Has a dog Buddha-nature?
This is the most serious question of all.
If you say yes or no,
You lose your own Buddha-nature.
-Zen Koan, The Gateless Gate
Tomoe was (is?) a slave of Kōreishi no Aojiroi, a rich, mysterious, powerful, and influential Tian-Min (assumed) necromancer. Her name, which she was given by her hermit master in the woods of Kyojin Mountain Range (specifically, Mount Kosaka), is Tien for “Howling”. She was born in the slave quarters of Kōreishi no Aojiroi’s manor in the heart of Kasai, Minkai, on the continent of Tian Xia.
Tomoe takes herself and her vows very seriously. She sees the rules she has chosen to live by as a method of controlling her own actions, after being a slave for much of her life, but isn’t sure how to make the theory and nebulous ideas into a real, personal reality for herself. She is a monk who has seen others living in true zen quiet but is unable to find it herself, as a result of a life of extreme turmoil, slavery, and constant threat of death or mutilation through experimentation at the hands of her slave-master. Her calm is a thin veneer put over everything she does, and she tries to conduct herself in a manner that makes her seem reliable, as she strives for complete control in herself.
She is a pack-trained warrior, and views her allies as valuable and worthy of respect. She places the needs of allies before her own at times and always seeks to keep her “pack” in working order. She is constantly looking for ways to integrate the skills of new allies into her tactics.
Tomoe is on morally-loose ground, never having proper religious training as a former slave. She knows the things her slave-master did were evil, but isn’t sure what was evil and what wasn’t. Regardless, she views a few things as “evil”: slave ownership, cruelty, unreliability, betrayal, laziness, deception, theft, selfishness, vivisection/experimentation on the living, necromancy, and willful ignorance. She doesn’t kill without reason, but sees black-and-white distinction between “combatant” and “non-combatant”, as her order imparted the importance of protecting of the weak to her as her sacred duty. The ability to quickly determine which is which in a scenario is important to her.
- is unsure of how she should behave in high-class settings when she isn’t forced into serving as she’s used to, so tends to try to go unnoticed and watch others for cues.
- has extreme reactions to being restrained or tied up, descending into panic attacks pretty easily if unable to meditate during her restraint.
- very emotionally attached to Roukan, as he is literally her only “family” still alive.
- has always been prone to addictive behaviour, particularly eating.
- is a big fan of sweets, and currently tends to try to have a small supply about her whenever she can.
- she has a thing for Amarro. She’d never say so, but if she ever got drunk and he was nearby or mentioned, that secret would likely escape… to her eternal (sober) embarrassment.
- aided by a monkey which somehow escaped confinement in – or snuck into – her master’s lab, picked her cage’s locks (she was being punished for reading in Aojiroi-san’s library), and helped her through the subsequent locked doors within the house. She escaped into Aojiroi-san’s teleportation circle, which was connected with his estate in the city of Akafuto, allowing her to escape out into the city and beyond carefully over several days, losing sight of the monkey as soon as she was outside of the city safely
- met and was properly raised by an old halfling hermit in the bamboo forest immediately northeast on the eastern edge of the Kyojin Mountain Range, who brought her from the forest into the mountains to train and avoid notice
- bonded to Roukan (a worg) and trained how to fight with him in battle; she didn’t fear Roukan despite his natural inclination toward evil, as her master had taught her that the intent was everything, not moral guideposts which serve only to blind one to the complexity of the spirit
- Roukan worked hard to overcome his violent tendencies, yet still expressed a desire to be free of his instinct and fully walk her path with her. She arranged a casting of atonement for him to have the supernatural aid to accomplish his desire
- she was taught how to read and write, about philosophy and “thinking beyond want” (which she doesn’t really understand, honestly), and other such concepts while evading the occasional hired slave hunters
- the hermit was killed when they were eventually found, but Tomoe didn’t realize until that moment that the slave hunters also wanted to find him, being an escaped slave as well
- escaped across the sea to Absalom
- while living and training in Andoran (in the Falcon’s Hollow area, prior to journeying with what became the founding members of the RoundTable Adventuring Guild), Tomoe was introduced to several gods, to which she developed a religious following. A female gnome from Tian Xia who she spent a lot of time with introduced her to the fairly-new belief in Aria, the Cherry Blossom Princess, stating that Tomoe would likely find a lot to agree with in the faith. Indeed, the halfling has, but was in opposition to the pursuit of “excess” that the faith celebrates for most of the time she spent training…
Tomoe joined the RoundTable Guild before they were known as such; Amarro, Chartreux, Leon, and herself all met up in Oregent. Tomoe had stopped to provide some help to Leon after arriving back in the city, visiting as she was from the monastery near Falcon’s Hollow on an errand. Chartreux had been spotted pickpocketing the enamored young man, and right when Tomoe leaped into a shpeal about rightful ownership, Amarro had waltzed up and convinced the mercenaries to accompany him through Arthfell Forest, toward what end is ultimately unknown (Tomoe’s theory rests on his desire to return to Cheliax for some reason, as he’d offhand-mentioned continuing through to Brastlewark beyond the Aspodell Mountains).
While in Arthfell, the group stopped in to spend an evening at the Travelers Stop Inn but was drawn into a brawl with several local mercs, and fell to a hand-to-hand battle in the tavern. Tomoe found herself well-suited to such endeavors (obviously), but a fire was started in the chaos and Amarro’s pulled-together party of newbies was saddled with the responsibility of reimbursement. Tomoe was very unfamiliar with the group, having only just met them, but she was trying out freedom and wanted to see how capable she was after her escape from Tian Xia; she would need allies to stay safe from slave hunters and Amarro had a certain way about him that inspired her trust. It was here that her story, only just begun, almost ended forever: the clumsy paladin Leon became entangled by an assassin vine as the group searched through the forest for a so-called ancient treasure, and when things looked dire for the lad, Tomoe rushed in to try to help. She parted with the group not with handshakes and farewells but with a quick crunch, her neck wrung by the bloodthirsty vine, and she became the first casualty the pre-guild mercs had among their number.
Sobered, Amarro’s team returned to the Travelers Stop Inn to complete their task and receive their pardon from the sheriff, but intervention arrived in the form of the newly-dubbed dreadmasque of Pharasma, leading them not to the west and toward the Aspodell Mountains, but east, toward Falcon’s Hollow; a “lucrative job” and other such evasive answers leading them back in toward Andoran’s black heart. Tomoe’s body, meanwhile, had been spirited in just that direction as quickly and carefully as Roukan, her worg mount and closest companion, could manage; the monks had told him to take care of her and ensure she returned, and he would do just that. The mercs were due for a reunion.
… Which came only several months later, following their return from a mission in Nex, of all places. Tomoe had been returned to life and became a representative of the monastery within Falcon’s Hollow, dispatched with several other monks to attempt to help calm things down after the last mission performed by the ragtag guild within the town. The gavel of the Lumber Consortium, a man named Kreed, had riled the townsfolk against the mercenary adventurers due to the fact that Carrock had taken advantage of the distraction of their presence to assassinate a local necromancer named Sharvaros Vade (who may have been in the gavel’s pocket). Efforts to turn the anger of the townsfolk toward the rightful recipient (the gavel and his many injustices toward the town), meant that she was on hand during the Siege of Falcon’s Hollow, perpetrated by Drazmorg the Drudger. Drazmorg was a middling necromancer who had become involved with the Hands of the Mystic Discordia (the very same guild Sharvaros had been in contact with) and was seeking to expand the Hands’ influence in the ruins of Droskar’s Crucible, alongside other local ruins of far older origins. Carrock had received warning from his developing spy network within Oregent, and orders came down from the Voices of the Spire to solve the issue. Thus, the not-yet-guild team traveled back to Falcon’s Hollow, hired by the tengu under the pretense of their familiarity with each other and “a hint” regarding further problems developing near the logging town. Tomoe was also roped in, contacted by the dreadmasque to greet the team upon arrival.
It was during this chaotic siege that the
witch wizard Mikhail was slain, tragically surprised by some ghoul children who were wandering the streets. Tomoe took it upon herself to at least provide him some burial rites, and so delivered his body to the river’s depths, her allies combating the siege’s remnants. The monk also began to get hungrier than normal around this time; things from her past were catching up to her.
The guild’s core members returned to Oregent and finally actually got set up in their current headquarters. Things seemed to be going quite well in fact, but Tomoe began to have dreams about Mikhail; the changeling had imparted a memory to her subconscious while the monk dealt with her dying comrade’s final moments, and was becoming rather insistent about needing Tomoe’s help. Almost 3 weeks later, the monk returned with several allies, and was personally charged with performing some tasks Mikhail had been unable to complete; to provide some closure… unfortunately, this required a trip to Whitethrone!
Tomoe looks back with (in this author’s opinion) misplaced scorn upon her trip to Irrisen. Though she was pleased to be able to take care of one of their own, especially a friend who had died nearly in her arms, it was within the frigid police state that her developing condition truly exploded in strength. Her dislike of the trip may be partially misplaced when in consideration of her condition, though: she had really started eating flapjacks while in Falcon’s Hollow, and should thus join Varro in hating that town instead. Still, the flapjacks led to cake, and cake to pudding, and soon enough Tomoe had completely fallen (or rolled) off the wagon of her previous diet of rice, vegetables, and fish when expanding her taste horizons on what became, for her, a gourmet marathon. Obviously, this meant she expanded as well, rapidly gaining weight while in the frigid wasteland. Her overeating became obvious, and her allies noticed her stuffing herself with anything sweet she could find at almost all points of the trip: Varro reacted with barely-concealed scorn, Ali with mild interest and amusement, Rhork with his sweat tent and gentle instruction (which quickly scaled up into simply taking her food away and telling her to “run”), and Nicodemus electing to buy and supply her with more food when she sat to eat even the smallest meal. It became almost compulsory for her to eat, and she did so to the point of nausea on many occasions. The monk quickly outgrew her robe as the team traversed the snow-blasted wasteland… and so too did her misery grow.
It was during one of their many stops at an inn within Irrisen that Varro and Rhork were attacked by some locals, a situation which quickly became murder (in self-defense, Varro claims). Tomoe thus felt that, as an exemplar of justice, she would provide council, and so waddled outside following her meal to provide help… but instead spent the night in a jail cell with Rhork for her trouble, ultimately having mistaken the region’s “justice” for true justice. In the midst of a manhunt for the true perpetrators Rhork and Tomoe sweated in silence in the cell, while Nicodemus, Roman, Varro, and Ali crawled through sewers and god knows what else to escape pursuit. Eventually freeing the jailed pair, the team quickly moved on to complete the task, but Tomoe was sobered by her greater understanding of the world. Many such harsh truths were introduced to the chubby halfling, and she left Irrisen and the frozen north without any desire to return; the task was done, and gods take anyone, ghost or not, who said otherwise. She had bigger concerns upon returning to Kalsgard to take a ship home, anyways.
It was on the boat from Kalsgard that Tomoe met Gretchen, and her life unfortunately took a sharper angle on its spiral down. The witch pronounced that the pudgy monk was “adorable”, quickly becoming obsessed with making her even fatter, and Tomoe was so easily coerced into overeating that she almost effortlessly became thralled to the witch’s endless treats. The obvious reason for this, in retrospect, is the tiefling’s destructive self-image issues from being so damn skinny – though she would have never admitted it, making up any excuse she could think of to justify her behavior. So, Gretchen moved in with Tomoe shortly after the entire group returned, and as she and Marrok settled into life in Oregent as actual members of the guild, Tomoe continued to expand at a rapid pace.
It is no surprise then that when Tomoe informed Carrock of her theory that the weight gain was a curse, Gretchen immediately volunteered to be the one to investigate the possibility. The witch enthusiastically performed magical and mundane experiments to determine the presence of an outside element in the monk’s condition in the dreadmasque’s stead, intrigued by the chance to change her own body through use of this magic. Unfortunately, this coincided with Gretchen’s actual intent: to see how fat she could make Tomoe get. The research she was desperately pursuing for her own sake soon came at the expense of the halfling’s health and mobility, and Tomoe found herself unable to adventure due to her girth. Still, when requested Gretchen was able to supply the monk with a girdle to allow her a normal level of agility despite her size, and eventually had to dramatically reduce Tomoe’s weight with a polymorph any object spell, reverting the spherical woman to her previous proportions. The monk had become too fat to allow her to fight in the Ruby Phoenix Tournament which she’d been invited to participate in, but the spell had intensified the curse’s effects upon its victim, an unknown side effect of an otherwise beneficial reprieve.
The discovery of the intensification of the curse following Tomoe’s return from the tournament allowed Gretchen to determine that there was, beyond shadow of a doubt, a curse upon the obese monk, though one of such potency that she was never able to determine with magical probing what its identity was. Nonetheless, Tomoe had returned from the Ruby Phoenix Tournament within several months as fat as before the polymorph any object‘s effects, so she received another casting of the spell, intended to suppress the significant amounts of weight she was enduring at this point. This solution was sadly short-lived and was posited by Gretchen as soon to likely result in the halfling’s death from a heart attack, such as in the scenario of the removal or suppression of the polymorph effect (as was the case during the encounter with Echian’s antimagic field during the tournament). Gretchen’s search for answers became feverish, both for her own sake and because Tomoe’s plight was actually dangerous to the unfortunate halfling, while Tomoe tried to overcome through sheer willpower that which could not be… The advice of Echian about targeting the source of the curse weighed upon the weighty halfling’s mind, and her next path was set before her.
Her wish for freedom from the curse was almost immediately upon her mind when offered a wish by Chyvvom, a contract devil whose realm she was sent to during the Acadamae’s “Breaching Festival”. Despite knowing that the devil was endlessly torturing others who’d signed contracts with him, the pudgy halfling was at her wits’ end: the curse was beginning to reach an event horizon; she was eating barely anything and hungry (in varying degrees) constantly, yet was gaining weight at an alarming rate again. In fear for her life, she asked the devil to remove the curse, though his writing of the contract was entirely beyond her ability to negotiate, ultimately promising an even worse curse upon her. Nonetheless, with a stroke of the pen on the notarized contract she was freed from the terrible ongoing hunger pains which she was forced to endure daily, and she broke down in tears of relief… then immediately snatched up her naginata and charged the devil: she would not be a slave to him, and with his defeat, she was able to gather both copies of the contract… though only temporarily. A clause assured the transference of her contract to Chyvvom’s master Lorthract, a powerful (former) infernal duke.
The goalposts moved again, and her slavery increased by another factor: first, she was still a slave to Kōreishi no Aojiroi, and he was (unknown to her) desperately seeking to regain possession of her due to her (unknown to her) divinely-touched blood. Second, she was a slave to food; she could not resist it or overeating due to the crippling effects of the curse. Third, she was a slave to Chyvvom and Lorthract through him: they held her soul as collateral and, despite allowing her two more wishes, would surely make use of what she’d promised them at some point in the future.
Temporarily at peace with her situation, Tomoe had her (lengthy) contract read by the unbearable clerics of Asmodeus: though her new curse effectively created a significant chance of the food she ate turning to ash in her mouth, she at least no longer felt hungry… though, that feeling now persists eternally. Nonetheless, she returned from the Breaching Festival and informed Gretchen of the good news… only to have the tiefling react with indignant fury. Gretchen removed the polymorph any object spell on Tomoe under the pretenses of any of the halfling’s future weight loss only affecting her “polymorphed” body, not her “true” body. This obviously wasn’t something appreciated by the monk, as she quickly gained several hundred pounds. An argument was immediately joined, Tomoe had a heart attack, Gretchen was called a monster, and murder nearly commenced… the witch ultimately quickly healed the monk before leaving Oregent in severe upset; it is unknown if she will return.
Tomoe was unable to walk due to her significant girth (pictured), and so wound up confined to her apartment, otherwise cared for by automated magical furniture as she began efforts to lose weight. Gretchen had moved out before leaving town, and requested that Carrock make sure Tomoe remained alive. The siege of Oregent struck right around this time, and Tomoe seems to have been kidnapped by several human-sized humanoids who teleported just outside of her house, entered, disabled and nearly killed Roukan, captured the immobile halfling, and teleported away again, all within moments and just before the pyramid artifact which encased Oregent was activated.
The timing of such a maneuver (as the artifact was activated only minutes later, according to analysis) suggests that she was kidnapped by the Hands of the Mystic Discordia, who also orchestrated the siege through a proxy mercenary company. This theory is reinforced by the monk’s guess that her master was a member of the necromancer guild, and likely also means that she has been captured by him in particular. She dreaded ever seeing him again, and it is fair to assume that his association with undead, his being a nosferatu, and his being obsessed with the Thassilonian sin of gluttony (which is concerned with the undead) are all factors pointing to him being the source of her peculiar “gluttonous” curse, which likely ultimately made her easier to track down. Carrock is seeking information on her whereabouts, but his contacts within Tian Xia are not able to supply much, leaving her fate unknown, as well as her location.
It was a long time coming, but eventually Tomoe’s location was discovered, and a plot to collect her was put into action. Artanis had received information from a potential ally, but the task was veiled in secrecy due to its source: the person who made contact was a vampire named Luvick Siervage. He had the location of Kōreishi no Aojiroi, and further was interesting in helping the team to take him down and do damage to the Hands of the Mystic Discordia.
Ultimately, Luvick wanted nothing to do with the Hands, and was trying to prevent their attempts at courting Ustalav’s higher undead. He wanted the team to disrupt Kōreishi, nothing less. He had a plan, where he would send the party as his new servants to insult the host of Kōreishi, who was throwing a party to welcome the Hands. The only trick: they would need to be vampires.
Eventually things came together with the rescuers (which included Gretchen) facing off against Kōreishi in a lab hidden in Castle Kronquist. Tomoe was held in a stasis tank, and Kōreishi revealed that her Runelord Curse of Gluttony had been intended to transform the halfling into the first non-natural nosferatu, in order for her master to study the effects and attempt to reverse his own cursed existence. The monk had been so incurably hungry because of an actual hunger for blood, but she never sated that desire and so hadn’t been transforming. Now though… he’d been feeding her blood, and although she’d slimmed down she had almost transformed into a nosferatu herself.
Kōreishi no Aojiroi was eventually defeated in combat, and captured by the party. With time running out on his swarm form and his death approaching, he parlayed with Gretchen for Tomoe’s life and a means to undo her tranformation in exchange for his life. The pact sealed, the team collected the halfling and betrayed Kōreishi, Gar’lumbo murdering the vampire in his coffin instead of letting him live. Gretchen collected his ashes on the way out, and the teams returned to their personal headquarters: Lucia went into hiding, intending to stay a vampire, Gretchen returned to the Storm Tower to treat Tomoe, and the rest undid their curse and returned to Almas.
Tomoe spent a few weeks recovering in Gretchen’s care, though things were still not good between them. Released from the stasis tank when her vampirism was cured, the halfling was also still in dire straits: her soul had been partially fractured by her ordeal, and Lorthract had claimed the pieces lost. Of those scattered to the devil’s control was that of language: Tomoe is unable to speak… or, perhaps just unwilling? She is not very forthcoming, but now only through her bond with Roukan does she communicate. She has since returned to Almas, but has not taken up with the guild again at this point. Her only contact with anyone so far has been through Carrock, which was to summon and personally thank her saviors (though, without speech). What will become of this far-traveled halfling?
“Two Souls ~Tomoe” (“Scars of Time”, Yoko Shimomura)
“Joshu’s Dog ~Roukan” (“Voyageur”, Enigma)
“The Muddy Road ~Traveling the World” (“Les Djinns”, Trentemøller featuring Djuma Soundsystem)
“Neither Mind Nor Buddha ~Combat” (“Kaguya Hime”, Juno Reactor)