The Wind's Truth
A Story of the Dragon Clan
part one: hakken [discovery]
In the hidden heart of the mountain, the glow of Lady Moon was absent, as she had always been. Emperors and thrones, Sun and Moon…the halls of the Agasha, now the halls of the Tamori, had seen upheaval and transformation in the Empire. Only the dimming of the lanterns gave the shelves and tomes any sense of the passage of time. The knowledge within these hewn stone walls seemed uncaring for the passing of years and ages. Days passed like glittering moments, all precious, but none deserving special attention.
But every rise of Lady Moon saw more shelves vacant, more tomes gone. The dull glow of the lanterns shone though spaces where archives once stood for centuries. The wrath of the fire dragon was felt throughout the provinces of the Dragon, and the libraries of the Tamori were no longer untouched by the catastrophe. Even with the Phoenix now possessing many works of the Agasha, the transfer of the libraries proved a demanding task. No day appeared any different than the last or the day before that. However, the work proved to be anything but tedious as old knowledge was found among rooms, well traveled or otherwise.
In their rush, the Agasha had hastened into exile with only their own secret works, leaving the records of ancient events and histories like discarded memories. It was through these records that the Tamori family would investigate, while not in counsel or other study. Many tales from ages long gone were discovered, but it seemed that fate had decreed that no more would be brushed in these halls. Indeed, as more books were lost to the road, fewer spent their time among the lonely passages.
Even though the morning sun was still low in the sky, a lone shugenja still read through the myriad of works remaining to be carted off to wherever home the daimyos might find for the itinerant Dragon. The stacks of books around the young Tamori threatened to block out the dim lantern light, but with the passing hours the stacks continued to grow. The Tamori picked a slender volume out of the pile in front of him, sending a billow of dust all around. With a muted sneeze, he began to study this work with interest.
In spite of the ancient tales and moldering legends which surrounded, the book in front of him was a much more recent history and captivated its singular audience. It was only one of several volumes recovered from a room forgotten several years ago. This one read as a personal account of the great and terrible war that ended with the Battle of Oblivion's Gate.
However, the dreadful tale was beyond anything that Tamori Chikiri had encountered. The solitary Dragon sat, darting eyes devouring each word, as the account unfolded before him. The lanterns, the moon, even the rumbling mountain were forgotten as the yellowed pages were read and reread until the story could not be denied.
One of the lost histories was discovered, a chronicle of the past revealed. Rumors had been quelled more than twenty years prior, but now the story was brought the present in all its awful certainty.
The City of White Clouds, revealed in the lands of the Dragon, had been lost
to the Goju…betrayed by one of their own.
"No…it would not do for this knowledge to resurface." The elder Tamori sat back and stared into the morning sky, "Not at all."
The cool brown eyes of the former monk silently questioned the aspiring Dragon. Every slight movement of his head sent Tamori Chosai's long braid in motion. The effect was like a dragon uncoiling and moving in unintelligible patterns. With the patience that only comes from years of struggle and hardship, Chosai waited for his pupil to continue.
Chikiri stood seemingly impassive as he reported to his sensei. The chill of the mountain air helped to cool his face, even though his mind burned furiously. Sleep had not come easy. The account found in the library had pulled at his mind since its discovery. To now know that the history would be lost again was difficult to accept.
"Chosai-sensei…" the words refused to come. The injustice of the betrayal was harsh, but to have the truth lost to the darkness seemed more than Chikiri could bear. His outrage ran cold, but his mind was lost in the heat of his fervor. Even worse, Chikiri knew he was powerless to fight any decision made by his elders. He drew his temper inside of him, focusing on keeping the surface calm. He did not notice the quavering fist at his side.
A sad smile played at the sides of Chosai-sensei's mouth. He appeared lost to his thoughts for several long moments. Chikiri was aware of nothing but his own harsh breathing until he realized that his teacher was once again speaking to him.
"…but it would seem that a dark portion of our past is back to confront us. Perhaps it is time to face our collective darkness. The truth is sometimes difficult, but even more so to bury. It is as the ize zumi say, 'When drinking poison, do not forget to lick the cup'."
Tamori Chosai stood fully erect and stared at his promising young apprentice. The senior shujenga sized up his younger clan brother before speaking again.
"None else can be reminded of this. I am too visible to the Clans to make this pilgrimage. That leaves only you, young Chikiri. You must find the City of White Clouds." Chosai looked grieved as the sorrow of an age past washed over him, "For not all secrets of the past must be lost to the ravages of time."
Chikiri paused at the entrance to the old shrine, setting his traveling bags at the shoji door. The reverence of this place was steeped in the very life of the Clan. With careful silence, he crossed the polished wooden floor to kneel at the ancestral shrine.
It always seemed odd to Chikiri, how the rumbling seemed dire in the kyuden but always seemed to resonate serenely within the walls of this shrine. The tremor of the mountain seemed almost to be the pulse of Rokugan. Wearily, Chikiri reached out to the kami to sooth his troubled spirit. The spirit realm always seemed to be so much simpler than the Empire, less taxing. With a sense of release, Chikiri lost himself within the spirit realm.
With a subdued start, the shugenja was roused from his reverie. The kami still danced in his vision while he focused upon the hand resting on his shoulder. The slender fingers might have inspired other men, were they not calloused from rigorous training. When Chikiri followed the arm to its source, he was forced to squint to see past the glare of the sun.
Chikiri regarded the samurai-ko remotely, "You left the shoji open again, Kinoko…and you interrupted my meditation."
"Well, it was hard to tell if you were meditating, what with the way your head bobbed up and down." She smiled down at him, pushing a stray lock of close-cropped hair from her eyes, then her face twisted into a concerned frown, "You are going, aren't you? To the City, I mean."
The kneeling shugenja did not try to conceal his shock, the words again dying in his throat, "You know…but how?"
"Don't be a fool. Did you really believe Chosai-sama would keep the matter to himself? He has responsibilities as well, not the least of which is to report to both of your daimyo. He probably told Shaitung-sama last night. All of the daimyos know by now." Kinoko's face was etched in seriousness.
Puzzlement was still etched on Chikiri's face as he wondered aloud, "But that does not explain how you know…or why you're here now."
"As I said, all of the daimyos know about your mission. Including mine, Chi-kun. And it is no secret that we grew up together, until you heard the kami. We had fun in those days, didn't we?" Kinoko gathered a deep breath before going on, "Anyway, it was decided that I was the appropriate choice. I am to accompany you on your quest."
Chikiri blinked twice before asking, "As a companion?"
The slender samurai-ko reached into the folds of her kimono, pulling out a folded parchment, brushed in deliberate strokes.
"No, Tamori Chikiri," Mirumoto Kinoko smiled faintly, her eyebrows arching, "As a yojmibo."
So it begins…the burden of the City is accepted.