My Writing

23 October, 2020

Jade Maiden 8.1

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EIGHT

Governor Li's predecessor had built a fortress and prison on an island in the middle of Jīn-sè Mèn Bay.  Or, rather, he'd started to build one and Li was apparently continuing the work.  There weren't any soldiers garrisoned there, so far as Wen could tell; the soldiers were all on the mainland, and likely the happier for it.  In fact, at the moment there weren't any workmen either; there didn't seem to be anybody on the entire island save for Wen and several very bored jailers and guards.  In a way that ought to have been flattering.

It wasn't.

22 October, 2020

Jade Maiden 7.8

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[concluding chapter 7]

The fight was embarrassingly short.  None of Wen's new gang proved to have even the rudimentary swordsmanship Wen had possessed when Chin had first enrolled him in the Green Turbans; worse, they all knew how inept they were, and so didn't even try to defend themselves.  The only action they took was to turn tail and run back up the tunnel, leaving Wen alone in the supposed treasure-chamber with Chin and a squad of surprisingly well-armored men.  Wen tucked his light into a crack in the wall, then shifted so that the stairs were to his right and one wall of the cave was to his back, but he had no hope of winning this fight and he knew it.  Just let Lum get away, Guanyin, he prayed to the goddess of mercy, and I'll be satisfied.

21 October, 2020

Jade Maiden 7.7

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[continuing chapter 7]

It wasn't really cold.  His brain assured Wen of that.  But the rest of him wasn't convinced.  Somehow the damp air of early morning got inside you, penetrated to the core of your bones.  The fog wasn't helping, either.  Jīn-sè Mèn may have called itself the Gate of Gold, but no gold ever chilled this badly.

"I'm pretty sure this is the right hill," he said to Lum as they climbed the road, still muddy with last night's rain.  "But I won't know for sure until I see the mansion.  In this fog I can't even be sure we're still in Fusang."

20 October, 2020

Jade Maiden 7.6

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[continuing chapter 7]

"It was the Dragon Emerald Eye," Lum said, sipping the tea Wen had given him.  "I thought you were dead, or that I'd somehow failed to recite the spell properly.  It's a relief to know that you'd been hiding yourself.  As soon as you put the Eye back on, though, I saw in a dream where you were, and my dreams have been leading me to you ever since."

"You're no magician."

"No, but the Lady Fengzi is more than a scholar."  Lum grinned.  "She's the one who came up with the spell."

"I'm never going to be allowed to forget that, am I?" Wen asked.  "But at least it means she's thinking about me."

19 October, 2020

Some Familiar Faces

A tip o' the crash helmet to friend Do-Ming, who pointed me to the following image:

Two of these gents are characters in Dixie's Land or its related short
fiction. The third guy pre-dates all of the stories (but not the timeline)
Image by James Berridge, used without permission; I hope he doesn't mind

The artist in question, James Berridge, has restored and coloured a single portrait shot of every US president who served after the invention of the photographic process but before the development of colour photography. (That's all but the first five and the most recent fourteen, by my estimate.)

There are certainly legitimate objections that could be made to the process of updating old photos in this fashion, but when it's done well it seems to me it can be done while paying real attention to telling details (one that stands out is Coolidge's red hair and freckles, something I not known about before reading Berridge's post on PetaPixel). And in turn this can make it much easier for at least some of us to relate to these gentlemen as individuals and humans with something in common with all of us.

I thought I'd mention it here because of the connection with Dixie's Land. And, really, because since first seeing Jackson's They Shall Not Grow Old, I have been a little bit fascinated with the whole process of restoration/colourization.

Jade Maiden 7.5

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[continuing chapter 7]

It took two full days for Wen to harangue the new men into some sort of order, and to obtain sufficient intelligence about Chin's mansion to make a burglary feasible.  The only way to make the robbery lucrative enough, he decided, was to assign a number of men to be nothing more than pack animals.  He had no idea of what the Meiyou treasure was going to be, other than the assumption that there were more silver scales from a set of ceremonial armor, so he had to plan for the possibility that some of what he'd find would be heavy or awkward or both.

What he didn't bother to tell the gang was that he proposed to keep the most valuable items for himself.  These weren't the men of the Jade Maiden, with whom he had a bond of sorts; they were the kind of men who would volunteer to rob someone if you asked them in a bar.  Oh, and if you were notorious.

16 October, 2020

Jade Maiden 7.4

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[continuing chapter 7]

Chin's new mansion really was the most gods-awful thing in creation. It wasn't so much the design—the house was built to the same plan as most of the houses in Jīn-sè Mèn—as it was the sheer size and gaudy coloring of it.  I'm no scholar, thought Wen as he examined the house from farther down the hill, but I certainly know what I don't like, and this is it.

Wen spent the day after his arrival in Jīn-sè Mèn watching Chin's house from various locations nearby.  Of Chin himself there was no sign, but that wasn't much of a surprise.  Even in a place as wild and near-lawless as Jīn-sè Mèn there were imperial soldiers and a city watch, and Chin was still a rebel with a price on his head.  And sooner or later someone in authority was going to figure out that you dealt with Chin not by bringing him before a magistrate but by chopping off his head the instant you caught him not paying attention.

15 October, 2020

Jade Maiden 7.3

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[continuing chapter 7]

Jīn-sè Mèn was a frontier town, and it had a frontier town's sense of impermanence to it.  The buildings, even the bridges over the rivers and creeks, all seemed to be made of sticks and paper.  A good storm, Wen thought, will blow this place apart.  And probably does.

He stumbled as he stepped onto the bridge spanning a narrow canal.  It wasn't just the fog, though gods knew that was thick enough; the real problem was that he was still having trouble adjusting to being one-eyed.  It was a shame the Dragon Emerald Eye was so distinctive, because there was no way to wear it and not immediately be identified as Wen Xia, pirate of the Great Eastern Sea.  It was, he had discovered on his journey north, possible to be too good at developing a fearsome reputation.