RPS Ascension: Upstarts (Autumn, Year 2)
When last we saw what the Yomi were up to, Ichiro had received a letter of potential alliance from Nirelye, the goddess (at least Ichiro thinks Nirelye is a she) of the Sauromatian swamp-dwellers. The price was an invasion of the Yomi’s current allies, the Marverni tribes, who had recently begun an invasion of the Sauromatians. Since Raidon and Hirohisa, the nation’s two best generals, were still at the capital in the north, Ichiro had decided to avert immediate war by keeping this information secret from his own patron god, Akenbei, who was spending his time partying at the fortress in Roca.
Unfortunately for Ichiro, he will soon regret keeping Nirelye’s missive from his master.
For the first few weeks of autumn, everything seems to be going smoothly. Owing to strong drink, Akenbei has been asleep as often as not, and Ichiro appreciates the decline in his master’s usual harassments. Rai, the Yomi’s scout in the east, reports that although Wayland of Marverni has been clever enough to leave a sizeable contingent of defenders in Diluphe, he has sent the bulk of his army to the east, where they have begun to seize Sauromatian territory. Raidon and Hirohisa report that the new armies they are raising in Yomi are perfectly suited for combating the lightly-armored infantry of the Marverni. Raidon is especially excited about the kuro-oni demons they are hiring in substantial quantity to supplement the usual bakemono, and reports that although the new army will be strong, it will not be ready until the end of the year. Ichiro is fine with these delays, and decides to not bother Akenbei or his priest Nanvather with such trivialities.
Rai’s next message is not quite so encouraging. Two ill items occupy the sheets of parchment that he has sent back to Roca: first, Rai writes that he is dying, and will likely live only another half year. He promises to continue in his duties to Akenbei despite the crippling disease that has already resulted in the amputation of one arm, et cetera, et cetera. Ichiro impatiently tosses aside the first few pages in search of actual news. Despite Rai’s illegible scrawl (“Why did the fool write with his left hand?” Ichiro mutters) Ichiro can make out a few distressing details. The Marverni army is far stronger than they had supposed.
As it stands, the Marverni’s army would likely decimate the Yomi forces. According to Rai’s report, their front line is composed of disposable militia and mercenary infantry, backed by a good number of archers. On one flank, the Marverni have assembled mounted soldiers from the Eponi tribe (the only Marverni tribe to have learned to mount anything taller than a boar), and on the other—and most worryingly—they have amassed a number of elephants. Even Raidon’s kuro-oni would have a hard time standing their ground against elephants and cavalry.
Ichiro is terrified. If Wayland is capable of fielding elephants abroad, he’s surely capable of stationing a few in Diluphe as well, and Ichiro realizes that Wayland may be capable of betraying his alliance with the Yomi before Akenbei even awakes from his drunken stupor. Ichiro dispatches a messenger for the capital, asking Raidon to come south with whatever men he can manage. Within days, Raidon is marching south with over a hundred bakemono and other assorted demons. Upon his arrival, Raidon’s forces prove more disciplined than those troops reveling with Akenbei, avoiding the great hall and spending their days patrolling the countryside of Roca.
The extra soldiers calm Ichiro for only a few days, for he discovers that his recalcitrance may have doomed their prospects for an alliance with Sauromatia. In his drunkenness, and with no knowledge of Nirelye’s overtures towards peace, Akenbei has dispatched a series of insults to the patroness of Sauromatia. She is predictably less than pleased that her offers of alliance against the Marverni tribes have been spurned so totally, and her emissaries gradually disappear from Roca. Ichiro sends a string of messengers begging her pardon, but he receives nothing in return—neither envoys from Nirelye nor his own messengers.
Weeks pass without incident. Rumors of a great war in the east indicate to Ichiro that Sauromatia is besieged from all sides and may soon fall. A part of him is relieved at the prospect that Nirelye could soon lie dead and his error be forever buried along with her. At this moment of hope, Raidon appears in Ichiro’s chambers with a contingent of demons. “Your presence is requested in the great hall,” he says. His eyes are filled with pity.
Ichiro goes to what he assumes is his end. No master could abide a servant hiding such vital information, and Akenbei was never a merciful master to begin with. Once in the great hall, Akenbei stands at his full height, five times taller than Ichiro. His speech is slurred from drink, but Ichiro is his prophet and he can hear the intended words in his head.
“Why, Ichiro?” Akenbei murmurs. Ichiro is about to speak his hundred excuses when Akenbei cuts him short. “Why did you bring Raidon here before his army was ready?”
Ichiro gulps, mostly to conceal his relief. “I beg pardon, my god.”
“There has been an incident in the north. The faithless Oceanians have invaded, and with Raidon here in Roca, there were hardly enough men to defend the shore.” Akenbei clucks, then scans the hall for more wine. “Deal with it, prophet.”
Ichiro soon discovers that the attack from Oceania was nothing more than a test, a prod at the unprepared defenses of the shore. A small squad of fish-men waded up onto the beach from Soth Bever and were cut down. The problem is that the defenses were barely sufficient to eliminate such a small force.
The defenders of Cynaphe were little more than a never-before-heard-of Demon Priest and a handful of hired bandits and tiny ko-oni demons. Ichiro sets to the task of increasing the defenses of the provinces near the capital and discovering the reason for Oceania’s aggression.
Within the week Ichiro has a response from Oceania, clearly a lie:
As winter begins, Ichiro is both glad that he isn’t to be executed for botching his first chance at diplomacy and worried at his nation’s prospects for a secure alliance. A messenger reports that Wayland’s army has been defeated by Nerelye’s swamp forces, and Ichiro wonders if war with both Sauromatia and Oceania is inevitable. Something tells him that the coming winter is going be be a bloody one.