The Hidden Fortress
Secret royalty passes through blockades with the help of trusted samurai and unwitting peasants. No, not, this is fun and poignant.
Our “heroes” are two feuding peasants that are really best buddies, but it’s hard to tell from their quibbling. They tried to find fame and fortune on nearby feudal war, but all they got was the stench of death from burying the dead.
After splitting up, being captured by two different patrols and being taken to the dame castle, they survive a-like stampede on a large staircase and get the hell out of Dodge. On a lark, they find gold, and information about the escaped princess from the clan that was just defeated.
After finding that gold, another bounty hunter catches up with them, and heads up the gang, on account of being so strong and smart. He pretends to be some kind of famous general, but they are not falling for it.
They reach the cache of gold and find the princess, but the enemy army approaches so they need to scram.
If this was a play, there was an aside that reveals that the “bounty hunter” is really the famous general, trying to smuggle the princess and the gold into an allied clan. The enemy think it executed the Princess, but it was actually the Samurai’s sister. The princess resents him for this, saying her life us not worth this. The princess is too good looking and talks too smartly to pass off as a mere peasant, so she will have to pretend to be mute all the way. Our heroes know nothing of this, and are too thick to read between the lines.
The gold is disguised inside stick and logs, so they get out as simple woodcutters. Right on the first border they are nearly caught and come back, to see the hidden fortress burn down by the old Daimyo, which forced their hand. They cross on the bridge, and trick the enemy into shooing them, after showing them a single gold ryo.
On the next village, they find a woman from their clan being brutalised by a innkeeper, and rescue her from bondage, with the money they get from (forcibly) selling their prized horses. She is forever in her debt.
The next step of their saga is the fire festival, where people burn wood and dance around a big fire. The perfect hiding place for a bunch of wood: amongst loads of wood. They eventually have to burn it all anyway, providing them a pause from worry, relaxation time with song and dance.
After the festival, they did into the embers and collect most of the gold, carrying it on their backs. They even capture enemy soldiers to carry parts of the loot along the way!
The horns of war (and some drums too) and being blown closer and closer, until the final bottleneck where they are captured. Our heroes sneaked away at the last time, the girl tried to sacrifice herself but the princess was having none of that! They took certain death with dignity.
On her way to her death, the princess reminisces on her saga and finds it worthwhile. At least she was happy, and got to know how the real people live, not just what goes on in her castle. The samurai apologises for failing to protect her, but she thanks him from providing her with life before the storm.
Coincidentally, the warrior they sent to oversee their death is a known frenemy of the samurai. Earlier, they duelled and the samurai won fair and square, earning him the possibility of escaping. For this, his boss maimed him in public, for his failure. The princess finds this cruelty appalling, and even worse how he takes his rage on the samurai. She shows him another reigning style is possible.
That talk flips the warrior to their side, after which he spooks the horses with the gold and frees them, betraying his ingrate boss. They escape to the final location they wanted to go in the first place. The horses also head there, finding the bickering heroes arguing about splitting up the gold.
Finally, the princess regains her status and gives them a reward, which they joyfully split up without a fight. I predict this state doesn’t take long to change.