Legend of the 5 Rings Smoking Waters

Session 2 10/12

Third day of the month of the monkey. 1129

Eighth day is the Setsuban Harvest festival. Start of harvest season.

Month of the Rooster.

Middle of the month of the Dog – winter hits.

Last day of the month of the Dog (2 months hence). End of the harvest season. Paper lantern festival Bon Festival-DB. Clean up graves. Rememberance festival. March of the dead – hang lanterns to guide the dead to the realm of the esteemed ancestors. Put the lanterns in the river to guide souls to the afterlife. Fireworks and parades.

Some urgency to get the peasants out before winter (not a requirement).

Shinjo Todaji, Goldfeather the eagle. Make a somewhat favorable impression. Mention that the horses are eating more grain than they can afford.

Utaku Chien-Do – Battle leader, not here.

Utaku Chiei & brother – Great watch tower was unmanned (at that time). Roads and bridges in okay condition – still needs some work.

5 days to northern watch tower. Sweeping on patrol. Says she could do it one day with two remounts.

(Paige remember to put the map on the map section.)

Kitamahari – Aoijiroi Province. Northern Watchtower. (Now up on the wiki.) Very old, bastion against the Yobanjin raiders. Changed hands several times in the clan wars. Currently unmanned.

Travel and stay with peasants each night.

Find the tower. Dead shiba bushi. Find his daisho, and letters to his wife. Burn him, and keep remains.

Setsuban Festival in the Village of Nesting Swallow. Say that the tower was abandoned 2 years ago. They say that wealthy and important folk would stay here on the way to Smoking Waters. This is Aljoroi province, and Smoking Waters is in a Kogen Province. Next village north is Starry Pond (in Kogen Province). Kogen Province is ruled from Lost Traveller castle where the Kogen province daimyo resides. Except there is no current daimyo. (That might get decided at Winter Court). The castle is to the west. Smoking Waters is to the north.

Forest is expanding. Hunting yields fowl and a boar. Wolves eat entrails that night. The road is poorly maintained, potholed, and washed out. Isawa Mori is about a mile off to the right. Cone shaped mountain in a long green valley. Broad well-made road goes into town, and then west toward Lost Traveller. River comes down from the mountain and goes into the Isawa Mori.

Cluster of larger buildings near base of mountain. 40 structures. Fields with small groups of huts (maybe 100 or so). Massive swarms of small birds erupt out of the golden and green fields of buckwheat. (Good for noodles!) And fields of soybeans. Looks like they are growing really well. 600 koku worth of grain available. That’s 50 samurai for a year, or maybe a hundred or more peasants. Large sprawling structure halfway up the mountain. See smoke coming from it. (Steam from the springs?) Large burned down structure – probably a small castle. The peasant huts are pretty nice, relatively sturdy, and contain some furnishings. 40 homes for samurai, many are quite nice. Some abandoned in haste, but many were not. Find daisho stands, but no weapons. Stone paved central square. Really big inn – 100 guests. Teahouse. Clothing shop. Religious knick-nacks. Looks like the doors were forced in and the shops looted. Several stables behind the inn.

Make our way up the stone path – smell a weird smell like fireworks. Smell rotting fruit – cherries and plum trees line the path. Plums are sour, but cherries are sweet with large stones. The trees are about 9 ft tall. Were once carefully tended, but are now growing wild. Not as much fruit as there should be. What’s eating it? Looks like toddlers have been consuming the fruit. Raccoons? Monkeys? Spirits?

Path follows stream up the mountain. Artfully arranged stream parallels the path. Pools and small waterfalls. Find a hot spring onsen (hot spring resort). Hear a weird noise over the chatter of the river. Scare some monkeys out of a pool. Chain of pools coming down the mountain, the higher pools are hotter. The front of the building is fine – the back is torn up. Doors busted, shoji torn, full of monkey leavings. Tatters of wall hangings and scrolls. Scratched up teak furniture. Six big buildings, and six small buildings.

6 days back to Morning Glory Castle.

The unicorn go back for peasants.

Thank you Ben for food 3 points.
Thank you DJ for dessert and chopsticks 3 points.
Thank you Jack for sake 3 points.
Thank you Ben for music 1 point.

3XP

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Comments

On the late afternoon of the fourth day of the Monkey, a Shiba messenger arrives at the house of Shiba Hachi and Nazoko. The messenger is burdened with an offer to Nazoko-san to join newly-landed gentry Asako Fumiyo for tea at the Red Blossom tea house on the afternoon of the fifth day of the Monkey.

The Red Blossom is known to be a teahouse within the walls of Morning Glory Castle, and avoided much of the damage from the rampaging Matsu. As it is one of the few to be largely unscathed from the conflict, it is enjoying a significant rise in popularity.

Shiba Nazoko, as is her custom is slightly early for tea. She is a lovely young samurai-ko in her late teens, dressed in an understated kimono in deep red, with dark gold borders, and lavender and green flowers embroidered on it. Her hair was elegantly coiffed with various bangles in it, and her makeup was excellently subtle, highlighting her features without the slightest bit of ostentation. She bowed to the hostess, slipping off her sandals, and making her way toward the table she indicated. Her expertly made-up brows creased faintly as she looked for Asako Fumiyo.

Asako Fumiyo, ready to play hostess, arrived more than a few minutes early and had informed the host she was expecting Nazoko. Fumiyo kept her eyes on the door as she prepared her thoughts, not entirely sure what to expect out of a woman who had wed the practical Hatchi.

The Red Blossom was busy, and a welcome heat from the cool of autumn in Phoenix lands. The smell of rich spices pour out of the back room and into the main hall. The short, squat tables are surrounded by samurai, merchant patrons, and the occasional ronin. The scene is lively as he upcoming Setsuban Festival preparations are underway and many deals are being made among those who have much to gain and lose in the upcoming harvest.

Nazoko was led to the table by a lean, clean-shaven man named Gorei. Once she had taken her place on the mat, he gave a low bow to the samurai-ko and spoke, “konnichi wa, samurai sama, I am Gorei. Would you care to try our famous green bunkaisan tea?”

Fumiyo returned Gorei’s bow, though not near as deep. At the question, her eyes looked to Nazoko, and she gave a deferential nod for the Shiba to choose the drink as the guest.

Nazoko knelt with expected grace and gave Asako Fumiyo an appropriate brow. “Yes, thank you Gorei, the holiday tea will be fine,” she said in a light, clear tone. “And dorayaki,” she added. Once Gorei absented himself she spent a long moment looking at Asako Fumiyo.

Fumiyo had a serious look about her, her dark eyes judgmental for a long few moments before they relaxed into something that might be considered somewhere near friendly if you looked at it just the right way. No, maybe it was scowling. It was hard to tell, but at least it was more relaxed.
The samurai-ko wore a decent kimono, not anything one would be proud of but in these times of shortage following the war, it was not unusual. Clearly she was not a woman of means, or chose to invest them otherwise. Judging from the callouses on her fingers, her investments were more of time than wealth. Her kimono was adorned with the mon of the Asako and that of the Kakita, a curious combination.

“Thank you for meeting me, Shiba-san. It is an honor to meet the family of another who has been chosen to return prosperity to the lands of the Phoenix. I am Igraki Fumiyo, sworn to serve the Asako, and I have begun working with your husband.”

That got a raised eyebrow – Shiba Nazoko had little ability to school her face into disinterest. “I am pleased to meet you, Igraki Fumiyo,” she said in absolutely the appropriate tone, and with the absolutely the appropriate nod of her head. “I am pleased also to know you are working with Hatchi-san. It is likely the daimyo has appointed him to a task that will no doubt stretch his abilities.”

Fumiyo noticed the raised eyebrow, but did Nazoko the honor of not reacting to the cue. She nodded in agreement, “the task will no doubt stretch all of our abilities. The little I have been able to learn is that the town is to the far north, near a castle known as Lost Traveler Castle. Are you planning to join us in the travel come spring?”

Fortunately, Gorei arrived with tea and the pancakes. There were long silent minutes as the women were served with relatively good graces. Nazoko a moment to appreciate the smell of the tea, the warmth of the cup in her hands, and took a small, appropriate sip, nodding to Gorei in thanks.

The question hung in the air a long moment before Gorei arrived, but once he did, the rich scent of the tea filled the air and pushed the moment aside. Fumiyo looked to Gorei expectantly for the man to pour, and when he did, she nodded and quietly thanked him.

Gorei hovered nearby expectantly, proud of the house blend. His eyes darted back and forth to watch the women, and he barely contained a childlike grin as Nazoko brought the cup to her lips. Again playing the host, Fumiyo followed Nazoko’s movements but took a long sniff of the fragrant tea before she took a sip as well.

Gorei couldn’t contain himself any longer, “you like it, don’t you? The green bunkaisan never fails to bring a moment of ease and clarity to busy samurai-samas!”

Nazoko replied, “hai, Gorei, it is a very fine tea. I do like it. Thank you,” the second dismissal was still utterly polite. Gorei regained his composure, giving the women a deep bow, and left them in peace. He was practically skipping.

“I have not decided, Igraki-san, whether I should travel or stay here. Our daimyo has not seen fit to command me either way, and my husband does not importune me to either go, or stay, but to do as I see fit.” The pronouncement was delivered in a calm, even tone, but one that faintly hinted at the uncertainty she felt.

“There are certainly merits to both,” Fumiyo responded, and took a small sip of the tea. “For instance, small indulgences like these may be few and far between to the north. But the opportunities for glory of family and compassion for the people of the land are numerous. We should not always need the command of a daimyo to serve family and land, should we?”

Nazoko’s teacup stopped halfway up. She put it down and considered Igraki Fumiyo. Surely she hadn’t meant offense by that, or had she? The woman’s words could be read both ways. Too frustratingly often her husband said similarly ambiguous things. She attributed that to his time out of Phoenix lands, but she hadn’t expected it from this woman. Though, considering that she also wore a foreign clan’s mons, maybe she should have. Nazoko tilted her head to the side considering Igraki Fumiyo.

“You can be assured I await no command to serve my family and my land,” she replied cooly. “I merely am trying to ascertain where my talents would be best applied in that service.”

The Kakita-trained samurai-ko got a hint of a smile at the teacup rising and then being set down. For her part, she was cool and calm, the stillness on her expression forged in the fires of baffling conversations with sensei in the south. “Oh, I simply posed it as a rhetorical question. Of course as the wife of a strong and virtuous samurai, your honor and servitude is above reproach.” Fumiyo gave a deferential nod of her head, and took a sip of tea.

“In all honesty, I am simply curious as to what else might prevent you from joining us. There are few samurai-ko on the journey and I consider it important that there be balance. Similarly… both your husband and I have taken the opportunity to learn outside of our homeland, and there are many others among our group who are in the same position, or are entirely outsiders. Are you familiar with our clan’s traditions?”

Nozoko hesitated a moment. Was this… cross-schooled termagant actually asking if she knew of the traditions of her own clan?!? She covered the consternation on her face by enjoying a long sip of tea and looking out the window toward the mountains. She cleared her throat, casually, and affirmed that she did.

“I come from a long line of Isawa sages and historians, Igraki-san,” Nozoko said calmly. “I have been educated since I was a young girl in Phoenix clan traditions, yes,” she said evenly. “I suppose it’s possible that I was so poor a student that I failed to apprehend the lessons. Do educate me on the traditions of my clan though, please,” she said with deliberate intent.

Fumiyo drank in that moment of hesitation like a fine sake. If this had been with steel instead of words, that moment would be the one where Nozoko would find she was lacking. But it was not, and as soon as she felt that, it was followed by a pang of regret – she was, after all, trying to get a feel for Nozoko as a potential ally rather than making an enemy. It was time for an about face.

The answer was a clearly a trap, and they both knew it. Fumiyo had no desire to challenge on that field, and instead, the duelist’s fierce face turned into a polite smile, “oh, I have no desire to educate you. Rather, that you are so well trained fills me with hope, and even with your humble teachings, you are far ahead of me in such matters – which would make you an excellent resource for the unknown shrines and temples in Smoking Waters. Surely you must see that your talent and knowledge would be greatly appreciated there.”

Mollified, Nazoko acknowledged this with a small bow of her head. “I’m not sure how Phoenix clan traditions are going to be much use in dealing with bandits and cleaning up years of disuse among the shrines and temples there. I can’t imagine Asako-Sama Nisobu would decide not to send a shugenja as well. The shugenja should most likely be more helpful with the shrines and temples. And I do not want to be yet another person that must be protected by my husband and the other bushi – they will have their hands full.” She thought for a moment, “though it might be an opportunity to contribute in some small way. However, if Asako-Sama had thought I should go, she certainly would have communicated as much to me, or directed my husband in this matter…”

“There will still be people who need spiritual guidance and to observe the traditions, and go a long way to bringing civilization and honor to a place that has not had any in years of disuse,” Fumiyo replied, and sipped from her tea to finish it. The duelist considered her words next – she was not one to wait to be told, or to concern herself too much with her daimyo’s wishes unless explicitly told not to do something. Clearly, Nazoko-san had a different point of view.

And this did not have to be solved today. “But perhaps there is a plan for you with Asako-sama. If there is, you may be best waiting out winter here, though I assure you that you would be valued in the north. We will know more when the scouting group returns in a few days. Perhaps then we can meet again for tea?”

“Perhaps. I’m interested in multiple viewpoints on the events at Smoking Waters. Surely a viewpoint other than Shiba Hachi’s will have merit,” Nazoko said with the perfectly appropriate tone. “And who knows what they will have found?”

“If the little we know is true, then perhaps they have found a mountain retreat with idyllic hot springs just awaiting our return. It is my hope that it is not as placid as that, but calmer than your proposed land of bandits with dirty shrines and temples. We shall see, but until then there is much to do.” Fumiyo gave a short bow, “thank you for joining me, and I do hope I can provide the merit you seek in time. For now, though, there is much to do.” And with another short bow, the duelist rose up to depart.

The Shiba rose as well, for that was the expected response. “I… appreciate you seeking me out to convince me to come north, Asako-san,” Nazoko said with suitable sincerity. “I am more inclined to do some research of my own about Smoking Waters now.”

“I hope you find what you seek,” Fumiyo answered. “Do let me know if there is anything I can do to assist in the search – I believe we may both be after the same.”

Session 2 10/12
Khazaar

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