The Game of Letters:
Many will ask what such a game is, and more experienced Courtiers may smirk behind their fans. Unlike Kemari, this game is one of wits and words, of subtext and allusion. It is a skill, it is a talent and above all, it is an art. It is the staple past time of any Winter Court and no Courtier worth attending would find themselves without participation in this pass time.
A truly skilled Courtier will find themselves participating in several of these Games as Winter Court progresses, and this is a battle fought with perseverance in mind. The winner of is game is the last to send a reply, as receiving no answer is a sign that your opponent has conceded to your wit and skill. These are not letters that are meant to convey simple information, but rather letters that are designed to be a display of skill and manipulation. Despite being a cleverly disguised method of Courtier’s testing each others mettle, a letter for this game should never be written casually. This is not a friend you are exchanging words with, but an opponent. However, though this game is a battle of the mind, letters should not be written in the blunt, militaristic style of a commander either.
Each letter is composed following a specific set of wit and the careful calculations of the author. The true soul behind the Game of Letters is the symbolism employed within in each. Not only in the text itself, but in every seemingly trivial detail. The lines of the calligraphy, the weight and color of the paper, if the letter has been scented or not, and the small object sent with the letter all gives hints as to the intention behind the words written within. A truly skilled Courtier can guess the contents of the letter without ever seeing the words, based on the knowledge of what just a few of these represent. This however, does not stop one from reading said letters. These types of letters are very rarely sealed, so any samurai can stop a servant to read one. This should always be expected and Courtiers often plan on the fact that their letter will reach the eyes of more than just their intended recipient. That is all part of the game.
How many people can Participate?
As many courtiers as there are, but know that Letter’s is much like an Iaijutsu duel, and each one is almost always versus a single opponent. A third party joining in is absolutely dishonorable. However, this does not mean one can not play with others, so long as each game is its own separate entity. Just make sure to not reply to the wrong letter.
So, what is one of these Letter’s at it’s core?
It is a thirty-one syllable poem (5-7-5-7-7), usually based on an image from nature and conveying the author’s intent indirectly. Remember, subtlety and symbolism are key in this. Though one’s words may not convey their exact thoughts, combining them with the right color paper and flower will speak the words your letter only alludes too. Once the proper paper has been chosen and the poem penned, a completed letter will also be scented and attached to a small object, often a representation of the hidden meaning within. Which you choose to use all depends on the message you are trying to send.
What else factor’s into deciphering the intent behind a letter? Almost everything, but let’s cover some of the basics.
Paper Color: The color of paper establishes the mood, conveying a particular emotion to the reader. Pink might suggest young love, while Black may bring to mind a more serious topic.
Paper Thickness: Even that which a normal samurai would not think of can influence the picture a courtier is trying to paint with their letter. So thickness and texture is not to be forgotten. A thick, heavy paper suggests a serious topic, while a thin tissue conveys a more light hearted tone.
Paper Size: There is also the matter of size to take into consideration when constructing your letter. Using a large piece of paper to convey a short message suggests generosity or extravagance, while a small piece of paper crowed with writing conveys a subtle insult, suggesting the recipient is not worthy of more paper.
Brush Work: a Courtier may go through several drafts of letters to perfect their intent behind the calligraphy. Messy or uneven brushwork might suggest an insult or lack of emotional control, where as steady, tidy hand writing can bring to mind the controlled On of a skilled courtly opponent.
Scent: Each letter is generally scented with a special perfume, though in very rare instances they can go unscented. Like everything else in this letter, the fragrance chosen is another piece of the puzzle behind the author’s message.
Letter Fold: While these letters are rarely sealed, they are often folded, sometimes into elaborate folds that are meant to show off the constructor’s talent just as much as the calligraphy within. A simple, elegant fold could indicate lack of care in regards to the message inside, where as a more elaborate fold can show the seriousness with which the game is being taken. The Scorpion in particular are known to be master’s of a specific style of folding that is beautiful to look upon but incredibly difficult to unfold without tearing.
Accompanying Object: Each letter, without exception, is attached to a small, accompanying object, the symbolism of which once again plays into the bigger picture the letter paints. It can be anything from a flower, a sprig from a tree, an incense stick or a multitude of other, small but telling items.
Signature: Much like courtly romance, Letters is played anonymously, the participants never signing their letters to one another. However, they may often leave some form of mark to give a vague representation of who they are. Just like everything else, it too can convey a meaning.
A Guide to the Hidden Meanings of Nature
Red: Passion, Danger.
Yellow: Honor, Warmth, Clarity.
Orange: Knowledge, Change
Purple: Wealth, Privilege
Blue: Relaxation, Calmness
Green: Life, Youth
White: Purity, Spirituality.
Black: Sorrow, Mystery
Brown: Earth, Stability
Grey: Dull, Unremarkable.
Pink: Love, Fragility.
Silver: Trust, Romance
Scents: These can be applied to both Perfumes and Incense Sticks
Jasmine: a heavy, flowery scent known for it’s relaxing and soothing properties, but also has heavy ties to sexual intimacy.
Lavender: a light, playful scent known for bringing about a peace of mind.
Lilac: a gentle, flowery scent known for inspiring creativity.
Rose: a thick, common scent known for promoting thoughts of love and passion.
Iris: a subtle, flowery scent known for it’s connection to wisdom and cherished friendship
Lotus: a heavy, thick scent known for it’s connection to the Kami, often a representation of spirituality.
Chamomile: a soft, flowery scent known for it’s connection to fortune and prosperity.
Ginger: a spicy musk known for it’s connection to luck.
Mint: a tingling scent that tickles the nose, known for it’s invigorating qualities.
Sage: a leafy, natural scent known for it’s connection to inspiring wisdom and meditation.
Cocoa [Colonial]: a thick, exotic scent known for it’s connections to the decadent and tantalizing.
Coffee [Colonial]: this is a scent becoming more well known in Rokugan, it brings to mind the exotic and energizing.
Vanilla [Colonial]: a light, sweet scent that is known for it’s connection for inspiring warmth within others.
Hanakotoba – The Language of Flowers
Red Rose: Romance, passion.
Carnation: Family love, friendship
Amaryllis: Shyness, coyness
Azalea: Patience, modesty
White rose: Innocent, devotion, silence
Yellow Rose: Jealousy
Red Tulip: Fame
Gardenia: Secret Love
Jasmine: Grace, Friendship
Sweet pea: Goodbye
Pansy: Caring, Thoughtful
Freesia: Childishness, Immaturity
Cactus Flower: Lust, Sex
Red Camellia: Love, but to a Samurai these are considered Bad Luck.
White Camellia: Waiting, Wanting
Dahlia: Good taste
White Chrysanthemum: Truth but more commonly associated with Grief.
Forget-me-not: True Love
Iris: Loyalty, Good Tidings
White Lily: Purity, Chastity
Orange Lily: Hate, Revenge
Holly: Single and looking
Morning Glory: Willful promises
Sampaguita [Colonial]: Simplicity, Purity, Humility.
Frangipani [Colonial]: Shelter, Protection
Laelia [Colonial]: Often referred to as the Moon Orchid. It represents the Moon and all that is connected with it.
Tree Blossoms and Sprigs: These can either be presented as the flowers or, as a small clipping from a branch
Take (Bamboo): Longevity, Strength
Momo (Peach): Generosity
Ume (Plum): Beauty
Sakura (Cherry): Kindness, Fragility
Bonsai: Harmony, Balance.
Matsu (Pine): Immortality, Everlasting.
Momiji (Maple): Great Blessings
Now that all contributing parts of the Letter has been discussed, considering the following less than elaborate example below and the conclusion one might draw.
A poem about the shy and pure white hare is written on a soft paper the color of cherry blossoms. It is accompanied by a clipping of the white Camellia but is scented with a heavy, sweet Jasmine perfume.
Did you see what I did there?
By jotei/konohama, copied from FRO7 files