The Price of Honor

Green Spring, Red River part 1
Game 5: 11/6/14

The party emerges from the darkness of their journey to encounter the outlying farms of the Green Spring Village Hub. The continue on the road, a thing layer of snow across the grayed out landscape. Peasants seem to toil in the fields, tilling snow over and over. They acknowledge the party but refuse to stop or speak to the samurai. The village hub is all but abandoned, a lone woman lowers a child into a well, picking away at the frozen water. A small shrine to the kami and fortunes the only other sign of life. The party moves to an abandoned tea house just outside of the manner house of Kakita Tsuzo, lord of the Green Spring Village.

The party seems to have attracted attention as a member of Tsuzo’s house guard comes to find out what the samurai want. Hikaru goes on behalf of Mizuko to meet with the village yuriki, Kakita Zumino. Zumino is young, perhaps three seasons into manhood, but recently appointed the yuriki, by his father, Lord Tsuzo. His inexperience reveals much to the trained Crane eye, but Zumino extends an invitation to the samurai to rest within his father’s walled estate and join them for dinner.

The party is led to a guest bath house on the property and allowed to prepare for the meal. The effects of the lands seem to begin to leave their mark on the party as tensions run high. Mizuko in particular channels her personal demons in a way that leaves her shaken.

The party convene in the estate dinning hall and are fed a delicate meal, joined by courtiers and local samurai that must have been in Tsuzo’s estate as winter began. They learn the Tsuzo’s wife, Aime, is unable to join them due to her “delicate condition.”

Akodo Yoshihiro, using his advantage of being a Lion in Crane lands, begins to insult Tsuzo. The lord has him arrested and thrown into the dungeon, siting that he is a Lion spy and will have the Crane magistrates notified. The rest of the party is dismissed back to their quarters and the implication is that they will leave at first light. Guards escort them back and are placed on guard.

While in the dungeon, Yoshihiro meets Kakita Tsuzumo, a young samurai chained to a wall and obviously the victim of intense torture. He learns that Tsuzomo is Tsuzo’s eldest son and formerly the yuriki of Green Spring Village Hub. However, after his father brought Aime to live in their home he began to fall out of favor. He claims that Aime’s cruelty soon revealed her to be a practicer of dark arts, when he tried to tell his father as such, he was imprisoned in the dungeon. Yoshihiro manages to help Tsuzumo break free, as well as another tortured prisoner, Asahina Mori, a priest in service to the family, also chained and wounded. They discover a blood covered ritual area where the remains of human sacrifice defile the very water pooled in the dungeon. The three men escape through waterway, through a passage from the estate cellars— but not before Yoshihiro casts burning embers into the dry good of the kitchen.

Meanwhile, Hikaru, Takkeji, Kettou hatch a plot to lure one of the guards into the side changing room. Tekkeji attempts to call on the kami, only to discover that the air itself has become blood thirsty and tainted. Takkeji excuses himself and gets into position outside while the other two samurai call upon the power of their stances to dispatch of the guard. A single, perfect crane draw and a powerful dragon slash undid the guard; a splatter of blood against the rice paper screen is the only sign. Before the other guard can raise the alarm Takkeji, Takezo, Ryoma, and Sei make quick work of the other guard.

The plan is now to escape from the bathhouse without raising alarm and end the darkness that resides in the estate.

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Choice at the Crossroads
Game 4: 10/09/14

By looking inward, Takkeji is able to interpret the ripples within the void to find the source of the blood on the petals. The party notifies the Asahina and and with a magistrate, Daidoji Tempu, go into the peasant district. They trace the vision to where the peasants the party gathered on the road are staying. The woman known to the party as Hida Aime, dressed in drab gray robes, is found clutching the body of one of the peasants, his throat slit. The party is able to deduce that Aime is also a peasant, puppet-ed by dark magic through the use of a sympathetic link— her ear, which has been cut off and replaced with a sloppy kanji akin to the one found on the wild dogs five nights ago. Purple paper and golden ribbon in the corner confirm that the blood soaked flowers received by Hitomi were sent from this room, likely delivered by the controlled peasant.

With the help of the Asahina and the jade magistrate the party cleanses the scene and the Ivory Petal Inn. Takkeji and Ryoma send Toro to speak to the peasants. They discover that all of the peasants are from the farmlands surrouning Green Spring Village (Midori no Izumi Mura). The lord of these lands, Kakita Tsuzo, invited the peasants into his walled estate when the winter turned particularly cruel just after midwinter as their supplies ran low. The peasants told Toro that Tsuzo was particularly cruel, and his wife would beat and brand them and mutilate them. Toro is sent to find one of the mutilated peasants and returns, a bit beaten, with a man missing a finger. He is turned over to the magistrate. The Crane take responsibility for the remaining peasants, some of whom are now sick, thus allowing the party to continue their investigation.

The party continues on to Crossroad Castle. A few days pass and when they arrive they find that the Castle is full of travelers awaiting the thaw of Bieden Pass. Kyuden Matsu has been turning out guests from Lion lands, and Crossroad Castle has become the main waiting point on the other side of the border. As such, the party stays at Fog and Sweet Flowers Tea House where they meet the owner Iwasaki Hanna, a shrewd but welcoming madam. In conversation regarding Tsuzo, the party learns that he is not married as the peasants had said. However, Mizuko, recalls from her time at court that she had heard of Tsuzo, but that he was unmarried. However, there was a good deal of gossip about him bringing a woman dressed in Crane finery to the opening of the Kyuden Kakita winter court but that no one knew her— and her name continued to change throughout the night as he became drunker. It was assumed he had dressed up a geisha and tried to pass her off as a lady.

The party rests for the night. The next morning they mean with Daidoji Koshi and Daidoji Kashi the twin children of Tempu who serve as assistant magistrates at Crossroad Castle. They provide the party with several fingers of jade as promised, in exchange for their discretion regarding the matters at hand. Sei confirms a rumor he heard about animal mutilations in the autumn outside of the city walls. The party goes to meet with Kuni Kai, a crab shugenja with tie to the Kuni witch hunters, but alas, the hunters have left many days before. Sei does learn, however, that the party should not arrive at night to Green Spring Village.

That evening, the party departs Crossroad Castle and head south. They march through the night and just before dawn they come to the belief that they have entered into a blight. As the sun rises and lights the mountains like stretching ghosts, they see gaunt figures tilling in the snow.

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An Open Gate
Game 3: 9/24/14

The party begins gathering the peasants they encounter along the road to Kyuden Kakita and with the exception of two that escape their notice are able to herd them down the road despite the ice and sleet of the winter’s last siege. A handful of elders and babies die from the conditions along the way but in all 63 peasants make it to the open gates of the Crane’s artistic capital. The party discovers one among the peasants has the soul of a shugenja, able to commune with the air, Yoshi. He is elevated from the peasants by the party and rides with Mizuko into the Crane city.

The party is offered quarters and goes about their work quickly. The peasants are taken and fed by the Crane, though a subtle slight seems to be lingering in the air. No sooner to they arrive in their inn than Daidoji Hikaru finds many mons waiting for him—old classmates seeking to visit with the duelist, one in particular from an old rival / friend hoping to see his “stance.”

The Dragon, the Unicorn, and Sadako find a very fine tea shop and sample the wears—a particularly earthy brew with naturally “mellowing” agents. Kettou buys a fine Fox inspired teapot for a small fortune. Hitomi discovers the joys of Rokugani cough drops. Ryoma, Takezo, and Sadako all get the munchies because they got high, because they got high, because they got high.

The Crane and Phoenix head for a temple to meet to turn over the boy to the Asahina. They are welcomed by Asahina Moku, an old healer that once served at the Kakita Academic. Mizuko slights Takkeji by introducing the peasant boy before him but the matter is politely tabled for a later time. From Moku, Takkeji learns that the Asahina are aware of the supernatural influence on the storm—that while the storm itself is naturally occurring, the intensity of it has been spurred on by other forces. The kami are agitated as they rush northward in a wintery rage. Takkegi goes to the temple’s tower and extends his mind out to sense the source of the darkness four days west and south of the Kakita fortress.

The Crane take their leave to visit the dueling academy, where Hikaru meets with his frenemy, Kakita Taniguchi. Taniguchi, foul of mouth, insults the sensibilities of the demure MIzuko and apologizes for his crudeness, blaming his time with his cousins in the Daidoji lands. Hikaru and Taniguchi compare stances and engage in a non-lethal duel before his students to showcase the art of the Crane. While Hikaru’s blade swings first, it cuts deeper than intended—still, not blood is shed and the two men find the years that have passed have turned their rivalry into respect. Taniguchi confides his concerns of war on the horizon as the Matsu seem to turn their eyes to the city of Toshi Ranbo.

Sen, for his part meets the lover he never knew he had, Doji Didntquitecatchhername. They toast to their plans to run away together. Sen learns that the majority of the peasants are coming from villages south of Crossroads Castle. He also learns that the snows in Beiden Pass are not impassable for a small group such as their party, but would be very difficult. The roads as far as Kyuden Matsu are open and indeed, the Matsu even now eye the Crane border and await the spring.

Elsewhere, Hitomi feels the weight of the season as she begins to burn with fever. After dinner the party goes to the hot springs to wash and hopefully burn away the Hitomi’s fever. Takkeji applies the medical learning of his clan to set her chi’s flow, causing Kettou’s cheeks to turn the color of Hitomi’s feverish brow. The sexes separate and enjoy the fine hot springs and tea. The men compare notes of what they have heard throughout the day. The ladies discover more about Mizuko’s secret before encountering a well muscled woman named Hida Aimi who claimed to have come from wintering in Kyuden Matsu. She seems to indicate that there is a plague hitting Kyuden Kakita, and describes symptons like those of Hitomi. She then invites Mizuko to the Carpenter Wall, offering to take her on a tour of both sides. Hitomi, afraid of contagion, excuses herself. Aimi exits the scene. The party returns to the inn.
The next morning everyone makes ready for the journey out to discover a gift has been left for Hitomi. Wrapped in purple and gold, she opens a small box to discover 11 white flowers sprayed with the blood of peasants.

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First Steps
Game 2: 9/11/2014

The vanguard gathers at the Emerald Champion’s palace to collect the supplies they requested from Baku. He informs them that there will be no caravan from Otosan Uchi of supplies but that word has been sent ahead to the various palaces and cities along the road that additional rice is to be made available for hungry peasants. They party is to shift the peasant migration towards the cities, where the unfortunates may wait out the last days of winter instead of abandoning their villages. As to their additional supply requests, Baku leads them to a room where they find a stack of blankets, rations, and peasant named Toro. “Consider these a gift from the stores of the Sun of Heaven. If you feel your daimyos have left you further wanting of supplies for the task they have agreed to offer you towards for the Emerald Magistrate, I am glad to inform them that you require additional goods.”

The party leaves and makes ready for their journey westward. Takkeji takes a walk through the docks and discovers city guards have blocked off one of the Mantis ships. He learns a murder has taken place there but does not have more details. He believes this is tied to the visions he has been having and the mon Sen received through his contacts. The party, unsure of how to proceed with this information continues out the West Gates.

They travel for several hours, encountering multiple groups of peasants with scant supplies on their way to Otosan Uchi to sell winter roots at the market despite the fact that each group seems to have hardly enough to feed themselves. One group in particular draws their attention, a family in strange formation. Ryoma makes a particularly disturbing discovery that highlights the horrors of the peasants’ condition— though later will lead to a more disturbing conclusion.

The party is attacked by wolves in the night, led by tainted she-wolves. Once dispatched, they investigate and discover the she-wolves had been part of a maho ritual, though the crudeness of it seems suggests maho practitioners among the peasants. The party arrives at the first rest station along the road and discuss a good deal of their theories as well as the fate and use of their new peasant— who seems particularly skilled in a number of areas.

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The Slightest Breeze
Game 1: 8/28/2014

The party arrives at the Emerald Champion’s palace to find at last meeting one another. After a splendid display of flower arranging, they are led into another chamber where they find 7 tea cups laid out, one in the colors of each clan. The cups are fewer than the number of invited guests— but as the contemplate this riddle, a door slides open and their host enters.

The famed courtier, Otomo Sayumi enters, her bodyguard and servants in tow. She takes her seat and at once notices the cups and number of people. She apologizes for the oversight, claiming that the servant who set up the tables must have been working from an “earlier list” and promises they will be punished for the oversight. Through a thorough exchange with this high ranking individual the party learns some of the intrigues that led to their current state, but this leaves more questions than answers.

Sayumi tells them that the peasants fleeing north from the southern Crane lands must be stopped. This is there first task, to ensure that the peasants remain at their posts and do not abandon the farmlands so that the spring planting may take place. The way in which the party chooses to do this is entirely up to them.

After a few more barbed quips, the party is dismissed and adjourns to the Quivering Petal where they discuss what to do next. A conversation, a few acts, and a torn mon later, information slowly makes their way to them from a variety of sources and they plan their next move— agreeing to set out in the morning, heading for Kosaten Shiro and whatever they discover about the peasants along the way.

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The Gathering
Prologue: 8/7/14

The chilling touch of winter seems to linger over the empire. Heavy ice storms coming in from the south have played havoc with the road network and linger outbreaks of flues have closed off many cities. As the fortunes would have it, this staggered thaw sent two of our dragon heroes, Kitsuki Ryoma and Mirumoto Takezo, from the mountain passes and forced them through Phoenix lands on their way to Kaia Osho Mura. As the fortunes would have it, this led them to Takezo’s cousin Mirumoto Kettou, who was escorting Isawa Takkeji to Fox lands on the same mission as Ryoma. The band traveled together south, through Toshi Ranbo, where they met Akodo Yoshihiro. Finding the Dragon and Phoenix good traveling companions (better than being a lone Lion trying to make his way through Crane lands) he joined them. The arrive in Otosan Uchi where they have a chance meeting with Ide Hitomi and book rooms in the same inn where she is staying (as is Shosuro Seizetsu— though the boon of their congregation is not yet known.

Meanwhile, the twins, Shosuro Sen and Shosuro Sadako attend one of the last Winter Court events for the season. There they discover that the Crane representative to the Emerald Envoy is Doji Mizuko, who is in attendance. Mizuko for her part notices Sadako and sends one of her lackeys to invite the pair over to her. They join her and her betrothed Daidoji Hikaru. As the party winds down, they are invited to the home of Kakita Hannako, who entertains the group into the small hours— when it is revealed that she is the product of a Bayushi mother and Doji father, making her all the more likable to all gathered.

The next morning all parties receive an invitation to tea. It would seem that word has reached the Emerald Champion that multiple members of his envoy have arrived.

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Character Tie Bonus Mechanic

Character Tie Bonus Mechanic: If you develop a strong character tie with another player prior to the campaign starting and it comes into play in a future game you may invoke the character tie for an additional 2k1 on any roll (if it makes sense with your tie) when that relationship comes into play (max once per session). This benefit is in addition to Void. If you choose not to use this advantage despite having the opportunity during a game, you may claim an additional experience point at the end of the session (e-mail me to remind me of the situation). Example: Two courtiers have a competition going on causing the most scandal at court, you may invoke the advantage against an NPC you are attempting to seduce in order to beat the other PC. Example 2: You are the yojimbo of one of the PCs and wish to invoke the advantage while protecting them on the field of battle. Example 3: You are being super sneaky to steal the item from your friend’s satchel you know will get them in trouble after having sworn to keep them out of trouble. Etc. Etc. Etc. You will be asked to justify your decision by me if I don’t see the connection.If your PC dies or another player is introduced after the campaign, new character will be allowed one session to develop these ties.

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Plot hooks and a no-discussing personal plot ooc request

Plot hooks for those I’ve already worked with are beginning to go out as well as snip-its of additional history or interactions based on our conversation. I highly discourage you from comparing notes about this out of character. Intrigue and mystery play a large roll in this game so revealing too much to each other out of game play may limit that experience in character. ;-) For those I haven’t met with yet, we’ll have to find a time to discuss your PC and make sure your character is close to done. We’ll plan for a get together sometime in August too.

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An Opening Gambit
Flavor Text / Faction 1

Soft afternoon light filtered through the open shoji door, orange and green through the forest canopy above. The room was lit by it, perhaps more than it should have been, a spring time haze of pine mixed with a far off storm. Kitsune Miori sat and stroked his long gray mustache, silver whiskers against the brown of his kimono, shining in the grace of Lady Amaterasu, sun goddess and mother of the kami.

His deep brown eyes drank in the black and white pebbles against the aged wood of the go board before him, studying their placement. He lifted his hand, placed a finger on a single white stone, froze, thought harder, and then lifted his hand away. “Too simple,” he thought. The black pebbles seemed to retreat from that point, opening the way for him to capture them. He had seen his opponent use this tactic before. He scanned the bored and found another such ploy, obviously “hidden” so it might distract him, another decoy. Pincers and—tail, he smiled as he noted the trap. “Clever.” He nodded bringing his hand back to his chin; a distant roll of thunder preceded a change in the air. The scent of the forest erupted to life as the trees made ready for the rain. “Too many years, my friend.” He smiled. “Too many games.”

Six and twenty summers had passed since they had started to put their plan into action, nearly ten more than that since they had begun to plan it—Miori knew his opponent’s mind too well to fall for such a trick. He let his gaze shift to the shelf at his left, several scrolls lay stacked with his personal mon, addressed to various lords across the empire; at last the wheels were in motion. He turned back to the go board.

Soft padded footfalls met his ears followed by the clink of porcelain older than his sixty-five years. He did not move, not when he felt her weight kneel on the tatami behind him, not when he smelled the lavender oil in her hair as she bowed deeply. It was the deep aroma of the jasmine tea, a kiss of summer and his younger days that stirred his chest into a sigh. She poured him tea in silence, placing the cup on the low table beside his game, and then bowed again. He nodded acknowledging and dismissing her in a single gesture. She stood smoothly, backed away, and crossed the room to exit through the open shoji doors. Her shadow crossed the board, as if outlining the black pieces. His eyes squinted for a moment and he grinned victoriously. “There you are, the stinger at last.” He moved a single white pebble and cut off the scorpion’s tail.

Go-game.jpg
Or so he believed.

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