[Scarlet] Honor and Eta

edited August 2014 in In-Game
The pair of you have traveled long and far from Guobei, all the way into the Shogunate of the North. This carefully manicured place is rich with grain and rice, the waters filled with many fish. It is a plentiful land. There are rumors of the risk to foreigners who are thought to worship "false gods", whatever that means. Regardless of the ominous warning, the truth of the Shogunate is that your travel here has been peaceful so far. What gold you had has stretched here. With so much plenty, your savings have bought much. What's the most prized possession you've picked up on your recent travel?

You have arrived at the wealthy city of Cakon Like all the cities of the Shogunate of the North, Cakon has a strict caste system. The “kuge,” or noble samurai families, form the uppermost caste. The kuge are often related directly to the Shogun's Family, hold titles, or own large amounts of land. The next caste is the “ buke,” or samurai. The buke are landowners and part of the military elite. The next caste is the “bonge,” or commoners. The bonge include both the “heimin,” who are often merchants, craftsmen, and farmers, as well as the “hinin,” who include criminals, entertainers, geisha, and “eta.” The eta dwell outside Cakon in a squalid hamlet. They do the jobs that are thought to interfere with inner harmony and cause spiritual pollution, including butchering, executions, and the removal of human and animal waste.

Despite the fact that it is early morning, the temperature and humidity have already reached uncomfortable levels. The market district is full of activity. Swarms of gnats, common summer pests, hang like clouds over the damp earthen roads. A trio of bamboo flute playing musicians has captured your attention. Perhaps it is the common entertainment that attracts you, or maybe it’s the silk tarp that promises shade and a slight breeze.

While watching the performance, you both notice a brightly painted palanquin carried by two sweat-soaked youths. The palanquin is brought to the edge of the performance and lowered. The screens are opened and a slight, young, thin-lipped, man is visible inside. The man wears a beautiful pastel orange silk kimono. His hair is cut and oiled in the latest court fashion. A noticeable bruise darkens the young man’s left eye. When the musicians have finished, the young man passionately applauds and tosses a handful of rectangular silver coins toward the players.

Ba Jiao, how is it that you are known here in Cago? Relatives? Past travels? You're a little famous here, aren't you?

Laughing Crane, you recognize this young noble. He is none other than Mibu Kagemaro, a member of the financial ministry here. How is it that you know him?

OOC: You are now third level. Please make adjustments accordingly to your character posts.


  • edited August 2014
    Mibu Kagemaro was a guest of my family. And by guest I mean political hostage. Our clan and his have some holdings that neighbor each other, maybe mines? At any rate, my cousin went to live with the Mibu family and Kagemaro-sama came to live with us. He was a spoiled, petulant, know-it-all who kept up with court fashions from his country and insisted on wearing elaborate "costumes" to all the wrong functions. My father finally sent him packing and told the Mibu Lord, that no guest was necessary to insure their friendship.
  • While I hesitate to call him a possession, Master Ling is my favorite recent acquisition.

    Ling Hu-jia was a manservant in my family's estate. He was not the head servant but he was high enough ranking that he normally served me and my brothers. Unbeknownst to me, he was also a survivor of Uncle Xuande's purge. He was serving tea and noodles at an inn we happened to stop at. I recognized him at once and after watching him, and seeing how unhappy he was, I approached him.

    "Old man! You served the Liu clan didn't you? The Kao branch?"
    "Yes, young master." He didn't even raise his eyes. And he certainly didn't recognize me.
    "Why are you here? Shouldn't you be dead?"
    "The gods spared me that awful night. I don't know why." He started to sob quiet and tearlessly.
    "Would you serve the Liu again?" I asked.
    "Not Kao!" He was still sobbing, but his voice had quiet resolve in his refusal.
    "No...not Kao." I reached out and gently took his chin and raised his face. "Liu Wenxiong."
    He burst into tears, I burst into tears. We wept and hugged and asked questions of each other. After several bottles of wine, I revealed my plan to slowly build up enough money and men to take back the Liu House. He knelt and swore fealty to me.

    And drunk as we both were, we were also very conscious of the meaning of that oath. I swore to protect him, shelter him, keep his belly full and his wife and children from harm (in principal anyway, Master Ling never married). He swore to serve me to the limits of his being, in life and death. And then we shared the ritual salt, wine, and rice.

    I bought him a pony and gave him care of all my money. When there's no inn, he set's up camp and cooks while I scout the area. When there is an inn, he refuses to let the staff serve us and acts a go between for everything.
  • As soon as I realize it is Kagemaro, I try to pu a few spectators bewteen us. Slowly, so as not to draw attention. For all his unpleasant antics, he was ruthless on the sparring mat. He was the kind of man that can lead others through fear or money, but not charisma. And I have no doubt he'd sell my location to Uncle Kao for a fat reward.

    I keep inching away, looking for cover.

    I don't really know how he felt about me personally. I always tried to show him the respect due his station, but we certainly weren't friends.

    I am trying to get away from Kagemaro.
  • edited August 2014
    My search for treasures had brought me to Cakon a few years ago. It was during their rain season and I remember that It rained nearly every day I was here.

    There were three of us. The other two were husband and wife down and out street criminals. I used my priestly garb to disguise myself as a priest to gain access to areas without suspicion and we bribed several "eta" that worked in noble houses to keep us well informed. We used that information to "liberate" choice items that were being left in the crypts of recently deceased nobles. However, as is often the case, jealousy ensued and we were betrayed. A noble family laid a trap. While I managed to escape my two partners were not so lucky. The husband was killed in the skirmish and his wife, Kanjana, was captured.

    Naturally I left Cakon the same night. I have heard various rumors of what befell Kanjana. One story is that she died while being tortured. Another is that she escaped by bribing a guard.

    I am most uncomfortable being back in Cakon and I am trying to keep a low profile. I would not like anyone to know that I have returned to Cakon- none of the buke houses nor any of the hinin or eta that might remember our past dealings. For this reason my priest outfit is folded up in my pack and I am dressed in common traveller clothes.
  • Laughing Crane, you're able to blend in with the musicians and start making your way out of there. However, Ba is still there, since this guy is tossing around money like it's no object.

    "My name is Mibu Kagemaro." He says this calmly, not with a pompous air. You note that, Laughing Crane, it is quite unlike the incipient boy you once knew. "I am looking for a few bold and honorable citizens to help me in a matter beyond my control. It is very important to me." Laughing Crane, you know that tone that when Mibu is saying "to me", he is saying "for my family".

    Ba, if you want to snag a few silver before the others, give me a Dexterity-based skill roll against a 9 Difficulty. You get 3 silver regardless, this is just to see if the others notice.
  • edited August 2014
    I work my way to the edge of the crowd, but when he says that he's looking for bold and honorable citizens, my spirit of adventure get's the better of me.

    I take a brush and paper and write this note:
    Bold and honorable was your second family in Xian
    Now a son of Liu-that-was offers his help.
    The Jade Tiger* roared for justice
    Laughing Crane soars for honor.

    "Mister Ling, take this to Mibu-sama, please. Tell him your master would be honored to eat with the Minister-sama somewhere discrete."

    Ling should remember Kagemaro, and likely vice versa.

    * -- A reference to a popular legend, depicted in puppet plays, operas, and novels. A prince, disgusted with his father's corrupt administration, disguises himself and takes the name-de-plume Jade Tiger. As Jade Tiger he fights for the downtrodden and works to humiliate the corrupt government. Depending on the version, Jade Tiger either gets his father to see the error of his ways, or kills him. Regardless, I hope the allusion is obvious to Kagemaro.
  • Ling nods quickly to your request, Laughing Crane, and leaves to follow Kagemaro-san when he moves to his palanquin. No others were bold, it seems.

    After a minute of quiet conversation between Ling and Kagemaro-san, your servant returns. He bows low, "Laughing Crane-sama, Kagemaro-san wishes to meet you at the Chirping Robin Teahouse as soon as you are able. He will wait for you there. He seemed very rushed."
  • Grab the Coins
    #DiceRoller( 2d8+2 )
  • I nod as Ling delivers the message. After Kagemaro leaves, I will find Ba Jiao and explain the situation to him.

    Assuming he is inclined to join me, we'll head for the Chirping Robin Teahouse.

    "Be very vigilant. The boy I knew wouldn't be above turning me over to my Uncle to curry favor."

    Before going in, I want to take a quick look around to make sure it doesn't look like a trap. Then, assuming it all checks out, I will leave Longma with the attendant and go into the Teahouse with Ba Jiao.

    [If Ba Jiao declines to join me, I'd like to arrange a rendezvous.]
  • Ba,

    You snag four gold worth of coins from the ground without incident. The musicians and other entertainers are too busy scrabbling in the dirt to notice you.

    I'll assume Ba follows along to the tea house.

    Ba and Laughing Crane,

    Kagemaro awaits you in the tea house, but he hasn't ordered. He waits for you to sit, then lays one gold on the table to pay for the meal. "It is an honor to see you again, Master Liu. I am sorry to hear you are a former son. Once my trouble is resolved, perhaps we could talk together and see if I can help you."
  • I bow and sit.

    At his offer I bow slightly.
    "Thank you, Mibu-dono. I had heard you have done well in the bureaucracy here. What service can a lowly Youxia--a Shugyosha in local parlance--offer you?"
  • Kagemaro inclines his head to your bow, then begins his tale:

    “Two nights ago, my brother Mibu leko and myself enjoyed the company of the geisha O-Sode at the House of Tranquility. O-Sode is a most talented poet and the favorite of many customers."

    Ba Jiao, how is it that you know O-Sode?

    "While enjoying the divine company of O-Sode, we were interrupted by the drunken mercenary Daigoro. Daigoro was angry that he was unable to enjoy the services of O-Sode after returning from a hard campaign in the north. My brother called out for assistance and Daigoro slew him with a hidden dagger. I, too, was attacked before the doshin* could contain Daigoro.

    “Daigoro was taken before Judge Sono Kentanaga and sentenced to death. As you know, Liu-sama, the Sono have long been rivals with the Mibu, and the Judge placed a clause on Daigoro’s sentence. If Daigoro’s sentence is not carried out in three days, the punishment is deemed unfortunate and unlucky, and Daigoro is to go free."

    Laughing Crane, why does your family hate the Sonos?

    “The doshin went to the eta village to hire an executioner as soon as the sentence was posted. However, none of the untouchables would accept the task. Promises of gold coins and threats of death could not convince the eta to complete the task. The eta said that a man-eating spirit has been ritually devouring them as punishment for their unclean souls. They refuse to do any of the duties they normally perform until the creature is destroyed.

    “If a suitable executioner is not available by sunset today Daigoro will go free. The death of my brother and the attack on my person crave justice. My loss of honor would be unbearable. I come to you at great risk of embarrassment to myself and my family name. I ask you to help me make certain that Daigoro receives the punishment he deserves.

    “A cash string of 30 gold coins await any who complete this challenge. Upon successful completion of the task, I ask you to meet me here at dusk. I cannot advise you how to proceed in this endeavor. I only ask that you use good judgment and act independently so as not to further add to my embarrassment. You have my thanks and those of my ancestors.”

    * doshin = local police force
  • edited September 2014
    "So we just need to carry out the execution? Or tackle this spirit?"

    [Am I missing something? Any reason we wouldn't/couldn't execute the murderous Daigoro?]
  • Kagemaro looks at you for a moment, Laughing Crane, then ignores your question. "My thanks for your help."

    By undertaking the job of executioner, you would attain the same social stigma associated with the eta. You would risk loss of all honor and spiritual pollution - indeed, you would not even be allowed to approach members of the kuge, such as Mibu Kagemaro. Any other member of the kuge or buke castes would shun you from the execution onward, and even non-eta bonge would go out of their way to avoid you once news spread of the your deed.
  • Ah, yes. I had forgotten that The Shogunate has a different standard when it comes to certain tasks.

    "Where is the eta village and is there a headman I should speak with?"
  • My eyes tear up at the mention of O-Sode. When I was last here I too sought out her company on cold nights. I was nothing to her, just business. Many wealthy patrons seek her out for company. She is wily though and uses what she learns to fill her pockets. More than a geisha, she is also the leader of a small gang of thieves; mostly women but a couple of men, too.

    Kagemaro is indeed in a quandary. However, I suspect Laughing Crane and myself can rid the eta of this spirit and then the eta will be freed up to persue the task of their station that Kagemaro requires. A few more noble deeds and nobles owing a favor for Laughing Crane and a few more gold coins for myself.

    I now as we leave with the directions necessary.
  • As you both know, the eta dwell outside the walls of the city. Eventually you leave Cakon to speak with them.

    The gates of the city are open, inviting in a modest breeze and a constant flow of oxen and farmers. Two guards clad in heavy o-yori armor, jingasa helmets, and clutching spears check the
    farmer’s packs for contraband. The warriors look quite bored and seem to care little about the job they perform. An old beggar sits in the shade of the gate and extends a cracked clay bowl toward all who pass. His skin is tanned dark by the sun and his head is plucked bald. He wears a simple rag loincloth.

    As you pass through the gate, a small brown and white dog slinks out of an alley and begins to sniff the old beggar. As the dog becomes more inquisitive, the beggar becomes visibly distressed and begins to cry out. The dog, sensing the old man’s fear, begins to growl and snap. The guards and a few farmers stop to watch the alarmed old man. Laughter breaks out when the beggar starts to whimper as the dog tugs on his tattered clothing.
  • edited September 2014
    I'll look around for a stick and then walk over to the dog and beggar. I'll gently poke and pry the dog off the old man with the stick. After waiving the stick around to get the dog's attention I'll toss it out beyond the gates for the dog to chase after.

    As it scampers off after the stick I'll squat down beside the old man and drop a few trivial coins into his bowl. I'll flash him a smile and clap him on the back. As the dog returns I'll rise up and return to Laughing Crane's side. If the dog is keen on it I'll continue to throw the stick as we walk out to the village. If the dog is more interested in the beggar then I'll dig out a bit of dried fruit from my satchel to tempt it to follow us.
  • The dog scampers after the stick, and the guards go back to their duties, and the flow of traffic in and out of the city continues. The old beggar, safe and happy, stands meekly and bows. “Generous citizens, you have my humble thanks for saving my unworthy self. I would like to return the favor by telling you a riddle: ‘Under the right arm of the strong is the gift. The strong bends to the sky with two benches of stone at his feet. The gift will guide your fortune’.” After reciting his riddle, the beggar sits down and returns to his bowl.
  • edited September 2014
    As we continue on to the eta village:

    "I've always heard meeting a white dog on the road is a sign of good luck." I look to Laughing Crane, "and did you hear that riddle? How strange! What do make of it, friend?"
  • image

    The eta village lies only a quarter mile outside the city and is visible from the city gate. The village of the eta is little more than a collection of wicker and thatch huts on a barren plain. Garbage and filth cover the muddy ground. The smell is pungent in the warm air and catches in your throat. The people who dwell in this squalor do the jobs associated with spiritual pollution: the removal of garbage, sweeping of streets, butchering, fish cleaning, leather work, burying the dead, and performing executions. The eta are despised by nearly all the people of the Shogunate, even their fellow non-eta bonge. A samurai can practice “kirisute-gomen” and cut down an eta on the spot for any imagined insult without fear of the law.

    Currently about 120 eta sit idle. They have built a tiny shrine in the center of the village and adorned it with carved cork sculptures, bone jewelry, and a handful of copper coins with square holes in the center (zeni). From time to time, a member of the village kneels before the shrine in silent supplication. The soft sounds of weeping seem to echo throughout the compound.

    Liu Wenxiong, from your study of the Classics, you've heard of many religions. The shrine appears to be dedicated to all of the local religions. The eta hope
    to blanket the divine forces to find salvation.

    The eta are shy and frightened of visitors. They avoid eye contact and keep physically distant from you.

    What do you do?
  • I'll wander over to the shrine. Idly I'll pick up a zeni. It seems strange that these people with so little would just leave coins laying about. I'll test the authenticity of the coin by biting it. Satisfied it is real I'll flip it back onto the shrine.

    "So, Laughing Crane, is there a boss worker here that we should talk to?"
  • The eta huddled together and cower when you brashly walk over to pick up the zeni, Ba. None of them interfere, but they're pretty shocked at your actions. They consider the shrine, and their gifts, holy. There's almost an audible sigh when you flip the zeni back.
  • "I've heard tales of the gods delivering wisdom in the guise of beggars. We should keep his riddle in mind."

    As we enter the village I take stock, looking for a headman. When Ba flips the zeni back onto the shrine I'll add a silver coin of my own.

    In a loud voice, to Ba, but meant to be heard by all those surreptitiously wathcing us, I say, "I wonder who tends this shrine? I would speak to them about the stories of the tormenting spirit? Wouldn't you Ba?"
  • The silver coin surprises the eta. You hear a couple gasps. That would feed one of them for months!

    An older man scoots forward, head bowed low, "An evil spirit has developed a taste for human flesh, masters. The attacks started over a month ago. The creature attacks at night, once or twice a week. The last attack was two days ago. The spirit prefers children or the elderly as prey, but all who see the beast die by its claws. The trail the beast leaves as it drags off its victims is a bloody mess and easy to follow, although none of us have been brave enough to attempt it. Only one man in the village has seen the creature and lived. Hiro the undertaker encountered the creature four nights ago while returning from fishing."
  • "Thank you. Where could we find Hiro? And does the trail from two days ago still remain?"
  • The old man looks over to a young woman who leaves, crawling away several feet before rising to walk with stooped shoulders to fetch him

    Hiro arrives. The man is a huge, filthy, hairy brute with wild, haunted eyes, a flat face, and a toothless mouth. Wounds, only a few days old, decorate this man’s torso and neck. Across his back is a rusted and chipped no-dachi (greatsword). Hiro is timid despite his intimidating appearance. He bows to the ground before you, "Four nights ago I was returning home from fishing in one of the channels that water the rice paddies. My... my young nephew Oke was with me. It was growing dark and we were rushing home with a small string of fish." He looks at you, Ba, continuing, "Suddenly, out of the underbrush leaped a huge jungle cat! The creature grabbed Oke and shook him like a doll. I... I plunged his spear into it but it did nothing to the cat. Then it turned on me,
    slashed me here," he points to the scars on his chest, "and here," he shows the barely scabbed wounds on his neck.

    He is near tears when he admits, "Before I could attack again, the creature fled, dragging Oke with it. I... I ran to the village in shame."
  • edited September 2014
    "So the spirit takes the shape of a jungle cat? Interesting."
    I look to Hiro and the old man (assuming he's still nearby) "Has anything changed recently? A new building put up? An old one destroyed? Some new field cleared? Perhaps a new are of graveyard cleared?"
  • The old man shakes his head vigorously, "We have done nothing, master! Nothing!" His tone indicates that maybe something odd has occurred, but the eta were not involved.
  • "Elder. If there was been something changed, or some strange happening, it may help us rid you of this spirit. For that is truly why we are here."

    OOC: I have a "A Face you can Trust (2)" and I am trying to bring it to bear.
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