Goro, Monk of Osano-Wo
This is the short backstory I wrote for the GM of the new L5R rpg that I am participating in. So far so good, but it seems to have one problem in common with the DnD group I just got out of, the characters can't get along or see eye to eye, and that is a strange thing in Rokugan where behaviour is dictated by liege lords and bushido.
From the beginning... This is not what is known to me, but what in actuality occurred before the story of my life truly began. It starts with a man, alone in the world, by his own will or the whims of the fortunes that spin mortals fates... Matsu Arihiro; troubled, tortured, broken, a Deathseeker, such examples of a samurai are best left to the back shelves forgotten, remembered only for the deeds they accomplished at their end and not their indiscretion in life. I was a reminder of such indiscretions, a product of barbarism forgotten by all but those closest to my mother. Oh, they wished that they too could forget, and so they abandoned her, my mother, to find her way on her own, without family, without clan, without dignity, as peasant filth.
She was unable to escape the perils of the wild world for long, my rescuer arrived long after her screams had faded into the night. Of my life preceding this event I was told little except that I did not cry out, even as a babe. I responded to sound, so they knew I was not deaf, but it was assumed I was a mute, until my 7th birthday. By then I had a name, simple, like the names given to all the monks raised by my temple. My view of the world was shaped by my surroundings, the aged men devoting hours to meditation and physical perfection, the strict guidelines, the peaceful order of the place. What I knew of samurai were from the few visits my temple received from the local magistrates, and the stories told at night under the starry sky, by monks who vaguely claimed to once have lived among them in some other life.
Long years passed, my elders grew older and passed on, their wisdom sometimes fading from the mortal realm, sometimes passed on to another keen mind in the following generation. My training progressed as it always had, with the proficiency of my masters and teachers. It was not a mystery to me why men devoted to such peaceful existence pursued such violent martial arts, I assisted in many battles, minor skirmishes compared to the wars being fought amongst the great clans, but deadly nonetheless. Instead of fighting for rights to tax border villages, or for honour, or for the Emperors favour, I fought for the peasants right to live, to drive away pillaging bandits preying on the weak, and, whenever such evil arose, against the shadow of the taint that crept into the hearts of our land. The Fortune of Fire and Thunder, great Osano-Wo, cares as much for the common man as he does for the valiant samurai in their lacquered armour.
I had trained with the best and most revered masters of our sect, even studying for years at our largest temple outside the Shinomen forest. My hard work and dedication to Osano-Wo brought me great rewards, I was appointed to head a new temple in a remote village on the borders of the scorpion lands. The village was known to its inhabitants and neighbours as Old Tree Village, or Furui-Ki-mura, because it centered on an ancient cherry tree planted many generations ago by a wandering monk, or so it was told. I selected my most diligent and promising student, Ichigo, and together we traveled across the empire to the site of our new temple. The reason we were assigned to start a temple in such a remote village was because we had been petitioned by the village headman after a great lightning storm had passed over the region. All the surrounding villages had been damaged greatly during the storm, but the only damage Furui-Ki-mura had sustained was a single lightning strike to the ancient cherry tree. The tree dropped a large branch that the villagers decide to use as a cross-piece for a torii, the gateway to a shrine. Given the nature of the storm it was felt that it was only appropriate to devote the new shrine to Osano-wo. This coincided with a dream an aged monk at our temple had, and it was decided to construct a temple on the site.
When we arrived at Furui-Ki-mura construction on the temple was well under way, the villagers had cut back on the time they spent in the fields to finish the temple in time for our arrival. When the time came to erect the torii on the path to the temple many villagers from the surrounding region had gathered to watch the momentous event. It was remarkable how much work had been done in such little time, and in the end it turned out that the rice harvest was the greatest in many years, signifying Osano-Wo's favour. The temple was small, and barely had room for Ichigo and I, but for the next five years I found the most peace and contentedness I had ever known. The villagers still worshipped regularly at the shrine to Inari and enjoyed the bounty brought to them by the fortunes, there were few problems during those years.
I had gone to a neighbouring village to check up on a sick child that none of the healers could mend, and on the return trip was confronted by a furious storm. Lightning flashed all around me and thunder echoed through the hills. The suddenness with which it had started awed me. I had no fear, however, I was a monk of Osano-Wo, the fortune I served watched out for his followers, this most likely was an omen, a warning or foretelling I was not sure. The ferocity of the storm spurred me on, though I was not concerned for my safety nor my dryness, I began to get a feeling of dread that only grew as I neared Furui-Ki-mura. Darkness covered the land, but I didn't light my lantern for the raging wind would blow it out immediately, and the constant lightning strikes illuminated the path enough for me to navigate. I came to a portion of the path that was washed out and was forced to march the long way around, but by the time I reached the edges of Furui-Ki-mura the storm had moved on. Moisture hung in the air and I could still feel the electricity and hear the thunder as the it receded. Water covered the packed ground of the path, shimmering in the moonlight newly revealed by the quick moving clouds. I lit my lantern and headed toward the darkened huts on the edge of the village, all was silent except for the distant thunder and a small sound closer to me, the sound of a crying babe. I looked down at the ground again, at the pools of water at my feet, and the rivulets feeding them. They glistened red.
I rushed through the village, slipping in the mud, toward the temple. All around me lay the dead bodies of the innocent villagers, sprawled in heaps where they were cut down, defenseless. When I reached the torii I paused, taking in the gruesome sight before me, tears of rage and pride welling up in my eyes. There lay Ichigo, his breathing shallow, surrounded on three sides by the bodies of his assailants. There were five dead bandits at his feet, their arms and legs twisted and broken from his savage blows, weapons grasped in chilling hands. There was a broken katana lying on the ground, its hilt clutched by a bandit with his head caved in, there were multiple gashes in Ichigo's chest, and two stab wounds in his gut, a yari still protruded from one. I kicked the dead bodies aside and moved to cradle Ichigos head in my arms to try and relieve the pain of his last moments, he tried to speak but coughed up blood instead. I wanted to tell him that all would be alright, but he wouldn't let me, he tried to speak again, but only one word left his lips before his eyes fluttered and he was gone.
I located most of the villagers in the temple , while Ichigo had held off the attackers he had bought time for many of the helpless villagers to hide, and apparently the bandits had fled after confronting such a foe. The reports were sketchy at best, it appeared that the bandits had come in the late evening, quickly killing many of the men by stealth in the fields before they returned home. The rest of the villagers had been rounded up in the center square under the cherry tree, and the bandits demanded all their rice and money, killing the headman when he refused to give in. Some of the men tried to resist and overpower their attackers, but it was ill fated, only when Ichigo emerged from meditation and heard the fighting over the storm did the tides start to turn, but then for many it was too late. The one detail that all could agree upon was the hideous look of the bandits leader, a large man towering over the others, with a jagged red scar running across his face, twisting his mouth into an awful grimace. With that information in mind I left Furui-Ki-mura in search of a trail long washed away by the rain.
One word cycled through my mind....