Bitter Milk

The Bitter Milk of the Dark One

The Magistrates seize command of the fort and institute immediate changes. The fort’s three remaining taisa (“captains”) are allowed seppuku; the chui and gunso are denied such. Immediate training and drills begin; watches are fortified and overseen. Quickly, the voice of Gunso-sensei Basho are heard along the Wall. The Magistrates devote the second portion of their attentions to the investigation – both are important, but the Magistrates are properly intent on the security of the Wall.

Questioning reveals little, although all the wards are checked and heimin and henin staff questioned. There is no sign of the Taint, and the food and water produce no evidence of poisoning. The condition of the fort’s men seems to suggest otherwise, however: nearly 50% of the bushi – infantry and archers alike – appear to be suffering the effects of deep illness or poisoning. Evidence seized from the former commander’s quarters suggest likewise. The fort physicians can find no cause.

The Magistrates continue their investigations, interrogating the kitchen staff and reviewing the quartermaster’s logs. The Quartermaster has apparently run off, during the last attack. The Magistrates order all the active tunnels blocked and trapped, as there are not enough fit soldiers to gaurd them well.

Moving their attentions quickly to the nearby sake, sochu and geisha houses on the Wall, the Magistrates find a cooperative, discrete Scorpion. The Scorpion agrees to try and identify approx. two dozen substances the Magistrates have seized from their searches of the fort. The Scorpion merchant notes almost all of the to be common spices, herbs or charms. Two, however, are spoiled and the third is highly refined opium – illegal, but frequently overlooked.

The Magistrates consider their findings in the fort war chambers. Kanjiro believe further investigation of the catacombs is warranted and so proceeds, accompanied by Hiruma Arasu and a handpicked unit of bushi. After learning that three of the overworked archers have died under the physician’s attentions (they responded unexpectedly from the accupuncture and died…) and informing his companions, Kyoshi retires for the evening, disturbed by the recent events. Shortly after indulging in a “chase with the dragon”, Kyoshi received a vistor requesting a meeting on behalf of the Scorpion merchant.

The investigation in the catacombs finds a disturbing sight in that of two “cocooned” oblong shapes….wrapped in shreds of the Quartermaster and his wive’s clothes. The cocoons disgorge a pair of fast moving, chitenous humanoids – the Crab swiftly dispatch them, but lose three of their own. Kanjiro and Arasu return to the war chambers, waking a dozng Fudo to relay their findings. Returning shortly after Kanjiro, Kyoshi bears the information that one of the substances thought “spoiled” was tainted with a quicksilver compound. He explains – with some distraction, the nature of the poison affecting the fort. The shout of a “screamer” calls the group forth to an attack on the Wall.

The assault is properly countered, the invading horde of hideous “demon dogs” is dispatched. Several men are lost in the attack; Shisumo is nearly gutted by a “dog”, saved only by a very fast and desperate wakaizashi strike. Kyoshi overcome by a spell of possession, and turns on the lead of the fort’s shugenja, cutting him down from behind. Gunso-sensei Basho sees the cause of Kyoshi’s mad behavior and leads the Magistrates’ ashigaru against the maho-wielding fort physicians.

The assault repelled, Kanjiro oversees the … interrogation … of the corrupted cook staff. He returns shortly with confessions that the poisoning of the fort command staff and the bushi troops was done by the cooks, as directed by the Headsman of a local Crab mura (village).

Still late at night, the Magistrates leaves Gunso-sensei Basho in charge of the Wall, to make preparations for an assault and the arrival of the Goro no Kaiu delegation due to arrive in the morning. The Magistrates and some handpicked troops arrive in the mura by the dark of early morning. Finding the villagers gathered in a local shrine (which shows some sights of defilement). The group, hearing the wail of infants, breaks in and stops a hideous series of sacrifices, slaying the Headman and dispatching his vile revenant minion. The land is purified by burning, the corrupt villagers put to the torch, and the saved infants shipped off to the closest monestary for care.

By mid-day, the transfer of the fort to the Goro delegation has been arranged, and the Magistrates look further into the trail of corruption.

%d bloggers like this: