Plays and Popular Stories
- Akodo’s Leadership
- Kakita’s The Sword
- Tao of Shinsei
- The Journey of the Single Strike
- Bayushi Tangen’s Lies
The First Hantei’s Bride
It is said that during the dawn of the Empire, Hantei sought a bride to accompany him in life and bear his heir. He traveled through all of Rokugan, seeking the perfect woman, but could not find a suitable match anywhere. He turned to his sister Doji for help, and her followers searched far and wide to find a suitable woman, but still in vain.
In the village of Ichito, just south of Kyuden Doji, one fisherman had a daughter of true magnificence. Doji Mioko had a voice so pure and beautiful that the fish in the ocean would rise to the surface to listen to her—which made fishing very easy for her father. When Doji’s samurai came looking, the fisherman feared for his livelihood, so he took his daughter to an island off the coast to hide.
Hantei remained dissatisfied with the many beautiful women brought to court by Kakita and Doji. There was nothing lacking in their honor, beauty, or skills. But none inspired him, none made his heart beat as his sister had admitted Kakita did for her. The Emperor decided to abandon the search for a time, and went hunting with his falcons to raise his spirits. While chasing a stray bird, he found himself on the coast, listening to the sea breeze—and with it, a beautiful and hauntingly sad tune. When he told Kakita of this, the husband of Doji took him to the village, seeking a ferry to the island which seemed to be the source of the mysterious song.
The only fisherman not out to sea was Mioko’s father, and it was he who took Hantei and Kakita to the island. When he realized the purpose of their trip, the clever fisherman regaled them with tales of the wind blowing through rocks and coral. He claimed it could often sound like a maiden singing for her lover. Disappointed, Hantei returned to the mainland to meet the next group of Crane maidens.
After the samurai had left, the fisherman returned to the island to speak to his daughter and bring her food. She had seen him at sea and asked who the man with him had been, but he replied it was merely a beggar. Then he praised her for her obedience and returned to the mainland. The fisherman did not realize that Mioko had in fact fallen instantly deeply in love with the radiant young Emperor. She wrote a haiku about the man she had seen on a ribbon, and tied it to the leg of a bird she had befriended. With a prayer to Amaterasu, she released the dove to carry her feelings away from the island. The dove flew true and came to Hantei’s rooms in the Imperial palace.
No sooner had Hantei read the poem than he summoned Kakita. He proclaimed the author of the poem the only woman he would marry, and commanded his champion to find her. Crane samurai once again set out to scour their lands for the soul who wrote the haiku, but no one could tell them who had written the poem on the ribbon.
When the fisherman told his daughter of the Emperor’s search, Mioko burst into tears. The Emperor had stolen her words and taken them as his own. Now she would never have her handsome beggar. The quick-thinking fisherman asked for the words to the poem, telling his daughter he
would teach them to another village girl. Once the Emperor had left, he promised, he would help her to find her “beggar.”
The fisherman brought a village girl to the Emperor’s palace, bearing his daughter’s words. The Crane rejoiced at having finally provided a bride for the Emperor, but Hantei’s divine nature let him sense something was amiss. He asked the girl for more of her poetry, but found it lacking. The girl soon broke down and confessed the truth.
Hantei was angry, but he chose a cunning strategy rather than direct confrontation. The next day he visited the fisherman and asked to hear the music from the island coral once more. The fisherman grudgingly rowed the young Kami out to the island. When Mioko saw her father return
with her “beggar,” she rushed out to meet him… and when Hantei saw Mioko, he dropped to his knees and declared his love for her. It is said that when Mioko accepted his love and returned it, Hantei wept tears that turned to pure jade as they fell upon the sand. He collected the tears and gave them to Kakita in exchange for the Crane maiden’s hand in marriage.
As for the greedy fisherman, he was condemned to live on the island for the rest of his life, with only the wind in the coral for companionship.
A Dragon’s Love
In the first century, after the Day of Thunder ended the First War, the Kami Hida was despondent. His wife had died in the war and their only son, Hida Atarasi, had never returned from the battle with Fu Leng. Hida still led his clan, but he did so alone, mourning his loss. His suffering touched the heart of the Thunder Dragon, and one night Hida returned to his quarters to find a beautiful woman standing in the room’s open window, her hair whirled around her by the wind. “I am the Dragon of Thunder,” she told him, “and I love you.” Nine months later, she returned to Hida and handed him his son, Osano-Wo, the man destined to lead the Crab Clan against the trolls and who would eventually become the Fortune of Thunder.
The Tragedy of Matsu Uji
A young Matsu Uji falls in love with a beautiful Scorpion woman, Shosuro Sushanume, and marries her. Naturally, marrying for love is a violation of Bushido and leads inevitably to tragedy, as the faithless Sushanume conspires with Uji’s karo, Sanjuro, to murder her husband and take over the province. The story ends in a massacre, with all parties dead in pools of blood; a suitable lesson, from the Lion viewpoint, in honor, humility, and loyalty.
Founding of a Wasp
The castle which became known as Shiro Ashinagabachi was originally a key Scorpion castle known as Shiro no Uragiru. In the late eleventh century, the lord of the castle, Bayushi Uchinore, fell in love with a beautiful Lion maiden named Akodo Tameko. The two became lovers and soon Tameko was with child, forced to flee her clan and take refuge within Shiro no Uragiru. Uchinore, devoted to his love, cancelled his own arranged marriage and acknowledged Tameko’s child as his own.
The situation was displeasing to both clans. The Lion could not openly disown Tameko without great loss of face, but were left fuming at the constant stream of rumors and insults which the incident created. The Scorpion Clan was pleased at the embarrassment Uchinore had inflicted on the Lion, but their attitude quickly changed when Uchinore refused to hand the child over to them for training, instead raising the boy himself and training him with Tameko’s help. Raised with far too much of his mother’s Lion honor, the boy named Tsuruchi was displeasing to the lords of the Bayushi.
The Scorpion leadership decided that Uchinore had betrayed his loyalty to the clan, and that meant only one punishment: he and his family must die. The Scorpion spread rumors that Uchinore planned to make a claim on Akodo lands based on his wife’s lineage. The Lion could not endure such a thing and dispatched an army to attack Shiro no Uragiru. Before the army could arrive, Shosuro assassins slipped into the castle to murder the family. The mother and father perished, but young Tsuruchi escaped the killers’ grasp and rallied his troops to defend the castle. He asked for help from his father’s family, but none was forthcoming—the Scorpion had an army nearby, but when they realized Tsuruchi had escaped their assassins, they chose to surrender the castle rather than save him.
The Young Wasp, as his parents had called him, had no choice but to try to arrange a peaceful surrender to the Lion army. That too failed when orders from superiors forced the Lion commander to betray the agreement and slaughter Tsuruchi’s followers. The young man escaped with only a tiny handful of comrades, and the Lion occupied the castle.
Tsuruchi, having seen the treacherous and dishonorable nature of so many samurai, broke his sword and swore the bow would be his only weapon henceforth. Two years later, he and his followers slipped back into Shiro no Uragiru—having grown up in the castle, Tsuruchi knew its secrets better than any. He slaughtered the Lion garrison, then declared himself the ruler of the castle and refused to swear allegiance to either Scorpion or Lion. Both clans would gladly have destroyed him… but Tsuruchi brought his case before the Emerald Champion, presenting the entire story of betrayal, treachery, and revenge. The Champion persuaded the Emperor to recognize Tsuruchi as the ruler of a new Minor Clan, and personally granted the Young Wasp’s followers the right to serve as bounty hunters for magistrates across the Empire.
The Hands of the City of Lies
The city of Ryoko Owari Toshi has probably changed hands more often than any other settlement in Rokugan save perhaps Toshi Ranbo. Although it has spent the majority of its history in the hands of the Scorpion, the notorious city has fallen into the hands of other clans at least four different times—only to return, inevitably, to the control of the Scorpion, the only clan which can truly understand and control it.
The briefest and most obscure instance involved the Lion, who besieged the city during the seventh century and largely destroyed the limestone walls that had given Ryoko Owari the nickname “City of Green Walls.”
The Crab occupation is much better known. During an inter-clan war late in the sixth century, a Crab general named Hida Atsushige attacked the city. The Scorpion commander, Shosuro Sanekata, retreated from the city rather than fight to the death. This drew protests from the rest of the Scorpion Clan, especially the Yogo who feared the Crab would march on them next. Sanekata, however, confidently declared, “Have no fear. Atsushige is far too good a strategist to hold Ryoko Owari, let alone take Shiro Yogo.” Atsushige established martial law in the city and seized much of its treasury, but within a few months his army succumbed to uncontrollable indulgence in drinking, gambling, geisha, and opium. With his army in no condition to fight, Atsushige had no choice but to withdraw without giving battle. Legend has it that when Atsushige negotiated with Sanekata for the return of the city, the Scorpion stalled him, declaring that now that the Crab knew how hard Ryoko Owari was to govern, they should keep it. Ultimately, the only surviving legacy of the Crab visit to the City of Lies is a pair of formidable watchtowers, the Towers of the East and West, guarding the River of Gold south of the city.
The Unicorn history in Ryoko Owari is more complex. During the ninth century, soon after their return to Rokugan, the Unicorn established a major commercial and diplomatic presence within Ryoko Owari, so much so that they influenced the city’s architecture. However, they also quickly became disgusted with the city’s vices, especially the opium trade which they had inadvertently started when they brought poppies back to the Empire with them.
The Founders of the Emerald Champion (Fables)
Though the custom of using iaijutsu duels to resolve disputes spread across the Empire by the second century, the judiciary system as a whole did not drastically change. It was not practical to have a sword fight each time any dispute rose between two samurai. The judges remained the first word on everything, and duels occurred only when they could find no clear resolution to a problem.
The flaws of the judge system were clear to all. Good and honorable judges did their best to uphold law and order, but even the best of them had to rely heavily on their own preferences and instincts… and far too many judges were cruel, corrupt, or arbitrary. The Emperor and his senior advisors were aware of the problems, but could see no obvious solutions. How could they normalize all decisions across the Empire without slowing trials down to a halt as the judges looked for official word from more powerful authorities?
The answer to this dilemma came, unexpectedly, from a Scorpion who lived during the second century. Soshi Saibankan was the most famous judge of this era. He presided over the city of Tayo One Toshi as its judge for over ten years. During his rule, few complained of unfair rulings, and with time Saibankan gained a reputation as the wisest judge in the land. When the Emperor’s Champion Doji Hatsuo heard of Saibankan’s reputation, he secretly attended one of the Scorpion’s judgments. He thought Saibankan’s methods were unorthodox, for the judge used parables and fables about his supposed uncle Sochoku to illustrate his judgments. Nevertheless, Hatsuo was impressed by the man‘s wisdom and his obvious devotion to the cause of justice. Hatsuo invited him to the Imperial City and the two of them joined forces to refine the legal system.
Probably the most famous example of the romantic idea of piracy is the legend of Yasuki Fumoki, a Crab pirate from the seventh century who left his clan to wage a private war against the Crane aboard his mighty ship, the Dealthless. Supposedly, Fumoki sank over a hundred Crane ships and hid the accumulated wealth on a remote island; it was lost forever when Fumoki died, hurling himself sword-forward into the throat of the King of the Orochi.