Things in the far east are not going well for Aurelia and her mate Zinjo. Their search for the Lemurian runes took them to the city of Fā Tiáo Cheng, an advanced city with clockwork servants. Under the advisement of their ship captain, Gael, they came to the slums of Fā Tiáo Cheng to speak with Límāo Xiǎotōu. A man who deals in lost treasures and artifacts. Only to be attacked by clockwork servants themselves.
Aurelia hissed at the hand-painted faces. To see machines act like men unsettled the princess. Their movements devoid of purpose and soft scrapes of metal and ticks from the gears made them more terrifying than Kongamato. "These should not be," Aurelia commented as she raised the Lion's Fang in defense.
Zinjo brandished the ancestral partisan and nodded, "I agree with you, dark princess. These things are abominations meant to rust away into nothingness."
Each one stood about six feet tall with springloaded limbs to add force to their blows. In their che
Límāo Xiǎotōu, stroked his mustache while Aurelia and Zinjo told him of their adventures across the world. The black marketer smiled and sipped from a tiny teacup he didn't interrupt or laugh. When they finished the tale, he held out his hand, "May I see the Lion's Fang?" "I want it back," Aurelia warned him. She drew the blade and presented it horizontally across her hands. The loving hands of Zinjo touched her shoulder, "I do not think our new friend is that foolish," He eyed Límāo with suspicion. "An Al' Miraj gifted you with its horn. To take the blade in greed would anger such a creature and bring bad luck. I am envious of such a beautiful weapon. Where did you get it originally?" Límāo ran his hand against the onyx metal. Aurelia related the tale of the spider monster she fought, and Límāo shot her a look of awe and respect, "Your deeds are worthy of song. Spider demons give the greatest of warriors difficulty." Límāo motioned for more tea, and
The wilderness of the Kun Lun Shan was comparable to the forests of Shadowfen. Aurelia noted monkeys and wolves, which made Aurelia realize just how far from she was. Zinjo remained tensed up and ready for action. His partisan remained in his grip. "How much further to Kun Lun Shan?" Aurelia asked. Unlike her male counterpart, she enjoyed the new scenery. In the distance, a plume of smoke rose above the trees. "Do you see that?" "Hmmm," Zinjo used his hand to shield his eyes from the sun, "It is hard to tell if it is from civilization or a camp. Do you wish to investigate?" "Of course, I want to investigate. I might be able to wash the dirt and grime from my body." "In this bath of yours, do you envision someone being in there with you?" the joke was a rare instance of Zinjo's playfulness. Aurelia found his jokes endearing and wished he would make them more often. "Depends on what this other person is doing," Aurelia tested the hardness of the
The next day Tien bought them to Lord Nian Zhen. The leader looked exhausted and frustrated with his inability to protect his people from a superior opponent. Thoroughly demoralized guards spoke to the frequency of the attacks. The middle-aged man had lost the flatness to his stomach, and his face drooped a little on the edges. Yet, there was still power in his movements. He wore a stretch of cloth over an eye. Like anyone else with rank, his robes were elaborate and brightly colored, his bore cranes in flight among the clouds. Tien cast his spell to allow the young couple to speak with the lord. Zinjo stood in silence next to Aurelia. "Do I bow here?" Aurelia asked Tien. "You are a princess, and he is a lord. Your station is still higher than his," Tien seemed amused by her concern, "Aurelia, princess of Shadowfen, this is Lord Nian Zhen of Sēnlín zhī jiā, you may call it Senlin for short."Lord Nian bowed to Aurelia, "I have never met anyone from the
Tien felt his age would hinder the journey to return the Yanhuo child to its people. To ensure proper communication, he spent the night enchanting two leather bracelets, which would allow them to speak without confusion. Aurelia despised the jungle-like forest. She'd had her fill back on Larylia to go into a second dense forest brought her sanity into question. However, she promised to help return the Yanhuo child. Lord Nian carried his strange halberd, known as a Jian, with pride and care. Zinjo admired the weapon and the craftsmanship that went into it. "I like this style one can stab and cut." Lord Nian gave Zinjo's partisan the once over, "This blade tells the tales of your victories and your families victories, does it not?" He ran his thumb over the edge, "How do you keep the blade so sharp?" "My father bestowed our oldest weapon to me when I came of age. I sharpen it with a clear stone." He reached into his pocket and produced an uncut diamond,
Tension filled the air as the Yanhuo surrounded their younger counterpart. The White faces and tiny flickers of flame came out their nostrils and mouths. Zinjo transformed into the lion and took a submissive position. The Large male cautiously approached Zinjo and held position two feet away. Zinjo stood and faced the forest titan and did not move. The child crawled up on Zinjo's back, waved, and then returned to its proper mother. The Silver backed leader grunted something unintelligible, and three males joined their leader. Aurelia and Lord Nian looked at each other, "Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" Aurelia asked. "Wel,l I'll assume the Yanhuo are hostile toward intruders, and why shouldn't they? The Yanhuo have the power to defend their territory. I think they like Zinjo," Aurelia was not encouraged by the uncertainty in Lord Nian's tone. Zinjo and the male Yanhuo returned to Aurelia and Lord Nian, "I think the bandit tribe took the child and
The forest stretched to the mountains where the Tengu lived. Aurelia could not believe the peace and tranquility the area gave her. She welcomed the change, and it wasn't a jungle. Zinjo and Aurelia talked about their wedding and how they should rule Shadowfen. The entire journey had seen their relationship grow from a seedling into a mighty oak tree. Zinjo stopped and held up his hand and pointed to his ears. Aurelia followed suit. She closed her eyes and let the world fall away. Aurelia could focus on individual noises now. Wings, she could hear wings. They weren't small either. A slight rattle punctuated each wingbeat. "Something watches us," Zinjo drew his partisan. Aurelia tucked a lock of hair behind the ear and shook her head, "No, Zinjo. Put it away." Aurelia kept her eyes on him. Zinjo frowned and held the weapon tightly. As Aurelia's gaze pierced his psyche, his face fell into a scowl, "Fine. I'll put it away." The partisan returned to his b
When the idea of a vampiric tree crossed Aurelia's mind, she laughed to herself. What could a tree do to a person? How did the trees become vampiric in the first place? She let the thoughts bounce around her mind.Daisuke turned to her, "I laughed the first time I heard it myself. My assumptions almost got me killed. After that, I never took any job handed to me lightly, and neither will you.""Hmmm. Like the Al' Miraj. One would think the horned rodent is harmless and cute. I know I thought so, and then it pulled a full-grown cow through steel bars with little effort," Zinjo moved closer to Aurelia while he spoke.Aurelia enjoyed his protectiveness. She did not require protection any longer, but to know he cared endeared the action to her heart. "I forgot about our first encounter with the Al' Miraj."Your tale illustrates the point well," He paused, "Can I ask you b
Daisuke's bird-like visage shifted to something more human. The midnight feathers faded and revealed the bright red skin beneath. Simple bamboo armor turned into a long flowing robe. A beard sprouted out of Daisuke's chin and snaked down his body. The long braided hair sprouted out the back of his head. His sandals left no marks where he stepped, "I am Sojobo, king of the Tengu people." Aurelia and Zinjo bowed before him, "You honor us with your presence, your majesty," Zinjo spoke in a respectful tone. "You may rise," Sojobo said in a tired tone, "No matter how long I have lived, the bowing still makes me feel uncomfortable," Sojobo admitted. Aurelia sheathed the Lion's Fang and sighed, "Come to think of it, the action grates on my nerves as well," Aurelia added thoughtfully. "We have come to ask your help..." "Yes, yes, the Lemurian runes. Why not slay your enemy?" Sojobo strolled down the forest path with his hands behind his back. He examined plan