Sunday, December 26, 2010

Delivering Beatriss / Exiling Gwinch

Gwinch returned to the forest with Iriyo, both of them accompanied by a wu jen and other assistants. Wutambi (the "other" wu jen) located the fox spirit and began attacking it with his magic, and Iriyo attacked first with his sword and then with his bare hands, catching the fox-spirit by the throat. The spirit became visible and adopted human form; Gwinch and the others saw that their weapons torn its clothing but did not harm its flesh. When Saisho drew his sword of lightning, O-me-sa smiled and presented his fist, showing a ring. Saisho surprised his enemy with a cloud of steam, killing him. After removing the ring and other treasures, the victors began searching for Beatriss.

They found her in a small den dug into the base of the cliff, exhausted and delirious, and nursing five hungry and aggressive fox pups. They brought Beatriss out of the den, put the fox pups in a sack and gave them some tofu.

In the course of their return to Khanbaliq, they stopped to rest at a ruined monastery a couple hours outside town. There they met an old man, obviously a wu jen, and his companion, a beggar. Apprising Beatriss’s weak and vulnerable condition, the wu jen insinuated, with increasing directness and anger, that Gwinch and his companions had beaten her and were transporting her to Khanbaliq for the purposes of exploitation. The two vagabonds trailed Gwinch and his group all the way back to Khanbaliq. That night, the wu jen showed up for “evening mediatation.” After chasing away the other attendees, the wu jen began asking Sheevani and Gwinch pointed questions about where the women had come from and how they had come to Khanbaliq. His questions give way to an argument which rose to a physical struggle, and the wu jen was subdued. Sheevani raised her holy symbol and blinded him with a flash of light, explaining to Gwinch that he was a demon. Gwinch killed him.
The arrival in Khanbaliq of an envoy from Zipang brought increased profits and new controversies. Gwinch’s evening meditation was popular among the Zipangnese community and the regulars were eager to show off for their visiting friends from Zipang. But one older, somewhat staid samurai, named Kidera came to Gwinch for a different reason. A young man in his household, Taeshi by name, was giving him headaches. Taeshi’s late father had been a friend of Kidera but the son was all big talk and no courage. Kidera feared that Taeshi’s snide comments about the shogun would get him into trouble during the envoy’s visit. Taeshi was a regular at evening meditation and Gwinch promised to counsel him.

Taeshi did come to mediation, but reacted angrily to Gwinch’s counsel. Angered also at his failure to attract the interest of the temple servants who were rather more interested in other more distinguished guests, Taeshi began to deliberately and loudly insult the shogun. The other guests, unwilling to hear such talk or to raise their swords in a sacred place, fled the meditation hall.

Originally uploaded by perisho

The next day, Gwinch learned by chance that Taeshi’s words had been reported to the envoy. And from Kidera, that the older Samurai planned to ask the Great Khan, at that evening’s banquet, that Taeshi be banished from Khanbaliq—they did not want Taeshi to be recognized as part of the diplomatic mission, nor would the envoy bring him back to Zipang. Although Gwinch, as a neutral in the balance between Imperial and Shogunal power in Zipang had devised a seating chart for their dinner with the Khan, he would not be in attendance at the banquet itself. Nor would junior samurai such as Taeshi. Most likely he would come to evening meditation.

In the course of his aerrands around the city, Gwinch noted that he was being followed by the same beggar who had followed him back from the ruined monastery. He led his pursuer to the outskirts of the city, and allowed himself to be attack. Intercepting the attack, he killed the beggar, and then confiscated his very interesting looking boots. A trio of tough-looking guys congratulated him and asked him to join the "Black Flower Gang." He declined but they had a nice conversation.

That night, Taeshi did come to meditation, along with several other junior samurai, disappointed to be excluded from the banquet, but happy to enjoy the company of the temple servants without having to compete for attention with their superiors. They donated freely and everyone was having a good time, even Taeshi, albeit with a heavy dose of gallows humor.

And then a messenger arrived, accompanied by a troop of the Khan’s guards. The banquet had been a disaster. The seating arrangement seemed designed to provoke, setting the envoy among the lowest-ranking samurai at the foot of the table. They wanted to punish Gwinch and forgot all about Taeshi’s big mouth. Bad news. Worse news was when the Khan’s guards discovered that Gwinch was harboring twice his allowed number of sohei, and that all of them were armed. While this was going, most of the guests slipped away. Taeshi instead attacked a guard, and was cut down. The guards confiscated weapons, took Taeshi, and left the compound.

Originally uploaded by Brayo
Gwinch sent his men away in small groups throughout the night. As dawn approached, he consulted with Sheevani and decided that he had, too, should flee and leave her in charge of the meditation hall. Together with Saisho, a dozen men, and the girl he’d chosen from the temple, Gwinch left the city, taking temporary refuge at the ruined monastery.

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