L5R – “20 Goblin Winter” – Part 3

The quiet, mysterious Naga leads the group to a spacious subterranean chamber.  The walls and floor are hard-packed earth; phosphorescent lichen fills the room with a comforting glow.  The Naga tells the group to remain here and rest.  He exits through a small round hole in the far wall.

The group is suffering the effects of the spider venom.  Rest is foremost their need.  Kuni Daichi, Yojira, and HIDA NOBU (played by B.P.) make sleeping arrangements and bed down.  The chamber is quiet and a sense of safety and security permeates the place.

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A long sleep holds them.  The next day, they awake.  The venom has left everyone but Daichi.  He meditates, gaining back his strength.

The group notes that the Naga has not returned for them.  They wait four hours.  No one comes.

Searching around, Nobu finds a large square door, hidden from the eye in the wall opposite the portal back to the surface.  He enlists Yojira’s strength to pry open the concealed door.  They cannot move it even slightly.  Daichi does his best to remain patient with their situation.

Four more hours pass by.  The bushi and shugenja grow restless.

Unexpectedly, the sealed doorway cracks open on its own.  A breath of air slips into the room, inviting the group to investigate.  As guests unwilling to trespass in a host’s domicile, the two bushi and the shugenja hesitate.  But with no other options, they strike up a lantern and pass the threshold.

There is a long, narrow pathway leading into deep shadows.  The smell of earth is strong here.  The floor slopes down at a very slight incline.  This path leads to a massive chamber, the height of a large house and a hundred feet on each side.  At the far end of this impressive catacomb, the group spots the Naga at a shrine.

Treading lightly in the quiet, the group cautiously approaches the Naga.  The entire wall before them is a sight to behold.  It is a map, animated with magic and showing the whole of Rokugan and unknown lands beyond in surprising detail.  The region of the Shadowlands is the only territory absent of features.

The Naga notices his guests have come.  He asks what took them so long.  The creature is neither hostile nor friendly; it regards the group with mild curiosity and polite indifference.

The Naga explains this place.  It is a shrine to the Fortune of Travelers, and is extremely old.  It is a haven for those who know of its existence and wish safety within its depths.

This chamber and the map were the work of the KI-RIN, as the Unicorn Clan was known before they emigrated Rokugan and set out into the wide world.  The Naga shows their sigil.  Yojira immediately recognizes it as the same symbol on wakizashi that was stolen from them.

The Naga expertly manipulates the magic of the map wall.  It shows with precision the forest above them.  He indicates a safe path to their destination.  Hidden trail markers, when seen by a knowing eye, will indicate to where the trail leads next.  The Naga is patient and answers their questions, both about the trail and the shrine.  Nobu slips up and asks a redundant question in view of Daichi; for this transgression the Crab bushi loses a point of Honour.

Before releasing them to look about the shrine at their leisure, the Naga bestows gifts.  To Yojira and Nobu each, the Naga gives a small bag of magic pearls.  When crushed and its powder applied to a stricken man, a pearl will negate poisons and venom and harmful effects of the mind.  Daichi receives a very old book, a journal written by an ancestor of the Kuni family.  Within its pages are notes and observations that Daichi treasures immensely.

The group decides to sleep the night in their same chamber as before.  It is too late in the day to find the path.

That night, Nobu wakes and wanders into the main shrine to take his fill of spring water that flows within.  He notices some small items on display in the shrine.  These he takes as his own.

In the morning, the group plus sleepy Shosuro Yama leave the shrine and head in the direction of the trail.  The forest is dense and difficult to pass.  On noticing a marker of the trail, the group follows the vague path.  To their surprise, the trail is swift and efficient and permits better passage through the thick woods than expected.

At night they set camp on the trail itself.  Bushi on watch that night get fleeting suggestions of some shadowy creature lurking near their camp.  After a rapid and uneventful trek the next day, the group again camps on the trail, setting snares to catch game.  In the night, all snares are triggered.  Two have caught raccoon-like woodland creatures for a decent meal; the rest were intentionally tripped by something else.

By some faintly magical means, this trail has enhanced the group’s stamina and speed.  Open vistas from hilltops and ridges suggest that the forest’s border will come several days ahead of schedule.

Passing into a clearing the next day, the group finds an orchard of cherry trees in bloom.  The scent of blossoms is in the air, and beneath the broad spread of the trees lay clear ponds, shimmering with colorful fish.

Nobu and Yojira stray off the trail into the trees, investigating the pools and strolling about the orchard.  Daichi and Yama stay on the trail and relax a moment.

There is something unusual about this place.  Where at first the smell of cherry blossoms was fresh and pleasant, to Yojira and Nobu the smell has become heavy, nauseating, toxic.  The scent overpowers them, and they are Dazed.  Daichi becomes aware that this grove is entirely absent of benevolent spirits of Air.

An evil lurks here.  Roots suddenly twist up from the earth and ensnare Yojira and Nobu.  They struggle but in their Dazed state they are unable to free themselves.  Yama could help but does not, remaining instead upon the path.

Daichi has a suspicion.  He casts a spell that targets a cluster of trees near the center of the grove.  His wisdom proves keen – one tree reacts to the spell.  The Crab shugenja knows it harbours an evil spirit that plots their doom.

With a focus for their attacks, the group takes action.  The tangled bushi summon the clarity of the Void and dispel their Dazed status.  They make short work of their captivating roots.  Yama awakens, and rushes the tree that shelters their antagonist.

Daichi is moving closer when the possessed tree attacks him.  Bravely, Yojira leaps in front of the shugenja and takes the damage.

Spells and an axe magically enchanted with fire defeat the evil spirit of the tree.  As Daichi lands the killing blow, the tree shudders and grows still.  Now, only the breeze moves it.  The overpowering reek of cherry blossoms diminishes; the air becomes pleasant again.

The group does not know if there are more evil spirits lurking in the grove.  They quickly search the grounds.  They find human remains and a few koku coins among the roots, but nothing else.  There is no reason to linger so they return to the safe path and carry on.

(end Part 3)

 

 

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About d20horizons

D&D player.
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