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10.2: The Last March of the Crab

https://www.scabard.com/campaign/22825/event/27577

While the heavier Crab troops created a diversion by attacking the outer camps, the Kill-Stealers managed to sneak through to some old buildings where the captives and ritual were likely being held. They found guards in the form of two megada no oni, Daigotsu (formerly Hida) Shura, and Daigotsu Skaar (formerly Tsi Aokiji), who been enticed by knowledge of his true heritage and the better anvils they had in the Shadowlands. The enemies were cut down, and Botan and Wa’ako were released. Wa’ako immediately put on a mask to take the persona of Bayushi Hannya and went to direct some ninja who were fighting the Lost nearby.

An apparently alive Tik’ki’titem arrived from the center tower, threatening to kill Kengetsu. The heroes were still too busy fighting to respond, so the ratling left Kengetsu’s body on the ground and advanced, supported by the nascent Ranneko no Oni. While maneuvering around that side of the fight, Mako was attacked by the very much alive Kengetsu, who revealed he had been the blood mage all along, and had manipulated Ohaitsu’s life since her childhood (likely resulting in the death of her parents in an outburst of power) so that she would be a red herring concealing him. As the heroes fought the summoners, Tik’ki’titem warned that he could not be killed, or Ranneko no Oni would permanently gain control of its name. The Kill-Stealers reluctantly knocked the shaman unconscious, but the oni lord finished him off with a blast of proto-matter (revealing that it was actually a tsuno who had been using Tik’ki’titem’s and Otaku Ranneko’s names), then began using its new-found power to create spawn. After an epic battle, Chan’ju, Botan, and Kengetsu lay dead, but the oni was banished to hell . . . for now.

The Crab won the field, and the heroes returned to see the ritual performed by Te’tik’kir to deal with Utaku Randachi. He took the undead samurai’s name and returned it to its original owner, who had been the nameless Lost woman who had made the deal to bring her back. The traitor was a subordinate who had committed atrocities in the Fox lands and betrayed her captain in hopes of usurping her glory, but now ended up a nameless monster. It was reported that the strikes against the Shadowlands had broken the faith between Daigotsu and Fu Leng, allowing the agents of the Celestial Order to return them to hell. The Kill-Stealers were given a much-needed leave. Wa’ako/Hannya led Mako, Kageneko, and the real Randachi to Lion lands, where they might find therapy for those whose identities had been damaged among the Akodo.

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10.1: The Last March of the Crab

http://www.scabard.com/campaign/22825/event/27578

The Kill-Stealers managed to conjure flying horses for the first day of travel into the Shadowlands. Yasuki Nokatsu, Dark Oracle of Earth, was irritated by this and the fact that he had been asked to use trickster spirits to lure them into a false hostage exchange; he eventually just attacked and was defeated. Before reaching the enemy camp, the heroes encountered other Crab forces and helped by defeating Randachi and the last of her Tainted cavalry. As agreed, the nameless Lost guide took the subdued Randachi, while the Kill-Stealers met up with the other Crab to stop the oni summoning and to rescue the hostages. They were led by their family daimyō, Hida (Moshibaru) Kinashita, who told them that Shura had defected to the Shadowlands and taken Wa’ako prisoner as well. As Ohaitsu and Kageneko had their own motivation, Mako was personally given the task of rescuing the shugenja.

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9.2: The Battle for the Empire's Soul

The first night, the heroes heard the story of Shinsei’s Last Hope. In the morning, they were set as reserves in the middle of town, ready to reinforce anywhere they were needed. The first unusual event was when Hiruma Botan was returning to town, then was captured trying to break through, although she managed to launch a letter-arrow over the walls. Ratling runners from the White Paw tribe claimed to deliver it to the commander, but the heroes noticed that one of them had only pretended to hand off the letter and pocketed it instead. They confronted the ratlings, the shaman Tik’ki’titem arrived, and a confusing combat ensued. The ratlings other than Chan’ju’tem tried to escape, but only the Nametaker survived getting outside the walls. He was shot down, but the samurai were unable to recover his body due to the goblins rushing the walls; Old Man Ebi was outside the walls and took the ratling’s remains. However, as the goblins were piling up bodies to make a ramp, the ratling who had the message was recovered. It turned out that the Crab had found the White Paw’s pact with the Shadowlands. Having been betrayed by his brother and tribe, Chan’ju’tem lamented that he had no family, but by virtue of his prior conduct, he was adopted by the Yōtsu. Meanwhile, the archer who had shot down Tik’ki’titem claimed to have been Otaku Ranneko before the shaman had stolen her name. As no one could recognize her as such even after being told, she took the name Kageneko Shin.

Later that day, the Shadowlands forces summoned two beings that scattered the shugenja reinforcing the wards and made a breach in the wall. Some attackers managed to break through into the town. One ogre recognized Ohaitsu and Mako and rushed the center of town where the Kill-Stealers were. It turned out to be the one they fought during the Battle for the Last Tower, and it carried the goblins Vu and Glick. The heroes were unable to do much about the beasts’ mobility, but they had increased their skill in combat and were able to defeat their past enemies through attrition, with only Chan’ju’tem suffering serious injury. The enemy’s morale was broken as the attack was repelled, and there were no further strikes against the town.

In a few days, the Crab Champion, Hida Kuon, arrived with enough forces to chase off the besiegers. The Emerald Champion, Yasuki Hachi, claimed that he served the Empire as a whole, so could have fealty to both Crab and Crane, rendering the Second Yasuki War over. The Kill-Stealers were given the choice of where to strike back against the Shadowlands. Both Old Man Ebi and a nondescript Lost woman offered to lead them to the camp where the hostages (Hogosha Kengetsu, Hiruma Botan, and Otaku Ranneko’s name) and Utaku Randachi were, but the heroes had to decide to whose terms to agree. . . .

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9.1: The Battle for the Empire's Soul

Riding across the land bridge at the next low tide, the heroes reached the end only to notice large shapes waiting for them in tidal pools just onto the Shadowlands side. Ranneko sent her spare quasi-real horses forward to attract attention, then attacked the center pool with her ensnaring plants. Marsh trolls spluttered to the surface, struggling to avoid being pinned down, yet still to be able to reach their foes with their clubs. As the Kill-Stealers held back out of their reach at the shoreline, Chan’ju’tem was swallowed by an oni ooze that had escaped detection. But thanks to their superior mobility, the samurai were able to defeat all their foes without any casualties.

The next day, they reached Shinsei’s Last Hope to see it surrounded by goblins and undead. However, that day, Ranneko’s conjuring of horses had gone so well that they could run over water, so the Kill-Stealers rode in from the sea. Mountain goblins rushed to intercept them on the narrow strip of land before the walls there, but the samurai slew the goblin king oni enslaving them, leaving the belligerent but unwilling monsters to escape their servitude. The humans and ratling were hoisted over the wall by the defenders before more Shadowlands forces could catch them.

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8.2: The Home Front

http://www.scabard.com/campaign/22825/event/27574

Friendly Traveler Village received the visit of Miya Hatori the historian. This time there was suggestions that infiltrators were not Shadowlands but a fringe Scorpion group known as the Shadowed Tower. The heroes were to try not to cause trouble because the Tower had captured Hatori’s wife, but in investigating a suspicious-looking poultry farmer named Kenji, they were attacked by him and his family. As the peasants were defeated, another observer escaped, and the samurai tailed him to a camp in a copse of trees outside town. After defeating those there, they were told by the distinctive gold-masked, Mantis-hating Bayushi Kamnan that all the others were ninja shapeshifters (creatures similar to Mako) who would remember no useful information. He offered information about Yoritomo Kitao’s dealings with Jinn-Kuen and the Scorpion, as well as attempts at Hatori’s wife’s safety, in return for his life. One ninja was released with him so that he could continue to watch Hatori and report back to the Tower, while the rest were put out of their misery.

Later, the town was in an uproar about the yokozuna who had missed the Winter Court sumai tournament finally arriving on the Tidal Landbridge, and wanting to meet the Kill-Stealers. It turned out that the real sumō had been replaced by a tsuburu no oni spawn (more fully grown than the one the heroes slew at Black Crane Palace) carried by worm-infested zombies. The zombies and their smaller passengers tried to hold Mako and Ranneko while the oni drew out Ohaitsu and Chan’u’tem, but the Empire was victorious. The next day, they received notice that the Shadowlands was attacking Shinsei’s Last Hope, so the Kill-Stealers were sent to reinforce at the next low tide.

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8.1: The Home Front

The heroes were informed that some of the secret ingredient (mold) from the Friendly Traveler Sake Works had been stolen by someone who had scaled the wall. Unable to track down its location, they stood watch the next night and encountered two peasant women acting strangely. One turned out to be a bog hag who gave a fierce fight, but the other helped until she was struck down, revealing that she had been confused by fox spirit possession. Oshuko also arrived from the Sake Works to save the day, distracting the hag long enough for the heroes to slay her. The other Crab arrived later, with the excuse that they had been fighting a penanggolan. Kieron revived the fallen human.

With the knowledge of what creatures were the latest spies, the heroes went to the home of the woman whose skin had been stolen by the hag. Inside, they noticed a head-sized entrance to a sea cave where the penanggolan was using the mold to make vinegar for her intestines. The Kill-Stealers swam in through the larger watery entrance and destroyed the creature easily.

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7.2: Winter Court

Kurena tried to bargain for her safety against the identity of her mentor in the Bloodspeakers. But the investigators were drawn away by a private message from Daigotsu claiming that he had removed his other agent(s) at the shōgun’s court and taken Hogosha Kengetsu, Ohaitsu’s foster father, to the Shadowlands as well. While they were away from the cell, Kurena was killed in a way suggesting suicide and blood magic. There was a report of seeing a woman dressed as a maid entering the headman’s (former magistrate’s deputy’s) house at the time, but no one in town had the same facial features. After trusting Wa’ako to use Speak with Dead to find that Kurena had been killed by haino no oni, the heroes decided again to make a magic circle and put all the townspeople inside it, hoping to find whether any of them were shadow creatures. While the people were being rounded up, one of the other maids from the inns made a run for it, the heroes chased, finding that she was another form of the shapechanger, and that two deputies and the headman were under her sway. The heroes killed her, and the surviving villagers surrendered. They also took possession of the bag allowing them to correspond with Old Man Ebi, hoping to find more about Kengetsu’s whereabouts. When Hida (Moshibaru) Kinashita, their family daimyō, arrived (with Kuni Hiroji), she had a private meeting with Wa’ako, declaring afterward that all her suspicious actions were for the good of the Empire.

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7.1: Winter Court

The heroes were sent to champion the Crab cause at the winter court at Black Crane Palace, where the minor oni was still at large. Ranneko went outside alone one night and was approached by the creature, which lamented that the Bloodspeakers could not get access to a good name, so they would have to bind their newly created oni to Randachi. Mako and Ohaitsu reinforced Ranneko, and the oni was killed trying to escape. Evidence suggested that the oni’s summoner could be one of the two other Moshibaru shugenja, Wa’ako or Kurena. All in the Crab quarters were searched, but no evidence was turned up, other than that Yasuki Jinn-Kuen noticed Mako’s Scorpion tattoo and did not reveal this to anyone else.

Later, Wa’ako managed to escape surveillance. While she was missing, a fire started in the Hogosha compound. While Kengetsu worked to put it out, Kurena, Ohaitsu, Mako, and Ranneko chased down the arsonist and captured him alive. Although they deprived him of all his explosives, while they were looking for Wa’ako again, there was another burst of flame, killing the suspect and injuring a guard, Hida Aroru.

Although Mako revealed to the others his Scorpion tattoo (although he was having trouble remembering his past) and the messages he had been receiving from “Hacchan,” there was no hard evidence on which shugenja was a traitor. The heroes finally decided to take both of them away from the shōgun’s court to Friendly Traveler Village. They later received the ranking Kitsuki magistrate’s analysis of evidence, damning Kurena but still implicating Wa’ako. Both remained under close watch in waiting for another Crab Witch Hunter to judge them.

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6.2: The Wall

After the initial progress, Ohaitsu’s team was chosen to be at the top of the wall in the Battle for the Last Tower, approaching from the opposite side from Clan Champion Hida Kuon and his war council. The shugenja collectively summoned a rain of jade, weakening the Shadowlands defenders. On the approach, the heroes slew the goblin bard, along with a monstrous mass of fused goblins and a goblin king, while a nairu no oni escaped after failing to carry Ranneko away. On the last stretch, the heroes fought through several free ogres, but when the boss ogre (Fool) and goblin (the Importunate Vu) arrived, they were simply knocked off the wall and escaped. Fu Leng spitefully imbued with the Last Tower with taint, and the Crab forces consolidated the gains of the rest of the Wall.

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6.1: The Wall

Reinforcing the Crab’s efforts to retake the Carpenter Wall, the heroes fought tsuno in the support buildings. The soultwister, Tsuno Jūbe’e, swore he would not fight against Rokugan again in return for the right to leave with the bodies of the fallen. The heroes then were called to fill in for a team lost in the catacombs below. There, they muddled through some traps before encountering the experimental two-headed goblin, who wanted a more controlled rematch. They eventually managed to slay him, but the bard escaped. They also found a surviving engineer, who led them out. Having fought well, the heroes rested before the next wave.

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