An inn somewhere in Kyoto Province somewhere around the turn of the 17th Century
A venerable blind minstrel (famed throughout Japan) is preparing to play his Opus Magnus to a rapt and expectant crowd. When he begins to strum his biwa, his voice, clear and sweet like a boy's, utterly belies his wizened appearance. It is easy to tell why he is so worshipped and easy to see why so many are straining to get into the now full building, with more huddled outside trying to protect themselves as well as they could against the biting winter winds. At least there was no rain or snow as yet on this bitter night-thank the Gods for that.
'Raise your ear weary travellers and hark to the tale I sing of many moons ago-one hundred and fifty years no less! I sing of battles, of a land divided and how a new Shogunate came to be from the dust and the blood of many conquests.
I sing of treachery, I sing of lust for battle, of love and of savage warfare that rent the land asunder. But above all, my friends, I sing of the proud Horse Lords of Takeda and their struggle for pre-eminence in this benighted land'
(Ed: guys I am glad to be back writing in this forum-the last time I did this was some 7 or 8 years ago for MTW. My game is being played as the Takeda Clan on Normal with the Long campaign Setting-enjoy!
The rider galloped through the falling cherry blossom as though the very furies themselves were hard on his heels, scattering any unfortunates who got in his way before him. Down winding and beaten tracks he sped, coming as he was to the last leg of his particular journey. The message from his Lord had come far and travelled with many riders over many weeks but he knew that he was now within sight of his goal. The paths in this province were basic-not like the stone roads they enjoyed in the core Takeda lands-he had often thought on nights when man and horse desperately required some rest from the constant jarring.
Dawn was breaking on his thirtieth day of riding when the town of Inazawa, once of the Saito Clan, finally loomed across the plains before him. The townsfolk seemed cowed, quiescent even-no doubt the squads of Yari Ashigaru stationed all around were 'helping' with this calmness. He had been able to ascertain from asking the farm folk on his approach that the town had surrendered peaceably after the three hundred or so retainers of their erstwhile Daimyo had issued from the gates and met their ends before the massed spears of Lord Takeda Nobukado's veteran army.
'Where is the General?' He demanded of the Guards as he reined in before the Keep, throwing the bridle to a stable boy,
'The Taisho is at his morning prayers-his orders were that he was not to be disturbed...'
'The Gods take your orders! See my Mon-it is gilded with the emblem of the Daimyo-YOUR Daimyo. I have a message from him for his uncle's ears only-you will take me to him....NOW!'
Though he nominally carried no formal rank, any messenger or herald was effectively to be afforded the same courtesies as the Lord from whom the missive had originated.
'Hai! I will take you to him immediately. Come with me please.'
They found Lord Nobukado kneeling before the old Shinto shrine in the keep gardens-here was one who followed the old Gods, the rider noted with some satisfaction, as he hastened forward and prostrated himself in the time-honoured fashion.
'Rise sir-you have words from my Lord I presume?' the warlord's voice and tone were surprisingly soft.
The rider straightened up and passed the paper parchment, wrapped in a waterproofing wooden tube to the other great power amongst the Takeda clan, the old Daimyo's youngest brother. The general had only passed thirty three summers and yet he looked older, his features careworn: there were whispers amongst some of the soldiers that he was lovelorn and missed his young wife, Kimoko, but the truth was likely to be somewhat more prosaic. He had worshipped his elder brother, Nobushige, another general of some renown but the old Daimyo, Shingen had always been jealous of his fame and his prowess on the battlefield and to the disbelief of many had accused his sibling of disloyalty in the bitter winter of 1560 and then demanded he commit seppuku. The General being the exact opposite of what he had been accused did just that even though he was then at the head of the Clan's largest army and could easily have used it to topple his older brother and leader as Daimyo. When he had heard the grim news It was said that this general had wept for two whole days, inconsolable, and when he emerged at last from his bivouac had aged ten years. No, this was the reason that he looked so worn-the grief of a lifetime. Still it would seem the fates had avenged him since Takeda Shingen had fallen besieging the rebellious Imagawa clan at Okazaki less than a year later. Just desserts maybe many had thought at the time but if Takeda Nobukado thought it he was keeping his own counsel.
'Rise...forgive me I do not know your name sir?' The Lord enquired gently-he seemed to possess a manner not at all in keeping with his martial exploits that were now beginning to rival that of his dead brother.
'I am called Hatoshi Sir, of the Buk-kon.'
'You are well met sir.' The General took the parchment from its case and studied it intently. What his feelings were to the young Daimyo no one really knew but the new master was not thought of with much affection anywhere and he had already brought wide-scale opprobrium upon the clan by ordering the looting and pillaging of two former Oda provinces. It was not the Bushido way...
'Come Hatoshi-we have a scale map of the area-I must go and study it-you are welcome to join me as I will have a return message for our Master.'
The weary rider turned to follow the general into the Keep and the great hall. It was warmer here with a great stone fire already ablaze in the hearth. Though spring was here the mornings were still sharp on these plains-it was going to be a beautiful cloudless day-hence the chill.
They entered a large room where a Samurai Captain was waiting.
'Hatoshi this is my Chief of Staff, Kosaka Tadasue-he will see that you are fed and housed after this. Gentlemen the map.'
Thank you my Lord Taisho-your generosity and patience does me a great service and all will be reported back in full to the Daimyo.'
All three gathered round the map-a massive effort of clay, earth and wire. Quite lifelike indeed-whoever the General had working on it knew his craft-no doubt he would also produce versions for whatever battlefields they fought on-no wonder his army and he were a force to be reckoned with. In the upper corner was a smaller parchment that depicted the islands and with the provinces divided under different colour cloth according to which clan held it. Their colour was red the rider noted, matching the clan colours of red and black.
'As you can see my friends we are now the pre-eminent power in central-east Japan. The Daimyo's message is that he has finally destroyed the Saito clan at Hamamatsu, though with heavy losses. He wants us to take stock and build up our reserves. He says that he may call on us to strike west at the Oda early next year but if not we will meet him at the turn of the year at the Shogatsu Festival. He feels that now is the time to concentrate on trade...'
The general pondered the scenario whilst moving a red coloured cloth to cover the recently conquered Totomi province.
'See here gentlemen the Oda provinces are now split: we sandwich Mikawa between us here with my lord to the south and us to the north-their only other province Kawachi is many miles to the west-beyond Asai lands and even Kyoto Province. Mikawa is effectively cut off. I think we may be ready to strike at them by this time next year.'
The Samurai Captain, a Katana swordsman by the looks of the weapon that hung by his side spoke up,
'My Lord Taisho it seems that our Daimyo's plan to break the power of the Oda is now coming to fruition-even risking the dishonour of the other clans by looting this province has filled our coffers with Koku.'
'It has certainly set us on the path to prosperity Kosaka-the trick will be maximising our trade revenues over the coming years and maybe taking the odd province whilst building up our monies and our armies for the inevitable push westwards towards Kyoto.'
'Whilst making sure that we aren’t food for the crows my Lords' added Hatoshi quickly, looking down at his feet and suddenly feeling rather bashful.
Both Samurai regarded the 'lesser' man with new found respect. The General spoke first,
'Yes Hatoshi of the Buk-kon-you have the right of it. There are many clans that would see our power broken, the Shogunate amongst them, maybe even also our staunch allies The Hojo to the east...we must see to it that their wishes are not granted heh?'
'Indeed Taisho-indeed. But the Hojo are steadfast friends and dependable-your niece, Hiroko, is married to one of their great lords-surely they will remain true?'
The General then surprised the other two by doing something completely out of character and let out a hearty guffaw, clapping Hatoshi on the back.
'Maybe my friend-maybe but who can say what their response will be when our true intentions become known and, look-you, our success has hemmed them in to the east side of the island-how long before their own ambitions win over our long-standing amity?'
The general spoke true, Hatoshi noticed studying the map-the Hojo were indeed closed in..
'It's why we keep a large garrison on our North-east border sir-worry you not. Kosaka we have many men to recruit and new armies to build-see to our guest here-I will see the other Captains at noon. Good morning gentlemen.'
And with that he was gone, taking with him a certain amount of the spirit and charisma that had infused the room whilst he was present. No wonder, Hatoshi thought, that his exploits were already talked about throughout the clan. But what would the future hold for the Horse Lords of the Takeda? Only the Gods really knew.....
Last edited by mambaman; 02-21-2012 at 18:54.
Reason: sort the screenshot
Hahaha no John I am not but thought that the device of the story being told by a minstrel was a good one and may allow me to do a few things as I progress it. Glad to have you on board-watch this space
'You tell Captain Tadasue that he must hold at all costs-and he must prevent the Ashigaru from bolting-they will fight to the last man-all our lives depend on it! GO!' The General straightened up on his destrier as the courier hastened back to the carnage at the bridge. If Takeda Nobukado was nervous it did not show though there was a bead or two of moisture running down his face and this on one of the coldest days yet this winter.
The carnage was that of his own making for he had set his defence well. As well he must when he had learnt that the treacherous Oda had first declared war and then launched their most fearsome general, their Daimyo himself, and his famed veteran army towards Takeda lands. When news had reached them of the attack his own Captains had blanched with fear. Daimyo Oda Gozen was a legendary warlord and one credited with single-handedly wresting his clan from extinction at the hands of half a dozen enemies. His army had never been bested in the field, was composed almost entirely of samurai and until now had not been considered foe to the Takeda...until now. It was said that his son, Oda Hiri, also rode with the army of some two thousand spearmen, cavalry and archers. He was called the 'head-hunter' after his grisly habit of hanging the shrunken heads of his dead enemies around his neck when he entered the fray.
'My Lord' his Captain of Ashigaru had whispered, his face wan with fear, 'we cannot hope to stand against Gozen with the army we have-we must retreat...'
Many of the 'wise counsel' around the room: the best of his Captains, were nodding furiously in agreement.
In spite of the craven attitude of some, Nobukado did note proudly that some were diametrically opposed to any retreat, mainly his Chief of Staff, the cavalry captains and his Katana and Naginata Samurai leaders. The arguments raged back and forth and the hubbub grew to a crescendo when the General at last spoke. His words were so quiet that, at first, they were completely drowned out amongst the shouting. But then Tadasue shouted for silence,
'Hear the Taisho! Hear your General!' Eventually the din subsided,
'There will be no retreat.' The General repeated as all eyes turned to stare. Unperturbed the warrior approached the map and pointed with his ceremonial fan to a point on the map that depicted the Ise plains off to their northwest and the direction of the approaching threat. Separating their lands from that of the Oda was a single bridge. This was where his fan came to rest.
'This is where we will stop them. I do not doubt that the battle will be hard-many of us will not see the new year in but stop them we can and stop them we will if we do it here.'
The rest was persuasion and the unfurling of his plan. By the end he had them all convinced. If they timed things right and luck clung to their side then they might just have a chance. As things stood, if they tried to take on Gozen's forces on the open field they would be annihilated.
'You wonder if we can really do it my friend' the General had said to his factotum as they rode, in the driving snow, at the head of the column to the bridge. Advanced scouts had confirmed the approach of their enemy only a few hours previously. Tadasue had remained silent. It was not the Samurai way to display fear in the face of impending battle.
'There is much that rides on this battle I grant you but if the timing and divine Bishamonten smile on us then we can win today.'
'And the Cavalry and our reinforcements and the hope that their scouts do not know what we know about the ford my Lord. We risk much...'
'Such is war my friend such is war.' The General had shouted into the howling wind, wrapping his silk shawl ever tighter around his neck-such cold! Would his army be up to the job? He had reinforced it with several hundred Samurai in recent months and had a formidable heavy cavalry force of some three hundred Yari and Katana riders. They were to be the hammer to strike the Oda who would come up against the anvil of the rest of his infantry, a force of Ashigaru, Naginata Samurai and Katana Samurai. They would contest the bridge whilst his reserve cavalry, some two hundred Yari light horsemen would stand off to the left. Force-marching from their Daimyo in Mikawa were another two hundred cavalry and the same again in Yari Ashigaru: their arrival would also be crucial as Nobukado suspected that, if they still held, at the point that they arrived they would be hard pressed indeed. Their total numbers on the battlefield were just shy of two thousand so in numbers Oda had the advantage. He, however, had the advantage of the terrain, the river, the bridge and the plan...
Takeda Nobukade addresses his troops before the battle.
Battle had been joined one hour previously with a furious cavalry charge of the Daimyo's brother and his son themselves-utter folly! Even maddened warhorses must quail at the serried spears of his own veteran Ashigaru: both generals were dead before the battle was even ten minutes old. Following them came the massed ranks of Samurai retainers, spearmen and swordsmen. Takeda Nobukado countered with both squads of his Katana Samurai. The battle raged on but the enemy could not fight their way beyond the bridgehead. His Captain of bodyguards was going crazy because the General insisted on getting as close to the fighting as he could in order to see what was actually happening at the bridge. This of course brought him in range of the formidable bows of the enemy samurai archers who were raining down fire arrows on the Takeda second echelons, mainly the Naginata Samurai and his own archers.
'Move the Naginata forward and engage one and two squads to right and left!' His orders, unhurried, crisp and clear.
'Hai my lord!' And the signal was given using the battle fans. The one and half hour mark was approaching and the general's mind was now not on the battle before them but the Cavalry that he had sent to close by the ford, some kilometre and a half to their east. He had given them orders not to move too early whilst there were still Yari Samurai on the Oda side of the bridge or they would be easily countered and possibly destroyed. They must wait until all the Yari were committed and only bowmen remained-that would be the signal to launch and charge.
But for that to happen he would have to make sure that the Oda felt the critical place was the bridge. He also had to hope that their intelligence had not discovered the ford itself and that no stray squads of scouts were deployed to the Oda left. So far so good…
'Send in the remaining Naginata.....and when they falter the Light cavalry in wedge formation' he would commit everything he had at the enemy troops. At the bridge all he could see as he once again rode forward, was rank after rank of Yari Samurai fighting towards the bridgehead. At the moment his valiant troops were holding the enemy but the bulge pressing back from the imbroglio towards them looked as though it would burst at any moment.
As he was dragged away once again by his bodyguard, with a storm of fire arrows following, he gave the signal, for he could now see the dust of to his far right: the dust that is kicked up when three hundred heavy horse are on the charge.
'Send in the Yari Cavalry-both troops! Hit them with everything...and order in the archers when their arrows are spent!'
'Yes my lord!'
Nobukado stood in his stirrups and tried to see what was happening on the far side of the bridge to the right-that was now the critical point and there were only archers there to protect the Oda from his riders.
To the fore the situation was now balancing on a knife-edge. It was at this point that the breathless courier arrived, blood spattered, through the snow from Tadasue and when he was given the short response-hold at all costs or they would be finished. He could just about see the melee at the bridge and the bulge pressing ever more towards them and away from the bridgehead-if it burst the game was up. How long had they been fighting? Two hours? More?
And then several things happened all at once: a despairing cry went up from his own troops:
'The Daimyo is come! Daimyo Gozen is come!'
And he could see the enemy Daimyo and his bodyguard plunging into the morass in one final attempt to break the deadlock. He was on the point of signalling to his own bodyguard that the time was come to charge-they were almost out of time when suddenly to his left thundered two troops of Katana Cavalry fresh from their rear. The reinforcements had arrived! The General swivelled in his saddle to look behind. He could see some distance away almost five hundred more spearmen hastening up the Okazaki-OtsuRoad towards them-never in his life had he been so glad to see the much maligned Yari Ashigaru. 'Peasants' others may call them but under his tutelage he had welded them into a formidable fighting force.
And then at last he could see his Cavalry reach the bridge-in small pockets at first and then in increasing numbers as the riders won through the fiercely resisting Samurai Archers. At this point and even though there were probably less than fifty remaining Takeda horsemen the Oda knew that the game was up. The cry that attended the un-horsing of the enemy Daimyo and his subsequent butchering only hastened the rout and at this point Nobukado did give his pursuing bodyguard their head-his last orders on this bloody battle of the Ise Plains....
Great update mamba, only got a chance to read it now. I tried to write a Shogun AAR when it first cam out, but got frustrated that you could only take battle shots without the UI by watching a replay, is it still like that? I would have loved to see some shots of that battle, sounded epic.
Dreams of glory, these were the thoughts that infested the mind of the youngest of the Takeda brothers, Takeda Sanekatsu, as he surveyed the enemy routing to his front on the wide-open Sado plains. More specifically feats that would rival, nay even best, his esteemed and famous uncle, Takeda Nobukado-a Warlord who's name had even those stalwarts in the marbled halls of Kyoto quaking with fear.
Ten long years he had waited since news had reached him at Kai, the Takeda homeland, of the deeds at Ise Plains. His mother, third wife to Takeda Shingen, and still young enough then to retain her beauty, had held him close, in their ornate chambers, when they had heard of the Oda declaration of war and not many had given his uncle much chance of facing down the invincible Oda army. He had retained the blind faith of the very young, however, confidently declaring to any minister and retainer who would listen that if Gozen had never been bested on the field of combat then the same was true of his uncle. Most had scoffed at him, cuffed him or shooed him away as they might an irritating gnat but in the end it was him who had ended strutting the castle corridors, chest puffed out like a peacock loudly proclaiming that he would one day be a general to rival his famous kinsman.
And in the years that followed Ise the anxious anticipation of those days of fear became more and more distant with less and less news from the battlefront until, one sweltering summer's day in 1571, a messenger reached them with tales of the annihilation, at Nobukado's hands of course, of the last of the Oda armies at the battle of Ueno-and one not even commanded by an Oda but one of the generals that had taken over on the death of Gozen and his son three years previously. Clan Oda, their lifelong enemies, were no more.
It was a battle that the schools authorities were immediately tasked with teaching the eager adolescents at The Kai Samurai Academy-nestled as it was in the nearby foothills of the mighty Mount Fuji-San. A place often well below freezing by night in the summer time and by day in winter time too-all the better for teaching survival and hardiness to its young charges roaming its unheated corridors. Today's class was to be an object lesson in how to use the might of cavalry against superior infantry.
'Takeda Sanekatsu-this was your own uncle after all!' The venerable tutor declared as the excitable pupils huddled round a scale model of the battlefield in question, 'talk us through the dispositions of each army.'
'Hai Kateikyōshi!' The now fourteen-year-old Lordling snapped, his demeanour and bearing already beginning to emulate that of his illustrious kin. 'As we know the armies were almost matched for size, the slightly superior numbers belonging to that of our enemies.' The youngster paused for effect: even at this young age he already had the ability to hold people rapt as he related a tale or described something. A talent that would stand him in very good stead when he was leading his clansfolk into battle, the wizened pedagogue thought, with not a little satisfaction. Kai might be considered a mountainous backwater in other more refined parts of Japan but by the Gods could they turn out great warriors! That said, there was a rather impetuous streak in the lad that neither the older man's tongue or cane had managed to eradicate-the result of not having a father in his life no doubt, for it was now many years since the Great Takeda Shingen had met his maker.
The teacher snapped back to the cold clipped tones of the young Takeda as he continued,
'However any similarity between the armies ended there. On our side we have a well-balanced force, six troops of Yari Ashigaru bolstered by three of Katana Samurai and two Naginata Samurai. The big difference is our traditional lack of archers-only two troops offset by our preponderance of horse-no less than eight troops of Yari and Katana cavalry-some five hundred troopers!'
There was the inevitable question:
'Brother why does our esteemed Taisho so undervalue archers?' It seemed almost trite to ask given Nobukado had never been bested on the field of battle but it was a useful question nonetheless.
If the question irritated Sanekatsu it did not show.
'Our esteemed general does not “undervalue” his archers, brother, but rather weighs up the damage that he can do with cavalry as having more import...as the outcome of this particular battle proved.'
There were some titters around the class at this seeming put down but the youngster continued undeterred.
'As you will see reports indicate that the general split his forces sending three cavalry troops to the extreme left flank and the other five to the right. There seemed to be some evidence that the Oda were aware of the heavier flanking force as they deployed three units of Ashigaru to counter them but it seemed that they were completely ignorant of the threat to their right.'
The tutor smiled as the young cadet described how Nobukado had pinned the enemy foot by immediately charging all of his Ashigaru and Katana infantry forward thus negating almost completely their massed ranks of archers-numbering almost a thousand men. Close behind them came the Naginata, their job to bolster their comrades where the line was weakening.
'Meanwhile behind them our cavalry wings had won through on both left and right and before they knew what was happening the Oda Infantry, who-up until that point had been hard pressing our own-and indeed were about to break through the weakened centre, suddenly found hundreds of Takeda horsemen to their rear...that was it-the game was up.'
'The game was up indeed young man-well done' the tutor had declared beaming. 'Sit Sanekatsu-I am sure that in no more than a few years you yourself will get to lead some of these proud men into battle.'
True words indeed the young lord reflected as he had sat astride his own war horse a few hours earlier and observed many of his erstwhile class mates, now Samurai Captains under his command, marching to their fore as they headed southwards from their landing point. Well it would have been his command had the Daimyo-his elder brother-not decreed that the overall leadership of this invasion would actually go to the much older and more experienced General Yamadera Yoshiari. This upstart general was none other than the 'hero of Nagoaka', he who had been tasked in the same year as they were crushing the Oda, to stop the advance of the rebel Ashina clan into Echigo province on their northeast border. Using tactics almost exactly the same as those used at Ise plains Yoshiari had smashed the Ashina at Nagoaka Bridge and then swept into the former Hojo province of Fukushima, conquering and looting the castle there. His actions had earned him the undying gratitude of his Daimyo, finally back in Kai with his court. So it was to him that their lord turned when the delicate matter of conquering the Honmu clan came up.
It had been a favour to their steadfast allies, the Hojo, Takeda Yoshinobu had told the impatient young man, as he tasked him to make the long march north, take control of his very own army and join the other Taisho. They should then invade Sado together, but under the overall control of the older man. The key were the gold fields: he was to guard them with his army and his life as they would continue to enrich their clan. To add to his prestige the older man had bestowed on Sanekatsu the Commissioner of Warfare post.
'Make me proud brother.' The Daimyo had said before taking his obeisance and dismissing him. There had never been a huge amount of warmth between these two distant siblings; age and the miles had conspired to make strangers of them both. For now mutual respect would have to suffice.
And so it was that Sanekatsu came upon the battle at Sado Fields arriving from a completely different side of the Island, since a fierce squall had blown his galleys off course and they had landed to the Northeast. Sending out his scouts and force-marching his troops he had ascertained that the enemy power was marching to engage Yoshiari's army that had landed on the opposite side of Sado. As things stood the Honmu outnumbered his colleague two to one. They must arrive in time.
And so it was that the young man arrived at the head of his bodyguard and well ahead of his reinforcing troops to see the enemy seemingly in headlong rout. There was only one thought in his mind: glory! He was not to miss it! And so with a cry he wheeled his destrier around and charged headlong into the fray...
Nitpicky bit: Can you turn banners and the mini map off in the replay? Some people prefer the banners on so they know who's who, I think a good writer, like yourself, makes that clear though. Oh, and watch where you leave the pointer when taking screenshots. Hope you don't mind some contructive criticism? I couldn't find any with the writing.
Hi John. Sadly this is not possible as I save the screenies from the battle replays and it's simply not possible to do anything other than pause and forward wind in that mode. I'll have a fiddle around though.
I'm glad you took my comments in the way they were intended. I know what a hassle it is to get decent screenshots in Shogun, but it is such a pretty game that some good screenshots can really make a battle come alive in an AAR.
...In their headlong charge across the valley it was Sanekatsu's Captain of Bodyguards and factotum Tashiro Mensito who first noticed that something was amiss. The rapidly retreating squads of Honma Yari and Bow Ashigaru were to their immediate front but to their left, cresting a large hill were five or six units of fresh troops marching in perfect order. The nearest, a squad of rapidly advancing spearmen, was poised to intercept their charge. Seeing the danger and without thought the captain reached over, grabbed the bridle of his Lord-consequences be damned-and pulled the younger man's charger to a shuddering halt.
Any surprise that registered behind the young General's mask would have been hidden by the sudden shock of one hundred and fifty spearmen hitting them from the left flank. Warhorses such as those that the Daimyos of sixteenth century feudal Japan favoured were good for charging down fleeing soldiers or for shock action to the flank and rear of enemy formations-against well-ordered spearmen they were next to useless.
'The General! Protect the General!' Tashiro had screamed as a wall of spears came stabbing up at them from below and several of the horsemen formed a protective ring around their Lord. Highly trained Samurai, they may have been, but their three foot Katana's were no match for the nine foot spears with which they were now being assailed.
Within seconds seven of their number had perished and it was only when, once again, the quick thinking Bodyguard Captain wheeled his lord's horse back towards their own advancing troops that they were finally able to extricate themselves from the fray. They had not gone far, however, when the seething Takeda Lordling halted the troop, raising his helmet visor to address his number two:
'Dog! Craven Cur! You dare impugn my honour thus!' spittle flew from the young man's handsome features as he drew his Katana and prepared to separate the Captain's head from the rest of his body. But Just as he rose up in his saddle to deliver the killing blow a storm of fire arrows descended amongst them with a hellish roar, one taking Tashiro in his unprotected neck just above his sode shoulder armour. Ten of the captain's comrades also went down under the onslaught and whilst this new menace rained fire down all around them their General sat transfixed and immobile, his young mind not able to properly comprehend what was happening. Fully three broadsides were loosed by the hundreds of Honma archers in the valley below before a young corporal took on his erstwhile Captain's duties and grabbed the Taisho's horses bridle and galloped him and what was left of his troop over the hill to safety.
Elsewhere on the battlefield the Senior Takeda General, Yamadera Yoshiari, had realised what was happening, seen that at least two of his units, one Yari Ashigaru and one Yari Samurai were in a precarious position to their fore where the enemy reinforcements were arriving en masse. Giving orders for the nearest units to support he charged his bodyguard forward into the next valley so that he could properly assess what was happening.
Luckily the nearest units were both Samurai, one Katana and the other Yari. The spearmen 'rapid advanced' to help their Ashigaru comrades who were furthest forward and desperately engaging no less than three enemy troops to their front. Behind them the Katana unit came to the aid of the exhausted Takeda Yari Samurai unit that were hard pressed to contain two fresh units of Honma spears. But beyond that it was not a battle at all, Yoshiari realised, as he crested the ridge of the hillock behind and took stock. He saw the younger general's plight off to his front left and wondered where the rest of that man's army was. He could see some leagues distant now at least two of his own cavalry squads chasing routing Honma from the field of battle whilst to his immediate front was playing out the last desperate throw of the dice of the enemy which were the remnants of the Honma Yari Ashigaru battling with his own forces..and losing since it was only a matter of time before his own superior and well-marshalled troops started to win their own fights, even against such superior numbers. The hundreds of Archers that seemed to make up this reinforcing army could only watch helplessly, unable to loose their arrows, for fear of hitting their own troops. The accomplished general watched as his hardy troops fought on, finally causing the spearmen that they were locked in combat with to waver and then break and when they did it was like the unblocking of a dam. A tutor had always told him that the moment of greatest danger for any army is when units start to rout for it was like an infection that quickly spreads until the whole army is running. And so it was here: hundreds of enemy spearmen and Archers, possibly even up to a thousand turned and ran...from no more than two hundred of his brave remaining Katana and Yari soldiers. The battle for all intents and purposes was over....
Afterwards there was no immediate pursuit: Yoshiari had to assemble Takeda Sanekatsu's own army that had arrived on the battlefield in such bad order and get a report as to why his own cavalry had disappeared chasing down the enemy. A severe dressing down of all the captains was issued in front of the whole army and a reminder that, by their actions they had allowed a large part of the enemy army to escape and fight on. Any such repeats would be met with the responsible Captains being selected for immediate Hari-kiri, no questions asked and no excuses.
After that sobering experience he had to deal with his younger counterpart. So that there was no loss of face Yoshiari went to the junior man's bivouac, leaving his bodyguard at the entrance and making his way into the generously provisioned space inside. At the far end next to his cot sat the boy who had dreamed of such glory, head bowed in his hands. He had taken all of his armour off and had his Katana beside him.
Yoshiari sat down next to him.
'You know my hero when I was a boy was your uncle, the esteemed Nobushige. Some leader he was, as we all know.'
Tears streamed down the lad's face-this was certainly not how he had thought his first battle would end, with him committing seppuku and in disgrace before his clan.
If Yoshiari was cognisant of the boy's distress he did not show it, smiling as he continued his musings. 'Yes Nobushige was possibly the greatest general this clan has known-quite brilliant. He would make Nobukado look like an elementary school teacher by comparison...'
'What is this to do with me My Lord Taisho!' Sanekatsu snapped-that famous temper to the fore. 'Let me in peace to do what I must do!'
'Hear me out My Lord.' Yoshiari continued, carefully, displaying infinite patience, 'did you know that Nobushige's first battle also almost ended with his disgrace? It was a minor skirmish with the Oda in the forests around Kofu Castle-a raiding party. The Taisho was impetuous, led a cavalry charge against massed spears. Lost most of his men and was only saved by the intervention of his elder brother and his father. He, too, was going to do what you propose. He was stopped by none other than his older brother, Shingen, who loved him then but was eventually consumed with such jealousy and resentment that he destroyed him.'
At last the young man's fine features softened and he allowed himself to cry again.
Yoshiari pressed on: 'I see, in you, many of the features of all of your kinsfolk and chief amongst them is your impetuousness. Learn to curb that and you will be the equal of any of them. Come to my tent when you have composed yourself-we have a war to win and Honma to track down and destroy. Good day my Lord.'
And with that the older general rose and departed, leaving Sanekatsu to his thoughts. It was a full hour before he exited,making straight for the billets of his bodyguard where he went amongst all the men, bowing to all as if he was the subordinate and they the overlords. It was his way of showing that no more would he be gripped by the childish urges that had almost destroyed them. The corporal who had ultimately saved them he promoted immediately to Captain, his new factotum, and hand picked the rest of the replacements from the best of his cavalry units.
One week later and in sole charge of his own army now, he tracked down and destroyed one of the remaining two Honma armies, a rag tag bunch-the other was annihilated by Yoshiari. And then his troops swept aside the defences of the Castle town of Aikawa-the only stronghold on the Island: it is said the young General fought at the very head of the assaulting army...
The minstrel paused, placing his Biwa down before him, his beautiful voice stretching out the sweet notes of the interlude. All around, the rapt audience strained to hear every word, with those outside ignoring completely the raging winter storm that whipped around them.
“And so it was that the Takeda took the Gold fields of Sado Island, immeasurably enriching themselves for the struggles ahead- a battle to come with the so-called Shogunate, those false lords that called themselves rulers of Japan but in truth were rulers only of enmity and discord!
The Daimyo considered the maps and was well-contented: the Takeda were now rich beyond measure, well supplied with grain throughout their lands, provisioned with five good generals, his uncle, chief amongst them. He would call a great council- an Idaina kyōgi-kai and set out, for all, his plans for them and for their allies, the Hojo, who's lands were even now being riven by rebellions as their masters also turned their gaze North-westward. Why should they settle for rebels in their midst? No the Takeda would take those lands that no longer swore allegiance to their Hojo Overlords-alliance or no-and let all of Japan tremble at their rising power.
And so the 'quiet' Daimyo, he that they called Yoshinobu, cast covetous eyes towards the Northwest and the isolated and deluded factions that resided there and slowly but surely he made his plans against them...”
Hey John-thanks for the thumbs up...don't know whether you noticed my cheeky adjusting of Nobukado's relationship with the new Daimyo but was a little surprised to see when Shingen got killed his brother Nobukado was immediately installed as the new Daimyo (Yoshinobu-Shingen's son)'s 'son and heir' (a little difficult given that Nobukado is 7 years older than his new dad??????) Was non-plussed at this and it's been confusing me so I have taken matters into my own hands. This has presented me with another issue, however, in that Yoshinobu now has a little son of his own and am wondering when to install him as the real heir, if at all.
I would generally ignore the game doing things like that for an AAR and write it the way I wanted it, so I totally understand sneaking in little changes. It actually sounds like a good opportunity for intrigue and betrayal.
'You understand what I ask of you Hatoshi?' The old Daimyo asked of his pre-eminent Legate as they walked the marbled halls of the great castle that was the seat of Takeda power.
'Hai my Lord.' The emissary understood full well his mission-to get the message to the other Generals remaining in the clan to prepare for war...finally.
It was unusual for a Daimyo and a messenger to be alone but such was the case as they traversed the battlements of the impressive fortress town of Kofu with its spectacular views of snow-capped Mount Fuji away to their southwest. This particular underling was clearly held in the highest regard. And it was true that for twenty years and more he had been the main liaison between Daimyo Takeda Yoshinobu at Kofu and his esteemed uncle Nobukado, holding the lands closest to the despised Kyoto Shogunate.
It was all supposed to have happened quite differently of course, the younger man thought. He had been just out of his manhood when he had first met Nobukado that fateful spring just before he led his armies to victory after victory against the Oda. Now he was into his forties, just under ten years younger than his Daimyo who had committed the cardinal sin of sitting on his hands for the best part of a decade and this despite all the bold talk at the Idaina kyōgi-kai that had been held early in the New Year of 1578, a time that had brought the triumphant clan generals together supposedly to plot their assault on the Shogunate itself.
It was a busy, bustling and joyous period, the retainers of the four generals clashing with the castle garrison as they fought for pre-eminent billets within the town. He remembered clearly braving the freezing temperatures to ride out and meet his favourite, Nobukado-the two embracing like old friends before the castle walls as the snow fell gently around them. Once inside Hatoshi had been introduced to a pair of the Taisho's most trusted retainers, one a musician-a Biwa player, no less but who, he was told afterwards, was instrumental in keeping the morale of the men up, with his ballads and ditties-many of which included the very names of the rank and file. The other was a master of Bajutso, who over the years with the Takeda had become renowned as one of the pre-eminent horse Sensei in the land.
'So we see what our next great adventure is Hatoshi of the Buk-kon!' The General had said clapping the emissary on the back-If there is to be any attempt on the Shogunate then it will fall to my men-you see?'
'Who else my lord? You are the foremost battle commander in the land. This much is obvious.'
The older man, who was looking older than his forty-seven years, was in great spirits,
'I have my fellow generals to greet and my nephew Sanekatsu-where is the young hero of Sado?' This last was said with no hint of irony.
It was Hatoshi's job to know: 'he arrived with his retinue two days past my Lord and is billeted in the Jin-su district.'
'Then let us go visit Hatoshi-come!'
And so he had gone with his friend and mentor. It was a strange match but it was an enduring friendship nonetheless. Furthermore despite the strange looks that he received from the two non-family generals, the old Admiral, Kosaka Hidenari and the hero of Nagoaka Bridge and Sado Fields, none other than Yamadera Yoshiari, Nobukado insisted that the lesser man accompany him everywhere.
The ebullient mood had been dashed, however, by the events of the council itself: far from laying out a plan for the immediate conquest of the Ashikaga Shogunate, their lord and master, backed up by a fawning group of ministers, had spoken passionately of the need to secure their stocks of grain and cash and build these such that, when they were in a position to strike, the treasury would be able to sustain them. It had come as quite a shock to the warriors present and drew loud if impolitic recriminations from the youngest Taisho there, Sanekatsu.
'My Lord brother-this is not the Takeda way surely? Should we not strike now whilst the steel is hot and whilst we have some of the finest battle commanders in Japan!'
If the other generals agreed they held their tongues and an uneasy silence settled the great hall. Yoshinobu, for his part, affixed his young half brother with a steely gaze, daring him to say more. There was suddenly a feeling of threat in the cold air.
It was Takeda Nobukado who broke the oppressive silence 'If it is our Daimyo's wish for us to build our resources then we will fulfil it to the very best of our ability. We will, of course, also keep our troops honed and ready for battle so that should your order come to strike the Ashikaga snake in Kyoto we can and will.'
It was a diplomatic answer and one that had the desired effect of clearing the air, much to the relief of all. The rest of the meeting was taken up plotting how to develop the economic infrastructure within the provinces. Almost by way of a sop to more martial spirits in the council Sanekatsu was ordered back from Sado with his army to menace the rebels in the Hojo Province of Fukushima. If the Hojo were not up to dealing with the enemy within then the Takeda would-it would also send a message to their allies, Yoshinobu reasoned. It was cleverly done and allowed the two brothers a modicum of face-saving.
It was at this point that the grizzled Admiral, Hidenari spoke up, a sly look on his face 'My Lord Daimyo it has surely not escaped any of our attentions that our friends, the Hojo, are the ones massing their armies close to Kyoto Province-these, our allies, with full access to our lands. My own agents tell me that it is no wonder they are not minded to attend their own rebellious interior provinces when their eyes are fixed on a much greater prize...'
The menacing hush descended once more.
When the great leader finally spoke it was in words so hushed that all strained to hear.
'They would not dare.' But the words carried no conviction. A curt signal and the council was over. The great and the good of the Takeda had dispersed, many with a feeling that this had, somehow, been an opportunity missed. Hatoshi had remained in Kai, or had split his time between there and Nobukado's stronghold at Ueno in Iga Province. The weeks had turned into months and then years and all the while their leader sat and fretted over his finances and counted beans.
By the summer of 1584 The Takeda treasury amounted to some one hundred and fifty thousand Koku-an unimaginable amount. The armies of the Takeda, split as they were, amongst their sprawling lands, were well provisioned. And yet their leader did not bestir himself to summons his retainers to the drumbeat of war.
And then the news that they had all dreaded arrived like the onset of a summer storm: in the months when the sun was at its hottest their allies finally struck at the Ashikaga in their Citadel of Kyoto, destroying them utterly, with an army that numbered almost ten thousand. It was a bitter blow for now any move on Kyoto would mean war with their ally-an ally whose many armies even now ranged across their territories. The delay had proved catastrophic but if this was bad news worse was to come: over the preceding months Hatoshi had noted the increasing frailty of his great friend, Takeda Nobukado and especially when he visited him that autumn but the general had still retained all of his vitality even if he now leaned a little too heavily on his walking cane. Only a few weeks before the turn of the year, however, that great man had suddenly taken ill from a common cold, taken to his bed, nursed by his beautiful bride, Kimoko, but he had succumbed and died. He was only fifty-four years old.
It was a bitter blow and one from which Hatoshi had found it very hard to recover from. In the weeks following the dreadful news he had often found himself walking the same halls and gardens that his friend had liked to wander, tears flowing unchecked down his cheeks. He had been able to glean some comfort from Nobukado's Lieutenant, Kosaka Tadasue, who had been similarly bereft.
'We were to have ridden in triumph into Kyoto, Hatoshi' the grizzled old Samurai Captain had mumbled one evening amongst his cups in one of the seedier taverns of Ueno's bustling town. 'That was our dream.'
'It was a good dream my friend-maybe someday you will get to fulfil it-I hear that the Daimyo finally bestirs himself and has ordered Yoshiari south from faraway Ugo. I have been summonsed back to Kai-you may well get your wish...'
And though they were both too engrossed in their grief to appreciate it messengers were even then riding from Kai to all the castles and strongholds in Takeda lands-their brief: mobilise the forces. The call had come at last: the Takeda were going to war....
150 000 koku! I never managed to amass that much dosh in Shogun 2, maybe those "bean counter" leaders aren't so bad after all.
FM12 still isn't working, I'm waiting for the next patch, anytime people get the issue it seems to be resolved by a patch. Of course it has to happen to me right at the beginning of the longest gap between patches. I think I've lost that Chelski save anyway, I'll probably start a new Irish League AAR sometime in the new year.
Yeah it's a ridiculous amount of money and will certainly sustain a rapid increase in Samurai troops for the 5 armies that I think I will need to take on the Hojo...I can't help thinking that I've blown it though. I only have 15 years to achieve my aim and it will probably be 2 before I am fully ready to strike...
To the average passer-by on the roads or Chonin in the town, the bedraggled tramp looked like just another of the legion of beggars that infested Japan and the man that went by the name of Akinobu was no different in nearly all respects bar one: this was actually one of the most accomplished Ninja assassins on the mainland. He was an adherent of Takeda Sanekatsu but he had been despatched southwards on the General's orders when news had reached them of the death, in battle, of their Daimyo, Yoshinobu.
The dread news could not have been more badly timed and it had been apparent to all amongst Sanekatsu's retinue that an internecine power struggle within the clan was the last thing that any of them wanted. There was an ominous feeling in the air within the meeting hall of the recently taken Fort at Tochigi, as the news was imparted by a breathless messenger that not only had the Daimyo fallen but that his bride, the ever-ambitious Akebono, had declared herself Regent to their young son, to rule with a Council until that child came of age: the boy was only eleven...
'And how old are these tidings?' The General, still young at thirty-two, had asked calmly.
'My Lord the Daimyo passed some two weeks ago. The Regent received the news one week past.'
'I see-please stay, Messenger, and join my Officers and me for dinner. I would fain hear how my brother met his end and also of his feats at the Battle of Shimizu some weeks before Izu plain.'
'Hai my Lord-it would be my honour!'
In the shadows behind the audience chair the assassin smiled to himself. His master had come far since his raw and impetuous days at Sado. These days, although still prone to acting rashly, he nonetheless always fully weighed up the lie of the land before striking. This was, after all how himself had made his name and honed his skills. In 1585 The Castle in Fukushima Province that Sanekatsu had been tasked to wrest from the rebel Ashina clan at Aizuwakamatsu possessed a sizeable army garrison and also that clan's Daimyo and his two sons-all three no mean battle commanders.
'You are to infiltrate that stronghold and neutralise those generals Akinobu.' Were the terse orders that had come down to him.
'Hai Master! And how long do I have to effect this task?' It was always important in the world of Ninjitsu to establish time frames in order to most appropriately plan.
The young Lord eyed his assassin coolly, 'as long as you need Akinobu....' And the audience was over.
What happened in the next six months has now passed into Ninja legend: how the first son was despatched after Akinobu had successfully infiltrated his personal Dojo and crept past the sleeping guards. The man had actually realised what was happening just as the Ninja had attacked, blocking his initial thrust with a biwa he had been playing, but good as his sword skills were they were no match for a trained assassin and after a brief fight the apple of his father's eye and heir to the rebel clan was despatched.
One would think that this would be a lesson to those tasked with protecting the Daimyo's now only remaining heir but no, Akinobu was able, by hiding in the shadows and through judicious use of his beggars disguise, to ascertain that after a hiatus of not more than two months the extra security that sprang up around the younger son was strangely relaxed to pre-assassination levels. It was an invitation that the ever more confident Akinobu was not about to pass up on. As the days and weeks passed Akinobu recalled his training and an old Ninja maxim that said that a skilled and bold Ninja should consider striking in exactly the same place using the same method because usually the enemy did not consider that lightning would afflict the same area twice. And so the second son had been despatched-and this time there was no Biwa and no struggle...only a headlong fall from his Dojo's precipitous balcony.
A softer man might have been affected by the grief displayed by the now-distraught Daimyo or indeed the retribution meted out to the garrison, who's every tenth man was now summarily executed, but not this man. He once more watched and waited and bided his time before executing his masterpiece: a testament to patience, subtlety and timing. Realising that the security around the Clan's leader was now almost cast iron he infiltrated the castle by impersonating a kitchen scullion that he had earlier despatched. Some rudimentary make up gave him a sufficient likeness such that he was able to slip into the castle inner quarters. From there, shedding his disguise he climbed up into the rafters of the dining quarters of the Daimyo, tied himself to one of the sturdier beams using his sash and waited.
For many hours he clung to the ceiling like an oversized spider realising that just one look up by any of the castle retainers and the game was up. It did not happen, however, and when, that evening, the Daimyo's food and Saki was prepared and then tasted judiciously he knew that the time was at hand. Carefully and quietly he removed a long reed that he had appropriated and a vial of puffer fish poison. He aimed and lowered the reed judging the angle as accurately as he could. And then whilst the Daimyo was helping himself to a second portion of rice and stew he allowed a drop to pass down the reed. It flowed quickly, leapt off the end and plopped imperceptibly into the great lord's goblet. Puffer fish poison is not quite tasteless but the Ninja hoped that the strong rice wine would mask anything untoward. Sure enough his target raised the goblet and took a great draught, almost emptying the contents in one go. As he did so he tilted his head to the ceiling and saw amongst the shadows something that did not belong there. As his eyes widened in horror and he stumbled back, his mouth opened to let out a cry, but the poison was already at work and all that escaped was a silent, strangled rattle. By the time the guards, alerted to the sound of their master crashing to the floor, burst into the room Akinobu had slipped away like a thief in the night...
But here was where he really established himself as a truly remarkable assassin for he did not flee the scene or melt into the night as is the Ninja wont but instead he made for the encampment that sat just outside the castle gates and where the Auxiliary army commanded by Hidoshi Sumekatsu for he was the last target and the remaining clan General. Before the commotion from the death of the Daimyo had even reached the encampment Akinobu was prowling its environs, quietly taking out the General's perimeter detail and locating the man himself, sitting behind a screen deep in meditation. Killing him was a simple matter of thrusting his Katana through the paper screen-a clean and quick kill-and then he was gone.
After the decapitation of all of their generals it was but a simple matter for Takeda Sanekatsu's army to sweep away the leaderless levies of the rebels. The young Taisho basked in the plaudits that came his way but in the quiet moments to himself he never forgot to whom he had really owed that particular victory.
And so on that momentous evening, as his officers and retainers assembled for the great banquet, the young General who most believed should now be Daimyo prepared to hear the story of how his half brother had met his untimely end on the wintry plains at Izu Fields not more than a few weeks after threatening to prove himself a singular battle commander with his stunning victory over the Hojo Daimyo at Shimizu.
On that evening Akinobu had seen fit to disguise himself as one of the food-servants, apparel that he favoured, being able to pass himself off as someone much younger with his pretty, boyish looks and slim frame. A situation, which he had used to his advantage on more than a few occasions. Not all the retainers around favoured the fairer sex for intimate liaisons...There was much excitement in the cramped hall as the messenger related the story of the monumental battle at Shimizu, where the inexperienced Daimyo Takeda Yoshinobu had met the massed ranks of what was probably the most experienced army in the field-that commanded by the Hojo Daimyo, Ujimasu himself, with no fewer than three of his sons also in attendance. At stake was no less than the Shogunate itself for the Hojo leadership reckoned that a decisive victory over their erstwhile friends and steadfast allies, now turned treacherous enemy, would settle the matter once and for all. That was the reason that the Hojo marched with all of their clan lords as well as the Daimyo: they would teach the Takeda Horse Lords a lesson they would not soon forget.
Except this battle was to be contested over a river with a single bridge crossing point with, some half a kilometre to their Northwest, a shallow ford. Sound familiar, the emissary cried, warming to his story? For if there was a specific type of battle that the Takeda had become masters at it was this and the tactics of it had been handed down and taught diligently ever since that fateful clash at Ise Plains where Nobukado had proved such an adept twenty one years previously. Moreover news had reached the Daimyo before they had deployed that the enemy force was heavy in Bow Samurai-overly so by accounts from the scouts who estimated that no fewer than half the opposing forces were made up of such. In contrast The Takeda army was heavy in cavalry and foot soldiers and, as was their way, very light in archers. Less than two hundred marched with the No-Dachi, Heavy Cavalry, Katana and Yari Samurai. What they lacked in ranged firepower they more than made up for in heavy, manoeuvrable horse and infantry. The night before the battle a bright-eyed Yoshinobu had vowed that, with sacred Mount Fuji observing, They would utilise the age-old principle of fix and strike: the infantry at the bridge being the anvil upon which would strike the blow of the famed Takeda cavalry.
(Shimizu dawn: The Daimyo's view)
Events might have unfurled as predicted had the Hojo not done the utterly unpredictable and thrown no less than two of the cavalry troops, each commanded by one of the sons at both the bridge and also at the ford. Both attacks were predictably beaten back not least because at the bridge stood five hundred Yari wielding samurai who repulsed this probing attack with bloody losses. At least here the Lordling survived. His brother tasked with capturing the ford was not so lucky for Yoshinobu had stationed the bulk of his cavalry, in some trees not far from there. The commander had bided his time waiting for the lone enemy troop to wade half way across before launching no less than five hundred Katana and Yari wielding heavy horsemen at them. Needless to say the enemy and one of the Hojo heirs was annihilated in a trice.
There was much satisfaction and puffing out of chests at the account so far. Far from being a 'bean counter' it seemed that their late Daimyo actually had some of the tactical nous of his uncle and father flowing in his veins!
The battle now hinged on two points: the bridgehead and the ford where the massed Takeda cavalry had become embroiled in a running battle with large numbers of Bow Samurai who were no mean infantry in a melee and the remaining Hojo cavalry. For a time it looked as though the battle would swing to the enemy who had superior numbers but it is said that a good general can sense the critical point in a battle and apply the most appropriate power at that point and such was the case here with, simultaneously, the two reserve troops of Yari cavalry despatched at haste to the Ford and three troops of reserve Katana Samurai launched headlong at the bridgehead. The effect at the ford was to break the impasse and free the remaining cavalry there to regroup, mass and launch themselves at the Hojo even now forming to attack the bridge.
With smiles now on the faces of all listening the Emissary detailed how the cavalry fought their way through the Samurai behind the bridge and finally onto it thus trapping those at the bridgehead between the hammer and the anvil as the Daimyo had predicted in his bright-eyed and passionate orders to his Captains the night before battle was joined.
(Takeda Cavalry finally fight through to the Bridge)
Reinforcements were now also arriving led by Yoshinobu's trusted Lieutenant, Baba Kiyotomo with a troop of Katana cavalry racing for the ford and four more squads of Katana and Yari Samurai not far behind. The bridgehead battle was now desperate and though the Takeda infantry were holding there were far more Hojo pressing to break out. At this point the Daimyo committed his last infantry reserve-a troop of Katana samurai, hoping against hope that this infantry would hold long enough for the reinforcements to get to them. The cavalry at the other side of the bridge were beginning to have an impact but there were simply not enough of them fighting through the melee to provide shock action. In the end the effect of nearly five hundred fresh Takeda infantry throwing themselves at the bridgehead was the final straw and the will to fight fled from the Hojo forces, who broke in numbers and were hunted down by the still considerable numbers of Takeda cavalry. A resounding victory that had been won in the shadow of looming Mount Fuji, not far from the Takeda hinterlands and no one could disagree that there was a new military star in the Takeda hierarchy nor how fitting it was that it should be the leader himself.
The emissary paused for breath whilst applause broke all around them. One could almost end it here, Akinobu had thought as he helped clear the bowls and platters with the entrées in them. For now would be a fitting end. He was not sure, eyeing his lord from afar, whether there was any appetite to hear how disaster had befallen their Chief only a few weeks later.
Yet there was Sanekatsu signalling from the dais and all fell silent once more.
'Messenger I would fain hear more. The account from the bloody field at Izu. How was it that my brother came to his end so soon after displaying such prowess in battle-come speak sir and leave no part out!'
'Hai my lord!' The emissary bowed low, straightened and spoke once more: 'the failure at Izu can be put down to three things: over-confidence, poor initial dispositions and bad luck.' He let this sink in before continuing. 'The fact is that the previous victory seems to have rather affected our late leader, my lords, for everything that was done well for the battle at Shimizu was done poorly for this. There seemed to be a prevailing opinion that since the enemy armies were commanded by a mere General and not one of the Hojo Lords themselves that it would be an easy fight.'
'We all know that there are no easy battles in this Sengoku Jidai' the young Takeda Lord opined aloud.
At this point there was a commotion at the entranceway, shouting and a tussle without. Akinobu at once melted into the shadows, preparing to shed his outfit and interpose himself if there was any attempt being made on his Lord's life: the enemy also had Ninja after all.
But the commotion was in fact another emissary, this one wearing the device of their late departed Daimyo as his Mon.
'What is this-interruption?' Sanekatsu demanded the colour rising in his cheeks.
This messenger bowed but it was a bow that was cursory and full of insolence.
'Takeda Sanekatsu, I come direct from the Regent Takeda Akebono. You are hereby ordered to relinquish this stronghold and proceed post haste to Izu Province there to confront the force that murdered her late dear husband. You are to utterly destroy them with whatever forces you can muster from our neighbouring Sagami province and Odawara castle therein as the continued presence of our enemies there threatens not only our presence but the eminence of our son in Kai itself.'
If the tone and bearing of this instruction was peremptory the next part was overbearing in the extreme:
'Our sources tell us that you have already tarried over long in Shimotsuke Province-there is to be no delay in execution of these orders by order of your Regent!'
Outwardly there appeared to be no change in the young Lordling but only the most observant (and Akinobu was obviously one such) would have noticed the vein pulsing in Sanekatsu's neck as this episode unfolded.
'Messenger you will return at once to the Regent, my sister in law, and tell her that I will move according to military expedience at a time of my choosing-you have good leave to leave us-Kofu is not so very far after all. Guards! Find this man a fresh horse for he will be leaving immediately.'
It was a direct challenge to the authority (self-proclaimed as it was) of the Regent herself and this was not lost on any of the Lords there. Age old custom dictated that, as the most senior now of the Takeda Taishos, Sanekatsu was free to make whatever dispositions he so chose not under the interfering hand of a woman who had no knowledge whatsoever of military matters. It was insufferable the general had shouted in the company of a few trusted adherents as they met later to discuss this affront to his honour.
And this was the reason that Akinobu was on the road south-west: his mission-to find out the enemy numbers in the two provinces that bordered Shimotsuke as well as assess the lie of the land at Izu. Any chance he had to eliminate the Hojo Commanders, meanwhile, he was to pursue with extreme prejudice. His Lord would follow within a month or two and vengeance, he promised, would follow with him...