The Hanzo Clan
Hanzo, a name that inspires fear and respect within the Black Lotus, the shinobi of the Hanzo clan are known as the theocracy of the shadow dwellers, they are the wardens of killers, keeping them in check by striking terror deep within their hearts. The Hanzo's are one of the oldest clans, and since the early days of the Valerian conquest they have served as the imperial spymasters and diplomats.
Being a clan housed relatively close to the capital, the Hanzo shinobi are very typically Valerian in appearance, with a distinct silver elven splash due to family mergings of the past. As an additional characteristic, a Hanzo worthy of his name will have deep crimson eyes with tomoe patterns, the mark of a Mind Flayer, or grey rippled eyes, the mark of a Diplomat. Their clan vestment is a dark blue kimono, with the symbol of a coiled snake on its back.
The snake symbolizes a ward from misfortune, illness and tragedy. It is said that the snake serves as a constant reminder of their duty, as it foresees the consequences of improper actions, leaving a place as soon as it sense distress. The Hanzo frequently wear snake symbols in their jewelry and weapons, decorating them with coiled serpents.
Their main reason to exist is to ensure that peace is kept within the other clans, and that they are always ready and able to serve the Empire in whatever way is deemed necessary. In return, they guarantee large plots of land where the separate shinobi clans may form their own self sufficient villages, and absent the clan leaders from paying taxes to the Empire.
The reason that the Hanzo's are so feared is their natural capabilities in regards to using Figment magic, particularly the spells that alter emotions. One Hanzo is effectively able to control and suppress a group of rival shinobi, simply by using their fearsome occult powers to force the opposition to lay down their arms before being cut down, or even slicing their own throats on command.
Because they are the only shinobi clan to act in close proximity to the Empire, the Hanzo initiates often receive formal sword training, putting the Hanzo sword wielders on par with Valerian Bushi. Aside from that, they have developed many methods of using shuriken, gunbai uchiwa, kunai, and kusarigama.
As their conflicts with the Mokushu became more intense, they started to develop an affinity towards the use of anima magic, particularly fire and lightning, to burn their forests down as a last resort. They have also developed many new Figment techniques, not only in manipulating emotions, but also space. It is said that the ultimate technique of the Hanzo's when fighting the Mokushu was to let themselves be caught and killed to reveal their attackers, only to trick reality into thinking their death was an illusion, and catching their supposed killers off guard, walking away with no injuries afterwards.
The head of the clan is Helius Hanzo, and his heir is Licia Hanzo. Helius once served as the spymaster, but has since retired to his clan house, while Licia currently acts in his stead.
After the end of the Age of Heroes, Helios was slain by the legendary brother, Hattori and Shishio. After he was killed the clan went through a brief period of instability as Licia abandoned her Empire and clan as they were under the siege of Muramasa. Hattori returned later however, and returned stability to his clan, becoming the patriarch and separating it from the conflicts of the Empire. As time went on however, Hattori passed away, and Ichimaru, his descendant, united the clan once more with Hakuoro, the Son of Heaven, and the last of the Imperial bloodline.
The Mokushu Clan
Mokushu, the clan of the forest, is a fearsome and violent clan, rivaling the Hanzo’s since the establishment of the first Shinobi villages. Like the Hanzo, Kirihito and Niku, they came from Old Valeria, and aided the Bushi in the north to conquer the lands next to the Yifferhim jungle. Knowing the ways of the forest almost as well as the Yifferhim, the Mokushu were able to make deals with the elves of the jungle. They learned their magic of nature, along with learning the ways of the bow.
In return, the Mokushu established their home in the forest that bordered the Yifferhim jungle, stopping other humans from poaching and invading their lands. The home of the Mokushu is hidden in the darkest part of the forest, it is said that the only way to send word to them is to leave a message with the temple priest at the edge of the forest. That, or send a Hanzo.
The rivalry between the two clans has existed ever since the days of old Valeria, and as time goes by the two clans have developed new and inventive ways of killing each other. It is said by the Mokushu that before the landing they were the ones in favor of the imperial court, but the as the Hanzo's played a pivotal role in the conquest of the capital, they took their position from them, robbing the honor of the Mokushu name.
Amongst their many abilities, they were once most famous for how they could take all the forest could offer, and transform the woods into an impassable fortress. The ability of the Mokushu regarding stealth and guerilla warfare is legendary, a small squad of 5 Mokushu Shinobi are able to kill 100 soldiers if they are able to lead them into the forest, tiring them, poisoning them, making them suffer before they give into madness or disease.
Aside that, the Mokushu have a tendency to use blunt weapons, as it is easier to make them with the materials found in the forest. The Bo-Staff, Nunchaku, Bow, Blowdart, Tonfa and the Bian are popular amongst the Mokushu warriors, and after their conflicts with the Hanzo they have repurposed climbing picks with weighted chains to resemble the Hanzo Kusarigama.
The Mokushu are generally taller, have darker skin, and are more well built than your typical Valerian. Their close relationship with the Yifferhim reflects on their clothing and their hair styles, taking a lot from the Wood Elf culture. Their typical attire is comprised of a sleeveless Haori and simple slacks, preferring to use the skin painted camouflage of the Yifferhim to blend in with their forest surroundings. Their clan sigil is a tree inside a circle, symbolizing antiquity and enduring strength, while the circle symbolizes enlightenment. Enlightenment through endurance.
After the landing however, the Mokushu have developed a greater affinity with the forest, learning from the Yifferhim Sachems, in return to protecting the woods. They taught him to manipulate the plants and the roots, to tend to the forest and in return shape the forest to their will, using it to destroy their enemies. With this newfound power their skills grew tenfold, and once again they attempted to overthrow the Hanzo’s.
What started with treachery scaled to an all out war between the clans, bringing in even the minor families in a grab for power. The conflict reached its peak when the Hanzo’s drove the Mokushu back to their forest, and Saizo Hanzo fought Kotaro Mokushu in a battle that nearly burned their surroundings to ash. As Saizo emerged victorious, he then gave the Mokushu an ultimatum. They could surrender and be allowed to live, or he would offer the Mokushu an even bigger display of his pyrotechnics.
Oboro Mokushu would be the one to save her clan from ruin. In a desperate attempt to negotiate for peace with Saizo, she killed the clan elders with her Nature Magic, impaling them with roots and thorns before they could deliver their stubborn refusal to the legendary Shinobi Sage. With this act, she sealed her own fate, but at the same time she guaranteed peace. Ever since then the Mokushu have existed and survived on a tight leash. Kept close for their skills, but warely being watched over, in case they ever decide to rebel once more.
After the end of the Age of Heroes, the Mokushu broke free from the yoke of the Shinobi politics. With the warring states shielding them from further conflicts, the Mokushu were reduced to a small independent kingdom, selling their services as mercenaries to the highest bidder.
The Kirihito Clan
Not much is known about the Kirihito clan outside of its walls, and the servants of the Kirihito are hand picked by the servants of the emperor, never to return from their service to the Kirihito. They are an extremely wealthy clan, and that goes without saying, but they do not show themselves to public. Their sigil is a grey cloud.
As for their martial skills, the Kirihito are commended by the Hanzo themselves, but none outside of the emperor’s court, or the inner circle of the Black Lotus has seen what they are capable of, being known for possessing secret techniques only taught to the members of their clan. However, they have more than proven themselves, executing with perfection every mission the Hanzo’s have given them.
The Niku Clan
The Niku are aptly named “flesh sculptors”, for their work in the alteration and creation of human bodies. The most famous of the Niku Artisans was perhaps Sage Leontia, the Shinobi that perfected the use of Homunculi, and created an immeasurable amount of disposable soldiers.
The Niku are a very pure clan, they did not open up as much as the Hanzo or Mokushu did to the mix with elves, and so their features are mostly Valerian in nature. However, years of exposure to chemicals and toxins have slowly but surely drained the color of their hair, eyes and skin, ironically causing them to appear like the silver elves they dislike. For this reason, hair dyes tend to be a common fashion trend for them.
While some homunculi creation techniques were used outside of the clan, they kept the perfected methods of creating them secret, alongside making use of special training that conditioned them to control an incredible amount of homunculi. The nickname “Flesh Artisan” originated when their techniques for homunculus crafting reached a point where they could manipulate the very minute details during the process of creating them.
While other homunculi were bound to certains aspects that distinguished them, such as red eyes and white hair, the Niku were able to create them with such perfection that these problems became a thing of the past. Others have tried for decades to replicate their methods, but they have not been able to do much other than tinting the hair with dyes, with no solution for the eye color. The only others to achieve such perfection were the Goblins, but no connection between the two ever suggest collaboration.
Their tactics in assassination and combat revolve around striking quickly from multiple sources, ambushing others with sheer numbers, made possible with the use of their disposable homunculi soldiers. In general the Niku Shinobi themselves did not face much combat, but they underwent special training to strengthen their fortitude, and basic hand to hand martial arts in case they needed it.
Their soldiers however, were a different story altogether. The homunculi used by the Niku, like all other homunculi, are weaker physically and spiritually compared to normal humans. So they apply them in ambush tactics, striking from the shadows with chained weapons, binding their targets so that the rest of them can reveal themselves and cut down their opponents or shoot them down with firearms. Some Niku techniques for the Tessen have also been developed over time.
Speaking of which, the use of firearms is very common within the Niku clan, alongside weapons that are easy to manufacture and use. Kunai, chain whips, flintlocks, and kabuto-wari, all mass produced with cheap bronze or brittle iron since the weapons, like the soldiers who carry them, are expendable and will most likely be lost by the end of the battle.
The Izayoi Clan
The Izayoi clan, rational diplomats amongst bloodthirsty assassins, is a Valerian clan of nobility that was formerly active as shinobi, but now deals with politics and diplomacy. Most of the time. During their service, they were renowned for swift action and professionalism, showing humanity in a predominantly inhumane underworld and are remembered today for aiding the Emperor in international affairs. While their general martial abilities are relatively lacking, the Izayoi remain formidable to their intellect and guile. Famous holders of the Izayoi name include Kensei Toki and Sakuya Izayoi, the former being the clan’s current head.
Traditionally, the clan applies a unique system where the clan as a whole is split into two Houses; the Main House, which is publically known under the Izayoi name and mainly deals with both administrative and inter-clan affairs, and the Branch House, a lesser clan under the servitude of the Main, primarily to protect it from outside threats. This Branch House is a close-guarded secret among the Izayoi and few outsiders know of its existence. Since the founding of the clan, the Branch House has been the Kuinshi clan.
Known as the Monks of Destruction, the Kuinshi may well be the most resilient shinobi clan in existence, mainly due to the fact that they are not bound by blood, but by oath. The oath, and indeed servitude in general, is a central theme of morals within its members, for they are all oathbound (some also bloodbound in addition) to the Izayoi clan. The current clan head is an elderly priestess by name of Sui Feng, who actually led the clan once before in her lifetime. Few have quarrel with them, but those who do have much reason to fear. The Kuinshi are masters of an ancient offshoot of Nature magic known as Senjutsu, the Sage’s Art. By tapping into the ebb and flow of natural energy, skilled Sages are able to perform feats that would bring ire from the Mokushu. Membership is limited for the gifted or otherwise commendable, but non-Valerians are not barred from entry. Gong Fushi, the previous clan head, was notably of Mayarat origin, his birth name being Gael Faatih.