Dragon Sword: Chapter 3
The spirit of the valley never dies. It is the source, ever flowing. It is gossamer; dimly visible, yet used is never consumed.
A new chapter is available every Wednesday at Noon, CST. Begin with Chapter 1
No! I may have yelled it. I’m not sure. I ran to Daiyu and put my ear to her chest. I had no idea of the dragon-to-human shape shift included a heart beat but I didn’t know what else to do. I did hear a heart beat, fast and hard. Derkein’s heart was the same. They were unconscious but not dead. That was a step in the right direction.
I took Daiyu by an arm and shook her “Wake up!” I yelled. I think her eyelids flickered but I wasn’t sure. I shook her again and called her name. Nothing. She was limp. I moved over to Derkein and tried the same thing. No response. He didn’t even have an eye flicker or maybe I didn’t imagine one.
I sat back on my heels and gaped at them. Daiyu’s dragon tattoo looked faded and … I don’t know how to describe it … I think it was trying to hide. I need to call an ambulance. That’s what I needed. I stood to run back down to the kitchen but didn’t. This was not an emergency room kind of problem. This was a dragon problem. I needed a dragon solution.
My next thought was that they were still shaped like people. So far in my experience whenever dragons are under stress, they had a little trouble holding the human shape. And here they were, knocked out cold, and still looked like people.
Mr. Long-ju — the silver dragon — hadn’t been at the confab. I was willing to bet he hadn’t gone to Turtle Island with the rest of the dragons. I’d been to visit him since — well, since his wife died. That’s a long story and I’d rather not go into it. Anyway, he’d become a hermit. He lived in a cave on his mountain. During The Troubles he’d burned down his own house and didn’t act like he was planning to rebuild. Whenever I showed up at the mouth of his cave, he was always in dragon shape but he would transform into a bent and ancient old man, clearly just for my benefit.
He would offer me tea and make polite conversation until I couldn’t stand it any more. He was just being nice to me. I could tell all he wanted was for me to go away. I felt like a rat for disturbing him, but I also felt like a rat for not spending more time with him. So I visited or stayed away depending on what part of my rattyness was on top at any given moment.
And I was going to feel like a rat asking for his help.
I hated leaving Daiyu and Derkein just lying there on the stone floor alone, but it would be a tad difficult to clone myself. I felt like I should get them each a pillow or something, cover them with a blanket, maybe. But this is the tropics. A blanket would be silly.
“Hello?” a voice called.
As quick as a flash of lightning, hope stabbed through my body… and as quickly extinguished. Sher-jan emerged through the doorway, turned pale and shrieked when he saw who was lying on the floor.
“I thought you left with the others,” I said.
He emitted a couple more ear-piercing shrieks, his eyes practically bugging out of his head. He began babbling something about his ancestors and holy realms or something like that. I think he even called for his mommy.
I jumped up and ran to him, punched him in the shoulder. “Freakin’ shut the hell up!” I yelled.
He whimpered and covered his face like that was going to make all this — and me — go away.
I realized I’d yelled at him in English so I repeated the command to be quiet in blunt words I knew he could understand. It worked. He understood being ordered to shut up. He quieted down but couldn’t seem to tear his eyes away from Derkein and Daiyu.
“Are they dead?” he whispered.
“No. I thought you left with everyone else.”
“I changed my mind.” His voice quavered. “I don’t know anybody in Taiwan.” He paused and gulped. “Are they sick?”
“I don’t know but I’m going for help,” I said. “Can you stay here and keep an eye on them? I’ll be right back.”
I thought he was pale before but when he absorbed the idea that I was going to leave him here alone, he looked ghastly — white with a tinge of green around the corners.
Well, I couldn’t deal with his psychological problems. “Stay and watch them,” I growled. “Don’t leave this room. If they wake up and need something, help them. Do you understand?”
He stared at me with wide, moist eyes like I was speaking Martian. I punched him in the shoulder again. “Do you understand?”
He yipped and then nodded. It would have to do.
I ran down to the courtyard where I’d parked my motorbike and took off.
Silver Mountain was still burned black in most places, but the foliage was slowly creeping back. It would be green again in a year or two, but not quite yet.
I had to park the motorbike beside the road and take the path up to the cave. It wasn’t much of a path. I knew Monk Tien came up here and I suspected Daiyu did also. Otherwise, it was completely deserted and I knew people thought of it as unlucky.
Even if it hadn’t been deemed to be unlucky, I had a feeling it wouldn’t be a popular place to take a stroll. The trees — what was left of them — were black poles jutting out of rubble and cinders. Rain had cleaned the rocks and made a crust of the ash, but it still looked like Hell. Literally. No exaggeration.
I should mention at this point that Mr. Long-ju has a magic pearl. It’s big, about softball sized, and it’s really beautiful. I once screwed everything to holy hell by stealing it. Long story. You really don’t want to hear it. Anyway, I gave the pearl back and hadn’t seen it since. I knew it was there in his cave somewhere. I could feel it. I can’t explain how.
As usual Mr. Long-ju was in dragon shape. He was huge. This was a pretty big cave and he filled the back of it coiled up in a gigantic heap. He was the Silver dragon. During The Troubles his scales became tarnished and milky looking. Some tarnish still remained, mostly down his back. When I first saw him as a dragon he was polished, his scales like thousands of glittering mirrors. Now, even in dragon shape he looked old and frail. His eyes, the size of car tires, were closed.
“Mr. Long-ju? Please wake up. I need your help.” He didn’t move. Whatever knocked out Daiyu and Derkein might have blasted him too, but I didn’t think so. His chest rose and fell gently and I felt he was listening.
I told him all the dragons seemed frightened. I told him about them going to Turtle Island. I told him about the servants being airlifted out. I told him about Derkein and Daiyu passing out. I told him everything. I didn’t mention the little girl in the red silk pajamas. That didn’t have anything to do with this and besides it was too spooky-weird.
Nothing. He didn’t stir.
Shit. Whatever had knocked out Derkein and Daiyu had gotten him too.
I thought about the pearl. It was here, somewhere, I could almost taste it. And Long-ju was out cold. I could steal the pearl again. I still wanted it, wretchedly and without hope, I still wanted it. “No, don’t even think about it,” my better angel muttered savagely. “Don’t even think of going there.” Usually I tell my better angels to go to hell. I had a brief memory of Poppy almost taking my fingers when she ate the crackers.
Yeah, wanting the pearl was like that.
Oh, to hell with it. “Okay,” I said to the unconscious dragon. “I’ll try something else.” I turned and walked out. I’d call an ambulance. I had no idea what I’d tell them but I’d make something up. It would probably be pointless but it would be doing something.
And then the motorbike wouldn’t start. The battery was dead as a trout on ice. I know a lot of curses, English, Chinese, Spanish. I’d even spent some time in Laos soaking up Laotian and French curses, if not much else in those languages. When I turned the key on the motorbike and got no response, I began to exercise quite a bit of that multicultural profanity.
While I was engaged in this, I didn’t notice the fog rolling in around me, thickening into a silver-gray mist.
I savagely stomped the kickstand and prepared to walk the damn useless motorbike down the mountain to the nearest service station.
Then an ancient little old man stood beside me.
“Mr. Long-ju!” I gasped. Suddenly things were looking up. He had ghostly long hair completely white and long mustaches and beard. Long enough to tuck into a belt, if he’d been wearing one.
“I will help you,” he said simply. He had the pearl with him. I could sense it but couldn’t see it. He was dressed in a long pale gray traditional robe with white cuffs. Heaven knows where he had the pearl hidden.
He hiked up his skirt exposing skinny, knobbly legs and settled himself on the back of the bike.
“Try again. Perhaps it’s just resting.”
Oh. Hmmmm. I didn’t bother to argue. I got on the bike, put in the key and turned. It fired right up. I would have been shocked if it hadn’t.
A few minutes later we were walking into Daiyu’s big room. I’d sort of clung to a hope that they’d woken up while I was gone and everything was fixed now.
No such luck, of course. Neither of them had stirred. Sher-jan was still there. He was folded up in a corner staring at them as if the two unconscious dragons were actually hungry cobras. When he caught sight of me and Long-ju he stood and he seemed to get a little less green around the edges.
“Do you have any idea what would cause this?” I asked Long-ju.
He nodded, his thin face sober. “You said all the other Kindred have fled?”
“Yes. Turtle Island.”
“These two have fled also, just into themselves.”
“Daiyu would never run from anything!” I was probably a touch more defensive than I should have been. “And I don’t think Derkein would either,” I added with a little less heat.
Mr. Long-ju just looked down on them silently.
“In fact,” I said. “They were arguing about who would stay and who would go.”
“They should both have gone.”
“Yes, well, you know how they are,” I said.
“And I know how you are. You all should have gone.” He tilted his head to Sher-jan — to the spot where Sher-jan had been. He’d vanished.
I shrugged. “I missed my ride.”
“Of course,” he said.
He blurred around the edges. When I saw that I backed away. He was going to turn into a dragon. No, as Daiyu once said. He sometimes looked like a man. He was always a dragon. He spread out in a silver gray mist and his human shape became indistinct. I expected whiskers and scales any second.
It didn’t happen. The mist filled the room until I was surrounded by it. It wasn’t cool like a regular mist; it was warm and pulsed a little, almost like there was a heart beat in there somewhere. I could taste that pearl. I could feel it. It glowed in my mind like the moon. I tried to focus on that and not what I was seeing in front of me.
My heart was pounding. I really didn’t like this. When they are human shaped you can always kid yourself into believing they are human. When they are dragons, you can just think CGI or … something. They were like beautiful jewelry on an epic scale.
But the transition was hard to watch. It couldn’t be rationalized. You couldn’t look around it or trick yourself into not noticing. It was alien, unnatural and irrational.
The shimmering mist coalesced around Daiyu and Derkein and they became indistinct. They crumbled and dissolved into red and black smoke. As just flat wrong as all this was, it was a hopeful sign. Dragons dissolve, they disintegrate. They have control over their molecules — and yours. They can disintegrate you too, which is beyond creepy. But Mr. Long-ju was doing something to help them. I wanted badly to curl up into a ball with my eyes squeezed shut, but I stood there as the foggy, foggy dew swirled around me.
When Daiyu began to reappear in the mist, I let my breath out. I didn’t realize I’d been holding it. Derkein solidified. His eyes fluttered open.
Daiyu leaped to her feet, fluid, almost cat-like. Her dragon tattoo, inky black, looked like it was smoking.
“What happened?” I asked “What’s going on?”
“Why didn’t you go with the others?” Daiyu snapped back.
“Because I’m not one of your friggin’ servants,” I growled.
“We are only trying to protect you,” said Derkein. He was pushing himself to his feet with a little less athletic grace than Daiyu. He didn’t look like he was going to be leaping anywhere, certainly not up.
“You aren’t safe here,” said Long-ju to the general population of the room. “I will arrange another helicopter.”
I jerked a thumb at Daiyu. “Tell her to give me my sword back and I’ll gladly hit the road.”
Daiyu’s face was hard as carved ivory. Her gaze pierced me, focused and unrelenting.
“Actually,” said Long-ju. “I will arrange a helicopter for the three of you. I will stay, I am the eldest, and I am no longer truly alive.”
I shivered. What did that mean?
“That is very kind of you,” said Derkein. “But it is my place to stay… I am head of the Kindred. I’m surprised the prime minister hasn’t called already. I’ll — ”
“No!” Daiyu thundered. “The Kindred and the people of Shaolong will need you desperately after this is over. It is I who should — ”
This was pissing me off. “Good freekin’ grief!” I said. “Let’s stop playing battle of the noble heroes, shall we?”
They all turned to look at me. Three dragons fastening you with that intense dragon gaze is not as much fun as it sounds.
“We’ll all stay,” I said with a little less force. “And the four of us will fight whatever it is.”
Silence. Long-ju and Derkein smiled. Daiyu might have smiled, but you know how she is.
“It’s worse than you can imagine,” Derkein said.
“Oh, really? Try me. I have a pretty good imagination.” Silence. Dragons take an annoyingly long time to think things over.
“Death,” said Daiyu. “Shaolong has been invaded by the Death of Dragons.”
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