I don't own the Finder series or any of characters.
NO FLAMES. NO ONE IS FORCING YOU TO READ THIS IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT.
I'm a slow updater, especially with story because of all the extra stuff I write to go with it. I thank you all for having patience and sticking with me.
I've also been really distracted, had leave University because my health will not allow me to carry on, it's been a real blow I spent years working to get onto this degree.
Also found out that I have traits of both dyslexia and dyspraxia which overlap in me and that I possibly have another condition which will impact on my life. Really mad that none of this wasn't picked up till now ( I'm in my twenties) but what can you do.
I'm so glad I have this to work on it's a brilliant distraction. Now I normally hand draft the chapter before typing it, but about 50% of this chapter was written on the hoof, nevertheless it may also be one if not the cleanest chapter I've done because I have had so much time to work on it.
PhantomLady13 – Yes history was a favourite subject at school. And I still love learning about the past, it's been a great source of inspiration for this story.
Chapter 6 – Convergence.
Asami looked carefully at all those around the room "Gentleman what I'm about to tell you must not go any further than this room. Yasatora-san your father has already been informed and he has my permission to tell your brothers, so if what I'm about to say gets out I'll know exactly who to blame." Said Asami's flashing a chilling smile. "My cousin believes that if he can out last a siege and prove that I can't defeat him outright, then others will flock to his banner. He is not the first nor will he be the last to challenge my authority, my right to be emperor. If I cannot take the Eyrie and bring my cousin to his knees then others will follow his lead and rebel against my authority, and I will us every weapon at my disposal to prevent that. You asked me Takaba-san how I could be so sure of the conditions inside the Eyrie, that easy because right now one of my very best spies is currently inside the Eyrie."
"You placed a spy in the Eyrie? Akihito was astonished.
"To tell the truth the spy was inserted at Red Hill, and then followed my cousin to the Eyrie. The agent code named Storm Bird has been undercover for the last year. "
"My lord if you went to the trouble of having an agent placed in Red Hill then you must have had your suspicions about the Duke so why did you not act upon them sooner?"Byakuya swallowed hard even though he had learned that his Emperor preferred plan speaking, he was still nervous about voicing a statement that sounded like criticism.
"Ever since I became Emperor my cousin has been a threat to my rule. However he is third in line to the throne I couldn't remove him without causing an uproar."
"His majesty is correct Byakuya." Said Akihito "His majesty rule may be absolute but traditionally there are laws that even the Emperor will not break."
Byakuya nodded as he absorbed Akihito's words as he remembered one of the laws that even the Emperors of the Asai will not break - That no one may be sentenced for a capital crime (treason or murder) without proof and it is up to accuser to supply the burden of proof. Asami knew he needed proof and it had to be indisputable. "To get the proof I needed to condemn Seiya Storm Bird was sent into Red Hill."
"I take it since the rebellion occurred Storm Bird failed." Said Rokuro
"Yes and no" replied Asami "They had no access to Seiya in the beginning, it took time for Storm Bird to get close to my cousin. Nevertheless what information that they did manage to get proved useful. It would have changed the course of events if certain information had reached us sooner."
Akihito narrowed his eyes and looked at Asami, Asami looked back daring him to say something. Akihito knew that Asami wasn't telling them the whole truth. And he was right the truth was that Asami had decided to let this rebellion happen. With Storm Bird's information Asami got a picture of who in the eastern reaches of his empire where for him and against him. A rebellion would be a perfect way to not only see where an individual's loyalties lie but also to dispose of them without any opposition and all in the name of national security. Asami had dealt with some of the people who were planning according to Storm Bird's information were going to betray him, Asami had some of them removed through a variety of methods, these ranged from created political scandals to unfortunate illnesses, as to not alert his cousin that he knew what Seiya was planning. Suoh knew the truth, so did Kurosaki but loyalty to Asami meant that they would never tell.
The defeated rebels who took part in the rebellion were either, imprisoned, on trial or dead. Asami had public trials and executions held in Dragon's Keep and in towns and cities throughout the empire to send a message to all those who would rebel against his authority.
The wounded, the ill, some of the servants and anyone who was deemed to be just an extra mouth to feed was being expelled from the Eyrie. Some walked, others were carried and then dumped on the ground, and some people had be dragged out kicking and screaming. Those that tried to run back into the Eyrie were repelled by the soldiers. The solders pushed back the last desperate and determined souls from the doors which was then slammed shut in their faces. Some of those people were hammering and scratching at the doors, they were wailing, begging to be let back in. In all the confusion Storm Bird slipped away unnoticed.
Storm Bird's real name was Shirasagi Leolani and she had been sent undercover as a house maid at Red Hill. Working her way up from house maid to Amasawa Seiya's personal maid did take her some time. Part of this was achieved by doctoring the work rota so that she would always be in the vicinity of the Duke. It also helped that she fitted the physical type that Amasawa favoured – petite with dark hair. Her strategy must have worked because she was soon transferred to the Duke's personal staff. But Leolani didn't give in to the Duke's advances, she made him chase her. The longer she held out the more interested and fired up he got. Leolani knew that the closer she could get to him and the longer she could hold his interest then the more chance she had of getting information out of him.
Leolani's plans worked and she held his interest, he put aside another mistress in favour of her. Amasawa began to let details of plans slip in bed. Nothing huge at first but for a skilled operative like Leolani she could see the bigger picture they formed. Amasawa got to the point where he trusted her so much that he used her to courier messages for him, as he figured that she was less conspicuous than any of his men.
What information she gained was handed over to other operatives at various meetings and drop points. When the move to the Eyrie was announced so that she could still keep in contact with the Kessel Hive via carrier bird. The plan was for her to get it into the Eyrie and hide it among the birds kept there. For Leolani this was the scariest part of her mission so far, she smuggled the bird in among the luggage of the Duke and Duchess. And then was able to hide the bird among the other birds housed in the Eyrie. However while she was doing this Leolani was discovered by the old bird keeper, and she was forced to take action. He was found early the next morning his head smashed open like a watermelon on the ground below the tower, the way Leolani had staged the scene everyone believed that the old man got drunk and then just fell.
Leolani had managed to convince Amasawa to call her to his bed less often on the pretext that at this critical time he need less distractions. At the same time she also persuaded him to let take over care of the care of the messenger pigeons, claiming that as a child her father had been employed as a bird keeper and she had assisted him. Amasawa accepted this idea, as he felt at least it would mean someone he trusted would be in charge of a vital communication source. Now installed as the bird keeper no one would question her presence there, though she still had to be careful not to be caught sending messages, the first one she sent carried information on the conditions in the Eyrie and the welfare of the Duchess. The second carried the information that she and others were to soon be expelled from the Eyrie.
Leolani used her skills in cryptography to encode the messages, this was done by using a poly alphabetical cipher. Her cipher also contained null symbols which acted as red herrings and had no meaning whatsoever, and some symbols stood in for whole words. Leolani was confident that her ciphers would not be easily broken, but not so arrogant to believe that they couldn't.
When Amasawa Seiya told her that she was to be put out of the Eyrie he had expected her to cry and beg him not to do it. In fact the opposite occurred, she accepted it saying "That she would of course do anything that he commanded of her." Touched by this show of devotion he told her that when this when the winter was over and his cousin's attempt to besiege him failed she should return to him. Yes he was planning to take a new wife when he became emperor but there was no reason that she couldn't resume being his mistress, perhaps even his official mistress.
The night before she was due to expelled from the Eyrie, she went to him that night saying that she wanted one more night with him before she left. But the truth was that she wanted to have look in the small study that was just off his bedroom, so far it was the only place she hadn't managed to search. To make sure that he wouldn't catch her she had taken the precaution of drugging his wine. Leolani untangled herself from Amasawa's embrace and looked down at his sleeping form. His complexion and hair colour were the same as the emperor, but his eyes were brown. He was shorter than the emperor by a foot. For man who claimed to be a warrior in his prime his physique could have been better. She checked that he was in a deep sleep, before she went into his study. If she didn't have orders not to kill Duke Amasawa she would have done at that moment but the emperor wanted to either execute his cousin in public or kill the Duke himself.
Leolani began to search the room and at first found nothing of interest that was until she found a secret compartment in the desk. a man had been coming to see the Duke since they first arrived at the Eyrie, she couldn't identify from sight as his face was hidden, plus she a hadn't been able to get close to this man or listening in on any of the private meetings that he and the Duke had. The letters in that compartment proved that Duke was plotting with Valaren, the man must has been an agent of Valaren. The man meeting the Duke was now in retrospect a courier. The letters themselves were written in High Valaren. This language was spoken only in the King's court and by the nobility, also the letters had been signed by a high ranking noble known to be close to King Mikhail. Writing the letters in High Valaren was good idea, as the majority of the people in the Empire can't comprehend it. However High Valaren is on the curriculum for all members' intelligence services.
The letters proposed an alliance between the Duke and Valaren. As long as the Duke could survive this winter he would receive monies and troops to help him overthrow Asami. In exchange the Duke would marry the youngest sister of King Mikhail, Princess Masha, his son Ren would be betrothed Mikhail's daughter Princess Zoya, and he would hand over the Boa valley and the Duchies of Carthanon and Larick. Upon reading another letter Leolani deduced that Amasawa had agreed to these terms (though she wouldn't put it past him to wrangle out of them latter.), also he had managed to persuade Valaren to launch an attacks on the empire to keep the forces of the empire busy, and to distract his majesty from focusing on his rebellious cousin. Leolani knew that she now had what she needed, these letters proved that the Duke wasn't just a rebel but a traitor to. The first attack was due to strike the city of Allaykin, a fortified city that overlooked one the main mountain roads that spanned the Kierik Mountains. If that city was taken it would provide an excellent base of operations for further incursions into the Empire.
What she learnt that night was the content of the last message Leolani sent from the Eyrie before she was put out, pulling her cloak tighter around her she began to make her way to the Kessel Hive. It had remained in operation all during the rebellion, and was given the tasks of surveillance and sabotage. She just hoped that she would make to the Hive before she got hit by any of the fast moving unpredictable weather so common in the mountains.
A knock came at the door, Asami ordered the individual to enter, in came the governor's secretary Suzuki Aoi "Pardon the intrusion your Majesty but a Rider has arrived, he says that his orders are to give his message to no one but yourself."
"Bring him in" commanded Asami.
Suzuki returned a few moments later with the messenger, he was slight man enveloped in a drab mud stained grey green cloak, it was fastened with a badge in the shape of a winged horse. This was the symbol of the Imperial Messengers AKA the Riders. He bowed low before removing a letter from the satchel slung across his body. Suoh took the letter which bore the seal of Kessel's Hive and handed it to Asami. Asami tore open the seal and read the letter. Akihito watched Asami's face a slight clenching of his jaw was the only sign that Asami had been effected by the contents of that letter. Asami folded the letter back up "See that this man is fed and rested." Suzuki and the Rider sensing that they were being dismissed left the room.
Byakuya was the first one to speak "Bad news my lord?"
"Yes, gentleman my cousin's treachery knows no bounds Storm Bird has discovered that he is conspiring with Valaren. A force is to be dispatched to take the city Allaykin".
A range of emotions playing across the faces of all those that were present ranging from shock, to fear to anger. "My Lord" ventured Byakuya "Why would the Valarens invade Allykin that is in Sellanor. If they wanted to help Amasawa why not go to the Eyrie?"
"By invading a neighbouring province the Valarens are hoping to split our forces. Also the city of Allykin is overlooks one of the few safe roads through the Kierik Mountains, if they can take the city it will give them a foot hold in the empire. My Lord Takaba return to your home and make arrangements for absence and then join us back here. Yasatora-san you to will leave immediately and return to your father and brothers, you may inform them of what has occurred. Also I'm sure that you're aware for the Valaren army will have to pass through the Boa valley to reach the city."
Exactly catching Asami's drift Rokuro said "And you wish our people to slow them down?"
"Yes. Do whatever you have to do to. Cut their supply lines, sabotage the route, I give you free range to use your imaginations. Your further assistance would be much appreciated and further rewarded."
Rokuro and Akihito took their leave, with Akihito giving Byakuya's shoulder a squeeze before he left.
Turing to Suoh Asami said "How many Riders do we have with use?"
"Four my lord not counting the one who has just arrived."
"Good, Byakuya pen, paper and ink." Said Asami. The boy quickly gathered these things. Asami began to write "One letter must go to Prime Minster Kirishima but we'll send that one by bird it'll be quicker, he have who will have to inform the nearest military base near the city, he'll also get the other Northern provinces on a war footing. One letter must go to that old witch Steward Fujiwara at Allaykin, she must rally the city's defences. One will go to the Duke of Sellanor he may be needed to shore up the defences of both the city and the province. The final letters must go to Vice Admiral Sawashiro and to Marquis Samehada there forces must go on alert, this all could be distraction for a more traditional invasion by sea. The whole nation must now be brought to a war footing." As Asami sealed the letters he ordered Byakuya to fetch three of the Riders they brought with them. As he left Asami turned to Governor Ichihara "Alert the nobles, officials and local leaders, they and the people must be informed of impending invasion." The Governor bowed and hurried out. Asami sat down in front of the fire, Suoh looked at his master's face, it was impassive but Suoh had known him long enough to be able to detect the restrained fury in his eye.
"Suoh inform the leaders of each unit what has occurred today. Then fetch Kurosaki Kyo, the head of the engineering corps and that forth Rider."
Colonel Kato fidgeted a bit under his Emperor's gaze. The thirty year old was a skilled engineer but was the first time he would under the Emperor's direct command. "Colonel you are already aware of how we plan to bring down the walls of the Eyrie, and of the new developments." Asami waved his head towards Kurosaki "With Kurosaki's help I want you to build a portable mock-up of the tunnel and culvert."
"Yes it'll have to be portable so that it can be put together and taken apart so that it can used as we travel, Kurosaki will give you the full details. But I'll tell you now that from what we know that the tunnel will not be big enough at one point for an adult so." Asami raised his hand and it settled on Byakuya's shoulder "My page will be the one to pack the explosives. Colonel go through all your available personal, select the smallest and slightest individuals, they will not only be ones to help construct the prototype but they'll also act as the train that will pass the explosives to Byakuya. I want that prototype finished by tonight. Then you will run drills into the night. It will be pitch black in that tunnel so you will have to rely on touch, and sound. Byakuya will need to be taught how to pack those explosives to cause maxim damage. Until we get to the Eyrie you will practice every night. You will run practice drills to aid speed and communication, I want it perfect. Of course there will be your regular duties to also complete " This last part was send for Byakuya's benefit this would let the boy know just what expected of those in the emperor's service.
The engine of war marched on some made preparations, others uttered prayers, but nobody was standing still. Right now the fates of many are converging. It was like they were all being propelled towards the same inevitable destiny.
Akihito addressed his staff even though he didn't tell them the reason, they all guessed correctly that it had something to do with the emperor and the impeding war. However they couldn't think why Akihito would needed, the reason must have been a hidden one and look on Akihito's face put anyone off from asking. He issues orders to his staff to check their food and fuel supplies, if they didn't have enough then more was too obtained. Akihito also had them look over the security of the Sanctuary. Though he didn't anticipate trouble reaching here Akihito was prepared to take any chances, he came to decision that once he left that none of children should leave Sanctuary. The streets were not dangerous but you could sense the tension in air.
Rokuro strode into camp tired as he was he had to speak with his father and brothers. There was much they had to know, and the arrangements had to be made to send out small groups throughout the valley to disrupt the Valarens. However his thoughts were dominated by revenge for his sister and for his family honour. Amasawa would be made to pay for all the indignities that he had heaped on the Yasatora.
Leolani who had made her way to the Kessel Hive was changing her clothes, her report had been relayed to the emperor but he wished to question herself. She would be disguised as a member of Asami's personal guard, if she was captured the disguise might save her life. After Asami became emperor he created a code that stipulated how POW's should be treated. This code however did not extend to spies, they could be indiscriminately killed and tortured. Spies were individuals employed by many but no one would ever admit to it. For all intense and purposes people like Leolani did not exist.
The city of Allaykin was bustling with activity but instead of the sights and sounds of everyday life, the citizens were preparing for war. This fortified city overlooked one of the busiest and safest roads through the Kierek Mountains. It was a city that was accustomed to being on a war footing, though it had not seen action since the last civil war. Yet that made no difference everything occurred orderly and without fuss or panic. The people of the city were not panicked, after all they were regularly drilled in the procedures that were to be implemented in the face of invasion, so they felt ready for whatever the Valarens were going to throw at them. Steward Fujiwara examined the cities supplies, they had enough food, and weapons to last a year, the food supply would be stretched out to last longer as rationing was now in effect. They had wells inside the city so they had access to water that the enemy wouldn't be able to get to. And right now the people that lived in surround that would not have adequate protection against the invaders were being evacuated into the city.
The letter she had received from the emperor told her guerrilla forces would be taking action against the invaders as they came through the Boa valley. This however for her was not enough her, she had sent people to perform acts of sabotage along the road. When one group performed their mission, they would meet up with the next group pass on any relevant information and then retreat back to the city. Honestly Fujiwara had not expected to see action again in her lifetime, but it seems that fate and that traitor Duke had other ideas.
Hinamori Gin along with two other members of Asami's personal guard rode out of the governor's residence to meet with Strom Bird. The emperor wanted to hear her report in person, for the emperor was not satisfied to just read her report. After all an official report only ever tells you so much, Asami wanted to know everything even the little specs of gut intuition that never make it into an objective report. Hinamori had been given Storm Bird's description and plus he remembered her, this was one of the reasons that Storm Bird was chosen for this mission, as having once worked undercover as a member of the Emperor's personal staff she was known to them. The order to retrieve her for Asami wasn't unexpected, after all liked to ask his own questions, no matter how much he trusted the judgement of another he would never supplant it for his own.
Amasawa Yuko Duchess of Kessel stood on the balcony of her cell and looked down onto the troops milling around below. The trailing sleeves of her grey gown were bellowing in the wind. She turned away and stalked back into room, shutting the door behind here. Her cell was in fact a richly decorated suite of rooms, with its open fire, plush rugs, tapestries on the walls and expensive furniture this room seemed a perfect place to spend a cold blustery day, but to Yuko no matter how nice this room was it was still a prison cell. For this last two weeks Yuko had been confined here, she could have coped with the confinement and loneliness (as all the servants that were loyal to her or that she trusted were either left behind at Red Hill or had been expelled) , if not for that fact that she was being denied access to her son. She knew that her husband was doing this to punish her. For this he had discovered that this was a far more effective form punishment than physical pain.
Her current predicament was due to her speaking out against her husband on his further continuation of a course of action that was doomed to failure. He had no allies, no fresh troops and no support. She begged him to surrender, saying that the emperor might be merciful and to commute his sentence from death to exile. She had heard that own father and eldest brother were facing trial and execution, the province and its people had been ravaged, she wanted an end to all death and destruction. His response was to beat her so badly that she couldn't leave her bed for three days, upon arising from it she was informed that she was to be confined to her room for her own safety and young master Ren was also confined his room also for his own safety.
Yuko turned her attention her attention to her lunch, a roast, fresh bread, fruit and wine, but she picked very sparingly at it, Yuko was convinced that her husband had every intention of killing her. He had a deluded belief that even now he could still win, and she had no doubt that she was not part of his plan for victory. No one in this place would question her death, she had no idea how he planned to do it, however poison seemed most likely. After all many poisons could imitate the symptoms of a natural illness. However Yuko knew she had to survive somehow because when the emperor came and defeated her husband she would need to be alive to plead for her son. She had no doubt that Seiya would die and she strongly suspected that she would as well, but there was also a possibility that the emperor would kill her son. Logically it would make more sense to let him live, but the Amasawa had caused so much trouble for him that it was not beyond the realm of possibility that he may just wipe them out. But she felt sure that she could convince him to let Ren live to inherit the mantle of Duke, her son was nothing like his father he had inherited her kindness, a trait that her husband berated his son for. Yuko was adamant that her son should live, and she was not above going down on her knees and begging for his life.
Kirishima Kei was one of the most powerful men in the empire, he was the prime minster, the second most important figure in the government. For man who was the third son of country gentlemen with only a few acres of land to his name, his rise to power could be called meteoric if not miraculous. Though his father was a useless farmer he was an extremely gifted scholar and teacher, which is how he came into the household of the then emperor's son Ryuichi. It was his mother the Lady Rin that managed to persuade the emperor to let those members of her son's household with children near in age to Ryuichi to accompany their parents, and to be companions to her son. And that is how he came to be one of people closest in the world to the now emperor.
During his time with Asami he trained and practiced as a lawyer, knowing that one day his master would need someone well versed in the law, because he never had any doubt that his master would become emperor. And that was because like Asami he saw the reality of the situation, Asami Ryuichi had to become emperor simply to survive. He would always been seen a threat to the legitimate line, if his half-sister became empress he would never be allowed to live out his life in peace. Kirishima knew for a fact that his master did not kill the princess, but nevertheless her death was fortuitous.
During the course of that last civil war Kirishima of course fought on Asami's side. He was a gifted archer, and possessed a talent for administration and logistics. He could deal with reams of paperwork that would drive many a man insane. It was during the war that Asami proved himself extremely able to lead an army, but Asami conceded when it came to moving and supply said army no one did it better than Kirishima.
Right know the prime minster was putting the whole nation on a war footing. Messages had been set out the Dukes of the Northern provinces, to the stewards of the city states, as well as to all commanders of garrisons and naval bases announcing a state emergency. Messages were being sent to Karn for with empire's attention engaged by its northern neighbour, it would not be out of the realm of possibility for its southern neighbour the Tenshe Empire to attempt invasion to.
At this moment he had just dispatched troops to fetch the emperor's mother, the prince and princess who were currently at the emperor's most private residence Dion castle. The plan was to bring them to the safety of Dragon's keep. Even though no trouble had erupted in Asai, Kirishima was not prepared to take such a chance. Letting out a barely audible sigh he called one of his assistants to bring him the files on the most northern towns and cities, the status of their supplies would need to be checked to see if anything need to be imported from the surrounding country or further afield.
Ryuzaki Byakuya crawled back down the tunnel that the engineering corps had constructed from Kusosaki-san's information. He couldn't remember how many time he had done this drill. The prototype was constructed at lighting speed, and Colonel Kato managed to find enough personal among his staff who fitted the description the emperor gave. The colonel himself taught Byakuya how to pack explosives so that they caused maximum damage.
The heat in tunnel was like nothing Byakuya had ever experienced, he and the other members of the train had shed all their outer clothing it was also thought that this was a good idea to do as when in the actual tunnel their clothing wouldn't catch on any of the rocks. It took him some time to come to terms with the sense of claustrophobia that being in such as confined space created. To make the experience as real as possible as Byakuya and the engineers ran through the drill others shouted, screamed, banged on the top and sides of the tunnel. The goal was to simulate battle conditions as closely as possible, when they practiced in the day the lot of them wore blindfolds. They also underwent teamwork drills, it was during these that Byakuya saw just how far he had to go. The team work of the engineers was flawless, the physically demanding drills didn't seem to sap their stamina, whereas Byakuya had to push himself to the limit to keep up with them. He knew they could see how much he was pushing himself but they didn't take it easy on him and he didn't want them to.
He managed to juggle his duties to Emperor, he did have to convince a few other people to help him but as long as things got done it didn't matter. He flopped down on his bed for a few hours of sleep before getting up to start the drills again. He was worried, he had volunteered to take part in action to bring down the wall and he wanted to do it but he was scared that when the time came for the real thing he wouldn't be able to. He had asked Suoh about war and what was it like, Suoh told him that there was a common thread that bound all the different perspectives together, however because everyone was different no one experience was totally the same. And even though people could tell you their experiences of war you couldn't know what it was really like until you'd experienced it yourself.
Suoh Kazumi sat on his pallet sharpening his two headed axe, though in the Asami's personal guard the sword was more favoured as their primary weapon but Suoh had never felt it really suited him so instead he used an axe, there was for him just something incredibly satisfying in for him in the way it felt in his hand, the way it sounded when it was swung through the air, to him there was nothing like it.
Like Kirishima Kei he had first met Asami as a child when his father was became a tutor to Asami. The reason that Asami had taken to him was because in practice spars Suoh never let Asami win, he always made him work for it unlike some of the other children. Suoh was also fond of Asami as child because he didn't make fun of him. Suoh was tall for his age, which also made some think he was slow and clumsy, in fact he could move with remarkable swiftness. It took quite a few fights with other children sometimes backed up or held back on some occasions by Asami and Kirishima for everyone to learn that you do not tease Suoh Kazumi about his height.
He went into the army because just like Kirishima he knew that one day Asami would have to fight for his survival, and he wanted to his part to help Asami. The sight of Suoh Kazumi axe or axes in hand became a sight to terrify their enemies. During the civil war he acted as both Asami's bodyguard and a led a heavy infantry unit. After the war Asami created his own personal guard with Suoh at their head.
From where he sat he could over hear some of those under his command talking about the exercises that he had put them through that morning and those that were yet to come. He smiled to hear his nickname of the 'The Sadist' uttered, Suoh had earned the moniker because of the exercises and drills he created to put the emperor's guard through during times of both war and peace. They complained that to come up with them Suoh had to be sadist, but as much as they complained about the pain, they knew just how good those drills and exercises were and just how many times they had saved their lives.
Suoh was subjecting those under his commanded to such punishing drills because the closer they got to the Eyrie the more Suoh was concerned about spies and assassins sent out by the rebels and now possibly by Valaren. So Suoh stepped up the training for all those under his command, he also advised the other unit commanders to do the same. Suoh would be dammed if Asami was going to be assassinated on his watch.
Akihito returned two days later to Ichihara's residence, which was now barely recognisable with an army encamped in and around it. Right now Asami had around twenty thousand troops in Kessel, with at least another five thousand on the way. Considering that his cousin was said to have a little over ten thousand troops at his disposal, the numbers that Asami was mustering could easily considered overkill. However that is what he wanted. He wanted to show any other who so much as even thought about rebelling against his authority the kind of forces they would be up against. Plus if he could utterly smash his cousin now it might make the Valarens think twice about invading his domain.
That night Asami sat down to dinner with many of the key players of his plan. Asami sat at the head of the table, with Suoh on his right and Akihito on his left. Adjacent to Akihito were the Yasatora Quads, opposite them was Colonel Kato, Yasatora Arashi, Guvenor Ichihara and Ryuzaki Byakuya. The discussion at dinner centred on the assault on the Eyrie and the rescue of the Duchess and her son.
Hinamori Gin's mission to recover agent Storm Bird had been a success. Asami used his interview with her to go over details that he already knew from her report such as the location of the Duchess, he also probed her for information on his cousin, the remaining servants and on the troops there. He also asked questions such as what was the physical condition of the Eyrie was it being kept clean and well maintained? What food was being eaten? And was it rationed? Some of the information she gave and conclusions she came to were the result of his leading questions. Asami left no stone unturned and had no scruple in asking the most intermit questions. He even asked her about his cousin's performance. He wasn't surprised when she said that Duke Amasawa irritated and disgusted her, and that she was tempted many times to remove what little made him a man.
The dinner came to an end and Byakuya and Colonel Kato left to get a couple of hours sleep before getting up to run more practice drills. The Yasatoras then went to bed, as part of the team that would infiltrating the Eyrie they would be leaving early in the morning, and in advance of the main force. It had been decided that the infiltration team would enter the caverns at the closer point to the Eyrie than originally planned. There was a risk of being spotted from the Eyrie but the risk was thought be worth taking.
Akihito was about to leave when Asami said that he wanted to look over the plans Akihito had brought with him, for Akihito had brought with him a copy of the original building plans of Alizgarth at Asami request. So Akihito found himself in front of a roaring fire, sitting across from Asami. Akihito had one leg tucked underneath him and the other swung back and forth, he watched Asami's long tapered fingers handle the delicate documents. Asami returned them to the folder strode into his bed chamber and came back with a bottle and two glasses. He filled both glasses, took hold of one and drowned the contents down in one before refilling it. "It's not poisoned" Asami said.
Akihito picked up his glass and examined the clear liquid before downing the contents. The alcohol burned as it made its way down Akihito's throat and to his stomach, Akihito coughed, spluttered and his eyes began to water. "What is this stuff?!"
"It doesn't have a name. One of my guards has a portable still, and during the war she began to distil this stuff, out of what I have no idea. I've never asked in case I don't like the answer." Asami refilled Akihito's glass. "Are you afraid of going to war?"
Yes. I've seen fighting, I've seen death, I have even dealt it but I've never taken part in a war."
"What about the last civil war? Didn't you fight then?"
Akihito picked up his glass and sipped the contents "No. I spent my time caring for the wounded, the orphaned, I spent my time trying to keep as many people as safe as I could. I didn't care who sat on the throne."
"A sentiment shared by many." Asami emptied and refilled his glass. "You're lucky, you don't have to think about war all time."
"And you have to?"
"Yes. The object of war every practice, every procedure and its every discipline are one of the things always on my mind, for it is one of the best method to secure my rule. I came to the throne via war I could lose it the same way, if my study of the subject waivered."
"So a distraction would be disastrous."
"N, sometimes it is much appreciated."
"And what would count as a distraction?"
"Me? I have been called a lot of things in my time but a distraction is not one of them."
"Are you insulted?"
"No. To think that the Scarlet Emperor is distracted by me is rather flattering."
"Oh but I thought you said that were unsusceptible to flattery."
"Well then allow me to flatter you further." Asami got up and got to his knees in front of Akihito, he manipulated Akihito's legs so that they were spread and manoeuvred into between, and Asami ran one finger slowly over Akihito's lips. "The light from the fire is making the alcohol on your lips glisten. It's a very beautiful sight." Said Asami as he slipped his finger between Akihito's lips. The warmth of Akihito's mouth, the sweep of his tongue and the gentle scrapping of his teeth fed Asami's arousal. Akihito's eyes danced with mischief, he decided that he should have a bit of fun tonight, after all this would probably never happen again so what was the harm getting what he wanted?
Akihito hands wrapped around Asami's neck pulling him towards him, Akihito's lips captured Asami's he swirled his tongue inside Asami's mouth, when Asami's tongue answered in response Akihito drew back to nip at Asami's lips and jaw. Wanting to get control back Asami's fisted Akihito's hair and pulled, tipping his head back, Akihito's was breathing hard, and there was a wicked little smile on his face. To Asami that smile was a challenge, Akihito was different from his other lovers and different from the majority of people he knew. Asami could push and gain ground in this battle of wills, but Akihito would push back and not only regain that ground but take new ground as well. For Asami who was used to being on top, this was something new Akihito's surrender even in this moment and the last wasn't total, he only gave as much as he was prepared to give. For the first time in a long time Asami found himself in a battle of wills, and he had to admit to himself just how much fun it was.
Asami picked up Akihito's half full glass knocked back the contents, and brought his mouth down upon Akihito's the alcohol passed from one mouth to the other , some of it escaped and ran down Akihito's face and onto his neck. Hand still firmly in Akihito's hair Asami's tongue chased the path that the liquid had taken, his tongue swept upwards lapping up the alcohol before pressing his lips once again to Akihito's. Akihito felt like his was being burned from both inside and out, his legs tightened around Asami's waist trying to draw him closer, hands began to massage the back of Asami's neck, he could only think about just how good Asami's body felt against his and that he wanted more.
Asami lifted Akihito out of the chair, he carried him into the bedroom. Akihito felt the mattress sag underneath him, Asami pushed Akihito's shirt up over his head, Akihito. Asami smiled it was that perfect confident smile that at the same time could seduce and menace, he once again began to suckle the flesh of Akihito's neck using varying amounts of suction to tease Akihito.
Akihito gasped for more and not content to lie passively he began to run his feet up and down Asami's inner thigh and leg, his shin then began massage Asami's growing erection, the sensations of the material stroking his skin and the pressure delivered by Akihito produced a bestial growl from Asami's throat that reverberated through Akihito's body. Asami's smiled down at Akihito "Trying to take charge little leopard?"
"Why not? You're always in charge."
"Well I can't help that, I'm very used to saying do this and it is done."
"You like to be in charge, you like to be in control but guess what so do I." Using the reflexes of the vary animal that Asami had named him Akihito sprung up on to his knee and crushed his month to Asami's , hands bunched into Asami's hair he tugged at Asami's hair titling his head back to once again give him access to that beautiful sinewy neck. Asami's hand found their way to Akihito's belt, Akihito heard the clank of the metal and then felt Asami's hands ghost over his erection they dipped between his thighs and began to caress the delicate flesh. Akihito couldn't help it but bring his thighs together and groan into Asami's neck. "And if I was under your control what would make me do?" Asami spoke directly into Akihito's ear. Caught off guard by the question Akihito's quick tongue struggled to find an answer "To slow Akihito." Asami pushed Akihito back down on to bed, he tugged off the young man's boots and trouser tossing them aside "For those in charge indecision is a killer." Asami seized one of Akihito's feet, he swirled his tongue around the bone he found there and watched in amusement as the boy tried to wriggle free. It was during their last encounter that Asami discovered that Akihito's ankles were very sensitive. Asami bit his way up Akihito's legs, each bite was slow and deliberate like a good bite should be, that way Akihito could see that the beast that would devour him is under control, at least for that moment in time. Asami grasped Akihito's cock in his hand and ever so slightly began to stroke the tip with his thumb, his mouth nipped at the delicate flesh at his Adonis belt. Asami plunged the fingers of his other hand into Akihito's mouth one by one until all four were being engulfed by Akihito's mouth.
Asami withdrew his fingers from Akihito's mouth, he realised his grip on Akihito's erection and folded his legs back his hand cupped Akihito's buttocks squeezing them ever so slowly. Asami ran his tongue around that perfect opening that lay between them, not dipping into that tight hole but just teasing it at the very edge. Asami looked into Akihito's eyes he said once again "If I was under control what would you make me do?"
And this time this time Akihito found his voice. "I'd make you lie back on the bed." Akihito didn't expect Asami to do exactly as he said but he did.
Asami lay back against the pillows his hands behind his head, "What happens next? Make it quick Akihito like I said indecision is a killer." Akihito straddled Asami's hips, Akihito began to place feather light kisses on Asami lips, and then he took his bottom lip and began to suckle it. Asami hands came from behind his head to Akihito's arms, but Akihito pushed them aside. "You don't get to touch unless I say so" Akihito pushed Asami shirt up over his head and used it to bind Asami's hands, Akihito pushed at Asami's arms so that rested behind his back. "Well I appear to be at your mercy. And just what do you have in store for me Akihito?"
Akihito's hands swept up his chest, and then he raked his nails down it. Even like this power and dominance emanated from Asami, he was still in control. Akihito was going to take him, even if he couldn't take his control from him, because deep down he knew those were intrinsic parts of Asami's Ryuichi that no one could take, but that didn't mean he wasn't going to try. The last time they were together Akihito got a glimpse of Asami's with all the self-control that he imposed on himself stripped away, and the sense of power that gave him was amazing, it was better than any aphrodisiac. He knew that some people would for kill for the chance he had now to drive this most powerful and controlled of men past his limits.
Akihito's hands unbuckled Asami's belt, Asami left his hips a little to allow Akihito to pull his trousers down, Akihito through his boots to floor and his trousers were pulled down and tossed aside. They were both panting eager for the other's touch. Akihito lifted himself, and took hold of Asami's cock, he teased them both by just using the head of Asami's cock to stroke his entrance. Asami's hips thrusted upwards, causing Akihito to rise up "No you don't, this isn't going to happen your way, well not for the moment at least." Said Akihito. With one hand on Asami's shoulder for leverage Akihito pushed himself down onto Asami, causing a guttural cry to be realised from both them. Akihito's other hand took hold of his own aching erection, as he began to stroke he rode Asami's starting slow at first, but the pace began to pick up getting harder and more wild. Asami began to thrust in response when he felt Akihito beginning to flag, Asami's actions to Akihito were like having him throwing down the gauntlet, he wasn't going to let himself be beaten, he met each thrust with equal energy and ferocity.
The air was filled with the scent of sex, of the sounds of flesh hitting flesh, the sound of short ragged breaths. Then a new sound came the sound of cloth being rent in two Asami's hands were free, one wrapped around Akihito's neck and brought his mouth down to be ravished, the other hand removed Akihito's hand from his erection and replaced it. Akihito's free arm braced itself on Asami's other shoulder. Asami's hand travelled from Akihito's neck and once again fisted in his hair drawing his head back "Say my name, I want to hear you scream it."
"Asa… Asa… "Akihito could get Asami's name out no matter how much he tried, he was getting more and more light head, each time Asami thrust into him, he knew that they were would both come any second.
Asami Snarled, his hand stopped its ministrations, with his thumb and forefinger circling the base of Akihito's cock "We're doing this my way now. My name is Ryuichi say it, scream it, think nothing but it!" Asami's hand resumed its previous activities. Akihito began to say Ryuichi it was a whisper at first, but it got louder and he said it again and again like it was mantra, like Asami was the only thing in the existed in his world. Their climaxes hit them from the pit of their stomachs and rose till it was almost painful, Akihito exploded into Asami's hand, Asami thrust himself as far as he could into Akihito and growled as he felt himself explode into Akihito. Akihito collapsed onto Asami. They both knew that Akihito had to get early the next morning but right now they didn't care.
Early that morning Akihito mounted his horse along with the Yasatora and four of Asami's personal guard. They rode out of the gates of governor's residence towards the Kierik Mountains. Akihito spared back one quick look back Asami, Byakuya and the others who had seen them off were now far out of sight. Akihito wasn't sure what he feeling was it lust? Was it just that he was bored and somewhat lonely, and this kind of contact with another person was hadn't happened it so long, and so he clung onto it. However he felt what was the point of clinging onto it? He and the emperor were from different worlds, and he couldn't be a mistress. He didn't want to be owned by another, and he knew that as a mistress he would never be an equal. Plus he knew he could never be a decorative toy to hang on Asami's arm that would never content him, he needed to be out there making a difference, even if it was just on a small scale. He had horrible feeling that he falling in love, but right know there were more important things to think about, he was riding head first into a warzone, were more than one person was looking for revenge. And revenge and war move so much faster than love.
That's it I'm done for now.
The next chapter will be called Deep Down Below - You'll see Akihito and the others travel through the caravans and the beginning of the attack on the Eyrie.
I hope the lemon was good, I didn't intend it to go way it did it just seemed to have a life of its own and dragged me in that direction, but I think it's better than what I originally planned. Comments, reviews welcome, constructive criticism only. NO FLAMES
The Amasawa rebellion – this rebellion was concentrated in the East of the continent. Many civil servants and nobles took part for one reason or another. Some of the nobles were complicit (such as the Duchesses' father and older brother), others were coerced and a few such as the Samehada refused to take part all together. The Samehade locked themselves down in Shark's Tooth and other families did the same thing and shut themselves up in their castles or fled towards the west.
Kessel is bordered by four other provinces Sellanor (in the west), Daylin (due south), Ellyn and Nahalan (both south west).
There were uprisings against Asami Ryuichi in Ellyn and Nahalan. There were also uprisings in the central province of Agaron. The other two provinces (Sellanor and Daylin) kept out of the rebellion and sided with Asami.
On his journey east Asami had to put down insurrections in the two central provinces of Agaron and Nahalan, before he even got to Kessel. It wasn't surprising that insurrections occurred in these two provinces. Agaron was the home province of the former Empress Asami Sakura who was also the sister of the current Duke of Agaron. So sections of the nobility of this province have never liked the current emperor. However Asami was unable to gain tangible proof that that Duke himself was responsible for the uprisings that took place in his province. Nahalan and Agaron have extremely close ties to one another so it was no surprise when trouble erupted in one it erupted in another.
However thanks to both loyal subjects and his spy network these uprisings were put down. Ouran went into its northern neighbour Agaron and helped the imperial troops there. By the time Asami made it into Nahalan the Duchess of Vorak was personally leading troops against rebels in Nahalan, while daughter was tackling the rebel forces in Ellyn. Asami himself chose to deal with the city of Adrica (which is in Ellyn) as it was an independent city state that owed allegiance to him.
Independent Cities - They are independent from the provinces that they are in examples include Adrica and Allykin. They answer directly to the emperor and all their taxes go to him. They are ruled by city councils headed by a steward.
Fujiwara Kodama is sometimes referred to as the old witch. She is one of the longest serving stewards having been in office for fifty years, and was steward of Allykin during the last civil war. However at one point in the war she overthrown as steward when a knight loyal to Duchess Amasawa Misaki captured the city. Fujiwara had chosen to keep her city neutral during the war, but after she was deposed from power she sort out help from other factions only to be turned down. Going to Asami Ryuichi was her last option. She didn't personally have anything against him, she just thought that he didn't a great deal of chance of becoming emperor. For at this time Asami's forces were small compared to what claimants for throne could muster. Asami didn't turn her away, he knew the strategic value of the city, and her owning him her regained position would always be something he could hold over her. She went with Asami took back the city and declared Allaykin would support Asami Ryuichi and his claim to the throne. At the age of eighty one Fujiwara is still going strong and political opponents for her position.
Fujiwara Kodama is based on a real life women called Nicholaa de la Haye. Who was both castellan of Lincoln Castle and sheriff of Lincolnshire.
Red Hill – The family seat of the Amasawa family. Based on Bardi Castle in Italy and Trifels Castle in Germany.
The Eyrie - based on Predjama Castle in Slovenia. I got inspiration from not only from the building itself, but also from the legend of one of the residents of the castle a Knight called Erazem Lueger.
Allaykin - This fortified city is based on Fenestrelle Fort in Italy.
Dion Castle - Based on the Château de Chenonceau
The Imperial Army - Just like the Navy it is chiefly made up of people of under the age of thirty five. The last Civil war killed a lot of the solders and sailors from the older generations. When Asami became Emperor there was massive campaign to get people into the armed forces. So in the senior positions it is not strange to see people who might at one point in time considered to be very young or too young to hold that position. Age or status is no barrier to achieving a higher rank it's all about ability.
The House of Nobles - made up of the representatives from the noble families of the empire and Karn.
The House of the People - Made up of elected individuals. Each region has a governor who is elected. The regions are further broken down into districts each with an elected representative. A governor can either be appointed by the emperor or more usually is elected to the position. A representative of each independent city state also sits here. It also incorporates members of the various professional guilds.
The idea is that both these Houses are representing their own perspective group to the Emperor and to his ministers. The Emperor does need them to pass legislation (in the end it is the Emperor's decision.) but it is traditional that both Houses be consulted along with the House of Acolytes (which is formed of priests and priestess from all the different faiths in the empire) on the laws that the Emperor wishes to enact and to argue against them, lobby for them, debate on them, present concerns from constitutes, raise any issues that concern them and call for imperial investigation into situations.
Valaren - Just like the Asai Empire it is a country of varying terrain. The land is comprised of mountainous regions, forest and flat grass plains. The summer season is short. However the often cold climate (that is cold in comparison to the Asai Empire) doesn't stop any of the Valarens from enjoying frozen lake swimming. It's a land that makes full use of its fast moving rivers as a system of transportation, and the majority of its cities are built next to the rivers. The Valarens don't consider their country to be cold but then they are used to it. The people are very tough, and no other nation is as adept at fighting during the winter as they are.
Although when they have tried to invade the Asai Empire it has been by sea more times than land. If they want to come by land the easiest way is to come through Carthanon, as it is in the only Northern Province that is not protected by the Kierik Mountains. However the people of Carthanon are extremely militarised because of these invasions and raids (think of ancient Sparta that lets you know what these people are like and gives you an idea of just how much these people are geared to war.) and more times than not when Valaren has invaded and come through the province they have gotten bogged down by the Carthanons long enough for the imperial army to arrive.
The other traditional method of invasion is by sea. The first time this occurred was during the reign of Asami Ryuichi the Seventh. Instead of invading Carthanon or any of the other eastern provinces with a coastline, the decision was made by King Ivan Arbartov the Fifth to invade the small province of Kessel. This actually does make some sense as Kessel is a much smaller province than Carthanon or any other the other western provinces and hopefully it would have been easier to take control of. However this invasion failed as the Valaren force chose to take the quickest route to Kessel, and this meant sailing between the mainland and Shark's Tooth. The invading force was crushed by the combined forces of the imperial navy and the Samehada. Another force did try sail around Shark's Tooth to avoid the Samehada, but they were spotted by a patrol from Shark's Tooth and were hunted down by the Samehada and the imperial Navy.
There have been successful invasions of the Asai Empire by Valaren. The most notable was during the reign of Asami Ryuutarou the First were the Valarens invaded and occupied Carthanon and the neighbouring province of Larick. What made this invasion so notable was not only the length of occupation ( eighteen months) but just how close the Valarens came to reaching the province of Asai and Dragon's keep ( Carthanon is the province north of Asai it is a buffer between it and Valaren).
The Tenshe Empire - An archipelago of over 30 islands of varying size and population density. It has a very warm and tropical climate. Tenshe is the largest island in the archipelago and the home of the dynasty that went on to conquer the other islands.
Leolani's mother was a refuge from here, who along with thousands of other people fled the Tenshe Empire for the Asai Empire thirty years ago.
The majority of people worship a range of deities, however a group called the Navikin do not, with their faith being focused on ritual. And it was during the reign of the present Emperor's father that the persecution against them became much worst. They did not have the same legal and civil rights. For example they couldn't join the armed forces, they couldn't hold positions in government, they couldn't gather in groups bigger than five, they couldn't attend public events, and they couldn't leave their home town, village or city without informing the authorities.
During the reign of the current Emperor's father that they were given a choice – convert or die. Some converted but the majority chose to leave. They went to the Asai Empire because Ryuutarou the Seventh promised them asylum, providing they did not impose their faith on others, respected the current faith of the Asai Empire, obeyed all laws of the Empire and swore fealty to the Emperor. The Navikin came in their thousands, they had good reason to trust Ryuutarou's word, for the vessel nation of Karn was allowed to keep its own faith when it was absorbed into the empire. And the Asai Empire has never interfered with it.
Ryuutarou took this people in because many of them were skilled individuals such as shipwrights, blacksmiths, and sailors he also saw the advantages of gaining a people that would be very loyal and grateful to him. Before he died he sent word out to them via their priests and priestesses that if there was a civil war he asked them to fight for his son. During the last civil war the Navikin fought on the side of Asami Ryuuichi to honour and repay his father.
The current Emperor of the Tenshe Empire is Lui Fei Long the fourth.
The Hive - The name for the training school and HQ of the intelligence services. The Hive is situated underneath the city of Dragon's Keep. The original city that was there was conquered By Asami Ryuichi the First was destroyed and Dragon's Keep built on top of it. The Hive occupies the old buildings and catacombs that run below that and Dragon's Keep. It was decided by Ryuichi the Sixth that this was the perfect place for the Hive to be situated as at the time people knew about the old city but just never gave it any thought, it could accessed from certain points above ground and is very close to the imperial palace. Now most people don't even remember that the old city is there.
There are smaller braches of the Hive all around the empire in each province out of which some specialist training occurs and is where operatives work out of. Once an operative has completed their training they are assigned to a Hive, but never the one from their home province. Some operatives will always remain at one Hive, while others will rotate from Hive to Hive but will never be assigned to their home province. Each Hive has one person who acts as the overall Head. The operatives in a Hive are further broken down into sections, with one person acting as the section chief. The most senior section chief is also overall second in command.
This is the only legal intelligence service in the Empire, though some individuals and groups do use and have them operate illegally in the empire and beyond. To combat this there is an arm of the intelligence service that is responsible for finding and disposing of these illegal agents.
Shirasagi Leolani – Her father is from the province of Asai, her mother was a refuge from the Tenshe Empire. Her father is a cloth merchant, her younger brother is also involved in the business. Her mother died when she was eleven. She enlisted in the army at fifteen. Leolani's dream was to join the elite all female mounted archers the Battle Sisters.
It was during basic training that her skill in languages and cryptography were noted. When she completed basic training at sixteen she was sent to the Hive for further intelligence training. She has had a successful career. She was chosen for this assignment not only because of her impressive track record but because she is known by sight to the Emperor. At one point she went undercover as a member of his personal household. Now at the age of twenty three she is planning to retire and will go onto teach at the Hive.
The Battle Sisters – An elite all female unit that was founded by Ryuko the first which started out as an archery unit. Until one day one of the commanders suggest putting the women on horseback and the Battle Sisters were born. They do considered themselves to be a sisterhood, and every member swears allegiance not only to her emperor but to her sisters as well. Once you're in you always are considered to be a Battle Sister. A woman needs to have served in any branch of the regular army for at least three years before her application to join would even be considered. Their initiation and selection methods are a closely kept secret. During the civil war they fought on the current emperor's side. Thought the fact that the commander of the battle sisters at the time was and is the Emperor's fourth cousin probably had some baring on that decision. Though mounted archery is there speciality, they can act as light infantry.
The Imperial Messengers - They are also known simply as the Riders. These men and woman carry messengers for the Emperor, for the Hive, the army, the navy and for all government departments. Riders are stationed all throughout the empire – in Asami's residences, the Hives, military bases, the independent city states. Not only do they work with in the Asai Empire they also work out of it, as they often carry messages to foreign courts and to Asai ambassadors there. In these cases their saddle bags, satchels etc. become diplomatic transports and so can't legally be searched. This has meant that they also meant that at times they have been used courier information to or from Hives and intelligence agents in those countries.
Their order was founded by Ryuichi the Third. There HQ is in Dragon's Keep, this where you would go if you wanted to join, however some people have chosen to complete basic training with either the army or the navy and then apply to join. To be Rider you have to incredibly tough and very independent. They will often work alone but still have to be able to work in team, as they may have to coordinate their journey with other riders. They have to be able to live off the land, cope with the elements, deal with isolation and have incredible stamina as they could be ridding for anything up to or beyond 12 hours a day.
The bond between a Rider and their horse is very strong. The Rider must take total care of their animal because their lives will often depend on them. There are rests stops all throughout the empire which are totally dedicated for the riders use in which they can get fresh supplies, new clothes, medicine etc. They also have to be skilled warrior because it is not unusual for them to be attacked for the messages they are carrying.
Their uniform can change depending on where they are stationed. Because of the varied terrain of the empire their clothing changes colours and materials to suit the environment. However they can all be identified by the badge they all wear - a winged horse. When Asami sent off to deal with his cousin he took some of them with him to make communication easier.