Saturday, October 19, 2013

Saturday Special: Kinji-Bato

Saturday Specials aren't always going to happen, or follow a theme. They could be fiction, they could be opinion based, they could be just about anything, which is the point. Today's gift to you is a fiction piece from Jeff Harris that he wrote for me as a background for his Centaur Zen Archer Monk for a mashup gamer that combined elements of Kingmaker and Reign of Winter. Enjoy...
               I am Kinji-Bato, I have earned my second name, the Iron Typhoon, but that comes nearly last, and I must begin at the beginning. 

                Upon Earthfall the elves and many sylvan folk left Golarion, but some of these peoples chose instead to cross the Darklands of the world and found themselves in Tian Xia, a land little touched by the star fall and the ensuring chaos. 

                Many strange creatures and races already called Tian Xia home, and even the humans the refugee elves and sylvan peoples met were different, smaller and yellow skinned.  The story of how elves and other sylvan creatures came to Tian Xia is a compelling one, but I shall speak of it no more, as it is not my story.

                My people’s origin in the lands of Dragon Empires follows the elves story, but diverges after the discovery of the mithral tree and the exit from the Darklands.  We centaurs did not wish to mine, nor were the Tia humans welcoming of us.  The best of them considered us some sort of kami; the worst of them saw draft animals that talked. 

                Over long years, my people did find places to fit in among the Tians, but they were not places of honor or distinction which are so coveted by the native peoples.  Centaurs toiled well and for longer at a time than nearly any other people, could work farms alone that would have taken a dozen Tians to work.  But no centaur bore the honored title of Samurai or Shogun. 

                So this was the world my father and mother had bore me into, one that offered only menial labor or nomadic roving as an existence.  However, when I was but a foal my father through but one act of honor changed the course that my life would take forever.

                My father answered the call of the khan when battle came to our part of Hongal.  He left our simple hut to fight with nothing but hooves and fists.  When he returned, he bore barding of lacquered steel scales and a fearsome masked helm.  His hands were no longer empty a mighty bamboo daikyu and razor sharp steel naginata now filled them.

                Upon my father’s return and for every moment from that one on, I yearned to learn the arts of my father’s bow and naginata.  His armor however seemed stifling and cumbersome to me.  A few years after his victorious return he bid me to try on his helm one day and I found the feeling of steel and silk padding covering my head most unpleasant.  From that day forth, I vowed I would not wear barding again, my body already knew I did not need such things.   

                My father did teach me the noble arts of his naginata and daikyu as I grew older.  At first stringing and drawing his bow taxed me almost to my young limits.  He told me the bow had been made for him by the Khan’s finest bowyer from a bamboo stalk that had resisted seven strikes from the Khan’s own sword before yielding.

                On the day I turned 10 years and now a young stallion and not a foal, I asked my father if I might begin searching for a wise master to teach me to be what I knew my blood was singing to be, a monk.  I had seen many of them over my years, and had even seen one deal with a drunken lout in a seedy tea house once.  Even before the unfortunate idiot smashed through the paper window of the place I knew I wanted to be able to move like a wave as that monk did.  I wanted to know such prefect balance as he did that I could not be moved less I wished it.  My father must have seen the truth of my wish in my eyes, for he agreed without hesitation, and spoke to mother on my behalf in his calm and matter of fact way she could not in the end resist.

                One week later my honored father and mother were seeing me off on my first journey from home, to seek out my teacher, my master, the one who would teach me the way of the open hand.  My mother cried as she handed me the list of places and the persons I should speak to about training.  It seems she and loyal Rabbitbane her bonded hawk had run and flown themselves ragged to compile it.  Being the son of the clan’s druid also brings its perks along with its lectures.

                Father simply placed his large hand on my shoulder and said “Kinji, you are my son, and all the honor and courage I have gained for our family now resides with you as well, for you are a stallion now.  Go now and bring yet more honor to our name when you find your master and become our people’s first master of the open hand.”  He handed me his naginata at the end of his words, and then bowed to me.  That act was an honor that I shall never forget, nor defame or disgrace so long as I live.

                I ran from one end of Hongal to the other following the names and places on my mother’s list.  After many weeks and months I had in my hands at last the names of three masters that would possibly accept me as a student. 

                The first name was Master Huan Mi of Muliwan.  When I found him before I could even speak he said to me, “The answer to your question young centaur is no, I cannot train you.”  I opened my mouth to ask why but again the shaved headed monk interrupted me. “You want to know why I cannot train you, a fair question; the answer is I cannot train you because I cannot make you into something you cannot be.  Ah’ before you would object again, please let me say that I do not mean you CANNOT be a master of the open hand, I mean that you cannot be a master as I would know one.  Before you can master any teachings you must first be able to truly understand the teacher.”

                So I left Master Huan confused and more than a bit stung by his words.  I vowed however to continue my search and followed the path to the next name on my list.  Master Shu Bi Lee.    Master Shu lived in a tiny hut on the wind and snow swept steppes of Hongal near the shadows of the Wall of Heaven.  With Master Shu I sat quite for a night and a day before the tiny wizened man even spoke to me.  “You show patience, so perhaps master Huan’s words have had an effect.  However I shall spare you any wasted time and tell you simply, I will not teach you.  However, before you storm off young man, I would tell you something.  I cannot train you because I cannot force action, I cannot force a spear shaft to bend like a bow, the thing must have the WILL to bend or not.  Once we understand a thing’s will, then we truly know the thing.”

                I left Master Shu and pondered his words for the long weeks it took me to find the last name on my list.  I confess that the fear of utter failure in my quest to find a teacher made my heart thud faster when I approached the overgrown and moss covered pagoda that was the home of Master Quam.  Master Quam was a man of middle years with a long and bright green dyed fu manchu beard and mustache.  “You must be honored Master Quam of the Forest of Spirits, I, Kinji-Bato have come far to find you.”  The monk simply thumbed his prayer beads and looked at me for a moment then spoke.  “Master Huan and Master Shu were wise to send you to me student who would be Iron Typhoon.  Your name as known to those of the open hand is known to me, and I can train you.  But first you must pass a test, and while it may seem a simple one, you will find it is not so.”

                Master Quam pointed to the hundred stairs that led from the bottom of the pagoda to the top.  “If you wish to learn from me, all I require of you is that you bring me my firewood from the pile near the splitting log to the fire pit at the pagoda’s top.”

                I wanted to say that such was impossible; that there was no way that a centaur could climb the steep side of the pagoda especially loaded with a cord of firewood.  I closed my eyes against the fear that I was about to fail in my quest.  I tried to breath slower and center my thoughts, there had to be a way to accomplish the simple task that Master asked.  Humans carried things up stairs with ease, then should not I, a centaur strong and agile be able to do such a thing as well.

                A calmness I had never known before stole over me, and as if he answers had been there the entire time.  I simply started placing the split pieces of firewood in the back corner of each stair so that the wood filled its width.  I repeated this on every stair all the way unto the hundredth.  When I looked up from my work the pile was gone and I was looking at Master Quam.  He then said “That was very clever, but it is only an hour from dark and my firewood is busy being lazy in the form of a ramp, and not in my fire pit to make me evening feast or banish the dark.”

                I simply smiled and said “yes Master, I can see how that is a problem, but let your humble student fix it for you.”  I moved carefully back to the bottom of my makeshift ramp and began taking it apart from the bottom up.  Ten minutes later the wood was stacked neatly beside Master Quam’s fire.  He then looked at me and said “You have passed my test, and are now my student, but then student, how exactly are you going to get back down?”

                I climbed those stairs for the first time when I was 11 years old, and descended them for the last time ten years later.  In those ten years Master Quam taught me the art of crafting bows and arrows, and every last one of the thousand katas of the open hand.  He taught me to speak with the wind when shooting my bow, and how to become the arrow.  He taught me to weave a shield of sharp steel with my father’s naginata, and how to clip but a single leaf from a tree with its edge.  He taught me to be as powerful as a crashing wave, or still as a forest pond.  He taught me to be the Iron Typhoon, and gave me my second name the day I left his pagoda.

                I had read in Master Quam’s scrolls accounts of a far flung place called Iboria where centaurs were said to dwell.  I decided that I would see if these tales were true and traveled the path of Aganhie, never sleeping in the same place twice for two years and two days.  I now look upon the place the westerner’s call the Stolen Lands, and I am close to my goal.

                I am Kinji-Bato the Iron Typhoon and I have told you my story, what path it takes from this point only fate can say.

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