The honorable and venerated Hantei XX stared for a long time at the tall lion kneeling in supplication before him with head to the floor. “Matsu Ikuko,” the young emperor eventually began, his quiet voice echoing in the silent room, “what news have you to report?”
Slowly and with great effort, the acting Lion Clan champion sat up, only her extensive training preventing the pain of movement from reaching her face. She nodded deeply to the Emperor, a second sign of her respect and loyalty, before speaking in a strained but strident voice, unafraid of the consequences of her ruinous proclamation; whatever would come after, she would face it with poise and grace. “Most revered lord Emperor Hantei XX,” she began, finally lifting her eyes to meet his fierce gaze. “Toshi no Omoidoso, the City of Remembrance, has been retaken from the rebellious bandits who stole it from the Phoenix. The Imperial Legions restored honor and civility to a war-torn land.”
“And the Champion?” he asked, eyes narrowing with suspicion.
She nodded again, this time unable to hide her wincing. “Shiba Moriaki has taken full responsibility for the loss of the city and his Clan’s inability to bring the Emperor’s justice to those responsible. He received your order and has accordingly committed seppuku.”
The Emperor reached out a perfectly-manicured hand and placed it on an ornate wooden case on permanent and prominent display next to the emerald throne. “You have served your Clan as its acting champion for years, advocating the interests of the Empire and the continuation of our ancient and honorable society.” He casually flipped open the box’s clasp, the action far more severe and momentous than his offhanded gesture would indicate. “Are you ready to do so again?”
Ikuko inhaled deeply – the moment had arrived. With the courage of her ancestors she answered simply, clearly, and honestly. “I am not, Lord Emperor. Having been wounded on the campaign to retake Toshi no Omoidoso, I can travel no farther this year.”
The Emperor was not surprised, and his face showed no emotion as he withdrew his hand from the long box. “Then you will wield a sword but one last time,” he proclaimed flatly.
She nodded and bowed again, able to still the urge to gasp with the motion’s sharp pain. “Hai, my Lord,” she answered to the floor, before rolling back on her feet to a standing position and backing away from the Son of Heaven, her dark orange kimono beginning to stain, a darkness spreading from her right hip. Bowing once again, she turned and departed the throne room.
“Akodo Kenburo,” the Emperor called, the Emerald Champion dutifully approaching the dais, laurel wreath mon bright on his chest as he bowed low from the waist. Again the Emperor reached out, almost stroking the box at his side. “Are you prepared to serve?”
“Without hesitation, Lord Emperor,” the powerful Lion responded, true to his words.
The Emperor opened the case, revealing Shori, the ancestral blade of the Lion, bequeathed to the first Hantei by his older brother, swearing to always be in service, to always act as the right hand of the Empire. Low gasps filtered through the crowd of courtiers and attendants – rare was the record of a Hantei actually calling in the promise. Lifting the esteemed sword in its impressive saiya with both hands, the Emperor descended the three steps which separated the throne from the Emerald Champion.
“Lead the armies, Akodo Kenburo, and drive this rebellion into the ground, never again to be remembered. Let each in this world know their place, and in so doing restore peace and prosperity to our blighted lands.”
“Hai,” the newly-appointed Lion Clan Champion replied, accepting the blade with the humility and reverence with which it was first offered. “In your name.”
The Famine takes place during the final years of Rokugan’s most brutal drought, a multi-year economic devastation which ravaged communities across the Empire. The Emperor blamed a rebellion calling itself the People’s Legion for the land’s woes and after successful military campaigns in Lion, Crab, and Phoenix lands, he turned his attention and his generals to their greatest stronghold, in territory once controlled by the absent Ki-Rin.
Player-Characters will crisscross the Empire in efforts to put an end to the famine which, after a brutal and effective campaign to punish a rebelling peasantry, continues unabated. Will they discover, understand, and solve the mystery of what has brought the world so far out of balance, before everything they know is torn apart?