The Empire Reborn
Turn 2 Shastakar
Battle for Shastakar Province
Daisuke sighs, and steeples his fingers. “Then, it appears we have a problem…”
“…because my army isn’t a day to the east. It is already here.”
Suddenly, the forests around them ripple with sound. Cries of surprise and alarm rise out of the Crab camp as Scorpion ashigaru and scouts charge out of the trees. A vanguard of samurai cavalry smash through the command tents full of officers separated from their units, planning for the engagement they thought was at least a day away. Arrows rain down along with great stones and spears from numerous siege engines.
Shinamoto gapes in shock at the ambush as his men panic, but only for a moment. “Seize them!” he shouts, pointing at the Scorpion delegation. “If we have their Champion we can force an end to this!” Daisuke and his men draw their weapons and pull into a defensive circle. Tetsubo and ono clash against katana and yari, but Shinamoto’s magics rain down flame and jagged stone, and the Scorpion defenders are overwhelmed.
“Scorpion dog,” snarls Shinamoto to the Scorpion Champion, who is suspended between two Crab berserkers. He is bloodied and his silver and onyx full-face mask of a snarling tiger has been knocked slightly crooked. “How did you manage this ambush?! My scouts reported-“
“What I paid them to report,” responds Daisuke, a smile in his voice. “Your information was as good as the men who brought it to you. It’s much easier to change the men than it is to change the information. We’ve been here as long as you have, moving into position. Once you engaged the Naga in parley, they stopped being concerned about humans in their lands. I fear they’re out of practice, it seems we don’t appear that different to them.”
Shianmoto grinds his teeth, but the screams of his men snaps him back to attention. The outer ring of ashigaru that guards the Crab’s encampment is being slaughtered, and the Naga allies that rush to assist them are not faring any better. He raises his wakizashi to Daisuke’s neck.
“Call off the attack now, or the Scorpion will need a new Champion.”
“Why would they,” asks tiger-mask, “the current champion is not in any danger?” Tiger waits a second as Shinamoto looks confused, but the his eyes widen. “Crab, you said that the our masks did not hide our identities. You do not know the true meaning of the mask.”
With a roar of frustration, Shinamoto impales the man in front of him and then charges with his troops back his men.
Daisuke looks over the battle from his vantage point on a nearby hill. The Crab encampment is still in chaos, Scorpion forces charging in and out, increasing the mayhem and panic with surgical strikes.
“Keep the bowmen and siege equipment pounding them,” he says in a soft voice. “We can drive the remaining ashigaru right into the blades of the samurai, leaving no survivors.” His eyes are hidden behind the snarling tiger mask, but he seems to be watching the movements of the Crab intently.
“Yes, my Champion!” replies an aide. “For the Scorpion! We shall show them no mercy!”
“On the contrary, we are showing mercy,” Daisuke interjects quietly. “To pull back now, to give them a chance to flee or re-group and think there is a future for them in this battle, in the fight against the Scorpion. That would be cruel. No, a single devastating strike now, to prove to them the futility, this is the mercy.”
The aide looks on in awe. “I think I understand, my Champion. I have so much to learn from you.”
The tiger-mask looks out over the battlefield. “We all have much to learn from him,” comes the reply.
Shinamoto has not had his best day as a general. He and his retainers have had to fight through the rear line of the Scorpion force encircling his own just to reach his own command unit. While he and his Naga allies may have nearly doubled the number of their Scorpion attackers an hour ago, the forests and rows of the Crab encampment are choked with dead and dying Crab troops. Wherever the real Daisuke is, he has a strong grasp of the military situation and a robust scouting network. The Scorpion continue to press the Crab and Naga, preventing them from moving from small pockets desperate to survive into a coherent fighting force.
Shinamoto snaps a final set of orders to his acolytes and they begin the final steps of the Crab’s ritual battle magics. He thanks the Celestial Dragons that he had spent many hours the previous night preparing all the herbal elixirs needed. If they can only get them distributed, they may have a fighting chance!
“Zakanyo!” he swears, “This is a total disaster! Hirito will have my head over this!”
“Him, or someone else,” comes a voice behind him. Suddenly, his retainers are battling dozens of Scorpion scouts that have pushed into this area. He spins around, pulling a scroll, and finds himself once again facing the silver and onyx tiger. This Daisuke is holding a katana and a handful of throwing daggers, and suddenly is a blur of sharp steel.
Shinamoto shouts a name of the Earth Dragon and his skin becomes tough and flinty. Daggers strike him in the forehead and neck, throwing sparks. Daisuke lunges at him but is thrown back and to the ground in an exhalation of dust and stony shrapnel. Pricked with a dozen minor wounds, Daisuke is slowed for a moment, giving Shinamoto the chance to call up a razor sharp spire of stone beneath him. But the Scorpion moves with the spire, propelling himself up and into the Crab where his blade bites deep enough to penetrate the stoney skin.
Shinamoto grunts in pain and claps both hands together. Twin pillars of earth leap from the ground and slam into Daisuke, pinning his arms to his sides and holding him in place.
“I have you now,” pants Shinamoto, bringing up his wakizsahi.
“Do you?” says tiger-mask.
A flash of doubt grips Shinamoto’s mind. What if the real Daisuke is about to strike him from behind? His eyes dart left and right lightning fast. In that moment the pinned figure strikes upward with his foot, a hidden blade emerging, and slams it into Shinamoto’s previous wound.
The Crab shugenja gasps, and staggers back, clutching his stomach. His vision swims before him. He blinks for what seems to be only a second but in that timeframe the tiger-mask has escaped the pillars. However, his men have driven off the Scorpion and surround him has he collapses.
The Scorpion continue their assault on the leaderless Crab troops. Moving all that siege equipment through the forests was a daunting task, but the piles of stone and huge lances of wood they relentlessly rain down upon the Crab continue to rack up casualties. The Crab’s elite berserkers are pinned down and decimated. Shinamoto acolytes have to expose themselves to arrows and the opposing shugenja in order to deliver the Crab Battle Draught. While they eventually succeed, barely a man remains uninjured.
Finally, the remaining Crab and their Naga allies manage to gather together toward the center of the ruined camp, surrounded by burning trees and tents and blood-soaked underbrush. Shinamoto ordered a retreat before succumbing to unconsciousness, so the mounted bowmen and naga are focused on punching a hole in the Scorpion lines. Empowered by the battle drought, they rain a black cloud of arrows down upon the Scorpion ashigaru, who cannot escape the expert marksmen.
The Crab Cavalry lead the charge into the weak point in the Scorpion lines. Unwilling to let their prey escape, the Bayushi blademasters and the black-clad Scouts make them pay for every foot, cutting down the horses and impaling the men as they tumble from the saddle. The Naga are massive creatures, each twice the size of a man, but once the Scorpion are in melee rage their bows and light armor do not protect them well. But each one that falls brings the remaining Crab army closer to freedom.
The blademasters block the final escape route, the highly trained elite of the Scorpion. But the Crab’s scout cavalry, boiling with rage from the Battle Drought and the deaths of their brethren, slam into them like an unstoppable avalanche. The ring of Scorpion is broken and the Crab and Naga have an escape route. Desperate simply to survive, they take it and flee back to Ukyo.
Scorpion Claim the Province.
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