Read Crane Online

Authors: Jeff Stone

Tags: #General, #Speculative Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Juvenile Fiction, #Animals

Crane

BOOK: Crane
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For more than forty years,
Yearling has been the leading name
in classic and award-winning literature
for young readers.

Yearling books feature children's
favorite authors and characters,
providing dynamic stories of adventure,
humor, history, mystery, and fantasy.

Trust Yearling paperbacks to entertain,
inspire, and promote the love of reading
in all children.

The Five Ancestors

Book 1: Tiger

Book 2: Monkey

Book 3: Snake

Book 4: Crane

For my mother,
Arlene

The Legend unravels

Cangzhen's strong, young Dragon has disappeared and little Monkey has been captured! Now, instead of being chased, the Tiger, the Snake, and the Crane must pursue their enemies to free one monk and find another. Down the Yellow River, the trail leads to a dangerous city and a dark underworld. Unaware that their youngest brother is being used as bait in a ruthless trap, the three rescuers may soon need to be rescued themselves. And of the Dragon? The trail is cold and there is little to learn other than dead ends and rumors. Yet the five must regroup if they are to fulf ill their destiny as

the Five Ancestors.

HENAN PROVINCE, CHINA
4339—YEAR OF THE SNAKE
(1641 AD)

“I
don't understand, MaMa,” said three-year-old OnYeen with a sniffle. “Why are you cutting all my hair off?”

Bing set the straight razor down on a small lacquered table, next to a pile of navigation charts. She wiped OnYeen's pale, bald head with a warm towel and brushed clumps of long brown hair from OnYeen's sleeping gown. “Everyone at the temple shaves his head,” Bing said. “That's the rule.”

OnYeen sniffled again. “You said shaves
his
head. I'm a girl.”

“This is true,” Bing replied. “However, from now on you must pretend that you are a boy. Your head must also be shaved every day.”

“But why?”

“Because you have to hide. Your father and I are in danger, which means you are in danger. There are people looking for all three of us. You must pretend that you are a boy in order to better fool people, and you must never let your hair grow because of its color. You are different from everyone else. You already know this.”

“I know I am different,” OnYeen said. “Because of Father. But I don't care. I want to stay with him. I want to stay with both of you!”

Bing set the towel down beside a glowing oil lamp. She turned toward the cabin's single porthole and stared into the night sky. “I am sorry, but we must separate. You will go to the temple where I grew up, and I will take flight in the mountains. Your father will undock this ship of his and return to the sea.”

OnYeen raised her eyes to the flickering shadows on the wood-paneled ceiling. Her mind began to race. “Why can't I shave my head and dress like a boy and stay with you? You can shave your head, too. We can be boys together.”

Bing sighed. “You are far too intelligent for a child your age. You know that, don't you? You cannot come with me. I am sorry.”

“Then when will you come get me?”

Bing turned away from the porthole. “We must be honest about this. It may be a long time.”

“How long?” OnYeen asked. Tears began to dribble down her pale bony cheeks.

Bing knelt and looked OnYeen in the eye. “I do not know how long I will be away. Some people believe that everything happens for a reason, daughter. You must try
to find the good in this, and you must remain strong, like I've taught you. You will learn many things from Grandmaster. You will continue your training in the healing arts and kung fu. I learned everything I know at the temple.”

OnYeen closed her eyes. “I remember Grandmaster. He came to visit once. He is mean.”

“He is not mean,” Bing said. “He is strict. There is a difference. Look at me.”

OnYeen opened her eyes.

“You have to be strong,” Bing said. “Going to the temple is the logical thing to do. The logical choice is always the best choice. Do you understand?”

OnYeen sniffled.

“Do you understand?” Bing repeated.

OnYeen wiped her eyes and nodded.

“Good,” Bing said. “I have something for you. This has always helped me. Perhaps it will help you.”

Bing reached into the collar of her white robe and lifted a silk thread from around her neck. Dangling from the thread was a tiny green crane. “I carved this for myself many years ago. It is jade. Some people believe the precious green stone absorbs pain. Wear it over your heart. That is where you will hurt most.”

Bing placed the circle of thread over OnYeen's head. OnYeen didn't feel any different.

“I still want to come with you,” OnYeen said.

Bing stared, unblinking, at OnYeen. She didn't reply.

OnYeen knew her mother was not going to change her mind. OnYeen raised her eyes to the ceiling again. “I know!” she said. “I can
dream
about you! When I get
lonely, I can close my eyes and visit you. We can fly together from the mountains to the sea and find Father and—”

Bing shook her head and rested her long, delicate fingers on OnYeen's shoulders. “It is time for bed.”

OnYeen frowned and climbed into her bunk. She gazed at her mother, trying not to blink.

“There is one more thing,” Bing said. “If you think about it logically, you will understand that it must be done. We must also change your name.”

OnYeen sank into her thin mattress and her eyelids began to quiver. “No, MaMa … not my name. I like my name.”

“I like your name, too. It suits you perfectly. Perhaps too perfectly, given these troubled times. Where you are going, people speak Cantonese. They will know that OnYeen means
Peaceful,
and that it's a girl's name. I am very sorry, but we have to change it. Only Grandmaster will know that you are a girl.”

OnYeen did her best to choke back her tears. She needed to be strong, like her mother said. She needed to do the logical thing. “What will my new name be?”

Bing pointed to the tiny jade crane around OnYeen's neck. “Hok.”

OnYeen slammed her eyes shut. Tears began to leak from them again. She clinched the jade crane and wanted to cry out, but she didn't utter a peep.

Bing nodded approvingly. “You are a very brave girl. I am proud of you. Sweet dreams, my dearest Hok. Tomorrow we leave for Cangzhen Temple.”

HENAN PROVINCE, CHINA
4348—YEAR OF THE TIGER
(1650 AD)

T
welve-year-old Hok sat perched high in a tree in a dreamlike state. All around her, Cangzhen was burning. Thick black smoke rushed over her on currents of air formed by the intense heat below. Her brothers, Fu, Malao, Seh, and Long, had already taken flight. It was time for her to do the same. Grandmaster had told them to scatter into the four winds, so into the wind she would go.

BOOK: Crane
3.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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