GENRE: Historical Fantasy
Liu Pei raced into the peach orchard after his son – his only living child.
The moon’s full, bony face lit their path and the smell of autumn and sour wine rose from slippery peaches beneath Pei’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.
Pei’s robes slapped against his legs. Hurry, hurry!
Each cold breath was a visible, white dash before he reached the garden. At last, Pei slid to his knees.
Moonlight dappled the hollow cheeks and blue lips of an emaciated teenage boy. Pei 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 Pei 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.
Pei saw his sons. Their eyes were open and clear in the moonlight. Clear and accusing.
“Why did you fail us, Papa?”