Evil grows nearer
But which is more important
Honor or Empire?
I apologize to Hida-san’s player. I was fumbling with my smartphone and accidentally deleted his masterful comment below. That being said, this session was a bit more relaxed on the player vs. player intrigue—a bit. I’ve seen a few players have been overloaded with all the drama (completely my fault), so I’m working them towards some fun hack’n’slash of the Spirit Scars and their tainted guardians. But first, they had one dilemma to overcome…
We started the session out with dreams. Everyone had their own, and if they wish to share, it can be in their comments. However, all their individual dreams melded together into one massive shared nightmare. They stood in the center of the Empire, able to see into all corners, watching while the Spirit Scars bled their taint into the world. They caught glimpses of the twisted guardians standing sentinel over each rift of darkness. And they were forced to watch, helpless, as one of their own friends, though they knew not which, freed another dark soul from Jigoku, causing another Scar to appear.
When they awoke, Sanjuro was surprised to see a man wrapped in black leaping down from the ceiling, knife slashing for the Crane’s throat. After a brief skirmish, which Sanjuro’s wife ended with a thrust of her spear, everything calmed down—until the morning.
First, the Echoes spoke with Teien about their dreams, and Yamako even studied maps and histories of the places she had seen—and discovered that a nearby Spirit Scar was located in Crane lands. They agreed they needed to leave, and quickly, to deal with this menace.
But then, they were summoned by Lord Katashi, who told them that he had tasks for them. His son Toshiro was told he would be leading men into battle, and was to head away to train with the military. Sanjuro was told to head the opposite direction to train with the Crane’s elite scouts. Takeshi and Sakura were both permitted to stay in the Crane city as long as they wished, as honored guests.
Yamako tried to convince the Daimyo that they had a kharmic duty, as the Songs reborn, to stop this evil, but Katashi only thought they were children’s stories. Besides, he said, they were all needed to help strengthen the Crane in the inevitable war with the Lion that was on the horizon. Even the great Hida Takeshi tried to convince the lord, but Katashi only scoffed. Something within the Crab snapped, and he threw the Crane lord to the ground. Others came running, and Takeshi fought against them like a mad man. Eventually he was disarmed, literally, by his friend Toshiro, who removed the Crab’s hand from his wrist. Thankfully, Yamako was there and was able to convince the kami to reattach the limb to the now unconscious warrior. But not before she discovered a secret about Takeshi’s new tetsubo.
It was cursed.
The heroes had retrieved the artifact after a dark ritual had been placed on it (by none other than the reincarnation of Isawa Kage). A kansen—a twisted spirit of the Shadowlands—had been bound to the weapon, and though Yamako was able to bind it so it would not influence Takeshi any further, she was not able to rid the weapon of its Taint. The little monk known as The Gardener, had ideas, however. He knew of a prayer to force the kensen out of the tetsubo, where Takeshi could physically duel the creature itself.
So a small arena was set up, with Yamako herself taking precautions to keep the kansen from escaping, and Takeshi was released from custody to fight the being.
The fight was deadly. The fight was short.
After receiving numerous injuries himself, the Crab was at last victorious. But unfortunately, though he forgave the Echo for shoving him, Lord Katashi still did not believe the “nonsense” of the Spirit Scars. But he did have respect for these people, and offered them a chance. He admitted that if he had the resources of a small town on the Crane/Lion border, he would not need Sanjuro and Toshiro to lead his men. So, a small group was sent to deal with the issue.
Before that could happen, however, the group noted the absence of Sakura, who had taken a ride on Tamoki without telling the others. While she was out, she was accosted by three maho-tsukai, who were young Crane ladies. Though she eventually was freed, Sakura learned that they all served a “mistress” who was after Yamako for an unknown reason. But, the group was at last ready to deal with the Lion/Crane village.
Unfortunately, though not present themselves, the Lion had hired a small mercenary force of ronin to protect the village. These ronin were led by Sanjuro’s father, Tatsuya. Love stayed Sanjuro’s blade, and he instead showed himself. He admitted to Tatsuya the reason he was there, and brought the ronin out to speak with Toshiro.
A deal was struck. Now they had only to wait on the response from Kakita Katashi…