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The fifth and final book of the Jade Owl Legacy sees a full battle for life as we know it.
“China Hands! To Me!” A green fog has engulfed the Wei River Valley. The First Emperor’s tomb is mysteriously rumbling. The Big Goose Pagoda is glowing like a lighthouse. And to blame? A bunch of Americans stranded in the consulate at Bei-jing, who, at the end of the last installment, came bursting through a portal in the People’s History Museum. “China Hands! To Me!” With that command, Rowden Gray has summoned his forces to return to the action - to the Dragon’s Pool in the shadow of Her hem, where the Jade Owl’s overlord commands an army of creatures, engineering the end of the world; or at least, the world, as we know it.
In this last book of The Jade Owl Legacy, our mixed bag of adventurers face their greatest challenge. They must negotiate the perils of the People’s government, the mysteries of the Palace of Broken Dreams, the dangers of the Ghost Lands and the mythic realm of the Classic of Mountains and Seas. Their odyssey delivers them to the final showdown — the Battle of the Full Moon, where all mysteries are revealed and every threat is settled. What began as a Sinologist’s dream converges on everyone’s nightmare. The Jade Owl calls you, but so does the muster to arms. Heed them both, but answer only one. “China Hands! To Me!”
The Jade Owl Legacy is a five book series. The first book (The Jade Owl) introduces a peculiar quest led by Professor Rowden Gray and a rag-tag team who follow a mysterious thread of instructions to thwart an ancient Chinese prophesy. Instead, they managed to set off events, igniting the crisis. Two demons, which possess a relic known as the Jade Owl, each in turn, after eons of imprisonment, test their land legs among the living. In The Third Peregrination, the Destroyer takes his turn with wrath and fire. In The Dragon’s Pool, the Great Marshal takes his spin, preparing the way for a curious ritual that will restore the world to a prehistoric state. To combat these spirits, our heroes acquire extraordinary powers in an attempt to thwart destiny’s course. However, destiny is not easily thwarted. In The People’s Treasure, all hell breaks loose as our heroes are manipulated to serve destiny’s course to fulfill the prophesy. However, In the Shadow of Her Hem, they bounce back against insurmountable odds and fight to save life from ultimate destruction. From San Francisco to New York, from Florence to China with her many faces, the Jade Owl proclaims an ancient evil that intends to triumph. This is the story of the brave hearts who rise to the challenge to tangle with the dark forces of yin.
In the shadow of Her Hem, a green mist crept down Mount Li to engulf the West China Plain. Not the golden dust that often visited Shan-xi Province, sparkling and choking both resident and visitor alike, but a gaseous cloud, creeping through crags and ravines, fermenting a hum in its wake. Lightning rippled beneath this juggernaut cloud, frightening the towns and villages wreathing the mountain. The mist swallowed Hua Xing Hot Springs and closed the Great Meadow Market, and other tourist attractions, including the Terracotta Warrior exhibit, the region’s greatest drawer. Although only edged by the mist, the government closed it as a precaution.
P’i-ho gung-yung yin-wei nung-wu.
Closed to the public because of the fog.
Thus the sign read until it eventually was engulfed also. Then people could see the fog for themselves and figure things out.
Most residents in Lin-tang, the city at the base of Mount Li, found it convenient to visit relatives in neighboring towns, even though this unexplained miasma still dogged their heels, drifting through lanes and alleys like swamp gas. Many people hopped the last bus out of town, heading for the provincial capital, Xi-an. However, even that great western metropolis became alarmed by the events at Mount Li. Still, the weather was the weather. Who could control it? It must run its course. Much was said, but little done. One could send an army against invaders, but who could argue with a fog?
Militia Constable Pang Fu-wei kept his vigil inside the massive pavilion that housed the Terracotta Warrior excavation. He wasn’t sure why he was guarding the ancient wonder, because the public wasn’t coming and each relic was too big and heavy to haul away conveniently. Thousands of these warriors stood as they had for nearly three millennia. These were exposed to the elements, while their clay brethren (the majority) still lay buried undisturbed between Lin-tang and the monstrous tomb of the First Emperor of China — Ch’in Shr Huang-ti, twenty li westward. Still, to Militia Constable Pang Fu-wei, it seemed a waste of time to guard the clay warriors, now that the place was closed — now that Lin-tang was nearly abandoned.
As he patrolled the catwalk, Pang Fu-wei spotted his companion on duty, Militia Constable Jin Lu-to. He was smoking a cigarette near the entrance doors, while leaning against a wall. Jin Lu-to may have been whistling, but Pang Fu-wei couldn’t tell, because of a constant whistling in the air — a humming which approximated a tune sometimes — and at other times, a saw blade in the wind.
He’s got the better post, Pang thought. He can stick his head outside for some air.
Then Pang thought again. Some respite that would be if the mist overtook the parking lot like the cigarette smoke overtaking Militia Constable Jin’s lungs.
Perhaps the musty air in here is better.
Constable Pang marched across the catwalk, his sidearm rattling on his hip. He wondered what he’d be shooting at. If he hit one of these clay beauties, the local committee would have his balls in a soup. He’d lose his cherished whiskey ration and perhaps be shipped off to guard the Great Wall — the far end portion in the wilds of Tsing-hai where some Uighur terrorist could blow him up with an IED. No. Better leave the revolver holstered.
He halted, and then grasped the railing, staring at the first line of warriors — his familiars. He could describe them better than in the guidebooks. His eyes settled on one of his favorites — an ugly chap with a broad beard, two swords fisted and bow legs. This was the warrior for him — a fugitive from justice, who served the First Emperor in death as he had in life. Pang Fu-wei imagined this clay brute, who he had nicknamed chu-yu tun-bu — Lard Ass, playing fan-tan all night, drinking himself silly, and then rising in the morning to fight the First Emperor’s enemies.
“Fool,” Pang muttered. “Where did it get you? You’re nothing but a clay effigy, like the rest of your army.”
Suddenly, Pang Fu-wei thought he saw Lard Ass blink.
Still, Constable Pang’s hand went to the top of his revolver. His thumb unhitched the holster. Then, a green light flashed from the warrior’s blank eyes. Pang jumped back. He thought he saw several warriors flash their eyes. He looked toward Constable Jin, who had finished his smoke and casually paced at the far end. Pang Fu-wei was about to shout to him, but then . . .
“They’ll lock me up in a black jail and throw away the key.”
Better to chalk it up to nerves.
It was not easy to ignore this observation, but it was harder to disregard the mist now seeping between the rows of warriors. Horses and chariots and men of clay were now glowing faintly, but distinctly. Then, Pang saw a . . . saw what? Something scurried between the statues. He slowly slipped his weapon from its holster and aimed it at a vacancy — a lane between the serried ranks assembled.
“Is anybody there?’ he asked, his voice trembling. “Show yourself or I’ll shoot.”
And it did. A creature — small, but hideous, reptilian but bird-like, red and yellow feathers sparking from its head. It perched briefly on the railing and squawked.
“Da-tiao!” Fang screamed.
He dropped his gun and ran.
“Jin Lu-to! Jin Lu-to! Let’s get out of here now.”
Jin Lu-to appeared puzzled at Pang Fu-wei’s agitation.
“Calm yourself. What’s bitten you?”
“Nothing yet. But if we stay here, it will get us.”
“What will get us? Are you mad?”
Pang Fu-wei didn’t explain. He pushed through Jin Lu-to, who tried to keep his comrade from leaving the pavilion.
“We can’t leave our posts. Tso Kar will have our asses.”
“Rather him than it.”
Pang Fu-wei pushed open the glass door, the green tinted sunlight rushing in to meet the creeping mist. Jin Lu-to rushed to the railing. He peered down. He saw nothing, but he heard much.
“Wait. I’m coming also.”
The exhibit’s plaza was as deserted as the rest of Lin-tang. However, at one end, where once the gift shop thrived, several soldiers took their ease. They stirred upon seeing the on-duty guards fleeing. They summoned their commander, Captain Tso Kar.
“Is the place on fire?” the Captain shouted. “Why do you abandon your posts?”
“Noises,” Jin Lu-to stammered. “There’s something amiss in there.”
“There’s something amiss out here. Or are you blind? We all take our turn guarding the Nation’s treasures.”
“The nation can shove them up their ass,” Pang Fu-wei snapped. “The statues are coming to life.”
The soldiers laughed, but nervously.
“Nonsense. Have you been smoking your paycheck, Pang Fu-wei?”
“The warriors are turning green and their eyes are flashing.”
“A play of the light and the fog sucking out your brains.”
“I heard something,” Jin Lu-to said.
“Did you see the terracotta army preparing for battle too?”
“No, sir. But I heard unnatural sounds.”
“Lizards. Bird-lizards,” Pang Fu-wei said. His eyes bulged. “I drew my weapon on one. It was hideous, with sharp teeth and a big sickle claw.”
Captain Tso Kar jostled Pang Fu-wei’s holster.
“Where is your weapon?”
“I dropped it and ran.”
“You what?” Tso Kar pushed Pang hard, and then slapped him. “Guards. Take this man out of my sight.”
“Take me, but I won’t go back in there.”
Three soldiers grasped Pang Fu-wei, who didn’t struggle. Captain Tso Kar turned to Jin Lu-to. “And you, back to your post.”
“I would like to say I could go, sir, but I have known Pang Fu-wei for a long time and if he says there’s a creature in there, I must believe him.”
“This is not the time to try my patience.”
“I respectfully decline to . . .”
Suddenly, a horn sounded through the mist — a strange farty bugle accompanied by bells and a tambourine. It came from the edge of the Great Meadow Market. The soldiers snapped to their weapons.
“Hold your fire,” Tso Kar said. “It’s just stragglers who have lost their way. I don’t want to explain a bunch of slaughtered tourists to headquarters.”
The mist was thick, but the invisible band approached.
“Ghosts,” Pang Fu-wei said. “Now you’ll believe me.”
Emerging from the fog were at least two-dozen men in priestly garb — Taoists wearing high feather headdresses. They marched solemnly to the beat of the tambourine and the heckling horn and the timbrel. At their fore was an old man — an incredibly old man.
“Lower your weapons,” Tso Kar said. “It’s a procession of holy men; not ghosts.” He strode toward them. “What the hell are you about? Are you daft? It’s not safe to wander about. We almost shot you dead.”
“But you didn’t, did you?” said the old man.
“What are you anyway?”
“I was about to ask you the same thing, constable.”
“I am not a constable, priest. I am a captain. Captain Tso Kar of the Shang-xi People’s Militia, here to guard the Pavilion of the Terracotta Warriors.”
“I’m not a priest, sir, but an abbot — I’m Tsao Fang, the Abbot of Lu-mao-tien monastery.”
“You should have stayed on your hill.”
Tsao Fang halted the procession. Horn ceased. Bells silenced. Tambourines drifted into the mist’s hum.
“The monastery, like the whole of Mount Li has been devoured by Yu-shui-ch’ien.”
“The Village of the Jade Waters.”
“Nonsense and fairy tales.”
Tsao Fang cuffed the captain’s shoulder.
“Look about you, sir. What do you think this is?”
“Bad weather. Not myth and legend.”
“I saw a monster,” Pang Fu-wei shouted. “Inside the pavilion, I saw a birdlike lizard who tried to kill me.”
Tsao Fang rushed the man.
“Did you kill it? Did you harm it?”
“No. I was too frightened. I ran.”
“Good. Attacking them accelerates the process.”
“Process?” Captain Tso Kar shouted. “We are wasting time here.”
“Yes, we are, Captain,” Tsao Fang said. “Do you have a truck — more than one would be better?”
“Are you taking inventory?”
Tsao Fang raised his hands. A flash flew from his fingertips to the green canopy.
“Do not banter with me, sir,” he shouted. “Do you have a way to convey yourself and my monks out of this cursed valley? Because if we don’t leave now, I will not answer for your life.”
Captain Tso Kar stood baffled.
“I have three trucks for military use only.”
“Look upon us as your new recruits.”
The Captain pointed to the pavilion.
“What about my orders to protect the Terracotta Warriors.”
“They do not need protection, sir. They are about to fulfill their purpose. Only slim hope will prevent them from it.”
The Captain spit, but then waved his arms about, his soldiers escorting the monks to the invisible truck convoy in the parking lot.
“What about me?” Pang Fu-wei asked.
“I should leave you and your cowardly comrade here to face whatever nonsense this . . . abbot says awaits this place. But I’d rather see you face charges at headquarters.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Jin Lu-to scurried to the trucks, the Captain trailing behind him.
“Are you coming, Tsao Fang, Abbot of Lu-mao-tien?”
“Yes.” Tsao Fang took Pang Fu-wei by the arm and tugged him forward. “It’s disturbing, I know, but be at ease. You are the first in the valley to see them, and who knows, you may come to like them.”
“I know I shall not. But what are they?”
Tsao Fang grinned, a grandfather’s grin that was meant to ease the young guard’s mind.
“They are the feathered-kin. It has begun.”
It had begun.