Asherons Call: Death Builds Character Wasn’t Written Alone

Mouko entered the Laughing Kirin, and sought an empty table. The waitress came up and asked him “Lord Mouko, what can I get for you?”

Mouko smiled. Few people knew his true position, though it seemed that perhaps the waitress did. He existed in a very small monarchy, but seemed to be in charge of the only active portion. He had not heard from his patron in months, and could only assume that Danielle and Ku had retired.

“A red tea, please, Hana,” he said to the waitress, using a name that he knew she had. Hana blushed a bit, that he had remembered her name, and went to get his order.

Mouko considered the changes recently. The snow continued to pile up, even in desert areas. The monsters seemed to grow bolder, and already more powerful ones encroached upon previously safe areas. Even legends seemed to be making an appearance. He had heard rumours that Elysa had been abroad. He knew of her due to his extended stay in Cragstone, as he was searching for the legendary Fort Witshire, and the Catacombs that an ancient hero had been buried in.

His tea arrived and he thanked Hana. He had just sipped it when a man, tired and wounded slipped in the door. He had a look of desperation about him, and a it was overlayed to a point with a look of relief. Many patrons turned away, after all, in a time of lifestones, few people feared death, and few people were concerned that one may meet their death in battle, at least a permanent death. Mouko had a different feeling. Something important was going on, and it was needful that he speak to the travel-scarred man.

Mouko went to him, and guided him to his table. “I am Mouko, of the Order of the Dawn. You seem a bit harried, can I help you?”

The man struggled to speak, his mouth worked wordlessly as he gasped for breath. Mouko asked Hana to bring an ale, as he attempted to heal the man’s wounds.

After gulping the ale the man spoke “I am Jaspar of Tou-Tou, and we are in great need. We have been attacked, besieged, and we need all the help we can get.”

Mouko considered this. He had visited Tou-Tou a few times, and for a short time his cousin had lived there. It was unlikely that a successful siege could occur, but then it is unlikely that Tou-Tou would survive an attack. It was too spread out, and had little defensive features, other than the canyons. Also there were portals to Lin, Al-Jalima, and Arwic, although the last may no longer be dependable. There were also two Lifestones.

“Through which portal did you escape?”

Jaspar said “The portals seem to be blocked. No one has been able to use them and no one has come through them. The Lifestones too have been shattered, and though they work, after a fashion, it is not safe to return to them. I had no idea how much we had come to depend on them, those of us that have tied to them, until I sought to avoid death on my run.”

Mouko considered again, as Jaspar downed another ale. He motioned that Hana provide another and sipped the tea again. If anything, Jaspar needed to calm down. Aluvians did tend to be a bit emotional, a trait that was interesting and even sometimes useful, though usually detrimental. If the lifestones had been broken, as in Dryreach, it would make defense of Tou-Tou difficult, if not impossible. Mouko had never considered what may happen if one recalled to a non-existent lifestone.

“How long has this siege been going on, Jaspar?”

“I left in it’s third day, I travelled through the forests, as the roads were unsafe with the dead, or the undead. It took me six days of furtive running, avoiding wasps, drudges, and even rats. The dead, the undead, were the most dangerous though, as they are our foes. I can not express the relief I felt when I tied to the Lifestone to the east. I have slept in trees, eaten only the stews I’ve made from what I was able to find, and drank water from snow melted in my hands. I am fortunate that the snow has been so heavy, in that my tracks have been covered with the newly fallen snow.”

“Who guides the defense of Tou Tou?”

“The Guardsman Kou, and Sho, an odd character. I regret so much the times that I’ve lightened his…. er borrowed money from him and not repaid it,” answered Jaspar. He finished off his ale, not realizing how much he had drank.

Mouko watched as Jaspar’s eyes drooped. Exhaustion had caught up with him, and the rest would do him well. “Can you find a room for him, Nuo?” Mouko asked of the propriator, as he paid the tab.

“Hai, Lord Mouko,” spoke Chon Nuo, bowing his head in respect.

“Domo. Oh, and be wary, I suspect he is quite good with locks. When he recovers though, I suspect he may be a decent cook.

“For some reason he reminds me of that knave Porthalas,” Mouko said more to himself than anyone else.

“I have to investigate some things. Should my cousins ask, tell them I will return soon enough,” spoke Mouko to Nuo, and he turned for the door.

Mouko started at a light jog. As he left Hebian-To he paused for a moments contemplation and prayer before the Sentinels’ memorial. He then turned to the road, and continued. He pulled out his gold Jitte and shield as he journeyed, knowing he was entering a more hazardous area. The flame of the jitte lit the road as darkness began to fall. A couple of drudge prowlers moved toward him, but reconsidered as they noted his disdain.

As it approached Darktide, the air seemed to still. Mouko knew he was not far from the range of Tou Tou, but the silence became unnerving. At night the Ursuin would howl, and insects would chirp, but it was too silent. A sudden feeling caused him to leap aside as an arrow narrowly missed him. He turned and rushed the skeleton with the bow, and made quick work of him. The battle however drew the attention of a number of other skeletons who rushed him.

After some time, he needed to back away, the skeletons seemed unending and were joined by warriors, captains, and a lord. Mouko had quite a battle before dispatching the last of them. He had gone through three quarters of his supply of stamina elixirs, and no longer had healing potions.

He rested, glancing at the carnage. The battle had lasted nearly half an hour, and had he been less fortunate, he would again be Hebian-To.

He got up and moved cautiously toward Tou-Tou, as a blast of arcane fire hit him. Were it not for the time he had spent developing his ki, he would have been incinerated, instead it acted as warning. Three Mu-miyahs approached. Mouko smiled grimly, He had fought lesser Mu-Miyahs before, He tore into them swinging the gold flaming jitte faster than expected. Mouko was glad he used a jitte instead of the cumbersome mace of the aluvians. Fighting with vigor he eliminated the mu-miyahs. He was surprised when three Greater mu-miyahs replaced the fallen lessers.

Back peddaling, he stepped behind a tree as an icy bolt bolt crashed into it. He felt whirling blades, and a shock wave pass to either side. He rushed past the middle mu-miyah forcing it’s companions to try to avoid attacking it. He swung from behind as the mu-miyah reacted slowly to the unexpected tactic. He was able to get two more strikes in, before the monster threw a crushing kick, slamming him to the ground.

Dazed, Mouko instinctively blocked a crushing blow with the jitte, reversed the attack and finished his opponent. The other mu-miyahs reacted, and hit him with some strong war bolts. Mouko decided he needed to meditate, and improve his Ki, assuming of course he would be given the chance.

Remember, Ryurai, when fighting multiple opponenets use their numbers against them. he recalled an early instructors training. He rolled to the side, placing one mu-miyah between him and the other, and began attacking.

Mouko constantly moved, attempting to place one attacker behind the other. It was far easier with two than it would have been with three, still he was tiring, and dodging the spells was getting more difficult. He took the second greater mu-miyah down, and gulped his last stamina elixir.

“You are a fool, mortal. This is our land, and you have no right to it.” hissed the mu-miyah.

“Who is the greater fool, animated one. One who strives to survive, or one who willingly gives up his soul for a curséd existance that is neither living nor dead?” Mouko spat back, and launched an attack.

Mouko barely stepped to the side as another war bolt was thrown at him. The mu-miyah growled angrily as Mouko’s gold jitte smashed into him, igniting a rotting bandage. The mu-miyah pulled a black sword and said “Now you meet the skill of a swordsmen of old. You will die.”

Mouko said “You are moribound, damned one. You haven’t a clue as to the weapon I carry, not the training I had.” Mouko stepped back as the sword swung into the place he had been. “Obviously, you have grown too dependent upon the dark magic that animates you. Though it strengthens you, it curses you.” He struck again, landing a hard blow against the mu-miyah.

The mu-miyah swung clipping the top of Mouko’s shield and scoring a serious cut along his brow. Mouko stumbled back, falling to the ground. Roaring in triumph the mu-miyah swung downward with all off his strength.

Mouko caught the dark sword in the hook that made up the handle, and with a hard twist, broke the blade of the sword. He stood quickly, taking an aggressive stance. The mu-miyah fell, spechless, as he looked at his broken sword. “The jitte was originally designed as a sword-breaker. I have studied that art too, damned one!” Mouko swung, crushing the mu-miyah’s head. He stepped back gasping.

A soft clapping came from nearby. “Well fought, young tiger.” a dry voice spoke. “I had not thought you the equal of the three greater servants. Perhaps you will make a decent addition to my forces.”

Mouko turned, trying to spot the speaker. Hair rose along his back. “By the power of the Dragon and the compassion of the Unicorn, I will never join your forces.”

“Funny you should say that, but the Dragon has no power here, and compassion is misplaced and a weakness on this isle. Nonetheless, three greater servants failed to eliminate you, how will you fare against the remaining ten? And you are alone, unsupported, and tired. You will serve me, willingly or not. I have bent others to my will in the past.”

In the light of his flaming jitte, Mouko saw six mu-miyahs approaching. He put away his jitte, and bowed his head, seemingliy defeated.

Laughter echoed in the darkness. Suddenly Mouko, drew forth an orb and said, “I will never bow to darkness. Shurov Thiloi.”

After a dizzying journey, Mouko stood before the Hebian-To Library. The lifestone lit the immediate area, and the moons passed silently overhead. Mouko breathed a sigh of relief.

“Obviously,” he thought, “I am going to need some help. Perhaps Jade, Hikiiru and Wynterlight have some suggestions.” In the morning he would send messages too them. He walked up the hill toward the welcoming lights of Hebian-To.

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