Osoth was sitting on a big pile of rubble, in the midst of a big jungle of overgrown ruined stone buildings. All around him were hovens working in the hot sunlight, some armed with dainty shovels, and some with tiny brooms and dustpans, and some with even less impressive implements of cleaning, or cryptic technological equipment, or even notepads. He knew I was coming from quite some distance of course.
“Osoth? Is this your territory?” I yelled to him from a polite distance.
“Hm? No, no. This is the Prevalian Catacombs. Fascinating place! Come see!”
I circled around. Hovens looked up at me without much fear — I guess they had been working for Osoth for a few days and he hadn’t been too dangerous. I started to land on a ruined cathedral sort of place. Osoth and some of the hovens jumped up and shouted, “No, no, not on the Tholos of the Abnegation!”
I glared at them, and after a bit got permission to land in the street. Several hoven workers helped exhausted Tarcuna off my back, and took her to a tent down the road. I hope they fed her and let her sleep like I told them to, rather than hiring her and making her work anymore.
“So, O my glorious and dark-scaled fiancée, what brings you to this dismal domain of ancient death, wherein lie buried tyrants and theopomps of bygone ages, and where I consult with the Prevalian Archaeological Society to recover them?” Osoth seemed quite proud of his archeological and necromantic powers, and any other time I would have let him trumpet about them for hours.
“Horrible news,” I said, in Grand Draconic.
“I await it with dread and trepidation!” said Osoth.
So I told him everything. He giggled considerably at all the wrong places.
“So, briefly, Llredh got himself taken over by a mind-worm, Ythac freed him, and now they’re a couple?” said Osoth.
“I continue to await the horrible news with dread and trepidation,” said Osoth.
“What could be more horrible?” I asked.
That is a very unwise question to ask a necromancer. “Well. He could continue to be trapped by the worm for one thing. Or dead. Or dead and his spirit entrapped in an ivory column in crenzi tasvri. Or he could be alive and infested with a magic-resistant strain of flesh-eating insects. Or, say, it could be one of our scant supply of dragonesses suffering one of those fates. For a few examples.”
“No. None of those.”
“Instead, Llredh and Ythac seem to have found happiness together. I can but wish them the greatest joy and success in this most unorthodox yet sublime of projects!”
I tried to bite his wing, but he dodged. “You’re being awfully nice to your rivals. You don’t have an alliance with them too, do you?”
“Ah! But from this news, they are rivals no longer!”
I should have understood that before. Of course the drakes won’t mind losing a rival. Especially not two higher-ranked rivals.
“You’re disgusting too! Wouldn’t you rather win with dignity than have your chances improved like this?”
“Win with dignity? I should be delighted, but I cannot expect such a thing. Any sort of victory that is not out-and-out dishonorable on my part would please me … not that I think you would accept me if I were the least bit dishonorable in person! Yet I do not constrain my failing rivals to behave so well.” said Osoth.
“I understand. But that didn’t win any fiancé points,” I told him.
“Nrararn will do better when you tell him, I should think.” said Osoth.
I had a horrible thought. “You and Nrararn aren’t lovers like that… are you?”
“No, no, not we!” He displayed for me the truth of his words. “Allies, yes. Friends, more or less, yes. Lovers, intimates? We have never been.”
“You sound evasive, necromancer,” I thundered, because he did. “Do you have any indecent plans?”
He breathed a puff of graveyard dust into my face. I choked on it, and had to use the Rose Rescaler. While I did, he answered, “We have options, not plans as such, which you might not regard as wholly decent. If one of us marries and the other does not, the married one will carefully overlook any adultery of his wife and the other, should such a thing arise.”
“I would not do a thing like that!” I roared.
“Arilash might, if it came to that,” said Osoth softly. “She might prefer it. And Nrararn and I cannot refuse the slightest advantage in our suit for her, no more than for you.”
Which was unendurable. “I’m going to go tell Csirnis. You can tell your proto-cuckold yourself.”