Chapter 8: Uji no Tatakai (Battle of Uji) - Chapter 8

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

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

Reads: 187
Comments: 1

Juro sat in his field chair and hiked it up to a small table spread with maps.  Indicating that they should arrange themselves around the table, Katsuro and his samurai gathered about.  Laying his finger on a spot, Juro announced “this is where we are encamped now.”  Then, dragging his finger southwest, he stopped again at a small dot named ‘Uji’ and tapped his blunt finger on it.

“Here is where we need to be in three to four weeks.  The Prince is in the process of gathering up as many fighters as he can for his assault on Kyoto.  Through Yorimasa, he has decided that the three – pardon me – the four of you are to be augmented with another four samurai and to make a trek up to this area.”  He dragged his finger northwest to an expanse of blue.

Yoshida Iwao had rarely seen maps of any kind.  Sure, there were ancient maps, mostly of coastal areas, used by mariners, but he had never seen a proper map, much less a campaign map.  He watched with interest as Katsuro and Juro outlined a probable route for them to take towards Lake Biwa.

Juro continued.  “Your goal is to make contact with Lord Otani and pass him the Prince’s request for troops.  You are also to present him with this katana.”  Juro opened a lacquered cabinet and hefted a long wooden package wrapped in silken cloth and held closed with a series of ribbons tied in elaborate knots, and set it carefully on the table.  “This is ceremonial in nature, but serviceable nonetheless.”

A collective gasp went up from the men surrounding the table.  Iwao had never seen anything as beautiful as that package and vowed to himself that no matter what he would see that it was presented to the warlord or he would die trying.

Juro reverently stowed the sword back into the cabinet and turned to the group, hands behind his back.  “Katsuro!”  Katsuro’s head lifted attentively from the map.  “You are to pick four more samurai for the trek.  Make sure you have enough supplies for at least ten days or possibly two weeks.  No longer!  You must be back here in this camp in fourteen days so Prince Mojihito will be able to include any troops Lord Otani provides.”

Hai!”  Said Katsuro, bowing deeply.  “It will be done.”

Juro rummaged in another cubbyhole of the desk and took out a knotted silken rope attached to a cachet folded into an oilskin pouch.  “Here are your orders.  My orders to you are simple: untie a knot a day and if you aren’t back by the time you run out of knots, you will not come back at all – you understand?”  He took in all four samurai.  “Do all of you understand?”

Hai!”  They said in unison, bowing again.

Juro clapped Iwao on the back.  “And now, my young samurai, on to more pleasurable things, nei?  None other than Minamoto no Yorimasa himself is to make a presentation to you and we must not keep him waiting.”

They left Juro’s tent.  Katsuro tucked the ominous telltale into his vest and straightened his outer clothing.  Omi and Ijimi did the same, making sure they were presentable as they walked towards the royal tent.  As they walked an increasing amount of samurai and other ranks fell in behind them until quite a column followed.  They came to a halt and presented ranks silently, waiting for Yorimasa to appear.

As a distant monastery bell tolled the noon hour, the curtained entrance to the Prince’s tent opened and Yorimasa strutted out.  He was trailed by several servants carrying items on outstretched arms.  One of them, Iwao saw, was carrying a set of swords.

Yorimasa stopped and the entire contingent of men bowed as one.  He gave a sharp response and strode further, unfolding a rice paper scroll as he marched.  When he stopped he began to read...

“His Grace, Prince Mochihito no Yorimasa, wishes to acknowledge the son of a samurai, a strong, stalwart samurai who did not fail in his duty to his liege lord even though he fell in battle.  To this end, he has personally penned a scroll for young Yoshida Iwao.”  He glanced at Iwao and continued.  “He wishes this sentiment to be known...”

Yorimasa turned and lifted another scroll from the servant and let it unfurl, holding it high in the air.  “Behold!  Kaeru no ko wa kaeru.”

?

?

?

?

?

The surrounding ranks, as one, roared their approval of the sentiment: Child of a Frog is a Frog.  (Like father, like son.)

Iwao put his palms together and bowed deeply to Yorimasa.  He held the bow until Yorimasa cleared his throat.  Turning again to another servant, he lifted the bundle of swords and turned back to Iwao.

“These swords were recovered at the second battle of Kyoto.  They are the personal swords of a samurai and are the lifeblood of a samurai who gave his life in the service of his Lord.  You, Yoshida Iwao, are now invested into the sacred order of samurai with all the privileges, and pitfalls, that it entails.  Do you accept them?”

Hai, Yorimasa-sama.  I accept willingly!”

Raising his head, Iwao received the swords from Yorimasa and another great roar erupted from the assembled men.  Three times they cheered and then went silent yet again while Yorimasa returned to the royal tent.

Shedding tears of joy, Iwao reverently donned his father’s swords, adjusting them to their proper positions at his left side.  His three new friends, Katsuro, Omi, and Ijimi, each took turns formally bowing to him and then standing aside.  The ceremony was over now and the ranks of men broke up.  Some came to congratulate Iwao and other to more pressing duties such as food and sleep.

Flanked by Omi and Ijimi, and led by Katsuro, Iwao followed them back to their assigned bivouac area; the weight of katana and wakizashi on his hip altered his cadence slightly now – proud of his new status, he found himself almost strutting.  ‘Now is not the time to become full of myself,’ he repeated several times to himself.

 


Submitted: November 04, 2014

© Copyright 2022 B Douglas Slack. All rights reserved.

Chapters

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:

Comments

Mr Watson

So he finally got his fathers swords, I expect great things from Iwao Tom, the adventure truly begins.

Wed, November 5th, 2014 8:56pm

Author
Reply

Definitely. Most of the lead-in is preliminary character establishment. Now things start popping.

Wed, November 5th, 2014 12:58pm

Facebook Comments

More Historical Fiction Books

Other Content by B Douglas Slack