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Heaven Sent

Darkness. Gone were the celestial heavens of the Great Northern Tundra. Gone was the capital of Everlasting Silver. The sect, his family, his friends. All were now dust to the winds of fate. The last memory he saw was the roiling clouds covering miles of the formerly pristine night sky. It was his moment of ascension, the final tribulation before he would shrug off the mortal coil and become a true immortal. The formations had been set. His weapon had been honed to a razors edge. His mental fortitude knew no blemish. One could say it would be a textbook elevation of his status. Surrounded by his loved ones and clan nothing should have stalled his rise from mortal to immortal.

The Heavens, however, were blind.

Those old evil heavens cared not for the army of followers and friends. It spit at the sect and city. His Masters and disciples? Mere ants beneath its all-encompassing reach. Yet this mortal dared challenge them! This thing barely above an ant dared to fight against their rules, to twist the laws of existence to steal immortality from the very fabric of reality?

We Heavens deny thee!

Nine times nine returning to one. Nine layers of tribulation clouds stretching for nine million miles. Each layer nine bolts of increasing life annihilating destruction. Ending with a single brush of reality. Amidst the cries of despair, the wails of anguish from family and loved ones the bolt that was more like an avenging army of dragons struck down and erased the hill from existence. Its power turning the man that dared challenge their rule to dust finer than sand. Death stood alongside the man as he challenged the heavens and reached out its bony grasp for his soul, eager to claim such a powerful prize before the evil heavens could eradicate him body and soul.

"AWAY WITH YOU!"

The voice shook the nether realm jarring the skeletal visage of death. The shrouded messenger that came to collect fled before the commanding presence that plucked the soul from the mortal realm and ferried it personally into the underworld, saving the poor mans existence from being wiped from Samsara's embrace.

The immense king of hell looked down upon the badly battered soul with a touched smile, "Years ago you saved my daughter when she escaped to the mortal realm, with this act I repay the favor shown when you protected her and loved her. For the sons and daughters, you sired together I can act but once to save you from complete extinction. I cannot return you to your life, you have truly died, but I've pulled a few strings and I'm pushing you for rebirth son in law. With this the favor to my bloodline is repaid."

Grabbing the soul of the man he hoisted the vague outline up to his own eye level and snorted. "But as a Father whose daughter was plucked before marriage, I also owe you a debt of revenge. Enjoy your new life brat." With that King Yama tossed the soul through a portal that snapped shut behind him.

And once again there was darkness. Though this darkness did not bear the chill of deaths embrace, rather it was a warm comfortable darkness that hugged the man through his rebirth. It soothed his worries, his regrets. It allowed him to collect himself from his failure to ascend and reflect upon his transition from nigh immortal to death to soul to rebirth.

The darkness was soothing, relaxing. How long had it been since he had relaxed? How long had it been since he had enjoyed existence simply for living? He could not recall. He had spent so long cultivating. Working hard, practicing his skills and body. Striving through battlefields of rage and blood to achieve his goal. Immortality. For what? A moment of blasting pain which robbed him of everything?

In the darkness Xing Lei raged, he felt fists striking something of resistance as he struggled. He would not let this happen! He had lived too long, fought too hard to tear down the laws of creation and achieve his goal. Death and rebirth? It mattered not! Dead and living again? He would struggle! His silent roar was muffled in the darkness as his body strove to exist. He fought the darkness, the urge to sink into the warm comfort of its embrace a single moment longer. His fists and feet struck against the barrier. 'I WISH TO LIVE!'

A resounding crack was heard, shattering the darkness. A lightning bolt shaped line of light split the darkness revealing the barrier that trapped him. His hands grasped at that crack, pointed fingers digging in and struggling with shaking arms to tear the crack wide, to escape this trap, for surely it was another trap to make him fail. The cracking grew louder as the darkness was split apart revealing a dimly lit cave, his eyes blinked slowly the fuzziness dissipating as he looked around noting his 'cell' was in truth an egg, the scattered shards amongst many others. An egg?!

Groaning Xing Lei rose amidst the scattered pieces of his former prison, his balance shaky as he staggered forward collapsing onto the stone floor as he tried to get his bearings. A gust of warm air fell over his back as an aura of despair crept into his mind, his insides churned as he scrambled up and spun on what he felt behind him, a threat that screamed to his instincts that was so far beyond his existence he should kneel and beg mercy, yet this instinct he suppressed, biting his tongue and using the pain to force himself into a clarity of thought. His body felt weak, weaker than anything he had ever known. Had his childhood been this lacking in strength? Perhaps as a wee babe in his mothers' arms but even as a toddler he held more power in his body than he currently felt. His body just felt so wrong, so strange compared to how a body should feel. Yet his thoughts on his loss of strength was torn from his fore thoughts as a rumbling laughter akin to thunder rolled over him.

AMUSING.

The voice was like a giant's roar, whispered in half amusement it rolled over Xing Lei like an angry cry that threatened to liquify his guts. His legs shook, his body shivered yet still he forced himself into an awkward stance, newly reborn he might be, but the memories of his old skills still lingered. He lacked the energy to call upon thunder and fire, but he would fight tooth and nail to survive, he always had.

SO VERY AMUSING LITTLE ONE... ARE YOU SURE YOU DON'T WISH TO PROSTRATE YOURSELF BEFORE ME?

The voice seemed to encompass everything. It rolled over Xing Lei's weak form like an ocean squall, the sheer power, however unintentional it might be, crept into his weak form urging him to kneel, urging himself to give in to the weakness and recognize this superior existence as his superior. Panting, his back felt like an icy river was cascading down between his shoulders as he set himself and shook his head, "A man bows before the heavens, before his parents or before one he truly respects. I refuse to kneel to a voice in the darkness."

His voice sounded so much like his old voice it caught him off guard. The body felt wrong, but his voice was the same as ever, could he recover? Would he have that chance to become an immortal and challenge the heavens for superiority? Only if he lived through this. Setting himself he glared into the gloom that seemed darker than the depths of the earth. His gaze drawn to a pair of yellow eyes that stared at him from on high in the blackness. Part of him was relieved to see those eyes, regardless of what they belonged to, were not filled with anger or desire to kill. Rather they flickered with amusement.

HOW INTERESTING. KEEPER. HE IS YOURS NOW, I EXPECT MUCH FROM THIS UNIQUE LITTLE ONE.

The eyes closed and the presence seemed to melt into the darkness. That aura that gripped his guts like an iron vice slowly withdrew. A held breath Xing Lei did not know he had kept rushed from his lungs and he plopped back on his butt gasping as he calmed his rattled nerves and mind.

"You nap? Lazy! Mistress say you unique but you lazy! Get off ground, follow Keeper now! Quick now, rookery not for born ones." A rather high-pitched voice came from one side, it sounded annoyed and anxious. His gaze turned to look at this new speaker and blinked, a scrawny little lizard creature stood off to one side of the chamber, a skull adorned staff clutched in its narrow hands. The things body was trembling, a rather obvious puddle was beneath its shaking legs, this 'guide' seemed to have pissed itself at the sheer recklessness of this new one, to have spoken so flippantly with their Mistress.

"What are you? Where am I?" Xing Lei asked the lizard thing as he slowly rose and glanced around, something was wrapped around his legs making what should have been an easy enough rise seem cumbersome. He blinked as his eyes swept down over himself for the first time realizing he no longer was as he once was. Originally Xing Lei was a handsome man, fair of flesh thanks to the cultivation keeping him looking like a young man in his thirties he had once sported a thick mane of inky black hair and an impressive beard. His body had been muscled and rippling with the power of origin, tempered over decades of firm training and steady combat. This body did not greet Xing Leis eyes.

The body he looked down upon was more akin to the creature that was growing more impatient by the moment. A lithe frame that was almost nothing but bones with leathery flesh stretched across it. That 'flesh' being grayish black tiny scales on a reptilian body. The thing wrapped around his scrawny legs, barely obscuring his clawed feet was his TAIL. Sighing to himself, Xing Lei tried to extract himself from the rather independent appendage that much like the reptile being across from him was clutching to his legs like a drowning man upon a rock.

"Me is Keeper. This rookery. What unique? More like you stupid. No more talk and talk, stupid one follow now. Present you to chief and shaman, get name and job. Me suggest Lazy Stupid Scale. Yes, good name for lazy stupid you." Turning and shambling off into the cavern depths its high-pitched voice yelled out, "Wretch where?! Wretch comes to rookery, new stupid scale soil floor, Wretch clean or Keeper get Gruck to beat!"

Xing Ley bit his lip and stumbled after Keeper glancing around for this supposed 'Wretch'. From the address he figured Wretch to be a slave or servant of some sort but other than some shuffling from a side passage he did not get to see the summoned individual. Keeper instead lead him along a narrow passage, the formerly stale air of the deeper cavern gave was to soft wisps of fresh air, apparently wherever this thing was leading him it was closer to the exit, which suited Xing Lei just fine. Lack of sunlight was likely one of many factors that kept this reptilian race from becoming stronger and he had no intention of remaining this piddly weak body for any longer than he had to.

Soon enough the narrow passage opened up into a larger cavern, the far end exposed the surface from the gleaming sun it looked to be about mid day. The distant tops of trees and flying birds spoke of a more primal place beyond civilization. Yet these things had created a small living space here in this wide-open cave mouth. From his view on an upper ledge and looking down there seemed to be about ten to twenty hide tents with dozens of similar creatures to him and Keeper milling about doing various things. Keeper cursed at Xing Leis distraction again, it seemed to be the small reptiles one true life goal, complaining about everything Xing Lei did, before leading him towards one of the larger near by tents.

Much like the cave mouth this tent was open on one side revealing a spacious and opulent living area. A stone throne occupied the center and a rather fat reptile lounged upon it. Thick furs and hides were piled under its impressive girth. Smaller reptiles lounged amount on hides and furs beneath it, some wore strips of leather, others cloth, some silks, was not hard to figure that not looking much different than himself or Keeper these must be the chiefs 'harem' and were most likely females... least Xing Lei hoped that's what the things preference was.

Beside this rather outrageous group huddled another female in a long robe, obviously made for something far taller than her the creature had it bunched up and bound with a leather hide strip to keep herself from tripping in the length. This female had spotted him since he and Keeper emerged from the tunnel and was waving the pair forward. "Hurry hurry, Keeper you lazy! Chief wait long time for last of the new scales. He thumps you good if wait longer!"

Keeper sighed and smacked Xing Leis shoulder, pushing him forward more speedily, "Hurry hurry stupid lazy scale, I not get thumped for you!" Practically frog-marching Xing Lei before the leaders Keeper released Lei's shoulder and backed away, "Keepers job done, may Keeper return to rookery and prepare it?"

The chief barely even recognized the presence of the two, grunting to himself more than Keeper the shaman briskly nodded her head, "Great Gruck is pleased Keeper! Keeper return to rookery." Xing Leis companion practically let out a whoop of joy before abruptly turning and racing back the way they had come, eager to no longer be within sight... or reach of the chief.

Xing Lei composed himself looking from the shaman to the chief and back again, rather unsure of how things were to proceed. Guessing from the structure of this primitive tribe that looking at the chief too long would be taken as a challenge he focused on the shaman. "I am Xing Lei; may I know the great shamans name?"

"What this Zing Lee? What great shaman name? Shaman is shaman!" Her voice was practically the wail of a resentful ghost as her body moved with all the speed of a striking viper. Slithering from her perch to confront him, looking him over with a challenging eye. "Mistress say watch you, you unique. Mistress never wrong, but shaman think you not unique. You stupid. Newborn name without. Mistress say you brave. Shaman think you not know chick from long tooth."

The Shaman berated him and wandered around him running her clawed fingers across his soft scales. "Hrm maybe serve as fetch scale... old one growing ugly... but Mistress say make you hunter. Shaman not see the power. You weak. You stupid. You hunter for less than half a day you dead and bones in wilds." Spitting the shaman glowered at Xing Lei and slowly slithered back to her place curling up like a disinterested cat. "Fleet Spear come to throne!"

The screech echoed out from the back of the cave which seemed to catch everyone's attention but the chiefs. The chief had distracted himself from the yelling shaman with one of his concubines and was unabashedly rutting with the female atop the throne, paying less than thought on what Xing Lei or the shaman was doing. It only took a few minutes for another of the creatures to emerge from the tribal 'town', moving up beside Xing Lei with all the grace of a predator. While Lei didn't see the appeal in this reptile, he could still value her prowess. Every movement seemed to radiate purpose and strength.

"Shaman call for Fleet Spear, come I have."

The shaman glowered at the female and even more so when the chief seemed to stop mid rut to drool at the newly arrived female. Xing Lei caught the wisp of dis-satisfaction in Fleet Spears eye, though her taut body displayed no outward revulsion of being eyed like a piece of meat by the grotesque chieftain. The shaman however screeched at her, "Ugly hunter shames chiefs' presence. You go now. You take Dull Scale. Teach him ways. Teach him hunt. At new moon present an able warrior to chieftain or perhaps chieftain replace you."

Fleet Spear gave the first obvious sign of distress, a shiver coursing down her back at the threat. How many other huntresses had 'displeased' the shaman and ended up part of the chieftain's harem? Xing Lei glanced over the females and not one of them showed the life or strength of Fleet Spear, all of them seemed listless, devoid of emotion simply laying in likely their assigned spots awaiting the 'displeasure' of their master. She glanced to Lei and grabbed him by the arm pulling him away from the 'throne room'. "Dull Scale follow, I shall teach, you shall learn. Dull Scale stupid, I kill before new moon."

Dragged away Xing Lei let himself be guided, away from these monstrous 'leaders' the faster the better. While Fleet Spear wasn't any nicer to him, he at least could understand her urgency. Being the plaything of the chief or under the tender mercies of the shaman didn't seem to be a good ending for anyone. So better he hold his tongue and learn first. Once he was strong enough would be time enough for the heaps of insult laid upon his shoulders to be repaid with interest.


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