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Book Cover

The Sign of the Dragon, by Mary Soon Lee

The Sign of the Dragon is an epic fantasy about King Xau, chosen by a dragon to be king, now available as an ebook with an illustrated print edition forthcoming in 2021. Xau's story is told in over three hundred poems, including the Rhysling-winning "Interregnum." The first sixty poems appeared in Crowned (Dark Renaissance Books, 2015), which won the 2016 Elgin Award, and other poems appeared in F&SF, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Mithila Review, Spillway, Strange Horizons, and many other magazines.

Click the play button below to hear the opening poem, "Interregnum."

As the fourth-born prince of Meqing, Xau was never supposed to be king. But when his three older brothers are all deemed unfit to rule and eaten by a dragon, as is the custom, Xau suddenly finds himself on the Meqinese throne. The early years of his reign are marred by brutal earthquakes and floods, and the long-simmering tension with the neighboring country of Innis finally erupts into war. Worst of all, demons rise out of legend to walk the realm again, leaving death and destruction in their wake. In a desperate gamble, Xau must broker an uneasy peace with his former enemies and hope their combined strength is enough to vanquish the demons before it's too late.

Collected together in its entirety for the first time, with over two hundred never-before-published poems, the ebook presents King Xau's story of sacrifice and war and dragons from beginning to end. The ebook edition is being released during the coronavirus pandemic, and the author's proceeds from 2020 sales will be split between the following charities: Doctors Without Borders, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, and The Trevor Project.

The Sign of the Dragon is available from the following booksellers:

Publisher's page for "The Sign of the Dragon."

Illustration Illustration by M. Wayne Miller

INTERREGNUM (first published in Star*Line)

Sixteen years old, fourth son,
still they sent him to the mountain

together with his brothers
before their father's body stiffened,

the kingdom suspended without a king:
four princes, one crown

(a crown he had no use for,
a crown of war, alliances, duty).

He slept on straw near his horse,
displacing the stableboy,

waited for his eldest brother to return
triumphant, ready for the throne--

then brother after brother vanished
into rock and ice and cloud.

The steward took his sword,
his shield, sent him out at dusk:

no torch, no guide, no horse,
no servant, no food, no water.

Snow deepened under his boots;
he waded through drifts,

fell once, twice. The wind mocked him;
he thought of the warm stable,

the bed of straw, his horse,
sleep -- but sleep meant death,

so he stumbled on. The wind
called his brothers' names.

He shouted back his own name;
the wind laughed. Snow fell.

He walked half-blind; sleet kissed
his forehead. The wind said sleep.

He sang to drown it, sang hymns,
nursery songs, drinking songs,

dirges, ballads, marching tunes,
the love songs his mother had favored

(she who was bartered for peace
to a man she'd never met).

He fell, pushed himself upright,
saw a black cloud speed against the wind.

She landed beside him, her breath ash,
snow steaming from her wings.

He knelt, but did not beg,
and asked after his brothers.

"One slept. One fought. One pissed
himself. They didn't taste like kings."

She laughed. "And you? What will you
pay for a crown, little princeling?"

"Nothing. I don't want it."
She flamed, and he saw himself reflected

in her scales, a kneeling, shivering boy.
"Then why," she asked, "are you here?"

"Because they sent me." He stopped. "No."
He was so tired, he couldn't think--

"Because the kingdom needs a king."
He struggled to his feet.

"And what will you pay for the crown,
little princeling? Gold? Men? A song?"

"My freedom!" he shouted at her.
"Well," she said, "that's a start."


Years later, on a spring morning,
his queen asked, greatly daring,

about the woman whose name he cried
in his sleep. "Not a woman," he said,

his heart on the mountain
where he entered his kingship.

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Last updated May 2020 by Mary Soon Lee.