In The Heart of the World
Teiko-Tochi is the newest province of the Empire at the Heart of the World. Until recently, it was a proud and independent nation, and it retains more autonomy than all of the other provinces of the Empire.
Teiko-Tochi is a relatively small province, with a large, if rocky coastline. It is essentially a large peninsula, making invasion from land difficult, since an invading army has to cross either a treacherous marshland in the north-east, or brave a small but sheer range of mountains in the north-west. This geographical isolation has allowed Teiko-Tochi to resist conquest by neighbouring empires for many years, and has also contributed to a certain amount of zealous cultural xenophobia.
Certain ancient scrolls posit that in the distant past, not long after the reign of Xin’s First Emperor, Teiko-Tochi was a kingdom ruled by a cousin to that August and Radiant Son of Heaven. However, this cousin, who ruled as King of Teiko-Tochi, was corrupted by a foul spirit, and darkness spread across the land.
Farmers’ crops were blighted, sons turned against fathers, sisters against brothers, demons and wicked spirits rampaged far and wide and the kingdom fell into ruin and desolation. From this Age of Evils, eight mighty warriors came forth, from the distant corners of Teiko-Tochi (and some say, from the realm of Heaven itself). The Hachi Seiken (Eight Holy Swords) slew the corrupted king and his foul minions.
In the aftermath, the foremost warrior of the eight set himself up as the Shogun, a military dictator whose descendants would rule the land for a thousand years. The other seven founded the Seven Clans, the most powerful samurai families. The Seven Clans and the Shogun have ruled with unquestioned authority in Teiko-Tochi ever since.
Teiko has resisted all attempts to conquer or trade with its people with violent force. Believing themselves to be defended by the divine will of the Hachi Seiken (who are now venerated as powerful spirits, or kami.
Teiko-Tochi is ruled by eight noble families, known as the Eight Clans. First among the eight is the house of the Shogun, Clan Nyaoku.
The other seven families are perpetually squabbling for the Shogun’s favour and fighting amongst themselves over ancient grudges and new insults. The only thing that truly unites the families is a threat from outside, in which case they grudgingly close ranks.
The other seven clans are:
Clan Kani, whose symbol is the crab. Their lands lie along the eastern borders, and they have proved tenacious and canny strategists of the long siege.
Clan Shishi, whose symbol is the lion. The samurai of clan Shishi are the paragons of bravery, loyalty and honourable combat.
Clan Tsuru, whose symbol is the crane. The Tsuru are renowned for being skilled courtiers, diplomats and artists. This should not suggest, however, that they do not have the skill at arms required of all samurai. Tsuru duelists are among the deadliest in the Shogunate.
Clan Ryu is the clan of the dragon. They are aloof isolationists, rarely found outside their mountain strongholds. They are known to train in a variety of esoteric martial arts, and often seek out the wisdom of monks of the [[True Path.]]
Clan Kyōi, represented by the phoenix trains the finest sorcerers and Wu Jen in the world. They have amassed a wealth of arcane knowledge – which they jealously guard.
Clan Sasori are the least-beloved clan in the Empire. Represented by the scorpion, they have a reputation for treachery, scheming, and blackmail. From the Sasori perspective, however, they do the often necessary dirty work that more ‘honour-bound’ samurai have no taste for. Clan Sasori are believed to employ the forbidden arts of the Ninja.
There are many other families of samurai, some wealthy, some impoverished, some politically influential, some obscure. But all of them inevitably owe allegiance to one of the Eight.