Excerpts from Book I

Our Tale Begins

…in the beginning (haha), but also with Bidi Ardake, the traveling scribe known as Nubbins.  

I am the third son of John the Scribe, who was descended down a long line from Thoth. My given name is Bidi Ardake, but my friends call me Nubbins. I prefer Nubbins. There is strength in that name, and intelligence, though some think “stubborn and dimwitted” better fits me.

Sketch: Dragon and Scribe 2 by Scott Gustafson
Sketch: Dragon and Scribe 2 by Scott Gustafson

whose life is relatively normal until… 

As I slipped my glasses on, realization dawned and my jaw dropped. A little – and I mean very little – blue dragon sat on the lowest branch, not 10 paces away. I became worried, until I saw Feebee wagging her tail furiously and jumping up on two legs.

I should have noticed the clues and paid attention to the buzzing around me only moments before, but the growling in my stomach seemed to override everything else. Who can blame me? It had been a long day.

Sketch: R'ya by Scott Gustafson
Sketch: R’ya by Scott Gustafson

She spoke, “Greetings Sir Scribe. I would like to have a few moments of your time, if you can spare them.” The little dragon was very polite, and she almost seemed to have a smile on her face.

Everyone had fled back, so I was alone, as rigid as the old oak tree, staring speechlessly, dumbstruck. I was unable to speak, and I’m sure you can understand why. How could I say “no”? Did I dare say anything other than “yes”? I was a bit (okay, a lot) worried and confused. What was she doing here? What did she want of me?

In horror, I thought, “What if she was going to point out mistakes in my book, in front of all these people?” The embarrassment alone would force me to leave the Thoth Circle. I know there were other things I probably should have been worried about, standing in front of a dragon. But I’m a scribe who wrote a book about dragons, and here was a live one, asking to talk to me.

I began to get more and more worried, and less able to think clearly. Was she in the book? What if she was in the book and I had called her a lesser dragon? What if she wasn’t in the book at all and was miffed at the omission? What if she felt that calling any dragon “lesser” or “greater” was an insult to all dragons? I mumbled “Good evening. What can I do for you?”

I needn’t have worried. Of course I had written about her, and favorably. Much later she used the red ribbon to mark where I needed to make a few changes about her in the book. She complimented me on my choice of dragons to write about, which I didn’t understand then, but do now. She praised the book’s accuracy, to my great relief.

“I would be honored to talk to you, perhaps getting some pointers for a revision, if you think it’s needed?”

She chuckled. It turns out being humble is a good way to start a conversation with a dragon.

…“But I’m not here to talk about your book,” she said. “I would like you to work with me on a task I must complete. I know where ancient scrolls and paintings have been hidden for a few thousand years. They need a gentle and careful hand to read, catalogue, and prepare their stories. Would you be interested in seeing the paintings, reading the scrolls, and documenting what happened with me?”

Nubbins agrees to go with R’Ya the indigo dragon (of course), blissfully unaware of the challenges he will face.  

Sketch: Dragon and Scribe 1 by Scott Gustafson
Sketch: Dragon and Scribe 1 by Scott Gustafson

It wasn’t like the stories of old, where heroes ran on two legs night and day, covering leagues by the score. That night, after about 5 hours of travel, we camped by a stream, near a rock overhang for shelter. The water ran clear and cold, straight from Pointy Crag through the Wild Woods, past our chosen campsite. There was even a nice perch on a tree to sit and talk.

Feebee went off and checked the surroundings to be sure that they were safe, and she came back satisfied that there was no immediate danger nearby. She would remain alert and on guard throughout the night, and catch up on sleep tomorrow in the wagon.

Suffice it to say, all great adventures include dark and stormy days, and ours was no exception. After several fairly comfortable days, we started the last leg of our journey soaking wet. I was breaking down our camp when the deluge hit. I was able to sit under the wagon’s canopy later on, and after changing into fresh clothes, I kept mostly dry. Not so for Muley, though, as the road quickly became muddy and slippery. R’ya and I sat together and we talked while poor Muley plod on.

Muley received the worst of it, and was not happy. I promised him plenty of alfalfa, carrots, and apples if he persevered, which he did, though grumpily. That night, I had to dig deep into our food reserves to keep that promise.

Once, to get him to cross a swollen stream, I tied a carrot on a string, and jiggled it in front of him. As soon as he crossed the stream, he sat down, turned, and looked at me. He wouldn’t move until I got off the wagon and fed him the carrot, plus an additional apple as a peace offering. I had to hand feed him in the rain while stroking his head and scratching his ears. He looked me right in the eyes with such disdain; I knew I wouldn’t get away with that again. I thought it best to promise, right then and there, not to do it again, in exchange for him not kicking his way out of the harness. He finally perked up when R’ya said we would arrive the next day.

Getting into the Caves of Da’Nath presented many dangers and challenges, but through perseverance, stubbornness, and the instincts of his canine companion Feebee, Nubbins finally makes it. 

Sketch: Nubbins and Feebee by Raoul Vitale
Sketch: Nubbins and Feebee by Raoul Vitale

It was at that moment that I realized the significance of what I was about to do. Not only was I participating in a moment of history, but I was the scribe who would document it! I knew the book would be beautiful, judging by the paintings; and it would be accurate, because R’ya was dictating it to a Thoth Circle scribe.

No less astounding was the sudden realization that, long ago, someone had the foresight and foreknowledge, with the strength of conviction, to ensure that this room would be ready for some unknown scribe someday. And even more astonishing, at least to me, was the fact that I was that scribe, standing here, looking around in wonder.

The history he learns though, comes as quite a shock to this “learned” scribe.

R’ya paused in her storytelling and looked at me quizzically for a long moment.

“Well?” I cried, impatiently. “What was the ill omen?” I was nearly bouncing with frustration, but as her thoughtful look turned into the stink eye, I tried to calm down.

“How much do you know about Thoth, Bidi Ardake?”

R’ya’s use of my birth name was a bad sign, and I knew it. I could feel myself shrinking, as her tiny form seemed to grow larger and more imposing. Even Feebee stopped licking her nether regions and became still, slowly turning from one of us to the other. I gulped. I thought I knew more than any human alive, but was I wrong? What did R’ya know that I didn’t? I was Chief Thoth Circle Scribe though; surely what I knew was right… wasn’t it?

For once, self-doubt played in my favor, and my arrogant assumption came out as a question, “I know what I was taught, but somehow I’m guessing my history is… incomplete?”

R’ya relaxed and Feebee barked a laugh, returning to her cleansing ritual. “You’re learning, Scribe. Yes, your history is incomplete.”

Nubbins uncovers secrets beyond his wildest imaginings; the true history that had been all but erased by Urth’s leaders.

He learns of a world in turmoil, and the intrepid creatures that came together– elves, dwarves, fairies, sprites, dragons, humans, and even dogs– to save not just humanity, but all species dwelling on Urth.

Lurking in the background however, are forces of darkness who know the truth and want it to remain suppressed. Nubbins’ quest to bring forth this true history is fraught with perils he cannot see or even guess at, paralleling the stories of the heroines he uncovers from the scrolls, paintings, and teachings of R’ya, the Last Dragon.

 

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