Noah’s Boy – Snippet 02
“So?” Bea asked.Â “Why is it so important that I come here?Â And why do you think I should obey you?Â Or that I owe you anything?”
The man smiled.Â It was a surprisingly engaging smile.Â It seemed to her as he narrowed his eyes that a sense of amusement touched them too.Â “I think,” he said, softly.Â “That I’m about to shock you very much.Â However, I trust you’ll let me explain my motives before dismissing them.”
She swallowed, wondering what he meant by that.
“Forget what I said about owing me.Â That wasâ€¦Â You see, where I come from, it is assumed you owe your ancestors unusual respect, and I’m the ancestor of most of the dragon shifters alive today.”
“That is hardly likely,” she said.Â “I know all my grandparents, and I –”
“I am not your grandfather.Â Not even your great grandfather.Â It’s muchâ€¦ older than that.Â Thousands of years.Â Â How many, I’m afraid I’ve lost track.
“But that’s imposs –”
“Please, Miss Ryu.”Â He paused, his hands holding a pea pod over the bowl, looking at her.Â Then he said, “Hear me out.”
It wasn’t a command — or it shouldn’t have been, spoken in that voice as soft as crackling flame.Â But she stopped and listened.
His nail ripped the pea pod apart and his finger swept down the green envelope, trickling glistening little globes into the bowl.Â “I haveâ€¦ that isâ€¦ I don’t suppose your parents told you that I am your ancestor in –” He seemed to be counting in his head.Â “Your mother’s mother’s side and your father’s mother’s side.”
“I don’t understand,” she said.Â “My father is Japanese and you –”
“Oh.”Â He dropped another spent pea pod on the growing pile and made a gesture, either dismissing that restaurant or the entire world.Â “This is an identity of convenience,” he said.Â “I told you my people predate most such things.Â Dragons — Dragons belong to the whole world, even if our type is mostly of Asia.Â There are other types –”
He resumed shelling peas, now very fast, as he spoke.Â “It is the immutable rule of our people that the Great Sky Dragon must be a descendant of the previous Great Sky Dragon in the male line.Â Unbroken male line.Â And that he must be a Dragon shifter. We don’t know why but that’s howâ€¦ that’s how it works.”Â Peas tinkled into the metal bowl like falling rain.Â A green smell filled the room.Â “That was me, the many times grandson of the Great Sky Dragon, growing up on the banks of the Yalu River at a time when –” He shrugged.Â “It doesn’t matter, except to say that in my very long life, and sometimes I forget how many thousands of years it is, exactly, I’ve had wives, concubines and lovers, but –“Â He looked up and smiled at her.Â “There is no reason to blush.Â In a life as long as mine, well, there will be friendship and love, and, occasionally, less honorable associations.Â But what I meant to say is that of all my connections with human and shifter, many daughters were born.Â My line is threaded through dragon kind, Ryus and Lungs and many other family names are honorably descended from me.Â But in that time, only one son was ever born to me.”Â He looked up again, and amusement pulled at the corner of his mouth.Â “He was not born of a normal marriage.Â It was moreâ€¦ a treaty and a ritual pairing.Â Years ago, there was a â€¦ another dragon tribe.Â Near the frozenâ€¦ ahâ€¦ I believe what is now called Scandinavia.Â Their ruler was a woman, a female.Â She was called the Queen of The West, as I was the King of the East.Â We made a treaty, to keep our people from fighting each other, and..Â There was a symbolic marriage.Â Which resulted in a son, who was not a shifter.Â I thought our blood didn’t work together, that we’d never have children who were shifters from that line, so I ignored it.
“Until someone stole the Pearl of Heaven and I found that while I could touch his mind, I could not control him as I could other dragon shifters.Â And it wasn’t just because he had dragon-blood from the tribe of the west, for I could sense he had my blood too.Â I had people trace back through his ancestry and found that he was descended from that long ago forgotten son.Â And he is my only male descendant on the unbroken male line, the only one with a power close to my own.Â The only one who can carry my burden.Â The one who will carry my burden.”
A fleeting poor bastard crossed Bea’s mind, but she did her best to look attentive and blank.
“His name is Tom Ormson and he isâ€¦” The man she was now sure was The Great Sky Dragon shrugged.Â “Very young.Â I think in his early twenties.Â He lives here in town and owns a diner, the George.”
“Yes?” Bea said.
“I’d like you to marry him.”
For a while, Bea was speechless.Â She’d heard of arranged marriages, of course, particularly in Asia, but her parents were American and thoroughly modern, and they would no more think of contracting a marriage for her, than they would think of binding her feet. When she found her voice, she said, “And he’s agreed to this?”
“Oh, no.Â He doesn’t even know about it.”Â A frown pulled at the old dragon’s mouth.Â “In fact, I think he has plans of marrying a panther shifter.Â He’s living with her.Â Completely unsuitable, of course.Â Her people are not our people.”
“But you think he’ll agree?” Bea asked.
“I think he’ll tell me to go to hell,” the old dragon said, and looked up with a faint smile.Â “And so will his girlfriend.Â She’s feisty enough, and she has no fear of me.”
“Butâ€¦ you want me to marry him?Â You said you can’t make him do what you wish, soâ€¦”
“No.Â You’ll have to find how to make him do what I wish.”
Bea stood up.Â Her legs were trembling.Â She couldn’t let her father lose the business he’d worked for all his life, but neither could she agree to this.Â The elderly man-dragon wanted her to seduce a total stranger one who was in a serious relationship.Â No.Â There were limits to what she was willing to do, even for her beloved father.Â They’d get tired of trying to force his hand eventually.Â They’d leave them alone.Â Bea couldn’t sell herself for life for the sake of her father.Â That was prostitution and slavery, combined.
Standing, she glared down at the Great Sky Dragon.Â She could feel power rolling off him, though she could not have explained what type of power or how she felt it.
“I’m sorry,” she said.Â “You’ve got the wrong person.Â I’m sure there’s someone else you can call on, who will be willing to do it.Â I don’t want to trick a man who is in love with someone else into marrying me.Â I don’t want an arranged marriage.”
There was a long silence.Â “I’ll let myself out,” Bea said.
“Stay!”Â It wasn’t so much an order as a sudden plea.Â She’d turned to leave the room and now turned again.Â The Great Sky Dragon was looking up at her, and his eyes held an expression she’d have thought impossible: raw, undiluted fear.
“Don’t you understand?” the Great Sky Dragon said, his voice low.Â “Do you think this is something I’d want, throwing an untrained girl at a stubborn boy and hoping for the best?Â Compared to me you’re nothing but babies.Â I thought he could have his panther girl and be happy, and when it dissolved in a century or two, then I could guide him towards a marriage that will produce dragons.
“But there is a trial coming and I’m not sure I can — If I’m not here, he’ll need to be married to one of our own, recognizably our own.Â He doesn’t look like our kind.Â My people will rebel at his orders.Â And it will need to be known that he will have dragon children, to rule after him.Â In the battle ahead, there might not be thousands of years to spawn.”
Bea didn’t realize she’d sat down, but her trembling legs were about to not let her stand up anymore.Â “Why would he be giving orders?”
“My grandfather told me of the dragons-beyond-the-stars who could — who would one day attack the Earth.”Â The Great Sky Dragon shrugged.Â “I always thought it was a legend, nothing more.Â But — Lately I’ve had signs that it is not.Â There is a great power out there, encircling, trying to remove me, trying toâ€¦”Â He frowned.Â “I think trying to attack my people.Â I’ve lived very long, and death doesn’t scare me, but –”
“But when I go all my power, and the destiny of my people will fall on the head of Tom Ormson, a stranger, raised outside our traditions.”Â He held up a hand to keep her from interrupting.Â “Oh, I know, you also have not been taught our traditions, but everyone knows your parents, both of them, are descended from my first-born daughter. Â They will fall in line.Â And you can help your husband through the trial to come by winning for him the respect of our people.”