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IC: L5R: Blood and Jade - A Trail Of Darkness

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Ikoma's Eye
 

Kyuden Ikoma, (Ikoma Palace) or "Sacred Watch Palace" as it was commonly known sits on the shores of the Three Sides River. Directly across the river sits the Mountain of the Seven Thunders at the very foot of the mighty Seikitsu Mountains (Spine of the World Mountains) that divide the Empire in two.At one point Kyuden Ikoma 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 slightly, but the name still remains.

The palace was a place in name only, much in the same way as Kyuden Hida was a "palace". It did not possess the opulence of most palaces in the empire, and in fact, was a simple and spartan castle designed with practical military defense in mind, housing a sizable garrison of Lion bushi. Due to the simple fact that the Ikoma are the most diplomatic and politically savvy family of the Lion Clan, Kyuden Ikoma also served largely as the major point of diplomacy for the Lion Clan, by default.

It was also home to the vast Ikoma Libraries, the greatest library and record of the Empire's history, surpassing even those of the Miya and that of Otosan Uchi. The Ikoma Librarians were well known for maintaining the library as an historically, and more importantly, factually, accurate record of the empire, not allowing the embellishments of events, nor unfounded rumors to make their way into the library.

Kyuden Ikoma was charged with protecting the Venerable Plains, which surrounded Kyuuden Ikoma and Ikoma's Eye, and was known to be some of the most fertile land in the Empire, and thus providing much rice and grain for the Lion Clan. ith the Lion Clan accounted for a full quarter of all the samurai in the empire, it took a great deal to keep them all fed, thus making fertile land a precious thing to the Lion. With the Scorpions across the river, and the Unicorn and Dragon to the north, large, well-armed patrols were a frequent sight to travelers in the area.

The city surrounding Kyden Ikoma, known as Ikoma's Eye. It was built up as a place for visiting diplomats to be housed until their could be seen by the Ikoma. As such, there are no permanently stationed diplomats and there are no estates, large residences and only a few holdings of other Clans within the city (and certainly none possessed by the Crane). To compensate, Ikoma's Eye boasts a large number of tea houses, geisha houses, and theaters as well numerous sake houses and breweries, allowing visiting dignitaries to pass the time while their await their meeting with a degree of entertainment and comfort one rarely finds within the lands of the Lion. As such, Ikoma's Eye also serves as a frequent stop over for those traveling through the Lion lands especially to or from the Unicorn and Dragon provinces. It is a well supplied "last stop" before moving on to the mostly untamed land of those two Clans, and often the first place with all the comforts of the empire for those coming from those areas. 

Also within the city one could find the dojo for the Omoidasu (Historians/Bards) of the Lion Clan, well known for their stories and as being a rare class of samurai permitted to open show their emotions. The Hundred Scars Dojo, the training place of the Ikoma Brawlers who carry on the traditions of Ikoma (prior to his service to Akodo) can also be found within the city. Ikoma's Eye has become something of a destination for Lion samurai to enjoy their rare R&R. All understand the need for samurai belonging to a Clan as strict and disciplined has the Lion to have a time and place to relax (which often involves copious amounts of dry sake for the Matsu), so it is the Ikoma Brawlers that serve in many establishments withing the city (as bounces) keeping things safe and peaceful for all. 

The city boasts very few temples to the Fortunes, and certainly no large ones. And though it may not be obvious at first, the city is utterly devoid of any shrines to Shinsei, for the kami Akodo's contempt for "the little master" was well known and mirrored by the rest of the clan. Virtually the only reference to Shinsei one could find within the Lion lands would be the copy of the Tao of Shinsei sits within every Lion dojo (placed there by order of The First Hantei), even though none of those copies have ever been opened for the entire history of the Empire. Instead, the Lions practice a form of ancestor worship far exceeded that practiced by any clan, with shrines to various venerable ancestors, many of them largely unknown outside of the Lion, dotting the streets.

Probably the oddest thing about Ikoma's Eye is that it was not an "official" city, lacking any sort of formal government. The city slowly developed around the castle as a way to house and entertain those visiting the Ikoma on business and grew from there, having never been formalized with any sort of Governor. The city had always kind of just ran itself with a small force of doshin (appointed peasant police) and the occasional patrol of Lion bushi. By and large though, the city seemed to function just fine though. Given its function and general lack of trade beyond sake, grain and rice that took place nearer the river, there was little to no crime. Public disturbances, often from drinking too much, were the most common disruption to the calm of the city, but even they were often swiftly handled by the doshin and Ikoma Brawlers with speed and care. All in all the city had a rather relaxed, jovial atmosphere, which one would find odd for a city of the Lion, but the focus of the city made it so. Good theaters, inns, sake, and geisha kept the majority of the people in near perpetual good spirits.

 

Ikoma's Eye
Inside The Golden Pony Inn

At The Golden Pony inn the young Magistrates found lodging for themselves, as well as care for their horses. The Golden Pony was a larger than average inn, though from from the largest in the city. It was well adorned, for an inn within the Lion lands,  There were, of course, finer inn to be found in Ikoma's Eye, but they lacked enough empty rooms to house all of the Magistrates together. Since it was decided that it would be best to remain together, the Golden Pony was the best option able to accommodate them all.

Like most inn in Rokugan, the ground floor was a large dining area with several private dining rooms along the sides, kitchen, and housed the baths and quarters for the staff, with the rooms located on the upper two floors accessible by stairs on opposite sides of the building. The proprietors were two brothers. Abun and Taru, and  and their families. They were not samurai, but were skilled in the arts of hospitality since their family had run the inn for many generations. The brothers often cooked and did some of the more demanding labor, with their wives greeting patrons and taking orders. Their teenage children did most of the menial tasks of the in and the youngest could sometimes be seen playing in or around the inn.

Though not an actual sake house, the Golden Pony did have a better than average selection of sake, with that Abun was rather knowledgeable about the varieties. The magistrates, a bit tired and weary from their voyage, and having secured lodging in the establishment, were enjoying and meal of fresh fish, noodles in a fish brother, and rice as Abun stepped forth.

"Would you like any sake to accompany your meal?" Abun inquired.

Abun then leaned in closeer, and speaking just slightly more softly, as if to share the secret with only the Magistrates added,

"We have a modest selection of sake. We even keep a small supply of some of the harder to find varieties on hand just for special occasions and fine dignitaries."

He then straightened up again and resumed speaking in his normal volume and tone.

"Might I humbly suggest some sweet crane sake to enjoy with your meal?" he offered.

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"No, do you have this sake," Rin gesture to the Scorpion sister who had the empty bottle indicating that she should show it to the inn keeper, "If this is a brand you keep, bring us each a bottle and one for yourself so that  you may join us."

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Kaze sat back, giving a sigh of appreciation at the meal laid in front of them. Something about being back on Lion land. It was nice. Especially after the events of the last while. Even if Ikoma's Eye was a bit more ostentatious than he was used to for Lion lands. Kageko looked a bit more relaxed as well, though he supposed that she would have been trained in the area, so this was a bit of a homecoming for her. Smiling at an offhand comment from Kageko, he quiets as the proprietor speaks. The offer of Crane sake was unsurprising, given the makeup of their table. He is in the process of shaking his head when Rin beats him to it.

11 hours ago, Mirumoto Rin said:

"No, do you have this sake," Rin gesture to the Scorpion sister who had the empty bottle indicating that she should show it to the inn keeper, "If this is a brand you keep, bring us each a bottle and one for yourself so that  you may join us."

"Let's not overly alarm the man, Rin-san. I'm sure he has other guests to be seeing to and we would not want to keep him from his own duties." He turns a bright smile to Abun. "A few questions answered would sate our curiosity. We're new in the area and would like to learn more of where we will be staying for the next while. As far as alcohol goes, though, she has the right of it. I at least would appreciate some Well in the Stream, if you have it. Recently came across it and have developed an interest in it. Hard to find a good dry Sake outside of Lion lands."

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Smiling demurely behind her translucent veil, Kamiko produced the empty bottle and presented it for Abun's inspection.

"It truly was a most excellent taste, and so difficult to find," she explains softly. "Though I do not wish to trouble you, do you happen to have any?"

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Traveling through Lion lands, Zoyu had carried herself straight and proud, head elevated to a haughty angle, still melancholy to have left Tsukiko so soon. The animosity between the Lion and Crane was well known, and even more so between the Lion and the scions of Kakita, such as her beloved Toshimoko-sensei. She had pride to match any Matsu.

She shook her head in amused wryness as Rin bluntly invited the innkeeper to join them at their table - Rin was always readily treating peasants as practically equals. But Zoyu kept her silence. As able to dissemble as any Crane, and better than most, Zoyu found it near impossible to voice an untruth and besides, the others were already leading Abun to questions they wished answers to - no need for the fellow to face the full attention of four magistrates.

Though she preferred sweet sake to dry, Zoyu affected interest in the dry Well in the Stream variety as much as they others.

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Rin frowned at the interruption, but said nothing instead she leans toward Zoyu. "You seem to have a better handle on this. I will go and see if i can find my usual source of information." she said as she tapped the dragon tattoo on the shaved side of her scalp. With one fluid motion she stood sketched a meager bow toward her companions and spun and walked away from the table.

She gathered her daisho and the long sword and stepped out into the sunlight. Daisho in obi and longsword across her back with her half shaved tattooed head Rin made quite a sight and it was hard for any one to not glance at the imposing samurai. She watch the throng and in short order found what she sought, a group of children running and playing underfoot as they were wont to do. Shrugging her shoulders she marched up to the children and singled out the one who looked oldest a girl with big brown eyes about 10 or so. "You come here." Rin called

Several of the children ran away but the girl stood her ground. then approached the samurai and bowed.

"Your brave and mannered unlike some of your friends. I need your help. I am looking for a place that does tattoos," she laid a finger on her dragon tattoo, "do you know of such a place?"

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