Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Shrine War: Opening Scene

What follows is a rough draft of the opening scene of a story I am currently writing for an anthology for editor Fred Patten. I have never been to Japan and I have never been to a Shinto shrine. I regret I have never met a kitsune and I am rather certain I will go to my grave never having had the pleasure.

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

“Sen-sama? The sisters have gathered in the oratory as you have ordered.” In the dim light before dawn, an observer would have seen the forms of two young women. Each wore the traditional garb of a Shinto shrine maiden: long, red skirts bound with an obi, a white kimono jacket, and white hair ribbons and ivory combs tying back long, waxed hair.

“Well done, Hoso-san. Arigato.” For a moment, they watched the sun rise above the horizon beyond Mount Tomuraushi. As the growing light illuminated the mountain’s summit, what little mid-summer snow remained glowed with a brilliant radiance. On the lower slopes the small hardy bushes and wildflowers turned the slopes a verdant green.

As the gloom dissipated in the growing warmth of morning, sunlight reflected from the eyes of the two watchers, eyes that were brown and a fitting shade and shape to match the white-furred, fox-like faces of the pair.

“You enjoy watching the sunrise, do you not?” Hoso asked.

Sen remained silent for a moment and Hoso wondered if her superior had heard her, but after a pause Sen slowly nodded her head. “If the weather allows, I have not missed a sunrise in the five centuries I have been here at the shrine.”

Hoso stared with envy at Sen’s nine tails, one for each century of her life and the greatest number a Kitsune could acquire. 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 Sen’s status and glory.

Ashamed of her jealousy, Hoso bowed to Sen, her furred hands with their dainty claws sliding down the front of her thighs as she bowed. “We will await you, Sen-sama, but I humbly ask that you not tarry. The Inugami emissary will be here soon.” With that, she turned and left.

Sen watched as the risen sun turned Mount Tomuraushi into a brilliant and shining beacon, and 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. Surrounded by its protective bamboo wall, the hoden served as the most sacred part of the shrine where Inari's mirror stood in glory and splendor, primal and serene. In front of the hodon, stood the haiden, the public oratory where her sisters waited. All around her, the peace of the shrine lay inviolate, but Sen feared it would not be so for long. An invading force of the Inugami were coming. The emissary only served as a pretense of peace. With a shake of her head, she turned to walk up the tiled sandō to join her sisters.

1 comment:

  1. It's very lovely work. Thanks for sharing this.