Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Student Finds His Master

The meeting between the martial arts student and his master is a long-standing convention in movies, books, comics, and anime. It has been done countless times, from kung-fu and samurai films to Star Wars. I've written several versions of it myself, each time looking to put a bit of spin on it so it's exactly the same ... but totally different ...

Here is the latest version, from Champion of the Dead:


Saturday, Kane had gone to check out a kung-fu school over on the east side. He’d watched the class for thirty minutes, and was pretty sure he could take anybody in the place, including the teacher, so he bugged out. There was a new guitar store downtown just opened, and he wanted to cruise the place and see what gear they had, so the trip wouldn’t be a total loss.

He cut through an alley on his way back to where he had parked his car. He was in a hurry, because the meter was about to run out and he didn’t want to get a ticket, but he came to a door, painted a bright red, inset into the dirty brick.

There was a sign, a little hand-painted thing on the door.

He had no clue what it meant, but it caught his attention:

The door wasn’t locked, and when he pushed, it opened.

Place smelled like the sandalwood incense his Gram burned. She was an old hippie who never got tired of telling him how great the fucking sixties had been, must have said that a thousand times. Yeah, peace, love, harmony. Where had all that gone? They hadn’t done too good a job, the hippies. Quit too soon.

Then again, Gram had taught him how to play the guitar, and he was long past “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore,” and “Kumbayah,” so he owed her for that.

The inside walls were painted red and yellow, electrically-bright, and there was a short hallway that led to the right.

He heard some men singing -- well, droning, more like, four or five of them, and he edged toward the sound.

Around the corner, the first thing he saw was a large, blue plastic bucket full of sand, with several sticks of smoking incense stuck into it. That explained the smell.

The room was big, high ceiling, almost square, more red and yellow, and in it, there was one old man seated crosslegged on a cushion, eyes closed and mouth open, and all those voices were coming from the one old man.


Kane recognized the clothes -- a dark red robe over a yellow shirt, both sleeveless, exposing the old man’s arms. Tibetan. He had seen that movie with Keanu Reeves about Buddha, and this guy had the look, yeah, some kind of Buddhist.

He started to ease back into the hall, but the old man opened his eyes and grinned real big. Lot of smile wrinkles next to his eyes. “Ah. You have arrived!”

Well, yeah. But he must have mistaken Kane for somebody else.

The old man caught the look. “You are a warrior, right?”

Kane shrugged. “Yeah. Sort of.”

“You came for Dmag-lag-rtsal.”

Kane must have looked puzzled again. Mahg log pretzel?

“That’s what it says on the door.” More of that wrinkled smile.

Right, like he could read that shit.

The old man stood. Well, actually, he more like ... arose, straight from the crosslegged sit, floating slowly upward like smoke.

Nice move, for an old guy.

“We might as well get to it,” he said. He motioned with one hand to Kane: Come at me.


“What? You never saw a kung-fu movie? You are the young, but cocky warrior who considers himself adept at martial arts. I am the old master who can turn you inside out without raising a sweat. You attack, I demonstrate my superiority, you are then eager to become my student.” He gave Kane that big, shit-eating, really-wrinkled grin.

Kane laughed. Yeah, he had seen that one a bunch of times. Half the kung-fu movies made had that scene in them.

The old dude was nuts. He didn’t need any part of that. He shook his head. “I don’t think so.”

He turned to leave.

“Are you certain? Better check.”

Kane frowned. Check? Check what? He turned around --

The old man was gone.

“Not there, here,” he said. “Behind you.”

Kane spun, dropped into a cat-stance, his hands coming up into fists. The old man was between him and the door.

Holy shit!

“Come, come,” the old man said. Still smiling like a loon, and giving him that wave-in. “Give us a punch.”

Kane came out of his stance and lowered his hands. “If you can fucking teleport, there is no fucking way I’m swinging at you!”

“You are smarter than you look. My students sometimes call me ‘Rinpoche,’” he said. “Are you ready to learn?”

It was beyond weird, but he felt it, immediately. Whatever the hell was going on here, he had to know. Just like that. “Yeah. My name is Kane.”

“Oh, yes. I know who you are. And what.”

Sam didn’t know what that meant, but it looked like he was gonna miss the new guitar store, and get a parking ticket, too.

But, turned out he didn’t get a ticket. Karma, maybe ...


Brad said...

Enough already, I was hooked from the first excerpt you posted. Just hurry up with the darn book, okay?

Viro said...

Never trust a teleporting monk. Traveling through the 8th dimension always drives them insane.


steve-vh said...

"You are the young, but cocky warrior who considers himself adept at martial arts. I am the old master who can turn you inside out without raising a sweat."

Something pretty damn close to this happens to me with Mushtaq at least once a month.
You gotta webcam at Pippin's?

What drew him to notice the red door?

VC said...

I have a funny feeling that when this one comes out I'm going to be up all night cussing and swearing about having to be up early to get to work.

Stop wasting time sleeping and WRITE! ! !

How does one get to be a proofreader? Bribery? Flattery? Free dog food?

Steve Perry said...

What drew him to notice the door?

Fate ...

As for Mushtaq, was it the shit-eating, really-wrinkled grin that made you think that ... ? I mean, he's not *that* old. Maybe ...

Steve Perry said...

This is the current front-burner book-in-progress, and while I was hoping to have a draft done by the end of the year, it looks as if it will take a little longer.

Once I get it done, and since there is no deadline, it being another spec project, I'll have time to let a few people have a look and offer input before I try it on my agent.

Champion will be considerably shorter than the dreadnaught novel, maybe 90,000 words as opposed to the 175,000 that monster first draft weighed in. This one is an urban fantasy, which means that much of it is set in the here and now. Some martial arts, demons, and shenanigans in the Buddhist hells, like that.

I'll put up a note when I'm done, asking for readers.

steve-vh said...

Seriously, we've had discussions like that with that tone of mirth he has. Punctuated with that interesting laugh of his.

Buddist hells, eh?
Ever read the Ryder Syvertsen books, the Mystic Rebel series?

Mushtaq Ali said...

That room sounds painfully familiar.

Reminds me all to much of the place Guru picked to do his first video. I am pretty sure that was what started my eyes going down hill.

The story sounds great though, can't wait to read it!

BTW I do in fact pay Steve to say all that stuff :-)

Jason said...


I thought I had you pegged on that one and then you sent it sideways on me. Well done, this should be fun.

AF1 said...

Sounds great so far. Looking forward to it.

Christopher Wayne said...

The writing was so elegant.

Gee, now I have to wait