The Obsidian Throne
“Above Passion, Calm
Above all Nin-gen, the Shen
Above Earth, Heaven”
Basic: The royal line of Kenrei. The Obsidian Throne also refers to the main government of the Obsidian Kingdom.
Symbol: On a black field, a violet and white Lotus above a daisho (a crossed katana and wakizashi) and flanked by two dragons.
When he knew his time was near, the first Terasu gave his kingdom to his son, Atarasi. He then fell into a meditative sleep that turned his form to pure flame (which continues to burn at the heart of his palace) and his spirit was taken up to the heavens by Dragons.
But before Terasu left the Obsidian Kingdom, he continued the work of the Lotus Queen. His mother had brought the tribes of the Obsidian Wastes to a land of promise and plenty but the tribes remained bickersome and savage. They still practiced barbarism and whispered revolution.
With word and steel and his brothers’ aid, Terasu unified the Wasteland tribes and bound them to the Obsidian Throne. He quelled chaos with order, inscribing and enforcing the Eight Analects: the most ancient and sacred laws of Kenrei. Those who rose up against Terasu and his laws were driven into the Wastes or extinguished to a man. Those who joined Terasu’s new society were rewarded with the protection of the King and the plenty of the land.
Although Tetsu brought strength, Jinru wrought prosperity and Kaishu sought unity, it was through Terasu’s direction and organization that the Kingdom truly became as one, instead of a cluster of independent states. The Obsidian Throne’s power can be easily seen through the power of the royal armies of the Obsidian Sword and the precision of esteemed administrators of the Obsidian Lotus — however, the greatest sign of Terasu’s might stands in the heart of the Kingdom: Shenjing no Ryu (the Dragon within the Soul).
Terasu Atarasi followed in his father’s footsteps, cementing the Throne’s hold upon the populace while uplifting the Kingdom to greater heights. He turned the Eight Analects into the Eight and Thousand Analects, widened the roads and river-roads to the Kingdom’s heartlands and quelled the Green Turban rebellion through diplomacy. The secret order the Obsidian Veil also claim him to be its origin.
Although the Kings of Kenrei have not always held the name of Terasu (with eldest daughters marrying into Shen Clans), the first King’s line has remained unbroken until the modern era. With Terasu Shiro upon the Throne and his flagrant disregard for some of the Kingdom’s dearest traditions, the Kingdom stands at the edge of a knife — whether prosperity or disaster will come of this newest change is beyond the wisdom of the wisest of Kenrei’s sages.
The Obsidian Throne is greatest authority and power in Kenrei. Shen, Wu Jen and Nin-gen all bow to their King, pay tribute to him and follow his laws. Just as the King serves Heaven and guides the Kingdom to prosperity, so too does Kenrei follow the Obsidian Throne.
The itself is divided into two main groups: the Obsidian Sword, the King’s military arm, and the Obsidian Lotus, the King’s bureaucratic corps. Both organizations are
staffed by men and women who have passed the Royal Examination or have been personally appointed to office by the King. Only from these two sources can one find employment in the honorable offices beneath the Obsidian Throne. Even lowly Nin-gen can find honor and status in this way, potentially marrying into a Shen clan, being promoted to a high rank or even being personally given Shen status by the King.
The potential for personal advancement is so high that many in the Kingdom strive to pass these Examinations in education, wisdom and strength. Few pass these yearly tests; but the high standards it sets ensures that the Obsidian Throne is staffed only by those with talent and determination. Naturally, the educational advantages of the Shen allow them to make up the majority of the Obsidian Throne — however, there is no small number of talented Nin-gen that loyally serve their King.
The Obsidian Throne of modern Kenrei has all but recovered from the debacle that nearly ended the royal line of the Kingdom. The Lotus Eater assassins have been slain and their treasonous associates were destroyed following a thorough purging of the Throne and of the Shen clans. However, there exists shadows and whispers that plague the ranks of the Throne — where did these assassins hail from and do they have more allies?
While the Obsidian Lotus manages the day-to-day management of the Kingdom and the Obsidian Sword guards the Kingdom’s settlements from chaos and invasion, the true work falls to the Obsidian Veil, a secret order of diplomats and spies whose primary purposes are the continuance of Terasu’s lineage and stability in the Kingdom.
Terasu Shiro is the 30th King of Kenrei, brother to his predecessor and an unparalleled master in the mystic arts. When the Seven Shen found him, he was living among the Wu Jen of the Dreaming Cloud; he refused the Throne at first, the Shens’ story and their sacrifices convinced his strong-willed daughter — in turn, she convinced him to take up the Obsidian Throne and govern the Kenrei. He did so reluctantly and only on his own terms.
Terasu Shiro is a tall, well-muscled, clean shaven man with a trimmed beard and the mark of Ishiryudo tattooed upon his brow. He is middle-aged, yet he moves with the grace and vitality of a younger man. Before he arrived at the capitol, he and his guardians were assaulted by a company of Lotus Eaters; however, they found Shiro to be well-schooled in the elemental arts. Before his protectors could do their duty, he scattered his attackers with a sudden squall born of spiritual power.
The days often find the King in court rather than in leisure; he tires even the most devoted of his administrators and bureaucrats due to his desire to improve the lot of his Kingdom. Those who seek audience with the King will usually find a ready ear waiting for them. This is not to say that the King is impossibly patient; those who he deems to be wasting his time are thrown out of court regardless of their station in life.
Orders: Directly serving the King are the Three Orders of the Throne: the soldiers of the Obsidian Sword, the bureaucrats of the Obsidian Lotus and the spies of the Obsidian Veil.
The Order of the Obsidian Sword
The Order of the Obsidian Sword is the military arm of Kenrei’s King. They are especially known for the strength of their cavalry, rivaled only by Shen Mujin in skill although not in number. The mounted archers of the Obsidian Sword are the deadliest in Midworld, feared for their pinpoint accuracy and their swiftness.
Also tasked to maintaining order within the cities and towns of Kenrei, the Obsidian Sword is feared by the Nin-gen for their callous disregard for the safety of the commonfolk. The soldiers of the Sword will roam the streets like a pack of wolves, striking down all who would dishonor the King. While Terasu Shiro has done his part in muzzling the worst of the Obsidian Sword, there are those among these soldiers that prefer to strike first and ask questions later.
The leader of the Obsidian Sword is the Grand General (Shogun) Terasu Saito. Father to one of the Seven Shen who sought out King Shiro, he is known for his ruthlessness on the battlefield and his devotion to his swordsmanship. While searching for Lotus Eaters, it is rumored that he let an entire city block burn rather than let a known Lotus Eater escape.
The symbol of the Obsidian Sword is two black katana crossed over a field of dark red.
The Order of the Obsidian Lotus
Even the Son of Heaven needed aid to raise up the Kingdom of Kenrei. Thus, he used men and women with skills in leadership and management to bring order to the Obsidian Kingdom. The descendants of these folk are the Obsidian Lotus, tasked to the governance of the Kingdom’s resources and people. The taxation of the populace, the construction of civic buildings and the organization of feastdays — all these and more are the domicile of the Obsidian Lotus.
When disaster strikes Kenrei, the Obsidian Sword is sent on missions of rescue, but it is the Obsidian Lotus that ensures that the survivors live on from their tragedy. Still, the Lotus has a poor reputation among the people of the Kingdom. Despite their love and loyalty to the King, the Lotus’ tax collectors are universally reviled. Some Shen find the Obsidian Lotus especially repugnant, doing their best to hinder or obstruct the Lotus’ tasks when they can.
The leader of the Obsidian Lotus is the Grand Chancellor (Taiho) Yun Zan-lin. A woman known for her vanity and her love of cosmetics, Zan-lin is sometimes the object of ridicule among the Shen. However, few can deny her financial acumen and her organizational skills; whatever task the Obsidian Throne set her to gets done, be it the procurement of funding or the management of an event. Some claim that she has ties to the criminal underworld in Kenrei, but such gossip has yet to be substantiated.
The symbol of the Obsidian Lotus is a black flower with six petals against a field of white.
The Order of the Obsidian Veil
Few know of the Veil and fewer still know of the deadly purge that they had to perform upon their own ranks — a quiet inquiry by Terasu Shiro determined that the Lotus Eaters had infiltrated the Obsidian Veil to achieve their objective.
To the Veil’s surprise, their remaining roster was not disbanded by the King and Terasu Shiro forbade them from committing ritual suicide. “A broken bone mended is the stronger for its memory” he said to their leadership. In fact, he ordered his eldest daughter, Rin, to train with them. Now twenty five, she has earned their respect through skill and experience, ascending through their ranks to the upper echelons of the organization.
The Obsidian Veil of modern Kenrei continues its vigil over the Throne and over the Kingdom. They seek to gather information for the King, subtly move against his political enemies and keep the Shen Clans at each others’ throats — the better to prevent them from uniting against the Obsidian Throne.
The Grandmaster of the Veil (Hanzo) is Hattori, a nin-gen gardener who works at the royal palace and attends to its flowers. It is believed that Hattori hails from Shen Hanayuri, although the wizened old man speaks nothing about his past beyond the rustic tales of his youth. Despite his age, Hattori is adept with the workings of poison and with the throwing of knives.
The Obsidian Veil has no symbol to distinguish its members from each other.
Shen: The Obsidian Throne governs the Kenrei, but it is the Shen that the move and shake the Obsidian Kingdom. Their alliances are oaths of legend and their feuds soak the land with blood.
Four great clans among the Shen have held and retained their dominance over others, through honor and word or through threat and steel. Each claims direct descent from the Ryujin and almost act as smaller Kingdoms within Kenrei.
“Precision is the way of the Sword. Just as a brush draws images and writes poetry to life, let the Sword kill that which it cuts without hesitation, without failure.”
– Sung Su
Basic: A Clan of artists, artisans and gardeners with perfection of form being their greatest goal.
Symbol: Two serpentine blue and green Dragons forming a circle. Alternatively, a Dragon drawn as if made of ivy, flowers and thorns. Sapphire blue and jade green over black are the court colors of the Jinru clan.
History: Sometimes called the Son of Rivers, Jinru was neither the swiftest nor the mightiest of the Ryujin. His talents lay in his unparalleled skill in craftsmanship and artistry. His guidance allowed the farmers and gardeners of Kenrei to triple the yield of their crops through the observance of natural patterns and the use of irrigation methods. Under his direction and his planning, the cities of the Kenrei blossomed to life beside its rivers and seas.
The Jinru clan boasts that it was the Son of Rivers raised the Kenrei from their hide tents and barren fields unto true sophistication – indeed, only the capitol of the Obsidian Kingdom surpasses the Jinru city of Perfection before the Dragon. In this way, modern Kenrei owes much of its aesthetic to Jinru’s preferences, in its refinement of brick use in buildings, in its symmetric use of space and even in the strange traditions involved in construction.
There have ever been those who have looked upon the holdings of The Jinru clan and have had their hearts twisted with envy. Despite the Jinru’s generosity is sharing their bounty and their knowledge of architecture and agriculture, some souls are ever greedy for more. Thus did the Jinru suffered invasions from the monstrosities of the waste, from Free Tribe bandits and even from other Kai-Shen.
Jinru himself fell to a massive invasion wrought by the Free Tribe Sorcerer Maljin and his Shadows-that-Walk. Even mortally wounded, the Son of Rivers managed to slay his enemies by summoning the Sacred Lotus Sea to flood the battlefield (after many of his people had evacuated at his orders). When the tide receded, Jinru’s body was nowhere to be found – his descendants thank him during times of plenty and the Nin-gen believe it to be a sign of good luck to see his moonlit shade near a river or the Sacred Lotus Sea.
Jinru Tadaka the Carpenter, grandson of Jinru, oversaw the completion of a massive wall that would shield prime clan territories from invasion. Similar walls would protect the villages and towns of the Jinru.
To this day, the lands of The Jinru clan remains as a network of walls and roads across fields and gardens. The Nin-gen of Jinru labor and toil beneath the shadows of this protection, the safest fields in all of Kenrei.
The Jinru clan holds the breadbasket of the Obsidian Kingdom, allowing them economic leverage when dealing with other clans. This prosperity allows Jinru holdings to rival the Obsidian Throne as a cultural influence. Perfection before the Dragon (or Perfection City) is regarded as one of the greatest artistic centers in Kenrei, boasting of the greatest painters, clothiers, gardeners and thespians in the Obsidian Kingdom. Competition among the Shen of Jinru is fierce — to be a patron of a talented artist or to personally produce a work of art is a certain path to the favor of the Dai-Shen, and therefore glory and wealth. Such competitions and contests are at the heart of the monthly festivals that grace Jinru lands.
While not all Jinru are artistic, many involve themselves in creative pursuits. In their lands, the poet and the painter is as well-regarded as the smith and the gardener. The carpenter is respected, as is the herbalist and the brewer. The peace brought by the Shin have only keened the Jinru’s taste for refinement and artistry, rivaling even the Elves of Callas Selvarion in their sophisticated tastes.
Excellence in all things is the byword for the people of the Jinru clan, be they Shen or Nin-gen. It is common for Shen from this clan be proficient in craftsmanship as well as the arts of war and academia. Jinru swordsmen are best known for their precision in the martial arts, their deadly kata being as graceful as a dance. Expect a Jinru to be especially exacting when it comes to form, whether it be in a fighting stance, a tea ceremony, flower arrangement or calligraphy. Finely crafted kimono, court-quality appearance (including hair) and wielding a court fan or a war-fan in almost all occasions is the mark of a Shen from the Jinru clan.
Leadership: Jinru Kasuga, called “the Tortoise”, is the Dai-Shen of the Jinru clan. Though he is made large and heavy-set by his clan’s wealth, Kasuga is known for his open-handed generosity. He is beloved by many for giving gifts to the people of other Shen and celebrating the Jinru clan’s prosperity through festivals and competitions of artistry.
Few are aware of the true power that Kasuga wields. Those who owe him favors are legion and scattered across the entire Kingdom. Thus, he has eyes and ears in every part of the Obsidian Kingdom.
The near destruction of the royal line has changed him immensely, not merely because one of his sons was a royal guardsman. Kasuga is far more vigilant for Lotus Eater activity than before and is far less hesitant to act when given an opportunity to “protect” his interests or the interests of his people. If this means disrupting trade of a neighboring clan or sending assassins to ambush a courier, then so be it.
Vassals: Among the vassal clans of the Jinru clan, are the sentinels of the Tsume clan and the gardeners of the Hanayuri clan.
For all their affluence, the prosperity of The Jinru clan is not a prosperity unearned. The Tsume currently holds the leadership of Ibis Guard, the guardians and police force of The Jinru clan. These warriors are known for their expertise with bow and spear — all made from the finest Jinru lumber. On the field of battle, the spear-hedges and the arrows of the Ibis Guard are enough to secure the clan’s holdings against invaders and outlaws.
Tsume Sagashin is the Dai-shen of the Tsuru and the leader of the Ibis Guard. The Tsuru’s heraldry is of a black ibis over blue-green waters.
An obscure clan amongst Jinru’s vassals, the Hanayuri are best known for their perfectly trimmed gardens, renowned wonders of agriculture and artistry. However, few know the truth about Shen of the Hanayuri clan- they train the spies, poisoners and assassins for the Jinru. Many clans secretly train nin-gen and only nin-gen for the arts of subterfuge but the Hanayuri’s skills in shadow and venom are as deadly as they are obscure.
Hanayuri Gusai is the Dai-shen of his clan. He is said to be the best gardener in all of Kenrei but those who know the truth of his talents believe that he is the most skilled poisoner in the Kingdom. The Hanayuri’s heraldry is of a white and red lily over black.
“Swiftness is the way of the Sword. Step beyond hesitation and doubt, beyond stillness and knowledge, to snatch victory from your foeman’s grasp”
NOTE: Shen Kaishu has been obliterated and their City destroyed in February 2016 WR. The following is left on this page for the purposes of historical lore. Characters may still hail from Shen Kaishu, but they no longer have familial leadership or support beyond that provided by the Obsidian Throne.
“Wisdom is the way of the Sword. Knowledge of your enemy keens your blade against him and knowing your weaknesses only heightens your strengths.”
– Sung Su
Basic: A clan that values knowledge, philosophy and spiritual communion above all.
Symbol: The seven stars of the Sky Dragon constellation grasping a silver sun or the seven silver stars against a dark violet night sky. Alternatively, a 12 pointed silver-star.
Heraldic colors of the Terasu clan are silver and violet over black.
After his father passed away, Terasu’s eldest son, Atarasi, ascended to the throne to continue an unbroken line of Kings.
Atarasi’s twin brother, Anotsu was free to walk his own path in the world. His talents made him one of Shinju’s greatest students but his virtues made him one of the Obsidian Kingdom’s greatest heroes. Among his accomplishments, he is credited with slaying the Sphinx of Skulls, with brokering peace between the Sha-ir clan and the Moto clan and with curing the ancient curse that was turning the Obsidian Kingdom into salt and dust.
For his deeds, he won the hand of the Sha-ir’s firstborn daughter and given his own clan. Naming his clan after his father, Anotsu led his family and his followers to a place where the River of Serenity meets the River of Meditation. He claimed this arable land for his descendants. The clan’s close proximity to Wu Jen within gave it a unique perspective, they valued ancient knowledge, philosophical discourse and elemental communion.
More spiritual than the other Shen clans, the Terasu cleaved closely to the teachings of Ishiryudo. Through him, the religion spread into the rest of his followers, both Shen and Ningen, until Ishiryudo became almost a state religion among the Terasu clan. Even in modern times, while the Shen of Terasu tend toward the philosophical discourse of Ishi-ryu-do, the Ningen cling to the superstitious customs of the faith, even moreso than the Ningen of other clans; they sprinkle rice upon shrines to the earth spirits and throw salt upon weddings.
For the rest of the Kingdom, the holdings of the Terasu became the border between Kenrei and the Wu Jen. Within Terasu’s lands, the worldly, secular culture of the Obsidian Kingdom clashed with the spiritual, ascetic Wu Jen. The Shen of Terasu are the result of the two worlds, mingling spirituality with aristocracy, militancy with natural communion.
To see that the Terasu clan is steeped in academia and philosophy is to look no further than the brick pagodas of their capitol. Named Wisdom kneeling to Memory (or Memory City), it is a stronghold of historical texts, alchemical progress and philosophical discourse. Gained through taxes and tariffs, the wealth of the clan is meager; it is just enough to support the frugal aristocracy, a modest military and a large peasantry. In political and military matters, the strength of the clan is in the cunning of its sage-tacticians and the power of its warrior shamans (Sohei). Because the elemental arts of the witch are beloved by the Terasu, many Shen witches lead their armies and Ningen witches are recruited as officers.
A typical Shen of Terasu is thoughtful and perceptive, seeking out the answers to questions and the truth of what is before them. A majority of Terasu are scholars learned in lores archaic and modern, as well as being students of martial arts — they view combat as both science and philosophy, recognizing patterns of battle and exploiting them.
Furthermore, these Shen are heavily invested in their spiritual health, being Chosen of Ishiryudo more often than not; these folk usually tattoo their foreheads with the Ishiryudo circle or wear accessories that bear the garb. They engage in meditation and meditative kata, communing with places of natural beauty and spiritual strength, such as beside a placid lake or beneath a white-foamed waterfall. Ishiryudo is also beloved of the Ningen of Terasu; they esteem the Wu Jen as much as they do the Shen.
In the political arena, the Terasu hold their ground mainly through their relation to the Obsidian Throne. However, their distance and neutrality in most matters of contention between the Shen is highly valued as is their deconstructive approach to the resolution of conflict. It is writ in the Analects of Anotsu that “the tortoise is longer lived than the viper”; so too is the methodical pace of the Terasu esteemed for its perceptiveness, its comprehension and its perfection of form.
Leadership: Terasu Taotao is the Dai-shen of the Terasu clan, an ancient master of the elemental arts and a beloved teacher among his people. Unlike other Dai-shen and much to the shame of his more traditional sons, “Teacher” Taotao prefers to walk among the peasantry rather than sit in court. He occasionally plays a game with his bodyguards, disappearing from their sight and leading them on a wild goose-chase across the fields of his holdings. Taotao is then found plowing a field alongside a farmer, haggling with a old peddler about a bauble’s price or debating philosophy with a Wu Jen.
His eldest son, Taoshin, skillfully manages the Terasu clan during Taotao’s frequent “day trips”. Unlike Taotao, Taoshin is not possessed of Witching talent or Totemic magics. When his father is about, he is the clan’s liaison to the court. He is the proper face of the Terasu to the Obsidian Throne; although he has to endure the reputation of his father, his actions in court only esteem his clan to King and country. He is respectful, reverent and affable, expressing a knowledge in many things (and many secrets) as only a Terasu can.
Vassals: Among their vassals, two have risen to prominence in their service to Terasu and the Obsidian Throne: the warrior-poets of the Sung and the alchemists of the Sha-ir.
The Shen of the Sung clan are descended from the ancient philosopher known as Sung Su, who wrote treatises on war and swordsmanship. Sung Su gained a great following through his writings and his own martial genius — he cut down no fewer than a hundred men in legal death-duels. The Sung clan of modern Kenrei form the bulk of the Terasu clan’s armies and a majority of their officers. In military matters, the Terasu typically seek the Sung’s advice, trusting in their tactical prowess.
The Sung clan is led by Sung Si-Yin, one of the greatest swordsmen in Kenrei and a collector of fine teas. Their symbol is a white desert fox over brown.
Even before they followed the Lotus Queen, the small tribe of Sha-ir had been known for their shamans and alchemists. In Kenrei, they remained in their small size and were almost wiped out during a dispute with the Moto clan. In the Kenrei of today, the Sha-ir clan persisted beyond their rivals and peers through the keeping of their secrets and maintaining their communion with the elemental spirits. To see the homes of the Sha-ir is to see wonders of alchemy and witchery. The elements themselves serve the Sha-ir (who have never taken to Ishiryudo), just as the Sha-ir have pledged vassaldom to the Terasu. Despite their strange customs, they are respected by the Wu Jen and the Terasu for their prowess — unfortunately, many in Kenrei society does not see them in the same belevolent light. Thus, the Sha-ir stay amongst their own, sending out courtiers only because they are required.
The Sha-ir are led by Sha-ir Hakkan, a reclusive witch possessed of ancient secrets and oracular perception. It is rumored that brave souls may seek his prophetic advice at great cost to themselves. The Sha-ir’s symbol is an orange tongue of flame against a golden circle.
“Power is the way of the Sword. Only those who have the strength to overcome all fear, all obstacles and all opposition can truly call themselves Swordsmen”
Basic: A clan dedicated to strength, honor and the glory of battle.
Symbol: A golden-maned brown dragon coiled around a black mountain. Alternatively, a horned Dragon’s head, golden mane ablaze and fanged maw open.
The heraldic colors of the Tetsu clan are Gold and brown over black.
History: Broad-shouldered, bearded Tetsu was known for his supreme physical might and unbreakable endurance. Though he had an ironclad discipline to his weaponcraft, he was possessed of a powerful wrath when roused and a powerful thirst for the world’s pleasures. Of the Ryujin, it was Tetsu most of all that was favored for rulership of their mother’s Kingdom.
It took one open-handed strike from the Son of Heaven to shatter his brother into dozen blackened glassy fragments. When Tetsu put himself back together (for he was the Son of Sands after all), the Son of Heaven charged Tetsu with forging an army worthy of Obsidian Kingdom. As Tetsu relished the thrill of physical combat and preferred the art of war, the Son of Sands readily agreed.
The Son of Sands tempered the soldiers of the Obsidian Kingdom to keenness, sending the armies against the Sand Trolls’ mountain homes and driving the savages into the wasteland. Tetsu claimed the hard-won ground as his own and perched his holdings upon the Triumphant Mountains. His greatest fortress became a city named after his greatest achievement: the Victory above the Sands.
The Son of Sands met his end saving his children and his wife from clutches of the Six Daughters, the leaders of the Yao-guai. He and hand-picked soldiers of his retinue were left behind at the main hive to ensure his family’s escape. The Tetsu Clan claims that the form of a golden-maned dragon was seen ascending to the heavens just as the Tetsu’s family reached the nearest garrison.
Many of the tactics and strategies used by the Kingdom are attributed to Tetsu himself as he adapted new stratagems to the traditional fighting methods of the fledgling Kenrei. Likewise, it was Tetsu that taught the formerly nomadic Kenrei how to fortify locations and maintain garrisons. Thus, Tetsu is largely responsible for the rank and file order of the Kenrei military, not just among his own descendants but also within the royal armies that serve the Obsidian Throne.
The Tetsu clan of modern Kenrei are largely known for the wealth of their mines (particularly their iron mines), the quality of their weaponry and the strength of their armies. A typical Shen of the Tetsu clan is a no-nonsense swordsman, more at home in the dust of battlefield and dojo than in the luxuries of the fanned courts. Similarly, these clansfolk would rather garb themselves in thin turbans and desert clothing or light armor rather than the fineries of nobility; “fineries would only get soiled and dirty” claim the Tetsu. The Tetsu are similarly nonchalant about being part of the aristocracy, displaying the passion and spirit of their lessers instead of the discipline expect of the Shen. On the other hand, the Tetsu have a great regard to the function and appearance of their armors, ensigiling their breastplates, pauldrons and helms with the clan symbols and personal signs.
Despite their penchant for the martial arts, the Tetsu are also invested in their own spiritual health — usually as it relates to the body and to martial pursuits. Their view of spirituality is less philosophical and more practical than the Terasu. Strangely, many Adepts (usually Berserkers and Zephyrs) are born to the Terasu clan. Many more seek adoption by the clan to refine their training.
The Tetsu clan’s lands are not the most arable of lands, but the Triumphant Mountains have the richest mines in Kenrei. The Nin-gen and indentured criminals toil night and day in these mines, their labors turning the wheels of the clan’s fortune. For their own part, the Shen of Tetsu revel in the difficulties posed by their mountain holdings. They claim that the Triumphant Mountains hones their strengths and weans them from weakness.
The first Tetsu sought out the strongest foes in combat, thus do his descendants seek out their ancestral foes: the sorcerous Yao-guai and the brutish Sand Trolls. The centuries have seen campaign after campaign against the nemeses of The Tetsu Clan, aided only by the Obsidian Throne’s armies. Only the sheer deadliness of the Yao-guai’s mountains and the elusiveness of the Sand Trolls allow them to survive the might of the Tetsu Clan’s warriors, particularly the elite hunter-soldiers known as the Vigil of Fallen Ashes. The Yao-guai are especially cunning, as their swarms sometimes bypass the clan’s garrisons to strike at the Obsidian Kingdom’s fringes.
Leadership: Tetsu Gen-juro is the Dai-Shen of the Tetsu Clan. Called the “Steel Lion” for the golden mane of his black helm and his ferocity in battle, the middle-aged Gen-juro is one of the finest warriors of his Kingdom, having slain more than a hundred of the King’s enemies by himself. However, even his own troops give him a wide berth when he steps unto the battlefield, whirling spear in hand. While no one could call him the most graceful warrior in Kenrei, he is certainly the angriest and the very earth shudders when he fights.
There are those that say that his wife, Ling-pan, is the true mastermind of the Tetsu Clan. Ling-pan (formerly of the Zho-lung Clan) is an able warrior herself, believed to be one of the few people who is able to best her husband in combat. While her husband manages the wars upon the Sand Trolls and the Yao-guai, Ling-pan directs the economic and political affairs of The Tetsu Clan according to her guileful whim. Years of drought that would have broken The Tetsu Clan have merely weakened it and the years of plenty have done more than merely recover any loss. Some also believe that it is Ling-pan that allows The Tetsu Clan to contend with the machinations of the Jinru or resist the diplomatic overtures of the Kaishu.
Despite Ling-pan’s own quiet disapproval of the King and his radical policies, she has made it her business to have her sons court the King’s daughter (and appointed royal heir). Tetsu To-gusai, the eldest son of the main branch, seeks to win Terasu Rin’s approval by retrieving the long lost sword of the Ryujin Tetsu from the heart of Yao-guai territory. It is a task that has felled warriors and heroes far more skilled than To-gusai, but Ling-pan is said to be making preparations that would guarantee her son’s success and glory.
Vassals: Among the Tetsu clan’s allies, the swordsmiths of Tetsujin and the horsemen of Mujin are the most distinguished and the most influential.
The Shen of the Tetsujin clan have raised swordcrafting to a calling beyond art; they are able to instill spirits and virtues into their weaponry, creating swords that lead would-be heroes to their destiny and would-be warriors to utter victory. Despite their small size, the Tetsujin clan have amassed renown and mystique aplenty, earning the Tetsu clan’s patronage with their secret crafting techniques.
The Dai-shen of the Tetsujin clan is Tetsujin Masamune, one of the greatest swordsmiths of his generation. Masamune’s work is the stuff of legends, with each of his sword earning a name and reputation shortly after it is made. Rumor has it that Masamune is seeking out the destruction of four swords that bear his clan’s ancestral mark – the reasons for his mission grow wilder with each telling of the tale.
The Tetsujin clan’s symbol is a steel-grey hawk in midflight.
Many Shen in Kenrei are skilled in the equestrian arts but few are as esteemed in the horsemans’ skill as the Shen of Mujin. Although they are reviled for their uncouthness, the Mujin clan is said to train the Obsidian Kingdom’s best horsemen. Their messengers are the fastest in the land and their cavalry charges are devastating affairs on open ground. Despite the Mujin’s reputation, many Tetsu soldiers and companies owe their lives to timely Mujin reinforcements or swift Mujin messengers. Thus, the Tetsu clan supports their uncouth brethren in politics and economy while trying to keep the horsemen away from the delicate affairs of court.
The Mujin clan is led by Mujin Temshi, a blunt-spoken man who knows the Obsidian Wastes and its dangers like the back of his hand. The Mujin’s symbol is a black horse against an orange sunset.
See the Religion page of the Kenrei
Kage-ryuu, the Lotus Eaters
“The Ryujin and their Shen are a poison upon the land — thusly, must we become their cure, a venomous pox upon those who would defile the Obsidian Kingdom”
Basic: A secretive group of assassins, spies and sorcerers dedicated to the downfall of Obsidian Throne.
Symbol: The Lotus Eaters bear no unifying mark on their bodies. However, those of them who are Shadowsouls are sometimes marked with a dark, serpentine symbol upon their flesh.
The Kage-ryuu believe themselves heirs to a dark legacy — a sixth Ryujin that was ambushed and slain by her brothers because they feared her might.
But even death was not able to stop her; through the veil of the underworld she reached out and found disciples and followers: they shared her hatred of the Ryujin and their injustices, but found that challenging them directly was an impossible task.
And so, using the techniques taught to them by the Shadow Dragon’s daughter, they infiltrated Kenrei society, corrupting its upper echelons from below. They organized the criminal underground, using their ill-earned profits to finance the training and outfitting of their members. Their plans took years in the making but none were the wiser. One by one, they engineered the fall of each Ryujin — only Terasu escaped them and only through self-immolation.
For their part, most Shen were unaware of their existence except for a few scattered clues. Those who suspected kept this knowledge a secret or else were slain through mysterious circumstances.
The Lotus Eaters became public knowledge over 20 years ago, after a failed attempt to erase the royal lineage of Terasu. They were almost successful, except that one heir eluded them through the circumstances of his residence — he lived among the Wu Jen of the Dreaming Cloud, the most isolationist of the Shii.
The ensuing backlash after what should have been their greatest moment resulted in the near destruction of their power structure and the unraveling of their plans. Those who were not found by the Obsidian Throne, went to ground, left the Lotus Eaters or even abandoned the Kingdom. Precious contacts were lost, holdings were razed to the ground and various members had to be sacrificed to sate the government’s vengeance.
That said, the Kage-ryuu still exists despite the Obsidian Throne’s belief of their demise. They gather and plot and wait; even if it takes another thousand years, they intend to accomplish their goals.
Having successfully convinced the Obsidian Throne of their demise, the Lotus Eaters of the current age seek to bolster their numbers and recover their resources. Ever patient, the Kage-ryuu have ever sought the long game over the short, preferring to entrench themselves with their targets before striking.
Even with many of their members gone, the web of their influence is still cast wide over Kenrei. Every clan of Shen, every division of the Obsidian Throne and almost every Order among the Wu Jen is watched by at least one Kage-ryuu operative. Not only the highest echelons of society but the lowest are watched by the Lotus Eaters — the leatherworker, the geisha, the merchant and the chambermaid may all be under the Kage-ryuu’s employ. Only a few organizations have escaped their reach, such as the Obsidian Veil and the Order of the Dreaming Cloud.
The recruitment process for the Lotus Eaters involves the use of forbidden, insidious magics to coerce the unwilling and to tempt the ambitious. Using a deadly poisonous lotus revealed to them by the Shadow Dragon, they invest an Umbral Parasite into the souls of their membership and the souls of unwilling informants. The few who seek the authorities are slain by the Parasite in a manner that resembles suicide. Most are quailed by the Parasite’s power or tempted by the magic it grants them; those who embrace the Parasite’s gifts become Shadowsouls and many of these folk join the ranks of the Lotus Eaters willingly.
In whatever way they join the Lotus Eaters, the Kage-ryuu tend to treat their magics and their society with religious reverence, akin to how the Wu Jen treat Ishi-ryu-do. To them, their dark powers are a gift to be nurtured and thankful for, not a given; the Umbral Parasites simply dominate and consume lesser souls after all. To that end, the Kage-ryuu practice quiet ceremonies and rituals among their membership, asking the Shadow Dragon for her blessing or remembering the sacrifices of the lost.
The leader of the Kage-ryuu is an ancient, blind-folded man who calls himself Zato-ichi (“the blind beggar”). It is believed that he is a sorcerer possessed either by multiple Umbral Parasites or simply by a gigantic singular entity. Some Lotus Eaters believe that he was once a deadly royal swordsman whose soul was taken from him by the Shadow Dragon’s daughter. Others claim that he is immortal, having lived through the rise and establishment of the Obsidian Kingdom.
Zato-ichi himself is a man of few words, speaking only when necessary and given to soft, fatherly smiles when commanding his henchmen. However, his strength is far from limited only to his presence — his bodyguards have seen him rip his enemies in half with a single swipe of a shadowy claw or strangle a would-be usurper with shadows while having tea to his silent screams. Few among the Lotus Eaters doubt the power of Zato-ichi, but most regard him as prophet and father, rather than tyrant.
Sects: Two sects have split off from the Kage-ryuu, yet maintain their affiliation and aid: the Ghostwalkers and the Dust Vipers.
The Dust Vipers (Hebi-gumi) are a splinter sect of the Kage-ryuu that have focused on the establishment and maintenance of criminal activities and contacts. They have abandoned the mysticism and philosophies of their parent order to focus on the acquisition of wealth and influence. The Dust Vipers’ main holdings are within the lower echelons of Shen Kaishu’s Wind City, where they smuggle illicit material past the tariff officers and inspectors. Besides smuggling, the Vipers have widened their net to host other sources of income — money-lenders, brothels and gambling houses across Kenrei have popped up or taken over by the Viper’s malignant influence.
Boss Gemma is the leader of the Hebi-gumi, a large man heavily tattooed with green and crimson snakes. He brands his minions with green snake tattoos to inspire devotion to his cause and to mark his henchmen as his own property. Feared for his cruelty and sadism, Gemma loves to torture the helpless and the sight of bloodshed. His fighting pits feature the lowest of the low fighting amongst themselves. Occasionally, the winner of a tournament is forcibly inducted into the Dust Vipers.
The Ghostwalkers (Yuurei-ryuu) are a splinter sect of the Kage-ryuu under the sway of a powerful foreign entity. It is believed that the Yuurei-ryuu were Lotus Eaters that stolen by this shadowy presence, yet allowed to retain their ties to the Kage-ryuu.
The Ghostwalkers appear to have access to heightened magics above and beyond the Kage-ryuu. For the most part, they also seem to act as one being, as though the Parasites they hide are linked to a titanic Umbral presence. Probably what differentiates the Ghostwalkers among the other Lotus Eaters is their activities beyond the lands of the Obsidian Kingdom — their allies and contacts far outlist those of the Kage-ryuu.
The leader of the Ghostwalkers is unknown to even its highest echelons. The creature’s presence makes itself known at its own whim, puppeteering even the strongest willed Ghostwalker toward its mysterious design.