Poul Anderson was one of the best all-around writers ever to do science fiction and/or fantasy. He was a poet and an engineer and one of the most vile punsters in the business. I've gushed about him before, with "A Midsummer Tempest".
He wrote a series of short stories and novels that gradually became a Future History series: the age of trade, the age of empire, and the coming of the Long Night. it could be considered space opera, but space opera of a extremely intelligent sort: his planteography, biology, sociology, physics all are completely believeable and logical, in the context of knowledge at the time of writing.
The major figure (in many ways) of the age of trade is Nicholas Van Rijn, owner of Solar Spice and Liquor Company. How to describe Old Nick? The size of Jack Falstaff, the scruples of Long John Silver, the problem-solving mind of Holmes, and a roaring, rousing, drive-it-till-the-bolts-come-off life of booze and gals and money and adventure.
And the most wonderful, and worst, speaker of English in the history of literature.
"Whoa!" van Rijn boomed. "Squat yourself. Reel in some more of your drink, boy, and listen at me. Old and fat I am, but lungs and tongue I got. Also in working order is two other organs, one what doesn't concern you but one which is my brain, and my brain wants I should get information from you and stuff it."
"Je Maintiendrai!" he bawled, and stove in the head of the nearest Drak'ho. "God send the right!" he shouted, stamping on the head of a rake that clawed at him. "Fram, fram, Kristmenn, Krossmenn, Kongsmenn!" he bellowed, drumming on the ribs of three warriors who ramped close. "Heineken's Bier!" he trumpeted, turning to wrestle with a winged shape that fastened on his back, and wringing its neck.
"So!" repeated the merchant. The bulkheads seemed to quiver with his voice. "By louse-bitten damn, this is a fine thing for me to come on. Satan's tail in a mousetrap! I sit hour by hour sweating my brain to the bone for the sake of your worthless life, and all whiles you, you illegitimate spawn of a snake with dandruff and a cheese mite, here you are making up to my secretary hired with my own hard-earned money! Gargoyles and Gotterdammerung! Down on your knees and beg my pardon, or I mash you up good and sell you for dogfood!"
Gloriously inventive, devilishly clever, howlingly intelligent Nick van Rijn.
The first collection is "The Van Rijn Method", and the cover art is as stupid as cover art gets, but wotthehell. it includes "How To Be Ethnic In One Easy Lesson", the first story of Adzel the, well, Buddhist dragon.
Oh, I must find the rest of these as they come out. I have to find out where Chee Lan first comes in, if nothing else.