Rituals of Conquest (Day 144)
Some days, we seem to be drowning Trest in a sea of blood and flame. That’s perfectly normal. Other days, like today, we’re trying to drown it in a sea of dramaturgy. I suppose I should worry more about the blood and flame.
Tarcuna woke me up in her customary manner of these days. Specifically, by picking her Dragon-Taming Staff — which is a length of steel drain pipe to which she has attached some heavy hand-sized bells and cloth streamers — and thumping my eye with it until the noise or the danger woke me up. (If the staff isn’t at hand, she’ll use a chair or something, which works just as well.) She has realized that I am not going to kill her for any but the gravest of reasons, and exploits that mercilessly.
“I’m not asleep, I’m awake,” I said, in tediously non-rhyming Trestean.
“It’s humiliate-the-Tresteans day. Ceremony’s in a little over an hour,” she said.
I twisted my head around and glared at my body, which was still small and tubby and flat black. “Oh, that’s right. I’d better get ready then.”
“I don’t suppose you’ll let me out of it?” she asked.
“You might be part of the Diplomatic Brigate of old Trest, in which case you belong there for one reason. Otherwise, you’re part of my retinue. Actually you’re all of my retinue, and I certainly want you there.”
“Everyone watching will think I’ve sold my country,” she said.
“Which isn’t so far off,” I said. “At least you got a good price.”
“You are unbearably comforting sometimes,” she said. “At least I had the foresight to attach myself to you by unbreakable bonds before the conquest.”
I slithered out of my tent — Ythac had acquired some big tents for the dragons to sleep in — and started shapeshifting a row of curved spikes down my back. “You can leave any time you like, as far as I’m concerned. I’d be sorry to see you go of course. But I don’t really need a hoven prostitute very much, much less a retired one.”
“Only if you send me away again,” she said. “It’s not just the side effects of getting freed. You’ve conveniently made me the enemy of honest and loyal people everywhere.”
“I’m honest! I’m loyal!” I noted, while I gave myself a triple rack of black lyre-shaped horns. Impractical as anything, but they ought to be pretty.
”‘People’ means the sort of people you call ‘hovens’. We don’t even like that name,” said Tarcuna. She got out a cosmetic kit, and started tinting her ears blue. She muttered, “If I’m a political whore, I might as well dress the part.”
“Decent people do not wear bright blue ear-dye to formal events, as my parents were very careful to tell me several dozen times,” said Tarcuna. “But I am doing it anyways. In case anyone might possibly wonder whether I consider myself decent.”
I don’t know what to do about her when she’s in that sort of mood. So I made her do something useful instead. “Well, I want to look proper. Do I?”
She stared up at me. “Tilt your head right … turn a bit … No, your horns on the left are a lot closer than on the right.”
I fixed them, and checked with a scrying spell. “Ah. Thank you.”