The Burning Throne, Episode 30: Return of the Dead Moon

Continued from: 

When last we left off, the Paper Lanterns had survived the Night of Assassins, though Shiro Tamori had taken a lot of damage. The dragon Satsu had given us a bunch of cryptic warnings about watching the skies, and then stuff started to get a little crazy. In the cosmology of the L5R game, the sun and moon basically have a god and goddess that stand in for them. This week’s entries are from me and Paul Genesse.

Twentieth Entry

From the journal of Hida Makoto, Crab Clan.

My hands are shaking so badly I can barely write. Tonight, I have seen a god die. Tonight, I have watched the heavens torn asunder. Tonight, our world has changed.

The alarm was sounded in the middle of the night. I awoke to strange lights in the sky. The moon was… I cannot explain. I lack the words. It rose. It set. It rose again. It set in the wrong direction. It waxed and waned, flashed and changed colors. It was as if it was in a battle against something beyond my comprehension. I fell to my knees and begged the Fortunes for mercy. Everyone in the compound saw the display as well, for if I alone had seen this, I would know that I had descended into madness.

Ide Todo had been joined by the Tamori astrologers and an Asako Loremaster. They had no explanation for these events either. They said it was similar to what was seen when Lady Hitomi defeated Lord Onnotanagu to take his place as the moon. Hours passed as the battle for the night sky continued. None could look away.

The moon was absorbed in an eclipse, as if a great hungry shadow was consuming it, but then a second identical moon appeared in the sky. They collided and I thought that the world would end. The shadow and the first moon were cast from the sky, falling like burning stars. The new moon took their place.

We could follow the descent of the old moon as it fell to Rokugan with our eyes. It struck not too far from Shiro Tamori. Fearful, we set out, dreading what we would find. The Paper Lanterns arrived first. There was a crater in the forest. At the bottom of the hole we could see a human sized form in black armor. Tsuze, Magatsu, Fubatsu, and I approached cautiously.

It was Lady Hitomi. The goddess of the moon had been cast down from the celestial heavens. Missing one arm and severely injured, her body was slowly turning to obsidian. With her dying breaths she warned us that the dead moon had returned. My mind was reeling. I was so shocked I do not think I understood what she was trying to tell us.

And then she was consumed and I witnessed the death of a god.

Magatsu was drawn toward the spirits of the evil obsidian, but I physically restrained him. I just wanted to flee. I have faced battle. I have faced countless foes, oni, undead, demons, gaijin, but this… This time I gave into the sin of fear. I do not wish to meddle in the affairs of gods.

The new moon leered down at us, impossibly bright, like a stark perversion of daylight. Tsuze was frightened of the new moon and wondered aloud what we could do. I told him that it was the moon. If it wanted to come kill us then we would die.

There was a gust of wind and a mighty roar. The dragon Satsu had finally been roused from his slumber. Having insulted him once, I removed myself from the scene, and bowed with the Lanterns. Satsu landed at the edge of the crater, told us that he’d warned us to watch the skies, that this was what he’d been trying to prevent, and then he gave us instructions before departing with the obsidian corpse of the goddess Hitomi.

Satsu commanded that the shamesword Penance be destroyed at all costs. Whoever held it would rule the Empire. Should it fall to the Dark Oracle, he would win the war. A portion of the soul of the hero Hiruma Todori, the last man to wield the sword, was trapped within. In order for Penance to become vulnerable, Todori had to die by its blade.

Is this how a peasant feels when he is levied to fight as a lowly ashigaru for the mightiest samurai warlord? We are soldiers in a battle beyond our understanding. I fear now we fight a war of the gods.



From the Private Scrolls of Kuni Magatsu, Crab Clan Shugenja

Dragon Clan Lands, at Shiro Tamori one day after “The Night of Assassins”

The Dragon Clan Champion, Togashi Satsu, has awoken from his slumber at last. He spoke to me and my companions last night as we stood at the edge of the crater where Lady Moon fell from the sky. Defeated and dying, she turned to obsidian before our eyes, but before she succumbed to the kansen poisoning her, she warned us of the return of a long dead enemy. She may have been lying about who it was, but it does not matter now, for Togashi Satsu has told us what we must do to fulfill our task and destroy the Shamesword of Penance.

I carry the cursed nemurani blade, a wakizashi, in a jade box over my shoulder and under my cloak, and it is as we suspected, the key to saving the Emerald Empire. Lord Satsu said that the sword must be destroyed and the only way to do so is for the legendary Crab Clan samurai, Hiruma Todori, to die.

Todori wielded the blade many years ago and because of his tremendous force of will, was able to give it up and leave it at the High House of Light, but his connection to the blade is not broken. For the blade to become vulnerable to destruction, he must not only die, but die by the cursed blade itself, for half his soul resides within it. Only when the two halves are reunited, will the blade be able to be sundered by the crafts of man.

Lord Satsu also told us that if the sword is not destroyed and the Oracle of Dark Fire possesses it, the Empire is lost, for with its power his forces will sweep across the land.

Lord Satsu also said that if the sword is not destroyed and one of us, or perhaps a member of one of the clans takes it up, they may control the Empire and gain the throne.

This is an intriguing proposition, but I am a Kuni, a servant of the Crab Clan, not some noble born Otomo or even fit to marry one of their daughters. I’ve squatted in the mud of the Shadowlands too many times, and my hindquarters are not fit to polish the Emerald Throne.

I will not lie to myself, for I am tempted in the dark of the night when the spirits inside the Shamesword offer me power. I do wish to know the source of it and bend its strength to my will. I have no doubt that if I were to wield the blade I would become the most fearsome shugenja who has ever served the Crab clan, but it would only last for a moment, as my grim bodyguard, Fubatsu would keep his vow and sever my head.

Our course is clear. We will find the legendary Hiruma Todori, and ask him to do what must be done. A man as honorable as he will do what is required of him, as he lives to serve the Empire, and he will fall upon the Shamesword of Pennance taking his own life. When he is dead, Hida Makoto will smash the blade with his tetsubo and the Oracle of Dark Fire will be denied the weapon that could change the outcome of the War of the Dark Fire.


To be continued next week with The Toymaker’s Craft: 

For mini painters & war gamers, 15 hours left on this Kickstarter
The Audie awards are coming, and some critics think I should win. 🙂

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