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The forces of the Shadowlands rise to unheard of powers when Yogo Juzo, the corrupt minion of Fu Leng appears in the Empire leading a vast army of goblins, oni, ogres, trolls, and other foul creatures. A portion of this force detaches itself from the main body of the Shadowlands horde and links up with the False Hoturi.

Doji Hoturi is rescued from Kachiko's clutches by an unknown servant, and transported away from Otosan Uchi. Lucid, but greatly weakened, Hoturi is able to get word to Toshimoko of what has occurred. During this time, the False Hoturi's forces have been systematically destroying the main Crane Clan fortifications. The Cranes are forced back and back - never able to achieve victory, but never being completely defeated.

Toturi finds himself surrounded by the remains of the Dragon forces detailed to his command by Yokuni, along with many ronin who entered his service during the battles at Beiden Pass. After months of combat, this army has become a battle-hardened force of superior strength and arms, used to living off the land and the gifts of the peasants. Incredibly, the man once reviled throughout the Empire as the ultimate disgrace has restored his honor in the eyes of many, and now leads one of the most powerful military forces in the Empire. Instead of turning his attentions to the petty civil war the rest of the Clans are fighting, Toturi, listening to the Naga who have come to advise him, sets his sights clearly on the main body of the Shadowlands Horde.

Mirumomoto Hitomi reaches Togashi Yokuni and engages in an extensive, secret dialog with him. When she is finished, she returns home to the Mirumoto Lands to raise and equip a new army of Dragon bushi, and Yokuni vanishes from the Dragon Clan lands. He travels south by means unknown, and holds a secret rendezvous with Kachiko. Kachiko knows a terrible, terrible secret - the Emperor has become possessed by a foul spirit, and the power and evil of that spirit can be only one person.

The Emperor of Rokugan, Son of Heaven, is the Dark God, Fu Leng.

Yokuni tells Kachiko that the return of Fu Leng was long prophesied. The wards kept strong by the Black Scrolls have now been so weakened that Fu Leng is able to physically control a mortal body. Out of revenge for his original defeat, Fu Leng chose the Emperor himself. However, Fu Leng could not have known that the Emperor's illness was not caused by disease, but by the poisons Kachiko continues to administer. Unable to take a new host, the Emperor is trapped in a body unable to stand, unable to walk, unable to do anything other than scream in anger.

But the power of Fu Leng continues to grow, as each Black Scroll is opened and read. Soon, he will be able to overcome the infirmaries of his host body and then the Empire will know an eternity of darkness - the revenge of Fu Leng.

Yokuni instructs Kachiko on the things that must now be done. A great cycle is ending, and the future is in the balance. She must return to the palace, despite her fear, and continue to poison the Emperor's body - keeping Fu Leng as weak as possible for as long as possible. She must also hide the knowledge of his return from the rest of the Empire as best she can - such information would surely tear the Empire's fragile civilization asunder.

Yokuni reveals that the lineal descendant of Shinsei himself walks the Empire as they speak. Shinsei's descendant is aware of his place in the cosmic drama as well - the Seven Thunders of legend have been reborn in this time and place to face their ancient foe, and Shinsei's descendant will locate them, instruct them, and gather them together for the final confrontation.

While Kachiko is away from the palace, the guards at Otosan Uchi detect a massive fleet of ships sailing northward up the coast. Incredibly, the Crab Clan have constructed troop ships in secret and have used them to move their army, unseen, north to attack the capitol directly.

The Lion Clan armies who guard Otosan Uchi deploy across the plains surrounding the city. They are lead by the hot-headed but tactical genius Matsu Tsuko. Tsuko assembles her command staff on a hill overlooking the Plains of Otosan Uchi and prepares to direct the battle. To her left are the massed armies of the Lion, and to her right, the dark and ominous presence of the Crab army, reinforced with oni summoned from jingoku.

Before the battle begins, a messenger appears from the Capitol. As Tsuko reads the message, the blood drains from her face, and she drops to her knees, fists clenched. The message is simple - Tsuko is to allow the battle to be fought without her direction. She has no idea why such an order would be issued. There is no rational reason for the defense of the Capitol to be so compromised. But the chop on the order is the one mark she cannot ignore - the one sigil that commands obedience.

It is the signature of the Emperor himself.

The armies clash in a day of ferocious battles. The Crab forces ultimately win through, for despite the ferocity of the Lion bushi, without direction they are unable to maintain an effective strategy across the entire battlefield. As the Lion forces finally break and run, the triumphant Crab army, lead by Hida Kisada himself stride to the great oaken doors of the palace and hew them from their mounts.

Kisada, Yakamo, and a small detachment of bushi enter the palace to confront the Emperor. They fight their way past the remaining Imperial Guards, finally locating the Emperor's inner chambers.

What happened within remains uncertain to this day. What is known for sure is that Yakamo emerged, carrying the body of Kisada. Both men were splattered with blood, and Kisada had suffered a grievous injury. The source of that wound, the Ancestral Sword of the Hantei still lay lodged in his gut as Yakamo dragged his father from the Imperial palace. The Crab army retreated as well, and as dawn broke over the plains of Otosan Uchi, none remained to witness the new day fall on the blood stained fields.

[ The following is a quick summary of "off screen" events that occur on or about this time ]

The chaos in the Empire leads to a rise in banditry and criminal acts. The Unicorn Clan assumes a large role in trying to stop this tide of crime, seeking out the various bandit groups and evil shugenja and putting them down. The peasants gain a newfound respect for the Unicorn as the guardians of what little peace and security they retain.

Yogo Junzo receives new commands from his master. He is to begin destroying the monastaries of the Shintao - the Brotherhood of Shinsei. His mission is to find the descendant of Shinsei and kill him before he can reunite the Seven Thunders.

Most of the Clans split into two factions - one that realizes the horror growing like a cancer at the center of the Empire, and the other that seeks to gain advantage in the civil war and the contest for the Emerald Throne.

Many of the minor clans of the Empire are enticed to enter an alliance lead by the Mantis Clan, the most powerful of the minor clans. A man named Yoritomo leads the Mantis, who are mercenary bushi located mainly on the islands laying just off the eastern coast of Rokugan. The alliance consists of bushi and shugenja from across the Empire, united by a common cause: Stop the bloodshed, force the Great Clans to honor their ancient obligations and oaths, and ensure that the Empire is saved from those who would destroy it.


 

 


 

 

 

Kaze no Shiro Return

 

Togashi will return!