The Rogue and the Flower
Siu scrambled across the rooftops as his limbs began to weaken with the toxin that was creeping through his body as he scrambled to make it toward the temple of Chauntea where Lizbet an Katya had just entered.
Falling to the ground next to the temple he scrambled up the wall, his normal dexterous hands and feet that could find a claw hold instead failed to source any at all and his claws dug and clawed at the mudbrick that made up the temple – leaving deep furrows as he clawed his way up into the window into a hallway near one of the side entrances where he hoped that he would be noticed quickly. His vision blurring and the ability to focus coming in waves he called upon his most treasured of limited magical gifts, the one thing he cherished above all, and invoked it with a tear streaming down his face as he fell to the ground. A cry of shock and muffled footsteps welcomed him into the darkness of unconsciousness as the shadow creatures toxins pumped through his system.
Blinking Jung stretched and swung his legs over the edge of the temple guardian, grinning like a menace as he scratched his name on the back of its head as he waited for a single person – his cousin and closest friend. “What do you think you are doing!” the shriek of anger and shock called from a few steps behind him where one his aunts stepped out, the smell of incense wafting forward making him sneeze. “Get off the guardians now, you must show them respect and treat them with reverence or they wont do the same when you join the ancestors” she yelled as she grabbed his leg, her bony fingers surprisingly strong as she ripped him from the statue and pulled him to the temple steps.
Jung didn’t get the fascination with death and ancestors. He was alive now and who cares what happens when he is dead – he’ll be dead and there is nothing on the other side for him. Rolling away from his aunt – his mothers sister – he bounced to his feet before making a rude gesture to her and the temple guardians before running off laughing like a mad man. It was a good day, today his Cousin had promised to show him the families secret one that he had been forbidden to to learn until he reached adulthood which he was glad that he wasn’t considered one yet.
Taking the oaths, performing the ceremonies and training for combat were boring and meaningless for him. He lived like a prince with his family so why should he have to fight – that was for the other family members and the adults, despite his age being more than old enough he just didn’t want to conform.
Knocking over an urn on the steps of his cousins house he rushed forward to find his cousin, Suiten who was late to meet him by the temple steps. Pushing through the doors he stepped into the small room to find his cousin sitting cross-legged and writing on a large scroll. Not wanting to anger his cousin, as he took his family duties very strongly for some stupid reason, Jung waited just outside the room and leant against the door frame.
“Jung, you can come in. I am just about done here. I thought I was meeting you at the temple?” Siuten asked as he dipped his quill into the ink pot one last time as his hand flowed in careful motions scribbling out the last few words. Being satisfied he sprinkled some white sand across the parchment and shook off the excess before rolling the scroll and placing it in a tube made from a long limbed fast growing reed like tree that was native to these lands.
“That was over an hour ago Siuten,” Jung said with a mock sigh “you take your duties and studies too seriously cousin – you need to live your life before you actually decide to throw it away” he said with a little more seriousness in his tone.
‘Jung, you know that I take these things seriously. If you want to make your family and ancestors proud you should do the same. You know mother was trying to convince Aunty to force you to take the oaths?” Siuten questioned, a knowing look crossing his eyes. Jung groaned outwardly – his mother, Siuten’s aunt, had indeed asked him again about taking the oaths even going as far to give him an ultimatum, take the oaths or go into the military to fight at the bastion to the north.
Getting up he didn’t say another word to his cousin until they were walking out of the city “I won’t go to the bastion to die cousin – I am not like our families warriors. I am not blessed with speed, strength, fortitude or magic so I would not last a month its a death sentence. We both know that once you take the oaths it’s not long before you go into combat training and join the army any way, again… Death sentence” he emphasised his point by the universal signal for being killed. His cousin grinned.
“Well, maybe not. You’ll see, quickly to the pond.” his cousin said, looking to the sky as some large winged birds flew to the mountains as the sun set.
It wasn’t long until they were standing at the edge of the the pond, one that had been there for decades if not longer. As the sun set his cousin beckoned him over to a walkway that lead to a shrine in the middle of the pond. Squatting by the shrine his cousin looked around like someone who was paranoid. “This is it Jung, our families secret” he grinned, they both shared the same madman grin when excited.
“There’s nothing here Siuten – look you don’t have to make fun of me by promising some secret only those who take the oath know and then showing me some dirty pond. I’m out of here…” he paused as one of the nearby lotus flowers bloomed and a soft blue light shone forth, next to it another flower bloomed and a purple light shone forth and a third leaf opened with a red light radiating outwards, the walkway and shrine hiding this sight from all others unless you were to be in the shrine as it happened.
Jung looked at Siuten who was grinning from ear to ear. “These flowers are it. When you take the oaths and you start to under go combat training they bring you here and let you pick one flower. Once you eat that one flower you are blesse by the ancestors if they find your oath taking truthful and your commitment to the family pleasing they will grant you strength, speed, magic, what ever you wish for as you eat the flower. That’s why our family has the best warriors, this. These Lotus’s!” Siuten’s excitement almost caused him to yell.
“No way. So if I eat one of these then that’s it. I get stronger?” Jung licked his lips eagerly, he had wondered why his older brother had gotten so strong from a very short amount of time training. He began to reach out for a golden flower that opened as he gazed hungrily across it.
Siuten’s hand snapped forth and gripped his wrist. “you mustn’t. Only those who have taken the oath and have started down the path to train their body can consume the flower. The ancestors will punish the family if one who hasn’t taken the oaths and been found ready and worthy takes the flowers. It is forbidden. You must promise me Jung not to take a flower, not until you have taken the oath and have been found ready.” his cousin stared at him with the most serious expression Jung had ever seen.
Jung licked his lips before grinning broadly “I promise Cousin, you didn’t actually think that I would take one of the flowers! ha!” he laughed as he stood up and walked away from the shrine and the flowers.
Jogging to catch up Siuten walked net to him “Good, I’d get in trouble if you did take one.” he said as she shoved his cousin before jogging ahead to go toward his house as their paths separated.
Waving to his cousin he jogged back home to make sure he was home in time for dinner. Opening the door and stepping him he was greeted by his mother as she set dinner on the table for them both.
“Now Jung, have you decided? The Oath or the Bastion? ” his mother asked casually as she grabbed a bowl and started to eat.
“Mother, I haven’t had time to think. I was busy with my duties today” he lied.
Sighing his mother placed down her bowl of food. “My sister told me she caught you skipping your duties today, you carved your name into one of our guardian statues at the temple and then ran off. No more Jung. I need an answer now, your grandfather needs one by dawn.” she said firmly staring at her son.
Jung was mad, his Aunt was ruining everything again. If she could just keep her mouth shut and not rat him out for every little thing then all would be fine “Neither. I won’t go and die in some war for some family that doesn’t care if I come back or not.” he said, his appetite suddenly gone.
“Then the Bastion it is. Eat up son, I will inform Grandfather tomorrow and you will be leaving tomorrow.” his mother said, her lips quivering as she spoke. “You have shamed me and you family for the last time, maybe at the Bastion you can bring us honour and make your ancestors proud”
With that Jung stood up and left the house, his rage and sadness at his families betrayal was just too much. What was he meant to do, he didn’t want to swear the oaths to the ancestors – it didn’t matter, he didn’t even think they could influence his life, this or the next. Sending him to the bastion was a deaths sentence, everyone knew this, no one without years of training would make it more than a week. Not unless you were exceptionally gifted but that hadn’t happened in centuries and it seemed to be only those who were extremely lucky did. Or, maybe it wasn’t luck he needed but a bit of magic.
Jung ran across the grounds, the calls of his mother and soon rousing guards and other family members as he saw torches in the streets behind him as he ran towards the shrine. Nearing it he dashed up the pathway and ducked down into the circular shrine where the shining lotus flowers were hidden from all except those within the shrine. The faint light from all the flowers cast eerie shadows across the features of the stone statue at the heart of the shrine, a great dragon coiled around a pillar of stone.
“Well if the family doesn’t care if I live or die, then I may as well take what I am due and stack the odds in my favour” he muttered to himself as he grabbed a pale blue flower and plucked it. Bringing it to his nose he smelt the flower, no different than normal he determined, shrugging he stuffed it in his mouth and chewed with purpose as he reached for a light purple flower and quickly stuffed it in his mouth also.
As soon as the first flower touched his stomach a throbbing began, as the second and third joined it began to pulse – a pleasant warmth rather than a pain. Grinning and laughing he shovelled the colours of the rainbow in flowers into his mouth pausing only slightly at the last one from the shrine, the gold one that bloomed in front of him just an hour before but it quickly joined the others in his mouth and stomach.
As soon as the golden one touched his stomach a roaring filled his ears and the sound of cracking stone and cries of alarm rang forth. Looking up from his hands and knees, not sure when he had dropped this low or why his body felt like it was on fire he looked upon the body of a large golden dragon flying in front of him as slabs of stone fell from him – the circular enclosure of the shrine had been shattered outwards and her was exposed to the entire family who had come to the shrine after hearing his maddened laughter.
“You have broken the oaths of your family and betrayed your ancestors” the dragons voice rumbled out, not with anger but with sadness and malice. “the punishment is banishment.” it rumbled as Jung floated before its eyes and his body began to rip, tear and break before the dragons eyes.
“As for your family, those who have betrayed. So they do not forget their oaths for one hundred years no more sacred Lotus’s will flower as the undisciplined hand is not worthy to wield the sword. The source of your families power has been cast aside with this betrayal.” The dragon rumbled looking to all that had gathered.
Siuten stared at the dragon and at what used to be his cousin as bones cracked, creaked, grew and twisted beneath a darkening skin. Long limbs, claws, ears and a tail began to grow forth from the body of his cousin as the screams of pain rang out across the pond. He had let his family down, this betrayal was his fault… No.. Jung had promised him that he would not do this, if he had just grown up then none of this would have happened. He would still be Jung and the families secret would be safe and their source of strength would still be here.
Jung’s body stopped its transformation and through tears streaming down his face he looked down at his body. Long flexible fingers and toes ended in large retractable claws. His arms and legs were built powerfully, and there was a covering of soft brown fur across his body, but beneath that he could feel something there, scales, he was sure of it. Looking around he noticed the look of rage and hatred across his families face but none shone so bright in the dark as his cousins. Siuten’s look spoke of betrayal, hatred and bloodlust. Guilt and sorrow overwhelmed Jung as he felt the dragon lifting his body up.
“I will take the betrayer so that you remember the power of the ancestors. Cursed to live in this form until he makes his family proud of what he is and what he has accomplished. Until such a time he will remain a beast, a monster in a world where they are hunted and killed on sight.” the dragon rumbled forward.
“Siu…!” Jung cried down towards his cousin – begging for forgiveness and understanding as he was ripped from his family and taken to his ancestors for judgement.