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Heart and Soul

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Heart and Soul

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Author: Sarah A. Hoyt
Publisher: Bantam Spectra, 2008
Series: Magical British Empire: Book 3

1. Heart of Light
2. Soul of Fire
3. Heart and Soul

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
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Within the magical realm of a Victorian British Empire that never was, one man embarks on a fantastic mission that dates back to the first true king of Europe and that may determine the fate of the last true emperor of China-and the world.

When Nigel Oldhall hires on to pilot a magic carpetship under the name of Enoch Jones, it seems the perfect way for him to travel without attracting attention. For the English nobleman has in his possession the two most powerful jewels in the universe. His mission is to return them to their shrine in deepest Africa, restoring order to the world-and to his life. But he doesn't count on being attacked by Chinese pirates-or being held captive by a shape-shifting beauty...

Daughter of the Dragon King, sister of the new True Emperor of All Under Heaven, Red Jade is also on a mission: to reclaim the royal status stolen from her family by invaders. Since their expulsion, they have ruled only a mystical shadow-realm. Now, with the jewels in her sight, Red Jade has the chance to rule all. But she soon finds herself, and Enoch, trapped in a scheme that may cause her to change loyalties-and discover her heart's true destiny.


Death In Dragon Boats

Red Jade held her breath as her brother prepared to set fire to the paper boats and the hordes of carefully detailed paper dragons. She wanted to close her eyes and shut out the scene, but her will alone kept them open. Through the screen of her eyelashes, she saw Wen approach the altar upon which the funerary gifts for their father had been set. Above that, another altar held the tablets of their ancestors.

Red Jade had supervised and arranged it all. She had made her father's women cut and glue and color and gild for days, so that on the lower jade table there stood a palace in paper--the palace her family hadn't possessed in millennia. To the right of it stood row upon row of paper boats, minutely detailed, like the barges upon which Red Jade had spent her whole life. In the middle stood representations of the court--men and women meant to be her father's servants in the afterlife: a coterie of pretty paper dolls for a harem, and a group of broad-shouldered male dolls for the hard tasks her father's spirit might want done, and to protect him from whatever evil he might encounter. On the left, in massed confusion, were perfect, miniature paper dragons. Herself, in dark red. Red Jade. And Wen in blue. For some reason, seeing them there, before the palace that would never be theirs, made the tears she refused to let fall join in obscuring her sight.

Her brother, whom she must now think of as the True Emperor of All Under Heaven--though their family had been in exile for many centuries and she doubted the present usurpers even knew of their existence--held the burning joss stick in his hand and dropped slowly to his knees.

Let him not fall, Red Jade prayed. She wasn't sure to whom, though it might have been to her father's spirit. Only she didn't know if her father cared, and she wished there was someone else she could appeal to. Let Wen not fall, she told herself, sternly, and felt a little more confident. It was insane to think she could keep Wen upright and within the bounds of proper behavior through the sheer power of her mind, but then... She always had, hadn't she? And she had hidden his addiction from their father as well.

When had she ever had anyone else to ask for help? So when she saw Wen's head start to bob forward, like the head of one overcome with sleep, she willed him to stay up, on his knees, facing forward.

Wen straightened. The joss stick swept left and right, setting all the pretty paper images aflame. And Red Jade fought against the sob climbing into her throat even as the sound of her father's concubines erupting into ritualistic screams deafened her mind. She would miss her father. She was afraid for Wen and her own future. But, in this moment, all had been done well, and Wen was behaving as he should.

She finally allowed her eyes to shut as Wen's voice mechanically recited the prayers that should set their father's soul free and make it secure in the ever-after.

Their father was dead. He'd been the Dragon Emperor, the True Emperor of All Under Heaven, the latest descendant of the ancient kings of China. Wen, his only son, must inherit. Because Wen was the right and proper heir. And because only Wen could protect his half-sister, the daughter of the long-dead, foreign-devil concubine.

She followed him to his room after the ceremony. It was her father's old room, in the main barge of their flotilla. Servants and courtiers prostrated themselves as Wen passed by, knocking their foreheads against the dusty floor, but he didn't seem to notice. Wen was tired and anxious. His eyes kept darting here and there, as though he had trouble focusing both sight and mind.

The men surrounding him--his father's advisers--probably knew as well as she did that he longed for his fix of opium, but they gave no indication of it. It was all "Excellency" this and "Milord" that as each competed with the other, asking boons on this, his first day in power. Repairs to this barge and additions to that one, and a promotion in the precedence of yet another.

All of them Wen ignored, walking just ahead, his eyes blindly seeking. But as the entourage prepared to follow him into his quarters, he spun around and clapped his dismissal. At the back of the group of followers, Red Jade stood waiting, not quite daring enter her newly powerful brother's room without his permission. For years she'd protected and helped him, but now he was the emperor and her ascendancy over him was gone.

Yet seeing her at the back, he smiled and motioned for her to approach, which she did, closing the door behind her.

"We're done now, Red Jade," he told her, his man's tones distorted into a child's whine. It was a voice that had only developed after he started smoking opium. "I've done what you wanted, and now I'm tired."

Part of Red Jade felt sorry for him. They were of an age, she and Wen, though Wen was the son of the first lady, their father's official wife. Red Jade was only the daughter of a concubine with red hair and blue eyes who had been stolen off a foreign carpetship.

And though Red Jade looked Chinese, with her long, smooth dark hair and black eyes, she knew her eyes had a blue sheen, and there was something to her features that wasn't quite right. She was also too tall.

Her father had teased her about it, telling her they'd never get her a husband. No man would want to look up at his lady.

The recollection that Zhang would be out there, prowling and planning to make her his, sent a shiver of fear up her spine, and made her catch her breath. "Not yet, Older Brother," she said. "We must be able to lift and move the Dragon Boats. I--" Lifting the Dragon Boats for the first time after the emperor's death and the new emperor's ascension was something only the emperor could do. After that, everyone could lift them and fly them. But that first time was the confirmation that the new emperor had the mandate of heaven.

He gave her one of the startlingly cunning looks that he could give--a sudden expression of knowledge that belied the normal dreamlike tone of his days. "You mean you must lift them."

His look was so like their father's that she bowed deeply and whispered, "I do not mean to take over your--"

"No," Wen said, and shook his head. "No, of course not. But let's not play games, Younger Sister. Not with each other. We both know that the opium interferes with flying the boats. It interferes with all magic. I would not risk my people." He turned abruptly toward a table that was set at the foot of his bed. Bed and table both were gilded, and inlaid heavily with semi-precious stones. They were very old and had come--centuries ago--from their ancestors' palace. Now they stood in uneasy contrast with the rest of the furniture, which ranged from heavy, foreign, mahogany furniture scavenged from carpetships to improvised pieces put together from flotsam and tatters.

The boxes, like the table, were made of fragrant woods and covered in gold leaf and jewels. Jade had seen them open before, when her father had searched for something. So she knew what they contained--papers and jewels, most of them magical and bequeathed to them by long-lost generations. Wen rummaged through the boxes as if he knew what he was looking for, and Jade held her tongue while he did so.

"Ah," he said at last. He held aloft a heavy signet ring, with a bright red stone, upon which were chiseled the characters for Power and Following. Jade, who'd never seen that ring, blinked at Wen.

"Father showed me all these boxes before he died," Wen said. "And he told me what each jewel and paper did--magically, as well as symbolically. This ring was worn by our father when his own father was incapable of ruling the Dragon Boats, in his final years of life. So our father wore the ring, and with it could command the Dragon Boats with the magic of the emperor and keep the magic of the emperor active so people could keep flying the Dragon Boats--even if the emperor himself was too weak to do it. He could also command all of the Imperial power. And it's magical, so it will stay on through the change into dragon and back again."

"But..." Red Jade said, stricken. "I am only a woman. And my mother--"

"Was a foreign devil, yes," Wen said, with unaccustomed dryness. "But, Jade, you've been doing half of Father's work for years--everything that didn't require Imperial magic. And now..." He shrugged. "I can be the emperor, or I can dream." He gestured toward his opium pipe on the small, rickety pine table near the gilded bed. "I'd prefer to dream."

Their eyes met for a moment. Jade had never truly discussed his addiction with him, because Wen would get defensive and change the subject. So he'd never before admitted the power his dreams held over him, and never so bluntly confessed that he cared for nothing else.

What did he mean to do? Did he mean to leave her in charge of the Dragon Boats when he ignored them? Did he think that the Dragon Boats would accept the rulings of a woman, and a woman with foreign blood in her veins at that?

Zhang would take over. Zhang would... She felt her throat close. She couldn't tell her brother the disgust she felt for his second-in-command--once their father's second-_in-command. Though he was of an old dragon dynasty, and powerful in magic and might, she didn't trust him. And she did not wish to be his wife.

But Wen was reclining upon his cushions and looked at her, mildly surprised, as though she had stayed much longer than he expected. He waved his hand. "Go, Sister. I am tired. I've had too much reality."

Jade bowed and walked backward--as she'd once done in their father's presence--till she was at the doors. These she opened, without turning around, a...

Copyright © 2008 by Sarah A. Hoyt


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