Dragons of Yumihari #1 – Shishajya

While there are many amazing dragons yet to be revealed in the Yumihari World, there are only four species that appear in the Yokai Calling series. To some degree, all of them are inspired by facets of mythologies around the world… and adapted to fit the environment and mythos of the enormous fantasy universe I’m crafting one day at a time.

The first dragon you encounter in the Yumihari World appears in Spirit of the Dragon, a sacred serpent known as the shishajya. Written with the characters 使 (use/envoy) 者 (messenger) and 蛇 (snake/serpent), shishajya translates as “messenger serpent”—which describes their function throughout most of Yumihari history.

As the Dragon Goddess’ messenger serpents, the shishajya relayed Shirashi’s will to the people of the world, including to Seiryuu, the primary setting of the Yokai Calling series. They became sacred beings revered on a similar level as dragons because of their association with the beloved goddess, although their significance throughout Yumihari has waned alongside the importance of the Dragon Goddess. Other cultures throughout the world have different names for these serpents, and they appear throughout the world’s mythos with different purposes.

In Seiryuu, the shishajya used to visit various cities throughout the nation every month. However, only one shishajya survives to this day, and its trips to the Seiryan capital, Nagasou, have since been reduced to roughly once every season. The arrival of this magnificent creature coincides with an enormous ceremony where the people of Nagasou—and those who come from afar to witness the serpent’s return—where the royal family conducts a ritual dance to “summon” the shishajya from Shirashi’s domain in the sky.

Because the beasts spend a significant portion of their lives in Shirashi’s domain, their bodies and spirits are rife with energies unobtainable in Seiryuu and other lands in Yumihari. Like true dragons, shishajya are empowered by the will of the Goddess, and to oppose one would be to go against Shirashi, a crime most people in Seiryuu wouldn’t dare attempt.

Sometimes, upon a shishajya’s arrival, they will listen to the wishes of the people on the Goddess’ behalf and grant one—but only one—request. However, the last surviving shishajya has been giving out far fewer wishes over the past few decades, and the wishes that were once a common part of the ceremony have become rare and potentially life-altering for those affected by the wish when it’s granted.

Appearance

They are winged serpents, also called feathered serpents, for their majestic, birdlike wings. Stemming from the base of their necks, a shishajya’s wings span about the length of their serpentine body. Young shishajya are about 6 metres (18 ft) long, but that’s only a fraction of their adult size, which can grow up to 30 metres (100 ft)!

Their scales and feathers tend to be glossy shades of blue, including some lighter shades of green, turquoise, as well as white and silver. As they are serpents, they have no claws or feet, but they have enormous fangs, like a viper, that are deadly if they pierce into flesh.

The shishajya is also the beautiful creature appearing on the Spirit of the Dragon book cover!

Inspiration

I’m a huge mythology fan, and I’ve spent a lot of time researching and writing about dragons from all over the world. One of my favourite dragons, however, is the winged serpent deity from Mesoamerican mythology. The figurehead of such serpents is Quetzalcoatl (this is the Aztec name), who is the god of wind, air, and learning, as well as one of the gods of creation… and many other things.

As such, shishajya are very wise serpents, which is one of the reasons the Dragon Goddess uses them as her messengers. Like her, the shishajya have some control over the wind and water elements, making both their magic and minds forces to be reckoned with.

The Shishajya in Action

While the shishajya that appears in Spirit of the Dragon has many opportunities to shine throughout the series, one of my favourite moments in the novel is when Hidekazu meets the serpent for the first time. Here’s a brief snippet.

***

Hidekazu grabbed the edges of the white canvas hole and dove toward the endless pool of blue. His ki spanned before him. It was not the size of a lake like most majyu described, but an ocean. The vast azure was complete with the evening sun reflecting off of the waves below.

Above the sea, between him and the sun, floated a dragon.

On second thought, not a dragon. The creature had long, serpentine coils, which rose and fell in waves, its cerulean scales glistening with beads of moisture. However, unlike any depiction of a dragon that Hidekazu had ever seen, ivory feathers lined the serpent’s neck, arching into a pair of large, birdlike wings.

A shishajya. The Dragon Goddess’ second most sacred creature, after the dragons themselves.

“Mousugu jikan,” the serpent said, her soft voice like music. At first, she spoke the tongue of the ancients, Ryuugo, but she repeated herself in Seiryan: “It is almost time.”

Hidekazu must have fallen asleep while meditating. Nothing else explained why this creature was before him, acting on her own, not of his imagination and control. But then why did he feel awake? In the background, he had the slightest sense of the library, the press of his knees into the reed mat beneath him.

Dream or not, he thought better of ignoring the divine being. “Time for what?” he said.

***

Want to see more of the shishajya’s shining moments? Spirit of the Dragon is just the beginning… check out the entire Yokai Calling series and experience the epicness of all four dragons!

If you were to encounter a shishajya in real life, what would you wish for?

—Erynn

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