Era of the Dark Dragon
The War Against the Darkness
It has been fifteen years since the people of Rokugan survived the Day of Thunder, Fu Leng defeated, and a new emperor crowned. Peace and prosperity reigned.
It didn’t last.
Ten years ago, black tales of faceless, twisted men and beasts began to trickle out of Dragon lands. These gradually increased to a tide before a host of dark creatures burst forth from the mysterious clan’s holdings and crashed upon the borders of their neighbors like a tsunami. The armies of the Dragon and their misshapen allies flowed down from the mountains and into the surrounding lands, laying waste to anything they encountered.
Their neighbors were not taken completely by surprise, having heard the sinister tales coming out of Dragon lands, but they were not prepared for the war of annihilation that was brought to them. The Unicorn fared best, already having some knowledge of what they were facing, and quickly stemmed the assault on their lands with crystal. The Phoenix fared next best, protected by their magic, and their willingness to adopt the tactics of the Unicorn. Initially, the armies of the Lion were devastated, not being equipped to deal with the corrupt invaders from a military nor spiritual position. The Dragon struck at them when they least expected it and wearing the faces of their greatest heroes. At the same time, the Hall of Ancestors fell under assault by agents of the Shosuro, aided by the same strange monsters accompanying the Dragon.
On what was the twilight of the Lion’s resistance, the Naga appeared. Each of the snake men was armed with a crystal naginata that sparkled in the sun, making the battlefield look like a choppy sea at dawn. They crashed upon the ranks of the faceless, crushing their ranks and forcing them South. At the same time another army appeared in Lion lands. This one was made up of a handful of uncorrupted Dragon samurai, tattooed men, and Brotherhood monks led by the half-dragon Hoshi. Eventually the dark Dragon were pushed back to the River of the Drowned Merchant and the Shosuro to their own territory, but they left their stain upon the land.
The Hall of Ancestors is destroyed, the lands north of the River of the Drowned Merchant are lost to the Lying Darkness, and the Shosuro lands are being transformed into a shadowy wasteland. The people of Rokugan are locked in battle with a force that seeks not to destroy their way of life, but to unmake life itself.
The fall of the Dragon and Shosuro has since been pieced together by accounts from those who escaped the Lying Darkness. After the Day of Thunder, Hitomi began to act erratically: sometimes speaking to people who weren’t there, speaking of events that hadn’t occurred yet, and being possessed by fits of rage. The Togashi made what efforts they could to sooth her, but she rebuffed them and eventually invited the madman Kokujin back to the High House of Light. His dark whispers only made matters worse, eventually leading Hitomi to demand that the Togashi take her name. A few did, but most choose to flee, and many of them were cut down by Kokujin and Hitomi’s new tattooed men. From there, the Shadow crept down the mountain, erasing the enigmatic Dragon as surely as a riddle written in the sand is washed away by the sea.
The fall of the Shosuro was somewhat more sudden. Numerous accounts exist of travelers arriving in Shosuro lands to find them abandoned. Shortly after, the assault on southern Lion lands began. The Scorpion have surmised among themselves, that the practice of Shadow Branding must have been responsible and somehow led to wholesale corruption of the family and their vassals.
The consequences of the Shadow’s assault on Rokugan are numerous and far-reaching. Most trade along the River of the Drown Merchant has ceased. The probability that a trader is a shadowspawn is simply too great. The Unicorn have lost the castle of Ide as well as Bikami and Akami, the source of much of their rice and fodder. This has forced the Ide to once again maintain a nomadic existence. They now travel almost continuously around the empire seeking to trade political favors and exotic goods for rice. The Unicorn hold the Lying Darkness at the land north of the River of the Drowned Merchant and south of the Great Wall of the North. Trade with the Burning Sands has increased dramatically, especially crystal items, offsetting their new need to trade for much of their grain and fodder.
The Lion are now forced to maintain a snaking vigil along the River of the Drowned Merchant. The majority of the remaining Dragon samurai stand at their side. The Lion resent the additional burden upon their resources and often treat the Dragon among their number with scorn. In contrast the Moto and Hiruma who encounter the now homeless Dragon often see a kindred spirit. To the south the Lion are aided by the few remaining Shosuro, upon whom they heap even greater scorn than they heap upon the Dragon.
Seido Jurojin fell in the early days of the war and the Phoenix haven’t recover it. East of its ruins their earth shugenja erected a great cliff between Iron Ring Cascade and the Great Wall of the North. Fortunately the Shadow was pushed back before being able to destroy much of the Phoenix’s accumulated knowledge. Because of their powerful shugenja, their lives continue least disrupted when compared with the Lion and the Unicorn.
The corruption of the Shosuro lands have cut off the direct flow of goods up or down the River of Gold. The Scorpion have also set up a perimeter around the Shosuro provinces. The effects of this have been mixed on Ryoko Owari. It is much harder to access than before, but there are plenty more soldiers from Scorpion, Lion, and Unicorn lands looking to forget the horrors they see on the Northern River of the Last Stand, as the River of the Drowned Merchant is sometimes now called. Many high ranking Shosuro were called to account for the actions of their family, including Bayushi Kachiko, leaving leadership of the Scorpion in the hands of Bayushi Aramoro. Curiously, several months after her very public Jigai, rumors began to swirl that Kachiko was not in fact dead. Some of them even have put her in two places at once.
The Crane have remained largely unscathed by the War of the Dark Dragon, being far removed from the fighting. Their traditional enemies, the Lion and the Scorpion, have both been reduced by the war and now rely on the Crane to procure supplies and favors for them.
After seeing the devastation brought by the Shadow, the Crab have straightened their backs and vowed anew to keep the Shadowlands from overrunning Rokugan. Some of the Crab look upon the war with a smug attitude. For so long they stood against the Shadowlands while the other clans dismissed the importance and burden of their duty. Now these clans find themselves in the same situation, pressed by an implacable foe and begging for aid from anyone who will listen and seeing the devastation that comes from failure. Other Crab look upon the Unicorn, Lion, and Phoenix with sympathy, because they know the tremendous loss that comes from eternal battle.
The Honorable Dragon are now a dying clan, bereft of their divine guidance and almost completely destroyed. They are led by Mirumoto Sukune, a man in the twilight of his years. Most of those who escaped have taken up a post on the border of their former lands, hoping that one day they can be reclaimed. The Moto have invited the great sensei of the Dragon to live among them and the Hiruma so they might preserve their techniques, which are slowly fading from the world. The ise zumi have rallied around Hoshi and joined the Brotherhood, resuming their monastic lifestyle and working towards a day when the divine presence of a Togashi might one day again shine in the High House of Light. As he lay dying in Hitomi’s arms, Gaijutsu is rumored to have said “he hasn’t left us.” Many speculate he was referring to Togashi himself and that the kami’s spirit abounds in Rokugan, waiting to return to his clan.
Like the Unicorn, the Mantis have done brisk business in crystal and other exotic goods. The destruction of swathes of farmland have also driven up the demand for fish and the Mantis have begun to seek out new fishing grounds to keep up the supply. Sailors return from these voyages with wild tales of the seas, most of which remain unverified.
The return of the Naga has sent ripples through all of Rokugan. None can deny they saved the Lion clan and their help since has been invaluable, but many factions still look on them with suspicion and scorn. The Dashmar and Mirumoto Daini have made diplomatic inroads with some of the clans, particularly the Unicorn, Crab, and Mantis. The emperor has gone so far as to declare the Naga imperial guests in the empire, but most Rokugani still distrust the snakemen, if not for their strange appearance then for their strange customs.
The lands of the Dark Dragon are devoid of natural inhabitants. Mutated beasts prowl the overgrown fields and the faceless servants of Nothing patrol the abandoned villages. Hitomi sits upon a shadow-tainted throne in the High House of Light, her body now encased in obsidian and directs her minions to do the bidding of the Lying Darkness. Kokujin, the madman who tamed the power of two gods has become another pawn to the Lying Darkness. He does Hitomi’s will her tattooed shadowspawn against the empire.
The defeat of Fu Leng was a major setback for the Shadowlands. The most powerful denizens spent several years fighting amongst themselves to establish a new order. Once this period came to an end, attacks on the Wall began to increase in frequency. The Crab also noticed a new faction among those that assaulted their wall, one led by Kuni Yori and the resurrected Moto Tsume.
Rokugan struggles to find enough crystal for its war against the Darkness and there is usually famine in some part of the empire. Desperate bandits and additional need for overland trade have combined with the War Against the Darkness have increased the need for skilled bushi, creating much opportunity for those who can seize it, but shedding the reputation of a ronin requires more than simply donning the mon of a great clan.
It has become the Rokugani custom to place crystal chimes at the entrances to a house, to guard against the Lying Darkness. This crystal takes away from the war effort and some have used the excuse of requisitioning it to raid their neighbors and unscrupulous merchants have been caught selling glass in its stead. Such merchants are dealt with under harsh laws designed to halt the spread of corruption through the empire.
Mirumoto Sukune: Hitomi and Daini’s uncle, Sukune has assumed responsibility as the Dragon clan Daimyo since Daini became involved with bringing the Naga into the empire, and showed little interest in assuming the leadership of the clan anyways. Arthritis prevents him from continuing with his favorite pastime, archery, as well as engaging in many of the activities associated with the samurai class. He is a man in the twilight of his years leading a dying clan and fears that with no obvious successor the Dragon will simply come apart when he passes, giving him a morose outlook on life.
Ginawa: Now the head of his own minor clan made up of many of the ronin from Toturi’s army, he has been charged with rooting out Shadow infestations throughout the empire. The Shadowhunters, as the traveling agents are called, are allowed to recruit apprentices travel with them. If they successfully learn the necessary skills, and survive the training, they are offered fealty to the Wolf clan, which has helped grow the clan’s numbers significantly. Despite his new status as Daimyo, Ginawa is rarely found in the small castle allotted to his clan; he still roams the empire searching for the man who killed his master, Revenge ever at the forefront of his mind.
The Dashmar and The Daini: Since the Naga awoke to oppose the Foul they have been struggling diplomatically with Rokugan. Xenophobia on the part of the Rokugani and a sense of superiority on the part of the Naga have made relations difficult and many times they nearly broke down completely but for the work of The Dashmar and the former Mirumoto Daini. The Daini gave up his family name after the destruction of the Dragon lands and now spends most of his time among the Naga, learning their customs and instructing them in his. As a result, most of the more “civilized” Naga have a noticeable Dragon bent to their manners. The Dashmar spends most of his time among the high courts of Rokugan, on a similar mission.
Kitsuki Kaagi: Kaagi was found wandering faceless near the lands of his birth. Most of his mind had been consumed by the Shadow, but he had enough sense to demand that he be bound in crystal shackles and placed under guard. His fading lucidity proved a great help to Rokugani understanding of the Lying Darkness. He rarely says anything useful these days, his form is black and oozing and he babbles madness. Anyone listening too long runs the risk of suffering a similar fate to Kaagi’s own.
Mirumoto Bujun: There is one man brightening the darkening twilight of Sukune’s reign, Mirumoto Bujun. He was a young man, nearly a boy, when the War Against the Darkness began, but proved himself to be an able fighter in the those first desperate years. He mastered the Daisho technique under the tutelage of Taki and has since become proficient in a wide variety of weapons under the instruction of the Lion. Furthermore he, is regarded as a paragon of Bushido and is spoken of highly be nearly the entire empire. He is an inspiring presence to the Dragon, a beacon of light that shines against the Darkness. There are no direct descendants of Mirumoto after Sukune and it is widely speculated that rulership of the clan will pass to Bujun upon Sukune’s death.