I was trying to decide between another slice of salmon (spicy!) or a slice of ratite stuffed with peppers (spicier!) when a youngish drake spiralled down and stopped just over the table. Spiralling is pretty hard, if you’re doing a tight twirly spiral in a crowded place like he was. He wasn’t very big for a boy, eighteen feet of body. That meant he was a sorcerer of some sort, because too much sorcery stunts your growth. His scales were a beautiful light blue. He had bright blue eyes and a single bright blue twirly horn in the middle of his forehead. And a sort of a blue-white mane, starting right after the horn and going to the base of his tail. It was a pretty mane, too. It was full of little lightning bolts that kept the hair upright.
“Congratulations!” he said to me, like everyone else had been.
“Thank you!” I said back to him, like I had to everyone else.
“I’m Nrararn” he said. I looked blank a second too long. “We’re engaged, you and I.” he added.
Oh, right, that Nrararn. “Oh!” I said. I am fortunate to be such a witty and eloquent dragoness.
“I’m glad to finally meet you,” he said.
“Me, too.” What do you say to someone you’re engaged to and are meeting for the first time? “What do you breathe?”
“Lightning, like you.” He said it as if he expected to please me with it. That’s not very smart. Better to point out that his breath complements my fire and ice breaths.
“That makes sense. You’ve braided lightning in your mane, too,” I said.
He beamed. His fangs are short and a bit curled, and the left top one is rather scraped. “Do you like it?”
“I do, truly. It’s quite pretty.” Which was just true, since it was quite pretty. In retrospect, I do not know why my fiancé was trying to get me to praise him. If anything, he should have been praising me, since (1) I’m the dragoness, and (2) it was my party. Maybe he was nervous at meeting his fiancée. Maybe he wanted a bit of reassurance that he had a bit of a chance in the mating flight (which he didn’t), that he wouldn’t waste several years trying to marry some dragonesses who don’t have the least bit of regard for him (which he would).
I’m not going to choose my husband based on the color of his mane, though.
As that straightforward admission was extracted from me, I must have twitched my tailtip or some such. A rather large orange and brown dragon with lots and lots of spikes (who turned out to be Llredh) swooped down and reached for Nrararn with sets of glittering claws.
Nrararn was already dodging as Llredh started his strike. At first it looked like Nrararn was a very elegant fighter, not all that big but very accurate. (I’d like to fight like that. It takes lots of practice, though, and I’ve never had the patience.) But there were sneaky little air spells whispering to Nrararn. I don’t think that Llredh noticed them, but they were there. Nrararn isn’t actually a good fighter at all, it looks like, but he uses sky magic to help him fight. That’s clever. As long as he’s in the air, or his foe is, it’s clever.
Nrararn then proved that he wasn’t a very elegant fighter by snapping at Llredh’s tail as he flew past, and missing. Whispery windy warnings aren’t much good for biting tails, I guess. I probably would have breathed at Llredh in that situation. I probably would have missed him and scorched the banquet table (woeful!) or one of the guests (dangerous!).
Anyways, Llredh turned and landed next to me. “This scrawny boy, he is being a pest or a pestilence? His neck, I will bite it!”
“This sparkly boy is amusing me! I am investigating how pretty he is,” I said.
“Very pretty. His prettiness will serve you well when he tries to defend you and your unborn dragonet,” said Llredh.
“You sound like you’re engaged to me too. You’re Llredh, right?” I asked him. This was an easy guess, since Llredh was the only fiancé I hadn’t met, and his colors were right. His family is from some other world — he grew up there — and he lives on the other side of Mhel.
“The mighty Llredh, that is me,” he said.
“The mighty but not terribly clever Llredh, that is you,” said Nrararn.
“The cleverness, you think too highly of it. Will it protect your neck when I land with great heaviness upon your back and bite, bite, bite?” asked Llredh.
The traditional answer to that sort of threat is some sort of blustery brag. Ythac would have said something like, “A clumsy lizard like you? You would miss, and land with great heaviness on the ground, and it is I would bite, bite, bite.”
Nrararn just grinned. “Try it and see!” Which made sense. His mane was full of lightning, and went the whole length of his back. Landing on that would probably hurt.
“On the mating flight, I surely will. Hunting we will go, you and I, but only I shall return,” said Llredh.
“I’m definitely not marrying anyone who kills off my other fiancés,” I said.
Llredh lashed his tail. “Bah! There are too many drakes already. A few inferior ones will not be missed.”
“And our fiancée has quite clearly implied that she would miss me. Which leaves one of the three of us to be inferior, and it’s not me, and it’s not her,” said Nrararn.
Llredh lashed his tail again. This time he demonstrated his inferiority by accidentally swatting the redoubtable Rankotherium with it, as that redoubtable lizard was standing by the table lecturing my mother about the salmon.. Rankotherium being Rankotherium, and thus exceedingly redoubtable, Llredh’s tail did not actually touch Rankotherium. It got caught in one of Rankotherium’s sticky sparky protective spells. Probably the Quarnish Reek, since it didn’t smell very nice and it ate several scales off Llredh’s tail.
Rankotherium reared his redoubtable head covered with heavy red scale plates and four redoubtable and very sharp and forky antlers, and glared at Llredh. He said, “Ah, the young Llredh. This would be an excellent time to practice the noble art of apology, would it not?”
Llredh allowed as how it was, quite likely, such an excellent time.
Rankotherium looked at him redoubtably. I hope that, when I’m a grand of years old, I shall be able able to look redoubtably like that. (But I doubt it. I’m sure the only redoubtably I shall be doing is doubting things like that twice.)
Nrararn and I floated and slithered away, behind my aunt and uncle. They were ripping apart a ratite and feeding bits of it to each other, and giving each other very sizzly looks.
Nrararn tried to give me a sizzly look too. I didn’t sizzle back. Which is bad of me, since we are engaged, and when the mating flight actually starts flying we ought to be copulating frantically at every opportunity or we’re doing it wrong. I’m not a very sizzly sort of dragoness though. So we chatted about very ordinary things, our favorite foods and our first kills and our best kind of music and suchlike whatnots. He talks well.