Among Sparrows wrote:
The Year 1179
“What do you fear?”
The young man knelt in front of his sensei and looked at the floor. “I fear nothing,” he said defiantly. He dared to look up and lock gazes with the elder monk and gave the man a superior look. “I am the son of a god. I have no fe-”
Daigotsu Kanpeki’s speech was cut short by a swift, but somehow casual strike by the towering man who stood above him. Michio’s fist knocked the ten year old boy to his back. “I do not suffer lies. Lies are weakness. A strong man faces his faults and controls them until they are something else.”
Kanpeki moved to his feet and glared at the monk. “Have a care, sohei. I am Daigotsu’s heir, when I rule this Clan, I will-” His words were once again knocked from his mouth as he fell to the ground.
“You are Daigotsu’s child. The son of a man to whom I owe loyalty. But you are not his heir. Not yet.” Michio relaxed his stance and watched the boy get back up, but this time more cautiously. “You carry the legacy of a man who defied gods. A man who made the Empire bow to his terms. I was satisfied to call that man my lord, and I cannot sully his memory by letting something weak and stupid ascend to take control of what he built.” The master sohei stalked around the training room in a circle, never looking at Kanpeki but somehow making the boy feel like his gaze never wavered from him.
“I will tell you something, boy,” Michio finally said, crossing his arms and giving Kanpeki a considering look. “I have a fear of my own. Would you like to know what it is?”
“Yes,” the son of Daigotsu said.
“I fear that I will die on this mortal world without finding an opponent that can kill me,” Micho said. The monk looked down at his hands and flexed them slightly. “I am a hawk among sparrows, and I fear I will never have my skill and resolve challenged. Truly challenged. Warriors must face down things that truly terrify them or might end them, and in that time they find the truth of their convictions. I have never faced such a test. So I must wonder - are my ideals and convictions simply vanity? If I truly see the wide maw of death in the eyes of my enemy, will I flee or stand? I may never find out.”
Silence dominated the dojo for a time, then Kanpeki spoke, “I fear I will never live up to my father’s legacy,” he said, frowning.
“It is too easy of an answer,” Michio replied. “There is something else.” The words were not a question, only a statement.
Kanpeki opened his mouth to speak, to say something, but he was interrupted when a man walked into the chamber. “That is enough for today, Michio-san,” the Voice of the Empress said. “The Empress bids the young heir prepare to attend an audience with the Imperial Explorers and the Lion Clan Champion.”
Michio looked up towards Togashi Satsu, the Voice, and Kanpeki saw something in the sohei’s eyes. Some sort of yearning, an unmistakable urge towards violence that was barely kept in check. Did the master sohei dream of finally being free of his own self-imposed duty, free to strike out at the legendary warrior monk Satsu? Was it the battle he truly craved, the test he sought?
“As you say, Satsu-sama. The Empress’ will,” was all Michio said, bowing and then standing at attention away from Kanpeki.
What manner of power could a mortal have to command such restraint from those such as Michio, Kanpeki wondered. What kind of being was the Empress?
The Year 1186
“The Empress accepts your devotion, Daigotsu Kanpeki,” the Voice of the Empress said, looking down at the kneeling form of the newly-appointed Spider Clan Champion. “You will serve the Empire by fulfilling the Spider’s purpose in the Colonies. Bring the untamed lands under the rule of Rokugan. Conquer in her name.” It was the written purpose of the Spider Clan, spoken aloud as a charge to the Champion. He was now the equal to others that held that title, and his clan was one more step towards their place.
Kanpeki looked at the assembled courtiers and lords in the Empress’ court. They despised him... mostly. He turned his gaze to the Unicorn samurai, and saw Moto Naleesh standing among them. As always, he was fascinated by the woman’s gaze, which held little of the calculating or controlled look of others. Instead, Naleesh looked at him almost like a proud sister would. She was overjoyed by his ascension.
She was possibly the only one in the room who had such a look on her face, naturally.
After the protocols and rituals were followed, the court was officially adjourned, which meant the politicians and opportunists would linger in the court chambers and bargain their little favors and lies for the season. Kanpeki stood with the man who had helped guide him through the political turmoil of the Empire for the winter, Tenbatsu. “I would speak with her again,” Kanpeki said flatly, indicating the Unicorn with a nod of his head. “I cannot say why, but I feel I must.”
“She is betrothed to the Dragon lord Shikei,” Tenbatsu warned. “Pursuing such a thing is sure to bring the disfavor of the Dragon Clan upon you, which is not something we can weather at this time.”
Kanpeki gave the man a frown. “She can be a friend, Tenbatsu-san. I am not interested in anything else.”
“What does the Lord of the Spider need for friends?” the advisor replied, giving him a calculating look. The question held no challenge, only a testing curiosity.
“Did my father not make overtures to the Unicorn?” Kanpeki replied, taking steps towards the Unicorn entourage. “Did my father not see the worth in becoming part of this Empire? We must find strong, true allies. The Dragon are with us, but only in the way that they try to teach and change us. Moto Naleesh has always regarded us carefully, as one might regard a wild dog that they might befriend. She has no designs to tame, use, or despise us. And for that, Tenbatsu-san,” he said evenly, not breaking his stride, “I would speak with her.”
Kanpeki and his lieutenant approached the Unicorns, and a young man stepped in front of the Unicorn Champion. “I am Takeru, of the Unicorn,” he began quickly bowing and blocking the path to Naleesh. “My Lady is-”
“Your Lady is capable of speaking for herself, samurai,” Kanpeki said slowly. There was no insult in his voice, and he did not even direct his comment towards the one who had stepped in front of him. “I will speak with her.”
Naleesh stepped forward and placed a hand on Takeru’s shoulder, “It’s fine,” she said, smiling. Her dark eyes regarded the Spider lord with nothing but warmth and interest. “You are not the monster they say you are, you know,” she said as a greeting. “I see a determined man before me, nothing more. History is filled with such men misunderstood as monsters.”
“My lady Moto,” Kanpeki replied, looking at his hands. “I am both of those things.”
The Year 1191
Kanpeki’s fist wrapped around his opponent’s sword arm as he stepped inside the weapon’s reach. With a fierce kiai shout, he slammed his other fist into the man’s ribs and threw him into the air.
The Spider Champion was disappointed when the other man did not go sprawling onto his back, but instead rolled with the attack and let go of his weapons. Mirumoto Shikei landed lightly on his feet, the swords making a clattering noise on the ground as he swept his leg out and caught Kanpeki in the chest. The two men exchanged a flurry of fist and foot strikes as they fought not to damage one another, but to take advantage of the most minor disadvantage in footing or speed.
Kanpeki rolled away from Shikei’s reach and dove for the pair of swords the Dragon had knocked from his grip earlier in the fight. He watched the Mirumoto flip backwards and land near his own swords, picking them up in a smooth motion. The Spider Champion had always envied the Dragon’s quiet, purposeful movements and demeanor. Everything Shikei did seemed as if it was part of a larger plan or something he had complete control over.
“Kanpeki-san,” the Dragon Champion said, laughing, “I think that’s enough for now. We are back exactly where we began, armed and forty feet or so away from each ot-”
The Spider threw one of his swords at Shikei with a grunt, and the other man knocked it out of the air with a look of surprise on his face. The moment of seeing Shikei taken aback, even for a blink of an eye, was worth it.
“I see,” Shikei said, chuckling. “Definitely not something you started the fight with.”
“You are frustrating, Dragon,” Kanpeki said, relaxing his stance and breathing.
“And you are holding back, Spider,” Shikei emphasized the last word slightly, indicating his amusement at the formality of it. “Kanpeki, what is it? Why do we spar like this every time you return to the Empire? You know you can speak freely to me.”
The Spider Champion looked at the other man for a moment, weighing his words. Shikei had been the closest thing to a true friend outside the Spider Clan he had ever had, but Kanpeki always felt as if he was watching his behavior around him. After a moment’s silence, he looked up at the Dragon.
“I am afraid,” he said flatly.
“Fear is natural,” Shikei responded, laying down his weapons. “What is it you fear?”
Kanpeki traced his finger on the decorative horns he wore - an homage to both his father and the ogre that had stood by his side for so long. “I fear myself.”
“I understand, my friend.”
Kanpeki looked up at Shikei, and odd mix of sorrow and determination on his face. “I do not think you do, Shikei. Let me show you.”
With that, the son of Daigotsu leapt across the room, dropping the weapons and striking out at the Dragon Champion. Shikei readied himself for the attack, but something seemed different immediately. The charge was much wilder, more savage than he had seen the man execute before. Kanpeki landed where Shikei had been standing a moment before, and the two men once again fought back and forth in close, unarmed combat. Shikei’s footing moved back over and over, until Kanpeki finally had the other man against the wall. In an instant, he had his hand on the Dragon’s throat, and Shikei had pressed the palm of his hand against the Spider’s ribcage - both were restraining themselves from a killing blow.
Shikei looked at his longtime sparring partner with surprise once again. “You have never... your fury has always been restrained, Kanpeki-san,” the Dragon said.
Kanpeki released his grip and stepped back. “It is time for me to embrace what I am, Mirumoto-san,” he said looking down. “I am afraid of what it means. I have spent my life under the tutelage of the Empress’ scholars and sensei. I was allowed to train with my father’s vassals in brief moments, but for all of this time, I am... I am a hawk among sparrows.”
The Dragon smiled, as he always did. “The only crime a hawk commits is when he thinks he can be a sparrow, then,” he said.
“You know what my father was, what he wanted. You would encourage me to follow in his footsteps?” Kanpeki seemed confused. “Is it not treason?”
“Would you depose the Empress?” Shikei asked, his manner losing its humor.
“Nonsense,” Kanpeki replied. “She is strong. At least the equal to my father, as he chose to parley with her rather than continue his war against her Empire. The clans serve her without hesitation.”
“Then you understand as you should,” Shikei said, taking a step towards the Spider Champion. “You serve a place in this Empire, just as the others do. Would the Lion not truly follow the Empress if she was dishonorable? The Crab, if she were corrupt? The Phoenix, if she were not wise? She is appointed by the Celestial Heavens, and they would obey, but in their hearts they would rebel.”
“We serve a strong Empress,” Kanpeki said, understanding. “But when the one on the Throne is not strong?”
“The Dragon have watched over your people, Kanpeki. We have taught them, shielded them as best we can from the other clans so that they can earn their place in the Empire. But we have never forgotten what they are. If you see weakness, you might attack the Iweko Dynasty. And then I suppose we will have to kill you,” Shikei answered, as casually if he were commenting on the weather.
It was strange to hear his friend say such a thing, but it should not have surprised him. The Dragon had spent a great deal of time understanding the Spider, and what they discussed now was simply the reality of the situation. A reality that the other clans did not wish to talk about - except to tie a noose around the Spider’s neck. Kanpeki considered the other man’s words for a moment and then nodded. “If you can,” he said, looking at his hands, “then I would have been a fool to do such a thing.” After a pause, he added, “We will never speak of this again. The Iweko Dynasty has our devotion, as it should be.”
It was fear, the Champion of the Spider Clan finally knew. Fear of the Spider that kept the Empress and her servants strong. Things were not so different from what they were years ago. If weakness gripped the Empire, if unworthiness sat upon the throne, Daigotsu’s children would sweep across the Empire. And fear of that day would keep them strong, or it would end them.
A Brief History of the Sanctioned Spider Clan wrote:
1173 - The Spider Clan’s ascension to Great Clan and Daigotsu’s ascension to Lord of Jigoku. The Empress agrees to the terms set forth by Daigotsu - in exchange for the Spider’s acceptance as a Great Clan and the removal of the Taint from Kanpeki, the Shadowlands Taint will no longer spread unchecked. Instead, only those who seek to take on the corruption of Jigoku will know its touch.
The Spider are given the task of conquering and preparing the former Ivory Kingdoms for Rokugani occupation. The Empress states that the Spider will not lay claim to all of this land, but they will be tasked with ensuring its relative safety before others enter. The Child of Heaven states that the Tainted Spider are exiled from the Empire to die in this duty. Untainted Spider (largely the Order of the Spider sohei) are allowed to remain in Rokugan, though many leave for the future Colonies in solidarity.
1174 - Daigotsu Tenbatsu, Michio, and Daigotsu Sahara are appointed as the ruling council of the Spider by the Empress until such time as Daigotsu’s heir is of age. No Spider is given Regency over the clan. Instead, Mirumoto Ichizo is expelled from the Empire in shame to watch over the Spider and serve as Regent until Kanpeki is of age. The Chuda show anger over being passed over in regards to having a voice on the council, but as no leaders within the family are without the Taint, the matter is ignored by the Imperial Court.
1174 - Founding of the Susumu family. Daigotsu Susumu’s daughter (who would later take the name Kuroko) is named the heir, though she is only two years old at the time. Though un-Tainted, the family carries the name of a newly-appointed Dark Fortune, which causes great distress to many in the Empire. Those among the Spider who bear no Taint and have a talent for diplomacy are appointed to this family. The Spider Council appoint this new family the task of representing the clan in diplomatic matters in the Empire.
1174 - The Order of the Spider petition the Empress to be allowed to construct a temple to Susumu, the Dark Fortune of Deception. The petition is not immediately granted, but delayed while the Empress meditates on the matter. During this time, a fierce debate sparks among the scholars and mystics of the Empire - shockingly, there are as many who find the idea acceptable as those who do not. In the end, several Kuni debate with the Master of Water, Asako Bairei, over the matter while the Empress observes. Finally, the Empress declares the Master’s logic is flawless - Susumu is to be venerated as an ancestor of a noble family, but he is not to be prayed to as a Fortune until the matter is given further consideration. The temple is allowed. In a more private audience, the Voice of the Obsidian Moon appears to Bairei, commending him for his devotion to truth over his private feelings.
1174 - In one of the first campaigns of the Spider’s exploration of the ruined Ivory Kingdom, the Chuda discover a ruin filled with several artifacts of dark power left over from a previous cadre of sorcerers. The maho-tsukai keep this discovery to themselves, reporting back to their Dragon masters that the ruin is cursed and must be destroyed. With tools of unpredictable power now in their hands, several of the Chuda begin to contact their Daigotsu allies about how to best employ them.
1175 - A band of Tainted ronin turn themselves in to the Jade Magistrates, claiming that they have prayed to Daigotsu for strength and now wish to serve in his clan. Because the ronin voluntarily surrendered, they are not executed. Eventually, Kuni Daigo, the Jade Champion, is instructed to have these ronin escorted to Unicorn lands. From there, they will follow the next land caravan to the slowly expanding Colonies where the Spider will be allowed to execute or accept them. Laws concerning the new Taint are quickly written by Daigo authorizing more proactive enforcement of executing those suspected of the Taint before they surrender themselves.
1176 - In the middle of a large mountain range that bisects the area of the former Ivory Kingdoms, the Shadow Dragon comes upon a strange mountain devoid of life. Here, the dark Dragon finds the ruins of a cult devoted to bringing about the end of the world - undoing all of creation. Never before aware that knowledge of the Nothing had extended to the Kingdoms, the Shadow Dragon sends for his minions to make their home here. Naturally, the creature shares this information with no one, instead insisting to the Spider leaders that he is merely using his pawns to cleanse the areas normal - even tainted - mortals cannot reach.
Over months, the Shadow Dragon and his minions are able to focus enough of their corrupting power into the area so that the Dragon is able to appear here at will. The corruption of the Lying Darkness and its effects on the region spread at an extremely slow pace, far from the eyes of anyone.
1178 - After being rebuked for their disloyalty to the Empire and Daigotsu’s pact by collecting gaijin artifacts in secret, the Chuda stage a betrayal of a large contingent of Daigotsu warriors deep in the jungle. However, the Spider and Dragon are fully prepared for the predictable turn of events, and the few surviving tsukai flee for their lives.
In the Empire, the Susumu quickly leap upon the chance to paint the conflict as an unimpeachable show of fealty to the Empress. Few of the noble families seem moved, though in the Colonies, the Mantis and Unicorn eagerly agree to assist the Spider in hunting the remaining Chuda.
1180 - While wandering the Empire in pursuit of bandits and other criminals, the sohei Michio’s comments about heroes being empty idols draws the wrath of the Fortune of Heroes, Goemon. The two engage in a fight that lasts for hours, witnessed by several peasants and other Spider monks. At the end, Michio delivers a strike to the Fortune that ends the battle, but he has suffered wounds that he will never recover from. The master sohei dies shortly thereafter, and Tetsuo, his most powerful student, assumes control of the Order of the Spider and Michio’s place on the Spider Council.
1182 - After having infiltrated the Spider for years, the Shosuro learn the truth of the Goju and Ninube family’s association with the Spider. Though the Scorpion were aware of the Shadow Dragon’s existence (and that of his minions) they were previously only suspicious of a true relationship between the corrupted Dragon and the Spider. The Scorpion choose to keep this information to themselves, until such a time exposing it might cause maximum damage to the Spider.
1183 - The Spider in the Colonies suffer an attack from unknown assailants in the Kingdoms. The Mantis and Unicorn are likewise attacked, and all are caught off guard by the presence of such an organized and large force. The Spider are able to repel the attack with minimal problems, though the Unicorn and Mantis elsewhere in the Colonies suffer major losses. The Spider are accused of staging the attack on themselves as a way to cover a strike against the other clans, and the civil relations between these clans are strained to the breaking point.
While the Susumu and Kitsuki attempt to control the situation, Daigotsu Gyoken leads a force of Spider bushi to track down and destroy the attackers that escaped the Mantis and Unicorn. In less than three weeks, Gyoken’s small army cuts a swath of death through the Jungle, until over five hundred gajin are dead at his feet. He returns to the settled lands and carries with him the weapons of slain Mantis and Unicorn that his men recovered from the gaijin raiders. Instead of taking the opportunity to shame the other two clans with Gyoken’s success in the face of their failure, the Spider simply return to their duty once the accusations die down.
Naturally, this earns them a great deal of respect from the Unicorn and Mantis.
1185 - After spending more than a decade clearing out hostile lands, assisting in the construction of villages and outposts, and then moving forward, the Spider finally finish construction of their own stronghold deep in the Colonies. In the western edge of the ruined Kingdoms, the Spider build a great fortress in an unusual area they name the Plain of Glass. Unnatural storms constantly hammer the land with lightning and rain, and the ground is made of a strange, smooth stone. Unsurprisingly, the stronghold receives few visitors from outside the Spider.
1186 - Daigotsu Kanpeki is named Champion of the Spider Clan, and the Spider Council is formally dissolved. As his first official act as Champion, Kanpeki declares that the Spider must do what they can to find and destroy the remnants of the Chuda while maintaining the task set before them by the Empress. Kanpeki formally expresses his gratitude to the Mantis and Unicorn for their assistance in this matter in the past, but states this is now a conflict for the Spider alone.
Kanpeki names Mirumoto Ichizo his permanent advisor, ensuring that the aging Dragon bushi does not return to Rokugan to likely face seppuku or another shameful assignment. The Spider Champion begins a formal petition to increase trade and military cooperation with the Unicorn Clan, as well as increasing the taxes on his expanding lands to bring a greater share back to the Empire.
1186 - Kanpeki meets with the Shadow Dragon in secret, attempting to understand the entity that his father bargained with. While the new Spider Champion is prepared for the meeting by notes left by his father and guidance given to him by Daigotsu Tenbatsu, the discussion goes poorly. The Shadow Dragon attempts to manipulate and goad Kanpeki into saying anything against the Dragon Clan, the Unicorn Clan, or even the Empress.
Insulted by the Shadow Dragon’s obviously low opinion of his intelligence, Kanpeki threatens the Dragon’s existence, citing that he is Tainted, and thus the plaything of his father. The Shadow Dragon then proceeds to mock Daigotsu openly, inviting the Lord of Jigoku to exact retribution if he so wishes. When no such punishment arrives, the Dragon laughingly assures Kanpeki that the Goju and Ninube will continue to act in the best interests of the Spider. Shortly after the meeting, Kanpeki requests several audiences with the Kitsuki scholars most versed in the history of the Lying Darkness.
1188 - Susumu Kuroko assumes control of the Susumu family. Kuroko has spent the past few years ingratiating herself to the political elite of the Empire, despite their misgivings. Though she does not possess the wealth or connections of the Crane or Scorpion, Kuroko’s friendly, unapologetic, and sincere attitude earns her a great many allies.
1190 - The forces under the command of Daigotsu Misaki encounter another force similar to that which attacked the Spider, Mantis, and Unicorn several years ago. The savage Misaki personally slays eight of the gaijin, and takes two prisoner as his soldiers slaughter the rest. The prisoners are brought to Daigotsu Kanpeki for questioning, but no amount of torture brings answers. After some consideration, it is clear that some manner of cult or army has survived the destruction of the Kingdoms and a large number of them are constantly moving through the jungle as nomads, gathering their strength.
1191 - Reports begin to surface of a gaijin by the name of Rata, who has begun hunting down minions of the Shadow Dragon. The Spider find an increasing number of Goju and Ninube corpses (something completely unheard of previously) twisted and desiccated as if they had been dried in the sun or drained of all fluids. Kanpeki attempts to speak with the Shadow Dragon, who does not answer his summons. The Spider Champion then quietly orders the man be found and captured alive if possible.
1193 - Daigotsu Kanpeki leads a military strike against a corrupted stronghold of some sort deep within the jungle. The castle’s defenses are largely magical, and spirits and animated statues attempt to fight back the Spider forces. After a three day siege, the Spider finally lay claim to what appears to be a great mausoleum used by the fallen dynasties of the Kingdoms. The Champion orders his strongest tsukai to the temple to claim what they can. In a matter of weeks, the Keep of the Dead becomes a heavily fortified base of power for the Spider.
Kanpeki’s actions are reported to the Dragon by Mirumoto Ichizo, and the Spider Champion is called to Toshi Ranbo to speak with the Empress. Kanpeki defends his choice, stating that the Empress made it clear that his Tainted vassals were exiled, not executed, with the expectation that they use their power in the line of duty. Togashi Satsu argues that the Spider have gone too far, but perhaps it was unclear what "too far" was previously. The Voice of the Empress states the Child of Heaven will allow this act to stand, but such further incidents will be discussed with the Tamori. From that point onward, the Dragon carefully steer the Spider away from taking control of any more such corrupted ruins.
1195 - In a fit of rage, Daigotsu Komiko slays a Kitsuki scholar in what appears to be a loss of control similar to the typical Shadowlands madman. Komiko is the oldest living Tainted Spider, and her corruption is extremely advanced. After Komiko's execution, the Kuni, Asako, and Tamori are dispatched to investigate the possibility that despite the influence of Daigotsu, the Shadowlands Taint is not “stable”. Such incidents could become commonplace for the rare Tainted Spider that survives the Clan’s constant use of them as shock troops.
1198 - The Imperial Governor of the Second City opens the Colonies up for exploration to all clans. Combined with the blind eye turned towards clan conflict in the area, the unclaimed lands of the Colonies become the site of many skirmishes between the Spider and several other clans. The conflicts are brief, as the Spider soundly defeat their attackers due to being far more acclimated to the environment. However, the Lion forces seem doggedly determined to corner the Spider into a larger fight.
Daigotsu Kanpeki orders that his officers assist the Unicorn where they can and to avoid conflicts with the Mantis if possible. Beyond that, though, he is content to give the other clans exactly what they wish for, and gives permission for his men to treat others as they have been treated. Several clans, notably the Phoenix and Scorpion, suffer major casualties in this reprisal, and sue for punishment in the courts of the Imperial Governor and the Dragon Clan. Both seem unwilling to find fault with the Spider’s reaction to the hostilities aimed at them.
1198 - With the rest of the Empire squabbling for control of much of the tamed lands, the Spider push further west. These lands are much fiercer, as they hold many of the Ivory Kingdom’s strongholds and tattered remnants. Additionally, since few have stepped for here in almost three decades, natural and unnatural beasts and dangers have taken a firm hold of the lands. The Spider are relentless in their expansion, however, and send word to the Imperial Governor that the lands they claim now will be for the Spider alone. As a sign of this, the Spider take less than a year building over a fallen Ivory Kingdoms castle and creating a military fortification and training ground dubbed the Steel Soul Dojo.
1199 - The Unicorn suffer a major setback when a large caravan is attacked and destroyed on its way along the road between the Colonies and the Empire. Kanpeki dispatches his trusted advisor Daigotsu Tenbatsu to lead the Spider’s effort to assist the Unicorn in their hunt for the attackers. Tenbatsu assures his Champion that not only will he help reinforce the fledgling alliance between the two clans, but he will take every opportunity to embarrass and outdo the Lion, who have also offered aid.
1199 - In their assault westward, a hunting party led by Daigotsu Kazuko stumbles upon a temple ruin that shows signs of recent activity. After deploying a large force, the Spider are able to massacre most of the inhabitants while Unicorn soldiers capture several prisoners.
In a surprise attack, Steel Soul Dojo is assaulted only days later from several fronts by attackers hidden within the jungle. The Dojo is not wrested from Spider control, but the clan suffers major losses, and the stronghold itself is nearly destroyed. The Cult is finally pushed back into the jungle, and several Goju follow the fleeing gaijin. With the identities and location of their enemies finally revealed, the Spider redouble their assaults into the unknown lands, fueled by righteous vengeance.
Views of the Clans wrote:
In the year 1173, Empress Iweko the First made a bargain with Daigotsu, the former ruler of the Spider Clan and sudden ascendent to mastery of Jigoku. As part of this arrangement, the Spider were named a Great Clan but largely banished to the former Ivory Kingdoms to tame the lands.
The Crab - Few hate the Spider as the Crab do. While Hida Reiha (the Champion at the time of the Spider’s ascension) privately raged over the Empress’ edict, she and her brother Benjiro ensured the clan acted perfectly in accordance with the Child of Heaven’s wishes. Though she never made an official command, the Yasuki family stepped up to ensure the letter of the new law was accepted, but not its spirit.
Spider emissaries were given the bare minimum of acceptable treatment that their status demanded. Favors for assistance and goods from the Crab were always somehow just short when the Spider requested them. It would seem that the exact materials and armaments needed had just been asked for by the Crab’s allies in the Unicorn or Scorpion Clans. When the Imperial Explorers requested the Kuni and Hiruma send trained scouts and scholars to assist with the Spider’s expansion effort, these Crab would sit idly by and offer no opinion or counsel on things not directly related to the Taint. They would steadfastly defer saying anything, citing that as the Spider are Empress’ vaunted conquerors, it would be presumptuous to advise them on anything else.
The only assistance given has been in the form of the Kuni collaborating with the Tamori in regards to the nascent clan. As the Dragon were given the task of yoking the Spider and the Kuni simply do not have the manpower to maintain a watch over them in the Colonies, they have worked with the Dragon to help them understand their Tainted charges.
To the Crab, the Spider represent not just a victory by Jigoku to gain a foothold in the Empire, but a way for true evil to somehow become tolerable by degrees. To the Spider, the Crab are bull-headed children still pouting about not getting their way. They are to be respected for their might, but there is simply no dealing with them and thus the Spider avoid doing so.
The Crane - Doji’s children walk a delicate balance when it comes to the Spider Clan. They do not dare act against the Child of Heaven’s will and they simply do not have much cause to deal with the Spider at all. However, they do know the clan is not to be trusted. The slow but steady rise of the Susumu family means the two clans do in fact cross paths more often, and as the Crane have expanded into the Colonies, they have had to deal with Spider forces now and again.
In these instances, the Crane have carefully avoided offending, aiding, indebting them, or becoming indebted to them at all. Though the Susumu courtiers are crafty and friendly, they are simply no match for the wide and powerful network of influence any given Crane family wields. In their neutrality, the Crane have been able to avoid losing face with the clans that dislike the Spider while not offending the others who are neutral or well disposed to the followers of Daigotsu.
The leaders of the clan know they will have to eventually take a solid stance on the new clan, but they are pushing that day back as far as possible. Privately, any given Crane finds the Spider distasteful. However, the clan as a whole has larger problems in the Mantis and Scorpion Clans, and they are not eager to take on another enemy needlessly.
To the Crane, the Spider are just like a drunken noble or unfortunate accident. An embarrassing reality that is dealt by proper samurai only one way - ignoring it unless cornered into acknowledging it with steady politeness. To the Spider, the Crane are practically inconsequential. The power and influence the Crane hold can be troublesome, but the Spider still see the Crane as overall weak and useless.
The Dragon - The past twenty five years have seen a steady rebuilding in the Dragon Clan, part of which meant a great deal of re-assigning resources to their new duty in the Spider. The two clans are not exactly allies, though they are closely associated in the eyes of the rest of the Empire. Kitsuki courtiers often speak for the Spider in the courts of the Empire, Tamori shugenja monitor the Taint of the corrupted members of the Spider, the Togashi monks endeavor to bring wisdom and enlightenment to them, and Mirumoto advisors often stand side-by-side with the Daigotsu in the Colonies.
Despite all this, the relationship between the two clans is merely businesslike and only rarely friendly. The Dragon do not enjoy being dragged into every squabble the other clans have with the Spider, nor do they appreciate the idea that every misstep or political incident regarding the other clan somehow becomes their fault. For twenty five years, the Dragon have patiently and repeatedly reminded the Empire that their duty was to oversee the Spider’s actions and ensure their loyalty to the Empress. The Dragon are not there to ensure the Spider play well with others or immediately withdraw from any conflict that is brought against them.
The Dragon have helped serve as a buffer between the Empire and the Spider, making sure that both sides adjust to the reality of the overall situation. Much to the frustration of the other clans, the Dragon have often pointed out that someone’s problem with the Spider is not the Spider’s fault. On the other hand, the Dragon have been steady in correcting the Spider when they step outside the boundaries of their fealty to the Empress.
To the Dragon, the Spider represent a test to those who want to truly understand the universe, as well as a group that perhaps doesn't understand itself and requires guidance. To the Spider, the Dragon represent a respectable display of those who are devoted to duty... but also a reminder that they will perhaps never truly be part of the Empire.
The Lion - Though the Lion’s initial response to the Spider’s acceptance was a passionate display of protest, some things have changed in twenty five years. In some ways, they see the worth of the Empress having her very own dogs of war - disposable troops that can be thrown away without a thought. There have been comparisons between the Tainted Spider and the Lion’s own Deathseekers, which is not a comparison the Lion appreciate but do understand on some level.
Politically, the Lion simply pretend the Spider do not exist. Unlike the Crab, who observe the minimum protocols when dealing with the Spider, the Lion do not take appointments with Spider emissaries and ignore any requests the other clan makes. This does not mean the Lion have a stronger hatred for the Spider than the Crab displays, but that they deal with it in a different manner. The Lion constantly cite the Spider are too honorless and barbaric to have any worthwhile insight into war, politics, or anything else. They have absolutely no compunctions with insulting the Spider, but do not go out of their way to do so. Briefly put, the Lion treat the Spider as they treated nearly every other clan that sparked their ire over the Empire’s history.
Recently, when the Imperial Governor opened the Colonies up to all clans for exploration, the Lion were elated. Not only were they able to strike out into new territory in the name of the Empire, but the Imperial families back in the Empire are completely overlooking any skirmishes over such territory... which has allowed the Lion to show the Spider just exactly how they feel.
To the Lion, the Spider represent an offensive, twisted reflection of their own clan stripped of the notions of honor and purity. To the Spider, the Lion are an enemy not to be underestimated. Only crushed in time.
The Mantis - Since the Mantis and Spider represented the overwhelming majority of Rokugan’s force in the Colonies for some time, the two clans fell into an uneasy alliance of convenience. The Mantis have never particularly liked the Spider, mostly because they are deeply offended by the comparisons the Empire makes between the two clans’ histories. Though there are some similarities in how they were both small powers who took destiny into their own hands and became Great Clans, any direct comparison between Yoritomo and Daigotsu is enough to have a Mantis bushi draw his weapons.
Despite this, the two clans fought, worked, and died together in the Colonies for a great deal of time. Though the Tainted Spider were used as the front line of conquering the deepest untamed lands, Yoritomo and Tsuruchi scouts often worked with the Daigotsu for mutual benefit. The only trust between the two groups is one of necessity - a lie between them could cost a great deal of lives for both. Individually, many Mantis and Spider samurai enjoy each other’s company, though the Mantis tend to avoid socializing with Tainted members of the Spider.
On a larger scale, though, the clans simply avoid stepping over one another as a form of professional courtesy. The Mantis were never quick to judge the Spider, and the Spider are content to let the Mantis claim lands that do not concern them. While the Mantis do not claim the other clan as an ally, they’re more likely to aid them through inaction or indirect support than not. This has put some strain on the Mantis’ relationship with the Crab.
To the Mantis, the Spider represent just another ugly fact the rest of the Empire wants to ignore but isn’t nearly as problematic to those with a stronger stomach. To the Spider, the Mantis represent a potential ally and brothers in arms that should be at least respected if not wholly liked due to their crude habits and undisciplined behavior at times.
The Phoenix - The ascension of the Spider posed a difficult question to the scholars and shugenja of the Phoenix Clan - what is the place of evil endorsed by the Heavens? While the overall answer was that the Empress acted in the name of the Celestial Heavens and thus was not wrong in how she acted, the finer details of what this meant sent shockwaves through the clan. Was corruption no longer an abomination, but an accepted part of the Realm of Mortals?
How the Phoenix as a whole approached the question seemed to dictate how they dealt with the Spider. At first, they responded similarly to the Crab, seeing them as a blight to be managed. Eventually, they came around to the Dragon’s general point of view that it was an interesting question posed by the universe... though they didn’t exactly come to the same conclusions as the Dragon did.
For now, the Phoenix have little interaction with the Spider due to distance and disdain. The only tangent interactions they have with them are through their common allies in the Dragon Clan. The Phoenix believe that the Tainted Spider are still corrupted, and the best thing they can do is die in the Empress’ name. Non-Tainted Spider seem to only exist to draw more people into the clan through misguided notions about honor and duty, as well as serve as a beacon for those who will corrupt themselves for power.
To the Phoenix, the Spider represent a subjugation of Jigoku’s influence, but not an ending or changing of its nature. To the Spider, the Phoenix represent mewling children that cannot adapt to a changing world.
The Scorpion - If any clan arguably hates the Spider as much as the Crab does, it is the Scorpion. The continued existence of Daigotsu’s followers is considered an affront to the Scorpion, and the leaders of the clan believe it is their failure that led to the Empress needing to bargain with Daigotsu at all. If anything, their mutual disgust of the Spider has brought the Scorpion and Crab even closer in their alliance.
The Scorpion’s sense of failure regarding the Spider was only compounded in the years following the Spider’s ascension. As the Scorpion Clan was ravaged by the Destroyers, they could only rebuild and watch almost helplessly as the Spider strengthened their foothold in the Empire. Once their resources were once again secure and the new Pit was managed, the Scorpion began turning their attention to harming the Spider in any covert or political way they could.
It didn’t take long for the Scorpion to discover the association between the Shadow Dragon, the remnants of the Goju and Ninube, and the Spider Clan. The Shosuro and Soshi have taken to monitoring these two “families” as best as they can, and share partial information with the agents of the Empress and their dwindling allies among the Dragon. As the Goju and Ninube largely operate in the Colonies - outside the Empire’s borders where war between clans is forbidden - the Scorpion have freely skirmished with them. However, they have not shared the news of the Shadow Dragon’s growing minions and alliance with the Spider just yet. The continued existence of the Goju serves as one more embarrassment to the Scorpion, but if they are revealed at just the right moment, it might be enough to turn the whole Empire against the Spider.
To the Scorpion, the Spider represent a shame to be cleansed the instant the Spider inevitably betray their so-called oaths to the Empress. To the Spider, the Scorpion represent a serious threat that cannot be truly known, and thus should be avoided where possible.
The Unicorn - The relationship between the Spider and Unicorn Clans has changed and evolved several times in the past few years. Initially, the Unicorn were the Spider’s first allies when the Tainted samurai were masquerading as a band of ronin. As the truth became clearer, the Unicorn were outraged at being duped. When the Empress used a band of Spider to scour the plague-ridden Horiuchi family from the Empire, resentment built further.
When the Spider were acknowledged as a Great Clan and given the duty of conquering the former Ivory Kingdoms, the Unicorn were also given leave to establish and control an overland route to the Colonies. This put the two clans in close working proximity to one another - a fact the Unicorn at first did not appreciate. However, much like the Mantis, the Unicorn’s distaste eventually gave way to a respect for another clan that was seen as disgusting outsiders. The Unicorn grew to respect - though not enjoy - the Spider’s strength and company in the new lands.
This changed even further when Moto Naleesh, who had always been friendly with the Spider, was revealed to be the reincarnation of Lady Shinjo. Once she was appointed Champion of the Unicorn, she opened up friendly relations with the Spider. She believed that while a great many of them were dangerous and Tainted, their devotion and duty to the Empire had been proven time and again. Unicorn diplomats moved to offer aid in the courts to the unwelcome Spider, and Unicorn warriors began coordinating true allied military actions in the Colonies. Some say this is was due to the influence of Naleesh’s betrothed, Mirumoto Shikei, but those who truly know the Champion understand she believes the Spider must be given a chance or they will always be the villains everyone else sees.
To the Unicorn, the Spider represent a chance for true samurai to display the virtues of compassion and growth that so many claim to possess but fail to embrace. To the Spider, the Unicorn represent the first opportunity they have had to be truly accepted as equals in the Empire, and they are dedicated to rewarding the Unicorn for their vision (and punishing the other clans for their lack of it).
The Organization of the Spider Clan wrote:
The Spider Clan is led in the traditional sense by Daigotsu Kanpeki, and it is likely that Kanpeki’s heir will assume control of the clan in the next generation. However, the Spider’s structure varies from the typical Great Clan due to the nature of those who are under its banner. A description of how the Spider functions on an organizational and authoritative level follows -
The Daigotsu Family are the unquestioned leaders of the Spider. A great many of them are Tainted by the corrupting touch of Jigoku, and these warriors are used on the front lines of the clan’s endless expansion and assault efforts. Among the Daigotsu, the Taint is not a mark of superiority or inferiority, simply a choice. Those who accept the Dark Lord’s touch on their soul know that they have willingly accepted a greater risk and shorter life for the glory of the Spider, the Empire, and Daigotsu himself.
For the most part, however, few Tainted Daigotsu rise high in the command structure of the family. Instead, a Tainted Spider with a keen intellect or a mind for command and tactics is often given his own squad of men (tainted or untainted), but will like never become a general or commander of multiple units. This is largely due to the relatively short life span of such men and women, but also due to the implication of Kanpeki’s pure nature. Though the Empress never explicitly stated such, the fact that Kanpeki remains a Champion and no Tainted Spider are allowed in the Empire shows that the Child of Heaven has a particular place for those with the Taint.
The Order of the Spider hold a place in the clan similar to that of the Togashi order in the Dragon Clan. These sohei are not technically samurai, though they hold a status of authority in the clan and some of them even wield weapons reserved for the noble caste. Such sohei have technically sworn fealty to the Spider Champion (and through him, to the Empress) and are granted their noble status either by their lineage or simply through lies. These sohei are rare, and most of the Order prefer long weapons that are acceptable for monks.
The Order largely represents the Spider in the Empire as its warriors and, remarkably, scholars. Many are surprised by how well spoken and educated the sohei are despite their brutish natures. While the topics these sohei tend to be trained in are all related to war, combat, and the Spirit Realms in some way, they are exceedingly well-versed in these few topics. The Order serves many roles within the clan - advisors to the Daigotsu, warriors in its battles, emissaries of the Daigotsu when a courtier is unneeded, or wandering combatants scouring the lands for bandits. The monks stay out of the political interests of the clan for the most part, instead representing the philosophy and power of the Spider to those who think the clan nothing more than a collection of mindless, Tainted madmen.
The Susumu Family, despite its small size, shoulders the enormous and painful task of representing the political interests of the clan. While the Spider do not concern themselves with many of the plots and machinations of the other clans (due to both distance and apathy), many leaders in the clan realize the need for a presence in their courts and a dialogue with their masters. The Susumu are rarely flat out turned away from these courts, though they are typically kept in their guest quarters and ignored.
While the family is currently led by Susumu Kuroko, the family’s philosophies and style of diplomacy are heavily influenced by the man who led them until Kuroko came of age - Susumu (formerly Daigotsu) Masisha. The Susumu are generally friendly, though not particularly empathetic. In general, the Spider believe the best way to avoid the constant political traps the other clans attempt to lay for them is to simply maintain an air of unflagging good humor and disinterest. The Susumu are earnest in their attempts to maintain open communication with the other clans, though they do so out of necessity than real interest. Though they are much friendlier and open, the Susumu are not that different than the Daigotsu in their approach to the outside world. They respect strength (in all forms) and will, and only truly respect few.
The Goju and Ninube are not officially recognized or sanctioned families, though many Rokugani know of them. Remnants of the Lying Darkness that once threatened the Empire, these beings serve the will of the Shadow Dragon. The Shadow Dragon was never a vassal of Daigotsu, though it took a great interest in the man when he was mortal and often lent his minions to the Dark Lord’s cause. After the Spider were named a Great Clan, the Shadow Dragon met with Daigotsu Tenbatsu and declared that the majority of the Goju and Ninube were his to command.
Despite this pledge from the Shadow Dragon, the Daigotsu leadership have never truly learned to accept or trust the supernatural ninja. These minions, holding little of their own identities or desires, serve as servants that can be commanded easily... but still seem to have a mocking and unsettling nature in how they go about their orders. They answer only to the Daigotsu, and meld into the shadows themselves when they are not wanted. The Goju and Ninube are effective assassins and spies, but Daigotsu Kanpeki is wary of relying upon them too much.
It’s worth noting that the Spider hide their association with the Shadowlands and Darkness corrupted minions of the Shadow Dragon. While some families and clans are willing to look the other way in regards to the Spider’s Shadowlands Tainted members, the abominations of the Shadow Dragon would receive no such pardon.
So... here you go.http://alderac.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=261&t=104081
Don't say I never got you anything pretty.
So I just thought this should get its own thread for discussion. I just got finished reading it for the third time and I will post my opinions sometime tomorrow after work as I'm about to go to sleep.
And thanks again to Seth for bringing this to us.I've added Seth Masons' text to this post. - Audax