L5R JYTB Campaign Report 206 October, 2010
Episode 20 – Darkness and Jade
Cautiously, except for Seppun Keikyoku who rushes in, our heroes enter the newly revealed Temple of the Jade Star. As they past beneath the jade star set into the stone above the entrance, it is like walking through a curtain of jade light, giving them visions of the celestial heavens (which some find mildly disorienting).
The outer room of the temple is surprisingly well lit and it does not seem like a place that has been sealed for centuries. Its walls are decorated in greens and golds, showing clouds, plants and flowers. A pool of ice cold water rests at the center of the room. Seppun Keikyoku moves to the far end where a pair massive wooden doors, tied with wooden ofuda (wards) and magically sealed. He immediately begins a ritual to open them.
The first sound that something was wrong was the howls of wolves which were mingled with pain. Shortly thereafter a slavering pack of wolves, their fur pierced by obsidian shards sticky with blood. To the reluctance of the Hida, the Seppun yojimbo communicated his master’s order for them to fall back within the temple. With poor grace, the Hida did so. As the corrupted wolves crossed the warded threshold, the obsidian shards imploded, killing the wolves quickly and brutally. Just moments after the last wolf perished, a gout of black flame shot down the canyon and struck the jade star shattering it, and destroying the ward. A shard of the shattered star was handed back to the monk for him to use.
They had just moved to defend the entrance when a group of Buta-Oni (pig oni) squealed into view, charging down on all fours. The Soshi and Toku’s arrows wounded them as did a magical boulder summoned by the Kitsune but the slammed into the defender anchored by the Hida with the monk and the Toku joining him. Luckily for our heroes, the oni could only come at them two at a time while the Soshi and the Kitsune supported them with arrows and spells. The fight is brutal and during the confusing two Kokuyouseki Haijin Kage (obsidian dust shadows) slip into the temple and kill one of the doshin and wound the Kitsune, pouring tainted obsidian dust into the wound. A jade boulder crushed one and the Hida’s jade-studded tetsubo dispatches the other but erodes part of the tetsubo.
The last of the first wave of pig oni fell shortly thereafter. The heroes just had time to catch their breath before four more pig oni appear marching around a Hakkakukei, afloating octagonal column of obsidian with a helmet of black iron and obsidian fused to the top from which gazed a unearthly red eye. The pig oni charged with the Octagon spitting cold black fire. The Soshi used her blessed arrows and the Kitsune drew upon his reserves of magic to try and destroy it.
But the Hakkakukei would not fall, pieces of it were shattered off and a blessed arrow even pierced the helmet only to be burned away. Seppun Ishikabe using a blessed naginada joins with the wounded yoriki to fend off the pig oni. The listing Hakkakukei released a wave of dark energy that carries its dust to the corpses of the wolves from which burst two more Obsidian Dust Shadows, one of which stabs the Toku in the left hand as it moves into the temple, spreading tainted dust into the wound.
While the others engage the last of the last of the pig oni, a wounded Hida Yo breaks through to confront the Hakkakukei with main force. With a tremendous crack, he shattered his jade tetsubo on the obsidian causing it to shatter in plates. From within, a hideous, misshapen and perhaps once human thing no larger than a child leapt out and wrapped itself around the Crab’s leg sinking its needle sharp teeth into him and pumping black vile into the wound before being pulped by the remnants of the tetsubo.
The last of the pig oni falls to blades and arrows of our battered heroes. Inside the shadows were causing havok until the seals on the doors are lifted and the slam open with a wave of sacred power, tearing the spirits apart. All is quiet.
After their wound are tended to, they follow the Seppun into the central room. The entire back wall is composed of a bas relief of the Seven Fortunes and the eight founding kami carved from a solid sheet of jade. But it is disturbing as the craving is done in an odd, hyper-realistic style quite jarring to the artistic sensibilities of the characters.
Near the center of the room is a raised pedestal of made of white oak, upon which is inlaid in white jade a map of the chi flow of the human body. On that rests a jade hand, a jade leg, a jade heart and a jade eye, each done in careful detail. When the monk picks up the heart, for a moment it too appears hyper-realistic before shifting back to a stylized heart.
The Seppun explained that in the early days of the Empire there was a Legion of Jade, samurai infused with the purity of jade, who fought to keep the Dark at bay. They made a great stand here in the mountains were they broke the back of the armies of nightmare at the cost of their lives. Sadly, their story has been lost except for a few fragments. The Order of the Jade Star, a secret society dedicated to protecting the Empire from the Dark, has been seeking out their history and artifacts for centuries, which has led them to this place.
The Hida and the Toku decide to sacrifice their tainted limbs for these pure and surely heaven provided replacements. After careful tourniqueting, the limbs are each severed with clean katana stroke and the jade replacements fuse effortlessly to the stumps, reforming themselves to match their new owner’s limbs. So far, they lack both coordination and complex feeling with their new parts, but both can use them abet clumsily.
The Kitsune eyed the heart as he stroked the itching wound to his chest, as the cutting out and replacing method did not seem that it would help him. Between the monk and the Seppun, they believed they could used the chi-flow diagram and the table to effect the chance. And so they did, the jade heart melding into the Kitsune with only a moment of pain and sheer terror.
The Soshi took the jade eye but felt no need to use it. Once their wounds were bound, they prepared to limp back to civilization.
Notes: This game was a massive set of interlocked combats. The samurai and shugenja of Rokugan can certainly project damage when they need to! I had to up the ante of the attacking force to really threaten them.
And, yes, the players showed no compunction about cutting off their character’s ‘tainted’ limbs to attach jade replacements.
The pig oni was adapted from Iron Dynasty: Way of the Ronin which I am sure I will be plundering for other ideas later.