The Sound of the Bells - WC5 Story

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Utaku_Yamada
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Posts: 176
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Tue Jan 15, 2019 12:40 am

This is just a little side story I am doing about Moto Majid, his origins and how he came to be trained in the Void. It was a lot of fun to explore the nature of Void magic and training. And there will be more to follow after this part.

The Sound of the Bells
Unicorn Lands, 1201

They came north, first as a steady trickle and then more and more. Refugees fleeing Daigotsu Kanpeki’s invading horde. Families, children, the old…and the wounded, veterans from the battles that had swept into the lands of the Unicorn like a raging fire. And not all of those who arrived made it alive.
Ide Hateru was one of many in the camp who saw to people’s needs. She made sure that those who arrived were given food and shelter and made sure that more were constructed as people kept arriving. Hopefully they would have enough, at least until a decision was made as to what to do next.
“Hateru-san, come here!”
Hateru went over to where Ide Noboku was waving at her, her robe dragging across the muddy ground. Another wagon had just arrived full of people, but three people were still on it. Two of them were women, the older woman supporting the younger woman who seemed to be in considerable pain and discomfort. The third was a small boy who sat on the end of the wagon, dangling his feet and staring listlessly into space.
“Can I help? Please, let me get you to some shelter,” said Hateru kindly.
“Hai, we will need a shugenja and possibly a midwife,” said the older woman. “My daughter in law…her time may have come early.”
The younger woman groaned, putting a hand to her swollen belly.
Hateru smiled reassuringly and nodded to Noboku. “Help her to one of the yurts.” She then turned to the women. “You are safe here, there is nothing to worry about.”

The camp was loud and full of people, so many that the boy was looking for a place to hide. He wanted quiet and to not be around so many people, but this seemed impossible. In the end he found some solace with the horses, bedding down in some fodder and going to sleep. Hours later, he was being shaken awake by Ide Hateru.
“Majid? You need to come with me now,” she said.
Majid’s eyes snapped open. “My mother and my sister, they are dead aren’t they?”
Hateru’s eyes widened in shock. “How…how did you know?”
“I dreamed them,” he answered. “They came to say goodbye.”

Utaku_Yamada
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Posts: 176
Joined: Thu Mar 30, 2017 6:01 pm

Tue Jan 15, 2019 12:42 am

Journey’s End Keep, 1204

“He scares the other children,” said Shinjo Min-Hee.
“He’s just a boy, Shinjo-ue,” said Ide Hateru.
Min-Hee frowned.
It had been three years since the Unicorn lands had fallen to the forces of Daigotsu Kanpeki, one year since the Unicorn had arrived at Journey’s End Keep in the colonies. A home away from home for the Unicorn. Fortunately the Unicorn were used to making their home wherever they were. Here they would wait, regroup and recover until one day they would return in force to Rokugan.
Here at Journey’s End was much of what remained of the Unicorn Clan. Many of them children, literal war orphans or having parents among the few who remained fighting in Rokugan. Ide Hateru and the ones who lived at Journey’s End did what they could for them, but Min-Hee was right, Majid was a problem.
There had been some sort of scuffle between the children as some seemed to target him for being “different”. This might have been seen as normal except for the fact that one of the girls seemed to have been severely hurt.
Hateru sighed. “I am sure Majid did not hurt the girl intentionally,” she said, trying to smooth things over. “I admit that Majid is a little…odd, but he always means well.”
“’Odd’ is putting it mildly,” said Min-Hee. “And you know this is not the first time something like this has happened.”
Hateru nodded sadly.
“I put it down to his mother, no good was ever going to come out of any sort of settlement with the Phoenix,” Min-Hee said with a sigh. “There are monasteries that will take him, contain him, though I do hate to see one of Ujik-hai blood confined within walls.” She looked kindly at Hateru. “It is for the best.”
Hateru nodded.
Min-Hee turned to a servant. “Fetch the boy Majid here.”
The servant ran off.
“I did promise his mother I would take care of him,” said Hateru.
“And you have,” said Min-Hee. “No one could have done more than you can for the boy, but we must think of the clan.”
The servant returned at a run. “Shinjo-ue, the boy is gone.”

On a flat desert plain in the hot sun, a boy laid flat on his back with his eyes closed. Majid had run away until he could run no more. Run until the storms in his head would stop and the cries of the girl he hurt were no longer in his ears. But they didn’t, he had just collapsed on the sand, dirty and ragged, hoping his exhaustion would make things quiet…at least for a while.
The world was loud and people were louder, he couldn’t stand to be around them. Even Ide Hateru who had raised him since his grandmother died was trying sometimes. The storm seemed everywhere and in everything…and no one else seemed to notice. They looked at him with derision, pity and some even fear. This wild Moto orphan boy that no one seemed to know what to do with.
Perhaps, if he tried hard enough, he could surrender to the storm, be taken by it and he wouldn’t be a problem for anyone anymore.
“Hello Majid,” said a voice.
Majid opened his eyes and sat up, there was a young man in front of him wearing orange robes. There was something calming about him, as if everything stopped when it came near.
“Were you scared? Is that why you ran away?”
Majid nodded. “I…hurt someone, they were angry.” He put his hands over his ears and shut his eyes tight. “I can still hear them in the storm.”
“Is it very loud, Majid?” asked the man.
“Yes,” said Majid, his voice small.
The man closed his eyes, a moment passed. The voices ceased inside Majid’s head, the turbulence banished. Majid opened his eyes, his mouth open in shock.
“You…you ended the storm!” He looked in admiration at the man.
“No, I merely quieted the…storm,” said the man. “It’s inside you, it’s inside all of us but not everyone can hear it.” He lowered his voice and gave a smile. “I can hear it too, because I am special just like you are Majid.”
“You can command it?” Majid asked.
“I can,” answered the man.
Majid sad there for a moment in silence, absorbing this information. “How did you find me? How do you know my name?”
“The storm told me about you, Majid and I’ve been watching you for a while,” said the man. “I wasn’t sure if we would meet, yet here we are.”
The man’s presence was calm and reassuring, like a gentle fire or a cool wind.
“Can I take you home now?” the man asked. “I think they have been looking for you.”
“First tell me your name,” insisted Majid.
“Of course,” the man gave a bow from his sitting position. “Isawa Shunryu, Master of Void, at your service.”

“Tell me about his parents,” said Shunryu.
Ide Hateru sat opposite him, the tea table between them. Isawa Shunryu, the Master of Void of the Council of Five had just turned up at her door with Majid in tow, the boy looking the calmest Hateru had ever seen him. She sent Majid away to get tidied up, but it was all she could do to invite him in for tea, of course wondering how he managed to get inside Journey’s End unnoticed when relations between the Phoenix and Unicorn Clans were at their lowest.
Shunryu did not seem to be there for either the Isawa family or his clan, but for genuine concern for the boy.
Hateru gently put her teacup down. “His father was Moto Bayan, Ujik-hai lineage. I believe he was killed fighting in Unicorn lands,” she said. “Hopefully was killed,” she added. “His mother was a Phoenix, Asako Tsuya before she married into the Moto. I think the match was arrange as part of the settlement after the conflict of our two clans. I was with her when she died in childbirth, his grandmother died a year later.”
Shunryu nodded as if he was confirming what he knew already. “How soon did you notice he was…different?”
“Perhaps even at first,” said Hateru. “I think I dismissed it at first, we have a lot of children dealing with trauma at a young age…loss of their parents and home can do a lot to a child.”
Shunryu nodded sympathetically.
“But Majid…” Hateru shook her head.
“I understand completely,” said Shunryu, he placed his tea cup down and turned it on a quarter circle. “I can tell you that Majid is a Void adept, perhaps from his mother’s side. This does explain a lot of his…strangeness. The disassociation, his restlessness loneliness and the unexplained things.” He looked straight at Hateru. “I understand there have been a few?”
Hateru nodded.
“The Void touches us all, Ide-san,” explained Shunryu. “It is everything, the space between the elements. But it touches more than others, Majid is sensitive to its impulses much like a leaf in the wind.”
“Or in a storm,” said Hateru. “He has told me of his storm.”
Shunryu nodded. “Yes, but he needs to learn to control his gifts,” he continued. “What this will lead to, I cannot say, but I know without training he could be a danger to himself and everyone else around him.” He frowned. “Had Majid been born in a different time, he would have been taken into the Phoenix, trained by a Void Master. Now…” He drifted off.
“Can you do anything for him, Isawa-ue?” Hateru asked, her eyes pleasing. “He looked…so calm coming in with you now, you already have helped him.”
“If I am to train Majid, he will need to come with me now,” said Shunryu. “And you may not see him again for a very long time.”
Hateru considered this. “Well, I am not sure what Shinjo Min-Hee-ue will think of a Phoenix training him, even one such as yourself, Isawa-ue,” she said, giving a bow of respect. “But…she wants to send him to a monastery anyway.”
“Let us see what he says,” Shunryu suggested.
Hateru called a servant in and sent them to fetch Majid.
The boy came in. He was clean and in fresh clothes, his wild hair tamed somewhat. He looked between the two adults. “Am I in trouble?”
“No, no,” said Hateru with a reassuring smile. “Majid-kun, Isawa Shunryu-ue has been telling me he helped…calm your storm. He says you have gifts and he has offered to train you how to use them. What do you say to that?”
Majid looked between them again. “Can I come home here after?”
“Not for a while, perhaps, Majid-kun,” said Shunryu. “Though perhaps Ide Hateru-san can visit from time to time.”
“She can?”
Hateru smiled, trying to put on a brave face for the boy.
“I think I would like that,” said Majid. “I’d like to tell the storm what to do.”
“And I will teach you,” Shunryu said.
Majid smiled.

Hateru kept her composure while she made her farewells to Majid, thanking Shunryu for giving him the rare opportunity. Majid seemed content to go, but still embraced her fiercely before he left, calling her “Mother Hateru”.
And later when she was alone, she let the tears fall.

Utaku_Yamada
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Posts: 176
Joined: Thu Mar 30, 2017 6:01 pm

Tue Jan 22, 2019 5:12 pm

An abandoned fishing village by the river was to be Majid’s new home. The inhabitants were gone, victims of the cult of Kali-Ma and no one had returned. Isolated, it was perfect for what they needed.
The isolation was key, the lack of people around made it easier for Majid to concentrate. But there were other reasons it reduced the danger to others. Training an Ishi—a Void shugenja—could be dangerous even in the presence of an Ishiken—a Void Master. Also, Shunryu knew enough that neither the Phoenix or Unicorn Clans would be very welcoming once they found out what he was doing. That didn’t stop him from doing it though.
The training began almost straight away, at first it was just Shunryu talking to Majid, opening his mind to new possibilities and a new way of seeing. Answering questions with questions, challenging Majid’s preconceived ideas, and gradually, cautiously, opening Majid’s mind up to the Void itself. It was here that a lot of what Shunryu said to him started to make sense for Majid, the metaphors, the negations…so confusing until he knew what they meant rather than thinking about them.
As Majid grew in knowledge he also grew in confidence, but Shunryu was always urging him forward, making new challenges when Majid would break one down.
“You find that there are always going to be new things, different things, new ways of putting the same things together,” said Shunryu. “But they have names, spaces that they occupy…just like everything else.”
Majid quickly took to meditating in the river, floating on his back so water filled his ears, closing his eyes and letting the current take him where it would. It was not unlike floating in the Void itself.
Training never really stopped, it filled almost every waking moment. Even mundane ones such as gathering food and lighting the cooking fire.
“Most shugenja are taught that the elements are immutable, unchangeable,” said Shunryu. “But Ishi know this is not true at all.” He proceeded to turn their cooking fire to ice.
Occasionally, Shunryu would test Majid, allow him to demonstrate his skill with as much of the Void as the Moto could handle. Some of these tests would begin new understanding, Shunryu called these “the Bells” and they were a mark of an Ishi’s progress.
Though they were secluded, they weren’t completely alone here. People would come with supplies and news, Ide Hateru visited a few times, and there was an old blind woman who lived in the village. He and Shunryu visited occasionally. Majid called her “grandmother”, never learning her true name though he had his own suspicions. She did seem to enjoy his company when they came for tea and sometimes Majid would go by himself.
The Void seemed to blur the days together, the passage of time only marked for Majid by the physical changes he saw in himself. He grew taller, his skin darkening further from all the time he spent outdoors. And then one day, he felt the stubble of a teenage beard forming on his cheeks.
As he was opened up further to the Void, his sense of time grew even more confused. He would see things, distances and time didn’t matter to the Void. They came to him of their own will, in dreams usually but sometimes when he was awake.
Receiving his father’s scimitar which had been kept in trust by the Unicorn until he made his gempukku…a man with long red hair smiling at him, surrounded by spirits……a woman, trapped in a prison of crystal…a man in black armour with a twisted black arm holding the heart of a dead man…an old man supported by two others being helped on to a horse …a bald woman in austere nun’s robes yet a divine energy seeming to surround her…
He spoke of these to Shunryu, the Isawa was patient but cautious.
“These could happen, have happened or are happening right now,” he explained to Majid. “Using the Void as a guide can be quite problematic.”
“So, do I do nothing?” Majid asked.
“It is hard to say,” Shunryu said. “If you need to act, you will be in a place to act.”
Majid nodded, hoping he understood better when the time came.
At some point there seemed to be a change in the air, almost an urgency, as if Shunryu was aware their time together would soon come to an end. Majid didn’t like this, but it seemed to stir a restlessness within him. He had dwelled beside the river since he came there with Shunryu as a boy, he wanted to see new places.
But their day of parting came before Majid was ready.
One morning as Majid was checking their fishing nets, he noticed a small party ride to the edge of the village in Unicorn colours. He froze, they could only have come for him. He went back in to see Shunryu.
“Yes, I have been expecting them,” said Shunryu.
“We could easily hide, let the Void mask us, they won’t see us,” suggested Majid.
Shunryu shook his head. “We both knew this day would come, if you stay here much longer it could cause…problems.”
Majid frowned. “What do you see?”
“Several things, not all may come to pass,” said Shunryu. “But you have passed the fourth bell, you are ready to be out in the world. It is time.”
Majid bowed low. “I am forever in debt to you, sensei, you saved me and showed me what I truly was, what I could be.”
“I would tell you to not misuse what I have taught you but…” Shunryu gave a sly smile. “I think we see that very differently.”
“True,” said Majid with a laugh.
Shunryu held out a hand, a Unicorn gesture. Majid took it and they shook hands, parting to never meet again.
With nothing more than the clothes on his back, Majid approached the Unicorn. They seemed a bit nervous at first, but he soon put them at ease. They helped him mount the spare horse they had brought for him and rode away.

Moto Majid put brush down, rubbing his hands, gnarled with age, to try and take the pain away. The visions, writing about his time with Isawa Shunryu had brought back the memories. The memories of when he saw them…and when they had happened.
That cold morning at Shiro Moto when he had seen Moto Chinua helped onto his horse for his last ride. Chinua giving him his fathers sword and telling him to forget what he learned until it became important that he remembered. Akodo Zetsubou dying, surrounded by the Blessed Ancestors of Yomi. His sensei Iuchi Abodan dying, killed for his arrogance and impiety by Shiba Michio and the Black Hand. Moto Naleesh, trapped for so long in crystal before she was set free. And of course, Iweko, summoning him to her seclusion to the mountains which had started his search for a way to cleanse the taint.
There were official histories of course, but they said nothing about what really happened. Was it important that this was remembered?
Yes, he decided.
He went to the door of the yurt and called his grandson in. The boy appeared. He was bright as his daughter had said more than once, but there was something about him that reminded Majid of himself at the same age. Could he hear “the storm”? Majid wasn’t sure, but if he did he would make sure the boy had a much better time of it than had happened for himself.
“Grandfather?” The boy shifted from foot to foot.
“Sit at the desk, get the brush,” said Majid, lowering himself carefully onto the cushions. “We have a lot to get through.”

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