Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Shizen Village

If you grew up in the northern mountainous region of Yama, then your parents have told you never to go into the woods late at night. This is especially true if you live near the Lost Woods. "Something evil lives in those woods," your mother would say to you late at night as you lay in bed. "Do as I say or the beast will come out of the forest and eat you." As you grew up, day by day, you believed that tale less and less, and surely, for each passing day, it became more and more just another tale to frighten children into behaving.

So, you're all grown up now, a man. You found yourself a sword and you've used it before. You know about the goblin tribes that live in that forest, and surely as a child you were no match for one of them. That was what your mother was protecting you from. The great and scary beast was an annoying little goblin pest, dangerous sure, but no great and terrible evil. You've handled a pack of them as they tore into your fields, slaughtered a few of your cows, killing a few of them before the rest scattered in fear. Who's the big monster now?

All your life you've kept to yourself, didn't bother anybody, just wanted to be left alone to tend to the garden, fish in the pond, live a peaceful life with your wife and kids. And then they showed up, warriors of the daimyo. They told you that you haven't been paying your share to the government, that a percentage of what you grow belongs to the army. The army, they told you, is what keeps you safe from threats too terrible to name, that even just saying their names would draw them here and kill them where they stood. The mahouken and other battlemages gave their lives protecting the good citizens of Yama, and it was time for you to show your appreciation. And you remembered the stories your mother used to tell you, the ones that would scare you into being good and doing what you were told. So, you stood there and told those men what you thought of them, that you weren't going to give up what you worked so hard to tend, raise, catch, and grow. You didn't want your kids growing up in a world where hard work and dedication could be taken away from you just because someone else wanted to take it. And then they left.

Of course, later, they came back, this time with torches and said that no one gets to live in Kamigan without paying the toll to Emperor and his daimyo. Ama and Tsuyomi themselves birthed the line of Emperors and who was a lonely peasant farmer to defy the creators? They came with many men and you had only the forest to run to. They torched your home, slaughtered your livestock, and uprooted your gardens. You took your family and ran as fast as you all could run, straight into the heart of the forest. You ran and they ran after you.

Arrows flew past you. You could hear them tearing through the air. "Thonk" as they flew straight into the tree trunk beside you. The children were crying and scared. You had to pick your son up and your wife carried your daughter. You ran deeper into the woods, but still they followed. The canopy should have hid your location, but they came with flaming arrows to spread light, dogs to follow your scent, and you had no hope of escape but still you ran. An arrow strikes deep into your shoulder. The pain is immense and your legs begin to tire. They are getting closer, closer still, but you must go on, for your family. And then you feel it.

It's like the first time you learned how to dive into a pool of water. It feels like a splash, although there is no sound and no wetness. The hairs on your skin stand up as though a lightning sorcerer just shook your hand. Your legs give out and you fall, but not before you see your pursuers suddenly stop in awe. They do not see you. They look around and, try as they might, they do not seem capable of walking the few feet it would take to step on you. It's as if the very direction you are in no longer exists to them. And then you pass out from exhaustion.

You awaken in Shizen, the nature village of the lost woods...

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