御剣 剣八 (Mitsarugi, Kenpachi)
We refused to bow to the unnatural, a man who deals with Oni and flirts with undeath. Our honor demanded we fall on our own blades but first we had to end this travesty. His power was great, the Oni many. My Sensei has fallen, even his skill not enough to defeat the Shogun, whose name I will not honor in writing. The East is closed to me forever, but I walk towards a new horizon, towards the West, the Land of the Setting Sun.... where the entrance to the Underworld Lies.
My skills are insufficient, I am unworthy, and with my Sensei long departed from this world my training is incomplete. I will test myself and send 100 worthy souls to the Western gods of death. It is a fitting trial to both prove my worth to them and pay forward in search of a new teacher. None could match my old Sensei, but his spirit rests now, living with his ancestors. My time will come.
I meet the local Warlord. He leads not only by voice but also by example. He challenged me to a duel and bested me. He truly has the strength to lead men and would have made a good Shogun. He knows of my path and will call me when he has worthy foes in need of combat. Later, the local soldiers put out a call for warriors. We went to war against an army of Lizardmen. Seven of their worthy warriors fell to my blade, though hundreds fell in total and dozens of foes to the metal man. His form is an affront to the natural flow of souls, but in his body is the spark of a true, honorable warrior. Someday I will give him the warrior's death he deserves. Within the treasures of the Lizardmen was a blade from my homeland. It seems as if it did not belong. There would be no reason for it to be found this far away from home and did not fit in with the rest of the plunder. When I drew it for the first time, a spectral number shown on the scabbard "93." The blade is linked to my path and counts down worthy foes.
I joined the metal man in hunting down a necromancer in the forest. It seemed fitting considering my new path. The followers of the Western gods of death have accepted me into their fold as I quest to protect the flow of souls from life to afterlife. The spirits of warriors from the afterlife joined the battle as we fought, challenging us. Several fell to my blade, sent back to where they belong. Afterwards their leader offered us wisdom. It seems the dead god Bhaal is making a return. The spirit seemed to imply my path will hit a split where I will need to choose to serve Murder, or fight against it. The spirit left before I could challenge it, leaving me one less worthy foe.
The day was productive. First a call was made to save a girl from a tower. This seemed a simple job with little worth, however, it brought us to a crypt of warriors being brought to life by foul magics. Two such vampiric warriors fell to me then a mighty cleric and finally an undead knight. Later, I explored the desert with some adventurers. It was mostly extermination of weak goblins and kobalds, however, some mighty foes did make themselves known. Two goblin warriors astride giant spiders nearly brought us low, but I cut the legs from the beast and relieved the warriors of their heads. It was not a wasted trip after all.
The others of the House of the Dead, the Cleric and the Monk, lead an exploration of graveyards to ensure the dead were put to rest. Among the restless warriors, three worthy foes were found who were worthy of the count. Finally we were attacked by a woman who refused to show herself, but instead sent undead knights to attack us. I was able to bring on low. This woman is apparently a known follower of this Shadow of Bhaal. If she toys with the souls of warriors, she will not find me an ally.
I heard rumors of a cult of those raising the dead operating in the city. I took adventurers to investigate an abandoned wizard's tower as a possible lair. The tower was mostly full with elementals and magical vermin but we found a secret door where we were accosted by undead warriors. The cultists proved almost too much for us, but eventually the leader fell to my blade. Destroying their alter summoned a shadow which attacked. I wonder if this cult is linked to the Bhaalists who also seem to command the shadows as they do undead.
The Nameless Power
I heard rumors of a shrine devoted to death in a cave. I took adventurers to investigate. The cave was full of underdark vermin and a wizard's magical equipment and research. He was attempting to bring the dead back to life and create life eternal. This abomination couldn't be allowed to be continued so I smashed the jars and burned the research. I did find the alter and it spoke of an entity of great power traveling the stars and bringing death as well as a relic bearing this power's name. I will not write it in this journal as the scribes have forbidden it, but I must seek to understand it. What form of power or entity could invoke such rage from the priests? Is it a foe to the cycle of death and life?
There was a call for adventurers to explore the haunted halls. We entered the caverns and searched for where the quakes were coming from. We eventually found a library guarded by minotaurs. There were several worthy warriors among them and we eventually slew their chief. There is a wealth of wisdom there, I should return in time.
Today I faced the dwarven warrior Ruft Rockbeard. He was tough, he has the warrior's soul, but he was ultimately defeated. I did not take his life, so the count remains. We did go on a job to face some savage warriors of the swamp. My count comes down to 68 after facing them. Afterwards, a warrior in black armor approached us and challenge me to a duel as a prospective master of the blade. His name was Santiago. He nearly won, but in the end I defeated him and spared his life, per the honor of the duel. My renown is growing, let us hope my foes become more numerous and strong.
We went back to the maze. This time there was no library but plenty of minotaur. Some fell to my blade but the metal man hogged most of the kills. It was infuriating. During the task a man used some kind of stone. I could hear the screams of a soul denied it's final rest. I demanded the man hand over whatever it was he used, he refused and insulted me. I defeated him despite his tricks and treachery. I took this "bloodstone" from him and perhaps I will need to hunt down more users of these foul things. Later I went into a den of those who sell these bloostones. Only two of them were worth the count but I defeated their leader in single combat despite his magic.
The thug who wears the eastern armor and blades in the sewers bar has refused to answer my challenge. To prove my worth to these sewer folk, and try to force his hand, I took on a self-imposed trial. I entered the foul lake below and fought everything that crossed my path all the way through, and then again all the way back. The beast men make their nest there, 8 of them fell to my blade, all of them worthy warriors able to fell a man. When I neared the exit, a beetle, sent from death itself, descended upon me as the pinnacle of my trial. I slew it and took its cold, black carapace as a trophy of this day. May the people of the sewer know me, or at least my blade, for I am Kenpachi Mitsarugi, and I will become the hand of death.
Upon exit of my gauntlet, I was confronted by the Thayan and his knight. They insulted me, and yet, refused my challenge of honor. Made wild claims about my people and the blades we shape and claimed my blade was neither invented in the East nor could it cut through armor. I challenged them to allow me to demonstrate but they refused, preferring to revel in their cowardice and ignorance. They will know soon.
Today we traveled to an island swarming with bandits, insects and forest folk. A few of them were worthy warriors of the count. Later I journeyed to a lair of ogres seeking to challenge their most powerful warriors. I was not disappointed. Some of their warriors were enough to cleave a man in two, but now their souls fuel the count and will be judged for their honor and valor in the next life. Finally, the day took me to the swamps once more. The tribes there breed warriors like goblins breed fodder. At the end of the day the count stands at 42, we are past the halfway point now. I can almost taste the next step of my path opening up.
Out of boredom I decided to explore the sewers and see if there was anything I had been missing. Near the end of my search there was a scraping in the shadows and suddenly I was ambushed by three very large and powerful rat men. I was forced into a defensive position, fending off their fangs and claws. It took time to find openings but eventually they fell. They were far from their lake home, hunters. Perhaps it was me they were hunting, for vengeance. Excellent. They may be some of the most worthy warriors I've fought here.
Minotaurs again, but this time in order to save a lost man. Strange it always comes to this. It was a worthy fight, in the end the chieftain challenged us. The others stepped aside and allowed me to fight him alone. I will have to thank them for that, it was a worthy test of my abilities and took the sting of failure off the humiliating loss at the hands of the Warlord Bhaliir. I was able to take the loss with honor but that a man could so easily best me means my training is not where it should be.
I upheld my promise to help the elf capture a lycan from the sewers. We raided their nest again and again, attacked by hordes of rat men with powerful mind magic. Eventually we were able to get one to surrender, one of their potent warriors. Our victory was consummated with another beetle sent by death itself. I slew it and took it's shell once more. Two now... perhaps this is a sign, I must face three and offer up one to each god.
Soul Cutting Blade Style石切り身 (Ishi kirimi/Stone Cleaver)
[There are a few drops of blood on this entry and it appears the title of the entry is struck out at a later date than it was written]
I have spent many long hours studying the anatomy books and models in the morgue. Every joint, every weak point. I have begun meditated practice around each striking point that could mean certain death and send it's soul on to oblivion. The scriveners take notice of the time I spend at the anatomy model and seem to show approval, but while they hope I am studying how to prepare corpses, I am actually gaining better understanding on how to create them. Every hour of meditation grants me deeper understanding of the killing blows. My fights with warriors and monsters become less about battle, and more about waiting for an opening to hit one of my key points. I still cannot fight in western armor, thus I keep this old piece I have traveled with, but I have learned to watch how the steel slides and moves over itself. I wait, watch, and prepare for a time when the plates separate, an overstep, an aggressive stance, and then I strike. This weak points in armor almost always cover one of my key points of death, allowing me to slip my sharp blade through. I will practice around defense and forcing an opening, and then strike swiftly for the kill.
Today was a day of much learning. The bat I captured for the militia spoke of their minds being linked. Anything they have seen, their king as seen. How many of it's warriors must I defeat before it sends me a real challenge? Strangely enough I was also hired to "teach" lessons. Lord Bhaliir asked me to face many of his monstrous prisoners in single combat to teach them the strength of humanity. I believe he hopes to establish to the strongest warriors of the races that man is the greatest of warriors and they should be subservient. I'm not really interested in his theories or motivations, but single combat with great warriors of different races is the perfect training, so I accepted his task. He seemed slightly disappointed, as if he expected a singularly one-handed match on all accounts. This was the case for some, but not all of the challenges I overcame. Perhaps he hoped I was more deadly than I am.
The dwarf, Angus, challenged me once more to single combat. This time, he was successful. He buttoned up and made it difficult for me to find the weak points in his armor like last time. He demanded the right to name my sword as a victory honor. He does not understand the greatest swords of my land are either named for their smiths or they have a true name which needs to be discovered. The... soul of the sword. Since the name of my current blade changes with the count, I have made a concession. The new stance I have been preparing and studying for facing those in western armor will take on the name the dwarf demanded, Ishi Kirimi, or Stone cleaver. It is fitting, for the new stance must be able to cut through the stone hard defense these heavily armored men use. The insulting Red Knight was right about one thing. The katana will never be as effective against armor as the dwarves hammers. It is what they were made for. But instead of honing the blade, I must hone the wieldier to slice with such precision and skill that I can cleave stone.
Ishi Kirimi Stance Requirements
Focus on one blade style (Weapon Focus)
Smooth you strikes, like that of wind or water (Weapon specialization)
Draw and strike swift (Improved Initiative)
Seek an opening and follow through with a vital blow (Improved Critical)
My defeat at the hands of Angus and my study in the House of the Dead have made understanding and developing this stance possible. I shall seek to perfect it before I move on to learning others. Perhaps even the westerners with their straight, heavy blades can learn to cleave their foes as well.
We took a job going to real battle in the stonelands. Goblin raiders threatened a town and I lead the charge against them. It was strange, being a lowly peasant, once an insignificant servant to the shogan who will not be named, leading a battle. That was the job for the samurai. The goblins themselves were unworthy, but their leader was tall, almost as tall as a short man, and fought viciously. I faced him alone and defeated him in single combat. He was worthy as a warrior.
This brings me to something that has me conflicted. Marcella Cavallaro, a woman from the land of Sembia has arrived in the city. She wields a katana she was never trained in merely because it is "exotic" and sets her apart. Likely this is why Thay uses their appropriated blades without truly understanding what they hold in their hands. She has a code of honor and calls herself a paladin, but I have yet to fully understand her faith or devotion. Maybe I'm wrong to feel anger when I see our swords in the hands of westerners. I just become frustrated thinking on the years of training I had, and devotion to it as if it were an art before I was even allowed to touch a true sword. Perhaps she can be taught to understand what the blade means, and how to properly wield it, perhaps not. I have made the same offer to they Thayans and they refused.
23 - The Enemy from My Past
I entered the arena. A foul place where souls are wagered for trinkets, but to understand, to know how this place corrupts the flow of souls to the afterlife, I must take the risk myself. The proprietor chooses challenges to suit the combatant... and mine was chosen specifically for me. Not just fitting, a perfect fit. I have been practicing the Ishi-Kirimi while training with Angus, and the foe I had to face was stone oni. It spoke of wishing to claim my soul for it's freedom so it may terrorize my homeland once more. Who is the proprietor? How does he enslave oni from the far east? How did he know I had been training in the stone cleaver stance? It was a battle where no strikes caused any damage on my part unless I made a perfect Ishi-Kirimi swing. Can this arena master see our past? Our future? Our very souls?
My path of 100 souls is coming closer and closer to the end of the road. In my patrols of the old cemetery I found Troll warriors stalking the grounds. I defeated them and the sword counted down, they were worthy. They were paving the way for an invasion by hags who were raising the dead and searching for something. I found the secret grate they were looking for, leading to an old tomb with a powerful ward. I will need to bring a mage here for study, perhaps the Fey with ice on her heart will do, if I can smooth over relations with her. Later we went to war with a tribe of lizardmen in the Moonshaes, a few of them were worthy of the count.
The Pale Blade of Death
I was called for my trial, an undead army marched out of the frozen village of Flynn. I was given armor crafted in the style of the Samurai's of home and sent to instill the fear of death into the enemies of the natural cycle. Those who disrupt the proper flow of souls to the afterlife or taint the sanctity of death shall come to see my pale mask in their nightmares, and shiver when they view my black armor approaching. Once the offering of 100 souls is complete, I will hunt down the followers of the Shadow of Bhaal, I will seek out the hidden cults of the horror that shall not be named, and they will be executed for their crimes.
I traveled to the Moonshaes with the bardess to find the man in pink. Along the way we were ambushed by orcs and giants. Most were weak, stupid creatures hoping for an easy kill. Their souls teem towards the afterlife. Several, including he giants and the strongest orcs feed the blade. I ended the day with dozens of souls sent on, and six remaining for the count. We also found the pink man they were looking for. More a bonus.
Refugees run off by vicious sea faring warriors. We took the beach by storm and cut through their numbers. These were some of the most worthy warriors I've ever faced and dozens fell to my blade. The count, however, stopped at 1. The sword refuses to accept any further souls of the enemies I face, I can only guess it requires a certain soul. Perhaps one far more powerful than I have been facing or one I must face in single combat. We shall have to see.
The Battle cry of 100 Souls
It has come to pass. I have found a warrior worthy of the final count. He was a champion of Yutras, an orc god of pestilence. He commanded an army of orcish necromancers and proved far more than a match. He forced our entire group into retreat and I returned to face him in single combat. He nearly won again, were it not for the aid of a servant of Myrkul, summoned to fight the champion's minions whilst I faced him, sword to ax. I took his mask as a trophy for now and the sword screamed out with the battlecry of the 100 souls. Now... now I must make my offering to the judges of the dead and see what comes to pass.
零 (Rei) - The chill touch of the void
The path of 100 is complete, and so I gathered my friends and allies to make the offering to the Judges of the Dead. We cleared the great graveyard and once we had, I laid out the offerings. Everything in threes, one for each of the divines of the grave. I sealed the ritual with three holy blades and the challenge was issued. Undead rose from all over the field, shambling, charging, clawing to destroy the circle. Twice the undead broke the line, but the sorceress Beilia repaired the link with her powers of winter. The snow and hail smashed against the undead like the wind from a dragon's wings. Their pace slowed and winter, joined forces with death to put an end to the rotting army. With the undead corpses numbering in the dozens, The ritual began to consume the offerings and a cold, unnatural darkness took the land. From the very darkness a powerful creature rose. A large, looming, master of the shadows. It offered to spare me, if I allowed it a chance to taste of the offerings meant for the judges of death. I refused, and challenged it to single combat, it loomed, a servant of the Shadow of Murder wishing to grow stronger, reclaim it's place among the gods. It was reaped.
I returned to the circle, now brimming with power, the very fog of the fugue laying tight to the ground. I offered up the souls of 100 I had promised at journey's start, and from the fog rose the chill hand of death, the reaper of souls. It's shadowy robes were empty, save for the fog of the fugue and the piercing red eyes. It claimed the souls and bid it's empty hood in approval, and then, the blade I had carried since the start of this path, fell into dust. A voice in the depths of my soul telling me I would need it no longer, the path of training is over, it is time, for the path of mastery.
The reaper left us, a feeling of having been touched by death itself lingered over everyone. The circle faded, the mist of the fugue coalesced into a solid form, a blade, white as bleached bone and emanating the same dread feeling of the reaper's scythe. The grass in the circle was left brown, dead, a patch of the world touched by the void. I told hold of the blade, the blade with the handle that fits perfectly in my hand, that jumps to life when I will it to. A blade I feel as if I have known like an old friend, long lost. It whispers to me in the language of my homeland. It's name is Rei... Zero in the language of the West. Zero, the absolute nothingness, the null, the void, the embrace of the end of everything. Together, we will reap those who do not belong in the land of the living and send their souls teeming in a river to the crystal spire, the throne of bone.
I began my journey a failed Bushi in training. A warrior in service to an unworthy Shogun. I lost my master, my path and my homeland. Today, I have risen as a Samurai as I never thought I would. Though not a Samurai in service to a shogun or emperor, but one in service to Death itself.