Disclaimer: The Ronin Warriors (aka Yoroiden: Samurai Troopers) and all affiliated names and concepts do not belong to me. If you recognize the character, he/she is not mine. I get no monetary benefit from this. My benefit is the enjoyment of dealing with beloved characters.
A group of people sat around the dining room table, the table's surface covered in papers, dice of all shapes and hues, tiny painted figures of people, animals, and monsters, and a large sheet of graph paper with shapes in various colors drawn on it, roughly denoting a forest setting. A selection of figures were gathered in a clearing among the "trees."
One young woman stood at the head of the table, her sheets and dice hidden from view behind a standing screen covered in charts and other miscellaneous information for the game they were playing. "Who has characters with Sixth Sense? . . . OK, subtract 2 psionic points for those who have it. Something's approaching."
Several questions came from around the table. "From which direction?" "How many?"
She shook her head. "You don't know. You just know that something is about to happen."
Someone shouted, "I alert the others!"
"Good. OK, so the rest of you also now know something is coming. Roll initiative. Those with Sixth Sense - don't forget you get plus six to that roll on top of your regular bonuses. Also plus two to parry and plus three dodge. Remember, these are for the first attack only!"
As dice rolled, the game's leader reached into her box of miniatures and gathered up her wolf figures, placing them on the table around the players' figures.
"Uh-oh. Five . . . six, seven . . . eight . . . eleven, twelve, thirteen! Fifteen! Jag, when'd you get all those?" asked the Hispanic man sitting near the other end of the table.
Jag merely gave her stepbrother an evil grin. "What's everyone's innish?" The group exploded with replies as she rolled for her villains.
"Lemme guess - Blain goes first."
"No, actually she's only 18."
"Arcadian is a 14 and Nightshade goes at 23."
"Well, Kurt's on par for his norm. He got a whole whopping 7. Ghost is 15."
"Eek! Gradamir rolled a 4! I, uh, did tell you that he has the armor on already."
"I forget, which one does he have again?"
"And who has Torrent?"
"I thought Ashki had Verna, the spring one?"
"No, Freya has that one."
"Do they both have them on already?"
"Hell, yeah! At least Ashki does."
"So what are we looking at exactly?"
"Several shadowy creatures emerge from the forest around you guys - "
"Shadow beasts? Hey, Jag, I've got a spell for that!"
"Tom, let me finish. Besides, it's not your turn," Jag chided. "No, they're not 'shadow beasts,' per se, but they look like they're maybe the same kind of monster. They're about four feet at the shoulder and look like a cross between a bear and a crocodile that's been dead for way too long. Baleful, sickly green-grey eyes glow out of a face that is constantly shifting. Oh, and by the way, everyone make two save-vs-magic rolls. You have to roll 18 or higher. The first is at minus three, the second at minus six."
"Ah, man, they're not undead, are they? Do I have to make a phobia roll?"
"Roll your Demon and Monster Lore."
" . . . 27."
"And your skill is?"
"No, you realize that they're not undead."
"Does Maximus know anything about them? I just rolled a 63 out of 79 for his Demons and Monsters."
"Yeah, you've actually heard a little about them." On a piece of paper, Jag scribbled, "Dire shades. Diabolic evil. Half damage fire and cold. Magical weapons do full. No damage from non-magical attacks. Magical light-based attacks, shadow powers and attacks designed for dealing with creatures of darkness and shadows do double damage. The first roll is for who gets sick. Fail the second, lose magic points." She folded the paper and tossed it across the table as the phone rang.
The player looked over the notes. "Guys, this does NOT look good for the home team. Does Max have time to tell - "
"Not yet. I rolled a natural twenty for the bad-nasties so they go first."
"Janice! Phone!" came a voice from the living room.
Jag wished, once again, that her step-mom would not call her that. "Who is it? I'm running a game right now!"
"I know but it's your cousin in Japan, Sage."
No one missed the sudden light in her eyes. "Uh, Alex, could you take over for me? This might take a bit. Thanks!" She gave him a grin as he stood and moved to take her place. "Thanks, Linda. I'll take it in my room."
Alex could only laugh at his stepsister as she sprinted upstairs.
"Jag's got a cousin in Japan?"
"Yeah. Her dad's brother, Derek, married into a Japanese family. They live somewhere near Tokyo, I think."
"Isn't everything somewhere near Tokyo?"
Alex shrugged. "Something like that. Can't say I know the geography of Japan that well myself."
"Sheesh, you'd think she got a call from a boyfriend or something. That was way too excited for just a cousin."
"Well, she and Sage are really close. Derek used to come out with his wife and kids to visit his family almost every year. Jag didn't have a brother until me when Mom married Dale and Sage's older sister, Satsuki - no, sorry, that's his younger sister - I mean . . .Yayoi could be such a snot to him that they just kind of adopted each other. I've met him once when he came out for Mom and Dale's wedding. Nice guy. A little formal and uptight sometimes but he's pretty cool."
"Satsuki, Yayoi . . . and Sage? Girls get Japanese names, boys get English names?"
"His name is actually Seiji." Alex stumbled a little saying it. "'Sage' is easier for some of us to remember and pronounce."
"So what's up now?"
"You know that Mom and Dale are leaving on Tuesday for Europe for six weeks, right? Well, Sage and a couple of his friends just finished their first year of college - or second, I don't remember. Anyway, they were looking to do something special to celebrate. So we've invited them to come to California for a few weeks. They're gonna stay with me and Jag while the parental units are away."
"'They'? How many are there?"
"Him and four of his friends."
"Do they speak English?"
"Well, hell, how would I know?"
"How come this is the first we're hearing of it?"
"Kind of last minute. They only just started talking about it a few days ago when their original plans fell through."
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Up in her bedroom, Jag grabbed the phone on her desk and flopped onto the bed, absently scratching the cat that had followed her. "Mushy, mushy!"
"Jag! That's 'moshi, moshi'."
She chuckled, shrugging. "Yeah, I know, but 'mushy' is funnier."
She could almost hear Sage shaking his head. "You are such a goofball. Listen, I got the tickets for myself and the guys. We'll be arriving at San Diego Airport about ten-thirty in the morning your time on Tuesday. Will that be all right?"
"Cool! That will work out great! I drop off Dad and Linda at seven that same morning for their flight. I'll just plant myself somewhere with a coffee and a good book."
"Yeah, that's what I was aiming for. I remember you telling me the time for their flight."
"So, tell me again who all's coming with you?"
"Their names are Ryo, Rowen, Kento, and Cye. I sent you a pic in my last email. Did you get it? They're the ones who were with me when I was in the hospital a few years ago in LA. Remember?"
She glanced over at the picture of five young men gathered around a motorcycle sitting on her desk. "How could I forget? Man, Dad was worried sick when he heard - not to mention me!"
"I know. I'm sorry no one told you sooner but the guys had no way of knowing I had family so close and I wasn't exactly in a position to tell them until I woke up."
She had already asked him for the real story of what had happened back then, not really buying the one he and his friends had told. The only response he had given was that maybe someday he could tell her. As she trusted and respected him, she had left it at that. For the time being.
She could hear in his voice that he wanted to steer away from that subject. "Hey, be sure to tell Uncle Dale and Aunt Linda thanks so much again for letting us come out. And thank you and Alex, too."
"No problem! Hey, I need someone to beat up on besides just Alex! Do your friends swordfight, too?"
"Does Alex still play with that foam-weapon fantasy group? Yeah, Ryo and Kento will probably want to take him on. Oh, and do you still have those targets set up in the backyard? You and Rowen should get along pretty well. I've told you he's an archer, too, haven't I?"
"Yeah. If any of you are interested, I'll take you guys to the Ren faire that's going on next weekend. I can introduce Rowen to one of the groups I'm in, the Archers of Ravenwood."
"Yeah, he'd like that."
The grey cat nibbled on Jag's fingers, biting just a little too hard. "Ow! Addie! Oh, Sage, that reminds me. None of your friends are allergic to cats, right? You know that we have six."
He snickered. "Ah, no. None of them are allergic to cats."
From the tone of his voice, she guessed there was some inside joke of which she was not aware. She would have to remember to ask him some time. For now, she did not want to keep him on the phone for too long. "I sure am looking forward to this. It'll be great to see you again - and your friends."
"Me, too. Hey, before I go, I wanted to ask you really quick . . . are you still running that campaign where the characters are looking for those magical armors you were telling me about?"
Jag thought about the group downstairs. "Yeah! It's coming along pretty well. I haven't worked out all of the details of the final bad guy yet but I still have a while."
"Well, so far they've only found three of the nine."
"The air one, the water, and spring. They're following leads to another right now. They haven't deciphered the clues yet far enough to know if it's summer or fire. It's fire, by the way. Oh! No, wait! They have four. The characters split up and I keep forgetting that the other group found the earth armor a few months ago. We don't get to play every weekend right now like we used to. That group's going after the armor of light right now. You know, this is turning out to be a really cool story! When we're finished, I'm going to write it up for RPGFics-dot-com. Sage? You still there?"
"Oh, sorry. I was . . . just thinking about something. Anyway, I have to go now. Grandfather is calling."
Jag frowned. She had never met her cousin's Japanese grandfather but did not like some of the stories she'd heard about him. Jag thought he was far too strict and too harsh on his grandson as often as not. Maybe I'm just too American, she mused. "OK. Guess I better let you go, then. Give my love to Uncle Derek and Aunt Umiko. And tell your friends that I'm looking forward to meeting them . . . um, again. Bye! Love ya, bro!"
"You, too . . . sis."
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Sage hung up the phone with a sigh. He still did not know what to make of his cousin's imagination. A little under a year ago, she had started telling him excitedly about a new campaign she was starting with her gaming group - a campaign that centered around gathering nine magical armors that were based on the elements and the seasons.
He ran a hand through his golden locks thoughtfully. He had not told the others yet. He wanted to find out more about it himself first. He could not believe the opportunity that had presented itself less than a week ago. Now maybe, he might get some answers.
Author's Notes: Please be sure to check my bio page for any updates, etc. Thanks!