Learn the Ancient Way of the Crane with Guest Writer Trevor Cuba
"One does not always need to kill to be victorious."
–Kakita's "The Sword"
In a land where the courts are just as deadly as an active battlefield, it is prudent to be a master of etiquette. This is the domain of the Crane, caretakers of culture, masters of politics, and expert duelists. To debate a Crane in court is to invite disaster to your cause, for this clan is as articulate, intelligent, and persuasive as they are beautiful. Today, guest writer Trevor Cuba dives into the lore of the Crane Clan, explaining how the various parts of the clan come together to acheive perfection.
Perfection Made Flesh
Trevor Cuba: Excellence in all things. This is the guiding principle at the heart of the Crane Clan, so recognized for their diplomatic acumen that they have served as the Left Hand of the Emperor since the dawn of the Empire. After all, if something is worth doing then it is worth doing well, and what the Crane do is one of the most vital roles in all of Rokugan. They are the masters of the courts and the architects of culture for the Emerald Empire, setting the standard for all others to live by. Whether in artistic endeavors, political savviness, or martial prowess, the Children of Doji are dedicated to perfecting their craft, no matter what it is they pursue. To test yourself against the Crane is to face the best the Empire has to offer.
To understand the Crane you must understand the courts of Rokugan. An enigmatic world of political intrigue and diplomatic negotiations, the Rokugani courts are where the fate of thousands hinges on a few well-placed words. Contrary to popular belief, the nuances of diplomacy are perhaps the most critical aspect of warfare. It is the method by which alliances are forged, resources are secured, and power is brokered. This is why the courts are also one of the most dangerous places in Rokugan.
In an arena of secrets and lies, where every person present represents the interests of the largest armies in the Empire, one needs to know who to trust, who can be bargained with, and who needs to be made an example of, all the while never knowing who is listening in on your conversations, if your host may suddenly take you hostage, or if a blade in the darkness will find its way to your back. Those who confuse diplomacy with cowardice have never tried to storm a stronghold armed with only a gift basket and a smile. The Crane long ago recognized the power in the courts and have refined their ability to navigate political waters to a razor’s edge. Some mistake the Crane as incapable of waging war when in fact they are the victors of thousands of battles that they never allowed to begin in the first place.
However, as useful as diplomacy is, the Crane are still a military power and all of the pretty words in the world amount to nothing unless you can make a show of force. While the Doji manage the bulk of the work in the courts, it is the other Crane families that see their words into action. The Daidoji, sometimes referred to as the Iron Crane, are among the fiercest and most ingenious warriors in Rokugan. They are the proverbial tip of the spear of the Crane military and they are masters of guerrilla-style warfare, able to rout military forces many times their size. Their ability to scout local landscapes and use the terrain against their enemies is unparalleled, and they use these advantages to great effect by identifying the weaknesses of enemy forces and striking mercilessly. The Daidoji are devoted to the ideal of protecting the peace of the Empire at any cost, to which even the Crab are impressed with the sacrifices they are willing to make.
The Kakita stand as the finest swordsmen in Rokugan, a claim challenged by many yet defeated by none. The Kakita Duelists are practitioners of iaijutsu, a sword technique that combines drawing and striking with the katana into one lightning-fast fluid motion. The technique has proven to be so effective that it has been adopted as the default method of settling duels of honor throughout the Empire. Samurai from all over Rokugan clamor for the opportunity to train at the Kakita Dueling Academy in the hopes of learning the secrets of their fighting style. So respected is the prowess of the Kakita that even in court when tempers flare and swords are drawn, the mere presence of a Crane Duelist is enough to compel all but the most foolish to calm down and reconsider their actions. A flash of steel and a spray of blood—many are those that have fallen victim to the Kakita’s single perfect cut.
On the opposite side, the Asahina are pacifists beyond even the measure of the Phoenix! The Asahina know all too well the destructive power of the kami, and they instead chose to use their gifts to preserve the peace and prosperity of the Empire. The Asahina would prefer to pacify and incapacitate their enemies. After all, today’s enemy could potentially be tomorrow friend in the ever-shifting political landscape of the Emerald Empire. But even the most persistent of foes find it difficult to breach a stronghold fortified with the blessings of the Asahina. Their charms are particularly powerful, aiding and protecting Crane soldiers, and their healing magic is a blessing they bestow upon friend and foe alike. When battles end, the Asahina relief efforts go a long way towards rebuilding relations with foes of the past. While many find glory in battles won, the Asahina measure success in lives saved.
From All Angles
The Crane are the best because they accept nothing less. Constantly refining themselves, always improving, projecting their will with absolute control, they represent the true spirit of nobility in Rokugan. To underestimate them is to do so at one’s own detriment. Those who seek to face the Children of Doji on the field of battle are already at a disadvantage, for the real battle began long ago in the Imperial Courts. The Crane will come at their opponents in every way imaginable. Their foes’ coffers will run dry, their friends will abandon them, their soldiers will starve, and their generals will lie defeated one by one in single combat, and all because they were distracted by what they thought was a harmless bird.
Trevor Cuba, aka "Kakita Onimaru" on various social forums, is a long time Legend of the Five Rings player who is always ready to get into a long-winded discussion about dueling! Together with Andrew Kim, he is the current owner of the Home of the Crane Clan fan site and The Crane Clan Facebook group.