Swords of the West (temp title) by Henry Shieh

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SUMMARY: Asian historical-fantasy action. 1 chapter complete.

***NOTE*** This story is in progress.

Some Chinese translations:

Jian : A true sword in the Han culture, straight and double-edged.

Shuan dao: Two curved broadswords utilized in two-sword fighting.

Yuedao point: Nerve bundle.

Yuanzhi squatted down on the Archers' Face overlooking the manor. It was seven days before Founding Day, six before Song Qing and his son were to arrive, and there were many preparations being made in the esteemed Count Chuan Ti's manor house. She could see house servants busy below, scrubbing the tiles, hanging decorative flower arrangements and poem-inscribed prints. Yuanzhi's father, the militia instructor Lu Yuan, had told her that Chuan Ti wanted to make an impression on any and all visitors to the county, and Song Qing was but one of many dignitaries trekking their way across the dusty, rebuilt roads of Qinghai to honor Ta Shan with their presence.

The Face was an infertile stone hill strewn with boulders that had hidden archers of the Western Swords during the final attack on the old Kirishant manor house. She liked to come here in her free time. She could imagine her own father crouching low among the rocks, twin shuan dao gripped in his hands, waiting for the last charge of the Mongol soldiers. He had told her stories of the five attacks that the Kirishant retainers had made on Archers' Face during the final days of the Great Liberation, desperate to drive off the Western Swords and regain the high ground commanding the manor. Lu Yuan loved to describe the fine armor of the Mongol soldiers, the bright yellow and blue banners with the gold eagles of the Kirishant clan inscribed on them in gold dust. They had made such a beautiful sight, eight hundred of them sweeping forward on white and roan warhorses, steppe ponies crossbred with Arabians from the ilKhan's lands. He never talked about what happened after that, and so it was the warhorses, their dappled coats gleaming in the autumn sun, that Yuanzhi saw when she looked out on Chuan Ti's manor that day.

"A beautiful day for sightseeing," called someone behind her.

Yuanzhi leaped away, spinning to face the sound of the voice. She marked the young man behind her immediately as she landed five feet away. She tensed, her fingers curling around the handle of her jian . The young man was tall and powerful-looking, not a local man, and more importantly a true sword belted to his back. He was dusty, as if he'd been travelling, and his own stance indicated some form of martial training.

"Please excuse me, miss. Can you direct me to the home of Lu Yuan, the militia instructor?" His accent was strong, from the South. He smiled at her, but her hand stayed on her sword.

"Who wants to know?"

The young man was grinning. Yuanzhi knew that she didn't look like much; she was dressed as a simple peasant, with sun-darkened skin and the undyed, loose pants and shirt of any northern farmboy. But the young man was staring at the sword scabbard belted to her waist instead, and she could tell tha he knew her stance: classical Wudang "horse" opening position, balanced and ready to leap in any direction.

"Song Qing and his unworthy son Song Keiyuan, of Fa Shan." He gave her a short, respectful bow and continued to smile.

Yuanzhi stifled a grin of her own.

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