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A Whisper of Chaos (by: Jc)

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 10 months ago

__The Whisper of Chaos__

By: Josh Crowder


The news spread like wildfire around the kingdom that the emperor is ill. Many feared a power vacuum would ensue, and still others thought a tyrannical regional leader would seize power.


The emperor insisted he would be fine, and that no healer or priest was to be summoned. Days turned to weeks and no signs of recovery appeared. Finally the emperor’s closest advisor's broke his edict and had a bishop of the Zirehel monks come to his aide. He tried herbal treatments, spells, prayers, acupuncture, and even wards against evil spirits…..All to no avail. Three months later, the emperor passed away. Instead of the expected chaos and anarchy, very little changed at all.


One of the emperor’s top advisor's, Jichi Domon now held the reins of power. It seemed all would stay the same, some spoke of prosperity. They were dead wrong. A short five weeks later, many regional leaders grew ambitious and led revolts. The kingdom was torn asunder as new kingdoms arose inside the already existent one. Soon they hungered for more power and land. They started waging wars against each other. Kingdoms rose and fell in a matter of weeks.


You may be wondering who I am. I am Shizenko. A historian and senior rogue Lieutenant under Zabui Shing. He was the ninja master who dealt with pesky enemies of the Hach clan. I shall tell you the tale of one of our more risqué missions.




It was a very foggy night as we sped through the bamboo forest towards our goal; Grandmaster Ai. The elusive and cruel leader of the notorious ‘Grey Faction’. The silhouette of the fortress stood out like a monument to some dark god against the bleak horizon. We approached the edge of the forest and stopped. We took out scrolls with a spell scribbled on them, a pouch of water, ground bits of iron, and small clay pots. We placed the pots on the ground, sprinkled the iron into them, put seven drops of water in the middle and started whispering the spell. Master Zabui moved from pot to pot, slowly sparking flint and tinder above them. Magically, the iron shavings started glowing white and the water floated up towards the sky hastily. A roar shook the land as if we had awaked a mighty dragon. Seconds later, the sky poured down furiously and lightning lashed out, scarring the earth repeatedly and catching fire to the bamboo trees. The spell worked. A grin touched everyone’s lips as we sped towards our goal.


The sentries of the fortress took shelter inside the watch towers, leaving us with easy passage up the walls. The clatter of grappling hooks was drowned out by the storm. We all scurried into place and gave the signal. Guards were lifted from their feet by garrotes while others fell prey to silent blades. With the sentries neutralized, we made our way into the keep. We came to a split in the hallway. There were three corridors. I took two men and headed down the west hallway. After about five minutes, we reached a wide and very open hall. I gave the signal to halt. I rummaged around in my belt pouches. I thumbed the small pebbles and took them out. I handed several to both ninjas. If this was the fabled ‘Hall of Arrows’, then I didn’t want to take any chances. I tossed a pebble into the hall and it was quickly shattered by a speeding arrow. I sighed. I signaled to them to make ready. I signaled again. We hurled all of our pebbles into the corridor and it become alive with movement. Arrows buzzed around as if they were a hive of bees beaten with a bamboo pole. Our feet barely touched the floor as we bounced from wall to floor and floor to wall. It was soon proved that our speed and grace was no match for physics and such advanced mechanisms. At first arrowheads only grazed us but, one of my men was taken down and the other took an arrow to the leg before we finished traversing that devious trap. The crippling arrow only meant one thing for the assassin and he knew it. His body slumped moments after he dutifully took the cyanide pill. Now it was just me against whatever clever traps or guards remained between me and Grandmaster Ai.

His blade cleaved the air as our blades danced. It was only for a minute but our furious swordplay made it seem like an eternity. He slightly over-extended himself on an upward thrust and I exploited it. I shadow-stepped behind him and the pommel of my katana obliterated his spinal column. The force from the blow sent him spinning several feet. To ensure my victory, I approached him cautiously and plunged my blade into his spinal cord. Withdrawing my blade and wiping it on my sleeve, I climbed into the air vent. I crawled through the cramped space until I reached the slitted vent covering. I peered through and the sight shook me to the core and I almost gave away my position. Sitting gagged and bound against the far wall was Zabui Shing and the others. Two bodies lay decapitated on the floor near Grandmaster Ai’s bed. It seemed he was well prepared for us.


We had no plan of action for this so I sat back and thought while I watched. Ai paced back and forth shouting at my bound comrades. If I only could get Zabui’s attention…….Wait!!! My nightingale call will do just the trick!


Upon hearing this, Zabui’s eyes darted back and forth searching the room for the source. He spotted me but kept his head down. He bellowed laughter. Grandmaster Ai hunched over and punched him in the gut. Zabui fell on his side and his laughter only increased. He flashed the hand-signal for ‘possum’. This was extraordinary! This meant Zabui had undone his bonds but was waiting for the right moment. I let out my call again and he flashed the signal for ‘follow’. In one fluid moment, he drew his blade and thrusted. Ai jumped backwards and I heaved a small ball-and-chain at his back. He turned to bat it away and left himself open to Zabui. Blood and iron burst through his chest. He crumpled to the floor and Zabui quickly untied the others.

I told him of the fate of the two with me and he sighed. “We lost one other besides those two” Zabui said as he pointed at the two corpses by the bed. Taking count, I realized we had half our man power left. This certainly meant a harrowing escape with so few men.


Footsteps and the scraping sound of metal against stone reverberated towards us. The giant doors that led into Grandmaster Ai’s bedroom were battered down as if they were a wall of reeds. A unit of armored guards filed into the room and surrounded us. Lastly, the source of the scraping sound revealed itself. A seven foot man of pure muscle stood blocking the doorway and enveloping us with his shadow. His face was creased with scars and his dark eyes were set ablaze by his rage.


His was weapon was just as awe inspiring. A battle axe with a serrated edge attached to a cruelly shaped cleaver. It shown of gold and silver in the dim light. Zabui whispered “Tei Chao”. Stories of the ogre of Banhamuda Keep flooded my mind. “You have been found guilty of the assassination of Grandmaster Ai. How do you plead?” bellowed Tei Chao. “Guilty with delight!” replied Zabui smiling. “Damnit Zabui! This man is not to be trifled with. Do you intend on getting us killed!?” I cursed. Anger painted the ogre’s face. “I shall serve as your judge and executioner!!!” promised the ogre of Banhamuda Keep. One giant stride brought him face-to-face with Zabui. A lightning quick strike later and Zabui was sent flying into a wall. Cracks spidered through the wall from the impact of Zabui’s body. The guards attacked. I held my sword by the middle of the blade. Two guards slashed. I parried both and shrugged them off. A third, very strong guard grabbed the hilt. Using him as a crutch, I jumped and spun him around kicking several others in the face. He released and collapsed dizzily. In doing so, my momentum gave me a not so soft landing. I hit the ground with a THUMP! One guard came up behind one of my men and got him in a bear hug while a second sliced his throat. Down to three and an unconscious Zabui. I drew my imported falchion which glowed a purplish hue and my spare katana. The guards gasped when they saw the demonic blade. Just the distraction I needed. Beheading one then eviscerating another, my blades twirled in perfect harmony as I danced death around the guards. When I stopped to catch my breath. Several guards fell to the floor spurting blood. Odds were still in their favor because of Tei Chao. He obliterated the air itself as he split one of my ninjas in half. Sound exploded from the force of the blow and stung my ears. Another assassin came up behind Tei Chao and brought his blade against his thigh. The blade shattered and sparkling shards flew everywhere. Of all the myths to be true, it had to be the one that Tei Chao’s skin was strong as tempered iron. An unmerciful backhand shattered the ninja’s skull and sent his body through a window. A faint splash reached my ears as his body hit the pond by the keep. Zabui awoke drunkenly from his stupor. Quickly gauging the situation, he leaped out the nearest window. Staring at me was four guards and an infuriated Tei Chao. “Bye bye!” I yelled as I too plunged out a window. As I sped towards the ground I spun around and tossed a grappling hook up and it caught a crevice which slammed me into the wall. CRACK! My left arm went numb and lay helplessly at my side. I slid down the rest of the rope and viewed my surroundings when my padded shoes touched the soaked grass. Zabui was nearby crouching in a thicket of reeds. Blood-curdling screams pierced the air as bodies rained out of the broken windows. The bodies hit the ground with a sickening thud. Their faces were frozen in fear and anguish as their bodies seeped blood like a cup with holes in it. What happened next made my heart sink. The stone wall by the window collapsed and rained down boulders. Within these hail of boulders was none other than Tei Chao smiling down upon us. I barely escaped a falling stone as it hit and embedded itself in the ground. Before I knew what was going on, I and Zabui were speeding through the bamboo forest being pursued by Tei Chao. Relief washed over me as I remembered I set up an ambush comprised of our elite clansmen and Zabui’s apprentice, Fang De. I split the air with the loudest nightingale call I could muster to signal the attack and ran on. We reached a clearing and dove into thickets and when Tei Chao came lumbering into the clearing, ninjas poured down out of the trees. Tei Chao infuriated at such treachery, swung his mighty weapon around his head and struck the ground. The sheer brute force of the blow cracked the earth and sent out a shockwave causing several ninjas to buckle. Others, still on their feet charged him with blades out front. He parried the first few but there was just too many and soon blades begun to slip past his guard and his blood hit the ground. He barely summoned enough strength to swing his weapon again but those caught in his path were cut in half, swords and all. I jumped onto his back and plunged my enchanted blade into his spine. His eyes rolled into the back of his head and I quickly jumped off before his body crushed me beneath his weight. We severed his head and made our way back to the base.




Applause thundered throughout the hall as me, Zabui Shing, and Fang De entered. Shogun of the Hach clan, Hach Pao shouted praised and called us forth to kneel. “Do you have what I asked for?” Hach Pao questioned. Zabui shuffled forward and revealed something round covered in a cloth. He unraveled it and out rolled Grandmaster Ai’s head. Applause once again shook the hall. Lord Pao raised his hand to silence the room. “I’m surprised once again by your abilities Zabui. How did you manage to elude the Ogre of Banhamuda Keep?” He asked. “You shall be delighted my lord.” smiled Zabui. He motioned to Fang De and he shuffled forward. He revealed another round object in a cloth but, this one was much larger in circumference. He unraveled it to reveal Tei Chao’s head. Lord Pao stood and signaled us to rise. He motioned us forward and embraced us when we got close enough. He took a few steps back and solemnly said “Your debt to me has been fulfilled and I will make sure your skills never grace this world again!” shouted Lord Pao.


Alarmed by this, we were easily caught off guard. Palace guards seized me and Fang De from behind and lifted us from our feet. Zabui was too fast for them to grab him and there he stood surrounded by the palace guard whom were fully armed and he had only a small blade. The guards started closing in when an unseen voice bellowed “Wait!!!” A man emerged from the shadows. It was Ari Gai, the legendary Iron-Staff master and my long lost friend. It would seem Lord Pao is much more charismatic than I had previously thought. “I will deal with this whelp.” he stated. The palace guards sheathed their blades and took a step back. Two warriors of great renown stood face-to-face. This was a truly awe-inspiring sight if there was any. The Crimson Phantom, Zabui Shing against the Iron Tiger, Ari Gai. Zabui took the initiative and lunged. His speed……..was god-like. Ari couldn’t react fast enough and suffered the penalty. Zabui’s blade plunged into Ari’s stomach. It looked like they were long lost friends in a tight embrace. Blood dripped out of Ari’s smiling mouth. His massive hands clamped onto Zabui’s head and brutally smashed his forehead into Zabui’s face. CCCCRRRRRAAAAACCCCCCKKKK!!!! The mighty ninja lord went limp in his grasp and he let him fall to the floor. Ari hunched over and put his boot on Zabui’s side and shoved him. He made no noise, no move, no nothing. Ari reached down and pulled Zabui up by his shoulders. Zabui struggled to stand, suddenly losing almost all his strength. Ari took hold of his Iron Staff. “Any last words my dear Zabui?” The Iron Tiger mercifully asked. “Any last words?” mocked Zabui. “You have tested my patience for far too long, be quick with your last words or forever hold your peace!” shouted Ari. He said those last words with such finality that it shook me to the core. “To hell with you and your patience!” Zabui shouted. Ari Gai’s arm tensed and a look of pity flashed across his face. “Is this how you want to be remembered? A fool who curses his own executioner?” bellowed Ari. Zabui suddenly lost his nerve after that statement and made a move to flee. “Have you no shame!?” ridiculed Ari, shaking his head. Giving him no chance to answer, he brought his Iron Staff down upon Zabui’s head. It split open like an overripe melon. Gore and brains splattered on the floor from the once feared Zabui Shing. Caught up in all the excitement, I hadn’t noticed Fang De’s lifeless body on the ground with a sword protruding from his back. Ari turned to me and asked “Are you too shameless like your master?” I knelt upon hearing this. “Ari Gai, long had I desired we’d meet again. It seems upon most unfavorable circumstances though. ‘Be careful what you wish for’ is how it goes right?” I jested. The Iron Tiger approached me and knelt too. This brought our faces a foot from each other’s. “Your reputation precedes you, my friend.” jested Ari. “I have my honor. Even if my lord betrays me, I shall serve him until death.” I assured him. “Peers in life, brothers in the after-life?” Ari asked me. “Peers? You are too kind. Now get this dark deed over with. I wish to see my wife and children once more.” I said. “A true warrior. Stories shall be told of your courage.” Tears lined Ari’s face as his staff came down upon mine.


__End of Prologue__

__Chapter 1: Solution__

The tension brought the kingdom close to the breaking point. The rebellion had gone on for far too long. The Emperor called together the leaders of the three mightiest provinces; Nagasaki, Zen, and my lord’s clan. The leaders arranged a meeting at Zuing, a small port town in the Zen province. I take you there now.

The Emperor frustrated, shouted “These damned infidels! They have been a thorn in my side for too long! Gather your troops, no matter the cost, for I shall pay handsomely for the devilish Zhao Feng’s head!” My lord, Xin Hao said “He draws more and more peasants to his cause everyday. We cannot take him head on even with all of us combined. We need a solution and fast.” “I believe I have your solution. It requires great secrecy and deception my good lords.” Said the small turbaned man in the corner. “Who speaks!?” demanded the Emperor. “It is I, Tong Li. The strategist of my lord, Nagasaki Shiu.” Answered the small man. “Would the kind Tong Li, care to explain or just weave words?” mocked the gruff voice of Zen Man, leader of the Zen clan. “Of course my dear Zen Man. Here is my plan.” He stood upright and cautiously walked over to a table with maps strewn across it. We all gathered round to see this “plan”. His finger slid across the map and stopped on the Shrine of Heaven. It immediately became clear to me what was to be done. “In three weeks, all the Zirehel monks take a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Heaven.” Tong Li could see Zen Man drawing a blank on his face so he finished his thought. “With that many people going to the same place at once, he’d never notice our troop movements and we could catch him unaware.” “Ingenious!” applauded Lord Nagasaki. “You have proved yourself yet again Tong Li!” he praised. “But……” my lord interrupted. “How is it possible to mask our movements from Zhao Feng? He has eyes and ears everywhere. Even in your own ranks.” He said pointing. To this, Tong Li responded “Simple. Just prepare your troops for mobilization but don’t tell anyone until the last minute.” “Should we tell the Dechi or Ze provinces of our plan”? asked the Emperor. My lord replied “No. We must keep this tiger hidden until…..” The echo of footsteps could be heard outside. “A trap!?” I shouted. “Zhao Feng” my lord muttered. We all drew our blades and formed a protective ring around the Emperor. I heard a slight TWANG sound……Panic gripped me. “Arrows!!” I shouted. “Everyone duck quickly!!!” Too late. Arrows whistled through the delicate paper screens and buried themselves hand-length deep into Lord Zen’s deputy. Another arrow knocked Tong Li from his feet. The arrows passed by the rest of us harmlessly. Lord Zen’s deputy without question was dead. Tong Li was on the floor unconscious. Masked warriors burst through the bamboo screens and doors. One of them thrusted and I slapped his blade away and buried mine into his throat. Quickly withdrawing my blade and escaping another attacker’s blade I rolled. His blade sliced again and caught me on my right cheek. It left a deep gash running from the bottom of my earlobe to my chin. That assassin soon too spoke through his own blood. A sharp pain in my shoulder took hold of me. I looked down at my right shoulder and gasped. There was a blade flashing my reflection back at me. Before falling into unconsciousness, I smashed in his face and plunged my blade into his crotch.




A few days later I awoke. I looked over myself and tried to sit up using my right arm as a support. Under the weight it buckled sending me flopping back into the pillows. I tried to call for a servant but my jaw exploded in pain. I laid there in shock and stared at the elaborate woodwork of the bed and the various ivory engravings. I fitfully drifted off into sleep. I awoke again that night to my lord, Lord Zen, and Tong Li standing over me. Curious……I wonder where lord Nagasaki is I thought to myself. “Ah, Humo finally awakes.” My lord announced. “How is your jaw and shoulder?” Tong Li inquired. “I feel like a baby. All I can do is complain and cry about my problems.” I joked. “Such high spirits after such an attack like that Humo?” A shocked Tong Li asked. “They were just a bunch of honor less cowards.” I assured him. “Well, let me fill you in on the details after you took a nap on us that day.” Lord Zen frowned. “It turns out that there were ten in total. You killed two and incapacitated another. The other seven were all vanquished but, the Emperor’s aide and……” he trailed off. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “Lord Nagasaki was slain.” Tong Li finished. That information shook me wide awake. “Has Lord Nagasaki’s son, Nagasaki Hanzo agreed to continue with the plan!?” I blurted out. All I got were sighs. “What are we to do?” I asked. “The late lord Nagasaki’s second son, Nagasaki Shiro has agreed to if….we killed Hanzo.” My lord said. “If we dispose of Hanzo, then Shiro has agreed to help us stomp out Zhao Feng’s pesky flame, once and for all.” Tong Li said. “This is no easy task. The capitol of the Nagasaki province, Bojich, is a fortress city.” Stated Lord Zen. “We need the expertise of a master assassin…..but, the only one capable of such a feat is all the way across the Sea of Daggers.” My lord said. “This means that you, Humo, need to heal quickly and find yourself a force worthy of this task.” Lord Xin declared. “What!?” I shouted confused. “You are to assassinate Lord Nagasaki Hanzo. Time is running out, may a swift recovery be upon you.” Tong Li said before briskly leaving the room. “You must be tired from this conversation. Rest now.” My lord silenced me. As they left the room, sleep found me.

My sleep was ridden with nightmares and I awoke several time covered in sweat. The third time I awoke, a ghost floated over me. It was my deceased uncle……Shizenko. How this could be, I have not a clue even to today but know this, it happened. Whether hallucination or reality, it started talking. “It seems your task is grave my dear nephew. Do not fret over this young Humo. I have your much needed peace of mind.” “What do you have for me!?” I questioned through my fever and paralysis. “The key to this plan is a man known as the ‘Azure Hero’ where he lives. He calls the small town of Goto his home.” said the phantom. “In one of the free provinces?” “Yes, my nephew. But now, you must recover your strength. Now……SLEEP!!” I awoke startled, with sweat pouring down my brow and the sheets damp from my perspiration. Unable to tell whether that was a feverish dream or frightening reality I sat there and wondered. Shaking my head, I laid down and returned to my night of nightmare ridden dreams.


__Chapter 2: The Search__

Once I recovered, I gathered much needed information on the location of this town. It seemed this ‘Azure Hero’ was a generous doctor and master of the katana. Goto was a small town by the coast of the inland free province. Our only salvation waited for us to find him in the belly of the beast. I readied a company of about a 100 warriors to accompany me on this task.

It took two days to gather the necessary supplies and on the dawn of the third day, we rode south. Before daybreak of the fifth day, we had passed through both the Rin and Po provinces. I ordered the men to strike camp at the border of the Nagasaki and Dechi provinces. After this, we would have little chance to rest and gather supplies.

The next day at dawn is when I received some startling news. We had taken up shelter outside the town of Ran in the Nagasaki province. The sound of a horse in full gallop reached my ears. I shoved through the flap of my tent to see what the commotion was all about. The rider stumbled off of his horse and asking a nearby soldier ascertained my location. He sprinted over to me and took a few gasps of air. He was covered in dust and looked as if he had hid in a bush for two days. His black beard had twigs and leaves in it while his clothes took a brownish color from the dust. Breathing heavily he clued me in on current events. “Nagasaki…..Hanzo, Lord of clan…Nagasaki. He has…ordered….his army to chase……us…out of his province. The main…..army is a day’s ride from here, while the troops in the…..nearby garrison are closing in on us.” He said while catching his breath. “Shit!” I cursed. “What’s your name soldier?” I asked. “Te Che, my lord.” he answered. “Without you Te Che, Nagasaki’s army would’ve surrounded us and crushed us without warning. For this, I thank you.” I bowed to show my gratitude. He stood there wide-eyed with his mouth agape. He didn’t expect to receive such praise for doing his duty. “Go alert the troops while I plan a strategy.” I told him. I stood there thinking why Hanzo would resort to such rash actions at this point in time, since he had no idea of our plans. A few seconds later I could hear faint cries of “To arms! To arms you fools!!!” I smiled at this and retired into my tent.




Little did I know but, Lord Zen was having problems of his own. Zhao Feng’s navy had landed on the west coast of the Zen province and easily took many of the small port towns including the one where we met at, Zuing. Within a week, Zhao’s navy had taken control of the coast and started marching towards the Zen province capitol of Fogari. The only obstacles in their path were the impregnable Fang Castle and the metropolis of Ste. Both these locations were as well defended as the capital itself. Lord Zen intended to stop this offensive and deal a crippling blow to Zhao Feng’s navy at the same time.




“Lord Zen, Zhao Feng’s army is about 2 days march west of here and is led by the very capable Go Pi.” informed one of my generals. Thinking to myself, ‘I am the great Shogun Zen Man. No matter what general leads his army of heretics, our zeal and heart will cause them to break formation and run back to their ships with their tails between their legs.’ Reassured, I brought my attention back to the war council. “How many soldiers does he have and how well equipped are they?” I asked. “They’re troops number as much as 75,000 my lord. Due to their ransacking of our coastal cities……they have all the supplies they need for a prolonged campaign.” answered my Shadow General. “We only have 55,000 with us my lord but, if we reach Fang Castle within time….we can easily defeat him using the castle as a major crutch.” said General Lei Di. “Reports show that Fang Castle is already under siege from Zhao Feng’s troops and the soldiers there are fighting a losing battle.” I said. “Do not fear my lord, their Colonel is a man who knows no fear and accepts death before defeat.” informed one of my aides. “Who is this fearless Colonel?” I inquired. “His name is Poe my lord. The soldiers know him as Black Poe.” said my Shadow General. “Ahhhhh, a warrior fit for the job. Mad Poe could hold off those devils for months without assistance but, we still need to make haste. This war council is adjourned and inform all officers to wake troops before dawn.” We all did the customary salute of clapping our hand onto the left side of our chest. I turned and moved the tent flap aside and moved out into the darkness lit by torches. I started walking towards my own private tent which was three rows over. Some would be worried that they outnumbered us but such mattered not to me.

I replayed what I had learned in the war council as I walked and before I finished, I had reached my tent. Moving the heavy leather flap aside, I stepped in and I noticed something wasn’t right. My worship candle was moved slightly……an arm closed around my neck! “Prepare to die.” whispered the assassin. Another hand came around but this one was wielding a dagger. I quickly grappled with the dagger hand trying to force it away from my throat. “AHHHHHHHHH!!!!” I flipped the assassin over my shoulder and sent him flying onto a table and he slid across it, crashing into vases and dishes alike until he smashed into my mirror. Porcelain and glass littered the floor as the ninja stumbled to his feet wiping the glass from his garb. Letting out a feral growl, I charged him with my hands out front. I grabbed and hoisted him above my head. I smiled as I brought him down upon my knee. CCCCRRRRRAAAAAACCCKKKKKKKK!!!! I pushed his lifeless corpse onto the ground and looked at what I had done. “Fool!” I thought. I could’ve subdued him and questioned him to find who sent him……Damn! But instead, I had a corpse staining my carpets and rugs. “Guards!” I shouted. Two watchmen marched in and surveyed the room. They bowed their heads when they realized what all happened because if it wasn’t for my sheer brute force, I’d be dead and it’d be their fault. “Think nothing of it I assured them. Just get this body out of here so that I may rest. Ahh yes. Come back in the morning to clean this up and do not disturb me from my slumber tonight…..or else.” I ordered. The guards smiled at this because they had been let off the hook big time. One grabbed the feet and the other grabbed the assassin under the armpits. Blood spilled out of his abdomen where a rib had poked through. They hurriedly carried the body out before it could do anymore damage and I sighed.

I entered a small room with a large tub and various scented oils and soaps. The tub steamed from the hot water and I broke into laughter. “When will they learn that the mighty Zen Man does not use scented oils!?” I laughed as I swept the bottles of scented oils into a padded basket with my hand. I stripped off all my clothing and slowly immersed myself in the invigorating water. I closed my eyes to enjoy the moment and drifted off into sleep. I awoke to find myself being scrubbed by a maid. She opened her mouth to apologize but I put up my hand. “No need to apologize. It is better that I not stay asleep in the tub because I won’t be any good to my men if I drowned from something so embarrassing.” The maid had eyes of the purest blue and her features were so gentle. It seemed if any danger got close to her that she would just break into pieces and be swept away by the wind. She stepped back and motioned for me to come sit on a stool so that she may dry me. I stepped out of the tub but instead of sitting I said embarrassed “I thank you for your services but I’ll dry myself.” Blushing I took the towel and at the flap to the room, she turned and winked before exiting the room. I rigorously dried myself with the towel and grabbed my sleeping robe from a hook. I put both arms through and then brought the front together and tied the straps snuggly.

There I stood gazing at my bed with wanting eyes and tried to form a smile as I stumbled into the blankets. Zhao Feng and his army will have to wait until tomorrow, for now my mind turned to thoughts of fluffy white dream clouds. Staring at the back of my eyelids I finally found some rest……for now.




The wind blew through my hair and I put my hand up to shade my eyes as I surveyed the plains before me. Out in the distance I could see the tiny specs that would soon become Lord Hanzo’s army. All this was visible to me from my vantage point but to my warriors who were setting up fortifications on the hill, only their task at hand concerned them. My spies have told me that the approaching army numbered 1,000 warriors, not including the 300 from the nearby garrison. Now, 1,300 soldiers may not seem like a lot but, against a force of 100………it’s a bit of overkill. At least we have the advantage of terrain because I ordered my men to set up camp on a rather wide hill and go about setting traps and such. In the field before us were about sixty juntu stake pits. The hill overnight became a porcupine of epic proportions as I had them put logs in the hillside to slow the enemy advance. I planned to live through this………no matter the cost. Hmmmmm, the enemy is close enough. “Everyone!!! To your positions!! Archers make ready!!!” I shouted. Another hundred yards or so and they’d be within bow range. The slow, monotonous marching of the enemy made it hard to maintain my focus and composure. “Finally!’ I thought aloud, relieved at the fact that the battle was soon to begin. “Archers!! Take aim and wait for my signal!” I ordered. Hundred yards……eighty yards……..sixty yards……fifty yards….go time. “Fire!!!” I bellowed. The perfect harmony of the arrows was a sight to behold as none other. One would compare it to a vibrant swarm of butterflies or a flock of majestic cranes. This serene sight took a down downhill twist as they turned their devilish points downward upon the enemy. The rain of arrows struck everywhere, shelter only behind a small shield provided little protection as arrows found their way through these. Burying themselves into soldiers left and right, the arrows kept coming with no end in sight. The enemy army was in complete pandemonium as soldiers and officers alike were taken from their horses and pinned to the ground. In the panic of this, the enemy general was able to sound a charge and they came rushing at us like how a tsunami pummels a small village. Archers threw their bows to the ground and drew gleaming blades and shining halberds. The excitement even caught hold of me too. My blood began to boil as they started to close in; I rode my horse down to the front and dismounted. I signaled to my servant and he brought me my gigantic battle-ax. Standing at 5 feet 9 inches and weighing 125 pounds……my axe earned the right to be called “gigantic”.

The panic worsened as they spilled into our traps and soldiers were pushed to their deaths by the soldiers marching behind them. All hell broke loose as their remaining troops crashed into our position and the bloodshed ensued. I charged head-on at their center saying “to the wind with strategy!!” as my blood lust took hold of me. Swinging my ax like a madman, I felled soldiers all around me in my quest for blood. Men fell to the ground with severed arms, legs, heads, and many were cut in half. Taking hit after hit, my arm just kept pumping and my legs kept trudging on. A sword slashed me across my stomach and I turned to crush the worm that did this to me. It was a woman…….”What?” I asked one second and the other the ground rushed up to meet my face as soldiers piled on top of me to hold me down. Not one to be tied up for too long, using my axe as leverage and straining my muscles to the max, I pushed off of the ground and stood sending seven soldiers tumbling. I grabbed the female soldier under my arm because I can’t bring myself to strike a woman, let alone cleave her in half.

With my blood lust sated and senses to normal, I realized I was far from the front and had many bleeding wounds. Grasping my axe firmly and rushing through the enemies once more but this time, cautiously moving towards my troop’s front line. After cutting a swath through the enemy lines and bounding over my force’s line into relative safety I quickly made my way to the top of the hill and found my tent. I pushed aside the flap and found the two watchmen there cleaning up the blood. “Stop. I have something else for you to do.” I put down the woman and took her sword. “Make sure she doesn’t escape. No harm is to come of her or dire consequences will be brought upon the culprit!” I stated. I made my way back to where my officers were and oversaw the battle from there. “The initial arrow attack I believe killed around 750 of their men and the stake pits probably killed as many as 300 due to them marching so tightly.” said one of my officers. “Your little escapade out there in the battle raised morale greatly and you killed about thirty men yourself.” praised my Shadow General. Breath came in short, labored gasps to me now as my adrenaline kicked out. “Thank you……but….I will have a few scars after this battle” I said putting pressure on a certain vicious wound across my stomach. Wincing as I touched it, I grew dizzy and involuntarily found myself collapsing and hitting the ground with a THUD! “My lord! Are you ok!?” said my officers in unison. “I’ll…..be…………..f….in.e…..I just…need…a…n..a..p..” I promised as the world grew dark and my vision blurred………………


__Chapter 3: Sword Arm of Heresy__

It was nearly sun-set as we marched toward Fang Castle but I did not send out the order to strike camp. My generals all strongly advised against marching the troops for this long without rest except one, Lt. Colonel Oran Miji. Oran was a rather stolid man, but one who would strike anyone who asked him to betray an oath. Lt. Colonel Oran Miji is the capable officer who I chose to replace my fallen deputy and comrade, Naji'ro Suik. I did not choose him solely for his bluntness but for his stoutness. Naji'ro Suik was killed in the ambush of our imperial meeting with the Emperor at Zuing……I push on in his memory…..this battle won’t be about politics….its about bringing justice to treacherous fools. Off in the distance I could clearly see the familiar fortress with torches lighting the walls and guard towers. One thing that was alien about this familiar sight was that there was…..well…no flag atop the tower representing the Zen Clan. Because of this I told my officers to tell the soldiers to stop marching…..quietly though. “General Lei Di. How come our flag is not atop the tower?” I asked. “Maybe were too late and the enemy has already seized the castle?” he responded. “But how could that be? They had enough supplies and morale to last a week at tops. Why were they overrun so easily?” I thought aloud. “Perhaps there was a spy in Colonel Poe’s ranks. It is not hard to have a mole planted somewhere but it’s many times harder to pick out that same mole.” said my Shadow General. “Enough debating what it could be, let us go find….” I stopped when I saw the reason. Over top of the castle was what looked like a very low hanging cloud? This wasn’t any ordinary cloud though; it was tainted green by whatever nefarious substance it carried within itself. “Poison!?” I exclaimed. “We have discovered that their encampment is just west of the castle. I believe their waiting for the poison to dissipate or be carried away by the eastward winds. Let us give them a taste of their own medicine.” suggested my Shadow General. “Excellent! Go and ready the mages. Tell them to rouse an westward wind.” I said. “Right away my lord.” said my aide scampering away.

Many minutes later, robed figures came trudging into the small clearing where we were meeting as if they were Jugo, the god of order, he who strains himself just to keep evil and good at bay. One of the robed men stepped forward to speak to me…..his braided beard was of a dark violet with golden loops that had arcane symbols etched into them which of course kept his beard intact at the ends and his eyes were as piercing glaciers. His voice was full of sorrow as he spoke “What is it you require of us master?” said the bearded man. The man chilled me to the core as if the temperature had dropped a full forty degrees. “I wish for you to summon a westward wind to push that cloud of poison at Zhao Feng’s army.” I said simply enough. “Consider it done master.” he said in his melancholy voice. The seers pulled out various items from their pockets including multi-colored dust and feathers. They created a triangle of the multi-colored dust pointing to the west and stuck the feathers in the ground at the tip. Two of the three took up position at the corners of the triangle while the gloomy one stood behind the feathers. Their voices were amplified and filled the air:

Precious breeze that brings the cool

Wind that causes trees to bend, come

Wind that bird’s glide upon, come

Wind that carries rain to the earth, come

Howl in defiance at these fools, come

Show them you are master, come

Winds swirl and begone!


After the last syllable, a great storm started brewing for the clouds turned black…..not a dark gray but pitch black. The sun no longer had a say in the time of day, it was the sky and clouds. The wind just kept building and building, I swear they intended to tear the earth asunder with this spell. The winds began to whip about and I had to duck a few times to dodge the small pebbles that now flew about. It even started blowing the multi-colored dust away the mages had used but this only revealed the ground was stained in rainbows. I looked up to the sky and a small funnel of cloud was twisting its way to the ground. It twisted and curved until it reached the ground and sucked up everything around it. Cloaks were torn from shoulders and trees were uprooted until the twister settled upon a western path. The spell seemed like a normal weather spell but soon it seemed they summoned something that would be more thorough. The tornado grew eyes that slanted evilly and a mouth with gleaming teeth. The wind was taking a form of its own as it became a beast born of wind with arms and legs. “They summoned an elemental!” I bellowed over the howling wind. “Do not fear master, we are in total control!” said the bearded man while grinning cruelly. I and my officers raced up a small hill so we could see what this monstrosity was up to. We could see men scrambling around the enemy camp shouting and one sounding the alarm as the elemental took one step after another towards them. The gales from the beast tore up tents and battle standards alike in the enemy camp. The wind beast swallowed the cloud of poison and while turning towards Zhao Feng’s army, it let out a belch like no other. The poison enveloped their entire camp and it wasn’t long before men fell to their knees gasping for clean air.

All of a sudden the poison vanished with no reason in sight but, as one of the tents went flying it became clear what was coming. There stood a group of robed men chanting. It would seem steel and valor would not solve this conflict but arcane magic and devilish intellect. The elemental sucked up two of the mages and sent them spiraling away into the air only to smash against the walls of the castle. Soon the earth shook with great ferocity as it seemed that the opposing sage’s spell took hold. At first only a small hill formed out of the ground before our elemental but eyes came into place near the top of the hill. Tremors shook the land as a being of rock and dirt climbed out of the earth to tower over the wind elemental. Its great bulk was made of solid stone and hard-packed mud it seemed. Two more of our seers appeared and they looked worried, one of them almost tripped as he and the other hurried to reach the triangle of colored dust. They were carrying bronze braziers that stood about the same size as them and several other weird items in the arms. They set up braziers and quickly lit them, threw in objects of mysterious origins that sent flames flickering and licking up at the sky. They threw in a strange colored kindling and the flames turned a vibrant green that warmed all nearby. Small funnel clouds came down and connected themselves to the two braziers and sent the flames spewing forth into the heavens. My officers and I had to shade our eyes or become blind from the intensity of the flames. Where our elemental stood became an inferno of jade as the flames poured down out of the sky and integrated themselves with the elemental, making it a being of explosive power. There stood two beings of ultimate power looming over everything human and ready to fight and die for their sorcerous masters. The two beings grappled with each other and fought for supremacy as thunder creased the sky. The earth elemental broke the grapple; he bear hugged our elemental and hoisted it off the ground. From the weight of the two colossal beasts, the ground buckled and the earth elemental began to sink into the muck. It hurled the flame elemental and it smashed into the dirt but the force carried it into a small gathering of trees, setting them ablaze with green fire. Standing, it grabbed hold of two trees and heaved them at the earth elemental. One of them caught the earth elemental in the eye and it let out an unearthly scream. The scream pierced the air and caused a few of my officers to fall to the ground holding their ears. The shriek caused their ears to bleed and I ran to their side so I could assist them. The earth elementals’ one eye trained itself upon the being of flame and charged. It tackled it and they went tumbling across the landscape. The flame managed to stay on top and let loose a barrage of punches upon the earth elementals already battered face. One fiery fist after another pummeled the earth elementals face and I almost felt sorry for it as rocks and gravel were knocked lose. After experiencing a brief comatose state, the earth elemental caught a second wind and slugged the flame elemental sending it stumbling backwards. It only roared in protest at this and slugged it back with all its might and it……..it……..it shattered the earth elementals head causing it to collapse back into the stone and dirt it was made from. I looked back to our sages and saw the melancholy sage faint. “Doctor! Quick someone get the doctor and help that man!” I shouted pointing at the fallen seer. The flame elemental looked forlorn as it stared at its fallen master and roared in protest yet again. The flames separated from the elemental and were sucked up by the heavens. The elemental stood there staring sadly at its fallen master and vanished.

Seeing this as the opportunity for my men to finish off the now ragged navy, I sounded the charge and we were off. Running down the hill with swords waving in the air with our sights set upon the enemy soldiers who were paralyzed in fear. They threw their weapons down and ran in terror. The cavalry charged ahead of us and cut off their escape and they were forced to surrender.

Later that night, I detailed a heavy guard around the various prison tents throughout our camp and intended to see what became of the soldiers of Fang Castle. I, Oran Miji, and a handful of other soldiers went inside the desolate castle. We walked into the opening of the courtyard and saw the unexpected. Lying strewn across the courtyard were corpses that were rended by the claws of otherworldly beasts. The bodies had claws marks everywhere from their faces to their legs and arms that oozed blood. Blood lay in pools everywhere and even the fountain in the center was turned blood red by this grotesque massacre. “Is anyone there?! Is there any survivors!?” I shouted. No answer came so I signaled my troops to light torches and follow closely as I descended down the steps of the castle leading to the dungeon. The torchlight dimly lit the stairwell as we trudged down the steps seeing blood splattered against the walls and claw marks in the stone. I drew my blade and the others followed my lead. I came to the first level of the dungeon and shouted once again “Is anyone there!?” and yet again no response came. All that was heard were rats’ squeaking and scurrying along the wet stone. I held my torch up and gazed into the cells and I saw what I thought had happened; there were sections of cell bars missing and inside laid guards mangled and unidentifiable. I led the way down the next flight of stairs and I almost slipped in a pool of blood at the bottom. “Everyone be wary, there could be foes that still linger here.” I said. Everyone’s head nodded in agreement and we walked down the cell block. “Is anyone there!?” I shouted. “o….ve….over….h…e…re..!” said a garbled voice. I ran to the source of the voice and held my torch up to light the cell. Inside the cell laid the most grotesque creatures I’ve ever seen, they were beasts with fetid claws, distorted faces, and freakish bodies. In the corner barely visible because of the pigment of his skin was the fearless Colonel Poe. He was sitting there, holding a candle with smoke pouring from its wick. “Colonel Poe!? You are alive?!” I bellowed. “Y..es….bu.t….no..t….for….lo..ng…if..i….don’t….ge..t.a..doc..t…or..” said the black man. “Doctor! Come quickly and tend to this man’s wounds!” I ordered. A broad-shouldered man with a blood-stained apron came to my side and said “I will need assistance. I cannot care for him here because the necessary tools are at the camp.” “Fine. Pick em’ up and carry him back to camp and care for him. Also, four soldiers escort the doctor back to camp!” I ordered. The doctor kneeled and with both arms picked up Poe like he was a baby and started off towards the stairs. The last four soldiers in the line went off after the doctor to act as his escort. “Let us finish our search for survivors.” I said. An hour or so later and all of the cell blocks searched, we found about six more men left alive after their bout with those demonic creatures.

Opening the tent flap that led into the infirmary my nostrils were assaulted by the putrid smell of rotten flesh. “Gah!” I complained. “I see my lord has been away from the battlefield for too long.” jested my deputy. “Well it’s not my fault! Those damned mountain men never stay to fight, its always raid and run with them.” I said “But, after Zhao Feng’s uprising is eventually subdued, I’ll turn my attention to those barbarians.” I promised. I scanned the huge tent for the survivors of Fang Castle; I spotted Colonel Poe near the end. Walking down the row of beds, I looked at each man as I walked by and some wounds were superficial while others were mortal. Walking up to the bottom of his bed I said in a little above a whisper “Are you awake?” He stirred and propped himself up slightly to get a better view of who had awoke him. “Lord Zen Man, how goes the battle against Zhao Feng’s buccaneers?” asked the Colonel. “It goes good Colonel, but after searching their entire camp and questioning many captives, we discovered they weren’t at full strength when they reached the surrounding area of Fang Castle.” I responded. “Those bastards only tested our defenses twice and deemed it necessary to unleash such evil upon us.” Poe said angrily. “What exactly were those things? They were obviously not of this world but they did bear a similarity to people, no matter how small of a similarity it was.” I questioned. “I do not know the whole story my lord but I shall tell you the tale of how these events came to be.” said Poe.




There I was sitting at my desk in my office reading reports and documents lit by a large candle……when my “priest” came rushing into my office babbling in anger. “Calm yourself Tet. Why are you so angry at this hour? Do you sense demons or evil?” I asked the Exorcist. Forcing composure over himself he recited what he had said in an understandable manner. “Our spies have discovered that Zhao Feng’s navy has landed just north of the small town of Zuing. Not only this but the temple two miles east of Zuing was desecrated by those damned infidels!” shouted the priest in anger. Again working himself into a fit of unintelligible babble. “Exorcist Tet, if you do not calm yourself, I shall have to ask you to come back at a later time.” I ordered. He grudgingly calmed himself yet again. “My lord, I ask that you send word of this immediately to Lord Zen so that the army may deal with this!” he begged. “Of course I will send word of this right away to Lord Zen but, you must remember who you are addressing Tet, because if you weren’t a monk, I’d have you cleaning the stables by now.” My words silenced him. “I apologize Colonel, just this event stacked upon the recent string of diseases that plague our soldiers is just too much to take for me.” said Tet apologetically. “Think nothing of it. I shall entrust you to send the dispatch to Lord Zen, and you may include your thoughts about it to him and see if he cares as much as I. Remember that we must remain calm in the face of danger. Thank you for the report Tet.” I said. “You are most welcome Colonel, it would seem your wisdom surpasses mine. I shall take care of this matter right away!” he said bowing then scurrying out of my office. “heh, sometimes it is hard even for me to keep my composure with all these events taking place. It would seem the world is going to shit.” I said to myself while shrugging. Glancing at the slew of reports that keep pouring onto my desk, it would seem that all of them were reports on my soldiers getting sick. I can’t possibly find a reason why this was happening since I had the entire castle sanitized from the dungeons to highest flag pole. I had the monks scry to see if some kind of demon or other evil being was letting loose these diseases upon my men. All to no avail for whatever or whoever was doing this was well hidden. Bringing myself back from my thoughts, I glanced out the window and saw the sun slowly rising from the east. Perhaps it was time to get some rest I thought to myself. I shifted my gaze unto the giant candle that sat on the end of my desk. It was quite a marvelous creation. The monks of the castle made it for me as a birthday present. It was made of solid marble, with silver and gold engravings that depicted ancient battles and warriors of legend. This wasn’t the real magic though; it was the wick and the light that it gave off. The wick was transparent and only the outline of it could be seen. The wick burned with great intensity yet it never went down, not even an inch. It gave off a red light when burned. You may ask why it was red and I did too when it was presented to me. In response, the monks told me that the red light given off was part of a ward against malicious spirits and when demons are bathed in red light their powers are weakened significantly. I blew out the candle and backed up my chair. As I stood I heard several bones crack in protest. “uhhhhh. Perhaps I’m starting to get old...” I thought aloud and then laughed. I cracked my knuckles as I walked out of my office that gave off a grotesque cracking sound. I stepped into the hallway that was now bathed in sunlight and made my way down the hall towards my quarters. After maybe about 20 paces or so, I was there standing in front of my bedroom door. The door itself was of a plain oak and except for the intricate lock on the door it could’ve passed for a storage closet. I reached into my pant pocket and pulled out a gold but definitely unremarkable key and put it into the lock. Seconds after twisting it, the door groaned as wheels spun, gears turned, and chains pulled their way to unlocking the door. The door opened itself and revealed an ordinary room……it seemed. After whistling an intricate tune, the spell shimmered away revealing a huge hall. I stepped in, shut the door behind me, and locked it. There I stood in the middle of the hall with a huge mahogany table, stretching about 25 yards into the room. On both sides of the hall were various rooms where I slept, kept my armor and blades, my volumes and tomes, and of course my favorite room which housed my two pets. I slowly opened the door and peeked in. There loafing around as usual were my two beasts of war……well not exactly beasts of war all the time I thought to myself smiling. Their ears shot up when they sensed the door open and turned friendly eyes my way. I opened the door and walked in to only be tackled by these furry beasts. Their sand-paper like tongues and wet noses were a welcome feeling compared to the pain my back felt from being hunched over those reports. My two pets were none other than two leopards. I had named them Soij and Oij. I found them during one of my outings when I was waiting for a deer to show itself by a lake. The meows of tiny, furry leopard kittens were enough to get a hold of my attention. I had approached cautiously and found them in a bush, both sitting on their hind paws looking around for their mother. Not far from where they were I discovered the fate of their mother, the arrows protruding from her side showed that hunters or perhaps poachers had encountered her on one of their hunts. Anyhow, I took them back with me to the castle and the men called me crazy for bringing wild animals back with me in hopes of making them tame. It was I who got the last laugh of when I and my two furry friends played countless pranks upon the ranks, not too much though as to agitate the men but enough to fill the soldiers with mirth. I, Soij, and Oij rolled around for a bit then I gave them a good scratching, and then slipped out of the room. I ran my hand along the polished surface of the gleaming table and opened my bedroom door. I closed the door behind me and plunged into the luxurious blankets and pillows on my bed and drifted off into sleep. When I awoke many hours later I received reports from a few towns only a handful of miles away from the Castle that Zhao Feng’s army had crossed many leagues in an impossible amount of time. By that night, not only did the sun find its way to the horizon but so did an army marching straight at us. Thankfully they didn’t attack that night or we would’ve been easily destroyed. All throughout the night I shouted out orders and marched through the keep finding all the soldiers and getting them to their posts. A few hours before dawn, I finally had time to think. Fang Castle housed around 5,000 soldiers which are more than enough to properly defend a castle. I had double the sentries out along the walls so no foolish error on any of the soldier’s part would allow a “soft” spot for the enemy to attack. In the morning is when the bloodshed began.

The enemy army lined up just outside of our archer’s range and they had several siege weapons at their disposal. The enemy commander was not Go Pi, who I had received reports that he led the enemy army against me. It didn’t even seem that the man was the charismatic sort since he was hunched over in the saddle and had a shaggy blonde beard. His armor didn’t shine like everyone else’s but it was dull and dirtied. No matter his appearance, it turned out that he was a clever and devious man. A bugle sounded and men from the back of their ranks bearing giant iron tower shields came trudging to the front. They interlocked their shields in the front and on top so they took the appearance of a giant black turtle. At the sight of this I bellowed “Quick, get some fires going and bring cauldrons of oil!!!” This order sent a few footmen running down the stone steps shouting to their comrades in the courtyard to help them find oil and cauldrons. A man standing in front of their army was wearing a tiger skin and orange breeches. He had two large flags, a green one in his left hand and a yellow one in his right. He held up the green one and waved it repeatedly to signal the attack. Their army started forward in perfect harmony as the shield-bearers protected the archers and infantry underneath. The man stood up the yellow flag and waved it twice and then set it down. At the sight of this, the men manning their catapults unleashed a barrage of boulders at the Castle’s outer walls, barely making scratches on the 10 foot thick stone walls. They were within’ arrow range so I signaled the volley. The arrows skirted off the shields harmlessly and it stopped the volley. It would seem I would have to let them come to us. My soldiers finally came carrying huge cauldrons filled with grease and oil; they set them upon sturdy supports above flaring fires. The enemy shield-bearers took their shields down just long enough for a row of archers to pop up and release a volley. Thanks to the battlements, many soldiers were saved from the deadly arrows. It was only a few minutes before they reached the wall and ladders were brought to the front from the back ranks. As they started climbing up these ladders I had the men manning the oil cauldrons lift them and pour it upon the unknowing enemy. Men screamed and threw themselves from the ladder to escape the searing oil. They fell screaming until they crashed down upon their fellow soldiers causing many of them to shout curses and carry them out of the way. After trying to put the ladders up three times they fell back for the day because many hours had passed without notice. That night sleep did not come to anyone due to the uneasiness. Rumors had spread that they were going to try a midnight raid and to calm these qualms I had one of Tet’s monks with each pair of sentries to battle any magical foes. I myself was with my officers trying to determine a better way to repel the attack and perhaps destroy their morale while raising ours. We sat there in the war room with reports and other various things strewn across the table. The meeting had already gone on for at least an hour or so. “We should not try anything drastic and just remain on the defense until they lose sight of their goals.” I said. “We can’t sit ere’ and let dem whittle way at us! We m’st strike fear into em’, with perhaps a raid of their camp!” said Sergeant Sal, one of my more battle-hardened warrants. “How do you propose us to sneak across the open plains, past their sentries, and into their ever-ready force of soldiers!?” protested Captain Beere, a man who prefers to settles things with strategy but who has proven his mettle time after time. The whole room broke out into argument but within a few minutes I had calmed them down. “Perhaps Exorcist Tet and his monks can finally contribute something here.” I jested. “Very funny colonel but I and my monks have found something disturbing. The enemy mage or magi are trying to summon otherworldly beings and djinn.” responded Tet. “Dem bast’rds ar sumnin’ demons!? Colonel! We m’st strike em fore they can finish sumnin’ the fiends!” demanded Sergeant Sal. “For once, I agree with Sergeant Sal in the fact that time is of the essence.” said Captain Beere.

I started to say “Gentlemen, please remain….” as the officer of the watch, junior Sergeant Alan came bursting into the room. “Colonel! Dark forms have been spotted moving across the plains towards the castle!! We don’t know if their human or not but they appear so.” informed Sergeant Alan. “Damn!” I cursed. “Quick, turn out the entire watch and set them on full-alert!” I shouted. “Yes sir!” he responded as he sprinted out of the room and in the distance I could hear him yelling. “Meeting adjourned. Get to your formations and presume your duties. We shall talk more on the morrow.” I said and all the officers filed out of the room. I began praying. “O Great Zalur, god of spirits and good, cast us into the light and take us to your bosom. Allow us to into your protection and keep us safe from Xylium.” Xylium is the lord of pain and damnation, keeper of demons and fiends. Blood-curdling screams rang out in the distance as whatever was coming somehow got inside. I rushed out of the room looking down both ways of the hall and unsheathed my blade. I heard another scream and it came from the direction of the monk’s quarters. I ran down the hallway and turned left; there stood an assassin brandishing a katana. He rushed at me and slashed, I parried his blade and thrust. He jumped out of the way and slapped my blade down. His boot struck my nose and sent me stumbling back a few feet. I knelt and then looked up past the blood and saw him cautiously walking towards me. “Damn swords, I’ve never liked using them!” I said to myself. I cast my blade aside and pulled my truncheon from my belt. It was a very simple weapon, a solid cylinder of great oak with sharkskin on the lower end. The mighty weapon of the warrants as many called it. It’s strange how I became so proficient with it even though I was only a normal warrant a year before being promoted to sergeant. The only thing about mine that was different from normal ones was the silver embedded throughout it, so I could battle demons with it. The assassin charged me once more but this time I was ready. He slashed again and I smashed his hand, knocking the blade from his hand. He pulled a dagger from his boot and tried to stab me. I side-stepped, grabbed his arm and clothes-lined him. I kicked the blade out of his reach and he started to crawl away towards it. I twisted his arm behind his back and used my truncheon to put him into a choke-hold. “What was your mission!? Who did you come to kill? Was it me?” I ordered. “I’ll never tell you Zen Clan scum-bags.” he said then spit. I tightened my grip around his throat. He started to struggle and try to say something so I relaxed it a bit. “Fine! Fine! I’ll tell you, just don’t kill me. We weren’t sent to kill you. Our primary objective was to kill the Exorcist Tet and his disciples. You were a secondary objective if and only if we had already killed Tet.” said the assassin. “If you were heading towards my quarters…..did you kill Tet!?” I demanded while tightening my grip. In a garbled voice the assassin continued “No…no. We didn’t. Our master didn’t inform us that the monk was a crazed fiend! It was if he was one of the demons our mages had summoned. I was trying to get away from the monk before he would be able to rip my body in two.” he said in a frightened voice. I started to think of what to do with this man when Sergeant Sal and two soldiers appeared in the hallway with bloodied weapons. Sal was covered almost head-to-toe in blood. He had a gash going across his face and even across one of his eyes and another zigzagging his chest. “Sergeant Sal, it is good to see you. I have a prisoner for you to keep busy!” I shouted. “It does meh’ hart good t’ see one dem bast’rds cap’trd!” said Sal through a few missing teeth. “Well hurry up and clap em’ in irons, I got to see if Tet’s alright.” I shouted. Within a minute, Sergeant Sal and his two men were walking the new prisoner down to the dungeon and his room of toys. I ran down the hallway and turned right. There stood Tet right outside the monk’s quarters smoking a pipe, puffing rings of smoke as if he didn’t have blood stains all over his white robe. I saw his hands were caked with blood and I thought to myself. “I guess that bastard was telling the truth.”

“It’s worse than I thought Colonel. Their mages have already been able to summon some demons. All you and your soldiers can do now is wait. I and my monks will set protective wards throughout the castle and cast spells on the weapons of the soldiers. I don’t expect them to attack again tonight because dawn is fast approaching but, do not underestimate them Colonel.” calmly said Tet. He turned to walk into his quarters but stopped himself. Turning around and smiling he said “Ohhh and have a good night Colonel.” He turned back around and disappeared into the doorway. “First the diseases, now Zhao Feng’s navy and demons of all things!” I grumbled to myself as I walked back to my room. Tomorrow I thought, tomorrow is when the real bloodshed shall begin……….

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