THE BURNING BANDIT
The Burning Bandit is the story of two boys, whose past and present are entwined by destiny and shattered by betrayal. The world is governed by Chi, the use of the spiritual arts, and the manipulation of the four elements: Water, Earth, Fire, and Air.
Rayan is the son of a powerful family. His mother complains he is too gentle and full of Water. With grit and determination, he becomes a brilliant warrior, and eventually the General.
Kai is captured as a prisoner of war and joins Rayan’s training camp as a child, where he is trained in the spiritual arts. He is stubborn and forceful like the Earth. He becomes the High Priest, a feared figure, a treacherous spy, and loyal to the Empress.
The Empress is emboldened by power and fueled by rage. Upon the mysterious death of her husband, she rules The Palace of Supreme Opulence alone, challenged by no one, and served by her General and High Priest. That is until the General’s strange disappearance, which sets them all on a magical adventure…
For the first time in years, the anger, and the resentment, which had been tying him up in knots was finally loosening. Kai felt as though he had emptied the deep and engrained bitterness and confusion to the bottom of the mines. There was a void where they used to be. Dark and gaping.
It was grief.
Yet he felt lighter. He felt free. He had remembered himself in the end. He had remembered he was a farm boy who had almost reached the stars. He was a farm boy who could heal his animals and make the flowers grow.
He only wished his journey had not caused so much destruction, that he had not been so foolish. He would regret it forever.
Aside from the new Empress’s contingent, the palace was empty.
It was decimated.
Kai and Rayan walked through its still smoking skeleton, their steps echoing in the silence. Kai knew where Rayan was going. Home at last. Where he had always belonged.
Kai didn’t belong anywhere.
“Are you coming?” asked Rayan, as though reading his thoughts.
“You expelled me from The Heart of the Valley, remember?” he reminded him, with a quirk of his brow. He could hardly show his face – his real one – to Rayan’s family now.
But Rayan laughed, the sound echoing. “I remember.”
They looked at each other. Kai felt a spark—a shiver of warning – his Chi calling to him. There was something in the shadows, but it was not his leopard. It was not Shadow.
“Do you sense that?” asked Kai, turning.
“I do,” muttered Rayan, drawing his sword. The shapes stepped into the light. People, guards, bearing the symbol of the Empress. It seemed the new Empress was not a woman of her word. There were dozens, surrounding them.
They were wielding swords and drawing arrows.