|The First Prophecy|
|Written By:||Shawn Carman|
I think I have been very patient," Moshi Amika said softly. "I have entertained your audience, and given you ample opportunity to verify your claims. Unfortunately, you have been unable to do so. Now I must wonder if this entire scenario has been some elaborate hoax intended to distract me during the tournament. I must confess the idea angers me considerably."
Kakita Hideo bowed deeply before the Moshi daimyo. "My lady, I assure you that everything we have told you is the truth. We have nothing to gain by deceiving you, and indeed the Mantis are not particularly well known for their tolerance of such things." That much is certain," Amika agreed.
Amika-sama." Kitsuki Taiko said. "Surely it would be easy to determine the scroll we offered you is genuine. It was sent by the Fox to the Tsuruchi, only interrupted by the Battle at Toshi Ranbo, and we discovered It without knowing its origin. In the process of discovering the truth, we also discovered Narako-san." She gestured to the small Fox samurai sitting at her side. She has already spoken at length about matters she could not possibly have known unless our account was true."
"Your friend could well be a skilled actor and magistrate. Indeed, it would not surprise me if the vague notions she spouts could not be reproduced by you, given your Kitsuki training. I am not inclined to believe your story of prophecies and doom."
"Amika-sama," Narako said quietly. "What if we walked the grounds for a moment?"
The Moshi daimyo raised an eyebrow. "I was given to understand by your... attendants, that such a thing would be inadvisable."
Narako bowed her head. it is true that powerful individuals such as yourself, men and women who are born to great destinies, tend to prompt more vivid images, and that can cause me discomfort, but I will gladly endure it if by doing so I can prove the veracity of my friends." She nodded toward Taiko and Hideo. They have risked much to aid me, and the least I can do is ensure you and others do not view them as fools or charlatans."
Amika said nothing for several moments. "Ordinarily, I would say this is the most ludicrously overwrought deception I have ever witnessed. Yet, I cannot deny that you seem sincere. You are a most curious woman, and if there is indeed deception involved, then I believe you have so completely convinced these two that they do not even realize they are being deceived." She gestured toward the front of the tent. "We will take a short walk, as you say, and then this matter will be at an end, one way or another."
Only a few moments later, the group was walking through the tournament grounds. The crowds were milling about, waiting for the next round to begin. Amika's yojimbo trailed at a respectful distance. Amika seemed mildly amused by the entire affair, but Narako was clearly growing more distressed by the moment. "I can feel them," she whispered. "I can feel them all."
"Who?" Taiko asked.
"The favored of destiny," Narako said. "It is like... like a thick blanket thrown over me." "This was a mistake," Hideo said.
Narako began to reply, but gasped suddenly, and her eyes went white in the manner they had grown accustomed to over the past few weeks. "A son of stone shall take the day," she said in that strange, otherworldly voice. "His wrath shall turn the light of the pure against the shadows, but the shadows he seeks are nothing more than a lie."
Taiko placed her hand tentatively on Narako's shoulder. "Are you alright?"
"Too many," the girl whispered, but her eyes went white again.
"What is happening to her?" Amika demanded
"The green mask shall lie to an Empire, and twist those who stand against him into weapons. The monks of gold shall stand by his side, unaware of his true nature, until his poison will drive them to disaster and disgrace."
"What?" A nearby Dragon turned to fix the young girl with a piercing stare. "What did she say? What is the meaning of this?" "It is nothing, my friend," Amika said.
"Shiki-sama," Taiko said quietly. "Please forgive us. My friend... Is not well."
"Is this the one you spoke of, Taiko?"
"Please my lord," she said again.
"This is your prophet? She is nothing more than a slanderer! How can you stand shoulder to shoulder with this insignificant wretch! She dares to speak such lies about the Dragon?" "Fire shall consume the sons of the plains," Narako continued. "The blood of two champions will stain the earth black amid the flames. The one who perishes shall know mercy, and the one who lives shall know no peace."
"Narako!" Hideo whispered.
"There are too many," she whimpered. "Too many of them, I cannot stop It. Please, help me." "We have to get her inside," Taiko said, turning her back on Shiki with a wince. "There, that tent." She pointed to one of the nearest, which appeared empty but bore a Mantis mon. "Go," Amika commanded, gesturing for her yojimbo to take guard positions. The lot of them ducked inside the tent quickly, attempting to avoid any further conflict with those who had begun to gather.
They had barely settled into the tent, Narako sitting shakily on the mat, when the first intruder burst inside. It was a Unicorn samurai Hideo did not recognize. "What is the meaning of this?" he said. "Who is that woman? Why is she blaspheming this tournament in such a manner?"
"This is not a matter for the Unicorn, my friend," Amika said. "Please, let us deal with the matter."
The time for that was well past, however. Even before the Unicorn could reply to Amika's entreaty, others began to enter the tent, all in a state of agitation over having heard Narako's words outside. They began to speak over one another, and in mere seconds, conversation turned to accusation and argument. The tent filled with more noise, until individual voices could not easily be discerned.
Hideo glanced at Narako, who was shaking and had turned paler than Taiko had ever seen another human being. "Something is wrong," he muttered. "We need to get these people out of here."
Taiko glanced around at the others, many of whom were completely absorbed in their own petty arguments. The Kitsu family daimyo was embroiled in what could charitably be described as a heated argument with Moshi Sayoko. It looked as though the two women would come to blows at any moment. "They do not care about Narako," Taiko observed. "They are too caught up in their own agendas."
"Taiko." Hideo had taken her by the arm. "We need to get them out of here. Something is terribly wrong here."
"We cannot order them to leave," Taiko said in hushed tones. "Consider the rank of these people! We can do nothing!"
Hideo's jaw clenched and he looked again to the young Fox woman, his hand opening and closing almost without his knowledge. He seemed to be considering something, anything, when it happened.
Narako screamed. It was a shrill, piercing sound, a scream of panic and pain. Everything within the tent stopped as arguments and conversations were interrupted. All eyes were on Narako, and the sound of yojimbo rushing into the tent was lost as the last, jagged cries of her scream faded away.
She stood now, her feet spread wide. Her eyes were the color of morning frost, and the vapors that came from her mouth as she breathed were the color of steam, well out of proportion to the temperature in the relatively warm tent. She threw her head back, but it seemed more an uncontrollable act than something done deliberately. A voice spoke, and boomed throughout the tent like thunder. It was not a voice that Hideo and Taiko had heard before.
"The Empire of Rokugan has strayed too far from the path of Heaven, and now the gods above will rain down their Light upon us, and the throne will be empty no longer. The Light of Heaven shall rule over Rokugan, and the clan that has failed, the clan who has failed the Empire in their greed and their weakness, shall be cast down for their failures.
Dark warriors come, heeding the Jackals' song. The wind of death shall blow on the breath of a forgotten daughter, and ruin shall corm to the Empire. Only the Light of Heaven can save us, and those who will not heed his rule shall be lost forever to the venom that course: through the Empire's veins."
Narako collapsed onto the mat, her body shaking as if it were being tossed in a great storm. Taiko darted forward at once and brushed the young woman's hair back. Her body was drenched in sweat, but her flesh was colder than the snow. "Too many." she repeated again, and lapsed into unconsciousness.
"What is the meaning of this?" Kitsu Katsuko said. Her voice was softer than before, but strangely loud in the absolute silence of the tent.
"You heard what she said before," Moshi Amika answered her "She is a prophet. She has issued a prophecy. We are all witnesses."
"What have we witnessed?" the strange Scorpion actor demanded. "Comedy? Tragedy? Whimsy? War? I cannot say until the final act, I fear."
"Look at her," Shem-Zhe said, gesturing to Narako. "Can there be any doubt of the toll this has taken upon her? This is no ruse This is no lie. This woman bears the touch of the Heavens, and we have heard their word through her."
"None of us possess the wisdom or the authority to pass judgment on a woman who may be a prophet," Isawa Kimi said. "The Void swims around this one, and I sense no deception within her. Is she mad or blessed? Others have asked that question of me. Can we but ask it of her?"
"Enough!" Amika said, seizing control of the room. "This woman is under the protection of the Mantis Clan, by the invitation of her own clan. I will respectfully ask everyone else to leave."
"By what authority?" Shem-Zhe asked. "You can claim to have the Fox Clan's blessings, but how can we know this is not a transparent deception to reap the benefit of a prophet for yourself?"
Amika's normally calm demeanor stirred, as if a storm built be. hind her eyes. She leveled a frigid stare at the Unicorn. "Because our clans are allies, I will ignore your bold assumptions this once,' she said. "Speak of my clan thus again and one of us will not leave this tournament with our lives." She held aloft the scroll that Taiko and Hideo had brought her the previous day. "This scroll is an entreaty by the Fox for aid from the Mantis, delivered by this woman and her allies." Here Amika gestured to Taiko and Hideo. "They will verify this claim."
All eyes turned to the two young samurai. "Taiko?" Shiki asked.
She nodded. "The Fox were in fact seeking the aid of the Mantis," she confirmed. Hideo nodded in mute agreement, and there was a murmuring of disappointment through those assembled.
As the assembled samurai began to file out, Katsuko stopped. "I will speak to my Champion of this," she said to Amika and Sayoko. "This is not the end. If this is some sort of ruse, I promise you there will be restitution for making me look like a fool."
"This is no ruse," Amika said firmly.
"Then," Katsuko continued, "we will speak again about why the Mantis have the right to retain sole possession of what should be a treasure of the Empire."
The Lion departed from the tent, and after a brief murmur of conversation just outside, the crowd dispersed, and they were alone. Amika's features softened at once, and she turned to the others. "Is she well?"
Taiko looked up. "She is breathing normally. I believe she may now be asleep. In our limited experience, her visions... they drain her of all energy."
"Have you ever seen anything like what we just witnessed?" Amika asked.
Hideo shook his head slowly. "She has offered very specific, minor details, for the most part. Sometimes she will speak about matters of greater import, but afterwards she sleeps for an hour or two. This was about the Empire as a whole. I do not know what it will do to her."
"Do you believe her?" Sayoko said. Her tone was a sharp as the blade on the young Crane's hip. "Do you believe what she said about an Emperor?"
Taiko hesitated. "I have never heard her be incorrect before." "Yes," Hideo said flatly. "I believe her."
Amika turned to Sayoko. "Then we must act quickly. Gather all our forces and move as swiftly as possible to the Fox lands. I will make arrangements for travel papers." "The hunter," Sayoko reminded her. "I believe his name is Okame? He is present, and has papers already."
"Send him and his men ahead," Amika said. "You will follow them as soon as you are able to gather your men, and I have the papers."
"I have responsibilities, my lady," Sayoko began.
The Moshi daimyo cut her off with a gesture. "Nothing is more important to us than this at this moment. A true prophet has not been born among the clans in centuries. If the Fox wish us to aid them, we shall do so. And if we benefit from her prophecies in the process, so much the better."
"Is she just another resource, then?" Hideo asked quietly.
Amika turned back to the two samurai, as if suddenly remembering their presence. "I told you earlier that you had our gratitude for your assistance," she said. "This is much more than that, however. In addition to my thanks, you have the debt of my family and my clan, each of you. Whenever you require aid, you may call upon the Mantis and we will answer, without hesitation." She paused, looking at each in turn. "However, your involvement in this is now at an end. I will not question the means by which you became involved in this, but now I will ask you to walk away. Narako will be protected, more protected than the two of you could hope to manage. Whatever evil plagues the Fox, the Mantis will deal with it. The Crane and the Dragon are no longer involved in any way." She paused again. "I hope you understand what I am telling you."
"Hai, my lady," Taiko replied, bowing her head.
"Hai," Hideo said quietly.