Hope for the Dawn [Temple Cats 3]
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by Catherine Soto
Category: Fantasy/Young Adult
Description: Bronze fish, with the name of the nation and the month they were to be admitted to the capitol, were used as tokens for diplomatic embassies; they were divided in half and the halves were matched up when the embassy arrived and sought admittance. When the fish the Tifun delegation was carrying went missing, their Ambassador threatened to destroy the city where he was staying during his journey. As he was still close to the border of his country and had a thousand warriors outside the city, this was a serious threat.
eBook Publisher: Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust, 2008 Sword & Sorceress 23
eBookwise Release Date: March 2009
21 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [37 KB]
Reading time: 20-28 min.
"Hope for the Dawn by Catherine Soto picks up characters from previous Sword and Sorceress anthologies: Lin Mei and Biao Mei, a sister-and-brother team of temple guards. When an embassy token is stolen, the two use their skills with the sword--and some help from the temple cats--to keep a diplomatic mission from ending violently. Soto's affection for her characters (and the cats) comes through palpably in this story, making it not only well paced and well written, but full of heart."--Elizabeth A. Allen, The Fix
Lin Mei, in that half-awake state just before waking, dreamt she was a cat. It was just before dawn, and the sound of a temple bell sounded in the distance. She blearily opened her eyes just long enough to identify the bundle of fur on her chest, her cat Twilight. Shadow, Twilight's litter-mate, slept with Lin Mei's brother Biao Mei on the other side of the room.
She closed her eyes again. She recalled the odd dream, fixing it in her memory before it faded away.
Step by step, the boards go by underfoot. Jump up on the box--intriguing smells coming from within. Cinnamon? Jump down, explore more. Coils of rope, bolts of cloth, boxes with more intriguing smells wafting out from inside.
She was walking on four feet. Scent, sound, and touch were as important as sight.
Yawn and stretch. Walk down the middle of the room, past stacks of wonderful-smelling stuff. Outside into the cold night. Almost dawn. Man and woman in shadows. Talking. A quick nod, man runs away into night, woman turns and enters. Follow, crawling through gap under gate. Find sleeping friend. Lie down on top, curl forepaws under chest, feel rise and fall of friendly breathing. Contentment. Sleep.
Lin Mei lay there quietly, enjoying the warmth of the quilt covering her body. It had been a long time since she'd enjoyed such a luxury. Wang Liu, the merchant who owned the compound and was their employer for the winter, had given his guards some old quilts. Guards worked better when they got enough food, sleep, and pay.
It still dark, but dawn was near. She considered the dream. No doubt the presence of the cats had triggered it, but those dreams were more frequent lately. She recalled a series of similar dreams she'd had earlier that winter, which had turned out to be caused by the presence of a Stone Serpent Demoness in the rock garden in the center of the compound. Her present dreams were doubtless due to the two cats who were sleeping in her room every morning, regardless of where they had started the night. The markings on them: dark faces, paws, and tails, had prompted some people to call them "Devil Cats." Lin Mei didn't believe that; they gave her an warm feeling of comfort when they were nearby.
Biao Mei stirred and turned over under his quilt, dislodging Shadow.
"Time to rise, Sister," Biao Mei said, standing and grabbing his sword and dagger. Lin Mei mouthed a phrase she had not learned at her mother's knee and gently slid out from under the quilt, leaving Twilight undisturbed on the bedding. Her sword and dagger were by her side also. She slid both into her sash. She and her brother were young, seventeen and fifteen years, but already tragedy and a harsh life had taught them hard lessons. They slept fully clothed and with their weapons close at hand.
Shadow had already curled up on the quilt next to Twilight. Lin Mei and her brother left them and went outside. It was still dark, but the household was already stirring. The kitchen was coming to life. Outside carts went by, the sounds of creaking wheels coming over the compound's walls. Biao Mei walked to the privy, leaving her alone on the veranda. She automatically melted back into the shadow under the eaves, her eyes adjusting to the darkness. And so she was the only one who saw the small side door of the main building open just enough to allow a slender figure to enter the women's quarters. It was one she recognized, and she realized it was also the woman in her dream.