Chapter 16: Uji no Tatakai (Battle of Uji) - Chapter 16

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 252
Comments: 1

In Otsu, as the reprovisioned and again well-dressed band of samurai approach Lord Otani’s castle, they were halted at the entrance to a battlement made of bamboo stakes and bales of hay.  The watch guard held up his hand imperiously to them.  Katsuro gave a very short, almost insulting bow, and approached him holding out his warrant papers from the Prince.

“I am Katsuro and this is my party.  We are here to meet with Lord Otani on a matter of royal business.  Let us pass!”

“I will determine who passes,” the guard said, taking the warrant from Katsuro.  “You will wait.”  He said curtly, turning on his heel and marching away.

Iwao waited for the explosion, but it did not come.  Instead, Katsuro backed away, led his men to a spot beside the trail and squatted down, motioning the other to follow suit.

“We will wait.”  Katsuro said, pulling out a fig from his pouch.

Omi leaned over to Iwao.  “I have never seen him act this way before.  He must have more control than I do.  I would have taken the man’s head.”

“He seemed quite arrogant.  Perhaps we are not as welcome as we think.”  Iwao whispered back.

“We will be able to determine that when the guard comes back.”  Said Ijimi.  “We could tell them anything, but it must be verified.”  He glanced up.  “Look.  Here he comes now.”

The guard approached, with a much more obsequious attitude, bowing several times to Katsuro.  “You papers are in order, but you were to be a party of eight.  Where are the other two?”

“Both were killed in the earthquake and left in the canyon.”

The guard bowed again.  “Ah.  So sorry.  You may pass.”  He handed Katsuro yet another token, painted on a small wooden board.  “This will get you through to the very castle gate.  Welcome to Lord Otani’s keep.”  He bowed again.

This time all six samurai bowed as one in return, picked up their small packs, and followed Katsuro through the right and left maze which had been built to slow down any attackers.  The did not speak as there were occasional guards standing attentively to the side as they passed.

The group was immediately let through two more inner defensive positions until the foot of the great stone wall at the base of the castle appeared in front of them.  The spiked portcullis was raised but Iwao noticed that there were two men standing next to the control rope hefting huge axes which could sever the rope and cause the heavy gate to fall instantly.

Moving down a rather narrow passageway with high walls on either side, there was an identical gate, with the attendant rope-choppers on either side, at the end of the passage.  There, the guard examined their passes one final time, admitting them in silence to the inner courtyard.

They stood respectfully and quietly; awaiting developments as a man appeared entering the courtyard through a small gate.  He was unarmed, and wore no rank.  Katsuro advanced one step, bowed, and recovered.

“I am Katsuro from the encampment of Prince Mochihito.  We arrive bearing a token of the Prince’s esteem for Lord Otani.”

The new arrival bowed in return.  I am Kishini, Chamberlain to Lord Otani.  We were advised you were enroute.  A living area has been prepared for your use while you are with us.  Please follow me.”

Kishini turned and walked sedately back towards the gate he had appeared from.  Katsuro and the rest of the samurai followed him in single file, palms resting on the hilt of their katanas.  Rising up several stories on broad staircases, they were shown to a small room in the west wing of the castle.  There, they found refreshments, futons, and bundles of clothing to be worn for their appearance before Lord Otani.

A servant tapped discretely on the door and slid it open, bowing to the floor.  “If you please, esteemed samurai, it is Lord Otani’s request that you meet with him this afternoon.  Will that be convenient?”

Hai.  Very convenient,” replied Katsuro.  “In the meantime, we will remain here in this room as you, no doubt, have guards placed nearby.”

“Yes, sir.”  Said the servant, not completely answering Katsuro’s veiled request for further information.

“We await Lord Otani’s pleasure, then.”

Silently, the servant bowed yet again and withdrew, sliding the door closed.  Katsuro made a hand motion for his men to assemble near him.  Leaning forward in a circle, he informed them that they were to speak in low tones, or not at all, as this may be a hostile environment and they may have to fight their way out – if they could.

“I thought Lord Otani was loyal to the Prince,” said Ijimi softly.  “Why would he attempt to kill us?”

“Perhaps he has other plans for himself only that do not include war with the Taira.”  Mused Omi.

“Or second thoughts as to weakening his own armies.  The loss of a thousand ashigari would be significant, would they not?”  Added Shinji.

“Yes.  Yes.  All perhaps true, but it is possible our fears may be groundless.  In any case we are to be on full alert at all times.  We may even be asked to disarm ourselves before the audience, so we will allow that, but I, for one, intend to keep a small stinger hidden for added insurance.”  Advised Katsuro.

Omi nodded.  “A very good idea.  So shall I.”

“I have two myself, which are hard to detect.  I will keep them at the ready.”  Said Iwao, speaking for the first time.  “But now, should we not rest?”

Katsuro nodded.  “Yes.  I would like to bathe, actually.  I wonder if there are such facilities nearby.”

He went to the door and slid the panel open.  Instantly, a guard appeared.  “Yes?”

“My men and I are rather dusty from our travels.  Would we be allowed a quick bath before our presentation to Lord Otani?”

The guard gave a quick bow.  “Hai!  You have been given such time.  Follow me.”

* * *

Fully bathed, refreshed, and dressed in the clothing provided by Lord Otani, Katsuro and his samurai followed a servant up three more floors.  The man paused before an ornately decorated teak doorway, bowing to the floor after tapping discretely on it.

Both sides of the door slid open as a chime sounded and a voice rang out officially announcing their arrival into the presence of Lord Otani.

“My lord!”  Called the hidden speaker.  “Six samurai from the court of Prince Mochihito have arrived and are requesting permission to approach your presence.”

Lord Otani, sitting erect on a raised seat lifted his hand and signaled his acceptance.  “Bid them enter, Chamberlain.  All from Prince Mochihito’s court are welcome in my humble domicile.”  He said in a soft but gruff voice.

Katsuro and his seven samurai entered slowly, holding a half-bow until acknowledged by Lord Otani, who waved them to cushions placed on the mat before him.

“Lord Otani.”  Began Katsuro.  “I have been charged by prince Mochihito to present you with a token of his esteem with the hopes he finds you in good health.”

Lord Otani bowed in return, his eyes betraying his interest in what Katsuro held in his outstretched hands.  “You may approach.”

Katsuro did as ordered and Lord Otani received the ornately wrapped ceremonial sword, letting the binding tie slip loose.  Grasping the hilt of the sword, he slid it slowly and carefully a small distance out of the scabbard.  One never removed a sword from a scabbard fully unless it was to be used as intended – as a weapon.

A low murmur of admiration between guests in the room at the gift quickly came to a halt as Lord Otani looked up and spoke.  “I am pleased that His Grace Prince Mochihito thinks so highly of me and any assistance I may be able to offer.  Please be seated and we will begin.”

 


Submitted: December 11, 2014

© Copyright 2022 B Douglas Slack. All rights reserved.

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Mr Watson

Great chapter Tom, as always very descriptive and knowledgeable, which makes the read more attentive.

Sun, December 14th, 2014 8:27pm

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Thanks. I may be a little late with more chapters. Possibly after Christmas. Our little family typhoon has picked up steam and now involves my wife and I even more. May have to take a quick trip to Colorado to straighten things out.

Sun, December 14th, 2014 12:38pm

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