“If it’s got four legs and isn’t a table, if it swims in the water and isn’t a boat, if it flies and it isn’t a kite—the Unicorn will eat it.”
Scorpion cuisine is similar to Lion cuisine; hosting more on poultry and tofu than rice and fish. Their cuisine is based more on the presentation of the meal and its complexity, more so than the ingredients list.
They think light-colored chopsticks clash with their dark clan colors, so they prefer chopsticks in lacquered black or red, or ones made of naturally dark woods.
Childbirth is a welcome event in Scorpion Lands, one to be remembered, with the lucky parents celebrating for several days. The lords of the Scorpion often excuse the father of an infant from his duties so he may commemorate the birth properly. This custom helps strengthen the bonds of loyalty within the family. Scorpion peasants are generally not treated as well as peasants from other clans, but the custom of excusing new fathers extends to the heimin, mitigating their resentment toward the samurai caste. In large villages someone, somewhere, is always having a child, so there are constant festivities.
A newborn Scorpion is welcomed from the first moment of his life. Relatives and friends pay their respects and offer their protection. If there is one thing the Scorpion take very seriously, it is a celebration—though most serve as mere excuses to invite guests into the household (and perhaps loosen their tongues with sake and entertainment). Childbirth is an exception, however—only family members and close friends may visit a Scorpion household following a birth. An outsider is admitted only if trusted utterly, someone who is considered a Scorpion in the eyes of the clan. Needless to say, this does not happen often.
Twins are considered lucky, representing Scorpion friends or lovers from a past life so loyal to each other that they died in the same instant, thus reentering life together. Also, since Bayushi himself was Shiba’s twin, the birth of twins evokes the clan’s founder. Triplets are not seen with the same joy, however. The number three is extremely unlucky to the Scorpion, so the birth of three children at once is a dire portent. Some families have been known to conceal the third child or even abandon it altogether rather than risk the resultant bad fortune.
Though some clans are secretive about their gempukku ceremonies, the Scorpion are not. Everyone is invited, including visitors from other clans and strangers who happen to be in the area. A placard is posted outside of the household for a week before the ceremony begins, giving the samuraito-be’s name, parents, sensei, and dojo, and inviting all to attend. The candidate is introduced to everyone in attendance and personally presents a gift to every guest. Ideally the candidate will have created these gifts, though some wealthy Scorpion families “lend” their children koku to purchase expensive gifts. A large number of generic gifts are also set aside for additional guests—these are known as “face gifts,” since guests need only show their faces to receive one. Face gifts are invariably of much lower value than those intended for invited guests, and need not have been created personally by the samurai-to-be. This is no insult to the unexpected guests, but rather a sign of respect to the invited ones.
Following the young samurai’s rather traditional initiation ceremony, sake flows freely and all present take off their masks to enjoy themselves. The highest-ranking samurai never removes his mask, however, symbolizing that the Scorpion Clan must always retain some secrets. Later that evening, after the guests depart, the true ceremony begins. The young samurai is not informed of this phase in advance, so this often comes as a surprise. The samurai is taken to a private room by his sensei, and is asked the guests’ names and what he learned by how each one reacted to his gift. If the young samurai’s answers are satisfactory, he is given his first mask and welcomed as a Scorpion.
Those who fail are given only a scrap of cloth to cover their face, symbolic of the rough scrap Bayushi wore until he could find a true mask. This scrap is immediately recognizable by any adult Scorpion, but meaningless to everyone else. Some samurai choose to continue wearing this simple cloth mask even after they have proven themselves to their sensei’s satisfaction, as a symbol of the progress they have made. Scorpion are forbidden to speak of this secret ceremony, and vehemently deny its existence. To talk about it would ruin its power to properly test future samurai of the clan. A Scorpion must always be prepared.
In a clan that takes as much pride in family and politics as the Scorpion, courtship is taken very seriously. Marriages are arranged well in advance, always to benefit the family and clan. Marriages for the sake of love are all but unheard-of in the Scorpion Clan; love is a threat to duty and loyalty, after all. Besides, a Scorpion can marry only once, and if that marriage does not benefit the clan he has betrayed the Scorpion through his selfishness.
Samurai weddings in Scorpion lands are always presided over by a Soshi shugenja. A presiding Yogo is considered unlucky, given the strong association of that family with the legendary Yogo curse. Even Yogo themselves avoid such a thing.
Like most Scorpion ceremonies, their weddings are great celebrations open to all. Though the initial ceremonies are as stately and reserved as any Rokugani wedding, the subsequent festivities are notorious for their riotous vigor. Even a normally controlled Scorpion samurai relaxes his façade to display true emotion, crying openly or dancing in joy at the union. Some who know the Scorpion well wonder if this is yet another ploy, intended to draw their guests into lowering their guard. But although the Scorpion seldom refuse such an advantage when it presents itself, they seem to take a sincere joy in weddings. Scorpion see their loyalty to their family as part of their larger loyalty to clan and Empire, and the opportunity to share that loyalty by inviting another into their family fills the heart of a Scorpion with a happiness that outsiders can never understand.
Peasant marriages in the Scorpion provinces are also matters of great revelry. They are usually presided over by monks rather than shugenja; samurai rarely attend. The bride and groom wear masks during the ceremony (a practice normally not indulged by Scorpion peasants) to remind them who they serve.
Scorpion see arranged marriages as extremely important contracts. Backing out effectively declares war on the other party’s family. Any samurai who reneges on a Scorpion marriage can expect immediate retribution. Only a moderator of higher social status than either of the engaged samurai can break off a Scorpion marriage without creating bad blood between both parties.
A samurai who abandons or mistreats a Scorpion spouse earns the ire of the spouse’s entire family, even if the spouse has married outside of the clan and is no longer technically considered a Scorpion.
Scorpion samurai generally look forward to retirement, the great reward for a life of service to the Empire. While the Crab and the Lion often look upon a retired samurai with disdain, as someone who lost the opportunity to die in service to the Emperor, the Scorpion do not see things this way. Dying for the Empire is good and noble, but living for the Empire is better. Retired Scorpion are often viewed with silent awe, and young samurai show their elders the greatest respect. A samurai seeking guidance is well advised to visit the remote monasteries in the Bayushi provinces to listen to their retired samurai. Walking the Way of the Scorpion is dangerous indeed, and any samurai clever enough to become an old Scorpion and retire in peace is a hero by his very existence.
Scorpion funerals are strange events, celebrated with as much joy and enthusiasm as a marriage, gempukku, or childbirth. The Scorpion believe a samurai who served the clan loyally will be rewarded in death, his soul invited into Bayushi’s hidden cavern to share secrets with the First Scorpion. When a samurai dies, the Scorpion tell tales of his loyalty and devotion, hoping Bayushi will overhear the tales and wish to know more. Much like Scorpion marriages and gempukku, all who wish to attend a Scorpion funeral are welcome. In fact, the Scorpion make a special point of inviting their enemies to clan funerals, especially any enemy responsible for the death. To invite enemies from outside the clan requires the Scorpion Champion’s permission, however, for under Scorpion tradition such an invitation is an open challenge. Enemies who answer the invitation must be supremely confident… or totally unaware of this tradition.
Of course, these conventions apply only to Scorpion who died in loyal service to the clan. Scorpion who died disloyal are seldom given a proper burial. Often their corpses are beheaded and then left in a fi eld, to be devoured by wild animals. Those who betray the Scorpion and are captured alive face an even worse fate: they are brought to the depths of Traitor’s Grove, a special forest right outside Kyuden Bayushi, where Scorpion shugenja use a secret process to permanently trap their souls in a tree, binding them into eternal torment. The Scorpion believe that as the tree grows, its bark cuts through the traitor’s soul, causing great pain.
On quiet nights one can hear the traitors’ moans in the grove, begging forgiveness. The traitors’ personal possessions are left hanging from the tree limbs, and thieves know to stay well away. The bitter and agonized ghosts of Traitor’s Grove enact a terrible curse upon any who steal from it, imposing a painful, lingering death.
Scorpion playwrights feel that while the motions of dance are important, it is the nuanced performance of the danceractor that creates the real meaning of the dance. Therefore, they often simply take dances from already existing plays and reuse them. Sometimes they will choose a particular dance because it is associated with a well-known character type (a dance establishing that a character is an animal spirit, for example, or an old woman) and sometimes the dance will be chosen to incorporate a reference to an earlier play into the