Iconic Heroes Set 6 is the latest release in the Pathfinder Battles series of pre-painted plastic miniatures from WizKids and Paizo Inc.

Pathfinder Battles: Iconic Heroes Set 6

Overview

Iconic Heroes Set 6 includes seven all-new miniatures featuring famous personalities from the Pathfinder roleplaying universe: Seltyiel, Quinn, Reiko, Lem, Feiya, Daji, and Hayato Nakayama!  Each of these miniatures is an ALL-NEW sculpt and will feature a dynamic pose, incredible detail and a premium paint job.

MSRP: $39.99
SKU: 71783

Details

Release Date February 2016
Game Time 2+ Hrs
Ages 14+

Each Iconic Heroes Set also includes EXCLUSIVE “Boon Cards” (one for each miniature) for use in the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game! These special Boon Cards are only available in this Pathfinder Battles product!

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Exclusive

All Characters – Set 6

 

Seltyiel
Half-Elf Magus

Born from a dead mother amid screams and disgrace, this sickly half-elf would never have survived had he fallen into his stepfather’s waiting arms. In a cruel trick of fate, his half-sister’s tears stole the infant Seltyiel’s chance for a mercifully short life.

The bastard son of the duped Lady Phiaura Bhrostra and the brigand-sorcerer Lairsaph—the so-called Feign Prince of Cheliax’s Whisperwood—Seltyiel was never meant to survive. Through guile and illusion, the half-elf was conceived as a living disgrace to the sonless Bhrostra family—stern, martial-minded traditionalists who had long hunted the woodland bandits. The tragedy of his wife’s death in childbirth, compounded by the dashed promise of a male heir, nearly drove Lord Ghran Bhrostra mad, and only his daughter’s sobs stayed the lord’s blade. For the next 12 years, a continuing river of tears ensured the young bastard’s life.

Raised by his sister Sioria, young Seltyiel lived a humiliating fiction. In words, he was Lirt, an adopted waif who lived in the light of the Bhrostras’ boundless charity. In the truths whispered from servant to mocking lord, though, he was living proof of Lord Bhrostra’s failure as a husband, a lord, and a man. Keenly aware of his family’s disgrace, Lord Bhrostra frequently reminded his wife’s son of his loathing with beatings and broken bones.

Two weeks before Seltyiel’s 13th birthday, with the bedridden youth already nursing a thrice-broken arm, a drunk and enraged Lord Bhrostra rampaged into the bastard’s attic room. The boy could scarcely fight against the burly lord and took a fierce beating before reflexively lashing out. Catching the unsuspecting lord below the waist, the boy’s blow sent Lord Bhrostra stumbling backward and tumbling down the steep attic stairs. Seltyiel stared down at his stepfather’s unconscious body in terror. Without a word to his sister, the bloodied and crippled half-elf fled into the Whisperwood that night.

For days, the boy wandered the forest, soaked by rain, slashed by vipervines, chased by a boar, and pushed to the brink of starvation. As his continued merciless fortune would have it, though, three scowling brigands found the youth. Terrified, Seltyiel repeated the name he’d heard Lord Bhrostra curse a thousand times over: Lairsaph. Bemused, the scoundrels dragged the boy to his father.

Lairsaph laughed for nearly an hour after discovering that Lord Bhrostra had actually raised his whelp, and in cruel amusement welcomed his son into his camp. The Feign Prince gave the boy the name Seltyiel—a corruption of the elven word for malicious humor—and turned his mind to finding a use for the youth. In the weeks following his son’s arrival, the sorcerer made several cruel attempts to coax forth some evidence of the boy’s inborn arcane ability. Despite his efforts, though, it swiftly became apparent that his son possessed none of the brigand lord’s sorcerous blood. Disgusted, Lairsaph dismissed Seltyiel, relinquishing him to the ranks of his craven, sycophantic followers.

For the next decade, Seltyiel scraped out a life among the thieves of the Whisperwood. Pale, morose, and slight of frame, he suffered endless abuses at the hands of his father’s gang, and as Lairsaph and his men grew rich off brigandry and violent raids, the half-elf performed menial tasks and scavenged from scraps. Gradually, though, as the boy grew into a young man, he cultivated a quiet intellect and began collecting the objects his father and his men discarded—typically the letters, ledgers, and books of the merchants they preyed upon. Slowly he taught himself to read, first Taldane, then other languages. As he neared his 20th birthday, he made his greatest discovery amid a treasure-stripped caravan wagon: a tattered tome, a book of simple magic. Seltyiel became obsessed. For years, the bastard read the tome over and over, learning its runes, memorizing its symbols, and gaining some measure of control over the cantrips within.

In the half-elf’s 23rd year, Lairsaph and his men made a daring robbery, stealing a fully-loaded taxwagon headed back to Egorian from the Majestrix’s eastern holdings. Although cunning, the brigand lord was unprepared for the infernal queen’s swift reprisal and the skill of her hunters. A half-legion of Chelish soldiers led by an Order of the Rack Hellknight tracked Lairsaph to his hidden camp and turned an evening’s debauchery into a night of fire and blood. The swift attack scattered the Feign Prince’s men, making them easy pickings for the merciless soldiers. In a blur of shouts and slashing blades, Seltyiel found himself fleeing—to his shock—at his father’s side. Through the night, war hounds and the tenacious Hellknight pursued the father and son. Lairsaph exhausted every spell he could conjure attempting to stymie the ironclad hunter, but still the infernal knight came. Finally, knowing his capture would mean a lengthy torture followed by a dramatic execution, Lairsaph turned to his son, drew him close, and, with the butt of his spear, shattered Seltyiel’s kneecap.

Knowing only that the criminals of the Whisperwood were led by an elf, the Magistrix’s men drug Seltyiel back to Egorian in chains. For weeks, the half-elf suffered constant tortures and arcane assaults to his mind. Gradually, though, his captors accepted that he was not the brigand lord Lairsaph, but merely the Feign Prince’s dupe. Dismissed as just another bandit, he was thrown into a dank Chelish dungeon and, for nearly 5 years, left to rot.

During Seltyiel’s imprisonment, the whispers came. Seemingly drifting from the darkness in the depths of his reeking cell, they were a cool balm to the fires of his angry wounds and smoldering hatred. They reminded him of his fear, his violent youth, his loathing, and betrayal. They also told him much: tales of magic more ancient than the gods, paths to lost treasures with feckless guardians, and the names of beings who could teach him secrets unknown to men. For long years he listened, and his soul turned to steel. If he was to ever have anything, he would have to take it himself. He would have riches and influence like Lord Bhrosta. He would have respect and fear like Lairsaph. He would have revenge.

In 4707, Seltyiel was released. Cold and determined, he walked from Egorian to Westcrown, murdering two thieves met along the way with arcane fire. Using their twice-stolen coin he bought passage on a ship with no clue as to its destination. He would kill his fathers, he would have revenge—but first, he would have power.

Seltyiel

 

Quinn
Human Investigator

The rule of law is only as strong as the people who uphold it, and few know this fact better than Quinn.

The child of a former noble family of Galt, Quinn was raised to despise the chaos that had robbed his parents of their proper name and station, forcing them to hide as middle-class apothecaries. Yet for Quinn himself, trained as a legal clerk and never having personally known the aristocratic comforts his parents mourned, this was no true inconvenience. What frustrated him about his nation was not that power resided with the people, but rather that it was wielded in such a capricious fashion. His fellow citizens’ constant false accusations and refusal to abide by court rulings—not to mention the Gray Gardeners’ tendency to pronounce sentences completely outside the system—drove young Quinn to distraction.

When Quinn was 37, having recently lost both parents to an outbreak of plague, his simmering rage finally came to a head. After the ruling faction sentenced a man to death with flagrant disregard for due process, Quinn overstepped his usual role by investigating the matter himself, turning up irrefutable proof of the man’s innocence. When his attempts to reopen the case were stymied, he returned the night before the scheduled execution and set the man free—only to run straight into a Gray Gardener patrol. The prisoner escaped in the ensuing fracas, and even as Quinn ran, he heard the Gardeners shouting his name.

Quinn fled for the Taldan border, knowing that there was now a price on his head. Yet despite all he’d lost, he found himself laughing—for here, in this tragic debacle, he had finally discovered a sense of satisfaction he’d been missing his whole life. He had upheld the law and defended the innocent in spite of government negligence and corruption. By working outside the legal system, he’d helped guide it back toward a righteous path. And he wanted more.

Thus began a new chapter in Quinn’s life. Roaming the nations of the Inner Sea, he constantly keeps an ear out for allegations of unjust accusations or abuses of power. When he finds one, he investigates the case himself, using a lifetime of association with law enforcement agents and detective agencies like The Sleepless to help him ferret out the truth. If the legal system seems fair, he often shows up unexpectedly at the court proceedings, presenting sworn evidence and acting as defending counsel for the accused. If he finds a court to be corrupt, he takes a more direct hand in protecting the innocent. While he respects the law, he also knows that people are imperfect, and that breaking local laws is sometimes necessary in order to uphold more universal ones. Of course, his meddling is rarely popular with the opposition, and so Quinn generally moves along as soon as he’s seen justice done and taken steps to ensure that the victim won’t suffer further abuses.

Quinn is a genial, gentlemanly sort, quick with a joke and able to fit easily into both high society and low. His well-honed analytical mind is capable of astounding feats of logic and deduction, and he’s fond of sharpening it still further with alchemical extracts learned from his parents and his own personal studies. While formidable in combat, he uses a sword cane so as not to unduly tip off his enemies to his abilities, believing that the best weapon is the one your foe never sees coming. He’s loyal to his friends, and sometimes seems to have a connection in every town, yet is also wary of associating too long or too openly with his allies, knowing that his fight for justice has made him unpopular with various powerful factions.

Though now well into middle age, Quinn has no intentions of slowing down. As he’s fond of telling companions, “a man needs only three things to change the world: a quick wit, a righteous heart, and a stylish coat.”

Quinn

Reiko
Human Ninja

Situated on the western coast of Minkai, Reiko’s home town of White Wave was a quiet fishing village, little more than a collection of shacks and cabins clinging to a steep cliff face overlooking the harbor. Crushed under oppressive humidity in the summer, the air thick with clouds of stinging flies and gnats, and subject to dangerous storms in the winter, White Wave had little to offer any lord, and thus little was demanded of it.

All that changed when Reiko was twelve. Due to bureaucratic disputes and shifting borders between noble fiefdoms, White Wave fell under the control of a new lord—Entobe Hisashi—and this one had grand plans for the holding. The sea cliffs would be the perfect place for a new shrine, a series of shining towers that would please the gods and bring favor upon the Entobe family for generations. An ambitious project, it would take many hands to complete. And Lord Entobe knew precisely where to find them.

When Reiko thinks of her childhood, she no longer remembers searching through tide pools, or climbing high up the dangerous cliff walls to the sounds of her mother’s laughter and her father’s anxious scolding. Instead, she remembers the smell and taste of rock dust in her mouth, her fingernails smashed and bleeding from hauling rocks. She remembers the long hours of toil in the cruelly hot sun, carrying water for the townsfolk forced to cut stone in the quarry, their fishing dories left to rot in the harbor. Yet most of all, she remembers the faces of her parents growing steadily leaner as they made her take their rations of rice and soup.

For many months, the people toiled. Lord Entobe’s enforcers brooked no laziness—as they deemed it when the old or young keeled over from exhaustion—and punishments were severe. The village’s tiny graveyard filled quickly, and soon bodies began to wash up on the shore as townsfolk too exhausted to dig graves cast their deceased loved ones into the sea.

And then, seemingly overnight, the gods turned against the project. Shortly after dusk one night, three of the five tower foundations collapsed, killing one of the crueler taskmasters. Though it meant months more work, the people secretly took joy in the irony, and that joy sustained them as they began to clear away rubble and rebuild. Yet strange things kept happening to the necessary supplies. Tools were broken. Timbers rotted. Stone turned brittle, and rope frayed and snapped. Guards died in mysterious ways, always seemingly accidental. The fury and fear of the overseers and the architects was a wonder to behold, and the common folk secretly toasted whatever kami were responsible.

Only one house did not share in the amusement. Though they said nothing to her, Reiko could tell that her parents were tense, and the arguments that came through her walls after they thought she was asleep ran late into the night. And then one painfully hot summer evening, unable to sleep despite her exhaustion, Reiko left her room and found a black-clad figure crawling through a second-story window.

Before Reiko could scream, the figure was at her side, hand covering her mouth. And then the tight-fitting black cowl was removed, and Reiko was looking into the solemn eyes of her mother.

After that night, many things changed. Reiko learned that her mother was no shepherd girl from the inland fields, as she had always been told, but had instead grown up in the mountains as part of a clan of ninja, a deadly but honorable band of assassins and spies with a history going back hundreds of years. On the run after an ill-fated ambush, she hid out in the tiny village and fell in love with a simple fisherman—Reiko’s father. Despite her husband’s concern and disapproval, Reiko’s mother began to teach their daughter some of the secrets of the clan. Though she flatly refused to take Reiko on any of the solitary raids with which she plagued Entobe’s people, the two spent many hours together in the darkness, climbing the cliffs of White Wave, practicing with the swords her mother kept hidden in their rafters, and moving silently across rooftops and ship rigging. Reiko proved a capable student, and at last there was something to look forward to after days of backbreaking labor.

And then Reiko’s mother went too far. Caught in the act of sabotaging a stone-hauling cart, she killed several of the overseers before escaping back to their home. Immediately she hid her gear in the midden and put an end to her and Reiko’s midnight activities. But it was too late.

Furious, Lord Entobe himself came to the site, arriving in a grand procession of warriors, spellcasters—and investigators. The afternoon after his arrival, he halted construction and ordered the townsfolk to assemble. Reiko and her mother—both assigned to the task of serving tea to the guards for the day—stood at the back of the crowd, watching Entobe take the makeshift stage that had been erected in his honor.

Addressing the crowd, Entobe announced that the person behind the attacks had been discovered, and that the treachery in their midst would be ending. Then he held up a familiar object—the black mask belonging to Reiko’s mother, still damp and stained from the trash heap.

That was when the guards parted ranks to reveal Reiko’s father, bound at wrists and ankles. There was no mistaking the gash across his throat, nor the red stain trailing down his shirt.

Reiko shrieked and rushed forward, but her mother caught her shoulder and spun her around. Their eyes met.

“Run, little spider,” her mother said. Then a hidden blade dropped from her sleeve into her hand, and she leapt for the mob of guards on the stage.

Reiko ran. Using all the skills her mother had taught her, she slipped out of the village and away down the cliffs, evading Entobe’s guards and dogs. For days she ran along the sea’s edge, keeping to the stones at low tide to leave no prints or scent trails, until she was sure that she was far from Entobe’s holdings. Then she turned east, into the mountains, in search of her mother’s clan.

In the end, she found them—yet not in the way she expected. For Entobe had also uncovered her mother’s clan allegiance, and in a fit of pique had hired them to hunt down any remaining members of her family. One again, Reiko found herself on the run. And this time she didn’t stop until she was far, far to the west, on the shores of a strange land called Avistan.

Today, Reiko is a grown woman. Cool and aloof, quick with a cutting remark or withering glare, she’s nevertheless managed to get along for nearly ten years in a land where Minkai itself is a legend, and ninja are little more than exotic fairy tales. Though she’s studied with the most capable thieves and assassins in the region, Reiko has yet to find the carefully codified engagements of honor and subtlety that her mother spoke of, and grows tired of Avistan’s seemingly endless collection of brute highwaymen and lowbrow killers. Still, the lack of corrupt lords like Entobe in places like Andoran—her new nation of choice—is a small comfort, and she’s heard whispers that a secret branch of the Eagle Knights may be exactly what she’s looking for. Regardless of whether such rumors pan out, and despite a decade on foreign soil, Reiko still views her time around the Inner Sea as a training exercise. Someday soon, she’ll retrace her steps back to Minkai. And when she does, both the Entobe family and her mother’s traitorous clan will finally learn the magnitude of their mistake.

Reiko

Lem
Halfling Bard

Although Lem was raised in the lap of luxury, his childhood was anything but comfortable. He had the unfortunate luck to be born into slavery, to a mother indentured to one of Cheliax’s countless noble families. Lem was sold a half dozen times to different nobles before he reached the age of two. Such is the fate of most of Cheliax’s halflings (often called “slips” by that nation’s citizens). Halflings are much valued as slaves in Cheliax since they take up less room and since their inborn optimism ironically stunts escape urges. Halflings born into slavery in Cheliax are prone to think of their lot in life as “lucky.” They are fond of saying, “At least we aren’t living in the gutter or starving!”

Nevertheless, halflings who rankle at the concept of enslavement do appear. Halflings like Lem. Growing up a slave in the devil-haunted empire of Cheliax exposed Lem to a shocking range of decadence and debauchery. He learned from a young age how to say what his superiors wanted to hear, and as he grew older, these skills often secured him less onerous jobs. While his kin toiled in basement washrooms or tended hellhound stables, Lem was taught to play the flute so he could entertain at family gatherings. Yet Lem was not blind to the discomfort of his brothers and sisters, and when he learned that a dozen of his kin were to be sacrificed to a devil as an offering to seal a new trade contract, Lem knew the time to act had come. Taking advantage of his increased mobility in the manor, it was a relatively simple trick to light a few fires in secret corners and then ensure that all of his halfling kin were safe in the slave’s quarters. The manor burnt quickly, but Lem was shocked to see his kin rush back to the manor in a hopeless attempt to aid in extinguishing the flames. As the place burnt to the ground, and the halflings bemoaned their fate and the loss of their shelter, Lem slipped away into the night, bitter and distraught over this unexpected turn of events.

Lem left Cheliax by stowing away on a merchant vessel and never looked back. He rarely speaks of his childhood today, but one can see its effects in his high disdain for law and order, and his intolerance for cruelty. Always quick to side with the underdog, Lem has learned that his most powerful traits are his optimism and sense of humor—virtues that almost make up for his small stature and impulsive nature. Lem’s reasons for traveling with his current companions vary upon the day and his mood, but he certainly values their strengths—and the never-ending supply of comedy material their antics provide him.

Lem

Feiya
Human Witch

Daji
Animal Companion

 

Born in a small village north of Trollheim in the Linnorm Kingdoms, the child who would come to be known as Feiya was the daughter of two Tian merchants from Minkai who had come over the crown of the world to Avistan to start a new life. Travelers by nature, they spent the short northern summers making slow loops through Hagreach and the Thanelands, facilitating trade. What few memories Feiya has of that life are happy ones: the jostling of wagons, the smell of campfires, and wandering alone through fields and forests, marveling as the wildness closed around her.

That happiness came to a sudden halt on the fateful day that brought her to the attention of a recently sundered coven of witches who dwelled on the border with Irrisen. Led by a particularly cruel green hag named Nysima, the coven had lost its youngest member to a squad of Blackravens from Trollheim and was still reeling from its sudden loss of power. They witnessed the child as she skipped away from the caravan stop, following a family of deer deep into the woods, and immediately set upon her.

There’s no telling what cruelties the witches would have visited upon the girl had they not suffered their recent loss. As it was, another, no less horrific, fate awaited young Feiya. The two crones seized the child and whisked her away to the east, their mad cackling drowning out the young girl’s terrified screams. By the time they reached their snow- and thatch-covered huts, they had given the child a new name and were already envisioning the return of their lost powers.

The next twelve years were a blur of pain, terror, and misery as Feiya endured the crones’ sadistic attempts to teach her their dark craft. Alternating between tutelage and torture, the witches frequently let their cruel natures impede their instruction. For while the young girl showed unmistakable promise and aptitude, she also possessed a defiance that only the harshest of punishments could suppress. On numerous occasions, Feiya tried to escape her imprisonment, only to be tracked down and captured after no more than a few hours. The retributions for these failed attempts have scarred her body and mind in ways that no magic can ever heal.

One brisk autumn day, after being beaten for failing to properly brew a batch of poisonous blue whinnis, Feiya was sent off to gather herbs. While harvesting more whinnis root, she spied a fox watching her from atop a large rime-covered rock. Unlike the region’s typical arctic specimens, this creature had a striking red and orange coloration that stood in stark contrast to the endless snow. There was something about the way the creature watched her that beckoned to Feiya. She approached carefully, and was astonished by his calm and focus. As she neared, the fox trotted a small distance away, turned, and gave her a look that was clearly an invitation to follow. This process was repeated again and again, and before she knew it, Feiya was following the fox on another escape attempt.

By sundown, the two witches had realized Feiya’s intentions. Furious, they set off in pursuit, confident that, as with all previous instances, their hunt would be brief. This time, however, Feiya had guidance. The fox led her along trails never before seen by human nor hag, staying always just ahead and out of reach. When she needed nourishment, the fox led her to game and fresh water. When she needed rest, it stood vigil while she slept. In this manner, Feiya was able to elude capture for more than two weeks.

One particularly cold evening, however, Feiya’s luck ran out. With her pursuers hot on her trail and the fox nowhere to be seen, she found herself trapped in a river valley surrounded on three sides by impassable mountains. Feiya could sense the witches closing in, could hear their promises of pain on the chilling wind. She took shelter in a shallow cave behind the waterfall that fed the river, a curious little grotto whose far wall was emblazoned with a crude carving of a butterfly. Like an animal run to ground, Feiya steeled herself for the coming confrontation. She had come too far this time to surrender without a fight. She determined then and there that her days of living under someone else’s yoke were over. She would have her freedom, either in this life or the next.

It was at that moment that the fox reappeared. Only now, there was something different in the way he approached her. He had always shown a preternatural intelligence, but as Feiya stared into his eyes, she saw a consciousness and a determination that would have frightened her had she not come to trust the animal so implicitly. As she watched him, Feiya was startled by a sudden and overwhelming flurry of sensations invading her mind. She sank, dazed, to the cave floor as the feelings slowly crystallized into coherence. Less a voice than a series of emotions, the promise it offered was unmistakable. Feiya said nothing, but her acceptance was as clear as it was quick.

What followed will forever haunt Feiya’s dreams. Raspy promises of pain and suffering rose above the din of the waterfall as the witches drew near to cave mouth. Feiya could see the outlines of their hunched bodies just beyond the blanket of cascading water, but before she could act, another sound arose. It started as a low rumble, then quickly gained volume, drowning out both hags and water and sending tremors through the cave floor. Then the valley erupted with the screeching and roaring of what could only have been a forest’s worth of wild animals, punctured occasionally by the shrill curse of a hag.

Long minutes passed as Feiya stood, too frightened to move. Then, as gradually as it began, the noise subsided until all that remained was the crash of the waterfall. Feiya crouched down behind a rocky outcropping, afraid to leave the shelter of the cave. As the minutes turned into hours, exhaustion claimed her, and, despite her anxiety, she succumbed to a fitful sleep.

When dawn finally arrived, Feiya stepped out from the cave, not quite sure what she was expecting to see. A fresh blanket of snow had covered the land, hiding any clues she might have found concerning the events of the previous night. Yet the feeling of relief was palpable. The fox crept up and paused at her side. She was finally free.

Feiya never discusses the events of that night, nor the particulars of the strange pact she entered into. She may one day try to track down the parents she barely remembers, but for now she is content to roam the world, relishing her freedom, seeking new experiences, and developing her newfound power. Though she desperately desires the company of others, formative years spent away from civilized society have left Feiya lacking in social graces, and her awkwardness often leads to unfortunate misunderstandings. Nevertheless, her inherent good nature tends to win out, and her occasional flares of temper are countered by her steadfast loyalty to her friends. Feiya relishes travel, and having identified the butterfly carving in the waterfall cave as the found-mark of a Desnan priest, she gladly embraces that faith, hoping that her wanderings may cast more light on who she really is—and what entity fosters her magical abilities.

Feiya and Daji

Hayato Nakayama
Human Samurai

Honor is strength. It is a maxim that Nakayama Hayato has known since birth, and one whose barbs he still feels deep in his flesh. Yet Hayato also knows a deeper truth: that just as a sword must bend to avoid breaking, so too must honor. And the more rigid the steel, the easier it shatters.

Hayato was born a retainer on the estate of Lord Nakayama Hitoshi, just a few days’ ride from the great city of Oda in Minkai. The son of the chief falconer and his wife, Hayato—whose name means “falcon”—quickly proved just as proficient with the dangerous birds as his father, emulating their proud and fierce natures.

It was while accompanying his father on one of Lord Nakayama’s hawking outings that he first came to the lord’s attention. At eight years old, Hayato was assigned the honor of being the personal attendant to the lord’s son, Masao, assisting the privileged child with his falcon. All went well until the noble son, still new to the sport, mishandled his bird and nearly lost an eye for his trouble. The furious lordling prepared to kill the falcon then and there, but Hayato interceded, explaining the boy’s error. Enraged even further, Masao began beating Hayato, drawing the attention of the rest of the hunting party. Though Hayato bowed low and accepted the savage blows of his master, he neither cried out nor begged for mercy. When Masao finally tired, Lord Nakayama himself addressed the bloody servant child, asking him why he had been so bold as to correct his superior. Without faltering, Hayato bowed to the lord and said simply, “Because it was the truth.”

From that point on, Lord Nakayama took the young Hayato under his wing, frequently assigning him duties within the manor house, engaging him as a companion for his son, and seeing to his education in matters both martial and intellectual. In time, Hayato grew to become a powerful warrior, rising to the position of head samurai of the Nakayama holdings. When Masao died in a drunken duel at the age of twenty, thus depriving Lord Nakayama of an official heir, the bereaved lord began to look more and more to Hayato as a son, even allowing him to take the family name.

Yet Masao’s death was only the beginning of the Nakayama family’s misfortune. It was shortly after this episode that the Nakayama estate was visited by Kaneka Yoshiro, a traveling lord and government official with a position high in the Imperial Court. With considerably more prestige and official sway than Nakayama, Kaneka was received with full honors—yet it quickly became apparent that the guest was interested in more than just hospitality. Within a few days, Kaneka’s cunning insults, lewd advances toward Nakayama’s wife, and barely concealed challenges to Nakayama himself left Hayato’s lord with no choice. Honor forbade him from allowing the slights to stand unanswered, yet challenging a governmental superior was as good as a death sentence.

In the end, honor won out, just as Kaneka knew it would. Nakayama challenged Kaneka to a duel, and was quickly slain by the talented swordsman. In recompense for the “insult” Kaneka had suffered, the Imperial Court allotted all the Nakayama holdings to Kaneka. Nakayama’s widow, faced with the prospect of a dishonored existence among peasants, had no choice but to accept Kaneka’s proposal of marriage if she wanted to retain her position.

Though the Nakayama samurai were bound by direct order of the court to honor their new arrangement—and plied with substantial gifts by their new master—Hayato saw the theft for what it was. Several nights later, having watched Kaneka’s celebrating guards drink themselves into unconsciousness, Hayato crept into his former master’s bedchamber and confronted the usurper even as he lay sleeping with his new wife. Though Kaneka screamed for his retainers, in the end it became clear that his only option was to fight. Taking up the sword that Hayato tossed onto the bed, Kaneka did everything he could to kill the samurai quickly, yet Hayato would not be denied his revenge. At last, bleeding from several terrible wounds, Hayato succeeded in getting past the noble’s guard, ending his short-lived dominion over the Nakayama estate in a fine spray of blood.

As Kaneka fell to the floor, pink froth spilling from his lips, Hayato dropped his sword and knelt beside it. Knowing that to attack any lord in this manner—let alone the man the government considered his rightful master—would bring sure execution, he drew his tanto and prepared to die with his honor intact.

A hand on his shoulder stayed his blade. When Hayato looked up, he beheld Lady Nakayama—now Lady Kaneka—in her dressing gown, its yellow silk stained with the blood of her most recent husband. With tears in her eyes, she thanked Hayato for avenging Lord Nakayama and returning the estate to her control. Yet with her next breath, she condemned him forever. Taking his hand in her own—an undreamed-of show of affection and familiarity—the noblewoman forbade Hayato from taking his own life. Instead, she snuck him out of the manor and into a carriage bound for Oda, with only a string of coins, his armor, and a command to live as best he could. When the morning sun rose, it found Hayato on a caravan traveling north, bound for the icy reaches of the Crown of the World and from there on to the mysterious lands of the Inner Sea.

Now in his mid-thirties, Hayato is a hard man who keeps to himself. Though he has long since learned to speak Taldane, he remains terse by nature, feeling that everyone in his new home speaks too much but says too little. He operates as a fearless and talented mercenary—or ronin, as he terms it—for those whose cause seem righteous, yet refuses to bow to anyone regardless of status, saying only that he has had his fill of masters. Hayato is loyal to those few friends who can get past his stone-faced demeanor, yet remains secretly tortured by his conflicting senses of honor. To continue living as a masterless samurai—let alone one who has committed a great crime—is shameful, yet to deny Lady Nakayama’s command would be equally shameful. With no clear answer, Hayato has temporarily shelved the problem. Yet deep in his heart, he harbors a secret hope: that perhaps one day he might raise an army of champions and take it back over the Crown of the World, rooting out the corrupt politicians of his homeland and restoring the honor of himself, his adopted family, and the samurai code he was born to uphold.

 

Hayoto Nakayama