No sovereign could ask for a guardian more loyal, more devoted to his duty.
He was the first volunteer through the breach at Tchankem Castle, one of the bloodiest battles in Volcor’s visceral history. The soldier who pulled his wounded commander through Serpent’s Crescent on a makeshift sand skiff. The protector who shielded his lord wizard from a rival’s attack, an arcane assault of such ferocity that it almost claimed his life.
A valiant Volcai, sworn to protect what he believes to be good and just. The eyes and ears of vigilance. The raised voice of alarm, and the clenched fists of retribution.
But what if his fervor were to blind him to the true nature of his people? We are equal parts fair and foul, and misfortune is the weight that tips the balance.
Yoji did everything by the book that day, line for line, word for word. He doubled the patrols and tripled the sentries. He banned the Dragon Festival revelers from the surrounding streets and alleyways. He secured each lock and barred every entry not vital to the running of the palace. No-one would escape the sight of his soldiers. Nothing would pass without a word of warning.
Or so Yoji thought. How could he know of traitors planted long ago? Of turncoats stitched from fear? Of dark dreams plotted while he slept? How might a soldier of leather and steel imagine schemes woven from silk and shadow? A lone man trying to peer into a vision conjured by a network of minds.
Yoji wished to follow his Emperor into death, to be taken in chains to the Obsidian Coast and cast from Dragon’s Peak. An honorable death that might redeem some small portion of his shame-shadowed soul.
Chancellor Yama, leader of the Ezu Dracai faction, would not allow it. Why waste a loyal subject, even one so blinded by the Alshoni faction and their deluded devotion to a dying dynasty?
Better that he live as a condemned man, serving his sentence with halberd in hand. Better that he learn to live in dishonor, and view the world through the eyes of those who would most threaten it.
Betrayed by his own garrison, now surrounded by Ezu enemies, Yoji chose to first purge himself of trust. Then he purged the palace of the untrustworthy. Like a mason repairing a decrepit fortress, he ripped out the rotten wood, uprooted the crumbling stones. Some he exiled to the Blackrock quarries of the north, a chance to reconsider their loyalties. Others he cast upon the rocks below Dragon’s Peak, a haunting sight to stiffen the backs of those he spared. Some he simply ‘disappeared’, so quietly, so thoroughly, that it was as if they never existed. With neither mercy nor remorse, he vivisected the palace’s lower ranks and cauterized the infection until only the incorruptible remained.
Remorse has thrust Yoji into a sovereignty of suspicion. He patrols a land haunted by paranoia, doggedly protecting the memory of his fallen master. In Yoji’s mourning heart, he feels the smoldering embers of the Dynasty. Though they cool and fade, he clutches them ever tighter. He will continue to serve his true master until his dying breath.
Written by Edwin McRae and Rachel Rees.
Directed by Robbie. Illus. by Sam Yang.