Had she lived when the power of music could still summon typhoons and rout armies, perhaps Cathay’s imperial court would see the awkward, gangly princess as more than a singing fool. With alliances to build and ambitious lords to placate, they care more about her marriage prospects than her unique abilities.
Only the handsome Prince Hardeep, a foreign martial mystic, recognizes her potential. Convinced Kaiya will rediscover the legendary but perilous art of invoking magic through music, he suggests her voice, not her marriage, might better serve the realm.
When members of the emperor’s elite spy clan– Kaiya’s childhood friend and his half-elf sidekick (or maybe he’s her sidekick?)– discover mere discontent boiling over into full-scale rebellion, Kaiya must choose. Obediently wedding the depraved ringleader means giving up her music. Confronting him with the growing power of her voice could kill her.
Kaiya followed the elf’s gesture. In the distance, lumber herders guided felled trunks of Eldarwood trees through the Sun-Moon Lake’s placid waters. Laboring during the early spring melt, they had already begun their annual transport from the forests of the empire’s inner valley to the shipyards on the coast. With commoners prohibited from coming too close to the palace, the workers kept their distance. They seemed like children’s balls bobbing on the waters.
“Can you play loud enough for them to hear?”
Forgetting all sense of propriety, Kaiya gaped at the preposterous challenge. The castle parapet wasn’t the Hall of Pure Melody, let alone the Temple of Heaven. “That’s…that’s impossible.”
The elf shrugged. “Not for Yanyan.”
Kaiya shook her head. Not like her paltry skill could compare to the legendary slave girl. Nonetheless, she plucked a string as hard as she could, emitting a loud, disjointed note.
Lord Xu burst out laughing.
Chagrin and anger washed over her. No telling what shade of red her face was.
When he stifled his chuckle, Lord Xu deftly swiped the lute from her hands and strummed.
The series of notes sang in jubilation, tangible in its clarity. It was as if all the heroes of Hua’s past had marched into the present, urging her forward with their battle cries. Kaiya’s uncertainties and embarrassment melted away. Her spirits rose, and even Chen Xin and Zhao Yue squared their shoulders and smiled. Out in the lake, the herders looked in their direction.
The elf turned back, face inscrutable. He returned the lute to her. “It is not the strength of the pluck that matters, but the intensity of your emotion. Only the power of your intent can compel the sound beyond its physical limitations. Hear the waves of Sun-Moon Lake and allow them to lend you their strength. Now try again.”
Kaiya’s focus shifted from Lord Xu to the lute. Her musical talents were renowned throughout Hua. Yet neither her own performances, nor any other she’d heard from famous musicians could compare to the elf lord’s improvisation.
She took a deep breath, aligned her posture, and listened. Waves sloshing against the walls below seemed to set a rhythm for the wind rustling through the ripening buds on tree branches. Birds joined in, their melody harmonizing with the song of spring.
Without conscious thought, her fingers danced over the lute strings, melding with the symphony of natural sounds. Perhaps her hands created the music, or maybe the music moved her hands. Clear and resonant, the melody filled the garden and blossomed out across the lake and palace grounds. The lumber herders looked back at her.
About the Author:
A Chinese Medicine Doctor and Martial Artist by trade, JC Kang would have never started writing fantasy stories save for two fluke coincidences.
In the Christmas of 2010, while cleaning out childhood junk from his mom’s house, he came across his old Dungeons and Dragons campaign world. Before relegating the binder of maps and notes to the trash where it belonged, he decided to peek back and see what his 13-year old self had created.
He couldn’t help but laugh at the silly ideas that had crossed his teenage brain. Rivers flowed uphill. Empires produced resources out of thin air. However, a few interesting premises had potential.
For the next six days, he redesigned his world, taking into account things he’d learned over the last 25 years. Advanced stuff like gravity, evolution, and supply and demand.
On the seventh day, he rested. Looking at his glorious creation, he was hit by the realization that he’d never play D&D again.
A month later, the second event occurred: three weeks of major snowstorms. Stuck indoors for days at a time, he used his skills as a professional technical writer and pumped out a 120k word novel set in this world… only to find out that fiction writing and technical writing were two different beasts.
He set off to study the craft, and learned advanced ideas like characterization, point of view and tension. After revising the first book, he wrote a prequel. After the prequel, he wrote a sequel. And finally, he wrote the prequel to the prequel: the Dragon Scale Lute.