The young samurai chamber was secluded and chilled.
It was relatively small and barren, save for the rolled up tatami mat and
a simple shrine set upon a stone slab. Centered
in front of the shrine was a small urn filled with dirt from Iron Mountain.
Within, it housed numerous reeds of incense that permeated the room with
the sweet scent of jasmine. Candles
flanked the urn as their light flickered about creating shadows that danced
across the room.
Tenryuu knelt down in front of the urn as he
whispered a prayer to the kami and his ancestors.
Two reeds of incense, blessed in the temples of shintao, were pulled from
the folds of his hakama. Carefully
he lit them and positioned them in the urn.
His hands firmly placed upon the ground he bowed deep and unmoving.
Slowly he rose and turned to the side.
Reaching out he brought to him a bundle wrapped in silk.
With gentle reverence he placed it in front of him and began to open up
the layers that bound it.
A roll of parchment wrapped in twine was the first
thing freed of its silken prison. Bowing
low he placed the scrolls to his forehead and whispered, “Master, I thank
you for your wisdom.”
As he placed the scroll upon the shrine, his
attention shifted back to the bundle of silks.
He continued to free the silk and at last he paused as his gaze fell upon
the blade within.
The tsuka was made of dark green jade carved into
twin dragons intertwined in harmony. Between
their two jaws was a ring of white jade with a green tassel hanging freely.
Slowly he pulled the blade from the dark lacquered
saya. It had a mirrored finish that
reflected the candlelight eerily as if it was the moon.
Within its hamon was a tempering that resembled a smoky gray mist.
At times the young dragon swore that it twirled about as if in a storm.
A small creak from behind the young samurai
interrupted his thoughts. Quickly
he resheathed the blade and closed the bundle up tight.
“Tenryuu, I hope I did not disturb you,” came
the deep booming voice.
You are always welcome in my humble home,” Tenryuu smiled as he turned
to face the larger man.
Nyugo place his hands to his chin stroking his dark
beard, “Now if I only could get a woman to say such words I could die a happy
“If you could get a woman to say such words, I
would ask how many koku did it cost our lord!”
“A pretty beni I would say,” bellowed Nyugo as
he approached the shrine.
Tenryuu rose up and straightened his clothing,
“What brings you this late hour?”
Letting out a deep breath he paused, “I heard
that you were leaving early in the morning and I wanted to make sure you did not
leave without saying goodbye.”
“I am touched my friend,” his head tilted down
in shame, “I have always found it difficult bidding farewell to those I care
Nodding his head nervously he glanced about the
room, “Why so early, the frost is still thick out there.
In a few more weeks the pass should clear up for an easier trip.”
“Hai, I would have liked to ease my journey…
but I must make it to Nisawa pass by weeks end.”
Comprehension filled Nyugo’s eyes as he realized
the significance of what the young dragon was saying, “Has it been that
“It has been almost a year now since my
master’s death. I had hoped to
bring some incense and dirt from his homeland to the place where he died.”
“You really cared for your master, eh?”
“For the short time I knew him, he was like a
father to me… how ironic it was to find out that he was my father.”
* * * *
The trip to Nisawa pass was a relatively a simple
one. His early training among the
Hoshi monks taught him to bear the harsh elements, and the frosty wind barely
qualified as harsh. Instead it gave
him time to ponder the events of a year ago.
and his master were traveling with a supply caravan that carried direly needed
food for the Dragon Clan. They chose to take Nisawa Pass in order to save a week
of travel and to avoid any hostile patrols.
The journey was arduous but relatively event free.
they got closer to the pass things began to change.
It was late at night when they were ambushed by a pack of ruthless
beasts. Standing nearly twice as
tall as any of the bushi that guarded the supplies, they struck quickly with the
precision of a seasoned war band.
skill and blood of the Mirumoto Bushi fought them back giving the caravan enough
time to make the pass. It was there
that his master set a trap to hold off the beasts.
The pass looked different from a year ago.
The rocks have been cleared and most signs of any battle were swept away
by the weather or covered in light frost.
Nostalgically he placed his hand upon the stone
facing and rubbed against its blanket of ice.
Slowly it melted away to reveal dark charred stone, undiminished by the
grimace escaped his lips as the memory of fire and sound of thunder came back to
him. The Tamori family may have
embraced the power of earth, but their skill in alchemy and fire did not
dwindle, as the painful expression of the rock facing could attest.
Peering about he collected stones from wherever
they could be found and began to build a shrine.
Kneeling down beside the shrine, he opened up his
“Master, I apologize for not coming sooner.
The war has brought much hardship. I
have brought you a piece of your home to keep your spirit company.”
Slowly he poured the sand from the pouch upon the
stone shrine, and then he placed within, three reeds of incense and lit them.
“May this light guide you to the heavens.”
Gingerly he pulled out a bowl of rice and leaves
filled with spices from the Koryo village placing them upon the shrine.
Grabbing a vial of wine, he poured it around the stones outcropping.
“Food and drink for your travels.”
Bowing deeply he focused on the teachings of his
master. To open your mind and
senses to the elements, to feel their touch upon one’s chi. A small hope within that he could still sense his father at
the place of his death.
A long time he remained bowed, his muscles began to
ache and he could sense the descent of Lord Yakamo.
It was then a sense of uneasiness filled him. Instincts overtook him as he rolled to the side grabbing for
Rolling to one knee he pulled Whispering Willow
from its saya, its point facing where he once stood.
His other hand guarded over the handle of his wakizashi.
His eyes widened in surprise. A large bestial creature stood wielding a blade the size of a
man in its hands, its tip resting upon the ground where he once prayed.
A small sigh of relief crept upon his face as he
realized the shrine was undisturbed.
The creature tilted its horned head towards him and
snorted in disgust as it sniffed at the air.
“It has his scent, but is too young… too
small,” it growled with a thick accent.
Turning its body, the blade scraped across the
ground causing sparks to flare about.
Tenryuu remained on a single knee with his blade
out, making small adjustments to the creature’s movement.
His eyes were intent on the beast, as his left hand worked methodically
wrapping the silk sash band of his saya upon his wakizashi’s tsuba and then
“If not him, then perhaps it is his pup,” its
bestial voice continued as it crouched low facing the young dragon.
is dangerous… do not underestimate its speed or skill,” Tenryuu thought
as he observed its soft and supple movements.
A disturbing fanged smile appeared on its lips.
“Its death will do.”
Almost a blur the creature struck, its blade coming
crashing down. Cursing silently
Tenryuu dived to the side, his blade striking at the creature’s unprotected
leg. Only to have the blade swing
through empty air, as the creature was already gone.
Sensing the creature was descending upon him, he
pushed awkwardly forward hitting the ground as the thunderous impact of the
creature colliding against the earth..
Trying to control his panic, the samurai kept
rolling forward ignoring the pain in his knee.
Thinking the creature was continuing its assault upon him, he swung his
blade in a figure eight about him as he attempted to regain his stance.
It stood facing him, a dark bestial laugh escaped
“The pup has its father’s fire, but is
inexperienced... I can taste its fear.”
Licking its lips, “I shall enjoy tasting your
blood for the fire and pain your sire has caused my pack.”
The young samurai eyes creased in concentration.
“It is one of those creatures
that attacked long ago. It was too
dark to recognize them, but it has to be.”
The creature slowly approached, its eyes filled
seeks to revenge its brethren, but instead I will get vengeance for my
Breathing in deeply, Tenryuu focused on the lessons
attacks with the stability of earth and ferocity of fire… must adapt with the
stance of air and water.”
His eyes followed the creatures every movement,
every little bristle of its thick hide.
his thoughts screamed as the creatures shoulder dipped ever so slightly.
As the huge blade descended with the sound of
impending doom, Tenryuu stood his ground, his body loose. At the last moment, he twirled about pulling his wakizashi
free from the sash, deflecting the bestial blade ever so slightly.
The metal saya sparked violently as a spasm of pain shot down his arm to
Seeing an opening he ignored the pain and swung
Whispering Willow. The blade tasted
the creature’s foul blood, as it cut clean through and then again as he pulled
the blade back the other direction.
Seeing the beast hunch over, he swung the blade
straight down tearing into the creature’s shoulder.
Searing in pain, the creature turned its head
towards him and released a piercing howl.
Tenryuu’s body spasmed in pain as an unseen force
struck him, hurling him back.
Eyes blurred as he looked towards the beast,
Whispering Willow still cut deep within the creature’s body. As the wounded dragon attempted to get up, the ground
crumbled from beneath him and the rush of the descent hit him.
There was impact… then darkness.