The Color of Shadestone
Kui Lai Empire
Location: The lands that make up the Kingdom of Kui are all that falls to the east of the Great Heisen Wall, to the south of the Fore Mountains and the Taiga Fells and to the north of the Serpent’s Trail. The environs that make up the territory are mostly temperate or decidious forests, rolling plains and flat lands and some hilly and mountainous terrain.
History: Long ago, before the Kui Lai Empire was formed, the region that would become its territory was inhabited by dirt villages of Virum and Ruesk that were barely more civilized than the Kalburn tribes that shared the region with them. Life was short and harsh, danger coming from the natural world around the small settlements or from what would become the Berzee Marches, if not from the periodic aggressive raiding from their Kalburn neighbors. Eventually, the wayward settlements could take their lot in life no longer and sent representatives to form a war council to decide how best to improve the life of all.
Though all who assembled claimed to be there for the good of all, they were more interested in their own good and the good of their home villages. The arguing and disputes went on for days and as tensions rose and tempers flared, it seemed more likely that a war would break out amongst the people instead of against their enemies. It was then that an old man stepped forward and with just the presence of his voice hushed the maelstrom. No one recognized him, having only known that he had arrived like all the others to this council, but having remained silent up until that point. He chided the assembled men for their selfishness and cowardice, berating their lack of character and justice. Such bold words would normally incite some of those assembled to violence, but they were cowed as a group. Cowed, except for one young man.
Mifune was barely out of his youth and from a village much smaller and weaker than many of those assembled at the council. His voice had been drowned out and ignored since the beginning of the proceedings, his concepts for unity and cooperation sneered at and cast out of hand. But where the others feared the stranger, Mifune saw a like mind and someone who would hear his words. Mifune beseeched the stranger not to lash the men too harshly with his tongue, for they were but flesh and blood and had their own people at heart for the most part. He spoke out his beliefs and his hopes for this council, trying his best to salvage the honor and image of the historic changes that were meant to come from these talks.
The stranger was moved and smiled at the earnest purity and honesty of Mifune. Casting off the disguise he wore, he revealed himself as the Great Celestial Sage, Kui Lai. Kui Lai touched Mifune upon the shoulder and declared to all around that the young man would be destined for greatness and that all would fall beneath his banner. Voices were finally found and many were raised in anger at this declaration, even though it came from the lips of a god. A single withering look silenced them, but Kui Lai saw the discord that would twist in the hearts and minds of these men without his divine presence to make them toe the line. But Kui Lai was wise and crafty and would see his will done.
Taking Mifune aside, he completed a rite of blood brotherhood with the young farmer. Infused with a portion of the divinity of the sage, Mifune was made potent beyond the normal ability of mortal men, becoming the first Taiyo. With this completed, Kui Lai gave one more gift to the transfigured mortal. A pearl of collected sunshine from the ends of the world, he imparted to Mifune the Hitago. Valuable beyond comprehension though it maybe, it’s true worth came from the fact it could take the form of the tools needed by a warlord: a suit of invincible armor, an unstoppable ranseur and a war standard that would make giants of meek men. Garbed in the Hitago, Mifune parted company with Kui Lai.
This would mark the beginning of the reign of Mifune I. Under his guidance, the city of Kui Lai would be formed on the spot of the original meeting of the villages. Mifune I would see the uniting of his people during his reign, as well as peace being forged with the local Kalburn tribes. By the time he had finally passed on, Kui Lai had expanded its territory and the beginning structure of the Emperor, Zuko and Magistrate political movement was forming.
His son, Mifune II would take the throne after the death of his father, but he was not the great man that the previous Emperor was. Receiving pressure from his siblings and other individuals of influence, he began three military campaigns that would see the expansion of Kui Lai beyond its original borders and the shattering of the long peace that had been achieved with the Kalburn. Though this was enough to quell some of the voices raised against him, Mifune II would cement the three levels of authority in the Empire, parceling out territory to gain the peace he had not had since before he had become Emperor.
Mifune II’s reign would be followed by that of his own son, Mifune III and the beginning of a militant era for what was quickly becoming known as the Kui Lai Empire and not the Kingdom of Kui Lai. Mifune III, having seen the death of his mother (Mifune II’s first wife) at the hands of Kalburn raiders during his youth, had a burning hatred for the tribal people. He went on the warpath soon after ascending to the throne, marking the beginning of the era in the Empire’s history known as the “Great Yokai War”. Mifune III’s armies would sweep across the land, exterminating any Kalburn villages they came across and conquering the bloodied earth in the name of their sovereign lord. The name of Kui Lai the Sage was forgotten, “Mifune the Almighty” being venerated as a god in his place.
Mifune III’s hubris and hatred would not come without consequence. The Kalburn, pushed to the brink of annihilation, turned to terrible things that whispered from the dark. Hoping for salvation, they pledged their lives and souls to the horrors between the trees and were transfigured. Where once there were the proud Kalburn came now the brutish Oni and wicked Tengu. Marching under the banner of a being that called itself Sarai, Butcher of Mortals, the new race of Yokai went to war with the people of Kui Lai.
The Great Yokai War would reach its climax when Mifune III killed Sarai, but at the cost of being crippled for the rest of his life and seeing the Hitago unable to ever become the terrible war implements that had been drenched in the blood of innocent and wicked alike throughout the War. With their pawn on the mortal world destroyed, the patrons of the Yokai withdrew their favor and presence in the world and with it any chance that the Yokai had in winning the War still. Disappearing into the world of their patrons (while the ways still remained open) or into what would be later known as the Berzee Marches, the Empire found itself without enemies and on the long path to reconstruction.
Ten years into the reconstruction efforts, Mifune III, who was insane by this point in his life, was mysteriously killed in his royal chambers in the middle of the night. Having never fathered any children, the Empire was left in deep turmoil and confusion with the news of the death of their “living god”. Blame and conspiracies festered like a disease throughout the Empire, infecting the body of the Empire alongside the jockeying for power amongst the Zukos over who would succeed Mifune III. These things may have worked themselves out eventually if not for the increasingly poor treatment of the common people since the beginning of Mifune III’s reign. With no more charismatic godlike leader to sway their hearts and minds, open revolt began across the Empire. Forced to take sides or using the revolt as an excuse to maneuver against their political enemies, the Zuko turned the insurrection into a full out civil war.
This would be the darkest and bloodiest period of the Empire’s history (actually exceeding the horrors of the Great Yokai War) and would be known as the “Warring Providence Era”. Famine and disease would run rampant amongst the people of Kui Lai, killing as many of its population as the skirmishes and battles between Zukos. The city of Kui Lai would be razed to the ground during the course of this era and many saw this as the final nail in the coffin of the once great nation. From that point on the conflict became more gruesome and the territory once held in unity was split into smaller nations. It would seem that this would become the way of the region forevermore, if not for the appearance of a new power in the region that would upset the course of the era.
Several vast armies of turtle creatures known as the Kappa surged from the bodies of water across the region and flocked under the banner of a being that called himself Mogu the Star Speaker. A massive humanoid of living earth with the features of a tiger, Mogu claimed that he and the Kappa were children of Kui Lai himself and had been sent to return the wayward people to glory. But the prideful and corrupt Zoku would now bow to this stranger to their lands and painted him and his armies as another incursion of the Yokai. Seeing that the current Taiyo were beyond redemption, Mogu went on the march. Though the otherwordly general had to fight for every inch, his will was seen done when he decapitated the last of the remaining Zoku who had not fled in the closing years of the era. Without the Zoku to bend their minds and hearts, any illusion that Mogu and his remaining Kappa were the same as the fiends of the Great Yokai War was completely erased.
Mogu gathered as much of the people and his army together in the ruins of the city of Kui Lai as he could and spoke to them of the will of Kui Lai the Celestial Sage and the precepts that Mifune I had espoused. He explained to the masses how Kui Lai, even in his vast wisdom, had erred in laying the mantle of quasi-divinity and leadership on the bloodline of one man. Mogu took his potent sword, Starfall and shattered the Hitago (which he had recovered from deep in the ruins). The resulting explosion rocked the area and showered all there with a dusting of the divine material that had made up the artifact. The action would cost Mogu his life and with his dying breaths imparted to the people assembled that the Kappa would be equals among them, that the Taiyo would no longer be decided by blood and that the Kingdom of Kui Lai was once more whole. This event would become known as the “Miracle of the Old City”, for not only were the people free from the oppression and tyranny that had hounded them for so long, but miraculously a small portion of those present ascended to being Taiyo upon Mogu’s death.
From amongst the new Taiyo only one would step up to take the mantle of becoming the leader that Kui Lai needed. A young Ruesk farmer who, like Mifune I, had just come of age, Kokubu felt it was his personal duty to heal the land that had ripped itself apart. Adopting the name Heisen the Reclaimer (a name that would be taken up by subsequent Emperors), his rule saw the rebuilding of Kui Lai and it’s renaming to Hitago, the construction of the Great Heisen Wall (to keep out the dangers of the Berzee Marches) and massive social reforms. His long and peaceful rule would see the horrors of the previous two bloody eras forgotten by the populous at large and the betterment of life for all. The reigns of Heisen II and Heisen III would see these trends continue and it seemed that Kui Lai’s golden era would never end.
But the state of nations are like the tides, they have their high points and inevitably had their low points. Heisen IV began his rule following in the footsteps of his predecessors, but the last two decades has seen a dark humor descend upon the shoulders of the Emperor. Heisen IV has slowly re-instituted many of the old ways and has become increasingly more militant. On the path to becoming an Empire once again, the people look with trepidation as corruption begins to take root once more in the authority structure of their nation.
Political Structure: The Kui Lai Empire’s ruling structure is split into three levels of authority that exists above the common folk. At the top is the Emperor of the entire nation, ruling from his palace in the capital city of Hitoga. The Emperor’s time is taken up with the more large scale and abstract direction of the Empire as a whole. Below the Emperor are the Zoku, members of the Taiyo who are not directly related to or attached to the Emperor and are given responsibility and command over portions of the Empire located outside of Hitoga. A Zoku deals with the direct needs and affairs of his/her region while being at constant odds with their brethren in attempting to consolidate their power bases and curry favor with the current Emperor. A Zoku will generally have their own personal army made up of indentured commoners and elite Samurai warriors (the latter of which who, though lacking any official authority, carries the weight of their Zoku’s name).
The third and final level are the local magistrates who overseer, at most, a handful of towns and villages on a local level. A magistrate rules over the day to day grievances and affairs of the commoners that live in their assigned territories. The magistrates for a Zuko’s domain are commonly selected by the Zoku themselves, but it is not unheard of for the people to elect a representative to fill the position.
Currency: The Kui Lai Empire, like most powers, uses a coin based currency system. Unlike others though, it is not divided among different denominations but by the size of the coin itself. The Ri is split into four different sizes, the 1 (being the smallest and the size of a grape), the 10 (the size of a walnut), the 100 (the most common form and the size of a man’s palm) and the 1000 (the size of a man’s hand).
Places of Importance and Interest
Groups of Interest