Except for one plane, the one that Osoth had breathed death dust on. Surely that pilot felt his own death close upon him — I’ve gotten a faceful of Osoth’s dust, and it’s quite vicious. So, that pilot aimed his jet squarely at Osoth, as quickly as he could fly. Osoth, who was still in a cloud of smoke and fireworks.
Osoth tried to dodge, of course.
Osoth is the clumsiest of all dragons.
The jet hit Osoth’s left haunch, and exploded. Bits of burning metal splattered down on the battlefield. Not many bits of dragon, though. The Hoplonton is quite a good spell. Osoth, in approximately one piece despite a huge wound in his flank and his left hindleg in ruins, was presumably casting the Rose Rescaler rather than worrying too much about flying.
The other drakes stopped mocking, and flew down to rescue him. Csirnis and Nrararn grabbed him in their talons and bore him back to the sky. Ythac fluttered around him, presumably casting a new course of protective spells. Osoth’s apotropaics must have been rather ragged at that.
“Xhê tśiīaő šsyẵiąỳśś Ếsrŕyů…”, I had to say.
Darrir looked at me. “I beg your pardon?”
“A praise-song for a brave enemy,” I said.
“Would that translate into any sort of armistice, by any chance?”
“Oh, not at all. You’re the best sort of enemy. You’re very brave, there’ll be lots of good stories, but there’s not much doubt about the outcome of the battle,” I said. “Well, unless Osoth gets caught off guard and klutzy a whole lot more.”
The hovens pressed their advantage, firing huge guns, spraying huge cauldrons of flammible liquid in the air and exploding them, sending forth odd magenta and green rays, sweeping in with waves of fighter planes. A tidy little hurricane arose upon the battlefield around the dragons, courtesy of Nrararn. Trains of angry ghosts, the dead that each pilot had slain, flew after the airplanes, and their touch left huge streaks of rust and rot in the planes’ flanks, courtesy of Osoth. Csirnis breathed a vast cone of light, and a dozen planes were blinded, instruments and pilots both, and landed or crashed as best they could. Ythac used a finding-spell, and then breathed a narrow cone of darkness upon one of the experimental weapon embankments; the odd rays ceased. My drakes are so pretty when they’re fighting, I’d have married them all just then, and even perverted Ythac too.
The hovens reeled or reloaded. The drakes had a moment of peace, and finished their healing-spells. They circled over the field, and breathed flame and lightning in unison.
General Crane glared at Osoth’s now-unhurt flank and leg. “Damn it! I spent planes and guns and brave, brave men for that one hit, and for what? A sore leg on one dragon for five minutes?”
“Well, you gave them a moment of actual worry. That’s some measure of success, really,” I said.
“I’ve got a city to save,” said the general. “A moment of worry won’t do it.”
“Oh, right, that’s tomorrow’s chore. Did the hovens leave Churry City?”
“Mostly,” said Darrir. “Some refused to go. Are you ready for another thousand deaths on your conscience?”
“Well, if they chose not to go, they’re suicides. And I don’t get to burn the city either. Or loot it.”
“You sound resentful,” said Darrir sympathetically. “The other dragons are keeping you away from the glory and treasure?”
“More or less,” I said.
“Well … what if they didn’t manage to win today, would that help?” Darrir said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“What if they got driven off without looting Churry City. So you’d have a chance to get your own share later, or at least keep them from being ahead of you,” he said.
“Oh! This must be Social Warfare!” I chirped.
“Well, technically, yes. A rush job of it. Still … if we’re being straightforward now … is there some sort of private deal we could arrange so that you’d stay neutral in any further conflicts?” he asked. “Not to betray your … friends? They are friends?, … just to stay out of fights.”
“Can you restore Greshthanu to life? Heal me in ways that draconic healing spells cannot? Give me the strength and size to defeat Arilash regularly? Get rid of all the cyoziworms on Hove?”
“No on restoring life. Maybe on the healing; our doctors are peerless. I will gladly arrange examinations and they will see what they can do. No on the strength and size. I had always thought that cyoziworms were something out of old wives’ tales, but if they’re real and anything like the fiction, we’d want to get rid of them too,” he said. “So we clearly have interests in common, as well as things we can do for you.”
“Right now, though, you should be quiet and let me watch my friends demolish your army,” I said. Which they were doing quite nicely. Ythac and Nrararn had assembled a very complicated and intelligent storm which rained lightning and tornadoes on the actual artillery, leaving the fake ones dry. The battlefield was crawling with skeletons, though Osoth was staying very high up and being quite cautious personally. Csirnis was darting and diving among the warplanes, elegantly ripping their wings off or tricking them into shooting each other. “Aren’t they beautiful? And kind, too, they’re mostly destroying machines and mostly letting the soldiers live when that’s convenient.”
“They certainly fight very well. And have a certain ophidian grace to them. I would rather admire them under more peaceful circumstances.”
“It should only be a few weeks more. Unless Shuvanne is awfully obstinate. People sometimes are, in the face of execution, but if he delays too much we’ll just kill him without all the formalities,” I said. He started to say something, but I added, “Which is probably better for you than losing too many more cities.”
It wasn’t a few weeks, though.