Hmm… This is a bit behind isn’t it? Well, here’s the log for the last four sessions.
The Drunkards Walk, Rationally Recruiting Retreating Ronin Refugees, The Spiral Gates, The War of Golems. Alex, Kochige, Shigure, Michio, Okari, and Ninsei.
Fortunately the various assassins after the group hadn’t really anticipated the people in it scattering in all directions. Kochige spent some time during his visit home making dragon-cipher scrolls of his basic Void spells before departing with Alex to run an aerial survey-sweep down the border. That was quick and crude, but at least gave them enough information to talk to the Crab about giving a few of their young architects and engineers some practice in surveying and fortress-construction somewhere less dangerous than the Carpenter Wall. Ninsei headed up to the Phoenix lands to get tested for Void Potential. Not surprisingly, he had it – but the Phoenix opted to offer him a choice. He was a self-taught prodigy, so he might be just the one to make some sense out of that strange book of Void Magic they’d acquired, since none of them could make it out. Their established methods of using the Void interfered too much. Ninsei opted to study the book – as well as collecting what information they had available on the Naga Forest. Outside of directions to build a lot of shrines, Shigure left running Toshi Ranbo to Hazuki and his Nephew Tobei while he organized a scouting-and-mapping sweep of the forest, collated the reports, and studied the secrets of some odd little mystical school/cult he’d managed to locate that predated the empire. Michio occupied himself training and organizing the troops: they hadn’t even been assigned any officers yet. Okari spent most of the time explaining things to the Fox Clan – and getting married.
There were a few assassination attempts. Alex and Kochige dealt with an attempt to get them remotely while they were stopped in a border village by little familiar-homunculi that crawled inside of the villagers skulls and possessed them, Shigure and Ninsei were similarly attacked via talismans that let Maho users work at long range, Okari was attacked by a summoned Oni, and Michio and Hazuki avoided attack thanks to Tobei – and his understanding of Fu Leng’s minions various codes.
Meanwhile, Alex and Kochige were planning a string of border fortifications – mostly in the more easily-defended mountain passes, where a little work could do a lot of good. They also had some rather grandiose long-term plans for organizing the borders, and the unsupervised peasants inhabiting them, and for pretty much reworking the rest of the continent.
The combined phoenix and physical scouting reports showed a number of places that apparently couldn’t be reached, or even located by ground-based surveys, but which could be glimpsed from above – odd structures and locations – as well as numerous other oddities. Well, it was supposed to be a haunted forest.
They visited the Monks of Osano-Wo, where Shigure got involved in some training melees, Kochige pretended to be a child for some reason, and the “leadership” position got more or less left to Ninsei. They terrified a peddler into selling them some pearls he’d picked up at the Pearl Shrine (they’d have given him nightmares until he returned them anyway), had a small altercation with a naga golem powered by the Akhasa that left Alex spiritually linked to the Naga (and being regarded by the Golems as a Naga Child – although, fortunately, Kochige managed to pull him out of the Akhasa), ran across a wealth of wildlife, and got Shigure mystically linked with a massive wild boar before arriving at an ancient shrine – a place dedicated to the sun and moon, but in alien aspects, and where the spirits paid little attention to human activities. Unfortunately a blood mage had been there before them – performing some exotic divinatory ritual of his or her own and leaving a selection of tainted undead behind.
The ronin village was more complicated… They’d apparently skipped out on a clumsy Bayushi attempt to recruit them for an attack on a fortress full of Shugenja. They had quite a lot of information about the seamy side of the Empire – and Ninsei decided to recruit them, and any additional Ronin in the area, for his personal forces. He was an imperial city governor wasn’t he?
There were several more groups of Ronin in the forest – as well as some information on which of the Trivial Clans would be most interested in getting a formal representative.
The golems also attempted to feed Alex a Nezumi. He griped at the fellow for a time and let him go – but not before getting him to promise to bring in a few more Nezumi for a meeting. That resulted in a bit of information as to the Nezumi view of the forest and strong protests against any plan to wake the evil serpent-creatures that wanted to at them.
Proceeding to the Pearl Shrine the group found that something strange defended it against tainted creatures, and that many of its pearls had been pried from the walls and carried away, only to be later thrown back into the shrine. The complex murals had been denuded. It took them quite some time to re-assemble the murals, a salamander attack and much artistic effort to balance the colors properly, and a lot of searching to decipher the secret of the forest mural – and its indication of a hidden path. Following the path, evading many Nezumi traps along the way, and deciphering the arcane geometry of the clearing and structures it led to allowed the group to locate an ancient hidden cache containing the missing pearls – and reconstructing the final mural opened the Scout’s Gate, the first of the five gates of the Naga spiral.
The Warriors Gate proved to be a series of training bouts against more golems – which were often leaving a deliberate weakness in their attacks. No one was quite sure what they were testing… Resourcefulness? Adaptability? Discernment? Martial prowess? Willingness to learn? Whether the group was TOO dangerous to be allowed to approach? Still, they eventually managed to satisfy whatever arcane criteria were in use. It was excellent training as well. The Golems were even willing to allow them access to the children’s instructional pearls, which contained many interesting memories about the creation of the world and the basics of Naga civilization.
The Diplomats Gate put them in the positions of resolving disputes – a farmers dispute over land, negotiating a settlement in a possible three-way war, and acting as literal judges, in a series of dream-scenarios.
They met the land dispute with raw magical power, simply determining the original course of the river which had served as a boundary generations ago and then compensating the losing family. With regard to the military problem, Ninsei stalled two of the disputing armies (and attempted to dissuade people from charging into his moat of flames) while Alex and Kochige resolved the planted marriage dispute, and Shigure assassinated the lordling who’d attempted to start a war for his own profit instead of fulfilling his responsibilities honorably. Their judgement on a commander who’d ejected the peasantry from a fortification and refused to allow them to return when they had nowhere else to go in the interests of holding out as long as possible was that he had fulfilled his responsibilities – adequately.
The Engineer’s Gate presented a ridiculously complicated mechanical puzzle – but also quietly allowed those practical individuals who simply went around, under, or (best of all) to the side door, past the gate as well. Evidently they’d felt that putting an elaborate rigmarole on the emergency alarm was a bit silly…
The Mages Gate was the most dangerous of all. It called for finding a way to conclude the ancient ritual the Naga had used to transport themselves and their cities into a pocket realm on the fringes of dream. Unfortunately, the group was in a rush thanks to Alex’s policy of “waiting to tell anyone (especially the Jade Champion) what was going on until it was too late for them to do anything to interfere with what you wanted to do” and relied on improvisation rather than a couple of days, weeks, or months worth of careful research and analysis. Still, grounding out the energies of a ritual was a fairly basic process. A fair amount of power went astray, but the Naga cities returned and the Naga began to awaken from their long sleep.
Sadly, as soon as the dimensional barriers went down, Igaskikako’s endless horde of golem-oni started their attack – and as powerful as the Naga golems were, their numbers were anything but endless. Kochige and the bodyguards took charge of the defense while everyone else snuck back along the marching columns of Oni to seek out Igaskikako and stop her.
While they left some barriers to slow the Oni and found a back way into the cave she was working out of, she’d already opened the Black Scroll, and was far more powerful than she had been when she’d tried the same stunt on the Mantis. Fortunately, the group was far more powerful as well. The exchange of energies and strikes blasted her (apparently semi-permanently) into Jingoku, and blew open the gate that she’d been housing. With Fu Lengs power beginning to pour through directly, Shigure and the others more-or-less poked Fu Leng in the eye – and were irritating and startling enough to cause him to jerk away, thus sucking all the taint in the area back into Jingoku, including the forces that had been animating the golem-oni (just in time to save Kochige and the last few defenders). While Shigure outran the cavern collapse and escaped thanks to his Great Destiny and incredible athletic abilities, and Ninsei burned his way out with raw fire, Alex went missing, presumed lost – or at least vanished into another dimension again.
5/8/10/12 XP, Free relevant Lore or Artistic Skill at Rank 2 (Depending on the character), Rank 1 in each of the six classic weapons (Sword, Bow, Staff, Heavy Club/Maul/Tetsubo, Spear, and Claw) trained in if not already higher, Free alliance with the Naga, Alex loses 1 Void, gains 1 Akhasa, gains access to Pearl Magic, and is lost in space and time. Alex, Shigure, and Ninsei have come to the direct notice of Fu Leng. The entire group gains a limited (5 experience point technique, -5 on each die rolled to gain taint) Resistance to Taint and has – presumably – once again gotten into trouble with the Jade Champion. The Naga are awakened, numerous Ronin have been recruited, the Scorpion plots are evidently underway, Okari will rejoin the party shortly, but will now have family responsibilities to deal with.