Fortuitous Scarlet Cloak

Submitted by Mapache on Fri, 2004-08-20 00:00

This is the tale of Fortuitous Scarlet Cloak, a most skilled and devout child of the Fire Dragon. One great day, her mother entreated her to pay her respects to her most venerable and esteemed ancestress and, being the dutiful child that she was, she agreed without hesitation. As a token of the family's gratitude for her labors in upbringing them, Fortuitous Scarlet Cloak wrapped the choicest of moon cakes in rice paper, placed them with a hand-woven basket her younger sister had made, and set off towards the great manse of her glorious ancestress.

The way to the manse lay through a dark and twisted wood, whose spirits had fallen from their proper place in the cycle and become corrupt, twisted manifestations of wrong thought. As she wandered through the wood, she came upon a strange, tall man. "What big teeth he has," she thought to herself, noting how they glinted silver in the wan sunlight that filtered down through the many layers of leaves. Being a proper and respectful youth, she did not comment upon his teeth to the traveller.

"And where might you be going?" inquired the strange man, his hand idly scratching the old tattoos that wound across his skin.

"To visit my ancestress to convey the respects of her children and her children's children, of which I am one," she replied.

"Indeed," said the man, "May you reach your destination without incident." He nodded absently, and watched as Fortuitous Scarlet Cloak continued down the path. As soon as she was out of his sight, he set off through the forest like the wind, touching the ground with but one footfall in five, each leaf and twig bending out of his way in deference to his passing. Unhindered and fleet of foot, traveling as the crow flies, he arrived at the gates of the manse long before Fortuitous Scarlet Cloak was halfway there.

The man passed his hand in front of his face and when it was gone, so was he. In his place, stood Fortuitous Scarlet Cloak, who approached the gates and swung the heavy bronze knocker. After a moment, from within came the sound of footsteps, followed by a query in a old dry voice, like a wind that has blown past too many mountains in its time. "Who is it, my child?"

"It is I, ancestress, your most humble and grateful granddaughter," came the reply, though a careful observer wold have noted that the sound seemed to emerge from a spot just too high to be the girl's mouth.

With a slow grinding the heavy door swung aside, revealing the ancestress in her shining white robe. Faster than the eye could see, Fortuitous Scarlet Cloak flashed into the man from before, who grew into a great Wolf-Beast that sprang forth and clamped its terrible jaws over the ancestress's ancient head, which gave forth one faint shriek and fell silent. Greedily, the beast crunched upon the ancestress's body, splattering gore as the fangs worked flesh and bone like overripe fruit. The smile that spread across the monster's face as it pulled forth the heart and swallowed it whole would have been terrible to behold.

Meanwhile, Fortuitous Scarlet Cloak continued her trek through the woods, and in her own time came to the manse of her ancestors. She reached forth to swing the knocker, but noted that the door was slightly ajar. Concerned, she pushed on it, and it swung open, allowing her to call into the manse for her ancestress. After a moment, there came a reply from the back of the chamber, and the ancestress appeared, wearing a fine red robe.

"Ancestress, what a fine robe you have. Might I be so bold as to inquire why you have forgone your customary white?"

"If you must know, impertinent child who enters without knocking, I was repainting my manse, and did not wish to dirty my white robe."

Fortuitous Scarlet Cloak looked about her, and indeed the manse had been repainted in red. The paint was so fresh that it still glittered with moisture.

"Indeed ancestress, it is a most brilliant color." Casting about, she smelt that not all was right in the manse, for its color had never been changed before. Glacing again at her ancestress, she noted that the old woman's teeth glinted large and silver in the light. "Ancestress, I had never before noted what magnificiently large teeth you haveā€¦"

"The better to eat you with my dear!" The Ancestress flowed into the Wolf-Beast from before, leaping at Fortuitous Scarlet Cloak to devour her flesh as well, but she had anticipated the strike and countered by throwing the moon cake into the monster's eyes. Flipping backwards, she danced onto a branch and the creature followed, great claws rending the very air itself with inhuman ferocity. Fortuitous Scarlet Cloak deftly avoided each swing though they struck with the speed and fury of a thunderclap, but in her heart she knew that soon her skill would fail, and that a single blow would be enough to knock the life from her breast.

Her name, however had not been given to her without reason, for just at the moment she knew her resolve would ultimately fail her, there came down the road an itinerant monk, well trained in the Immaculate Arts of the Wood Dragon. Spotting the horror swatting at the young child, he invoked the precision and resilience of Sextes Jyles, launching an attack at the beast's very soul, flowing past its invincible body and striking it dead in a single blow.

In this way did Fortuitous Scarlet Cloak learn to be careful and not speak freely to those who might be Anathema.