Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Local 506, Miyoshi Japan
July 10, 1545
Departing with the aid of darkness afforded extensive armaments. Blades, projectiles, explosives, these are decisions not normally on my mind during day light operations when I approach an iron clad target with nothing more than fisherman's rags covering my pounding chest and bare hands idly bluffing their intentions. No, on this night I would not worry to disarm my foe as a means for a weapon, I need only muse from which pocket death would be pulled.
The cobblestone pathway wound me to the center of town just as the masters stick drew in the earth hours earlier as our assignments and instructions for the evening’s raid were given. The clashing of sticks and swords distantly on my right confirmed that indeed the master's plan to alert the imperial guard of skirmish came to pass as members of our order, A Rooster For The Masses and The Loners, besieged the magistrates guard houses at the edge of the town. Approaching a cross street I became a shadow as guards clamored past and on to the fray below. Kneeling in silence I peered one-hundred yards down the path to see A Rooster For The Masses holding ground mid street and rapidly upending guard after guard with deliberately placed arrows. Meeting any who attempted flee with a fury of katanas, The Loners was the locked gate which held the guards within their burning hell. A perfectly executed strike, but alas, the guards within the guard house were not the target of the night, they were the unfortunate means to an end as this action would surely now succor the high protectors of the magistrate to the defense of the palace, the location of which lies at the end of my path. All that the master explained would occur was now in action. The crossing now clear, I glided through the disorientingly shadowless night towards the gates of the palace to ready my assignment.
Approaching the courtyard I paused in the outline of a tree and watched the Samurai General address Glenn Boothe, the Magistrate Lord, before leading his armored warriors within the gates. Known for his supernatural timing, rhythmic speed, and merciless delivery, the Samurai General's face is known to few for he is only ever seen in battle and in battle he is only ever seen wearing a helm with the emblazoned mark of a dragon upon the face visor. His ascent to the high militia authority is just as much a mystery as his persona and he earned the target of the master due to his overly public policy to unite and govern the boroughs of Durham, Chapel Hill and Carrboro, a political state which the master has deemed unacceptable. His name is Rat Jackson , and it was this name ornately scribed in the ink of a quill pen on the rolled parchment handed to me by the master. I quietly slipped past the palace door guard who stood under the crude 506 marker and assumed a vantage point in the shadows near the central riser from which the magistrate makes his addresses. This night would be Rat Jackson's last battle.
The samurai led the magistrate and his subjects into the riser room and calmly directed his warriors to the perimeter. To the panic of the members in the room the samurai only showed steadfast conviction and murmured, "Shortly my friends, shortly." Knowing the next action would be from that of my counterpart Red Collar, whose assignment was the magistrate, I maintained my stealth and meditated. The magistrate stood defiantly in the center of the riser and drew confidence from the long sharp steel in the scabbard of the sandalwood armored samurai standing at the edge of the platform, a confidence that was ill derived.
Moments later, with a thin katana held parallel with his body Red Collar dropped from the ceiling swiftly dispatching the magistrate as the momentum of his drop drove the blade deep through the spine. Remarkably quick, the emblazoned Rat Jackson met the attacker at the floor and with a single flash of steel rendered the dark figure into a mosaic of parts painted in red. Red Collar was to be out as quickly as he was in but in this final departure from the plan, he went out differently than was expected. Seemingly unaffected by the slaughter of Glenn Boothe, the magistrate he was blood-sword to protect, Rat Jackson sheathed his blade and slowly turned his visor toward the shadows I kneel concealed in, stealth was no longer a redeeming skill here.
Leaping to the riser I engaged close quarters with the samurai to shorten his ability for full scale long parrying and to lesson the leverage of his steel. The room was a blur with motion. Squires and clergymen scrambled for doors while some stood in shock wearing the mixed blood of the magistrate and of Red Collar, but Rat Jackson and I were suspended in our stance, one gaze locked to the other, I waited while he waited.
The first move was he as his lead hand gripped the sheathed steel, hips rotated downward and right with shoulders lowered. I sensed the all too familiar coiling of a samurai sheathed shortcut strike. My mind flowed to exercise where again and again the master's wooden shaft struck in forms of samurai kill blows until reflexes countered without thought. Following the impulse I instinctively inverse mirrored the motion in a grappling stance to counter. My steel claw-fitted left hand rose slightly to my hip to seize the momentum of the blade just as its stride was to begin and my right hand remembered the feel the cold bone handle of a shiv fettered to my back, a shiv which would rip forth in a single motion and thrust just below the rim of his helm through the base of his skull, a move so ingrained by training that the muscle movements involved even changed the way I moved my clothes over a washing board or how my axe struck a block of wood.
Through the cold iron mask his pierced eyes met mine for a fleeting moment, and then in the flash of a cold breath our motions opened with the fury of a high mountain blizzard. My claw felt the strike of the blade and a firm pressure suppressed its movement, my right arm grasped the handle of the shiv and retracted like a viper with fangs exposed. Thought became reality as my motions flowed and my mind closed in for the kill, but then happened the only thing that the master did not explain would happen.
My eye caught the most intriguing sight as the samurai’s robe folded back momentarily to reveal a leather spike quiver strapped to his ribs. Spikes being a weapon of stealth and covertness struck me as an inquisitive item for a samurai whose legitimate authority and ordained code found no use for any but the standard weapon of choice, the long steel tachi sword, which was always strapped like a holy badge of honor to their waist. Less inquisitive and more disconcerting was the notice that the first loop of four spike quiver was empty, and that his right hand no longer gripped the handle of his blade but rather drew a line from his shoulder to my neck.
My right hand still in its coiled position but with fingers now open and no longer holding the shiv, and with the claw in my left now releasing its hold on the blade, my midnight black tunic became warm and wet about the neckline. Many times I have seen the life spilling from a foe and it became an eerily familiar and unphasing instance to know that it was now spilling forth from me. A leg sweep rendered me to the ground where I became embraced by the all too familiar death locks. A knee in the groin paralyses from the waist down, hooked thumb in the soft tissue of the arm pit forces the body to retract and curl. Unable to extend, once embraced by these holds, they are to last until your final breath.
As if to honor my dying wish the samurai allowed my quivering hand to operate the visor of his helm revealing the true nature of my opponent. Sick became my thoughts upon seeing his face. Dying in battle has always been my expectation, dying at the hands of a deceiver was only expected for my foes. His masterful anticipation of the attack, effortless dispatching of Red Collar, the uncanny counter of my assassins thrust, and the tell-tale possession of a quiver full of darkness now drew a cold and bloody grimace from my lips as I stared long into the eyes of the one whose wooden shaft broke across my torso in hundreds upon hundreds of sparring matches within the secluded dojo of our order. Broken and bewildered, I spared a breath and into his eyes I asked, "Master, why?"
From the back of the crowd a shout answered my question "He has defeated the assassin, all hail our new lord!" The final lesson from my master was to be that death has many forms and mine is as a lamb whose sacrifice furthers the interest of the farm. With vision and tactics superseding my own understanding of purpose, this is why he is the master.
Paralyzed by his grip I closed my eyes in meditation, eager to meet what lies next with attention and readiness. I savored my breaths and thought of those who went the same way in the grip of my own hands. I was not at peace nor was I at unrest, I was in acceptance. With my last practice of mind over matter I began to numb the pain and focus only on my thoughts. So engulfed in the clouds I became that I nearly missed the release of the masters crippling knee as it lifted off my hip by the bulging crowd forcing in to see the dying assassin. I almost didn't notice the hand releasing the spike in my throat just before a grind and a twist could severe the artery. The assassin's assassin was pushed, ever so slightly, out of position to immobilize my movement. Old habits indeed die hard and plucking loose the spike and placing a finger upon the incision to cease loss of blood I assumed the chance to retreat. Jumping to my feet I lit the fuse of a black powder frag grenade on a torch next to the riser and evaporated from the room just as the smoke choked the air. Indeed this night crowned new lords on both sides, one into the disorientingly shadowless darkness, and the other into the revealing and compromising light. As I escaped across the cobblestones, I vowed to return to my patrol, in secret and in force. --Carrboro Ninja
Rat Jackson's next public appearance will be August 29th at The Cave in Chapel Hill. View all of their profiles here:
A Rooster for the Masses
at 2:39 PM