The Drowning Empire, Episode 37: Pirates!

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,

This week’s episode has our session recapped by Paul Genesse.

Continued from:

Letter to Admiral Yoritomo Naota from Akodo Toranaka

Honored Admiral Yoritomo Naota-sama,

I must inform you of the annihilation of pirates known as the Serpents of Sanada. My companions and I massacred approximately eighty of them, and can account for the neutralization of eight of their nine ships. I suspect the lone ship we did not find was used to transport the assassins that attacked your home recently. I cannot verify this, but regardless, their capabilities are much diminished and if my estimations are correct, less than ten of them still live—if that many. I believe that almost all the pirates not accounted for were slain during the attack on your home, but there may be a handful who still draw breath. If we come across them in the future, they will not survive the meeting.

Please know that the pirates were dispatched with much prejudice, and no mercy was given.

We first encountered them when they attempted a night ambush of our ship, The Friendly Traveler, using three of their own inferior craft. Captain Yoritomo Oki had been purposely sailing very slowly through their known territory and attracted them to us. Oki-san boldly turned and attacked the three pirate ships, and using the catapult he acquired, we disabled two of their ships. The third, and the smallest pirate vessel, we rammed and crushed into the sea. The approximately thirty pirates on the three ships were all killed, save for their leader, a dishonorable dog named Sono, whom we captured. He gave us the location of their secret island camp and we proceeded to the small island off the Coast of Dark Mist that night, making it in time for a dawn attack.

My companions and I, less than ten of us, launched a surprise attack and swept through their hideout. We slaughtered approximately fifty of them, and confronted their leader, a warrior called Kosugi the Vicious. She proved to be a powerful warrior and before she died by my katana, she inflicted a grave wound upon myself, and one upon Moto Subotai. He and I shall all recover, but all of the Serpents of Sanada are dead.

We are now continuing on to the Ivory Kingdoms and will deliver the shipment you entrusted to us. We shall also continue our search for Doji Chonitsu, to warn him of the potential imposter who may have impersonated him at your residence. Or if we find out that Chonitsu is guilty of theft and sending the assassins to your home, we shall take appropriate action, and deliver his head to you. I understand that if a head is preserved in a cask of soy sauce it does not rot. We shall deliver Chonitsu’s head to you in this manner.

Humbly and with much respect,

Akodo Toranaka

Letter sent to the Shogunate in Toshi Ranbo by Akodo Toranaka—though it is not signed by him.

Honorable Masters,

We have arrived in the Ivory Kingdoms. Along the way we have learned that the Oracle of Dark Water was in league with the Sanada pirates. He commanded one of his underlings, who was in command of the pirates, a woman named Kasugi the Vicious, to attack shipping along the trade route, and perhaps other activities. Many Mantis ships and others had fallen prey to them. We killed all of the pirates we encountered, nearly eighty, including Kasugi. See the copy of the letter I sent to Admiral Yoritomo Naota. Honorable Naota has helped fund our journey and outfit our ship, commanded my Captain Yoritomo Oki. Naota has given us a shipment to carry to the Ivory Kingdoms. Of course, this is only a ruse, and Naota has only given us one small barrel of soy sauce to carry on our ship. Naota’s assistance will help add to our cover, but our loyalties lie where they have always been.

We have also learned of an agent of evil, Doji Chonitsu. I’ve included a complete copy of the information I’ve gathered on him, including the journal of the dead Scorpion clan investigator, Yogo Tanaka—possibly killed by Chonitsu. His body was mauled, as if by a wild animal, though no animal tracks were seen. If you have not already investigated Chonitsu’s contacts in the empire as a whole, please do so, or follow whatever course of action you think is best. We shall be investigating him in the Ivory Kingdoms and plan to confront him at some point. I wonder if Chonitsu is fomenting war between the Mantis and the Crane on the behalf of his true master, possibly the Dark Oracle of Water. I have no proof of a connection between Chonitsu and the Dark Oracle, but we shall continue to investigate.

A Humble Servant of the Emerald Empire

From the Private Journal of Akodo Toranaka, 10th Entry

Written in the days before arriving in the Ivory Kingdoms for the first time

Our journey to the Ivory Kingdoms has gone well. Captain Oki has proved himself, as I had hoped. We put our faith in him, and our lives in his hands. The added responsibility has matured him, and he did not drink as much sake during our voyage. He was reckless at times, but his judgment proved sound, though I did question his decision to face three enemy pirate ships, the Serpents of Sanada, when we did not know how many warriors we were to fight. Our total number of fighters was ten, which includes our most capable crewmaster, our Shukan, Hisao, and our two new Crane friends, Doji Shunya and Daidoji Masafuni.

We had heard that the pirates numbered one hundred. Ten to one odds on the water was not to my liking, for I am a pragmatic realist. I believe we could have had a victory against one hundred ronin sea dogs, but the chance of a few of us dying, and our ship being damaged was quite high. When Captain Oki gave his orders to turn and fight I admit to being concerned. We had lowered some of our sails, and there was no chance of us out running the approaching three ships. It was not a good tactical situation, but my worry and fear were misplaced. I was wrong not to trust Oki’s judgment.

We did not face one hundred pirates, at night, in unfamiliar waters. We fought only thirty and our catapult turned the battle in our favor. Only one of the pirates gained the deck of our ship and he was quickly cut down and captured. Uso managed to turn his allegiance, and we were soon sailing to the secret hideout of the pirates.

Our surprise attack at dawn was merciless. We killed over a dozen before the alarm was sounded, and even more of the enemy died before any major resistance was mounted. One gutless ronin held a captive woman with a knife to her throat as I approached, but I stabbed him in the left eye before he could kill her. The nine of us samurai swept through their camp crushing our enemy, and seeing them driven before us. When they realized that death was approaching the lamentation of the ronin scum was the only sound aside from sharp steel cutting through flesh. Even Isao became a bloodied warrior and crushed a man’s skull with his tetsubo. We harvested the lives of our enemy, but they made one final stand.

Their leader, Kasugi the Vicious, proved quite a challenge, and I shall bear a scar on my left shoulder where her wakizashi nearly found and punctured my throat, but we did not bring only our swords to this fight. When I saw Kasugi, I ordered Isao to use his flare spell, which signaled our Shukan on the Friendly Traveler, as well as summoning the Mantis navy, which would see the glowing sphere in the sky from dozens of miles away.

As I had expected, the pirates and Kasugi looked up at the flare hanging in the sky. The magic lit the morning mist, making it the color of a blood-orange. Upon seeing the flare, our Shukan followed my predetermined order and he launched the pre-aimed catapult. A stone destroyed Kasugi’s hut and the explosion caused her to fortuitously drop her spear and fall to the ground.

She drew her katana, and we charged screaming our battle cries for the first time that morning, as her men rallied for one last stand. They had no chance of victory, but Kasugi injured Subotai before Oki-san shot her in the hand, forcing her to drop her sword. Oki may have saved my life, and Subotai’s with his archery. Subo and I wounded her, and she struck back hard drawing her wakizashi. Still, she could not match my attack, for I am a graduate of the Akodo Bushi School and the Golden Plains Dojo. I took her head and mounted it on her lost spear. Taking her alive would have been advantageous, but she was determined to fight to the end, and I had no intention of bringing the worst of the Serpents of Sanada aboard our ship.

Nearly crippled from blood loss, I followed Uso to defeat the last of the pirates. Uso led the slaughter, and Subotai eventually made me see reason, convincing me to stop, as I could barely lift my sword. I staggered and fell to my knees, almost passing out as Uso disappeared in the mist, killing our enemy with reckless abandon.

With most of the pirates dead, and a few survivors swimming away from the island to be killed by the demons who inhabited the jungle shores, Subo and I stumbled together back toward the ship. Our friends helped us, especially Daidoji Masafuni, and the captives we had rescued came along gratefully. Shintaro seemed most concerned with a samurai woman he rescued, Hotaru Kuroko, of the Firefly clan, of which I’ve never heard. Kuroko and the other women’s nightmare was nearly over.

Mine had just started. A man covered in blood and gore, and carrying Uso’s giant sword, his no-dachi came at us once we arrived near the dock. He emerged from the thick mist, his eyes filled with something like bloodlust and hate. We prepared to avenge Uso and reclaim his sword, but the man paused and wiped the blood from his face, using a flap from a pirate’s tent. It was Uso under the sheen of red, but I did not see the bright light in the bard’s eyes I had come to admire. I do not know what I saw, though it haunts me still.

I worry for Uso, and fear he is touched by darkness now. I have read of men who tasted battle for the first time and became obsessed with killing ever after. I believe this was his first time Uso had taken so many lives, and though he is Lion, he is only a bard, and not used to this kind of action. Subotai and I killed many bandits in the last two years, and still I wonder at the honor of slaughtering opponents with so little skill, but victory must be achieved, and often that means men dying.

Many days have passed since the battle now, and Uso is more the man I have come to know. The strange look in his eyes is gone, though our captive, Sono, the honor-less dog, looks at Uso sometimes as if he is a frightening oni. Uso only smiles at him as if they are best of friends. I still do not trust Sono and would like him removed from our crew as soon as possible.

I have not been able to spend as much time observing Uso in the past days, but he is back to normal, from what I can tell. I have spent many days on Captain Oki’s second ship, which he took from the pirate’s hide out. He allowed me to name it, and so we would not forget who or where we won it from, I have named it, The Vicious Serpent. Oki has put me in command of the ship, though I am no sea captain, and defer to his nautical knowledge. We all hope that Oki’s small fleet will help us in the future. Time will tell.

Our trip has been quite an experience and one thing is certain, our small group is like an army unto itself. All of my friends are good in a fight, even Isao, who has faced his fear of the water at last. He passed his own test, after asking Subo and Shintaro to lash him to the front mast of the ship when we left Broken Wave City. I shall not forget his screams as I stood guard beneath him for a full day and night. Our Crane friends asked if they could put Isao out of his misery, but I refused. The others laughed and made jokes at Isao’s expense, but they are merely uncomfortable seeing someone is such pain. I heard him speaking during the ordeal and believe the death of his mother has caused his fear. She may have been killed by a tsunami when Isao was very small. I do not wish to ask him about it now.

Isao has told us what he saw during his time on the mast, and I do not doubt his recollections. He may have seen the Elemental Water Dragon and the Dark Oracle of Water. They spoke to him, and if what they said is true, I firmly believe our mission is more important than ever. We cannot fail.

I only hope Isao’s madness has passed, and he shall become a full part of our group. We shall need him, and the full powers of a shugenja before the end comes. If he does not pull together his fragmented mind, we may have little chance to defeat the Dark Oracle of Water. Blades may be able to cut water, but they do not cause harm.

Now we are all about to disembark in the Ivory Kingdoms. Our enemies will come for each of us, using our weaknesses to great effect, I have no doubt, but we shall not stop. We shall stand together, bleed together, and die together if necessary.

For now we shall escort our two Crane friends, Doji Shunya and Daidoji Masafuni as they go to deliver a message to their clansmen, Doji Chonitsu. I worry that our conflict with Chonitsu will result in a conflict with these two men. Shunya holds a grudge against Subotai, and wants to face him again. Shunya will never forget how Subotai defeated him at the Topaz Championship in the dueling competition. I worry now that when we find Chonitsu there will be a fight. Shunya will come after Subotai, and I worry my friend will not be able to defeat him. Subo and I must practice our dueling more often.

If we do have to fight any of the Crane, I do not wish to face my new friend, Masafuni, as he was a student of Sensei Kenru, a man I admired greatly. I must find a way to stop the war between the Crane and the Mantis, and still find out the truth of Chonitsu, without causing hostilities to occur.

Perhaps if Chonitsu is found to be guilty of being some sort of supernatural being, as Yogo Tanaka’s journal accuses, we could cause Chonitsu to disappear, quietly and permanently. Uso has hinted at this plan, and when I think of my friend’s eyes, and his face smeared with blood, I think he not a simple bard as he always says. Not all of us Lion hunt in the open, some hunt from the shadows, and I wonder if that is what my father was hinting at so long ago when he told me of Ikoma Uso, and his strange ways. For now, I shall say nothing to my friends, nor to Uso.

The Ivory Kingdoms await. I am not looking forward to the heat and terrible humidity we have felt over the past days. I shall have to wear much different clothing, and it will make it more difficult to hide the stump of my arm. I must find the courage to not be ashamed anymore. All the outcasts of the empire are here, and I must recognize that I am one of them. My daimyo has released me from his service and allowed me to find my own way in the world. This is what I shall do.

I will let the samurai here believe I am not fit to be a Lion, or serve in the Lion armies. I will let them see I am maimed. I will let them think I am nothing to worry about, but if the time comes for violence, I shall be ready, and I will not be alone.


To check out some of Paul’s regular work, here is an anthology that he edited:  I’m in it!

To be continued next week:

Well look what is up for preorder...
Hard Magic audiobook is the Deal of the Day on Audible

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