The Drowning Empire, Episode 1: Not an Ending, but Not Quite a Beginning

 The Drowning Empire is a serial which will be appearing every Friday on this blog based on the Writer Nerd Game Night monthly Legend of the Five Rings game. It is set in the Empire of Rokugan, and is a world based on fantasy samurai, locked in perpetual battles of honor and glory. 

For more details on Rokugan and the game itself:  

Not an Ending, but Not Quite a Beginning

Gather around, friends. Yes, come closer. Has it really been months since you last were treated to the adventures within the Emerald Empire? My, my…how time flies.

When last we met, the Empire has just defeated the Dark Oracle of Fire. Impressive, it was. Names like Hida Makoto, Ide Todo, Kakita Fujo, and Kuni Magatsu became household names…indeed even my father, Ikoma Katsu became known for his tales of The Paper Lanterns. That story ended, but it was not the end. Time and fate are ever the tricksters that way. No matter what we do, the decisions fathers make affect their sons.

What you will read next is a collection of works from another dark time in the Empire. It seems the Empire has been in constant dark time of late doesn’t it? First, the War of Dark Fire to go along with the Race for the Throne, then the Destroyer War ravaged the land. Can you imagine the Kaiu Wall being breached? Can you imagine the Scorpion having their own wall to keep back the tainted creatures that are spat forth from a new portal to hell? Tell me, can you imagine the Spider—servants of the accursed Daigotsu—refusing to help the Empire in the Destroyer War unless they were made a Great Clan?

For a generation after those events, we knew relative peace under the reign of Hoketuhime. The Empire is again now in chaos. True there are some who can ride that chaos into legend, but those men and women are few, and far between. Perhaps my companions and I will become like our ancestors, and bring glory to our names.

Or, perhaps not.

Indulge me, if you will. History is a funny thing. They say that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Is this the case? History is often written by the victor of one situation or another, but more frequently history is written by those who were bored enough sit down and put quill to parchment.

So I ask you this, dear reader: what if history is wrong?

My father told many tales of the Paper Lanterns, as I, Ikoma Uso, will share many tales set during a time when the Empire began slowly drowning…

…hmmm, drowning. There is so much meaning locked inside that word, both for good and ill.

I apologize, readers. It appears I am very much my father’s son. Perhaps less…boastful…but prone to tangents nonetheless.

As a bard of the Ikoma Family, like my late father, I will strive to give you a complete picture of the Empire seventeen years after the War of Dark Fire ended. Though not as overtly destructive as that time, the current timeline has the Empire eroding from the inside out. Famine, revolt, war, piracy and banditry, and the incursion of gaijin threats are slowly drowning the Empire.

I have used that word several times now. Drowning. It fits the situation well. The Empire is out of its depth. Water can be the life-giving force for every person—from the lowest peasant to the most honor-bound samurai. But water can also cause destruction unlike any other element. Water is cunning. It is—pardon the pun—fluid. You cannot fight a war against water. You’d have better luck noticing a difference in the ocean after spitting into it.

But then, that was the entire goal of the Dark Oracle of Water.

I will not spoil the ending for you. There is a special realm of hell devoted to that sort of storyteller.

Storyteller. There is another interesting word, both with negative and positive connotations. I tell this story slightly older, and significantly wiser. Do I see the end of this tale? In a very literal sense, no. Because there is no beginning or end in the Celestial Order. There is only a cycle.

That said, I do not know if I see an end to the Dark Oracle of Water. I have not seen it yet. If I don’t survive, then hopefully I will join my ancestors, and some other storyteller will finish my tale. If I survive, well, then I will finish the tale as I will remember it.

Do you see the issue there?

So, do you trust me? Do you trust that I can give you, the discerning reader, an unbiased account of the adventures my companions and I had? If not, I completely understand.

If so, you are a fool.

Read these words, friends. Maybe they are real. Maybe not. After all, who am I to judge their authenticity? Perhaps this is not even really me.

All I can say is that I pray the names Ikoma Uso, Akodo Toranaka, Tamori Isao, Yoritomo Oki, Moto Subotai and Suzume Shintaro are remembered well.

Of course, that is all a matter of perception, is it not?

This is the story of those six samurai. It spans their entry in the Topaz Championship, through their investigation of the plight facing the Empire, and into the great events beyond.

This, my friends, is the story of The Drowning Empire.


An Empire chokes,

enemies on every side.

We drown. Yes, we drown.

Signed, Ikoma Uso

Just a Bard


This week’s episode was written by Steve Diamond of Elitist Book Reviews.

If you want to check out some of Steve’s fiction, he cowrote Son of Fire, Son of Thunder with me here:

For the gamers who want to know more of the behind the scenes crunch (and for everybody on this first one because I posted character sketches) here is where I’ll be posting everything in one place on the L5R forums.

To be continued next Friday with a letter from Moto Subotai:

MHI Employee Handbook art
Starting tomorrow, a new Friday W.N.G.N. serial, THE DROWNING EMPIRE

7 thoughts on “The Drowning Empire, Episode 1: Not an Ending, but Not Quite a Beginning”

  1. You know what would really rock! It would be great if each update had a PDF available. Or when the WNGN serials are done putting them in a PDF so I can put on my kindle. Reading long posts on a computer makes me feel like my eyes are bleeding.

  2. Something I internalized form reading John Mosier’s books: just because it’s a truism that “the winners write history”, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the losers are telling the honest truth.

  3. Color me highly jealous that not only do you have a regular gaming session, that all the members are really imaginative people.

    And I’m really looking forward to updates on this.

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