The ronin miscounted. There were over three hundred enemies.
The last of the undead are burned. Heads are taken from the Ogre and the two goblins by the bushi who slew them. The ronin discover that two men of their original band were slain in the battle. Their armorer is still alive.
The caravan makes camp a respectable distance from the corpse pile. In the night, lone straggler zombies approach the camp. These are easily dispatched.
In the morning, the ronin strike up conversation with one of the caravan bushi. He is Shosuro Yama (T.F.’s original character). He is bound for the 20-Goblin Winter challenge. The group lends him a spare pony, and one to Tensi as well.
Regular patrols resume as the caravan moves on. Tensi is out in lead position. He spots a lone zombie shambling along near the roadside. Dismounting, Tensi intends to fell it with a single arrow. The zombie is almost upon him when the bushi archer finally kills it. This took more effort than Tensi expected.
This skirmish draws the attention of other zombies. They wander into view. Tensi mounts his steed and hurries back to the second scouting group, with the zombies following. Omar and Takeshi make short work of them.
The order of scouts rotates. Tensi continues at the fore, now with Takeshi. After an hour of riding, they come upon a bloodied zombie. This particular undead is much quicker and more animated than the usual abominations. In life it appears to have been a Crab legionnaire. It was recently reanimated from the dead.
Tensi pelts it with arrows, which seem to have little effect. It is deft Takeshi whose punishing attacks in melee kill the creature. They behead the corpse. With no other threats in the vicinity, the scouts move on.
Hours pass. The scouts regroup to move Kenshin up front with Takeshi. Just as this exchange of scouts is under way, the group sees a green flash over the hills. They all ride to investigate: Kenshin, Takeshi, Omar, Tensi, Yama, and Akihiro.
At the crest of the largest hill, a sweeping view shocks the bushi. Before them, the entire plain swarms with a crowd of undead. The seething mass of movement centers on something, pressing in against it. Green flashes erupt from the center of the vast crowd. Swaths of undead flatten to the earth, replaced by others as the mob absorbs the empty spaces.
There is a great rumbling of the earth, so powerful that only Takeshi and Kenshin remain on their horses. The rest of the ronin are flung to the grass. Someone powerful is at the center of the horde, defending against the onslaught.
Noble but foolhardy, the bushi decide to charge the periphery of the great swarm of undead, and draw some zombies away in a very token gesture of assistance. All charge in except Omar, who thinks better of the folly and remains to mind the ponies.
Those bushi that charge in do not lack for enemies. As they attract and slay zombies at the edge of the mass battle, the sky darkens by unnatural means. Lightning strikes furiously, blasting holes in the zombie army. These and more green flashes quickly deplete the enemy ranks. In minutes, only half of the undead remain standing.
A disembodied voice speaks to the bushi as they chip away valiantly at the undead sea. This voice addresses the bushi, instructs them to turn and flee at once, for their lives. It is not a threat, but a warning. The party heeds the words.
Fleet of foot, those bushi gifted at Athletics have no trouble covering ground as it begins to heave and shake and crack. The tremors are churning the very soil and rocks below their feet. Yama and Kenshin, at the rear of the group, stumble and fall. Kenshin finds his feet and continues to run, unaware that Yama had tried to stand but cannot regain his balance.
Having already reached safety, Takeshi and Akihiro sprint back into the chaos. Their feet are steady and sure. They rescue Yama and pull him away to safety outside of the ring of destruction.
Back with Omar on the safety of the hill, the bushi can see a broad disc of land has been ruptured and turned. Bodies of undead lay strewn amid the boulders and crevasses. In the very center of the destruction, a very large creature squares off against a comparatively small humanoid figure.
A spell battle begins. The opponents seem equally matched. The bushi watch in amazement. Magic flashes furiously from one spellcaster against the other. Soon, the human gains the upper hand. Near defeat, the large undead creature dives into the earth as if it were a pool of water.
The party bandages its wounds while it waits. The human makes his way effortlessly through the ruined earth toward them. He is clad in stone armor that slowly turns to mud, dripping off him and leaving no trace behind.
He introduces himself as KUNI YUTAGI. He is a shugenja of the Crab Clan. Despite having fought a battle against unspeakable odds and winning, the shugenja is surprisingly friendly and calm.
Yutagi admonishes the group mildly for needlessly putting themselves in harm’s way. He asks the group’s purpose, and they tell him. Interested that a Crab caravan is nearby, the shugenja asks to be led to it. The ronin are happy to comply.
(end Part 7)