Shiba Gunichi wrote:
I vote destroyed/exiled/otherwise absent Phoenix. Twisted into service of a Jigoku Empire, they're just a bunch of jerkwad tsukai.
Maybe something creepy like Kyuden Isawa or Shiro Shiba standing pristine and undamaged but utterly devoid of life, Tainted or otherwise.
We could take a page from the story paths. Something like shortly after Kanpeki's ascension, the Phoenix attempt to move their population to Heavens through a giant ritual, but something goes horribly wrong. Every single person present in the lands of the Phoenix disappears instantly, but never make it to Heavens.
Now, the Phoenix cities and villages stand empty, frozen in time. Explorers often hear voices behind them or movement at the very edge of their vision. Anyone trying to repopulate the area disappears as well, commit suicide or is driven completly mad. The very few phoenix remaining (those who were elsewere in Rokugan during the ritual) are stuck with a dilemna. They are too few of them to make a difference in any attempt to remove Kanpeki from power, and they cannot leave Rokugan without answers as to the fate of their clansmate.
As such, they play nice and accept Kanpeki's rule, while trying to understand what really happened on the fateful day. If that isn't satisfactory, you can also say that every single Phoenix disappeared, but it seems to me it wouldn't make a better story.
EDIT: Wall of text alert. I edited the first post with an idea for a timeline leading to an Onyx empire. I want your comments.
This is what happens when I have too much time to think about something.
I copied it also here. Sorry once again for wall of text.
Okay, I listened to many ideas and came up with a little timeline to justify Kanpeki taking the throne with a lesser focus on supernatural elements (still present though). It is obvious Seiken is going mad with paranoia in this timeline, but the influence of Pan-Ku is left for you to decide and is not hardwired into the current write-up. This is only a draft, and I welcome any comments/insults you might have. I added some elements from Winter Court IV because I really like WC IV. I also didn't bother at this point checking the exact names of everyone, too lazy and too much text to worry about that for now.
Creation of the Imperial Navy
Construction of the new Temple of Tenjin all around Rokugan
Seiken demotes Kanpeki and puts Shibatsu in charge of the Spider Clan. However, contrary to canon, Kanpeki swallows the insult and walk away without throwing a tantrum.
A dashing Yoritomo bushi opens a black scroll to challenge Yoritomo himself and become a god. It has catastrophic consequences, create an island-sized tainted monstruosity and it destroys the Isles of Spice and Silk, along with most of the Yoritomos.
The newly found Imperial Navy attacks the Oni, but suffers heavy losses. A combined effort from the Crab and Phoenix Clan manages to slow him down, but only when the Spider Clan enters the battle, using prohibted techniques, that the fight is won. Considering the catastrophic consequences if Kanpeki hadn't intervened, his men and him are allowed to walk away unharmed. Some samurais begin to see the use of the Spider Clan.
Seiken is crowned and announces the dissolution of the bureaucracy. However, he also impose severe military, economic and political restrictions on all the progressist clans to punish them from siding with his brother. This prevent, among others, the Crane to fill the vacuum left by the Otomo in the bureaucracy and in court, leaving a system unable to handle all the demands and it pretty loses control.
Koji puts his plan into motion, creating a shadow bureaucracy within the monasteries of Tenjin, allowing some semblance of order and accurate records of the upcoming events.
Daigotsu opens a black scroll and breaks one of the seals. However, he is not blessed with that taint, much to his despair, and since the vast majority of the seals are still intact, corruption of the land and reality itself starts very slowly, in a way similar to the first stage of corruption for a mortal.
Seiken summons the interim Mantis Clan Champion and announces the dissolution of the Clan. The Yoritomos are no more as retribution, surviving samurais are forced to commit seppuku, go ronin or get adopted into other clans. The other Mantis families are restored as minor Clans.
The Dragon Champion meets with the Emperor, asking for clemency and offer his advice and wisdom to the Emperor to reduce, if not outright remove, the sanction to the progressists. Seiken is enraged by the Champion's words. Seiken declares the Mirumoto unfit to rule the clan and decides his mother family better suited to do the job, naming the Kitsuki daimyo the new Dragon Champion instead.
Skirmish between the Lions and the Scorpions intensifes and part of the second wall is damaged in the process. Many creatures break free and roam Rokugan, killing countless samurais and heimins. Jade Magistrates attempt to get things under control, but are unable to do so until the intervention of the Order of the Spider, who succesfully defeat the roaming Onis. Public opinion, especially among the heimin and younger samurais begin to change and respect for the might and knowledge of the Spider grows.
The Emperor summons both the Lion and Scorpion champion for answers conerning the Wall fiasco. Unsatisfied with their responses, asks for immediate seppuku for both of them. The lion accepts, while the scorpion refuses and leaves in disgrace, now a Ronin.
Filled with grief and anger, one lion opens a black scroll to ressurect the Lion Champion, drawing the ire and disgust of the rest of his clan. It is successful, but the now-undead Champion goes into a killing spree and wrecks havoc into the Lion lands.
Seiken, rapidly falling to his paranoia and horrified by the events in the lands of the Lion, declares the whole Clan a lost cause and order all the other Great Clan to unite and destroy every single samurai of the Lion.
The Phoenix, the Crane and the new Scorpion Champion, in a rare show of cooperation, appears before the emperor and ask him to reconsider his decision for the good of Rokugan. In anger, Seiken executes them.
Daigotsu Kanpeki opens another scroll and destroy another seal. Onis are unleashed into Rokugan in great number. However, the recent events of the LIon Clan are considered to be responsible for this turn of events and Kanpeki's plan remain secret. He is still not blessed with the taint.
The Dragon Clan retreats into the mountains and close its frontier.
Paranoid and now clearly losing his mind, the emperor recalls all the Imperial Legions to the capital and order to close the gates of Toshi Ranbo. This creates a nightmare for the rice supply and the capital begins to starve.
The Crane approaches Shibatsu and the Spider Clan and ask for him to step up and take his brother's place. The Scorpion and the Unicorn quickly follow.
Kanpeki kills his wife, opens a black scroll and destroys the third seal. He is finally tainted, but his relationship with his father allow him to hide this fact completly for a time, and share this incredible boon with his followers.
Shibatsu asks for Kanpeki's help to overthrow his brother. It is received positively by the other Great Clans thanks to the recent actions of the Spider against denizens of Jigoku.
The armies of the Spider marches on the capital. The lion clan being disbanded and the imperial legions starving, the conquest is easy. In one last futile effort to stop his attacker, Seiken orders the city of Toshi Ranbo to be torched to the ground.
Just as Kanpeki kills Seiken in the throne room, Shibatsu approached him. He learned recently of his actions concerning the seals and while he doesn't approve them, he sees no way of turning back. He knows Kanpeki will eventually destroy the fourth seal and sit on the throne of Rokugan, probably over Shibatsu's body and a ruined empire, an alternative he cannot accept. He thus offer a deal. Kanpeki will marry Shibatsu's sister, Miaka, promise on his life (through a blood pact or something similar) never to break the fourth and final seal and leave its autonomy to any great clan that swore its allegiance to him. In exchange, Shibatsu would support his claim to the throne right now and lead the Spider Clan as the new steward of the Great Clans.
Hantei XL takes the throne, give control over the court to the Crane, name the Unicorn the new right hand of the throne and reinstate the Lion Clan. He dismiss the imperial families (most of the Seppun were already dead anyway) and announces the reconstruction of Rokugan, starting with Otosan Uchi, the proper capital.
The Empire is now a corrupted mess, and Kanpeki gives imperial pardon to anyone corrupted by the taint, as long as they are able to control themselves. The Empire is divided, as some samurai, including the whole Crab Clan, cannot accept the rule of Daigotsu. The rebellion is quickly dealt with and the survivors flee to the colonies.
Within the next few years, thanks to a change in leadership in most of the Great Clans, the ideology of Shourido slowly creeps into the collective consciousness. The fact that three seals out of four are broken also influence everyone's view of the taint, and it is now more or less accepted (depending on the Clan, of course), as long as control is kept. It surprises no one, then, when the Emperor announces he is tainted and apart from a few extremists, nobody seems to make a big fuss out of it.
Every Clan is now a dark reflection of itself. At that point, I'm open to ideas about how they changes exactly.