Dragon Sword

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


13. the man near beggar's wall



The street is dusty and brutishly hot in the sun.


Walking from sunlight to shadow is like diving into cold water. She is past the Beggar's Wall now and approaching the marketplace and here is a scraggly willow tree, she knows there is a low stone bench beneath the tree, a stone-rimmed well to one side, she has rested on it before on walking down from the mountains, but not now for she senses that the bench is occupied, she even feels a blaze of body heat on her skin as she moves past, tap tap tap.


The man -- the underlying odor of a man is clear as a gong -- reeks of camels, sweat, spices and wine and she senses a querying gaze on her face in the straw-hat shadow but she does not flinch nor slow her smooth flowing steps. There will be those who recognize her right off from the posters, of course there will be, Blind Swordswoman Zu, Assassin, Wanted for Murder, Reward Fifty Gold Pieces. There will be those to recognize her yes but how many of the ones who do possess the skills to kill her?



Then Zu is past the willow tree smelling the deep cavernous coolness breathed out of that well and longs to drink but she will wait, go to the babbling marketplace first and then oh how she will drink -- she'll sit down in a wine shop, take off her sandals, rub her bare toes luxuriously on the glossy-cool packed dirt of the floor and order a jug of wine and some cold water. The wine shop will smell sharply of spilled wine, the smooth dirt floor will be damp in places where dark wine has splashed over the rim of a clay jug. Maybe she will order a roasted pigeon to go with the wine, she has a few brass coins and the wine-shop owners have extended her credit before, why not today, why not now. It's been a long walk through the mountains and the deserts to get to Dragon Gate and she is so tired she trembles.



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