by Stephanie Craig
At the end of the earth, the mountains reached up to the sky. Arms outstretched, they cupped the stream of stars that fell down from the Milky Way.
The water, darkly sparkling at first, traveled through the land of men, becoming heavy with silt and dirt until finally, it collapsed into the Bohai Sea.
In this way, the Yellow River helped Jing Wei in her quest for revenge.
She once had been a beautiful princess. When she was a little girl, she loved to sail the Bohai, and feel its cool spray on her face. But the sea had a cold heart. One day, while it was storming, it overturned her ship and left the her to die all alone. As she fought the icy waves, Jing Wei called out for revenge and was transformed into a tiny perfect swallow.
Thereafter, each morning, she would fly to the shore to find stones and twigs to deposit into the sea. One day, she vowed, it would be filled and thus would die as she had died and her vengeance would be complete.
Determined as she was, JingWei had no time to notice the Yellow river and his offerings of sand and moss.
Day after day, he watched her in awe and hoped that, in time, she would come to notice his gifts and turn her passion towards him.
One afternoon, a courtesan happened to be travelling along the riverbank. She loudly remarked to her companion, "What an ugly river this is. How could anyone love something so dirty?"
The river stopped short and felt the sting of the words.
It was true, he was stained from the silt he carried and still Jing Wei did not love him. Numb from all those years of watching her and the cold sea, he felt as if a shell were cracking around his heart. Shame and anger burned through him in waves. He shuddered and pushed the sand and the dirt out into the marshes and the rice fields and vowed he would no longer carry for Jing Wei.
Villages across the land buzzed with the news that the great Yellow River ran clear. The emperor sent sorcerers and engineers to study the river while holy men prophesied droughts and wars.
Jing Wei was unaware of all this but she did notice that the sea was growing stronger and deeper as the days passed. Alarmed, she redoubled her efforts. Her fine beak became brittle and worn and her black talons cracked as she carried twig after twig into the roaring sea. Finally, exhausted, she could fly no more and she fell to the shore close to where the Yellow River flowed.
The river's heart was broken, and in his anguish he flooded the plains of eastern provinces. He brought all of the stones, all of the twigs, all of the sands of the Gobi desert and thrust them out, past the Bohai sea into the ocean beyond to create what is now called the Yellow Sea.
And if you were to go to Dongying today, you could still see the Yellow River emptying his silt into the sea to avenge his lost love, and hear the swallows up and down the coast calling out "Jing Wei, Jing Wei."
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Stephanie A. Craig is a speculative fiction writer based in Port Credit, Ontario. Her work will be featured in Dead Man's Tales, an upcoming anthology from KnightWatch Press, and she is currently working on her first novel. She can be found on Twitter @stephanieAcraig.
What do you think is the attraction of the fantasy genre?
I have always loved fantasy books because they immediately transport you into these gorgeous, intricately detailed worlds. As a writer, I love that fantasy allows you to explore everyday problems in hopefully beautiful and unexpected ways.