Language of Serpents (Day 167)
“What should I wear to visit your mother?” I asked Tarcuna.
She finished buckling her green leather belt with the big pouch around her waist, then burrowed around in the suitcases of clothes and personal effects she had taken from Red Spires, which were now taking up most of our hotel room. “Here, try this on!” she said as she tossed me a tangle of black straps and sequins.
It didn’t seem significant to either vision or dangersense. I dodged away from it anyways. “What is it?”
“It matches your scales!”
“So does the night sky, and I don’t wear that,” was the only reasonable answer.
“The night sky doesn’t match your scales,” she pointed out. “It’s green and orange and brown and blue and white. You are black. Black is not any of those colors.” I obviously can’t even keep track of which universe I’m in.
“Well, it’s black where I come from,” I said. “How am I supposed to wear this, anyways?”
“You can’t, not without turning into a hoven first. And don’t do that. It’s a very practical private working garment from my old job. Even when I was wormridden I wouldn’t wear it in public.”
I poked the thing with a claw. It didn’t react. I’m sure it was just biding its time to strike. “What do you want me to look like when we visit your mother?”
She can be a very confusing hoven. “You don’t want me there?” I asked.
“Oh, I want you there. I want you invisible.” Tarcuna asked.
“That works better when I’m flying. On the ground I run into things. That makes everyone suspicious,” I said. Spells like the Esrret-Sky-Painted and the Pyerthu’s Spare Hallucination are a vaguely useful trick now and then. But they don’t work very well where it counts the most: other dragons can’t see you, but they can find you with any of a dozen other senses. You’ve made yourself look like a fountain of glitter to magioception, on the off chance you didn’t have any spells on otherwise.
“Well, I don’t want my mother to know I’ve brought a dragon for backup,” Tarcuna said. “It would be embarrassing.”
I turned into a tri-colored ribbon snake and slithered into Tarcuna’s belt pouch. “I suppose that will do,” she said. “Now for the harder question, of what I should wear? I’d take the peach tunic, but … do you have any spells for sewing clothes up instantly, Jyothky?”
I peeked out at the tunic. “I don’t. Is it torn? It doesn’t look torn.”
“It’s got a flap for Bopo to stick out. I am not going to wear any clothes like that ever again,” she stated inexorably. “But everything shocking is like that, or is too indecent to wear outdoors.”
“You’re trying to shock her?” I wondered.
“When she disowned me, she was vicious and vehement about the sort of life I’d be leading and how bad it would be for her social standing. As if the only reason I’d fall in love with Kangbok was to trouble her. She was sort of right about that.” (Which was a lie, but I count it as storytelling.) “So it would be only gracious to show her how right she was. And if I happen to be bad for her social standing in the process, well, that’s just more evidence she was right, isn’t it?”
I peered up at her. She looks a good deal more imposing when one is a tiny snake. “Is that how you’re supposed to treat your mother?”
“I’m picking etiquette up from you.”
I blinked at her. Which works very badly with transparent eyelids. “I don’t treat my mother like that.”
“I’ve never seen you with your mother. You treat hovens like that. I’m your catspaw. What do you expect from me?”
“Obedience and moral guidance, maybe?”
She flicked my chin with a fingertip, hard enough to presumably hurt. “Not likely.” She stared at her clothes, and picked something red and orange and not as revealing as she wanted.
I let my catspaws get away with far too much, don’t I?