Author Topic: Musings of a Rokuma Expatriate  (Read 943 times)

t0rchic

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Musings of a Rokuma Expatriate
« on: February 22, 2019, 02:31:33 AM »
[The following is written in her native Rokuma - vertically, in short paragraphs. The calligraphy is shaky and there are duplicate lines where the previous was crossed out and replaced with cleaner strokes.]

To whomever may someday find this record, my name is Kyou Hoshiko. As of writing I am nineteen years of age and the sole remaining member of my family.

I apologize for my brushwork. It has been some time since I had an opportunity to practice it.

In Rokushima, trainees are often instructed to practice their calligraphy under the pretense that it will improve their skill with the sword. The sword and the brush are the same. An extension of your body so that you may exert your will upon the world. With both one makes broad, sweeping strokes, and with both one leaves a streak of color where it was once absent.

As such I choose to wield my blade once more. The skills I honed during my studies at home have waned with time. Yet in recent days I have brandished my blade against countless foes.

It has been two years since I left my ancestral home with my father, then a samurai. It has been two years since I lost my father, now an honorless ronin, to the horrors of this new land.

Two years were the time I required to learn to live here on my own in my new home of Barovia. I have made a living doing manual labor. My arms are strong so I move cargo. It is unfulfilling work. I hope my employer can manage without me, for I will not return.

I am uncertain about my future, but I know it will be far more fulfilling.

Four days ago as I was leaving the inn to enter Vallaki, I encountered a man by the name of Snow.

[The name is spelled phonetically, with a "-dono" honorific affixed to the end, both here and in subsequent encounters.]

He leads an organization he calls the Crows. They hunt the creatures of the night to protect others from a terrible fate. The same fate that befell my father.

My father was a samurai. As was his father before him. With his death I inherited this title. But I was a samurai without her daimyo. A bushi without her honor. A disgraceful ronin. Who could blame me, then, for being so eager to swear myself to this man and his cause?

I was told to wait some time to consider. This is understandable. The oath he asks is for life.

This man, Snow. He commands a respect from his soldiers I have never witnessed before. The strength of some of his warriors is unmatched by all but the most powerful of outlanders, yet they follow his direction without pause.

There is no deceit within his ranks. No distrust or falsehoods. Every man and woman places their full trust in his order, all for the sake of protecting the common man.

It is a refreshing sight when compared to the Shujin and their disregard for all but themselves.

If it was not obvious, I made my oath one night ago after accompanying these Crows for some time.

I was instructed to ask for a blade from a man named Karaz Steel. I submitted him a template of my own design. It was a simple one. The ōdachi. The favored blade of the samurai.

The man's smithing techniques were strange. He hammered out the thin, curved blade in a manner much unlike the swordsmiths of my home and designed my helmet in a simple style. When I affixed horns to it he simply waved me away in an offended manner and left.

Does he not see the value in an intimidating appearance?

Either way, his work was impressive. His bladework cuts through foes far better than the dull imitation the man in the residential district had sold me, and his armor far surpasses what I had brought from home.

And so with what he has provided I am prepared for life as an officially sworn Crow.

Though my honor is not yet restored, I have a daimyo in Snow and allies to provide training and aid.

I can only hope my father is watching over me.

I will pray to Mother Amaterasu to guide my morals and Hachiman to guide my blade.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2019, 10:49:10 PM by t0rchic »

t0rchic

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A Continuation of Musings
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2019, 12:12:10 AM »
[Still in her native tongue, the vertically-aligned calligraphy is jagged, but no attempt has been made to correct it this time. The previous text has been copied in this manner, now as the first part of a leather-bound tome.]

I have noticed that many of the outsiders who arrive in the mists keep a journal of sorts. I will do the same. It gives me an excuse to practice my skills with the brush, so that I do not lose sight of such simple things in my growing list of things to do.

If you have happened upon this journal, please return it to the Crow camp in the southern outskirts. If you have found it because I am deceased, bring my blade as well.

With foreword out of the way I will proceed.

It was early today that I encountered werewolves. I was up before the sun, and eager in my start to the day, so I ventured into the wild to hunt them on my own. I slew them one at a time with the blade Steel gifted me.

I was forced to retreat when a pack accosted me together. I will not be satisfied until I can slay such creatures with ease. My skills grow too slowly.

Should I seek a teacher? I would not expect to find one versed in the ways of the ōdachi in this land. I have heard of no others who ventured from my homeland and left Dementlieu for Barovia.

Perhaps if I ask around enough one will find me himself.

Regardless. To master the blade you must understand it inside and out.

My father was a samurai, but I have not yet honored the rest of my family in ink. My mother was an excellent swordsmith. This is why my father fell in love with her.

The master samurai of legend were all provided a blade by an equally masterful smith. Some were enchanted through combat. Others blessed by the kami. All by virtue of the combined efforts of the two.

My two older brothers chose to follow my mother's path. This is why they are not with me today. The dishonorable Shujin of the North had the three struck down in cold blood to rob his brother to the East of her art.

I apologize to anyone who may one day read this. Literature is not my strong point. With the memory of my mother and brothers imprinted on this page I may now continue.

Since my induction into the Crows I find that much of my time is spent idle. I am expected to be on call should my aid be required. To do nothing to improve upon myself does not sit right with me. Much of the time there is some manner of excursion I may include myself in but that alone does not satisfy me.

I know not of any Rokuma swordsmith that dwells in Barovia. Someday I will need a more suitable blade. So I fill my idle time learning the inside of my blade, so to speak.

I will not lie, I am no smith as of now. I have a natural aptitude for it. My body is fit for the profession. But my work is shoddy as I am just beginning. Hardly fit to gut a fish. I bring to the forge what I remember from observing my siblings as a child and nothing more.

In a way, I am forced to reinvent the art of Rokuma swordsmithing in a new land.

This is not a thing I say in complaint, merely an observation. To better serve Snow and the people of Barovia I must one day be a master of the blade. A kensei.

None know my swordsmanship better than myself. Therefore a sword forged by my own hands will be most fit for me to wield. The distribution of weight, length of the haft, and balance of the blade I can make all to my own preference.

It will be long before I can accomplish such a thing, but I am certain Ama-Tsu-Mara will provide a watchful eye.

Unfortunately, with recent events I may find myself in need of such a blade sooner than I can provide it for myself.

An oni has appeared in the crypts of the Morninglord's church. She is what the locals refer to as a succubus. I have encountered her twice now. Twice have the men of the party ignored my warnings.

This fool, "Jhareth", was lucky to survive after he offered himself as her groom. It took but a kiss and he lay on the floor dying. He is fortunate I am now a samurai bound by my honor. My better judgement would have me cut him down on the spot to be certain he was not corrupted by her foul lips.

Her master is likely a very powerful individual. Her interest does not seem to lie in me, but it is good to be wary. I will need to be much more prepared should I ever meet him in combat.

Amaterasu protect me from whomever that may be.

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Re: Musings of a Rokuma Expatriate
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2019, 08:13:45 PM »
[A few short lines are jotted down in the middle of an otherwise blank page.]

Today I fell in the crypts. At least according to those who were with me. I do not know.

I have little memory of the event. This frightens me. Somehow I stand here alive.

In any case I was likely not truly dead. I thank my companions for rescuing me.

When I awoke my ōdachi was not with me. My back felt naked and my sword arm ached for its touch.

I can only hope the display I made before it was returned to me does not bring shame upon me.

I will not reenter the crypts for some time. This is no matter of fear but of responsibility.

I must be stronger to protect those who put their faith in my blade.

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Re: Musings of a Rokuma Expatriate
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2019, 11:21:51 AM »
[This entry is even messier than before. The strokes of more complex symbols blend together and it takes effort and context to make out what they say.]

My hands sting and shake. My fingers fail my brush. The forge is not kind.

To craft a sword in the Rokuma fashion is painful and lengthy. Burning sparks scatter across my skin with every strike. But I have no time to cast them away. To delay at all would ruin the process.

Another novice smith offered me what little guidance was possible. I did not learn their name. For that I am sorry.

I applied what I could to my homeland's methods and I have learned to forge a cutting edge from copper. It is still no better than a kitchen knife, but in the least it is not mere scrap.

Still, it will be long before I can forge an ōdachi. With the length of the blade any mistake is very pronounced.

I will admit to having made the attempt simply to know what to expect. I envisioned the blade and how the process should appear. But with the metal atop the anvil... I was at a loss.

Two nights ago when I could endure the heat no longer I would seek out Sister Alsace of the Crows.

My blade arm was still in pain from my defeat and my whole body stung with the fires of the forge. But to test my skill against a true warrior I would go on to ask her to duel me under the moonlight.

I seek no quarrel with my allies of course. I provided her with a practice sword and brandished my own. The duel was to end should I disarm her of her weapon.

I did so easily the first time. A fluke. I allowed her the first strike and was the warrior more ready. She missed and I swept the weapon from her hands while I sidestepped her blow.

Alsace must have known as well as I that I did not earn this victory. She offered me a second round. The battle only ended when I was so battered I could hardly move.

Her kindness knows no bounds. Rather than shame me she healed me of the bruising she dealt me. To lose to Alsace is exactly what I had hoped for. She has shown me why I was defeated by the undead.

Much of my time yesterday was spent in contemplation whilst I slaved over the furnace and anvil again. My conclusion is as follows. My combat style is too aggressive.

I leave many openings whilst I move in for a disabling blow.

This is the natural function of the ōdachi. It is for making overhead fatal strikes or to defeat your opponent's weapon in a contest of strength. A heavy and brutal sword.

I do not believe this is all it is capable of. I would like to practice a more defensive stance. This way I may draw the enemy away from my allies without putting myself in undue danger.

My hands should hold my blade steadily whilst I focus all my efforts on deflecting blows as a martial artist deflects an opponent's limbs.

Snow sent me to Brother Lance for training in this matter. His methods were... awkward. He would go on to take me to a wood filled with spirits my blade could not strike. In the end we were forced to retreat as he was overwhelmed. We were fortunate that Sister Alsace was in the area. He fell protecting me and she went forth to rescue him.

Afterwards I was called upon by Brother Gideon for a second training session. He would have me clear a cave of hobgoblins on my lonesome. Their warchief had many allies but they fell swiftly to my blade. It was as if it thirsted for more blood after each it slew, instinctively reaching for a second, then a third, all in the continuation of one stroke.

All in all it was a worthwhile training exercise but did little to allow me to put my theory to practice. I should seek out a monk. It is sensible that I could apply monastic teachings to my swordsmanship.

After all, the sword is merely an extension of the body.

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Re: Musings of a Rokuma Expatriate
« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2019, 12:13:27 AM »
[The calligraphy is somewhat cleaner now, as if the writer is adapting to the state of her hands. A few lines are crossed out again to be replaced by a more legible duplicate.]

With thanks to a druidic friend of mine by the name of Mihai I can now forge a longer blade. He offered me no direct aid of course. He simply enchanted my ox to carry twice the copper it normally would. This sped up my practice greatly.

I did not expect to improve so quickly. Perhaps I am a prodigy due to my mother's blood and I do not know it? But I will not let such hubris take root in my mind.

As of yesterday a woman by the name of "Dawnstar" has taken me on as her "pup". I was the wager in some bet put forth by the Crows. Now she is my current teacher. Most recently my training consisted of... escorting her whilst she mined iron.

The creatures in the mines are of great danger. They damage one's equipment directly as well as one's body. I hear a weapon plated in gold resists corrosion. I should acquire one for when I must mine iron.

Dawnstar is also a smith to some degree so she left me the iron to do with as I pleased. Apparently she only required it to improve her skill at smelting the ore. I am fortunate to meet so many helpful acquaintances.

In regards to my swordsmanship my skill grows just as quickly. Even without guidance my ideal of a defensive stance has been put to the test often and successfully.

My skills have surpassed what I learned in my studies back in Rokushima. But now that I am not simply polishing off the rust, will I plateau? I would hope not.

Regardless. Still I find cause for frustration. I have yet to find someone to teach me what I want to know.

I have previously spoken of wishing to become a Kensei to better serve as a protector. It is easy to say such a thing as "I would like to become a Kensei" but it is not as easy as to apply for an apprenticeship... There is a degree of mastery I must reach to begin down that path. I am certain I am not quite there yet.

According to legends a Kensei's ki flows through his sword and back into his body as if it were his blood. He can feel through his blade like any other limb. It is a part of him. Some of the most masterful of these sword-saints would rather rely on their weapon than their eyes. They may even choose to wear a blindfold into combat to be free of worldly distractions.

Should I seek to emulate these warriors of legend to further my training to become their lesser? I do not know. All I know for certain is that I must gain a deeper connection with my ōdachi. My brothers and sisters in the Crows depend on me to do so.

I do not have time to undergo the decades of bodily perfection that leads to complete mastery over one's ki. A Kensei does not rely on tricks such as magical projectiles or fists lit ablaze. All his faith lies within his sword. He does not directly control his ki so much as to simply allow it to enhance his mastery over the sword.

I only seek to learn how a monk finds balance in their ki and perhaps glean some guidance on my stance. I hope to know at least that much soon enough. Though if I must I will discover such secrets on my own.

Ah yes, I have forgotten one last thing. Tomorrow I feel I am prepared to make the push and forge my first ōdachi. It is humorous how but two days ago I thought it would be some time before I was capable.

It will be wrought of copper, which is unfortunate for its usability as a weapon, but the unusual make will be appropriate. Ōdachi are often left as an offering for the kami.

I will brave the heights of Mt. Baratak. This is the highest point I know of in Barovia. Then I will construct a shrine at its peak. The closest point to Heaven. Against the shrine will lay my first ōdachi.

I hope the kami will find appreciation in my gift and give me their blessing in my endeavors.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2019, 08:14:22 PM by t0rchic »

t0rchic

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Re: Musings of a Rokuma Expatriate
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2019, 12:21:01 AM »
[This time the brushwork is relatively clean. Each stroke is thick with the ink of a slow, deliberate artist.]

I have done it. Yesterday I forged an ōdachi in the style of my homeland. It took but five days to learn. The blade is imperfect and the process was slower than it should have been, but to have accomplished such a thing brings me joy.

During my return to Vallaki I encountered a man of great strength with a missing arm. Even despite his condition he wields a sword in similar size to my own. His weapon is of extraordinary make.

We never thought to exchange names but still we conversed for quite some time. I told him much of my life and person and he did the same. Eventually he warned me away from a life of battle and soon left in a haste. It is an admirable viewpoint but I am a bushi. Should I seek to affect change in the world I must do so through combat.

When he departed he left me with an amulet that comes from a place beyond the mists. I greatly appreciate his gift and I hope I will meet him again one day.

Later I was called upon to assist Brother Kyros in Dementlieu by Brother Somaris.

He received a letter stating that a woman had been taken by wererats. I was not so eager to return to the place that had spurned my father and I... but in the least it is beautiful. Much more so than the somber landscape of Barovia.

We performed what research we could and Somaris determined that it would be wise for me to return home whilst he remained in Dementlieu to continue his investigation. I could not argue as he outranked me.

In the Vistani mists camp I found a Red Vardo trader. I purchased a bag that cuts its contents' weight in half.

Since returning to Barovia I have been hard at work honing my swordsmanship, as is the usual. Snow must have taken notice to this. I have been promoted to Ranger First Class. This means Somaris no longer outranks me.

I have been working to assemble an expedition up Mount Baratak to construct my shrine. I cannot do it alone. It would be suicide. Though I was not aware of just how dangerous the climb would be... The idea seems less than popular.

I may have to ascend the less tall Mount Ghakis to make my offering instead. The kami will understand. Baratak will likely have to wait until I am a master of my art.

Someday its peak will be within my reach. It will be my pinnacle both in body and in spirit. But for now I must focus on attainable goals.

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Re: Musings of a Rokuma Expatriate
« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2019, 12:55:48 AM »
[This entry is mostly clean and orderly, but the strokes were clearly made very slowly and deliberately. The lines are thicker than the last and ink drops blot the parchment where they dripped from a hesitant brush.]

Some days ago I befriended a Caliban named Corvas. A mutual friend of Mihai. He is very friendly for a Caliban. He is a healer yet he also pursues the arcane arts. Today he accompanied me into the den of the werewolves alongside a cleric of a sun god. But this man did not worship Mother Amaterasu? I suppose all lands have their own versions of our kami. Two others came with us and we defeated their werewolf... pirate captain... in its deepest depths.

Why are the bakemono wolves also pirates? It seems rather silly.

Anyhow. After being repeatedly surrounded in wolves, I have theorized a new form of attack wherein I spin with my blade outstretched to strike multiple foes. It is similar to what outlanders call a "whirlwind attack", and I believe my mastery of my ōdachi has progressed such that I may do such a thing without fear of striking my allies. With some practice.

When I returned to the Morninglord's church I was acknowledged for my skills with my sword by a fellow adventurer I had accompanied in the crypts some time ago. I am glad to have more proof my training is coming to fruition.

My progress would be tested further when I proceeded to finally climb Mount Ghakis. I will admit the excitement still courses through me as I record it on this page. I will start from the beginning.

I allowed my body to rest for a time after my trek through the wolves' den. As soon as I returned to active duty I was called to the Crow camp. Sister Alsace, Brother Efren, and a Brother I had not yet met named Edwin were already present. They had been called there by Snow along with myself to arrange the expedition I had been waiting for.

We departed shortly to the mountains under the setting sun. When we arrived night had fallen. Still we trekked on through the darkness. We met a woman by the name of Katerina. She claimed the mountains were her home and would go on to serve as an appreciated guide to the peak.

Aside from the cold and treacherous walking conditions the journey was relatively safe. Brother Efren was not prepared for the snow and we were forced to make camp most of the way through to allow him to warm his body.

We arrived at a summit just below the peak and I was informed that to go any higher to what Snow called "the true summit" would be to intrude upon a temple rife with evil spirits.

I would not place my shrine upon... occupied ground. It would make it harder for the kami to witness. Instead I opted to place it upon this summit Katerina had shown us. There was no stable ground upon which to build so I laid candles, flowers, apples and alcohol within a stone inlet just below. In the middle lay the sword. My first forged ōdachi.

[Accompanying the description is a small sketch of the shrine's layout, drawn with a surprising degree of skill considering the state of her handwriting.]

//OOC: I'm no artist so here's a screenshot taken later in daylight.


I chose to call it Yatagarasu. It is the three-legged crow. A humble servant of the divine. Much as my humble blade seeks to serve the order through its eventual perfection. I hope the kami will appreciate my offering and continue to guide me along my path to becoming a kensei.

For some reason Snow was not satisfied having ascended merely to make my offering.

We would go on to slay dozens of evil spirits. Snow intended to show us this "true peak". We reached it with some effort. It was beautiful. Even with my body wounded, frozen and exhausted I could not help but stand in awe. What purpose did the ruins that lie there serve in life?

There was more. I will not describe what lie within the ruins out of concern that one may someday find this journal of mine. This sort of information... It should only be learned by succeeding such a dangerous journey.

All I am at liberty to say is as follows. I have learned yet another reason I must be prepared to protect this realm.

Now I retire to my bed. My body is still cold with the mountain winds and I wish to rest. For once I am... satisfied.

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Re: Musings of a Rokuma Expatriate
« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2019, 01:04:16 AM »
[For once, there's nothing out of place about the Rokuma calligraphy that makes up this entry aside from regular quirks of the artist's handwriting.]

As of late I have taken to hunting the werewolves directly. They make for a reasonably durable training dummy, so to speak. Not only in their den but outside at night. I may practice the same strike a dozen times against the same wolf before he falls and I am also allowed training in deflecting an opponent's blows.

I do wonder what they think, watching me follow the same predictable motions so many times in a row. But it does not matter much once they fall.

I have also been practicing the aforementioned spinning attack to limited success. It is useful if I position myself right in their midst, yes. However that is a dangerous position on the field of combat.

Recently after I was comfortable with my efforts, I returned to the Morninglord's sanctuary to keep vigil through the remainder of the night and to rest my wounds.

I met a dwarven man who had just been taken by the mists. He would go on to accompany me at my post and I told him all that could be easily taught in a single lesson.

This man seemed more concerned that his job had not been finished than he was at the danger of his new home. In fact, when I directed him to perhaps use his magical skills to aid adventurers and earn coin, he seemed quite excited at the prospect.

Though I did not have the displeasure of being ripped from my home in such a manner, I do feel much sympathy for the outlanders who find themselves in Barovia. I hope he does not grow cocky in this excitement of his. But I am glad that this friendly man does not find it such a harrowing experience.

Aside from tasks I undertake myself my oath has not given me much work as of late. So with my offering made successfully I have much time to dedicate to my studies at the forge.

I must have drawn Ama-Tsu-Mara's attention because already I find myself able to work bronze with little trouble. It feels only marginally more difficult than copper and iron is more than attainable as well.

I am wondering if I should focus on these metals at all or if I will learn all I need by moving on to steel. After all, the sword of a samurai is always wrought of the finest steel. I will need much practice with it to forge my own blade.

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Re: Musings of a Rokuma Expatriate
« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2019, 10:06:03 PM »
My training recently has been nothing of interest to write about. My order has had nothing to demand of me so my blade strikes hundreds of scores into the trees around our camp. Still, my body always cries out for more.

Three days ago I went to the wolves' den with Efren and Mihai. I could not enter my defensive stance and found myself on the ground. I was saved by a man we had met earlier, middling in age and covered in weaponry.

This man slew the wolves with his bare hands yet he was no monk as Efren is. The uncountable scars on his face and body tell numerous tales of battles survived and perhaps won. Yet he claims to be no warrior, simply an old man.

Why are those in this land so excessively humble? In Rokushima a warrior is also a leader. A symbol to the people he stands above that inspires them to fight and to stay alive.

Is this why the common people of Barovia are so helpless, so sullen? They lack such idols, so does that mean they are to stand aside and await death?

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Re: Musings of a Rokuma Expatriate
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2019, 01:59:48 PM »
[The brushwork is shaky and the lines are faintly smeared. In a couple places the ink has run down the page, blotted and wet.]

Have I failed my order, or have the events that transpired today expected to befall those who follow our oath?

Today I met a gnome named Idas, who would accompany Mihai and myself to the wolves' den. We chose to venture deeper with our new ally. Vashan presented himself.

His presence was... unnerving. It was not the Vashan I had previously met. The air around him clung with an unnatural cold. His voice carried an instinctive chill across my body. I knew immediately that he had become a monster but it was when he smiled and bore his vampiric fangs that I learned exactly what sort.

He attempted to make a bargain. One of us would give ourselves to his thirst for blood so that the others may live. It was... a dilemma. I would not make a deal with the creatures of the night. But I must protect my allies and a samurai does not flee when challenged. He continued to push. So I drew steel.

He would not back down so it came to blows. Reluctantly the fight did not last long. Vashan's supernatural strength was too much and a dire wolf of great size assisted him. I could not hold back their blows. Thankfully the opening I provided allowed my allies to flee.

As I lay battered on the ground he extended his offer once more. Let him drink of my blood so that I may live or refuse and die.

I am not stupid. I know Vashan would have what he wanted regardless of my choice. My body could fight no longer. So I could do nothing more than select the lesser of evils. To live another day so that I can exact my revenge upon his kind. However I was not prepared for the... intimacy of giving myself willingly. Even now, half an hour later, my body still shudders as I struggle not to recall the scene. I feel violated.

The man kept his word and let me live. I asked for my leave and it was granted to me. Perhaps he expects to feed upon me again or perhaps he is simply a man of his word. I will not suffer the former, of course.

Then Idas returned as I turned to exit.

Why? He brandished a mirror of all things, as if that would frighten a vampire, and begged me to run. I was already on my way out and still he risked his life. I do appreciate his concern for my safety. But if I could not hold back this vampire I know not what he had hoped to accomplish, and his help was no longer necessary.

I escaped without further incident and met a party Mihai had assembled on the road. Among them were other Crows. They sought to find Vashan and end his unlife. I would not like to return to that place right now so I sit here in my room and write this.

I have unanswered questions.

In the past this Vashan was a reputable man. He was present when I first encountered the succubus in the Morninglord crypts and was one of many heroic figures who would stand up to her evils. However, she spoke of an unnamed "beast" among us and that he was who she served.

Is Vashan this beast? I do not know how long he has been this way. He was quite sociable but seemed to disappear... If he is the "beast" the succubus spoke of he is also responsible for the evils she perpetrates beneath holy ground.

That such a horrible creature was once an ally of mine makes me wary. I have long known of the ways evil will distort friends into foes, but this encounter is physical proof that such danger lurks all around. I am frightened, but my blade will be my strength. It must. I will need to be as prepared as ever if I am to face it when it next comes for me.

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Re: Musings of a Rokuma Expatriate
« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2019, 12:10:55 AM »
[Clean calligraphy adorns this page, somewhat pretty to the eye on account of its orderly fashion. The writer seems to be of rather sound mind and body when comparing the attitude implied by her brush to previous entries.]

Today I accompanied Brother Gideon for training. Gideon wanted me to practice slaying fledgeling vampires that dwell in a ruin under his supervision. This was so that I may be better prepared for any further encounters with their more powerful kin.

I was reluctant.

The only vampire I had yet faced struck me down in moments. I will not display my fear publicly due to the inspirational icon I must become, as both a samurai and a future kensei. But I am horrified of coming across Vashan again.

According to Sister Alsace, Vashan was still a regular man mere hours before I became his victim. He walked among the populace outside the Morninglord's sanctuary as any ordinary man would.

When I met him he seemed almost reluctant to kill, fulfilling a necessity more than anything. Learning he was a recent convert makes it more understandable. But now he has fed upon myself and many others. If he truly is consorting with the succubus he may seek to serve her whims.

In short, should I meet him again I am sure he will not be so merciful. He will prove to be further empowered by what he has drained and his urge to please his mistress.

Thankfully the ones that populate the ruins were much less bold than he. They fell easily enough to my blade, especially with the blessings Gideon bestowed upon it and his shield protecting me from their blows.

We dragged very many from their coffins and my ōdachi bathed in the blood of over a dozen vampires with little fatigue. Sadly we were eventually forced to retreat. Not by our foes but the traps that lay within this ruin. Walking through the halls sapped our strength and our lifeforce. Still with our limited success I find myself growing more confident in my sword.

I have found that the teeth harvested from our vampire spawn quarry make for a good alchemical ingredient. The varnish I distill from them is twice as powerful as that which I make from shadow creatures.

Alchemy, of course, is an additional craft I have put some time into recently. I appreciate that it allows me to enhance my sword as it would situationally require. Though it is not something I am so naturally skilled in as smithing it is worthwhile to be able to make the most of what monsters I slay.

In regards to my swordsmanship, I would like to seek further training with my order. Not simply to undertake a short duel or a hunt but a more direct approach.

My short clash with Vashan showed me that I still need much more experience in dealing with skilled melee combatants. But I will not obsess over the man. I am sure he intended to toy with my psyche and I will not give him that victory.

This is for myself and my future as much as it is to better handle his immediate threat. I am certain somebody more qualified than I will be the one to slay him anyhow.

To put my trust in my ōdachi and allow it to better protect me I will need to learn what to expect from all kinds of warriors. In learning others' combat styles I can better apply my own. Defending myself and parrying blows is not something I will perfect by endlessly practicing a strike or stance against werewolves...

Brothers Gideon and Lance are suitable sparring partners to begin with. They do battle with a shield at the ready. I find myself struggling to find an opening to make my blade's signature overhead strike against such a foe, and the openings created in that struggle allow my foe to strike at me with more ease.

Previously I also considered seeking a monk. I should consult Brother Efren. He will provide me with an unusual combat style to face. Perhaps he will also offer me the knowledge I seek in regards to finding balance in my ki. If not, he may at least direct me toward some sensei of his who will.
« Last Edit: March 12, 2019, 11:43:03 AM by t0rchic »

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Re: Musings of a Rokuma Expatriate
« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2019, 03:19:58 AM »
My body tired of the forge so I ventured into the crypts again at Sister Alsace's suggestion. I have been reluctant to return to that place, only rarely venturing past the second floor since I fell there nearly three weeks ago. Even then only while with more than capable allies.

They were heavily populated this time and the party I stumbled upon was equally so. Most of my new acquaintances were newcomers. With none set to take the lead the duty fell upon me.

The enemies were numerous and I am no shield bearer. It was a high risk to take up the vanguard. We came out victorious but I found myself close to death after a near-fatal blow one of the knights dealt me on the lowest floor.

Every foe's attention was on me. A swarm of weaponry surrounded me and a dozen arrows sailed past. I could not put my mind toward blocking every single one. So I was struck grievously. And with my body so injured I was soon also paralyzed by dark magic.

A paladin woman came swiftly to my rescue. With a single touch she restored my vigor and even the deepest of wounds upon my body disappeared. I regret that I did not learn her name.

Her blessing gave me the strength to push ahead once more and not a single member of our expedition was seriously wounded by the end.

I truly put my faith in my ōdachi to the test to defend this vulnerable party. Was it the surge the paladin's blessing sent through my body? Or have I awakened something? A sensation, faint but undeniable. It emanated from my blade. There was newfound warmth, a familiarity, as I held its hilt. Like holding my father's hand as a child. It felt as if it wished to protect me.

The smallest spark of the bond a Kensei holds with his sword. This is what I choose to believe.

If I truly am beginning to gain the strength I seek I must redouble my efforts. All this for but a spark... Yet it is all I could have ever hoped for.

Vashan holds grasp on my attention no longer. I will wait to learn to defeat others' styles of combat. In this moment I realize my focus must lie entirely in my own. As I have done thus far I will continue to do. No distractions. I will continue to feed this spark until it is a mighty blaze. If only because I now have proof it is working.

Snow has reaffirmed my idea of training with Brother Efren. His grasp over his own ki is enough that he can heal his own wounds by willpower alone. To my understanding it sounds as if he is as experienced a sōhei as I am a bushi. He should have wisdom to pass along.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2019, 03:22:16 AM by t0rchic »

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Re: Musings of a Rokuma Expatriate
« Reply #12 on: March 16, 2019, 12:14:59 AM »
The man with the mechanical arm presented himself to me once more. I have seen him around Vallaki as of late, though until now I never had the time to converse with him myself. From a recent encounter I learned his name is "Leon". Alsace does not speak fondly of him to even the slightest extent.

I do not understand her trouble with him but he is friendly enough. He speaks of regretting a life as a soldier and previously warned me away from a life of battle. Now he seems much more supportive, as though he knows I will not be swayed and simply wishes the best for me.

Leon offered to spar with me. I was certain I would not stand a chance and I was correct. Even in my defensive stance, braced for impact, through one motion I was nearly slain.

Typically I rely on making a singular killing blow. This man carries a blade of size similar to my own and swings it with such haste. This combination strike he made defeated my defenses and then my body in one motion. Momentum is what made this so powerful, or so he claimed.

As with most things I will take the methods I experienced firsthand and apply them to my own style going forward.

[From here messy, excessively long strokes mar the page as if the writer was too exhausted to properly hold her brush.]

Elenuta. The name of the man we were sent to escort through the Tergs ruins. He was to duel the vampire Kermauk. A party of twenty accompanied him in total, but only three would join him in the deepest reaches.

Snow stepped up first but nobody else showed the bravery to do so. I would not have him go alone. Though still a novice in comparison I chose to come with him.

Snow and I perished. I do not quite remember the circumstances of my demise.

We were surrounded in spirits, some unlike those on the upper floors. At least two dozen. I held up Snow's flank but he was eventually slain by magic right beside me... And was replaced as a man named Alin joined us. Soon Elenuta collapsed. Then did Alin.

I knew I did not have long on my own. In a last act I pulled the two from the brink so that they may escape. Then nothingness.

I awoke in the sanctuary in a panic, my hands grasping for my weapon. This faded when I spotted Snow asleep on a bench. I was informed Kermauk had attacked from the rear with us absent. Others were slain and Elenuta did not have the duel he was promised.

Alsace had lent me a sword gilded in platinum but it has been lost... I will not be able to return it as I promised which upsets me immensely. It is dishonorable to lose one's blade.

I... am not certain what to make of what transpired. Were I any less fortunate I would not have been brought back. But this is the life I have chosen for myself even if it will make a short one. The life of the Kensei. I would have it no other way.

In being able to stand and fight competently even beside Snow I can see my skills improving. I regret being unable to do more but I would die a thousand deaths to serve my daimyo.


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Re: Musings of a Rokuma Expatriate
« Reply #13 on: March 18, 2019, 10:17:53 PM »
There has not been much to write about as of late.

Many of my order have returned to Barovia due to the recent commotion, including members I had not previously been acquainted with.

Alin met me outside the Morninglord's Sanctuary and returned my coin and Alsace's sword. I will not ask how he managed to get it... Anyhow, after the events of the assault he was transported far away by the mists and had to wait until recently to give it to me.

My training continues smoothly and slowly. I can now create quality steel without ruining or losing any of the materials. To make it into something useful is still a difficult matter but it will be easier to learn with more steel on hand.

I have yet to forge an ōdachi of steel. I could make a reasonably usable one now but I am waiting until my hands are experienced enough to provide the love it deserves. Still I gain a deeper appreciation for the intricacies of the weapon I so favor with every blade I hammer out.

Some people, especially those among the Crows have taken to referring to me as a "weapon master". I am still merely an aspirant but that my advancement along the path of the Kensei is apparent even to a layperson is rather flattering.

A party of Crows accompanied by a few others gave chase to a vampire that was in the crypts. Brother Gideon, Mihai and I left behind the others to follow the creature from one end of the sewers to the other. But we chose to retreat in the face of an obvious trap.

It did not amount to much. Simply a meaningless chase.

When we returned we learned that werewolves had attacked the church in our absence. It was not severe but I am disappointed I could not have been there to defend against the assault.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2019, 12:28:19 AM by t0rchic »

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Re: Musings of a Rokuma Expatriate
« Reply #14 on: March 21, 2019, 04:24:05 PM »
I intended to go on a training expedition with Brother Efren. Quite a few people chose to come along, but our group stumbled upon a horrific scene.

The fishing lodge to the north was empty and coated in blood. When we inquired with the owner, Constantin, we learned the corpses had their left hands and left eyes removed and taken.

I reported this to the garda in Vallaki and I was directed to the Wachter Estate. Apparently, they hold jurisdiction over the lodge. But first we went on to look for a trail that may have been left behind. The snow had begun and we would not wish it be buried.

Brother Efren and I went to report to the Wachter outpost when nothing could be found. Mihai and another stayed behind to continue their search.

Unfortunately we were... ignored, to put it politely. There was no response as we knocked at the barracks door and searched the outpost.

We waited until night fell and still nothing. Perhaps nobody who could answer our inquiry was present. Regardless we would not linger there forever so we left.

I hope this is not the start of worse things to come. But it seems not to be my place to push for more information. I will simply await until I am called upon to brandish my blade.

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Re: Musings of a Rokuma Expatriate
« Reply #15 on: March 22, 2019, 05:23:41 PM »
I met a man from Rokushima today. The first I have seen apart from the con artist who lives in the residential district. He calls himself Gozu.

The man carries an oni's blood. What the people here would refer to as Caliban.

I do not care for such things. What matters is he is a capable and honorable warrior. He fights as a sōhei does and gives the impression of one who seeks to be a good man despite his circumstances.

I admit I felt excitement like that of a child when I learned he comes from Rokushima. He stood before me as a proud display of my homeland. An enormous warrior scarred by battle and bearing the horns of an oni.

I have not seen Brother Edwin in some time. He was one of the most active local members of our order. I hope he is okay.

His daughter has been about in his absence. Her name is Sica. Last I saw him I mentioned her and he claimed she was dead. She does not seem eager to reunite with her father either so I have not pressed the issue.

Perhaps she is hiding from him and finds his lack of presence as of late to be a convenience.

On the topic of family I do wonder one thing. If others have come from Rokushima recently I wonder if they know what truly became of my father. He was a prominent figure in his community and news of his disappearance would surely make the rounds for a time...

[A couple of the next strokes are jagged, but after a small pool of ink that clearly formed out of hesitation, the handwriting is smooth and clean again.]

I suppose I am too hopeful. My father is long gone. It has been two years. Even had his disappearance been a mere curious peek into the mists surrounding the camp, he would certainly have perished by now.

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Re: Musings of a Rokuma Expatriate
« Reply #16 on: March 25, 2019, 04:08:59 PM »
Brother Edwin is still missing. During a trip to Port I met with Brother Alazar, who is currently investigating his disappearance.

His spirit has been seen all the way in the Vistani mists camp. It is not common for a spirit to venture so far from its corpse.

Perhaps he seeks to warn us of something.

Whatever the case it does not bode well for our order for a member to lose his life so soon after departing... especially when he is in no position to be brought back.

Brother Efren speaks of having encountered Vashan, and was obviously defeated in the process. I still have not had a chance to train with him but I should seek that out soon for both our sakes.

Mihai has taken to having me sell his items in his stead. It takes him much effort to offload an inventory considering he is unable to speak. I am fortunate to have his trust and I intend to keep it as he is a useful ally. Some would take much of the gold for themselves.

My swordsmanship and smithing improve with every day. I provide my ōdachi with much love and care. Perhaps people grow annoyed of how obsessively I polish the weapon, but it feels worth the effort when I see the determined reflection of my eyes in its blade.

Working steel is a more tolerable effort now. I have been practicing a more conventional style as of late. I feel to do the best I can with the metal I must understand every way a blade can be made, not simply my homeland's methods.

A typical steel longsword is now easily within my capabilities. I even carry one of my own make as a backup weapon, just in case I lose my beloved ōdachi.

Though in honesty it does not feel correct to wield such a thing. If nothing else I can provide it to someone trusted should they need a weapon.

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Re: Musings of a Rokuma Expatriate
« Reply #17 on: March 26, 2019, 06:13:04 PM »
Leon approached me during my vigil outside the sanctuary to tell me the Crow camp had been raided by multiple vampires, defiled with some foul ritual.

Every moment I was alone from then on, laughter and winds and mysterious chills attempted to draw me from my post... An obvious trap. I am not so stupid as these vampires believe me.

I attempted to warn others that the roads were dangerous but still they went off on their own. A man with burning eyes went down the road with nothing more than a candle's magic to ward him.

There is a new vampire active. An oni summoner. This vampire slew the ban with burning eyes and delivered his mangled, defiled corpse to the sanctuary. A warning perhaps.

It took me much effort to clean the foul ichor left behind on my armor by carrying his corpse.

In matters both more and less important, I have finally forged a weapon somebody other than myself wields. Mihai now holds a blade of my make. A gift of friendship, I suppose.

I have observed men of nature wielding scimitars, so as part of my practice I hammered one out. Despite the difficulty of its make I forged a fine blade in the first attempt.

It was as though the kami themselves knew of my trust for this man and that he would not misuse my work.

While my skill as a smith improves so too does the bond I share with my own sword. I have felt its warm touch again, here and there. It will not be long before I can do... something, at least, with this connection of ki.

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Re: Musings of a Rokuma Expatriate
« Reply #18 on: April 20, 2019, 02:46:30 PM »
I have been absent from the public eye for some time, but it does not mean that I have not been present as the surprise of some people seems to imply.

In recent days I have been on a leave of sorts. I required tranquility. To focus on nothing else but my ōdachi. It was no vacation, of course. My pen has been idle because my sword has not.

These endless hours spent in solitary training were certainly worthwhile. In the fashion of any Kensei I can now reliably call upon my ki to strike true. In this way I can inflict a horrible wound upon even the most resilient of foes.

I can only do this twice in a short time before it exhausts my body and still I find my growth lacking. Though I feel the tinge of my life force as it pulses through my blade, I have much more to do before I can replicate the feats of my predecessors.

It has been a long reprieve, but I have kept in contact with the Crows to be certain the realm does not suffer in my absence. Snow has followed my growth closely. I have been promoted to First Man at Arms. I am now two ranks above my previous.

In related news Mihai is now a Crow. Perhaps he was inspired by me. We do travel together often, and surely he sees the praise people give our order. Though I cannot help but wonder how he took his oath seeing as he is unable to speak...

Regardless I am glad to see him officially among us. With my return to Vallaki we went to hunt creatures of the night, as a preliminary exercise to see how much we have both grown.

These "scrags" we went to deal with fell easily before my newly honed blade. Whether they were a weak foe or my skills have improved so greatly I do not know, but I am proud to wield my weapon with a new degree of skill.

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Re: Musings of a Rokuma Expatriate
« Reply #19 on: May 10, 2019, 04:38:36 PM »
My skill grows, but our order... The easy way to put things is that it does the opposite. I will start from the beginning.

Somewhat recently, Alsace was removed from our order. She had taken a vampire up on an offer that would expand her library greatly. Snow found it unacceptable.

I write this with great regret. Alsace was a sort of mentor to me. It is a shame, and I almost cannot fault her for having accepted such terms, whatever they may have been. A vampire will twist his words in whatever way sounds most appealing. A person's will can only be so strong.

Then there is Snow himself. As of late he has been... not so present. Something has kept him quite busy, to no fault of his own. Our order's activity has diminished in the absence of his leadership.

Patter has taken up his role in the meantime, as second in command. Not that I was aware of this... I made quite the fool of myself welcoming him to our order when I met him personally for the first time the other day.

Still my confidence in our order will never falter. The work we do is important. Snow will return to active duty eventually. And even if we were to lose him entirely, the ideals that drive our oath would allow us to continue forward without him.

I suppose on that note I must continue as I normally do. My skill has been improving, that much I know. That is all the motivation I need.

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Re: Musings of a Rokuma Expatriate
« Reply #20 on: June 02, 2019, 07:22:16 PM »
I write this ragged and bruised. An expedition into the Terg ruins went poorly. A vampiric mage defeated Mihai. Edwin and I avenged him but we needed to carry his body home to return him to consciousness.

The true troubles lay in what came after. We had two means of escape: to press forward past the foes who had just slew Mihai and the array of magical traps ahead, or to retreat through the floors we had previously cleared.

We expected a safe retreat but I suppose the undead cannot be trusted to rest quietly. They had returned and with greater numbers than before as though they intended to block us in.

Edwin desired to fight through the hordes but without Mihai to ward us such an escape was impossible. Instead we chose to run.

From the depths of the Terg ruins to the base of the mountain it rests upon we fled. The restless spirits gave way to furious werewolves and still we ran. That I write this is proof that somehow we succeeded. I thank the kami for keeping us safe.

As an unrelated subject a bounty of four-hundred-and-fifty thousand gold has been offered for Leon's head. The very same man on whom I have based more recent studies in swordsmanship. The application of momentum.

The writs of the flyer claim he aided in the murder of several innocents to feed a ghoul. I know not what to believe... The Barovians are apt to wild accusations and hunts led upon innocent men.

On the other hand, though I spoke of him as an idol many times I knew little of the man beyond his skill and his trauma. In this realm such trauma can and will drag even a great man to the depths of evil.

No matter the case there is no denying the man's skill with a sword. One must separate the art from the artist should said figure prove to be a distasteful individual.

To think of other things worthy of note I have taken to carrying a second blade. To hold it feels strange. There was little emotion involved. I merely commissioned its creation from a smith in the mists camp.

Though it is not Rokuma in make this greatsword is gilded in platinum. It is nearly identical to the one I had previously borrowed from Alsace. In this way I do not need worry about enchantments fading during a fight with the undead.