There is an island on the far eastern edge of Tandavar, nearest the Korudo Sea. It is known as Onsen Island, and it is one many imperial colonies of Udai throughout the Tandavaran Archipelago. The island has a long and storied history in the empire, dating back into the Fall Era. Long ago, the colony was abandoned and left to return to nature. Now, in the year 821 of the Modern Era, the empire has again extended its borders to Onsen, and established the colony once more.
In the year 250 FE, the Udaite Empire began expanding into the territories of Tandavar. Under the rule of Emperor Uda Ikari, the empire sent seven ships into the untamed lands, loaded with intrepid adventurers seeking to bring glory to Udai. The vessels landed on seven different islands: Onsen, Pingyao, Kage, Aka Shi, Keshima, Shudao, and Jinzi. Each expedition was lead by a Bushido of a Ju Hachi house, with the goal being to establish an outpost, reconnoiter for resources, and establish a foothold in the area. The expeditions were a success, and over the next fifty years the outposts blossomed into villages, bustling with new life.
However, the islands of eastern Tandavar were not uninhabited when the expeditions arrived. They were home to a large tribe of barbarians, called the Ezen. This tribe commanded a great number of sailing vessels, and had villages established all through Tandavar, including the seven new island colonies of Udai. The Ezen worship battle, and the greatest warrior among them is set as their ruler and their deity. In those days, God King Galam of the Ezen viewed the intrusion of the Udaites as an act of war, and spent the remainder of his life in constant strife with the people of Udai among the islands.
As the conflict with God King Galam dragged on the islands of Aka shi and Shudao fell to his armies. Support from the mainland was too slow, the waters of Korudo proving dangerous for even the most worthy vessels, and the remaining colonies had to defend themselves against the growing onslaught. The Bushido of Pingyao turned their efforts toward the ruins of the ancients upon their island, in hopes that studying the old magic held there would give them an edge over their enemies. Sadly the task proved their downfall, with their efforts instead releasing an incredible surge of untamed earth magic. The entire island was destroyed.
With the loss of Pingyao, the remaining Udaites withdrew from the remaining islands to Onsen, in hopes of holding the village there as a fortress against the Ezen. Over the following 25 years, Onsen held out against the barbarians, suffering only minor losses. But the God King Galam grew restless in his old age. It was his obsession to destroy all the Udaites upon what he saw as his land, and so he turned his attention to the magics of the ancients also. When the Ju Hachi learned of his plan, they remembered the tragedy at Pingyao. Knowing that such an event could happen again, they left their fortress on Onsen to take the fight directly to the Ezen.
In the ruins on the southern end of Onsen Galam established his war camp, in hopes of harnessing the destructive forces of the ancients to win his war. The Ju Hachi warriors launched their assault on his camp swiftly, with thousands of casualties on both sides. Despite the best efforts of the Ju Hachi, however, Galam had created a weapon to channel the ancient magic of pre-Fall humanity stored in the ruins. According to legend, the power he unleashed brought untold destruction and chaos upon the island. The ruins were swallowed up into the earth, taking with them most of God King Galam’s own people. One Ju Hachi warrior, named Ito Kenji, strode forward amongst the chaos, and faced Galam alone. Ito Kenji cast a protective spell on the remaining Bushido, and plunged his blade into the heart of Galam. The energy harness by the God King was released in a sudden fury, destroying Ito Kenji, and much of the island as well. Despite Ito Kenji’s protective spell, many of the Ju Hachi Bushido died in the wake of the devastation. The barbarian tribe of Ezen was all but destroyed as well, leaving only a small remnant of their people to survive.
After the battle with God King Galam, the remaining Udaites were too few to survive another winter on Onsen. The imperial citizens boarded their remaining boats in the year 365 FE. With the provisions they had they sailed for the mainland, heartsick to lose their island home. Over the following centuries of the Fall Era, the empire made no further attempts to expand their hold into Tandavar. Onsen, the last bastion of the Udaite colonies, was slowly reclaimed by the elements.
In the year 790 ME, a petition was put forth among the Ruling Houses of Udai to return to Tandavar once more, and reestablish the colony on Onsen island to preserve and explore the cultural heritage of the ancient, sacred site. House Zhu and House Wei, in an uncharacteristic act of cooperation, agreed that the endeavor was worthy of the empires assets, and sent a colony ship to the island. House Zhu dedicated one of their most trusted Bushido, Shigenori Zhu, to be the Lord and Daimyo of Onsen. Over the decades since the reestablishment of the colony, the citizens of the empire have found prosperity and favor upon Onsen. After their initial arrival, it was found that a small tribe of the Ezen barbarians still remained on the island. They did not have their former prowess, yet they remain a formidable challenge to the peace of Onsen. Lord Zhu has established a tenuous peace with the Ezen tribe. The village of Onsen has been established as a peaceful zone, where citizens of the empire and the Ezen can interact without fear of retaliation.
As time has passed on Onsen in the Modern Era, the village has found stability through the incomings and outgoings of Tandavaran adventurers. Onsen now acts as a major hub for the Tandavaran-Udai trade routes. Traveling adventurers following these routes have provided the breastwork of the reconstruction on the island, providing labor, clearing out infestations of dangerous creatures, and ensuring safe roads for the passage of supplies from Onsen village to the outposts nearer the coasts. Although there is a peace treaty with the Ezen, there are still conflicts with their people from time to time. Rogue groups of the Ezen tribe have been found to waylay adventurers on the roads, robbing them, or in some cases, leaving them for dead with severe wounds. Lord Zhu, in agreement with the current God King of the Ezen, has therefore put forth an edict that anyone traveling on the roads of Onsen is well within their rights to defend themselves from any perceived threat, without fear of compromising the peace treaty. So far, there have been no major conflicts, and the treaty holds.
As the colonists have connected with the island, they too have connected with the history of the place and their forbears who dwelt there long before. With this has come revivals of old traditions, such as festivals, customs, patterns of worship. By far the most prominent festival is the Festival of Masks, a celebration of the spirits of nature and ancestors. The festival is held yearly in the month of August, generally running from the tenth of the month until the close. Many view this time as a time of reflection, seeking hidden knowledge of the past through study of the magical arts and the ancient sites around the island. There are also many challenges held throughout the festival which reward participants with various trophies. The greatest prize, however, is for those who participate in and win the Tournament of Warriors. Whoever comes out as the victor of that challenge is given the opportunity to become a Bushido retainer for house Zhu, in the service of Lord Shigenori Zhu.
In recent years, Onsen has become a place of refuge for people of the empire who are tired of the never ending politics in the mainland. As such, a number of political refugees have come to call Onsen home. They come to the island to escape rebellions in the prefectures, either driven from their lands in the destruction that follows such conflicts, or because their houses were disbanded for their participation in them. Lord Zhu of Onsen holds that the island is a place of peace, where anyone can get a fresh start on life. Most recently, a number of refugees have arrived on Onsen from the Shinrai prefecture, displaced after a rebellion led by a Ryoko-Sha mentor there.
Onsen is no stranger to unusual magical occurrence, as evidenced by the conflict with the God King Galam. Most recently, a magical staff has been discovered rooted in a glade on the island, surrounded by powerful warding spells. The staff has begun to garner great attention from traveling adventurers, as a rumor has sparked up about it that whoever is able to obtain the staff would become a mage of the highest degree. So far, no one has been able to pass the test. The staff has been scrutinized by the local magical authority and have found it to be benign in nature, so the contest to see who is first to claim the staff continues.
The island of Onsen is a place of long and magical heritage for the empire of Udai. Lord Zhu has established peace and prosperity upon the face of the land, and it has brought many people of all walks of life to call the place home, even if only for a short time as they pass through on their journeys. As the Festival of Masks continues on Onsen Island, and more people are drawn there to participate in the many contests, it is likely that soon someone will claim the mystical staff, and usher in a new era of magical prosperity.