Recently I was contacted by a publisher who is interested in the book. Consequently, I am undertaking a major rewrite of Tail of the Dragon. This involves incorporating a new storyline of about 10,000 words, while simultaneously cutting about 30,000 words from the current edition. (note-anyone who purchased the first edition can email me to receive a free copy of the new book after publication)
I’ve decided to give a sample of some of the new story line (Quemel’s rebellion). Your feedback is welcome-
Nuriel’s Fractal stood at the heart of the academy campus, it’s position and size indicative of the importance of the work done at the facility. Inside this spectacular structure, researchers wrestled with the language of the Kings, mathematics. The monolithic edifice was a functioning example of the quest to decipher its intricacies. The slowly rotating stack of ellipses was the physical manifestation of a logarithmic formula developed by an ancient mathematician named Nuriel. His famous solution resulted from his work attempting an explanation of the presence of fractal geometry in the shell of mollusks. The building was a massive model of the infinitesimally minute layering of calcium that served as home to the King Snail, one of the little ironies that its inhabitants found so endearing about the place.
During construction of the enormous fractal, its namesake perpetually patrolled the site, causing numerous delays. A story from that period claimed that Nuriel personally tore down three stories of the incomplete research center because the rotation was off by a few nanometers. He told the project manager that any variations from the formula, no matter how minute, made the structure a farce and a degradation of the perfection of fractals.
The inscription above the massive curving entry read “slow the course-bright the path.” This was rumored by students to be a subtle joke on the trail left by snails, but Barmen believed it to be a critique of the well publicized delays that had plagued its creation.
Penemue’s office was located on the ground floor, appropriate given how important his work had been to the development of this department. His old friend was considered by many to be the foremost scholar in several branches of mathematics. His research in the area of harmonics helped quantify the way that music worked to alter physical states. His book, “Harmonic Healing,” was still used by the health sciences school nearly a millennium after its publication. But it was his expertise in encryption that Barman was hoping to use.
“Oh, Barman, good,” Penemue exclaimed as he walked through the door. The frantic looking angel guided him to a wooden chair, depositing with a soft shove. “Look up there and let your vision relax.”
Barman’s eyes moved to the swirling mass of images that swirled just beyond his friend’s outstretched finger. At first he could detect nothing but streaks of colored light moving in a haphazard motion.
“What am I supposed to be seeing?” He began.
“Shh. Just relax. Don’t look at anything. Just try to take in the whole field at once. If you focus on any one thing, you won’t see it. Oh, I should write poetry,” his friend muttered, chuckling to himself.
Barman tried to do as directed. He stared at the roiling mass of colors, observing the whole mass, but kept picking out particular streaks, involuntarily following their arc until he lost them in the tangle. He closed his eyes and opened them again, conscious to avoid being drawn to the movement. But there was still nothing there.
“Anything now?” Penemue asked.
“Nothing,” Barman answered, attempting to keep the irritation from reaching his voice.
“Try this,” he said, rubbing something dark on the end of Barman’s nose.
“What did you put on me?” he asked, bunching his lips and trying to extend his nose to see. Then he saw it. Just beyond the black smear at its tip he could clearly see the image of a black swan flying gracefully before the backdrop of an immense waterfall. The sun glinted on the regal bird’s ebony wings and offered a startling contrast with the ebbing blues and whites of the crashing water.
“It’s a black swan,” he said, amazed that he hadn’t seen any of this.
A light lit up the room and the image disappeared. Penemue took some antiseptic smelling towelette and rubbed it across his face, causing him to sputter and swat his friend’s arm.
“Welcome Barman. It has been a while. Can I get you something to drink?” he muttered sarcastically.
“Don’t be such a baby, Barman. I am trying to help you.”
“And how are you doing that?” he asked.
“By showing what we need to decipher the message,” Penemue answered.
Barman thought back to his request to see his friend. He had made no mention of the letter and certainly hadn’t indicated that he needed help decoding it.
“My job is to weigh probabilities. Your word choice, time frame, and vagueness led me to deduce that you have some sort of communique that needs to be deciphered as part of your work.”
“I asked for an appointment at your earliest convenience,” Barman replied.
“Exactly. So I was right,” he said and nodded before continuing. “The image of the swan was visually encrypted. I ran it through a filter that disrupts the visual spectrum. By refocusing your attention you were able to see it.”
“I have absolutely no idea what you did or how that relates to my letter,” Barman said, retrieving the prisoner’s correspondence from his satchel.
“With codes, the message is right there. The secret is discovering the key that reveals it. The key for my little demonstration was the angle of the eyes. With encryption the solution usually depends on two separate keys, one private and one public. Both are needed to decode what is hidden. Often decryption involves mathematics, but not always.” Penemue picked up the letter and studied it intently. Barman related the story of its origin as he did.
“So he wasn’t able to touch the parchment at all?”
Barman shook his head, relating the guard’s story about the meetings.
“Well, the good news is that the cipher can’t be that complicated. The bad news is it’s very well constructed. He avoids much repetition, so finding patterns will be difficult. I’m going to need as much information as I can get on this prisoner in order to have a chance of figuring this out.”
Barman dropped a thick folder on the desk and turned to leave.
“We are running out of time on this. You know how to reach me when you have something,” Barman said as he strode into the hallway.