Continued from here: http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/the-burning-throne-part-2/
So continues the journal from Writer Nerd Game Night. This week’s episode had one from me (Hida Makoto), two from Steve Diamond (Ide Todo, and the ever truthful bard, Ikoma Katsu, an NPC that develops quite the case of hero worship), and Robison Wells (Tsuruchi Machio). The forest fire was a result of our secret fugitive flaming fist monk trying to be awesome when nobody could see him.
Banishing the Moonless Night: The Rise of Ide Todo
By Ikoma Katsu
A legend, he was. A nightmare.
The Moonless Night.
For what seemed an eternity The Moonless Night orchestrated raids on Lion and Scorpion Lands both. Resources were strained. Our people lived in constant fear. The Army of Dark Fire approached from the north, crushing all who stood in its way. The Badger Clan was ground into dust, and the Unicorn found themselves hard pressed. In an impossibly short time—all too often the case in wars—our war against the Army of Dark Fire began spiraling out of control.
Our honorable Lion Clan wanted nothing more than to join the fight. Could there be any doubt as to the need of Lion armies at the front? But we could not leave. We could not help. The pirates known as the Red Sun, under the direction of The Moonless Night, were crippling our lands.
Then came Ide Todo. A savior sent by The Thousand Fortunes? Perhaps, though he would humbly deny any such grandeur. But ease our burdens he did.
The name Ide Todo is now known throughout every clan in Rokugan, but it was not always so. His skill with negotiation and words among the Unicorn and their neighbors earned him recognition among the royal family, and he was soon commissioned by the Imperial Regent to personally deliver needed supplies to the war-front.
I first met Ide Todo when he single-handedly—even amidst treachery and murder—preserved a treaty in jeopardy between Phoenix and Dragon. I was so impressed by his skill (though admittedly still growing at the time), that I approached him beseeching his help in the investigation of the Red Sun plaguing our lands.
And a plague they were in the most horrific sense, though we did not know this at the time.
I will not detail the conversations I had with Ide Todo, no doubt you have already read them in the first volume of his works that I have compiled. Suffice it to say, he consented to help—no, it was more than that. He promised to resolve the situation. Not only did Ide Todo promise the Lion that he would ease our burdens, I later learned he promised the Scorpion the same. We all know the deceit that pervades the Scorpions, yet this simple Unicorn courtier did not hesitate in making himself honor-bound He humbles me even to this day.
To say that I worried for his safety would be an understatement. He had surrounded himself with fine investigators and warriors, but I wondered if even they would be enough to eradicate the disease of pirates virtually imprisoning us. When I next saw him some weeks later, he seemed somehow taller, though the weight of the Empire (and his imperiled Clan) seemed to be fully upon his shoulders. I cannot help but marvel at his ability to attract aid. In addition to the companions I recognized, he had recruited a formidable Crab bodyguard (I call him a bodyguard for his moving plea for aid on behalf of Ide Todo and the Unicorn—this Crab warrior seemed incredibly protective of Ide Todo for reasons myself and historians can only attribute to the courtier’s exceedingly honorable persona). In addition I was shocked to see with him a virtual army of Spider Clan (their treachery was not known to any at this time).
By personally interviewing dozens of Ide Todo’s group, I received what I believe to be an accurate picture of what transpired in that haunted forest with the Moonless Night.
After saving another caravan traveling upriver, and personally directing a route and slaughter of Red Sun bandits (rumors have it that the caravan was directed by gaijin—was his honor and kindness limitless?), Ide Todo led his band into the heart of the haunted forest in the northern part of Lion lands. I shudder to think how tainted that part of the land must have felt. They encountered an old man by a shrine by the name of Karaku. Lion Clan know this name. A hermit and a healer belonging to our clan (though no longer). He directed them, in a most helpful manner, to an encampment of Red Sun said to be led by the Moonless Night.
Alas, Karaku had treachery in his heart.
Ide Todo—this from his own mouth and from the leader of the Spider Clan—was the first notice something amiss. A shadow watching them. Tracks were discovered leading away from the group. Though his followers attempted to dissuade him from following, Ide Todo reminded his honorable companions of their promise made to rid the lands of these pirates, and The Moonless Night. Though fearful, they acquiesced.
A patch of evil night—of blacker darkness, even—descended upon the brave men and women under Ide Todo’s care. As is often the case in wars and battles, a rational and calm voice amidst chaos can turn the tide. Ide Todo is not known for his prowess in physical battle (for there are many variations of battle), but it was his voice that his small army heard, calmly and decisively directing the flow of battle. As warriors fell prey to foul magics—even Ide Todo himself was under direct sorcerous assault—this humble Unicorn courtier kept a level head and used his awareness of the events to lead his men and women to victory. It was a dire situation, for not only this piece of the Shadowlands itself decimating the warriors, but they also found themselves under the assault of foul zombies.
Ide Todo directed his best archers, pointing them in the area he perceived to be this evil’s physical presence, and had them loose arrows straight and true into the center of the blackness.
The darkness evaporated, leaving behind a corpse.
The corpse of the hermit Karaku.
With the attacker dead—The Moonless Night himself—the zombies lost their direction and were crushed. Upon the corpse of Karaku was found a scroll case containing the most wicked of magics. I witnessed the evil power they contained myself when Ide Todo presented the body of Karaku (even after battle he kept his wits about him) and the scroll case. Jade was dulled nearly instantaneously in its proximity to the scrolls, but not before it was determined that they were the scrolls and spells of the blood necromancers, the maho-tsukai.
The Moonless Night was dead. Ide Todo gained the trust and armies of the Lion and Scorpion Clans for ridding them of this undead plague. In doing so he fulfilled his promise that he made personally to me.
Though the Empire was thrown into chaos at this time with the death of the Imperial Regent, tales of the Ide’s honor and glory spread reminding all peoples that not everything was lost.
And this was just the beginning of the rise of Ide Todo.
Banishing the Moonless Night
The Rise of Ide Todo Volume Two
Ikoma Katsu – Bard of the Lion Clan
From the journal of Hida Makoto, Crab Clan.
What a busy day!
Tsuruchi Machio caught up with us after the big fight against the pirates. He just missed running into his betrothed. The Mantis are a strange folk, in that they would arrange a marriage to a gaijin. (I like her, though. She was nice for a gaijin, not that I’d ever met a gaijin before or anything, but I had assumed they would be uglier.) Machio-san had been off delivering a message to the Lion for Ide Todo. Good thing Todo-sama wrote the message, because when it comes to diplomacy Machio makes me sound like the Voice of the Emperor in comparison.
Our Kitsuki followed the pirate’s trail. After a few hours journey into Lion lands, we entered a forest, and came across an ancient shrine to Ikoma. We met a fat old shugenja that healed our ronin, Zukozuko. Too bad his knowledge of the kami wasn’t good enough to fix Shiver’s messed up face. His name was Karaku. Todo-sama (being very educated) could tell that he was trained in a Kitsu dojo.
Karaku said he knew nothing of the Moonless Night, but he did give us directions toward the pirates. In thanks, Zukozuko performed a tea ceremony for us and Karaku. However, some of us got a real bad feeling about the fat man, so we sent one Tsuruchi archer to follow him.
You know, I really like tea. I prefer sake, but tea is nice, too.
The forest grew increasingly silent the further we went in. It got worse and worse. No animals. It smelled a little like the Shadowlands, though not nearly as bad. Iko was nervous as well and I have come to trust her skill as a gunso. Yet, nobody wanted to listen to the Crab or the Spider. Oh no, let’s blunder along and see what comes to eat us! When did I become the smart one? Sigh.
Ide Todo spotted a shadow in the trees. We went to investigate and found footprints. They were wet. We tracked them for quite some time, but they weren’t getting any drier. Now will somebody listen to me? No. Of course not.
So of course we were ambushed in the forest. A foul blackness fell on our group, blinding us. Something landed in our midst. I tried to get out of the darkness, but tripped and fell. Then some idiot set the forest on fire. I bet they thought that was a fine idea at the time. Afterwards nobody would fess up.
It took me a few seconds to crawl out of the dark. By then there were many drowned undead converging on our position and their magic was making the other, less sturdy, samurai choke as if they were drowning.
I was having a fine time clubbing zombies. However, the dark cloud leapt into the air and landed down by Machio-san. There was a noise when he managed to hit something with his katana, but then Machio got tossed into the river. I figured it was some kind of wet oni, and it was beating the rice out of everyone else. Iko and many of her men were downed by some curse, and I’ve come to respect this misfit Spider clan. Plus I really didn’t want Todo-sama to die either, and not just for selfish reasons. I have to admit that I’m beginning to like that strange little man.
A proper warrior shouldn’t be wasting his time clubbing stupid zombies when there’s a big evil moist shadow being in need of killing, so I yelled for it to come and face me. It did.
It was dark again. I told Kenzan that he should let me take a finger of jade on my journey but he had said, “Oh, no. There’s no tainted monsters that far north, silly brother! We need the jade here on the Wall.” Well, guess what? Tainted monster. Told you so. The unseen monster called us the Dark Army of Fire. I called it stupid, said we were fighting the Dark Army, and tried to hit it.
I am embarrassed to say that I missed. I should not have. As a child in my village we used to play a game called Oni in the Dark. One child got to be the oni. The other children had to wear blindfolds. Then we hit each other with sticks. I usually won. But I digress.
So then the shadow monster had the nerve to tell me to bow down and worship it. Ha! Foolish monster. It does not know many Crab! I told it to suck tetsubo. So then it blasted me with a spell and bounced me off a tree twenty feet away. Luckily my flight killed another zombie.
Then Machio managed to stick an arrow into the monsters head. The darkness lifted. Turned out that the Moonless Night was that fat bastard Kitsu Karaku all along. The foul maho-tsukai had managed to put some sort of curse on me though, because the forest fire was extra scary and whispering that it wanted to eat my soul. It was very shameful to show fear, but not getting burned to death did seem like the strategic thing to do at the time, so we had Tsuzi-san’s eta grab the dead body and we got out of the haunted part of the forest. Luckily the curse wore off, because otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this by candlelight!
I made sure to say extra prayers to Osana-Wo so he wouldn’t be mad at me.
The ronin Zukozuko managed to rescue Iko from the fire, which was nice, but then he screwed it up and didn’t put her down when she asked. It made her lose face in front of her men. I like Zuko, and I think he’d make a fine Crab, but sometimes I think he’s not the sharpest sword on the rack. Sadly, we lost two Moto bushi and two Tsuruchi archers, and the one that we’d dispatched to follow Karaku was never seen again. The Spider also took several casualties. They died bravely as samurai should. I will remember their deeds in my prayers.
We found a scroll case on the body. The foul taint was obvious to me and Iko-san. Despite our disapproval, the others still wanted to fool around with the scroll. They asked what was the worst that could possibly happen. I said it could summon Fu Leng. Oh, that time they listened to the Crab.
When we got back to the Lion castle we got the bad news about the Regent’s death. I’m sure the Empire will get by just fine as long as all these other idiot clans can stop their poetry contests long enough to point their bushi in the direction of the empire’s actual enemies and not just each other. However, since that’s who appointed Ide Todo to this mission, I just hope that this doesn’t screw up my chance to impress the Otomos.
All of this courtly intrigue… Kisada help me, I just want to take a tetsubo and smack some sense into these perfumed geishas.
We took the body of Karaku and showed it to Akodo Haru, daimyo of the Lion. He was deeply shamed that maho was being practiced in his lands. Ide Todo made with the fancy talk. He really needs to get some warriors to help his people before the Unicorn are consumed.
Haru-sama waffled on sending troops because he was worried about the maho in his lands spreading, so I tried to convince him that the empire was depending on him. I really should practice this talking stuff more often because I’m really not very good at it. Todo-sama said I did well, but I think he was just trying to be nice. Then an Ikoma bard wrote a song about Ide Todo or something. The Lion gave us 300 men.
Next we went back to the Scorpion at Three Pillars. The annoying Bayushi Ujiro was gone, thankfully, but we talked to the daimyo with the bulldog. I like him, and not just because he fed us gyoza, but rather because I’m guessing only every other word he speaks is a lie, which is a rather good ratio for a Scorpion. The Scorpion gave us 350 men.
Tomorrow we leave for the front. May the Fortune of Persistence smile upon us.
Unauthenticated Journals of Ide Todo
I am a coward.
I write this account in the heart of the Three Pillars Fortress. I have won competitions, preserved treaties, participated in the massacre of pirates, battled maho-tsukai and the undead…
…and I have watched companions die.
It sickens me.
Looking at my companions who have survived the journey thus far, I see judgment filling their eyes. Perhaps even disappointment. While they wade into the thick of battle risking their lives—and indeed, their very souls—I stand separate, guarded by those that remain of my Clan. An ever dwindling number it is—
I am ashamed. Thinking of my fellow Clan members as numbers rather than people. My Clan may soon be razed and blown away like sands in the desert, so the numbers are important. But never should I think of them as anything less than heroes. Never anything less.
I write this in a moment of distress. The Regent is dead. What does this mean for my journey? In truth, I am unsure why I was chosen in the first place. I feel the weight of the full Empire dragging me down like Tainted chains. But never must I allow my companions to see my distress. They think me weak as is. How can they have confidence in this simple courtier if they see me collapsing under the weight they could withstand without notice?
And so I do what I have always done. I put on a brave face, and talk as much as possible. The more I speak the more they feel sorry for me. They even do what I say to stop my mouth from rambling on like an age addled woman. As we fought the Lion Karaku, I cowered blind. When I could finally see, I was witness as warriors fell. So what did I do? I talked. I played at General directing our warriors towards places they undoubtedly had already noticed. I was so poor at it that I even heard Iko repeating my orders so that her Clan could understand me through my fear.
My main failing, however, is one of curiosity. I love to learn, yet I fail in doing so. This Spider Clan should be a wealth of information, yet I cannot get even a kernel of rice from them. I find myself doubting their virtue, then cursing my lack of faith.
But the worst of my curiosity was when I saw that tube of scrolls we found on the necromancer. Hida Makoto wanted them sealed immediately, and I understood his fear. But I wanted to read them. I wanted to fill in my gaps of knowledge…
I ramble. I know why I have begun writing. I realized I needed to once that bard Ikoma Katsu hinted that he was detailing my heroics for the annals of time—he never even talked to those that have been the real heroes thus far. I write because in these words I can tell the truth outright rather than skirting around it like I am forced to every time I look at my heroic companions, and every time I open my mouth. Here I can say that I am not the man they think I am. I wear a mask to hide my terrible curiosity and my true nature; a mask not unlike that blinding shadow we encountered today obscuring everyone’s full measure of observation.
My greatest fear—one that I will never voice—is that I will have to sacrifice everything, and every single one of my honorable companions to dam the flow of the Army of Dark Fire’s advance. I fear that I will have to go down darker paths.
And that even in winning, we will lose.
Journals of Ide Todo
Discovered in the Shadowlands 1175
I hear that I missed your caravan. Worse, I hear that you had an unfortunate run-in with Zukozuko. Of course I don’t believe his side of the story–that he “rescued” you (as if you would need rescuing!)–but I hope that in the process he didn’t get too acquainted, if you know what I mean. (He just “rescued” another woman, Iko, and publicly dishonored her in front of her men.) I tell you, the way these samurai pretend to have honor is pure horsecrap.
That’s one of the many reasons I enjoy being with you–your people aren’t always putting on airs and dancing around their words and hiding their true feelings. It gets old.
I shot a sorcerer in the head. It was awesome. He ambushed us, enveloping us in a cloud of darkness. I was the first to escape the cloud, the first to kill one of his zombie minions. And when he chased me I struck the first blow with my sword, all while blinded.
(Did I mention that I’ve learned the ways of kenjutsu? I have, and in a surprisingly short amount of time. Just natural talent and hard work, I guess. That’s the thing: I got into a duel and realized I needed to improve in the art of swordplay, so I buckled down and learned it. It amazes me how many people sit back and let everyone else do their work for them. I mean–courtiers, am I right?) (I won the duel, by the way.)
Anyway, there were more than fifty of us–my band, and a small contingent from the Spider Clan (don’t ask)–yet the sorcerer only suffered three wounds, and two were from me. If you want a job done, you have to do it yourself.
The shot was amazing, though, and I don’t mind saying it. I’d just got thrown off a thirty foot ravine into a river, climbed out, and then aimed and shot. Boom–back of the head. Cloud disappeared, and Tsuruchi Machio gets to paint another lion on his bow. (Did I mention this sorcerer was a lion? They’re the worst.)
We have a new guy traveling with us, Hida Makoto. You’d like him. He’s a bit of a partier (though you could drink him under the table) and he’s quick with his tetsubo. He was taking out the sorcerer’s zombies while I was taking out the sorcerer. We make a good team. (He’s a little cowardly, though–more than what I’d expect for someone who guarded the Wall. At the first sign of the sorcerer he wanted to turn tail, and you should have seen him once the forest fire started!) Even so, he’s a good guy.
Oh!–Remember my little monk who followed me around all the time? He finally tore off one robe too many.
I look forward to the day when you and I can leave this place and live together on the open sea. We are traveling up the same river, and we aren’t far behind you. I’m sure we’ll see each other soon.
In the meantime, I wrote you a haiku:
I really love your peaches
Want to shake your tree
To be continued next week with our first action scene fiction starring special guest Crab, Hida O-Hinku, and the Battle of Shinjo Ridge. http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/the-burning-throne-episoide-4-the-battle-of-shinjo-ridge/