Embers of War: Story
by Shawn Carman
The Ki-Rin’s Path was a long and arduous trek, consisting of weeks of overland travel from the most remote, westernmost regions of the Unicorn Clan’s holdings before finally reaching the northern reaches of the Colonies. Despite the difficulty of the trip, Moto Isul adored it completely for many reasons, not the least of which were the raucous celebrations his people held at Journey’s End City upon their eventual arrival in the Colonies. More so than many of his clansmen, Isul suffered from wanderlust the likes of which could not be tamed. Remaining in one place for more than one week began to sour his disposition to the point that he was eventually unsuitable for companionship, or so he had been told. Thus the duty of caravan escort had been given to him, and he had never been happier with any detail he had endured.
The stone formation that Isul had come to recognize as the mid-way point of the trip was looming on the northern facing of the path. It was a welcome sight, not only because it indicated that the terrain from here on out would be smoother and less rocky, but the weather would quickly become much warmer. He always enjoyed those portions of the trip more, when the freezing temperatures of the Empire were not nipping at his back.
A dust cloud was rising up to the northwest. That typically meant a sandstorm was coming in from the western wastes, and that put a damper on Isul’s mood somewhat. Something about it bothered him, though… something he could not quite put his finger on. He stared at the cloud for several minutes, his frown growing deeper as he did so. And then it occurred to him: the wind was blowing the wrong way.
“Riders!” he shouted at the top of lungs. “Riders approaching!’
Isul drew his blade. There were far too many of them for it to be anything other than an attack force on the move, and moving fast.
Daigotsu Kazuko looked over the scouting reports and nodded appreciatively. The level of detail was suitable for the advancement he had in mind. The damnable decree from the new Imperial Governor had complicated things beyond measure, and attempting to adjust the clan’s detailed plan of advancement into the as of yet unexplored regions of the Colonies was proving more difficult than he had imagined. He had a number of fronts that were ready to be pushed into already, and several incursion forces that were standing ready.
Kazuko frowned and placed his finger on one of the symbols on the map. It was the symbol for a temple, but with a character notation that indicated size. It was far too large, as large as the massive temples in the Second City or even in the Imperial City back in the Empire, and yet here it was, located squarely in the densest, most hostile reaches of the Colonial jungles. It made no sense at all there, unless…
“The Ruhmalites,” Kazuko said quietly, smiling. “At last.”
Akodo Uehara grimaced as he entered the library. The weather outside was abominably cold, as was to be expected at this time of year, and his shoulder ached miserably. The wound he had suffered as a young man had healed long ago, but only partially, and it seemed he would go to the next wold with it troubling him, asssuming it was cold in the realm his soul would eventually reach.
As Uehara replaced the scrolls he had taken for the evening, his eyes wandered as they so often did to the small table that held the library’s single copy of De Bellis Yoditorum, a treatise on gaijin tactics that was often found in libraries throughout the Lion land. Uehara felt quiet confident that it was the only gaijin work found anywhere in the entire province, quite possibly the whole of Lion territory. It was in a format called a book, which the elder samurai found distateful, yet respected it for its ability to contain a great amount of information in a relatively portable manner. No, he did not take offense from its existence on its physical form, but rather its necessity.
De Bellis Yoditorum was a work that detailed the strategies and tactics of a vast Empire of warriors known as the Yodotai, who existed far beyond the boundaries of Rokugan. If the information on them from the book was accurate, then they were a threat the likes of which no one had ever even conceived. The tought that they continued to exist out there somewhere was far from comforting, and privately Uehara hoped that they would never encounter Rokugan or any of its Colonies.
A chill ran through Uehara suddenly. It caused his shoulder to ache terribly.
Embers of War is the first expansion for the popular Emperor Edition of the Legend of the Five Rings Collectible Card Game, and as such it brings a great deal to the table in terms of story. As the set’s story begins, we begin to see the true ramifications of the new Imperial Governor’s decree, as the clans that have claimed vast stretches of land in the as-yet largely unexplored regions of the Colonies must fight to keep their claims, both against the deadly forces hidden within the wilderness, and against one another.
While the clans struggle with one another, constantly on the brink of open hostility, some find difficulties outside the Colonies as well. Although infrequent attacks from desperate bandits have been an issue before, the Unicorn suddenly come under attack by a large, organized force while escorting Imperial goods between the Empire and the Colonies. Surprised and determined to protect their charges, the Unicorn have no choice but to fall back to a secondary route, leaving a smaller force to fight to the death as a delaying tactic to insure their Imperial cargo is not captured. News of the attack quickly reaches both the Colonies and the Empire, where the opportunistic Mantis are eager to use it as an opportunity to divert trade to the sea routes instead.
At last returned to a close semblance of their former might after more than two decades of rebuilding, the Lion find themselves a military powerhouse in an environment devoid of enemies. The Dark Naga’s forces are a frustrating foe, using small unit tactics and hit-and-run assaults that are impossible to pursue. It is with a mixture of eagerness and alarm, then, that the senior sensei of the Akodo recognize hints of the strategies employed in De Bellis Yoditorum in the attacks conducted against the Unicorn Clan along the Ki-Rin’s Path. Yearning to prove themselves and discover the truth, the Lion press the Unicorn to grant them leave to patrol the route to the Colonies, but the recent blood feud between the Unicorn Khan and the late Lion Champion threatens to block any attempt at cooperation, and dramatically increases tension between the two clans.
Meanwhile, the Spider are a clan divided. Many among their ranks are infuriated by the Imperial Governor’s decree that permits the other clan entry into those regions previously earmarked for the Spider alone, while others look upon the difficulty those clans have experienced in the unexplored regions with great amusement. Regardless of the nature of their lull in activity, the Spider Clan’s leaders decide to make good use of the time, building up their holdings throughout the regions they control and concentrating their efforts on the Cult of Ruhmal, a secretive and elusive enemy that has avoided the full measure of the Spider’s wrath for more than twenty years. With the clans pouring into the unexplored regions, however, a surprising discovery is made by the Spider, one that might give them the opportunity to visit final vengeance upon their hated foes once and for all…