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 was written by Tony Battalingo, who is playing our drunken archer, turned captain. This is his version of events of the journety to the colonies.
Bandits Don’t Surf.
Captain’s Log. The ocean, the final frontier. This is the story of the voyages of the ship Friendly Traveler. Our mission is to explore a strange new world named the Ivory Kingdoms. Our cover is to seek out new lives and new civilizations. To boldly go where no one…
Captain Yoritomo Oki stopped writing and looked down at the note through his dark glasses.
“No… that’s stupid.”
Oki folded up the paper into an origami bird and threw it out to the open sea, watching it fly and twist on the wind before crashing into the endless blue. He let out a content sigh before unconsciously reaching into his sleeve for his bottle. His fingertips lingered on the hidden bottle before leaving his sleeve and running through his long, dark hair.
“I… I’m good for now.” Oki muttered to himself, still leaning over the railing of his ship. Eyes closed, he paused to study the sounds of the open ocean. There was a small splashing sound from the ship gently gliding through the water. There was an occasional clang of metal from Subotai and Shintaro sparring on the bow of the ship. He could hear the shy and gentle ruffle of the wind as it met the sails. Periodically he would hear Toranaka call out a command to one of the sailors.
Oki opened his eyes and looked at his second in command, who was quietly steering the ship while peering into the horizon. Toranaka knew near nothing about sailing when he first set foot on the Friendly Traveler. Under Oki’s insistence at being second in command and his instruction to help him fill the part, Toranaka was getting comfortable sailing a ship. Oki enjoyed Toranaka sailing his ship and being his number two; He figured he would keep him until he either died or he found somebody better.
The young Captain decided to make the rounds on the ship to see how everyone was adapting to ocean life. He headed to the back of the ship intending to talk to Daidoji Shunya, one of his impromptu guests. Oki found Shunya to be sitting on the back of the ship intently sharpening his katana. Oki stood and watched him for a while before approaching. He was a bit intimidated by the trance-like concentration of Shunya. All Oki could manage was “Hey…”
The duelist didn’t look at Oki when he calmly spoke, “I watched a unicorn crawl along the razor edge of my katana. That’s my dream; that’s my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the razor edge of a katana… and surviving.”
Yoritomo Oki was unnerved by the duelist’s words. He glanced at the colored ribbons on the duelist’s katana before quietly walking down into the hold of the ship.
The overwhelming smell made Oki’s legs weak. Like a zombie he reached out to the delicious looking food
“Oh, what is that and why am I not eating it!?”
Yuki looked over her shoulder and gave a bow to Oki. “Captain! It will be ready soon, please control yourself.” She absentmindedly swatted Oki’s hand away before recoiling. She was afraid that being a peasant and hitting a samurai would get her killed. She gave a deep bow of apology then laughed because Oki didn’t notice. He was in a trance. He was mentally preparing himself for a feeding frenzy.
“Captain, it will be ready when it’s ready.” Yuki spoke more sternly this time. Oki snapped out of his trance and just looked at Yuki stupidly, not knowing what to do. He just stood there studying her magnificent form. She looked distantly familiar but Oki couldn’t figure out why. He had probably run into her sometime on the docks of Broken Wave City. He let out an annoying sigh before turning to go back to his hammock to pout. Yuki went back to stirring her rice, “What a child…”
Yoritomo Oki felt like a real sailor again. More importantly he felt like a samurai again. He was finally out on the ocean after getting politely asked to leave his hometown for the Topaz Championship. He never did return. Instead he worked for two years in Zakyo Toshi as Kuronobo’s errand boy. Oki leaned over the railing and spat into the water before climbing into the hammock he had strung between the two masts. He lit his smoking pipe and loosened the sash on his kimono. He stretched out, taking in the warm midday sun before looking at the top of the front mast at the lifeless figure tied to the wooden beam.
Ikoma Uso walked quietly along the railing of the ship absentmindedly practicing knots, mostly for sailing, with a short length of rope. Oki had noticed that out of all the new sailors, Uso had no trouble getting his sea legs and moved nimbly aboard a ship like a veteran sailor. Uso looked up from his knots to see Oki looking at him.
Pointing to the mast with his pipe, Oki spoke through a mouthful of smoke, “Is he even still alive…?”
Uso looked up and gave a half shrug before going back to his knots and walking off.
Oki wore a crooked smile as he leaned down and plucked a small rock that was wedged between two boards. There was a small grunting response from the sun battered shugenja as the rock hit his leg.
“Ah, he’s alright.” Oki spoke while he sat back and examined his ship from his hammock while casually enjoying his pipe. He was happy to be on the water again. He was even happier that he was a Captain of a ship now. It seems he had finally caught a break.
Oki woke up to commotion on the bow of the ship. Oki hopped out of his hammock and cautiously moved near the front of the ship. He looked back at Toranaka, who had his sword drawn but was still piloting the ship. Oki looked around and saw Uso mouth the word “Gaki” to him. Oki nodded in understanding before walking under the front mast of the ship. Careful to avoid the piles of vomit, Oki positioned himself so he could look at the near dead shugenja. Tamori Isao was moving and writhing in an attempt to free himself from his bindings. With the dexterity of a rock, Isao climbed down from the mast and collapsed on the deck, babbling incoherently.
Oki knelt down beside the shivering shell of a man, “Huh… you made it. Seems I just lost another bet, I’m on a terrible losing streak.” Oki reached into his sleeve and threw a coin to Uso. “Come, I think you need some hot tea, hot food and a hot bath.
Oki stumbled into the night like the drunkard he was. He nodded at Subotai signaling that he was taking over watch. Subotai just nodded in understanding and went below to quietly wake the crew. Dropping the empty bottle Oki leaned over the railing to look at the water. He could see every wave and splash of water under the ship. They had every light on the Friendly Traveler burning full and the reflections off the half sails helped amplify the effect. He stumbled to the bow of the ship and gave a pat to his new favorite rock throwing machine.
“Tonta, you are one expensive bitch… don’t let me down.”
Oki looked over his shoulder at the three pirate ships that were approaching. They had taken the bait and were closing fast. He shambled to his perch above the door and ran his hands along the thick wooden armor while he waited. No sense in acting drunk he thought as he picked up a new bottle of sake that was neatly arranged with a barrel of arrows wrapped in flammable tar soaked rags. He finished the bottle and produced a slight belch as he wiped his mouth with his kimono sleeve. He leaned over the wall and looked at the cracked door. Toranaka was standing there, quietly awaiting his order. He was anxious for battle, Oki could see it in his eyes.
Once the ships were too close to retreat, Oki sounded the signal. There was an explosion of activity as every samurai sprinted to their position. In the night there were small sparks of light as fiery arrows were lit. Then there was a bright flash from the front of the ship as the gigantic rock wrapped in tar soaked cloth was ignited. Followed by creaking and howling from the hull as the ship turned, hard.
“Easy… easy girl…” Oki whispered as he patted the deck of the ship. He notched an arrow and looked to the monstrous catapult. The samurai manning Tonta already knew what to do. Oki laughed maniacally as the monstrous machine rained all manner of hate and discontent onto the pathetic pirate ships. Tonta was a cruel mistress indeed.
Captain Yoritomo Oki cursed as an arrow stuck into the railing right next to his head. He thought that the pirates would have given up after losing one ship and barely being able to keep the second one floating. Too close to be hit by the catapult, the third ship approached the front of the Friendly traveler in an attempt to board.
Oki had enough. He looked to Toranaka who was covered in sweat that was highlighted by the moonlight. He was furiously sailing the ship like a demon. Oki could see the reflected fire in Toranaka’s eyes. He wanted this to end.
Oki cried to Toranaka, “Damn the catapult, Ramming speed!”
The Friendly Traveler cut hard to port, hitting the small ship broadside, crushing it. Oki could see the fear and surprise in the bandits eyes as they were thrown about their ship. He notched another arrow, picked a target and took careful aim. He whispered, “Only a fool stands in the path of a storm.”
The Friendly Traveler gently sailed in a circle in order for the samurai to finish any of the bandits that fell into the water. A thick cloud of smoke from the burning mixed wreckage of the pirate ships wafted over the Friendly Traveler. Oki took a deep breath of the smoke before turning and saying to no one, “I love the smell of a ship fire in the morning. It smells like… victory.”
Uso walked up to Oki with a wounded pirate before him, “Captain, we have a survivor… prisoner.”
“Excellent, take him to my quarters.” Oki looked around before quietly saying to Uso, “You know what to do.”
Captain Oki sighed and spoke, “So the plan is to leave my precious ship, run right into the bandit stronghold, and then just… beat them? All for some magic bowl? I don’t know, I mean, a wise chef once told me that when you go up a dark river you never get out of the boat, never, get out of the boat.”
Toranaka rubbed his head in frustration, “I understand your concern Oki-san. Remember our deal? You handle the naval warfare and I will lead the land battles.”
Oki bowed deeply in acceptance before turning to the ronin Hisao. “Crewmaster Hisao, please, my friend. Take care of her for me…”
Oki wiped a single tear from his eye as he readied his gear for departure while Uso mumbled something under his breath about being a terrible actor.
The group silently walked up the docks, the only sound heard was from the occasional silent kill and Yoritomo Oki grumbling about never getting off the boat.
To be continued next week: http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/the-drowning-empire-episode-41-with-dueling-as-a-pretext/