Shindara couldn’t comprehend how the samurai reached the city as swiftly as they did. He ran through the temple compound, calling out for Aya.
His love had to be somewhere among the refugees seeking shelter. Damn Priest Kobo for not bringing her soon enough. If they outlasted the siege, he vowed to kill the monk himself.
“Aya!” he screamed.
Arrows arched over the walls and the monks before Shindara writhed and crumpled to the ground. He tumbled down the stairs as a second and third volley followed, blanketing the steps outside Nigatsu-Hall.
Shindara flinched as an arrow seared through his skin and came close to grazing bone. He ignored the pain and scrambled to his feet, desperate to head off the samurai at the southern gate.
He halted when he saw the assembly at the “Nandai-mon” entrance. Monk archers were huddled behind wooden shields and countering the Taira with their own ranged attacks.
Others furiously tried to quench the flames consuming the pagoda, but their efforts were futile. Shindara’s eyes widened as mounted samurai hacked through the wooden palisades erected outside the gates.
They pierced the temple defenses and charged the monks on horseback, tearing through flesh and splitting their skulls. Their blades gleamed in the firelight before they were oiled in blood.
The monks flailed with their polearms and speared the horses, but the Taira’s tactics were far more brutal in comparison.
The silhouettes of armored samurai soon blotted out the diminishing number of priests as flames feasted on the pagoda.
Shindara twisted to his left as an arrow flung past him. He quickly doubled back toward the center of the complex.
The priests would have brought any refugees to the Imperial Storehouse or the Great Buddha Hall. The storehouse was arguably the most secure structure in the compound, but the temple would have allowed safe passage beyond the city. Shindara knew of a secret tunnel inside Buddha’s Hall that delved underground and led to the surrounding forests. It was the only foreseeable way he could usher his wife to safety.