The Empire Reborn
Turn 2 Crab and Scorpion
(OOC, many thanks to JerB and Kevzen on this, the dialogue is 90% thiers. This counts as scrolls of history for them both this turn!)
The forests of Shastakar are ancient, thick, and deep. The Rokugani who live on the outskirts live off of farming, logging, and foraging for unusual and expensive herbs and plants. They rarely travel far into the forests due to the ancient, mysterious, and reptilian Naga race that has called these forests home. These forests, and the Shinomen to the north. But the Shinomen forests now belong to the Scorpion. And the Shastakar forests are now host to the troops of the Crab Clan. When the Naga and Crab meet, it is not across a battlefield, but a table of diplomacy. But as rare occurrence as this is, the negotiation that follows is far more important…
The Crab troops push hard and fast into Shastakar, marching days and part of the nights to secure a camp in its heart with their new allies. Kuni Shinamoto is a harsh taskmaster, but he has his suspicions about what is to happen. When his scouts report the approach of Scorpion troops from the east, he nods grimly. “They will want to talk,” he tells his retainers. “Send a rider; they are to meet with us at noon tomorrow, so their delegation will be far ahead of their army. I don’t want any tricks.”
The next day in a small clearing the Crab face the Scorpion. Kuni Shinamoto is backed with a dozen retainers, mostly students of his and some Crab Witch Hunters. The Scorpion are disheveled from hard and fast travel, their horses exhausted, but their faces remain hidden by their masks.
There is some ritual offering of tea and rice, but it is simple and brief. The message to the Scorpion is clean: this is our house, and our hospitality for you is very limited. The leader of the Scorpion delegation, a man with a full-faced mask of a snarling tiger in silver and onyx, seems amused.
“I will be blunt,” starts Shinamoto
“I wouldn’t expect a Crab to be anything else,” interjects Tiger, with an amused tone.
Shinamoto’s eyes narrow. “Shastakar province and the noble Naga who live here are now allies of the Crab Clan.” There are some scandalized murmurs from the Scorpion delegation, but Tiger remains silent. Shinamoto continues. “These noble Naga have petitioned the Crab clan for protection from extermination at the hands of the Scorpion clan. As an enlightened society the Empire must seek to expand its subjects and bring in new allies. Naturally the Crab are best suited to this purpose since the Naga and Crab have long been allies against the Shadowlands and its evil. The Naga will retain independence and ancient ways. And the Scorpion will return to their own lands.”
Tiger quizzically cocks his head, as if regarding a child who has done something strange. “It seems the Crab may have taken leave of their senses. First, there can be no province in Rokugan whose inhabitants has not sworn themselves to the Empire, so I will not treat with the natives here unless they are willing to give 100 percent fealty to the Empire. Allying is not enough. Alliances will break.”
“Something the Scorpion know very well,” growls Shinamoto.
Tiger continues: “If the Empire is to be reborn to stability and strength, this province must be controlled by one of the Emperor’s chosen representatives: the Great Clans. If the Crab do not have the will to do this, then the Scorpion will do what is necessary to make the Naga vassals, not allies.
“The Scorpion have no quarrel with the Crab Clan and do not wish to harm your representatives in these parts, but know that we intend to govern this province in the name of the Emperor, and will not tolerate any resistance to that endeavor.” Tiger spreads his hands magnanimously and his tone becomes helpful. “Should you withdraw and allow this the Scorpion will pay both sides of a major trade agreement between whichever of your provinces and ours you choose.
Suddenly though, his voice is steel. “Should you decline you invite only death. The choice is yours, good representative of the Crab. Be sure it is the wise choice.”
Shinamoto folds his arms over his chest, his black brows knitting together in a scowl. “Sadly it appears we are at odds, oh Champion of the Scorpion.” Tiger shifts subtly in surprise. “You think the masks hide who you are, but the Crab have scouts as well. We also have our honor, and the Crab are honor bound to render whatever assistance is needed to these noble creatures against the cruel machinations of the Scorpion clan. Though alien and foreign to our ways they do not deserve the cruel fate you offer them.”
Here Shinamoto folds his arms and gestures to the forests behind him where his troops and hundreds of Naga allies wait. “Should you seek to press your claim by remaining in Shastakar providence the Crab shall meet you on the field of battle and crush your forces.
“Much like the scorpion I scraped off my boot yesterday.”
Shosuro Daisuke nods curtly to those, and pulls back to his retainers. They speak quietly in a group for many minutes, while Shinamoto watches them intently. Finally, Daisuke comes forward.
“In light of your nobel sentiments I propose a modification to the deal. I have no intention of “exterminating” every Naga, despite what they may believe, In fact the only thing I have against them is that they refuse to be vassals of the Emperor. You would prefer them allies, but allies can turn on you whereas vassals tied to the fate of their ruler. You and I have two different opinions of how this should go, if you seem insistent that only extreme violence to settle it, perhaps we should change course and leave it to the gods to decide who it is that is right.
“I propose we duel to first blood. No death need come of this difference of opinion, but we need a settlement of the issue. The winner may do with the province as they like, though know that I will not harm the Naga should they become vassals to the Empire and should they not attack me or my men. If you would like the responsibility of harboring them in your own lands as a separate people apart from the rest of your population to aid your defenses against the Shadowlands that is also completely agreeable.
“I do not want to spill Crab or Scorpion blood over this, but I also will not back down. So, will you accept a ruling from the gods or needlessly spill the blood of our armies when it could be saved for a more disastrous enemy?”
Now it is Shinamoto’s turn to confer with his allies and retainers. However, this is over much more quickly than the Scorpion’s negotiation.
“I am afraid your proposal is unacceptable to the Naga. They are very upset with the Scorpion clan over the death of their leader, the Qamar. In fact, had the Crab clan not intervened they would have attacked you as you entered their lands. They are demanding that you leave their lands immediately. Your army approaching from the east must immediately turn back to Scorpion lands, or there will be a battle.”
Daisuke sighs, and steeples his fingers. “Then, it appears we have a problem…”
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