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Offline Firefly23

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The drum beat
« on: August 07, 2009, 02:57:20 PM »
Swirling mist hovered a few inches above the ground, obscuring the grisley scene that lay distorted below.  Occasionally, an agonized groan could be heard, the mist part as a limb pushed up into view, only to fall back again into the silence.  No  breeze blew in the cold morning air, tinted a steel blue as the sun struggled to rise on such a morose day.  Darkness seemed to gather in between the trees, concealing the enemy, preventing escape.  Above, through the small patch of sky visible through the thick trees, stars could be seen, barely flickering in the dying night.

It was still, too still to breathe.  The labored sounds of terrified, injured men as they tried to breathe slowly, silently, seemed to echo far too loudly in the dark.  Muscles cramped from long hours of holding impossible positions, waiting for the enemy to vanish back, claim victory of the day.  But there had been no signs of retreat, no gathering of their wounding, the final slaughtering of their victims.  Only this kind of purgatory, this lingering, torturous silence that no one dared to break.  Those that tried to escape made it only so far before their screams echoed back to those too smart or too frightened to move.

Fingers of daylight had started to creep through the canopy above, creating new enemies, shadows that vanished behind trees.  Pressing themselves against the trees, the men tried to make themselves smaller, invisible in the growing light.  As they waited for their death, echoing through the trees, the solid, steady sound of a drum beat began.  The sound of approaching foes, bearing their blades in the final stand.  Palpable fear filled the dawning morning, as well as resignation.  Many men slumped against their trees or their neighbors, waiting.  Waiting for what would come.

The sounds of the drum grew nearer.  The steady, slow, inexorable beat was occasionally interrupted by piercing screams.  Each scream sent a shiver down the spine of one man, Tsuran.  He eyes flicked frantically back and forth, watching every shadow for a sign of oncoming death.  As he sat there in the cold morning, all his samarai training fell to the wayside, thoughts of his wife and child shoving them aside.  In a frantic panic, he dashed into the thicket, forcing his way through thick brambles.  His body was already covered in so many wounds, a few more meant nothing to him.  Even as he ran in the opposite direction of the drum, the sound grew in his ears, filling them until it was all he could hear, even over his own breathing, and poudning heartbeat.

He broke through the thicket, falling on his knees in a futile attempt to catch his breath.  As he raised his head, he found himself surrounded by standing corpses, their faces black with rot.  A pale green-red pus oozed from empty eye sockets, dripping down their faces to mingle with sweat and blood that also dripped off their chins.  Somehow, distorted as they were, the faces looked betrayed, hurt, and angry.  Tsuran gasped, throwing himself backwards, as if to go back through the thicket, back to the drums and the screams.  Instead, he hit a stone staircase, hurling his body halfway up the stairs before he thought to turn around.  Sitting atop a stage, the Emperor stared with flat, cold eyes at him, both hand folded in his lap, still.  Tsuran crawled back down the stairs, groveling silently as he tried to find words.  The drums still beat, covering the words he weas sure the Emperor spoke.  He could see his mouth moving, but could hear nothing other than the boom, boom, boom, bo-boom, boom, boom, boom, bo-boom of the drums.  Rising to his feet, Tsuran tried to turn, only to find the world spinning faster, spiraling down as if sucked down a drain.

With a sudden gasp, he awoke, drenched in sweat.  He sat quickly, hands feeling in the darkness for something familiar, anything at all.  When his fingers brushed the rough wooden wall, up a sill and against cold glass, it came back.  The vertigo stopped, and he found himself slammed back into reality.  The sensation was unpleasant. 

Gasping still, he fisted his hands in his long, dirty black hair, pulling until his head stopped spinning.  He relaxed his grip, instead simply resting his forehead on the heels of his hands, willing his heart to slow, his lungs to fill and empty slowly.  When the pressing weight lifted from his chest, Tsuran pivoted his body, placing his feet on the bare, rough wooden floor.  Wiggling his toes as they pressed against raw splinters, he rose slowly, moving to a window and lifting the blind.  The dawn was rising slowly, reflecting off the heavy mist that covered the ground.  A muted drum beat sounded, coming from somewhere towards the water, like every morning.  It echoed the beat that had shaken his dream, boom, boom, boom, bo-boom, boom, boom, boom, bo-boom, boom, boom, an unending chorus.

Still reeling somewhat from his dream, Tsuran pulled on his loose black gi pants, picking up his battered, pathetic mockery of a katana from beside the door.  He looked down at the hilt, wound in cheap pig leather, the material chafing his calloused fingers.  The image of the day he was gifted with his samurai blade, the hilt smooth, a perfect fit in his skilled hands, filled his mind.  The remembered sensation of deep pride, honor, and overriding humility washed against him, pale in comparison to the guilt and despair that was his constant companion.

Shaking it off, he pulled open the door, closing it quietly behind him as he stepped into the mist.  It was cool outside, but he knew better than to be fully dressed this early; the sun would soon rise, and he'd rather start cold than have to stop to peel off layers later.  The trees that surrounded his tiny cabin, about the size of an outhouse, were frosted with hovering mist, glittering in the early morning light.  He paused a moment to observe the beauty of his surroundings before making his way towards the sound.

A short walk brought him out of the trees and onto a wide beach of white sand.  The mist curled out from the trees, barely skirting the sand, as if afraid to leave the cover of the shadows.  Squatting just out of the trees, an old, weathered man beat the slow, steady rhythm for the few men scattered in the growing light.  About five other men stood, most also shirtless, armed with a variety of weapons, depending on their specialty.  Tsuran turned to his left and saw a few other men emerging from the trees and onto the shore. 

With a deep, resigned sigh, Tsuran drew his blade, setting the sheath to the side and joining the group on the sand.  He fell into rhythym naturally, following those around him, and yet moving to his own kata.  The drum beat kept the same speed, but occasionally changed in rhythym, varying as the drummer saw fit.

The sun rose higher and higher above the waves, bringing with it heat and blindness, but no one noticed, or commented.  The occasional fishing boat would draw near, watching with silent wonder at the smooth, powerful moves of the exiled samurai.  Eventually they would drift away, too afraid to come any nearer.  There was no other sound on the shore except the unending drum...

boom, boom, bo-bo-boom, boom, bo-bo-b-b-boom, boom, boom, bo-bo-boom, boom, boom, boom...

 

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