This is a story of a land you know... and a land you do not know. The Land where Martial arts chivalry was born. A story of Nine Clans… Nine lost Heroes… and Nine Heroes yet to be found. This is the Ming Dynasty — The Era of Nine Dragons.

This Land holds many adventures, many wonders, and many secrets, some horrible and others beyond belief. Acts of heroism, romance, and fierce combat will unfold before you, like lotus petals, to nourish…

The seeds of The Dragon within you.

To join the heroes of the Land, join 9Dragons.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Under the Sign of the Raven

They say a man can pick his fights. Sometimes, however, a fight picks the man and won't let him go until either his or his foe's death might extinguish the fire in his heart. I am caught in such a fight and I have vowed it is not me who will perish. They also say that it is angels who fall first, yet not a word is mentioned of the fate of those that they leave behind. I can tell you what becomes of those touched by angels in their lives who are then left alone. They turn to demons.

My name... names do not matter. I have taken on another and it is this one that will make each and any of those who support the Emperor shiver, no matter who they are. For innocence and guilt were all the same for the Emperor, why should they make a difference to me then, a mere commoner?

I had never intended to set foot on the Road of the Dragon. I was however pushed onto it one night and the events that followed have led me to embrace, out of all, the Fire Dragon. It was the night I watched my entire life reduced to ashes - all I had and all I loved. I was returning home from a trip to Hefei - there were several of us who had traveled there to sell and buy goods. However, what greeted us home was neither the laughter of our children, nor the arms of our wives, but the blaze of our homes on fire.

Images that I have engraved upon my mind forever from that night are scarce but gruesome and they are the engine that drives me on. Apparently what had happened was the price our village payed for harbouring a runaway. I don't know who he was, what he had done and whether or not he had been hidden by someone or by whom. And none of this mattered to any of the soldiers who had razed our village the previous evening. None of it really mattered to me either.

For a long while, I sat down in the hot ashes. The stench of burnt flesh and timber hung still heavy in the air along with an ominous cloud of smoke. The Imperial troops were already far on who knows what other mission. Some looked around for what they might salvage, others found relatives who had managed to scamper away into the woods. I sat down doing nothing, eating nothing and drinking nothing. At some point, I think I might even have forgotten who I was. The sole thought in my mind was which of those ashes were my home and which belonged to my wife and children.

Slowly, as night was setting, the ashes started to cool in the chill air. However, I wasn't. The pain that had struck me with numbness had started to yield to a new feeling. A burning anger was slowly rising inside me, red-hot and even slower - a purpose, as terrible as what had befallen me.

I left the village that same night, without a word or a gaze back. The last memory I bear of it is the creaking of the ravens that circled above that followed me late into the night, perhaps only in my imagination. I felt as bleak and gloomy as those birds of evil gods and heavy as the fate they foretell. And thus, I left behind the last bit of the man I once was - my name. That night I was born anew, not out of a woman's womb, but of pain and anger and I would bear a name suiting me: RavenSoul.

To the vow that night I stood true. I shall not tell of you of the years that followed, of the many doors that were shut in my face or how I came to be dismissed from apprenticehood of several clans because of my erratic behaviour, for those made me not who I am. The only place I was welcomed in my hatred for the Emperor and all he stood for was the stronghold of the Heavenly Demons. It was this, rather than my martial skills that made them keep me. I was merely a suitable tool for them, I know. A weapon which they planed to hone and then aim at the Emperor, the White Clans or anyone that stood in their path.

For many years, I was thus trained as an infantry warrior, one meant to strike in the first rows, for I cared not whether I lived or died. I just made sure my saber struck at as many as possible. Somehow, I managed to survive every time to endure yet another half numb half painful emptiness, until the next battle would allow me to unleash the next fit of rage. And it was so, until one day I was called to Xiao Zhuiyang. I had often seen him but never talked to him before, for he was the Senior of the Storm Demons, the elite troops of Heavenly Demon, the summoners of flames sowing death from afar with the sheer power of their minds.

He spoke no word, but motioned me to the training ground. Once there, he asked me to meditate and clear my mind, as I had been previously taught to do before battles. And as always when I did that, I could feel hot ashes in my hands and smell the smoke, while the croaking of ravens echoed in my ears. I never even realised when I had sprung to my feet and drawn my saber, who was now glowing in flames. The Storm Demon just smiled as he took the weapon from my hands and bid me get rid of my armour. Instead, he handed me light and comfortable black clothes.

"You, my son, are not made to wield steel. Whoever put you in the Blood Demon regiment is not in their right mind. From this day on, I am your trainer and the sole master you answer to. Go seek the Black Soul Lord Viper Eyes. Tell him it is I who sent you. He will know what to do. When it is accomplished, return to me."

I did as I was bid. I do not know what Viper Eyes has done. I felt like a haze descending upon me, no in me, like some cloud of forgetfulness. Suddenly, the weapons seemed clumsy tools to me, but the fires that once again rose inside wouldn't let me ponder that thought for long. Weakend, I stumbled back to the training grounds to Xiao Zhuiyang. Only then did he explain that I had undergone a purge of the chakras, freeing me of the training I had achieved so far and opening a new path before me. Under his guidance, I learnt a different way of controlling my chi, more suitable for that of a Storm Demon. For that is what I had become. Master Xiao Zhuiyang had recognised the fires inside me and the poor channeling they received in combat. I needed no saber to fight. If I learned to control them, those very fires would become my sole weapon in combat.

It is years since then. The images are just as fresh though, even as I sit here in the Bloody Plains, emptying my mind of all other thoughts save the burning fires. When I feel ready to release them, I get up and raise my glance. As always, ravens circle the sky. They know it is their day of feast. Under their watchful eyes, I step out into the open, a ball of fire already forming in my hands.

They say that it is angels who fall first. I can tell you what becomes of those touched by angels in their lives who are then left alone. They turn to demons. So be it.

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