Blacksmith Munechika (end of the 10th century), helped by a fox spirit (left, surrounded by little foxes), forging the blade Ko-Gitsune Maru (“Little Fox”). Woodcut by Ogata Gekkō. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When the vixen flicked its nine tails toward her, Tomiko was truly terrified. She knew fox spirits possessed magic, though each one had its own special type. She also knew by the number of tails this one possessed it was very old and very powerful.
To climb the sacred mountain carried weighty consequences, of this she had seen all too clearly with appearance of the tengu king. Yet the arrival of the fox spirit made her tremble with dread so terrible she almost lost her footing. It took all her concentration not to trip as she zigzagged through the towering bodies of trees and jumped over the underbrush near her feet.
The fox was following her that was certain, keeping perfect pace with her every movement. Her mind spun with speculation wondering what she could offer the spirit to keep in its good graces, if in fact she was not.
She found little comfort remembering that foxes were messengers of Inari, the benevolent goddess of rice. Though mostly a benign spirit, the fox could also be a seductive trickster as well, never a good sign in any case.
Breathe burned hot in her chest as Tomiko burst through the towering trees into a clearing. But she immediately skidded to a halt beside a pagoda, home to the five elements: earth, wind, fire, air and void that towered five stories from the ground toward its roof that curved upward into the clouds.
Her next step hovered beside one of 2,445 stone steps that led up to the top of the mountain. The path was used only by men, the only ones allowed to climb to the summit where she was told Sanshin Gosaiden Worship Hall of the Three Gods perched.
What made her stop was seeing one of the guardian priests of the shrine standing next to the pagoda. She recognized his attire from others that she had seen from time to time in the village. His hair stood in stiff, white peaks from his head with black tips, also like the other priests. Her knees trembled at sight of the fighting pole tucked crosswise beneath his waist tie-belt.
As if in slow agonizing motion, he turned, his gaze locking into hers. At that moment a terrible sense of danger trapped her in its net.
“Amaterasu!” she gasped, slumping to her knees, forehead pressed in subjugation against the damp earth.
She was far more horrified by this human’s appearance than she had been only moments before when she witnessed King Sojobo and the fox spirit. Numb with fear, she waited for the priest’s fighting pole to crack hard against her head. It was what she deserved, of this she knew all too clearly.
At the gruesome image, her stomach lurched promising to release the breakfast of rice and sliced vegetables she had munched for breakfast earlier that morning.
“Did you see him?” The young man’s voice floated, soft on the morning breeze. The sound of it tickled her ear with its gentle, innocent tone.
Legend of the Tengu Prince — Available
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Fantasy Action Adventure set in feudal Japan.
During a time of civil war, Karasu Hinata is born the son of a powerful warlord. When he is still a child, his family castle is taken by a rival clan. His father and mother are murdered right before his eyes.
Barely escaping with his life, he is spirited away by the king of the tengu. The shape-shifting raven leads him to the hidden mountain retreat of a sect of mystic warriors. Mountain priests who practice the magic of Shugendo.
Ten years have passed. The time has come for Karasu to leave the mystic’s protective lair and face his demons in the world beyond. But the fiend that haunts his nightmares is also the one that shattered his life. More than a bad dream, it wants him dead.
In Legend of the Tengu Prince, nothing is as it seems. Shape-shifting creatures, both good and evil, populate the magical world of feudal Japan. And a young man will pay the ultimate price for a deadly rival spawned in the mists time. This riveting first volume of a epic fantasy adventure will leave you stunned and begging for more.