The ongoing reports of the Imperial Herald, Miya Shoin, to the Divine Empress, detailing the events of the Empire during this time of unprecedented war.
The State of the Empire
An Account of the Divine Empress’ Subjects’ Activities During This Time of War
The First Week of the Month of the Serpent, Year 1172
You will recall that last week I spoke with grave concerns about the horrific blossoming of plague that erupted in the unaligned region between the Crane and Scorpion lands. This region has of course been a veritable breeding ground for the plague up until this point, and only the careful and stern pruning by the Scorpion has prevented this from taking place before now. Unfortunately, with so many threats rearing their heads throughout the Empire, the Scorpion were inevitably called away, and it is only in their absence that we see the true value of their contribution to your Empire.
As I said last week, there are many small villages that can be found in the plain that separate the sons of Bayushi and the sons of Doji, many of whom have had the plague afflict portions of their populace at one point or another. The Scorpion and, to a lesser extent, the Crane have supplied what they could to assist in alleviating the worst ravages of the sickness, but the dead have risen on many occasions and inflicted additional loss of life. The people of these villages are hardy and resolute, however, and have not wavered. Or perhaps I should say that they had not wavered, for they are no more. There is no indication of what might have caused this terrible eruption of illness, death, and reanimation, although I have an urgent missive from my good friend Otomo Taneji from his estate in Ryoko Owari, one that I have put aside only so long as I can compile this already late report for you, your grace, and I have an inkling somehow that there might be a corollary between the two. We shall see if I am simply a foolish man, old beyond my years, or if the Fortunes have blessed me with a moment of insight. My report next week shall surely tell the tale.
Regardless of the cause, the effect of the pandemic has been disastrous. Every living soul within perhaps one hundred square miles suddenly became afflicted with, perished from, and was reanimated by the plague. There may have been exceptions, but if so I am unaware of them. This massive surge of plague-dead, as you might imagine, threatened a vastly larger region than even what was devastated by the initial devastation. Moving quickly to cross the Spine of the World Mountains, the combined forces of Lady Doji’s Eyes and the Ikoma Wardens struggled to contain the nightmarish event. They created a defensive perimeter, or at least as much as was possible given the enormous size of the area in question, and struggled to eradicate anything emerging from the region. There are reports of a handful who escaped the area unscathed, but their fate is as yet unknown, given that they could very well already be afflicted with the plague and merely waiting to show signs. There are also reports, perhaps equally disturbing, that the Dark Wind cavalry unit of which we have spoken previously swept through the region, destroying everything in their path. Reports indicate that their brutality took no chances, and everything that stood before them was destroyed rather than risk further spread of the plague. They did not affiliate themselves with the Lion or Crane, or vice versa, but nor was their conflict between the forces. I am told that a poet in attendance with Lady Doji’s Eyes, a stately gentleman named Doji Bukita, wrote a poem regarding the incident and specifically the Dark Wind. My herald reports that it at once moves the soul to outrage and hatred of the Dark Wind, yet at the same time leaves one in awe of their terrible prowess. I have requested to hear the poem recited, and am told that Bukita is entertaining offers from multiple courts to attend.
Related to this incident, I have received a tentative report that the Bayushi Elite Guard, at this point perhaps the unit with the most experience combating the plague and its aftereffects in the entire Empire, have moved around the southern edge of the infected area and have engaged plague-dead outbreaks there as well. It appears that they are attempting to curtail the spread of the plague from the unaligned region to the easternmost Crab provinces, the only significant area of Crab holdings to as yet be spared the effects of the war with the Destroyers. This, perhaps, speaks to the allegedly growing bond between the Crab and Scorpion, forged in the fires of battle over defense of their homes from the Destroyers. I for one would be greatly pleased if this war would destroy prejudice and hatred as well as all the other tragic targets that have been consumed thus far.
In the same general area, there is a report that Amoro’s Legion has moved to the southernmost portion of the peninsula east of Earthquake Fish Bay. Under any other circumstances I would consider this a dire occurrence indeed, as this has been the area of the Empire over which the Crab and Crane have fought most often. In this case, however, Hida Sozen has led his men to engage one of the Centuriae of Destroyers that have been plaguing the area. Reports indicate that this particular threat has a more sinister component, in that human forces have been sighted alongside the Destroyers. If they are ronin or traitors, or perhaps merely more of the unidentified gaijin that we have seen on previous occasions, I cannot say. Curious though it may sound, I almost hope that they are gaijin invaders, for the thought of additional traitorous forces within the Empire pains my heart too greatly to consider. The last report I received from my herald in this area is that Sozen was attempting to trap the Centuriae until reinforcements could arrive, but secretly my herald feared that the madman would engage without additional assistance, which he considered tantamount to a mass seppuku. I wait pensively for news.
Earlier I made reference to the Bayushi Elite Guard as perhaps the single most experienced unit in the Empire with regard to combating the undead created by the plague. That may be true, but if so, then surely the Mantis Storm Guard are the most effective at ending the threat of the Destroyers. The forces aligned against the gaijin at the southern front simply cannot marshal any force with such magical potency (which I consider a further testament to their military prowess). There have been allegations, unfortunately, that this prowess is a result of the Storm Riders having as-yet-unrevealed information regarding the Destroyers, perhaps some dark secret kept in their secretive temples that could have stopped the battle in the first place. I consider such allegations offensive in the extreme, as no doubt the Mantis do as well, but the scions of Yoritomo are a practical people, and they have immediately taken steps to ensure that such allegations can be disproven so that they do not fester as such things are wont to do. The Storm Riders escorted the Legion of Flame, a Phoenix detachment, home to the Islands of Silk and Spice so that the Phoenix could examine at their leisure the lore contained by the Storm Rider sensei. This will no doubt disprove such falsehoods, although I wonder if, when the war is over, the Storm Riders might bear animosity toward those who levied such lies against them, or even against the Phoenix for having read their most precious secrets. Only time will tell, I fear.
Finally, there was a report of unknown forces massing in the northernmost regions of the Shinomen Mori. As you well know, your Shogun and his forces spent ample time in this region attempting to uncover any threat that might exist to your Empire. This is prior to the redirection of the Shogun, first to the search for Daigotsu, and then to war in this present conflict, and so his duty was never completed in that region. The Unicorn appear to consider this a matter of honor and, rather than risk the Shogun’s reputation, they deployed forces to the region to deal with whatever threat may have massed there. The Dragon likewise sent forces to assist, which is poetic considering the ties that both clans have to the Naga race that calls the forest home. My reports indicate that a scout officer named Shinjo Ki-Chang led the foray into the forest and ultimately found signs of a large war camp, complete with supplies left behind after a hasty departure. There was no way to determine what group might have used the camp, nor if the supplies were in some way left as a trap, and so ultimately the two groups put the entire area to the torch to deny a potential enemy their resources, and to ensure that the ongoing threat to the nearby Naga cities was minimized. Fortunately this was a small and controlled incident, and nothing like the previous devastation of that great forest occurred.
I take my leave of the report now, my Empress, for Taneji-sama’s missive yet waits, and I hear the sound of horses in the courtyard beyond. I hope to have additional information for you soon.
Ever your servant,
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