You find yourself beneath the grandfather Cryptomeria, the giant evergreens that cover the sloping sides of Mount Kurama. It is spring, when the dawn goddess‘ dance lures Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun, back from winter exile. You have chosen this time to make a pilgrimage to the mountain of the tengu king.
Through the dense overgrowth, shifting light stirs the morning mist. You close your eyes to better hear the voice of the forest sharp and crisp. Pop! Snap! The crack of high branches echoes against the whirring wing-beats of a crane in flight.
You open your eyes to see its elegant neck extended as the magnificent white bird rises above the canopy into a graceful glide. Its quavering voice is a haunting trumpet.
“Did you frighten the crane?” You smile, pretending the sassy bird can understand your words.
Head cocked to one side, the bird waits, as one shrewd eye seems to watch your every move. The next instant, the brute flies at you face.
The tip end of one black wing flicks your nose sending a shock wave of surprise roiling down your spine to quake in the pit of your stomach, while the raven’s sharp beak snaps close to your ear. Then in a swooping motion, it flies away only to double back, diving, and then grabbing onto the slope of your shoulder. The unruly fowl digs its claws into you for an unsteady perch.
The peppery scent of pine needles fills the air as you wait with expectation, for the sharp talons to pierce your flesh. They never do. Still, you stare in wonder because the almond eyes of the raven, too close for comfort beside your own, are not what you would expect. They are human-like.
The pungent scent grows in intensity making your nose itch. The next instant, the fiend lifts off into the air and settles on the ground a short distance from your feet.
A gathering mist shifts around the bird, settling like smoke from an incense bowl the priests use to call out their incantations. It reminds you of dregs left from a magician’s spell cast in the purple dawn.
In the raven’s place, there stands a man, or at first glance what seems to be a human man. A circlet of gold lies atop his black hair flecked with glistening emerald lights feathered across elfish-point ears.
His jeweled eyes sparkle with mischief as they watch you from above a beak-shaped nose that juts from the center of a scarlet-blush face and a smirk that pulls haughtily at the creature’s lips. Blue-black wings, crimson tipped, fold against his broad shoulders, where muscled arms hang crisscrossed against his chest. Powerful legs stretch from a human torso ending in bare feet where the nails of the creature’s toes curl under, more like claws than fingernails.
You gape in wordless wonder, for you stand in the presence of a tengu mountain goblin. Choose your next words and actions very carefully. Although the tengu like to make mischief rarely do they enjoy turn about as fair play…