Rise of Fu Leng/The Bloodsword Legacy Sequence: A Valley of Blades. Alex, Okari, Thuril, Michio, Shigure, Kochige and Haru (a Ronin Shugenja from the Tournament of the Jade Champion, specializing in plant-related Importune effects)
With Alex busy adding up the forces that looked likely to make up the Scorpion and Imperial Alliances, and searching for a political way to stop – or at least moderate – the war he foresaw, Shigure recruited Haru to provide some magical backup for their move against Traitor’s Grove. It looked like one narrow entrance, twisting up the side of a mountain gorge with a rushing river at the bottom. The valley of the grove was surrounded by near-impassible mountains (maybe the place was angering the earth kami), there were a couple of minor strongpoints along the trail, and the valley was about five square miles and hosted two minor shrines – and the trees. Probably about 50 guards – they’d been notably reinforced over the last seven or eight years – and a few really NASTY shugenja (or possibly Maho users).
Well, what was the use of knowing a Shugenja with massive destructive powers unless you used him? They elected to simply help block the trail out while Ninsei bombarded the place into oblivion.
Unfortunately, Ninsei had drastically overestimated his ability to devastate square miles. He could keep on throwing sunbeams and fireballs pretty much indefinitely, but this was going to take DAYS – not to mention that some of the guards were very good with bows – and both had some method of extending their archery range out to where they could hit him and seemed to simply be ignoring his attacks. By the time he managed to put a mountain between his position and the valley he was too badly hurt to do much more: healing magic was not his speciality, he was stuck in impassible mountains until he could throw another flying spell, and he had no idea where he could find a friendly healer while he was trespassing on scorpion clan lands. He’d have to rely on natural healing until either his friends could reach him or he could recover enough to manage a healing spell.
Meanwhile, his friends had realized that some of the guards at the strongpoint had survived Ninsei’s initial attack, despite the cascade of molten rock. Michio, Kochige, and Okari headed into the valley to assist Ninsei while Shigure and Haru stayed to hold the trail. It should be easy enough: Ninsei had melted a sizeable gap in it…
Michio headed straight for where Ninsei had been concentrating at full speed. Obviously enough, something had been resisting him. He was quite shocked when he discovered that the guards were both capable of standing up to his attacks and of counterattacking effectively. Where were the Scorpion getting these people? Their powers must depend on the grove SOMEHOW, if they could just stroll around taking out opponents this way the scorpion should have overrun Rokugan already!
Michio managed to deal with another guard or two – their technique of invulnerability was only good for a minute or so, and he could outlast them if they didn’t get in some lucky shots – and even rescued one man who was busy being put into a tree – but the alarm was up and they were starting to come in groups. Time to fall back.
Kochige and Okari were considerably slower. They met a guard as well, but – luckily for them – it was a fairly dense Crab samurai who’d apparently sworn vengeance for something that happened down on the wall and stayed on in the fulfillment of the debt he’d felt. They managed to persuade him that they were coming for a special ceremony at the shrine.
The Shrine turned out to be consecrated to the Kami of Vengeance (what else?) and had quite a stock of prisoners ready to be imprisoned in trees. Most of them seemed to be simply guilty of offending someone, not treason – not that Traitors Grove wasn’t gross overkill in even the worst cases anyway in their opinion. Blood magic and blasphemy: the judgement and punishment of spirits was the province of Ryoshun and the celestial powers, not the of the Scorpion Clan.
Fortunately, most of the guards didn’t even realize that they were tainted – or that they were all quite mad. The Shugenja at the Shrine clearly knew – and demonstrating that fact sent several of the guards off to a have a little discussion with their commander. Kochige and Okari decided to rescue the prisoners / witnesses and get out: the three who’d headed off to see the commander would probably bring more guards down on them – hostile, and not inclined to let them talk – regardless of what happened. Hiding the prisoners in the hills wouldn’t work for long, so they asked the Kami for speed – and to cover their tracks – and headed for the trail out. With any luck they could beat the pursuit.
Meanwhile, back at the pass, Shigure and Haru had dealt with the first men who came to check the strongpoints – Ninsei’s assault had been spectacularly obvious: super-powerful Sunbeams which beat down for ten minutes of rock-melting were hardly likely to pass unnoticed. Fortunately, the condensing steam and unstable rock surfaces remaining were spectacularly treacherous: nigh-invulnerable the guards might be, but tipping them into a gorge and dropping a few tons of rock on top them seemed to be enough to keep them pinned.
The second group had actually been “sent” by Kochige and Shigure. They were out to go and avenge the fact that they’d gotten tainted via a direct attack on the shadowlands. Whether for good or ill, Shigure didn’t know that – and, after some hard fighting and well-applied magic, managed to tip them into the gorge as well before opting to fall back. Haru needed to meditate and recover his magical energies and Shigure was running short of luck and tricks.
Meanwhile, Michio had joined up with Okari and Kochige at the shrine – the signs of the chaos that seemed to follow them around were unmistakable – and was covering their retreat.
With more liberal use of magic, they managed to get the rescuees out – but in the face of an organized group of four guards things nearly went very badly. Only blasting the path out from under themselves had sufficed to tip the last batch into the gorge, and they didn’t know if falling into the water would actually bother the guardians very much. Nothing else seemed too… With a sizable group of organized opponents on the way, noncombatants to protect, ninsei out of action, the Shugenja short of spells, and the bushi running out of tricks (void points, raise pools, and other limited-use techniques), they settled for blocking the pass some more and falling back. It was time for a change of tactics.