The Burning Throne, Episode 17: Gisei Toshi

Continued from: http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/the-burning-throne-episode-16-old-crab-new-tricks/ 

In honor of yesterday’s Book Bomb, this week’s episode comes from Dan Wells, who is GMing this campaign.

When last we saw Zuko and Machio they had been attacked by Yobanjin Sky Riders. Machio had been captured and Zuko had attempted to pursue them, but couldn’t catch up. The character suffers from a disadvantage called Lord Moon’s Curse, which basically means he loses his mind once in awhile during the full moon, and sadly, this was during the full moon and he didn’t make his willpower check. We have no idea what he did that night, but Zuko woke up in a cave in the middle of nowhere the next morning with a map to a mystical city that doesn’t officially exist and a message scrawled on the wall in his own blood that his death was at hand. He followed the map, and the rest of the party didn’t see him for quite some time.

Fosuta Zuko visits Gisei Toshi

Silence.

Rain.

Isawa Hideaki listened to the rain, not the storm but the drops, a million million tiny drops of rain, some fat and wet, some small and sharp and cold, clattering down on the rooftops and the courtyard and the trees Hideaki had so carefully tended that morning. Each drop fell separate, alone in an endless torrent, and as they slipped and splashed and splattered through the leaves of the tended trees Hideaki heard them, saw them, greeted them with the courtesy of proud old men. Each had their place in the storm.

A hole moved swiftly through the sky, noiseless and formless, scattering the drops and yet this, too, was a part of their pattern. Hideaki waited as the nothing dropped behind him to the ground, listened as its silent footsteps passed the threshold of the temple, nodded as its sword slid perfectly from its scabbard.

“Hold, monk.” The nothing’s voice was as cold as the rain. A samurai well-acquainted with darkness.

Hideaki was not moving before, and did not move now. He listened to the samurai’s breathing, trained and measured and laced with hesitation. Being acquainted with darkness does not mean overcoming it.

“What is this place?”

Hideaki answered simply. “It is a tomb.”

“Not this building, monk, the city? What is it? No one has ever heard of it, no men go in or out, you grow your own rice inside the city walls. I have traveled the length of it and found no palace; I have circled the breadth of it and found no doors.” The samurai held his blade still as steel. “What are the secrets of Gisei Toshi?”

“You know its name,” said Hideaki. This was most interesting, yet still, he saw, a part of the pattern. “If no one knows of it, how did you learn it?”

“I followed a map.”

“There is only one map,” said Hideaki, nodding. “How did you acquire it?”

“My secrets are my own,” said the samurai. “I am here for yours, and I warn you to give them up quickly.”

“You know much, and yet you know nothing,” said Hideaki. “You are not what I expected.”

The samurai’s voice changed—more curious, more afraid. “You knew I was coming.”

“I knew someone was coming,” said Hideaki, “but I did not know it would be you.”

“Do you know who I am?”

Hideaki laughed, soft and warm, the patient laugh of kindly uncle. “Know you? I know about you.” He turned on his prayer mat, seeing the samurai for the first time with his eyes—he was a human shadow, a thick black cloak pulled tight around his shoulders, pooling fluidly around his feet. “I know you move through the sky, but I do not know how. I know you stay unnaturally distant from the candles and the incense burners, but I do not know why. I know you bear the symbol of a spider on your sword, but I do not know what it is. I know that you have come to Gisei Toshi, the city that does not exist, and yet I know that you do not understand what it is or why you are here. But do I know you, samurai? Do I know who you are?” He shook his head. “How can I know such a thing if you do not know it yourself?”

“I know myself.”

“You know about yourself,” said Hideaki. “Nothing more.”

The samurai paused, sword outstretched. Hideaki could see his face, scarred and burned, trapped in indecision. His stance spoke of grim determination, his swordplay of deep, ruling passions, but his eyes revealed only loss and confusion. He was not the samurai Hideaki had expected to arrive, but he was still and always, inescapably, a part of the pattern. Outside the rain fell, drop by drop, a skyborne ocean of individual fragments.

“The map I followed leads straight to this tomb,” said the samurai. “Who is buried here?”

“His name was Bunrakuken, who tried to raise the dead moon back into the sky. We guard his body and the Lady Moon guards us. And yet you have her map, and still she shines above the clouds. I have shared my secret, samurai—what is yours? How did you acquire Hitomi’s map?”

The samurai’s voice was thin and brittle. “I do not know.”

“Why are you here?”

“I do not know.”

Hideaki watched him closely. “Who are you?”

The samurai’s gaze faltered, his eyes cast downward, his body slumped and defeated. “I do not know.” Hideaki opened his mouth to speak, but the samurai disappeared: his sword sheathed in a heartbeat, his cloak swirling about him like a patch of night as he turned, his body melting into shapeless darkness as he leapt up and out of the shrine. Hideaki listened as he moved through the rain, a hole in the sky, and then he was gone.

Isawa Hideaki shifted on his prayer mat, returning to his familiar position, resuming his meditation. A flying samurai. A clan of spiders. A plan that was not a plan, plotting against—or masterminded by—the Lady Moon herself. Questions upon questions. The old monk closed his eyes, opened his inner spirit, let himself become one with the Void as piece by piece the world around him disappeared. Floor. Shrine. City. Mountain.

Rain.

Silence.

To be Continued next week with Child of a Thousand Generations, where Zuko’s replacement shows up. http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/the-burning-throne-episode-18-child-of-a-thousand-generations/ 

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