Alison Goodman Eon: Dragoneye Reborn

ISBN 13 : 9781501285547

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn

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9781501285547: Eon: Dragoneye Reborn
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From the Primer Scrolls of Jion Tzu

No one knows how the first Dragoneyes made their dangerous bargain with the twelve energy dragons of good fortune. The few scrolls and poems that have survived the centuries start the story well after the deal was struck between man and spirit-beast to protect our land. It is rumored, however, that a black folio still exists that tells of the violent beginning and predicts a catastrophic end to the ancient alliance.

The dragons are elemental beings, able to manipulate Hua—the natural energy that exists in all things. Each dragon is aligned with one of the heavenly animals in the twelve-year cycle of power that has run in the same sequence since the beginning of time: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. Each dragon is also the guardian of one of the twelve celestial directions, and a keeper of one of the Greater Virtues.

Every New Year’s Day the cycle turns, the next animal year begins, and its dragon becomes ascendant, his power doubling for that twelve months. The ascending dragon also unites with a new apprentice to be trained in the dragon magic, and as this boy steps up to his new life, the prior apprentice is promoted to Dragoneye and into his full power. He replaces his master, the old Dragoneye, who retires exhausted and fatally debilitated by his twenty-four-year union with the dragon. It is a brutal bargain that gives a Dragoneye enormous power—enough to move monsoons, redirect rivers, and stop earthshakes. In return for such control over nature, the Dragoneye slowly gives up his Hua to his dragon.

Only those boys who can see an energy dragon can hope to be a Dragoneye candidate. It is a rare gift to be able to see the dragon of your birth year, and even rarer to be able to see any of the other energy dragons. Every New Year, twelve boys, born twelve years before, face the ascending dragon and pray that their gift is enough for the beast. One of them is chosen and in that moment of union—and only for that moment—all men can see the dragon in all his glory.

Women have no place in the world of the dragon magic. It is said they bring corruption to the art and do not have the physical strength or depth of character needed to commune with an energy dragon. It is also thought that the female eye, too practiced in gazing at itself, cannot see the truth of the energy world.

CHAPTER ONE

Let the tips of both my swords dig into the sandy arena floor. It was the wrong move, but the dragging pain in my gut was pulling me into a crouch. I watched Swordmaster Ranne’s bare feet shuffle forward, rebalancing his weight for a sweep cut. Training with him always made my innards cramp with fear, but this was different. This was the bleeding pain. Had I miscounted the moon days?

“What are you doing, boy?” he said.

I looked up. Ranne was standing poised, both of his swords ready for the elegant cross cut that could have taken my head. His hands tightened around the hilts. I knew he wanted to follow through and rid the school of the cripple. But he didn’t dare.

“Are you spent already?” he demanded. “That third form was even worse than usual.”

I shook my head, gritting my teeth against another clamping pain.

“It is nothing, Swordmaster.” I carefully straightened, keeping my swords down.

Ranne relaxed his stance and stepped back. “You’re not ready for the ceremony tomorrow,” he said. “You’ll never be ready. You can’t even finish the approach sequence.”

He turned in a circle, glaring at the other candidates kneeling around the edge of the practice sand. “This sequence must be flawless if you are to approach the mirrors. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Swordmaster,” eleven voices yelled.

“Please, if you allow, I’ll try again,” I said. Another cramp twisted through my body but I didn’t move.

“No, Eon-jah. Get back in the circle.”

I saw a riffle of unease run through the other eleven candidates. Ranne had added jah, the old ward against evil, to my name. I bowed and crossed my swords in salute, imagining the feel of driving both blades through his chest. Behind Ranne, the huge opaque form of the Tiger Dragon uncoiled and stared at me. He always seemed to rouse with my anger. I concentrated on the Rabbit Dragon, bringing him into shimmering outline, hoping the Keeper of Peace would help calm my rage.

In the candidate circle, Dillon shifted and looked around the arena. Had he sensed the dragons? He was more aware than the others, but even he couldn’t see an energy dragon without meditating for hours. I was the only candidate who could see all of the dragons at will, not counting the Mirror Dragon, of course, who had been lost long ago. It took all my focus to see the spirit beasts and left me weary, but it was the only thing that had made the last two years of hard training bearable. It was also the only reason why a cripple like me was allowed to stand as a candidate—full dragon sight was rare, although, as Swordmaster Ranne liked to remind me, no guarantee of success.

“Get back in the circle. Now!” Ranne yelled.

I tensed and stepped back. Too fast. The sand shifted under my bad leg, wrenching it to the right. I hit the ground, hard. One heartbeat of numbed shock, then the pain came. Shoulder, hip, knee. My hip! Had I done more harm to my hip? I reached across my body, digging my fingers through skin and muscle to feel the malformed hip bone. No, there was no pain. It was whole. And the other aches were already fading.

Dillon shuffled forward on his knees, spraying sand into the air, his eyes wide with concern. Little fool—he would only make things worse.

“Eon, are you . . . ?”

“Don’t break formation,” Ranne snapped. He kicked at me. “Get up, Eon-jah. You’re an insult to the Dragoneye profession. Get up.”

I struggled to my hands and knees, ready to roll if he kicked again. There was no blow. I grabbed my swords and pushed myself upright, another cramp catching me as I straightened. It wouldn’t be long now; I had to get back to my master, before the blood showed. Ever since my body had first betrayed us six months ago, my master had kept a supply of soft cloths and sea sponges locked away in his library, away from prying eyes.

The half-hour bell had just rung—if Ranne gave me leave, I could get to the house and back again by the full hour.

“Swordmaster, may I withdraw from practice until the next bell?” I asked. My head was respectfully bowed, but I kept my eyes on Ranne’s blunt, stubborn features. He was probably born in an Ox year. Or maybe he was a Goat.

Ranne shrugged. “Return your swords to armory, Eon-jah, and don’t bother coming back. Another few hours of practice won’t improve your chances tomorrow.” He turned his back, calling his favorite, Baret, to take my place on the sand. I was dismissed.

Dillon looked over at me, his face worried. We were the weakest candidates. He was of age—twelve, like all the boys in the circle—but as small as an eight-year-old, and I was lame. In the past, we wouldn’t even have been considered as Dragoneye candidates. Neither of us was expected to be chosen by the Rat Dragon in the ceremony tomorrow. All the gambling rings had Dillon at a 30:1 chance. I was at 1000:1. The odds might be against us, but even the council did not know how a dragon made its choice. I pretended to yawn at Ranne’s back, waiting for Dillon to smile. His mouth twitched up, but the lines of tension did not ease.

Another cramp dragged at my innards. I held my breath through it, then turned and walked carefully toward the small armory building, my bad leg scattering the fine sand. Dillon was right to be worried. Candidates no longer fought for the honor of approaching the mirrors, but we still had to prove our strength and stamina in the ceremonial sword sequences. At least Dillon could complete the approach sequence, even if it was poorly done. I had never once managed the intricate moves of the Mirror Dragon Third.

It was said it took a lot of physical and mental toughness to bargain with the energy dragons and manipulate the earth forces. It was even whispered among the candidates that a Dragoneye slowly gave up his own life force to a dragon in return for the ability to work the energies, and that the pact aged him beyond his years. My master had been the Tiger Dragoneye during the last cycle and, by my reckoning, would only be a few years over forty. Yet he had the looks and bearing of an old man. Perhaps it was true—a Dragoneye did give up his own life force—or perhaps my master had aged under the strain of poverty and ill luck. He was risking everything for the chance of my success.

I looked over my shoulder. Ranne was watching Baret go through the first form. With all of the strong, able-bodied boys vying to serve him, would the Rat Dragon really choose me? He was the Keeper of Ambition, so perhaps he would not be influenced by physical prowess. I turned to the north-northwest and narrowed my mind until I saw the Rat Dragon shimmer on the sand like a heat mirage. As though he was aware of my focus, the dragon arched his neck and shook out his thick mane.

If he did choose me, then I would hold status for twenty-four years; first working as apprentice to the existing Dragoneye and then, when he retired, working the energies myself. I would earn a mountain of riches, even with the 20 percent tithe to my master. No one would dare spit at me or make the ward-evil sign or turn their face away in disgust.

If he did not choose me, I would be lucky if my master kept me as a servant in his house. I would be like Chart, the slops boy, whose body was permanently twisted into a grim parody of itself. Fourteen years ago, Chart was born to Rilla, one of the unmarried maids, and although my master was sickened by the infant’s deformity, he allowed it to live within his household. Chart had never been beyond the confines of the servants’ quarters, and he lived on a mat near the cooking stoves. If I failed tomorrow, I could only hope my master would show me similar mercy. Before he found me four years ago, I had labored on a salt farm. I would rather share Chart’s mat by the stoves than be returned to such misery.

I stopped walking and reached out further with my mind toward the Rat Dragon, trying to touch the energy of the great beast. I felt his power spark through my body. Talk to me, I begged. Talk to me. Choose me tomorrow. Please, choose me tomorrow.

There was no response.

A dull pain in my temple sharpened into white agony. The effort to hold him in my sight was too great. The dragon slid beyond my mind’s eye, dragging my energy with it. I dug a sword into the sand to stop myself from falling and gasped for air. Fool! Would I never learn? A dragon only ever communicated with his Dragoneye and apprentice. I sucked in a deep breath and pulled the sword out of the ground. Why, then, could I see all eleven dragons? As far back as I could remember, I had been able to shift my mind into the energy world and see their huge translucent forms. Why was I given such a gift in such an ill-favored body?

It was a relief to step off the sand onto the paving of the armory courtyard. The sharp cramps in my gut had finally settled into a dragging ache. Hian, the old master armsman, was sitting on a box beside the armory door polishing the furnace black off a small dagger.

“You been thrown out again?” he asked as I passed him.

I stopped. Hian had never spoken to me before.

“Yes, Armsmaster,” I said, tucking my chin into a bow to wait out his scorn.

He held the dagger up in front of him and inspected the blade. “Seems to me you were doing all right.”

I looked up and met his eyes, the whites yellowed against his forge-reddened skin.

“With that leg, you’re never going to get the Mirror Dragon Third sequence right,” he said. “Try a Reverse Horse Dragon Second. There’s a precedent for it. Ranne should have told you.”

I kept my face expressionless but couldn’t help the skip of hope that caught in my throat. Was it true? But why was he telling me this? Maybe it was just a joke on the cripple.

He stood up, holding on to the doorjamb to help him straighten. “I don’t blame your mistrust, boy. But you ask your master. He’s one of the best history keepers around. He’ll tell you I’m right.”

“Yes, Armsmaster. Thank you.”

A loud yell made us both turn toward the candidates on the sand. Baret was on his knees in front of Ranne.

“Swordmaster Louan was considered one of the best approach ceremony instructors. It’s a pity he retired,” Hian said flatly. “You’ve got practice swords at home?”

I nodded.

“Then practice the Reverse Second tonight. Before your cleansing ritual starts.” He walked stiffly down the two steps, then looked back at me. “And tell your master that old Hian sends his regards.”

I watched him walk slowly to the gateway that led down to the forge, the distant clang of hammer on anvil drumming his progress. If he was right and I could replace the Mirror Dragon Third with a Reverse Horse Dragon Second, then I would have no difficulty finishing the approach sequence.

I stepped into the cool, dim armory and waited for my eyes to adjust. I was not as convinced as the armsmaster that the council would allow a change to the ceremony, particularly to the Mirror Dragon sequence. The Dragon Dragon was, after all, the symbol of the Emperor, and the legends said that the Imperial Family was descended from dragons and still had dragon blood in its veins.

Then again, the Mirror Dragon had been gone for over five hundred years. No one really knew why or how he had disappeared. One story said that a long-ago Emperor offended the dragon, and another told of a terrible battle between the spirit beasts that destroyed the Mirror Dragon. My master said that all the stories were just hearthside imaginings, and that the truth, along with all the records, had been lost to time and the fire that took the Mirror Dragon Hall. And he would know; as the armsmaster had said, my master was a great history keeper. If there was an old variation to the approach sequence, then he would find it.

But first I had to tell him, a day before the ceremony, that I could not complete the Mirror Dragon form. I shivered, remembering the welts and bruises of his past displeasure. I knew it was desperation that provoked his hand—in the last ten years, my master had trained six candidates and all of them had failed—but I did not look forward to his anger. I gripped the hilts of the swords more tightly. I had to know if the Reverse Horse Dragon Second was allowed. It was my best chance.

My master was not a fool; he would not beat me too hard before the ceremony. Too much rode upon it. And if his history scrolls agreed with Hian, I’d have at least four hours before the cleansing ritual to practice the new form and its bridges. It was not long, but it should be enough. I raised the swords in the overhead cut that started the Reverse Second and sliced the left sword down shallowly, conscious of the limited space.

“Oi, don...

Revue de presse :

"A completely gorgeous fantasy set in an ancient Oriental world, drawing on Chinese myths and tradition. Complex, vivid, and with themes of difference, it's a classy, classy read. Highly recommended" ( thebookbag.co.uk)

"The orginality of the tale, the freshness and believability of the protagonists and the epic landscape combine to deliver fantasy at its absolute best" (Annie Everall The Bookseller)

"Highly recommended" ( Inis)

"The language and culture of this ancient world setting are beautifully realised and very descriptive, placing you right at the heart of each scene and one thing that is really smart is the way the Dragoneye ceremonies and traditions and history are woven into the existing Chinese horoscope without the need for excessive exposition" ( Sci-Fi London)

"Set against a fabulous and exotic backdrop, Eon is a superbly paced and action-packed journey full of excitement, danger and romance" ( Lancashire Evening Post)

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Description du livre BRILLIANCE AUDIO, United States, 2015. CD-Audio. État : New. Unabridged. 171 x 133 mm. Language: English . Brand New. Twelve-year-old Eon has been in training for years. His intensive study of Dragon Magic, based on East Asian astrology, involves two kinds of skills: sword-work and magical aptitude. He and his master hope that he will be chosen as a Dragoneye an apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune. But Eon has a dangerous secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been masquerading as a boy for the chance to become a Dragoneye. Females are forbidden to use Dragon Magic; if anyone discovers she has been hiding in plain sight, her death is assured. When Eon s secret threatens to come to light, she and her allies are plunged into grave danger and a deadly struggle for the Imperial throne. Eon must find the strength and inner power to battle those who want to take her magic.and her life. N° de réf. du libraire BRI9781501285547

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Description du livre BRILLIANCE AUDIO, United States, 2015. CD-Audio. État : New. Unabridged. 171 x 133 mm. Language: English . Brand New. Twelve-year-old Eon has been in training for years. His intensive study of Dragon Magic, based on East Asian astrology, involves two kinds of skills: sword-work and magical aptitude. He and his master hope that he will be chosen as a Dragoneye an apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune. But Eon has a dangerous secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been masquerading as a boy for the chance to become a Dragoneye. Females are forbidden to use Dragon Magic; if anyone discovers she has been hiding in plain sight, her death is assured. When Eon s secret threatens to come to light, she and her allies are plunged into grave danger and a deadly struggle for the Imperial throne. Eon must find the strength and inner power to battle those who want to take her magic.and her life. N° de réf. du libraire BRI9781501285547

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