In the pale wash of the cracked window, his clipped hair shone almost white. He’d changed since he and Lonan had been bathed together and scolded together—he was built like a swordswoman’s son now. His mother’s spitting image.
The jeweler’s house, at the bottom of the incline, boiled like a cauldron. Lonan plaited tough thread and rum-mixed resin through Shay’s sweaty hair, patterning crushed cockle shells in braids away from Shay’s hairline. His fingerwork was tight and precise.
Umi folded the summer curtains while Shiori sat watching. The winter drapes were long overdue; the windowpanes were gray with fog in the morning and had been every morning since Umi had arrived.
The yard behind the atrium was empty of the harem children and their carers. Only half of the parakeet cages swung outside, empty of birds. The only noise between the evening gusts was their metal hooks, clicking and creaking on their lines. A single white-robed woman stood in the yard’s center, standing on a block to pull the cages down.
Umi didn’t know any of her brothers well. She knew they carried the name of Khurshid Azar, which Umi was not allowed to—Siskin girl, you’re a Siskin, they’re Azars, they’ll be Azar men one day. She knew, to some degree, they were named for a king and she was named for a concubine, but it didn't bother her yet. All Umi did know was that, when it came to her full-blooded brother, she wanted to be him.
My recent bodice-ripping affair with Canva has finally led me to redesign the cover for "Black Dragon," which you might remember was a tad too edgy. This one is a little shittier, but vastly more appropriate.