There are a number of factors that contributed to the Taiko Rebellion (1475-1477 P.I.; 7-5 bp). Most scholars agree that the five-year drought that occurred prior to the insurrection and the economic hardship it wrought gave Taiko Fujinbo (Guldove in the East) an audience desperate enough to crave a revolution that, though frequently overlooked, generated instability in the region and revealed a number of fundamental struggles within Daijoan society. Another important factor was the political strength of the Kazanbai & Taiko’s ability to wield it as a force for unification. Prior to the rebellion, the Kazanbai was generally viewed as a wild, leftist political group rumored to participate in cultish activity, and as such was generally disregarded by mainstream Daijoan society. The desperation of the lower-class in agrarian communities quickly turned to Taiko’s communal promises of shared resources and abolishment of the heavily-stratified class structure.
Taiko Rebellion - battle of Kaosajina, Kiita by Yoshitsune Abe, 1479
This group of radicals holds an openly anti-empire policy, and wishes to see the provinces govern themselves as autonomous states with their own standing armies, political structures, economies, etc. The party has rumored ties to a demon-worshipping cult that wrought havoc on Hine and played a crucial role in bringing about the Ikaji. Current officials within the Kazanbai deny this connection, but rumors abound. Prior to the Rebellion, the Kazanbai had no representation in the Council of the Five, and its members generally kept to the margins of society, but membership surged during the Rebellion.
Flag of the Kazanbai
Son of a prominent Tengu family of naturalists in Hoshizora, Taiko is the black sheep of his clan, and was frequently jealous of his older, successful brother Kadeki. Taiko craved power from a young age, and the political strife brought on by the drought created unease amongst the lower classes on which Taiko was able to feed. He united his followers under the banner of the Kazanbai to form an “anti-empire movement for the people”, and quickly became a hero of the people. As Taiko became more active politically, his family distanced themselves from him, not wanting to be associated with his radical ideas.
Taiko Fujinbo (Guldove)- carrying the symbol of his clan, artist unknown 1475
Taiko held political rallies on the mainland and on a few of the outlaying islands of Shimane (human province) initially, but eventually these rallies turned into riots and eventually full-blown insurrections. During the first year of the Rebellion, Taiko managed to conquer 8 villages throughout Kuromizu and Tetsugenya, and much of the island of Kiita. This string of victories led Taiko to lay siege to Kuromizu’s capital of Sawa. At this point, the Empire recognized the movement as a threat and blockaded Taiko’s troops and villages who claimed loyalty to his cause. After several months, Taiko could no longer afford to pay his army of mercenaries, and his peasant followers were going hungry. It was then that he began demanding tribute from his impoverished people. Without the finances to continue the siege, and no real naval presence in a predominantly island region, the Rebellion began to crumble. In the winter of the second year of the Rebellion, Taiko was forced to surrender.
The Council of the Five took the actions of Taiko and his followers very seriously as a movement of the people. Anticipating further troubles and the difficulty in making martyrs, the council offered Taiko and his high-ranking officers prison terms rather than the usual execution, as is customary for treason. Taiko was the only member of the movement that refused prison, however. In stead, he chose exile from Daijo.
The Council also commissioned a special committee to modernize agricultural and storage practices across much of the land to prevent the poverty experienced in agrarian regions of the Empire as a result of the drought. Much of the Imperial economy relies upon nautical trade, so larger, more-established port municipalities were not as affected by the drought.
Planning map - Imperial Agricultural Modernization Commission, 1478
There are a number of texts on great elemental power by human scholars after they were exiled to the islands of the great sea in 464 B.I. Most of the texts are very high-minded and arrogant, written by the elementalists of the age with their ability to summon beasts from the Elemental Chaos. You see, they felt that they were superior to the denizens of Hine in that they were able to draw upon powerful magiks from the Elemental Chaos. This very mindset is what led the giants and their kingdoms on the mainland to exile man; the good peoples of the peninsula saw man’s lack of respect for the boundary between the planes, and they knew no good would come from their whimsy.
It was after their exile that man made his first journey to the Elemental Chaos. Several sorcerers died after reaching the plane; according to scholars, their frail bodies could not withstand the dangers therein. They would return an icicle corpse or charred to the bone. One powerful wizard managed to travel to and from the plane unharmed, physically anyway. Nahlorr, he called himself, but the giants called him the desecrator. Up until he first visited the Chaos, he seemed to be of sound mind, but much of his writing after his visit was more erratic and obsessive. He was the first human to encounter society in the Chaos. It is unknown whether he happened upon the Baku by chance or his encounter was intentional, either way, his stories of the natural plane led the demon-worshiping Baku to covet our world.
Though much of Baku culture was eradicated during the Ikaji, several artifacts survived on outlaying islands and a great number of tall-tales and folklore persist regarding the Baku. Great anthropologists have put together a number of important facts about Baku culture:
Nahlorr the desecrator allowed the Baku to invade Hine, initially under the pretense of fighting for Nahlorr. He envisioned a grand conquest of Hine, where he would exact his revenge upon the giants for the exile of his people. As the desecrator continued to summon Baku from the Chaos, their numbers grew too great, and the Baku overwhelmed man with the help of a secret cult, and mercilessly slaughtered Nahlorr, subjecting humanity to their rule. From 252-66 B.I., the Baku grew in strength, adding more and more islands to their territory. By 79 B.I., however, their forces began to stretch thin, as they did not know how to summon more Baku from the Chaos, and their human captives had all but lost that knowledge with the death of Nahlorr. It was during this time of desperation, that the Baku began experimenting with summoning their master’s might from the Chaos. Though the Baku could not call their brethren from their native plane, they had found ways of channeling the strength of the Demon-Kami, Kakon, to bolster their forces. By 68 B.I., the Baku had begun to conquer parts of the mainland, and in 66 B.I., the giantish capitol of Tsun-kyuu had fallen.
In spite of their victory, the Baku’s lust for conquest grew. They knew they would need the ability to grow further in strength before they could push on to other parts of the world, so they continued to call upon their master. After just over a half-century of “peace” the Baku kingdom of Daijima set its ever-wandering eyes on the planes beyond the Hoshizoran Mountain Range to the east.
This is the part of the story where actual chain of events becomes blurred. One account describes the Baku summoning Kakon into the natural world, and this act wrought such great destruction that the world began to crumble in the presence of Kakon. Another account tells that Kakon was so enraged by hissummoning that he smote is very followers. Still another tale describes the intervention by the other Kami to protect the world from Kakon.
Regardless of the actual events, the Baku kingdom was completely obliterated during the Ikaji, the great eruption of Daijima. Much of life in Hine was adversely affected by this event, and across all cultures, one can find songs, stories, and works of art that describe the horror of the Ikaji.
The giants, of all the races of Hine, were most affected by Kakon’s manifestation in the world. With his dying breath, the shinkan of Kakon laid a powerful curse upon the giants and their land for resisting the Baku so ferociously. His curse twisted the form of the giants to the monstrous visage of a fairytale creature called the Oni coupled with a seething rage that could not be quenched by any amount of bloodshed, and blackened their land into an iron waste.
After the curse was laid, the Kami of Earth, Daidarabotchi, patron of the giants, took pity upon his worshippers and allowed them a way to combat the anger within their hearts and the blackness upon their land. The essence of Daidarabotchi, like that of the other Kami, saturates his grand shrine and continuously cleanses the land around it, so the Oni could live on the land and harvest the manifestation of Daidarabotchi himself, crystallized into solid form. This is why, over the course of one and half millennia, the Oni have become great miners.
It is said that the society that betrayed man to the Baku still exists today, though stories told now are merely to frighten children. I was even told myself that the Baku would come to eat my dreams and leave only nightmares if I behaved badly as a child. Over the years, a few members of the Kazanbai, as they call themselves, have been uncovered, though they seem a rabble of misanthropic hermits more than anything else.
Timeline revisited (with focus on rise of Baku):
464 B.I. (2000 bp); Humans are exiled to the Islands in the Great Sea
447 B.I. (1983 bp); Humans first travel to the Plane of Elemental Chaos
438 B.I. (1974 bp); Baku arrive in Hine and soon establish several outposts on islands in the Hine and begin to conquer islands in the Great Sea after conquering a number of human-ruled islands
383 B.I. (1919 bp); founding of Baku kingdom’s capitol on the island of Daijima
252-66 B.I. (1738-1552 bp); Naisenjima-jidai (warring islands era) – era of civil strife; Baku sought to establish an empire in Hine. They fought against a faction lead by the peoples of mainland Hine and a few island-states to establish dominance in the region
65-1 B.I. (1551-1487 bp); Peace of Tetsuro; after nearly 200 years of fighting, Baku kingdom of Daijima was established as the ruling power in Hine, with other island-states reluctantly paying tribute, unwillingly acquiescing to the rule of the Baku of Daijima
0 (1486 bp); Ikaji (the Great Burning), Daijima wiped out, most Baku are killed
White Lotus Party: Formerly a legendary mercenary guild known for combating arcane foes, the White Lotus Party is a political organization within the Daijoan Senate of the Five (Imperial Parliament) that seeks to restrict and even ban the use of magic within the empire. The Party is able to prey upon the lack of education among the lower & middle classes & garner their support in passing a number of laws restricting magic use in public places. Most cities throughout the Empire require licensing or a permit for using magic, and even then, arcana is heavily regulated. Punishments for breaking these laws vary in rigorousness from fines to prison terms (depending on location and severity of offense).
The Party also has a publicly unofficial militant wing of vigilante mage-hunters (most likely remnants of the original guild) who have been known to make citizens’ arrests and even cavalier public executions for practicing magic. Not a lot is known about the strength of the Party’s mage-hunters, though there are stories of great warriors who have defeated powerful wizards and warlocks throughout history, many of them are tied to the White Lotus Guild of ages past. Whatever the case, the White Lotus are not to be trifled with.
Despite their unforgiving tactics, the Party identifies as Lawful Good, and would never kill wantonly. Usually, their members are eager to enforce restrictions on magic-use due to the chaos it has wrought in the region. A fight with the White Lotus will not be easy, but rarely are they truly after blood.
Mekage: (“shadow eye”) secretive organization that is speculatively known to the public, sometimes referred to as the “eyes of the Emperor”. The Mekage secure information and further the ambitions of the high-council through spying, assassination, and persuasion. They report to the Imperial high-council and sometimes take special missions from the emperor himself
The Mekage traditionally have employed humans, tengu, and oni in their services. As the kappa and satori tend to avoid larger-scale politics unless absolutely necessary, they have little interest in serving directly under the emperor.
There are generally two known ranks within the Mekage: grand ninja and shinobi. It is unknown how many grand ninja exist, but there are enough shinobi within the organization to deter even long-founded criminal organizations from meddling in Imperial affairs.
Prior to the Peace of Daijo, the Shimane Empire (a precursor to the Empire of Daijo) consisted mostly of human island-kingdoms in the great sea It was during this time that the Mekage grew to notoriety. Imperial favor (which meant the support of the Mekage) was a much sought-after prize: a unit of Mekage ninja could wipe out an enemy battalion or incite revolts in rival provinces. Since the peace, however, the Mekage have become known for their less insidious, more subtle arts of subterfuge and occasional assassination.
Favoring dangerous poisons and sheer martial prowess, the Mekage use very little magic. The few magics employed by Mekage ninja tend to be spying rituals, cantrips of deceit and simple umbramancy.
While the average citizen of Daijo may fear and respect the Mekage, they are more aspirational idols for children and a subject of legends from the dark ages and War of the Monsters. People of upper-class, large business-owners, tradesmen, and politicians hold a very real fear of the Mekage, however. One must be careful not to deal with enemies of the high-council for fear of coming face to face with His Divine Majesty’s justice.
Nana, Sho, and Ren: Kappa monks who sought refuge in Shapu-Shapu after the desecration of Kuromizu’s grand shrine
Mekage assassin and transformation as noted during the assault on Shrakkath’s cottage. Transformation seemed to trigger after the victim was significantly wounded. Sora Sensei of the Shigo indicated that the Mekage, while mysterious and powerful, had never been known to use strange or aberrant creatures while in the field.
The marshes of Kuromizu tend to be fairly benign, so long as one sticks to the roads. In times of trouble, though, the Imperial guard is unable to patrol the roads as well as they normally do, so thieves and bandits are more of a problem.
When deviating from the beaten path, the traveler may encounter any number of vile beasts, the most common of which are spiders. Now, the spiders of Kuromizu aren’t your typical stomp-and-squish arachnids. A great power lies beneath the fetid waters, a power linked to the feywild. This power has bred a frightfully large version of spider that feeds on medium-sized creatures of any type.
While spiders are common threats for the lost explorer, there are greater and far fouler creatures in the swamps. The power of the bogs affects all who wallow in their waters… Legends abound of vampires and succubi, giant alligators still feeding on streams to the feywild, bandits, ghosts, and evil witches. All these stories likely bear some grain of truth.
The dark times threatening Hine have only fed the nightmarish stories about the mysteries that lurk in Kuromizu’s marshes, and with the recent increase in disappearances of farmers and travelers, fear of the wilds breeds like a plague.
Social Hierarchy in Daijo:
1. Emperor- supreme ruler of the Empire
2. Kazoku (Regional kings; one from each of the 5 regions- Kuromizu, Hoshizora, Tetsugenya, Kokoro, and Shimanu)
2. Shinkan (high-priests of the Kami, one per region)
3. Daimyo (Rulers of City-states centered on a castle town within a province’s district; typically 2-3 per province)
4. Daimyo’s Retainers & Samurai
5. Peasants (further stratified based on occupation, land-ownership, etc.)
Map of Mainland peninsula of Daijo- focus in detail on Kuromizu
Map of Pota-pota, Kuromizu Province
A battered wagon pulled by a sickly looking mule passed by Hearth on a dry, sun-battered morning. On the side of it, painted in the color of rotten fruit were faded letters which read “DOCTOR KROESER - physician, barber, expert in snakebites and haircuts”. It was an unusual sight, to say the least, and despite the spectacle hardly any of the townsfolk looked on for long. Annabelle, who tended to the small tavern during the day while Pa was out in the fields, felt a strange uneasiness as she saw the mule plodding along the only street in Hearth. She did her best to ignore it, and went back to serving whiskey to the sleepy wretches at the bar. In Hearth, those without fields to tend to had little else to do but sling cards on the sticky tables at the Traveler’s Rest, drowning themselves and their livers in cheap drink. These bleak days more people seemed to find themselves nodding off under that dry, creaky roof.
The wind outside picked up, and the side of the saloon shook as a wave of dust coated the front of the building. The batwing doors creaked open before a pair of gloved hands, and Annabelle looked up to see the tall outline of a man in a wide-brimmed hat at the entrance. His face was covered with a curious beaked mask that muffled his voice, making it sound hoarse and inhuman.
“Hail lovely gentlemen and ladies of Hearth, I have come to ply my trade in your fine town” rasped the figure, his leather coat shifting as he sauntered past the tables and up to the bar. “but first, if I may so kindly inquire, it would mean the world to me if I may quench a mighty thirst that has been accompanying me for far too long.
“We’ve got whiskey, beer and well water, ain’t much else worth drinking in Hearth” Annabelle’s voice seemed to shrink as she looked into the large mesh eyes of the mask. The stranger looked like a bug, she couldn’t tell if he was more like a fly or a spider.
“Some whiskey would be wonderful, a much more preferable poison to the well water.” the stranger’s voice had a sing song quality to it, as though it was straining against an impulse to burst into song.
Annabelle served him and went back to polishing cups, finding herself awfully thirsty herself. Something about the strangers presence was exhausting, as though he had sucked the moisture out of the room. “Nonsense” she thought to herself, and poured herself a glass of water. “It’s just that blasted dust.”.
“Cheers my fair lady, to a lifetime health, wealth and stupendous discovery!” His voice broke on the first word, still straining against some deep excitement. He raised his glass and lifted the beak of his mask to reveal the bottom half of his face. Annabelle tried not to stare, instead drinking down the water as he shot down the whiskey. The stranger lowered his mask over his putrid, smiling lips and kept talking. Annabelle could hear the sounds, but found the words garbled and unintelligible. She blinked and squinted as the figure of the stranger blurred. Grasping the counter for balance, Annabelle sighed a soft “Goddammit” and then collapsed behind the bar.
Thus plague had come to Hearth, but thankfully the good Doctor Kroeser was there to assist its hopeless, ill-fated townsfolk.