Monday, May 14, 2007


By the way.. for anyone who I don't talk to regularly... a few updates: I'm living in Ohio. I'm looking to buy a house. Life is good... but busy.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Girl and the Eagle

This is a rough draft... please let me know if you have any suggestions or note any misspellings, etc. I will be going through this later. Also, this story begs for illustrations.

Once upon a time there was a young girl who was raised underground named Newt. She was a normal girl.. she had two legs, two arms, ten fingers and ten toes. Her family was horribly poor, and could not afford to live in town, so she was raised underground, away from the light of the sun. She would eat snails and hermit crabs at every meal, and she made friends with the rats who lived with her. She was a sad little girl, and she envied the people who lived in nice houses, wore clean clothes, and ate steak and ice cream three times a day. She would console herself by playing tricks on the people who lived above ground. Sometimes she would remove a manhole cover for somebody to accidentally fall into. Sometimes she would steal bicycles from children's yards. Sometimes she would just jump out and scare the 'day' people.

Newt tortured the 'day people' because she was sad and because she had no friends, but whenever she pulled a new prank, she found that she was no happier than before. She found herself becoming more and more sad with every prank. After one particular episode in which she had scared the wig right off of an old woman, Newt witnessed the old woman pointing at her accusingly and saying "You are a dirty, horrible little girl, and that's all you'll ever be!" The comment didn't stop Newt from giggling and laughing away with delight, but later, when she sat down next to an water-reservoir pipe, she thought about the old woman, and she cried. She cried because the old woman was right. Newt looked at her clothes, and looked at the dirt built up on her skin and under her fingernails. She WAS a dirty, horrible little girl, and she had no friends.

As Newt sat, she watched an eagle flying far over her head. As she stared up at it flying around the sky, unchained, seemingly unworried about the world beneath it, she thought she noticed the bird looking at her. She felt uncomfortable about this, and decided to look the other way and pretend she hadn't noticed the bird, but every time she glanced up, the eagle was hovering closer to her head. The eagle let out a screech and started flying directly toward her. She was very scared now... but was far too frightened to move. She tried to move, but her legs were too heavy to move, and a knot started forming in her throat. Newt closed her eyes, and heard a flapping of wings. When she opened them, the eagle was staring her right in the face. This was no ordinary eagle. Now that it was near her, she could see that it was a great bird... it stood even taller than she did. She also saw that it's feathers were lined with gold threads that glowed from within. It's eyes were a deep emerald green, and were as painful to look at as they were compelling.

"What troubles you, little girl?" asked the Eagle. Newt was so captivated by the beauty of the eagle, that she didn't think it strange at all that it talked to her. She almost expected it. She replied to the eagle in a frightened tone, "I'm horrible, and mean, and dirty and ugly and no one loves me." said Newt. "I was born underground and have had a horrible time of life. I'm tired of being dirty and smelly and ugly. I want to be richly dressed and popular and live above ground like the 'day people'. They wouldn't even let someone like me be seen in the street right now."
The Eagle had a sad look on his face as he listened to her story.

The eagle paused after hearing her story... as if deep in thought. Then, he plucked out one of his feathers, and handed it to her from his razor-sharp beak. "Take this feather." said the eagle. Then staring at her with his deep, penetrating eyes, he said, "You will no longer be known as "Newt". Your new name will be "Mercy". With this feather, you will be allowed to walk above ground with all the other people, and you will be a brand new person. By holding this feather with you, you are showing people that you belong to me now - to the royal family of the Golden Eagle. But..." warned the eagle, "Since you are now a member of my family, I ask that you play no more tricks on people. It displeases me to see you make fun at others' expense." The little girl cowered at his very mention of this. She had no idea how he knew that about her, and didn't question it... she simply replied with a whimpering "ok". The Eagle appeared to nod slightly, before flapping his large, thunderous wings, and taking flight, eventually disappearing into the sun.

Mercy, filled with hope and fear, ventured out into the open air of the daylight. Her bare feet stepped quietly and comfortably onto the wet grass of the new morning. She felt naked and awkward out in the open where everyone could see her, but the sun's warm rays soon warmed her, reassuring her that she was welcome here. She shuffled her feet, which still seemed a little dirty, but the wet grass brushed away the dirt and filth built up on her feet. She liked having clean feet. She couldn't remember when her feet had been so clean, so she walked through some taller grass near the edge of town. Just like the turf on her feet, the tall grass was also wet with dew, and seemed to wipe a lot of her grime and filth away from her... cleaning her up and making her more presentable to the 'townsfolk'.

Mercy looked down at her hands and feet. They were a vast improvement from earlier in the day. She was so thankful to the eagle, that she reached inside her pocket, and grabbed the feather he had given her, and squeezed it gently with pride.

Mercy decided that, given her new appearance, she would try to go make some friends. Mercy walked into town, and saw some younger children playing with a ball in the street. As she approached, she noticed that the children seemed brightly lit. She had never noticed before how some of these people seem almost illuminated. She walked up next to them to greet them, but when she came near, they looked at her and all screamed and ran away.

"Why did they run away from me?" Mercy said to herself. "They treated me as if I still lived underground and was coming to scare them." Mercy wanted to play a mean trick on them for running away from her, but she checked herself. The Eagle told her that she was no longer to play tricks on people, so she was trying to respect that promise.

She came across an old man who was playing the fiddle on a street corner for money. As she looked into his kind, honest face he also seemed to glow brightly. The man almost looked heavenly. Mercy stood in front of him to listen to his music, but when she came near, he stopped playing... and looked at her with wonder, then fell to the ground and started crying.

She walked away sad and dejected. "Even an old fiddle player is brought to tears and sadness at my presence."

Mercy walked around town, surrounded by people who were filled with light all around her, and they all just stared in awe at her. "They're all just mocking me." she thought to herself. "They're all shocked to see someone as ugly as me in the world above ground." she told herself. The crowd just stood there, staring at her for a while.
She walked around distressed for several hours. Wherever she went, people's response seemed to be the same. They even seemed to be following her now and staring at her like some sort of circus freak.

She became very angry. The people who lived above ground seemed more beautiful and bright than she had imagined before, and she felt more ugly than ever. She wished very hard that she was as bright and beautiful as one of the people she had met in town. She felt like she had been tricked into trying to live in the above ground world. The Eagle had lied to her. Maybe he was paying her back for playing too many tricks on people.

As she thought about the Eagle, she pulled the feather from her pocket and looked at it. It still gleamed and shimmered in the sunlight. She looked at it with contempt. It was so elegant and beautiful, and she was still very ugly. She threw the feather at the ground and folded her arms across her knees and moped. As she sat there, she could hear the soft whipping of the wind through the trees. Then it became louder. Soon she heard a great flapping of wings and gusts of wind blowing against her. It was the Eagle. She didn't look up. She was very angry, but was too scared of the great bird to say so.

"What troubles you, Mercy?" his voice almost sounded melodic. She felt compelled to answer, despite her strong urge to angrily avoid him.

"You said you were going to make me a brand new person - someone special. I'm no different than before. I feel even uglier than I was when I lived underground. People stare at me, and run when I come near."

The Eagle let out a long, drawn out sigh. "If only you trusted me. If only you saw yourself the way that I do." He walked over to a nearby pond and called Mercy over to him. A great pressure swept her off her feet and walked her to the waterside. She felt that if she had not walked over herself, her legs would have moved on their own. The eagle stared into the pond, and motioned for her to do the same. At first she saw the Eagle's reflection in the water, then peering in behind the Eagle, she saw a glowing, golden creature so bright she had to shield her eyes. To her amazement, the being in the reflection shielded her eyes at the same moment. She gasped with the instant realization that she was the angel in the water's reflection. She was bathed with light and gold and feathers and decorative jewels around her neck.

"Your light is so bright" said the Eagle, "that you actually have illuminated the people you have encountered. Their light is reflected from your own... and your light is reflected from me. People stare, but they stare in awe... in amazement... they fear of the amount of glory that shows from you. I have not lied. You are precious to me, and I have filled you with light, and I want you to spread that light to others." The Eagle looked at Mercy lovingly, then she hugged the Eagle's neck tight before letting him go to turn toward the sky and disappear into the sun again.

...and the girl was happy.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Coffee talks pt 2

As my coffee talks with Dwayne continue, we've started thinking not just about coffee and it's need for quality and flavor, but carrying that out throughout the rest of the coffee shop.

A coffee shop should have several rooms. Each room should be unique and beautifully decorated. Small, intimate rooms should be there for old friends to meet up and talk for an hour... or to study quietly. There's a quality that these small rooms should have.. a specific 'atmosphere' that's perfect for study or intimate chats. They should be small and intimate with bookshelves lining the walls. Dwayne recommended making it a 2nd-hand bookstore as well. Brilliant. But they would have to be GOOD books... not just endless copies of john grisham novels left over from a thrift store somewhere. I have my own idea of 'loading' the bookshelves with schaeffer, lewis, sproul, and other christian authors. I wouldn't restrict it from having the occasional copy of a marx or neitzche either, but i would want to spawn conversations of God... which coffee is perfect for. I originally had this idea in St. Louis. There's a PCA seminary in St. Louis and I thought it would be a neat opportunity to open a coffee shop nearby a strip of gay bars, and invite all the seminary dudes to come live above the coffee shop, and work there, and to use this area as a place of ministry.

My own personal coffee shop vision also includes one large room that you could fit several people in, to build a good sense of community. There should be people playing Go or Chess or Settlers or playing cards or just sitting around enjoying being around other people. The atmosphere wouldn't be quite so 'intimate' as the others, but it has other purposes. Along the wall of the larger room, we would hang artwork. Good artwork. I could review artists work, be as choosy as i wanted, then if the artist 'made it in', i would allow them to sell the artwork there, and even hold openings for their shows. If i found some REALLY good artwork there, i would probably buy something and strategically put it in one of the smaller rooms. This art-room would be not only for visual, but audible artwork. I would invite poetry readings, jazz, blues, experimental, bluegrass bands to play at the end of the room - Not rock shows... This is a coffee shop, not a sports bar. The final use of the large room would be a movie theatre. On Friday nights (or some set schedule) I would darken all the lights, pull a screen down from the ceiling and show vintage movies, or independant art films, or whatever i could get the rights to show.

How cool would it be to invite a bunch of people together to go have a cup of coffee over a Marx brothers movie? Or for the local college to lift us up as the ideal location to show their masterpieces?

Art, study, community, ministry... this isn't a coffee shop, it's a vision.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Coffee talks pt 1

I've been having several informal chats with my co-worker Dwayne Carr about coffee shops. We've got some ideas for a coffee shop, and we're even giving vague thoughts to opening up our own. These conversations with Dwayne are good. They're very uplifting, because we're not just talking about coffee shops, we're talking about life.

The coffee shop should have Good, quality coffee. This is a big deal for us since we've recently started roasting coffee ourselves, and seeing what a great difference it can make in quality. Coffee suddenly isn't just "coffee", it's a bold, smooth Indonesian coffee. Or it's an earthy bolivian coffee. Each coffee has a very unique flavor, and they're all completely different, and they're all better than "folgers".

This is where the talk of coffee shops began. It's the paving stone of our further coffee shop conversations.

Quality is important. Marx had a few things right. We lost something in that whole 'industrial revolution'. We lost tradesmen. We lost fine crafts. Hobbyists are starting to figure this out, but without recognizing superior quality, we will never get that back. Go into a really old catholic cathedral. Look at the ornate work in the sculptures and architecture. Do we even have anybody today who COULD replicate that? If someone was talented enough to do that, WOULD any business/organization pay to have it done?

People need to recognize art and quality in all things, rather than quantity and disposability.

P.S. I'm not a marxist. I think he had a few good ideas, but they were all executed badly.

P.P.S. I'm currently roasting green coffee beans that i've purchased through Sweet Maria.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Sam Samurai (part 3) (work in progress)

Sam worked as a servant in the Governor's house for the next whole year. Within the first couple months, Sam worked harder than any other five servants in the governor's house which earned him permission from the Governor to have the afternoons to himself. He was a quiet, and observant young man. He watched carefully to learn anything he could from the masters of the house. He learned arithmetic, politics, and swordplay from the same tutor who taught the Governor's children. He even became fast friends with the Governor's eldest son, Yoshi, and the two of them would practice swordfighting for hours into the evening. His kind, and happy personality caused the Governor and his family to accept Sam more as a son than as a servant.

Sometimes Sam would miss his family, and would retreat to his dark and quiet room in the basement of the compound to think about them. He wondered if he would ever see them again. He wondered if they missed him. He wondered if they were doing alright without him, or if they were struggling to survive.
On one such occasion, Sam began to cry softly when he thought about them.

"You miss them, don't you?" said a voice.

Sam's entire body became tense as a chill ran down his spine, and he tried to recall where his practice sword was. "Who are you? What do you want?"

"Don't worry, Sam." the voice said again, as a tall figure stepped from the dark shadows in the corner of the room. "I'm not here to hurt you." He paused, thinking. "And besides, if i did want to fight you, your wooden practice sword would hardly be a threat to me."

He was a thin, muscular man with tattered robes and a large, rounded straw hat which hid the top half of his head. The hilts of two swords protruded from his belt. One sword was very long - longer than Sam had ever seen before, and had a weathered, leather-bound handle. The other was short, and was wrapped in black cloth, and had several symbols etched into it's metal. It was hard to tell the man's age, but he seemed very strong, and smart. Sam felt he had seen the man before.

"Who are you?" Sam repeated.
"My name is Ogi." the man said. "I knew your father."
Sam's jaw dropped. "You knew my father?"
"Yes," said Ogi. "Your father and I worked under the Emperor together. I didn't know him for very long, but I can tell you that he was stronger than most men. He was fierce and powerful."

"I can see you've been learning a lot here, Sam. Your father would be pleased at that." Ogi picked up Sam's practice sword and spun it around in his hand. Sam carefully watched as the blade seemed to disappear with Ogi's smooth, cunning movements. His eyes grew wide as this stranger manimpulated his practice sword to do things he didn't know it could do.

"Keep learning." Ogi said after a long pause. "When you are finished learning what you can here, I shall resume your training."
Sam swallowed. "Training for what?"
"Do you need a reason to learn?" Ogi asked. He placed his hand on Sam's shoulder, and started again. "I am here to encourage you, Sam. You are doing good work, and your father would be proud. But your training cannot be revealed. The Governor wouldn't like the idea of slaves learning too much."
Sam nodded in agreement.

"Also, do not mention me. My presence here must be kept secret. If you reveal my presence I will not teach you." He turned to leave the room, then looked over his shoulder back at Sam and smiled broadly. "Keep up the good work, Sam. I'll see you soon."

And Ogi kept his promise. He would return in the evenings, and sneak Sam out of the compound to learn swordfighting, to learn about the stars and their locations, to learn about the history of their land. Ogi only visited once a month, but Sam continued to study and grew in knowelege every day.

In the spring of his second year working at the Governor's house, Sam was informed that Emperor Yamato was to visit the Governor.

Sam was sad that he had to live away from his family, but he also took great joy in his work as a servant. He had become very excited about the events that took place in the Governor's household. When he learned that the Emperor was coming, he wanted to make a good impression. He even borrowed some of Yoshi's formal robes to dress up for the occasion.

The entire household gathered in the courtyard to await the Emperor's arrival. The Governor sat in his chair, and all of his household stood in two large lines leaving a wide path covered in flower petals between them for the Emperor to walk on. As the Emperor arrived, music began playing from somewhere unseen, and the emperor's carriage was carried into the courtyard carried by 4 guards. The carriage was carried on two long wooden poles, and was inlaid with bright red and gold. Atop the carriage was the Emperor himself. He was large, and fierce looking, with a large, black beard, and a shaved head, and he wore a small, funny-looking hat which sat atop the center of his head.
Sam noticed that walking several feet behind the guards and the emperor was Ogi, his tutor! Sam almost didn't recognize him. He was dressed in extravagant decorative robes, and he had a stone-still look in his face. He didn't turn to Sam or even acknowelege him.

Sam's excitement was bubbling over. He had never seen so many big, important, powerful people before. And all were decorated with fancy robes of every color imaginable.

The Emperoror was officially visiting the Governor on business, but it would be rude to simply discuss politics without first showing hospitality to Emperor Yamato. The Governor did a very good job of showing some of that hospitality: musicians, actors, jugglers... all came to display their talents to Yamato. Sam was delighted. It was like a carnival. Then dinner was served to all: Roast duck and noodles, Shark steaks decorated with fish eyes, Vegetables steam-cooked with rare spices from the west, Sushi wrapped in seaweed, and a spiced hot beverage and a sort of thin cake for desert. It appeared to be working. Yamato was, indeed, very satisfied with the food and entertainment of the Governor.

Sam couldn't hear what was being said between Emperor and Governor, but he often saw Yamato laugh heartily, and smile as the different dishes came out, or as a band started playing a new tune.

Then came the sparring... Yamato pointed to the center of the courtyard, where a circle formed, and several members of the Governor's household in turn, stood in the center, bowed to the Emperor, then bowed to each other, and started fighting. It was the first time Sam had seen a formal demonstration of swordfighting. The emperor clapped politely. Sam laughed at some of the swordfighters. He thought it was almost shameful that some of them would be displaying such lack of talent in front of the Emperor. They were making critical errors. One had a horrible footing as he faced his opponent, another would let his guard down at the wrong moment. Even Yoshi, the emperor's son, was fighting poorly.

Sam held the bridge of his nose and shook his head in disappointment. Yamato caught him doing this, and pointed him out of the crowd. "You, young man."

Sam's eyes grew large, and he was overcome with panic.


Yamato nodded, and pointed for Sam to take the ring with Yoshi.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Sam Samurai pt. 2

Sam trained his ears and looked around.
All he could see and hear was the early bustle of the marketplace in the morning. He glanced this way and that, but there was no trace of his brother. He closed his eyes, concentrated and listened carefully... trying to block out the sound of the crowds in his head.
He heard faintly, the cry of a boy, who sounded like his brother. The more he focused on the sound, the more and more clearly it sounded like Hiro. Sam broke out into a dash in the direction the sound was coming from. He had to stop a few more times to figure out which way to go, and Hiro wasn't yelling the whole time, so occasionally he had to wait a couple of seconds for another yell. At last, he heard a distinct cry of "SAM!" from Hiro. He turned his head to see two soldiers dragging Hiro away. Hiro saw Sam and called out in desparation for his big brother to help him.

"Stop!" Sam demanded the soldiers. They kept dragging Hiro without paying any attention. Sam panicked and thought of how much trouble he would be in now. He was confused, and frustrated and desparate to rescue his brother from these soldiers.

"Stop!" He demanded again. This time he ran in front of them to block their path.
"Out of our way, runt." one of them growled, "This prisoner is no concern of yours." and shoved Sam to the ground with his thick arm.

Sam flipped himself up from the ground... his clothing and his face covered with dust from being tossed into the dirt.

He clenched his teeth with anger, and in a blind fury, he ran up from behind the soldiers, catching them off guard and knocked one of them all the way to the ground. He then turned to the one who still had Hiro by the arm, and leapt up to punch him in the face, and actually hit him in the nose, causing him to grab his face in pain. Sam grabbed Hiro's arm and ran as fast as their legs would take them.

They both made it about 5 seconds before an iron grip grasped both of their arms, and pulled them back.

"Not so fast!" It was one of the soldiers. The one Sam had shoved to the ground. He was very strong, and he would not let Sam attack them again. "Are you alright, Kenji?" He asked the other guard. A trickle of blood ran from his nose. "Yeah." He wiped the blood from his nose, and acted like he didn't even notice it was there. "Let's take both of them in." Said the guard, smacking Sam in the head with the back of his hand. Sam's ear rang from the blow, and his face was red with anger.

Sam and Hiro were thrown into a holding cell in the town prison. "I didn't mean to, Sam! It's not my fault!" Hiro said, crying. "Slow down, Hiro." Sam said calmly. He was jittering and scared, but was trying to calm his brother down. "I'm not mad. Just tell me what happened."

"I was just looking around, and I picked up a jade statue to look at it and some guy yelled at me to give it back and i got scared and i dropped it and it broke and then they wanted me to pay for it and i didn't have any money and, and..." Hiro's voice trembled as he tried to continue.

"Settle down." Sam told Hiro again. "I'll take care of it. Don't worry. Just try to get some rest."
But Hiro didn't sleep. Neither of them did. They just laid on the dirt floor, staring at the ceiling... thinking. Sam spent his time thinking of what to do to get out of this situation. He was short on ideas, but he had to get Hiro out of there. Hiro was also very upset about the situation, and he was sincerely scared, but he soon was distracted by other thoughts which danced around in his head. He took to daydreaming about turning into a bird, and escaping through the bars of his prison to fly away into the mountains. It was good, because it eased his mind and calmed him down.

It was well after noon when a guard, opened up Sam's cell, and ordered him to follow. "He stays behind." said the guard, pointing for Hiro to stay in the cell. Hiro grimaced at his captor.

Sam was led up a long cooridor in which he could see other prisoners, to a small room that was lit by small, unreachable windows and two candles which sat at either side of a wooden table. Behind the table, sat the local magistrate. He was a well-dressed man, who was rough, and round, and coarse, with wiry black hair, a moustache, and a cold, penetrating look. He stared at Sam. "You are the boy's keeper, yes?"

"Yes, my father died years ago in the service of the emperor years ago. I look after him now." Sam answered.

"I don't care what your father did!" he snapped. "Your little brother stole a jade artifact, yes?"

"No!" Sam started, "What I mean is... it was an accident."

"That was a very rare, expensive artifact, yes?" The magistrate barked back. "How will our city's merchants make a living if little boys are breaking their merchandise?"

Sam lowered his head, not knowing exactly what to say. "I have some money." he spoke softly, hesitantly... "It's all we have, but you must accept it."

The magistrate broke into hysterical laughter, "We will be giving the orders, not you!" He stopped laughing abruptly, turning back to his cruel, heartless gaze. "Perhaps the money is just enough to pay for your broken statue." he said, "Then what? We let you go?"

Sam swallowed.

The magistrate slowly continued, "Striking an officer is also against the law, yes?"
Sam didn't answer. He was too busy thinking of how distressed his mother and sister would be when they arrived home from their journey with no money and no food for the long winter months.

"Striking an officer is a serious offense, boy. We fine citizens 1 Ryo for something like that." the magistrate said.

"I have no money. I wish to see the governor."

Several hours later, Sam arrived at Hiro's cell accompanied by 5 men. "Get up, little brother. You're going home."

"Finally." said Hiro with an exaggerated tone as if the whole visit to prison was just a big inconvenience that he was now shrugging off.

"I've arranged to get some supplies. You'll have enough food for the winter for Mom and Aiko for the whole winter long... and here." Sam handed Hiro a small sack of copper coins. "Here's a little extra for savings."

"Wow!" Hiro said. "You got all this?! how are we gonna get all this home?"

"These men will carry it on horseback for you."

"Wait a sec..." Worry filled Hiro's eyes, and a look of panic crossed his face. "What about you, Sam?"

Sam grabbed Hiro and hugged him tight, so he wouldn't have to look him in the eyes. "I'm staying here." he said. "I have to. It's the only way to take care of the family and get you out of jail." Hiro wailed, then tried to speak, but in his wail, he only sputtered incomprehensible mumbling.

"Hey!" Sam grabbed Hiro, and tried to look calm as he spoke to his brother. "You have to be strong. You have to take care of Mother and Aiko. You are the man of the house now."

There were a million things the brothers thought they should say to each other, but neither could think of any of them in that moment. The soldiers were very prompt about filling the order to escort Hiro back to his home, so they stood around waiting for the brothers to say their goodbyes. They hugged each other tightly and tried to withold any crying, because both wanted to prove to the other that he would be fine. After a few minutes, Hiro silently climbed onto the back of a horse with one of the soldiers, and rode off down the road and through the town gate.

And so it was that Sam traded food, money, and rations for his debt to an officer for his unwavering allegiance to serve the Governer of the town of Ido.

There was an old, battle-worn soldier in a large, round straw hat who witnessed this selfless act of Sam from the sidelines of the magistrate's hall, and it peeked his interest. His name was Ogi, and he was a special officer to the Emperor. He was sent as an ambassador to oversee the governor's actions, and he was inspecting the magistrate's bookeeping. Sam interested Ogi a great deal. Ogi told himself to keep an eye out for Sam, and monitor his progress with the Governor.

Sam's mother-
Sam's (deceased) father
Sam - (16) strong, smart, responsible boy
Aiko - (13) Sam's younger sister: timid, pretty, smart, thoughtful
Hiro - (10) Sam's youngest brother: outgoing, cocky, bold, skillful
Yamato - young Emperor who rules the land

Ogi - The old soldier

Possible future characters:(the anti-yamato rebels)

Ryo (15 gold)
Bu (1/4 ryo)
Shu (1/4 bu)
Yen (bronze/copper coins)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sam Samurai pt. 1

Once upon a time, in a cottage next to a great wood and next to a small stream lived a woman with 3 children.
The oldest child she named Sam. He was a strong young man of 16, and he had built his muscles helping his mother tend to the land they lived on. He tended their small flock of sheep, and tilled the small plot of land which they grew rice and wheat on, that they would harvest and store up for winter. He had dreams of being a great vassal one day, with slaves to order around to do his work, and to buy his mother fancy clothes to wear, but he figured he would always just be a small farmer and shepherd.
The middle child was named Aiko. She was a very shy girl of 13 years who loved her elder brother very much. She followed him around loyally, doing very un-lady-like things like chopping wood and stomping through the mud which always bothered Sam. When Aiko was not tagging around with Sam, she was absorbed in practicing calligraphy, and reading old scrolls and texts. She was a very smart girl.
The youngest child was a boy of 10 years old named Hiro. He was an energetic boy, who constantly shirked his chores to go running through the forrest and sword fighting imaginary warriors using sticks as swords. Hiro was a very loud, obnoxious boy, but he was also very talented at things like catching fish with sharpened sticks, or climbing trees.

They were very poor because the land they lived in was governed by a powerful young Emperor named Yamato. Yamato had been arguing with some separatists from one of his provinces, and eventually sent a shipment of troops to fight their insurrection. Sam's father was a soldier in Yamato's army and was sent to lead the troops into battle against these rebels. Thanks to Sam's father, the troops conquered the separatists, but tragically, Sam's father died in the battle. No one was left to care for the family, so Sam was forced to take care of his mother, and his siblings. They loved each other, and took care of each other.

Sam looked tiringly over the grain fields that were next to his cottage. They were brown and bare in the hot, mid-day sun. "We will starve this winter if we do not have more crops. The few crops we have are gobbled up by the sheep, and we cannot live on meat all winter long." he told his mother. His mother agreed, they had to do something if they were to survive the long, hard months that lie ahead.
Sam's mother loaded him with food, and some silver coins she had stashed away in a small compartment underneath the floorboards of their cottage, and bid Sam to go to town to sell some goods, and to buy some goods that they could store for the months ahead. "Please take your brother with you, Sam." Sam's mother asked. "I am ill, and have Aiko to help me, but you are coming back with many goods, and will need help from your brother to carry things home."
She then turned to Hiro and sternly looked at him, "Obey your brother, my little renegade. You will help him, and do whatever he says. I need you to act like a grown up. I am counting on you two." Hiro nodded affirmatively.

Town was an entire day's journey away, so Sam and Hiro packed their bags, and recieved kisses, hugs and tears from their mother, and left early the next morning for town. Hiro talked and talked all the way to town, and Sam would frequently roll his eyes or stop to argue with his little brother about how foolish some of his ideas were. "Wouldn't it be neat if Samurai could fly?" Hiro would say.
"That's stupid." Sam said. "How could they fly?"
"They could make wings out of bird feathers" Hiro said.
"You obviously don't know ANYTHING about samurai," said Sam. "Samurai wear armor, and their armor would be way too heavy to fly with. They would fall out of the sky like stones."
"Well, it would STILL be cool." Hiro argued.

"Hiro, do you think I could ever be a Samurai?" Sam said.
Hiro laughed histerically, "You?! yeah, right! A Samurai has to have a sword, and you couldn't afford a sword if you sold our whole house!"
"True," Sam said, still deep in thought, then whispered to himself, "but it would be cool."
They continued to talk about dragons, samurai, ninjas, and other make-believe adventures, and it made their entire walk seem like just a couple of hours instead of days. That evening, they slept in a tree just a mile outside of town, looking at the stars, and opening small packages that their mother had packed in their bags that were filled with rice buns, grape-leaf dumplings and candied ginger she had packed for them.

The next morning they woke up early by the sunlight shining in their eyes. They climbed down from the tree they were sleeping in to stick their feet in the grass that was covered with cold dew, and stretched their arms to the sun as they yawned and then rubbed the sleep from their eyes. "Lets head into town." Sam said to Hiro, yawning. Hiro nodded, scratching his head.

The two boys went into town, filled with excitement and adventure. They were very poor, and perhaps it was a bad thing that they needed to go into town to buy supplies, but they seldom had an opportunity to visit town, so they fluttered from shop to shop looking at oddities and fanciful things they could not afford.

Sam became absorbed in a shop that sold things called "books". Books were a fascinating invention, that he had never seen before. Several sheets of paper were bound together with hinged pieces of wood on the top and bottom of the stack of paper to protect the sheets and to hold them fast together. Sam turned over the pages of one of these "books" to find several tiny characters. He didn't know how to read, but he recognized it as writing.
"You like that? That's a work of genius!" the bent, old shopkeeper walked out and pointed to the book in Sam's hands. "It's a story of a samurai who was killed one night, and his memory haunts the people he left behind. An assassin claims he killed the samurai, and tries to repent of his sins. His wife claims she killed her husband by letting him walk out in the woods alone late at night... and the samurai's ghost shows up, and explains to both of them that he saw all the signs of his death around him, but he ignored him so HE was responsible for his own death. Quite interesting... you should read it."

Sam deflated a bit... "Oh... Sorry, shopkeeper. I was just looking. I have no money, and do not know how to read." His finger traced the lining of the beautifully carved cover while he talked. His sister, Aiko had time to learn how to read, but he was usually too busy to do much with it.

"No shame, boy... have no shame. You can learn. It just takes a little time." The shopkeeper produced from behind the counter, a worn, thin, paper-backed booklet and opened it to the first page. "You see the picture there?"

"Yes." Sam said anxiously. "It's a rooster."

The shopkeeper pointed to an over-sized character below the rooster. "That's the symbol for rooster" He flipped through a few more pages and demonstrated how the alphabet worked, and how different characters stood for different things.
"There are hundreds of characters," the shopkeeper continued to explain, "Learning these will give you a head start. You have a lot to learn boy, and right now you have a lot of time to learn it in." The shopkeeper could see from Sam's face lighting up that he understood how the letters worked.
"I have a sister who knows how to read. I'm sure she can help me learn."
"You keep that booklet." the shopkeeper told Sam. "Practice reading and writing the characters. When you are done, come back to me and i will give you a new lesson."
"Thank you... very much!" Sam smiled brightly, and turned around to continue through the marketplace.

Sam continued to walk around from shop to shop until he was suddenly overcome with nausea and panic. "Uh-oh..." he said. "Where's Hiro?"

to be contd.

- Sam's mother
- Sam's (deceased) father
Sam - (16) strong, smart, responsible boy
Aiko - (13) Sam's younger sister: timid, pretty, smart, thoughtful
Hiro - (10) Sam's youngest brother: outgoing, cocky, bold, skillful
Yamato - young Emperor who rules the land

Possible future characters:
(the anti-yamato rebels)