But this is the enjoyment of writing fantasy: to communicate exotic pictures to the reader's imagination using only the power of the written word. I do hope I dance close to succeeding. Please remember that this is a rough draft and everything is subject to change.
The Shrine War
by Alan Loewen
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
“Ane? The sisters have gathered in the haiden as you have ordered.” In the dim light before dawn, an observer would have made out the form of two young women, both wearing the traditional garb of a Shinto shrine maiden: long, red skirts tied with a bow, a white kimono jacket, and white hair ribbons tying back the long, waxed hair.
“Well done, Hoso. Arigato.” For a moment, the two watched the rising sun illuminate the horizon beyond Mount Tomuraushi. Together they watched the sunlight illuminate the mountain’s summit and then slowly creep down its sides, making what little mid-summer snow remained glow with a brilliant radiance that competed with the green of small hardy bushes and wildflowers.
As the gloom dissipated in the growing glow of morning, sunlight reflected back from eyes that were completely brown and a fitting shade and shape to match the fox-like faces of the pair.
“You enjoy watching the sunrise, do you not?” Hoso asked.
Ane remained silent for a moment and Hoso wondered if she had been heard, but after a pause her superior slowly nodded her head. “If the weather allows, I have not missed a sunrise in over five centuries.”
For a moment, Hoso stared with envy at Ane’s nine tails, one for each century of her life and the final number a kitsune could attain. For a moment and not for the first time, Hoso regretted her youth. Only two tails emerged from a cleverly designed slit in the back of her skirt and Hoso had seven more centuries to go before she could enjoy Ane’s status and glory.
In sudden shame of her jealousy, Hoso impulsively bowed to Ane, her furred hands with their dainty claws sliding down the front of her thighs as she bowed deeply in respect. “We will await you, Ane, but I humbly ask that you not tarry. The Inugami emissary will be here shortly.” With that, she turned and left.
Ane watched as the fully risen sun turned Mount Tomuraushi into a brilliant and shining beacon and she dimly wondered if today would be her last opportunity to revel in the gift of a new day. She turned to see the sun gleaming off the red tiled roof of the hodon, the Shinto equivalent of the Holy of Holies where Inari's mirror stood in glory and splendor, primal and serene. In front of the hodon with its protective bamboo wall, stood the oratory, the haiden where her sisters waited. All around her, the peace of the shrine lay inviolate, but, Ane feared, it would not be so for long. The Inugami were coming. With a shake of her head, she turned to walk up the tiled sandō to join her sisters in the haiden.