History of Panguro
Earliest Myths: The Dragon Worshippers
The original settlers, called the Ni-So-Gui descended upon this archipelago from the north several millennia ago, guided by the Celestial Dragons, for it was destined to be ravaged and reincarnated as their homeland. It is said that before the arrival of the Dragon worshippers, there were no stars in Panguro's night sky.
In this strange new land they found primitive barbarians, armed with only clubs and stone spears who knew nothing of the wheel, bronze, or the art of farming, and worshipped animal spirits. These barbarians were, naturally, slain in a righteous crusade. At the war's end, those few left were driven to the islands of the far south and cursed by the Celestial Dragons for daring to take on the form of the base beasts they had worshipped and imitated. These barbarians would become known as the Odan.
Those few Ni-So-Gui who had earned the greatest honour in the winning of the homeland were awarded with exceptionally long life and marked out by their long tapering ears, like the fins of a dragon, and especially gaunt and willowy frame. These few, "elves" in western parlance, were honoured as the rightful rulers over men, and each successive Emperor was chosen from their number by an astrological divination (see Religion). The Ni-So-Gui were the ancestors of those peoples known as the Nipangui, the Sai-No-Gui, and their fallen cousins, the scattered Sho Gokkan camel-men of the east. It should not necessarily be assumed that this is true; this is what the Pangui believe.
The Saku Irniqui halflings arrived centuries later over the same northern route, and their own worship of Celestial Dragons meant a grudging acceptance as they moved only into that northernmost land the Ni-So-Gui had abandoned as near inhospitable. Though much better than barbarians, the halflings are still not considered as civilized or as holy as men.
The Iron Age: The Splintering of the Nations
After the arrival of the halflings, over a thousand years ago, it came to be that there were great upheavals in the land and the mountains spouted forth fire and ash. It was believed that the animal spirits were fighting back through the earth, and the hated Odan mounted a push from the south that devastated the Ni-So-Gui. So much ash and smoke was poured into the sky that the stars were blocked from the earth and the Priests powers began to fail, even as those of the Odan became more powerful. In one battle, the Emperor himself was slain by the barbarians. The nation was in turmoil, as the blocked stars meant the priests could not take an astrological divination to determine the successor.
Needing leadership in the face of such ecological and military disaster, an interregnal government was appointed, composed of three representatives of the Noble Orders. From the samurai a Shogun, from the merchants a Taogun, and from the scholars a Kyogun, collectively known as the Gunjiro Triad. These Regents led the people as well as they could, but disrupted transport and communication impeded their effectiveness. In the east, a respected order of monks traveled to the remote and little explored coastal mountains. The men of the eastern plains had a long history of being willful and independent, owing to their dangerous and far-flung position. The monks received the special dispensation to leave their monastery not from the Regents, but from their elven Abbot. At the mountains, risking Odan attacks and other dangers, they endeavoured to climb Mount Shiyazaku, thought to be the tallest peak in the world. From that mountaintop the stars were more visible and they offered up prayers of gratitude. They then performed a divination and determined the date of birth with which to choose their new Leader. On the journey back, one that took several years, the ash finally fell enough that the sky was once more visible from western mountains. A different, western order, ignorant of the divination already taken, performed their own and determined a different birth day leading to a different candidate. The resulting war between prospective Emperors led to the first split between those who became known as the Sho Gokkui and the Nisogui. These were still dark days for the Dragon Worshipers, for they still fought the resurgent Odan as well as each other.
Centuries later, another split occurred when the Shogunate was created by Ao-Aigado. Many segments of society refused such an arrangement, arguing that the Emperor had abdicated responsibility through such an act. The controversy split the Nisogui clergy, with the Shogun's supporters claiming the others were abandoning the precept of an infallible Emperor. The others rejoined that only an Elf was fit to rule a nation. Once again, the rivals led armies against one another, and at the close of the war, the Nisogui had split into the Nipangui islanders and the Sai-No-Gui mainlanders, who raised a new elf to the throne.
For a time, then, there were three Emperors and three civilized nations. However, in events that will be discussed under a specific heading, the Sho Gokku Empire was shattered and its remnants branded with the barbarian name of the Sho Gokkan.
Still, new sages studying Nipangui culture and history confirm that all the populations of the Panguro archipelago, even including the Odan to some extent, share certain ethnic, linguistic, and cultural traits, though some more than others. Cutting edge theories propose that the three different groups of migrants (Odan, Ni-So-Gui, Saku Irniqui) arrived at different times but all originated from a similar land and background lost in the primordial history of the world. Possibly, despite what each believes, they are indeed the creation of a single god or group of gods.
Recent History: Eastern Corsairs and the Rise of the Sword Clan
Nearly a century ago, in the Arangothian year 403, a far ranging ship of a people known as the Berjeron stumbled upon the coasts of Nipangu. These black-skinned mariners were fascinated by the culture and goods native to the islands, especially with the weaponry and steel-working techniques, superior to all but dwarven and Assi products (the superiority of quality between these three is much debated).
Although the Saku Irniqui had carried on trade over the ice-fields for centuries, they had never discovered the lucrative market for weapons. As well, only the last century or so has seen the rise of Adventurers in the west (blamed on Gadpisi's Curse and the Arangothian Interregnum), with a corresponding lust for exotic eastern swords. Over the next dozen years, the Berjeron returned many times, always with more and more ships to purchase and export more and more fine weapons. They also found that their huge carracks and shorter routes were quicker and easier than the many hands trade goods passed through on the northern Irniqui route (over the ice-fields, the usual way eastern goods traveled) and began to bring more traditional exports as well.
The Eizo clan, rulers of that fief on which the mariners had first come, were a shrewd family, but poor and without a great deal of respect. Their dabbling in mercantile activities had left them in a difficult situation in terms of face. Now they saw a chance to capitalize on their experience and took quick control of the local swordsmith guild. Producing more and more swords for export, and reducing or forgetting quality entirely, the Clan became immensely powerful by the middle of the 5th Century. Rich beyond even the Shogunate's coffers, what has become known as the "Sword Clan" has over the last few generations solidified its power so that it truly rivals the Shogunate itself, and is in de facto control of over half the nation.
But the Eizo and their ilk are despised by the old guard for their questionable rise to power and their aspirations. The Shogunate, secure in its power for so long, has been carrying on a cold war with the Sword Clan for decades. Assassins, subterfuge, sabotage, and blackmail have accompanied their competition for valuable fiefs and colonies. However, on the Court floor all words are flowery and courtesy still dominates. All strikes against one another must be first and foremost deniable.
Some other clans have begun following suit, allying with the Sword Clan and exporting their own goods through Eizo merchants. The "Sword Daimyo," so-Eizo-ka-Daijiro, oversees all western sea-trade, making sure that his own Clan has a majority of the business. Allied clans have slowly begun to be more tolerant towards business practices and the Scholar and Merchant orders, but the samurai are still dominant and "To-" (the merchant identifier) is still an outlawed prefix.
Other clans, of course, have allied themselves with the Shogunate, whose current head is the shrewd old warhorse, so-Ahguri-sho-Otomo.