The Ronin, Fukitso, returns in...

Fukitso and the Golden Egg

A 9-Chapter Sword & Sorcerer of the Mighty Ronin!

by Jeffrey Blair Latta

Previously: The Ronin, Fukitso, in charge of the Ichiba's palace guards, is sent to arrest some conspirators, but one dwarf conspirator escapes.  The Ichiba, having pretended to execute the peasants' high priestess, secretly keeps her prisoner in the east tower. The Ichiba's power depends on a "kurocho", a sorcerer whom the Ichiba controls through the possession of a mysterious golden egg. Fukitso receives a gift from the Ichiba, a beautiful woman, who knocks him out, for what purpose, Fukitso doesn't know. Suspicious of Fukitso's sympathies with the peasants, the Ichiba decides to arrest him, but Fukitso escapes. The dwarf conspirator, Okii, enlists Fukitso's help to rescue the priestess, lying to the Ronin, concealing the fact that she is a priestess, and promising her as a reward.  Fukitso decides to recruit an ally of his own. He rescues Nandalia from the clutches of the Gake raiders and returns to Kari-Zak.

Now, the next day...

Chapter Seven - Nandalia's Dance

"THE TEAR OF THE SUN!" SHOUTED NANDALIA, pacing the dusty boards of the room in seething frustration.  "T'was en route for Mali when Hidoi and his Gake ruffians didst fall 'pon the caravan, slaying the riders all.  I didst track the jewel from the very straits and, learning what hadst befallen it, didst fall in with the band as concubine to their accurs'd leader.  Yet nary didst I lay 'pon it mine hands -- onst the first day yet -- than who shouldst discover me in mine cause than Hidoi himself.

"In desperation I didst conceal the gem 'neath the matting of a chair in his very hut, and he knew not wherefore I hadst come.  In time I didst hope to find chance to recover the jewel.  But, nay!  Hidoi didst discover its absence and, though being but a simpleton, didst divine mine plot.  Forthwith was I bound within a hut whereat commenced mine suppos'd punishment.  Verily didst I know that the mouthings of Hidori were but hollow vessels indeed.  In time he wouldst have left me to dwell 'pon mine wounds and, then, t'wouldst be but short work to the gem and freedom.  But, again nay!  For who shouldst blunder stupidly into mine scheme but thyself -- hulking savage!  Accurs'd wrecker of fine-worn plots!  Now ist the jewel lost and I without proper garb!"

"So ka," rumbled the giant, Fukitso, eyeing her slender figure with unconcealed admiration.  "And well worth one of your tongue-lashings to see you so!  But why should you need this Tear of the Sun?  If this revolt is successful, we will both have the plunder of the treasury to weigh us in our travels."

"Try not to appeal to me with babble of rishes, ignorant Ronin," she hissed, venomously.  "T'was the child in the tower which didst so lead me into this plot.  Wherefore shouldst she suffer for the petty schemes of dunderheaded men!  Nay!  T'was only her pitiful plight which couldst induce me to play the wench in this mad caper or, more, to don this slight and degrading rag!"

Nandalia ceased her pacing and stood firm with clenched fists upon her full, round hips.  She wore only a red, jewel-encrusted loin-cloth with matching bra.  Soft, translucent veils hung in curving boughs from her garb adding a dream-like mist to a subtle shimmer of light upon golden limbs.

"And none could don it better," chuckled the strange-eyed giant.  Yet the fierce and hungry fire which raged in his eyes was hardly that of jest.

Nandalia was hardly blind to that look.  With a furious oath she took up the obsidian ax, still red with the blood of the Gake, and waved its gleaming head before the broad chest of Fukitso.

"Recall thy manners, brute!  Or I wilt lay thee open to the stars!"

Her daggered eyes blazed and her breast rose and fell with the passionate intensity of her anger.  But whether Fukitso heeded the threatening blade, no man may say, for his weird blind-seeming eyes remained inscrutable and, when he spoke, it was in a rumble as calm and steady as distant thunder.

"Perhaps someday I shall have to take that toy away from you," he growled.  "Then I will show you what Fukitso thinks of a woman warrior."

At this she laughed.  But her mirth held perhaps just a dim edge of uncertainty.

"All is prepared."

Okii swaggered in through the thickly-curtained archway.  For a brief instant the sound of revelry drifted past the threshold from the hallway beyond.  Then the curtain fell closed and silence returned.

"You are both ready?" asked the dwarf, worriedly eyeing the weapon in Nandalia's whitened knuckles.

Immediately she replaced the ax upon the stained table-top and commenced to examine her filmy garment once more.

"Not as yet," she replied.  "I wouldst know first how thou wouldst have me perform this miraculous deception."

"Your loin-cloth," answered Fukitso, simply.

The dwarf hastened to explain.  "It is woven from a single, slender thread of the web of the mboga spider.  The strand is light, continuous and unbreakable."

"Hai -- and expensive," muttered the Ronin, angrily.  "It cost me my very gadoro to barter it from the thief on the docks.  He would well have had Ginago as well.  But he would not have it where I would put it."

He chuckled savagely at the memory, brandishing his gleaming bladed katana, and the dwarf gave a nervous cough.  Nandalia, Hanbun of the Aka-Zaki, simply smiled knowingly and ran a delicate finger across the soft, rare fabric.

One did not, as a rule, request a conference with the high Ichiba.  When he was prepared to see an individual, he would send for such.  And, of course, an Ioni dancer took very low priority beside the other numerous affairs of state with which Hayai-Kuchi was constantly occupied.  Thus it was not until late morning that Nandalia was summoned into his awe-inspiring presence.

She still wore the delicate garb purchased by her brawny ally.  But, added to this, she displayed about her slim wrists and ankles tiny silver bells which tinkled as she walked.  She was accompanied by a large, armoured Zaki, and together they knelt at the foot of the great, marble throne in the customary fashion.  Then, when the Zaki rose to his feet, she remained kneeling in humble submission.

"And what is this?" questioned Hayai-Kuchi, eyeing the slender figure intently.  "A dancer?"

"Chiisai mashita, Ichiba," responded the Zaki.  "She claims to be a dancer of pure Ioni blood.  Also she claims to be a gift from the outlaw, Fukitso."

The Ichiba's eyes widened with interest and a slight smile creased his thin lips.  "Fukitso!  How strange these Ronins are!  Is this true, dancer?"

"Chiisai mashita, Ichiba," answered Nandalia.

"If you are a dancer," scolded the Ichiba, "you have legs.  Use them!"

Gently she stood and crossed her hands in front, her short locks falling softly over her down-tilted face.  The eyes of Hayai-Kuchi travelled slowly down her near-naked body as if actively testing the suppleness of her flesh.  Then he nodded.

"That is better.  Now!  Why would Fukitso send me such a gift?"

"Because he wishes the forgiveness of the Ichiba for past indisgressions."  She spoke mechanically as if reciting her message word for word.

"I see," mused Hayai-Kuchi.  "And why should such a gift win my forgiveness?"

"Because I am Ioni, I am beautiful, and I dance well."  There was no egotism in this statement.  It was spoken as if it were a simple inevitability.

For a moment, the Ichiba was silent and thoughtful.  Then he nodded again.

"Very well.  Let us see if this gift is truly worthy of my divine forgiveness.  Zaki!  Summon the musician!"

Bowing low, the warrior hastened from the chamber only to return moments later followed closely by a panting dwarf who awkwardly carried three small palm-drums.

"I am Okii," gasped the dwarf, kneeling before the dancer.  "I am entertainer to the court of the high Ichiba.  I--"

"Yes, I know what you are," interrupted Hayai-Kuchi impatiently.  "You are also a musician.  I want you to play."

Okii glanced, as if startled, at the sleek legs beside him.  A mischievous gleam shone in his eyes as his gaze roved hungrily up the supple, curving figure.

"I could indeed have playful games with this one!" he exclaimed.

"The drums!" laughed the Ichiba.  "Play the drums that she may display her talents."

"To my mind, her talents are already displayed aplenty!  But, as you wish, Ichiba."

Okii scurried quickly to the wall where he set down his drums before several brightly-embroidered cushions.  Positioning himself comfortably on these latter, he raised his open palms above the drums and awaited the command to begin.

"Dance!" ordered Hayai-Kuchi.

And Nandalia danced.

At first, she moved very little, gently causing her arms to sway from side to side, the bells barely even jingling with the motion.  The Ichiba disliked the tegikyoku, or "hand tales", and he commenced quickly to grow bored.  But Nandalia sensed his displeasure and slowly the undulating rhythm spread like a thick, golden wave, down her torso, down her thighs, down her legs.  And then did Nandalia truly began to dance.

Small wonder that Nandalia, Hanbun of the Aka-Zaki, should have been an impressive dancer.  For, surely, was not the swift, fleet-footed fighting style of her following but a fiercely beautiful dance of death?  Remove the sword, remove the foe, remove the death, and the dance was revealed in all its primordial and bestial fury.

Thus did she move now; twisting, turning, leaping, swaying.  Her lithe, young body moved like a madman's dreams of fluid gold, now arched seductively upon the marble tiles, now straining to touch the very carvings of the ceiling.  All the while, the silvery song of her bracelets tinkling in harmonious accompaniment to the savage pulsations of her vibrant, flashing limbs.  The light washing like molten fire across the taut undulations of her belly.  And her short locks tossing like liquid ebony in the grasp of a raging tornado.

And, like a tornado, she spun unstoppably up the two low steps to the edge of the throne.  The Zaki guarding the Ichiba attempted to remain impervious to this enticing and sensuous display.  But a naked thigh brushed the armour of his leg, a tender shoulder nudged his arm, a delicate finger teased his hair.  And then she was behind the throne.  And then upon the opposite side.  And Hayai-Kuchi grinned with pleasure as she caressed the marble with her naked flesh as if drawing warmth from the cold, hard surface.

Then, like the slow undulations of the naga-gur, she slid gently over the arm of the throne, arching her back until her hair draped his lap and her eyes stared up into his.  An arm stole about his neck.  A tongue darted furtively between ivory-white teeth.  Hayai-Kuchi grinned.  The Zaki grinned.  A slender hand plucked a jewelled dagger from the Ichiba's girdle, raised it high, and plunged it toward his breast...

The dance was ended.

"So, this is how Fukitso seeks forgiveness," hissed Hayai-Kuchi, inexorably constricting his grip so that Nandalia cried out from the pain and the dagger fell from her numb fingers.

With a savage jerk, the Ichiba wrenched her arm so that she was forced to twist to her front lest it be torn from its very socket.  For a moment she lay panting across his knees, one callous arm of the marble throne pressing fiercesomely against her pelvis, the other against her cheek-bone.  Then she screamed again as he brutally forced her arm up between her shoulder-blades until the pain seared like molten stone.

"Truly is this Ronin an ignorant fool," continued the Ichiba through clenched teeth, "to waste such beauty upon such a pathetic ploy.  Did he truly believe he could kill one who is divine?  Oh, well.  No matter!  This was his mistake.  But, tell me, Ioni of the flashing limbs, where hides your master?"

His only response was the quick panting from beneath the disheveled locks.  He chuckled without mirth.

"Come now, my child.  Why should you suffer for the mistake of that Ronin?  And you will suffer, you know.  So, tell me, where does he hide?"

Again there was no reply, and he clicked his tongue in mock chastisement.  Then he transferred his grip to his right hand and, with the left, recovered the jewelled dagger from among his robes.  Carefully he placed the slender tip of the blade to the small of her back so that the silver point just indented the skin.  He felt her heart pound staccato-like against his knee.

"Your legs are very lithe and long," he said, as if musing to himself.  "As a dancer, they must give you great pride.  Such a pity.  Your value, I am sure, would greatly decrease were you to lose the use of them."

He felt the firm muscles of her abdomen grow taut with expectancy of the horrible deed.

"Or, perhaps, I shall merely have you flayed alive, and forever wear your golden pelt as a memento of your marvellous dance."

Here he gently dragged the blade across the length of her spine as if making the imaginary incision.

"Now, once more.  Where hides Fukitso, your master?"

For a time, the entire room held its breath, awaiting.  Then Nandalia let out a single choked cry. "I know not, Ichiba!"

With a roar of disgust, Hayai-Kuchi flung her from the throne so that she sprawled upon the tiles, weeping and trembling with anguish.  The Ichiba signalled to two Zaki.

"Have her flogged thoroughly and thrown in the dungeon.  Repeat this daily until she is ready to be more conversant.  No.  Better, lock her in the east tower.  I may find time later to speak with her...personally."

The two Zaki bowed low and, each taking an arm, dragged the limp dancer from the chamber.  As the tapestries fell closed and the court resumed, none gave notice of the musical dwarf who slipped quickly and quietly after.

Once out of the throne room, Okii raced hurriedly through the dim hallways, down the main stairway, through the front arch and across the courtyard.  The palace gates were open as always -- since the narrow causeway could easily be held by even a single slingman -- and the dwarf scurried through unhindered by the guards in the battlements above.  If the stupid dwarf insisted on roaming unprotected through the squalid streets of Kari-Zak, that was none of their concern...

Previous episode: :"You Will Tell Me Eventually!"
Next episode: Prison Break!

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Fukitso and the Golden Egg is copyright Jeffrey Blair Latta.  It is reprinted here with the author's permission.