Sunday, March 2, 2014

Monsters of the Way of the Tiger series - A guest post by David Walters

Hello all!  Today, I bring you a real treat - a guest post from David Walters, who, amongst other things, has written and released Ninja, Hachiman themed world for the Avenger! series.  Book 0 is available on Amazon now, or you can buy it directly from the Megara website.

On to the post!

The Monstrous Origins Of Ninja!

The world of Orb has been featured in over a dozen gamebooks, including Fighting Fantasy’s Talisman of Death and the Way of the Tiger series. Its development has been influenced by many real-world mythologies, but it is on the Island of Plenty that the inhabitants and creatures originate from Japanese archetypes. Here David Walters elaborates on a few such creatures from his latest book Ninja!, the prequel to the Way of the Tiger Series.

Available on:
Full colour hardback


Historically, Komainu are a pair of stone lion statues placed outside shrines to guard against evil spirits. One of the pair always has an open mouth and the other a closed one (as if saying 'a' and 'um', the beginning and end of the Sanskrit alphabet). Together they form the sound of 'aum', a sacred sound used in Buddhism and Hinduism, symbolising the beginning and end of all things. Their origins are from India initially, but then spread to China, Korea and Japan.
On Orb, Komainu are ethereal creatures from the Spirit Plane, bound to a stone statue of a lion through powerful priestly rites. They are commonly guardians of shrines and temples on the Island of Plenty, inanimate until the sanctity of the place they are guarding is threatened. They fiercely guard the place or treasure they are charged with defending on behalf of their priestly masters. Once the outer stone shell of the Komainu is broken, its spirit is released back to the Spirit Plane, leaving behind an oozing black residue that some mistake for a kind of blood.

Originating from tales in the Kagoshima Osumi region of Japan, an Ittan-momen is a roll of cloth that has been possessed by an evil spirit. It flies through the air, usually at night, seeking out victims to smother.
On Orb, Ittan-momen are created from the funeral shroud of high ranking priests of Death, Lord of Sorrows. If left undisturbed for a hundred years, Death blesses the shroud with sentience and it will unravel from its host. It can then fly through the air as if carried on the breeze, seeking out fresh victims to honour its dark god.


In Buddhist tales from Japan these were hungry spirits that ate decomposing human corpses, and were said to have a particularly grotesque appearance like some sort of inhuman cadaver. They appear in the fable of Muso Kokushi, a Buddhist priest who encounters a Jikininki when he is a corpse before its burial ceremony.
On Orb, Jikininki are the mutant offspring of the god Nil, the repulsive Mouth of the Void, and are only found on the Island of Plenty. They inhabit only the most isolated of areas where corpses were once bountiful and such places are more commonly found on the west of the Island, where the Great Civil War laid waste to whole cities. The skin of a Jikininki is a blubbery, gangrenous green, and their eyeless faces are dominated by pulsing pustules and sharp teeth.


Jorogumo translates from Japanese as ‘whore spider’. This was a spider that once it reaches 400 years of age can transform itself into a beautiful woman. She will sometimes play her biwa (a Japanese lute) to distract a young man, then bind him in webbing to later devour him at her leisure. She features in an old tale from Shizuoka in Japanese folklore, where she tried to trap men by a waterfall.
On Orb, a Jorogumo is created by priests of Nullaq, The Supreme Queen who Rules in Malicious Envy, whose symbol is the spider. Her priests perform dark rites on a captured female virgin, including the insertion (through the ear) of spiders into her brain and the forced ingestion of spider venom. The girl is then under the control of Nullaq and can transform between an innocent maiden and a monstrous, deadly form with the lower torso of a giant spider. She is sent out into the world to ensnare unwary men, binding them in her webbing before slowly devouring him at her leisure.


In Japanese mythology these are trees that grow near a place where a massacre occurred, and they have acquired a taste for human blood as a consequence of drawing up blood through their roots.
On the Island of Plenty on Orb, Jubokko will sometimes grow near battle sites and look for all purposes like normal trees (typically a cherry or plum tree). Blood ingested from a human can sustain them for years at a time, and so they can easily be dormant for decades before attacking a target with their jagged branches. Human bones can often be found around the roots, since the tree will grab a target with its branches, drain it of blood with thorn-like twigs, and leave the remaining corpse to be eaten by wild animals.


In Japanese, obake means to shapeshift, and so according to Japanese fables Bakemono and Obakemono were beings who could transform from one form into another, including inanimate objects. The terms Bakemono and obake can be used for almost any type of bizarre creature from Japanese folklore.
On Orb, the Bakemono are ugly, squat humanoids with taloned arms whose skin comes in various hues from muddy brown to a sky-like blue. They live in tribes divided amongst racial lines based on their skin colour. Their innate abilities to transform their appearance have diminished over time, however some subgroups retain the ability to shapeshift into the form of another humanoid for a brief period until their battle lust gets the better of them. Samurai raids have cleared the Bakemono from the more civilised parts of the Island of Plenty, driving them west across the mountains into the wild forests where the tribes generally war with each other until united under some greater authority.
Obakemono are the larger, scaly cousins of Bakemono, dim witted and no longer able to shapeshift, but freakishly strong and tough. Often they are associated with a tribe as a champion fighter, although sometimes they are cast out to wander alone when they have misused their tremendous strength against the chieftain of the tribe.


Yukionna translates from Japanese as 'snow woman', an ageless spirit of a beautiful woman with a skin as white as snow. She is said to have been formed from the spirit of someone who perished in the snow and who now preys on those lost in a snowstorm. She glides over the snow, leaving no sign of her passing. She has icy breath that she uses to ruthlessly kill others, although she is occasionally merciful, as unpredictable as the snows in the wild places.

On Orb, a Yukionna is one of the old deities from the Time of Snows, now a shadow of her former power and only found in the uninhabitable wildernesses on the coldest of nights. She is seen more as an apparition of something that once was, insubstantial enough to pass through solid rock if required. She is known to call out to warn of her approach, and uses her icy breath to freeze the hearts of the most steadfast of travellers.

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