(Region 28 – Madrid, Spain; made public by Pablo Rojo)
Seikitsu Pass, Unicorn Lands
Moto Latomu had been present at the Shogun’s camp when the man who called himself the Doomseeker arrived. Once, he had been Iuchi Katamari, the son of a famed Unicorn maiden and an unknown father. Now, he wore the mask and title that the legendary Iuchi Karasu once bore, and carried the favor of the Wolf. The Khan met Katamari with the respect he reserved for a select few, listening intently to his grave warnings.
The Doomseeker spoke of a time when the Bloodspeakers would rise against the Empire, when men of honor would be forced to conduct a savage blood hunt to root out the sinister cult. Sezaru, he claimed, now knew how to find Iuchiban’s followers. It remained only to stop them before it was too late. If they succeeded this would be a time of great victory for the Empire, ending a menace that had plagued it for centuries. If they failed, the Empire would be drowned in blood again.
Latomu remembered the Rain of Blood vividly. On that day, his wife had fallen to the madness of Iuchiban’s magic and slain their only son. He had been forced to strike her down in turn. The bitter agony would never fade. If this was to be the last days of the Bloodspeakers, he could not stand idle. Latomu did not like Katamari, and he did not trust the man, but he could not deny the ring of truth in the Doomseeker’s words. He immediately volunteered to be the Khan’s messenger to the Imperial Legions.
The Khan, also greatly disturbed by Katamari’s warnings, agreed. Katamari and Sezaru named many possible targets of future Bloodspeaker attacks. Among them was named the Way of Night and the hidden ruin the Horiuchi family guarded there. Now Latomu marched through the Seikitsu Pass, among the soldiers of the Legions and the Unicorn Clan, guarding Seikitsu Pass. Latomu recognized the faces of the soldiers who stood beside him as those loyal to both Chagatai and the Shogun. If they succeeded here, he had little doubt that the Khan would use their victory as a means to bind his clan more closely to the Shogun and increase Kaneka’s power. While Latomu was aware of the politics, he did not care. If the Shogun could protect the Empire where the Emperor could not, perhaps he deserved whatever he gained from their struggle.
So long as he had his vengeance, the rest did not matter.
Latomu reined in his horse at a sharp bend in the winding mountains. Below, a narrow ravine led off to the east. Within, deep in a smaller valley, was hidden a circle of small huts. Even from here, he could see the lights burning within. He could see a flurry of movement as many shadowed figures gathered.
“The kansen are strong here,” said Moto Akikazu. The shugenja rode beside Latomu, his many amulets and fetishes gently chiming together as he moved. His voice was worried. “The Doomseeker was right. The Bloodspeakers are preparing a powerful ritual of some sort. They take little effort to hide the kansen swirling about the pass.” He looked to Latomu. “Either they did not expect our arrival or they do not care if we intend to stop them.”
“What are they preparing?” Latomu asked
“I cannot say, my lord,” the shugenja said. “An attack will be dangerous without knowing the extent of their defenses.”
Latomu looked grimly back of the shugenja. “And how much more dangerous will our situation be if we allow them to finish their ritual?”
The shugenja’s face was pale. “I do not recommend we wait any longer,” he said. “May the Lords of Death bless our enemies.”
Latomu returned his gaze to the village and raised his tessen high, drawing the attention of his soldiers. He could feel the souls of his wife and son close by, granting him strength, howling for vengeance. The Bloodspeakers might have summoned an army of foul spirits to defend themselves this night, but they had no inkling of the fury that stood ready to consume them. A humorless smile spread across Latomu’s face.
He gave the command to attack.