The cast of the Sleeping Dragon is an ensemble one, featuring five misfits bought together by circumstances beyond their understanding, who swiftly realise that only by working together can they work out just what the hell’s going on and, more importantly, just how the hell they can get out of it.

In this post we look at the woman who supplies the ensemble with a streetwise mix of skills and knowledge gained from a life lived in Empire City’s darker margins.

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Dani fought her way out of a tough childhood spent in the care of the state after the death by overdose of her herb-addicted parents when she was still just a toddler. A loner, both by nature and circumstance, she now earns a living, albeit an illegal one, as a grifter. Not for her the cosh, or the rope and grapple: this is the Second Millennium of the Third Age and the tools she uses are somewhat more sophisticated.

Dani swung her pack off her shoulders and pulled a flat object out of one of its side pockets. It was a small, but highly powerful, portable oracle she’d got from Pete’s loaded up with a whole load of cutting edge software that she most definitely hadn’t got at Pete’s. She reached back into the pocket and pulled out an even smaller device that also hadn’t arrived on her person via any legitimate retail sales channel, plugged it into a port on the back of the oracle, then nodded at Blade.

Dani opened the oracle and ran up a general-purpose security-monitoring program available only to certified professionals in the security industry, and people like her. The screen, blank initially, gradually filled with a variety of icons of varied colours and shapes, each representing a particular device installed somewhere in the landscape before them.

“I’m guessing that means there’s stuff down there,” Blade whispered, nodding at the screen.

“Yeah.” Dani jabbed a finger from icon to icon, listing each type as she did so. “We’ve got line sensors here, forward looking motion detectors over there, a belt of general proximity stuff, and then some general comms gear. All pretty standard. Good quality. But standard.”

“Can you get us through it?”

Dani gave him a smile, then flexed her fingers. “Watch me.”

When we first meet Dani, she’s living a life she believes is the one she wanted.

The mark gave a smile and a wave as he caught sight of her. He stepped briskly up to the table and sat down, hand outstretched. “Ms Smidt,” he said to Dani, smiling. “Good to meet you in the flesh at last.”

Dani took the hand and gave it a good, firm shake. “Call me Johanna.” She tossed a twenty gold piece note onto the table and pointed towards the statue of Sir Ethelded. “How about we go and take a look at the goods?”

“You’re reading my mind,” said the mark, smiling. They walked across the paved expanse to the statue, stopping just in front of its polished marble plinth. Dani gave him some time to admire it. After a few seconds, the mark spoke. “It’s quite a sight, isn’t it?”

Dani nodded. “It is.” And to be fair, even covered in pigeon shit, it was.

“Hard to believe your bosses want to get rid of it.”

Dani leaned in, looking first left, and then right, as though checking that none of the sash-wearing old ladies could overhear. “Which is why the City Council is insisting on absolute discretion. There are still too many who don’t understand progress, who can’t see this statue for what it is: an obsolete symbol of a bygone age. They don’t see the shame in honouring a man who ethnically cleansed the East of orc, goblin, and beastman.”

The mark paused again, the expression of oily covetousness upon his face showing clearly that it was the vision of the statue set upon the front lawn of his new-money mansion that currently occupied his mind, and not the fate of any orc, goblin, or beastman. “Ms Smidt.”

“Please, call me Johanna.”

“Johanna. I want this statue. Now.”

Biting at the bait, thought Dani, time to start reeling him in. She waved a protesting hand. “This is a discreet process, not a secret one. There will be an auction. Sealed bids.”

The mark snorted. “Auctions can be talked about. Bids can be leaked. Do your bosses want this to happen or not?”

Reserved and suspicious as she is, Dani’s talents and strengths are not immediately obvious. But as time goes by, her companions comes to realise that she is someone they can rely on.

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Just for fun, I created some mocked up RPG-style character sheets for Sleeping Dragon’s five protagonists. Here’s Dani’s:

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Click here to read the other posts in the “Countdown to Sleeping Dragon” series.

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The Sleeping Dragon is now available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle at an introductory price of 99p in the UK and 99c in the US (it’s also available in all the various international Amazons at the equivalent price in local currency). If you like what you’ve read here, then please consider pre-ordering it.

UK Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleeping-Dragon-Jonny-Nexus-ebook/dp/B07KWFNXVS/

US Link: https://www.amazon.com/Sleeping-Dragon-Jonny-Nexus-ebook/dp/B07KWFNXVS/

The Sleeping Dragon will be published in February next year, in both Kindle and paperback formats.

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