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?
Was she? Continue reading Beyond the Sang-La Mountains 1: The Forest Prayer
When the Second Corruption came and the Hellbourne swarmed over the Sang-La Mountains again, the villagers in the far valleys were prepared. The endless tomb fields were a constant reminder of what had happened the first time the daemons fell upon them, as were the stories passed from elder to newborn.
Every man, woman and child knew what to do. The fastest were messengers, sent to spread word of the invasion to the next village, and the next. They did their job well—those who were not intercepted by winged daemons or creatures using dark magic to travel in unnatural ways.
The strongest and fiercest were guardians. They knew to gather armor and weapons and stand at the edge of the village, waiting. Continue reading Beyond the Sang-La Mountains: Prologue
The floating head and Riftwolf circled the fallen Hunter, his weapons empty and scattered across the dusty ground. His large purple hand flexed and extended, reaching for his blade. The Riftspawn’s rolling torso eye glared at him as the headless creature stalked closer, its needle-sharp arm ready to plunge.
As the Riftspawn stepped within striking distance its circling head whipped toward the Rift, its single eye wide. The Riftwolf sank against the ground, and as one the Riftspawn creatures ceased their attacks and turned to their portal. Even the giant purple tentacles grew still, the thick stalagnite fluid dripping from their ends. Continue reading The Rift Wars 6 – The Queen’s Devourer
The Guild warrior’s flags served his side well. His presence rallied the Hunter Rampage, and together they defeated the slithering Rift creature and engaged the remaining stunned Riftspawn in a fierce battle. The clash appeared evenly matched as Jaru crawled around the sheltering rock to relative safety.
I barred his way. “You brought me here to show how close we all are to extermination. And when we are at the tipping point, you shove us toward our doom.”
He looked up with his burning red eyes. Continue reading The Rift Wars 5 – Hunter Witch Slayer vs. Rift Warden
The Hunter Rampage and his weary, bloodied mount faced the victorious Rift Predator and the green hard-shelled creature, which had left the Guild’s tribal warrior and his blowgun shattered in the dust.
I scampered back to the shelter of the volcanic stone and gasped to Jaru, “We must do something. These Riftspawn are on the verge of winning.” Continue reading The Rift Wars 4 – Hunter Rally vs. Rift Slither
The jagged red bone shards of the Riftspawn hammered against the Hunter’s blades and armor again and again, driving him back until he stumbled over a mound of black stones and fell.
I gathered a fistful of Jaru’s cloak. “You’ll not help him? He fights for Newerth!”
“He has already lost,” Jaru said. Continue reading The Rift Wars 3 – Hunter Bushwack vs. Rift Bubbles