John M. Ford was called “Mike” by his friends. To con-goers, he was known as that guy you could spend hours talking to, not know what it was you ended up talking about, and not care. To his fans, he was frequently known as the guy who not only wrote the best Star Trek novel ever, but also made that mean something. This, like any other piece of his work, is nothing like that, except that it’s pure Mike.
“What, Sherez, must you polish your own teeth now? I’ve given Emael orders that you’re not to go three days without a filing.”
“Your sson fears me,” said the dragon. “He thinkss I sshall ssnap him up.”
“So did I, when I was no bigger than your fang. Emael wears a sword now. He can wield a rasp.”
“But you will not chain your sson to the sstair, as your father did you, will you, Owen? He iss no coward, your sson. Only young, and uncertain.”
“He will be Count one day, Sherez, and he must know you.”
Owen stared. “What do you mean by that? What is going to happen to my son?”
“I do not know, Owen.”
“Not . . . know?” The Count looked at the dragon’s head, twice Owen’s own height, and behind it the hunched scaly back and thick hind legs. The vestigial wings were folded flat, fanning open and shut slightly as Sherez breathed. What a creature is dragon, the poets sang, though for his wisdom he resigned the air to crawl . . . Years ago, a traveling artificer had displayed a whole dragon brain, preserved in smelly liquid. The arms of three men could not span it round. How could that brain–
As the mazes of the dragonium wound above and below, that brain coiled through time; time past, time future. All moments were one to a dragon, tomorrow as real as yesterday, this very instant the same to it as last year or next generation. Sherez could tell Owen the hour of the Count’s death, had he only the courage to ask.
How could that brain not know?