- "Actions may speak louder than words, but often they hide true intent as easily as words can. What matters is what you feel inside at a given moment. Once you've lived as long as I have, you'll come to see the importance of the heart."
- —Katsutoshi Kobayashi to Javan al-Kassis
Katsutoshi Kobayshi, also known as Fox, Izanagi-no-Mikoto, Jarral Baffik and Thorn Stronghelm among many other aliases in the Third Age, is a wandering, party-loving kitsune rogue with ties to the Dwarven Triad and the Finian Clan. He accompanied Javan al-Kassis and Razravkar Dominus to Reign while posing as a drunk dwarf and later helped free Haruko Mizushima who was actually his long-imprisoned wife suffering from amnesia. Katsutoshi subtly guided several people's actions until he finally revealed his true identity as well as his role as the mastermind behind Haruko's resurrection during the Battle of Malperdy where he witnessed the births of his and Haruko's twin children, Nozomi Mizushima and Zetsubou Kobayashi. After the battle, he was caught by the Crimson Coalition which forced him to work for them. By the time of the Battle of Alent, he teamed up with Stheno Gallu because their interests aligned and they both wanted to find a way to trick the Coalition for their own reasons.
- "The Dark Wanderer weaves sweet lies to persuade you to join him, to cast off your purity of flesh and essence. Once he's defiled you, he'll leave you and seek other pure ones to defile with his touch. Trust me, yours isn't the first heart he has broken, and it won't be the last. But even he has his place because we can't understand Light fully without a Shadow to compare it to. We all have our purpose, and we're all linked to the Duality of Life and Death."
- —Inari Okami to Haruko Mizushima about Katsutoshi
Katsutoshi Kobayashi was active in the First Age and was a dark kitsune notorious for seducing several women of different races whenever he came across them. One day he wandered into the Grove of Yggdrasil where he met a young kitsune cleric of Gaea named Haruko Mizushima. Although originally planning to defile her as well, something changed as they spent time together, and Katsutoshi found himself drawn to Haruko not only because of her beauty but because of her curious personality and intelligence which reminded him of himself.
Over time the other clerics, including Inari Okami, grew suspicious of Katsutoshi's presence in the Grove and planned to banish him so that he couldn't defile anyone's innocense anymore. Katsutoshi contacted Haruko that night, telling her that he'd have to leave soon and wanted to take her with him. Haruko panicked, saying her duty was with Inari and Yggdrasil. Katsutoshi said she'd have to decide whether she wanted her dull duty or his exciting love.
Haruko's hesitation eventually turned into anguish, and she chose to flee with Katsutoshi. Before she could leave, she was confronted by Inari, her mentor, who tried to stop her from leaving. The two fought, during which Haruko ended up killing Inari in her bloodlust which a strange voice had triggered in her. Shocked by this grisly turn of events, Haruko was about to be apprehended by other clerics who arrived in the scene until Katsutoshi swooped in and took her with him.
Band of the FoxEdit
- "Foxes, whether Tods or Vixens, always work in pairs, after all!"
After escaping the Grove, Katsutoshi and Haruko lived a wandering lifestyle, stealing from whoever they wanted and killing those who tried to stop them. They eventually recruited like-minded people with unique skills, which included Arlen Finian (Vulture) and Koschei Dravaris (Shark) while Katsutoshi and Haruko adapted the nicknames Fox and Enchantress of the Spring, respectively. Their outlaw group came to be known as the Band of the Fox, and they dedicated themselves to the teachings of the Clergy of Laverna which worshipped Laverna, Goddess of Thieves. Katsutoshi, being the Izanagi-no-Mikoto or the male high cleric of Laverna, made Haruko the Izanami-no-Mikoto or the female high cleric of Laverna, as the thief goddess's clergy always had to have two high clerics at the same time unlike other clergies which only had one high cleric.
Katsutoshi's and Haruko's roles were less about preaching about the faith and more about demonstrating it through their actions. Thus the Clergy of Laverna wasn't quite organized, having followers here and there among thieves who were religious enough to follow Laverna's teachings about deception and cunning.
More info later.
Farewells and PromisesEdit
- "No matter what happens, no matter how long it takes, I'll find you, my beloved. Not even death can do us part. I'll burn this world to ashes if I must to hold you in my arms again. That I promise, Haruko Mizushima...Spring Child of the Water Island!"
- "And no matter what happens, no matter how long it takes, I'll be waiting for you, my beloved. Not even life itself can keep us from reuniting. I'll relish the flames and roll in the ashes if I must to have you back in my arms again. That I promise, Katsutoshi Kobayashi, Clever Winner of the Small Forest!"
- —Katsutoshi and Haruko Mizushima
More info later.
After his awakening in the Third Age, Katsutoshi chose the form of a dwarf and the alias Thorn Stronghelm for reasons he hasn't revealed even to his closest associates. By the time the dwarven mercenary Thorn showed up, little was known about his past except what he chose to reveal. According to one of his tales he was born to a regular dwarven family who had ties to the criminal underworld. He followed the family tradition and became a rogue, associating himself with various guilds in his youth. His days as an apprentice involved women, liquor and gambling.
He travelled around the world often but was always fond of Libaterra because of its diverse populace and because of easy access to Paladin's Breath, his favourite alcoholic drink. During this time he also got to know the Dwarven Triad with whom he began collaborating, and he eventually rose to the position of leadership, ironically using the title of Fox which he had once used in the Band of the Fox.
The Yamatian Invasion, Great War and Cataclysm put a dent to his carefree days, but he was cunning enough to survive the catastrophes. He helped finance Bella Sirius and Fehr Sirius who opened the Crafty Crow inn in Reign where people from all walks of life, including thieves and cutthroats, could stay safely. Thorn and the innkeepers kept in touch, and he had various meetings with shady individuals in the depths of the inn's underground tavern for many years to come.
- "I'm a dwarf with a big heart...when I see injustice, I do my best to make this world a better place one person at a time. Do I need any more justification? Besides, I like the thrill of being in danger. It makes me feel alive."
- —Thorn about helping Razravkar Dominus
More info later.
Day of the DamnedEdit
- "I don't want anything bad to happen to good vixens like her, though. When I saw fear in her eyes, I decided to protect her. I admit that women are my greatest weakness."
- "So what you do is kidnap girls and call them weird names, Thorn-san. That doesn't sound very chivalrous."
- "Look, I know a good person when I see one. I don't want to risk the possibility of gods ruining more lives than they already have."
- —Thorn and Haruko Mizushima
The group spent the following week waiting for the trials to begin and figure out a way to acquit Razravkar. During this time Thorn and Javan got to know each other better, and one memorable incident between the two involved a bar fight in the Bleeding Stool.
Once Thorn came to tell the group that High Cleric Adela al-Saif and other higher-ups of the Clergy of Artemicia had already arrived, the group escorted Razravkar to the temple courtyard where the trial would take place, and Thorn vanished into the crowd in order to keep an eye on the events from there. He was relived to see that in the end Razravkar was acquitted, in part thanks to the efforts of Rasicare with whom Thorn had been making deals with. Having Rasicare as his eyes and years in the clergy would prove to be useful if he ever needed something from them.
By the time Razravkar's trial had concluded, Thorn also met Jacob O'Harris and Jason O'Harris who looked confused and hungry. Feeling pity for the two brothers and realizing he could use their swords to promote his cause, he asked them if he could hire them as bodyguards in exchange for food and shelter and a few coins. The brothers eventually agreed to help him protect Razravkar at least for the time being because they hadn't found any other job in the city and were in need of money.
Things took a sudden turn when Corwin helped Adela summon a strange magical crystal which rose from the ground. The crystal shattered, revealing a young Yamatian girl, who called herself Haruko Mizushima, inside. At this time the Dwarven Triad made its presence known and gloated how it had manipulated the clergy to do its bidding. Thorn frowned at the eagerness of the Triadists to reveal themselves so boldly, but it would serve as a good enough distraction for now in his view.
Events kept spiralling out of control, however, when another adversary appeared in the scene: the bard Jonathan Seneron, possessed by Shakkan, intended to kill the girl in order to release the goddess Laverna who had been trapped within the girl. Realizing that too many powerful parties would soon be after the confused damsel, Thorn decided to act like a hero and save her. After a brief battle with Jon's griffin, he took Haruko in his arms and fled from the enraged Adela and possessed Jon, the latter of whom gave chase.
Haruko was none too pleased by Thorn's heroics, thinking he was a pervert thanks to Thorn calling her "vixen" due to her voluptuous figure. Thorn introduced himself to the girl, doing his best to ignore her accusations, and led her to the Crafty Crow where he knew Fehr would provide them with a temporary sanctuary.
As soon as they got to the inn, Thorn led Haruko downstairs to the seedy tavern where they met with Thorn's old accomplices Faye, Jarrah, and Wade. The rest of Corwin's comrades, who now also included the Union Workers thief Raul Emmenson, the nymph Serene and Jonathan Seneron who was no longer possessed, joined the group and decided to help Thorn take Haruko to safety for their own reasons.
The group used a hidden tunnel underneath the inn to relocate to one of the Triad's hideouts where they met with various Triadists, including one who introduced himself as Fox. After a brief discussion of what they should be doing next now that they had powerful adversaries hunting after them and Haruko, they decided that they should travel through the Void and take Haruko to the Union's base in Hidefall where she would be safe from pursuers. The Triad and the Union made a strenuous alliance because they both wanted to keep Haruko, who served as the vessel for the thief goddess Laverna, safe.
Many group members had to be drugged during the journey through the Void in order to shield their minds from the anomalies in the Ghost Paths. The journey through the mists had a surprising turn, however, when Curdardh, one of the lords of the Faerfolc, suddenly ambushed the group on the Ghost Paths partly because he was after Razravkar and Raul but also because he wanted to capture Haruko as well.
After a fierce battle during which Haruko briefly accessed tremendous powers to keep the rogue fey and his minions at bay, the group was saved by Irvin Finian and Kendra Finian's Sinlarine pilgrims who accompanied them the rest of the way to their destinations. Corwin also used the opportunity to finally confront Razravkar about Deidra's death and forgave him much to Thorn's relief.
At the end of the journey the group decided to split up because they had different objectives: one group travelled to Alent, another group travelled to Ciano and the rest (which included Thorn, Raul, O'Harrises, Haruko and two Triadists) accompanied Haruko to Hidefall. After brief farewells, the groups went their separate ways. Thorn was eager to stay close to Haruko who grew increasingly annoyed at his attempts at flirting, and he also wanted to see Hidefall firsthand now that he had been given such a golden opportunity.
A Cry in the DarkEdit
Raul assumed leadership of the group because he knew Hidefall territory the best and could keep the group out of trouble in case the Union's soldiers spotted them. The group eventually reached the hidden thief city, and Raul took them to a nearby inn to eat. Thorn couldn't help but wonder about Haruko's suddenly huge appetite, and he kept a close eye on the girl. During this time Thorn briefly saw a young, stuttering bard named Arcturius talking to Haruko, and he memorized the bard's face in case he'd meet him again.
They eventually relocated to a Yamatian apartment complex where each member of the group was given a room. Thorn got a room near Haruko as a courtesy from Raul although he was somewhat suspicious of Raul's eagerness to stay close to Haruko. Thorn suffered from a hangover after his experiences with the magic mushroom and whisky so he withdrew to his room in the apartment and stayed out of sight.
Thorn had a brief discussion with Fox during which Fox reminded him of their past deal in the Triad. Their discussion came to an end when they noticed a skulk of foxes running about in the garden. Thorn decided to investigate the matter when he noticed Raul and various others gathering in the garden. Raul gave Thorn instructions of where to locate the closest pub before heading off. Thorn, content with what he had heard, wandered off and left the group to continue what it was going.
However, Thorn later disappeared from Hidefall entirely prior to Haruko's kidnapping despite the thieves' best efforts to locate him. What had happened was that he had entered the Void with help from Irvin and would help him keep Haruko safe once Haruko had been retrieved from the city. He didn't leave a note about his reasons for disappearing behind to his other companions because he didn't want to risk tipping off the Triad but also because he wanted to keep his involvement secret for the time being.
More info later.
More info later.
Heart of DarknessEdit
After being caught by the Coalition, Katsutoshi accompanied the rest of the caught party to a luncheon organized by Hannibal Losstarot. During this somewhat tense conversation it became clear that the Coalition now held the party's life in its hands and demanded compensation for having been tricked by Katsutoshi. The Coalition ordered Katsutoshi to tell the soldiers a way to dig into Malperdy because he had promised a sizable portion of the treasure to them, and they wouldn't let such funding slip from their fingers. Katsutoshi eventually agreed to help them, not out of kindness but because they were threatening him with the captive Haruko's life if he didn't obey them.
Katsutoshi tried to chat with his former companions, but they refused to address him now that they knew his true nature and that he had tricked them and nearly killed them in his many tests of faith in Malperdy. Although Katsutoshi was saddened that people couldn't let bygones be bygones despite all the good times they'd shared in the past, he turned his focus on the road ahead. The future was ultimately what mattered the most, not the past, and right now his future lay in his twins who'd been taken from him.
The Coalition knew what had transpired in Malperdy thanks to a report by Captain Grace Ripley who had accompanied the party there, and Hannibal and Endoran made Katsutoshi an offer he couldn't refuse: he'd team up with the demon Stheno Gallu, or Sloth, who had been captured back in Malperdy, and he'd locate the missing twins and the gods residing in them and return them to the Coalition. If he refused to co-operate, the Coalition would deal with Haruko, who would remain captive in Trinity Gask, accordingly. Although he was annoyed that the Coalition would try to blackmail him, Katsutoshi eventually agreed to their terms and seemingly became their obedient servant although he was in fact already plotting a scheme to trick the Coalition while making them believe he was no longer a threat to them.
After the luncheon ended and the party members went their separate ways, Stheno and Katsutoshi had a discussion in a local tavern, coming to an agreement that for now they had to work together to get out of this predicament they had ended up in and more importantly finding a way to get out of the Coalition's control.
They travelled to Reign where they came across a pair of merchants named Craft Lawrence and Holo. Realizing that the merchants were headed for Alent where Katsutoshi knew his and Haruko's children would end up in, they decided to accompany Lawrence and Holo on their trip. Katsutoshi and Stheno assumed the aliases of Mr. Jarral Baffik and Mrs. Stheno Baffik, pretending to be a married couple as Katsutoshi insisted it would make the most sense...although Stheno was indifferent to his constant flirting.
They were stopped sometime later by a patrol from the Crimson Coalition and were brought to one of the Coalition's army camps in the area. Captain Ivan Chernenko informed them that they weren't allowed to travel to Alent while the Coalition was preparing a major assault on the City of Mages. This upset Lawrence and Holo, but Katsutoshi and Stheno convinced them to stay calm because they'd figure out a way to slip past the guards somehow and carry on their journey one way or another.
During the night, Katsutoshi kept flirting with Stheno who was both amused and annoyed by his act as she wasn't sure whether he was being honest or just teasing him. She decided to tease him back while mentioning how he was married to Haruko and was technically attempting adultery if he tried to bed her. Katsutoshi found her argument amusing and took her teasing with stride.
The Coalition camp was attacked later that night by demons whom Stheno recognized as the Ebon Demons, or the Black Death unit who were elite demon assassins. She defended Lawrence and Holo from the attacks and then fled the camp with them and Katsutoshi, leaving behind a chaotic battle between the surprised Coalition and relentless attackers from the Northern Horde.
The group continued the journey to Alent, now knowing that demons would not be far behind.
Aliases and NicknamesEdit
- Dark Wanderer
- What he is called among the kitsune because of his past crimes.
- Jarral Baffik
- One of his many aliases, he sometimes uses this when dealing with merchants throughout the world.
- Mr. Espinoza
- One of his many aliases, he uses this while operating in Aison. Ironically the name can be translated as "thorny" and is thus a reference to his other alias "Thorn".
- Thorn Stronghelm
- One of his many aliases, he uses this when posing as a drunk, dwarven rogue and mercenary. It's also what most people call him in Libaterra and what the majority of her companions knew him as until they learned his true identity in Malperdy. According to a made-up story, he was to be named Thorin, but his dwarven dad was drunk and pronounced his son's name wrong. The misspelled name stuck because his parents thought Thorn was a "thorn" on their side, so to speak. Posing as the dwarf Stronghelm was all an elaborate cover-up story to hide his true kitsune identity, however.
As Thorn, he looks like a tanned dwarf with black hair and a mighty moustache. He wears worn traveller's clothes which haven't been washed in a while. He somehow manages to carry various weapons on himself, including an axe, a miniature crossbow, a war hammer and a pair of daggers as well as various magic potions.
In his more beastly kitsune form, Katsutoshi tends to either look like an otherwise ordinary except black fox but can also turn into a much more ferocious, demonic youko form which is bipedal, fox-like and capable of incredible feats and illusions while his tail can split into nine tails to signify his status as an older, more experienced kitsune.
Personality and TraitsEdit
- "Thorn may come off as a bit of a dimwit, but he can be wily when threatened."
- —Javan al-Kassis about Katsutoshi as Thorn Stronghelm
A jovial fellow who drinks heavily, favouring Paladin's Breath above all other alcholic drinks. However, when he gets serious, he really gets serious, but despite his plans he also likes to go with the flow. Some have even called him a trickster of a sorts because of his changing moods and elaborate pranks which prove that he is far more intelligent than he seems at first glance. He can also be quite the blabbermouth when he's drunk.
He proved his cunning when it turned out he was the real Fox whereas Janus Todd, the dwarf who had held the title until then, was only a decoy to draw attention away from the real mastermind who was Katsutoshi. He also uses several aliases while travelling the world, and for the longest time the people travelling with him thought he was a simple, drunk dwarf named Thorn Stronghelm even though he actually was a cunning kitsune in disguise all along.
Powers and AbilitiesEdit
Katsutoshi is skilled in various rogueish activities including backstabbing, picking locks and vanishing into shadows. He possesses little magic ability but more than compensates for it with his use of wits and daggers. He can choose from three different shapes: the first is his true kitsune form which looks like a black a nine-tailed fox, the second is his monstrous youko form which looks like a bipedal demon fox which can use weapons and crawl on walls, and the third is his disguise which most often ends up being a dwarf due to dwarves being often overlooked by other races.
Thorn got to know Corwin and the rest of Clan Finian when the Finians were young. He became a family friend and always stopped by at their tribe when he had business in that area of Libaterra. When Corwin began acting as a mercenary to support his tribe and to advance his shamanistic cause, Thorn used the opportunity to work alongside Corwin on various assignments. The two respect each other although sometimes Corwin sees Thorn as acting too goofily to his liking. Corwin, like other members of Clan Finian, know of Thorn's true identity as Katsutoshi whom their ancestor Arlen Finian once served, but the Finians often keep calling him Thorn because that's the name they most often hear and the alias they have to deal with most of the time.
Katsutoshi, posing as Thorn, became acquainted with Fehr and Bella when the two ended in Libaterra. He helped them set up the Crafty Crow inn which became a famous neutral zone for various underground organizations and people on the run to stay at in times of need. Thorn and Fehr often snark at one another but that's just an act because they actually enjoy each other's company. Fehr remains unaware of Thorn's true identity.
Katsutoshi and Gilgamesh were bitter rivals, which resulted in brutal clashes over the years. Their seemingly ultimate showdown right before Haruko's sealing was interrupted, and they'd have to wait for thousands of years before they could have a rematch which would end it once and for all. Gilgamesh is obsessed with defeating Katsutoshi and claiming Haruko for himself, and Katsutoshi likewise wants to put an end to Gilgamesh's violence.
Haruko and Thorn got off on the wrong foot as she took his affection for a perverted attempt at flirting. Despite Thorn's sudden infatuation with her, she doesn't seem to hold him in high regard. Once it was revealed that Thorn was actually Katsutoshi, Haruko's husband, it left Haruko confused. On the one hand she cared for him based on their past, complicated relationship, but on the other hand she was hurt that he didn't reveal the truth to her sooner, which led to needless misery even though she somewhat understand that it had to happen out of necessity in order to not break her then-fragile, still recovering mind.
Irvin shows great respect to Katsutoshi and being the eldest of the clan, he tends to have the most serious discussions with Katsutoshi whenever they talk compared to the other siblings, and he's the only one to refer to Katsutoshi by his clerical name Izanagi. He does his best to calm Katsutoshi's quick temper and is dedicated to seeing their scheme through because he wishes to fulfill the oath which his ancestor Arlen Finian once made. Katsutoshi likewise respects Irvin's wisdom and fun-loving attitude but doesn't always listen to his advice due to his impulsiveness.
While in the guise of Thorn, Katsutoshi took the young dwarf Janus as his apprentice in the Triad after he saw potential in him. He taught Janus many skills in deception and eventually trusted him enough to let him pretend to be Fox while Katsutoshi pretended to be Thorn to the others. The sceheme came to an end when Janus abruptly revealed Katsutoshi's identity to the others in Malperdy and kidnapped Katsutoshi's and Haruko's children. Despite this, Katsutoshi still sees Janus as a worthy apprentice if he's given enough time to grow as a person.
Katsutoshi sees Javan as a diplomatic enough fellow although he's not that pleased whenever Javan smacks him on the back of the head even if he deserves it. He believes Javan is more observant than most, which intrigues him. Javan sees "Thorn" as a stereotypical, kind-hearted dwarf with no big plans and who is terrible at flirting. He hasn't discovered that Thorn is actually Katsutoshi the kitsune yet although he at least suspected that he was more than he seemed.
Katsutoshi and Raul get along although Katsutoshi's somewhat concerned over Raul wanting to act as Haruko's protector. He kept an eye on Raul for a time, trying to figure out what kind of a person he actually was before making a judgement. Raul sees Thorn as way too enthusiastic but tolerates his presence because he hasn't opposed the Union to his knowledge. Once he learned that Thorn and Katsutoshi and Fox were one and the same, he was impressed and surprised by how cunning a trickster the kitsune had been, but he didn't retaliate against him even when he had the chance, likely because he didn't want to involve himself any further in his affairs.
Katsutoshi found Razravkar a somewhat funny individual and took a liking to him despite his necromantic profession, going so far as to actually help him out on his trial in Reign. Razravkar saw him as a somewhat goofy drunkard but tolerated him because he's helped him and has proven his worth several times to him. The revelation that Thorn was in fact the kitsune Katsutoshi came as a shock to him, which directed Razravkar's harsher actions during the battle.
After the Battle of Malperdy and being forced to work for the Crimson Coalition, Katsutoshi sided with Stheno, also known as Sloth. He keeps flirting with Stheno and seems to enjoy her company despite her being a demon, the very things he despises. Stheno sees him as a mysterious, somewhat obnoxious person yet also occasionally enjoys his free-spirited personality.
- Clergy of Laverna
- Dwarven Triad
- Fehr Sirius
- Finian Clan
- Haruko Mizushima
- Janus Todd
- Nozomi Mizushima
- Paladin's Breath
- Stheno Gallu
- Zetsubou Kobayashi