GENRE: Adult Historical Fantasy
Liu Bei raced into the peach orchard after his son.
The moon’s full, bony face lit their path and the smell of autumn and sour wine rose from slippery peaches beneath Bei’s feet. Leaves chattered on branches, sounding like a shallow stream. Like the river that brings the dead to hell. Did his ghosts crowd him now?
“Quick, Papa! Someone's lying on the ground!” Shan gestured ahead.
Bei’s robes slapped against his legs. Hurry, hurry!
Each cold breath was a visible, white dash before he reached the garden. At last, Bei slid to his knees.
Moonlight dappled the hollow cheeks and blue lips of an emaciated teenage boy. Bei put his ear to the boy’s chest and heard unsure air squeaking from the child’s lips.
“Shan, he’s alive. Run and beg the innkeeper for hot water. I’ll follow you.”
Shan sprinted toward the inn.
Liu Bei cradled the child and ran as memories burst in upon him.
Twelve years ago he’d heard the river of the dead. He looked at the bony child in his arms, but didn't see him.
Bei saw Jiao and Jun – his sons. Their eyes were open and clear in the moonlight. Clear and accusing.
“Why did you fail us, Papa?”
He sobbed. They had not asked him that in a long time. He thought they’d forgiven him. Maybe they had, but he couldn’t. He’d promised his wife he’d try. But Liu Bei lived in his past with his guilt and two dead children.