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.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Iron Face Demon

“You were lucky to have survived, grasshopper.”, said the elderly man next to his improvised bed at the Nanjiang Clinic and in doing so, startled the woman tending to his wounds.

Squinting in the sunlight, Zi Jing recognised Wang Sanniang from the local tavern and gave her a tentative but grateful smile. She had cared for him on several occasions when he was but a little boy while his mother was away, working for a living in the village of Tiantan and later, during her imprisonment by the bloodclaws of the Valley of Hell.

He tried to sit up but found that he couldn’t.

“Don’t overexert yourself, Zi Jing.”. Doctor Eight Hands had returned. Bringing a fresh batch of calendulas, by the smell of it. “Those are some ugly wounds those Toad Demons gave you. The village chief was right when he told you that you weren’t ready to face them just yet.”

“It wasn’t the Toads”, replied Zi Jing, stubbornly repeating his attempt to sit up, in spite of the searing pain that seemed to rip his chest apart. Doctor Eight Hands just shook his head.

“I’m afraid the grasshopper is right”, interfered the old man again. Nobody knew his name or where he came from, even though he had settled in Nanjiang long ago. For as long as Zi Jing could remember, the villagers had referred to him either as the Hermit or the Nameless Elder. For even though he seemed younger in years than Ma Weizhao, their own elder and chief of the village, he appeared to be a well traveled man and was much more knowledgeable of both the lore and the perils of the Land.

“He was much taller than the accursed Toads and seemed human”. Zi Jing had finally managed to sit upright in a position that made the pain from his wounds somewhat bearable, or maybe it was the effect of Doctor Eight Hands’ medicines. Apparently finding approval in the Hermit’s glance, he continued. “At least, he seemed human from what I see of him. He was wearing a mask.”

The Nameless Elder nodded knowingly in response, then cleared his throat. “You’ve run into the one known as the Iron Face Demon, grasshopper.” He glanced expectingly at the faces of those around: the wounded youngster, the village doctor and the woman from the tavern. There would’ve been more but most villagers were working in the fields and Doctor Eight Hands had shooed some other curious ones away to allow Zi Jing to rest.

The Hermit sighed. It was clear that knowledge of the lore was not as widespread in the Land as he had expected it.

“His name is Hao Shi and he is one of the three Colour Face Demons. Rumour once held it that they were brethren, the offspring of Lord Mara himself, but I do not believe they have such a high standing among demonspawn.

The other two brothers, Si Mazhao and Yu Mazhao are known as the Blue and the Red Face Demon. The two of them have plagued the regions of Nanchang and Hangzhou for years. Sometimes a valiant warrior takes them on, but on the rare occasions when the demons face defeat, they just retreat to the Underworld only to reappear later and begin their foul deeds anew. Some say they are bound to the service of the Golden Coin Clan, while others claim they serve the Beast Clan – both of which hold dominion and quarrel over the provinces. Personally, I think they wreak havoc for their own delight and maybe enjoy playing the clans out one against the other.”

“Then… what is the third brother doing in Jinan?”

“Hao Shi was always the weakest of the three, but he also has the darkest heart. I believe that he didn’t want to share the reign of his brothers, but neither was he powerful enough to overthrow them and establish his own dominion in the Land.” The Nameless Elder paused with a sigh.

“What happened after he left them is but a guess of mine, but I think it came as it always comes to be when the weak are blinded by their greed. He renounced his status as a Colour Face Demon and started using an iron mask to conceal his Face. Rumours hint that he has seeked a tool powerful enough to help him achieve what he couldn’t alone but has instead fallen prey to it. I am talking about the one who calls himself the Master of the Valley of Hell – Mei San He, the Iron Claw.

You have already suffered at the hands of some of his lesser minions – the toad demons and the bloodclaws, as have almost all who live where the long arm of the Valley of Hell clan can reach. It looks like Mei San He is enthralling all those weak or evil enough – and sometimes both - to walk his dark path. To what end, only the gods may know, but certainly nothing good can come out of it.”

“It only sounds to me like I have more learning and training ahead”, Zi Jing concluded after a long and troubled silence. “I had only meant to stand up against the demonic scum that has troubled us all… now not one, but two foes seem to have appeared. I will hold true to what I’ve told the brave warrior who rescued my mother… I will train long and hard and one day I will master my Kung Fu. One day, I will rid Jinan of the Master of the Valley of Hell himself.”

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