A Brief History of Broken Wave City

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From Shishinza’s Dossier

Broken Wave City holds the distinction of being one of the newest holdings in Rokugan; certainly, it is the newest large city. The land upon which it sits did not even exist before the year 1170. Kaigen’s Island, as it came to be known, was raised from the sea at the climactic battle of the War of Fire and Thunder, fought between the Phoenix and Mantis Clans.

The Mantis launched what was intended to be a decisive attack on the Phoenix, resulting in an engagement that came to be called the Battle of Broken Waves. In the midst of the clash, a corrupted Mantis fleet known as the Dark Wave emerged from hiding, attacking Mantis and Phoenix alike. Putting aside their conflict to face this new threat, the Phoenix Elemental Master of Earth, Isawa Sachi, raised an island from the bottom of the sea while Yoritomo Kaigen, the Mantis’ Master Sensei of Tempest Island, summoned an enormous ocean wave. Caught between the hammer of the wave and the anvil of the new island, the Dark Wave was annihilated.

In the aftermath of the battle, the Phoenix surrendered rather than see more conflict and death result from what was clearly a sinister manipulation of the two Clans, though the ceasefire did not grow into a full peace for a few more months. As compensation, the Mantis claimed the new lands created by Sachi, as well as the sea-trade routes nearby. Yoritomo Naizen, the new Mantis Clan Champion, immediately ordered the construction of a castle on the largest of the islands. The isle was named after Kaigen, who, along with Sachi, perished with the Dark Wave. The castle itself would be called Kyuden Kumiko, in honor of Naizen’s predecessor Yoritomo Kumiko, who had fallen in mortal combat with the commander of the Dark Wave fleet, Yoritomo Kitao.

Kaigen’s Island offered a number of prospective locations for the castle, but the best was high ground overlooking a deep natural harbour on the southwest shore, facing the Phoenix coastline. The island immediately posed a succession of serious challenges. Since it was actually a portion of the ocean floor abruptly lifted above sea-level by magic, the marine life raised along with it quickly died off, leaving nothing but a barren expanse of volcanic rock and coral, layered with mud. No trees meant no timber for construction. The only building material immediately available was stone, but since even stone structures require some lumber in their make-up, the Mantis were forced to import timber, as well as rope, lamp oil, paper, and all the myriad other construction materials needed from the mainland. But this was only the beginning of the problems for the island’s new owners. Ocean storms thundered across the barren land, damaging and delaying the construction efforts. Rain and ocean spray saturated the ocean silt blanketing much of the island, making it slump in dangerous mudslides. And the island itself proved unstable, suffering from periodic earthquakes as the rock adjusted itself to its new and unnatural existence above water. One particularly violent tremor triggered a cascade of volcanic eruptions at the island’s western end that continues to this day. Fortunately, this volcanic field, known as the Fire Fountains, is far enough from Kyuden Kumiko and the city growing in its shadow that it presents no immediate danger. An intriguing side-effect of this volcanic activity is that the island is actually growing, as lava spills into the sea and hardens into new rock. If the eruptions continue, scholars estimate Kaigen’s Island will almost double in size in as little as twenty years.

Perhaps the greatest difficulty faced by the Mantis, however, was the general lack of even the most basic resources on the island. Cities in Rokugan face many problems, but few suffer difficulty finding sufficient wood for fuel, arable land for the cultivation of crops, or fresh water for the use of their residents. Unfortunately, none of these basic things occur naturally on Kaigen’s Island. With nothing available but bare rock, briny mud, and salt water, virtually everything else must be brought in by ship. For some commodities, this was feasible, but for fuel, soil, and water, the effort and expense involved meant shipping would not, on its own, be enough. Faced with such a dilemma, another Clan might simply have surrendered to what seemed to be insurmountable obstacles and left the desolate island to the wind and waves. Not so the Mantis. Kaigen’s Island had been too hard-won and its significance figured too prominently in Rokugan’s politics for the proud Clan to abandon it. Cisterns were constructed around the island, as well as the mizuto, to catch fresh rain-water for drinking and bathing. Seaweed, dried and bundled, provided a source of fuel, as well as a valuable nutritional supplement to the abundant fish caught in the surrounding waters. And when mundane means fell short of what was needed, the Mantis turned to their shugenja. The Moshi, masters of fire and water, called upon the kami to purify sea-water for drinking, and to provide fire, when needed, to supplement the fuel resources offered by marine plants and fish and whale oils. Even the newly-joined Kitsune family, attuned to the earth, worked to pacify the worst of the island’s tremors and mitigate the greatest threats from rock-falls and mudslides. Their basic needs addressed, the Mantis threw themselves into the task of developing Kaigen’s Island.

The great castle of Kyuden Kumiko was to be the centerpiece of a new settlement, a city named after the great battle that had seen the island born – the City of the Broken Wave. Only a few months after the seawater had sluiced off the newly risen island, the foundations of Kyuden Kumiko were set in the rock and the first of its mighty walls raised. At the same time, the first traces of the city appeared at the foot of the castle’s gate. Stone quays were laid into the harbor, providing docks for the merchant ships bringing building materials and other goods from the mainland and the Islands of Silk & Spice; with these came warships, first as escorts and immediate protection of the new settlement, but ultimately, to stay. The Third Storm, one of the three great Mantis fleets, has now come to be based at Broken Wave City, giving the Clan a powerful military presence only a few miles from the Rokugani mainland. Today, although Kyuden Kumiko itself is essentially complete, Broken Wave City remains very much a work in progress. Certainly, much the same could be said about any city; no inhabited settlement is ever really “finished.” But in the case of Broken Wave City, this is especially true. Every structure is new, built since the island rose. Many are only partially complete. Even in the “older” sections of the city, there is much new construction. As a result, the city feels vibrant, like a living, growing thing, full of energy and possibilities. The harbor bustles constantly, with fishing boats and merchant kobune jockeying about among the majestic warships of the Third Storm. Much of the population is transient – crews of ships staying at dock only long enough to turn around cargo – so trouble is common enough to ensure the city magistrates, and an esteemed Emerald Magistrate, are rarely short of work.

Those who call Broken Wave City their permanent home tolerate these troublesome visitors because of their ultimate importance to the city’s well-being. But those who have put down roots here know they are the true heart of Kaigen’s Island. They are proud of what they have accomplished in their short time on the barren island, and look forward to a day when they are no longer dependent on imports for basic necessities.Such a day may come sooner than many expected. Already, several small rice paddies have been coaxed into life near the city. Even more unexpectedly, grasses, flowers and even small shrubs have begun to sprout from what was once submarine mud, their seeds carried to the island by birds or seaward winds from the mainland. If a reliable source of fresh water can be secured, many feel Broken Wave City could be completely free of its overseas dependencies within a generation or two. Many challenges remain, however, and the island has proven time and again that it cannot be taken for granted.

While most of its surface – particularly close to the city – has been explored, some sections, especially along the northern shore, are covered with virtually impenetrable masses of thick, crumbling coral. Elsewhere on the island, many caves and strange, circular tunnels have been located. These “Tunnels of Ningyo,” as they’ve been called, have proven extremely dangerous to explorers; deep pitfalls, collapsing roofs, toxic air and scalding jets of steam; and the like. A dark reputation has built up about the Tunnels; they are called mystical places, concealing wicked aquatic beasts, and the Taint of the Dark Wave, or even the remnants of the Dark Wave, still living, or unliving as it were, and plotting the fall of the island back into the sea. These rumors are rubbish and heresay and should be ignored, though it is true that the Tunnels are dangerous and caution is necessary. Kaigen’s Island still holds many secrets.

A Brief History of Broken Wave City

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