The Legions: Biographies
Yoritomo: Son of Storms
Yoritomo first appeared in Crimson and Jade. Even among the greatest heroes of history, few can compare to the legend that is Yoritomo. Champion of the Mantis Clan during the Clan wars, this ambitious warlord watched the Great Clans slowly turn against each other with a concerned eye. He knew that if the Emperor could not maintain peace among Great Clans, it was only a matter of time before the Minor Clans suffered. Following the example of the Three Man Alliance, a previous alliance between the Wasp, Fox, and Sparrow Clans that deflected an attack by a Scorpion Army, Yoritomo gathered the Minor Clans behind his banner.
When the Crane Clan was nearly wiped out by repeated attacks from the Crab, the Lion, and the Shadowlands Horde led by the False Hoturi, the surviving Crane lords turned to Yoritomo. Alliance mercenaries stepped forward to fight off the Horde, helping secure the Crane s foothold at Shinden Asahina and gradually take back their ravaged castles.
On the Day of Thunder, Yoritomo offered the Alliance s aid in the final struggle against Yogo Junzo, but not without cost. He demanded that the Seven Thunders recognize the contributions of his Alliance to be equal to that of the Great Clans. If they refused, his own army would attack, crushing the remaining forces of the Great Clans. Stunned by his effrontery, the Thunders found they could not deny Yoritomo s worth. When the battle was done, the Mantis Clan was promoted to Great Clan status.
Yoritomo s followers were granted a family name, that of the Son of Storms himself.
Sadly, Yoritomo s reign over his Great Clan was short-lived.
At the Battle of Oblivion s Gate, Yoritomo faced Goju Adorai, leader of the Lying Darkness minions. Even Yoritomo s great strength could not overcome Adorai, and the madman attempted to force Yoritomo to surrender his name and his soul as so many others had. Even as Adorai mortally wounded Yoritomo, he refused to surrender. Before he died, the Son of Storms claimed that he could not give his name to the Shadow he had already given it to those who followed him.
The Fortune of Heroes has sent out his call for those who would aid him in battle against the Legion of Blood. Many have already gathered, great and notable samurai of the past, but even the greatest among them must step aside and take note of the newest arrival among their ranks the Son of Storms.
Aramasu stood at the cliff s edge, wild winds tearing about him. His mask dangled in one hand, half forgotten, as he stared across the seas in the direction of Rokugan. His face showed no outward emotion; he had been trained too well for that, despite the fact that there were none here to see. Inwardly, he was torn with mixed emotions. Not for the first time since he came here, he felt both doubt and joy. Doubt, for he wondered if he had been right in coming to these isles. Joy, because even if he died now at least he would die free.
Was that freedom worth the sacrifice
He heard a sound of movement behind him. It was too subtle, perhaps, for other ears to hear. His hand moved slowly to the kama hanging from his waist, but then the movement stopped. He looked cautiously over his shoulder. Yoritomo, the Son of Storms, stood near the cliff s edge. His trademark insectoid helmet was clutched under one arm, letting his hair flow free upon the wind. He, like Aramasu, quietly stared across the sea toward the mainland.
“The time has come for you to choose, Aramasu-san,” Yoritomo said in a gravelly voice. “The Scorpion have regained their place among the Great Clans, and my agreement with your father is now fulfilled. They have asked that you return to your home.”
“Aramoro is not my father,” Aramasu whispered, “He has not earned that name.”
“This is his last offer of peace, you realize,” Yoritomo said. “Your last chance to take your place among the Scorpion.”
“There is no place for me there,” Aramasu replied.
“What choices do I have” Aramasu asked. “Both the Scorpion and the Kolat hunt me. How can a man live with such powerful enemies”
“Make their fight so costly that it is not worth their while,” Yoritomo said. “Even they would be wary to attack the lord of a Great Clan.”
He looked at Yoritomo in surprise. The Mantis Champion had named no heir. Aramasu had fought and bled beside his Mantis brothers. He had come to consider Yoritomo his true father, but even this was too much. Was the Son of Storms truly offering the lordship of an entire Great Clan to a Scorpion exile, a former Kolat agent
Then again, the unexpected was the norm where Yoritomo was concerned.
“Make your choice, Aramasu,” Yoritomo said.
Aramasu looked to the sea once more, then back toward the Mantis Champion. For two years he had dwelled here in the isles, and had learned much. Yoritomo had taught him a lesson more important than any that the Kolat or the Scorpion could offer. A strong man did not bend to the will of destiny he created destiny through his actions. Yoritomo turned to Aramasu, waiting for his reply. Then the Son of Storms eyes widened. He fell suddenly to his knees, blood trickling from the corner of his mouth. Aramasu felt a strange shudder pass through the earth beneath his feet. He stood quickly, looking about for any sign of Yoritomo s attacker. The Son of Storms fell forward upon the earth, a familiar kama buried in his back.
Then the vision faded. Another warrior stood above Yoritomo s fallen body… or rather the thing that had been Yoritomo. The man who stood over the body looked identical, though somehow he made his fallen double look as false and unreal as a reflection in pond.
“Pathetic shadow,” the true Son of Storms said, tearing his kama from the shadow s back just as it faded into nothing. “This realm pits each of us against our destiny even as the Legion of Blood continues its rampage. We have no time for such games, Aramasu. I sense a familiar power here. Are you ready to help me fight it”
“Hai, father,” Aramasu said with a grin.
“Then let us waste no more time,” he said, charging back into the mists.
Aramasu wondered briefly what vision this realm had offered Yoritomo, and how he had confronted it. Perhaps men such as Yoritomo had no true destiny; destiny feared them too much.
There would be time for such reflection later. Aramasu drew his sword and followed his father into the mists.
The First Oni: Champion of Jigoku
The First Oni first appeared in Heroes of Rokugan. It is said that an oni draws power from the name it is given, but what happens when the name is that of Fu Leng himself The aptly named First Oni was the first demon to swear fealty to the Dark Kami, rising out of the Festering Pit to smite down those who would stand against Fu Leng. In early history there was no other creature, short of Fu Leng himself, who was so feared. The creature was bound to no single form, shifting and changing by the moment, radiating fear, poison, and disease to all it touched.
When the Seven Thunders faced Fu Leng, the First Oni was there, and some of these legendary heroes met their fates at misshapen hands. Only by the intervention of the Kami, Shiba, was the oni mortally wounded and it in turn infected Shiba with a poison he could not survive.
Shambling away to its death, the creature finally died in the Twilight Mountains. There, its corrupted blood sank into the earth and tainted the iron and stone buried there, becoming the raw material that would later be used to make Yajinden s Bloodswords and Anvil of Despair.
Few would even dare to summon this foul creature, and even fewer would even know how to do so. Yet such magic is not beyond Iuchiban and his minions. The First Oni s Blood has been used in their handiwork before, and they know its power well. Thus Yajinden and Iuchiban have gained some form of control over this legendary beast. As they do not know Fu Leng s true name, they are unable to summon it to the mortal realm, but they have turned it against their enemies in the Spirit Realms as the Legion of Blood s monstrous leader.
Matsu Daoquan: The Lost Hero
Matsu Daoquan first appeared in Ambition s Debt, though his tale has never been told before. Daoquan was a promising young bushi. The younger brother of Matsu Goemon, his family expected similarly great things from Daoquan. Daoquan, for his part, quickly allowed himself to believe he would never live up to his brother s example. He let himself fall into a life of indolence and apathy, a minor samurai of little note assigned to defend a village in Matsu lands.
The more his brother accomplished, the more Daoquan came to despise himself. For a time, when Goemon joined Toturi s Army, Daoquan felt that he might be free of his brother s shadow, dishonored as he was by associating with the Black Lion. Goemon offered his brother a place among Toturi s Army but Daoquan spat upon the proposition, reveling in his brother s disgrace. Of course when Toturi s Army saved the Imperial Capital and Toturi himself defeated Fu Leng, Goemon was redeemed in his clan s eyes and it was Daoquan s turn to taste disgrace.
During the early reign of Toturi, Daoquan was one of many Lion samurai who felt an urgent need to prove their worth to the Empire. He eagerly became a follower of Kitsu Okura, the Jade Champion, and was seduced by the lure of power that Akuma no Oni offered Okura s followers. Daoquan slowly lost his will to the Taint. His living body began to decay, and he soon became a horrifying mockery of his former self. Daoquan found he relished serving Akuma s dark whims, and the teachings of the Lion became more distant each day.
At the Battle of Oblivion s Gate, Okura no Oni turned against Akuma and became a shining example that honor could conquer the forces of darkness. Daoquan witnessed Okura s heroic act and was inspired. He knew that a simple act of defiance could not alter all of the shame and decadence of an entire lifetime. He knew he could not indefinitely resist the darkness he had invited into his soul. In a final daring act he roused a band of his fellow fallen Lion and staged a daring suicide attack against the forces of the Lying Darkness.
In death, Daoquan s spirit was lost to the realm of Gaki-do, forced to atone for his misdeeds. In an act of compassion, Matsu Goemon, now Fortune of Heroes, has invited his brother to join the Legion of the Dead. His envy and hatred of his brother now a thing of the past, Daoquan has eagerly stepped forward for this chance at glory.
Isawa Tsuke: The Fallen Master
Isawa Tsuke first appeared in Imperial Edition. Tsuke once numbered among the most feared individuals in Rokugan. The gift of magic is common in the Isawa family, but rarely does it manifest as strongly as it did in Isawa Tsuke. His talents lay in speaking to the kami of fire, summoning both the power of destruction and the fires of inspiration. Tsuke perfectly embodied both aspects of fire, as he was not only a fierce and deadly swordsman but also possessed of a scholar s keen and agile mind. It was no surprise when he swiftly gained promotion through the ranks of the Phoenix, eventually gaining a position as an Emerald Magistrate second only to Doji Satsume himself.
As a magistrate, Tsuke burned a searing path of justice across the Empire. Those who defied the Emperor s law were shown no quarter whatsoever. Soon the bandits and fugitives Tsuke hunted realized that surrender and submit to Tsuke s mercy was pointless Tsuke had no mercy. Tsuke cared little, and relished the meager resistance they provided.
Though his warlike nature was uncharacteristic for a Phoenix, Tsuke s magical talents and intellect soon gained him a position on the Elemental Council. As Master of Fire, Tsuke s aggressive actions soon came to dominate the Council. Of all the Masters, only Isawa Kaede, Master of the Void, would argue against his decisions. Tsuke held a silent contempt for his fellow masters, with the exception of one Isawa Tadaka.
Tsuke recognized that Tadaka, Master of Earth, had a great mastery of magic, perhaps greater than his own. When he could be bothered to make decisions for the Council, Tadaka invariably displayed a keen and agile mind. Tsuke bore a wary respect for Tadaka, though he was always somewhat baffled that the Master of Earth wasted so much time in his private battle against the Shadowlands instead of turning his energies toward making the Phoenix the supreme power in Rokugan.
During the Clan War, Tsuke was the first of the Elemental Masters to open the Black Scrolls, hoping to use their secrets against the growing Shadowlands Horde. Unfortunately, Tsuke was also the first to be corrupted by the Scrolls. He became a ravening madman, his once brilliant intellect now buried beneath an ever-burning rage. On the Day of Thunder, he stood upon the walls of Otosan Uchi, hurling fire upon his own clan. Countless Phoenix died at his hands, including his fellow Elemental Masters, Isawa Uona and Isawa Tomo. Isawa Tadaka, now the Phoenix Clan Thunder, finally defeated Tsuke, but not without sustaining mortal wounds.
Yet this was not Tadaka s final victory. As Tsuke died, Tadaka whispered over his former comrade s body. He forgave the dark Master of Fire, and wished that his tormented spirit would find peace. The Thunder s blessing seemed to have some influence over Tsuke s tortured soul, for though still partially corrupted he has not been lost to Jigoku yet. The fields of Yomi are also unknown to him for decades Tsuke s spirit has wandered the realms between, seeking a chance at final redemption… or final damnation. The choice does not matter so long as it is made.
Now the Fortune of Heroes has called out to those who would aid the Legion of the Dead, and Tsuke has heard the call. Tsuke is uncertain if he wishes to ally himself with the enemies of darkness, but the lust for battle boils in his veins. An unlikely ally, the Fallen Master, has stepped forth to aid Rokugan s greatest heroes…
The smell of burnt flesh was heavy in the air. The winds howled over the high wall but did nothing to carry away the thick odor. Isawa Tsuke breathed deeply, finding the aroma both nauseating and intoxicating. It was the smell of death – the smell of power.
He gazed down at one of the many corpses that lay heaped atop the wall. It was burned nearly beyond recognition, but the charred orange kimono was recognizable as that of a Phoenix. To Tsuke s eyes, the body was unmarred, still recognizable. Isawa Suma had been a good man, a talented shugenja if a bit impetuous. Tsuke had considered granting Suma a position as one of his magistrates. He could not help but feel some sense of regret, if only for a moment.
“Tsuke,” said a gentle voice from behind him. The howling wind became calm once more. He recognized the voice Uona, the Master of Air. “What have you become”
“What I was always meant to be,” Tsuke said. He turned slowly, holding his hands out to his sides to display his burnt and emaciated body.
Uona looked down at him impassively. She stood motionless upon the wind, ethereal and lovely as she always was. She showed no signs of the corruption that gnawed at her soul, though he could smell it deep within her. Tsuke smiled at her. He wondered if she might still try to save him.
“The Black Scrolls have driven you insane,” Uona said. “I know, I feel their call too. Fu Leng turns us against our brethren. You must stop this, Tsuke.”
“The Black Scrolls have only hastened the inevitable,” Tsuke replied. “The Phoenix must always be reborn – reborn in crisis, reborn in fire. I am the instrument of that rebirth. I will be the herald of a new age of greatness for our people.”
“Tsuke, look what you have done!” Uona answered. “Is your new age worth the deaths of our cousins”
Tsuke shrugged and gestured at her with one hand. Uona s eyes widened as she realized his intent, but before she could defend herself she was reduced to ash on the wind.
“Murderer!” Isawa Tomo screamed.
A heavy fist sculpted of rushing water and sharp ice hammered into the Master of Fire from behind. Tsuke sprawled upon the stones, rolling as he fell to face his attacker. The Master of Water loomed over him, radiating an aura of shadow.
“You have seen the truth, as I have,” Tsuke said, looking up at Tomo with a faint smile. “You have also embraced this power.”
“Only to kill you,” Tomo snarled. “When we are finished, I will take my own life.”
“You were always the weakest of us, Tomo,” Tsuke replied.
Tomo scowled and shouted words of magic. A billowing cloud of frost erupted from his mouth, rolling toward the spot where Tsuke lay. An explosion of green flame erupted around the Master of Fire, burning so hot that the frost itself caught afire. Tomo tried to scream as the fire poured back through the cloud and down his throat. Only a gurgled cough resulted, then he fell dead beside Suma.
Tsuke rose to his feet. He felt a sense of strange satisfaction, a sense of fulfillment that he could not explain. The sensation quickly vanished as he felt a low, vibrating thrum pass through the stones beneath his feet. Peering over one shoulder, Tsuke smiled as he saw the man who had just stepped onto the Palace walls.
The only man in Rokugan he truly respected.
The only man in Rokugan he truly feared.
The Phoenix would perish now, and be reborn.
“Isawa Tadaka,” Tsuke said, turning to meet his foe.
Yakamo no Oni: Crab Clan Oni
Yakamo no Oni first appeared (as Hida Yakamo) in Imperial Edition. During Hida Kisada s campaign to overthrow the Hantei Dynasty, many troubling events took place. Perhaps the darkest of these gave birth to the creature known as Yakamo no Oni. When Kisada offered himself as a sacrifice to the Shadowlands, his request was denied. Instead, the sacrifice was demanded of his sons. Kisada s younger son, Hida Sukune, was slain and sacrificed to the Terrible Standard of Fu Leng. Kisada s elder son, Yakamo, was presented a strange gift a wondrous mechanical claw to replace the hand he had lost in battle with Mirumoto Hitomi.
In accepting the hand, Yakamo unknowingly accepted a part of an unnamed oni into his soul, granting that creature a part of his identity. Thus Yakamo no Oni was born, a fearsome beast that soon came to march at the head of the Crab armies under Kuni Yori s control. As the Clan War drew on, the oni grew stronger, drawing more sustenance from Yakamo s name. Though Yakamo eventually tore the oni s claw from his body and purified himself through the use of the Jade Hand, Yakamo no Oni continued to grow in strength. On the Day of Thunder he faced the true Yakamo, and might have slain him if Mirumoto Hitomi had not intervened and killed the demon instead.
Banished to Jigoku, Yakamo no Oni was awarded the title of Oni Lord. During the War Against the Darkness, this fearsome beast became the protector of the Realm of Evil. Though the Lying Darkness made many incursions into other Spirit Realms, the Oni Lord protected the hellish pits from any incursion, protecting that darkest of realms as the Crab protect the Kaiu Wall. Yakamo no Oni relished his task, but when the war was done and he turned to send his spawn into the mortal realm to create havoc, he found that he could not. Hida Yakamo, the samurai who bore his name, was now Lord Sun. Through the connection they shared, the true Yakamo could sense the demon s incursions into Rokugan, and destroyed his spawn whenever they appeared. Yakamo was forced to continue his former duties as the guardian of Jigoku.
And so it is that the Realm of Evil finds a most unlikely ally. Iuchiban seeks to thwart Fu Leng s rule over the Realm of Evil, to draw upon its power without cost. He has even turned the First Oni, the proudest of Fu Leng s creations, to his command. He has gone too far, and Fu Leng now seeks to end the Legion of Blood s threat. The Guardian of Hell has stepped forward and offered his steel claws and obsidian tetsubo to the cause. The heroes may be unwilling to accept this monstrous beast s aid but they will have it nonetheless.
In the brief time since its creation, the Realm of Thwarted Destiny had been a silent place. Only the brief cry of battle had interrupted its eerie peace, and that peace was swiftly restored when both the Legion of Blood and Legion of the Dead had been absorbed into the fabric of the realm. Now that silence was interrupted once more. A hideous scream erupted, followed by the sound of tearing meat, and a gaping black hole yawned open in the heart of a vast plain. One heavy thud echoed followed by another as the armored feet of a massive beast stepped out of the passage and into the newborn world.
The Oni Lord who had taken the name Yakamo peered about its surroundings with the dull black eyes of an insect. It clutched its enormous spiked club in one hand, scanning about warily for any sign of an enemy.
Since the day it was born in fire, blood, and betrayal the oni had only considered four creatures enemies worthy of its consideration. All of them were here now. It could sense them.
Yakamo, now Lord Sun, the one who shared its name.
Hitomi, now Lady Moon, the samurai who had attacked him from behind, banishing him from the mortal realm at what should have been his moment of greatest triumph.
Okura, the oni who had escaped Jigoku. She was here as well.
None of them were concerns, for the moment, not so much as the fourth.
Most demons banished from the mortal world faced only pain and torment when they returned to Jigoku. When Yakamo returned, he instead became an Oni Lord, his power rivaled only by the greatest of his kin. While the other demons writhed in jealousy, Yakamo knew his true purpose to protect the hellish realms of Jigoku from an entity that threatened all the Spirit Realms. That entity had been destroyed, but echoes of it still survived.
The demon s voice echoed across the featureless plain.
“I know you are here.”
For a time, only silence was the reply. Then the mists shifted, and a vague serpentine form wove itself upon the still air. A pair of burning red eyes fixed on the demon, studying it intently.
“You have no place here, Yakamo,” the Shadow Dragon hissed. “Why have you come”
“Fu Leng has realized your intent, dragon,” Yakamo replied. “He commands that you depart.”
“What” the dragon snapped. “Why I would extend our master s corruption to this new realm and he denies me”
“I have delivered my master s command,” Yakamo replied. “If you ignore it, I will oppose you.”
The Shadow Dragon sneered and hovered closer to the Oni Lord. “You would ally yourself with the Legion of the Dead” it asked, incredulous. “Yakamo no Oni, Guardian of Hell, herald of a new realm of hope and potential” the dragon laughed. “Who truly serves Jigoku here”
“You lie even to yourself,” the demon answered. It looked around the misty plain slowly, shoulders heaving with each massive breath. “Can you not sense it This would become a place where destiny is unmade… where that which should not be comes to pass…”
“And what is wrong with that”
“Nothing,” Yakamo replied, and the word echoed upon the silent plains.
The Shadow Dragon laughed. “Clever choice of words,” the dragon said. “Do you truly think I would restore the Lying Darkness”
“I care not,” the Oni Lord said. “I have been commanded to stop you. Fu Leng demanded that I give fair warning, one final chance to prove yourself the ally you claim to be. Ignore the Dark God s mercy, and I will destroy you.”
“You are welcome to try, Yakamo,” the Shadow Dragon retorted, vanishing into the mists.
Isawa Norikazu: The Mad Prophet
Isawa Norikazu first appeared in Crimson and Jade. The gift of foresight is uncommon in Rokugan, but sometimes arises in the lands of the Phoenix, whose blood bears strange magic from a time before the Empire. Powerful shugenja can coax visions of the future through strenuous effort, or the aid of divine powers, but few bear a natural ability to predict what is to be. Norikazu had such a gift. As a youth, he was struck with a strange fever that left him frail and weak, a rare illness from which he never fully recovered. This same illness also affected his mind, allowing him to perceive the world in ways that others could not. During the Clan War, Norikazu came to realize that the hallucinations he sometimes experienced were actually visions of the future, but such power did not come without cost. Each time he was visited with a glimpse of the future, his illness grew worse. It was as if his sanity existed only in the dark futures he predicted, and each time his vision prevented a tragedy a part of himself was drawn away forever.
Due to his gift of prophecy, Norikazu was one of only a handful of Phoenix shugenja to survive Isawa Tsuke s brutal betrayal of the Phoenix Clan on the Day of Thunder. He aided Naka Kuro, Isawa Kaede, Isawa Osugi, Isawa Taeruko, and others in rebuilding the fallen clan s shugenja schools, inviting promising shugenja from throughout the Empire to study with the Phoenix. As the War Against the Darkness began, Norikazu s visions became more frequent. His health grew worse and worse, but the visions became clearer. While his fellow Phoenix feared for his life, they soon came to realize that they needed his visions to prepare for what was to come. Without Norikazu, the armies of the clans would not have begun their march to Oblivion s Gate, and the Lying Darkness might have unmade the Empire as was its intent. His prophecies, often nearly incoherent but invariably correct, came to be recorded as Norikazu s Ravings.
Near the end of the War Against the Darkness, the Dragon of Fire came to Norikazu and made him the Oracle of Fire. Norikazu regained much of his sanity and regained some measure of control over his visions, augmenting them with the dragon s own power. Sadly, it was too late to truly save Norikazu. His physical health continued to degrade despite the Dragon of Fire s blessings.
One last vision sealed Norikazu s fate. Norikazu s brother, Mitori, had become a prominent shugenja among the Phoenix. Serving as a high ranking magistrate, he was beloved and respected. Norikazu saw his brother struck down by the same fever that had cursed him with prophecy. He saw Mitori s mind shattered by visions. He saw his brother die. Norikazu knew what he must do. He passed the power and duties of Oracle of Fire to Mitori, and calmly surrendered to the death that had long waited to claim him. Norikazu s death saved his brother s life, and he continues to carry the title of Oracle of Fire to this day.
But even in death, Isawa Norikazu continued to aid his clan. Agasha Hamanari, now the most prominent seer of the Phoenix, has often seen Norikazu in his visions. Norikazu seems to be guiding Hamanari, attempting to reach out with some form of a warning. If these warnings are not sufficient, then Norikazu must take a more active role.
And thus the Mad Prophet has stepped forward to offer his visions and his magic to the Legion of the Dead.
The mists swirled all about him, as they always did. He had prayed for his curse to be lifted, and when he had accepted the Fire Dragon s embrace he had actually dared to dream it might finally come to an end. But that, apparently, was not meant to be. When sleep came, the mists came again, as they always had.
The mists were a terrible burden. When he slept, they came. Most often, Norikazu found himself wandering aimlessly through them, drifting amid an endless sea of nothingness. Sometimes, however, there were others there with him. Others who could not see him or interact with him in any way. He saw other people, other places… other times. The Phoenix histories and theologies often spoke of the gift of prophecy with great reverence and respect. Norikazu could have assured them that it was not a burden one would wish for.
Through the mists, Norikazu could see the form of a broad-shouldered man, frame shaking with laughter. Norikazu smiled. It was his brother, Mitori. Mitori had always been the stronger one, and they had been very close as children. Even as they grew older, and Norikazu s “gift” became more and more of a burden, his brother never looked at him strangely or treated him any differently. He was a truly good and honorable soul, and it gave Norikazu great pride to call him brother.
The prophet s smile quickly faded as he watched Mitori change. Time passed, and Mitori changed. He fell to the ground, writhing with a sickness that Norikazu recognized even through the mists. It was the same illness that had brought him low as a child. The mists had first come when he had been lost to that fever, and when he came back, he was never the same. They mists had taken something from him, something he had never been able to reclaim. Norikazu s horror grew as he watched his brother sicken and die, unable to defeat the illness as the prophet had so many years ago.
For the first time since becoming the Oracle of Fire, Norikazu felt true fear. He surely would not have survived if not for his brother s constant support and friendship. And what reward was Mitori to receive for this Death. Pointless, ignominious death.
There was only one means by which Mitori could be saved, but it would mean the ultimate sacrifice for Norikazu. Not death, of course. He had long ago accepted such a possibility. It was inevitable, and perhaps even welcome. He had suffered long enough. No, the price was to change destiny itself, a feat no mortal man, even one with the power of a dragon, should dare undertake lightly. What would become of his soul if he did this
He did not care.
Norikazu awoke with a start. The mists were still present, but different. For once, he had viewed not the present but the past. And for once, his visions brought him great relief, not regret. He was in the Realm of Thwarted Destiny once more, but now that he had returned the landscape seemed somehow more solid, more real.
The prophet rose and wandered into the mists, seeking his comrades.
Iuchi Karasu: The Doomseeker
Iuchi Karasu first appeared in Imperial Edition. Karasu s tale is one of the strangest the Unicorn Clan has to offer. An explorer at heart, Karasu saw it as his destiny to plumb the most forbidden expanses of the Empire, including the dark heart of the Shadowlands itself. Unfortunately, upon entering the Shadowlands he encountered the sadistic Moto Tsume, a fallen former Unicorn. Tsume took delight in tormenting Karasu, both with physical torture as well as twisted illusions to rattle the shugenja s mind, hoping to transform him into a willing servant of darkness.
Somehow Karasu survived his ordeal and escaped, and only with the aid of Kuni Yori was he able to regain is sanity. Swearing revenge on Tsume, Karasu embraced an ancient tradition of his clan and took up the title of the Doomseeker, he who brings death to the undying. Yori approved of Karasu s oath and forged an iron mask for him in the tradition of the Doomseekers of old.
During the Clan War, Karasu gained a reputation as a deadly enemy of the Shadowlands. He was greatly distressed when he learned that Kuni Yori had fallen to the Shadowlands Taint, and following the end of the war he swore to find his former friend and bring his soul peace. When he finally encountered Yori, he discovered that his former friend was more powerful than he had imagined. Only by sacrificing his life in a magical ritual was he able to help contain Yori, sealing both their souls in a mystical pearl created by the Naga. The pearl eventually found its way into the hands of the Phoenix, who stored it in the temples of Gisei Toshi.
During Iuchiban s recent attacks on Gisei Toshi, the pearl, along with many other powerful artifacts, was destroyed. The spirits of both Karasu and Yori were released to find their own place in the Spirit Realms. Yori s fate is yet unknown, but the Doomseeker has found his place among the Legion of the Dead.
The shugenja reached up and gingerly touched the bandages that were wound tightly around his head. He could feel that they were somewhat moist. It would be time to change them again soon, an excruciating process that he had little choice but to endure. The damage done to his face and body by the corrupted general Moto Tsume had been overwhelming. Many told him he should thank the Fortunes he survived at all. Iuchi Karasu did not feel particularly grateful, and would not have minded terribly had the Fortunes permitted him to pass into the next world.
How is the pain a whispery voice demanded, interrupting Karasu s maudlin thoughts.
Yori-san, Karasu croaked through the bandages, the movement of his jaw causing him exquisite pain.
The Kuni daimyo seated himself at the low table across from Karasu. The Iuchi bowed his head respectfully despite the pain. He would not have survived his escape from the Shadowlands if not for the timely arrival of the mysterious Kuni daimyo. Yori s reputation spoke for itself and many men feared him; it was said that his curiosity regarding the Empire s dark enemies was a bit too intense. Karasu could not fault Yori, for it was his own curiosity which had led him to the Shadowlands. If anything, Yori had proven himself the wiser man as he had not been captured and tortured by the enemy. There is no pain, Karasu managed through cracked lips. I think that disturbs me more than anything.
A side effect of the medicine, Yori replied. Give it no further thought. I am more concerned with the state of your mind.
Karasu laughed bitterly. You suspect I am mad, like the others do
No, Yori replied. I know that you are mad, but it bothers me not. It would be impossible for you to be sane. Much as your flesh is now riddled with scars, so must be your mind. It is a natural thing Much like your scars, you must learn to deal with your madness. It is how we survive such ordeals.
What do you suggest I do Karasu asked. Tsume s power was incredible. He will come for me one day.
Then I recommend you be prepared, Yori replied. You know that I hold a certain curiosity for your clan s gaijin traditions, much as you hold curiosity for my own research.
Then I have a gift for you, Yori said, drawing a silk-wrapped bundle from beneath the table and pushing it toward Karasu. I hope that you recognize it.
Karasu unwrapped the silken bundle; his eyes widened at the sight of the smooth steel mask that lay within. It was a vaguely familiar sight, something spoken of in the ancient histories of his family.
This is a Doomseeker s mask, Karasu said. Where did you get this
That is unimportant, Yori replied. You know the responsibility such a symbol offers
Karasu nodded. But I do not deserve this, he said. I fled Tsume. I barely escaped with my life.
And thus you have triumphed where countless others failed, Yori replied. A weapon must be tempered in flame. A Doomseeker must be tempered in madness.
Karasu looked up at Yori again. For a brief instant he saw another image imposed over his friend s face, a leering mockery of stitched flesh and exposed bone. He sensed that the depravity within his friend s soul was greater than he had ever imagined. He was tempted to push the mask away. Whatever Yori s plan, whatever his intent, it was part of something so vile he could not accept.
Yori frowned, seeming to sense Karasu s suspicion. Karasu quickly looked down at the mask again. He sensed only simple steel, no trace of magic, nothing more Yet there was much more. It offered hope, and Karasu was surprised to find he did not desire hope. Every day since he had escaped the Shadowlands he was uncertain why he had bothered.
Why fight on through the onslaught of misery his life had become
Was it not much easier to die
Karasu closed his eyes, stunned by the very thought. What had he become He would not allow Moto Tsume even this victory.
With unsteady hands, Karasu lifted the Doomseeker s mask and placed it over his bandaged face.
In an instant, Iuchi Karasu found himself on the plains of Thwarted Destiny once more. He recognized the disturbance in his vision, and he knew immediately the malevolent power that was to blame.
He knew what he must do.
Daidoji Uji: The Iron Crane
Daidoji Uji first appeared in Imperial Edition. An only child, he was born the heir to the Daidoji family. Grim and solitary, the thankless duties of his family became his entire life. Uji embodied the Daidoji ideal, resourceful, ruthless, talented, and unswervingly loyal to his lord, Doji Hoturi. Even in times of peace, he kept a keen eye upon all threats to his clan. He struck up a close friendship with the Crab Clan, particularly the daughter of the Great Bear, Hida O-Ushi. To call their relationship love might be an exaggeration. Both were too dedicated to their clan to dabble in romance for their own sake, but Uji is known to have spent a great deal of time by her side in Crab lands. After O-Ushi s marriage was arranged with a Unicorn, Uji himself never married.
During the Clan War, Uji gained near legendary status as a great hero of the Crane. It was he who stood beside Doji Kuwanan s side against the False Hoturi s armies and insured the Crane survived their initial retreat. It was his unflinching loyalty that helped the true Hoturi to regain command of his clan when he returned despite the suspicion of his kinsmen. It was Uji s resourcefulness that led the Crane to use their remaining wealth to hire Mantis mercenaries to help purge the Shadowlands scourge from their lands. Many would say that, were it not for him, the Crane Clan would be no more.
After Hoturi s death he continued to serve Doji Kuwanan. During the War Against the Darkness, shadowspawn mimicked both Uji and Kuwanan, turning the two noble heroes against one another and creating a great rift in the Crane. In time, Uji could not stand aside while the minions of evil destroyed the Empire. He committed his forces to fight the corrupted Jade Champion, and then reported to Kuwanan to offer his head for his treason. Meeting in person, Kuwanan and Uji both realized how they had been duped and the Crane were unified again.
As for Uji s end, little has been told. It is known that he was particularly fond of his student, Daidoji Rekai, and upon his death in the War of Spirits he passed the mantle of leadership on to her. As for the rest, none could truly say how this great hero died… but soon all will be revealed.
Once he defended the Crane, now he defends all the Spirit Realms. Daidoji Uji has answered the Fortune of Heroes call, and has stepped forth to offer his sword, his spear, and his guile to the Legion of the Dead.
A full moon hung in the sky, casting the abandoned corpse of Kyuden Bayushi in a strange, otherworldly light. It was at times exactly like this one that men could look upon the eerie, forsaken palace and know, without question, that there were forces in the world beyond what could be seen, things that man did not know or understand. When dawn came such fears would be dispelled and forgotten, but for now they were all too real.
Daidoji Uji was aware of the disquiet among his men, but paid it little attention. They would fulfill their duty, as they always had. It was the duty of a Daidoji to obey. To sacrifice. To succeed. There was no other choice.
Or was there
Uji stared intently at the scrolls upon his desk. On one side, a stack of reports from his scouts of oni marching among the Lion armies. The madman Okura, it seemed, had finally succumbed to his darkest impulses. On the other side, a single scroll bearing the chop of Doji Kuwanan, the Crane Clan Champion. It commanded Uji to hold Kyuden Bayushi until Kuwanan returned from his engagement with the Mantis armies. Despite the evidence suggesting Shiro no Yojin, the castle his ancestors had sworn to reclaim, lay all but undefended by the Matsu, Uji had no choice but to obey his lord s command.
Or did he
Uji felt a stirring in his soul, the voice of his ancestors demanding that he fulfill their ancient vow. He felt a lifetime of preparation and experience come to the fore, demanding action as surely as he felt the blood coursing through his veins. He clenched his fists, furrowing his brow in anger. Must he choose between duty to his ancestors and duty to his Champion There was no true victory in such a choice. There was no honor.
There was a shimmering to his left, just outside his vision. In an instant, his blade was drawn and he had assumed a defensive posture, but his sword arm fell heavily to his side when he saw the visage of a ghostly samurai before him. Yurei-sama he whispered, recognizing the image from the paintings and tapestries that adorned the walls of Shiro Daidoji.
You have called me, Uji, the ghost whispered. I have sensed the disquiet of he who is most loyal to the Daidoji line, and I have come to offer you guidance if you would accept it.
Of course, Yurei-sama, the Daidoji daimyo said in a reverent tone. But how is this possible
The specter faded in and out like a fever dream. There are certain events taking place deep within the Shadowlands that make it easier for those who have passed on to reach their descendants, he answered, but time is short.
What should I do What course is the true one Uji asked. Both paths are betrayal. He lowered his head in shame. How can I choose who to fail
If you choose to retake Shiro no Yojin, the Lion may yet reclaim it, and you will have betrayed your Champion, Yurei answered. If you obey Kuwanan s order, the day may come when Shiro no Yojin is yours for the taking. On that day, you will have your Champion s support. The choice is difficult, I must agree, but do not damn yourself to fulfill a vow I made centuries ago. Let Shiro Yojin go. The Unicorn have already been commanded to punish the Lion for their crimes; the Crane can win this battle another day. Uji closed his eyes and nodded.
Who are you he demanded, looking up at the ghost.
The ghost looked slightly surprised. Do you not believe I am who I claim to be it said in a surprised voice.
I cannot believe that Daidoji Yurei would encourage me to make a choice simply because it was the easier path, Uji said.
Please, Uji, Yurei said in a sad, distant voice. You must acknowledge my counsel. Do not allow your suspicions to overwhelm you.
Uji chuckled. You damn your cause further, false one, he said. I cannot believe that Yurei would beg for my ear so pathetically. A true lord of the Daidoji would force me to listen through action, logic, and example. If you are truly Yurei, then I pity you for what you have become since your death. Perhaps when I take Shiro Yojin you will look down upon my example and learn what it truly means to be Daidoji.
With that, the surrounding chamber faded away. Daidoji Uji found himself fully armored once more, standing on the plains of Thwarted Destiny. Yurei, however, remained.
Yurei shook his head slowly, a smirk spreading across his features. You are an incredible individual, Daidoji Uji. That is twice now, once in life and once in death, that you have seen through the power of Nothing where others did not. I commend you. You are wiser than the others realize.
And you are a fool, Uji said darkly. You masquerade as one of my most honored ancestors yet you do not run from me.
Uji drew his sword.
Yurei looked at Uji intently. Do you believe you can kill me, samurai
I will find a way, Uji replied, advancing.
The image of Yurei vanished, replaced for a single moment by the sinuous shape of the Shadow Dragon. Uji ceased his advance, staring up at the massive creature with an unflinching gaze. He showed no fear or concern.
What will happen to a dead man s soul if it is slain again in this place, Uji the dragon asked, looming over Uji, baring its teeth in a crooked smile. Even I do not know
Uji smiled behind his mask and began to back away from the dragon. There are many ways to win a battle, dragon, he said. Every moment you chase me is a moment you waste not fulfilling your plans. But if you fail to catch me, I swear I will find a way to destroy you for insulting my ancestor.
The Shadow Dragon sneered. Do you think that either your escape or my destruction are within your power it asked.
It will not be the first time you have underestimated me, Uji answered.
And Uji ran.
Isawa Tadaka: Phoenix Thunder
Isawa Tadaka first appeared in Imperial Edition. Isawa Tadaka was one of the greatest shugenja ever born among the Phoenix Clan. Fostered to the Crab Clan shortly after his gempukku, the young Tadaka soon became obsessed with the Shadowlands. A descendant of Isawa Akuma, Tadaka made it his lifelong quest to hunt and destroy Fu Leng s minions, in hopes of one day destroying the Oni Lord that had corrupted, dishonored, and stolen the name of his ancestor.
Tadaka s sensei, Master of Earth Isawa Rujo, became distressed by Tadaka s obsessions and journeyed to Crab lands to retrieve him. Tadaka believed his sensei was a coward, unwilling to face the Empire s truest enemy beyond the Kaiu Wall. Tadaka challenged his master s honor, and two entered into a magical duel. The loser would be outcast as ronin the winner would become Master of Earth. Tadaka won the duel, and Rujo was cast out and forgotten.
Though he joined the Elemental Council, taking his place beside his sister Kaede and his brother Tomo, Tadaka s concerns remained primarily focused on the Shadowlands. He was not concerned with Imperial law or politics, leaving such matters in the capable hands of his fellow Council member, Tsuke.
When the Clan War began, Tadaka was among the first to realize the true nature of the danger the Empire faced. As Yogo Junzo began to build his armies in the south, Tadaka came to a difficult and historic decision that the Phoenix could not continue to fight the Shadowlands without understanding the powers that fueled them. Stealing into Yogo Junzo s stronghold, Tadaka was able to recover one of Isawa s Twelve Black Scrolls, and his fellow Council members were able to produce additional Black Scrolls throughout the ages.
Opening the Black Scrolls, Tadaka and the other Masters learned a great deal about the enemy. Sadly, they also caused themselves to become corrupted, with the sole exception of Tadaka s sister, Kaede. Tadaka even summoned an oni and gave it his own name, binding the creature as a prisoner while he interrogated it as to the nature of Jigoku. Over time, Tadaka began to realize that the path he trod was that of his damned ancestor, Akuma. The Master of Earth began to distance himself from the dark powers he had begun to study. Sadly, the other Masters did not do the same.
On the Day of Thunder, Tadaka faced his fellow master, Tsuke, in mortal combat. Tsuke fell before Tadaka, but not before mortally wounding his fellow master. Refusing medical attention, Tadaka joined the other Thunders to face the Ninth Kami, Fu Leng, as well. He was even more severely wounded during the final battle. As Tadaka died, Kuni rituals purged his body and soul of the Taint even as they took his life, allowing him to enter Yomi uncorrupted.
In death, Tadaka has pondered his deeds in life, wondering if his clan would have suffered greater harm had he never opened the Black Scrolls. With the Empire threatened by users of dark magic again, and his former comrade and enemy Tsuke already standing among the Legion of the Dead, Tadaka realizes he can spend no more time in contemplation. The time has come for action.
Oni no Okura: Guardian of Heaven
Okura no Oni (also known as Oni no Okura) first appeared in Fire and Shadow. She was first summoned by Jade Champion Kitsu Okura, who was seduced by the power offered by the Oni Lord, Akuma, and gave his name to one of Akuma s spawn. This demon became a powerful entity in its own right, and marched at Okura s command against the Lion Clan s enemies, defending Matsu Palace against the Unicorn who sought to punish Okura for practicing dark magic.
But somehow, Okura was different. Marching beside the Lion armies, she began to envy the path of honor and bushido that the mortals embraced. Though her purpose was to drag her namesake into darkness, instead she began to embrace the soul of the Lion Clan. Yet, Okura feared that she could never be anything more than a demon. At the Battle of Oblivion s gate she sought to do some good with her existence and flung herself against her “father,” Akuma, in personal combat.
Though both Akuma and Okura were seemingly banished from the mortal realm, Okura survived. The Elemental Dragons took pity upon Okura and offered her a chance to be reborn free of Jigoku s control. Her soul was expunged of the Taint and she now stands as the guardian of the Celestial Heavens. To many, Okura stands as a symbol of hope, the ideal that even that which is born from the depths of corruption might yet embrace the noble path of a samurai.
Today, with the Empire threatened by the unholy power of Iuchiban, Okura was the first to hear the Fortune of Heroes call. She has stepped forth and offered her services to the Legion of the Dead.
Yoshi: Shadow of the Dragon
Yoshi, formerly known as Togashi Yoshi, first appeared in Imperial Edition. During the thousand year reign of Togashi as Dragon Clan Champion, few Kolat were ever able to infiltrate the clan. Yoshi was a rare exception. A shugenja of the Togashi order, early in his youth he made a pilgrimage to a temple in the northern mountains. There, he encountered Kolat recruiters who convinced him of the nobility of their cause. He remained among them for years, undergoing training and mental conditioning in hopes that he might be able to slip past the Dragon Champion s unerring ability to ferret out and destroy Kolat agents.
Togashi Yokuni visited Yoshi only one week after his return, revealing that he knew exactly what Yoshi was. Further, he revealed that he would do nothing to hinder Yoshi s attempts to gather information on the Dragon. Even the Kolat, he claimed, served a purpose and Yoshi was a part of that purpose. Though stunned and confused by Yokuni s revelations, Yoshi continued to serve the Kolat as best he could, revealing nothing of the fact he had been discovered, fearing that the Kolat would simply distance themselves or even have him assassinated to cut their losses. He came to a dark realization that the freedom the Kolat offered was false, yet to betray them now would bring certain shame and death.
During the War Against the Darkness, Yoshi was among the first to flee the Dragon when Hitomi began her purge of the Togashi family. While he had always feared Yokuni s enigmatic omniscience, Hitomi s unpredictable wrath was an even greater threat. To his dismay the Kolat soon visited Yoshi, demanding that he return to his place among the Dragon so that he could continue to serve his purpose as an agent among them. Yoshi reluctantly gave up his name and obeyed the commands of his Kolat masters.
Upon his return, he found Hitomi waiting. She, like Yokuni, had been aware of his true affiliations. Unlike Yokuni, she was not quite so prepared to allow him to continue his Kolat activities unsupervised.
Hitomi inscribed tattoos upon Yoshi s flesh that bound his will to her own.
If he would serve the Kolat, it would be by her terms alone. Yoshi found himself a helpless servant of Hitomi until his death at the Battle of Oblivion s Gate.
As Hitomi has returned to serve in the Legion of the Dead, Yoshi s restless spirit finds itself still bound to her will. He now marches beside the heroes, uncertain if he will ever truly be free or if he will eternally be bound to serve the will of another.
Perhaps this will be his time to find out.
Chaos reigned in the Dragon mountains. Hitomi, Lady of the Dragon and wielder of the Obsidian Hand, seemed to have gone mad. She had driven the Togashi before her like the wind, expelling them from their lands for no discernable reason and slaughtering them when they failed to flee swiftly enough. None could find logic in her actions, and yet many had chosen to obey. She was their lord and such was the duty of a samurai.
Togashi Yoshi clutched his travel sack and stood on the winding mountain path. He glanced back up at the High House of Light, now simply called Kyuden Hitomi. Once it had truly lived up to its name, and had seemed to radiate a serene radiance from within. Now, it stood strangely shadowed in the midday sun. There was an ominous presence there, a feeling of foreboding that even the most obtuse, unenlightened mind could not help but feel pressing against their soul like a cage of iron.
Yoshi turned from the castle and stared down the path to the foothills below. They were likewise ominous, but with uncertainty rather than a sense of imminent doom. Yoshi s true masters, the Ten Masters, lay somewhere in the world beyond, though he had not seen or spoken directly to them in many years. They would doubtless have many questions for him, and possibly a new assignment. Could he cast aside all he had accomplished and come to know over the past decade He was uncertain. He was not a young man, and he no longer believed so strongly in the Kolat cause as he once had as a youth.
Yoshi stared at the tiger tattooed upon his inner wrist. Among the ise zumi, such an image was completely unremarkable. None had any notion as to the allegiance it signified. Not for the first time in recent days, Yoshi wondered if there was any true allegiance left within him. He had been forced to cast aside the name Togashi, just as he had cast aside another name long ago. Now, he could choose to remain and serve a master whose cause might well be insane, but who would allow Yoshi to achieve his own destiny. Or he could leave, and accept whatever destiny came to the pawn of his powerful, enigmatic masters. Was uncertainty worth the risk of death Was certainty worth the price of emptiness
If Hitomi was truly mad, then did it benefit the Empire to rob her of the guidance he might offer What if he could steer her back to clarity And what of the Kolat, who believed that mortal men could come to wield the power of gods Was not Hitomi s example a warning of the dangers of such a philosophy
Togashi Yoshi died then. The shugenja dropped his travel sack on the mountain path beside the golden haori bearing his family mon.
Hitomi Yoshi ascended the mountain and pledged his loyalty to the Dragon Champion once more.
The mists parted, and Yoshi rose stood on the Plains of Thwarted Destiny again. He could sense that he had been given a second chance, a chance to face his destiny once more.
This time, he had not failed.
He looked up into the eyes of his goddess, and Hitomi nodded imperceptibly in approval. It was more than he deserved, and he felt overwhelmed by the gesture. Hitomi Yoshi bowed deeply before his Lady and rose to rejoin the Legion of the Dead.
Bayushi Dairu: Son of Thunder
Bayushi Dairu first appeared in Scorpion Clan Coup (Scroll 2). Dairu was believed to be the son of Bayushi Shoju and his bride, Kachiko. A handsome youth with startling blue eyes, Dairu adapted quickly to everything he was taught. He seemed a promising successor for the Master of Secrets. Dairu often wondered why his father was so cold and aloof, but reasoned that as leader of the Scorpion he merely had little time for his family. He resolved to become the finest samurai he could so that his father might take notice.
What Dairu never knew was that Shoju was not his true father.
Dairu was born of an infidelity between Kachiko and Doji Hoturi, son of the Crane Champion. Shoju loved Kachiko too much to denounce her treachery or cast out her son. Instead, he accepted Dairu as his own, though he handed off much of his son s upbringing and training to his brother, Aramoro, who also knew the truth.
When Shoju planned his coup against the Emperor, Dairu learned of the plans and demanded to join the invasion party. Shoju refused, for he did not wish for his wife s beloved son to be harmed. Dairu, in turn, was afraid that Shoju would fail without all the help he could muster. So Dairu disguised himself and joined the Scorpion invasion of Otosan Uchi. He died on the blade of Doji Hoturi, who never realized he had slain his own son.
From the realm of ancestors, Dairu watched events in the land of the living with growing anguish. He watched as his adopted father was executed and demonized for his noble intentions. He watched his mother hatch a plot of vengeance against his true father that tore the Empire apart. If he had obeyed his father, would the Clan War have occurred Would Fu Leng have possessed the Emperor with such ease or would the heroes of Rokugan seen the threat earlier Dairu blames himself for the countless deaths that resulted of that war, and has long waited for the chance to redeem himself.
That time has come. Bayushi Shoju has returned from the Realm of the Hungry Dead to join the Legion of Heroes, and Dairu stands beside him. Though he may bear no relation to Shoju by blood, the love and loyalty that he bears for his adopted father are as great as that which any son bears for his father.
They will not fail.
Ryosei: Mistress of the Fox
Ryosei first appeared in Crimson and Jade. Heir to the title of Fox Clan Daimyo, Ryosei believed her path would be a simple and honorable one despite the mystical kitsune heritage that ran through her veins. Early in life, she learned that matters were far more complicated than she could imagine. Her father, Kitsune Gohei, had spent his life searching for the Ancestral Sword of the Fox, stolen by the Scorpion Clan centuries before.
Upon recovering the sword, he revealed that the sword was not his true goal, but the Tenth Black Scroll the Scorpion had concealed within its hilt. Gohei opened the scroll and attempted to sacrifice his daughter to its power; only the timely self-sacrifice of a protective fox spirit allowed her to escape with her life.
When the Clan Wars began, Yoritomo sought out other daimyo that recognized the threat Yogo Junzo and his ilk posed to the Empire. As Ryosei’s father numbered among such threats, the Fox were among the first to join the Alliance. They stood beside Yoritomo throughout the Clan War as his fiercest allies. During the later War Against the Darkness, the machinations of Shadowspawn drove a deep wedge between the Fox and Mantis.
Ryosei declared her clan’s independence from Yoritomo’s Alliance, and even after the truth of the matter was revealed the Fox remained a cold distance from their former friends.
During the time of the Four Winds, Ryosei was the second uncorrupted soul to set eyes on the City of the Lost, and the first to truly escape with the knowledge. Invited there by her father, he gave her the Tenth Black Scroll and asked her to join her in the ranks of Daigotsu’s chosen. With the help of the mysterious shugenja known as Omen (the first soul to discover the city), Ryosei escaped and delivered the Black Scroll to the scholars of the Phoenix Clan.
Ryosei was deeply changed by her experiences in the City of the Lost, and retreated to the temples of the Fox to consider her father’s fate. Her many long years seemed to catch up with her, and after a year the Fox’s beloved daimyo passed quietly into death. Now, however, she stands with the Legion of the Dead, young and strong as she once was. The Legion of Blood reminds her much of her father, abominations that defy the normal circle of rebirth. She gladly stands beside Rokugan’s other great heroes, prepared to banish such abominations from the face of the Spirit Realms.
Late afternoon was the most beautiful time of day near Kitsune Mori. Lord Sun prepared to disappear over the horizon, caressing the majestic trees with the most vibrant shades of yellow and orange. If the leaders of Rokugan s clans could be meet here to resolve their differences, Ryosei believed, there would be no war ever again.
The Fox Champion rose from where she knelt in the remote shrine s main chamber, wincing as she did so. The past few years had not been kind. She had been fit and able all her life, until her return from the City of the Lost. Although every expert she had consulted assured her that she had not contracted the Shadowlands Taint, it could not be denied that the almost preternatural vitality she had once enjoyed had disappeared, left behind in that dark land. Now, she looked and felt her years. It had been a difficult transition. Sometimes, she would find herself staring off towards the southwest, as if she had left some part of herself in the Shadowlands with her corrupted father..
Still, Ryosei could not deny that some good had come of her trials. The experience had haunted her for a long time, driving her into secluded study at the most remote shrines and temples in her clan s lands. In time, she had found peace. More than that, truthfully. Finally, she had come to terms with what had become of her father. She was ready to return to her duties among the Fox. Others would lead in her stead no longer. She may have a short time left in the mortal realm, perhaps, but that time would be spent putting her newfound wisdom and peace of mind to use for the good of the Fox and all clans.
Shadows stirred at the shrine s entrance, diminishing the sunset s brilliant hues. Ryosei, a voice whispered.
Who is there she asked, squinting slightly. Reflexively, she began preparing a spell. She may have achieved peace of mind, but she was hardly a doddering old fool. This Fox still had teeth. Who calls upon me
The balance of power shifts in the heavens, the whisper answered. Heavens and hells shift and move in response to the actions of mortals. I do not yet know what this means, but chaos brings power.
A nimbus of radiant green energy surrounded Ryosei s clenched fist. Whoever you are, you will not find easy prey in me.
How precious, the whisper returned, a hint of mockery in its tone. A sea of darkness swelled around the doorway, two glowing red eyes the only discernable feature. It surged forward, reaching for her. Ryosei shouted a fierce kiai and unleashed the jade energy she held in reserve. The shadows opened and allowed the spell to pass through them, then closed ranks again. A blade of purest shadow plunged into Ryosei s heart, and she felt a terrible coldness well up from within her.
Your soul will serve me now.
Who are you she gasped. Why are you doing this
The only reply was laughter.
Ryosei slumped to the ground. When her kinsmen found her the next day, it appeared as though she had died from nothing more sinister than age.
Ryosei came to herself once more, the vision quickly fading. She could not resist the feeling that she had forgotten something terribly important. Whatever it was, it seemed less important by the moment.
Ryosei Matsu Goemon asked. Are you all right
Fine, she said quickly, her voice slightly irritable.
Goemon gave her a confused look. She bowed her head in apology.
Enough of this, Hitomi said in a sharp voice. We must gather the wisest who have reappeared in council. It is clear there is more at work here than Iuchiban summoning an army of the dead if indeed he is even responsible for that.
Goemon nodded. The Shadow Dragon.
Hitomi turned to Ryosei. Lady of the Fox, you fought in the War Against the Darkness. This enemy is a sort that is known to you. Will you join us We must determine what will be done.
Of course, Lady Hitomi, she replied.
Ryosei moved to join the greatest of the Legion s heroes. Whatever she had seen in her vision, whatever she had forgotten, surely it could not have been important
Asahina Dorai: The Tiger’s Apprentice
Asahina Dorai first appeared in Dark Journey Home. Dorai was a rather unremarkable student of the Asahina family. Few took note of him, and few today even remember him. Yet in certain circles, he is hailed as a hero.
Among the Kolat.
Dorai s keen mind, subtlety, and willingness to question the nature of the universe was noticed early on by Akodo Kage, then senior Master of the Kolat. He began to train Dorai to be his replacement, to succeed where Matsu Hiroru had once failed. Though Dorai was a willing pupil, he was not as talented as Hiroru, and sometimes asked uncomfortable questions about the Kolat s true philosophies. Even so, Kage found Dorai s magical talents were too useful to ignore with the ongoing War Against the Darkness, and continued to train the young Crane. When he felt Dorai was prepared to be accepted into the inner circles of the Kolat, he helped the boy to fake his own death.
At the height of the War Against the Darkness, Akodo Kage disappeared and young Dorai was left the de facto leader of the Kolat.
Uncertain how to progress, Dorai turned the Kolat s resources towards helping the Empire fight the Lying Darkness. Though many agents were surprised to find themselves aiding the samurai they had covertly undermined for their entire lives, none could argue that the Darkness was the greater threat.
Yet Dorai s reign over the Kolat was extremely brief. He died near the end of the war. As the spawns of the Lying Darkness sought to steal the Kolat Master s soul and identity he enacted a final spell, destroying himself and all the spawn around him even as Daidoji Rekai galloped away with the remaining half of the true Tao. To his great surprise, Dorai found that his soul arrived in Yomi, for though he had dedicated his life to an organization that sought to dismantle the Celestial Order, all of his greatest deeds were ultimately heroic.
In the decades since, Dorai has continued to ponder his philosophies. Though he has not abandoned the beliefs of the Kolat, he no longer follows them as blindly as Kage once instructed him. When he heard the call for heroes, he stepped forward, wondering if perhaps by watching true heroes in action he might learn some small measure of the truth.
The libraries were dark and empty tonight. Only a single lantern burned in a forgotten corner of the cavernous chambers. A shugenja of perhaps fifteen years hunched over a low table covered with dusty scrolls, poring over the mysteries locked within. His brow furrowed as he studied the ancient writings of his Asahina ancestors.
“What are you reading, Dorai” asked a deep voice from the shadows.
He looked up, surprised to be disturbed in his studies. A small, old man in a pale brown kimono stood at the edge of the lantern s light, long white hair hanging loose about his shoulders. He smiled faintly at Dorai, though his eyes remained cold and distant.
“I am reading an obscure recounting of Isawa Asahina s life,” Dorai said.
“Oh” the old man replied. “Perhaps you could tell me his tale.”
“Of course,” Dorai answered, “Asahina was a warrior-shugenja of the Phoenix Clan. He fought the Lion, but when the Crane forged a treaty between the Lion and Phoenix, he was furious. He went on a rampage through the peasant villages of Crane territory, until a Crane samurai-ko rode out to face him. She lifted no weapon against him and made no move to fight him as he tore her apart with his magic. At the brink of death, he was so touched by her refusal to fight, so filled with shame at how he would have destroyed this honorable, innocent woman, that he stayed his hand. He forswore violence and abandoned his clan, joining the Crane and founding the Asahina family. The samurai-ko became his wife.”
“What a curious story,” the old man said.
“Too curious,” Dorai said with a frown. “If this man hated the Lion so, why did he attack the Crane Why not ignore their treaty if he despised it so and continue his crusade If he truly destroyed so many Crane villages why did the sacrifice of one Crane samurai stay his hand Surely he must have murdered many innocents before with no shred of remorse. Further, why abandon the Phoenix Even in those times they embraced the way of peace more than any other clan. Surely he could have found many monasteries in their lands that would have accepted him. And finally, why would the Crane have taken him in, much less granted him a family name, after murdering so many of them in such a dishonorable fashion”
“History moves in strange ways,” the old man said. “I would be surprised if the tale was untrue, though I would wager there is more to the story.”
“That is not good enough,” Dorai said. “I come here seeking every version of the story I can, seeking the truth… as you said, there must be more… The others, they are content to believe that which they are told.”
“And you are not,” the old man answered with a chuckle. “You question that which is unquestionable. That makes you wiser than the rest.”
“Wiser” Dorai asked. “I am wise because I question I would think a wise man would know the answers already.”
“You would be wrong,” the old man said, “but perhaps I could help you find some of the answers you seek.”
Dorai looked up at the old man in sudden interest.
“Do you know who I am, Dorai” the man asked.
Dorai knew that the old man was a guest in the temple. He was a visitor from Lion lands – Akodo Kage, the revered sensei. But even as Dorai opened his mouth to answer, he paused. No. That was not the truth.
“You are no one,” Dorai said, and a shudder seemed to pass through the very fiber of the world.
The old man scowled. “Show some respect, boy,” he said. “I am Akodo Kage.”
“No,” Dorai said. “Kage is dead. This happened long ago. You are not my Master.” The young shugenja stood, looking at the library around him with wide eyes. The scroll fell from his hand, evaporating into dust before it struck the floor. Suddenly the many shelves of thick scrolls seemed somehow transparent, less real, with each moment.
“This is not what was intended, Dorai,” Kage said, voice shrill and angry. “You were to choose. Choose your destiny, or choose the path you denied in life. There is no other way.”
“I do not know what you are, ghost, but you are not Akodo Kage,” Dorai said in a low voice. “Haunt me no more. Cobble your reality from the destinies and memories of the others if you will, but a Kolat will not be your pawn, for good or ill.”
“You have made a grave mistake, Crane,” the vision that was Kage replied as he faded away.
As Asahina Dorai found himself alone on the Plains of Thwarted Destiny, he wondered if the vision had spoken the truth.
Togashi Yokuni: The Dragon’s Host
Togashi Yokuni first appeared in Imperial Edition. Kami Togashi lived many lives as numerous Dragon Champions and bore many names. Many tales are told about him, but much less is known about the men and women who bore those names before. Togashi, like all the Kami, was not truly immortal. To remain in the mortal world, a necessity so that his wisdom might guide the Seven Thunders against his cursed brother Fu Leng, he was forced to renew his mortality by adopting new mortal bodies. This could only be done voluntarily, and only a select few had the potential to house a spirit as mighty as Togashi. These few are known among the Dragon as the tamashii, the most powerful and enlightened of all tattooed men.
Yokuni was the last of these, the man whose name and form Togashi bore on the Day of Thunder. His tale is untold, the mysteries of his life before he sacrificed himself for the good of the Empire are still unknown.
All the same, he stands beside the other heroes of the past, ready to give everything for an Empire that will never understand him.
Hida Kisada: The Great Bear
Hida Kisada first appeared in Imperial Edition. Few samurai who have ever lived are both revered as a hero and reviled as a villain in such equal measure as Hida Kisada. He was one of the greatest leaders who ever graced the Crab Clan, incomparably cunning and unstoppable on the battlefield. For years Kisada held the Kaiu Wall, looking out upon the rest of the Empire with disgust. The Crab had nothing, little resources, no allies, and yet they were the strongest of all the Great Clans. The Crane and Lion looked down upon them as uncouth ruffians even as the Crab saved their way of life on a daily basis. The time would come, he knew for the Crab to earn what was theirs.
When Bayushi Shoju assassinated Hantei XXXVIII, Kisada began to see possibilities he had never imagined. If this Scorpion could take the throne, if even for a moment, why not him A plan began to form in Kisada s mind. The plan was encouraged by his advisor, Kuni Yori, who convinced the Great Bear that the creatures of the Shadowlands they had so long battled against could easily be controlled and turned to the Crab s whim.
Kisada had his doubts, but trusted Yori. Sadly his trust in his friend proved to be his undoing. His eldest son, Yakamo, gave his name to an oni. His youngest son, Sukune, was murdered and sacrificed to Fu Leng s war standard. By the time Kisada realized what he had done, it seemed he was too deeply involved to back out until the throne was his.
It was in Otosan Uchi that Kisada realized his mistake, when the possessed Emperor drove his sword through the Great Bear s stomach.
Though terribly wounded, Kisada survived. He forced himself to survive so that he could have his vengeance. Unable to walk, unable to fight, Kisada still had one weapon left his mind. For years he had studied Otosan Uchi to plan his invasion, and offered that knowledge to Toturi the Black. With Kisada s guidance, the army of the Seven Thunders defeated Fu Leng s hordes. Kisada clung to life for two years, long enough to make certain his son s rule of his clan was fair and just. Upon his death, Emperor Toturi I proclaimed the Great Bear Fortune of Persistence.
Now Kisada stands beside Goemon, his fellow Fortune. He has sworn to see the Legion of Blood driven back into Jigoku. The Crab will not fail again.
Mirumoto Satsu: Master of the Riddle
Mirumoto Satsu first appeared in Scorpion Clan Coup (Scroll Three). The elder brother of Mirumoto Hitomi and Mirumoto Daini, Satsu embodied everything a Mirumoto strives to be. He was cunning, philosophical, loyal, and deadly with his two blades. Few doubted that the Mirumoto would see a golden age under his rule, until destiny intervened.
After a misunderstanding in the court blossomed into a heated insult, Mirumoto Satsu challenged Hida Yakamo, son of the Crab Champion, to a duel. Yakamo brashly accepted Satsu s challenge, despite the Dragon s reputation as an unparalleled swordsman. Yet as Satsu prepared for the duel, he received an unexpected visitor Togashi Yokuni, the Dragon Champion.
Yokuni shared with Satsu a vision of the future. In one vision, Satsu won his duel. Yakamo perished, and when the Day of Thunder came… there were only six Thunders, rather than seven. Rokugan feel under the rule of Fu Leng, and a thousand years of darkness began. In the second vision, Yakamo triumphed. Satsu watched his sister begin a path of vengeance that would ultimately consume her but the Empire was saved.
Thus Satsu was presented a choice save his life and that of his beloved sister, or save the Empire. The choice was not an easy one, but in the choosing Satsu understood the ultimate riddle of the Dragon. To be a Dragon – a great destiny is not always a glorious one, but all must ultimately serve their purpose. Yakamo won the duel, slew Satsu, and began the rivalry that continues between himself and Hitomi to this day.
From the Realm of Ancestors, Mirumoto Satsu watched his sister s path into darkness with great sadness, but also with great pride when she finally rose above her madness and ascended to the heavens as Lady Moon. If she would join the Legion of the Dead, he can do no less than stand by her side.
Satsu knelt before the polished wooden stand where his twin swords rested. It was said that a samurai s soul dwelled within his blade. These particular blades had been wielded by countless Mirumoto daimyo throughout the centuries. Satsu s father had given him the honor of carrying these blades; they resounded with the strength and honor of his most glorious ancestors.
Yet if any remnant of their souls remained in these blades now, Satsu could not hear them. He was uncertain if that was a blessing or a curse. His was not truly a soul in need of guidance if anything he had an excess of it. When he awoke this morning, his course had been clear. Today, he would face the upstart young Crab who had insulted Satsu s wife in a duel of honor. Hida Yakamo would die, all assembled would see the glory of the Mirumoto technique, and life would move on. Then things became slightly more complex.
Togashi Yokuni had visited Satsu in these same chambers, and revealed a great and wondrous secret. He was not truly the man he claimed to be, but rather the original Kami Togashi founder of the Dragon Clan. Though Satsu did not doubt his Champion s word, Togashi proved his identity by granting a brief vision of the Celestial Heavens. He saw the Sun and Moon in all their splendor. He saw the unimaginable majesty of the seven dragons of heaven.
Yokuni also showed Satsu a reflection of the future that might be, of a day when Fu Leng escaped from his prison. That time was swiftly approaching. The descendants of the Seven Thunders would stand against him and save Rokugan from the foul corruption of Jigoku.
Hida Yakamo was one of them.
Togashi Yokuni gave no command; he left the choice to Satsu. The only true option was clear Satsu must allow Yakamo to kill him so that all of Rokugan could be saved.
As he continued to meditate upon his blades, strange images flickered at the corner of his vision. Satsu turned quickly, and caught his breath as he saw twisted images form from the shadows. He saw the bright, happy spirit of his sister crushed by his death. He saw a deep wedge driven into his family from the vengeance that consumed her. He saw her face Yakamo in battle, only to be hideously maimed. He saw a terrible darkness take root within his sister s soul, consuming her with madness. He saw the Togashi monks murdered by the hundreds. He saw the madman, Kokujin, reign over the High House of Light.
He saw the Dragon Clan suffer.
What is this he demanded.
A shape wove itself from the darkness. Satsu recognized it from the earlier vision Yokuni had granted him the Dragon of Air. The dragon looked at Satsu with sad eyes. Yokuni means well, Satsu-san, but he has not shown you the entire truth. This vision is no less real than the one Yokuni offered. He wished to protect you from this. Satsu sensed no deceit in the creature s words, but he was uneasy nonetheless. But if I kill Yakamo, will not all of Rokugan suffer he whispered.
Perhaps, the Air Dragon replied, but do the Crab not have other heroes who share the Thunder s blood Even if Yakamo fell surely his brother, Sukune, would be able to fight in his stead
Why would Yokuni not mention such a possibility Satsu demanded.
Because it is uncertain, the Air Dragon admitted. Togashi knows only that Yakamo is Rokugan s best hope… If Yakamo lives, Fu Leng stands a good chance at defeat though even then nothing is certain. If Yakamo dies, the Thunders may yet defeat Fu Leng without him but your death will transform your sister into a monster and wound your family in a way that cannot heal. This I promise.
The choice you offer is impossible, Satsu replied. Risk the Empire or damn my family
The Air Dragon bowed its head sadly. Yet I could not, in good faith, allow you to make the choice without knowing everything. I have faith that you will do what must be done. The Air Dragon vanished into darkness with a mournful sigh.
Satsu stared at the blades of his ancestors for a long time without movement or sound.
At last, his decision made, Mirumoto Satsu took up his swords and made his way to the courtyard to kill Hida Yakamo and save his sister s soul.
Matsu Imura: Master of Beasts
Matsu Imura first appeared in Imperial Edition. Even among the Lion, the story of one of its strangest heroes, Matsu Imura, is not well known. A quiet and reclusive boy, Imura was born of a Matsu mother and a Kitsu father. When he was born, he had his father s strange red-golden eyes, indicating a strong bond to the kitsu lion-spirits of old. Sadly, when he grew older, he displayed no talent for magic.
The boy was hardly ordinary, however. He possessed an extraordinary talent with animals, an ability to understand and communicate with them that was almost supernatural. During an expedition on the plains of his homeland, accompanied by his elderly grandfather, older brother, and younger sister, Imura realized that they were being stalked by a pack of hunting cats. Rather than flee or attack the beasts, Imura set down his sword and approached the largest female lion. He walked without fear, hands open to his sides as if greeting an old friend. To the astonishment of all, the hunting cats stepped forth from their camouflage and gathered around Imura, nuzzling him affectionately as if he were one of their own.
From that day forward, Imura s pride never ventured far from his side, obeying his commands without question. They even accompanied Imura into battle, striking terror into the Lion Clan s enemies. Over time, Imura learned how to train his hunting cats in a more mundane manner, passing these skills to others so that packs of vicious cats became a part of every large Lion army. None of these, of course, were so vicious and disciplined as Imura s own lions. Imura never considered his companions pets or weapons. To him, they were samurai the very spirit that the Lion Clan hoped to emulate, and thus he afforded them the greatest respect.
Imura met his final fate on the Day of Thunder. When the leader of his pride was wounded by the demonic entity known only as Kyojin, Imura refused to abandon her or step aside. He drew his sword and met the enforcer in single combat, and though he perished the rest of his pride gained the time they needed to escape. As a result, Imura s soul passed not to Yomi, where the heroes of Rokugan dwell, but to Chikushudo, the Realm of Animals, where he hunts beside the wild beasts he so loved. Imura would not have it any other way.
When Matsu Goemon s call for heroes echoed across the spirit realms, his kinsman, Imura, heard the call. He has come forth from that most wild of Spirit Realms to offer his strength to the Legion of the Dead.
And from the triumphant roars that accompany him, it is obvious that he has not come alone…
Imura s little sister ran ahead through the grass, her laughter bright and clear in the open plains. The only other sound that could be heard was the whispering of the long, soft grass as it danced in the wind. As Imura watched, his sister cast aside the stick she carried and turned a sudden cartwheel through the grass, shrieking in delight as the long stalks tickled her face. Imura grinned broadly. He was only a few years past his gempukku, and he could still remember the simple joys he had once felt in such simple pursuits. One sidelong glance at his elder brother, however, and his smile faded somewhat.
Matsu Kisaru had always been stern, even when he and Imura had been children. He had always longed to be older, to accept the full responsibilities of a samurai. Now that he had served in the Lion armies for many years, he was even more somber in Imura s opinion. There were times when it seemed he might finally relax, but they never bore fruit. “Sakura,” Kisaru said sharply. “Stop that nonsense. Your noise can be heard for miles. You are a Lion.”
“It matters little,” Imura heard himself say. “There is no one about for miles. We are far from any enemy border.” He could not recall ever speaking so to his elder brother, and was somewhat taken aback by his words. Sakura glanced at him as well, her eyes wide with surprise.
“Now, now, grandchildren,” the venerable Kitsu Sashiro offered. “Let us not be disagreeable on this most fine day.” Their grandfather was an old samurai, respected by all in his family and clan for his sensible, practical wisdom. “Kisaru, you cannot expect young Sakura to hold the same severe outlook that you do. She is yet a child.” He turned to Imura. “And you must not hold Kisaru s severity against him. He is, after all, incapable of turning cartwheels in his armor.”
All three siblings were quiet for a moment, then Sakura burst into laughter and fell backwards into the grass, flapping her arms and giggling. Impossibly, Kisaru s mouth curled up in a slight smile. “Is that so, grandfather” he said to Imura, “A Lion samurai never turns down such a challenge…”
Imura smiled, but as he laughed at the sight of his brother and sister playing in the tall grass, he sensed something was terribly wrong. Imura could sense the tension from his grandfather first. His little sister s fearful cry was like a physical blow. Imura did not know what drove him to move between his family and the huge cat lurking in the bushes, or what he would do to save his family from the predator. He only did what he knew what he must do.
As the cat regarded Imura warily, something warred deep within the young samurai s soul. His instincts cried out for him to approach, to connect with the thing that was part of him. His training, however, screamed at him to defend his family with his life, if necessary. Imura weighed his blade in his hand, attempting to decide what course to embrace. He wished to reach out to the creature, welcome it in peace, but his warrior training screamed against it. To do such a thing was foolhardy… it was not what his brother would have done.
Matsu Imura drew his blade, shouted, and charged the lion that lurked before him. As he struck the creature with his blade, he knew that he had done something terribly wrong. His brother, sister, and grandfather shattered like glass and were carried away on the wind. A pool of black blood expanded from the slaughtered lion, causing the grass around him to blacken, wither, and die. Imura saw armies of the dead appear from the mountains and march across the plains, destroying his family home. He could do nothing to stop them… there were too few…
Something had gone horribly wrong. This was not his destiny.
Imura awoke suddenly. He found himself lying amid the grey grasses that populated the vast, empty plains of this place, this blossoming realm of both death and creation. The mists swirled faster about him, and he felt strangely weak, as if they were feeding upon strength. Imura felt as if part of his soul had been torn away. His sword lay in the grass nearby.
Imura looked up and saw his fellow Lion, the samurai who had called himself Ijiasu, standing nearby. The grave look in his comrade s eyes said that he knew exactly what had happened.
“That was not the way things happened,” Imura said. “The pride… they became my friends. My father s castle still stands…”
“This place judges each of us, Imura-san,” Ijiasu said. “Do not let its visions defeat you. We must fight on.”
“But I have failed, Ijiasu,” Imura said.
“Only if you cease to fight,” Ijiasu said, taking Imura s sword from the grass and offering it to his fellow Lion.
Imura bowed his head, nearly overcome with sorrow. He looked up slowly and took the sword in one hand. He felt stronger as he accepted it. Rising to his feet, he followed Ijiasu into the mists and rejoined the Legion of the Dead.
Shiba Tsukune: Fortune of Rebirth
Shiba Tsukune first appeared in Imperial Edition. During the Clan War, Tsukune served as the Voice of the Masters, delivering the edicts and enforcing the will of the Phoenix Elemental Council. As the Empire spiraled into chaos, her missions often sent her into the heart of danger, defending her clan with a zeal and courage that was unmatched. Thus it was that when Phoenix Champion Shiba Ujimitsu perished on the Day of Thunder, few were truly surprised when the Soul of Shiba passed on to Tsukune.
The Soul of Shiba is a legacy unique to the Phoenix. When Shiba, founder of the Phoenix, saw his death approaching he sought a means by which he could forever remain to guide his people. He used his sword, Ofushikai, as a material anchor. The sword would pass to whomever he had chosen, granting them Shiba s wisdom and skill. In each generation, the sword would pass to another, and the souls of all who had born the Soul of Shiba before would add their unique talents and voices to Shiba s.
Tsukune s rule of the Phoenix was a tumultuous one, as her popularity among her clan was unmatched by any Phoenix Champion since Shiba himself. She often disagreed with the Council, once going so far as shattering the Council table and demanding that there be added an additional seat for the Phoenix Champion (a change that was later reverted as the Masters regained support). Her only child, Aikune, earned much of the Council s ire as some among them feared that he would inherit his mother s position and continue her defiance of their rule. As usually happens, destiny had a different plan in mind. When Amaterasu scattered the Ancestral Swords into the heavens, Ofushikai was among them. Osano-Wo, Fortune of Fire and Thunder, came to Tsukune and revealed the true import of this event. With no anchor for his soul in the mortal realm, Tsukune realized that when she died, Shiba would die with her. Until another means could be found to anchor Shiba in the mortal realm, he invited Tsukune to take her place in the heavens as an immortal Fortune.
Of course this choice was not offered easily. Osano-Wo also warned Tsukune that her son was cursed with the darkest of fates, a destiny that would be difficult for him to overcome alone. She was forced to choose between her son s safety and the immortal existence of her clan s founder.
In the end, Tsukune chose Shiba, trusting that her son would have the honor and courage to persevere without her aid. She took her place as the Fortune of Rebirth, and watches over her clan with Shiba s sword, Ofushikai, in hand once more. As she watches Iuchiban s plans unfold, she has come to realize that her son Aikune stands at the very center of this storm. How can she stand idle Thus the Legion of the Dead finds another Fortune in their midst.
When the world shattered and faded for all the rest who had ventured into the Realm of Thwarted Destiny, Shiba Tsukune saw no change at all. She stood upon the vast unending plains and watched ally and enemy alike vanish into nothing.
Goemon she called out, holding her blade ready for any sign of the Legion of Blood s return. Tadaka
Tadaka, said a soft voice in reply. You rarely spoke of him, but I know you always thought of him. Since you have been reunited with him, I wonder, do you ever think of me
Tsukune whirled about quickly, eyes wide as she recognized the voice. A solitary man in the burnished orange armor of a Shiba warrior stood before her, smiling sadly. He looked the same as the first day they had met. His eyes, intense yet thoughtful so much like Aikune.
Kanjiro, she breathed, eyes widening as she recognized her husband. Though her divine senses screamed that something was subtly amiss with the realm around her, she could tell this was genuinely her dead husband s soul. How did you come to be here
Kanjiro s eyes moved to the point of her drawn sword. He seemed disappointed, but not surprised, to see that she did not trust him. Souls such as mine are the entire reason this place exists, he said. I died far from my true destiny.
You died during the War of Spirits, she replied. You died a hero. Is that not a glorious destiny
You know my soul did not arrive in Yomi, Kanjiro replied. My destiny was to protect the Last Wish, and in that I failed. He looked at her gravely. You are the Fortune of Rebirth now surely you knew I was not reincarnated. Did you never wonder what became of me Tsukune nodded. Goemon suspected Iuchiban was responsible for the imbalance in the Celestial Order. I came hoping to find out what had happened to you.
Iuchiban is not responsible, he has merely taken advantage of the situation, Kanjiro said. The Lying Darkness was destroyed at the Battle of Oblivion s Gate, but its legacy lives on. It dealt the Celestial Order a savage wound with the War of Spirits. The dead rose up against the living, and those who had not yet fulfilled their destinies were cast down by those whose time was already done. Many died with their destiny denied and so we came here, lost, in a realm without definition. But the Celestial Order always seeks definition, lest a force such as the Lying Darkness be unleashed once more. If this realm must exist it must serve a purpose. Look upon the other realms. Tengoku, the Celestial Heavens, represents all that is noble and pure and is ruled by the Sun, Moon, and seven dragons. Jigoku represents all that is corrupt and is governed by Fu Leng and his Oni Lords. This realm must also find a place. Some force, some concept must become its master. So now this realm feeds on your army as it feeds on Yori s, seeking to create itself anew from their memories and choices.
And those will choices determine what sort of realm is created, Tsukune said.
Kanjiro nodded. I have come to warn you, he said. There is something here. It seeks to pervert the growth of this realm. It can enter into the visions of the dead and influence their choices.
Kuni Yori Tsukune asked.
No, Kanjiro replied. Yori is merely a pawn as well though if he knew as much he would surely seek to correct the matter.
If some evil would seek to twist this realm for ill then they shall soon learn that they are not the only one with power here, Tsukune said. I am the Fortune of Rebirth. If this is a realm where souls must face their destinies, it may be within my power to influence their visions as well.
Kanjiro looked greatly relieved at her words. I had hoped you would say as much, he said with a sigh. I wish you good luck, my love. He turned and began to walk back into the mists.
Wait, Tsukune called out. Will you not come with me
Kanjiro looked back at her in surprise. Do you wish me to be at your side he asked. He did not mention Isawa Tadaka s name, but the implication was clear.
I need you, Kanjiro, Tsukune replied. You know this place.
Oh, he answered. He looked slightly crestfallen, but nodded affirmatively. What would you know
Anything you can tell me, Tsukune replied. If even the Sun and Moon have become consumed by visions of their destinies, then why not me
I would have thought that was obvious, Tsukune-chan, Kanjiro replied. You have not met your destiny yet.
Otaku Kamoko: Unicorn Thunder
Otaku Kamoko first appeared in Imperial Edition. Kamoko was born to a Battle Maiden of the same name, matriarch of the Otaku family. When Kamoko’s mother died under mysterious circumstances, she dedicated her life to discovering the truth and exacting revenge on those responsible. Her hunt consumed much of her life, but along the way Kamoko learned what it meant to be a hero.
During the Clan War, she found herself at the side of Iuchi Karasu, the mysterious Doomseeker. Together they began a campaign to save the Brotherhood of Shinsei from the nefarious Yogo Junzo, fighting to stop the undead hordes from destroying the Empire’s most holy sites. Her crusade came to a head on the Day of Thunder. Finally coming face to face with Junzo, she crushed the undead sorcerer beneath the hooves of her mighty steed, Hachiman. Realizing her destiny as one of the Seven Thunders, she stepped forward to face Fu Leng as well. Though she did not strike the killing blow, she survived the grueling confrontation and emerged victorious.
As the War Against the Darkness began, Kamoko resumed her hunt for her mother’s killer. In time she learned that those responsible were none other than the nefarious Kolat. Matsu Agetoki, secretly a member of that organization, seemed to know a great deal more about her mother’s death than he would reveal, and thus he became the primary focus of Kamoko’s rage. In time, Kamoko confronted Agetoki, but he died at her hands without revealing the truth.
As Agetoki died, Kamoko realized how hollow her vengeance truly was. Her lifelong hunt had led only to this, the death of a man she did not truly know. There was no glory in this, no honor. Vengeance served no purpose. As she dwelled upon this, her inner turmoil drew the attention of a powerful entity, the oni of retribution known as Kyoso. Currently fleeing the wrath of her rival, Kuni Yori, the oni offered its power to Kamoko. In return for hiding within her soul, the demon would allow Kamoko to lead the Dark Moto against her own clan, rooting out the Kolat who hand infiltrated and betrayed them. In so doing, Kyoso would feed upon Kamoko’s vengeance and grow strong enough to face Yori again.
Kamoko agreed, but Kyoso did not realize that Kamoko had already set her selfish lust for vengeance aside. She led the Dark Moto into an ambush, a battle where they would be easily destroyed by the superior armies of the Unicorn warlord, Gaheris. Furious, Kyoso intended to consume Kamoko, dragging her down into Jigoku. Shinjo, Kami of the Unicorn, realized Kyoso’s intent and moved Kamoko’s soul beyond Kyoso’s reach, placing her in the heavens as a constellation. Kamoko’s family were so moved by her sacrifice that they rededicated their vows to Shinjo, taking the name Utaku so that Kamoko could be the last Battle Maiden to bear the Otaku name.
But a hero cannot hide forever. The Legion of Dead needs heroes, and Kamoko feels the lust for battle rising in her veins. Should she step forth, she knows that the bond she still bears with Kyoso no Oni will inevitably lead her to a confrontation with the powerful demon again.
She is not afraid.
The plains stretched in all directions, the tall grass blowing in the gentle breeze. There was nothing to see in any direction save the mountains in the distant east. Under normal circumstances, Kamoko found such surroundings relaxing, a place where she could forego her concerns and embrace the simple joys of riding with the wind in one s hair. The current circumstances, however, were hardly normal.
A demon loomed over Kamoko, its serpentine form writhing in a barely concealed lust for destruction. Its arms moved sinuously about its sides in a strange dance of violence, as if it could not keep the claw-tipped weapons in check. Its body was strangely beautiful, sinuous, graceful, and feminine. Consider my offer, daughter of Otaku, the demon hissed. You could purge the traitors within your clan. You could restore the purity and honor of your clan, and it would only cost you your soul.
No, Kamoko said, her voice without fear.
Are you certain Kyoso no Oni asked. I will give you power such as you have never known. I will protect you from the Taint. I will help you control the Dark Moto, and lead them to destroy the Kolat within the Unicorn. All you must do in return is permit me to join with you, and together we will destroy that accursed fool Moto Tsume. The demon s tail twitched in anticipation. Think of it, Kamoko. Is your soul worth so much that the Kolat and Tsume must continue to shame the Unicorn Is it not a samurai s duty to give her life for her clan Would you not give even more
Kamoko s jaw muscles clenched. Her every instinct longed to smite this foul creature before her, although that would almost certainly end her life. And yet she could not deny that her life was worth less than the prize it offered. Could such a being be trusted She doubted it. But wasn t it worth the risk
Risk She was already at risk. Kyoso was an Oni Lord. If Kamoko denied its offer, it would likely destroy her then and there. But perhaps there was another way. The Dark Moto were gathering their forces and would attack the Unicorn soon; that would not change. But, perhaps if Kamoko could lead them she could lead them to their doom, drawing them to a place where the true Unicorn could destroy them once and for all. Was not such a thing worth one s life and soul
As Kamoko hit upon the solution, an unfamiliar feeling filled her doubt. What if she could not control herself once the demon gave her its power What if the Unicorn could not defeat the Dark Moto What possible success could she reap by doing something so foolish as inviting an Oni Lord into her soul A cloud of confusion melted away and Kamoko saw how the Oni had deceived her, causing her to view its mad suggestions as somehow rational. She looked up at Kyoso with clear eyes.
Well the Oni Lord said with a sly smile. Have you made your choice
Kamoko s sword flew free of its saya. Even as she drew, the Oni Lord burst into black flame.
Otaku Kamoko fell dead upon the earth, but not before driving her sword through Kyoso no Oni s heart.
A few moments later, Kamoko came to herself on the plains of Thwarted Destiny once more. She knew she had faced her destiny once more, and had not made the same decision she had made in life…
But was the choice the correct one
Hida Sukune: The Shadow Samurai
Hida Sukune first appeared in Imperial Edition. The youngest of Hida Kisada s children, Sukune was a sickly and frail boy who constantly failed to meet his legendary father s impossible expectations. Whereas his brother and sister reflected their father s great strength, Sukune s only true strength was his intellect. His first great test came at the Beiden Pass, Kisada commanded him to hold the pass while the rest of the Crab armies moved into position.
As fate would have it, Sukune s armies were pitted against Toturi the Black. Though his forces outnumbered Toturi s, the inexperienced Sukune was outmatched by the legendary general. The Crab forces were soundly defeated.
Desperate to save face and bolster the Crab troops, Kisada made a deal with Kuni Yori. Yori replied that the Shadowlands would grant the troops they needed to crush Toturi, but they demanded a sacrifice.
Kisada agreed, offering himself, knowing that his sons and daughter would rule the clan well after his death. Yori replied that the Shadowlands did not desire Kisada s soul, but would gladly take one of the lives that belonged to him. Thus Yori sacrificed Sukune, strapping his corpse to the Terrible Standard of Fu Leng.
Sukune s pure and noble soul was thus banished to the hellish realm of Jigoku. Ever the Crab, he refused to allow the dark spirits of that realm to conquer him. He fought his way out of the Pit, through the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, carving a path to the mortal realm so that he might help his family undo the horrible mistakes they had made and redeem their honor. He returned a Shadow Samurai, an undead spirit uncorrupted by the Taint. Without his inspiration it is likely Yakamo and Kisada would have both fallen to despair during the darkest days of the Clan War.
Sukune s spirit has returned a handful of times since, inspiring the leaders of the Crab when it seems they can no longer go on.
When the call came for heroes, noble warriors who would push back the spirits of evil and inspire the living echoed, it was only natural Sukune would answer he has already been fighting this battle for decades.
He knew this place.
This was Beiden Pass.
“No,” Hida Sukune said, shaking his head as he tried to clear his vision. “This has already happened. I have already been here… I have already died here…”
He was roughly shoved aside as a band of large Crab samurai charged past him, bearing a wounded kinsman. The sounds of Unicorn battle horns drew nearer by the moment, as well as the wild cries of Toturi s ronin soldiers. Sukune knew that he must act swiftly or the battle would be lost.
What must he do
He struggled to gain the attention of his lieutenants, but they were ignoring him now, speaking rapidly among themselves. They bore little personal loyalty to him. They served his brother, and shared Yakamo s disdainful opinion of Kisada s youngest son. He could see a weakness, a flaw in Toturi s plan, but they did not care. He was young, inexperienced… This battle had never truly been his to fight.
“But this battle has already been lost,” Sukune whispered. Something tugged at the edge of memory, something wrong. He stared blankly into the surging tides of combat, Crab facing Unicorn, Dragon, and Ronin as he struggled to remember the truth.
“The battle goes poorly, Sukune-san,” said an oily voice. “Your father will not be pleased.”
Sukune turned to face the one who spoke. He was a small, thin man, face painted in garish white. For a moment, his visage flickered, replaced with a hideous mask of stitched flesh and exposed bone. For a brief instant everything around Sukune seemed transparent and surreal again. “You can no longer succeed here, Sukune, but I can,” Kuni Yori said. “I will require your help. What are you prepared to sacrifice for the Crab”
Sukune looked into the shugenja s eyes and drew back at the madness he saw reflected there. This was the man who had brokered his clan s alliance to the Shadowlands, the only man other than the Great Bear that Sukune truly feared. Yet his father trusted Yori above all others. How could Sukune deny him
Sukune felt a sharp pain in his arm. He looked down and thought he saw light shining through a savage wound in his wrist. Then the wound was gone.
“You must decide quickly, Sukune,” Yori said.
“What do you want” Sukune asked.
“Your life,” Yori said, “Your sacrifice will strengthen our alliance with the darkness, and secure the future of the Crab. Is that not what you desire”
Sukune s eyes moved past Yori, to the wounded men who had marched past him before. One lay back as his fellows lashed a splint to his shattered arm. His eyes were focused on the battle from which he had retreated, ready to charge in again when his wounds were treated. He held a dai tsuchi in one hand. There was no fear.
“We will fight, Yori,” Sukune said, turning his back to the shugenja, “but we do not need the sort of help you offer.”
“So be it,” the shugenja said in a bitter voice.
This time Sukune did not flinch when he heard Yori s dagger come free of its sheath. He did not scream when the blade drove into his back. He only accepted his fate; once again he had not failed his duty. His soul had not gone willingly to the darkness.
Yori would ultimately fail.
And then he stood on the plains of Thwarted Destiny again. The world became more real as he watched, formed by the souls of those who had been called here. He saw a few of his comrades had also escaped their visions, and when they saw him they lifted their swords in salute.
“What will happen here, Sukune-sama” one asked. “Will we find victory in this strange place”
“The only true victory is to meet one s fate with honor and courage,” the Shadow Samurai replied. “In such a conflict, how can we be defeated”
Doji Kuwanan: Brother of Thunder
Doji Kuwanan first appeared in Forbidden Knowledge. Unlike his elder brother Hoturi, Kuwanan did his best to emulate the example of his father, Satsume. With the hopes of the clan placed so firmly on Hoturi s shoulders, Kuwanan found it his duty to establish important connections with other Great Clans. This had the unexpected benefit of granting Kuwanan a chance to train among some of the finest bushi dojo in the Empire. He combined the strategic prowess of a Lion and the indomitable defense of a Crab with the stolid, unrelenting techniques of a Daidoji. He excelled in every school he attended and few could argue that Kuwanan s mix of techniques made him one of the most formidable samurai in all of Rokugan.
When the Clan Wars came, Kuwanan was one of the few Crane to survive the False Hoturi s attack on Kyuden Doji. Kuwanan was outraged, believing his brother had betrayed him, and swore vengeance upon Hoturi.
When he learned the truth he was mortified, begging his brother s forgiveness and swearing eternal loyalty to him. When Hoturi died on the Day of Thunder, Kuwanan took up his brother s legacy as the Crane Champion.
He shaved his head as a symbol of his grief, forever dedicating himself to Bishamon, Fortune of Strength, so that his vision would not be clouded again.
During the War Against the Darkness, the Lying Darkness did its best to destroy the Crane Clan from within. Agents of Shadow used their shapeshifting powers to appear as both Kuwanan and his most loyal servant, Uji, fomenting a civil war within the Crane. Eventually Uji turned his back upon his lord s commands (which were in truth never his lord s commands at all) and turned his armies against the Darkness and its allies. When all was said and done he reported to Kuwanan to offer his head for his disobedience.
Kuwanan forgave Uji. His experiences with the False Hoturi had led Kuwanan to be alert for such deceptions, and he had long suspected Uji was not quite so disloyal as he appeared. Instead he commended his servant for remaining true to the clan s purpose and staying vigilant against their enemies.
The Crane Clan mourned Kuwanan s death in the War of Spirits.
His only true regret was that he did not live to see his son, Kurohito, become a samurai much less lord of the Crane. He now stands beside his father in the Legion of the Dead, once more ready to stand against the enemy.
A clear, triumphant note rang through the halls of the Asahina Temple.
Between the halves of a second, Doji Kuwanan brought his sword to a halt. His brother Hoturi stood unmoving, not flinching from the blow that would have taken his head. Kuwanan held Shukujo, the Ancestral Sword of the Crane, across Hoturi s throat. A single drop of blood trickled down the side of the older brother s neck, staining his white kimono.
And between the halves of a second, Kuwanan made a choice.
For the last several months, the Crane Clan had been hunted nearly to their destruction. The Crab had razed Kyuden Kakita, and just when it seemed that Crane lands were safe once for a time, a second army attacked with even greater ferocity. This army was led by the man that stood before Kuwanan now. His brother, Hoturi, the Champion of the Crane Clan. had led an army of Shadowlands madmen into the heart of Crane lands, leaving a trail of murder and destruction.
Kuwanan would not have believed it had he not faced Hoturi personally, and he might have died during their confrontation at Kyuden Doji if not for Uji. He had looked into his enemy s eyes and seen the soul of his brother reflected there. Injured after his escape from Kyuden Doji, Kuwanan had been brought to the Asahina Temples the final stronghold of the once proud Crane.
And here, his brother had dared show his face again, weaving a wild tale of Scorpion machinations and a magical duplicate that shared his memories. Kuwanan had not doubted that this was some twisted attempt to torment him further before burning the Asahina Temples to the ground and then the sword had sung.
Shukujo was among the finest blades that had ever existed, and during its possession by countless Crane champions the spirit within the blade had developed a number of wondrous abilities. Among those, it recognized its true owner. When wielded by the true lord of the Crane it would release a joyful, harmonious note.
It had not sung for Kuwanan. Upon striking Hoturi s flesh, it sang once more.
The blade knows its true owner, Daidoji Uji said from the doorway. None had seen him enter.
Yet Kuwanan was not so sure. So many of his friends and family had perished at this madman s hands. He was a warrior, a man who trusted in what he could see and feel. Could he spare this killer s life because a magical sword had conveniently told him to do so Ridiculous. Blood demanded blood in turn. Perhaps Hoturi s armies truly held the Asahina Temple and his clan would die today regardless, but Hoturi would not live to see his victory.
Kuwanan tightened his grip on his sword. He saw a look of sadness cross Hoturi s features. A second drop of blood spilled as the razor sharp sword moved slightly on the Crane Champion s neck.
There was no magic at work here.
Shukujo had not told Kuwanan anything he had not already known. He had simply refused to recognize the truth within himself. Kuwanan had lived his life in fear that he, like Hoturi, would fail to meet their father s impossible standards. He had been consumed with desire, a desire to be more like his successful and well-liked brother. Since their mother s death he had been overcome with regret that he had not been there to try to save her as Hoturi had been. Fear. Desire. Regret. The three greatest sins a samurai could face, all of these had taken root in Kuwanan s soul, and Hoturi played a part in each. Kuwanan saw only what he hated in himself, his failure to protect Kyuden Doji from the False Hoturi.
This was no monster this was his brother.
And he would have killed him.
Kuwanan drew the sword away, and was surprised to find himself standing on the plains of Thwarted Destiny. He realized what he had seen had been his destiny, and he had chosen as he had in life to believe his brother and spare his life.
He was, however, somehow not surprised when Daidoji Uji emerged from the darkness as he always did. The grizzled warrior s armor was strangely blackened in places. Blood seeped from a bandage on his thigh. Relief shone in Uji s eyes as he staggered forward. Kuwanan quickly seized Uji s arm, helping his old friend to remain upright.
Uji, Kuwanan said tersely, scanning the mist for any sign of an enemy. If there was one, Uji had long since escaped it.
It is good to see you, Kuwanan-sama, Uji said in a dry, tired voice.
What has happened Has the battle begun again
A different battle altogether, my lord, Uji replied. We have much to do.
The Kazaq: The Lost Son
The Kazaq first appeared (as Hitomi Kazaq) in Hidden Emperor 3. Among the Naga, most hatchlings are raised communally by all Naga, thus is rare that any Naga traces his line directly to his parents. The young Naga known as Kazaq was an exception. His father was the Qamar, once known as the Isha, leader of all the Naga bloodlines, second only to the Qatol himself and the most respected hero of his people. The Qamar had high hopes for his son, who even in his youth proved not only to be exceptionally courageous, intelligent, and strong but was also born with the gift of prophecy. In his dreams, he saw glimpses of the future, and if he acted swiftly enough he found he could prevent dire events from occurring.
One day Kazaq saw a particularly grim vision. A Dragon named Hitomi dragged the Pale Eye from the sky. Her actions sent the Bright Eye bleeding to its grave. For twenty-seven days darkness and madness consumed the Empire. Life became death, death became life, and all was changed forever. Hoping to prevent this horrible event, Kazaq took a delegation of Naga to Kyuden Hitomi and demanded that she step down from leadership of the Dragon Clan until the Naga could help her understand and control her new powers. Hitomi refused Kazaq s aid and sent him away.
While traveling back to the Shinomen, Kazaq and his party were ambushed by the mad tattooed man, Kokujin. Kokujin killed Kazaq s guards and enslaved him with his tattoos, forcing him to become a willing servant of Hitomi. Though Hitomi did not approve of Kokujin s actions, she had become convinced that she needed Kokujin s aid to overcome the power building within her. Kazaq was accepted into the ranks of the Dragon and a terrible war between Dragon and Naga began as the Qamar sought both to rescue his son and prevent Kazaq s vision from coming to pass.
When Hitomi realized Kokujin had become more of an enemy than a friend she cast him from her sight. She attempted to undo the magic he had performed on Kazaq and make amends with the Naga people, but it was too late. Kazaq had become permanently separated from the Akasha, technically an abomination in the eyes of his people. The Qamar cared little for such tradition and encouraged his beloved son to return to the city of Siksa and be welcome. The Kazaq refused, unwilling to be constantly reminded of all he had lost.
Wandering alone, Kazaq s visions of the future often led him to those who were in need. He did what he could to aid them, bringing peace and hope even to those who were terrified of his inhuman form. He died in the War of Spirits, defending a helpless peasant village from the Steel Chrysanthemum s armies. Severed from the Akasha, his soul floated free upon the Spirit Realms like a cork cast upon the ocean. As in life, he goes where his visions lead. His latest vision is one of hope. The battle to come will be terrible, he knows, but also offers the hope that he might be reunited with the Akasha once more. That vision has led the Kazaq to Yomi, where he has joined the Legion of the Dead.
The Kazaq tossed and turned in his sleep. Most of his people slept soundly in tightly coiled bundles in temples or trees throughout the forest, but peaceful rest was rare for the Qamar s son. The young Naga had always suffered from unusual visions during dream. He awoke with a start, his fangs bared in an instinctual response that even his civilized upbringing could not repress.
A gentle inquiry filtered through the group consciousness that Kazaq shared with his people. His father had felt his disturbance and reached out even in sleep, inquiring after his son s well-being. Kazaq radiated a sensation of calm that he did not truly feel, and felt his father s awareness diminish back into sleep.
The vision had been bleak. A Dragon named Hitomi had dragged the Pale Eye from the sky. For twenty-seven days, darkness ruled the earth. A new being, a beast forged of the stuff of heavens and the heart of the Foul, reigned over the mortal world from the darkness. The balance between light and darkness was thwarted and all began a spiral into ruin
And, worst of all, the greatest heroes of the mortal realm did not seem to notice.
He knew of this Hitomi. She one of the greatest heroes of the human Empire. Surely she would not wish for such a thing to come to pass. Such a trip would be dangerous, of course. Even though the Naga were now allies of Rokugan there were many humans who did not understand, who saw them as monsters. There was no time to dwell on the danger how much greater danger would there be if he did not warn them
He must waste no time.
Kazaq rose from his curled heap of bedding and reached for his spear. As his hand clasped around its haft, the scene around him twisted and melted away, replaced by the grey plains of Thwarted Destiny. Strange tattoos crawled over his arms and body. He remembered his life and death. He remembered the time after, his soul wandering tormented and alone, severed from the Akasha. He remembered the face of the broad-shouldered Naga who now stood before him, beaming with pride.
Father, he said, surprised.
Isha said nothing. Kazaq realized then that he sensed approval from his father and understanding. Not through the mere body language and empathy he had learned in his time among the humans, but through the true bonds of the Akasha once more.
How can this be he whispered.
The Fortune of Rebirth has witnessed your destiny and the choice that you have made, Isha replied. She has seen that it was the Lying Darkness influence upon Hitomi that severed you from the Akasha. Embracing your own destiny once more has allowed her to draw upon the power of this realm to correct what has gone astray you are returned to us, my son.
Kazaq was overwhelmed with so many emotions he could not speak. He merely closed his eyes and bathed in the joy and happiness of an infinite sea of Naga souls, welcoming back one of their own.
Then Kazaq opened his eyes. There would be time for happiness later.
Father, I have remembered my vision, he said. The one about Hitomi.
Yes, I remember it too, Isha replied. You did all that you could to prevent it, but do not blame yourself. In the end, Lady Hitomi possessed the strength to rise above the darkness she did not become the monster that you believed she would be. Your vision has not come to pass.
No, father, Kazaq said, shaking his head rapidly. You do not understand. Hitomi never was the beast forged of the stuff of heavens and the heart of the Foul she merely aided in its creation.
Isha s eyes widened as he recognized the full import of his son s words.
Father, Kazaq whispered. My vision has come to pass.
Hida Kuroda: The Fallen Champion
Hida Kuroda first appeared in Spirit Wars. A hero of impressive lineage, Kuroda was the son of Hida O-Ushi and Hida Yasamura, grandson of the legendary Hida Kisada. Kuroda and his twin brother, Kuon, could not have been more different from one another. While Kuon was brash, tempestuous, and violent Kuroda was calm, thoughtful, and methodical. The twins learned from an early age that they worked best when pairing their strengths together, and were close friends throughout their life. Kuroda was a scholar at heart, studying the tactics of Rokugan s great generals in great detail. When the time came for his mother to select a successor, few argued that Kuroda was the wiser choice. Even Kuon acknowledged his brother s superior talent.
When their mother was slain defending the Yasuki lands, Kuroda dispatched Kuon to restore peace in the area. While Kuon was gone, the Dark Lord Daigotsu staged a terrifying attack upon the Kaiu Wall, conquering six of its twelve towers despite the Crab s best efforts to defend them. Kuroda himself died at the last of the six towers, sacrificing himself so that many others could escape.
Finding the fallen Crab Champion s body among the rubble, Daigotsu devised a horrible plan. Reanimating Kuroda s corpse, he infused it with the essence of Kyofu, the Onisu of Fear. The creature would bear Kuroda s memories and skills, but the resulting creature would be purely a servant of the Shadowlands. When Hida Kuon learned what had befallen his brother s remains, he swore that he would destroy the demonic creature Kyofu.
Yet even this was not the end. Emma-O, Fortune of Death, was angered and humiliated by his defeat at Daigotsu s hands. In retribution, the grim Fortune sought out Kyofu, one of Daigotsu s favored creations, and worked a strange magic upon the beast. He replaced Kuroda s soul within the dead body, suppressing the Onisu s control. So long as Kuroda continued to serve Emma-O, he would remain in control, serving the strange Fortune s whims. At the Fortune s behest Kuroda has kept Daigotsu alive, forcing him to endure the living torment of being separated from Fu Leng s power. He has also found himself the Dark Lord s most valued ally against the Bloodspeakers, an irony that Kuroda finds strangely appropriate.
The Fortune of Heroes has sent out a call to arms, and has received a most unusual answer. The Fortune of Death has offered information, subtle assistance from an unnamed servant within the Shadowlands, a servant who has already fought the Bloodspeakers and knows their ways well. The Legion of the Dead has accepted Emma-O s proposal, though they know the Fortune of Death always demands a steep price for his aid…
The Mortal Realm…
On the Plains Above Evil, a lone figure sat upon what might have been a horse. It no natural creature, woven from dead matter and seething darkness, as was the massive warrior that sat astride its saddle. Behind him stretched a vast camp, a gathering of samurai under the banner of the Dark Lord. The warrior s dead eyes fixed upon the distant south, toward the lands of the Crab.
“Kyofu,” said a hollow voice within his mind.
“That is not my name,” the warrior replied.
“It is what they call you,” the voice answered. “Of late it is how you have come to think of yourself, is it not I have watched you. I have seen how you relish the terror of your enemies, how you feed upon it, let it give you strength. I have given you your freedom, yet you choose to be the Onisu of Fear, Kyofu.”
“Do not mock me, Fortune of Death!” the warrior snarled, glancing around sharply to insure none of his soldiers could see his outburst. “I am Hida Kuroda, and one day I will be free of this demonic body.”
“Only if you serve me,” Emma-O replied.
“You already have my promise,” Kuroda said in a low voice. “What more do you want from me”
“I ask only that you continue on this path,” Emma-O said. “Keep the Dark Lord Daigotsu alive, so that he may suffer the weakness and humiliation of his uncorrupted body. Destroy this upstart Iuchiban who seeks to usurp the balance between the Realms.”
“And what awaits me when I have done all that you desire” Kuroda asked. “Will I return to life Or will I wander your grey realm”
“I may leave that choice to you,” Emma-O said in a toneless voice. “I wonder if you would wish to live again, if given the choice, after all the failures that have been heaped upon your name.”
Kuroda sneered. “Why do you mock me, Fortune”
“I do not mock,” the Fortune said, “I only wish you to realize the reality of your situation… and I bring a warning. Many Fortunes and ancestors recently vanished from the Spirit Realms, including the Fortune of Heroes. These souls had been assembling a Legion of the Dead. It was their intent to battle Iuchiban in the realms beyond. He has done something to silence them… or perhaps destroy them.”
“The Bloodspeakers have been more active around Volturnum of late,” Kuroda said. “If Iuchiban is extending his influence to other Spirit Realms… that can be no coincidence.”
“Bah,” the Fortune said. “There is no more power in Oblivion s Gate.”
Kuroda frowned thoughtfully. “There is one among Daigotsu s followers who is not so certain.”
“Then deal with it,” Emma-O said sharply.
The fallen Crab Champion only bowed his head in acknowledgment. He sensed the Fortune s presence vanish as swiftly as it had come.
Turning his demon steed back toward the demon s camp, he began to search for the poet.
Hida O-Ushi: Crab Clan Bully
Hida O-Ushi first appeared in Shadowlands. The only daughter of Hida Kisada, her brothers nicknamed her O-Ushi (“ox”) for her great strength and endless capacity for stubbornness. At her gempukku, she took the name O-Ushi officially. O-Ushi was blessed with a keen intellect and great beauty as well as strength; with her father s influence she could have easily obtained a position serving her clan s interests anywhere in the Empire. She desired nothing else but to serve beside her kinsmen on the Kaiu Wall, fighting the Shadowlands.
As O-Ushi rose through the ranks of the Crab, her reputation grew. Her hot temper and readiness to meet any insult with a swift stroke from her dai tsuchi earned her a new nickname — “the Bully.” At first this name was spoken only outside her earshot for fear of her rage, but when she learned of it she embraced it as much as she had embraced the name O-Ushi.
She seemed to enjoy the reputation she had cultivated, using it to keep enemies off balance and make certain would-be suitors understood she was not to be trifled with.
When her brother Yakamo became the Champion of the Crab, he commanded his sister to choose a husband. When O-Ushi refused to choose a suitor, Yakamo declared a contest of strength between those who sought her hand. To her surprise it was a Unicorn, Shinjo Yasamura, who won the contest — through cunning more than raw power. O-Ushi came to respect and later love Yasamura, who though not born a Crab embraced the clan s duty as much as she did.
When her brother Yakamo ascended to the heavens, O-Ushi gladly took up the mantle of Crab Champion and became one of the most beloved rulers of the clan. At last there seemed to be only one foe that could defeat O-Ushi — old age. Her strength began to bleed away, her once lustrous hair now a pale gray. O-Ushi came to the grim realization that she would soon no longer be able to fight for her clan. As the Crane Clan began to usurp the Yasuki territories, she realized there was one final way she could serve the Crab. She threw herself into battle against the Crane lord, Doji Kurohito. Though she knew she had no chance against a brilliant warrior in the height of his prime, O-Ushi knew her death would serve as an example to the Crab Clan, inspiring them to stand firm against the Crane.
She had prepared her sons well to rule in her stead, and died with no regrets.
She now stands beside her brothers and father in the Legion of the Dead.
Hida O-Ushi stood in the family shrine in the upper levels of Kyuden Hida, looking out over the endless expanse of the Kaiu Wall. Many times throughout her life she had come here to find focus. This place was close enough to the constant battle of the Wall that she could still survey her troops, yet far enough away that she could gather some sense of focus. Her time as Crab Clan Champion had taught her the value of patience and strategy; it was a difficult lesson for her to learn. When faced with a problem, O-Ushi was the sort that generally marched out and buried that problem in the earth with her hammer.
That sort of problem was not the problem she faced now.
When she listened for the cry of battle, she heard nothing. When she looked out upon the wall, she saw no sign of the enemy. The true enemy was not here.
My lady, said a quiet voice from the doorway.
O-Ushi turned. Her face immediately brightened when she saw the lean figure of her beloved husband, though her sudden joy dimmed when she saw his bleak expression.
What has happened she asked.
The Steel Chrysanthemum marches on Ryoko Owari, he replied. Bayushi Paneki reports that the Scorpion armies cannot stand against Tsuneo. Not alone.
O-Ushi nodded. As much as she personally despised the Scorpion Clan, Ryoko Owari was the second largest city in the Empire. To take the City of Lies would not only provide a strategic hub for the Hantei s armies, but would also greatly demoralize those who still stood against him. If he could claim such a prize, was even Otosan Uchi beyond his grasp
This is a great victory for us, Yasamura added somberly.
O-Ushi said nothing. Though Yasamura never spoke against her, she knew her husband s true opinions on the Crab s alliance with the Steel Chrysanthemum. She would have wished it another way, but they had been given no option. Hida Tsuneo, the Hantei s general, was one of the most honored military figures in their history many among the Crab had leapt at the chance to support him. Further, the Hantei had given them little freedom. His armies had occupied the Crab s most fertile farmlands. If O-Ushi had not given her clan s help willingly, the soldiers on the Wall would starve. The Shadowlands was quiet of late, and had been for some time, but she could not risk leaving her troops weak against another attack. Her loyalty toward Emperor Toturi was great, but her loyalty toward the Empire was greater.
But what good did it do to protect the Empire if it would be ruled by a tyrant
The children of Hida have given their oaths to both the Hantei and Toturi lines, O-Ushi whispered. How can we choose one or the other and still call ourselves samurai
I stand by whatever decision you make, my love, Yasamura replied, but I think our choice should be clear. To stand against Steel Chrysanthemum means we would risk a great deal. We will have difficult times ahead, and face impossible odds. We may suffer. We may die.
But we will die as Crab, O-Ushi replied.
O-Ushi opened her mouth to reply but was struck with a sudden vision. She saw her husband, leading the Crab cavalry into battle against the spirit legions. She saw him fighting beside the Scorpion, brilliantly forcing back their enemy despite superior numbers. She saw an arrow strike him in the throat and take his life. She knew without a doubt that if she sent him forth this day that she would never see her husband again.
My love Yasamura said, confused by her uncharacteristic hesitation.
The risk may be too great, O-Ushi said in a thick voice.
Yasamura blinked. You always taught me that no risk was too great, Ushi-chan.
O-Ushi frowned. She stepped toward Yasamura. Impulsively, she seized his face with strong hands and kissed him. For several long moments she held him there, hoping to remember all she could of him. When she released him, his expression was one of awe and bewilderment.
Take your swiftest cavalry legion and ride to Ryoko Owari, O-Ushi said.
Yasamura smiled. Keep the Wall safe until I return, my love, she said.
O-Ushi returned his smile, though it was bittersweet.
I will, she said.
Hida Yasamura: A Good Little Wife
Hida Yasamura first appeared (as Shinjo Yasamura) in Imperial Edition. Born the youngest son of Shinjo Yokatsu, Lord of the Unicorn, Yasamura found himself in a rather curious position. Though his bloodline gave him a degree of importance, he would never truly be expected to rule the Unicorn.
Others in his clan often tended to ignore him, unwilling to show him disrespect but likewise unwilling to waste time currying favor with one whose influence within the clan would ultimately be limited.
Yasamura’s father taught his son responsibility; though others would always underestimate him that was no excuse not to fulfill his potential. Yasamura did his best to meet his father’s expectations but never truly excelled at warfare or politics. He viewed himself as something of a ladies’ man, and spent much of his time chasing one failed romantic adventure after another. At heart, Yasamura always felt that he was incomplete, like some significant part of his life was missing. Ironically his apparent lack of drive led his father to avoid recruiting Yasamura to join the Kolat, the shadow organization of which Yokatsu was one of the Ten Masters.
When Hida Yakamo sent out a call for suitors to engage in a contest of strength to win his sister’s hand in marriage, Yokatsu dispatched his youngest son. The arrangement seemed suitable enough for one with such little potential, cementing the Unicorn’s friendship with their Crab neighbors. The joke began among the courts that Yakamo sought “a good little wife” for his sister, a joke that Yasamura found greatly amusing.
The challenge began, a mighty warrior from each of the Great Clans facing off to win the right to wed O-Ushi. Even O-Ushi herself fought, intending to secure her own independence. Realizing he was not a match for most of the competitors, Yasamura kept to the edges of the battle, allowing his opponents to tire one another. In the end, O-Ushi and Daidoji Uji incapacitated one another, leaving Yasamura the winner by default.
Yasamura began his new life in Crab lands. He was terrified at first, having heard much of the Crab’s endless battles against the Shadowlands. Even having witnessed the horrors of the Clan War and having fought beside his father on the Day of Thunder, he was uncertain he was prepared for this. Yet when he first stood upon the Kaiu Wall, looked out upon the bleak expanse of the Shadowlands, and saw the fierce look of determination in the eyes of his wife and other Crab, Yasamura knew that he had finally found his place. This was his role. This was his destiny.
He threw himself into the defense of the Wall with a zeal and vigor that he had never known before in his life. He quickly won the respect and admiration of his fellow Crab, as well as the love of O-Ushi.
The battles were difficult, but Yasamura could not imagine a finer life.
Though O-Ushi’s respect for Yasamura eventually grew to surpass that which she held for any other Crab but her brothers and father, she continued to refer to him as “a good little wife.” They shared this personal joke all their lives, a nickname which Yasamura wore as a badge of honor. During the War of Spirits, Yasamura led the Crab cavalry into battle. At the start of the war, many Crab fought on the side of the Steel Chrysanthemum due to the returned Emperor’s alliance with Hida Tsuneo, a returned Champion of the Crab. O-Ushi secretly commanded Yasamura to take the Crab’s cavalry and fight on behalf of the true Emperor, Toturi.
Near the end of the war, Yasamura and his soldiers fought a desperate battle to remove the spirit armies from Ryoko Owari. The conflict came to be known as the Battle of Drowned Honor. Despite superior numbers, the Crab and their unlikely Scorpion allies managed to rout the Steel Chrysanthemum’s forces. At the end of the battle, a stray arrow struck Yasamura in the throat. The Crab hero yet drew the courage to signal a final charge, a charge that would break the enemy forces, before dying upright in his saddle. Though not born a Crab, Yasamura’s song is sung in Koten among the greatest of Crab heroes.
Now he rides beside his beloved wife, in the Legion of the Dead..
In his youth, Yasamura had been a happy, good natured young man. He was rarely seen without a carefree smile. Some thought he was a bit too uncaring of what the future held. When he came to live among the Crab, all of that changed. Though he had found true happiness beside his wife, O-Ushi, he rarely had cause to smile anymore.
A shroud of thick, fetid smoke hung over Ryoko Owari. The fighting within the City of Lies had raged out of control for more than a week, with ground being won and lost almost by the hour. This was a strange place to fight for the future of the Empire. Even at the best of times, Ryoko Owari was haven of smuggling, sin, and vice. Yasamura did not wish to think of the many questionable substances that were burning inside the vast rows of warehouses near the docks. He had avoided the fumes as best he could.
Yasamura signaled for his men to regroup. They had suffered terrible losses during the fighting, but were succeeding in driving their enemies from the city. The Steel Chrysanthemum s forces outnumbered them nearly three to one, but for every Crab that fell, five of the traitors lay dead. And that was to say nothing of the black and red clad phantoms that moved through the back alleys and smoke-filled streets like ghosts. Yasamura had never considered the Scorpion his allies, neither as a Unicorn nor as a Crab, but in recent days he had come to admire them for their unique strengths.
What is your command, Yasamura-sama a gunso asked him.
Yasamura looked at his men. They were exhausted. Their armor was streaked with grime and gore, and many bore wounds that were in desperate need of treatment. No one in the Empire could question the incredible duty these men had performed. No one could fault them for their performance in the face of superior numbers. No one would question his decision if he ordered them to fall back. Indeed, in doing so, he would save many of their lives. And in doing so, he secretly told himself, he would ensure that he could see his wife again. Was it wrong, to wish for his men to live, and to see his beloved O-Ushi once more How could it be
And yet, as he looked at their faces, he saw only one thing: the desire for victory. Not one among them wished to fall back. Not one among them wanted to see their enemy survive the day. And not one would fail to give his life for the Crab. Yasamura drew a deep breath and wiped the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand.
But was this truly even his battle In the end this was a Scorpion city and the Scorpion were nothing if not survivors. Perhaps even the loss of Ryoko Owari would not be a large thing the Clan of Secrets would recover as they always had before.
What is your command asked Tatsune, his lieutenant.
Withdraw, Yasamura replied.
Tatsune s eyes widened in surprise.
We cannot attack the city from the south, Yasamura answered. We shall attack from the north, and force the spirit soldiers into the fumes from the burning warehouses. Then their superior numbers will not be as much of an advantage.
Tatsune grinned fiercely.
Prepare to charge, Yasamura said, his voice even.
Only moments later, the battered Crab cavalry collided with the traitors flank with the force of a hurricane coming ashore. Yasamura stood tall in his saddle, his bloodied katana held above his head. Hida! he screamed.
Hida! his men answered.
Something tugged at Yasamura s neck with such force that he nearly fell from his mount. It was a strange, annoying sensation. He reached up with his left hand to feel an arrow sprouting from his throat, slick with the blood that was coursing from the wound in his neck. O-Ushi, he whispered.
His first thought was that he would never see her again.
His next was the pride she would feel when she learned of the manner of his death.
Yasamura ripped the arrow from his neck, ignoring the pain and the fresh river of blood that followed. Attack! he screamed to his men. For the honor of the Hida! Blood sprayed from his mouth in a wide gout when he shouted, but his men answered him. With a fierce cry, they redoubled their efforts and crashed again into the traitors ranks. Yasamura s vision began to fade even as he braced his sword arm and spurred his horse forward.
His soldiers followed him to victory, only realizing later that he had died upright in his saddle.
Then the vision faded, and Yasamura found himself standing in the Realm of Thwarted Destiny once more. His hand moved quickly to his sword as he cast about for any sign of the enemy. Instead, he found himself surrounded by familiar faces, his fellow heroes, the Legion of the Dead.
One that he knew well was waiting for him.
Yasamura s weathered features folded into a rare smile.
Tchickchuk: The Great Chieftan
Tchickchuk first appeared in Hidden Emperor 2. Few chieftains are remembered with such honor and reverence as the mighty Tchickchuk. His accomplishments were many, his cunning incomparable, his leadership of the Tattered Ear the finest that any can remember. It was not always so.
At his birth, the shamans believed that Tchickchuk was destined for great things. His blood red eyes and streak of white fur at his chin were a fortuitous combination, a good omen for the future, but Tchickchuk soon proved to be a rather mediocre Nezumi. Though he had the desire to become a chief, he did not truly understand politics and none of the jealous elder Nezumi wished to teach the dashing young warrior. He joined a wandering pack instead, searching for food to support the Tattered Ear.
It was during a hunt through the human City of Lies that Tchickchuk stumbled upon a squadron of Imperial Legionnaires scouring the alleys. Terrified that they were hunting his pack, he fled to safety, only to stumble over the unconscious body of an old human, wounded by a Legion arrow. Overhearing the soldiers below he realized that this was the man the soldiers sought, pack-mate of some human criminal named Bayushi Shoju. On impulse, the Nezumi threw the unconscious human over his shoulder and fled to safety.
Tchickchuk helped the old human recover from his wounds. The man introduced himself as Bayushi Kagetoki, once a prominent teacher among the humans. Kagetoki had been a bit too outspoken in his support of Shoju, and now the humans wanted him dead. Tchickchuk replied that he sympathized with Kagetoki, for it seemed his own destiny would never be fulfilled due to the jealousy of others. The shrewd Kagetoki offered Tchickchuk a bargain. If the Nezumi would help him survive in the Shinomen Forest, he would teach him the ways of a Scorpion courtier. Tchickchuk became the chieftain of his pack in under a year. In three years, he came to rule the entire Tattered Ear Tribe.
Under Tchickchuk s direction, the Tattered Ear became unquestionably the largest and most powerful of the Nezumi tribes. He died fat and old, the surest sign of a great Nezumi leader. His life is spoken of in the most revered legends of the Rememberers.
And now, it seems, legends are needed. The Transcendent, ancient spirits of the Nezumi shamans, are disturbed by events in the realms beyond their own. The return of an ancient chieftain believed long dead has thrown them into confusion. The Legion of Blood s rampage across the Spirit Realms fills them with fear.
Unless one becomes a Transcendent, it is believed that a Nezumi lives on only in memory once he dies. Yet memory can be a powerful thing, especially when the Transcendent themselves take a personal hand in matters. These ancient shamans wish to know the truth of what occurs in the mortal worlds and beyond, and so it is that they have chosen the most cunning of Nezumi heroes to represent them. Out of the dreams and memories of their living Remembers, the Transcendent have woven a spirit of Tchickchuk. He is a thing of dreams, a creature of pure hope. He will find the truth.
Where does such a chieftain belong than a Legion of the mortal world s greatest heroes
Ikoma Ujiaki: Defender of the Hantei
Ikoma Ujiaki first appeared in Imperial Edition. In his time, Ujiaki was well known in the courts of Rokugan. He was a fierce and spirited omoidasu, a recorder of history, a master of the Lion Clan s glorious past. Yet Ujiaki was no simple storyteller content to write the exploits of others. He charged at the vanguard of the Lion armies, sword in hand, eager to carve his own tale into history. A fierce and brutal warrior, few would stand against him. Even as he fought, he inspired those who marched beside him with tales of the Lion s glorious past.
Ujiaki was particularly proud of the Lion s status as the Right Hand of the Emperor. In his eyes, the Hantei Emperors were every bit as divine as their Kami ancestor. The Emperor was the guiding hand of Rokugan, that which gave all else definition. Any disloyalty to the Hantei was met with extreme prejudice. Even those who were loyal the Emperor often feared Ujiaki, wary that their dedication might not meet his impossible standards. Even some among the Emperor s favored advisors despised him for his often arrogant behavior, always questioning and scrutinizing the loyalty of others. To the Emperor, such a loyal servant was always welcome in the halls of Otosan Uchi.
During the time of the Clan War, a change began to come over Hantei XXXIX. He fell to illness, his body and mind wasting away. In time, that which had once been the Hantei was replaced by something else. Fu Leng, the Dark God, rose in the Emperor s place. The Shadowlands Horde marched at his command, and he demanded that all in Rokugan bow down before him or be destroyed.
When commanded to obey Fu Leng, Ujiaki made a controversial yet fateful choice. He commanded his forces to attack in the Dark God s name, striking down any who dared disobey him. Some branded Ujiaki a fool or a villain, but he was neither. Ujiaki was not blind to the Emperor s evil, nor was he seduced by it. He was, until his death, a man of honor. Ujiaki s reasoning was simple. He had given an oath to obey the Emperor. To him, it did not matter if that Emperor was the Dark Kami. If he were to disobey the single being who gave the Empire definition, then the Empire was already lost. He had only one option. On the Day of Thunder, Ujiaki marched into combat, turning his forces against Hida Kisada s crack berserker legions, and gave his life in glorious combat.
Though many remember Ujiaki as a villain, Toturi knew why his kinsman made the choice he did. The Splendid Emperor demanded that Ujiaki s name be recalled in the Hall of Ancestors as a hero, not damned as a traitor.
Now a call for heroes rings out across the Spirit Realms. Ujiaki, Defender of the Hantei, has heard the call and is eager to defend the Empire that he loves so dearly once more.
Kuni Utagu: The Wall
Kuni Utagu first appeared in Hidden Emperor 3. The Shadowlands are a place of fear, a breeding ground for things born out of the darkest nightmares.
These creatures fear few things in turn, but there is one name that brings them terror still — Utagu.
Kuni Utagu was one of the most famous Kuni daimyo and Jade Champions that the Empire has ever known. Utagu was an oddity among the enemies of darkness. No tragedy marked his childhood. No horrors drove him to seek revenge against Fu Leng s minions. When Kuni Atsutane showed young Utagu the dangers of the Shadowlands, and told him that it was a Witch Hunter s duty to always face them alone, he asked the boy how he felt. The Witch Hunters could not waste the time to train the unwilling. Though he was afraid, Utagu simply replied “I cannot leave now. If I leave, the darkness will have won.”
Utagu s career was shaped by such determination and stubborn tenacity. He came to be known as The Wall, for surely wherever he walked the people of Rokugan were as protected as if the Kaiu Wall was there. He was a pioneer in the arts of the Witch Hunter, the first to successfully combine Kuni martial art techniques with Kuni earth magic, fusing his family s two greatest traditions into a single weapon to be wielded against the Shadowlands. Always he fought the darkness with the same cold, determined passion. He did not seem to truly hate the Shadowlands — he was simply born to destroy it.
Sadly it was politics, not the Shadowlands, that brought Utagu s proud career to an end. When the Four Winds began their quest for the throne, Kuni Utagu became one of Toturi Sezaru s most outspoken opponents. Utagu s lifetime of experience allowed him to sense the madness that dwelled within Sezaru, and he did not trust that Sezaru had the strength of character to overcome that madness if the responsibilities of an Emperor were placed upon his shoulders. In Utagu s eyes, the Wolf was destined to become another Junzo, Akuma, or Iuchiban if his quest for the throne was successful.
One of Sezaru s supporters, Asako Ryoma, feared that Sezaru s ascension would be impossible with the Jade Champion as an enemy. Without Sezaru s knowledge, Ryoma murdered Utagu in his sleep.
Though Utagu is displeased at the manner in which he met his end, he holds no ill will toward Sezaru. The Wolf abandoned his quest for the throne and Ryoma s soul now writhes in Toshigoku for his crimes, so all is as it should be. Instead, Utagu has turned his attention toward the Legion of Blood.
This is the same battle he fought throughout his mortal life.
What reason is there to stop now
Bayushi Shoju: The Usurper
Bayushi Shoju first appeared in Forbidden Knowledge. The Scorpion Clan is renowned for its tragic heroes, but there is perhaps no hero more tragic than Bayushi Shoju. In Rokugan, it is believed that those born with physical deformities are cursed. When the son of the Scorpion daimyo was born with a right arm twisted by palsy and a hideously disfigured face, his parents dreaded what fate may await him.
Yet Shoju overcame the obstacles life presented him. He hid his face behind countless masks, never showing his true appearance to the enemy. Wielding his katana in his left hand, he became one of the finest duelists in Rokugan, the unexpected style giving him an advantage over unprepared opponents. As Scorpion Champion he was clever, ambitious and ruthless. He earned a place as Hantei XXXVIII s most trusted aid and wed Shosuro Kachiko, said to be the most beautiful maiden in all of Rokugan.
Throughout his life, Shoju s dreams were haunted by a strange longing, the siren song of the Bloodsword Ambition, hidden in the bowels of Kyuden Bayushi. Though many might have succumbed easily to the sword s offers of power, Shoju resisted.
Yet Shoju s success took a fateful turn when he stumbled upon an ancient prophecy. He learned that Fu Leng, the Dark Kami, was destined to return to Rokugan in the body of the Last Hantei. As Shoju wondered how he could save Rokugan from its greatest enemy, the Bloodsword finally seeded its influence into his mind. Hatching a daring plan, Shoju took up Ambition and staged a carefully orchestrated invasion of Otosan Uchi. He assassinated Emperor Hantei and seized the throne, hoping that at least with the Hantei line ended the threat of Fu Leng would be ended.
Sadly, Shoju failed. The son of Hantei escaped the Scorpion assassins. Akodo Toturi, the one man who could compete with Shoju on the field of battle, survived Shoju s attempts to kill him due to the simple love of a geisha. Hida Kisada, whom Shoju had hoped might ally with him, spurned Shoju for his weakness (and made his own plans to take the throne).
Shoju was defeated and slain, his name forever stained with dishonor despite his most noble of intentions. Only among the Scorpion is his name remembered as a hero. His soul was lost to Gaki-do, the Realm of the Hungry Dead, where the only means by which he can sate his gnawing hunger is to inspire his descendants to perform deeds of impossible bravery.
Thus it was that, though he is remembered as a regicide, the Legion of the Dead found a place for Shoju. A spirit who can inspire courage in the living is a weapon of incomparable value, no matter what his past deeds may be. Though many look upon the tormented gaki with mistrust, his place among them cannot be denied.
Doji Satsume: The Grinning Crane
Doji Satsume first appeared in the Scorpion Clan Coup (Scroll 2). The son of the Crane Champion, Doji Satsume was born into greatness. Even so, he did not allow this to dull the edge of his fighting spirit or dampen his quest for glory. He was a grim and determined boy, always focused upon the path ahead. From an early age, Satsume set out to make his mark upon history. At the age of sixteen he slew the lord of the Ikoma house in personal combat. At the age of twenty-one he defeated his own father at the Test of the Emerald Champion, becoming the youngest Emerald Champion in history.
Early in his career, an assassination attempt upon the Emperor left Satsume with a deep scar across his face, twisting his mouth into a permanent half grin. The Scorpion Clan came to call him “The Grinning Crane,” an ironic reminder of the Emerald Champions cold and humorless demeanor. Satsume despised the nickname, though he did little to prevent its use besides a few harsh words. Privately, he was proud of the scar, a constant reminder of his dedication to the Emperor.
Sadly though Satsume s dedication to his duties was unquestionable, they left little time for his family. His single-mindedness drove his wife to her death, and planted a deep wedge between Satsume and his eldest son, Hoturi. Satsume regretted his son s hatred, though his pride prevented him from any sort of apology. Instead, he focused his energies upon his younger son, Kuwanan, who in many ways shared his father s zeal for combat and justice.
During the Scorpion Clan Coup, Satsume met his greatest failure. He never suspected that Bayushi Shoju, the Emperor s closest friend, might murder the Emperor. In attempting to avenge his failure against the Scorpion, he was badly wounded. His wounds were grievous, but even as he began to recover he was assassinated in his sleep as part of Bayushi Kachiko s vengeful plan to sow chaos throughout the Empire.
Even though he died in failure, Satsume is remembered for his many great accomplishments. As the call to heroes echoes across the Spirit Realms, this mighty champion has once more taken up his sword to defend the Empire he loves.
Hida Yakamo: Lord Sun
Hida Yakamo first appeared in Imperial Edition. Yakamo was the eldest son of Hida Kisada, heir-apparent to the title of Crab Clan Champion. Though viewed by most outside his clan as brash, arrogant, and impulsive, in truth Yakamo was merely a hot-tempered samurai with a strong sense of pride in his clan. Those who spurned the Crab were ignored or pushed aside. Those who named themselves enemies were pursued with relentless tenacity. Early in life he gained a reputation for being a headstrong warrior who met any insult with relentless violence. When a duel with Mirumoto Satsu led to the Dragon s death and a lifelong feud with his young sister, Hitomi, the course of Yakamo s life began to change.
Shortly before the battle of Beiden Pass, Hitomi confronted Yakamo. Displaying strength and skill surprising for her youth, Hitomi took Yakamo s left hand and nearly his life. Turning to the shugenja Kuni Yori to heal his injury, Yakamo s hand was replaced by a steel claw — a claw that bound his name and soul to that of an unnamed oni. Throughout the Clan War, Yakamo no Oni drew strength from Hida Yakamo s soul, growing more powerful and independent by the day.
During the Crab invasion of Otosan Uchi, Yakamo stood beside his father and looked into the eyes of the possessed Emperor. Realizing the grave mistakes the Crab had made, he took up his father s wounded body and fled the Imperial City. He tore the oni s claw from his body and denied its power over him, but it seemed too late. The Taint had crept into his body.
Fortunately Togashi Yokuni offered Yakamo an ancient weapon against corruption long thought lost to the Crab — the Jade Hand. Fusing the hand to the stump of his left arm, Yakamo burned the corruption from his soul and became a potent enemy of evil.
Yakamo went on to become one of the most courageous and dynamic leaders the Crab had ever known. His rivalry with Hitomi never ended, though occasionally they were forced to set aside their differences and stand together as allies — such as on the Day of Thunder, when each of them represented their respective clans and stood against Fu Leng as Thunders.
After the Clan War ended, the Crab and Naga allied to retake Hiruma Castle, lost deep in the Shadowlands. After taking the castle, the Naga withdrew to deal with what they felt was a greater threat in the north. Sadly this left the Crab without allies. Undead forces led by Kuni Yori overwhelmed the castle, seeking to slay Yakamo and feed his soul to the Oni Lord that still bore his name. Yakamo attempted to escape, both to foil Yori s plan and to summon reinforcements to save his besieged brethren. Unfortunately Yakamo never reached the Kaiu Wall. Moto Tsume and his legions confronted Yakamo. Even the Crab Thunder, wielding the Jade Hand, could not stand against such impossible odds. Yakamo perished.
But Yakamo s soul was not to belong to Kuni Yori. Sensing the terrible evil the Naga had unwittingly helped perpetrate, the Naga shugenja known as the Shashakar used his magic to draw Yakamo s soul beyond Yori s reach. He used an ancient Naga artifact to return Yakamo to life, in the process binding his soul to the Naga s mysterious Akasha life force.
The Naga believed it was Yakamo s destiny to play a part in the dark future that swirled around his rival, Hitomi. It was his duty to replace the perished Bright Eye — whom the Rokugani knew as the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu. Though confused by this strange destiny, Yakamo did what he must as a Crab always does. He took the fallen Sun Goddess power and title, ascending into the Celestial Heavens as Lord Sun.
But the Lord of the Heavens cannot stand idle when the Spirit Realms are threatened, especially when Crab blood runs through his veins.
Now the mighty Hida Yakamo takes up his tetsubo again, standing beside his father and siblings in the Legion of the Dead.
Yakamo could hear the raspy sound of his father struggling to draw breath, and wondered with each breath if it would be the last. He could hear the heavy tread of boots as Crab soldiers mustered on the walls above. He could hear the distant roars of the foul demons that now roamed unchecked across the Shadowlands. He looked down at his arm. The flesh now blended with the twisted red metal of the claw. Kuni Yori knew his craft well. It was difficult to say where the demon ended and he truly began.
He looked at the hand of jade that the Dragon had given him, and weighed the course he must take.
The claw offered power, he knew that much. He had used it to slay countless enemies. Its strength had bolstered him during his escape from Otosan Uchi. The hand offered only uncertain redemption. He was not even sure whether it would work as the Dragon said it would, or if he would merely be left a cripple.
Yakamo scowled, uncertain whence such thoughts had come. Such doubt was unbecoming of a Crab. With a sudden wrench, he tore the oni s claw from his body and hurled it across the room. Ignoring the pain, he pressed the Jade Hand to the oozing stump. Fire coursed through his body, burning away the oni s corruption. He wavered, but did not fall. The pain was great, but he would not scream.
Then he stood on an empty plain, alone. He thought he saw a serpentine shape retreat into the mists, but could not be certain. Memory began to return, and he realized who he was, why he was here.
And then he realized he was not alone after all.
Well done, Lord Sun, the demon said in a low chuckle. The Shadow Dragon was a fool to even try to influence you. A dog cannot choose its destiny. It knows only what it has been taught.
The oni that shared his name had now appeared on the desolate plain. Its dull black eyes stared at him patiently. For a long time, the two Yakamos said nothing. Lord Sun reached for his tetsubo, but stopped with his hand on its haft. Something in the demon s presence here seemed wrong.
I did not sense you among the Legion of Blood before, Lord Sun said warily. Why are you here now
You do not know the oni said in a mocking tone. Is your divine wisdom not absolute I do not fight beside the Legion of Blood.
So you have come to challenge me Lord Sun demanded. After decades of hiding in the depths of Jigoku
So arrogant, the demon said, unperturbed by Yakamo s barb. I am born of your own spirit, your own name. I am no more capable of surrendering to fear than you are. I have spent these decades fulfilling my duty, protecting the gates of Jigoku. Fu Leng sent me here to aid you.
I swore never to accept aid from your kind again, Lord Sun growled.
Then we are in agreement, the demon replied. It extended its right arm, opened its mighty claw, and beckoned slightly.
Lord Sun s face twisted into a savage smile. He drew his tetsubo and charged.
The very fiber of the Realm of Shattered Destiny shook as Lord Sun met the Guardian of Hell. Jade-studded tetsubo and spiked obsidian club collided with unprecedented power. Green fire and black energy erupted from their forms. The demon s claw slashed across Yakamo s chest, denting his armor. The Jade Hand collided with the demon s face, tearing away one of its mandibles. In a matter of minutes the earth around them had become a crater as their duel reduced the already featureless land to ash.
With a savage burst of strength, Lord Sun buried his hand between two chitinous plates on the demon s chest and lifted it into the air. The demon savaged his face with its claw but could not resist as Lord Sun hurled him heavily into the earth. With a heavy stomp he shattered the demon s obsidian club. He swung his tetsubo at the demon s skull but it caught the head in its massive claw. God and monster struggled to claim the weapon, glaring into one another s eyes with boundless hatred.
You are a god among gods, the demon said, I am a lord among demons. We are both immortal, equal. This fight might continue forever. You will never defeat me.
Not so, Lord Sun said with a grin. The Legion has many heroes. I can afford to fight you here, but in pursuing your vengeance against me you will fail Fu Leng.
The demon s eyes narrowed. Another time, Lord Sun, it hissed between its broken mandibles, but remember my warning. Beware the Shadow Dragon.
Lord Sun s eyes narrowed, but after a long moment, he nodded. Between two enemies such as these, there could be no lies.
Even if you aid me, I will never fight beside you, he swore.
Then do not get in my way, it replied.
With a mighty shriek the Oni Lord shoved Lord Sun backwards and ran into the mists. The true Yakamo stood where he was, and watched the creature flee.
Doji Yosai: Crane Clan Liaison
Doji Yosai first appeared in Imperial Edition. Upon his gempukku, Doji Yosai was the very embodiment of what it meant to be a Crane samurai. With a quick wit and a strong sword arm, he was at home in the court or in the dojo. Though Yosai was not a violent man, he saw no harm in learning the art of the sword. He did not feel he would be forced to fight, after all, for Yosai believed that he had been born into a time of peace. As a representative of his clan, he forged a strong alliance with the Phoenix, hoping that the union of the Empire s greatest scholars and the Emperor s finest artisans might bring a new golden age of culture. Though Yosai s actions did indeed benefit his clan, they were not in the way that he would have hoped.
When the Clan War erupted, the Crane were beset by enemies. The Lion, the Crab, and even the False Hoturi surrounded them on all sides. Many Crane castles burned, including Kyuden Kakita and the ancestral home of the Doji. In this time of crisis, Yosai was forced to call upon his allies in the Phoenix, banding together to fight off threats to both clans.
Yosai put his sword to use on behalf of his clan, proving every bit as brilliant a warrior as he was a statesman.
During the Crab invasion of Otosan Uchi, Yosai was one of many who stood to defend the Imperial City. Outnumbered by Kisada s soldiers, he lost a leg in the battle and was left for dead. Yet Yosai survived, and struggled on. Though he could fight no longer, he continued to serve as a diplomat.
Yet as the Clan War drew on, Yosai began to realize something was horribly wrong within the capital. The Emperor not only seemed to be a part of the corruption that was tearing Rokugan apart, but was also the source of it. Returning to Crane lands, he became one of the most vocal opponents of the Hantei, using his skills at oratory and politics to fight the possessed Emperor.
On the Day of Thunder, Yosai saw how the armies of the clans were outnumbered and refused to let his injury prevent him from defending his clan and the Empire. Strapping himself into his warhorse s saddle, he charged into battle beside Doji Hoturi against Fu Leng s armies. Yosai died that day, along with many other heroes.
Yosai never considered himself a hero, he only did what he saw must be done. The same rule guides him even after death, and he has stepped forward to answer Matsu Goemon s call.
Hitomi: Lady Moon
Mirumoto Hitomi first appeared in Imperial Edition. Hitomi was the daughter of the Mirumoto daimyo and younger sister of Mirumoto Satsu, one of the Dragon Clan s finest warriors. When Satsu was slain in a duel with Hida Yakamo, Hitomi dedicated her life to revenge. An intense, solitary, and reclusive girl, she had no time for the rule of her family but instead passed those responsibilities to her brother, Daini.
When she finally encountered Yakamo, she took his hand in personal battle. He returned shortly thereafter, the hand replaced by an oni s claw, and crushed her right hand as well. Bayushi Kachiko offered Hitomi a gift to replace her hand, a magical obsidian claw hidden by the Scorpion for centuries.
On the Day of Thunder, Hitomi discovered she was destined to be one of the Seven Thunders. She also learned that her enemy, Yakamo, was also a Thunder, and that her brother purposefully lost their duel so long ago so that Yakamo could fulfill his destiny. She likewise did not slay Yakamo when she had her opportunity on the Day of Thunder, instead aiding him by destroying the oni that had taken his name. During their confrontation with Fu Leng, Hitomi tore the Twelfth Black Scroll from Togashi Yokuni s chest and opened it, allowing Fu Leng to finally be defeated.
After the Day of Thunder, Hitomi retreated to the mountains of the Dragon. She seemed to have inherited some of Togashi s divine power, and began making her own tattooed men as he once did. With each day that passed, her obsidian hand extended its influence over more of her body. She soon learned that the hand had once been a part of Lord Moon, and that sinister god was slowly exerting its influence over her, working with a sinister force called the Lying Darkness to destroy the Empire. Seeking to balance Togashi and Onnotangu s control over her, she turned to the exiled tamashii, Kokujin. Unfortunately Kokujin s madness twisted her rule, causing great bloodshed and turmoil within the Dragon Clan.
In time, Hitomi learned control and exiled Kokujin. To purge Lord Moon s influence, she enacted an ancient ritual by which she could ascend to Tengoku and confront Onnotangu. Defeating Lord Moon in single battle, she assumed his power and his purpose. She has risen above the anger and vengeance that defined her early life, and now seeks to guide others along the path of enlightenment.
Yet she is a samurai still, and as the call to battle echoes through the Spirit Realms, even Lady Moon finds that she cannot stand idle.
Will she confront her old rival Yakamo once more Will she face the darkness that once nearly consumed her Anything is possible, but she knows no fear.
The Dragon looked down at the obsidian hand Kachiko had given her with some measure of uncertainty. A Scorpion s gifts were never to be taken lightly, but if what she offered was sincere vengeance upon the man who had killed her brother, the man who had taken her hand then was this not worth the risk
But was such risk truly her decision at all No one else seemed to care about Satsu s death. Her father was too worried about displeasing the Great Bear. Her brother was wrapped up in his idealism; he believed there was no need for vengeance because Satsu had died in a manner befitting a samurai. If she did not avenge her brother, no one would. If this item was trapped or poisoned or cursed and she died, then she would fail and Satsu would never know peace.
Then again, what did Kachiko truly have to gain by deceiving her Hitomi had not lifted a sword against her clan during the Scorpion Coup; she was too young. They were kindred spirits in a way, both seeking vengeance against those who had wronged them and used honor as a shield to justify their despicable acts.
She weighed the Obsidian Hand in silence for a long time. Suddenly, she felt a presence in the room around her and the shadows deepened. A pair of burning red eyes lit in the darkness. When Hitomi looked into them, she remembered the goddess she truly was. This was an illusion, a dream woven by the Realm of Thwarted Destiny and she recognized the creature that faced her now.
Shadow Dragon, she said in a menacing tone. She made to reach for her sword then realized her right hand was still missing. The power of a goddess was still not hers to claim. She was still in the dream, yet still herself. The Obsidian Hand still weighed heavily in her left hand.
Peace, Lady Moon, the Shadow Dragon said in a sibilant voice. I offer you no violence, only clarity. This Realm demands that each soul relive their moment of destiny, to either choose as they did in life or choose anew.
Hitomi looked around the small chamber of the Imperial Palace in bewilderment. Why this moment she demanded. Why not the Day of Thunder Why not the Battle of Oblivion s Gate Why not my duel against Onnotangu Are those not more important than this
Where one arrives is not so important as where one begins, the Shadow Dragon said. Its eyes tipped downward, focusing on the black glass hand she still held. This Realm will be born anew, a realm of boundless potential or a realm of eternal uncertainty.
Onnotangu s hand was a tool the Lying Darkness, Hitomi whispered. The source of all uncertainty, the embodiment of Nothing. Have you come here to influence my choice Hitomi demanded, eyeing the Dragon suspiciously.
I have come here to complicate your choice, the Shadow Dragon replied. Think on this, Hitomi. By denying your destiny, you increase the uncertainty that festers in this realm. By accepting the Hand, you acknowledge the Darkness power and accept it into your soul once again. For you, Lady Moon, there is no correct choice. That is why I have given you back your memory. So you could suffer. Were it not for you, the Lying Darkness would not have risen to power. Were it not for you, I would not have been corrupted and become the blasphemous thing I am now. Whether I succeed or fail here, I take joy in the fact that I have brought you some measure of pain. How does if feel, Hitomi, to fight so strongly for the cause of good, yet be eternally doomed to serve the whims of evil Hitomi glared at the Shadow Dragon and did not say a word. Slowly, she lifted the Obsidian Hand to the stump of her right arm. With a searing flash of pain and light, she was whole once more, restored in all her glory as Lady Moon.
Good Hitomi replied, advancing on the Shadow Dragon. Evil There are no such things. She drew her twin swords. There is only this.
The Shadow Dragon s eyes widened, and it quickly retreated into the darkness whence it came. Briefly, she wondered if she had chosen unwisely.
If she had made the wrong choice, she would deal with the consequences when they came.
As she always did.
Akuma no Oni: Lord of Deception
Akuma no Oni (also known as Oni no Akuma) first appeared in Imperial Edition. Akuma took his name from an unfortunate Isawa, whose curiosity regarding the Shadowlands led him to broker a pact with the demon. Akuma left the Isawa consumed with madness and began a reign of terror, swiftly becoming the most powerful of the Oni Lords. Akuma was said to be the most brutal and most cunning of all the Oni Lords, though his seething anger and hatred of mankind often undid his best-laid plans.
His most bitter failure was his corruption of the Jade Champion, Kitsu Okura. Okura became a willing pawn of Akuma in return for power. He agreed to give his name to one of Akuma s spawn, granting the creature far greater power than a typical demon of its ilk. Somehow, however, this creature gained enormous independence. Okura no Oni embraced the honorable example set by her Lion Clan comrades rather than Akuma s savagery.
In final battle at Oblivion s Gate, Okura confronted Akuma and both were banished from the mortal realm. Akuma waited eagerly for Okura s arrival in Jigoku so that he might have his revenge, but such was not to be. Okura was redeemed and became the guardian of the Celestial Heavens.
During Fu Leng s invasion of Heaven, Akuma confronted Okura again. He almost enticed its “daughter” to rejoin the forces of evil, and only an untimely intervention by the Lords of Death kept Okura pure. When Akuma learned that Okura now marches with the Legion of Dead, he allowed himself to be summoned by Iuchiban. The Oni Lord has not turned his back on Fu Leng; he does not seriously believe Iuchiban is a threat to his master.
He only desires another chance to drag his daughter s soul back into the depths…
Sanzo: The Tragic Ronin
Sanzo first appeared in Imperial Edition. Once known as Mirumoto Sanzo, this proud samurai was the protector of a remote mountain village. One fateful day, a band of marauding ogres attacked Sanzo s home. He returned to his village too late to prevent the attack, too late to do anything to aid his people. Overcome by fear, he could not bring himself to fight. He watched in mute horror as his wife and daughter were murdered, while all those he had sworn to protect died at the ogres hands. He watched as the leader slung his father s swords over his back, swords Sanzo had left behind rather than carry them into the fields with the workers. The beasts trudged into the wilderness, and Sanzo could do nothing.
For years Sanzo wandered in a daze, with even his own clan believing him dead. During the Clan Wars, by pure chance, he fell in among a group of others outcast by circumstance — Tsuruchi Ichiro, Miya Yumi, and the mysterious Koan. Beside them, Sanzo learned some small part of what it meant to be a hero and helped prevent a terrible tragedy from befalling the Empire. Still, he never forgave himself for his failure so long ago. For years he chased death with blind fury, never relenting against the creatures of the Shadowlands.
During the War Against the Darkness, Sanzo found the broken shards of the Bloodsword, Ambition. After forging them into a wakizashi, he set out to hunt the ogre that had murdered his family. After a long hunt, he finally confronted his adversary and gained the revenge he had long desired. Sadly, indulging in his bloodlust also gave the bloodsword a measure of control over him. The sword drove him to find and slay the one responsible for the duel that led to its destruction — Emperor Toturi I.
At the time, Toturi and Isawa Kaede were hiding in Phoenix lands as Kaede struggled to help Toturi overcome the Lying Darkness hold upon him. Sanzo found and attacked the Emperor, wounding him grievously.
Before he could kill the Emperor with the Bloodsword, Sanzo regained some measure of control and fled with the sword. He wandered the Empire as a madman for some years before finally succumbing to death. Phoenix shugenja discovered his body and realized that the curse of the Bloodsword had overcome him. The sword and his skull were placed in Gisei Toshi for study, but the fate of Sanzo s spirit was never known. None had been able to commune with his soul in Yomi, nor any of the other Spirit Realms.
Now the heroes of old gather to fight the Legion of Blood. A forgotten soul has appeared in their midst, ready to fight those responsible for forging the Bloodswords.
His name is Sanzo.
Kyojin: The Enforcer
Kyojin first appeared in Anvil of Despair. Once, there was a great hero who undertook a perilous quest. This quest resulted in the hero being lost in the Shadowlands and becoming a murderous madman, enslaved by the will of Fu Leng. The tale is a vague one, but it is all the entity known as Kyojin remembers of the times that came before. He wandered the Shadowlands for centuries. He could remember nothing of what he once was, but after an eternity he convinced himself that this did not matter. All that mattered was that he served Fu Leng. Kyojin was a talented swordsman, laying low the greatest human swordsmen with little effort.
One fateful day he came upon a wasted skeletal figure that called himself Yogo Junzo. He was a shugenja with incredible power. Yogo Junzo commanded that Kyojin aid him in finding the rest of the Black Scrolls, in releasing Fu Leng upon the mortal realm. Kyojin agreed without question and became Junzo s bodyguard and enforcer.
At Junzo s side, Kyojin finally knew purpose. He smote enemies not just for the sake of killing, but because of a greater goal. They would change the world, remake it in the image of their god. The quest felt very familiar to Kyojin. He sensed he was remembering something of himself, but the memories would not come. For the first time knowing who he was mattered. Kyojin felt that, should he succeed in his quest, he would remember who he once was.
On the Day of Thunder, Kyojin fell in battle against Tetsuya, Master of the Four Temples and former daimyo of the Kaiu family. The powerful monk sacrificed himself to destroy Kyojin, clearing the way so that Otaku Kamoko could destroy Junzo. In the deepest pits of Jigoku, Kyojin screamed. Now he would never know the truth.
Few tsukai cared to commune with Kyojin s soul in Jigoku. None had any use for the guardian of a failure. Yet such an individual was an attractive pawn for the Bloodspeaker, Iuchiban. Iuchiban claims knowledge of Kyojin s true past, and has invited the Enforcer to join the Legion of Blood.
Kyojin realizes that the Bloodspeaker is most likely lying to him. It matters not. All that matters is the chance to fight again, to kill again, perhaps even to die again. Already he feels more like himself — the old memories begin to stir once more.
Daigotsu Hoturi: The False Hoturi
Daigotsu Hoturi first appeared (then known as the False Hoturi) as a promotional card circa Emerald Edition. The Egg of Pan Ku is one of the most dangerous nemuranai (magical items) in the history of the Empire. This relic is the last surviving part of the dragon Pan Ku, who unmade itself rather than become corrupted by the Shadowlands. The dragon hoped that one day the Egg would be reborn, and create a creature that might be able to cope with the terrors it had seen. The Egg is an item of raw potential, able to replicate any living thing. Sadly, any creature created by the egg is cursed with the dragon s madness.
During the Clan War, Bayushi Kachiko used the Egg as a tool to gain her vengeance against Doji Hoturi for unknowingly killing their illegitimate son. While Kachiko knew that the False Hoturi would create chaos within his clan, she did not realize that she would be unable to control the duplicate as fully as she desired, and did not recognize the depths of depravity to which the False Hoturi would sink.
The shadow of Hoturi could not accept that he was merely the reflection of another, more “perfect” being. He could not accept that he was a mere pawn in another mortal s games. Seeking to understand the madness that consumed Pan Ku, the False Hoturi entered the Shadowlands.
There, he was lost to the Taint and gathered an army of corrupted madmen who aided him in destroying the Crane lands. Near the end of the Clan War, the true Hoturi proved the better swordsman and the False Hoturi met his demise.
Yet death was not the end for a creature such as the False Hoturi. After his escape from Meido, Realm of the Dead, the dark god Fu Leng chose to restore the magic that had created the False Hoturi. A corrupted hero, returned to destroy his clan, was a potent weapon to weaken the Empire s morale in a time when belief mattered most for the dark god.
Fu Leng commanded Hoturi to obey his foremost servant, Daigotsu. The False Hoturi found Daigotsu s unique perception of honor strangely appealing, and swore fealty to the Dark Lord s name.
When Iuchiban returned and deposed Daigotsu, he recognized the False Hoturi as a potent threat. Striking a deal with the Ninube, what Fu Leng created was unmade. The False Hoturi became the Egg of Pan Ku once more. The Egg went on to be used to duplicate the Lion Champion, Matsu Nimuro.
But Fu Leng is not defeated so easily and once again the dark god bridles at Iuchiban s repeated defiance. In taking the Daigotsu name, the False Hoturi became something more than just another construct born of the Egg — he became a true servant of the Ninth Kami. He became, as he always wished, a truly unique being independent of the magic that had created him. In a twisted way, the dragon Pan Ku s wishes have been fulfilled as Hoturi understood the madness that consumed the Egg — and welcomed it.
In the shadows of the Legion of the Dead he walks. His mission is simple: to discover how the Ninth Kami s former servants have been subverted and return their loyalties where they belong. He has been promised the greatest rewards Jigoku has to offer, should he succeed.
Hoturi needs no reward. Fu Leng has already given him the greatest gift.
Yogo Junzo: The Traitor
Yogo Junzo first appeared in Imperial Edition. Perhaps no other name in recent memory is so reviled as Yogo Junzo s, and for good reason. Junzo was once among the most loyal servants of the Empire, a devout shugenja with incredible magical talents. In truth his loyalty was not to the Empire itself, but to one man Bayushi Shoju. His loyalty to the Master of Secrets was absolute, his respect and obedience for his daimyo boundless. When Shoju hatched his plot to assassinate the Emperor and save the Empire from Fu Leng, Junzo was skeptical but did not voice his complaints. Instead, he put his faith in his master s wishes and hoped that his magic could protect Shoju from any disastrous outcome.
Shoju s plan ultimately failed. Shoju was slain, the Scorpion Clan stripped of their names, and the Hantei s son survived. Junzo managed to escape the Scorpion purge, but he blamed himself for his master s death. Descending into madness, he swore revenge upon the Empire. Unfortunately for the Empire such a task was well within Junzo s means for he was the protector of one of the Twelve Black Scrolls.
Opening the First Black Scroll Junzo unleashed the Wasting Disease upon the Empire and also became its first victim. He rose again as undead, his corpse suffused with the power of the Shadowlands Taint. Now a willing servant of Fu Leng, he began actively seeking out the other Black Scrolls so that he might open them and help usher his new master s soul back into the mortal realm. He roused an army of undead, demons, and wicked spirits unlike any that Rokugan had seen since Iuchiban s last rise. Ironically Junzo became the herald of the very same dark future that Shoju died to prevent.
On the Day of Thunder, Junzo met his death on the battlefield when he stood against Otaku Kamoko, the Unicorn Thunder. The Scorpion burned his remains and scattered the ashes in Traitor s Grove, though his soul had long since escaped into Jigoku.
Once a servant of Fu Leng, Junzo is now one of many damned souls now chained in service to the Bloodspeakers. The pain that surges through his tormented being as he realizes that Bayushi Shoju stands among the dead heroes he must battle is unlike any he has felt in his existence but then pain is perhaps exactly what he deserves.
Matsu Hiroru: The White Ninja
Matsu Hiroru first appeared in Imperial Edition. Hiroru’s life was a peculiar one to say the least. The younger brother of Matsu Tsuko, his destiny was to watch over the Lion Clan Hall of Ancestors. At a young age he was a visitor in Phoenix lands during a tumultuous time for the Shiba family. The Phoenix Champion’s wife committed seppuku over a matter of honor. His daughter, outraged by her mother’s death, cursed the Hantei line, forcing her father to cut her down without mercy.
While others were consumed by outrage or grief as they witnessed the events, Hiroru watched it all with calm, calculating curiosity. He realized that all men, just or unjust, are equal in death. The experience changed Hiroru greatly, making him a great deal more passionless and violent than before. He began to play subtle, vicious pranks on his fellow samurai, pranks that went unnoticed by all except one man the revered sensei, Akodo Kage. After Hiroru won a tournament of the Seven Great Clans, Kage invited him to become his student.
For years he trained with Kage, who subtly encouraged Hiroru’s dishonorable and often violent tendencies. In time, Kage began to instruct Hiroru in the secret methods of the Kolat. One day, Kage hoped, Hiroru would succeed him as one of the Kolat Masters.
One tragic event changed all of that. Hiroru desired Isawa Norisuko, a girl betrothed to Doji Kuwanan. Kage encouraged Hiroru to take what he wished, that honor was merely a tool with which the strong controlled the weak. Hiroru thus seduced Norisuko and kept her quiet by threatening to shame her father and family. He continued his activates for months until, the night before her wedding, Norisuko committed suicide. Hiroru was horrified by what had happened. Though he had little respect for the concepts of honor or compassion, he had never truly considered himself an evil man. That he had forced this innocent girl to destroy herself devastated him.
Hiroru confronted Kage, striking at his sensei in anger for instructing him to do such a horrible thing. Though surprised by Hiroru s attack, he was no match for Kage and barely escaped with his life. Hiroru knew if he returned to the Lion, the Kolat Master would swiftly dispose of him. Thus he faked his own death and lived the life of a ronin. During his adventures he frequently encountered minions of the Lying Darkness, and became quite talented at rooting out and destroying them. He carried with him Kage s last gift, a white silken ghi, said to be woven of pure crystal by Lady Doji herself, that protected him from the powers of Darkness Spawn. Hiroru never spoke of how he found his unusual garb, but many of those rescued by the mysterious wanderer came to call him the White Ninja because of it.
Hiroru later fell in among Toturi’s Army, where he learned the true meaning of honor and, through a series of unlikely adventures, fell in love with the young storyteller, Doji Shizue. Hiroru believed that by loving and protecting Shizue he could somehow redeem his past sins, or at least atone for them in some small measure. In the end, Hiroru could not protect her. Shizue became Akodo Kage s pawn, and perished during the War Against the Darkness. Though she died a hero, Hiroru blamed himself for being unable to prevent Kage’s manipulations. He resolved to find her, to bring her soul back to Rokugan as Oblivion s Gate had restored so many others. He sought out another passage to the Realms of the Dead, and found it in Amaterasu’s Furnace.
Unfortunately Hiroru did not survive his passage into Gaki-do, the Realm of Hungry Ghosts. Overcome by his own sins and hidden shame, he became a hungry ghost himself. For decades he wandered in a mad hunger. By pure chance he sensed the presence of Morito Tokei, his former comrade in Toturi s Army, being tortured by the Maw in the depths of foul Jigoku. Suddenly possessed of a clarity and courage he had not known since his death, Hiroru ventured into Jigoku to rescue his old friend. Though his hunger has not subsided, the heroic act has given Hiroru a sense of hope, a hope for redemption that he has not known since he last looked into Shizue’s eyes. And now, once again, the hunger has faded. The White Ninja stands beside the Legion of the Dead.
Yoritomo Aramasu: The Chosen Son
Born to the Bayushi family, Aramasu was the son of Bayushi Aramoro, one of the keenest minds the Scorpion Clan has ever produced. Such abilities place great responsibility upon a samurai, however, and rare were the times when Aramoro could be a father to his son. Resentment blossomed in young Aramasu s heart, and eventually that resentment became a useful tool to a group who had long coveted an agent within the clan of secrets the Kolat. Youth often leads to mistakes, however, and in time Aramasu came to realize that he had been wrong to throw his lot in with the Kolat. Instead, he sought to learn as much as he could from the organization so that he might one day sever his ties. Yoritomo Masasue, a sympathetic Kolat agent, aided Aramasu in his quest. When the Scorpion Clan was exiled to the burning sands, Aramasu found a home among the Mantis in the household of Yoritomo himself. He traded Scorpion secrets to the Kolat to buy his freedom from that organization, swearing fealty to the Mantis. The Kolat kept a careful eye on Aramasu thereafter, but in the end he knew too little about them to truly threaten them in turn.
Though his resentment of his father did not diminish, Aramasu came to understand why his father must fulfill his duties. Even so, he understood that he could never be a true Scorpion. He could not ignore those he loved for the sake of blind loyalty as his father had. His strength, skill, and determination impressed Yoritomo, who came to look upon Aramasu as a son. When the Mantis Champion fell in battle at Oblivion s Gate, he named Aramasu his successor.
Aramasu remained out of the public eye during the War of Spirits, leading many to believe he refused to choose a side. In truth, Aramasu and his Mantis legions waged a secret war against the Emperor s enemies in the Ivory Kingdoms, taking the conflict to a foreign shore to ensure that the Empire would not be threatened on two fronts. But the Scorpion Clan does not forget or forgive betrayal, and bided their time for decades. Bayushi Kamnan ambushed and murdered Aramasu in his home in Otosan Uchi. Having defended the Empire with no thought for his personal glory, however, Aramasu was welcomed into Yomi, the Realm of Blessed Ancestors. Together with his father Yoritomo, he has answered Matsu Goemon s call and rides at the forefront of the Legion of the Dead, destroying all who threaten the Celestial Order.
Matsu Agetoki: The Swift Lion
Matsu Agetoki first appeared in Imperial Edition. In life, Matsu Agetoki commanded the mighty cavalry of the Lion Clan. Though not as large or impressive as that of the Unicorn, Agetoki made up for this by leading his troops with boundless energy and unfailing courage. He was known for allowing a fleeing enemy the false hope of retreat only so that he could enjoy the rush of a final, overwhelming charge. He was a samurai who enjoyed life and battle to its fullest, and greeted every challenge with unflinching bravado.
But there was a darker side to Matsu Agetoki s life. Well before Agetoki s birth his grandfather, Yoshimura, had murdered a rival in an illegal duel. Yoshimura did his best to conceal the crime, but it did not escape the eyes of the nefarious Kolat. The Kolat were patient, saving the information well past Yoshimura s death. When Agetoki gained fame and notoriety as the leader of the Lion cavalry, the Kolat acted on their knowledge. They threatened to reveal the truth, shaming Agetoki and his brothers unless he agreed to join their organization and perform certain tasks for them. As Yoshimura was long since dead there was little to be done to explain or correct the crime, and a Lion values nothing so much as the honor of his ancestors. Agetoki agreed to the Kolat s demands, but only so long as they did not seek to blackmail any other members of his family.
The Kolat s requests were simple, mostly involving moving his armies to a certain place at a certain time with no explanation as to their true goals. Their manipulation culminated with an order to prevent the Otaku daimyo s escape from a certain battle. He performed the task, but took no relish in it. When the deed was done he realized that he had killed an honorable samurai for dishonorable purposes. He was no better than his grandfather, and had likely doomed his own descendants to the Kolat manipulation that now chained him.
Otaku Kamoko, daughter of the daimyo, did not intend to wait generations to punish Agetoki. Learning of his involvement in her mother s death, she hunted him across Rokugan. Agetoki finally gave up eluding his pursuer and confronted Kamoko. He did the only honorable thing, allowing her to kill him while concealing any knowledge of the Kolat, for he feared any knowledge would only entangle the innocent Unicorn in their machinations.
At the Battle of Oblivion s Gate, Agetoki was one of many spirits who rode beside Toturi against the minions of the Lying Darkness. Agetoki rode back through the Gate, pursuing a flock of shadow spawn, shortly before the Gate was destroyed. He does not regret missing his chance at a second life; he has no further business in the mortal world. Even so, he is yet a Lion, and a Lion does not neglect his duty.
The Legion of the Dead has issued forth a call for heroes, and he has answered.
Kemmei: The Tortoise Sage
Reviled by the Great Clans since the day of their founding, the Tortoise Clan have long fulfilled a vital function for the Emperor: they conduct minor trade with the gaijin tribes to Rokugan’s north, spreading disinformation and inaccuracies to all they meet about the Empire and those who dwell within it. It was into this duty that Kemmei was born, though he yearned for a more meaningful existence.
During the Clan War, when Yoritomo formed his great alliance of minor clans, Kemmei was among the first to volunteer to serve on Yoritomo’s vast fleet of ships. He observed the Son of Storms carefully and remembered all that he saw. Kemmei cheered when Yoritomo’s gambit at the Day of Thunder was successful and the Mantis were awarded Great Clan status, but he urged his daimyo to decline the Mantis’s offer to join with them and become the Kasuga family. War had given the old sailor the perspective he required to truly understand his clan’s duty, a duty they could not perform if they joined with the Mantis.
Following the Clan War, Kemmei ironically requested a post as ambassador to the Mantis despite his opposition to a merger between the two clans. He served as a loyal advisor to Yoritomo for many years, always willing to offer another point of view. When Yoritomo Aramasu assumed command, Kemmei continued his tutelage, even directing the young heir’s attention to the extensive smuggling that was going on within the clan, a fact that Yoritomo had chosen to overlook for a number of reasons. With Kemmei’s counsel, Aramasu led the Mantis to victory against the Ivory Kingdoms. Sadly, Kemmei did not survive the conflict, and perished in a distant land, far removed from his kinsmen and family. Kemmei died as he had lived, a loyal Tortoise in honorable service to the Mantis Clan. His memory is kept alive by two clans.
When his death came, Kemmei joined the legions in Yomi. His thirst for adventure was not quite slaked, however, and he has joined the Legion of the Dead to offer his counsel once again, alongside the two Mantis lords he served for the majority of his lifetime.
Shosuro Hametsu: The Poison Master
Born the eldest son of the Shosuro daimyo, Hametsu never expected to lead his family. His elder sister Kachiko was the quintessential Scorpion, though her constant torment of her younger siblings went unnoticed or simply ignored by their family. Hametsu assumed that Kachiko would assume their father’s position as family daimyo, and that she would never permit him to assume a position of any real influence within the family. Assured that his fate would be mediocre at best, Hametsu turned his attention to his personal passions: gardening and herbalism. On the heels of his sister’s marriage to the Clan Champion, Hametsu’s father passed away quite suddenly. Hametsu quickly found himself installed as the Shosuro daimyo. His father’s wisdom guided his rule: he need not be a great leader, so long as he surrounded himself with those who excelled at the duties he assigned them. Hametsu took this philosophy to heart, and chose the most skilled and competent subordinates to serve him. The Shosuro family flourished, and Hametsu continued to tend the vast gardens he had created around the family’s estate, lending many new substances for his agents to use. When the Scorpion were banished across the Burning Sands following Toturi’s disappearance, Hametsu found himself in a unique position: the Senpet were fascinated by his ability to brew virulent poisons from the simplest plants, and quickly accepted him among their number to serve the Senpet leaders. Despite his newfound influence, Hametsu chafed at the reverence the Senpet offered his sister Kachiko, whom they had mistaken for some form of diving being. Succumbing to a lifetime of jealousy and resentment, Hametsu attempted to assassinate his sister with a unique poison he had created. The poison master’s attempt failed, thwarted by a vigilant Senpet guard. However, his attempt was sufficient to prove to the Senpet that Kachiko was not the Avatar they sought. Instead, they found this Avatar in Shosuro Tage, who assisted in the freeing of the Kami Shinjo from a desolate prison where she had been trapped for centuries. With Shinjo freed, the Scorpion were released and returned to Rokugan, all made possible by Hametsu’s failed attempt. His destiny complete, Hametsu was as surprised as anyone to find himself among the souls of Yomi. As wicked as he was, Hametsu had always kept the best interests of the Scorpion at heart. In the end he fulfilled his destiny well. In Yomi he found peace once more in simple gardening. Now that the Legion of the Dead has been assembled, however, Hametsu has felt a strange and unfamiliar sensation: regret. He laments his attempt to kill his sister, and wishes to atone by fighting alongside the Legion of the Dead. Whether his efforts will prove successful, or even if such efforts are necessary in the first place, remains to be seen.
Shinjo Tsuburo: The Unknown Soldier
There are no shrines devoted to the memory of Shinjo Tsuburo. No bard recites tales of his bravery and prowess in battle. No historian has studied his life and recorded his acts of heroism into the annals of history. And this is exactly as Tsuburo wished for his life to be remembered.
Shinjo Tsuburo is one of the finest soldiers to ever have ridden at the forefront of a Unicorn army. He never knew defeat on the field of battle, and yet refused every promotion or command that was offered to him by his superiors. Finally, he was called before the Unicorn Champion, Shinjo Yokatsu. The Champion offered Tsuburo the rank of taisa in the Unicorn armies, but Tsuburo refused. Yokatsu irritably insisted that Tsuburo would accept the promotion and the responsibilities it entailed, regardless of his personal wishes. This this, Tsuburo replied that he regretfully could not, but that he would gladly commit seppuku if that was his lord’s wish.
Perplexed, Yokatsu asked Tsuburo why he could not accept the rank of taisa. Tsuburo replied only that he had been born to serve as a soldier, and that he knew his destiny would be taken from him if he attempted to be any more than that. The humble warrior would rather take his own life than risk failing his lord and thwarting his destiny. Yokatsu considered the matter for some time, taking into account correspondence from several of Tsuburo s fellow soldiers, all of which offered assurances that Tsuburo would certainly get them killed if he were placed in command. The final decision was made only after Tsuburo’s older brother, the venerated Shinjo Hanari, came to Yokatsu and explained that while Tsuburo was an excellent warrior, he simply wasn’t very bright. Yokatsu immediately permitted Tsuburo to return to his unit, ordering that he would never be permitted to rise above his current rank.
Tsuburo served the Unicorn for many years until he met his end on the field of battle during the War of Spirits. He died as he lived, screaming the name of the Unicorn Clan on the front lines of a battle that most believed could not be won. The warrior died, but his unit survived and pressed onward to victory, inspired by his selflessness in battle. Now, in death as in life, Shinjo Tsuburo rides into battle in the name of his clan, his Empire, and his gods.
Makashi: The Ratling Hunter
Yoritomo Makashi first appeared (as Makashi) in Hidden Emperor 6. Makashi was once known as Hiruma Makashi, a proud Crab Clan scout. Once, while on patrol with his brother through the depths of the Shadowlands, Makashi was startled to see a terrified Ratling run past his hiding place. The Ratling was followed by a monstrous oni, the likes of which Makashi had never seen before. Makashi was watched helplessly as the oni slew his brother with a single blow then vanished in pursuit of the Nezumi. Makashi remained in his hiding place, shocked by the horrible sight. His shock turned to outrage as he saw the Nezumi carefully creep out from behind the rocks further down the road and begin picking through his brother’s possessions. The Ratling had purposefully led the oni to his brother so that it could rob his corpse. With a shrill cry Makashi leapt out onto the path and slaughtered the Ratling. Consumed with rage he followed the Nezumi’s tracks and found its village. Makashi killed every Nezumi he found there, finishing off the last of the warriors just a party of Kuni shugenja arrived.
Makashi’s fellow Crab were outraged these Nezumi had been their allies, providing food and supplies during long expeditions. Makashi explained what had happened but it made no difference – the actions of a single Nezumi did not warrant the murder of an entire tribe. Makashi was exiled from the Crab Clan. Though his hatred for the Nezumi never truly faded, it did not consume Makashi’s life. For a time he wandered as a ronin, and during the Clan War offered his services to Toturi’s Army. On the Day of Thunder he fought beside Yoritomo. When the Mantis were granted Great Clan status and the Son of Storms sought samurai to bolster his clan’s ranks, Makashi was among the first granted fealty. He served admirably during the War Against the Darkness until the March to Volturnum, when he was found mysteriously struck dead by a Nezumi arrow.
Though Makashi found a place in Yomi, he is bitter and resentful that he was robbed of a chance to find glory at Oblivion’s Gate. He sees the Legion of the Dead as his second chance, though he is profoundly disturbed at the presence of so many Nezumi among their number.
Ratling Thief: The Forgotten Thief
Ratling Thief first appeared in Shadowlands. Once, there was a great thief among the Grasping Paw tribe. He was known for his ability to go anywhere and take anything. He crafted trinkets from bones stolen from the lairs of the most dangerous oni. He wore shiny metal objects taken from the homes of Crab peasants far to the north. He even took things from other tribes that might benefit the Grasping Paw. Though his chieftain scolded him for causing trouble with the other tribes, he was never cast out, because the elders knew he could never be caught. His name was well we shall come to that part presently. Unfortunately, the day came when this thief developed a yearning for the wooden staff carried by a powerful Tattered Ear shaman. The staff was so gnarled and well-chewed that the thief knew it must be wonderful. He had to have it. But this time, the shaman’s magic was too powerful even for such a clever thief. The shaman awoke and was unhappy. The thief fled into the night, but not before the shaman used magic to steal his name forever.
The thief returned to the Grasping Paw to find that no one remembered him. To his horror, he discovered only he could remember his own name. Only he remembered that he was the greatest thief that ever lived. His tribe sensed the curse that surrounded him and cast him out, but he knew that if he could only show them what he could do, they would remember him.
For ten years, the thief lived a meager existence on the edge of Grasping Paw society. He stole greater and more incredible treasures, leaving them all for his former tribemates to find. Sometimes, when he was slinking into the most dangerous places late at night, with only the moon’s light to guide him, he wondered if his name was so important to take such risks. In the end, when he died, even he did not remember what his name was.
The Grasping Paw Rememberers do not recall why the great thief aided their clan and showered them with such gifts, but they know that the weapons and food he anonymously left behind saved many lives. They remember him not by name, but simply as the thief. Tales of the Ratling Thief have grown quite popular among the Grasping Paw, causing him to be remembered with strong fondness despite the fact he had no name. When the Transcendent combined their power to create a spirit of Tchickchuk to join the Legion of the Dead, the dream that was once the Ratling Thief was nearby. He saw great potential for adventure in the quest they gave Tchickchuk, adventure that could perhaps increase his own legend and insure he was remembered forever. So clever a thief he was that he escaped the Realm of Dream and followed Tchickchuk. Perhaps during this great adventure he might get a chance to steal a name for himself at last.
Isawa Hochiu: Son in Shadow
Isawa Hochiu first appeared in Dark Journey Home. Hochiu was the son of Isawa Tsuke, the Master of Fire who became seduced by the Black Scrolls and betrayed his clan, murdering countless Phoenix on the Day of Thunder. Following that fateful day, there were many who feared and distrusted Tsuke’s heir. Yet at the time few truly talented Phoenix shugenja had survived the Day of Thunder, and Hochiu’s magical ability could not be denied. Naka Kuro, Grand Master of the Elements, accepted Hochiu into his tutelage. He hoped that he might help the young Isawa learn keener control over his temper and baser emotions than his father displayed, and to a large degree he was successful. Isawa Hochiu became a courageous and honorable young man. During the War Against the Darkness he fought at the forefront against the servants of Nothing. At the Battle of Oblivion’s Gate it was he who stood against Goju Adorai, and he who destroyed the gate itself. He was proclaimed the new Master of Fire shortly thereafter, and regarded as one of the greatest heroes in the Empire.
Yet Tsuke’s legacy still hung heavily over young Hochiu. He watched his people in the wake of his victory. Battle had destroyed his people once, and now it had renewed them. During the War of Spirits, the cycle continued as the Steel Chrysanthemum crushed the Phoenix beneath his heel. Hochiu began to believe that only another great battle, a great victory, would renew his people as it had in the past.
Conspiring with Tamori Chosai, he made this dream a reality. Hochiu and Chosai forced the Dark Oracle of Fire, Agasha Tamori, to instigate a war between Dragon and Phoenix. Hochiu and Chosai believed that in the end they could reveal Tamori’s involvement and destroy him , granting a great victory to the Phoenix Clan. In the fires of war they would be reborn. In arrogance born from a lifetime of victory, Hochiu believed that the Dark Oracle of Fire could offer no gambit he could not counter, no plan he could not predict, and in the end he would be defeated. In final conflict with Tamori he struck a mortal blow against the Oracle, but did not survive the Oracle’s ensuing onslaught.
Hochiu’s spirit did not find a place in Yomi – since his death he is uncertain where he has been at all; he has no memory of the ensuing time. Yet when Isawa Tsuke appeared to join the Legion, his son appeared beside him. Hochiu regrets his foolishness in life. He regrets allowing himself to fall before a pawn of darkness, no matter how powerful that pawn may have been. He will cure his regret as he has solved so many of his problems in life – burn it away in the fires of battle.
The Isha: Greensnake Hero
The Isha first appeared in Shadowlands. When the Naga awakened from their slumber, they found the city of Nirukti, home of the Greensnakes, had been destroyed by superstitious humans. The son of the Isha, lead scout of the Greensnakes, had been visiting distant Siksa when the sleep came to their people. Now, through pure random chance, he was one of the few members of his bloodline to survive. He took up his father’s bow and title, becoming the new Isha. Hiding his grief for his fallen people behind a mask of good cheer and determination, Isha became a living icon for his people. Many Greensnakes who would have surrendered to melancholy and hopelessness were inspired by his example. Against all odds, they fought on.
During the Clan War, Isha was one of the first Naga to extend the hand of friendship to humans. He held no animosity for the deaths of his people. The men and women who destroyed Nirukti were long since dead. Isha knew that only by breaching the barriers of fear and ignorance between their people could another tragedy like Nirukti be prevented. He was proud to fight beside Toturi’s army in numerous battles, and came to name many humans his friends. On the Day of Thunder, Isha was there when the Qamar, leader of the Naga, fell in battle. Taking up his commander’s spear, Isha became the new Qamar.
Yet the sadness Qamar felt for vanished Nirukti never truly faded. He placed his hope in the next generation, particularly his son, Kazaq. When Kazaq was stolen by the Dragon and severed from the Akasha, the Qamar felt his son’s pain as if it were his own. At Qamar’s command, the Naga charged into battle against the humans, abandoning their Crab allies. Too late did the Qamar realize that his impetuousness had only caused more suffering, leading to the death of Hida Yakamo as well as many innocent Dragon samurai.
Seeking to make amends for his failures, the Qamar passed his title to another and became the Isha once more. While other Naga returned to their slumber, he remained awake, fighting beside the Crab Clan during the War of Spirits. He perished in battle, fighting beside Yakamo’s nephews, repaying his debt to those he had wronged. His only regret was that his lost son, Kazaq, would never know the Akasha’s embrace again. Upon learning that his son’s restless spirit has come to join the Legion of the Dead, following a vision that might lead to his reunion with the Akasha, the Isha’s spirit has ventured forth from the Akasha as well.
No Naga ever fights alone. Isha will stand beside his son, one last time.
Akodo Ijiasu: The Dragonfly Slayer
Akodo Ijiasu first appeared in the War of Spirits. Ijiasu was born to greatness. A true child of the Akodo, he was born to a mother who became ronin rather than forsake Toturi. She returned to the Lion proudly after the Battle at Oblivion’s Gate heralded her family’s return to Rokugan. Ijiasu was among the first of a new generation of Akodo, and quickly outdistanced his peers in almost every regard. Upon passing his gempukku, he received a prestigious military appointment and began a career that many of his kinsmen followed with great admiration.
When the Dragon-Phoenix war began, Ijiasu was quick to advocate the Lion’s intervention on behalf of their allies, the Phoenix. When he was finally given leave to take action, he marched his forces north to the Dragon lands, intent on fulfilling an ancient blood debt to the Dragonfly Clan. The shrewd Ijiasu led his men directly through the center of Dragonfly lands, the battle drummers of the Lion resounding a constant rhythm through the mountains. In time, a terrified Tonbo soldier lost his nerve and released an arrow upon the Lion forces, and Ijiasu announced the command to attack. In this way, he kept the Lion’s promise to never initiate hostilities with the Dragonfly, yet avenged a centuries old insult to his clan. It was not long after his victory over the Dragonfly that Ijiasu boldly declared his allegiance to the Shogun, his kinsman and friend, Akodo Kaneka. Ijiasu was the Shogun’s right hand, training his armies and leading his troops onto the field of battle. His service was glorious indeed, but in his heart, he felt doubt.
Throughout his entire life, despite all his great accomplishments, Ijiasu had never heard the voices of his ancestors. Why he should be plagued so He did not understand. None whom he trusted with is problem could offer him counsel. When Hantei Naseru was crowned Emperor Toturi III and the Shogun forced to disband his armies, Ijiasu privately wondered if he had been forsaken by his ancestors because they had seen he would fail Kaneka in his quest to obtain the throne.
Despite his misgivings, Ijiasu continued his service to Matsu Nimuro and Akodo Ginawa, and neither found his service lacking. He was serving at the City of the Rich Frog when the Unicorn attacked. He expected their attack, but not in such great number, and not so soon. He held the line against the advancing Unicorn while dispatching his rear guard to summon reinforcements. Ijiasu refused to surrender or give his enemies the pleasure of any sign of weakness. He fell in battle against a worthy foe, just as he had always dreamed he would, just as all Lions hope to do. Now, Matsu Goemon has fallen in battle at the same city and risen again to lead the Legion of the Dead. With Goemon’s return, Ijiasu has appeared from the mists of the Spirit Realms. He has no memory of the time between his death and Goemon’s arrival, and does not know what realm his soul resided in before joining the Legion.
For the first time in his existence, Ijiasu knows true fear. Can a man who could not hear his ancestors truly become one What shall become of him when the Legion’s duty is done
Mat’tck: The Betrayed Chieftan
Mat’tck first appeared in Soul of the Empire. Mat’tck was marked from an early age for great things. At less than one year of age, he killed a goblin that had wandered into his tribe’s den and killed two of his littermates. His mother and the tribe’s hunters returned to find him gnawing busily on the bakemono’s skull amid the furs where his dead siblings lay. From that day forward, the tribe elders knew that Mat’tck’s Name would one day hold great power.
Mat’tck proved equal to every expectation. He was not only the strongest and most ferocious warrior the Crippled Bone had ever seen, but he was the largest as well. His brilliant white fur was an oddity, and a liability that might have gotten another Nezumi killed, as deep as his people lived in the Shadowlands. But though Mat’tck was easier for predators to spot, he was far more difficult to kill. He used his weakness to advantage, drawing enemies into well prepared traps. Countless Shadowlands beasts fell to his claws and primitive weapons. It was a surprise to no one that Mat’tck one day became chieftain of the Crippled Bone.
Unfortunately, though Mat’tck survived many foes, it was a friend who eventually cause his demise. The shaman Te’tik’kir constantly advised Mat’tck to move north and unite the other tribes under his rule by force. Mat’tck refused, claiming that he would not abandon his tribe’s territory no matter how desolate the Shadowlands were. Te’tik’kir grew desperate, and secretly visited the Dark Oracles, and struck a secret bargain with them, hoping to drive the Crippled Bone north and force Mat’tck to obey his friend’s counsel. Mat’tck did not expect the Elemental Terrors assault, and only with Te’tik’kir’s aid did his tribe survive at all. He was furious with himself for his failure, but traveled north and claimed new territory. Before Mat’tck could attempt to unite the Nezumi tribes, however, the Dark Oracles betrayed Te’tik’kir. They attacked again, this time killing Mat’tck and nearly destroying Te’tik’kir himself before he drove the Oracles away and fled into the Shadowlands with the surviving members of the tribe. Since then, Te’tik’kir has been cursed – unable to die until the One Tribe he desired truly comes to be.
Mat’tck has shared in his friend’s curse. His spirit has been unable to pass into memory, and restlessly occupies the place in Yume-do reserved for Te’tik’kir. He now knows of his friend’s betrayal, and for decades what remains of Mat’tck has been consumed with anger. His anger is not reserved for Te’tik’kir, however, even now he cannot bring himself to hate his friend. The agony the shaman has endured in the intervening years and the curse he bears have been punishment enough. Mat’tck reserves his hatred for Jigoku, the realm of evil, whose servants brought his pain and Te’tik’kir’s about. As the human heroes gather to take the fight against evil, he can do no less. He finds it odd that two other Nezumi, creatures who do not believe in an afterlife beyond memory, find themselves in this Legion. He finds it odd that so many others are misplaced spirits and those who have defied death in some manner. He wonders if it is a coincidence at all, or if this legion of restless spirits has been brought together for a purpose beyond the one they know.
Kuni Yori: The Black Crab
Kuni Yori first appeared in Imperial Edition. For many years, Yori was regarded as one of the finest daimyo to ever lead the Kuni family. His knowledge of the Shadowlands was truly exhaustive, and he shared it openly and freely with the Hida he served alongside. With his wise counsel, the Crab took the battle to their enemy with great vigor and relish. His wisdom and vigilance were rewarded, and soon Yori became Hida Kisada’s most trusted advisor. With the ear of the Great Bear, Yori’s influence was increased tenfold. Unknown to Kisada it was power, not honor, that ever motivated Yori. He fought the Shadowlands with such vigor because he wished to be his Champion’s most powerful ally, not because he valued his clan’s duty. To Kisada, only results mattered.
It was Kuni Yori who advised his lord Kisada to consider using the Shadowlands as a weapon against the other Great Clans, and then disposing of them once Kisada rested upon the throne. Had not those clans benefited from the Crab’s protection for years, he argued And had they not ignored and derided the Crab for performing their sacred duty It was long since time they faced the horrors the Crab battled every day. With the resources of an entire Empire at his disposal, the Shadowlands could then be destroyed once and for all.
With Kisada’s blessing, Yori enacted the bargain that would unite the Crab and Shadowlands for the duration of the Clan War. Yori’s descent into darkness began at Winter Court in the Phoenix lands. Yori captured a deranged Asako and discovered the secrets of that family’s reclusive henshin sect. Knowing what chaos it would foment among the Phoenix, he revealed this information to the Isawa then prepared to retreat to the Crab lands to prepare for war, confident that the Phoenix would be preoccupied to notice his clan’s alliance with the Shadowlands until it was too late. En route home, he and his entourage were attacked by the undead general Tsukuro, who offered Yori a chance for true power, a place beside Fu Leng himself, if he aided the Horde in betraying Kisada. Yori agreed.
As a willing pawn of the Shadowlands, Kuni Yori wrought terrible devastation during the Clan War. He narrowly avoided death at the Day of Thunder, and escaped with the severed head of Fu Leng’s mortal host. There, he strove to fulfill the Burning Words, mysterious prophecy that he believed would draw the entire Moto family into the Shadowlands. Instead, the Dark Moto were betrayed and destroyed, and Yori was bound into a Naga pearl along with the soul of his former friend, the shugenja Iuchi Karasu.
Iuchiban’s recent rampage through Gisei Toshi freed both Karasu and Yori. Yori has freely joined the Legion of Blood in hopes of currying favor with Iuchiban, who has proven able to defy even Fu Leng himself. It is Yori’s restless spirit who has given Iuchiban the knowledge he requires to control Fu Leng’s Oni Lords, and Yori who has aided Iuchiban in binding Yogo Junzo’s tormented ghost. Now Yori watches and waits, either for the rewards Iuchiban will heap upon him or a chance to cast the Bloodspeaker aside and seize power for himself.
Bayushi Aramoro: Kachiko’s Enforcer
Bayushi Aramoro first appeared in Shadowlands. Aramoro was born the younger half-brother of Bayushi Shoju. Though Aramoro’s elder brother was destined to rule the Scorpion Clan, he bore no jealousy or animosity toward Shoju. Aramoro was content to serve whatever objective his brother desired. Aramoro felt in his heart he was stronger, smarter, and more capable than his brother so there was no reason for jealousy.
At a fateful Winter Court, Aramoro met the lovely Shosuro Kachiko and fell in love. Throughout the winter he sent her countless poems and gifts, hoping to win her affections. At the end of the winter, his brother gave him a box containing everything he had sent Kachiko, all cleverly diverted by Shoju while he turned his own talents toward winning Kachiko’s heart. Aramoro realized then how sorely he had underestimated his brother, and that underestimation cost him the only woman he had truly loved. Shoju and Kachiko were betrothed shortly thereafter.
Aramoro sought out the ninja masters of the Shosuro, seeking to train under them and become a better servant of the Scorpion – as well as putting as much distance between himself and Kachiko as possible. His skills developed quickly, and he soon became one of the deadliest assassins in the Scorpion Clan. For a time, he had an affair with a Scorpion agent by the name of Asami, who reminded him of Kachiko. Though their child was illegitimate, he claimed Aramasu as his own son, though he participated little in the boy’s life thereafter.
Ironically it was his great talent that called him back into his brother’s direct service. Shoju commanded Aramoro to protect his wife during the Scorpion Clan Coup, and Aramoro took the promise seriously. When Shoju perished, Aramoro prepared to give his life to defend Kachiko – but such was not required. Instead he became Kachiko’s silent servant, carrying her messages to her agents in the shadows and protecting her from unseen enemies. When the Scorpion Clan were exiled to the Burning Sands, Kachiko commanded Aramoro remain and watch over Scorpion lands. Though it pained him to be so far from her and he feared the dangers she might face in gaijin lands, he could not refuse her. In the end it was Aramoro’s unparalleled fighting prowess and cunning that earned the Scorpion the permission to return to Rokugan at the Gift of the Emperor tournament.
At the Battle of Oblivion’s Gate, Aramasu stood among the armies of the Great Clans as they battled the Lying Darkness and the Shadowlands Horde. The ninja master spied a weakness in the defenses beyond the threshold of the Gate, but knew he and his forces could not possibly fight their way through the enemy in time. Aramoro and his personal guard took their own lives so that their spirits would join the ranks of the dead on the far side of the Gate and quickly shored up the defense. They held the breach at the borders of Yomi and the mortal realm until Isawa Hochiu destroyed the Gate, and were seen no more.
Aramoro found a place in Yomi among the most celebrated Scorpion ancestors, but it pains him that his brother has so long been tormented in Gaki-do. Now that Shoju has been given a chance to redeem himself, Aramoro has appeared as well. Together they cannot fail.
Naka Kuro: The Grand Master
Naka Kuro first appeared in Imperial Edition. The name “Naka” is quite rare in Rokugan. Unlike other names samurai may bear, Naka is not a true family name at all, but a family name given by the Elemental Dragons to one individual each generation, an individual that displays the keenest mastery of the elements. It is a name that means “Understanding.” It is a name given only to the Grand Master of the Elements.
Kuro was one such master. Born to a vassal family of the Isawa, he was the most promising student that had been seen in many years. He passed his gempukku at the age of ten and mastered the teachings of his sensei by twenty-three. When Isawa Kuro realized that there was nothing more for him to learn among the Phoenix and chose to live the life of a ronin, the Elemental Council were outraged. When the Oracle of Air appeared and bestowed upon Kuro the “Naka” title, their anger swiftly faded. To be able to claim a Grand Master from their bloodline was a great honor, and such a soul could do little else but seek his own destiny. The Phoenix bid Kuro farewell with their blessings.
Though Kuro offered many important figures his counsel, he only truly accepted one apprentice. This was Morito Tokei, a young ronin shugenja who followed his shamed brother into exile. Though most saw little promise in Tokei’s magical talents, Kuro insisted that the boy would one day prove to be great. When Tokei sacrificed himself to save the village of Nanashi Mura some thought that perhaps Kuro was wrong, but the Grand Master only smiled. He knew his student’s destiny was not yet complete.
When the Clan Wars ended, Kuro returned to his homelands and saw the devastation that Isawa Tsuke had wrought. The Phoenix Clan was in ruins, the Elemental Council devastated. He could not abandon his homeland in their time of need; Kuro returned to the Phoenix and offered his services to teach a new generation of students. With his aid, the Phoenix soon returned to their full strength, and many now legendary shugenja look back fondly upon his lessons.
During the War Against the Darkness, the Lying Darkness attempted to insinuate itself into Kuro’s service and even attempted to impersonate Kuro himself. The Grand Master became one of the Darkness most formidable enemies, battling the servants of Nothing with equal measure of wisdom and power. The Darkness could appear as anyone, great or small, thus Kuro realized he could only rely upon himself. On White Oak Plain he cast a ritual to draw out the Darkness spawn that had hidden among the Phoenix. Even the Grand Master was surprised by their number, but he did not falter, and he did not fail. Though he perished alone, he kept his name and not a single Goju or Ninube escaped the Plain alive.
Even this was not the end for Naka Kuro. On the fields of Yomi he met Naka Tokei, who had not truly died but was merely banished across the Spirit Realms by the spell he had cast in Nanashi Mura so long ago. Tokei offered his student advice and direction, turning him toward the Elemental Dragons where he could claim his rightful role as the new Naka.
Kuro is not a soul to let death leave him idle. He is a Grand Master of the Elements, and shall work to maintain the balance between the elements for all eternity. He continues to do so now, in the Legion of the Dead.
Moto Gaheris: Khan of the Sands
Moto Gaheris first appeared (as Gaheris) in Shadow of the Tyrant for the Legend of the Burning Sands card game. Gaheris was born beyond the borders of Rokugan, a member of the wild desert Moto who dwelled deep in the Burning Sands. Though technically members of the Unicorn Clan, Gaheris and his followers had been left to their own devices for so long that they bore only the vaguest resemblance to their Rokugani kin. The desert Moto were a fiercely independent band of desert raiders, beholden to none of the powerful factions that ruled the sands. These Moto showed their loyalty to only one man, the Khan, Gaheris.
When the Kami Shinjo escaped her prison in the desert, Gaheris was one of the first to meet her. The divine founder of the Unicorn’s presence inspired something deep within Gaheris, feelings of duty, honor, and loyalty. He knew that the time had come for him to lead his people home. Though Rokugan promised to be a strange land unlike their desert home, the Moto were not afraid to face new challenges with Gaheris to lead them.
When Shinjo returned to discover that the Kolat had infiltrated the highest echelons of her clan, she was horrified. The Unicorn needed a new leader, someone whose loyalty and integrity were unquestionable. The clan was surprised when she named Gaheris, the leader of the Moto raiders. Yet if there was one thing that could not be questioned it was Gaheris loyalty to his people , even to those distant Rokugani cousins he had never known. He became the Champion of the Unicorn Clan, though he insisted his followers call him by his traditional title, the Khan.
Unfortunately by leading his people to a stable home, he had also called down an ancient curse upon his people. The Shi-Tien Yen-Wang, ancient gods of death that the Moto had worshipped centuries ago, still hunted their errant followers. When Gaheris died, the Lords of Death came for his soul. Via a strange mystical ritual, Gaheris’s grandson Chagatai and his loyal comrade Chen journeyed into the Realm of Slaughter to fight the Lords of Death beside Gaheris. They fought the Lords of Death to a standstill, until Chagatai offered to break the curse by honoring the Moto’s ancient gods once more. The deal was made, the Shi-Tien Yen-Wang were satisfied, and Gaheris soul was freed to enter the golden fields of Yomi.
The Khan still remembers how close he came to damnation. When he was in danger, his descendants literally rode through hell to save him. Now that Rokugan is threatened, can he do any less
The answer is obvious. The Khan now shouts his savage battle cry from the Legion of the Dead.
Z’orr’tek: The Name Keeper
Z’orr’tek first appeared in Soul of the Empire. Z’orr’tek was born to hunters of the Crooked Tail tribe. Unique among the Nezumi, his tribe understood that there were other threats in the darkness beyond the beasts that crawled from Heaven’s Grave. There were things hiding in the shadows that could take the most precious treasure a Nezumi possessed: his Name.
Unfortunately,Z’orr’tek did not recognize the threat his tribe’s great enemy posed until it was too late. As a young warrior, he and his pack-mates hunted through the plains near his home for food. In the dead of night, their Dark Enemy struck. Despite the stories he had heard all his life, Z’orr’tek was unprepared for the horror he witnessed, and stood by while a pack-mate was dragged away in the shadows, his screams of terror echoing across the plains. Z’orr’tek was shamed among his entire tribe, his Name mocked for seasons as a coward and a failure. He was left to guard the warren when other hunters went out, for none of them wanted him by their side.
It was while guarding the young litters that Z’orr’tek encountered the Dark Enemy once again. His fallen friend, taken so many seasons before, came to the warren to claim the young. His face was gone, his snout a dull, featureless lump. Z’orr’tek fought this time, and drove the Enemy away only after the lost Nezumi had bitten him deeply on the shoulder. The Crooked Tail called him a hero, and forgot his past sins, even though it took days for him to recover from his wound. When he finally awakened, he had dreamed of the Enemy and how to fight it, and a long tooth lay upon his fur where it had miraculously worked free of his flesh. By chewing on the tooth, Z’orr’tek could at last remember the name of his fallen friend, a name the entire tribe had forgotten: Jes’kik.
For years, Z’orr’tek kept the teeth of those who fell to the Dark Enemy. He risked much to acquire them, but knew that so long as he kept the teeth, those taken by the Enemy would never truly be lost. He was an old rat by the time the human armies marched south to the lost troll city, but he accompanied them anyway. He told all who would listen of the Dark Enemy, and how to fight it. He stood by when the warrior Hochiu destroyed their Enemy, and he felt relief at long last. The Names of the taken would be remembered now. Z’orr’tek’s task was done. He died upon the battlefield at Oblivion’s Gate to claim his place among the remembered departed.
When the Nezumi Transcendents summoned the memory of Tchickchuck to fight alongside the Legion of the Dead, so too did they summon Z’orr’tek. His dedication and valor are legend among the Nezumi even today, and few doubt his ability to stand against the darkness, no matter its source.
Ide Tadaji: Heart of the Unicorn
Ide Tadaji first appeared in Imperial Edition. Ide Tadaji’s tenure in the courts began as a circumstance of his birth. It was obvious only moments after birth that one of the infant’s feet was misshapen, and that such a deformity would likely prevent him from ever serving as a true soldier. For Tadaji, there would be no glory in battle. Hoping to salvage something from the boy, the Ide apprenticed him to the great shugenja Iuchi Daiyu, but it soon became evident that the young man possessed no aptitude with the kami, either. Although Tadaji was crushed, Daiyu arranged for him to be sent to a monastery in Dragon lands, where he could learn more about Rokugan to aid the Unicorn.
The Tadaji who returned to Unicorn lands was a different person. He was admitted to the Calm Heart Dojo and quickly demonstrated a new strength of will and an amazing ability to quickly adapt to new situations. He impressed his sensei so greatly that he was appointed as an advisor to the Unicorn Champion immediately following his gempukku, where he soon helped Shinjo Yokatsu impress the visiting Emperor. As a reward, Tadaji was appointed to the Imperial Court to oversee all the Unicorn’s interests in the that august assemblage.
The Imperial Court became Tadaji’s home for decades. Although he struggled to gain acceptance at first, his winning demeanor and crafty nature soon allowed him to make allies in virtually every clan. His quick thinking allowed him to survive many dramatic conflicts that ruined dozens of careers throughout the court. Even when his son perished in the Clan War, Tadaji persevered. When Emperor Toturi I began searching for a personal advisor, there was no finer choice than Ide Tadaji.
In his twilight years, Tadaji was instrumental in holding the Empire together while the Four Winds battled over the throne. He worked with the Miya to reconvene the Imperial Court, and trained his hand-picked successor, the ever skillful Doji Tanitsu. When he finally died, it was in comfort and satisfaction of a life well lived in service to his clan and Emperor. His death was mourned throughout the Unicorn lands, and the Khan himself spent a full day meditating in a shrine built in Tadaji’s honor.
In the paradise of Yomi, Tadaji is young again. He is whole and healthy, his form not cursed with the infirmities he overcame during his lifetime. For the first time in his existence, he knows the thrill of battle and the joy of riding carefree through the plains. Though he could fulfill the role of a warrior with the Legion of the Dead, he realizes this is not his true strength. Instead he offers that which is most valuable his unmatched experience at helping others resolve their disputes, an invaluable trait in a group with so many varied strong personalities as the Legion of the Dead.
Toku: The True Samurai
Toku first appeared in Imperial Edition. Unlike many of Rokugan’s greatest heroes, Toku was not born to greatness. It was random chance that led the unnamed farming village to become the target of a marauding bandit army. Only a handful of samurai were there to protect them, all led there by random chance. Among them was Hidemasa, a dishonored son of the Ikoma house. When Hidemasa saw the samurai and villagers standing together against such impossible odds, he remembered the honorable man he once was. He taught the men and women to fight. He read to them from Akodo’s Leadership. In the end, though Hidemasa and the other samurai died to the last man, the village survived.
A young boy among the farmers was so inspired by the samurai’s example that he chose to become like them. Taking the bandit lord’s daisho, Hidemasa’s scroll of Leadership, and an Otaku steed this unlikely hero set out to find his way in the world. He took a new name for himself as well, Toku, a name meaning simply “virtue.” Wandering the Empire, Toku found he was able to pass for a ronin samurai. He participated in the Topaz Championship, was recruited into Kakita Toshimoko’s legion during the Clan Wars, and eventually found himself among the many ronin heroes who founded Toturi’s Army.
Though Toku was not the quickest swordsman, strongest warrior, or most cunning tactician his boundless energy and steel determination was an inspiration to his fellow ronin. Though he was not well educated, his simple wisdom often found solutions to the most difficult problems. When times were darkest, he gave Toturi the hope to carry on.
When Toturi ascended the throne, he asked Toku to become the Captain of his Imperial Guard. Toku could live with the lie he had been living no longer. Though he had begun the path of the samurai innocently enough, in his travels he had come to realize how serious a crime it was for a peasant to pretend to be a samurai. He humbly presented himself before Toturi and confessed his crimes, expecting to be summarily executed. Instead, Toturi pardoned Toku for his crimes, claiming that Toku was ‘the truest of all samurai.’ Though not born to the role, he had embraced honor, courage, and the other virtues of bushido in a manner that shamed many who supposedly deserved the station. He was made not only Captain of the Imperial Guard, but became the daimyo of the Monkey Clan as well. Overwhelmed by the faith his friend and Emperor had shown him, Toku swore to serve Toturi’s line faithfully for al his days.
Toku did not forget his promise. He returned from retirement after Toturi’s death, offering his wisdom and service to the Four Winds during their struggle for the throne. When Iuchiban rose, Toku returned from retirement a second time. This time he marched forth to lead the Imperial Legions against the Bloodspeaker. In the city of Gisei Toshi, Toku volunteered to slip out of the city with the Black Scrolls so that they would not fall into Iuchiban hands. Along with his son, Kyoji, and the Crane bushi Doji Midoru, the three fled through the mountains. When Yajinden followed them, Toku remained behind, confident in the knowledge that his son carried the Black Scrolls. Using a potion bomb crafted by the Dragon, Toku collapsed the pass upon himself and the immortal Bloodspeaker. Though Yajinden survived, the powerful Black Scrolls remained safely beyond his grasp.
Having died so recently fighting the Bloodspeakers, Toku was immediately drawn to the battle against their minions in the Spirit Realms. Never having set a foot in Yomi, the greatest hero of the Clan War now raises his katana and charges into battle beside the Legion of the Dead.
Hantei XVI: The Steel Chrysanthemum
Hantei XVI first appeared in the War of Spirits. All samurai know that the Emperor is the Son of Heaven, and can do no wrong. Yet in the history of Rokugan, there are many Emperors the Ikoma Histories prefer not to dwell upon. Hantei XVI is one of them. During his reign, he was the most brutal Emperor the Empire had ever known. He set the clans upon one another with murderous glee, tortured and executed all who defied him, and sought out enemies in every shadow with a paranoid mania. In the end, his own samurai turned against him.
When he died, his soul was hurled onto the bloody plains of Toshigoku where he wandered in torment with his loyal champion, Hida Tsuneo. For centuries he wandered, still bemoaning the treachery that cast him from the throne, plotting his revenge. During the Battle of Oblivion’s Gate, the Hantei saw his chance. Stealing back into the land of the living, he hatched a plot to retake his lost throne.
Many other spirits of the dead had returned through the Gate and had become trapped in the mortal realm, and many had a great deal of time adjusting to life in modern Rokugan. Some returned spirits wished to return to their previous posts and duties or disapproved of the actions of their descendants. For their part, many modern samurai were uncertain how to react to their long-dead ancestors now made flesh once more. Hantei XVI capitalized on this, building on the prejudices between spirits and mortals. Building a following of resentful spirits and their loyal descendants, he staged a rebellion against Toturi I. Few were prepared for the massive following the Steel Chrysanthemum had gathered. The War of Spirits consumed Rokugan for many years, until the spirit army’s final defeat at Beiden Pass.
Hantei XVI did not die in the battle, though he was captured by Toturi’s forces. Toturi knew that the Hantei still had many loyal supporters in high places throughout the clans, and he could not bring himself to mistreat a fellow Emperor no matter how dishonorable an opponent he might be. Thus a peace treaty was forged. The Steel Chrysanthemum was placed under permanent house arrest, but in return for his cooperation he was allowed to take one of Toturi’s children as his apprentice. This student was Naseru, also known as the Anvil. Naseru took the Hantei name and learned the Chrysanthemum’s lessons well.
But all of this was only part of a greater plan. Learning of Naseru’s affections for the daughter of the Otomo daimyo, Hantei brokered a marriage with her. He attacked Hoketuhime in Naseru’s presence, hoping that Naseru would attack him and break his father’s treaty. The old Emperor was confident in his ability to kill Toturi’s son and then summon his followers to begin the War of Spirits anew. Yet he underestimated Hoketuhime, and she struck the wicked Emperor down even as he battled Naseru.
The Hantei’s spirit returned to Toshigoku, but not for long. The barriers between the Realm of Slaughter and the Realm of Evil are thin, and when seeking tormented souls to join the Legion of Blood, the Steel Chrysanthemum was an obvious choice.
What better ally against Emperor Toturi III, once known as Hantei Naseru, than the madman who was once his teacher