We moved on, towards the other side of the Forest of Spirits, with Miyaro as our guide. This voyage would take us about seven more weeks, and then we would be in Minkai.
People were somewhat down from our recent casualty. But after a week Sandru called for a little celebration in the evening. it was now exactly one year since the start of the events in Sandpoint that sent us on this quest.
I’m not going into details, but I ended up spending the night with Ameiko in her wagon.
Near morning the alarm was sounded. Dara had noticed a shape circling the camp, and she’d discovered it was a kami that comes to escort the spirits of the dead to wherever they need to go. But none had died here.
Later Koya got profoundly startled when she did a harrowing; but she wouldn’t talk about it. But in the next few days I noticed some people acting strangely. It started with Shaleluh. I’m not certain about Ameiko since she was avoiding me after our night, and I was too uncertain to approach her.
So I insisted on explanations. So it turned out Koya had received a vison from a kami, and it predicted Ameiko would die before leaving the forest.
We started looking for ways to prevent this from happening. in hindsight I don’t know how we missed it, and I don’t even know if it would have made any difference, but we forgot to look for natural causes like an illness.
Shortly before reaching the edge of the forest I was contacted by Amoromi, and she offered a way out of this predicament. By that time I was worked up enough to even doubt her. But she wanted Ameiko to reach the throne to bring back peace and honour to the land, without upsetting the balance. She offered two ways. one was a potion that would turn a person virtually immortal for 24 hours. in theory this would let us leave the forest. The other would be for one of the bloodline to take his or her life in Ameiko’s place, and this would have to be Ameiko’s sister as the only other candidate.
When the kami acted, I blocked its way to Ameiko; and her sister decided to use Amoromi’s blade to take her own life. But nothing appeared to have changed; the kami remained fixed on Ameiko.
We ended up fighting and killing the kami. And then Ameiko collapsed. An examination revealed her having a miscarriage; so another of the bloodline of the Amatatsu died there in her place.
I was too stunned by these events to remember much. I remeber Dara being in my face growling and ordering me to go cook. So i put the cooks on guard duty and made us some semblance of an evening meal. It was barely eddible. But it did help me setting things somewhat in their place in my mind; at least enough to be functional once more. So there was wisdom in her order.
I know I have to talk to Ameiko as soon as she’s had some time.
We entered the grasslands and started looking for the camp of a band of ronin, led by Hirabashi Jiro. He was a samurai who came her when he rebelled against the jade regent. He should be able to help us start a rebellion.
We found his camp and had a long talk. He told us he would believe our tale if we were to help him take on a strong band of bandits. Their leader had taken over a fort. And the Hirabashi ancestral daisho was locked in a vault in the fortress; a vault that can only be opened by someone of the royal bloodline. So we set off to take over the fortress while the Jiro and his men would take on the remaining bandits out on a raid.
We fought some birdlike creatures and captured one alive. It told us they follow the person who’s in charge of the fortress and they would follow us if we captured it. It showed us a way in on top of the cliff. The first room we entered we found two persons. Thinking them bandits I offered them to surrender or die. They could be tried after. They chose not to fight, and Dara even offered them a job. He agreed on provision that we would win, and told us where to find the rest of the bandits. One would be in the common room, and the leader in his quarters.
The one in the common room surrendered after I hit him once. And then the leader appeared, accompanied by the leader of the birdlike people. The bandit challenged me to a duel; I agreed. The rest however decided to interfere. We won the fight ofcourse; but the birdlike people decided to leave. They didn’t want to follow people without honour.
Hirabashi Jiro swore his allegiance to Ameiko. He talked about the jade regent’s three main forces:
- the daymio’s and their armies. Those we might be able to convince to change sides
- the army of the capital city. This we might be able to convince to stay out of the fighting; this has happened before
- the Typhoon Warrior. These are fanatically loyal to the jade regent
If we are to start a rebellion we will have to convince three factions to join us:
- ninja clans (except for the Oni Masks). Once a month the Three monkeys, the leaders of the clans, meat ina teahouse in the city of Enganoka. We’d have to go there and talk them into it.
- merchants and lesser nobility. The best way to get to them would be through the Geisha guild. We would have to go to the city of Sakakabe and talk to the guildleader, O-Kuhaku, in their traininghouse there.
- the daymio of Enganoka. The current one is feared and reviled, but he has an honorable younger brother. So we would have to kill the current one and talk to his successor.
We decided to start with the geisha, as that city was closest. It took quite some doign to get into the teahouse. We had to buy very nice clothing, gifts, … But this did give us a chance to start showing the seal of Amatatsu among the merchants, and perhaps start spreading a rumour among them that something’s afoot.
We did get a meeting with O-Kuhaku. She told us she might be able to assist, if we could help her in another matter. One of her favourite geisha had disappeared on a trip to the island of a feared pearl merchant. She suspects she’s being kept there. And that geisha might be able to help us even further as she’s the favourite of the daymio of Enganoka’s brother. So we agree to look into this.