After my training was completed the men from The Hand and I marched back toward Bartertown in relative silence. The morale among the men was good but they were unnaturally quiet. All of them had felt the impact of Rashomon upon them at the illusionary village whose rescue had been the great test of my circle advancement. I had used Rashomon’s power to inspire them all to resist the phantom horrors that were conjured by my trainer as part of the test. Though they all knew the rumors of Rashomon’s return, and that I claimed to be Rashomon’s one and only questor, the reality of it had not really set in for them before then. I don’t think that it was because they thought I was lying, the men of the order knew me and knew my reputation. No, I think it was more that the concept of a world with Rashomon was too much for them to easily envision, and so they simply had not. The world had been lacking Rashomon’s values for so long that their return was hard to imagine. They were all deeply contemplating what they had just experienced and witnessed. After feeling the unmistakable power that washed over them, there now could be little question as to the validity of Rashomon’s return.
I too had a lot to contemplate. Mablung Valdimir, my trainer and head of the order in Bartertown, had created an illusion unlike any I had ever seem. He had created a whole town, complete with villagers, corpses, horrors and the sites and sounds to go along with it. I had not even entertained the idea of what I had seen, heard and smelled as being false, an illusion. I would make sure to learn a lesson from that.
The sun was still bright as we made our way to the top of a large hill about a few miles from the outskirts of Bartertown. Mablung signaled for a rest at the top, as we made our way into a copse of trees. Here there were signs of a camp, and I suspected The Hand had stopped here many times before. There were three large tree trunks on the ground that had been chopped down in recent years and moved into a triangle. We made our way over to them and sat down heavily, each man ready for the long march to be done. There was a fire pit dug into the ground between the trunks, surrounded by stones blackened from use. The stones were dirty, and looked as though they had not been used in some time. I settled down next to Mablung on the end of one trunk.
Mablung pulled out a flask and offered me a drink. I took one, and tasted sweet elven wine. It was like drinking candy. He took a long drink for himself and offered me another, but I politely declined. The drink was too sweet.
Across from me sat an Ork named Malthu The Scarred. I would later learn his story. He was from a tribe of Scorchers on the Northern frontier of the Throalic kingdom and as a youth had been captured during a failed raid on a human town. Only he and one of his group survived the battle. Malthu and his fellow tribesman were imprisoned by Throal and forced to a year and a day of hard labor. His fellow tribesman, an older Scorcher adept, fell ill and died in the labor camp. After being released, Malthu had nowhere to go. He had heard of the Order of The Hand and went there hoping to find purpose. He was taken in by The Hand at the behest of Mablung, and had since earned a reputation as a reliable warrior.
I did not know all if this as we sat though, across from me I saw only an ork warrior with a long sword and hardened leather armor. I knew his name was Malthu, but that was all. He then looked at me, and spoke in a quiet but deep voice.
“I felt it. Rashomon’s power. That’s what it was, right?”
I nodded, a bit surprised that he had broken he relative silence.
“Yes. That is what Rashomon does. He leads us, guides us, and inspires us through his questors.” I said flatly.Malthu nodded slowly, then spoke again, his voice solemn.
“When the horrors were charging down the hill at us, I was afraid. All I could hear was their howling. I would have fought them just the same, but I feared them. Then you spoke, and I could hear your voice clearly. The power of Rashomon calmed me, and I felt the steel behind the words. The howling of the horrors no longer mattered to me, and I feared them no more.”
He looked down, then into my eyes, and continued. “As a child my mother told us many stories about the history of our tribe, and she said that all of our tribe leaders, from before the Scourge, were Questors of him. Only after Raggok appeared did they abandon him. I don’t know why, but I have remembered that part of the stories very well, and for reasons I do not understand, I think it is no accident that I was with you on this day. So, Lord Stilicho of Konigsberg, will you teach me the ways of Rashomon?”
I felt Rashomon stir in me as I answered.
“Yes. He wills it to be so, and so it shall be. When we return to Bartertown, I shall teach you all that I can in the time we have.”
Malthu smiled. Then another of the men spoke, a stocky human named Ulf the Red.
“How can we know it is Rashomon?It is said he went mad in the Scourge and became Raggok. If Raggok and and Rashomon are different, than where did Rashomon disappear to?”
Ulf’s words were not accusing, but those of one looking for answers and having a hard time adjusting to changes in what he thought was reality.
Ulf looked from ne to Malthu. “I too felt whatever power you have, and it was good, but that doesn’t prove anything. Is there nothing to say that Rashomon is anything more than Raggok?”
Malthu and Ulf looked at me, but Mablung jumped in before I could answer.
“What you say is true Ulf, but we know at least some part of Rashomon has returned, for one of his stars is once again in the night sky. It has not been seen since before the darkness of the Scourge. So, I believe that he has returned. I believe Stilicho has some part in it, and I am honored to be close to that. But I do not know that Raggok and Rashomon are separate, and if they are not, I fear there may be great risk in embracing Rashomon’s return.”
His words were as much to me as they were for the other two. All three men were looking at me to see how I would respond to this, and I felt the passion stir within me.
When I spoke, I did so with confidence. My words careful an measured.
“You are correct Mablug, there is great risk embracing Rashomon. Raggok has many name-givers following him, many questors and agents who would seek to kill the followers of Rashomon. They fear him, and rightfully so. Raggok’s followers fear that as Rashomon’s power grows, Raggoks will wane. Perhaps this is so, perhaps not. I do not know. Rashomon saw the decent into madness by Erendis and Vestrial and their followers at the hands of the horrors. Rashomon too was under heavy assault by the horrors, for his ideals were the very first targets of the greater horrors. Yet, Erendis and Vestrial fell first, and some speculate that Rashomon left the world instead, hoping that his departure would save his followers from being targeted and suffering a fate similar to the ill fated followers of maddened two. Whether Rashomon left of his own accord, or simply fell into madness like the others, I do not know. Some say that another being, likely a great horror, manifested itself into the void left by Rashomon’s departure. Then that being tricked many of his followers into believing that he, the creature now known as Raggok, was actually Rashomon. Regardless, most of the followers of Rashomon simply stopped following the Passion over time. Most of the others were corrupted by Raggok and descended into madness, not unlike the followers of the mad passions. A few of Rashomon’s most powerful questors held on, refusing the maddness of Raggok and refusing to give up on Rashomon’s ideals in spite of his absence. Those questors were targeted by the Horrors and by Raggok, and were hunted down and slain.
Now, Rashomon has come back and I am his agent. The fire I bear is one that Raggok cannot extinguish. It has started as an ember, and will spread, and Raggok, with all his power, cannot stop it. Soon the fire of Rashomon will burn all over Barsaive and as Rashomon’s following grows, Raggok will try to stop it."
They all stared at me. Nobody moved. After a few moments, Mablung finally spoke.
“And what will you do about this creature known as Raggok?”
“We, ”/campaign/heroesunchained/wikis/the-unchained" class=“wiki-page-link”>The Unchained, will deal with him when the time comes."
Mablung slowly nodded. If what you say is true, you will need many questors and olzim of Rashomon."
“Yes.” I replied. “And whether you believe it or not, you will be one of his questors.”
Mablung looked surprised, but said nothing. Ulf shook his head in disbelief. Then Malthu spoke up.
" Most name-givers live their lives and die for nothing. Only we lucky few have a chance to fight for, and be a part of something that is far bigger than ourselves. Rashomon’s return is a good thing for all of the world, as the elimination of whatever Raggok is. I am honored to be a part of this, in spite of the dangers."
And so he was.
What was an ember had turned into a small flame.