Guardian of the Wheel of Iron
After breakfast, we went to the St. Cheerior Amusement Park. Tarcuna and I had spent an afternoon when I was here before, and I had enjoyed it a lot.
This time … well, the amusements were pretty much the same. The spirals spun, the balls bounced, and the whirligigs were ready to ride. There weren’t very many hovens around to ride them though. Perhaps a few dozen, in a park which had held a few grand the last time I was here.
The centerpiece of St. Cheerior Amusement Park is the big wheel. It’s a very big vertical wheel, a massive thing of iron and wood and glittery brass cages for hovens to ride in, built in earlier days when hovens knew some technology but not all that they know now. A heavy iron engine by its side somehow burns wood and boils water and turns it around. Not terribly fast; this isn’t a whirligig ride. I could levitate up faster than the big wheel turns. Of course hovens can’t levitate, or get into the sky in all that many ways, so the big wheel is perhaps the easiest way to see all Dorday spread beneath you like a very spiky picnic. When I was here before, the lines for the big wheel took a third of an hour.
“Let’s go up on the Big Wheel!” I said.
“Ooh, we can get stuffed in a little iron cage and hoisted around to shallow heights much more slowly than we can fly!” said Arilash. She flapped her wings. “Let’s go!” She and I had been determinedly mocking each other all morning, in best Mating Flight style.
So we went, or tried to.
With the park so empty, there were no lines, for the big wheel or anything else. A bored-looking hoven boy sat by the ticket booth, with an older hoven, just as bored, tending the engine.
“Give us five tickets,” said Arilash to the boy. “Here’s the fifteen thurnies.”
The boy smelled of terror. He pushed the money back at her. “No.”
“Beg pardon?” said Arilash.
“No. No dragons allowed.” said the boy.
“No dragons allowed. This is for hovens only,” he said.
The engineer said, “Dakko, let me take care of this,” and stepped to the ticket booth. The boy scuttled behind the engine. “Well, sir dragon, this wheel’s only for people. No dragons.”
“That’s ridiculous,” said Arilash. “Your country is ruled by dragons now.”
“That’s as may be, sir. I ain’t in charge of the country. I am in charge of the big wheel. And as long as I’m in charge of it, no dragons go riding it nohow.”
“Would you deny Ythac, your master?” she hissed.
“Yes, sir, I’d deny that Ythac is my master. I’m a free man, I am. I don’t have a master. I’ve got an archconsul, to be sure. An archconsul who’s a coward and an idiot for surrendering, but we elected him and no dragon is going to come say that he’s not ours,” said the engineer.
“Except for Llredh, of course,” I added.
The engineer glared at me. “I said Shuvanne’s a coward, to give up so easy. Me, I ain’t no coward.”
“You don’t have a dragon’s claw rammed through your chest,” I pointed out.
“You do that, sir. Kill me if you like, go right ahead. You’re still not getting a ride on the big wheel from me,” said the engineer, stinking of fear and gleaming with bravery.
“It would be ungracious to kill this man,” said Csirnis in Grand Draconic. “Even if it were not Ythac and Llredh’s territory.”
“I’m not going to!” I hissed back at him.
I stared at the engineer. He frowned at me. “Well, you’ve got no business here. Go away.”
I glared at him. I was awfully offended. Of course I couldn’t kill him or hurt him very much without poaching against Ythac and thinking much worse of myself. Maybe a flick of hukuchô? But driving him off didn’t sound helpful, and he certainly didn’t deserve the torture anyways. Maybe arguing that I was helping the hovens, but I wasn’t sure I could persuade myself of that, much less one of them. So I just glared.
“Observe the might of Jyothky! She is currently having her tail handed to her by an unarmed, feeble hoven,” said Arilash.
“Because I was helping you!” I squeaked.
“I didn’t need help. I know what to do,” she said to me in Grand Draconic. In Trestean, she hissed at the engineer, “Your meagre Hoven obstinacy cannot prevent me from riding the wheel!” She leapt into the air and circled over us, hissing. “Come on, come on! We all must conquer this wheel!”
So the drakes flew after her to the top of the wheel. I blinked at the engineer, and joined them. We sat on top of a glittering cage, which swayed and wobbled under our weight. The wheel turned slowly. When the one cage with hovens in it came to be the bottom, the engineer stopped the wheel and let them out. They fled. The engineer glared at us, and left the wheel still. So we flew back to the top car, and sat on it for a third of an hour as the engineer told everyone about us.
After we had been there long enough to declare victory, we flew back to our hotel, and sat in the lobby while doleful or angry hovens watched us darkly.