Well, it might have taken a bit longer than I (optimistically) thought, but here we finally are at the start of book 3.
A few points before we dive in :
- Seriously, what is with that title? I know that it gets ‘explained’ fairly early on, but its a pretty abstract word to throw at the target audience for this book series. For a period of time (way too long, given my reading level) I thought it was the title of the baddie in this book, like ‘Duke’ or ‘Baron’.
- But enough of my youthful misunderstanding of archaic terms.
- The introductory section does reassure me that, prior to the commencement of this adventure, my Endurance and Inner Force have been restored to 20 and 5 respectively, and I have regained my ‘optimal’ level of 5 Shuriken.
- Perhaps most importantly, I get a randomly determined improvement to my martial arts modifiers. Without being pessimistic, I want to make clear here that I will re-roll this improvement for every attempt at Book 3. For current purposes, I roll a……5, which, for this attempt, gives me a (further) +1 to my Kick modifier, and + 1 to my Throw modifier.
I stroll with the Grandmaster of the Dawn to the local Temple. No mention is made of whether we hold hands or talk about the local orchards. In a shamelessly obvious attempt at currying my favour, he states that the temple is about to lose its ‘most powerful protector’, and confirms that he means me (!) when I query this declaration.
Finally, we get to the good stuff, as my parentage is revealed.
The Grandmaster tells me that my father was Loremaster Szeged, the Overlord (basically King) of the city of Irsmuncast. This city is (through no real choice of its own) tasked with the responsibility of guarding the kingdoms of humans against the various demons and other awful beings who come from the ‘Rift’, which is basically a chasm leading to the depths of hell. No mention is made of my mother, which speaks for itself about the attitudes of this world.
When the baddies (the followers of Vile) tried to build (in Irsmuncast) a temple to their God, my father apparently opposed this and, in a completely disproportionate response to a civil planning dispute, was killed by Yaemon (we all remember him, yeah?).
I am told (in no uncertain terms) that it is now my responsibility to ‘cast down’ the Usurper and take my father’s place. Why this became urgent in the last five minutes is not clarified. It is also left surprisingly vague as to who has actually assumed the rulership of Irsmuncast, since Yaemon is disqualified for reasons of, you know, death.
The Grandmaster gives me my father’s seal, which depicts a hippogriff on a chequered background. For those that weren’t geeks at school, a hippogriff is an eagle / horse combination.
I can wait.
Notwithstanding my protestations that I ‘know nothing of ruling men’, I am bluntly told that it is ‘my destiny’ and that the Grandmaster will teach me further skills. Not government principles (because what would an Overlord of an entire city need to know about that, amirite?) but Way of the Tiger techniques. The Grandmaster offers to give me further knowledge, through such instruction as I may select. I can choose from the following :
- Any one of the ‘basic’ ninja skills which I do not already possess;
- ‘Shin-Ren’ – The ability to essentially be a human lie detector, and read people’s thoughts and intentions by their behaviour and body language.
- ‘Yubi-Jutsu’ – A ‘super’ martial arts skill of Nerve Striking, giving me the ability to (in theory) excel at combat beyond what might otherwise be expected.
Aside : I’m not going to pick Shin-Ren for two reasons. The first is because, after playing through this book several times, I pretty much already know all the ‘secrets’ of the people I will encounter. Secondly, having this skill frustrates the hell out of me, because there are numerous examples in this and other books when being able to ‘read’ someone would come in handy, but the book doesn’t give a toss whether you possess it or not.
Instant death Nerve Striking for the win!
After training with the Grandmaster for ‘many weeks’ he acknowledges that my skill even exceeds his own. Flattery will get you everywhere, my friend!
There’s some intimation of yet another spiritual journey before I commence on the ACTUAL journey, but that will have to wait for another day.
Stats : Endurance : 20, Punch Modifier : +1, Kick Modifier: +3, Throw Modifier : +1, Fate Modifier : +1, Inner Force : 5
Awesome names : I’d love to say our father’s name of Szeged, but, in all seriousness, it sounds like a spicy beef dish you’d order in Chinatown.