Our Farewell Battle (Day 11)
We’re on Hove now.
The farewell battle was rather sweet. I guess. I’ve never been to one before. We all went to Tavrennou Peninsula. Me; Arilash; the fiancés; our parents except for Csirnis’s who aren’t terribly friendly or available; three or four assorted bachelor drakes who seemed disappointed that Arilash was leaving only fifteen years late. More than one of whom muttered some scurrilous variation on “I hope she can stand being cut down to only seven drakes for her mating flight … to say nothing of only one after she’s married.”
A lot of mhelvul in wagons had come there the day before to set up. Two feasts in one week. I hope I can stand being cut down to only what we can hunt during our mating flight. Fortunately, after I’m married, I can eat as much as I want. I’m ahead of Arilash that way, at least.
The symbolic food for the farewell was all things that were nearly cut in half, to be shared. So my father brought me a roasted tapir, and we ripped it in half and each ate some. Then my mother brought me a roasted sheep, and we ripped that in half and each ate some.
As feast foods go, I like the dragoness-coming-of-age food better. When your mhelvul stuff an animal, they use garlic or cheese or mushrooms or chilis or something, and give it lots of flavor. When they mostly cut it in half and roast it, maybe they’ll slosh some wine or honey or spices over it, or not. Then they roast it until the meat is all tender. Then we eat it bones and all. I don’t quite understand what good it does anyone if the meat is tender, since the bones aren’t.
Then Rankotherium slunk voluminously around the field, making sure that everyone had the mighty and fortificational the Hoplonton. And no reprisal spells — he made Ythac take off the Quarnish Reek.
Then the adults attacked us.
We fought them back as well as we could. But we were outnumbered two to one, with each of the two being bigger and more skilled than the one. And of course our parents know our fighting styles better than anyone else. Except that Llredh had practiced a few tricks, and got a few really vicious bites on his parents that even the Hoplonton couldn’t entirely blunt. They were bleeding and proud afterwards, I’ll bet.
My parents and I didn’t fight that seriously. Not with claws and teeth and breath, at least. Nagging, though…
“Jyothky, be sure to copulate with all your fiancés,” said Mother, as Father breathed a delicate little jet of fire around me which wouldn’t have hurt even if I could feel. And hadn’t been wearing the Hoplonton, of course.
“I will, Mother,” I said. Rather grumblesomely. She had been telling me that for the last dozen years or more. And telling me not to copulate with anyone before then, too. Which I hadn’t particularly wanted to, but she never believed that.
“That doesn’t go for you,” Rankotherium shouted at Ythac, at my flank. “If you dishonor me I’ll bite your wings off.”
“And don’t try to conquer Hove,” said Father. I stared at him. That gave Mother an opening to bite my left foreleg. She didn’t bit very hard — there’s no point unless she actually wanted to cripple me — but enough to prove that she could injure me.
“Why would we conquer Hove? We haven’t talked about it,” I said, and blasted Mother with lighting to prove that I could.
“Well, don’t get distracted trying to conquer Hove. It’s hard work, conquering a world and keeping it conquered. You’re going there to get married. Not to go conquering.”
Llredth shouted over at him, “Maybe not. We’re sure going to go plundering though.”
“Nothing wrong with that,” said Father. Mother scowled at him. Mother is a determined Uplifter. That means she wants to improve the lot of the small people that she rules. Sometimes making them happier, sometimes improving their character, sometimes granting them more priveleges or knowledge or whatever. So plundering small people is only justified when you’re doing something good for some other small people. Like, if you kill off an oppressive warlord, you can plunder his properties too. But it would be unkind to plunder them without killing him.
Father is a not-very-determined Downcrusher. That means he wants to keep a firm control of the small people that he rules. Say, to keep them from having enough science or armies to kill themselves off. For Downcrushers, there’s nothing wrong with plundering small people most of the time. Of course, if they’re terribly poor, plundering them is unkind. But it’s usually not worth your time to plunder someone who’s terribly poor anyways. And, oh, plundering half a warlord’s wealth makes for a weaker warlord, which has got to be better than a strong one, right?
(There aren’t any mhelvul warlords left on Mhel. And we’re not plundering the mhelvul anymore anyways. We’re farming them. So most of the discussions about Uplifting and Downcrushing are academic. The dragons on Mhel mostly are on the Downcrushing side though. The mhelvul and their gods were well on their way to killing each other off. They definitely needed all the Downcrushing we gave them then. And, if their practices of constructing gymnasiums are any indication, they’re still better off being ruled with a firm claw. More of that later.)
Anyways, I didn’t want them to start bickering, so I breathed fire on Father and lightning on Mother. “You’re supposed to be driving me off, remember?”
“Right, Jyothky. I’m sorry!” Mother and Father flanked me, then dived at me at the same time. Very elegant of them. They’ve been fighting side by side for a long, long time.
Also very inconvenient. If I wanted to get out of their way — which I did! — I had to land by Arilash. There wasn’t much space left in the lower air. Arilash was setting up the Triangular Cyclonette. A rather bloody Csirnis and a rather less bloody Greshthanu were keeping five big dragons away from her. They looked rather outnumbered, so I waddled over to help them a bit.
“Have a wonderful time, Jyothky!” shouted Mother.
“Go pick out a good one! See you in a dozen years!” shouted Father.
Arilash finished up the Triangular Cyclonette. She spread her wings, and let the wind of fire and niobium and poetry carry her through, to Hove.
“We love you!” my parents shouted in unison, and struck at me with their breath weapons, fiercely.
“I love you too!” I roared, and flew after Arilash.