Legend of the Five Rings: Log Update

   The Twisted Ways (Sessions 96-97): Heaven’s Fall, The Council of War.

   Back in Jigoku, Shigure was still plotting. Kochige and company had offered to get him out of Jigoku while they could – but he had sworn vengeance against Fu Leng and had made alliances that it would be dishonorable to abandon. Knowing that Shinjo and Rocan would likely exert some influence towards restoring the proper order of Jigoku was encouraging however – and with the ability to communicate with Ningen-Do, it would be possible to coordinate an attack on Fu Leng there with an infernal uprising to try and cut him off from the power of Jigoku.

   Besides, he’d been able to pass on the earthquake dagger to Michio while he was in Jigoku – and to palm off the turn-into-a-dinosaur talisman off on Kochige. He’d had the oddest impulse to give it to Ninsei – some weird mental image of him growing into a gargantuan reptilian monster and stomping across the shadowlands blasting things with fire – but he’d resisted. Ninsei was destructive enough ALREADY. The ongoing supply of funeral offerings – apparently his friends were paying handsomely to have some artisans and peasants keep making models and burning them as offerings to his “departed spirit” – was allowing him to equip his forces as well as to bribe the minor demons to maintain their “loyalty” (such as it was).

   It really was weird: it seemed that only the Oni who had been infused with a portion of the power of Ningen-Do – the local equivalent of “taint” – normally really grew, learned much, or spawned lesser demons. Something similar could apparently happen with a bond to the Celestial Heavens, but he hadn’t really heard enough about that to be sure.

   Blast it, he could probably come up with something in the way of a tactical approach if the place would just stop CHANGING on him all the time. He didn’t even know what half of his troops basic abilities were. For that matter, while the Asura Rathavabhasa had decided to return to Ningen-Do when the opportunity came up (he had to admit that the man’s powers were fairly useless in a large-scale conflict and there was no profit for him in it), but Mirdangimi had elected to stick around; apparently she was finding it oddly refreshing to have a conflict in the offing in which she could exert her full powers. (What in the name of the Kami did the “Rahu-Ketu School of the Midnight Sun” teach anyway? It couldn’t possibly be related to that insane Naga Void-Shadow magic could it?)

   Meanwhile, Najite was paying a – hopefully final – visit to the Heavens himself. He would have preferred not to be involved in the doings of gods and crazed shugenja, but he had some messages to deliver and wanted to try to find out a bit more about Ninsei and the rest. Prophetic time-travelers, personal appearances by major celestial kami, gaijin deities wanting to “make adjustments”, and possibly partly-divine children running about simply did not fit his conception of what the Empire ought to be like.

   Getting into the Celestial Heavens was a lot more difficult this time around – the guardians seemed to vary it according to how important they (or perhaps you ) felt your mission was – but trying to talk to the Sun Goddess again so soon seemed impolitic.

   Bayushi seemed to believe that Ninsei was probably a result of the Moon’s philandering ways. He was known to spend the nights he wasn’t appearing in the sky borrowing human bodies and fooling around with human women. Ninsei’s elements were obviously out of balance – something that was often a consequence of a partial divine infusion, and which could reasonably lead to abnormal development. Mildly surprising that Amaterasu would know about it, but she did see everything which happened beneath her light. That might even explain both some of the annoyance and the tendency to treat the boy as family.

   And yes, the Sun Goddess blew up her jade palace pretty regularly; that was why the spirits were always ready to rebuild it on a moments notice.

   Well, that would explain a lot about Ninsei.

   The other available founders were pleased to hear from Shinjo: they’d started to wonder if she had somehow managed to wander out of the universe entirely. They were a bit bemused by her choices – but they hadn’t understood why she’d gone to see Fu Leng after the fall, or what had made her the most wild and adventurous of all of them either.

   By the time all of that was done, Kochige and Ninsei were done trading spells and discussing magical techniques with the Unicorn Shugenja and Priests. They’d also been looking into pre-imperial theology. It looked like the Founding Kami had diverted all worship to themselves and the Fortunes, abolishing the propitiating rituals – and invocations whenever something needed to be destroyed – that had originally been directed to the powers of Jigoku. OK, they weren’t NICE powers – but they still deserved respect. Was it possible that Fu Leng had been permitted to draw on the power of Jigoku simply because the people of the Empire had turned away from the ritual observances that kept those powers placated? It wasn’t like the Lords of Destruction cold be expected to have a sense of proportion.

   Unfortunately, Najite proved either unable or unwilling to control his descent to Ningen-Do – and wound up landing by the Sea of Void, to the south of the Shadowlands. THAT was just LOVELY. He’d have to send a message to the shugenja to come and pick him up.

   Kochige promptly tried to open a gate – which proved to be a bad idea by the Sea of Void. The structure of the universe was very thin there already – and the gate fractured it badly. They wound up with a beachful of things and people pulled out of other universes and had to act promptly to get the holes closed up and to deactivate the dangerous items that had come through. Then they had to sort out the ones who wanted to be sent home from the ones who didn’t want to be sent back into bad situations and make the relevant arrangements (more “cousins” for Shigure back in Toshi Ranbo in the latter case). They never did figure out what the weird people preparing great amounts of food while odd “weapons” were pointed at them were all about – although, when that particular group got back home, the “feed a troop of hungry samurai and sumo wrestlers beneath an enchanted sky!” episode of Country Cottage Cooking did go over well: cooking shows didn’t normally have the budget for extras and effects like that.

   With everyone back together – and the Unicorn situation defused for the moment – it was time for a conference of war.

   Most of a days discussion led to at least a partial list of priorities.

  • The Prophecies – that Fu Leng would possess the Heir of the Empire, that the Chaos Bringer would Rule the Empire, that the Hantei Line would Fail, and all the others that they’d heard – were beyond their control. For better or worse, there hadn’t been one yet that they couldn’t find a dozen different ways to interpret anyway. Alex might be behind half of them – but if he’d actually mastered the Orrery of Dream (and his arranging for Ninsei’s training, for a war of assassins against Fu Lengs assassins, and a dozen other interventions suggested that he might have), even it could only grant access to the worlds that might be – not guarantee that any particular one would be despite Alex’s attempts to force his choice into being.
  • Fu Leng personally would be a matter for heroes – and, if they were the ones destined to fight him on the Second Day of Thunder, than that was what would happen. There wasn’t much point in trying to force it until he emerged from his palace in the shadowlands anyway.

   As far as things went that they could actually do something about:

  • Their first priority was to deal with whatever major military resources Fu Leng had managed to smuggle into the central mountains. That would be whatever Oni he’d gotten in through Traitors Grove before they sealed it, any undead he could find or have maho cultists raise, and whatever else they could find. With the center of the Empire balanced like a house of cards, they couldn’t afford to leave any major unbalancing forces about if they could help it.
  • If the prophecies and what was still applicable of the information they’d brought back from the Thousand Years of Darkness were accurate, the massed armies of Jigoku and the Shadowlands – fully deployed for the first time in history – would break through the Crab defenses, and play a crucial role in enforcing Fu Lengs power grab. Their second priority would have to be weakening those forces.
  • They’d done what they could for Shigure; there wasn’t much more to be done until they were ready to co-ordinate on sealing the Festering Pit – presuming that his rebellion got that far.
  • The Nightmares and Evil Ninsei mostly with the Shadowlands Army – but they weren’t necessarily enemies. Most of the Nightmares were too treacherous for ANYONE to rely on them – but some of them had been cooperative and Evil Ninsei had cooperated with them more than once.
  • The Bloodspeaker and Maho cults, and along with their minor undead and what lesser Oni they could summon were too dispersed for a small group to deal with: they would have to be left to the Jade Champion and Magistrates.
  • The Naga could probably be relied on to back the Crab anyway, but neither Fu Leng nor the fate of the Empire was necessarily any of their business. Since the Naga owed them some major favors, those could be called in to make sure that they were ready to aid the Crab in opposing the armies of the Shadowlands to come.
  • They could ignore the dinosaurs – and leave the dimensional rifts in the forest to the Naga. They might be a nuisance to clean up later, but the dinosaurs were just big tough lizards.
  • The Yobanjin could be dealt with after the war. At this point it was far too late to do anything about the chaotic influence they’d already exerted – and who knew? If they were actually planning to try to bind Fu Leng if he won, at that point it couldn’t hurt to let them try.
  • The Yodatai were distracting what was left of the Dragon forces, but there was nothing to be done about that without a major campaign – which would have to be left until after the war against Fu Leng.
  • The Nezumi… The Nezumi had been faithful and useful allies for centuries, and were still regarded as vermin throughout much of the empire – but they’d found Nezumi everywhere they’d looked for them. In small hordes. They were still scouting for them, beyond the limits where anyone else dared to go. If the Empire survived, they would have to see what could be arranged in the way of official recognition and lands of their own. It wasn’t like the Empire was short of unused lands – and if they could purify the Shadowlands, there would be even greater territories available.
  • The Asura – well, once again, it was a good thing that there was plenty of unused land available. More of them would probably show up, and they couldn’t afford to start a war with people who commanded vast powers, who literally could not permanently die, and who could carry a grudge across millennia. There would doubtless be more arriving as well.
  • Merenae was friendly enough, and the Mantis were planning to use their aid against the Shadowlands Pirates. So long as they remained offshore, that need not even be noticed. Relations would eventually have to be normalized with the rest of the world anyway; unless Fu Leng won, and no one wanted to trade with Rokugan, the centuries of isolation were drawing to a close in any case.
  • The Phoenix Mages were responsible for almost as many magical disasters as the Bloodspeakers and the Maho Cultists. SOMEONE needed to keep an eye on them. There wasn’t much they could do about that at the moment – but they’d have to look into it after the war. Hopefully the Phoenix wouldn’t try anything catastrophic before then.
  • The Priests of Madness were a possible resource – they already knew that they objected to Fu Leng and the Shadowlands – but their power was too unpredictable and came at too high a price. Unless all was lost already, it would be best not to involve them.
  • The Shadowcats were angling for imperial recognition and a position within the imperial household. It seemed that the number of true Shadowcats was limited by the number of Void Mages in the Empire – it had something to do with the Magic of Shadow being unnatural at this stage of the cosmos – but even too many “normal” cat-shapeshifters could be a nuisance. Still, they were at least friendly.
  • They had a dozen research projects – the Shadow Seeds, new Schools, Spirit Binding, Alchemy, Impersonal Magic, the Madness Tattoos, and many more, as well as plans for rebuilding and expanding the Empire, but all of that would have to wait.

One Response

  1. Well, that’s nice. I was wondering what happened to the cooking show after we returned the cast home.

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