Dragonfist (WOTC) (ZIP 3190KB) – 3E Martial Arts Game
Dayi, Lord Shaman of Tianguo, approached Emperor Jianmin’s private quarters. His eyes were creased with concern, and he hardly noticed the imperial guards lining the corridor. He had been summoned to attend the emperor, and he knew better than to refuse. Jianmin had been increasingly unstable of late; Dayi feared he knew the reason.
Passing through the gold-lacquered doors of the imperial bedrooms, the shaman tried to maintain a blank face. He knew he would find a gaggle of eunuchs inside, filling Jianmin’s ears with nonsense. It angered Dayi that these half-men had managed to worm their way into the emperor’s favor—yet another sign that Jianmin was not well.
As expected, the emperor was attended by his eunuch favorites. Ji Dayi tried to ignore them, dropping to his knees and intoning, “Ji Dayi of the White Lotus greets the Son of Heaven. I am humbled before your magnificence, my lord.”
The emperor, eyes sharp even though his face was drawn, motioned him up. “We’re alone, Dayi; no need for ceremony.”
The shaman glanced meaningfully at the eunuchs and cleared his throat. Emperor Jianmin quickly ordered them out, and Ji relaxed. “Now we are alone, my lord. So tell me, what ails you?” The emperor sat up on his divan. “I am hungry,” he said simply.
Ji Dayi looked about the emperor’s chambers. The suite was littered with trays of food, most of it uneaten. Delicacies from all nine provinces were scattered about, enough to feed a dozen families for a week. The shaman smiled. “Surely you have your choice of the empire’s foodstuffs, my lord. What could you possibly crave that you cannot have?”
The emperor stood up and began to pace, “That’s just it, Dayi—I don’t know. I only know that I . . . hunger. I eat this food, and it tastes like ash. I cannot tell you what I want, only that I need it.”
Ji walked up to the emperor and said, “Let me examine you.” Jianmin nodded, and the shaman began. He called upon all the spirits under his command; he cast spell after spell; he invoked the Lord of Heaven and the Celestial Bureaucracy, and still he could not alleviate the emperor’s condition. After several hours, he slumped before the divan, exhausted. Jianmin looked at him intently. “Well?”
Ji sighed. “I have used all my magic, and it has told me nothing. Yet, I think, any fool could solve this puzzle.”
“What do you mean, shaman? And don’t forget who you are talking to!”
“I could never forget, my lord,” Ji whispered. He had feared this moment, but he knew it had to be said. He jumped to his feet and looked into Jianmin’s eyes. “One year ago you were approached by a peasant who offered you a lotus blossom and promised you immortality. You ate that flower and got your youth back—but there was a cost.”
The emperor stared right back at Ji, and the shaman could see anger beginning to smolder in his eyes. “Go on,” barked Jianmin.
“We all know that was no peasant. He said that his price was souls and that you’d have to pay. Did you think you could escape? This hunger of yours stems from that tainted lotus, and it is dark indeed. I tell you plainly, Jianmin, that peasant was a demon, and his gift was cursed. If you do not let me remove the curse from you, it will be a disaster for the empire!”
The emperor stood still for a moment, then moved with blinding speed. Before Ji Dayi could react, Jianmin jabbed him in the throat, the chest, the abdomen. As quickly as that, Ji was paralyzed. Focusing his chi to its utmost barely allowed him to speak. “You’ve . . . blocked . . . my . . . valves,” he choked out.
The emperor laughed. “That’s right, shaman. My martial arts are superior!”
Ji Dayi could say nothing in reply. The emperor looked him up and down, his face full of disgust. With a roar, Jianmin spun about and delivered a kick that sent the shaman flying across the room. He tore through drapery and smashed through a wall, landing in a heap amid a pile of masonry. Although he could feel every broken bone in his body, Ji still could not move.
Jianmin jumped through the wall, destroying more of it with his powerful fists. “I knew you were jealous of me, shaman. That lotus gave me immortality and ultimate fighting power! And you ask me to give it up?” The emperor picked up Ji with one hand and spun the rigid shaman over his head before launching him back into the bedchamber.
“I am the Son of Heaven!” roared Emperor Jianmin. “You have betrayed me, and the price of betrayal is death!”
Ji Dayi could only watch as the emperor’s hand wrapped around his windpipe. Despite his focused chi, he could not resist such power. Cackling with glee, Jianmin tore the throat from his Lord Shaman. As the blood gushed over the priceless imperial robes, Jianmin felt a peculiar kind of satisfaction. In a flash, he understood how to feed his hunger—and he laughed again. “Now I know the secret you tried to keep from me, Ji Dayi. Thanks to your meddling, I am truly invincible!”
Ji Dayi could not answer. His eyes were glassy in their deathly stare. But his soul was screaming its way to Hell, and the Earth echoed with his cries for vengeance.