During the Battle of Oblivion’s Gate, when the forces of the Nothing and its embodiment, the Lying Darkness, threatened to unmake all of creation, one among the entities of the Celestial Heavens chose to take direct action to ensure the survival of the mortal realm.
This being, the Dragon of Air, made an incredible sacrifice to benefit mankind, allowing its divine form to be corrupted by the touch of Jigoku in order to ensure that the great Phoenix hero, Isawa Hochiu, could gain access to the Master of Shadow and end his threat. The gambit was successful, but at a terrible price: the dragon was dying, its divinity severed due to its actions in the mortal realm. When Mirumoto Hitomi gave name to the Lying Darkness, the primordial power of the Nothing sought new refuge, and found it in the dying flesh of the Air Dragon.
The creature born from that joining, both heavenly and hellish, became the Shadow Dragon, the greatest and most insidious manipulative force the Empire has ever known.
The Art (by Hugh Jamieson)
There was a lot in the way of ideas for this piece, was it a quiet close up moment, was it a large scale wide shot of a majestic creature being corrupted and consumed by an overwhelming force of shadow? Would we include the gate in the visual? Would Hochiu be in it, would Hochiu’s guard appear? Would we show the battle raging around them? Would it be the moments before the Air Dragon’s death? Would it be during, or after?
In the end we opted for a moment of sadness and sacrifice. Hugh captures the moment as Air is overcome by the Nothing in the ruins of Volturnum. Its once transparent scales filled with inky black smoky tendrils, his body writhing as it burns away with an infection of corruption. Its emerald green eyes flaring in one last strain to fight the Shadow off in his weakened state. To the side bows a small Isawa Hochiu in reverence and thanks for his ally’s ultimate sacrifice. It is the birth of a villain, the death of a hero, it needed to be tragic and painful looking.
We chose to bring back Hugh Jamieson due to his impressive work during gold in such pieces as Jotei, Kyofu, Obsidian Magistrates, Burial Ground. We felt he could convey the tragic darker nature of the image and we really loved what we received. This card could have had two names, the Birth of the Shadow Dragon or the Death of the Air Dragon, and we believe Hugh conveyed both fantastically.
It was 2000, the World Championships at GenCon. The samurai of Rokugan had marched to Volturnum, the location of Oblivion’s Gate, to make a last stand against The Lying Darkness as it sought to undo all of creation.
The finals saw Vu Nguyen, playing The Spawning Grounds, versus Justin Walsh, playing The Sacred Temples of the Phoenix. Despite the draw for power, Justin Walsh had not used the corrupting ability of the Sacred Temples of the Phoenix for the entire tournament, instead opting to keep his personalities pure as he carved his way through the tournament. Walsh had since posted his views on Honor, and how it applies to the Phoenix, which gave an interesting take on his deck building for that tournament.
But in the finals – something had changed. An opportunity presented itself, and Walsh realized that giving into the power of corruption could very well mean more for the Empire than for the Phoenix. Walsh bought the Air Dragon from his provinces, using the Sacred Temples of the Phoenix to corrupt it, and using Evil Portents (of which there were many, for all the people of Rokugan), he was able to achieve a significant advantage over Vu, and secure his place as a World Champion.
This however, came with a cost – the Air Dragon had been tainted, and as such, it could never assume its place within the Celestial Heavens again. Choosing instead to do some lasting good for the Empire, it embraced the Taint and took control of the Lying Darkness, hoping to control and contain, even if marginally, the force that had sought to unmake all of creation.
The Shadow Dragon was born…
Get your Copy!
You will find a copy of this card within Seeds of Decay, the expansion of L5R CCG releasing in the Fall of 2012. This version of the card is the 10,000th in the history of the game and thus has been placed in a set, in the exact slot of the 10,000th card.
You can also get a chance to win a copy of this card through Facebook! Like the article on the official L5R Facebook page and share it before August 13th. One lucky winner among the “likes” will be contacted and will receive a copy of the card for free after its initial release!