The Empire Reborn
IN THE BEGINNING, THERE WAS NOTHING
Eventually, the Nothing receded, and into existence came beings of vast, almost unknowable power. Amaterasu, the Lady Sun, and Onnotangu, the Lord Moon, were the greatest of these, and together, husband and wife gave names to all that was, creating the mortal realm of Ningen-do, as well as many other spirit realms and all that dwelled within them. Thus it was that the universe was born.
Lady Sun and Lord Moon had ten children, sons and daughters who were much beloved by their mother. Their father, however, recognized that the children had the potential to grow more powerful than he, and that their mother loved them more than him. These were unacceptable circumstances, and the anger and jealousy grew within Onnotangu until he could bear it no longer. One after another, he pursued his children, defeated them, and devoured them. After each one, his wife brought him sake with poison, and after nine children, Onnotangu fell into a slumber. When he awakened, he discovered his last son, Hantei, ready to face him, prepared by the Lady Amaterasu. Their battle was fierce, and Hantei cut his father open, allowing his siblings to spill forth and tumble from the Celestial Heavens, falling far to the mortal realm. Unwilling to leave his siblings to face this alone, Hantei accompanied them.
In the mortal realm, the children of the Sun and Moon, who became known as the Kami, found tribes of men and woman scattered across the portion of the land where they came to rest. Eight of them, for two disappeared during the fall, held a tournament to determine who among them would be the leader, and Hantei was victorious. Declaring himself the first Emperor of Rokugan, Hantei bid his siblings to go out and gather followers, which they did. Each of the seven siblings who stood with Hantei went out and gathered mortals to their banner, creating the original Great Clans of Rokugan.
- Hida, the great warrior, strongest mortal in the world, created the Crab Clan.
- Doji, the gentle spirit and creator of Rokugan’s society, formed the Crane Clan.
- Togashi, the mysterious and contemplative, created the Dragon Clan.
- Akodo, greatest commander of men to ever take the field, led the Lion Clan.
- Shiba, the scholar and philosopher, created the Phoenix Clan.
- Bayushi, the master of lies, created the Scorpion Clan.
- Shinjo, the compassionate lover of nature, created the Ki-Rin Clan.
- (Later on came the last of the Great Clans, the Mantis Clan. I’ll change this link once we get going)
The Empire of Rokugan was created as a reflection of the perfect harmony and order found in the Celestial Heavens, the realm of Lady Sun and Lord Moon and the original home of the Kami. Each of the Kami granted their name to their immediate family members, specifically their spouse and children, as well as to those who swore fealty to them. In this way, each created a large family to govern the clan they created. Other families soon came into being as powerful servants proved their worth to the Kami. These sworn vassals soon became the samurai caste, the nobles of the Empire, sworn to service to their families and clans.
The vast majority of these samurai were warriors known as bushi, individuals sworn to live and die in the name of their lords. A smaller number, those skilled in the political and social arts, instead took to the courts of their lords to pursue the agendas that would place their clan in the Emperor’s graces; in the courts, a whisper is as deadly as a blade. A still smaller portion, gifted from birth with the natural ability to speak to the elemental spirits that comprise all that exists in the mortal realm, become priests of the kami, as such spirits are called, and are known as shugenja. As members of the samurai caste, shugenja command the same rights and responsibilities as the others, but additionally have the power to command the elements themselves
Rokugan is an Empire of warriors, although the nature of war that a samurai wages depends upon the duties assigned to them by their lords. Throughout the long history of the Emerald Empire, countless wars have been waged, both between the clans and against a host of supernatural enemies. Under the watchful eye of its Emperors, the Empire has flourished with the blessings of the Celestial Heavens. Wars have come and gone, and will come again.
And when they do, the samurai of Rokugan shall stand in the name of the clan, their family, and their Emperor, and they shall die for their honor.
THE TOTURI EMPERORS AND THE GAIJIN PLAGUE
Following the events in Rokugan known as the Spirit Wars that resulted in the final end of the Hantei line, the Jade Empire settled into a century of peace under the new Toturi Emperors. The Toturi produced a line of rulers known for their keen understanding of the people of Rokugan, and justly balanced the prosperity of both the peasants and the nobility.
The Great Clans, under the firm leadership of the Toturi Emperors, worked toward peace. Conflicts gradually ceased along Clan borders, although the Shadowlands, still lacking in any centralized leadership after the fall of the Demon God Fu Leng, continued to attack the Carpenter’s Wall. However, with the Crab able to focus on their ancestral duty, the Tainted creatures from the south were contained. A great festival was held in the imperial city of Otosan Uchi to celebrate the first centennial of the Toturi’s Empire, presided over by Emperor Toturi IV. The future of Rokugan looked bright, until the festival’s final day…
No one knows where the strange Gaijin ships came from. As the fog lifted from the shore of Otosan Uchi on the final day of the festival, they were beached upon the shore. Two strange vessels, tall of mast and broad of keel. No one answered a call, no form stirred upon their decks, no men clung to the tattered rigging or worked the ragged sails. After the initial fear had passed, the revelers moved to explore the ships. But they found only death. A death that could not be escaped.
It was a fever matched with a discoloration of the skin around the throat. It could lurk for days before appearing, following the revelers home to every corner of the empire before striking them down. No shugenja’s magic, no monk’s cure, no wise man’s herbs could stop it. Within a year, the land was in chaos. Whole towns were gone. Population centers emptied, as peasants fled to the hills and mountains. Field lay fallow. Bandits roamed en-masse, taking what they would. Brief battles flared as Clan blamed Clan, but quickly fizzled as entire armies deserted or fell ill.
In the second year of the plague, it began to disappear. The Clans struggled to pull themselves together. Many great leaders had been lost to the Black Collar, as the plague was also known. Members young and old had to step forward to take the reins. Every Clan worked to consolidate their power, abandoning provinces to rebellious peasants, petty bandit lords, or disgruntled ronin.
Having expelled the peasants of the outer city, the great city of Otosan Uchi reopens its gates. Toturi IV sends out a call for the leaders of the Clans to come and discuss the future of the Empire. The Emerald Champion has died of the Plague that winter. She must be replaced.
Rokugan is defined by the Great Clans that dominate it both politically and through force of arms. The Great Clans were founded in the first days of the Empire when the Kami fell from the heavens, gathered the people, and taught the people their ways. Each Clan has a purpose to serve in the Empire, a mandate given to them by the first Emperor, the glorious Hantei I. And though the Hantei Dynasty has since ended, the mandate of the Clans remained the same. But with the Empire struggling back from the Collar, the Clans are in flux. Who knows what the future may bring. Will they return to their ancestral purpose? Or will they forge a new path?
Provinces must be brought back under control. The lawlessness must be stamped out. Nemuranai, the ancestral magic items, lost to plague and panic must be recovered. Alliances and trade must be reforged.
The Empire must be reborn.