Legend of the Five Rings – #Session 8. A Plague of Crimes

Tsanuri's_Torii_Arch

We started the session with a heated discussion between Shiba Ujime and Susumu Zeshin as to the fate of Yuri. Zeshin counsels caution and arguing for greater proof for a legal case, and using what they know about Yuri’s use of Maho to find other possible cultists. However, Ujime, his affinity to the fire kami apparent in his demeanour, feels that it is incumbent on him to deliver punishment to the Maho-tsukai, before others are corrupted and tainted.

Despite Zeshin’s concerns, Ujime begins walking back towards Sencha and onwards to Jouzousho. Tamori Endo meditates, seeking to find clarity in the turbulence, but none comes. Moto Mongke Temur jumps on his horse, following the Phoenix Shugenja, catching him up quickly. Susumu Zeshin, troubled by his friend’s rashness, decides to travel on to Yasuragai Monastery, where the Inquisitor and her yojimbo could have been headed and where also the missing widow and daughter from Sencha had been travelling. Endo decides to follow him to the monastery. Askao Keiji, his fragile mind shattered by his intense contact with the Void, recuperates at the Inn of the Clever Frog.

Ujime and Temur arrive at Jouzousho in the middle of night – as they approach Yuri’s house, they see her young admirer, Ota, skulking about and Temur scares him off. They enter Yuri’s house – Ujime standing over her mother, and Temur draws his scimitar over the sleeping Yuri, ready to behead the witch.  As Temur’s sword flashes downwards, Yuri moves with surprising speed, a jagged knife slashing into her own arm as a ball of dark, oily, fire forms in her hand. The fire flies out to hit Temur squarely in the chest as his scimitar takes Yuri through the breastbone, ripping into her lung and windpipe, leaving her bleeding out on her bedroll. As the samurai catch their breath, Ujime begins speaking to Yuri’s mother, noticing her gaze focus behind her and her eyes widen. He turns, seeing Ota enter, knife in hand, ready to launch himself on Temur. Ujime shouts a warning and Temur, bloody scimitar still in hand, turns. His sword cuts deeply into Ota’s flank, taking his torso clean off his body, leaving his legs standing, blood pumping, until the corpse collapses. Yuri’s mother screams and Ujime tries to calm her, in the process finding out that Yuri has become cold and cruel of late. Shin and Matsei, the doshin, arrive and see what has happened and also report Bondo, the third of their number, has gone missing.   The doshin take the samurai to the Otomo Lord’s residence – as before, he us unable to take part in the discussion and is intoxicated, but his wife accepts Temir and Ujime’s account and thanks them for their help and asks them to look for the missing doshin. The samuria return thanks for the wise Otomo’s aid for the Phoenix and the Naishou governor in routing out cultists. Ujime and Temur leave the village and travel to Yasuragai.

maho

Meanwhile, Zeshin and Endo arrive at the monastery and a young novice, Ikki, takes them into meet the Abbot, Fukai. Fukai appears distracted and forgetful, seemingly unaware of the missing people and murders that have occurred in the villages nearby. However, he confirms that one of his own monks, Etoku, has gone missing whilst working in the gardens. The Abbot mentions that Etoku was friends with another monk, Asai. They visit Etoku’s room and Endo finds an enigmatic poem, where Etoku expresses suspicion of Asai, his motivations and his identity.   Zeshin meets Asai and finds him superficially to be a benign friendly monk but becomes aware that Asai is a highly trained individual – he feigns shock when Zeshin informs him of the Maho-tsukai Yuri, but the Spider is aware of his duplicity. Asai confirms what the samurai had been told by Ikki – namely, that Asai travels around the villages teaching but particularly attends to the people of Koujou.

Yasuragai Monastery

Yasuragai Monastery

Zeshin and Endo dine with the monks in their communal hall, Endo engages Asai in conversation regarding botany and gardening and is impressed by his wide knowledge of the practices of all Clans across Rokugan, clearly a very well-travelled man. As the conversation deepens, Asai turns the topic to Endo’s own life and recognizes him as a key combatant in the Destroyer war. He praises Endo for his audacity and valor in battle, despite Endo’s ongoing remorse for his actions. As the conversation progresses, Zeshin leaves and searches Asai’s room. He finds a hidden compartment in the ceiling; in it is a Scorpion kimono, spell scrolls, and a chop bearing the name ‘Yogo Aguchi’. Zeshin returns things to the box and rejoins his friend.

Ujime and Temur now arrive at the monastery and are talking with Abbot Fukai in his audience room. As with Zeshin and Endo, Ujime and Endo are struck by the Abbot’s vagueness and confusion. The Shugenja’s medical knowledge suggests that the Abbot was neither intoxicated nor subject to the senility which afflicts some ageing Rokuganis. Communing with the kami, Ujime is able to determine that the Abbot’s fire kami were constrained and repressed by dark kansen. Zeshin and Endo meet their friends in the Abbot’s audience chamber Recalling events in Nikesake, Endo and Ujime, with the Abbot’s consent, commence work on a ritual to strengthen the Abbot’s fire kami, freeing his intelligence. The ritual proves to be successful – the Abbot becomes definite and forthright in his manner. He confirms what the Shugenja remember of Yogo Aguchi – that he was a Scorpion Shugenja forced to retire from the Clan 15 years ago due to some embarrassment. The Abbot adds that the Scorpion Shugenja had lost a powerful magical artifact. The party learns that Asai has fled the monastery and, on checking his room, has taken his kimono and scrolls with him

After aiding the Abbot, the Samurai decide to travel to Koujou, the village that Asai commonly visited. Koujou is a modestly-sized village, probably at most 200 people, perched on the banks of a small stream. An elegant arched bridge crosses the stream, and to one side of the bridge is a large wooden building mounting a waterwheel. As it slowly turns, passersby can hear the heavy, laborious “thump, thump” of a giant mortar and pestle within. A medium-large samurai house is located on the edge of the village, with a large garden that overlaps the stream.  The Samurai present themselves to the local lord, Miya Kishin, an elderly man who excuses himself to his garden, asking the arrivals to speak with his son, Miya Kuboti, and the doshin, Koto. Kuboti and Koto confirm that Asai visited the village often, and spent time with family who ran the mill, Chio and her grandchildren. Kuboti adds that the disappearance from their village is Chio’s grandson, Higaisha. Kuboti kindly offers to take the samurai to the mill.

Miya Kuboti

Miya Kuboti

The Samurai enter the mill, the regular thump of the mortar and pestle beating alongside their hearts. As they enter, their eyes accommodating to the dull light inside, they see a fearful, beetle-like Oni in the center, claws snapping. Behind, shuffling into the darkness comes the blind mill-worker, Chio, accompanied by a young woman and the missing Doshin, Bondo, from Jouzousho.

Oni

Oni

Despite the fear the samurai feel, they draw on their honor and the Bushido virtue of Yu, courage. Kuboti turns to the samurai, grinning, his hand on his katana. Moving with speed, he draws, landing a powerful blow on Zeshin. The fight begins in earnest – Zeshin supporting Temur and Endo, defending them from attack, whilst the Unicorn attacks relentlessly with his no-dachi, seemingly oblivious to this wounds. Temur strikes – slaying Kuboti with one mighty blow. The shugenja call on the kami – Endo sending powerful jade blasts at the Oni, piercing his defenses, whilst Ujime breathes gouts of flame across the cultists and the Oni, moving across the mill. The leader of the cultists, Chio, seemingly resists Ujime’s flame, absorbing their force into her amulet, until the power of the kami overwhelms her, leaving her shrieking in flames. The battle is brutal: after Endo inflicting a mighty Jade-charged wound on the Oni, the kami fail to hear his call, perhaps due to his prayers being incoherent due to the beating he receives from the doshin Bondo. Ujime, after burning the cultists, is mortally wounded by the Oni. The Oni’s talons strike him full on the chest, rending him open and tossing him mercilessly across the mill, where he lies unmoving and bleeding out. Despite their wounds, Zeshin and Temur keep on fighting – with the Unicorn dispatching the Oni with a mighty swing of his sword. Zeshin finishes off the doshin as one cultist flees, Temur mounting on his horse, chasing and cutting her down. The session ends with Endo, broken and bloody, crawling across the floor, covered with burned and torn flesh, to the mutilated body of his friend, Ujime.


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