The Phoenix Debates, Waters in the Desert, A Blade for the Darkness. Alex, Michio, Shigure, Okari, Ninsei, and Kochige.
Actually reaching the council of Elemental Masters proved relatively straightforward. They had some applicable prophecies to relay, at least one known prophet (from many centuries past) actually with them, and plenty of documentation. They had multiple shugenja with them, and a fresh blessing form the new Oracle of Fire. It didn’t take all that much talking to get to see them and the negotiations were fairly lengthy, but straightforward enough – at least once they raised enough wards to block out the influence of the Scrolls. No one wanted to try to use force against the council of elemental masters anyway – although they did note that something very, very strange and powerful was watching Michio.
There was a brief fight against a minor Oni that was inhabiting the scrolls – but they got them to the Desert for disposal. Of course, that also left Fu Leng – even if at reduced power – well on his way to freedom, and there was no guarantee that the Oni they’d just disposed of was actually the one that was going to cause the plague. Still, that only left four. Two in possession of the Yogo council – unless they’d lost one or more of them since the last visit, one being carried to the forest of the Naga to be used to attack them there, and one lost somewhere.
While Okari tried – repeatedly – to explain things to various representatives of the Fox, Michio went to talk to the Yogo Council, warn them about the perils of using the black scroll of divination, and attempt to talk them into destroying the black scrolls in their possession. After all, they’d already destroyed eight of them. Fu Leng was breaking free anyway. Best to deny him as much power as possible.
The council was willing to discuss the notion, but it would take months to decide. Michio took what he could get and went home to deal with a few minor family obligations.
Back in Toshi Ranbo, Shigure’s nephew had been campaigning for him. Most of the things to be done had been basic and sensible enough to get the support of both advisors, and the crane lady had mostly backed him on the rest – and cheerily been telling her how uncle Shigure had rejected all the temptations of Fu Leng in favor of his memories of her, and discovered that she liked history books and flower arrangements. Unfortunately, Shigure opted to ignore this advice and sleep in random closets around the governor’s mansion to avoid assassins. He did offer free embassy space in the city to all the clans to try and create a neutral zone for discussions though – as well as trying to attract trade.
Alex was busy trying to get his Fief re-organized after his absence, was building baths to take advantage of the new hot springs, and was working on various local projects – including improving the Shrine of the Kami of Vacations and his old promise to the Kami of the Burning Desert.
Kochige busied himself with transferring his new school to Toshi Ranbo (there just wasn’t much room for a Geisha school to practice in an isolated mountain fief), in building up a library, and in researching the Naga forest. It seemed likely that they’d have to go there at some point.
Visiting the City of Jewels to talk about disposing of the two Black Scrolls that the Elemental Masters had possessed got them briefly entangled with a delegation of priests of the Elder Gods from Senpet (investigating who had been offering such massive numbers of sacrifices), the Sultan was dealing with troop support offers/disguised takeover attempts, the Mechants were trying to arrange exclusive deals, the Evil Grand Vizier wanted Michio to take care of arranging some “horrible fate far worse than death” for the family of a border lordling who’d tried to assassinate the Sultan, and there were rumblings about rebellion… The group mostly decided that this was none of their business – but they did consult the priests of the Elder Gods about why the Elder Gods were watching Michio, and found that he had a madness-magic credit of 4000 sacrifices.
Wanting to get rid of that, and try to fulfill his promise, Alex got Michio to transfer that credit to him, and then tried invoking the Elder Gods to remove the curse of the Burning Desert.
This was catastrophic. The word “gradually” would have been a good idea. Temperatures plummeted wildly as the fire excess was drawn down, rivers flooded and pools of quicksand and ice spread across the desert as water returned. Shigure – greatly enhanced by Ninsei – fled wildly back towards Rokugan: he couldn’t bodyguard Alex against the elder gods. Most of the others found business to attend to back in Rokugan – although Okari and Kochige stayed to help, and were nearly lynched despite their warning against flooding, raising of earthworks to try and save the city, and busy providing of emergency supplies. Warning people would have been a good idea… Alex wound up jailed, tried, and banished while Shigure’s somewhat confused account put the witch-hunters on his trail back in Rokugan.
Back in Toshi Ranbo, the group solved most of the problems with rubble by letting the peasants use it to build better houses while the Shugenja and Michio set up the city walls and moats and provided some basic building materials. They’d want a causeway to the river, better arrangements of waste removal, and a certain amount of design in this city. So much of it had been reduced to rubble or burned that there wouldn’t be much resistance to a redesign anyway.
Unfortunately, they’d also become a top-priority target for the Thousand Legs of the Millipede – a shadowlands society of assassins and oni. With deadly assassins launching attacks on each of the major members of the group, most only survived due to the hurried nature of the initial assaults. The killers had been hoping that surprise would carry the day – and, in the case of quite a few bystanders, bodyguards, and servants, it did. It was a close call for most of them as well – and evidently even more killers were on the way.
The group attempted to send a challenge: they’d wait at a specified point – a small island off the coast – and do battle with all the killers Fu Leng had to send. Alex felt that this was incredibly foolish, and refused to go along – but the rest repaired to the island to set up some defenses.
Unfortunately, the killers thoughtfully provided the Lion clan with some urgent information about a nest of Maho users on the island and got a detachment sent instead. After all, the group had demonstrated vast destructive abilities – and weakening the Lion would put that talent in the service of Fu Leng. The ensuing fight provided a fine demonstration of the value of high-end supernatural enhancements against common garrison troops – as well as the value of slipping troops ashore with a little undersea air magic to hit the magic-wielders from behind. With most of their shugenja pulling out in the face of being surrounded, gravely injured, and a no-quarter order, Michio and Ninsei seized a couple of the ships and scooped up Shigure on the way out. He’d gone a bit berserk believing that the Lion had eliminated Okari and Kochige. They headed for the Mantis: they ought to know that the Lion had a bunch of troops stranded on an island.
Meanwhile, Okari and Kochige had jumped back to Alex’s fief – where an skinwalking, poison-secreting, Oni was waiting to greet them in the place of the shrine-keeper. It promptly paralyzed both of them and sent a runner for Alex. The ensuing fight nearly took out all three of them – but only nearly thanks to the Evil Grand Viziers poison antidote potion. Still, only a few hundred more attempts to go. Unfortunately, the now throughly-polluted shirine had to be burned down, purified, and rebuilt somewhere else. Fast travel was out of the question for the moment.
While Alex and company were recovering, Shigure and company were dealing with the Mantis. Shigure had another grandiose project in mind: digging a canal across the phoenix lands to provide Toshi Ranbo with a shorter route to the sea – and the empire with a new trade route.
Of course, the witchhunters, and more killers, were on their way to Alex’s fief, while others were pursuing the rest of the group.
7/6/6 XP, the Evil Grand Vizier now counts as an Ally, the entire group (and Alex and Kochige in particular) has come to the notice of the Elder Gods of Senpet, and Fu Leng is apparently manifested enough to have taken direct command, although his power is not what it could have been.