The Drowning Empire is a weekly serial based on the events which occured during the Writer Nerd Game Night monthly Legend of the Five Rings game. It is a tale of samurai adventure set in the magical world of Rokugan.
If you would like to read all of these in one convenient place, along with a bunch of additional game related stuff, behind the scenes info, and detailed session recaps, I’ve been posting everything to one thread on the L5R forum, http://www.alderac.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=295&t=101206
This week’s episode is in three short bits. It gets a little jumpy here as the guys each picked some small bit of the session to write about, but if you use the link above I always post a huge behind the scene’s GM play by play. The first part was written by Tony Battalingo, who is playing the drunken archer, Yoritomo Oki and comes from the fight against the cursed monk in Black Sand Village.
Then we’ve got two letters, the first by Paul Genesse and the second by Pat Tracy, and this comes from the end of the session when the guys learned they were being sent on a top secret mission by the shogunate to the colonies.
Oki couldn’t understand why he was so cold. Sure, he had sailed far enough north to see the ocean where the water itself froze and rose out of the water like great white monoliths. He had been naked, soaking wet and abandoned on the water in the unforgiving ocean wind before. But now, even though he was wrapped in a rain coat, even though he had a small hidden fire burning under the roof he was lying on, he was shivering uncontrollably.
He looked down through a small opening in the roof and nodded at the couple of peasants gathered around the dark, metal pot that held a slumbering fire, waiting for the signal to hoist it to the roof. These were good people. Normally Oki wouldn’t get himself involved in other people’s problems unless he got something out of it, but the group decided that they needed to be here. They needed to help. And they needed Yoritomo Oki to help.
He looked over to the moonlit ocean, standing still and flat like a cloth draped over a line. He could barely see the moon through the rain. He chuckled to himself and thought about how his friends needed him here. He would keep telling himself that, to reassure himself, to keep him warm. He looked across the small peasant town at the roof the suspiciously ordinary bard was concealed on.
“Friends…? Hmm.” Oki half whispered to himself before wrapping himself up tighter in the thick rain coat. He was soaked to the bone from the rain. The damn coat was useless. His stupid hat must have holes in it. His shivering was getting worse. He looked back at where Uso was lying. It took Oki a second for his eyes to zero back in on Uso. If Oki didn’t already know where Uso was, he would never have been able to see him.
Oki’s suspicions were rising about their bard companion. Something was off, that was the obvious part, at least to Oki. (He was sure Shintaro had no idea) The hard part was figuring out what exactly was off. Uso barely turned his head like an owl hiding in its nest. Oki never saw the movement, just Uso’s eyes looking back at him through the rain. Uso gave a very slight nod before he turned his head back.
Oki was slightly startled but settled back into his coat. He looked up,
“It’s not raining…” Oki whispered to himself reassuringly. “It’s not raining…”
Oki wiped the water running down his face and looked at the shrine that they had fixed. He thought it was a bad idea. He didn’t like it. He didn’t like the stupid shrine. He didn’t want to wait for the wailing monster. He did however, really want to blow something up tonight.
Oki’s thoughts wandered haphazardly like a drunkard through the dark alleys of Zakyo Toshi. He wondered about the older Tortoise Kasuga Ayane back at Sunset Tower. She was hiding something about the Gaijin and he knew it. He wondered about his completely hairless friend, Tamori Isao. Why did he get so sick all of a sudden? Oki’s mind stopped on Uso again. Oki could never prove it but he had a hunch that Uso was involved with Isao’s fever.
His mind refocused on the cold. He was wet and the rain was getting worse. He was angry at the sky for doing this to him. He didn’t want to sit on this damn roof. He grumbled, lowered his hat and went back to thinking.
He thought about the strange symbol he and Uso found in the basement of Sunset Tower. He thought about the People’s Legion. He knew the situation was only going to get worse. He didn’t understand the People’s Legion talk about “the injustice of the Celestial Wheel”.Sure he had read the fliers they put up but he didn’t understand. He didn’t care, he knew that all that deity stuff was just to keep the peasants working in their fields. To keep them under control. To give them hope.
“Hope.” Oki scoffed quietly.
Oki was still shivering and thought he could see his breath. This cold felt supernatural, no, unnatural. He was getting anxious, he couldn’t bear it anymore. A flood of emotions was starting to bubble up in him from his belly. He could feel it in his veins, wiggling through them like a fish in a river. His breathing was getting faster. His head was burning while his body was frozen. He ignored the emotions, the thoughts. He picked up his trusted bow to try to ease his thumping head. His hands were trembling. He couldn’t take it anymore.
He dropped his bow back on the roof and brought his frozen shaking hand back into his sleeve. His hand immediately found what it was searching for. He looked back at the ocean and mouthed the word ‘Friends’ before filling his aching belly with the silky sweet drink that hushed his pain. He stared at the now near empty bottle of sake as he sloshed its beloved contents back and forth like the rolling ocean. It was a calming motion. He was starting to get warm. The funeral drums in his head were getting farther away. The rain was stopping but the shaking was still there.
The shaking was always there but Oki had gotten good at hiding it.
Oki lifted his bow back up to his eyes with his shaking hand. He put the bottle back in his sleeve and removed an arrow from his quiver. Carefully he notched it and took a deep breath of the night air. He closed his eyes and held the air until it turned to fire in his lungs. He confidently pulled back like he had been taught for so many years. He let the fire out of his lungs slowly like a great whale. The air escaped but the heat remained. He opened his eyes.
There it was.
The steady. The calm.
The arrow was aimed precisely at the moon. There was no sway. There was no shaking. Everything was calm. Everything was clear.
Everything was alright.
Oki put the arrow back and put on his dark lenses to conceal his reddening eyes. He laid back and opened his coat to let the night air dry his sweat soaked clothing. He removed his hat and pulled his bow to his face across his lips and cheek. He whispered to it, before looking at the stars in the clear night sky.
“See… It’s not raining”
Letter to Akodo Goro, Rikushogun of the 1st Akodo Army
From his son, Akodo Toranaka
Most Esteemed and Honorable Father,
I have decided to leave Rokugan. I may never return. Since I have been released from my duties in the Lion Clan lands, and am not physically fit for duty serving as a Gunso in the 1st Akodo Army, I will be leaving for the colonies in the Ivory Kingdoms to seek my destiny.
I will be taking Moto Subotai with me and will continue to keep him as our family’s hostage. He is not safe in the Lion Clan lands right now, and I hope that Lion samurai will not accost him in the Ivory Kingdoms. If they do, I will defend him to the end.
Truly, he is my brother now. He is a stalwart companion, and though he spends far too much time writing poetry, he is still one of the best swordsmen I have ever seen. He is a valiant ally, and an even better friend.
If it becomes necessary for his life to be taken because the Unicorn fail to honor the peace agreement, send me the order, but I will not personally take his life. I know he would prefer to die in combat against enemies of the Empire. If you require it, I will make certain of his death. I ask your forgiveness for refusing the duty you gave me, but after all that has gone on in the past two years, I feel it would be dishonorable for me to take Subotai’s life.
I hope you will understand.
I will know that that Subotai’s life is forfeit if I read this in a letter from you, “The wind is cold on the plains this year.” I believe it would be better for you to use this instead of a more direct message.
I pray you will never have to write those words, but please understand that the order will be carried out, in my own way, no matter where I am in the world abroad.
Subotai and I will not be traveling to the Ivory Kingdoms alone. We will be going with our friends, Ikoma Uso, Suzume Shintaro, Tamori Isao, and Yoritomo Oki.
Together we friends will make our way to the colonies, and will consider all avenues available that will help ourselves, and our respective clans in Rokugan. We will seek honor, glory, and resources that will help the Emerald Empire.
Our friend, Yasuki Dokansuto in the Jolly Crab Trading Company has helped us with travel documents. We will not be working for the Jolly Crab, but I will personally utilize their services if it will benefit the Lion Clan, and believe the Jolly Crab are a vital ally for our clan. I have found Yasuki Dokansuto to be a very reliable friend, and I trust him.
Please Father, know that I will do all that I can to prove my worth to the Lion Clan. With only one arm, I may not be suited for all assignments, but my sword arm is strong. Several of the Forest Killer bandits found out I was no easy mark, and any opponents who challenge me in the future will either be maimed or killed. This I swear on my honor. The special katana you had forged for me has aided the new one-handed style that Subotai is helping me develop, and I find that my strokes are much faster and more precise than they were before. Thank you once again for the gift of the blade.
I also swear that I will honor my battle teachers at the Golden Plains dojo. I am continuing my studies in open warfare, and will learn from my successes and mistakes learned from the skirmishes against the Forest Killer bandits. I will continue to pray for Hachiman’s favor in battle, and I will live the principles written down by the first Akodo.
Father, please give my regards to my dear mother, and my sisters, Masako and Teiko. Someday perhaps, if the Fates and Fortunes will it, I will be able to spend time with them, but for now, my path is far from home.
I have left my old life behind, but the fire in my heart has not diminished.
Humbly and with the highest regard,
(Two copies of rough drafts of this letter, with errors marked in the text, were found crumpled up in a corner at the inn, inside a bedroom, where Toranaka stayed before leaving for the Ivory Kingdoms.)
The final draft of the letter, signed and sealed, and sent to Akodo Goro at Shiro Akodo, had one important difference. The line regarding Subotai’s death order said this: “The grass on the plains is not growing as tall this year.”
Letter to Moto Kohatsu, Subotai’s father:
I shall soon be traveling to the Ivory Kingdoms. Toranaka-san, the Lion samurai who is my host while the truce of Rich Frog still remains tenuous, will be going there as well. The friends I have mentioned in my letters, Oki-san, Isao-san, Uso-san, and Shintaro-san, are going to accompany us. As young men, we deemed it a good time to seek our fortunes in the wild lands. The recent unpleasantness between Unicorn and Lion made it particularly auspicious for me. It would be unfortunate for all involved if I found myself drawn into dueling or open fighting with my hosts in gold.
We will be in loose association with the Jolly Crab trading company, and some parts of our journey will be facilitated by our friend, Yasuki Dokansuto. He mentioned that he had met you, and was very complimentary of you in a conversation we had. I imagine that, barring unforseen circumstance, Dokansuto-san will be a powerful man in his clan.
In any case, I hope that we will have a chance to meet while I am down there, and that the Fortunes favor you, as they have seemed to favor both of us in recent years.
Yours in Duty and Respect,
Letter to Moto Aiyumi, Subotai’s Mother:
Gracious and Kind Mother,
I will begin with an apology. Over recent years, I have not written to you as often as I should have. I offer no excuses. The words have been difficult to find. That said, I am soon to travel to the Ivory Kingdoms, and wished to send my regards. In any venture of this kind, there are no guarantees of safety or return. Those things are in the hands of the Fortunes.
There is news, however. You may recall the conversation we had prior to my departure for the Topaz Championship. Will say only this: someone else has found out about what you told me. I have been approached. I do not know what they will do with this knowledge, but it seems that they will use it as leverage against me. Be aware and on your guard, for someone has the means to ruin both of us.
Perhaps no one will approach you. I hope they do not, and that this burden falls to me alone, but I would not count on it. Fortunes protect you, Aiyumi-san. Fortunes protect both of us.
Letter to Shinjo Namori, Subotai’s betrothed:
I am going far away, and my letters may be less frequent for a while. Know that I hold you dear to me, and still cherish the idea that we shall one day be together. Perhaps it is foolishness when we begin to wish for things for ourselves, but I nonetheless wish with all my heart that we will one day share happy days together.
If I do not return, know that I fell with you foremost among my thoughts. If, at some time, you hear ill news of me, and I am brought to ruin, know that any laudable deeds I have done grew from my desire to be worthy of your affection.
May you exist in the tender hands of the Kami,
To be continued next Friday: http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2013/07/26/the-drowning-empire-episode-28-just-a-bard/