Tag Archives: Ninja

The Saga of Sethor

An old collection of haiku and tanka that I wrote to make a story of a ninja.  And, in the beginning, a haiku about haiku.

H1) First five syllables

Second seven syllables

Third five syllables

 

H2) The Kingdom of Tor

Prosperous and richly blest

Fell upon hard times

H3)Their Eastern neighbor,

The Kingdom of Alamon

Began to invade

T1)Though Tor tried to fight,

It was hopelessly outmatched.

Alamon’s armies

Swept through Tor’s troops like a scythe.

Tor’s King was forced to submit

H4)It seemed all was lost

When an unlikely hero

Emerged from a farm

T2)The farmer Sethor

Made his tools into weapons

Fighting Alamon

With unconventional skills

Sethor became the ninja

T3)His guile and cunning

Alamon could not defeat

He was a shadow

Confront it, it melts away

Chase it, it is behind you

H5)Silent as the wind

Invisible as the moon

When it becomes new

T4)Alamon knew fear

The day brought news of terrors

Inflicted far away

Night brought terrors to their homes

The ninja: deadly, vengeful

T5)Deep in Alamon

Sethor’s nemesis rose up

Another ninja

Another warrior of night

Another silent assassin

H6)They knew they would clash

Unstoppable force meeting

Immovable will

T6)Rather than evade

Sethor took fate in his hands

He prepared to meet

His rival from Alamon

Laying traps and making plans

H7)When his enemy

Fell into his waiting hands

He knew no mercy

T7)Alamon’s ninja

Knew he was hopelessly outmatched

Yet he still fought on

Until he had no breath left

And Sethor stood triumphant

H8)The Kingdom of Tor

Freshly inspired, rose up

Fighting Alamon

T8)Long were the battles

Long and bloody and brutal

As Tor stood up tall

And defied their conquerors

The nation followed Sethor

H9)Alamon collapsed

The Kingdom of Tor had won

Sethor had saved them

T9)The people declared

Sethor was to be made King

But he refused them

He was ninja, a warrior

Not a leader, not a King

H10) They found a new King,

And Sethor served him loyally

For all of his days

T10) That is the story

Of the farm ninja Sethor

And his great triumph

Over Alamon’s ninja

And over Alamon’s King

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The Horde and the Shades

The messenger burst into the throne room, face red, his breath coming fast and shallow.  “Your Majesty!  General Kaza is dead!  The Army of the Dragon has fallen!  The Horde marches on the Capitol!”
“Can this be true?”  The king stood, staring in disbelief at the messenger.
“Sire!”  One of his Royal Guard stood at the window with a spyglass.  “‘Tis true!  I see the dust of the Horde rising from the North.  If they approach, General Kaza must have fallen!”
“Inform Commander Gorem at once.  Tell him to rally the Army of the Wyvern.  They are all that now stands between the Capitol and annihilation!”
“Yes, Your Majesty!”
Several men rushed off to do his bidding, and he turned to the messenger.  “Was it the full strength of the Horde?  Could you see their numbers?”
“Your Majesty, if this was not their full strength, then the Horde is limitless.  General Kaza fought them for hours.  Thousands upon thousands of the barbarians fell, but for every one we slew, a dozen took his place.  The Horde stretched out as far as the eye can see, filling the horizon.  No matter how many fell, their lines never thinned.”
“Then… the city is most likely lost.”  The king clenched his fists.  “But I’ll be damned if I let them walk in.  Call in the Reserve Guard.  Order the civilians into the caverns below the Citadel and have the Town Guard begin barricading the streets.  We will use the time Commander Gorem and the Army of the Wyvern buys us to strengthen our defenses as much as possible.”
As men scattered to obey his orders, he grabbed the arm of his personal servant.  “Get me Kallion.”
The man nodded and rushed off.  With a heavy sigh, the king strode to his window, looking out at the approaching Horde.  They were visible to the naked eye, now.  It would only be a matter of hours.

—-

Commander Gorem rode through the ranks of his men, spurring them to greater alacrity.  The Horde was closing fast, and the Army of the Wyvern was woefully unprepared.  They were a secondary army, only in the event of a sneak attack while the Army of the Dragon was away.  No one ever imagined that the Dragon would fall.
A shout from one of the scouts drew his attention from his own men back to the Horde.  Their front-runners were cresting the last hill, charging his men.
“Form up! Form up! Shield-bearers to the front, greatswords behind them, pikemen behind them!  Other soldiers, rank and file behind them!”
As his soldiers scrambled into position, he yelled, “Archers!  Volley!”
Arrows rained down, stopping the first few lines of the Horde, and they fell by the score.  Another volley, and another, and another, they cascaded on the invading savages.  Hundreds of the Horde died.  Still they came.  Never slowing, never showing the slightest sign of fear.  There were more warriors in the Horde than there were arrows in the Wyvern’s quivers.
When the archers had nothing left to shoot, the Horde crashed into the shield-bearers.  The massive shields they bore stopped the savages as the soldiers with pikes and greatswords hacked and pierced them.  For nearly fifteen minutes, they held the line.  Wave after wave of savages slammed into their shields, until finally one of them, a huge beast of a man, with a battle axe in each hand, smashed through, killing half a dozen of them before impaling himself on the pikes of the back row.
With the line broken, the Wyvern broke as well.  The soldiers, unprepared for such an onslaught, were scattered, and the battle dissolved into thousands of one-on-one fights, with the Horde coming out way on top.  The Commander scowled and signaled for his bugler to sound the retreat.
As his soldiers attempted to fall back, being destroyed by the unrelenting Horde, the Paladin assigned to the Army of the Wyvern rode up beside him.  “Commander, my Knights won’t do any good in the narrow city streets, but we can buy the footmen time to get inside the walls.”
Commander Gorem nodded, and the Paladin raised his shining sword, signalling the rest of his Knights.  As one, the armor-clad cavalry charged forward, splitting into two branches, pushing the Horde off the retreating foot soldiers.  Their initial charge gave them powerful momentum, and they cut a large swath through the Horde.  When that momentum began to falter, however, the powerful warriors of the Horde began knocking them from their horses, slaughtering them.
The gates were open wide, and the fleeing soldiers of the Wyvern rushed in, reinforcing the Town Guard in the barricaded city.  Commander Gorem rushed in with them, trying to escape the noises of the dying Knights.

——

Up in the top of the Citadel, the king watched as the Army of the Wyvern was butchered by the Horde.  A voice behind him nearly startled him, but it was nearly as familiar to him as his own.  “You summoned me, your Majesty?”
“Yes, Kallion.”  He turned and saw the chief of the Shadowy Hand, garbed in his standard outfit, black leather and fabric, with all skin obscured save his eyes.  “You’ve no doubt noticed the Horde.”
“I have been made aware of it, your Majesty.”
“It’s going to take the city.”
“I estimated as much, your Majesty.”
“I need you to do something, Kallion.  I need the Shades.”
“We live to serve you, your Majesty.  What must we do?”
“The city cannot be saved, but my people can.  Take the hidden tunnels into the forests, keep my people alive.  The Horde cannot remain this large and this strong forever.  One day, when they are weak, find allies and bring them down.”
Kallion’s eyes, normally so expressionless, widened slightly.  “But, your Majesty…  We are sworn to protect you.  If you do not leave the city, neither shall we.”
The king reached out and grasped Kallion’s shoulder.  “If the Horde does not find me, they will keep searching.  I will stand with my Royal Guard and buy you the time you need to evacuate the populace.”
“But…”
“No time to argue, my old friend.  Lead my people.  Never forget how great we were.  Bide your time.  Hold out hope.  Restore this city one day, ten, twenty, a hundred years down the road.”  The king’s eyes were shining as he released Kallion’s shoulder.  “Go now.  Gather your men.  Evacuate.”
The ninja nodded slowly, then straightened and bowed low before his king.  “It has been an honor to serve you, your Majesty.”
“It has been an honor to have you beside me, Kallion.”
Without a sound, the black-garbed man vanished into a secret door, rushing to the secret caverns beneath the Citadel.  A half-dozen men, attired similarly to him, met up with him as he walked.  “What is it, Kallion?”
“We’re leaving.  Taking the people and getting out.”
“But… the king?”
“He’s staying with the Royal Guard.  Don’t argue!”  Kallion cut off the younger man before he could even begin.  “The king’s orders are final.”
His men nodded slowly, then dispersed to begin the evacuation.  Kallion went on ahead, his natural pace quickly carrying him through the tunnel and eventually up into the dense forest.  He quickly shimmied up a tree, looking back at the city.  Fire and smoked rose from all of the lower districts; the Horde had left nothing.  Only the castle remained, resisting the onslaught of the invaders.  Even as he watched, he saw the gates fall, and the Horde stormed into the Citadel.
He looked back down and saw the first of the citizens coming out of the tunnel, ushered by the rest of the Shades.  Kallion looked to the city again, this time focusing on the flag at the top of the Citadel.  That flag could only be reached through the innermost room of the Citadel, no doubt where the king would be making his last stand.  When the flag fell, he would know that the king had fallen as well.
Below him, he heard his Shades directing the people deeper into the forest, but he kept his eyes on the Citadel.  Finally, just as the last citizen came out of the tunnel, he saw the flag fall.  The city was lost.  The king was dead.
Kallion jumped down from the tree, tapping one of the Shades on the arm.  “Where is the princess?”
The Shade pointed to a small knot of people gathered under a large tree.  Kallion went there immediately, seeing the young princess with her father’s most trusted advisers.  “Your majesty, I would speak with you.”
Everyone looked up at him, eyes wide at his use of ‘majesty’.  The princess stood, pale, and walked with him a little ways away from everyone.  “What is it?  And who are you?  I’ve seen you with my father before, but I don’t know who you or your men are.”
“Your majesty, you are now in charge of these people.  Your father is dead.”
The princess, normally so composed, let out of choked sob, putting a hand to her mouth.  “He’s dead?”
“He sacrificed himself to give us all the opportunity to escape.  It was his duty as king.”
She composed herself enough to give him a slightly suspicious look.  “You never answered me.  Who are you?  And how did you know what happened to my father?”
“My name is Kallion.  I am the leader of the group called the Shades.  We are the secret guards of the royal line.”
“Secret guards..?”
“Yes.  The Royal Guards protect the royalty from overt attacks.  We prevent the more sinister plots.”
“I… see.”  She looked up at him.  “So what happens now?”
“We establish ourselves in the hills and caves of the forests.  I keep recruiting for the Shades, and you keep the royal line intact.”
She gave him a look.  “I’m only sixteen.”
Kallion smirked.  “I didn’t say now.  That’s the big picture.”
“Oh.”  She paused.  “Can I… see your face?”
“Why?”
“If I’m going to be protected by you, I want to know what you look like.”
He reached up and unfastened his mask, pulling it off.  His straight black hair fell down around his pointed ears.
The princess let out a soft yelp.  “You’re an elf?”
Kallion nodded.  “Your father recruited me before my people left this land.  He needed someone better than a human to run the Shades.”
“All right…”  She nodded slowly, straightening her already straight dress.  “We’ll get through this, won’t we?  We’ll be restored eventually, right?”
“It might not be in your lifetime, but yes.  I will see the royal line again on the throne, and the Horde destroyed.”
She returned to her advisers, and Kallion looked towards the burning city.
No matter how many lifetimes it takes me, I will restore your kingdom, my liege.

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Cyberpunk – Origins

This is the first of four short stories about my new cyberpunk character.  We will have Origins, Recruitment, Transformation, and Mission. If he seems cool, he might get a book. We shall see.

The rain dripped down from the eaves of the building, splashing into the puddle that spread across the ground.  Ripples broke up the surface of the puddle, lapping at the booted feet of the man who leaned against one wall of the alley.

His arms were crossed over his chest, and the collar of his coat was turned up against the droplets that the rain occasionally sent under the eaves.  Though he appeared relaxed, his gaze scanned the alley constantly, searching for the slightest disturbance.

When another man finally appeared at the end of the alley, his pace quickened in an attempt to get out of the rain, the man on the wall straightened up, one of his hands reaching for the gun on his hip.  The other man noticed him and slowed.

“Nice sunny day, isn’t it,” the newcomer called.

“Only if you live underground.”  He moved his hand away from his gun and greeted the newcomer with a firm handclasp.  “So what’s the job?”

“Four man gig, in-and-out operation, double the standard rate.  Go into the Yakamoto corporate headquarters, hack into their private network, download all their records.”

“Yakamoto?  They have a private security team, better than the cops.”

“Which is why it’s a four man gig, instead of two.  What’s your answer?”

“All right, all right, we’ll take it.  Half up front.”

The newcomer pulled a datachip from his jacket and handed it over.

After confirming on his wrist computer that the amount was correct, the man who had been waiting nodded.  “We’ll get the records.  Meet me at the Gigabite, this time, three days from now.”

His new employer nodded, then hurried off.  Jacob chuckled, pocketing the datachip. He walked casually out of the alley and headed back to his gang’s hangout.

Along the way, he spotted a couple rival gang members lurking about, but they stayed on their side of the street, so he didn’t bother with them.  He didn’t even respond when one of them called out a taunt, something about his mother.

When he got to his destination and pushed the door open, he was immediately greeted by the sentry. “How’d it go, Jake?  You get us anything?”

“When was the last time I let us down, Benny?” Jake smirked and moved past him into the main room.  “Boss, I got us a job.  Double standard, half up front.” He pulled the datachip from his jacket and laid it on the gang boss’s desk.

“Oh?” The boss picked up the chip and plugged it into his terminal.  “What’s the job?”

“Record retrieval from Yakamoto Corporate.  Hacker, infiltrator, and two wingmen.”

The boss laughed, a dry, wheezing chuckle.  “And you want to be a wingman, I suppose? Even though I keep saying I don’t want you in the dangerous jobs? You’re too useful to me to lose, Jacob.”

“I’m also your best brawler, boss.  Yakamoto’s security is gonna be tough; you need me on this job.”

He waved a hand, as though in admission of defeat.  “All right, have it your way. But if you die on this job, don’t come crying to me, because I’ll kill you again for losing me my best man.”

Jake laughed and nodded, heading deeper into the building.  “Jamison! Walters! Doc!”

Three men came out of various rooms.  The shortest, whose skin was so pale as to be nearly translucent, spoke first. “‘Sup, Jake?”

“Four man job. You’re my hacker, and Walters, you’re my infiltrator. Jamison, you and I are wingmen.”

Jamison grabbed his machine gun off the wall and checked the action.  “Lock and load.  Who do I get to shoot?”

“Yakamoto private security.” Jake grabbed his shotgun, arming himself, just like the rest of his team. “Get in, steal the records, get out.  Feel free to take trophies, but don’t get distracted.”  He slipped on a bandoleer of rounds for his gun.  “We green?”

“Green,” they all chorused.

“Roll out.” Jake led them out of the room, grabbing one of the heavy trenchcoats by the door and slipping it on over the bandoleer he wore, and the shotgun slung across his back. He paused outside to let the other three men do the same, and then they hopped into one of their gang vehicles, driving across town to the Yakamoto building.

They arrived without incident and stepped out of the vehicle. “Now, don’t start shooting until they do or I do. Got it?”

The others nodded, and Jake led them inside. A single guard sat behind the desk, and another, with a rifle in his hands, stood by the door that led deeper into the building. Jake made sure his hand was hidden from both guards, then gestured for Jamison to get into position by the guard with the rifle.  He then strolled over to the guard at the desk, who looked up with a scowl.

“Do you have an appointment?”

“No, but I don’t think we need one.” His hand lashed out, chopping the guard in the neck. The guard stiffened, then went limp and collapsed.  By the time Jake turned around, Jamison had already smashed the second guard’s head into the wall.

Walters, without having to be prompted, grabbed the key off the guard and opened the door.

Jake and Jamison led the way through.  They managed to get to the elevator without incident, and they all took a brief moment to relax as the doors closed. Then Jake hit the top floor’s button and pulled out a small holo-projector. A map of the building’s top floor appeared, with a terminal flashing red.

“This is the only terminal directly linked to Yakamoto’s records. It’s also on the other side of the floor, through at least four guards and half a dozen office workers.”

Jamison grinned, pulling out his machine gun. “Do we care about casualties?”

“Not particularly.” Jake slid his shotgun out of its holster and shrugged off his trench coat. “Get ready.”

The elevator slowed, then opened its doors with a ‘Ding!’

“Fire at will, Jamison.”

The big man laughed, and stepped out of the elevator, spraying bullets in a semi-circle around him.  Two guards dropped immediately, and the others dove for cover. Jamison focused his storm of bullets on each guard’s chosen cover, quickly reducing its effectiveness as a barrier to be on par with that of Swiss cheese.  The guards behind these defenses didn’t last much longer than their cover.

Just as Jamison killed the last guard, the lights near him all went out.  While Jamison was still looking at them with a dumbfounded expression on his face, Jacob slipped on his infrared goggles, and saw, just as he finished securing them, a blurred human figure flit past Jamison. A second later, blood spurted from Jamison’s side, and he collapsed, the goggles showing his body’s temperature begin to fall.

“Blasted Asian executives and their blasted ninja cyborgs…” Jake growled, hefting his shotgun. He didn’t try to look for the ninja; it would have realized he could see it and put something between him and it.  He listened. Then he heard it: a very faint creak above him and to his right.

With a whirl, he pointed his shotgun in that direction and emptied the six-shot chamber.  The cyborg, caught at the very beginning of its leap, was arrested by the force of the burst, its broken body falling on and shattering a pot with a fern in it.

Jake straightened up. “Go get the data. This floor’s clear now.”

Doc hurried off to the terminal.  Jake went over to the cyborg, examining it.  It looked like a standard martial arts ‘borg, dressed in an almost totally concealing black outfit.  Jake’s attention was drawn to the katana in its hand.

He plucked it from the cyborg’s grip, after first prying away the rigid mechanical fingers one by one, and hefted it.  The balance was perfect; the hilt fit securely against his palm, and the blade moved easily, like an extension of his own arm.  He gave it a few swipes, admiring the perfection of the blade.  His eye fell on a wooden post, which he presumed had held a vase or bust before the fighting broke out. With a single movement, he swept the blade through the post.

For a moment, it appeared to remain motionless; then he realized it was slowly falling, picking up speed as the top fell further away from the center, clattering to the floor.  He raised one eyebrow in approval and cleaned the blade on the ninja’s outfit. Then he took the sheathe, put the katana in it, and strapped it across his back.

The stowing of the sword reminded him of another fallen combatant’s weapon that needed to be retrieved.  He picked up Jamison’s machine gun and handed it to Walters.  “Carry that.”
Doc returned at that moment, pocketing a datachip.  “Got it.  Let’s go.”

The three of them returned to the elevator, putting their covering trenchcoats back on as it descended to the bottom floor.  They walked past the still-unconscious guards, leaving the building and entering their vehicle.  As Walters drove them, Jake leaned back in his seat, satisfied.  Jamison was dead, but he had been a fool anyway. Dying to reveal a ninja was the best use possible for him. And personally, Jake now had an excellent sword.  He patted it with a faint smirk.  Much more useful than a loud partner any day.

The rest of them had escaped, and they had the data, as well as two and a half days to analyze it and try to figure out why their client was willing to pay so much for it. Jake nodded, leaning back in his seat and closing his eyes, congratulating himself on a job well done.

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Slavers, Part 2

The smell of New Phoenix reached them long before they saw it.  The scents of fire and decay swept over them, carried on a cloud of noxious smoke.

“No…”  Angela ran up to the edge of the cliff, staring down at the city.

It was destroyed.  Most of the buildings had been gutted and burned, and the few that remained were surrounded by the tents of the slavers.  Even at this distance, the crackling of the fires and the wailing of the survivors could be heard.

“We’re too late…”  She fell to her knees, sobbing.  “Tabitha…  I couldn’t save her…”

Lezvie stepped up behind her and put a hand on her shoulder.  “She may yet be alive.  The slavers only hit a few hours ago.  If you wanted to save any of the men, I’d say we had arrived too late, but there’s a good chance your friend Tabitha is still alive.”

“Then we can still save her?”  Angela looked up at him, grabbing his hand for reassurance.

“It’s possible.  I’ll do a little recon and see what I can find out.  Describe Tabitha to me.”

“She’s… about my height.  With black hair, and green eyes.  Very pretty.”  She squeezed his hand.  “Please find her.”

He squeezed her hand reassuringly.  “I don’t know what I’ll find.  But if she’s alive, I’ll save her.”  He slipped away and began climbing down the face of the cliff.

As Lezvie climbed, he reflected on how insane this was.  He knew he didn’t stand a chance if he were caught.  The Crimson Talon was all fighters, unlike some gangs that let riff-raff in.  There were enough of them that even his skills and alien blades couldn’t save him.

“So why am I doing this?”  He reached the bottom of the cliff and looked towards the city, automatically plotting routes in and out.  “Because you’re crazy, that’s why.”

There were no guards.  Of course.  You’d have to be stupid or insane to attack the Crimson Talon.  Lezvie chuckled to himself as he slipped from building to ruined building, getting closer to the heart of the city.  Finally he reached a building that did have guards.  Two slavers, leaning against the outside, smoking cigarettes – Lezvie briefly wondered where they had managed to get those – and talking about the various slave girls.

They weren’t really on the lookout for anything, so it was simple enough to get on the far side of the building and slip in through one of the broken windows.  The building was what he had expected it to be.  A chattel house.  The room he was in had mats in one corner, and three young girls were huddled together, sleeping fitfully.  He could see welts and bruises through their tattered clothing.

All three of them were blonde, and, much as he wanted to save them all, rescuing even one was a huge risk.  Two would be impossible.  He crept silently through the first floor of the house, glancing at the girls.  Blonde.  Blonde.  Brunette.  Redhead.  Brunette.  Blonde.

He finally did find a room, the second to last on the first floor, that had three girls with black hair.  As he entered the room, he allowed a floorboard to creak, and clicked on a dim flashlight.  The three girls were startled awake, and whirled to face him.  Blue eyes, blue eyes, and hazel eyes.

The girl with hazel eyes stepped forward hesitantly, squinting into the light.  “You’re… not one of them.  You’re not dressed like them.  But you’re not one of us, either.”

“Right on both counts.  I’m looking for Tabitha.  Do you know where she is?”

The girl hesitated.  “Why?”

“A friend of hers sent me here.  If possible, I’m to rescue her.”

“Just her?”

Lezvie could see the tears in her eyes.  “I’m mad going up against the Crimson Talon as it is.  It would only get me and whoever I tried to rescue killed if I took more than one person.”

She nodded slowly.  “Tabitha’s on the second floor.  Reserved for the boss and his favorites.”

“Thank you.”  Lezvie clicked off the light and slipped away, creeping up the stairs like a wraith.  The second floor had a large central room with smaller rooms all around it.  A large man, presumably the boss, sat on a large chair, watching a slave girl dance.

Skilled as he was, not even Lezvie could move through a brightly lit room crowded with trained fighters without being detected.  He went back downstairs and outside, then climbed the rough brick wall up to the second floor.  Finding an open window was easy, for the night was warm, and the air conditioning probably hadn’t worked even before the Glassing.

He pulled himself into one of the rooms and found that it had two occupants: a young woman, and the man abusing her.

There was no thought, only action.  Lezvie didn’t even appear to move, but the man sprouted two knives from his back, piercing both lungs.  He couldn’t scream.  He collapsed, dead before he hit the ground.  The girl looked at Lezvie in terror, pulling the threadbare sheet over herself.

Lezvie hadn’t been looking at her body, anyway; his focus had been her eyes.  Eyes of piercing green, that looked out from under her long black bangs.

He smiled slightly.  “It’s all right, Tabitha.  I’ve come to rescue you.”

Part 3

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