The Crane Game
Suo's Notes 1170
Session VI – 2/28/10
Month of the Horse, 1170
Kanzen goes to meet Hiro. Shows him symbol of Daimyo of the Kakita, Kakita Noritoshi. Assembling a group to go to Shizuka Mura as quietly as possible, leaving early this afternoon. Hiro begins gathering equipment. Kanzen visits Katsu next, she starts getting prepped. Narue next, then Akemi and Kanjiro. Goes to Suo, talks with Gempachi and Suo about the mission. Suo gets permission to join, gathers his gear. Once together, Kanzen goes over mission – we’re to travel as quickly as possible and off the main ways. Katsu has Ride Through the Night for the group, the primary, the alternates, and the pack horses. Head out.
Arrive in Shizuka Mura after twelve days travel. Kanzen goes in to meet with the monk, Toshi. Says Noritoshi has moved on, requests we go to the 1000 Fortunes shrine in Hitoshii Rano Mori and meet Iano, two days travel south-east. Still under effects of Ride Through the Night, proceed on.
Arrive in Hitoshii Rano Mori, Kanzen goes to find Noritoshi is at the shrine. Mai, his wife, is dead. Says she was murdered by Bayushi Sunetra, who also threatened Ichiro. He reveals the reasons he threw the Emerald Championship to Jimen—threats on his son, and the information about the Harriers. Says he already killed Sunetra. Monestary in Sparrow lands, Fortune of Soil, near the seat of the Sparrows, Kenrojijin, and meet Tenshin. He needs us to take Ichiro there for protection, and makes sure he never touches a weapon due to the curse. Given papers for Mantis and Sparrow lands, but asked to avoid the ships and roads. Kanzen is promoted to Hatamoto. Noritoshi passes Ichiro’s care to Kanzen. Kanzen tells Suo and Katsu his identity, then tells all the group that we are to take them to the Sparrow lands for safety since Ichiro’s safety has been threatened, and mentions of his birth in in the castle while the gates are closed. Setup camp, and prepare to set out again, purchase additional supplies for the month long sojourn.
Ichiro is quiet during travel, several days over the plains. One day, see roughly a dozen men on horseback, crane banners. Break for camp. Kanzen and Katsu go out to meet them. Daidoji To greets the two, brief check, then resumes patrol. Decide we should pick up the pace, just in case, and Ride Through the Night.
Two days into the ride, that night, Katsu thinks someone is following. Hiro investigates, finds nothing. Katsu hears another sound, but sounds like pursuit is moving away. Hiro pursues, Katsu tries. An arrow hits near Hiro, and he hears someone say the next will hit, that we were not who the voice was looking for. Turn around and head back to the group. Decide to ride on.
Big day of camping, set up to rest as a storm comes in the evening. Ichiro has nightmares about his mother, but after the ruccus, Narue calms him down. He now sleeps in the women’s tent, Suo sets up outside. Ichiro apologizes later, tells Kanzen the event happened during a storm. Katsu recommends a tea ceremony, Narue leads, Suo stands watch. When we start moving again, Ichiro formally apologizes to all.
Week of travel, back into our old lands, ford the rive across to Mantis lands. Have foothills in sight of Sparrow lands, see a Crab mounted patrol, 10 on horses, 20 on foot. Horseman approach, we alter path to head distinctly out any hint of Crab lands. Suo, Ichiro, and Katsu move on a bit, Kanzen, Hiro, and Narue wait to meet. Crab draw weapons, charge. Kanzen signs, Suo opens fire. Crab arrive, dismount, engage. Suffer some wounds, but take them out, killing 5. Take horses with us, bind wounds of those left, leave before foot soldiers arrive them. Travel another day and a half before camp to clean.
Camp out that night, before the monastary. Hear wolves, don’t see them. Head out before down to the monastary. Kanzen goes to meet Tenshin, informs him of the threats on Ichiro. They agree to shelter him. Six days pass before Noritoshi arrives with Ashidaka troups. Greets Kanzen, thankful for the assistance. Asks further assistance to go check out one of Jimen’s original assistants, wants us to investigate, though he is an emerald magistrate. Says a duel might be necessary, any information would be helpful against Jimen. Gives Kanzen Crane papers, says info will be left on Mura Sabishii Toshi as to Noritoshi’s whereabout’s after the investigation. Sent out to start investigation.
Session VII – 3/14/10
Month of the Horse, 1170
Kanzen tells the group general information – Noritoshi suspects a great evil in the Emerald Magistrate organization, and we are being dispatched to investigate Bayushi Kobashi. Travel papers are for Kakita Kanzen, hatamoto to Noritoshi, and vassals, signed by a Crane Emerald magistrate.
Uneventful travel, get to Scorpion lands. Scorpion clan magistrate Yogo Namiko meets us at the city, seems perturbed by the papers.
Month of the Goat, 1170
Arrive at Shutai. Everyone seems to be surly or scared, but the town is in good shape. Not long into town, and hear sounds of combat. Kanzen decides to investigate, we arrive to see a riot – two sides, a lot of people caught in a crossfire. Group starts moving through, pulling people out as possible. Kanzen asks a peastant, Lotus Cartel and Chrysanthamum cartel duking it out over gang turf. Junichi, Deputy Emerald Magistrate and Clan Magistrate, in charge of the town, rudely accosts us asking what is going on. Says he’s under Bayushi Kobashi. After Kanzen explains the riot, asks for where Kobashi is, told he’s gone visiting a friend. Junichi gives list of 3 inns to stay in. Group decides to get familiar with the town, wait for Kobashi to return. Split up – Kanzen and Hiro go to sake houses, Katsu, Narue, and Suo go to visit with the local peasants.
Katsu starts asking peasant about the town. Wheezing Carp Cartel controls this area, says that he has never seen the Magistrates step in to deal with them. They collect rent / protection money once a month. Seem to only harass the merchants, two streets over, sake house they are housed out of. Through the day, hear of about 7 cartels in total, including Carp, Lotus, Chrysanthamums. About a dozen Ronin magistrates, and several peasant magistrates.
Kanzen and Hiro hit sake houses, talk about town. Get news that Kobashi has been out of town a couple of weeks ago. Also learn about the cartels, and that the Ronin get a lot of guard jobs for the fields, towns. Group meets back up, swaps info, decide to feel out Junichi on the morrow.
Kanzen, Hiro, Katsu go to magistrate’s office to announce presence. Ronin in office turns in note, place is filthy, says that its like a magistrate in any other town. Junichi takes a half hour to meet them, saying finishing up paperwork. Says Kobashi is long overdue (4 days) from Zakyo Toshi (Pleasure City, Ronin controlled), was going to meet another Emerald magistrate on business. Says suspects foul play, since many cartels are against Kobashi’s efforts to control them. Says he sent a message off to other magistrates to let them know of Kobashi’s absence. Kanzen offers to track Kobashi, Junichi says can’t deputize. Kanzen offers a dinner invite, Junichi accepts.
Narue, Suo go to Kobashi’s estate. Guard says that Kobashi was expected back, is not in, lets us in to talk to secretary. Says he was going to Zakyo Toshi to meet Shinjo Matsudara. Narue realizes that the guard who was irritated by the papers was irritated due to them being created by a Crane Emerald magistrate. Thinks the overdue reason is just the city itself. She provides the name of an inn and the estate of Shinjo. Decorations were gross, tactless, but expensive. As walking back, see a couple of thugs harrassing a merchant. Suo goes to by a candle. Hear them threaten the man’s daughter. Peasants back down, put gear back. Merchant asks if we’ll take his son, Tashiyaki, and daughter, Etsuko, both early teens—they know math, accounting, negotiations. Take them with us back to inn.
Back to the group, Kanzen provides permission to keep the children. Suo writes up paperwork for Junichi and the father on keeping the children. Suo has the conversation with them on the choice of servant or budoka. Additional gear, restock our supplies.
Dinner with Junichi. He backs up the inn at Zakyo Toshi as Kobashi’s hang-out, says he’s been a magistrate for over a decade. Junichi has been a deputy for 9 years, put here as a magistrate where none had been before. Seems very careful about the cartel, his job, and Kobashi. Hiro knows the town was previously Ronin until about the time Junichi was deputized.
On the road to Zakyo Toshi. Half-way to the way station, see a handful of buzzards off the road. Fifteen minutes, smell the corpse, leave Tashiyaka, Etsuko, and the pack horses. Find the corpse of a horse and fifteen feet beyond that, an animal chewed on body. Suo waits for the rest of the group to go back to the horses, then retrieves the family sword, an Emerald magistrate jitte, a patterned kimono. Looks like a chuck hole was hastily dug in front of the horse, head bashed in. Half a dozen tracks leading back to Shutai. Satchel has paperwork, will require time to sort through. Hiro and Suo split off to follow trail, Kanzen, Narue, and Katsu head on to the way station to study the documents.
Trail leads back to Shutai, through the eta settlement.
Group arrives at way station, retires except for Narue, who speaks with the way station keeper. Says that Kobashi went by 5 nights ago. Kanzen, Narue, and Katsu dig through paperwork. Detailed set of notes / report on the doings of a group called the Spider clan. All their dealings through-out Zakyo Toshi, Shutai, interactions with Kobashi, Jimen, half-dozen informants that are bag-men between the magistrate and the champion well before he was champion. Spider Clan controls opium and geisha clan in Shutai, previously owned by the Mantis. Jimen ordered them seized, once became champion, then one week later opened back up with Kobashi involved. Spider clan travels through Shinomen forest. Hiro and Suo return, report. Katsu casts a spell, get some underworld information on Zakyo Toshi. Communes with the water kami on the paper, gets an image of a man, five years older than us, top knot, shaved head, look of concentration. Image of the unicorn mon. Image of another man putting the scrolls in the satchel, could be Kobashi.
Proceed on to Zakyo Toshi, large bustling town. Grab an Imperial troop, gives us direction to Imperial Magistrate Headquarters. Have to wait for Shinjo Matsudara for half-hour. He arrives, Katsu recognizes him as the one that wrote the document. Kanzen informs him of Kobashi’s death, though Shinjo cannot identify the daisho or kimono Suo tells him of the ambush. Kanzen mentions the satchel, Narue notices Shinjo reacts. Shinjo asks what it says, Kanzen says it backs some of what he’s been asked to research. Shinjo asks to come see a wonderful glade he knows of. Once we get there, he says Kobashi’s recent visit was just to blackmail him out of the info he had on the Spider clan. He says some time ago, when he had a fondness for drink, he woke up with a woman not his wife. He bought her silence with koku. His wife is Lion. Wanted to keep it secret so as not to shame his wife, or cause further strife between the Lion and the Unicorn. He stalled when Kobashi came, and learned that the geisha was at the Emerald estate and would remain there until they had his cooperation. He gave over his notes, but had copies and memorized them. Been in Zakyo Toshi for six years, the Spider clan is relatively recent, last year and a half. Stay low profile, kill without compunction, bodies tend to disappear. He says they push subversive ideas of virtues—might makes right, personal control over a situation is preferable. Doesn’t know what tipped off Kobashi. Did not have a plan as to what to do with the information. Kanzen lets him know we work for Noritoshi. Shinjo asks we give him to winter to give that information over. He will give written, sealed, and signed by him all testimony if we give him the time. Kanzen agrees. Shinjo agrees to give info on Junichi we can follow up on. Turn over Kobashi’s daisho to him. Stay the night in Zakyo Toshi.
Proceed back to Shutai. Meet with Junichi. Narue hammers him, learns he is shocked Kobashi is dead, folds after the bribes, turns over Kobashi as the ring leader, shaking down gangs, was strong armed by Kobashi to be magistrate and Kobashi made him clan magistrate. Gives a whole litany of crimes that are blaimed on Kobashi, implicates all the deputies. Get written confessions. Inform Dragon Emerald Magistrate of the confession, turn over the confession to the next Scorpion Magistrate we come across. Heading back to Muro Sabishii Toshi.
Session VIII – 7/11/10
Month of the Goat (end), 1170
Arrive back in Mura Sabishii Toshi, find that a new Emerald magistrate has been appointed: Bayushi Maru. Invited to her welcome ceremony. Narue finds out about her entourage: Soshi Shizue, shugenja; Shosuro Fumiko, courtier (older but junior, flirtatious at times but proper); Bayushi Tetsu, bushi; Bayushi Shotaru, bushi (investigator, charming demeanor); Sanjuro (Ronin, learning to be a doshin). Kanzen has a message from Norotoshi about how to get a message to him. In claiming estates, Maru takes Asahina Hachemon’s estate, close to Kinnosuke’s estate.
Narue lines up a merchant to be a good helper with Maru as a gift for her arrival, merchant is Daiyu from the wolf attack.
Govenor’s manor for the welcome, no Crab clan representation. Pleasant evening meeting the Scorpions; Narue and Fumiko banter, but stymy each other. Narue gets hit on by Shotaru, directs him to a, ahem, Geisha house. Talks with Tetsu, discovers he has a fondness for gardens, but kind of a sad sack; she feels he is in need of a desperate opportunity to prove himself to his family / clan. Also speaks with Sanjuro, along with Suo, Narue gets he wants another fine kimono. Get impression not all of his actions were above board, maybe under Maru’s thumb to some extent to get him aboard. Kanzen hits Maru up about Jimen; she didn’t know him, but she was good, and believes that was what got her assigned. Sanjuro had been one of her deputies, as was Shotaru. She was assigned Shizue, Fumiko, and Tetsu; assumes it was Scorpions. Katsu is hit up by Shotaru, left aflutter by his interest. Narue finds out from Hacheman that there was a small shrine (to the 1000 fortunes) in his old estate he was very attached to. Scorpions leaving at end with a chummy bunch of Mantis.
Month of the Monkey, 1170
That night, Kanzen woke up to an unnaturally dark house, hearing bare footsteps. Two shadowy figures inexpertly attack with knives with a third not engaged, Akemi on the defensive, Kanzen cut one down, then two, while Akemi tried to get a light. Third attacker comes out quietly, expertly, with an oily sheen on his blade, with a vague scent of magnolias. Kanzen gets a solid hit, and in a desperate strike, the attacker lands a hit on Kanzen, leaving a burning wound. Kanzen cut him down, sends runners for Katsu and Narue for poison, Suo to guard the governor—Akemi sends a runner for Yoshiko. Narue remembers the poison from the report about the Spiders, fast acting, frequently used. Suo raises the alarm at the governor’s manor. Head magistrate, Jotaro, shows up for the investigation. Backtrack their path through the house. Eta report each had coin belts, decoys had knives and one with a bad hummingbird tattoo, main guy had a metal tube, likely with the poison. The purses have the briefest scent of opium, a few specks on the thug’s money. Some money by the crane, more by the scorpion, but the main guy has 12 by the lion clan, and a single, long pineneedle. Katsu thinks Kitsu could assist in identifying it. Different balance on the katana.
Private conversation, check the scroll case of Shinjo’s notes to see if it had been tampered with. Talk about Maru, suspect her assigned helpers might be working for Jimon. Katsu sends Matsudara a dream warning about the assassination attempt. Suo is given the scroll to guard.
Matsu introduces Narue to Yoshiko so she can peruse the library and research the poison. Complicated to make, made from plants throughout central Rokugan.
Katsu, Kanzen, and Suo meet Tsutaro and Hitomaro of the Kitsune for tea. Katsu asks them to look at the needle from an assailaint that was after Kanzen, and Tsutaro says it looks like a needle from one of the red woods near the heart of the Shinnomen forest. Possibly a few specimens in the Kitsune forest, or Isawa forest could have produced it. The Kitsu commune with the leaf—hasn’t seen a naga, the colors it has seen most on people were black and blood red, doesn’t know how long it’s been away, but thinks it was not long from the tree before left the forest. After that, some small talk, where it is gathered neither is very pleased with becoming part of the Mantis clan.
Jotaro reports back that they identify the locals. Street thieves. Assume that the pro came by boat, Mantis ship from Ryoko Owari seems to have been the most suspicious, including opium shipments.
Narue and Suo set up a training regime for Tashiyaki and Etsuko to determine what they want to do.
Governor calls Kanzen in, says his assassination attempt may not have been isoltated. Doji Jarihime was killed on an attempt at Doji Nagori’s life, uncle of Domotai, as well as 3 Dragons. Asahina Nazomi was assassinated, son of one of the Phoenix Elemental masters. Dozen or more middle-tier Crane members killed on the same night. Reports from the Lion that they also suffered assassinations – Ikoma and Kitsu family daimyos both murdered, Akodo Hachigori also, Kitsu’s chief bodyguard. No word yet from Mantis, Scorpion. Recommends that Kanzen research the matter to his own satisfaction.
Suo checks the mood in the streets – peasants haven’t heard much aside from Kanzen’s attempt. Rest go talk to Maru about the coins. She believes several of them are counterfeit. Kanzen tells her of assassinations across Lion and Crane, asks if she knows of Scorpion, she doesn’t but will look into it.
Session IX – 8/29/10
Katsu and Shotaru meet for bird hunting, have a lovely afternoon. He talks of how the Scorpion are misunderstood; in conversation, says that if Katsu were to consider the court another battlefield, some of their actions might make more sense. He gives her an origami crane at the end of the hunt.
Suo visits Higen, asks him if he’s heard of the attacks. Higen says Mantis were attacked; knows the Daimyo of the Kaiu family was killed. Talk about Kazuki’s move to the Oracle of Water, practice a bit, Suo tells him if he needs anything that he has a friend. After, he reports back to Kanzen.
Kanzen reports back to the Governor. The Tomori (Dragon) master of air and his wife were killed. Several Kitsuki magistrates were killed. Moshi Amiki, Daimyo of the Moshi family for the Mantis, was assassinated. Saruchi Ki, Jimen’s bodyguard, was also killed, believe the target was the Emerald Magistrate. Master of Void’s bodyguard was killed, but he survived. One Unicorn magistrate, Shinjo Matsudara, was assassinated; no other Unicorn he has heard of.
Group gets together, discusses options. Decide to follow up on Spider clan, Kanzen wants to contact Norotoshi. Stumpy is brought up; an animal spirit might be able to track the pineneedle back to its original tree in the Shinomen, or another animal spirit might. Katsu has a conversation about stereotypes with the group. Narue figures out but doesn’t say that Shotaro is the reason for her questions. Katsu also reveals her intent to create a new school for shugenja. Narue and Suo ask her to test Tashiyaki and Etsuko to see if they have shugenja talents. Kanzen moves into the Governor’s estate, just to be safe.
Next morning, Kanzen gets a note to meet 5 days from now on the road to Inari’s bounty. A bit suspect to be from Norotoshi, considering speed of response. Also get a note from Bayushi Maru to meet for dinner in 4 days; Kanzen politely begs off. Katsu writes her poem.
Narue checks into rumors, hears that the Unicorn found a bunch of ronin outside a fortress with a bunch of bodies of men they claimed to be assassins, the ronin claim they were the Spider clan, and hoped the Unicorn might respect what they had done. The bodies had tattoes of loyalty, like Scorpions, and a letter was handed over from ronin between Ide Tang to Shinjo Nakaga revealing them as Scorpion plants. Katsu sends off her poem, Bayushi Maru sends back a note to Kanzen understanding of the change in dates.
Set out towards Inari’s Bounty. Keep an eye out for tails. No signs, uneventful trip. Spot to meet is open, some trees, plains type. Katsu and Suo spot movement, and Kanzen has Suo move off to flank. Eventually, Norotoshi reveals himself. Says he’s glad we got the letter, Kanzen says he’s glad he got ours. Norotoshi doesn’t know about the assassinations, or Kanzen’s letter. Norotoshi’s on edge, very alert. Norotoshi primarily wants the info on Jimen. Long exchange of information. Theories of talking to a survivor of the assassin attackes to see about the tattooes, theories on why they were targetted. Norotoshi knows his son is safe, denouncing Jiman whenever he can. Narue and Suo now get the full story behind Jimen, including Bayushi Sunetra’s killing of his wife, and his killing of Sunetra. Norotoshi does not stay the night, but stays for dinner before moving on.
Head on to Inari’s Bounty, things seem to be going well. Check in with the headman, the monks, good visit. They think a magistrate might should be dispatched.
Three days to New Prosperity Village, Tadasu still in charge, things seem to be going well. Go out to the forest, set up our offerings, see if we can find an animal spirit to speak with. A Fox spirit comes, says she doesn’t know how to find a specific tree, but does know Stumpy. A few hours go by, comes back with Stumpy. Stumpy can’t find the tree, but knows spirits in the Shinomen. Gives us a list of names we can contact if we go there that can call him, and he could lead to areas of the forest that might have originated the pine needle. Warns the Naga still have some guardians there that eat animal spirits.
Head towards Central Border village, say hi to Yasuki Sumio. Send a letter on to Nagori to see if he would be willing to meet with us. Back on to Mura Subishi Toshi. On return, Governor confirms the rumor about the Spider ronin and the assassins. Further, when confronting Ide Tang, he admitted to being a Scorpion plant, and was quartered. He was replaced by Ide Iein instead of Ide Yusuke. Identified the locals with the professional hitter, where they came from, trying to figure out where the pro came from.
Everyone heading back, then everyone (but Suo) hear’s a quiet skuffle. Corpse of a Scorpion (Bayushi), cut scroll satchel just died when we showed up, and corpse dressed as a Mantis bushi (Yoritomo) with kama. We don’t recognize either of them. Katsu and Kanzen look over the satchel: Crane minted coins, shipping manifest of some variety, some kind of make-up kit (disguise), and a hand written note talking of two conspirators with a plot against his lord, meeting with an assassin during the night of the next full moon at the Green Plum Tea house, he’d look for the safe house. No names mentioned. Next new moon in eight days.
Report back to Jotaro, tell him of the corpses and the satchel. Kanzen recommends keeping the satchel secret, Jotaro agrees. Governor and he are good with the group doing the investigation, due to the recognizable nature of the magistrates. Katsu talks to the kami in the ink, finds out the note is a day old, but can’t get much else. Kanzen asks Hiro to scope out the tea house, but doesn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary.
Two days later, Kanzen (and retinue) are invited to the Emerald Magistrate’s estate, three days later. A plan is created for the Green Plum tea house. Suo will man the unobtrusive spot, the rest will have a room rented, and Kinnosuke gets some merchants to rent three others, Daiyu will rent one, and some of Akemi’s servants will get the last.
Go to dinner with the magistrate under Katsu’s Benten’s blessings. Bayushi Maru, tastefully dressed, shows up. Her full crew is present, Kanzen with Maru and Katsu, Narue with Tetsu and Fumiko, Katsu and Shotaro, Hiro, Suo and Sanjuro at the end. Narue and Fumiko spar again, with Narue getting some info this time; loyal to Maru, her attitude jives with her public face, and what kind of favor she’d want. Katsu goes googley eyed over Shotaro. Kanzen and Maru talk about the attacks; Jimen was the only Scorpion attacked. Maru says it would have been tragic to lose another figure of authority had Jimen died. She’s received no orders to investigate, which seems to surprise her. Conversation turns torwards bushido, Maru starts, but Shotaro leads it, sparring with Narue. There’s a vague hint Shotaro might have a selfish streak, but very vague around Honor. Associates Compassion with strength. Dinner ends well, Katsu stays behind. Asks Shotaro why her; he says she’s beautiful and the most intrigueing woman he’s met.
Kanzen suspects Shotaro may be part of it.