map The Tale of Tianshui

by Darren Pereira

Published in Issue No. 241 ~ June, 2017

Once up on a time in the kingdom of Kwan lived a secluded order of monks know as The Secluded Order of Monks. They lived out their days in a remote monastery high up in the mountains where they played chess with the local Yeti population, organised cutlery and meditated upon the mysteries of the Buddha. They also exorcised the spirits of the dead from the battlefield, but that was seasonal.

However, in those days of lore, dragons roamed free and often did things just to see what they could get away with. Tianshui the Fierce awoke after a thousand years of dreaming to find a group of monks camped outside his lair in a big stone house. He curled himself around the monastery and then refused to let the monks out. The monks, being a peaceful sort, did not complain but took this in their stride. They often conversed with the great Tianshui who quite enjoyed these sessions. Seclusion will do that to you.

One day the King of Nok attacked Kwan and laid waste to cities. The dead rose up and clung to the mortal realm, making it very hard for the living to get sleep. The dead did an awful lot of wailing and reenacting their deaths. If ignored, they tended to throw things about and cause a ruckus until somebody paid attention.

In a desperate bid to deal with this nuisance, the King of Kwan sent for the monks but found that they were besieged. He pondered at length until he decided to call for heroes to battle the dragon. This was mostly because he was a coward, but also because Kwan did have a lot of heroes.

“I offer the hand of my daughter, the fair princess Min-Wei, in marriage as well as three hundred coffers of gold to anyone who can rid my land of the terrible serpent,” he proclaimed.

Seven heroes answered his call. This was widely considered to be because seven is an auspicious number or because the eighth hero of Kwan, Tolak the Deaf, was deaf. They picked lots and the first to go up against the dragon was Kang the Beast.

Kang was proficient in the art of Tiger Kung Fu and making a perfect cup of tea. Not many believed he would lose. Kang journeyed immediately to the mountains where he encountered Tianshui.

“HEAR ME SERPENT! I WILL KILL YOU AND CLAIM MY REWARD!” he yelled in defiance while he prepared for the Silent Tiger Lash, his most powerful attack. Tianshui promptly ate him.

Next Seka, the lady assassin of the Turk Tribes, came forward. “Men are fools. The correct way to kill a dragon is stealth,” she declared. “I will pierce his hide with the Thorn of Nawakwendwa. The most poisonous flower known to man, that only grows in the Turk lands.”

She crept up to Tianshui unbeknownst to the dragon and stabbed him in the gut. Dragon scales are commonly known to be impenetrable and Seka found this out the hard way. The thorn could not harm Tianshui, and Seka was eaten.

The third warrior was a brute by the Name of Kathos. He was a barbarian who believed raw strength was the answer to everything. “I will grab him by the tail and smash his brains out like a common snake,” he declared before setting off.

On arriving, Kathos found that he had severely miscalculated the size of a dragon that could entrap a monastery, and he was eaten. Three more adventurers tried their best but Tianshui was well-fed.

Until at last the final hero, an unknown rather portly man who wore a nón lá hat, came forward. He walked bravely up to Tianshui and looked him in the eye.

“What do you plan on doing?” rumbled Tianshui.

“Being polite,” replied the Hero. “Would you kindly let these monks leave their monastery? They are needed.”

“Err… sure,” replied Tianshui, who uncoiled himself and decided to go back to his lair to sleep. Some claim he was full after eating so many adventurers, some claimed only a fool would fight where words would suffice. Nevertheless, the Hero went back to the King’s palace where word had already reached his ears.

“Who are you, hero? You have won both the gold and my daughter’s hand in marriage!” cried the grateful king as soon as he saw the Hero.

The Hero slowly took off his hat and it was plain to see that he was no mortal man. The Buddha stood before the king in all his wisdom and serenity and said, “How incredibly sexist. She is a human being and is free to choose who she wishes to marry.”

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Darren Christopher Pereira is a writer, musician, scientist. But perhaps most importantly, cherryade enthusiast. He can be found on Facebook and Twitter.