by Rich Wulf
With the coming of winter, the snows settle heavily across the fields of Rokugan. Even the great roads of the Lion provinces become choked with mud. Only a fool would dare set out upon a prolonged journey, much less attempt to field an army. Wintertime in the Empire has been, traditionally, a time of peace. Things are no different today. The starving armies of the Dragon prepare to build their camps at the edge of Phoenix territory, determined to eke out what sustenance they can before the frost sets in. The armies of the Crab and Crane shall soon retreat to their battle lines, glaring at one another behind sharpened stakes and well-manned fortifications. Winter will be a time of peace, but it is a false peace. Behind the walls even greater destructive magics and engines of war shall be constructed to be unleashed with the coming of spring. The new year shall be a bloody one.
Or will it?
Sensing chaos on the horizon, the Four Winds have determined to do what they can to prevent it. Even the most selfish and ambitious among them does not wish to see the Empire destroyed. For the sake of peace they have agreed to make one final effort to choose which one will succeed their father’s throne. To this end, they have issued invitations to the Emperor’s Winter Court, a gathering of the most influential samurai of the Empire, held in the ruling house of the clan most favored by the Imperial Family. Worthy bushi, cunning courtiers, and powerful shugenja will be gathered together under one roof beneath the flag of truce.
The location of the court has not yet been decided. The Winds themselves are unable to agree. Hantei Naseru – the Anvil – believes only Kyuden Seppun is fitting for a gathering of Toturi’s children. Akodo Kaneka – the Bastard – prefers his own home, Shiro Akodo. Toturi Tsudao – the Sword – has demanded neutral ground, and wishes to meet at Kyuden Suzume, home of the Sparrow Clan. Toturi Sezaru – the Wolf – does not care where they meet, so long as they get the wretched affair over with so he can return to his own private affairs.
So the Winds have left the decision in the hands of the representatives of the Great Clans, and this is where you come in, my friend. Prove yourself worthy, and Winter Court shall be held in the home of your daimyo. The honor of protecting the Four Winds shall fall upon your family, and their favors shall be heaped upon your house. The Steel Throne shall grace the home of your daimyo.
For a time, you shall be the heart and soul of Rokugan.
While the Winds are reluctant to directly involve themselves in the civil wars which embroil the Empire, the favors that shall be heaped upon the clan that hosts Winter Court are not inconsiderable. Consider well which Wind you shall support, for their favors shall fall upon you when you succeed.
If the Crab should win favor, the Wind you have chosen shall offer his or her support in their campaign against the Shadowlands, thus freeing Crab troops to war against the Crane.
If the Crane should win favor, the Wind you have chosen shall favor your clan in the manner that the Hantei once favored the Crane… he or she shall take a Crane spouse.
If the Dragon should win favor, the Wind you support shall gain a private audience with Togashi Hoshi, and a glimpse of the future that only a true Dragon could provide.
If the Lion should win favor, the Wind you have chosen shall appoint a Lion as Protector of Otosan Uchi, and place their own life under the protection of the Emperor’s Right Hand.
If the Phoenix should win favor, the Wind of your choice shall grant your clan a powerful magic item, an heirloom of the Imperial Family as a focus for their eternal study.
If the Scorpion should win favor, they shall perform a favor for the Wind you find most favorable… a favor to be repaid in time.
If the Unicorn should win favor, the Wind you have chosen shall endorse their wish to open trade with the gaijin for a time, granting access to new opportunities for wealth and technology.
If the Ratlings should win favor, the Wind you have chosen shall acknowledge the Nezumi with new respect, and accept one of their number as his attendant.
And if the Shadowlands should triumph, the Winds fail to agree. The forces of darkness cause dissension among the descendants of Toturi. The Dark Lord’s favor shall fall upon the Wind you have chosen…