The Burning Throne, Episode 37: Magatsu Redeemed

Sorry for the late post. Normally these game night serials are posted Friday morning. I don’t normally work on Fridays (well, I write books, but I don’t normally do accounting on Fridays). But yesterday I had to interview a bunch of people for jobs. So better late than never.

Continued from:   This week’s episode is once again by Paul Genesse, and if you read last week’s entry, you know he got messed earlier.

From the Journal of the dishonored Crab Clan Shugenja, Kuni Magatsu

Written after the Battle of Pale Oak Castle

Fumiyo. Dishonor. That was the name I had chosen for myself after I thought the earth kami abandoned me. I arrived at the mountain shrine behind Pale Oak Castle and prepared for five days of prayer and meditation to atone for my sins, where I would ask the gods what was in my future. Would I return to the ways of a Kuni shugenja, or would I live out the rest of my days as a monk, with no contact with the kami, and no clan affiliation?

This was the question I asked when I washed the sacred kabuki paint all Kuni shugenja wear from my face and removed the robes of my clan and family. When I did so, I wondered if I would ever wear the paint again, or ever acknowledge the allegiance to my clan. I thought my time as a shugenja was over, as I had failed to heed the will of the kami. I had sought to abuse the power given me, and bring death to many innocents, just to strike a terrible blow to my enemies.

The power of the Shamesword, Penance, which I helped destroy, may have clouded my mind, but the fault of my failure was my own.

I knelt at the mountain shrine, supplicating myself before the sacred stones, and listening to the wind, and the stream, and the voice inside my mind that said the kami had not abandoned me, but that I had abandoned them.

I endured only a single night of prayer before my will broke. The pain in my broken hip and leg, as I knelt at the shrine, became so severe that I feared I would have to change position, and fail again in my obeisance to the gods. In a moment of weakness, I asked my loyal friend, Batsu, to help me numb the pain and maintain my prayer vigil. He brought me a jar of sake, and I drank all that he provided, and asked for more.

He also told me that the face paint I had washed off in the pool that fed the fast-moving stream beside the shrine, was still there, congealing into a mysterious kanji, that I dared not look at. This was the first sign, that the kami might still be with me. Later, when I fell asleep and was awakened much later, one of the sacred stones of the shrine had moved to support my tired body, and there was some relief from the pain.

I first thought the sound that had awakened me near dawn was the mountain shifting and breaking, and I strained to understand the message. The pain, dulled by the sake, had fooled me. I realized the sound was a big man, running up the steep trail to the shrine, his boots crunching the gravel on the path. I did not turn, for I knew who it was. The creaking armor the loud steps could belong to only one man, my friend, Hida Makoto. No one steps so loudly, or breathes so heavily as him.

He had run all the way from the castle, uphill, in his armor, and that he was able to do this feat, showed me that the strength of the earth was with him, and he was indeed a messenger of the kami.

He brought a message from Ide Todo, requesting that I join them and help defend Pale Oak Castle from the Yobanjin horde besieging the walls. I refused, for I had promised the kami five days of prayer and meditation, after which, I would ask if I was to return to being a shugenja again, or live out my days as a humble monk, and tend an earth shrine.

Makoto was insistent that I return, and do my duty, but I was not convinced until we shared a jar of sake. When I drained my cup, in the bottom of the clay vessel, I saw the first light of the dawn, and had a vision of what I was to do. The earth kami had accepted my apologies, and would do my bidding once again, but wanted me to remember my mistakes, so they had given me a reminder, a limp that I would bear for the rest of my days. More prayer and meditation was needed, but not today. If I did not help with the fight today, many innocents would die.

Makoto would die, and Batsu, and Suze, and Zuko, and most significantly, Ide Todo. The light of the Paper Lanterns would go out forever because I did not support my friends when they fought the champion of the Army of Dark Fire. Makoto would strike hard, but he would fall without the Kami’s Strength that only I could provide for him.

Makoto and Batsu carried me to a litter and bore me down the mountain. The shattered bones in my broken hip caused me much pain then, and I partook in the last of the sake. The events of the rest of the morning are not clear to me now, and Batsu has refused to tell me the details of what happened, though I remember being awakened on the top of the wall of the castle and seeing a tremendous flash of light.

Naked—with no face paint—and intoxicated from the sake, I believe I did further dishonor to myself as I lost control of my senses and communed with the gods once again. On top of the parapet, as my body spasmed and my mouth frothed in front of the assembled warriors, I saw the disorganized ranks of the army of Yobanjin, and their champion wreathed in fire, I remembered why I had come.

Out of mind in pain, and under the affects of the sake, and the lingering malaise from my epileptic fit, Batsu ushered me away from the wall after the ritual was completed to break the false Shamesword. We had left a decoy in the castle, and it had been hidden in wooden boxes within boxes as I had suggested.

Thankfully, healer shugenja from the Phoenix Clan cleared my mind and relieved me of most of the pain in my hip. I prepared for the battle and applied my face paint as Sensei Kiyoshi had taught me. When Batsu placed my Crab Clan robes over my shoulders I knew the time had come to call to the kami once again.

The battle at the walls will be recorded on many scrolls, so I will not recount that here, but when the day was over, my closest friends were still alive, though many in the Paper Lanterns had given their lives to achieve victory, and the champion of the Army of Dark Fire was dead.

I used my bloody tetsubo as a crutch to cross the battlefield afterward, and I looked up at the mountains behind the castle. I could not see the sacred mountain shrine, but I knew it was right that I had abandoned my vigil and followed the will of the gods. There is some great destiny that those around me must fulfill, and I must help them as much as I can, to accomplish this.

Though I am flawed, and now an even more broken man than I was before, there is a truth that even I can see: the kami are doing my bidding once again, and I will use them to preserve the lives of the remaining Paper Lanterns, and crush the enemies of the Emerald Empire. It may take me some time to regain my honor, but I have found glory in battle, and I have found my name once again, I am the Crab Clan Shugenja, Kuni Magatsu.


Paul Genesse is a good editor too. If you want to check out a short story anthology he edits (including one by yours truly) go here:

To be continued next week, with what is probably one of the best mass battle scenes I’ve ever written. And that includes actual published stuff.  In the Shadow of a Pale Oak 

City of the Saints, by Dave Butler
James O'Keefe does it again

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