Sunteți pe pagina 1din 22

RuinedEmpire

SettingbyAnnaKreider,Renaming/LocalizationbyMattSanchez
2014CreativeCommons,ShareandShareAlike

ALandinTurmoil:TwoEmpiresatWar

Oncethelandheldmanynations,butrecentdecadeshaveseentwogreatempiresarise,each
lockedinastruggletothedeathforsupremacy.IntheeastliestheImperialDynastyofAzumi,
theRedSteelEmpire.Expandingeverwestward,itabsorbsallnationsthatlieinitspathasit
hungrilydevourstheresourcesofthelandtofueltheenginesofindustry.Inthewestliesthe
JahgaRepublicofEnlightenedPeoples.Expandingeastward,itseekstobringcivilizationand
selfdeterminationtonationsthathavenotyetembracedtheprinciplesofenlightenedrulethat
governtheirempire.Asitstands,onlyahandfulofresistingnationsremainevennominally
independent,formingascantbufferbetweenthesetwoimplacablyexpandingforces.

OnJahgasdoorstepliestheRindenKingdom,aprovincialmonarchydevotedmostlytofarms
andherdland.Fiercelyjealousofitsindependence,itscitizensstruggleagainstanoccupying
forcetheyhavenohopeofdefeating.TheJahganRepublic'soccupationalforcescrackdown
harshlyontherebelswhenevertheycan,frustratedbytheresistanceofRinden'scitizenstothe
improvementsthattherepublichasbroughttothesmall,backwardnation.Therebellion,
however,seemsundauntedinthefaceofmonolithicopposition.

TotheKingdomofRinden'seast,intheshadowoftheImperialDynastyofAzumi,liesthe
IndependentStateofHorom.Horomisawealthytradingnation,withcosmopolitancitiesfullof
wondersfromallovertheworld.NominallyruledbytheGrandCounciloftradeguildsthathave
orderedaffairsinthesmallnation,thetruthisthattheGrandCouncilhasnorealauthority.The
ImperialDynastyistherealpowerresponsibleforthedaytodayruleofHorom,withtheGrand
Councilpayinghandsomelytobepermittedtoretaintheillusionofsovereignty.Inthisway,the
GrandCouncilretainsitsdignityandAzumireapsconsiderablesumsinwealthandresources
astribute.

TothesouthofRindenandHorom,borderingbothJahgaandAzumi,liestheruinednationofthe
DangoroTradingState.Itwasherethatthearmiesofthetwogreatempiresmetforthefirst
time.Itwasaconflictgreatandterrible,onethateclipsedinscaleanythingyetseenintheland.
Intheend,thecitiesofDangorowereleftinsmokingruins.Itsrulersweredead,itspeople
scattered,eitherfleeingtothewildernessortoRindenorHoromasrefugees,andonlyahandful
ofhercitizensremained.Thegreatarmieshavesinceretreated,notwantingtospillfurtherblood
overauselesswasteland.ThelandisnolongerknownasDangoro,forthepeopleoftheregion
nowcallitNil,theDesecratedLands.ThePriesthoodhassearchedforanyoneevenmarginally
qualifiedtorulethatwouldbewillingtotakeontheregencyofNil,butasyettheirsearchhas
beeninvain.

TheImperialDynastyofAzumi:TheMechanicalRealm

Nervously,Kotakapulledhiscollarupagainstasuddenchillthathadnothingtodowiththe
weather,unabletoshakethesuddenfeelingofbeingwatched.Sternly,headmonishedhimselfto
relax.Aboveall,itwasimportantnottolooksuspicious.Schoolinghisfaceintoaneutral
expression,Kotakastuffedhishandsintohispocketstohidethesuddentrembling,resistingthe
almostoverwhelmingurgetoquickenhispace.Surelyhewasjustbeingparanoid.Therumors
aboutwhathadhappenedtoZentacouldntbetrue,couldthey?

Atlasthereachedthesafetyofhissmallshop.Forseverallongmoments,hefumbledwithhis
keys,cursingunderhisbreathatfingersgonesuddenlynerveless,beforehemanagedto
unlockthedoorandslip,allbutsobbinginreliefasheclosedthedoorbehindhim.Hisreliefdid
notlastlong,however.Asoftchucklesoundedbehindhim,makinghisbloodturntoice.He
whirledtoseeayoungwomanwearingtheunassumingrobesofaminorcivilservantsittingon
thestoolbehindthecounter.Shewatchedhimcalmly,herheadinherhandsandahalfsmile
quirkingherlips.

Whwhoareyou?hestammered.

Thewomansmiled,widelyasmilethattouchedonlyherlips.Hereyesweresteelyandcoldas
sheremovedasmall,handboundleathervolumefromherpocketandplaceditonthecounter.
MynameisMaris,andImheretotalktoyouaboutyourcuriouslyunpatrioticchoicesin
readingmaterialoflate.

TheImperialDynastyofAzumiisanempirebuiltaroundindustryandtechnology.Imperial
societyislargelyurbanandishighlyorganized,militaristic,andrigidlycodified.Themajorityof
Imperialsliveinoneoftheempiresmanycities,whicharemethodicallyplottedoutand
organizedalongsimplegrids.ThestandardizedlayoutofAzumiscitiesmakesiteasytofind
yourwayaroundnomatterwhereyoumighttravelwithintheempire.

Becauseoftheprimacyofthemilitaryinimperiallife,themajorityofAzumiscitizensare
employedinservingtheneedsofthearmy.Mechanizedfarmsdotthecountryside,with
complicatedmachineshelpingthefarmersproducethemassivequantitiesoffoodneededto
sustainAzumisvastarmies.Thosecountrydwellersnotemployedinfarmingtendtobe
laborersemployedintheminesthatproduceredsteelandsoulgemsforuseinthecreationof
munitions.

Thecities,too,arehighlymechanizedandorganizedaroundsupportingtheneedsofthemilitary.
Largemunitionsfactoriesdrawoncentralizedurbanpopulationstoquicklyproducetheweapons
neededbythearmy.Thecitiesarealsowhereonemayfindtheworkshopsusedbythemaster
craftsmenwhomakethemostadvancedweaponry:Armours,soulgemweapons,andthelike.
Someofthelargestcities,especiallythecapital,containasmallbutthrivingmerchantand
artisanclass,givenovertosupportingtheelitecirclesofgovernment,military,andtheimperial
court.

Imperialcitizensmightnothavemuchfreedomtochoosetheirownpath,citizenshipdoescome
withitsownrewards.Azumiisaplaceoftechnologicalmarvelsnottobefoundinotherlands,
thistechnologybeingabyproductoftheperpetualweaponsresearchthatgoestoward
maintainingthesupremacyoftheempiresarmedforces.

Andwhiletherearefewopportunitiestoamassgreatwealthforthosebornoutsidetheempires
eliteinnercircles,thereisalsolittleofthepovertyyoumightexpectinsuchalargeandurban
empire.Everyoneintheempirehasarole,andwhilethepenaltiesfortryingtostepoutofthat
roleareharsh,thereiscomfortinhavingsecurityofasort.Solongasyouservetheempireas
wellasyoucan,theempirewillensurethatyouhavethenecessitiesofsurvival.Allinthename
ofefficiencyofcourse.

TheMachineryofGovernance

Academicexcellenceisoneofthefewwaysoutofobscurityforcitizensoftheempire.All
childrenintheempire,betheychildrenofcommonlaborersormembersoftheimperialcourt,
receiveabasiceducationandaretestedattheageoffifteen.Thebestandmostpromising
youngpeopleareselectedforfurthereducationeitherasamemberoftheImperialDynastys
civilservice,anofficerinthemilitary,oranelitecraftsperson.

Thecivilservice

Whiletheemperorhasultimateauthority,mostofthedaytodayadministrativedecisionsare
handledbyalarge,highlyorganizedandefficientcivilservice.Azumiscivilserviceisawelloiled
machinewithanestablishedhierarchy.Thehierarchysistoobserveandregulateallactivity
withintheempireaccordingtothedictatesoftheemperor.

MembersoftheAzumiscivilservicearewellcompensatedfortheirworkasdeeplyasthe
governmentregulatesthelivesofitscitizens,theempirecouldnothopetofunctionwithaninept
ordiscontentadministrativestaff.Butthereisnotmuchopportunityforadvancementwithinthe
civilservice,andonlyahandfulofseniorofficialswhohavemanagedtodistinguishthemselves
areappointedasadministratorstotheimperialcourt.Asonemightexpect,themaneuveringfor
thesepositionscangetratherintense.However,themostjuniorranksofthecivilservicewhich
comprisemostofthegovernmentareexpectedtostayasneutralastheycan.

Theofficercorps

TheofficercorpsofAzumismilitaryholdsmorepotentialfortheambitioustoachievesuccess
andwealth,especiallygiventhatthethatthemostseniorofficersreceiveaportionofloottaken
inbattleaspartoftheirsalary.However,asAzumisarmiesareperpetuallyinthefield,lifeasa
militaryofficerisconsiderablymoreriskythanthelifeofagovernmentofficial.

Mastercraftersandartisans

Mostvaluedofallarethehandfulofmasterartisanswhoruntheworkshopsthatturnoutthe
advancedweaponryusedbythemilitaryelite:Armours,kongohki,andsoulgemweaponry.More
basicgunpowderarmamentsarelefttomunitionsworkshopsstaffedwithinferiorcraftspeople.
Onlyaveryfewhavethetalentandskillneededtoproducethelivingmachinesthatarethe
foundationofAzumismartialmight.

[Sidebar]ConcerningOpenSecrets

ThereisagroupofeliteswithinImperialsocietythatisneverspokenof,abranchofgovernment
thatrecruitsequallyfromtheranksofthecivilserviceandthemilitary:theemperorsintelligence
service.Themilitaryislefttoconductitsownintelligencegatheringagainstenemiesoutsidethe
empiretheemperorsintelligenceserviceexistssolelytokeepwatchonAzumiscitizensand
rootoutdissentanddiscontent.Leftunchecked,suchsentimentsinevitablyleadtowidespread
disaffection,whichwouldonlybeadistractionfromtheempireslargergoalsofconquest.

Thoseindividualswhoareseenaspotentialproblemsoftenfindthemselvesvisitedinthenight
byrepresentativesoftheintelligenceserviceandencouragedtodirecttheirenergiesinmore
positive,patrioticdirections.Oftenonesuchvisitisenoughtoremedyanysuchunsocial
tendencies,asmostcitizensoftheempirewouldnotwillinglyseetheirfamilyandthelivelihood
ofthosetheycareaboutthreatened.

However,itisnotunknownforincorrigiblediscontentsandthoseattemptingtoactuallyfoment
discordtodisappearentirely.Insuchcases,thefamilyandassociatesofthevanishedare
universallytightlipped.Therearerumors,entirelybaselessofcourse,thatthearmyskongohki
arecreatedlargelyfromtheranksoftheseincorrigibledissenters.Butevenifthatwerethecase,
woulditnotbebettertobepurgedofmalcontentinserviceofsomethinggreaterthanoneself?

TheImperialDynastyandthePriesthood

TheImperialDynastyofAzumiisanauthoritarianempirethatstretchesbackcenturies,itsrule
passeddownthroughthegenerationsinanunbrokenhereditaryline.TheemperorofAzumiis
morethanjustamundanerulerandhasbeendeclaredakamibythepriesthood,ashaveallof
hispredecessorsforthelasttwohundredyears.

Thecynicallymindedmightpointoutthatthisishardlysurprising,giventhatthePriesthoodhas
enjoyedaveryclosealliancewithAzumisrulersthesepasttwocenturies.Withthealliance
comesaprivilegedplaceatcourt,andmembersofthePriesthoodaresomeofthefew
individualsoutsidethegovernmentthatcanbesaidtohaveanyinfluenceovertheemperor.As
such,isitsurprisingthatthePriesthoodwouldbecomplicitinusingtheirpowertomaintainthe
statusoftheemperorasanobjectofworship?

Cynicism,however,isadangeroussentimenttoexpressintheImperialDynasty,andthosewho
harboranyskepticismastothedivinityoftheemperorhavelearnedbyexampletokeeptheir
mouthshut.Sotheemperormaintainshisstatusasanobjectofreverence,maintainingloyalty
amongthesubjectsoftheempirewithacombinationoffear,brutality,andworship.

Onthesurface,anoutsideobservermightseethealliancebetweenthePriesthoodandthe
emperorasbeingasimpleexchangeofinfluence.ButthetruthofthematteristhatAzumihas
tieditsintereststothoseofthePriesthoodfarmorecloselythanthat.Allofthetechnological
advancesthathavemadeAzumisrecentexpansionpossiblehavebeenbasedontechnology
giventotheempirebythePriesthood.Thevastarmiesofarmours,kijin,andkongohki,notto
mentionthetechnologicalmarvelsthatpowerAzumiscities:noneofitwouldhavebeen
possiblewithouttheassistanceandsupportofthePriesthood.

Whichbegsthequestion:isthePriesthoodgainingmorethanjustinfluenceatcourtforits
magnanimity?Aretheysettinguptheempiretogrowsodependentontheirassistancethatthe
emperorwillbecomenothingmorethanapuppetwhoservestheirinterests?Dotheyfeel
threatenedbythewidespreadantiPriesthoodmovementthathasstartedtogaintractionoutside
oftheImperialDynasty?OrdoestheempirehavesomehiddenleverageoverthePriesthood
thathasbeenkeptsecret?

[sidebar]ConcerningSuccession

Intheory,ruleoftheempirepassestotheeldestchildoftheemperor.Inpractice,it'srarethat
theeldestchildwouldsurvivetoinherentruleoftherealm.Theywouldhavetobecannyindeed
tosurvivethemachinationsofyoungersiblingsandtheirpoliticalallies.

Emperors,askami,arelargelyprotectedfromsuchmachinations.Evenwouldbeassassins
arereluctanttoacceptcontractsagainstkamihowdoyoukillaforceofnature?Theemperors
childrendonotenjoysuchprotectionshowever,astheheirisnotproclaimedakamiuntilaftera
successfulaccessiontothethrone.

Personages

EmperorAmaberan

Theemperorisavigorousmanwellintohisfortieswithseveralgrownchildren,theeldestof
whom,PrinceKoushin,isoldenoughtostartchafingattheenforcedinactivityoftheimperial
court.Thewatchfuleyesofhissire,however,havebeenenoughtokeephisambitionsincheck.
EmperorAmaberanisfamedforhisruthlessnessandfewwouldbesurprisedattheideathathe
mightdisposeofhisownchildifhefelthisrulewasthreatened.

Theemperorisalsoanotablerecluse.Theimperialcourtisalwaysfullofhangerson,desperate
togainthefavoroftheemperorinsomeway,butAmaberansappearancesatcourtarefewand
farbetween.Forthemostpart,hemeetsonlywithhisclosestretainersandafewchosen
advisors.Whenhedoesdeigntoappearatcourt,healmostneveracceptsaudiences,holding
himselfapartfromhissubjects.

Itwasntalwaysthatway,however.WhenEmperorAmaberanwasayoungman,hewasonce
quitethesocialiteandtookgreatdelightinminglingwiththemembersofhiscourt.Thatchanged
quiteabruptlyadecadeorsointohisrule,however.Somewhisperthathesufferedaterrible
accident,perhapsanincidentwhilevisitingthefront,orperhapsanassassinationattempt,that
lefthimterriblymaimedandforcedhimtobecomeakijin.Howelsecouldonemakesenseofhis
suddensecretivenessunlessitwasbornfromadesiretohidethescandalousfactthatheisno
longerentirelyhuman?Ofcourse,theserumorsareentirelyimpossibletoverify.

MaristheSilence,headoftheemperorsintelligenceservice

Marisissurprisinglyyoungtoholdsuchanimportantpost.Topinherclass,sheroseeffortlessly
throughtheranksofgovernment,themachinationsofthecivilservicehardlyachallengeforher
keenandincisivemind.Itwasforthatinsightthatshewasrecruitedintotheranksofthe
intelligenceservice,whereherrisetopowerwassimilarlymeteoric.

DespiteMarissyouth,therewasnoprotestfromtheintelligenceservicewhentheformerhead
oftheservicetappedherashissuccessor,forMarispossessesbothincrediblecharismaanda
truetalentforinspiringtheloyaltyofthosewhoserveher.Thatcharismahasenabledtoherto
extendthereachofherintelligenceoperations.Itissaidthatshehasanetworkofinformants
thatpenetrateseverylevelofsociety,andthatsheisthereasonfortherecentincreasein
mysteriousdisappearancesofsupposedmalcontents.Whetherthisisthetruthishardtoknow,
butwhatisundoubtedlytrueisthathavingMaristheSilencetakeinterestinyouisusuallynota
healthything.

KenrohKaretsu

KenrohKaretsuisoneofthepreeminentartisansinallofAzumi,famedforthebeautyand
lethalityofthearmorthatshemakestobetheframeoftheempiresmostdeadlykongohki.A
trueartist,Kenrohlivestocreateworksofbeautyinalandthatvaluesonlybrutality.Itpainsher,
though,toknowtheusethathercreationsareputto.Shetriesnottodwellupontheideathather
workisresponsiblefortrappinginnocentsoulsandcausingdeathanddestruction.Suchdisloyal
thoughts,ifdiscerned,couldseeherpoweringoneofherowncreationsifsheisnotcareful.

JahgaRepublicofEnlightenedPeoples:TheNamesakeRealm

Dahjenglancedatanearbytimepiecewithimpatience,scowlingoutatthenightsky.Thepalace
gardenswereparticularlylovelythiseveningthesmelloffragrantflowershungheavyintheair
andagentlebreezehelpeddispelthelastofthedaysheat.Buttheemperorconsortwastoo
distractedtoenjoythegardenasheusuallydid,aggravatedthatthesmallwindowhehadto
meethiscontactwasrapidlyclosing.

Atlast,heheardthesoundofasoftfootsteponthepavingstonesaheadofhimjustbeforeatall,
slendermanwalkedaroundthebendinthegardenpath.Dressedintheluxuriousrobesofthe
indolentsycophantsoftherepublicanelite,theswordathishipseemedentirelyatoddswithhis
appearance.ButasDahjenhadcometodiscover,thekugutsuwasastudyincontradictions.

Myhumblestapologies,emperor,melissaid,bowingdeeply.My...employersdreamswere
troubledandnoteasytosoothe.Thoughhisfaceremainedserene,hisvoicedrippedwith
disdainattheeuphemism.

Dahjenwavedadismissinghand.Nevermindthat.Ihaventmuchtime.Reachingintohis
robes,hepulledoutasmallenvelope,whichhepressedintothekugutsushands.Thesetravel
documentswillseeyousafelyanywhereyouneedtogowithintherepublic.Thoughthe
emperorpaused,raisingoneeyebrow.Youmaywanttodresslessostentatiously.

melisbowed,slippingtheenvelopeintoavoluminoussleeve.Myemperorsgenerosityis
boundless.WouldthatIhadsomewaytothankyou.

Thankmebynotgettingcaught,Dahjensnappedmoreharshlythanhemeantto.Then,
glancingatthetimepieceoncemore,heswore.Imustgo,hesighed.Bewell,melis.

Thekugutsubowedoncemore,thendisappearedbackintothenightasquietlyashehadcome.

TheJahgaRepublicofEnlightenedPeoplesindeedcallsitselfarepublicratherthananempire,
thoughthetruthisthatintermsofterritoryandconquestthereislittledistinctiontobedrawn
betweenJahgaandrivalAzumi.Therealdifferenceliesinoutlookandgovernance.

UnliketheImperialDynastyofAzumi,theJahgaRepublicreliesonmagicratherthantechnology
torunitsvastempire.Thewesternhalfofthecontinentisnotasresourcerichastheeast,and
forthemostpartJahgahaslearnedtodowithoutthetechnologicaladvancesthataresorelied
uponinAzumi.Necessitybreedscreativity,anditishereinJahgathatOnmyojiandBuddhist
magicianshaveelevatedTaoistmagicalmosttoascienceinitsownright.

Anotherstrikingdifferencebetweenthetwoempiresisthefreedomsthataregrantedtoeachof
itscitizens.WhilecitizensofAzumiareexpectedtoknowtheirplaceandservewithoutquestion,
Jahgaisbuiltonprinciplesofindividualfreedomandselfgovernance.Loyaltytotherepublicis
expectedofallJahga'scitizens,butforthemostpartcitizensarefreetochoosetheirownpath.
Jahga'srulershavereliedonthecreativityofitscitizensinovercomingtheirlackofresources,
andhavepassedlawstoprotectthefreedomsthattheyseeasessentialtothatcreativity.

Thelastmajorpointofdifferenceliesinthestructuresofgovernment.Insteadofasupreme
emperorwhoruleshiscitizenslikeagodking,Jahga'semperorischosenbyanelectedSenate,
whichholdspowerequaltotheemperor'sown.AndwhileAzumi'semperorsultimatelyarealaw
untothemselves,Jahga'semperorcanbeheldtoaccountbytheSenateforanycrimesthey
commit.Inthepast,therehavebeenemperorswhowerestrippedoftheirpositionforabusesof
power,aconceptthatwouldsurelybaffleanycitizenofAzumi.

Whythen,iftheJahgaRepublicofEnlightenedPeoplesplacessuchvalueonfreedomand
selfdetermination,dotheyengageinwholesaleconquest?Isn'tsuchapolicyatoddswiththeir
principles?Thetwoidealsseemhardtoreconcile,butthefactisthattheirpolicyofexpansionis
driveninlargepartbyenlightenedselfinterest.Centuriesago,whenthePriesthoodstopped
enforcingpeacebetweenthenations,perpetualwarbecamethenormalstateofaffairsinthe
land.Warswerefoughtforeveryreasonimaginable:land,resources,money,cultural
differences,perceivedinsultsjusttonameafew.Jahga'spastrulersgrewtiredofdevotingso
muchoftheirscarceresourcestodefendingthemselvesattheexpenseofimprovingthelivesof
Jahga'scitizens.

Withnoendtothecontinuouspettywarsinsight,Jahga'srulersdecidedthatifpeacewasto
returntotheland,theywouldhavetobetheonestobringit.Andsotheymadewarontheir
neighbors,conqueringthemonebyoneandabsorbingthemintotherepublic.Aspartofthe
republic,thenationstheyconqueredwerepreventedfromwarringwitheachother.Furthermore,
citizensofconquerednationswereencouragedtospeaktheirmindsandcontributetothe
governanceoftheirlands.Becauseofthisandthemagicalconveniencesthattherepublic
broughttonewlyconqueredlands,Jahgacametoseeitselfasabringerofenlightenmentand
civilizationtothelandsthatitconquered.

TheJahgaRepublicofEnlightenedPeoples'emphasisonculturaltolerancewassimilarlyborn
ofpragmaticconcerns.Byhonoringtheculturaldiversityofthelandstheyabsorbed,the
subjectsofthoseconqueredlandscametoseethemselvesasloyalcitizensoftherepublic,
ratherthanoppressedmembersofanoccupiedpopulation.Honoringthefreedomofnew
citizenstoliveastheychose,solongastheirchoicesdidnotharmtheinterestsoftherepublic,
wasvitaltointegrateadiversepatchworkofculturesintoaunifiedwhole.

Today,Jahga'srulersseetheirdrivetoexpandtheirbordersasbeinginthebestinterestsof
everyone.WherethePriesthoodhasfailed,theywillbringpeacetothelandbyforce.And,truth
betold,theyhavecometoseethelandsoutsidetherepublicasbackwardanduncivilized.They
seeconquestasbeingasmuchamissionofenlightenmentasitisamissionofpeace.By
bringingtheprinciplesoffreedomtothelandstheyconquer,theyareliberatingtheirneighbors
fromtyranny.AndifthosethatJahgaseekstoaddtotheempiretrytoresisttheirconquerors,
well,peoplecan'talwaysbetrustedtomakedecisionsthatareintheirownbestinterests.

EmperorReius'sHistoricAlliancewiththeOni

ItwasclosetothreehundredyearsagowhenReiuswasappointedtothepostofemperorbythe
Senate.Atthetimeofhisappointment,mostoftheircountry'sscantresourceswerebeing
devotedtodefendingagainsttheirneighborscontinualincursions.EmperorReiusknewthis
couldnotcontinueifJahgawastosurvive,forthecitizensweregrowingdiscontentatbeingleft
tosufferwhilethearmyconsumedallthefoodandwealththattheymanagedtoproduce.With
revoltbythegeneralpopulaceaveryrealpossibility,actionneededtobetaken.

TheemperorknewthatJahgacouldnothopetogainanadvantagethrougharmsalonethey
wouldneverbeabletooutproducetheirneighbors.SoReiusdidtheunthinkable.Hemadean
alliancewiththeOni,whowerewidelyseenatthetimeasnothingmorethanbackwardsavages,
grantingthemstatusasfullcitizensoftherepublic.Evenmoreradically,hisdecreeextended
thatprotectiontoanyOniwhowishedtocomeliveintherepublic.Inexchange,theOniwho
camewouldbeexpectedtousetheirpowersinserviceoftherepublic,eitherbyservinginthe
armyorinservicetothegovernment.

Atthetime,thedecreeseemedlikemadness.Tosecurethishistoricalliance,EmperorReius
hadtobantheconstructionofnewArmoursandoutlawtheOnihunt.Possessionofaheartgem
wasmadeacapitaloffense,aswasanyconnectiontothetradeofOniheartgems.Andallso
thattherepubliccouldgaintheserviceofahandfulofunreliable,unstableOni?

Whenthealliancewasdeclared,therewerethosewhowantedEmperorReiusstrippedofhis
positionandexecutedfortreason.WithoutArmours,howcouldJahgahopetocompeteon
effectivetermswithneighboringarmies?Weren'ttheyjustmakingthemselvesatarget?The
emperorwasquicklyvindicated,however,whenitbecamequicklyapparenthoweffectiveOni
ResonancewaswhencombinedwithOnmyojutsu.

Norwasthereashortageofwillingvolunteerswishingtosignonformilitaryservice.Whenit
becameclearthattheJahgaRepublicmeanttohonoritspromisetooutlawtheOnihunt,Oni
migrantsfloodedintothecountry,mostveryeagertovolunteerforthechancetofightagainstthe
armieswhohadhuntedthem.Beforelong,Jahgahadgonefromaminorpowertoamajor
powerwithamilitarytobereckonedwith.

AllofthishelpedserveasabaseforthebeginningsofJahgaspolicyofexpansionism,whichis
whichhelpedgaintheOniacceptanceasvaluedcitizens.Theresourcesthatwerecaptured
helpedtoimprovethelivesofJahga'scivilians,whichwentalongwaytohelpingovercomeold
prejudices.ThededicationoftheOnimigrantstotherepublicandtheveryrealdifferencethat
dedicationmadeinthelivesoftheaveragecitizenultimatelyearnedthemacceptancebyJahga
societyasawhole.

Thesedays,thepopulationofOniwithintherepublichaveincreasedsuchthatdirectserviceto
therealmisnolongermandatory.Indeed,Jahga'srelianceonmagichasmadetheOni
somethingofaprivilegedclassinJahgansocietytheirinbornmagicalabilitiesensureare
alwayshighlyindemandbyallsegmentsofsociety.However,themajorityofJahganOnistilldo
choosetoserveeitherinthemilitaryoraspartofthegovernment.Thereareperhapsnomore
devotedcitizensthantheOni,whowantnothingmorethanfortherepublictoconquertheentire
landandputanendtotheOnihuntonceandforall.

[Sidebar]ThePhoenixSect:FomentingDiscontentAgainstthePriesthood

ThevariousBuddhistfactionsareverypopularintheJahgaRepublicandenjoynearuniversal
adherence.Withtheiremphasisonsavingthepeopleoftheland,thePhoenixsectisespecially
popular,astheyareseenasverymuchinsympathywiththerepublic'sgoalsofbeingaforcefor
civilizationandunity.

Jahga'scitizensstillhonorthePriesthoodandadheretoitspracticesintheirdailylives,butthe
ShintoprieststhemselvesareseeninanincreasinglynegativelightbecauseofthePriesthoods
refusaltointervenedirectlytostopwarbetweenthenations.Thisopinionhasonlyincreased
sincethemarriageoftheempresstothenewemperorconsort,asheisanardentsupporterof
thePhoenixsect.Manypeoplehavecometoseeservingtherepublic,oreventheBuddhist
temples,asamoreworthypursuitthanservingthePriesthood,whichhasgainedapublic
reputationofbeingselfserving,oldfashioned,andsomewhatcorrupt.

Still,asunpopularasthePriesthoodanditspoliciesmaybe,JahgasSenateiscarefulneverto
makeanypoliciesthatmightlooklikeofficialdisapprovalofthePriesthoodanditsmethods.They
areeverconsciousofthesupportthatthePriesthoodenjoysinrivalingAzumianddontwantto
pushthePriesthoodintoactivelysupportingAzumisdominationovertheJahgaRepublic.

[Sidebar]ConcerningtheRepublicsPositiononKugutsu

ManyofthemostfamouskugutsumakerscallJahgatheirhomeasaplacethatvaluesmagic,
thepeculiarskillsofthekugutsuareoftenhighlyindemand.Thereisalsoverylittlepatiencefor
kugutsumakersinAzumi,whereitisseenasawasteoftimeandresourcestospendyears
craftingsomethingwhichmightdecidethatitdoesntwishtocomplywithitsownerswishesas
tohowitistobeused.InAzumi,kugutsuareseenmuchthesamewayassculpturesbeautiful,
restful,butultimatelyuseless.

Thereare,however,anumberofcitizensinJahgawhohavenevercaredforthepractices
governingkugutsu.Citizensoftherepublicaretaughttovaluepersonalfreedoms,andthelotof
thekugutsubeingownedbyapersonwhomayormaynotchoosetodictatehowyouareto
liveyourlifeseemsperilouslyclosetoslavery.Evenifthekugutsuaremade,theyarestillalive,
andthatwouldtendtoimplythattheydeservesomechoiceintheirlives.

Recently,therehavebeenattemptsbackedbyrepresentativesoftheOniandtheBuddhistsects
topassalawmandatingthatthepracticeofowningkugutsubeended.GiventhattheSenateis
comprisedofsomeofthemostwealthyandinfluentialmembersoftherepublic,inotherwords
thosemostlikelytopatronizethekugutsumakers,theresultinglawthatwounduppassingthe
Senatewasnomorethanatokenmeasure.Thenewlawdictatedthatallkugutsuwereto
receivesalariesfortheirservicetotheiremployers,thoughnoprovisionsweremadeinthelaw
forthosekugutsuthatmightwishtoleavetheiremploymententirely.

Still,therehasbeenwidespreadprotestamongthewealthierelementsofJahgansocietytoeven
thiswatereddownmeasure.Thekugutsumakershavealwaysbeenunhappyaboutthischange
inthelawthepricesthattheycancommandhavebeendiminishedbythenewexpense
introducedbythislaw.Thepatronswhocommissionthekugutsuarenolongerwillingtopaytop
dollarforsomethingthathasbecomeaconsiderableongoingexpense.

Personages

EmpressReina

Theempressistheyoungesttohaveascendedtothepostinalmosttwocenturies,andis
almostuniversallybelovedbythepeopleofJahga.AsahighlypopularSenator,Reinascanny
graspofpoliticsandgenuinecompassionforJahgascitizenswerehighlyintriguingtothe
previousemperor.Intheoldemperorslastyears,hetooktheyoungSenatorunderhiswing,
ensuringthatallknewthatshehadhisfavor.

Consequently,upontheemperorsdeath,fewweresurprisedwhenReinawasappointedasthe
newempressalmostunanimouslybytheSenate.Shewasalreadyafiguremuchbelovedbythe
public,andtheemperorspreferencesregardingsuccessionassuagedthedoubtsofthosein
theSenatewhowerereluctanttoconfirmonesoyoungtosuchanimportantpost.

Inthetenyearssinceherappointment,EmpressReinahasmanagedtoretainmuchofher
idealism,thoughithasbeentemperedbythetryingrealityofrulinganempireasvastasthe
republic.Reinastillcaresdeeplyaboutthelivesofherpeople,buthascometoacceptthat
occasionalsacrificeshavetobemadeforthegreatergoodoftherepublic.Still,shehasnever
letherselfbecomecomplacentaboutthedecisionsmadeintheinterestoftherepublic.The
policiesthathavebeenpursuedintheoccupationofnewlyconqueredprovinceslikeRindenare
somethingthatstilltroubletheyoungempressgreatly,althoughshetrustsherloyaladvisors
whentheytellherthatmorelaxpolicieswouldsimplyleadtomorebloodshed.

Morethananything,Reinadreamsofseeingpeaceinherlifetime.Havinglivedwiththerealityof
warherentirelife,shewantsnothingmorethantoseeagenerationthatcanlivetheirlivesfree
fromthespectreofwar.Itisthisdreamthatkeepsherferventlycommittedtoconqueringthe
restofthecontinent.Itisataskthatshedoesnotknowifshehasthestrengthtocomplete,but
sheisdeterminedtogiveeverythingshehastotheeffortinthenameofpeaceforallpeoples.

EmperorConsortDahjen

DahjenandReinawerewednotlongaftershewasappointedempress.Theirweddingwasan
occasionformuchcelebration,notonlybecauseofthepeopleslovefortheirempress,butalso
becausethismadeDahjenthefirstemperorconsortoftherepublicwhowasalsoanOni.
OriginallyarefugeewhofledtotherepublicasasmallchildtoescapetheOnihunt,Dahjen
volunteeredforserviceintherepublicanguard.Hisdedicatedserviceandunusualprowesswith
OniResonancesawhimrisetoprominenceascommanderoftheOnimagiciansservinginthe
army.

ItwasReinawhoproposedmarriage,withthemarriageitselfbeinghandledalmostlikea
businesstransaction.ThemarriagewasmeanttoincreaseculturalunitywiththeOniandaddan
additionallayerofprotectionfortheempresswhobettertoprotecttheempressthanapowerful
magicianversedincombatsorcery?Neitherofthemanticipatedthattheywouldbecome
sincerelyattachedtooneanotherafterthemarriagewascompleted.

Theempress'marriagehasbeenamixedblessingasfarastheSenateisconcerned.The
Senatesupportedthemarriageproposal,buthavingtheirinfluenceovertheyoungEmpress
underminedwasnotpartoftheirplans.Dahjenssometimesrevolutionaryviewshavealso
comeasarudesurprise,especiallywithregardtothelegalstatusofkugutsuwithintherepublic.
TheEmperorConsortsardentdevotiontothePhoenixSectandpubliccriticismofthe
PriesthoodhasalsomadethingsdifficultfortheSenate,whichcontinuestotrytowalkamiddle
pathbetweensubserviencetothePriesthoodandoutrightrejectionofpoliciesandpractices.

MyoonAbbessofthePhoenixSectmonks

MyoonisamatronlylookingladywhohasledthemonksofJahgasPhoenixSectformany
years.Thosefoolishenoughtobeputofftheirguardbyherkindlyappearancehavediscovered
totheirregretthathercheerfuldemeanorbeliesawilloftemperedsteel.

TrulycommittedtothePhoenixSectsmissionofsavingthepeople,Myoonhasbeenbehinda
longandsubtlecampaigntodiscreditthePriesthoodintheeyesoftherepublicscitizens.Itis
hereventualgoaltoseetherepublicthrowofftheinfluenceofthePriesthoodentirely.Inherview
therepublicanvaluesoftoleranceandfreedomareinherentlyatoddswiththegreedy,
selfservingnatureofthePriesthoodanditsagents.Therepubliccannotbesaidtobetruly
servingitscitizenssolongastheycontinuetokowtowtothePriesthoodanditsagents.

TheRindenKingdom:AProvincialMonarchyUnderOccupation

LokusRegonaglancedaroundwarily,scowlinginsuspicionatthepeoplewhowalkedpast.
Despitethefactthatitwasbroaddaylightinthemiddleofthecrowdedmarketplace,shehad
learnedthatthesemadprovincialswouldtakeanyopportunityforanambush,nomatterhow
foolish.Ascommanderoftherepublicangarrisons,shedidnthavetogiveherselfaregular
patrolrotation.ButLokusRegonahadneverbeenthetypeofcommanderwhowasntwillingto
putherselfinharmswayalongwiththesoldiersunderhercommand.

Anoldwomanwalkingtheoppositedirectionpausedtogivethemablackscowlbeforehurrying
offandallofasuddenshefeltanoverwhelmingsenseofwrongness.Barkingacurtcommand
totheotherthreeguardsonpatrolwithher,shestopped,lookingaroundforanythingoutof
place,justintimetospotaShinobismokebombsailoverthetopofanearbystallandlandat
theirfeet.

TheKingdomofRindenisanationseenaslargelyruralandunsophisticatedbyitsneighbors.A
largeportionofitslandsarerockyhillssuitableonlyforherding,withtherestofitslandsbeing
devotedtofarming.Thereareonlyahandfulofcitiespossessinganythingresembling
civilization,andonlythecapitalisanythingmorethanaglorifiedtradingmarketforfarmersand
herderstoselltheirwares.

PrevioustotheinvasionbyJahganforces,Rindenhadremainedlargelyneutralintheperpetual
conflictsthatragedamongtheothernationsoftheland.Theymaintainedasmallarmy,large
enoughtodefendagainstraidersandmobilizeintheeventofemergencies,butforthelargepart
theykeptapolicyofneutrality,trustingtothefactthattherewasntmuchtoconquerasidefrom
farmlandtokeepthemsafefrominvasion.ItwasapolicythatwassuccessfuluntilJahgas
armiesshowedupontheirdoorstep.

ThewarwiththeRindenKingdomhasofficiallybeenoverfornearlytwoyears,buttherepublican
troopsofJahgaknowbetterthantomakeanystrongdeclarationsofvictory.Thekingdomisstill
underheavyoccupation,andlookstoremainthatwayforquitesometimetocome.Therehas
beenreluctancetoadopttheimprovementsthatJahgahasbroughttoRindenandoutright
resistancetoacceptingthesocialchangesthathavecomewithbeingsubjectsoftherepublic.
DespitetheimperialdecreethatallOniaretoremainunmolested,theyarenotsafeoutsideof
thecapital,andeventhen,Onilivinginthecapitaloftenfindthemselvesthetargetofhostilityand
harassment.

TheInvasion,Occupation,andResistancethatFollowed

Theinvasionwasbriefbutbloody,withmanycasualtiesamongtheRindenKingdoms
defenders,whowerescarcelyamatchforthesuperiorforcesattheJahgaRepublic's
command.Thefightingwasespeciallyhardduringtheinvasionofthecapital,whichtookseveral
weeksofhousetohousefightingfortherepublicanarmytosubduecompletely.Itleftthecapital
badlydamaged,itsbuildingsinastateofdisrepairanditssurvivingcitizenswoundedandbadly
traumatized.

Thelossfeltmostkeenlybycitizensofthekingdom,however,wasthelossoftheirrulers:King
KeiharuandQueenKiseri.Determinednottoaskanythingoftheirsubjectsthattheywerenot
willingtofacethemselves,theKingandQueentookuparmsagainsttheinvadingarmyin
defenseofthepalace.Theysucceededinrepellingtheinvadersforatime,butthefinalpush
provedtoomuchtoresistanddevastatedmuchofthepalace.TheKingandQueenwerekilled,
andtheirtwodaughterstakenbyforceintothecustodyoftherepublicanarmy.Theresistance
didntlastlongafterthat.Theirleadershipbroken,Rindensarmyheldoutanotherweekbefore
surrendering.

Twoyearslater,rebuildingeffortscontinue,aidedinlargepartbytheoccupyingrepublican
forces.GovernorFeigonMarown,aloyalrepublicanandlifelongdiplomat,nowgovernsaffairsin
Rinden,managingrebuildingeffortsandcommandingtherepublicangarrisonsstationedinand
aroundthecapital.

TheJahgaRepublic'sforcesarehardlynewtodealingwithresistanceinthewakeofconquest,
andRindenisntthefirstnationtheyhaveconqueredthathasbeenresistanttotheideaof
abandoningtheirnationalidentity.NoneofthenationsconqueredbyJahgainrecentdecades,
though,havebeenasintransigentasRinden.

Inrebuildingthedamagedanddestroyedsectionsofthecapital,theGovernorhasbeen
scrupulousaboutrebuildingtoleavethingsbetterthantheywereinbothformandfunction.The
republichasalsobroughtmanyimprovementstothedailylivesofRindenscitizens,including
technologicaladvancesandmagicalconveniencesthatallcitizensoftherepublicareentitledto
access.Butwillingnesstoadopttheseadvanceshasbeenfairlylimitedasyet,anattitudewhich
perplexestheoccupyingrepublicanforces.

Resistancetoanoccupyingforceandnewformofgovernmentissomethingthattherepublicis
usedtodealingwith,somethingtheyarepracticedinrespondingto.Resistancetoconveniences
thatimprovedailylifeissomethingthatFeigonMarownfindsillogicalandendlesslyfrustrating.
Jahgahasalwayssucceededinintegratingthenationsitconqueredbydemonstratingthatit
caredforthelivesofitsnewcitizensandseekingtoimprovetheirsituation.Buthowcanthey
hopetoachievethisdesiredintegrationwhentheirnewestsubjectsrejecteventhemostsimple
conveniences,justbecausetheyoriginatedoutsideRinden?

GiventheunusuallyobduratenatureofRindenspopulace,itisnosurprisethattherepublican
garrisonsstillfacewidespreadarmedresistancebymultipleundergroundresistancegroups.
Surprisinglywellorganized,thesegroupsoperatebothinthecapitalandoutinthecountryside
usingavarietyofguerillatactics.Patrolsoftenfindthemselvesambushed,shipmentsfromthe
republicdestinedforgarrisontroopsgetstolenordestroyed,andevenrebuildingeffortsinand
aroundthecapitalhavebeenaffectedbysabotage.

Havingtobecontinuallyonguardagainstanactivelyhostilepopulacehasputtherepublican
garrisonsonedge.TheGovernorhasattemptedtokeepatightreinonthesoldierswhomakeup
theoccupyingforce,butthearmyisoftenswiftanddecisiveindealingwiththoseitsuspectsof
beingmembersoftheresistance,employingharshandsometimesbrutalpunishmentsinthe
hopeofdeterringotherpotentialresistancemembersfromactingagainstrepublicaninterests.

GovernorFeigonMarownhasreluctantlycondonedtheseharshtactics,asthetacticsemployed
byresistancegroupshaveoftenplacedRindenscitizensatasmuchriskastheoccupying
forces.MuchastheGovernorwouldwishtoavoidusingtacticsthatmightincurtheangerof
Rindenspopulace,heisobligatedtomakethewelfareofhistroopsandthesafetyofthe
civilianshegovernshisfirstpriority.Still,heinterveneswhenhecanonbehalfofthosethearmy
takesintocustodytopushformorelenientpunishment,somethingwhichfrustratesthegarrison
commanderstonoend.

[Sidebar]TheTwoYoungHeirs

TheRindenKingdomstwoformerheirs,stillyounggirls,havebeenmadewardsoftherepublic.
Theyremainunderheavyguardatthepalace,watchedoverbyagovernessandaprofusionof
tutors,allofwhomhavebeenhiredtoinstillloyaltytotherepublicintheiryoungcharges.
GovernorFeigonMarownhasannouncedthat,shouldeverythingproceedaccordingtoplan,rule
ofRindenwillbehandedovertotheformerprincesseswhentheyareofageasaloyal
provinceoftherepublicofcourse.

SpeculationastohowtherepublicintendstoensuretheloyaltyofPrincessesNakeshaand
Lokorahasrunrampantamongthecitizensofthecapital.Doestherepublicintendtohire
Shinobitowatchoverthemtoensuretheircooperation?OtherssuggestthattheGovernorhas
hiredkugutsutobrainwashthetwoprincessesthroughnightlyuseoftheirdreammanipulation.
Themostcommonlyheldbelief,however,isthatFeigonMarownhasreplacedPrincess
NakeshaandLokorawithkugutsuwhohavetakentheirplaceandwillhavenochoicebuttoact
inaccordancewiththewishesoftherepublic.

ItisthislastrumorthatGovernorFeigonMarownhasfoundmostbafflingandhasdonehis
utmosttoquashoutright.Howcouldanyonebelievethathewouldcondoneofdisposingofthe
youngprincessesmerelybecauseitmightbepoliticallyexpedienttodoso?Still,despitehis
attemptsattransparencyaimedatquashingtheserumors,therumorshaveprovedtobe
remarkablypersistent.

Personages

GovernorFeigonMarown

Therepublicangovernorisanoldmanwithmanydecadesofloyalanddistinguishedserviceto
theempire.Chosenfortheroleprimarilyforhisskillsindiplomacy,hehashadtodrawon
everythinghehaslearnedthroughouthiscareertotrytomakeanysortofheadwaywith
integratingthenewestadditiontotherepublic.

RindensresistancetorepublicanidealshasdrivenFeigonMarownnearlytodespair,forheisa
manwhotrulybelievesintheaimsoftherepublicandthattheirmissionofconquestisultimately
inthebestinterestsofallofthepeoplesoftheland.Heisamanwithagenuinelycaringheart
andtakeshisobligationtoimprovethelivesofthosehegovernsveryseriously.Assuch,heis
torturedbythefactthathehasallowedviolentcrackdownstotakeplaceagainstresistance
leaderseventhoughheisdoinghisbesttoprotectthesafetyofRindenspopulaceand
republicantroopsalike.Butwhilethismayhavetestedhisresolve,ithasnotbrokenit.Heis
determinedtosucceedinwhatisdoubtlessthemostdifficultassignmenthehaseverfacedin
hislongservicetotherepublic.

Maruihana,leaderoftheresistanceandroyaltyinhiding

MaruihanawasQueenKiserisyoungersisterand,withthetwoyoungprincessesinthecustody
oftherepublic,isnominallythenextinlinetothethrone.Afterthefallofthepalaceandthe
captureoftheprincesses,Maruihanawentintohidingforabrieftimesoastoavoidcapture
herself.ButitsoonbecameapparentthatRindensnascentresistancewouldneedaleader.
Determinednottolettherepublicanforcestakecontrolwithoutafight,shesteppedforwardinto
thatrole.

Maruihanaisstillyoung,andveryangryaboutthedeathofhersister.Thatangerhasmadeher
brash,butabrillianttacticalmindhasenabledhertomakedowithscantresourcesandturna
seeminglyinsurmountablepositiontotheiradvantage.Therepublicanforcescantwatchallof
Rindenscitizensatonce,afactshetakesruthlessadvantageof.

HerbiggestsuccesstodatehasbeenhiringalargenumberofShinobitoaidintheresistance
effort,usingprofitsfromlargescalesmugglingoperationstopayfortheirservices.Withthe
assistanceoftheseShinobi,theresistancehasbeenabletostepupitsuseofguerillatactics
againstrepublicanforces.Sheknowsthatuseofthesetacticswillonlyleadtomoreviolence,
butMaruihanaiscommittedtoafuturewherethecitizensoftheRindenKingdomcanlivetheir
livesastheyplease.Moreimportantly,shewantsheryoungniecestobeabletolivetheirown
lives,freeoftheinfluenceoftherepublic.

LokusRegona,CommanderoftheRepublicanGarrison

LokusRegonaistheCommanderofthesoldiersstationedintherepublicangarrison,andas
suchtheunenviabletaskofleadingtheoccupyingforcefallstoher.Thehardenedveteranof
manyacampaign,shewouldmuchratherbeonanactivebattlefieldthanengagedinthissortof
long,slowstalemate,preferringtobattleanenemyshecanseeratherthanonethatrefusesto
standandfight.Mostespecially,shehasgrownfrustratedwiththeGovernorandhisidealism
andmakescontinualappealstobeallowedtobemoreforcefulinputtingdownresistance
activitywhenitisuncovered.

Shehaslearnedfromhardexperiencethatpermissivenesswithsuchviolentradicalsonly
encouragesfurtherviolence.Iftherepublicistosucceedinitsmission,LokusRegonaisofthe
firmbeliefthatthepopulaceneedstolearntheirplaceascitizensoftherepublic.Onlywhenthey
accepttheirfatewilltheybegincontributingtothegreatergoodoftherepublicasawhole.Still,
LokusRegonaisnothingifnotloyalandwillcontinuetofolloworders,evenifshethinksthe
ordersaremisguided.Muchasshewishestohavehadfreereigntodealwiththerebels,the
taskofgoverningthenewlymintedrepublicanprovinceishardlyoneshewishestotakeon
herself.

TheIndependentStateofHorom:CosmopolitanTradingNationand
VassalState

KentheBlackWindputononelastburstofspeed,vaultingeasilyofftheroofandoverthewall,
smilingatthesoundofcursinginthestreetbelow.Helandedlightlyonhisfeetnexttoagarbage
pileattheendofthefilthyalley,retrievingtheragsthathehadstowedthereforsafekeeping.It
wastheworkofamomenttothrowtheragsonoverhisthievesgarb,withsomemudfromthe
guttersrubbedintohishairforverisimilitude.Then,checkingonelasttimetoensurethatthe
parcelwassecurelyhidden,heslippedoutofthealleyintothenarrowstreetsofthenecropolis.

Itdidnttakelongforhispursuerstocatchup.Theloudclankingoftheheavyarmorgavehim
plentyofwarningastheguardsshovedtheirwaythroughthenarrowstreetsofthenecropolis.By
thenhewasalreadyonhisusualcorner,woodenbowlclutchedtightlyinonehandashestared
fixedlyoffintospaceintheguiseofablindbeggar.

Oneoftheguardspaused,staringintentlyatKen.Here,isntthat

Anotherguard,onewhomKenrecognizedfrommanypreviousencounters,gruntedindisgust.
ThatsjustOldNaru,hesnapped.Nowcomeon.Hewentthisway.

Behindhim,thelamebeggarwholentKenhiscorneronsuchoccasions,chuckledtohimselfas
hehobbledaroundthecorner,leaningheavilyonanoldwoodencrutch.Kengrinnedandflipped
theoldmanagoldcoinbeforeslippingoffintothecrowdsoncemore.

TheIndependentStateofHoromisacountrybuiltontrade.Itsmanyportsmakeitapopular
destinationformerchantsandtraders,andoverthecenturiesithasdevelopedareputationfor
beingaplacewhereonecanacquirejustaboutanythingonedesires.Goodsfromalloverthe
worldwindupinthemarketsofHoromtechnologyandweaponsfromAzumi,worksofartand
magicfromJahga,livestockandbreedingstockfromRinden,justtonameafew.

Thecapitalcity,hometothelargestmarkets,isacitybeautifulbeyondimagining,withartand
architecturetorivaleventhatfoundintherepublicancapitalofJahga.Thecityitselfbustleswith
allmannersofvisitorsthatwouldsurelyoverwhelmanyonemoreaccustomedtolifeintherural
provinces.Itisnotunusualtoseemerchantsbrushelbowswithpaupers,toseesamuraiand
AnnelidistsprowlthemarketsalongsideKijinandkugutsu.ThemostsupremelawinHoromis
thelawofthemarketplace,andtheneutralityofHoromsmarketsisrecognizedevenbythe
mostpowerful.

TheOccupationofHorom

TheIndependentStateofHoromhasneverbeenoneoftheforemostmilitarypowersoftheland,
despiteitsstatusasaninfluentialpowerinitsownright.Horomspowerwasbuiltontradeand
gold,preferringtobuyoffitsenemiesratherthanfightthem.Theencroachmentcausedbythe
determinedexpansionoftheImperialDynastyofAzumiwassomethingnewinitshistory,
somethingtheyhadneverfacedbeforeanenemywithnopricetobemet.

OnceHoromsleadersrealizedthattheirfoecouldnotbeboughtoff,thewarthatwasfought
wasbrief,largelybloodless,andalmostentirelyforshow.Negotiationswereenterednearlyas
soonasthefightingbegantopermittherulersofHoromtosaveasmuchfacewiththeirpeople
aspossibleandtopermitthemtocurtailacostlyandprofitdestroyingwar.

Beforetheinvasion,HoromwasruledbyaGrandCounciloftradeguilds.Thissystemwas
nominallydemocraticinthateachguildwaspermittedtoelectitsownguildmasterfromwithin
theranksofitstradespeople.Inpractice,though,thesystemwashopelesslycorrupt,favoring
therichestoverthosewiththebestinterestsoftheaveragecitizenatheart.TheGrandCouncil
concerneditselfonlywithruleoftherichbytherich,andthosewhowerelessmonetarily
advantagedwerelefttoekeoutameagerexistencewithlittlethoughtorconcernfromtheir
rulers.Asaresult,thereisalargeunderclassofpeasantstobefoundineachcity,keptintheir
properplaceoutofsightofthepatronsofthemarketsbythefewsoldiersinHoromsstanding
army.

SinceHoromssurrendertotheImperialinvaders,thingshavebeendifferentfortheupperclass.
Whereoncethericheliteofthetradeguildscontrolledeverydecisionofimport,thesedaysthe
GrandCouncilexistssolelytorubberstampthedecisionsmadebytheirimperialoverlords.The
CouncilexistsnowtopermitHoromtomaintaintheillusionofindependenceasavaluedallyof
theempire.ButdecisionsregardingpolicyinHoromarenowbasedentirelyonwhatbestserves
theinterestsoftheempire.ThisrepresentsaninterestingreversalfortheGrandCouncilwhich
isnotmuchaccustomedtonotgettingtheirownway.

Still,despitethelossofinfluence,thereisnorealresistancefromthecitizensofHoromto
imperialrule.Theupperclassesaremostlycontenttohaveavoidedacostlywartheycould
neverhavehopedtowin,awarthatwouldhavefrightenedpeopleawayfromtheirportsand
ruinedprofits.Meanwhile,thepoorarelivingtoohardscrabbleanexistencetocareaboutthe
affairsoftherich.AndthosefewinthemiddlehaveonlytolooktoRindenasanexampleofwhat
happenstothosewhotrytogoagainstanentireempire.ThecitizensofHoromareresignedto
theirfate,forthemostpart,andhaveacceptedtheirroleasavassalstateoftheempire.

[Sidebar]ThePlightoftheUnderclass

SomeamongtheunderclassinHoromwerehopefulthatcapitulationtotheirnewimperialrulers
wouldimprovethingsforthepoor.Afterall,eventhemostimpoverishedofImperialcitizenscan
beassuredasourceofincomeandaroofovertheirheadsolongastheyservetheempirewith
loyaltyandefficiency.

Thishope,unfortunately,hasnotborneout.Theimperialshavesofarbeencontenttoacceptthe
tributespaidthembyHoromsupperclassandtooverlookthesocialinequalities,citingempty
platitudesabouttheneedforculturaltolerance.SolongasHoromsrichandpowerfulcontinueto
linethepocketsoftheempire,theempireiscontenttocontinuetoallowtheupperclassto
dominatethepoorunderclass.

ManyofthepoorestofHoromiisocietyhavetakenupresidenceinthecapitalsnecropolis,the
vastcityoftombsandmausoleumsconstructedbythewealthiestHoromiielitetohonortheir
dead.Thecityguardmakeperiodicforaysintothenecropolistoclearoutthesquatters,butthey
alwaysreturn,havinglittlechoiceinwheretogo.

Personages

LinaTanatoHeadofthemerchantsguild

IntheIndependentStateofHorom,moneyispower,andpriortotheinvasion,Linawasthemost
powerfulmemberoftheGrandCouncil.Ashrewdandcannybusinesswoman,sheownedan
estatethatrivaledthegrandeuroftheGrandCouncilbuildingitself.

Thesedays,moneydoesntmeanasmuchasitusedto,andLinasinfluencehaslargely
vanished.Thisisafactthatshekeenlyregrets.Still,sheisapragmatistandcontinuestomake
therequiredpaymentstotheempiresheknowsthesepaymentsareultimatelycheaperthanthe
costthatrebellionwouldexact.ButLinadoesworrythatbecomingpartofAzumiwillspellthe
endforHoromsthrivingguildofartistsandartisans,ofwhichshehasalwaysbeenaprominent
patron.Tohermind,thereislittlepointinwealthifonedoesnotusethatwealthtoenjoythingsof
beauty.Itworriesherthatthisisaviewpointthattheimperialsdonotseemtounderstandatall.

KentheBlackWind,HeadoftheThievesGuild

TheThievesGuildhasbeenaroundnearlyaslongasHoromitself,thoughthenameismostlya
joketheytakenopartinthedoingsoftheGrandCouncil.Rather,theyexisttopreyonthe
wealthyandelitebydivestingthemofsomeoftheirexcesswealth.

KentheBlackWindisthecurrentleaderoftheThievesGuild,andhasheldthepostlongerthan
anyotherinrecentmemory.Thelifeofathiefisahazardousone,andithascertainlyleftKen
marked.Hisscarred,oftenscowlingvisageisafamiliarsighttothedenizensofthenecropolis.
Butbeneaththatroughexteriorliesagenuinecommitmenttotheneedyanddestitute.

Theothermembersoftheguildarefreetodowiththeirtakingsastheyseefititisnotunheard
offoranexceedinglydaringthieftoamassenoughwealthtoquittheguildaltogetherand
establishacomfortablenewlifeasoneofHoromsmiddleclass.ButKenhimselfrarelykeeps
morethanaverysmallportionofhisprofits,givingtheresttocareforthosetoooldandsickto
earnalivingforthemselves.Asaresult,thoughtherewardontheBlackWindsheadismany
thousandsofgold,thereisnotasoulamongthenecropolisthatwouldeverconsiderredeeming
thatreward.

Nil:TheDesolateWaste

Ithadbeenanervewrackingjourneythroughthecityuntilshehadmanagedtoslipthroughthe
frontlines,thoughMetasandurodidntbreatheeasyuntilshewaswellawayfromthecity
outskirts.Wearingherrobesandmaskofoffice,shewascarefultosticktothemiddleofthe
roadwantingtotravelopenly.WhilethearmiesofJahgaandAzumimighthavenoqualms
aboutciviliansgettingcaughtinthecrossfire,AgentsofthePriesthoodstillcommandedthe
respecttheydeserved.

Oratleasttheydidmostofthetime.Oflate,thefightinghadbeencomingclosertothegrand
shrinethanMetasanduroandherfellowAgentsliked.Therewasalsothematterofsupplies,
whichwerehardforanyonetoacquireinacityundersiege.Whenthecallhadcomefor
volunteerstotraveltoshrinesoutsidethecitytorequestbadlyneededfoodandmedicines,
Metasandurohadvolunteered,eagerforthechancetogetawayfromthefightingforafewdays.

Asuddenflashoflightstoppedherinhertracks.Blindinginitsintensity,shecouldalmostfeel
thepressureofthelightagainstherskin.Beforeshecouldreact,thegroundbuckedunderneath
her,throwingheroffherfeetastheairrushedaroundherwithaterribleroaringsoundalmost
agonizinginitsintensity.

Andthenitstopped.

Shehadnoideahowlongshelayintheroad,stunned,beforesherecoveredhersenses
sufficientlytostaggertoherfeet,whereshestoodstaringindisbelief.Thecitywasgone.

Onceaproudandrichtradingempireinitsownright,Nilisnownothingmorethanadesolate
shellofitsformerself,acautionarytalethathasmadeJahgaandAzumihesitanttopushtoward
amoredecisiveandfinalconflictintheirmutualwarofexpansion.

ItwasintheDangoroTradingStatethatAzumisimperialarmyandJahgasrepublicanguard
metonthefieldofbattleforthefirsttime,eacharmydeterminedthattheywouldconquer
Dangoroastheirown.Thefightingwasfiercerthananythingyetseenintheconflictsof
expansionthetwopowershadengagedin,andthecasualtieswereterrible.Andthensomething
terriblehappened,acataclysmthatutterlydestroyedDangoroscapitalcityanddecimatedthe
invadingforcesofthetwogreatpowers.

Tothisday,therearesomanyconflictingreportsoftheeventthatitshardtosayforsurewhat
actuallyhappened.Somesaythatitwastheworkofalegendarilypowerfulshiki.Othersblame
theAnnelidists.StillothersclaimthatthedestructionwaswroughtbythepilotsofaGreatArmor
becomingAsura.Mostthinkthatitwassomecombinationoffactors,somefatalreactionof
magicandtechnologythatcausedthedevastation.

Whateverthecause,thedamagehasbeendone.Thecapitalcityremainsallbutdestroyed,with
thecenterofthecityagiantcrater.Onlytheslumsaroundtheoutskirtsremain,theirruined
buildingsbarelystanding.Thecountryside,includingmuchofthefarmland,wasjustas
scorchedinthefighting,leadingtowidespreadfamine.Thisonceregardeddomainisnow
simplycalledNil,theDesecratedLands.

Theremnantsofbotharmieshavewithdrawn,neitherquitewillingtocommitfurtherresources
forfightingcontrolofwhatnowremains.ThishasleftNileffectivelyungoverned,asthecountrys
entiregovernmentwasdestroyedinthecataclysm.Manyofthesurvivorshaveemigratedto
otherlandsasrefugees.Thosewhostayarethetrulydesperate,thosesearchingforsomething
orsomeonelostinthecataclysm,orthosedeterminedtorebuildwhatwaslostinthebriefwar.

Amongthosewhoremained,manyhavebecomescavengers.Mostlyworkinginthecapitaland
surroundingvillages,theypickthroughtheruinslookingforvaluablesthattheycansell.Left
withoutameansofsupportingthemselves,othershaveturnedtobanditry,terrorizingoutlying
villages.Otherswhostayedbehindhavedevotedthemselvestorebuildingwhatwaslost,
restartingfarmsandrebuildingbusinesses,buttheobstaclestorestorationaresovastthat
therearefewwhofeeluptothechallenge.

Nilsplighthasattractedafewoutsiders,mostlytheveryboldandenterprising.Ahandfulof
merchantshavecomefromHorom,lookingtocapitalizeonthedesperationofsurvivors,though
profitshavebeenhardtorealizeinanenvironmentwherepeoplearestrugglingjusttosurvive.

[Sidebar]AReluctantRulerAmidstChaos

Sincethedepartureofthetwoarmies,thePriesthoodhasbeendesperatelysearchingfor
someone,anyone,evenmarginallyqualifiedtoruletotakeuptheroleofNilsregent.Not
surprisingly,eventhemostambitiousofpowerseekersdoesntfindtheprospectofanationin
ruinsthathasfallenintoanarchythemostattractiveofprospectsespeciallynotwhenany
degreeofsuccessinrebuildingtheshatteredcountrywouldonlymakeNilsusceptibleto
renewedinvasion.Sincenoonehassteppedforwardtoaccepttherole,thePriesthoodhas
reluctantlybecomewhatpassesforauthorityinthosefewareaswheresettlementsremain,but
largeportionsofthecountryremainlawlesswastes.

Inanefforttoattempttorestoreatleastasmallportionoforder,thePriesthoodhasdrawnupon
itsresourcestohireroninaspartofanascentsamuraicorpstocombatthegrowingbandit
threat.TherehavebeenmanysamuraithathaveflockedtotheDesecratedLandsforthe
opportunityforsecureemployment.Justasmanyoftheroninwhohavecomeareeagerfora
chancetousetheirskillsinserviceofsomethingotherthanmindlessconquest.Still,the
Priesthoodhasdonetheirbesttokeepthesamuraitheyhireatarm'slength,viewingthemasa
potentiallyunstableresources,whichhasnotdonemuchtoinspireloyaltyintheforcesthey
havehired.

TheInfluxofKugutsuRefugees

RefugeeshavefledfromtheDesecratedLandstosurroundinglandsingreatwavessincethe
cataclysm,butdespitethedevastationtherehasalsobeenasmallinfluxofrefugeesthatnever
couldhavebeenanticipated.SincethedisappointingfailureofJahgassenatetopass
meaningfulreformregardingthelegalstatusofkugutsu,KugutsufromJahgahavebeenstealing
acrossthebordertojoinasmallbutgrowingenclaveoftheirbrethrenwhowanttobefreefrom
theirlivesofindenturedservitude.Thoughtheinfluxofkugutsurefugeeswassmallatfirst,the
numbersofrefugeeshavebeengrowingaswordspreadsoftheexistenceofasafehaven.

ThekugutsuhaveestablishedseveralsmallsettlementsinthewildsofNil,takingadvantageof
thelackofagovernmenttoprotectthemfromorganizedreprisals.Thebanditsthatroamthe
wildsposeafarmoreimmediatethreat,buttheskillsofthosetrainedasswordmastersand
bodyguardshavebeensufficienttopreventanydepredations.

Ofcourse,kugutsucaughtfleeingtheirservicecanexpectextremelyharshreprisals.Thelawof
therepublicdoesnothingtoprotectkugutsuwhoattempttoleavetheiremployment,andthe
nobleswhoownkugutsuaredesperatetosetprecedenttoprotecttheirinvestment.

Theothergrowingthreattothekugutsuenclavesisthegrowingsamuraicorpshiredbythe
Priesthoodtorestoreordertothelawlesswastes.Somesamurai,especiallythoseroninwho
havefallenintopoverty,aresympatheticwiththeplightofthekugutsu.Therearejustasmany
whoviewtherefugeeswithsuspicionandwouldseethekugutsushippedbacktotheirrightful
owners.Assuch,thesamuraicanbeveryinconsistentintheirdealingswiththekugutsuand
therefugeeshavelearnedtoavoidattractingtheirattentionasmuchaspossible.Thelastthing
theywantisforthepowerfulPriesthoodtodecidethattheyareathreatthatneedselimination.

Still,thereisonethingthatalloftherefugeescanagreeon.EvenanuncertainfateinNil,where
theycanbetheirownmasters,ispreferabletoalifeofsecuritywithoutfreedomintheJahga
RepublicofEnlightenedPeoples.

Personages

Metasanduro,FirstPriestofDangoro

MetasandurowasformerlyamidlevelShintoagentassignedtoserveoneofthecapitalsmany
shrines.Itwasnothingmorethansheerluckthatfoundheroutsidetheshrinethelastdayofthe
invasion.Shefoundherselfwatchinginhorrorashershrineandthoseshehadservedwithwere
destroyedinthecataclysm.

AlthoughtherearehigherrankingAgentsleftinNil,Metasandurowastheonlyonewiththewillto
trytopiecetogethersomesemblanceoforderfromthewreckageleftbehindbytheinvading
armies.Whenshesteppedforwardtotakeleadershipofthereconstructionefforts,none
challengedher.Thetaskwassolargeandsoimpossiblethattheotheragentswererelievedto
havesomeonewhowouldleadwillingly.

ForMetasandurospart,shethrowsherselfintotheworkofrebuildingbecauseitisallshehas
left.Hersinglemindeddevotiontotherestorationofherhomeisallconsuming.Shemaynotbe
abletoreplacethepeoplethatshehaslost,butsheisdeterminednottoletthebeautyofthe
homeshelovedbelostforever.

BlackGloveMol,CommanderoftheDesecratedLandSamuraiCorps

TheironyoftheBlackGlovesservicetothePriesthoodissomethingheconsidersdaily.While
hewasnotpartoftheinvadingforcethatlaidsiegetoDangoroscapital,hispreviousservice
waswithJahgasarmiesintheoutlyingprovincesofoldDangoroastheyscoutedthelandand
soughttouprootImperialinvasionforces.Afterthedestructionofthecapital,theordercameto
withdrawandBlackGloveandmanyofhisfellowsamuraiwhohadsignedonascontract
soldiersfoundthemselvesreleasedfromserviceandabandonedinacountrythatwasrapidly
descendingintoanarchy.

Shortlythereafter,whenMetasanduroputoutthecallforsamuraitoformanewcorpsthatwould
dealwiththeincreasinglawlessness,MoltheBlackGloverespondedeagerly.Theopportunityto
servehonorablywasawelcomeonetheideaofbecomingaroninor,worse,abandit,wasan
unappealingone.Muchtohissurprise,hefoundhimselfappointedcommanderofthenewly
formedcorpsagroupofsamuraithathasgrownslowlyasroninfromotherlandshavecomein
hopesofearningapermanentplaceinservicetotheshrinesofNil.

TheBlackGlovehasmadeapointnevertodiscusshispast,lesthisnewemployersinthe
Priesthooddecidetotakeasuddeninterestinavengingthemselvesuponhimforhispartinthe
destructionoftheirhome.Infact,manyknowhimonlybyhistitleofBlackGlove,andnothis
name.

melis,LeaderoftheKugutsuRefugees

WhileitwasntmelissideatoescapeenforcedservitudebyfleeingtotheDesecratedLands,
withouthisinstigationitneverwouldhavebecomeareality.Itwasmeliswhospreadtheword
amongmanyofthekugutsuemployedbySenatorsandtheJahgaRepubliceliteoftheirgoalof
creatingarefugewherekugutsucouldbefree.WiththehelpofafewwellplacedOniallies,
EmpressescortDahjenmostnotably,hewasabletoorchestratetheescapeofhimselfand
twelvecompanionsacrosstheborderintoNil.

Sincethatinitialescape,thecommunityofkugutsurefugeeswhonowcalltheDesecrated
Landshomehasgrownfromamerehandfultoseveralhundred.Thenewestarrivalsespecially
regardmeliswithawe,anddailythepressuregrowsonhimtotakeupaleadershiproleoverthe
otherrefugees.

Sofar,however,melishasresistedinsistingthattherefugeesremaininsmallseparate
enclaveswithseparateleadership.Heneverwantedtobealeaderforhispeople,hesimply
wantedtoliveinfreedomandhasbeenunpreparedforthereverencethatmanyofthenewest
refugeesseemtoholdforhim.

ThereisalsothematterofthePriesthood.Thelastthingmeliswantsistobeseenas
challengingtheauthorityofthePriesthoodtoruleaffairsinNil.Heisalltooawarehowvulnerable
thepositionoftherefugeesistoriskhavingtherefugeeslosetheirfreedomshouldbadluck
befallhim.

(NAMINGSCHEMA
*Asumi()hassortofanAncientJapanesesortofflavor,whereinmyheadallthe
namesareincomplexkanji.
*Jahgaissortofkatakana/bastardized"japanese"butwith
influencesfromtheOnilanguage.
*Rindenhasaverysimplelanguagewithnoneedforcomplexitysoitssortof
"anglicized"(ofcoursenotintheirworld,buttheflavorinmyheadis)withfewpeoplewithlong
names.
*Horom,astheyareatradingstate,aresortofmixedfrom
everywheresoitsagrabbag.
*Dangoro/Nilislargelyuninhabited.Mostpeoplehaveadoptedthenaming
schemaofoneofthesurroundinglands.
*Thepriesthoodhas1word,complicatednames,andtheAbbessjusthasasortofshortname
withan'esotericmeaning'(herBuddhistnamemeans"TheSoundofLight").
*Militaryleaders(samuraileaders,etc)arereferredtomorebytheirposition/stationnamethan
theirrealname.
*KnownKugutsunamesarealmostalwaysshortandlowercasedoftenflowerysounding,or
actuallybasedonwordsthatappearinnature.
*TheOnilanguage(forthepurposesofthissetting)haslotsoflongvowelsandJsintheRuined
Empires.