Benaroya Publishing is now on Youtube!

By : October 25, 2011 : Category: Benaroya Publishing

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Want all the latest video reviews and interviews for titles such as Red Spike, Samurai’s Blood and Marksmen? Well, now you can go to www.youtube.com/benaroyapublishing and get it all as well as exclusive interviews with our writers, creators and artists.

See part 1 of our exclusive interview with company president, Michael Benaroya.

Benaroya Publishing at New York Comic Con – Artist Alley S12-14

By : October 14, 2011 : Category: Benaroya Publishing, Blood Merchant, Marksmen, Red Spike, Samurai's Blood

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If you’re going to New York Comic Con, you can get all of the latest, as well as exclusives, from Benaroya Publishing.

Simply go to Artist Alley booth area S12-14 http://nycc11.mapyourshow.com/5_0/exhibitor_details.cfm?exhid=343364

Red Spike’s Jeff Cahn, Samurai’s Blood’s Owen Wiseman and Nam Kim, as well as Marksmen’s David Baxter will on hand to sign copies. We’ll have Samurai’s Blood #5 a week before it’s release and exclusives variant editions of Red Spike #2, Marksmen #2 and Samurai’s Blood #1 and #2.

We’ll also have exclusive posters for two upcoming titles, Redeemer and Blood Merchant

 

The Empty Sisters: A Story from the World of Samurai’s Blood

By : October 10, 2011 : Category: Samurai's Blood

The Empty Sisters

A story from the world of Samurai’s Blood

by Owen Wiseman

Kayo mumbles something as she is dying, but it is impossible to make out. She dies sweating. None of the wheezes or coldness or stillness of the deaths of old women. Kayo dies with fever, her eleven-year-old body fighting up until the very last moment and then giving up suddenly. She lapses into unconsciousness, wakes up long enough to mumble something, and stops breathing.

For a long moment her two twin sisters are still. They are close to her death, all three of them shut up in the dank, tiny room they share, one of many just like it set into the walls of the main training room of the Farm. The twins can hear the rustling and the small breaths of the other girls in the other rooms, but Kayo’s breath is gone. They look at each other. They are eight years old, or perhaps nine. It is not clear exactly when they were born. Kayo has led them this far, held their hands and sheltered them, warmed them with her own body on frigid wintry nights here in this Northern land, washed the wounds of punishment inflicted on them by cruel Taro with his cane of reeds, and now she is dead. They both know it but they cannot speak it, not even to each other, for several breaths. Then their eyes meet again and it is undeniable. She is dead.  Seki and Sata are alone.

They do not get up and do not call for their minders, who may punish them if they draw any attention. They hold each other there, next to their sister’s corpse, and they whisper soothing sounds into each other’s ears, and after a while they begin to talk of Kayo. They find strength and solace in each other, and their whispers grow stronger. As the first rays of dawn start slipping through the cracks between the boards of their tiny room, each twin reaches out and places a hand on Kayo’s body. She is cold now, all the life already long gone. They swear to her and to each other that they will raise themselves out of this life. All the things that she had promised to get for them they will get for themselves. It is the promise of children, children grown up all too fast but children all the same, with no real idea of what the world has in store for them. And yet that promise binds them, and they will keep it even when they do finally discover its true, terrible cost. They are sworn.

 

“I’m cold.”

“Me too.”

“How long do you think, until dawn?”

“I don’t know.”

“It will get warmer, once dawn comes.”

“It will, Sister. It will.”

 

Morning comes and they are rousted and Kayo’s death is discovered, and they are beat for failing to reveal it as they would have been beaten for revealing it before dawn. Taro stinks of cheap wine like every other morning, and he groans as he wields the cane against their tiny bodies. They have been at his mercy for three years now, and neither girl cries while being beaten anymore.

On the farm there is work, pain, practice, and rest, with just barely enough food eaten hurriedly in between. There are thirty girls there, aged five to fifteen, and every one either is or will be beautiful. Those who do the dirty business of obtaining girls are well-practiced in the choice, and Taro and his assistants work them hard. They learn the arts of makeup and the arts of dance. They spend long hours working in the gardens and doing chores. They play whisper games at night, passing messages from tiny room to tiny room, trying to stay quiet enough to keep the minders at bay.

Seki and Seta retreat at first, after Kayo dies, in spite of their promises. Swearing and doing are two different things, and for a year the two girls always have a tear in at least one eye. They do what they are told to do and try their best to hide their despair, but that first year is a fugue. One year to the day after her death, they spend the night in the same tiny room where she died, and they cry, and they cannot console each other, and when the dawn comes they have cried so much that it shows on their faces and they are beaten again, and must feel Taro’s sweet, hot breath coming down at them with each blow. They are nine years old, or perhaps ten.

That afternoon they are out in a vegetable garden pulling weeds, side-by-side in a row of other girls. They both glance upward at the same moment, to see a giant bird, unlike any they have seen before, glide out from behind a distant evergreen tree in the direction of the nearest mountain peak. It is a Mountain Hawk Eagle, though neither girl knows its name, rare and proud, brown and white and with wings longer than they are tall. The Hawk Eagle begins circling over their heads. Seki and Seta both know that bird is their sister, come to visit them once more. A peace falls upon them.

 

“What can this mean, sister? Why would Kayo take such a form?”

“Perhaps she wishes us to be strong, and powerful, to strike down our enemies.”

“Perhaps she wishes for us to grow wings and fly away.”

“You there! Seki, Sata! Stop your chattering!

“She has come to remind us of her love.”

“Her love reminds me of our promises.”

“Me too, sister. Me too.”

 

Five years pass. They are fourteen, or perhaps fifteen. They are the most beautiful girls on the whole farm. They are unmistakably twins, almost identical but with enough difference to tell them apart. Two sides of the same coin. They have transformed themselves into the rising stars of the house, the in-demand girls who will perform for the lords and perhaps even catch one’s eye. The are the best dancers and the best at pouring tea. All the things that girls have whispered of are within their grasp. Taro no longer beats them, but praises them lavishly and beats other, younger girls. He brings Seki and Seta favors when he comes from the city, tokens of esteem from gentlemen he has told of the sisters’ beauty. They have moved out of that tiny closet to a larger room at the front of the farmhouse, with one wall against the back of a firepit so that it stays reasonably warm even in the winter.

Spring comes, the time of year when a crop of new girls are taken from the farm to the city, to begin work in the House itself. Seki and Seta know this is their year to be taken, and so they are. They sit on the wagon as Taro steers it along a jouncing dirt path, the girls staring into the far distance, past the stunning beauty of the mountains and towards the city which they imagine will be somehow even more beautiful. They catch each other’s eyes, and smile just slightly, and each knows the other is thinking of what this day means. Today is the day they leave behind all the horror of the Farm, all the beatings, all the frigid nights, the terrible food that they ate ravenously to still growling bellies. The girls of the House are required to be beautiful and perfect at all times, and so they are given decent food, and warm beds, and creams for their skin. This, at least, is what is whispered of on those long farm-nights, the dreams passed from girl to girl and from generation to generation.

They arrive in Yamagata and something seems wrong. The wagon passes a castle, its rising walls and towers painted a strong, striking blue, but the wagon just keeps right on rolling. They pass through streets lined with well-constructed wooden buildings, filled with women in beautiful kimonos stomping along with span-high, wooden platforms strapped to the bottom of their sandals to keep them up and out of the mud. They leave this behind and enter a drab area, where no one makes eye contact, where the clothing is duller and coarser, and they finally pull up outside a large, wooden building with high walls surrounding it, and a trio of giant, scowling guards out front. Seki and Sata are frozen in the wagon, staring up at the sign above the door of the building, a sign which they now realize they cannot read, until the guards lift them roughly and take them inside and lock them away.

By that very evening, the sisters are side-by-side attending to the sweatiest, filthiest mob of drunks who ever walked the earth. They are fighting men, rough men with coin and with nothing to lose, and the dances they spent all those childhood years learning are interrupted by pawing hands with disturbing frequency. At the end of the evening, they are taken each to her own room at the back of the building, and each finds a different nobleman there waiting for her. These are the men who sent favors to the farm, and who have paid high coin for the privilege of deflowering the girls everyone is talking about. And Seki and Seta do as they are told, for there were those whispers back on the farm as well, of the things that were expected. All their dreams come crashing down that night, and each girl wonders how she could have been so foolish as to think that anything but a hard fate awaited her. Neither one sees her lord again after that first night. There will be no rescue.

They are the lowest girls of the house, and in-between violations they are made to do still more chores, to wash the clothing and draw the baths of the older, established girls. Seki and Sata are whores, forbidden of any learning, of any possession, of any pride. All the arts of dance and makeup and coquettishness are just ornamentation to their bodies, which are the real objects of sale. Perhaps somewhere there is a place where those other skills are valued, but that is not this place. For a time, they try to resist. Not with their bodies, for that way is death, but with their hearts. They are silent when on display, and go through the motions of dance without really dancing. Only the roughest of sailors wants them, and life grows even worse. But then one night, late at night when the House is quiet and they are supposed to be asleep, the girls remember that this was the night of the year when Kayo died. They look into each other’s eyes and whisper again the words of their vow. They had indeed forgotten, but now they have remembered. This is not the life she wanted for them. This is not the life they promised to live. They swear again that they will get that life no matter the cost.

They are great beauties and quick studies, so they rise swiftly through the House. They learn the tricks that men like, learn the subtle breaths and widening eyes that accompany genuine pleasure, learn how to tease those reactions from their clients. The scene in a brothel is ugly but even ugly things have their winners and their losers, and Seki and Seta are winners. They find a few rich patrons who become regular customers, and provide them enough status to get a small room together where they can be alone. They realize that they must learn to read, so they begin to wheedle a few kanji out of their favored patrons. They assemble a rudimentary alphabet. They have no writing implements or ink, so they bring in pockets full of dirt from the gardens when they work outside, then slowly dribble the soil out of a fist to form the characters on their wooden floor. They memorize hundreds of characters this way, magicking language out of the very ether. They learn to speak Chinese and Korean from the men who pass through. They learn how to talk just intelligently enough about battle and learn when to titter brainlessly.

Soon enough they are at the top of the House. It is a rough House, true, of no great name, but they are its greatest assets. They are seventeen, or perhaps eighteen. Lords come from the castle to receive their ministrations, and send them trinkets the next day. One night they are taken to the castle, and spend a luxurious night with the heir to the mantle of daimyo, Sanjo Ujimori. He is twenty years old, and after it is done he gives them each twenty gold coins. It is as much coin as they had made in their entire lives previously, and Taro gives them each their own quarters after that. And so they settle into a rhythm of life that actually is close to what Kayo wanted for them. The next time the date of her death comes around, they buy good wine and rice balls and have a feast, but in the middle of it all, they realize at the exact same moment that this is not enough. Everything they could ever have imagined means nothing now. Kayo and her dead dreams mean nothing, for now there is nowhere to go. The striving itself was all that had ever kept them going. Now there is only the future, very much like the present, with sweaty men and dreary nights and painful mornings, until they are old and feeble or dead. They will have to invent a new dream.

 

“There is something strange about this wine.”

“Are you troubled by the taste?”

“No, the taste is sweet.”

“Then what can it be?”

“This wine begins as grapes. A trader from Edo told me that. They allow the grapes to rot, then they can turn them into wine. And everyone knows that wine left out too long turns to vinegar.”

“Of course all you say is true. But what can this mean?”

“Well, from the moment a grape begins to grow until the moment that I take a sip of this wine, the wine is always becoming something else. It never stops changing. It seems to me this is a strange thing about wine. Do you find that strange?”

“I do, Sister. I do”

 

The decision to kill comes rather easily. Commonplace horror is no horror at all, and Seki and Seta have seen many people die before. The move from observer to cause does not trouble them overmuch. They choose one of their most dedicated clients, and enlist his help in their scheme, promising him rewards beyond all measure. The client invites Taro over to his house for dinner and drinking, and get him very drunk. Seki has developed a pleasure relationship with one of the House’s guards, who lets them out of their room for the night. They go to the client’s house and Taro is there. They knock him unconscious, then tie him and wait for him to wake. When he does, the torture begins. They pull his nails from his fingers. They pull his teeth from his mouth. They take his own reed cane and poke his eyes out of his head with it. Three hours and more he suffers before he dies. The client and the guard who cooperated with them are too frightened of them to turn them in. They take Taro’s body and dump it in a river, and he is never found.

They return to the brothel that evening, and find they are not troubled at all. All that we might call goodness has been burned out of them, and only strength remains. Only the strength to do what they must do. They throw themselves into their work, bringing twice as much pleasure to twice as many, and the knowledge of how easily they could kill any of these men brings them some solace. Taro is dead and the House is without an owner, but another rich man appears and takes control, just as Seki and Seta had known he would. The new owner’s name is Akira. One week after Akira appears, he is dead from poison. Another new owner emerges and that same month he is murdered by thieves in a dark alley. This goes on, with no one knowing how it is happening, until one of the owners dies and no one is willing to take his place. A month later, the house is in chaos and rumors of a curse abound. Clients are unhappy, girls are restless, and guards are not being paid. Seki and Seta, at the behest of everyone involved, reluctantly agree to run operations until a permanent solution can be found.

That very same evening, the twins send a letter to Sanjo Ujimori, their old patron. They ask that he make a special exception and allow them permanent position as head of the brothel. In exchange they offer him pleasures untold. He accepts, and Seki and Seta find themselves ruling the world in which they were once prisoners. They never go to bed with another sweating, stinking man, but only with the daimyo himself. Within a year, what is now called the Kinjo House is the best regarded brothel in the province. Their feminine touch in decoration and atmosphere sets it apart from all other houses, and men come from as far away as Edo to sample their delectations. They have invented their new dream and achieved it, and will rule their world for fifty years with a ruthlessness that few men or women are able to display.

They are twenty-two, or perhaps twenty-three. They sit in the main office of the Kinjo House, wearing the finest silks, with dozens of guards and servants waiting just seconds away to attend to any whim. From the farm and Taro’s cane to this in eight years. They remark that it is the anniversary of Kayo’s death, and they reflect on how far they have come. Each congratulates and thanks the other. But secretly, inside, they feel nothing. Each hides this emptiness from the other, one of the few true secrets of their life together. And so for all their lives, each woman will think herself alone with the struggle.

 

“Should we be condemned, Sister, for the things we have done?”

“We would be condemned, if we were discovered.”

“That is not what I asked.”

“You mean to ask of Kayo? I cannot say.”

“Would she have done the same, had she lived to discover the truths we lived to discover?”

“Perhaps she would have made different truths of them.”

“And what might she have made of Taro-san and all the rest?”

“She was one of us.”

“She was, Sister. She was.”

JIM HANLEY’S UNIVERSE TO HOLD PRE-NEW YORK COMIC CON MEGA SIGNING EVENT!

By : October 7, 2011 : Category: Benaroya Publishing, Marksmen, Red Spike, Samurai's Blood

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Jim Hanley’s Universe is offering comic fans a warm up for the New York Comic Con festivities with a huge signing event featuring a variety of creators from a selection of innovative titles. On October 12th, the day before NYCC, Mark Texeira (Red Spike, Wolverine), Ben McCool (Pigs, Choker), Nathan Edmondson (Who is Jake Ellis?), Chris Houghton (Reed Gunther), Shane Houghton (Reed Gunther), Edwin Huang (Skullkickers), Richard Starkings (Elephantmen), Charles Soule (Twenty Seven), Jeff Cahn (Red Spike), Owen Wiseman (Samurai’s Blood), David Baxter (Marksmen), Chris Giarrusso (G-Man) and more will be on hand to sign copies of their latest comics books. The first 50 people to buy a comic from any of the attending creators will receive a FREE copy of the September 2011 edition of HEAVY METAL magazine. We’ll have drinks and snacks available on hand and plan to party down with our diverse lineup of personalities. 

The Jim Hanley’s Universe Creator MEGA Event will take place in New York City at Jim Hanley’s Universe on October 12th, 2011 starting at 6:30 P.M. at 4 West 33rd St., across from the Empire State Building. For more information, please call (212) 268-7088.

About Jim Hanley’s Universe
Since 1985, Jim Hanley’s Universe has been America’s best and most progressive comic book store. At Jim Hanley’s Universe, we work extra hard to stock the full range of comic titles and related merchandise that is available today.

We carry comics from Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Dynamite, Avatar, BOOM, Oni, Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly, Pantheon, 2000AD, Picturebox, Viz, Del Rey, Tokyopop, and more! We carry kids comics, international comics, literary comics, mature-readers titles, Manga, graphic novels, small press indies, zines and mini-comics, and more! We have an extensive back issue collection, and we also carry statues, collectibles, action figures, apparel, DVDs, trading cards, books, comics and gaming supplies and more!

For more Info, check out:
http://jhuniverse.blogspot.com
or Contact:
(212) 268-7088
info@jhuniverse.com

Benaroya Publishing’s Comics Available on Comixology

By : September 27, 2011 : Category: Marksmen, Red Spike, Samurai's Blood

Benaroya Publishing is proud to announce that Red Spike, Samurai’s Blood and Marksmen are available as digital comics though Comixology, both on their website and through the Image Comics’ digital app.

Whether you’re an avid digital comics reader or a fan unable to find copies at their local comic store, you can easily have Red Spike, Samurai’s Blood and Marksmen available on your home computer or portable iDevice. Each comic costs $1.99 and you can download a FREE preview of Red Spike #1 and Samurai’s Blood #1.

For copies of Red Spike, Click Here

For copies of Samurai’s Blood, Click Here

For copies of Marksmen, Click Here

The Fish-Killer: A story from the world of Samurai’s Blood

By : September 21, 2011 : Category: Samurai's Blood

 

The Fish-Killer

A story from the world of Samurai’s Blood

by Owen Wiseman

It begins with a fish. He is eight years old, already quick enough and smart enough to sneak up and get his fingers under the fish far enough to flip it up out of the water and onto the bank. He stands between the writhing creature and the water, to keep it from flopping towards escape, but he does not reach for a rock to end it. He watches it die slowly, and feels for the first time that perfect detachment, that invincible, floating, whiplash high of dominion over life and death. It is only a fish, not nearly so powerful as the spirits he will soon command, but it is his first and it is that fish which sets the hook deep within his own jaw. It is that fish which makes Mitsumo Tomotori—fourth son of Mitsumo Iwada, Lord of Bifu Castle—fall in love with death.

A year goes by. He thinks often of the fish, but life is busy and he has few opportunities to slip away and be alone. Then one evening he captures a bird that lands on his open windowsill. He grabs it by the neck and squeezes with his tiny fingers as the bird flaps and tries to claw its way free. Eventually the bird’s effort slackens. It cannot breathe. But rather than let it die, he releases it with just a spark of life left inside, and instead stomps on its wings, making sure to snap them both. He spends most of the night sitting alone, watching the bird drag itself around his quarters trying to find its way back aloft, and it is his only happy memory of being nine years old.

Two more years go by with only these petty crimes. Tomotori is eleven years old. Meanwhile, the lowest-ranking of the sons of Mitsumo Iwada is quickly becoming the best swordsman. He battles his older brothers fiercely, and at thirteen he defeats the eldest, a proud samurai of twenty-two years who cannot look his father in the eyes after retrieving his wooden sword from the rich courtyard grass of their grand castle. Pride shines on Tomotori’s face at his victory, but when he turns to his brother he sees the hatred that has settled there.

Tomotori looks back to his father, with hope still shining on his face, and at that one moment, if he had found what he was looking for on the face of Mitsumo Iwada, everything may well have changed for Tomotori. He might have stopped loving death. But he does not find what he is looking for, because Mitsumo Iwada is not looking at him. The old man is looking at his older brother, the meaningless brother he had just defeated, and Iwada is exhorting him, demanding more and better and harder. And it is then that Tomotori realizes that there is no competition between them at all. He strove to be a better sword than his eldest brother, but they are not both swords. They are different tools, different sons, moving through different passages and unable to cross over. The world around them swirls, the hand of servant turning against master as the civil strife of Sengoku-Jidai winds itself down, and men change their destinies by conquest as Japan is united once more. Yet in this world that is their castle, the world where Mitsumo Tomotori is prisoner, he is one thing and his eldest brother is another thing. Their destinies are immutable.

His brother hates him, and that means everyone hates him, because his brother is going to be lord one day and so everyone aches to please him. Their father pits brother against brother, and every night Tomotori is victorious. As they grow older and Tomotori comes into his full powers, the beatings get worse. Servants come to Tomotori’s quarters and beg him to throw the matches, to allow his brother to win for everyone’s sake, but he refuses. He is merciless. But every night, standing over his brother’s bloody form, he looks to his father and finds the old man’s eyes averted, staring instead at his eldest son, willing him to be something he is not.

Meanwhile, Tomotori piles up suffering and death to move mountains. He stalks the castle grounds at dawn and dusk, hunting vermin, on pretext of training but truly so that he might take any captives back to his room for experimentation. He evolves from simple murders to vivisections. He comes into possession of a small, leather bag, open on three sides but with ties to keep it closed. Inside the small bag, held in by straps that he makes himself, is the collection of knives and metal pokes that he uses as instruments of vivisection.

He turns fourteen on a perfect day just as the cherry blossoms are falling in the courtyards. He is presented with a katana and matching wakizashi. All his father’s samurai retainers and many of the palace staff gather. A condemned prisoner enters the courtyard. The man is not blindfolded, and Tomotori looks long into his eyes. The assembled samurai murmur, for he does not tremble as most boys in their memories trembled. He looks at his father, and his father finally looks right straight into his eyes for the first time in what seems like years. His father draws the katana from its scabbard and hands it to him. He turns and looks at the prisoner again. He has grown used to hiding his thirst for blood, through the long nights of furry little bodies, and so now he tries to wipe away the smile that wants to creep onto his face, but as that blade bites into the man’s neck and slices through clean, he cannot help himself. He grins and releases a roar of what can only be called triumph, and yet his father turns his back on him once more after that night, despite his bravery. And so Tomotori’s heart is hardened. There is nothing to be done.

Tomotori begins to seek more opportunities to kill. Vivisecting animals no longer excites him now that he has tasted human spirit, and he begins to regret having performed the vivisections in the first place. He throws away his leather bag with his tools, and he stops searching the castle for vermin. That he used to do this strange thing becomes a deep and shameful secret, as time piles on top of it, and he tries to bury his deep, dark impulses under the veneer of justified killing. He volunteers to carry out executions. When he cannot find someone to kill, he will walk through a crowded market, hand to his sword, knowing that people will recognize him, just to see the fear on their faces at the thought of what he might do.

And still the nightly battles of brother against brother continue, and still Tomotori is victorious each and every time. His brother is one of the finest swordsmen in the province, but no match for Tomotori’s viciousness. He fights without style and without mercy, winning with quickness and endurance and ruthlessness. But all this skill cannot bring understanding, and Tomotori cannot understand his father’s aloofness, or his brother’s hatred. Tomotori becomes a ghostly presence in the castle. No one speaks to him. No one looks him in the eye. It is as if he is slowly ceasing to exist.

Then one night, a night much like all the others, save perhaps for some petty annoyance that proves too much to bear, Tomotori and his brother duel in the courtyard while the sun goes down and their father watches. Tomotori is aged sixteen and his brother is aged twenty-five. Five years and more they have fought this way. For three of those years, Tomotori has been the victor, and each night, once victory was assured, he lowered his own sword and offered his brother assistance in rising. Not so this night. This night he beats his brother into the ground and continues beating. He beats him until the wooden sword breaks and then he beats him with the handle. He hears the crack of bone and the cries of mercy, but he does not stop. Not until he hears his father’s voice. When that clarion yell rings out he stops, face splashed with his brother’s blood, and turns to the old man, and again their eyes meet, right on, and the father really, truly looks at his son.

The next day the order comes by messenger. Tomotori is to take only a dozen men and see to the destruction of the Mitsumo Clan’s hated enemy, the Maeda Clan, at their seaside stronghold. It is a suicide mission. Tomotori laughs in the face of the messenger. He sends a message of enthusiastic acceptance to his father. He chooses twelve petty criminals to accompany him, takes them with hands bound out into the forest, and forces them to fight to the death, with the promise that one will live and go free. Once that last poor bastard has killed all the others, Tomotori slits his throat. He does not dispose of the bodies. He leaves them in the forest for the animals, as payment for all the torturing nights of his childhood.

He goes with light feet to the Maeda Clan’s castle, buoyed by all the death in his wake. He reconnoiters the village outside the castle, and discovers where the various gate guards live. He follows them for weeks on their road to and from the castle, listening to them talk and studying their voices. He finally chooses the one he thinks is the biggest coward. He kidnaps the man’s wife and daughter, and it turns out that Tomotori is a good judge of character, because the man agrees to let him into the castle as ransom.

Tomotori sneaks into the castle on the night of a feast. He moves through the entire structure, setting fires and murdering guards, enough to send the whole wooden castle to ashes. Then, in the chaos and the smoke, disguised in a stolen uniform, he slips in amongst the bodyguards of Maeda Dogen, and slides a knife between the patriarch’s ribs. Tomotori slips away without notice, and the incident is later blamed on other parties, but before he returns to his home castle, Tomotori returns to the house of the cowardly gate guard, and kills him, along with his wife and child. Not because he is afraid they will implicate him, but for the same reason he used to vivisect those animals in those long, sweaty nights, with the tools from his leather case. He goes back and kills those people because for Tomotori, the act itself has meaning. Some kill with heavy hearts, and some kill with hardly a thought, but very few kill in the same way that artists paint or sculptors sculpt. Yet Tomotori is one of those.

He returns to his father’s castle and is given a hero’s welcome. He is triumphant. His boldness and daring have finally overcome the lowness of his birth. He sees his eldest brother and some of the hatred has simply evaporated from his eyes, the way it sometimes can for men who must contemplate being stabbed with a sword, and so who are happy to avoid a fight. All those eyes which were averted are shining now. He will not rule, not take his brother’s place, but he has respect, and that is enough. And so there comes another moment where it seems as if he has a chance to turn it all around.

That night, he asks his father why he was hated for so long. What had he done that had made it necessary for him to destroy so many enemies to make it right? And his father tells him, with unusual bluntness, that every single person in the castle knew about his vivisections and his cruelty when he was a child, and that they all thought he was cursed, and that perhaps he still is cursed, but some curses can work in someone’s favor some of the time, and that as long as he only kills the people he is told to kill he will be allowed to stay. Only Tomotori does not hear many of his father’s words after the first few, because the shame wells up inside him so hard and so fast that it becomes a literal roar and blots out all other sound.

And oh, that shame. That old secret that he had stuffed away is not just revealed but revealed as never a secret at all. The only person who did not know the real secret was him, and now he feels all at once those long years of whispered conversations and snickers that must have taken place all around him, while he lived in that pathetic world of secret hiding spots and little leather cases.

He does not show the shame on his face. He calmly expresses it to his father, and abases himself before him. He begs forgiveness and receives it, then goes out into the castle and walks with his head high. He resolves not to linger in the past, but to start fresh. Yet by the time he reaches his quarters, he knows that is impossible. Every eye on him is a reminder of his burning shame. It consumes him that night, and every night thereafter, until one night, a night filled with storms, he realizes that the only way the world can come to life again is for everyone who knows this secret to die.

And so he picks up the katana and the wakizashi that his father had given to him, and he uses the thunder and the storm for cover as he stalks the hallways, until he reaches his father’s quarters. He kills the guards outside without speaking a word to them, then enters, and stabs his father in his sleep. The old man’s eyes shoot open, and his mouth works like a caught fish, which reminds Tomotori of that first fish, by the riverbank when he was eight years old, the day he fell in love with death.

Tomotori gets very close to his father, and looks right down into his eyes for the last time. He touches his father’s face, the first time he has ever done so. The old man tries to speak, but can only get out three syllables, three disconnected sounds from a sentence lost to the winds of death: A—RA—KU. Then he is gone.

Tomotori smiles his last smile of his old life, and embraces his new name. Araku he shall be, once and forever more, and he swears on his father’s blood that all who hear that name will fear it. Araku stalks through the castle, setting fires and killing his brothers one by one. The eldest is last, and he does not struggle. He knows he is beaten and dead the moment Araku walks in the door. In the morning, when the fire has died to ashes, the Mitsumo Clan is no more, just as Araku had intended.

Araku heads north. He spends a decade moving slowly across the country, traversing the newly established domain of the Tokugawas, never thinking or hearing of his family or their castle or their fortunes again. He has forsaken all that he was. He desires no lands or castles or power, beyond the power of his sword. He eats little food, but feasts on the fading light from a thousand dying eyes, and the gurgling screams from a thousand dying tongues. He does not think of the past or the future. He is a Lord no more.

And then, long after the people of his home province have stopped talking about the fate of the Mitsumo Clan, long after some other family has seized power and built a new castle atop the ashes of the old, Araku arrives in Dewa Province, and hears the name Sanjo for the first time. He hears of their goodness, and of their proud history, of their benevolence, and for the first time in a decade his heart is filled with desire. He is weary of the road, weary of the privations of life as a nomad. He decides that he will enter the service of the Sanjo Clan, and in time, will destroy them.

.Jeff’s Explorations in Project Red Spike.

By : June 15, 2011 : Category: Red Spike

[Begin Transmission…]

Another thing I wanted to explore was the idea of truth and following orders and how those two things interact with one another. I was a senior in high school when 9-11 happened, and a freshman in college when we invaded Iraq, and both of these events really shaped the way I view politics and the politics of war. I’ve given a lot of thought to those events and to how America responded to them, both from the point of view of large, intractable government institutions and from the point of view of the individual. While I don’t want to get overly political, I do think that America had blinders on in the run up to the Iraq invasion. I only mention this because I see parallels between the way information was processed or suppressed in that instance and the way that it is by some members of Red Spike.

In many ways Red Spike is like a cult. It’s in an isolated location that’s cut off from any contact with the outside world. It’s incredibly secretive and the flow of information into and out of the base is highly regulated and highly stratified. Basically, the guys on top, a Moyer or a Coughlin, have a full view of the world and the peons, the cadets, they have a much smaller scope of view and they only really know what their superiors tell them. And, they really don’t have any choice but to believe what they are told and then follow the orders they’ve been given. That’s why when Greg finds what he finds, it’s such a large rupture in his world view. He’s suspicious by nature and then when he learns that he’s being lied to, he loses all trust in his superiors. But there’s nowhere to go. Everyone you know, everyone who you interact with or who is in a position to help you is either ignorant of the lie or complicit in it. Knowing the truth becomes a form of insanity….

I also feel that Moyer himself has a cultish view of Red Spike. It’s his and only his and he views himself as the sort of messianic figure who has shepherded to completion this gigantic step forward in military technology. To him, those on the outside don’t grasp the importance of what he does and the importance of Moyer, himself, in bringing Red Spike to fruition. It’s a cult centered around warfare and technology, or at least, to Moyer, that’s how he views it, and he’s sort of its high priest. Even though Matt and Greg are the ones with the abilities, Moyer views them as subordinate to him, and in the chain of command they are. He also views them as interchangeable pieces in his war machine, which as the story goes on, we learn they really aren’t.

I think this view extends to Fairfield as well. He’s sort of a Daedalus figure, but darker and less heroic, like if Daedalus and Frankenstein got together. On the one hand, he’s clearly a brilliant scientist, but on the other hand, this is a program that uses human guinea pigs and does things that, at the very least, border on being scientifically unethical. But it’s all in devotion to the cause — to Red Spike. And much like a cult, members can easily rationalize actions that on the outside they might consider immoral.

This also has a trickle down effect on Matt and Greg, but especially on Matt who views Moyer almost like a father. Greg’s hand was largely forced in his decision to join Red Spike, but Matt had other options and primarily ended up there as a result of his relationship with Moyer. So there’s elements of seduction, not sexually, but with the promise of money for his mother and power for himself and doing good for the world. Things that someone who is searching for meaning will gravitate towards. And Moyer uses this to draw Matt into his web. And, after a while, Matt is normalized to his abnormal existence and he follows orders from the leaders without question, as does everyone there. It’s a strange mix of group-think and Stockholm syndrome. You even get this sense at the end. But that’s for later…

[Transmission Terminated…]


Character Profile: Sanjo Mayuko

By : : Category: Samurai's Blood

NAME: Sanjo Mayuko
GENDER: Female
ALIAS: Motogawa Kimura, Kimura-chan
SPECIALTY: Daggers/Short Swords, Dance, Tea Ceremony

BIOGRAPHY: Mayuko is a woman of great character and great strength, stranded in a world in which men’s sheer physicality gives them control of her destiny. She is a flickering candle, buffeted by the winds, that refuses to snuff out. Growing up in Eiwa, she was part of the rough-and-tumble of farm life, often playing and even fighting with her brother and Katashi. As she neared womanhood, the fights with Katashi became glances filled with longing, and soon enough they were promised to each other. Yet the destruction of the Sanjo Clan tugs at her as well, and she wants her vengeance just as Jun does. These two forces—her love for Katashi and her love for her Clan—threaten to tear her apart, and she will have to find a way to integrate them, even as life and death hang in the balance.

 

The World of “MARKSMEN”: How did we get here…

By : June 10, 2011 : Category: Marksmen

After decades of recession caused by increasingly polarized political factions of the left and right, states that had the most resources seceded in order to survive economically. A civil war broke out that devastated the country’s physical and economic infrastructure and the government collapsed. The destruction of the United States economy sent the US and the rest of the world spiraling into the Big Collapse. Twenty years later, civilization has effectively disappeared except for survivors in those cities that found a way to sustain themselves without outside resources.

One such city, New San Diego, survived by means of an alliance between the navel military stationed in and near the city and the corporate and academic scientists who were confident they only needed time to make the city self sufficient. The early years were filled with chaos and battle as the military fended off gangs from the North and remnants of the Mexican drug cartels from the South.

Eventually, the scientists found a way to power their city, desalinize all the water they needed and feed the populace almost entirely from the ocean. All the inhabitants of NSD were connected by means of Shades, a device that connects everyone in the city via instant social networking and overlays an Augmented Reality over everything people see. The Shades also record everything that is viewed through them and thus have become an invaluable security tool for law enforcement and city security. Most everyone has accepted the “Big Brother” like loss of privacy in exchange for their safety but there are still some individuals who feel uncomfortable with this and use the Shades only when they must.

This includes…DRAKE McCOY, the city’s most decorated Markman, a member of the elite fighting force that defends the city. Drake, a loner, has never fit in with the ubiquitously networked lifestyle of the city and for that reason he has volunteered for as much RECON duty as his commanders will allow him to take. His exploration has never taken him too far from the city but he has been fascinated by other cities that survived the Big Collapse. He’s an adventurer at heart and yearns to see the world or what’s left of it.

KUROSAWA FILMS AND SAMURAI’S BLOOD

By : June 2, 2011 : Category: Benaroya Publishing, Samurai's Blood

As the writer of SAMURAI’S BLOOD, I must at all points acknowledge a debt to the films of Akira Kurosawa. I grew up on Kurosawa movies. I first saw ‘Ran’ when I was in middle school, and I was struck by the incredible combination of elements that he had managed to tie into his story. Kurosawa used Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’ as inspiration for the film, and I could see even then (though I couldn’t quite understand it yet) the incredible things that could be done through a fusion of East and West.

I sought out more Kurosawa movies. I watched ‘Yojimbo’ and ‘Sanjuro’. I watched ‘The Hidden Fortress’ (And suddenly ‘Star Wars’ seemed less original). Yet the films of his that I liked best, like ‘Ran’ and ‘Throne of Blood’, were the ones where he combined East and West. I rewatched his movies a lot growing up. I was definitely more obsessed with them than I was with manga or anime. I finally decided that it was because I liked the pace of them. The epic stories combined with a deliberate, tense pace did more to make my nerves tingle than did the frenetic energy of other uniquely Japanese picture art.

I left Kurosawa’s films behind for a while, when I went to college and buried myself in the great western minds like Nietzche and Heidegger. I graduated and came to Hollywood, and when my good friend suggested an idea for a story about three young samurai bent on vengeance, I remembered Kurosawa once again.

When I watched his films as an adult, it became crystal clear to me what it was that I had always loved about his movies: The ideas. Kurosawa is a master filmmaker, no question, but his craft pales in comparison to the sheer brilliance of his mind. East or West became unimportant, because all elements of his stories moved in orbit around his central conception of life and death.

That is my ultimate goal for SAMURAI’S BLOOD. The ideas of the samurai masters shine as bright today as ever they did. Perhaps brighter, for all else that has fallen away since the days of the masters ended. The samurai conception of life and death is a strange one, judged by the standards of the modern mind, but its very strangeness is what makes it so interesting, and so useful. It is not something that can be communicated directly. SAMURAI’S BLOOD is my humble attempt to sketch an outline.