A Fox noble (Kitsune Igi) dies during the 7-5-3 Children’s Festival, vomiting blood on Lord Kitsune Ekaido. The body appears to be infested with tiny worms later identified as a creature normally associated with the Shadowlands. Igi’s home is searched and while no overt signs of taint are found inside, his horse is bound to be tainted and quickly undone. It is believed that Igi had returned that very night from a journey to Ryoko Owari Toshi on a trade mission on behalf of Ekaido.
Clues in his home confirm he was expecting to return from Scorpion lands with a bride (as confirmed by most who knew of a marital interest— the rest spoke of a business negotiation, possibly one and the same). However, clues are found that show he was keeping multiple ledgers and accounts that either mean he was dealing in more rice than the land could possible produce, was selling the same shippment of rice multiple times and pocketing the money, or some other kind of dishonorabe subterfuge. A facination with the Scorpion clan is also revealed (exquiisite quality Scorpion katana and tanto). Speaking to his house servants, the party discovers his marital asperations were rebuffed and he immediately headed south towards Daidoji lands, without checking in with his Lord. This stands to reason as a contract found among his things included a contract signed by Igi and a Crane merchant named Daidoji Udai.
Evidence was submitted to Ekaido and the party secured permission from EM Dorio to further investigate the possible Shadowlands attack within the empire. Dorio keeps his troopes in place to keep watch along the emperor’s road allowing the party the freedom to continue their investigation. Disagreement abounds among the samurai whether or not to send for the Kuni to investigate possible contamination in the Fox rice fields since it would cause greater political rifts— however, Dorio is ultimately advised to make the call and summon a witch hunter to KOM.
The party ventures south, taking Igi’s cousin, Chika, with them in hopes of using her to contact his spirit at a holy sight in Sparrow lands known as the Bells for the Dead— a burial sight of several shugenja that fought off a powerful oni, giving their lives in the process to ensure the security of the empire. The shrine is the burrial / memorial site of several of their decendents as well and a small shrine.
Along the way the party learns that Igi stopped on the road towards Sparrow lands at an inn both on his way south and his way back the night before his arrival in KOM. En route south, he spoke often of a great beauty who would one day be his wife but on the way back seemed ill and haunted. The party insisted on the garden tended by the peasants with the waste of samurai be burned and offerings made to the forest spirits.
The party travels through the Fox forests with little issue, passing the “road” to the forest palace and capital of the minor clan. A strange pull overtakes members of the party to look deeper into the woods and the night spent encamped alone in the forests seem to be ravaged by nightmares.
The party arrives at the timy village below the Bells for the Dead and there spend the night. In the morning they venture off and meet the monk, Kashikoi, a venerable sage who radiates the same tranquility and peace that this place seems to.