Tickling the Dragon's TailThomas Lombard / Fantasy / Science Fiction
Tickling the Dragon’s Tail
of Nevin Reasoner
Copyright (c) 2014 Thomas Lombard
Ebook formatting by Jesse Gordon
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1: Failed Ruse
Chapter 2: Dwarf
Chapter 3: Clarion call
Chapter 4: Trolls
Chapter 5: Surprises
Chapter 6: Anson’s decision
Chapter 7: A bond grows
Chapter 8: Battle
Chapter 9: Prisoner
Chapter 10: Plans to make
Chapter 11: Rescue
Chapter 12: Canby
Chapter 13: Acquaintance
Chapter 14: Swiggum
Chapter 15: Glorhumm
Chapter 16: Water
Chapter 17: The Device
Chapter 18: Survivors
Chapter 19: First Minister
Chapter 20: Meire
Chapter 21: Retribution
Chapter 22: Academy
Nevin’s memory was clear about the sequence of events that placed him in the kingdom of Antrim, but not about the so-called magic spell delivering him there. This was especially troubling, given his strong commitment to scientific inquiry. Until recently, he was a Lecturer at Hempstead College in Ohio but lost his job because he failed to complete a graduate degree. He was put off by the narrow, pedantic requirements of a single degree program, preferring instead to study freely in a variety of sciences that matched his curiosities. After an emotional final class tribute by current and former students, he trudged to his office to pack up his things where he met a peculiar small man recovering from a physical assault. Anson, dressed in an old-time tunic and breeches, claimed he was a “mage” from a place apparently without modern technology that Nevin could not find on any map.
Nevin assumed that Anson suffers from an elaborate delusion and tries to help the poor fellow, but the police were skeptical that a four-foot tall possible mental patient used arcane means to escape enemy soldiers after suffering a spear wound. Anson tries to convince Nevin of his origin by demonstrating minor spells, but that pales before the little man’s amazement at Nevin’s personal library and the magic of television and other modern technology. Concluding that Nevin must be some kind of highly adept mage, or sage at least, Anson pleads for Nevin’s help to end the devastation, anarchy and persecution caused by war between the kingdoms of Antrim and Gilsum.
While in the college library, Anson comes across pictures of the devastation of Hiroshima in WWII and decides to use these pictures to convince the warring kings to cease fighting. They are unexpectedly confronted by Bartram, also a mage who escaped persecution in Antrim a few years earlier and recognizes Anson. Now faced with two undersized men claiming to be spellcasters, Nevin refuses to believe that magery exists beyond sleight-of-hand, superstition, or some rational explanation—until he is shamed for his scientific chauvinism. Bartram proves himself with a more convincing demonstration of spellcasting, plus he offers a plausible theory why there are deliverance sites between Antrim and Hempstead. He also reveals that he assisted another man, a Hempstead chemistry professor named John Stryker, a man of dubious character, to make the deliverance to Antrim. This revelation explains Anson’s recent experience with mustard gas, a fouling of the air he previously thought was due to high magery. Bartram declines to return to Antrim and face life-threatening persecution again, but he helps the pair conduct their deliverance to a small hut locally called the “library” outside the village of Huxley in Antrim.
Nevin tries to sort out a scientific explanation for the spellwork he witnesses and even helps conduct while in Antrim. He sees nothing absurd like talking animals or shape-shifting, and no items are created out of nothing, so science must offer explanations if he can only figure it out. The mage and the “sage” eventually team up with Orris, an Antrim soldier, to seek an audience with the Antrim king. They resort to magery and scientific acumen to supplement their courage as they set out to pacify the warring kingdoms. Along the way, Nevin finds himself in uncomfortable situations because of his relative large size compared with indigenous folks, sometimes calling for unaccustomed physical altercations.
After arriving in the King’s city of Sartell in Antrim, the troupe’s efforts to petition King Lucan are rebuffed. The King’s Chancellor is suspicious of their motives and in full view of the Court orders them confined. King Lucan secretly observed the action and interrupts, allowing the three men to state their case. The King seems moved by their appeal, but denies his support and grants them a night’s stay in the castle. Nevin is visited later by a high-born woman, Corissa, a Captain’s widow, who takes him on a tour of the castle and grounds. Icy in demeanor but willing to answer his deluge of questions, Corissa misunderstands Nevin’s intentions and leaves him abruptly.
On the day they were told to depart, the three men are asked to meet with the King’s physician ostensibly to treat Nevin’s minor injuries from a bar fight. It turns out to be a secret meeting with King Lucan and Corissa, where the King agrees with their assessment of the dire circumstances facing both warring kingdoms. For political reasons he cannot publicly affirm his own wish for peace, but he wants to secretly support their plan to meet with King Meire of Gilsum. He shocks the men by requiring that Corissa join them. Since she was Gilsum-born and is Lucan’s confidante, she has knowledge they will need for their mission to succeed. He also secretly entrusts Corissa with an heirloom token that may help them prevail.
The alliance of four secretly leaves on horseback at sunrise. Each has conflicting emotions over their prospects for success, but Nevin is particularly disconcerted over his pleasure at Corrisa’s company and belief that she is the King’s consort.