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A mission For Shimakaze (TDF Atlantic ARPC)

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#1
Robert Falcon

Robert Falcon

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The following are a two and five part story written by members of the Tokuno Defense Forces (TDF), members of the ARPC (Atlantic Role Playing Community). The stories come from their personal views of Lord Ikura Shimakaze wife’s death at the hands of the Bane during an invasion of Trinsic.


*An excerpt from the journal of Ikrua Shimakaze Part One and Two*

The Empress held her weekly court to learn what had transpired during the week in her realm, discussing trade, commerce, external and internal events, and court matters. At the conclusion as everyone was departing, Heika (the Empress) call me before her.

*Kneels before the heika*
“Hai Heika what is your bidding?”
She looks down upon me and speaks;
“I have a task for you! Go to Stonegate and find the Lady Merci. Tell her I wish to see her as soon as possible tonight. Bring her to my palace without haste!”
“Hai Heika, by your command”

I bowed and headed directly to Stonegate. Upon my arrival the Inn was a flurry of activity. Several greeted me upon my entrance, I acknowledged their greetings and declined to join them, stating that I had a message from the Empress of Tokuno for the Lady Merci. She was seated not far from where I was standing and walk up to me.

“What is the message?”
“The empress (using their tongue) wishes to see you”
“Oh, I’ll come at once!”

And with that I escorted her to Zento, then though the moongate to the Imperial Palace. One there, I had her wait in the throne room as I went upstairs. I returned a few moments later and escorted her up to the empress’s private chambers.

*omits the context of the meeting for security reasons*

Upon completion of the meeting, I escorted the Lady Merci back to Zento, where she told me she could get back home on her own from there. I bowed and returned to the palace.

Upon my return to the palace, Heika and Lady Yoshi were talking by the doors of her chamber. The Heika then dismissed Lady Yoshi for the night explaining she which to talk to “Ikura” (using my first name) alone. Knowing my daughter ‘s face as well as I do, I could tell she was surprised by this request, but did not let it show in her response, she simple bowed graciously and departed.

Heika instructed me to sit and took a seat across from me, then spoke;
“How well do you know the city of Trinsic?”
“I know of it (holding back any details I knew) and my wife is currently teaching there.”
“Then I have sad news to bring you” she stated.
“Alatan have cleansed the city and have renamed it Kaane!” “Do you understand?”

I heard her words but the weight of them did not register with me fully. She then said;
“She may have fleed with the few that got out.” Then it hit me what she was saying.

I told her;
“My wife was teaching herbal medicine to the Paladins of Trinsic, knowing her, she would not run.” “She would have stayed with the sick and wounded!”

Heika locked her eyes with mine, and with a face void of emotion simply stated; “There are no sick or wounded!”

I could feel the blood rush from my face and hands, my fingers started to twitch involuntarily.

I asked; “Could this be confirmed?”
Heika responded; “I can check with those I know, but it is grim”
I asked her not to speak of this to Yoshi, until we could confirm the information. I thanked her for words and bowed, departing on legs that were weak and wobbly.

I made my way downstairs to find Lady Yoshi, my daughter waiting for me. I looked into her eyes as I approached and saw in them the face of her mother. She and her mother could have been sisters, she reminded me so much of her. My thoughts were snapped back when I heard Yoshi say; “Father!”

I looked at her snapping; “see to the empress!” I slipped my unsteady feet into my boots, tied my mempo back in place and placed my helm upon my head.
Yoshi started to say something to me as I mounted my steed, I shouted to her; “Girl do your duty!!!”

And rode off leaving her voice in the wind as I headed towards Trinstic!

As he rode though the countryside his thoughts drifted back, back to happier, younger days. Sitting on the beach repairing fishing nets watching Mura diving off a small boat for oysters and pearls in the morning sun. How the light reflected off her hair and the water on her white diving suite. This was a daily ritual for him. At his age he was too young and shy to approach her, even with his father in charge of this village, he could not bring himself to approach Mister Irkosu, her father. He was a well-known man within the village and county. His skill as a maker of swords and the use of them was legendary.

This is why Ikura and the other young men watched his daughter from afar, ensuring they kept their head firmly where they belonged. The main story of his might came during a clan war. A rival house was trying to expand and claim the village in which he lived. Upon hearing they were headed to the village, Master Irkosu calmly walked to the edge of the village and sat in the middle of the road, wearing nothing more than a simply pale yellow kimono, he sat kneeling resting his weight on his heels, holding his No-dachi “Tenrai” (sound of wind) across his lap.

The rival house approached the village and upon seeing a man sitting in the middle of the road, they stopped. They looked around expecting an ambush, but the area was clear except for this one lone man. The commander of the patrol sent a ride forward with the command of “Kill it!”

The mounted samurai spurred his horse forward, as he did he took aim with a Yumi and prepared to fire. He let loose an arrow, only having it miss when Irkosu with only the slightest movement twisted out of its path allowing it to sail by as he took back his sited position. The rider was astonished that his arrow missed its mark as he rode by. Using his knees he turned his mount and prepared for a run at him from behind. Again taking aim as he advanced on his target, he fired only to miss again as he rode by. Irkosu, sitting calmly could hear the rider and horse, he knew the rider would shift his weight in the stirrups when fired, when hearing the stain of the leather; he simply bowed forward, allowing the arrow to fly harmlessly over him and sticking in the dirt. He sat back to his original position as the rider turn to see that he had failed a second time to hit his target.
The leader watching the whole time barked out a command “Katana”. The Rider hearing this, put away his Yumi and draw a sinister look Katana, its silver blade with a glint of red, looked as if blood flowed through the metal itself, the handle was woven in fine black leather, with inserts of jade and pearl.

Irkosu upon seeing the blade smiled. The rider seeing this upstart smiling at him took it for mockery, not for the appreciation of the blade he was holding. He spurred his horse forward to a full charge, raising his katana above his head to take Irkosu in one feel swoop.

What the rider failed to notice in his brief moment of anger, was Irkosu had shifted his weight from his knees, to the balls of his feet, and adjusted his hands on his No-Dachi. As the rider got with in less than a yard of Irkosu, Irkosu using his balance and speed, sprung up and to the side, hafting “Tenrai” in a wide sweeping arch from the ground to the air at about 40 degrees of angle.
Irkosu’s blade made contact with the horse just above the front legs, cutting clean across and deeply into the mounts chest. The arch and power of the swing along with the heft of the blade allowed it to continue up and out of the mount, taking the horses head and the rider’s right leg!

As the horse faltered and started head for the ground, the rider was propelled forward by the momentum of his own actions. Irkosu knowing what was to happen next followed through with his movement and brought his blade down from its high arch cutting the rider in half before he hit the ground.

The swing from the rider never game, only a look of shock was left on the dead man’s face.
Irkosu stood in the middle of the road, with carnage all around and spoke; “This village is not yours for the taking and is property of the house of Shimakaze, I am but a simple smith and you have seen my resolve. Collect your dead or join them, those are your chooses!”

The Commander of the patrol looked Irkosu in the eye and held his gaze for what seemed a life time, then without a word turn his horse and rose off, with his men following.

That’s how the story went, if it was true or not, no one knows or will speak of it, they simply tell it the same way each time.

Ikrua thoughts drifted again, this time he was standing behind a group of palms watching the girls, especially Mura sort the oysters they had brought up, he was lost in thought when he felt the cold of steel at the side of his neck, then he heard the voice, that deep commanding voice at no more than a whisper; “you have eyes for my daughter young shimakaze?” Startled, he stammered; “No sir, I was. Was ah..No sir!!” “WHAT!!” Irkosu said louder, but still not to the point of to bring attention for the divers. “Is my daughter to plain or fat for you?” “Do you find her ugly?” Shimakaze blushed, “No sir she is like a cloud from heaven, the most beautiful thing I have ever seen!”

“Then why do you hide behind tress and your nets on the beach?” “Do you not think I see you looking? All you boys do!” Ikrua lowered his head; “I asked forgiveness, I did not mean to offend.” Irkosu thought for a moment and removed his blade from the young Shimakaze’s neck, turned and started strolling a way; “Quite watching my daughter!” “Hai Irkosu, hai,” Shimakaze’s heart sank, then he heard “Talk with her, she would enjoy that more!”

Ikrua thoughts were brought back to reality when he heard the clash of steel, as he approached the West Main Gate of Trinsic, he saw the forces loyal to Queen Dawn attempting to fight their way in. His eyes scanned towards the city, he could see plums of black and gray smoke coming from all areas of the city, and then he saw them! The virtuebane, those foul beasts that have been attacking almost every city in the land.

He spurred his horse forward passing the fighting at the gate and entering the city, from the maps he had studied he knew where he must go. He readied his yumi and head in. Firing arrow after arrow not stooping for a decisive engagement, his only thought was to get to the temple.

He rode swiftly though the streets having to jump his mount over bodies and debris, at one point he had made a wrong turn and faced a fighter with a hound. He quickly dispatched the hound with his bow, then switched to swords to deal with its master. The fight went quick, with Ikrua being wounded but not badly. He regained his bearings and moved to the temple towards the north and east of the city.

Upon arriving, he dismounted and went inside, bodies and parts of bodies littered the area like hell itself. He searched from room to room, looking in desperation. Having to stop and fight from time to time to make his way in.
As he entered a room on the second level he saw a bane dragon with is back to him, it was eating. He started to withdraw when he caught the glimpse of color. Under the dragon he could see the peach color of a Kimono. His blood rose to his eyes fury and hate filled his heart! He jumped on the back of the beast plunging his katana into it repeatedly. The beast went wild, swinging left and right to dislodge the intruder from its back. It after several attempts was successful, and tossed Ikrua to the far wall. It circled licking its wounds. Ikrua stunned got to his feet, look to the dragon to see his katana was still imbedded in the back of the beast. He reached up and pulled his No-Dachi from his back, a gift from his father-in-law Irkosu. He stood his stance waiting for the beast, a wait the was not far off. The Dragon seeing movement charged Ikura head on. Ikura waited for the last second and then side steeped the beast bring the sword down, taking its head in a single stroke.

Dropping his sword his rushed to the body he had seen. The body indeed wore a kimono, it was lying face down. Slowly he reached out and gently rolled the body over. As the body rolled he looked into the face to see that of his beloved wife staring back at him, her eyes were wide open but devoid of life, she was gone. In her hand she clutched the tanto, a small knife she carried with her. She had several bolts and arrows in her, and was badly hack and chewed up. He yelled in rage releasing all his emotion and grief. After several minutes, he wrapped her body in some linen he found, and carried her out to his mount. He mounted up and carried her as he did after their wedding. He spurred the horse forward, he would not stop to fight, and his goal was to leave the city with his Mura. It seemed like he was in a bubble as he rode past the fighting, he was able to leave untouched.

He head north for no other reason than that was the direction his mount had chosen. He whispered to his Mura as they moved among the trees, asking to before given for not being there to defend her, cursing himself for letting her go alone or at all. Telling her all those things she had missed while gone. How her daughter had grown to be a fine woman, serving tea with honor to the empress and becoming her Tejini. How she has become a women like her mother, with all the grace and honor a father could hope for.

The horse had stopped in a clearing, the clearing seemed to be a shrine of some sort, an ankh surrounded by water with stairs leading nowhere, and blue shimmering lights. He dismounted and carefully laid Mura down. He unwrapped her body and took water from the shrine, cleaning her, tending her wounds, then dressing her in a white kimono with a power blue obi. He then wrapped her in the morning cloth. With this done, he took his ax from his pack and chopped down several trees. He then built a funeral stand and placed Mura upon it. He then performed last rights blessing her, making offerings of what little food and gold he had with him. He then leaned forward and kissed her twice, once for himself and then the second saying; “for Yoshi.” He then stepped back with eyes full of tears and lite the funeral stand. He knelt during the burning, chanting, watching the smoke rise into the air.

When the last ember died, he gathered up the ashes in a urn speaking lowly to himself as his she was there. He then placed the urn in his saddlebag and headed home, knowing the hardest thing in his life that he ever had to do was to come, telling his daughter that her mother was dead.

#2
Robert Falcon

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Denial



Yoshi seemed confused. Her father suddenly arrived home after she had not seen or heard from him for days. Not since that night at the palace when the Empress took him aside to talk in private. It was the first time she had excluded her Tenji from any conversation. Afterwards her father had left the palace in a rush without so much as an explanation and he looked worried. This troubled Yoshi and she took great pains to compose herself before returning to the Empress. She knew not to press the matter. It was between them and she must put it aside.


The next few days had been filled with work. New household staff to get situated; fortunately Kimi, eldest of the servants, was able to explain the new staff’s duties and responsibilities while Yoshi attended to Himeko’s studies. She oversaw the planting and decoration of the new rooftop gardens and the purchase of several horses for the clan. Her days were full and her mind settled.


But now Ikrua stood before her with a look in his eyes she had never seen before. A haunted look as though he had been pursued by evil sprits the entire time he had been gone. She studied him with dismay. When she saw his armor was stained with blood her concern grew.


“Father, you are hurt.” She said touching his armor. “What happened? Why is there blood on your armor?”


Ikrua, her father, the rock of her life stood and stared at her as though afraid to speak.


“Father you are frightening me. Speak. Tell me what is wrong?” Her voice cracked.


Ikrua pushed a bundle towards her. The bundle was wrapped in silk. The silk was white. Yoshi froze. Her eyes spoke fear as she glanced from the bundle to her father and back. Her heart trembled. Her breath caught in her chest. She heard herself ask, in a voice as weak as a child’s.


“Father, what is this you carry?”


Then Ikrua knelt and Yoshi’s blood ran cold. There was a ringing in her ears as her father pushed the bundle towards her. When he next spoke her mind ceased to function.


“Your….your…” Ikrua struggled to get the words past his lips. “Your mother… is dead.”


Yoshi blinked slowly. She was unsure if she had heard his words correctly. She glanced around the room expecting to wake up any second. She had had dreams similar to this on occasion but they had always ended with the sun streaming through her sleeping room window. She blinked again and tilted her head to one side. She was curious as to why Ikrua was kneeling before her holding out a bundle wrapped in white silk saying something about her mother. She blinked again.


“Father, please get up.” She said almost laughing. “What you are saying is ridiculous and simply cannot be true. Mother is in Trinsic. Safe and under the protection of that cities governor. This is foolishness. Please father…you must stand.”


But Ikrua did not stand. Instead he bowed his head and wept. His next words sent an arrow through her heart.


“Daughter…I beg your forgiveness…for failing…for my failure to protect your mother and my beloved wife. She died with honor. I arrived too late. The fault is mine.”


Yoshi had never seen her father cry. In her entire life not one tear from this man who had lost close friends and comrades on the field of battle. Sadness? Yes. Regret? Perhaps. But tears? Never.


For the next two days Yoshi studied every map of Trinisc she could find. She was certain the ashes contained in the urn that sat where her father left it (as she refused to touch it) near the stairs were not the ashes of her beloved mother. Her mother had escaped the carnage. Her father found someone who looked like her mother. Were there not secret tunnels under the city? Surely she escaped there. Or perhaps she received a blow to the head and her memory has been lost. She could be wandering the wilds without knowing who or where she is.


Yoshi paced the family library. On more than one occasion she donned her armor and prepared to ride out in search of her lost mother. Each time, she paused at the stable doors. Thought of another possibility and returned to the house.


Servants fled before her. She refused food. She did not sleep.


On the third day. Her father found her in the rooftop garden. She was sitting under the cherry blossom tree watching the sunset. She looked up at Ikrua with the eyes of a lost child. Her father took her in his arms and told her the story of when he first met her mother.


Yoshi made him repeat the story. She smiled and wept. They talked long into the night. Her thoughts kept coming back to the possibility that her mother was still walking the earth, lost and forlorn and that she could do something to find her and bring her home again. She was convinced all that this was a mistake…


…that all this was wrong.



To be continued…



#3
Robert Falcon

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Anger


Yoshi Shimakaze sat up. Her sleep had been fitful since the news of her mother’s death. More details were emerging about the carnage and the battle. Her mother had died with honor and without regret but this did not comfort the young woman as she moved through her days and nights without purpose…she needed purpose. Somehow none of this seemed fair. The Gods were supposed to protect her family and her ancestors had been given every respect she could manage. Daily prayers and offerings both at home and in the temple at Zento. She had been robbed of her mother’s voice. Her mothers touch. Her mother’s presence. Someone had to pay.

Rising, she padded from her sleeping room to the bath. She dismissed the servants with a terse wave of her hand. The bath was short. Returning to her room she dressed quickly in a simple robe. Himeko was not there. She frowned and went downstairs. As she descended the stairs to the second floor family area, she stopped half-way down. Something was wrong. Everything seemed out of place. Even the air felt strange. Something had to be done.

Reaching the bottom of the stairs she looked about the room. Several servants were cleaning. Another worked the loom. Himeko was assisting with the thread; she was wearing boy’s clothes again.

One of the house guards was eating at the table, which was permitted, but for some reason Yoshi found it disrespectful. Someone was in the cooking room preparing tea. Her mother? The urn still sat near the stairs leading to the ground floor. Yoshi blinked hard. She balled her hands into fists.

“WHAT IS THIS?” she screamed.

In that instant the world froze in place. The guard had his chopsticks half way to his mouth and froze…rice fell back into the bowl and his eyes grew wide. The servant at the loom sat up stiff as a board. From the kitchen came the sound of breaking porcelain as a tea bowl hit the floor. Even Himeko sat up. Yoshi was looking at statues.

“WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?” The rage in her voice echoed through the house.

The startled household fell to their knees facing Yoshi and pressed their foreheads to the floor; one of them was whimpering. Himeko sat on her stool and looked at Yoshi in shock. She was about to speak but Yoshi cut her off.

“As the Empress still lives and thus you have not yet been made divine; you are therefore still subject to the rules of this house. You will return to your room and dress yourself properly. After you bathe.”

Himeko made a sour face and started to rise but Yoshi motioned for her to remain where she was. Himeko sat down in a huff.

Then she turned her attention to the servants on the floor. Everything that crossed her gaze offended the nineteen year old. Every sound. Every bird call or buzz of an insect rankled her nerves. How dare life go on as if nothing happened? How DARE it. Something had to be done.

Tradition demanded that those in mourning for a lost relative dress in white. But Yoshi found that to be offensive as well…the color of snow, of purity did not seem right. Her heart and her mood felt black. The loss felt like a black pit into which she had been thrown.

She did not know how long she stood there lost in such musings but when she looked up Ikrua was standing at the top of the stairs leading to the ground floor watching silently as the servants remained face down on the floor. Himeko was looking from Ikrua to Yoshi with a confused look in her eyes.

“Daughter? What….?” Ikrua began.

“Black.” Yoshi said looking at the floor.

“Black!” She repeated and looked up. Ikrua closed his mouth and nodded. He understood his daughter’s anger. He too felt the same anger day’s earlier but was now resigned to fate. His daughter was not.

Her voice rose in its determination to set things right.

“Black. Do you hear? Black! Everyone in this household shall wear black for the next forty-nine days. Do you understand?”

Her father nodded as the servants shouted in one voice.

“HAI!”

Yoshi started across the room toward the stairs. She clapped her hands and instructed a servant to attend to Himeko and see she was properly bathed and dressed. She did not look her father in the eye as she passed him. She did not even glance at the urn. She paused at the top of the stairs and looking down them added.

“Anyone caught not wearing black during this time…” The servants paused. “Anyone caught not wearing black during this time,” she continued, “shall be put to the blade.”

It was not the words that sent a chill through everyone in the room, including her father. It was the tone of her voice. A calm statement of certainty. A simple pronouncement of fate that should one fail to follow such an order; one’s life would be forfeit.

Yoshi’s face was stoic and reserved as she descended the stairs to the gardens below.

Something was being done.


To be continued…




#4
Robert Falcon

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Bargaining



The great bell rang three times.


The long toll of its ringing drifted into the distant hills of Makoto-Jima to be replaced by the wind rustling through the bamboo forest.


Yoshi knelt in the shrine of her forefathers dressed in traditional white. Her kimono, made from the finest silks, shone in the bright light of late afternoon. Her Obi bearing the image of cranes standing in shallow water was tied off in the form of a Lotus. Her hair was gathered and pinned in the fashion of one seeking favors from the gods. A single hair-fan protruded from the large chignon at the back of her head. The fan was painted with the image of fishing boats in black and red. Her face was calm; her eyes closed in meditation.


She had been kneeling here since sunrise. She had not eaten nor taken water. She had not spoken. She had not removed her hands from the folds of her sleeves. She was a statue of discipline. A porcelain figurine made to grace the altar of some wealthy lord. She was bound by her desire to seek patronage; a favor: A blessing.


At sunset the gentle breeze that rustled the bamboo shifted from land to seaward and the scent of the ocean drifted through the shrine. Yoshi opened her eyes slowly as one awakening from a trance. The smell of the ocean brought a sharp memory of her mother tending the fishing nets on the shores near their summer home. How she loved the ocean. A single tear trailed down Yoshi’s face to land on the sleeve of her kimono. She looked at the stain as though it were a sign. Lifting her head she whispered;


“Grandfather. I have done my best to pay my Gimu to our family back to the time of the beginning. I have made the offerings and strove to fulfill my obligations to my father and my Empress. In all this I have asked for nothing. In all this I have given much. I have but one thing left to offer…”


Removing her hand from the sleeve of her kimono she brought forth a Tanto bound in red leather and wood. She raised the sleeve of her kimono above the elbow and, holding the Tanto before her, tugged the blade from the scabbard. Her eyes reflected in the highly polished blade as she drew it out. Laying the scabbard gently to the side of her left knee she rested her left forearm on her folded leg and placed the flat of the cold blade against her skin.


“…I offer my blood and my word that I will do whatever you ask, pay any price, kill any man, fulfill any pilgrimage or die any death if you would but return my mother to her husband and daughter and fill the blackness that surrounds us with the light of her smile.”


Yoshi drew the blade across her forearm. The blade left no mark of its passing. Then a thin red line appeared. Yoshi closed her eyes and whispered her promise again. The thin red line grew into a smear; the smear into a trickle; the trickle into a red cord that flowed along the curve of her arm and came to rest in a blossoming pool on the white folds of her kimono.


As the sun dipped behind the hills and the call of an eagle echoed through the bamboo, Yoshi Shimakaze, first born daughter to the House of Shimakaze, Tenji to the Empress of Tokuno and beloved daughter of Mura Shimakaze struck her bargain in blood…


…and the great bell rang once more.



To be continued…