Hikuru - Sea of Storms

No Lords Wa
A Tale of Cloudpool Tower

Pure water
under sky, yet why
No Lords Wa?

~

“My lords wa is disturbed.” The soft spoken councillor stated the obvious. The daimyo’s knuckles stood white on the hilt of his katana as he stood on the walkway through the gardens at the top of his castle. The keep was behind him and from this vantage the lord and his councillor could see only the neatly tended garden and and on a rare clear day such as this the mountains far beyond. The castle around the keep, the town about it and the farmlands and forests were hidden from view even without the mists that usually shrouded the keep but the councillor knew that their bustle was not the cause of his lords disquiet.

“I am still unavenged!” The lord hissed. “This shame, this insult that stands before me every time I look – and I have not cleansed my honor, not yet, not years hence!”

The councillor maintained his placid exterior despite his inner frustration.

“Perhaps you should retire to your tea house lord, I shall send a servant to bring you refreshments.”

The lord turned and for a moment the councillor feared the lord would strike him. Then the lord spoke. “Indeed. I must regain my centre. Send for tea.”

After crossing the garden with all decorous speed, the nightingale boards of the walkway singing beneath his feet, the councillor entered the keep and shouted for tea to be sent to the lord. Returning to his own study he found his assistant waiting.

“I saw from the balcony as you instructed, sensei. What ails our lord?”

The councillor sighed and set about lighting new incense in his personal shrine. “Our lord was once betrothed, to a daughter of the clan which dwells in Cloudpool Tower to the south. Our lords overlord in turn wished to secure ties with. This clan was drifting towards the powers of the south and so additional arrangements were made – a second daughter was pledged to lord Shurawa to the east. Our lord was due to marry the eldest daughter and inherit Cloudpool Tower and all its lands in due course, securing them to the Empire but the eldest daughter absconded before the marriage. Despite his best efforts our Lord has not been able to find her or confirm her death and so Lord Shurawa stands to inherit the lands and the stain of this spoiled allowance lies on our lord.”

“But sensei, why? Surely our overlord has his goals – the lands tied to his vassals, he is not so overly fond of our lord as to care one way or the other I thought?”

“This is true, but without the elder daughter confirmed dead there is a chance she may one day return, married or not, and bring her claim to the lands with her. This uncertainty spoils our overlords plans and has robbed him of the peace of mind he sought through these arrangements.”

The assistant stood in thought for a moment.

“If our overlord is so set on these lands and has made arrangements for them, surely noone would stand against him? Not when we are so well favoured to campaign against those lands and any other has their back to the mountains of the Third Dawn? Those monks would not stir themselves for mere holdings, or they would have spoken when the Shogunate broke with the Empire.”

“Normally yes, but Cloudpool Tower is at once a small and unimportant holding and at the same time it is a prize of great worth to some eyes, a prize that were it known for what it was could bring parties great distances to contest for it.”

“Oh?”

“Indeed – what I am about to tell you, you need to know for when you step into my shoes and council our lord or his inheritors but keep this close to you and tell noone you do not have to.”

“As you say, sensei.”

“Cloudpool Tower stands near its namesake, a still pool fed by purest water from the glaciers in the highest mountains. Air, water and earth mix in a way that is rare, I know of know other such place. It is what grows by that tarn that is treasure – for it is said that no other survives, that the elves harvested and consumed all others. By the still waters of Cloudpool tarn there stands a dreamwillow, which may be the last of its kind. The daughter of Cloudpool House has that as her inheritance and her dowry and for some the price of such a prize could be the fill of that pool with blood or more.”

The councillor finished lighting the incense and knelt in prayer for a moment. As he straightened, wincing as old bones clicked and creaked, he beckoned his assistant.

“Let us pray that lost lady never comes back, that she meet a quick end somewhere with many witnesses to confirm her passing. Send for the spymaster, let us see if we can hasten matters.”

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Waiting at the Inn of Fallen Blossoms
A Traveller Brings News

Steam over
Rice, is there any
Other home?

~

The man bowed his head to pass through the doorway, the low beam that made its lintel was hung with paper prayers, some new and creaking, the letters of the brushwork sharp and black, some old and faded a near uniform brown, same as the smoke that thickened in the room.

Good that they wrote the blessings, thought the man, for no prayer would be heard in this noise. The small room was crowded and the man squeezed past benches filled with customers pressed against tables covered with sake cups and dishes of rice and fish. Arguments and boasts filled the air as men of many breeds met. Sailors of the Free Isles with a taste for the dishes of Jumana, local tradesmen and workers and a few travelers from the Empire.

It was beside one of these that the man sat down, an orc clad in a plain tunic and trous with a pack by his feet and a conical straw hat laid across his lap as he ate. The man nodded and the orc returned the gesture, never stopping as he spooned up the rich miso he was eating.

“I hear wonderful tales in this place.” The man said as a waitress set a bowl of rice and spoon before him. She glanced at him, but saw that the man spoke to the orc. “It is a fine place to meet travellers with great stories of their journeys.”

He nodded to the pack. “I see you have travelled far, let me tell you of some travellers I have heard of recently.”

The man spoke, between mouthfuls of cooling rice, of the western dynasties and the strange daimyos who held lordships there. He spoke of the great keep that stood at the southern reach of those lands, where the lords chose to swear loyalty and bring their lands to the Empire. This southern keep stood by the deep woods where the last wild elves of Hikuru dwelled and guarded against their raids.

He spoke of a lord, a kuge, who came to the keep and claimed a boon from its lord, a handful of his finest warriors, hunters and trackers, wise in the trickery of the elves and skilled at fighting the beasts that lurked in their demesne.

He spoke of the kuges travels with these vassals, along the rough mountains that stood above the elves forests – with the Empires great western provinces laid out below. From there to the tense edge of the Shogunate, he said, they had travelled, through the border lands where the Imperial Nobles jostled with their recently parted cousins. He had been told of the great fortress that stood at the southern edge of the elven deepwoods, the match of the hunters home to the north. There, though the lands fell within the Shogunate they attended to their watch as ever before.

From there the pack turned east, through the borderlands, first through the lands where the main factions of the Shogunate and the Empire faced one another, more alike than not, competing for lands and trade in courts and duels and contests of law. Further still, to where the spiritualists of the Shogunate dwelled, where the greatest libary of law and conclave of scholars in all of Hikuru dwelled. Here the lands were quiet and prosperous, for the southern scholars sought no advantage of the Empire and their like minded fellows to the north diverted any hot-headed peers to the east or west where their energies could be better expended.

Further west, where the borderlands ran over rich, dark earth the contest between Empire and Shogunate became aggressive, for here the wealthy lords of the Delta cities held sway in the Empire and they saw weakness and chance to expand in the shogunate. The shoguns lords were no kuge, they said loudly and often, they had no right to hold these lands and would forfeit them willingly or by force of arms. Where the moderates of the Shogunate ruled these incursions were met with soldiers and ramparts. Where the traditionalists of the Shogunate ruled, along the forested swamps and coasts, the contest had turned fierce and deadly.

Here, where the winds from the sea of storms lashed the coast, the orthodox lords of the Shogunate fought the lords of the Delta cities, condemning them for breaking with the traditions of the Empire, traditions which they still cleaved to while the northern lords knew that they were kuge and that tradition and law were inherent to them.

Through such conflict, the man said, the kuge of the west and his hunters had come. One must wonder why they came such a distance, what would drive them so far, and further again, to Jumana on the far side of the sea of storms.

The orc finished his miso and set down the bowl.

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Cold Servant
A tale of the Empire

Gray painted
Shore, in still mist waits
Cold servant

~ ~ ~

The winter sun shone dimly on the bay. Gentle shores, shrouded in mists rose from the waters. A drum boomed rang from a shrine somewhere back from the shore. The ancient lizardman rose from his perch in the arched roots of a mangrove and tasted the air. Spirits of the seas, quick things that played in the light reflecting on waves dashed towards the shore, a barely perceived stampede. He turned his worn and gray-scaled head as his second sight caught the hints of this spectral clamour, these airy spirits of froth and foam fleeing along the damp sands of the shore line.

Carefully he lifted his line and pulled in the neat iron hooks. No catch but nor would he abandon them. His sluggish blood quickened as he splashed through the insect loud shallows He heard shouts from the water and a long catamaran appeared through the mists. He recognised the eye-painted prow as one of the villages own, but flying a ragged red cloth above its sail.

The elders tail sloshed in disgust at the ill disciplined youths. The sails were badly trimmed and the craft approached the beach too fast and ground roughly up the smooth stones. The new chief was rash and, lead astray by kitsune and hengeyokai brigands, had taken to raiding the merchant junks that plied the seaways beyond the swamps. He shook his head and made for the stilt village ahead, leaving them gleeful raiders to unload their booty and prisoners.

Such had not happened in the Empire, thought the elder, and better it had been for that. The spirits had fled and he felt terrible foreboding.

Dragging his tail up the beach and into his hut the elder hung his hooks from his rafters and pulled down the baskets with his fetishes. Tendrils of chill mist followed him into the hut as his claws finally found his prayer drum. He twisted the handled rapidly between his claws and the heavy beads on their ropes struck the gourd drum in a steady rhythm. He went to the doorway and looked out. He heard other drums from the huts around and knew he was not alone in his unease.

The youths could be heard clearly, shouting and arguing as they came, A gust of air from inland rushed through the trees, rattling the leaves in a rush and driving the mists away. The elder first saw his neighbours huts then the chieftan leading his band of young lizards with casks and chests on their shoulders and the catamaran, still beached with more youths, cargo and captives.

Then as the mists were driven from the shore he saw the junk that sat silently at anchor its dark teak hull crusted with salt. The lizardman knew it had not been there moments before. His hands slipped and the rhythm of his drumming skipped as he saw the mon on its sail. He recognised the ringed tower and wished he had not thought longingly of the Empire.

Shouts from nearby turned his attention back to the samurai in the street below. Massive, he towered as high as the huts he stood between, his shoulder pieces large as the shield the elder had carried in his youth. Hooves bit into the soft earth of the village and prayer bells chimed from the ends of the minotaurs horns as he turned to survey the youths.

“You have trespassed against the subjects of the Empire!” The samurai bellowed as he pointed back towards the catamaran. “Surrender now!”

The chief hissed, tossing aside the chest he had been carrying and reaching for his machete. The half dozen with him became a bristling thicket of spear points.

“Your Empire has gone, ebbed like the tides!” The chief snarled “We are our own masters now, we set our own laws!”

“No.” The samurai said, his voice carrying though he did not shout. “You were given leave to be your own lords but the laws are still the laws. You have broken them and I am here to mete justice.”

“We shall not. You giants have lorded it over us too long, no better than the elves before, now it is our turn! We shall rule, it is our time!” With a roar the chieftan charged and the rest followed, spearpoints lancing towards the samurai. The samurais katana slashed from its scabbard as it charged, hooves sinking deep into the earth.

They met in a crash of metal and arcs of blood. Hisses and screams filled the air and then it was over. Every lizardman lay dead or dying. As the samurai turned, the elder saw that four of the spears had struck true and broken shafts protruded from his body. Any of those wounds should have been mortal but the samurai pulled out each of the broken spears and threw them down.

“Who leads here?” He shouted at the watching lizard folk. Seeing fingers point at the dead chieftan he nodded once.

“Who now leads?”

The elder stepped forward. “We must decide amongst us, lord.”

“See that whomever it is knows that Imperial law still stands here.”

“As you say, lord.”

“Tell any who pass – these lands are said to be the Shoguns or the Empires but that is a matter for the gods and the clans. The same laws stand in both.”

“Yes, Lord.”

The samurai wiped his katana with a rag from the chieftans body and stode down the beach. The elder watched as the samurai waded out to the junk ignoring the waters that broke over his horned head. This did not surprise the elder. He had always known that samurai were disciplined and he imagined that those who served as roving magistrates were hardier and more iron willed still. But when the samurai had pulled out the spears his armour plates had lifted enough to reveal the dessicated ruin of his flesh beneath and the elder imagined the dead were not troubled by breathing water.

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Welcome to your Adventure Log!
A blog for your campaign

Every campaign gets an Adventure Log, a blog for your adventures!

While the wiki is great for organizing your campaign world, it’s not the best way to chronicle your adventures. For that purpose, you need a blog!

The Adventure Log will allow you to chronologically order the happenings of your campaign. It serves as the record of what has passed. After each gaming session, come to the Adventure Log and write up what happened. In time, it will grow into a great story!

Best of all, each Adventure Log post is also a wiki page! You can link back and forth with your wiki, characters, and so forth as you wish.

One final tip: Before you jump in and try to write up the entire history for your campaign, take a deep breath. Rather than spending days writing and getting exhausted, I would suggest writing a quick “Story So Far” with only a summary. Then, get back to gaming! Grow your Adventure Log over time, rather than all at once.

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