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Keepsakes – 2


“Here?” the driver asked. He eyed the street scene dubiously: Narrow, dark and dirty.

“Here,” Taz said.

The driver shrugged, and pulled the limo over.

Taz exited the long car. He started walking back towards the alley that was one of this evening’s pedestrian entrances to the Inn.

The limo accelerated smoothly away, back towards the lights.


Tonight, the Inn had a stark stainless steel look. The registration desk was a curved metal mirror, steel tubing and black leather formed the seating, and the lobby art was a metal mobile. The elevators had striped black enamel and stainless steel doors. Taz nodded to the clerk, and took an elevator up to the roof garden.

The yunü jumped up from a chair near the elevator as the door opened. “I thought you were never coming,” she said.

“It’s only 2319,” Taz said. He shook his head at an approaching server. “Now,” he told the yunü, sitting down, “tell me exactly what my grandmother wants.”

“The Eldest wants you to fetch her wine cup,” Feng Tailin said.

“Any wine cup? Or does she desire a specific style…”

“She had it made, about three thousand years ago. She wants it back.”

“So if she had it three thousand years ago, why doesn’t she have it now?” Taz asked.

“It, ah, it was a token. She gave it to a human; or so I was told.”

“A token of what?”

“An appreciation of service,” Tailin said.

“What service did a human do the Eldest Dragon?”

“I have not been informed.”

“And how did the museum get it?”

“He was buried with it. Recently, other humans dug it up and it’s now here.”

That, at least, made some sense. Recently, as far as the Eldest Dragon was concerned, could be anytime in the last century, which was when many organized archeological digs had occurred.

“Is my grandmother certain the cup is here?”

“Oh, yes,” Tailin said. “And she will be angry if there is too much delay in returning it to her.”

“I need to think about this.”

“No,” the yunü said. “You need to get it.”

Annoyed, Taz frowned. Living in the human world was a skill that most of the yunü he met had mastered to some degree. The yunü who visited his foster mother had other skills, ranging from strategy to tactics in various aspects of interacting with mortals while achieving immortal goals.

He had listened to two yunü(Jiding and Yanghao) plan a shopping trip with more forethought than Tailin demonstrated in what had started out as an important task and was rapidly becoming a complex theft.

“We’ll get to that in due course,” Taz said. “What does it look like?”

“I don’t know.”

“Oh, great. Is there a description, a picture? Who made it?”

“Dai. You call him Dai now.”

“He made cups? I didn’t know that.”

“He made this one. We need to find it,” the yunü insisted.

“Don’t thrash around. I’ll look for the warehouse tomorrow.”

“We should go now…”

“No. I’ll get you a room here and talk to you tomorrow, probably very late afternoon or evening.”

“I await your celestial highness’s plea….”

“And don’t call me that.” Feng Tailin didn’t look happy, Taz thought. He didn’t care. He wasn’t happy, but he wasn’t about to rush around in a hurried panic, attracting a lot of attention and accomplishing nothing.

He had to talk to Dai and he had to discover where the warehouse was; not necessarily in that order, but before he planned anything else. Apparently he needed to keep the yunü on a leash, or she might get him expelled from school, if not arrested by human police. Well, she couldn’t get into trouble with humans at the Inn. “Stay here. Don’t leave the Inn. Don’t go around San Francisco. I don’t want anyone’s attention focused on you, or on me. Tomorrow,” he repeated.

Taz took the elevator down to the lobby, spoke with the desk clerk, and walked out through the amenity/service arcade, which that night opened from a temporary door beside City Lights Bookstore.

How to find Dai the Tinker was a problem. Jingwu would know, but he couldn’t ask her. Ah. The Concierge might be able to help. Instead of walking home, he turned back and sought out the Concierge’s office. Tonight, the office was staffed by an Intulox.

“Where can I visit Gypsy Dai? Tonight, if that’s possible?”

The Intulox glanced down at her desk, typed quickly, then looked up. “Dai is in his workshop. The portal is open, and is located across the bay, in Richmond.” She recited the address. “It’s the studio on the right.”

Taz nodded. “And can you get me a picnic basket? Lots of finger food, a little good wine, desserts, fruit.”

“For Dai? We know what he likes.”

“Yes. Uh, when?”

“Now,” the Intulox said. “We keep a couple in stasis. One is bigger than the other.”

“I’ll take the bigger one.”


A glass-blower, working late, put the new pumpkin in the tempering oven. A rattle of the gate caused him to look up.

Through the open studio door, he saw a tall Chinese man, in white tie and tails, carrying a large hamper, walk across the parking lot and into the other studio. The glass-blower shrugged. Stranger visitors had called over there.


“I was hoping you remembered a wine cup you made for my grandmother.”


“The Eldest Dragon.”

“I remember. Pretty little thing. Nice form. She wanted something simple.”

Taz didn’t try to assign subjects to Dai’s sentence fragments. He himself would never describe his grandmother as a ‘pretty little thing’, but he was intellectually aware both his grandmother and Dai had already experienced long, complex, lives before he was even hatched. How complex, how intertwined, those lives might have been, he found he wasn’t ready or willing to explore. “The cup has been lost,” he said. “Can you tell me what it looks like? She wants me to find it.”

“Just a moment.” Dai went out, and returned carrying a wooden box. The box, about 15 centimeters square and 10 centimeters high, was made of three different kinds of rosewood, with an inlaid design in a pale fruit wood in the top panel. The sides had phoenixes and dragons carved in bas-relief. He slid the lid out of the grooved sides, and took out a small footed bowl. It was ceramic, with a variable glaze showing an overall fine crackle finish. The main color was a pale ivory, but there were areas that had flecks of purple, red, blue and black embedded in the glaze.

“I made her two of them. I think she gave one to a mortal, and hers was broken in the most recent demon attack.”

The most recent demon attack was before Taz had been hatched, at least a couple of thousand years ago. That was consistent with the other cup being found in a tomb. “I thought your stuff didn’t break?” Taz asked.

“The singletons, the uniques, don’t; this one won’t. I put a lot of work in them. Your grandmother’s cups were only a ‘limited edition’. This is my file copy. I remember making this.”

“It’s beautiful,” Taz said.

“That was a lucky time,” Dai said. “The wheel was in tune, the clay was ripe, the kiln was friendly. It’s not the style any more, but still, this has nice form.” He put the cup down on his work bench and smiled.

“Can you make another?”

“Yes; but why?”

“The mortal’s cup was buried with him. It ended up in the Museum here. Grandmother wants it back.”

“She won’t be fooled. They’ll look alike, but their auras will be different.” As he spoke, he was shaping the air in front of him. Swiftly, a replica cup appeared next to the original. He handed the new cup to Taz.

“No, she won’t be fooled, but the humans will? Right?” Taz said. “I want to put in a replacement just so there’s no fuss among the humans. Assuming it’s at the Museum and I can find it and I can make the switch,” he added in a mutter.

“Your problem,” Dai said. His hands shaped the air again. A rosewood box appeared next to the first.

“What would you like?” Taz asked.

“Pearls,” Dai said. “Baroque, saturated hues of all colors; not dyed and not cultured. Jewelry is getting interesting again.”




“Thumbnail or bigger. Fifteen.”

“I’ll bring you some,” Taz said, sealing the bargain. He put the new cup in the new box, nodded to Dai, and, walking out into the parking lot, teleported home.


In the morning, he waited until Jingwu had dragged Pol out of the house and down to the Tai Chi session down in Russian Hill Park, and teleported to the lobby of the Inn. He called Tailin, telling her to join him for breakfast on the roof.

As they ate, he told her about his visit to Dai.

“He wants what?” Tailin asked.

“Pearls,” Taz said. “Don’t yell.”

“Your celestial…”

“Stop that. He did me a favor just talking about the cup. I took his time: it’s a fair trade. The Eldest wouldn’t want me not to pay all my debts.”

“You don’t need a fake cup!”

“I do need a replacement cup,” Taz said. “Eat your grapes.”

“I don’t see why.”

“I’m not going to explain again. Don’t worry about it. We’re doing this my way. Now, strive for a little patience. I have to visit my nephews.”

“Wait!! Your what?” Tailin demanded.

“Renyi, Fangxian, Ruiman, Guangjing and Junxin. The sons of Liaosong, Jinsi, Kechan, Zhengsui and their six husbands.”

“Oh,” the yunü said. She seemed relieved. “Them.”

“Who else?” Taz said. “They’re the only nephews I have.”

“I just never remember that their mothers were also granddaughters of the Eldest.”

“They still are.”

“Not really,” Tailin said.


Taz shifted to his dragon form and materialized at the palace of the Sea Kings. He was the visiting list; after all, he was their brother by marriage. Still, he followed the forms, arriving in the right shape, at the right place and inquiring after everyone’s health in a strict order of precedence before he asked to see the boys.

“The young princes are in the study hall, your celestial highness,” the Orca menfang said. “It is the time scheduled for their homework.”

“I won’t disturb them long,” Taz said.


“So that’s what I need,” he ended.

His nephews exchanged glances. Ruiman, who, as he often reminded his brothers, was the first hatched, gathered up the pearls and put them back in the sharkskin bag. Holding it in one taloned hand, he said: “Uncle Taz, we’ll be glad to help.”

“But this is a trade,” said Renyi.

“Right?” Junxin asked.

“It’ll be easy,” Fangxian said.

“And you’ll like it,” Guangjing said.

“Why do I get the idea your mothers won’t like this at all?” Taz said. He had an uneasy sensation of being outnumbered.

“They don’t mind us going among humans,” Fangxian said.

“They just don’t want us going alone,” Junxin said.

“We were going to ask Jingwu if she would take us,” said Ruiman.

“But we already owe her because she helped the orca we sent to her,” Fangxian said.

“And we haven’t figured out a way to pay her back for that yet,” Renyi said.

The boys spread out, moving around him in what could have been an affectionate closeness, but which made Taz feel not only outnumbered, but also surrounded.

“So it’s you,” Guangjing said.

“What’s me?” Taz asked.

“We want to ride the roller coasters.”

“Starting with the one on the coast.”

“Then going over the hill to the next two.”

“And then north of the Bay, where there are five of them.”

“You’ve looked into this, haven’t you?” Taz said.

The five boys nodded.

“We used Great-grandmother’s net access,” said Junxin.

“We made a list,” Fangxian said.

“We’re not asking to go to Florida,” Renyi reassured him.

“Or to any of the ones way inland.”

“Just the ones around where you live.”

Taz frowned. “How long did you have in mind for this to take?”

“A week,” Guangjing said.

“For each park,” Ruiman added hurriedly.

“One day at each park,” Taz said.

The boys consulted by eye again, then looked up at their uncle. Guangjing shook his head: “One day for each roller coaster.”

Damn, Taz thought. If he couldn’t handle them here, what was going to happen when they were loose among the humans? “All right,” he said, “but one of your tutors or nurses must come with us. We’re going to pass as humans, which means you kids do what we grown-ups tell you. If I have to send one or all of you home, I want another adult to make sure you get back here.”

The boys were thoughtful for several moments; then, Ruiman said, “Chengxian.”

“No,” said Renyi. “He’ll want us to sit quietly and watch the humans.”

“No he doesn’t; and we never listen to him anyway,” Ruiman said.

“Here, yes, he doesn’t make a point of our paying attention,” said Renyi. “But we will be out in front of strangers, and worse, out in front of humans, and he will insist we act befitting our station.”

“He does,” Guangjing agreed. “He tried, at Great-grandmother’s.”

Junxin nodded.

“Who then?” Ruiman asked.

“Binheng,” Renyi said. “We’ll tell him it’s a gravity experiment. He can watch and take notes or he can ride with us. Either way, we get to ride.”

“OK,” said Fangxian.

“Good idea,” Junxin said.

“OK,” Ruiman said.

Taz sighed. He thought he might have made a better bargain, but it probably would have taken too much time. He didn’t trust the yunü not to get into trouble left to herself. “I’ve got some errands to run, so we’ll do this in about three weeks.”

“That’s a long time,” Junxin said.

“The moon’s full then and the parks will be open later,” Taz said.

“OK,” Ruiman said again, and handed Taz the bag of pearls.


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