Here's a short story I wrote, with a character design after it....Enjoy!
In Ryosuke's mind, spring had always been particularly striking. It was a time of growth and change, of color and sun. Slowly it came, this time. Reluctantly and grudgingly the snow melted, leaving behind it a wake of mud and grey. There was barely a hint of the summer warmth that he spent the long, bitter months aching for, and the plants had not seemed to wake from their long slumber. He noted with irritation, however, that the insects seemed to have hatched early this year, and flies and mosquitoes were already pestering him during his daily chores.
When the freshly thawed roads brought strangers, he almost didn't notice. He assumed they were the typical post-winter pilgrimages: people trying to get a head start on long journeys to meet sick relatives, or those caught far from home when the first snows fell, which had been early this season.
A cursory examination, however, forced him to revise his assessment. Firstly, the men were of a sort he had never imagined. Rugged, devious looking, and obviously cruel.
They strode with a swaggering malciousness, fantastically expensive garments dragging in the mud, completely taken for granted. He watched them and wanted to cry: Him kneeling in the earth, dirt in his teeth, cold, damp, flybitten and weary; them tromping through his universe unbidden, remorseless, and wanton. He thought of the amount of work necessary for a man like him to do in order to acquire a garment one tenth as expensive as theirs, and cursed his birth.
If they were cruelly dressed, they were even more cruelly armed. Long, slender blades, deeply curved and deeply lacquered, richly hued and even more richly inlaid. They were bedecked with all manner of murderous implements: Long swords, short swords, large, brutal knives the length of a man's fore-arm, spears as tall as a farmer's house, bows as tall as himself, and others too complicated for him to even guess the use of.
Sneering and arrogant they strode, with a purposeful swagger that ensured all within viewing distance knew they were beyond reproach. Faces like sneering snakes bore scars like crawling insects trapped under their skin. They didn't converse with one another but all bore the satisfied look on their face that they had just won an argument that ended in a death. Their body language betrayed that their hatred for each other knew no bounds, and they were all capable of murdering their travel mates in an instant if one were to let its guard down.
How many of them had there been when they set out on their journey? There were now more than he could keep track of on two hands, but he somehow felt that there were more that had met with a grisly end on the trail beyond. The air of murder hung heavy about the caravan, and dragged behind it like a horse dragging its dead rider.
He found himself trying to identify their crests and heraldry, but it was a house or clan he had never heard of or seen. Their emblem was of an enclosed sun, with round black mark in the middle of it. This mark was repeated on their fore-heads, and bore more power than that of the crest. Looking upon the marks on their flesh was the opposite of staring into the sun, and to do so made one feel as though he was falling into a fissure in a starless, moonless sky, impossibly dark and without limit, yet suffocating and close.
He supposed they were the household guardians of some hellish underworld demon, sent to his world to sow misery and sorrow, and reap his frustrated tears and moans, so their horrific master to use them as wine with his supper. He saw them and deemed there was no sense of fairness in all the cosmos, no voice for him to entreat for aid, and no use in his struggle for existence.
This was the power of their caravan, that a man could see them from a distance across a misty field, and want to end his life out of hopelessness and self-loathing.
Borne upon their terrible shoulders were litters more terrible than their bearers. They were of the size to carry a woman of significant wealth and influence, no doubt the wives or handmaidens of the terrible beast which their bearers were sworn to protect. Their surfaces were of the deepest blackness he had ever seen, with a gloss too it so profound that it ceased to reflect light, and instead absorbed and destroyed it, and left in its wake the impression that there had never been a light in all of the history of the world that could penetrate its evil hatred.
He could discern not a single viewing portal or hole through which the carried would breathe or see, and no door or entrance for them to enter, and wondered if they contained anything at all, or if they were just some empty gesture, the significance of which he could not even begin to fathom.
Kneeling in the mud, cold and terrified, Ryosuke began to well with tears. He closed his stinging eyes and silently cursed his birth for the ten thousandth time in his miserable life, and cursed whoever he was in his previous lives for damning him to this existence.
He allowed himself a moment of self-pity, and then forced his eyes to open. As the grey world slowly returned to him, it took an extra heartbeat to realize that one of the warriors was towering over him. Ryosuke threw himself backwards, slipping in the greasy mud, and fumbling backwards onto his buttocks with a sad thud-slurp.
The warrior stared down at Ryosuke, his face an impenetrable mask of hate. His skin was pale and drawn, his features sharp with hunger, but his eyes were alive and insane. Ryosuke began to cautiously shimmy himself backwards through the mud. He was too frightened to turn his back on the warrior long enough to run, but still far, far too scared to stay here he was. The warrior took a step forward, slowly, and looked Ryosuke up and down. He scowled like he suddenly noticed that a dog had shat in his meal while he wasn't looking, and drew a long curved knife from his belt.
Now, Ryosuke decided, was the time to run.
Summoning all of the courage he had in his body, Ruosuke shot to his feet faster than he ever had in his life, turning and breaking into a full run before he had even fully risen. His sandals flew off, and a torrent of mud shot into the air where he had just been.
For an instant, he believed he would get away.
His short-lived hope came crashing down around him as he felt an iron grip seize his collar. His feet flew from under him, and a small moan escaped his lips in the weightless moment before he came crashing back down into the mud. In the same instant that he hit the ground, the warriors blade plunged into his chest. Ryosuke could not help but be surprised but the suddenness of it, and his last thoughts were of how quickly the gleaming blade seemed to disappear into his body.
Yamamatsu, the Mountainfist, Ryosuke's end, rose with a Ryosuke's collar still in his hand. He dragged the corpse up with him and cleaned his blade on the most mud-free part of Ryosuke's attire that he could find, and then dropped his body face down, back into the mud.
Hurrying, he returned to the rest of the caravan, which hadn't slowed for his little detour. He fell back into his place in the marching order and sheathed his blade before one of the other warriors took it as a threat. In his mind, Yamamatsu added another mark to his tally.