The Warring States
Ontentzu is a highly decentralized empire. Very little formal power is vested in the Emperor; his role is of great ceremonial importance but his ultimate duty is to act as peacekeeper between the clans. True power in Ontentzu rests in the hands of the daimyo, the heads of the seven clans, and the shogun, the commander-in-chief of the Emperor‘s army. The title of Shogun is bestowed by Imperial fiat, and the eldest son of the shogun inherits his father’s title unless the Emperor decrees otherwise. The shogun’s loyalties, like the loyalties of the Emperor himself, lie with the clan of his ancestors. While the seven clans wage a war of diplomacy and intrigue to control the Imperial throne itself, wars of flesh and blood rage incessantly over control of the shogunate, over land claims, and for personal and clan-wide honor.
Since the dawn of Ontentzu the seven clans have been embroiled in an ever-shifting political landscape of alliances, wars, grudges, and debts of both capital and honor. Throughout the centuries, clans developed deep ties of allegiance and enmity, but even old friendships and rivalries would be regularly cast aside by the tides of war.
The oldest feud in Ontentzu is the animosity between the Crane and Lion clans, who since the days of the First Emperor have fought to control more of the land surrounding the Imperial demesne. The Crane see it as their duty to shield the Emperor from what they perceive as a clan of militaristic, uncultured ruffians, while the Lions deplore the Crane for coddling the Emperor with honeyed words and useless decorum, and justifiably revile the Crane for their scheming ways.
The Unicorn Clan is something of a pariah among the clans and has warred often with the Lion and River clans, but their true enemies are the enigmatic and magically potent Storm clan, who for centuries have been feared and distrusted by the Unicorn. Although they are viewed as outsiders by most other Ontenzins, their highly skilled horse archers are prized mercenaries, and the Unicorn often find themselves dragged into far-flung clan conflicts.
The River clan, located in the heartland of Ontentzu and surrounded by the other clans, is the most peaceful of clans, more interested in profiting from the wars of others than waging war themselves. This earns them the scorn of many, especially the more militaristic Lion and Dragon clans. However, none can deny that without the stewardship of Ontetzu’s waterways that the Kawa family provides, and the River clan’s expertise at commerce and transportation, their ability to wage war would be severely limited.