Shou-Lao

For the last character appearing in Iron Fist we have to jump to the season finale, Dragon Plays with Fire. In a flashback, we finally get a glimpse (sort of) of the dragon who gave Danny his powers, Shou-Lao the Undying, albeit only his eyes can be seen. This is quite a major disappointment for the fans who were waiting to see a full-scale dragon in the show, instead of these glowing (metaphorical?) eyes, but with a budget as low as the one for Iron Fist, there wasn’t much hope to see the real thing. In a recent interview, Fin Jones said that the character of Shou-Lao will be explored more in the next season and possibly in The Defenders, let’s just hope he’s right… In the meanwhile, let’s see who these eyes belong to in the comics.

An extra-dimensional dragon born many millennia ago, Shou-Lao became the protector of the mystical city of K’un-Lun, but there are two contraddictory versions on how this came to be. According to the first one, the dragon Shou-Lao was the betrothed of the Dragon King‘s daughter, but he abandoned the princess soon after the marriage, shaming her. The King’s brother, the dragon Chiantang, decided not to follow his brother’s pacifist philosophy and to avenge his niece’s honor with violence. He pursued Shou-Lao through the skies, until the two’s battle brought them to K’un-Lun, where the chased one hid. Chiantang levelled the city and, upon finding Shou-Lao, he finally defeated him and cursed him: using black magic borrowed by an unspecified god, Chiantang stripped Shou-Lao of his original appearance, reducing him to a fire-breathing giant snake, and ripped his heart out, melting it and leaving it into a brazier of boiling blood, where it would have been consumed for eternity; unable to die as long as his heart was cursed, Shou-Lao became known as the Undying, and started inhabiting the same cave his heart was locked in. According to the second version of the story, Shou-Lao was a dragon that lived in K’un-Lun since ancient times, revered by the city’s masters who called themselves the Dragon Kings in his honor. During a festival, something went bad with Shou-Lao, and he went berserk, attacking the city’s ruler Yu-Ti. The city’s greatest warrior, Quan-St’ar, stepped in and challenged the dragon to protect Yu-Ti: after a fierce battle, Quan-St’ar managed to slain the dragon, ripping his heart off his chest. Yu-Ti, not grateful for having his life saved but furious at the warrior for the profanation, banished Quan-St’ar from K’un-Lun, and used his magic to melt Shou-Lao’s heart, leaving it in a mystical brazier. The dragon, empowered by his own beating heart, was brought back to life, and started guarding the brazier, located in a secret cave in K’un-Lun.

Being it a way or the other, Shou-Lao started residing in K’un-Lun, with his own molten heart eternally burning in a brazier he had the task to guard. As his heart granted the power of the mystical Immortal Weapon to the ones who absorbed its power, defeating Shou-Lao became the final test for the young warriors who wanted to become the Iron Fist, protector of K’un-Lun. Shou-Lao the Undying killed many of them, but for sixty-six times he was defeated, and every time he was reborn to continue his mission. Albeit his scales were impenetrable, the scar on his chest connected him with his heart, and if the pretender was able to cover it long enough, he didn’t get energy from the brazier and died, just as if his heart had been ripped off another time; following his (temporary) death, the warrior became the new vessel of the heart and its power, and a similar scar appeared on his or her chest. What in K’un-Lun nobody knew, however, was that the evil sorcerer Master Khan was using Shou-Lao as a means to obtaining power, as the thousands of warriors who failed the task and died served as human sacrifices to augment his strength. In his neverending life-cycle, Shou-Lao mostly resided in his cave, but sometimes he went out, usually in his (repeated) youth. One day, while outside the cave, on the mountains, he crossed the paths of the current Yu-Ti, Lord Tuan, and his son Nu-An: the two monks were ready to meet their end, but an unexpected savior came in the form of a young boy, Wendell, who shot the dragon with his rifle. More surprised than truly hurt, the dragon retreated to his cave, leaving the humans alive. The dragon met the boy years later, as a new contender, Davos, tried to face him, even without the permission of Yu-Ti: Shou-Lao almost tore Davos to pieces, but upon inflicting the finishing blow he went away, not finding him worthy of killing. It was Wendell the one who was going to face the dragon, but Shou-Lao never fought him, as the boy left K’un-Lun and refused the final challenge. Only decades later, that boy’s very son Danny came to face him in his lair, as countless others had done before him…

Shou-Lao the Undying is a fierce and powerful dragon, the proud guardian of the power of the Iron Fist. His scales are impenetrable, his strength makes earth tremble, and he’s as fast as a lightning; he can breathe fire, and every time he dies he’s reborn from an egg, starting his life-cycle all over again. An indomitable and pure creature from the ancient times, Shou-Lao relentlessly attacks the ones considered worthy to challenge him, but he’s never made it easy for anyone to obtain the treasure so many desire.

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