History of the Yamashita clan
One of the most ancient and glorious families of Zaidan-Tai the Yamashita clan originated in the time of the Akuna no Bokun. Its founder was Yamashita Noburo the Frost-touched who is also called Iceheart and the Lord of Vengeance. It is said that Yamashita Noburo had a great love, a lady known only as Hina, They were set to be wed yet on the day of their union he waited at the alter hour after hour yet she did not come. Eventually his heart both wroth and in anguish he sought her out to find out why she had disowned his love and dishonoured him so. When he came to her village however he found it destroyed, the bodies of Hina and her family lying amongst the dead. It is said that at that moment the heart of Yamashita Noburo turned to ice. Certainly he never again was to display any emotion save for that of righteous anger against the Demon Tyrants. He called out to the spirits of justice and vengeance, promising to dedicate his life to the destruction of the Akuna no Bokun. The spirits answered his call, granting him supernatural strength and endurance and the power to shape the elements.
He pursued the trail of the army of the Demon Tyrants that had slain his love without rest for he was now beyond mere mortal concerns. Three days later he came across them at a ford in the mighty Inagawa River where they were feasting on some of their captives. The Hakugai-sha however, arrogant in their belief of their own superiority failed to post a guard and Yamashita crept into their camp at night and freed their prisoners, whom he led north across the river. He then woke the enemy with a blast of his horn and mocked them for their failure to keep their prisoners, telling them that as they had lost these prisoners they would soon lose all their prisoners. Enraged the Demon Tyrants charged as one for the river. They were expecting an easy victory for of the humans only Yamashita was armed. What they got was death and ice as Yamashita called bade the waters rise to engulf the enemy before encasing them in ice. Yamshita Noboru was to go on to use a great many methods of slaying Demon Tyrants but ice was ever his favourite.
Many others stories were told of the great warrior: of his alliance with the great dragon Argushaggo who fought beside Yamashita in battle; of his forging of the magic sword Winter’s Touch which radiated cold and left frost in its wake; of his marriage to the spirit Kaori at Unnan; of his founding of Tamamura and the gift of the Amethyst Helm. It was his victory however at the Battle of the Seven Armies that is most celebrated however for it was then in the plains of Genkai that the last great army of the Demon Tyrants in Tamamura was undone. Great was the slaughter of the enemy that day for Yamashita had positioned his forces so as to allow no retreat; the spirits of vengeance that empowered him would have had it no other way. When the last of them threw down their arms and tried to surrender he had them butchered where they stood. Thus passed the Akuna no Bokun from Tamamura.
There were those however that had worked with the Demon Tyrants and served themselves against their fellow men. These traitors were to find no peace under the rule of Yamashita. Those who stayed were all slain, quickly if they confessed their sins and repented, slowly if they did not. Bounties were placed on the heads of those who fled and they were hunted from one end of Zaidan to the other. Only when the last traitor had fallen it is said that Yamashita Naburo allowed himself to take the long sleep and the rule passed to his son Yamashita Isao.
Tamamura experienced long periods of peace during the Sheinaru Miko no Zaii. As the land and people recovered few it seemed wished to risk the pain of war. It was Yamashita Kenza who is credited with establishing the first capital at Hachimoto beside the Genkai Taisha. He was said to be a man of great knowledge and nobles and commoners alike came from leagues around to gain the benefit of his counsel.
The Yamashita family who had grown accustomed to peace were slow to respond to the corruption of the Sogo clan but Yamashita Taiyou is believed to have played a significant role in their downfall. Afterwards the Yamashita lords were as bad as the other families at tried to control the selection of the sacred priestesses. Yamashita Daiki in particular gained a black mark in history due to his assassination of no less than eleven young ladies in order to further the elevation of candidates he found more suitable. This scandal when it broke threatened to unite the other clans against Tamamura until Yamashita Daiki was deposed by his younger brother Yamashita Hiroki.
Yamashita Hiroki’s moves quelled the prospect of attacks on Tamamura but it lead to recurrent strife within the region. There were numerous rebellions collectively called the Wars of the Dispossessed. The first was started by Yamashita Daiki who gathered the armies of the Ishii kinsman of his wife Nanami and raised support in the east of Tamamura before he fell to defeat and execution at the hands of Yamashita Hiroki.
His firstborn son Norio ‘the Luckless’ continued his father’s struggle three years later. Yamashita Norio was a superb general and defeated all three armies that his uncle threw at him. His army however was scattered by a typhoon as it advanced towards Hachimoto and Hiroki was able to able to regain the initiative after marrying his daughter to the heir of Clan Ogawa and using the Mihama armies to attack the Masaki lands which Norio was honour bound to fall back to protect. After a decisive loss at the Battle of Tomi, Norio committed seppuku rather than surrender.
Time saw Hashimoto Oda rise to power and make the office of Daikomon an hereditary one of the Hashimoto clan. Yamashita Kouki, Hiroki’s son and the then lord of Tamamura, objected to this coup but could do no more than voice his opinion as he was having to deal with a third rebellion, this time by Norio’s younger brother Mitsuo. A further rebellion by Mitsuo’ son Osamu followed after which a furious Kouki decided that enough was enough. After receiving assurances of support from his brother-in-law Ogawa Takao he raised every available soldier in Tamamura and descended on the rebellious east, demanded that every lord there submit to him and send their eldest sons to his court as wards to ensure their good behaviour. Most yielded, the few that failed to he crushed utterly, slaughtering their entire families and ordering their very names struck from the pages of history.
Unsatisfied by this purge he then turned his attention to Clan Ishii, whose support had underpinned each of the rebellions. He marched on Tomi, easily overwhelming what defences Clan Ishii had been able to scramble and slew their lord-Lady Ishii Sadako, and forced her successor to forswear the rights of ‘The Dispossessed’, to turn all of their line over to him, to acknowledge him the rightful Lord of Tamamura and to swear eternal fealty to Clan Yamashita. As a final act he took Sadako’s youngest and favourite neice Kimiko as his bride. Whether he did this out of any lust, malice or love is not known. What is sure is that Yamashita Kouki’s actions did restore order to Tamamura, which settled down until the chaos caused by the fall of the Hashimoto clan. For his actions Kouki gained the sobriquet ‘Ironhand’.
Yamashita Yasushi is recorded as amongst the great lords that helped establish the Kashikoi Gikai. He is known for having prodigious appetites, fathering no less than thirty children but is mainly remembered for his patronage of the arts. New styles of music, art and theatre all had their origins in his reign. Indeed the entire period of the Kaskikoi no Gikai no Tochi was one of progress and prosperity for Tamamura.
Blood was to flow again when the great clans vied for the position of Daijin. Yamashita Taisei and Yamashita Yuuto are the two most lauded of the clan’s Daijins, mostly for their military and diplomatic victories that led to their ascensions and maintenance of their office though Yuuto was also noted for his significant grants to many temples.
Clan Yamashita opposed the overthrow of the Council of the Wise by the Sheinaru Miko and were amongst the first of the major clans to join the disastrous thirteen year civil war that left thousands dead across Zaidan.
It was during this conflict that the Kaneshiro clan came to be a vassal of Clan Yamashita. Kaneshiro Kira declared war on Yamashita Kira while his armies were away battling to the west. He sacked Hachimoto and it looked for a time that he would conquer all Tamamura. The intervention of the armies of the warlord Ishii Kira, son of the ruling matriarch of House Ishii, halted the Kaneshiro advance and the Kaneshiro cause was lost when their armies were caught between the advancing Ishii armies from the east and vengeful returning Yamashita forces from the west. The War of the Three Kiras ended with the Kaneshiro having to swear eternal fealty to Clan Yamashita and with they and their allies having to send a ward to Yamashita Kira to ensure their good behaviour as well as a taxing annual stipend to Ishii Kira for fifty years. Yamashita Kira’s heir Daisuke took Ishii Moe, Kira’s second daughter, as his bride. It was written that Ishii Moe was not blessed in appearance and that he was having difficulty marrying her off so it is felt that this union was a recognition of Clan Ishii’s crucial intervention in the war however it must also be said that the contemporary sources that describe her looks were sponsored by Clan Kaneshiro so they may not be accurate.
Some speculate that without the distraction of the War of the Three Kiras Clan Yamashita may have emerged victorious in the civil war rather than Clan Abe however it is as likely that the Kaneshiro attack was encouraged by agents of the other major powers. In any event the lands of Tamamura achieved unity at this time. The town and castle of Hachimoto were never rebuilt though the temple at the holy site of Genkai Taisha was soon restored. Yamashita Kira established a new capital at the more strategic location of Ureshino, centred around the new Amethyst Fortress.
Like the other great lords the Yamashita led revolts against the rule of the Abe dictators. The closest they came was under ‘The Steel Lord’ Yamashita Iwao was who recognised as one of the best swordsmen and generals in the land. To overcome the overwhelming Abe number Iwao had to rely on the magic of his sister the sorceress Yamashita Avaka. This allowed him to win a number of victories however it was to prove his undoing as Avaka secretly sought the crown of Tamamura for herself. At a critical point in the Battle of a Thousand Sorrows she betrayed Iwao and switched sides. After his death she appointed herself the Lady of Tamamura.
The other members of Clan Yamashita refused to stand for this however and raised their own banners in revolt. After seven bitter years of fighting the Alliance of the Five Cousins cast down Avaka and had her burned at the stake. The cousins appointed Yamashita Ren I as the new Lord Paramount and he proved a good choice. Ren I ruled for forty years during which time new farmland was irrigated, the defences of the Amethyst Fortress were modernized and the first university in Tamamura, the Great School of Ureshino, was founded. His successors followed his example.
At the beginning of the Tobsei-cho Jidai Tamamura was led by Yamashita Ryo I, more often known as Ryo ‘the Pious’ who is remembered for bestowing lands and monies to the priesthood. He was followed by Yamashita Ryo II, his son, better known as Ryo ‘the Impious’. Ryo II was not a bad ruler while he lived. He was a keen proponent of military development as well as a patron of the arts. He hated his wife Megumi however and before and after she produced him a son, the future Ryo III, he strayed repeatedly, fathering a string of bastards.
On the Lord Paramount’s death the eldest of these bastards Shin ‘the Unclean’ cast dispersions on Ryo III’s legitimacy claiming that Megumi was an adulteress who had slept with her good friend Kinjo Koji. He rallied the other bastards and their supporters, who were mostly the kin of their sinful mothers, and the realm was thrown into the turmoil of ‘The War of the Bastards’. Thankfully Ryo III, who was later known to posterity as Ryo ‘the Purifier’ proved up to the task. He mercilessly deployed the Amethyst Guard, his palace guards, to weed out any bastard sympathisers at court, before deploying his army to crush them one by one. Shin eventually fell at the hand of a vengeful Kinjo Koji and the only bastard to survive the war was a young girl called Emi who alone had stayed loyal to her true lord.
The Ogawa Ascendency in Tamamura was marked only by the internal troubles of Clan Kaneshiro and a religious war between the supporters of Clan Ishii and those of Clan Kinjo. On both occasions the Lord Paramount was forced to intervene. Tamashiro Yuudai, the head of Clan Tamashiro used the Lord Paramount’s anger at his rivals to his advantage by arranging the marriage of his daughter Michiko to the Lord Paramount’s heir Yamashita Koichi. It was from this union that emerged Yamashita Norio ‘the Great’.
Yamashita Norio, the first of his name (Norio ‘the Luckless’ is not recognised as a true leader of Clan Yamashita) was the single greatest leader to ever have been born in Zaidan. Had he lived longer he might a forged a new Time of Pure Glory. As it was his achievements were glorious indeed.
The first of his triumphs was the pacification and inspiring of Tamamura. Whilst his father’s reign had been troubled by civil strife Norio’s was marked by loyalty and unity of purpose. At the Feast of his Ascension in the month of Shimogatsuki he bade all his vassals forego their conflicts with one another and instead serve their liege with honour and join him in overthrowing the Ogawa which had grown wicked and corrupt, having taken to stripping lords of their lands and titles without due cause and using even the unwilling daughters of the nobility to sate their wild lusts as and when they took them. Indeed it is said that it was the rape of his beloved cousin Yamashita Beniko by Ogawa Fumio in his adolescent days that drove the Great Norio into rightful rebellion.
The second of his triumphs came through his reason and diplomacy. The Great Norio sent his agents the length and breadth of Zaidan, convincing lords both small and great that the time to end the Ogawa misrule had come. The enlightened joined his cause while still others he convinced not to aid the Ogawa tyrants.
The Glorious War followed during the Year of the Victorious Dragons in which Norio ‘the Great’ enshrined himself in history. Leading his army from the front atop the black stallion Galio, he cast down the Ogawa in battle after battle, eventually toppling their lord Ogawa Fumio and taking his just and rightful place as Dai Kunshu, as befitted the most noble and wise lord in Zaidan. He took Ogawa Keiichi, Fumio’s heir, as his ward and gave him the benefit of his great counsel. As a further sign of his generosity when Keiichi came of age and understood and repented for the crimes his clan had committed he returned to him the Ogawa heartland of Mihama in exchange for his clan’s eternal fealty.
As well as a great general and an inspiring leader of men Norio the Great was a great patron of the arts. The most beautiful religious artworks in Tamamura were crafted under his patronage but he also sponsored artists across Zaidan. He also enhanced the defences of the Amethyst Fortress and replenished the depleted coffers of Tamamura.
Alas as an era of peace and prosperity was beckoning Norio was foully assassinated in the night by cowards who could never have met him in battle. With his heir Yamashita Shiro just a child of three it proved impossible for the lords of Clan Yamashita to keep the peace and Zaidan slid back into chaos due to the ambitions of lesser men.
Yamashita Shiro married Kaneshira Fumiko and reigned for fifty bloody years. The unity of Tamamura established by his great father remained strong but he could not overcome the ambitions of the other great clans even as they could never overcome his rightful claim to his father’s legacy.
His son Yamashita Yasushi II wed Ogawa Emo. Yasushi II also known as ‘Yasushi the Hot Blooded’ was committed to regaining control of Zaidan and spent almost his entire life in saddle. He had great victories and also great defeats but his indefatigable belief in the rightness of his cause drove him ever onwards. He died as he lived during the Battle of Hell’s Crossing during which four thousand other men fell.
Yasushi’s death saw the throne pass to his son Yamashita Kazuya ‘the Peacemaker’. Kazuya was as different from his father as night was to day and he was one of the driving forces behind the peace which came about in the Year of the White Hart.
A man of a gentle disposition Kazuya struggled to live with the sentences a lord’s justice command he lay down. After only six years he abdicated and retreated to a monastery, leaving the throne to his younger brother Yamashita Eita. Eita was a more typical Yamashita lord being both hard and vengeful but he was also noble and just. His twenty-five year reign was a time of growth as new towns and villages were established and trading links long weakened by the years of conflict flourished once more. Ishii Yoko was his bride. She bore him four children before her death including his heir, the current Lord Paramount of the Hokuto-Do, Yamashita Ren II.
Original by Martin