Forged in Fire - Part 1
Winter in the mountains usually came quickly and once it
coated the hills and valleys and glens in frozen whites and greys, it clung with
tiny icicle claws and sticky frozen fluff. The valleys and flat areas showed the
vague ridges and spindles of the covered farmlands, while higher up the hills,
careful tending began to give way to forest. Only high up the hill did
civilization truly give way, under the twisted branches of northern trees
reaching up to cup the cold offerings of the air.
These farmlands lay far from cities, and the few roads between villages were
rarely travelled as people preferred to stay at home and weave or work in their
huts. The peasants who lived here were a quiet sort, living under the Lords of
Grace and Prosperity, the Crane. They tended their fields and saw to their
duties, paying fealty to the Emperor and their Lords. Like the quiet people they
were, they stayed in their homes and in their fields and did not wander far from
their civilized, if poor, plains and homes.
The woods, those high mountain ranges, even in the best of weather held
mysterious opposition for these humans. They knew spirits resided there, spirits
who held no fealty for the Emperor or his laws and no respect for the human’s
duty to their Emperor. These spirits jealously guarded their trees and forests
and wild places with an ardor that was as fierce as any devoted yojimbo. Some of
the spirits were simple ghosts, but elders spoke words of caution to the
children about kitsune and other beings who ran under the forest limbs.
Kitsune, fox spirits, were many things. Sometimes they were playful, and merely
tricked the poor villagers. Sometimes they were kind and would give lost
children sweets and food. But sometimes they were vicious, and it was better to
never see proof of their temper. Unfortunately, the local kitsune had grown less
and less tolerant of humans as the ages passed. The villagers had long since
learned it was best to not tempt the tempers of the foxes, and to not stray too
far in the mountains lest they risk the wrath of those spirits.
One such spirit, cursing the ill luck that had given her scout duty on such a
bitterly cold day, paused for a moment in her tour to look down the
mountainside. The day was heavy, and the little spirits of the trees and
elements were restless. There was Taint somewhere nearby, but where ever it was,
it was not yet close enough for her to pinpoint it. The last time the elements
had been burdened with such an oppression had been when goblins and oni had
overrun the human capital. While the spirits in general had not been concerned
with the fight, it had not then been nor was it now a welcome feeling.
Something, some scent or some unrest in the kamigami elementals made her pause,
and she perched in the embrace of some of the lower limbs of a mountaintop
forest giant. From this vantage point, the human settlements were not really
visible; they were around a bend of the mountain on the other side of a small
ridge. As she rested and watched, though, sharp eyes picked out a plume of smoke
against the grey sky, a rise of darker ashen grey larger and heavier than the
little village normally boasted.
After a moment, she saw what had caught her attention. Whether the kamigami had
whispered it to her or she’d managed to hear it, she was unsurprised when a lone
figure came around the edge of the mountain ridge. The figure was healthy. Not
that the kitsune could see the person that well, but the human plowed through
inches deep unbroken snow with a steady pace. The spirit continued to watch the
human, uninterested until she realized that the human was running towards the
The spirit frowned. It had not been that long ago that the kitsune had simply
killed anyone who came too far up the mountain, then rolled the bodies down the
hill for the others to see. That a human would run willingly towards the
mountain spoke of something odd. As the spirit was a kitsune, who were never
known for their disinterest in the odd and curious, she tarried a moment longer
to see what oddity this human would present.
As the human came closer, the spirit could see that the figure – a woman –
carried a bundle. Then, eventually, that the bundle was a weakly wailing baby
whose cries the woman was muffling against her shoulder. The spirit gingerly
freed herself from the tree and dropped silently down to the ground. The human
was now nearly at the line of trees whose larger size marked the edge of the
real wood. The human was not stopping, though she had slowed.
The spirit approached the human, absently pushing back the hood of her
protective scout gear. The spirit’s hair was red with spun gold highlights, the
fur of her tail and ears mirroring the same coloring – an aura of gold over red.
Between the color of her hair and the large fox’s ears and tail, she was
unmistakably kitsune and even in her scout’s gear, easily seen now that she
The woman staggered forward a few more steps under the line of the trees,
movements perversely losing their fluidity as she broke into the more shallow
snow in the forest shade. She stared vaguely in front of her, eyes unable to
focus on anything around her. This close, the spirit could see a deep gash along
the woman’s scalp, though the blood from it no longer flowed. The human’s dark
hair was matted with it, and the spirit could see that the blood had begun to
freeze, explaining why she hadn’t smelled it earlier.
The human could not have been a moon past twenty.
“Miss, you should turn back now.”
The woman collapsed to her knees. She smiled, a trembling weak thing, and held
out the babe she carried. The babe was cold enough and weak enough that its
cries had turned to mere whimpers. The mother herself wavered and began to fall.
The spirit bit back a curse and jumped forward to catch woman and child. She
caught the child, but the woman fell over, revealing a long, deep gash running
the length of her back. The spirit looked up and eyed the trail the woman had
left. Despite the severity of the wound, there was no blood in the snow, at
least not close enough for the spirit to see. The woman was quite dead.
The babe’s whimpering grew in volume a little as it objected to the cold, and
the unfamiliar presence of the spirit. It was wrapped in a plainly well-used and
recently used kitchen towel, and underneath the child was dressed in
nondescript, rough clothing that was obviously of peasant make. A peasant child,
whose mother or sister had died to bring to the dubious safety of the forest
There were kitsune who would not care, who would have left the baby in the arms
of the now-dead mother. There were even kitsune who would kill the child right
there, to give it a quick death rather than a lingering one of frozen
Ginyue, however, had never been one for senseless violence, even in her
grumpiest most solitary hermit moods. She sighed a little, mentally railing a
little at the fates who had brought this to her path. After a moment, she
loosened the outer, warmer layer of her gear and tucked the baby underneath. It
would keep there for a little while anyway. Almost immediately, the baby calmed
and curled closer to her.
Ginyue, a bachelorette who regarded children with the singular horror of those
who were not and probably never would be interested in having children of their
own, shuddered a little and hoped the babe didn’t make a mess in her jerkin. She
eyed the woods around them, debating. Finally, she sighed. If she was going to
take the child back to hand over to the Denmother to be raised as an orphan, she
couldn’t just leave the woman’s body to feed the wolves and boars.
She knelt and dug clawed fingers through the snow into the wet, frozen earth
below. Earth kamigami didn’t like doing much in this weather, but they liked her
more than most, so they roused themselves at her call. The snow bubbled up as
the earth beneath began to roil. The nearby trees reached up and took careful
hold of the body, then drug it down beneath the still moving earth. Once she
judged the body far enough down, she let the earth kami rest again, and they
pulled the packed earth back to the way it was before they had moved.
Ginyue stood up and shook the excess dirt from her fingers. She’d have to cut
her route short today, but she suspected that the scout leader would want to
know what had happened. She hoped someone else had gotten a good look at the
human village to see what had hurt and spooked the woman so badly. After all,
that the village had been safe for so long was a sign of how safe it was for the
kitsune. When the humans started warring, it was a daunting thing.
The next day.
Kawamori had seen many horrendous things in his career,
and equally horrendous people - a father who sold his daughter into servitude to
maintain face, a mother who had killed sons to ensure first born rights to a
particular favorite. They burdened him every day, the ghosts of the betrayed and
the cries of the wronged. They were there in every dream, crying to him for
help, and every night he dealt with the fact that he could do nothing for them.
After leaving the village Kawamori felt he wouldn't sleep for a month. Maybe
longer. He had followed the tracks, and they had told him a sickening story of
an under staffed village. The village was rural enough and secluded enough that
it had not seen the horrors of war in generations. The people had been
slaughtered, and the few samurai stationed here had failed them. It left a bad
taste in his mouth, as did most of the short-comings of his class.
The devastation was complete. Buildings had been leveled, bodies left strewn in
a mess of grotesque, frozen puzzle pieces. He could see no survivors in the
village. The only chance he had of finding out exactly what had happened lay in
a lone trail of running steps memorialized in frozen ice and snow. It was the
only hope of a survivor that he might save from his troubled dreams.
He followed the trail out of the village and around the lee of the mountain that
obscured his view, a critical bend in the mountain that may have saved the
person from the attacker’s rage. He studied the tracks as he followed them. A
woman, he decided, from the footprint size, from the depth of the imprint in the
snow compared to his own – not quite as deep as his with a slightly shorter
stride that indicated a lighter, shorter body. There were no signs of anyone
having ever traveled this path, but the woman’s path had taken her straight and
unerringly into the wood.
She must have been young, her stride didn’t lessen, nor did she stumble. She
had only looked ahead, no turning steps to show she looked back. Too afraid to look back, he guessed. As he climbed the
hill, chasing the phantom of her memory, he saw signs of blood in the shadows of
her steps. She’d been injured, and quite seriously, judging by the amount of
blood that had made it to the ground. Soon enough he was left with only her
foot prints as the iron solidness of her blood trickled away into virtually
nothing. She’d bled more than enough to kill herself, but she had kept running.
He paused next to a young tree, resting one hand slightly on the smooth bark of
a peeling birch tree as he considered the path going further up the mountain and
into the shadows marking the true wooded areas. He tilted his head for a moment,
considering the distance she’d run from the village and the blood he’d seen. She
couldn’t have gone much farther. He’d either find a body, traces of a body, or
someone had saved her. He nodded and proceeded carefully into the wood.
Under the skeleton canopy of the trees, the snow on the ground diminished by a
good measure. The foot prints faded away into nothing, leaving only a faded
whisper hinting at the direction the woman had taken before even the footprints
disappeared into an unbroken field of white amongst the trees.
Ginyue was less than amused. The excitement of the day before – other scouts had
had a clearer view of what had happened and had brought back reports of the
decimation of the village – had translated itself into increased security around
the den. That meant that even the blacksmith, who privately felt her talents
could be better used making a few extra arrowheads to stock up the scouts, was
turned out to do extra patrols. She hated the military, sometimes. She was
allowed to tinker with and create all sorts of sharp metal things, but it had
distinct downsides... like having to trudge about in sub-freezing temperatures
She sighed to herself and gave a mental shrug as she absently patted a small
bundle she had carefully tucked away in her robes. She’d managed to coax the
earth kami to help her grow a spattering of flowers, despite the snow. She
intended to lay them out as an offering for the poor woman, rather hoping to not
be haunted by a worried ghost. There were several kitsune in the Chigonoha den
who specialized in calming ghosts and sending them on their way, but it was not
at all one of her affinities.
Suddenly, the air kami – all of them – seemed to shift around her. Their
attention focused into a palatable energy just before they dove towards a point
just on the other side of her ability to follow them. She froze as only a spirit
of the wood could, then hastily reached up and adjusted her cap to make sure the
tale-tail red and gold of her hair and fur were covered by the loose weave grey
and brown cloth meant to help them hide their colors in the winter. She edged
her way into brush and made herself hidden and still, waiting for whatever had
so completely pulled the air kamigami’s attention. Whatever it was, the other
kamigami weren’t reacting. A sleepy earth kami roused enough to greet her,
reaching over to curl against her hand. She ignored it for the moment, it
wouldn’t be offended, and focused her attention on the direction the air kami
Her patience was rewarded a moment later when she caught sight of a figure
making its way deliberately through the snow. The figure, not overly tall but
strong enough in frame to be a man, made his way along the path the woman had
taken the day before. She and other kitsune had taken time to erase the woman’s
trail once it crossed the borders of the young woods, but the man seemed to have
no trouble following the trail further into the wood. Of course, the woman had
run fairly straight and guessing her direction wouldn’t be difficult until he
got further into the wood. Ginyue was far enough away from the man that she
couldn’t pick out much about him, but by the sheer number of air kami flitting
around him in playful patterns, he had to be a Shugenja of some sort.
Ginyue bit down hard on a few of her choice curse phrases. This, apparently, was
destined to just *not* be her week. She ducked beneath a low lying tree branch
and crept closer to the stranger, pausing in relative safety behind a tree where
she could watch him. The little earth kami followed her, and it roused
a few more earth kami as they passed. When she settled again, she had earth
kamigami snuggled up against her legs and tail like kittens looking for
As he came closer, she could see that he wore Crane colors, all pale blue and
white. Oddly enough, though, his hair was black rather than the affected white
that was popular even today among the human clan, and his skin was as tanned as
a peasant’s in a very uncommon display of un-courtly appearance. Her adopted
father told her once that she ought to be able to smell the average Crane a near
furlong away, because they were overly effusive in their use of perfume.
Usually, anyway. If the air kami hadn’t moved, she probably would have walked
right up on this man without smelling him. She scowled and watched the oddity of
a man tramp all over her previously relatively calm afternoon.
He came to a stop just next to where she had interred the woman’s body, though
she knew, *knew* there was no sign there of what had happened. There wasn’t even
a ghost, yet. The man looked short to her, though she wasn’t particularly aware
of the average human height among Cranes. He didn’t look at all like the
too-pretty fops that her adopted father had described to her when he told her of
the average Crane, though the man was attractive enough in a cute, tired sort of
way. He wore a katana, but he didn’t have even a hint of the air of a warrior
around him. Nor, she realized suddenly, did he seem like a strong shugenja. For
all the kamigami that were zooming about him, none of them paid attention to him
in the way that a kami normally responded to a shugenja that controlled the kami.
They weren’t even focusing on him like they might for a spirit, but more
flicking around in the random patterns she usually saw kamigami affect around
children with some affinity for the kamigami.
It was too many contradictions bundled into one person, and she couldn’t control
the flit of her ears that pressed them back, then forward under her cap. She was
so fascinated by it all that she didn’t see the air kami flying at her until it
nearly buzzed her. Ginyue barely avoided squeaking out a sound as the kami
circled her once, tugged at her hood and ears, and then flitted back to the man.
The human’s head tilted, but he didn’t look at her nor move in her direction.
Instead, he squatted down and placed his hand over the swept snow covering the
hidden grave where the woman had fallen.
Kawamori hung his head and reached forward to rest his hands over the earth
where he somehow knew the trail ended. She had died. He was not even allowed the
whisper of hope that he had felt when he saw the foot prints. The shade he had
followed here was just that – an impression of a person, and a weak one that
would disappear as soon as the weather turned. There was no sign of a body, nor
of why the tracks disappeared, but he knew as he always knew such things that
she had died on this spot.
The sadness, the naked lack of hope on his face made Ginyue pause. Perhaps she
had been wrong yesterday. She had assumed the child was a peasant child, but
what if the rough clothing had simply been a disguise to get the child free?
What if this man were the father? He made no sound as he sat there, his only
motion his breathing and his hands gently running across the snow.
The same air kami buzzed Ginyue again and she silently glared up at it. Air was
her deficient element, and while she could see the little energetic snots, she
never could get them to do more than blow raspberries at her. She’d never had
one harass her like this and it was an annoying novelty. The kami plainly wanted
her to step out, but Ginyue was in no way inclined to step out and introduce
herself to a man who had that many kamigami clinging to his robe-sleeves. Even
if he wasn’t consciously controlling the air kamigami, they were plainly
responding to him, and she wasn’t interested in fielding the inquisitive nature
of air kami who weren’t being controlled. He was shugenja or at least of
shugenja birth, and clanned. The clans knew well enough that there were kitsune
in this wood, he could just go back to his city and make inquiries to find out
what the kitsune knew about the incident through official channels.
Privately, she conceded that those channels would be convoluted – he’d have to
gain an audience to the Lion dispatch, then speak with Norituri the Lion
messenger who was married to the Denmother of Chigonoha. Noritori had recently
managed to have his dispatch moved to the nearby Crane city and had become the
unofficial official link to the Chigonoha Den. Norituri would speak with Grey,
and Grey would then decide if she felt like agreeing to whatever the human
needed or not.
The man looked up from the spot he’d been gazing blankly at and regarded the
trees around him with a thoughtful, weary look. There was no sign of what had
happened, only the trail leading to this spot before it disappeared. The man
sighed heavily, then spoke in a thick, roughly unused voice, “Someone found
The voice had borne much of a similarity with the voice of a man who was
speaking for the first time after waking up from a long sleep. Ginyue’s fur
stood on end for the heartbeat it took her to realize he was speaking to the
dead woman, rather than speaking to her.
The man smiled then, a grim, unhappy twist of lips. He was not happy to find
himself in this dead end with no answers. He lacked a body, but he knew she was
dead. It bothered him, not to know what had happened to the woman.
The man twisted suddenly, turning away from the hidden grave, his intent change
of focus nearly hidden in a swarm of air kami as they surge around him in upset
patterns. He doesn’t seem aware of their movements, not even apparently able to
see them, but their upset nonetheless transferred to the man and he was somehow
aware that they were upset.
Ginyue had been staring in almost trance-like fascination at the way the kami
surrounded the man, but his sudden movement broke her out of the moment. When
the air kami all fled, and flee they did in screaming, angry, upset gusts, she
realized she’d not been paying attention to something far more important. With a
lap full of earth kami, she’d not noticed it, but she could smell it now – the
pungent, unhealthy rotting smell of taint rushing into the area, chasing after
the disappearing tails of the fleeing air kami.
Ginyue breathed a curse as she scrambled from her hiding place in the brush. Her
earth kami were more upset at the tainted presence than her abrupt departure,
and they followed her heels closely as she ran towards the man. “Not my day, not
my day! Why is it always in my sector…?”
Her unexpected movement and the breathless, mostly resolved voice brought the
human about with his hand on the hilt of his katana. He gave her a sweeping
glance, noting she was slightly taller than he and slender, but solid-looking
under grey and brown close-cut winter wear with no obvious weapon at hand. He
relaxed fractionally, forgetting his previous moment of wariness as he regarded
the strange apparition in front of him. His focus was intense, so much so that
he was too busy to notice the tree uprooted behind him and lobbed in their
Ginyue yelped a sound of surprise and grabbed for him, pushing him sideways and
out of the way of the thrown tree. There was taint here. Taint in her woods.
Taint that had just damaged one of her forest’s trees. It made her
furious and tightened her voice with gruff fury.
“Watch your surroundings!” When he continued to stare, she cursed again and
pulled him from his stillness to push him away, “Run, man!”
He had an impression of pale green eyes the yellow-green of a newly budded leaf
and a tousle of red and gold hair before the second tree landed. He stared at it
briefly, then turned to see the oni. The demon was a purple paunch humanoid
thing about 15 feet tall with small horns dotting his face. The oni sized up his
prey, razor claws idly cut across the bark of a nearby tree as a long, gray
tongue lolled out between jaggef teeth. To the kitsune, it smelled of taint,
which was grotesque enough, but the oni itself was rank with old blood, sweat,
and other things she didn't care to think on too closely. Kawamori shook himself
free of the kitsune’s hand and drew his sword.
Ginyue – at first inclined to be annoyed at the human audacious enough to think
he could face down an oni of that size – flinched and drew in a sharp breath as
the blade was bared. At a glance, it looked like a normal enough blade, but
despite the metal shell, the blade itself was completely made of air kami.
Militaristic air kami who were focused on one task – fighting.
Before she could quite grasp the significance of the blade, he spoke, “He can
catch us. He caught all of the others who ran. You run. I’ll hold him off.” He
leveled the blade at the oni.
Ginyue spared a glancing glare towards the man normally reserved for
particularly dense suitors intent on talking to her, “Don’t tempt me. I hate
fighting. This is my sector and I don’t get to run, human.”
He eyes her, surprised at the snippety tone and her demeanor. They break off
just in time to dodge out of the way of another tree. He gazes at the oni
intently, but he spoke towards the kitsune, “Do what you must, and so will I.”
The man shifts his weight, adjusting his footing in the snow. To Ginyue, a
kitsune neither trained in nor inclined to be curious about swords, his stance
seemed reasonably good enough. His stance goaded the Oni into action and it
began its loping gait towards them.
Ginyue rolled behind a tree and shoved her hands down into the ground. The earth kami had scattered a little when she’d gotten up a moment ago, but unlike the
air kami, they had stayed. So when she called them together, they rushed to her
and then off to the trees to help them do what she wanted. The trees knew what
was happening, as did the spirits, and neither wanted the creature of Taint to
stick around, so despite the sluggishness of the season, the earth came alive.
Roots boil up out of the ground to entangle the Oni’s feet and grab at him.
Fortunately enough for them, the Oni didn’t seem to be very smart. It was
confused when it hit the ground. More roots whip out to pull the oni further
down and to try and tie him.
For his part, the human didn’t hesitate. He’d run forward almost as soon as he
had his stance. When Ginyue looked up and measured the distance of it, she had a
moment of self-disgust. The man obviously had training and a sword like that
ought to cut through near about any—
The man’s follow through is probably decent enough normally, but it’s just
enough off that even Ginyue knows it wouldn’t work. Had the man had any idea how
to use his little military air kami, it wouldn’t have mattered, but he
apparently didn’t. The blade glances harmlessly off of the behemoth’s skin and
slides away. The kamigami in the sword are furious, but like a well trained
regimen of soldiers, do not strike out at the target in front of them without
the order to do so.
The Oni was smart enough to know it was annoyed, and smart enough to know the
sword could hurt if the man got around to using it right. With a snarling growl,
the demon frees a hand and backhands at the human. Kawamori ducks just in time
and rolls forward to slice his blade through the more delicate skin of the Oni’s
Its roar filled the woods and shook the trees with its anger. The Oni’s tail
swung hard as it flailed and swatted Kawamori by pure chance. He went into a
nearby tree. The Oni began savagely ripping through the roots holding it, tail
flashing heavily from side to side and ramming hard against the nearby trees as
the oni tries to gain its footing again. In pain now, and in fury, it doesn’t
take long for the Oni to free itself of the trees despite Ginyue’s efforts. It
yanks a limb from one of the nearer trees and lobs it at Ginyue.
One of the trees reaches down and takes the impact of the limb, but Ginyue had
already moved. She scrambled after the man, grabbing him as she passed. Already
disoriented, he only had a moment to register that the woman was handily pulling
him along with one hand before the Oni made a leap at them.
Ginyue squeaked and backpedaled. She had never personally fought an Oni before
and was therefore totally unprepared for the devastating speed and range of the
being. The man seemed more experienced in that manner as he instinctively
twisted and avoided a slapping hit the Oni had aimed at him. The man went for
the same duck and slash attack as before, only to discover that the Oni wasn’t
quite that dumb.
Gin caught the brunt of the slap and was propelled into one of the nearby trees.
She became uncomfortably acquainted with its bark as the tree’s body gave way in
a splintering crack of sound. Kawamori dodged the slap well enough, but his duck
motion brought him up at the precise point where the Oni’s tail flicked out. He
made similar acquaintance with a tree.
When the entirely human scream filled the forest, Ginyue jerked awake. She
couldn’t see what exactly the Oni was doing, but then she didn’t need the
details at the moment, nothing past smelling the entirely human blood and
distinct odor of a stomach wound. Kawamori’s attention was on his pain, as was
the cackling Oni’s. She saw the Oni toss the human a little, still giggling and
cackling to itself over the fun of it. There was no one else around.
So there was certainly no one who heard the snicking snarl pass her lips, or the
soft sound of metal clearing leather. She didn’t like to fight. If anyone from
the den saw her with a bared blade in hand for fighting, they might die of pure
Her blade, though, slid home in the Oni’s back in a smooth motion that neatly
sliced through liver and up through lung and rib. She was gone before the Oni’s
roar and instinctive flinch brought its heavy tail and claws down where she’d
been. She moved under the tail and slid forward to jab the blade through the
Oni’s knee. The blade was good; she’d made it herself. The aim was good, though
she wished for a good spear haft to turn and slice with easier. The strike went
through the weak bend of the joint, cut cleanly through gristle and cartilage,
and jerked through the other side of the leg.
Howling, the Oni collapsed in a flailing mass of writhing purple. It tried to
strike at her, but pain blinded its thoughts and she managed to dodge. Her slice
at its neck was not as successful; she’d gotten too close and the thing hit her
out of pure instinct. Her claws dug deeply into the side of a tree already dying
from its injuries as she pulled herself to her feet, snarling. She’d still
managed the cut, and though not as deep as she would have liked, it was still a
vital hit. The oni writhed on the ground, lashing out wildly in instinct and
panic as the cut began to bleed out. She snarled again and called the earth
kamigami forth again.
The earth stopped holding the oni’s weight, separating under its feet to suck
the demon down knee deep in the soil. It hit roots, then, of the dying trees who
had no energy to move their limbs. The oni’s screeched furiously and Gin
flattened her ears as the piercing sound of it sent invisible hot iron pokers
into her sensitive ears. It tried to crawl out of the earthen trap, only to
discover that the earth had once again become unyielding.
It screamed furiously and began digging with the one arm that was fully free of
And then the backup was there.
Kitsune do not do well when confronted with Taint. It makes them ill. But when a
dozen kitsune lay into killing something with all their focus, it doesn’t
usually take very long.
At first, the wave of brown and grey clad fighters didn’t register, but one
separated off from the group. Koten, the eldest son of the Denlord, spread his
hands and stopped some several feet away from the furious Ginyue. He’d never
seen her in a battle rage, and all that gold-lined red made an impressive
display when it rose in angry defense, especially when sunlight finally broke
through the clouds to bounce through the leaves. He stayed well back, acting as
innocent and calm as he could.
Ginyue flexed her fingers against the tree again. She stared down at her fingers
stupidly for a moment, the sounds of the fight dimming from her ears as she
realized how badly injured she was. She carefully removed her fingers from the
side of the tree and patted it carefully in apology. It was dying already, but
that was no reason to not be considerate.
Koten topped her by a good two inches and was a fox of a more orange furred
color than red. He looked almost exactly like his father, save that he wasn’t
quite as broad in the chest as the massive Denlord. His tone was cautious when
he spoke, “Hello, little Apricot. Having a bad day?”
“Those are the senior scouts, I hope.”
Koten had the grace not to look offended, “I wouldn’t bring short ears to fight an oni. Kishi’s group found tracks around the way and we’ve been following it. A
few minutes ago, a horde of air kami descended on us and pulled us over here.”
“Oh. They seem to worry about him.” Ginyue sat down heavily on the ground, a
mostly controlled slide to her rear. She couldn’t quite seem to see straight,
“One of my blades is around here somewhere, and a human.” She thought for a
moment, “He might be dead.”
“If he isn’t yet, should he be?”
She squinted up at him, “You are the official greeter for Chigonoha, go look at
Koten looked over his shoulder, at about the same time the oni gave its dying
wheeze of anger. “I rather doubt he’s conscious, or he’d be leaving. It’s up to
“Hell.” Ginyue ran her claws back through her hair, ignoring for the moment the
dirt and blood on them. She’d bathe later, anyway. “I don’t know who he is. He’s
got a pack of air kami that follow him, but he doesn’t seem to be able to
control them and he’s piss poor with his sword.”
Koten grinned wryly. Ginyue was fond of being scathing, he didn’t think she had
any other mode, but she didn’t usually sound quite so disgusted. “So not much of
“I don’t think so. He seemed to be investigating the woman. I’d say, if nothing
else, there’s no point in not tending to him if he’ll live, and helping him
could be politically good for relations with the humans.” Stubbornly, she
refused to say the actual traditional phrase that would invite the human in and
make her responsible for him.
Koten nodded slowly, then offered her a hand up. Tired to the bone, and already
feeling the soreness from slamming into and sliding off of no fewer than half a
dozen trees, she took the hand up. Koten yanked her harder then, and with a neat
little twist, pulled her into a piggyback. Ginyue was too tired to object too
much. She’d bite him later.
The human it turned out was alive, just barely.
Koten spoke in a conversational tone as they watched one of the scouts set water
kami to stabilizing the human, “You know, you didn’t say it, but you are
still responsible for him.”
She did bite him then. Koten just laughed.
Language note -
The Japanese phrase "Kamigami" is
literally used to refer to "all those little gods." In real life, this might
include a guardian spirit of a field or a family as well as any of the thousands
(dare I say millions?) of spirits that the ancient Japanese believed resided
around them. In the L5R verse, I've adopted the phrase to be used for the
elemental spirits. So, when a kitsune uses the word "kamigami," I mean that they
are thinking about all of the elemental kami that are in the world around them.
Here for a discussion on DenMothers
and their duties
for a character page for Ginyue
On to next section
Back to L5R fiction main
Back to L5R main
(c) me. :p