Tales of the Lotus Empire
Hello, my dear Shadow Councilors.
The time has come for me to tell you some information about Shalassa’s children, the serpentine Nagas. This is a topic that was suggested by you, my friends -- however keep in mind the Lotus Empire is, as far as I can tell, not involved in nor interested by Ivan’s struggle.
The Nagas are a mysterious people, even for the likes of me. Fortunately, one Faceless has lived among them for centuries. At one time, he called himself Mukao, and what I know of the Nagas, I know from him.
追求完美 - The Quest for Perfection
To understand the history of the Lotus Empire, you have to understand how their society works. The Naga nation is based on a master-apprentice relationship. All Nagas swear allegiance and promise obedience to their chosen master. Duty and loyalty are expected. The basic goal of a Naga is to achieve self-perfection; they hope to live lives of purity and simplicity, believing that those who do so are reborn as the spirits of the ocean who aid Shalassa in her works. Death is not to be feared, then, but to be accepted without worry; the hope is that the Naga has raised itself to a level of spiritual perfection such that it will be welcomed by Shalassa.
Perfection is pursued through rigorous physical training and weapons practice, prayer and meditation, and by withstanding great rigours and hardship. The body and mind are soft tissue to be hardened in the crucible of exercise and prayer. When a Naga feels that he has surpassed his master, he must defeat him in a formal duel. If successful, he becomes a master himself, or seeks further training from a superior master. These duels are not necessarily fought with weapons. They could be contests of poetry, ritual meditation, or even cooking.
永恒女皇 - The Eternal Empress
The highest master in Naga society is the Eternal Empress, who is considered as the living incarnation of Shalassa. Some historians have suggested the Eternal Empress is merely a persona adopted by a succession of rulers – men and women alike – as they must shed their old identity and become the embodiment of perfection once they ascend to the highest position of the Naga society. Of course, that theory has never been proven, and no Naga would ever confirm it. As far as we know, the Eternal Empress truly is an immortal.
The Eternal Empress is both the military and spiritual head of Naga society. She has led the Nagas since times older than History, and she has never ever been defeated in a duel. The Naga culture being what it is, however, that has never prevented ambitious Naga lords to try.
Many times during its history, the Lotus Empire has known terrible civil wars instigated by one of the Daimyos willing to overthrow the Empress and take her place. Because war among Nagas obeys many rules and victory cannot be less than perfect, Nagas never involve outsiders in their conflicts. They usually cut their political relationships with the other nations, and retreat to their dominions of the Jade Ocean until one of the contestants emerges victorious. Naga traders, explorers, and seekers of truth will still be met outside the borders of the Lotus Empire, but do not expect to make any deal involving the Naga nation as a whole.
秋风远征 - The Crusade of the Autumn Wind
Civil wars in the Lotus Empire are usually followed by a period of expansion and interactions with the rest of the world, as if to make up for the times of isolation. These periods are known as Diasporas, and are usually times of evolution, progress and change within Naga society. For instance, the great weaponsmith Hagane Goro studied the art of forging Starsilver among the Elves of Irollan during the first great Diaspora. But Diasporas are also times of conquest and military agressiveness. Several Naga kingdoms were founded, such as Shanriya in the glaciers of the Dragons’ Causeway, or Sayama in the Sahaar Desert. These smaller Naga kingdoms are supposed to be vassals of the Lotus Empire, but time and distance made them grow independent, eventually attracting the ire of their immortal ruler.
Early in the seventh century, the Eternal Empress intended to reconquer Shanriya, who had become too free-spirited for her tastes. To support her war effort, she sent her best generals across Ashan to gather powerful relics. This was known as the Crusade of the Autumn Wind. One of the Empress’ most trusted advisors, Daimyo Oshiro, got his hands on a Tear of Asha whose power was of a magnitude never seen before. Rather than bringing it back to his mistress, Oshiro decided to harness its power for himself, turning his armies against the Eternal Empress. It is said Oshiro came as close as the gates of Nariya, the Nagas’ underwater capital city, but his rebellion was eventually crushed when the Empress herself came to the battlefield and demonstrated how powerful she truly was.
被诅咒的大城 - Oshiro the Accursed
Oshiro managed to flee by making a deal with a kingmaker spirit, a Kirin. He offered his life to the sacred creature, asking it to get his people to safety in exchange. The Kirin accepted, touched by Oshiro’s noble and selfless sacrifice. Thanks to the Kirin’s powers, Oshiro’s people escaped the Empress’ wrath – although they were condemned to a miserable life where the Tear had been found, in the subterranean lakes and rivers hidden under the Vantyr mountains. But Oshiro had fooled the Kirin: instead of giving his life as promised, he used the magic of the Tear of Asha to shield himself from the creature, driving it to rage and madness. And thus Daimyo Oshiro became Oshiro the Accursed.
Tuidhana’s people, the Dark Elves, encountered Oshiro and his renegade Nagas in their quest for the very same Tear of Asha. Commander Yrris led the Elves to victory against Oshiro, even killing the enraged Kirin. The surviving Nagas were forced to recognize the Clanlords as their new masters. Their priestesses received Malassa’s gift, and in accepting the mark of Darkness they also rejected the ways of Shalassa in favour or her destructive aspect, the goddess of the dark depths, the Wrecker. These Naga priestesses became what their people call Medusae.
虽胜犹败 - Defeat in Victory
Oshiro’s rebellion had put an end to the Eternal Empress’ plans to bring Shanriya back into the fold, and the Ice Nagas had used the time to fortify themselves, even making strong alliances with the Free City of Stormcliff and the Dwarves of Ostgerd. After the losses suffered against Oshiro, any new attempt to wage war against Shanriya would be foolish.
In itself, this would not be so bad. But you have to remember the Nagas’ obsession with perfection. While she had technically been victorious against Oshiro, the Eternal Empress’ perfect rule was now stained, and her ability to lead was being questioned. In the following decades, the Lotus Empire slowly descended into disunion. More and more Daimyos were becoming insolent, even rebellious, and the Eternal Empress had to begin a great campaign to prove herself worthy of Shalassa’s favour. According to Mukao, this has proven her greatest challenge yet, one she hasn’t yet overcome.
So the Nagas of the Jade Ocean remain isolated for the moment, and the ones in Shanriya are not confident enough yet to meddle with the affairs of the Holy Empire. As for the Sayama Nagas, they are a small community whose main trade is water, not something that would be of great help to Ivan.
And this why, my friends, the Nagas have played no part in the Ten Years War, and probably won’t have much impact on the life of land-dwellers before quite some time…