HOUSE OF WITHERED BLOSSOMS
The kami guardian Noburo scrutinizes the heroes before allowing them to enter the sacred grove. Shikibu assists in the introductions, and at length, the zuishin kami – guadian of gates and doorways, sworn enemy of all oni, greets the party and allows them passage to the forest kami’s holy ground.
The assembled kami begin whispering strange words, which Shikibu translates. She tells them that the kami swore an oath long ago to guard the oni of the Five Storms, who were imprisoned in a pagoda called the House of Withered Blossoms. For centuries, the kami kept the Five Storms contained, but one night, 160 years ago, most of the oni somehow escaped their prison. The kami do not know how, but they do know that at least one oni still remains in the House of Withered Blossoms, for their oath forbids them from stepping over the threshold while even one oni remains inside, and the way is still barred to them.
The kami ask the Wheel-Breakers to enter the pagoda to learn what happened to the Five Storms and, if necessary, to defeat the last oni within. They know that the heroes seek to depose the shogun Taira no Kiyomori, and that he has somehow sent agents of the Five Storms to thwart them — an exploration of the oni’s former prison might give them information and weapons they can use against their enemies.
First things being what they are, force the necessity to clear the pagoda above, before searching the depths below the House of Withered Blossoms for answers. The pagoda is infested with Araneas, terrible spider shapeshifter sorcerers. These foul beings have festooned the levels of the pagoda with myriad traps and sinister guardians, but the heroes forge onward and clear the towering structure.
While resting the night before tackling the depths beneath the pagoda, they are violently awakened by a pack of Obake warriors, led by their Hobgoblin Chief, Swine Shogun Buto Futotsu. Buto charges into battle astride his monstrous dire boar steed, with several snow leopards snarling and snapping at the head the pack. Buto was a ferocious opponent, who ultimately gave his life for the cause of his master. As he committed seppuku rather than allowing Kumori to kill him, he bellowed a strange name, one he’d been calling out at every swing of his mighty greataxe.
Munasukaru! Munasukaru no agataarsh leragaanada. Supai durachkta ingragalamash! Ahhhh Munasukaru!
~The battle cry of Buto Futotsu
The win was hard fought, and its conclusion left both Smriti and Blue Beak hovering at the precipice of death. Perhaps it was the beneficent kami who kept the heroes from passing beyond death’s door, for when discussed the following morning, both parties suspect the spirit realm is much closer here than in other places. Smriti and Blue Beak both recount vivid visions of a hundred thousand kami spirits floating therein. They also tell of seeing each the other as ghostly and insubstantial, yet they speak of holding tightly onto each other in hopes to prevent their spirits from passing into the beyond.
Who is this Muasukaru, whose name Buto kept chanting? Could it be the lone oni that remains within the bowels under the Pagoda of Withered Blossoms? Next session, the heroes delve deep under the pagoda, cellars – to discover what, is to be determined…