Empire of Secrets

Session 3
Yoriki

Emerald Magistrate Keiko, impressed with the manner in which the companions addressed Haruki’s problem, deputises them as her yoriki and tasks them with visiting a nearby Scorpion daimyo who has requested the aid of a magistrate. She tosses a bag in the middle of the newly-minted yoriki and it is picked up by Ashiro. Keiko informs the group that Ashiro will be in charge of this investigation.

En-route to the estate of Bayushi Mako, daimyo of Red Heron House, the companions encounter a confused Scorpion patrol led by a man who introduces himself as Bayushi Rin. Oddly, the patrol members are all dripping wet, despite the fact that these lands have seen no rain for several weeks. Also, Rin believes he is in Crane lands, which would have been true until recent political manoeuvrings and shifting of borders, largely at the expense of the Crane. Kayishi notices that the patrol bears the mon of a daimyo who died six generations ago. These ghosts are from an ill-fated Scorpion invasion of Crane lands that was washed away in storms and mud slides that buried hundreds of the invaders. When the bodies of the lost Scorpion are revealed by rains, their spirits are released back into the world to try and continue their missions. Discovering the bodies of Rin and his men reveals that something (or someone) has disturbed their resting place, thus allowing the ghosts into Ningen-do. The bodies must be pulled from the mud and cremated, but not by noble samurai!

At Red Heron House the companions introduce themselves to Bayushi Mako and advise him of their encounter with the ghosts. The daimyo sends his Shugenja to investigate and organise the local heimin to deal with the remains. Meanwhile the yoriki enjoy the hospitality of Red Heron House. Whilst carousing they encounter three interesting individuals:

Ashiro talks with Chikako and realises that she is not a willing guest at Red Heron House and is happy to have another Doji around, if only to discuss poetry.
Kayishi learns that Chikako’s father owes money to Bayushi Mako and so the Scorpion is holding Chikako captive whilst the debt remains unpaid. She also learns that the former Captain of the Guard committed seppuku over his failure to capture a notorious local bandit known as Red Eagle, hence the nervousness of the new incumbent.

The next morning Bayushi Mako asks the PCs to investigate reports of bandits operating in the area around his estate. As a nephew of the Scorpion Clan Champion, and a man of no small political ambition, the fact that bandit attacks are taking place in his area is very distressing for him, potentially causing a huge loss of face. Mako, asked Isawa Keiko to look into this matter discretely, as a personal favour. The following information is learned by the young investigators, some directly and some pieces by implication:
The bandit leader is known as Red Eagle and he wears a mask, an irony not lost on Bayushi Mako;
Only the daimyo’s tax convoys are being attacked;
Red Eagle and his bandits have not killed anyone. The guards have always been knocked unconscious;
The guards describe Red Eagle and his men as poorly equipped and shabbily attired, even by bandit standards. This is odd given the proximity of a town, which could easily serve as an unknowing resupply depot; and
This estate, so close to the new border with the Crane, is very prestigious from a political perspective and Mako, aims to use it as a springboard to greater power and influence. An unrestrained bandit gang making a mockery of him and his men is the last thing he needs. Hence his need for a neutral third-party to take care of this matter on his behalf.
Ashiro, Hiroyuki and Jubei decide to investigate the local town, whilst Kayishi remains at court.
Passing through the fields, they see that the lands are blessed with exceptional productivity, well maintained roads and everything one could wish for, until they arrive in the town itself, where everything looks like it has been unpainted and minor repairs neglected recently, except for the shrines, which have been completely despoiled. Venturing along the town’s main street, the yoriki are assaulted by children wielding sticks and wearing plain porcelain masks. Hiroyuki and Jubei make short work of these diminuitive foes, onlyh to realise that the entire town is occupied by mask-wearing zombies. Adhering to Akodo’s philosophy regarding the relationship between discretion and valour, the companions withdraw to Red Heron House.

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Session 2
Pursuit!

Before departing Wachimasu village, the three companions are approached by the Crab mercenary whom they had encountered on the road into the village. He introduces himself as Hida Hiroyuki and asks if he could accompany them, given how dangerous the road ahead is likely to be. The trio agrees and becomes a classic four-piece.

Hiroyuki-san’s prediction of danger soon appears prescient as, only a couple of hours from Wachimasu, the quartet is set upon by five Fire Tiger Bandits, hiding in the forest.

Forest.jpg

Doji Ashiro steps forward to parley with the bandit leader but, on learning that man is of no social station whatsoever, the young Crane dismissively turns his back and walks back to his horse. Slightly bemused, the bandits close in to attack, covered by two concealed archers. The first bandit meets a sticky end as Hiroyuki-san’s giant tetsubo pulps his head, whilst the more refined and elegant Jubei-san settles for the simple removal of a bandit’s hand. The now terrified archers fire from cover, winging Jubei-san, before fleeing into the forest along with the remaining swordsman. Jubei-san’s sharp eyes spot a dropped purse containing freshly-minted Seppun koku.

The companions eventually catch-up with their quarry atop a wind-swept hill. They arrive just in time to see the daisho blades snapped by a large ono. The thief is revealed as a Samurai-ko of the Seppun family, who introduces herself as Seppun Kazumi. Ashiro-san offers to duel for the broken blades and the right to take Kazumi back to Tochigi. The confident Crane is somewhat surprised to be beaten, but honours his word by allowing Kazumi to leave. As she prepares to depart, the air is filled with a sound like that of a gigantic heart beating, faster and faster. The samurai soon find themselves surrounded by a sickly, green mist before the appearance of the gaki of Seppun Daiori. Fortunately the hungry dead is no match for the combined skills of Kazumi, Hiroyuki and Jubei, with the latter delivering the final blow.

In the aftermath, Kazumi is allowed to leave with the broken daisho. She promises to never return to these lands, instead choosing exile and the life of a ronin. In turn, Ashiro and Kiyashi inform Doji Haruki that, alas, they were unable to find and recover the daisho of Seppun Daiori. Haruki-sama takes this stoically and says that the companions have his undying friendship. Meanwhile, unable to stomach such dishonesty, Jubei and Hiroyuki withdraw to the the local sake house, wherein waits Isawa Keiko

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Session 1
Spring 1197

Fresh from their respective gempukku, the three young Samurai, Doji Ashiro, Shosuro Kayishi and Akodo Jubei find their individual roads leading them to the castle of Doji Haruki, a minor daimyo of the Crane Clan. The castle sits at an important junction of roads and protects the village of Tochigi. The village has a single inn and one sake house. It is most well-known for Tochigi tea, a delightful blend with citrus notes, which is brewed nowhere else.

The castle is bustling with visitors (mostly Crane) who are passing through to attend a gathering at the coastal estate of an Imperial daimyo, Seppun Ayumu. The young Samurai encounter Isawa Keiko, an Imperial Magistrate and her yojimbo, Shiba Tsuko. The two Phoenix are resting before travelling on to the capital Toshi Ranbo.

A precious artefact is stolen from the castle’s audience chamber and Doji Haruki asks the young Samurai to quietly find and return it to him. The item in question is a daisho that once belonged to Seppun Daiori, a hero of the Seppun family who led the Crane Clan during the The Scorpion coup and died fighting that clan. Doji Haruki wants to present the daisho to its former owner, Seppun Ayumu, as a mark of respect.

Investigations reveal that the thief fled west, into Scorpion lands. Doji Haruki tells the young Samurai that a Scorpion village lies to the west, and that he and the Samurai who governs the village have a history of animosity.

En-route, the three companions encounter three Crab mercenaries in the employ of the local Scorpion. They are rough but good-humoured and escort the trio to Wachimasu village. There is one inn, one sake house, one blacksmith and one large estate. There are signs of a recent Shadowlands incursion. Bayushi Hitaro, the Scorpion Samurai-ko in charge of Wachimasu, is far past her prime. Hitaro is overweight and grumpy at being shoved out to the margins of Scorpion territory. Delicacy is required to secure any help from her.

The innkeeper reveals that a young Samurai-ko paused in Wachimasu to pick up some food for the road and have her wounded hand re-bandaged, before continuing westward. The companions resolve to pursue this mysterious figure.

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