I love historical fiction, and paranormal or fantasy fiction, especially of an erotic nature, is even more of a turn-on, so a chance to combine these elements is always a treat. For my She Shifters story, I had the added opportunity to use research I had done for another story, but ended up not including. Research is never wasted! Even characters I had used before seemed to fit in, and I could explore aspects of them that had been teasing at my imagination for some time.
Ha Long Bay, “Bay of the Descending Dragon,” is in Vietnam near the border with China. Remember those movies with chase scenes over blue, blue water between craggy islets like miniature mountains, some covered with lush green foliage? I recall one James Bond film set there. In Asian mythology, the islands were either jewels scattered by a Dragon Prince who came to defend Vietnam from China, or the children of the Dragon Prince and a benevolent Goddess. With that in mind, consider this scene from my shapeshifter story, “The Dragon Descending,” where Seok-Teng, the teenaged daughter of a smuggler, pursues her father’s murderers:
Once in Ha Long Bay, it should have been impossible to find one small boat hiding among the thousands of limestone islands with their caves and grottoes and thick pelts of greenery clinging to sheer walls. Impossible for a man—or even a girl with a warrior spirit—but not for the kris. It showed the way, through three days of a winding course.
On the third evening, the blade took on a glow that told Seok-Teng her prey was so close that she must approach with caution. She anchored and waited through the night. This time she would make sure her prey saw his doom coming!
At last the dawn mist began to dissipate, the islands took shape, and the sun’s first rays struck the leafy crest of the nearest island in a blaze of green like emerald flame.
Seok-Teng slid into the water wearing nothing beyond the kris belted to her naked hip. The boat she sought was there, just beyond the island, perhaps fifty feet away. When she reached its side, she listened for several minutes until she heard the man stirring, moving slowly about, then standing on the lee side and, by the sound, relieving himself into the sea. The perfect moment!
She was up over the side, kris unsheathed and raised, before he could turn; yet even at such a time he had kept a dagger in his hand, and parried the longer blade. Seok-Teng spun and struck again, knocking his weapon this time from his grip; he grasped her knife-wrist so tightly with his other hand that it took all her effort to keep from dropping the kris. Or almost all. Her knee tensed, began its upward strike toward his groin—but he fell back before it connected. She had only a fleeting glimpse of his eyes, widened in horror as he looked at something beyond her, his face as contorted as though her blade had pierced his belly.
Seok-Teng stumbled, unbalanced, and still managed to slice the kris across his throat before he toppled backward into the sea.
She swung around and saw what he had seen. A golden eye gazed down at her from the island’s greenery, and then two eyes, in a long, elegant, emerald-scaled head that lifted to regard her full-on.
“I had him! He was mine!” Seok-Tengs’s blood-madness ran still so hot that she felt no fear, no amazement that a dragon such as she had seen only on painted screens or the prows of festive longboats was here before her in the flesh. If indeed dragons were made of such. “I needed no help!”
The dragon seemed to laugh, though what difference there might be between a dragon’s laugh and its snarl Seok-Teng did not know. Indeed, as her blood slowed, she scarcely knew whether she herself dreamed, or imagined, or even lived. She held the kris upright, flat between her breasts, as talisman rather than weapon; it quivered, but gave off no heat.
Heat of another sort did warm Seok-Teng’s flesh as the dragon’s gaze moved slowly along her body. Did dragons lust after human women? She had never heard such tales, but after all, she herself lusted after women, though so far only in her dreams.
“Why not?” The voice was not her own, yet unmistakably female—and it spoke from inside her head. “Who can know so well how to please a woman as another woman?”
A dream, then. That sort of dream. Already Seok-Teng’s loins stirred with longing. Her bedroll would be damp and tangled when she woke. If only this dream would take her far enough for relief!
The boat she stood upon had floated nearer to the island. Seok-Teng looked full into the golden eyes, not flinching when the dragon’s green coils, their scales textured to resemble leaves, loosened from the rough limestone enough that its neck could arch outward above her and descend. Even when a flickering forked tongue, impossibly long, darted across her belly, Seok-Teng held her ground, though she could not suppress gasps and jerks at the tantalizing sensations it aroused.
“Set aside your noble blade,” the voice said, “if you would taste of more tender delights.”
“The Dragon Descending” is a prequel to another piece, “Pirate from the Sky,” previously published in Like a Treasure Found from Circlet Press, and soon to be reprinted in The Best of Circlet Press anthology. I wrote the prequel to answer my own question of how Seok-Teng, by then the captain of an all-women pirate ship, came to have the gift—or curse—of visions of dragons. Here’s how “Pirate from the Sky” begins, and with the just the hint that it takes place in 1939 in the lead-up to WW II, you can probably figure out just who the “Sky Pirate” turns out to be, although I never name the actual historical character:
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.
Seok-Teng allowed her arm to descend very slowly, while the blade pointed ever toward the unseen aircraft moving away into the distance. Her tone was harsh as steel on steel. “Has my kris ever led us to less than a rich prize?”
“Not yet.” Han Duan’s fierce expression relaxed into a wry grin, defusing the conflict. “And if you can manage to fly after this target, then so can I. So can we all. Just as soon as you leap aloft and lead the way.” A few muffled laughs came from the bedrolls. She leaned closer to Seok-Teng and spoke in a lower tone. “But your demon has always led us to women, as well as treasure, to be rescued or taken into the crew. You will find no woman in a ship of the air.”
The prize I’m offering to one of the commenters on today’s blog is a Kindle copy of my anthology Girl Fever: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex for Lesbians from Cleis Press. This is not, I have to admit, an anthology of paranormal erotica, but all of its 69 short-short stories are intensely erotic, and two of the very hottest are set on spaceships, so science fiction, at least, is covered. Haven’t you ever fantasized about sex in Zero G? What sort of fantasy or science fictional sex have you fantasized about but never seen in fiction? Come on, inspire us!