Only one title here – “Sin-Bad’s Journey to Da Nan Di”
I am a bit stumped as to what to put on the cover but it is percolating around in my brain somewhere and I’m hopeful it will surface soon…ish.
This story starts in the early 1400’s in China’s Yuan province goes to Nanjing, backtracks to Baghdad then onto Beijing and from there all around the world to Australia . Where we meet the fictional Nail Nail people of the east coast of Queensland.
Here is the opening to the first chapter. Our hero is Ma-He (aka Sin-Bad) who from humble beginnings becomes the mighty Admiral Cheng-Ho.
Ma-He ambled along the path leading to the hillside overlooking Kunyang township. He kicked at the dust with his bare feet. It was unusually dry his father had inforned him. Surely, the rains would come soon.
‘Leave him alone Sheng-Lei!’ shouted a boy’s voice from somewhere ahead. Followed by grunts of a struggle and a growled reply he couldn’t make out.
He lifted his head and tilted it to one side. His instinct was to run headlong into trouble and help whoever was beset, but his father’s voice sounded a warning in his head. ‘You must be a thinker. Stop letting emotion rule your head, especially now that we are in a strange new place. You, we must try to fit in even if we don’t look like these people.’
He shook his head; someone’s in trouble, he thought. He broke into a trot and rounded the bend ahead. In the melee he could see a sturdy boy a bit older than his nine years bent over in a wrestling stance. Behind him stood a thin lad who looked about six. He was obviously frightened but held up his fists in a plucky show of courage and solidarity.
‘Shut up you little bastard,’ a much older and larger boy said.
‘Yeah, little bastard,’ taunted the fellow’s three comrades.
‘Come on, Sheng. Pick on someone more your own size. I’ll fight you one on one. Come on, or are you too cowardly without your troupe of monkeys.’ The challenge was delivered in a high piping voice despite the bravery of the words.
‘No one calls me a coward. You’ll be sorry you ever met me you illegitimate swine.’
‘Hah! I already am. Come on. What’s wrong? There’s no rich Ba to hide behind here. Come on. I dare you.’
The ringleader of the older group was easily a head taller than his challenger and would soon be an adult, but for now he was just a childish bully. He stepped forward.
‘Hold that skinny little maggot until I’ve finished here,’ he ordered.
The three others grabbed the smaller boy, whose ferocious expression and frantic struggles gave lie to the apparent frailty of his frame, but three to one was no contest and he hit the ground with a thud that took the air from his lungs.
‘You’ll be sorry you interfered Zhou-Man, you guttersnipe. Hong-Lao is a girly-boy and you are his boyfriend,’ grunted Sheng-Lei. He flung his opponent to the ground and fell full-weight across his abdomen. Zhou-Man grunted as the air left his lungs but rolled free and leapt to his feet. Again they wrestled and fell to the ground. Sheng-Lei had one large fist wrapped in Zhou-Man’s tunic and lifted the other to deliver a hammer blow to his head, but he was too slow.
Zhou–Man moved his head to the side and the blow hit the soft powdery dirt beside him. Before the boy on top of him could recover he grabbed his shoulders pulling him close and jerked his own head up hard.
‘Arrrghh!…You’ve broken my nose!’ Sheng-Lei shouted cupping his bloody nose. ‘Get him boys.’
Leaping to his aid, two of his companions grabbed Zhou-Man and dragged him to his feet while the other held the skinny one in a headlock. Sheng-Lei hauled back and punched the boy’s unprotected abdomen causing him to double over and struggle for breath.
That’s it! Ma-He sprang into action.