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IC: L5R: Blood and Jade - With A Single Step

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Kamiko nodded. "But in that boldness lies our chance. The Cult rarely uses maho-tsuki directly. I've known that there were some black magicians who had either allied with the Cult, or perhaps converted...but until tonight they moved with the utmost care, protecting what surely must be a rare and precious resource. Tonight was an enormous gamble on their part. They bet everything on a win. Thanks to you, that bet didn't pay off."

"The consequences of that can be exploited by us, but only if we move swiftly."

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"It would seem then that something integral to the Cult has changed," Zoyu conjectured. "Either they have gained access to a new source of influence or power they believe would tilt the odds in their favour." She nodded at Kamiko, adding to her comment about the Moon Cult's gamble. "Or there is new leadership, or a play for such, in the Cult of the Moon, one or more who are more ambitious and bold. Perhaps a brewing schism based on the tactics they wish enacted."

The Crane woman gave the Scorpion siblings a brisk nod when Shosuro Kamiko spoke of swiftness. "Our preliminary investigations have reveals a pair of threads to unravel derived from the weapons and sake found in their possession. The maker's mark found on the low quality blades the zombies were armed with belong to one Yasuragi, a Ronin bladesmith that can be found in a small Village called Tokoro, off the Beiden pass. In lands belonging to the Bear clan. The sake the cultists had were from The City of the Rich Frog and a brewery found just outside Kyuden Ikoma. In your studies, do any of these places have some connection with the Cult of the Moon, however tenuous?"

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"It is a rare town that does not have any cultists in it," Kamiko said with a little frown as she mulled the names over. "They work in small groups, spread far and wide. I have not investigated Tokuro or the City of the Rich Frog directly. However, it isn't implausible to consider they might train and prepare for something like this far from prying eyes."

She tapped a finger on the tabletop for a moment. Once. Twice.

"The masks. What do you know of them?"

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"The masks themselves, they are of very fine quality. Not the work of a common artisan. There were crafted with cultivated skill, great innate talent, or both," Zoyu mentioned, "though for my part, I could no tell where or by whom they were made. As for the magic infesting them, we do not know if it is by the same hands. The magic is some manner of foul Maho, though it appears any hand may use the mask once it has been infused with its deviltry. We have seen their like used during an... incident in Tsuma."

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Kamiko sat forward a little, her eyes intent on Zoyu.

"In Tsuma. I would be very interested to hear more of that encounter, if you wouldn't mind. I think it's very unlikely the Cult of the Moon made these masks themselves, you see. Not in such quantity."

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"No, you do not wish to know what happened in Tsuma." Rin stands and goes to her swords, "Great evil was done there and the soul of the Empire was attacked." She places her swords in her obi and takes the magic sword and puts it over her shoulder. She adjusts the ties to hold it in place to make sure it is secure and comfortable.

"We overcame the maho used and because of that we were made magistrates, that is all you need to know. Now we either have a boat to catch, or, if we are going the other way, I need to go and Tell the captain of the Steady we will not be needing his services."

She turns back and faces the table and asks her fellow magistrates, "Which is it to be?"

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"We would still be most appreciative of your aid," Zoyu amended smoothly, giving Rin a surreptitious glance. "But most esteemed personages... suggested it would behoove us to speak little of that night. Suffice to say, we have seen such masks or some most similar to their like, before. With your greater study, Shosuro Kamiko and the insight of such a one as yourself, Shosuro Miren, do you believe we would be better served seeking this bladesmith or the source of the sake they seem to have partaken of?"

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"If there is a new alliance between the Shadowlands and the Cult, the masks are the most likely path to lead us to that. If you insist that we ignore that, then..."

She looks at Miren questioningly, seeking his input. "Le forgeron?"

 

 

The blacksmith?

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"Possible, mais pourquoi boire le meme sake? Pourquoi ne pas boire de le sake local?" Possibly, but why drink the same sake? Why not drink the local sake? The thought had been tickling at the back of Miren's mind through most of the conversation. Why create a trail of commonality over alcohol? It was easy enough to acquire, especially in smaller amounts locally, than to make such a single sizeable purchase in one place. In the common tongue, he continued, "Is there anything already known about the sake? Any special property to it or something added after it was purchased?"

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It was a good question, and one that had slipped past Kamiko. She'd been so focused on the magic that she'd missed the human element.

There was one simple possibility of course. They imported not just any sake, but their favorite sake. And since it wasn't local...

She nodded at Miren. His insight had not failed them.

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Zoyu tilted her head slightly to the side, considering the question, then shook her head. "If there was something added to the sake afterwards, I am not aware of it, but this one is neither alchemist nor brewer, or even a... prolific imbiber of sake. The merchant I spoke to did say both brands of sake were particularly dry varieties, if that holds any meaning for you."

The oddly coloured Crane nodded at Shosuro Kamiko. "Perhaps the disposition of the masks would be a greater lead, but we learned little of them in our first encounter. They seem to similar to the ones we encountered at the Temple of Amaterasu, but we learned nothing of their manufacture or providence. The craftmanship of the masks are quite exquisite however. It may be possible to track down their artisan, if not the one or ones who infused the foul sorcery into them, if the artisan and maho-tsukai are not one and the same."

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"We do have an intact mask that you could examine. We have it stored with some jade, just to be sure."  Kageko mentioned.

"It might be best, Rin-san, to see if their examination of mask the might yield additional clues before we decide which direction we will be going." the Little Lion suggested.

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Kageko excused herself from the table and disappeared upstairs, returning s couple of minutes later with a small bag. She sat at the table and opened the bag, pulling out the simple porcelain mask. 

"This is one of the masks that the moon cultists were after. We were told that they were of exceptional quality." she explains as she sets the mask down toward the two Scorpions.

"Please, examine if you wish. Anything, no matter how small, might be helpful."

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Kamiko inclines her head gratefully, and very carefully reaches out to turn the mask around so its chin faces her and her brother. For a moment she simply scrutinizes its substance...the fineness of the porcelain and polish. She then turns it over to see the inside surface.

"A moment, please."

With a few movements she takes a small vial of crystal filled with clear fluid, and taps just a droplet onto the mask. It flashes immediately to steam, and the steam forms into a peculiar and ominous-feeling sigil in the air before dissipating. Kamiko then dips one of her fingers into a tiny sack, and pulls it out with a blue powder stuck to the end of the digit. She touches it to the mask, but none of the blue stuff sticks to it.

The shugenja is quiet for a moment, then says, "Interesting." Then she fishes a tightly wound sheaf of scrolls from her pouch and fishes through them.

 

 

: 7D10.HIGH(4) = [

9, 2, 3, 9, 10, 10, 6] = 38

And then another dice, because Sage and I was rolling the wrong thing at first.

_: 1D10 = [4] = 4

explosions: 2D10 = [10, 8] = 18

_: 1D10 = [4] = 4

Total roll for Maho Lore to gain information about mask: 66

investigate with void: 4D10.HIGH(3) = [10, 1, 9, 4] = 23

_: 1D10 = [2] = 2

Perception + Investigate (1 void spent): 25

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The mask was something that Kamiko had heard of and seen once before, essentially a foul version of a tsangusuri, and a malevolent kansen trapped inside that would animate the dead body as a zombie when place on the face of a corpse. They were certainly nothing new, but always seemed rather rare, and hearing of a crate full of them, supposedly freshly manufactured for the moon cultist plot in Ryoko Owari was certainly a bit alarming.

As Kamiko examined the mask she noticed something... an impression shallowly stamped into the smooth porcelain... as if somebody were so brazen as to add some sort of maker's mark to such a foul item as one of the zombie masks...

The mark...

Spoiler

 

large_mark.jpg.386f0d68d3937d553dcc85ccf

Tsangusuri = Single, or very limited, use magic items developed by the pacifist Asahina family of the Crane Clan.

Kansen = Evil spirit/corrupted elemental kami

 

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With quick movements Kamiko produced a brush and inkjar and with quick precise motions she traced a copy of the mark she'd found onto a blank spot on one of the scrolls; apparently a collection of notes or a journal of sorts.

"I have seen a device like this before, but I didn't have an opportunity to examine it for long. They are potent, but expendable. The kansen within possesses one corpse only, and departs if the mask is broken. For them to have so many...very troubling."

She holds up the scroll page with the mark on it. "This was very carefully worked into the porcelain though. A maker's mark, perhaps. If the one creating these vile things is as skilled as they seem, that skill seems to come with commensurate arrogance. We must be on the lookout for other things bearing this mark as we investigate."

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"A makers mark?" Kageko said in surprise as she looked at the mark, hoping beyond hope to place it somehow with her rather extensive knowledge of heraldry "That is brazen indeed."

After looking at the mark for a moment she passed the mask along for any of the others to examine.

"So what is our destination going to be? North by river to Ikoma's Eyes or City of the Rich Frog, or south by road to the lands of the Bear to speak with this smith?" the Little Lion asked.

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Rin stood as the silence grew then took a deep exasperated breath. "Gather your things if you wish to come, we will be going to where the wine is made.

The swordmaker has a varied clientele, and is not likely to leave his forge if we find nothing at the breweries when go go find him.

 These dogs, drank this wine religiously, one does not develop that sort of attachment to wine if it is not something you have been familiar with for a very long time. I believe that the chances of finding something that will lead us to the end of this mystery will be found there.

So let's go we have a ship to catch I want to be on the next tide."

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"I think that may be the best course of action. It seems these moon cultists were rather sure of the success of their plan, and rightly so. Had it not been for the Shosuro... acquiring... the masks, and our fortuitous presences in Royoko Owari for the festival, and at the same inn as the Cran merchants, it world have almost certainly succeeded, so they had every reason to celebrate with the sake they most enjoyed, so the sake is the best lead we have at the moment, if somewhat vague.

Akari-san, Okimoto-san and myself will bring the large mask we collected to Tsuma for safe storage and study, and likely eventual destruction. I believe I can arrange for swift travel with a Yasuki vessel. There are many here in Ryoko Owari, and they can be.. discrete. Given what has happened, I think I shall then return home and seek to learn the ways of the witch-hunter to better assist us, as well as inquired with my Clan to see if they have seen anything like the large mask. I must say, it troubles me.." Kuni Taka said as he rose from the table and bowed, excusing himself.

The twins sent for their things with the other packed, cutting short their several day in Ryoko Owari that was meant to be reward for all of their hard work. The irony was not lost on them. As they gathered downstairs, the innkeeper stepped forward, holding two sets of bokken daisho.

"Kakita-sama. Mirumoto-sama. I did not wish to interrupt your private conversation earlier, but these arrived while you were out." the man said, bowing his head and offering up the sets of wooden daisho. 

"They are gifts from Kitsuki Jotomon. She wished to present them herself, but I informed her that you were out on business, so she left them with me to deliver." he explained as they each took a set.

The sets were finely made and balanced, and each had an inscription carved into the blade. On the katana 'blade' was written,

Do not practice until you get it right

and on the wakizashi was written,

Practice until you cannot get it wrong

"It would seem that you made an impression on Kitsuki-sama." Kageko mused with a faint smile.

 

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"May your journey be swift and sure, and may the providence of that foul mask be made clear at its end," Zoyu said, offering her well-wishes to Taka, Akari, and Okimoto as they left to make their preparations South.

Zoyu collected the few belongings she had brought to Ryoko Owari and made her way downstairs. She was about to make a request to the innkeeper when he presented Kitsuki Jotomon's gifts to her and Rin. She studied them with clear praise and gratitude. She was a swordswoman and daughter of a bladesmith, she knew quality when she saw it, held it. She dipped her head towards the innkeeping, thanking him for delivering them.

"Kitsuki-sama has made an impression on these ones as well," Zoyu replied smoothly, a ghost of grin curving her red lips as her mismatched eyes cut to Rin for a moment. "I wonder how long it may be before the wakizashi earns an impression of its own by being thrown and hitting its mark. If possible, could I be provided with paper and ink? I would like to write a missive expression my gratitude for Kitsuki-sama's gift and well as a letter to one other."

It was cruel that she had just reunited with Tsukiko and now was leaving the city. Duty was heavier than a mountain, lighter than a feather, but always, it called, regardless of the heart's yearning.

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"Of course, Kakita-sama." the innkeeper said with a bow and then shoot a look to his wife who disappeared for a few moments and returned with a small, slanted tabletop writing table. Withing a drawer at the base was several sheets of a paper, an inkpot, a stick of ink and a brush. She placed it on the table and bowed before backing away.

"Please, be my guest. If you are in a hurry and so wish, I will hand deliver your messages myself." the innkeeper offered.

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"That would be most kind," Zoyu replied, a pleased curve to her lips as she dipped her minutely towards the innkeeper.

Holding the sleeve of her fine kimono clear of the page with elegant grace, Zoyu inked a courteous missive of gratitude to Kitsuki Jotomon for her gift and lessons, adding that she hoped to visit her dojo again at a later time when she passed through Ryoko Owari once more. The lovely Crane spent a longer moment considering her letter to Bayushi Tsukiko, her lips pursed in thought.

Once more, duty calls

To save the City and You,

Till I return, dream

Zoyu contemplated the words for a moment, then nodded. She sanded the ink to dry it then shook the sand free neatly back into its pot. She folded the letters with precise strokes, inked who they were addressed to, than handed them to the innkeeper, adding where she believed they could be found.

"I am most grateful." Zoyu hefted her back on her shoulder and nodded at her companions. "Thank-you for your indulgence. I am ready to depart now."

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Rin led her companions and, somewhat begrudgingly, the Scorpion twins, through the streets of Ryoko Owari the short distance to the docks. The streets were once again crowded and busy, giving the city a certain vibrant energy as all manner of trade and commerce took place. To the uninformed, it would be difficult to even tell such a dramatic incident had even taken place at the end of the Bon Festival. Some spoke and gossiped here and there about what had happened, the accounts sometimes varying wildly with distortion and exaggeration, as often happens.

As the Magistrates walked down the crowded streets though, the people seemed to part for them. Other samurai stood aside and bowed respectfully, while many peasants dropped to their knees and bowed as they passed, only to rise and occasionally cheer or anomalously call out their thanks or offering prayers as the Magistrates passed.

Once at the docks, Rin searched for a moment and located her quarry docked and taking on a few goods in sacks and barrels. A mildly portly man, with a long, thin mustache, oversaw the loading of the cargo. The mon on his shoulder was of the Tortoise Clan, and tucked into his obi was a sai. He was not exactly the samurai idea of handsome. His features hinted at some gaijin blood, as did his thin, facial hair, much different from thick mustaches and beards of the typical samurai. And his weight, though not considerable, was still beyond what most samurai would consider acceptable. 

Everybody knew that the Tortoise Clan was reviled by some Clans, while others often just regarded them with a mild disgust. They were tainted with even more gaijin blood than the Unicorn Clan, and it was know that they accepted ronin and peasants into their ranks, further soiling their reputation. In addition, they were a clan of merchants, not warriors, shugenja, or even artisans. They dealt with matters of commerce daily and always sought a profit. They even showed their peasant influence by favoring the weapons of peasants themselves.

The fact that the Crane, Crab or even Mantis had not already wiped out the Tortoise was known to be owed to one thing. The Emperor. Though a Minor Clan, since their inception after The Battle of White Stag and Battle of Raging Seas, the Emperor, by tradition, has been the Tortoise Daimyo. To seek permission to duel a Tortoise would mean asking the Emperor himself, something which few are willing, or even able to do, and nobody would dare to seek to eradicate a clan with the Hantei himself as their daimyo. So with the protection of the Emperor himself, the Tortoise Clan is generally tolerated, though rarely liked, by most samurai.

"Ah, Rin-san! It is so good to see you this fine day." the man said to Rin with a polite bow, somewhat strangely using her given name, which would normally indicate a closeness or friendship.

"And these are your fellow Magistrates?" he asked as he looked to the others.

"You as well, Michiyo-san." Rin said and bowed. "And yes, they are."

"Ah! Then welcome! Welcome!" he said with a deep, respectful bow before Rin began introductions. Once she had introduced them all to him, the somewhat portly man bowed again.

"I am Michiyo, Captain of the Shikkari (Steady). It is an honor to be of service to the Jade Magistrates, the saviors of Ryoko Owari, especially hand picked by the Hantei himself! Even the Topaz Champion herself! You honor me and my humble vessel. Please, board and we will depart at the earliest possible convenience. I do apologize for the accommodations though. Unfortunately, this is not a passenger vessel, but I have taken every measure to accommodate." he said, motioning to a narrow gangplank leading to the ship. 

The ship itself had dual masts and oars. It was just large enough to be seaworthy, as long as it stuck close to the coast, but also just small enough, with a shallow enough draft, to be able to navigate the many rivers of the Empire. The addition of a half dozen passengers made space somewhat cramped, but the ship had taken on little cargo to compensate. The crew were primarily peasant sailors of the Tortoise, with Michiyo and his first mate overseeing them.

Once all were aboard and settled in, Michiyo approached Rin and asked, "So, do we have a destination? City of the Rich Frog or Ikoma's Eye? You need not decide between the two right now, if those are the possible destinations, but I will need to know before the fork in the river."

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Rin smiled at her friend, the familiar rocking of the ship welcome to her senses. She could get used to this, in her mind she saw herself throwing away all the things which weigh her down and becoming a sailor maybe even captaining her own ship. A fantasy, but a nice one.

"Hmm, Michiyo-san we are probably going to Ikoma's Eye, but I will check with my companions and seek their input before the final decision." She sniffs loudly, "I will let you know. Now where do you want me? I won't be carted around the empire without pulling my own weight.

So, up in the lines, or on the oars?"

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"Ah, there you are." Shosuro Kamiko's voice was as delicate-sounding and soft-spoken as ever. She offered the ship's captain a courteous bow, then paused on noticing who he'd stopped to speak to.

"Mirumoto-san..." she bowed again, more deeply. "Please accept my apology. I did not mean to interrupt. I will ask Michiyo-san where I may set up my things later." In her hands the Scorpion shugenja still had the demon mask, wrapped in a bit of black velvet. She hadn't let it out of her sight once during the trip to the docks.

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The trip of the River of Gold took several days, each filled with activity on the deck of the ship as the Tortoise adjusted sails to make best use of the wind and aided their trip up river by rowing for hours with large oars. The current was rather lazy in most spots, allowing for a relatively quick tip of days up river, rather then weeks overland. The to call the accommodations 'spartan' would certainly be an understatement. It was painfully clear that the Steady was no passenger ship.The majority of space was allocated to cargo, with the peasant sailors sleeping in hammocks or on straw mats on the deck, while the Magistrates were given room in the cargo hold and mats to sleep on, though the Captain also offered to anchor in a town or village each night if possible, but doing so would increase their travel time by days.

Even though Captain Michiyo offloaded most of his cargo to make space for the Magistrates and their horses, space was still at a premium and contributed to the general crowded feeling on the ship.There was a smell too. The combination of horses and sweaty, peasant sailors, for whom bathing was not a daily activity, mingled with the scents of their gaijin influenced food as they cooked, giving the ship a unique aroma.

The Captain and his First Mate were the only Tortoise samurai on the ship, with the rest of the crew comprised of peasant sailors in service to the Tortoise Clan. Even though the Tortoise, and their peasants, were not generally attractive, by Rokugani standards, one had to admit that they were fit and strong from their life spent aboard ship. They were more outgoing and gregarious than most samurai as well, and often passed time singing while, gambling on games of chance, paying instruments and singing folk songs, or simply talking with their passengers, if the Magistrates were so inclined. 

It did not take long to see that even though the crew was mostly peasants, the Tortoise samurai treated them virtually as equals, which was only seen as even more odd for a clan who's daimyo had always been the Hantei Emperor. For the Son of Heaven to rule over a clan of apparently mixed blood, who accepted in ronin without question, treated their peasants as near equals, gambled, served as merchants and even favored the weapons of peasants over the daisho was certainly a difficult thing to grasp. They certainly honored and respect the Hantei though, and it was that duty to their lord that earned the Magistrates, handpicked by the Emperor himself, a berth on the Steady and their willingness to go out of their way to assist them.

It should have come as little surprised though, that Rin, all throughout the voyage, worked alongside the sailors, paying for her lessons in sailing with sweat, sore muscles, and bruises from the work. The Dragon samurai-ko seemed to be at ease among the Tortoise, happily working along side them, learning their songs of work and terminology as much as she was able, while also relaxing with them when the wind was cooperative. Perhaps it was the lack of pretentiousness of the Tortoise, or maybe it was the simple satisfaction in the fruits of a days hard work, but for whatever reason, the other Magistrates had rarely seen their Dragon companion at such ease.

Kitsu Kageko happily shared information abut their destination over the course of their trip as well.

  • Built at the base of The Mountain of the Seven Thunders, at one point Kyuden Ikoma (Ikoma Palace, aka "Sacred Watch Palace") served as the outpost on the furthest edge of the Empire, hence the name Sacred Watch Palace. With the return of the Ki-Rin, now Unicorn Clan, that changed, but the name still remained.
     
  • The Venerable Plains surrounding Ikoma's Eye are some of the most fertile land in the Empire, and thus provide much rice and rain for the Lion Clan.
     
  • The palace itself was home to the vast Ikoma Libraries and served largely as the major point of diplomacy for the Lion Clan. The city surrounding it, known as Ikoma's Eye, was built up as a place for visiting diplomats to be housed until their could be seen by the Ikoma and boasts a large number of tea houses, geisha houses, and theaters as well quite a few sake houses and breweries.
     
  • Within the city the dojo for the Omoidasu (Historians/Bards) of the Lion Clan can be found, as well as well as the Hundred Scars Dojo, the training place of the Ikoma Brawlers who carry on the traditions of Ikoma, prior to his service to Akodo, who she warns often serve in many establishments of the city, keeping things safe and peaceful.
     
  • There was once another pass through the mountains besides Beiden Pass, named Shinnomen Pass, and it led right to Sacred Watch Palace. Many centuries ago, Akodo was the last of the Kami, and while visiting the palace heard of a large shadowlands army marching through the pass. So he gathered what few men he had at the palace at the time, and marched into the pass to meet the shadowlands army. They knew it was a battle that they could not win, but every moment they halted the progress of the shadowlands army was more time for reinforcements to gather at Sacred Watch Palace.  For each Lion samurai that fell, many times more shadowlands created were felled with them, but it did not take long for Akodo to see that they could not possibly mount a proper defense to an army of this size. So Akodo summoned the last of divinity and let out a mighty roar that caused an avalanche, wiping out the entire shadowlands army and sealing the pass.

 

Finally, after several days, the ship reaches a fork in the river. With a smile Captain Michiyo calls out, "My friends, further up river once can find The City of the Rich Frog, but if you look down this other fork in the river, to the south, you will Kyuden Ikoma! Gather your things, we will be there soon!"

The crew burst into hightened activity as the ship turns and makes it way down the other fork, heading to the South with the aid of the current, while drawing quickly closer are walls and towers of Sacred Watch Palace, and the small structures of the sprawling city of Ikoma's Eye all around it. On the opposite bank of the river stands The Mountain of the Seven Thunders at the fork in the river with the rest of the Spine of the World Mountains behind it, serving as a virtually impassable barrier coupled with the swift current of the river at their base.

In under an hour The Steady is docked at Ikoma's Eye and the crew sets about offloading the Magistrates' horses while Captain Michiyo addresses the Magistrates himself.

"If you like, we can remain in port until your business is concluded, in case we may be of further assistance. If when your business s concluded, you have no further need of us, then we will be on our way." he suggests with a smile and a bow, adding, "Besides, I think the crew could use some time in the city." with a wink to Rin.

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Rin smiled at the Captain. "It has been a good voyage and I thank you for all that you have done for me. I count you as a good friend Michiyo-san." She bows "I will send word of where we are staying. I do not know how long this afffair will take or where we will be going after. If you find you need to sail do not delay on our count, but do let me know when you are sailing I may have messages I would like you to carry for me if you are going to where i need to send them." She smiles broadly and clasps the good captain on the shoulder. Then departs the ship to join her companions at the horses.

"So here we are. Do any of you know where we go now to finish this?" Rin asks of her fellows.

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Captain Michiyo nodded to Rin.

"And if I or my men may be of any assistance, you have but to say the word." he offered and bowed to Rin before turning to Kamiko's question.

"That would depend on what you like in a sake. Unfortunately, I am not as familiar with Ikoma's Eye as I am with other ports, but there are many sake houses within the city." Captain Michiyo said, motioning toward the city.

"Though I have heard that generally those of the Lion Clan prefer very dry sake. I am certain other varieties can be found here as well, of course. Is there any specific type you seek?"

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"If you seek dry sake, then I am certain that any of the sake houses found within the city will suit your needs. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend one, for I am not very familiar with Ikoma's Eye as I am with posts such as City of the Rich Frog or Ryoko Owari. And for that, I apologize, Shosuro-sama." Captain Michiyo answered with a polite smile and small bow.

"If you seek a local variety, then I am sure that the sake houses could assist you in locating the brewer." he offered. 

"Hmmm.., Considering our quarry, it may be best to do what investigation we can through more casual means, lest we tip them off too soon to our presence and allow them to surry off into the night." Kageko mused.

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"Ah, I've put you on the spot, Captain. Please accept my apologies. Thank you for your suggestion as well."

She gave Kageko a nod.

"Our friends may wish to keep a low profile, but I'm sure if we keep our eyes open we'll find them soon enough. Lets find a place to stay and decide where to go first."

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After they leave the boat Rin pauses and and gestures for Shosuro Kamikoto join her. She reaches into her Obi and pulls out an empty sake bottle, which she hands to the Scorpion. She taps the embossed front showing the brand of Sake, nods and winks, then whistling a sea shanty walks off to join Zoyu.

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Kamiko let her veiled gaze linger on the bottle, which she then tucked away into the sash of her kimono without further comment. With a parting bow to the crew of the ship, the Scorpion shugenja followed the other samurai at an unhurried pace towards the town.

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Though not a sailor, with her dancer's grace and swordswoman's poise, Zoyu had adjusted to the motion of the boat with elegant aplomb. But it had amused and not quite scandalized her that Rin had so readily, almost eagerly, joined the sailor's in their work. The Crane might treat their peasants well, but they did not take their tasks upon themselves.

The snow-tressed Crane nodded at Kageko and Kamiko. "We may do both at once. We are new to Ikoma's Eye, no? Well, then, we are simply looking for an establishment to suit our needs. We are particular sorts, interested in a particular Sake while we are here. Come, there must be a district that caters to visitors or the sake enthusiast."

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"Oh, I agree," responds Kamiko, "I do hope you can hold your drink. The least conspicuous way to learn would be to partake, no?"

The shadow of a smile could be made out through her veil.

She then pointed out the nearest sake house, not far from the docks...to serve the thirsty sailors, no doubt.

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