|Character||Character Type||Portrayed by|
|Hotohori||A (very beautiful) Samurai from the Crab clan||Eric E.|
|Hattori||An Iaijutsu Master Samurai from the Lion clan||Adam J.|
|Mochiko||A Fire Shugenja Void Disciple from the Phoenix clan||Jeanne H.|
|Miya||A Bamboo Spirit Folk Sohei from the Crane clan||Jon J.|
|Nisaru||A Vasara (Monkey) Rogue from the Unicorn clan||Nick P.|
A Shaman of the Lion clan
(joins after Ni-san's death)
A Tattooed Blind Monk from the Mantis clan
(Her Spirit Seeing-Eye Animal)
|Emiko||A Hengeyokai Sparrow Wu Jen from the Sparrow clan||Emily M.|
|Yashiko||An Air Shugenja from the Phoenix clan||Dedrick D.|
Leaders of the clans sent representatives to the capital city of the Crane clan. They all arrive at the palace at the same time. The inside of the palace is very beautiful – there are five nobles writing poems around a pond, among other things. They approach the Emperor of the Crane clan (who is twenty-eight) and kowtow. He tells the group gathered there that the evils of Rokugan are making a united force. The seven representatives are instructed to put their differences aside and go out as a patrol to set evil right. They leave the palace and go their separate ways; however, all hear about Yakuza bandits that are terrorizing travelers on the right bend of the road into the city. They go there, find five bandits with tattoos on their hand, and fight. Some acquit themselves better than others – Nisaru hits himself and is wounded, and Hotohori’s katana gets stuck in a bamboo tree. Despite their difficulties, they eventually win their fight.
One bandit is left unconscious, and they keep him as their captive. On the bodies, they find a rough map of the kingdom, money, sake, short swords, and daggers. They hide the bodies and sleep on the opposite side of the road. In the morning, the bodies are gone. The sixteen-year-old captive is awake. Miya gets him to take the party to his family. There, an old woman with a tattoo on her hand comes out into the garden. Hotohori tries to grapple her and fails; she hits him with a rock. They enter the house and learn that she and her two daughters and one remaining son are now all that is left of the Beaver clan. While there, the very excitable and animal-loving Xiang finds a rock and thinks that it is a kitty. It meows. Hattori thinks that it is possessed by evil spirits and hits the rock with his katana…and chips his sword. The samurais want to take the boy to be served justice, but they have to leave the boy in the city because the Emperor is unavailable to be seen. Everyone looks around the city, and Xiang finds a (real) black kitty.
They head south on another tip and find a village. There is brown cloth up in a tree, so Emiko changes into a sparrow and knocks the cloak down. The kitty tries to eat the sparrow. Nisaru puts the cloak on and it transforms into an ugly kimono – it is a useful peasant disguise, however. They enter Crab territory and reach a very poor city. Samurai stop other travelers to make them pay a toll. The representatives go to their lord Oska, who was originally Crane nobility but now considered a Crab. He uses the high taxes to attempt to retain his family’s power and prestige. Oska gives them a scroll to give to the Crane Emperor. On the way back, they find an immortal duck. Xiang touches it, and it follows her everywhere. Back in the village they passed around before, they find three wailing woman – little Niko has just disappeared, and children have been disappearing now for five months.
Longing in the Garden The wind through the garden Blows white and purple blossoms From their stems, Slips away To other fields. My heart longs To float with the wind Amid the falling petals.
Villagers tell them that the children disappeared in the woods. They find a small trail off to the left with recent tracks of a man that had walked there four to five times. They follow the trail and find an old forgotten temple with a fountain in the front. Xiang puts the duck in the fountain. Another building next to it has many human (and other) footprints surrounding it. Inside it are twenty old futons laid out on the floor. Through a little door is a small building connecting this building with the temple. In it is a cage with three little kids, two boys and a girl. Their eyes are closed, and they aren’t moving. The stairs collapse, hurting Mochiko, and two oni come out. Rain of needles! Back-stabbing! Hattori loses his sword. Xiang falls over. Mochiko heals. Iron scarf kills the last one. Ni-san opens the cage and lets out the kids, who are scared of his monkey-like appearance. Miya tries to calm them but doesn’t quite. Emiko as a sparrow plus Miya’s increased efforts finally make them happy. Another evil guy comes out, and the party brings him to his knees. He informs them that they collect the kids and sell them as slaves to B.S. They have sold fifteen kids so far. The oni were the guards. B.S. is in another abandoned temple somewhere in the northeast. The evil man’s name is Ichiro-ya. Hattori cuts off his head. He takes a ring of featherfall from the dead body.
The kids are taken back to the village, and Mochiko and Miya are given dolls. Hattori got some evil taint in the last battle and now has a shock of white hair. Xiang braids it. They go to the town the evil man was from and stay in his house. Emiko makes baskets and sells them. They go down another trail, first north and then west. Emiko talks to another sparrow. At the other temple, there is a thicker, blackish liquid in the fountains. After learning that it is blood, Emiko faints. In the sleeping area of this temple is a man in meditation. Another man walks out, and fighting begins. The walls, the Xiang, then Hattori, then Hotohori catch on fire. Ni-san puts Xiang out while Hattori kills one and tires to put himself out. Another party casts create water, and the fire dies. The bad guys are killed.
There is a trapdoor on the floor. Down it are two doors. Miya thinks that she hears a parakeet. Inside the right door is a teenager brandishing a katana. He gets sliced in half by Hattori. Another one is in the left, but this one is less scared. He hits Hotohori. Xiang hits him. Mochiko burns him. Down the right-hand side, Hattori, Miya, and Emiko find a fifteen by fifteen foot room filled with forty-six daggers and an altar. EVIL is everywhere. Meanwhile, on the left, Mochiko, Hotohori, Xiang, and Ni-san find a mini shrine with walls covered in torture devices. All of them join up on the left side after Hattori and Miya take some evil daggers for inspection/sale. Ni-san finds two green potions and one clear one. Through another door is a storage room with weapons – a sai, a nunchuku, a naginata, an amasa-kari, and a yumi.
Forward is pitch darkness, and the heart feels emptiness. All are in it alone. Each one encounters the same little kid who has committed a crime. They are asked to kill it, but none do (although some try). They end up in a huge room with two men standing in front of an altar, where the bloody body of an eight-year-old boy is dripping down into the fountain. There is a cage with four other children in it. Fighting ensues. Nisaru opens the lock and tries to comfort the four wailing kids. Emiko accidentally scares them more by exploding the altar, and the kids run out into battle. Mochiko eventually calms the kids down after the two men are dead. They learn through their findings that the green potions are for healing and the clear is acid. They also hear for the first time of Iuchiban, an evil wizard Bloodspeaker, leader of a cult who believes that the blood of innocent children makes for more powerful magic. The children go outside. Emiko buries the body of the dead child. There are twenty-three graves there already. They find letters inside a desk from Order of Blood #16, #5, and #27. In them are writings about a nosy village, the Land of Masks, an inventory of community potions and weapons blessed by Iuchiban, a victims’ sacrifice (8 female children, 4 male children, 2 female adults, 5 male adults, 1 annoying cat), and a key with which regions which groups were in (1-5 Crab, 6-19 Unicorn, 20-27 Unicorn). They collect the weapons, both good and evil. Inside the desk are also a fan and a tetsu-bo with jade studs.
They try to return the kids. A person gallops down the road with the Imperial symbol on his armor. He requests them to return to the palace. The representatives do. While in the city, they get the daggers and Hattori untaintified. The Emperor touches the immortal duck, making it follow him around instead. They report their adventures, and he sends them north to the Great Wall Mountains. He gives them a silver bowl with a mirror on the bottom. When silver is poured into the bowl and jade is added, they can communicate with the Emperor from wherever they are. Their mission is to head up to the Boar territory and destroy the Bloodspeakers. He has people placed in various places throughout the clans – they have a poem on the door. Upon approaching the house, they are to recite the last line of the poem to the owner. The first is a woman just across the river. He gives them six uses of silver for the bowl. The samurai meditate on their katanas to make them more powerful before they leave the city.
They pay a slightly insane man to take them across the river, although he does not allow Ni-san’s horse on his ferry (the horse has to swim). They take the left path through the mountains. Night falls, and they hear something moving in clinking armor. They fight Toshiko spirits and kill them. The next day they come to a large lake with a town beside it. There are dragons in the lake. The villagers are wearing different clothes – funky triangle hats and long sleeves. There are no horses, but the children swarm the travelers. The kids climb on the jade dragons, who protect the village from the ghosts. They leave the village and go down the river to the Emperor’s informant. There is talk of the ritual of the dead pheasant. Emiko the sparrow flies into Xiang, falls over, and turns back into a human. The hostess of the house has a daughter. She just wishes to be left in peace. Her messenger to the Emperor turned traitor – a middle-aged man named Tekeshi. The girl pricks herself, and her blood is black. She and her daughter are oni. The woman explains to the group that she was the Emperor’s concubine but fell in love with him and confessed that she was a spy. He gave her that post, and she runs the network south. She tells them that news came to her from Jumaki village. It was rumored by the Mantis that foreigners have been spotted. Twelve ships have landed in the cursed land of the peninsula. Other news that she has for the Emperor is more casual – a letter came to her from the Aiso Neryokosha village, which sent her a case of sake. It said that ships go by every evening with yellow-haired ones. The oni woman tells them more about the Bloodspeakers and Iuchiban. He founded the Bloodspeakers. One of the shugenja forged an anvil of despair that wiped out the Boar clan. This was the first step in forming the Bloodspeakers. Four swords were made on the anvil, and the wielders of the swords all kill themselves. No one touches them now – they are hidden in Crane, Scorpion, Lion, and Crab territories. The purpose of the Bloodspeakers is to reincarnate Iuchiban, for which they need three pieces of a mask. There is supposedly a malicious ghost in Boar territory. The woman, whose name is Koriko, reports that she should have connection with the Emperor reestablished within two weeks. They report what they learned back to the Emperor.
They once again travel on the river, but the weather gets rough as they go through the mountains. The ship breaks, and all scramble to hold onto something. Ni-san’s horse Sakura is the most awesome swimming horse there ever was. All manage to hang onto driftwood or cliff-sides. Xiang breaks her leg. Hattori uses a rope to get to a landing. Hotohori goes unconscious and is swept off by the river. The horse with Mochiko in tow gets to the inlet with Hattori. All finally reach the inlet, and they sleep. Nisaru feels a dark spirity thing hurt his soul, and he is tainted. Fighting occurs. A large shape comes, accompanied by green light. Most fall unconscious. The spirits attacking them turn to jade crystals. The jade dragon opens a portal and carries the party through it, entering a cave palace, where Hotohori sleeps.
They rest and recover while they learn of the seven main dragons – five elemental (water, air, void, fire, and earth) and two higher (jade and thunder) – “They are the universe itself.” The one that rescued the party was a lesser jade, and the party is currently staying in the earthly den of the Earth dragon. A small dragon summons the representatives, and they are taken to see the Earth dragon. He holds court in a large cavern, where he is surrounded by smaller dragons. The dragons wonder if they are the travelers destined to go into the Shadowlands to dispel evil forever. He decides to help the party with their quest and gives them a large hubcap sized token with a gold and silver dragon design on it. Hattori takes it and is told to wear it until he dies. They are told to travel north to the Seikitsu pass and travel through the Shinomen forest and visit the Naga (a species that is half human and half snake, good warriors who dominated the earth for a long time; they are currently in the Great Sleep, which they will not wake from until the Shadowlands try to overthrow Rokugan [cities of sleeping Naga are frequently targets of Shadowland attacks.]). They ask their host about the masks, and he becomes uncomfortable – they “are to remain hidden.”
They take their leave of the dragons and go north through a pass protected by Unicorns. They go across grasslands. On the first night Hattori kills a rabbit. The next day he tries to kill another and falls flat on his face. It jumps on his head and taunts him. Hattori slays it and then finds a hole with six little babies. Nisaru takes the baby bunnies and gives them to Xiang to add to her menagerie. They reach the forest edge by the end of the next day. After the night passes, they go into the forest and are beset by bugs. Emiko the sparrow eats them. They are unable to find a path and instead do their best to stumble through. They fish by a stream and sleep. Emiko sleeps as a sparrow and is woken up to being bitten by a snake, which she blasts with magic missiles. It is a really really dead snake.
Rumbling noise comes from the east, and they find a trampled area that was made two days ago when a mini army passed by. They follow the path and find a valley with three waterfalls going into a giant lake. A city in the center of the lake is built up on tree roots. To the west is a battle between 120-150 gaki versus 30 naga. Emiko rains magic death from above with earthbolt and steambreath. Xiang makes a gaki’s head explode with her fists. They finally kill all of the gaki. The naga thank them and invite them back to the city. They visit the hot springs and divide into sexes; Hotohori goes off with the guys, despite his feminine beauty. They learn that a spy found out that the naga eggs were beginning to glow – hence the attack. One of the naga shows the eggs to the girls. Emiko sits on an egg, and it hums. The same thing happens to the others. The humming means that the awakening is near. When Iuchiban has risen, the Great Awakening will occur. Xiang questions the naga about someone named Nakago while the rest explore the city, which is made out of sandstone and marble. It is a completely magical decahedron. After leaving, they come upon another naga city – however, this one is a devastating sight. The streambeds are dried up, the city is in ruins, tree roots are crumbling, broken shells everywhere…
Exiting the forest, they come upon a giant meadow. In the meadow are houses. There are no signs of inhabitance – only tatters of clothes remain. There are signs of looting but no indication that anyone has lived here for some time. They see huge mountains in the distance – The Spine of the World Mountains. The representatives reach a town at the base of the mountains where red-haired foreigners live. They enter a bar. Hattori becomes very angry when he loses at go. He ties another game, though, and Nisaru wins one. Hotohori and Hattori have a mock duel, and Hotohori wins. The red-heads don’t like the drawn weapons. Xiang again asks about Nakago and learns that he came through the Great Crater Pass six months ago – there have been no travelers through the town since then. Xiang gives a little girl two of her bunnies.
Hattori burns his armor to symbolize that he no longer needs its protection – he is on his way to becoming an iaijutsu master. Nisaru has a hangover, so he drinks some more. They head east, and Emiko talks to a sparrow about bugs. They come to a mountain pass that is very narrow at some places, as if someone had taken a knife to it. Unicorns are supposed to guard it, but they are nowhere to be found. They reach the point where it narrows and look for a tunnel, but a flash of green flames appears in the air surrounding a naked woman – a very powerful oni. An image appears in their minds of a young girl with a doll and a boy banging on a pot while the doll dances; the image crumbles and is replaced with the burnt doll lying on ashes. They were children from the Sparrow clan in Emiko’s old village. Emiko had made the girl the doll. The oni calls the group her play toys and charges them. Hattori tries to hit her, but his sword gets warm. She is amused by him. She’s very happy to be fighting. Xiang suggests hide and seek instead, and the oni is pleased and announces that she’s found her next victim. Hotohori imagines that she doesn’t exist, but it doesn’t work. Hattori and Nisaru run away. Mochiko backs up and casts searing light. Most everyone else leaves and looks for the tunnel, except for Xiang, who runs up the path past the oni. The oni becomes angry and catches her on fire. She chases her “squeak toy.” Emiko casts elemental burst to create a rock slide. Unfortunately the oni is not buried in it. Hotohori taunts her, and she falls for it. Hattori intimidates her to make her even more furious. They yell for Xiang to come back. Being on fire, she stops, drops, and rolls. Emiko flies to Xiang and carries her back to the others in hybrid form. The oni disappears and reappears behind the party: “you’re not squeaking anymore.” The monk Xiang tries to hide in midair. Hattori hits Hotohori with a fan.
They all get to the dark hole that Nisaru found and jump down into the pit, landing in warm water. Going down into it feels like going through gel. It is a very psychedelic passage. Hattori uses his ring of featherfall, Nisaru rides his horse off the edge, Emiko flies down, Miya tries to go superman style, falls, floats, and wildly flails head first into the water (but is convinced that she did spectacularly), Hotohori goes down a rope…eventually all make it to the shore of the water (thanks to the awesome submarine horse). Outside of the mouth of the cave on the shore are shifted rocks. The floors are very rough – the work here was crude. As they continue down, things get a little smoother and more finished. Shelves appear in the walls. Some of them are doors that open into rooms with tools inside. They also find manuals. Xiang touches a suspicious looking mound and is attacked by it. Hotohori kills both attacking mounds and plants his flag on top of them. Onward they find a mosaic that depicts short squat people with short-sleeved kimonos and red, brown, and blue hair, beautiful patterns of swirls and waves, nature scenes…the mosaic is even on the windowsills and doors. There are piles of sand everywhere (eww, rock poo). They are possibly from really old bones. The mosaics get more elaborate. Some of the houses have two stories. They come to a bridge going over a quick moving river. Giant wheels in the river are connected to boxes. Nisaru pulls a lever, the whirling goes faster, and something bright flashes up and down the street. Giant bulbs light up – electricity? They all find interesting things – Hotohori and Emiko each get a furushiki sack of holding, Miya finds a windfan, Hattori gets a necklace protecting him from poison, Mochiko finds a bead of force, Xiang finds a necklace of fireballs, and Nisaru gets slippers of spiderclimb.
Across the bridge, they find a pile of ash with a stone ball underneath. Xiang and Nisaru touch it and see memories – kids are playing with the ball, and then the ball and a girl disappear into nothingness. Onwards are more piles of bony ash. Inside a building is a desk made of extremely rare materials. A writing utensil also has a memory of the black nothingness. There is a mosaic on a building in the middle of the underground town.
Hattori says a haiku: Petals gently fall reminding of spring long past All that’s left is dark. Xiang responds: Oh pretty flowers I used to like the flowers And then I went blind.
A fair-skinned people lived here. The altar in the main building is made of a black stone. The altar and the two rings on it are magical, as are the stones surrounding it. These were of divine magic for binding or bonding ritual. Hattori touches a ring and sees another memory – two people were being married when the blackness came. Hattori finds a small dark alley with steps leading down. The air gets thinner, and footsteps are more muffled. The monkey climbs on the ceiling. They connect themselves with rope and reach a landing. They go to the right. It is very very very dark and cold. At another level is an iron ore, coal, and salt mine. A little dark hole is thought by many in the party to be the root of all evil! However, it is not. Nisaru wanders off. It gets really black, filling up the whole passage. He screams like a little monkey girl and dies. It gets really cold, and the rest of the party hear wind noises from behind them. They run outside and race out, realizing that they had awoken an ancient evil. They emerge into the light in Unicorn lands and their vast rolling plains of grass. They perform a ceremony for Nisaru to appease his spirit, and Mochiko takes over his horse.
Emiko knows that she is close to her Sparrow village. They go there and find that the scary oni lady – or something else – had indeed destroyed it. Everything is burnt. They contact the Emperor, and he puts them on hold. He comes back wearing a different robe. They learn that it was the Bloodspeakers, not the evil oni, who burned the town down – they did it as a sacrifice to the evil oni. The Emperor senses sarcasm from Hattori and throws a hissy fit. The Sparrow clan had been too nosy, so they were killed to appease the oni to make her watch the passage for them. Incorporeal human forms rise and fall back into the ashes in a kind of pattern. Hattori leaves out food. Emiko makes a memorial and finds a white headband with a five- pointed maple leaf on it. The headband appears to have been dropped by accident. Emiko takes it with her.
They head towards Boar lands, following the river north-northwest. Men on horses approach them, and they all travel together. They tell the horsemen about Nisaru. They reach a caravan and children run up – fans! armor! bunnies! Three important people approach and welcome them to their caravan. Tents pop up out of nowhere, and they follow the leaders into one. Inside a tent they kneel on red cushions and meet Chikako Kitsu of the Lion clan, whose group had been slaughtered by people wearing the same headbands as what those who killed the Sparrow clan had left behind. They also meet Oshi, the head of the clan, and Jarmon and Ching. Jarmon is a very suspicious character. Emiko plays the flute while Hotohori (in a girly and pretty fashion) tells the tragic tale of Nisaru. Hotohori gets subtitles for villainous laughter. Jarmon questions Xiang about the Mantis clan. Ching doesn’t want to go north, but Jarmon does – he uses curious and suspicious reasoning. They used to live up north, but death and carnage drove them south.
The representatives are escorted to a napping tent. There is a mysterious rumbling, and three holes appear, out of which come long creatures with spinning mouths on a chain. They think they are in a Mario game. Mochiko senses void and determines that there are five total attacking the tribe. She mocks Hattori. Xiang attacks one and deals great damage. It lets out a terrible screech, and all go back into the earth. The tribe is very ecstatic that they saved them – they are given praises and rewards of gold and horses. People give them other gifts as well – great family heirlooms. Emiko declines hers, believing in honorable poverty. Hattori really doesn’t like horses and vows to only ride it when he is tired.
A dark shape appears in the distance – a herd of wild horses! The party goes with the tribe for a round-up. Hotohori tangles himself in his lasso. Xiang lassos a horse but goes flying off the one that she is riding. Fortunately she manages to jump onto the one she caught. Emiko also is pulled off her own horse, but she changes into a hybrid and flies along. Hotohori catches the prettiest horse he can find – and it is delighted to find a human as beautiful as it is! Miya’s horse also loves her. Xiang finally makes her horse like her, but Emiko’s needs some help. They make the lassos into bridles and go to a festival. More experienced people help them to train their horses.
They reach a city by the river, where there is chaos. The houses are in odd shapes, and nothing in the layout of the place makes any sense. Hawkers are everywhere. There is a strange deserted palace that was built back when it became a city, but no one lives there. Colored guards (purple, blue, red, and yellow) are walking around. Around the wall are well-cultured houses and flowers. Hattori and Emiko write haikus.
Emiko: Houses drifting by flowers weaving up and down riding lazily
Miya finds a house with a poem on the door and finds a man inside who is a retired correspondent of the Emperor. He has heard no news of Iuchiban. He simply wants to seal himself off from the world. He does know that Jarmon is a scholar biased toward the northern and ancient territories. Meanwhile, Emiko buys jade and opal beads to make jewelry for Xiang, Hattori haggles to sell a kimono, and Xiang gets a fierce tiger tattoo on her shoulder. Emiko tries to watch but passes out. Emiko then tries to find out about the white headband, but she asks the purple guard people, and they attack her. She barely escapes. Later she sells baskets. Hattori sells off excess goods (like his horse). Hattori turns teeth from the strange monsters they fought earlier into bracers of shredding. Jarmon is in the city. Mochiko sees a leaf headband in a Salvation Army type store and learns that the bands represent an old terror to the people. Kitsu talks to spirits and learns of tension and a riot in the future. Miya also sells things and buys a fan. The shopkeeper is upset by Mochiko’s headband questions.
A person stands on the well preaching that there is no need for the militia. Seven of the purple soldiers stand in front of him, pull him down, and beat him as he tries to tell them that violence is not the answer. All of the colors join in, arguing amongst themselves, creating a big huge old-fashioned brawl. Hotohori, oblivious, is brushing his horse’s hair and his own: “I’m so pretty…” Mochiko tries to get the mob to listen as people knock each other out. Miya accidentally kills someone. Emiko casts dancing blade on Hotohori’s wooden sword and instructs it to hit the purple people. Hotohori rides up in an intimidating fashion, and everyone within ten feet of him sits on the ground, saying “Ok, we’re done.” Yes, he’s that good. Mochiko follows up by trying to intimidate with her fire wings, and they think that she was sent by a local water spirit. Xiang sees Jarmon smile smugly and run off with a companion. Kitsu calls upon the water spirit. Emiko changes into an eagle and goes off to look for Xiang. Hotohori meanwhile cows fifty more people; they stop fighting, and some bow, some shiver, and some convulse in fear. One man is enamored with Hotohori, and one child is in love with his horse. Mochiko flies over Hotohori, contributing to his hoard. Hattori talks more people into ceasing their fighting. The spirit floods the city to quell the mob; it wants a temple built in its honor. Hattori takes advantage of the situation and prophesizes about the grand Hotohori and the river and the dragons, pointing to his hubcap amulet. The fighting finally ends.
Emiko finds Xiang listening sneakily to Jarmon and his cohort. Xiang steps out to confront Jarmon and hits him. He and his minion/mook retaliate, and then Jarmon goes through a portal he creates in midair. The mook tries to follow, but Xiang grapples with him and knocks him out.
The townspeople think that Hotohori is an Emperor, and they lead him in a procession to the palace. The monk and the sparrow return and join the procession. The ornate beauty of the palace almost surpasses that of the Crane clan. Hotohori goes up the steps to make a mighty speech, and Hattori and Kitsu follow him. Mochiko casts light on Hotohori’s kimono, and she hums a regal-sounding tune. People around her pick up the melody and join in. Hotohori asks for information on the riot and wants to speak to the heads of the colors. A middle-aged man is chosen for their speaker. According to him, it was a yellow that gave the speech; the purples beat him. All of the colors are interviewed, but three shopkeepers have the most information. A man and his servant were looking at wares, and he started the riot by talking to the purples. Kitsu looks for their monk contact, who talks to the spirit about the temple. It will be built in a corner in the imperial gardens where a stream from the river runs through it. The monk tells Kitsu to fetch Teshi: he’ll take care of it.
Hotohori sends letters to the color heads. Emiko uses the downtime to make Xiang a jade and opal necklace and bracelet. The yellows show up and smoke in a semi-circle. All of the colors finally come, scowling at each other (except for the yellow). Hotohori convinces them that the dragon spirit is angry and that they ought to set up the river temple. Each of the colors have certain characteristics. The Purples hate strangers, while the Blues are fond of facts. The Yellows are pacifists, and the Reds are a combination of the others. They are in the midst of a contest to see which kind of government will win out. A frog started this city, which is on the border of the Dragon and Unicorn lands, and different schools of thought led to different opinions on how to best govern it. Hattori thinks that they all ought to be killed so that the city can be begun anew. They send the leaders home and go to the monk’s house. He promises to head the construction of the temple.
They sleep in the palace and wake to find gifts on the step in the morning: horseshoes of Zephyr, a cloak of displacement, a gem of brightness, a figurine of wondrous power (golden lions), a tome of leadership and influence +1, a glove of storing, and a decanter of endless water. They depart, saying that they will come back in an undetermined time.
They head north towards the mountains, and during the night something rather large flies overhead: a six foot tall wind oni that looks like a dead baby bird. It is very scary and very evil. Miya casts doom, which doesn’t work. It absorbs the party’s own spells and throws Mochiko’s fireball back at them. Then it collapses Mochiko’s lung. Hotohori hits it with his katana, and it explodes.
The representatives then travel a day and a half toward a city with a good temple, and the samurai argue with the rest about staying and upping their weapons. Miya is a guest of the monks. Xiang looks for information on Nakago while Mochiko makes some kids like her. Kitsu looks in stores and gets his hand caught in a rabbit trap. Emiko buys vegetables to feed her horse.
The next city they reach after two days’ travel is unorganized and filled with lively people. Hattori begins the traditional rituals to improve his ancestral daisho in a very homely temple. Xiang continues her search for Nakago. They learn that spirits come out at night, and the kami of the mountains talks to Kitsu about trouble. Mochiko listens to women gossip at the well, and they get quiet when Bloodspeakers are mentioned. Emiko turns into a dog and investigates but learns nothing. Then she and Mochiko disturb Hattori’s meditation, ensuing chaos. Mochiko and Xiang like Emiko the doggie.
They reach the next place after a day. En route they see an abandoned city with many burnt buildings. Small things like children crawl through the shadows, moving towards the travelers’ feet, wearing twisted white masks: the ghosts of children. A weeping woman keeps saying Moshi and crying. Xiang approaches her and asks her what’s wrong, and she ignores the party. When Miya greets her, she looks up and is upset – something about Moshi, pet store, mouse, fire, and death – and she keeps repeating lost, lost. She is looking for a mouse-shaped stone. Kitsu finds it, and the woman grabs it. She flashes bright, turns translucent, and blinks out.
The next city is a small farming village with large rice fields – a prosperous place. Hattori continues meditating in their temple. Xiang learns that Nakago was here three weeks ago. Kitsu talks to the kami of agriculture, but there are no problems. Kitsu is the kami therapist. Emiko talks to local Wu Jen, and Mochiko talks to women at the well again. Hotohori acquires a fan club through Mochiko’s well gossip: it’s now up to thirteen people. Mochiko is his agent, and Xiang is his hair stylist. Emiko makes baskets as gifts for the Wu Jen. Hattori goes with Kondo, an old bald guy with a limp, after the old man wakes him up from his meditation. They get to his house, and Hattori discusses his sword and his companions. Kondo offers them accommodation for the night. Mochiko thinks that Kondo is some sort of Emperor, and Miya hits her with a fan. Kondo tells them about the destroyed city: lightning struck, and many died. Some wouldn’t leave their home, as it used to be a trading hub. When Emiko asks about the headband, he tells them that it is connected to lots of evil. He brings out a chest containing a shirt, Kenshin pants, and a small sheet of rice paper, in which is wrapped a maple leaf headband. He ties it around his head and puts a sword around his waist. “We have been the best for a thousand years, despite being farmers and commoners. We fought for ideals that were cultivated in old years. Of course, the rising up of commoners was feared. After Iuchiban died, there were revolts against the lords, sponsored by the Bloodspeakers. The maple leaf has therefore become associated with Iuchiban’s revival, and our image has been perverted. We have to train in secret.” He himself is a truthful and proud member of the Way of the Leaf. Kondo goes off on the long history of his sword: he was the first person in his family to have a sword, and he found it sticking out of a rock…They sleep. Xiang asks him about Nakago. Kondo remembers him telling people to go to Serpent Rock, and he used to go north.
They eat breakfast together the next morning. Hattori and Kondo size each other up. Kondo is indeed a formidable opponent. Xiang gives him a rabbit. He has a son and a daughter, although he evades questions about his son. He tells them that his daughter lives in another small village.
They take their leave of Kondo and travel to yet another city. Two giant towers guard the mountain path, carved out of the mountains themselves. Mochiko peddles Hotohori’s fan club. A guard saw Nakago and another man pass through three days ago. There are reports of a soul-sucking fiend in the mountain and also of the remains of the Boar clan. They also discover a shrine to the rare mountain thrush. Miya seeks to be apprenticed to a silk maker, and she makes light green silk. The society of Wu Jen is very silly and not at all helpful. Kitsu wants to massage women, but he gets slaps and death threats.
The road weaves onward into Dragon territory, where the Boar clan used to be. The mountain walls are shadowy and dark. Xiang puts her necklace of fireballs inside a doll for safekeeping. Xiang’s spirit animal tells her that there is icky old sticky death inside a hole in the cliff face. Further on is another hole – there used to be animals there. Another contains a strong odor of death, and there are six bundles of human bodies in the back. They seem to have died around the time the Boar clan was wiped out. There is gray dust around the corpses, and their faces are strangely tilted up. The path divides, and the left seems more recently traveled. They continue to the left, where they reach an old temple; although it used to be good, there is a stale rottenness now. As they sleep, spirits of the dead float nearby, frozen as if they can’t move. Hattori wakes Kitsu, who says that this happens if something stole their souls, which is what the monster formed after the anvil of despair did. Miya tries to sneak up on the spirits – “Hello, spirits!” A troll comes into camp and creates a loud ruckus, throwing a rock at Mochiko. Mochiko kills it with a fireball.
They continue going left the next morning. Hattori wants to meditate in the temple, but there is no kami there to venerate. Xiang wonders why Hattori suspects her. Hattori is somewhat loud and goes chink…chink…chink. Emiko changes into an armadillo and mocks him, going chink…chink…chink. Hattori throws the armadillo. They find tablets in the temple, and Xiang sees the family name Nakago. The blind monk pretends to read the tablets, saying that they’re a romance novel. Hattori hits her on the head with a fan. They see two people’s footprints that were here before them: they walked in the door and looked at the pictures and tablets. Half a day later, they come upon a pile of rubble caused by a rockslide. They send the horses (and bunnies) back along the trail.
Four to five hours later, they come to a much more pleasant temple with no bad feeling and no bodies. There are, however, footprints and gray dust, a faint feeling of death that has been cleaned out. The Nakago family is on these tablets as well, as Ginji the spirit animal sees. The faint essence of a spirit is still in existence. Kitsu talks to the spirit while Hattori starts meditating. The spirit wants flowers and sake, so Emiko finds a small bouquet of white flowers. Miya investigates a deck of cards, and when she draws the Queen of Spades, a Medusa appears. Hotohori runs away – so ugly! Miya picks up the card and makes it go away. Mochiko picks bugs out of Hattori’s hair.
The next day, they come upon a slight rise and a break in the cliffs, through which they can see a valley and another path leading to an uninhabited city. There are two sets of footprints entering but only one leaving. Hattori continues to mistrust Xiang. He goes in the temple to continue meditating on his sword. There is only gray dust on the perimeters. They find 1,700 gold pieces’ worth of stuff and then leave Hattori, who can run and catch up when he finishes his meditation. He runs half the night to reach their campsite. While Hattori spends time on his sword, Hotohori looks pretty.
They pass tower fortress ruins, and a plain-looking guy on the top of the tower blows a horn in a wobbly fashion. Mochiko throws a fireball at it, and the wooden fortress burns. Hattori waits at the entrance. They see a familiar dark figure going up the hill, and Xiang chases him. Emiko flies after them. An animated ball of goo comes out of a bolder to Xiang’s right, a translucent sticky mass filled with floating shadows of faces and arms, sizzling blood dripping from their fingers. It attacks Jarmon, but he manages to escape it and run into the temple. The rest have to fight the goo to get past, and Hotohori is engulfed by it. Hattori smites with his thundering katana, and Kitsu uses his divine powers to smite. Miya kills it with the aid of her own bless spell. It explodes, mostly catching poor Mochiko, who gains taint and loses strength. Poor pretty Hotohori now looks disgusting, as he is covered in goo and bits of dead bodies. They continue up to the temple, and Mochiko rolls a flaming sphere in front of her. Miya blows it out with a gust of wind. Inside the temple are gray dust and bloody tracks – Jarmon apparently set off a spiked trap. The main room is empty, except for the gray dust and a small altar with a black and white object on a pedestal. Jarmon’s hand reaches up and grabs the piece of Iuchiban’s mask on the pedestal; then he notices the others, opens a portal, and goes through it as he glares back: “Damn Scorpions.” The Bloodspeakers now have two pieces of the mask.
Xiang slips and mentions Nakago to the rest of the party. Hotohori grabs the hubcap to try to talk with the dragons, and Hattori slaps him with a fan. Xiang admits she is a Scorpion and says that Jarmon might be working for Nakago, who was originally from the Boar area and has a family history of Bloodspeakers. He infiltrated the Scorpion clan and stole information, and she is an assassin sent to kill him. A long argument ensues. Emiko turns into an armadillo again. They talk to the Emperor, who is disturbed at seeing a goo-covered Hotohori with his hair all mussed up. They learn that more ships are coming down to the Shadowlands, and foreigners are invading from the West. War is eminent in the south, where they have already taken over the peninsula. The Bloodspeakers are going south, but fortunately the third piece of the mask is safe. Hattori vents his rage on a wall. They are directed to report back to Crane lands. Miya is sent west to work with the naga as a diplomat, however, and Mochiko goes to the Dragon clan for void disciple study.
As Hotohori, Hattori, Xiang, and Emiko rest in the capital, they are joined by Yashiko, an air shugenja of the Phoenix clan. Emiko makes money by selling baskets. Not having much use for it herself, she gives some to Hattori to spend on his sword and gives a gold piece each to eight hundred eta. They erect a statue of her. Hattori in the meantime seeks a dragon specialist to learn more about his earth dragon hubcap amulet. He learns that the last bearer died gruesomely. The dragon specialist is very enthusiastic about it and studies it for two hours. Xiang checks around about Nakago.
Finally all are summoned again by the Emperor. They go to the audience room and find a table laden with food. Hotohori is wearing a very pretty kimono: it’s gold and silver with depictions of cranes in flight and reeds and a garden on the back with a white tiger. The other layers are light violet, red and blue. It’s his best kimono. Hattori is in a neon kimono. The Emperor bows to the representatives, and they bow lower in return. They are gestured to their seats, and servants bring more food. He tells them that foreigners have taken over the southern peninsula and are invading Crab lands. They are being held off for now, but they keep getting reinforcements. They are gathering an army now to go into the Shadowlands. Two of the mask pieces, the ones from the Boar and Scorpion clans, have been retaken, and the third is also missing. It used to be in the Shimono Forest where the naga lived, but it is no longer there. The one Jarmon captured has been tracked to Iuchiban’s fortress, while the other is in the Shadowlands. The missing one took a long time to spot, as the guards were befuddled and convinced that they could still see the mask. They are ordered to recollect the seals (mask pieces).
Then the Emperor brings out four well-wrapped packages: four swords labeled Ambition, Passion, Judgment, and Revenge. He hands Scorpion Xiang Ambition, Phoenix Yashiko Passion, Crab Hotohori Judgment, and Lion Hattori Revenge. They are warned not to use them freely, as they are part of majo magic and should have been destroyed. The anvil of despair is needed to break them, and it is within Iuchiban’s fortress. Either they should be destroyed or mastered, as the swords have the souls of the Boar clan inside them. The swords are cursed, and the owners must have a strong will or else be killed by the swords. Touching it with the bare hand or drawing it will affect the owner. Passion is icy death, Ambition is dragon’s flame, Judgment is kami’s storm, and Revenge is invisible edge.
The next order of business is how to get in to the Shadowlands. Underneath the Kaiyu Wall are heavily guarded tunnels used by spies. A freelance guide hired by the Emperor himself will take the party to the pass. He will have an ornate walking stick with traditional cranes. Hotohori is worried that his step-mother is a Bloodspeaker; she ran Hotohori off of his family lands. They are told to leave within the next month if possible and to stay as long as the jade lasts; then they are dismissed.
Hattori makes the Emperor a pot, and he loves it. Emiko also makes him a basket. They buy a curing wand, and Xiang finds a nice home for her cat and stables for the horses. Then they are teleported into Crab lands, where they set about searching for their guide. Emiko fails to find him and hits her head, dazing herself. Hotohori asks around. They find two rooms in an inn, where Hattori looks at his sword through the wrapping. Xiang asks around about Nakago. Some joke goes around about a sparrow and a duck, confusion, dead pheasants, and running out. They still don’t see the man with the staff. They go to a traditional restaurant with wonderful smelling beef hotpot! Emiko finds the guy with the staff, and Xiang realizes that he’s Nakago. Meanwhile Hattori and Hotohori iaijutsu the poor hotpot with chopsticks. Emiko gets them out of trouble and drags them to see the man with the staff. Hotohori and Hattori talk to him while continuing their assault on the hotpot. The hotpot is flat-footed. They flank it and attack. Hattori devastates it with his chopsticks, splattering gravy on the paper panels behind him. Emiko casts protection from ranged attacks on herself. Hattori and Xiang both struggle for a piece of beef, and Xiang finally gets it. They find an egg. Yashiko casts obscuring mist and grabs the egg. Emiko learns from Xiang that their guide is Nakago. Hattori tells Nakago that he is in danger: “Is that so?” Emiko: “I think it’s time for bed…” She apologizes for the rude behavior of the samurai. Xiang and Hattori hold a whispered conversation in the public room of the inn. Xiang: “Idiot! Stay out of my way.” Hattori: “Evil Scorpion assassin!” Xiang scandalizes him to the inn lady, and then she and Emiko talk.
Nakago waits for them at the well in the morning. Hattori dashes to the well first and talks to Nakago before the rest arrive. He leads the group onward. Hattori and Hotohori talk about swords. Nakago sighs: “Males…” Ironically, Xiang joins their conversation. The atmosphere gets chillier, and they stop for lunch. Just when they sit down, five free ogres appear to their right, rather large and ugly weapon- bearing creatures. Hattori takes one out with an iaijutsu swing of his katana, and there is excessive scenery damage. Hotohori hits another one quite hard. The ogre slams Hattori into the rocks, and Xiang hits another. Emiko becomes a fire-breathing sparrow, and an ogre shoots her. Yashiko casts flame strike. Both Hotohori and Emiko kill one. Nakago meanwhile doesn’t fight. Yashiko kills the one in front of Xiang, and Xiang accidentally hits Hattori instead of the ogre. Hattori kills the last one, and Emiko fries the bodies and argues with Nakago.
They continue into a deep gorge with the remains of a rope bridge. The wind is heavier. Nakago pushes Emiko over the edge, and she flies and glares at him. Hattori tries to walk across the rope, but it snaps, and he falls five feet into darkness. He pokes his ten foot pole up, and Emiko grabs it. Nakago tells them that this is the entrance. The rest join Hattori, except for Xiang, who chases after Nakago and strikes him from behind. He slashes her and almost kills her; then he walks away. Hattori and Hotohori catch up and are absorbed in studying the well-placed katana cuts; Emiko checks her out and sees that she is still alive. Yashiko heals her.
They climb back in the dark hole after much arguing. There are giant spider webs across the opening, thicker than normal, like braided silk threads. Hattori cuts a part of it, and that area goes blank. The edges of his blade look almost translucent. Hattori sticks his hand in and feels black cold iciness. They learn that the openings close after someone goes through. Hotohori crawls through one of the low ones. Yashiko manages to get through safely after a close call. Hattori jumps through, but Xiang touches a side by accident, and her left arm goes numb. Emiko flies through the remaining small hole as a sparrow. The tunnel within is rough stone. Emiko sits on Xiang’s shoulder as they climb, and she casts spiderclimb on the less agile Hotohori: Spider Samurai! They find pictures in the rock of concentric circles on any flat surface. In the center is written pure mind. Sometimes there are circles within a square. There is a walking curtain of Hotohori-on-the-ceiling-hair-hanging-down. They find a light on the wall and another moving around: restless spirits. Hattori walks by, and one moves with him, following two feet behind his right shoulder. Yashiko pouts because Hattori has a new friend. There are now eight or nine chaotically floating around. Hotohori takes watch as they rest and hears whispers. Xiang also hears the whispers second watch, like little kids supposed to be taking a nap. They look like wisps of smoke around balls of flame. One lands on Hattori’s shoulder, and it feels cold. When they wake up, Hattori and Xiang insult each other while Hotohori preps. Yashiko tries to pet the little spirit, but her hand passes right through it. There is no need for a light here.
After half a day, they reach a grayness in front, and some of the spirits float back. It gets lighter as they walk out the lip of a cave and see a valley below filled with death: skeletons, decomposing bodies in piles and piles, broken houses, broken weapons, and banners in tatters…they feel as if little bugs are crawling all over them. They see two hills through the thick mists and steep cliff faces, but there is no sound. They climb/fly/levitate down and have to walk over bones at the bottom. It is very unsettling. The object where the two hills meet seems out of place. Hotohori looks at the horrid ugliness around him: “I’m too damn pretty for the Shadowlands!” A tentacled ooze comes up. Sadly it is unaffected by magic. A large eagle flies in to join the ooze in attacking the party. The ooze monster gets mud on an angry Yashiko. The eagle grabs sparrow Emiko, who shapeshifts into a porcupine, getting quills in its talons and breathing fire on it. Yashiko casts images of the party on the other side of the ooze; then Xiang kills it. Yashiko notices the eagle and kills it with fire. Emiko changes back to sparrow form and roasts the dead eagle into ashes.
The building between the hills is a peasant hut on patches of earth with no bones. There are old, very nice weapons lying on the ground. Yashiko finds a large fan that looks quite lethal. This valley was the place of a series of battles between the Crabs and the Shadowlands. The Crabs used one entrance and laid an ambush for a large army. They were driven into a valley and blocked from escaping, and the few Crabs that survived slowly went insane. Hotohori gathers six weapons and hands them out – a katana, two sets of sai, a kusari-gama, and two wakizashi. The hut is misted and shadowed, fallen in on itself. In the back is a distinct skeleton, still intact and supporting itself on the window ledge, wearing armor. It was not there a moment ago. “Truth becomes fiction while the fiction’s true. Real becomes unreal when the unreal’s real.” It is written in the dust and seen only by Yashiko and Emiko, who become separated from the party as they are compelled to watch only the zombie. Hattori looks inside and sees thatching on the floor, a crumbling wall, and a small wooden box with no gray dust on it. He pokes the box with his ten foot pole and then opens it, finding a ring: a gold band containing a piercing red stone. The rest go outside and collect their spaced-out spellcasters. Yashiko snaps out of it and is surprised at their location, as the last thing she can remember is being back in front of the hut. Hattori and Xiang then see the skeleton and space out too. Emiko snaps back to reality, followed by Hattori and Xiang. They quickly go towards the pass before someone else gets distracted. Then Yashiko sees another skeleton, a fully clothed noble woman meditating on two scrolls in front of her: “You and your insistence on ferreting out facts are like the man who dropped his sword in water and thought to find it again by making a mark on the side of his boat. You are like a man playing a zither with the tuning pegs glued fast. I know not why my heart’s so strangely sad, half grieving for the spring and yet half glad; glad that it came, grieved it so soon was spent, so soft it came, so silently it went.” The sparse areas increase, and they see flecks of brown solid ground. Yashiko snaps out of it as they see green trees in the distance, mountains, and a man sitting in the path.
The meditating man hails them: “Greetings, imperial servants. Sit with me.” He knows all of their names and has heard many tales, a veritable fountain of information. He was an advisor for the old Emperor brought to inform the representatives. Their next decision is of consequence. He can lead them to Iuchiban’s fortress; the imperial army is awaiting their instructions. Until them, he will walk in their shadows. He likes quiet Hotohori and links arms with him, catching up on gossip. He is Hotohori’s henchman courtier Ikaro.
The landscape keeps changing. There are mountains on each side with caves, some covered in cloth and some that have objects in them. Emiko flies up to investigate and sees the skeleton in her head again…she falls down, and Xiang catches her. Nothing here is really alive, not even at the river, a dark but clear body of water with bobbing skulls that jump up and snap occasionally. They teleport across. Next they face a series of canyons and cliffs. Hattori’s little spirit friend comes back. Ikaro questions Hotohori about Xiang and Nakago. Hotohori is concerned about his Bloodspeaker stepmother, who prevents him from returning to his lands. He will only kill her after he has performed his other duties. The canyon is like the Valley of Death without the death. The puddles smell of iron, like blood.
A shadow overhead passes a few times and then grows larger, and they see a large green flying squid with tentacles and sharp fangs. Riding on it is a figure in flowing robes and another smaller figure. Both prep spells. As the big squid oni hits the spellcasters, Yashiko mirrors the party. This is followed by shooting and an ice storm. The boy casts spectral hand, and the girl casts inflict wounds on it. It touches Hotohori. Xiang flies up on her carpet and hits the woman, killing her. Yashiko hits the oni and Xiang with a spell. Emiko kills the boy with snake darts. Another slug oni comes, and the rider on it has a giant lance. They fireball it. Hattori jumps and lands gracefully on the squid oni. Yashiko casts mirror image again, so there are now three of everyone. The sparrow breathes steam, and Hattori chops off its tail. After some javelins, it falls to the ground and causes excessive scenery damage. Hattori gets hit with the lance and nearly dies; then the oni with the lance rider flies away. Yashiko heals everyone. On the bodies, they find a wand of cure serious wounds, a +1 shield, a rod of withering, a figurine of wondrous power (bronze griffon), a medallion of thoughts, a ring of freedom of movement, and a ring of water walking.
Because the scout got away, they go off to find the army. They spiderclimb/fly/teleport to the top of the cliff, where things are back to all gray, both the land and the sky. Then they come across some green grass and find the army, consisting of tents and eight thousand troops. The troops eye the party uneasily. Sparkles are followed by a commercial break. They meet the General. Ikaro is full of useful information, and he knows that the general is having an affair with the Emperor’s cousin. Hotohori is the best diplomat ever. They are the first group to come back intact and sane in one hundred years. The general needs a plan of the castle. He shows them to a huge portable shrine. One of the scouts is kind of mentally unstable, and Xiang talks to him. He’s restrained, as otherwise he carves into himself. His surface thoughts are not coherent: squiggly round carved designs, blackness, and going into a cave. In the camp they learn that “Cleanliness is next to kaminess.”
They are apparently supposed to command the attack. Speed is important, as is scouting ahead. The army possesses two rings, doors to help move the army quickly. Their army also includes some foreigners that fight against the other gaijin in their homelands. The general inspects their communicating-with-the-Emperor bowl and helps them change it so that they can communicate with the army instead. Xiang leaves her singed flying carpet to be fixed, and Hattori makes his katana still spiffier with shocking. A samurai in training brings Emiko a wand made of a foreign wood (ebony) and ties silk in Xiang’s hair. They contemplate what would happen if one summoned a whale and dropped it (think Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). Hotohori becomes Hattori’s iaijutsu pupil. Yashiko gets a ring of greater air elemental command. They also receive a scroll of scrying, a ring of protection +3, a ring of water walking, a rod of flailing, a mask of the skull, a lesser mantle of spell resistance, a sight of the dragon headband, and a dainty glove of storing. Hattori also increases his homemade bracers of shredding. Emiko scrys the scout, seeing a river, a plain, and a castle. She teleports them there.
They arrive in a grassy clearing next to a river. All else is gray mind-dulling dust, and there are mountains and the castle directly in front of them, partially built into the cliff face. They cast mass invisibility and inspect the castle more closely. The stone is well-crafted, and the wood is painted bright red. There are tall towers at every angle in the wall, flying red pendants with gold edging. They have one main gate and two smaller ones. The center is at the highest point, and flying up, Emiko sees moats inside. Then she falls in the river. There is lots of debating, and Emiko as a bubble character sparrow hops back and forth on Xiang’s shoulder. All three gates open as they stand there, and part of an army marches out. They run/fly up to the gates, but once they get inside, they are no longer invisible and get attacked. Hattori runs out, hitting people in passing. Hotohori yells as loudly as he can that he wants to speak with his mother and will kill whoever gets in his way. Many are cowed. Emiko earthbolts the masses, killing about…twenty…in sloooooow mooootiooonnnnn. Xiang lays into people and kills one. Four are brave enough to attack the charismatic Hotohori. A hand comes out of nowhere and inflicts wounds on Emiko. Yashiko casts flame strike, killing ten. Hattori continues running and slashing, killing one and then tripping on his face. Hotohori kills the one who dared to attack him last turn. Emiko kills another twenty with an earthbolt, and one yells “Bonsai!” as he flies into the air and dies. Xiang punches madly and bloodily. Arrows from the towers attack some of the others. Yashiko heals herself, and Emiko is cursed with a lack of strength. Hattori stands up and kills another. Hotohori follows Emiko’s earthbolted path and gets inside a tower, finding a planning place complete with maps. Emiko puts a fireball in the tower and kills eleven, including the nasty shugenja who had attacked her. The army regroups, and Xiang kills two more. Then the army runs away.
Hattori gets the bowl out and instructs them to send the army in now. Yashiko goes invisible. The army appears, rushing up to the fortress with Hattori at its head. Two figures leap up on the wall and shoot with large ornate bows; one has dark hair and scanty red clothes, and the other wears a dark cloak (it’s Han and Yoshi! *see the Six-Fold Quest for the Seal campaign notes*). They rain death on the fortress army and then jump down. The representatives themselves go right around a building and down a small alleyway to get back into the war. They come upon a large training field with catapults and many dead on both sides; there is a moat and then another wall. They go up to the building bordering the moat and see flying figures with silken robes and misty black wings casting spells on the army and causing much damage using their tainted magic. Yashiko fireballs one and Emiko magic missiles the other, and both fall to the ground. They cross the bridge and face a line of archers. Hattori charges with combat shenanigans and kills two. Hotohori intimidates and cleaves, and they run away. Only one person is left on the bridge (Flick the dragon disciple), and she does not look human with her glittering red skin. She’s wearing black light armor and has bright red spiky hair and gleaming yellow eyes, and she faces them holding a clumsy sword. She hits Xiang, and Yashiko hits her with her war fan, swinging and looking pretty. Hattori hits as well while Hotohori intimidates still more people, making them all surrender. Emiko throws snake darts on her, and Xiang tries to hit her. Hattori takes a hit, and Yashiko cures critical on Xiang and gets hit as well. Both samurai hit the dragon disciple, and Emiko shoots magic missiles at her. Xiang hits her twice, and she breaths fire at Hotohori before falling unconscious. Out of nowhere a tattooed lady appears, and she grabs the dragon disciple and disappears, but not before getting hit by the samurai and Xiang.
The building in front of them is two stories tall. Inside is a plain foyer and then three doorways. It is nice and clean, but a bloody man just came through. Xiang detects thought but only gets the thoughts of her party members: swords, water, no idea, and let’s take off our shoes. True seeing also doesn’t help. They go not too silently along the hallway towards a faint light ahead, and they come into a room with lots of mirrors clustered together in various patters. Hotohori hears hideous laughter echoing through the chamber and feels that he must laugh as well for half a minute. He falls down laughing (but with sparkles). Emiko accidentally directs Xiang to walk into a mirror (her spirit animal had to stay behind when she entered the Shadowlands). From above a beam comes down and hits the mirrors, reflecting different colors. A blue beam hits Yashiko and turns her to stone. Xiang and Emiko avoid red beams, Hotohori is hit by orange and yellow and takes acid and electrical damage, and Hattori is hit by orange and violet and gets fire. They pick up their statue friend and continue onward. Hotohori scratches mirrors with his wakizashi so that they can keep track of their route. Then he blunders and cleaves through the mirrors. They finally see a doorway, but on the floor are magically arranged tiles that are timed devises. Someone laughs behind them, and Hotohori shoots an arrow and shatters a mirror. They go through the room filled with simple and obvious traps (a ninja training room). Hotohori attacks the paper paneling on the wall. Behind it is darkness, and the paper repairs itself.
Then they see a figure squatting in the doorway with neon orange hair, tight black leather clothes, and glinting silver eyes, smiling crookedly. As she walks around the room, more of her appear, stretching out in a line. Emiko sees the real her. The images fade out, she stops walking, smiles a full smile, and is gone. They continue onward through more mirrors and enter a small area packed with bodies of soldiers and enemy soldiers and people in black; they have no wounds, but they are dead. They don’t even smell. Passing by another room, they smell rotting flesh, eggs gone bad, and cabbage. Emiko is one nauseated bird. Eight or nine bodies are hanging from the ceiling on hooks. As they go on, they hear laughing again, and lightbeams shoot out from a person in a blue robes. Xiang is hit by green and indigo and goes insane. Emiko and Hattori are hit by orange and take acid damage, and Hotohori’s yellow shocks him. Xiang babbles like River from Firefly. Hattori climbs up and balances on the mirror tops, and he sees a window and a door under the window. They see out the window a small pagoda with four people: the tattooed person, the one with neon orange hair, and the blue robes one; they can’t see the fourth. Emiko’s wand heals them, and they head out. The three around the table stand up and walk into the dense surrounding pine trees. The person in blue robes has long white hair, and she alone remains. Hattori walks up to her, and she stands up, spins her chair around, and sits back down. She has red eyes and white skin. The tips of her hair could have been purple. Insane Xiang walks up: “Very nice to meet you.” Emiko notices that she’s wearing magic, and the little bubble bird goes: “Warning! Magic! Ahh!” Her name is Galan. Hattori hits her before everyone else. Hotohori’s katana flies out of his hands and gets stuck in a tree. Xiang’s insanity makes her attack the nearest person (Hattori), but she misses. Galan magic missiles Hotohori, and Emiko breathes fire on her. Hotohori gets his wakizashi out of his dainty glove of storing and attacks, killing her. They leave the ninja training area, taking with them her amulet of health +4. Emiko rests and regains spells so that she is able to restore Yashiko and Xiang to their former selves.
They head into the grove: it is dense, dark, and smells piney. Though there are spider webs above them, they reach the other side safely. Past the forest is a courtyard with houses, a wall, a moat, and a bridge. There are two figures – one blond (Nakago) and Jarmon. They are locked in combat. Jarmon waves his warfan, and black fog engulfs Nakago, who back-flips out and sends a wave of icy daggers at Jarmon, who dodges. Xiang hears God laughing. Dead bodies are lying around the combat. Most go around the battling spellcasters to the bridge, although Xiang stops to watch. Nakago works toward the bridge, while Jarmon seems to be trying to keep him from the bridge. Hattori wants to eat rice balls and watch, but the almighty DM says that he has no rice balls. Hotohori combs his hair. Nakago finally gets hit with the black cloud, and he falls to the ground prone in a coughing fit, specks of black-like ash everywhere. He looks over at the representatives, and the samurai charge Jarmon. Hattori causes him to die from massive damage; then he helps Nakago up. “Could you guide us to the mask?” Nakago’s eyes and hair are changing color on him; he claims he is here fighting the Shadowlands. Xiang hits him in the face. He looks stunned, and then his eyes (still changing color to a glinty gold) fasten on her. Xiang tells the samurai to stay out of her fight, as it is her honor at stake. She and Hattori argue and then begin to fight because Hattori refuses to let Xiang kill Nakago. Emiko tries to talk them out of it, and Yashiko turns into a giant. Then Hotohori simply says “No, remember the mission,” and they stop. He is just that charismatic. Xiang decides to wait.
A group of fighting troops emerges from the woods as they cross the bridge. They loot Jarmon’s body first, gaining a warfan with a butterfly motif imbued with flaming and shocking burst, a plain small yumi of sleep, arrows, a ring of animal friendship, a ring of wizardry, two potions of charisma, a potion of discern shape- changer, three talismans of a white sheaf of grain (cure moderate wounds), a courtier’s obi, a tomb of understanding +1, a wondrous writing set (+2 craft calligraphy, +10 forgery), and letters and correspondence up his sleeves. As they walk over the bridge, they can no longer see behind them, and it is deathly silent inside. Eight tori- shito gates arch over the path in front of them, ending in a courtyard with a fountain and a building beyond. Nakago goes first, and they follow. He avoids a certain area, and Hattori following gets hit by spikes. Yashiko does some healing. Nakago takes a drink from the well and admires the surroundings – three statues, two tented boards, two bells/gongs, and the large building in front. It would look like a Zen Buddhist temple in another world. Hotohori purifies himself, and the others follow suit. There are steps to the doors at the top and a porch along the perimeter of the main building as well as a small gate to the left alongside the buildings, which Nakago goes through. They go to follow him, and he stops suddenly: “Can I have a bit of privacy for a moment? I’m going to use the bathroom.” Although there is a port-a-potty like structure in the middle of the garden, when Xiang goes in to find him, he has disappeared.
They all go up to the main building and see bathtubs filled with hot water. They go down a large hall with hefty statues of Buddha and bodhisattvas on either side. There is no sign of either Nakago or traps. Xiang touches a statue and feels peaceful. They go through the door behind the Buddha and walk through a wooden breezeway. Xiang hears breathing behind a door to the right, which leads to the dining hall. Hattori goes in looking for food and gets a katana in his back. A female with glistening green scales and the remnants of black tattoos who is wearing dark leather armor twirls out of his reach after her attack. He tries to attack back, and she hits him again. Hattori retreats to the door, and Yashiko mirrors the party. Hotohori tries to diplomacize to figure out where the mask is, but it’s going to take awhile. Xiang dashes in and hits with a falling star strike, and Emiko casts magic missile. A small human female in black leather with silver buckles and neon hair juggling silver daggers appears and goes after Xiang. Another comes into view next to Hotohori, a tattooed chick with no smile and no hesitation, and his strength is drained. Hattori attacks her. Yashiko casts searing light, Hotohori stabs and slashes, Xiang flurries, and Emiko casts magic missile. The samurai among the enemies attacks Hattori and Hotohori and Yashiko and causes much pain. Hattori, Yashiko, and Hotohori retaliate while Xiang flurries and Emiko casts dancing blade on Hotohori’s wakizashi. Xiang is hit, and Hattori feels weaker due to constitution drain. Yashiko gets hit, and Xiang and Hattori are hit again; the woman breaks her wakizashi on Hattori. More attacking occurs on both sides; it is quite a furious battle. Xiang kills her opponent. Hattori dies and is enveloped in blue light; he is suggested to think about who his friends are, but he leaves out Xiang and Emiko. The hubcap explodes and insta-kills all of the enemies except for the samurai, who kills herself. Xiang and Emiko are unconscious and close to death. Yashiko brings Hattori back to life and heals Xiang; meanwhile Emiko is a dead bird. Yashiko brings her back to life.
Poor Hotohori has no strength and has to be carried by Xiang. They go into the pillow room. Emiko sits on Hattori’s head angrily, but he grabs her and sets her on Xiang. Then they go through the meditation room and the garden. Hotohori meditates and has an urge to look at the front of the Buddha; Xiang takes him there. He kowtows with her help and sees that something is off with the statue – the hands are turned inwards and have been stained with something red. Blood. Recently wet. Xiang thinks that it is for summoning onigiri. Hattori, being hungry, cuts his hand and tries it. The blood disappears as the statue absorbs it, and a ladder appears through the ceiling in the hallway. They go up, and Xiang opens the door to a room which is hospitable except for the woman kneeling and chanting and looking like Yzma from Emperor’s New Groove: scary beyond all reason. Her hands hover over a white and red section of a mask, and an image in vapor of a kind-looking visage encompasses the mask. Nakago is also in the room, pressed up against the wall in manacles. The scary woman is Hotohori’s stepmother, while the image in the vapor was his mother. Nakago yells as if from a distance: “Stop her – the mask – the mask – what the hell do you think you’re doing? Idiots.” Hattori hits her, and her eyes lock on Hotohori. Her hands tremble, and she jerks but can’t move. Her wrinkly flesh bubbles, her skin turns back and her head snaps back with an audible crack. However, her hands remain over the mask, even after Hattori sunders them. Emiko notices that the moment she died the mask shook. She was interrupted in midspell, and the interruption caused her to die. Hattori cuts Nakago down. Emiko magic missiles the hands, and Yashiko moves items.
Nakago moves over to the body, pokes her, lays a hand over her face, gives a brief nod, and picks up the mask: “It’s so pretty.” Xiang puts on the skeleton mask that they received earlier and uses the finger of death spell; Nakago fails his save and dies unexpectedly. Hotohori has Emiko cast dancing blade on his sword again so that it can stab his dead stepmother’s body, as he is too weak to do it himself. Yashiko takes the mask with them. When they get outside the temple, she and Emiko use all of their remaining spells to take out the temple of evil in fiery explosive waves of death. They enjoy themselves immensely.
The army is waiting out in front of the gates for the representatives. Ikaro runs up to Hotohori and congratulates him and heals him. When he learns that Nakago didn’t come out, he runs over to the temple, sees the burning ruins, and hits his head – Nakago had the other two pieces of the mask. Although the physical forms were destroyed by the massive fire and magic damage, the evil magic still remains. Those with the evil swords take them to the anvil on which they were forged and sunder them: the swords crack and emit a different colored light (Revenge blue, Ambition red, Judgment yellow, and Passion turquoise) before the swords turn black. Then the anvil itself cracks. Their mission complete but somewhat botched, they make plans to separate. Xiang plans to leave, and Hotohori wants to check on his own lands and on the Unicorn town he now rules. Emiko wants to search out the people wearing the headband with the five-pointed leaf. Who knows what the Emperor thought of all of this?