L5R prose

Jan. 31st, 2017 12:16 pm
annwfyn: (Mood - unicorn)
[personal profile] annwfyn
My mother died when I was four years old. My sister was two. When we were tiny she’d climb into my bed at night and ask for a story.

“Our mother,” I would say “was the greatest of the samurai-ko. Her blade shone like silver, and her honour shone like gold,”

I didn’t want to admit I didn’t remember our mother either; only the scent of jasmine, and black hair like a waterfall. Then silence. She went away, and no one would tell me why, even as our father wept and cleared our belongings onto the back of a cart.


“This is perfection,” my father said. “Not in mastery, but in harmony.”

He never raised his voice, and although I had seen him pull a stallion flat out from a full gallop, and bend horse shoes between his hands, he was always gentle.

“The greatest sailor,” he explained, “rides with the current. He does not fight against it.”

I felt oddly deflated. I wanted to be glorious, a battle maiden, not an equine companion. He smiled at my crestfallen expression.

“Don’t worry, little one,” he said. “When you’re older, you’ll understand.”

He touched my cheek.

“You will be the river,”


No one ever told me the name of our family shame, yet it was everywhere in our home. It stained us; like the mould my sister and I scrubbed relentlessly from corners; like the dust that blew in through the cracked screens.

One day, it seemed, it would overwhelm us; dirt, poverty and shame.

At night, sometimes, my father would sit with me on the nure'en.

“There is a kind of dishonour,” he said one night, “that can only be washed clean in blood.”

I did not understand, but he said no more and simply sat and watched the falling rain.


My aunt arrived when I was twelve.
She came in a cloud of dust and a thunderous storm of horses’ hooves. She was bronze and crimson in her armour, uncompromising in her gaze.

My father brought me out, and she looked me up and down as if she were examining bloodstock.

“She is straight in mind and body,” my father said. He hesitated for a moment and then said “and pure in spirit.”

“She must be snow,” my aunt said calmly. “To cover the ash.”

“She is snow,” my father promised. “No more fire,”

And just like that, I was.


I cried in the dark, of course. I cried for the little house by the river, with the cherry blossom tree my sister and I had climbed.

I cried for my sister. Muko. I wrote her name in ink and ash in the crook of my elbow. When there had been nothing else, we had had each other.

I washed it off with spit in the morning.

“They call us barbarians,” my aunt said. “Never let them say it true. And you must be even better than the rest of us.”

Snow and steel.

Soon I learned not to cry.


I will not tell you about how I met the boy.

He is not a part of this story.

I don’t want to think about it now anyway. It does not matter, any more than the tears I did not shed. I don’t want to remember the colour of the moon on the night I tried to flee like a coward, or the way the river that would lead me home shone like a snake, or sword.

He was a shadow in the night. He said he was training.

But he is past. That night and all the nights since.


I dream sometimes, of my mother. In my dreams, she holds me in her arms. She smells of jasmine. Her hair falls around me like a waterfall. She kisses me, and her lips are warm.

I am always cold these days.

“I will be home soon,” she promises, “Remember me,”

For a moment, I do. I remember her, tall in the saddle, her hair a raven’s wing in the sun.

When she sets me down I see that she is clad in armour the colour of the sunset. She is where the sun meets the sky.

Then she is gone.
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