Today we go to The Voxel Box, a Minecraft server I’ve been playing on occasionally since the games early beta. I sometimes feel like the amazing builds there lack something: life, and a story. As nice and aesthetically pleasing the might look, many of them are meaningless, which I find sad. This is why I’ve started writing short accounts of things that could very well happen in the VoxelVerse as finger exercise, only a bit more serious than the usual tale. But without much further ado I’ll leave you with this story, taking place on the island of Daigon.
Music of the Moment: Glorian´ Music Marks – New Ashos
It was quiet, Daigon, quiet and peaceful. He had just stepped off the Eorlund, a big, bulky trading ship with powerful engines and rough sailors and entered a world of weird smells, queer voices and strange people. The air was damp and warm, completely unlike the clear, cutting iciness he was accustomed to. The mountains were also different. High, rounded peaks full of vegetation, not quite as tall as the ones at home, but not even the greatest of them seemed to have any snow atop it. It was hard to see, though, as the distance was clouded by a nebulous mist.
To his left, men were carrying containers and taking inventory of the Eorlunds wares, bringing them into a number of warehouses. In front was a great hill, with alien plants and a granite wall with wooden watchtowers on it. Small waterfalls were coming out of holes in the stone and flowing into the sea, and farther off right he could see a windmill with it’s own plantation at the waterfront. Only his brother was familiar, and even he was wrapped in Daigon’s peculiar garbs.
“Hjolf!” He shouted from the end of the pier. “Brother, it is so very nice to see you again.”
Hjolf was a true man of Skol. He was tall, broad of build, with a square jaw, blue eyes and braided brown hair that went over into his shaggy, untamed beard. As every good warrior from the city of Skogr, he was clad in an armour of boiled leather with dark steel plating, offering good protection while still allowing the wearer to remain flexible. On his back was a two-handed battleaxe made of the same dark steel. Hjörning, it was called, and only the smiths of Skogr knew its secrets.
His brother, however, was a different matter. Wulfjorn had no hair to speak of, only faint stubbles on his nearly clean shaven head. His face had always been a bit softer than Hjolfs, but without a proper beard to cover it he looked about as intimating as a snow rabbit. Only the eyes, the eyes they both had. Bright and blue, like a frozen lake in the spring sun. Instead of armour, Wulfjorn wore something that reminded him of a short cloak. It was made of thick grey cloth with black borders, wrapped around his body and held together by a black belt decorated with a plate of jade, a plate of lapis, a plate of copper and a plate of white marble, all with the same symbol carved into them. Underneath the belt he wore some sort of black skirt with grey pants underneath.
“I thought you were a fighter. Do you only wear your armour on special occasions?” It was supposed to be a jest, but Wulfjorn didn’t quite get that.
“We call this a Gi. It is the only armour I need.” He smiled.
“Glad to hear you still have no sense of humour.” It was a good thing. At least some part of his little brother remained.
“Follow me.” Wulfjorn said.
They went into a cave that turned out to be a tunnel through the hill. The tunnel looked more like a natural cave than anything, the only man-made thing being the Daigonese symbols written on the stone with glowpowder. Why would anyone build a wall if you could just go right beneath it?
The question was answered when they entered a small valley, with a great waycastle stretching across it.
“How fares our father?” Wulfjorn asked.
“Oh, he’s fine, I’ll tell you that. He’s retired, so now he drinks and eats and whores like never before. ‘I don’t need to stay in shape no more’, he says. Alfric is captain of the guard now.” To say their father had disliked Hjolfs wish to visit his brother would be an understatement. Ever since Wulfjorn decided to travel the world instead of joining the Skogr city watch he had been dead to the old man. Although he and Wulfjorn stayed in contact with sporadic letters, Hjolf and their father never talked about him.
“I’m glad he is happy.” There was nothing left of the boy who once spit on his father boots and went cursing out the door in his brother. An intangible calm surrounded him, coming from deep within his soul. His master-at-arms had once told him that a calm warrior was just as dangerous as a raging berserker.
Up the hill he could see the village, an olio of exotic looking houses in dozens of colours with much to broad roofs. Gaily coloured garlands with paper lamps spanned from house to house , all surrounding the big pine tree in the middle. There seemed to be more, walled off areas ahead, but Wulfjorn turned left. Several of the townspeople greeted his brother with small bows, some even Hjolf, but most of them gave him strange looks, or at least that was what they seemed. It was always hard to tell with those slitted eyes.
“Don’t they like me?” He asked.
“Well, they’re not used to seeing many Skolmen around here.”
“You are a Skolman and they see you every day.”
“They do, but after a while of living here you become Daigonese. Besides, you do look quite fierce with that beard.”
“Heh, that’s why my enemies fear me!” he laughed a booming laugh.
They continued up a narrow path of stone steps that lead over a bridge crossing a small stream, to become a full stairway. While they were climbing, Hjolf asked:
“So, tell me about this fighting of yours. Is it any good?”
This time, Wulfjorn chuckled.
“You are about to enter a Monastery of the Four Schools, brother. It is not just fighting, it is a way of life.”
“Fighting is a way of life. It’s a warriors way.”
“True, but the Four Schools offer more than that.”
They arrived at a shallow pond with water lilies floating on it. A number of stone platforms were placed across, leading to a stream running down the steep mountainside into the pond. Two Daigonese boys in white gis were fighting on them, jumping, dodging and maintaining impossible balance. They were supervised by an older man in the same coloured gi, although Hjolf noted that he wore a skirt, just like his brother.
“This is Shinjao-Aoeha, the School of Air. It requires flexibility and strong leg muscles, focusing mostly on unpredictable moves and the use of ones surroundings. I am sure you have heard of the ninja?”
Hjolf nodded. The Shadow Warriors were fabled even among his own people, although he believed them to be cowards for not facing their enemies in the open.
“Well, to make it simple, it’s what the ninja do.”
“What about the skirt?”
“The ‘skirt’ is called Hakama, and it is reserved only for masters of at least one school.” He pointed at a long pavilion behind a tree. Hjolf could make out a group of people in red gis practising a series of quick strikes against the air. “That is Shinjao-Takea, the School of Fire. It is used to quickly incapacitate enemies by attacking certain points on their body with precise strikes and dealing blows of massive force to vulnerable areas.”
A series of stairs lead along walls of massive granite bricks and up to a three-story building made of dark wood and stone. The monastery.
“So what is your school?” He asked. Wulfjorn chuckled again.
“I have no single school, I am a Mitao-Shinjei, a Master of All, but I am best in Shinjao-Ubahe, the School of Water, which I also teach. Think of it as a way of controlling your enemies force to benefit yourself with minimal effort.”
“So what is the fourth school about?” Hjolf asked as they stepped through the door and into the cool, fresh interior if the monastery. The walls were covered with wooden panels, and the floor was bright bamboo with a gigantic mattress of reeds in the middle.
“Please, remove your boots.” Wulfjorn stripped his woven sandals from his feet and carefully put them besides the other sandals that looked exactly the same.
“Is that really necessary?”
He sat down, unclasped the ties of his boots and pulled them off with brute force, proceeding to place them neatly by the others.
“Oh, I hope I find them again in this chaos.” he said, sarcastically. His brother didn’t laugh. “So, the fourth school. Let me guess: Earth.”
“Correct. Shinjao-Nihura is all about immobilizing your enemy and pinning him to the ground with strong grabs and holds. You would like it.”
He lead them up a corkscrew stair to a room where several people were kneeling in circles and drinking hot tea from wooden cups. Most of them were wearing red, blue, white or brown gis, but the three sitting in the middle all wore the same grey colour as his brother.
One of them was very tall and had a long face and a clean shaven head. His belt displayed only three small plates: lapis, jade and white marble, the copper one was missing. Sitting in front of him was a short, green-eyed one, who had all of the plates. Next to him sat an old man with a round face and a big, happy smile. He had not only four but six little plates, the two additional being one of wood and one of iron.
“Hjolf, these are Ahaimi Aihatsu, a Master of Three, Mishima Jinjio, a Master of All, like myself, and Kojima Heihachi, a Senseitao-Shinjei, a Teacher of All. He is our spiritual leader and the uncle of Kojima Neheoki, the current head of the noble house Kojima.”
“So Kojima is his last name?” he asked.
“Well, it’s obviously not his last name but his family name.”
“It is strange to strangers.” Kojima said in heavily accented Skolje. “Please, have a sit, and a tea.”
While the Teacher of All poured, Hjolf and Wulfjorn sat down. Hjolf needed a while to get the seat right and immediately noticed that it was painfully uncomfortable.
“Where did you learn Skolje, Neheoki. Or should I address you by some title?”
“No no, Neheoki will do. I visited Kaldakr once and I liked the speech, so I decided to train it. It is not very easy, but your brother learns me sometimes.”
“Neither is Daigonese, by the way.” His brother noted. “It is like a more complicated version of Hanai’i.”
Hjolf took a sip of the tea. A stream of cold fire went down his throat, making him cough.
“It is strongmint and stinging nettle. Very good for breathing deep.” Neheoki chuckled.
“And for burning up from the inside, it would seem. Do you have any mead?”