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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Sythyry's LiveJournal:

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    Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015
    1:46 am
    Vaareng and Driaith (48/170)

    Vaareng sighed, and crouched to chew on the second claw on his left foreleg, which showed the first signs of shedding. Claws were the proper tools of mighty drakes, not words. He was not entirely sure, but he had the vague sense that that obnoxious doctor had defeated him somehow with words.

    A massive black head lowered itself to look him in the face. “Hello … are you Vaareng?”

    Vaareng looked up. The dragon connected to the head was certainly a drake, for there is no mistaking that from even a faint taste of the scent. A large and rather pleasingly rounded drake, with a vane-crest burning with some peculiar black fire. But he was solid black. Oh, he was a shiny metallic black, with hints of other colors in the lustre of his scales, not the dull flat matte black of a dragoness(†)

    (†) Of me, to be specific. Dragonesses au naturel are always matte colors and always monochrome: dull black, dull grey, dull tan, dull green. We are enticing and entrancing to drakes, but that is a matter of scent, not appearance. Some degree of playing dress-up with shapeshifting is tolerably feminine, but competing with the drakes is impolite. They have enough to do to compete with each other.

    Vaareng uncurled with all dignity. The large black beast would make a harder fight than the little biologist, but there was no avoiding it. “I am Vaareng, and I am mighty.”

    “Good, good. Nice to have another mighty drake on the expedition. I’m Driaith. Not the mightiest drake you’ve ever met, but I can hold my own in a fight. And help you hold your own, too, if there’s any trouble.” He noticed Vaareng’s scowl. “Not that I’m suggesting there will be trouble, really. What do you do?”

    Vaareng shrugged. “I fight.”

    “Ah, one of Tultamaan’s guards and scouts! Charging mightily into the unknown! Fighting off the living mountains of Mohonor(‡) with mere claws and teeth! Very brave, sir,” said Driaith. Vaareng spread his ears and barbels, but found no sign of mockery.

    (‡) The grand antagonists of a popular fictional series of stories about exploring dragons.

    “What do you do?” grunted Vaareng.

    “I am one of Jaraswat’s mages. My specialty, sir, is defense spells. We shall not be sending you out with the adequate-but-unimpressive the Small Wall that you currently wear! Not even the quite respectable the Ulthana’s Targe or the Tyrathian Redoubt. No, we shall start with the Hoplonton, and layer specifics and ablatives upon that most solid foundation! You may return from scouting, sir, or you may not, but I shall have worked with all craft known to astral dragons to give you the chance to return!”

    “Doctors and defense mages!” snapped Vaareng. “For a band of brave drakes, we certainly are focussing on the matters of defeat. Why not upon victory?”

    “Victory takes care of itself, sir. We take care that unsuccessful attempts will not be the end of our series of attempts.” Driaith cocked his head. “Perhaps you are freshly come from your mating flight?”

    “Under two years,” said Vaareng.

    “You do seem to be treating this as a mating flight of sorts. I do not know why you are unmarried now —”

    “Ask the vile and untraditional dragoness Melivras!” snapped Vaareng.

    ”— but most of us have been on ours, and not come off that well,” said Driaith. “We have been defeated once. For Tultamaan, three times or more! We do not allow mere defeats to destroy us, though! We recover, we rebound, we return, mightier in spirit, more strong and more skilled! And we make sure that the way we were defeated the first time, will not happen again.”

    Vaareng’s head shot up. “Driaith, that is the first hopeful thing I have heard since Melivras dishonestly chose Tyozangi! I, too, recover and rebound and return!”

    Driaith grinned at him. “Ah, Vaareng, there is a drake in there after all! And a doughty one, and one who may become great, indeed!”

    Vaareng grinned back. “Oh, I am drake, never doubt it. I am all drake, and a drake of power and force!”

    “You are! I shall be overjoyed to explore and fight alongside you, sir!”

    “Truly! I wish to leave already, to confront monsters and troubles, to come back home with a garland of new worlds!” Vaareng’s head was ablaze with the idea that he could be defeated once, that he could admit that he was defeated, and could rise again to greater heights than a mere third-ranked married drake!

    Sunday, May 31st, 2015
    9:43 pm
    Vaareng vs. Psajathrion (47/170)

    When Osoth finished his speech, while Tultamaan was quarreling with Gyovanth and Jaraswat, Vaareng sought honor and stature in the traditional way of drakes. He looked at the nearby drakes, and found that the one next to him was smaller in size but not embarrassingly so. He was rather unimpressively striped in pastel blue, cyan, white, and orange, and looked rather prissy. But he had a gleaming steel blade protruding from the tip of his tail, as if there were a dagger embedded deep in it, so Vaareng thought that he must not be an entire pansy, despite the size and coloration.

    “Thou steel-tailed dragon! Who are you? It matters little to me! I am Vaareng, and I am mighty! I challenge you to a Questro, a duel to four touches!”

    The pastel and steel dragon reared his head up. “I beg your pardon? I introduce myself: I am Psajathrion, and I am the physician. I do not admit to cowardice. I merely admit to puzzlement. Why are you challenging me? Are you claiming that I have somehow offended you? If that is it, why do you not state the nature of the offense?”

    Vaareng laughed a smoky laugh. “Why, Psajathrion the physician! Why do we need there to be an offense, in order to fight? We are drakes! We love battle! We must contend, to see who is the mightier!”

    “My own love of battle is simply this: it leaves many people injured in its wake, and thereby provides me with much business. The regular course of nature does so as well, so I am not wedded to battle. Nor to anyone else,” said the doctor.

    Vaareng laughed a mocking laugh: hișsya-hișsya-hișsya. “Oho! Could it be that you are not a brave drake? Could it be that you are one of those who retreats in the face of danger, rather than lashing your daggery tail and charging in to bite and breathe? Could it be that you are of the sort to seek marriage with another drake? Could you be one of those?”

    Psajathrion flicked his dagger-tail. “Cowardice is as cowardice does. I am here. I shall be in the next world, and the next, and so onwards until I die or all of us return home. This is not the vow of a coward, but it is my vow.”

    Vaareng suspected Psajathrion of weakness, yet the doctor was large enough and powerful enough to be good prey. “You still decline to join in battle! Yet, what do true drakes do? Could it be you are not a true drake in some way?”

    Psajathrion yawned. Small people yawn to indicate boredom; dragons yawn to indicate that they are heavily armed as well as bored. “Our current task is to practice, collectively, what we do when we come to a new world. Surprising as it may be to a youngster who has recently finished his mating flight — unsuccessfully, I take it? — we do not fight each other when we are in potentially perilous lands. Neither do we make an effort to incapacitate the physician.”

    “Well, that is an excuse of sorts. We shall postpone our duel. You have accepted my challenge, have you not? Or are you a person of sub-draconic nature and vile behaviors?”

    Psajathrion frowned. “I accept neither your challenge nor your false dichotomy. Cease trying to bait me. If you are unclear on your duties, go inquire of Tultamaan. He is the brick red drake with green chevrons and useless forelimbs, engaged in some important discussion or other, there.” Psajathrion pointed, and the light of Hove’s three suns twinkled on his highly-polished tailblade.

    This amused Vaareng. “Hah, Tultamaan? Tultamaan! Tultamaan the cripple and Tultamaan the coward thinks he can be Chief of the Guard! Will he stay Chief after the first challenge, do you imagine? You could defeat him!”

    “No, I couldn’t, because the doctor does not duel. And because I am good at my duties, and would not be good at his. And because the positions in this expedition are decided by royalty, and if they need to be rearranged they will be rearranged by merit and royalty, not by duels. Now I hear someone calling for the doctor, so I shall go be useful. You may be well-advised to go be useful too. If you have any use at all other than as a prospective patient, which you have not yet demonstrated to me.” Psajathrion pounced into the callous desert breezes, and flew off to the mountainside where a draconic voice was indeed bellowing, “Where is the doctor?”

    Thursday, May 28th, 2015
    9:50 pm
    Guards vs. Scholars (46/170)

    Gyovanth hissed in a sudden fury. “Insolent and insidious cripple you are! I discern your wicked plan! You wish me to leave, so that you can steal Roroku from me!”

    “No such thing,” said Tultamaan, in an unambiguous Grand Draconic phrase more absolute than any three words in any small-person language. He could be lying (I don’t think he was), but it would be a noxious lie indeed inside of his veriception wards. “There is a certain Anecdote connecting Roroku and I. Perhaps you should become Aware of it.” (Tultamaan, like Osoth, was a drake in the mating flight that Roroku humiliated and abandoned at my coming-of-age celebration.) Gyovanth accepted Tultamaan’s denial with a curt nod and a furious return to sentry duty.

    But no sooner had he dealt with Tultamaan than Jaraswat stormed over, cutting between Tultamaan and Roroku, and hissed furiously. “What is the meaning of this?”

    Tultamaan sighed. “The Meaning of This is that it is our final Dress Rehearsal on the way to the Extraordinary Dangerous Worlds we will Explore, and that All Dragons and All Small People must practice their duties.”

    Jaraswat reared up so that his head was higher than Tultamaan’s, and his greater bulk was obvious. “My dragons are scholars and mages, scientists and sorcerers! They are ǡľfrana, in the immortal Chresmalodian idiom! Their time is of the greatest value! The guards should guards — the scholars should study!”

    Tultamaan used the Word-Fox on ǡľfrana, and Jaraswat let him: it was Chresmalodian for an intellectual of the highest order, a thinker paid by the emperor to think due to the ineffable beauty of their thoughts, with no duties whatsoever.

    “We are not in the Highly Ornate Halls of Chresmalodia. I do not know if Chresmalodia has or ever had Highly Ornate Halls, but we certainly do not. We are on a barren mountainside. Any sort of trouble may lurk around. A deadly insect? Itharieth the biologist will discover it! A lethality in the water? We are fortunate to have the analysis mage Roroku! Did we make camp in the path of an impending avalanche? The cartographer Mirinxan will surely discover before the stones come roaring! This is why your scientists and scholars must assist!” The dragons that Tultamaan named blinked in realization, and set about their exploration duties with vigor and something akin to joy.

    Jaraswat hissed, “These are trivialities. Your brutish guards can handle them. My scholars and scientist are eéfixée, as the Wo-Waquoque put it. They mine to command, not yours.”

    Tultamaan flicked his tailtip. “You seek to ensure your own power in the expedition. In this matter you are mistaken. As Chief Scientist you have no Actual Power. Your duties are simple: you must know what each scholar is doing, and be able to explain it to Dragons of Actual Rank. You are the Singular Advisor. My own situation is different. As Chief of the Guard, I am empowered and required to attend to the Common Defense. I do have the right to Give Orders.”

    “Tultamaan! The Snarẫa have the perfect word: you fauff the situation! Whether you fauff it from ignorance or from your own pitiful need to aggrandize yourself, I know not. But fauff it you do! I have command responsibilities that exceed your own! This is a scholarly and scientific expedition, and, as Chief Scholar and Scientist, I have concomitant duties and powers!”

    Tultamaan frowned. “Grand Draconic is a Perfectly Adequate tongue. Some even describe it as Rich With Meaning. Plucking words out of the languages of long-conquered small people that only you know is hardly the way to Communicate Brilliantly, even if the words themselves are perfect. We cannot be always casting the Word-Fox to get the point of your Advice. Usually the Word-Fox itself could provide equally good Advice. And Advice, not Orders, is what you must provide.”

    Osoth had been alerted to the quarrel by an alert Hyxy, and he came to Tultamaan and Jaraswat in a grey-winged flap. “My Chief of Guards, my Chief Scholar, this is the time for quick cooperation and incisive activity! Not for quarreling over privileges and authorities!”

    Jaraswat hissed. “O Osoth, in whom the royalty of Hove has entrusted the command of this expedition! Tell this insolent brute of a Tultamaan of my responsibilities and powers! He is under a qiliq, as the Aq-Qim Qumidar say!”

    Osoth shrugged. “Less of a qiliq than a mos mehedh.” Osoth, necromancer and antequarian, knows many languages. Jaraswat glared to have his proposed ‘mad foolishness’ downgraded to a mere ‘dramatic exaggeration’. Osoth continued, “Tultamaan, Jaraswat is Chief Scientist. His duties include ordering the thrust of science in the expedition, and, as such, he certainly may direct the scientists and mages. It would be appropriate for him to order them to study, say, scorpions rather than lice. It would not be appropriate for him to order them to bring him food.”

    He turned to Jaraswat. “Tultamaan, though, is Chief of the Guard. He is in charge of our moment-to-moment safety. This is no small duty, as we must survive each moment; even a single one missed would be a disaster. He may command anyone to anything — even me — as long as he considers it a matter of safety. There are certain limits to this. He may not proclaim, ‘Hyxy, copulate with me immediately, it is a matter of safety!’ Not that he would. But demanding that your estimable and noble scientists use their estimable and noble skills for the common defense is entirely within bounds. He should even command me to raise shades of those who died in the area, to ask them of why they died.” Osoth paused briefly for effect. “Tultamaan, do you understand and agree to these duties, your own and Jaraswat’s?”

    “Yes, Osoth. Mine are precisely what we have discussed before.”

    “Jaraswat, do you understand and agree to these duties, your own and Tultamaan’s?”


    “And what does that mean, Jaraswat?”

    Jaraswat snorted. “In the tongue of the Kos Bfrenya, it means ‘I obey absolutely and without question’”

    “Very well. Now practice these things as though your lives and honor depended on them. For, in fact, that is precisely the case.”

    Osoth flew off. Jaraswat meditated privately that, in the neighboring dialect of the Tyery Bfrenya, umzormondru is used entirely ironically and means, ‘only to the extent that it is forced on me’.

    Tuesday, May 26th, 2015
    10:07 pm
    Waiting to Go (45/170)

    Tultamaan rushed around. (When Tultamaan rushes around, both dragons and small people quail in fear. Not because Tultamaan is notably dangerous — no more so than any other drake — but because he must needs rush around on his hind legs. He does grow them large, and with huge clawy feet. But he is an eighteen-foot-tall muscley monster with many spikes who looks as if he might fall on you at any minute. With many spikes.) He called out, “Gyovanth! Hyxy! Evrath! All other Dragons on the Expedition! This is a mediocre time for Lollygagging, or for other such Casual Amusements. Take the Inspirational last paragraph of our leader’s exhortation as Inspiration! Each of us must do our Parts in the construction of camp, just as if we were truly setting up camp on Doomdevildedoom with all manner of Unimaginable Dangers and True Perils all about, waiting to Consume us from Spleen to Soul!”

    Hyxy leapt into the air, small and nimble and deadly. “I know my duty and my role here! I (I) shall scout and scour! No danger shall escape me!” She searched in a spiral, her eyes and barbels gleaming with watching-spells.

    Gyovanth climbed up the hillock, and peered hither and yon with a mock-intense gaze. “Nothing, nothing. No perils, no devils, just a bunch of dragons and hovens lazing around. Am I doing it right, O bipedal beast?”

    Tultamaan peered at him. “Your attempt at Mockery is noted. You are not doing it right. I have been Mocked for my entire life, both by experts and by multitudes. If you wish to Offend me, or Amuse Others at my Expense, you must work very hard indeed to find Words or Concepts which have not become Tedious through their repetition. Furthermore, if there happened to be a Doom-devil-deodand about, it would by now have Swallowed all of you but the Head, which would still be ignorant of its Impending Engulfment.

    Gyovanth snorted. “As if any monster could battle me — would dare battle me!”

    Tultamaan rested backwards on his hind legs and tail, which is the best he can do if he wants to move soon. “Quel Quen had no fewer than Nineteen companions who thought rather Similarly to the way You do. Some of them had the same Imperial Chiriact combat training that you do, and gross-years of growth and experience besides. Four of them were killed Instantly, and the other fifteen within a Minute of the start of the attack. To say nothing of slower deaths, which are the province of Other Dragons who are not about their tasks either.” He turned aside and shouted, “Itharieth, Roroko! Go to, go to!” Back to Gyovanth he said, “Furthermore, we have our small people Companions, and our useful undead servitors. Perhaps the Doom-devil-deodand fears you, but does it fear Mr. Norb? You are his guard, you are the guard of every hoven! You must keep them safe!”

    Gyovanth nodded curtly, and scanned around with his head a time or two, to signify that he conceded some small point under discussion but nothing else. Under his breath he muttered, “Mr. Norb is a small person, of whom there are many. He is easily replaced.”

    Tultamaan’s hearing is in no way impaired. “You are a drake, of whom there are too many! You are easily replaced!”

    “I am a married drake, one of only two on this flight!” snapped Gyovanth. “Roroku does not count for much, but she does count for a dragoness! I am a mating-flight third, you are a mating-flight last, out of seven! Do not get too full of yourself because some uneducated and ignorant queen made you Assistant Leader!”

    Tultamaan leapt to my defense simply said, “If mating flight ranks count for anything, Hyxy and Ngassith are Firsts, Osoth and some others are Seconds, and there is no lack of Thirds like Yourself. Or rather, Thirds who are doing their duties, unlike Yourself. The discussion of the Meaning of Prior Ranks in an adventure intended to Increase All Ranks is one best indulged in while Curled around Campfires. But you seem Content to rest on your Mating-Flight Laurels, unlike anyone else present. Be off, then. We do not need you.”

    Gyovanth hissed in a sudden fury. “Insolent and insidious cripple you are! I discern your wicked plan! You wish me to leave, so that you can steal Roroku from me!”

    “No such thing,” said Tultamaan, in an unambiguous Grand Draconic phrase more absolute than any three words in any small-person language. He could be lying (I don’t think he was), but it would be a noxious lie indeed inside of his veriception wards. “There is a certain Anecdote connecting Roroku and I. Perhaps you should become Aware of it.” (Tultamaan, like Osoth, was a drake in the mating flight that Roroku humiliated and abandoned at my coming-of-age celebration.) Gyovanth accepted Tultamaan’s denial with a curt nod and a furious return to sentry duty.

    Monday, May 25th, 2015
    6:38 am
    Inspirational but going nowhere (44/170)

    Waiting to Leave

    Osoth leapt to the top of a hillock. The stage would have been better, but it was being repaired and/or disassembled. “My companions, my fellow adventurers, my friends! We are now on the first wingbeat of a flight into a mysterious and omnipotential — and, we sincerely wish, fascinating and profitable — congeries of universes! Whether we physically leave Hove immediately, or whether we physically leave Hove a month from now, it matters little. Let us consider ourselves to have left Hove already! Actually, let us see if, by some delightful roll of the dice, we will leave Hove already.”

    He beckoned to Sjojarn, the senior of the two Travel-mages. Sjojarn, a distinguished and highly elongated gentleman with the most beautiful turquoise scales I have ever seen, performed the final ritual of the Pentagonal Cyclone, within an intricate magical construct, a hhejŝṧhyant to give it the proper name. To hoven perception, nothing happened. To draconic perception, there was a barely-visible thaumaturgic snip deep inside the hhejŝṧhyant, and three or four of the weaker structural elements collapsed.

    The assembled dragons murmured unhappily. The hovens murmured confusedly. The undead stood stolidly, or did not look up for their game of dicing for finger-bones.

    Sjojarn spoke a moment with Osoth, who nodded and leapt back onto his hillock. “As we expected, we are not leaving Hove today. Some of you may be curious about what just happened. It is not an unusual thing. Sjojarn, wise and skillful in the ways of Travel, even if this is his first actual the Pentagonal Cyclone, opened a portal to an exceedingly hot universe. In this universe, like so many others, energy can be and must be created. If two equal balls collide with a total speed of 144 miles per hour, they will rebound with a total speed of 144-plus-a-tiny-fraction miles per hour. The tiny fractions build up over time. This renders all things extraordinary hot. Should we have simply opened a straightforward portal there, a tiny bit of that heat would pour through, and we should have the Melts of Sjojarn on Hove to match the Melts of Trangbonius on Graulfnir. But, the wise Sjojarn and other wise wizards have included precautions against this very thing, and a vast assortment of other very things! Instead of that terrible heat pouring through, certain particularly fragile bits of the hhejŝṧhyant are instantly destroyed — before the heat even reaches them, and far faster than even a swift dragon can react — and the cyclone is no more.

    “Or, if I am being wordy, what happened is: Sjojarn found a dangerous, unliveable universe. The portal closed itself instantly, as it was intended to. We are safe. We are here.

    “We are here! We shall practice making camp: as if we are to stay here indefinitely. Indeed, this is the perfect time to realize that we have only a single shovel for all our diggers, or that our water-tanks are leaky. Both these were the case last week, but both have been taken care of today, thanks to the estimable and highly competent Mr. Norb and Mr. Kranbule.

    “Ah, and just a reminder to the dragons. We have a number of hovens and even a few chir — that number being sixty-three at last count — who work among us in a variety of capacities. Some of these small people you should esteem as beings of wisdom and rank. Mrs. Dasbrodie, for one example, has been my camp superintendant on four archeaeological expeditions. If she instructs you as to how something should be arranged, you should follow her instructions instantly and without complaint. If you do not, she will discuss the matter with me, and, as I have never known her to be wrong, I will surely bite your tail and tell you to do the same thing.

    “But all the small people you should esteem as beings of honor and courage. You consider yourself to have courage, flapping off to face the dangers and horrors of strange worlds — you with your immense vitality, your thick scales, your massive claws and teeth, your devastating breath weapons, your astral magic! But know that the small people with us are coming to precisely the same places, with their candleflame vitality, their soft skin, their tiny fingernails and blunt chewers, their utter lack of breath weapons and magic! Any honor or bravery you award yourself, you must award to our small-people fellow explorers a dozenfold! So give them all respect and all assistance! If you seen Mr. Norb frustrated by a boulder, ask him if you could move or destroy that boulder!

    “And now, let all our tents be set up, let all our sanitary ditches be dug, let our livestock be given room, and in all ways let our first camp be made! It will not be our last.

    Thursday, May 21st, 2015
    10:11 pm
    Speeches (43/170)

    Ythac gave a very political and eloquent sort of speech, welcoming all the dignitaries, ambassadors, heads of state, and other notables, preemptively welcoming the new dragon-worlds that were about to be discovered into the great community of dragon-worlds (whether they liked it or not). Osoth gave a stirring and blazingly comprehensible speech exhorting his company to endurance and exertion and excellence. Quel Quen gave a useful technical speech which I am going to summarize some of.

    Quel Quen said —

    There are a lot of worlds to explore. We’ll never run out.

    We explore by opening a cyclone to a new world. Using Lliashatheny’s best devices, we can say a few things we want about the world. In some ways they are very useful things to say, and in other ways they don’t say much at all. Mostly we say things like “astral magic works there” and “matter can exist there”.

    Unfortunately we can’t quite say “life can exist there” or even “solid matter can exist there”. This means that more often than not, we get to a useless world of one form or another, like a world composed entirely of fire, or of iron vapor.

    So, rather than boldly opening up a cyclone and flying through immediately, we gingerly open up a cyclone and send a few scouts through. Usually the scouts come back and tell us that it’s not worth looking there. And so we keep trying until our Travel-mages get overworn, or until we find what we’re looking for.

    The first thing we’re looking for is a Base Camp. That’s an inhabitable world in the region we’re exploring. Usually not a very nice world, and usually not worth colonizing. But it save a great deal of effort for the Travel-mages. And it’s a nice buffer between the dangerous explored worlds and Hove.

    So today, don’t expect very much. Our explorers will probably be on Hove this time next week.

    Then I said roughly “Yay, exploring dragons!” and gave each of them a beautifully-embroidered sash which they probably would want to leave at home as a memento of the expedition and thus served no practical or aesthetic value whatsoever.

    Then feasts and music and such.

    Then all the dignitaries, including me, went home and attended to matters of this world.

    On the off chance that our first cyclone did bring something awful through, we didn’t want to melt all the dignitaries, or have them eaten, or whatever.

    Tuesday, May 19th, 2015
    11:26 pm
    Portal Theory (42/170)

    One might ask why we held the ceremony in what is more or less the least convenient part of Hove. One might, in particular, ask this after hearing that we could have put our end of the Pentagonal Cyclone anywhere that we liked. If it had been up to me, Quel Quen would have explained it in his speech, but fortunately someone with actual sense about what would upset hovens (Tarcuna, this time) told me not to tell anyone why.

    I will tell you why.

    When one creates a portal to unknown and random other universes, by whatever means, one does not know what worlds will be reached. One does not know what circumstances, if any, will prevail there. One does not know what entities, if any, will live there. One does not know what, if anything, will come through for a visit.

    In popular fiction and cinema, it is inevitable that there are huge monsters lurking on the other side of the portal, who seem to live their entire lives hoping that an extradimensional gate will open up next to them and they can abandon the world they know, hop through, and start eating helpless hovens as hungrily as if the monster had never eaten anything before in its life.

    In reality, huge monsters (such as myself and my friends) do not spend much time hoping that extradimensional gates will open up next to them. Such things do not happen often enough to be worth waiting for. (Unless one is a friend of Arilash the travel mage, in which case the extradimensional portal will reveal a bored and probably horny dragoness, and one is in for a treat if one likes such things.)

    Actually, our first worry is that we have done something wrong in the defenses around the portal, and that we find a world of concentrated energy (which happens a lot), and a flicker of that energy splashes through. Which has happened precisely once, in the first days of cross-world exploring; see the Melts of Trangbonius, on Graulfnir, for how that worked out. We use better defenses now. Still, if we were going to make the Melts of Jyothky, probably including a melted Jyothky, better that we melt some Khamrous and other barely-occupied mountain ranges and desert, rather than a huge hole in the middle of Trest or Damma or some other heavily-inhabited country.

    And if something did come through the portal, well, there are three medium-large twistor guns emplaced in Ghemel. They were built by the undead god to kill dragons. They are the only medium-large or bigger twistor guns allowed on Hove, due to lots of unpleasant history. I don’t know if they could harm some speculative extradimensional menace — it rather depends on what it is — but they might be some help. (Plus we’d give all the dragons on Hove a chance to prove their bravery and prowess in battle. Whether they want one or not.)

    More immediately menacing, if not as world-threatening, is showcraft. Dragons are rather heavy beasts. Portable hoven stages are intended for hovens. Hovens with piles of heavy musical equipment and massive amplifiers and steam calliopes and portable pipe organs. These things are not as heavy as dragons, and they are less likely to shift their weight from foot to foot.

    At the beginning of the ceremony, I was reciting a long list of dragon names and sounding for all the world like some ancient eldrich goetic warlock: Atharis. Borybran. Gyovanth. Psajathrion. Xilobrax. Katamerces. Ngassith. Evrath … Nrararn, in one of his few non-beautiful and non-useful moments, put his hindleg through a weak spot in the plywood of the stage. A weak spot, the stage authorities assure me, that had not been there before the truck carrying it overturned on a narrow mountain road.

    Nrararn’s helpfulness was quite thoroughly punished, and the first try of my ceremony was quite thoroughly ruined. We sensibly took a two-hour break. Forty-six dragon dignitaries from Hove and elseworld, and several hundred hoven heads of state, ambassadors, and reporters, grumbled and complained. I presume the actual expeditioners, inured as they were going to be to long delays and devastating waiting, did not. Eventually we failed to repair the stage sufficiently, and succeeded to bite every dragon’s tail until they were all willing to levitate over the stage like so many scaly balloons of hot air (as the hovens described us to their amusement), or like so many small and sleepy children (as we thought of it).

    Next time I am going melt-sculpt a mountain. That works much better.

    Sunday, May 17th, 2015
    9:39 pm
    First Expeditions (41/170)

    First Expeditions

    In retrospect, it was unwise to hold a sending-off celebration for the Hoven Royal Exploring Company’s first exploration.

    It was even unwise in prospect. As soon as he got his invitation (one of the big ones, in fancy Grand Draconic calligraphy, courtesy of the ever-useful and ever-decorative Nrararn), Quel Quen came flying to the capitol du jour to warn me about it. “Not that I have even the slightest wish to interfere with your most impressive and tumultuous celebration, but you mustn’t expect that the expedition will actually go anywhere on the first day, or even the first month.” And he told me why not, and he was precisely right about it.

    But it would have been rather too embarrassing to cancel the event by that point. Invitations had been sent, caterers hired, oxen slaughtered and marinated! Plus, I wanted to have a celebration for it, as about my last official and effective act in the expedition. (I had mostly forgotten about the venstroma.) And if we were to celebrate, we could either celebrate on the first day, when the expedition members would probably sit around and not do anything, or on the day they actually depart, which could come at any time from the first minute on.

    So I chewed metaphorically on Quel Quen until he agreed to speak at the sending-off celebration and explain why, though it was sending-off celebration, no off would actually be sent.

    Queltza is a hot country, and a dry one. It shares a vast border with Ghemel. In that part of the world, dragons are worshipped almost as devoutly as the blessed(†) angels Bmern and Drukah, for we saved them from a terrible and wicked alien god. (We shouldn’t be. We had brought the thing ourselves, and if we had paid attention and cleaned it up when we scattered across Hove for a game of Hide and Seek, nobody would have needed any saving.)

    (†) Or one of them is cursed, depending on your hoven’s theology. Neither of them seems to exist, so it’s probably fine either way.

    Loved and worshipped we may be, but love and worship do not make good roads. Neither do the Queltza. Dragons don’t use roads much, but hoven dignitaries certainly do. And hoven caterers and stage-builders and all, too. A truck carrying half a stage, which was already late, overturned on a narrow mountain road, and the extraordinarily useful and sweet and beautiful Nrararn flew out in a massive flutter of wings to rescue it and help put the ceremony back on schedule. And to make there not be a terrible sandstorm, as the forces of nature had scheduled for that day. Air mages are so wonderful, there are no words. Or at least, air mage dragons who are one’s ally for life and will help out in emergencies are.

    One might ask why we held the ceremony in what is more or less the least convenient part of Hove. One might, in particular, ask this after hearing that we could have put our end of the Pentagonal Cyclone anywhere that we liked. If it had been up to me, Quel Quen would have explained it in his speech, but fortunately someone with actual sense about what would upset hovens (Tarcuna, this time) told me not to tell anyone why.

    I will tell you why.

    Thursday, May 14th, 2015
    9:41 pm
    Jyothky, the Ugly Dwarf, and the Venstroma (40/170)

    “The things you have brought are the preliminary price, the price for me to make for you the venstroma,” said Lliashatheny. “The other prices are two: a price to use it, and a price to have owned it.”

    “The wall didn’t mention those. What are they, and are they to be paid now, or later?”

    “The price you must pay to use it is that you, Queen of Hove, shall become the servant of your friends. The friend in the red world shall urgently need to tell a thing to the friend in the violet world. The easiest way is for you to speak to red, and to speak to violet.”

    I thought about that a moment. “Of course I’ll be running messages for my friends. Why wouldn’t I?”

    “Not dragon-queen of Graulfnir, not the dragon-queen of Mhel, not the dragon-queen of Hasqueth would do chores for the guards they have hired,” said Lliashatheny.

    “I suppose those queens have more adventurous lives than I do,” I said.

    “Or fewer friends? The third price is the price for having owned the venstroma. The disasters and woes will befall your friends. Not all of them will you be able to save. Not always will you be writing to the one who needs to hear your words, or to send your words elsewhere. Not always will your words suffice to forestall the doom, even if you were wiser than any astral dragon. The forever sorrow will you have, when you fail to do that which you might have done. The loss of your friends, you will take upon yourself as your responsibility.”

    “That sounds terrible.” I peered at him. “Will I be able to save any of my friends from whatever dangers they face?”

    “Not any idea have I about that!” said Lliashatheny.

    “A limited sort of prophecy you’re giving me, then,” I said. “Actually, it doesn’t sound like a prophecy at all, just a statement of what I ought to expect in the normal course of events. The exploration will be dangerous, I can’t talk to everyone all the time, dragons don’t always take advice. Is there some special mystical curse on the venstroma, or are you just pointing out my limitations?”

    Lliashatheny grinned, a huge grin with too many too-short teeth. “The curse-work and the price-work are easier when there is no actual need to enforce them.”

    (Which is Ambiguous Draconic for ‘Quite likely just pointing out your limitations, but you won’t be getting any clearer answer than that.’ Annoying lizards, each and every one of them us. For what it’s worth, I had some good wizards look at the venstroma, and they couldn’t see anything on it that enforced any curses. But of course the curses came true anyhow.)

    “How long will the venstroma take to make? I brought a cow stuffed with onions and cheese and rabbits and livers and rice and spices and other spices and things. I’d be happy to share that, if the crafting will take past dinnertime,” I said.

    “The crafting is done already, but, by all means, stay for dinner!” said Lliashatheny. So I did, and overnight, in fact. No adultery was suggested or performed, just eating, and conversation, and eating. Lliashatheny has spices from nearly all the dragon-worlds, and we made a huge pot of cream sauce, and tasted the twenty-six putative hottest peppers from twenty-one worlds, sauced up.

    The next morning, Lliashatheny sent me off, and told me that I could come back if I had more business with it, or for no reason at all, and that I should send Csirnis and Quel Quen to visit again. Which I did, though I don’t know if they went.

    Tuesday, May 12th, 2015
    8:30 pm
    Jyothky and the Ugly Dwarf (39/170)
    (Still so self-serving!)

    I stared into Lliashatheny’s numinous home. Images came to me, each one explaining how it would grant my wishes. A globe of crystal, heavy with tradition, would let me scry between universes. But I cannot be all the time scrying on my friends, even if they don’t block it, so I waved it on. A massive book bound with golden chains would record each incident. Tempting, but it was brusque and ambiguous, and I want the delicious details to the point of making them up if they are not forthcoming. The venstroma, a set of seven nyxyliths and a nyxylith brooch, which allow me to write to them and them to me in the manner of the Horizonal Quill. I grinned, for I am well used to the Horizonal Quill and its ways.

    Which meant that I had to go to Chiriact to buy suitable nyxyliths and have one made up into a brooch. And another cross-world shopping trip for the rest of the price: furs of the silver rat, the pear of the northernmost pear-tree in Aricien, so many perfect diamonds. The furs were the hardest to get, since I had to kill the rats without damaging their pelts.

    I can’t really justify telling this story in any more detail: this book is only about me to the extent that I am an associate of the Hoven Royal Exploring Company. But the shopping-and-hunting trip was the most fun I’ve had in years.

    I stood before the dwarf’s inverted bowl, carrying treasures and a pear. “O Lliashatheny, I beg your indulgence and your attention. I come bearing ingredients for one of your wonderful workings.”

    Lliashatheny became next to me: a definite flicker of magic of some kind, but too fast for me to see, followed by a definitely ugly definitely dwarf dragon, flat-eyed and without wings. “The you would be number six hundred and forty-three in the grand roll of those who have done so. And what do you wish me to do?”

    I held out the ruby bowl. Lliashatheny peered at it, rather than snatching it as a polite dragon would have done. “And what is that? Not any proper component of any of my offerings is it.”

    “It’s a tribute for you. I am coming to your territory and asking you to work. There’s no reason not for me to be polite and treat you like any other dragon I am imposing upon. Besides, you’re not the only dragon or dragonish person who makes things.”

    Lliashatheny took the bowl from me, and sniffed at it with its forked green tongue. “And did you make this yourself?”

    I allowed as how I had a team of small-people engineers and artists, and that my own role was more by way of Patron, and of Sub-Engineer In Charge Of Magical Reinforcements.

    Lliashatheny chuckled. “Not enchanted is it, and I suspect not enchantable is it either. Not a bit of competition exists between the two of us. The praise will I make for it then —” and it spoke well of the curves, and how they made the flaw in the ruby shape into a virtue of beauty. It clearly appreciated artistry as much as any true dragon! “The artists you hire are good artists, albeit challenged by this material.”

    Hideously rude by dragon terms, to praise something given in tribute. I don’t know why it’s rude though. Something unpleasant having to do with the host’s pride, I’m sure.

    I smiled, and chatted about various artists who work in ridiculous media. When we came to the mhelvul poet who composed original works and wrote them once, in invisibly-small letters on flecks of mica, it was clearly time to come to business.

    “I’m the sponsor of an exploring party, including lots of friends of mine, and I’d like to be able to chat with the explorers no matter what world they’re on,” I said. “So I’d like to buy a venstroma, or the venstroma, or however it’s articulated.”

    Lliashatheny nodded its hideous head. “The nyxyliths are needed, and certain other things. And did you say you had brought them all?”

    “If I didn’t, I misunderstood something on the list,” I said, and dumped my price on the carpet. We were indoors inside Lliashatheny’s peculiar dome, by now.

    “The things you have brought are the preliminary price, the price for me to make for you the venstroma,” said Lliashatheny. “The other prices are two: a price to use it, and a price to have owned it.”

    “The wall didn’t mention those. What are they, and are they to be paid now, or later?”

    Sunday, May 10th, 2015
    9:56 pm
    Jyothky and the Ugly Dwarf (38/170)

    Jyothky and the Ugly Dwarf

    Time for the totally self-serving chapter!

    Everyone must prepare themselves in their own preferred way to go to Graulfnir and see Lliashatheny’s mysterious inverted bowl. I prepared myself by means of a bowl of my own. I travelled to the mysterious city of Tublier in Trest (and by “mysterious” I mean “dull and industrial” — they keep their mysteries in windowless factories and warehouses, with private soldiers who beat up any hovens who attempt to infiltrate).

    In this place I sponsor a laboratory and workshop, dully and industrially called the Corundum Forming Laboratory and Workshop (CFLW), in which, of all things, corundum is formed. Corundum is the pure substance; rubies and sapphires and emeralds are made by suitable impurities in corundum — and other gemstones, not found in nature, produced by other impurities. The “forming” part of the name is there because we squirt the molten corundum into molds.

    The technology is not quite what it will someday be. We are trying to make bowls suitable for dragons, or punchbowls for hoven parties. They should come out perfectly bowly. The usually come out with a pucker in the rim if we’re lucky, or a flobble-hole through the bottom if we’re not. Some smaller shapes work better. We have some very good expensive expensive and hopefully good engineers working on the problem. In the meantime we have some very arrogant good arrogant by hoven terms (but not really up to draconic standards) artists doing pretty things with smaller pieces.

    (Some day I hope to export this artwork to the other dragon-worlds. It’s not exportable yet. Synthetic gemstones, created by spells or magic, seem to have a very bland lluyew, so we do not prize them as much as natural gems. Artistry helps somewhat.)

    I picked a ruby bowl whose rim-pucker was at least symmetrical, and which the artists had arted upon with vigor and joy and energetic geometrical figures. I paid for it, in the sense that I may take so many pieces per month from the laboratory and its stocks, as part of the exchange for my sponsorship, and this is one. I renewed the spells on the equipment: the Hoplonton! Not that the pressures and temperatures of ruby-making are as terrible as those of a dragon-battle, but they are not good for unprotected equipment. I did the obligatory royal things and sponsoring-dragon things, mostly involving greeting a newly-hired sub-engineer whom I had not met and who needed clean pants afterwards; I am sure he lost family members in the draconic rule of Trest some while ago.

    And made my way to Graulfnir, which was rather easier because the travel monument that Tultamaan had argued for earlier was now finished and usable.

    Thursday, May 7th, 2015
    6:47 pm
    Jaraswat and Ystrion-Mhavrieth (37/170)

    Then there is the matter of Ystron-Mhavrieth. Ystron-Mhavrieth was an enthusiastic young bachelor, eager to apprentice himself to a mighty and well-connected scholar of the Society. He was the only other one that Jaraswat ever let use the wixio, and that only with Jaraswat present and supervising. Ystron-Mhavrieth unravelled language-garments to thread, and painstakingly rewove them into different shapes, and placed them back on the person whose linguistic competence they were made from, and interviewed and studied and compared and mapped. His work was an intellectually-essential counterpoint to Jaraswat’s, the tedious labor that validated or occasionally denied Jaraswat’s points.

    Only two or three years after Ystron-Mhavrieth was admitted to the Society, he vanished. One day Ystron-Mhavrieth dined with three friends of a similar Society rank. The next day, when he was to discuss Barabondo at a study meeting, he simply did not appear.

    Considerable puzzlement puzzled the Society. Dragons do not simply vanish as a routine matter!

    For greater puzzlement, Jaraswat, whom everyone assumed would be Ystron-Mhavrieth’s detective and avenger, was utterly unconcerned.

    After Jaraswat did nothing for a month or so, the Society hired Lhury, one of the few dragons who makes any pretense of being a detective. Lhury started by interviewing Jaraswat, and ended with interviewing Jaraswat, too, seven weeks later. Jaraswat’s testimony was quite confusing. Lhury did not ask Jaraswat to remove his veriception blocks. That request is simply not made even in a court of justice, though occasionally a witness will do so intentionally.

    The most perplexing part of the matter was Ystron-Mhavrieth’s … there’s not even a word for it. It’s not a suicide note, for Ystron-Mhavrieth was not dying. But it was about a severe form of self-destruction. Ystron-Mhavrieth wrote:

    To whom it may concern,
    Be it known that I am deeply ashamed of my use of the wixio. Jaraswat is the only rightful user of that device; for all others it is terribly immoral and wicked. I also withdraw my fifth, eighth, and nineteenth studies from the Society, viz. those which have titles [...]. As a further penance to the abstract principle of justice, and to the Society in particular, I volunteer to have my own linguistic competence extracted and studied. This shall be done immediately upon my completion of this note, which is to say, immediately. Once it is done, I shall depart for a distant universe to dwell in solitude, as the third and final facet of my penance. In dishonor and honor, I remain,
    ❧ Ystron-Mhavrieth

    The withdrawn studies were three of the four which contradicted Jaraswat.

    “Why did you not reveal this note immediately?” asked Lhury of Jaraswat, when the note was finally discovered, nearly two months after Ystron-Mhavrieth vanished.

    “For personal reasons which have nothing to do with the matter,” said Jaraswat, and refused to answer further.

    In a community of linguists, the note was of course dissected letter by letter. Now, the note was written in Ystron-Mhavrieth’s own writing, with letter-forms quite different from those Jaraswat employs. Certain turns of phrase were specifically Ystron-Mhavrieth’s, who enjoyed dividing topics into three facets, and generally signed his name with “In honor, I remain ❧ Ystron-Mhavrieth”. Other turns of phrase reminded the reader of Jaraswat, such as referring to studies by number as well as name, and the use of the somewhat archaic abbreviation viz.. “But perhaps Ystron-Mhavrieth has adopted some stylistic flourishes from his master,” said some, “and in neither case is it an unusual point of style. Not even for him. He uses the citation style once, and ”viz.” three times, in his collected papers.”

    The suggestion was that Jaraswat had some reason to want to dispose of Ystron-Mhavrieth: professional jealousy and sexual connection were the top choices of reason. Jaraswat overpowered the smaller dragon, and used the wixio to render him incapable of bearing witness against Jaraswat. The wixio is not that precise, and presumably stole Ystron-Mhavrieth’s entire ability to communicate. Unless Ystron-Mhavrieth wore his garment, in which case he would be able to tell the full tale of Jaraswat’s presumed wrongdoings. So Jaraswat somehow disposed of the now-wordless dragon. He presumably wrote the note himself, wearing Ystron-Mhavrieth’s linguistic powers and thus, somehow, perfectly imitate his writing. Then Jaraswat presumably decided that the note would not pass inspection, and changed his mind, choosing to say nothing whatever.

    No dragon-styled linguistic garment was ever found. But the searches of Jaraswat’s home came late in the investigation, with Jaraswat’s permission, and anything could have been removed or concealed or changed.

    The only other sensible possibility was Ystron-Mhavrieth’s lover, another young bachelor drake of the Society. But he confessed without veriception blocks — he had in fact quarreled with Ystron-Mhavrieth two days before, but thought the matter was reconciled. He certainly didn’t vanish Ystron-Mhavrieth.

    No conclusion of Jaraswat’s possible guilt was possible, and nobody bothered to bring him to court for a useless trial. But his stature in the Society was greatly diminished: going from “The great linguist and resurrector of linguistics” to “The one who probably bears considerable guilt in the vanishing of a promising young scholar”.

    Jaraswat did not resign from the Society, but was generally to be found on other worlds after that. The massive loss of honor and quasi-exile were taken as a sufficient punishment for the presumed but unproven crime.

    Eventually, on Hove, seeking to points beyond.

    He was far and away the most experienced scientist who applied to the exploring company. Osoth made him Chief Scholar, on his request, with a modest amount of hesitation.

    Tuesday, May 5th, 2015
    10:45 pm
    Jaraswat and the wixio (36/170)

    Lliashatheny taught Jaraswat the art of hooking the end of it in a small person’s soul, and spinning it, and thereby drawing for the linguistic competence of the small person. When the competence was shaken off the wixio, it took the shape of a sweater. Jaraswat immediately flew forth and acquired a dozen of them from a dozen graulfs. The tongue-garment was more or less elegant depending on the elegance of the victim’s speech, and more or less colorful depending on the depth of his vocabulary, and had one neck-hole for each language he spoke.

    Jaraswat immediately presented this, dressed up in a scholarly form, to the Royal Graulfnir Society of Sciences and Magics. He was eloquent — he had not used the wixio on himself! — and his investigations were of a new sort. The discipline of linguistics was moribund before Jaraswat. Linguists of the old school were simply dragons who had learned a hundred tongues by the exertion of their brains, and, in essence, performed tricks of translation and of comparing the fine shades of meanings between them. That discipline was never considered very important compared to physics, travel magic, mathematics, history, healing. And then came the invention of language-spells, so that any dragon who wished could learn any language at no more effort than finding a single speaker of it, and the old-school linguists were rendered useless and humiliated, having spent gross-years doing what any dragonet could now do in seconds.

    So linguistics died, and stayed dead until Jaraswat and the wixio reincarnated it. Jaraswat’s methods showed the fine structure of a tongue, as details in the weaves of cloth. It allowed comparing two languages: Barabondo is a bluer and thus more honorable language than reddish Timilcan, and, as its fibers are thinner, is capable of more subtlety and subject to more linguistic distortion by misunderstandings or loan words.

    Reviving a whole discipline and making it into a deep and precise science was one of the greatest triumphs in the Society in recent gross-years. Jaraswat quickly scooped up awards and honors as a looting drake scoops up tapestries and food-beasts, and in mere duodecades he became one of the great lights of the Society. The dragonesses who had spurned him in his mating flight were ashamed to meet his gaze in the great courts of Graulfnir, and he considered himself in all ways revenged on them.

    Sunday, May 3rd, 2015
    9:57 pm
    Jaraswat and the Ugly Dwarf (35/170)

    Jaraswat and the Ugly Dwarf

    A long time ago — two or three gross-years — a much younger Jaraswat came to Lliashatheny, who at that time lived in exile on Graulfnir. Lliashatheny dwelled in a large inverted glass bowl, shimmering with fifty-eight kinds of blue. Though it was glass, it was rarely transparent. When Jaraswat, newly a bachelor, peered into it, he saw visions of tools and toys. Magical tools and toys, charged with something that is not wholly unlike astral magic as dragons know it, but is certainly not the same thing. He saw, for example, a jigsaw that would cut time into odd-shaped fragments, so that one could enjoy two days in succession, and then two nights, rather than endure the tyrannical order of day-night-day-night. He saw an auger that could drill holes between nearby universes, so that one could become a serpent and slither from one to the next without the expense of monuments or travel spells. He saw a carding-brush that would comb prose into poetry.

    He saw a spindle that caught his eye completely.

    When he had thus decided, he flew off to the castle of his parents. From there he made his way to Twarrentine, where no dragon dwells for long. He endured the hideous lluyew of that awful world’s sun and land for long enough to rake diamonds with his paws from the desert sands, and terrify the twarrents into smelting gold for him, and bringing him the aromatic wood of gullivasc trees.

    At length he returned to Lliashatheny’s inverted bowl. He flew around thrice, and roared, “Lliashatheny, you ugly dwarf, who has retreated to Graulfnir and been permitted to stay here as an exile, come forth! I have brought you the price of the wixio!”

    Lliashatheny then became next to him, by means which Lliashatheny enjoys and nobody else understands. Lliashatheny was, and is, indeed an ugly dwarf of a dragon — or dragon-like thing; nobody knows exactly what it is. (Yes, “it”. It doesn’t seem to be a drake or a dragoness.) It is barely half my size, and I am among the smallest of dragons from head to tail. (I make up for it in circumference, which is arguably not an improvement.) It is only moderately larger than a small person. It has no wings. It compensates for their lack by having an excessive tail, a long and and protracted and whippy and unadorned tail that terminates in just a plain point. Its fangs and claws are short and blocky and appear well-used, though we rarely see Lliashatheny actually fight anything. Its eyes are sunken into its skull, unlike the bulbous eyes of astral dragons. Its features are coarse and unpleasant. Its scales are thick and immobile. It doesn’t smell like a dragon either: it has harsh and nasty aromatic notes in its scent, like a dragon that had been marinated in valerian or some such unpleasant herb.

    “The wixio’s price is more than merely diamonds and gold and gullivasc wood,” said Lliashatheny.

    “What? Are you a cheating dwarf as well as an ugly one?” Jaraswat had not learned all his languages, that long ago, and stuck to Grand Draconic. “Your magic glass lump clearly said, so much gold, so many diamonds, so much gullivasc.”

    “The price for me to make you the wixio is that. The price for using it is different. The price for owning it is yet another price. The wixio is what I will make for the price of the making. If you wish it!” said Lliashatheny.

    “I wish it!” snapped Jaraswat.

    Then they were inside of the glass dome. Probably no spell could be cast on any astral dragon without him being aware of it, so I suppose that Lliashatheny moved the dome to be around them. The dome included a pleasant parlor. Rather small, being made to Lliashatheny’s frame rather than Jaraswat’s. But it had a pebble-couch full of gemstones as bright as a dozen breaths, which Jaraswat immediately sprawled in, and into which, at the end of the meeting, Lliashatheny poured the diamonds Jaraswat had paid.

    “Not yet have I told you all the prices,” said Lliashatheny. “The use-price of using the wixio is this. The wixio will, in an instant, weave the linguistic competence of anyone into a garment. The material it uses is the victim’s ability to speak, to understand words, to even understand that there is such a thing as communication. The whosoever you use it on will never again share any thought or word or feeling or hate or love with any other being — never again think in ideas and concepts! Not unless he is wearing the garment woven from his own competence.”

    “What care I for that?” snapped Jaraswat. “I am planning a grand investigation and study into the nature of language itself! A few small people shall lose a facility along the way, and one they barely make any worthwhile use of. It’s not as if they have important thoughts, or as if their feelings matter past the moment or two or need to be communicated at all. I shan’t be using it dragons after all. Not even on dwarf dragons like you.”

    “Not at all right are you of that,” said Lliashatheny. “And have you spoken to any small people, and have you learned their ways, and have you lived among them, and have you understood them?”

    “I have spoken to them! I have learned their tongues with the The Spilling of the Speech and the Word-Fox and other such linguistic spells. I understand them as well as they understand themselves!”

    Lliashatheny clicked its claws together. “And do you understand me?”

    Jaraswat frowned at the ugly little thing. “I understand, at any rate, that you speak Grand Draconic and probably shouldn’t. I understand, at any rate, that the terms of your presence among us dictate that you must made your amusing little devices for those dragons who pay for it.” He shoved the box of diamonds and gold and wood over. “There, I have paid. Make me the wixio right now, and instruct me in the manner and subtlety of its use.”

    “The last price,” said Lliashatheny, undeterred, “is the price for owning it. The simple price and the great price it is, for the owning of the wixio is free. The but if you cease to own the wixio, you shall be destroyed.”

    Jaraswat glared. “What, it attaches itself to my spirit or my vô somehow, so that taking it from me rips my essence in two? How can you build as foolish and unsafe a device as that?”

    Lliashatheny shrugged. “Not anything of the sort, dragon. Not any connection, neither magical nor spiritual or any such thing. The day that you cease to own the wixio is the day that you will die. Not any sweet or honorable death either, but a woeful and deplorable one.”

    Jaraswat thought a moment. “I do not believe in this concept of causality without a causal mechanism. There may be some hidden force or entity enforcing such a fate. Still, I am a dragon, and fairly mighty even among my age-peers; I will match my prowess and cleverness against any such hidden force or entity, and, win or lose, it shall at least be an honorable contest. And if you are somehow correct, Lliashatheny, I daresay it shall be after a long and honor-filled life as one of the greatest scholars and scientists of all. Plus, of course, my own might and grandeur are sufficient to guard one magic item, or a equally whole hoard, so I do not expect that the wixio shall depart from my possession.

    Lliashatheny shrugged. “Many people will regret that I made it for you. Perhaps you will be one of them.”

    Jaraswat shrugged. “Perhaps.”

    Lliashatheny took the gullivasc wood to another room in his dome, and spun it on a lathe, and carved it with its claws. The wixio was a spindle, sized for a dragon to hold.

    Thursday, April 30th, 2015
    9:55 pm
    Jaraswat the Extremely Great Linguist (34/170)

    Jaraswat the Extremely Great Linguist

    I only met Jaraswat a few times. He has far better things to do than endure the company of mere royalty.

    Still, once in a while, he found it unavoidable. Such as at the banquet I held honoring the members of the now-named Hoven Royal Exploring Company. I transfixed him thoractically with a regal gaze, and, when he ignored that, I slithered over and stood in front of him with my head up until he couldn’t any more.

    He dipped his head. “Queen Jyothky. It is a narpań, as the Barabondo say in their native tongue, to meet you.”

    I cast the Word-Fox and asked it what a narpań is. Jaraswat smirked a bit, noticing me casting. But nobody around knew what the word meant, except for Jaraswat himself, who blocked my vulpine little spell.

    I answered in Grand Draconic. “Ah, you must be Jaraswat the highly reputationized linguist. It is a problem, as the astral dragons say in their native tongue, to understand you. At least if you insist on speaking Barabondo.”

    “Oh, could it be that you are unfamiliar with the Barabondo tribe, of Zelmary?” he said with a supercilious whiffle. “Remarkable. I published four papers on their language in the Transactions of the Royal Graulfnir Society of Sciences and Magics. Perhaps they were before your time. Anyhow, narpań expresses a peculiarly Barabondese form of good fortune, which may be loosely translated as that which arises when one encounters the younger degree of royalty. The corresponding word for the greater form being, of course, țablisṭica.

    “Remarkably apt, particularly since we don’t are have those multiple degrees of royalty,” I noted agreeably and ungrammatically. “And why do you have joined the Hoven Royal Exploring Company?”

    “My reasons are entirely chirric, I assure you,” he said.

    “I still am not speak Barabondo,” I said. “Unless you are for to use the an unusual adjectival form of ‘chir’, as in, one of the the native small people of Chiriact. Though it’s usually ‘chirrish’.”

    He frowned at my abuse of Grand Draconic. “I am a scientific linguist, not a grammarian. I will not be baited by any spurious verb forms or doubled articles you care to manufacture. However! I am now aware of your weakness in Barabondo, so I have switched to Dommor, which surely cannot be obscure to you. But again you appear not to understand. ‘Chirric’ refers to the spiritual heights achieved by the noble-spirited excellences.”

    “It must be wonderful to be such a noble-spirited excellence that your noble-spiritedness can only be expressed in such unclesticu tongues,” I said.

    But of course he had learned the language of the Dorday region of Trest, and probably every other tongue I could call up to tease him with. “I would hardly call Dommor unclesticu. While I admit that it hardly falls within the boundaries of Trest, it is neither foreign nor obscure on Hasqueth. Nor does any language have the connotations of supernatural horror that unclesticu suggests.”

    Annoying lizard! But correct in the details of his usage.

    “But what, specifically, are your chirric reasons for coming on this expedition?”

    “Oh, I should think it quite obvious. I have learned all the languages in the dragon-worlds, and acquired weft-maps of the greater number of them. For more tongues, I must sardoss, which, as the Harimengu say, is to adventure outside the familiar realms. And Osoth offered me the position of chief scientist, which is a moderate honor but an interesting one.”

    “You’re not an urning, then?” I asked.

    “Absolutely not. Disgusting creatures, urnings. Altogether blorrub,” said Jaraswat. I didn’t bother to get a translation of blorrub.

    Which was a surprising thing to hear, as Jaraswat’s name (and, if one were to trust rumors, his body) had been attached to more than one drake in the Royal Graulfnir Society of Sciences and Magics. Perhaps he just didn’t approve of actual marriage between drakes.

    “Well, don’t be too actively disgusted. The Hoven Royal Exploring Company is mostly urnings. As is the dragon population of Hove,” I said.

    “It certainly is a ḋordond place,” he said. After I glared at him, he explained that the Phềrtsnaåa people of Ionc use the word ḋordond for a wide variety of peculiar and repugnant matters, such as —

    “Bide a moment. It is clear that your lecture is of grave importance and must be met with all attention, but —” I said. I spotted Mr. Norb across the room, in the section for hovens, and made my way there. (Insult part 1: breaking off a conversation with a dragon to speak to a small person.)

    “Mr. Norb! I honor your upcoming participation in our upcoming expedition!” I said, in Trestean.

    “Well, the pay’s good,” said the massive hoven. “And I’ve been the sort of lad what always liked the science fiction stories. Going to another world by some mystery tunneling machine! And here I am, going to another world. Couldn’t be more exciting, even if I am going there to dig ditches. Or supervise zombies digging ditches anyhow.”

    “Sanitation ditches!” I said, loudly enough that Jaraswat could overhear. “Still, there may be a problem.”

    “A problem, ma’am?” he said, fidgeting one of the bands on with his unaccustomed formalwear.

    “Yes. We may have severely underestimated the size of the sanitation ditches needed. We assumed that all the dragons were ordinary large drakes, whose output is substantial enough. But some of the drakes are members of the Royal Graulfnir Society of Sciences and Magics, and their output is likely to be prodigious indeed.”

    “How many hogsheads per day are we talking here, ma’am?” said Mr. Norb, quiet and serious.

    “Best plan on five or six more,” I said. I have no idea how big a hogshead is. (I looked it up later on. It’s a large amount of wine, or a larger amount of beer, or a smaller amount of fortified wine. Only Mr. Norb and his secretive, silent, and smelly (due to being undead) guild know much it is of dragon droppings.)

    I never did quite make it back to Jaraswat to finish that conversation. Which is a complete and utter springiss, as the Kurbatic Mhorfs of Tweenimönde say. Or would say, if I hadn’t just made them up.

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    Tuesday, April 28th, 2015
    9:30 pm
    We do? (33/170)

    “But we wish to make one further request of you,” added Ngassith.

    “We do?” asked Hyxy, blinking at her mate.

    “We wish that you exile us from Hove for a period of a few years,” said Ngassith.

    “We do?” asked Hyxy, spreading her wings in alarm.

    “Do you want a vacation?” I asked. “You can travel without being exiled. You are not being bound to your new territory, forbidden to leave it. You can go where you will, as long as you don’t murder anyone.”

    “We would like to join your exploring company. This will serve you well. You get to add another aspect to our punishment when you explain it to hovens. We have useful skills: I am a treasure-mage, and Hyxy is a mighty warrior. For our purposes it works well too. It eases the loss of one territory if we are away when it happens. There may well be battles in the wilds between worlds, giving Hyxy a chance to exercise and satisfy her violent side. Any dishonor attendant on losing territory and requiring a royal reprimand will be forgotten in the aftermath of the exploring company. So you see that it is a matter of your royal mercy, and not a thing that we demand by right.”

    Hyxy’s eyes were glowing. “I didn’t think you were going to ask for it!”

    “I have no immediate answer for you. I certainly do not deny your petition, but neither do I approve it. I must consult the leaders of the exploring party. There are certain considerations to be considered. Will it be troublesome to have a dragoness around, in a party consisting largely of bachelor drakes, on an adventure which somewhat resembles a mating flight in purpose if not precisely in character?”

    “I won’t be twining with anyone but Ngassith,” said Hyxy.

    “Of course not,” I said. “Which is another issue — can Hove afford to lose its one and only non-adulterous married couple?” Which is not true, but worth laughter.

    Rather later, and in the middle of a long discussion of practicalities and participants, Osoth said, “Fourteenth. Hyxy and Ngassith. A strange and squamous sort of acceptance.”

    “What do you mean by that?” I asked.

    “I mean that they can come if they behave themselves in a specific way,” said Osoth. “No massacres of small people when we don’t need it. No public copulation. I would not deny that the expedition shares certain aspects of a mating flight, but the already-mated dragons and the determinedly-celibate dragons should not participate in those aspects. Hyxy and Ngassith can twine all they like, but they should not pennant their triumphant dragoness-and-drake-ness in the sky above the rest of us.”

    I scratched notes in my seventh wax tablet. “I will see if they can accept those terms.”

    They could.

    Sunday, April 26th, 2015
    9:16 pm
    We do? (32/170)

    Hyxy shuddered. “Well, not many dragons really understand how vile and unpleasant small people really are. Anyhow! A beach full of hovens who were seeking out and taking and collecting my (my) treasures! The treaties are careful to specify that hovens who steal a dragon’s hoard may be caught and dealt with as the dragon sees fit.”

    “Which was...?”

    Hyxy grinned at the memory. “Well, corrosion breath for most of them. A slow mist, so I could watch them become less disgusting.”

    “By ‘become less disgusting’ you mean ‘become more dead’?”

    “Yes! Exactly! Dead and dissolved, leaving only the bones! Dead and frozen, with the repugnant softness of their skin become tolerable hardness!” Hyxy roared.

    “Corrosion and cold. You have the right breath weapons for your tastes,” I said, because I am a sympathetic friend even when my friends are being horrid.

    “Oh, Ngassith’s fire breath is just as good. Crisped burnt small people are just as good.” said Hyxy.

    “Do Animals revolt you, or is it just Small People?” asked Tultamaan. “For I am contemplating the possibility of supplying you with herds of Cattle, or, if they can be Imported from Graulfnir, perhaps herds of Giant Slugs. You could destroy such things with perfect moral simplicity.”

    Hyxy shook her head. “Do these cattle and slugs talk, do they dress themselves, do they enjoy treasure, do they pretend to have honor and scholarship and power the way small people do? That is what is odious: they pretend to be like dragons. They are not dragons! They are a loathsome imitation!”

    Ngassith pointed out, “Strictly speaking, they are not imitating us. They developed their civilizations and powers before we came here.”

    Hyxy nipped his wing affectionately by way of response, and finished her episode. “Back to the beach where hovens were stealing my (my!) jaspers and silvers. I did what any self-respecting and treaty-abiding dragon would do in the face of thievery. None of them survived. I collected my jaspers and silvers, every one, and flew home.”

    I said, “I note that you picked jaspers and silvers, which are immune to one modality of your generally omnicorrosive breath, which was the modality you used. One might suspect that the whole incident was carefully scripted and staged.”

    Hyxy nodded. “One need not suspect. I planned scrupulously! I read the treaties! I took great pains to follow them precisely!”

    “True, which is why this is a royal court and not a court of law,” I said.

    Hyxy grinned. “May I continue to boast?” She could. She did, at length. She ended with, “And so my score is four hundred and eighteen or nineteen hovens, depending on whether that one in the hospital survived or not.”

    I turned to my advisor. “Tultamaan, please find out whether it lived or died. If it lived, I will go heal it.”

    “Noted,” he said. (It — he — had survived, and was restored to health by a couple of spells. The local authorities were able to find him a foster home after it became clear that he had the dragon queen’s favor. Which is some small and insufficient compensation.)

    I turned to my murderous friend. “Hyxy. We can’t have you slaughtering hovens. The exceptions in the treaty are intended —”

    ”— intended to cover hovens who creep into our homes and try to steal our hoards in some premeditated and intentional way. I know that.”

    I glared at her a bit. “I am going to acquire draconic lawyers at great expense from Chiriact, and put together a law code for Hove. It will protect small people from you, even if our treaties with the small people don’t.”

    Hyxy shrugged. “I’ll follow your silly laws.”

    “You will also be paying for the lawyers. I am confiscating your stipend until the lawyers are paid for. Expect that to take three to five years.”

    Hyxy shrugged. “I’ll pay for your silly laws.”

    “And I am taking Varna Varfla from you. You have shown that you can’t care for it properly, so you can’t have it.”

    Hyxy reared her head, and dripped a bit of slime from her mouth that scored the floor. “What, you’ll give territories to drakes-on-drakes, but not me?”

    “You will have territory. Larger than your current territory, even. The Great Kavobma Swales, and the adjoining mountain ranges.” I had had my hoven staff prepare a map on a great sheet of thick plastic, with the new territory outlined in red. “There. It’s a huge territory, but some of the harshest land on Hove. Frozen mountains, deep swamps, and a few algae-clogged lakes and cold conifer forests. Not many hovens live there. We drew the borders to exclude all the towns. One special requirement: Arilash likes this mountain range, so you have to share.”

    “As long as I’m not sharing Ngassith!” said Hyxy.

    “Arilash holds no appeal for me compared to you,” said Ngassith. “And I would share any territory with you no matter how horrid, or none at all, so long as I could be your husband.” The two nuzzled lovingly, a bit.

    I said, “And another special edict for you, Hyxy. You and Ngassith are not personally allowed to enforce our treaties, without my direct permission. If hovens are stealing from you, or even trying to kill you, you must acquire another dragon to take care of the matter.”

    Hyxy drooped against Ngassith. “About what I expected. Ngassith, get your hemipenises ready. I’m going to be bored.”

    I chuckled. “I will still call on you when I have hovens to kill! Once in a while some country still attacks another.”

    “Yeah, how long will that go on?” Hyxy grumbled.

    “A few duodecades, if other worlds are any guide,” I said.

    Ngassith arched his head up. “O great queen, we accept your judgment and your punishment for our carefully crafted non-crime. We do not dispute it, we do not appeal for mercy or special considerations.”

    “Actually, didn’t you design it to be pretty much all mercy? You picked the kind of terrain and climate I (I) like best. And it’s better that it’s not crawling with icky hovens. And you didn’t even garnishee Ngassith’s allowance, just mine,” said Hyxy.

    “Ngassith didn’t do anything,” I said. (Except for not stopping her.) “But yes, I am trying to prevent future massacres and give the hovens the appearance of justice being done. Making you miserable is not required.”

    “But we wish to make one further request of you,” added Ngassith.

    “We do?” asked Hyxy, blinking at her mate.

    Thursday, April 23rd, 2015
    10:17 pm
    Surprise 2 (31/170)

    Hyxy listened to my sociological scolding quietly. At the end she said, “I have followed all of your laws to the letter.”

    I nodded grimly. “Yes, you have followed them to the letter. But you are a devious and wicked little monster — I mean that in a respectful, even awed, sense — and you have enjoyed some little massacres in ways that do not break the letter of the law.”

    Hyxy cocked her head. “But you imply that they break the spirit of the law, and that you want to punish me for them.”

    “Hyxy, I don’t want to punish you. I am going to punish you because I need to, or the Insidious Insinuation will fail and we’ll have to work much harder conquering the place and have a miserable gross-years or two before Hove is properly pacified.” (I would phrase that differently to my hoven friends, who don’t want to be conquered and don’t think that any pacification would be proper.) “Anyhow, would you do me the favor of detailing your various massacres, and how you make them lawful, and I will smile at your cleverness, and try to figure out what to do with you.” (I already knew what I was going to do with her.)

    Hyxy laughed, short and bitter. “You already know what you are going to do with me.”

    Tultamaan flicked his tail, swatting Ngassith in the side. “The Form of the occasion demands a Confession. Or, if you prefer not to Confess, since we are not accusing you of Crimes, you may Boast. Or, if even that does not Suit your Whimsical Fancy, you may keep your muzzle shut and the rest of us will Speak of these Events in Considerably Disapproving Tones.”

    “I’ll boast,” said Hyxy. “It so happens that my hoard contains a large number of jasper stones and silver coins. I know these are my jasper stones and my silver coins, because I sprinkled them with tincture of erumathia, imported from Hasqueth, and there is nothing at all on Hove that smells like tincture of erumathia.”

    “Why do you sprinkle them with tincture of erumathia?” I asked.

    “So I can tell unambiguously in a court of truth that they are my jasper stones and my silver coins, of course,” said Hyxy. “Also, seriously, they are cheap jaspers and silvers, which are hardly the best part of a hoard without some sort of aesthetic improvement. Anyhow, I then took a big double pawful of my (my) jaspers and silvers out for a fly. Jaspers and silvers look rather better by sunlight, even from Hove’s ridiculous suns. Actually I sometimes do that without any extra reason! Don’t you?”

    “No,” said Tultamaan. “I would never Imagine such a Passtime. I could not Grasp nor Hold the treasures with my useless forepaws.”

    Hyxy glared at him. “That, and you’d rather complain than enjoy treasure. I (I) like my treasure. So I flew to Vlurting Bay, in my territory, where there is a pleasant beach. White sand, blood-red sea-wrack lapping up on it, dead giant jellyfish here and there. In the hours of Eclipse, it is empty. I inspected it carefully: no hovens, no jaspers, and no silvers did it hold. I scattered my treasures on the sand in artful loops, and flew to the top of Vomorzen to wait for the brightest sun to come out of eclipse so I could enjoy them. I did tuck my head under my wing for a nap in a copse of thick trees, seriously.”

    “I would not doubt your given word,” I said, “and certainly not about a nap.”

    “Three hours later, or maybe four, I woke up. Eclipse was long over. The hovens had come back to the beach. Dozens of them, disgusting things! Crawling and pullulating all over the beach! And it so happened that they were picking up jaspers and silvers, right in their greedy slimy hands. My (my) jaspers and silvers! Which I could identify by means of the sprinkled tincture, so there is no ambiguity about the situation. None!”

    I chuckled. “I accept that the hovens were picking up your treasures, the treasures that you had scattered on the beach and carefully marked as yours just as if you expected something of the sort. I don’t accept that hovens are disgusting.”

    Hyxy shuddered. “Well, not many dragons really understand how vile and unpleasant small people really are. Anyhow! A beach full of hovens who were seeking out and taking and collecting my (my) treasures! The treaties are careful to specify that hovens who steal a dragon’s hoard may be caught and dealt with as the dragon sees fit.”

    “Which was...?”

    Hyxy grinned at the memory. “Well, corrosion breath for most of them. A slow mist, so I could watch them become less disgusting.”

    “By ‘become less disgusting’ you mean ‘become more dead’?”

    Tuesday, April 21st, 2015
    10:41 pm
    A Surprise of Hyxy and Ngassith (30/170)

    A Surprise of Hyxy and Ngassith

    I hadn’t intended any married couples or females for the Royal Name-Needing Exploring Company. They are married, after all, or could be if they wanted to be.

    Hyxy was a different problem. Hyxy is a candidate for the title of Smallest Dragoness On Hove. (I am too, although my circumference probably disqualifies me.) Unlike the other candidate, Hyxy is a nimble and ferocious warrior, quite the match for a drake half again her size. Her twin breath weapons, ice and a deadly corrosive poison, have slain more hovens than any dragonfire. She is also my friend and supporter. When the question arose about who should rule Hove, or Hove’s dragons at any rate, Hyxy and Ngassith split up, with Hyxy fighting for me. I rewarded her with the splendid large territory of Varna Varfla, from the great hoven city of Varnoic to the Avernigian Sea and the endless Kivarnis swamps. Hyxy loves swamps.

    Hyxy and Ngassith are a very sweet couple, to each other and to dragons generally. They are quite happy and cheerful, and enjoying a few duodecades of each other and wealth and territory before they start the troublesome business of hatching eggs and hoping against hope that their children survive the Great Separation.

    As her queen and her friend, it was incumbent upon me to spoil her happiness.

    She knew it, too. Her brick-red head darted left and right, as if I were going to have a pair of very large drakes leap at her from the walls and rip pieces out of her. I probably should have: it would have been simpler and over faster. Except that, being Hyxy, she would have damaged the drakes just as much as they damaged her. And doubtless wrecked the Deemworth-Horthumple Trans-Shipping Station, the smallest of my warehouse/courtrooms and the one just across the Avernigian Sea from Varna Varfla. Not that that would be much of a loss: two gross pounds of smouldering lamb’s-wrath and paradise-pine couldn’t cover up the stink of old machinery and oil.

    “Hyxy, you know why I’ve called you here, and why we are being all formal about everything,” I said. Wings ⅙-spread, tail coiled around my paws, to say that I was not personally insulted by her actions, but was acting under the force of the duties of my office.

    “I do,” she answered.

    Tultamaan shook his head. “That is not Appropriate. It is how things are done in the Butt-Ends of Cozy Caverns in which Wicked Rulers arrange the laws with their Evil Cronies in ways that let the Evil Cronies spew all sorts of Alarming Wickednesses out upon everyone and sundry. I do not particularly care about Hyxy’s victims, but I do care that the dragons on Hove shall measure up to all the traditional standards of the Elder Dragon-Worlds in all the ways we can. There are enough Perversions here. We do not need to pervert the Laws and Legal Customs as well.”

    Ngassith glared at Tultamaan. Tultamaan shrugged at Ngassith. I crashed my wings together, making everyone else wince. “Right. Hyxy, I have called you here because you have bitten several of our treaties with the hovens. To remind you, we do not rule Hove as your parents ruled the hasque on Hasqueth, or as mine ruled the mhelvul on Mhel. We did not conquer Hove, not exactly, and we do not own it or even occupy it as far as the natives are concerned — and as far as we are concerned as well! We have treaties with nearly all the countries of Hove. We destroy any invaders of our countries, including other countries, mind-controlling worms, and certain internal troubles as well. In exchange, we are given a certain sum of money annually, the ability to change their laws within certain limits, and various assorted rights and privileges that mostly amount to us being allowed to partition out Hove as draconic territories that overlap the hoven countries.

    “Territories don’t replace hoven countries, I say. They overlap, they coexist. It is as if we rule the sky, and they rule the land. For the most part we do not exist for their purposes, and they do not exist for ours. Unlike on Hasqueth, unlike on Mhel and Chiriact and Graulfnir — but like on Yyrclarian — we exploit Hove by the subtle method of Insidious Insinuation. We cause the hovens to rely on us for various things they cannot provide to themselves, like peace, magical healing, and melting of mountains. They pay well for that, and we use those fees to buy ourselves all manner of comforts and luxuries.

    “Now. This works well if they are generally well-disposed towards us. It works less well if they hate us. For which reason we accept certain limitations on our own behavior. We do not, for instance, use travel spells which crease the sky and wreck hoven airplanes and zeppelins in flight. We do not snatch farm animals, eat them, and fly off; we leave accounting information so that the farmer can get paid. And we do not kill hovens unless they are actively committing crimes against us, or the close associates of hovens who have attempted to kill us, or who have attacked hovens under our protection.”

    Hyxy listened to my sociological scolding quietly. At the end she said, “I have followed all of your laws to the letter.”

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    Sunday, April 19th, 2015
    10:22 pm
    Economics of Osoth (11) (29/170)

    “Well, I think getting you and Arilash into separate worlds would make everyone happier. For my own part, I fear that my government will fall apart without the constant stream of insults and contempt for everyone at all and especially yourself. But without your insightful explanations and political advice, I should be a great deal happier. Oh, you wish to frown! Did I get that backwards again? Anyhow, Osoth decides who goes with him and who does what, but I shall support your application.”

    “Thank you.”

    Rather later, in and in the middle of a long discussion of practicalities and participants, Osoth said, “Eleventh. Tultamaan. I don’t suppose he’s making some sort of peculiar and oblique jest against all of us?”

    “No, not at all. He’s quite serious.”

    “He and I have barely spoken since he stormed out of the mating flight so many years ago. I suppose this long run of good fortune must come to an end. He has been your advisor, correct? Not your lover, just your advisor?”

    “I have a very small set of lovers, and you know who all of them are,” I snapped. He is the only one that I might keep on as a lover after my doctor says I am sufficiently fertilized, and that only because of an alliance between Nrararn and Osoth when they were due to lose the mating flight.

    “I intend no offense! I simply note that anyone who is twining with Tultamaan probably does not want the fact to be widely known. He is a good advisor?”

    “He is rarely wrong. Once in a rare while some dragon or other surprises him by being less cynical, wicked, arrogant, cruel, or self-centered than Tultamaan expects. Actually Csirnis constantly baffles him, and I try to, too. He hates and fears everything, and expects any event to rebound surprisingly against him. This is just what you want your Master of the Defenses to expect. I can’t imagine a dragon who would do better at the job. We’re mostly sure that our might and magic can overcome any, say, cyoziworm, twistor blast, undead god, or rebellion of small people.”

    He knew what I meant by that list: dragons alone had not precisely won against any of those things, on Hove. “I am persuaded to allow him along. I suppose that, if he gets too annoying, I can cram zombie centipedes into my ears.”

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