The Secret of the Willow King
The Travelers Guide to Aqualon
''You know about the Willow King?'' As we slowly move towards Lake Rahn where Aquaris lies, sitting on the deck of a small tourist caravel, the breathtakingly beautiful Spire of Rahn grows larger and larger in front of us, and Shen, my smuggler travel companion, turns to me and asks this question. ''Well, sure, Shen. It's what your people called the mythic ruler of the woods that Glam Shen lost his soul to, right? That old tale about the founding of the Yamato Kingdom.'' You probably know it too, dear reader. Long ago, the sons and daughters of the Swartalben went into the tallest mountain range they could see and found a fertile valley where they mined gold and fabulous riches, until the leader of all their tribes Glam Shen spent long hours in the woods and returned one day as a yasha, which is the Yamato word for those afflicted with spellblight . Legend says he was the first one. Now, everyone has heard the story to some extent, or at least it always seemed that way to me over on the Corsic Ocean. Here in the Great Land, without the Iron Belt in between, the story seems to be even more popular, and longer. But no one seems to know much about this Willow King, since the first Yamato people only ever made up that story to explain Glam Shen's absences. But here is what my smuggler friend said, and I don't suggest you take it as the truth, but enjoy the story one traveler told to another as I have: ''Yes, though he is not a mythic man or creature. The Willow King was real. Glam Shen was the greatest emperor of our people, and he was also my ancestor, you see Kaijin.'' - A small insert here: Kaijin is what the Yamato people call us Ocean Belt inhabitants. So just 'Sea Person', if you go literally. - ''Yes, my family has kept the name Shen well; and they have also kept my ancestors stories well. Glam Shen did wander his realm in the nights after their great rise. And he did fear the anger of the spirits, much like the story is told. He did go into the woods filled with weeping willows, and no one ever saw what he did. But he himself knew, and he passed the story on to his son and daughter, and through them it endured. Was he the first yasha? The first demon? Yes and no. He was the first man of the new world whose eyes turned cobalt blue, and whose hair turned white as snow, but there was a creature in the woods already that was no man but a demon. He told Glam Shen that he was loathe of the tribes he had brought into the valley, that he would wake the trees and make them whip the people and smother them with their roots, and Glam Shen fought with the creature, fought with the Willow King, to keep him from casting this terrible spell. They fought the entire first night they had met, and Glam Shen with his mighty curved sword Choushou kept the Willow King in check, until the sun rose and the Willow King contorted and twisted and from his strange, human-like semblance turned into a real willow. And Glam Shen tried to hack him down then, but no metal could harm the magical bark. So, weary and beaten, Glam Shen returned to his people. He returned in the night, and the Willow King had become human-like again, dancing around the trees, waking them up, so Glam Shen stepped forth, and once again battled him with great fervor and determination, until the light of the next day. Night after night, Glam Shen would walk into the cursed willow woods and fight the Willow King, returning beating and weary to his people, refusing to tell them the truth. Glam Shen could not harm the Willow King during the day, but he was smart. He watched the movements of the Willow King, the way he fought, the way he did his strange and powerful magics whenever they clashed. And soon, Glam Shen began to mimic this dance during the day, learning the secrets of the Willow King's magic. Until one day he attained the secret arts of the King, the power to forever destroy that vile demon. But to do so, he had to strike a bargain with the avatar of the Daihou'' - The Yamato term for the Great Clockwork, dear reader - ''and he met with him in a field of lilies, and promised to erect a great temple in honor of Jamphel Yeshe'' - Now, you may be confused, but Jamphel Yeshe was the old name of Sanatana, who is believed to be the avatar of the Great Clockwork now. The Grand Sages actually named the now generally despised island after that avatar - ''made from the shiny gold they had extracted from the mountains. But Jamphel Yeshe damanded more, for the Willow King had served him well in the past. Agreeing to the terms, Glam Shen returned to the willows one last time, and he struck down the Willow King, not with his blade, but with the great magic of the ages, and the demon was no more. But in his place stepped Glam Shen, the first yasha. He has sold his soul away to save his people, and just so he continued to serve them, instructing them to build the temple he had promised, the Dairintaisha, which means Grand Shrine of the Great Wheel.'' So there you have it, dear readers. Sometimes seeing a whole new side of the world can happen in as brief a time as one little story by someone who has lived far away. And next time, I will finally get to talk about this magnificent city. I only hope I will gain access to the Spire of Rahn, for seeing it from the inside is a wish I have held since I was a little boy. T.F.