Campaign name: Magistrates of the Kintani Valley
Since arriving near Ten Plum Blossoms Village, at the old Crane estate to which they have been assigned, Our Heroes have had to deal with a variety of troublesome events, such as placating the restless spirit of the former owner, Doji Kazushi, who was bitter about his lost love, and placating the restless spirits of Kazushi's swords, which were bitter about Kazushi's lack of an heir. This led them to uncover a murderous ring of maho tsukai who had been preying on travelling ronin for many years—and to hire some relatively reliable ronin retainers to act as deputies. Later they had to reintroduce Kazushi's young granddaughter into polite society after discovering that she had accidentally been misfiled in a geisha house; and also delivered unsent love letters to Kazushi's former lover without letting her husband know—thus receiving an invitation to that lady's modest Winter Court.
They also assisted the wretched inhabitants of the dilapidated, unlucky village of Broken Sword, where Yashamaru did some impromptu surgery with a flaming sword; and tracked a Phoenix fugitive's trail of destruction to Eternal Shining Well, a village administered by Bayushi Yutaka, a very friendly Emerald Magistrate. There they met Akodo Hideo—a new ally from the Lion clan—and faced a fearsome oni which liked to lay eggs.
Upon their return to the estate they had to pursue ratling thieves who had absconded with their entire cherry crop and a holy artifact of the minor fortune of geisha. They also fended off amorous village ladies; and attempted to delay Ishie's possible marriage to her sister's fiance after her sister's disappearance in search of her lost love.
Thereafter they visited a Phoenix shugenja, Isawa Seigo, and his family at their lakeside estate near Maiden's Lake Village, before continuing to Four Oxen Village—where the oni who escaped them was created. On the way there, they were almost but not quite mugged by the most useless bandit in the world, who ended up losing a block of opium while running away, and was later captured while trying to get it back.
On the outskirts of Four Oxen they found a taint-blasted ghost town, and a surviving witness of the terrible events of the day of the oni's birth—when a small group of tainted conspirators was betrayed to magistrates by an ally, and a devastating battle ripped the village apart. Hideo stepped on a tainted dagger in the ruins, and was ill and delirious for most of the return trip. After a brief stay at Maiden's Lake, the magistrates returned to Ten Plum Blossoms in time to welcome Hideo's uncle, Akodo Munemori, with whom they would be travelling to the winter court of Doji Masazumi and Doji Yumiko in Breeze Through the Long Grass Village. Munemori had recently become engaged to Masazumi's daughter, Harumi—an arrangement which pleased neither man very much, as they were old enemies.
It transpired that Masazumi had a lot of old enemies, which became rather inconvenient for the magistrates when he was found both poisoned and stabbed in his bedchamber halfway through Winter Court. Who could have done it? Isawa Seigo, who had for many years disputed Masazumi's ownership of some Phoenix scrolls? Munemori, whose sons were killed by men under Masazumi's command during a recent war between their clans? Doji Satoshi, long denied governorship of the estate by his father's refusal to retire? The man passing himself off as the war hero Doji Tsuramatsu? Bayushi Yutaka, the seemingly friendly Scorpion invited to court by Kamenosuke? The murder was eventually deemed to have been an unintentional joint effort by Satoshi's ambitious wife Sakue and an agent of Doji Jurobei, the tainted eldest son of Masazumi's good friend Doji Akitaka. Sakue was stripped of her name and banished following a covert deal involving Yumiko and Yutaka, and Jurobei was slain by Kamenosuke in a duel.
During their stay at court the magistrates also began to hear mysterious rumours about a sinister, far-reaching tainted threat which went further than just the murder—a threat fearsome enough to induce void kami to lie—and investigated several thefts of jade petal tea. They became aware of a mysterious history between Masazumi's younger son, Terumoto, and Seigo's daughter, Daichi, who was revealed to be afflicted with the Shadowlands taint herself. They assisted Munemori and Harumi in forming a more cordial relationship. They discovered that the estate's hatamoto's youngest son had long been passing off a peasant's embroidery as his own. They had a frustrating run-in with three mischievous mujina in search of an old fox mask, and discovered that ancient Lion spirits were haunting the village. They discovered interesting things about various people's parentage, and tried to assist a gaki in moving on to a better afterlife. They rescued a small boy from a malevolent spirit which lived under the estate, and laid its previous victims to rest.
Winter Court also provided many light amusements and opportunities for self-improvement. The bushi sparred, and the shugenja practiced their craft and shared pointers. Kamenosuke won the dueling contest, and in the true spirit of his family made a lot of alliances—even hosting a young courtiers' dinner. Kamenosuke has taken it upon himself to learn the skills of a matchmaker and arrange a good marriage for Ishie, so that a bad one is not arranged for her. He also corresponded extensively with his beloved, a young courtier stationed in Toshi Ranbo. Ishie corresponded with her grandmother, a mysteriously long-lived alchemist, and began to uncover somewhat disturbing secrets about her work and her own role in it. Nagataka honed his meditative skills, often receiving strange visions and portents of the future, or whispers of communication from nearby spirits. He discovered that the small statue he had been given by his master was the stone prison of Sister Fuu, a surly and lazy acolyte who had clearly given offence to some powerful entity many years in the past, and whom it was now his burden to rehabilitate. Sister Fuu later turned out to be a wealth of information about ancient gossip, but not good for much else.
Some of the magistrates' duties took them outside both the village and the estate. They received word that a mysterious man with a strong resemblance to Yashamaru had been seen in the area. Yashamaru identified him as his nemesis, his heavily tainted uncle Agasha Sosuke. After he assaulted and tainted a ronin sent by Yashamaru on an errand, the magistrates found his trail and discovered that he was attempting to recover some magical artifact he had hidden in the area long before his fall from grace. They pursued him to a mythical underwater kingdom where tsu-fish warred with fierce lobster-women, and after negotiating an alliance between the long-time enemies, they managed to defeat him in the bowels of the lobster-women's castle—largely thanks to Yashamaru's sacrifice. They came into possession of a small box of preserved cherries—clearly magical, and of unknown purpose.
The magistrates also witnessed the final destruction of Oni no Mayako at the hands of Isawa Hanshiro, the son of its creator, at the cost of his soul and later his life. With its dying breath, the oni revealed that Doji Akitaka's entire family was corrupt, and that he was the old enemy who had betrayed her creator—leaving the magistrates the daunting task of exposing and ending his evil plans to resurrect the oni to which his ancestors had pledged themselves. Kamenosuke has made a tentative alliance with Akitaka's surviving daughter, who was eager to co-operate in exchange for immunity and a chance to improve her station.
The hill where the destructive ritual took place was left corrupted, and the magistrates later cleansed it with the assistance of Yogo Shigeri, a visiting Jade magistrate—they had to kill a very large cockroach. Shigeri offered the magistrates some information about the Jade magistrate who had declared Jurobei not to be dangerous, and had a very friendly and non-threatening conversation with Ishie regarding further co-operation between them.
In a seemingly harmless poetry contest, which was meant to lighten the somewhat dismal atmosphere at court, the yojimbo of the Dragonfly representative, Tonbo Nadeshiko, angered the short-tempered Lion warrior Matsu Chizuko with a poem which suggested that the Lion Clan's recent war against the Dragonfly had been less than honourable. Their long-simmering conflict thus finally came to a formal duel. Unfortunately, at the crucial moment of resolution, both bushi were possessed by the spirits of their respective grandmothers, who—it transpired—had both been killed in an avalanche in Dragon lands before resolving their own duel of honour. Both were persuaded that it would be inappropriate for them to continue a duel to the death in their granddaughters' bodies—but as long as their dispute remains unresolved neither seems able to leave. A diplomatic solution has tentatively been arranged: the marriage of Nadeshiko to a cousin of Chizuko. However, said cousin has obligations of his own—he has been cursed by the fortune of marriage to suffer great misfortune if he marries before his sister, and his sister is a former bushi who retired to an isolated monastery after losing a leg.
After some debate about the ethics of dragging a warrior from her self-imposed retirement from society, the magistrates have sent an experienced Doji matchmaker to negotiate with this unlikely candidate for marriage. Meanwhile, they are travelling in the opposite direction, attempting to locate a Phoenix shugenja and his son (who is coincidentally Ichie's missing sister's missing former fiance), both of whom disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and who—if Oni no Mayako's last testimony is to be believed—are currently to be found in Inconvenient River Village.
Their path has led them to the suspiciously clean and well-maintained Sparkling Water By the Sunflower Field Village, where both the peasants and the Isawa lords seem to be acting very strangely. Unfamiliar bird and maple leaf motifs can be seen everywhere. The lord's daughter, Oborozukiyo, has delivered a cryptic warning to Kamenosuke during a somewhat scandalous visit. What awaits the magistrates in the village ahead?