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PostPosted: Fri Jul 04, 2014 6:36 pm 

Joined: Sep 22, 2013
Posts: 888
Title: The Eightfold Lotus
Author: RuwinReborn
Status: Public :diamond:

“So, how’d you lose your hand, friend?”

The barkeep looks over at me, all bored patience. He is not a handsome man by any means, with a big, swarthy nose and a blotchy complexion. It does not look like he’s shaved in a few days. He sets down the mug he was carefully filling for another patron, who takes the frothy thing and walks away.

“You want a story, kid?” He asks me. I have never turned down a story before, and I do not plan to start now, so I nod. He grunts, pulls up a stool, and plants both his elbows on the bar. The angry, red stump of his left arm is clearly visible. He glanced around the room, to, I assume, make sure there was no one waiting for a drink. Whatever he saw must have satisfied him, because he sighed, and settled more fully onto the counter. “Ever heard of the man they call ‘The Eightfold Lotus’?”

I shake my head. The barkeep grunts again.

“Was a soldier in the last war,” the barkeep begins thoughtfully. “or a god. Depends on who you ask, I suppose. He was a Kor,” his eyes flicker briefly behind me, though I do him the courtesy of not following his gaze. Peace had only reigned for a handful of decades, here, and it was still a new feeling to some. “and tall, is what I would call him. Not much else to look at, no matter what anyone else says about him. Some of the Kor say he was the only reason they stayed independent. Me, I know better - Mairth would’ve never gotten his head on straight enough to pin down the nomads anyhow.”

He spits behind the counter. I do not look to see if there is anything there to catch it.

“Anyways,” he breathes in deeply. “this ‘Eightfold Lotus’ was a real piece of work. Kor are already frightening with their weapons, but this man was something else entirely. I can’t say much for the rumors, except for what you see here,” at this, he waves his stumped arm vaguely. “must have killed hundreds of men by himself.” He trails off, so I make an inquiry.

“The Eightfold Lotus,” I say. “Sort of a… gentle name for such a famed killer.” He snorts.

“You know how it is with poets,” he shakes his head. “always looking for something dainty to put on it. I’m not sure when the name first started popping up, but most of the soldiers who had seen him fight called him ‘that great, white, godsforsaken devil’, or called him nothing at all, and just ran. Wish I’d had half as much sense.” He sighs again, and reaches behind him with his good hand for a bottle. He pops the cork out with one thumb, and drinks liberally from the contents within. “Slow night.” He comments. “Better to talk about this kind of thing when my head’s not so clear anyway.”

I nod, and beckon him to continue.

“Thing is,” he says after a brief pause. “I never put much stock in that Kor religion stuff while I was a soldier. Before Mairth was assassinated,” he glances up again, less warily. “may his blasted, bleeding soul rot in the void, I was just as bloodthirsty and bushy tailed as the rest of the recruits. Gods know I didn’t know what I was getting into.” He interrupts himself with a long draught from the bottle. “Gods know I didn’t have long to find out.”

The pause stretches on for a few minutes. I wait patiently.

“We were just a bunch of stupid kids.” He huffs. “Barely out of basic. Looking back now, we were just scouting fodder. Couldn’t afford to waste real scouts, no. Everyone was so eager for some action after staring at each other the past couple months, we didn’t even question our orders. Commanding officer was all grim about it, though. Didn’t understand why then.” He takes another drink. “Sure as void do now.” Another, shorter, silence. “Her name was Joanna. The commanding officer. Gods, but I still remember how she scowled at us.” I nod sympathetically. He sighs. “We were creeping up in the dead of night - which I thought was stupid because the full moon was out, but there we were anyway - on the Kor encampment. Just south of Tressa, west, along the Wyrmspine, yea? I don’t even rightly remember why we were there, a target of opportunity I guess. Our mission was to get a feel for the land and… discourage the Kor from passing through it. The war had been on for a few years by now, and Mairth had learned the hard way that Kor Weapon Masters were worth more than his whole damned, bleeding army was.”

He eyes the bottle.

“Thought the camp was just a godsforsaken bunch of civilians.”

He takes a drink.

“Sad part is, we were right.”

He takes another drink, not looking at me any more. His eyes are closed.

“I guess the Lotus was staying the night with them. Pure, void-scorned happenstance. We would’ve had the little camp in ashes and the Kor clutching for their rosaries in no time. Soon as we get close, though, he just sort of… shows up. I was somewhere in the middle, but I caught sight of him strolling out to meet us in the open plains. Joanna - the commander, yea? - she’s in the front. He asks us what our intentions are. Hadn’t even drawn his weapon, one of those long, curved blades. That the Kor use… a… ka-whatsit now?”

“Katana.” I supply, and he opens his eyes to blink at me owlishly.

“That,” Another drink. “and Joanna tells him to be on his way. Get running, tell the Kor to clear out, the usual. All… imperious though. She was big on the rules, yea? Rules said - sack the camp, take the spoils of war. And so… we were going to.” He pauses, stuttering to a halt, as the bottle empties. He grunts. Again.

“Didn’t see the Lotus even move. Joanna and a dozen others were dead before the rest of us drew steel.” Now, he just stares at the empty bottle. “There were sixty men and women there with me. Never even touched him, not even once. I… I can’t explain the way he moved. I’m lucky I got away with just this,” and he waves his stump in front of him without looking at it. “that’s not the worst of it though. The worst of it is after, I’m laying on the ground, bleeding to death, looking for my godsforsaken hand… and I see him. Standing over all the godsforsaken bodies, sheathing his godsforsaken sword… there wasn’t even any blood on it…”

His mouth opens and closes wordlessly.

I wait.


“and he’s just staring at the moon.” The barkeep says, giving me a desperate look. “Looking up at the big, full moon. I don’t even think he knew I was there, watching him. He’s just… staring at the moon. And he says…” He huffs, coughs, stumbles over his own tongue, and then speaks. “He says, ‘This is wrong.’” He’s not even really looking at me anymore, just off behind me somewhere. I know he is not seeing anything in the inn. The barkeep blinks, then picks up the bottle, and stows it somewhere beneath the counter. He wipes his eyes. I pretend not to notice. “...just vanishes after that. No sound, nothing. Just a breeze, and he was gone. Patched myself up best I could. Didn’t bleed out. Hoofed it back to the nearest fort and well…”

He is not meeting my gaze as he stands up.

“Sounds like you’re lucky to be alive.” I comment. He sniffs.

“Yea, well. Aren’t we all.” He mumbles, his back to me.

I leave the barkeep with as many coins as are in my pocket, and head just south of Tressa, west, along the Wyrmspine.


“He was always a loud boy, and a quiet man.” the old Kor woman adjusts the shawl around her shoulders, looking at me above the fire with the long, bitter gaze of remembrance. The night is cold, and the rest of the Kor nomads in the camp have given us room to talk. “When he left to study beneath the Weapon Masters, Isvul bless them, he was vibrant and lively. Like any other youth who’d grown with the earth moving beneath their feet.” She coughs, and looks up at the stars. “When he came back…”

Her shoulders heave with a sigh. Now I am staring into the fire.

“Oh, but I still loved him,” she continues. “now, I’m not so sure. He came back to me like he had promised, but this was the early years of the war. The Empire was not keen on our continued freedom, and he was often called away by his duty as a protector of the Kor. He… never did tell me what discipline he mastered, though he wore the Sacred Blade well enough on his hip. Sometimes, I dreamed that he was bluffing, that he had failed his trials, that he was… off, shirking his duties,” She coughs. “and not in mortal danger.”

She smiles at me, and I catch the edges of it over the firelight.

“I was not so lucky. He was a good man.” A younger Kor brings us both a steaming mug of something bitter. I drink it to be polite, and the older Kor woman simply hold it in her hands, murmuring her thanks to the younger Kor. After he departs, we are both silent for a time.

“You did not see him again?” I prompt. She blinks at me over the steam and smoke.

“You mean, after he saved our little family from the army? I did see him again, actually. Once. A few weeks later.” She lifts the mug to her lips like she is going to sip, but thinks better of it at the last minute and returns her hands to her lap. “We found the… bodies, the next morning, of course. They were splayed out around a central point, as if they had simply… died in a circle around him. I had heard, of course but… I did not realize that my love was the Eightfold Lotus until that moment. Such a strange thing, his legend, when I think of how I knew the man.” She shakes her head sadly. “They didn’t find his corpse, of course. Not even footprints. It was like he vanished in the middle of all those bodies. We burned them. The bodies. Took what we could for ourselves.” She pauses, thinking.

“When he returned, he was… different.” She coughs. “He did not stay long. He… apologized. For many things, some of them I did not understand. Mostly, he apologized for leaving. And… that he would leave again.”

“Did he love you back?” I ask, because she has gone quiet, eyes on the flames.

“I like to think so,” she muses, “but it’s so hard to tell with other people, isn’t it? He said he wronged me. Said he never tried hard enough.”

Silence, fire, and the song of nighttime insects.

“...Did he?” I prompt.

She smiles.

“I don’t know.” And it sounds like a confession.

More silence, before she takes a breath so deep that I swear I can hear her ribs creak.

“So, that’s the story of my Jinsen.” She tells me, nodding. “I don’t know where he went after he left here, but I haven’t heard from him, or of him, since.” She looks down at the mug, finally taking a drink. Her lips purse. “I moved on. The whole world has. They don’t remember him as he was, not really. Just the legends.”

“Do you miss him?” It feels personal, but I ask it anyway. She drinks from the cup again, eyes dancing with a hidden smile.

“No.” She tells me. “Are you looking for him?” She asks me, and I blink.

“In a way.” My answer is slow. “He hasn’t been easy to learn about.”

“You’re lucky just to have found us.” She says, gesturing to the encampment. “We have travelled this way for many moons. But…” She pauses, and then reaches into her heavy shawl to fiddle with something. “...Well, I’m not going to go looking for him. Soon, I will join my ancestors in paving the road for our children. This… this may help you.” And she reveals a small, ornate comb. It’s a delicate thing, covered in tiny, black markings that… I have seen before… “I’ve never seen it’s like. Jinsen gave it to me. Where he got it… I do not know.” She hands the porcelain comb to me, and I examine it. I’ve seen these letters before. Kamigawa.

I return the comb, and she blinks in surprise as I stand.

“Thank your for sharing that with me.” I say, bowing slightly. She tucks the comb away.

I begin to leave.

“If you find Jinsen,” she says, stopping me in my tracks, “tell him I’m glad he tried at all.”

I fiddle with the strap of my belt, and then nod.

I leave the old woman with her memories and the warmth of the fire, and head for Kamigawa.


“I thought he was a kami, when first I saw Eightfold Lotus.” The kitsune I am sitting with in the midday sun dips his brush carefully into a well of ink. Gently, the brush glides over paper. A poet, turning his words into an art greater than that which was simply written. “His skin was white like freshly fallen snow, and I feared he was a spirit come down from Sokenzan to wither our crops with harsh, cold winds.” The brush is deft in the kitsune’s hands. “But he was no kami.”

He finishes the first symbol. I recognize it, but say nothing. The kitsune continues painting, writing, and speaking.

“Then, I thought he was ronin. His clothes were… foreign, and dirty. He looked as though he had not slept for days. He had the gaze of a man haunted by oni, and regret.” His ears twitched. “Still, he was a beautiful, if tragic, sight to behold. Ronin, I thought then, perhaps, but one worthy of the barest of our hospitalities.” His brush finishes the second symbol, and he returns it to the inkwell once more. “My family was more than happy to give him a place to rest, and some food to eat. He said he would be on his way by the next morning.”

Here, the kitsune pauses. I adjust myself more comfortably upon the log I am sitting on. He appears thoughtful, then brushes a tree into the top corner of his scroll. He follows the stylized flora with a mountain, then another, and finally, a winding road around them.

“He was. Gone by morning.” The kitsune nods at the paper. “In the middle of the night, however, akki raiders came rolling down the mountains like so many boulders, intent on riotous destruction.” He begins the third symbol. “I had thought I heard them first, but as I shepherded my family down towards the valley, I saw Eightfold Lotus striding to meet the akki. I thought, then, that he was a madman.” He shakes his head. “The rumbling from the akki was so great, and their laughter, dreadful and legion… I did not believe Eightfold Lotus capable of defending us.” The kitsune’s wrist pauses in it’s intricate movements, and then finished the third symbol with a flourish. His brush hovers for a long moment, as if uneager to begin the fourth.

“He did,” the kitsune says, finally. “defend us.”

He finishes the fourth symbol before he speaks again, washing the brush gently with a bottle of water.

“When my family returned to our home after the akki had gone silent, it was still intact. We… never found the akki.” He inspects the brush. “Eightfold Lotus was meditating right where you sit now. It was then I saw him for what he truly was. A follower of bushido.” He nods, satisfied with the brush and his statement. “Samurai.”

He put the brush away, and blows gently on the inked scroll.

“He thanked us and… apologized . For the bloodshed. He told me that it was not right, that he should kill so easily.” The kitsune stoppers up his inkwell, and glances at me. “I only told him that it is not the ease of killing that is wrong, but the killing itself.”

“...That seems rather unkind to a man who saved your home.” I point out, and the kitsune nods sagely.

“Perhaps.” He concedes. “Still, he thanked me for my words, and left as the sun rose. I asked him where he was going, but he only said “towards a sky of shattered crystal”. And he was gone.” The kitsune hands me the scroll, certain now that the ink is dry. “If you see Eightfold Lotus, give him this, please. If you do not, keep it as a reminder for yourself.”

I take the scroll and nod, remembering what was written there.

“The correct path is often the longest.”

I stand to leave.

“And where will you go?” The kitsune asks me. I smile at him.

“Towards a sky of shattered crystal.” I reply, and he chuckles.


“Oh, I know that demon-blighted cuss, alright.” The shaggy minotaur grunts at me, shaking his massive head. “You got half a mind, should stay away from that one. Scary as they come, skin paler than a corpse.” He raises the enormous pick he was wielding over his head, and brings it down with enough force to crush a boulder. Which was precisely what he was doing with it. “Scared me straight was what he did.” He motions to his horns, one of which has been sheared off at the base.

“So, you had a… violent encounter with him?” I ask, leaning against a fencepost.

“He had a violent encounter with us, if that’s what you’re asking.” The minotaur set his pick down, bellowing over to where a tall rattler is watching over all the workers. “Oi, Bootskin! I’m taking a tenner!” The rattler waves dismissively, and the minotaur grunts, then swivels to look at me. “Working construction’s a lot safer than starting trouble out in the waste.” The minotaur tells me, falling against a large, unshattered boulder heavily. “Between dragons, Ol’ Smokey, that red-eyed dame, and now this white deathdealer running around, seems like the best thing to do is stick close to verkell and help the ol’ silvercoats work out their rails.” He produces a waterskin, filled with what I can only assume is not water, and takes a drink. “What’re you asking about him for, anyway?” His snout shakes at me curiously, and I’m only glad that I no longer have to look up to speak with him.

“I’m looking for him, I suppose.”

“Good luck.” He tells me, and does not mean it. He drains the rest of his waterskin. “Here’s what happened; me and my old gang - yeah, they’re all dead now - have taken our little corner of the Wastes and we keep it nice and tidy. This was down past Rattler’s Gulch and just west of Hundred-Man’s Grave. Mining town called Kimley. Just, running a racket, you know? Pay the protection money, no one gets hurt, that kind of deal. It was good, I guess. Simple. Easy. Didn’t think much of, uh, what it cost others.” I must have been giving him a flat look, because he scoffs at me. “Don’t look at me like that, what’s a bull supposed to do, anyway? Entire blasted world’s owned by the foxes. I got manual labor or lawlessness as my options, and at the time, lawless was the way to go, alright?”

He rolls his big, black eyes as I fold my arms.

“Oh, choke on a rope.” He grumbles. “Well, there was this one businesslady who wasn’t on the up’n’up with her payments. Couldn’t make it, she tells us, and I guess she really couldn’t but we can’t make exceptions, then everyone’s trying to get out of the blasted payments…” He coughs. “...anyway, I guess this guy overhears us threatening this lady and walks up all casual-like… like he owns the place. Makes me mad to think about sometimes, but that’s just my temper flaring. I know better than to cross him again. He tells us to walk away. Rethink our actions or something stupid like that.” The minotaur breathes in deeply, and lets it all out in a huff, his shoulders shaking. “Didn’t even have a six-shooter on him. Just this stupid looking sword. So, Snakes - that was our leader, stupid name for a viashino, I know - draws on him and gets his arm taken off before he can blink. Rest is a blur, really. Kills the lot of my crew and that’s all there is to it.” He scratches at the base of his shorn horn, shaking his head.

“He didn’t say anything to you?” I prod. The minotaur snorts.

“I guess he did. After he takes my horn off, and I dropped my gun like the stupid cuss I am, he’s got that sword at my throat, looking down at me like I’m a calf or something. And he says…” He trails off, looking away. Like he is embarrassed.

“What did he say?”

“Said I shouldn’t talk like that.” The minotaur snaps moodily. “Threatening people and such. All we were really, in the end. A bunch of talk. Tells me as much. Says if I can’t speak softly to get my way it’s better not to speak at all.” He snorts. “Heap a manure, but damned if I was gonna say anything about it. He whipped me, but I was a near sight better off than the rest of my crew, so I marched it back to Verkell and have been living straight ever since.”

“Tenner’s up, Hurley! Get to swinging!”

The minotaur stands and waves his hand over the boulder at the rattler he had bellowed at earlier. He claps his hands together, dusting them off, then nods at me. “Told you my share, time to make it even.”

Wordlessly, I hand him a bagful of iron. He pockets it without hesitation.

“I appreciate that.” I tell him, honestly. He shrugs, lifting the pick.

“I’m good at breaking things.” He punctuates the sentence by shattering the boulder he was leaning against. “Not very good at talking. Nice to keep my mouth shut for a change, I suppose.”

I nod in agreement, and turn to leave.

“And if you see him, punch him once for taking my horn, huh?” He shouts, and I wave in acknowledgement, laughing to myself.

Time to find out where the mining town called Kimley is.


In Kimley, I meet the businesswoman that the Eightfold Lotus saved. She gives him a glowing endorsement, telling me she lets him stay with her for a few weeks as thanks. He does not talk much, she says, just stays up in his room and eats. One day, he comes down, says he has lost his concentration, and leaves. When she asked where he was going, he had said a faraway land, to pray to the starry gods. She did not know what he meant, but I did.

On Theros, a priest of Pharika informs me he sought panacea from her and her patron. He had not been mindful of the fens, and so, had been bitten by a deadly serpent. Pharika had appeared before her and the Eightfold Lotus, declaring that such a foolish mistake had slain mightier warriors. He had responded, I am not a mighty warrior, only a dying man. Pharika then saw fit to cure him of his ailment, but cryptically, had stated that Theros was no place for his kind. He had best move on - lest he attract much more attention. She suggested ‘a place of pure logic and artifice’ would ease his poisoned spirit, and he left at once.

On Zent, I meet an aridon who refuses to speak of the Eightfold Lotus. “He was in the right mind.” She tells me. “And now, he has gone away. He left from here.” She points at the ground directly in front of her. “Follow him if you can.” I sense the barest hint of the aether, and I follow the trail through the Eternities.

On a remote, isolated plane, in a still, cool forest clearing, I find him. Staring up at the moon.


I approach the Eightfold Lotus cautiously.

“You have come far.” He remarks, voice softer than the starlight, with more force than an avalanche. He closes his eyes. “I can sense the travel on you. We Kor know when someone is well travelled.”

“Or,” I suggest, “you know I’ve been looking for you.”

He does not move, but smiles slightly.

“You’ve come for my story.” He says.

I stay silent, watching him. It’s been… so long, since…

“No.” I say. “I’ve come to tell you mine.”

Slowly, he turns his face away from the moonlight and opens his eyes. I feel him studying my face, I see him searching through his memories. Then, he sits down, crosses his legs, and motions in front of him.

“If you are willing to tell it, I am willing to listen.” He says to me.

I sit in front of the Eightfold Lotus.

I take a deep breath.

“Once, there was a young girl.She had a father who loved her very much.” I begin, voice steady. “Her father said he was good to her. But he was not so good to others. The young girl knew that her father loved her, and would never let her go.” I pause to gather myself. “And he never did.”

I keep my gaze on the Eightfold Lotus. His face is unreadable, like chiseled marble.

“One day,” I continue, “her father is out. Doing the things that he does to provide for his daughter. And though it is not until many years later that she understood what her father was doing, she was still scared whenever he came home smelling like metal and blood. This day, though, her father comes home, panicking. He tells the young girl that he loves her, but she needs to hide like he taught her. And be very, very quiet.”

No reaction. I swallow.

“And,” I pause. “And because she was an obedient young girl, she did as she was told. And because she was a clever young girl, she was able to be perfectly still and silent in her hiding place. And because she was a curious young girl…” I take a deep breath. “She peeked out from her hiding place.”

I saw his jaws clench. There is something there, then.

“Someone came into the young girl’s home. Someone tall, and perfectly white, with a long blade and cold, black eyes.” The Eightfold Lotus’ chin tilted up. “And that person killed her father faster than she could see, and without a sound. Her father died so quickly, and so suddenly, that she did not even know he was dead until after the tall, white person had left. And as she crawled out of her hiding place, to her father’s corpse, she wept. She cried, and cried, and cried… and she found… this.”

I reach into my pocket, and produce a flat disc. On it, there is a lotus with eight petals.

“And when she found it, she swore she would find the person who killed her father. She swore, and with such hatred in her heart, she found herself somewhere else entirely, covered in her father’s blood.”

The clearing is silent.

I pretend not to feel the tear drop.

“...I remember that man.” The Eightfold Lotus says, eventually. His eyes narrow. “And you have found me. What will you do?”

I stare at the Eightfold Lotus, and for a moment, I understand why he was looking at the moon. Perfectly white, silvery pools of light shone off his skin like cascades of silk. His face is calm as he looks at me, perfect serenity and understanding etched into every line. Wisdom worn into the corners of his eyes, kindness on the edges of his lips. I begin to weep, openly, without shame.

“I will thank you.” And I crumple in on myself, head in my hands. “Thank you. Oh, thank you.”

My father was an evil, evil man. Even to those he loved.

I feel his hand on my shoulder, the gentle pressure steadying me as I shake.

“...I misunderstood you.” He says, and I nod. “What is your name?”

“K-kimber...” I stammer, then clear my throat. “Kimberley Talon.” I respond more clearly.

“You have been searching for me a long time, Kimberley Talon?” He asks, careful, soft.

“Seven years.” I respond breathily.

“Just to thank me?” At this question, I rub my eyes, and look into his.

“At first, yes.” I say, keeping myself levelheaded. Steady. Deep breaths. “But I heard many stories about you. And… I want you to teach me. To defend myself. To defend others.”

“...You wish to study my discipline.” He murmurs. I nod.

He takes his hands off my shoulders, and stands up.

“Come with me, Kimberley.” He offers me his hand. “You have much to learn.”

I let out a breathy sigh of relief and gratitude. Taking his hand, he nods at me, and beckons me to follow him into the forest, shaded away from the moonlight, back straight, footsteps even. Perfect grace. I wonder if, one day, I will walk like that. I wonder if, one day, I’ll have as many stories about myself as he does. For now, though, I pick up my pack off the ground, and hurry to follow him into the dark.

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