A flash of light outside a plain paned window and a thunderous crash broke the monotony of the rain that had continued for the better half of the evening, the raindrops also guilty of lulling a man swaddled in linen and quilts to sleep atop his desk chair. Yet this natural alarm that cracked the sky in two with a brilliant glow did stir the man from his slumber so slightly that a hand might reach out and grasp at layers of paper that accumulated over the hours upon the desk surface. This hand was time-worn and lined with the proof of the years that had passed, but not by many winters at the barrow or tending to the shop. This hand knew the touch of a dusty tome and entire weeks devoted to turning tens of hundreds of pages, it knew the brushings of a quill pen against the fibrous parchment, the muscles beneath the worn hand knew the movements to a few but practiced incantations, from lighting a candle with a touch of heat, or charming the librarian with a spark and cheery sound. The hand also belonged to a person, who's form stirred again underneath the pile of comfort and warmth it had allotted itself this stormy night.
But yet this person did not display any more than a stir, it's heart ticked slowly in the chest, the clockwork blood engine worn after years confined to a study and a paper strewn desk. This heart could not continue to fuel the hand it had owned on it's grasp for air and allotted it to fall on the desk once more. The man's lungs protested, expanding and contracting below the heart, dragging air through the old cracked lips it had serviced for so many long nights, mouthing unsuccessfully the difficult spells and syllables that the person so wished it could. If only he had more time, if only he didn't lay dying this very moment. If only the old heart could beat for just one more night, he would become a true magician, if those old legs would carry him to his chair another time, he could finally spout flame from his fingers with no more difficulty than breathing air. If those mentioned lungs would service him just for yet a few hours, this old man could invigorate his body with but a gesture and a slash of ink on paper. If only this man, this quivering pile of skin and bone wrapped in a grave of cotton and silk, was not uttering his final desires.
The thunder struck again, and Marek awoke in the scene of his nightmare. Stacks of harmless old tomes and crumpled papers littering the corners and nooks were evidence of a studious toil and not of a caretaker's mind, an unused broom lay propped in it's corner by the oaken door leading into the rest of the stead. The study was timid, safe, and perhaps most importantly to the boy at this moment, he was alive to experience it.
The study was well lit, sun streamed through the open window, letting in not just light for his work, but the scent of the abundant nature the forest held within. Marek breathed in the wafting smell of crushed leaves and the morning dew on the grass, the rise and fall of his chest in time with the rhythmic pace that his heart conducted. Slowly, Marek rose in his chair, allowing the linen on his back to slide away, revealing a fur lined tunic that befitted the cold atmosphere of his abode. He was moving, that was a good sign. Tentatively, he reached out for the envelope that had been the fruit of his labors earlier this morning.
The hand that came forward was smooth, unmarked by toil or age, except for a tiny red cut that a page turn gone awry would have caused. His living hands had the same studious quality in his nightmare, but they belonged to this much younger man, this slim built man with a heap of rich brown hair cropped close to his head. His like-colored eyes scanned the script of the envelope he had gripped tenderly in his hand with a dull stare. A request it was, he had written itself, the contents known only to him and him alone at this hour.
Yet its recipient must be made known of those lines before the day is over, if only I hadn't been daydreaming I could have taken this errand much sooner.
Marek glanced over and through the window, the sun's rays still shone brightly and strong, but it wouldn't be long, naught but a few hours, before the darkness would once again hold the landscape in it's bosom and his opportunity would have to pass until another day in that case.
[ ] Go now, there is only folly in waiting. [ ] Tomorrow is another day, no reason to be caught out in the night.
The day is still young, and even the longest of stays would only catch me walking in the earliest shade of darkness, better to leave now. The boy Marek thought to himself and the simple study. If his dream world was any indication, he mustn't wait any longer or his own mortality just might catch up to him. Nevertheless, he stole another cautious glance to the dipping pale yellow disk adorning the afternoon sky. His destination wasn't too far by foot, the ground pounding there and back was not of concern, it was the meeting that he was attending that stirred his ticking heart. The procedures of his recipient were a tome yet unopened to him, very few even truly understood the inner working of the princess' court, even if that title was but in name here in this land, she still had been known to keep an air of mystery around her.
This woman had been seen many times throughout humanity's stronghold, meeting and greeting with smiles and laughs quick to her tongue. She was referred often by one of her many titles which he had ingrained in his memory many months prior to this stage of his plan. Shoutoku Legend, True Administrator, Taoist Governor of the Universe, each one grander than the next, but there was a name she insisted on too; despite the protests of the loving city people who thought a personal name debased a woman of such stature.
"Miko." Marek breathed her name softly, expending another one of his precious breaths left. The name meant more than a newcomer, more than a charismatic champion of humanity, these meanings he had heard many times over from those he had questioned in the village. To the studious boy Marek, however, this name could very well represent his destiny. He glanced about his study once more, surveying the years of experience that had got him this far, and the many more he would need to make his desires a reality.
But the journey of a thousand miles needs to begin with the first step, and Marek did so, leaving the comfort and safety of his home that bordered the magical forest, an outpost separating the road and the fields leading to the human stronghold; These features being a semblance of normality in contrast to the deep wooded swath of land that housed all manner of inhuman creatures and strange happenings. A thicket Marek came to know well, but he would yet not traverse that trail in the glare of darkness. This forest however was not his journey, he turned from the familiar and squared his shoulders at the palisade barrier miles away, barely visible atop the hill overlooking the forest and the stretch of land beyond it.
Marek tugged one last time on he laces of his travel boots, brushed down his scarlet cloak and took his first steps to the Toyosatomimi court.
A quick explanation of notation, - + - at the end of the section will usually signal the end of an update and a choice option following. Three slashes is a break and the rest will continue in a moment. I have a hard time writing for too long in one sitting and I find myself standing and stretching or getting something to eat before writing up another few paragraphs. Hopefully this isn't too distracting, if it is, I can simply wait until I have completed the entirety of the section up until the next set of choices before posting.
This is my first story written in a CYOA format so if I'm doing it wrong, don't hesitate to yell mean words at me.
An uneventful journey left to his thoughts was exactly what Marek needed to cool his nerves and think upon the events that were going to transpire. He must execute his plan in perfect, methodical fashion if he was going to succeed in his quest. The Shoutoku Legend was not cruel, but she was dauntingly aloof, the chance he had now to impress upon her his desires was likely his first and only one. These musings helped melt away the many steps and before the boy knew it, he was walking along the wooden sentinel that kept the fearful from the feared. Marek knew well the dangers that lurked in the country, he had heard no end of it when deciding to settle out on his own, closer to his field of study and the forest. After all, ending up like the well-fed loose-tongued nobility who viewed the study of magic as nothing more than parlor tricks to hasten maiden's clothes disappearing in the bedchamber was a fate worse than the one in his dreams. Yet, Marek's own human nature tugged at him ever still, taunting him, he simply did not have the time he needed to complete ten lifespans of study and practice to become truly great.
This Toyosatomimi, though, would help him. If he had his way.
The rumor spread like wildfire many months ago, when the newcomers to the land first had made their public appearance carrying the blessing of the Hakurei maiden. They were immortals, their fair skin and beautiful faces fronting hundreds of years of age and experience locked away in their minds. They were human enough, in disposition and in appearance, and this is what won them the hearts and minds of the populace, especially the Shoutoku maiden herself being lauded as the fairest and brightest of them all. Yet every mouth at the tavern would swear up and down that they were gods, that they had ascended humanity and would peer into the hearts of men to better decide what to do with them. This was of course, all hearsay, but it gave Marek hope nevertheless.
These maidens, if they were granted immortality as humans, perhaps there is yet hope for me to achieve the same. This thought had run through the mind of Marek many times before, near to the point of fervent insanity. But no matter how many dusty old tomes he opened, how many elders he spoke to, no manner of word be it written or oral could enlighten him as to how it was done. It was soon after he decided to meet the maidens in person, much easier said than done however. The Administrator was known to turn away many visitors to her temple that requested to know if the rumors of their being were true yet, those that were not immediately turned away reported hearing lectures on the nature of the the Tao, and were told to return once they embraced them fully and truly. So far, none had.
This thought evoked the smallest of smiles on the boy's face. This was not unlike himself, his identity as a budding magician was not unknown, and often a farmer's wife would request a spell for a bruised limb or the bravest children would tout the proximity to the forest and cheer and holler for a show of flame and thunder. These, of course, were out of his scope and frankly out of his time.
Perhaps we're not so different, then. Surely she would understand his plight and take his request seriously. Were they not kindred spirits?
These thoughts again clouded his sense of time and distance, the temple loomed over him before he had a chance to realize he had arrived.
He had heard many tales of the grandeur of the Shoutoku Legend's court, but these seemed like the ramblings of madmen compared to the finely crafted example of workmanship that stood over him. The jade rooftop supported iron dragons that perpetually roared noiselessly into the horizon. The entrance was devoid of plant life, the marble steps and pillars carved with scenes of ancient battle stirred the eye and imagination more than a collection of pedals could ever. Marek stepped slowly, peering through the gate-less doorway to the courtyard beyond. A single round fountain marked the center, with a pathway leading to and around it, extending to the temple itself. The courtyard was mostly empty, this time of day many of those who would seek the maiden's council had since left, only a few glances belonging to robed figures and longer beards were cast his way as he stepped farther and farther into the courtyard. They hailed him not, returning to their muted conversations, another wanderer seeking guidance, likely to be turned away, questions avoided like so many before him.
Yet this dissuaded Marek not, he continued his slow approach to the temple. The structure styled much like the grand entrance now behind him, a multi-storied construct of stone and jade, adorned with the same iron dragons perched on the rooftop, keeping their silent vigil of their domain. The boy's heart quickened as the doors to the court drew ever closer that he might reach out and brush the stone with his fingers, the sharp mind and attention he possessed was dulled once again and a figure appeared in his vision that he failed to notice.
The figure made it quite clear of it's presence.
Marek snapped back to reality, the awestruck look in his eyes faded, replaced by his flat stare, it was time to perform. Those eyes took in the sentinel who he now faced. A long green dress extended from nape to stone, hiding any discerning features other than a cut of hair that matched the jade color adorning her station extending to her shoulders, finger-length curls above her knitted brows housing two similarly colored eyes. Most curiously yet, an ivory longbow stretched across her back, strung and ready for battle, but no arrows or quiver to house them could be seen.
"The Crown Princess' court is open to all who wish to speak with her. Yet, I require a name, stranger." The green maiden stated tersely, she was cold, but not cruel, she demanded answers from her visitors and that was that. Marek offered one in response, "I do not wish yet to speak with the Prince directly, I simply wish to have a written charge delivered to her." He fingered the envelope from out of his shirt pocket, resting it in the palm of his outstretched hand. "I would ask of you to bring this to her, and await her instructions."
The sentinel pursed her lips. "I'm no courier, stranger, you would do well to not command those who would sooner put an arrow through your chest than bow and serve a nobody." The jade eyes softened slightly. "Simply, stranger, I can not leave this post. If you are to deliver a letter, than you must do so in person."
But Marek was prepared, he had done many a night's worth of research on the green-robed sentinel. "This is no mere letter, it is a missive of a potential political and military ally. It is for her and her inner court's eyes only. I would break my oath to read it aloud to her." The exact proceedings of Toyosatomimi's court were an enigma still, but all courts in the land followed a certain procedure.
"I will still require the name of your lord, stranger."
"Marek, Grand Magus, is his name."
The words had barely left his lips before the letter was snapped out of his hands. "You would do well to await here for a while. I will inform you when the Crown Princess has made her decision on your, missive." She said, a drop of venom dripped into the boy's ears as she spoke the last word. "Until then, you are free to wander this courtyard until she is ready to make her decree." And with not a breath more, the jade guard disappeared behind the great stone doors of the temple, closing with a resounding boom behind her.
The boy's shoulders slumped with a sudden feeling of exhaustion. He had done it alright, the True Administrator would be given his message and he would not be turned away before then. Marek wanted to scream and whoop in celebration but there would be time for that once he achieved his destiny, and there could be many more years before such a celebration might occur. For now, Marek was content to turn back toward the courtyard, the sky had darkened ever so slightly, but he was confident the night would not come too early for him to travel back home in safety. A short marble bench adjoined to the center fountain caught his eye. He had just walked two marathons, one with his feet and the other with his tongue and mind, perhaps it would be fair to sit down a while and rest. His eyes wandered around the majestic splendor of the court however, and his desire for discovery began to alight.
It could be some time until the Crown Princess mulls over my message, I should become acquainted with this place.
- + -
[ ] Nay, wait patiently on the bench for the sentinel's return. [ ] This is a wonderful enclosure, it would be a waste to not explore for a while.
Please, watch your sentences and go lighter on those commas. It's dipping hard into run-on at times. A sentence such as
>The Shoutoku Legend was not cruel, but she was dauntingly aloof, the chance he had now to impress upon her his desires was likely his first and only one.
would look way better as
>The Shoutoku Legend was not cruel, but she was dauntingly aloof. The chance he had now to impress upon her his desires was likely his first and only one.
I mean, just look at them. >They hailed him not, returning to their muted conversations, another wanderer seeking guidance, likely to be turned away, questions avoided like so many before him.
>This was not unlike himself, his identity as a budding magician was not unknown, and often a farmer's wife would request a spell for a bruised limb or the bravest children would tout the proximity to the forest and cheer and holler for a show of flame and thunder.
>>35970 Your advice doesn't fall on deaf ears, thank you. The comma and I are in a honeymoon phase, I'll try and ease off her curves a little in the future.
I promised an update this morning but I was tricked into attending a pre-release for the new MtG set so I'm in no shape for writing anything that's not a life total. I'll take a nap, down a cup of joe and begin again.