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
If you use the link above I always post a huge behind the scene’s GM play by play.
This week’s episode is by Tony Battalingo, who is playing our drunken, troubled, young Mantis clan samurai. Keep in mind, when this started out Tony was our one non-writer. Though you can’t really tell anymore.
Fear and Loathing in Broken Wave City.
“Nanda yo omae-wa!?! Who the hell do you think you are!”
There was a slight tinkling of glass as the pieces of the broken bottle settled at the base of the wall. Oki snapped to and took a deep breath to regain his composure. The silence was burning his ears. He stood up from his table and bowed deeply to everyone in the sake house for his outburst. He looked at the blurry faces in the room and saw nothing but judging eyes.
“I… I’m sorry everyone.”
He dropped a few coin on the table and stumbled outside rubbing his head. Toranaka’s words were rolling and pounding in his head like the powerful storm they just survived. Oki just wandered through the streets of Broken Wave City. He didn’t know where he was going but he always knew where he was. It had been ten years since he last stepped foot in his old town. Ten long, colorful years. He finally settled by the harbor, a place where he had always gone as a child. This harbor used to hold his fathers’ ships. He recognized all the sights and smells here. It was familiar and comforting.
Oki sat down on one of the docks. He looked down into the dark water thinking of all the people the sea has claimed. He briefly wondered if he would end up like the countless nameless souls that the water has swallowed. He laughed and spat into the water before thinking of his friends. They had come far on this journey together, unfortunately this was only the beginning. There was disappointment in the air as he thought of his recent smuggling actions. He wasn’t disappointed because he was nearly executed on the spot, no, he didn’t care about death. He figured he would go out fighting when his time came. He was disappointed because he was caught, set up. Someone wanted him dead. He looked at the water and laughed, before mumbling to himself,
“I guess they will just have to get in line…”
His mind wondered, as it often did. He thought of Shintaro’s business at the Spider embassy. He had no idea what the hell that was about but now he harbored the secret of Shintaro’s Spider father. He was divided about the message that was sent to the Ivory Kingdoms. After thinking for a bit he decided it would just probably make things more interesting. Not that they needed any more complications.
He had finally met the Gaijin who could interpret the map but missed the chance to talk to him about it. This frustrated Oki. He was so close, only to lose his, seemingly, only hope. No doubt the Gaijin had sailed back across the ocean, never be seen again. Will there ever be a chance to avenge his father’s death? Oki swore there would be, one day, even if he died trying.
He thought of Toranaka, an honorable man whom he nearly drug down with him. Toranaka was fueled by his honor and ruining that for him would be atrocious. Oki thought of his friend’s words again, how the group should watch each other. He was torn, was he being looked down upon or was that sincere? Why can’t he just be a normal samurai, all honorable and such. Why can’t he just go thought his life in bliss like everyone else in Rokugan? His fists tensed as he breathed deeply to calm the rage, no need for another outburst he thought. After a good sigh he turned to the only thing that would calm him.
Oki pulled out his last bottle of“Fready Traver” sake and laughed heartily. He decided that he was duped pretty good with the fake sake but he was still going to kill whoever was responsible when he got the chance. He held the bottle up to the moon and tried to interpret the meaning of the sand and the occasional stray hair floating in the cloudy, congealed liquid. He shrugged and looked back at the water before thinking of his clan motto,
“Only a fool stands in the path of a storm!”
He roared, before unsealing the bottle and upending the whole thing into his mouth. He could feel the sand scratching at his teeth, he could feel foreign chunks slide past his tongue. A solitary tear rolled from his eye as his nose got a small smell of the pungent booze. As the last of the goopy liquid at the bottom of the bottle tumbled to his stomach, Oki belched like a Crab bushi splitting the head of a troll.
He wiped the water from his stinging eyes…
“Ooooh that’s strong… definitely a bit of wasabi in that…”
He looked at the now empty bottle and frowned. He was already pretty drunk, who knows what the hell this would do to him. He didn’t care. Oki shrugged,
“Well, this is going to be an interesting night…”
He belched, then sneezed before throwing the bottle blindly over his shoulder. He laid on his back and continued studying the night sky. To Oki, there was nothing more beautiful than night on the ocean. The moonlight was always pure on the sheet of gently rolling water. There was always so much to take in at the docks. The soft wind sputtering on his face, the few colorful, pulsating clouds approaching in the distance, the soft and fuzzy vibrations of his teeth. In the silence he could almost hear his teeth speaking to each other, rumoring and gossiping. They were annoying teeth. He never did like them…
There was an explosion of animals and color in Oki’s ears. He sat up and brushed the frogs off his face and rubbed his eyes.
“Arrr SAD yoo nEEd tww leaf!”
Slowly, Oki turned his head in the direction of the screeching sound, fearing imminent attack from a horned frost troll. Instead he only saw a man with two heads. Oki was relieved and laughed.
The noises were louder this time.
“AHH SAD YOU NEED TWO LEAF!”
He looked back at the two headed man confused.
“I don’t… what are you saying? What do you want from me?”
The man was moving his furry tree hands in front of him in a shoo-ing motion.
“Fine, damn. I was just sitting here…”
Oki climbed the ladder to his feet and shambled to the portal. At last he had found the mysterious portal to the forgotten city. He had been looking for this for years! Finally his quest could end!
As he was sliding the door open there was an apparent shift in gravity that thrust him through the rice paper wall. He crashed hard, face first onto the rocky ground. He slowly stood up and in a sudden moment of clarity realized he just fell through the wall of someone’s house. After poking his head into the hole, he smiled. There was an angry older man still yelling and shooing Oki out while holding back a very large silhouette. Oki squinted as his vision stabilized. Through long greasy hair he could see a yellow toothed smile balanced upon a pile of chins. The girl put her corpulent arm out and cried, “Oki-san, come back to me!”
He looked back at the father ,who was still yelling and shoo-ing, and frowned.
“I’m… sorry about your wall…”
Oki reached into his sleeve to retrieve his coin purse to pay for the wall. Instead, he cringed as he realized his sleeve was filled with a sticky, tar-like substance. He just lowered his head and walked away defeated.
Once he had made it around the corner he stopped to try to figure things out. He had no idea what happened last night. While taking an inventory of his belongings he noted the only thing he had with him was his dark lenses. He put them on because the midday sun was blinding him. He had no idea what time it was, where his weapons and money were, or why he was wearing an ancient ceremonial dress. Oki pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed.
“I’ve still woken up in worse places…”
Oki neared his room. His backroad travel was slow due to the dress and his bare feet, his mind wandering and searching for answers. He was taking his time, being careful as to not be seen by anyone in his group. He was a ship captain now, he should act like it. He stopped in a small alley near his room and laughed at his situation while keeping a lookout for any of his friends. He had no idea how he would explain wearing the dress if he was seen. Especially to his poor goshi friend, Shintaro. He figured Uso had probably seen him already.
While slithering into his room like a snake hiding from the midday sun, Oki immediately noticed his room was in much better condition than he had left it the night before. Everything was clean, his bedroll neat. He noticed his old and familiar dark green kimono was cleaned and neatly hung in the corner next to his armor. In the sunlight of the door he noticed his weapons polished and precisely arranged on the small modest table next to a new bottle of sake, his coin purse was still missing. Perched next to his weapons was an elegant origami swan with one word on it,“open”,written in soft, girly handwriting. Oki molted the dress onto the floor as he unfolded the note and read, butt naked.
“You silly, silly boy.”
Under the words there was a red lip print so seductively placed. Oki stood there naked for a while studying the note, taking in the faint scent of perfume. He then scratched himself and said aloud, “Well, this is getting interesting.”
After bathing and putting on his clean kimono and weapons, Oki took to the city in search of food for his growling stomach and sake for his pounding head. He knew of a few run down noodle houses around town. He liked the seedy places better, It was more comfortable for him and the food was always better. He found an old building by the water with a large, weather worn sign that simply said, “The Scuzzy Squid”.
Oki tore into his bowl of noodles like a wild dog. His noodle bowl finished, he looked up to grab his cup of sake to wash it all down when he noticed a young man hurriedly walked toward his table. The young man, wearing no weapons and dressed in a well weathered sailing outfit smiled and spoke.
“Heeey! Oki-san! That was a wild night! You are like, the craziest man I know!”
Oki squinted at the stranger and mumbled, “I’m sorry, do I know you?
The man laughed, rather obnoxiously and responded, “Like, wow. You are funny man, Oki. Remember when you hit me with that bottle last night? Then we wrestled? That was like, hilarious. Hey, you need to come back to the boat and play dice again, we would love to have more of your money. That was such a crazy night.”
Oki feared the worst and politely stood up. “Forgive me, I must be going.”
The man laughed his obnoxious laugh and pulled back his long greasy hair. “Like, Seriously? You don’t remember? Wow, like, man, you must have had too much sake!”
Mumbling under his breath, Oki grunted, “Naturally…”
The man put his arm around Oki and walked him toward the door.
“Well, like, come on my friend, back to my boat and I will tell you what happened last night.
Oki shrugged and reached for his coin purse but the man dropped some coin first.
“It’s the least I can do after you lost all that money gambling with us last night.”
Reaching for his sunglasses and rubbing his head with his other hand, Oki shrugged and followed.
Oki sat in a circle of people on the deck of a beat up old fishing boat, next to his long haired acquaintance. Oki never did ask him his name, he didn’t really care. Looking around the circle at the rest of the crew he noted that they were a strange bunch. While Oki was boarding the ship they kept giving him some foreign greeting that involved holding your flat hand over your head and crashing it into the other persons hand. Oki noted that this was probably a peasant tradition and made note to ask Shintaro about it.
looking around at the strange sailors Oki asked, “So… how much did I drink last night?”
The acquaintance laughed his stupid laugh and said, “All of it!”
Oki looked around confused. One of the other men spoke, “We had an entire case of sake on this ship! We drank it all last night!”
There was a roar of laughter from the men. Oki was still confused.
“But… why are you guys so happy about it?”
Another older sailor spoke up and said, “Because we can buy ten cases of sake with all the money we won!”
More boisterous laughter. Oki looked grim. He quietly spoke to the man next to him, “Well, how much… did I lose last night?”
Instead of quietly and politely answering, the man stood and shouted, “Two Koku! We can buy many cases of sake now, thanks to you!”
The group of sailors all laughed again. Oki had never gotten sick on a ship before but he felt his gut spin and his heart freeze. He jumped to his feet, subconsciously grabbing his bow. With his other hand he reached down and brought his long haired acquaintance to eye level. Through his sunglasses, he looked at the pathetic man, deep in the eyes, furious.
“I feel you brought me here only to have a good laugh at my expense. Now, please, tell me what happened last night so I can be on my way.”
Oki released the man when he sensed the tension of the other sailors. He decided it was probably better not to start another fight. Not here, not now. The man chuckled nervously,
“Well you threw a bottle at me on the docks, man. We ended up arguing and decided to settle it like sailors, with wrestling, man. Remember? I beat you pretty good? We came back here for some sake and some dice because we felt bad for you? Man, you don’t remember a thing? Do you remember throwing you sandals at the moon because you thought it was made of rice monsters that were after your feet?”
Oki’s face never changed, “I was poisoned.”
“Well I hope so. We all thought you were a drunk crazy person. Anyway, man, you got all upset after losing so much coin that you stormed out, mumbling something about needing a boat to catch some rainbow sea monster. You went over to that ship over there, man. That’s all I know.”
The man pointed to the far corner of the harbor at a decrepit ship that looked like it had been recently involved in a fire. Oki just nodded to the man and started walking away. He paused and said,
“Once more thing, why was I wearing a dress?”
The sailors all started laughing and giving each other the strange greeting. No one answered him. Once again defeated, Oki stormed off to check the other ship.
The workers on the beat up, slightly burned ship were frantically preparing the ship for sailing. One of them spied Oki coming and yelled something into the hold. A worker leaned over the edge and said,
“Captain Takumi will be up in a minute.”
Oki stood, looking up at the ship until a older, weathered man wearing large ornate swords appeared. “Yoritomo Oki! Come to steal my ship again?”
The old man chuckled through his thick white beard, his eyes glowing. Oki started to speak but the man held up a single, recently bandaged hand and said,
“I’m sorry Oki-san, we are leaving Broken Wave City. We will be departing momentarily. Do not worry, I had my men deliver your package to the Friendly Traveler. Good luck with it my friend.”
The man half turned and shouted a few orders to his men before looking back at Oki. Seeing Oki’s confusion the man kicked down a small ladder made of rope and wood. Captain Takumi motioned for Oki to climb quickly.
Oki made it to the top of the ladder as Captain Takumi was shouting at one of his men to delay departure by two minutes. Captain Takumi’s man nodded and immediately went back to work rigging sails. Oki stood there for a second before saying,
“Captain Takumi, I don’t know you but you seem to know me. I have come looking for some answers.”
The Captain chuckled and rubbed his beard revealing a few patches of scorched hair.
“Oki, I figured you wouldn’t remember much of last night. I think you had some bad sake. Anyway, we have little time, but I will tell you what I can. We are a transport ship, delivering goods to wherever the hell my boss sends me. We made port here last night because, as you can see, we had a bit of a fire problem.”
Captain Takumi motioned to one of his men who was busy gathering up the remnants of a charred sail. “You see Oki, I knew your father. I knew him very well. He was a great man, an honorable man, and I know the sea didn’t take him without him giving it a good ass kicking first. We were celebrating our close call last night when I saw you from my deck.” Captain Takumi rubbed his beard and gave out a hearty chuckle, “I saw you running around on the pier trying to catch invisible bugs while crying like a lonely drunk.”
Oki looked down and mumbled, “No, you must be mistaken… that wasn’t me.”
“Yes, I was mistaken, I thought you were the spirit of your father trying to haunt me. You are the splitting image of him. I asked you to come join our celebration so I could figure out who the hell you were. That and to try to raise your spirits, you looked pretty terrible. I brought you on board and you told everyone that you were the new captain of my ship. Also, you did seem to have your eye on one of the local women that my sailors brought aboard. She was a rather large specimen of a woman Oki, I hope you handled her with care” The captain chuckled and rubbed his belly.
Oki smiled and said, “Well, I think I had a long night…”
Captain Takumi put his hand on Oki’s shoulder, “From what you told me you’ve had a long couple of weeks. It seems you care for your friends, based on all that crying you were doing.”
Oki stepped back, afraid that he had revealed the secret mission.
“Don’t worry friend, your secret is safe with me. I would rather pull my own heart from my throat then disgrace the honor of you father, Yoritomo Oki.”
A young Mantis sailor came running up to Captain Takumi, “Captain! We are behind schedule, we must be leaving.”
The Captain turned aggressively, “Calm down you fool, we run on my schedule, not that dirty, gaijin named, harbor master.”
The Mantis sailor bowed and went running off, yelling orders to the other sailors. The Captain turned back to Oki and motioned back to the ladder.
“I’m sorry my friend, we are out of time. Your package should be on your ship by now. Now go, be with your friends.”
Oki looked up as he was climbing down the ladder, “About this, package…”
The captain nodded, “Well, you seemed pretty intent on having it.”
The captain shrugged, confused. “I don’t really see what use it will be for you, but, you said you wouldn’t leave my boat without it. You actually tried to start another fire, so we struck an agreement and I had delivered it this morning.”
Oki froze on the ladder, “Wait, what did I pay for? Tell me how much!”
“Only 20 koku of course…”
Oki was jolted with a bright flash of white as his backside slammed into the dock after falling off the ladder. He jumped up shaking his fist,
“20 KOKU!!! Are you crazy! What is… I don’t wa-”
The Captain cut him off, “Hey that’s a steal! Consider it a discount, for you father. Plus, you were on a lucky streak last night, you won two koku from my men!”
Oki rubbed his backside while trying not to lose his noodles into the harbor. The ship started moving as it was departing from the dock. The Captain shouted a few orders to his men before looking back at him.
“I am sorry Oki. We will meet again someday and I can tell you some good stories of your father. Tell your friend Toranaka to keep you out of trouble, he seems like an honorable man. Also, tell that crusty Yoritomo Al-Zayan noWatanabe to hurry up and die, will you?”
The boat was rapidly picking up speed as Oki kept shouting,
“Wait, what did I buy!?!”
The Captain shouted back, “I’ll see you in the Ivory Kingdoms!”
Oki panicked and continued shouting back to the moving boat, ineffectually, looking for answers. The captain waved before turning and walking back into the hold of his ship. Oki sat and watched the ship move out to the open ocean before turning south. On the horizon the ship seemed to turn transparent and slowly fade into nothing. He was more confused now than he was this morning. He turned and walked off, deciding he really, really needed a drink.
To be continued next week: http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/the-drowning-empire-episode-33-here-i-ride-chaos/