I come to you with a tale, /tg/. A tale of honor and of sacrifice, of courage and loyalty and duty, of friends lost in darkness and hopeless struggles against impossible odds. I come to you with the tale of the greatest L5R campaign I have ever had the honor of being a part of. As I sit here, contemplating the conclusion of such an epic saga, I feel bound to repeat it, so that it may never be lost. I know our illustrious GM frequents these boards, and so I hope he reads this, and knows how much enjoyment we took from our time together. You are a brilliant storyteller, Nick, and we all thank you for the ride.
ART ONE: OTOSAN UCHIOur story begins in the spring of last year, around this time. Myself and five friends gathered together to play some Legend of the Five Rings. Our GM was very familiar with the system but we were not, and yet we found ourselves easily able to delve into this world of samurai make-believe, fuelled by a few pre-game nights of watching Akira Kurosawa movies. Our merry band of Emerald Magistrates consisted of the courageous adventurer/duelist, Kakita Nobunaga; a fierce and boisterous berserk by name of Hida Kazuma; Kazama's ward, the quiet intellectual Isawa Ishii; the cunning and seductive Scorpion ninja Shosuro Yumiko; and myself, the wastrel bard with the heart of gold, Ikoma Kiyoshi. Our first task with the Emerald Magistrates was to discern the nature of disappearing villages along the Lion/Crane border, which was causing tensions to rise on both sides, as both sides had take losses and yet neither was willing to admit responsibility. And so we made our way from Toshi Ranbo to the ruins of Otosan Uchi, to investigate the sacked villages and find the reason for the slaughter before all-out war broke out between the two riled Great Clans.
Along the way we encountered bandits, ronin, mountain lions, and all manner of obstacles over the course of several sessions, to ease us into the world and the lethality thereof. Kazuma lost an eye to a ronin archer with a falcon, but aside from that, we were never seriously injured, and righted many wrongs over the course of our short journey. When finally we reached the hub villages around Otosan Uchi, we found them razed to the ground. Nobunaga, a skilled hunter, discovered tracks in the ground leading away from the attacks, and Yumiko, herself a hunter (but of a different beast) determined that these tracks were made by neither man nor beast. But it was Ishii that gave us our first and greatest clue - the Kami had deserted the massacred villages, and the very air reeked of wrongness. Of something not Taint, but not far off.
Traveling to the ruins of Otosan Uchi, we found and did battle with the usual gangs of lawless bandits, ronin and highwaymen lurk within such places, and learned from interrogating one of them that, while they inhabited the outskirts of the ruins and regularly delved within to search for treasures, they would under no circumstances allow night to fall on them while within the ruins, for that was to imperil one's immortal soul. Being brave samurai and not weak-willed fools, we dismissed these claims, and determined that those raiding villages must be found deep within the ruins - for what better staging ground for a raiding party is an abandoned city that everyone considers to be haunted and cursed? So telling ourselves, we struck out for the city's center, and awaited nightfall.
Once Lady Sun had hidden her face and Lord Moon had raised his baleful gaze over the land, we began to see strange witch-lights dancing within the ruins and shadows flickering where there should be none. Steeling ourselves for the terrors of the night, we struck out for the lights, and were set upon by ninja-like creatures that seemed to flow out of the shadows themselves, slipping in and out to strike at us from all angles. Pushing forward, we came to a temple-like structure deep within the ruined city, hidden partially underground, drawn by strange chanting. Within we watched in horror as the strange 'shadow-men' brought still-living peasants to an altar and a masked priest reached into their breasts and seemed to draw the very life right out of them; leaving empty husks that resembled more of those 'shadow-men'. At the climax of the ceremony, the priest removed his mask and seemed to consume the energy drawn out through some blasphemous means. Nobunaga seemed shocked when the priest removed his mask, but did not get the opportunity here to tell us why, as we were spotted and set upon by the shadow ninja. A hard fight to get clear of that terrible place, and we were all sorely injured when we finally cut our way through to the light of dawn.
PART TWO: THE BLACK CRANEKazuma was in a lather to bring the ruins down about the heads of the 'shadow-men', calling them Tainted, but was informed by Nobunaga that they were honor-bound to warn the Empire of what was happening here, and that to rush ahead would risk us dying with the cause of the slaughtered villages never being known. He also revealed that he knew, or at least knew of the 'priest' that led the ritual - every Crane knew of him, for he was the prodigal scion of the dueling school of the Crane Clan; Kakita Ryunosuke, called the 'Black Crane' for his dark hair and darker heart. That the man being groomed for future Champion of his Clan could sink to such depraved depths for power clearly troubled Nobunaga - and Yumiko, as well, for the marriage of Ryunosuke to Shosuro Mei, daughter of the family daimyo, was one that tied two very powerful Clans together, and for a time was the talk of the upper echelons of the Empire.
the guy on the right is completely on firehe should have a doctor look into that
Returning as swiftly as we were able to Toshi Ranbo, we began to present our case to the Emerald Champion - and found ourselves stonewalled, as Ryunosuke, knowing he had been discovered, had thrown the full power of both the Crane and the Scorpion's political clout against any threats to his person and we, without any credible evidence, had naught to present but what we had seen. The testimony of five untested magistrates against a future Clan Champion with the full power of two very political Clans proceeded about as well as one would expect, and by the end of the 'trial' we were in dire straights, for an accusation such as we had made was one not made lightly. Indeed, during the trial Mei's Scorpion agents had done all they could to call into question the validity of our statements and our very characters, and by the end we seemed more the villain than him, with Nobunaga in particular cast as a jealous rival to Ryunosuke's brilliance. Rather than allowing his good name to be dishonored by Mei's cunning slander, Nobunaga challenged Ryunosuke to a duel, to allow the gods to decide whom was in the right. Smiling, the Black Crane agreed.
In the days leading up to the duel we looked into Ryunosuke's dueling history, and noticed something interesting - he had always been a talented duelist, a prodigy of the Kakita school unlike any that had been seen in generations, but it had not been until he spent several years among the Unicorn - in preparation for a potential clan-tying alliance by marriage - that his reputation and infamy exploded. The white-haired, good-natured boy returned to Crane lands as a black-haired, arrogant sadist, whom 'accidentally' slew his opponents in duels several times, blaming their inexperience for their deaths and expressing no remorse. The annulment of his betrothal to the Moto family and his marriage to the notoriously ambitious daughter of the Shosuro family daimyo came as little surprise to anyone. Since then, Ryunosuke had been involved in several controversies, all of which had been decided by duel, and all of which had been fatal for the challenger. None had ever survived the stroke of his blade, and so he became known by a name other than the 'Black Crane' - 'Godhand'. I warned Nobunaga of this, of Ryunosuke's peerless talent with the blade, and of the dozens of skilled samurai he had killed in duels, accidentally or not. The brave Crane merely replied, "The Kami will see justice done."
On the day of the duel, Nobunaga arrived with his head high and his long, white hair and blue robes fluttering in the wind, to a smattering fanfare - for despite the bruising his reputation had suffered at Mei's hands, he was strong, and brave, and handsome. He kissed his wife, clasped hands with his younger brother and all of us, and strode into the ring. Ryunosuke arrived to thunderous applause from the Crane and Scorpion, but he did not smile, did not acknowledge anyone, even his wife, or the Emperor himself in attendance. Merely stepped into the ring, sword in hand - a strange thing, a shirasaya (lacking the crossguard) who's blade was as milk white as the laquered saya. The two bowed to each other, stood apart from each other, studied each other, and the duel begun.
It was at this time that the GM took Nobunaga's player aside for a moment, saying that Ryunosuke's dice pool was going to be kept secret from all save Nobunaga. When they returned from the side room, Nobunaga's face was grim, but he carried his character sheet with a quiet, proud dignity. Our GM sat down, and described to us how the two iaijutsu masters studied each other long and hard, one with intense concentration, the other with seamless self-confidence. And then, in a movement that none of us could even see it was so swift, it was over - there was a rustle of silk, a sinister hiss through the air, and then Nobunaga was tumbling, falling, his grandfather's sword cloven in twain, slumping into a pool of his own blood; Ryunosuke sheathing his own blade and walking away without a backward glance. There were no cheers, no applause; only an anguished scream from Nobunaga's wife that will haunt me to the end of my days. In an instant so short that a blink seemed an eternity, our captain, our leader, our friend, the brave Nobunaga had been cut down by this monster in the skin of a man, and was thus declared innocent. The ring, as with the gaming table, was silent - and both in and out of character, my heart was filled with sorrow and the need for vengeance in equal measure.
PART THREE: THE ROAD WESTAs the four of us stood in the eta funeral parlor, watching our dear friend be prepared for cremation, we noticed an odd thing - though blood flowed freely from Nobunaga's body, from his eyes, nose, mouth and even ears, there was not a single mark upon him. Ishii detected no maho, though once again she could feel the presence of some /wrongness/, some evil that she could not attribute a name to. I resolved to learn what I could about Ryunosuke's strange sword, and took with me Yumiko - more out of a desire to prevent her from seeking vengeance in the Scorpion manner. Though we all desired Ryunosuke slain, we swore then and there that when we killed him, we would do so with our honor intact, for if we were to stoop to Ryunosuke's level we would dishonor the memory of brave Nobunaga. Ishii and Kazuma were joined by Nobunaga's younger brother, Kakita Hirohito, played by (unsurprisingly - I believe this may have been our GM's plan with Nobunaga/Hirohito's player all along) Nobunaga's player, and likewise sworn to avenge his gallant brother's death. The three of them, fearing some trickery by Mei or Ryunosuke, stood vigil until the cremation, and were not disappointed - the funeral parlor came under attack by more of those 'shadow-men', doubtless seeking to steal Nobunaga's body, and Hirohito and Kazuma held them off while Ishii performed the cremation herself.
Yumiko and I discovered naught regarding Ryunosuke's blade save for that he had gained his name 'Godhand' from the blade, which had been dubbed the 'Hand of God', but was known informally as 'One-Cut' for its reputation of requiring merely a single cut to bring down any enemy, and that none could recall if he had possessed the blade before his time with the Unicorn. When we reconvened in the morning, we decided that we would first seek out those whom had taught him among the Unicorn Clan, to see what he had learned, from whom, and perhaps where he had acquired the blade. Though we received no official permission, Ryunosuke's innocence having already been proven in the eyes of the Empire, we left anyways, departing just after dawn. Being young and scarcely tested, we were not stopped, nor were we pursued. The journey to the City of the Rich Frog was long and arduous, and though we did not have to contend with the strange 'shadow-ninja', there were many ronin and bandits and worse things between Toshi Ranbo and the lands of the Unicorn, and the agents of Shosuro Mei sought to hamper us at every turn. Hirohito proved to be every bit as skillful as his brother, though we worried, for he was dour and serious where his brother had been confident and proud, and we feared that vengeance would sour his heart. Though the journey was difficult, Hirohito and Yumiko's blade and Kazuma's tetsubo proved a match for anything that my tongue and Ishii's intelligence could not overcome. We grew close once more, and I thought I detected Yumiko and Hirohito becoming even closer, though I decided not to pry. And then, in early fall, we had arrived.
Among the Unicorn, we learned that Ryunosuke had studied at the dueling fields of Dark Edge Village, once famous in the dueling community, but now faded and forgotten. Striking north, we came to the village and found the inhabitants a strange, dour and reticent lot, and unwilling to give answer to our questions. Suspicious, we chose to stay the night, but warily. Our caution proved warranted when Yumiko heard the sound of footsteps outside our door. We were set upon not by the 'shadow-men', as expected, but the very townsfolk, maddened by some blasphemous force, throwing themselves upon our blades with their bare hands. We were forced to slaughter them, to our regret, but as we did so, we caught sight of strange white-robed figures directing them from afar. I caught one with an arrow as they fled, but the rest melted into the night, faster than we could follow. Ichii, being well-educated, recognized him as a Moto Death Priest, worshippers of a strange religion the Unicorn brought back with them from the Burning Sands. Knowing that we would doubtless be framed for the slaughter by Mei's agents, we pursued these Death Priests, determined to bring them to justice.
PART FOUR: LORDS OF DEATHRiding well until morning following their tracks, we crested a ridge and found ourselves surrounded by Unicorn cavalry, a large and well-armed company that regarded our flight from the carnage in Dark Edge Village. They demanded to know who we were, and where we had come from, and if we knew what had happened a day's ride south of us - though the direction of our flight and the bloody disarray of our clothes told them everything. Putting on my best face, I told them of what had happened, why we were in Unicorn lands, and of the Death Priests we were hunting that had orchestrated the massacre. The leader, to his credit, listened to my tale, and when I had finished, declared that, while he did not believe my words, it was not his decision. We would be brought before the Clan and tried as murderers, as was our right as samurai. Kazuma itched for a fight, but even he could see that we were hopelessly outmatched, and so acceded not to surrender, but to accompany the Unicorn to the trial. Because we did not resist and promised not to attempt to flee, we were unbound and allowed to keep our weapons, though we were heavily guarded. In truth, I did not think that we could survive even if we did escape - the horses of the Unicorn are swift, and their archers peerless from horseback.
Presented before the Unicorn elders, including several Moto Death Priests, I told my tale once more, having had time between our 'capture' and the trial to weave the telling into a song. I prayed to Benten to lend his strength to my words and allow the Unicorn to hear the truth of them, and of the importance of our mission. He must have been listening, for even the Death Priests agreed that a grave injustice had been done - not only to us, but to them. We were not cleared then, not yet, but we were told that they would deliberate, and decide upon a course of action in the morning. In the meantime, we were given food, drink, fresh clothes, and a place to rest our heads for the night. Once more we were set upon in the night by the 'shadow-men', but for all the desperate fighting that we were forced into that night - tired, still wounded, and fighting back to back in a captive's tent - it may have been in our favor, for the 'shadow-men' slew a great many of the Unicorn in their need to kill us, and the action vindicated us in the eyes of the Unicorn. Indeed, when the attack first came, it was Hirohito and Yumiko who rang the alarm in the camp, saving many Unicorn from being slaughtered in their sleep, and allowing us to repel the shadowy assailants. I myself brought down another of the Death Priests with an arrow, and it seemed to lessen the intensity of the attack, leading me to believe that they were directing the 'shadow-men' somehow. Thus vindicated in the eyes of the Unicorn, our wounds were healed by their talented shugenja, given fresh horses, and were bidden to ride with them in the morning, to seek out these blasphemers.
Yumiko's skills at the hunting of men paid off, and we were able to pick up the heretic's trail, headed far to the northwest. Each night we were assaulted by strange shadows - sometimes beasts, sometimes men, and sometimes strange creatures who's shapes and curves I have tried to forget. The road grew bleaker as we progressed, and we found entire farming communities butchered along the way, just as they were in Crane and Lion lands. There were losses, but when we finally cornered our quarry in Egami Mura, we were still at the head of a large company. What we found shocked us: Egami Mura was caught in the thrall of a twisted and perverse form of worship of the Lords of Death. These 'heretic' priests sought to bring back worship of the Lords of Death to greater Rokugan, and had a simple creed: annihilation of all things, claiming that 'from the ashes, Rokugan would be reborn harder and stronger'. The villagers and their foul masters were thoroughly caught up in their blasphemous zealotry, and we were forced to kill them, though it was a hard fight, with many brave Unicorn slain by the heretic's shadow-spawn. So ended these heretics... or so we prayed.
PART FIVE: THE HAND OF GODReturning southeast, we accompanied the remains of the Unicorn cavalry to Shiro Moto, determined to take back something of Ryunosuke's time among the Unicorn with us. We spoke with many of the loyal Death Priests, who informed us that Ryunosuke had been fascinated with the Lords of Death, and had spent much time at Egami Mura, at the foot of Exile's Road. They confirmed that he had received the Hand of God from among the Unicorn, and although it pained them to admit as much to us, they told us the story, for they honored that we had spilled our blood on their behalf. So it came to pass that the Moto priests shared with us a shameful secret of their order, the tragic tale of Moto Masamune.
Masamune was a Moto priest who had a talent for the forging of swords, and a fierce love for his wife, the beautiful Doji Tae. According to the story, her father offered her hand to the winner of a great tournament held in her honor. Moto Masamune was from a lesser branch of the family, and a Unicorn besides - among the glittering host of Lion, Crane, Dragon and Phoenix suitors seeking her hand, what chance did the dirty, provincial Moto smith/priest? Heedless, Masamune begged Tae for a favor of hers to wear to the tournament, and, to the shock of all, she consented, and gave him a pale blue scarf to wear about his arm. With Tae's favor Masamune was unstoppable, defeating master swordsmen, wrestlers and archers with ease and battering his way to the final round, a duel to first blood with a great warrior of the Lion. The two finalists clashed for a night and a day without result, and the Lion, out of respect for his opponent and the commitment he had to Tae, stepped down, declaring Moto Masamune as the bravest man he'd ever fought. The two were wedded, and for a time, all seemed perfect in the world.
But all things come to an end, and the frail Tae came down with a terrible wasting disease. Masamune was not a poor man, as his blades were highly valued and sought after, and he reached out across Rokugan for the greatest healers and most potent shugenja. All did what they could, but Tae passed regardless, and Masamune was told that it was "the will of the gods." Grief-stricken to the point of madness, Moto Masamune declared the most complete revenge ever sworn: he would destroy the world that took Tae from him, beginning with the gods that would allow such a monstrous injustice. And so he set to work, to craft the greatest sword ever made. For thirty days and thirty nights he hammered and folded, hammered and folded, but when he quenched the white-hot blade in water it burst asunder. So for fifty more days and fifty more nights he hammered and folded, hammered and folded, repeating the name of Tae with every strike. This time he took his horse, a great Utaku steed, and thrust the white-hot blade into the noble beast's heart, but the blade burst asunder once more. Nearly lost to despair, he screamed into the night, asking what must he do to be properly armed for his vengeance... and something answered to him, something ancient and dark and terrible, something that shared his desire for an end to all things.
And so, Moto Masamune listened to the whispers, and they told him what he must do. In complete shadow for one hundred days and one hundred nights he hammered and folded, hammered and folded, and with each strike he spoke the names of the family that remained to him. And when the blade was nearly finished and ready to be quenched, Moto Masamune took that white-hot blade into his home and he murdered his mother and father, and his brothers and sisters, and all of their children, and any whom he could lay hands on. And though Moto Masamune was drenched in the blood of his blood from head to toe, the sword remained clean and as white as the day it was drawn from the forge. And that is the tale of the forging of One-Cut, the Hand of God - the Oldest, Darkest God, known to man as the Lying Darkness.
A chill ran down my spine as the Death Priest told these words, and what followed: how Moto Masamune, having slain the last of his family, came to his senses and, seeing what he had done, attempted to destroy the cursed blade could not bring himself to do so, such was his pride and vanity, and so instead hid it away and journeyed into the deepest places of Shinomen Mori to seek atonement in death at the hands of the creatures there. That was six hundred years ago, affirmed the priest... "But Moto Masamune, cursed by the gods he swore revenge against, lives on, forbidden from atonement while the Hand of God remains unbroken." Armed with such knowledge, we decided that the only course of action would be to seek out Moto Masamune - or his spirit - deep within Shinomen Mori, and attempt to pry the secret of its destruction from him, or die in the attempt.
PART SIX: SHINOMEN MORIThe long journey south took many months, and could fill an entire tale in and of itself. Suffice to say, we were hounded by the agents of Shosuro Mei as we passed through Scorpion lands, and bandits and foul beasts besides. Crossing the Spine in winter proved to be difficult, and we were nearly all slain more times than I can count. When all seemed lost, however, we met a strange old man who identified himself only as Shunsen, who's talent at surviving the mountains in winter proved invaluable. I myself did not trust him, for he spoke little and revealed less, though he carried himself in the manner of a samurai and proved remarkably proficient in the martial arts. I suspected him to be a Dragon aescetic, or perhaps some samurai seeking atonement for a past deed, but we could never get a straight answer out of him no matter how hard we tried, and it seemed rude to press a man who took us in when we were freezing and gave us food and shelter from the cold. At last, with the first flowers of spring, we passed through the mountains and the endless rocky wastes of Scorpion territory and emerged on the northern edge of Shinomen Mori, accompanied by Shunsen, whom we had told of our quest. The old man seemed to take it all as due course, and claimed to know where to begin searching for Moto Masamume, of all things!
Deep within Shinomen Mori, amidst the sunken cities of the Naga, we began to encounter more strange witch-lights. Knowing full well what they entailed, we prepared ourselves for battle, and were not disappointed. Ryunosuke's 'shadow-men' - 'Goju', as Shunsen called them, set upon us, and we were nearly overwhelmed but not for an ally from an unseen angle - the Naga, who burst from the waters and drove the shadow-creatures away. Feeling as if we had been rescued from hyenas only to be eaten by the lions we prepared for another fight, but the Naga spoke to us - if such a thing can be believed - telling us that the Goju had been slaughtering them as they had us. What's more, they told us of a great stronghold the Goju and their 'servants' had erected farther south, where they appeared to be excavating something. We told them of our quest, and begged them to lead us. Once more, Benten answered my prayers, and we were led through the forbidden forest by its own guardians, a great and warlike force of them.
The Goju stronghold proved to be an old Naga ruin they had re purposed, and was staffed by perhaps as many as a thousand laborers digging something up from the ruins, though neither Shunsen nor the Naga seemed to know what. Deciding that the fortress was too strong to assault openly, we resolved to infiltrate it, throwing open the gates once we had gotten inside, and allowing the Naga strike force to distract the bulk of the Goju whilst we went within to discover what they were there for. Yumiko was able to slip us inside the walls with ease - even Kazuma, whom protested that 'a true warrior does not 'sneak'' - and a great battle erupted when the Naga streamed in the gates. Much more accustomed to this type of fight, the ferocious Hida was a human battering ram, and succeeded in clearing us a path down below, though it was a long and hard fight all the way down.
Deep in the bowels of the earth we learned from a laborer what the Goju had been excavating - Moto Masamune himself, entombed in a prison of crystal for his hubris. The Goju set upon us with terrible beasts that defied description and all manner of foul sorcery, witchcraft and other blasphemous talents, including - to our horror - a great many-headed serpent of pure shadow, who's heads would regrow as fast as we cut them, and twice in number. Overwhelmed by the sheer strength of the beast, we would have all been slain if not for Ishii, who importuned the Kami of Fire for the strength to defeat this foe, and blasted it into nothingness with a beam of pure white fire that near blinded us and burned a hole through the living earth into the night above. Descending from the fortress, the Naga reported that they had slain a great many Goju and put the rest to flight. But even this victory turned to ashes in our mouth, for upon investigating the excavation we discovered that Masamune had been taken by the Goju when they fled, though to where we could not know.
PART SEVEN: FRIENDS LOST IN DARKNESSWe left Shinomen Mori with a heavy heart, for we believed that we had failed in our quest, and that without a trail, we could never find Moto Masamune, nor find justice for brave Nobunaga. But Shunsen had an answer. He declared that it was time to reveal whom he really was, and drew from his robes a wooden-bladed jitte with a handle fashioned in the likeness of a striking scorpion. None of us knew what it meant save for some Scorpion Clan icon, but Yumiko paled and nearly bent the knee almost instantly. Shunsen smiled and explained that he was an agent of the Kuroiban, a secretive group of maho-hunters that seek out corruption within the Clans and destroy it. They had been watching Ryunosuke for some time, but all of their agents close to him had died, slain by his Goju allies. He further revealed that he had been seeking us out, hoping to use us against Ryunosuke. I mislike being used, but for a samurai, duty is always first, and we all agreed that the Black Crane had to be stopped, even at the risk of bruising my pride. And so we stopped briefly at the Face of the East Castle to resupply and rest before striking out for the ancestral mountains of the Boar Clan, where Shunsen claimed that Ryunosuke would take Moto Masamune. How he knew this he would not say.
I knew Shiro Heichi to be an ill-omened place, but that journey up those accursed slopes was our most trying yet. We were set upon not only by the Goju - confirming Shunsen's suspicions - but also by strange demons of the rock called Shakoki Dogu, who the old man claimed were the blood of the First Oni. Kazuma, closer to home than he had been for years, seemed well at ease with our surroundings, but Ishii grew somber and seemed to fall deeper and deeper into fear and depression and would not speak even when pressed to name the nature of her fear. I had seen her speaking to Shunsen when we stopped at Face of the East Castle and I confronted him, demanding to know what he had told her to cause her to fall into despair. He smiled sadly and placed a hand on my shoulder and said Ichii was very brave, and I should count myself lucky to have such companions. We came to the abandoned ruins of Shiro Heichi in the dark of night, and we saw the witch-lights within, and heard the sound of hammers. All at once a shiver passed through all of us, and in a low, fearful voice Ichii said "The black winds begin to blow..." and would speak no more no matter how hard we pressed.
I told a brief tale of courage to convince us all if only temporarily that we were all still brave, and we set out to rescue Moto Masamune from that accursed fortress. The Goju fought us every step of the way, and more of the heretic Death Priests, and sohei in black and white robes with cruel curved blades and polearms. A long, hard fight ensued, and we were nearly overcome towards the end, and would have been for certain if not for Shunsen. The heretic Death Priests summoned another beast of pure shadow, this one a serpentine terror nearly the width of the entire hall that sought to crush us with its bulk. Calling upon the earth Kami for aid, Shunsen collapsed a great portion of the ruin beneath it, creating a massive chasm into which it fell. We thought ourselves clear, then, but the beast lashed out in its death throes with its massive tail and ensnared Shunsen, dragging him down with it into the endless depths - a poor end for such a brave man, mysterious as he was. Quietly, Ishii told us that she had pressed Shunsen into revealing how he knew where Moto Masamune was being taken the night before, and that Shunsen had told her the truth - that he possessed the gift, or as he called it, the curse, of Foresight - that he had seen his death at Shiro Heichi, and the manner of it. I sensed that Ichii was not revealing all she knew, but I remained silent on the matter. Resolving not to let his sacrifice go in vain, we pressed on.
Cutting our way into the inner sanctum and found dozens of shadow-creatures laboring at forges, producing blood-stained blades of pure black, and at the far end was a proud old man chained to an anvil, hammering at the half-finished blades that the shadow-creatures brought to him, and we understood at once why Masamune was here and what he was doing - forging blades like the Hand of God, to outfit Ryunosuke's army of the apocalypse. In that dark and ancient hall we fought a great battle against impossible odds, cutting our way through the shadow-creatures, with Kazuma freeing Moto Masamune from his chains with a single sweep of his tetsubo. But our passage was blocked by more of the shadow creatures, and a great many sohei, and - most worryingly - Shosuro Mei herself, who sought out Yumiko in the chaos and confusion of the battle and engaged her in a one-on-one duel of the ninja arts. Yumiko found herself nearly outmatched by Mei's technique, bolstered by the power of the Lying Darkness, but baited her rival into overconfidence and through a mixture of misdirection and sheer athletic brilliance turned the tables on the betrayer and plunged her ninja-to through Mei's black heart. Shocked by the death of their leader, the Goju faltered, and Kazuma battered our way out of the hall.
We were nearly clear then, though the entire fortress was rousing to bear down on us, when through some malign sorcery Shosuro Mei returned to plague us, herself now half shadow and driven by revenge. We found our weapons unable to harm her, and attempted to keep her at bay to formulate a plan, but the other Goju were drawing near, and we were desperate. Ishii, nearly exhausted from her channeling of the Kami, drew her remaining energy and seared the twisted remains of Mei with the same brilliant lance of white fire she had used to slay the hydra. It succeeded, but at a terrible cost - before she was consumed by the flames, Mei threw a shuriken coated in some foul poison, and Ishii was struck in the neck. I employed all of the (admittedly few and mundane) healing arts I had in my possession, and even Yumiko, skilled in the arts of poison, attempted to draw it out of her, but we were too late - quiet little Ishii, always so courteous and wise beyond her years, and so very brave despite her youth and her bearing, died in the arms of Hida Kazuma, her protector.
We were grief-stricken, then, and wounded, and weary, and much disheartened, and the Goju would be on us in a moment. I looked to my remaining comrades and committed their faces to memory, for I thought for certain that our quest had failed, that we would be overrun, and that we, like Ishii, would join our ancestors here. When I said as much, I saw that Yumiko and Hirohito thought the same, but Hida Kazuma, Kami watch over him always, said "Not this day, friend Ikoma," and passed the lifeless body of Ichii into my hands. He lowered his pack and turned his back to us, and we knew what his intent was and attempted to dissuade him, but he would only say that we were wasting time, and that he would give our regards to Nobunaga when he saw him. With a heavy heart we turned our back from Hida Kazuma, though as we fled that cursed castle I heard him smash an armored fist against his mighty breastplate and shout this defiantly into the darkness: "My tetsubo thirsts! Come to me, you cowardly whelps! Come and let me show you how a son of Hida meets his death!" And that was the last we saw of Hida Kazuma among the living, Kazuma the Mighty, who's courage never faltered, and who now rests among the bravest and most glorious dead in all of Rokugan for eternity.
PART EIGHT: GODSLAYERWe fought our way clear of that place, now four where there had once been six, carrying Ishii's body with us to be cremated properly, and wishing we could do the same for mighty Kazuma. Moto Masamune was much confused as to whom we were and why we had rescued him from that place, and we told him of our quest, and of Ryunosuke with his blade, and the havoc he was wreaking on Rokugan. The proud old Moto could only nod sadly and beg our forgiveness. I was much wroth by the death of our two friends, and demanded to know how to destroy the Hand of God, to end this darkness that threatened to claim us all. Masamune hung his head, then, and was silent for a time, before explaining in a voice filled with sorrow that the Hand of God could only be destroyed by a blade its equal. We in turn were silent, then, for we knew what he was saying. It was Hirohito that broke the silence, and said flatly that he would pay any price required. Masamune drew him aside for a short time then, and when the two men returned Hirohito was very pale, but he said only that he and none else would pay the price, and that we would not sacrifice our honor to do this thing. I was concerned, as was Yumiko, but we saw little other choice.
We brought Moto Masamune upriver, around Shinomen Mori, past Zakyo Toshi, once more through the Spine of the World, and to the shadow of Kyuden Ikoma, where my family could protect us while Moto Masamune did his work. It took all of my convincing to allow us entry, for Shosuro Mei had done her work well while we were away, and we were wanted in the Empire for crimes I had not even heard of, let alone could have carried out. I prayed that it would not take one hundred days to forge the blade, but Masamune assured us he had refined the technique, and would be able to finish it in a fortnight. This concerned me, though we had little choice but to carry through with this mad plan. Days past, and though each night we prepared to do battle with Goju assassins, none came. This concerned me even moreso. On the final night Moto Masamune took us to a place outside of Kyuden Ikoma, to an ancient crypt of my people, and said that he would need to seal himself and Hirohito inside until the dawn. Hirohito looked like a man walking to his death, and I urged him to count the cost of this deed, but once more he assured me that he and he alone would pay the price, and I believed him. He and Yumiko shared a long look, but exchanged no words. None needed be spoken.
It seemed no sooner than Hirohito and Masamune were sealed within the tomb then the forces of the Goju made their attack in great numbers. I had brought some of my cousins with me, but few enough, and we found ourselves hard-pressed and on the verge of being overwhelmed. And then I spotted Ryunosuke himself among the Goju and my heart froze, for I saw that all our trials and tribulations would be in vain, and that it would be the end of everything, here, now, at the edge of the Hand of God. But Yumiko, brave Yumiko, in an act of shining gallantry the likes of which I have never seen, told me to mount my horse and ride hard for Kyuden Ikoma to bring the garrison, for the sword must be forged, no matter the cost. And that brave Scorpion turned away from me with her short blade in hand and flung herself at Ryunosuke the Black Crane, the Hand of God, knowing she could never match him, could only delay him, but fought on regardless. I turned away and rode, heartsick, unable to watch, but heard her cry of triumph, and a snarl of irritation from Ryunosuke, and then a sinister hiss through the air and a terrible silence afterwards, and I rode on hard into the night and heard no more.
When I returned with the Ikoma garrison we found a great host of Goju there and put them to flight in a terrible battle that saw many of my gallant cousins killed, but of Ryunosuke we found no trace. But the stone slab into the crypt we found sealed, and outside it was Yumiko, bleeding from the eyes, ears, nose and mouth, but clinging to life. I wept, then, and as the sun began to rise the crypt opened, and Hirohito saw what had become of his love and he fell to his knees and held her, tears in his own eyes. She whispered to him then that she had eavesdropped on him and Moto Masamune, and she knew the price that must be paid, and what Hirohito's plan was. All this was beyond my comprehension, but Hirohito wept all the harder, and repeated over and over that it was his price to pay. Yumiko smiled at him through the pain and kissed him once on the lips and told him to do what must be done, and that she would meet him on the other side of Night. And then Moto Masamune, that cold-eyed old spirit, stepped out of the tomb with a white-hot blade ready to be quenched, and I knew what price need be paid. And as the red dawn rose over the Ikoma crypts, Kakita Hirohito plunged that white-hot blade through the breast of Shosuro Yumiko, whom he loved, and all her strength and passion flowed into that sword. And when the blade cooled from her lifeblood Hirohito stood and inspected the weapon and saw that it was red instead of white, red for Yumiko, and he said in a low, quiet voice, "For this I will make answer, even if it mean my death." And he would say no more. And that is the forging of Godslayer, the Red Sword of Vengeance.
You may be Lion, but you're certainly no Matsu Kasei, OP....
PART NINE: THE GRAND DUELThere were only two of us now, for with his work complete, and the seeds of Godslayer's undoing sown, Moto Masamune was at last able to fade away and die - still unable to join his ancestors in the afterlife, but finally free from this mortal plane. My heart was heavy with sorrow, for we had scarcely time to grieve Ichii and Kazuma before Yumiko was taken from us. But we had one last task to accomplish, one last enemy to slay, and though he still would not speak, I knew that Hirohito would hound Ryunosuke to the ends of the earth to see justice done. We arrived in Toshi Ranbo just as spring was turning to summer, and caused an immense stir - for we were criminals, wanted throughout the Empire for the most depraved acts imaginable, our reputations tattered by Mei's slander. What a shock, then, when Hirohito, only a boy when he left, returned a grim-faced man, bearing a naked blade, and demanding for Kakita Ryunosuke to come out and face him!
Ryunosuke was there, of course, his alibi flawless. I knew even without Mei he was a master of manipulation, with the clout of both Scorpion and Crane behind him, the ear of the Imperial Court, and that it would take Benten himself to persuade the gathered samurai to see our side of the story. But Hirohito would have none of it. He rode straight up the gate, shouting for Ryunosuke to come out and die. We were met by a hundred samurai of the Seppun Guard, and dozens of Crane, Lion and Scorpion besides. I thought it would be our end, then and there, but Hirohito spoke simply and forcefully, stating his quarrel was with Ryunosuke and Ryunosuke alone, and that if the Black Crane was too frightened to face him, he would wait until he found his courage. It was then that I knew he had him - for all his cunning, Ryunosuke was proud above all. He was a future Clan Champion, the darling of Court, of the highest birth and breeding, and Hirohito was a nobody, a criminal. He could have ignored the challenge, could have left us there to be butchered by the Seppun. But he was too proud, too arrogant, and simply could not resist one more opportunity to prove he was better than another. And so, to the surprise of all involved, he strode out of the castle, stepped past the spears of the Seppun, and said that he would be glad to receive Hirohito, just as he had received his brother.
The duel was set for three days hence, and we were placed under house arrest until then. I spent my time pacing, preparing, worrying - I expected the Goju to burst through the door at any minute, or for the Seppun to come and arrest us, or for agents of the Scorpion to simply make us disappear. None of this happened. Hirohito merely meditated, that terrible red blade resting across his knees. It truly was an ugly thing; rough and rugged where Ryunosuke's was smooth and elegant, a dark, blood-red, and lacking any ornamentation - no tsuba, plain leather-wrapped hilt. It even lacked a saya, though when I commented on this Hirohito said I was wrong. I asked if he had left it in the tomb, but he shook his head and responded that Godslayer's sheath was Ryunosuke's black heart, and that he would sheath it soon and forevermore. To this I had no reply.
On the day of the duel, Hirohito arrived with his head high and his long, white hair and blue robes fluttering in the wind. He looked half dead, his face gaunt, his eyes lifeless, though I saw great strength in him, and determination. There was no fanfare, no applause - everyone knew he was going to his death, and most thought it was justly so that he did. He seemed uncaring, and with quiet confidence came to me and clasped my hand. I told him that whatever happened today, it had been an honor to fight alongside him, and he smiled, and it was then I reflected upon how different he was from his brother, the bold Nobunaga, but yet how similar. Hirohito drew me aside and put a hand on my shoulder and said to me "Whatever happens today, you will have a great story to tell. Let it all be heard. Let the names of Kakita Nobunaga, of Shunsen, of Hida Kazuma and Isawa Ishii and Shosuro Yumiko never be forgotten. Tell our story, my friend. That is all I ask of you." Ryunosuke arrived to thunderous applause from the Crane and Scorpion, but he did not smile, did not acknowledge anyone. It had been a year since we last saw him in the open, but he appeared even younger, stronger, more full of life - life that he doubtlessly stole. I could scarcely contain my anger as he stepped into the ring, his blade in hand. And then the two bowed to each other, stood apart from each other, studied each other, and so similarly to how it all started, the duel began.
>>19113306Not true, ssshhhhhhh
I knew little of duelling when I first saw Nobunaga and Ryunosuke fight, and knew only a little more, now. But even I, an unskilled observer, could see that Hirohito, like his brother, was overmatched - the way that he was positioned, the way he kept having to shift slightly to accomodate for Ryunosuke, told me that he, too, would be cut down like so many others, and my heart grew cold. They stood watching each other for what seemed like an eternity, moving in only tiny shifts of balance, eyes locked on each other, probing for weakness, for a heartbeat's inattention.
>>19113306Im reading at least. Just dont want to ruin the flow.
It was here that, once more, our illustrious GM took Hirohito's player aside to another room, to roll the results of their iaijutsu duel. When they returned, Hirohito's player clutched his character sheet with a quiet dignity, and a sense of finality. And as they both sat down at the table, the GM began to describe to us how that summer morning, with all in attendance, Hirohito stepped back and lowered his guard, and closed his eyes. I wanted to shout out, to beg him not to do what I believed he was doing, but in that split second that stretched on for a thousand years I saw Ryunosuke smile, saw his hand flash to the hilt of his blade, and then there was a rustle of silk, and a sinister hissing in the air, and the two duelists seemed to change places, moving with such a speed that the human eye could not now or ever follow, and I saw Ryunosuke still smiling, standing with the Hand of God outstretched, and Hirohito was rock-still, and there was blood pouring from his eyes and nose and mouth and ears. And then I saw uncertainty flicker in Ryunosuke's eyes, saw him gasp once, and then clutch at his breast and, swaying like a felled tree, saw him topple to the ground. There was a sound like shattering glass, and the Hand of God shattered into a thousand tiny fragments when it hit the ground, and I saw Godslayer do the same, and then my dear friend Hirohito, brave Hirohito, sink first to his knees, and then start to fall onto his face; but before he did so I saw the corner of his lips turn upward in a smile, and I saw him mouth the name of Yumiko, whom he loved, and then he fell to the earth, his vengeance complete.
I do not know if we will continue playing L5R. I do not know if I want to - even though there are other adventures, other stories to tell. I feel as if I have lost five close friends. I know I will always remember bold Nobunaga, Ichii with her soft words and her endless knowledge, Kazuma with his boisterous confidence, Yumiko and her boundless loyalty, and Hirohito, brave Hirohito, who's vengeance would not be denied. And I know how Ikoma Kiyoshi's story will continue - for he still has one last task, the last thing asked of him by a close friend, the weaving of their tale into something by which to be remembered. And I hope that, in the telling, their names will pass on into legend as the heroes they were in life, in the hopes that, perhaps one day, I, Ikoma Kiyoshi, will be worthy of joining them.fin~
OP stick around for a few minutes, I want you to see something
Outstanding. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Hope my players enjoy my game as much
is... is this worth reading?
Well, fuck me. I compiled this into two images but it's still too large to upload onto here. Which is strange, since I do this kind of thing often.
>>19113440You have no idea, its everything a L5R game should be, brave, tragic, and in the end honor prevails.
wow, this was pretty great. so much drama. i can't imagine what it was like to play it
Tried to Archive this, but I think its acting funky on mu end, anyone want to check to see if its working can go herehttp://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/archive.htmlTitled: Tale of the Godhand and the Godslayer
Thanks everyone! I'm glad you all enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. It's been a long journey, and it's nice now to sit back and reflect upon everything we went through as a group. Definitely an unforgettable game.
/bump for a hell of a story. Also maybe some L5R general/imagedumping?
No? I'll try again later, I suppose.
why not now?
>>19114217/tg/ is too busy talking about 40k and magic for the 4 billionth time...It really does annoy me how under rated both the universe and the ccg are
This was a great read, amazing adventure!!
suptg is indeed being weird; this tale is archived, but nobody can read it. It just gives some folders for "Images" and "Thumbnails". It's probably just something that can be easily fixed, and the people running that site are on it... probably.
More stories! I would share but I have none yet, being a novice in the game so far.
GM here; This has been my favourite game to run for a long time. It's been an honor to run for you guys.
Upvoting like a motherfucker.You're awesome OP for storytelling it, and Gheedorah for GM'ing it.
/bump so more can see
mfw, I try to make epics like this for my PCsmfw, Theres constant bickering and infighting over clans and classesmfw, Half of them are entirly reactive and depend on me to drive them forward rather than engadge their own brains...mfw, mfw...I cannot find sadfrog.jpgWell at least I can read about good games on /tg/
>>19117300Stop giving me paranoid feelings about running my goddamn campaign. I'll pray to the kami... Once again.