In the grounds of the imperial palace in Kingswater, there is a bell. It is a small bell, a leaden bell, of particularly un-noteworthy appearance. Among all the grace and splendour of the imperial grounds, all the mother-of-pearl, the marble and the sweeping elegant roofs, this bell and its tower are unlovely in their iron ordinariness.
The tower is old, almost as old as the bell. Its stones are a brownish grey, the slopes of its tiled roof simple, and its sides mossy. No-one goes near the tower, except when a member of the royal family dies (may they live forever).
Long ago, before there were Emperors in Seven Isles, or kings of glens or lochs, the bell was forged. Men say it was made by Hidayo the smith-god, but monks say that the bell is beneath such divine craftsmanship. One hundred and thirteen Emperors (may they live forever) have had their passing marked with seven tolls of the little bell. Uncounted princes and princesses of the blood have been honoured with one, three or five.
The Emperor's great-grandfather Odinato is the only one not to receive seven strokes of the bell. He was lost at sea on the passage to Aniran, leading a fleet against the Enemy. All men know that the Emperors (may they live forever) have the power to control the winds and tides, so Odinato (may he live forever) cannot have been drowned like a mere ship's monkey. Though no man knows where he now lives, even Emperor Ragesuni, all men knows that he will live forever, doing the gods' work.
Emperor Ragesuni (may he live forever) has long been sick. Confined to the Imperial Palace these last six years, he is wracked with pain, drawn and pale and losing his hair in the comfort of his bower. As his hands are carved to talons clutching blood-spattered handkerchiefs, his heart and mind have stayed the course, driving the Seven Isles as only an Emperor can. The doctors long ago bowed their heads and delivered the Emperor (may he live forever) into the hands of the monks. None of the knowledge born of medicine or chirurgy could compete with the all-conquering will of the dying monarch.
|Masoya Teyuma holding court.|
Recently, to ensure the success of his son Yosima's reign, he engaged his beautiful daughter Ishunē to Masoya Teyuma, heir to House Masoya, third strongest house in the Empire. With the support of his in-laws, Yosima would become the most powerful man in the Empire not only in law, but in fact. But the wedding has not yet taken place, and so the Jasmine Throne stands precariously alone, with neither father nor son reigning from it as an Emperor must.
The throne is itself an artefact of ancient times, as are many things in Kingswater. It is said to have been spun from the scent of the jasmine tree by the Tengu before it earned the ire of the gods, and crystallised by the birthing cry of the first Emperor, Suneshima. In the centre of the Imperial Palace it stands, on rock rather than wooden floors, the centre and icon of kingship in the Seven Isles. Indeed, the palace and the city of Kingswater grew up around the throne.
The lake island of Kingswater is connected to the mainland by a great bridge of marble and ironwood. That bridge leads to the main road, which itself leads to the Imperial palace, as an artery followed from the body leads to the heart. And in the Imperial palace, among the riches and wonders of three and a half thousand years, the masterworks of every artisan and architect, there is a little grey-brown tower. Within that plain little pile there is a little iron bell, inscribed faintly with spirals of forgotten letters.
The bell is ringing.
May the Emperor live forever.
This is the start of the story campaign using Craig Woodfield's Ronin that will begin as soon as I have painted the models for it. There will be four main Buntai warbands: House Masoya (Bushi), Bandits/Rebels (Bandits) the Imperial Order (Sohei), and House Jiryaki (Bushi). The storyline is mapped out, so I just have to hope that the games don't scupper it!
On a personal note – I'm genuinely gutted not to have been able to post for so long, but personal things can dig deeply into hobby time. As can other hobby things – check out MW367!
That said, I hope to pick up again soon – if you have any Ronin/Elderblossom questions, please do ask them in the comments.