Tancred and Crystal Cove (Ch. 3)
The storm began to lessen; lightning had calmed to a streak every twenty minutes or so.
The clouds started to thin, yet It remained difficult moving about at night. Tancred plodded along carefully as not to make noise, patrols now covered ShipWright hill and in the night, before he could get there, patrols discovered the outpost. A second company was marching to join the first. In effect, they had doubled the guard at the mining camp.
The swift progress of the patrols left Tancred with little choice; he wisely chose to take cover in the thick, untamed forests at the base of the mountains. The trees trunks were as dense as those tropical forests found on earth in Africa, Asia, Europe, along with North and South America.
Through wildlife got no more significant than rodent mammals, mountain sheep, small deer, and birds, with bountiful numbers of beetles and insects.
It was, however, made all the easier by the moonlight of a full orb that had broken away from cloud cover. Bars of light pierced the treetop canopy; I must get to those stables and warn shofu thought Tancred.
Most of the sky remained shrouded in mist, some of it being snows that drifted off the towering peaks. Tancred moved swiftly despite the awkward step he took off his right leg. The shafts of light made traversing the forest territory relatively easy.
Another figure stalked the night, then like a shadow vanished towards the mountains. He had only caught the momentary glint of light off the whites of their eyes; that stare felt eerily similar to a black panther from the jungles of earth.
He froze, lowering himself to a crouch. He was unarmed, all those years as the famed storyteller had seen him relinquish his weaponry, for coin and paid armed guards.
"Tancred?" a voice whispered from the direction of the outpost. The unmistakable outline of Shofu slipped from out of the shadow, moved into the open. A bar of light illuminated his bamboo coolie hat.
"Shofu, the port..." Tancred began,
"I know," Shofu cut him off, " it was as if the cannons were firing upon the north village, it was so loud. We went unnoticed, as of now, " he continued. "A few stray catapult stones smashed against the mountains, took a few trees with them," he gestured to a clearing.
A blunt swath had been roughly cut into the forest, only visible from a few paces inside the treeline. A boulder had split in two after colliding with the steep mountain cliffside. Yet, there appeared to be a crack in the cliffs. A crawlspace had opened up into... something, a cave of some sort.
Shofu pointed at the boulder, "there appears to be more secrets to this island than we had perceived."
He smiled, barely visible with the available light. It was nearly impossible to see if it weren't for a momentary flicker of what seemed to be torchlight. He reached behind him then.
Shofu removed a bundle from his back, steel, and mail rattling about as he set the package upon the ground, within Tancred's reach. Ancient leather cords pulled loose from their knots, as the bundle unrolled, revealing the contents. Years of dust drifted in the night's light.
It carried a pair of longswords and spears, leather armor, an ancient greek helm, and custom gauntlets created for disarming an opponent. Tancred gathered up the items, taking inventory of the pair of samurai forged blades that had been added, the pieces of armor perfected after millennia of battle, and proceeded to adorn his mail over his tunic and small clothes.
No words were needed to express his thanks, Shofu bowed ever so slightly in namaste. He also placed a second bundle by the boulder, out of sight. This carried a satchel of throwing knives, mailed-leather armor, and Jhojan's broadsword. It, too, had old cloth wrappings which were held together by similar leather cords.
"I suggest you stay here and work on camouflaging this cleft; I must return to the stables." Shofu said after dropping all his inventory for Tancred; He stored his longbow beside the boulder next to the bundle for Jhojan. He decided to keep his duel crossbows and small-shield shortsword combo for defense.
"Meet back here tomorrow night, Jhojan is going to update us on the Satjon movements and any other relevant information. And, yeah, I'll stay put I don't see anywhere else I can safely hide."
Shofu nodded, thoughtful, and vanished into the shadows of the night. Not a sound could be heard of his movements, though a keen ear may try.
Tancred pulled out the Katanas from their sheaths, the mastery of their forging glinted off the naked blades in the light of the moon.
Shofu had visited the legendary Samurai blade master Masamune; He was sent as part of an emissary group as part of Kublai Khan's plan for world domination. This plan included Japan; he sent the emissaries bearing letters with the "cherished mandate of heaven."
Shofu and Masamune had held many audiences together and "produced fascinating conversations." After months of diplomacy, a friendship was forged, and the legendary Samurai the swordsmith gifted Shofu a bundle of four blades on their parting. A short sword, "Winter's Sting," a two-handed blade, "the Edge of Dawn," and a pair of dual katanas, "Wings of the Heron." Months later, the Mongol hordes descended upon Japan.
The air molecules split at the edge of the sword; they whistled through the air as Tancred rhythmically slashed at imagined practice foes.
His muscles could remember the centuries of disciplined practice; the integrity is completing each pattern with precision; the countless times those slashes saved his life in battle had edged themselves in the muscle neuro network of his arms.
Sheathing the blades to the scabbards secured at his waist, Tancred began to move foliage in such a way that only a person deliberately looking for the cleft could find it. He peered into the opening; strange crystals caught the moonlight, they cast a calming soft light; it was pleasant to behold.
There was enough space for a person to squeeze through into what seemed to be a large cavern of some sort. A faint sound of crashing water came from inside; curiosity overwhelmed Tancred, and against instinct, he entered the crawlspace.