Tag Archives: jade dragon

A Shifting Wind

Emmic wipes the sweat from his forehead with his cuff and glares at his companion. Jonath never seems to mind the heat. He is Old Blood, of course, born on Loess, and the Old Blood families have acclimated to the desert over the generations. So too will Emmic’s children, should he ever have any.

Jonath leans against his sandskiff. “Shouldn’t be long,” he says. “Sun’ll hit its peak in an hour or so, and that’ll give us about seven hours to reach the bunker before full dark. We made good time from Cinder.”

The rest of the caravan is moored in a crooked line deep in the shadow of a broad mesa: four twin-hulled sandcats, sails lowered and whisker-vanes furled. Some of the crewfolk lounge in the shade, sipping sweetwater from drink pouches or smoking long, narrow pipes. None of them had balked at the chance to rest in the shade during the hottest part of the day.

“The new ‘cats are faster than I expected,” Emmic agrees. “Even laden, they ought to make it back from Lode in five days instead of six. Anna been tinkering with the steering?” He glances sideways at Jonath.

“Didn’t figure you’d mind.” Jonath runs a hand over the hull of his skiff, checking it for scrapes. “She’s a bright girl, your sister. And she likes to feel useful.”

“She’s getting bored.”

“I gathered,” Jonath says dryly. “Didn’t actually expect her to give the ring back. She’s not usually so unpredictable.”

Emmic gives him a long searching look. “You don’t seem worried. She’s quite stubborn, you know.”

Jonath shrugs. “So she changed her mind; she’ll change it back, once she’s had some time to think about it. I can be pretty hard to resist.” He grins, a bright, broad smile.

“I know.” Emmic stoops, picks up a handful of sand-scoured pebbles and starts lobbing them, one by one, out of the shadows into the dunes.

“Hey.” Jonath catches Emmic’s wrist, stopping him mid-toss. “We talked about this. It’ll be fine. This is where it all really begins. Right?” He takes the stone from Emmic’s palm, throws it. It arcs past the broken line of Emmic’s pebbles and smacks into the side of the dune. The sand shifts and a skate skids down the slope, startled by the impact, before burying itself again.

“Of course.” Dropping the last stone, Emmic brushes his hands off and shades his eyes, looking out toward the anchor pylon.

“It would be easier,” Jonath says, “If you’d tell her the whole story. Or let me.”

It’s an old argument. “No. She doesn’t need to know any of it, not until I can paint her the whole picture.”

“It’s just a matter of time before she figures it out. Before someone lets something slip.” A note of entreaty slips into Jonath’s voice. “It should come from you, Emmic. She’ll see that the ends justify the means. That’s something your sister would understand. It’s logical.” He uses one of Anna’s favorite words. “She could be very useful.”

“No. Let this be mine. On me. On us,” Emmic revises, and touches Jonath’s elbow. “My father should not have betrayed the cause. Not with the War still raging out there.” He gestures to the sky, to the invisible worlds beyond it. “And as for our deal with the Prophet…” He grimaces. “What could Anna know of war and means and ends? She is too much of Loess.”

“Look.” Jonath nods at the pylon. A cloud of dust and sand trails behind the ‘cat speeding toward us, its whisker-vanes bristling as they comb electricity from the air. “There’s my ride. You sure you can handle her alone?” He lays a hand affectionately on his skiff.

“Please.” Emmic rolls his eyes. “How many races have I won?”

“None that really matter,” Jonath needles. “And this one does. The Prophet is counting on you to make it to Lode and back to Cinder before we bring the ship in. Tell Anna I’ll be home soon. I’ll bring her something new to tinker with.”

The incoming boat slows. One man is furling the sail, another leans on the brake-lever. Their faces are hidden behind heavy goggles and tightly wrapped neckcloths, but they each bear the Prophet’s insignia on their jackets: a red-leafed olive branch on a field of grey.

The ‘cat halts with a heavy scraping noise. Jonath turns to Emmic. “Wish me luck?”

Emmic nods, embraces him. “Wind to your sails, brother,” he says, and lets go.


A little side trip into the world of the Jade Dragon.

Augury

Lord of wind-scarred warrens
walks the sunless tunnels,
Serves the hand of heaven
holding to his shoulder.

Under seas of sand-swells
still his eye turns skyward,
Deaf to prayers – a prophet
promising a kingdom.


This drottkvaett – written for the yeah write April poetry slam – might be the hardest thing I’ve ever written. Want to give it a try? Read yeah write’s page on the drottkvaett form, then peek into submission editor Rowan’s drottkvaett writing process for some tips.

Reasons

The days of the week lined up like buckets, ready to catch whatever fell in. Just dribbles at first, rumors and best guesses, barely enough to dampen the soles of our boots. I dipped my cup in pail after pail. I filled my head with names and my mouth with the taste of ash, until the buckets overflowed and nobody saw it but me.

They will say I caused this, that the city burns because of me and in a way, this is true. It was my hand that set the flame. But the sky was already raining metal before I made my choice, and it is raining still. There is nowhere left for the ships to land.

From my vantage high over Verdure, the city is almost beautiful. Smoke wreathes the silent fountains, igniting stone and steel and leaving trails of blue-green luminescence where water once pooled. I can hear footsteps on the stair below. I wonder if my children are safe. I wonder if they will tell me, if I ask, before they take me away.


If you liked this, you might like my Jade Dragon stories. This piece is not consecutive, and falls outside the larger story, but provides some context from another point of view…

Moth to Flame

New to the Jade Dragon series? Start here! Go to beginning>>

Captain Morrow’s eyes never left the Prophet.

Lieutenant Nioben lay on the ground beside her where he’d fallen. After the initial shock of the attack, he had settled into a stoic silence. Sweat beaded on his pale Northern skin, and his hands gripped his trousers above the spot where the crossbow bolt protruded from his leg. There was very little blood.

I turned my face away.

“We do have a medic, you know,” I said to Jonath. “If the Captain agrees to take us to Verdure, does he really have to suffer?”

Jonath posture shifted minutely as he registered what I’d said. Us. He shrugged.

“Not up to me,” he said, all casual arrogance. “But I will recommend it. If the Captain agrees.”

“She will.” I didn’t see that she had any other choice. She was trapped, like the rest of us.

Jonath led me to a crate. I sat, miserable, and watched the Prophet’s men ransack the ship. They stacked trunks and boxes along the wall, throwing them open one by one to scan the contents.

The Captain had knelt by Nioben’s side, presumably with the Prophet’s permission. Her hands were still bound.

“Is this really necessary?” she asked, raising her wrists.

The Prophet managed to look sorrowful and smug at the same time.

“I know your reputation, my dear,” he said to her mildly. She bristled visibly at the endearment. “I wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt. Anyone else,” he clarified. This is all your fault, he seemed to be saying.

A bluish light played across the cavern. Lanterns hung from hooks placed along the walls every ten feet or so. They glowed with a muted phosphorescence that waxed and waned, each lamp according to its own rhythm. Lichen moths flapped their broad wings, disturbed by the light and the commotion. Several dove out through the cave mouth, causing a broad-shouldered guard to duck and curse. A well-dressed woman shrieked and flapped her hands at another, its wings easily as broad as a man’s two hands.

“What will happen to the other passengers?” I asked Jonath.

“They aren’t important. We’ll send up a mayday flag when we leave.”

In one niche a small dark figure unfurled itself from the shadows, golden eyes reflecting the lamplight.

Jax.

Jonath followed my gaze with his own.

“Ah,” he said lightly. “I wondered where the little monkey had got to. Sorry –” He held his hands in front of him as if to ward me off. “I know he is dear to you. Why don’t you call him down?”

He was deliberately goading me; I knew it. Still, I could not help but set myself against him in this one thing, at least.

“Jax goes where he wills,” I said, pitching my voice to carry. “He is not mine to order about.” Jax sat very, very still. Only his eyes gave him away. They whirled and flickered out of time with the lamps.

“I only suggest it,” Jonath said, an amused glint in his eyes. “The Prophet’s men might not understand he is a… companion of yours. They are very good shots,” he added thoughtfully.

As if to underscore Jonath’s remark, the flat snap of a crossbow made me jump and a bolt buried itself in the wall over the Captain’s head. A lichen moth dropped to the stone floor, one wing torn to shreds. Righting itself, it limped towards the shadows, tried to fly off, but there just wasn’t enough left to its wing. It fluttered for a moment, magnificent in its struggle, then wilted and lay still. The broad-shouldered guard grunted in satisfaction and started winding his bow.

The Prophet picked up the dead moth and tossed it into the shadows it had tried to reach. He brushed his hands on his robe, leaving a faint smudge of grey-green dust. “Pity,” he said to the Captain. “They are quite beautiful, the moths. And edible, if caught properly.”

Morrow drew back from her Second. “If you know my reputation,” she said, ignoring the moth, “then you know I am not accustomed to giving in to threats.”

The guard grinned as if he had just won a bet. He set a bolt in place and glanced at the Prophet.

“Jax,” I said suddenly. “Come on down. I need you.” I knew he would pick up on my terror. I only hoped he would not get in my way.

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This post was written for the yeah write #159 speakeasy, and is is part of the Jade Dragon series. Though I try to make these installments enjoyable as individual pieces, I highly recommend that you read the series from the beginning to really get what’s going on.  Constructive criticism is welcome and encouraged.

 

Release

New to the Jade Dragon series? Start here! Go to beginning>>

I didn’t want to let go, but I did.

I have never been brave. I had already used up my small store of courage, exchanged it for a one-way ticket to Oas on the Dragon. I felt the weight of the Captain’s distrust like a stone around my neck.

The violence, the mystery, the promise of more – these things conspired with the familiar warmth of Jonath’s hand against my back, and I let go. Jonath sensed it. He tightened his hold on me. I would go as far as he wanted. If I could, I would set him free.

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100 word song badgeThis post was written for the 100 Word Song challenge over at Lance’s blog. He gives a song to inspire you, and you write a response in exactly 100 words. He was kind enough to let me provide this week’s song, and I chose “Deep as You Go” by October Project. To my surprise, it led me to a new Jade Dragon post.