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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Troop Alan

«The Dragon DelaSangre», Alan Troop

For all the dragons among us.



В This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.



В First, foremost and forever, to Susan, my wife and my favorite reader, without whose love and forbearance I doubt I'd ever have completed this or any other book. To Rocky Marcus for her encyclopedic knowledge of literature, her advice and her well timed and well delivered ego strokes. To Jim Cory, wherever you are, a damn good poet and an excellent critic. To Bob Darwell for your help and advice and to Bob Hollander who always wanted to be in a book. And to Jason, David and Leah-dreams can come true if you work hard enough at achieving them.

Since Mother's lonely demise on an and isle beyond the Gulfstream, Father and I have lived alone. He sleeps most of the time now. The years have caught him in their grip and, during those brief times when he's awake, he's become quite fond of repeating that death lurks beyond each labored breath he takes.

I never detect any sorrow in those declarations. Father has lived long enough to savor whatever he wished. When death comes, he'll surely embrace it.

Dignity is all I wish for him. He's always admired those who fought for the joy they found in life. "And I've always regretted the necessity of their deaths," Father's often said. "Even in defeat, the brave ones surrendered only their bodies. "

But no matter how calm Father's death, no matter how well received its arrival-I fear the loneliness that will follow. "Don't despair," he reassures me. "There are still others. One day you will find a woman of the blood, just as I found your mother."

But each year passes without such fortune. Father can doze and dream his memories. I can only wish for my future.

Ours is a large house, made from coral stone. It sits on an island-a small spit of sand stuck between Miami's Biscayne Bay and the great blue wideness of the Atlantic Ocean. As much as I love the salt smell and ocean song that fills the air each day, I dread the thought of a lonely future spent roaming the cool stone corridors, from empty room to empty room.

We've owned this island, Caya DelaSangre, or Blood Key, since Philip II, the king of Spain, granted it to my family in exchange for gold, services rendered and the promise of Don Henri DelaSangra to never return to any portion of Europe. When first deeded to our family in 1589, the island measured eleven acres long and five acres wide. But over the years, wind, tide and storm have eroded our homestead, just as our family has diminished under the weight of time. My inheritance has worn away to no more than nine acres of dry land. Truth is, I wouldn't trade them for ninety anywhere else. My mother gave birth to me here. I grew up in the house Don Henri himself built.

Without a bride of my own, without children, I admit it's an empty kingdom to rule. Still, I pity those poor souls on the mainland who move every few years, from house to house, without any connection to their land, without any sense of their history or their responsibility to it.

The other night Father awoke and grew nostalgic. "Remember when you were a boy," Father wheezed and coughed, "how you loved to play soldier?"

I nodded.

"You'd go out on the veranda, climb on its coral parapet and point to the sea-shouting that pirates were coming to attack. Then you'd run, seeking pretend enemies, circling the house until you finally stopped by one of the gun ports cut into the coral and…"

"And I'd beg you to move the cannon into position," I said.

Father chuckled. "Your mother always hated that I kept a few of the old ship killers. When I'd fire one for you, she'd be mad for weeks. She always worried we'd be heard. She never believed we were far enough from land for the noise to go unnoticed."

It was a wonderful place for a boy to grow up… even a strange child like I was. I still like to stand in the great room on the third floor of our coral-stone house and overlook it all, like a captain viewing his ship from the top deck. Usually I dine alone each night at the massive oak table in the middle of that room, Father asleep, rumbling and turning with his dreams in the room below.

From my seat I can survey all the approaches to our island home. To my right, a large multipaned window faces the endless waves of the Atlantic Ocean. To my left, three smaller windows look out across the pale blue width of Biscayne Bay to the South Miami skyline on the horizon. In front of me, two other windows view the swift current flowing through the narrow channel separating us from the bird sanctuary on Wayward Key. And behind me, yet another window overlooks the mile-wide channel between our small island and the green tree-covered spits of land called the Ragged Keys.

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