Jade Regent: Forest of Spirits

The Prince's offer

Rannhilde was outwardly quiet as she walked back to her room. The room he was lending her. After he fed her and her companions. Again.

He was certainly a generous man. Rannhilde could see that. His people seemed happy, his walls stout and well-defended. But walls…not the open plains Rannhilde knew. Guards, not a warrior who did his own fighting.

Sigh

There was, at least, a possibility. But if it failed, the group could be in trouble. Rannhilde would have to speak to them as well. Perhaps Chu’a could be of help…

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The Sword

“Empress Kaijitsu,” the general doffed his jingasu and held it across his breast as he prepared to make his request. Ameiko stared at him incredulously.

“Ameiko, Isamu,” she sighed. "Just call me Ameiko. I’m not an empress.

“Yet. Er. Ma’am.”

“Ameiko, Isamu,” the future empress growled. “Up until a few months ago, I was the owner of a bar. I still feel like a bartender. Please, just Ameiko. I can’t think of my heritage right now. Not after…” She pinches the bridge of her nose as tears well in the grooves of her eyes as she thinks of the loss of Masaru only weeks ago.

“Ameiko. I would like to formally request the honor of wielding the family sword, Suishen.”

“Fuck, Isamu! Go talk to Oberon. He’s been wielding it.”

“Not as…” Sense Motive “Yes, sorry. I was only thinking of getting you across this arctic wasteland and to your throne. I’ll talk to the tengu.”


The general knocks on the door of the wagon that Oberon and Koya share. “Oberon, may I have a word.” The door opens, giving Isamu a view of the cabin. He can see several blades resting on a rack against the far side of the cabin. A kusarigama, a wakisashi, and a katana. Suishen.

“Oh, Isamu,” the cleric of Desna waves a hand to invite the general in. “I’ve been wanting to talk too. About your family sword.”

“Yes, that is what I have been wanting to discuss. You have been a companion of my distant cousin for a long time now. You have been protecting her and I appreciate that. And ever since the death of her brother, the,” Isama stops, clears his throat. “The bushi Masaru, you have been wielding the sacred sword, but…”

“But it is wasted on me,” the tengu interrupted. “It’s powers are redundant with my goddess’ gifts. She allows me fly and walk on air. I can see invisible things and protect myself against the cold by her graces.”

“And I on the other hand, cannot do any of those things. I can inspire others to do great things. But I cannot initiate them on my own. With Suishen in my hands, I will be less of a burden against flying and invisible creatures. You or Kade will not need to take time to aid me.”

Isamu then draws out the nine-ring broadsword that he picked up recently. “On the other hand, I can create, with force, a weapon that can go against ghosts. I have less need of this broadsword than you do. I propose a trade. Allow me to wield the ancient sword of my extended family, and I will never allow permanent harm to befall this caravan and its people on its journey to Minkai. My use of this sword will only enhance the groups efforts to bring Ameiko safely to her rightful thrown in Minkai. There are still many dangers to be faced, and I feel that after last night, the enemies are only going to get more powerful and more numerous. What say you, Oberon of Desna?”

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The others...

Rannhilde thought carefully as her companions rested to restore their magic. The bird spirit, Oberon, seemed to be brave. He fought hard against the dragon, and though he complained often, it was mostly to hear himself squawk. He insisted that all of his magic was due to Desna, but neglected to explain what that word meant.

The wizard…Rannhilde had been resisting the usual practice of the Tiger Nomads, which was to impale wizards until they weight of their own bodies pulled them down onto the spike far enough to kill them. Kade did not seem inclined to slay everyone with ice magic, as Rannhilde had been warned. In fact, he fought with them against the ice dragon, the ice zombies, even the…winged ice witch.

Were there good witches as well? The tribal elders had never spoken of such things….

It was clearly time to speak to Tessalyn. If she was truly his wife, she would know much.

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Disgraced

The four armed beast land a blow with each of its arms on Masaru, tearing into him in several places. He grunts and steps back, stunned….

The dragon stepped out of the shadows, landing blow after blow against Masaru. Biting and clawing at his flesh. The warrior fell, unconsciously landing awkwardly, floating in the air for a split second until the magic of Suishen left him, letting him fall to the ground and further aggravating the wounds.

He had a vague recollection of the huntress grabbing his family sword and using it to slay the dragon. He groaned, paralyzed on the floor of the ice cave as themshame he felt overwhelmed him. But then all went black as total unconsciousness overtook him….

Masaru hears Kade cry out as the beast moved on the mage, shaking him out of his stupor. He hears Oberon’s taunt. FUCK! He charges the beast, slashing away at it. Daring it to try and cut him again. He screams in rage, hacking at the thing until it no longer moves. Then he sees the other one.

It’s on.
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Rise Above !

The wizard proved himself to be trustworthy after all. Rannhilde was surprised, but he is truly skilled at speaking to spirits, able to bend the spirits of air to his will, and conjuring guardian spirits as well.

But it was his knowledge of the outlander sword that proved critical. Rise above! he said, and when Rannhilde spoke the words, she felt the spirits answer. Truly this was an enchanted blade like few others, able to bear her weight into the air, and striking down the great dragon with fire and steel.

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To be honest, she had doubted the elder’s words at first. Were they truly able to best a foe as mighty as a dragon? Though Masaru’s fall was a great loss, it enabled their victory over the creature. Rannhilde vowed to tell the story to the chief, so that it would enter the lore of their tribe and not be forgotten.

She should not have doubted the chief. The spirits had led her to these outlanders, and clearly, they walked with her still.

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The spirits call...

The spirits called her deeper into the snow, and Rannhilde followed the signs. On the second day, she found the first carcass, clearly mauled by claws and teeth. On the fourth day, she found tracks in the snow, a great paw that meant only one thing: the spirits had answered her call once again.

She spent another day watching the great beast, and it was magnificent, it would add honor to the tribe. Rannhilde didn’t dwell on the fact that it would also bring honor to the one who rode it. As she watched, she remembered the elder’s words. “Clear your mind, child, and you will find that the beasts have always spoken to our people. But few take time to listen”

She spoke the words, and gave a roar to announce her presence. The beast answered with a challenge, and Rannhilde knew that this was the critical moment. To show fear would invite attack “I am Rannhilde, spirit speaker of the Tiger Lord clan. I would be honored to have a hunter such as yourself in my pack” It answered. “I am Skistro, and I will join your pack.”

Only when the steam left her lips in the cold air did she realize she had been holding her breath.

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Redemption

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Born in dishonor, Masaru never had a reason to rise above his ignominious beginning. Beaten by his mother’s husband as a child. Ignored by a mother who just didn’t care. He found his place with criminals and murderers. He found a life with the crooks, thieves, and extortionists. A man of dishonor, until now.

He had been travelling with his new companions for many months now. Finally, something worthwhile. His sister is heir to a dynasty, and he will be her sworn protector. But first, he must clear the way. With his companions, they must conquer the crown of the world. He raises his family’s sword, Suishen. Not really his family, but his sister. He shares her blood and will shed his own to get her to Minkai. Even if he has to shed it all. But this time. Now. As a samurai.

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Suishen

My family’s sword Masaru muses as he contemplates the katana. I must learn how to better use this, on my honor. My hack and slashes were not good enough. Oberon can help me with this endeavor!

The tengu and the Tian face off. Oberon wielding the newly repaired Whispering Shrike and Masura brandishing Suishen.images.jpg
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Ting! Clang! “You’re not a barbarian like that Ostog or a thug like Jaalek! Use grace. Flow with Suishen, don’t muscle it. A blade like that needs a bit of finesse. Try again.”

The two growing friends close in on each other and trade blows. The whole time, the tengu with his innate ability with blades, giving Masaru pointers and tips. As the hours and days go by as they wait for Sandru’s caravan at Ravenscraeg Masaru’s skills grow with the katana to the point that the blade is like an extension of his own arm.

This feels good. The former Sczarni thug thinks. _A sense of purpose. Skill. Not just brutal beatings but something elegant…

“Hey! I wanna play!” the giant of a man, Bjorn cajoles.

Oberon rolls his eyes, “I guess the caravan has arrived.”

“Should I humor the oaf?” Masaru queries the wise tengu.

“I think it is the only way.”

“Okay big guy,” Masaru taunts. “Loser has eat a dose of Braedo’s Shoanti barbarian chew.”

“Your on little man!” replies the Ulfen. “Wait, you’re not that little…!” Then he lifts his hammer and swings at the smaller Varisian-Tian, who deftly ducks and ripostes with a slice, missing the large belly in front of him.

“You’re quicker than you’d expect for a man of your size.”

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The Search

At first, Kade wouldn’t stop looking. He knew he was upsetting Oberon and Masaru by insisting on searching through their bags for the fifth time. He knew that Helgarvel didn’t want to be turned upside down again and shaken. He knew that Bjorn and Cheng-Lu and Ravik were all eager, for their own reasons, to be journeying on to Ravenscrag.

But he couldn’t stop looking.

She had to be here somewhere.

When the sun set, the ones with darkvision kept looking for Kade. That was very kind of them. Eventually, Kade realized it was too kind. Tessa was gone. Where, and how, he had no idea. Something to do with the Shadowlands, maybe. Something to do with Tian Xia.

“It’s over,” he said. “We have to move on.”

The party slowly packed their belongings. They could almost see Ravenscrag in the distance. Maybe some answers would lie there. Maybe a key to the East. Something, anything to make up for this lack. He felt that half his eyesight was gone, and he kept turning his head to check what was wrong with his shoulder where Tessa should have been riding.

But he still wasn’t giving up. Instead of looking for a cure for Tessa, he’d look for Tessa herself.

He hoped that he’d be more successful at that.

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Punishment

In recent days, MaĊĦaru has not been feeling very lucky. Holed up in a Sandpoint jail eating nothing but but maggoty bread for three stinking days. He knew it had run out. Damned Jubrayl had turned him in for not killing that child who had stolen from one of his “protected” vendors.

And when he did finally manage to overpower the Sczarni guard assigned to the cell and steal his weapons and equipment, his luck still did not come through. Sure, he found his sister outside the gods-forsaken castle called Brinewall (shitty name for a castle). She was unconscious and he found himself fighting for his life against oni and tentacles and blobs of what-have-you.

Then he found himself ineffectively fighting trogs and trolls. It was like Desna had left him for leaving the Sczarni. But that’s not right. Desna is one of the good ones. A goddess worth bowing a head too. She would not side against him for leaving the evil of the Sczarni. No, it was something else.

Punishment.

Punishment for all the evil that he abetted. Punishment for the roughing up of poor, downtrodden people who needed a few coin to get through a tough time. Punishment for murder, even though he never murdered an innocent. Punishment for breaking fingers for gambling debts. For intimidating witnesses and dropping off bribes to the magistrate. Punishment for abandoning his family…

And there it was. Punishment for letting Tsuto hit Ameiko way back when even though he was only twelve at the time. Punishment for pushing Tsuto, and later Ameiko away. Punishment for joining the Szarni in the first place, even though it was supposed to help his father get out of their debts. He should have known. No one gets out of a Sczarni debt except for the hard way.

Well here he was, on the road to Minkai on a trip over the crown of the world. A trip that will probably end in his death. But he still prays to Desna. He feels her favor for the fist time in a long time. Every time Oberon calls on her blessing and she guides his fist or his weapon. Every time he defeats an enemy, it is in her name and for Ameiko. The only real family he has now.

Father has disowned him. Tsuto is on a bad path. It will lead to some kind of destruction for him and possible many innocents around him. I can’t go against my own brother. So I must go with my sister.

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