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
I normally post these on Friday, but my modem committed ritual seppuku.
This week’s episode is made up of two smaller parts. First is the journal entry of Akodo Toranaka (written by Paul Genesse) detailing the last two days of the Topaz Championship, and then a bit where Suzume Shintaro (written by Zach Hill) learns about his missing father.
Journal of Akodo Toranaka, Third Entry
Seventeenth Year of the Reign of Empress Hantei Hoketuhime
Fourteenth day of the Month of the Dragon
The Village of Tsuma in the Crane Lands
I have had much success in the Topaz Championship. I believe that Hachiman, the Fortune of Battle has blessed me. For the first time in the history of this competition, a mass battle was held, and I was able to secure the command of all the gempukku participants. We thirty-two faced off against the honorable Daidoji Kenru, my father’s honorable friend from the Destroyer Wars, who was in command of young Daidoji bushi, numbering fifty or so.
We did not have much time for planning, so I used a simple strategy with one solid front held by Moto Subotai and our other strongest defenders, and a left wing attack by our fiercest fighters. Hida Masatari of the Crab held our line against the Daidoji charge, and Akodo Tetsuru led the left wing and punched a hole in their flank at the perfect moment, after our shugenja had cleared the way—with simulated magic created by Isawa illusionists.
The battle was glorious, and I truly felt the hand of Hachiman, the Fortune of Battle, guiding me. All of the training from the Golden Plains dojo and your wise words were in my mind. I followed your advice and looked over the battlefield the night before and again that morning. We held dry ground with good footing and I chose to attack left because the ground there was also quite firm and gave us a slight downhill advantage.
The battle was not over quickly, as honorable Daidoji Kenru is a formidable commander, but the day was ours in the end, partially from my strategy and mostly from the strong performance of the samurai under my command. They fought so bravely and with much determination.
The tiger claw on the left tore a great hole in the Daidoji flank and I led our reserves, including our archers and shugenja in support of Akodo Tetsuru as we were about to capture the Daidoji battle standard and claim total victory. I rushed ahead with a happy heart, as I knew the battle was ours.
Sadly, I must record that the victory was marred with blood. A man of the Daidoji family, named Okuda drew a blade and stabbed Daigotsu Bofana in the chest, nearly killing him. It was a planned attack and the young Spider clan bushi would have died, had it not been for quick action by my friend, Tamori Isao, who used his shugenja abilities to close the hole in Bofana’s heart that pumped out his blood in a great rush, staining the once green grass of the field a bright red. A samurai of great honor, my Sparrow friend, Suzume Shintaro provided aid until Isao arrived, and I was heartened to see such self-less action.
I will soon be called to bear testimony against Daidoji Okuda, and will tell exactly what I saw. Honor demands that I step forward and speak, though I will give him a chance to do the honorable thing.
My pride is hurt, as this day should have been a celebration of victory. I must learn to be a better man, as this in truth, this is only a game, and we were there only to entertain the Shogun.
I have often been told by war veterans that even in victory there is much suffering, and I feel pain right now, though no lives have been lost today. Daigotsu Bofana will live. I do hope that Daidoji Okuda will do what is necessary and cleanse his family honor.
I shall write more when I am able, and look very much forward to serving as Gunso in the Akodo army. After the mass battle, I am in first place in points, with Ikoma Uso, Akodo Tetsuru, Moto Subotai, and Suzume Shintaro right behind.
The courtier contest, poetry competition, and then the iajitsu duels remain. The winner will be decided at the duels. One of the five of us will be victorious. I admit I do wish to win, but after my victory in the mass battle, I feel like I have already won the most important competition.
As soon as I am able, I will make an offering to Hachiman, the Fortune of Battle.
Okuda should have offered to commit seppuku to remove the stain of honor from his family, but he did not. It then fell to the man who had trained him, and commanded him, Daidoji Kenru, Iron Warrior Sensei, Topaz Judge for Bushi, and an old friend of my father. He is the first commander I faced in a mass battle. He showed me how a samurai lives and dies. I will not forget his lesson.
I was invited to witness honorable Daidoji Kenru’s final act of courage. I watched the ceremony where he committed seppuku in front of his loyal friends and family members. I wore a Daidoji headband and stood with his people. I watched him make the cuts in his abdomen with a stoic expression that barely flinched, even when his intestines spilled onto the ground. He pitched forward at last and I watched his son cut off his head and end his life with one clean blow.
The shame of Daidoji Okuda was washed away with the blood of a good man.
Someday, if I must do the same as Sensei Kenru, or act as his son did, I can only hope I do so with as much grace and courage.
I hoped the judges would suspend the competition for a few days of mourning, but the Crane did no such thing. A mere two hours later it began again. The poetry contest was next and I wrote a short haiku to honor Sensei Daidoji Kenru.
Red warriors way,
Honor is sharper than swords,
When a son brings death.
I shall never be a poet, but I will remember the tremendous honor of my father’s friend. Sensei Daidoji Kenru.
The courtier contest was next and I did not do well, distracted as I was from witnessing the seppuku of a paragon of Bushido.
The iajitsu duel was next, and I defeated only one opponent, Shiba Kyushi of the Phoenix. I lost a close match in round two against Mirumoto Toushi of the Dragon Clan. I should have done much better, but let my heavy heart weigh down my sword arms. I must not allow this to happen again in battle. Friends will die beside me and I must not lose heart, but fight on harder than ever so that someone will be alive to carry the news of their deeds to their family.
The duels went on and left me with my black thoughts. In the end, Moto Subotai won four matches and defeated Akodo Tetsuru in the final duel, defying all expectations, and momentarily lifting my spirits. Subotai is an amazing swordsman, and if he agrees, I will spar with him in the months ahead and will learn his technique.
The iajutsu duels did decide the winner of Topaz Championship. Ikoma Uso defeated three opponents before he conceded the semi-final match to Subotai and withdrew. Why Uso did this, I do not know. Perhaps he knew Subotai was destined to win the dueling competition. At that moment, Uso must have known that his thirty-one points, a near record, had already given him victory in the overall Topaz championship. I finished with only twenty-three, and behind Subotai and Tetsuru’s score of twenty-eight. Shintaro was right behind me with eighteen. Shintaro was the biggest surprise of the entire tournament. No one will look at the Sparrow Clan the same again because of Suzume Shintaro.
I, Suzume Shintaro sat across from the Spider, Daigotsu Bofana in a small, cramped room in the castle. I did not want to be there. I would sooner cut off the spider’s head than talk to him. But the spider knew something about my father. I was sure of it. I was so sure of it that I had helped saved the Spider’s life.
“Thank you for speaking with me,” I said.
“I heard about what you did on the battlefield. You came to my rescue when others would have gladly seen me die. We Spider will remember this.”
“What happened to you was a dishonorable, cowardly act.”
“Honor. Such a…malleable notion.”
I knew about the “malleable honor” of the Spider Clan. They used subterfuge, lies and assassinations to further their own ambition and were as close to true samurai as the eta that clean the cow pens. It was a secret within my clan that years ago the Spider Clan had tried to infiltrate and take over the Sparrow. We Sparrow are by no means a great clan like the Lion or Crane, but we have our honor and that is strength enough.
“You should be dead.”
I remembered the mock battle well. I had been fighting in the front and had advanced on the enemy banner, but been felled by two of the enemy’s wooden swords. Just as our team triumphed, our moment of glory was stolen from us by a cowardly deed. Bofana was stabbed in the middle of the melee and almost died. This was a great shame to our honorable Crane hosts and would have dire consequences.
But for me, the consequences led me here: to face a man from a clan I despise above all else.
“Indeed. But you saved my life.”
“I had the impression that you may know something of my father,” I said.
“What do you know of your father?”
“I know he was an honorable samurai. He came to us as a Ronin and quickly earned a place. He swore fealty with the Sparrow, and was a Sparrow until he died in the Destroyer War.”
This drew a quiet and unsettling laugh from the Spider. I had to control my emotions to not let him see my discomfort. I would not show weakness in front of this creature.
“Your father was of the Spider Clan, Suzume Shintaro.”
The words struck me like a tetsubo to the head. As much as I did not wish to believe it, I feared the words to be true.
“How can you know this? What do you know of my father?” I asked.
“Do you think you are the only son he sired?”
My world and everything I believed spun away from me in a storm of confusion and pain.
“I don’t believe it,” I said.
“Your voice sounds as hollow as your conviction. He came to your clan as a ronin, did he not? He was servant of the Spider Clan and he was there to place himself deep within your ranks.”
I came away from that meeting feeling more wounded and lost than ever in my life. There I was, at the prestigious Topaz Championship, risen higher than anyone, including myself, could ever have imagined. I should have been elated. I knew I was bringing more honor to the Sparrow than anyone else of my generation, yet I felt horrible.
I wandered back to my room and spoke to no one. I meditated for hours but found no solace.
The next day was the dueling championship. My mind was clouded that I was defeated with little effort by my first opponent. The loss barely registered to me, however. I went back to my bench and sat there quietly for the rest of the event. When they announced that my friend, the honorable, Ikoma Uso was the winner, I barely had mind to applaud.
When I saw the final score board and that I had come in fifth place, the cloud dispersed somewhat. It was enough to make me realize that I had finished higher than any Sparrow ever had in the Topaz Championship. For once the name of a Sparrow would be spoken by lords and the Shogun alike. If there were people that did not know of my clan, they certainly did now. The thought of my ancestors being honored as such was enough to bring me out of my dark thoughts.
To be continued next week: http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/the-drowning-empire-episode-12-a-moto-won-what/
To check out more of Zach’s real writing, go here: http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=FFFFFF&fc1=000000&lc1=0000FF&t=monshuntnati-20&o=1&p=8&l=as4&m=amazon&f=ifr&ref=ss_til&asins=B00B0DIQ84
To check out more of Paul’s real writing, go here: http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=FFFFFF&fc1=000000&lc1=0000FF&t=monshuntnati-20&o=1&p=8&l=as4&m=amazon&f=ifr&ref=ss_til&asins=B006V5Q3PY