Shadowed Autumn Leaves
From Shinshinza’s Dossier
The warm shoals of the southern Phoenix coast have always been home to aquatic monsters. These sea-borne beasts, the same, have only grown larger and more fierce after the rise of Kaigen’s Island. In the early summer, the creatures swim in from the south. They grow powerful and fierce in the teeming reefs and skerries which surround the City Atop the Sea. As autumn turns to winter the waters begin to chill and the sharks, now at their largest begin to travel south to warmer waters to breed and do who knows what else. While usually placid and disinterested in the ship traffic above them, occasionally, while at their greatest size, the beasts become aggressive, and their power can be frightening. From the Twenty Second Day of the Month of the Dog to the Seventh Day of the Month of the Boar, when the sharks are at their largest and most ferocious, is known as Shark Season. While originally a warning, the Shark Season has become more of a contest, where whomever catches, kills, and displays the largest shark is showered in gifts, praise and respect, as well as given a magari-no-same, a specialized fishing spear with three points, not dissimilar to the maga-yari made famous by many Matsu heroes, crafted with the teeth of the beast itself. The Shark Season has become such a phenomenon that in general the killing of the same outside of this time is taboo, as it wastes a potential prize catch. As such, before the Season begins, it is not uncommon to see the beasts throughout the coastal waters putting on fearsome predatory displays; some even vault themselves out of the sea higher than a man’s reach to catch birds in mid-flight! Despite this, a great many grizzled fishers and glory-minded bushi take up the challenge, putting out to sea to find the greatest monsters of the deep, and fish them out for the approval of the Governor. More than a few have not returned after undertaking the folly, but, many more wait in the wings for their chance to catch the Okimono, the Big One, the winning shark for the Season. As the Season continues, the Fisherman’s Docks which lie within the shadow of Sachi’s Tower are transformed into a stage to display the finest catches. The beasts are hung by their tails, mouths agape, for the curious to marvel. The sharks are judged on size, weight, teeth, scarification, and other factors which remain unknown to me. The Season’s champion, the captain of the vessel which brought in the Okimono, is selected, and the other fish-monsters are butchered and sold for foodstuffs. While normally the Shark Season is of little interest to the esteemed Emerald Magistrate, unless of course he is of an over-adventurous disposition and wishes to partake in the hunt, there are disputes and irregularities which may require the oversight of an esteemed Emerald Magistrate. Once in my recall, two rival samurai wished to duel, one claimed the other had trailed him to his “secret and well-researched hunting shoals” while the other took great offense at the accusation. I simply reminded the two of the lose of on and other penalties which accompany an illegal duel, and the lengthy processes of applying for the Governor’s permission, and the two determined that they had merely had a “minor disagreement.” On another occasion, a group of kaizokuban, ruthless pirates, came upon a peasant vessel, and stole their catch, a large white shark, which could have easily been in the runnings. The brigands killed the heimin crew, and scuppered their ship, a crime against their samurai patrons. Of course, the bandits were discovered and dealt with, though only because of the vigilance of the local magistrates. Also, one must remember that during the Shark Season the transient population of Broken Wave City, already one of the largest such populations in Rokugan, increases. This in and of itself can disrupt social order, as some visitors may be unfamiliar with the displeasure which brawls, thefts, and the like cause among the local magistrates and their yoriki.