The Drowning Empire, Episode 4: First Entry of Akodo Toranaka

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 place, along with additional game related information, here is the L5R forum:

Today’s entry was written by Paul Genesse.

Paul is playing Akodo Toranaka, the son of an influential Lion Clan general. Toranaka is an extremely honorable young man, and great things are expected from him. The following entry is from our first session.

Continued from:

First Entry in The Journal of Akodo Toranaka of the Lion Clan, son of Akodo Goro, former General of the 1st Akodo Army and Commander of the 4th Imperial Legion, now Master Sensei of The Golden Plains Dojo

Year 1189, 12th day of the Month of the Dragon in the Seventeenth Year of the reign of Her Holiness, The Daughter of Heaven, Empress of Rokugan, Hantei Hoketuhime

The “Village” of Tsuma in the Crane Lands

The first day of the Topaz Championship, the most prestigious Coming of Age Ceremony in all of the Emerald Empire, has gone well. Much honor has been gained for the Lion Clan. With superior tactics and good fortune I placed second in the Grand Melee; fifth in the horse archery competition; and was almost assassinated by a sloppy poisoner in a tea house called The Laughing Carp.

To die in a tea house of all places, and one with a particularly mocking name, and from such a weak attack, would have forever stained my clan and the Akodo family name. After study in the Golden Plains Dojo for seven years and striving to be the best in all my studies, to die with chopsticks in my hand not a sword would be a cruel and unjust fate that would surely condemn me to return in the next life as common peasant.

For only five golden koku—the tiny amount of coin that would scantly feed five peasant families for a year—a lowly serving girl put poison in my bowl of rice and fish. She was given this poison by an unknown veiled woman, who appeared to be somewhat young. If Ikoma Uso had not noticed the subtle scent of poison, I might have been severely sickened for the rest of the competition or even died.

Uso saved my life and I shall never forget this. My Lion Brother, esteemed Uso had just defeated me in the Grand Melee with a strong attack, but there are no bad feelings between us. I was honored to lose to him and see him declared the winner of the melee. He was too fast for me and struck me down when only the two of us out of thirty-two competitors were left. I think of him as a stalwart friend and ally, and Ikoma Uso is a very honorable Lion, though I have not yet understood some of his odd mannerisms. Regardless, his lineage is beyond reproach, and Uso-san’s deceased father, Ikoma Katsu of the Legendary Paper Lanterns would be very proud of him.

Time is short, and I have little time to write more now, as the competition continues again soon, but I must record a few more thoughts on this day and what is to come.

First, I believe that divine forces have put me together with five individuals who my fate is irrevocably entwined with. A feeling in my heart and three events lead me to this conclusion. 1. We five met at a checkpoint outside Tsuma where many roads converged—an auspicious meeting place. We arrived there from different starting points, but arrived at the same time, and were then allowed through together. 2. A mysterious elderly monk spoke to us from beside a stream at the roadside and told about our futures as if he had knowledge that only a divine being would have. This monk disappeared from view once we had passed and there is no explanation for his miraculous disappearance. 3. We six were all assigned to the same place for room and board (except my Sparrow Clan friend Shintaro-san who had no place arranged in advance), though there were several other tea houses where we competitors of the Topaz Championship could have been sent.

These events may not seem to be much evidence for divine providence and the hands of the Fates intervening, but right from the beginning I felt a kinship with these men, as if each of them were soldiers in the same company, soldiers who would fight at my side in the times ahead.

Ikoma Uso, a Lion Clan bard and I became friends during our short ride together into Tsuma. We are Lion, and therefore Pride Brothers, but I felt like I already knew him. I suspect we served together in a Lion Army in a past life. I do not know, but I am glad to know him now, or perhaps again.

My ward, Moto Subotai, a Unicorn Clan bushi my father has entrusted in my care is not as uncouth as many of his uncultured brethren, and has conducted himself with much honor. He was selected to attend the Topaz Championship for his skill, and he has a sharp mind, despite his upbringing on the steppes. He is an accomplished horseman and won the horse combat competition with grand flair. He is also the only swordsman who stood against the great warrior Akodo Tetsuru for so long in the Grand Melee. Moto Subotai is the hostage of my Clan, and I do hope I will not have to take his life if his kin in the Unicorn Clan do not follow the terms of the treaty they signed after they were utterly defeated in the Battle of the Rich Frog. I hope he will become my brother and we can put the rancor between the Lion and Unicorn clan behind us, and form an alliance that will save Rokugan when next we are attacked.

Tamori Isao, a Dragon Clan Shugenja is the strangest of my new friends, but he is Dragon and has been too long in the thin air of the mountains communing with the spirits. Still, he did well in the Grand Melee, though he was not allowed to use the Kami and bring their power to bear. He is the most puzzling of all of my friends, but I am not worthy to question the Fates that brought him into my company and his survival to the end was no accident.

Yoritomo Oki, a Mantis clan archer who trained in the Tsuruchi archer school is one of the deadliest archers of his age that I’ve ever seen. Though I can see him chafing at the rigid path set before him by his clan, and indulging in too much sake as he perhaps wishes he were raiding Gaijin ships, I recognize his skill with a bow. Men like him are needed if Rokugan will survive the next war. Perhaps his sake will allow him to forget the faces of the men he will kill.

Suzume Shintaro, a Sparrow clan bushi is a simple man, more familiar with yoking his horse to a plow than fighting the best young warriors from all the clans, but he is strong and deft with his bladed spear. He will be deadly once he is trained properly with its use, and when he is allowed to do more training in a dojo and less work in the fields, which is far beneath his samurai status. Men like Shintaro have held the flanks of Lion Clan armies for centuries, and if not for the honor of the minor clans like his, and their refusal to break and run during countless battles, the glory of the Lion would be much diminished, though the histories rarely praise the minor clans for their service.

The alliances between the clans have always saved the Empire, and though I am a young man, I know we Rokugani are far stronger as allies than we are as divided foes, fighting to the death when the true enemy lives beyond our borders.

Today an alliance was formed. These young men, none with more than my seventeen years, trusted me in the Grand Melee and followed my orders in battle, enacting a strategy that saw all of us to the final eight, narrowed down from thirty-two. They allowed me to serve as their commander, and I was honored greatly by their trust, and for allowing me to use the training I have studied for the past seven years. I hope that when I return to the Lion Clan Lands after the Topaz Championship, I will worthy of my new position of Gunso, which I earned after graduating from the Golden Plains Dojo at the head of my class. I hope that the fifty men I will command will be as strong a company as my five new friends.

The gong has sounded, and I am being called now to attend the next competition, but I must write the words I spoke to my friends the night before at the tea ceremony I invited them to. We shared the samurai tea I brought from home, and I was inspired by new friends to speak the last words the Great Teacher Shinsei spoke to the founder of the Akodo clan two thousand years ago:

“No path is so narrow that a man must walk it alone. Be one with your brothers, and stand by them. In their strength, you will find your own.”


To be continued next Friday: 

If you would like to check out some of Paul’s writing, I recommend his Iron Dragon series:

EDIT: Every single NPC contestant in the Topaz Championship got a mini and a card:


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