Hidden Century

A Winter of Wolves

The scholar, Asako Ariki, dressed in heavy traveling robes and carrying a torch aloft, wandered through the ruined castle library as if in a daze. The crackling fire he held revealed ancient chronicles of a period he once believed was a quiet one in the Empire’s history. Slowly he pulled a scroll case, covered in the filthy cobweb of neglect and dust, and gingerly rolled it out on the rotten reading desk nearby. The paper was old and cheap, but the ink remained legible.

Ariki regarded the tome in silence for a long time, sighing in wounded disappointment as he read the words which began the manuscript he unrolled.

“Honorable Samurai who must seek out this last copy of our history, know that we are all dishonored by our failure to destroy the Sin stones. The stones became known to the Emerald Magistrature in the last year of the 9th century of the rule of the Thunders, as a gift to the Emperor from a djinni intent to corrupt the Emperor and Rokugan forever.”

“Seppun Leito, blessed be his name, sensed the attempt to despoil the Emperor and intercepted the stones, but did not know then the greatness of the threat he faced. The stones, bound in a jade lined signet box, were dispatched to the Kuni to be studied, if possible, and destroyed, but they did not reach their destination.

“Bandits intervened, slaughtered the Miya-sama escort, and took the stones into the wilderness near the River of the Hour of the Wolf. They did not know what they had found.

“For nearly thirty years, the spirits bound within the stones simply lingered like a dread cloud of mayhem and violence. It is believed now that the fate of the Honshu, what was believed at the time to be a minor affair, was merely the first draw of a conflict that would consume the Empire, the Traitor’s War."

Ariki’s concentration was broken by the sound of a loud set of steps approaching, the heavy rumble of buke boots. “Shiba-san?” Ariki asked the darkness before feeling a wave of relief at the sight of the Phoenix bushi stepping into the torchlight. Shiba Kyo gave a polite bow and the academic returned it.

“Did you find the scroll?” The stern bushi asked, and the Asako dipped his brow and lifted the simple scroll to show him. The Shiba took another step closer, his hand on his blade. “What does it say?”

“It begins with a history, and already it has illuminated much. I now know the stone’s fixation on Shiro Honshu,” The two exchanged a meaningful stare as Ariki explained his first finding, and the samurai approached the rotten desk to sit and read along with the scribe, hoping to understand the horror that had befallen them now, and how it was defeated long ago…

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