A/N My first proper Kung Fu Panda story, I've already written several chapters for this so it should get regular updates. This is the prologue, introducing our main bad guys... I don't want to reveal too much, but I'm definetly going to be adding quite a few twists and surprises to this particular tale...
The Price of Peace
The Dai Feng Horde
The name of the Dai Feng Horde had long been a name whispered with fear in China. Over the centuries their power has waxed and waned and many great conquerors and warlords have had use of the army. That was until the Dai Feng Horde was almost obliterated in the legendary Battle of the Pass of The Twelve Serpents when the Emperor led the entire Imperial Army and all of the Kung Fu Masters of China in an all-out assault on the Dai Feng.
Very few survived the slaughter, but those that did burned for revenge.
For almost a hundred years afterwards the Dai Feng would be reduced to little more than a loose collection of bandit groups and raider bands with many would-be warlords and bandit-kings more often fighting each other than fighting to restore the glory of the Horde.
This changed with the coming of the Black Queen… Juan Tian Meng.
A mysterious figure in a black cloak and cowl that simply appeared one day and killed the leader of a small bandit gang in single combat, she seized control of the bandits and led them in numerous successful raids against the richer villages of the outer provinces of China. Slowly, she expanded her influence and many smaller bandit groups and mercenaries flocked to join her. For five years she expanded her bandit clan and waged a bloody, ruthless campaign to unite the disparate clans of the Dai Feng under her iron fist.
Now, for the first time in almost a hundred years, the Dai Feng are once more united under a single banner. Now they seek to reclaim the glory of their past, they wish to make the name Dai Feng a word of fear once more. Juan Tian Meng is determined to carve out her own empire… and now she is finally ready to march upon China and burn Chang'an to the ground and usher in a new age, a new empire… the Empire of the Dai Feng!
The Divine War-Queen of the Invincible Dai Feng Hordes was bent over a map of China that was spread upon a rough wooden table with a candle next to it casting its soft golden glow upon the War-Queen, her body obscured by a heavy black cloak that she never took off. What she looked like was a matter of speculation and rumour amongst her subjects but one that, if pursued too closely, would only result in death.
Nobody looked upon the War-Queen's face and lived to tell of it.
At this moment the leader of the nomadic army was plotting her future conquests. "Chang'an… the Emperor's city." She murmured, "The Imperial Army defends it well, it would be costly to strike it."
"The Imperial Army is of no consequence, O Great Queen, they pose no threat to your forces, for they have lost but a single battle in all their history." A deceptively soft, subservient voice said from behind her.
"And that one battle almost destroyed them." The War-Queen said.
"If I may?" The other asked, maintaining a low, respectful tone.
"Of course Yin." Juan Tian Meng said, gesturing to the map, "What would you suggest?"
A female feline her fur black and grey with ever shifting patterns, like shadows, stepped into the candlelight, but this odd fur colouration was not her most striking feature. That would be her eyes. They were golden orbs with the slit-like pupil of all felines, however the irises were definitely an abnormal colour. They were pure white, the colour of death but despite this it was obvious that Yin was not blind.
Yin bent over the map and pointed to a remote region on China's far northern border, "Kung Fu has always been China's greatest defence. Remove it and China will fall. Destroy its great Masters and China will be demoralised, for what hope do common soldiers have against a force that destroyed their most glorious and most sacred of martial arts?"
"The Valley of Peace?" Juan Tian Meng asked thoughtfully, "The birthplace of Kung Fu where Grand Master Oogway resides."
"No longer. Oogway died a year ago, just before Tai Lung returned to the Valley of Peace."
"Tai Lung?" The War-Queen asked, "He would be a powerful ally…"
"He too is dead, slain by the Dragon Warrior using a forbidden Kung Fu technique, the Wuxi Fingerhold." Yin said, a frown on her face, "My spies also report that he has recently been to Gongmen City where he destroyed a powerful weapon and its inventor. A weapon that could kill anyone, even a Kung Fu Master such as Thundering Rhino."
"And yet this Dragon Warrior destroyed it?" Juan Tian Meng asked in surprise.
"He used Kung Fu to destroy a weapon designed to destroy Kung Fu." Yin said, "A most impressive feat. If his victories over Lord Shen and Tai Lung are any indication the Dragon Warrior will be the one they send against you if you move on Chang'an. It would be… prudent to neutralise him."
"Then it is clear we must destroy the Valley of Peace before we move on China." Meng said, her hood moving up and down as she nodded, "Very well. You and your acolytes are to go to the Valley of Peace and assess its defences and the skills of its defenders, especially the Dragon Warrior. Kill him if you can but remain unseen."
"Yes, Majesty." Yin said, bowing, "And the rest of the Dai Feng?"
"I will send the vanguard to deal with the Valley of Peace. They will scatter into small war-bands and disguise themselves as mercenaries and bandits once we reach the more heavily populated provinces. They will make their way separately to the Valley of Peace and mass… here." She pointed to a region within the mountains surrounding the Valley, "It will take several months but we will be in an excellent position to attack the Valley. We will use the Valley as our base of operations, from there we will strike at the rest of China, the vanguard will attack from the north whilst the rest of the Horde makes its way deeper into China by stealth before revealing themselves. If all goes to plan Chang'an will be in my hands before the first winter snows."
"My students and I shall leave at once. We will infiltrate the Valley and spy upon them until you send word of your arrival." Yin said, "If that is all, Great Queen?"
Juan Tian Meng lazily waved an obscured limb, "You may withdraw."
Yin bowed once again and backed away, careful not to turn her back on the War-Queen. Once she was safely outside she turned her gaze onto the ocean of tents that was the encampment of the vast Dai Feng Horde and vanished into the nomadic city. It took her a full hour to reach the encampment's outer edge where she and her students had set up their own tents. The rest of the Dai Feng were nervous around the spies and assassins and few wished to have the vicious killers anywhere near the places where they slept. Their location was not out of consideration for the Dai Feng soldiery, however, but a tactical decision; being on the edge meant that they could make a quick getaway if events shifted out of their favour.
Gathered in front of her tent were three other felines all dressed in black, when they saw Yin approach they all bowed, "Mistress." One said respectfully as she bowed, this was Lian, a cream-and-white coloured mountain cat female and Yin's protégé. "What news from the War-Queen?"
"We are to go ahead of the army and observe the Valley of Peace and begin undermining its defences, this will continue until the bulk of our vanguard forces arrive." Yin said, "Our primary task will be to gather information on the Dragon Warrior and the Furious Five."
"She's attacking the Valley of Peace? Has she gone mad!?" Asked Wei, a clouded leopard and the youngest but largest member of the group, "How are the Dai Feng going to cross the Thread of Hope?"
"That is why we are going!" Yin snapped, "We are to find a way."
"I know the Valley of Peace, I visited there once a long time ago. It is isolated, remote and the Thread of Hope is the only safe access route. There are passages through the mountains but they are dangerous and often frequented by bandits." Qiang, Wei's elder though smaller brother, said, "They have few guards; they leave the protection of the Valley to the Furious Five."
Yin nodded, "I see. Let us break camp we have a long journey ahead of us. It is two month's travel to the nearest access point to the Thread of Hope bridge network and it will take another month to cross to the Valley of Peace."
"The army will take the rest of the year to travel that distance without using the Thread of Hope!" Wei protested.
"The army is splitting into smaller groups, they will move faster and more quietly this way." Yin said, "We will have at best three months in the Valley until the rest of the Horde arrives."
"Six months." Wei said disgustedly, "That place must be a bloody backwater."
"It is remote." Yin said, "Were you not listening?" She shook her head, "Come we will need all the time we can get in the Valley of Peace to gather intelligence, we must travel quickly."
It took less than half an hour for the four felines to pack away their few belongings and their tents. Before an hour had passed the four assassins had vanished from the Dai Feng encampment leaving no trace they had ever been there.
A/N I know this cahpter was short, but it is a prologue! Anyway, please read and review it, and check out my other stories if you can!