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Dragon Ships of the Yangzi Jiang

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  • Dragon Ships of the Yangzi Jiang

    Have the kernel of an idea that might come to something, but equally might not. Expect nothing.

    UPDATE #1:
    A teaser for what might come:
    Last edited by David Mosley; 07-06-2011, 09:25 AM. Reason: Added teaser image #1
    _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
    _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
    _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
    _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

  • #2
    Dragon Ships of the Yangzi Jiang - Part 1 (subject to revision)

    1

    Zhang was a cheat and an oath-breaker; a liar and a blasphemer; a horse thief and a cattle rustler; a sell-sword and a deserter; a slaver and a whoremaster; a despoiler of virgins and a shamer of widows. There were few crimes he had not been accused of and less he was unguilty of. He had crossed from one end of Eastern Zhou to the other, leaving a trail of broken lives and ruined reputations in his wake. But as he stood upon the cliff top, the wind ripping through his hair, Zhang looked down at the crashing surf below and knew he had finally run out of space.

    Two months earlier he had arrived in Suzhou garbed as a holy man and through flattery and obsequiousness, a trait that did not come naturally to Zhang, had inveigled himself into the household of a horse lord. In the weeks that followed he had seduced both the horse lord’s wife and virgin daughter as well as helping himself to the contents of the lord’s coffers. His luck had finally run out when he let slip that both wife and daughter shared a birthmark upon their left buttocks and the betrayal of his host exposed, Zhang’s carefully constructed house of deceit had come crashing down.

    Luckily, a horse lord does not want for a lack of horses and so Zhang had stolen a most promising looking steed that he had had his eye on for no little time and, through the audacity that scoundrels are oft blessed with, made his escape. Unluckily, a horse lord does not want for a lack of horses and Zhang had swiftly found himself the object of heavy pursuit. The gods must have decided that the time had come for Zhang to face the consequences of his many crimes though for first impressions had proved deceiving and the stolen mount had collapsed and died before it had even gone ten li.

    Zhang could have cursed his misfortune but he had survived worse fates than being pursued across open country by enraged horsemen and besides at this stage in his life he no longer felt inclined to trust the vagaries of the gods if they existed to determine his fate. As long as he had his jian sword he felt he needed nothing else.

    He hefted the jian in his hand as the first horseman rode his steed hard at him, his dao sword outstretched to avenge his lord's dishonour. The dao whistled over Zhang's head as he brought his jian up and rider's dao and arm, from the elbow down, fell at his feet.

    The rider tumbled from his horse grasping desperately at his ruined limb, a terrible wailing coming from his throat as he thrashed about on the soil. Zhang silenced the hapless man quickly but then another rider was upon him. Steel clashed against steel as the second rider turned in a tight arc trying to get behind Zhang to strike.

    Zhang rolled forward and retrieved the fallen rider's dao from his amputated grip. The sound of hooves was behind him and he spun round, blades sweeping twin arcs in front of him and struck bone and sinew. The horse fell forward head first, deprived of its fore-limbs, but its suffering was brief for the neck broke from the impact as the rider was thrown forward. Zhang swiftly drove the dao down through the rider’s neck, severing the carotid artery, into his heart.

    As the luckless rider expired, Zhang looked about him and saw he was surrounded by a semi-circle of twenty more horsemen, though all stood their ground, for none dared to follow their fellows who lay lifeless at Zhang's feet. Behind him the crashing of the waves a 100 feet below him echoed in the mist that hid the water from sight.

    There was a commotion from behind the line and it broke to allow the horse lord through to the front. He sat upon his great steed, which stamped the ground and snorted in barely bridled impatience, sweat steaming from its flanks and hot breath billowing from its nostrils.

    “Snake!” the horse lord snarled at Zhang. “You have nowhere left to run but I will drag your corpse behind me when I ride back to Suzhou. I swear before the gods that the dishonour you brought unto my household will be revisited upon you a thousand times in Diyu.”

    Zhang shrugged, sheathing his jian. “Alas, I fear I’m not ready to visit hell yet, master. No doubt one day I may well journey to the underworld but not this day if you don’t mind.” The mist was rising quicker now, congealing above the ground so it seemed as though horses and man were standing in clouds.

    The horse lord bristled visibly at Zhang’s insouciance. “A hundred qian to the man who brings me this scoundrel!” he cried. The horsemen spurred their steeds forward but the beasts were unsure of their footing in the thick low-laying mist and they advanced slowly. Zhang stood his ground until there was less than three bu between him and the horses, then he turned and ran towards the cliff’s unseen edge before leaping silently through the mist.

    The silence was broken only by the horse lord’s bellow as Zhang disappeared from view followed by a faint, muffled splash somewhere in the far distance below.

    *
    _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
    _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
    _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
    _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

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