Letter 7

(Clan Crane)


My gentle cousin -

The war is over, and we are coming home. On the plains of Otosan Uchi, the armies of Rokugan united against the Dark One, struggling in one last battle against the forces of the Shadowlands, and we were victorious. But the battle left us with heavy losses - losses which seem almost too much to bear.

When the dawn came, Toshimoko led his men - all wearing the mon of the Imperial Guard - onto the field of battle. It was all I could do to keep our Crane army alongside him. He fought with the fury of a man possessed, his katana striking deep into the heart of that unearthly fray. Beside me, the Lions rampaged against a horde of undead, and I saw Tsanuri draw her steel against the remains of the Crab, Amoro. Then the lines closed around me and I had no time for thought. Four times the Phoenix were cut down by the strange magic of the Dark One, and four times they rallied behind Scorpion lines. Phoenix defended by Scorpion – a strange sight, but a welcome one. As the shugenja cast their spells, the jade flew above my head and into the archers on the walls around the palace. Tides of arrows returned fire, and I saw many shugenja fall beneath their burning rain. Despite their valiant struggle, I fear the Phoenix have taken the heaviest wounds of all.

As the sun rose, it seemed as if a tide turned within the battle. I saw the battle-maidens of the Unicorn driving the undead toward us, and we cut the zombies down like chaff before a woodsman’s axe. The spirit of the legion was breaking, their servants were racing into the woods, making for the south. Goblins, mujina - all were fleeing, and I knew that somewhere deep within the Emperor’s palace, we had won. When the Thunders came forth from the keep, I counted their number. Nine had entered the palace to fight the evil within. Only six had returned.

Three men lay within the funeral pyre on the plains of Otosan Uchi, but I had eyes only for one flame. Today I watched my brother’s body burn. When I was young, our father called me into his chambers before I was sent to study war with the Daidoji. “My son,” he told me, “some men put faith in the things of steel - the sword of strength and skill. Others say that the path lies in the eyes of a great soul - the sword of the spirit.”

Now that soul lies in flames on the field of the Emperor’s palace.

The Empress stood before the pyre as well, and in her hand I thought I saw a braid of black hair and white. Strange times make strange allies. I have heard Toturi will give the Scorpion back their house, their place in the Empire. Perhaps not, I do not know. The Crane have enough houses of our own to rebuild.

If we are to have again what we have lost in this war, it must be through faith. Let us return to the lands of the Doji and regain our way, and our hope will renew the soul of our people. I swear to you, if it takes all my strength, I will lead us beyond the flames and to a new beginning.