The Palace of Heaven, Part Two

shambhala

Palace of Heaven

The 20th Story in the Adventures of the Ambrosial Dragon: A Children’s Fantasy Series

Bingwen Lóng rose majestically on brilliant wings high into the Palace of Heaven ready to confront his foe. At the last second, Xian, the Royal Shadow Dragon, and the golden dragon’s arch-foe, dodged and swooped slow over the floor of the palace, so low that both Landon and Yao Jin felt the breeze of the passage of his left wingtip.

As Xian pulled out of his dive, it seemed as if he were raining black water, hundreds and hundreds of drops. They splattered all around the pair, and the tiny lantern the boy wore on a chain around his neck burned bright.

“That’s not water,” the Chinese sorceress exclaimed.

What at first had looked like black raindrops quickly changed. Each tiny puddle expanded and writhed with a will of its own. They grew, became shapes, became tall.

“Shadow warriors. Hundreds of them. Run, Xia Jiuzhou!” Yao Jin yelled Landon’s Chinese name and then drew her sword to fight. Demonslayer moaned and shivered in delight at the prospect of consuming so many evil souls.

The eight-year-old boy ran in a panic, not paying attention to his direction. He had to get out. There were too many of those things, what had she called them? Shadow warriors. Even with what he had learned, Landon was no match for so many. He wished he had his invisibility cloak but he left it at home. No matter since if he used it too much, it would pull him into the invisible world like it once had his sister.

Light spell, levitation spell, animating stuffed animals. Wait. Animating stuffed animals. That was it, well sort of.

There were statues of all kinds of strange creatures and gods, if that’s what they were, all around them. If Landon could animate them with the will to do good.

The child concentrated with all his might while trying to ignore the chaos all around him and the extreme risk of imminent death. The words of the ancient ones, those who were said to have invented magic using the old tongue, rolled across his lips. Long seconds passed. Nothing was happening.

A shadow warrior was running right at him, his blade raised. Landon ducked and put his arms over his head. He was going to be killed!

Without warning he felt someone slip their arm around his waist and effortlessly lift him. He looked up. It was a woman, a beautiful Chinese woman who had moved him behind her. She was dressed in bright red, dark red, yellow, and white.

“Stay here,” she said in ancient Mandarin.

chang'e

Chang’e, the Spirit of the Moon

The shadow warrior’s blade came down. She stopped it with her bare hand and it shattered, fell to the floor like glass, and then turned back into a liquid.

“You cannot stand against the Spirit of the Moon, shadow. The woman quickly pressed her hand against the dark warrior’s chest and he met the same fate as his sword.

Landon looked all around. All of the statues were gone. Only strange people and animals were there and they were all fighting shadow warriors. Even the tigers and deer he’d seen when he first stepped inside the expansive palace were in battle against the evil foes.

The woman who rescued Landon looked down at the boy. “My name is Chang’e. Come with me.”

******

The sky was not empty. The dragons Bingwen Lóng and Xian circled what seemed like an infinite number of ladders leading to and from Heaven. The golden dragon wondered how this Heaven compared to the one on the right side of the River Styx, the side opposite Hell.

“You are more formidable than I remembered, Bingwen Lóng. So much the better. I would have felt cheated if I killed you while you were only a halfling.”

“This world has enough despair without you adding to it, Xian. Return to your realm now and I swear I will let you live.”

The black dragon roared with laughter. “You weave a good joke, golden one. Can you weave spells with as much effectiveness?”

It was as if an entire section of the sky went black. Bingwen Lóng was blind but only for an instant. But then an instant was all that Xian needed as soul sickening billows of smoke shot from his mouth enveloping the bright dragon.

“Cough…cough…choking.” Bingwen Lóng’s flight faltered and then he began to fall.

“All too easy.” Xian watched as the other dragon fell into the smoke and disappeared. Then he was seized with sudden pain as he was engulfed in flames. Bingwen Lóng fooled him, pretended to fall and then swung around behind him.

Xian dived below the flames and then suddenly turned and cried out in the old tongue. Bingwen Lóng felt the blood in his veins turning into ice. He’d be dead in seconds unless…

…he contained the fire within him instead of exhaling and he started to glow. Then the glow shot forward. Xian barely climbed above it in time, but distracted, Bingwen Lóng did the one thing the shadow dragon didn’t expect…he bit him.

“Yaarh!” Xian left a bad taste in Bingwen Lóng’s mouth and black blood on his lips. The other dragon had a deep wound on his left hind quarter and he sailed behind several of the ladders using them and the creatures who were still scampering up and down for cover.

The black blood. Bingwen Lóng spit it out but like the shadow warriors, they expanded and crawled all over his face. Then fifteen shadow warriors were on the dragon’s head and neck attacking him with their mystic blades, drawing the golden dragon’s blood.

******

Yao Jin thought she was going to die. The odds were hopeless. She couldn’t fight hundreds alone, even with her magic. At least she’d sent the boy off while hoping she were a big enough distraction to keep all of the shadow warriors occupied and away from the child.

She didn’t dare take her attention off of her battle for a second, so she couldn’t look up to see how Bingwen Lóng was doing against Xian. She had faith in the dragon she now thought of as a friend, but faith alone wasn’t going to win the battle. She needed help, they all did.

Then she realized she wasn’t the only one fighting against the dark army. Odd looking people and animals had joined the fray. She recognized some of them as ancient Chinese gods. Some had already been in the Palace when the battle started while others…the others had been statues. Was this the god Taidi’s doing?

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Landon being led away by…yes it was Chang’e. He was being protected by the immortal moon goddess.

“Yaaah! One of her opponents had neatly sliced her shoulder with his blade. “That’ll teach me to let my attention wander.” She redoubled her efforts and in less than a minute, Demonslayer had consumed three more souls and was fighting madly for more.

******

Bingwen Lóng went into a nose dive picking up speed rapidly. He had been very high above the foundations of the Palace of Heaven, and as he went faster and faster, one by one, the shadow warriors were pushed off by the rushing wind.

They couldn’t fly, so instead, only fell, down, down, down, until they shattered on the floor, and then became liquid again and finally turned back into mist. The golden dragon pulled up a mere ten feet above the floor and just had a moment to notice the wild melee of gods and mystic creatures against shadow warriors. He couldn’t see Landon. Had the boy fallen? No, he would have sensed it. Then where was Landon?

Moments later, Bingwen Lóng and Xian were gliding back and forth among the Ladders of Heaven high above the Palace floor.

“Do you know the first thing I’m going to do after I slay you, Bingwen Lóng? I’m going to go down there and kill your little friends, especially the boy. He’ll be no more than a morsel, but I prefer an appetizer before my main meal.”

“You mean to eat me as your entrée, Xian.”

“Oh no, not you. I’ll decorate my palace with your rotting carcass, Bingwen Lóng. No, I mean to consume the god Taidi. I hear he’ll make quite a meal and I’ve been hungry for a long time. Oh by the way, how did my blood taste?”

“It left something behind but I got rid of it.”

“Every scale and drop of blood I possess is pure evil, Bingwen Lóng. Beware my touch.”

Xian suddenly turned and flew right at Bingwen Lóng, claws extended. The golden dragon reflexively shot a white spray of flame in the dark dragon’s face. As they passed, obsidian claws racked Bingwen Lóng’s shoulder while the right half of Xian’s snout was seared.

The two dragons circled and prepared to engage again and again…to the death.

******

It seemed as if the Palace of Heaven went on forever. Chang’e had Xia Jiuzhou by his hand leading him ever deeper into what had now become a labyrinth more complicated than those the boy had passed through to get here.

“Where are we going, Chang’e?”

“The one place we need to be to stop this destructive conflict, Xia Jiuzhou.”

She said she was the Spirit of the Moon. Didn’t she know who he really was or, in this place and time, was he really Xia Jiuzhou instead of Landon?

Then he heard music. It was faint, far away but getting closer. It sounded like a flute.

They turned a corner and then instead of being in another room or passageway, they were standing on a beach next to a churning ocean. It was night and the full moon was up, although Landon knew it was still daytime outside the palace.

On the ocean stood a woman. She was right on top of the waves. She was dressed in red, white, and purple. She was the one playing the flute. Her music was beautiful, mesmerizing. For a second, Landon felt like he was coming under a spell. Then the lantern around his neck glowed and he woke up again.

“She’s got a tail, Chang’e.” Landon was definitely creeped out. From below her robes it looked like she was part dragon.

Longnü

Longnü the Dragon’s daughter

“She is Longnü, the illustrious Dragon’s Daughter.”

“Is she evil? Did she cause this?”

“No, she is not evil. She is being used. The evil one has cast a spell. As long as Longnü plays her music, Xian can exist in this world. He could not have come here otherwise.”

“Then we’ve got to stop her. But how?”

“The moon is full, Xia Jiuzhou. My powers are at their height, but I need something from you.”

“What can I do?”

“The amulet you wear around your neck. It has many uses, but one is to amplify mystic energy. It is why your beginner’s spell to animate the inanimate was able to grant those statues and icons life.”

Chang’e reached into Xia Jiuzhou’s shirt and lightly touched the lantern. It gave off a strange glow that looked exactly like moonlight. A pool of that light shone on the water between the shore and Longnü.

“Go to her, Xia Jiuzhou. She will listen to you.”

Landon felt like he was dreaming or sleepwalking or something. He started walking forward and then realized he wasn’t on the sand anymore. He was walking on moonlight, literally walking on moonlight. He looked up and he was getting closer to the Dragon’s Daughter, the one playing the flute.

She was so beautiful and so terrifying at the same time. Part woman, part dragon, what would she sense in him? He had no idea who she was supposed to be. Chang’e said she wasn’t evil but that didn’t mean she couldn’t be dangerous.

The water was rushing around her, waves splashing up against the dragon part of her body. She continued to play, oblivious to the boy’s presence. He stepped up to her.

“My name is Xia Jiuzhou. The Spirit of the Moon said you would listen to me.”

Longnü turned her face toward the boy. Their eyes met. She had kind eyes, wise eyes, as if she knew everything, but she didn’t stop playing. Then Landon saw something reflected in her eyes. It was the moonlight from his lamp. She stared at it for long seconds. Then she turned and looked at the full moon rising behind her and the music stopped.

“Come back quickly, Xia Jiuzhou.”

He heard Chang’e calling to him. The boy turned and ran, realizing his moonlight bridge was about to disintegrate.

******

The powers of Bingwen Lóng and Xian were too evenly matched. They had both gravely injured one another but were slowly healing. Both bore cuts and burns and bruises. But Xian realized that Bingwen Lóng had a weakness he did not suffer from.

“I know how to beat you now.”

The dark dragon flew near one of the ladders and with one wing, smashed into it. Hundreds of people and gods started falling. It was thousands of feet to the palace floor below. Somehow Bingwen Lóng had to save them, but the second he turned his back on his adversary, the shadow dragon would attack.

Bingwen Lóng had no choice. He couldn’t let anyone die for his sake. He turned to dive beneath those closest to the ground. He might not be strong enough to carry them all, but he had to try.

He could hear Xian deeply inhale. His flames were only seconds away. Both the dragon and his hundreds of passengers were about to perish in a fiery death.

“Nooooooooooooooo!”

Instead of fire, Bingwen Lóng heard Xian cry out behind him. He dared a quick look and saw his enemy floundering in the air, surrounded by ghostly tendrils. There was a breeze and a melodious and familiar voice whispered.

“You have no way to stay here now that she has stopped playing, Xian. The world of light is not compatible with your evil. Go, beast. Return to your realm. You are beaten.”

“Noooooo…..” The voice of the black dragon got smaller and smaller, and like his body, faded away and then was gone.

Miraculously, Bingwen Lóng managed to carry Xian’s would be victims to the floor safely and they all tumbled harmlessly off of his back as the great dragon collapsed.

sky ladders

The sky ladders in the Palace of Heaven

The dragon looked up. Hundreds of shadow warriors were evaporating on the floor. Gods, goddesses, and strange beasts were climbing back up on their platforms and turning into statues once again.

But not all the gods, goddesses, and animals had started out as statues.

Chang’e led Xia Jiuzhou by the hand to the exhausted dragon’s side. “I believe this is your friend, child.”

Landon ran up to the dragon and hugged him on his huge snout. “I love you, Buddy.”

“I love you too, Landon.”

“I see we are victorious…” Yao Jin turned toward Chang’e, “…thanks to a goddess.”

“Thanks to us all, including the courageous young Xia Jiuzhou.

The voice of Taidi spoke from the warm breeze again. “You have saved the mystic city of K’un-lun, my children. You have saved your world and ours. How can we ever repay you?”

“Please, Taidi. Send us home. I have a debt to repay in my time.”

“The death of a loved one, murdered. I see it in your eyes. It was always our intension to return you home, child. However, before you leave, there is one more thing you must learn.

“But rest first. All that we have is yours. Take the blessings of the Palace of Heaven. Relax and heal here. When you are strong again, you may leave.”

******

The dragon, now a man once more, Yao Jin, and Xia Jiuzhou spent a week in the Palace attended by monks and servants. Healing balm had been applied to Bingwen Lóng’s and the woman’s wounds. They ate, rested, slept, and spoke with the strangest and most enlightened beings.

One of their servants was a novice monk Chi Peng, the young man who they had traveled to the city with, the person they’d rescued from bandits.

“I had no idea I was in the company of such illustrious guests when we traveled together, and especially a dragon.” Chi Peng kept bowing to them over and over in the common area of their guest quarters until Bingwen Lóng finally stopped him.

“It’s quite all right, Chi Peng. We may have rather amazing encounters, but after all, we are just people.”

This wasn’t true in the dragon’s case, but Bingwen Lóng needed to say something to stop Chi Peng from all but worshiping them.

“I hope that when my apprenticeship is done and I qualify to be a Master, may that day come in glory, that I accord myself with even a fraction of the honor as yourselves.”

“I don’t doubt that you shall, Chi Peng.” Bingwen Lóng placed his hand briefly on the boy’s shoulder.

“I should go now. My Master doesn’t like it when I’m late for my other duties.”

“Who is your Master, Chi Peng?” Yao Jin found herself oddly curious, though she still wasn’t particularly fond of the boy.

“He is the monk we met at the gate. Our first guide when we came to K’un-lun.”

Bingwen Lóng smiled as if he had remembered a private joke. “Tell me, Chi Peng. What is your Master’s name.”

Chi Peng leaned in closer to them and almost whispered, “They say he has no name. I have also heard it said he is at least a thousand years old. He is only called the Nameless One. It is a great honor to be his apprentice.”

“I don’t doubt it is, Chi Peng. Now you’d better run along.”

Yes o’ dragon, uh…honored Bingwen Lóng.” The lad gave one final bow toward the dragon who now looked like a man, another toward the sorceress and the boy, and then ran out the door.

“Wait, dragon. You’re saying that the old monk at the gate is also the Master to my grandfather?”

“No, Yao Jin. I’m saying that Chi Peng will grow up to replace his Master and one day will teach your grandfather as the Nameless One.”

“That skinny, awkward, little boy? You’ve got to be kidding dragon.”

“Not at all. Consider. When you first met the Nameless Master, he was already over 6,000 years old. I suppose even someone as inexperienced as Chi Peng can learn something in all that time.”

“This amuses you, doesn’t it dragon.”

“Yes, it does, but now it is time to leave ourselves. We have a long journey ahead.”

“Long? Yes 6,000 years is a long time, but time travel is almost instantaneous.”

“I meant long to get out of K’un-lun. We cannot return to our present while within its walls.”

Landon groaned remembering how sore his feet had been from all that walking. “Can’t we just fly or something?”

Bingwen Lóng and Yao Jin laughed. “Perhaps next time Landon,” said the dragon.

The long walk across the sacred city of K’un-lun began and soon, so will their next adventure.

This is a direct continuation of the story The Palace of Heaven, Part One in my “Ambrosial Dragon” children’s fantasy series. I’ve been writing this series for almost a year now and my grandson Landon loves it.

To read the series from the beginning, go to The Day a Dragon Came to Live with Us. At the end of the story is a link to the next. Each subsequent tale contains a link to what follows. Keep reading and clicking and you’ll get back here.

The next chapter is called Cowboys and Sorcerers, Part One.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s