©2014 Rogue Tien-Long and Qing-Long appear courtesy of their respective creators
Fearful of what was coming, the people of the village dropped their tools and scrambled for the safety of the hills. Barely had the last one escaped than the sky was torn apart by lightning that burst from no natural clouds. One who was larger than the tallest tree and whose scales gleamed like a pillar of living fire descended to earth, his feet crushing two of the frail huts to splinters. He was Tien-Long, God of the Skies, and on this day he was very, very displeased. Within seconds of the great dragon's arrival there came yet another clash of lightning, and the entire valley shook with the arrival of one who was just as large, and just as displeased. He was Qing-Long, the Azure Dragon of the East.
The two glowered at one another, and it was Tien-Long who spoke first. "You have gone too far, Brother!" he snarled. He thrust a claw toward a pillar of stone upon which an immense jar would normally have rested, but which now stood empty and covered with vines. "You have stolen my wine!"
"Me?" Qing-Long scoffed. "It is you who have taken the offering that was meant for me." He pointed to an identical pillar, just as large, and just as empty.
"Liar!" Tien-Long roared. "In two thousand years they have never failed to make an offering, yet today I find no wine, and you are the only other with enough strength to have made off with it."
Qing-Long held out his hands. "If that were so, Brother, then I would have two jars, but as you can see, I have none. Could you think of no better story to cover for your own gluttony?"
Tien-Long stamped his foot, the impact rocking the village and causing another hut to topple. "You are a thief!" he bellowed. "Give me my wine at once!"
"How can I, when both jars are inside of you?" Qing-Long retorted. "You are the only thief here, Brother!"
That filled Tien-Long with rage. Lightning crackled in his whiskers as he lowered his head and rushed at his brother. Qing-Long caught him and stepped aside, flinging Tien-Long to the ground where his body smashed a dozen of the little homes to bits and threw up a great cloud of dust. From within that cloud a fiery tail lashed, whipping about Qing-Long's leg and jerking backward so that the Azure Dragon toppled to his back. He landed with a grunt and quickly rolled to the side, avoiding the blow of his brother's fist that instead drove deep into the earth.
"I will teach you to steal my wine!" Tien-Long bellowed, but before he could deliver the lesson, Qing-Long's foot crashed into his belly, sending him staggering. "Oof!"
Qing-Long rolled to his feet and shook some broken timbers from his mane. "Filthy drunkard!" he snorted, then dodged a hay-wagon that Tien-Long scooped up and flung at him. "You obviously do not even remember drinking my wine!"
"Be quiet, wine-thief!" Tien-Long seethed. "I will beat the truth out of you!"
"If you do not trip over your own feet first, Pig!"
Furious, Tien-Long clenched his fists and charged. Qing-Long charged as well, the two dragons clashing at the very center of the village with a sound like the earth itself had split in two. Houses and barns, even the sturdiest of them, were flattened like blades of grass beneath the giants' feet as they grappled, turning round and round in a great circle, arms locked, fangs bared, roaring and straining while their massive shadows grew ever longer on the earth. At last, each seized the other by the mane and pulled hard until they fought nose to nose, and it was then that both realized that upon the other's breath they smelled only thunderstorms.
Surprised, Tien-Long let go of his brother and stepped backward. "So...it is true. You did not drink my wine."
"Nor you, mine," Qing-Long panted.
At that moment they both caught sight of a tiny figure creeping toward Tien-Long's left foot. When that figure realized that the mighty dragons were staring at him he began to shake and fell to his knees and pressed his forehead against the ground in supplication. Annoyed, Tien-Long prepared to step on the intruder but Qing-Long stopped him. "Don't, Brother," he said. "Maybe he knows something."
Tien-Long rolled his eyes, lowered himself to one knee with a thud and leaned his head down close to the man. "Where is our wine?" he growled. "Speak quickly."
The man responded with mutters and whimpers, all muffled. "We cannot hear you when you talk to the ground," Qing-Long sighed. "Stand up. Tell us what happened to our wine."
Slowly, shakily, the man climbed to his feet and raised his head to face the towering giants. "They took it," he gulped. "We tried to stop them but they would not pay attention."
"They?" said Tien-Long, narrowing his eyes. "Who do you mean?"
"Some important men."
Surprised by such an answer, the dragons jerked back their heads and then roared with laughter. "Important men?" Tien-Long gasped. "Do you hear that, Brother? Men! Important!"
"It's true!" the old man whimpered. "They told us that we had no choice."
Qing-Long stopped laughing and stooped low. "Choice?" he hissed. "There is always a choice. You could, for example, choose which of us should squash you right now for your insolence."
The old man cringed. "What could we do?" he wailed. "They threatened us, said that they would take our homes, that they would arrest us! They told us that they needed wine for their festival, and that they needed it more than..."
"Than what?" Qing-Long rumbled.
The old man hesitated, looked at the ground, and took a deep breath. "...than two fairy tale monsters dreamed up by ignorant peasants."
There was a long and profound silence after that. Tien-Long tapped his fingerclaws together. Qing-Long stroked slowly at his whiskers. It was Tien-Long who finally spoke, and when he did so it was in venomous tones. "Where are these 'important' men now?"
"They came from the city," the old man said, pointing, "the one on the far side of the mountain."
Both dragons rose slowly to their full height. Together they turned their gazes toward the mountain, and beyond it to the hazy towers that rose in the distance.
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