Legend of the Five Rings: Echoes

Finale: Session 26: Souls of Rokugan

This was the campaign’s finale. I had a blast playing this game, and it spawned it’s own spinoff, where some of us are playing the offspring of our previous PCs, here.

An echoing song
A new morning brought by the
Souls of Rokugan

Now fully in the Burning Sands, the Echoes of Rokugan realized they must split up. A small group would go find Ineko, and with her, Kage’s heart. The rest would lead their small Mongoose to hold back Kage’s large force of undead and bloodspeakers. In the end it was decided that Yamako and her husband Toshiro, along with Takeshi would face off against Ineko. Sanjuro would lead his force against Kage’s, while Sakura lead her tiny cavalry against the horde’s flanks. Keitaro would take a handful of men and throw themselves against the undead army to give the Lord of the Mongoose time to set up his forces—it was a suicide mission and everyone knew it.

Before they could split, however, Teien, now realized as the Dragon of Thunder, walked into their midst. He revealed to them that they were no mere Echoes. They weren’t even the Songs of Rokugan. After all they had done, all they had sacrificed, they were indeed the Souls of Rokugan.

Their names and deeds would never be forgotten.

So the plan was inacted. The first group found Ineko’s camp, and while Takeshi bravely held off the squadron of undead left behind, Toshiro and Yamako managed to sneak up on Ineko, killing her before she realized they were there. Yamako immediately set to work disabling the many magical traps laid on the chest that contained the shriveled heart of their kharmic enemy.

Keitaro was slain, but his fire magics and the swords of his Mongoose fellows slowed the enemy advance, giving Sanjuro and Sakura the time they needed to prepare.

And then the battle was joined. It was brutal and bloody. Sakura was swarmed by undead, barely managing to escape. However, her first true love and horse, Tamaki, was not so fortunate.

The mongoose put up a brave fight, but were quickly being ground down. Not even a hundred remained when Sanjuro spotted Kage across the battlefield and shouted a challenge to him. The two fought, Kage’s wounds healing as soon as Sanjuro could inflict them. The battle was lost, Sanjuro would die and Rokugan would burn.

But then…

Back in the camp, Toshiro’s blade of crystalized ice, gifted to him by a spirit of winter, shattered as it pierced Kage’s shriveled heart. A soft breeze sighed out of the tent, traveling miles in moments, until it stirred through the battle, whipping around Kage. At once the undead sorcerer knew what had happened, and threw all he had at the simple ronin turned Lord, Soul of Duty. With a single stroke, Sanjuro struck his old friend’s head from his shoulder, and the undead army fell apart. The few bloodspeakers were easily handled by the surviving Mongoose.

However, as Kage’s soul was pulled from his body, Sanjuro knew that he could escape easily if something wasn’t done, and so threw himself at the dark, lethal energy. It killed his body, but his soul was now bound to Kage’s. The two appeared in Ineko’s tent, Yamako’s Egg of Purgatory beckoning the sorcerer to its trap. As it did, Sanjuro was able to appear and say his goodbyes.

Akuma, once Hida Takeshi, looked upon his friend’s soul and knew what he must do. He was already damned, already cut off from the Kharmic wheel. He would never get to Yomi, though Sanjuro still could. With what was left of his power, Takeshi swapped places with Sanjuro. Binding himself to Kage in the final moments as they were both pulled into the egg.

The Souls had done it, though at heavy cost. Sanjuro, Takeshi and Keitaro lay dead. Toshiro and Yamako knew they were soon going to leave behind the Empire to become spirits bound to Kitsune Mori. Sakura’s soul and body had been ravaged by the Lying Darkness and she would never be the same again. But, Rokugan was safe.

But the story isn’t over. It echoes forward into eternity.

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Session 25: Overture
As the crowd gathers,
And the artisans warm up,
Echoes start to rise.

This session is ramping up the Echoes to face their foe for hopefully the last time. It also is me tilting the story just slightly to “fit” official cannon. Since the Fox Lord is different than the published storyline, I instead had Yamako’s father open the ancestral Fox blade and read the Black Scroll. The player LOVES me for this…

Kage has struck again. Visiting Yamako’s father in disguise, the undead sorcerer convinced the Fox Lord to open the newly recovered ancestral blade of the Fox, and read the Black Scroll of Fu Leng hidden within. Hoping to keep Yamako and her husband busy in the south while he moved his army of undead and Lost into the Burning Sands so he could consolidate his forces.

His plan succeeded and failed. He bought himself enough time to move his forces to the Burning Sands, yes. However, he was counting on Yamako and Toshiro to stay in the south. He thought they would continue to stay out of worldly politics as they had recently taken to doing. What he didn’t count on was Yamako’s temper. Enraged at the destruction to her family and lands, Yamako used her ability to walk the spirit realms to quickly gather up her friends, as well as an army of Mongoose samurai, to head into desert beyond Rokugan and put an end to Kage and Ineko.

The Echoes gathered at the border of Rokugan, and as they crossed over, all felt the change. Perhaps Akuma (once Hida) felt the change most of all. Once outside of the Empire, he felt his connection with Jigoku fade. It wasn’t gone completely, but many of his dark powers were inaccessible, and more human emotions crept back into his mind.

They traveled the sands until they came across a trading village, a small town that deals with the Unicorn on a regular basis.

The town was empty.

The place had been emptied of citizens, though the Echoes found tracks of hundreds of people heading deeper into the sands.

The only living person they found was a small, frightened boy named Razir. He told them that the undead came to his town, killed everyone, and a beautiful woman came and… brought them back.

So the Echoes, Razir in tow, look to the deep desert, to their destiny, to the end of their journey.

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Session 24: The Coin Falls
A decisive lord
has few friends yet many foes.
Duty’s hidden curse.

So with school and work and life it’s been difficult to get the latest posts up. Because of that, I’m going to have to breeze through what happened this session. Some of the player comments may help you understand more fully what transpired.

It boils down to Sanjuro attempting to not gain enemies in either the Kolat or the Scorpion. Unfortunately, the decision indirectly resulted in the death of his biological brother, Shosuro Shinji, and the targeted rage of Kousei.

Thinking of a way to deal with Kousei (who was Master Coin and had threatened Sanjuro’s family), the lord of the Mongoose Clan issued a personal challenge to Kousei. If Kousei refused he would be viewed a coward and if he accepted he’d be forced to deal with Sanjuro in the open, instead of with his massive network of spies.

The other Echoes were working towards some of their own goals: discovering where Ineko and the resurrected Kage had disappeared to, finding Kolat spies in Mongoose lands, researching the ritual Ineko had used to bring the dark sorcerer back, and more.

While the other Echoes traced Ineko and Kage to the burning sands, and discovering that she had turned their old friend-turned-foe into a heartlass Khadi, Sanjuro prepared for a duel with Kousei.

And it happened sooner than he thought. A massive fleet of Mantis ships made its way up a river to get dangerously close Mongoose lands. However, since it was known to the Empire that there was a blood feud between the two men, he was allowed to pass, especially since the rest of the Empire did not hold with Sanjuro’s personal views towards Bushido and the treatment of peasants.

At last the two forces met on the field of battle, but before full war could be waged, Sanjuro offered Kousei a single duel. It was brutal, but in the end, the Mantis Lord and Kolat Master was defeated. Before he could die, he tried to take out Sanjuro one final way, Honor be damned. He had covered himself with packs of gaijin pepper, and ignited them.

Sanjuro survived (barely, but thanks to some quick healing from Yamako), and even managed to walk off the field on his own.

A Kolat master lays dead. The Echoes may have some respite to (re)finish their Kharmic Duty and finally destroy Kage, but Sanjuro’s peace won’t last long with the rest of the Kolat after him.

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Session 23: Fork in the Road
Choices are made. Paths are taken.
As the song echoes,
The fallen Crane flies again.
Death holds no power.

As the Mongoose Clan’s first court continued, several of the Echoes (plus Benkei), traveled north, following Kage no Oni. When they hit Badger lands, Yamako, not wishing to cause trouble, stepped through to the spirit realms and headed to her own destination. She was going to rescue Toshiro, man and kami be damned.Forgotten outpost

She indeed did find him. Calling upon Earth kami to scale the sheer cliff face to the Eyrie her husband was being held at, she found herself questioned by curious Kenku. Eventually, she was reunited, and after some discussion, the Kenku council agreed that Toshiro would keep their secret. Before he left, the Crane was given a scroll of the Kenku techniques to continue his training.

Benkei, Hida (now Akuma), and Sakura, meanwhile tracked Kage no Oni back to the site of their battle with Isawa Kage, their enemies body still laying there, almost entirely bones, with a massive hole in its chest. They found the demon attempting to deal with an agent of the Lying Darkness, in an attempt to bring its master back from oblivion. The deal was interrupted, however, and battle joined.

The fight was short and painfully brutal. Benkei, though unable to damage the Oni with his weapons, was able to grapple the beast to a standstill, while Akuma used his nemuranai to smash the creature into oblivion in mere moments. Benkei created a pyre and burned Isawa Kage’s body to ash, to prevent any dark rituals from animating the body, and they left.

They met up at the border with Toshiro and Yamako, and they all headed back to Mongoose lands.

Meanwhile, back at his new estates, Lord Sanjuro was attempting to play both his Kolat and Scorpion allies against each other. He was reluctant to bring harm to either. Shosuro Shinji was his biological brother after all, and Gayan was a true friend. Eventually, however, he realized that both are onto the other, and if he doesn’t do something, one or both will wind up dead.

Knowing it to be a mistake, Sanjuro pleaded with Gayan to leave. The Mantis samurai warned Sanjuro that this could lead to trouble, but Sanjuro was insistent.

Black heartThe session closed with Akuma receiving a vision in Jigoku. He saw Ineko traveling into the Burning Sands. With blood magic, she summoned Kage no Oni. Informing the demon that he had a sliver of her master’s soul, and that she needed it, she performed a second dark ritual. It unravelled the shadow demon, and the sliver of soul that had given it its name was instead bound to a rotted, dried heart. It slowly darkened, filling with blood. It began to beat. With reverence, Ineko placed the heart into a box, and the vision faded.

Appearing in the middle of Sanjuro and his advisors, and causing much stir, Akuma summoned the other Echoes to share with them the vision…

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Session 22: Spy vs. Spy

Both Session 21 and 22 were put within the previous adventure log. Read that to find out what happened to the Echoes. This update only exists for players to comment in-character.

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Chapter 3: Lord of the Mongoose (Session 21 and 22)
Tiny, simple wave.
Amidst the endless ocean.
Now, a wave no more.

Chapter 3 picked up about 5 months after we left off. Yamako had her twin boys, Sanjuro was busy starting a minor clan, Hida, now Akuma, was adjusting to his role as Jigoku’s Jailer/Bounty Hunter. Toshiro’s player had a new character, a falcon bushi who is an absolute thug, and Sakura had left her family in the Unicorn to join with the Mongoose clan.

The invitations had spread throughout the Empire. Samurai great and small received invites to the first Court of the newly formed Mongoose Clan. The seal of its champion, Sanjuro, stamped on the invite in deep brown ink.

Many were to attend, in fact all the surviving Echoes were to be there. However, one Echo, Yamako, could not bring herself to go. The pain of her true love’s death, 5 months prior, was still fresh in her mind. She had already decided to leave the mortal realm and become a spirit once more, with the help of the fox spirit Aishiro.

However, old enemies still stirred, and Fate decreed that she be shaken from her own darkness. Kage no Oni was summoned to Fox lands. With the help of Akuma she slew the demon, banishing it back to Hell. This wouldn’t last long however, as she discovered that a witch—fitting the description of her nemesis Ineko—was teaching Maho Tsukai the ritual needed to summon the shadow demon.

With Akuma, she decided to travel north to Mongoose lands. She had deduced that Ineko was heading this way and hoped to cut her off. Oddly enough (and because a split party is never fun), this brought her to Kyuden Toshiro (named after Sanjuro’s fallen friend), just in time for the Mongoose Court!

While there they discovered that Kage no Oni had been summoned yet again, and had traveled to the Northwest, towards Badger lands.

Towards where they had slain their foe, Isawa Kage.

Most of the Echoes—minus Sanjuro, who was stuck at his own Court—decided to travel to the Badger lands, and not simply to catch the demon. While she slept in Kyuden Toshiro, Yamako had had a dream that Toshiro was not dead. That he was alive and living atop an unscalable mountain with a group of Kenku—bird men who had lived in Rokugan before the Kami fell.

While the others traveled north, Sanjuro was entertaining guests at home. It was clear he was uncomfortable in this role, but his guests were polite and pretended not to notice the stammering and stuttering, or the slight slips of etiquette. However, one breakfast stuck out. He was meeting with both his biological father—a Scorpion lord—and Kousei. One man wanted to elevate him within the ranks of the Kolat with which Sanjuro worked. The other wanted to aid Sanjuro in destroying the Kolat. Both thoughts had crossed the Mongoose lord’s mind.

Which would he side with?

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Session 20: Destiny: Part 2
Darkness has fallen
The Echoes, victorious.
But, for how long?

Ruined earthThis was the Chapter 2 finale. It was a sombre occasion—a character fell in the final battle, and another allowed himself to be fully corrupted by the powers of Jigoku for the greater good. Because of that, the above haiku is purposefully broken.

The Echoes traveled to their final destination. The final Scar, located high in the Twilight Mountains of the Badger clan, was located and closed. Isawa Kage’s secret realm, a pocket in Jigoku itself, was opened and he was pulled forth. Battle was joined.

It was drawn out and brutal. In the end Kage and his demon fell, but so did Toshiro, cast over a cliff by Kage himself.

Their kharmic duty fulfilled, the Echoes now have their lives to live…

…or do they?

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Session 19: Cliffs of the Dragon
Darkness used for light.
Do Ends justify our Means?
Or are we all doomed?

The Echoes journeyed to Dragon Lands to close the penultimate Scar. Thankfully they had little political opposition. Unfortunately, the lands of the Dragon provided enough opposition for them.

The Scar wasn’t difficult to close, but they ran into a group of Gaki on the way up, and in the fight Sakura was cast from the cliffs. Ineko, their one-time enemy, leapt from the cliffs herself, using blood-magic to sprout wings and rescue the Unicorn Echo.

Several minds changed about the seductress at that moment, and some hardened…

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Session 18.5: Battle at the Bathhouse!
Chaos takes control
when the Cat Spirit runs wild.
The Bathhouse Battle!

We had a free night minus one of the players and got together for some goofiness. Basically, the party was waiting around in Dragonfly lands for an audience with the Dragon, so they could enter their land and close another Spirit Scar. However, the session did end with the capture of Ineko, who promised to reveal Kage’s hiding place in return for her life.

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Session 18: Nightmares and (Wet) Dreams
...in which the bad guy is reading a pillow book.
How quickly does the
dream change into a nightmare.
But will we still wake?

Hall of ancestorsThe Echoes traveled further north, into Lion territory, to close yet another Spirit Scar. Along the way, however, Sanjuro left to be with his wife, concerns of assassination attempts still fresh in his mind.

The others made it to the scar, located within a Lion ancestral crypt. Bringing the group into the closest spirit realm, Yamako found herself in the Realm of Dreams.

However, they entered directly into the net of a corrupted Dream, which turned their brief stay in the Realm into a nightmare, pitting the Echoes against each other. Only by accepting help from the Lying Darkness within her soul, was Sakura able to pierce the illusion and help free her friends.

From there, it was easy to close the scar, and subdue the guardian—a simple maho-tsukai of no talent who was easily knocked unconscious by Takeshi, and then executed by Yamako.

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