Finding Bolin and Huan

The group followed the leads to Bolin and Huan;
discovered that they were the worst guards ever. All signs indicated that they ran off. However, the group also finds a new clue – one of the seals that allows spellcasting in the palace.

The group visits the seal keeper [Yasuki Yondu], returned the seals they’d found during the fight to save the Emperor, and surreptitiously test the seal keeper. Master Fumiki caught Yondu in a lie. Yondu claimed that no other seals were missing when in fact, there was at the very least the one that was hidden in the garden lantern the group found that morning. Additionally, Brand discovers that Yondu was prone to drink and exposes him – including a fancy bottle of sake gifted from Head Shrinekeeper Amaratsu Koda. Further inspection saw that the sake was laced with opiates. The group recalled that the sacrificed acolytes had also consumed opiate laced wine.

Quickly, the group searches for Koda, and follows leads back to Koda’s cottage. There, the group found poppy plants.

The group follows other leads and a hunch to the Shrine of the Fortune of Secrets. At first, everything appeared to be fine. But Honsu’s sword glowed bright. The entire structure was tainted; a strong illusion hid the true nature of the shrine. Master Fu dispelled the blood magic illusion and revealed a trap door.

They pass through to a worked cavern where several abominations rose from the earth and an evil taint spirit worked to stop their pursuit. The abominations were undead raised with the help of enchanted porcelain masks. Kimiko expertly dispatches the spirit while the fighters put the undead back into the ground.

In a moment of respite, the group faces a door at the end of the cavern. The door is closed but apparently unlocked. In a niche next to the door is a 1 foot tall obsidian statue of a man.

Adventure 1: Claws of Blood and Steel; Session 7
Investigation & Dark Plots

(Note: This session follows Amelia, Aramith, Brand, Frostwing, and Kimiko. Fu, Honsu, and Watari are currently at their respective Clan compounds/inns).

Setsuban Festival, Day 3.

Amelia rises early to practice her swordplay. The Miya household is already awake, as an unknown visitor arrives.

The heroes are informed to please join Miya Shin’ichi in the main guest chamber. Upon arriving, the heroes are greeted by Shin’ichi, Mai, and an unknown woman wearing the garb of an Emerald Magistrate , sipping tea. Miya introduces Kitsuki Taiko, here on the order of the Imperial Court to investigate the murder of the High Priest of the Celestial Temple.

Kitsuki scrutinizes the heroes intensely before explaining her reasons for being here: As she does not often spend time in the capitol, she will require assistance with her investigation – given their recent actions, the heroes are logically the only people she knows she can trust. She is therefore drafting them into her service for the time being – if necessary, she has a signed Imperial Writ requiring them to assist her. The heroes explain that will not be necessary. Pleased, Kitsuki iterates that there are several questions to be answered:

  • Why was the High Priest murdered?
  • What, if anything, was taken from the High Priest’s quarters?
  • How did the Crimson Cougars enter the temple?
  • How did the Crimson Cougars escape the city?
  • Where are the Cougars now?
  • Who is the Steel Panther?
    The issues settled, Kitsuki informs the heroes that she has ordered the HIgh Priest’s chambers to remain undisturbed so they may be properly examined. She will be the lead investigator, but she will value any input the heroes have. Should they need to question someone of the Samurai caste, they are to inform her and she will see it done.

Returning to the Temple District, the heroes find it is currently undergoing purification and cleanup following the attack. While walking to the Temple of Shinsei, they overhear a number of Celestial Priests and Monks from the Brotherhood of Shinsei quietly, though heatedly, debating the appointment of Doji Abun to the rank of High Priest following the murder of High Priest Ekiken. Some feel a different priest would’ve been a better candidate.

Arriving at the Pagoda of the Temple of Shinsei, the group is admitted. As they arrive at the High Priest’s chambers, they discover temple guards moving in and out while a bellowing voice orders them about. Grinding her teeth, Taiko approaches – the individual responsible for upsetting the scene is revealed – Witch Hunter Kuni Shinoda, who immediately recognizes Taiko – the two have previously butted heads. When Taiko demands an explanation, Shinoda replies that Yasuki Ikke recommended he be sent for, given that Bloodspeakers and Maho were involved in the attack. Shinoda then takes stock of the heroes – initially rude, he responds to Brand’s equally brunt assessment by laughing – he states he admires the halfling’s view, but that he shouldn’t press his luck. He has heard of their exploits and their previous altercation with another Kuni Witch Hunter. Given that Shinoda didn’t like the man, the heroes have a positive mark in his ledger.

With Shinoda waiting outside, the heroes and Taiko investigate the High Priest’s chambers. They determine where he was killed by a single strike from a katana while facing his attacker. Brand finds shards of glass near a slightly open window. Presenting them to Taiko, she determines it held a Form of the Air Kami (gaseous form) potion – the attacker drank it to escape out the window without being detected.

Kimiko discovers a small bowl filled with bloody water in which rests a chrysanthemum blossom. The blood and blossom were intentionally left behind in the bowl – a message and/or a threat, that much is clear – but to what ends is unknown.

Aramith discovers that piece of a shrine to Shinsei is missing, while a simple tea set chest is emanating strong magic. Determining it is actually an illusion and that the missing piece of the shrine was likely a key, Aramith looks past the spell; the box reveals itself to be a black chest lined with jade, projecting very strong warding magic. Pointing it out to Taiko and Shinoda, the latter senses for Taint…. and finds a powerful lingering aura inside the box. Carefully opening the box reveals it is empty inside. Shinoda identifies an engraved symbol as belonging to the Yogo family of the Snake clan – powerful shugenja who specialize in ward magic and countering the Shadowlands Taint.

Shinoda has a very bad feeling that he knows what was in the box. Reluctantly, the Kuni Witch Hunter reveals it must have been one of the Black Scrolls of Fu Leng, which were entrusted to the Yogo for protection, which they entrusted in turn to the High Priest. At this point, the heroes realize the attack on the Temple was two-fold, with each meant as a cover for the other. It is now the heroes’ turn to come clean – they reveal to Taiko and Shinoda that they too previously came across a Black Scroll – secreted at the time in a special tomb hidden at a pilgrimage site. The heroes had been sent there after being urged by Bayushi Chiasa to speak to the Heavenly Temple regarding missing pilgrims. At the time they found Bloodspeakers had entered and raided the tomb, escaping with a Black Scroll. The heroes are now introduced to the story of Iuchiban, founder of the Bloodspeakers, whereupon Brand suddenly realizes with a chill that Fu Leng may not be the only threat they’re facing…

It is determined that Shinoda should go speak to the Snake clan in an attempt to determine the fate/state of the other scrolls., since it seems clear that the Snake clan seems to know more than it is letting on. Jerrin and Mai will go to the Grand Repository to look up more information about Iuchiban – the heroes need to know more about him. The rest will visit the captured Crimson Monk in his cell to pump him for more information.

Arriving at the Seppun Guard Barracks in the Imperial District, the heroes wait to see the monk. A disturbance sounds, and Taiko demands to know what has happened. The Guard Captain ashamedly admits that the prisoner has just been found dead in his cell. Arriving at the cell discovers the monk has been decapitated, likely with a no-daichi. Brand checks the cell and determines someone else was here not long ago – very faint footprints in the hay determine that someone_ stepped out of the wall_ before killing the prisoner, then left in the same manner. He attempts to speak with Taiko about it, but she asks him to wait. She absolves the Guard Captain of the blame for the killing – he would’ve been hard pressed to prevent it, but she orders him to secure the area. In a private room, Taiko discloses that she already determined it must have been a Oni-Faced Ghost assassin – quite possibly the same man who killed Cyrus Zelorn – who did the deed. While many dismiss them as fancy, she has seen enough evidence firsthand to believe in their existence.

Information secured from the prisoner prior to his death reveal:

  • The Steel Panther appeared one day to demand the allegiance of the monk and his brothers. Nearly all the Cougars are former separate bandit bands united under his leadership.
  • The Steel Panther is a Ronin – the monk did not know who he was or where he came from. Most assumed he was a former Yorimoto family member from the Mantis mercenaries. He spoke often, however, of reclaiming something that had been taken from him.
  • The Cougars’ lair is located in the Leaping Hare Hills, in a supposedly haunted gorge. This area is located on the Miya Daimyo’s lands…

A messenger arrives, sent by Shinoda, requesting that the team return to the temple.

On the way back to the Temple District, Kimiko and Brand decide to look for Lo’tchin’chek, to see if perhaps the Nezumi can assist in determining how the Bloodspeakers escaped, and if any more remain in the city. They track down the nezumi down while Brand presents some fresh hot buns to distribute After some discussion, Lo’tchin’chek agrees to search around and report back with anything he finds.

Arriving at the Temple District the team heads this time back to the Heavenly Temple, site of their earlier battles. Along the way they are stopped by Koda, the injured shrine attendant they rescued during the attack. Koda wishes to thank the heroes and offer his help if needed, as he has been the head Shrine Attendant for decades. The party asks him to determine who, if anyone, is still missing in the aftermath of the attack. Koda agrees to ask around, and informs the heroes to call on him if they ever need his help.

On the second floor of the temple, Shinoda is waiting inside a small storeroom. It is here that he has found the ritual that summoned the Oni the party fought. He explains that the bodies of two groundskeepers were found here – likely drugged on opium-laced wine, where they freely gave themselves to the summoning ritual. He further elaborates – the wards that protect the temple are expressively set to stop Maho and the Shadowlands. The only way to get past them would be for an individual to willingly give themselves into a blasphemous ritual that would power their seals and allow the touch of Fu Leng to reach into the Temple. The second sacrifice would have been to both summon the oni and give it a name – this would have made it a fledgling Oni Lord. Had the heroes not destroyed it, it could very well have gone on to spawn itself throughout the Empire.

Both of these rituals would have required a powerful maho-tsukai. Shinoda believes the caster must still be alive – they tend to use newer recruits in Bloodspeaker cells for such purposes. If so, it is possible they are still here, in the Temple District.

The team tracks Koda back down to ask if he knew the two dead men (Frostwing also asks Shinoda to check Koda for Taint, seeing his bandaged hand/arm. Shinoda quietly reports that Koda is clean). The old groundskeeper indicates he knew the men, but barely – they had each been here less than a year – and takes the heroes to the small house in which they lived.

The team searches the small dwelling and finds a bloody dagger wrapped in a blood-spotted shirt. Brand finds a loose board, but Aramith detects magic UPon it. As they prepare to investigate, Brand hears a voice whispering to him, offering to teach him power if he’s willing to take it… Surprised, the halfling glances around and locates A shifting patch of air. Drawing his jade shortsword he leaps to attack – the air manifests vicious glowing eyes and smoky teeth. Aramith attempts to dispel the creature, only to instead dispel the magic on the floorboard.
A brief struggle ensues before the thing flies through the wall to the outside – but Aramith is able to target the strange creature with a deeper slumber spell. As the thing drifts to the ground, Shinoda yells for them to get away from the creature – he charges it and smashes it with his Jade-topped staff, blasting the thing into nothingness in green-colored light. He then explains the creature was a kansen, essentially a form of living essence of Shadowsland Taint that frequently like to tempt mortals to maho and are often summoned by beginning bloodspeakers in order to learn how to cast maho spells.

Back inside Brand lifts the floorboard, revealing it had been trapped with a maho fire spell. Under it, they find an exsanguinated rat, a bowl with dried blood, and two pieces of parchment. One notes two names, while the other cryptically mentions a meeting place…

Adventure 1: Claws of Blood and Steel; Session 5
Setsuban Festival: Day 2

With the court session adjourned, Master Fu finds Noboru. The eunuch leads him, Brand, ad Frostwing to a private room and questions Fu about the matter he wishes to speak of. After Fu correctly several questions, a noticeably pale Noboru leaves to arrange a private audience with the Imperial family.

As the rest of the heroes make their way from the court, they are stopped by Prince Yoshiaki – who is unaware that behind him is lurking his younger sister. The heroes are introduced to Iweko Junai, a precocious princess, who eagerly wishes to know more about the fight with the oni, despite her brother’s protests. Prince Yoshiaki eventually requests the honor of the party’s friendship, as thanks for saving his life – he vows to help the heroes as best as able. Meanwhile, Kimiko and Amelia promise to tell the Princess what she knows, in exchange for assistance in learning her courtly manners to which she reluctantly agrees. Both Prince and Princess are called away by a servant.

Fu’s audience is arranged, whereupon he speaks to the Emperor and reveals that his heir, the now-dead Prince Yoshi, is a tormented spirit – his tattered soul is currently being held in limbo by some terrible maho ritual, after the Prince was killed by some manner of treachery. A shaken Emperor issues a decree that Fu is to locate and destroy the ritual, thereby allowing his son’s soul to venture on to Yomi and its eternal rest. Both the Empress and Prince Yoshiaki are horribly stunned by the news.
Stepping out into the streets, the various heroes go shopping – though there is still plenty of evidence in the city of the previous night’s attack – smoldering warehouses by the docks, broken windows, bloodstains, and an increased guard.

At Masamune’s Blades and Armors, where Aramith discovers the smith’s interest in working with rare and precious metals and alloys. He also catches a glimpse of Kakita Masamune’s apprentice, Buk, a cloak-shrouded teen whom the smith explains suffered disfiguring injuries from a kicking horse as a youngster.

Watari tracks down Rik’tak, a Nezumi junk peddler, to determine if he has anything currently of value for sale. At the moment, he has nothing to interest the Boar samurai.

Kimiko, Amelia, and Honsu venture into Yasuki Fine Imports to look for a gift for Lady Doji Ayano and are introduced to Yasuki Tono, the shop’s proprietor. While Amelia considers trading her Naga statuette for a pair of rare Phoenix-clan crafted “Fire Bowls,” Kimiko finds a crystalline and metal sculpture in the back of the shop with similar script as the one they found scratched into the bottom of the golden vessel. Tono explains the sculpture was made by the Tengu, an avian race that predated the Kami’s arrival; however, the Tengu are extremely reclusive, and have not been seen by humans in centuries.

As the party steps out of the shop they are approached by a representative from the Lion clan, sent by Ikoma Berii and bearing a fine new artfully-crafted wakizashi. The heroes are invited to attend the Lion clan celebration as guests at the end of the Setsuban Festival. The heroes accept the gift and state they will answer shortly.

Following this, many of the group join up and head over to Jojo’s Emporium and Oddities, wherein the crazed little shopkeeper (and his shop) are up to their old antics. Brand trades in his cloak for an upgrade, Aramith looks to purchase some wands, and Kimiko decides to inquire about the golden bowl from earlier – Jojo knows what she is the moment he lays eyes on her. After some extraction of strange payment, Jojo reveals that the item now gifted to them is a Golden Vessel of Rebirth – an incredibly rare artifact. However, he is “curious” as to how the artifact made its way to the heroes…

Finished up with the shop for now, the heroes head back to Miya Shin’ichi’s home, where they find yet another gift and invitation waiting for them… this time from the Phoenix clan, in which the heroes – specifically, Aramith – are invited to join them for the end of the Setsuban Festival celebrations. Included as a gift is a scroll of several spells.

As the team grapples with how to best respond, the evening’s revels finally begin anew. Initially tentative, the population comes out to cautiously celebrate. Watari competes at sumo wrestling against Huk, last year’s previous winner, and just barely manages to best him. Aramith successfully engages in a test of concentration at the Elemental Temple, as does Master Fu, though Fu is not able to maintain his. He does, however, prove his mastery over the elements to the assembled. Elsewhere several heroes attempt to join in the horse-racing, but the various Miya heralds continue to dominate the event. Amelia manages to startle and please the crowd with an elegant display of horseback archery.

With the evening progressing, the Emperor returns to the Temple to attempt his vigil for a second time – this time, under even heavier guard.

Adventure 1: Claws of Blood and Steel; Session 2
A race to the Heavenly Temple to save the Emperor...

As bells toll in alarm, the heroes race through the city towards the Temple District in an effort to reach the Emperor in time. Along the way they glimpse Seppun guardsmen engaging small knots of bandits while bystanders around them flee the chaos and bloodshed. Reaching the Temple District, they pass through its massive walls and under the first Great Torii, only to find more chaos.

The Court of Heaven is filled with wounded, dead, and dying Seppun Guardsmen along with several dead bandits and plenty of panicked bystanders. Beyond them, fires are burning in the area designated the Ten Thousand Shrines, as several shrines have been set alight.
A Seppun Guardsman captain attempts to reestablish order; Honsu approaches and informs him that they will help slay the bandits. The captain mentions several notable attackers – a samurai clad in steel armor with a hunting cat motif who led the attack; an earth shugenja who ripped up the very flagstones and hurled them at his men, killed many; even a priest who pretended to assist before unleashing Maho spells upon surviving guardsmen. Another guardsman mentions that they have heard something snarling and growling, stalking the area – but the only sign they have seen are the bodies of guardsmen torn apart. The captain has sent runners to the Heavenly Temple in an effort to reach the Shogun and his detachment of Emerald Legionnaires, but none have returned. The Ten Thousand Shrines are possibly crawling with bandits, and he is still trying to get the area under control. He also informs the heroes that not only is the Emperor within the Temple, but the heir is with him as well!
As the heroes prepare to set out, young woman comes running up to the captain, pleading for help as her family is trapped within a shrine by bandits. Kimiko, Brand, and Jerrin wish to help them, but the others point out that any delay in reaching the Emperor could have dire consequences for the Empire. Brand convinces Kimiko that they need her help, and she reluctantly agrees. The PCs opt to take the main path directly to the Heavenly Temple. Aramith recalls that the Temple is protected by magical wards that will prevent any spellcaster lacking a Temple Seal from casting any spells within. The party resolves to deal with the problem once they encounter it.

Halfway through the Ten Thousand Shrines, several bandits have set up a watchpost at a bridge that crosses a wide stream, with an adjacent shrine. Brand, scouting just ahead, notices two hidden monks as well as two ronin, four archers, and a priest. The monks spot him at the same time and the alarm is raised – the heroes charge to engage them.

Battle Highlights:

  • Kimiko, thanks to an Aramith-provided Haste spell, races up and fires an arrow at one of the flat-footed ronin, badly injuring him. His counter-charges leaves her injured and demoralized by the attack. One of the monks leaps down from the roof of the shrine and catches her from behind with a punishing kick that knocks her prone. Rolling to her feet she barely escapes, suffering further injuries in the process.
  • Hida confronts one of the ronin – the warrior delivers a single respectable blow from his katana before Hida replies, pounding him into paste with four blows from his tetsubo.
  • Honsu confronts the ronin who attacked Kimiko in a duel before slaying the man, deflecting an oncoming sword strike with his Crane-style martial arts before cleaving him with his crystal katana.
  • Amelia confronts the monk who attacked Kimiko. The monk attacks, then leaps 10 ft. up onto the adjacent shrine’s roof… Aemilia follows with a jump of her own and continues the duel. The monk unleashes a barrage of blows that catch Aemilia several times before she twists aside and thrusts her sword into the man, killing him. His body rolls off the sloped roof.
  • Brand confronts the priest as he unleashes several Maho spells. He attempt to catch the halfling with a Slay Living spell, which Brand only narrowly avoids.
  • Frostwing unleashes a winter Sleet Storm on the bridge, injuring the priest and causing the surviving bandit archers to flee.

Between the heroes, the attackers and priest are dispatched. Brand loots a Temple Seal off the cleric for Aramith, along with a few other items. Master Fu heals the group’s injuries before moving on.

Not far down the path, the group finds the two escaped bandits shot full of arrows, lying before a torii that stands over the path. Aramith recalls his earlier readings in the Imperial library and surmises that a Zuishin, a type of guardian kami, is likely responsible – zuishin are good-aligned kami that respond well to offers of natural items. While Brand rides off to bring back water from the stream for an offering, Kimiko turns her attention to a nearby tree and begins to respectfully address it, beseeching an offering of one of its branches. A few moments later, a tiny Fukujin kami emerges, bows, and presents Kimiko with some of its leaves.
Taking the offering, Kimiko respectfully approaches the torii, addressing the zuishin spirit that guards the path. The kami appears and informs the party that it did indeed slay the bandits that attempted to pass through its gate, for they were evil men. Accepting the Kitsune’s offering, the zuishin offers the party safe passage through the Ten Thousand Shrines. Brand returns moments later with his offering of the water. The zuishin is puzzled by the halfling (having never encountered one), but accepts the offering and agrees to venture ahead of the PCs to ensure their path to the Temple is clear before it once again fades from sight.

With the zuishin’s assistance the heroes arrive safely at the Path of the Emperors, which leads to the Heavenly Temple. A second massive torii stands above the Path while ahead twin rows of statues stand on long, tall pedestals that flank the path, each one depicting one of Azeshouri’s previous emperors. The area is littered with several bodies of priests, temple defenders, and Seppun guardsmen. Waiting ahead are several bandit archers hiding behind stone lanterns, and in the middle of the path is a female earth shugenja. She offers the PCs the chance to turn back, and they naturally refuse. Several heroes spot two monks waiting in ambush, but Watari spots something more alarming – two large Foo Lions stalk the party – each Lion has some sort of paper strip affixed to its forehead, with kanji written in blood. Combat ensues.

Battle Highlights:

  • Aramith goes Invisible, and distracts one monk (who is quickly cut down by Watari) before using Dominate Person on the other monk. He commands the man to go after his former companions, which he does without hesitation.
  • Amelia charges at the shugenja, who throws up an earthen wall to shield herself before summoning a large Earth Elemental. Amelia acrobatics onto the monster before jumping off its back in a rolling leap and coming at the shugenja – just before she reaches the woman, one of the Foo Lions makes a pouncing charge and grabs hold of the swashbuckler. Before she can extricate herself, Pryn is mortally wounded by the shugenja, who conjures a bo of earth and manages to nearly crush Amelia’s head.
  • Frostwing summons a Huge Earth Elemental to engage the shugenja’s large one.
  • Honsu, realizing the Foo Lions are being controlled against their will by Maho sorcery, uses his Crystal katana (and some help from Watari) to destroy the magical paper slip. Freed of the spell’s influence, the Foo Lion rushes to engage its companion, grappling him and holding him down.
  • Master Fu uses his spirit companions to save Aemilia from death’s door with an infusion of curative water magics.
  • Kimiko teleports behind the shugenja and hits her with a ranged sneak attack – the shugenja’s magical metal hat is all that saves her.
  • Aramith dimension doors himself, Honsu, and Watari adjacent to the shuegenja. She flees via an earth glide following a grazing blow from Honsu’s katana, only to be hit with a force punch by one of Master Fu’s spirits and sent flying. Watari turns his attention to the enemy earth elemental and pulverizes it.
  • Brand and Sorien, after narrowly avoiding a massive flying ball of solid stone, nearly finish off the badly injured shugenja before she is forced to flee, leaving behind her jingasa and a second Temple Seal.

In the end, the last remaining bandit surrenders, while Aramith maintains control of the dominated monk. The second Foo Lion is saved from the maho influence. With the shugenja gone, the party looks towards the Heavenly Temple – its two main doors have been splintered to pieces by boulders, leaving the way into the structure open.

Adventure 1: Claws of Blood and Steel; Session 1
First Campaign Session for the Reboot of Azeshouri!

The campaign re-opens with a tour of the Empire of Azeshouri, before coming to rest on a small Yasuki caravan headed towards Kyuden Gotai. The caravan comes under attack by bandits wearing red sashes tied to their upper forearms, led by a samurai in full steel armor with a hunting cat motif.

In Kyuden Gotai, Master Fu enters the city as it prepares for the Setsuban Festival. He is followed shortly after by Kitsune Kimiko. Elsewhere, in the Miya Shinichi household in the Imperial District, the heroes of Valleyhaven awaken. Speaking with Master Shinichi, he informs the heroes’ that their recent return from the Heavenly Celestial Palace has sparked quite a bit of interest in the Imperial Court, and no doubt they will be called before it before long. However the court is not in session today, on account of the Emperor preparing for the Festival. There had been discussion of not carrying through the Festivities with the recent death of the Imperial heir, but the court has decided that the Festival is needed to lift everyone’s spirits. Shinichi greatly encourages the heroes to explore the city and enjoy the festival, but not to trust anyone – there are plenty in the court with their own agendas.

At the Seppun Training Grounds, Hida Watari and Kakita Honsu sign up for the Iaijutsu duels. Watari’s companions insult Honsu, who returns the insults in kind to great effect. Honsu retires to Blooming Cherry Park to meditate in preparation, when he is approached by a Bayushi courtier from the Snake Clan with an offer to throw the match against a Dragon samurai, or else soundly defeat a Lion samurai, in exchange for the Snake’s assistance with the current Boar-Crane conflict. When he refuses, the Snake offers instead to locate a Boar samurai the Crane are seeking. Honsu again refuses, and the Snake takes his leave.

Watari and his companions go drinking in an upscale tavern, when Watari receives a secret message to meet in a back dining room. He goes, only to find a female Snake courtier waiting for him. The Snake offers Watari a deal – their clan is willing to back the Boar in the current conflict in court, in exchange for the Boar’s support in claiming no confidence in the Shogun. Watari considers the Snake’s request before giving his answer and departing.

At the Temple of the Elemental Masters, Frostwing and Aramith go to enter the Shugenja competitions for the Festival. Though their requests are highly unusual, they are granted leave to enter and compete.

In the marketplace, Brand, Amelia, and Jerrin are approached while they shop by the handmaiden of the Crane delegation, Lady Doji Ayano, with both a gift and an invitation for the heroes to attend the Festivities at the Crane compound on the last eve of the Setsuban Festival. Amelia stalls for time and later, back at the Miya household, the heroes investigate the gift (an exquisite tea set and chopsticks). Discussing the matter, the team agrees to attend and sends word to the Crane.

In the city proper, Kimiko comes across several Seppun Guardsmen bushi tormenting a nezumi. Assuming her fox form, she intervenes, biting the guard about to execute the unfortunate creature before running off and reassuming human form. The guardsmen follow, but cannot locate her. In the confusion, the nezumi escapes, taking the sword of the guardman who meant to slay it.

That evening, the Setsuban Festival commences, much to the merriment of the city.

Over by the Temple of the Elemental Masters, Kimiko and Master Fu are on-hand to watch the competitions. Frostwing and Aramith are unable to fully demonstrate their mastery over the Five Elements, though Aramith is later successful in the portion requiring him to speak with the Kami spirits – during the process, the tiny kami recognize him as “one of the chosen.”

Brand and Sorien compete in horseback archery, and place 8th, while Watari comes in 3rd. Honsu confronts a Dragon swordsman in the duel, but refuses to throw the fight. After a few minutes, his opponent concedes defeat. Afterwards, Watari retires back to the taverns to celebrate his win, while Brand and Sorien encounter Kimiko, who reveals her true form before leading them on a merry chase through the city.

Jerrin and Amelia make their way through the city streets to watch the assorted performances, before Amelia opts to participate in the Dance of the Dragon ceremony (hot coal walking), which she expertly does to the delight of the crowds and the respect of the tattooed monks overseeing the ceremony.

Towards late evening, a firework announces that the Emperor has entered the Temple of the Heavens to make his offerings and prayers. As the various heroes are about to come together in the city a tolling bell, an orange glow, and smoke from the west reveals that the grain and rice storehouses by the docks are burning. Suddenly, dragon dancers throw off their dragon, revealing armored men with spears and red sashes tied to their forearms. Simultaneously, two taiko drummers throw down their sticks and viciously attack using Tiger Style martial arts, and streaking themselves with the blood of their victims. As the crowds of people flee screaming in terror as the men attack, the heroes rush to confront them. A pitched struggle in the streets begins as the heroes confront the attackers among the swirling crowds in an effort to halt the bloodshed. During the fight, three additional ordinary city men leap into the fray, attacking viciously. Upon their deaths, there is evidence they were possibly Tainted.

Battle Highlights:

  • Brand and Sorien work together expertly as a team, moving and flanking. Brand tumbles through one attacker’s legs to stab him in the back, bringing the man to his knees – and his throat right into Sorien’s jaws.
  • Kimiko uses her bow to fire multiple arrows into her attackers, before shifting to fox form to evade them as they charge.
  • Frostwing summons a huge Earth Elemental in the midst of the foes to pound them. It sends one crazed opponent flying into a nearby brazier head-first. Before the screaming man can fully extricate himself, a blow from Watari’s tetsubo utterly crushes the man and the brazier, crushing them flat.
  • An invisible Aramith uses a pyrotechnics spell to cause another brazier to flood the street with thick smoke, obscuring the attackers’ vision.
  • Amelia is charged by two spear-wielding bandits – she expertly parries both weapons before counter-slashing across their chests. Two more thrusts dispatch them.
  • Honso engages several attackers, using his crystal katana to bring his foes down.
  • Master Fu calls upon his spirits to heal a dying Lion samurai before turning them loose on the bandits, to devastating effect.

With the fight concluded and attackers dispatched, the injured Lion samurai makes his way over to the heroes to thank them. Introducing himself as Akodo Itsuma, he states he is in their debt for saving his life. As Master Fu channels a healing burst, Seppun Guardsmen arrive on the scene. A runner states there are more bandits attacking the warehouses, as well as other streets. As the Seppun prepare to deal with the problem, another bell begins to toll – this time, coming from the Temple District. Honsu immediately recognizes the threat – the attackers are after the Emperor!


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