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» L5R: Previously in Steel and Honour...
Jimbo Cactaur
 Posted: Jan 16 2011, 03:41 PM
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The land of Rokugan is a shining jewel favoured by the kami. Empress Iweko sits upon the Emerald Throne and governs all with the authority of the Sun and Moon. Major and Minor Clans both submit to her rule as celestially appointed. All is better than it has been in a long time, from the fall of the Hantei dynasty to the abomination of the Toturi Emperors.

But still all is not perfect. The Shadowlands yet loom on the southern border, and a darkness has been growing deep within the Shinomen Mori. Clans still wage terrible wars over lands disputed by their ancestors. Toshi Ranbo is nearly rebuilt, but the memory of the destruction caused to the Imperial city hangs like a thick, bitter incense in the memories of those nearby. The Empress gives hope, but is it enough to save the empire, or will it continue its slow crumble into chaos and madness until Fu Leng's minions storm the great Carpenter Wall and devour what remains? Only time will tell, and time is impartial.

From the grandest lords to the lowliest monks time will not wait, and concerns which may be viewed from above with such clarity seldom gain their deserved attention from the dirt of the street. And that is where we began... More so the mud of the street than the dirt, the streets of Zakyo Toshi to be exact.

Pleasure City, a wretched, corrupt place that deserves the veil of rain to dim the red lanterns and to wash away the red pools in the alleys. Here on their way north met the companions who are now fighting for the lives of strangers in the woods. In a tea house of unremembered name, Toku Kaede and his puppy Shika, Kitsune Kiyoshi with his sword on his back, Goro with his shiny bald pate, Reijiro with his sarcastic wit, Suzumi Makoto with his steel eyes and short stories, and Otaku Ryoko with her proud armour and humble manner. And let us not forget Nik'rr'tck, the Nezumi who saved the Battlemaiden from thugs in the night and gave everyone quite a fright. Except for Kiyoshi, who remained unfazed as usual.

It only made sense that if the city was this dangerous the road would be more so, and so they all agreed to travel together on the morrow. The companions departed and continued north, each keeping to his or her own thoughts. Mud sucked at their feet and the chill damp air clung to their skin sucking off all of their warmth.

Sometime in the course of the day Nik'rr'tck wandered off, and appeared suddenly flying through the air across the road, propelled by the mighty swing of an ogre. The beast, crazed and angry, lay about himself with a massive bone studded club. But the companions faltered not, Goro stood his ground as the creature charged and with the aid of the kami drove it to its knees. The other samurai went to finish the job, but the creature would not relent, flailing maddly in its death throes. Ryoko was gravely wounded, her helmet destroyed, and Goro at the finish lay still barely breathing.

Kiyoshi then, after making the killing blow, knowing speed was of the essence ran swiftly to get help. On the road he crossed paths with three Emerald Magistrates, a Crane, a Dragon, and a Mantis and concisely relayed the events on the road to them. Continuing quickly back to the city gates he had left in the morning he tried to warn the guards of the nearby danger and their responsibility to see the scene cleared. Unheeded he rubbed shoulders with some swarthy Mantis Clan bushi, arrayed in odd clothes with odd weapons at hand. The Scorpion Clan gate guards continually gave him grief, but with the help of his boisterous clansmen he managed to get his message through. He returned, finding the trio of Emerald Magistrates already at the scene.

As the shortest of them, Kitsuki Fubuki, puzzled over the details of the fight and the simple presence of the monster, the fairest, Asahina Okiku did her best with the healing arts on the wounded companions. Ryoko she stabilized, but Goro seemingly remained unimproved. The party left the Magistrates to their investigation and continued north hoping to find rest at the nearest town, their day of travel cut short.

Nik'rr'tck once more wandered off and was found at a crossroads being beaten by an angry monk. Toku Kaede stepped in and requested to know what was going on. The monk, called Toshio, accused the ratling of theft from the shrine and Kaede, knowing the valour the Nezumi had shown in the fighting, defended his honour. The monk accepted Kaede's apparent challenge and declared it to be a duel of dumplings in the next village (which was renowned for their fabulous dumpling recipe). Baffled the companions continued on, giving care of Ryoko and Goro over to the wise woman of the village.

A pair of Crane samurai were also staying in the village, and observed the 'duel' with little attempt to hide their contempt. With great effort (for he was much slighter than the hefty monk) Toku Kaede won the duel by consuming the most dumplings. He did not let it go to his head, and offered a hand in friendship to Toshio, but the monk fled into the rainy night in disgrace.

... to be continued ...
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Jimbo Cactaur
 Posted: Jan 19 2011, 02:27 AM
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The wise woman of the village brought the companions sad news, while Ryoko would likely heal, and in time perhaps ride again, Goro was under the influence of some strange malady. She revealed a small handful of yellowed bone fragments, left behind by the ogres club, that she had removed from his previously healed wound. She told them that the bones carried traces of the Shadowlands Taint, which must now be threatening the monk as well.

But Reijiro recalled that the Magistrate Asahina Okiku had checked the ogre for signs of the Taint and had found none. Puzzled the group returned to the headman's home to sleep. They talked for a while to the Crane samurai sharing their quarters, whom seemed very on edge, and then went to sleep. Later that night everyone awoke to the sounds of not too distant wolf howls and shouting just outside the building.

Standing in the rain, hand on the hilt of her sword stood the Crane Samurai, Kakita Reiko. She stood facing Suzume Makoto, the quiet and shy storyteller, in between him and the wise woman's hut. She shouted accusations at him, claiming him to be an impostor and the murderer of the true Suzume Makoto. Makoto did not refute any of her claims, not even when she demanded to exact judgment immediately. Kaede and Kiyoshi tried to intervene, but in a flash both Reiko and the relaxed Makoto had naked steel in their hands and were hurtling towards one another. The wolf howled again, raindrops were sliced in half, and blood mixed with water. Reiko's grip on her sword did not falter, even as her life-force poured onto the mud from a gash in her fine kimono.

Her bodyguard and companion, a Daidoji, rushed Makoto with his yari, forcing him up against the wall of the hut. He yielded his sword with a scathing comment to the dying Crane and allowed himself to be bound. The wise woman approached, but she was too late to save the foolish Kakita girl.

The next morning the Daidoji left, carrying the dead body of Reiko on her horse, and the live and tied form of Makoto on his. He vowed justice and peace for his friend before he left.

To be contiunued again....
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Jimbo Cactaur
 Posted: Feb 2 2011, 12:02 AM
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The rest of that day the samurai relaxed at the village, huddling indoors when the rain came and lending a helping hand to the villagers when it halted, all in thanks for their hospitality. The villagers were uncomfortable with this, but the children took to the newcomers easily, laughing and playing, and showing them the best spots to catch crayfish in the small brook. After the hard work of the day and a nice hearty meal it seemed that the events of the night were all but forgotten.

The next day Reijiro announced that he would endeavour to bring Goro to Shinden Osano-Wo, a few days journey to the Northwest, in order to see if the monks brothers would be able to help him. He extended the invitation to travel together once more to Kaede and Kiyoshi, as they still seemed intent on going in roughly the same direction. They agreed and prepared to depart the village by the stream.

Nik'rr'tck again was nowhere to be found, for he was off in the woods sniffing after something strange and pungent. This time it was nothing so vile as an ogre, just a skinny young ronin girl called Kyoko. She regarded the Ratling curiously, eying the broken katana he brandished cautiously in her direction. He attempted to communicate with her, but she simply stared at him, and when he gave up and left she followed at a distance all the way back to the village.

Once in the presence of the other samurai her resolve quailed a little, for they at lest were of respectable minor clans, and she was just a ronin. Kaede kindly offered to allow her to travel with them if she wished, but though she accepted she kept close to Reijiro, the only other ronin.

They left finally left the village, with Goro on a makeshift sledge pulled by Ryoko's horse, which Reijiro promised to return to the Unicorn Clan once he had reached the temple. The got back on the main road and began to move steadily North. After midday, during one of their frequent rests to readjust the sledge, the keen ears of Kiyoshi picked up the sound of shouting and the ring of steel.

Following the sound off the road toward where the river Kawa no Kin ran fast and deep they spied a large number of brown garbed swordsmen surrounding a pair of Mantis bushi. The Samurai were backed against a stack of crates just up the bank from the river, one armed with a Tsuruchi longbow the other a katana. The men in brown, ronin most likely, were commanded by a mountain of a man dressed all in black wielding a tetsubo. The group had only to consider their course for a moment before they charged toward the aggressors through the trees. In brief moments the battle was turned, many of the ronin lay wounded and bleeding in the underbrush, as the blades of the Monkey and Fox weaved in and out of their defenses. Even the Tsuruchi bowman turned from his deadly arrows to a pair of kama for close combat, laying waste to the body of his attacker.

The other mantis was not so lucky, the man in black pressed towards him with fury even as his men died all around. Then the tides turned again as 4 more ronin emerged behind Reijiro and Ryoko. Nik'rr'tck even was hard pressed to stay out of the way of an enemies blade or arrow. Just as it seemed that the dark mans objective was within reach of his mighty club Kiyoshi kicked the last ronin barring his path off his sword and called out, flicking his blade to remove the blood. The large man turned slightly, allowing the prone Mantis to scrabble away and reach a foes fallen sword.

And thus it ended, and so it shall begin again...
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