The fortunes of a family hang on the unlikely outcome of the grand tournament. In the mountains, an ancient evil stirs. Legend becomes terrible reality as magic once again emerges in Shang SimLa.
In the misty valley of Shang SimLa, legends proliferated like weeds. Old Chen Hong was said to be 200 years old. The Zhang family knew the secret art of teleportation. There were even whispers of treasure hidden under the floorboards in the old monetary. Yes, Shang Simla was a place of tall tales, with 10 new yarns spinning out every generation. Naturally the legend of the Dong Huo and the Dragon’s Curse faded from memory, eclipsed by more colorful fabrications. The townspeople would not be so eager for their fantasies when ancient myth turned to horrifying reality.
Sweat beaded on Kim Ho Sung’s brow as he waited for the results of the preliminary simfu tournament. His training had been grueling; meditating under icy waterfalls to hone his concentration, drilling the simfu forms endlessly, and balancing on the edge of cliffs to overcome fear and attain balance. Despite the year of relentless training, Master Pei’s mouth was set in a firm line, his eyes tense as he watched the judges. Kim Ho Sung knew his teacher’s look; he had seen it every time he fumbled a form or shivered uncontrollably in the waterfall: disappointment.
Kim Ho Sung’s heart sank as the results were announced. He had not placed high, barely qualifying for the grand tournament. He shifted under Master Pei’s gaze, ashamed to face his teacher after his mediocre performance. Shame turned to terror as his father approached, cold fury radiating from him. Frustrating his father’s ambitions was dangerous. There was more at stake in the tournament than Kim So Hung’s personal pride.
The Kim family, once noble and wealthy, had declined over the generations and now was relegated to merely well-respected. His father, Kim Soon, sought to regain its lost prestige, and arranged an ambitious match between Kim Ho Sung and the eldest daughter of the Huang clan. Huang Hui Young was of marriageable age, and the hefty bride price enticed the Huangs to decree the match suitable. Wedding arrangements was set for next new moon, 5 days from the grand tournament. The Kim family coffers were nearly empty, but his father needed one more element to secure the family’s position. The marriage had proffered connections and social status; now the family would reclaim its glory. Several Kim ancestors had attained the venerable title of Simfu Grand Master. Surely his son, in whom the blood of the noble ancestors coursed, could achieve rank and title in the tournament, conferring honor and prestige to the family. The success of Kim Soon’s aspirations and careful plans rested on his son.
Kim Ho Sung huddled motionless in the meditation cave, crushed by despair. No amount of drills and icy waterfalls would push him to Simfu Mastery, certainly not in three days time. The grand tournament, now impossibly near, would decide the fate of the Kim family. His father’s obsessive ambition verged on madness; Kim Ho Sung dared not think of the consequences for failure.
In the stillness of the early hours, he sank into a reverie, longing for happier times. Running in the fields when he was a boy; catching fireflies in autumn moon; staying up late listening to stories from nursemaid Sun Wen. She had died in the fire 10 years ago that had taken his mother. Her stories, though, had remained with him. Stories of triumph, of valiant heroes, and… yes, of power.
He vaguely remembered the fable of a secret well hidden in the mountains. The waters sprang from the mouth of a dragon and granted otherworldly powers to whoever drank them. The name Dong Huo buzzed in his mind, but he couldn’t quite place his role in the story. He dismissed the name, probably some typical hero customary in Sun Wen’s stories.
Kim Ho Sung threw his mind back, recalling every detail about the fabled well. The foreboding mountains guarding the well were shaped like rolling waves, and the dawn mists gathered on them like froth from the sea. Dawn broke over the valley, and the swirling tendrils of mist beckoned to him. The imposing cliffs opposite his cave appeared like rushing, swollen waves as the mists played off their surfaces. It was a foolish dream, a child’s dream, but perhaps Kim Ho Sung would search out the Dragon Well. Maybe there was still hope for the grand tournament.
Deep inside the maw of the Dragon Cave, the thing that had been Dong Huo stirred.
Noxious fumes wafted from the cave and spread across the valley, tinting the mists a dull red. Soon, Shang Simla would once again know the devouring, insatiable power of dark magic.