Yanluo Wang waited at the base of the Sang-La Mountains in the mouth of a dark cave. A cave which, with the correct spells and a day’s travel, led to the upper levels of Diyu. He missed the darkness and despair of the realm he ruled. The mountains towering above his sedan chair bored him; they were plain compared to the slopes of knives his sinners had to climb, again and again, their bodies healing once they reached the top so they could shed fresh blood on the way back down.
“Be still!” His minions stopped shifting beneath his sedan chair. Before him the valley descended toward the vast canopy of the Forest of Caldavar, which stretched as far as he could see. Bird songs and animal calls erupted from the trees constantly, despite his commands for silence. At one point he heard the scream of a dying creature, which cheered him slightly, but it was no replacement for the moans and shrieks of Diyu. Continue reading Beyond the Sang-La Mountains 6: The Battle Begins
Tangseng walked with Bajie down the mountain path, realizing he had never seen flies this high in the Sang-La Mountains before. A cloud of them buzzed around Bajie’s head and torso, landing on his ears and snout. Bajie didn’t seem to notice.
“That apple left a bad taste in my mouth,” he said. “Can you spare another? It has to taste better than the first.”
Tangseng had only packed enough provisions for himself, yet he pulled two more apples from his satchel and gave them to Bajie, who at them so quickly Tangseng doubted he tasted them at all. Continue reading Beyond the Sang-La Mountains 5: The Warrior Monk
Tangseng left the Shào Temple of the Sang-La Mountains and began his journey, climbing the narrow paths toward the peaks of the mountain range. The scrolls and books in his satchel tugged at his mind—there was so much information within them, so much wisdom, and it took most of his willpower to keep from sitting upon a stone and reading while the sun still offered light.
He reminded himself that what he sought was more important than his strong desire to read and pray. The Jade Scriptures could end the chaos and murder that engulfed Newerth, and every moment that passed until he found them meant more loss of life. Tangseng reached the pass at the top of the Sang-La Mountains and hurried through. It would be much easier on the way down, and his pace quickened as he started his descent. Continue reading Beyond the Sang-La Mountains 4: Bajie’s Curse
Lin and Zhen Zhen saw less than a dozen people during their training within the Shào Temple of the Sang-La Mountains. One of those people was Tangseng, a young, compassionate monk who asked endless questions about where Lin and Zhen Zhen came from, who and what they prayed to, what their families were like, even what they ate for breakfast.
Lin knew there was no malice in these questions; Tangseng simply had an insatiable curiosity for the world around him and those he had not yet visited. When Tangseng told Lin’s master, the wise warrior-monk Pandamonium, that he wished to travel over the Sang-La Mountains into the realm where the Legion and Hellbourne fought most viciously, Pandamonium believed it a naive desire fueled only by this curiosity. Continue reading Beyond the Sang-La Mountains 3: The Jade Scriptures
Lin and Zhen Zhen tracked the feathered man to the edge of the bamboo forest, where they faced the Sang-La Mountains, the peaks disappearing into mist. The man was far above Lin and Zhen Zhen, climbing higher along narrow paths cutting back and forth across the rocky slopes. He seemed in a hurry and did not look back.
Lin took a deep breath. The forest had been their home, their sanctuary, and she put a hand on Zhen Zhen’s back to steady herself as they stepped from its refuge onto the loose rocks at the base of the mountains. As they climbed Lin feared they were making a terrible mistake. The stone was cold and hard against her hands and feet, a drastic change from the soft blanket of bamboo fronds and moss within her forest. Continue reading Beyond the Sang-La Mountains 2: The Sacred Temple
Lin and Zhen Zhen did not return to the village. The bamboo forest was now their home, and for years they survived by hunting, living off the land, and hiding from the packs of daemons roaming the wilderness.
They hid from humans as well, the ragged strings of refugees fleeing into the Sang-La Mountains seeking the legendary warrior monks for protection. Lin and Zhen Zhen watched them file past from hiding places, anxious to make contact but fearful of what the humans would do; had word spread of the she-bear child and her overprotective pet? Did they think her one of the Hellbourne?