Worse Diplomacy (Day 81)
The next day in the big red and orange tent didn’t do any better. Except for one thing, and that was seeing Tarcuna again.
I was sleeping in a barn. Specifically one of the barns of the Royal Stables, so it was quite a nice barn as long as I was careful not to knock against the sides. Though it smelled so much of recent horses that I was quite hungry. It required a good deal of determination to go to sleep rather than sneaking off for some night hunting, which would have surely made poor Csirnis’ diplomacy just that much harder.
Early in the morning, at least an hour before the day’s negotiations were supposed to start, Tarcuna and some Trestean soldiers drove up to the barn in a very nice wooden carriage. I had my head under my wing (see “determination” above). Tarcuna pounded on the door and shouted, “Spotty, Spotty? Are you awake?”
“I’m not asleep, I’m awake,” I said, although it wasn’t true, and didn’t rhyme in Trestean either.
“Do you have time to talk?”
I woke up some more. “Oh! Tarcuna! I didn’t know you were here!” I peered down at her. “Are we still friends?”
She looked up fearlessly, which I had to feel guilty about. “I hope so. I’m still in love with you anyhow. Could we talk a bit, though?”
“Of course! Come in! I think there’s something to sit on. No food though. Who are your companions?”
She introduced them, but I mostly don’t care about their names. “They’re my guards, and Markosh here is my … they call him my mentor.”
“That sounds evasive to me. What do you call him?” I asked.
“My tender, maybe. My handler. They’re not at all sure what to make of me,” said Tarcuna. She looked into the barn, which was mostly full of me, and sat on a bale of hay in the barnyard instead. The soldiers sat, two on the hay, the other two on the ground. Markosh bowed and said something diplomatical and therefore meaningless.
“I hope they have given you a very high salary and made you comfortable and honored in all ways?” I asked, glaring at Markosh.
“It takes a while. They’ve been OK so far. I’m sort of consulting for them on spec. If I do a good job here and if they think they can trust me afterwards, they’ll do that,” said Tarcuna.
“Tarcuna, you know you can’t lie to a dragon,” I said.
Tarcuna glared at Markosh. “Told you.”
Markosh nodded gravely. “We had to know.”
“I have to know too! Tarcuna, you must tell me what you are being evasive about!” I roared.
“Oh, some forceful interrogation techniques. Not a big deal. Some of my johns were harsher to me, when I was a whore,” said Tarcuna.
“But you were getting paid then!” I said. My tail boomed against the side of the barn. I didn’t want to break the barn down — I’d probably have to sleep in a cave if I did that, and Strobland’s caves are awfully wet and moldy. So I shrank by three-quarters (linear), and waddled out to the barnyard. The diplomat and soldiers boggled a bit at the display of very ordinary magic. Which was silly of them, I’d been that size last night so I could go to the theatre for a chanting-out. (I didn’t want to take hoven shape — none of the other dragons did, and I wanted to show my solidarity with them. And we want to be full-sized and impressive for the actual negotiations.)
“Well, I expect I’ll get paid again soon. It wasn’t so bad really. Truth drugs — they’re not really truth drugs, they just lower my inhibitions and make me dizzy. I barely have any inhibitions anyways, and they usually let me sit down, so that wasn’t any trouble to speak of. They also kept me awake a couple days in a row, and shouted at me a lot. You’ve done worse to me and I was, am, grateful,” said Tarcuna.
I tasted her scent, and thought about her words. “You’re angry at them but don’t want me to kill them, is that what you mean?”
“Exactly. I’d rather they make it up to me with money and honor and such. And I’d rather earn it myself than have you blast it out of them. It’d be nice to have some pride again,” said Tarcuna.
“Well, next time you’re telling me something, don’t be so evasive. I hate having to think. I’m the laziest dragon on Hove, especially before breakfast.”
So we chatted about her circumstances a bit more. She’s constantly guarded and monitored. She grinned a big grin at that. “I asked for privacy, and they didn’t want to give it to me. They thought you’d sneak in and give me secret orders, or something.”
“Because it’s so easy for a barn-sized lizard to sneak into a small room without anyone noticing,” I said.
“Well, you got around Dorday pretty quietly for a few days,” said Tarcuna. “Anyways, if they don’t don’t want me to have any privacy … a whore doesn’t really expect a lot of privacy in her professional life anyways.” The soldiers’ fur went all turbulent and their scent a bit sour, which means they were embarrassed. “I know how to put on quite a flashy show of auto-eroticism. Good for flustering the guards, and for feeling sweeter after being kept awake for two days.”
I had to laugh at that. “From that, did they give you any privacy?”
“No, just female guards.”
“I can’t imagine that stopping you,” I said.
“It inspired my artistry!”
“I guess they didn’t know you like girls better than boys?”
“The Diplomacy Brigade knew. I don’t think the guards figured it out ‘til you just said it,” said Tarcuna. Her guards did seem to be melting a bit into puddles of embarrassment.
“Well, I’m glad you’ve been taking good care of yourself,” I said. “Was that what you wanted to talk about?”