The Mantis Isles, IC 1138
Wind swept salt spray lashed the docks of Kyuden Gotei, capital of the Shogunate. The Mantis fleet made it’s home here, based in the third largest city in Rokugan it was well equipped and provisioned by the wealth of the Clan. Late summer heat laid a heavy hand over the city, with the threat of thunder and storm never far off. Today though, Lady Sun shone her blessings over the ships and donjons. Within the heart of the city, the Shogun himself sat quietly listening to his advisors.
“Each year the Shadowlands grows further northwards,” Shinjo Akuma pressed his finger to the map spread over the tatami mats in front of the assembled generals. “When will our cousins be able to halt this spread I ask?”
“It is not a simple matter Akuma-sama. The elements become harder to control each year, the kami more difficult to entreat. The Taint has ever been difficult to eradicate. The wastelands of my homeland speak to that fact,” Kuni Satoko responded, her gaze averted to the floor in shame. “The Kuni and our brethern in other clans have been working non-stop since the fall of the Hantei.”
“It is of little help that jade supplies are at all time lows, we have barely enough to last the year. We must procure more to have any chance of mounting an assault of meaning,” Matsu Akiage interjected. “The Crab tell us that soon the Damned will outnumber the healthy Hida troops available to our cause.”
“Indeed,” Hida O-Ushi nodded at the Lion daimyo. “Every month more of our men present with symptoms of Taint. There is little time left for debate. The time for action has come.”
“New supplies of jade are what’s important. We must secure a source”
“There is a way,” the broken voice of Shinjo Yokatsu cut across all the others. Each of the champions bowed their heads to listen to the retired Unicorn. “Send across the mountains, to the Burning Sands, where there are still allies of the Unicorn. Old friendships run deep. We can secure jade from there.”
“We can not send across the mountains Yokatsu-sama, we are on the Mantis Isles, far away,” Iuchi Kanbe placed a hand gingerly on the older man’s forearm. “I am sorry my lord.”
“Across the mountains, they will send help,” the older man nodded firmly, his one good eye unfocused, lost to memory. The others politely ignored the revered daimyo’s lapse, unwilling to dishonour his name.
“Enough,” Tsuruchi leaned forward, his hands balled into fists. “I agree that the time to talk has ended. We must take some action. My bounty hunters have located a small jade mine along the Crane coast. There is a small force of Daidoji guarding the village but my sources tell me it is no more then ten warriors. Ever since Kisada outlawed jade mining it has been abandoned, but beforehand it was a rich vein only recently tapped. The supply from this may be enough to support our forces for years.”
“Or for one major assault,” O-Ushi nodded.
“For this first step we would require the consent of our noble Crane allies however,” Tsuruchi looked to the Crane representatives.
Daidoji Uji looked momentarily uncomfortable before nodding. “Hai,” was all he said.
“Then it is settled?” the former Wasp daimyo looked to the others of the council. Each nodded in turn before Tsuruchi looked to his lord. Through all of this, Yoritomo had remained silent and still. Now, the Son of Storms stood and walked to the screen door overlooking the small garden outside the council room. The others remained where they sat, as they knew not to move without the Shogun’s leave.
“Nothing is ever what it seems any more,” the Shogun’s pronouncement surprised the assembled samurai. “We can not take any chances. If this mine is where you say it is, and if it is still prospectable, then we can not afford to leave it in enemy hands. But what if it is a trap? No disrespect to you Tsuruchi-san, but our scouts and hunters have been misled in the past.”
“Hai, Yoritomo-sama,” the Wasp shifted uncomfortably.
“We need more information,” the Shogun’s gaze lingered on the cherry blossom tree at the centre of the small rock garden. Turning he looked to Tsuruchi and smiled slightly. “Yoritomo Atsumori has returned to the city?”
“Hai my lord, he has. The Seaclaw docked yesterday.”
“Send for him. I wish to speak to him. Tell him that his Shogun has a task that only the Seaclaw can perform.”
“At once Yoritomo-sama. Though his crew took losses on his last voyage. He will need replacements.”
“I’m sure we can find him some.”
“Hai Yoritomo-sama, hai.”