L5R : Jade Winds

Unexpected Guests

A dead man’s papers
Shed light on the movements of
Traitorous Dragons

The party examines the documents taken from the samurai at the border post. There are two of note. One is a reward poster with the names and pictures of several of the party (to be added later). The other is a letter, presumably to the leader of the post.

To: Ohira Yoshitake
From: Mitanaka Kenmei

Send 13 samurai and yourself to post #16. Also send whatever ashigaru you can spare, and most of your arrows. Establish night markers and provide guides for the allies of the daimyo as they move east to the Low Plains via Mirumoto Pass.

See Daku for orders once you find him.

Strength and Honor

Taking this latest intelligence into account, Yonaka composes a message for Mirumoto Zukuri, and asks Tamori Yuriko to send it for him via the air kami.

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Strange noises herald
The rituals of giants,
Burning desire.

As the day draws to a close, the dwarves continue doing a brisk business, selling goods for barter, money and especially the crystals mined in the area. Naoki finally heads for the baths.

Salt flat

Around twilight, a low groaning is not so much heard as felt, coming from the direction of the valley. It is followed by a long lingering BOOOOOMMMMM. No one in the village takes much notice. As the sounds continue, Naoki emerges somewhat anxiously from the bathhouse, her hair still wet. Yonaka speaks to an older couple who are standing near the promontory, looking down at the salt flats.

The man points out two large islands in the lake. There are flickering lights around their bases. “Wait until it gets dark,” replies the man. “Then you’ll see a real show.” He explains that the islands are actually creatures, and that this is their mating season. The lights are from small crustaceans that looks like snails, which he thinks may be the creatures’ immature forms. These snails shoot out jets of fire as a defensive mechanism. Yonaka remarks that someone should send a report on these creatures to the Emperor, as they might be of interest to the court scholars. The man looks him in the eye and says “Curiosity is not a valuable commodity in the service of the Emperor.” With that, the two walk away.

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Boy born in exile
Resigned to his fate, yet still
Yearns to prove his worth

Preserved

The bats are flying as Shuichi arrives. When asked about the creatures in the salt, he says that there are many things that live there. The ones that give off bright blue sparks he calls salt fish. He excuses himself briefly and returns with a bundle of transparent iridescent tubes, lightweight yet strong. He says they are salt-wolf legs, which can sometimes be found at the side of the lake. Upon closer inspection, the tubes do indeed look like like appendages, though strange ones — one has a fan-like brush at its tip. The smaller salt-wolves evidently grow to about 3’, and are covered in overlapping plates of the transparent material. They “swim” through the sand with the help of an oil they produce. The oil is quite valuable, as is the liquid fire they make and store in special glands. The salt ships used by the Mantis and others are made of the transparent plates, and coated with their oil.

As it is now quite late, Shuichi retires to the house of the ronin Ohira. The planks across the moat are withdrawn.

Yonaka and Naoki discuss how they might get more information from the villagers here, as Yonaka is very suspicious of them. There is also some discussion about the party’s ultimate destination.

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Night and mystery
Turn simple hairsticks into
Artifacts of fear

When everyone turns in for the night, Naoki notices something dark on her sleeping roll. Unnerved, she calls Yonaka to investigate. He finds a pair of ebony hairsticks, with inlays of white geese. He assures her they are safe. Then he and Yuriko take the first watch.

During the second watch, Naoki questions Nakamuro about the hairsticks, and discovers that he had put them there. He bought them from the dwarves while Naoki was in the baths. She is relieved as she thought they might have given to her by Shuichi.

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Morning brings Mantis
Traveling on the salt sea
Trading for treasure

It is a cool morning, with a freshening breeze. Yae brings breakfast and news. Three Mantis have just arrived on one of their salt ships! This causes some consternation among the party, especially Naoki, who is currently disguised as a Mantis. She decides she must immerse herself in her Mantis persona, and retires to another room to prepare. Nakamuro and Yonaka, knowing that Haru has some information about the missing samurai Kakanomoto Hiditsugo, go to talk to him. Perhaps they will be able to leave to find him before the Mantis arrive.

Haru is at home having his breakfast. As Nakamuro and Yonaka approach, he slips something into his sleeve, greets them graciously, and asks if they slept well. When questioned about Kakanomoto, he suggests they take a walk. They pass the ronin Ohira, and Haru requests that he “make sure our guests are settled.”

They end up at the promontory where they stood the evening before. A single-sailed salt skiff can be seen in the valley below, drawn up above the salt so that it rests on dirt. Several mates are carrying a chest from it.

Haru points out over the lake, and says that across the valley to the north, past the two Great Ones (the large salt creatures making all the booming sounds) are hills. In those hills is where Kakanomoto was looking for a troll city, which he learned about from ancient Kuni manuscripts found in Pale Oak Castle. Almost casually, Haru reveals that Kakanomoto was a shugenja before the Phoenix stilled him, cutting off his access to the kami. Haru then excuses himself and returns to his house to meet his guests, while Nakamuro tells Yonaka about trolls.

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Ambitious Mantis
Confronts her sailor kinsmen —
An actor’s debut

Naoki emerges from the guest house as Yokakusho Michiko, a perfect Mantis ji-samurai, eager to please and submissive to her Lord, Mirumoto Yonaka. He directs her to pack and then find someone in the village who can pilot a salt ship, as that is the only safe way to cross the valley to the hills beyond. She initially looks for Shuichi, but he is working outside the village. She visits Yae’s home next, finding no one there, but seeing a still-burning stick of incense in front of a shrine. On the shrine is a portrait of Yae’s father, Tanuchi Shinji, leader of the White Tigers, the same man that was taken from a basket near the border post and is now presumed dead. Next she speaks with Ohira and Niou, who counsel her to speak to the Mantis — surely they would help a fellow clanswoman.

Finally, two Mantis leave Haru’s house and she goes to meet them. They are Yoritomo Gawain and Yoritomo Minori, barefoot, smelling of tar and dressed strangely, in mail shirts, carrying their swords on their backs. Although surprised to see another Mantis, they welcome her, calling her “little sister” and asking if she needs their help. She requests that they speak to her lord, the Mirumoto, as he has need of a salt ship and a pilot, and they agree.

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A direct Dragon
Is a dangerous creature —
Wisdom in silence.

When the Mantis approach, they greet Nakamuro first, respectfully acknowledging him as kin to the son of Hida Osano-Wo who originally founded the Mantis clan. They then speak to the Mirumoto, who asks if they will take them across the lake to the hills. He explains why they need to go, and when the Mantis delicately discuss whether this is strictly necessary, Yonaka replies, “It is in the best interests of this village.” The Mantis exchange a look and agree, without any mention of a fee. After checking the flag flying on the boathouse, they say that it will take the rest of the day to sail there.

Everyone returns to the guesthouse to collect their belongings, where they meet Yae, who has come to say goodbye. This is rather odd, as no one could have told her about it yet. Nakamuro becomes suspicious, remembering her “twin sister” Teruyo, whom they have never met, and wondering if ghosts are involved. After Yae leaves, Tamori Yuriko, in an urgent whisper, says that the girl is a shugenja, and cannot be abandoned here.

One experience point.

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