Actual Play – The Emperor Awaits Us (6/22/2009)

GM: Travis Lindquist
System: L5R

The Scorpion’s Mask

Picking up right where we left off last game, our samurai (joined by Yoritomo Miyazaki) stood outside the burning husk of the Scorpion’s Mask. A peasant dressed woman begged mercy from us “Please, have mercy, I am Samurai.” The Sapphire magistrates broke up, each attending to different needs.

Kakita Shimzu, Ikoma Tso-Lao, Yoritomo Miyazaki and his ronin servant Jo all entered the burning building to save the heimin trapped within. Once inside the Tso-Lao heard the building starting to collapse and wanted to get a look at the top story before it all went up in flames so he bounded up to the third floor with the grace of a cat. In the owners office he saw the dead Yasuki and pilfered a ledger from his dying hands. Down below the honorable samurai went to the aid the heimin in escaping from the burning building.

Outside Sodano Shiko and Isawa Yoshi stood watch over the building keeping a wary eye out in case any hidden assailants would harm their companions. Instead they encountered a patrol of Akodo, Matsu, Daodoji and Kakita who had seen the fire. Their leader, a stern Akodo questioned the Pheonix and was quickly flabbergasted by their responses. He sent his samurai in to aid in the recovery of the heimin, while the Matsu stayed outside to watch the horses. The muttered under their breath insults about the Phoenix, which Shiko would not stand for. He challenged the Matsu, but they merely went back to muttering amongst themselves, albeit this time with more discretion.

Mirumoto Al-Salin carried the wounded woman away from the fire to tend to her. With the aid of Shimzu’s horse blanket he was able to preserve her modesty and her burns were purified and cured by the kami summoned by Miyazaki. When she woke however, only the Dragon was at her side. Holding her protectively, as you would a child. She spoke only a few words of thanks and shame for her presence in the sake house, but passed out again before she should give her name. Before Shimzu could provide a blanket for her though, Mirumoto’s eyes betrayed his honor and traced the revealing outline of her clothing to tear in the front of her kimono, revealing her fair skin and the tattoo of a strange bird across it.

Once the survivors have been taken to safety and the danger of the burning building had been assessed, the head Akodo took statements from all of the Samurai, asking what had happened. Mirumto felt full of shame. He did not know what he had done that was dishonorable, but knew that he had dishonored himself and his companions. A samurai is always sure, always knows what is right and what is wrong. He longed to tell the magistrate of his actions but did not know enough to say even that. This would require much meditation, though he doubted himself in that as well. The other magistrates were rewarded for their efforts to help the heimin. Both Shimzu and Miyazaki were offered three of the surviving heimin in gratitude for their service.

Dojo Domotai and Kakita Shimzu

The next morning Kakita woke to a polite scratching on his shoji screen. Lady Domotai requested his presence in her shiro. As he prepared for the day of not only meeting his formal rival but also awaiting the emperor’s presence, he saw Domotai riding into Toshi Ranbo and for a moment locked her gaze upon him. But next he knew, there was another scratch on his screen and he was being summoned. Perhaps a vision from the kami of what was to come.

In her father’s Shiro, Domotai received Shimzu politely and asked if he would speak over a game of Go. Unfamiliar with holding a discourse while trying to best you opponent at Go, Shimzu was at a disadvantage from the beginning. Domotai spoke to him about how the Crane clan has for too long kept with old traditions that do not serve its needs today and must adapt. She knew that as daughter of the Daimyo to make the changes she envisioned she would need a retinue of loyal samurai to stand at her side. In exchange she could open the doors to a prestigious school, the Kenshin blademaster. Shimzu for his part believed that even the great Kakita was never one to pass up an opportunity for improvement. Whether he spoke for the Crane clan as a whole or his personal excellence in the Kenshin school was unclear, but he nevertheless sided with his old rival. Who consequently bested him in Go as well.

Sodano Shiko and the Asako Inquisitors

Sodano Shiko also woke to visitors at his quarters. These visitors however, were not nearly as polite as the servants. The entered his room assertively, dressed in orange robes with bald heads and bland, nearly indistinguishable faces. As the spoke, it was as though three mouths shared one voice. They took turns conveying their message. They had heard of Shiko’s encounter with some corrupted heimin and heard as well that he put these corrupted figured to the blade. What they did not know, however, was if Sodano had been tainted in the process. Without warning or permission the shugenja cast forth a brilliant jade flame which blinded Sodano momentarily but did not harm him. Seeing this, they were pleased. Shiko identified his visitors as Asako inquisitors and pledged to aid them in any way he could. They were pleased by this as well. The three strange, nearly featureless men, who only stood out because of their brilliant robes and bizarre demeanor told him that the Phoenix clan had been corrupted from within and while it would be impossible to summon all the Phoenix throughout Rokugan, it is possible for agents of the inquisition to seek out these corrupted individuals and purge them. The offered that should Shiko continue on his path, a place amongst the inquisition may be open to him in the future. Greatly honored, Shiko swore to seek out such corruption as best he could and end it with his blade.

Isawa Yoshi and Shiba Ninjen

In his chambers Isawa Yoshi woke to the whispering of hundred of excited kami, ushering forth the presence of Shiba Ninjin. At once he leapt to the floor, attempting to bow lower than the ground itself. “You have vexed me Isawa” the now familiar voice spoke. Ninjen must have entered the room, though not through any door Isawa knew of. He continued “Why do you continue to study all of the elements, when you should focus your energy on the foundation of Rokugan. On the Earth. Come with me, and I will show you what awaits you if you follow my path.” Hesitantly, Yoshi rose and beheld the master of earth. Quite mundanely he opened the shoji screen door and beckoned for Yoshi to step through.

As he did however, he did not step into the common quarters of Pheonix Dojo in Toshi Ranbo, but Gisei Toshi, the Lost City. He beheld an army of samurai, both Shugneja and Bushi who tended to the city, which all of Rokugan believes does not exist. He was shown the wonders of the city, as well as a glimpse into the power of the Elemental Masters. Finally after the tour was complete, Ninjen made him an offer. The master gave Yoshi a nemurani in the form a netsukai. “If you wish to come here and become an apprentice under me, first you must discover the nature of that nemuranai. I will visit you again once you have succeeded.” And a moment later, Yoshi was back in his quarters, hand held tightly around the netsukai.

Ikoma Tso-Lao and Tsuruchi Nadu

Ikoma Tso-Lao was woken to a more startling presense still. He felt the cool edge of a blade across his forhead. As he opened his eyes and followed them to the wielder he saw Tsuruchi Nadu standing above him, smiling. He pulled back the blade and commended the Ikoma for his work at the Mask. He told the Ikoma, short of the Yoritomo, he is the only one who Nadu would have chosen to be a Sapphire Magistrate. The others, apparently, were his only options. He saw great potential in Tso-Lao and wanted to offer him an opportunity to advance. Nadu held forward an quiver of simple arrows, the kind a ronin would use. “Sometimes justice cannot be dispensed in the open, and there are some people who just need to die. Are you my man?” To the champion’s surprise, I suppose, Tso-Lao refused his offer. “I’m sorry you have me confused. I am a scout not an assassin. I cannot help you in this.” Nadu looked disappointed but not put out. He left with a reminder that the next time Tso-Lao found himself on a rooftop, he should be wary of who else might accompany him, revealing that he had watched all of us during the burning of the Scorpion’s Mask the night before.

Yoritomo Miyazaki and Kamori

A somewhat brutish figured entered Yoritomo Miyazaki’s quarters. Unannounced and with hardly anything in the way of a greeting. Immediately he demanded tea and a discussion with Miyazaki. The Matis bushi’s heraldry failed him and it wasn’t until later that realized this was the Daimyo of the Bat clan. Sarcastically he asked who the tea would be served to and the man said only “I am Kamori”. The spoke of the Mantis clans and of minor clans and finally of the Tournament of the Emperor’s favored. It was then that Miyazaki put the pieces together and offered a sincere apology for not showing the leader of the Bat clan more respect. Kamori did not seem upset and in fact wanted to see the Yoritomo at the tournament. “You will come.” “But I have no invitation.” “You do now!” Briskly as he entered, the Bat left. As he did so he revealed a small red dot on the inside of his palm, leaving the Yoritomo much to think of. At least now he had a way into the tournament and knew another powerful member of the red fleet.

Mirumoto Al-Salin and his three loves.

Disturbed by the night before Mirumoto Al-Salin set about meditating on the actions of the night before. Every time he approached meditation it was always with some trepidation. The code of bushido, the teachings of shinsei, the instructions of his sensei, and the thoughts of others clouded his mind. He could not reach no because he did not believe he could. But today was different. And that difference would change everything. Mirumoto sat and his mind drifted to the thoughts of the loves in his life. Neither Bushido nor Shinsei speak of fidelity or the limits of one’s love. The pretense of monogamy is cultural dogma to protect family names, property lines, and clan alliances. Love, like the sword is something one should peruse excellence in. Just as true warrior knows how to wield more than one blade, a great samurai knows many loves. At once Mirumoto was sure of his cause.

While still in a trance, a tea cup came flying through the window at his head. Eyes still closed he caught the cup in mid air and placed in before him. On the cup was painted the images. The lion, the unicorn and the oriel. That was the image he had seen on the woman last night. The oriel, as he recalled represented the Tsi family. The Tsi, one of the imperial families… Mirumoto’s life was just about to become even more interesting.

When his meditation was complete, Al-Salin opened his eyes to see three letters before him. One that carried the smell of sweat and soot, the second of horses and the third of a woman’s sweat. Each in turn was some offer of love and marriage, except the last which seemed to be an offer of love and hatred. The first letter was signed Tsi Kimicho. Mirumoto’s great love. Of course if asked the Utaka was also his great love. As was the Matsu, in a fashion.

The Emperor speaks

Though each of the samurai had personal affairs to tend to, nothing is as pressing as the presence of the Emperor. Hours before he arrived the crowds began to gather. In the Sapphire Magistrate camp, Nadu stood, happily unnoticed by most of the onlookers. By his side was Bayushi Hakuseki, nuzzling up against him just to drive Yoritomo Miyazaki (who stood on the other side of him) crazy. Sodano Shoki can to stand and Nadu’s side, he was after all second in command. There was no space however, as Bayushi occupied one side and Yoritomo the next. They had a brief discussion and the gullible bushi eventually agreed that Yoritomo could stand next to him because they were of the same clan. He would stand behind the Mantis.

In the Crane camp, Doji Domotai had a great procession around her, including Shimzu at her side. She looked proud standing beside the crane, herhaps she would have been happier though, side the lion.

Al-Salin stood in his dented Topaz armor with the Ise Zume monks. Watching as the stretched and performed their katas. He had shaven his head after his hair getting burnt in the fire. His resemblance to the monks continues to grow. A very stern looking woman found him from the crowd. “You! Come with me.” She commanded. Expecting that he would have to stand beside the other Sapphire Magistrates he followed the lady but knew something was wrong when four seppun guardsmen fell in place immediately behind him. Al-Salin was marched into a grand shiro with many passages before and army of beauticians descended upon him. They polished his armor, died his kimono, shaved his eyebrow, and put a wig over his bald head faster than a Kakita can draw his blade. Unsure what was happening but thinking it better to remain silent for a time, the young Dragon watched in wonder as they worked.

Outside, the Sapphire Champion, yep our boss, was also approached “You didn’t think you could get out of this that easily did you?” He seemed to hide a guilty smile but come with her just the same. Which please Miyazaki quite a bit, leaving him alone with Hakuseki… and Shiko.

The procession began with imperial guardsmen coming forth, followed by the Emerald Champion, the Jade Champion, the Sapphire Champion (Our boss Nadu, who was scarcely recognized) and last, being shoved forward the Topaz Champion (Yep, my boy Al-Salin). The Emperor and his wife then appeared and the crowd shouted Bonsai so loud, the ogres of the shadowlands heard them. He spoke briefly, but sternly. The Rain of Blood hurt a great many people, and is proof that Iuchiban has returned again. But he has been defeated twice before and will be defeated a third time. All able bodied samurai should report to their lords as new orders will be given out to help restore the empire to peace.

The crowd went from riotously happy to concerned and dour. The emperor’s words would separate many samurai from their families and their clans, but such is the life of a servant.

As the congregation began to disperse Al-Salin spotted the Tsi oriel banner and make his way to converse with Tsi Kimicho. He was confronted instead with a giant of a figure. A man that would dwarf most crab. His huge muscles bulged under his tight Kimono as he confronted the Dragon. “You have brought my daughter back to me. You appear to be an honorable man, but many have appeared honorable before! You have seen what should only be shared between husband and wife! I should insist that you become engaged this moment!” Clearly Kimicho’s father was the protective sort and he was getting along with Al-Salin like Nezumi and the day after today. “Look over there. Tell me what you see!” He pointed to two men gambling, but Mirumoto’s honor prevailed and he saw nothing but the beautiful landscapes of Toshi Ranbo. With a sour grunt of approval, the towering blacksmith consented for his daughter to speak briefly with Al-Salin. With him overseeing the conversation! The two young samurai spoke, exchanging the first few gestures of courting, and then Kimicho tried to present her cha with a gift. An obe that she had made incorporating the Topaz Champion mon with that of the dragon. A personal gift made especially for Al-Salin. He politely refused twice but she prevailed and he eventually accepted her creation. All of which, much to her father’s chagrin. As they departed, Mirumoto suddenly made a connection. He bowed very deeply “Farewell Daimyo-sama.”

Our new mission

Soon after all of the Sapphire Magistrates received a summons from Nadu to meet him near the docks. Only when they arrived nobody but a few downtrodden heimin were present. We looked around for a moment and some of the Magistrates realized this was a test. Ikoma politely excused himself and then began dashing down back streets to the docks. Kakita started a flat run, leaping over all in his way. Yoritomo followed on his heals for a time calling upon the water kami to aid him and hinder his contestants and then quite a ways behind the three Samurai who didn’t catch on quicker hurried behind to meet Nadu on the docks.

Kakita, who’s lightning reflexes bested all of his fellow magistrates charged down so quickly that he snatched the coin Nadu was flipping right out of the air. Impressed, Nadu gave the magistrates new orders. While the Emerald Magistrates were busy at the wall, the Emperor had called upon the Sapphire to stay off the advancing unicorn troops form the City of the Rich Frog. The unicorn believe that they are except from the Emperor’s laws because they were created when the clan was still in the Burning Sands and have used that as a justification to wage war on the Lion. As Sapphire Magistrates we have power over all water ways and our order was to sail river vessels up the river and prevent any armies from crossing.

Nadu equipped us with brand new vessels, that still smelled of fresh cut wood and resin. We were to equip our boats, crew them, name them and then sail up river. For the most part Yoritomo was given license to equip our boats as he saw fit arming them with ballista, pitch, extra births and other options. Kakita’s Nezumi #2 had returned and was incredibly eager to fire that ballista a passing animals while sailing up the river.

We had little time before our boats had to launch and Mirumoto wasn’t going to spend any of it on the docks. During the days he practiced a kata with the bushi at his dojo. He spent his free time, however with the Tsi and Matsu women he loved. Matus had gifted him with a Lion Battle standard. An equal part honor and insult. She also told him that should he father a child with her, she would tell all of Rokugan of his dishonorable acts. This of course started in a fight and end with sex. Hateful, passionate sex.

Tsi was visited in her forge. Al-Salin wished to bid her fairwell and tell her that his new boat would be named after the their first meeting “Kimicho’s Fire”. Her Father, holding a red hot and giant hammer in his hand, observed this meeting as well. Kimicho had another gift for Al-Salin. This time sandals so that each step he took was one they could take together. Again he politely refused but she was insistent. As he departed the Tsi Daiymo told him “If you hurt my daughter, in ANY way, you will feel the wrath of my hammer. And unlike steel, you will break!” Nice guy that one.

Armed with Kimicho’s sandals, Takekeo’s battle standard, and a netsukai with Utaka Naya’s hair braided into it, Al-Salin was prepared to meet his fate up the river.

What rocked

The individual “apprentice” scenes were very cool. We each were essentially offered a very powerful position provided we would do the bidding of another. I believe all of the magistrates took up the offer except Tso-Lao. And that was interesting as well.

I look forward to watching Isawa Yoshi trying figure out the nature if is nemuranai. I can just image him summoning all kinds of kami to figure it out.

Personally I love the tragic love story that it’s unfolding with Mirumoto. He honestly believes that he will honor each of his loves. He will practice his love with each of them and be a better lover and companion to each of them because of it. Mirumoto has gone nuts. Either that or he’s just 16 and really horny.

I’m glad that a few oddball skills like Etiquette (bureaucracy) came up. I probably should have pressed to use Lore: Law when speaking with Akodo to figure out if we really had done something wrong. Hmm… I’ll think on that.

Miyazaki’s player has missed a number of games. I forgot how much levity he brings to the game. I had a really good time watching him interact with the Bat Daimyo.

What could have been improved

The personal scenes (because there are six of them) took some time and we had some idling and people jockeying for screen time.

As I mentioned previously, I need a lot of experience to do some of the things I want to do with Al-Salin. I know his experience point hunger is a good thing, but my only concern is the game running long enough that we can get there. That and being a total impatient bung.