Typical Disclaimer: Jade Empire is the intellectual property of Bioware, but in as much as it is possible for to sign away my rights to my writing, this here is all given to the use of the public domain. Descriptions and OC characters are free for public usage. I make no copyright claim on this material whatsoever, excluding whatever rights Bioware chooses to exercise on its original characters & setting.


Part I: The Spirit Gate
Dreaming Snow fell. Master Li's attack cut through all her defenses; his hands flashed using a technique she did not recognize, could not counter.

He hit all the vital pressure points, stopped her blood hot in its tracks. Zu's words echoed in her mind: "The Glorious Strategist would never make such a mistake." No, there was no mistake in his actions. In one well-plotted coup, Li had pitted his two greatest threats against each other, and walked away the winner.

I should have seen that… she started to think before the world grew hazy and darkness swallowed her.

Snow awoke to a sky full of rain that fell like silver arrows. She felt a little lightheaded and insubstantial, but strangely at peace, as if the Death that she had walked with for so long was never an enemy, but a friend. She stood and look around, finding herself in the midst of a grassy field. The sky was dark with of the spirit of the night, though instinctively, Snow knew this wasn't the kind of place to have either night or day. Overhanging clouds glowed with a purple radiance, and a blue fog rose to cover the horizons. Despite the alien landscape, Snow felt unconcerned. Fear and curiosity were abstract concepts without a body to feel them, though part of her wondered without real heart whether she could find Zu here amongst the dead.

She closed her eyes and let the rain wash her spirit. Now, perhaps, rest at last. Freedom from mortal burdens, the warring desires, the coils of duty that had bound her. She felt a little sorrow for the friends she had left behind, though even that was becoming a faint memory, melting like frost in the blush of spring. She imagined her burdens as unbound shackles floating away into the darkness – and then returned.

Despair slammed into her with the force of physical blows driving her to her knees, unable to move beyond this place in time and return to the Wheel of Life. Betrayal —vengeance — pain — death — die — kill — kill — KILL! The anger and frustration of the dead threatened to swallow her whole but then peace descended. She felt the onslaught of lift as the presence of the Water Dragon surrounded her like a protective barrier.

Death has come to you, said the voice of the Goddess, faint but urgent, but life canbe regained. You must end the cycle that was broken and send us all on the path to rebirth. Snow opened her eyes tentatively, disoriented by the attack The overwhelming feelings of desolation were held back by the Water Dragon's grace.

I will guide you to through the madness to the light. Follow the pillar of light. She found the column of light the Water Dragon spoke of and started towards it, drawn despite herself, her feet moving her to the luminescent pillar as if walking in a dream.

Your master betrayed you, as he once betrayed his brother. A revenge years in the planning. He trained you to fight a tyrant, but with a flaw. He wanted you vulnerable in your moment of triumph.

Snow's legs propelled her without her bidding through the silver rain which sleeked down her shoulders, down her body. She let her feet guide her, not really sure what awaited her ahead. She tried to recall the events that led her to this place. Master Li… struck me down. Master Li… Anger burned within her, not for his betrayal, but for her own blindness and failure to see the inevitable. He raised me better than this, even if that wasn't his intention. Dawn Star didn't want to believe, but I should have known better. I had suspicions when so many things didn't add up, why didn't I pursue the answers? Why didn't I act on my instincts? The questions stung in her mind, and there was only one answer: I let personal feelings cloud my judgment. My failure, she thought, has now put everyone in jeopardy. She hated the thought. She had never asked for any of this. The memory of her failures was painful, but the Water Dragon's next words interrupted her self-berating.

The Dragon Amulet is in his hands, reassembled. He will consume my essence… but all is not lost.You are not yet lost to the living. Her hand instinctively went to her throat; the Dragon Amulet was gone. She made the wry observation that despite death, she still retained her human form.

The pillar grew closer and she could see that it extended from a raised stone dais in the center of the field. Along either side lay the desiccated forms of fallen spirits and forgotten war machines, rusted and reclaimed by whatever nature there was to be found in this realm.

Up close, the dais was much larger than it had seemed. The entire structure rose some fifteen feet into the air and stretched perhaps thirty feet across, and each step was a good foot tall. Snow thought she'd be winded by the trip across the meadow and up the steep stairs, but when she finally arrived at the top, she found that she had no breath to lose. On the opposite side of the platform was a swirling blue and purple gate contained in the carved mouth of a dragon. On the floor were various carvings and symbols inlaid in jet that Snow did not recognize and could not read. As she turned her gaze around, the Water Dragon appeared before her in a blaze of azure flame.

Light glimmered around the goddess who floated before her, scaled hands folded into the voluminous blue robes that she wore in her human incarnation. She seemed more solid here than in the visions in the world of the living. Perhaps the death of Sun Hai had restored some of the Water Dragon's power.

"Where am I?" Snow blurted, and though she already knew, she found it a little hard to hold onto solid thoughts as her memories of what had happened flitted too quickly through her mind, darting like shoals in a stream.

You are dead. You are in what is – was – the memory of the fields of the Imperial Palace. Here, in the Spirit Realm, they still remember the essence of what they once were: fields of blood, loss, and battle.

"How is it that I still retain my human form? Why am I not a floating spirit, like the others?"

The soul holds onto its form, even after death. The souls who have lost their forms are mindless, driven mad in my absence. They lose their purpose and will without guidance, without rebirth.

"As I will." Snow said, looking down at her transparent fingers. She could see the stones of the dais through them. "Mindlessness. I guess that's not so bad."

No. Your master now claims the throne and my power. He will rule as a god… unless he is stopped. In the momentbefore Li claimed my power, I was able to summon you here. I must send you to Dirge to cleanse the fountains there.

"Another task? But why me? Why not Dawn Star, or Sun Lian – they are both capable warriors and leaders. And still alive."

The Water Dragon looked at her with eyes filled with ancient pain. Snow felt the heaviness of that gaze echoed in the heaviness of her heart, though feebly, she protested, "I am so very tired, Goddess. I have walked the breadth of the Empire, I have walked through the realms of demons and gods, and I have ridden from the borders to the Imperial Palace itself for you. I have defeated the Emperor and been defeated in turn. Is that not enough? Please, let me rest."

There are wheels that turn within wheels and deeper fires within. You must, because you are the only one in this world, in this time, who can restore the way of things. Harmony must be returned. Do not think that you are the only one who has been set upon this path. There have been others who did not… choose as well as you.

"I'm dead," said Snow, "how much worse off could we be?"

I do not have the strength to answer… My power here is weak, but there may yet be hope, though nothing is without its price. Your time here has been wrongly stolen. Set right what has been undone and take back the time you lost. I will open a portal for you to follow. Quickly, I cannot hold the gate open long… Unngh…

The purple and blue-tinged gate behind the Water Dragon glowed even brighter, almost too bright to look at. The spirit shook with effort, and in the fraction of an instant Snow's future ran through her mind — stay here and become an unfeeling but blessedly mindless spirit, or return to the world which held those she loved and the burdens she had finally escaped. Time to make up for what I lost… but to have to fight Master Li… She didn't want to decide.

You don't deserve to feel sorry for yourself.

In the next instant Snow was running forward, racing against the Water Dragon's faltering strength as the portal began to close. She leapt, diving head-first into the swirling uncertain future of the spirit gate.

Footnotes:

1) For the purpose of this fanfiction, the main character of this story is named "Monshuiye" or "Dreaming Snow" in the Old Fan. An alternate interpretation of this name could be "Dream of Blood," as the two words are homophonic in the old tongue. (I made that last part up. "Dream" and "Blood" are actually just homophonic in Mandarin Chinese.)


11/3/05 Thanks for reading! It's my first online submission, I'm so thrilled/embarrassed to submit here, but mostly I'm just glad I wrote something. If you enjoyed it, please leave a note. It's hard to tell whether people read your work or not on this forum (no visitor counters — why no counters?) but I at least hope I've entertained a few readers as much as some of the other fanfiction writers have entertained me. Thanks for getting here!

Oh, and because it's fashionable (and more or less polite) to point out that fanfiction writers don't own the intellectual property on the licensed characters they're taking licenses with, I don't own the intellectual property on the characters of Jade Empire that I'm taking licenses with. But I'd happily donate everything I write to Bioware and whoever cares to use it, free of charge and lawsuits. I'd give it to you in writing too, except that I don't think anyone would care. :-)