It was a few weeks later after the arrival of the Golden Wind Caravan. Shinjo Altan (played by Hikkikomori) rode easily as he led the group to their destination, a small castle near the border of the Lion Clan. Despite having been almost a generation since the War of the Rich Frog (as detailed in the events of Never a Dull Blade) diplomatic relations between the Lion and the Unicorn have been icy at best.
This was the reason they were called back, he mused. The Unicorn Lands were vast… and with the amount of Samurai lost during the War of the Rich Frog, not enough of them were left to make sure that these lands were supervised properly. Already young samurai such as themselves were being asked to take over locations such as these. Something unheard of in the generations before them.
But desperate times call for desperate measures, and if the accounts of Iuchi Mei-Xing (Silver Countess) and Horiuchi Shun (Mappy) were to be believed, things were only going to get worse.
His dour musings were interrupted by the seemingly unbridled mirth of Moto Huwang, who was busy explaining the history of the conflict to Entreri (Paulo).
“And so you can only imagine why the Lions are unhappy with us,” he chortled, “Oh, I enjoy going to court if only to see their faces. Never have I seen a people so intensely focused on grudges. Good thing then that the Emperor has a firm hand on their leash.”
Entreri, the gaijin Moto simply smiled and nodded, humoring his blood-brother. His silence was not one out of rudeness, but as Altan realized, was one of intellect. He’d only heard Entreri speak out once or twice in their journey, but each time his Rokugani speech was less halting, and more natural.
“Is that it?” Mei-Xing’s lilting voice was a relief to Huwang’s nearly constant barrage of bragging, lewd stories and harsh laughter. Altan turned his attentions to the distance where a small castle of the Unicorn Clan was surrounded by a small farming community.
“Hai.” Altan smiled as he urged his horse a little faster, “This will be our new home.”
Mei-Xing wasn’t a stranger to the humbler accommodations of the Castle. It wasn’t Medinaat Al-Salaam, but at the same time at least the weather was much less oppresive.
Her quarters served as her library, the books she’d brought back from the Burning Sands were carefully filed and indexed in her chambers, easily several lifetimes of accumulated knowledge. Capable of vaulting the Empire’s technology forward by generations.
She remembered Ibrahim’s words though. Knowledge was like fire, he’d cautioned her before. It brought light and warmth and comfort… but it was also capable of destruction when held by those who didn’t respect it. Her work was painstakingly slow, to bring this knowledge to the masses without and unintended consequences.
She heard footsteps approaching her room, composing herself and putting the book she was reading back in its place.
“Mei-Xing-sama?” the servant spoke, “Your presence is being requested. A Visiting merchant from the Lion Lands is requesting for passage through the village.”
Xian nodded, “Hai, I’ll see them in the main hall. Are the others to attend as well?”
“Yes, Mei-Xing-Sama. They are also heading down as we speak.”
The Ikoma merchant was a member of the Ikoma vassal families, far too low in status to be truly noteworthy. That said his gall was at least commendable. He stood with a quiet confidence, bowing deeply at the arrival of the Unicorn Samurai. Beside him was a heimin servant, who bowed as well.
“And what brings you here, merchant?” Huwang spoke first, as was the case in most conversations.
“I come seeking permission to cross your lands, Moto-sama.” the Merchant spoke.
“Why don’t you use the Mantis Clan river trade route?” Altan asked, intrigued by this situation. The Mantis Clan and the Lion had been in an economic alliance for years.
“Profit margins, Shinjo-sama. While the Mantis promise the safety of my goods, I find that I stand to gain more by eliminating the middleman.”
Entreri on the other hand was paying close attention to these visitors. While he had no place in the courts yet, this was a perfect time to see Rokugani social dynamics at work.
Perhaps it was this attention to detail that clued him in that something was wrong. His experience in the land so far taught him that the servants here didn’t look at anyone in the eye. This servant however, did. Entreri took note of that. Rokugani tend to ignore servants, believing them to be unworthy of scrutiny.
With the meeting concluded, the rest of the team saw no reason to suspect the merchant, and allowed for the Ikoma to spend the night in the village before making an overland trek towards the Golden Wind Caravan further north and west.
That evening, Entreri snuck out into the night to pay a visit to the merchant. He opted to not tell the others, preferring instead to keep his activities a secret as to not endanger his new family.
He arrived in time to see the suspicious servant sneaking out of the inn. The Gaijin assassin tailed his mark, watching as the servant found his way into a resident merchant’s home. Entreri followed, intrigued as to what a servant would want to do with a local merchant.
What he found was deeply troubling, as the servant found the sleeping merchant and began to enact some strange magics over the man’s sleeping form. Entreri watched with growing horror as the servant’s face melted away, becoming smooth and featureless as an egg, and molding itself slowly into that of the Merchant.
Entreri didn’t bother to wait any longer, lunging out of hiding to strike against the monstrosity with his blades, whirling in the flashy spinning style of his people. The faceless creature shifted away, its shadowy form distorting and splattering like crude ink on sumi-e paintings as it re-oriented itself against the Gaijin Assassin.
Neither spoke, or made a sound as they fought. A duel in silence, as both combatants might as well have been made of shadow and dreams. Finally Entreri managed to deal a killing blow, and the faceless thing faded away, dissolving into particles of shadow.
Entreri sheathed his blades, looking over at the still form of the merchant. After checking to see if the merchant was still alive, Entreri snuck outside the establishment and made his way back. The others should be made aware… something dangerous had made its way to Unicorn lands.
And that concludes Session 1 of the Legacy of the Ki-Rin game. As you can tell, we’re moving into interesting territory here, and those who’ve had a chance to read through Never a Dull Blade know that the issue with the Lying Darkness has been seeded as early as back then. I discovered that the Unicorn were among the first to run into the Lying Darkness so I felt that it was only appropriate to have them as opponents for this campaign. Thankfully they’re not the only one and the political fallout of saying that the Lying Darkness were from the Lion Clan was something that none of the players were looking forward to happening.