I’ve already addressed several of the Great Clans, and in this post I shall cover the remaining three. As before, everything written here is my personal view of the clans, and so focus on the aspects I find most interesting. (For part one, CLICK HERE.)
The Phoenix Clan is arguably the most religious of the empire. Where most typically only pay their respects to their ancestors and the various gods that have a hand in their various endeavors, the Phoenix revere every spirit in the world around them. Shrines and temples to the Kami are especially common within Phoenix lands. And the respect the Phoenix show to the Kami is clearly returned, for they are blessed with the most Shugenja (magic users) in the empire.
Because of how pious the typical Phoenix is, it might be tempting to assume the clan is known for tranquility. While this is something the Phoenix strive for, they are an admittedly passionate and insightful people. When they believe they are in the right, the pursue it with fervor and devotion, and often come off as arrogant. When angered, their wrath is terrible as the magics they unleash have the ability to rend the very world asunder. Nobody is more aware of the devastation the Phoenix Clan could cause than the Phoenix themselves, and as such they often espouse pacifism and diplomatic solutions over martial conflict.
This is reflected in the clan leadership itself. Unlike the other clans, which are led by their clan’s champion, the Phoenix are ruled by a council of five elemental masters. It is they who set the clan’s course, with the Phoenix Champion serving to enact their will and guard the clan against its enemies. Even lower nobles within the clan often hold to traditions specifically intended to allow their advisers and subordinates to debate a course of action freely without having to worry about angering their lord should they disagree.
The Scorpion Clan hold a unique place in the empire. They are neither the Emperor’s right hand, nor his left. They are his underhand. An unexpected dagger in the back, removing the empire’s secret foes before they can do harm. Even an empire founded on honor has criminals, liars, and traitors. It is the Scorpion Clan’s duty to find these unsavory elements, watch them, and take whatever action is necessary to serve the Empire’s interests.
That they pursue this duty regardless of where it takes them, or who becomes the focus of their interest, has given them a reputation as untrustworthy villains. One might think this would be a hindrance in their duty, but the Scorpion Clan is a master of subtlety, manipulation, and misdirection. Many play a role in the Scorpion Clan’s plots without ever realizing who they truly serve, and many more are forced to do so against their will or risk having their less savory actions made public. Blackmail, threats, and even assassination are all tools the clan applies freely when needed.
In light of this unsavory work, many Scorpion samurai privately scoff at the notion of honor, however there is one tenant of Bushido they uphold beyond any other clan: Loyalty. Members of the clan are taught the importance of loyalty their entire lives, for without it they would become tools of the very threats they are supposed to keep in check. This isn’t to say that Scorpion samurai have never strayed from their path. At times, the Scorpion have found traitors within their number, but all have been punished terribly by having their souls bound to the Traitor’s Grove, where they shall suffer for eternity.
Although one of the seven original Great Clans, the Unicorn (formerly the Ki-Rin) are outsiders in their own home. Tasked by the first Emperor with exploring the lands beyond the empire’s borders, the Unicorn departed and traveled the continent for hundreds of years. Their return has been relatively recent, and with no small amount of misunderstanding as they were originally mistaken for an invading Shadowlands-tainted barbarian horde. Although they were ultimately able to prove their identity, many within the empire look upon them, and the strange customs they have adopted, with disdain.
But despite the sneering of the other clans, the Unicorn remain proud of their heritage. While their customs may seem strange to other samurai, they ensured the clan’s survival in the harsh world beyond the Empire’s boarders. And customs are not all the Unicorn returned with. To this day, their experience with foreign cultures and their knowledge of the nations that exist beyond, have allowed them to maintain contact and trade with the lands beyond. Although Imperial law forbids such relations, demand for exotic goods remains. As the only great clan willing to skirt these laws, such trade flows almost exclusively through Unicorn lands (filling their coffers in the process).
Trade is not the only thing the Unicorn returned to the empire with. Their greatest pride are their horses, which enable them to field the largest cavalry force in the empire. Though their armies may not be as large as those of the Lion, they are decidedly more mobile and the mere shock of their cavalry charges has won them many battles. Some consider them little better than barbarians, but nobody can doubt their strength when it rivals even the mighty Lion Clan.