Shadows over Rokugan

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Boss Frost

Original poster
Honesty. Courage. Compassion. Courtesy. Sincerity. Duty. Honor.
In Rokugan, these are more than simply words.

The night by the river had been strange... the rough stream making all sorts of noises, fireflies bobbing in the air. For those few camped nearby, it had been frustrating to sleep at all. The thought of the cruel bandits that slaughtered the people of Renga Murai still fresh on the minds of those gathered, and the knowledge of a hometown being the next target hastened their steps.

The note found on the body of a bandit lieutenant still burned with the name of the Forbidden Kami - Fu Leng... and the dark obsidian spider - the same spider mark left on the body of Kiyoshi's master as he lay assassinated, safely in the hands of the ratling, Roppu. Rushing to the aid of her homeland, the Unicorn Samurai Ryoko urged the party on, aided by the Lion Samurai Kiyoshi. The foreigner with the Hawk emblazoned on his shield, filled in on the events during the night, also came to aid the group.

Now beyond Lion lands, the group rushes to the aid of Egami Mura - The village specializes in breeding tough ponies and horses for the Emperor, and the prized horses of the Unicorn clan. The bandit-horse below her was not the same as the mighty steeds of the Battle Maidens... though it was better than on foot. Dark clouds gather in the distance - a coming storm. The crackle - rolling thunder clearly moving across the fields, rippling the tall grass as it passed...


Roppu was nervous. Her cover as a human long gone, the young ratling stayed quiet, observing the three samurai she traveled with. The fur stood up on the back of her neck. If at any point she stopped being useful, or just angered one of these three enough, they would be completely within their right to kill her. Both the horse-samurai and the beast-samurai displayed fiery tempers, and Roppu had no want to fire the flames... doubly with the horse-samurai in such a state.

Teeth chattering slightly (more out of fear than cold), she walked quickly to keep up with the trotting horse. She drew a glance at the gaijin samurai - the foreigner. Offering him a small smile, she changed her pace to walk next to him. She attempted several motions, asking "Your home"... followed by "what". A broken way of asking him what his home was like. She had never left Renga Murai once she got there, let alone considered places outside of Rokugan... and the man dressed so oddly.
Japik loped along behind the Unicorn samurai, content to let her lead the way - she did, after all, know where she was going. The pace wasn't strenuous at all for him - it was similar to the marching pace he'd grown used to over the years. A glance to the side brought his attention to Roppu, the little ratling, and he smiled back. Once he realised that she wanted to learn about his home, he nodded and walked in silence for a bit, thinking.

"My home" he motioned, managing with great difficulty that he meant his family home, not his nation, then "Mountains," "Stone," and "Fortress." Equally broken, but it managed to convey that he was from a stone keep in the mountains. With equal difficulty, he managed to get across that there were a lot of mines and quarries on his family's land. It was considerably easier to explain that he was the second son, and therefore in their liege's army.
Kiyoshi, now somewhat cleaner under his armour having used the water of the stream to scrub the inside before his ritualized practice of calligraphy again writing extracts from the book that he had learned from ever since his birth wearing nothing but his undergarments and sleeping in them close to the fire has left them dry for the morning. He looked back at the gaijin and the rattling behind him, he had tried to explain their mission to Japik but doubted he had had much success, first pointing to Renga Murai on the map and pointing back the way the had come and tracing the mark with his finger and saying "Attacked, destroyed." then pointing to Egami Mura on the map and pointing the way they were going then pointing to his sword, then to himself and saying "Duty, protect the empire."

Now he was resigned to the fact that it seemed only Roppu was having luck with the gaijin and would therefore be in charge of making sure he knew what we needed to. Their steady pace was no problem to a seasoned foot soldier even if he did occasionally have to remind Ryoko that the rest of them were on foot.

He quickened his pace to put him next to the horse and, keeping his eyes on the road ahead spoke to Ryoko. "I've never been this way before, by travels have strictly been within lion territory. How much further to Egami Mura?"
Roppu tilts her head a moment, whiskers twitching. She imagined a place like that which he said to be from. She nodded, pointing north, motioning a word that could only he conveyed in certain continents - "Dragon". Those lands were similiar to the lands he spoke of. She then continued to motion, attempting to convey "Pheonix" as a giant flaming hawk. Another land similiar to that. She pointed at the hawk on his shield. "Maybe Pheonix know Hawk?"

The path was a little tough on the ratling's feet, bare as they were. She had never gone this far on foot either, and her legs ached. She did not have the station to complain, though she began to struggle to keep going. It was subtle, and easy to miss, but she also panted. She motioned to Japik that she was the seventh child of her group. Since a tribe raised their children, she had no concept of 'mother' or 'father', save for what she observed of her time among humans.

Quickly changing the subject from her own family, she motions to Ryoko and Kiyoshi, gesturing "Unicorn" and "Lion", followed by "land war", attempting to explain their earlier hostility towards each other. She went on to call thr Unicorn "horse people"... As rough as she could put 'cavalry'... And for Lion, she motioned "berserk warrior"... As fair as many could put thr amazing, famous battle-rages of many of the clan's prominent families.
What would they find? Was everyone still alive? Had they been attacked? Were they too late? Was the invading force like the one that had been at Renga Murai? What were they after? How would they fight them? It took her awhile to realize that Kiyoshi was talking to her.

"We're not far," she said, although it was clear to see she was sorely tempted to break free and ride to the rescue. Even at this pace, they'd get there in no time. But--damnit! This waiting was killing her! Then something occured to her and she turned to grin at him. "Well, Lion, you're going where no Lion has gone before! We might just have to toss back a few jugs of fine drink to celebrate that alone!"
"Once the battle in won and he have a victory to celebrate and names to venerate." Kiyoshi replied at their small party plodded onwards, two samurai, a gaijin and a spirit beast with one horse between them to face an entire raiding party armed with weapons that could strike from a range and make armour look like paper. He suspected that victory would rely on the riding prowess of the unicorns themselves that even the lions showed a begrudging respect for.

"Tell me of Egami Mura." he continued, motivated by wanting to know exactly what they could expect to be able to use to their advantage but also a little by curiosity.
Japik chuckled to himself. The mountain tribes surrounding his family keep were famous for their berserkers, a fact that he conveyed by indicating his home, a circle and then mountains, followed by her pantomime of "berserk warriors." The concept of tribes - or rather, distinguishing it from that of clans - took a bit more work.

He thought for a moment on what little he knew of the Rokugani Clans and mimed "phoenix" back at Roppu, snickering a bit at the image of a burning hawk, then shrugged. He mimed "water" - for the ocean - then "past", and then pointed at the direction of the ocean, hopefully giving Roppu some idea of just how far from home he was.[/bg]
Ryoko smiled wistfully. Ah, Egami Mura! As she spoke, she imagined everything she began telling Kiyoshi. She could see the proud Unicorn members walking through the stalls, grooming their horses, feeding them. She could imagine the people coming from far and wide to see this impressive yet simple place. The smell of horse manure, of earth, and sweat and even blood swept through and never lingered, proclaiming to all that this was Unicorn land. Horses were their bloodline. "The Shinjo Family are in charge. They do not allow visitors to see the barns and training areas. It is a very special place. I planned to return there once I had become an Utaku Battle Maiden." Her smile disappeared. "But things change, eh? We return now but when we leave. The next time I return I shall be Utaku Battle Maiden."
"Then we will have something to work with in the town's defense. Fear not Ryoko. If a lion can be toppled by a unicorn's charge, what hope does a raider have once we alert then to the threat. They took Renga Murai because of their cowardly use of surprise, today we rob them of thier advantage." he smiled at the thought of paying the enemy back for the lives they took, and finding out who was behind the attacks once and for all.
Roppu seems to smile, raising her hands into 'spades' and striking a pose... meaning 'Mantis'... she continues, repeating the 'ocean' symbol... trying to convey some of the specifics of the clan that guards the waters of Rokugan... she suddenly stops as a shiver shakes her body, fur rising on the back of her neck. Her head rises, sniffing the air. She speaks aloud, "Sake?"

Her sensitive nose caught only a whiff of it, before it was gone.

In the distance, a bridge stands over the river... the bridge needed to be crossed. Three figures stand there, the stiff wind of a coming storm easily felt. When in view, their forms become clear... one man in the uniform of the bandits... a robed man with silver hair and a cocky expression...

...And, on the bridge, a squat creature. Looking like a muscular humanoid turtle, it scowled as the grouping of samurai, gaijin, and nezumi draw near. "So it's true," the silver-haired man states, "There are some individuals coming to the rescue of Egami Mura. How... delightful." He waves it off dismissively. "We three are here to kill you. Of course, the kappa on the bridge doesn't want anybody to cross it at all. We over there, or you over here." The man shrugs, pointing at it. "If you'd be so kind as to fight it for us, we'll grace you with a very quick death."

The kappa scowls at the group, crouching into a low stance and bearing it's teeth. The bridge was wet and slippery, just perfect for the kappa to spill the fighters into the raging water... the bridge was, sadly, only big enough for one person to fight at a time.

The silver-haired man smirks, "Of course, you could go the route the rest of the army went... there's a bridge upstream. You'll never get there on time, of course." He shrugs nonchalantly.

Roppu whispers to Ryoko and Kiyoshi: "Th-That m-m-man smells of d-ddeath and blood-blood... I c-can tell from I c-c-can't smell-smell anything but that, even with h-him way over th... th-there..."
Ryoko stopped. Her hand itched for her weapon but the sight of the kappa gave her pause. Kappa were infamous creatures. They were tough and territorial. It would take much to bring the creature down and doing so would cost time and energy and ... Damnit, they didn't have time to find another way across. Her heart pounded and her blood raced.
Before a though crossed Kiyoshi's mind the morning son glinted off the edge of his katana. These men.... completely ignoring the kappa his eyes remained on the raiders. "So your band of cowards is yet to reach Renga Murai." he growled "Thanks for telling us that, now theres one more service you could do me. For the first time in your lives act with honor and face a son of the Matzu family instead of sniveling like dogs." his voice rose steadily as he spoke until the growl became a roar, anger at what the raiders had done blinding him to ass but visions of their deaths.

"RYOKO! JAI-PIC!" he called raising his sword "If they are too weak to clear they way to us we must clear the way to them."
Japik may not have been able to understand a word that was said, but he understood tones of voice just fine, thank you. Kiyoshi raising his sword was also fairly obvious, as far as he was concerned.

The samurai was about to order a charge. Since Ryoko couldn't fight on horseback on the bridge, and he himself was considerably larger than Kiyoshi....

Japik stepped in front of the two samurai, settling his shield in front of him and grinding his heels into the dirt to secure his footing. Then he grinned and hunched forward.

He let loose a throaty chuckle, then exploded into action with a shout, pushing his shield forward and pivoting it to the side just before it would have made contact with the troll anyways, counting on his momentum to carry him forward and shove the troll to the side. After all - if the bridge was slick enough to disrupt his footing, surely it was slick enough to disrupt the troll's. A moment later, his sword cleared leather with the grating ring of steel on steel.[/bg]
"Japik!" The ratling shouted distress as the foreign man charged forward... "D-don't! That's..." Of course, he couldn't understand her. Whipping out her dagger, she sprinted after him - faster than humans wearing no armor, sprinting ahead of fully armored Japik wasn't a large effort. She hopped onto the bridge's railing on all fours, dagger in her mouth to allow the two to cross the bridge.

The kappa screeched at the incoming challengers, digging bare claws into the bridge... It was more than capable of lifting Japik - it could have tossed him aside in an instant, throwing him in the river to deal with the current and his armor. It sneered wildly, though an empty look in it's eyes hinted at danger.

In fact, it probably would have done just that, focused and ready for the charge. Roppu's crawling act on the railing had gone unnoticed, and as she got closer, she took the dagger from her mouth, plunging it into the kappa's exposed foot... With a screech, the beast turned to bare teeth at Roppu -as Japik bowled into it.

Roppu could smell something, breaking her mentality out of it's current state. She lifted her front paw, sniffing it. "Sake... The b-bridge! It's covered in sake, not water!"

Accross the bank, the silver-haired man sneers, "Two for one. Didn't realize I'd get a second person on the bridge. No matter, now you die." Revealing a dagger of his own, he cut into his palm, raising it towards the bridge... The wood near the opposite side burst into flames, quickly traveling to engulf the kappa, Japik, and Roppu if they do not act. Across the bank, the man begins to laugh...
Kiyoshi watched and he froze. First the Gaijin cut in front of him, then Roopu, now fire and.... something was off about the kappa, the leader was controlling it somehow. He sheathed his sword and jumped into action. Without taking the time to think the plan that formed in his mind through he closed the distance between himself and Ryoko's in a single step and swung onto it's back behind her.

"Ryoko, the bridge go." He yelled giving the horse a slap on the rump before holding onto her as they sped off.

"JAI-PIC." he called at they thundered towards the Gaijin threatening to trample both him and Roppu "Roppu... Be ready." He let go of Ryoko as they neared the bridge bracing his body against her as he caught hold of first Japik, then Roppu hoping they would all get through the fire unscathed.
The horse reared at the sudden intrustion and then they were off! She let out a loud war cry as they galloped. The wind was in her hair, she pressed her face to her mount's neck. They were riding and racing, not even missing a beat when they got to the bridge and were racing through the fire! "You've got a big mouth, witch! Let me close it for you!" she growled as they crossed the bridge. Her halberd came flashing out. She wanted the silver-haired's tongue writhing on the ground, along with several of his body parts!
Kiyoshi's shouts brought Japik's attention away from the troll-thing just in time for the (slightly) smaller man to grab at the collar of his armor and YANK. A detached portion of his mind had time to idly wonder how Ryoko had managed to get the horse to charge THROUGH the flame instead of away, then he found himself tumbling ass over head to the far side of the burning bridge, somehow managing to both hold on to his sword and cut neither himself nor the horse.

Picking himself up off the ground, he took a moment to pat out a burning patch on his chest - he'd apparently managed to scrape a bit of the alcohol off the bridge as he passed - with the hand behind his shield. That taken care of, he gave his sword an experimental swing to make sure nothing had been damaged and stalked towards their opponents.

"Nice trick," he said in Common, chuckling. "But use Alchemist's Fire next time. It works faster."[/bg]
Roppu had frozen in shock and fear as the flames rose toward her. Kiyoshi's call snapped her out of it, turning to see the horse speeding towards her. On reflex, she jumped away from the horse, gripping the side of the bridge with her claws... Suddenly realizing what just happened, she forces her grip with both claws and the talons on her feet, climbing alongside the non-flaming underside of the bridge.


Meanwhile, the silver-haired man had not remained silent, yelling at his companion. "What are you doing?! Fire, or I will tear out your spine and strangle you with it!" The man shakily raises a thunder rod, not bothering to aim it before he fires... Missing the charging invidivuals. With a loud PING, the bullet bounces off the kappa's shell - harming no one.

"Useless. I leave you to your fate." With that, he glares at Ryoko - her, specifically - before he sunk into the ground... Vanishing without a sound, leaving his companion and the kappa to deal with the samurai.
Through the flames Kiyoshi didn't take his eyes off the gunman. The sound of the weapon bringing back memories of the battle that started their adventure and his blade from it's sheath. On horseback he was an inexperienced fighter, but off it....

He gathered himself behind Ryoko as she bore down in an attempt to catch the leader before he disappeared completely and pushed off of the horse. Screaming in fury he gripped his katana in his hands swinging it with all his strength even before his feet his the ground. He landed with a thud past the bandit sword motionless as the bandit stood frozen, weapon raised in an attempt to block the blow. The bandit's breath was still, having faced a berserk samurai and remained on his feet.

A single drop of blood formed on the edge of Kiyoshi's sword and glinting in the sun fell earthwards. With almost ponderous slowness the barrel of the thuderwand parted and too fell earthwards as a thin line of blood formed around the raider's neck before his head fell from his shoulders his final sight his body standing rigid above him before it too surrendered to gravity.

Rage unappeased by a single raider's death Kiyoshi turned his eyes alive with fire and the spirit of the lion a snarl forming in his throat as he faced the largest surviving enemy, the kappa, and without hesitation charged now free of the chokepoint imposed by the bridge.
Japik froze in his tracks for a split second, shocked at the sheer suddenness of the raider's demise. He was used to brutal, but that was just....damn. Kiyoshi turning to charge the green...thing...on the bridge, however, broke his mental processes free again. He pivoted and mirrored the Samurai's charge.

Coming up to Kiyoshi's right, he made it there first by sheer virtue of having been closer. He swung his shield up into the thing's face mostly as a distraction, and while the thing was preoccupied with catching his shield - and no doubt preparing to throw him with it - he swung his bastard sword down and sideways in a sweeping arc that bit deeply into the thing's thigh. It wasn't nearly so pretty as Kiyoshi's kill, but it was effective, causing the thing to loose its grip on his shield and stagger a bit as he wrenched the blade out, cocking his arm back for a second strike.[/bg]