Archive for June 4th, 2013

June 4, 2013

The Dragon Tongue War Part IX

by Paul Davis

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part IX

Zho gnawed on the end of his straw, then looked over to Ba. Ba had a straw hat covering his eyes, the man half asleep with a fishing pole in the water at Ta Ning. They were on the western side of the fork in the Tongue. Two forks came together, the western and eastern tongue, to form the main river. In the center was a verdant delta. “That bastard fall sleep on me?” Zho furrowed his brow and leaned over to get a good look at Ba. “Sure enough, snoring and all.” Zho shook his head and kicked the legs out from under Ba’s chair, causing the man to sprawl out on the pier.

With a start, Ba looked around, “What happened? Where am I? Did I catch nothin?”

Next to the startled man was Zho, laughing so hard he fell off his chair, “Shoot, Ba, should see your face. Don’t fall sleep on me gain. You stay awake and catch your fill, I catch mine, we feed our families.”

“Oh, Zho, why’d you have to do that? Had pretty dreams. Was at that district none talk bout. You know.” He lowered his voice, “That one.”

“I get it, Ba, you were dreaming of the whore house. This have a point or you just getting yourself all hard again?”

“Darn it, Zho, you kill it all the time. I get all excited, and you just rain on down. Water on a fly, don’t let me flap my wings.”

Zho laughed again, “Old fool,” he spat. “Sounds like you want to be flapping something else, and ain’t talking bout that mouth of yours. Now shut up and get fishing.”

Ba stood up and brushed himself off as if it mattered. His overalls hadn’t been cleaned in well over two months. He picked up his chair and sat back down, casting his line into the river. The two men fished in silence for a while, watching skiffs go across the river with fishers and traders. Merchants didn’t often leave the mouth of the Tongue. The waters were too choppy and the boats too small to do even coastal trade with some of the towns on the sea.

The sun was beginning to set when Ba finally said, “Think anything exciting ever happen here?”

“Wouldn’t hold my breath. Likely pass out. Nah, nothing exciting here. That’s how I like it. Fish, eat, drink.” He paused a moment, thinking. “You know, would be exciting to get better drinks. I could do with that. And maybe women. I love Lin, don’t get me wrong or start moving in on her, but her body’s not what it was. Otherwise, I’m content with this life. It’s a good life.”

“Maybe if some spirits came here. Or maybe more often? I heard there was a water spirit letting fishermen use her if they caught her. Should be mighty fine body. Something like that.”

“Then get a net. Even then, water spirits slip right through. Think you drank too much with the boys.”

“Your daughter would do otherwise. She’s old ‘nough, tight body.”

Zho struck his friend, sending him sprawling, Ba’s pole slipping into the river. “Talk like my girl that again, throw you in the river. Now go home. You lost your pole and you’re none good anyway.”

Ba grumbled, scratching his crotch and walking off the pier. The sun was setting, a view which Zho enjoyed immensely. The fish never mattered. It was nice, but he was making enough money through his trade to buy food. Fishing was to get away from the wife and kids for a few moments, to allow him to think and contemplate the beautiful world the spirits had given him. Not that he didn’t love his family, he reasoned, just sometimes time away was needed. He nodded, happy with his justification.

Something was floating in the water, reflecting the golden hue of the sun. It caught Zho’s attention, but was too large to be treasure of any sort. If it was actually gold, it would have made him one of the wealthiest men in Ta Ning. But no, he wasn’t so lucky. It moved like a body, but it wasn’t human. People floating to sea didn’t give such a reflection. There was a tail waving behind the creature. “Fishmonger piss, what is that?” But before he could investigate, it had floated out to sea.

Zho gathered his supplies. His mind must have been playing tricks on him. But as he brought together his tools, he saw more gold shimmering downstream, flowing towards the sea. There were dozens, and mixed with them were the bodies of men in heavy armor, parts of their bodies gnawed off. Zho threw up and ran towards his home, shouting something was happening in the river.

A haggled man stopped Zho. He was tall and muscular with a large spear. He grunted, “What happened?”

“Corpses of men and something. Snakes I think.”

“Go home quickly. Get out of here.”

Zho looked dazed. The man was with several other warriors, all of them bedraggled. Behind those warriors were refugees. “Where are you from?”

“Bai Ding.” The man and those following him continued walking through the streets and Zho went home, telling his wife of the strange events which happened that evening.