A handful of guard with whimpery little ray guns tried to hold me off. I roared at them, “Bring me the Secretary of Diplomacy, and nobody will die!” They seemed glad of an option that involved (a) leaving the garden, and (b) not dying. Naturally the Secretary of Diplomacy was unavailable, being off at an extremely urgent meeting with the consuls or something. So they brought me the Expendable Undersecretary of Diplomacy. That’s not her actual title, but it’s pretty obvious.
“Welcome to Perstra. I am Shebra Narthium, assistant to Secretary Hemmo. I trust that you come in peace and will observe the traditional diplomatic customs?” she said.
“No. I’m not even going to observe the traditions of my people. I’m here to give you the best hoven expert on dragons, so that you don’t do anything more stupid than you’ve already done and make us kill even more of you than we already have to,” I said. I probably could have been more diplomatic myself. I was quite annoyed though. Shebra Narthium might not be one of Greshthanu’s murderers, but she was a senior ally of theirs. And having my ribs broken so often to help her didn’t improve my mood any, even if I couldn’t feel them.
“I’m not sure I understand,” she said. “Could you explain further?”
“Tarcuna, the woman tied to my back, has been travelling with me for a while. She knows what we’re on Hove for, has a basic understanding of our etiquette and the ways for small people — that’s you! — to deal with us. And she knows a lot about how we think and even what we can do. You need an expert on dragons. So I’m bringing you one. Now, get her off my back and give her a high salary. I want to go back to my fiancés and have lots of sex.” Half true.
It took four sturdy diplomats to get poor one-handed Tarcuna get untied and off my back. (Note to self: get proper harness, with carabiners. Having Llredh tie knots, and tugging them tight with a dragon’s strength, is not a good substitute for technology.) While they were working, we conducted a combination job interview and intimidation session.
“Do we have any particular reason to trust Tarcuna not to be acting in your interests?”, Shebra asked.
I glared at her. “Of course she’s acting in my interests. I want to stop having to waste time killing Tresteans, and get back to the vacation that I came to Hove for in the first place. Now, I will burn all your cities to ashes if I need to, but I can think of lots of better ways to spend a week, so I’d rather not.”
“Spotty!” Tarcuna shouted. “That’s not what I told you to say!”
“Oh, right. She’s a loyal Trestean citizen. She didn’t want to cooperate with us, or even stay with us, after we started fighting Trest,” I said.
“We will certainly listen to her story with considerable interest,” said Shebra.
“Also you’d better pay her. A lot,” I proclaimed.
She said something that had words like “brigade policies” and “proper remuneration” and “official channels” and “standard procedures” in it. I cast the Word-Fox, but the spell didn’t understand it either.
So I used more diplomacy. “I’ll come back in a few days to make sure that you’re treating her properly. If you’re not, I’ll destroy some of the Diplomacy Brigade buildings. It’ll end up being more expensive for you than if you paid her up front.”
“Spotty! You’re not helping!”
Shebra glared at me. “We will take this under advisement. Normally we do not allow foreign nationals to dictate Brigade employment or salaries. Especially not hostile foreign nationals.”
“Normally you don’t allow hostile foreign nationals to destroy the Peace Everywhere Array either,” I snapped. Bickering with a small person in public is undignified, but I was rather irritated.
“Spotty! How am I supposed to make any kind of peace when everything you say is past or future war?” shouted Tarcuna.
“You’re not supposed to make peace! You’re supposed to explain dragons to them!” I told her.
“So that we stop getting into unwanted fights with you!”
“Well, you don’t not get into unwanted fights with me by yelling at me in public!” I hissed.
“I am grateful for when you saved me. But it sometimes seems as if everything you’ve done since then is purposefully trying to ruin the life you gave back to me,” Tarcuna snapped. She turned to Shebra. “I will be glad of any opportunity you give me to serve my country. If you prefer not to use my services, I’ll find something else to do. If you decide I should be tried for prostitution or whatever, I’ll be safer in prison than with the dragons.”
“I do not give you permission to imprison her!” I roared. All the hovens covered their ears with their hands.
“It’s not your decision!” Tarcuna shouted back. “It’s an internal Trestean thing. Now go away and stop trying to make me utterly unwelcome in my own home!”
I reared up, over the statue of two hovens shaking hands, and breathed a very long tight needle of fire onto it. The stone melted, and a tail-length of soil and rock under it. The hovens screamed and ran. Then I leapt into the air, levitated because the courtyard was too tight for actually flying, and … cast that clawraped the Dozenwing Dozentail on myself too early. Naturally getting out of the city and back to Ythac and Llredh involved a great many things that offended it, and I had to heal my ribs a dozen more times on the way back than on the way there..
Today was thoroughly horrible, and it was pretty much all my fault. I don’t have so many friends that I should be doing that to one of them. Even if she’d rather, say, be at home with her own people than be stranded in a cave with a murderous short-tempered alien monster who abandons her half the time anyways.
Coda: Travel Spells
Travel spells are mostly grownup spells. I don’t think that’s an inherent part of the magic. The Dozenwing Dozentail might stunt your growth because it injures you constantly, so that one has a good reason for being for grownups. The Scratch-the-Sky isn’t any harder on your body than any other simple magic (and I had learned it as a child but was forbidden to use it except in emergencies.) It’s harder on anyone else who’s flying around though, so parents don’t like when their children cast it. Or, in fact, when anyone else casts it. I don’t think that the Melismatic Tempest has any problems like that — unless you count the occasional minor cut on a fragment of music — but it’s a hard spell. I might be able to cast it, if I felt like begging my rival to teach it to me and losing still more fiancée points, but I couldn’t do it very well.
I don’t feel like writing a coda about travel magic.
Perstra is a big city. Before the unification of Trest it was the capital of one of the little countries, and if I had Tarcuna around I could ask her which one, and I don’t feel like writing a coda about Persta either.
Or about anything else.