While I’m between fantasy movies, I figured this was a good place for some shameless self-promotion and a Hail Mary Pass, as it were, since my novel is a fantasy novel. This is a short story I had published in the online magazine Quantum Muse in 2004, I think. Quantum Muse doesn’t keep archives that far back, so I think it’s okay for me to re-print the story here as long as I acknowledge Quantum Muse was the first to publish it. Anyway, please read and enjoy. And if you do enjoy it, please go to the Smashwords link and check out my stuff. Also, visit my Facebook page and click if you Like me!
It was a moonless night in the city of Boredtown.
The novice nervously approached Qi Lo-Nee, the Great Teacher. He was seated in the lotus position. The student bowed down. “Master.”
“All the others are asleep. I was surprised to find you awake. I apologize for intruding. There are… noises outside our gates. It sounds as though an animal is being torn apart,” he said nervously.
The wizened old man opened his eyes. “Come, then, Brother Lee. We shall see what is at our gates.”
“But, Master Qi, it could be dangerous.”
“Then it is dangerous. But we must see.”
They went outside the monestary and to the gates. The old man gingerly pushed them apart. “Ah, Brother Lee, come see what caused the noises that disturbed you so,” he said with a hint of a smile.
The novice cautiously poked his head out the door. A sudden growl caused him to jump, but then he looked down and saw a small bundle wrapped in a blanket in a basket. He knelt down.
“Ah, a foundling. It has been years since one of those appeared at our gates,” said Qi. “Check to see if he is healthy.”
Lee put his hand to the basket, and a not-so-tiny green clawed hand ripped through the blanket and clutched his finger tightly. “Ah, Master…” said Lee, attempting to pull his finger away.
Qi looked down with interest. “Ah, an orcling. Most interesting. It has been many years since one of those appeared at our gates.”
Lee continued to examine the baby.
“We shall train him as one of our own.”
Lee’s face assumed a puzzled expression.
“Orclings are difficult to discipline, but they learn. He should make an excellent student.”
“He should have plenty of stamina.”
“Master…” Lee said, picking up the basket.
“And he should have plenty of strength.”
“Master…” Lee said more insistantly.
“Hopefully he will have the intellectual capacity to fully understand our teachings.”
“Yes, student?” said Qi, slightly irritated.
“Master, I apologize, but he is not a he. He is a she.”
“He is a she? It has been many, many years since a female was left at our gates. But a female orc? This, my son, is a first for us. Come, bring her in. She must be hungry.”
And so the little orc was brought into the monestary. With her dark green hair and lighter green skin, the monks gave her the name of Jade, and let her choose her own name later. The monks were delighted at having a child among them, and the novices were often stuck with the task of taking care of her. She grew somewhat faster than an ordinary human child. Teething was awful, as her tusks ripped through normal teething toys, so she eventually just chewed on a piece of leather. The terrible twos started before she was actually two, due to her more rapid growth, and were truly terrible, as she had a lot of energy and tended to be implusive and clumsy, and violent when angry. She was punished rather a lot for her violent behavior.
Qi and another master were mediating when the green orcling ran in front of them and into the next room, screaming delightedly.
“Jade appears to be calmer today.”
There was a crash and an ear-spliting wail. “Indeed. However, she really ought to learn not to run on a freshly waxed floor,” said the other master, wincing.
“Jade, come here,” called Qi.
The rather large toddler shuffled into the room.
“Are you injured, child?”
“I sipped an’ ran inna the waw,” she answered, making her yellow eyes look as big and innocent as possible.
“Are you supposed to be running?”
“No,” she muttered sullenly.
“Then why were you breaking the rules?”
“You see, Master Shang, the child does not even know why she takes an action. Therefore she cannot yet learn the consequences.” He turned his attention back to the orcling. “Very well, Jade, stand in the corner, silently, until I ask you again why you were breaking the rules.”
“I don’ wanna.”
“Then stand right there. And you must also tell me why one does not defy the Master.”
She pouted, but stood there. And stood there. And stood there.
The monks mediated.
Jade yawned, her eyelids drooping.
“Why were you breaking the rules, Jade?” asked Qi.
“‘Cause the lessons were boring an’ I wanna to go outside an’ play.”
“Why are you taking lessons?”
“To learn of the paf of en…en-light-en-men-t. To learn the way of dis’pline. To wok the paf of the tiger,” she answered, furrowing her brow to get the words out right.
“Why does one not defy the Master?”
“To gain wisdom one must learn to listen, ‘specially to those who are wiser.”
“Very well, Jade. Return to your lessons.”
She bowed to the masters and walked out.
It was Jade’s second birthday, as far as the monks could tell. She was making some progress in her training, and they had found that although she was young and clumsy, the physical training did much to tame her temper. She was dressed in a little pink dress with her dark green hair in pigtails. The whole effect was rather cute, in a strange way.
“And I get a whole hour to play outside?” she asked, her hawk-like yellow eyes wide.
“Yes,” said Qi.
The orcling ran outside. “Wheee!”
“And we get an hour without having to discipline her,” said Shang with a sigh.
“She is coming along,” said Qi.
“Your patience is to be admired, Lo-Nee,” said Shang.
“She shows at least average intelligence. This is good,” said another master, Cham. “She will in due course learn to read and write Common.”
Jade’s attention was captured by a very lovely butterfly. She began to follow it over the grounds.
“She is very hardy. She is young and uncoordinated, but she can keep up with the novices in their beginner lessons,” said master Bill.
“Bu’fly,” said Jade, running to keep up with it. “Come here, li’l bu’fly.”
“And she can take much punishment,” said Shang wryly.
“She is a stubborn child,” said Qi with a smile.
“Bu’fly,” called Jade, ceasing to pay attention to where she was going, and was now running heedlessly over the grounds.
Brother Lee walked over to the masters.
“Do you think she has the discipline?” asked Shang.
“She is an intelligent child,” answered Qi.
Her path led her through the Garden of Harmony, which was a rock garden with the sand carefully raked to show the lines of ki in the universe, now interrupted by orcling footprints.
“But what of her nature?” asked Cham.
“She is a gentle child, at heart,” answered Qi.
“Bu’fly.” She tripped over three one-hundred year old painstakingly grown bonzai trees and ripped them out of the ground.
“What of her impulsiveness?” asked Bill.
“She is an enthusastic child,” answered Qi.
She clambered up the Fountain of Tranquility, which was created out of layers of sculpted and carefully placed rock. Her claws scored into the rock and dislodged a piece or two. “Bu’fly.”
“Masters, what of the mess she is making?” Lee asked worriedly.
The monks turned to look.
Jade was perched atop the Fountain, with a butterfly sitting on her nose. “Pretty bu’fly,” she said. It flapped its wings slowly, just once, then took off. “Bye-bye bu’fly,” she called.
The others gave Qi a quizzical look.
“She is a chaotic child,” said Qi with a sigh. “But we will turn her energy to focusing on the path, and she will make a fine monk.”
The others looked skeptical.
“If you can do it, then you truly are a great teacher,” said Shang.
“Jade, come here,” called Qi.
Jade looked around, startled. She climbed down the fountain and approached the monks. Her dress was soaked and torn from climbing around on the rocks. She had scratches on her legs from tripping over the bonzais. Her feet were coated in sand from walking back through the Garden with wet feet.
“Jade, what have you done?”
“I was chasin’ a bu’fly,” she said, picking a twig of bonzai out of her dress.
Shang winced. He remembered grooming those trees as a novice.
“And look at the mess you made.”
She took a look behind her. “Oh. Oops. Sorry.”
“Stand here, Jade.”
“Yus, Master,” she said sullenly.
“You will stand there until the damage is repaired, do you understand?”
Jade stood there for three days as monks busily worked to re-root the trees to save them, rake the sand out, and sculpt the scars out of the fountain.
“Have you learned your lesson, Jade?” said Qi.
“Very well. Go inside and get some food.”
She bowed and slowly walked inside.
By the time Jade was in her seventh year with the monks, she was proficient in Common, and had surprised her masters by showing above average intelligence. She had started to learn the more difficult languages of High Elven and Dwarven. She was an orange belt, and steadily working her way up.
“Master,” said Jade one day, bowing to Qi.
“Why am I different?”
“Well, I’m… I’m green, Master,” she said, exercising patience for what she felt ought to be perfectly obvious.
“Yes, you are.”
“But what does it mean?”
“It means only as much as you want it to mean.”
Jade counted to ten, as she had been taught to do when she felt her temper rise. “What I am, Master?”
“You are a monk.”
“Not like you.”
“No. You are but a novice.”
Jade counted to twenty. “I’m not like you. Physically I mean. I’m green. I have tusks.”
“It makes no difference to us.”
“But it may make a difference when I begin to travel the world on my path to enlightenment.”
Qi opened his eyes and looked at her. “This is true. You are an orc, child. A female orc.”
“Like the creatures that constantly try to invade from the other side of the Spine of the World?”
“Yes. And no.”
She counted to thirty. “I don’t understand.”
“You are an orc in that you are physically like those creatures. You are not an orc in that you are civilized and intelligent. You are what is termed on the outside as a half-orc.”
“Are there others like me?”
“There are no others just like you.”
She counted to forty. “Are there other half-orcs on the outside?”
“Are they treated as regular orcs?”
“No. But they may or may not be treated well. Most on the outside cannot get past the physical appearence to understand it is what is inside that is important.” He closed his eyes again. “I suggest you pay careful attention to your lessons so you will be prepared when you leave us for the outside.”
“Thank you, Master,” she said, bowing, and went to practice.
It was Jade’s fifteenth birthday.
“Today, child, you will be allowed to choose your name,” said Qi.
“I have a name.”
“It is the name we gave you, to identify you. My given name is of course, Qi. The name you choose is your personal name. My personal name is Lo-Nee.”
“What does it mean?”
“Great teacher. It embodies the kind of monk I thought I was, as well the kind of monk I would strive to be.”
“You thought you were a great teacher at fifteen?” asked Jade.
“I started my training later in life than you did, and I was much older than you when I reached this stage of my training.”
“Masters, all of you choose your names like this?”
“Yes,” said Bill, “my personal name, Lotus, embodies the kind of monk I already was, as well as the kind of monk I could be.”
“I am so young yet. I’m not sure I know who I am, much less what kind of monk I wish to be.”
“You show wisdom, child,” said Qi, pleased.
“I would like to meditate on this, Masters. Such an important decision should not be rushed into.”
“Very well, child. We will await your decision,” said Qi, and the masters adjourned to the monestary.
Jade took up the lotus position in a designated spot between the Garden of Harmony and the Fountain of Tranquility. She sat there for two days.
“Masters,” she said, bowing.
They opened their eyes and turned their attention to her. “Have you chosen, child?” asked Qi.
“Then what is your personal name?”
“My name shall be… Butterfly.”
They blinked in mild surprise. “Why have you chosen this name?”
“A butterfly is a creature of transformation, a gentle creature, full of life and energy. It seems fragile, but must be rather hardy to survive being thrown about in the winds of the world. And when a butterfly flaps its wings, storms are generated on the other side of the world, for a butterfly is chaos. I have learned much in my time here, and I will do my best to follow the path to enlightenment, but I must not forgot who and what I am, at heart. For I am the butterfly – energetic, hardy, chaotic, but I have learned to use my chaos, to redirect the storms I generate to lawful ends, to transform myself as I have progressed along my path, to transform further as I continue my path.”
The masters looked at each other and nodded slowly in agreement.
“Very well, child. Your choice is wise. You are Brother Jade Butterfly,” said Qi. “We rejoice, for today you have taken your first full steps along the path of the tiger.”
Jade bowed. “Thank you, Master.”