Vortex of Time Series: The Gaijin Hordes, It’s Already Mine, Fires of the Fox, The Eternal Sands. Michio, Smoke, Shigure, Kochige, Okari, Ninsei (child prodigy shugenja, fire specialist).
Returning to the City of Jewels with their captives and the sultan’s forces, the group was depressed to realize that they still didn’t have a method of tracing the missing Black Scrolls out into the desert. Still, the Sultan, feeling that they had been instrumental in capturing them, was awarding each of the group 100 of the newly-captured Yodatai slaves.
That at least gave Shigure an idea: he traded some of them to the priests of the Elder Gods of Senpet in exchange for the local youngsters they’d bought on the cheap during the partial evacuation, and then traded them, some more of the Yodatai, and most of his available funds to the owners of the mines in the mountains in exchange for fingers of jade – a relatively cheap commodity in the gaijin lands. The rest of his available funds went to hiring local scouts to try and figure out where the two black scrolls might have gone. Thanks to his superlative bargaining skills, he even got a good price on the jade and picked up a few fingers of crystal in the markets before hauling his loot back to the Empire to sell most of it to the Crab. They could always use jade.
Smoke went along – after some debate – disguising himself via a transformation into a polar bear in the apparent belief that this would fit into Rokugan better. It did cover for the accent at least (although it caused much other trouble) – and let Shigure get on with trading off most of the Jade to a Crab merchant representative. That got him a commitment for quite a lot of silk and tea – and the realization that, since the great clans would always control both his markets and the money supply, his influence and success as a merchant would always be limited.
Meanwhile, Kochige was off to visit his family, deal with his children, and attend his daughter’s gempukku, Michio was experimenting with the use of jade powder in forging swords (producing some quite remarkable ones, including a pair for Kochige’s daughter), and Okari was continuing his magical research and passing on warnings about the Yodatai. Unfortunately, while they’d managed to get rid of the Phoenix – since the Sultan and they had both felt that their services had paid their debt, they’d been sent home – and the Crane were interested in useful or historic artifacts, not in importing unholy menaces. they still had no way to trace a black scroll. It was too bad they didn’t actually have one: they were all linked, so it might be possible to use one to trace the others. But they could account for most of the ones they had any idea where were. There was supposed to be one hidden in the dragon lands, but…
Wait a minute…
The Demon Winter. How had a mine-dwelling Oni gotten enough power to alter the weather across half the empire? It’d been working on that curse for centuries, and it’d never been able to do anything like that before. A long-undisturbed mine, deep within the mountains, sealed for centuries, filled with the power of Jingoku with no apparent reason or source for it.
Right under their noses the entire time.
Unfortunately, Okari had an urgent message. He was summoned before the fox clan champion to discuss his impending marriage – something he hadn’t even suspected was under discussion. He was an eleventh son – even if somebody could be bothered arranging a marriage for him, why should it come to the attention of the clan champion? At least they could get down there to check on it quickly. Curious, half his friends insisted on coming along.
Sadly, they never did find out what was going on with the marriage; Kochige thought he sensed something funny about the area during the introductions, stepped out and slipped his akasic form into the magical planes to check – and found himself falling down an open passage to Jingoku. There was a black scroll in the room, and active, and – probably – influencing everyone who’d been around it too long. Unfortunately, unless he could beat off the oni dragging him down – or accepted their aid – he would be trapped in Jingoku, unable to warn anyone.
Even when all choices were bad, to not choose was to choose failure. The taint clawed its way into Ningen-Do. With that unholy strength, so would he. Erupting back into his body, abruptly attuned to the powers of darkness, Kochige spoke: IT’S IN THE HILT OF HIS SWORD. IT HAS A GRIP UPON HIM, BUT NOT YET MASTERY.
And chaos broke out. Already suspicious of Okari and his associates, and pushed towards paranoia by the scroll he guarded, Gohei invoked Hochiu’s Call of Heaven, while his bodyguards – knowing their duty even in the midst of a holocaust – attacked.Okari’s wards would not hold for long – especially not extended around the bodyguards as well – against such an inferno, but Shigure moved instantly to snatch away the sword and scroll, while Michio held back the guards and the others warded off secondary spells and attacks. Fortunately, they only needed to hold out long enough to reach the shrine across the garden and invoke their “round trip tickets”, rather than actually trying to escape the clan palace and lands directly. Gravely injured, resources exhausted, they made it out with the scroll just ahead of Gohei’s second spell – the Fraying of Ningen-Do.
They left Okari to contain the scroll they’d just acquired while they headed for the Tamori castle to get permission to clean out the mine again, recovering as best they could along the way. Fortunately it wasn’t hard to get permission to go back in – and they’d already dealt with most of the mines dangers before, even if they were getting stronger.
That left them in possession of two highly-active black scrolls. Yes, they could be used to trace the others. They would also have to be actively contained every moment, even inside their new protective jade cases if they were planning to keep them from corrupting everyone around them – and even that wouldn’t hold them for long. It also brought them a visit from the current Dragon Clan Champion – who had a set of 800-year-old prophecies describing their adventures up to the past few weeks in some detail, a set of presents the prophet in question had left for them, the information that the prophet had vanished after making the prophecies, and an appended note stating that the only way to save the empire would be for Shigure to put on the dragon-mascot costume and go dancing. All in Alex’s handwriting if that last note hadn’t been enough to give it all away already. Evidently he’d survived being swept up in the banishment spell long enough to meddle with the Orrery at least a few more times.
The scouts in the City of Jewels had drastically narrowed the possibilities for them, as well as giving them some idea of what to expect, so they went after the next two scrolls immediately – although the Crane came along since they wanted to witness the outcome, along with an unnaturally precocious crane child-mageling, who’d somehow persuaded the spirits to take im to the City of Jewels as a “hiding place”. That had to have been the Kami of “Vacations” again. Surely there weren’t any more self-appointed divine meddlers teleporting people around the world.
They evaded some undead and fought others, chased the scrolls across the desert, negotiated with a nomadic tribe which had allowed their bearer – a tattooed monk – to take refuge with them, and convinced him that they had a plan to dispose of the scrolls. The desert had plenty of sand, which could be fused into a crystal tomb in which to destroy the scrolls – preventing them from being used as channels for Fu Leng’s power to enter Ningen-Do and sealing their contamination within as near to an eternal tomb as they could manage, deep beneath the trackless desert sands.
Despite having to deal with a few last-minute Oni, some nasty explosions, a swarm of undead, and more undead who – rather than simply attacking – wanted information as to whether or not this power might be useful to them, they successfully sealed away the four black scrolls they’d managed to gather.
8/6/6/8 XP, +2 on either Battle or Courtier, Ivory Sword Sheathe for Shigure, a Kite Pin for Michio, a Staff for Okari, a set of Scrolls for Kochige, minor gifts for the two crab Yojimbo, items for other characters still in the custody of the Dragon Clan Champion.