Mese In this wicked age, in the icy steppes of the western lands, a shrine lies beneath an outcrop of rock shaped like the finger of an aged crone. A being from before creation lurks within, a being divided against itself; and it's only follower.
Mese What strange matters would they discuss, here in this forgotten place at the dge of the world? What dark heresies are muttered where none can see, what plans are begun?
Jomyo intones the rites of communion, choosing note and harmonic to connect with the aspects most favorable to his needs
A Voice "Jomyo. There is a soul nearby. We need it. Bring it to us."
Jomyo cocks his inner ear, trying to taste or smell the sensations that accompany the voice, trying to determine which forces have devoted their time to demand this of him
Another Voice "Alive, this time, Jomyo."
Jomyo is distracted by this admonition, and ceases trying to analyze the presence. "As are your wishes, great tribe of spirits..." He tries to stall, to regain his focus.
Jomyo "Which soul, in particular, is needed for your will?"
Third Voice "We know of its name - Tsuko, is what you would call it."
A Fourth Voice "We have seen it through the eyes of our child in town, and have fallen in love. We want her - she is perfect for us."
Jomyo "Love, o great power of the ages?"
A Fifth Voice "Have we not taught you that love is the greatest power, Jomyo? Have those words not come from us, to your ears?"
Jomyo finds himself distracted yet again. The gods had expressed desires before, but never so plainly as to say that one or more of the voices had fallen in love.
Jomyo "As you say now, and as you have said repeatedly in your teachings, o great ones. I have myself sought the source of love within myself as you have instructed. It merely confused me to hear you say that you had... fallen.. in love."
The First Voice "Our ways are beyond you and your kind, Jomyo."
Jomyo "Quite right, my lords. I shall meditate on my arrogance. But this... Tsuko you wish me to acquire. Where can she be found?"
Second Voice "She comes this way now. It is she for which the sword calls."
Jomyo eyes the pommel nervously, half expecting it to glow with unearthly light. "She comes here, to the shrine? What role then do you have for me?"
Yet Another Voice "To protect the shrine, of course. That is why we have kept you all along. She comes, thinking we are to be destroyed. The poor thing is misguided."
Jomyo sets his jaw with a hint of pride at this, all promises to meditate on arrogance instantly forgotten. "As you wish, great benefactors. I shall do everything that is within both my earthly power, and that power which has been lent to me by you. She shall not harm this sacred and holy place!"
Mese Unaware of the dark conferences in the steppes above them, the lands to the east are quiet, for now.
Mese As is proper, these are martial lands, where the art of war is practiced - but do not mistake this for civilisation. Look here for instance, a woman who claims the role of warrior, garbed in the dress and armor of a man.
Tsuko strides calmly into the stable and calls out. "Stable boy! My horse -- at once!" She carefully removes and folds her wedding kimono, revealing her armor, and brushes the white flowers out of her hair, missing one.
Tsuko Ice-blue eyes fix him with a steady stare. "Were my words unclear?"
Mese The boy looks panicked. "The horses are prepared to pull the wedding carriage, mistress..."
Tsuko "You harnessed my warhorse to that cart?"
Tsuko lightly taps the hilt of her short sword.
Tsuko "Who told you to do this?"
Mese The boy drops to the ground, genuflecting. "My orders came from my lord Nobuo himself, my lady!"
Mese "If I have wronged you I throw myself upon your mercy!"
Tsuko reaches down and pulls him to his feet, then off them, nose to nose, and breathes, "Bring me my horse, and I will temper my mercy."
Mese "At once, my lady!"
Mese The boy rushes away to the horses. There is much crashing and banging about, as he is clumsy in his haste.
Mese A voice comes from outside the stable, faint as if coming from distance, but audible. "She must be found! Search every building!"
Tsuko stands stock-still, waiting.
Mese The boy still fumbles stupidly with the horse, getting the saddle the wrong way around.
Mese Meanwhile, voices sound closer. "Lady Tsuko!"
Tsuko "If you do not fix that saddle, Blossom will kill you. She does not take kindly to foolishness."
Mese "I.I...I...I... apologise, my mistress!" He drops to the gorund to genuflect again, getting straw in his hair.
Tsuko "Do not apologize. Earn your life."
Tsuko "My statement was not a threat. It was a warning."
Tsuko idly picks through the tools in the stable and picks out a broom with a relatively sturdy handle.
Mese Eyes wide, he springs to his feet and goes about his work with much haste.
Mese However, he is only jsut finishing his work when the knock comes upon the stable doors. "Lady Tsuko!"
Tsuko takes the boy firmly by the shoulder as he attempts to finish the last stay, and steers him towards the door. "Let me see now whether you can assist that guard with as much capacity and focus as you have me."
Mese "My... my lady?"
Mese The boy allows himself to be steered, but quivers with panic.
Mese "What... what would yo have me do?"
Mese The knock comes louder. "Lady Tsuko!"
Tsuko "Answer the door."
Tsuko ties off the last stay herself and whispers to the horse as she prepares to mount.
Mese The boy does so. Framed, in the rain, is a guardsman with a mustache, his helmet off. He bows. "Ah, Lady Tsuko."
Mese The guard eyes the boy suspisciously for a moment.
Tsuko vaults onto the horse, broom still in hand.
Mese "Lasy Tsuko, Lord Nobuo sends his warmest regards and asks why... what are you doing on that horse?"
Mese He looks up from a deferential pose in suprise, his hair soaked as he kneels in the rain.
Tsuko "I find that my feminine modesty is too intense to allow me to face my husband at this time. Assure him that I will return at the earliest moment that it is feasible."
Mese He remains bowed. "Undestood, my lady. However, I regret to report that his lordship has expressed to me in to uncertain terms that I must return with you." He looks up. "Willingly or otherwise."
Tsuko "I see. That IS unfortunate."
Tsuko "Goodbye, Gohei."
Tsuko squeezes her horse, and it bolts foward.
Tsuko fixes Gohei with an ice-blue gaze as her horse careens towards him.
Mese Gohei raises his pike, attempting to trip the horse, but bottles at the last moment and just dives out of the way. He spits, curses.
Tsuko turns the broom around and shatters the shaft over Gohei's face as she passes him, tossing the useless bristle end to the stable boy.
Mese Gohei falls unconscious from the blow, and the boy just gibbers.
Tsuko disappears into the rain.
Mese This warrior-woman, then, abandoning her husband-to-be, rides off on her own agenda.
Mese She seeks a sword; it calls to her, the tool to cut away her woes.
Mese Drawn to it it takes her just a day's ride to reach the space, the aged crone's finger, that murk-swaddled entrance into the unknown.
Jomyo steps forth from the grand entrance of the shrine. With the power invested in him by the forbidden gods, he creates an illusion for the one who comes. His tattered robes become raiments of gleaming white, his roughened skin takes on a noble smoothness. The entrance to the shrine becomes clean and pleasant, and he conjures what atmosphere of holiness and good he can.
Tsuko dismounts, looking around in surprise at the beauty of the surroundings, and sends her horse off to find food and shelter with a slap on the rear.
Jomyo Welcome, pilgrim, to the shrine of the unknown gods
Tsuko "Thank you."
Tsuko makes obeisance in the wet grass.
Tsuko "A long time ago something was left here."
Jomyo "I am the sixth custodian of this site to bear the name Jomyo. My order has kept record of the comings and goings of this site back many generations. Perhaps if you tell me more, I may be able to help."
Tsuko pauses, choosing her words carefully, and steps into the entrance, out of the rain. "There was a sword."
Jomyo gestures as if to show Tsuko the way into the now sparkling palatial shrine.
Tsuko follows the gesture.
Jomyo "A sword you say? And when did you leave it?" he heads over to the library, gently pulling down scrolls that he knows to be brittle and filthy, but which appear pristine and sealed in gold cylinders.
Tsuko "Perhaps two hundred years ago, on the altar."
Tsuko "Might I...see the altar?"
Jomyo unfurls one of the scrolls. "Two hundred years, now let's see... What? Oh no, I'm afriad that's completely out of the question. My order is sworn to keep the inner sanctum from the eyes of all those who are not in communion with the unknown gods. I'm afraid you'd have to take the vows of communion before that would be possible!"
Tsuko "I see."
Tsuko "Perhaps you could show me the entrance to the inner sanctum? As far as it is permissible for me to go."
Jomyo "Hmmm, now it appears there was some sort of sword mentioned in the record. Nothing two specific, so it may have been the same one that was given to a crusader during the exotic wars... The entrance? Hmm, an unusual request to be sure..."
Tsuko "I am very curious." She lightly puts her hand on Jomyo's arm, looking up at him with wide eyes.
Jomyo "It is not unheard of for clerics of other orders to be brought as far as the veil of the inner sanctum, but for a warrior... even one of your status... It would require more than an inquisitive spirit. Can you tell me the nature of your pilgrimage?"
Tsuko "I have just been married."
Tsuko "But I despair of facing my husband, until I can procure for him a suitable gift, to show my feelings towards him."
Tsuko "He has often spoken of this sword -- and indeed, it is well thought of among my people."
Tsuko "I believe it is the ideal choice. Indeed, the only."
Jomyo "I can see that your goals are noble an selfless. In that case, if you are to approach even the veil of the high altar, you must join me in communion with the circle of gods."
Tsuko "What does this ceremony involve?"
Jomyo "we join in hands over a sacred flame, and I will intone the invocation and you will accept the vows. I assure you these will not conflict with your wedding obligations in any way."
Tsuko "Lead me to this flame, then." She gestures for Jomyo to walk ahead of her.
Jomyo bows and leads Tsuko over to a side room where a blackened brazier in the center of the room appears as a crystal oil lamp. He tosses a few pieces of incense into a screen over the flame, and holds out his hands for Tsuko to take them, arms encircling the flame
Tsuko As Jomyo steps in front of Tsuko, she calmly slips her short sword into his back.
Jomyo glows suddenly with a bright flash, and streams of doves appear to fly from his robes, flapping toward Tsuko's face. The sudden flurry catches her off balance and she brings her sword arm up to defend against the flying creatures. Jomyo whirls around, unharmed and furious.
Tsuko immediately bolts away in the opposite direction, heading as best she can, based on the stories of her people, towards the inner santcum.
Jomyo immediately drops the visions of loveliness and cleanliness about the place, the appearance suddenly snapping back to cold craggy reality. He scrambles after Tsuko, half wanting her to take what she wants and leave.
Mese The inner sanctum, robbed of illusion, betrays itself for the cold an empty place it is, shorn of any finery. At the central altar - a rough hewn stone - lie a few objects of import, including Tsuko recgonises, the sword.
Tsuko breathes shortly, and reaches out to take the sword.
Mese Just then, a vision of gods made flesh - for there, suddenly is Kazumi.
Kazumi Kazumi's hand also rests on the sword's hilt. Between blinks, Tsuko sees a different face and body - but they all move at once. It shakes its head 'no' at her, smiling beatifically.
Tsuko raises an eyebrow.
Tsuko "Give me the sword and I will not kill you."
Kazumi Knowing how much the sword means to their love, Kazumi lets go of the sword. "This is not the way," they wail. "This is not the right path for you at all."
Tsuko takes the sword and slides it into her belt, then looks back at Kazumi. "I will see you again."
Kazumi "Fine, take it! Take it and go!" The form lets itself cry.
Tsuko dips her head politely, and leaves the sanctum.
END OF FIRST SESSION