The Boys (& Girls) are Back in Town!

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Our friends over at Robot Dice Explosion will be hosting a Live Q&A focusing on the upcoming Shiho Clan release! The stream will feature members of the GCT Studios team and is your chance to get more information about this exciting new faction or ask any burning questions you may have!

The event will be streamed on their YouTube channel on Sunday 11th July at 18:00 BST
Questions can be asked on the day, in chat, or alternatively emailed to RobotDiceExplosion@gmail.com using the subject “Question”
Make sure you tune in for what is sure to be another great look behind the scenes!


 

“Guess who just got back today?

Them wild-eyed boys that'd been away
Haven't changed, haven’t had much to say
But man, I still think them cats are crazy…”

                                                                                             -- Thin Lizzy

Once, they ruled, but now they are in ruins; scattered, leaderless, a House divided. The Eagle fought the Dragon, and the Dragon won, for how could it not? Treachery, misdirection, and uneasy alliances put paid to the Shiho and left them at the mercy of the Takashi clan. In the years following the Dragon Wars, the Shiho name has hardly been mentioned until now. Recently, that name is being spoken again, with increasing enthusiasm and excitement as it seems that the only known member of that once-proud Clan has returned to the Isles of Jwar.

Shiho Hiroto is back to conquer his many foes and destroy the Takashi Clan by any means possible, leading a secret war in the rice paddies, jungles, and thickets of Jwar. Shiho Hiroto is choosing to forgo a full-frontal attack. He and his many men are more than happy to harry, pillage, and disrupt the vital lines of supply, communication, and control Takashi need to regulate the Isles and the populace it contains. Support for the Takashi has always been active in, and around, the cities and larger towns, but out in the hinterland? The Eagle has never died in the hovels and the hamlets. The Wolf clan, once staunch supporters of the Shiho, have offered assistance to him despite their proximity to Ryu and the Takashi Clan. Shiho Hiroto knows that this rebel clan will once more be able to spread their majestic wings and hunt!

When last we met with Shiho Hiroto, he was in the company of an Oni, and a pirate in the belly of a Jung vessel headed for the Cove of Chimes. From there, the Jung would smuggle him into the only place he cared about, home. And home for Shiho Hiroto is Jwar. But where had he been for all those years? Simple, Hiroto had been wandering the Empire and bearing witness to all the majesty it had to offer. He travelled extensively, doing what he had to do to survive.
For a time, he was a fighter in the Jade Pits, a bodyguard for a silken and perfume clad merchant, a grave-digger, horse thief, reaver, pirate, even a lotus smuggler. He made vast fortunes with his flashing blade and quick wits, only to lose them all on an unlucky roll of the dice or wager them on a horse that turned out to be more donkey than a champion. He loved, lost and drank. Repeatedly.
At times he had nothing, sleeping in the rain-sodden gutters of unpronounceable towns with only fresh-caught rat to eat. Other times, he was clad in the Empire’s most refined, dining on date-stuffed camel while sipping the most expensive beverages money could buy. He travelled to the extreme edges of the Empire, the Kushtind Mountains in the far north that are said to hold up the very sky, to the great red eye of the Moitun Desert in the west. He learned sacred languages, forged deals with devils and daimyos, and more importantly, he managed to quell the rage that simmered inside him. Along the way, he befriended an unlikely cast of characters who accompanied him on his travels known as the Brotherhood.

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When asked why he left Jwar in the first place, he had this to say, “I was taught the ways of Bushido but what I never learned was self-control. I was careless, lazy, and did everything without thinking of the consequences. I was quick to anger, quick to lash out with my tongue, even my sword. I was arrogant, and that blinded me to what my father wanted for me, what he wanted for the clan. So when he named my younger brother as his successor instead of me, I became enraged and turned my back on them. I felt betrayed, and my temper got the better of me. The last words I spoke to my father and my brother were words of anger, and now I’ll never get the chance to apologise for my actions.”
Sadly, while Shiho Hiroto was away and beyond anyone’s reach, Jwar was engulfed in the Dragon Wars that would eventually end with the Shiho overthrown and the Takashi family in control. Shiho Hiroto only found out by sheer luck, saying, ”I was in the marketplace one morning, buying provisions for myself and my friend. We were going north seeking work, and I needed some libation and weapons for the road. It was in the big market, the one in Xiang, near the fort. I was looking for a new sword and a tetsubo for my companion, preferably something from the Minimoto when I spied a set of battle armour on display in the corner of the merchant’s tent. I recognised it at once. It had belonged to my father. I asked him how he came by it, and he told me he’d bought it from a trader who had brought it from Jwar. Then he chuckled and said that its owner wouldn’t need it anymore as the Takashi Clan had killed him and his entire family. I merely smiled and asked him how much he wanted for it. It was more than I had, more than I had ever had actually, so that night, I waited for him to finish his work then confronted him in his tent. I told him who I was and that I would repay him, but he said that the Shiho were nothing but untrustworthy dogs. We argued, he died, and I took the armour. I had one word on my tongue and one goal in my mind, and that was revenge!”
And, as if the news of his entire clan’s demise wasn’t enough, he was visited by the restless spirit of his father.
“He was sitting cross-legged before me, shimmering under the starlight, cheeks wet with grief. He was wearing the armour that I had just stolen. The chest plate hung askew, and I could see his bony chest beneath it, and there was this thick red line across his stomach from which his intestines peeked. He stared at me with such misery and defeat, then he plunged his hands into that hole, drawing his guts out slowly as if pulling on a rope. He stuffed them in his mouth and chewed them like a rabid dog, each mouthful more desperate than the last; then he spoke and said, Son, it tastes so bitter, so bitter. I cannot find the door to leave this cursed place; we are cold and hungry, but it is so bitter! You must avenge us, avenge us all, or we will be trapped here for eternity. There was a line of ghosts behind me, my entire family, all dead, all beheaded, mutilated, even the little children. They howled and wept and begged for help…”
Shiho Hiroto gathered his compatriots, reached out to the Jung, then set off for home. But what did he find when he got there? He discovered that the war had taken its toll on all the clans in Jwar; no one was untouched, not even the slippery, duplicitous Ito over the waters in Izu remained unscathed by it. The Bear clan were holed up in the mountains, grumbling about everything as they usually do, while the Horse Lords were licking their wounds, trying frantically to replace their breeding stock after the war. Unease settled over Jwar like a mist. Alliances had formed, but it appeared they were purely out of necessity and not borne of respect, honour, or any other of Bushido’s tenets.
It seemed that the Takashi had paid an enormous price in warriors to wrest control from the Shiho, leaving their forces thin on the ground and stretched to near breaking. Not only that, but the land was in chaos; a colossal tsunami, almost supernatural in its bearing, had ripped the heart out of Jwar, destroying vast tracts of farmland and rice paddies, leaving much of the island underwater and much of the population near starvation. Then, a deluge of spiders appeared after the flood; a terrifying infestation of eight-legged woe scuttled over the ruined lands and jungles, while thick webs blanketed hamlets and villages left empty after the war. There were omens everywhere a village elder happened to look. Cult’s rose, led by a curious puppet master and his stitched-lipped geisha, while several mighty Tori arches constructed by the Temple of Ro-Kan centuries ago, had been destroyed; their ruination led to the thinning of the walls that kept specific, more powerful forces out of the world. Evil yokai rushed in to fill the void, soon to be followed by other calamities.
To add to Jwar’s misery and the Takashi’s, enemies of every size and stripe were involved in an ongoing assault against the Dragon clan. In short, what the Black Eagle found upon his return was an island in turmoil and a Prefecture on the edge of collapse. Shiho Hiroto vowed to do whatever it took to hasten its demise.
Contrary to what he had been led to believe, there were still members of the Shiho clan alive in Jwar. They had not all died but had gone into hiding, forming small pockets of resistance nipping at the heels of the Dragon. Shiho Hiroto was delighted to meet clandestinely with his old mentors, the Shiho clan samurai who wept to see him in the flesh thinking him dead.
In the years following their defeat, they hid as best they could, relying on the kindness of villages and villagers who were still loyal to the Shiho. Also, closer to Ryu, the Tanaka family were still devoted to the Black Eagle. The Tanaka family provided arms and equipment to the Shiho rebels who were in hiding throughout Jwar. The Tanaka, who bear the mon of the Wolf, have also taken up arms against the Takashi oppressor, leading nighttime raids to disrupt their plans as best they can.

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The Takashi, realising that most of the villagers do not even know who they are, let alone that they are in control of the Prefecture, have begun building stone forts along the roads that bind Jwar together. These roadside forts hope to offer the locals a sense of security against bandits, Oni, strange midnight Cults, and the like. However, they do the opposite. The Takashi has now become more efficient in tax-collecting because they have eyes everywhere, and they lure the young away with promises of gold and glory in the service of the Dragon clan. The villagers are left with the uncanny feeling that what is supposed to bring people together is tearing them apart, which never happened under the Shiho; they hasten to add.

So, it is amongst this internal strife that Shiho Hiroto finds himself. First of all, he rides to where his ancestral home was, which was theirs, before moving to Ryu. It was a small but elegant building near the Falls of the Weeping Bride, with a view of Itsiro’s Peak to the south and the emerald hue of the Woods of the Whispering Kami in the west. Shiho Hiroto arrived just before sunset, leading his steed up the old road between now fallen arches and rotting gates to what remained of his home. It was covered in long grass, bushes, weeds, and burned timbers sticking out of the ground like newly discovered bones. The wind blew mournfully through the trees, and the howl of wolves in the distance merely added to his sense of loneliness and loss. He built a small fire in the main hall and spoke to his family, friends, mentors, and veteran samurai spirits. He swore an oath that night before them all, promising to see the Eagle fly over Jwar and not the Dragon. In the morning, he was gone, galloping east toward the sun, off to start a war!

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