The Drowning Empire, Episode 29: Adventures in Smuggling

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,

If you use the link above I always post a huge behind the scene’s GM play by play.

This week’s episode was written by Tony Battalingo, who is our token non-writer of WNGN, probably because writing isn’t badass enough, so instead he defuses bombs for a living. However, Tony has joined in too, writing from the perspective of the drunken, lecherous, screwed up, criminally inclined, borderline pirate, master archer, Yoritomo Oki.

As the group is preparing to leave for the colonies, Oki is approached with an offer he can’t refuse. As we will see in the future, it doesn’t work out quite the way he hopes.


That stupid baka Toranaka! Burning O-Hinku’s letter… damn it! He’s got too much pride, now we all suffer.

Oki sat up from his bedroll and squeezed his shaking fists before letting out a calming sigh. He rubbed his eyes and eased back down onto his pillow. He rolled a few times before cursing and getting up. Oki stumbled like a zombie across the room to the small table near the corner. He sat down and poured himself a cup or four of sake. Oki began to calm down and focus on his surroundings. He began to scan the small modest room that was given to him to rest for the night in Toshi Ranbo. The moonlight was barely illuminating the rice paper walls. He had no idea what hour it was. He could feel a meager breeze on his face from the open door. Initially Oki was concerned that his door was open but he just dismissed it due to stumbling home in a drunken haze.

Oki needed to clear his head. The meeting with the most powerful people in the empire had left him drained even though he didn’t say a word the whole time. He was concerned, yet excited about the trip to the Ivory Kingdoms. He hoped there was a lot of treasure there that could be ‘lost’ to his sleeves. He was anxious about the trip to Broken Wave City, his home. He had not been there for some time. He thought about how it wasn’t really his choice to leave. He chuckled and said to himself;

“Those idiots… I never wanted to see them again.”

He made a slight face of disgust before finishing his cup. He got up and decided to get dressed and take a walk in the night to clear his head. Often Oki would have a few drinks and take a night walk in Zakyo Toshi to clear his head. Things were different now. He wasn’t dealing with petty smugglers anymore. No, something big was coming. Oki couldn’t shake the sense of dread that was slowly growing on his shoulders.

Oki’s bare feet plopped across the cool wooden floor. Scratching himself rather uncivilized, he paused mid stride and turned around to pour himself another cup of sake.


Oki knew that sound. His body froze as he looked where he had just been standing. There was an arrow lodged in the floor right where he was a second ago. Oki just laughed before sitting down and pouring another drink.

“Amateurs…”Oki muttered, before pulling the neatly rolled paper from the shaft of the arrow. There was a message on the piece of parchment, written aggressively in bright red blood. Oki just looked at the paper for a while and cocked his head. He brought the paper to his face and took in the aroma of the blood before licking it.

Oki spat.

“Nope, just red ink. These guys are really bad at this.”

Oki slowly got dressed before laughing to himself about not wanting to go on a walk now. He decided he would listen to the message and meet these amateurs in the stables. He decided he would probably just kill whoever this was because he was mostly tired and only half drunk.

Walking to the stables, Oki noticed that Uso’s window was open. Probably just to get some fresh air he thought as he passed under the second story window. He turned the corner and headed toward the stables when he heard a faint sound behind him. He kept walking, while casually holding his bow. Someone was behind him. He walked and turned the corner into a small dark alley. He whipped around, arrow notched and ready to fly. Too bad there was cold steel inches from his neck already. Oki stood, fearless, peering into the dark, trying to find the person on the other end of the blade.

Oki lowered his bow and put his arrow back before grumbling,

“I could have killed you just now.”

Bayushi Masumi just smiled and said,

“I could have killed you ten minutes ago.”

Oki nervously laughed but was genuinely relieved to see her. Masumi put away her blade and just stood there smiling.

“So, what do you want Masumi, or should I say Maemi? Sayako? I’m getting confused by this, which one is your real name?”

Masumi feigned confusion and innocently shrugged before throwing Oki a provocative wink. “Does it really matter? A Scorpion can wear different masks, you know. We have a good relationship, you don’t want to ruin that, do you Oki-san?

Oki rolled his eyes, not buying it. “Naturally…”

Masumi smiled, “You are drunk, Oki-san. Go home. I told you to slow your drinking.”

Oki wasn’t going to respond to that. He reached in his sleeve and pulled out the parchment and held it before her. “This yours?”

Masumi leaned in, almost provocatively, to see the note. Oki caught a small flutter of her scent as she leaned in. Oki held back a familiar smile. “Oh,”Masumi said as she glanced at the note. “You got that I see.”

Oki put the paper away. “You almost hit me with that arrow you know.”

Masumi was confused. “Oh no, I didn’t send that to you. Don’t know what that is…” Masumi shrugged. “I’m glad I ran into you Oki-san. There are some bad men looking for you. I figured you could use a warning before you walk into a trap.”

Oki rolled his eyes and sighed again. “Naturally…”

Masumi smiled. “There have been some people following you since Sunset Tower-”

Oki cut her off, “Is it more of Kuronobo’s Scorpion scouts, because I am getting a bit sick of those guys always lingering around.”

Masumi laughed innocently. “No, not anymore. At least that I know of . Just be careful out there, ok?”

Oki rolled his head back to look at the stars. “I’m getting sick of all this secrecy lately. What was with that meeting? It’s really been hurting my head. I think it’s making me sore too, you know. Think you could give me another massage?” He put his hands on his back and made a face that indicated he was in pain. He looked back down. Masumi was gone. Oki dropped the act and cursed.

“Blech, Scorpion women, they are as poisonous as they are beautiful…”

A distant voice came from the roof. “I heard that…”

Oki just laughed and continued meandering to the stables.

“Stables, the amateurs always want to meet in the stables. Why couldn’t we meet at a noodle house and have some sake and a nice conversation for once. Stupid…” Oki said to the great horse Tentu as he was stroking his side. “How the hell did you get so big, what the hell does Subotai feed you?”

Oki looked around for Subotai’s peasant, Ishi, to no avail. “Where is your keeper? I want to ask him what he feeds you.” Oki then realized that talking to a horse was futile. He laid down on the straw and drank from his bottle while he waited. Oki turned back to Tentu,

“See they ask me here then keep me waiting hoping I am worried. I bet they are going to try to do some dramatic entrance to try to intimidate me… Are you even listening?”

Tentu just looked at Oki with his boring horse eyes. Oki just shook his head at the horse and went back to his bottle.

Oki woke up some time later with a foot on his chest. He felt a sudden rush of cold as a bucket of water was thrown on him. “Ok fine! I’m awake. What do you want?” He tried to sit up but the foot held him down.

He heard some whispering from the darkness. A small lamp was ignited by some dark figures as they stepped back from Oki. He saw three people in dark clothing and masks standing around him. He had never see this type of mask before, It was definitely not Scorpion. Oki sat up and touched his soaked clothing. He reached over for his bottle and sarcastically said “Thanks.”

Oki looked at his empty bottle with sad eyes. He didn’t remember finishing it before he fell asleep. He looked back up at the three figures. “Can we hurry this up? I’m getting thirsty.”

Suddenly another bucket of water hit him in the side of the head. Except this time it was the entire bucket. Oki rubbed his head and looked to his left. Another large figure that Oki hadn’t noticed was sitting in the corner. Oki sighed,

“So what is it? Do I owe you guys some money or something? Did I sleep with one of your women? Is this about the sake tab that I never payed in Zakyo Toshi because I can totally explain that one.”

A gruff voice came from the figure in the corner. “Oh, be quiet you fool!” The voice was raspy, and aged. Harsh yet polite. The figure walked over and reached out his tree trunk like arms to give Oki a small piece of soft leather. The figure looked at Oki with his wrinkled brown eyes through his mask before leaning in and saying, “You really smell bad my friend.”

Oki put on a gruff demeanor and shot back, “No, You smell.” Oki thought that probably wasn’t his best comeback. The figure dropped a rice sack on Oki’s lap and started to walk out of the stables. As he walked he spoke,

“Down payment, for your required services.”

Oki watched the large figure rub the side of his head while walking away into the night. As he walked out of the stable Oki could hear him muttering to himself, “…Where the hell did they find this guy…”

Oki looked up at the remaining three figures as they walked back into the night. He untied the sack and shouted back, “So, what if I refuse?”

One of the masked figures, while disappearing into the shadows retorted, “You won’t.”

Oki spat and opened the sack. There was a coin purse filled to the seams with Koku mingling among half a dozen bottles of Friendly Traveler Sake. Oki pulled out a bottle and looked at it eagerly while holding it up to the fluttering lamplight.

“Ah…The finest in all of Rokugan!”

“What’s that smell?” Oki grumbled as he rolled over in the straw, the morning light searing all the nerves in his eyes. He reached into his sleeve to retrieve his dark lenses. As he put them on, he sat up, still soaking wet. His head was pounding either from the sake or the blunt trauma, he couldn’t decide which. He looked over to see Ishi comfortably snuggled up next to Tentu. Oki just shook his head and tried to collect his thoughts. He had woken up in worse places. Oki eased to his feet, his head still pounding. He nearly tripped on an empty bottle of Friendly Traveler Sake. Oki squinted at the ground and spied the small piece of leather that was given to him. It was sitting right next to the pile of fresh horse droppings he had been laying in. Oki took a deep breath and tried to calm himself. He still had woken up in worse places. His mind immediately went to Yasuki Tonta. Oki shuddered, then calmly expressed to himself,

“I regret nothing.”

Oki walked out of the stable into the morning mist hunting for some noodles and sake to silence the pounding in his head. He figured he could read the message, after he got something to eat.

Oki sat at a table outside a small noodle shop by the docks and watched the boats while aggressively eating some grilled squid and noodles. In between mouth fulls he would drink hearty amounts of cold sake. He watched the early morning sun rise into the sky through his dark lenses. It was calm here and most importantly for Oki, it was quiet. He nearly forgot about the message in his pocket. He pulled out the leather and began to read.

“Smuggling, eh?”

He thought about that for a while. How did these guys know where he was going? Maybe they were professionals after all. All this thinking was hurting his head. He pondered out loud as he rubbed his pounding head.

“This doesn’t make sense, why do they want me to take that there?… I don’t think I want to play this game.”

Oki heard chewing when he looked up and noticed his new breakfast companion. Masumi was sitting opposite Oki happily munching away on one of Oki’s grilled squid. She let out a bubbly giggle. Oki sighed,

“Masumi, I’m sorry but I don’t think I have the patience to deal with you right now. I’m really-”

She interrupted him. “You look pretty bad, Oki,” she said with a sly smile.

Oki shook his head. “Yeah, my… I just-”

She interrupted him again with a mouth full of squid. “I told you to go easy on the drinking.” She laughed.

Oki put his hands on his head, gently rubbing his pounding skull, trying to keep his composure. “Masumi, please, just leave… me…” He trailed off as Masumi stood up and glided over with such seductive grace.

“Thanks for the breakfast” she said while leaning in near Oki. He felt the movement of her lips on his ear. She whispered softly, seductively into his ear before walking off. “By the way, you smell really bad.”

Oki turned and watched her casually walk into the street and eventually disappear among the people. Oki turned and just layed his head on the table for a moment, defeated. He rolled his head to the side to look at the smuggling contract. He thought for a moment and then closed his eyes.

“Well, that is a lot of money…”


To be continued next week:


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