Isshin cleared his throat. “Well! Think I promised you kids a story.”
“Hollows,” Karin demanded.
“Hollows?” Yuzu echoed, confused.
“In a bit, my sweet, precious, head-kicking daughter. Give your father a chance to build up to it. Where was I… ah! Three thousand years ago-”
“Hell of a build-up,” Ichigo muttered, prying himself off the floor.
“Everything’s better when you know the details,” Isshin said virtuously. “Anyway, way, way, way before anybody sitting at this table was born, the crater over that way-” the doctor pointed roughly north, “-used to be Nara, capital of the kingdom of Joumon.”
Ishida cast a quick glance down at Ichigo. Who was listening, never mind his irritated frown. “That’s not what our history books say,” Ishida offered.
“History books!” Isshin waved off the whole library with a snap of his wrist. “People tell you history’s written by the winners. I’ll tell you something else: History’s written by the survivors. And when the mind flayers under Nara realized they were losing big-time, and called meteors down out of the stars to obliterate their enemies – there weren’t that many survivors.”
“Mind flayers?” Yuzu shivered. “There used to be mind flayers in our kingdom?”
“Hate to say it, but there still are, deep underground,” Isshin said soberly. “I don’t know who knows, besides a few of the higher-ranked Watch officers; the bastards don’t come up to the surface often, and they cover their tracks damn well. Their nests are so deep, the meteors never touched ’em. Joumon wasn’t so lucky.” He toyed with his cup, spinning painted porcelain. “But some people did make it. People who stumbled on shadow and truename magic, ways of shaping the worlds mind flayers never could figure out. People who’d been working against illithid manipulations for centuries, working with and fighting beside – and falling in love with – the eladrins who’d come to help beat back the forces of darkness.”
“Eladrins?” Karin glanced around the table for answers.
“They’re a race of celestial, usually associated with the elven pantheon,” Ishida explained. “I don’t know much about them… they’re supposed to look a lot like elves, only human-tall, or larger, with glowing eyes. Bralani are supposed to favor the bow and scimitar, ghaele have a kind of holy longsword-”
“And their great lords, the tulani, can focus the energies of their souls to resist injuries and summon a blade of pure light. Among other things,” Isshin added.
Ishida eyed him warily, noting with wry amusement that Ichigo’s wary look from the floor was almost an exact echo. He said that like it should mean something. And – it almost did. But what?