The Lion defenders of Otosan Uchi were filled with anger. An hour before, a Crab army, filled with all manner of Shadowlands abominations, had appeared north of the Plain of Fast Troubles.
At first the leaders of the Lion Clan could not believe it. Then incredulity turned to anger. Finally their anger grew to a typhoon of activity. Lion troops rushed about the city gathering equipment and warning the populace. The palace had already been notified.
Outside the northern walls of the city, Lion troops were organized in the city’s defense. Leaders paced before their units, giving last minute instructions. A fire smoldered in the eyes of veteran and green troops alike. An attack upon the Imperial City by one of the Great Clans of Rokugan… it was treason.
Matsu Tsuko stood near the front of the army with her trusted advisors, Kitsu Motso and lkoma Ujiaki at her side. The Lion army prepared to intercept the quickly approaching Crab army, and she still had work to do on the Lion army’s strategy.
As she reached the crest of a hill, a horseman whose sashimono carried the Imperial crest raced from the city gates toward her command group. Tsuko, the daimyo of the Lion Clan, paused to greet the rider.
He reined his horse to a halt close to Tsuko’s group and rushed to her, waving a sealed scroll as he did so. He held the message out to the Lion daimyo — it bore the Imperial Seal. Curious, Tsuko reached out and took the stroll, breaking the seal with her tanto.
She quickly glanced over the message, then shook her head and read it again, slowly. She passed the parchment to Kitsu Motso who began to read it. Tsuko’s smoldering gaze fell to the messenger, whose face was stoic. “You are ordered to stand down, Lady Lion.”
Her voice shook as she vented at the messenger. “Your message has been delivered! I will obey, as I must! Now go!”
Ujiaki turned to his daimyo, “No! This cannot be correct. lt must be a Scorpion trick!”
Tsuko’s spirit sank, a visible change to her trusted commanders.
“It bears the Emperor’s seal. l have no choice but to obey. The command says I may not lead the defense of the city or participate in the battle. So I must leave you to your duty.”
Her last words were directed to Motso, who started almost imperceptibly. Then he straightened and nodded to Tsuko.
“We will not let the Crab have the city!” he said to Tsuko’s retreating back.
Though the Lion defense was hastily cobbled together, the Lion army would respond to Tsuko’s leadership as one body. With a sudden change in leadership, however, and outnumbered nearly two to one, could Tsanuri gain the same support?
Motso had never known fear, until that moment.
Standing on the wall of the Imperial Palace, a smile touched the lips of Bayushi Kachiko. She watched from a great distance as a lone figure walked away from the group of Lion leaders. It must be Tsuko, she thought.
It had taken months to orchestrate all of the puzzle pieces leading to today’s conflict. With the Lady of Scorpions’ help, Hida Kisada would win the day and then she, Kachiko, would “advise” the new Emperor of Rokugan.
The Crab would be easy to manipulate.
Yes. Today would see the success of many months of planning.
In another room in the palace, another figure smiled. It was even more sinister than Kachiko’s smile. After centuries of plotting, today was a masterpiece about to unfold. Slowly the figure dressed in a fine kimono, straightened hair, and strapped on the sword laying nearby.
Without a word to any of the surprised guards that prostrated themselves at his approach, the figure walked slowly to the Emperor’s audience chamber, stepped carefully up to the dais and sat upon the cracked Emerald Throne that was the symbol of Rokugan.
He adjusted his robes, then leaned back in the throne to await his guest.
Yes. Today would see the fruition of many centuries of planning.