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Hemlock Knoll

It was a small hamlet of trappers and craftsmen, hardly worth naming.  Three generations of five families lived here, secluded from the world in a thick grove of trees.  They preferred it this way, keeping to their solitude and honing their trades to sell in the large cities.  It was a quiet life, a simple life, but the people here were happy.  It was called Hemlock Knoll for the formation of the land, a small isolated hill covered in hemlocks.

Local tales, if the old timers were to be believed, was that the hamlet was founded by a warrior in ages past.  Generations ago, he defeated a great demon with a magic sword, bringing glory to his king and the people, but he grew weary of the endless battles and the fame that came with it.  He sought to bring balance to his life, and so he left his king behind and took his retainers into the wilderness to lead a life of a simple craftsman.  His children, and his children's children, and those of his retainers kept to his wishes for the most part, and Hemlock Knoll has remained small and secretive.

Legend tells that this warrior was entombed on the windward side of the knoll in a structure the he and his family had constructed in the distant past.  All those born in Hemlock Knoll were interred in this tomb, and in the deepest chamber, legend tells, was the ashes and regalia of the nameless founder.


Something Spooky

Some weeks ago, the people of the hamlet sent out a call for help to a man of spiritual prowess.  An exorcist, or a medium, anyone who could speak with the dead because there was a disturbance in the tomb.  When their latest elder passed the people of the village performed his funeral rites, burned his body, and descended into the tomb to place his urn in the spot laid out by his forefathers for him.  While carrying his remains, a great spiritual force cried out from the darkness deep within, an otherworldly roar and the scent of rotting blood filled their ears and their noses.  They heard the sound of steel on stone, but none save a small boy saw the source.  A ghostly swordsman, wielding a curved blade.

They dropped the urn and ran from the tomb, fearing that the ghost of their ancestor had come back seeking bloodshed once more.

@Tenkai Matsumoto

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There weren't many that could call themselves "exorcists" on the continent of Lagrimosa. Being the central hub of magitechnological advancement on this star, matters of the spirit and other things deemed too far into the realm of superstition were more a thing of the common folk than of those trained in practical use of magic. Most men who took up such a moniker often proved to be charlatans peddling minor charms and cheap hedge magic that lowborn natives would be none the wiser of. It was no surprise then that a haunting with far more legitimacy than a mere case of bad luck attributed to the supernatural was something that drove away any prospective "holy men". But with so few around who knew of the Shadowlands and were actually capable of properly dealing with an honest-to-gods haunting, cases such as these managed to stand out to the one known as Tenkai Matsumoto, Knight of the Order of Force Majeure.

It was Tenkai that now heeded that call for help, and it was good that he did so. This was not some typical haunting. The report provided by the natives mentioned the sound of steel clashing against steel in a place where no blade should rightly have been held up against another man, and ghostly sightings of a spectre wielding a sword. A curved sword, even. Not particularly common outside of Jigoku or Taiyomichi, to name only a few. Particularly the kind that Tenkai was familiar with. The fact that it was a remarkably strange thing to the villagers told him that this spirit was likely foreign to their lands, which would quite easily explain why the spirits were in such turmoil in the area. Why the foreign spirit was here, on the other hand, was another matter entirely.

The monk had arrived at the village dressed in what seemed like nothing more than his Buddhist raiment, a long black robe with dark blue kasaya and a large-beaded rosary necklace. Most of the rest of his armor and other articles of clothing were hidden underneath the robe. An eyepatch made from an old tsuba covered the false eye containing the Magatama of Soul Sight that allowed him to not only peer through the veil but even exist simultaneously in the land of the living and the land of the dead. He carried no staff or charms or any other visible icon of holiness, just a long object curiously similar to a sword wrapped entirely in cloth for his travels. There was no mark on him that would identify him as a member of the Order. After all, he did not want to give any cause for alarm. Word of the Order traveled fast in Lagrimosa, and the people needn't fear the thought that some great looming threat like the Legion of Doom or Cult of Power may be so present as to warrant a Knight's interference. It would be bad enough if any of them had recognized him from Last Chance. Tenkai preferred to keep things low profile whenever he took the time to perform the duties he had taken up long before he joined the Order.

Tenkai had told the villagers that he was to enter the tomb alone. He needed no aid with any ritual, at least not until he had properly investigated and deemed it necessary. Until he knew exactly what he was dealing with, having anyone else there with him would only get in the way of his task. Ghosts had a habit of using small groups of curious investigators against each other, and those who were not spirit sensitive were all the more susceptible to their deception. The monk could not guarantee anyone's safety if they tried to follow him down there. He could only assure them that he would deal with their sacred tomb and its relics with as much care and respect as he could. 

A pale blue light smothered by the cover of his eyepatch lit up as cold wisps of spirit energy seeped out of it like smoke from a flame. It was Tenkai's soul-seeing eye, lighting up in response to the condensation of spirit particles in the area as well as the force of will he focused through it to see the distressed spirits of the tomb as clearly as living flesh. To them, the uncanny clarity of his appearance in their world would produce just as much disquiet as a mortal beholding them in theirs, with a sense of wrongness that told them he did not belong here on an instinctual level. He would be able to calm the distressed spirits in the same way that a benevolent ghost would calm the fears of mortals, but something told him that would not be enough for one particular phantom.

@Spooky Mittens

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The many spirits who resided here in the tomb seemed to mostly be in a state of unease, though not overly so.  While surprised that the monk appeared to them as they appeared to one another, one couldn't say that they were actually upset at this.  Rather, the spirit lingering deeper within put them on edge.  This wasn't to say they were afraid, or even threatened.  No, the air here felt closer to indignant.  They did not fear the maligned spirit, rather they were upset that he disturbed their rest.

They seemed even to welcome the monk.  Perhaps they knew on some level that he was here to help them rest once more.  So long as that thing remained, nobody would get any sleep here.

"How frustrating."

The words echoed up the halls of the tomb.  Delving deeper, one would find the main chamber where the founder of Hemlock Knoll had been interred.  A burial urn stood on a pedestal in the middle of the room, a simple thing of clay and glaze.  Around this pedestal were his earthly belongings consisting of his armor and sword.  It was oddly eastern in design.  Lamellar armor twined together by technicolor silken cord, a helm with a hanging neck guard and a crest to signify his station, a face covering that depicted the tusks of a demon, and of course a curved blade in a lacquered wooden scabbard.  Flanking this weapon and armor were the old warrior's tools, signifying that this man had turned to a life of carpentry.

There in the chamber, pacing restlessly back and fourth in front of the armor, was a young man about midway through his twenties.  He had black hair that swirled about his head in a mess as though he were underwater.  He wore simple garb of black and white cloth consisting of a hitatare robe and kobakama.  His feet were bare.  He carried a sword as well, a tachi to be specific.

"How can it be?  Why won't he WAKE UP!?"

The spirit shouted, his voice affecting the physical world with a wave of pressure.  He drew his sword and he cut across the armor stand, his blade passing through it cleanly and without causing damage.  The tip of his sword rebounded off the stone with a loud metallic clang.  He proceeded to shout at the armor stand in frustration.

@Tenkai Matsumoto

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Upon reaching the source of the disturbance, Tenkai found himself a bit puzzled by the familiarity of the sight before him. The armor and sword that was presumably possessed by the deceased founder interred within looked remarkably like a set of yoroi along with a Japanese sword. Tenkai was aware of similar cultures upon Valucre, even those predating the Datsuzoku Empire or Taiyomichi, but to see something of its like in the middle of Lagrimosa was surprising to him. Perhaps even more surprising was the spirit currently shouting at the grave, whose manner of garb made him appear to be the spirit of some Muromachi period samurai. The possibility of that being true seemed fairly low given the fact that Tenkai's homeworld was rather far away, but it was fair to note that the spirit world didn't follow the laws of space time to the absolute letter. Though the Shadowlands were in a way darker reflection of reality, it was not that rare for spirits to find themselves traversing across distances nigh unreachable by mortal means simply by being drawn through the spirit world by their own worldly fetters. 

Tenkai had no idea what that fetter could be for this spirit, but it clearly concerned the lord of Helmlock Knoll, and its presence here was filling the spirits with disquiet.

For a moment, Tenkai pondered the spirit's words. Wake up? Wake up whoMost likely the buried lord, whose armor sat quietly while the spirit's ephemeral blade struck nothing but the stone behind it. It seemed rather odd that a blade that had no effect on the physical world would rebound off of the stone walls, but tombs were often holy places, and the purity of their purpose often left its structures warded from spirits or condensed with reishi, making them as palpable to spirits as they were to the living. After all, a tomb was meant to house the dead and leave them undisturbed in their slumber. What good was a tomb when a spirit could simply pass through it like it wasn't even there? It'd be like trying to get some sleep in a house with no walls, open to the elements and all the disturbances the surrounding wilds.

If Tenkai was to settle the spirit in order to allow him to pass on, and thereby allow the others to return to their rest, he was going to have to get his attention first. Right now the ghostly samurai seemed quite involved with his one-sided altercation. Fortunately, Tenkai had an idea of what could grab his attention.

"この墓の主を探していますか?" (Are you seeking the lord of this tomb?)

Tenkai had gone out on a bit of a limb here, but if he was correct, addressing the spirit in Japanese would ring with familiarity to him. Familiarity was a good way of drawing the attention of a wayward spirit, as the world of death was a dream-like place that was easy to get lost in. If it turned out that he wasn't actually Japanese, however, perhaps it'd just be confusing enough to draw his attention anyway. 

@Spooky Mittens

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The spirit turned to look at the monk who addressed him.  His hair, which had previously been wafting about in the air, seemed to calm and drift low.  The strands were long and Raven black, interspersed with streaks of white along his sideburns.  It draped over his form like a wet cloth.

The spirit pointed his blade towards Tenkai, leveling his aqua blue eyes onto the Monk's waist.  He answered, though not in Japanese.  It was some otherworldly language, something far removed, but once heard by mortal beings it assembled itself into something familiar.

"Am I?  I was.  I'm not so sure anymore."

He paced to the left a bit, laying his right hand atop the tsuka of the dead Lord's own blade.  The faint whisper of a roar could be heard filling the chamber from all around until the spirit Ren removed his digits from the weapon.

"I was starting to lose hope, but, you'll do in his stead."

For a moment the veil dropped and Ren would appear to Tenkai as he truly was.  A half-skeletal visage, his body bathed in blood with festering wounds all over.  For the briefest flash he took this appearance, but as he right hand found its way to the bottom of his tachi he again appeared soft to the monk.

For spirits, emotions flowed like material, akin to a gas, throughout their surroundings.  This spirit in particular was giving off a heavy cloud of bloodlust, though oddly his killer intent seemed to waver.  He was unsure of one thing, but dead sure of the other, and his intentions were laid bare as he leveled the point of his sword towards the monk.

@Tenkai Matsumoto

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