Dragon Sword

A blind swordswoman in China seeks revenge on the cunning and deadly Manchu general who killed her parents.


9. night


Then Zu plays her bamboo flute and the boy listens his head tilted to the side hardly daring to breathe in his rapture. Even the man stops tying knots in a piece of rope to listen to the piercing, breathy, almost silent notes, his massive body gone still as a withered tree.


Playing, she sensed the boy's stillness and his rapture and when she lowered the flute from her pursed lips he remained sitting in utter stillness broken only by thin owl-hoots. Staring into the lunar blankness of the blind eyes under their sallow lids. Zu then slid the flute back into the cloth bag with her other meager possessions and set this parcel at the gnarled and humped root of a juniper for a pillow, laying her head on it and drawing up her knees, one arm outstretched with the open hand resting on her cane.


The boy sat still with his mouth wide open breathing. Looking up at the starry vastness. The man rose holding his knotted and coiled lengths of rope in one big hand and left the sleek firelight to check on his suddenly nickering animals. Then the boy got up and took a blanket and folded it and laid it on the ground then stretched out just as Zu had, his head resting on a bundle of rabbit pelts. He didn't even cover himself, he just lay down in his dust-streaked clothing, the patched shirt and the worn out trousers. He fell asleep instantly and the breathing wheezed in his skinny chest.


Zu was half-asleep now but keenly aware of the man walking back into the light from where the horses and mule stood tied to stunted and wind-arced trees. He sat by the fire and looked into its shimmering coals. He spat into the fire. Zu heard his spit sizzle. Then he let out a long slow sigh and stretched out his legs on the cleared earth by the fire resting his head in the crook of an elbow and was asleep in two heartbeats. So they all slept.




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