The Drowning Empire, Episode 22: Summons

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,

The two year time break is over and the characters have been called back to action by the shogun. All of them received this message:

You are required to present yourself at the Shogunate Palace in Toshi Ranbo wo Shien Shite Reigisaho on the twenty fourth day of the Month of the Goat. The Empire has need of your services for an unspecified period of time. Your daimyo has been notified of this command and you have been released from your current assignment. Tend to your affairs and then make haste for the Imperial City.

Travel papers have been included in this package. Bring a sturdy horse, and any equipment, weapons, and armor you may need for a rough journey. Where you are going, you will need them.

Hida O-Hinku, Shogun

P.S. The swamp dragon was delicious.

This week’s episode was written by Paul Genesse. Continued from:

Journal of Akodo Toranaka, Commander of the Fifty-Second Akodo Guards Company

First Year of the Reign of Empress Hantei Yuni

Fifth day of the Month of the Dragon, Year 1191

Last Entry in the Akodo Guard’s Journal

I shall miss my soldiers, the living and especially the dead. The past twenty-one months have seemed like a lifetime, and so far removed from the events of the Topaz Championship, which was mostly a game played by children to amuse the assembled adults.

The muddy roads I have traveled since are nothing like the carefully manicured and beautiful lands of the Crane, or like the quiet perfection of the village of Tsuma before the Dark Oracle of Water destroyed it. I have seen nothing as luxurious as the imperial barge of Hantei Mikki, which sits rotting in the muck at the bottom of the Tsuma River where I was forced to leave my left arm, and both of the swords handed down to me from my ancestors, a dishonor I shall carry forever.

However, I refuse to admit that anything more than a part, a limb only, of my soul was lost on that Night of Evil. The rest of my body, and especially my mind, are still strong. My heart beats like one of the great taiko drums, much stronger and faster than it did in those first three months after I was forced to maim myself or drown in blackness.

Without the support of my best friend, who is still officially my hostage, the blade master and horse master, and scout master, Moto Subotai, I could not have accomplished so much. I owe him my life several times over now, as do all of the bushi, but I owe him so much more.

Subo has been my Gunso, my bodyguard, my sword master, my teacher about horses and even poetry, but most importantly my friend. He has killed men for insulting my honor in duels he should not have been fighting, but the ronin bandits do not ask permission, they insult and then they attack us in the streets when we ride into villages. Subotai defends me with a quick word, and then he kills without hesitation. His blade strikes as fast as lightning from the Heavens.

I am not as fast as Subotai, but I am a student of his technique, and several ronin have made the mistake of facing me in combat, thinking I was an easy target. In these past months Subotai and I, along with the soldiers of the Fifty-Second Akodo Guards have eased the drought in our own way, spilling much dishonorable blood to feed the parched earth.

The bushi under our command would follow us even into the Shadow Lands now, but when Subo and I first met them, they would not follow us to a sake house with the promise of free drinks. The cast offs of the Lion Clan I was sent to command had a foul reputation, and were given the worst, and most mundane of duties, but in time they became a potent force of true samurai warriors. The Fifty-Second are now all excellent riders, archers, infantry, and scouts. They treat the peasants with the respect they are due, and dispatch bandits swiftly and without unnecessary preamble. I hope their next commander will use them properly and that he or she will not spend their lives trivially.

I have grown fond of them, not all of them, but still, they served me well, and I will make it known to whomever replaces Subotai and I that we will be watching closely, and that both of us will take it as a great personal insult if the Fifty-Second is dishonored or used badly. With Subotai’s increasing reputation, and my own connections in the Lion Clan, I think this veiled threat will be effective.

When we first met the men, I did not know for certain if my first command would be successful. Now, after all this time, Subotai and I have proved everyone wrong and gained much honor and glory for our accomplishments. The supply routes in our district are safer than they have ever been. No food has been stolen in months, and the peasants are as content they could be in such difficult times when the rains are so infrequent.

Most importantly, the small army of bandits known as the Forest Killers are all dead, their leader, Sinjo-Black Eyes, is dead, slain by Subotai’s katana. The rest of the bandits are fertilizing the fields that will feed the villagers’ oxen. No more harvests will be taken, and no more peasants or samurai will starve.

Hunger feels the same to low or high born, though I must tell the truth, the peasants endure it much better than most of those born in my class. I shall never again take having enough food to eat for granted.

It is with a heavy heart that I will leave these bushi, with whom I’ve suffered alongside for so long. After our first major victory, when I led them to overcome a numerically superior force of heavily armed ronin, they wanted to call themselves “Tora’s Tigers,” as if these men were somehow unworthy of being true Lion Clan. That was how many of them felt when Subo an I arrived. Not any longer. I forbid the nickname, for none of us are mere tigers. We hunt as a pride, together, not some silent predator in the forest.

The land needs to see our strength, just to know that the law of our new Empress, Hantei Yuni, is still strong. I have heard of peasant uprisings, food riots, and much discontent, similar to what I have seen in my own district. I have done all I could to keep the peace.

I have also sent a message to the son of the empress, my friend Mikki, giving my condolences about the death of his grandmother, and reaffirming my vow to support him and his family in any way I can. I still think of the moment when I learned that my friend, Bayushi Arashii was actually the Divine Grandson of the Empress.

The Most Honored Son of the new Empress and Heir to the Emerald Throne has not replied, but I am only a young man, not even twenty until next summer, and he is busy with affairs of the Imperial Court.

I have sent other letters to my friends from the Topaz Championship. I worry, as I have not had a letter from my friend Suzume Shintaro in several months, and hope he has not been slain while protecting the Miya Heralds as they travel to the far reaches of Rokugan. Perhaps my letters have not found him?

Ikoma Uso has also been silent and I wonder what has kept him from writing for so long, when at first he sent encouragement quite often, especially when Subotai was helping me heal and learn to fight one handed before I took command of the Guards and during the first few difficult months at our posting. I hope that Uso has had success finding out who it was who tried to assassinate me at our gempukku, first with poison then by the hand of those foul ronin. The note Uso recovered from the ronin leader in the swamp had some clues that Uso said he was pursuing. I am uncomfortable with him risking his life to find out who my secret enemy is, but Uso was also attacked by the assassins in the swamp. Whoever wanted me dead has not come out here to find me. If they had, Subo and I would have been ready.

No word from Oki, but the Pleasure City where he has taken up residence has a habit of swallowing men for years. I can only hope that his love of sake has not ruined his aim, for I believe that his talents will be needed by the Empire soon enough.

Tamori Isao assures me that he has learned much in the past two years about our enemy, the Dark Oracle of Water, and I look forward to the day when I see my friend again, and we can face Rokugan’s greatest enemy shoulder to shoulder. I shall keep the burn scars on my stump hidden as much as I can, but I do wish to show him that I am whole again in spirit, if not body.

Tomorrow, before Subotai and I leave, I will visit some of the shrines that the peasants have built for our soldiers who died defending these distant farmlands and narrow roadways. I shall miss these poor folk who have shown us so much respect, and cared for us when we were sick, starving, and injured. Their endurance of the daily rigors of life is inspiring and enlightening.

The bushi under my command have also taught me much. The lessons I’ve learned in logistics, scouting, cavalry tactics, avoiding ambushes, and most importantly, fighting boredom while on duty, will inform the rest of my career.

Now I will report once again to my Daimyo, Akodo Shigatoshi in Shiro Akodo. The last time I met with him, two long years ago, I offered to commit seppuku for losing my swords and for failing to protect the then Divine Grandson, Hantei Mikki.

My most merciful Daimyo refused my request, and instead granted me a new ancestral daisho, a katana and a wakizashi crafted specifically for me, a man with one arm. I hope he believes I have served him well in this post which I asked for, as it was the lowest and least desired in all the Lion Clan holdings.

When I meet Honorable Akodo Shigatoshi, I shall bow low, lay my swords at his feet when I respond to his summons, and I shall accept whatever assignment he gives me now without question. In my heart, I hope that he will send me against the enemies of Rokugan, for I wish to erase the dishonor of the Night of Evil, and prove to all that this Lion is not without claws.

To be continued next week:

For Paul’s most recent real writing check this out:

Autographed copies from Uncle Hugos! I'll be there in August.
Spellbound just won the Audie Award!

2 thoughts on “The Drowning Empire, Episode 22: Summons”

  1. And now the ‘fun’ really starts. Looking forward to seeing how son of Hida Makoto joins the group and performs

  2. Why is it that all RPG settings always end up in ‘interesting times’?

    Looking forward to reading more of the adventures of the Writer Nerds.

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