Josefine Ottesen
  prize-winning Danish author
Presentation > Books > Fantasy tales > Kiss of the Dragon

Kiss of the Dragon

2nd edition – Høst & Søn, 1999

Extract from Kiss of the Dragon
Author's comments

Iljana is the last scion of the old Dragon family, who have been driven out of town by the Mountain King and his warriors. When she is consecrated to the Moon Goddess, her mother hands on the family's talisman to her. This bears with it the duty to fight to bring the Dragon family back to power.

But how is a young girl going to vanquish the mighty Mountain King and does Iljana really want to be Dragon Queen like all her female line before her?

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Extract from Kiss of the Dragon:

The Cabin

She was woken by the chill morning air. The door was open. Even before she opened her eyes, Iljana knew the sun was shining. She breathed in the smell of the night-soaked forest. Autumn had arrived. She crept further down under the woollen blanket. They would soon have to start using the heavy fur bedspreads instead.
Slowly she opened her eyes. Rahlin stood silhouetted in the doorway. She hummed as she brushed her beautiful chestnut hair, which was so long that she could sit on it. Iljana drew a lock of her reddish-brown hair forward and examined it with displeasure. It was far too thin.
When her mother had set her heavy plaits up on her head, she began singing the morning hymn to the Moon Goddess. Iljana again closed her eyes, pretending that she was still asleep. She knew that Rahlin would not want her to listen. She was still too young to sing to the Goddess. Not until she began to get her bleeding would her mother initiate her, but she loved to listen to Rahlin's warm, soft voice. She often secretly watched and listened to the still-forbidden ritual, even if she didn't understand the strange words.
When the song was finished, Rahlin called, 'Iljana, are you still asleep?' Iljana slid further under the blanket.
Rahlin called again. This time her voice had just the right edge of hardness to make Iljana swing her legs off the side of the bed. She shuffled quickly over the cold stone floor to the chair where her clothes lay. The dewy cold air made her body tremble. It was good to feel how her sleepiness leaped out through her naked skin.
Iljana dressed hurriedly. She grabbed the firewood basket and ran outside. The dew seeped in through her thin leather shoes while she filled the basket with firewood.
While she was out, Rahlin had laid the table for breakfast. The fire in the large wood-burning stove had almost died and Iljana knelt down to blow some life into the last embers. The bark crackled when she put the wood on the fire and soon the flames ate their way greedily into the dry wood.
'Don't get too much of a blaze going - there's still plenty of warmth from the sun,' her mother cautioned. Iljana took one of the larger logs out again and slipped it back into the basket.
Rahlin was silent while they ate. Iljana too said nothing. She recognised the faraway look in her mother's eyes and knew that Rahlin was deep in her own inner thoughts.
'I had a dream last night.'
Rahlin's voice sounded like it had come from a far-off place.
'The dream was a sign. It will soon be time.'
Rahlin's hand played with the half-moon shaped pendant she had around her neck and her amber eyes held Iljana's look in a way which was almost painful. Iljana was not bothered by that, but she didn't know how she should break the intense atmosphere.
She wet her lips carefully and asked, 'What was the sign you got?'
Even though she knew her mother would not answer the question, she couldn't hold it back.
Rahlin didn't look at her daughter, but smiled distantly. 'I can't tell you that, not until you've been initiated.'
Iljana let out a heavy sigh. Rahlin looked kindly at her. 'When you begin your bleeding, I will tell you everything. It won't be long, you're already thirteen. I was your age when I got my first bleeding. Now we must get going, the sun is already high in the sky. The first patients will arrive soon and I don't have any more willow bark.'
She gave her daughter an encouraging look. Iljana fetched her collecting basket and took a shawl around her shoulders.

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Author's comments:

This book was very difficult for me to write. The starting point was a wish to understand why men and women have such difficulty trusting each other and how one could build a bridge over the differences. Instead it turned into a raw, rough story about the struggle towards one's inner self as a woman. I was personally quite shaken by the violence and cruelty that quickly spread across the computer screen while I wrote.
But it is a book I'm very happy about and I'm proud that I dared to let the nice, poetic surface crack and make way for other more violent images.