The Dragon's Blood, Ch. 9THE DRAGON'S BLOOD
"And so, from there you heard of my lair beyond the sand," the dragon surmised, giving an unimpressed snort.
Arjun shook his head. "Do you know how hard it is to find a dragon like you? There were so many dead ends and false leads that I was beginning to think it was hopeless. But I never gave up! That's how I found you." He held his sword out, the one that had once belonged to Dhir. "I finished my story, dragon. Now give me your blood!"
The dragon began to circle Arjun, the ground gently rumbling underneath its feet. "I'm afraid I have no desire to do that, child of man."
"What! Why not? All I need is a drop. One drop for my brother!"
The dragon came to a stop, now standing between Arjun and the cavern's entrance. "Two reasons," said the creature. "The first is that the healer who spoke with you should have been more specific."
"W-what do you mean?" Arjun stuttered.
"It is not just the blood of a dragon that undoes the curse, it is the physical <em>
The Dragon's Blood, Ch. 8BRIDGE OF CONSEQUENCES
Chinji spread the last dried petals over the fresh grave and stood up. "Kritanu Dhir Sen" the new grave maker read. The two boys had buried him beside his wife and son, using a plank from their cart as the marker the same way he had once done for those two. They had buried the hunter where he'd fallen as well out of decency, and left a nameless marker to explain in short what had taken place there, but they had no tears for him. Only this man before them. Suddenly, this site had taken on a whole new meaning for Arjun.
"He didn't hate me, did he?" asked Arjun between sniffles.
"Of course not," said Chinji, still pawing at his sore chest. "You were his son too."
Arjun wiped his face on his sleeve. "You don't have to lie to make me feel better. I know he didn't think of me like that."
"I'm not lying," said Chinji. "It's true."
"But he never said I was his son."
Chinji laughed, recalling old memories. "You know how he was. He wouldn't just come out a
The Dragon's Blood, Ch. 7RECKONING
Arjun lay on his side, looking out at the full moon in the distance. If he listened over the tireless crickets and chirping of bats he could hear the stream bubbling in the distance, the one by which Chinji's mother and true brother were buried. Normally they didn't come back this way, but Dhir insisted they visit his wife's grave one more time before departing for the north. He was there now, though it was too far away for Arjun to see him, even in the bright light of the full moon. Since yesterday the man hadn't spoken a word to him, or even so much as looked him in the eye.
Arjun rolled over on his mat to find Chinji was still sitting up, dressed in a short white shirt for bed just as he was. "Chinji," he called in a fragile voice, "if you leave me at the next town, I won't be angry with you. I promise I won't be a thief again. I'm older now, so maybe someone will give me work, and if not then I could"
"We're not leaving you, Arjun," said Chinji. "Yo
The Dragon's Blood, Ch. 6PROFIT AND LOSS
Arjun pushed his way through the crowded streets of the Grand Bazaar. Here people of all allegiances gathered from countless lands, creating a great hub in the network of trade. Merchants from every corner of the known world traveled here to swap wares. If there was something that someone somewhere in the world would pay for, it could be found at the Grand Bazaar. Thus far Arjun had already bought a new pair of boots, and some sturdy clothes for the coming year to replace the ones he'd worn out or outgrown. He'd also treated himself to a hearty bowl of spicy vegetable curry, a spit of roast duck, and was now chewing on a handful of sweet puris. At times like this when everything was good, he remembered how long ago he used to talk to his empty belly as a child. It made him feel stupid to think about it now, but it also brought him joy knowing how fully his fortunes had been reversed.
Regardless, he knew he couldn't just wander and buy things fo
The Dragon's Blood, Ch. 5BROTHERS, NOT BY BLOOD
Arjun sat patiently in the grass while Chinji worked at his hair with a pair of scissors, styling it into spikes at the sides using some wax. "I don't like it," he pouted, looking at his hair in the mirror he held. "I want it to look more like yours." Five years of being able to sleep at night with a full belly had paid off in dividends; he was now almost as tall as his adopted brother.
"Our hair isn't the same," said Chinji. "Mine's curly, and yours is straight. I can't make it look exactly the same. Besides, you want to stand out, don't you? You have to stand out somehow if you want girls to notice you."
"What's the point?" he asked, tapping his finger against the brand on his cheek. "All they ever see is this."
"Hey, scars are cool!" Chinji insisted. He stuck the scissors in his satchel and stood up. "Alright, I'm all done! We better get packed up now. Tomorrow's going to be a hard day."
Chinji and Arjun were now the ones who did most of the b
The Dragon's Blood, Ch. 4AFTER SALVATION
The little thief boy began to stir from his troubled dreams, slowly opening his eyes a bit at a time and waiting for the world to come into focus. The first thing he saw was a hand lying just in front of his face, a small greasy hand not unlike his own. He began to flex his fingers a bit, and the fingers of the hand in front of him moved too. It was still there! He bolted up to a sitting position and looked down at his two little hands, so happy he wanted to cry. He could feel them and move them as he always could.
His cheek began to sting, so he placed one of his hands against it, only to reel it back again and cry out in pain.
"Hey! He's awake!" someone nearby exclaimed.
The thief looked over with a start to find a boy sitting across from him with a smile. "Are you okay?" the boy asked.
He did not respond at first, instead taking inventory of his surroundings. He found himself in the back of a cart with a bright cloth canopy shading him from the sun.
The Dragon's Blood, Ch. 3THE MERCHANT'S SON
Chinji sat behind his father, leaning forward as he watched the commotion taking place further down the square from their stall. "How long are we going to stay here?" he asked, kicking at the ground with his boots.
"Until the end of the week," his father said sternly, flipping to the next page in his book. "Don't worry, business will pick up again once they're done over there." Normally during the day like this both he and his son would be shouting to those passing by, enticing them to buy the rare spices they carried in from the south. But not today. No, today there was too much going on in the square where a large crowd had gathered around a raised wooden platform, the lord's palace conveniently situated in the background to remind them all who was in charge. Because of this he knew that he and his son would only be wasting their breath, and so he had taken to reading one of his novels while his son used the time to think about how bored he was.
The Dragon's Blood, Ch. 2TALE OF THE LITTLE THIEF
It had all begun five years before with a nameless boy who squatted quietly in the shadow of an alley, patiently waiting for the right moment. Though winter was soon at hand his filthy body was dressed in nothing but tattered rags, not even enough to fully cover himself. Instead his bare chest clearly revealed little ribs pressing out against his olive skin. He winched a moment as his stomach gurgled in anticipation.
"Just a little longer," he whispered, holding his hand over his belly. "Just wait! I'll fill you up so full you'll be happy for days!" He peered over at the baker's open stall not far away across the dirt street. There was more fresh bread stacked on the wooden racks and displays than he could count on his fingers and toes. He licked his lips and began to inch closer to the light. As soon as the baker turned his back and stepped away to check his ovens, the boy sprinted into action, dashing across the street and snatching up a sing
The Dragon's Blood, Ch. 1A BEGINNING AND AN END
In the ancient ages long past, when great beasts still roamed the width and breadth of this Earth and mighty kings ruled the divided lands of men, there was a boy who ventured out into the endless ocean of sand in pursuit of the most legendary of creatures: a dragon. He was no more than fourteen years oldmaybe not even thatthin and scrawny with ragged, tangled hair that whipped about in the dry desert gales. He was dressed in a long, billowing cloak with a sword at his side, and a dark maroon brand seared into the flesh of his left cheek. On his back was another figure, another boy his own age with dark curly hair, his eyes closed tight.
The ragged teenager stopped a moment to adjust his passenger's weight before continuing on again to the next dune before him. "The wind's really bad today, huh?" he spoke up.
His passenger, the boy with curly hair, did not respond, not even so much as move to acknowledge that he'd heard the question.