It rained.

Well, "it rained" is a little…weak, for that fateful night's weather. There are far stronger ways to describe it.

It poured.

Not quite.

It deluged.


The cloud blackened sky opened itself upon the earth, battering it with torrential wave after wave of falling precipitation.

That'll do.

Sporadic lightning illuminated the forest, verdant green branches swaying with each gust of wind. A lone man walked through the forest, uncaring of his saturated state, not minding the wetness that crept into the farthest recesses of his boots. He enjoyed the storm, enduring, embracing the elemental assault. He knew exactly what kind of conditions he could endure, and had fared his way through even worse storms than this. Even with the pouring rain, it was surprisingly warm; no need to worry about hypothermia. His boots and socks were well broken in enough that he wouldn't have to worry about blisters; though his feet would need an airing out once this was all over. While the winds whipped loose leaves and twigs about the forest floor, the gusts weren't nearly strong enough to do more to the lone forester than ruffle his rain-matted brown hair. As he walked through the trees, he only spied one problem that he'd have to address.

"Holy crap! Ninjas!"

Sensing their unnatural cover blown, they slipped from the treetops, from underground trapdoors, from behind piles of brush, each as smooth and silent as an eel as they stalked forward, making no sound even as they tramped over dry leaves. Lightning struck, thunder boomed. Taking this as a cue, they struck, sounds of whistling razored steel their only sounds.

The lone wanderer was ready.

He dodged to the side of a thrown chain, snapping out with his right hand to catch the clinking weapon. He gave the chain a hefty yank, to pull the ninja on the other end off-balance, freeing up just enough slack in the line to entangle his second assailant's sword-arm.

With the deadly blade out of the way, the adventurer swung around, firmly planting a heavy boot into the spine of his second assailant. The assassin fell, releasing his grip on his sword. The brown-haired ranger counted on this, and quickly seized the handle of the ninja-to, instinctively finding its balance point.

More projectiles came- thrown shuriken. He spun, knocking the deadly projectiles from the air, then continued with the momentum to cleave into another black-clad assailant. Lightning flashed with the blade, only briefly lighting the vivid red of arterial blood as it sprayed across the dried leaves of the forest floor before it all fell into darkness once more.

Ever-moving, the deadly swordsman took up a second sword, liberated from the cold hands of his freshly dead assailant. The rest struck all at once, jabbing, slashing, feinting, leaping, attacking him from all angles. While the thunderheads pounded the earth, a storm of an entirely different sort raged below, majestic oaks watching impassively.

Even alone, the man was more than a match for the shinobi assassins. Straight blade in each hand, he was an ambidextrous maelstrom of bladed fury, parrying or dodging every blade that threatened him, working in a vicious riposte whenever possible.

Within minutes, it was over.

He stood, victorious, panting. Sweat, mixed with rainwater, dripped into his eyes, clouding his vision. Even thus, he still managed to pinpoint the lone survivor- one ninja smarter than the others, who allowed his accomplices to bear the worst of the assault as he ran the hell away. Not exactly honorable, but ninja clans were not confined by the tenets of bushido, the warrior's code.

The Forester narrowed his eyes, then reared back and threw one of the purloined short swords, easily pinning the fleeing assassin to a large oak. Under normal circumstances, he would've let him go; but right now, he wanted answers.

Stalking over, he removed the blade from the cloth of the ninja's shoulder to spin him around and throw him to the ground. "Who sent you?" direct, and to the point.

The assassin's answer was just as direct- his jaw moved beneath his black mask, followed by a CRUNCH, which was soon complimented by a sickened gurgle. A poison capsule in the tooth. Great.

"Actually, my friend, I think I can answer your question." A voice came from behind. The Wanderer turned, and everything went black.

"Codename: Tumbleweed. Also known to work under the alias 'TumbleCoyote' or just 'Chuck' when necessary. Especially skilled at fighting the undead- and ninjas, it would seem. Prefers to write comedy, though known to dabble in other genres…" the same voice came from…somewhere, infuriatingly smug. "But most importantly…it seems that you're a bit of a renegade."

The man called Tumbleweed pulled himself back into wakefulness, testing his limbs, to make sure that they were all there, to come back with both good and bad conclusions. The Good: All his arms and legs were still there. The Bad: All four limbs were heavily chained. Blinking his eyes open, the brown-haired man took stock of his surroundings; a bare room, with a large mirror as one wall: obviously of the double-sided variety. Aside from the chair he was chained to, there was only one other bit of furniture; a desk, on which rested a desktop computer, monitor showing one of those flying toaster screensavers. "What the hell do you want?"

"Oh, that's quite simple." The disembodied voice came from a series of hidden speakers. "You're a writer, after all…and I just want you to write." A foreboding cackle issued forth. "You see, what this all boils down to is the fact that I'm acting only as an agent of law enforcement. To offer you an opportunity to make up for some of your past transgressions."

"…What the hell are you talking about? Legitimate law enforcement doesn't use ninja assassins. Besides, I haven't broken any laws here."

"Oh, are you sure? I think there's one particular guideline that you've never held in much regard…"

With a sickening lurch of the stomach, Tumbleweed realized just what his captor referred to.

"…The Slash Clause."