The city where the adventures shall begin for our dramatis personae.
Population: 48,000 inhabitants (86% Human, 8% Spirit Folk, 4% Hengeyokai, and 2% Genasi)
Ruler: Governor Shomu Hanza of the Hiro family
Military Leader: Lord Hiro Matsumato (Samurai 8/ Iaijutsu Master 2)
Military: 800 ashigaru, 100 bushi, and 40 samurai comprise the ground troops. They have 4 war ships and 200 sailors that comprise the Black-Pearl navy.
Trade: Fishing, Rice Crops, Jade
Description: The City of Black-Pearl is typical for Eternal Empire cities, it is well kept and maintained. The streets are kept orderly by the city guards, who patrol usually on foot. The city is located right on the southern coast in a natural harbor, and is a major hub for trade from the central island of Mokaido.
If one were to approach the city on foot, they would first see the numerous villages that huddle closely to the outer black walls of the city. This where the majority eta live, in these outlying suburbs and villages. These villages tend to be poorly developed with dirt streets and shanties placed haphazardly wherever there is room. They tend to smell of refuse, livestock, and unwashed eta. The average eta can afford to bathe in the public baths maybe once a month, most are used to the odor. The outlying villages are divided into various districts and wards, but these tend to change with the seasons, only the locals know where these boundaries end and begin. The only real set boundary is that of the Unclean, the district where the butchers, morticians, tanners, and other similar occupations do business. They fulfill needed roles but since their jobs are unsightly, most avoid them even the other eta. This district tends to be the most insular, as these people tend to band together for support.
The city itself is walled with massive 40 feet high black stone walls. Flags fly from towers, a white flag with a stalking Green-Tiger emblazoned on them, the symbol of the Green-Tiger clan. The walls are constantly manned by ashigaru, peasant soldiers culled from the local populace. There are three main gates into the city, the North Gate, East Gate, and West Gate. There is no South Gate since the city faces out to the ocean on its southern side overlooking Oshi Harbor. The majorities of the buildings are painted black, and are lined neatly in rows along the clean streets of the city.
The city is divided into three wards, which are pretty well delineated. The city is divided into three concentric rings, with the outer most rings being consisting of the eta and the merchant houses. Various open air-markets dot this ward, collectively known as the “Streets of Rice”. This is where one can find nearly anything for a price, and many less then savory establishments can be found. The ashigaru patrol here, infrequently and even less so at night. Crime is not an overt problem but it is well known, that various small time tongs compete with the Omni-present Bamboo Princes for control of the vice markets and crime in this section. It is actually more common for gangs of local toughs to patrol the streets then it is for the ashigaru. For the most part the governor and the more affluent families look the other way, and allow this since it has not caused a problem yet. Or at least a problem that has affected them yet.
The next ring is dotted with large estates and well-to-do establishments. From up-scale tea houses to sophisticated geisha houses, commonly called dragonfly maids. This is ward is commonly called the “Steps of Silk”, and is home to the more influential families and merchants in the city. This area is clean and has only one large market place, large but well kept and patrolled by the ashigaru, both day and night. The homes here tend to be spacious with large interior courtyards and fanciful design. Many of the cities shrines are located in one of three parks in this ward; Black Stone Garden, Path of Flowers, and the Hanging Blossom Park. Each is large and spacious and spaced out evenly throughout the ward.
The final ward, which is walled, is the home of the governor and his family. The Governor’s Estate, as it is called is the largest building in the city and stands at the center of the city looming over it. The estate is made of a mixture black stone, marble and jade and is a grand structure to behold. Few ever see the interior of it unless they work for the governor or are a part of the family. It is well guarded and is warded with various charms and magic against intrusion. Governor Shomu Hanza currently resides here with his family and an army of attendants and courtiers.
Player Notes: The characters will begin their adventures here in this city as agents of an Imperial Magistrate, Hiro Kusanagi, an esteemed member of the Green-Tiger clan and also a veteran of several conflicts in the south with the Black-Talon barbarians. Kusanagi’s role is to maintain the peace essentially but to also attend to any sensitive matters that may affect the empire in any way. He does much of his work through agents, who attend to matters that are not pressing but must be dealt with one way or the other. They have some police authority, but must work with the utmost subtlety in some situations since honor and appearances must be maintained, in the upper echelons of society. These agents can come from many walks of life, as there is a need for a variety of experiences to draw from if there is need.
Typically Imperial Magistrates focus there activities on rooting out any Yomi influences they may find or curtailing the depredations of bandits, to even negotiating disputes between rival houses. Kusanagi is rarely idle, as there is always something that must be done. Especially in the recent months with the fact that the current Eternal Emperor is to wed a Green-Tiger bride, activity has been very high. This does not include the plague that is affecting the southern region of the Green-Tiger, which is thankfully on the decline. But life should be interesting indeed. The characters have just been chosen for this task, and will be meeting the other various characters for the first time, when they meet with Hiro Kusanagi.
Important People in Black Pearl
Governor Shomu Hanza (Aristocrat 4): An old man approaching his 64th birthday, he has been the governor of Black-Pearl for nearly 24 years. He is a quiet reflective man and is rarely seen outside of the Governor’s Estate, he is a member of the Kosamu family but chooses to use his own family name instead of the name of the great house. He is an astute politician with a keen mind, but he has no real military expertise and no desire either. He focuses much of his time now to poetry and the more artistic arts, when he has time for such things.
He is of slight build with bushy eye brows and short graying hair upon his scalp. His eyes are black and soft, and he rarely smiles but keeps a calm look upon his face, even at the midst of a crisis.
Shomu Kyone (Aristocrat 4): Perhaps the single most influential woman in Black-Pearl. Kyone is the wife of the governor and a ruthless politician. She is scheming and relatively young being in her mid-twenties. She has two sons Hanza, Tien and Honji, and she takes great pride in them. But she is also a shrewd and calculating woman with ambition to boot. She is a child of the Kakita family by birth, but was wed when only 15 to Hanza in a move to patch relations between the Green-Tiger and Fire-Snake clans to avert outright conflict. The move has had varying degrees of success.
Kyone is a thin woman, she is not particularly beautiful, but has an air of genteel sophistication about her. She is respectful and very considerate of others, unless they prove themselves to be useless to her. She is dressed in the finest kimonos and she is often the envy of the wealthy women within Black-Pearl.
Hiro Kusanagi (Aristocrat 2/Samurai 5): Often called the Green Bear by those that have seen him fight on the battlefield. He has eschewed the Green Tiger predilection for finesse and devotes his training to overwhelming power using his great strength to good effect. Yet he is without reproach when it comes to honor and is well respected in his Black-Pearl. He was appointed to the position of the Imperial Magistrate nearly 4 month’s prior and has been kept fairly busy ever since. He is in good standing with the Hiro family as well, and is recognized as an honest and good man. Yet he often puts his political aspirations aside for his dedication to the Eternal Emperor and his role as the Imperial Magistrate. He maintains a sizeable manse in the Steps of Silk, and also owns large tracts of farmland outside of the city.
Kusanagi is of average height, being only 5’ 8”, but is of a thick build. His dark black hair is balding and he has it neatly pulled back into a bun on the back of his head. He is not prone to fits of anger, and tends to weight both sides of a given situation before acting. He is stern though and expects much of his charges and subordinates.
Lord Hiro Matsumato (Samurai 8/Iaijutsu Master 2): The famous general of Black-Pearl is well known for his skills with the blade. He is not a Hiro by birth, but has taken the name for the honor and glory that comes with such a prestigious house. He is a native of Black-Pearl and a distant cousin to the governor. He is in charge of both the navy and the army of Black-Pearl and oversees much of the training administered to the troops. He is harsh and to the point, and lacks tact when dealing with “civilians”. He has little patience for incompetence and tends to be harsh in punishments. Course he is also beaming with pride as well his daughter, Hiro Satchiko, is to be wed to the Eternal Emperor at the end of winter. This coup has assured for himself an honored place in the Imperial family, and the wealth and prestige that come along with such honors.
The general of Black-Pearl, is a willowy gentleman with long hair tied neatly into a bun. He wears spectacles when not engaged for combat, and dresses in dark kimonos when not in battle regalia. He is of average height and build and is rather unremarkable physically, despite his political standing.
Lady Hiro Satchiko (Aristocrat 3): This young woman has a bright future ahead of herself. She is only 16 but will soon be wed to the Eternal Emperor, and become the most powerful woman in all of the Eternal Empire. She is well cultured, and very knowledgeable on all of the proper responsibilities of a noble woman. She is fairly quiet and soft-spoken; she expresses herself through music mostly, and is very skilled with various instruments. She is intelligent and very charming. She is usually seen in the company of her mother, when out and about, along with a trio of loyal Green-Tiger yojimbo.
Yet her beauty often outshines her other favorable qualities. She is slight in build with cream-like skin free from any blemishes and a dainty pearl-like smile. Her eyes are soft and green; they accentuate her face well. Her hair is worn long and black, and cascades along her back like silk. She dresses in colorful kimonos and walks with a casual grace, which is not so ladylike at times.
Important Organizations in Black-Pearl
Black-Pearl Government: The Governor rules from his estate, but the bureaucracy oversees much of the day-to-day operations in the city. They execute his mandates with all the speed a complicated, and at times clueless, bureaucracy can. They maintain the streets, the army, and the taxes. They fund the public projects, commission new buildings, and establish the laws that govern the city. They run everything that needs to be done to keep the city going. Most bureaucrats are eta, while the upper echelons are predominately nobles and some samurai.
Bamboo Princes: This shadowy guild of thieves and bandits works to provide various services; smuggling, prostitution, slaves, and less savory subjects, to anyone willing to pay their prices. They work for the most part in secret, and have safe houses all across the Eternal Empire, and their organization is massive in scale. It is suspected that some noble houses may back them, along with well-to-do merchants. The majority of the Bamboo Princes are thugs who do all the street work; the true members tend to refrain from dirtying their hands with such grunt work.
The Bamboo Princes are the closest thing to organized crime in the Eternal Empire, but their influence cannot be overlooked. They are a loose collection of groups who have banded under one name and work to line their pockets with gold, and so far they have been very successful. They have frequent clashes with small-scale tongs, local thugs, but tend to either subjugate them, or eliminate them at their earliest convenience if they prove to meddlesome.
Tongs: This is not one group but actually comprises various groups in the outlying suburbs and the Streets of Rice. They are common thugs, who like to taunt and threaten the local populace. They tend to have gaudy names, “Yellow-Lotus-Monkeys” as an example, and often rely on protection rackets to make money. Most despise the Bamboo Prices for muscling in on their turf, ironically enough though the Bamboo Princes often hires one Tong to take out another when they need their dirty work done. The tongs are violent, and led by often-callous miscreants who want to get rich quick, no matter the consequences. Most rarely ever get beyond their small territories in influence or size. Tongs shrink, die, and sprout anew fairly often. They also tend to be supported by their neighbors either forcefully or sometimes as a matter of pride. Depending on the circumstances.
Black-Pearl Watch: The Black-Pearl Watch is the proper name of the military in Black-Pearl. They are under the control of Lord Hiro Matsumato and are relatively well trained, well except the ashigaru. The bushi and samurai are usually veterans of conflicts and reside inside the city and in the outlying regions in estates dotting the rice paddies. The Watch oversees the internal security providing a city watch made up of trios of ashigaru patrolling certain areas of the city; the frequency depends on the ward and the importance of the location. Generally more frequently the further one goes into the city.
Imperial Watch: The Imperial Watch are the eyes and ears of the Imperial Magistrate and report directly to him on all matters. In theory they work directly for the Imperial Court, but they take great pains to not step on toes unless it cannot be avoided. They investigate any problems in the city, and remove threats to the Eternal Empire as quietly or quickly as possible, depending on the situation.
They are not above the law, but they have certain enforcement powers that they can use as agents of the Eternal Court. They are allowed to detain citizens with reason and just cause, this applies to even nobility, though caution and the utmost respect should be exercised. They have the right to seize contraband or stolen items, if there is no local enforcement present. Despite social class or origin, they are to be respected as agents of the Eternal Court. This can cause problems as many nobles feel that the eta should know his place despite his position. They are the governing authority in any situation that deals with the dark forces of Yomi, and will be counseled if such a situation arrives. Outside of these strictures they will follow the local laws and edicts within reason as long as it does not compromise their role as agents in the Eternal Court.
If in the event that a member of the Imperial Watch is suspected of wrongdoing, they will be brought before the Eternal Court for trial. Under no circumstances are they to be tried locally, but only apprehended and brought before the court for formal trial and punishment. If found guilty, the punishment is death by cleansing fire. They will not be afforded an honorable death and their respective family will be charged with paying for the execution. One not only upholds their own personal honor but that of the Eternal Court, and the Eternal Emperor himself. They should act accordingly.
In the city of Black-Pearl, the Imperial watch is under the auspice of Hiro Kusanagi, the Imperial Magistrate. He is stern and honorable, but treats his subordinates fairly and justly.