Legend of the Five Rings Oracle of the Void

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Fiction - Thunderous Acclaim - Part 2

By C. Thomas Hand | June 28, 2015

Thunderous Acclaim, Part 2

By Shawn Carman & Chris Hand

  The endless Matsu Army crossed into Fukitsu province unopposed. It halted less than a li from the Second Festering Pit and the Scorpion Wall. Though the Scorpion Army had harried them every step of the way, Chizuki’s forces were rested and ready. Her Champion’s orders had the Matsu daimyo move forward in a marching column to ward against Scorpion treachery. Of course, their enemy was cunning and not a day went by without an ambush, night attack, or attempted assassination of key officers, some successful. The Lion experienced poisoned supplies, peasant revolts, and were even harried by deceptions of air and wards of earth.

But Akodo Dairuko planned for treachery.

The Lion Champion expected deception and planned for heavy losses in this initial surge. The Matsu fell in numbers, but fresh kaisha, or companies, replaced them from the rear guard. By the time they arrived near the Scorpion Wall Chizuki’s forces were renewed. If the Scorpion had more time, more men, more resources, they could whittle down the Lion with attrition. They had none of those things. Now, Matsu Chizuki stood at the head of a tremendous force occupying the single road between Shiro Yogo and Kyuden Bayushi.

  “My lady, word from the Ikoma. The Fifth Legion is in place and the Wardens of the Second Company have begun sending reports.” Matsu Tayuko bowed deeply to her daimyo. The three ashigaru behind her held satchels with the information.

  Chizuki listened as Tayuko read from each scroll. A lion roared nearby and Chizuki turned to see her scarred albino, Zaiko, brought forward.

  “The Scorpion retreated behind the safety of their Wall.” Imperial decree dictated that no foreign army would come within half a li of the Second Festering Pit except in assistance against outbreaks. “They dance around the massive structure to keep neutral territory between us. Our scouts venture as close as possible without violating the Empress’s Will.”

  Chizuki smiled ruefully. “Inform the Ikoma to be careful. We won’t give the Scorpion a legitimate reason to call in the Imperial Legions and halt our advance. How fares the rear guard?”

  Tayuko picked up another report. “Akodo Dairuko-sama holds steady with portions of the First through Fifth Legions. Each is stationed strategically to protect our supply lines and tend the wounded. In less than two days we will be back to maximum strength with a secure line of retreat.”

  “Retreat.” Chizuki sniffed. “I am glad for Akodo temperance, but there are times when I wish our Champion would give me leave to tear apart the Scorpion countryside. There would little need to hold that terrain if we razed it to the ground.”

  “Yes my lady.” Tayuko bowed her head and held another scroll.

  “There is more?”

  “Hai, sama. It seems our delays have put us at the Wall in time for the Crab forces to undergo their annual changeover. A Crab army lies just south on the road to Kyuden Bayushi. It left a few days prior. If they were to turn they could devastate our southern flank.”

  Chizuki pondered for a moment. Was Kisada willing to enter this war on the side of his Scorpion allies? Were the Crab dishonorable enough to attack the Lion in such a fashion? Chizuki did not think so, but wisdom suggested she plan for that eventuality.

  “I want a guntai of scouts watching that southern flank. If the Hida turn I do not want to be surprised. Place the Deathseekers and the rest of the Fourth Legion towards the Wall. Intersperse the remainder of the First through Third Legions evenly. I want the Lion’s Pride and Matsu Elite Guard with me at all times ready to deploy where they are needed most. And Tayuko,” Chizuki paused as she considered something. “Ready the Matsu Beastmasters. I want them available at all times. Something doesn’t feel right and we could be vulnerable.”

  “Hai, sama.” Tayuko bowed then immediately started barking orders. Chizuki looked north to the Scorpion Wall, south toward Kyuden Bayushi. “You allowed us to come this far,” she said. “If you leave us to our devices, we will seize both Fukitsu and Beiden provinces.” Chizuki walked to Zaiko and ran her fingers through the lioness’s mane.

“What are you doing Nitoshi? What do you have planned?”

* * *

 

The Keeper of the Void knelt on bare stone in a basement of the Imperial City. He had requested the tatami mats be removed, the lanterns doused, and not to be disturbed. His head pounded like a taiko drum. The veins at his temples pulsated in time with his heartbeat. Occasionally, the room would tilt precariously, and he would be forced to mash his forehead to the cool stone floor. The room stank of sweat. Both his kimono and blindfold soaked up the fever-induced stream dripping from his pores.

 The door slid open and Asahina Hira groaned. The sound felt like someone dragging a hot knife across the insides of his flesh. He shivered uncontrollably and lolled his head to the side pressing a cheek against the coolness of the earth.

“I asked not to be disturbed,” he said once the door was closed. “Your light. Get rid of your light.”

“Apologies, Hira-sama.” Normally, the soft voice of Doji Natsuyo would have brought the old man pleasure, but not today. As she covered her lantern her words echoed inside his skull. He clasped hands to his head, face screwed up in pain.

“I came to speak about your request.” Natsuyo said. She sensed his displeasure and modulated her tone barely above a whisper. She kept her distance. Hira wasn’t sure if this was out of respect or some fear that his “illness” was contagious.

Asahina Hira and eight abbots of the Brotherhood of Shinsei had arrived at the Crane Embassy yesterday with a dire message. The Keeper of the Void had a vision, more than a dozen to be precise. After some discussion, Hira had realized he had only glimpsed a part of the whole and that the Brotherhood must seek out the rest. He knew the Crane would have a better time slicing through the quagmire of political bureaucracy. The monks promised a debt to the Doji for their help.

Hours after his arrival, Hira was beset by another round of images that wracked him with pain and fever. While the Crane diplomats worked out what level of assistance they could afford to give, Hira had retired to this cold, dark place devoid of outside sensation.

“Hira-sama, if I may ask what may be a rude question, how is it that you sense the light?”

Hira barked a laugh which sent his body into convulsions of coughing. He groaned and tapped his forehead on the floor. Long minutes passed and he could feel Natsuyo’s frightened expression when he had calmed.

“I can see, Natsuyo-san. Through dead eyes. My world is filled with aching sight. Since these images began their endless stream I have been able to sense the light. I am certain that if I were to remove my blindfold I would even glimpse the beauty of your youth.”

“Is that not a blessing?” Natsuyo knelt a few feet away and smoothed her skirts.

“It is not. With the sight come visions of the future, misery, and vertigo. I know it will pass in time, but for now my body is not used to the sensation.”

“I see.” Natsuyo said and immediately regretted her choice of words. Hira stank of filth and looked as if he had lost a dozen pounds in a day. She attempted to soothe him with kind words. “I have been assigned to aid you in your task. The Crane are ever your allies, Hira-sama. May I ask…?”

“What I see? It is hard to describe. The fires of prophecy burn through me and devour my words. But of course I must find a way. What purpose visions if they cannot be put to use?”

Natsuyo forgot herself and nodded. She strained a smile. “Yes.”

“I see a man bleeding from both eyes as the power of Heaven flows through him. I see him trying to capture the visions on paper. I see others, dozens of others, all watching the same man as the future unfolds.” Hira paused as another coughing fit tore through him. It left him feeling as if he had been kicked in the ribs.

“I see Phoenix shugenja burning fields of Moto. I see darkness at the depths of the sea shift and stir, looking up to the light of the surface. I see a flash of a cave along the coast belching forth a miasma which twists good to bad and blackens fate. I see a man walking towards the throne with two bloody head bags. I see disgrace plotting backwards in time to set in motion a cataclysmic series of events which may destroy the world.”

“Your visions frighten me, Hira-sama,” Natsuyo said, and meant it. “Can you…can you stop what you see?”

“I do not know, child, but we must try. Prophecy moves of its own volition. Whatever otherworldly being blessed the man in my visions with knowledge does not care about our discomfort or inability to describe what unfolds. Who sees the future without fear? But we must stand fast, must we not? We must try.”

  Hira lifted up, head in hands, and looked up to the ceiling. He rocked back and forth trying to control the uncontrollable, trying to see through the torment. Natsuyo rose and moved to his side. She placed a cool hand across his fevered brow. “Yes. We must try.”

* * *

  Yogo Chijin walked with a purpose, fixated on a specific goal. The outer Scorpion Wall was teeming with the movement of men readying for war. The Crab stayed focused on their mission, but the Scorpion were a swarm, an angry hive ready to descend upon those who kicked over their nest. Chijin sliced through the bustle and ordered chaos, eyes on the Wall. A satchel bounced at his hip, scrolls and clay bottles clattered with each step. He saw a gunso and five bushi ahead, their eyes turned south towards the Lion. He immediately turned in their direction. They recognized him as shugenja and stood.

  “Bayushi-san, you and your men are to come with me. Now.” Without waiting for a reply, Chijin strode past. The sergeant barked an order. The bushi grabbed their spears and fell in line.

  “Has there been an outbreak, Yogo-sama?”

Chijin’s eyes narrowed. “Silence, you idiot! Do you want to cause a panic? No, there has not been a breach. But I have been informed this section of the Wall shows signs of weakness and must be reinforced. I go now to rejuvenate the wards. You’re going to clear the area so we don’t distract our brethren from their duty. Can you imagine how morale would shatter if the Scorpion saw a Lion army ahead and did not feel their back was secure?”

The warriors’ imagination would run rampant with the terror at the idea. He would stay locked on task. Chijin’s lips curled up in a dark smile.

 “Clear those ashigaru. I need space.”

Bayushi fanned out and ushered everyone away. The commotion was hardly noticed amid the bustle around them. Chijin laid out scrolls, opened bottles, all the while chanting prayers. It took him less than a minute to paint crimson marks along the base of the stone. He moved like a man possessed. When finished with the stone he snatched up a black pot and turned back to the bushi.

“I chose you because I was told you are a determined lot, unwilling to be deterred from duty. This magic is hasty and draws on the kami of earth. Your will and determination will aid me in drawing them forth. Pass this about, dip your fingers in the salve. Place a mark on your forehead, like so,” Chijin spread a single line of muddy red across his face, hands covered in ruddy liquid. The Bayushi did not hesitate to follow. The Yogo turned back to the Wall, ready to begin.

“What are you doing?”

Chijin grimaced inwardly and spun around to see a Scorpion Emerald Magistrate. Sharp eyes scanned her heraldry. He recognized her as Soshi Komiko, once a servant of the former Emerald Champion, Shosuro Jimen. “Reinforcing the Wall. You are interfering with the business of the Yogo.”

Komiko frowned. “I heard nothing of this. Do you have orders?” She examined Chijin and the Bayushi, their crimson marks, the weird kanji on the Wall.

“Of course I have orders. From Nitoshi-sama himself!” As Chijin handed her the scroll he smeared the paper with gritty red paint. As Komiko examined its contents the Yogo turned back to his work. She could find nothing immediately wrong. The papers had Nitoshi’s chop and the mark of a Yogo commander.

“Soshi-sama, I need you to back up.” Komiko frowned at the back of Chijin’s head. Something was wrong, but she couldn’t quite identify what. The Yogo whispered a strange series of syllables. The Bayushi warriors fanned out to watch him. Komiko began to back away, but stopped. She looked down at the scroll again. All the markings were in order. But the Yogo shugenja’s chop…Komiko’s eyes widened in realization. That man had not been at the Wall for more than a week. This mark was supposedly stamped by him today. “Forgery,” she whispered.

“Stop him!” Komiko’s blade sang from its saya. As she charged forward the Bayushi watched in confusion. Chijin ignored her shout and continued to chant. Crimson soaked hands lifted high and clenched into tight fists. The Bayushi screamed in agony and fell to their knees, the markings on their foreheads seared through flesh and bone.

  Chijin spat the final prayer. “Come forth. The way is prepared.” The Soshi’s blade arced down. Blood sprayed from Chijin’s back. The Yogo fell, but Chijin ignored the pain, eyes wide, laughing maniacally.

  “Blood! For the Dark Lord! Come forth. The way is prepared!” The ground rumbled at the base of the Wall. The Scorpion warriors stank of charred flesh, their skulls burning with an angry red flame.

“Hellish Jigoku, come forth! The way is – ”

  Soshi Komiko’s second strike tore open his throat. Yogo Chijin fell dead at her feet. The world shook.

The Wall exploded.

* * *

 

Two Kakita stood in the center of a tournament ring facing down a group of young Crab. The Emperor-to-be had convened a tournament for bushi seeking to prove themselves capable of serving as officers in the Imperial Legions. Kakita Shinichi and his brother Daitsu entered willingly, but today’s bout was not a…legitimate part of the proceedings. Instead, it was a game the two had played since childhood called “Separate the Chaff.” There was a koku a head for each bushi downed and the pride of victory.

Daitsu ducked under Shinichi’s cape to dodge an incoming strike. The Crab attacker twisted with alarming speed. His tetsubo rebounded off the stone where Daitsu should have reappeared, but Daitsu turned instead to follow his brother’s flowing cloth. By the time the Hida realized his mistake, Shinichi had spun around to face him. The flat of his blade slammed into the Crab’s nose with a sickening crunch.

“That one was mine!” Daitsu called out as he reset himself, back to back with Shinichi.

Shinichi chuckled. “Too slow. I’m up by one, little brother. Let me tell you what I’m going to do with my winnings! Two bottles of sake in the finest geisha house and whatever company comes my way.”

“If you can find a lady willing to stand your arrogance.”

“See, that’s why you always lose. Why limit yourself to half the options?”

Shinichi rolled his shoulders and watched the Crab prepare their next assault. He caught the eyes of one in particular and grinned, his teeth the color of fresh pearls. The Crab frowned, no longer listening to his compatriot. Shinichi winked, grinning from ear-to-ear.

The Crab roared and charged.

“Ha! Another fool, another round, another – STEP,” Shinichi ducked and the tetsubo whistled overhead. In the same instant Daitsu took a single step forward. The strike landed inches from his back. The younger Kakita looked over his shoulder at the Hida’s reddened face. The Crab’s cheeks puffed as he looked up at his new target. Daitsu rolled his eyes.

“Eyes on target, Hida.” Too late, the Crab looked back to where Shinichi had stepped away in time to see the saya of a katana crash into his face.

“Two up!” The brothers reset again, back to back, filling the air with mindless chatter. “Have you heard any gossip about a prophecy, Shinichi?”

Daitsu lifted his arms up as if inviting his enemies to charge, but the Crab were wary now. “They’re learning!” Daitsu laughed.

“Yes,” Shinichi said, “I’ve heard something about darkness and evil that will spread across Rokugan, but am I afraid? No! Do you know why? Because the Empire has been at peace for years. Gossip is gossip. It’s most likely false. If so, why waste breath repeating some bored courtier’s words?” The duo began to move in a circle, backs together, eyeing the half dozen Crab who remained.

“And if they speak truth?”

“As I said,” Shinichi saw the Crab break apart and prepare to attack as one. His right heel butted purposefully against Daitsu’s left. “Rokugan has been at peace for years. It’s about time we had a real war. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? NOW!”

Crab charged. The two Kakita tucked and rolled towards their enemies. The sudden movement gave the Hida pause. Shinichi and Daitsu came up laughing and struck like wind taking out two more.

“What indeed!” Daitsu said as a Hida tackled him to the ground.

Shinichi spun, blade unsheathed and slicing in a defensive arc. As Daitsu went down he realized it was him alone now against the remaining Crab. “I think I win!” He laughed with insane cheer as the bushi closed in and wondered if they would remember not to break his bones.

* * *

 

The Scorpion Army split in two around the circular Wall. The First Crimson Legion led a charge on the right, an elite unit of spearmen known as the Scorpion’s Strike at their head. The Second Crimson Legion circled from the left. Chizuki recognized the heraldry of Bayushi Norimasa and the Black Cabal. They rushed headlong into the mouth of the Lion. Chizuki thought them insane until the first Warden arrived from the south.

The Crab had turned. Chizuki spat, furor and excitement playing hell with her emotions. She had never faced Crab on the field. The prospect filled her with an insane joy. This would give the Scorpion advantage. The Lion would be pressed from three sides.

“My lady, give me leave to face the Crab,” said Matsu Rishou, leader of one of the Deathseeker units.

Chizuki looked at Zaiko. She took a deep breath as Dairuko had taught her and considered the matter. The Crab were used to facing beasts. The Deathseekers could match their ferocity. If she split the Beastmasters and the Lion’s Pride between the Scorpion she could bolster them with a Soul of the Lion formation. Matsu heavies in the middle would lead the charge. Akodo swordsmen behind to clean up. Ikoma light infantry and archers at the flanks. Matsu would drive a wedge into the Scorpion. The formation was an engine of beautiful destruction.

Less than a minute had passed. She looked to her command staff ready to give the orders.

“Something is wrong.” Matsu Tayuko said. “The Scorpion…they, they’re scattering. It looks like a rout, but we haven’t engaged them yet.” Indeed, it looked as if the Scorpion army had exploded into disarray. Their cavalry spun about, infantry fled in all direction.

Matsu Karoko saw them first. “Oni.”

Chizuki’s blood ran cold. The world filled with Scorpion screams. She had to redirect the forces. “Send word to the Crab! Sound trumpets, get in line! GET IN FORMATION!”

The earth erupted. A hundred minor demons flowed out behind the charge of a powerfully built demon. It was nothing but muscle and maw. There was no head. Jaws wide enough to bite a man in half split the demon down the middle. Chizuki was no scholar of dark lore, but she recognized Kamu no Oni, the Killing Maw.

The Scorpion and Lion armies collided, some unable to see the altered circumstances of the battle. From the south Chizuki heard the Crab drums.

Zaiko roared. His razor teeth seized the leg of the Kamu. The command staff adapted quickly, barking orders, flashing tessen. Ikoma Wardens raced away in all directions to turn the army. But the horde moved quickly, as if someone had prepared for their passing. As if someone had planned to use the Wall as weapon.

Matsu Rishou slammed into the Kamu, his Akodo blade slicing sideways from the demon’s arm to its hideous teeth. His blade stuck. Black blood soaked the Deathseeker. Chizuki remembered a Crab tactic for dealing with such creatures.

“Fill it with arrows! Fire, fire!”

Chizuki was running alongside Zaiko to aid Rishou and the others. Matsu Tayuko and Matsu Karoko fell in beside her and the four Lion roared as one. Even a demon was no match for the ferocity of the Matsu.

A dark shadow blocked the sun in the west. Air crackled, sound broke, and a monster the size of a house appeared out of nothing. As the Killing Maw fell, the Tsuburu no Oni reached out a skinny arm and plucked the Deathseeker from the ground. Rishou’s arms were pinned. His blade fell to the earth. Chizuki heard Rishou’s ferocious roar as he was forced down the beast’s gullet. She saw Rishou clamp his teeth around the oni’s tongue and the Tsuburu’s eyes went wide with pain. Before the other Lion could reach it, the demon vanished again only to reappear in the middle of a unit of shocked Scorpion.

Chizuki stood still and took another breath. The world was full of the sound of horns and agony, erupting earth, and orders.

“Nitoshi did this.” There was no time for that now.

Matsu Chizuki picked up Rishou’s Akodo blade and thrust it into Tayuko’s hands. “Take it. Your blade will not harm the demons.” Then she turned towards the nearest demon and charged.

* * *

 

Kitsuki Kira lifted a cup of warm sake in praise. “Gracious of you to allow us the use of your private theatre, Meikuko-san. How you were able to acquire such a remarkable building is a tale that must be told.”

The Spider artisan waved dismissively. “How could I refuse guests of your reputation? The Susumu daimyo and our Dragon overseers in my House of Ignorant Bliss? Any day you wish!” Daigotsu Meikuko flashed her brilliant smile. Kira eyed the Spider’s paper-thin skin, bleach-white hair, and piercing dark eyes that glittered a sapphire blue when the light hit them, just so. He swallowed a lump in his throat and turned to Susumu Kuroko.

“Your vassals are so courteous! I don’t understand why the other clans doubt your willingness to adhere to tradition.”

Kuroko’s lips pursed as if tasting something sour. “Perhaps their reluctance comes not at the Spider’s actions, but instead at the constant oversight of your clan? The Crane do not have Lion looking over their shoulder with every newly presented piece of art.” Her eyebrow arched. “They treat us differently because you do. That is why I was hoping we could speak today.”

Kira frowned and looked back to his yojimbo, Mirumoto Rikiya. “I told you it would be this again.” The Kitsuki turned to Kuroko’s own appointed yojimbo for the meeting, Daigotsu Atsushi. “Does your mistress not tire of having the same conversation over and over?”

Kira sighed and settled in for another debate over Dragon oversight. Before he could speak, shadows splashed across the paper walls. The doors to the outer rooms slid open and the half dozen Dragon all turned as one. Kuroko shot a quick glance to Atsushi, but he was as confused as the rest.

A foul stench wafted in ahead of the undead Spider. Daigotsu Endo was followed by five compatriots, each armed and armored. Endo turned empty eye sockets to Kuroko and Atsushi. His empty voice chilled the Dragon to the bone.

“Word has come from the Goju. We are to enact Kanpeki’s protocol. It is time.” Endo drew his blade with no further preamble and five Spider followed suit.

“What is the meaning of this? Protocol? What – ” Kitsuki Kira’s voice cut short as Endo lunged forward and thrust the blade into his throat. The room erupted into chaos, but the Dragon had not come prepared for battle.

“Vile traitors!” Mirumoto Rikiya leapt towards the daimyo of the Susumu, but Daigotsu Atsushi was faster. The world slowed and Atsushi’s hand flew to his blade. Even as he drew he felt the lingering doubt. The wound across his chest flared in agony. Yasuki Kyoko’s face flashed before his eyes and the darkness called to him, like before. It urged him to accept it.

Become whole.

Steel met steel and Atsushi fought down the call. He would not give in to fear. Not yet. Rikiya’s wakizashi grazed the Spider’s bicep, but Atsushi was more lethal. He lunged forward without thought, ignoring the nagging voice. His katana slammed into the Mirumoto’s breast and in an instant Mirumoto Rikiya was dead.

The sweet tang of fresh blood filled the room. The slaughter was over in an instant. Kitsuki Kira and his Dragon attendants splayed across tatami mats soaked with blood. Susumu Kuroko had not said a word throughout the ordeal. Now that it was over, she stood, straightened her kimono, and faced Endo.

“Are you going to explain?”

A skull stared back. Endo’s voice rang hollow from exposed bone. “Neither Susumu nor the monastic orders shall hear from the Daigotsu for a time. You have your own savior, though you do not know it yet.”

Endo turned to Atsushi and stepped over the body of Kitsuki Kira. “You will come with us, at least until we are away from the city. We will hide you, but you will not end up where we are going unless you wish to join the ranks of undead. Our stronghold is no place for a breather.”

Daigotsu Atsushi looked at the bodies of the Dragon. The voice beckoned in the back of his mind. Endo seemed to sense it. “You should accept the blessing. Your power will grow and it would consume your wretched fear.”

The undead Spider turned back to his men. “Take the bodies, except the Mirumoto. Leave him for others to find.”

Susumu Kuroko stood silent as the Daigotsu obeyed. The Dragon were wrapped in the tatami mats and carried out the back of the building. Even Daigotsu Meikuko followed as Endo departed. Atsushi was the last to go, his lingering eyes shadowed by introspection. Finally, only the Susumu daimyo and the bloody corpse of Mirumoto Rikiya remained.

Kuroko sat back down and lifted her cup of tea.

“And so it begins.”

* * *

 

Akodo Kano stood outside the tent of the Lion Champion and listened to her unbridled rage. Days had passed since the Battle at the Second Pit. The First Matsu Army had been decimated. Even after Chizuki regrouped and took the Crab troops under her command, they absorbed heavy losses. The Scorpion said they hadn’t realized the situation and had kept on fighting their Lion foe. By the time the reality of the situation fell upon them, it was too late.

Crab, Lion, and Scorpion lay in heaps amid the blackened blood of demons and undead. It was remarkable that Chizuki and most of her command staff had survived.

“Nitoshi will pay!” Kano cringed as Dairuko slammed her fist down atop the map table. When word came he ordered her elite guard to spread out and keep the rest of the encampment at bay. However, the Lion had already heard. Everywhere Kano looked there was nothing but naked aggression.

Hours after the first report, an Ikoma Warden arrived with the battered body of a Scorpion. Soshi Komiko survived the initial explosion at the Scorpion Wall and had been caught riding towards Kyuden Bayushi to deliver the news. She had to be tended to by the Kitsu before she was in any shape to speak, but what she had to say did nothing to soothe Dairuko’s ire.

“The orders were forged, Lady Akodo. Yogo Chijin was a traitor to us as well as you. Nitoshi would not have planned this. He would not have used the Second Pit this way.” The words fell deaf on the Lion Champion’s ears. After an hour long interrogation, Dairuko gave Soshi Komiko a choice: end her own life or face public execution.

Only Kano had been willing to serve as her second.

This is only the beginning. I have shown you the truth. I have shown you the path ahead and it is filled with death.

Akodo Kano closed his eyes. With the darkness came the ghostly figure of shining silver. His ancestor, Matsu Hitomi, spoke as she had spoken on the day of his brother’s death.

The Dark Prophecy spreads. This is just the beginning. I have shown you what is in my power to bestow. Darkness rises from the depths of the ocean joined by the bastard children of Daigotsu. Your Empress’s blessing is revealed. They are coming and you must survive the onslaught or the world will surely fall.

Was it too late to stop them? Hitomi’s visions did not depict a world of victory. She had shown him a vision from far overhead. An army of Crab and Lion, Naga and the remnants of other clans stood ringed by miles and miles of wasted land. On the other side of that deadly ring was corruption and death.

It is never too late for honor.

Matsu Hitomi was right. It was never too late for honor.

But it might already be too late for Rokugan.

 

About the author: C. Thomas Hand
Bio: C. Thomas Hand is a member of the Legend of the Five Rings fiction team and a freelance writer for the role playing game.