Kayarl - The Age of the Cog
an honor-bound, eagle-riding kobold samurai
Player: Nick McNamara
Alignment: Lawful Good
Ryu is short and wiry, even by kobold standards, with a sickly grey pallor to his skin and large pale blue eyes, but is exceedingly strong and tough through force of will and faith in his clan. He has killed great beasts, leaving his chest, arms and back riddled with scars, and years of flight through wintry mountains have smoothed and dulled his scales. He wears the blue and white armor of his clan, adorned with fog and mountain motifs and wields a small, similarly colored buckler emblazoned with the symbol of his god. A large helm depicting a snarling draconic face under a horned cap is the face he presents to his enemies, as the expression of the soft-spoken, quiet kobold warrior beneath is neither intimidating nor powerful. He bears three weapons of war: a naginata trailing silk swathes out into the sky behind him is his primary tool, but he also carries a human shortbow of masterful quality, won in a campaign against the raiders of the north, and a katana passed down to him by the bleeding form of his last commander, who killed himself in dishonor. The true power of this soldier lies in his mount, a large, pearly white raptor who has accompanied him through thick and thin for more than half of his life. He calls it Ho-o, King of Raptors, and together they barrel forth from behind clouds, hacking expertly away at the ranks of enemies laid out to attack their home. His most prized possession is tucked away in the breast pocket of his kimono robes when at home and in his gauntlet on the field: a lotus flower, enchanted to never wither with age.
CLASS (Saumrai / Two-Handed Weapon Fighter) 7
AC 24 ( + 6 armor, + 2 dex, + 1 size, + 4 natural, + 1 deflection)
Masterwork Naginata: Atk + 15, Dmg 1d8 + 15 (x4) (power attacking for 2/6)
Masterwork Composite ( + 5) Longbow: Atk + 10, Dmg 1d6 + 5 (x3)
Masterwork Katana: Atk + 13, Dmg 1d8 + 11 (18-20×2) (power attacking for 2/6)
+1 Brigadine: AC +6, CP -3
STR 20, DEX 14, CON 22, INT 17, WIS 16, CHA 17 (66 point buy)
FEATS weapon groups (heavy blades, polearms, basic, bows, spears & lances, firearms), mounted combat, mounted archery, weapon focus (polearms), weapon specialization (polearms), power attack, improved natural armor (1), lunge, step up, .
SKILLS Acrobatics +3, Bluff +6, Climb +7, Craft (painting) +8, Diplomacy +10, Handle Animal +8, Intimidate +8, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +7, Knowledge (engineering) +7, Knowledge (planes) +5 Knowledge (history) +12, Knowledge (nobility) +10, Perception +12, Ride +12, Sense Motive +11, Swim +3
FORTITUDE + 12, REFLEX + 5, WILL + 6
CMB + 11
EQUIPMENT: masterwork naginata, masterwork composite longbow (+5 str), masterwork katana, +1 brigadine armor, studded leather barding, 4 potions of gravity bow, 60 arrows, empty bucket, 50 ft. silk rope, iron pot, flint & steel, fireaxe, bedroll, blanket (winter), whetstone, masterwork tools (craft painting), flag standard of house tsubasa, fishing tackle, pipe & tobacco, several sheets of rice paper, ink & quill, noble’s outfit, enchanted lotus flower, exotic military saddle.
(TOTAL WEIGHT = 75) GP = 1437
Roc Animal Companion
AC 19 ( + 3 armor, + 4 dex, – 1 size, + 3 natural)
2 Talons + 9 (1d6 + 6 + grab)
Bite + 9 (1d8 + 6)
Studded Leather Barding: AC +3, CP -1
STR 22, DEX 19, CON 13, INT 4, WIS 13, CHA 11
FEATS Flyby Attack, Armor Proficiency (Light), Wingover, Multiattack
SKILLS Acrobatics +3, Bluff +6, Climb +7, Craft (painting) +8, Diplomacy +10, Handle Animal +8, Intimidate +8, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +7, Knowledge (engineering) +7, Knowledge (history) +12, Knowledge (nobility) +12, Perception +12, Ride +12, Sense Motive +11, Swim +3
FORTITUDE +12, REFLEX +5, WILL +6
CMB 15 grab)
When I was born, the mists were dragons. Winding, circling, flowing, they reared and smoked and whispered wise truths from the first light of dawn. Flowers caked with frost sat vigil in the morning blue, and the mountains howled silently, dark towering teeth. The Onis were out, breaking ropes, taking the sick and lighting fires. Mischief was the draw that month, for the signs in the naked black void spelled unluck and misfortune. I was born, however, when the mists were dragons to fix the dice and switch the coin. A dragon is luck. I was born under a dragon, when the mists were winding, circling, flowing, smoking, whispering, and my name is dragon, that I might fix the dice and switch the coin, and bring luck to the clan.
Ryu was small when he was born. An elder could hold him in the palm of one hand. I remember they wrapped him in dark blankets to keep him warm from the falling snow. He was sickly too. They thought he died many times, but he always awoke whimpering and choking on the crisp air. He hated fire; it scared him. He would cry when we brought him near an open flame, even though it kept the cold away, and preferred the light of morning. It seemed he was most peaceful on the brink of unconsciousness, in the blackness and quiet chill that brings sickness. He was a pale bluish green, like the faded turquoise, and his eyes were large, pale and sickly. Nothing about him conveyed power or strength, but I could tell there was tenacity within those scales like none other. Not fire or zeal, but indomitability, like darkness or cold, or wind. I, his sister, took care of him as our father drank the rice wine and our mother weaved for the village here in these quiet mountains. I was six years older than him, but was blessed with cleverness and intelligence beyond my child’s form, and so could count and scribe and take care of Ryu. Our family was poor, and poor in quality of character, but not, I think, poor in talent. My father stank of the wine but could calm animals with grunt and touch, which he would bequeath to my baby brother in years to come. My mother was cold, rigid, and bone white as death itself, but was precise and sharp like the flickering needle in her hand, and such cool logic would be my baby brother’s when he took up the mantle of adulthood. I am just a girl of the mountains, but I love the light of morning, and I have faith in our god and clan. Ryu got that from me.
In the spring, when I was 10, my sister was married to a silk-worm farmer from the southern cities. I would get up every day and go out into the forest. The cherry blossoms would fall through the slanting light, and the babbling of the creek would accompany flashes of gold from the reflected sun. Motes of pollen would tickle my nose and make me sneeze. I would walk over the warm grasses by the rice patties in those woods, far away from home into the mountains. I would watch fish dance in pools and wet my scales as I went running through the mist cast by waterfalls. I would riddle shapes in the clouds that drifted lazily through the paths between the peaks above me. One day I was fashioning a pole from a shot of bamboo, for use in knocking fruit from trees, for I had become quite lost and was wandering for weeks looking for home, and saw a maiden bathing in the waters of a quiet river nearby, at the foot of the Eidirock mountain. She had iridescent yellow scales that I knew were a sign of a southern clan, and possibly of royalty due to the reddish accents around her eyes and on her claws. She was very beautiful, but I continued observing wide eyed because a creature was slipping out of the water behind her. Slightly taller, fishlike and horned, a kappa was about to attack the lady. I squeaked in fear and stumbled out into the water; she shrieked, turning to look at me and sped to begin gathering up her clothes. The kappa seized her by the ankle and dragged her underwater. I hefted my bamboo staff and pierced the water’s surface, striking at the kappa to defend the maiden. She would get her head above water long enough to gasp before the snarling, cackling beast would drag her under again. I finally abandoned the pole and dove under the surface to wrestle the kappa away, even though I was small, even though I was sickly and puny and young and my scales were dull. I struggled with it under the water, and struck out wildly with feet and fist and teeth. Finally, in a pool of blood I arose to see the maiden gingerly touching a now broken, dark eye socket, wincing in pain. That beautiful face had been smashed, and she looked sad and stupid in that one eye. I knew the kappa had not done it, for pieces of bamboo shoot were splintered around the eye socket. Crying tears of fear and shame I apologized to the maiden. She stared at me, quizzically, powerfully and painfully in tandem then kissed my scratched forehead, gathering up her clothes and telling me that I had saved the oldest daughter of an Emperor, who was on a spirit quest in the mountains as was an old tradition, and that the Dynasty of house Tsubasa had my thanks. Stunned, I stood chest deep in the red waters and watched her go. I awoke hours later in the night, having fallen unconscious and drifting to the riverbank. Dusky red light split through the western trees and for the first time I thought to follow it, drawn by the promise of wonder and adventure. I parted with this thought and stood. I had no idea where I was, and night was coming fast. If only I could find my direction, then I would be fine. A nearby cliff promised to divulge this, so I trudged upstream to a lake at the foot of the cliff, and then grasped the stone, bathed in yellow from the water and violet from the sky, beginning the climb. After many hours, I made it to an outcropping and turned to perceive my whereabouts. I could see the twinkling of a village far off to the east, nestled in the bosom of two mountains. The clear night afforded me a view of the mountains and stars unlike any other, for I was far above the trees. The gorgeous temptress above me, the place of Faxilnon and my people’s greatest wish made my heart weep with displeasure and awe. The experiences of the last day coalesced and I was lost within vision and dream. Standing there, great shapes of serpents, board and dragons reared their heads from the sea of trees and from between mountains. Plumes of silent fire and bursts of color flooded the dark valley as the stars fell with brilliance as drops of water might sink into a lake with a light rain. The storm of paint and light occupied my entire soul, and then faded to still grey as one solitary shape glided to me from beyond it all. The great white raptor before me met my milky eyes with its obsidian ones and we were soldered together as two metals, and I knew we were indeed two metals; weak apart and now tenacious and strong, even if not outwardly so. Without a word I clambered up upon the eagle’s back and we flew off into my future. I would return to my people as a man, a savior, and a true kite-amon, for Faxilnon had blessed me with wings below me to carry me aloft to glory.
I again met the boy who saved my life in the Djinshi forest eight years after he had done so. I was the empress now, for my father had died of overeating, sickness and age. The twenty six year old woman in mirrors before me was proud, strong and stern, and the drooping eye served only to intimidate and frighten. I had no time for love or romance; I was clever, sharp and witty and had an eye only for business and the economy of my mountains. I ignored the trappings and paints of my rank for simpler clothes to reflect the changing winds of time. I wanted to appear to the western Varisian empire as confident and up to date with the clocks and gears of their age. After all, they had forgotten in their self-serving pig-headedness who had actually invented the black powder, the fuse, the firework. I would smile at their human ambassadors and greet them with ivory and jade and ply them with soups and wild goose until they left, then spit in the place where they had stood. Silly man-folk can’t see farther than the rocks they were born to live between, while the sky people of my eastern home had the scales to see far and wide. The first real difficulty I faced came suddenly as a spark on oil, and thus the orcs of the northern mountains were preparing to invade us. The earth people. The mud folk. Ah, but we were dragons with our scales, and luck and fire would serve us well against the slow thinking clans of the north, but it was a Kite-amon who had rallied them, a ronin who’s name is taint upon the tongue, who’s perversions drew him away from my service, and this required a champion of equal magnitude to combat. So lucky then, that a dragon walked into my palace bringing tidings of the plague in his home. The small jade kobold before me was sickly and weak, but scarred from fighting off beasts in the woods he grew within. He was wiry and his scales were dull, but neither of these things kept him from being tough as steel. His raptor, his Sahai Izu Hyen Zadji, his Heron of the Mountain Creek rested as tall as a man out on the balcony facing the mountains. My guards were awe stuck and fearful at this new development. Little 18 year old Ryu stood before me wearing wicker armor and carrying a poor quality sword and spear, but a fine bow. I looked down at him and we knew instantly who the other was. His cloudy eyes grew wide in surprise and my unblemished one sparkled with the same. I would be dead in the arms of a river spirit if this punkish little lizard hadn’t saved me. He had come as swiftly as he could upon Sahai to give word of the sickness in his home. His father and mother, long dead, were not his concern: he loved all the people in that valley and did not want to see any of them hurt. I found as he shuffled before me in shame that he had never been apprenticed, had never learned a trade, and had never married. He was a warrior to serve his kin-folk, and nothing more. His mastery of the skies provided foresight and defense. He had turned back spirits and demons and other dark beasts coughed forth and slinking down from the dark peaks around him. He was talented with the spear and sword, and the harmony of combat he experienced with his mount had made him a local legend, but of course not legendary enough to warrant my attention. I sent immediate aid to the people of that valley, and many were cured by my royal healers and clerics. He promised service to me if I would keep them similarly safe. His pledge of fealty was swift and without regret. He was confident, if shy and honorable, if a little small. I welcomed him into my house as a samurai, as a knight, and provided him training and men and lands then let him loose upon the tengu tribes of the north a year later as they approached for war. He was christened Tsubasa Ryuunosuke, which means the dragon herald of my dynasty and clan, Tsubasa, or the herald of the dragon of Tsubasa. This reward for his service to me years ago was great indeed, but I was happy to give it to my knight in shining armor, even if he was puny and small and shy. Not all can be as great as the statues of old.
I was trained by Kensai Sablescales, a famous warrior samurai of days past. He bore many scars from his lifetime of battle in service to his clan-hold, and his milky white scales matched the pale cataract in his eyes, for he was getting on in years, but was not brittle from age, but strong and sharp like aged rice wine. His body might have been decayed but his wealth of experience in combat gave him a clarity that surpassed the physical and made him a terrifying combatant even in that advanced stage of his life. His preferred weapon in youth had been the katana, but he now needed a more protective style and so mastered the sweeping defense made possible by the shaft of a naginata. His ancestral sword, though, remained with him at all times, fixed to a sword belt of fine silk, studded with the scintillating scales of those criminals he had slain. He was stern like rock, and moved like smoke, and battered against my defenses with the rhythm of a wave. He was my mentor, my tutor, my priest. He stripped me down like a broken farming wagon and rebuilt me as a war machine, crafted such that I could devastate on the field of battle. My capability for aerial combat opened such strategic possibilities that his quiet mind was set with unrest, and this chance to design a soldier like none other was what, I think, made him take me on as his first standalone pupil in decades. Sablescales made me cunning, efficient and strong where I had not been, and tempered me with faith in my empress and the dynasty of Tsubasa. I lived for a year like a wax puppet, beaten around and shaped by this ancient artist until his death and his giving of the katana and belt to me, and was finally drawn from my previous life like the phoenix from ash, blazing out onto the field of battle with a ruthless fire upon me, and with a legion below my wings I was carving my way north, to the enemy I had never met, and who I knew little about, other than he was my enemy, and so he would be killed. Perhaps I would be named as my master one day, for Sablescales was given to him by those under his command for the waves of black blood that caked his scales in youth left him like coal, and all the better for it, for a legend grew around him from the mantle of dried life water, as I hoped would one day grow round me and my small, wide eyed, frightened soul, now hidden away behind the flag of my country, the katana of my dead mentor, and the mask of a samurai.
When the dark shadow of the eagle passed above me on the battlefield, it was like a sprinkling of holy water on my head, and I could feel the luck that came with it. Whitewings was terrifying to all who saw him, but the sight of him gave the soldiers cause for celebration and fervor, for it meant we could not lose. I hacked and cut my way through the orcish ranks with new vigor as I heard the screaming raptor, and watching the bodies of the enemy fall under his arrows was revivifying. On the ground, he was unparalleled with the naginata, keeping the much larger orcs cowering under its blurred arcs. He was a titan amongst us, brutal in his conquest for his fated enemy, the Ronin from the north. The orcish lands were scarred and dark, with burnt husks of forests and little water or food to be found, but Whitewings never failed to lead us to safety with his all-seeing eyes in the sky. We were unconquerable with him, and I, a lowly foot soldier, could have bene ten kite-amon beside him. He inspired us, even when he was not around, for tales of his deeds spread through the ranks like fire through oil. When he called me to his tent for a commendation, you must therefore realize exactly how stunned I was. As I entered and saw him feeding his eagle, he turned to me and looked up into my bloodied face. He was so small, I would have never known. He pinned a sash upon my armor and made me an officer for the orcs I had routed in the last battle. He told me I was an inspiration to the troops. I was shocked by this, and told him that it was only stories of his greatness that inspired me to do what I did, and the stories I told them were of his deeds, not my own. He smiled weakly and told me that faith is like rain on a tree: it starts at the top, and drips down through the upper branches to the lower leaves, to the knots and the earth and the roots. He told me he was inspired by our cause, just as I was inspired by him, and the men were inspired by me. It was like the branches of a tree, and I was a part of a chain greater than myself, as he was. I left the tent filled with that wisdom and would give it to those I elevated in rank in years to come. When I was a general, defending my home, I would be as Whitwewings, and would inspire deeds to inspire a telling. The drops of rain would pass on.
We fought for three years before we came to the Ronin’s stronghold. It was a chess game with him, and I believed he was the superior player. With his barbarian horde he was still tactically superior to my army of trained faithful soldiers. He would have to be quite a combatant to gain the service of so many orcs, quite the mastermind to keep the campaign going for so long in his favor, and the whole time he would be drinking up stories of me and preparing himself to face a warrior that did not exist. If he had not surrendered to the stories of me, he must have been prepared to fight those stories of me, and I was by no means the samurai of legend in those stories. He would crush me. When we finally did meet in the courtyard of his mountain castle, the ground razed by our bombardment and a battle raging around us, he led me away into the woods with guerilla ingenuity. Before I knew it, I was alone with him in the blazing smoke of charred trees. We drew our swords and prepared for battle. His tarnished armor was no match for my tempered blade, but I was never able to land a hit. He bobbed and moved with such grace and agility that he couldn’t have been wearing such heavy plate. His katana twitched like a bee under my guard and nicked me again and again until I was riddled with cuts to my legs and arms. He was superior to me in every way. How could someone so filled with dishonor be so strong? The only fire I knew that could drive such passion in combat was honor. As he lashed away at me, I began to wonder if he was truly as evil as they said. This break in my faith allowed him to beat me back further, and as his swings became more forceful I began to feel the full strength behind the blows. He had disarmed me, now backed me up against a dead tree, now wrenched my helmet from my head. I was beaten and I knew it, and barely had time to draw Sablescales’ katana before he came at me with a swing that could shatter rock. I was stunned and jarred from the force of it, and a large chip of my sword spun down into the ground. Suddenly, and without warning, as I felt my death upon me, he stopped. A lotus flower was drifing lazily through the smoke to our left, and we both looked at it. I suddenly understood his fire. He had been wronged and there was his hatred, and the orcs had taken him in, and there was his strength, and I had burnt down his only home left, and there was his fury, and something beautiful had survived my onslaught, and there was his pause. I could tell tears were behind his mask as he looked at that flower, spinning in the heat, and he was pining for peace and a better time. I was filled with sorrow, and gazed with him. Then Sablescales, and the orcs, and the empress flooded my mind and my country moved my body without my volition. I kicked him between his legs, and bashed in his helm, and he fell back stunned and blinded. I took his sword from him and cut off his head in one motion. It was ended. I picked up the flower, now splashed with my enemy’s blood, and wrapped in in my silks and left the woods, filled with dishonor at my dirty tactics, filled with shame at killing him, and filled with uncertainty of my future. The only thing clear to me was the only thing that needed to be: I was a samurai in the service of house Tsubasa, and I would go where they wanted me to. I would carry the lotus with me as a symbol of my betrayal of justice, and the memory of my adversary, who I would love and cherish till my dying day would be upon me like my scales, and this was a pact I made as I left those woods, and it shall never be broken. I should be the ronin now, but am not. It is my dishonor, and my cross to bear.
Ryuunosuke was requested to be transferred to the command of the Versarrian Empire, and the council and Empress sent him as such, sad to see him go but smiling at the thought of the reconnaissance he could perform in the Versarrian cities. He would bring back troop deployments and information on the country’s weaknesses, which he would tell them and would give them strength if ever was broke out. He was a too, an instrument of whomever needed him. The boy in the woods was buried under the armor of the samurai; the wide, sad eyes could not be seen behind the wings of his bird; the man was wreathed in the legend, and the dragon had been tamed. Luck, it seemed, was in service to the strong.