The Burning Throne, Episode 5: Aftermath

Continued from the Battle of Shinjo Ridge:  http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/the-burning-throne-episoide-4-the-battle-of-shinjo-ridge/  Last week’s update featured the Hida O-Hinku, Little Miss Hida Face Wrecker, action scene of brutal Crab style gaijin clubbing. The following entries were from the same game session immediately after the battle. Ide Todo written by Steve Diamond.

Unauthenticated Journals of Ide Todo

Have I found my purpose?

It feels odd to write this so closely following my admission of failure.  Perhaps the Fortunes do indeed smile upon me, but I have felt invigorated by recent events.

Should anyone every read these journals, it is important to put into context the events surrounding—causing even—my epiphany of sorts.  Doubtless the educated will have heard of the Battle of Shinjo Ridge.  I heard it called many things that evening.  Kenzan’s Folly.  The Shinjo Massacre.  The last is likely the most apt for it was not a battle.  If not for the bravery of my traveling companions, the barbarian hordes would have swept immediately into my people’s lands in a wave of fire and blood.

I did not see the battle up close, but even from afar it was an easy thing to see the various clan forces milling about in confusion.  Through the ash that drifted upon the winds, I caught glances of bursts of fire on the battlefield.  It wasn’t until after that I learned of our enemies exploding into flame upon dying.  I saw the wounded.  The lucky few that returned—I was told we lost more than half of our forces in that slaughter—did so with every degree of burn across their exposed skin.  Cloth melted in those sorcerous flames and soon was affixed to skin.  Samurai returned blind, or wearing blisters already weeping sickness.  Armor and weaponry of poor quality was warped and useless—only melting them down and reforging them was the available course.  My own companions, for all their bravery, did not escape the carnage.  Both the ronin Zuko Zuko and Tsuruchi Machio returned—carried—with horrible wounds.  Hida Makoto and his half-sister Hida O-Hinku, while wounded, returned more or less intact.

I have studied war, and as is usually the case following a decisive defeat the blame that was thrown around like dung in a stable was nearly as damaging as the battle itself.  Together with Kitsuki Tsuze—with whom I was attempting to decipher coded correspondence—I ran to the tent of the warlords.

I could hear them long before I was even in sight of the tent.  Accusations roared like battle-cries.  The scene inside the tent was one of chaos, of [section damaged beyond repair].  The warlords stood around their map of the battle field alternately pointing at it and Kenzan. 

“The ravine was in the wrong place!”

“Where was the river?”

“Look at the map!  Your orders were incompetent!”

“You killed us all!”

I can still hear their words echoing inside my skull.  But the image that that was burned into my mind was that of Kenzan slowly gripping the hilt of his wakizashi.  I doubt anyone else noticed, focused as they were on losing themselves in the chaos.

And suddenly there was absolute quiet.

Every eye turned my way, and I realized my mouth was open, and that I was beseeching their attention.  What came over me?  The words I spoke are unclear to me as I try to recall them for this record.  They slip like water through spread fingers. 

I recall heads nodding, the redness leaving their faces.  Kenzan’s removing his hand from the hilt of his blade.  For the first time I noticed Makoto in the tent.  In his eyes I saw something that I do not think I have truly witnessed: honest respect.  Oh I could see the confusion that was mixed with it.  He was regarding me in the way a warrior takes the measure of an opponent…and I was suddenly worth his respect.  I looked about the room and saw this impression mirrored in the eyes of nearly all in attendance.

It humbled me.  It humbles me even as I write.

As they all left I caught Kenzan’s attention.  I began consoling him in the only way a warrior understands:  appealing to his honor, and showing him how he could salvage it from the ashes.  I was unexpectedly supported by Tsuze, and together we talked him into keeping his wakizashi sheathed.  Hopefully [section damaged beyond repair]

Kenzan is not at fault here, I am sure.  Tsuze is proving himself invaluable as an investigator.  His father would be proud with the way he honors family and ancestors.  We communed with the kami—I respect the kami even if others brush off the advice they give—and we suspect someone of tampering with the map.  If true it still will not fully restore Kenzan’s honor, but it will put him back on the path.

I walked back to our rooms then, leaving the tent behind me.  But those gazes of respect followed me.  It wasn’t a katana held high, dripping with the blood of Yobanjin that arrested their attention and respect.  It was my voice.  My reasoning—though my own words elude me.  A sense of purpose flowed through me—I feel it even now.

The voice of the Empire.  I heard my Clan whispering as I walked by.  They spoke of the honor I could bring to our Clan as the Amethyst Champion.  As an Emerald Magistrate.  I still need to gain much honor, and obtain a mountain’s worth of knowledge, but perhaps the Fortunes are guiding me through my Clan.  Through the respect I witness in others.

It will be a hard journey, and I worry that I won’t have the strength.  I must look in even the most unlikely of places to find the strength to save the Empire. 

If need be, I must even [section damaged beyond repair]

Journals of Ide Todo

Authenticity Unconfirmed

Discovered in the Shadowlands 1175

#

Eighth Entry

From the journal of Hida Makoto, Crab Clan. 

We have been betrayed.

The Crab took heavy casualties. I do not know how many more of the wounded will perish. The Lion and the Scorpion fared just as badly. Tsuruchi Machio and Zukozuko are both grievously injured and lucky to be alive. O-Hinku’s squad lost nearly half of its men. 

Yobanjin tried to kill me, but the mountain did not burn.

Kenzan’s battle plans were a mess. None of the terrain was as it was described, though the map in the battle tent is correct now. I do not know how this was done, whether the map was switched last night, or if Kenzan was manipulated through the kami, but I know that my brother is not a fool. The combined clan armies have been tricked.

Unicorn clan general, Moto Kang, insulted Kenzan’s honor, saying he was either a traitor or an incompetent. Who do you think you are, Moto? Crab volunteered to defend your pathetic fortress when the empire is threatened. Are there any Moto on the Wall where the empire is threatened every single day? Kenzan is one of the greatest warriors of the Crab. He has fought many battles and never made a mistake. Hida Kenzan is what it means to be Crab!

Yet, I could see the doubt in Kenzan’s eyes. He reached for his wakizashi, and I fear that he would have killed himself on the spot if it had not been for Ide Todo’s wisdom.

I owe Ide Todo a great debt. His clever words prevented more carnage than he can imagine. He calmed the Moto daimyo and made Kenzan wonder if magical trickery had been involved. If Kenzan had taken his own life, then nothing would have stopped O-Hinku from attacking Moto Kang, and her men would have followed her. There would have been nothing left of Shiro Shinjo for the Yobanjin to burn when the Crab were through with it.

I have always been the one that has brought shame and infamy to our family. Everything Kenzan has done has been glorious and honorable. But today I am a hero who killed the enemy by the pile and Kenzan is contemplating seppuku.

I will not let him. He does not understand what it is to fail but keep trying. He has never had to pray to the Fortune of Persistence. I have. I will not carry his ashes home to mother.

When the other clans were gone, Kenzan looked to me, and asked, “Is this how it feels?”

Yes. Yes, brother. This is what it feels like to be scorned and humiliated for something that is not your fault.

O-Hinku has been placed in charge of the Crab forces. Kenzan has given me his word that he will wait before taking any action. I swear I will find who is responsible for this, and I will make them suffer before they die. I have promised to bring Kenzan a head, but before they die, I will make them talk. My grandfather was a torturer. He knew how to make fools talk. May his spirit guide me.

Kitsuki Tsuze likes puzzles. He will figure this puzzle out too, and once Tsuze-san has found the answer, our enemy will learn to fear the mountain.

#

Continued next week with Crab Duel!  http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/the-burning-throne-episode-6-crab-duel/

4 Responses

  1. Thanks, look forward to more stories. Also picked up my copy of Rob Wells’ Variant last weekend, I know it wasn’t the book bomb day, but I hope it helped anyway.

  2. I love this story. If y’all published it in book form whenever you finished writing it, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

  3. Interesting story. Thanks for the recommendation on Rob Wells. I liked Variant.

    When will we hear more about Tom Stranger and Mike’s missing kidney.

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