Gathering Clouds, Chapter 32

  • Chapter 32





                            Ambarro woke with a pained groan, his body weak and unresponsive. The muscles on his limbs were still twitching from Eirandil’s lightning barrage, and every now and then his heart skipped a beat.


                    ‘Diia,’ he muttered as he struggled to sit up on the stretcher he’d been placed on. ‘Diia. Is she all right?’


                    ‘Unconscious, but stable. The explosion from the fireball caused some light brain trauma, but nothing a good Regeneration burst couldn’t heal. You should count yourselves lucky, dunce. Those were fire and lightning spells from a fully-fledged Thalmor battlemage. If not for Master Torako, you would both have been reduced to ash.’


                    A flash of déjà vu ran through the young Po’ Tun as he turned, annoyed, to glare at Harrow. It’s his turn to sit by my bedside and make snarky comments, eh?


                    The elven shinobi smirked. ‘I’ll be sure to tell Diia that the first thing you did after regaining consciousness was to call for her. I’m sure she would find it very comforting.’


                    ‘Don’t you dare,’ Ambarro growled as he laid back on the stretcher. ‘Where are we, anyway?’


                    ‘A makeshift outpost our seniors set up, outside the Grandmaster’s office.’


                    ‘Grandpa’s office?’ Ambarro scratched his head. ‘Why are we here? And what about the Thalmor left in the village?’


                    ‘That’s why we’re here, dunce. By Furiya, you’re slow,’ Harrow snapped. ‘We’ve scoured every section of the village except for the administrative building.’


                    ‘What?’ Ambarro sat up straight and reached for his bo. ‘Are you telling me that Grandpa’s stuck in there with the enemy? What are we doing lollygagging out here? He needs-’


                    ‘Oh, lie back down before you hurt yourself,’ Harrow pushed him back, snorting. ‘Do you really think that they’d be able to even lay a finger on the Grandmaster? It’s the enemy that’s stuck in there with him. They call him the Shikabanegami for a reason, you know.’


                    ‘Shika-what now?’


                    ‘Should’ve known you’d slack off on your Eastern Akaviri. What, you don’t respect your own culture enough to do a couple hours of reading?’


                    ‘Shut up and tell me what it means.’


                    ‘Takarro-ri became known as the Shikabanegami during his early missions in Valenwood, almost two centuries ago. It means Corpse God.’


                    Aeicano blinked as the candles went out, leaving the covered window as their only source of light. He could still tell that the Grandmaster was seated in his desk, however. The old Po’ Tun didn’t seem like he was about to move in the slightest.


                    ‘Watch for traps,’ he whispered to his troops. ‘Move forward slowly.’


                    Takarro raised a finger and tapped it lightly on his desk.


                    The Altmer soldier furthest to the right jerked as if he’d been punched. Then he keeled over.


                    The footmer next to him checked his pulse. ‘What- how-’ He turned to stare at Aeicano, horror written all across his features. ‘He’s dead!’


                    The Grandmaster tapped his desk again. The crouching elf stiffened, then fell like a ragdoll dropped by a child.


                    ‘Some kind of magic,’ Aeicano yelled. ‘Robe, do something!’


                    The only mage accompanying them threw up his hands, erecting a wide, glowing ward in front of all the remaining mer. Then Takarro brought his finger down.


                    The mage’s head snapped back and he collapsed.


                    ‘Sweet Mara…’ One of his mer began to back away, his blade shaking in his hands. ‘It’s a demon of Sithis!’


                    ‘Haven’t heard that one in a while,’ Takarro chuckled, still in his kind, grandfatherly voice. He touched his finger to his desk again. There was a sudden blur as the tip of the digit disappeared for a brief instant. And perhaps it was Aeicano's imagination, but there was also a very quiet twang, like the thrum of a bow.


                    ‘Godsdamnit, rush him!’ He motioned with his sword as yet another footmer slumped to the floor limp and lifeless.


                    The remaining elves let out a collective battle cry and charged. The Grandmaster drummed his fingers on his desk, from thumb to little finger. This time Aeicano heard it – the sound of small objects whizzing through the air at tremendous speed. The five Altmer left at his side shuddered, their weapons falling from their hands, then dropped beside each other one by one.


                    A shaft of light from the gaps in the blinds fell on one of the corpses. A tiny wooden skewer protruded from under his chin. The same wooden skewers spilling from the small, square carton beside Takarro’s right hand.


                    Aeicano felt his knees wobble and his loincloth grow wet as warm urine trickled down his legs.


                    ‘Toothpicks. You killed nine mer,’ he said weakly. ‘With toothpicks?’


                    ‘Ten,’ the Grandmaster smiled, setting one last toothpick on his desk and raising his finger.


                    Aeicano sobbed and turned, racing for the open doorway. Five long steps took him into the inviting darkness of the corridor outside, and he dared to hope. Then there was a small, almost painless prick in the back of his neck, in the quarter-inch gap under his helmet.


                    Five minutes later, he staggered slowly into the village, his stiff legs carrying him forward as black, oily smoke curled around his eyes, nose and mouth, now lit with a dark gleam from within. The shinobi gathered outside the Grandmaster’s office drew their weapons, then sheathed them just as quickly.


                    ‘Stand down,’ their leader said, flipping his kunai over in his hand and slipping it back into his sleeve. ‘It’s one of the Grandmaster’s corpse puppets.’


                    ‘Good afternoon, my friends,’ Aeicano intoned dully. ‘The building is clear. Feel free to come in.’


                    The shinobi bowed as the Thalmor’s body doubled over and began to disintegrate. ‘Leave it to Takarro-ri to be theatrical even in such moments.’


                    ‘I heard that,’ Aeicano droned as his face began to crumble.


                    In the ranks of the shinobi, Lencius shivered, his grip tightening on his bow. First they use a young boy to seduce a known rapist, now I see them openly practicing foul necromancy. Is there nothing the Shadeclaws won’t do?


                    Not only that, but they had deliberately held him back from the fighting when the offensive began. Jorra and Unaka had insisted that it was a tactical decision, that they wanted him stationed with archers near the centre of the village, but he knew better. There are still secrets – battlefield tactics, communication and other details – that the shinobi want to keep to themselves. They held me back because I was an observer for His Majesty, not because of my bowmanship.


                    And that jarred him the most of all. The shinobi are willing to work with, but never for, the Empire. If we ever give them a reason to, they will turn on us as readily as they did with the Thalmor.


                    The sight of the slaughter inside only made him more apprehensive.


                    The walls and ceiling on one of the corridors and several of the adjacent rooms had been given a new coat of slick red paint, with additional decorations of shredded organs sticking to the bamboo and wooden surface. Limbs and chunks of sinew were strewn about the floor. For the second time since visiting the shinobi village, Lencius felt the urge to vomit. I’ve seen daedroth kills kinder and cleaner than this massacre.


                    The door to the room furthest down the corridor slid open and a hulking figure stalked out noiselessly. Orange and black stripes. The Grandmaster’s advisor, Bengakhi. The seven-foot-tall Po’ Tun was covered up to both of his bulging biceps with blood, and was holding what looked like a squashed ball in his right hand. Lencius studied it more closely and immediately regretted his decision. It was a head, albeit one reduced to a completely unrecognisable state. The flesh had been ripped and clawed into a spongy mush resembling finely ground meat. The skull itself had been crushed to pulp.


                    ‘Bengakhi-ra, sir.’ The shinobi accompanying him saluted, appearing completely unfazed. ‘The Grandmaster reports that the area is secure. You are finished as well?’


                    ‘Yes,’ Bengakhi said in his gruff tones as he accepted a handkerchief and began wiping his hands and arms. ‘Prepare body bags; I want the building sanitised by sundown.’




                    Forget body bags, Lencius wanted to quip. You need a very big bucket and around a hundred mops.


                    In sharp contrast to Bengakhi’s brutality, the Grandmaster’s office was almost unnaturally neat. Aside from the broken-down door, not a single speck of dust was out of place. The nine bodies sprawled inside almost seemed like part of the furniture. If anything, Lencius found the lack of violence even more disturbing than the gore from earlier. No smoke, no charring, no burning or frost damage. No visible lacerations or wounds either. What manner of sorcery is this?


                    Grandmaster Takarro was calmly finishing his tea as he lit the candle on his desk with a spark from his finger.


                    ‘Ah, good afternoon, Lencius-dar,’ he said pleasantly as he set his ceramic cup on a small platter. ‘Apologies for the mess my previous guests have made of the doorway. They were quite rowdy.’


                    Lencius gestured at the rigid corpses with his bow. ‘Well, it seems they’ve quieted down a bit.’


                    Takarro closed his eyes, leaning back in his chair and placing a toothpick between his lips. Whatever he had done seemed to have left him tired. ‘So they have. Have our other guests from the Dominion been seen to?’


                    ‘I was held back from the front lines, and the other men of the Legion were removed from the skirmish entirely by your personal request, so I believe that is a question you should ask your shinobi… Grandmaster.’ The Oculatus agent allowed a subtle edge to slip into his tone. I can understand your secrecy, Shadeclaw, but don’t expect me to answer to you if this is the extent of the trust you offer the Empire.


                    The aged Po’ Tun studied him for a while, then smiled. ‘Apologies for overstepping my boundaries, spectre. His Majesty and his generals await your report in his quarters, and I’m sure your handler is waiting to debrief you.’ The Grandmaster rose, bowing. ‘Until next we meet, Lencius-dar.’


                    The sun was setting when he strode out into Tsukikage. Dusky orange light glanced off frozen puddles and white snow, setting the village aglow in icy flames. Lencius breathed in, feeling the frigid air burn his nostrils, rush into his lungs and jolt his heart.


                    Now that the imminent threat of a Thalmor purge was no longer looming over his head, he found himself appreciating fully the tranquil beauty of the Akaviri village. It evoked in him the same sense of stillness and peace that Cloud Ruler Temple once did – and even though he had been to both sites only once, he was relieved that the Shadeclaw village had managed to avoid the fate of the Blades sanctuary.


                    I might have my own misgivings about the shinobi, Lencius reflected as he let his breath out, the warmed lungful of air misting in front of him as he blew. But I’m glad we had the chance to visit.


                    The sky darkened and he wrapped his cloak tighter around him as he quickened his pace.


                    As a general rule, Emperor Titus Mede the Second disliked dealing with High Elven diplomats. They were cloyingly silver-tongued, much too dexterous with their words, and had mastered the art of saying one thing and meaning another.


                    That was why he was greatly enjoying the exchange between Grandmaster Takarro and the Dominion’s Emissaries. For once the Altmer were coming across an opponent that they had no leverage on, and knew no pride, honour, or any other form of self-esteem that the Thalmor could twist and take advantage of. He reclined in his chair, trying to keep from laughing as the elves’ signature snobbishness and arrogance bounced off an impenetrable wall of polite formality.


                    ‘I must say, I expected a far better reception than the little feast you threw, Grandmaster,’ First Emissary Faesatha sneered. ‘Is this all the famed Akaviri courtesy of yours amounts to?’


                    ‘Feast?’ High Emissary Orndil scoffed. ‘I counted only six courses. Compared with the splendour of our banquets in Alinor, that was but a midday snack.’


                    ‘I do apologise for your displeasure, Faesatha-ko, Orndil-jo,’ Takarro said pleasantly. ‘I can assure you, should you and your compatriots ever return, we Po’ Tun will greet you with much greater enthusiasm.’


                    The Emissaries’ eyes narrowed to wet slits. Titus could see that the veiled threat was not lost on them, but the way it was delivered – conversational and submissive, all in the soft, friendly tones of the Po’ Tun – was throwing them off.


                    ‘We look forward to it,’ First Emissary Hacelmo answered, his mouth twisting. ‘If we ever have the opportunity, we would like to introduce you to Altmeri customs as well.’


                    ‘A kind gesture, Hacelmo-jo.’ The Grandmaster inclined his head. ‘We received quite an intriguing lesson from Commander Larethor already, but any additional instruction would be very welcome.’


                    ‘Oh, yes,’ First Emissary Eloriel simpered. ‘It should be our turn to apologise, Grandmaster. We had no way of knowing that the esteemed Commander would be revealed as a traitor to the Dominion. Larethor turned his back on our people, along with all two hundred of his soldiers. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine that he would run amok like he did.’


                    Eloriel paused for a moment, and Titus clenched his hands under his robes, wishing he could strangle that giant, mocking smirk right off the Old Mary’s face.


                    ‘It is too unfortunate that your shinobi failed to capture or kill him and his Hornets. I do believe that the Twinstinger will be a thorn in all our sides for the years to come,’ Eloriel continued, still gloating.


                    ‘Never fear, Eloriel-ko,’ Takarro replied. ‘Shadeclaws are quick to deal with thorns.’


                    ‘Very reassuring,’ Orndil snickered. ‘If there was nothing else, we shall be off. Are our escorts ready?’


                    ‘They are,’ the Grandmaster said, lifting a finger as the Emissaries began to stand. ‘However, there is one small matter left to discuss.’


                    Exchanging suspicious stares, the Altmer sat back down.


                    ‘Eloriel-ko, you mentioned earlier that Commander Larethor was a traitor. It stands to reason, then, that people who gave him his obviously unsanctioned orders to purge the village would be considered traitors as well?’


                    ‘Theoretically, yes. However, all evidence suggests that the Twinstinger was acting on his own accord,’ Hacelmo said, his voice low and confident. Titus, however, knew better. The Thalmor had switched from disrespectful ridicule to official language. They were scared now.


                    ‘Saying, then, theoretically, of course, if these traitors to Alinor were to be uncovered, you would allow the Shadeclaws to deal with them as we saw fit?’


                    ‘We would prefer if they were handed over to our custody, given that they were our own people once,’ Faesatha reasoned, her eyes fixed on the Grandmaster’s.


                    Takarro began to smile. ‘Ah, but since the shinobi were already about to take care of Commander Larethor, would it not also be prudent for us to deal with the true instigator of this incident for you as well? We Shadeclaws live to serve, Faesatha-ko.’


                    Unable to help himself, the Emperor laughed out loud. By bringing up the shinobi’s failure to take down Larethor, the Emissaries had thought to shift the responsibility of the attack to the Shadeclaws. The Grandmaster had taken advantage of that statement instead, working responsibility around into authority.


                    There was a hint of defiance in Hacelmo’s voice as he conceded. ‘Very well. You may do with the culprit whatever you see fit… assuming you can find one.’


                    ‘Oh, we already have,’ Bengakhi growled menacingly, giving Titus a start. The giant of a Po’ Tun moved with stealth disproportionate to his size. There had been no sound at all when he entered the room. ‘According to the report of the young shinobi who warned us of the attack in the first place, Larethor received explicit orders from his superior to... as he put it himself, “wreak havoc”.’


                    ‘And according to the same shinobi, High Emissary Orndil,’ Takarro finished slowly. Titus noticed that he was no longer using honorifics. ‘You are Commander Larethor’s immediate superior.’


                    As Orndil paled, Hacelmo, Faesatha and Eloriel sidled away from him with remarkable speed.


                    ‘I never expected you to betray us as well, High Emissary,’ Faesatha sighed, shaking her head.


                    ‘Oh, my dear Orndil,’ Eloriel turned her smirk on her colleague. ‘Words cannot begin to describe my disappointment. First Emissary Elenwen will be devastated; you were one of her finest pupils.’


                    His smile widening, the Grandmaster raised his voice by an iota. ‘Bengakhi.’


                    The advisor swooped behind Orndil, his massive hand engulfing the Altmer’s head and neck like an owl’s talons around a struggling mouse. The elf released a panicked croak.


                    Takarro was still smiling. ‘Kill.’




                    Bengakhi flexed.


                    As former warlords of Colovia, the Medes were no strangers to battle. The Emperor knew the sound of a snapping spine when he heard it, and the crack was just as distinct as he remembered.


                    ‘Farewell, gentlemer of the Aldmeri Dominion,’ the Grandmaster said as High Emissary Orndil slid down into his seat, his head lolling above a broken neck. ‘The Shadeclaws of Tsukikage hope to one day entertain you again.’


                    The three remaining Altmer gathered up their dignity and left without another word. Although he hated to admit it, the Emperor was impressed with their composure. Their faces had remained blank and smooth throughout the entire ordeal, even as they walked past Bengakhi’s malevolent presence.


                    ‘It was an honour hosting you here, Your Majesty. A pity you are leaving so soon.’ Takarro reached out and tapped Orndil in the forehead. Black smoke issued from his palm and whisked into the corpse’s nostrils. The Altmer’s body shook, then slowly bent itself upright and began to walk stiffly out of the office.


                    ‘Sorry, old friend. I brought this mess to your doorstep,’ the Emperor craned his head to look at the shambling corpse, studying the reanimation process with detached interest. ‘Where are you sending him?’


                    ‘Out into the village, where he will dissipate into dust and fade into the wind. It’s not hygienic to leave bodies lying about.’


                    ‘Takarro-dro,’ Bengakhi rumbled. ‘You shouldn’t be wasting your strength with these theatrics. We have a crematorium for a reason.’


                    ‘It’s just one body,’ the Grandmaster dismissed, gesturing flippantly. ‘I used to hold several hundreds in thrall during my operations in the Void Nights. Those were the days…’


                    ‘I’ve never seen this form of necromancy before,’ Titus remarked. ‘Usually there’s a purplish glow, not black smoke, and the corpse starts groaning.’


                    ‘Ah, yes. The Shikabane no Kugutsu,’ Takarro’s eyes lit up. The Emperor knew that look. It appeared on his old teachers’ faces whenever they came across a passionate topic. ‘It translates roughly as “Corpse Puppetry”. This particular spell differs from Tamriellian necromancy as it doesn’t utilise the Magicka pool or the soul of the corpse at all. Instead, I force some of my own essence into the body to dominate and control it fully from within. Nowadays, I find that my concentration has waned, and my poor puppets no longer move with the grace they once did.’


                    ‘I see,’ the Emperor said, lying through his teeth.


                    ‘I doubt you wish me to bore you with more details about supposedly forbidden Akaviri techniques, however,’ the Grandmaster shook his head, his eyes focusing once more. ‘Ach, listen to me, babbling on like a senile old cat. Harrumph. I wish you a pleasant journey back to Cyrodiil, Your Majesty.’


                    ‘Thank you, old friend,’ Titus grunted, standing and feeling his own age in his back. ‘It was good to see you again.’


                    ‘Likewise, Your Majesty.’


                    ‘Before I leave for good, though,’ the Emperor turned back when he reached the door. ‘The young shinobi you spoke of who warned us of the Twinstinger’s plans… see to it that he’s justly rewarded, would you? The boy certainly deserves it.’


                    ‘Of course, Your Majesty.’ Takarro rose from his desk, plucking at his whiskers. ‘I already have something in mind.’


                    ‘I HAVE PRESENTS,’ Unaka hollered as she barged into the infirmary. Ambarro turned over in his bunk, flicking his ears in annoyance and muttering something about screaming daedra.


                    ‘Master, please,’ Harrow said in a pained whisper. ‘Diia and the dunce are still asleep.’


                    ‘Sorry.’ Unaka lowered her voice. ‘But I have presents!’


                    ‘Indeed, Master? For whom?’


                    ‘All three of you, but you, m’boy, get one extra. All right, since the other two are asleep, I’m going to leave these here…’


                    The golden-furred Po’ Tun stacked a full belt of kunai next to Diia’s bed.


                    ‘Eight new daggers.’ Harrow raised an eyebrow. ‘Diia would be delighted.’


                    ‘Grandmaster-ri thought it’d help, seeing that she’s been using the same two kunai all this time. And this here… is for Ambarro.’ Unaka set a six-foot-long bo next to the black Po’ Tun’s nightstand. The weapon was similar to the staff he was already using, but it was whittled out of a blackish wood and looked heavier. By the engravings on both ends, Harrow could tell that it was enchanted as well.


                    ‘That’s Kodi-dar’s rokushakubo,’ he said quietly. ‘Isn’t it, Master?’


                    ‘Durable beyond any mundane metalwork, and flexible enough to feel like an extension of muscle and bone.’ The instructor’s tone softened, and her usual cheer dropped by a few degrees. ‘He would have been proud to see his son wield it. As for you…’


                    Unaka’s voice softened some more as she reached out and ruffled her student’s hair. Then she dropped a pair of gloves in his lap.


                    Harrow picked up the dark taupe garments, marvelling at the thinness and lightness of the material. ‘Dreamcloth,’ he murmured, his brow furrowing. ‘This stitching and the streaks of gold embroidery… this is a Thalmor design.’


                    He tried slipping the gloves on and found them just a bit too loose around the fingers and thumbs. Unaka chuckled.


                    ‘Those are slender hands you have there if an elven woman’s gloves are still too big for you. Well, I suppose you’ll either grow into them or we’ll have to find a tailor. Goodness knows I can’t weave.’


                    His eyes widened, and he gazed down at his hands.


                    ‘Yes, these gloves belonged to Valesse-ko,’ Unaka said gently. ‘Possibly the only things she managed to leave for you.’


                    Harrow hugged the gloves to his chest, bowing his head. ‘Thank you, Master.’


                    ‘Thank Grandmaster-ri, he was the one who kept them,’ Unaka ruffled his hair again. ‘Now! I never liked getting teary-eyed, so I left this last gift from the Grandmaster until last. This one is for your exemplary performance in recovering vital information and safeguarding the security of the village. And what a gift it is. I’m already grinning about it. Here you go!’


                    She produced a sheathed sword, and Harrow sat up in interest. The blade was straight, unlike the usual curved Akaviri style, but still had the same thickness and wideness as a katana, judging by the width of the black scabbard. The design was known as a chokuto.


                    ‘Torako-jo told me how you cut half of the Twinstinger’s face off by infusing lightning into your katana – nice sword-work, by the way, you make me proud – but ended up shattering the weapon. Well, this is one weapon you never have to worry about breaking.’


                    Unaka curled her fingers around the hilt, and Harrow saw a curious symbol on the bottom – a coiled zigzag forming an S. ‘This chokuto belonged to a Shadowscale?’


                    ‘Not a Shadowscale,’ Unaka said. ‘The Shadowscale. This was one of the many swords of Tusok Shrouded-In-Rain, Shadowscale Grandmaster, who rivalled the best samurai of the Akaviri invasion force in his skill with the blade.’


                    She drew the sword slowly. There was no noise as it escaped the scabbard, and only a barely audible hiss as Unaka swung it around her in a circle. The blade itself was a brighter silver sheen than steel.


                    ‘Tusok-ri forged all of his own blades, and he forged them to a very high standard. This sword was fashioned originally for marine combat, so he wove spells into the metal – a combination of iron, silver, moonstone and ebony – as he worked it. It can withstand the harshest of conditions, so you can run an electric current through the core without having to worry about destroying the temper. Besides being completely impervious to chipping or rust, the blade also has a special property. Try pressing against it from the side.’


                    Harrow complied and blinked in surprise as he felt his fingers skid across the surface of the chokuto. It was the most slippery thing he had ever touched, and was nigh impossible to grip from anywhere other than the hilt.


                    ‘Almost completely frictionless,’ Unaka explained. ‘Tusok-ri kept underwater combat in mind as he crafted this sword. He wanted a weapon that could pass through water as easily as it did air. It’s good that you’re receiving this blade while still young and in the middle of your training as a kit, as it’s not easy to use without specialised training. I certainly couldn’t use it very effectively myself, considering the older, straight-bladed design of the chokuto. I’ve spent too much time with traditional katana!’


                    ‘Master, this…’ Harrow accepted his new blade, awed. He squinted at the Akaviri runes carved into the side of the scabbard. Sasayaki… the sword’s name is Whisper? Apt, considering how little noise it makes.


                    ‘I must go and thank Takarro-ri in person.’


                    ‘Forget that,’ Unaka snorted, dragging him out of the infirmary. ‘Grandmaster-ri is in a meeting with the Emperor right now, and he’s not receiving anyone else. You’re coming to the training field with me to break in your new partner.’


                    Jorra was tending his Jade Iris in the glasshouse when he heard a little squeak behind him. He set his watering jug down and turned to see Unaka peeking at him from behind the door. What a strange woman.


                    ‘Please, do come in, Unaka-ko,’ he called, waving at her. ‘How are our young friends doing?’


                    ‘They’re… ah, they’re doing fine,’ Unaka said, a stutter entering her voice. ‘Diia woke earlier than Ambarro did, and rushed off to bow at the Grandmaster for her new kunai. Such a sweet girl.’


                    ‘As well-mannered as always,’ Jorra smiled. ‘What about the boys?’


                    ‘I took Harrow to the training field to have him try out Sasayaki. Took me ten minutes just to convince him to spar with the blade, and even then he held back with his blows until I pushed him. The boy’s far too cautious for his own good.’


                    ‘I don’t think Harrow was worried about hurting you of all people with the blade, Unaka-ko,’ Jorra mediated. ‘I would take his reluctance as a sign of his respect as a student.’


                    ‘Pah, respect. We went six bouts, and he didn’t manage to mark me at all!’ Unaka grumbled. ‘Still, Sasayaki fits him better than it would most other shinobi. The slippery blade opens up more opportunities for creative swordplay, and your own Whispering Fang teachings also give him a certain agility in his slashes and thrusts.’


                    ‘You give me far too much credit, Unaka-ko,’ Jorra said humbly. ‘I’m sure it is your instruction that benefits his technique the most.’


                    ‘Speaking of technique, have you or Mokko-do given Ambarro bojutsu lessons on the side, Jorra-to?’ Unaka’s eyes took on a mischievous glint. ‘He’s become rather proficient with staves.’


                    ‘I will not deny it,’ Jorra chuckled. ‘Why, did he…?’


                    ‘Yes,’ Unaka giggled. ‘The moment he woke and found his new rokushakubo, he charged all the way down to the training field and challenged Harrow to a duel. I was never one to stand between two hot-blooded youngsters, so I left them there. It’s only been two hours since then, they’re probably still at it.’


                    Laughing himself, Jorra turned his attention back to the Jade Iris, feeding the plant a few additional drops of potion. Over the course of fifteen years, the seed had slowly grown into a branching shoot of deep green, stretching almost a foot into the air.


                    To his delight, he found little buds, emerald petals wrapped into a tight cone, beginning to form on the uppermost branches.


                    At long last, the flower was beginning to blossom.












10 Comments   |   The Long-Chapper and 6 others like this.
  • Caladran
    Caladran   ·  March 1, 2019
    I had the most cinematic vision of the scene where Takarro took care of the Thalmor with Corpse Puppetry. It's kinda creepy, but still amazing (Am I weird? xD) . And, yay the kits got presents! Unaka saying it like that made me smile.
  • Karver the Lorc
    Karver the Lorc   ·  May 24, 2017
    Sorry I got to this so late, Harrow. Anyway, great chapter. Liked the part about necromancy and also the Emperor's interest in it. After all, necromancy is sanctioned school of magic in Cyrodiil. Though I understand why Larious is so "thrown off" by it. W...  more
    • The Sunflower Manual
      The Sunflower Manual
      Karver the Lorc
      Karver the Lorc
      Karver the Lorc
      Sorry I got to this so late, Harrow. Anyway, great chapter. Liked the part about necromancy and also the Emperor's interest in it. After all, necromancy is sanctioned school of magic in Cyrodiil. Though I understand why Larious is so "thrown off" by it. W...  more
        ·  May 24, 2017
      I like to think that the Medes are tougher and grittier than most nobles, and wouldn't bat an eye at grotesque imagery. If I remember correctly all three known Mede Emperors had battlefield experience.
      • A-Pocky-Hah!
        The Sunflower Manual
        The Sunflower Manual
        The Sunflower Manual
        I like to think that the Medes are tougher and grittier than most nobles, and wouldn't bat an eye at grotesque imagery. If I remember correctly all three known Mede Emperors had battlefield experience.
          ·  May 24, 2017
        Well, the Medes are of Colovian descent. And since Colovians are like Nordic Imperials, it would make sense for them to be tougher and grittier.
      • Karver the Lorc
        Karver the Lorc
        The Sunflower Manual
        The Sunflower Manual
        The Sunflower Manual
        I like to think that the Medes are tougher and grittier than most nobles, and wouldn't bat an eye at grotesque imagery. If I remember correctly all three known Mede Emperors had battlefield experience.
          ·  May 24, 2017
        All three Mede Emperors? Well, first, I think that only Titus I. and Titus II. had battlefield experience, and Attrebus I. had an experience with combat and Umbriel. But because Titus I. was crowned in 4E 17, Attrebus was born in 4E18 and Titus II. was cr...  more
        • The Sunflower Manual
          The Sunflower Manual
          Karver the Lorc
          Karver the Lorc
          Karver the Lorc
          All three Mede Emperors? Well, first, I think that only Titus I. and Titus II. had battlefield experience, and Attrebus I. had an experience with combat and Umbriel. But because Titus I. was crowned in 4E 17, Attrebus was born in 4E18 and Titus II. was cr...  more
            ·  May 24, 2017
          Aaagh once again I embarrass myself. I only know of three Mede Emperors so I instantly thought of 'all three Mede Emperors'. Then I looked at the sentence again and applied kunai repeatedly to my empty skull; it's been two hundred years, OF COURSE THERE'S...  more
  • A-Pocky-Hah!
    A-Pocky-Hah!   ·  May 20, 2017
    I blame Larethor on Orndil's death. Fucker should've burned the letter the moment he read it than fulfill his sexual desires.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  May 20, 2017
    I feel sorry for the Thalmor in this chapter.  Which, lol, is something I never say.  
    • The Sunflower Manual
      The Sunflower Manual
      The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      I feel sorry for the Thalmor in this chapter.  Which, lol, is something I never say.  
        ·  May 20, 2017
      Technically, they were traitors to the Dominion... technically. >_>
      • The Long-Chapper
        The Long-Chapper
        The Sunflower Manual
        The Sunflower Manual
        The Sunflower Manual
        Technically, they were traitors to the Dominion... technically. >_>
          ·  May 20, 2017