by T.A. Saunders ©2011 v1.0
The Wrath of a Woman’s Scorn: The History of the First Scythe Witch
In a time before the coming of Adnor the Vocorian and the Dynasty of the first Warlord of Taijun, there existed a time of great civil strife amongst the Taijuni people. The emperor of that time, Kuragato Nijaro, otherwise known as Kuragato the Butcher, had oppressed the Taijuni people, in no better a fashion than their ancient Shar`Vaire masters would have had in store for them, had they not been set free. Known for his worship of Khazar, Chaos Lord of the Dead, it was commonplace that commoners that could not pay their tax to the empire were put to death as sacrifices to the Butcher’s black god. Commonly, it was the men of the household that were put to death in this way, leaving the mothers and children to be sold into slavery to pay the debt owed to the emperor.
This practice had been going on for so long, most families simply accepted that this was the way things would be until Kuragato either died of old age, or somebody finally assassinated him. Yet, the emperor had seen many years but did not show signs of aging, in large thanks to Khazar, who empowered his servant with long life, so long as he maintained the sacrifices. Yet, it would be one woman who would break this cycle of villainy and in so doing, bring about the Way of the Scythe, or Kanji Ni Sata in the Taijuni tongue.
Kitsuri Yamitawa was a wife to a common man, named Buro, who had served the emperor in the war against the ancient and wicked Kingdom of Albadosia, that had sought the Taijuni’s knowledge of metallurgy and their impressive method of enchanting the weapons they made without magic. After this bloody campaign that left both sides decimated, Buro returned home to his family with the meager coin the emperor offered for his military service as a soldier. With a family to feed and crops to be sewn, that coin was stretched to its absolute limit. Yet, when the Imperial Tax Collector came to take the emperor’s due, Buro came short a few copper coins. Despite the blood he had spilled in the emperor’s name, Buro Yamitawa was taken away in shackles to be slaughtered as an example, as so many men before him had been.
Kitsuri was devastated by this, but moreover, she was infuriated. She was a devoted and faithful wife, but she was also a woman that could not and would not settle for the doom Emperor Kuragato had set before her family, but indeed her options were few. Killing off many of the men ensured that a revolt, under normal circumstances would not be possible, because traditionally in Taijuni society, it was the men that fought and went to war, while the women tended to home and hearth. Kitsuri saw the way the emperor had used tradition to make a cage for the people and concluded that there was only one way to break free of it; the women of Taijun would have to learn to fight.
Because the emperor was an evil man and knew many wished to kill him, there was a law that prohibited weapons to be kept in a household. No family had a sword or spear to protect themselves as it was the duty of the Imperial Guard to make safe the land. What commoners did have was farming tools and the tool chosen by Kitsuri to fight the oppression of the emperor was nothing more than a common scythe. However, there was still the more pressing matter of her and her family being enslaved to pay a debt that by all rights, should not have existed at all. Ironically, heeding the will of the emperor would put her in a place where she could more effectively strike at him, rather than being hidden in the dangerous jungles of Tamayr Shuryu. So when the Imperial Guards came for her and her children, she went willingly but ever-mindful of the goal of ending the emperor’s life.
In consideration to her plight, Kitsuri realized that she and her children would likely be put to work tending the Emperor’s vast fields of Koia, a tall, wide-leafed plant used to make a variety of Taijuni food products, such as their famous sweet flatbread and rice. Because this work required a large, two-handed scythe to harvest, logically she would be given access to one in order to do her labor. Every night, while her children slept in the leaky, dirt-floored hovel they were given to live in, Kitsuri would practice with the scythe and in so doing, begin to understand the weapon’s perfect and unique balance. The months this practice went on in secret, under the noses of the guards quickly became years and with each passing day, Kitsuri became more centered on her singular goal to slay the emperor, to the point it gained almost a spiritual sort of focus. The injustice of Kuragato the Butcher burned in her mind like a smoldering candle that lit the vengeful path she had chosen, yet it was not anger that filled her heart, as many would expect, but simply the rationale that if things were to change for her family and her people, the Emperor had to die.
The young woman Kitsuri had matured and her children grown into young adulthood themselves, but age did not wither her lithe, strong body or diminish the fury in her heart. She had even taken to instructing her daughter, Mirwa in this fighting style she had developed and bade her to document it so that other women could learn prevent this sort of imprisonment of the Taijuni people again. If the women could fight, there would always be a blade to raise against the corrupt and tyrannical. Mirwa learned from Kitsuri and wrote down what she had been taught, on home made scrolls fashioned from koia leaves and written with a sharpened stick dipped in homemade ink.
The opportunity to strike the decisive blow came nearly twenty years later; not surprisingly, Kitsuri’s practicing with the scythe also made her quite good at reaping koia; so good in fact that it had earned her praise from her keeper to the emperor himself. In his demented hubris, Kuragato the Butcher decided to visit the koia fields and watch the slave, Kitsuri work. The unnaturally preserved Kuragato found Kitsuri immediately enrapturing, with her graceful movement and her impressive intensity put to her task. It was nearly as though she danced through the white fields of koia for him alone in order to earn his favor. He walked closer, with his two guardsmen, confidant that this slave peasant would be honored to speak with him and would willingly present her lovely, though common body for his pleasures, once she was bathed. So entranced with her grace, when he and his guards approached, none of them saw the strike of the whirling scythe coming; in one spinning motion, Kuragato the Butcher was decapitated and his two guards disemboweled.
With the emperor slain, Kitsuri led the enslaved families from the emperor’s compound with her blooded scythe swathing a path through guardsmen who had not been prepared to deal with a trained warrior of any kind, much less one now leading a peasant revolt with women wielding pitchforks, axes and in some cases scythes themselves. More often than not, the guards simply let these unlikely rebels pass, for not having a taste to slaughter women and children. That was not always the case however and as the peasants escaped through the front gates of the Imperial compound, an arrow from one of the emperor’s archers took Kitsuri’s life. With the scrolls of her mother’s teaching clutched to her chest and her mother’s bloodied scythe in hand, Mirwa assured her mother’s legacy would not be forgotten.
After much insurrection and civil unrest, a new emperor was chosen amongst the feudal lords that ruled over the lands of the empire. Always remembered however was the lesson taught by Kitsuri Yamitawa, that oppression of the people would no longer be tolerated with the knowing that the women could rise up and bear arms even if the men could not. Mirwa went on to instruct her younger sister, Kiku and three other women in Kanji Ni Sata before moving into seclusion in the jungle, where she would not be easily found by those who wished to learn.
The Path of the Scythe Witch
The scythe witch is a type of warrior and martial artist, who through sheer focus and willpower achieves near supernatural feats in combat with their primary weapon, which of course is a scythe. They are not an organized monastic order, like knights; the scythe witch, or Kanji-Su is an entirely personal journey that involves no faith in a deity, or sorcerous power. It is a discovery of one’s self and one’s abilities a woman must choose to follow, live and expound upon all their life. Only women are ever trained to become scythe witches and no Mistress of the Scythe will ever teach a male and will very rarely teach women of another race, aside of human, though there are a few known to exist. Primarily, most scythe witches are either Taijuni or possibly Albadosian. A teacher must be sought and one’s whole self must be given into the teachings of their Mistress. The knowledge, wisdom and techniques of the Way of the Scythe are passed down; the student writes down the words of the Mistress and the scrolls stay with the student all her life. Variations in style and technique are included in this scrolls, but the history never changes. It is the duty of each scythe witch to preserve the lore of their beginning.
The path of the scythe witch does not promote a particular religion, philosophy or creed, other than to fight tyranny wherever it may be found. What one witch considers tyranny could well be considered freedom to another, setting a stage where two scythe witches may combat one another. Such fights are often long and brutal, pitting strength, speed and fighting style of each woman against the other. In fact, in situations where a battlefield may have scythe witches on either side, it is often they will seek each other out in favor of other opponents. Sometimes this done to parlay with the opposing scythe witch, or to simply eliminate one thought to be corrupt and lost from their path. More often than not, however more than one scythe witch will be found working together to free or defend a community from a conquering force.
To become a scythe witch takes an immense amount of personal willpower, mental acumen and physical prowess. Many women are turned away from a Mistress, even if they succeed in finding one. The initial meeting between potential student and Mistress is often the guiding one; poise, demeanor and intellect are judged by the Mistress and if the woman is found lacking, she is sent off and will not be seen again. This does not mean the potential student cannot find another Mistress from which to train, though failing once is a good indicator that said candidate is not material to become a scythe witch.
Once accepted, training consists of physical endurance, mental focus, studies of the body, the mind and of course armed and unarmed combat. Scythe witches are capable of matching even knights in armed combat and commonly duplicate feats, such as deflecting bullets that normally take knights aMiracle of Body to achieve. In this way, they have managed to endure in a world that has seen the expansive use of firearms and have even developed techniques in which to rapidly advance on a gun-wielding opponent and disarm them. This of course is never fool-proof and more than one scythe witch has been defeated by a clever marksman with a bow or a rifle. Despite the threat of firearms, or even spell-casters, the deep understanding of mind and body allow the scythe witch to engage on largely even footing against all manner of adversaries.
Because of their need to move quickly and fluidly, armor of any kind is frowned upon by a scythe witch, though some who have chosen a more militaristic life, have been known to don chainmail tunics and skirts to offer greater protection. No scythe witch will ever wear banded or plate armor however, as the restriction of movement is simply too much to overcome. However, no such restrictions exist for what weapons they may carry and it has not been unheard of for a scythe witch to carry a dagger within the snathe of her scythe, or in more recent times, even fashioned a one-shot, short-range pistol into their weapon. A scythe witch’s scythe is a personal expression of themselves and will often bear a ribbon of their favorite color, or have something that makes that weapon unique to that scythe witch. These weapons are very much the calling card of the witch in question, making it and the reputation of the one carrying said scythe known, the more that scythe witch is seen in combat.
The final part of scythe witch training is to craft one’s own scythe. This entails the student to learn wood craft and an acceptable level of smithing, in order to accomplish this. Everything from the wood of the snathe, to the blade that sits upon it is the creation of the scythe-witch. Enchantments can also be applied, if the scythe witch learns, or knows somebody who is knowledgeable in rune-forging. Scythes enchanted with magic are exceedingly rare, since the Taijuni people live on Tamayr Shuryu, where the large amount of Starmetal in the ground makes working magic nearly impossible. Once the scythe is forged, it is consecrated in the witch’s own blood, taken typically from the forearm, before it is tested in a spar with the student’s Mistress. Regardless of the outcome, the student is now a scythe witch and may set forth on her own journey.