Bill Meilen
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The oak and the willow
Can never be enemies.
One has its roots in water
The other is king of the hill.
While oakwood makes the hardest club,
The oak knows arrows leave a willow bow
Faster than a man can move.
Chang Suey-sun

SUN was furious at the disturbance of this fine new day by the appearance of strange troops in his family valley. As he swept into the dooryard, the clustered warriors of the family Chang noted the flaring nostrils, the skin drawn tight over his high bold cheekbones, and drew themselves respectfully to attention. They were dressed in the traditional felt helmet, cotton tunic, short felt jerkin, bound trousers, and tall felt boots of the people of the high mountains, yet each carried a firearm of some kind. Among their weaponry were percussion pistols, Lee Enfield rifles and shotguns, weapons ancient and modern. One warrior carried a longbow across his back, with a quiver of well-feathered arrows, while a companion bore a new Thompson ‘Trench Broom’ with a drum magazine.

Sun moved fast towards them, smooth as a cat, authority darting from his eyes. His instructions to them were clear and precise. Old Chen smiled and bowed, delighted to see the old warlord spirit in the Second Young Master.

As Sun barked orders to his men, Chen admired his feline movements, the power of command that sent men to the positions they were trained to defend with a smile on their resolute faces. The various defence groups melted away in ordered directions, some to make first contact with the approaching soldiers, others to enfilade them with ready-placed automatic weaponry. The Chang house, with its commanding position and difficult approaches, could be made impregnable against any attacking army using only a dozen men.

Sun was in command of many more. Those who had been in the dooryard were his officers, trained mountain fighters. He watched them depart to their stations. When only Old Chen and Sun were left standing on the beaten earth of the yard, silence resettled on the two men. Sun strode to and fro a few times, kicking at a wandering chicken. Chen waited, watching the pacing of his master. He is as lithe and warlike as a General! He has the power of the mountain tiger in him! I can see his mind working. He has our men in position. If there is trouble, they know what to do. The women and children are now safely in the caves. He took a respectful step forward, bowing. “Second Young Master,” he queried, “if I could respectfully venture a word?”

Sun straightened, staring at him. “Yes!” he moved towards the moongate, steps firm and measured. Old Chen trotted beside him. “The women and children are all hidden away. Which position will I defend?” He moved