[SHENJING NO RYU, KENREI; DECEMBER 28, 2016 (WR)]
The flames of the city wrought long shadows upon the palace walls and its beleaguered defenders. If the hells of Kenrei myth were ever to be seen on Midworld, it would be here — in the final siege of Kenrei’s capitol. Where once was a city of gardens and wisdom, now drowned in hellfire and carnage.
Men and women, clad in armor, ash and despair matched steel against the claws and pincers of their insectoid aggressors. From above the palace walls, crossbow armed soldiers sent bolt after bolt in a deadly rain upon the multitudinous waves of the enemy.
But the nightmare Demons, the Yao-Guai, would not be stymied even by this torrent. By the day the demons would rend armor and bodies but even the evening would bring no respite for city’s defenders. Nightmares ravaged both soldiers and populace, bringing strange and horrifying visions that shattered any hope for rest before the next day’s carnage.
Armored with a carapace that shielded them from bolts, scarab-like demons stepped forward to form a front line. With the hurled spines and barbs, they eventually wore down the archers from below, diminishing their numbers and allowing their monstrous allies to advance. This outer wall fell in mere moments afterwards, with the rearguard utterly overwhelmed in the chaos. There were other walls, other reinforcements, but hope was a candle-flame flickering in a bitter wind. Weapons were clutched with an anguished grasp and spells were spoken with the tenor of the defeated.
It was with this vision still burning in his mind that Jinru Goemon, last of Shen Jinru and the former Envoy to Freehold, left the palace gates to bring news to his King.
The King of Kenrei slumped upon the Obsidian Throne, a seat of polished glassy stone. Before him, the dwindling roster of generals muttered of losses and casualties. Though the King’s audience chamber was a vast one, it was meant to house hundreds of preening ambitions and humble requests, not to be choked by refugees. Beyond the generals and their apologies, courtiers and commoners wept – brought together by the dire despair of their circumstance.
Beside the King’s throne, his daughter remained in silent genuflection, dressed in the soldierly silks of her order and flanked by several of her similarly garbed agents. There was nothing for the leader of the Obsidian Veil to say to her King, but there was no comfort in her presence either. Rin was simply there… though barely so, as if she had her own inner demons to wrestle.
But none in the chamber had greater nightmares, had greater regrets, to contend with than the King of Kenrei, Terasu Shiro. The past two years had seen the waning of his Kingdom’s fortunes from a monstrous threat that had time and time again defeated his forces and ravaged his people. The destruction of Four Wind City hastened their descent and the depredations of the Vicious City and the Riverfolk did not help matters. Indeed, the Golden Fleet were quick to “lend aid to refugees”, but they also picked out the best and brightest of these for their own roster without sending help to his ravaged Kingdom.
He wallowed in these thoughts, in anger and in grief, and they drowned out the grim reports of his generals.
Even the worst of his self-recriminations were silenced when the doors of the audience chamber opened for Jinru Goemon. The entire room stilled itself and parted to let the road-weary diplomat through. The King himself leaned forward, eager to hear his subject’s words.
Goemon knelt before his King. With some effort, he let the weight in his heart pass hoarse and tired through dried lips.
“Your August Majesty, I have asked every Kingdom, spoken in every capitol and embassy that would allow me, but none would lend us their aid. They all said the same, all claimed disaster or recovery or some such nonsense. There was only two forces that offered their assistance, though theirs is a scant help to our people”
Rin of the Obsidian Veil glided her hand to the hilt of her sword as Jinru Goemon continued his report.
“The Sun Empire was willing to lend us their aid, though they claimed to do so only after the completion of their conquest with the Bog Kingdom and the Chained Kingdom”
“In the desert, a man must take whatever water he has been offered” The King shook his head. “But this far from sufficient – the Solari’s wars will not be finished before Portia and her Yao-guai … complete their ‘task’. What of this other assistance?”
“An individual who wishes not to be named has named Portia a mutual enemy”
“She is an enemy to us all” Rin whispered harshly and out of turn.
“Our ally agrees. And has granted this to us” Goemon ignored the impropriety of her outburst and drew forth a sword, wrapped in strange runic cloth and bound to its sheath. Still on his knees, he held it in both hands and lifted the weapon to his King. “Sand and Thunder, River and Dream, and above all the Sky – this sword is just as our Obsidian Kingdom: wrought of the five Dragons’ essences and made to kill the Yao-Guai. It is as our nightmares themselves have whispered, their weaknesses forged into steel!”
For the first time that day, the King of Kenrei stood upon his feet, limbs shaky as he descended from the throne to Goemon and reached for the blade with both hands. He marveled at the Sword in his grasp and of the elemental power that roiled in its metal. Within him, his Totems stirred and flowed their energies through the weapon, unraveling its runic bindings. As if to respond, the five kanji upon the blade hummed with power.
“Mark my words! With this, we will not have salvation” The King’s voice cut through the despair and the grief of the room, heartened by his spirit and keened by his resolve. “But we will have vengeance!”
The room cheered, save for grim Rin and her retinue. Even Goemon, lent his exhausted voice to the hearty, bittersweet roar.
“My people! We will avenge those who have fallen! With this, we will wreak fell justice upon the Yao-guai! One by one, the Daughters will fall to this blade – as is their destiny! As our honor deems it right!”
Jinru Goemon smiled as his King unsheathed the sword and lifted it unto the air. One of the generals cheered beside him. “For the FIVE DRAGONS!”
It was a quick thing, the Sword being plucked from the King’s fingers by a wispy black tentacle. All in the room dropped to silence as the blade flew through the air toward the Obsidian throne.
The whisper was so quiet that he doubted its existence but he knew it to be truth, too horrifying to be a delusion. He stepped forward and brought himself and his drawn sword between the speaker and his King.
“Rin?” The King of Kenrei barely managed a croak.
“Six were the children of the Lotus Queen” Rin rose with her soldiers, a knowing smirk cut into her features as darkness covered the five kanji on the sword and carved a sixth one. The tentacle withdrew into her sleeve. “Sand and Thunder. River and Dream. And beneath the Sky, there was always Shadow”
Goemon pointed his blade to the leader of the Obsidian Veil. “Heresy! When was the Obsidian Veil stolen by the Lotus Eaters, traitor?”
“Long we have watched you. And long have we plotted. But vengeance will not be taken from the Kage-Ryuu… not even by another Immortal”
From within, Terasu Shiro drew forth five Riddles of Totemic Power, born of his training with the Wu Jen and Shen Terasu. They burned his spirit, filling him with the same strength than he used to break the Lotus Eaters long ago. “You wear my daughter’s flesh, but I will excise you from this corruption – and purify the darkness you have brought with you!”
The thing that appeared as the King’s daughter laughed.
“Fool! You cannot cut that which is Unbodied”
As one, the King’s generals fell to the ground, seizing as their eyes were filled with a shadowy malice.
Out of Game announcement:
As of January 1st, 2017 (WR), the Kingdom of Kenrei has fallen.
Player Characters may still come from this Kingdom as refugees without political power or influence. All Kingdom Standing for this Kingdom has been reduced to neutral and all Patronage from this Kingdom is gone.
Except for two organizations, the various Power Groups of this Kingdom have all fallen into disrepair or have been scattered to the wind, along with their teachings and secrets. Only the Kage-ryuu and the Wu Jen have escaped the destruction of their Kingdom, though they are now effectively Free Tribes in stature and influence.