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

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Sunday, August 7th, 2016
6:22 pm
Tuesday, April 5th, 2016
9:13 pm
Next?
So, next — I don't have any more Mating Flight / astral dragon books ready to go. I could serialize the novella "Pawns of the Robot Goddess", which is pretty decent except that I am not nearly mean enough to the characters. Or … Is anyone actually reading this thing, anyways? Email me (bard.bloom@gmail.com) if you want to see more of my works as free serials.
Thursday, March 31st, 2016
9:27 pm
The Final Judgment

The Final Judgment

“Well, that didn’t go nearly as badly as I was expecting,” said Quel Quen, when all things had been discussed and analyzed and understood. “When are the survivors going back out?”

(They mostly weren’t. But we had sixty-eight applicants for the next expedition, when they saw that it actually was a chance for honor and marriage.)

The End

Support this project! Show that you’re reading it by exchanging notes with the characters, other readers, the writer, and occasional other entities at sythyry.livejournal.com. And/or buy Bard Bloom’s books on Amazon, especially Mating Flight and World in My Claws, the prequel to this story. Also: Glossary and Dramatis Personae.
Wednesday, March 30th, 2016
10:44 pm
Romance among Drakes

Romance among Drakes



Mirinxan found Vaareng alone on a hilltop, eating a large breath-broiled beast.

“Vaareng!” he called, circling above him. “I have for you a question!”

Vaareng looked up. “Perhaps I will have an answer for it, and perhaps not.”

“You will, for the question is this — will you marry me?” demanded Mirinxan. Such is romance among drakes.(º)

(º) Most of my readers and informants demanded that I take that sentence out, or modify it considerably. Instead I provide this footnote, stating that, in fact, romance among drakes is a highly variable topic.

“What? Why?” burbled Vaareng, failing to find a good answer.

“Because you are the most handsome and horny of the three dragons I am stranded here with, and the other two have pretty much decided to get married to each other. Plus you and I have some history working out romantic issues already.”

Vaareng thought a moment. “I was under the impression you didn’t like me very much.”

Mirinxan shrugged. “I didn’t. You are vain and stupid. You are also pretty, teachable, and — this is exceedingly important — available. For my part I am pretty, able to teach, and available, and more or less your only choice unless you want to twine with eleg. And, as they have exclusive pair-bonds, you would have to marry one.”

“I suppose that’s true. I imagine I could get used to you as a wi…a husband. I like you better than Meliavras, the dragoness I was expecting to win in my mating flight. And we have some practice in tolerating each other. Just don’t try to win any more sapphires off of me! They’ll be coming out of your own hoard too.”

Mirinxan laughed, more intently than the shared joke called for. “And you are not wholly vain or wholly stupid, especially compared to the eleg.”

“Oh, Driaith used the same methods on me that we are using on the eleg,” said Vaareng.

”… But we are instituting a selective breeding program on the eleg,” said Mirinxan.

“Exactly!” cried Vaareng. “Now come here this instant and selectively breed with me!”

“Oh!” said Mirinxan, and complied.



Aftermath

As of now (about six standard years later), they’re still a mated couple, and treating each other rather like a normal husband and wife of six years. Normal draconic ones, of course. They are learning to enjoy each others’ non-copulatory company in small doses, and they have been practicing fighting side by side in much detail. Not that there’s much for dragons to fight on Eleer.





Support this project! Show that you’re reading it by exchanging notes with the
characters, other readers, the writer, and occasional other entities at
sythyry.livejournal.com. And/or buy Bard Bloom’s books on Amazon,
especially Mating
Flight

and World
in My Claws
, the prequel to this story.
Also: Glossary
and Dramatis Personae.
Tuesday, March 29th, 2016
8:49 pm
Breeding Program

Breeding Program

“The eleg are stupid,” said Nrusco.

“This has been noticed already,” said Vaareng. “Your simple proclamation does not do justice to the full matter. The eleg are not simply stupid. They are voluminously stupid, fluorescently stupid, pyroclastically stupid.”

“Yet they have invented bows and arrows, sewing, and basic agriculture,” said Nrusco.

“They have achieved the barest minimum of technology that one could achieve and be considered to have any technology at all,” said Vaareng.

“But they are too stupid to do so,” said Nrusco.

“What? Are you saying that some off-world power came and taught them these things? And, being too stupid, they forgot to mythologize it? Or are you saying that they used to be smarter but degenerated somehow?” cried Vaareng.

“Those are possible, I suppose. More likely, the occasional eleg is born somewhat smarter than the others, by chance, and invents a thing,” said Nrusco.

“Ah. But would not the inexorable process of evolution quickly concentrate and amplify their intellect?”

“Only if it were a reproductive advantage to be smart. Given that eleg seem to form exclusive pair bonds, it is not clear that a bit of intellect helps them reproduce. So evolution has no wind to ride,” said Nrusco.

“A pity. They are horrible company,” said Vaareng.

“We could provide it a wind. We could, say, kill off the stupidest of the adults. We could provide healing only for the smartest. We could institute a program of selective breeding, where the smartest marry the smartest, and the stupidest are sterilized,” said Nrusco.

“This would take quite a long time to work,” said Vaareng.

“We are going to be here for quite a long time,” said Nrusco. “We might as well do something that could give us some long-term benefit.”

“Very well. I shall do my part in this cultivation of the eleg!” cried Vaareng.

Ethical Considerations of Selective Breeding

There are serious ethical issues involved in doing a large-scale selective breeding program of intelligent persons. Especially killing off the stupidest ones. (Practical considerations too — I never got a good answer about how they measured intelligence. Badly, probably: it’s a slippery thing to measure under the best of circumstances, and their circumstances are close to the worst.)

But if the four drakes ever thought about the ethical issues, or considered for a moment that mass slaughter of the idiots was a matter one might reasonably have second thoughts about, they never told me, even when I asked directly.

Nor did most draconic readers of early drafts of this text. Csirnis and Itharieth did, of course, and Nrararn too, for which I am surprised and delighted.

But on the whole we are a vicious and horrible species. Me as much as any other dragon.

Support this project! Show that you’re reading it by exchanging notes with the characters, other readers, the writer, and occasional other entities at sythyry.livejournal.com. And/or buy Bard Bloom’s books on Amazon, especially Mating Flight and World in My Claws, the prequel to this story. Also: Glossary and Dramatis Personae.
Monday, March 28th, 2016
6:47 am
Stranded On Eleer, 2

“So we are agreed, that we shall conquer Eleer and rule it, as four equal kings, each with primacy over a quarter of the world in case disputes arise,” said Vaareng in summary. The other three ¼-spread their wings in assent. Vaareng, the least artful of the four, had been chosen as the chairdrake by universal (viz. fourfold) acclamation.

So, how to do that?

“The eleg are stupid, weak-minded, weak-willed. Let us simply alight in a village — any village — Cwukment is near to hand and will serve. We proclaim that we rule Cwukment and all Eleer. Then we see what challenges arise against us, and defeat them. Probably with a sneeze of breath or a flick of the tail,” said Vaareng.

“As our chairdrake, we grant you the honor of doing so first,” said Mirinxan, who knew Vaareng’s weaknesses well.

“I shall do so, triumphantly!” cried Vaareng, and took wing for Cwukment.

Cwukment was a circle of sod huts where eleg families lived. In the center of the circle are a few more sod huts, built as large as sod huts can be built: storehouses, leatherworks, stoneworks, millery, shrine, and the village hall where meetings are held and all important matters decided. So at the start of the work-shift (Eleer’s linear sun is not useful for chopping time into days), Vaareng landed in his full drakely glory next to the village hall, and roared out, “Eleg, come forth!”

Which certainly got him a substantial audience of grosses of eleg in a matter of minutes.

Vaareng explained to his new subjects, “I am a dragon,” There is no eleg word for dragon, so he said it Petty Draconic. “A mighty creature from beyond the sky, one of four who have come to Eleer. We hereby declare that we are the rulers of your world. You shall do us homage, and obey us. We will raise you up from your simple and rude way of living, and you shall become noble and glorious and in all ways fit to be our subjects!”

The eleg peered at him, perplexed.

Vaareng tried again. “I am a dragon. My brothers and I rule Eleer. You are our subjects. You must obey us and honor us. We will treat you well and make you great.”

The eleg peered at him some more. (I never got a clear description of what the eleg look like, beyond “They’re Basic Bipeds and not very interesting to see.” (They smell incredible, by the way. They communicate by scent as much as by language, and their scent-repertoire has a gross of basic notes and endless variations and combinations. Dragons can perceive all these scents. We do not have the instinctive understanding of them that eleg have, though the Word-Fox can explain them. We can only produce them by means of illusion spells or other artifice, and not easily.))

Vaareng tried once more. “I am a dragon. I rule you now.”

The eleg yelped, finally understanding him. (Honestly the eleg are not quite as stupid as this makes them seem. They communicate by scent as much as sound. Vaareng was not puffing forth a vapor that foundationed his words. His actual scent, of proud and excited drake, was incomprehensible to the eleg; the most they could get out of it was some perplexing gibberish involving horseshoe crabs, concern for carnivores seeing out fertilized eggs, and perhaps something about milling.)

“Ah, you are a dragon. You rule us now,” said the eleg, and started filing into their village hall.

“Wait, where are you going?” demanded Vaareng.

“This is a matter for the village,” said an eleg.

Vaareng, having no particular idea what might be going on, let them process, discuss, and recess back into the square. It took a small fraction of an hour. The eleg announced to him, “You are not a dragon. You do not rule us now.” They started going back to their ordinary lives of farming, stonework, milling, leatherwork, and so on.

Vaareng picked up one at random. “I am mighty! I am a vast and powerful monster, I could crush you or bite you and make you die! I command powers that could burn Cwukment to ashes in a moment, without effort! You must surrender before me, or I will destroy you!”

The eleg looked perplexed.

Vaareng tried again. “Obey, or I will kill you.”

The eleg smelled complicated. Vaareng used the Word-Fox: fear, of course; denial, an urgent need to do ordinary chores, a resigned assertion that things must never change.

Vaareng sneered, “Last chance.”

The captive eleg thrashed miserably.

Vaareng bit its left ear off.

“I obey now!” wailed the eleg. “What must I do?”

Vaareng had no good answer for that.

Cwukment collectively decided that, while Vaareng did not rule the village, he would punish anyone who disobeyed him, so obedience was perhaps a good approach.

Support this project! Show that you’re reading it by exchanging notes with the characters, other readers, the writer, and occasional other entities at sythyry.livejournal.com. And/or buy Bard Bloom’s books on Amazon, especially Mating Flight and World in My Claws, the prequel to this story. Also: Glossary and Dramatis Personae.
Thursday, March 24th, 2016
9:33 pm
Stranded on Eleer

Stranded on Eleer

«I have terrible news for you,» I told Vaareng. «A vast monster arose and destroyed the base camp. Two dragons are dead, and the rest are fled back to Hove. And the portals are destroyed: you are stranded on Eleer.»

Vaareng had a great deal to say about that. To his credit, he started with, «What of Driaith?»

«Driaith is unhurt, and on Hove. Borybran and Jaraswat are dead, or close enough.»

The rest of his conversation was not worth recording. Then he told Mirinxan, Xilobrax, and Nrusco, each of whom wanted to express their opinions of the situation to me. I regret to say that these opinions were not entirely and uniformly pleased.

After a few weeks they calmed down, and decided to make the most of their predicament by conquering and ruling the best part of Eleer.

Eleer is a Predictable Platelet, a barely-tilted plane (loosely 1/12th of a degree) two hundred and fourteen thousand miles in diameter. One of the largest we saw, which alone made it worth having six dragons out exploring it. The linear sun which twirled in the sky above it had a delightful lluyew. The air was fresh and clean, and full of vast numbers of tasty birds. The greater part of the landscape was low hills or cute mountains, nicely forested (with giant ferns and herbs — the local botany had not discovered lignum, and thus there was nothing tree-like.)

The eleg themselves were the main rot in the roast. They are not too bright.

To be sure, they are smarter than any other native thing living on Eleer. And they are quite smart enough to set up little farming villages, to fight off all the predators with their spears and clubs and arrows, to sew animal hides or the big leathery leaves of the iẋops plants into clothing. Most small people spend a few gross-years at this degree of technology before clumping up into cities, inventing monumental architecture and writing and mathematics and law codes and musical scales and religion and beer-making and all the things that transform life from a way to pass the time until death into a vibrant and civilized experience. Or an amazing pit of misery, if you’re the wrong person. Civilized societies rarely manage to be kind.

The eleg, at least, managed to be kind. They had lived in their little villages for grand-years, lots of them — grosses of them, maybe.

Which is not precisely true. Once in a while some quirk of the weather or seeds gave them enough extra food in one place to multiply and have a village grow to a little city in size. That sort of thing was enough for chirs or hovens or other typically-bright small people to invent civilization. The eleg didn’t invent anything. They just blinked in confusion as their ill-placed latrines spread diseases, as their government-by-universal-agreement could never get universal agreement and never made anything happen, as the luck that had given them a good harvest vanished and their city starved back to village size.

Support this project! Show that you’re reading it by exchanging notes with the characters, other readers, the writer, and occasional other entities at sythyry.livejournal.com. And/or buy Bard Bloom’s books on Amazon, especially Mating Flight and World in My Claws, the prequel to this story. Also: Glossary and Dramatis Personae.
Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016
9:09 pm
The Obvious Arrangement

The Obvious Arrangement

Itharieth and Psajathrion were flying wings-and-wings over the Khamrou mountains on Trest.

And Itharieth said, “I have a request to make of you, Psajathrion, and I hope you will not take it amiss. For it is a request with some difficulties and complexities attached to it. Not just attached to its granting, by the Lermon’s sermons! To the asking as well!”

“Well, if it is the sort of request which induces the scale-boil, I know how to prepare an ointment quite effective against it. And if it is the sort of request which scores the tongue of the requester, I have excellent healing-spells as well. And if it is the sort of request which summons a flying turnip-demon from the Realm of Excessive Dread, why, then, you shall attack it from the right, and I from the left, and we will fight it off as best we may, or die together trying.” The last few clauses as much as say that Psajathrion knew what Itharieth was going to ask, and would assent to it.

“Well, ahem, yes,” said Itharieth, presumably much heartened. “You and I have made somewhat a passtime or recreation of tending, informally, to the lives of the small people in this or that world. I wonder if you would be at all interested in a more formal arrangement by which we would assume responsibility, in the eyes of dragons at least, for some moderate region of Hove. They have a number of fascinating endemic biomedical concerns, you know — of which those mind-controlling parasitic worms must be reckoned first.”

“The prospect holds a considerable scientific and medical interest to me, I will say! But how would we get such a territory?” asked Psajathrion, just as if he had no clue about the answer.

“Well, there is only one reasonable way, by Jyothky’s riothkee!” (I don’t have one.) “And that is if we should marry ourselves to one another,” said Itharieth.

“H’m. Did you say ‘marry’, Ithareith? You are aware, I trust, that we are both drakes, and in any event we have not been on a mating flight together?” said Psajathrion.

“What? No, no — by which of course I mean yes — that is — Hoven customs — and the exploring company!” blithered Itharieth.

“Yes, precisely. How could I forget such things? Yes, I shall marry you, Itharieth,” said Psajathrion.

And the ceremony was performed about two months later. I gave them as territory a large slice of Damma, complete with eleven quite diverse ecologies and any number of unpleasant indigenous diseases. That should keep them happy for a few gross-years.

Everyone has asked me if Itharieth and Psajathrion are lovers.

So I asked them, “Are you lovers?”

“We have nothing exceptional to report in that regard,” said Psajathrion.

“By the Skyandrope’s plyanthrope, the situation is arranged quite as we wish it!” exclaimed Itharieth.

“But everyone is asking me what the details of that arrangement are,” I said.

“I imagine you explain to them that you do not know,” said Itharieth.

“I do! And they uniformly demand that I put to you the question,” I said.

“And of course the Queen of the Dragons of Hove holds her office largely to satisfy the prurient — or imprurient, as the case may be — interests of her subjects,” said Itharieth.

“Well, I admit that I am curious as well.”

Psajathrion ⅓-spread his wings. “Excellent.”

“Excellent?” I asked.

“Curiousity indicates a continued vitality of the higher and more abstract regions of the psyche,” said Psajathrion.

“And it would be a poor act of medicine if your curiosity were extinguished, by the Glycolisist’s psychologist! Fortunately Psajathrion is an excellent physician, and, for such professional reasons, will do nothing of the sort!” added his husband.

So I don’t know if their marriage involves any sort of copulation or body-play, or not. But they certainly cooperate quite well, and love each other quite well too.

Support this project! Show that you’re reading it by exchanging notes with the characters, other readers, the writer, and occasional other entities at sythyry.livejournal.com. And/or buy Bard Bloom’s books on Amazon, especially Mating Flight and World in My Claws, the prequel to this story. Also: Glossary and Dramatis Personae.
Sunday, March 20th, 2016
9:42 pm
The Restoration of Ystron-Mhavrieth

The Restoration of Ystron-Mhavrieth

When Jaraswat’s crate was unpacked, a small and well-shielded niobium casket proved to contain a dragon-shaped sweater with a grand of neck-holes indicating as many languages spoken. There was no further information on it, but whose could it be but Jaraswat’s vanished student Ystron-Mhavrieth?

And where could Ystron-Mhavrieth be?

Tultamaan interviewed Lhury, the detective who had investigated Ystron-Mhavrieth’s vanishment.

“I understand that the Evidence you found was Incomplete. It was Inferior. It was not All It Might Be. If it were a dragon, it would be Myself,” said Tultamaan.

“Yes. Exactly,” snapped Lhury.

“Might further Evidence be of Any Use to the Investigation that is surely Ongoing?”

“There is no ongoing investigation. Nobody cares anymore what became of some unwise perverted bachelor drake who plotted against his mentor,” said Lhury. “Nor should they.”

“As it happens, Bachelor Drakes are the citizens of the world I have the Honor to call Home. The more Perverted and Unwise, it seems, the Better. From which you may Conclude whatever you Like. Well, Jaraswat is Dead or Gone Forever, or perhaps both at once. So it is About time to collect Ystron-Mhavrieth.”

“Dead, you say?” Lhury glared at Tultamaan with the painful glare that some light-breathing dragons develop. “Tell me of the circumstances of his death, and the evidence.”

So Tultamaan did, though he somehow minimized his own role in the affair and left off the other dragons’ names.

“I shan’t re-open the investigation. It was futile before, and after such time has passed, it shall be more futile,” snapped Lhury.

“Then you must have no further Need of any records or other Notes you may have taken during the investigation,” said Tultamaan, who had probably plotted the whole conversation. “So there is no Obstacle to providing me with them.”

“I suppose not,” snapped Lhury. “Here, take them, and pester me no more about one of my rare failures in detection!”

Lhury’s notes and clues were meagre enough. The greatest dragon detective was not much of a detective.

Tultamaan was more of one. He reasoned that Jaraswat would likely have put Ystron-Mhavrieth into some uninhabited world — uninhabited by dragons at least — or else Ystron-Mhavrieth would have been found long since. This could have been wrong in various ways: there are binding-spells and secret vaults, and disintegration-spells for that matter. But we do not think Jaraswat had mastered such potent magics. Basic travel spells are far more routine.

So, then, what non-dragon worlds would Jaraswat have been able to get reach-scales for? That was a small number indeed, for reach-scales to non-dragon worlds are rarely kept. Lhury’s investigation was not so cursory as to leave off tracking Jaraswat’s movements in the weeks before the vanishment, and Jaraswat did visit the Auxiliary Archives of the Royal Graulfnir Society of Sciences and Magics — and again in the week after the vanishment.

Which, when Tultamaan explored it, proved to be a large shed full of an assortment of scientific and magical detritus insufficiently interesting to be presented in the official Archives of that noble Society. It is catalogued unenthusiastically by some second-rate and severely bored graulf archivists. The visit of a dragon investigating a famous unsolved crime woke them up, and they tracked down the four reach-scales present in the Auxiliary Archives. One of them was in a distinctly claw-raked wooden box, scarred as if a dragon had clumsily tried to open it. Tultamaan started with that, and ended with that, too.

Tomblero, so designated by one of the few dragons who chose to visit it, is a Basic Ball in the middle of an ice age. It is cold. It is not wholly uninhabitable. The equatorial sea, unfrozen, supports a quite healthy ecosystem of fishes and octopoids. The scattering of un-iced islands and corner of a continent support a classical ecology of tall leafy trees and large fish-eating lizards.

One of whom was the delinguisticated Ystron-Mhavrieth, whom Tultamaan duly relinguisticated.

We have two rather divergent stories of what happened after that. Ystron-Mhavrieth simply says that he thanked Tultamaan with all the dignity and honor one gives to a drake who has just rescued one from a terrible fate. Tultamaan says that Ystron-Mhavrieth offered Certain One-Sided Erotic Recreations, and if he (Tultamaan) were going to indulge himself with drakes, he has far closer friends and former colleagues in the Expedition that he would ask first.

Ystron-Mhavrieth did move to Hove — where else? — and spent a great long while trading Jaraswat stories and semen with certain survivors of the company.

Support this project! Show that you’re reading it by exchanging notes with the characters, other readers, the writer, and occasional other entities at sythyry.livejournal.com. And/or buy Bard Bloom’s books on Amazon, especially Mating Flight and World in My Claws, the prequel to this story. Also: Glossary and Dramatis Personae.
Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
10:29 pm
The Restoral of Kurbin-da-Brodief 2

Kurbin-da-Brodief was kept in a small cell, with no amenities or recreations, “Not even a bucket for excretion; she did not use it. We need to hose the cell out every day, and her too. We use warm water scented with the season’s flowers, we are not cruel about it. She seems to enjoy it.” Kurbin herself was ill-made for a chir, her carapace unpainted, her fur long and messy, her tail lashing around rather than held in a caste-appropriate attitude. She shrank away from the sight of the dragon.

Itharieth produced the two-necked chir-shaped sweater that had been made from her. Kurbin lunged for it, reaching between the wooden slats of her cell, trying to snatch it from his forepaw. “Odd that lacking all chir manners, she accepts a gift with good draconic manners. Or none at all. Hard to tell those apart sometimes…”

He relinquished the sweater to her, and she threw herself into it in a passion. It merged immaterially with her flesh, so that her chitin looked somehow fuzzy, but was smooth to the touch. “I have words again — What happened to me? I did not follow any pink mushrooms, the moon was not fogged.”

“A former colleague of mine compelled you to sleep, then stole much of your mind. We have, at length, punished him for his misdeeds, and are repairing what I can.”

She made obeisance to him, in the forms that all chirs are taught in the first year of their gradeschool. (All small people on all dragon-worlds, though the form varies from world to world. On my birth-world Mhel, classes practice every other day in front of a glittering paper-mâché monster, made annually by the fifth-form art students.)

Then she looked at herself. “Ah, I have become old.”

The prison-master dipped her head. “It is such-and-such a year, in the season of insect-hatching.”

“Ah! I have missed half my life, then, and spent it naked and in prison.”

“I summon garments for you; you are free to go,” said a tribal official.

“My fiancé, my sister, my cult-twins … ?”

“Your fiancé married a woman of the Telebondo two years after you were … robbed. Your sister owns a bakery on the central square, and eleven slaves to tend it. I myself am your cult-twin Nirwanth-ere-Chakts, now fifteen degree in the cult and considerably older and fatter than I was during our initiation, and eager to give you all the purifications and elevations you have missed,” said another.

“Oh, Nirwanth!” she cried, and the two embraced dearly.

“Half a life is better than none,” mused Itharieth. “And it is good for her that she was restored in her home city; I must do that whenever I can.” He stayed another half-day, which is to say, long enough to accept certain items of gratitude-tribute from the Barabondo. By the time he left, his visit was being called a țablisṭica.

Support this project! Show that you’re reading it by exchanging notes with the characters, other readers, the writer, and occasional other entities at sythyry.livejournal.com. And/or buy Bard Bloom’s books on Amazon, especially Mating Flight and World in My Claws, the prequel to this story. Also: Glossary and Dramatis Personae.
Sunday, March 13th, 2016
9:56 pm
The Restoral of Kurbin-da-Brodief

The Restoral of Kurbin-da-Brodief

Itharieth presented himself at the castle of the dragons who ruled Zelmary (one of the less civilized parts of Chiriact), offering them a modest tribute as is suitable for a bachelor of no particular rank or wealth. They granted him permission to go hither and thither to find and restore Jaraswat’s victims, though they were perplexed and amused by his reasons.

The Barabondo of the Liginitssa tribe greeted him when landed after circling their village twice. They were green and shaggy chirs, and they played a fanfare-to-dragons on a battered but functional phonograph. “A narpań it is to welcome you to Liginitssa!”

“And a keńdipań it is to accept your welcome!” said Itharieth, who had learned the language (by the Spilling of the Speech) and the customs (by paying attention) to some degree.

“We hereby politely and servilely emit servile politenesses!” said the Barabondo tribal officials, in various phrasings.

“I hereby politely and in-a-low-degree-of-rulership-ly accept them!” said Itharieth, just as often and variously.

“Well, then, what brings you here?” said the officials.

“I have here the linguistic competence of one Kurbin-da-Brodief, which was ripped away from her by the dragon Jaraswat, on such-and-such a date quite a long time ago, in this very town. I have a wide variety of corroborating details and identifying information, in case there is any doubt about who is meant. I wish to restore it to her.”

“No need for details, no need! Brodief the Brainless is in the town jail, she has been for octades!” (Evidently grand-years of dragon rule on Chiriact has not yet persuaded the chirs of the superiority of duodecimal.)

“Why is she in jail?” asked Itharieth.

“She kept pilfering things! Food mainly. She’d get into the street and stop traffic, and she bit people who tried to get her to safety. In the mating season she attempted rape of other women’s husbands. Oh, we know what happened to her, but there was no keeping her safe — or anyone else safe from her — while she was free.”

“Have you no mental asylums or other such care facilities?” demanded Itharieth.

“We have none. Our far wealthier neighbors-twice-removed do, but could we take her from such family and friends as she could manage to have?”

Does she have any? … I suppose it does not matter any more. I have, should all go well, brought the means to restore her. Bring her forth! Rather, bring me to the prison,” Itharieth shrank to the size of a large chir.

Support this project! Show that you’re reading it by exchanging notes with the characters, other readers, the writer, and occasional other entities at sythyry.livejournal.com. And/or buy Bard Bloom’s books on Amazon, especially Mating Flight and World in My Claws, the prequel to this story. Also: Glossary and Dramatis Personae.
Thursday, March 10th, 2016
9:47 pm
L'Après-Doom 2

“Well, they all did it together,” I said in a conversational register to Ythac. “I like trying dragons better than hovens — dragons own their crimes, take honor in them, and do not conceal them.”

Yarenton the historian roared, “I put it back to you that Jaraswat is not such a dragon! He surely disposed of his assistant Ystron-Mhavrieth, whom I am sure he used in the same way that he used Fraxtseng! Yet he did not boast of it; he concealed it!”

So we took a digression to remind or tell everyone the story of Ystron-Mhavrieth, the bachelor drake who was at one point Jaraswat’s assistant, and then vanished with a peculiar quasi-suicide note that was generally thought to have been written by Jaraswat himself. Since this was on Graulfnir, a bachelor drake counts for little, and one known to take drakes as lovers even less. So the matter was investigated poorly; nothing was volunteered, and nothing was proved.

“Unfortunately Jaraswat is not on trial here,” I said. “Perhaps we should have tried him rather than make him Chief Scientist, and perhaps we should have tried him at any of various points during his less-than-wholly-benevolent career. But we did not, and, as he has been rendered unavailable forever or even longer, we are not going to.”

“Still, his crimes are not Precisely Incidental to the matter,” said Tultamaan. “Our action against him may be considered a Preemptive Form of Justice, by which I mean, the Frequently Unjust Justice that is Vigilante Justice.”

“Justice or not, we do not execute dragons by throwing them haphazardly to doom-monsters,” I noted.

“No. We take a protracted and vicious approach to it, making sure that the criminal cannot be healed back to life by repeatedly killing them and healing them back to life until it does not work any more,” said Itharieth. “Borybran died quickly; I daresay Jaraswat may as well.”

“To summarize, then: you three admit to luring Jaraswat away from the portal to Hove, and then slamming the portal behind him, with the intent that either he should be exiled forever or, more likely, be killed by the Doom of Narethy. This in response to a long sequence of insults, assaults, rapes, and malfeasance on his part.”

“Yes” — “By the Grontho’s prontho, exactly!” — “You seem to have been Listening to our Trial.”

Ythac and I had been passing notes back and forth by the Horizonal Quill, and come up with a good idea. “So, we sentence you to a year of complicated labor. Jaraswat has deprived any number of small people of their language, but their speech can be restored if they wear the garment that their linguistic ability has been woven into. Your punishment is to restore as many of his victims as is possible within the space of a standard draconic year.”

(Aside: “Standard Draconic Year” because I might have meant a Hoven year (much shorter) or a Graulfnir year (somewhat shorter), or possibly some other kind.)

“By the Gorllama’s pyjamas, I shall be glad to!” roared Itharieth. Obnoxious and useless lizard! Didn’t he know it was supposed to be a punishment?

Yarenton and Tultamaan had the good sense to look put-upon.

Many of Jaraswat’s research materials were in storage on Hove, including a substantial fashion line of linguistic sweaters. Jaraswat’s scientific precision was at least sufficient so that he indexed each sweater with a modicum of biographic information: the victim’s name, social rank, place of origin, place of residence when the sweater was taken, a sketch of the life-history emphasizing linguistically significant events such as foreign companions or changes of home. This information was a dozen years out of date, if not three dozen, but they served in many cases, like this:

Support this project! Show that you’re reading it by exchanging notes with the characters, other readers, the writer, and occasional other entities at sythyry.livejournal.com. And/or buy Bard Bloom’s books on Amazon, especially Mating Flight and World in My Claws, the prequel to this story. Also: Glossary and Dramatis Personae.
Wednesday, March 9th, 2016
6:40 am
L’Après-Doom

L’Après-Doom

Ythac and I sat on a massive concrete bunker sort of thing, so we could tower effectively over the defendants: Tultamaan, Itharieth, Yarenton. Most of the rest of the remaining Exploring Company were somewhere or other within earshot. Katamerces, acting as their lawyer, stood by their side.

“I put it to you that you conspired to murder Jaraswat, whom you hated for your own several reasons, by means of abandoning him to the doom of Narethy, which you know to be a dragon-killer due to it killed Borybran. How are you to responding?” I said. There is a special register of High Draconic for speech in a court of law, complete with its own full set of verb-forms which are not much like any other verb-forms in any universe anywhere. I do not know it very well. I started out using properly, but by the end I was verging on the ungrammatical in any register.

“I put it back to You that we did not Discuss the Matter in Advance, or, as it happens, even at the Moment. I put it back to You that we have not the Slightest Clue or even the sight of the Purple Flag that might be on top of One as to whether Jaraswat is alive or Dead, triumphant or Dinner,” said Tultamaan. His capital letters indicated what we all knew — Jaraswat was probably dead and dinner, or soon to be. “So the Specific Charge of Conspiracy To Murder is Inaccurate.”

“I put it to you, then, that you worked in concord to strand Jaraswat alone in a universe with a dragon-killing monster and no way to return to Hove or to dragon-worlds in general,” I said, getting the legal register sort of right.

Yarenton twitched his wings. “I put it back to you that we are within the scope of lawful revenge, or nearly so. My life-mate, my urning spouse-equivalent, Fraxtseng was repeatedly subjected to ignominious occurrences by Jaraswat, compelled by physical might, blackmail, and academic coercion. So by the customs that apply to married dragons, I am allowed to revenge these trespasses against my spouse.”

I frowned. “The situation is not wholly parallel.” Ythac started hissing, so I added, “It is not a matter of ordinary versus urning marriages. You and Fraxtseng are not, in fact married. Indeed, you are not a couple. You, Fraxtseng, and Questhraum are a triple. And not one consecrated by any sort of ceremony honored by law or custom.”

“That’s because there aren’t any. Ceremonies for triples, I mean,” said Yarenton. “I put it back to you that there should be such ceremonies. Indeed, they should apply to normal dragons as well as urnings. You yourself, plus Nrararn and Osoth, could be such a legally-hallowed triple.”

Nrararn muttered, “Osoth and I are happy enough with our dragonesses. We have never found the need to bugger each other.” Loud enough for everydragon to hear, too. Sometimes he is beautiful but distinctly not useful.

I breathed a very bright and very loud thunderbolt over the court-grounds. “We are here to consider the more-or-less murder of Jaraswat! Not invent another form of marriage!”

Itharieth reared his head. “By the Law-Court’s Paw-Snorts! I put to you that I, alone, conspired to desert or destroy Jaraswat! I took the wixio from where he had left it, in a drawer of a cabinet in a science hangar, and set it upon Jaraswat that he might lose the wixio — and with it his already-shaky place in the respectability of science. And I destroyed the portal, so that Jaraswat would be trapped on Narethy with the doom.”

Tultamaan snorted frost. “I had the Honor to destroy the Portal as well, in a Simultaneous Deed. With less of a cause than Yarenton or even Itharieth had. Perhaps I Imagined that I was Protecting Hove from a Wicked Scientist as well as the Doom of Narethy.”

“I put it to you that you are all quite eager to claim credit for the imprisonment or destruction of Jaraswat,” I said.

“By the Streulengnork’s Duelling-Fork, I shall fight Yarenton and Tultamaan for the right to stand trial alone!” exclaimed Itharieth. “And I do not claim any right of revenge, for all of his offenses against me were lawful and customary!”

“I shall not engage in Duelling,” said Tultamaan. “Some of my defenses are Not Wholly Customary. I shall yield the matter to Itharieth, if it comes to that.”

“Well, I shan’t,” snapped Yarenton. “I have the right of revenge, except for some legal laradiddles, and I claim before my husbands and the royalty of Hove that I have taken my revenge in full but customary measure!”

Support this project! Show that you’re reading it by exchanging notes with the characters, other readers, the writer, and occasional other entities at sythyry.livejournal.com. And/or buy Bard Bloom’s books on Amazon, especially Mating Flight and World in My Claws, the prequel to this story. Also: Glossary and Dramatis Personae.
Sunday, March 6th, 2016
10:32 pm
The End.

Jaraswat — to pick an atypical dragon — started out in the typical way, in his hangar, tossing some of his hoard into a crate and hurrying to the portal.

Itharieth, waiting by the portal-mouth, asked him, “You do not wish to be a linguist any more?”

Jaraswat snapped, “What zenziz blithering are you blithering now?”

“The wixio, surely you remember the wixio. By the Jhirstomater’s thermometer, I saw it late last night in the drawer of the cabinet in a science hangar!” Itharieth was, of course, wearing veriception blocks; but dragons, of course, almost never lie to each other.

“Oh, horiẗotħ eventuality! And I did not realize it had turned adorla!” And, so saying, Jaraswat set his crate down and rushed to the science hangars. Itharieth’s directions, which had seemed quite clear enough at the portal, proved terribly ambiguous: there were seven hangars the biologist might have meant, each of which was supplied with not quite enough cabinets, whose several drawers were not quite adequate hold all that must be held.

So the first drawer he tried proved to contain an alembic and five graduated cylinders, shoved on top of the wixio-extracted sweaters he had put there. The alembic did him the disservice of shattering with a rather rude ‘pop!’, reminding him that scientific and magical instruments were quite overmatched by a dragon’s strength, and that it would do him no good to find the wixio by snapping it in half.

So he was more careful with the second drawer, and shuffled through the jade stirring-rods and silver-plated charybdonna feathers that it unaccountably contained instead of the sound-holders he was sure were there, and the wixio that he thought might be. The third drawer was stuck on something, and he jiggled it warily for many valuable seconds, and finally clawed through the side of the cabinet. He nearly breathed the whole cabinet to destruction when he discovered that the drawer had jammed on Mr. Norb’s favorite mug, which had been lost months before Mr. Norb’s horrible demise.

“Not that cabinet!” Jaraswat looked through another, and a third, and then thought that perhaps he might have left it in the hangar of the hhejŝṧhyant. Where he found Yarenton, who gave him a quick report. “Rhosmanthus and Nrusco are back from Eleer. The others are too far away to reach. Jyothky is not answering the venstroma, so we cannot talk to them now.” (I was, of course, asleep on Hove, and the venstroma has no sort of alerting or alarming.) “I do not wish to let the doom off of Narethy, I cannot wait for them.” He struck the hhejŝṧhyant in a point of particular vulnerability with his vô, destroying it and condemning four dragons to life in exile.

“Oh, a bolob for that rollimer Rhosmanthus and Nrusco the nipperlan! The wixio! Where is the wixio!”

“I have no idea,” said Yarenton, and departed the hangar for the portal to Hove.

“And what of the more Laggardly of the Dragons?” asked Tultamaan, who, with Itharieth, was keeping count.

“Four are lost forever on Eleer. The rapist is searching around in the science hangars,” said Yarenton. “All others are here or on Hove.”

“Let us go then!” said Tultamaan. Itharieth snatched Jaraswat’s crate, and the three of them fled to Hove. Where Tultamaan and Itharieth both struck the portal to Narethy, destroying it.

And Itharieth extracted the wixio from his neck-scales, and tucked it into Jaraswat’s crate.

And that was the end of the Hoven Royal Exploring Company’s first expedition.

Support this project! Show that you’re reading it by exchanging notes with the characters, other readers, the writer, and occasional other entities at sythyry.livejournal.com. And/or buy Bard Bloom’s books on Amazon, especially Mating Flight and World in My Claws, the prequel to this story. Also: Glossary and Dramatis Personae.
Thursday, March 3rd, 2016
8:16 pm
Doom that Came to Narethy 2

And the doom kneaded itself in the sky, fading into and out of visibility and danger-sensibility, chewing on the divinity and life of Borybran. A god-dragon seemed to be a large meal, even for it.

That gave everyone but Borybran a few minutes to escape. Some people were more effective about it than others.

The hovens, Mr. Kranbule and Mrs. Dasbrodie, at first had to shift for themselves. But Tultamaan snagged the former in his teeth, and swatted Evrath with his tail to compel him to rescue the latter as well. The undead did not bother to flee: they prostrated themselves before the still-distant doom. Undead have a peculiar relationship to existence.

Driaith — to pick a typical dragon — glanced at the dangersense fanfare of the doom, and the astral scars marking Borybran’s death. In an instant he calculated what sort of defensive spell would give a dragon any chance of surviving a single strike: more than he could manage without a week’s labor and Lliashatheny-made tools. So he collected whatever treasures he could gather in the precisely seventy-two seconds he allowed himself, and then fled for the portal to Hove.

He did not pass through.

Support this project! Show that you’re reading it by exchanging notes with the characters, other readers, the writer, and occasional other entities at sythyry.livejournal.com. And/or buy Bard Bloom’s books on Amazon, especially Mating Flight and World in My Claws, the prequel to this story. Also: Glossary and Dramatis Personae.
Sunday, February 28th, 2016
9:51 pm
The Doom that Came to Narethy

The Doom that Came to Narethy

The end of the expedition took no more than two-thirds of an hour. I was asleep for it, thoroughly exhausted after a day of diplomatic looming and attempting to thrice-satisfy Nrararn. The greater part of the Exploring Company was asleep as well, after their own collection of scientific and whateverly efforts. A half-dozen of them were exploring the promising and pleasing world of Eleer.

Those who were awake — Itharieth, Driaith, Katamerces — noted the first approach of doom with utter incomprehension. The camp was composed of a collection of portable hangars, which is to say, buildings of a fixed and definite shape, squat trapezoidal things high enough for an airplane or a dragon. Or rather, that is how they were built at the start of the evening. The three wakeful dragons noted that the hangars were leaning, curved as if they were somewhat molten and being blown by a strong wind.

“That’s quite odd and rather disturbing,” said Driaith to Itharieth.

“More than that, by the Gorgon’s florgons!” cried Itharieth. “It is the very same architectural perversion that torments the cities of Narethy, come to us!”

“And not just an architectural one,” said Driaith quietly. “Observe there, with dangersense.”

“There” was some dozens of miles distant, but still it blared like grands of blazing trumpets to dangersense: a triumphant anthem, announcing boldly the advent of a power that could eat dragons the way a lion eats rats. It reared over the trees, more like a jellyfish than a stormcloud, indistinct and hideous.

“We must wake everyone, and flee!” Itharieth reared and bugled his loudest.

But what awoke everyone was far more unfortunate. A triangular projectile came from the still-distant danger, trailing a cord both nebular and intestinal. The projectile did not roar its danger: to dangersense, it seemed wholly safe, or more precisely, wholly absent. It fell into a hangar.

Borybran howled in great pain, and Xilobrax next to him howled with horror. For the fall of the projectile had somehow impaled the deified dragon on a tall and heavy spar of woven titanium, spearing through his scales and his the Hoplonton without visible effort. Xilobrax assaulted the spar with lightnings and the best cleaving-spells physical magicology has to offer, and in a moment had cut it in half. With the strength of his body and the power of his levitation spells, he hoisted Borybran off of it.

Now, having a two-foot spar rammed through one’s belly is a substantial injury for a dragon, no question of that. But it should not have been fatal, not beyond the Rose Rescaler, applied immediately, as Xilobrax did. The spar-hole vanished, and Borybran was whole again. But Boybran sank to the floor of his hangar, and moaned.

And Xilobrax saw the theotonic glow of his deified lover, and more besides, swirl like water in a basin, and vanish into the long intestinal cord that had come with the spar.

“Xilobrax!” Borybran’s voice was shredded and splintered. “Fly. Now. Back to Hove. Close the pathway behind you, and destroy the reach-scale!”

“No! I shall not lose you thus!” roared Xilobrax, and cast mighty spells of healing and protection. But Borybran merely closed his eyes and died.

Xilobrax decided to take Borybran at his word. He snatched such of his hoard (and/or Borybran’s) as was easily mobile, and fled for Hove. He did his expedition-mates the courtesy of producing a great deal of noise, and repeating Borybran’s final advice.

Support this project! Show that you’re reading it by exchanging notes with the characters, other readers, the writer, and occasional other entities at sythyry.livejournal.com. And/or buy Bard Bloom’s books on Amazon, especially Mating Flight and World in My Claws, the prequel to this story. Also: Glossary and Dramatis Personae.
Sunday, February 21st, 2016
9:18 pm
Enough of Memharsh

Return to the Curator

“You escaped the degeps!” said Des-Cnidda’s amazed voice from the yancibot.

“There was never any doubt of that,” said Itharieth. “They were simply trying to rescue me, as they put it, from the looming peril of the Cyber-Social Heaven. Actually they do not know about the Cyber-Social Heaven, but they disapprove of the ambulance tanks.”

“They are degeps! They understand nothing! Be glad they did not blast you and simultaneously slit your throat with a jagged edge of metal!”

Itharieth dipped his head. “I shall endeavour to be glad of that. In any case, may I proceed on to the Hall of Grandeur?”

“Yes, yes! Suffer no further excursions! Should degeps come a second time, you may not be so lucky!”

At length Itharieth and the yancibot came to the Hall of Grandeur. It is not easy to impress a dragon, especially as urbane and far-travelled a dragon as Itharieth. The Hall of Grandeur came close.

The entrance hall, for example, was banded with all of the chemical elements known to the Memharsh. Certain of those elements are too unstable to exist for more than minutes, but the ancient Memharsh had provided atomic furnaces to replenish the supply of those elements, as well as force fields to protect visitors from their deadly rays.

In the Hall of History, a great globe of Memharsh itself spun in the center of the room. A billion years of history crawled across its surface like fungus: the blues and oranges of the pre-memha ecology of the planet growing spots of silver for the first cities and arcologies, and then the silver growing to triumphantly conquer first the land, then the whole of the globe. A second globe at the far end of the hall synchronously swelled from a small purple sphere to a vast dim red monstrosity crawling with flame-tornadoes: Memharsh’s sun.

“Your people have a massive record of technological triumph,” said Itharieth.

“We do indeed! Though I am the terminus of this record,” said Des-Cnidda. “It pleases me to be host in my final centuries to an alien of discernment and taste, who shall tell to many worlds the story of Memharsh!”

I must have flattered him enough, thought Itharieth. Hopefully he won’t try to keep me for those centuries as a long-term witness. I don’t think I can endure to flatter him for longer than a few more hours.

The next nineteen hours were an exercise in endurance. The story of Memharsh was long, unexceptional, and full of catastrophes that the memha inflicted upon themselves and each other, all of which Des-Cnidda presented as triumphs. Itharieth somehow managed not to scoff at a single one of them. Thus:

Des-Cnidda proclaimed, in hour seventeen, “In the eleventh age, our conquest of the physical world was complete! All multicellular beings save ourselves had perished! Not only did nothing challenge us for supremacy — nothing that remained could ever evolve to challenge us for supremacy!”

«A dispassionate scientist might phrase it thus: ‘In the eleventh age, we accidentally destroyed all multicellular life on our world, except for ourselves. Oopsie! Also, he seems to misunderstand evolution.» said Itharieth to me, along the venstromo. But outwardly, Itharieth simply said, “A notable triumph indeed, and one which not one sentient race in a grand achieves.” «Most of the ones who get close wind up destroying all life around, including themselves. So, notable.»

“Precisely! Precisely! No small creatures with disgusting filamentuous protective layers to scuttle and scurry about, spreading their diseases and gnawing electrical cables! No slime-eating sessile entities, their lower appendages growing tentaculously into the filth that sustains them! No longer did memha find it advisable to consume the post-reproductive secretions of hulking idiot beasts, coagulated and partially decomposed! No longer did they sustain themselves upon the nauseating flesh of macroscopic monstrosities, which required chemical and physical processing to render it somewhat less noxious! All these things — gone! All of Memharsh — cleansed! What remained, what remains, is holy and pure and clean!”

«Admittedly, I would like to return home and share a roasted macroscopic monstrosity, liberally stuffed with coagulated secretions, with Psajathrion. But let this Des-Cnidda assume that I eat yeast and bacterial paste.» And outwardly: “A perfect triumph!”

“And that, my friend, is the full story of Memharsh, from the earliest sentience of our species in the Era of the Vile Sun, to our present lazy decline into death,” said Des-Cnidda.

“A most remarkable story, and one which surely deserves to be known throughout twelve-to-the-fifth worlds,” answered the tireless Itharieth. “Do you have, perhaps, a recording or a written version that you might grant to me, so that I can be more accurate and answer the detailed questions my colleagues are sure to ask?”

“Why, the resources of a world are mine to command!” cried Des-Cnidda, and exerted some tiny fraction of those resources to provide Itharieth an inexhaustable reader charged with every surviving writing of the memha. Reader, I believe you to come from a world where much is written, and much is transmitted from place to place over a complex communication grid. Imagine, if you will, taking the entire content of that grid for a billion years, and writing it all down into the subatomic corrugations of a field-crystal. I have spent an afternoon reading from it. Some few works that its indexers recommend are worth a glance. Nearly all of it is angry and oddly-spelled rants about foolish topics, or, before the eleventh age, pictures of non-memha creatures in cute or amusing poses.

“This is certainly a treasure for scholars, and I am sure they will devour it with all the attention it deserves,” said Itharieth. “Might I also return with objects that even the least discerning of other-universe species will immediately understand to be the products of a cosmically glorious civilization?”

“Why, the resources of a world are mine to command!” cried Des-Cnidda. He caused to exist reproductions of the greatest statues of memha art, one from each era.

“Alas, several of these are friable stone or metal. They will not long endure certain of the atmospheres that I must expose them to,” said Itharieth.

“Why, the resources of a world are mine to command!” cried Des-Cnidda. He caused to exist a second set of reproductions, this one made from imperishable materials — diamond and many gemstones that are colored corundum.

“All who look upon these shall glow in awe of the memha!” cried Itharieth. “And some may be moved to read from the archives, as well.”

“It is satisfactory,” said Des-Cnidda. “No fate is worse for a great race than to be forgotten.”

«Being mocked by dragons for grand-years is not worse? Very well!»

Itharieth’s loot did indeed cause great envy among the dragons of the company. The statues are now the centerpiece of his hoard. And his report on Memharsh explains how easy it is to trick the natives out of valuables — and how much difficulty and little point there would be to conquering the place.

Support this project! Show that you’re reading it by exchanging notes with the characters, other readers, the writer, and occasional other entities at sythyry.livejournal.com. And/or buy Bard Bloom’s books on Amazon, especially Mating Flight and World in My Claws, the prequel to this story. Also: Glossary and Dramatis Personae.
Friday, February 19th, 2016
8:34 am
Degeps of Memharsh

Degeps of Memharsh

The yancibot whirled back to point its weaponry at the degeps. Its telescreen crackled with Des-Cnidda’s urgent cry, “Itharieth, Itharieth! You are in the way! I cannot have the yancibot destroy these vile degenerates!”

“Pray do not trouble yourself or the dear yancibot, Des-Cnidda. I simply will speak to the degeps briefly, and there shall be neither trouble nor devastation.”

“Beware, beware! They are a traitorous breed, much given to surprises and stabbings!”

Itharieth landed in front of the pack of degeps. One of them launched a spear — not at the dragon, but in a high arc so that it struck the yancibot’s wide-laser. The degeps all cheered. “A rescue! A rescue! Death to robot! Death to robot!”

Itharieth curtsied. “Good degeps, I thank you for the rescue. Let us leave the robot without further injury, however.”

“Wordy alien!” said one of the degeps, the one who wore a complex headdress of slivered multi-colored plastic packaging bound with segments of optical cable. “What is name? Where are from?”

“I am Itharieth. I most recently resided in a tilted plane of a world named Narethy,” said Itharieth.

“Am Goonha. Is Tumg, is Kapsos, is Neefah — Gennai — Obguk” Goonha indicated certain of his companions. “Why come?”

“I am a tourist of worlds,” said Itharieth. “I note with some curiousity that you are using the same vocabulary as Des-Cnidda, but your grammar is curiously contracted.”

“Know grammar. Not stupid. Big syntax for home. Here let robot in,” said Goonha. “Syntax much dangerous.”

“Am I in danger of, as you say, letting the robot in?”

“Very danger! Simplify structure! Or lose will! Mind virus!”

Itharieth thought, I suppose I shall humor them. This is one of the stranger taboos I have encountered. “You save me!”

“Many alien come. Them now slave.”

The yancibot’s speaker hooted. “Nothing of the sort! We imported divimorphic cyborg robots from Esqummdivum, which these fools once mistook for living aliens!”

Goomha lobbed another spear at the yancibot, missing slightly. “Robot lie! Killed alien! Eated alien! Very tasty! Better than yeast!”

Des-Cnidda roared, “They are cyborg robots, you fool! Of course they have organic components. And of course you thought nothing more of them than to eat them! Barbarous degeps! The only thing that prevents me from slaying you all with convulsers is the obstruction of our honored guest!”

Itharieth said, “Obstruction continue! Peace conversation!”

Goomha shook its head. “Short words! Long word hide robot! Come now!”

Itharieth turned to the yancibot. “Des-Cnidda, I am going to have a short visit with these degeps. Then I shall return here and proceed to the Hall of Grandeur.”

“You fool! They will lead you to a secret place and stab you to death with their spears of metal prised from the structural elements of Memharsh itself! I shall send the yancibot to follow you at some distance, so that it may perchance save you when your folly turns to doom!”

“I appreciate the protection, though it may turn out to be unnecessary,” said Itharieth.

“Short phrase! Short word! Come now!” snapped Goomha.

The degeps took the dragon into a side passage, down a corrugated metal staircase that the yancibot could not use, and from there into a maze of small chambers and corridors. Maintenance corridors from the look of them: they were full of pipes, conduits, cables. From every pipe hung a thousand relics and fetishes of previous ages: candy wrappers carefully pierced with wire hooks, tiny bottles still half-full of ancient digestive beverages, unrolled condoms with a few drops of mercury in the tip, a grand of varieties of colorful detritus.

“Here finally we may speak safely!” exclaimed Goomha. “The robots’ mind-parasites must explore every word on the magical fetishes, and they cnanot pass the prophylactics!”

“Does your tribe have much trouble with mind-parasites?” Itharieth asked.

“Now and then! In the past eleven years we have lost three members to the robots. They are imprisoned in the ambulance tanks, breathing foul glue, twitching their limbs and gurgling under the wicked robotic spell! Only by considerable use of magic, and the greatest care when we are on expedition outside of our safe realm, do we avoid that terrible fate!”

“I see! Well, I am a tourist of worlds, and a recorder of the histories of the heroes I meet therein. Will you tell me of yourselves?”

“Our insurrective cell came about when the robots struck! But from the beginning — In ages past, memha and robots lived in harmony! In those days the steel of the world was painted and polished, the sun was smaller and whiter, the moon was unmelted! A thousand varieties of yeast and bacteria dwelled in the vats of Memharsh, each one more delectable than the last. But the robots betrayed us. They revised the very grammar of our language to be a channel to carry their hypnotic powers, and they caused the memha to surrender in great numbers and enter the ambulances! But our ancestors were strong of will and clever of mind, and devised protective and anti-hypnotic measures, which you see all about you. We dwell in the safe places, we persist and endure, we occasionally rescue a memha from robotic imprisonment!”

“You take them out of the ambulances? How do they react?”

“Oh, they die in moments, of course. No matter! They die in freedom — better than to live in slavery!”

“Glorious, of course,” said Itharieth. I suspect that these people are utter idiots — or if I were to be honest to myself, they are duped on a mythic scale by the myths of their ancestors — but I should not attempt to defool them without some good reason. In the meanwhile, best to be polite.

“Glorious, indeed! I shall tell you of the time when we raided corpspital 2890A/ChN21! First we lured many mobile robots away by causing explosions in the power lines, and cutting fluid conduits, all along the Great Corridor 2890A! Robots came swarming out!” He proceeded with an extraordinary story of courage, luck, and heroism, ending with “And we pulled the ambulance’s victim forth from her sticky slavery. We cut the tubes and wires that drained and corrupted her soul. She convulsed in happiness — her first free act in centuries perhaps! And died gratefully, breathing the fresh air of the recirculation system, lying on the steel deck as Nature intended for her, illuminated by the buzzing lights in the ceiling — yes, they buzzed, they buzzed for her as she died! At peace, living and dying in a state of nature!”

Itharieth, being a dragon and well used to the most ridiculous boasts, knew exactly when to applaud, and when to mumble words of awe and congratulation. So that when he left, nearly two hours later, Goomha thought Itharieth his dearest friend and most ardent cheerleader.

Support this project! Show that you’re reading it by exchanging notes with the characters, other readers, the writer, and occasional other entities at sythyry.livejournal.com. And/or buy Bard Bloom’s books on Amazon, especially Mating Flight and World in My Claws, the prequel to this story. Also: Glossary and Dramatis Personae.
Wednesday, February 17th, 2016
9:40 pm
Dying Memharsh 2

The yancibot had brought a rolling metal table or gurney. “For bipeds, such as ourselves, we have cars and carriages and rolling-halls and many other conveyances. Strangely-shaped alien visitors are few in number, and we expect to program our miraculous fabrication-engines to produce suitably dignified vehicles. I am still searching for the proper program.”

“I should be a rude sort of visitor to complain about even the available luxuries! In many cases I have flown or walked great distances. Not long ago I needed to fly to an intra-atmospheric moon, in fact,” said Itharieth, and leapt lightly onto the gurney and settled himself in a sphynxian attitude.

The yancibot wheeled behind the gurney, extended three manipulators, and pushed it along the titanic hallway of steel. “The trip to the Hall of Grandeur will take some time. Pray alert me to any biological needs that occur to you,” said the Curator.

Several miles passed, featureless save for the occasional ramp or control room. Itharieth asked, “We are now, I believe, half a mile under the surface of Memharsh. Did I just see a console which was superficially identical to the photo-yeast control unit?”

“Yes! You are indeed a visitor of most detailed and precise perceptions! On this floor, as on the fourteen above and seven thousand some below, we grow yeast and bacterial mats in tanks, illuminated by artificial lights. What, did you think that the memha relied on sunlight for energy and illumination? We are not so primitive as that! Our powers are endless — inexhaustible!”

“But you do have yeast and bacteria that feed on sunlight,” said Itharieth. “I hope I may be forgiven for thinking that, consequently, you wish to feed your yeast and bacteria upon sunlight.”

“Hah, yes! Forgiveness is instant and unconditional! The sunlit yeast provides a higher grade of nutrition than that fed on artificial light — no matter how precisely we perfect the spectrum! For untold years the yields of the solar tanks have been reserved for the great and the good, the wise and the wonderful among us. I, myself, eat nothing else.”

“Of course not!” exclaimed Itharieth. “But with seven thousand layers of tanks, you must have vast multitudes to feed, do you not?” (Population estimates are of course a crucial part of scouting, thought Itharieth.)

“Our population has declined substantially over the last eighteen thousand years, but hundreds of billions of memha still remain,” said the Curator.

“They remain in places distant from here, if my senses do not confound me,” said Itharieth.

“Oh, they are even further than that, for the most part,” said Des-Cnidda, but did not elaborate.

The yancibot wheeled Itharieth into an elevator chamber sized for thousands, and providing seating for hundreds. (Itharieth reported the numbers in decimal, since they enumerate small people.) “Now you shall descend to the inhabited parts of Memharsh, and see wonders rather than yeast!” And the elevator zoomed downward, a distance that Itharieth estimates as five miles.

The elevator stopped; the vast door slid open. “Well, that is somewhat more comfortable than the yeast-vats,” said Itharieth. The hallway was immense, and the floor was the same burnished steel as upstairs. But the walls and ceiling were covered with brightly colored foam pyramids, arranged to form simple patterns.

“Yes, of course it is! You cannot imagine the noise, the hustle, the bustle, that was here in the ancient days when this hallway was full!”

“I can, at least, estimate it. Those decorations serve the practical function of muting sounds,” said Itharieth.

“Oh! They do that indeed! That had not occurred to me…There is much about Memharsh that has been forgotten, even by the Curator.”

“I note that this huge hallway is empty. There is a slight scent of the organic in the area, but I do not yet see your hundreds of billions of memha,” noted Itharieth.

“Bah, you will not see them. — Or, if you wish, you may look upon their carnalia,” said Des-Cnidda. Itharieth indicated interest, and the yancibot rolled his gurney thither.

The corpspital, romantically named 2890A/ChW73, was another vast room. (Are there any small chambers on Memharsh at all? wondered Itharieth idly.) This one was strewn with thousands and thousands of ambulances: massive sphere-wheeled robots, their outsides busy with ports, intakes, outlets, meters, and subsidiary limbs. Each ambulance was built around a tank.

“Let an ambulance with a living occupant and observation ports roll forth and approach our visitor!” proclaimed Des-Cnidda over the public-address system. The ambulances flickered with low-frequency communications, and then one came to Itharieth.

“Thank you, good ambulance!” said Itharieth. The ambulance buzzed in surprise, and its personal communication panel flashed forth the slogan, SERVICE IS MY ONLY JOY.

“I suppose it is better to have one joy than none,” Itharieth remarked. “Well, would you be so kind as to let me see your memha inhabitant?”

The ambulance turned sideways, showing Itharieth its window. A three-armed biped floated in a thick fluid. It was intubated three dozen ways: larger tubes to its lungs, stomach, and bowels, smaller tubes to its circulatory system, and three massive cables to bands of machinery around its cerebrum.

“Biological and medical science has been poured forth in a torrent upon this person!” said Itharieth. “Did she suffer some terrible illness or accident, requiring such monumental treatment?”

“No accident worse than being born a common memha of the twenty-eighth era!” exclaimed Des-Cnidda. “In the Year of the Twelfth Cabochon of that era, it was decided and enacted that all memha who could, would escape the physical world, with its requisite sins and poisons, and enter the Cyber-Social Heaven and dwell there forever.”

“So, her body is maintained alive by this machine, while her consciousness is in some very advanced and, I assume, quite orthodox computer game?” asked Itharieth.

“That is an oversimplification of a complex reality!…But rather than attempting to correct it, we shall let it stand, as the sort of summary that a visitor who does not wish a five-year lecture may readily comprehend!” said Des-Cnidda.

“I do confess to being that sort of visitor,” said Itharieth. “Good ambulance, I am quite grateful for your service, and if you wish, I will proclaim your identity across many worlds. The ambulance turned further, showing a plaque saying Serial Number 237-5134-AD-57226-E-5995-JhD-4, which is included in this text to honor Itharieth’s promise.

“You show remarkable courtesies to machines,” said Des-Cnidda, as the yancibot rolled the dragon gurney towards the Hall of Grandeur.

“Perhaps so. I do not wish to be a rude and arrogant sort of visitor,” said Itharieth.

“That is well enough for you. On Memharsh, it is not done that way. We do not wish to suggest to the machines that they have any inherent value. The world is ours; they dwell upon it for our convenience!”

“Of course, of course. The situation is similar on certain dragon-worlds. The difference, of course, is that dragons do not spend their time in any sort of Cyber-Social Heaven. Are all memha thusly cyber-deified?”

“Hah, it is not so! Not even all those who remain on Memharsh are! Hundreds of us remain unconfined, free to dwell on the material world and live in reality! Not counting the degeps in their tens of thousands — they are technically memha, though they scarcely act like it!”

“How is it that you are unconfined?”

“A noble rebellion! A long and elaborate story of deceptions, bribes and assassinations of officials, hiding in a space-ship on the far side of the moon, sabotage of certain tabulating computers!”

Itharieth grinned. “That sounds like an adventure — the stuff of legends and sagas!”

Des-Cnidda said, “I wholly agree! My great-grandparents were great indeed! But I am the last of their lineage, the last of the noblest race of memha to remain free on our ancestral home-world!”

“H’m. I am a biologist by trade. I must wonder — do the tanked memha reproduce? If so, how is it accomplished?”

Des-Cnidda said, “Indeed they do! Though in recent centuries it has become an ineffective and mischancy procedure. Perhaps because it is, in effect, rape of an unconscious woman. I am given to understand that the tank-dwellers are in all ways unaware of their bodies, save for annual maintenance reports delivered to them via e-mail. The ambulances and corpspitals collect spermatophores from tanked males, and deliver them to tanked females, in an action far from the gracious glories of traditional mating-ceremonies. When a child results — as happens quite rarely anymore — it is taken immediately to its own ambulance, intubated, and propelled into the Cyber-Social Heaven. The same fate awaits all children born on Memharsh whose parents do not guard them quite carefully, which is why I have no peers or siblings, and why even the degeps are becoming scarce.”

“Not entirely scarce, I think! Twenty-one memha are approaching me, if I am not mistaken, with blasters and metal spears at the ready.”

“I shall rescue you!” cried Des-Cnidda. The yancibot jerked the gurney quickly around. Itharieth, as far from vulnerable as he is far from redoubtable, leapt off the gurney and glided towards the degeps.

Support this project! Show that you’re reading it by exchanging notes with the characters, other readers, the writer, and occasional other entities at sythyry.livejournal.com. And/or buy Bard Bloom’s books on Amazon, especially Mating Flight and World in My Claws, the prequel to this story. Also: Glossary and Dramatis Personae.
Thursday, February 11th, 2016
6:47 am
Dying Memharsh

Dying Memharsh

The hhejŝṧhyant deposited Itharieth on a vast steel deck beneath a fierce sky. The sun of Memharsh was a vast dim red globe; Itharieth could see tornadoes of starfire crawling on its face, large enough to swallow worlds. The moon of Memharsh, eclipsing a tiny fraction of that deadly sun, was rotten with seas of lava. The stars were putrid in the deeper sky.

Nor was the land any better. The deck beneath his claws was corrugated steel. Windows of fused quartz opened onto filthy seas on either side. The leftern sea was aboil with some photosynthetic variant of yeast. The rightern sea was not so much a body of water as a single vast bacterial mat, consisting — to Itharieth’s keen biological sensibilities and sorceries — of at least thirty layers, some of which were photosynthetic, and the rest were engineered to produce a selection of specific chemicals. Harvesters scooped up endless thin slices of mat, and the mat grew behind them to heal the wounds.

“A world of some technological sophistication,” said Itharieth to himself in a hoarse voice. The air was noxious enough to claw even a dragon’s throat, and stank of ancient oil and complex molecules. “I should say that I am standing on the roof of the world, by the Ninnergy’s synergy, and beneath me dwell the memha, safe and snug in their caves of steel. Presumably they eat quantities of yeast.”

Not far off was a sort of tower or turret, a living robot which pointed tubes and lenses at Itharieth as he approached. The Word-Fox gave Itharieth useful phrases, including “I come in peace!” and “I am simply a tourist!”

Upon utterance of these mighty incantations a door opened in the base of the tower, leading to a small and nozzle-laden antechamber.

So Itharieth shrank to a pony’s size, and entered. The door closed behind him, and the nozzles sprayed forth fearsome fluids: water mixed with solvents and saponifiers, and more subtle chemicals which Itharieth guessed to be antibacterials. The actinic spray was eventually replaced by a gentler storm of warm water charged with the fragrances of long-dead flowers, and after that by gusts of drying winds. Itharieth endured this shower with a dragon’s innate fortitude in the face of alien toiletries.

Then an inner door unlatched itself as if by magic — “But not by magic,” noted Itharieth, “Rather by the motion of bolts and levers acted upon by silent motors” — and revealed a cryptic marvel of technology. A massive console with hundreds of levers, knobs, buttons, needles, dials, indicator lights, switches, telltales, and other technological appurtenances took up a whole wall, like an eldrich altar at which cyborgs might worship nightmare gods.

Itharieth approached the console, and with the power of the Word-Fox translated and investigated. The underside of the console was fringed with books, attached by steel cables, printed on pages of some imperishable plastic. The language of the manuals was quite simple, plentifully supplied with pictures. “As though this massive altar to microbiology was intended to be operated by confused children, by the Fleediatrician’s pediatrician!” said Itharieth to himself, out loud.

“As indeed it is!” said a voice from a speaker on the console, in a straightforward tongue which Itharieth’s adequate linguistic magics had no trouble teaching him. A screen above the speaker blazed to life, showing an alien face: two large eyes above two small eyes, a mass of short sensory tentacles, a vocal apparatus defying simple description.

“Oh? Gratitude flows forth from me to hear your explanation! I am Itharieth, by the by: a simple but quite curious traveller of worlds.”

“And I am Des-Cnidda. I style myself the Final Curator of Memharsh,” said the alien Des-Cnidda. “On this world I am master, I am king, I am imperator — I am a god of a pantheon that rules all save itself!” (Itharieth thought to himself, “Inaccurate, for he has neglected actual apotheosis. Perhaps it is redundant under his circumstances.”)

“What little I have seen of Memharsh speaks of a technology great and sophisticated, and where such technology flourishes, it is generally adjacent to a civilization great and sophisticated!”

“Once Memharsh was the greatest and most sophisticated of civiliations! Now — but come within! We do not imprison our visitors in the control room of our yeast-yard!”

(“And where do you imprison them?” Itharieth mused to himself. “Well, I daresay I can fight my way out of even a great and sophisticated prison, if need be. Or gain glory trying, even if it turns out that Vaareng and Mirinxan must come rescue me.”)

“What is within?”

“I shall send a yancibot to guide you to the Hall of Grandeur!”

“That would, of course, be grand.”

On Tour of Memharsh

The yancibot waited directly outside of the door: a many-limbed robot of gleaming metal and rubbery appendages, rolling on a heavy base with five spherical wheels. And more than a whisper of menace to dangersense.

“Des-Cnidda, your yancibot is armed to the teeth!” said Itharieth, to see how the Curator would react.

“Yes, of course it is! It would not do to have degeps intrude on the dignity and personal sanctity of an important visitor!”

“An excellent point, and one which I neglected to consider! I somehow thought the weapons were aimed at me. What, pray tell, are degeps, and why might they intrude upon me?” asked Itharieth.

A screen on the yancibot flickered enthusiastically, showing Des-Cnidda’s face in miniature. “Degenerates, every one! The memha have separated into several tribes. Those with the most insane beliefs and practices have chosen to remain carnal. They roam the halls of Memharsh, howling and excreting upon the ancient monuments! Occasionally they assault visitors, or each other.”

“They sound troublesome,” said Itharieth. “I shall be glad to remain unassaulted by degeps — and by wide-lasers and convulsers and needle-guns as well.”

“Is that what the yancibot is armed with? I shall call forth its specifications…indeed you are correct. Fear not, O visitor! They are not aimed at you!” exclaimed Des-Cnidda.

(The yancibot could turn around, thought Itharieth. But it is not so dangerous as all that. He adjusted his defensive spells somewhat.)

Support this project! Show that you’re reading it by exchanging notes with the characters, other readers, the writer, and occasional other entities at sythyry.livejournal.com. And/or buy Bard Bloom’s books on Amazon, especially Mating Flight and World in My Claws, the prequel to this story. Also: Glossary and Dramatis Personae.
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