Friday, June 3, 2011

Nanowrimo 2006 Story #4: "The Silk Dragon"

She had never had such a delicacy before; no wonder the Fire Rangers considered it a treat. It even earned itself a song; granted it was as annoying as the Map Song, but it did have a catchy tune that stuck in one’s head for hours.

“Sisi, do you have any songs where you come from?”

She started at the question. They were all looking at her, so she said, “My Foster-Mother used to sing all the time...since we’re talking about food, well, she had a song about chaochaou.”

Coren blinked. “What’s that?”

“It’s a drink...” she tried to describe it to someone who had never seen it before. “It’s brown and made out of hard nut, the juice is mixed with spices, and it’s very good, but it makes you nervy...”

Jay-Jay frowned. “Chocolate?”


“It’s a kind of milk.”

“No, Jay-Jay, it’s not made of milk; cow, yak or otherwise.” She sighed in frustration. “It’s—“ then she broke out into song: “Chaochaou, Chaochaou, Chaochou, Chaochou, DRINK! Chaochaou, Chaochaou, Chaochaou, DRINK!”

Utter silence. “That’s it?” Nonnie said, mystified.

“That’s it,” Sisi replied proudly.

The other Rangers looked at each other for a long moment, then Coren said slowly, “It sounds like coffee, Nonnie. She says it makes you’s brown and made from something small. And the word is similar.”

Sisi blinked in the sudden silence and immediately wished she hadn’t said anything. Coren smiled and waved a hand at one of the servers. “Lanie, two cups of coffee, please. Sisi, this is a drink from where I come from. I want you to tell me if this is it.”

A minute later, Lanie slid two steaming cups of brew in front of them. The earthy smell brought tears to Sisi’s eyes, and she sipped at it: thick and sweet. “Yes, yes, this is very similar, Coren! My Foster-Father makes this and sells it at the yukka, and serves it hot, and everyone in the village drinks it, and he makes other drinks too, some that I can drink, some I can’t. I usually can’t drink this, because it makes me too nervy, but it reminds me of home, and it might be the only thing that—“

Her rambling words stumbled over each other and became a muddle, and Coren reached over to her and gave her a hug. Her veneer of calm shattered and she cried like a little baby as the homesickness and fear finally washed over her like a tsunami.

“You know, you’re so brave,” Nonnie said as she placed a hand on her shoulder. “We Fire Rangers have a lot of passion, a lot of chutzpah, and some of the other Elemental Rangers call us reckless. We tend to hide all our worries under a facade. You don’t. I respect that.”

Sisi sniffed and wiped her eyes on her sleeve. “I feel so horrible—“

”Don’t be. We aren’t scared of emotions, like some others,” Coren said with a laugh. “We laugh, we cry, we argue and make up, we sing, and in general—“

”WE ARE LOUD,” the entire room chorused, then burst out into claps and applause.

Sisi felt a new smile steal across her lips. They reminded her so much of Foster-Mother Tatara and Tatara’s relatives...colorful, loud, and always looking for an excuse for a festival. Meng Pao and the Churro reminded her of solid Earth: rock-steady and reliable, but very reserved.

Lupita finished her Hot Potato and said, “You know, we are due for a new uniform design, and I can see you have an eye for color. Would you like to help?”

Sisi’s smile grew wider. “Yes, of course I will!”

Jay-Jay said it for all of them. “I think it’s the beginning of a wonderful friendship.”

Link brought her to her new quarters, a room right between Lupita’s and Nonnie’s, which consisted of a bed, clothing chests, a writing desk, and a little oil lamp. The bed had fluffy pillows and thick blankets that she had been used to in her family’s tent.

“I thought you might want some things from home,” Link said.

“Thank you, sir. I don’t know what to say—“

”Tomorrow, I’ll be back to show you your classes. Nonnie and Lupita will help you settle in tonight. It will be a brand new life for you, Little Sisi.”

“I think I’ll be all right, sir.”

“Then good night, and I will see you on the morrow, then.” Link inclined his head to her, then turned and headed for the door. As he went, he reached into his black jacket and took out a oval-shaped fabric. With a flick of his wrist, the fabric popped up into a tall, cylindrical hat, which he placed on his head as soon as he cleared the doorway.

Nonnie and Lupita came and showed her the outdoor pools. The Ranger compound was situated near a natural hot spring, heated by a nearby volcano, and the pools were filled with hot water for washing. The trio talked as they soaped and rinsed and Sisi learned much about her newfound friends.

Nonnie was from a place called Florida, as warm and humid as Churro was cold and bone dry. She talked about living right on the ocean, where people swam and ate food caught directly from the water. She had enjoyed something called parasailing, gliding in the air with a huge wing and pulled by a boat on the water. Her Dragon had saved her when her safety harness had snapped and she fell from a great height from the sky. He had taken her through her own Passage through an icy wasteland, where she had faced her own fears of falling, before she arrived here.

Lupita belonged to a tribe called the Aztecas, a grand empire that encompassed thousands of villages. Her father had been a priest, her mother an oracle. One day, a rival priest drugged her mother and told her that the only way to avoid a plague was to sacrifice her only daughter. So Lupita was readied for the sacrifice, and marched up the steep stone steps to her doom.

Of course, Teztlpotl, her Dragon, had other plans for her, sweeping her off the stone altar before her grieving father plunged the knife into her heart, and taking her to her own Passage through the Jungle of Death, to confront her own fears of betrayal and anger, before she too, ended here, with the Fire Rangers.

Sisi listened to these tales with awe. It made her own journey and Passage seem simple in comparison, but she relented to tell it when the other two begged. Nonnie whistled in admiration.

“It seemed so simple, but I would’ve been terrified. It takes a lot to trust your Dragon not to let you fall. I had to do that with SurferDude.”

“SurferDude is the name of your Dragon?” Sisi asked.

“Yeah, it was the screen name of a guy I once knew, who surfed the waves at Key Largo, tanned hunk with a great big...surfboard.” Nonnie waggled her eyebrows. “Anyway, SurferDude lives up to the name, rides through the air like a great dolphin, that’s a beautiful fish, Sisi, I wish I could take you to see them.”

Lupita smiled. “Tetzlpotl came to me in the guise of a great phoenix—“

”I know what a phoenix bird is, Lupita,” Sisi told her.

“I thought I had already arrived in the Hall of the Gods, but of course, I serve the Gods instead with my life.” Lupita sighed and stretched her long, lean body. “I’m for my rest, so good night to you all.”

“Good night, Lupita.”

“Fair the night, Lupita.”

Nonnie turned to Sisi and said, “It’s getting late, we should go to bed too. It’ll be a busy day tomorrow.”

Sisi only nodded in agreement.

Back to Chapter Three
Forward to Chapter Five

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011

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