I was here in the dragoness cave, writing what you have just read. Arilash was out late, presumably reducing the need for mount-fighting among our fiancés. She flew back in, with some sort of travel spell I guess, so fast that she left little shards of music in her wake. “Did that help any, Jyothky?”
“I don’t think so. He told me he loves me.”
“The sheep told you that? Or the mountain?”
I puffed fire at her. “No. Ythac.”
“Well, I meant the mountain. I’ve never melted nearly so much of one, but I’m sure I’m going to want to before this is over. I didn’t know you had even talked to Ythac — he was with us most of the afternoon.” Arilash rolled on her back and blasted her belly with fire, and the cave filled with the stench of burnt dragon semen. Ythac’s and Nrararn’s.
I couldn’t really accuse her of poaching on my drakes, since (a) we’re officially sharing them for the mating flight, and (b) if we hadn’t been, she’d have had the prior claim on both. So I was a good dragoness and ignored it. “Just writing messages from afar. He’s good with language magic.” I waved my wings around. “Can’t you go wash off in the river? Or doesn’t that stuff dissolve in water?”
“I ran out of soap.”
“Have a drake raid some from Ghemel.”
“Right, we’re on a civilized world. I haven’t seen any of it yet. Did Ythac of the Good With Language Magic explain at all what he meant by loving you?” she said.
“I’d like to see more of Hove myself. Ythac didn’t really give me a seven-page Manifesto of Affection. He didn’t want me to fly over there and fornicate. That’s how I always imagined how a real romantic declaration of love should go.”
“I usually do it while I’m twining somebody,” she said. “It’s more convenient that way.”
“You’ve been in love?” I asked.
She took a huge wad of sand and started buffing the last of the mess off her scutes. “Oh, dozens of times. For about an hour and a quarter after the last orgasm is over.”
“That’s not real love,” I said.
She breathed fire on me, not doing much. “Says the expert in both love and orgasm. Ever had either one?”
“No,” I snapped, and breathed lightning on her, hard enough to scorch through her Small Wall. Which was rude of me: if I was going to fight her, we should decide which form and all of that.
Arilash hissed as she healed herself. “You’re the prickle queen today! If we’re going to keep talking about your personal life, could you at least give me the Hoplonton? Talking with you hurts!”
I couldn’t really take offense at what I wanted to take offense at, so I took offense at something she didn’t actually say. “You know I can’t feel. I know I can’t feel. Murghal probably knows I can’t feel by now. You can always score points off me with it, but by now it’s not very many points,” I hissed.
“I’m not trying to score points off you!” She sounded rather irritated.
“Well, you should be,” I said. “I’m trying to put up a good struggle at least, and you’re not even paying attention most of the time. I actually won a fight this morning, and I’d probably win again if I pounced you now.”
“So maybe you’ll surprise everyone and win the mating flight,” she said. “Fine with me. Just don’t you dare declare it over any sooner than you need to.”
Which makes no sense at all. How could she not care whether or not she won the mating flight? She’s got to have a top choice among the drakes — by then, if not by now. Probably Csirnis, there aren’t many drakes as appealing as Csirnis. If she’s not first, I’ll probably take her top choice.
And of course everyone will know for the rest of forever that she was second in her mating flight. Maybe even last, if I beat her resoundingly enough. There’s a big difference between second and last — I wake up and fret about it for at least a third of an hour every night. Second (which is “third” in any reasonable mating flight, or “sixth” for a drake, or “seventh” for our drakes) means “Put up a good fight”. Last just means “Lost”. Last is just plain humiliating. For your whole life.
And if Arilash loses to me, that means she sure didn’t put up a good fight.
So I sort of blinked confusedly at her, for a bit. She snarled, “I’m going to sleep,” and stuck her head under her wing like a bird.
I was furious. “Turn your back on me in the middle of a dominance contest, will you?”
She raised her wing a bit. “It’s not a declared one. And if it were I’d concede, you slow-witted lizard. I want to sleep.”
So she was serious. Insane, but serious. I prodded her a bit more with some questions and some claws, but she just muttered about wanting to sleep and talking more when at least one of us was willing to be the least bit sensible.