Posts Tagged ‘daimyos’

“The Kimono”, Chapter 23, of Lord Jizo and a Tengu.

March 20, 2013

Lord Jizo

Tengu stone

“The Kimono” is a novel I started a few years ago. I had to research the 17th Japanese culture and history to write this. However, with other projects now out of the way, I am going back this spring to try to complete this tale.

It will be confusing to new readers, though I have posted chapters of this developing novel for a couple of years now. The book opens with Mari, a very 21st century Japanese-American woman buying an old kimono in Kyoto. She is married to Steven and the marriage isn’t going well. The kimono is possessed by some hidden force and upon donning it and going to sleep, Mari is transported to the 17th century of Japan. She lands literally at the feet of Lord Mori, a powreful daimyo (warlord) in what is now Akito, Japan. Lord Yoki is a monk, but more so, he’s also a tengu. The tengu (mythological creatures originally from China) are also involved with the Yamabushi. Tengus are shape shifters, and this tengu, Lord Yoki, is also a time traveler.

Lord Jizo is one of my favorite Shinto figures.

Lady Nyo

The Kimono, Chapter 23

Mari and Lady Nyo returned from their shopping, and Mari went to lie down. Her feet hurt in the high geta. It took careful steps and concentration not to twist an ankle.

When they were out, Lady Nyo told her of a small shrine close by, dedicated to Lord Jizo. Mari wanted to make an offering. When they passed the shrine on the road a few days before, Mari was deeply moved. She had lost her first and possibly only child and perhaps now she could face grief. She put it out of mind because of the disruption, and mostly the shame.

Lord Mori and Lord Ekei disappeared during the morning. Neither Mari or Lady Nyo had a clue where the men were. They were just women and not to be informed. Lord Nyo was left in charge. Mari thought it a good time to approach Lady Nyo. She wanted to walk the short way to the shrine, to spend some time in thought and she wanted to do it alone. Lady Nyo’s expression was one of doubt, but she promised to talk to Lord Nyo.

Mari knew she would have to have protection, either in the form of Lady Nyo with her husband’s men or men of Lord Mori. This was not of her choosing. She had no say in these things.

Lady Nyo found her in the tiny garden in the back of the inn, watching goldfish in the small pond before her stone bench.

“Lady Mari”, she softly called.

At the sound of her voice, Mari looked up. It was still early, just past the noon hour, and the day was overlaid with clouds. It had turned misty, but Mari was still hopeful she could make her visit.

“My Lord Nyo has agreed and is to send you with two men and I will send you with a servant. I will provide you with coin to buy incense.”

Mari smiled. She knew Lady Nyo was risking much in not accompanying her, but Mari wanted some distance from everyone. She wanted some privacy to think and to be alone. It didn’t seem possible in this century.

Lady Nyo was kind. She sensed what Mari needed. After all, this foreign looking, foreign acting woman was full of secrets, and she knew in time the tight ball who was Lady Mari would unravel. She was willing to wait. There was something much bigger about this woman, this unusual and rather ugly favorite of Lord Mori. What it was, Hana Nyo did not know, but sensed it was worth her patience. There were clues, but these were too fantastic to believe.

Mari set out with two armed guards and one of the two women servants. This time she wore her straw sandals and her traveling kimono, with an oiled paper cloak to protect from the rain. Mari had not been raised in either Shinto or Buddhist beliefs, though her mother privately offered prayers and burned incense at a small family shrine set up in a corner of their house. Mari for a time had attended a Unitarian church, the religion of her father. Who Lord Jizo was remained unclear to Mari. The only knowledge she had was that he was the patron ‘saint’ of unborn, miscarried and stillborn children. It seemed enough of a starting place for her. Perhaps she wouldn’t feel so empty after offering prayers for her dead baby.

The walk to the shrine was not far, and the road was banked with mulberry trees and beyond the road, bamboo stands looking like small forests of waving greenery. A drizzle had started; it served to dampen the dust on the road.

There were few travelers today. When they got to the shrine, Mari was surprised how primitive it was; not more than a raised open shed, a stone pillar with a carved face set back from the entrance. There were offerings of toys, incense, pebbles, a few small coins. Children’s clothes were folded and laid at the base of Lord Jizo. One mother had put a red bib around his neck and a white, knitted hat sat on his head.

The men and the servant stood back by the road, but not so far they couldn’t see Mari. She walked up the few wooden stairs to kneel on the rough wooden floor. There was a crow in the rafters, who looked at Mari, curious as to her presence.

Mari placed her unlit incense in the bowl of sand in front of the statue. She raised her eyes to his face, and realized his features were faint, dissolved by time. A small, smiling mouth, long earlobes, closed eyes. Mari felt tears forming and gulped to swallow them. She didn’t know what to say, what to pray for. She had not been a religious person back in her own century, and things were too disrupted and strange to even contemplate the spiritual now. The presence of magic had destroyed her belief in comforting things.

A strange sensation came over her. She did not recognize it at first, but soon realized she was feeling more than the usual emptiness. She felt—filled with something, and at first she didn’t understand. Tears coursed down her face, and raising her eyes to Jizo these ancient details dissolved even more. Whether it was her tears or some magic, she was looking at the face of a laughing baby. She clasped her hands to her chest and uttered a soft, marveling cry. Then, the vague stone features of Lord Jizo reappeared.

Mari was deeply moved, but frightened. Perhaps it was the dim light of the shrine playing tricks or perhaps it was her confused mind. Whatever it was, she felt a peace, something she had not felt in a long time. She felt as if a rock had been lifted from her chest.

The faint sound of a flute came to her ears. Sad, consoling music. She looked up in the rafters to the left of the Jizo statue and saw a monk sitting there, or what she thought was a monk. He was playing a bamboo flute and floated down like a dust mote. Mari looked around at the men and the girl outside. They seemed oblivious to anything happening inside the shrine. In fact, they weren’t moving. They looked frozen.

“Do not be afraid”. The monk, a very dirty, dusty man in a ripped kimono, spoke in a raspy voice, clearing cobwebs from his face as he stood there.

Mari for some reason did not feel afraid. Perhaps she was enchanted and this was a spell?

“Nah, you‘re under no spell. But the men outside are.” He giggled.

Mari blanched. This monk could read her mind?

The monk coughed, and spat, very unmonk-like behavior in a shrine.

“Were you the crow in the rafters?” Mari’s voice was soft, disbelief making it hard to speak.

“You’re a fast study, girl.” The monk laughed, seeing the astonishment on Mari’s face.

“What are you?”

“Ah….you are a rude one! Perhaps the shock of seeing a crow transform into a man has robbed you of manners?”

“But what are you?”

“You already asked that. I am Lord Yoki.”

“You obviously are not human. Are you a figment of my mind?”

“Oh, I am much more than that, girl. I am a Tengu. Are you familiar with tengus?”

Mari shook her head, eyes wide in shock, now beyond speech.

“Ah….we have met before, Mari.”

“How do you know my name?”

The tengu laughed, a raspy sound from a thin, wizened throat. Mari’s eyes traveled over his kimono. It was patched and stained, none too clean for a monk. His toenails were very long, in fact they had grown over his straw sandals and seemed more like bird claws. He was scratching at his hindquarters, too.

Lord Yoki smiled, blinked, and closed his eyes to mere slits. Mari noticed his nose was very long and red. Probably drank too much sake.

“You were visiting a friend in Kyoto. Coming home one night, I called out to you.”

Mari couldn’t think of where she had seen this creature.

“Ah…your friend, Miko? “

Mari gasped. Miko was back home…in her century, the 21st, not the 17th! What was happening here? Was she losing her mind?

Suddenly, she remembered. There was a large bird on a wire high above her one cold night. She remembered that night with Miko, telling her about the dream….a dream that turned out to be another reality. She remembered being scared by a voice, and looking up in the dark, she saw a huge bird with a long red beak.

“Yup, at your service.” The tengu bowed and giggled, like a girl would.

“But, but….how?” That was another century, hundreds of years from now. “How are you here?”

“Better you ask me why.”

Mari went to rise, and fell back on her backside. Her legs would not support her.

“And….you speak English! I must be losing my mind!”

“Oh, don’t get overly excited, girl”, he said, making a dismissive gesture with his hand. “Weirder things have happened.”

The tengu grimaced, scratched at his scraggly beard. “Lice”, he said flatly.

Mari twisted from the floor, trying to see the men outside. They had not moved an inch.

“Oh, don’t worry about them. We have things to talk about.”

The tengu folded his legs and sat facing her, tucking his flute into his robe.

“I am sure you have some questions for me?” He looked at her expectantly.

“What questions could I have for you?” Mari’s shock was lessening and she began to feel danger.

“Perhaps you would like to know what your husband Steven is up to.”

Steven! Mari gasped, her eyes opening wide. What would this old man, if he was one, know of Steven?

“Well, why don’t we start by you asking me some questions? I bet I know more than you could guess.” He folded his hands in front of him, looking rather pleased with himself.

Mari swallowed hard, wishing she had some water. Her throat was dry.

“What could you know about my husband?”

The monk lifted his eyebrows a few times and winked. Mari almost laughed. He looked like Groucho Marx.

“I travel in many circles, girl. I get around.”

Mari would have dismissed him as insane, but uttering Steven’s name meant something else.

“Then tell me what he is doing. Is he worried about me? Is he ok?”

The monk ‘s face softened.

“You don’t understand much about this time travel, do you? Has no one explained to you what happens?”

Mari remembered only that Lord Mori said a year here in this century would be like a minute in hers.
Haltingly Mari told the monk what she knew.

“Yes, yes, that is part of it. Going back and forth can be confusing, but do not worry. You have no reason for concern about husband Steven. See those men out there? And your servant? “

Mari saw the men and woman in the same position. Still frozen.

“That is how your disappearance has seemed to Lord Steven. He doesn’t have a clue.”

The monk chortled and the hair stood on the back of Mari’s neck.

Mari wrapped her arms around herself and looked at the floor. Tears started to form. What had she done to Steven, to her marriage? Was she already dead and this was some kind of Hell?

“Mari”, said the monk in a soft voice. “You are caught up in a web of magic, and none of this is of your doing. You only bought a kimono having some history and you fell under its power. What happens now is out of your control. From the beginning, it was your fate.”

“What is going to happen to me?” Mari raised her eyes to the monk, her face full of despair.

The monk, or tengu, or whatever he was, almost scowled, and spit again on the boards of the shrine.

“Do I look like a fortune teller? I have no idea, girl, what is to be your destiny, but I know you are a pawn in a larger game.”

“One of Lord Mori’s making?”

“Lord Mori is also a pawn, but a much more important pawn. We all are pawns in this present game, Mari.”

“What does he want of me?”

Lord Yoki looked at Mari, studying her face, but said nothing for a few seconds.

“Our Lord Mori is a complex man. He can wield his own small magic, more tricks than anything else. There are other forces at work and our Lord is determined to find them out. This, in part, is the reason for this pilgrimage to Gassan Mountain.”

“But how do I figure in all of this?”

The monk laid his head to one side and narrowed his eyes as he looked at Mari. He looked like a blinking owl.

“I have no answers for you, girl. I just know that you do. You will have to cultivate patience. You have no control or power as to what happens. “

Mari did not get much from his answers. At least she now knew something about Steven, if she could believe this monk. If it was true her absence had gone unnoticed by him, then perhaps there was something good in this.

What her role was to be here, in this century, in the presence of Lord Mori and the others, there had to be an answer for her. At least she had the small comfort about Steven. If she could believe the monk.

She looked at him, but he had vanished. In less than a blink of the eye, he was gone. Mari stretched out a hand to where he had been sitting. Had she dreamed all this? Was she also under a spell?

She heard voices. The men were talking amongst themselves, leaning on their nagatas. The woman servant was plaiting reeds from her basket.

Mari left the shrine, only turning back once to look at Lord Jizo. She still had no answers, but for some strange reason, she felt comforted. Whether it was Lord Jizo or the monk, she didn’t know.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2008-13

‘Lord Nyo’s Moon Child’

February 21, 2012

from “The Nightingale’s Song”, Part II

(woodblock print by T. Yoshitushi/ a classicaday.blogspot.com. 

(Notes:  Tsuki means Moon/Tsukiyomi is the Moon God/ kami is a god/devil/spirit/’baba’ means grandmother/Gassan Mountain is “Moon” Mountain, in Akito province (west/north Japan)/daimyo is the term for “Great Warlord” and Samurai were servants of the daimyo)

Perhaps a strong man

Should not offer love without

Having love returned

But this grieving ugly warrior

Still finds his love is growing

(from the Man-yoshu)

.

When the news of Lady Nyo

Birthing a son

Reached Lord Nyo

He was far from home,

To the east,

Over mountains;

Dangerous, alien territory.

.

A general in the service

Of his lord,

The gore of battle,

The issue of ‘dying with honor’

Began at first light,

The air soon filled with sounds of battle-

Dying horses, dying men

Drawing their last gasps of life,

Churned into the mud of immeasurable violence.

.

Death, not new life

Was before his eyes at dawn,

And death, not life

Pillowed his head at night.

.

He stunk with the blood of battle

As his bow and swords cut a swath

Through men in service to another

And when the battle horns went silent,

With tattered banners like defeated clouds

Limp over the field,

Acrid smoke stained everything

And the piteous cries of the dying

Echoed in his ears.

.

He wondered if his life would end here.

But the gods that he didn’t believe in

Were merciful

And his thoughts turned from fierce, ugly warriors

Towards home and a baby.

.

It took a month

For Lord Nyo to lead his remaining men,

Battle-weary and maimed

Some in  body, all in spirit

Some not destined for further life,

But to die in the arms of women

In the shade of Gassan mountain.

No shame in this,

They had fought like devils

And only their daimyos

Could claim ‘victory’.

.

Lord Nyo pushed himself,

His aging war horse,

His men,

Only stopping to bathe

Once in a cold mountain stream,

To wash the dust of battle

From his eyes,

The soot of many fires from his face

Though he knew he still looked like a ghoul

And would frighten any baby.

.

Finally he came through the wicket gate

Of his house,

Saw the assembly of servants, women

And Lady Nyo on the veranda,

All bowing to the ground

In honor of their lord,

Though Lady Nyo held his new son

Like a Madonna before her,

And Lord Nyo, ugly, old warrior that he was,

Felt the sting of a woman’s tears fill his eyes.

.

He bowed to his wife,

A deep, respectful bow,

And went to view his son

In the arms of his lady.

His son was blowing bubbles,

Cooing like a turtle dove

But when he saw his father,

His leather armor and helmet still on his head,

His eyes widened in fright

Then shut tight

As he howled like a dog

Greeting the full Moon!

.

The women all shuddered!

What a greeting to a new father,

And what would their lord do?

Lord Nyo narrowed his eyes,

Threw back his head

And gave a great howl of his own.

Tsuki stopped in mid-flight

Stared at this leather-clad stranger

Who would dare howl louder than he!

.

It was not seemly

For a great warrior,

Just back from battle

To show such interest in a child,

But Lord Nyo put all that aside.

A tender nature came forth

And no one would laugh or smirk,

For he was a new father,

Though an aged one,

And would by rights,

Enjoy his only son.

.

He fashioned leather balls

To roll under bamboo blinds

To entice Tsuki

Like a kitten to chase,

even poked a small hole in the shoji

Of his lady’s rooms so he could watch

Unknown (he thought)

Of the servants and even his wife,

But all knew and whispered

Behind their sleeves

And noted his curious love.

.

No one thought the lesser of him for doing this.

.

Lord Nyo made

By his own hands

A tiny catalpa-wood bow,

With tinier arrows,

Fitted with feathers from a hummingbird

And arrow heads of small bone,

Something to shoot at birds,

Or perhaps cats,

But Tsuki only gnawed on the gleaming wood,

His teeth coming in,

And all he could reach

Was his personal chew-toy.

.

One day soon after his return,

Lord Nyo peered through the shoji,

Watched the old nurse bath his son

When Tsuki climbed from his bath

And started to cross the tatami mat.

Lord Nyo saw the tail,

And almost tore the shoji off its tracks,

He stormed into the room.

.

“Wife, Wife!

What little devil have your spawned!

What malevolent kami have you lain with!”

.

Lady Nyo, writing a poem in her journal

Rose quickly from her low table

And rushed into the room.

.

“My Lord!

I am told this little tail

Will disappear in time.

It marks our son for now

As a gift of the gods.

This little vestigial tail

Portends great deeds to be done

By our Tsuki.”

.

The old nurse shrunk back,

Well familiar with the temper

Of her lord,

Praying at this moment

For the kindness of a stray kami

To turn her into a bar of soap.

.

Tsuki, for his part

Saw his father

And with a great squeal of joy

Crawled as fast as his fat little legs could,

His tail a propeller going round and round

Not at all helping the situation,

As Lord Nyo staggered back against the shoji

Ripping even more of the delicate rice paper

And the frame asunder.

.

Lady Nyo rushed to pick up him up,

Wrapping him and the offending tail

In the long sleeve of her kimono,

Holding him to her breast

.

But Tsuki wanted his father

And cried, “Baba, Baba!”

With a piteous tone,

Not knowing the proper name for ‘Father’,

As the nurse rolled her eyes

Cowering behind her lady,

Wondering if this ugly, old warrior

Had lost his wits in battle.

.

We know Tsuki was a gift of the gods,

Or at least Tsukiyomi,

The god of the Moon.

When Tsuki was in his basket

And the moon was full,

Lady Nyo and her old nurse

Placed small lanterns around his cradle,

To lessen the glow of her son,

As he slept in the moonlight.

It was unearthy how much Tsuki gleamed at night

But how pale tofu-colored he appeared during the day.

.

One night of the full Moon,

Lord Nyo lay besides his wife

And was awakened by Tsuki gurgling

From his basket,

His son talking to the

Moonbeams which danced into the room

From the high window above his cradle.

The small-wicked lanterns had burned out

And the moon and the moon child

Brightened the room.

.

Lord Nyo watched his son weave strands of moonbeam

With his feet, cooing and laughing,

Clear crystal ribbons of light floating

Around him

Out the window

And up to the moon.

He saw the benevolent face of Tsukiyomi above,

Looking with obvious love at his son.

.

Lord Nyo felt the weariness of years fall away;

Felt tender love for this Moon-child,

And yes, both of them blessed by the changeable gods,

A gift for an ugly, old warrior

A gift of life in the midst of such death,

A gift for the remaining years of his life.

.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2012

“The Kimono”…and the blog.

January 17, 2010

The Kimono that started the book.

For  two years  I have been writing a novel that delves into 16th century Japan.  It’s basically a time warp, with a Japanese/American woman, Mari, who buys and dons a magical kimono and lands at the feet (literally) of a powerful 16th century daimyo.

Writing this novel meant an immersion into Japanese culture, and from just these beginning tentative stages, the poetry of  the character, Lady Nyo…developed.

After 32,000 words, the novel stalled.  I had written into the middle part of the novel, and it was flowing well.  Of course, there is always an issue of rewrite.  However, along the way I was pushed to study Japanese archery, cruxification, pottery and of course, Japanese forms of poetry and their usage. Most of this last was reading the poetry  developed from the 8th through the 12th century Japan.

I don’t think it was …(this stalling)…a question of nothing to write. I even have the ending, and I can’t wait to get to that!  It is something of a dream sequence, but I am my own worse spoiler on these things.

Back in the Fall, I made myself a promise: I would give over January on for the writing and FINISHING of  “Kimono”.  Things have been a bit jerky on that promise, but I am getting back  into the study and swing of Japanese history, culture and customs.

The ‘dead’ middle part of this book is because I came to an impass:  I didn’t have the necessary knowledge of things military in the Japan of the 16th century.  This was quite a difference between knowing ceramics and kimono styles and ichibani.  Armor, the different weapons, banners, that floated over armies to distinguish battalions and friend or foe, the sheer ‘ weight’ of all this was a bit overwhelming.

Well, identifying the stoppage as a source of knowledge that was missing was comforting; it wasn’t an abandonment of the work because I had lost interest.  I was deeply interested in Japanese culture.  I just allowed myself to get waylaid.

Life can do that, but hopefully works for a purpose.

I will float a few chapters of “The Kimono” on this blog….because it pleases me to do this and it seems to please others.  And that is the point of writing to me.  In that order.

I am still going to post some information on the development of tanka and different poetry forms around the Heian Court of 12 century Japan.  But there is so much in there, and that is….hopefully, related to the novel.

I also have wanted to do a few interviews of other writers:  Bill Penrose, Steve Isaak, mostly.  But that takes some questions on this side.  However, Bill and Steve are great writers and they can handle an amateur’s interview.

I am mostly going to work on this book, and the blog will just have to coast for a while.  I hope friends and readers will find something to enjoy in these next few months on the blog, but I am going to try and keep entries  down.

The kimono I bought from Marla Marlett’s website is pictured above.

Lady Nyo

(Chapter 13 below. Forgive the lack of proofing.)

Kunu: state…territory.  Japan was made of 68 states, the Western daimyos fighting the Eastern.

Koku: is a measure of rice…like a bushel.  Wages to samurai and others were paid in koku.

Chapter 13

At the Hour of the Dragon, Lords Mori and Ekei were drinking the first of many cups of cha.

The morning dawned with peach colored clouds over the lake and raucous honking by resident geese.  It was cool this morning, though late spring, and the brazier did little to boil the water for the cha as Lord Mori poked more charcoal beneath the small fire. The brass kettle sweated with the cold water filled from a jug.

“Lord Tokugama will expect a report by the new moon.”

Lord Ekei’s voice was soft.  Except for the distant sound of waterfowl, there was little noise outside the castle except for the nightsoil men making their rounds. The buckets clanged against the old cobblestones as they dropped their poles to shovel manure from beasts  the night before.

“I know. He is expecting much detail.”  Lord Mori sipped at his cha, his face scowling into his cup.

“Our lord is expecting troops and provisions.” Lord Ekei blinked his eyes, trying to wake up.  It was still very early and the room cold.

“He asks much to put down a peasant rebellion.  It will just rise up again when the rains wash the blood from next spring’s soil.”

Lord Mori grunted into his cup, his face a mask.

“The problem” said Lord Ekei, pushing his point, “isn’t about what the peasants do, it’s about what the daimyos don’t do.”

“And what is that, my friend?”

“The corruption from the tax collectors breeds these rebellions.  Too much koku is taken from the fields and not enough left to live upon. Under heaven, there is nothing else to do but riot. Starving bellies are invitations to rebellion.”

Lord Mori grunted.  “This is the problem. Living in Edo for six months every two years.  The cost depletes the supplies.”

Lord Mori filled both cups with more hot water, blowing over the rising steam of his cup.

“Yes, yes, that is a large consideration, but until Heaven moves its bowels, nothing can be done about that.”

“A good strategy on the Emperor’s part would help. Or rather the Shogun. The effort to mobilize each daimyo in obedience to the court’s demands keeps us from each other’s throats.”

“I think we better do—“

Suddenly an overly large bird appeared at the window, and startled both lords.  It was big like a vulture and had a long red nose and dark iridescent feathers.  It was a tengu.

Shaking its feathers violently, a dust storm obscured it for a few seconds.  Then both lords saw a skinny priest, dressed in a filthy kimono appear. Both lords bowed respectfully from their cushions.

“Man, those air currents! They would tear a bird’s feathers from his body. Got a cup of sake around?  Travel dehydrates me.”

This tengu was a priest from the Yamabushi clan. He hopped down from the window, scratching the side of his face where a scrawny gray beard covered it.

“Lice,” he announced with a grin.

Lord Mori spooned some powdered tea in a cup, poured some hot water over it, carefully stirred and handed the cup to the scratching man.  He took it with a sour, disdainful glance at both lords, and drank it without ceremony, smacking his lips loudly and wiping his hand across his thin lips.

“Lord Yori, we are honored you have come to advise us”, said Lord Ekei with another bow.

“Well, beats hanging around  Haight-Ashbury.  Had to appear as a pigeon to fit in, and all there was to do during the day was beg for breadcrumbs.  Did look up skirts at muffs, though.”  He laughed, a coarse, wheezing sound.

Lord Ekei suppressed a smile, and Lord Mori didn’t a grimace.  They had dealt with Lord Yori before.  His antics were well known.

Lord Yori lowered himself to a cushion and rubbed his hands over the brazier. “You got any sake?  Spring is a bad time for travel.”

Lord Mori clapped his hands twice and within several minutes a servant appeared with three cups and a brown bottle of warmed sake, placing them on the low table between the lords.  Lord Mori poured three cups and offered the first to the Lord Yori.  He drank it fast and held out his cup for a refill.

It would be a long morning with Lord Yori and it best be spent drunk.

“My Lord Yori, our Lord Tokugawa  in Kyoto has called upon the daimyos of the western borders to send troops and supplies to put down a rebellion of peasants in Mikawa providence.”

“Yeah?  Well, being a vassal is tough. The nature of the beast.  Too many kits and not enough teats.”  Lord Yori followed this statement with a loud burp.

“You want my advice? You got bigger problems closer to home.  I hear from some other birds Lord Kiyami is looking at your southern border with a covetous  eye. That’s a dicey mountain range there, and if he controls those trade passes, he can hem you in. Adding a kunu to his territory would be a feather in his cap.”

He punctuated his statement with a belch.

“If this is true, my lord Mori” said Lord Ekei with a slight bow, “then you will have to organize two campaigns at once.  That would be very costly, neh?”

Lord Mori eyes narrowed and he grunted. “I am sure gLord Yori’s information is impeccable,” he said with his own bow to the disheveled priest.

“You bet your nuts it is”, said the priest sharply.

“Is this information you have read in history books, Lord Yori,” asked Lord Ekei?

“Can’t read, never learned” said the priest in a raspy voice. “Some things don’t make the history books.  Sometimes pillow talk is more….ah…reliable.”

Both lords considered his words.  It was not beyond the pale. Men talked to women, and men talked in their sleep. Either way, information was obtainable.

This news of Lord Kiyami’s interest in his territory disturbed Lord Mori.  It would be a very bad position to be hemmed in at that mountain range.

“Perhaps there is a need to change plans,” suggested Lord Ekei to Lord Mori.

Lord Mori looked at both of the men sipping their sake.

“Do I dare go against the desires of Heaven to thwart the schemes of Lord Kiyami?”

Scratching his scrawny beard absentmindedly, the Yamabushi priest coughed.

“You might be looking at a new portion of Hell if you ignore him.”

“If he hems you in, Higato, you will not be able to serve the needs of Lord Tokugawa in anycase,” said Lord Ekei.

“Let me suggest, my lord,” said the priest with a little bow, “that you think about a spy or two in the household of Lord Kiyami.  This could glean you some important and timely information.”

“Yes, Higato, this is excellent advice. We need to know his future plans, even if he is to seize your southern territory soon.  How many forces he would deploy for this.  He also would be called upon by our Lord Tokugawa for his support.  He will have some of the same considerations we have.”

“Good.  I agree.  A couple of well placed servants should do the job.”

“I would further suggest, my lord, that you place a spy in his guard.  A samurai that can be trusted with such a task.  Perhaps an unknown captain of your own guard.”

“Again, I agree.”  Higato Mori nodded to both men.

“Now we must consider the problem of what daimyos to call upon for support. Surely we have allies, Lord Ekei?”

“Higato, without a doubt that our Lord Kiyami will be also looking with the same eyes as we.  Perhaps a visit to one or two would set things better for us.”

“If I may be so bold,” said the priest scratching at his skin inside his kimono, “I agree a visit be made soon.  One never knows the plans of another man, especially at a distance.”

Lord Mori picked up his cup and glanced at his advisor, Ekei, sitting across from him, and fell into deep thought.

This priest has much sense for an old crow.  Perhaps he should be the spy in Kiyami’s household?  Could he dare presume upon the favors of such a man?  Well, we are all three Yamabushi, so there should be something of favor there.  Perhaps this has possibilities.  Perhaps Ekei will be able to answer to this.


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