|The Emperor of Nihon-Ja|
|Publisher:||Random House (Australia)|
Philomel (United States)
|Media Type:||Hardcover (Australia)|
|Preceded by:||Halt's Peril|
|Followed by:||The Lost Stories|
In earlier editions of Book 9 on the last page featuring the next book, the book was named 'The Emperor of Nihon Jin'.
Horace is missing. Months have passed since he was sent on a military mission to the court of the Emperor of Nihon-Ja but he has failed to return. Evanlyn is worried, and in company with Will, Alyss, Selethen, and Halt, she sets out to discover what has become of their old friend on board Gundar Hardstriker's ship: the Wolfwill.
They find that Horace has become embroiled in Nihon-Jan politics. The arrogant Senshi Lord, Arisaka, has rebelled against the rightful Emperor and Horace has chosen to stay and lend his support to the deposed and fugitive ruler. Now he and Will must turn forest timber workers into a fighting force that can face the highly trained Senshi warriors, while Alyss and Evanlyn must overcome their long-standing rivalry to seek aid from a mysterious group of mountain dwellers to help them in the fight against Arisaka.
The story starts with Alyss, Halt, and Will in Toscana with Selethen, overseeing and acting as a neutral third-party for a treaty that is being forged between Arrida and Toscana. Will, Halt, and Selethen are watching a demonstration of the Toscan army's fighting style, which is akin to the ancient Roman army's way of fighting.
Nihon-Ja, Several Months EarlierEdit
The book cuts to Horace, who is in Nihon-Ja, a country modeled on Ancient Japan, and is staying with Emperor Shigeru who he has grown to like, and vice versa. Horace had been sent on the mission partly to learn the sword technique used by the Nihon-Jan's and also because he had become restless at Castle Araluen, due to the excitement of the events in the previous books. George Carter is also with him.
Shigeru is travelling back to his royal palace in Ito, the capital of Nihon-Ja with Horace and George whose time in Nihon-Ja is coming to an end. However, as they are approaching Ito, a messenger comes riding in with urgent news that there has been a rebellion in Ito against Shigeru. Horace and George are astonished at this because Shigeru is loved by his people. They then discover that the rebellion is led by Arisaka, leader of the Shimonseki Clan of Senshi, who are the trained warriors of Nihon-Ja and comprise the upper class. Arisaka doesn't believe that Shigeru is the rightful Emperor and wants the throne for himself, so he told the senshi that Shigeru wanted to destroy the Senshi Class, and got the senshi warriors to rebel.
The group is suddenly ambushed by senshi sent by Arisaka to try to kill Shigeru, and George takes an arrow to the arm which was aimed at Horace. Shigeru is about to be killed, so Horace quickly intervenes with the help of Shukin, Shigeru's cousin. Two senshi out of a group of nine esccape, and George's arm is tended to. Horace thanks his friend for saving his life, which George is a little embarrassed by.
Back in Toscana, Halt, Alyss and Will are all taken aback as Princess Cassandra, under the guise of Evanlyn, appears on the scene. This annoys Alyss, who believes that Cassandra is still trying to take Will for herself. Cassandra tells them that she recieved a message from George, saying that Horace has gone missing in NIhon-Ja. They all decide to go to Nihon-Ja after Horace, and they take the current Skandian Duty Ship, the Wolfwill. The ship is captained by Gundar Hardstriker, and is now outfitted with the Heron Sail Plan, allowing it to reach Nihon-Ja much faster than before. Before they cast off, Selethen decides to come with them.
The Sea, normal timeEdit
Wolfwill is making great progress, and Halt has just gotten over his seasickness, to scold his friends for so plainly trying to hide their amusement. Gundar teases him mercilessly, with the typical Skandian lack of tact and understanding of the ailment. Gundar then proceeds to explain The Heron Sail Plan to everyone.
Nihon-Ja, Several Months EarlierEdit
After a wounded George leaves to contact his friends, Horace stays with the Shigeru to help him. Shigeru and his company move on and wind up in a riverside Kikori village near dark not having reached their goal of crossing a certain river before the sun set.
Shigeru talks to the villagers, manages to win them over, and wins their voluntary and cheerful hospitality for the night. The headman of the village offers to ready hot baths for the company, who accept gratefully, Horace perhaps most gratefully of all.
A force of Senshi, tracking Shigeru, stumbles upon the village. They receive advance warning of the tracking party and hide, while Shukin, in the guise of the village headman, pleads with the Senshi to spare the village from destruction. Shukin eventually removes his disguise and begins to fight the Senshi, and Shigeru's soldiers come to his aid and quickly annihilate the raiding party. The villagers thank Shigeru for his services and join him.
Shigeru's final destination is Ran-Koshi, a fabled fortress with impregnible walls of stone where the emperor will be safe. In one of the Kikori villages that he visits, Shigeru finds a guide who knows the way to Ran-Koshi, who agrees to escort the party there.
General Arisaka drives his forces mercilessly to catch up with the emperor and kill him. Shigeru's party, however, is slowed down by the wounded they have to carry. When they reach a river with a narrow ford, Shukin and five of his most accomplished soldiers stop at the bridge to hold Arisaka's men off and buy some time for Shigeru. On a lookout point, Shigeru sees Shukin die in battle against Arisaka, and the party moves off again.
Weeks of difficult walking follow. Arisaka pursues the refugees relentlessly till this time, until they reach a bridge. With the soldiers of Arisaka nearly upon them, the refugees cross the bridge and cut the ropes supporting it, forcing Arisaka's men into a detour. Horace loses his sword after it falls into the ravine, he had been out fighting on the bridge with a rope tied around his waist to keep Arisaka's warriors back.
Journey to Nihon-JaEdit
Aboard Wolfwill, Alyss and Cassandra practice fencing with their sabers. Alyss repeatedly hits Cassandra's wrist, until it's off-limits so they could progress with the fight. Later on, when the princess, after being hit in the elbow, kicks Alyss in the shin, Halt quickly steps in and admonishes both of them for being immature, and makes them realize that jealousy over Will is what is fueling their hatred for each other.
At this point, Gundar Hardstriker warns of a pirate ship coming toward them. After a brief one-sided battle, the pirate ship, barely intact, is allowed to leave Wolfwill behind, bearing news of a ship with odd sails that should not be dealt with. After the rout of the pirates, the journey to Nihon-ja is uneventful.
Last Push to Ran-KoshiEdit
Reito, the leader of the remnant of the royal army of the emperor, takes Shukin's place as the emperor's chief retainer and takes his job very seriously. Horace learns to love the emperor even more as the party slogs its way to Ran-Koshi.
Near the end of their journey, Horace and Reito, along with the guide, go to scout out the area for Ran-Koshi. When they find it, Reito is initially furious to find that the palisade is collapsing and the defenses feeble. Then Horace points out to him that the palisade is easy to repair with the two hundred Kikori they have with them, and the topography itself is the fortress, and that no enemy could destroy or breach the mountain walls. Reito and Horace go back with the good news and a new positivity in their step.
The party settle down in the fortress, and Horace leads the Kikori workmen in the repairing of the gates. He also assigns Mikeru, a young, agile Kikori, to look for a secret exit out of the fortress. The exit is found and named Mikeru's pass, though it is hard to negotiate and is impractical as an evacuation exit.
The Parties MeetEdit
Halt's party arrive at Nihon-ja and realize that, to get to Ran-Koshi by land, they will have to go through weeks of laborious walking through rough mountain country. Halt elects to sail down the coast and arrive at Ran-Koshi in five days. No one disagrees.
When they arrive, Kikori scouts sent out by Horace find them. Unable to communicate, and calling Horace Kurokuma (black bear), Halt and his friends are suspected as spies and taken back to Ran-Koshi. Horace, seeing his friends, is overjoyed. Cassandra hugs him and the parties go into Shigeru's cabin to exchange stories.
Halt takes over the overseeing of the defenses. He decides to leave part of the gateway weakened to lure the attackers there, and Selethen suggests that they load up the nearby mountain face with rocks and trees. Shigeru is impressed and agrees. The Kikori prepare to defend Ran-Koshi.
Arisaka's scout party is seen a few days later. He had sent about 100 men ahead to try and take the fortress before the snowfall prevented passage through the mountains. The Kikori concealed themselves behind the fortress walls, while the 40 or so Senshi from the royal army stood in plain sight.
Arisaka's Senshi charged forward with scaling ladders. Kikori men waited for them to climb up, then threw spears and rocks at the climbers or pushed the occupied ladders over. Arisaka lost numerous men in that first failed assault.
The captain of Arisaka's force now saw the weakened section of the gates. He rushed over there, gathering up scattered senshi here and there, and they began an assault against the gate. In a few short minutes it went down, and the Kikori on that part of the wall fled, seemingly in panic. The cheering Senshi attackers rushed forward, but a newly built, lower wall impeded their progress. There was no way out but back the way they had come, and that was blocked by the Senshi behind them. Selethen's plan now came into effect, and an incredible mass of rocks and wood tumbled down on the Senshi attackers. Those who survived the avalanche fled in panic. 30 Senshi died in that assault, and that night, the snow fell.
- Nihon-Ja is based on Japan. This is because "Nihon" can be translated as "Land of the Rising Sun" such as in the book Nihon Shoki (aka The Chronicles of Japan). In Japanese language, 'Nihon-Jin' can be referred as a Japanese person.
- Gundar Hardstriker
- Nils Ropehander
- Lord Nimatsu
- General Sapristi
- Emperor Shigeru
- The Terror