Chapter 17: Uji no Tatakai (Battle of Uji) - Chapter 17

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

Reads: 215
Comments: 1

Yoshida Iwao and his companions endured the entire morning sitting cross-legged on thin cushions while Katsuro dealt with the niceties of court dialogue.  Lord Otani hardly spoke as his Chamberlain, Kishini, handled most of the discussion.  By high noon, everyone was more than ready for a short break for rest and refreshment.

That afternoon, the details of the transfer of men were completed.  The scribe wrote out the certificate of warrant and Lord Otani affixed his chop at the bottom.  Then the thin paper was folded and tied with a golden ribbon and formally handed to Katsuro, along with his traveling orders and statement of command.  Stiffly, Katsuro and his entourage bowed to the court as Lord Otani left the room.

Once back in their quarters, the samurai made their plans for departure early the next morning.  Outside, they could hear the men chosen for the detachment forming up on the parade ground west of the castle.  Looking out the window and casting his professional eye over his new command, Katsuro allowed that perhaps the men would be capable of fighting properly.  “At least they look like good men,” he said, almost to himself.

“Also, Katsuro my friend, Lord Otani has made you overall commander of this cadre,” said Omi, standing beside Katsuro.  “That at least will give you the latitude you need to train the men somewhat on the journey home.  I do think that this large a group may have trouble passing down that narrow canyon, however.”

Katsuro grunted.  “Hai!  But I do not think we will go back the way we came.  We now have the weight of troops in our favor.  The bandits and ronin of Otanicho Pass will hesitate to attack such a strong force, nei?”

Ijimi stroked his chin.  “Perhaps.  Perhaps you may be right, Katsuro.  It would shorten the trip by many days; and time is getting short is it not?”

Katsuro clapped Ijimi on his shoulder.  “It is that, my friend.  It is that.  Now, let us gather the captains and review the troops.  Look sharp!”

By the time the review of all the troops, as well as seeing to their equipment and feeding, it was long past sundown.  Katsumi and his samurai went back to their quarters.  Katsuro released his escorts, reminding them he was to be wakened at dawn.

The first light of daybreak was just a bright spot in the clouds over the lake when Katsuro, who had lain awake for a little while, heard the tap on the door panel.  Letting the messenger know he was awake, he roused the others, and they prepared to depart the castle.  Outside, the faint sounds of an encampment coming alive could be heard.  The shouts of Gashira as they rousted their men from their bedrolls even more forceful because of the light breeze.

By the time a short meal was consumed within the castle, Katsuro and his men were prepared to assume command and begin the march back to Prince Mochihito’s encampment.  Mounts had been provided for the cadre leaders and many pack animals carrying field equipment such as tenting and cooking utensils would bring up the rear of the column.

Lord Otani stood on a battlement high on the castle and watched the column of men set off to the accompaniment of measured beats from the marching drum.  He smiled inwardly, wondering if Prince Mochihito would even bother to count the actual number of men he’d provided.  If he did, he would find that he’d been shorted by two hundred.  Still, eight hundred fighting men was not a trifle.

* * *

Reaching Otanicho Pass near nightfall, the column halted and set up a simple camp.  Fires were lit and a minimal amount of rations were prepared and distributed to the troops.  Katsuro and his men made the rounds, talking briefly to the individual group commanders in order to get a feel for how well their training had progressed.

Returning to the command tent, Ijimi was the first to comment.  “They do appear to be fairly well trained, Katsuro.  But I am concerned that most of them have never been in battle before.”

“They will find out what it is like soon enough,” ventured Shinji.

“Perhaps bandits will attack after all.  That may provide a gauge as to how well they behave in a fight,” said Omi.

Katsuro shrugged.  “No matter.  Once in battle they will either survive or not.  What happens depends on them and how much training they may have had.  For now, let us get our own rest.  My calculations say that we should reach Prince Mochihito’s encampment in two days.”

Iwao spoke up.  “That is considerably shorter than our trip out here.  Is this route truly that much different?”

“Hai!” grunted Katsuro.  “Once we reach the river, all we have to do is walk south to camp.  It is a long march, but our troops are fresh.  We, on the other hand, will not be fresh if we don’t get some sleep.  Now, to bed.”

The tent became silent as the samurai rolled out their beds and made ready to sleep.  They kept their swords by their sides, ready for instant use should that become necessary.

* * *

On the afternoon of the predicted second day, advance runners returned to the column after making contact with the pickets of the Prince’s main encampment.  Katsuro sent Iwao and Goro ahead to find out where the men were to be bivouacked, giving them a pass for the guards.

Iwao approached the first guard and dismounted, walking his horse up to the barricade.  “I am in advance of a column of a thousand men allocated from Lord Otani to the Prince,” he said, making a short bow.  “Lead me to overall commander Juro.”

A runner was provided who led Goro and Iwao up to the tent housing his commander, Juro.  Dismounting once again, he sent the runner away with their horses, straightened his tunic, and paused at the entrance to the tent.

“Commander Juro!” he called respectfully.  “We have returned from Lord Otani as ordered.  Where shall we post the men?”

Juro appeared through the flap sliding his swords into his obi.  “Welcome, Warbler.  I see you made good time.  How far afield is the column?”

“Perhaps two hours march, Juro-sama.”

“Good.  Good.  Have Katsuro split his men and send half to the west cadre and the other half to the south cadre.  They will be expected.”

Iwao bowed.  “Hai!  It will be done.”

Juro held up a hand.  “Also, I wish you and Goro to attend me at morning meal.  There is business to be undertaken.”

Iwao and Goro both bowed.  “As you wish, Juro-sama.”

 


Submitted: January 23, 2015

© Copyright 2022 B Douglas Slack. All rights reserved.

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Mr Watson

I thought you'd deserted us ! 800 Men on a two day march theres bound to be trouble.

Sat, January 24th, 2015 6:11pm

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Heh. Took me a while to get my enthusiasm back into gear after all we went through during the holidays. But I'm back now and hope to be dropping a new chapter into the mix every few days.

Most troops, way back then, were fairly uneducated and did what they were told to do. If not, there was always the option of losing one's head - literally.

~Tom

Sat, January 24th, 2015 10:48am

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