Song of Silver, Flame Like Night by Amélie Wen Zhao

Song of Silver, Flame Like Night by Amélie Wen Zhao

Author:Amélie Wen Zhao [Zhao, Amélie Wen]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Published: 2023-01-03T00:00:00+00:00

Kingdom before life, honor into death.

—Grandmaster of the School of Guarded Fists, Elantian Age, Cycle II

Zen handed Lan the three sticks of incense. Their flared tips were the only source of light, casting the chamber in an eerie red. A shiver ran up Lan’s spine. She felt certain that she was on the precipice of parting a veil that had been cast onto her life since the Elantians invaded. Her mother’s death, the Winter Magician’s search, the half-forgotten song, the echo of her mother’s imprint…All of it had led here.

She watched Zen steeple his fingers. “I thought Spirit Summoning was only passed down through a clan.”

“You speak of the Chó clan,” Zen said. “You are correct in that Spirit Summoning is their specialty—this art of practitioning is passed down through their bloodline. But they taught it to disciples from outside their clan at the School of the Peaceful Light throughout the First and Middle Kingdom periods.”

“What happened after?” She had an idea, already, of the next part of the story.

“It became outlawed by the Imperial Court at the beginning of the Last Kingdom. The emperors kept a select few Spirit Summoners from the Chó clan at court and massacred all other known summoners. Tai is the last of his clan, as far as we know.” There was a hardness to Zen’s tone. “The regulations are not without reason—those well versed in the arts of summoning could find powerful spirits lurking and bind their powers to them.” His eyes narrowed. “I believe there is a ghost tethered to this chamber, holding a powerful Seal in place. It wants something. I will attempt to summon it.”

Lan looked around the empty chamber, too dark and too still. There again, that sense of something waiting in the shadows. Watching them. “Is there a way to summon a soul…from the world beyond?”

Zen’s gaze softened with understanding. “No,” he said. “The souls that have passed on are gone, never to be called back. Common folk believe that souls pass through the River of Forgotten Death to be washed of their memories; the truth is, the qì that formed one’s core simply dissipates, becoming one with the wind, the rain, the clouds, and the world all around us.

“What Tai did earlier was to gather the imprint of your mother’s qì that her soul had left while in this world. Echoes, footprints, if you will, of what they once were. But unless a soul is tethered to this world as a guǐ or mó, all that we see of them are reflections of them when they were alive.”

Lan looked away.

“Lan,” Zen said gently, and when she met his gaze, she had the feeling he was looking straight into her heart. “Be glad the souls of those you love have passed beyond the River of Forgotten Death. For a soul to remain tethered to this world after death…is worse than an eternity of suffering.”

With that, he began to draw. The characters for this Seal were far more complicated than any she had previously seen Zen perform.


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