The Burning Throne, Episode 9: Traitors & Rice Merchants

Continued from: http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/the-burning-throne-episode-8-an-early-lunch/ 

It is Friday, so time for another serial posting from the journasl of Writer Nerd Game Night. No fictions this time, just journals.  And Awesome is pronounced Awe Sow May.  :)

Eleventh Entry

From the journal of Hida Makoto, Crab Clan. 

I am very glad that I am not an investigator. The words of a song that I once heard sum up my feelings, There is so many hours wasted talking, talking, talking, and the twisted games they’re playing… I do not have the patience for investigations. I would prefer to be on the Wall. At least there you know who your friends are.

The war council this morning was concerned with two items of discussion, the spy ring’s secret messages, and the danger of the shame sword Penance falling into the hands of the Dark Oracle of Fire. Ide Todo and the daimyos were able to decipher the remaining messages. It was obvious that Shoshuro Masa was distorting the truth of what he read, and Akodo Foon was worried about calling him on it publically. Moto Chen wanted answers, and reasoned from the message that Ide Tong, Toda-sama’s cousin that we’ve been staying with, was the source of the messages. Moto Chen ordered Ide Tong to be arrested and tortured, except Ide Todo stepped in to urge a more cautious approach.

I worry about Ide Todo. He is a terribly earnest man. Even when it risks the displeasure of his clan champion, Todo would prefer to err on the side of truth. I fear that someday his dedication to honesty will be his death. We volunteered to check the Summer Flower warehouse indicated in the secret messages.

On the way there we were accosted by a pushy rice merchant, selling his wares. This seemed to annoy the others. I am used to the Yasuki, so I did not mind. Plus I got free rice cake samples. Yum.

Zukozuko took the back door of the warehouse should anyone flee. Tsuruchi Machio climbed to the roof in order to snipe with his bow. I banged on the front door with my tetsubo and demanded that they open up in the name of Magistrate Ide Todo! (I think he wants me to be more discrete in the future, but I don’t do discrete well) I was hoping to club someone, but instead the peasants working inside seemed honest enough.

It turned out that a man matching Ide Tong’s description had been coming here often, pretending to be a magistrate, and “inspecting” the goods. These goods were all from Scorpion lands. The times of his visits corresponded with the dates of the secret messages. The plot thickens.

Since his stall was right in front of the warehouse, and because he thought he could identify our mysterious fake magistrate, I drafted the pushy rice merchant and told him to come with us to the war council. On the way, he loudly proclaimed to all that would hear about how he was the chosen rice merchant of the great Ide Todo. I believe that this embarrassed Todo-sama. I do not know why… Free rice!  Then a competing rice merchant arrived and began to argue the superiority of his rice, and how our rice merchant’s wares were rancid and putrid.

I got many free samples. I found both brands to be flavorful. Ide Todo proposed a contest to be held in 3 months. (I hope I get to be a judge.) However, Ide Todo seemed flustered that his usual diplomacy was not working to settle down the merchants. So, being used to dealing with the pushy Yasuki whose stalls line the interior of the Wall and their high pressure sales, I put my arm around our rice merchant, and told him to shut his mouth for the remainder of our journey. I believe that Moto Khano threatened to give Shinsei’s smile to the other one. Problem solved.

Sure enough, the rice merchant identified Ide Tong as the man who had been frequenting the Summer Flower warehouse. I then told him to return to his stall for his safety before any official accusations would be made.

Ide Tong was doing a good job of defending himself, and it seemed as if he had convinced the war council as to his innocence. Ide Todo challenged his cousin. It was a contest of words, but Todo-sama’s evidence was damning. Since the Moto torturers had “accidentally” poisoned our last prisoner and been executed accordingly, I offered the services of the Crab torturers. Kenzan did not seem pleased at my impertinence, but oh well… I wonder how Kenzan’s jaw is healing?

Tong, knowing he was caught, attempted to put something in his mouth. Todo-sama noticed this and alerted me, so I tackled Tong to the ground. Iko retrieved the item, and we believe that it was poison. I pulled Tong before the Unicorn champion and asked if I could have him. Moto Chen granted my wish so I carried him off to be tortured in the Crab camp. If you want something done right, it should be done by a Crab.

The events that occurred in the war council next were related to me by my travelling companions later. Moto Chen commissioned Ide Todo to lead a mission to secure the shame sword. All of the other daimyos present (the Shoshuro was suspiciously absent) each donated some men to the mission. Hida Kenzan was more than happy to lend me to the cause… Brother can be petty at times. The real surprise was when Fosuta the Spider said that he would like to have Zukozuko be their representative.

I am very happy for my ronin friend. Sure, they are only a poor, minor clan, but Zukozuko has been accepted into a new family. I knew that surely someone would ask for his fealty after his courageous display against the fire oni.  Later that night, Zukozuko went to Fosuta and declared his fealty to the Spider. He took the name Fosuta Zuko. (an unexpected honor given to Isawa Fosuta for sure) There is something about Fosuta that I do not trust, but Zukozuko has improved his place in the celestial wheel, much as my grandfather did, and for that I will give thanks to the Fortune’s mercy in my prayers.

Ide Todo was honored by Moto Chen again for his exemplary service, and was granted a boon, anything he wished. In his wisdom, Todo-sama asked that our band be given official recognition as a roving magisterial unit. Since there were leaders present from four great Clans to agree, and no emperor on the throne or regent to disagree, this was a brave, but crafty maneuver. It will give our group much greater status, and should make our travels that much easier.

We have been granted a Mirumoto guide, the eight surviving Unicorn bushi and three monks from our earlier travels, Todo’s personal yojimbo Moto Khano and the former Dragon ronin Rei, as well as the exiled Doji girl that got Rei disgraced in the first place, who will serve as Todo’s scribe. In addition Tsuruchi Machio and Kitsuki Tsuze would also like to continue following Ide Todo. Between us and a handful of servants, twenty-five of us will leave for Dragon lands in the morning.

In the Crab camp, Kuni Awe-Some helped with the torturing. It is strange to see a samurai willing to get his hands dirty like that, but Kuni can be a little… off.  Ide Tong had surprising endurance and withstood many hours of torture while the cackling Kuni madman removed various appendages and much of Tong’s skin. I believe Tong finally told us everything he knew. He was working for the Scorpion, and he truly believed he was serving the best interests of the empire. He said that his group was trying to discover who was responsible for the death of the emperor.

Because I could respect Tong’s goals and his endurance under the Kuni’s knives, I freed Tong and provided him with a tanto. He committed seppuku and I served as his second. It was as honorable a death as could be hoped for in the situation. Though he betrayed his clan, I pray that Emma-O will be merciful to Tong’s soul when he arrives in Meido.

It was only as I was writing this now that I realized, despite the number of men that I’ve killed, this was the very first time that my katana has ever shed blood.

Unauthenticated Journals of Ide Todo

   It has been too long since I put thought to paper.  I could blame the events which I will describe shortly, but the reality is that I fear that voicing my inadequacies—whether verbally or on paper—will somehow cause me to lead those who follow me to destruction.

            Whoever reads this account will undoubtedly be familiar with the historical events of the time.  The war.  The battles.  All the deaths.  Amidst it all my companions have thrived.  They have each brought honor and glory to themselves and their clans.

            And somehow all the public praise is loaded upon my shoulders.

            The adulation and respect is heavy.  In the streets peasants and samurai alike strove for a mere glance at my person.  Since I last recorded my thoughts, I was honored with the title of Magistrate.  Inwardly I still find it shocking that a man such as me can come so far.  Outwardly I keep my face still.  I heard a saying when walking among the Spider Clan recently that struck a chord within me.  “With great power comes great responsibility.”  Wise words.

            And they were put to the test today.

            We finally deciphered the intercepted messages which [SECTION BURNED].  The messages also led us to a warehouse. The merchants within were honorable as far as peasants go, and though we were expecting to find evidence of espionage, we found something that to me was even more grievous.  A Unicorn who we later identified as Ide Tong—my kin—had posed as a Magistrate.

            History may know me as many things, but a liar is not one them.

            As my companions entered the war council with me, I witnessed Ide Tong at their front, bending his truths and hiding his lies like a veritable Scorpion.

            I have always believed that my affinity for the arts of the courtier have come from my ancestors.  I swear that at times they compel me, and lead me when my weaknesses would overwhelm.  In truth—something I have never lacked, perhaps to my detriment—I feel haunted by those ancestors.  As a child they were a cruel taskmaster.  Now, in my 42nd year, they drive me on as mercilessly.  In that moment right before sleep overtakes me, I can hear their voices.  They chastising me.  Congratulating me.  Counseling me.  I am at their mercy, though they have none.

            As I saw Ide Tong manipulate the very people who were trying to save our lands, my ancestors screamed in my mind.  As a Magistrate, and as a member of the Ide family I could do little but comply.  Is there honor and glory in honesty?  Of that I have no doubt.  I was shamed just watching Tong—I will not refer to him as a member of my family again—and my feet moved on their own accord.  I was soon standing before the masses.

            Their faces were etched in confusion.  Their stances spoke their thoughts even when their voices could not.  When I spoke, they all listened.

And then they believed.

Tong was caught in his lies through simple logic.  Most damning of all was his refusal to speak to his own defense.  Through his silence his lies were spoken.

The histories will show that this was the moment in which I truly became a Magistrate of my clan—not just in word, but in deed.  The weight of the appointment is heavy on my shoulders and my soul.  But for the first time in years I heard something shocking in the distant murmurs of my ancestors.  Approval.

I have found myself strangely wondering what the beautiful Asako Keiko would think of all of this.  Does she remember me?  Would she approve of my choices?  Perhaps I will write her…I’ve always been curious about the supposed ties she had with [SECTION BURNED]

For now further thoughts on such questions will have to wait.  We depart Shiro Shinjo at first light.  I have been tasked with traveling to the ruins of the High House of Light in an attempt to recover the Blade of Penance.  A Shamesword.  Just the thought of it frightens me beyond measure.  Yet a part of my mind is also fascinated by it.  Could it [SECTION BURNED] for example?

Oddly, the Spider Clan have chosen Zukozuko as their representative on the journey.  I have begun to wonder about the relationship there.  My fears from a few nights previous in the Spider camp seemed unfounded at the time, but now?  I will watch closely.

In honor of my catching Tong, I was given a boon to request.  But what does a courtier need that his voice and thoughts cannot provide?  Selfishness was never one of my shortcomings.  My worry for my companions, however, has nearly crippled me in the past.  I want to protect them as best as I can, and so I have decided to form an order.  This order will accept men and women from all clans and schools who have the goals of the Empire at heart.  We will be a network of information and soldiers throughout the land.  Whether it be in brightest day or in blackest night, no evil will escape our sight.

I have struggled with naming this order.  How best to convey our desire to help the Empire without threatening those prone to paranoia?  For now, it will simply be known as the Brotherhood.

Journals of Ide Todo

Authenticity Unconfirmed

Discovered in the Shadowlands 1175

#

Coming next Friday, we’ll introduce the Brotherhood of the Paper Lanterns. And a fiction where Ide Todo gets asked to arrange a marriage. http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2011/12/30/the-burning-throne-episode-10-the-nakado/ 

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