Rokugan: Shadow Creeping
Act I Part three
Watching the group of newcomers with interest as they trade stories with the lounging Crab bushi, Hida Sekau, introduces himself to our heroes. They find out that he is the Captain along this section of the wall, and might have a way for the heroes to better prepare themselves for their trek into the Shadowlands.He takes them to meet Hiruma Makasu, the Commander of the Kuni Guard. Makasu explains to our heroes that there is a disturbing silence beyond the wall and he has sent several scouting parties to gather information. Unfortunately, two scouting missions have been dispatched to the ruins of Hiruma Castle and both are late reporting back. Our heroes agree assist with escorting another scouting party and are given jade powder, jade fingers, jade arrows, food and other supplies for the journey. The scouts say they will leave before dawn.
Our heroes are given room in the barracks to get some much needed rest for the evening, but not before an imperial messenger arrives with dispatches from Doji Isoroku’s imperial wife. The letter contains the newest gossip from the capitol which he shares:
• Bayushi Kachiko has been chosen by the Emperor to be his new advisor, due to her exemplary performance as his personal aid.
• It is rumored that emissaries have been sent from the lands of the Badger to the upcoming Topaz Championship, to meet with the Lion. The Topaz Championship was delayed this year due to the current political climate, but is expected to take place late in the month of the Goat (July). If the Badger commits to bolstering their defense of the northern pass, taking pressure off of the Unicorn, the Unicorn might agree to an alliance and commit a large amount of its cavalry to the Lion’s cause.
• The Emerald Champion is rumored to be preparing to make a trip to Shiro-no-Yojin, as the Emperor wants a report on the situation. The rumors say there is unease among those closest to the Emperor, and that war is imminent. Troop movements on this scale have not been seen in hundreds of years since Imperial edicts forbade the size of armies in active conflict, to prevent the tearing apart of the Empire.
• A company of the Sixth Imperial Legion has been dispatched to Scorpion Lands on a scouting Mission.
Also, unknown to the rest of the party, Kitsu Busaru finds himself struggling with an unexpected and life shattering revelation that he has read from a mysterious letter that was somehow placed in his belongings.
After answering the group’s questions about the shadowlands, The Hiruma scouts leave the party for the eavening with the admonishment that those who think they cannot face the dangers ahead of them should leave. The dark hours of night are quiet, too quiet. It is clear that the Crab are on edge, something is not as it should be along the wall. Shiba Zejuko’s dreams are plagued by nightmares, and come morning Kitsu Busaru is nowhere to be found, though he left his supply of jade behind. The party learns from Usagi Ozaki that Busaru left very early in the morning, and was headed away on a matter of great personal importance. Ozaki said he pardoned the Lion for breaking his vow, but there may be some lingering animosity from other members of our party. After all, why would they even be here without him?
The party meets with the Hiruma Scouts at the designated time and place. The scouts bring with them a mysterious ronin shugenja named Masago, a small woman with mean eyes and a serious demeanor. She has a pitch black handprint covering her mouth and left side of her face. It seems she has volunteered as well, for reasons of her own, to make the journey to the ruins of Hiruma Castle. The scouts explain that they will be travelling swiftly in grouped pairs, several paces apart. Each pair is to watch the back of the other, and if at anytime someone is lost from sight, to kill them. The Shadowlands is known for doing horrible things to samurai that lose sight of their comrades, and turning them against each other.
Blindfolded they are lead through the catacombs beneath the wall, and come out on the other side. The Kuni wastes lie before them. After the Maw’s attack that lead to the Battle of the Cresting wave, the landscape here was turned to a twisted mockery of what it once was. But the Kuni, using their sinister magics, launched a ruthless campaign to take it back. After three hundred years of an unflinching scorched earth policy to cleanse the Taint from their lands, the Kuni have removed the Dark Kami’s hold, but have turned the plains before our heroes into a mosaic of cracked mud and blowing sands. The ground is baked hard as a rock by the sun, and nothing will grow here now. Here and there, outcroppings of rock have claw their way to the sun, and sprout like trees. The trees themselves are gone, except for a few larger specimens that remain as huge dead trunks. Looking to the horizon, our party sees nothing between the waste and themselves; nothing but hardened dust and loneliness.
Facing the lonliness our three remaining heroes, along with Usagi Ozaki and his retainer Seiki, the mysterious ronin Masago, and two Hiruma scouts begin their quiet trespass into Fu Leng’s realm.