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Dawn of the Spider

Daigotsu Ogiwara knelt before his lord, his head bowed to the floor. He was not worthy to look upon the idols to the Dark Kami that stood in Daigotsu's personal temple. Even when the shuffling of robes halted immediately before him, he could not bring his eyes upward. The majesty of the splendor before him was too much. He could not bear it.

"Ogiwara." The voice was smooth, silken, almost serpentine. It was the voice of power, the sound of true majesty given human form.

"Yes Master?" Ogiwara whispered.

"Are you prepared to do what must be done? Are you prepared to accept the burden and responsibility that comes with the oath you will make? Do you understand what it means to take this oath?"

"Yes, my lord," he croaked. "It is my great honor."

"Of course it is," Daigotsu said with a smile. "Your blade." Ogiwara drew his katana and held it before Daigotsu, finally bringing his gaze up to meet that of the Dark Lord of the Shadowlands. The blade was pitch black, as befitting one of the Lost's elite Obsidian Legionnaires. "Will you spill your blood for me and mine?"

"Without hesitation," Ogiwara said instantly. "Every drop is yours."

"And will you give of your blood, your flesh, your very soul, in the name of our lord Fu Leng?"

"Yes," he answered reverently. "I desire nothing more."

"So be it," Daigotsu replied. He drew a curved, wicked-looking blade from within his obi and held it with its tip against his open palm. "As you shall bleed for me, so shall I bleed for you. And together, we will bleed for Fu Leng." He drew the edge across his palm slowly. The blood that bubbled out was impossibly bright, seeming all the more brilliant for all the obsidian that surrounded them. It spilled from Daigotsu's palm and onto Ogiwara's blade. He held the flat end up, allowing the blood to pool on the black steel just above the tsuba. Ogiwara stared at it, transfixed by the sanctity of it all.

"Place your palm upon the bloodied steel," Daigotsu instructed.

Reverently, Ogiwara placed his hand over the blood as instructed. The pain was sudden and intense, but brief. The soldier did not move his hand away, despite the burning and the scent of seared flesh. After a moment, the sensation was gone, replaced with a cool, steady aching. "Take your hand from the blade, Ogiwara," Daigotsu instructed.

The legionnaire did as commanded. Slowly, he lifted his shaking hand to his face, staring at the palm, then the blade, and back again. On both, the image of a spider, looming and sinister, was emblazoned within a circle. It was a familiar style of image, one that Ogiwara had seen before, in a different lifetime. "A mon," he said softly.

"Our mon," Daigotsu corrected, shifting his stance to display the brilliant matching mon covering his own heart. "Stand, Daigotsu Ogiwara, servant of the Spider Clan. Stand and join your brothers in renewed service of Fu Leng."

Had Ogiwara been a weaker man, he might have wept.

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Daigotsu washed the blood from his palm in the basin of water near his seat. The others had gone now, their ceremonies completed. They had returned to their duties, renewed and reinvigorated. It was refreshing, really. He had not expected that. The blood washed off easily enough, and he ran a single finger along his palm. The cut had already vanished, and no scar remained to indicate it had been there at all.

"The ceremony today was different."

He smiled without turning around. "Of course it was, Shahai-sama. It must be what is needed for each group. Today's group were particularly pious, devoted individuals. They needed to see that they would be treated with respect for their devotion."

"Interesting, I suppose," Shahai said, gazing out the opening that led to the balcony. She gently rocked the small cloth bundle in her arms. "And how do you find our new home?"

"One of our new homes, my love," Daigotsu said. "And while it pales in comparison to the to the Temple of the Ninth Kami, I think it shall suffice for now." He strode across the room and placed a hand at Shahai's elbow, guiding his wife and child out onto the balcony. "It is a grand beginning for our son's future Empire, don't you think?"

The vast Shinomen Mori stretched out before them, as far as the eye could see in every direction.

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The Spider Clan

The Khan's Defiance expansion heralds the first appearance of what will become a new faction in the Legend of the Five Rings: The Spider Clan. The Spider Clan are the chosen servants of Daigotsu, those among the Lost who possess the strength, the conviction to do what must be done in the name of their Dark Lord and his sinister fallen god. But why now, after centuries, would the denizens of the Shadowlands demand the right to stand as a Great Clan? And even more importantly, who in the empire would recognize or accept such a claim?

There is no question among those who study such unpleasant subjects that Daigotsu is the most successful leader that has ever arisen in the Shadowlands. It was under his guidance that the Lost were forged from a chaotic band of barely coherent madmen into a dark empire worthy of Fu Leng's blessing. He created the City of the Lost and the Temple of the Ninth Kami. It was through his machinations that Fu Leng was able to escape Meido and ascend to Tengoku, where he waged his dark war against the forces of the Celestial Heavens before returning to his rightful place in the Realm of Evil. And yet, for all his successes, Daigotsu ultimate plans were repeatedly thwarted, first by the Four Winds and later by the Bloodspeaker, Iuchiban. Defeated blossomed into hatred and Daigotsu longed to destroy Toturi III's empire.

In time, however, Daigotsu came to understand the error of his ways. Wrath and vengeance were the path to ultimate defeat, like that suffered by his predecessors. Subtlety was the key to victory, and a degree of subtlety that the Shadowlands had never thought to em ploy before. In order for the Shadowlands to be victorious, daigotsu would have to prevent the clans from recognizing him as a threat, a situation that inevitably resulted in their unifying against him. No, to defeat the clans they must be allowed to war with one another without pause, manipulated from behind the scenes by a force that slowly grew in power even as the clans were constantly weakened. And who better to enact such a plot than the Lost?

It could be said that the Lost are the most pious of all mankind. Like all Great Clans, they hold incredible reverence for the Kami that created the traditions they embrace. Unlike other clans, however, they hold Fu Leng above any and all others, eschewing the worship of Fortunes, study of the Tao of Shinsei and all other distractions that cripple the minds of their weaker cousins in Rokugan. The Lost are devoted to Fu Leng alone, whereas the other clans dilute their worship. Furthermore, the worship of Fallen Kami is one of absolute certainty. He is not revered as an ancestor or as a historical figure, but as a literal and absolute deity, one whose blessings and retribution have been seen firsthand time and time again throughout the years. Why should Fu Leng not receive the same accolades as his lesser siblings? If the Great Clans exist merely because they were created by one of the Kami, or even by a Kami's descendant in the case of the Mantis Clan, then who are the Rokugani to claim that Fu Leng's adherents are not equally deserving of such a right?

The fact that Daigotsu formally petitioned the Emperor for the right to declare the creation of a Great Clan was a great shock to everyone in the Empire. Unfortunately, Emperor Toturi III died without passing judgment on the petition, and this gives the Dark Lord more leeway than might be expected. Only the Emperor can rule on such a petition, and even though Empress Kurako was quick to denounce the Lost and their request upon her ascendancy as regent, there are those in the Empire who question her ability or even her right to rule, and to accept her denouncement would be tacit approval of it. In this way, the constant infighting of the clans serves the Shadowlands' agenda.

With the throne empty and the clans at one another's throats, the ideal conditions for Daigotsu's gambit now exist in the Empire. Months ago, the dark lord learned of a means by which repentant Lost were escaping the Shadowlands, escorted to safety within the Empire by traitors within his midst with the help of agents of his enemy, the Jade Champion. Using this means of entry, the Lost have been infiltrating the Empire for months, moving in small groups and establishing hidden strongholds in the most unlikely places: the deepest reaches of the vast Shinomen Mori, the abandoned ruins of Otosan Uchi, and the collapsed and abandoned Beiden pass. From these vantage points, the Lost are able to contact those that might serve as allies: the greedy, the vengeful, the weak-willed and the ambitious. These strange samurai, representatives of the Spider Clan, offer their targets their heart's desire, and for so small a price. Gradually the Spider's web entangles the foolish and selfish, until they are so hopelessly mired that they are the Lost's allies, willingly or otherwise.

Ultimately, what is Daigotsu's purpose in this bold new venture? What does he hope to accomplish in the creation of this Spider Clan? It is a gesture of respect for his god, the dark lord Fu Leng, that is true. It is likewise true that he wishes to incense the most righteous among the clans, driving them to fervor and misdirecting their wrath to straw men and sacrificial lambs. The entire endeavor is a plot to undermine and infiltrate the Great Clans to such an extend that it is possible for the Lost to finally seize control of the Empire of Rokugan. All of these things are true, and yet there is more: Daigotsu has a son. His son shall be the perfect union of Fu Leng's blessing and the Hantei bloodline. When he grows to be a man, he will be a warrior and a sorcerer the likes of which the world has never known. Daigotsu has vowed that his son will, upon the day of his gempukku, inherit an empire, and from that empire conquer the world. This much is certain. It has been foretold in a prophecy of blood, and nothing can avert it. Daigotsu has sworn that he shall be the herald of a new order, an order of darkness. There is no room for doubt.

And yet... one thing plagues the dark lord. One thing nags at the edge of his mind, fraying his certainty with questions. Even as the Lost have become the Spider Clan, there are others that have appeared among them. Strangers come from across the vast Burning Sands to seek his audience. They are called the Jackals, and they are vile, reprehensible creatures. Necromancers is the name they give themselves, but Daigotsu knows that they are little more than creative buffoons, binding the souls of the dead to ragged, nearly useless flesh. Were it not for the insistence of his ally the Ghul Lord, he would have destroyed them rather than favor them with an audience, but the Ghul Lord has beseeched him to pay heed to their warnings. The Jackals have urged Daigotsu to consolidate his power quickly. Something sinister is growing in power beyond the borders of Rokugan, something that will consume the Shadowlands and use its forces as pawns in its struggle.

There is a greater darkness in the world than the Spider Clan, and if Daigotsu cannot claim an empire in the name of his sinister god, then soon there may be precious little remaining to be claimed.


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