A folktale for Legend of the Five Rings

We had another session of our L5R game on Sunday, which astute readers will recall was April Fool’s Day.

The Togashi monks — of which my character is one — are renowed for doing kind of weird and/or inexplicable things. Clearly I needed to play a few April Fool’s jokes in character, right? Unfortunately, I’m not much of a prankster, and by the time I thought up this idea, I was already at FOGcon (meaning my brain was well on its way toward being fried). The only trick I managed to come up with in the end was to give the Ikoma libraries a text they did not have, namely the Book of the Cricket: the world’s tiniest scroll, detailing the many calamities that should have killed my lucky cricket but haven’t. (And I do mean tiny. I had to use a magic tattoo to be able to see well enough to write it, and the Ikoma had to use a pair of spells to copy the scroll and then enlarge the copy before they could read the damn thing.)

But because my brain can apparently do folklore in its sleep, I did come up with a story for why there is a tradition in Dragon lands of playing tricks on the last day of the month of the Dragon. For any interested parties, I give you the tale of Chibuta and the passing of winter.

In the earliest days of the Empire, not long after the Kami fell, it came to pass one year that the spirit of winter refused to leave Rokugan. The ground was as hard as iron, and the air was so cold that Lady Sun could only come out for a few hours each day. Nothing would grow. All the followers of the Kami sent messengers to winter, begging him to let spring in, but he refused.

One day Chibuta, the first of the ise zumi, came before the spirit of winter and bowed very low. “My lord,” he said, “as you reign supreme over Rokugan, it is my duty to tell you that a strange creature has been sighted in your lands. It is an agent of spring, here to scout out your defenses. If it escapes, it will tell spring what it has seen, and you will be overthrown.”

The spirit of winter said, “Tell me what this creature looks like, so I may hunt it down.”

Chibuta bowed again and said, “It is a small creature, my lord, with brown fur and short limbs, and powerful claws for digging. But the ground is so hard, I am sure it will not be able to burrow down and escape you.”

Without hesitation, the spirit of winter took up his spear, which was a great icicle, and his bow, whose arrows were the piercing winds. He mounted a great, starving wolf, and rode out to hunt this creature.

The agent of spring was certainly more than a natural animal, for it fled before him, and no matter how fast the wolf ran, it could never quite catch its prey. The creature dodged this way and that, always just out of reach. So caught up in the chase was the spirit of winter that he did not notice that the creature was leading him steadily northward, until at last, on the final day of the month of the Dragon, he passed out of Rokugan entirely, and spring came in at last.

Chibuta was not seen again after that. It is said that one of his tattoos allowed him to transform into a small, brown-furred animal, with powerful claws for digging. But no ise zumi after him has ever had such a tattoo.

To this day, it is tradition in Dragon lands to play tricks on the last day of that month, to make certain that winter remains too confused to return to Rokugan before his allotted time.

. . . it would work better if it were the first day of the month of the Hare, since that’s the official start of spring, but our game just had the cherry blossom festival, which is on the 23rd day of the month of the Dragon. So I had to work with the timeline I had. Also, “chibuta” means “earth pig.” Plug in a couple of synonyms, and you’ll see the terrible joke I made there.

(And yes, starlady38, I think I mashed the wrong readings together again. But I only had my cell phone dictionary to work with at the time — not to mention the four brain cells that had survived FOGcon — so please forgive the error.)

Clearly our game needs to last long enough that a year passes IC. Next time, I’ll be less exhausted, and more able to think up good pranks.

0 Responses to “A folktale for Legend of the Five Rings”

  1. kurayami_hime

    土豚 (つちぶた)

    It actually means something, but not what you intended it to mean. The pun, though, is awful, so gold star there.

    • Marie Brennan

      Heh. Aardvark? Really?

      • starlady38


        but chibuta would have to be 地豚, which is not a word.

        • Marie Brennan

          Yeah, but it was the best I could do in a rush. 🙂 (The process literally went, “uh, ち means earth, right? <looks it up> Okay, I remembered that correctly. And pig is, oh, what’s the thing I love at Himawari — ぶたかうに, that’s it, so ぶた is the word for pig. Right? <looks it up> Right. Go!”

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