The Empire Reborn
Turn 2 Toturi
Battle for Toturi Province
The Lion force that moves into Toturi province is large, marching into the province from both Kitsu and Hantei provinces. The numerous troops also have training from some of the best sensei in Rokugan. No one disputes the Lion’s ability to prepare infantry. But even more dangerous is the Lion general, Tadaka, who commands them. The tactical genius of the Lion is well known, and their generals take their large and well-trained armies and make them a dozen times more dangerous.
“Which is why I was hired,” reflects the assassin watching Tadaka’s command tent from his hiding place within the Lion encampment.
Information about the Lion Clan Champion isn’t readily available. Like many clans, the Lion’s elders were devastated by the Collar and its new leadership rose from obscurity. But the assassin has reviewed the reports from Kitsu, and knows what a potent shugenja Tadaka is.
Hence the Essence of Chokeweed. A rare and difficult to create poison, it is nearly undetectable but steals the ability of its victims to speak. A shugenja who cannot call out to the kami may not be defenseless, but is greatly weakened indeed. The assassin waits with nearly infinite patience, watching men come and go as night falls. The Lion apparently have some fear of underhanded dealings: as the Champion’s dinner is brought to him, his tasters check it first. Even his water is checked.
“It’s unfortunate we live in times that require so much suspicion,” sighs the assassin. Life before the Collar was much easier for everyone. Tadaka is up late reviewing reports and maps by candlelight, and eventually retires without taking in anything that wasn’t already checked by someone first.
Which is why the assassin had spent all that time swapping out the standard candles with the ones he had created, where the wax was saturated with the Chokeweed. Breathing that for the past several hours should be more than sufficient. He finally unfolds his black-clad frame, checks his blade, and moves silently past the guards and into Tadaka’s tent.
The assassin moves quickly and quietly through Tadaka’s tent. His preferred style is a single potent cut and then a quick departure. Beheading was always effective, disembowelment also fun, but in a pinch a quick slash to a major artery usually got the job done. He slides up to Tadaka’s bed quickly and his blade leaps. He knows better than to linger or savor, those hold no interest for him anyway. The blade flashes down, neatly severing Tadaka’s pillow.
The Lion kicks out from under the bed where he had rolled at the last second, knocking the assassin momentarily off-balance. Tadaka leaps upward toward his gear. The assassin knows that going for his scrolls will not help him, and lunges to intercept.
But instead of cutting through a useless scroll and into the man’s neck, the assassin’s blade strikes the fire-tempered steel of a katana. Tadaka attempts to cry an alarm, but realizes quickly he cannot. Instead his blade flashes like a cloud of dragonflies at the assassin, who is suddenly on the defensive. The Lion Champion’s skill with a blade is impressive and completely unexpected.
Too many seconds have passed and things are rapidly heading south. Without a sound, the assassin pulls two smoke eggs from his pouch. One is thrown at the Lion, who cuts it in half and clouds himself in smoke, the other at the front of the tent where the Champion’s guards are coming in to see what the commotion is about.
A minute later, Tadaka’s personal shugenja is clearing the poison from his system. There are no traces of the assassin, but the Lion are more focused than ever on conquering the Province.
The ronin called Osen, who claims to be the bastard child of the Emperor, knows the Lion are coming to challenge him. He’s known for over a month that they were coming. He has focused on building up his defenses, training the rag-tag group of men under his command, mapping out all the roads, trails, paths, and routes an invading force might take. He’s prepared his scouts with all the contingencies that he can think off. He’s drilled his commanders on quick thinking, maneuvers, and small-group tactics.
For all the good it did him against the Lion Clan Champion, he might as well have spent the time watering rice.
Tadaka can see that the boy has some talent. But it’s all situational, all focused on unit tactics. Tadaka’s strategic knowledge is immense and has an ability to quickly and holistically review a battlefield and make a number of quick changes that all seem subtle but roll upward into a massive wave of strategic advantage. With a few subtle feints, simple maneuvers, and letting Osen make a mistake, Tadaka has to hold himself back to just surprising the ronin force.
Osen is overwhelmed. The Lion forces appear to be everywhere, always anticipating his every action, cutting off his lines of communication and command. He’s outnumbered almost 3 to 1, there are thousands of Lion troops. Ashigaru stab and slash with yari and naginata. Bushi and scouts strike with blade. Samurai and the Matsu Deathseekers stain their katana red with the blood of their enemies. Scout cavalry on loan from the Crane trample and spear. Tadaka himself leads from the front of his troops and seems to be in two places at once, armed with scroll and blade.
Even after overcoming their surprise at the Lion’s ability to overwhelm them, the ronin troops are not able to regain momentum, allowing the Lion to continue to press them.
Osen and his retainers push into the center of the grand melee, trying to reconnect with enough unit leaders to turn the tide and coordinate a counterattack, when he comes across the banners of the Lion Clan Champion. Suddenly, he has a chance. Where tactics have failed, honor and his ability with a blade may prevail. He raises his blade and screams out a challenge:
“Lion dog! You dare threaten one of Imperial blood? I am at least your equal, by birthright as well as ability. I have taken command of this province from the bandits who flourished when the Lion abandoned it to the Collar. In your absence I was the only representation of the Order of Heaven. It was I who saved the peasants of Summer Winds Village from the brutal Seven Mask gang. It was I who defeated the horde of the slaver Martsiko and brought her to justice. And it will be I who defends this province to the death! Face me!”
The Lion samurai part, in deference to their Champion. Tadaka steps out, his light armor stained with the blood of his enemies. He raises his katana to point at Osen.
“I will face you Osen, on your request. Know that I do not honor your claim. Acts of bravery are important, but they are not what wins you honor. If you do not know this by now, then you do not deserve to rule these people.”
Osen snarls, and his blade leaps from its sheath. The duel begins, and the men around them give the two warriors space. Osen strikes fast, with wide swings designed for power and to limit the movement of his opponent. But Tadaka’s technique with a blade is much like his strategy with an army: his uses the least movement for the maximum effectiveness when dodging or striking. Quickly, Osen finds himself overextended, and the Lion Champion’s blade rakes down his shoulder and ribs.
Osen collapses, gasping, and his men roar in anger. Tadaka takes a moment to nod at a skilled opponent before the press of battle drives them apart.
The Lion have never cared for ranged attacks, and have no bowmen in their ranks. What few of Osen’s men that carry bows cannot manage a coordinated volley. But suddenly the Lion’s rearguard of ashigaru are harried by strikes of black flame and founts of choking black smoke.
“Maho, here?” thinks Tadaka. Osen did not seem to be one who would employ such dishonorable tactics. But then his scouts report something far more troubling. A force of Shadowlands creatures is moving on the rear of the Lion force, coming from the direction of Hantei province.
“We will no fight a two-front battle,” says Tadaka grimly. “I had hoped to go easy on these rebels, but I will not risk the lives of my men. This ends now.” Within minutes he has re-issued orders and it becomes apparent the Lion troops were maneuvering the ronin force into a killing box. The Lion forces smash through the remaining ronin at full charge on their way to reinforce their rear ranks. Two hours after battle is joined the ronin leader has been defeated in a duel and the ronin army has been decimated without even a single coordinated attack on the almost unscathed Lion troops.
The Shadowlands force had expected to chew apart the lightly defended rear of the Lion army, and suddenly faces its heavily armed and armored vanguard at a full charge. Before they are able to brace for the charge the Lion are upon them too. Zombies are hacked to pieces. The Maho-tuskai are left exposed and ridden down by the scout cavalry. A group of massive orge bushi manage to survive thanks to their tough hides and obsidian armor.
The remaining Shadowlands forces strike, but what damage they do is healed by the potent combat medics of the Lion, headed by Tadaka himself. In a panic, the Shadowlands creatures break and retreat back to Hantei.
The Lion take the Province.
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