Hour of the Monkey: The night begins with the PCs meeting in the inn of the Orange Blossom in Ryoko Owari Toshi, the City of Lies, largest city in the Empire. It is the time of the Bon Festival, Rokugan’s Halloween. The party is just swell until a seven foot demon with three eyes and disgusting pods and pustules covering its body bursts through a wall and attacks a trio of Crane also sharing the inn. The PCs manage to hold off the oni until the Scorpion guards can arrive, but only a single Crane survives.
His name is Doji Juzo, but he has little idea why he and his companions, simple merchant patrons selling masks and other party supplies for the Bon festival, should be the target of an oni attack.
Hour of the Rooster: The PCs and Doji Juzo are saved from a night of rough questioning at the hands of the Scorpion by Doji Oruku, a Crane metsuke and duelist assigned to the city. Part of Oruku’s duties involve pursuing matters of the law as they apply to Crane vassals within Ryoko Owari, and the murder of two Doji at the hands of an oni certainly falls into his purview. The PCs reach an agreement with him to hunt down the oni.
Their meeting is interrupted by the arrival of a terrified eta child, who informs them that the city crematorium is under attack by bandits, who are trying to make off with the bodies. By the time the PCs arrive, the fighting is mostly over, and the remaining looters flee rather than be engaged by heavily armed samurai. Predictably, the PCs and Oruku give chase.
Hour of the Rooster: The Chase
The five bandits split up, and the PCs do likewise.
Hiruma Ogami pelts off after the first one, his years of training by racing horses serving him in good stead. He catches up to the bandit just as he graps an eta child and holds a knife to his throat. “Back off!” the bandit shouts. “I’ll do it!” Ogami’s response: “go ahead.” He charges, and the bandit, shocked at the callousness of the Crab, is killed before he has a chance to kill the eta.
The second bandit dashed off into a geisha house, causing quite a kerfuffle. When Kuni Nashi paused to assist/was knocked over by the young lady the bandit threw down the stairs to delay him, the bandit escaped. Nashi did manage to find the sale manifest and inventory of a local Scorpion-owned merchant shop that the bandit dropped on the roof.
The third chase found Kitsu Ai and Shosuro Hideki pursuing their bandit down the narrow alleyways of the eta quarter, dodging the bandit’s delaying attempts and cornering him in an alley, where he surrenders. Before his execution, the bandit admits to being hired to find the swords of the Crane. One of them was a nemuranai, an awakened sword.
The fourth was the quarry of Doji Oruku, who killed his bandit without much trouble.
The fifth bandit flees all the way back to the Inn of the Oragne Blossom. There, he engages the PCs with reckless abandon, and is killed in close combat. On his person, they discover a pouch with the Crab mon, in which is 5 koku.
Hour of the Rooster: The Crane Villa
Armed with the information that the bandits were after one of the swords of the slain Crane, Oruku recalls that one of them, Daidoji Anitano, had acquired a sword of which he was rather fond while doing battle with the Crab in the south. The belongings of Crane vassals are routinely taken to the Crane Consulate, the hatamoto of which is one Doji Tsumetsu. The PCs head there.
Upon reaching the grounds, the PCs and Oruku feel the symptoms of exhaustion. They discover the guard at the main entrance in a deep sleep just inside the building, and soon after entering they too fall asleep.
Twenty minutes later, the PCs awake to discover five terrible little creatures—little more than demonic heads mounted on eight legs—scuttling about and ransacking the place. The PCs kill these few, only to discover their master on the second floor—none other than the oni they battled at the inn. Though disgusted by its demeanor (“That ain’t right”-Hiruma Ogami), the PCs do battle with it, eventually driving it off, though in the course of the battle it wrenches off two more pustules from its back, which soon reveal themselves as its spawn.
The Crane now begin to awaken, and Doji Tsumetsu proves himself very grateful, giving the PCs a series of tsangusuri, one-use magial items made by the Asahina. Tsumetsu informs Oruku that he has heard that a Unicorn warehouse was attacked and their stock, all of it party favors for the Bon Festival, was destroyed. Nothing was stolen, but the place was thoroughly ransacked and the goods spoiled. The perpetrator appears to have large claws.
Hour of the Dog: The Unicorn Warehouse
At the warehouse, the PCs meet Shinjo Sanefusa, the Unicorn merchant patron whose clients own the building. Sanefusa shows them the damage, which has almost certainly been caused by the oni. A carton of masks bears the same mark as that on the manifest that the bandit dropped, it is the mark of the Shosuro family, and their warehouse is just around the corner…
Hour of the Dog: the Scorpion Warehouse
Finding the warehouse locked and under guard, Shosuro Hideki arranged an entrance. Inside, the PCs found themselves engaged with some serious guards who were spoiling for a fight. The battle nearly ended in the deaths of Hideki and Oruku, but, thanks primarily to the Hiruma Ogami’s lethal kyujutsu, the PCs carried the day.
As the Pcs fanned out to search the warehouse, they came across:
—a shipment of expensive unpainted porcelain masks, only some of which remain. The boxes are marked with a blurred Lion mon and a strange kabuki mask logo.
—an office with one terrified Scorpion with his back to a door.
He introduces himself as Shosuro Fujun. He explains that his little band bushwhacked a caravan heading for Unicorn lands in order to turn a quick profit. They picked the wrong caravan. He sold three boxes of masks to his three best buyers: a Crane, a Unicorn, and a Crab. Then some men came to visit him. They say they knew about the caravan, and that they wanted one of the boxes back. Just one of them, and it had to be that particular box. He didn’t know what they wanted it for, but they made it very clear to him and his brother, Chizaro, that they were willing to do some terrible things if they did not get the boxes back. They had black moons tatooed on the inside of their wrists. Chizaro got desperate, and…"
Fujun opened the door to reveal Shosuro Chizaro sitting in a circle of candles and bowls of blood. Sweat pours from his forehead. Time is running out. The oni has to retrieve the masks or be destroyed before Chizaro loses control of the ritual, or it will turn into an Oni Lord and destroy the city. Fujun tells them that the masks were sold to Doji Juzo, Shinjo Sanefusa, and a merchant named Whisper, who owns a shop downtown.
*Hour of the Dog: A Tatooed Friend"
En route to Whisper’s shop, the PCs are confronted by a tattoed figure leaping from a rooftop into their path. This is Togashi Ikyoto, an itinerant Dragon monk who has just done a favor for Whisper: stealing the Blade of Secrets, Daidoji Anitano’s sword. He informs them that the sword is vital for killing the oni stalking the city, and that Whisper is in way over his head. Ikyoto also has some suspicions about the sword, but his riddles make the exact nature of its drawbacks unclear.
*Hour of the Dog: The Merchant’s Secret"
Undaunted, the PCs press on to Whisper’s shop. The streets are starting to become more crowded as the Bon Festival celebrations begin to pick up. Whisper’s shop is a dive in downtown Ryoko Owari near the armorer’s district. It is abandoned. That is, abandoned except for the oni spawn scuttling about. The battle is mercifully short, with Kuni Nashi’s quick-draw Jade Strike standing the PCs in good stead.
After the fight, the shop is tossed, incovering the following items
—an Iron Box with 20 koku
—two ledgers of scrolls, on e containing Whisper’s accounts and the other detailing his daily activities
—One large, ornate porcelain mask
A flip through his journal reveals that Whisper knows the Oni is after him. He has fled with the sword to the place he feels safest—his mistress’ rooms on Teardrop Island, Ryoko Owari’s pleasure district.
Hour of the Boar: Teardrop Island
When Oruku informs them that weapons and spellscrolls are confiscated by the City before their owners are permitted to disembark on Teardrop Island, the PCs elect to sneak across the river. And by sneak I mean swim and then scale the rocky shores of the island. They make their way to the House of the Water Lillies, where they find Whisper. After a tense discussion with the Crab PCs, whisper confesses that he sold the remainder of the masks he bought to a Crab merchant patron. He is about to give up the patron’s name when the Oni bursts onto the scene and kills him. The ensuing battle is long and deadly, with Kuni Nashi nearly ripped to shreds by the oni’s claws. He is saved by the timely intervention of a passerby, giving Shosuro Hideki time to kill the beast with the Blade of Secrets.
Hour of the Boar
The passerby is [[:meishozo nisei]], a Witch-hunter and vassal of the Kuni family, whose pursuit of four ornate porcelain masks that could be used for maho rituals has led him to the city. He is hot on the trail of the cult of Onnotangu, Lord Moon, whom he believes has gained possession of the masks from Whisper. He joins the PCs and Oruku to hunt them down.
Hour of the Boar through the Hour of the Rat: Secrets and Threats
The PCs and their investigator allies put their heads together. They know that stolen porcelain masks that serve as conduits for maho rituals have been purchased by a Crab maerchant patron somewhere in the city. Doji Oruku names four Crab that could be involved; each is unscrupulous enough to buy stolen goods and stupid enough to not know maho when they see it.
The PCs meet with Hida Muchi and Kaiu Shinya, both of whom seem to have serious issues, but neither of which was involved. Their third stop is with Kuni Ryo, whose alibi is much less convincing, particularly when Shosuro Hideki, having proken into the second floor window, discovers a crate of masks. The ensuing fight is brief, and although Ryo manages to arrest Hiruma Ogami‘s rampage through his students with a well-placed maho spell locking the hero’s limbs in place, he is put down by Doji Oruku.
One of Ryo’s guards, a Hida Gyogi, is captured and brought in to the magistrate station for questioning. Preliminary interrogation revealed the Moon Cult tattoo on his inner right wrist. Gyogi is incredibly belligerant, freely insulting each and every member of the investigative team. In response to a particularly scathing insinutation regarding the fallen state of the Hiruma lands, Hiruma Ogami removed the young man’s left arm. When even that failed to shake Gyogi’s rabid hate, one of the PCs deployed one of Tsumetsu’s tsangusuri, a jade sun that gave Gyogi a moment’s lucidity. Just before bleeding out, he informed the PCs of the location of the Moon Cult’s base, their plans to raise a small army of zombies to lay waste to the bon festival and destroy the Temple of Amaterasu, and the name of their terrible leader, the dread Orimono.
Hour of the Ox: The Raid
The streets have become choked with masked revelers; the Bon Festival is well under way. The PCs struggle through the crowds to the Wharf District of Ryoko Owari, where Gyogi has informed them the Cult of Onnotangu’s Headquarters can be found. Somewhat leery of direct action after having been bushwhacked twice, Hiruma Ogami and Shosuro Hideki elect to sneak into the building before the shugenja and magistrates enter. They progress easily enough through the abandoned first floor, but on the second they discover the cult gathered around the grisly remains of a fresh murder victim. One of them raises his hands, and the corpse lurches to its feet.
The battle is fast and vicious. The cult is wiped out, but no one matching Hida Gyogi’s description of Orimono is present. The sickening realization that he is loose in the festival with his army of zombies dawns on the PCs. They have to get to the Temple of Amaterasu and stop this villain!
Hour of the Tiger: The End
The PCs reach the area around the Temple of the Sun with no time to spare. Former revelers are now desperate refugees screaming and fleeing from everyone wearing a mask. It is the Bon Festival. Everyone is wearing a mask.
Mercifully, the confusion makes it fairly easy to spot the villains. They are the ones standing still, hands outstretched toward the Dragon Globe sitting on its pedestal outside the Temple. The earth begins to shake and the pedestal teeters. Time is running short.
The fight to their position is lengthy and difficult. Still, the PCs do manage to stop Orimono before he gets his spell off. Victory is a pleasant sensation, and both Oruku and the priestess of Amaterasu thank the PCs strongly. Kuni Nashi gives Meishozo Nisei the large mask Orimono used to control the zombies, and so ended the evening.