As it turned out, Councilor Tom Tam did not cook the two small white eggs and the one small brown one for Storm King’s dinner, because something interrupted him. Right there in the egg basket, as Tom Tam was still deciding what to do about cooking dinner, the fourth egg, the largest one with the mottled gray coloring on its shell, began to rock back and forth rhythmically. As it rocked, bumping into the other three eggs in the basket, cracks began to appear in the large egg’s shell. First, one long crack that was as fine as one of the Storm King’s white hairs on his furry chin. Then a second crack that wasn’t quite so long. Then several small cracks appeared all at once.
Councilor Tam was stunned. He had never seen such a thing and didn’t know what to do. He was a councilor and a cook after all, not a man of action. While he had great wisdom helping his king make wise decisions, he had no experience making fast decisions. Making fast decisions was the job of Storm King himself, who was the fiercest warrior of his entire kingdom. A soldier on the battlefield who did not decide quickly which way to release his bow so that his arrow would fall among the most enemy warriors did not survive long on the battlefield.
In Storm King’s particular case, he had a lot of practice deciding quickly exactly when his battlefield attendants would be called in to trim back the ends of his living staff made of a large cluster of bamboo tree stalks. If the attendants arrived in the middle of a maneuver with an enemy soldier, Storm King could lose his advantage and lose the fight. If the attendants arrived after the war staff had grown too long on each end, then Storm King had difficulty lifting the staff to whirl around his body to strike his enemies down. So, Storm King knew how to decide things with only a moment’s thought.
Storm King reached into the egg basket without hesitation and removed the three small eggs one by one, setting them on the ground next to him to save for his dinner later. “Hold the basket tightly, Councilor Tam, with both your hands,” commanded the king. “I think we’re about to welcome a baby phoenix into the world. I will watch the skies meanwhile, to see if Lady Phoenix is coming to claim her baby.”
Councilor Tam did as he was commanded by his king, holding the basket tightly against his chest with both his arms. He was so frightened that it was hard to tell if his shaking was causing the egg to crack faster. The egg shell began to show cracks all over it, not just on the side that Tom Tam could see, but also on the underside of the shell lying against the bottom of the basket. This cracking went on for what seemed like a long time as both Storm King and Councilor Tam watched in fascination. Every once in a while, the king would glance upwards into the Eastern sky, looking for any sign of Lady Phoenix.
Suddenly, Storm King spied a dark speck in the Eastern sky, rapidly becoming bigger and bigger as it drew nearer and nearer. He could just make out the shape of large wings flapping furiously in the sky. It seemed like the large flying creature in the sky was moving not only quickly but with great purpose as its strong wings beat the air bringing it closer and closer much faster than the great war horses that Storm King was accustomed to riding into battle, much faster than even Storm King himself could leap from mountain top to mountain top.
Lady Phoenix was, after all, a mythical creature, one that dwelled in the lower regions of the underworld known as Hell. She was not limited by the powers of humankind or animals of the earth like the horses and cows domesticated by humans. We are not certain even if the rules of the King of the High Sky would apply to the creatures who dwell below, whether or not their powers would be limited when they came to play on earth and cause their kind of mischief. One knew Lady Phoenix only by the stories told of her famous battles with the dragon of the ruby eyes that lived under the mountain range that separated the Han kingdom from the Mongols who lived to the north. There were no stories told of people who had met Lady Phoenix in person who still walked upon the earth.
Storm King was so taken by the sight of Lady Phoenix coming towards them, that he was shocked to remember where he was and whom he was with, when Councilor Tam exclaimed, “A beak, I see the tip of a red beak. It is breaking through the egg shell.”
Oh, when will we find out what happens next? Mom will continue to tell her story on another night.