Description: Eadni has been carefully corrupting Mount Koya; desecrating temples, murdering buddhists, and weakening sacred seals. This insult to the divine gods has drawn the attention of Lord Enma-O, God of Death. As it so happens, Lord Enma-O has a worthless oni to extract punishment on... and finds the first of countless tasks for his minion to enact on Earth.
The great mountains of Japan have always been places of mystery and superstition. Some believed them to be sites of holy power where mighty gods perched in their lofty thrones far above the petty concerns of mortals. Others claimed they were the roosting grounds of terrible monsters and demons alike, foul and fearsome creatures that fed upon unwary travelers who were foolish enough to wander into their domains. Even those who rejected such tales tended to swing clear of these mighty crags as it is all too easy to become prey for more mundane beasts or bandits.
Only those with firm holy purpose ever dared to brave the dangers of such places and the evidence of their faith can be found scattered throughout the mountainous regions of the small island nation in the form of temples both ruined and preserved. The former far outweighs the latter, humanity having ever moved away from the grip of superstition and mythology to embrace the truth of science and reason as the years passed on. However, it is within one such place that a new story begins to unfold.
A deep rumbling crash echoes through the forest without warning sometime around midday, almost like a small earthquake that lasts but a handful of moments. The trees shake and rattle and startled birds take to the sky with cries of alarm and anger at this unexpected event. All goes terribly quiet for some time afterwards as the local wildlife remains cautious and hidden, unsure of what to make of this unusual shattering of their tranquil surroundings, but eventually the sounds of nature return to the forest and life goes on as it always has.
Several hours pass before something stirs the forest once again. A massive shape rises amidst the trees, its form cast into dark shadow by the light of the dying sun that lies cast across the land like a camera filter. The figure lets out a deep and pained groan as it rises, scattering another gaggle of birds which had taken up roost upon its body as it slumbered. Several loud cracks fill the air, joints popping with the force of snapping branches in protest to the sudden activity, but the figure ignores these horrific noises as if they were something mundane.
Slowly, the figure opens its eyes to take in the surroundings. The forest is a familiar sight, though where exactly they might be within it is not immediately evident. A large ditch stretches from a few dozen feet infront of where they stand to the base of the tree that served as their resting place for the last few hours marking the ungraceful landing of their short but unpleasant journey. The deep soreness within their muscles causes the figure to groan again with the memory of it. It feels like they were quite literally kicked into the mortal realm and considering how mad the one responsible had been it's not entirely beyond possibility.
Well, there's nothing to be done about that now. A powerful urge to plop down and just whittle away a few days with drinking overcomes the figure and they are in the process of doing exactly that when they realization dawns upon them that they aren't currently in possession of anything to drink. How annoying.
"My lord has an awful sense of humor," the figure says, glancing up at the sky with a frown. The voice is deep and gruff but distinctly feminine. This seems to surprise the hulking shape and it quickly clambers back to its feet and stomps off into the forest. It only takes a few minutes of searching to find what they seek. Following a game trail leads them to the edge of a small pond and they kneel down over the surface of the water to peer at their reflection.
The face that looks back is not their own. Where hard chiseled cheeks and deadly fangs should be, they are instead greeted with the soft pinkness of flesh and blunt teeth. The dull hellish yellow glow of their eyes is now little more than a dull crimson that possesses no spark of divine power. Even the wild layers of their magnificent mane appears softer and more supple somehow. They are looking at the face of a human woman.
Riki flops back onto her haunches and stares at the reflection with a dark frown. It wasn't impossible for her kind to take on human guises. In the past such trickery would have been used to lure the unwary into danger or avoid roaming bands of samurai tasked with slaying demons, but such illusions were rarely used by oni such as herself. They did not embrace the cowardly ways of the tengu or other lesser youkai. This was something different, however. This is no illusion. She actually /is/ a human - atleast, partially.
A hand goes up to touch the familiar smooth curve of the single horn which protrudes from the center of her forehead. The symbol of any self-respecting oni and the source of much of her strength, she would have been quite upset to lose it but it seems that her master was not so cruel as to take all of her dignity at once. That's something, she supposes. Ofcourse, he had gone through the trouble of placing the burden of a quest upon her - bring justice to one thousand evil souls; only then would she be allowed back into the divine realm.
Gesturing with one hand, Riki waves her index finger through the air in a circle and with a soft pop a large shallow bowl winks into existence. She catches it deftly in her palm and scoops some of the dirty water from the pond into its center. Almost immediately the liquid begins to shimmer and grow clear as the impurities are purged from it. The oni slurps this refreshment down in a single gulp and then takes a few more before banishing the bowl back into its magical storage compartment.
"Well, I suppose I ought to get started." Riki climbs to her feet and stretches, earning another cascade of cringe-worthy cracks. She casts her gaze about, looking in every direction with a thoughtful expression on her face. "I just...wish I knew where."
It was a lone pilgrim.
The young woman had lost everything she knew. Her friends, her family. Her life was in shambles. She did not know if she needed to follow a trail for spiritual cleansing... or mortal cleansing. Ultimately, she chose Koyasan over Aokigahara. The trails around Mount Koya were dangerous. Murders, a string of murders. But even in the cold mists, as snow lightly falls, she wasn't afraid. She didn't feel anything. Until, on that trail, she met the old woman. Dressed in beige and woad rags, a shawl over her neck, a leather stachel at her side, and in her hands was a mere lantern and a simple walking stick. The woman approached her, and asked her a simple question. "Are you a Buddhist?" And the young woman had a simple answer.
The old woman stirred the pyre, staring into the flames. She did not understand Shingon Buddhism well. But eons of experience had taught Eadni certain intuitions on corruptions, on defilement. The simplest way was imitation. Copy what she had seen, with no sense of rite, no sense of order. The young buddhist's remains were torn apart, her body was studded with branches, and then, a pyre was formed of what garbage was found. The remains of the unnamed pilgrim cook amongst melted water bottles and candy wrappers. Black smoke rolls up, as the hiss of fat comes. It smelled sweet. But Eadni had to make sure to leave the remains for the wolves. Not that she had a problem with eating pilgrims; she had to ensure that the defilement spread throughout the mountain. There was a method to her corruption.
And suddenly, there was a break in the flow.
The crash comes, in the distance. Eadni looks up, stick still in the flame. Her eyes were wide for a moment, the black pools glassy as they stare through the forest. The animals were on the move. But that wasn't what took her senses. She felt a divine finger thrust itself in the mountain, a great hammer smashing the very plate of the leylines.
A god had made its move.
Complications. It wasn't Mishaguji. She knew what a god waking up felt like; besides, it was impossible for Mishaguji to awake yet. A few defiled Buddhists wasn't enough to break the most important seal over Mount Koya. This place was impossibly sacred for Shingon Buddhism; she could not defile the most important consecration here. She abandons her smoky fire, dropping the stick in it as she rushes through the forest. Her back was no longer hunched, she was fully erect, her legs driving her forward. She was moving fast. But not fast enough. The bald woman claws her fingers as she leaps in the air, dragging them up.
And from below, a wooden cauldron rises below her.
Landing back in the crude, mishappened cauldron, another gesture comes, and a large wooden pestle juts from the earth as well. Gripping it, she turns it around, using it as a rudder for her cauldron. With a click of her tongue, the cauldron fires forward, moving at crackneck speeds between the trees. Her eyes were narrowed, utmost focus was coming. The trees whistle past her, not even the hitodama were around, The entire spiritual balance was thrown askew; what had come? Was it a potential ally? Or has the buddhists enlisted an enemy to face her. The trees thin, as she approaches what seems to be a pond.
And a giant figure looming over it.
Eadni lowers the cauldron, letting it drive into the earth to a halt. Gripping the pestle, she stands in the large cauldron, her legs and waist covered. The old woman stares at the massive creature. This was the epicenter of the impact. This was where the finger of a god had thrust itself here. She could still feel the presence. And right here, right before her, had what the mysterious force had brought. She did not have time to waste. Crossing the pestle before her, resting on the top of the cauldron, she calls out to the giant. "Hello, stranger~" Comes the ever so soft, but ever so sinister words.
"Why have you come to Mount Koya?~"
As she stands about to ponder her next move in her slow and lazy fashion, Riki becomes aware of something stirring in the distance. While she is still sore and unbalanced thanks to a combination of being thrust into reality without much warning as well as being forced into an unusual body, the oni still retains enough of her spiritual power to sense the presence that approaches.
The massive woman turns towards a section of the forest and waits, her eyes narrowed slightly with wary curiosity. Judging by the speed at which her visitor is moving they appear to be in something of a hurry. Perhaps another youkai that sensed her arrival and came to challenge her for territory rights. Well they're going to be in for a rough time if they try to start trouble. Her mood is already sour and without any wine to take the edge off she's feeling cranky enough to deliver a good thrashing to any upstart tengu or forest spirit that crosses her path.
So it is that when the old crone bursts through the trees she is met with by the furrowed brows and annoyed scowl of the hulking monster woman. Riki's expression shifts to one of some surprise upon laying eyes on her visitor, however. This certainly isn't what she expected.
A hand goes to the back of her neck and she stratches it in puzzlement. Such creatures weren't the sort to expose themselves to anyone but unwary and weak human travellers. That this one is brazen enough to approach a divine servant such as herself seems off. Well, no need to go stirring up trouble just yet.
"Not my idea," Riki grumbles in response, crossing her arms over her chest. She peers down at Eadni for a few moments in silence. "I think, however, that your question should be mine. This is a holy place. What business do you have here?"
That was a troublesome term for the stranger to use. The term was used for some... for certain sisters, so to speak. She knew of the onibaba of the mountains. She had visited some of them personally ages ago. At least one was a daughter of the hag, groomed and raised to live upon the mountains. She was eventually murdered by a Hayabusa. It wasn't the title that was disturbing, but the fact that this creature immediately jumped to it. Looking up and down the giant, she finally made up her mind about what she was dealing with directly.
The word comes light, but piercing. The old woman grips the pestel again, as she clacks it on the cauldron. The wooden structure collapses, falling apart before sinking back in the ground. The old woman rests on the pestel, using it as a walking stick. Her black eyes are fixed on it, her long nose reaching her chin. There was not a smile on her face. A divine ogre. A god had dropped an ogre upon the mountain; this was no local ogre drawn in. This was dangerous. This was very dangerous. An unknown, with unknown power, and even an unknown loyalty.
But as she mentions holy place, the old hag's expression softens a bit.
"This is a very holy place, ogre~" She responds, her tone winding through the air. She paces to the side, circling the ogre clockwise slowly. A holy place. That gave the ogre a spiritual bent. And gave the ogre two pathes that he might take. One path made them enemies. The other path made them allies. Eadni was careful now. She was bold, yes. But she had every reason to be bold. "And my business is in its holiness. There are troubles here as well, Ogre. Its important to know just what side are you on." She turns about, now circling the giant counterclockwise. This was the moment a mere onibaba might shy away, might fear. But Eadni was not afraid. "Do you believe this is the burial site of Mishaguji?"
"Or is it the burial site of Kobo-Daishi, ogre?"
Riki's sour expression becomes somewhat amused at the mention of the old god. Mishaguji had been a spirit of sex, often thought to incarnate as a large earthworm-like creature. Once worshiped to enhance the act of intercourse, the rise of the Yamato had branded such offerings taboo and in time his power has faded into the annals of history like many of the ancient spirits. That had been long before her time but there were enough stories to be heard from her elders that the name still made her smile.
"No, I doubt there are any in this world who still hold that name dear enough to build a shrine. Though," she adds after a moment, scratching a cheek with one long sharp fingernail. "One never knows with humans."
The casual banter flows easily from the oni for she has never been one prone to take things seriously nor had much interest in conflict though she quite enjoys a good brawl for sport as any of her kind might, but Eadni's slow pacing does much to keep the ogre, as the old crone put it, on alert. She has had few chances to interact with the onibaba and most of those occured back in the old days when oni were more cruel and brutal. When she was young, Riki might have happily joined in on a meal of human flesh but now the aged predators just made her uneasy, this one more so than usual.
The second name that drops earns a much different reaction from the huge woman. Something the old woman said not long ago comes back to her in a flash. This was Mt. Koya. How had that name escaped her? Perhaps her memory was rattled by the transition to the human world. Either way, it was working properly now. This was the resting place of the great Kobo-Daishi, the man responsible for the foundation of one of the prime schools of Buddhism in Japan, that being Shingon. As her lord, Enma-O, falls underneath this pantheon of belief, atleast in part, that makes this a sacred land to her.
More importantly, that makes this crone an invader.
The levity in Riki's face darkens a little but she continues to smile. Turning to face the old woman in the midst of her pacing, the oni steps forward to block her path. Both hands rest on her hips and she peers down at Eadni using her size to tower over the witch with a look of reproof.
"You know of this place and what it represents, this you admit freely, and yet you trespass still." Though she lacks the wicked fangs that a true oni would possess, Riki's smirk still conveys a sense of monstrous danger. "I begin to understand why I was sent to this realm."
The line had been drawn.
The dry spiritual reflection of the ogre was more than enough. Her reactions were carefully noted by the witch, as this time, she begins to scratch the earth with her pestel. Digging into the dirt impatiently, she grits her teething, grinding them as the smile gradually fades. An enemy, an enemy. And a powerful one. Ogres were normally easy to bind into her service, through guile and treasure and trickery and power. But a divine ogre... this creature was sent by some unknown god. She was too smart, and too... The moment the ogre moves to cut her off, the witch actually recoils, stumbling back away from the oni. This was... frustrating. Stepping back, she begins to reach to her side, frisking her gnarled fingers into her stachel.
Within, she draws out a bloodied skull.
Gore and flesh still cling to the skull; it wasn't even properly hollowed out. Clutching it in her hand, she lowers herself into a hunch, looking up at the ogre with black eyes. With a smooth gesture, she drives her pestel into the earth, turning into a stake. Twisting it firmly in, she whispers to the skull, and places it upon the stake. Green flames begin to glow in the eyes of the stake. With it in place, the witch suddenly moves forward, closer to the oni.
"Wretched Ogre, do you have any idea who you are dealing with?"
A wind suddenly rushes through the forest, blowing through as the woman keeps her posture low. Her voice was soft, but the furious tone could not be restrained through her iron-tipped teeth. "I have claimed this mountain as mine. I will not have some divine brute drive me off. Leave now, go find some goats to devour! Leave now, or I swear I will cast you in chains!" The hag snarls, baring a mouth full of iron tipped teeth as her skin begins to curl and wrinkle, hardening at the rage of the witch.
And she begins to crouch down, to dig her hands into the earth.
Had this crone not attempted to test her luck and simply launched a spiritual attack of this nature against Riki as her first move she might have caught the oni off-guard. Still unbalanced and unaware of the importance of this place, she wouldn't have been prepared to fight nearly as hard; after all, most mountains are holy in some way or another but some are less holy than others. If she were to abandon this place to the old fiend, however, she's pretty sure there'd be more than a proverbial slap on the wrist waiting for her, especially with her lord already upset at her past failures.
The smile on Riki's face turns into a broad grin as the wind stirs with supernatural power, the forest howling in protest as its holy aura is defiled with black magic. Such tricks might have been enough to scare a mortal but she has the backing of the heavens themselves and even in her weakened form she should be more than a match for an uppity spirit that has presumed to step beyond its station.
"You keep asking my questions, crone." She holds one hand up and shakes it in the air, bringing attention to the thick iron manacle bound tightly around the wrist. A small length of chain dangles from the cuff and though they appear to be naught but simple iron, they practically radiate divine power as if touched by the gods themselves. "And you're a little too late for that."
The ogre leans forward and hunches over, her arms spreading out wide as she falls into an aggressive stance. The old woman is so small in comparison that she practically has to bend down just to reach her but it isn't Eadni that the ogre goes for, but rather the grisly totem that she has just erected. Pale crimson flames erupt in her grasp, engulfing the massive clawed hand in the flames of divine judgement drawn directly from Jigoku itself. The hellfire flickers about with her movement but seems completely unaffected by the terrible winds that whip all around them.
Riki reaches out as if to wrap her flaming fist about the totem, the small object dwarfed by the size of her hand, and it's quite clear she intends to simply crush it, clearly unafraid of whatever power the hag might wield.
Eadni shouldn't have tested her luck indeed.
The sheer divine might of the oni was infuriating. Eadni was generally mild when it came to her meddling with the gods, as it related to Earth. But for a god to send a minion upon Earth. She was gibbering and muttering as she pushes herself to the earth, crawling like a beast. Her forearms were deep in the earth, as the witch seemed to be nothing more than an idiot, a maniac. She doesn't even try to stop the titanic oni from crushing the totem, as she stirs her limbs deep under the grass. She had lost her initative against the creature, that was true.
But as she would soon prove, having weakness did not mean one was weak.
As the giant approaches the totem, the bloodied skull instinctively turns up at the oni. A guardian ward; it wouldn't be a surprise if the very hell that Riki came forth from was not populated by an infinite number of them. The trouble with the necromatic arts within the grasp of the hag; while she was straddling the line between life and death, any tricks of the dead would hardly work against an enforcer of the dead. This was proven simply as the emerald flame begins to brighten a moment, and the flames surges out. Not hellfire, but flame nevertheless. But for a divine oni who had likely waded in the hottest flames of hell? It was probably nothing as the fires risk to boil over it. It might even be crushed, before it exhausts itself and shatters. Was this really the best the onibaba could bring? Even now, the old woman was muttering madly, her long nose touching the earth.
"Grandmother Earth, Let Open Your Womb"
"Grant Me Your Gifts, From Forgotten Tomb"
The hag wrenches her hands from the earth, her filthy hands clutching tree roots. Drawing them up, the nearby trees shudder, the wind still whistling. Tossing the roots back towards the ground, she rises back to a hunch, wringing her hands warily. The roots do not sink, but writhe on the ground, flicking back and forth. Riki would not be surprised at what comes next; Eadni was well aware of that. From the depths of the pond, and even from the depths of some earth, there is movement. Not like the roots, but like a mole burrowed beneath. The surface of both water and earth breech, revealing what the old hag just tried to summon.
Ancient bones draw themselves to the surface; a few human, the rest animal. From the pond, the slime-drenched bones drag themselves along, only barely held together by the weeds and mud that clung to its body. A long carcass of a deer stumbles from the depths of the deep; behind it, a clacking skull of some giant reptile was jerking forward. From under the ground, a single intact human skeleton is the only thing meaningful that manages to make it; a random pile of loose deer bones manage to rip free; while the front half of a wolf pulls itself up, the roots and dirt clumps clinging to it. The last three are near Riki; and should he be aware of spiritual forces, he would sense... the faintest of spiritual energy within them. They weren't even properly raised dead, but animated by simple elemental spirits; animated by the earth and the water. The old hag creates more distance from the giant, muttering more and more to herself, as more roots broke from the earth after her.
Was this really the best she could muster?
The surging flames of emerald witchcraft collide against the sheathe of hellfire as Riki stretches her hand out over the totem. Surprisingly, the ward seems to hold her off for a few moments. The oni's grin doesn't fade as her momentum slows but her face creases in a few places with obvious effort. In the end, the small hastily constructed hex proves no match for the ogre and with a final push she smothers the ghostly fires and crushes the skull to powder in a single motion.
Much as the old crone suspected, the oni's divine nature made her highly resistant to such simple tricks, however, Riki is no longer a pure demon. Caught somewhere between youkai and human, her power does not come as easily as she expected and the struggle to demolish such a simple ward, although brief, is somewhat telling. Nevertheless, her bravado remains intact as she turns to face the small gaggle of rotting monstrosities that claw their way from the earth at Eadni's command.
"You seek to challenge me with puppets?" The incredulity in her voice is plain as Riki slowly sweeps her gaze over the assembled masses of shambling flesh and bone. "And you defile the dead in my presence. Your punishment shall be brutal and without mercy!"
Despite the grave crimes commited, Riki actually seems to be quite pleased at the way things are turning out. Barely a few hours in the mortal realm and already she's found something interesting to do; on holy ground, no less. Maybe she can get on her lord's good side by quickly dispatching this fiend and purging the corruption she's brought.
Bellowing a ferocious warcry that rattles the trees and bones around her, the towering woman rushes into battle. The half-formed wolf zombie is the first to suffer her wrath, her wide feet easily stomping the ancient bones into tiny splinters as she barrels past, hardly even paying it any mind. Her real target is the human skeleton which she slams into in a low tackle, easily lifting the small frame of the deceased human upon her shoulder. The charge carries her through the skeleton and into the trunk of a large tree upon which she smashes the undead creature with enough force to send a small tremor through the ground, practically burying its ribs into the hard wood.
Stepping back from her handiwork, Riki turns to grin at the crone and rolls her shoulders in a taunting fashion. "I seem to have broken your toys. I hope you have more, otherwise this is going to be rather boring."
It was like knocking over toothpicks.
The shambling corpses have barely anything holding them together. The overwhelming strength of the oni sends the creatures to flinders, splintering them into shards. The remains of the skeletons scattering, their pieces flying around the lakeside. There was barely any resistence; they weren't even able to fight back. Desecrating the dead. And yet, as the last humanoid corpse around is sent shattering, the oni could observe the witch only casting a furious glance over her shoulder at the oni, as she continues her scurrying.
And suddenly, a -chill- fills the air.
The wind gives a resounding howl, rolling in a frosty haze into the clearway. Amongst the dim mists seeping overhead, the dim lights of hitodama drift into the clearing. Lingering spiritual energies, seperated forceably from the netherrealm that Riki bore from, and the sharpest evidence of Eadni's mystic meddling along the mountainside. The ghost lights dance high above, as the mystic imprint grows heavier and heavier, burying the divine presence that was still lingering from Riki's arrival. Eadni was not simply desecrating the dead. She was corrupting the very area.
And more bones rise.
The hag continues her chanting and murmuring, as the battlefield seems to transform. The first wave of skeletons may very well have been the strongest, but more shambling mounds, infused with less and less bone and more muck, drags themselves up from the depths of the pond. A deer skull breaks free from the earth, with only mere weedy roots to support it. But at this point, the very ground begins to swim and churn, as tree roots begin to twist and rise. Eadni now hurries closer to Riki now, scurrying low and underfoot. She was cackling now, the witch seemingly to grow mirthful. In spite of her low stance, her limbs seemed to be growing longer and longer. Scuttling along the ground, she scoops up one of the loose skulls that had been knocked astray by Riki's crushing blow. Lifting it up, a hitodama lunges down, striking the skull...
and merging with it.
The skull becomes alight with the same ghostly light as the hitodama, and Eadni releases it. Instead of falling, it begins to rise into the air... as other hitodama begin to drift towards the ground, closer and closer any other loose bones. The witch was fighting Riki. But instead of confronting her directly in battle, she was transforming the very field the battle was taking place. Already, the writhing roots were beginning to lash at Riki's legs, as another skull becomes possessed, floating into the air with the other. Eadni rises up from her crouch, as amongst the roots, the vague shape of horses begin to meld into the lashing roots, some as thick as Riki's arm as they breech from the dirt. She was at a full stance now... and she was at 6 feet tall. Her limbs were knotted and craggy, and her face was... like melted wax, with only the vagued shape of her eyes, mouth, and impossibly long nose. Her cackling dies down, as she speaks aloud, her voice... terribly soft, and unnaturally kind.
"Let the entertainment begin then, ogre~"
Filled with confidence in her strength and the power over the dead that this witch seems to rely upon, Riki merely turns her gaze skyward to watch as the ominous fog rolls in to blot out the dying light of the sun atop the hallowed mountain. Her grin slowly begins to fade, however, as the atmosphere begins to change into something much more sinister than any simple low-grade youkai should be able to manage.
The oni crosses her arms as the scene of horror unfolds around her, a pillar of unwavering calm, steadfast amidst the horrors that drag themselves up from the depths at the bidding of the twisted magic. Her thick ragged mane of dirty blonde hair flutters in the foul winds, thin slivers of muddy gold spreading out into something both majestic and primal, a cape billowing about the shoulders of a general surveying the field of a coming battle.
Riki exhales sharply as a sudden sensation overwhelms her. Her body goes rigid against her will, a deep and powerful spam of muscle and sinew rising up from the base of her spine to grip her tightly for a few moments. Instinctively, she clutches her arms around her body, pressing the large palms of her hands over the flesh left exposed by her spartan sleeveless tunic. It takes her a few moments to figure out what the source of this strange reaction is but when she does the realization gives her a fresh chill.
Eyes widening as the full implications of her punishment begin to grow more clear, Riki stares at the ground in a moment of panic, her breath heaving out in a single massive gasp that turns the air before her into a cloud of white mist. If something as simple as the sensation of cold can affect her now then the protections upon which she has based her hubris might not be in place. For a brief instant, the giantess feels very small and vulnerable, which is a new and entirely unpleasant sensation.
She doesn't get a chance to wallow in the misery of being reduced to such depths, however, as Eadni continues her mad ritual unaffected by any internal dilema the ogre might have. Pushing her hesitation aside, Riki growls as further desecrations rise up to befoul this holy land, turned against one of its sacred protectors by some evil spirit. Divine fire bursts to life in her hands, flickering flames of pure crimson dancing in the frigid darkness but casting no light nor heat to drive it back.
"It would seem my first trial shall come far sooner than expected."
Taking a step forward, the oni begins to march towards Eadni, apparently planning to completely ignore the muck monsters which barely seem able to move, much less pose any sort of real threat. She only makes it a couple of steps before the real dangers of the terrain warping magics reveal themselves as the roots and soft mud rise up to ensnare her legs. Riki's heavy foot sinks into the ground with a wet squelch and she nearly trips flat onto her face when her efforts to take another step are foiled completely. Grunting with annoyance, the ogre gives a great heave and after a brief moment of effort pulls herself free. Every step becomes another part of this struggle and her progress across the small clearing grinds almost to a halt.
"Hnrgh. What... foulness is this, that you dare turn this sacred soil against me? You are no simple...onibaba!"
With a roar of frustration, Riki lifts her hands into air and hurls a pair of flaming projectiles at the mad witch, twin comets streaking over the tops of the dead shambling things to strike at her with raw suffering and punishment.
The full force of Eadni's magic was in play now.
The rituals were complete. The dead were rising, not to fight, but to provide Eadni with the resources she needed. The hitodama answered the call, and came with the wind. The trees had always obeyed the Earth Mother, as she was once called, and even deeper spirits were beginning to answer. The shapes of horses, formed from the roots entwining in themselves, soon carry the shadowy shapes of men upon their backs, as they rose and fell amongst the earth. The hitodama begin possessing more and more bones, the resulting cursed skulls rising high above into flight, lazily drifting overhead in a circular pattern. A pine tree, laced in crimson energy, rips free of the earth to a full height several yards away from Riki, before rotting away in mere seconds. The corruption was pure natural magic.
For there was nothing more corrupting that the ways of Earth, as any divine man could tell you.
At the moment, amongst the churning mud and roots, the ogre was stunned. The shambling dead reach her... and do nothing. They stand there, only the dimmest of commands to lead them to the ogress. As a nearby shambling body rises up by a root impaling through it to the skull, however, a new totem begins to form near her. It was the cursed magic of the witch; now the ritual was self-sustaining, a model of corruption that was feeding in itself. The roots do not effectively constrict the divine guardian; they merely entangle, not impede. Eadni, rubbing her hands together, takes a single step towards her trapped prey. She was in her clutches now; bound by the very forest, bound by the very mountain.
But she was only bound, not broken.
The two orbs of flames erupt from the oni, hurled out towards the hag. Eadni, inspite her full stance, deftly evades the first flame. The second, however, smashes hard into her shoulder. The fire explodes across her body, the hag reeling from the impact. Landing hard in the mincing earth, the fire endures on the her form. The scent of turpentine fills the air, as the lays on the ground, burning. Steadily, she rises up and up, her left shoulder aflame, and the holy fire spreading across her arm. And she rises. And she rises.
And she rises.
The hag stands at nearly 9 feet tall, her limbs stretched and knotted pine. Her bare feet are twisted and gnarled into split roots, and the woman is now unnaturally thin. Her arms and legs move like serpents, writhing as Eadni reveals her true form. The fire continues to the burn on the witch, as she stares ahead with the craggy features and hollow indentations for eyes. As the "Ogre, by the time I am through with you..."
"You will be the one turned against this sacred soil~"
The hag, now in full form, strides forward with her long limbs, dipping and twisting disturbingly as she moves. The size of the witch was in full bear now, as the smell of burnt pine grows stronger. A cracking sound is heard, as the heat of the sacred flame snaps the woman's shoulder. Black ooze pours out from the wound. Every step of the woman was coming with the surge of whipping roots around her feet. The entangling rage of corrupted wood builds into a cresendo, as Eadni, picking up speed, finally makes her move directly upon the ogre. Another wave of roots explodes from around Riki as the hag comes dangerously close, looming over the massive ogre. Her own legs and limbs twisting, she bows down, driving her arms and legs deep into the depths of the earth. With it, the snake-like roots make their act, erupting like worms around Riki, and attempting to not only envelope and constrict her in the roots...
But drag her, to drag her deeper into the earth.
A look of grim satisfaction plays upon Riki's face as her damning flames strike home, smiting the witch to the ground. This creature was powerful and cunning but weak and frail. It should be a simple matter to overwhelm the crone so long as she does not let this dark enchantment get the best of her.
With great effort, the ogre continues to plod ahead, her unnatural strength proving more than a match for mere mud and vines, enchanted or no, but the going is slow and laborious. Every step is a chore, her thick legs sinking down into the mud all the way to the knee thanks to her sheer size and weight. The dead things swarm all around her and though they pose no real threat she swats at them in frustration, smashing bone and splintering fell wood with every swipe of her great fists, inadvertantly crushing several of the newly formed totems even as they begin to rise from the cursed earth.
As if things were not bad enough, Riki turns away from her messy outburst to find herself forced to look up as the witch now towers over even her own height. The sinewy form of the crone's true appearance is truly hideous, a grotesque thing made of nightmares and corruption. The oni feels an all too mortal pang of dread knot up in the pit of her stomach at the sight but she angrily forces it down with a growl.
"You will have to conjur more than this to claim me, witch!"
A bellow of anger erupts through the forest as Riki rises up to face this new threat struggling against the whipping vines that lash at her from all sides. Many coil about her arms and waist like snakes, slimy slithering tendrils pulling her down towards the soft earth as if to bury her beneath the foul muck in a corrupted grave. Gathering her strength, the giantess heaves upwards with a mighty lunge and the constricting vines strain audibly, going taut in their struggle to contain the divine warrior, before snapping apart with a cacophany of cracking whips.
Riki leaps clear of the sink hole before the deadly trap can close about her, lunging directly into the gnarled form of her attacker with a deep roar, fresh hellfire engulfing her arms as she drops upon the witch with deadly intent.
"I command you ogre..."
The witch begins speaking her command, as the roots and woody vines start to entrap the giant. Mystic energy flashes through them, as the start of a binding begins. The sudden surge of strength from the titanic creature, however, shatters the energy, even causing some of the vines to burst. As the sinkhole swallows up, the very roots start to fall silent. The possessed and totems were still growing themselves, but it seemed that the surge of power had an effect on the mystic forces in play. Eadni falls silent, but the air of frustration was so thick, you could cut it. The creature was far more powerful than she had hoped. Divine wards and protections... of all the miserable creatures that could be sent on to the mountain. With her legs and arms still sunk into the earth, the massive ogre comes roaring in with burning fists. Eadni faces up at her with that grotesque visage.
And she sinks.
Eadni slips into the earth, diving underneath as the fist hammers into the earth. The churning earth falls silent for a moment, as the final divine hammer subdues it, if only a moment. The exception, of course, being the path of the hag. Slipping through the earth, she writhes like an eel as she shuttles back through the surface. Ripping free, the hag comes upright, hunched over as she backs away again. The expression of the witch was blank, but another crack comes. She claws her long, branch-like fingers at her shoulder, pulling away the bark as... she continues to burn, in spite of the burying. The blessed oni flame were difficult to subdue, it seemed. Crushing the bark in her hand, the witch trembles with fury, before making a gesture towards the oni. An insult? A taunt?
As she makes the motion, there is a shreiking sound from over head. Like the metaphorical bat out of hell, one of the hitodama-possessed skulls dive-bombs at Riki, leaving a trail of ghostly flames behind as it charges. "There is no end to my conjurings, ogre~" The old hag states gently, as she makes another gesture. Two more of the skulls dive again... out of the dozen now overhead. A jet of emerald flame sears out from a totem, not even the one near Riki, but one that only recently burst from the ground. The shot goes wide and not even coming close to the giant oni, striking a root instead. There was so much happening around. The hitodama were now hovering over Eadni now, the ghost lights drawing themselves near her. The bones were... beginning to thin out; there had not been enough death here upon the mountainside, fortunately. Only two skeletons; a rabbit and another deer, had emerged from the depths.
It was the horses, though, that was beginning to bring danger.
The mysterious horse shapes were now beginning to stay above the dirt, somehow ignoring and independent of the churning roots. There were now three of them enduring amongst the chaos that had unfolded. The shadowy figure astride them whip their steeds, as they begin to ride wide circles around the broken earth. Riki would sense souls bound to those horses, explicit spiritual beings that were present now. The riders were evading the crimson-lined pines that were beginning to jut out more frequently now, the invigorating mystic forces generating corrupted life upon these blessed grounds. The newest reinforcements of the witches summons.
But how many reserves did she truly have?
The first of the ghastly skull bombs crashes down upon Riki's broad back, smashing her with enough mystical force to drive the ogre to one knee. Emerald ghost fire erupts across her shoulders turning her into a strange mirror of the burning crone but, like Eadni, the ogre simply shrugs this assault off and pushes back to her feet.
Another pair of skulls come down at her and this time she is ready. The first explodes into shards of ethereal flame as she strikes it down with a gruff backhand, swatting the drone into a nearby tree with almost aggressive nonchalance. The second, however, evades her lazy swipe and detonates directly against her chest. The ogre doesn't even seem to be bothered as another patch of green fire bursts to life, gnawing at her flesh like a swarm of hungry insects.
Free of the mud and the vines, Riki very quickly begins to build up speed as she gives chase to her foe. Heavy steps send minor tremors through the ground as she begins to lumber forward, a slow ponderous jog that swiftly turns into a purposeful thundering charge through the swarm of swirling familiars.
As for the horsemen, she pays them no mind; mere minions of the crone, they would die along with her magic when she broke the witch over her knee. Let them caper about on the fringes amidst the trees. Her target is set and anything that gets in her way she intends to simply crush underfoot. After all, what can stop a charging oni once it is set in motion?
The minions tear into the titanic ogre. The spiritual forces dive down, the possessed skulls that managed to slip past the giant pouring the spiritual energy into it. Without any roots to slow down the oni, however, the giant was free to build up speed. Two of the remaining totems fire their beams at the ogre, consuming themselves as they unleash the emerald fire. But as Riki approaches the hag, Eadni responds by drawing back her burning limb.
And witch backhands her.
The hag's long, vinelike limb snaps out into a lash, preempting the contact from the charge. This was not a simple slap; The sheer power of the witch was staggering. Even with her long, thin frame, she hits like an entire tree was smashing into the titanic creature, her legs rooting her in place as the full body comes into a blow. The effect was like a train smashing into another train head-on. It was power that would be more than enough to stop nearly anything charging her. The trouble was?
It wasn't enough to stop a charging oni.
The witch's arm snaps off at the already weakened shoulder, as it cracks into the rampaging oni. It was strong. But The full force of the charging ogre forces the onibaba down to the ground, as she is trampled under foot. Limbs snap, and the hag becomes half-sunk into the mire. Overhead, the skulls and hitodama circle. Around, the trees continue their cycle of spouting and wasting. There were no more skeletons rising now. The riders regroup themselves as their mistress is crushed underfoot; a clear charge was being prepared. Eadni, silent, writhes in the broken earth, black ooze flowing from her body. Was she dead? Dismembered? No, recovering.
Already, a stub of wood reforms at the tip of her broken shoulder.
Riki doesn't attempt to evade the collosal strike from the gnarled old demon choosing to forgo any semblance of defense in favor of raw ferocious aggression. The blow smashes hard against the side of her head with a terrible crunch but again the towering amazon hardly pays it any mind, almost casually shrugging off a strike that would have sent a human soaring. The branch-like limb shatters upon the iron hide of her muscled form, the counter-attack as futile as a tree attempting to withstand a hurricane, and she crashes into the old woman undeterred.
Though she had intended to gather up Eadni upon her shoulder and carry her to a grisly impact against one of the nearby trees, the ill-planned strike upon the oni did have one somewhat beneficial advatage for the witch, sending her reeling to the side and out of the direct path of the brutal charge. Several hundred pounds of angry ogre instead trample her into the muck, her limbs shattering with the sound of crunching bone and cracking bark.
Unable to slow herself in time to correct for this turn of events, Riki instead simply plows over the demon and plants her feet in the mud, her massive soles digging a trench almost a foot deep as she attempts to reverse her momentum. She isn't quite fast enough and the tree that had been intended as anvil ends up becoming her backstop. The oni strikes it hard and rebounds with a soft grunt, turning to peer at the fallen remains of her foe. The broken and oozing body is satisfying, if grotesque, but no sooner than she has begun to move to collect the foul thing the twisted blossoms of fresh corrupted growth sprouts anew.
"Cursed fiend," she growls in annoyance. "I see you lack even the manners to acknowledge when death hath come to claim you." The ragged forms of the undead riders stir in the distance, shambling shadows tugging her gaze away from Eadni. Riki gives them a mocking grin and holds both arms open as if to embrace whatever they might have in store for her, her body hunching over as she plants her feet in a wide stance.
"Come, you abominations of foul magic! Come and test the pitiful strength granted thee by this wicked spirit against the true might of Jigoku's guardian! I shall break you like waves upon the shoals!"
Eadni was... in danger.
Eadni was rising back up, hunched over. She was staggering now, stumbling over her split-toed roots. She was oozing thick tar from her body, the pine sap dribbling. She would recover. But she needed time. The ogre was... she hated that ogre. She hated her bitterly now. The only thing saving Eadni from the follow-up smashing was her champions. Three knights, long since bound to her service. The shapes of riders stare from upon their steeds, as Riki unleashes her challenge.
And the riders answer the call.
There is only the sound of groaning pine and torn up earth as the riders begin to charge. Raising their arms up high, a long lance of pine bursts out for one of them, a pine blade for another. The third carries no weapons, but rides, faster and faster. Two riders split off, as the one in the middle, armed with the lance, aims to tilt at the massive ogre. The one of the sword, going wide, approaches from the flanks, attempting to cleave into the ogre. The final one sinks into the earth, diving deep below. And Eadni, during this time?
Entering the wooden cauldron again.
"Wretched Ogre." She speaks flatly, shaking her only good fist at the oni as the crude wooden cauldron envelops around her. The skulls overhead were beginning to circle faster and faster, a flame wheel appearing overhead. The bones were no longer rising, and the churning earth was still churning. "I curse your gods, I curse your lord, and when I throught with this mountain?" She gestures at the earth, as the final shadow knight rips from the earth, aiming to smash the last of the roots into its knees. The cauldron begins to rise into the air.
"I will curse -you- the foulest!"
Riki's grin doesn't waver at the fearsome charge of the three undead knights, her expression a mask of anticipation and exultation that any seasoned warrior would recognize as the raw thrill of battle. Though possessed of a worrisome penchant for laziness, she is still an oni, and little stirs up the blood of an ogre like a good challenge.
The first to clash with the divine servant is the lancer. Leading the charge down the center, its twisted shaft of gnarled wood thrusts for the wide target of her torso as mount and rider bear down upon her in a thunderous cacophany of stampeding hooves. Again the mighty ogre stands her ground, showing no signs of fear nor hesistation as she digs her feet into the soft soil to brace for the impact. The deadly tip of the lance drives deep seeking to pierce her heart in a single thrust but Riki is quicker or perhaps simply well prepared for the obvious strike, both of her massive hands clamping down upon the thick skewer catching it fast.
The incredible force of the impact drives the ogre backwards and for a few brief moments the two entities struggle for dominance, Riki's powerful legs digging for purchase in the muck while the undead steed stamps wildly in an attempt to drive her ever back so that it may determine which of them is the greater. In the end, it never gets the chance to find out. Pivoting to one side, Riki shifts the lance away from her body and with a single deft twist of her wrist, snaps it clean in two. The sudden loss of resistance to its forward momentum coupled with the torque of the wrenching blow sends both knight and horse into a wild and uncontrolled fall. Bones crunch like leaves underfoot as the skeletal creations shatter themselves apart upon the rocks and trees. One down.
The second comes at her with no warning, dashing from the cover of the trees at her rear like a thief skulking in the shadows. The massive wooden blade cleaves through the air with an ominous shriek smiting the massive woman across her ribs even as she turns to face it. A dull thud rings out as the enchanted sword slams into her body and Riki is momentarily left speechless as the wind is blasted from her lungs; the skeleton fares far worse, however. The thick surface of the ogre's arm rises up to greet the flanking assailant as she whirls and its own speed becomes its undoing even as it scores the precious blow for its skull proves far less durable than the divine body of the oni. Headless, the knight clatters to the ground in a pile of useless bones as the undead charger simply continues to race onwards without direction until it is swallowed up by the mists and forest.
Still winded, Riki grunts and places a hand on her stomach, surprised to find a warm wet stickiness there. Blood? She's bleeding? Curse that witch! The ogre shifts her attention back towards the crumpled body of her mortal enemy only to find that she has been distracted for far too long for the crone now hovers well in the air with some foul magic gathering about her. The knights, while standing no chance, had served their mistress well.
"Blaspheme all you like, pathetic creature. It shall make the sensation all the sweeter when I crush you between my hands and send you to face eternal judgement!"
Roaring loudly, Riki throws both hands into the air as if in some primitive tribal warcry. Thunder flashes overhead, sharp bolts of pure white lightning dancing in the dark clouds as if in answer to her primal display, perhaps a sign that the gods are indeed watching as this struggle comes to its conclusion. Ethereal flames burst to life around her clenched fists and she holds these twin torches aloft as pale beacons against the corruption.
When the final knight comes for her, bursting from the soft earth with tangled roots and clattering armor, it is met with holy fire. The flaming fists drop like a pair of sledgehammers upon the undead warrior before it is even half-way out of the ground smiting it with such terrible force that the skeletal creature simply explodes in a blast of crimson light. Dozens of flaming shards of bone fill the air, scattering about in all directions, a short and brutal display of fireworks that fades within a few instants as the foul magics are consumed by the flames of judgement and become no more.
They always served mother faithfully.
As the first knight is ripped free, the spirit and the wooden shape torn from the life-giving earth, Eadni's cauldron was fully risen now. The hag was bile and bitterness. This wasn't a tactical withdrawal; if it was a simple matter of a stalemate, it would be that Eadni fail to bind the divine oni into service. The fact that the Oni had gained nothing and lost nothing was simply untrue. Eadni had lost face, and the oni had gotten into its vile skull that it was somehow strong enough to resist the witch. Hatred of eons come to a focus brink as the hag considers a personal descration. The facts were clear.
The oni had beaten her soundly.
The witch clutches the oozing nub of her severed arm, as the cauldron rises a full 8 feet up, circling around. Her second knight had just fallen, the strength of the oni overwhelming even her spiritual retainers. The blank expression on Eadni's face finally breaks, as she distends her maw. Rows upon rows of jagged splinters are revealed, several tipped with iron. The thunder comes, a divine roar over the mountain. The hitodama are suddenly driven away, as if a wind had gasped through. The skulls themselves lower down, the mere presence nearly knocking the souls from them. The witch releases her arm, as her final knight rises into a baptism of flame. The skulls suddenly dive low, and spin and spin around the ogre as the witch begins to chant.
"A Dozen Souls
"Take you flight"
"Descend from Heaven"
"To hell's spite!"
And with that, Eadni and her cauldron turns, charging towards the forest through the air. She was fleeing, outright fleeing. Her power over the land was gone. The churning earth was growing silent, the knights having been broken. The cursed magic of Eadni was fading, as even the trees stop bursting from the earth. All except... the possessed skulls. As the flying skulls whirl faster and faster, they suddenly break from their spin into a corkscrew loop, and fly en masse towards Riki, attempting to smash their mystic flames into the oni.
A parting shot from the witch, as she makes her retreat into the forest.
Bathed in the unlight of the hellfire in her hands, Riki remains hunched over for several seconds as her fury smites the last of the unearthly guardians, her powerful form a mass of heaving muscle and sinew as the divine energies which had temporarily empowered her subside. The strength that she had possessed for that final blow had not entirely been her own - a gift from Lord Enma-O? Perhaps her punishment was less important than keeping this holy site free from the foul corruption. Regardless of the reason, it is gone now, and a deep and terrible fatigue overwhelms the oni.
Overhead, the sky has quickly begun to clear, the god's touch driving what little power the witch had left into the ether from which it came. The oni mutters a quick prayer for the departed souls as the hitodama vanish into the mist; hopefully they will find their way to the Gate where they may face proper judgement. Taking a small measure of strength from this thought, Riki manages to compose herself long enough to tilt her head up and return the crone's toothy glower with a fierce grin despite still being unable to stand properly.
Her defiance wavers when the burning skulls descend upon her, ghastly macabre agents of darkness dancing slowly in a circle like vultures upon a wounded animal. Despite the pain, Riki pushes herself to her feet to face this new threat, but with her strength momentarily depleted, there is little she can do but wait to see what the witch has in store for her. No way is this final spiteful strike going to be her end.
As the chanting begins, the ogre takes a deep breath and steels herself. It isn't hard to imagine what is going to come next. At Eadni's command the skull bombs all close in at once, assailing her from every side. Half of the deadly servants never make it to their destination, scattered and smashed by divine hellfire as Riki swings her arms about in a pair of powerful sweeping strikes; the others, however, land true. Explosions of ethereal flame engulf the massive woman and she staggers under the onslaught, tossed from side to side as each successive blast comes from a different direction.
The final blow lands square between her shoulders and for the first time in the engagement the towering brute is sent sprawling to the ground on her face. Pain like she has never experienced, mortal pain, crawls over the outside of her skin as the witchfire burns at her flesh. For several moments it takes all of her remaining resolve to simply not pass out. Eventually, the searing pain subsides as the cursed magic fades away, likely due to the witch's departure. It would be entirely understandable, she thinks briefly, to just lie here on the nice cool ground for a few days and rest for a while.
Almost as if reading her mind, another bolt of thunder booms overhead practically radiating disapproval.
"Ngh, as you command, my lord..."
Gathering up herself and what remains of her pride, Riki slowly rises back to her feet. She takes some time to survey the site of her battle with the witch noting with some dismay the level of damage caused by their brief but supernatural struggle. Never one to shirk work that had the decency to come to her instead of the other way around, the ogre spends the next few minutes attempting to hide the evidence of the struggle. Trees that had been uprooted or tilted are set upright, the bits of bone and rotten flesh which had been descecrated for Eadni's foul purposes are buried properly, and the shattered earth is smoothed over as best as she can manage. She even uses some stones to build a little shrine for the dead.
"Riki - one, bad guys..." She pauses and rubs her chin. What would be the proper way to keep score for something like evil, which is an eternal force which must be combated forever and can never be truly defeated? "On second thought, let's not keep score."
Oh, Eadni would be keeping score.
The trees rush past the witch, the pines whispering as she takes flight. Outside of whispers, it was painfully quiet. The mind of the hag was swirling as she begins to obsess over Riki and his lord. She had not expected that the wretched Buddhist gods would meddle in her affairs. She would curse them all, damn every single one of those gods that dared against her. She had a world to save, and the world was not theirs to play with ultimately. There was balance in the planet, and she would drag it free. She rises up along the long slope of the mountain, the mists swimming around her as a small hut rises in the distance. Gradually, she begins to shrink, her form twisting back into the shape of a grandmother... ableit a grandmother with a missing arm. Rage boiled in her as her thoughts turn to her children. If for a moment, they left a mess, if a moment they did not do their chores... and the rage subsides. But a loving mother must endure. But A loving mother must suffer.
And a loving mother must not rip apart children when it isn't their fault.
Log created on 17:25:34 01/13/2016 by Eadni, and last modified on 19:33:00 01/28/2016.