The House of Crimson Wings was originally the lands and residence of the Akakibane clan, warrior clan that were bound to serve the priests of the Jade Mirror Shrine sometime during the Muromachi period (1392-1573) in a remote, mountainous part of Japan. The Muromachi period was a very turbulent time in Japan’s history, which encompass the Warring States era (Sengoku period).  There were many wars and conflicts, it was a time when the central authority of Japan, the shogunate, was failing and the local warlords were demanding more autonomy. Much strife, conflict led to suffering and loss, particularly by the common folk. Many horrible tragedies afflicted the people, which, in some cases became ‘infected’. The locals referred to it as “Tsumi byou” or “Sin Sickness”, a disease caused by damage to the spirit through personal tragedy, loss, or suffering. Those afflicted not only were drawn to harmful, addictive, or anti-social behaviors, but once sufficiently advanced, also became physical. Afflictions such as blindness, paralysis, lameness, arthritis, athesma, deafness, muteness, and physical marks such as black lesions, strange patterns, hair falling out or turning white, and eventually it would progress to death.

It had been known for centuries, Tsumi byou, although because of the violence and strife of the time, it was becoming a pandemic among the villages most affected by the growing war between the daiymo and the shogun. The answer to these peasants, as the disease was incurable by conventional medicine, was to make a pilgrimage to a shrine, deep in the mountains to undergo a hidden ritual. The ritual would cleanse the soul of disease and allow them to heal, curing the physical and spiritual symptoms. It was known as the “Soul Cleansing”, a ritual performed in only one temple, the Jade Shrine.

The Jade Shrine normally only held cleansing rituals twice a year, at which time they would send the Akakibane warriors to escort the caravan of pilgrims to the shrine. The Akakibane household functions as not only security for the temple and its patrons, but also as record keepers and treasurers. They handled the tributes brought for the ritual, set up the schedule of who was to go when, determined suitability of the candidates for the ritual, ensured people knew their rolls and steps to followed, provided garments, and facilities, and hospitality to the travelers while they were there. This freed the priests to manage the spiritual side of things exclusively.

The priests of the Jade Shrine were exclusively women. Men were only permitted within the shrine for two reasons. One was during the cleansing ceremony, and the second was in the spring, when the spirit trees blossomed to see to the needs of the priestesses and perform repairs on the temple as needed. At this time, every 7-8 years a different hidden ceremony sometimes took place, and a man was selected for that purpose.

The shrine itself was said to be quite ancient, built over a so called “Spirit well”, a place where the fabric between our world and the world of the spirits was thin. From time to time Demons would escape the well, or at least attempt to, and it was another duty of the priestesses to see that the well was kept contained, and thus too the demons within.

The most precious artifact housed in the shrine, and the origin of its name, was the “Jade Mirror”. A large chunk of perfectly round jade shaped as a stone mirror, flawless, was at the heart of the temple. This artifact was used in the ceremony, the alter set up so that one side would stand the parishioner and on the other would stand the so called “Sin Eater”, although the temple referred to her as the “Holy Maiden”

The holy maiden was a young woman born and raised at the temple with great spiritual power. She was treated as a sort of living god, aloof to the rest of the world. None but her attendants were permitted to talk or look upon her, with the exception of the high priestess. She alone has the power to operate the Jade Mirror and perform the cleansing ritual.

Because of the sudden pandemic of Tsumi byou among the people, the twice a year rituals were becoming too much to handle for the temple and their warrior administrators. It was also exhausting to the temple’s Holy Maiden, who was forced to perform more rituals over shorter periods of time. The temple decided to take a more proactive approach, scheduling four limited attendance ‘festivals’ per year, and sending members of the Akakibane to discover more mild cases of sickness among the people and bring them for treatment before the illness became taxing to cure.

No one is quite sure why it happened, but one day, all contact with the temple stopped. The Akakibane clan envoys stopped coming and people became nervous. Some months later people who were known to be afflicted with Tsumi byou began to vanish. Disappearing without a trace. No signs of struggle in their homes or signs that they had been planning to go on a trip. A group of local men traveled to the shrine themselves to seek answers and were horrified with what they found.

Nothing. It was as if the shrine and the House of Crimson Wings had simply winked out of existence. The grounds were bare, as if a great hand had wiped it clean, and nothing appeared to grow there. Rumors of curses, demons, and other theories abounded, but it didn’t explain what had happened. The disappearances of those afflicted with sin sickness continued, but some of the earliers sufferers began to report having visions of dreams of a girl in white miko attire with a strange mask, a large stone jade mirror and an old decrepit manor decorated with reliefs of a three winged mon. Those who remembered the Jade shrine recognized the description, although from the visions it was dark, and twisted.

These visions became a part of the disease diagnosis, an early symptom that a person was at risk. It became increasingly common that people would disappear or ‘sleepwalk’ and vanish within days of showing their first physical symptoms, usually some kind of dark lesions or rash, sometimes more like tattoos or simply a blackening of the skin. On rarer instances, blackening of the eyes (blindness), or ears (deafness), or tongue (muteness). As time passed and regions stabilized, the instances of the disease reduced drastically. The disease was for a time, almost myth, especially with the rise of more conventional ‘scientific’ medicinal practices.

But the disappearances continued to occur.

Present day

Around the world, in whispers, mental hospitals, psychology wards, psychics, spiritualists, and asylums tell of a sickness. A sickness with physical symptoms but a spiritual cause. Sufferers report visions, waking dreams, or reoccurring nightmares of a place they’ve never been. Japanese they say, from most descriptions. Old, and decrepid. There’s a young woman, in a white kimono with a mask, beckoning in a dark place. Visions of an ancient jade stone, perfectly round set on an altar. Things in the darkness, just out of sight leering in hunger at them.

Most think these people are simply insane. Most never even report their symptoms for fear of going insane. They keep their sickness a secret.. until they day they disappear from the real world and find themselves trapped in the House of Crimson Wings.