The Drowning Empire, Episode 10: Good Business at the Laughing Carp

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 additional game related information, here is the L5R forum:

This week’s episode is made up of two smaller parts. The first one was written by Tony Batalingo, who is our one non-author in the bunch. However, he’s an awesome player and gets really into the persona of Yoritomo Oki, our alchoholic, lecherous, gambling addicted, tramatized in his youth, Mantis Clan archer/sailor. So since everybody else had started writing these too, Tony decided to go for it.

And the cool part? He’s gotten better and better at it. This is only from our second session. Just wait until we get going. Tony is no longer the “non-writer” and he’s actually gotten pretty darn good.

The Laughing Carp is the inn that the PCs are staying at for the Topaz Championship. (this is where Tonta the Hideous works). The barge that is mentioned is the Imperial Barge, which is moored on the river outside Tsuma. Members of the Imperial Family are watching the championship, though they are never seen since they are moved about in covered, well guarded palanquins.

Continued from:


Good Business for the Laughing Carp.

They walk, no, stumble through the doors of my inn looking like they just chased Naga through the swamp. You could tell by their faces that although they had some time to clean up and rest they were exhausted and disheartened. There were many Topaz contestants in the Laughing Carp inn that night but the focus was on one unlikely group. There were rumors that they had defeated a colossal, seven headed, swamp dragon as big as the imperial barge on the river. There were rumors that they fought off one hundred assassins with great honor and skill. These rumors however, were very rapidly growing and slowly losing credibility. It was a good thing the contestants did not seem to care. They loved the fact that every time the story was told, it was better. I loved the fact that they were drinking lots of sake. The Topaz Championship is good business for the Laughing Carp.

I had my eye on one group in particular. There was a group of rowdy bushi from the Crab clan who were absolutely endeared by the stories of the night. They seemed especially enthralled by the stories of one. A Mantis, skinny and young, yet he carried himself as one who was much older. Nearly every hour he would retell the story of the night, and it would double in its extravagance. He also seemed to have a certain inclination for sake as if he was fueled by it. I never could tell if the mantis was being sincere or just exploiting the Crab for the sake they were providing him.

“Tonta!” I said, trying to get the attention of my day dreaming daughter. Her eyes seemed fixed on that particular group. “Take this to the group of Crane in the corner immediately.”

She just nodded and waddled away with the tray. When she returned I had her deliver another pitcher of sake to the table of Crab where the Mantis was bragging. Her eyes lit up and she smiled a mouth full of, well… teeth. As she lumbered across the room to the table, I noticed that the Mantis had gone. Quite rapidly in fact, as most of the boisterous Crab hadn’t noticed.

I checked my stock of sake and decided that at this rate, it wouldn’t last through the night. I still had some Friendly Traveler sake but I was saving that for a special occasion. I better head to the storeroom. Such a dishonor it would be to run out of sake for my guests. As I excused myself from my daughter to retrieve more sake, I noticed someone outside. It was the young Mantis. He was just standing in the cool night air, chuckling and mumbling to himself. Maybe he has had too much sake? No, he is standing fine. I must have made a noise because he turned and faced me. He didn’t speak for a few seconds.

“The clouds…” The young Mantis mumbled. I managed a quick bow. I was slightly taken off guard by his words allowing him to speak again. “There is a storm coming, I can feel it. It’s just like the energy of the ocean, you see. My father tau—well, that old man was driven mad by the sea.”

I was taken aback at his apparent lack of respect for his father. “Why do you curse your father, Mantis?”

“Curse? He paused and chuckled, “Not curse.” I felt as if I should have held my tongue. He mumbled something incomprehensible as if he wasn’t even talking to me. He was just looking, not at anything in particular. His eyes seemed to work on another plane, looking at something that could not be seen. “Destiny, you talk of destiny?” He seemed to be rambling to himself . “Destiny is just folly told to the goshi to keep them working in the fields.”

I bowed low to the ground and excused myself to the storeroom, the Mantis didn’t seem to notice. Maybe he did have too much sake. I unlocked the storeroom door and looked back at the Mantis. I stopped and watched him. He walked off, heading through the streets of the city. He didn’t seem to be going anywhere in particular, he was just simply thinking as he went.


Yoritomo Oki looks up at the stars and sighs, wondering how to salvage this night. He doesn’t wish to be out too late as he has an early morning coming and he is already exhausted, but on the other hand there is sake that needs to be had. He looks back up to the stars and mumbles “Yukinori…” His expression is solemn. His brow furrows and then he mumbles, “Tonta.” He nods to himself and then chuckles softly at something only he can hear before he walks back to the Laughing Carp.


This is the letter that was recovered off of the ronin Yukinori’s corpse in the swamp. I only let them read it for a few minutes before it was taken from them by the investigating Emerald Magistrate, Bayushi Kuronobo. (who they will get to know super well in the future).



The rumors are correct. I have learned that this evening the Topaz challengers will be broken into groups of eight and sent into the swamp to hunt the Shogun’s exotic gaijin beasts. If you hurry, you and your men should be able to get into position. I have included the scroll for your shugenja to use in order to trap the beast, and the agreed upon sum of twenty koku for the life of Akodo Toranaka.

The Mantis archer is often in the company of the Lion cub. My retainers tell me that his father insulted your honor. I have met this Oki. He is an eta pig dog, completely without respect or honor. Do with him as you see fit and I’m certain the Empire will be a better place without him.

However, I would ask that you try not to harm the other contestants that will be travelling with Toranaka. I have no quarrel with them. In fact, one of them is Goro’s hostage to keep the treaty of Rich Frog, a battle which we both know was only won only through treachery. Moto Subotai strikes me as easily confused, and perhaps a bit slow. Try not to hurt him, for it is not his fault that he is a hostage of the foul Lion.

When I saw you in the Laughing Carp, a warrior I knew firsthand was capable of such ruthless cunning, it only confirmed to me that the Fortunes truly wished Toranaka dead. You have performed excellent work for my family in the past, and I have no doubt that you will do so again now, and in the future. We will remember this favor.

It is signed with archaic kanji that the PCs are unable to translate at this time…


To be continued next week:

Various updates and Hugo Nominations due tomorrow!
Hugo nominating deadline is this Sunday

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