The Burning Throne, Episode 15: Sword of Penance

Continued from: http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/the-burning-throne-episode-14-duty-and-faith/ 

These events came from the same Writer Nerd Game Night as the last piece of fiction. Up first is an entry from Nick, whose character Zuko, along with Machio (Rob) had scouted ahead to the ruins of the High House of Light looking for the sword, while meanwhile the rest of us blundered into it in a nearby village.

Immediately after this entry, Rob’s characrter gets kidnapped by birds. I’ll catch you up later.

The second entry comes from Paul (Kuni Magatsu) in the aftermath of last week’s Duty & Faith. Paul copied one portion from the L5R wiki  http://l5r.wikia.com/wiki/Legend_of_the_Five_Rings_Wiki detailing the history of the cursed sword we’ve been tasked with finding and destroying.

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“Thoughts over Tea” –  Paper Lantern Reflections

-Written by Togashi Shichiroji, now known as Fosuta Zuko at camp on the way to claim the Sword of Penance.

The formation of the Paper Lanterns has been something of a mystery to me.  I have given up the Way of the Fist, in lieu of the Life of the Blade.  Yet, I still have a clear connection and view of the Void.  In fact, perhaps it is clearer than ever before.  My black armor and katana, gifts from Isawa Fosuta, are beginning to feel comfortable, and their abyssal reflections remind me of the emptiness and fullness of the Void.  It is obvious to me that the Celestial Heavens are moving.  Events, such as the formation of the Paper Lanterns, the movement of the stars, the shifting emotions of the Void, point to changes larger than I can fathom.

I find myself reflecting on my companions.  My companions in the Paper Lanterns are varied, and while they all seem to be good men, there are few I would trust as I do Isawa Fosuta.  Perhaps it is because of the things I see in their eyes.

Tsuruchi Machio is my lone traveling companion in these mountains.  The quiet suits me.  It is my turn to take watch, and the night is silent.  He looks at me, well as he looks at everyone, without regard.  Eyes full of dispassion.  There is nothing holy or sacred to the man.  I often wonder if saving his life was the correct thing to do.  It set me on the true path to enlightenment, so it had to have happened, but it seems as if it was wasted effort.  The man has a death wish.  Of that there is no doubt.  Although, he seems to at least have a modicum of self-preservation, only kicking the hornet’s nest that houses the lazy or weak hornets.  If he does not curb his barbed tongue and curtail his violent actions there will be nothing I can do to protect him.  And I do wish to protect him.  For all the frustration, I feel an affinity with him.  He is an outsider, looked down on, and misunderstood.  I feel like of all of the men in the Paper Lanterns, he understands what it is to be human.

Hida Makoto, a warrior who’s equal I have never seen, looks at me with jealousy.  Eyes full of envy.  I was chosen by Ide Todo to act as the gunso to his Paper Lanterns.  To me, as with everything the Void touches, the choice has a duality of nature.  On one hand, the inspiring courtier can trust me, and knows me better than he thinks.  I have been with him longer than the Crab, and even throughout my search for Enlightenment-down whatever path that takes me-I would protect him with my life.  I do not need to speak the words for others to hear.  I need not that recognition.  I will, and do, show it in my actions.  I do not beg favors from the Unicorn, I simply follow him and learn from his example, do my best to keep him from harm.  However, I am inexperienced.  I do not know the ways of the military.  I am not sure exactly how to behave as a gunso.  I work better on my own, where all of my abilities can be put to use.  And a gunso should not be afraid.  They are courageous, and inspiring.  I refused to light a fire tonight because I am terrified of its touch.  How could the men under my command follow me if they knew that?  Is bravery and courage overcoming fear, or is it the absolute absence of it?  Perhaps I have much yet to learn from Makoto-san.  Though, we are not at the Kaiu Wall, I think his methods perhaps unnecessary at times.  Loyalty should be inspired, not forced.  Obedience through loyalty has changed the empire.  Obedience through force has destroyed lives.

The new Crab, Kuni Magatsu is severe man.  He looks at me questioningly.  Eyes full of suspicion.  Magatsu originally drew my admiration, and now I question his judgment.  His baseless suspicion angers me.  I have done the impossible for my traveling companions, multiple times, and yet they do not accept me as they do each other.  Todo, like Fosuta, has my unswerving loyalty, and yet the others look at me as though I do not belong.  Their ignorance is their own folly however.  If the Kuni wishes to be suspicious of me, he is welcome.  I know my goals, and my mission, and they are synonymous with the path of the Paper Lanterns.  They wish to destroy the Blade, I know they cannot, and are welcome to try.  When they fail, I will take the Blade to Fosuta who I believe will be able to handle the issue.

Kitsuki Tsuze is a constant reminder of who I once was.  He looks at me inquisitively as well.  Eyes full of questions.  I find it interesting he is the reason I left Dragon lands and fell into company with the men of the Paper Lanterns, but now he is the one I know least, and spend the least time with.  Perhaps it is because he is a reminder of my former life.  My former ignorance.  Tsuze-san, much in the fashion of the Dragon, throws propriety to the wind.  He speaks when we wants, and does what he wants.  Most just dismiss it as the “irrational behavior of the Dragon”, however I wonder if it is because the man’s intellect is so far beyond our own.  He has a mind beyond equal or compare.  He sees things that are inconsequential to the rest of us.  He sees patterns and life in the menial, much as I see the threads, and patterns in the Void.  He will be an asset to Todo, if he can overcome the Investigator stigma and learn to be an appropriate Rokugani

Ide Todo is a man of singular vision.  He looks at me with regard.  Eyes full of expectation.  His respect is something I value, and I will not fail him.  I will not make a mockery of the trust he has placed in me.  Fosuta saved my life, and has a tremendous presence.  I would follow him into the Shadowlands without hesitation.   Todo, while he does not command the same presence, and I do not owe him my life, has earned that same loyalty from me.  He has treated me as an equal at all times.  I understand  my folly in questioning his resolve before.  He may have an insignificant presence, but he has shown he can make the hard decisions and live with the consequences. 

The Paper Lanterns have a Celestial pull to them.  Our numbers are growing.  I can feel the gravity of our efforts.  I hope I can rise to the occasion and succeed as the gunso.  I spoke, privately, with a number of my soldiers before I left.  Their specific instructions should see them through my absence.

The sun rises and it is time to wake Machio and move.  I feel the press of time to get the Blade and back to the Paper Lanterns before dark.

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From the Private Scrolls of Kuni Magatusu, Crab Clan Shugenja

We have the Shamesword of Penance locked in an iron and jade box provided by our fore-thinking and esteemed leader, Ide Todo. The sword, a wakizashi, was in the possession of the ronin, Nobu, the proclaimed leader of the Mountain Spirits. Nobu was twisted by the sword and the Shadowlands tainted medallion he wore. We learned all of this when we confronted him in his village after we found he was hiding objects of magic from us, which we thought could be artifacts looted from the High House of Light. After Nobu refused to meet with Ide Todo, insulting him greatly, Hida Makoto demanded that Nobu come out.

I wanted to burn Nobu’s hut down around him with the Fiery Wrath of the kami, but Ide Todo is much wiser than I in matters of negotiation, so Makoto knocked with his tetsubo.

Out came Nobu a moment later. I sensed the Shadowlands taint strongly upon Nobu and a battle commenced. Hida Makoto fought with him on the steps of the hut. The power of the Shamesword kept Nobu alive after a blow from Makoto-san should have left Nobu quivering and twitching on the ground.

The other ronin saw what Nobu had become when I used Jade Strike upon him and revealed him for what he truly was, a man tainted by the vile power of the Shadowlands. The ronin did not interfere, and if they had, their ghosts would have haunted the mountains forever. It is good they did not fight us, for Makoto would have had to kill whichever of them tried to stab me in the back as I punished them all with the Fury of Osano-Wo.

The battle continued and Nobu made his fatal mistake. He blasphemed the entire Emerald Empire and enraged the true spirits of the mountain. A very strong earth kami answered my prayer and crushed Nobu with a granite boulder infused with jade power. Hida Makoto finished Nobu and destroyed his amulet with repeated blows from his tetsubo empowered with hungry fire kami, who melted it down.

When Nobu lay dead, we took possession of the Shamesword of Penance.

Later that day, I traveled to a shrine dedicated to the mountain kami and offered sacrifices to all of the elemental spirits. Then I spoke with the conjoined spirit of the awakened kami within it and the dead samurai, Hitomi Akaui. The two spoke as one.

The sword was deceptive and spoke in circles. It desires to be reunited with its first wielder, Hiruma Todori, a great man to whom I have met on one occasion. The sword says it must be reunited with him if it is to be destroyed. I doubt this is the truth.

There is a part of me that wishes to pick up the sword and understand it completely, peering into the place where the soul of the samurai is trapped, but that road will only lead to great dishonor—and perhaps some understanding of how to destroy all of the Shameswords. The sword tried to tempt me, and I tempted it back. My scheme has failed for now. The course of action we will follow now will involve asking a wiser man than I what to do.

The sword has done what it was supposed to do, and shamed me, for I have failed Ide Todo and Hida Kenzan. It has not yet been destroyed.

The Kuni that I am is glad that the sword is still whole, for I will study it as closely as I dare. If I can discover how to destroy all of the Shameswords, a great blow will be landed against the darkness.

As I think of how to destroy this blade I have decided to write down the known history of the swords. I will try to remember the exact text of the scroll I studied several years ago.

It began like this . . .  

The Bloodswords were amongst the most terrible dark-artifacts ever created, and many maho-tsukai attempted to recreate the feat of Yajinden. It wasn’t until the 12th century when the madman, Kokujin succeeded in creating a new set of blades.

Kokujin’s plan was never fully understood, but somehow he used the legendary Anvil of Despair to forge several swords. Each crafted from the soul of a disgraced Dragon hero. Each blade contained a distilled version of the sins of the soul used. As with many cursed Nemuranai the blades seemed to have a malevolent will of their own, appearing to be able to move around under their own power and choosing their bearers. It might be possible that Kokujin chose their bearers, but this is unclear.

In 1159 Kokujin issued a challenge to the Dragon Clan, asking them to send their seven finest warriors to attempt and end their conflict once and for all. This was a trap designed to capture the seven, create more Bloodswords and free the First Oni so Kokujin could learn the true name of Fu Leng. The oni was defeated, as was Kokujin, but not before he could create three more Shameswords

The Blade of Penance was one of the first Shameswords to be created and was given to the Hiruma family daimyoHiruma Todori. Todori was given the option of taking the sword or leaving it for the Bloodspeakers to find. Not wanting to risk the cultist obtaining such a powerful nemuranai, Todori took up the sword. Later attempts at destroying it however proved fruitless. In desperation Todori turned to the Crab Clan Champion Hida Kuon for aid and was told to take the blade to the DragonTogashi Satsu explained to Todori the secrets of the blade and convinced him to leave it in the possession of the Dragon. Since then the Dragon have studied the blade, but have not found how to destroy it without also destroying the soul within it.”

I, Kuni Magatsu have no compunction about destroying the soul of the Dragon Clan samurai within the Shamesword of Penance. Hitomi Akaui has been dishonored and to redeem himself his soul may be the price, but if there is a way to destroy the sword and save his soul, I will consider it, though mercy is never to be given to those who are tainted by the Maho of the Bloodspeakers or the touch of the Shadowlands.

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Coming next week, Ide Todo attempts to teach Hida Makoto how not to get totally murdered in court in Old Crab, New Tricks. http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/the-burning-throne-episode-16-old-crab-new-tricks/ 

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