Hokiba Lore

Relics of the Hōkiba


When the Primordial War ended, the gods sealed their accord through the marriage between Senkō, the Shining Lord of Steel, and Kagayaki, the Radiant Lady of the Sun. Though each of the gods bore arms and armour as befit their divine birthrights, to celebrate his wedding, the Lord of Steel forged eight blades for his fellow gods.

However, though all were pleased by the gifts, the Clear-Eyed Lord of the Mountain made prophecy when he beheld them: that none of the gods would wield the blades that Senkō had forged for them, for their fate lay elsewhere.

Sure enough, though the swords were indeed fine, the gods did not wield them, preferring instead the divine weapons that they had always carried, each tied to its bearer’s domain and power. Instead, as followers began to flock to the gods’ banners, each sword was in turn given to the closest among the god's companions, as an affirmation of their bond. Swords were given to Yagarō, Fujizuru, Hakato, Shinjugawa, Itsumaru, and Tōyama.

When Naibuki offered Yagarō the sword Senkō had forged, he also asked that she become his bride. She accepted the gift, but refused his proposal, saying that the day she could no longer lift the blade would be the day she consented to become any man's bride. The Lord of the Plain relented, and Yagarō never once failed to wield the sword in battle for her clan, rending the foes of the Hōkiba limb from limb with the furious strikes of her wild and ferocious style. In her hands the blade came to be called Ashisakuha, for the seeming eagerness with which it cleaved through its foes.

Eventually Yagarō found a man who could agree to her vision of marriage, and she bore a daughter, Unarikoji. When she fell in battle, Ashisakuha still in her grip, Unarikoji inherited the blade, and it has been the inheritance of the Yagarō daimyo ever since.

Virtuous Blades

Alone among the sacred weapons of the Major Clans, the forging of the Virtuous Blades of the Hōkiba is not a solitary task. The smithing of these swords is passed down in family lines, and three generations of artisans labour to craft each blade. The process begins with the iron, which the senior smith carefully selects from among hundreds of ingots. When the iron is chosen, the senior smith carries it into the forge, where the junior smith, the senior's child, waits to stoke the forge. With him waits the apprentice smith, child of the junior smith. When all three smiths are gathered, the senior lights the fire while the junior stokes it, and the apprentice begins to recite the family lineage and light incense in the shrine above the anvil.

When the fire is ready and the apprentice has finished the litany of the family's ancestors, the senior smith begins to work the iron into steel, commanding the junior and apprentice as they take it in turns with him to hammer the metal. All the while, they recite passages from Naibuki's To Command, pray for the oversight of their ancestors, and call upon the Fortunes of Battle and Steel to bless their work. At seven intervals in the steel-making process, paper strips written with the tenets of Bushidō are laid across the hot metal, where they burn away to nothing, leaving their ash to be folded into the metal, strengthening the steel alongside the charcoal.

When the steel is ready, the senior smith begins to shape it with the assistance of the junior and apprentice smiths, demonstrating the secret techniques of hammer and tongs which are their family's birthright, and they observe closely in order to be ready for the time when the senior smith returns to the Wheel, passing the forge on to them. At the end of the forging process, the sword is quenched in pure spring water. The saya and hilt are carved from hardwood and lacquered a rich brown, and the brass tsuba and fittings are attached with extensive prayers and ceremony. When the sageo is woven, its core includes a single string wound from three strands of fiber, taken from the ritual garment of each smith and braided together.

The result is a sturdy and flexible blade that shines in the light, and which bestows on its bearer an aura of authority and virtue. Such swords seem almost reluctant in the hands of the dishonorable, but will spring to action in the service of an honorable samurai.

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