Why yes, I have an ulterior motive in posting this excerpt from my story in the e0book Like a Treasure Found from Circlet Press. I'm sure you can figure it out.
This is a very long excerpt, but the story itself is a good deal longer. I'm sorry to say that the erotic parts all come later, mostly after battles have been won and a prisoner rescued, but that's the way it goes. I'll add that there are two historical figures in the story--well, three, if you count the one in a newspaper clipping. Madame Lai Cho San, the Dragon Lady of Bias Bay, was an actual "Pirate Queen" during the 1920s and into the 30s. The other historical character is the rescued prisoner, but even at the end of the story I don't reveal her name. I'm sure you can figure it out.
First, the info about the poll, which will determine which stories are chosen for Circlet's 20th anniversary print anthology:
Best of Circlet’s Digital Library Poll
This year marks Circlet Press’s twentieth anniversary of “celebrating the erotic imagination” with the best offerings in erotic science-fiction and fantasy. From the earliest days of chapbooks stapled together and sold by word-of-mouth on convention floors to embracing the cutting-edge ebook technology of today, Circlet has endured thanks to our passionate and discerning readership. In celebration of our anniversary and your continued support, we’re happy to announce our plans to publish the best of Circlet’s digital library in a print anthology this fall. And since we couldn’t have lasted this long without you, we want your input!
The list below contains stories from each of our ebook-only anthologies, short-listed for their excellence by the editors at Circlet Press. Now it’s your turn to honor your favorites. Please vote for up to five stories you would like to see in the printed anthology. Your votes and the consideration of Circlet staff will determine which stories will ultimately appear in this anthology and which are truly the best of the best. The author of the top rated story will receive a prize of $250. Second and third place stories’ authors will each receive a prize of $100. All authors whose stories appear in this anthology will be receiving $50.
Voting on this poll will remain open until March 15th, 2012. We will be announcing the complete list of included stories on April 5th, 2012.
The Pirate from the Sky
In Seok-Teng’s dream, a great pale dragon twined through a labyrinth of shifting clouds. Opaline scales shimmered through intervals of sunlight, slipped into invisibility, and then flashed out again in dazzling beauty. Its long, elegant head swung from side to side, tongue flickering like sensuous lightning.
A distant hum arose, a subtle, tantalizing vibration that teased at Seok-Teng’s mind and flesh. A song? A warning? A summons? In all her dreams of dragons, never had she been aware of sound. She strained to hear, to understand. But the hum became steadily louder, swelling to a growl, tearing her from sleep into darkness and sudden, stark awareness. If the roof of the captain’s cabin had been high enough she would have bolted upright.
Still the sound grew. This was no dragon, nor yet thunder, nor storm winds.The sea spoke to Seok-Teng through the ship’s movements, as it had to her forbears for generations beyond counting; tonight it gave no cause for alarm. Japanese patrol boats? When she had taken her crew so far out of the usual shipping channels to avoid such pursuit? No, she had come to know that sound all too well. This one was different—yet not entirely unknown.
The cabin’s entrance showed scarcely lighter than its interior. Now it darkened. Han Duan, the ship’s Number One, squatted to look within.
“An aircraft,” Seok-Teng called, before the other could speak.
Han Duan grunted in agreement. “Not a large one, but low, and coming close. Who would fly so far from any land?”
“It is nothing to do with us.” Seok-Teng wished to resume the dream. She wished also to avoid resuming discussion of why a pirate ship would sail so far from any land, when it was accustomed by tradition to plying the coasts along the South China Sea.
“The Japanese have many planes,” Han Duan said.
“And better uses for them than pursuing us this far. We are very small fish indeed.” That was a tactical error, Seok-Teng realized at once. Evading a Japanese navy angered by the plundering of several small merchant ships off Mindanao had been her stated excuse for sailing so far to the east.
The small islands and atolls of the Mariana and Marshall groups were technically under Japanese control, but surely the eye of Nippon was bent too fiercely on the conquest of China to pay much attention to every far-flung spit of sand. On some of those islets distant relatives from Seok-Teng’s many-branched heritage still lived, and on others there were no permanent habitations at all. Good places for her crew to find or build a refuge while the world at large descended into war and madness—if a refuge was what they truly wanted.
She herself was torn by the desire to take part in the battle, to join forces with China’s defenders as pirates in the past had often done. In her small packet of private belongings was a small photograph, cut from a newspaper, of Soong Mai-ling, the beautiful wife of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and a leader in her own right. Seok-Teng longed to serve her in some fashion, but the way was not clear.The old pirate practices might suffice for the harrying of merchant ships, but the modern military craft of the Japanese were another matter.
Han Duan grunted again and stood, with just enough of a stoop to clear the low roof. The plane was nearly overhead now. Seok-Teng slid a hand under her pillow, ran a finger delicately along the undulating blade of her kris, then gripped its hilt. Both blade and hilt were warm. The dream, then, had been no accident, but a promise—or a warning. Seok-Teng would have spoken to the dagger if her Number One had not been present. Instead, she rolled from her bed into a crouch, pressed her brow to the weapon in mute homage to the ancestors from whom it had come, and, still stooping, emerged onto the deck of the She-Dragon.
Han Duan’s head tilted back as she stared upward. Seok-Teng straightened and stepped to the rail. Along the eastern horizon lay just the faintest hint that day might come, but overhead a low, sullen cloud cover obscured the stars. The airplane, now directly above them, could not be seen, though its roar seemed so tangible that Seok-Teng raised her hand, whether to grasp or fend it off she did not know. She had even forgotten that she held the kris, which now pointed into the sky.
“Would your demon blade lead us now even into the heavens? Let it fly then by itself!” Han Duan raised her voice to be heard over the noise of the plane. Her own scarred face seemed demonic in the light of a single swaying lantern.
The eight crewmembers with their bedrolls on deck, already roused by the turmoil, watched this drama with great interest. More heads emerged from the hatchway, jostling for a view. Some preferred the privacy of the hold for their sleep or other nocturnal pursuits, but they were still alert for any excitement from above.