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Elemental Combat: Dragon’s Fall

Tao’s strange dreams and stranger talents have taken him far from the Beijing streets he once called home.

Stranded in the Wuling Mountains and seeking answers, Tao must now find the path to the Great Fire Temples of Xiangbala and win the Elemental Tournament.

But the path to Xiangbala is treacherous and, this year, deadly…

Read the Story of Tao below

301, 2017

Prologue

"Do you know what temperature blood freezes at?" The moon bobbed heavily in the sky, its bone-white light trickling down onto the mountains below. A young man stood alone on the forest path, a specter in the night fog. He was comfortable there, at ease even. His eyes were as cold as the morning frost. He slowly extended his hand in front of him. The air crackled with his touch. Wind, water, earth. Fire. He smiled. "I'm asking you out of courtesy," he said, before hurling a spear of flames through the forest. [...]

602, 2017

Chapter 01

The dragon ripped through the clouds, lightning trailing in its wake. It screamed once, its voice thunder – sorrow and pain – as it floated, weightless, above the heavens. And then it fell. It plunged through the sky like a meteor, falling backwards down to the mountains below. From its side, a spear – black as the starless night, gold as the as the setting sun. And blood. Enough blood to drown the earth, to wash away past and present and stain the future. It turned as it fell, as if to look [...]

602, 2017

Chapter 02

There were very few things Tao thought he could be impressed by. In Beijing, he grew up running around the streets, passing through ancient Hutongs and temples, always under the shadow of the Imperial Palace. But this... This was different. Carved into the very mountain itself was a gate, two massive stone doors flanked by stone animals reaching for a stylized sun above. Tao couldn't believe it. Eight hours. Eight hours walking through the forest and he had come to this. To where he needed to be... Or at least he hoped so. [...]

1302, 2017

Chapter 03

He did it again. Tao remembered the first time he called upon fire. It was a winter in Beijing, and Tao had spent the past few days freezing on the streets. He needed food – money – so he took to Financial Street, where all the government agencies were. It was dangerous to be a pickpocket there. Those were people you didn't steal from. Unless you were stupid. Unless you were desperate. Tao stood on the street for hours until he had found the perfect mark. A man with a billowing overcoat, a [...]

2002, 2017

Chapter 04

Tao wasn't one to judge. Stealing was always the last resort of the desperate. After working hard got you nothing, after begging got you nothing... People didn't steal for fun. They stole to survive. Tao looked at the fox, a prawn cracker hanging from its mouth. "Might as well join me," said Tao, patting the ground next to him. "Thieves like us have to stick together." The fox tilted its head, its spring-green eyes fixed on Tao. "Don't worry, I'll share my food – thieve's honor." Tao opened another packet of prawn crackers. [...]

2702, 2017

Chapter 05

The steps seemed to go on forever, winding their way deeper and deeper into the forest below. Tao walked with his good arm outstretched, a flame dancing in his open palm for light. But no matter how large or how bright Tao made the flames grow, the light was never enough to pierce the thick mist around him. The gatekeeper had called it the Cloud Forest. Tao looked to Fu, who was trotting closely by his side. Fu matched his gaze and gave a bark full of timid courage. "Is that supposed to [...]

1403, 2017

Chapter 06

Tao stared at his bowl. The broth was practically water, bits of random plants and animals drifting on its surface. Fu gave Tao a small whimper, a similar bowl of soup lying untouched in front of her. "Here," the man said, tossing Tao a can. Tao looked at it before quirking an eyebrow at the man. "What? It's a beer. God knows this forest is miserable enough. Might as well have a drink and try to get through it." "What if I'm underage?" Tao asked. "I don't really care, kid. Eat, drink, and [...]

1403, 2017

Chapter 07

"I don't know. It was like I was slowly walking into a dream or something. First I'm here – or there, on the steps, I mean. Then all of the sudden I'm five years old again and running through the streets of Beijing. Yeah, and then out of nowhere, I was falling a hundred feet to my death." Zhi nodded his head before downing another beer. He lined the can up neatly with the others. It couldn't have been later than 11:00 AM, and the man had already finished six beers. He opened [...]

2003, 2017

Chapter 08

"You mean killed, right?" asked Tao. Zhi held Tao's gaze for a moment before breaking into a large yawn. "Killed, murdered – we buried him all the same. Even the Master Sage isn't all powerful. In the end, he's mortal just like everyone else. So there's your dragon for you, kid. Dead. Now go home. There's nothing in Xiangbala for you here." Tao thought back to all his sleepless nights, the sound of the dying dragon's scream ringing in his ears. Part of him knew it was dead. Tao saw it fall, blood [...]

2703, 2017

Chapter 09 & 10

- 09 - There was an odd sense of deja-vu in the moment. Tao looked at the beer at his foot, Zhi making another horrible concoction over the fire. Fu slept comfortably at his feet, her warm fur pressed closely to him. Tao felt the ridge on his tongue where hours ago an open cut had been. Zhi had taken one look at it before giving Tao an herbal paste to apply. In an hour, the parted skin had reattached itself like a zipper. "True dreaming," Zhi finally said, "True dreaming, even in [...]

304, 2017

Chapter 11

Zhi spent the entire day burying the three men. Tao simply stood and watched as Zhi dug into the earth with his bare hands, shoveling away the dirt for each shallow grave. His skin glistened with sweat, his ragged breathing carrying through the mist. But never once did he complain, or slow his work. At sunset, he lowered the last body into the ground, patting the dirt neatly over the grave. Then, with the flick of his hand, he erected three small tombstones. Unmarked and unadorned. Zhi walked to his tinkers pack, pulling [...]

1104, 2017

Chapter 12

"Your left!" Zhi shouted. Tao had a moment to react.  He saw the the rock hurdling towards him.  He tried to gather his Qi – to visualize his defense – but he was too late.  The rock connected with his arm and sent him flying like a rag doll.  Tao tasted blood and dirt as he skidded across the ground. "My left... is your right!" Tao shouted as he struggled to his feet. Zhi shrugged as he took another sip from his beer.  "Wouldn't matter if you were doing it right, kid." "If [...]

205, 2017

Chapter 13

Nestled in the Wuling Mountains, bookended by two massive stone gateways, was River Rock – a string of old buildings that lined a small, stone road.  Lanterns hung from the gabled roofs, painting the street below in their gentle light.  Women and men, dressed in cheongsams and changshans, milled about in the night air, their voices rolling with the gentle babbling of the nearby river.  Tao looked to himself, then Zhi.  The two were covered in dirt and wearing t-shirts, a fox trotting politely at their feet. "Are we time traveling?  Is that [...]

2205, 2017

Chapter 14

The ground rushed to meet Tao as he fell face first from the second floor.  He whipped his hands in front of him to brace for the impact.  He should've screamed – he should've panicked – but in the mere seconds between his fall and his crash, Tao's mind went blank.  Absolutely blank.  And there was a freedom in that – timeless, unbounded.  And from somewhere deep inside of himself or from somewhere far away, Tao knew what to do.  He extended his arm to the approaching ground and jettisoned a blast of [...]

2006, 2017

Chapter 15

Tao returned to the inn only to find his room empty.  Zhi had wandered off somewhere, no doubt drunk, his tinker's pack left strewn next to his bed.  Fu was curled up in a tight ball on Tao's pillow, her feet gently twitching as she dreamed.  Tao didn't bother to move her and collapsed at the foot of his bed.  His arms were heavy, his legs were led, and all he wanted was the deep, dreamless sleep of the dead.   –––– A dark hallway stretched out before him, light trickling from the [...]