"The trap is closing in on you," the lady whispered to herself. Outside the winds howled. It had been the color and feel of sleet: grey and cold. The servants hurried to put more wood in the metal heaters. Her breath plumed in her chamber.
Somewhere, a child sobbed.
The lady balled her hand into a fist. In the silence, she plotted. The plotting kept her warm. The plotting had kept her warm for a long time now. Jealousy was a sharp knife twisting in her bones, in her gut. It had also gone dark and deep, like a foetid swamp inside one of the forests.
The Taoist priest had failed. Whatever that was bothering her still lived.
Xiao Xiao returned to the dreamscape where Ming Zhu dwelled as she recovered from her horrendous wound. With each dream, the dragon princess got better. Xiao Xiao made sure she read the book of herbs and find the herbs best suited for the healing of wounds, the replenishment of blood and the flow of good chi.
In the dreams, she also sang to Ming Zhu the songs she knew as a child, the songs that comforted her in times of pain and distress.
As she sang, she knew that Ming Zhu drew courage and strength.
The landscape too changed, from winter to spring. Time moved in a strange way in the dreaming world. Where the dragon princess lay, plants grew and flower buds had begun to emerge, with the thawing of the ice. At the same time, Xiao Xiao felt the ghost appearances of sea creatures about her: flashes of fish, the stately glide of large creatures and the looming power of bigger animals she knew existed in the sea.
Occasionally, she saw - or thought she saw – the sinuous and muscular body of another dragon. A male. Larger, with sharp claws and brilliant silver-green scales. The Dragon King.
His eyes were sad.
Xiao Xiao stroked Ming Zhu's soft hair and sang a lullaby Mother had sung to her when she was a toddler. It was a simple tune, but the simplicity of it stayed with her.
Wan wan de yue liang...