Legend of the Five Rings: Echoes

Session 1: Reunion

New friends with old souls

Songs of Rokugan
Echo on the Winds of Time
Unaware of Death

Session 1 was mostly character building. Several players, excited to make samurai characters, built theirs weeks ahead of time. Others waited until the first official game day. It was everyone’s first time dealing with the system, GM included, and while many commented that the system for 4th edition Legend of the Five Rings appears to be sweet, we were unhappy with the layout of the book (like, the only reference we could find for starting glory was in the example character).

Complaints aside, after hours of creation, we had our crew:

Hida Takeshi (MIA, presumed deceased)—An extremely uncouth samurai, even for a Crab.
Kitsune Toshiro—An unlucky duelist, and yojimbo to…
Kitsune Yamako—A talented Fox shugenja with unusual name and family ties.
Sanjuro (Deceased)—A wandering ronin of noble birth and nobler heart.
Sanjuro Sakura—A Utaku Battle Maiden, fresh from her gempukku, traveling the world before returning to her clan duties.

With little time to prepare a story tailored to these new characters, the samurai were put through the Legacy of Disaster Quickstart adventure, modified slightly to fit their backgrounds.

The session started with an odd, shared dream. All the characters were fighting together against one of their friends, a shugenja who fell to the Shadowlands Taint and summoned a powerful Oni Lord. Though they all fell, each played a vital role in bringing the evil down.

Then a scream cut through their dreams.

Before the second scream could rip through the night, the group was already converging on the sound. It turned out to be Toshiro’s lord, Doji Hakura (Deceased), a drunk, minor governor for a tiny Crane town. An ancient daisho, a gift from a much higher ranking imperial friend, had been stolen, and the scream was his cry of anguish, a stunning display of raw emotion that the group kindly chose to ignore, allowing the man to safe face. He immediately tasked the group with returning it.

Learning that the thief had fled the village heading west, they headed out of town, unafraid of traveling at night. Upon the road the came across a traveling witch hunter, Kuni Hachiro (Bound), who was tracking down criminals. They felt an odd kinship with the man, and he offered to travel with them for a ways.

They tracked the thief to a small forest on the Lion/Crane border, where the Kitsune shugenja communed with the chief spirit of the land, who told her a dark presence passed through recently, having frightened away his smaller cousins.

Through the woods and across the nearby border into Lion territory, they were stopped by a small patrol of Lion bushi. Suspicious of travelers at night, they patrol told the group travel to a nearby village to be questioned by the Lion’s lord. Takeshi, the honorable brute that he is, challenged the leader to a duel in order to pass unmolested.

Somehow, the Crab, untrained in the ways of Iaijutsu, defeated his lion foe, and won the right of continued passage.

Eventually, the group was set upon by a small gang of bandits, and after a brief, but deadly, struggle, emerged victorious. Several of the party was wounded, but thanks to Yamala’s knowledge of Water kami, and medicinal knowledge, they were soon set right.

Broken sword of the lionFinally, they came across the thief, a young imperial samurai tasked to steal the daisho, which she claimed was haunted by a dark spirit. Yamala confirmed this, having sorted as much out much sooner. Unfortunately, before they could stop her, the thief broke the katana’s blade. Her task done, she committed seppuku, though Sanjuro tried to talk her out of it. Toshiro volunteered to be her second.

However, it was not yet over. When her blood touched the shattered blade, the dark spirit rose from it, forming a blood-drinking gaki spirit. The touch was short, but fierce, with Sanjuro dealing the final blow.

The broken blade was returned to its rightful owner, though Hakuri was shocked to find it had been cursed. He was still glad for its return, and immediately set about having it reforged. To show his thanks, he invited each and every person (including Hida Takeshi and Sanjuro), to travel with him to a nearby Court, which promised to be very important and would be much talked about (and had food, which is all Sanjuro was concerned about).


I love my Oniisan and I know he’s just trying to look out for my well-being, but does he have to be so insufferable about it?

Father would have been content to let me wander the kingdom alone (I have more than proven I can take care of myself), but Kirin would hear no such thing. However, instead of sending along a Fox warrior with me to be my yojimbo, someone I would be related to and likely able to bend to my will (which Kirin probably knew) or a Mantis loyal to Uncle, he instead sent me to the Crane clan. I do not know what sort of deal Kirin made with Doji-san for him to assign one of his vassals as my yojimbo, but it must have been very good.

There is something about Kakita-san that seems very familiar to me; I am comfortable in his presence in a way that makes me uncomfortable to think about later. I suppose in a way I am fortunate to have a guard from a major clan, as long as we do not tarry too long in Lion lands. He seems like a very honorable man, which might make some of my more questionable habits harder to get away with.

I was pleased to see Sanjuro-san again at Doji-san’s estate, working in the stables. I do not think he recognizes me—it has been four or five years after all and my hair is short now—but I recognized him just fine. I like that the Ronin has always been very kind to everyone he meets. It is not something my Uncle has lightly forgotten either.

Doji-san is a very kind host, despite me being from a minor clan. I am very curious exactly what sort of deal Oniisan struck with him. His holdings are not overly grand, but they are very comfortable.

I often dream, but the dream I had on my second night in the Crane lands was very odd.

There were seven of us, though I do not remember faces. We were great warriors fighting the darkness in the kingdom, but one of our own had fallen and become tainted. I knew this, but to break my promise to keep quiet about it would break one of my taboos. Eventually, I could no longer take the pain and warned the other five about our brother’s darkness. I could feel myself lose my human form, forced back into my true, kitsune form.

The Crab fought our brother, but was struck down. The Unicorn unleashed a volley of arrows but was brought down and torn apart by tendrils of darkness. The great warrior, our leader I believe, saw the Crane behind our brother couldn’t quite get an opening. He feigned, allowing our tainted brother to strike a fatal blow against him. That allowed the Crane to strike his own fatal blow against our dark brother, but the he was gravely wounded in the process.

The shugenja Kuni Yuno, the only one I could recall a name for but I still never saw his face, bound our dark brother’s soul with his own, vowing to seal him away, committing seppuku. Of the seven of us, only two remained in the world of the living and neither of us for long. The Crane, my love, I remember him dying in my arms before I was drawn from Ningen-do back to Chikushudo.

Then I awoke, Kichi snuggled up against me. In the darkness, I heard a scream. Still disoriented from the dream, I couldn’t tell if it was from the dream-realm or reality. The second scream, a cry of anguish, roused me from my bed and to the source.

I wasn’t the only one awoken. Kakita-san in the room next to me also went towards his lord’s receiving chambers, as did the Unicorn maiden Ukaku-san, the Crab warrior Hida-san, and Sanjuro-san.

Doji-san was prostrate in front of a broken daisho holder, openly showing emotion over their disappearance. It raised my opinion of the lord, that he was not so concerned about face, though I couldn’t understand why he would be so distraught over an object. The others politely and not so politely excused themselves, stepping into the hallway. I hovered near the door, ignoring the lord’s outburst, worried that he had been injured in some way; if not physically then spiritually.

He eventually composed himself and noticed my presence. He invited the others in the hallway to reenter and explained that the daisho had gone missing. From the story he told and the description, I recognized it as the blade held by Seppun Daiori against the Gaijin attack on the capital. Doji-San explained that it was a gift from his friend, Seppun Ayumu, whom he was supposed to go visit in the following week. However, without the blade, he would be too ashamed to show his face.

Of all the ridiculous things.

Doji-san asked us to find and return it. Kakita-san noticed an unlatched window and traces of muddy footprints leading to or from it, and quietly mentioned it to Ukaku-san, whom he called Sakura-chan.

I was highly confused by the twinge of jealousy I felt hearing him call her by such an informal name. It wasn’t something I could explain and I pushed it from my mind. If there was mud then I should be able to get information from the earth kami outside.

Strangely, there were no kami in the area. Something had frightened them enough for them to flee, and it was now I noticed that Kichi was shaking and had been for some time. Someone or something dark had been through here.

The blades were tainted, weren’t they? I hadn’t paid them much mind, but the daisho holder must have had a binding spell to keep the darkness hidden from view. It was a plausible theory, but one I would keep to myself for now.

Since I had no luck with the spirits, Sanjuro-san decided to question the first person he could find, an old man raking the lord’s rock garden. He was terrified of the Ronin and it made me wonder what other Samurai had done to him to make him fear us so.

Hida-san found us again, this time in his armor (so the rumors are false; Crabs don’t sleep in their armor). Hida-san scared the old man and ordered him to tell us what he saw. Crabs aren’t known for their tact and it angered me that he would bully a peasant so.

A thought floated through my mind of that’s just how Hida-san is and my anger lessened, but I do not know where that thought came from nor did I know him well enough to have such knowledge.

The old man told us of a young woman he saw go towards the west gate and then asked Hida-san if he was to die. I would not stand for it, put myself physically between the two, and let Hida-san know under no uncertain terms would I let it happen. Had we not had a target to pursue, I fear he may have argued with me about it.

We went to the west gate, where we ran into Ukaku-san who had been tracking the footprints. It took some convincing, but the guards eventually allowed us to leave. We took horses from the stables (Ukaka-san’s horse was feeling very cocky about being the biggest one of the herd) and started west.

Further down the road, we encountered a man with a large conical hat and he waited for us to approach him. His face was painted like one of those Noh masks, which was a little disconcerting, and introduced himself as Kuni Hachiro. He recognized Hida-san (as they are both Crabs). He was a shugenja too and had noticed the Kami in the area had disappeared, likely due to some evil, and I mentioned the cursed item. He seemed impressed.

I introduced myself to him when he fished for my personal name, recognizing my family crest on my Kimono. He asked to join us despite it slowing us down as we had no horse for him. It was mentioned that Ukaku-san’s horse (who was still being cocky) was large enough to carry them both. In the hesitation, I pointed out that it was dark and no one was likely to see us.

When we reached the forest, I could sense the presence of not kami, but an animal spirit. It was off the road so I decided to pursue it. I was dismayed when everyone followed me; Kakita-san I expected to as it is his job to protect me, but I didn’t need the horse girl, the crab, my fellow shugenja, or Sanjuro-san. The spirit I felt kept moving away from me, which was quite frustrating. I was about to tell the others to go back when the spirit stopped moving.

The spirit was a grand stag, the lord of this part of the forest. He told me that a darkness on the human path had chased his small brethren away, but that they should return soon. It was heading west, the direction we thought it had been, and it was being carried by a young human girl. I thanked him and relayed this to the rest of the group about halfway back to the road, including the fact I believed it was the swords themselves that were tainted.

When we had crossed the border into Lion territory (it made me very nervous), we were stopped by a guard. He asked us our business and questioned the presence of Kakita-san. I admitted that he was my yojimbo and when the guard asked why I was in the forest in the middle of the night, I told him my version of the truth; I’m Kitsune. We wander the forests.

Sanjuro-san told the guard that we were following a thief, which of course put them on edge, questioning if we were accusing a Lion of the crime. I think we managed to convince them we weren’t, but they insisted we talk to their Lord before continuing.

Hida-san would hear of no such delay and challenged the guard to a duel. If Hida-san won, we left to pursue our thief. If the guard won, we would see their lord. It needn’t be a fight to the death, just to first strike. The guard accepted.

Of all the idiotic things.

I warned Hida-san that I wouldn’t tend to his wounds; it was a wasted warning. He struck a blow upon the guard, cutting him across the torso, before the guard had a chance to get his own strike upon Hida-san. His ploy had worked and he won the duel.

The guards did not trust me to heal their brother. If that’s the way they wanted it, so be it. Uncle never would let me hear the end of it if he found out I’d healed a Lion anyway.

We pressed on, going around the Lion village and into the foothills. At about dawn (I was tired but I didn’t want to have that dream again), Ukaku-san pointed out a quiver of arrows and shouted out the bandit ambush before it began.

The fight was fast and furious. The bandit swordsmen got hits in on Sanjuro-san and Kakita-san and a bowman struck Hida-san with an arrow. The three of them, Ukaku-san, and Kuni-san returned the blows, felling several of the bandits. I made a plea to the Fortunes to assist Hida-san (just because they had forsaken me didn’t mean they wouldn’t listen) and then called upon the earth Kami to heal Sanjuro-san.

In a short matter of time, all but two of the bandits were dead. One was injured and fleeing, the other was injured and prostrate in front of Sanjuro-san and Hida-san. The bandits’ deaths pained me; on one hand we had acted in self-defense and they were technically below our station, but on the other they were still people and if they had turned to banditry to survive, they must not have had much choice.

Sanjuro-san and Hida-san questioned the bandit, who promised to tell us what he knew in exchange for his life. We all agreed (well I did not speak, but I was trying not to be ill) and he told us that not twenty minutes before, a young woman had passed by, and had he had his men with him, they would have attacked her.

True to our word, the bandit was allowed to live and we pressed on. Hida-san forcefully suggested that the bandit find a new line of work and not to attack anymore Samurai.

We crested a hill and saw a beautiful young woman with the two swords in front of her, a large ono in her hands. Before we could even call out, she brought the ono down, breaking the swords. Kichi still shook in my sleeve. That had not fixed the darkness.

The woman noticed us and waited for us patiently. She asked if we would kill her for the theft. When I pointed out that her breaking the swords did not remove the darkness from them, she looked crestfallen. She was only doing what she was told to do. What she had to do.

Oh a whim, I tried using my jade spell on the now broken swords, but whatever darkness lay inside them was not of the Shadowlands.

The woman decided that since she had dishonored her family, she would commit seppuku and asked for a second. Kakita-san agreed. Sanjuro-san tried to talk her out of it, but she was committed. Kakita-san and Hida-san both understood why she was throwing away her life for such a pointless reason, but I did not. I walked a distance away and refused to watch. I would have no better time convincing her to ‘dishonor’ her family and live than Sanjuro-san would. Her death would have no meaning.

I would never understand humans.

After Kakita-san had beheaded her, ‘restoring her honor’ (I will never understand that), her blood touched the cursed blades, unlocking the darkness within them. Had I thought about it and not been so horrified by the idea of ritual suicide, it would have dawned on me that such a thing might happen. A Gaki lay within, one of the hungry dead.

Before I even had the chance to act, Kakita-san, Ukaku-san, Hida-san and Sanjuro-san had all struck blows upon the spirit, the final blow by Sanjuro-san’s being strong enough to destroy the darkness. The soul, now free from its hunger, bowed deeply before disappearing, the ghostly blade in his hand merging with the broken blade before us.

We had retrieved the blade and removed the curse that lay upon it, but it was no longer whole. Hida-san and Kakita-san saw to the woman’s body; Hida-san make special care that it be known she died honorably.

I will never understand humans. Kami, spirits, and animals make much more sense to me.

When we returned, we told the tale to Doji-san. He was shocked that the blades had been cursed, but grateful to us that we had retrieved them. The smith in town was skilled enough to reforge the blade and likely in time for Seppun Ayumu’s party. Doji -san invited all of us to join him. Sanjuro-san was just concerned about the food. We were then invited to drink sake with a grateful Doji-san.

I have no desire to attend an imperial party. I would be worse than a fish out of water amongst the ‘proper’ men and women of the clans. However, Kakita-san was Crane, seemed much more comfortable with this sort of thing, and as my yojimbo, if I did not attend, neither could he. Plus, if I did not go, I could already hear Kirin scolding me for forsaking such an opportune time to make new connections for our clan and his trading.

My Oniisan wasn’t even here and he was dictating my actions. It was a good thing I loved him.

Session 1: Reunion

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