CHAPTER 11 : Part 2 – Shogun

CHAPTER 11 : Part 2 – Shogun

  “Yes. It’s our custom, Sire. To be paid and to have a share of all plun—of all trade and all enemy goods captured.”

  “So you’re a mercenary?”

  “I was hired as senior pilot to lead the expedition. Yes.” Blackthorne could feel Toranaga’s hostility but he did not understand why. What did I say that was wrong? Didn’t the priest say I’d assassinate myself?

  “It’s a normal custom with us, Toranaga-sama,” he said again.

  Toranaga started conversing with Hiro-matsu and they exchanged views in obvious agreement. Blackthorne thought he could see disgust in their faces. Why? Obviously it has something to do with “mercenary,” he thought. What’s wrong with that? Isn’t everyone paid? How else do you make enough money to live on? Even if you’ve inherited land, you still—

  “You said earlier you came here to trade peacefully,” Toranaga was saying. “Why then do you carry so many guns and so much powder, muskets and shot?”

  “Our Spanish and Portuguese enemies are very powerful and strong, Lord Toranaga. We have to protect ourselves and—”

  “You’re saying your arms are merely defensive?”

  “No. We use them not only to protect ourselves but to attack our enemies. And we produce them in abundance for trade, the best quality arms in the world. Perhaps we could trade with you in these, or in the other goods we carried.”

  “What is a pirate?”

  “An outlaw. A man who rapes, kills, or plunders for personal profit.”

  “Isn’t that the same as mercenary? Isn’t that what you are? A pirate and the leader of pirates?”

  “No. The truth is my ships have letters of marque from the legal rulers of Holland authorizing us to carry the war into all seas and places dominated up to now by our enemies. And to find markets for our goods. To the Spanish—and most Portuguese—yes, we’re pirates, and religious heretics, but I repeat, the truth is we’re not.”

  Father Alvito finished translating, then began to talk quietly but firmly, direct to Toranaga.

  I wish to God I could talk as directly, Blackthorne thought, cursing. Toranaga glanced at Hiro-matsu and the old man put some questions to the Jesuit, who answered lengthily. Then Toranaga returned to Blackthorne and his voice became even more severe.

  “Tsukku-san says that these ‘Dutchlands’—the Netherlands—were vassals of the Spanish king up to a few years ago. Is that true?”


  “Therefore the Netherlands—your allies—are in a state of rebellion against their lawful king?”

  “They’re fighting against the Spaniard, yes. But—”

  “Isn’t that rebellion? Yes or no?”

  “Yes. But there are mitigating circumstances. Serious miti—”

  “There are no ‘mitigating circumstances’ when it comes to rebellion against a sovereign lord.”

  “Unless you win.”

  Toranaga looked intently at him. Then laughed uproariously. He said something to Hiro-matsu through his laughter and Hiro-matsu nodded.

  “Yes, Mister Foreigner with the impossible name, yes. You named the one mitigating factor.” Another chuckle, then the humor vanished as suddenly as it had begun. “Will you win?”


  Toranaga spoke again but the priest didn’t translate at once. He was smiling peculiarly, his eyes fixed on Blackthorne. He sighed and said, “You’re very sure?”

  “Is that what he said or what you’re saying?”

  “Lord Toranaga said that. My—he said that.”

  “Yes. Tell him yes, I’m very sure. May I please explain why?”

  Father Alvito talked to Toranaga, for much longer than it took to translate that simple question. Are you as calm as you make out? Blackthorne wanted to ask him. What’s the key that’ll unlock you? How do I destroy you?

  Toranaga spoke and took a fan out of his sleeve.

  Father Alvito began translating again with the same eerie unfriendliness, heavy with irony. “Yes, Pilot, you may tell me why you think you will win this war.”

  Blackthorne tried to remain confident, aware that the priest was dominating him. “We presently rule the seas in Europe—most of the seas in Europe,” he said, correcting himself. Don’t get carried away. Tell the truth. Twist it a little, just as the Jesuit’s sure to be doing, but tell the truth. “We English smashed two huge Spanish and Portuguese war armadas—invasions—and they’re unlikely to be able to mount any others. Our small island’s a fortress and we’re safe now. Our navy dominates the sea. Our ships are faster, more modern, and better armed. The Spanish haven’t beaten the Dutch after more than fifty years of terror, Inquisition, and bloodshed. Our allies are safe and strong and something more—they’re bleeding the Spanish Empire to death. We’ll win because we own the seas and because the Spanish king, in his vain arrogance, won’t let an alien people free.”

  “You own the seas? Our seas too? The ones around our coasts?”

  “No, of course not, Toranaga-sama. I didn’t mean to sound arrogant. I meant, of course, European seas, though—”

  “Good, I’m glad that’s clear. You were saying? Though…?”

  “Though on all the high seas, we will soon be sweeping the enemy away,” Blackthorne said clearly.

  “You said ‘the enemy.’ Perhaps we’re your enemies too? What then? Will you try to sink our ships and lay waste our shores?”

  “I cannot conceive of being enemy to you.”

  “I can, very easily. What then?”

  “If you came against my land I would attack you and try to beat you,” Blackthorne said.

  “And if your ruler orders you to attack us here?”

  “I would advise against it. Strongly. Our Queen would listen. She’s—”

  “You’re ruled by a queen and not a king?”

  “Yes, Lord Toranaga. Our Queen is wise. She wouldn’t—couldn’t make such an unwise order.”

  “And if she did? Or if your legal ruler did?”

  “Then I would commend my soul to God for I would surely die. One way or another.”

  “Yes. You would. You and all your legions.” Toranaga paused for a moment. Then: “How long did it take you to come here?”

  “Almost two years. Accurately one year, eleven months, and two days. An approximate sea distance of four thousand leagues, each of three miles.”

  Father Alvito translated, then added a brief elaboration. Toranaga and Hiro-matsu questioned the priest, and he nodded and replied. Toranaga used his fan thoughtfully.

  “I converted the time and distance, Captain-Pilot Blackthorne, into their measures,” the priest said politely.

  “Thank you.”

  Toranaga spoke directly again. “How did you get here? By what route?”

  “By the Pass of Magellan. If I had my maps and rutters I could show you clearly, but they were stolen—they were removed from my ship with my letters of marque and all my papers. If you—”

  Blackthorne stopped as Toranaga spoke brusquely with Hiro-matsu, who was equally perturbed.

  “You claim all your papers were removed—stolen?”


  “That’s terrible, if true. We abhor theft in Nippon—Japan. The punishment for theft is death. The matter will be investigated instantly. It seems incredible that any Japanese would do such a thing, though there are foul bandits and pirates, here and there.”

  “Perhaps they were misplaced,” Blackthorne said. “And put in safekeeping somewhere. But they are valuable, Lord Toranaga. Without my sea charts I would be like a blind man in a maze. Would you like me to explain my route?”

  “Yes, but later. First tell me why you came all that distance.”

  “We came to trade, peacefully,” Blackthorne repeated, holding on to his impatience. “To trade and go home again. To make you richer and us richer. And to try—”

  “You richer and us richer? Which of those is most important?”

  “Both partners must profit, of course, and trade must be fair. We’re
seeking long-term trade; we’ll offer better terms than you get from the Portuguese and Spanish and give better service. Our merchants—” Blackthorne stopped at the sound of loud voices outside the room. Hiro-matsu and half the guards were instantly at the doorway and the others moved into a tight knot screening the dais. The samurai on the inner doors readied as well.

  Toranaga had not moved. He spoke to Father Alvito.

  “You are to come over here, Captain Blackthorne, away from the door,” Father Alvito said with carefully contained urgency. “If you value your life, don’t move suddenly or say anything.” He moved slowly to the left inner door and sat down near it.

  Blackthorne bowed uneasily to Toranaga, who ignored him, and walked toward the priest cautiously, deeply conscious that from his point of view the interview was a disaster. “What’s going on?” he whispered as he sat.

  The nearby guards stiffened menacingly and the priest said some thing quickly to reassure them. “You’ll be a dead man the next time you speak,” he said to Blackthorne, and thought, the sooner the better. With measured slowness, he took a handkerchief from his sleeve and wiped the sweat off his hands. It had taken all his training and fortitude to remain calm and genial during the heretic’s interview, which had been worse than even he and the Father-Visitor had expected.

  “You’ll have to be present?” the Father-Visitor had asked last night.

  “Toranaga has asked me specifically.”

  “I think it’s very dangerous for you and for all of us. Perhaps you could plead sickness. If you’re there you’ll have to translate what the pirate says—and from what Father Sebastio writes he’s a devil on earth, as cunning as a Jew.”

  “It’s much better I should be there, Eminence. At least I’ll be able to intercept Blackthorne’s less obvious lies.”

  “Why has he come here? Why now, when everything was becoming perfect again? Do they really have other ships in the Pacific? Is it possible they’ve sent a fleet against Spanish Manila? Not that I care one whit for that pestilential city or any of the Spanish colonies in the Philippines, but an enemy fleet in the Pacific! That would have terrible implications for us here in Asia. And if he could get Toranaga’s ear, or Ishido’s, or any of the more powerful daimyos—well, it would be enormously difficult, to say the least.”

  “Blackthorne’s a fact. Fortunately we’re in a position to deal with him.”

  “As God is my judge, if I didn’t know better I’d almost believe the Spaniards—or more probably their misguided lackeys, the Franciscans and Benedictines—deliberately guided him here just to plague us.”

  “Perhaps they did, Eminence. There’s nothing the monks won’t do to destroy us. But that’s only jealousy because we’re succeeding where they’re failing. Surely God will show them the error of their ways! Perhaps the Englishman will ‘remove’ himself before he does any harm. His rutters prove him to be what he is. A pirate and leader of pirates!”

  “Read them to Toranaga, Martin. The parts where he describes the sacking of the defenseless settlements from Africa to Chile, and the lists of plunder and all the killings.”

  “Perhaps we should wait, Eminence. We can always produce the rutters. Let’s hope he’ll damn himself without them.”

  Father Alvito wiped the palms of his hands again. He could feel Blackthorne’s eyes on him. God have mercy on you, he thought. For what you’ve said today to Toranaga, your life’s not worth a counterfeit mite, and worse, your soul’s beyond redemption. You’re crucified, even without the evidence in your rutters. Should we send them back to Father Sebastio so he can return them to Mura? What would Toranaga do if the papers were never discovered? No, that’d be too dangerous for Mura.

  The door at the far end shivered open.

  “Lord Ishido wishes to see you, Sire,” Naga announced. “He’s—he’s here in the corridor and he wishes to see you. At once, he says.”

  “All of you, go back to your places,” Toranaga said to his men. He was instantly obeyed. But all samurai sat facing the door, Hiro-matsu at their head, swords eased in their scabbards. “Naga-san, tell Lord Ishido he is always welcome. Ask him to come in.”

  The tall man strode into the room. Ten of his samurai—Grays—followed, but they remained at the doorway and, at his signal, sat cross-legged.

  Toranaga bowed with precise formality and the bow was returned with equal exactitude.

  Father Alvito blessed his luck that he was present. The impending clash between the two rival leaders would completely affect the course of the Empire and the future of Mother Church in Japan, so any clue or direct information that might help the Jesuits to decide where to throw their influence would be of immeasurable importance. Ishido was Zen Buddhist and fanatically anti-Christian, Toranaga was Zen Buddhist and openly sympathetic. But most Christian daimyos supported Ishido, fearing—with justification, Father Alvito believed—the ascendence of Toranaga. The Christian daimyos felt that if Toranaga eliminated Ishido’s influence from the Council of Regents, Toranaga would usurp all power for himself. And once he had power, they believed he would implement the Taikō’s Expulsion Edicts and stamp out the True Faith. If, however, Toranaga was eliminated, the succession, a weak succession, would be assured and the Mother Church would prosper.

  As the allegiance of the Christian daimyos wavered, so it was with all the other daimyos in the land, and the balance of power between the two leaders fluctuated constantly, so no one knew for certain which side was, in reality, the most powerful. Even he, Father Alvito, the most informed European in the Empire, could not say for certain which side even the Christian daimyos would actually support when the clash became open, or which faction would prevail.

  He watched Toranaga walk off the dais, through the encircling safety of his men.

  “Welcome, Lord Ishido. Please sit there.” Toranaga gestured at the single cushion on the dais. “I’d like you to be comfortable.”

  “Thank you, no, Lord Toranaga.” Ishido Kazunari was lean and swarthy and very tough, a year younger than Toranaga. They were ancient enemies. Eighty thousand samurai in and around Osaka Castle did his bidding, for he was Commander of the Garrison—and therefore Commander of the Heir’s Bodyguard—Chief General of the Armies of the West, Conqueror of Korea, member of the Council of Regents, and formally Inspector General of all the late Taikō’s armies, which were legally all the armies of all daimyos throughout the realm.

  “Thank you, no,” he repeated. “I’d be embarrassed to be comfortable while you were not, neh? One day I will take your cushion, but not today.”

  A current of anger went through the Browns at Ishido’s implied threat, but Toranaga replied amiably, “You came at a most opportune moment. I was just finishing interviewing the new barbarian. Tsukku-san, please tell him to stand up.”

  The priest did as he was bidden. He felt Ishido’s hostility from across the room. Apart from being anti-Christian, Ishido had always been vigorous in his condemnation of all Europeans and wanted the Empire totally closed to them.

  Ishido looked at Blackthorne with pronounced distaste. “I heard he was ugly but I didn’t realize how ugly. Rumor has it that he’s a pirate. Is he?”

  “Can you doubt it? And he’s also a liar.”

  “Then before you crucify him, please let me have him for half a day. The Heir might be amused to see him with his head on first.” Ishido laughed roughly. “Or perhaps he should be taught to dance like a bear, then you could exhibit him throughout the Empire: ‘The Freak from the East.’”

  Though it was true that Blackthorne had, uniquely, come out of the eastern seas—unlike the Portuguese, who always came from the south and hence were called Southern Barbarians—Ishido was blatantly implying that Toranaga, who dominated the eastern provinces, was the true freak.

  But Toranaga merely smiled as though he did not understand. “You’re a man of vast humor, Lord Ishido,” he said. “But I agree the sooner the barbarian’s removed the better. He’s long-winded, arrogant, loud-mouthed, an
oddity, yes, but one of little value, and with no manners whatsoever. Naga-san, send some men and put him with the common criminals. Tsukku-san, tell him to follow them.”

  “Captain-Pilot, you are to follow those men.”

  “Where am I going?”

  Father Alvito hesitated. He was glad that he had won, but his opponent was brave and had an immortal soul which could yet be saved. “You are to be detained,” he said.

  “For how long?”

  “I don’t know, my son. Until Lord Toranaga decides.”

Series Navigation<< CHAPTER 11 : Part 1 – ShogunCHAPTER 12 – Shogun >>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!