Campaign of the Month: June 2012
Kumori - Journal Entry 17
“So the wheel is broken,” Sukai said with a deep frown of concentration, “and you need to fix it.”
The sun had crested for the day, never having gotten nearly as high above the horizon as any of the companions would have liked, and was now beginning its downward arc. It shone brightly but without much warmth, and a lack of clouds presaged a bitterly cold night ahead. The road wended its way across the Kushari plateau, the land rolling in gentle hills covered in scrub and long grass. As he answered, Kumori fought down a pang of envy for his Half-Orc swordbrother, who seemed untouched by the thinness of the air. Kumori still had not entirely acclimated, and though the ride was far from taxing in and of itself, breathing still felt laborious. “Yes,” he replied simply.
Sukai’s frown deepened. “But to fix it you need to break it first?”
They traveled in silence as the incongruity sunk in. Blue Beak rode ahead of them, bundled heavily against the cold, black eyes alert for signs of ambush. They could see a small caravan ahead, and the terrain all around was wide open, but the Tengu had a touch of Dorrak’s paranoia, and his hands never moved far from the hilts of his several weapons. Behind them, Ian and Smriti spoke animatedly about her home, especially what little Ian knew of the land’s history since Smriti had been swallowed by the Impossible Palace. Kumori would have liked Kushar, if not for the altitude; it had a rugged, barren kind of majesty that appealed to him. Otos brought up the rear of their party, watching the countryside like Blue Beak but without the same level of intensity. Sukai finally nodded, slowly and thoughtfully.
“Like a blade that’s been mistempered; you can’t really do anything with it, and have to start over again.”
Kumori smiled at the analogy. “Yes, very much like that.” He had become more comfortable with analogy over the course of the trip upriver with the phallus. Although Eulemachos’ kind of religion lacked… propriety? Dignity? Neither one fit, but dignity probably came closer. Though it lacked dignity, Eulemachos clearly received aid from Zheenkeef, who the Ionians called Dionysus, and who was obviously somehow attached to the phallus.
Kumori thought for a moment about the way that last phrase sounded, and tried to think of a less… visual way of describing it, but none occurred to him.
In any event, the journey upriver had made him realize that the differences between the gods were cosmetic. Zheenkeef/Dionysus were the faces the westerners attached to Uzume no Miko, the goddess of dawn, revelry and the dance, who had caused such a ruckus tearing off her clothes that Amerasu stepped out of her cave and restored light to the world. It was during the consecration of the shrine of the phallus that Kumori had come to truly accept that the gods of the Tree were one and the same as the kami of his homeland.
The Gifts promised by the western gods had bothered him. Resurrection for the faithful had seemed itself a perversion of the wheel not unlike what Kiyomori and his ilk had done to Kaidan. Souls that passed into the beyond should be left to go their way; though he had witnessed the return to life of no less a friend than Dorrak, it had seemed to fly in the very face of his mission to restore the cycle of karma.
So it was that he came back around to his conversation with Sukai. The wheel was warped in his homeland, unbalanced by the vanity and greed of Kiyomori. Souls had to be allowed to pass along the cycle of rebirth as their karma dictated. The Shogun and his undead lords had corrupted the wheel to guarantee their station eternally, and thus other souls were trapped. The undeath promised by Kiyomori’s court was a trap, in which the soul was restrained within the body like a prison. But the Gifts, he had realized, were not of the same nature. With the Gifts of the Tree, if one died by violence or mishap one could freely choose to move on to the next stage of reincarnation, or else be reborn in the same body to bring balance to one’s karma or complete a task left undone. When one’s natural lifespan had run, one would not be given the choice, for then one had to journey on the wheel. The understanding had fallen upon him during the consecration ceremony, and he had felt his whole being suffused with light. The weight of doubt and confusion had lifted from his shoulders, and he had given thanks to the Enlightened One for his mercy and his love for his children. Remembering the moment as he rode, Kumori ran his fingers over the beads of his rosary and smiled to himself.
“Yes, my friend,” he said quietly to Sukai, “we must start over again.”