The chinese dragon

Books by Kim M. Kimselius

The Chinese Dragon

The chinese dragon

Published in August 2009

Book 12 in the Theo and Ramona series

 

Text on the back cover of The Chinese Dragon:

 

Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi and Emperor Wu allowed no one to stand in their way in their struggle for power and eternal life. Theo and Ramona are unfortunate enough to travel back in time and meet with these two frightening figures of China's past. They are thrown into whirl of adventures that are as scary as they are dangerous at the same time as they are absolutely fascinating. They witness murder and plotting at close hand. And finally, they find that even their own lives are threatened.

 

Don't miss this exciting and unusual story! This is a book you won't be able to put down!

 

 

An independent historical adventure featuring Theo and Ramona.

 

 

 

What the reviewers had to say about The Chinese Dragon:

 

"Just like in previous books about Theo and Ramona, people and places are well described and you can't wait to see how the plot is going to develop... This is a very readable book indeed."

BTJ, lektör Agneta Blomgren

 

 

Excerpt from The Chinese Dragon:

 

Before Ramona got a chance to realize what was happening, the man had begun to make a tattoo on her upper arm. She had not been asked to choose a motif, yet she had no objection, and she excitedly waited to see what would emerge. She had a feeling that the man would not take no for an answer. He had decided what she would wear on her arm, ant that was that.

 

It hurt, but not as badly as she had imagined. The man never stopped talking. He talked about Chinese customs, about tattoos and about the very tattoo he was busy doing at the moment.

 

"This is a magic dragon. I only do it for very special people," said the Chinaman and looked at Ramona with fire in his eyes.

 

Theo and Ramona couldn't understand why his words sent a shiver down their spines. Ramona's eyes vere glued to the man's. It was as if they were lit from within. Ramona suddenly wished that she had never thought of getting a tattoo, but she just couldn't stop the man and walk away. She sat there stiffly, patiently enduring the pricking of the needle.

 

"The history of the dragon design is very special. Only the emperor was allowed to use it - he was the Dragon. The imperial dragon has five claws. The dragon is a symbol of strength."

 

Ramona felt a tingling sensation, she knew it well, but she didn't interpret it as a warning sign. Instead, she just sat there while the man continued to work on her tattoo.

 

Emperor Wu Tzetian was the first and only woman ruler in China. She lived during the Tang Dynasty, 618-970 AD. She was a strong and evil woman. She had only one goal in life: to reign supreme, not just being an empress regnant. This was a fantastic period of luxury and affluence, beautiful clothes, dancing and culture. The Tang Dynasty was a very special time in history."

 

Theo and Ramona were fascinated by what the man had to say. They had read quite a lot about China, and they were very interested in the country itself as well as in its culture. Both dreamt of travelling there to walk along the Great Wall, see the Forbidden City in Beijing, the Terracotta soldiers in Xi'an and many of the other things they had read about.

 

Theo watched as the bright red dragon was taking shape on Ramona's arm. He suddenly felt less against the tattoo than he had done before. It was a very beautiful dragon.

 

The man gave Ramona's arm a wipe and examined his work.

 

"With one of these dragons tattooed in the right place you can get anything you wish for. But be careful, your wish may be fulfilled", said the Chinaman and gave Ramona a stern look.

 

It was as if he were trying to tell her something by his intense gaze, then he quickly turned away. Ramona immediately understood what he was trying to say; and she decided to give it a go. Nothing really bad was likely to happen... Theo was with her after all. He always proteced her; he was always by her side, no matter what...

 

Theo noticed a sparkle in Ramona's eyes as she held up her arm and looked at the red dragon. Then she put her hand over the tattoo, mumbled a few words, and before Theo even had a chance to understand what was happening, Ramona was gone.

 

He kept staring at the empty chair. Ramona had gone off time travelling, without him! But where had she gone to? He must try and follow her in case something bad happened. He immediately knew how to do it, and even though he only a moment ago had been very much against tattoos, he knew that he would have to get one. It had to be a dragon exactly the same as Ramona's. She must have travelled back in time with the help of her dragon.

 

"Your friend was in a hurry to leave", said the Chinaman as he turned round and saw the empty chair.

 

Theo didn't like the look on his face. It was as if he knew what had happened, as if he had told Ramona the story so that she would want to go. What kind of plans had the man been making for them? Whatever they were, he had no choice but to follow her!

 

 

The first 3 chapters of The Chinese Dragon:

 

CHAPTER 1

 

Present Day

 

"Oh look, please, can't we go inside?" asked Ramona and stopped Theo who was rapidly walking past the tattooist's caravan.

 

Theo was against tattoos. He couldn't understand how anyone would want to disfigure their own body. People who got themselves tattoos seemed to forget that a small butterfly or a heart and name would stay with them for the rest of their lives; until they got fed up with the butterfly or until the person they loved had left them. No, tattoos were not his thing.

 

He was heading towards the fortune teller. Once before, an old fortune teller had given him a reading about his future. Everything she had told him then had come true so far. On the other hand, her reading had been cryptic and hard to predict. Now he was hoping to get some simple, straight-forward answers from this woman.

 

"Please, Theo, please, I promise you can go on any ride you like if you come with me to the tattooist. I will even..." Ramona shivered and felt a knot in her stomach at the mere thought of what she was about to promise him, "...go with you on the rollercoaster."

 

Theo stopped in his tracks, turned to Ramona and saw her pleading look.

 

"You really want to do this, don't you?" He was perfectly well aware of the fact that Ramona hated the rollercoaster.

 

All the previous evening he had tried to persuade her to go with him on one ride after the other, but he had failed. She was to scared: scared of feeling nauseous, scared that the baskets would drop off, scared of falling out, scared... in fact, she was scared of almost everything. If she agreed to go on the rollercoaster... then she really wanted a tattoo.

 

"Lots of my classmates have tattoos: Lotta, Lena, Elsebeth, Ulrika, Louise, Emma... nearly everyone has one, except me. They have roses, butterflies, parrots..." Ramona laughed, "...and Louis got a tattoo with Owe's name just before he broke up with her, and does she wish she hadn't!"

 

Ramona immediately regretted what she had just said. It only confirmed what Theo kept telling her. She would eventually regret doing it, everyone did. He had said it would look stupid with a butterfly on her shoulder or ankle when she was eighty. What did she care? She wanted one now. What did it matter if she regretted it when she got older?"

 

Ramona felt certain that she would never change her mind. She would choose the nicest, coolest and best tattoo they had, if only Theo would go with her. She definitely didn't dare entering the caravan on her own, so she had to persuade him. In fact, he was looking as if he might give in. Ramona had another go at talking him into doing it.

 

"You know... I might even consider going on the rollercoaster before I have the tattoo, just so you know how much I want it. It's not much fun being different; I want to be like everyone else. I want a tattoo!" She sounded determined.

 

Theo looked at her. He had known her for a long time. He knew how stubborn she could be. She would never give in. But what would her mum say? He felt responsible for her. That last thing she had said didn't sound too promising; it wasn't the right reason for getting a tattoo, just because everyone else did. It's like saying that you smoke because everyone else does, just to look cool. Smoking and doing things everyone else does is just stupid.

 

He had always tried to be the kind of person he wanted to be. He considered it braver to move against the flow, to refuse to smoke, even though everyone else did. He was self-assured, and he felt that others respected him; more so than if he had accepted a cigarette when it was offered to him. Ramona never tended to go with the flow, quite the reverse; she had always done her own thing.

 

Ramona really wanted a tattoo. It she was trying to make him believe that she wanted to be like everyone else...

 

Theo sighed and looked around. It was Friday night and the fairground was crowded. He saw lots of people he knew. He looked up at the big Ferris wheel, which competed with the stars in brightness. He tried to shut out the music that was coming from all the rides, he wasn't very keen on crowds and noise, but he loved the rides. Theo sighed again.

 

"Ramona. If I go with you to the tattooist I want you to promise me one thing: You must get a tattoo because you want to, not because someone else has one, not because it's the in thing. You need to be prepared to wear it for the rest of your life. You understand?"

 

Theo gave her a stern look. He was hoping his words would put her off. He had heard that you could ge sick if the tattooist didn't clean his needles properly between customers. Anything could happen. But also knew that Ramona would simply not give in this time. In other words, she never did once she had made up her mind.

 

"Sure," said Ramona. "I know all that. It's for me. I'll choose something really, really special. Something you'll like too. Something no one else has, something that will impress everyone, something that..."

 

Ramona suddenly froze and stared at the door. You could her screaming from within. There was someone in there right now, getting a tattoo. It seemed to be hurting. Should she really do this? Did she dare?

 

"Well, let's go inside," she said firmly before she had time to regret it.

 

She rushed up the steps. As she grabbed hold of the door handle, the door opened from the inside and a tiny Chinaman with a furrowed face waved them inside.

 

"Enter," he said, "make beautiful tattoo on lovely lady. Enter, enter. Make lovely heart on handsome gentleman, heart with lady's name, yes?" he said and pulled them both inside.

 

Ramona took a deep breath. Should she really be doing this?

 

 

Chapter 2

 

Present Day

 

The chair was uncomfortable, and Ramona felt more and more ill at ease. She wasn't so sure that she wanted to do it anymore. But she couldn't change her mind now that Theo had agreed.

 

The actual tattooing was done by another Chinaman. He looked even older and wrinklier than the first. His face was deeply lined and his eyes were like two flaming holes. When he opened his mouth to speak, both Ramona and Theo became captivated, as if they were being hypnotized.

 

Before Ramona realized what was happening, the man had begun to make a tattoo on her upper arm. She had not been asked to choose a motif, yet she had no objection, and she excitedly waited to see what would emerge. She had a feeling that the man would not take no for an answer. He had decided what she would wear on her arm, ant that was that.

 

It hurt, but not as badly as she had imagined. The man never stopped talking. He talked about Chinese traditions, about tattoos and about the tattoo he was busy doing at the moment.

 

"This is a magic dragon. I only do it for very special people," said the Chinaman and looked at Ramona with fire in his eyes.

 

Theo and Ramona couldn't understand why his words sent a shiver down their spines. Ramona's eyes vere glued to the man's. It was as if they were lit from within. Ramona suddenly wished that she had never thought of getting a tattoo, but she just couldn't stop the man and walk away. She sat there stiffly, patiently enduring the pricking of the needle.

 

"The dragon design has a very special history. Only the emperor was allowed to use it - he was the Dragon. The imperial dragon has five claws. The dragon is a symbol of strength."

 

Ramona felt a tingling sensation, she knew it well, but she didn't interpret it as a warning sign. Instead, she just sat there while the man continued to work on her tattoo.

 

Emperor Wu Tzetian was the first and only woman ruler in China. She lived during the Tang Dynasty, 618-970 AD. She was a strong and evil woman. She had only one goal in life: to reign supreme, not just being an empress regnant. This was a fantastic period of luxury and affluence, beautiful clothes, dancing and culture. The Tang Dynasty was a very special time in history."

 

Theo and Ramona were fascinated by what the man had to say. They had read a great deal about China, and they were very interested in the country itself as well as in its culture. Both dreamt of travelling there to walk along the Great Wall, see the Forbidden City in Beijing, the terracotta soldiers in Xi'an and many of the other things they had read about.

 

Theo watched as the bright red dragon was taking shape on Ramona's arm. He suddenly felt less against the tattoo than he had done before. It was a very beautiful dragon.

 

The man gave Ramona's arm a wipe and examined his work.

 

"With one of these dragons tattooed in the right place you can get anything you wish for. But be careful, your wish may be fulfilled", said the Chinaman and gave Ramona a stern look.

 

It was as if he were trying to tell her something by his intense gaze, then he quickly turned away. Ramona immediately understood what he was trying to say; and she decided to give it a go. Nothing really bad was likely to happen... Theo was with her after all. He always proteced her; he was always by her side, no matter what...

 

Theo noticed a sparkle in Ramona's eyes as she held up her arm and looked at the red dragon. Then she put her hand over the tattoo, mumbled a few words, and before Theo even had a chance to understand what was happening, Ramona was gone.

 

He kept staring at the empty chair. Ramona had gone off time travelling, without him! But where had she gone to? He must try and follow her in case something bad happened. He immediately knew how to do it, and even though he only a moment ago had been very much against tattoos, he knew that he would have to get one. It had to be a dragon exactly the same as Ramona's. She must have travelled back in time with the help of her dragon.

 

"Your friend couldn't wait to leave", said the Chinaman as he turned round and saw the empty chair.

 

Theo didn't like the look on his face. It was as if he knew what had happened, as if he had told Ramona the story so that she would want to go. What kind of plans had the man been making for them? Whatever they were, he had no choice but to follow her!

 

Theo brought out his wallet, took out some notes, and said the words he had never thought he would say:

 

"I want the same! Here's money for us both in advance."

 

The man rubbed his hands and smiled slyly. Then he grabbed the money. He tucked it inside his colourful kimono, and Theo suddenly realized it was completely covered in dragons.

 

"You will get a nice dragon tattoo too," he said and smiled knowingly.

 

Even though Theo knew that the man couldn't be trusted, he sat down on the chair, desperately wondering where Ramona had gone to. In the end he realized that the only thing he culd do was to wish to go there too. If he could only manage to travel through time with the help of his dragon tattoo. Theo fervently hoped it would work, and prepared himself for the pain as the needle approached his right arm.

 

What he didn't now was that the old Chinaman never did exactly the same tattoo twice. He always varied them, so there would never be two identical tattoos. Theo was soon to realize the significance of this.

 

Just like he had done before, the Chinaman talked about the history of China while he was working:

 

"The first emperor of China was called Qin Shi Huangdi. He united a great many divided kingdoms and formed one big country, which he named Qin, that's where the name China comes from. This was the start of the Qin dynasty, which lasted between 221 and 206 BC. Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi wanted eternal life, which he got by creating his terracotta army and magnificent tomb. I'm sure you've heard about them." the Chinaman said.

 

Theo nodded. He had read about the first emperor of China, and he was fascinated by the story. Mostly because he couldn't understand how anyone could make a terracotta army of more than eight thousand soldiers whose sole purpose was to keep guard over him in death. At the same time, he had wanted to go to China to see the figures ever since he first saw some pictures of them. Seeing them for real must be incredible.

 

The Chinaman continued his story about Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi while he was working on the green dragon on Theo's arm.

 

After completing the tattoo the man removed the needle, wiped Theo's arm, looked him in the eyes and said in a deep voice:

 

"Farewell!"

 

Then he turned away from Theo, who quickly put his hand over the tattoo and wished that he would follow Ramona through time. The last thing he saw before everything went dark was the smug smile on the Chinaman's face as he turned round an saw Theo disappear. That's when Theo realized that something had gone wrong. He wished that he could stop the time shift, but it was too late. Then everything went black.

 

 

Chapter 3

 

The Qin Dynasty, 221-206 BC

 

Theo heard someone gasp behind him. His heart began to pound with joy. He thought he had already found Ramona so he quickly turned round with a big smile on his face, ready to give her a hug.

 

But it wasn't his dearest friend who was standing there; it was a complete stranger, a girl dressed in a long pale pink silk dress that came all the way down to the floor. On top of it she wore a short silk jacket in a darker pink with wide, long sleeves. Both garments were decorated with large embroidered peonies in varoius shades of pink. She wore her jet black hair in a large bun on one side of her head with a blood red peonby stuck into it. The girl glapped her hand over her mouth and was staring at him wide-eyed.

 

It occurred to Theo that she had seen him appear from out of thin air. She must be terrified of him. She probably thought he was a magician, or was shaman the correct word here? Theo looked around. What was here anyway?

 

The walls consisted of elaborately carved wooden panels painted in red and yellow, the way the yellow shone it could even have been gold. Further away, Theo could make out a large lion statue made of light green, almost white, jade. He took another look at the girl. She wasn't as young as he had thought at first, what he was looking at was a young woman. The longer they stood there staring at each other, the paler her face grew. Theo realized that he would have to say something.

 

"I'm sorry I frightened you. I'm lost. I'm not sure where I am. Perhaps you can help me," he said and smiled his warmest smile and looked at her with his dark, brown eyes.

 

She didn't reply. She only kept staring at him, and then she began to tremble all over. Theo was certain that she was about to faint.

 

Then they heard voices and steps approaching down the corridor.Theo panicked and glanced in the direction the noise was coming from. The young woman had probably noticed the expression of pure fear, because she removedher hand from her mouth, on which Theo realized that she was about to scream for help. She mustn't scream!

 

He quickly covered the short distance that separated them; put his hand over the young woman's mouth, put his other arm around her shoulders and smiled.

 

"Please... There's nothing to be afraid of! I'm not dangerous. Maybe you can help me. I'm completely lost. I need all the help I can get. I think that I..." Theo tried to think of a way to finish the sentence.

 

What could he say? He must think fast; the steps and voices were getting closer. Then he got it! He would use the same trick he had used before when travelling through time and found it hard to explain things.

 

"I've lost my memory. I can't remember who I am or where I am, or how I got here. Please help me!"

 

Theo sounded so persuasive and sincere that the young woman looked into his dark, honest eyes and made a quick decision. She grabbed Theo's hand that was covering her mouth and gently removed it. He let her do it, even though he knew that he could be risking his life. He wasn't sure what the young woman was going to do.

 

Now the steps were just around the corner. There was no time to escape and nowhere to hide. The young woman saw the mounting fear in the eyes of the strange young man, and she realized what she would have to do. She took his head between her hands, pulled it close to hers and kissed him. Surprised, Theo put his arms around her, uncertain of what she was planning. But he understood that it was important for him to play along. Then the steps and voices rounded the corner. Theo didn't dare look up, so he continued to kiss the alien woman. He heard the men passing a few comments and laughing as they walked past. The woman continued kissing him until the steps had disappeared around the next corner. Then she let go and looked at him. She gasped and stared at him with wide-open eyes. The fear was gone from her face and eyes. She was smiling. Theo could feel himself blushing, and realized that he had been more involved in that kiss than he thought he had. What would Ramona have said if she knew? Most likely she would have beaten him up or never spoken to him again. Theo looked around, afraid that Ramona would be standing behind him, eyes ablaze. But the corridor was deserted.

 

"You're in the emperor's palace, the guards' quarters. So I expect you're one of the emperor's private soldiers, even though you're certainly not dressed like one."

 

She went quit and took a look at his pale blue jeans and light blue cotton shirt. The strange young man's clothes were made of the same material as peasants' clothes, only he didn't look like a peasant. He looked much more like a soldier with his straight back and dark, black hair, which was far too short, she had to admit, and he didn't wear it in a pigtail. But the dark, honest eyes that she had drowned in, and the kiss...

 

The woman realized that she had fallen in love with the stranger the moment he kissed her so tenderly and passionately. Her heart pounded and she sincerely hoped that her instincts hadn't deceived her, since she had decided to trust him. but she didn't want him to know this straight away. So she continued by saying:

 

"And this sudden appearance..."

 

She fell quiet, she had forgotten about it, but as she said it she remembered that Theo had turned up from nowhere. It was impossible to explain, and it frightened her.

 

Theo laughed. He knew what she was thinking when he again saw fear in the young woman's eyes.

 

"Well, people say I have a way of sneaking up on them," he said, ardently hoping that she hadn't been paying to much attention when she was walking down the corridor.

 

At first, the young woman looked puzzled, and then she smiled.

 

"My name is Anchi, but I'm also called Little Peony. I love peonies. What's yours?"

 

"Theo, just Theo," said Theo, and almost bowed ceremoniously because he was so pleased that she seemed to trust him.

 

"Well, Theo... I'm on my way so see my brother who is commander of the emperor's soldiers. I can take you to him if you want. I'm sure he knows who you are. He can help you get your memory back. But..." she fell silent and looked at him, "...you remembered your name!"

 

"Yes! I remembered my name!" said Theo and laughed. "Your kiss must have made me remember. Perhaps another one could make my memory come back altogether."

 

He regretted his words the moment he said them.

 

He didn't want to kiss the young woman a second time; the words just came out of him. He looked for Ramona again, but to his relief she was nowhere to be seen. He didn't like the idea of having to explain to her what he had just said. He almost wished that she had heard it though; it would have meant that he had found her. He had to find her before she got into trouble, which she often did.

 

"You seem worried, what's troubling you?" said Anchi.

 

"My sweetheart probably kill me if she had seen me kissing a beautiful lady like you", said Theo.

 

"Oh, I see," said Anchi, and Theo thought he could detect a note of disappointment in her voice. "What's her name?"

 

"Ramona," said Theo.

 

"Ramona... ah, her name sounds just as strange as yours. Is she from the same place? Don't look so surprised. You don't look at all like the other guards. You're taller, your skin is lighter, your clothes are different and... well, you look foreign," said Anchi.

 

Again, her words frightened Theo. Where was he? In the emperor's palace. But what emperor and what country?

 

"Excuse me, but I still can't remember much else than Ramona's and my own names. What country am I in, and what's the name of the emperor?" said Theo.

 

"You're in the Middle Kingdom and the emperor's name is Qin Shi Huangdi," said Anchi.

 

This sent a shiver down Theo's spine. Something was wrong, he was certain of it. But what? The words Middle Kingdom told him he was in China and the Emperor Qin was the one who united the country and the reason why other countries called it China. The Chinaman had told him so while he was doint his tattoo.

 

Where had Ramona gone to? It would stand to reason if she were here. He had wished to go to the same place as her when he put his hand over his tattoo.

 

The Chinaman had tattooed Chinese dragons on them both, that's why they had travelled through time and ended up in China.

 

Theo suddenly remembered the bright red dragon on Ramona's arm and thought of his own right arm where there was now a bright green dragon. He suddenly felt sick with fear; he was now convinced that the different-coloured dragons had some sinister meaning. He started to panic. He must find Ramona!

 

 

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