Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

The Seppuku of Bayushi Tenkai

This was written shortly after GenCon, and served a few different purposes. Firstly, it showed the fate of the Scorpion general who had been magically driven to flee the field at the end of the Battle of Shiro Usagi. Since I had introduced the NPC in a previous campaign fiction, I felt it was important to show his ultimate fate and, in particular, to show that he paid a bitter price for his failure. Secondly, the fiction served to reveal to the general player-base that Shosuro Hido had effectively subverted the Clan Champion and become the "shadow ruler" of the Scorpion Clan, which helped to set up the Year Four/Year Five developments with the Scorpion. Thirdly, because there had been a lot of griping about the Pyrhhic nature of the Crab victory, I wanted the fiction to emphasize that the Crab had, nonetheless, WON the battle and the Scorpion would definitely have preferred that they not.


Kyuden Bayushi, End of Summer, 1502 IC

"It is unjust, father."

Bayushi Tenkai finishes tightening his obi, making sure it is perfectly arranged. "What is unjust, boy?"

His son's face is pale, muscles bunching in his jaw. "It was a nemuranai, magic. How can they punish you for that?"

"A general who flees the field is not going to be welcomed back with open arms," Tenkai says mildly. He checks his garments one more time before he turns and gestures to the servants. They slide the shoji open soundlessly. "Ours is not a Clan known for its forgiving spirit." He steps into the hall.

The boy follows him out. "But... but you did nothing wrong! They set you an impossible task, and the Crab cheated and used some magic trinket, and now Lord Tamoru demands your death! It is not right, father. It is not fair!"

"Not... fair?" Suddenly Tenkai's voice is the whip-crack of command. "When has a samurai's life ever had anything to do with what is FAIR?"

The boy drops to his knees, pressing his chalk-white face to the tatami on the floor. "Forgive me, father--"

"Be silent." Still the whip-crack. "I have done what I must to protect our family line. You will do the same, samurai." He waits, two beats, then allows his voice to soften. "Look up, boy."

His son's face is streaked with tears, but otherwise rigid, showing no emotion. Good. "You will be the lord of our family now. Do not let this sacrifice be in vain. Now, go to your mother. Lord Tamoru has spared her from jigai, and she will need your comfort."

The boy nods, rising to his feet, then bows, jaw clenched to keep from dishonoring himself with any further outburst. Tenkai watches him leave, then turns and strides in the opposite direction, down a long empty hall. After a few moments, a shoji slides open and another man joins him, walking in pace. A slim figure in black courtier's robes, his face concealed by a blank white mask pierced only by a pair of small eye-holes.

"A tempestuous boy," he observes in a soft voice. "His mother's father was a Lion, Adoka-san. I fear he will not be well-suited to serve the Clan in the courts."

"How fortunate, then, that your family traditionally serves the Scorpion on the battlefield," Shosuro Adoka observes.

"Indeed." Tenkai pauses a moment, then continues. "Convey my thanks to Hido-sama for protecting my family." "Of course, Tenkai-san. Lord Hido-sama offers his regrets that he could not protect you personally. The circumstances, you understand, did not allow for more."

"I would not expect anything else," Tenkai says calmly. After a moment: "I don't suppose you have learned anything about the nature of that nemuranai?"

"Apparently the Crab recovered it from the City of Empty Dreams. We were unaware of its powers until your... unfortunate encounter."

"Unfortunate indeed," Tenkai murmurs.

For a moment he is back under the walls of Shiro Usagi, staring at a field of water the color of earth and blood. Figures covered in mud stagger and howl and lurch, hacking at each other by the light of a setting sun, while the chant of the distant Kuni rises to a howl of triumph. The battle is almost lost, but there is still a sliver of hope if he can get the reserves into position to break the flank...

...the masked Crab lunges at him, paw-like hands spread to grasp and rend, and sudden impossible terror clutches Tenkai's heart with claws of icy steel...

He almost misses a step. Adoka is speaking. "--Lord Hido-sama wishes you to know that he is pleased with the results of your efforts."

Tenkai's eyes narrow. "Pleased? We lost the battle, Adoka-san. Was it not our intention to win the battle? To sting Hida Gojiro with the bitterness of defeat, so that he would lash out and tear the Empire's peace asunder?"

"True, of course, a victory would have been greatly preferable."

Adoka's pale mask bobs. "But this result can serve our needs as well. The Crane have broken their non-aggression pact with the Crab, and Gojiro will surely seek vengeance. The Lion and Dragon have clashed on the battlefield, and already their border is aflame. The Empire's peace is shattered. All these things work to our favor."

"Indeed?" Tenkai's voice is cold. "A pity we could not have accomplished such great things without losing so many of our bushi."

"The Crab lost more than we."

"From a far larger army. The Crab lost, perhaps, 1 in 100 of their fighting men. We lost 1 in 30, perhaps more. A high price to pay, for a few political gains."

Adoka's mask cannot show any expression, but his voice turns slightly waspish as he answers. "I am endeavoring to offer you some comfort, Tenkai-san, in the thought of what you did manage to achieve."

"Ah, my apologies, Adoka-san. I accept your comfort in the spirit of compassion with which it is offered," Tenkai says with bland sincerity. He glances up, noting the doors impending at the end of the hallway. "And now I fear we must part, Adoka-san."

Adoka nods. "Of course, Tenkai-san. Go with the Fortunes." He bows and glides away through another sliding door. Tenkai watches him go, and then steps through the door. Early morning sunlight slants across the gardens of Kyuden Bayushi, blazing on Tenkai's white garments. He squints against the light as he makes note of who is present. Enemies from the courts and the army, come to silently gloat in his defeat. A handful of allies, loyal officers staying by his side to the end. And the Clan Champion, Bayushi Tamoru, his narrow face set in an expression of refined disappointment and judgment.

Tenkai's family is not here, of course. They are on the far side of the palace, distancing themselves from the shame he will cleanse.

Tenkai bows to his Champion, his face blank. "Fool," he thinks. "The Clan has slipped through your fingers and you do not even realize it."

He kneels on the white cloth. His hands move automatically, unsheathing his wakizashi, wrapping the blade in paper.

"I had no choice. My family had no future unless I aligned myself with Hido. And if he fails, we are lost."

He pulls open his kimono and lifts the foreshortened blade. The second takes position, silently, as Tenkai closes his eyes and recites the final haiku from memory.

"Warm summer breeze

Lifts prayers to the Heavens

The future is clear."

He sets the blade against his stomach. Three cuts, and darkness.