Letter 12

(Clan Lion)



    Kyuden Ikoma is under siege from the Unicorn assault. Since the battle at Toshi sano Kanimochi Kaeru, they have not paused, nor ceased, nor rested in their labors to destroy us. Some few have gone to aid in their assault on the Emperor's lands, but the rest remain outside our lands. A legion of battle maidens lies dead on the fields to the north of our palace, dead by the hand of Okura and his cursed beast. That much, you know.

    What you do not know is this: The evening after the battle, the Unicorn were routed, their spirits crushed. Yet, as the mist of twilight began to clear, I saw their horses rise from the ground. Fearing the curse of the Shadowlands, I called my retainer to the gates of Kyuden Ikoma to crush them before they could gather their strength.

    But the strangest thing of all was this: Their bodies lay on the ground, dead and cold. Only their spirits moved on the plain, and the ghosts of a hundred Unicorn turned their sightless eyes to me. They moved across the plain on ghostly horses, with steps as light as the wind. No malice hung in their eyes--only a strange confusion.

    I am no Kitsu, no ancestral-speaker. I have no magic of my own. It was not my place to speak with them, but neither sword nor courage could drive them from that field.

    "Where...?" they whispered, their wounds open and raw. "Where...," they said, and they could not hear me reply.

    I cannot imagine that they sought their Kami, even now besieging the Emperor's city. Nor can I believe that they wished to renew their battle against our walls.

    I can only conclude that it was Jigoku they sought, somehow denied them through foul magic. Their eyes were haunted and blameless, and their steeds seemed confused and pale. Then, from the south, I heard the echoing cry of a thunderous horn, seemingly from the farthest wastes of the Shadowlands. The maidens turned as one, readying their weapons and spurring their steeds. They vanished into the mists around us, galloning through the walls of Kyuden Ikoma as if they could not see the stone. As silent as their ancestor, they wavered, hooves churning spectral ground and banners flapping in a wind we could not feel. When we raced to the southern wall to follow them, they were gone.

   Ikoma Gunjin
   Taisa of the Ikoma Elite Guard