Legacy of the Dark Oracle
Dragon vs Phoenix Clan Rivals
The serenity of the temple was shattered when the doors burst open; a trio of heavily armored Shiba bushi stormed in with an air of urgency. Isawa Mino frowned. She had made it clear that she did not wish to be disturbed during her meditations. Harmony was essential to communing with the kami, and she would not have it disrupted by some brutish soldier with no sense of delicacy. If these men did not have excellent reason for distubing her, they would pay dearly for their offense.
“Mino-sama,” the first one said roughly, bowing from the waist. He had the look of a man who had been riding.
“What is it?” Mino said curtly. “You know not to disturb the sanctity of this temple.”
“Hai, Mino-sama,” the bushi acknoweledged. “But I felt sure you would wish to see this.” He knelt and held his hand out, palm up. A blackened disc of metal rested there. With an expression of distate, Mino carefully examined its fire-pitted surface.
She looked up sharply when she recognized the symbol. “This is from the Shrine of the Covenant,” she said. “What has happened?”
“We do not know, my lady,” the bushi shook his head. “When we arrived, the entire temple was in ruins, burned as thoroughly as any stone can be. The guardsmen were all dead.”
“The Covenant?,” Mino said leaping to her feet. “What of the Dark Covenant of Fire?”
“Gone, Mino-sama,” the guard said forlornly.
“No! Who would dare meddle with such a deadly treasure?”
The bushi’s face was grim. “We found this, my lady.” He offered another open hand to Mino, this time holding a torn ribbon of green and gold cloth.
“The Dragon!,” said Mino. “I cannot beleive they would be so foolish. After five years, do they truly wish to risk Tamori’s return?”
“What would you have us do, Mino-sama?,” the guard asked.
“Nothing,” she answered. “I will deal with this personally.”
* * * * *
Tamori Shiki sat at his desk, finishing a thorough letter to his daimyo. All things considered, the Tamori leaders had been pleased with his course of action. While Shiki would never have admitted it to another, he had been concerned that he had overstepped his bounds. Given the situation, however, he thought there was little else he could do. It seemed that his lords agreed with him.
A servant approached silently and laid a scroll on the edge of his desk. Bowing deeply, the man retreated from the room. Shiki barely noticed, but took the scroll regardless. He finished his report and sealed it with his chop, then pushed it away and examined the new parchment.
A Phoenix seal. Shiki frowned. Opening it, he found exactly what he had expected. A Phoenix magistrate, Isawa Mino, was demanding that the Dragon return the Dark Covenant of Fire that had been held at the recently destroyed shrine. The shrine lay within Dragon lands, but the treaty called for the Shiba to guard it at the Isawa’s direction.
“Foolish woman,” Shiki said. Mino did not say it directly, but the letter implied she did not believe his account of the shrine’s destruction. It mattered little. He held the scroll over a candle, allowing it to catch fire before casually tossing it to the stone floor. The Phoenix had proven incapable of guarding the Covenant. The Dragon would not return so dangerous an item to so foolish a clan. How many times had their magic nearly destroyed them? Or the Empire?
“Far too many,” Shiki assured himself. No, the Covenant would remain with the Dragon, now and always. And if this Mino wished to take it, she would find that the Dragon had not squandered the years of peace in idleness.
Smiling, Shiki reopened his report and began adding a new account at the end. The Tamori would wish to hear of this.