“A painter should begin every canvas with a wash of black, because all things in nature are dark except where exposed by the light.” ― Leonardo da Vinci
In The Beginning
The father looked on for a moment as the nurses attended to his son. Their efficiency and his son’s calm demeanor put Bai Hue in a reflective mood. His mind drifted through memories of the house when he was a child. He would make sure his son’s memories were as grand as his before the world took the boy away to his duties.
The sun filtered through the clouds as the rain and breeze softened to a soothing tap on the window. The intrusive sounds of monitors pulled his thoughts back, and he turned to his wife in the bed.
Her alcove was dim with a yellow glow from the curtains and a lamp lit on the opposite wall that cast shadows and light in patterns of dingy white and gray overlapped by the glow from the window. Lee was sedated now, her eyes glassy nuggets resting behind the puffy slits of her eyes. She saw him, but her mind was somewhere else.
The Dragon Prince held her swollen wrist and stroked her fingers as he surveyed her wrapped body. He felt guilt for her suffering. She gave him pleasure with pain and sacrifice to herself. It was expected. It was her duty. Yet, he felt an awful ache in his chest for what his demands for a male heir did to her. The insurmountable burden of their destiny weighed on him like the stone block of his ancestral monolith.
She was not his to love or to hold. She belonged to the Black Dragons. They raised her from birth as his wife and to bear him sons and daughters. Neither knew they would bring the Dragon Messiah to the world and fulfill a prophecy. Until he saw the birthmark, he thought his child was another link in their unbroken chain of the aristocracy. And now, he had no vision of his family’s future. He knew that whatever happened it would be by the will of the society and destiny. He mourned this loss. He remained expressionless by his wife’s side.
Bai Hue studied Lee and remembered how he waited three days to consummate their marriage. This angered his family. His father visited him and urged him to take her, by force if necessary. She must submit or be disgraced, they said. He smiled and told his father he was the one that delayed. His father had chafed at this confession. Hue smiled at his small victory over the regimen of tradition.
Lee was a master at many things but for forty years she lived untouched by a man’s hands. She had never known intimacy in that way. Lee was given instruction by the elder women. It was more a lesson in fealty and duty to obey than secrets to growing a lasting love. She learned nothing in the art of love from the matriarchs of the Dragons. She would learn on her own. Her strenuous work and martial arts built an almost impenetrable pelvic floor of sinew. The forbidden gate of her desire proved formidable.
It was Lee that forced the consummation, just as Hue had planned. It had to be her choice, or her spirit would break. Hue held Lee’s hand to his cheek as he remembered how Lee took it upon herself to open the sacred lotus flower.
Her eyes and mouth contorted at the torture and her fingers clutched the sheets of their bed with such determination she created two rosettes from the creases in the fabric. The passing of her virginity left two flowers set in the sheets to remind him of the beauty of that moment.
The nurses stopped and watched the expression of love their master showed to the mother and son. Both dreamed of such love and devotion and knew it was not possible for them. Their lives belong to the child. No one else could enter their world. Dreams in silence and solitude would give them all the love they would ever know. They were not forbidden to each other, but no man would ever defile them.
Lee drifted in a fugue of sounds and motions. Her unfocused eyes only saw shadows and light. She dreamed in a nightmarish way. Images and thoughts assailed her like hammer blows. She was drowning, twisting in some devilish vortex until she awoke at the diner sitting across from Master Ong.
She was sixteen when Master Ong took her to the dinner to grow accustomed to the food and the activities. In four years she would come to work in the restaurant as a waitress and stay until she was given to her husband. She would hide in plain sight. No one would suspect a server in a blue-collar diner. No one at the Diner knew of the Black Dragon’s plan.
The regular visits with the girl were carried off with military precision. They studied, learned, and planted their faces in memories and set the stage for Lee’s acceptance. It was part of Lee’s destiny entwined with her Dragon Sister, the orphaned Dominika Aristov whose father was the first to understand the science needed to meld the DNA of human and the Dragons of the South Pacific.
Lee and Dominika came of age together in the Dragon School that taught the way of the warrior to the female Praetorian Guards. Now, their time had arrived, and their lives played out in strict obedience to the Dragon Master’s plan.