Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Chapter 4, A Tsuruchi's Death

Setting: Razor of Dawn Castle, Northern Crab lands
Time: 2 weeks after Chapter 3.

All was quiet as the strange furred creature scurried purposefully down the hallways of the large stone stronghold. Many of the samurai normaly garrisoned here were away on various assignments, rooting out any bloodspeaker presence near small unprotected villages. Or more likely were weeding out fiction from fact as one village leader took it into his head to report the neighbouring village's leader as a member of the despised cult. The creature sniffed the air casually when he neared his destination, his tail twitched in anticipation as he rounded the last corner and confronted the guards outside of Hida Tosa's planning room.

"Yoee'rik'tch, Tosa-sama awaits your presence inside." the guard on the left stated, smoothly pronouncing the difficult name.

"Yes-yes, I know." the Nezumi replied.

The guard opened the thick door and Yeo'rik'tk entered bowing slightly to Hida Tosa who stood within. The Crab captain regarded the Nezumi for a moment before motioning him over to a table filled with maps of various regions.

"We have reports of strange occurances in a small village south-east of here that may indicate bloodspeaker activity in the area. I want you to check it out." Tosa said.

At this Yoee'rik'tch's face looked troubled and he asked, "is it Yashi-pups village?"

"No, no, it is further east than that," Tosa assured, "it is called Pebble-Stream village, I want you to assemble a unit right away and investigate this, take whatever action you feel needed, and report back with your findings."

"Hai, Tosa-san." Yoee'rik'tch said, relieved.

Kitsune Sasuke had just settled into a meditative stance when the serenity of his morning ritual was rudely broken by the sharp snap of the shoji screen being opened with excessive force. Matsu Yuudai rushed into the room, quickly moving over to where his armour lay buffed and clean. During his stay in the temple, healing up from his encounter with a big stick, Yuudai had not much else to do besides take care of his armour. The amourers had done a good job patching it up and had even found some Matsu gold laquer so that it looked as good as new. Yuudai was hurriedly trying to attach all the pieces by himself as Hida Shinzo entered the room followed by two young servant boys, who quickly moved to assist the Lion. Sasuke looked over at Shinzo inquisitivly.

"We've been called to gather in the courtyard as soon as possible, Yoee'rik'tch has chosen us to acompany him on an assignment to root out some bloodspeakers." Shinzo said.

"Hai." Sasuke replied, trying to conceal the excitement in his voice.

He had wanted to talk with the resident Nezumi more since their first encounter the night the deeds of the Legion had been read, but he had never gotten up the courage. This Nezumi was nothing like what he had imagined from reading books on the ancient race. He had asked around hoping to find out if Yoee'rik'tch had any connection to the Rememberers or was familiar at all with Ratling name magic, but none of the few he spoke to knew the Ratling well enough to be able to tell for certain. Perhaps he would learn what he wished simply by observing, in any event it would at least be good to get Yukimura out for a little excersise.

"I hope I don't have to follow the Ratlings orders." Yuudai said bluntly as he donned his helmet and placed his diasho in hs saya.

"I believe Tosa-sama has put the Nezumi in command of this assignment, would you doubt the Captains wisdom Matsu-sama?" Bayushi Kyoji asked as he stepped into the room.

"I have heard that he has a strong dislike for the cultists, so I wouldn't worry that any orders he gives would be too difficult to follow." said Shinzo.

"Enough of this," Yuudai growled, "let's just get going already."

After travelling for a few hours south-east on a little used cart path the group, led by a trotting Yoee'rik'tch, arrived at Pebble-Stream village. It was small, the cart path barely widened out as it became the main road through the center of the village. Near the entrance there was a small magistrates office, too small to support more than a lone travelling magistrate, and one of those hadn't been seen here in a while or else they wouldn't have sent for the Legion. There were a few small shops to either side of the road and even a small smithy for repairing farming tools, one larger building further into town stood out and the group headed in that direction.

As they were dismounting Yoee'rik'tch asked one of the gawking peasants, "Where is elder in charge of village?"

The man looked confused for a moment as if wondering how to address this creature, then he bowed. "He is over in the shop across the street, sama." he said pointing to a small storefront.

Yoee'rik'tch motioned for the others to follow and headed into the small store. While the third samurai was crowding into the shop they heard a commotion from the street, followed by some wild yelling that soon resolved into coherent words.

"Come out here you cowardly rat! I know you're in there. Come and fight me!" The voice yelled.

The samurai all looked at Yoee'rik'tch in puzzlement and moved back outside. There they saw what appeared to be a Mantis samurai, emerald green kimono stained and torn, an empty quiver on his back, and a katana in his hands. His eyes were those of a madman, he was so enraged yet so focused as he glared at the Nezumi that stood across the street.

"Come here and I will kill you, end your pathetic existence with some shred of honour." The Mantis cried.

"What you doing here, we think you dead-dead, but this fate worse than death, you have lost your name." Yoee'rik'tch replied.

"You know nothing of my fate, I was abandoned, it is your fault, and I will kill you!" Yelled the Mantis.

"Who is this madman? Asked Yuudai, "he is obviously tainted, we must put an end to him."

"No, I fight him alone, you no interfere, I will deal with him." Replied Yoee'rik'tch.

"You will die by my blade!" the Mantis yelled as he raised his katana over his head and charged.

Yoee'rik'tch responded instantly, bringing his nagimaki up and moving forward to meet the attack. The blades clanged together and the warriors broke apart circling one another gauging their opponents weaknesses. Another charge, and this time no weapons joined, Yoee'rik'tch deftly dodged the Mantis's enraged swing and traced a bloody line across the madmans leg with his blade. The wound didn't seem to slow the samurai and he charged recklessly again and this time his opponent turned his katana and simultaneously used the longer reach of the nagamaki to skewer the other leg. Blood pouring freely from both wounds the Mantis stepped back to assess his opponent once more. Yoee'rik'tch determinedly returned the look and noticed that the Mantis was muttering something under his breath, it seemed as if he was saying 'kill me, kill me'. With a surge of unnatural enargy the bleeding Mantis sprang, his katana aimed for the kill, Yoee'rik'tch barely had time to parry the attack and the Mantis struck again and again, forcing the smaller Nezumi back. The Legionaires that stood watching tensed up and gripped their weapons tightly preparing for the worst if their leader should fall. But Yoee'rik'tch was not out of tricks, the Mantis's strokes were rythmic and predictable and as he raised his katana once again Yoee'rik'tch lashed out with his thick tail knocking out one of his opponents legs while striking quickly with his weapon at the swordarm. The katana flew out of the Mantis's grasp and clattered to the ground many feet away, he held his bleeding arm close to his chest.

"Restrain him." Yoee'rik'tch ordered, and Kyoji and Yuudai quickly rushed to subdue the disarmed madman.

"Tainted filth!" Yuudai muttered.

"I not so sure he have taint," Yoee'rik'tch said, looking over at Sasuke, "shugenga, you check him for taint."

Sasuke moved closer to where the two samurai had the Mantis pinned to the ground, sat down, closed his eyes and urged the water kami to search the prisioner for signs of the taint. How long he communed he did not know, but when he opened his eyes the samurai were all staring down at his expectantly.

"I do not believe he has the taint, there is something deeper within him that he is fighting against, something, not someone, that wshes to take total control, I do not know much of bloodspeakers magic save for what I have heard tell from other Legionaires, but it almost seems as if he is cursed, how I do not know. Kuni Hirokazu would know better than I." Said Sasuke.

"We should bring him back to the castle with us then, have Kuni-san determine his ailment." Kyoji remarked.

"Hirokazu is not at castle, he had assignment a few yesterdays ago, not expected to return for some time."

Yoee'rik'tch said. "We also must finish our assignment, if he not tainted then he is not what we are searching for. Bind his wounds and secure him in magistrate office, get villagers to help guard him, you guard too Shinzo. We go talk to elder."

Shinzo and Kyoji headed off to the magistrates office with the bound and wounded Mantis, threw him in the inner chamber and instructed two village militia armed with yari to guard the door. Kyoji forced a strange concoction mixed with rice down the Mantis's throat and then left Shinzo to go and talk to the elder. Sasuke, seeing that the ponies were on edge from the violent duel went over to calm their nerves. They had all crowded closer to Yukimura as if the proud horse offered some sort of protection. His mere presence seemed to ease the animals and he rubbed each of them down with a brush from his saddlebags. With the mounts calmed he looked around the area to see if there was anything amiss. The villagers were just getting back into routine and melting away back to whatever they had been doing before the commotion started. Yoee'rik'tch, Yuudai, and Kyoji were all in the largest building apparently talking with the village elder about the strange occurances that had prompted this visit. Then Sasuke looked over to where Shinzo casually leaned against the outside of the magistrates office, his large tetsubo across his shoulders, and headed in that direction.

Just then he heard a loud shout and a guttural roar and then more shouting and banging coming from the magistrates office. Shinzo jumped up and rushed through the door to find the two militia absent from their posts in the outer room, the door to the inner room was open a crack and he could hear laboured breathing coming from within. He burst through the door tetsubo raised, ready to strike and came face to face with the two trembling villagers. One was disarmed and staring at the wall in shock, his yari buried firmly in the prisioners chest, pinning him to the wall.

"He was going to escape and kill us!" The one cried.

"His arms are still tied together, how could he escape?" Asked Shinzo angrily.

"We heard a noise and we saw him coming to get us, he was going to kill us!" The other one stuttered.

"You!" Shinzo yelled, pointing to the vilager without a weapon. "Go get Kitsune Sasuke and bring him here!"

The man fled hurrying down the street toward where Sasuke was, panic in his eyes.

"What has happened?" Sasuke asked when the villager reached him.

The villager explained what he thought had happened and how he had nearly been killed by the green clad samurai, and Sasuke sent him on to fetch the others, Yoee'rik'tch would want to deal with this himself. Sasuke then moved quickly to the magistrates office and stepped inside, it was obvious at first glance that if the Mantis did indeed live he would not do so for much longer. There was so much blood on the walls and floor that Sasuke doubted any healer could save this man. But on closer inspection he found that he would not even be called apon to try, the samurai was very much dead. Soon Yoe'rik'tch arrived leading the others inside the office, and when he saw the Mantis samurai pinned to the wall with his arms still bound he was furious.

"Where is one who did this?!" He barked, yanking the yari free. The body slumped to the ground resting in the pool of blood.

"He was the one I sent to get you." Shinzo stated looking around for the villager.

"He must have slipped off before we got here," Kyoji said, "in any event we no longer have reason to stay in this village, we should follow the lead we have recieved and head to the village from which this Mantis came."

"Yes-yes." Yoee'rik'tch agreed looking at the village elder who was staring in shocked silence at the bloody corpse. "Have eta dispose of body. We go-go now to next village."

The samurai walked back down the street to where the mounts were tied while the villagers summoned the eta to clean up the mess. As they were preparing to ride out Kyoji explained the situation to the two samurai who had been absent from the meeting with the elder.

"Apparently, for the last week or so, strange samurai have been travelling through this village, what marked them as strange in the villagers eyes was how aggressive and on edge they were, they seemed hunted. The elder said that though they hadn't actually harmed anyone the occurance of the same uncharacteristic traits in many seperate instances prompted the message to the Imperial Legions. The elder also noted that most of these samurai had been travelling up the road from a small village east of here. We will go there to check it out." He said.

It was past mid-day when the samurai departed for the village to the east, the village elder had begged them to stay and protect them from more attacks, but the samurai had little time to spare if they wished to reach their destination before nightfall. The path had been more difficult than they had expected, often winding curcuitously around dense patches of forest, or narrowing greatly to pass through a copse of trees, sometimes forcing the riders to travel single file or even dismount and guide their ponies. Yoee'rik'tch was always out in front, scampering ahead scouting out the path and searching for foes. The group was quiet, reflecting on the events of the day and wondering about the strange Mantis that the Nezumi possibly knew.

It grew darker as they continued their journey, the high mountains on the borders of the crab lands and the dense foliage cutting off the light early. They were now forced to ride single file permanently, the woods showing no sign of allowing easy passage, all they could do was stick to the path and follow the shadowy form of the ratling in front of them. Suddenly Yoee'rik'tch signalled for a halt, motioning the others to stay put he crept of the side of the path into the trees. The samurai waited for a moment and then dismounted, something didn't feel right, Sasuke felt a chill going up his spine and he gripped his weapon tighty. Kyoji had started to venture down the path when Yoee'rik'tch returned.

"Four human things down path, feeding, they not notice us, we attack with surprise." He said.

The samurai nodded, unsheathed their weapons, and handed their mounts reins to Sasuke, then headed silently down the path after Yoee'rik'tch. Sasuke tied the ponies to a tree, grabbed his nagamaki and hurried after his companions, wondering what sort of abomination they would face this time. In the near darkness he could barely make out four human sized figures hunched over something in the middle of the path ahead. They had no apparent worries about being heard because they made the most hideous moaning slurping sound as they tore chucks of meat from the lump in the dirt. As they neared Sasuke noticed that these things were human, or had at least been so in life, some of their bones were exposed and each displayed various levels of decay. Sasuke's stomach lurched in his chest and he felt faint, they were hunched over what appeared to be a young child, whether it was a boy or girl could no longer be determined, the other samurai also saw this and charged as one into the unaware zombies. Yoee'rik'tch jumped out from the trees attacking the creatures flank with his blade.

"Destroy their heads!" Shinzo yelled as his tetsubo shattered the nearest zombies skull with a wet cracking thud.

The other samurai were not as well prepared, their fine blades were good a striking specific spots on living opponents, but against the dead flesh of zombies the crushing power of a blunt weapon was peerless. Yuudai realized this and switched over the the flail end of his kusari-gami, crushing another zombie with a mighty swing. The zombies tried to fight back but they were off balance and the samurai armour stood up to their unarmed hands. A deft stroke by Koji severed the head of another and its body crumpled to the ground in a heap, the last zombie was missing an arm and most of a leg when Shinzos massive stroke sent it's skull sailing through the air. The last of the corpses finished twitching, and the group looked around to see if the brief commotion had caught any unwanted attention. All was quiet and the samurai relaxed, looking over themselves to see if anyone had suffered injury from the festering nails of the undead. Everyone was fine, not a scratch to be seen, and as Sasuke rushed to fetch the mounts the others gazed down the path to the next hill over which they could see the glow of a small village, what awaited them there, they soon would find out.

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At 8:57 am , Blogger Angela said...

Very cool James! This was a good chapter...I really enjoyed reading it!!
Hope all is well in your new place!

At 10:13 am , Blogger James Abrahams said...

Thanks Angela
I changed my writing style a bit for this one, more conversing which is what we really do when we are playing. I have taken some liberties developing the characters personalities, but I don't think any of the players read it so all is good.

At 11:02 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey dude, its Aaron, way too lazy to sign up for an account though hehe. good story, it looks like pat has a nice story laid out for you guys, i look forward to reading about the rest of it.


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