Here I go again, still promoting my collection Wild Rides with teaser excerpts from each story, or, in this case, two connected stories with the same characters. “The Dragon Descending” is both sequel and prequel to “The Pirate from the Sky.” Both are appropriate for our current theme, since both concern dragons, and what could be more representative of traditional fantasy? Only in “The Dragon Descending,” though, do you find explicit hot dragon sex, while "The Pirate from the Sky," in the midst of a great deal of adventure and danger with a fair bit of history thrown in, has the kinds of sex that best suit long voyages on shipboard combined with the tensions of battle.
The pirate story begins like this.
The Pirate from the Sky
In Seok-Teng’s dream a great pale dragon twined through a labyrinth of shifting clouds. Opaline scales shimmered through intervals of sunlight, slipped into invisibility, then flashed out again in dazzling beauty. Its long, elegant head swung from side to side, tongue flickering like sensuous lightning.
A distant hum arose, a subtle, tantalizing vibration that teased at Seok-Teng’s mind and flesh. A song? A warning? A summons? In all her dreams of dragons, never had she been aware of sound. She strained to hear, to understand. But the hum became steadily louder, swelling to a growl, tearing her from sleep into darkness and sudden, stark awareness. If the roof of the captain’s cabin had been higher she would have bolted upright.
Still the sound grew. This was no dragon, nor yet thunder, nor storm winds. The sea spoke to Seok-Teng through the ship’s movements as it had to her forbears for generations beyond counting; tonight it gave no cause for alarm. Japanese patrol boats? When she had taken her crew so far out of the usual shipping channels to avoid such pursuit? No, she had come to know that sound all too well. This one was different--yet not entirely unknown.
The cabin’s entrance showed scarcely lighter than its interior. Now it darkened. Han Duan, the ship’s Number One, squatted to look within.
“An aircraft,” Seok-Teng called, before the other could speak.
Han Duan grunted in agreement. “Not a large one, but low, and coming close. Who would fly so far from any land?”
“It is nothing to do with us.” Seok-Teng wished to resume the dream. She wished also to avoid resuming discussion of why a pirate ship would sail so far from any land, when it was accustomed by tradition to plying the coasts along the South China Sea.
“The Japanese have many planes,” Han Duan said.
“And better uses for them than pursuing us this far. We are very small fish indeed.” That was a tactical error, Seok-Teng realized at once. Evading a Japanese navy angered by the plundering of several small merchant ships off Mindanao had been her stated excuse for sailing so far to the east.
The small islands and atolls of the Marianas and Marshall groups were technically under Japanese control, but surely the eye of Nippon was bent too fiercely on the conquest of China to pay much attention to every far-flung spit of sand. On some of those islets distant relatives from Seok-Teng’s many-branched heritage still lived, and on others there were no permanent habitations at all. Good places for her crew to find or build a refuge while the world at large descended into war and madness—if a refuge was what they truly wanted.
She herself was torn by the desire to take part in the battle, to join forces with China’s defenders as pirates in the past had often done. In her small packet of private belongings was a small photograph, cut from a newspaper, of Soong Mai-ling, the beautiful wife of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and a leader in her own right. Seok-Teng longed to serve her in some fashion, but the way was not clear. The old pirate practices might suffice for the harrying of merchant ships, but the modern military craft of the Japanese were another matter.
Han Duan grunted again and stood, with just enough of a stoop to clear the low roof. The plane was nearly overhead now. Seok-Teng slid a hand under her pillow, ran a finger delicately along the undulating blade of her kris, then gripped its hilt. Both blade and hilt were warm. The dream, then, had been no accident, but a promise—or a warning. Seok-Teng would have spoken to the dagger if her Number One had not been present. Instead, she rolled from her bed into a crouch, pressed her brow to the weapon in mute homage to the ancestors from whom it had come, and, still stooping, emerged onto the deck of the She-Dragon.
Han Duan’s head tilted back as she stared upward. Seok-Teng straightened and stepped to the rail. Along the eastern horizon lay just the faintest hint that day might come, but overhead a low, sullen cloud cover obscured the stars. The airplane, now directly above them, could not be seen, though its roar seemed so tangible that Seok-Teng raised her hand, whether to grasp or fend it off she did not know. She had even forgotten that she held the kris, which now pointed into the sky.
“Would your demon blade lead us now even into the heavens? Let it fly then by itself!” Han Duan raised her voice to be heard over the noise of the plane. Her scarred face seemed demonic in the light of a single swaying lantern.
The other story, “The Dragon Descending” about a shapeshifting dragon goddess in Ha Long Bay, begins in the aftermath of the wild adventures and rescue of a most unusual avaitrix, when a question from Han Duan leads Seok-Teng to share a story from her past.
The Dragon Descending
“My first woman? As well ask if I recall my first dragon.” Seok-Teng scarcely realized she spoke aloud, still afloat in the ebbtide of the fierce coupling that followed battles won and prizes taken.
Han Duan lay intensely still beside her. When she spoke again, her tone was a study in idle curiosity. “Your first dragon, then. Surely not old Mountain of Wealth?”
“Blasphemy!” Seok-Teng managed a chuckle. “With a tentacle in every profitable pot, Madame Lai Choi San should be called Old Octopus rather than the Dragon Lady of Bias Bay.” Best to pursue this much safer line of conversation. “And you know well that I was no more a virgin than you when we met as her bodyguards.”
“Yet even I,” Han Duan admitted, “learned much from her beyond the management of pirate ships.”
“Is that how you formed your knack for domination of our young crewmembers?” Seok-Teng relaxed, confident that the dangerous topic had been circumvented. Han Duan held firmly to disbelief in her captain’s visions of dragons, yet as second in command she followed with complete trust wherever Seok-Teng led. Seok-Teng, and her kris, the short, undulating blade passed down through generations of her family until a woman was the only heir. A demon blade, Han Duan would say, in a tone that meant she did not believe in such things; but demon or no, the kris had bonded with its inheritor according to the old traditions. Always, after Seok-Teng’s dragon dreams, the kris would point the way the ship must sail, where they would find women skilled in the ways of the sea, or captives on their way to slavery, who would gladly join such a pirate crew.
Seok-Teng did not wish to speak now of dragons. “Those sleek young pearl divers we rescued were certainly eager for your domination.” Dalisay and Amihan should be good distractions.
But Han Duan would not be distracted. Not this time. “What color were their dragons, in your dream?”
For once, Seok-Teng would be open. Han Duan deserved that of her, and more. “They were the blue-green of shallow southern seas, twined about each other in a wheel like the yin and yang, spinning through the sky.”
Han Duan nodded, but pulled Seok-Teng closer against her lean body and murmured into her ear, “And what of your first dragon?”
A shuddering sigh swept Seok-Teng. Whatever the cost, she would be open at last with the comrade and lover who had been her lifeline for so many years.
“My first dragon was my first woman as well. Not a dream, nor yet a vision, unless visions leave scars. ”
“Ah! These?” They knew each other’s bodies as well as they knew each inch of their ship. Han Duan moved so that her fingers could trace the line of short pale ridges along Seok-Teng’s sides from armpit to hip. “Truly a dragon of a woman!”
“A woman who was truly a dragon,” Seok Teng said flatly. “But take it as merely a tale, if you wish. A tale worth hearing.”
And, to reward any reader who has persevered this far, a few snippets from that tale.
Ha Long, Bay of the Descending Dragons. Seok-Teng had heard of its beauty and legends, but never seen its labyrinths of vertical, time-carved islands until the day she sailed her junk-rigged boat through them in pursuit of her father’s killer. No time then to stare at its wonders, only to maneuver among them, searching always for the small motorized vessel whose lines were etched indelibly into her memory.
Once in Ha Long Bay, it should have been impossible to find one small boat hiding among the thousands of limestone islands with their caves and grottoes and thick pelts of greenery clinging to sheer walls. Impossible for a man—or even a girl with a warrior spirit—but not for the kris. It showed the way, through three days of a winding course.
On the third evening, the blade took on a glow that told Seok-Teng her prey was so close that she must approach with caution. She anchored and waited through the night. This time she would make sure her prey saw his doom coming!
At last the dawn mist began to dissipate, the islands took shape, and the sun’s first rays struck the leafy crest of the nearest island in a blaze of emerald flame.
Seok-Teng slid into the water wearing nothing beyond the kris belted to her naked hip. The boat she sought was there, just beyond the island, perhaps fifty feet away. When she reached its side, she listened for several minutes until she heard the man stirring, moving slowly about, then standing on the lee side and, by the sound, relieving himself into the sea. The perfect moment!
She was up over the side, kris unsheathed and raised, before he could turn; yet even at such a time he had kept a dagger in his hand, and parried the longer blade. Seok-Teng spun and struck again, knocking his weapon this time from his grip; he grasped her knife-wrist so tightly with his other hand that it took all her effort to keep from dropping the kris. Or almost all. Her knee tensed, began its upward strike toward his groin—but he fell back before it connected. She had only a fleeting glimpse of his eyes, widened in horror as he looked at something beyond her, his face as contorted as though her blade had pierced his belly.
Seok-Teng stumbled, unbalanced, and still managed to slice the kris across his throat before he toppled backward into the sea.
She swung around and saw what he had seen. A golden eye gazed down at her from the island’s greenery, and then two eyes, in a long, elegant, emerald-scaled head that lifted to regard her full-on.
“I had him! He was mine!” Seok-Tengs’s blood-madness ran still so hot that she felt no fear, no amazement that a dragon such as she had seen only on painted screens or the prows of festive longboats was here before her in the flesh. If indeed dragons were made of such. “I needed no help!”
The dragon seemed to laugh, though what difference there might be between a dragon’s laugh and its snarl Seok-Teng did not know. Indeed, as her blood slowed, she scarcely knew whether she herself dreamed, or imagined, or even lived. She held the kris upright, flat between her breasts, as talisman rather than weapon; it quivered, but gave off no heat.
Heat of another sort did warm Seok-Teng’s flesh as the dragon’s gaze moved slowly along her body. Did dragons lust after human women? She had never heard such tales, but after all, she herself lusted after women, though so far only in her dreams.
“Why not?” The voice was not her own, yet unmistakably female—and it spoke from inside her head. “Who can know so well how to please a woman as another woman?”
A dream, then. That sort of dream. Already Seok-Teng’s loins stirred with longing. Her bedroll would be damp and tangled when she woke. If only this dream would take her far enough for relief!
The boat she stood upon had floated nearer to the island. Seok-Teng looked full into the golden eyes, not flinching when the dragon’s green coils, their scales textured to resemble leaves, loosened from the rough limestone enough that its neck could arch outward above her and descend. Even when a flickering forked tongue, impossibly long, darted across her belly, Seok-Teng held her ground, though she could not suppress gasps and jerks at the tantalizing sensations it aroused.
“Set aside your noble blade,” the voice said, “if you would taste of more tender delights.”
She sheathed the kris but kept it belted at her hip. This time the dragon’s laughter echoed inside her head, drowned out soon by Seok-Teng’s own cries as the deep-coral tongue lapped at the paler coral tips of her high breasts, teasing and tweaking at them until they hardened and darkened and sent bolts of pleasure close to pain down through her belly into her cunt.
“How brave are you, girl? Enough to follow me?” The voice seemed uneven now, almost breathless. The long tongue reached down between her thighs and slick lips to find the jewel of pleasure there, and a low, rough moan was wrenched from deep in Seok-Teng’s throat, followed by a keen wail as the stimulation ceased.
“Come, if you dare!” The dragon launched suddenly from the rock, leaving it nearly bare, and dove into the water. Seok-Teng followed so swiftly that the wake of the great long tail swept her briefly off course. Attuned from birth to all the motions and secrets of the sea, she was back on course in a moment, and when the waters stilled beside an island much larger than the first, she dove unerringly through an underwater passage to come up in a pool within a grotto infused with green light.
On its far side stalactites hung nearly to the floor, chiming like bells as the dragon’s emerald scales brushed them. Nearer, an arc of sandy beach edged the water.
The voice came again. “One more challenge, if you are truly brave.” But this time it felt more like a plea than a dare. “Your blade…will you trust me with your blade?”
And then things get…interesting.