Shadowed Autumn Leaves
“Love and Duty bound,
In her as in mirror twinned,
Screaming without sound,
Heart heavy with discipline,
Riding free upon the wind.”
Appearance and Personality, or, The On and the Truth
Some women of the Empire are often described as delicate; the graceful Doji, the silver-tongued Bayushi, and the gentle Asako. Not so is the case with the Utaku family, and Aeko is a proud scion of the warrior women of the Unicorn Clan. She bears herself with the strength and calm of a warrior born and raised. She is lean and tough, perhaps a little short for a member of her family, but not drastically so, and her strength of arms and honor are rarely in question. Her skin tone is slightly darker than most Rokugani, its olive tones indicative of the Gaijin heritage of of the Unicorn. She does not trouble herself with the typical hairstyles of female bushi; she is more content to let her dark locks fall free, only occasionally bound back when she is expecting trouble. As an affectation to the clan of her betrothed, she has bleached a long, straight portion of her hair, a line of white that stands out in stark contrast to her dark complexion.
She does not have the social graces of a trained courtier, and her on is not so well refined as might become a woman of her station. The Face that she presents to outside world is a stern one, uncompromising and harsh, the consummate warrior. In part, this is not just Face; Aeko’s judgement can be harsh, and rare indeed in the action that she commits to without following through. In truth, however, her smiles come easily, and her heart beats with a kindness rarely expressed by someone so deadly with steel in hand. She enjoys telling tales, making jokes, and, when she can get away with it, making slight teases at those who are closest to her.
Despite her kindness, her ire can be easily raised. Aeko is fierce indeed in defending those under her or close to her. Be they common folk or samurai under her protection, her cheer and charm will vanish when they are threatened, and when she draws her sword in their defense, blood in sure to be spilled.
Life and Love
As is custom in Rokugan, Aeko’s marriage was arranged in her youth, the date of the wedding to be set some years later. The betrothal is a strongly political one, able to tie Aeko’s family very close to the household of the ruling Doji family of the Crane. Aeko, expecting to be betrothed to a warrior like herself, was crushed to meet Doji Hanbei, who she found to be appallingly foppish and soft. Under normal circumstances, she may have been able to overlook what she considered to be gross inadequacies, had not her heart already belonged to another.
Since the end of the war between the Unicorn and the Lion, tensions had been strained, particularly between the Utaku and Matsu families. As part of a peace agreement, the daughter of a Matsu lord, Matsu Sayumi, was to spend her summers in Unicorn lands, a hostage in all but name. When Aeko and Sayumi had first met, there was little love lost between the two. As summers rolled by, however, they grew into fast friends, and then more. The love between the two women was not something that either had expected to experience, but it was something that neither could deny.
It was not long after the two discovered their passion for each other that they were called upon to participate in the Topaz Championship. Since then, after the illustrious gempukku ceremony, they have had little chance to be together, their respective duties calling them away time and again. They maintain correspondence, but Aeko is hopeful to see her love again someday, hopefully soon.
The Past and the Future
A child of a small branch of the Utaku family, Aeko (formerly Tomo, in her youth) was clearly talented. Far from the greatest that the Unicorn clan had to offer, she was nonetheless noted for her strength, endurance, and undeniable skill with blade, horse, and bow. It was this talent that secured a position in Topaz Championship, where she honored her family by nearly taking the Championship, placing a narrow second behind a skilled Scorpion duelist. Other, more tragic events occurred at the Championship, and Aeko was part of the small band that aided in putting the matter to rest.
Her conduct secured her, along with her fellows, a position as yoriki to the Emerald Magistrate Akodo Torokai. Under his tutelage, Aeko learned much of law and the ways of the Magistrate. After a year of dedicated service, Torokai recommended her to be an Emerald Magistrate in her own right, and she was assigned to the City of Salt and Storms, Koware Nami Toshi.
There she continues her service to the Empire, finding the sea unexpectedly to her liking. Though her time in the city thus has been hectic to say the least, she is hopeful to bring a measure of safety and security to those who are under her jurisdiction and protection.
The Fall and Rise of Aeko
It was at the infamous Battle of the Black Dawn that Aeko met death. She stood against a tainted Yoritomo, and was cut down in a single strike of the kama. As her life’s blood drained onto the ground around her, her vision faded to black, leaving her in the presence of the Ten Lords of Death. “Who are you?” the asked. She had no immediate answer, but their questioning was relentless. In time, she broke down. “Who are you?” they demanded, and she finally confessed her fear of death; she did not want to leave behind her beloved Sayumi, nor her friends in Broken Wave City. The Ten Lords then offered her a second chance at life, and without seeing the offer for what it was, she readily agreed.
But she had been deceived. The faces of the Ten Lords melted away, revealing the treacherous kansen behind them. The bargain had already been struck, however, and Aeko’s soul was ripped screaming into Jigoku. There are no greater torturers than those in the Realm of Evil, and there is no subject they enjoy making suffer more than the soul of an honorable samurai. It did not take them long to break her, though the time seemed like years to Aeko. They convinced her that her honor had been a sham, that she would not be where she was now had she just let herself die. They convinced her that she was weak, that she was sinful, that she was not the woman that she had built herself up to be, and under their cruel ministrations, she came to believe them. When they sent her soul back to Rokugan, she had fallen far; there was not a scrap of honor left in her, and she was cruel, hard, and murderous.
In time, she met again with Sayumi, and, having no honor to bind her to her duties, Aeko ran away with her lover, indulging her desires.
Broken Wave City still called to her, though, as did the nagging memory of the woman she once was. Sayumi, a paragon of honor, still loved her, and her dearest friends still put their faith in her. It wasn’t much, but it was a tiny step to mend the damage the Realm of Evil had done. Her heart swirled with uncertainty over whether or not she is the honorable samurai that she once was, or the wicked tainted sham that she was convinced to be. She was certain, though, that Broken Wave City held the answers.
Written Works and Private Thoughts
- Journal, Aeko’s writings since becoming an Emerald Magistrate
- Aeko’s Thoughts, the truths that she thinks those around her
- Quotes, the oft harsh and sometimes humorous words of Aeko
Overarching Theme Song: Senya
Combat Theme Song: Dark Rain
Theme of the Risen Magistrate: Kodoku