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once lost, but after the flood it was reoecupied and the damage repaired. The moat was gone, but the
river had not been rebridged and its new channel formed another barrier to the encamped host.
From time to time, the stone-throwers lobbed a missile among the tents on the beach, but there was no
answering fire from the few catapults still standing there. It was more to prove that Castle Shori was still
on guard and undaunted that this activity went on, than hi the hope of accidentally hitting something
important in the dark.
As the night wore on, the sounds of hammering rose to the listeners. By daylight, they faced again a
battery of catapults and found that an additional menace was in sight. In the dark hours, a broad, tubby,
strongly built -mortar boat had been towed hi as far as its draft permitted. The black muzzle of the mortar
was trained upon the battlements and a smoking linstock betrayed that it was ready for firing.
The engineers were standing at their triggers, the tumans were drawn up behind their officers hi precisely
aligned ranks, rilling the beach with their thousands, and horses were splashing ashore from barges hi
preparation for the cavalry to ride out into the ulterior when the way was made clear.
Against this host the garrison of Shori Castle, counting men, women, children, and babes hi arms,
numbered less than four hundred; the trained soldiers, both archers and samurai, only five score! But all
posts were manned and ready, and above them the peony flag of the Hidayamas still proudly flew. Spirits
had not yet quailed and the issue was still hi doubt
It was at that moment, while everything seemed to be holding its breath, that a tall richly dressed man
strolled out from the throng of Mongols and hailed the castle.
 I speak for the puissant Huang Ti Kublai. Cease this futile resistance! Everywhere our victorious troops
are marching upon the Wang of Nihon. Your situation is hopeless. You are surrounded. No help is
coming to your aid. Only here do men fight and you will be dead within hours if you do not surrender. I
am the Admiral of the Fleet and I can grant you safety. Submit to the Khan and save your lives. You may
consider for a quarter of one hour no more. The attack will be to the death!
He swung upon his heel, preparing to return, but Baron Kuroki s response was instant.
 I challenge you, Admiral, to personal combat. If I win, your army shall withdraw and your fleet seek
another shore. If I lose, the castle will surrender under the condition that all lives will be spared except
mine. Myself I place in your hands.
Gwalchmai was aghast.  Daimyo, this is a mad thought! No Mongol is to be trusted to that extent. If you
step out from behind these walls you are a dead man!
Mitami, at his side, clasped her father in her arms. He gently thrust her aside, but stood with his arm
around her waist.
The Admiral considered briefly.  To save unnecessary bloodshed, I agree. Let us meet upon your side of
the moat.
He turned to his nearest aide, said a few words, and took the man s sword.
In the center of a group of personal guards, he walked to the edge of the moat. A single plank for bridge
was hastily thrust across. They stood outside the gate in the rampart and waited.
The gate opened and Baron Kuroki came out, in a similar group of samurai. Admiral Chepe met him with
a disarming smile. His sword was sheathed and he held a scroll in his hand.
 It may be that there is no need to fight, brave Lord. The terms of Khan of Khans are most merciful to
his allies. I beseech you to read them and risk the lives of your people no further. Your personal valor is
not in question. Should one man s pride bring woe to so many? Your honor has been well upheld in
yesterday s battle. Now is the time to take thought and profit by your own wisdom and the Khan s
charity.
As he spoke, in a mild musical voice that would have charmed a bird out of a tree, he held out the scroll.
Baron Kuroki reached for it. His sword was also sheathed. As he extended his hand, the Admiral winced
as though in pain and glanced down. He was wearing soft thin slippers.
Apparently he was also standing upon sharp pebbles. He took a step back and then another, still looking
down to place his feet upon a smoother spot.
The Baron followed him those two steps, still holding out his hand for the scroll. Instantly, the group of
Mongol guards, who had not moved, closed around him, snatching out their blades, thrusting aside the
startled samurai. While some of them engaged the castle men, the others slashed the Baron to pieces.
 O-a-oo-ong!
From a dying samurai s throat rang out the bell-like cry of danger.  Treachery! Treachery! Strike,
Brothers! Kill! Kill!
The Admiral flung himself headlong into the moat. A Mongul arrow flight sped across the space where he
had stood. It feathered indiscriminately all who still stood and fought before the half-open gate, but
without success. Before the charging company of waiting Mongols that followed it could plunge into the
moat and scramble up that slippery moss-grown side, the gate was closed again. Into them then tore the
answering volley.
Down slammed the stones from the battlements; up rose the exploding bombs, tearing now into~ and
through the red-tiled roofs, bringing flame, xlust, and coiling smoke.
The serried companies advanced with their portable bridges and ladders; the arrows whistled and wailed
and the battle was on.
Look for the last time on Shori Castle! Its outlines remain as though etched against the cliff. The roofs are [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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