Imperial Herald v2#16,
Report of Miya Shoin to the Righteous Emperor, Toturi III
From the Lands of the Crab Clan
The Crab seem to have weathered the time of the Bloodspeakers surprisingly well, considering their proximity to the Shadowlands. Their encounters with our Tainted foes were few and far between. The Crab generals theorize that the internal division within the Shadowlands brought this unexpected security. Both Daigotsu and Iuchiban know well from past experiences that the Crab are their most implacable foes. After a single assault on Hiruma Castle easily repelled by the Crab s crack forces Iuchiban rethought his strategies and withdrew to seek easier prey.
Many disturbing rumours surround the mysterious withdrawal, however. The herald who surveyed Crab lands heard many peasants whisper that the Dark Lord, Daigotsu, offered his subtle assistance against the Bloodspeakers. It is said that a pact of nonaggression was made between the Crab Clan and the former Dark Lord’s servants. If there is any truth to this rumour, my heralds did not find it, for it is quite difficult to even broach the subject of Daigotsu in the presence of Crab samurai without risking their wrath. The memory of the death and corruption of their previous Champion, Kuroda, is still all too fresh in their minds.
Yet when one Champion falls, another always rises. As you already know the Great Bear, Hida Kisada, has returned from the dead. Drawing upon the last traces of magic within Oblivion’s Gate, this hero of the Clan War returned to Rogukan with crucial information that led to Iuchiban’s destruction.
Though his actions were indisputably heroic, many are still suspicious of the Great Bear’s return. After all, it was not so long ago that another conqueror emerged from Oblivion’s Gate and sought to impose his will upon the throne. In his own time, Hida Kisada conquered Otosan Uchi and would have slain the last Hantei if not for the intervention of Fu Leng. Though Kisada claims to regret his past actions and has publicly denied rulership of the Crab, there are nonetheless many who would eagerly follow him into battle, in preference even to their rightful ruler, Kisada’s grandson Hida Kuon.
Of all the clans, perhaps only the Crab can truly say they have no enemies. During the rise of Iuchiban, few were willing to challenge the clan that knew how to fight the Taint best. The Unicorn still stand as the most vocal supporters of the Crab Clan, and the Crab have repaid their friendship by dispatching Kaiu engineers to fortify the swiftly growing Unicorn village of Sukoshi Zutsu. Work on the Khol extension of the Kaiu Wall also proceeds with the Khan’s blessing.
It is not unusual for the children of a Clan Champion to train in the household of another clan, but in an impressive display of trust, Hida Kuon has made arrangements for his eldest son, Ichiro, to be trained as a Unicorn. Both the Moto, who rule the Unicorn, and the Shinjo, former rulers of the clan whose ancestry Ichiro bears, sought the right to train the boy and argued vehemently for the Crab Champion’s favour. In a deft political move, Kuon’s wife Reiha avoided angering both powerful families by arranging for the boy to be trained by the Utaku family. Since both the Moto and Shinjo are on friendly terms with the Utaku, neither could truly take the move as in insult.
The Utaku were deeply honoured by Reiha’s request, but politely demurred at first. The Unicorn are known, after all, for their cavalry, and the Utaku do not train men to ride into combat due to family tradition. Reiha replied with a request that the Moto dispatch a sensei to instruct Ichiro in cavalry combat, and that the Shinjo dispatch a sensei to teach him tracking and survival. In the coming spring, Ichiro will be sent to the Utaku Meadows where he will begin his training.
From the Lands of the Crane Clan
The Esteemed House of the Crane has weathered these trying times with the poise and balance of the creature from which they are named. While others have suffered war, death, and destruction, the Crane have made only new allies. Their unlikely friendship with the Crab Clan persists, to the benefit of both clans.
I remember the scorn and disdain the samurai of these two houses showed one another in their youth, and to see them still working to mutual benefit even after seven years is astounding. No doubt the Crab have seen the virtue of having such wealthy allies and the Crane have learned not to scorn those who defend their southern border from the Shadowlands at least not in public. Whether this alliance can possibly persist is anyone’s guess. Members of the Yasuki family are fiercely split among clan lines, united only in their loyalty to Hachi, their daimyo. I fear it is only a matter of time before some mutual enemy of both Crab and Crane seek to tear this powerful alliance apart.
Of course the Crane are no fools, and take steps to protect their interests, They have sought to secure their position in the court by forging alliances with other powerful individuals as well. They recently opened the doors of the Asahina libraries to the Dragon Clan, allowing the Mirumoto nemuranai seekers unprecedented access to longhidden records regarding the Bloodspeaker, Yajinden, and his foul craft. A recent minor border dispute with the Lion Clan was quickly smoothed over with a surprising political marriage. Doji Domotai, daughter and heir to the Crane Champion, will be wed to Ikoma Kusari, son of the Ikoma daimyo, Korin. Kusari intends to take the Doji name and join the house of the Crane.
A match equally as fortuitous for the Crane was that between Doji Yasuyo and the Shogun, Kaneka. This is obviously no news to Your Majesty as the marriage took place simultaneously with your own, but deserves mention here so that it might be remembered in the histories. It was long debated in the courts as to whether Yasuyo would swear fealty to the Phoenix or whether Kaneka would assume the Doji name. Both Husband and wife are individuals of extraordinary reputation, and precedents were brought forth for why either should be compelled to be subservient to the other. In the end, it seems that heroes such as these will not be bound by tradition they define it. Neither Kaneka nor Yasuyo have sworn fealty to the other’s house, on to one another. It is rumoured that a private challenge was declared between the Shogun and his bride, and at the end of this challenge one would finally swear fealty to the other. The nature of this challenge, if indeed it exists, is unknown.
Rumours abound that a samurai resembling the legendary Daidoji Uji shadowy hero of the Clan Wars has recently been seen at large in Crane lands, but they cannot be confirmed. None of my heralds sighted any such individual.
From the Lands of the Dragon Clan
As always, the dragon clan are the exception, the contradiction. Their lands remain forever open to visitors, but are strangely inhospitable. I sent three heralds to dragon lands, makashi, kayoko, and Oda.
Makashi reported he was deeply disturbed by the confusing ways of the mystics he met, and begged never to be sent to those mountains again. Kayoko reported she was entranced by the beauty of the dragon castles, and the polite etiquette of their samurai. Oda, whom I scarcely recognized for his shaven head and brilliant tattoos, returned only long enough to deposit his final report before returning permanently to the temple of the celestial wander.
It cannot be argued that the dragon clan has suffered more than any other during the past two years. When the rain of blood fell and once noble samurai succumbed to madness, it was the dragon clan who accepted your majesty’s command to purge the fallen. Their quest took them to the lands of the phoenix clan so recently their most bitter enemies where many Dragon warriors perished in the battle of Gisei Toshi. When the Lion and Unicorn, two of the mightiest armies of the empire, fell to civil war in the city of rich frog, it was the dragon that intervened for the sake of peace. It was their impossible duty to make the conflict too costly for either side to pursue, and in the end they triumphed.
For all their losses, the wounded dragon carry themselves with fierce pride. The clan is many things, my lord but they are no victims. Their suffering came out not as a result of some unexpected attack or sinister manipulation. Though the dragon bleed, they bleed for honour, and in these dark times they stand as shining examples of what it means to be samurai, perhaps nowhere is this more obvious than in the tale of Hoshi Kaelung.
Long hunted as a criminal, this former Dragon was accused of murder and worse. Yet in a surprising turn of events, he saved the life of Clan Champion Togashi Satsu. The Hitomi Order offered Kaelung a place among them, for they admired his strength. The Togashi offered him a place as well, for they valued his wisdom. Appropriately enough, Kaelung rejoined the Order of Hoshi, which which strikes a balance between what is brightest and darkest in the Dragon Clan.
For many years now, the alliance between Dragon and Scorpion has stood as the strongest in the Empire. During the War of the Rich Frog, these two allies came into conflict, and many wondered if their alliance would be broken. In the wake of the war, it seems such is not to be.
Following the Scorpion’s reclamation of Ryoko Owari, the Three Orders dispatched a large contingent of their monks to reconsecrate the city’s temples in the name of the Scorpion. The revelry and intense fireworks displays that followed seem to have renewed the friendship between these two most mysterious of clan, at least for the time being. To the Scorpion, who I suspect realize that the Dragon owed them nothing but suspicion for their manipulations during the war, such a gesture of friendship is a favour they will not be able to easily repay.
From the Lands of the Lion Clan
The Akodo family has a peculiar curse “May you live in interesting times.” Sadly, it seems as if their clan has suffered more interesting times than any. The Lion have long been respected as the most fearsome warriors in Rokugan. Those who face them in the courts do so with great caution, for any insult to the Lion’s unquestionable honour might result in ten thousand Matsu samurai marching upon your homeland. They are the Emperor’s strong Right Hand, the backbone of his legions and the enforcers of his will.
Yet now we have seen a war the likes of which even the great histories of Rokugan strain to recall. We have seen the Lion challenged in their own homelands. We have seen the Unicorn Khan turn their own tactics against them. Though the Lion did not technically lose the War of the Rich Frog, neither can it be said that they won. The Golden Lion of Toshi Ranbo has been slain, and if not for the untimely coincidence of the Rain of Blood during the Unicorn’s initial assaults, perhaps the Khan’s army might be marching upon Shiro Akodo even now.
Yet the Lion Clan still maintains some measure of hope. Their allies in the Crane have brought relief and support to their war torn western lands. Ikoma Otemi, a respected hero throughout the Empire, has risen to the leadership of the clan. And lest any doubt the courage and prowess of the Lion Clan, let them remember that the armies who marched beside Hida Kisada in his quest to slay the undying Iuchiban were mostly Lion.
Sadly, it seems that the shadow of corruption never fails to haunt the Lion. During the final battle with Iuchiban, forces identified as bearing the Daigotsu family mon were identified in the city. Though your brother Sezaru commanded that the Dark Lord, if he were present, not be allowed to escape alive, somehow these forces fled by ship to the east. Some have turned their suspicions toward the Lion, whose duty it was to seal off Golden Sun Bay. When my herald questioned Matsu Aoiko on the matter, she flew into a furious rage, and only his studies as an Imperial servant led her to spare his life.
Though the Right Hand is obviously no longer as invincible as it once was, neither are the Lion weak. In fact, I think the Lion Clan’s experiences in the City of the Rich Frog might ultimately benefit their clan. Those who were once calmly confident in their clan’s superiority realize now that they must strengthen themselves anew. It is no longer enough to rely upon the Emperor’s favour as the greatest warriors in the Empire they must prove that they are the greatest. It is a challenge that the Lion have thus far met unquestioningly.
From the Lands of the Phoenix Clan
The Phoenix are beset with tragedy. For a clan that values peace so highly, it seems to be their destiny to be dragged into pointless war, first with the Dragon, then with the Bloodspeakers, and now with the Mantis Clan. It is a tragic irony that the same clan that suffered the fewest losses during the Rain of Blood also claims the largest casualty rates of any clan from Bloodspeaker attacks. If there is any positive side to the suffering the Phoenix have endured, it is that they of all the clans have proven themselves free of any Bloodspeaker manipulations.
The Elemental Council has undergone an upheaval in leadership. After the death of Master of Earth Isawa Taeruko, Master of Water Doji Akiko became the new spokesman of the Council. With her unparalleled experience and heritage as daughter of the original Isawa, few can doubt her worth. Though she is a returned spirit, those who might distrust her for that reason have put their fears to rest largely from the support of the new Master of Earth, Isawa Sachi. Sachi was an extremely fierce and valiant opponent of the Hantei’s armies during the War of Spirits. If he is willing to trust and accept Sachiko’s leadership, then many other Phoenix are willing to follow her without question.
I find it odd that those who have been on the Council the longest are now the least visible. Master of Air Isawa Nakamuro has retreated to his libraries, pursuing some mysterious research that he will share with no one, perhaps not even his fellow Masters. Master of the Void Shiba Ningen is still quite visible, but remains as enigmatic as ever. He has spent a great deal of time in the Phoenix woodlands of late, collecting the mythology and legends of the GreenGreenWhite Nezumi for reasons of his own. This leads Masters of Fire, Water, and Earth to determine the Phoenix Clan’s path, and though it would be untrue to say that they never squabble, it seems that the three seldom disagree on matters of true importance. For instance, the Council was unanimous in politely refusing Kaneka’s aid in the Phoenix Clan’s war against the Mantis. It was Akiko’s belief that Kaneka served the Empire more efficiently in the capital, lending his strength to the Emperor’s. As I am sure you know, of course, Kaneka ultimately follows no counsel in such matters save his own so it remains to be seen if he will choose to become involved in his adopted clan’s newest war.
From the Lands of the Scorpion Clan
A new leader stepped forward to lead the Scorpion Clan, amid much controversy. The full details of why Bayushi Sunetra set aside her position and embraced the life of a ronin are, as befits the clan of secrets, a mystery to all save the highest ranking members of her clan. All my heralds have discovered is that she has truly and completely vanished from the face of Rokugan. For one as talented in the arts of stealth and espionage as she reputedly is, it is quite possible that she might live out the rest of her days without ever being discovered.
Much slander erupted in the courts following Sunetra’s disappearance; the Clan’s enemies claimed that by shirking her duties, she proved that the Scorpion Clan’s vaunted loyalty was as much as a sham as the rest of their honour. Bayushi Paneki, the new Champion, stepped forward to personally many of these insults. He stated clearly that, as Your Majesty had not issued any censure for her actions, that any others forgot their place in seeking to do so, and had issued an unforgivable insult to the Son of Heaven. One wise Crane courtier immediately issued a public apology on the behalf of his clan. A low ranking Crab courtier tried to politely laugh off Paneki’s accusations. The new Scorpion Champion duelled and killed the Crab that same day. The whispers surrounding Sunetra’s appearance did not cease, though they have become much quieter since the duel.
In other courtly developments, it seems that the Scorpion who ruled the courts virtually unopposed several years ago, have accepted the Crane Clan’s growing power with remarkable calm. They have made no overt gestures to undermine the Crane’s burgeoning alliances with the Dragon, Crab or Lion Clans. They have, in fact, made sweeping diplomatic gestures to open their doors to the Crane, including offering the Daidoji family favoured trade status in Ryoko Owaru. The Crane has cautiously accepted this gesture of peace, but whether it is sincere alliance or simply the opening move to the newest Bayushi power play is still unknown.
From the Lands of the Unicorn Clan
It is a difficult time to be a Unicorn. Though their warriors carry themselves with pride after issuing the Lion the humiliating defeats in Kaeru Toshi, their actions in that war have irreparably damaged their reputation in the courts. Ide tang’s loose interpretations of Imperial Law led to the justification of a bloody civil war and the deaths of many samurai in the Lion, Unicorn and Dragon Clans. Though he was appointed daimyo of his family for his loyal service to the Khan, the Ide family is split in loyalty to him. Others feel that his actions are a blasphemous betrayal of their family’s ancient philosophies, using the skills of diplomat to rationalize warmongering and murder.
In the meantime, the militant families of the Unicorn have quickly turned their attention toward strengthening their clan’s borders. The Khan is a canny leader, and realizes that in issuing a challenge against the Lion Clan he has opened himself to possible future attacks from any number of enemies. One can scarcely travel down a road in Unicorn lands for more than an hour before spying a patrol of Shinjo scouts, Moto heavy cavalry, or the rare Shiotome Battle Maidens on the horizon. The Unicorn has become extremely suspicious of intruders, and will turn back any who do not posses the proper travel papers. The Scorpion Clan, who may have covertly aided the Unicorn during the War of the Rich Frog, are now regarded with extreme suspicion. One Scorpion magistrate was detained by the Moto White Guard for three days, even though his papers were in perfect order.
The notable exception to this rule is the Crab Clan, with whom the Unicorn continues to share friendly relations. Though no Crab troops fought in the War of the Rich Frog, the Unicorn received support from the Crab in form of siege engines and strategic advice. The Unicorn repaid that favour by granting the Crab a large portion of their surplus rice crop. Since the crab always have sore need of military supplies, such a gesture will not soon be forgotten. Thus it seems that whatever fate awaits the Unicorn, they will have at least one loyal ally upon which to call.
From the Lands of the Mantis Clan #16
As one war draws to a close, another begins. The circumstances that led to the current dispute between the Mantis and Phoenix Clans are hazy at best. It is known that the two clans have never been particularly friendly to one another. The Mantis Clans’s unofficial founding began with an assault on Shiro Shiba, and relations between the two clans have only continues to degrade since.
Some Mantis claim that their Clan’s attempt to conquer the Phoenix Lands during the War against the Darkness was Yoritomo’s only true failure. Many who now bear the Son of Storms’ name have long since wished to wipe that failure away. Though pacifistic by nature, the Phoenix are quite vehement in their disapproval of the Mantis Clan’s mercenary philosophies and willingness to consort openly with gaijin. The two clans rarely see eye to eye and only the great distance between their territories has prevented the mantis from coming into conflict with greater regularity. Their past peace is irrelevant. The time has come for war. Rumours abound of the reasoning behind these sudden, brutal confrontations between Phoenix and Mantis. I have heard Mantis claims that the Phoenix Clan have granted refuge to Kitao, the corrupted leader of the Dark Wave Fleet. I have heard Phoenix claims that Mantis pirates have used hideous magic’s to wipe out Phoenix villages for easy looting: the sudden presence of Orochi sea beasts lends this claim a disquieting weight. When my herald sought to inquire further, he was met by sternfaced Inquisitors who recommended that he drop his investigation.
Mantis Champion Yoritomo Kumiko seems particularly frustrated by the recent turn of events. She believes that Kitao still hides somewhere along the mostly uninhabited coasts of the Phoenix territory, and has somehow manipulated these events to make her search more difficult. While her clan continues to fight on the beaches and islands of northern rogukan, the Daughter of Storms has made her way to Toshi Ranbo. She has been seen frequently in earnest discussions with members of the Lion Clan, though neither party has revealed the reason for these meetings to anyone.
I recall that several years ago, an alliance between the Lion and Phoenix caused the near destruction of the Dragonfly Clan and crushed the eastern defences of the Dragon Clan. When the Lion Clan withdrew to deal with Tsuno attacks in their own land, Shiba Aikune branded the Lions as cowards and killed many of the Lion reserve troops in a blind rage. The Lion were forced to set aside the insult, in interest of peace, though I doubt it has been forgotten. Perhaps Yoritomo Kumiko has found some leverage on the Lion that encouraged them to remember this old insult? Only time will tell. For now, there is only one other fact that can safely be said about Kumiko’s dealings in Toshi Ranbo. She has been carefully avoiding the man who was at one time among her strongest supporters the Shogun Kaneka, now a member of the Phoenix Clan.
The Shadowland Horde #16
I would not be so foolish as to dispatch any of me heralds beyond the Kaiu Wall to seek knowledge of our enemy. Such a duty is better suited to more experienced defenders of the empire. However, my heralds have thoroughly interviewed many crab samurai, as well as many Lion warriors who fought in the recents battles in Otosan Uchi, and we have learned much about our hated enemy.
The most important news to report of the Shadowlands is the death of Iuchiban, leader of the Bloodspeakers.
The seemingly immortal sorcerer plagued Rokugan for centuries. In the past he could not be slain, only temporary defeated and contained. Even from his imprisonment, he led the Bloodspeakers cult into savage conflict with the true servants of the Empire again and again through the generations.
Thanks to the efforts of many noble samurai, this evil has been brought to an end. The Great Bear Hida Kisada, returned from the death with knowledge of the Bloodspeaker’s weakness. Your own brother, the Wolf, returned from his own mysterious wanderings with the knowledge needed to put this information to use. In the lands of the Lion Clan, they found the key to finding and destroying Iuchiban’s Hidden Heart, and with the aid of Matsu Aoiko’s armies, these brave heroes marched upon Iuchiban’s iron citadel in the ruins of Otosan Uchi. Your brother himself dealt the killing blow, forever laying to rest this threat to the empire.
Though the mastermind behind the Rain of Blood and Battle of Gisei Toshi is no more, the danger posed by the Shadowlands remains dire. In the city of the Lost, the fallen Dark Lord, Daigotsu, has returned to his place of power. Even now he gathers his strength once more. Though Sezaru is eager for revenge upon the man who once slew your beloved sister, the Wolf is wise enough no to fall into whatever traps Daigotsu may have in wait. The time will soon come when the Empire must deal with returned Dark Lord, but it seems that day is not today. For now, we must recover from the wounds Iuchiban has dealt us, and gather our strength as well.
It seems that Daigotsu’s followers are content to maintain this fragile peace. One tale my heralds gathered even claims that Daigotsu expressed his gratitude toward the Crab by returning the ancestral armour of the Hiruma family, lost for centuries in the darkness. The Hiruma were elated but cautious, passing the armour to their Kuni brethren to study in order to be certain it bears no Taint or other foul trap left in place by the Dark Lord. Speaking for myself, I almost hope that there is some foul design in place and that the crab uncovers it before it brings harm to anyone. Somehow the idea that a servant of Fu Leng would have the capacity to bestow such a gift with no ulterior motive is an even more chilling prospect. Our honour has long been our strongest weapon against our adversary. If the corrupted souls that serve the ninth Kami learn to understand bushido as we do, perhaps they would become even more dangerous than they already are.
From the Lands of the Nezumi #7
Though they are certainly not a Great Clan and more than a few would consider them barbaric savages, the Nezumi have proven at the very least that they merit our attention. These strange creatures have nor only earned a place in the Imperial Court but have also earned the friendship of the Great Clans on many occasions. They are worth note, if for no other reason that they hate the Shadowlands with an intensity that surpasses even our own.
I dispatched a herald to visit the Tattered Ear Tribe, and the stories that he gathered from their bright eye Rememberer are quite astonishing. It seems that the Ratlings have been facing quite interesting times indeed. According to Ratling history, these creatures once stood as a single tribe and ruled a vast civilization in the lands that are now the Shadowlands. When Fu Leng fell from the heavens, he destroyed this civilization, reducing the Nezumi to a scattered, barbaric state. The Nezumi believe that the mightiest if their cities faded into the Realm of Dreams, and remain there to be found.
Imperial historians would of course laugh at this story, and whether it is true or not is not my concern what is important is that the Nezumi believe their tale with all their hearts. A Nezumi referring to himself as the “Tomorrow Chieftain” (for the Nezumi, the word “Tomorrow” means both “the future” and “death”) appeared, allying himself with both the twisted Stained Paw and the malevolent Tsuno. Ancient ruins arose from the Shadowlands at his command, ruins that he claimed were the Nezumi cities returned from dream. He demanded that the Nezumi tribes ally under his rule once more, or be destroyed and forgotten. The Crippled Bone, a tribe of fierce warriors, denied the Tomorrow Chieftain and were brutally attacked by the Stained Paw and their Tsuno allies.
The Nezumi were deeply shaken by these events, until a clever thief name Ik’krt stole into the Tomorrow Chieftain’s city seeking the truth. He learned that the Tsuno used their own mastery of the realm of dreams to forge a creature out of nightmares, piecing together the shattered dreams of the Stained Paw tribe and infusing them into one of their own kind, creating the illusion that was the Tomorrow Chieftain. Upon learning how the Tsuno has lied to them, many of the most powerful Nezumi tribes rose up as one, attacking the ruins. The Tsuno, realizing their ruse had failed, withdrew into the Realm of Dreams, abandoning the Stained Paw to their enemies. The Stained Paw Tribe suffered heavy losses and, broken and demoralized, retreated deeper into the shadowlands. As a result of this climatic battle a powerful alliance know as the one Tribe has formed between the formerly divisive bands of the Nezumi. It is my belief that Rokugan would do well to foster good relations with this One Tribe, as they will serve as a potent enemy against the Shadowlands.
Fortunately it seems that the Nezumi also see the wisdom of such an alliance, and have already learned much of human culture and politics. They continue to serve the crab loyally as scouts and warriors. The Dragon Clan have formed an alliance with the Grasping Paw, a tribe of Nezumi that have proven quite adept at finding and recovering the nemuranai with which the Mirumoto family are so obsessed. My scout also heard several rumours among the tribes that Shiba Ningen, Master of the Void, had been using Nezumi spies to gather information on the Mantis clan. This information cannot be readily confirmed, but seems to match with the previously.