The Burning Throne, Episode 11: Lighting the Paper Lanterns

Continued from:

This week’s stuff is all written by Steve Diamond. Ikoma Katsu is an NPC bard that has been following our group around, and we have a lot of fun with his ridiculous overblowing of the everything. The Paper Lanterns are the order that we started, and over time it will slowly grow into an army.


Lighting the Paper Lanterns

The Rise of Ide Todo Volume Three

Ikoma Katsu – Bard of the Lion Clan

    The Fortunes have blessed me.  I see the jealously in everyone’s eyes as I walk past.  They know me.  They know of whom I write.  Am I the most blessed man in Rokugan?  Nearly.  I can only claim to be the second most blessed.

            The most blessed, doubtlessly, is Ide Todo.

            Others have read my earlier works concerning this great man—no, this paragon—and have said, “Ikoma Katsu, your words don’t follow the tradition of a biography.”  I am forced to remind them that Ide Todo doesn’t follow the traditions of most great men.  He is far greater.

            I have joined the Brotherhood of the Paper Lanterns.  The history of this Order is one of the great stories of Rokugan.  I thought I had witnessed all the greatness possible from Ide Todo, but I was humbled when I witnessed his work at Shiro Shinjo.  I must say that I was shocked that it took so long for the great Unicorn courtier to be made a Magistrate.  I rejoiced for Ide Todo, but had to restrain myself from offering my personal congratulations.

            A bard such as myself must remain objective after all.

            I am known across the land for my unerring ability to discern the truth from the embellishment.  Surely the tales I was hearing were overwrought?  Tales of discovering and deciphering messages from spies, and then rooting out that conspiracy.  Tales of magical mirrors.  Destruction of Oni summoned by Yobanjin dogs!  His exploits became grander and grander.

            There was a chase through the streets of Shiro Shinjo where Ide Todo—in a truly stunning display of Unicorn riding prowess—cut off the escape of a spy attempting to flee the city with forged maps that were used to throw the armies into disarray.  How I wish I could have been there to see his steed dramatically pawing the air with its hooves, and that cowardly spy cowering in veritable fear while Ide Todo’s companions finally caught up.

            What history may have difficulty showing is the kind of man Ide Todo was.  Of all the honorable and virtuous traits he exhibits, the one that strikes me as the most distinguished is his desire to see things through to the end.

            Nearly all men would have considered their part done after talking down an entire war council.  Not Ide Todo.  He wanted to know the real reason behind the embarrassment of Hida Kenzan.  The man was disgraced, and heartbeats from seppuku.  No, Ide Todo took it a step further by leading his men to the spy responsible.

            Simply deciphering messages relating to a spy network wasn’t enough.  He had to uncover the identity of the man responsible for compromising the current front of the war.  I will never know how—I can only assume the Fortunes whisper in his ear—but he uncovered the truth behind it all.

            Ide Tong—may his name be reviled through history for nearly bringing shame to the Ide family and for causing Ide Todo discomfort.

            If there is a man more honest than Ide Todo, surely he has already become a god.  Ide Todo called out Ide Tong in front of the entire war council.  His speech and logic at that meeting—yes, I was there to personally witness it—sent chills down my spine.  Every soul there saw the intelligence in Ide Todo’s words.

            How could they not?

            They were words of perfection.

            All of this led to Magistrate Todo being given a boon.  But what do you ask for when already so close to perfection?

            Again, the great Unicorn showed his depth and intelligence.  Indeed his cunning.  He asked for a recognized order—the Brotherhood of the Paper Lanterns—be instituted with him at the head.  True to the name of the Brotherhood, he stated their goal was to shed the light of truth and wisdom throughout the land.  The very name of his order keeps it from being viewed with suspicion—though how anyone can suspect Ide Todo of anything dishonorable is beyond my understanding.  I ask, are the Fortunes speaking through his lips?  Can any mortal be so wise?

            And so I have joined this order.  How could I not?  I have taken it as divinely spoken that I am to follow Ide Todo and chronicle his daring deeds.

            I have sent off word to my associates throughout the realm of my observations of Ide Todo, and I suggest he would make an ideal Voice of the Emperor when this Empty Throne absurdity stops.

            I await their replies with the patience Ide Todo has taught me with his example.

           He surrounds himself with a motley crew.  Some say that in order to be great, you must surround yourself with great people.  Surely this is why all these individuals are following Ide Todo.  He makes them greater than the average samurai.

            We were ambushed this night by clanless ronin.  They claim the Dragon have abandoned them, and to be truthful—for how can I be anything to the contrary?—given their inability to even surprise our traveling group I’m not surprised the Dragon cast off these fools.

            I watched as Ide Todo once again used his steely voice to direct the flow of the battle.  He has become even more observant and commanding since he single-handedly dispatched the blood speaker many weeks ago.  Arrows flew around him, yet all missed their mark for I am sure he has divine protection.  Under Ide Todo’s guiding eye, we were massacring the honorless forces.

            Yet he did not let his battle lust overcome him like the foolish Mantis whose name is not even worthy of writing down.  Ide Todo soon realized that the battle was a mistake and managed to calm both sides.  I still am in awe.

            Now we march to this group’s small village.  What Ide Todo wants with them I am unsure.  He has kept to himself as of late—perhaps still reeling from being asked to be the nakado of that brutish Hida Makoto—so I find it hard to divine what his intent is.

            But whatever is on his mind, I am certain it will lead the Brotherhood of the Paper Lanterns to glory.


Journals of Ide Todo

Authenticity Unconfirmed

Discovered in the Shadowlands 1175

The Brotherhood of the Paper Lanterns.  I wish I could say that we were off to a good start, but I fear that I underestimated the difficulty of running an order.

I requested the formation of this order for a number of reasons.  I hope that my children—should I ever be graced with any—and the denizens of the Empire will one day look at the Brotherhood and be proud of what it has accomplished.  With this order I hope to start an information network that will rival any the Empire currently has.  When events—no matter how mundane—begin, the Brotherhood should know of it…or should be the cause of it.

The first order of business is to identify the main players for the throne.  If this situation isn’t resolved quickly, I fear the Empire could be so weakened as to making it susceptible to the Yobanjin invasion.  The first thing I did while still in Shiro Shinjo was—

I must pause in my writing.  I can almost hear my ancestors chuckling in the air around me.  How far I have come.  There is a saying among my people, “You cannot teach an old Utaku steed new tricks.”  Perhaps this saying has lost some of its validity.  I talk and write like a leader now.  I had worried that I was not up to the task of being a diplomat.  Then I worried about being a representative of the Imperial Regent.  Then a Magistrate.  Now a leader of a recognized Order.

Yet now I recognize some of that doubt has faded.

When my thoughts are allowed time to dwell on the state of the Empire, I begin wondering where I will stand when all the dust settles.  I no longer worry whether I am worthy of my current titles and responsibilities.  Now I wonder how high I can reach.

After all, how better to help the Empire than to be at its center in some capacity.

Ambition.  A word I never truly understood until recently.

I fear writing down my plans for the Brotherhood of the Paper Lanterns.  They are far reaching, and I cannot share them with even my closest companions.  I dare not even write them down in full—thank the Fortunes for interrupting me earlier—for I never know who is watching or reading my words.

My thoughts turn, then, to my companions.  We are so early in the life of the Brotherhood, and yet I already anticipate having to levy punishments.  Shinjo Braga lost his scimitar—an offense punishable by death on the plains—and Hida Makoto nearly had to be restrained from strangling the fool Unicorn.  Or perhaps the Crab went easy on my clansman.  It can be hard to tell with the Hida.

Tsuruchi Machio may never know how close he came to death.  Having been a part of his life since the murder of his family, I understand that blood runs hot through his veins.  That said, his insults nearly earned him a duel with Shinjo Braga.  The duel would have lasted mere moments, and the Mantis’ blood would have fed the earth.  Considering how many instances in which his life has been spared already, you would think he would honor that life more.  Instead he picks useless fights and throws insults around like a peasant.  The next time it happens—no matter how much I respected his family—I will have no choice but to let the duel happen.

He cannot remain a child forever.

Our new shugenja is perhaps the most frightening man I have ever met.  Just looking at the Kuni—

My train of thought is lost.  I have just been approached by Hida Makoto, interrupting my writing.  He appeared as if summoned from my thoughts in writing.

He wishes me to be his nakado.

May history show that I am nearly speechless.

He honors me with his request, though truthfully I am baffled.  He wants me to not just teach him the courtly ways (is it even possible?), but he wants to marry Otomo Yuni.  The very idea of it is absurd.

And yet…

Hida Makoto is a man of honor, regardless of what his idiot brother thinks.  I think he was hurt that I have not made him my Second, but the reality is that I fear he may have to assume his brother’s position, and will not be with us long.  Kenzan is prone to only three things: sake, being fooled, and poor judgment.  Intelligence never will be associated with him.  Hida Makoto is smarter than he looks…barely.

And so, I am honor bound to help him.

Fortunes have mercy on me.


To be continued next week, with our first entry from Paul Genesse.

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2 thoughts on “The Burning Throne, Episode 11: Lighting the Paper Lanterns”

  1. I look forward to my Saturday afternoon interludes of what has happenned at “Writer Nerd Game Night”. I do like the way that Hida Makoto deals with life, but i would really like to see the view point of the Shugenja, Kuni Magatsu, espescially as everybody seems to be a tad wary of him. Also, I don’t know if you have had many requests, but it would make an interesting series of short stories if it was compiled.
    Anyway, keep playing, have fun and thanks again.

  2. Sometimes, I get the feeling that I’m reading an early version of something I’m going to be buying a couple of years from now.

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