“Suyin,” Dragonhand said. “When I welcomed you into my clan, I did so with doubt.”
“Because of my humanity?” Suyin asked.
“Because of your allegiance,” Dragonhand answered. “Is it to me or to the Sisterhood of the Flame?”
Suyin cocked her head to one side. “It can’t be to both?”
“Have you ever known me to be adept at sharing?” Dragonhand asked.
Suyin brushed her hand against her master’s ruined face. “No master, but there’s plenty of me to go around.”
Dragonhand pushed the sorceress’ hand away. “I have come too far only to have the witches you answer to steal my victory from me.”
“The sisterhood only seeks chaos, master,” Suyin said. “When the world burns, we are pleased.”
“And if it ever comes down to me or them?” Dragonhand asked.
“Why, you of course,” Suyin replied. “Have I ever given you a reason to doubt my loyalty?”
“Hmm,” Dragonhand grunted. “No.”
“Have you not benefitted from my wise counsel?” Suyin asked.
“I have,” Dragonhand said. “And I need it now.”
“Certainly,” Suyin said. “What troubles you?”
“I have spent the past two decades defeating the greatest kung fu masters in all of China,” Dragonhand said. “I have devoured their brains and made their knowledge mine. The Steadfast Master. The Resplendent Master. The Triumphant Master. The Reluctant Master. The Astute Master. The Clever Master…”
Suyin carried on with Dragonhand’s resume. “The Studious Master. The Morose Master. The Nimble Master. The Uncanny Master. The Humble Master.”
“And now the Vengeful Master,” Dragonhand said. “Surely now I am ready take my rightful place upon the Dragon Throne.”
“The brains of the fallen masters have made you very powerful indeed,” Suyin said.
“And now the Emperor’s brain is ripe for the chomping,” Dragonhand said. “When I rip his brain out of his head, all of China will be mine.”
“Yes,” Suyin said. “But you know as well as I, my lord, that a most formidable brain stands between you and the Emperor’s brain.”
“Who would dare come between me and the brain I desire?” Dragonhand asked.
“The Infallible Master,” Suyin said.
“Ha,” Dragonhand said. “I have already mastered the Sacred Yet Inscrutable Tiger Claw. The Infallible Master’s brain is useless to me. That old fool is nothing.”
“And yet, with the Staff of Ages, he is everything,” Suyin said.
“Ahh, that cheap bauble,” Dragonhand said. “I have no use for it. Eternal life is already mine.”
Suyin raised a quizzical eyebrow. “Is it?”
“But is it?”
“How is it not?” Dragonhand asked.
“Yes, you will live forever in this undead state, my lord,” Suyin said. “But would you not prefer to live forever as a handsome, healthy, virile man again?”
Dragonhand pondered the question. “Indeed I would, but the Staff of Ages has a mind of its own. It would never allow me to use its power and even if it would, it would only keep me alive for a time period of its choosing.”
Suyin raised her hand and set it ablaze. The low flames crackled before Dragonhand’s eyes.
“I have learned much from the Sisterhood,” Suyin said. “Bring me the staff and I will unlock its secrets for you.”
Dragonhand shook his head. “Ahh. Your treachery reveals itself.”
“Pardon, my lord?” Suyin asked.
“All these years you stood by my side not out of allegiance to me but so I would grow strong enough to defeat the Clan of the Sacred Yet Inscrutable Tiger Claw, steal the Staff of Ages and give it to you, so that you might run off with it like a thief and turn it over to the Sisterhood of the Flame.”
The flames circling Suyin’s hand dissipated. She attempted to brush her hand up against her master’s cheek again, but before she could, her hand was seized and twisted.
The sorceress cried out in pain. “No…master! I…I’ll use my magic to deny the staff its free will.”
“To make it easier for the Sisterhood to use it against me,” Dragonhand said.
“No,” the sorceress said. “I will teach you all I know of magic so that you will be able to do all I can do and more. You will be able to wield the Staff of Ages and it will be powerless to refuse you.”
Dragonhand released Suyin. “Interesting. How long would that take?”
“For you to learn how to become a sorcerer?” Suyin asked. “At least a decade or more.”
“Bah,” Dragonhand said. “Too long.”
“But you have nothing but time,” Suyin said.
“Yes,” Dragonhand replied. “But I have very little patience.”
The fiend brushed his greasy fingers through Suyin’s hair. She smiled.
“I have another idea,” Dragonhand said. “It will be faster, but I fear I ask too much.”
“You can ask anything of me, master,” Suyin said.
Dragonhand turned away. “Anything?”
“Anything at all,” Suyin said.
“Good.” Dragonhand turned his hand into a tiger claw and before Suyin had a chance to scream, her master was ripping her brain out of her skull.
The fiend looked down at Suyin’s remains as though they were an annoyance, then sniffed his prize. He licked it. Tasted it. He took his time with it.
“There’s just something special about a good female brain,” Dragonhand said.
Lickspittle shuffled over, lugging a sack filled with brains swiped from the fallen members of the monkey slap clan.
“An excellent haul, master,” Lickspittle said. “Our warriors won’t go hungry tonight.”
The lackey noticed the sorceress’ body.
“Difference of opinion?” Lickspittle asked.
Dragonhand crunched and munched a piece of his latest victim’s gray matter between his teeth. “Not exactly. I just needed her brain more than she did.”
“I hope you’ll never get a craving for my brain, master,” Lickspittle said.
Dragonhand finished devouring his prize, then held out his hands. Instantly, they were consumed by fire.
“Don’t worry, worm. I would never want to be that stupid.”