EXCERPT – 16TH Century Japan
The attempt on his life had been an act of desperation, he knew. The battle was lost, the opposing forces broken and scattered. Without the inspiration of Soun Ujitsuna, the Odawaran armies had been routed. Omori Kadonomaro had vanquished those foes who had defended this city as he had crushed everyone else who had ever opposed him. Even now, most of his own army and all but a few of his warrior monks were rounding up prisoners or putting to the sword any who offered even token resistance. But the assassins’ threat had been real enough, though for a different reason entirely.
He had led a small party of his warrior monks and a trio of shadow-trackers in the hunt for the shirabyoshi spoken of by Eela. He had no desire to sit and wait, to allow others to do his work for him. He had always been a man of action and the Prophecy of the One Child concerned him greatly.
Though the shadow-trackers had no real scent or clue to rely on, through the magic urging of the majo, one of them had led Omori and his men to the market district of the city. The creature’s manner was agitated yet focused; the beast appeared like something out of a traveler’s tale. Naked, it moved like a ghost, spiriting almost invisibly in and out of the smallest places as it used the shadows as cover.
Omori had never gotten used to them but the creatures did serve his purpose. Whatever magic the witch called upon to create such monsters was the warlord’s to control. At least for the moment.
And he meant to keep it that way.
Located near the lower west gates, the marketplace was the one area his attacking land forces had been able to breach. Parts of it lay in smoldering ruins; the remaining residents hiding fearfully behind closed and latched doors.
The city’s defenders had been beaten but the fear of Omori and his allies—the sohei, the witch and the shadow-trackers—still hung thickly in the air. To most of the downtrodden Odawarans, it was their worst nightmare realized.
Eela rode by the daimyo’s side. Both men’s armored horses picked their way among the scattered rubble and trash that lay strewn about the streets. “My pet seems sure the one we seek is here, Lord,” the majo said silkily. “He is the best of the three and can discern his prey with very little assistance.”
His pet. Omori frowned. Eela’s skills had extended to supervising the breeding, raising and training of the shadow-trackers, skills Omori appreciated but which gave the majo another point of power in his favor. “Just make sure your pet finds her,” Omori said distastefully. “I will stop this child once and for all.”
Larry Ivkovich is an IT professional and the author of several science fiction, fantasy and horror short stories and novellas, published online and in various print publications and anthologies including M-Brane SF, Afterburn SF, Penumbra, Twisted Cat Tales, Abaculus III, Raw Terror, Triangulations, Shelter of Daylight and SQ Magazine. He has also been a finalist in the L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest and was the 2010 recipient of the CZP/Rannu Fund Award for fiction. His debut urban fantasy novel, THE SIXTH PRECEPT, is now available from IFWG Publishing, Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He is a member of two local writing/critique groups, the Pittsburgh Southwrites and the Pittsburgh Worldrights, and lives in Coraopolis, PA with his wife Martha and cats Trixie and Milo.a Rafflecopter giveaway