Bill Meilen
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crouched as though half expecting a blow, out of respect for the warriorhood of his young master.

Sun stopped at the narrow entrance to the moongate, smiling. He swung the small door open, inhaled. “None. You have done enough. Stay here in the house with the other valuables.” Then he was gone quickly into deep shadows under the conifers, and a sad silence fell over the red-eyed servant, who did not move for some time, listening. Under the trees, the hot air was heavy with resin. The furtive movement of pine needles could be heard as they were shifted deep in the warm green gloom. Otherwise, even the birds were silent, as they always were when danger threatened the valley of Hai Ping.

From high on the face of the escarpment, Sun watched as a glint of light flashed twice far below, to be quickly followed by other flashes. They are coming up the trail! Well, we are ready for them if they are looking to steal, whoever they may be! He knew his men were in their commanding positions along the escarpment top, all the way down into the valley, and anyone with bad intentions stood small chance of surviving once they had passed the point from which the first signal had come.

Sun saw something moving through the trees of the gully far below. Drawing a toothed disk from a vest pocket, he set it between his fingers, clenched his teeth, and hurried towards the edge of the rocky ledge to give himself a clear throwing field. A hundred feet below, on the steep trail carved hundreds of years ago into the natural rock of the mountain, he saw two mounted men in gray government uniforms emerge from the trees that had previously shrouded them from his view. He watched them dismount and tether their reins to bushes before undertaking the steep rocky incline to the crest on foot. An officer and a soldier. Armed. But they are coming up alone! Unprotected. Why?! Sun’s face tightened in resolution. Government or not, I trust nobody who comes to this valley uninvited. I am the only ‘government’ here! If they bear bad news or have bad intentions, they are walking dead men. I will hurl them from this cliff!