Dragon wizard, p.1
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       Dragon Wizard, p.1

           S. Andrew Swann
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Dragon Wizard


  Praise for Dragon • Princess and Dragon • Thief:

  “A dark madcap quest filled with educational (and often bloody) identity crises. The tragicomedy is never deep, but it’s plenty of fun.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “Swann piles on some inventive mishaps with a lavish hand. . . . Add a nicely unconventional ‘happy’ ending, and it’s a fun romp for fans of funny fantasy.”

  —Locus

  “An amusing lighthearted quest fantasy . . . uses the concept of movies like Freaky Friday to tell a fun tale, through the filter of a mediocre thief.”

  —Genre Go Round

  “A plot twist that you really don’t see coming. . . . You can connect with the characters and ultimately understand the decisions they make. Dragon Princess is a good story for those who like an adventurous fantasy to enjoy.”

  —Fresh Fiction

  “Fun without being fluffy, and entertaining without being inane. It straddles the line between humorous fantasy and some of the darker stuff and does so with style. Dragon Princess has wit, action, and hilarity in equal measures and should prove an enjoyable read for those looking for something fast-paced and fun.”

  —Owlcat Mountain

  “The best part of this series—and what makes a truly good humorous story rise above all others—is that there is some seriousness behind all of the tongue-in-cheek fun.”

  —Joshua Palmatier, author of Shattering the Ley, at SFReader.com

  “Dragon Princess is full of witty banter, comical situations, irreverent humor, and loads of twisted irony.”

  —That’s What I’m Talking About

  DAW Novels from S. ANDREW SWANN

  Fantasy:

  DRAGONS & DWARVES

  (The Dragons of the Cuyahoga | The Dwarves of Whiskey Island)

  *

  BROKEN CRESCENT

  *

  GOD’S DICE

  *

  DRAGON • PRINCESS

  DRAGON • THIEF

  DRAGON • WIZARD

  Fiction:

  ZIMMERMAN’S ALGORITHM

  Science Fiction:

  THE HOSTILE TAKEOVER TRILOGY

  (Profiteer | Partisan | Revolutionary)

  THE MOREAU QUARTET: VOLUME ONE

  (Forests of the Night | Fearful Symmetries)

  THE MOREAU QUARTET: VOLUME TWO

  (Emperors of the Twilight | Specters of the Dawn)

  Copyright © 2016 by Steven Swiniarski.

  All Rights Reserved.

  Cover art by Omar Rayyan.

  Cover design by G-Force Design.

  DAW Book Collectors No. 1721.

  Published by DAW Books, Inc.

  375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014.

  All characters and events in this book are fictitious.

  All resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.

  The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal, and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

  Nearly all the designs and trade names in this book are registered trademarks. All that are still in commercial use are protected by United States and international trademark law.

  eBook ISBN: 9780698407732

  DAW TRADEMARK REGISTERED

  U.S. PAT. AND TM. OFF. AND FOREIGN COUNTRIES

  —MARCA REGISTRADA

  HECHO EN U.S.A.

  Version_1

  For Hazel, because you can be the princess and the dragon.

  CONTENTS

  Praise for S. Andrew Swann

  Also by S. Andrew Swann

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Dedication

  CHAPTER 1

  CHAPTER 2

  CHAPTER 3

  CHAPTER 4

  CHAPTER 5

  CHAPTER 6

  CHAPTER 7

  CHAPTER 8

  CHAPTER 9

  CHAPTER 10

  CHAPTER 11

  CHAPTER 12

  CHAPTER 13

  CHAPTER 14

  CHAPTER 15

  CHAPTER 16

  CHAPTER 17

  CHAPTER 18

  CHAPTER 19

  CHAPTER 20

  CHAPTER 21

  CHAPTER 22

  CHAPTER 23

  CHAPTER 24

  CHAPTER 25

  CHAPTER 26

  CHAPTER 27

  CHAPTER 28

  CHAPTER 29

  CHAPTER 30

  CHAPTER 31

  CHAPTER 32

  CHAPTER 33

  CHAPTER 1

  My name is Frank Blackthorne, and I’m going to tell you a story.

  By this point in the chronicle of my ill-advised adventures, I should be able to dispense with the introductory preliminaries aside from the brief necessities of scene-setting.

  We begin this chapter of my tale within the Kingdom of Lendowyn, of late slightly less impoverished and much less insignificant from a diplomatic perspective. Being the nominal victor in a multi-front war will do that. More precisely, we begin within the halls of the Northern Palace, recently reclaimed from the Grünwald diplomatic mission while a small army of workers repaired the damage done to Lendowyn Castle from battle, fire, and dragon collision.

  We begin exactly three hundred sixty-five days after the end of my first tale—my first wedding anniversary. Which also happens to be the day that everything I’d done to reach that point would finally catch up with me. But, like all the plotting and conspiracy that had dogged me ever since I had first set foot into Princess Lucille’s painful royal shoes, it would be a while before I realized it.

  And, as an aside, I still inhabited the body of Princess Lucille, despite spending the past six months in an intermittent effort to dislodge myself from it. But no wizard we’d found could offer a solution—at least no wizard the Lendowyn court could afford. Lendowyn might not be completely broke anymore, but King Alfred prioritized the castle repairs before my own issues.

  I couldn’t really blame him, since I was in large part responsible for the damage.

  Even within my budget, some wizards wouldn’t take Lendowyn’s money when they heard that the Dark Lord Nâtlac had a hand in the enchantment. Others came up with increasingly colorful metaphors as to why it wasn’t possible.

  I came up with increasingly colorful language in response.

  Apparently it was extremely dangerous to move a soul from point A to point B. We had the recent coup and proxy war with Grünwald to show for it. However, it gets worse when there’s effectively no point B. Over the past year, my original body had crumbled to dust wrapped around the shriveled soul of Elhared the Unwise.

  The kind of magic needed to physically resurrect my body was not something you could buy with gold. It was the kind of thing that usually cost souls to do. And even if we found a way around that, it would still leave the princess’s body soulless and probably dead. That was a problem, as no one could tell me what that would do to the “temporary” enchantment that had swapped me and Lucille this last time.

  So after a few months I had begun looking into a Plan B. In theory, the physical transformation of the body should be safer and more straightforward. I had talked to a few mages, and had been given a few options. But I’d been hesitating a bit on that option, waiting fo
r a good time to talk to Lucille about it. There were a couple reasons for that. First, you could probably trace the last war’s root cause down to my failure to communicate with my draconic spouse. Second, even though she had voluntarily given up this body to me, I still felt as if she had a stake in what happened to it.

  However, for some reason, that “good time to talk” hadn’t happened yet.

  I might be married to her, but the fact she was currently a fifty-foot fire-breathing lizard could still be somewhat intimidating, especially because she enjoyed the role so much. Though, in some sense, I think I may have been intimidated for different reasons than most people around her.

  When she said how well she thought I was adjusting . . . I didn’t know if that made the discussion more difficult because I’d be disappointing a dragon, or because I’d be disappointing my wife.

  Husband.

  Fortunately, over the past month or so, I had to put the matter aside because I had a party to plan.

  Don’t laugh.

  Being Princess Frank of Lendowyn meant I had a role to play and duties to perform. This was not something I had any right to complain about, given that one of my main objections after being princessified had been the lack of any substantive responsibilities aside from decorating the court. As a result, I had received an object lesson in being careful what I wish for.

  After Lendowyn’s last major conflict, King Alfred had seemed to take great pleasure in overworking his “daughter” as punishment for becoming uppity. I had to travel every fortnight or so; diplomatic missions to every kingdom, duchy, principality, and city-state in the surrounding area. I had the dubious pleasure of meeting one-on-one with a fairly representative cross-section of nobility; though such “one-on-one” meetings were usually six-on-ten or ten-on-a-dozen meetings when you counted the retainers and servants, which as a member of the nobility I wasn’t supposed to count.

  Meeting with these men, and they were invariably men, did nothing to moderate my opinion of the upper classes. It also did some serious injury to my opinion of my former gender.

  This role had fallen to the prince before the king and his accountants discovered a new income stream. Once peace had fallen, Lendowyn suddenly had an influx of tourists coming across the border in hopes of seeing the Dragon Prince. Keeping the dragon at home encouraged more of these curiosity-seekers—and more importantly, their gold—to cross the border. I represented a bit of extraneous backstory that the king could send on a recurring diplomatic roadshow.

  Even while I was on the road, I had been working toward the anniversary festival: a week-long exploitation of my marriage to Lucille designed to transfer a year’s worth of taxes, tariffs, and license fees into the Lendowyn treasury all at once. As a one-time professional thief, I couldn’t help but find it impressive.

  And scary.

  Sadistically, King Alfred had decided that as princess it had fallen on my shoulders to plan the anniversary celebration. It went beyond how much ale to import and the proper juggler quota for the influx of celebrants who would mob the capital. That was actually the least of it, since those issues, at least, I could pass off to people who had more of a talent for the organization of such things than I.

  My nemesis was the grand banquet, the part of the festival for those of “noble” blood; the same class of individuals who had spent the past five months making my meetings uncomfortable.

  Mixing the lot of them together had proven to be a nightmare.

  By now I’d been involved in court intrigue long enough to realize that these galas were not just an excuse for the high and mighty to eat and drink themselves into a stupor at the expense of the people they ruled. At least not exclusively.

  The festival for the “common” folk was simple enough: the consequences for mixing too much ale with the wrong people would not extend much farther than the distance someone could throw a punch.

  However, when a celebration involves the inebriation of the noble caste, it comes with layers of diplomatic intrigue and conspiratorial machinations to go along with it. Organizing that level of entertaining requires awareness of dozens of different parties and their interrelationships. Making the mistake of seating the wrong two counts together could, once alcohol was added, result in a border war to prove some lord’s virility that would cost the “common” people a lot more than the price of keeping their rulers inebriated.

  While my prior life as a thief gave me some comfort level with the part of diplomacy that involved bald-faced lying to people’s faces, it didn’t prepare me for the kind of detailed plotting that was required for a kingdom-level function like this to actually, so to speak, function.

  Some of the invitees were such a perfect mix of loathsome and tedious that I strongly considered suggesting Lucille add them to the menu as a means to cement Lendowyn’s position as a kingdom not to be messed with. I only decided against it because, if our Dragon Prince were to broil and eat the Baron Weslyess of Delarin, it would not quite send the message of peace and amity I was supposed to be aiming for.

  When the grand banquet actually arrived I felt a sense of relief. I’ve always been better at dealing with disasters as they occurred than I’ve been at anticipating them.

  The first half of the day was dominated by the royal couple in the palace courtyard, officially receiving the near-endless stream of “important” visitors. For all my worry, that part went a lot better than I had anticipated. As much as they had underwhelmed me when I’d been abroad, today they seemed to be on their best behavior.

  Of course that might have had something to do with my husband, the dragon, curled up next to me.

  But even though Lucille seemed to curb their worst impulses, the Baron Weslyess still managed to give me a look that made me want to bathe for a week, then catapult the tub at our enemies.

  Lucille may have been the main attraction for the masses, but for some reason, the higher the tourist’s status, the more interested they were in me. In some cases—such as the Baron Weslyess—the interest was decidedly unsettling.

  Whichever of the local royal curiosities had been the main attraction, I could draw some satisfaction from the fact that just the banquet celebrating the one-year anniversary of the marriage of Frank the Princess to Lucille the Dragon beat the record held by King Alfred’s coronation ball by a factor of five, something I suspect he was grumpy about. It served him right for sending his “daughter” through a diplomatic gauntlet of grabby counts, dukes, and earls.

  The size of the event was the main reason for the venue. Lendowyn Castle couldn’t handle this crowd, even when it wasn’t under repair.

  The reception ceremony took an inordinately long time. As the last of them stepped up to my throne, spent an overlong time kissing my hand, and bowed to the dragon curled behind me, the sun had already passed midday.

  I had enough of a sense of diplomacy now that I waited until he had backed the requisite five paces into the courtyard and turned away from us before I wiped the back of my hand on my skirts.

  “I need a drink,” I whispered through clenched teeth and a fake smile that I had held so long that it felt branded into my face.

  “You promised me, and Father, no alcohol.” The low dry voice of dragon Lucille was something I felt rather than heard.

  Whispering, in that draconic body, had been a skill she had struggled long and hard for. It’s an impressive feat if you’ve ever heard a dragon’s normal voice before. The tone ranges typically from teeth-rattling, through bowel-melting, to literal ear-bleeding.

  A pair of heralds had stepped out before the assembled crowd to give dramatic readings of the evening’s scheduled festivities, so no one else was in a position to understand her.

  She was right. I had promised. That didn’t make me any less crabby about it. “After that line of pompous cretins? I deserve one.”

  Lucille’s voice rumbled deep in her throat
, never making it up to her massive toothy skull. I felt it in the back of the throne where her neck wrapped around behind me. “You talk as if I don’t know what that’s like.”

  I sighed and looked up at her. She cut a majestic profile against the afternoon sky. I might have the throne, but she dominated the courtyard.

  “I’m talking like you’re the only one who does know what it’s like.”

  The heralds continued with their litany, making up in volume what they sacrificed in comprehensibility.

  “I understand how you feel. But getting drunk before the main event is not a great idea.”

  “Yeah, I know.” I’d be the first to admit that I didn’t make the best decisions while drunk, but sticking me in a ball gown and a tiara and forcing me to receive every single emissary, diplomat, ambassador, baron, knight, and two-bit lord while completely sober was a punishment disproportionate to any crime I might have committed under the influence . . .

  Well, maybe aside from accidently triggering a coup and a war with our neighbors Dermonica and Grünwald, but that turned out all right in the end. Sort of.

  Maybe I did deserve it.

  CHAPTER 2

  The grand banquet was lavish by Lendowyn standards, far in excess of our original wedding, which had been a somewhat hurried affair. An army of guests swarmed the great hall, gathering at long tables that had been arranged to focus attention at the end of the hall opposite the main entrance. Normally the massive floor-to-ceiling stained-glass windows were the dominating feature, especially as light from the low evening sun filtered through them.

  However, today Lucille dominated that end of the hall. The evening sunset through the glass backlit her ebon scales in a flaming rainbow, casting her shadow across the attendees. For such a large crowd, our guests were atypically quiet.

  The effect was worth the effort I’d taken to actually have the Dragon Prince attend the banquet. Back when it was clear that the size of this event would require a change in venue, I had stolen a squad of dwarven engineers from the repair work at Lendowyn Castle to make sure that the massive windows at that end of the hall—the only openings into the keep itself that were large enough to admit my husband—were able to open.

 
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