Shindara panted for breath. He was kicked in the ribs and dragged to his feet. He winced as fingers coiled around his throat. A demonic face peered back at him through the smog, scarred with deep ridges and furrows. As his pain subsided, he realized the face was wrought of metal, not flesh. The red mask was carved in the likeness of a demon or “yokai.” Fangs curled and protruded from the mask in an unnerving snarl.
Two pronged horns jutted from atop the man’s helmet. His narrow face was completely concealed except for his eyes.
Shindara couldn’t comprehend how the samurai reached the city as swiftly as they did. He ran through the temple compound, calling out for Aya.
His love had to be somewhere among the refugees seeking shelter. Damn Priest Kobo for not bringing her soon enough. If they outlasted the siege, he vowed to kill the monk himself.
“Aya!” he screamed.
Arrows arched over the walls and the monks before Shindara writhed and crumpled to the ground. He tumbled down the stairs as a second and third volley followed, blanketing the steps outside Nigatsu-Hall.
The samurai were locked in battle with the warrior monks of Nara. Shindara was stunned by how well the monks were faring. That is, until he realized the Taira samurai were unarmed.
They couldn’t raise a sword or bow in their defense, otherwise they surely would have. Shindara’s masters were butchering the Emperor’s messengers at their doorstep. Those who weren’t quick to flee were forced to their knees and beheaded.
Once more, Shindara’s hand drifted to his sword. He often watched the monk soldiers train in the temple courtyard, so he knew how to h...
Shindara awoke with a start, staring wildly into the depths of the forest. The senseless void from his nightmares was replaced by the brilliant canopy of trees. A grey thrush twittered in the low hanging boughs. Sunlight splashed across his face from his perch in the knotted branches. His back rested comfortably against the trunk as fiery leaves spiraled past him in their serene dance. He vaguely recalled climbing the tallest tree in the forest and drifting off to a restless sleep.
A feathered breeze ruffled his hair, stirring sensations in his h...