The Burning Throne, Episode 13: The Mountain Spirits

Continued from:

For those of you just tuning in, this is a weekly serial I’ve been posting. It is a journal from my monthly Legend of the 5 Rings roleplaying game that I play with a bunch of other Utah writers. Obviously, when it is a bunch of writers, you can’t just play a game. You’ve got to write it too.  

In this particular game, it was Tsuruchi Machio (played by Rob Wells) that started the fight by shooting at something suspicious in the trees. He then shot another guy after the cease fire, and was the one that tossed the sword into the bushes later that night. It works out later on though, when after Rob got kidnapped by birds (long story) I got to assign him the most annoying man in the world as his “yojimbo”.

Fourteenth Entry

From the journal of Hida Makoto, Crab Clan. 

The Brotherhood of the Paper Lantern faced its first serious test last night, and I’m afraid we were about as  smooth as nezumi performing kabuki.

Around midnight, Tsuruchi Machio and Shinjo Braga were on watch when they sighted multiple figures moving in the darkness toward our camp. I awoke to Machio shouting a warning and then I was immediately struck by an arrow. Hell of a way to wake up, that. Machio said afterward that the enemy fired first and without provocation. Gathering my tetsubo, I charged in the direction of the archers.

Even with it raining arrows, Kuni Magatsu took the time to apply his war paint before emerging from his tent. He then invoked the fire kami and set the tree line around the unknown enemy on fire. As I reached the trees, the fight became general, with many armored figures moving through the dark. I received a minor cut from a katana, but then I killed my attacker with a single blow. It was possibly the hardest I’ve ever hit anything. Magatsu snared another man with gigantic crab claws that formed from the dirt and the Shinjo managed to cut down a few more, before Ide Todo began shouting for us to stand down. Similar cries could be heard from the enemy commander to lay down their arms. They spoke Rokugani, not the filthy Yobanjin tongue.

I stopped. The warriors across from me stopped. I loudly repeated Todo-sama’s orders for the Shinjo around me to hear. The enemy did the same. The woods became eerily quiet. Even in darkness and the heat of battle, both sides understood the importance of obeying their lord’s orders without question. These were no bandits, these were samurai.

A brief moment passed as the two sides watched each other. Then came the sound of a bowstring being released and the thud of an arrow deep into meat. The lack of an answering scream told me that the target had been killed instantly. Someone had broken our hasty truce, and I prepared for the battle to begin anew. But it was only by the whims of the heavens and the voice of Ide Todo that the killing did not continue. The samurai I faced sheathed his sword and I lowered my tetsubo.

Zuko brought the enemy leader into our camp to parley. It turned out that they were a group of ronin, attempting to protect the region’s peasants from marauding Yobanjin. They insisted that our sentries had launched the first arrow and that they had counterattacked to defend themselves. The ronin, calling themselves the Mountain Spirits, were led by a former Tamori named Nobu, who went on a tirade about the Dragon clan’s failures to protect the outlying villages from the Yobanjin. It was rather tense as the two groups argued, but though we were outnumbered, it was obvious to all that we were the stronger warriors.

A truce was declared for the night. They took our second in command as hostage and we took theirs. The two groups broke up and made camp.

As I took the next turn on watch, I was lost in thought. I was troubled by this fight. And not just because of the terrible performance of some of our men. (if the attackers had been Hiruma, I have no doubt that half the throats in our camp would’ve been slit before anyone had woken up) I was ashamed of myself, for I had insulted the ronin’s honor and mocked the memory of the man that I had killed to his brothers. I had not conducted myself honorably. Bloodshed does not bother me. I have seen much battle over the last year, and killed many men, but this engagement felt… pointless.

Crab are considered more pragmatic than honorable. Lives that could have been better spent fighting the Yobanjin were wasted to accomplish nothing. But there was more than that. I glory in providing a good death to an enemy, but when my lord says that man is no longer my enemy, what point is there in causing his death?

Later that night, one of the idiot Unicorns tossed one of the other idiot Unicorn’s scimitars into the bushes. I kept the sword, and in the morning I publically ripped Shinjo Braga apart for several minutes. He has been troublesome, so I told him that if he had lost his weapon on the Wall, we would’ve tossed him over the side to go find it, and that if he ever screwed up and endangered us again, I would personally kill him. In fact, I gave him a long list of transgressions that would cause me to kill him. That finally shut him up.

We and the ronin are on the trail to their village. Just now, Magatsu decided to wake up the biggest earth kami anyone had ever seen, just to tell it we were passing through and to ask for its blessings. I think he might have been showing off to scare the ronin… I do believe it worked. I for one, will never look at rocks the same way.  Zukozuko and Machio have used the distraction to slip away to scout ahead at the High House of Light.

I must finish writing, for we shall arrive in the village shortly.

To be continued next week when we go after our cursed evil sword:  Including a short story that I love from the PoV of a random guy guarding a hut.

Quick updates
Out of touch rich guys and tax time fun

3 thoughts on “The Burning Throne, Episode 13: The Mountain Spirits”

  1. Larry, why is it that every time I come to your website it costs me money? Tabloid Reporter to the stars may have been free when you posted it, but, now, I had to pay $0.99 for it (totally worth it by the way) Then there was Schlock mercenary, another order at Baen. I also have ARCs of your last two novels from Baen, since I could not wait for my webscription version to be complete after reading the first parts, then there is the two volumes of Crimson Pact, Variant from Robinson Wells… Anyway, keep up the good work. I am really looking forward to the next novel.

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