Hello and welcome to the first of the Actual Play reports for my gaming group’s new All-Crane campaign: Hearts and Souls. This prologue took place just after character generation, and was a short glimpse into each of the Player characters, and their respective personalities.
The Road to Kyuden Doji
Doji Satsu (played by Tarathiel23), Void Shugenja of the Crane Clan was on his way back from his studies with the Phoenix. It had been years since he’d seen home. Years since he was taken away from the lands of his birth to study and train under the tutelage of the Phoenix Clan’s Isawa family. In hindsight, it was inevitable that he would be taken away. His kind, the Ishiken, shugenja blessed (or cursed) with the ability to manipulate the enigmatic element of the Void were a rarity, and only the Phoenix knew how to properly train those with the gift before they go mad.
He’d learned to love the serene, almost monastic life in the Phoenix mountains, learning to master himself and the Void. But life has a way of being unpredictable, and in Satsu’s case, change came in the form of a simple letter.
His uncle, a wealthy Crane noble with a substantial holding in the Imperial Captial’s Merchant Quarter had passed away. With his passing, and the passing of all his uncle’s sons, Satsu was left as the sole heir to the holding. As such, it was his duty to the Clan to return.
Doji Tomiko (played by Maddie), sister of Doji Satsu, wrung her hands anxiously as she waited. Her brother taken away from their family when they were but children, was finally coming home. She had hoped that it would be for happier circumstances, but she found solace in the fact that he would be with her again. Things were finally going to get better.
She’d seen to the funerals. All of them. She’d seen enough death in the family, and she prayed to the kami that her brother’s return would be an omen for better days.
Already Kakita Mai, a senior Courtier of the Crane Clan, and wife of the Kakita Daimyo, Noritoshi was formulating a plan to help Tomiko and Satsu in their task to take over the Holding as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“Son, I am disappointed in you,” Asahina Tenjin’s frown deepened as he looked at his son, the impetous Asahina Tezuka (played by Paulo), “But more than that, I am disappointed in myself. I have failed you as a father, failed to instill in you the necessary foundations of a true samurai.”
“I’ve heard this all before, father.” Tezuka rolled his eyes, “May I leave now?”
“In a manner of speaking.” Tenjin mustered whatever strength he had to try and push through with this decision. It was the only way to protect his beloved son. “I’m sending you to duties away from the Asahina Temples.”
“Good one!” Tezuka laughed, falling into a reclining position, “Father you’re getting good at this.”
Tezuka realized then that his father wasn’t joking around.
Tenjin found his courage, his voice building in volume and determination, “You will be assigned as a shugenja in service to a different Daimyo. As such I will suspend your stipend, and you will no longer receive any assistance from the Asahina temples beyond what is normally afforded to a shugenja of the Crane.”
Tezuka felt the world crumble around him. All his life he’d been safe and warm and pampered in the Asahina Temples. Life outside, its duties, he knew them, but he’d never really thought that he’d be forced to do any of them for real.
Kakita Artisan School
Doji Ai (played by Silver Countess) gave a sigh as she heard that voice. It wasn’t that the young artisan disliked Kakita Mai, but she was well aware that wherever Mai went, trouble was sure to follow.
“There you are.” Mai spoke as she approached the shy Artisan, “I’ve been looking for you.”
“My apologies.” Ai schooled her features, looking at her patron and self-appointed mother-figure. “I would have reported to you had I known.”
“No harm done, child.” Mai beamed, “I’m here to tell you about your next assignment.”
Ai’s heart skipped a beat. She was not a fan of surprises. Or change.
“You’ll be assigned as an Artisan in Toshi Ranbo, the Imperial Capital.” Mai spoke with aplomb, “I’m certain that you’ll bring much honor to the Clan there.”
Ai’s smile was frozen in her face as she felt her heart pounding in her rib cage. She wasn’t the sort to look for glory and fame, or even recognition. She was happy with her art, but that was about it. With the death of her father, and her brother being sent to the Scorpion she had no family left. Her friends and acquaintances here were the closest thing she had to real family.
“I… I will do what I can.” Ai replied, “But you will visit me, won’t you?”
Mai smiled, her schooled features fading to a gentler, more honest expression. “Of course dear. You’ll never be far from us, I promise you that.”
Doji Haruko forced herself not to gawk at the grandeur of the Doji Palace. It was a habit of the commoners, not that of the dignified Courtiers of the Crane. Suddenly overly conscious of her appearance, she drew herself back to her full height, raising her chin a bit and adapting the cool expression that her sensei had taught her.
“You’re trying too hard.”
She let out a small oath before turning to Ragan (played by Hikkikomori), her Ronin yojimbo.
“And what do you know about what I’m doing?” she said, a little annoyed that the ronin could see right through her.
“You’re tense, nervous.” he said as he looked around their surroundings, “Remember that you belong here.”
“I know that.” she snapped, trying to ignore the truth of that statement as well.
She studied her remarkably impassive Yojimbo. He was well groomed for a Ronin, and held himself with a quiet grace and manners It was as if he belonged here, away from the dirty streets and inside the palaces and gardens of the Crane.
Haruko hated the fact that she didn’t know enough about Ragan. He didn’t talk much, and made it hard for her to learn anything more from him. It always seemed that he was one step ahead of her. That said, she believed his sincerity when he promised to serve as her Yojimbo as per their agreement. He’d not had a chance to prove that in actual combat yet but she was certain that things would work out somehow.
Daidoji Akeha tapped her foot as she watched her sickly “no-good” husband, Doji Naito (played by Mappy) scramble on to his horse with no small effort of on his part.
“We’re going to be late.” She chided, making certain that he was mounted properly before proceeding to her own horse, “Honestly, Naito, you could at least be bothered to get ready sooner.”
“Unlike you, I have to actually dress in a presentable fashion.” Naito shot back with a grin, “I’m expected to at least look like I belong in a court rather than a stable.”
Akeha’s laughter was one of the simple joys of Naito’s existence, and perhaps it was one of the things that gave him hope despite his rather “impossible” task.
After all, how was one courtier supposed to bring back the honor of the Daidoji? After the fiasco that was the discovery of the Harriers it was a miracle that his father in law, the Daimyo of the Daidoji family was still in the service of the Clan. Now it was left to one sickly, acid-tongued courtier to somehow find a way to set things straight? Even Naito knew that the odds were against him, but then again, nobody believed that he could win the affections of Akeha either.
And that is where the Prologue finishes, a series of short snapshots of each of the characters in the team. Episode 1 sees the team convene for the first time, and arrive in Toshi Ranbo, the Imperial Capital. There they make their entrance into high society, learn a little more about the situation and generally figure out how to get along.
Along the way I’ll be adding my own comments in a different font color in order to apply context, and maybe introduce a bit of the setting as it is in my campaigns.