The following document was provided to me through the courtesy of the Phoenix Clan Scribe. I have recopied it into a legible format for the ease of the reader. Its origins are uncertain, but it is believed to have come from an Imperial Historian into the hands of the Phoenix Scribe. Much of the information contained within appears to be apocryphal, although there are also many truthful elements within. On the whole, I consider it a useful historical document, but one that should be taken with a grain of salt. Where appropriate, I have added my own marginal comments in green.
-- Kitsu Sei, Lion Clan Apprentice Historian
OOC Note: Jeff Alexander believes that this document was written by FRPG folk (who were AEG/Isomedia at the time), but very early in the evolution of the game. He dates it as probably older than the '95 GenCon promo cards, and obtained it from J. L. Robert.
OOC Note #2: J. L. Robert described this piece of history as an early release of Rokugan history, before much of the storyline solidified. As such, it is probably best considered apocryphal, unless you're an obsessive Lion Clan historian.
The History of Rokugan
as told by
Captain Jeremiah Berek,
Gaijin Bushi and Advisor
to the Distinguished Lord Shiba Ujimitsu
of the Phoenix Clan
From the Journals of Captain Jeremiah Berek:
I have spent a few years in this glorious Empire of Rokugan, and already I have been charmed by its beauty. Its culture and sophistication are beyond anything in the Kingdoms, and its devotion to the concepts of honor, virtue, loyalty and chivalry make ours look childish. When I was first shipwrecked here, I dreamed of the days of returning home, but now I wonder how I could have ever dreamed such dreams.
Lord Shiba has taken me into his home despite the objections of many of the other Clans, and I have done my best to prove my virtue to him. He has spoken much of the history of the Empire to me, but has yet not built the trust to show me the scrolls that contain the history. I have taken extensive notes of his stories and have put them down in this journal in hopes to collate them into a great tale one day for the people of the Kingdoms.
I hope that the western world will see the beauty that I see here, for there is much to learn from the tales of Rokugan and her glorious history.
The Age of DarknessThe land that would become the Empire of Rokugan was originally inhabited by two races: the ainu and the tsuri. For many generations these two races made war until, finally, the ainu were pressed back to the mountains and marshes that border the Empire today.
This history neglects the Age of the Naga, unless the "ainu" it speaks of are another term for the Naga, or perhaps another of the races that came before the Children of Sun and Moon.
The tsuri, having no external enemy to fight, began to turn upon themselves. During their wars with the ainu, they had clustered into Clans to protect each other. These Clans were of varying strengths and sizes, and led by religious men.
The religion of the ancient people was a worship of many gods, including their chief hero Osano-Wo, the Son of Thunder. The stories of Osano-Wo are legendary, and were collected by a storyteller/monk named Uikku. The Seventy-Seven Stories chronicle the tales of the gods and heroes of the ancient land, and also gave the Clans their tradition.
The tales of animal shapeshifters are included in The Seventy-Seven Stories, and how each of them were one of Osano-Wo's many wives. From their respective marriages, great heroes emerged, including the tales of Hida the Crab, Doji the Crane, and Akodo the Lion. From these heroes, the lineage of each of the Clans was traced, making all Clans children of Osano-Wo.
Among the most powerful warriors of the age were:
Hida, of the Crab Clan
Doji, of the Crane Clan
Togashi, of the Dragon Clan
Akodo, of the Lion Clan
Shiba, of the Phoenix Clan
Bayushi, of the Scorpion Clan
These names correspond to the Children of Sun and Moon, with three exceptions: first, it neglects Lady Shinjo, forerunner of the Unicorn Clan. Second, it neglects Hantei. Third, it neglects Fu Leng.
These warriors battles endlessly. When their lives were taken, their children fought in their stead. Generations of war made warriors of such skill the tales of their deeds became equal to the deeds of Osano-Wo himself.
Finally, a single war-lord arose from the conflict. He claimed his ancestry to be above all others, and his wisdom in battle was unmatched. His name was Hantei and he established his place in history by taking a small army of peasants against Hida Suburu, one of the greatest generals of the age. He routed the Crab army, killed Hida Suburu in single combat and spared the remaining troops. He offered them the opportunity to join his small force, and they agreed.
The above is likely apocryphal. There is recorded to have been a contest between Hantei and the other Children of Sun and Moon, in which Lord Hida was the first to fall. It is interesting to hypothesize that the author may be suggesting historical events that have come down to us as a contest between the Children of Sun and Moon, but difficult to substantiate.
Hantei led his force across the land until men from every army had joined him. At that time, no family could resist Hantei and he was eventually declared Emperor over all. The Age of Darkness was over.
The Age of SteelAt the very beginning of his rein, Hantei was faced with a crisis. From the southwest, the Shadowlands began to stir. Legends of the crypt of a forgotten god spread quickly through the Empire, and Hantei sent warriors from each Clan to investigate. They were the best warriors, the strongest and most brave. The Emperor dubbed them samurai, and sent them with bows and horses into the Shadowlands.
Not a single samurai returned.
A second crusade was sent into the Shadowlands with equal success. Weeks passed without word of their fate before the Emperor sent what was to be his last samurai into the Shadowlands. This time, each and every one of the twenty samurai returned, each with pale skin, black gums and tongues and hollow eyes. They rode through the countryside destroying villages and temples, laughing like madmen.
The Emperor sent samurai to stop the madmen, but none could defeat them. Arrows passed through their bodies and they laughed. Swords cut through their flesh and their laughter grew like thunder. Families were dying, and the Emperor was helpless to stop it.
Just as one dilemma developed, Hantei was offered another. A stranger presented himself in the Emperor's court. He was dressed in simple robes and carried a large satchel strapped to his back. His head was shaved and his eyes were clear. When the Emperor asked his name, he gave what the Emperor considered an arrogant answer: "Shinsei", which meant "the new way."
Shinsei claimed he was from far across the western mountains, bringing a wisdom from his master, the original Shinsei, of which he was only a disciple. Shinsei offered a new path, a path of enlightenment that all may achieve. A simple discipline that offered enlightenment to all, despite their caste in life.
The Clans were outraged. The thought that a peasant was equal to a samurai was not to be accepted.
But the Emperor held back their rage. He wanted to hear this new wisdom. "Let us put it to the test," he said.
He asked Shinsei if this new wisdom could be used in war, and Shinsei answered, "To be wise in one thing is to be wise in all things."
"Then prove this wisdom to me. Stop the madmen killing my people."
Shinsei bowed low to the Emperor and looked about the court. He regarded each samurai in turn and then turned to the Emperor. "There is not a single samurai here who can aid me. They have the eyes of women, so entrenched is the fear in their hearts."
The Emperor responded to the shaming of his court by turning to his concubines. "Then make an army of them, wise one," Hantei jestured. "Make me an army of concubines."
Shinsei bowed. "Very well, Great Lord. I shall."
He took the fifty concubines and spent three days and nights training them. When he was done, he asked the Emperor to inspect his new army.
"You have trained an army in only three days?"
"See for yourself, Great Lord," said Shinsei.
Hantei watched as Shinsei gave the command to face west. The command was given and the girls turned. Shinsei gave them the command to march, and they moved as if they were one. They showed their spears, performed kata and screamed with a warrior's rage.
"I cannot believe it," Hantei muttered.
"You do not understand them," Shinsei said. "They are geisha, proud of their craft. Teach a student pride in one thing, and you may teach them pride in all things."
"Do this with my samurai and you shall be my most trusted advisor," the Emperor said.
"Bring them into the courtyard to see your new army, and I will tell you if it can be done."
The Emperor brought out the eight Clans and showed them the army of concubines. Shinsei watched their expressions and smiled. "See them? See how they are amazed and in wonder? If they were afraid of the women, then I could not teach them. But they are filled with the wonder of what has been done, and they seek the knowledge I have given the geisha. They are willing to listen to me now."
There is a great deal of charm in the parable of Shinsei and the army of concubines, but it is uncertain if this story is simply a concoction of the author, or verifiable.
Shinsei became the advisor to the Emperor and his generals. He trained the eight Clans in his method of combat and brought them to fight against the madmen that ripped across the Emperor's countryside. The madmen were destroyed and Shinsei turned his forces to the Shadowlands.
In the traditional Creation Story of Rokugan, Shinsei rode into the Shadowlands with the seven samurai who became known as the Seven Thunders. They all died there, saving only the Scorpion representative, who died shortly after returning the Twelve Black Scrolls to the Imperial Palace.
Of what happened to Shinsei and his armies in the Shadowlands, I can say no more. The tale has not been told to me and is only told to samurai upon the day of their "coming of age" ceremony. I have not been given the honor of hearing the tale, although I may one day hear it if I prove myself worthy to be counted among these noble warriors.
The history of Rokugan continues below.
Hantei turned then to building an Empire. Akodo Tagina stood before the Emperor and swore that as long as Akodo blood ran in the veins of the Lion Clan, they would serve his family, and if they fell, then so would fall the Lion Clan. The Emperor made the Lion Clan the guardians of the Hantei Dynasty, and they have remained his most favored Clan.
But an Emperor must marry after all, and with that in mind, Doji Yosai approached the Emperor with an excellent choice of brides. And that is how a Doji has been the mother of every Emperor since the birth of the first Hantei child.
When asked if they would support the Emperor, Togashi Turu of the Dragon Clan presented a clever answer. "There shall be no day that the Dragon Clan shall not rise to protect the Empire." The Emperor smiled and accepted his answer, sending the Dragon Lord back to his mountain home.
Shiba Turatsu bowed low to the Emperor. "We are intrigued by this new wisdom, and we would return to our ancestral temples to study it and bring it to the people." The Emperor nodded and the Phoenix went back to their homes.
Then stepped forth Bayushi Yujimutso of the Scorpion Clan. "We shall return to our homes as well, Great Lord. But we are curious as to this new wisdom. We shall leave a diplomat here in the court to question this new way."
According to the traditional story, the above champions were in fact the Children of Sun and Moon, not their mortal descendants. Additionally, the Emperor spoke to Lady Shinjo, and sent her from the Empire to explore and find what laid beyond its borders.
And so was brought the wisdom of Shinsei to the Emperor's court. He was questioned on many things by all of the Clans, and his wisdom was kept by his first disciple Isawa Uikku of Clan Phoenix.
The Age of StrifeThe centuries passed. The Emperor's dynasty lived on, ruling over Rokugan with wisdom and benevolence.
Or so it seemed.
For blood can run thin, and so it happened with the Emperor's dynasty. Even with the sagacious advice from the Crane Clan, and the devotion of the Lion Clan, there was always the Scorpion, plotting and scheming.
In the year 9941, the time was right for a coup. The Emperor was old and enfeebled, and unwilling to give up his Throne to his young and inexperienced son. Through political maneuvering by the Scorpion Clan, a border skirmish had developed between the Crane and the Lion. Distracted by their borders, they were too preoccupied to see Scorpion armies moving into position.
The Phoenix were too far away to be involved.
The Dragon were unconcerned about politics.
The Crab were entangled with the Shadowlands.
It was time.
The Scorpion armies took the Imperial Palace in a single day. The Lion and Crane could do nothing but watch. The young Emperor was helpless before the tactics of Bayushi Shoju, the Daimyo of the Scorpion Clan, long regarded to be one of the most cunning generals of the Empire.
The Scorpion Clan sent word that the Emperor was dead and Bayushi Shoju declared himself the new Emperor. It seemed as if the Empire belonged to the Scorpion.
For more information on the events leading up to the destruction of the Scorpion Clan, see the recently-discovered scroll on the Scorpion Clan Coup.
And that is when a new force emerged from the northwest. They wore purple and gold and rode horses that were as swift as the wind.
The Clan of the Unicorn had arrived.
The previous two paragraphs seem to be simply wrong. The Unicorn Clan did return from the wastes, but they did this about two hundred years before the Scorpion Clan coup, not during it.
Sweeping across the hills and fields of the Empire, the horsemen of the Unicorn Clan cut down the armies of the Scorpion. The Lion and Crane Clan joined in the assault. But even with the Unicorn Clan, the Scorpion would not give up the Throne so easily. They sent word to the Crab Clan, promising greatness if they would assist against this new Clan.
Days later, Crab armies began to move across the hills toward the Imperial Palace. The Lion and Crane Clans turned to the Dragon and Phoenix, who responded by sending samurai and shugenja.
Very suddenly, armies from all the Clans were on the field. The peace of a thousand years was over.
Everything depended upon the Crab army. As the Unicorn, Crane, and Lion armies sieged the Imperial Palace, the Dragon and Phoenix waited to intercept the advancing gray-clad samurai. Those attacking the palace were held to a standstill. If the Crab armies engaged the Dragon and Phoenix, there was no telling what would happen.
Akodo Toturi, Shinjo Yokatsu and Doji Hoturi stood watching as their armies fought against the armies of Bayushi Shoju. All three watched the horizon. If gray banners approached, they were finished. For days they watched, waiting.
Bayushi Shoju saw them first. Standing on the parapets of the Imperial Palace, he saw dark banners approaching. Then, he saw them: the massive armies of the Crab Clan were marching towards them, led by the legendary Hida Kisada.
The Scorpion armies let out a great battle cry as the Unicorn, Crane, and Lion armies positioned themselves for an assault on two fronts.
But then, Bayushi Shoju saw something that he could not believe.
From behind the massive Crab army, there were the banners of the Phoenix and Dragon. Another banner was raised up above the Crab standard: the standard of the Emperor. Riding along with Hida Kisada were Togashi Yokuni and Shiba Ujimitsu.
The Scorpion Clan was finished.
When the battle was over, the new Emperor was recognized by the Clans. The Scorpion house was burned to the ground, their Daimyo killed and their samurai declared ronin. Against the advice of Doji Hoturi, the Emperor chose a new bride: Bayushi Kachiko, the bride of his father's murderer.
The new Emperor then turned to the Clans. He reaffirmed the devotion of the Lion Clan and Crane Clan, recognized the assistance of the Dragon and Phoenix, and praised and welcomed the Unicorn Clan, giving them the lands of the fallen Scorpion Clan.
Then he turned to the Crab Clan. He spoke harsh words to Hida Kisada, and wondered what would have happened had the Scorpion offer been sweeter. Then, the new Emperor sent them back to the Shadowlands, back to their eternal duty.
It was Akodo Toturi who spoke then. He questioned the Emperor's wisdom in such actions. Perhaps he should reconsider?
The Emperor was outraged. He stepped from the Emerald Throne and stood before the Lion Champion and demanded an apology. Lord Akodo bowed before the Emperor, begging his forgiveness, saying that he was only thinking of the best for the Empire.
The Emperor was not satisfied. He declared the Lion Clan lands forfeit and the Akodo family unrecognized. Akodo Toturi pleaded with the Emperor, saying that the crime was his own, and his family should not be given the punishment for his own crimes.
Once again, the Emperor was not satisfied with Akodo Toturi's apology. The Akodo family was disgraced, except the venerable Akodo Kage; not even the Emperor could justify that act. Lord Akodo was cast out of the Lion Clan, and the Matsu family was given the Ancestral Sword.
Many months passed. The political structure of the Empire was trembling. Whispers told of a massive Crab army allying itself with unspeakable horrors from the Shadowlands. Suspicions of the Unicorn Clan were rampant. Perhaps the Emperor had trusted them too quickly? The Crane Clan dared not question the young Emperor's authority, and since seeing his rage, the Phoenix and Dragon Clans fell even deeper into seclusion.
Then, as swift as lightning, disaster struck Rokugan. A mysterious wasting disease began to sweep across the Empire. Even the court of the Emperor was not safe from its clutches. One by one, members of the court fell under its influence. Death was everywhere. And when the Emperor himself began showing symptoms, the Empire began to disintegrate.
Ninja -- a force long thought to be a legend in Rokugan -- made an attempt on the Emperor's life and it was Bayushi Kachiko who saved the helpless Emperor, risking her own life for his.
When they heard of the assassination attempt, the Crab Clan began to move armies all across the Empire. All communication from the Unicorn Clan ceased. The Phoenix sent shugenja to aid the Emperor, but all sorceries failed to cure his disease. Doji Hoturi went to speak to the Emperor, but found that his only communication to him was through his wife, the Lady Kachiko.
Then, far across the Empire, the unthinkable happened.
The Phoenix Clan began open warfare with the Dragon Clan.
The Crab Clan army led by Hida Yakamo joined in the fray, smashing both armies and laying claim to the land.
The Lion Clan sent armies to the Imperial Palace to protect the Emperor.
The Crane Clan diplomats watches as their counterparts left the court for their homelands.
And as the Emperor lies dying, and the Clans move against each other, a distant thunder rings out from the Shadowlands...
It is a dark time for Rokugan. A new Age of Darkness has begun.
For more information on the Clan Wars, I heartily recommend inspecting Hida Thorgrimson's History of the Clan Wars, which details the Clan War up to the rise of Yoritomo's Alliance and the persecution of the Brotherhood of Shinsei by Yogo Junzo's army.