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Kozuma's Spirit Patrons, Part 1: Haka Maho-Tsukai Endless Grotto, the Blood Sorcerer

Like all shamans among his people, Kozuma Endless Grotto did not choose his profession; he was chosen by the spirits to receive their blessings from birth, and gifted with the ability to hear their voices. Kozuma was fostered by the elder shamans of his tribe, and grew up hearing many spirits...animal spirits, spirits of the caves and underground pools and winter storms, ancestors, past shamans, fey, and even elementals and demons...whispering in his ears, promising him power in exchange for his service. All prospective shamans who pass the rites of initiation choose a spirit during their vision quest, and another spirit chooses them. Although Kozuma, like all with his gifts, heard the voices of many spirits, there was no doubt which would choose him. It was the first spirit to speak to him, and one whose name made the elder shamans of the tribe tremble when Kozuma told them whose voice he had heard: Haka Maho-Tsukai Endless Grotto, his ancestor and the progenitor of his line, widely regarded as the most powerful, dangerous, and wicked blood sorcerer in the tribe's history.

Born more than thiry generations ago, Haka had much stronger spirit blood than any of the modern spirit folk in Kozuma's tribe: he was half spirit, the son of a human warrior maiden and Tetsukami Kita, the Death Spirit of the Noth Wind. Even as a child, Haka was said to leave chill air in his wake and to be able to kill small animals with a touch. As he grew older, sorcerous power manifested, and he quickly rose to a position of great power within the tribe. Under his guidance, the tribe moved into deep ice caves that none had dared to penetrate before, and discovered rich resources of crystals and gems. Haka is said to have slain the great beasts of the caves, subjugated the native spirits of the deep places, and given their females as wives to the warriors of his tribe; in this way, he was responsible for the cavern spirit folk linage among Kozuma's people that he carries in his veins still. The spirit-wives of the tribe taught them the art of drawing the heat of the earth from the stones, allowing them to live without fire, an art much prized by Haka, whose greatest enemies were the Spirits of Flame and Thunder, dread beings whose reivalry with his demonic father spanned generations. Haka banned the shamans of his people from practicing the magic of fire, and to this day the tribe uses as little flame as they can, primarily for religious ritual and the brewing of teas and medicines.

For all his accomplishments, Haka is remembered by the tribe as much for his wickedness as his leadership. He took five wives, and all lived in fear of his anger; four he killed for crimes that ranged from failure to produce heirs to seeking comfort in the arms of other men to breaking his favorite rice bowl. He watched over the shamans closely, making certain that they never advised anyone to act against his wishes, and forced them to traffic with dark spirits that would bring the tribe great and evil power in exchange for terrible sacrifices. As his power grew, his Touch of Death became the bane of all who would oppose him; it was said that, by the end of his life, even his breath could kill if he so wished it. The tribe prospered under his guidance, but all feared the wrath of the dark sorcerer who even the chieftans bowed before.

Ultimately, it was Haka's own lust for power that destroyed him. Unsatisfied with the dark magic of his heritage, he turned to the study of maho, or blood sorcery, an art long forbidden among his people. With it his mastery of life and death grew to unprecedented heights, but still he craved more. When some of the shamans spoke out against his dark arts, he slew them and bound their bodies and spirits as undead to serve as his bodyguards and as a warning to those that remained. The dark spirits whispered to Haka of more powerful magic yet, magic that would allow him to transcend flesh and become a spirit himself, buried deep in the earth. Haka journeyed to the deepest part of the ice caves and began to dig, seeking to bore a hole into the very heart of the world itself and drink of the life-blood of the earth, that he might gain spiritual immortality and power enough to rule both the caverns and the heavens. It is from this dark well, a place now spoken of fearfully by Kozuma's people and visited only by the tribe's shamans when communion with the darkness is their only choice, that the name Endless Grotto derives. For ten years he dug deeper than any had before, striking down those who warned him against his hubris, ignoring dreams that foretold disaster. At last, his great pit broke into a cavern pulsing with red light, which Haka first mistook for the blood of the world...until the waves of heat hit him. Liquid fire, a sight unseen by any before or since, fountained from the depths, and the master of life and death, who had forbidden the magic of fire, was consumed by it. The Spirits of Flame and Thunder, long watching as Haka closed on their hidden domain, had their vengeance on Tetsukami Kita through his son, and the spirit folk were free of his terror at last. The surviving shamans enlisted the good cavern spirits to seal off the flow of liquid flame, and pronounced bans on Haka's name that would keep his soul from returning to the world of men.

It is this spirit, Kozuma's feared and cursed ancestor, who chose Kozuma as his intermediary in the world. The shamans of the tribe knew they could not countermand the choices of the spirits, and while Haka could not touch the world directly, he could work through the blood of his descendants, many of whom had become shamans over the generations, but none of whom had previously heard Haka's voice. Haka imbued Kozuma with a portion of his terrible power, a weakened form of his own Touch of Death and command over the magic of the grave. The dark sorcerer's spirit teaches Kozuma of evil magic and maho, urging him to tap into the powers of darkness until he matches Haka in power; in all probability, the blood sorcerer hopes that Kozuma will one day be mighty enough to liberate him from the bindings that bar his soul from returning to the world.

Kozuma has felt the stirrings of ambition and the urge to greatness and power that his ancestor instilled in him from a young age. He has learned much from Haka, and the Touch of Death and power to speak to those from beyond the grave has served him well. Haka is well pleased that Kozuma has entered a demon prison, and hopes he will learn from the evil trapped within. However, Kozuma understand that the dark magic of Haka was his undoing, and the shamans of his tribe, well aware of what Haka's influence might lead to, ensured that Kozuma was equally tutored in the ways of lightness and good. Understanding the need to balance the inescapalble evil of his heritage and the influence of Haka, Kozuma defied his ancestor's suggestions to chose a demonic patron, and emerged from his vision quest with a pact of service to a much more lighthearted entity: Kitsune, the Merry Fox. Thus, he has balanced the terrible power of the blood sorcerer with the levity of a trickster, and managed to straddle the fine line between light and darkness in his soul.

Next in Part 2: Kitsune, the Merry Fox, Trickster Spirit of Luck and Laughter
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