 27 Feb 1175 (Evening)
Location: Kosaten Shiro (Daidoji Castle) after the play attack

In the aftermath of the attack on the winter court closing play, the attendees begin to regain their composure.

On seeing Toshiro lying gravely wounded, Yorimoto Masako rushes to his aid, and spends the next few minutes chanting over his body, asking for the water kami’s aid in restoring his ki, and healing his body. Masako and Masataro watch over Toshiro as he recovers, and Toshiro begins to get to know the Mantis shugenja a bit better.

Eventually, Toshiro asks Masako on a moonlit walk in the castle’s garden as a way of thanking her and getting to know her better. They talk for some time, and Toshiro learns more about Masako, her less than formal nature (evidenced by uncomfortableness in formal court kimonos), as well as the Mantis charge to serve as envoys of the clan, protecting and furthering their river trade. A secondary goal is to grow their anti-piracy charter from the coastline into the interior, though at present this mandate is a bit murky. She hopes that with the aid of Toshiro and his companions, they might show both that the Mantis clan has a place working with the Great Clans, as well as to formalize jurisdiction over river piracy.

After Akiyama’s squad of guards manages to control the warehouse fire, they make note that there was an unusual quantity and thickness of smoke, despite the relatively small nature of the fire. The smoke was particularly oily and smelled faintly of almonds, which was later identified as poppy (opium) smoke.

As Akiyama arrives back at the castle to report on the fire, it is revealed that Matsu Umasu is missing from his guarded chamber. One of the guards outside his chamber is dead (stabbed in the back) and the other was knocked unconscious. Akiyama, Utamuro and Shoutaro investigate the breakout and murder, inspecting the scene of Umasu’s former “cell” and speaking to the remaining guard. Umasu had been held in his guest quarters, with a pair of guards standing watch outside.

Through skillful investigation by the team (including investigation of the murder weapon, questioning of the injured guard (Jimpo), communing with a local air spirit, and investigating the surrounding area) the team reveals that guard Jimpo was complicit in the escape, helping Umasu to flee by distracting guard Babaki outside. While some of the party suspect that Jimpo actually murdered the other guard on-duty, he claimed that Umasu had performed that particular crime, as evidenced by the Lion-made Tanto that was used. This betrayal, he explained was due to a gradual blackmailing/bribery scheme by an average height/build woman who would meet him in darkened alleyways at night after gambling sessions down by the docks. After obtaining this confession, Daimyo Tanitsu executed Jimpo on the spot. Further tracking of Umasu’s escape route eventually revealed some weak points in the guard rotation (thanks to the fire in town) and a rope ladder leading down from the castle walls and towards the river, where the trail was lost.

While Akiyama, Utamuro and Shoutaro investigate the breakout and murder, Byakuya follows his gut in believing that his old enemy, Masaru, may have had something to do with the attacks. He finds Masaru in his quarters, apparently just woken from sleep, and when Byakuya speaks of the attack Masaru quickly dresses and arms himself before rushing to take guard over Sakimi. From all appearances he is as surprised as the rest of the party by the attack.

As the night’s excitement winds down, the party goes to rest, planning to set out in the direction of the bridge project via the Mantis ship Shiroi suzume (White Sparrow) on the following day.

Notable Attendees:
Crane
Daidoji Tanitsu – Daimyo
Jimpo – treasonous guard
Babaki – distracted/disgraced guard

Mantis
Yorimoto Masako – Shugenja

Session Rewards:
XP
All Players receive 3 XP
Honor
Byakuya: +2 for accepting Masaru as innocent of the attack
Utamuro: +1 for standing guard in place of Jimpo
Glory/Infamy

All: +1 for participating in the murder investigation

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Session 4
Anyone for a play?

Game Time: 27 Feb 1175 (Afternoon-Evening)
Location: Kosaten Shiro (Daidoji Castle) on the last day(s) of winter court

The party is given additional details on their assignment(s). All (except Utamuro) are given official permits declaring them provisional Crane Magistrates for the lands in and around Shorai no Kiban and ordered to coordinate efforts with the Otomo Sisters and any other Imperial representatives in the region, and address any other concerns.

Miliko mentions that she will be happy to welcome the party at her estate once she returns there. She will be travelling over-land with a baggage train containing her sculpting tools, clothes, etc. Toshiro takes note of her “estate” and commences to schmooze her quite successfully, even managing to compliment her on her clothes (which are well made but hideously matched).

Daishiki mentions that he can provide transport and guidance regarding the bandit attacks near his quarry, but that such transport is limited to slow moving river barges. Some of the attacks near the quarry have been over-land, others have been via boat.

Tanitsu mentions that there is a Mantis Kobune docked here, with its samurai at court. In order to better secure favorable trade relations with the crane and/or by calling them out as failing at their clan’s duty to protect the empire from piracy, the party may be able to secure passage aboard their vessel.

To commemorate the end of the Winter Court, the Daimyo invites the party, as well as the Scorpion and Mantis representatives to witness a play. All with performance abilities are also invited to participate in a sort of talent show before the play. is invited to participate with his puppetry skills. Akiyama is assigned guard duty on the castle walls, while Utamuro is ordered to stand guard near the play, although he’s given a position where he can witness the play. Masaru is not invited, which Byakuya later determines is due to his tenuous position at court. Sakimi claims that she does not need protection when surrounded by so many brave Crane samurai.

During the downtime before the play, two female mantis samurai approach and introduce themselves as Moshi Chiroku, captain of the White Sparrow, and her first mate: Yorimoto Masako, who later reveals herself to be a shugenja. Chiroku is notable for her elaborate and fine dress, which includes pearl beading as well as rare wood and ivory accoutrements, though her appearance is otherwise rather plain. Masako, on the other hand is dressed in simple, if very finely crafted silks, but seems somewhat uncomfortable in courtly dress. Masataro makes a good impression, introducing himself and his brother, and chatting about the quality of their clothes. Utamuro and Toshiro also chime in and introductions are made.

Before the evening festivities start, the party has the opportunity to mill about, and a few things of note happen. Toshiro investigates things which would impress Miliko, Tae, Tanitsu and Chiroku, eventually settling on a rousing epic ballad including manly virtue, battle, dishonor to all clans but Crane and Mantis, and some sailing prowess, which he later performs to great applause. Masataro, sets up his puppetry equipment for his eventual performance, and notes that the professional acting troupe appears very cold towards him, and eventually reveals themselves to not be very skilled at their profession.

The talent show starts with Tae performing on the samisan, then Sakimi tells a stirring story out of legend, followed by Toshiro’s ballad, which is topped off by floating an elaborate origami ship towards Chiroku. Next, Masataro performs a puppet re-telling of the Monkey King story, followed by Chiroku attempting to show off her juggling abilities (which while adequate are not particularly entertaining). As a prelude to the play itself, the talent show ends with Daimyo Tanitsu performing an elegant, but sedate dance routine.

During the play, the crowd watch intently, and at one point Utamuro thinks he is bitten by a horsefly and begins to feel sluggish. A short time later Byakuya is also “bitten” and begins to feel dizzy and sluggish, but he notes no flies in the area. Just as he pulls up his kimono and finds a tiny blowgun dart in his arm, the actors set off a large flash-pot (an acting prop creating a loud, smoky bang) which blinds everyone in the audience other than Byakuya and Utamuro.

At that moment, a series of things happen. The flash pot creates a very loud and blinding explosion, that leaves the audience dazed for a moment (clearly bigger than normally used). As the audience recovers, they note that the stage has caught fire, and some of the stagehands are attempting to put out the fire. Meanwhile, the actors pull hidden weaponry from the set pieces and attack the crowd, while a dark-clothed/masked figure on a nearby rooftop fires poison darts at audience members, and generally creates havoc, though hampered by the spellcasting of Toshiro.

The battle is fierce, with Toshiro being knocked out and severely wounded just after he knocked down the masked assailant with his spells. Byakuya is also wounded, but manages to fend off two assailants while Shoutaro, Masataro and Utamuro dispatch the other three. Despite multiple pleas for them to surrender, all of the actors fight to the death, with the last committing a hurried form of Seppuku rather than being taken alive.

During the battle, Sakimi, Kinrio, Tae and Miliko will seek cover, aided by Daishiki and Tanitsu (partly at Masataro’s insistence). Shosuro Soh also flees, though he trips and delays Kinrio Meanwhile , Chiroku stands guard over Masako, who pulls out a scroll and summons water kami to rain down and put out the fire.

With the assistance of Chiroku, a couple party members attempt to scale the wall and chase after the masked figure, but aren’t able to make the climb until the figure has already leapt off the wall and out of sight. Once atop the keep walls, however, they can see that a portion of the town below appears to be ablaze.

As the rest of the party rush after the rooftop assailant, Yorimoto Masako (the Mantis Shugenja) rushes forward and begins summoning the kami to heal Toshiro. After some moments, Toshiro stirs and is almost back to full strength, though afterwards he walks with a very slight limp, and looks a bit glassy-eyed.

After the fact it is revealed that most of the castle guard, led by Akiyama, was drawn away by a fire in the village. Akiyama noted the fire from his guard post and led a detachment to rouse the populous and save the town. Only a couple small warehouses were burned, though at least one appeared to have housed a half dozen people who are now no more than charred corpses.

Notable Attendees:
Crane
Daidoji Tanitsu – Daimyo
Daidoji Tae – inappropriate wife of Daimyo
Daidoji Kuzan – Daimyo’s Son
Doji Sakimi – courtier
Doji Kinrio – sensei
Hiramichi Miliko – Vapid noble/sculptor
Daidoji Daishiki – Quarry Operator

Scorpion
Shosuro Soh

Mantis
Moshi Chiroku – Captain
Yorimoto Masako – Shugenja

Ronin
Ninja! & actors

Session Rewards:
XP
All Players receive 4 XP
Honor
Toshiro: +1 for putting himself in harms-way to disrupt the masked assailant
Shoutaro & Masataro: +1 for aiding/guarding the daimyo and ensuring his safety
Glory/Infamy
Toshiro & Masataro: +1 for outstanding performances
Utamuro: +1 for splitting an actor in twain
Byakuya: +1 for bravely holding off multiple assailants, and quickly warning the audience of the attack.

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Session 3
A Day At Court

Game Time: 27 Feb 1175
Location: Kosaten Shiro (Daidoji Castle) on the last day(s) of winter court

The party is welcomed to the throne room of Kosaten Shiro, where Daimyo Daidoji Tanitsu sits and hears petitions. He greets everyone, and goes through standard introductions, hearing a short version of the journey to the castle. Doji Sakimi is greeted as a beloved niece, and Doji Kinrio as a friend of old, while Akiyama and Utamuro take their standard places in the room.

Tanitsu is flanked by his wife, Daidoji Tae, a pair of armored retainers and an un-introduced young crane man sitting nearby. Tanitsu is a gruff older man (mid 50s) with a booming voice and a battle-scarred face. As the day proceeds, he reveals himself to have little patience for courtly intrigue. Tae, is a plain woman in her mid 40s who appears to be inappropriately infatuated with the strapping young Utamuro (much to her husband’s chagrin), and appears to act as a sort of court secretary.

It is explained that this being the last official day of winter court, is a day for assorted miscellaneous and peasant petitions, and the party is asked to wait and observe before getting to their detailed instructions.

The first petitioner is introduced as Hirimachi Miliko, a female samurai with well-made, but horrendously mismatched/clashing clothes with clay stains on her sleeves, flyaway hair, and an absent-minded, distractible nature. She, assisted by a plainly dressed samurai, bring forward a gift for the Daimyo, which turns out to be a finely crafted, life-sized terracotta sculpture of Tanitsu. She apologizes for her late arrival, and the lateness of this gift, blaming it on troubles getting the necessary materials. She mentions that the Otomo sisters and their bridge project are monopolizing both the peasant workforce in her region, and quarry supplies. Thankfully Daidoji Daishiki (the plainclothes samurai accompanying her) is the owner/manager of the local Crane quarry.

Next, Daidoji Dashiki remains and briefly offers his concerns that the Otomo sisters have been monopolizing his quarry’s output, and that piracy along the river has also interrupted his trade. His quarry lies across the river to the south, at the base of the mountains (in a region that could be considered contested land by either the Lion or the Scorpion).

The next petitioner is a fairly well dressed peasant representing the ferry operator’s guild in the region. He is clearly out of his depth in court, and makes a number of social blunders, complaining that the Imperial bridge project is going to ruin the ferry operator’s livelihood. Just as Daimyo Tanitsu is about to have his guards either remove or “remove” this uncouth peasant, the party intervenes. They usher him out of the courtroom, potentially saving his life.

The next petitioners are a combined group of poor fishermen from two nearby fishing villages. The first half of the group complains of pirate and “demon” attacks. They seem sincere in their claims that a large winged demon sea creature approached their village, puking out strange man-sized demons, with black skin, that belched fire. These demons burnt down houses and stole food from their stores. Attempting to steer the conversation away from the very uncouth topic of demons, the other group of fishermen mention that both villages have also been plagued by various pirate ships (at least two or three groups) as well as unusually turbulent waters. One group of pirates, which had distinguishing tattoos, seemingly matching those of the bandits that attacked the party a few days earlier. This first pirate group kidnapped some of their children, in addition to stealing from them, and burning buildings. Another pirate group demanded tribute, but didn’t actively harm them, and included a samurai wearing what seemed to be a slashed mantis clan mon. Both groups were from fishing villages along the river to the southeast and southwest respectively.

These discussions of piracy triggered some discussion of Masaru, as Byakuya (primarily) questioned the honor of this ronin, and implied that he might be involved with the bandits who had attacked. Doji Sakimi briefly spoke in his defense, claiming that he helped to save her and offered to serve as her yojimbo. There is some debate as to Masaru’s honor and background before Tanitsu decides to have the ronin brought in. Masaru, clearly still coping with his new life as a ronin, asks for the right to regain his honor by serving Doji Sakimi, and it is decided that the question will be settled by a duel to first blood between Kakita Byakuya (as the representative of the honor of the Kakita dueling school) and Masaru, to prove that he is worthy of the task.

A very impressive duel ensues, which appears as hardly more than a blur to most of the witnesses, but ends with Byakuya nursing a minor wound to his shoulder, and Masaru standing victorious. As the adrenaline fades, Masaru shows that he has clearly expended too much energy, and succumbs to a hacking cough, presumably due to his extended exposure to the wet and cold on previous days.

As the court begins to resume, a side door bursts open and an armored Lion bushi, later revealed to be Matsu Umasu, barges forth, followed by a distraught guard. Umasu immediately and loudly voices his displeasure, complaining that he has been kept waiting, and that the Crane have dishonored him by seeing peasant petitioners before him. He next singles out Akiyama and makes wild claims that he was probably part of Crane-sponsored bandit raids, stealing Lion weapon shipments.

In response to these wild accusations, Shoutaro is asked to represent the clan with his finely crafted Kakita blade in another duel to first blood. Byakuya moderates the duel, and the audience is stunned by a simultaneous kharmic strike, but Shoutaro shifts slightly to the side, and avoids the Lion’s strike. As Shoutaro turns away from his victory, Umasu horrendously breaches the rules of dueling etiquette by striking at Shoutaro’s turned heel. Thankfully, Umasu’s lack of skill and Byakuya’s lightning fast reflexes turned the blade aside, tossing it across the room. Umasu is quickly restrained by Akiyama and Utamuro while Daimyo Tanitsu pronounces Umasu’s dishonor and bans him from Daidoji lands for life. Tanitsu also claims the fallen katana as a sign of Umasu’s tremendous dishonor.

After things quiet down, Tanitsu explains to the party why they were summoned in the first place. Primarily, he wants the party to represent Crane interests in interfacing with the Otomo sisters (Imperial representatives) who are building a bridge across the river to the west. He appears to be disinclined to deal with the politics of this situation. He also mentions that the river piracy is concerning, but that his primary forces are tied up maintaining the border between the Crane and Lion clans. Additionally, Tanitsu does not have access to any fast river ships, as that is more the domain of the Mantis clan. Hiramichi Miliko also mentions absentmindedly that before she travelled to the winter court, a party of Dragon clan members had arrived in her town (where the bridge is being built), which may have odd implications due to the Dragon clan’s secretive nature, and close ties to the new Imperial dynasty. Additionally, she passed a strange, shirtless, tattooed man sitting out in a field on her way to court.

Notable Attendees:
Crane
Daidoji Tanitsu – Daimyo
Daidoji Tae – inappropriate wife of Daimyo
Doji Sakimi – courtier
Doji Kinrio – sensei
Hiramichi Miliko – Vapid noble/sculptor
Daidoji Daishiki – Quarry Operator
Unknown crane – sitting near Tanitsu

Lion
Matsu Umasu (25 M) – youngest son of Matsu Daimyo

Ronin
(Shiba) Masaru

Session Rewards:
XP
All Players receive 4 XP
Honor
Byakuya – 6.8 —> 6.9 for representing the crane clan with honor during his duel, and disarming Matsu Umasu
Toshiro 6.9 —> 7.0 for stepping in to save the rude ferry operator
Shoutaro – 6.7 —> 6.8 for bravely defeating Matsu Umasu

Glory/Infamy
Akiyama – 1.0 —> 1.3
Byakuya – 1.0 —> 1.4
Shoutaro – 1.0 —> 1.3
Masataro – 1.0 —> 1.2
Utamuro – 1.0 —> 1.2
Toshiro – 1.0 —> 1.2

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Session 2
Timely arrival of Soshuo Soh

Game Time: 24 Feb – 27 Feb 1175
Location: The coast along the river road to Kosaten Shiro (a few days journey from the castle) shortly before last day(s) of winter court, after the defeat of the bandit attack on Doji Sakimi’s transport.

As the adrenaline fades from the battle, Doji Sakimi, Shiba Masaru and Kakita Byakuya begin to feel the effects of their exposure to the icy waters of the river, though Masaru and Byakuya brave through the cold. Additionally, it appears that Doji Kinrio appears to have severely sprained his ankle during the battle.

Shortly after the battle concludes, a large, well-appointed barge approaches from the direction of Kosaten Shiro. The barge is owned by Shosuo Soh, an obese, but gregarious Scorpion clan member, who walks with a cane, and wears a full-face steel mask. Soh offers the party transportation back to the castle. He already has a pair of Crane siblings aboard (Masataro and Shoutaro) and welcomes the remainder of the Crane samurai aboard, explaining that he had set out from Kosaten Shiro to assist in the search for the missing party. Masataro and Shoutaro had set out from Mura Sabishi Toshi shortly after Sakimi’s party, but took different paths until they were found by Soh’s barge and also offered transport.

Once aboard, Sakimi and Byakuya quickly retire to separate rooms to change into dry clothes and warm up, while Masaru stoically stands watch outside Sakimi’s room, though he begins to clearly show the effects of the cold and wet. Meanwhile Toshiro takes advantage of Soh’s private study to write a status report letter to his superiors back in Mura Sabishi Toshi, and Soh’s manservant (a well dressed, middle-aged peasant) and a quiet, young scorpion woman (Plain/bland in appearance, wearing a vertical half-face ceramic mask) show the party to a common bunk room and provide a warm meal.

As the barge turns back towards Kosaten Shiro, Byakuya and Utamuro note that the boat appears to be propelled primarily by magic, as its peasant poling crew and lack of sails would not be sufficient to maneuver it so swiftly, especially upstream. The trip is estimated to last slightly over two days, and the group busies themselves warming up, getting to know each other, etc…

When asked about the ship’s captain, Soh admits that he owns the barge and lives there, but mentions that his man Endo is in charge when afloat. For his part, he seems curious what the group is doing travelling so late in the season, and inquires if it has anything to do with the bridge supposedly being built across the river further to the West. He mentions something about the Otomo Sisters being involved, but no one seems to have/reveal much more information than that. Everyone in the party is a bit confused at this concept, as no one has seen a bridge wider than a dozen yards or so, and such a bridge would have to be hundreds of yards wide.

As Toshiro, Utamuro, Akiyama and Byakuya get to know the twins, they note a token of Imperial favor worn by Masataro, who explains how he helped save one of the Empress’ nieces from a terrible faux pas at a party, for which he was rewarded, and for which his brother was granted a Kakita blade (an incredibly finely-crafted katana). Akiyama, meanwhile taught the party the finer points of Fortunes and Winds (a dice/gambling game favored by the Mantis clan). At some point in the voyage Soh seems to cool appreciably towards Akiyama, but continues to host the party all the way to Kosaten Shiro.

During the first night, Byakuya, Masaru and Akiyama all sleep outside. Masaru is clearly attempting to guard Sakimi’s room, but quickly succumbs to his cold/wet fatigue, and there is some doubt whether he will survive the night. Byakuya manages to outlast Masaru, but also feels worse for the wear (though recovering) the next morning. Akiyama, meanwhile uses his camping acumen to bundle up against the cold.

Much to Byakuya’s chagrin, Masaru survives the night, although when he begins his morning ritual of practicing his Iaijutsu draw 100 times Masaru awakens and clearly has great difficulty limbering up for his own exercise routine. Despite this, Masaru makes a point of criticizing Byakuya’s techniques.

After the barge docks near Kosaten Shiro (a moderate sized castle on a hill overlooking the river and the river road) they make their way up an intricate set of switch backs and check points to the castle itself. At the castle walls, Masaru is forbidden entrance, and Soh is escorted to guest quarters, while the rest of the group is escorted directly to the Daimyo’s court room. Along the way, some of the party notice that the elaborate murals of life-sized samurai all along the castles internal hallways are occasionally interspersed with actual guard niches hiding in plain sight.

Notable Attendees:
Crane
Doji Sakimi
Doji Kinrio – Sensei
Shiba Masaru

Scorpion
Shosuo Soh
Endo – Ship’s Master

Session Rewards:
XP
All Players receive 3 XP
Honor
Akiyama – 3.8 —> 3.9 for standing guard at night
Byakuya – 6.7 —> 6.8 for showing restraint in the face of a hated enemy, and standing guard at night
Toshiro 6.8 —> 6.9 for chivalrously offering his spare kimono to those who had swam
Shoutaro – 6.5 —> 6.7 for courteously refusing to allow his Kakita Blade to be handled by a former Phoenix Ronin

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