The Burning Throne, Episode 19: Honor & Tears

Continued from: http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/the-burning-throne-episode-18-child-of-a-thousand-generations/ 

This week’s episode from Writer Nerd Game Night comes from Steve Diamond. We are all absolute suckers for backstory, and after I gave epic backstory to random door guard #2, Steve decided to up it a notch. Akimi was the gunso (sergeant equivelent) of the Mountain Spirits. After Makoto and Magatsu killed her boss and revealed that he’d been tainted by the forces of evil, she joined the Paper Lanterns.

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Honor and Tears

How do I show strength when my life has been broken?

The ronin Akimi knelt in the middle of her tent, silent tears flowing down her cheeks.  Is this what her life was reduced to?  Weeping where only the kami and the fortunes could witness?

This was her pattern every night.  She would enter her tent after erecting it, and then lower herself to her knees.  The tears would start within moments.  The ground absorbed the salty drops hungrily.  Each tear she wept was a piece of herself that she shed. 

Will I run dry?  If I cry long enough will I disappear?

Nobu.  Her last image of the man haunted her dreams when she could coax her body into sleeping.  She could still see the Kuni’s spell of jade dancing along her leader’s body, revealing his taint and corruption.  It was like she had stared into the sun for too long, and could still see it even when she looked away.  It was a betrayal to all the Mountain Spirits, but to her it was yet more personal. 

How long had she followed Nobu?  Months?  Years?  The actual time no longer mattered.  She could no longer remember fondly the quiet times they had shared together.  Their warm embraces when they managed to meet deep in the mountains or woods.  The warmth of those feelings and memories were gone, replaced by an aching hurt that refused to be taken from her no matter how hard she tried to cry it away.

In truth she had no one to blame but herself.  Like a young and stupid lady of the court, she had let herself be fooled into thinking that change recently come upon Nobu was a normal occurrence.  Surely he was blessed?

No, the only sure thing was my foolishness.

What had possessed him to take that wakizashi?  To the other warriors he had become the embodiment of their exaggerated love for their leader.  To Akimi he had suddenly stopped being the man she loved.  Their conversations died, as did their love, but she told herself it was because of the stress he felt trying to care for the scattered groups of refugees.  But then came the robbing of traveling groups.  The all consuming hatred for all the Dragon Clan.  Nobu’s hate-filled words were like a seductive plague, and soon everyone—even herself, Akimi knew—were under their influence.

Then came those blessed and accursed Paper Lanterns.

She rummaged through her traveling pack, careful not to damage the vials of liquid imbued with spells and pulled out a mirror.  She looked into it and tried to keep from weeping harder.  How old she now looked.  All her affection and time with Nobu wasted.  Her Tamori ancestors—if they even still looked down on her at all—would likely spit on her for going against their ways for the affection of a now traitorous ronin.

Akimi’s face was weathered, her eyes dull and red from night upon night of tears.  Her long black hair was mangled from lack of care.

There was a scratch at the entrance to her tent and the clearing of a throat.  “Akimi.  May we speak?”

Ide Todo.  She wanted to thank him and kill him all at once.  As the leader of the Paper Lanterns he was ultimately responsible for the death of Nobu, but he was also responsible for revealing the truth.  He was proof that the Empire had not turned its back on the refugees here in Dragon lands.

She dried her eyes as best she could, rose from her kneeling position, then exited the tent.  It would not have been proper to invite him in.

“How may I be of service?” she asked bowing.

“Ah, now that really is the question isn’t it.” He had a sad smile on his face.  He was a physically weak looking man, unimpressive in stature.  But in that battle he had controlled all his men with just his voice.  He had commanded not with force, but through the respect he had gained.  In another life he may have been a warrior of a different kind, but in this one he made due with his strengths.

“What do you mean?”

“I know why you hide yourself away at night.  I can see still the redness of your eyes.  The wetness on your cheeks.”

“I cannot stop the tears,” she said quietly.  “Why can’t I stop the tears?”

He shook his head slowly.  “Because you don’t want them to stop.”

“That is absurd!”

“Is it?  Look me in the eyes and tell me you feel no guilt for having succumbed to the lies Nobu fed to you and the others.  If you can, I will walk away.”

She couldn’t.  Ide Todo knew she couldn’t.  It was like he could read her feelings like they were written on parchment.

“I will not tell you to cease grieving over what you lost,” Todo said.  “I will not tell you to stop doubting yourself—everyone has doubts.  Do not cease.  Accept.  Accept that, like myself and everyone you have ever met or will meet, you have difficulties to overcome within yourself.  When you accept yourself—your weaknesses and your strengths—you will realize that you have lost nothing.”

He turned and started walking away, then paused.  “You are to serve under Hida Makoto.  As we recruit more individuals they will be under your direction as you are under the direction of Makoto, and he under the direction of Fosuta Zuko.  Earn back your honor.”

And then he was gone.

She stood and stared after him, shocked into silence.  Her mind was clear, and her eyes dry.  She looked back at her tent then purposely walked away from it to one of the camp fires.

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Next week’s episode will be another from Steve Diamond, Aerie of the Sky Riders.  Because it isn’t enough to make epic backstory for all of the good NPCs, but we need to do it for our antagonists too. http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/the-burning-throne-episode-20-aerie-of-the-sky-riders/ 

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