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Everything about the man once known as Kurosawa Yoshiro evokes artistry: his movements as graceful and light as a dancer's, his deep brown eyes rivaling the darkest squid inks used in the richly detailed landscape paintings of his native Kara-Tur, his rough-hewn hands calloused as those of a master sculptor. Nothing moreso, however, then when he wields his katana on the battlefield. He approaches it like a painter to a fresh canvas. Not a motion is wasted, every strike is as decisive and deftly placed as a calligrapher's mark. Deadly form and lethal function combine to create a violent beauty.

Yoshiro spent much of his youth developing his sword skills and putting them to great use in a number of excursions and battles for rich and poor, noble and serf alike. He criss-crossed Kara-Tur many times over, walking the countryside righting wrongs in equal parts to perfect his skills and out of a sense of decentcy. Until Tomonaga Noriko entered his life.

Noriko enchanted Yoshiro like no other women before or since. He laid down his sword and decided to make a life with her. He eeked out enough money and food to survive from equal parts sword smithing, instruction, and on the good nature of those he had fought for in his previous role as a warrior. Noriko, a consumate healer, contributed by tending to the ill, wounded, and infirm of the village.

Her expertise was called upon one night by the leader of the village. It appeared that Takagawa Tsuneyo's wife, Kimiko, was with child and that that blessing was turning into a curse. Without the immediate application of Norkio's talents he would lose not only his child but his beloved as well. Noriko worked feverishly for hours as Yoshiro aided Tsuneyo in his emotional battle. After two days of constant attention, Akira drew his first breath and Kimiko took her first as a mother. As Yoshiro and Noriko were without a child of their own, the Takagawa's entrusted Akira to their care should anything happen to them in the future. The child was soon reared in the martial arts by Yoshiro. The bond between the two families grew as the boy did, hale and hearty.

Years danced away in a joyous fugue. After some time they were granted with the blessing that had alluded them -- soon they would be joined with child of their own. It was during their own temultuous pregnancy that Yoshiro discovered that Noriko was kitsune -- a wild fox that assumed the shape of a woman. Even though their love was pure and she had never used here abilities in the diabolical manner traditionally associated with her kind, the shock was difficult to overcome for Yoshiro. Drunkenly one night he confided in Tsuneyo who was instantly concerned for his village and friend but honor-bound by his son's own life, to take no action.

Matters were only made worse when the village was smited almost simultaenusly with the first signs of plague. Noriko fought despretely to abate it but to no avail. Soon malicious rumors began to circulate as they often do in times of peril. The darkest of which was that somehow Noriko was responsible for it all, that her treatments were not a defense against the devastation but in fact, its cause. Tsuneyo tried to quell this gossip whenever he could despite his own growing concerns.

That all changed when Kimiko and Akira fell victim to the malady. Tending to his dying wife and child, he was either unable or unwilling to silence the mob that had grown at the town square. In the dark of night, Noriko and Yoshiro were attacked and overwhelmed by madness and numbers. Yoshiro, somehow managed to avoid death that night but not his beloved Noriko. He lay unconscious as she drew her final breath. When he came to with blood in his eyes, Yoshiro avenged his dead wife and unborn child by individually killing many of those he held directly responsible before leaving his once idyllic haven once and for all.

The night left Yoshiro a scarred man, spiritually and physically -- he bears a crimson tear shaped scar beneath his right eye. Knowing no other option, he returned to the way of the sword. Time has passed and his journies have lead him to the Rock of Bral.

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© 2001 Rebecca J. Stevenson