Yes, this has gotten way behind: I’ll try to finish up the updates in the next day or so.
Bloodsword Legacy Sequence: A Vengeance of Blades, The Twisted Peaks, The Well of Bones, The Cultivation of Ideals. Michio, Shigure, Alex, Kochige, Okari, Ninsei, and various.
Unfortunately, retreating down the pass with the refugees/witnesses took them deeper into the Scorpion Clan lands – and the local garrisons were responding to the disturbance. They probably weren’t nearly as powerful as the Guardians of Traitors Grove (if only because they probably didn’t have taint to empower them) – but even if the group had been in shape for another fight and unburdened by unarmed and poorly-armed refugees they didn’t want to kill people who might be perfectly innocent of wrongdoing. The Shugenja used the last of their spells to arrange a hiding place so that everyone could recover a bit.
After a little rest they left the refugees in hiding and made another try: Michio and Shigure tried sneaking into the valley through he crags and ravines in an attempt to infiltrate the central shrine of vengeance while Okari, Kochige, and the other Shugenja attempted to divert the guards, and any reinforcements they could call up, at the entrance to the valley.
Both missions nearly became suicidal. Back at the entrance to the valley a fair number of the guards they’d dropped into the gorge had climbed back up, and were still virtually impossible to injure. The diversionary group managed to contain many of them briefly with paralytic and entombing spells, but couldn’t hold them all – or any of them for long. They exhausted most of the remainder of their magic covering their withdrawal back to where they’d left the refugees. Meanwhile, Shigure and Michio managed to reach the central shrine, successfully dealing with a couple of individual guards and rescuing a few more people along the way – only to find themselves separated and barely ahead of the pursing squads of guards. Fortunately, they found the secret chamber they’d suspected beneath the commanders office. Unfortunately, he turned out to be an Oni of Vengeance possessing the commanders body who and was wielding the Bloodsword Revenge and drawing on the power contained in the entire grove through it. Shigure finally managed to break that link by getting impaled with Revenge and containing its power within his own shadow-infused blood with Shard-of-the-Midnight-Heart – but that didn’t leave either of them in very good shape. They were forced to flee into the “impassible” mountains that surrounded the valley with their rescuees.
Back at the refuge they’d arranged for their rescued witnesses, the various Shugenja were finding that the Scorpion had brought in some Shugenja of their own and were actively searching the area for intruders: it became something of a race between the Scorpion search, their ability to deflect it, and their attempts to get in contact with the Jade Champion back at the Capital and request a gateway to withdraw through. They won that race by a hair – but had forgotten to mention that they would be bringing along thirty or so people, some of them armed, and the Jade Champion had been attending a formal dinner with the Emperor at the time and had simply stepped into one of the small tearooms adjacent to the dining hall to recall them. Explaining this eruption of peasants, scruffy and badly-armed samurai, and battered Shugenja (many of them at least slightly tainted) into the Imperial Palace adjacent to the Emperor’s current location to the Seppun proved quite challenging. It also led to a rather lengthy series of interviews with the new Jade Champion. She was disconcertingly perceptive and well aware that their facade of casual chaos was no more than an illusion – and wound up extracting most of their secrets.
Back in the “impassible” mountains, Shigure and Michio had picked up Ninsei, healed him up somewhat, and determined that there was something more than a bit strange about him (as well as that he was pretty unhappy over having found some of the limits of his power). They had also managed the (extremely difficult) tricks of both evading their pursuers and penetrating into the twisted peaks of the central mountains, and had found out why the mountains were considered impassible instead of merely being impossibly difficult: the Kenku did not approve of trespassers. The negotiations with their border guard/representative proved extremely difficult. Fortunately, they found something in the oddly-assorted group worthy of consideration (and the gift of a sword to Ninsei). They eventually allowed them to pass back into the fringes of Scorpion Clan territory – and someplace where the Jade Champion knew well enough to open a gate to.
Meanwhile, Shigure worried about just how much of the energies of Death were to be found in his own spirit…
With everyone back at the Capital, they opted to seek some official sponsorship of their little expedition: now that they had proof that Traitors Grove had been being run by an Oni, and was being turned into another Festering Pit, it should be straightforward enough.
Unfortunately, putting a force together took explanations, negotiations, appointments with various officials, and entirely too much time. Arranging transportation took more time – and when (emboldened by their success with the people they’d rescued) the group decided to go over the peaks near the gorge rather than through the gorge to get into the valley it took even more.
When they got there, they found the entranceway now being occupied by regular Scorpion Clan bushi who believed that the area had been taken over by some tainted cult, and were willing to cooperate with a party of Jade Magistrates and their troops – although the commander insisted on coming along.
It looked like the inner core of the Guardians of the Grove – who had known what they’d been serving – had tried a last-ditch effort (in the face of magical opposition and the liberation of a fair number of spirits by the Kenku) to open a gateway to Jigoku. They’d drained a lot of the power from the grove, transformed themselves into undead horrors, and pulled through quite a lot of Oni in the process – but hadn’t been able to open the way.
Most of the remaining guards were confused enough – thanks to the disappearance of their leaders – to accept the authority of the imperial forces and the local Scorpion commander. Unfortunately, trying to get into the crypts below the shrine led to a battle with the now-undead inner circle and their horde of skeletal warriors raised from throughout the grove. Fortunately, with the group able to concentrate on raw offense while their allies handled the defense, their destructive abilities were at their peak.
The purification ceremonies would take years to complete, but they got them started immediately after the battle. Unfortunately, Michio got instructions to turn in a report to the higher-ups in the Scorpion clan personally. He could put that off for a bit by pleading imperial duties, but he’d have to go off on that potentially-suicidal errand fairly soon.
Back at the Capital, the Scorpion Clan ambassador was taking the position that some sort of maho cult had infiltrated the guardians of the grove, and that the Scorpion Clan would, of course, be investigating. They were still being ostracized a bit though. Despite a variety of maneuvers and manipulations it didn’t seem to be possible to shake the story. The Scorpion clan ambassador wasn’t lying: he was just presuming that it had to be infiltration in the absence of instructions from his clan.
Secondarily, it was time to deal with the Imperial Apothecary. Shigure’s celestial review of his life had revealed her to be a Scorpion agent – and her position was just a little too sensitive to allow that. Fortunately, she also seemed to be a fairly focused physician – and a “distraught young man with a fainting Crane Lady” routine distracted her long enough with explaining (that if they still looked good while doing it, it was probably a ploy) for the others to knock her out.
She was weird. She was a scorpion agent – but under that there was some sort of mental shield (fortunately only partially developed as of yet), and below that was a hard core of idealism and loyalty to some yobanjin organization dedicated to restoring human-based rule throughout Rokugan. She had a couple of spirits bound to her and practiced the first levels of some sort of spirit-binding school. She hadn’t ben pushing a Scorpion agenda so much as she’d been quietly supporting the spread of chaos. She also seemed to have a higher-than-usual resistance to Taint and to possess some sort of communications device, which shattered into dust when hit with a light-of-truth effect.
Feeling that this was just too weird – as well as introducing a completely unexpected set of plots and schemes – everyone took numerous precautions against her suiciding before they woke her up. They needed more than their spells could get past her mental defenses to get. She wasn’t all that cooperative – but readily ran Shigure off simply by attempting to prescribe various combinations of medications for his mental condition. Still, how under heaven did a Yobanjin conspiracy think that pushing for the release of Fu Leng and a clan war would help put humans back in charge of the Empire? They even considered showing her some of the future histories of the Thousand Years of Darkness to convince her that the scheme was wrongheaded – but she was being arrested by the Jade Champion in any case.
Hopefully more information would be forthcoming. Meanwhile, Kochige had a sumo wrestling tournament to attend, Okari had to make extra copies of several spells as well as send some home, Michio had to head off to report to the Scorpion, and Shigure and Ninsei had to get some court events organized in Toshi Ranbo. Shigure even gave some other people a lift along the way while he had the fast-transportation effect available.
8/7/8/9 XP, group owed a variety of minor favors/acquires a variety of minor allies from among the rescued Samurai (Including three 2-point spirit allies each from amongst the spirits freed from Traitor’s Grove), numerous Grove Guardians remain, but the Bloodsword Revenge is consumed by Shard-of-the-Midnight-Heart. Everyone involved in the purification of Traitor’s Grove , Ninsei is given a Kenku Blade, copies of Okari’s jade spells are presented to both the Fox and the Jade Champion, various Oni are loosed, the Scorpion Clan position is seriously undermined. Most of the characters receive a free point in each of two appropriate lore skills as well.