Year 370 of the Isawa Calendar, somewhere in the south-eastern coast of Rokugan.
The air kami danced freely around his hands as the old Shugenja stared mindlessly at the distance. His green vest was moving wildly with a non existing wind; his eyes covered with a white mist as he performed this new ritual that he found so curious. The kami will circle around him, almost but never touching him. He could feel their magic running through his body. As the magic rushed through his ears, he will hear distant, almost distorted voices. As the kami moved in front of his eyes, he would see images of places far beyond his human eyesight. The constant shift of sounds, visions and smells, made it hard for the shugenja to concentrate, and yet he pushed forward, focusing his senses into the distance. He could taste the salty water, feel the cool water as it rushed unopposed. Until finally he found what he was looking for.
A single island dancing with the waves… A rhythmic sound, almost like a song: koh… kee
The Island in the distance was covered in green, and as he looked around with his spell binded vision, he could find no path, no roads, as if no human have ever walked the land. Yet, there was a presence: A single solitary statue carved out of stone, covered with moss; the result of years without care. The features were hard to define, but it looked almost like a frog of some kind. And again, there was the sound: “Koh… Kee…“
The beauty of the landscape was captivating, he felt he could just forget about the world and stay contemplating its features forever. But a sudden realization woke him from the dream: There was no time. A few weeks back, the Emperor himself dreamt of this island; a place of eternal beauty, bordering the Sea of Shadows, uncorrupted. That day, Miya Kenmei was called to the Emperor’s chambers, and requested to find it. He never understood why, after all he was only a herald, a messenger. His ability to listen to the kami was never developed, he was no priest. When he was younger, he was trained in some basic fighting techniques, but he was no warrior. He was not even a herald of high station. But it all did not matter. The Emperor called for him. He was given the clear duty of finding the Island, and he did. Whatever secrets it contained, it was now his mission to discover.
“Rally the men”, he said as the air kami danced away from him, his eyes once more their usual color. “I have found our destination.”
“Hai!” The answer came from a nearby samurai, his armor clad in Imperial green, though a darker tone by his own accords; with few blue decorations, the color of the sea. The man turned back to his men, a dozen at most. “Prepare the ships! We part in an hour!”
An hour later, a few simple fishing boats, not designed for the long trip ahead, set sail from the coast of Rokugan; as the sole Shugenja prayed the kami for guidance and protection.
* * *
An island, a few miles south east of Shima no Koshinryo, a few weeks ago
The light that engulfed the distant main Island some weeks ago was long gone, but the young man could not put it out of his mind. As far as he could tell, it came from Seppun Hill; the place his father once called “the birthplace of the Empire”. He had never been there, in fact, he has never been away from the Island, but somehow he felt he knew the place, somehow he felt the place was part of him. The light marked a new beginning for the Emerald Empire, he knew it too well. A new Empire full with hope, blessed by the Heavens; but not one without a challenge.
“As the Light of Heaven walks the land; an external Darkness challenges it’s Empire; a ray of hope corrupted from within”
He was no seer, he could barely understand the meaning of the warning; but it was part of him and in this remote island, it was what defined him: A warning to a land that was never his.
He turned around, his dark green robe floating in an unexciting breeze. His vision shifted from the beautiful landscapes of a fractured Empire, to the desolated mass of a corrupted chaos: A sea full of shadows governing the landscape, clouding his vision. A sudden pain struck his right arm, and he pressed a single petal of jade in his dark skinned hand, his vision twisted as the voices of the kansen roared in his mind. The mysteries of the Island protected it from corruption, but mankind was a fragile thing, and to a young boy the promises of the darkness where tempting. A few years ago, he fell to the temptation. He would have become a madman if it were not for his father.
“The world exists because of its balance,” he was told that day. “And it is that balance that you must seek in yourself. The shadows cannot exist without light to cast them; and the light loses its meaning with no darkness to suppress.”
The memory of his father was enough to force the pain away.
“My lord.” a soft voice called for him. “Your boat is ready.”
He turned around to see a single bushi, perhaps twice his age, kneeling a few feet away. He was still not used to the title and it took him a few seconds to realize the message was meant for him. He has been the “lord” ever since his father died ten months ago, and to this day he wonders if he is ready for such a task. Even more now that the time has come to deliver the warning to the new Emperor. He has been postponing the trip for some time, but it could no longer wait; it was his duty.
It took him a few hours to reach the bay. A single boat was waiting for him in the solitary dock. Few men have ever set sail from the Island, not because it was prohibited, but mostly because few ever wanted to leave. The Island provided them with the food they needed, and the stories of great wars in the Empire was hardly a motivation. Most actually felt no connection with the rest of the Empire. They were born here. Technically, they were not even samurai, but followed the code nonetheless, and their devotion to the legion was unquestionable. The few who wanted to see more of the world; those who wanted to return to the Empire their family once belong to found no opposition and could leave whenever they wished. Most never returned.
Two bushi stood next to the dock, clad in dark green and blue armor. A hand painted mon covered their chest, a green tree frog, the symbol of his people.
“Gaeru-sama”, said the younger of the two, as they bowed. “Your companions are waiting for you.”
The young lord bowed slightly to the guards as he passed by, a custom carried mostly by tradition. The Island was not the Empire, and the political rules that governed the Emerald kingdom were not always followed here. After all, in order to survive in their self imposed “exile”, the islanders had to work together, cultivate the land, build houses. Here, they saw no wars, and the few warriors were mostly trained as magistrates, keeping the few disputes under control and dealing with the even fewer that fell to the taint madness. They were blessed, protected by the kami. They were simple people; but he was their lord, and they treated him with great respect.
As he approached the boat, he saw three figures waiting for him. An old man with a candid smile, completely dressed in dark green. A younger woman donning a sea blue armor. The third one, a male donning both colors in a dark robe, a few years younger than him; his brother.
“Oten-sensei”, he said to the older one. “Glad to see you could make it.”
“I would never miss the Day of the Prophesy, Gaeru-dono.” There was a clear tone of respect in their voices, but the cordiality of the looks betrayed the old friends. Oten was more than just a sensei to Gaeru, he was a friend, and since the dead of his father, he had become his most trusted advisor.
“Junsei-chan,” he turned to the young bushi.
“Gaeru-ku-”, she began to reply, but stopped suddenly, and bowed while looking to the floor. “Gaeru-sama”
“This is it.” said Gaeru after a moment of silent, a hint of sadness still present in his voice. “The day has finally come. A new Dynasty rules Rokugan, and we must present ourselves to a new Emperor.”
“Brother.” He said to the third one. “I leave everything to you.”
“I will do my best.” was the reply, a timid, yet assertive voice. “Just make sure to come back.”
A few minutes later, three left the shores of the Island. The two shugenja praying to the kami, hoping their destiny would help them reach the Empire.
Year 371 of the Isawa Calendar.
The old Shugenja stood at the shore of the new found Island, looking intensively towards the Empire, and waiting. It has been a year since he saw the bushi leave the Island with news to the Emperor; and he has been waiting for that time. He was old, and tired; his health no longer what it used to be, and that day, a year ago; he was too sick to make the journey back. He was forced to stay, and wait. Half of his crew decided to stay with him, a few men and women, including his own son. Now, they all waited.
They came to the Island looking for hope. Searching for a way to fight the Shadowlands. But instead they found a dark omen; a prophesy of times to come written in the dark green stones that covered the landmark. There was no time to waste, the message must reach the Emperor, and so he sent his 4 best men, back through the dangerous sea.
“We will come back for you, Kenmei-sama.” They said. “The Empire will not forget you.”
But the sea was not as merciful. The kami fought a constant war against the kansen around the Island, and while the land was protected, the waters were filled with dangers. And he feared the messengers did not arrive to their destination.
He turned around to what was left of his crew. “My friends, the Heavens had leaded us to this place. And it seems they want us to stay.” He continued as he slowly walked towards his son. Those who knew him found his voice lacking the energy that characterized him. “Our friends left a year ago with a dire warning for the Emperor; we do not know if they arrived safely.” he held his young son’s hand firmly, and then looked to each of his followers.
“The words written on these stones must be protected, for the time will come when the prophesy will be fullfilled.” He looked into the ocean, his eyes fixed into his distant homeland. “I know now that I will never see the Empire again.” A long silence embraced the area. “But I cannot ask the same of you.” he continued as he turned back to his crew. “If you wish to leave, I’ll pray the kami for your safe trip. If you wish to stay, know that it will not be easy. We will plow the land, we will build houses. But a constant menace surrounds us. Those who stay will fight a constant war against the shadows; protecting the message until its time comes. You will be leaving the Empire behind, and this will be your new home.”
He looked back to the shore, a single boat sat on the sandy beach. “Your duty towards me has been fullfilled. Your are now free to go back to your home.”
That day, nobody left the Island.