by Ree Soesbee
A tale of Rokugan, the world of Legend of the Five Rings
(used with permission)
Author's Note: I was alone in the forest one day some months ago, shortly after the great Battle at Beiden Pass. It was about the time when the Crab forces were fighting against Toturi's men on the southern fields near the lands of the Doji. Suddenly, I heard behind me a coughing noise, as if some animal was choking on a bone. Turning to see what it was, I discovered a rather loathsome goblin standing near me. He saw that I was fearful and assured me that he meant no harm. He pleaded with me to hear and recount his story to the people of Rokugan, and that intrigued me. After I listened to it, I agreed that the Seven Clans could learn much from the tale, and thus, I recount it here, as close to the original form as possible.
My name's Kapukksu, and I'm the Goblin Chieftain of the Great Goblin Clan of Biteeye. My lineage is long and honorable, and my mother was renowned through all the tribes of the Squat People for her ability to spit a walnut into a mujina's eye at 100 feet. But that ain't the story I'm here to tell you.
My tribe, the Biteeye, is seven of the bravest bushi in the whole Shadowlands, and we was the first goblin clan the honorable Hida Kisada got to join his armies. Ya see, we've lived near the fortress of the Crab Clan for lotsa years, and've been in and out of the great iron mines there. In fact, we've been in and out and in and out and in . . . my people are a hardy folk, ya see. But that ain't the story I'm here to tell you neither.
I'm Kapukksu, I said, and I was in charge of a buncha goblins who fought under Hida Sukune and the Crab Clan Banner at the battle of Beiden Pass. Literally, I mean, we fought under Hida Sukune after he was nailed to the Crab Clan Banner. Right under him. We was sort of a banner guard and . . . but that ain't where the story starts.
My goblins are fierce, and skilled with the sling and the tanto, and we're usually given the honor of leading the charge into enemy lines. One time, during the siege just after Beiden Pass, I was watchin' the sharp military formation of my troops. Each one had lotsa stones, had carefully slapped mud all over their bodies, and had their mucus packed against the grip on their weapons so as they wouldn't slip from their fists in combat. Yup, I was proud of my bushi. One of 'em, my son, Ropputtu, had been placed in command of an entire regiment of mujina, and we had them little demons working hard to carry our gear and spit-shine our boots. Well, at least the spit part.
We was so good, a great warrior of the Crab Clan musta noticed our military ways, and came to us that night in camp. That night the smoke hung about our camp from the fire we made to eat by, and we was all coughin' and hackin' all over the food somethin' awful. We offered the warrior a chunk of the dead thing we was eating, like was polite, but he didn't want none. I guess the smoke was thick in his eyes too, because he kept a dark piece of cloth wrapped around his face the whole time he talked to me. But that was all right, I knew I could find him later from his smell if I had any questions about the job. We goblins have a better sense of smell than you do. Why, my old grandfather could smell a piece of carrion and tell you how long ago it died, right to the minute. Which is real useful for finding food, 'cause you don't want to eat anything too fresh, now do you?
Well, this warrior told me our new orders was to climb a ridge nearby and dig out this tremendous rock on top of it, so's to be ready to roll it down on the enemy tomorrow. And I thinks, "What a right smart idea!" We was eager to help, and it was safe too, what with being all the way across the encampment from the enemy. Usually, we was put right up near the front lines, but this time we was all the way at the back of our army. No way the Dragon forces could see what we was doing, and it would sure be a surprise.
I called my goblins together, kicked them all a few times like a good leader, and we trudged up the cliff with Ropputtu's mujina to dig out the big rock. It was real dark at the top of the mountain, since the Crab Clan warrior had told us we didn't need torches, but that was all right. We goblins see better than you people do. Did I tell you about my brother, Cakkitan? He once seen a bear rushing at him out of the depths of a cave he was camped in. He didn't get out of the way, more's the pity, but I'll swear to my dying day that he seen it first.
So, anyway, we got the rock dug out. Just like that guy told us, and it was ready to roll as soon as anybody even looked hard at it. I was mighty proud of my goblins, and ordered a free round of rotten apple mead for all of us when we got back to camp. The next day, we was ready to go with that rock. But the fella didn't show. Instead, a bunch of other Crab Clan guys showed up saying that we had to clear out so's that Hida Kisada could set up his camp where our camp was. "Now, hold on here," I said, but you know how it goes. We was out on our ears looking for another place to bed down between fights, and the Crab Clan Champion has all our good hard rocky places.
Well, that was bad enough, but what was worse was that the guy who had us up all night with that stupid rock never came back and told us to roll it. So we spent a coupla days fighting stuff, and got promoted to banner guard after Hida Sukune got hanged up. That was good, 'cause at least we had a job that smelled ripe.
So anyway, I finally smells this rock fella climbin' up the cliff a coupla nights later, and I yells to him, "Hey now, buddy, when we gonna roll that rock?" and he starts acting like he don't know me. So I get in a real yelling fight with him, and what happens but Hida Kisada comes walkin out of the tent yellin' at us all and causing more ruckus than we was in the first place. Like he was in charge or something. And I goes, "I'm sorry, m'lord, but I've got a rock all ready to roll down here on yer tent and what does this guy do but tell me that now he's gonna roll it and not me." I told him how hard my goblins worked on that rock all that time past, but he doesn't listen much. The rock guy, he starts yelling real loud about how I was insultin' his honor, and how I'm making it sound like it was his idea to roll a great big boulder down that hill (which it was, you remember?). He's howlin' like he's a real nutcase, and then he goes and challenges me to a duel.
Well now I'm stuck. Here I am, right in front of Hida Kisada, and I get challenged to a duel. Not that I know which end of a katana you eat off of, but I can't right refuse it. I look at the warrior, and I go, "Well, I guess I'm fighting ya then, 'cause if anybody's rolling that rock its me what's doing it."
Now, it's dark out, but they says we gotta fight right then. Which is all right by me, cause goblins see better than you folk do. Have I told you about my brother already? Yeah, well, I guess I did, but don't you forget that. Then they try to give me a sword but I says, "What'm I gonna do with that? Chuck it?" and I pulls out my sling. Now all these Hida boys are coming over to us, and its just me against that warrior who made us dig that rock out. Here I am, surrounded by the house guard and in front of Hida Kisada's own tent, and me ready to duel some crazy man with just my sling. Now, the Champion holds a white scarf in his hands and says to me, "When this falls, you hit 'im." And I says allright, and the loony guy says all right, and Kisada drops it.
Now, I'm a fair shot with my chucking sling, but I was a lot nervous. So, I got the biggest dang rock I can find in it, and when that hanky falls, I sling it at the guy. If'n I was a lying skank like some of those Slobberknuckle tribe, I'd say I hit him square and he fell like dung from a greased vulture. Well, I didn't. I missed by a mile, and the stone flew way up in the air. He starts grinning and walking toward me with that big sharp sword and I'm cursing my luck. Then, out of the corner of my ear, I hear a rumble.
Not a little rumble, like a stomach with no dead things in it, and not a medium rumble, like a coupla ogre bushi with a new samurai to play with, but a big rumble. The biggest rumble I ever heard, and here it was coming down the mountain towards us. Well, that dratted bloody big rock is what I hit with my chucking stone, and of course it fell right on us. The tent Kisada was supposed to sleep in gets crushed, and the guy I was fighting gets squashed, and all those Hida boys start yelling and screaming.
Well, I thought Kisada was gonna be thinking about ripping my head off for crushing his tent like that with a huge boulder, I mean what with him not even in there to see if the trap worked or not, but he wasn't even mad. Seems that his guard pulled that loony guy's body out from under it, and he was wearing a little piece of gold 'round his neck, and that made them all nervous. I'm not sure what a 'kolat' is, but it seems this guy was one. I guess 'kolat' means somebody who dies by having a rock dumped on him, 'cause that's all the guy was now. Well, Kisada got real mad when he sees this gold thing, and he crushes it all up in his hand. And I says, "Can I go now, boss, or do you want me to try to put that rock back so you can use it right?"
Now I'm hoping he doesn't say yes, 'cause like I said that rock was BIG. But he looks at me and he smiles. Smiles, can you believe that? At a goblin. He gives me the smashed gold thing, and he says 'You've earned much honor this day, goblin, by saving the life of the Champion of the Crab Clan," or somesuch, and right there, bang, he makes me a samurai. A samurai! Not the Slobberknuckle clan, not the Bangjaw clan, not any goblin clan that ever was had a goblin who was a samurai.
So that's my story, and here I'm wearin' the crushed gold necklace Hida Kisada gave me that day, to prove it. So you and yours remember, when you're pushing the Squat People around like you do, that there's one goblin out there who don't take to being pushed. And that's me, Kapukksu, Samurai of Clan Biteeye. I can spit a walnut 100 feet into a mujina's eye if I need to, and I made the Champion of the Crab Clan smile when he wasn't even killin' nothing. And that's a story to be proud of.