Etiquette of Jyothky (Day 683)
The High Desmers tower over the hilly Bweldraan farmlands, forming the northern barrier of that modest and generally tedious nation. I flew alone, with only a smoked bustard for company. At the edge of the mountains I bugled, my cry sending sheep fleeing across the plow-patterned hills and echoing jaggedly from the ancient stones.
Arilash answered me in kind.
“Arilash! Behold, it is I, Jyothky, erstwhile companion of your cave of nights! I bring tribute! Do not rip me again with your fearsome claws, do not breathe the familiar flames against me! If you challenge me here, I shall surely flee!”
She flew the seven miles to me in a few seconds and a scatter of broken music. “It is good to see you, Jyothky. What’s with the formal manners though?”
I waved the bustard at her, and she snatched it out of my talons. As she bit it, I said, “I’m just trying to be polite. I didn’t know what sort of terms we were on after I drove you away from some drakes you said you loved.”
“I do love them, but not in a marrying sort of way. And as for us … can we be on ‘You’re the first dragon to see me and not have a fight since I left the mating flight?’ terms?”
We flew side by side, far enough apart not to foul each other’s wings. “We can try. Also on sharing the Horizonal Quill so I don’t need to fly a quarter of the way around Hove to talk to you. What happened?”
“After you so boldly and violently chased me off — I will never forget those deadly vicious healing spells, not as long as I live! — I went to Psilia and Boruu. Seeking comfort and solace, of course. I didn’t find it. I somehow tangled my wings and fell into a fight with both of them. They’re not a bit faithful to each other, I know for a fact. But I said a few rude things about the institution of marriage as applied to the constitutionally unfaithful dragon. Meaning myself of course. They got quite offended, I think. They started explaining in considerable detail the great goodness of their marriage, despite both of them being rather like me. I couldn’t take even an hour of that, Jyothky, not after giving up on the mating flight. I wasn’t terribly polite to them, and then I flew off. I haven’t talked to anyone since then. You’re the first, and if you’re not at least a bit nicer than they were I’m going to rip your wings off. Or maybe my own, if I can’t catch you.”
I glided under her and looped my tail around hers, which is the closest thing to a hug that one can really give in the air. “That sounds awful. Besides, you’ll be able to catch me. You’re wearing the Melismatic Tempest.”
She peered at me. “And you’re wearing the Dozenwing Dozentail. That’s the nastiest spell ever! How can you stand it?”
I grinned at her. “I have Secret and Special Powers, remember?”
Arilash belched thick smoke. “It’ll break your ribs, pain or no pain! It’s a horrible spell — and don’t you agree with me, or it’ll bash you! Take it off this instant!” So I did. “I am going to teach you the Melismatic Tempest before you go!”
I laughed. “Long visit then! That’s a hard spell. And I can’t really pay you back with anything. I’m still playing catch-up on grownup spells.”
“You will owe me a favor. Start by telling me the gossip.” She descended a quarter-mile or so, circling a watchtower-adorned peak. Hovens pointed at us and watched us with telescopes, their weapons ready.
I followed her. “The mating flight pretty much fell apart when you left. Osoth went back to his catacombs and archaeologies the next day. Csirnis and Nrararn fought five Caramelles between breakfast and lunchtime…”
“Poor Nrararn, indeed. It’s his fault though. He kept challenging Csirnis. Csirnis went easy on him.”
“How did he do?”
“Nrararn won the second fight. Csirnis was going too easy on him. Anyways, I think that was the last of the mating flight. Csirnis went back to Ze Cheya that afternoon.”
Arilash flew by the tower, and breathed flame three winglengths over it. “Are they happy about having him there?”
“I haven’t visited him there yet. I haven’t recovered from the last visit yet. I don’t think they have either. Why are you roasting those hovens?”
“You are such an Uplifter! I’m not roasting them,” said Arilash. She wasn’t. “I just want them to stop spying on me.”
“I don’t think they’re quite going to get the point of what you want if you don’t tell them,” I said. Arilash hissed and sparked. I giggled at her. “It’s not such a terrible matter. I’ll tell them if you like.”
So I dived at the tower and snatched one of the rangers from the window, and stole his language with the The Spilling of the Speech, and took him on a presumably-thrilling ride twice ‘round the tower before I set him safely on the ground, unhurt save in dignity. “The horrible tan beast up there — wait, I don’t have to call her that anymore! The largely sweet and relatively peaceful tan beast up there says that she doesn’t want you spying on her anymore. She might have a boyfriend over now and then, but you’re not to watch.” Explaining that took not many more minutes.
“I wish I’d get a boyfriend visiting, though,” said Arilash. “Flying over to seduce someone sounds desperate. They still should be coming to me, shouldn’t they? The bachelor drakes at least.”
“I don’t know if there’s any official etiquette of it. You’re the first bachelor dragoness I’ve heard of. A widow would have some suitors chosen by the king, I think.”
Arilash landed by her cave, which was barely big enough for her, and that only because he had melted it larger. “If Ythac tries to get me married off properly, I’m going to threaten to marry him. How are he and Llredh doing?”
“I’m never sure anymore. Ythac is trying to rule Trest, and having a sad time of it. Llredh is mostly working on his revenge, and, from what I can hear, on seducing everyone he’s allowed to seduce.”
Arilash peered at the cave. “You can sleep there if you like; I’ll be comfortable outside. Poor Tarcuna; she must be getting terribly sore.”
“She hasn’t twined Llredh very often at all. I think it’s Kuro.” I folded my wings embarrassedly. “I’ll sleep outside. I’ll be more comfortable than you will.”
“I’ll melt the cave larger,” said Arilash. “For when the drakes come calling, you know.” She scooped a small pile of unimpressive valuables out of the cave, and breathed into it. As she was recovering, she said, “Kuro was Ythac’s first love, wasn’t he?”
I breathed on the cave after her, until the rock glowed white. “He wasn’t talking about that to me at the time. I suppose I should get his true life’s history. When I bite his wings off and officially forgive him, I suppose. I haven’t done that yet.”
“You’re still angry at him?” asked Arilash, and took her turn melting the cave.
I breathed again, and the stone poured out of the cave over the black glassy path from Arilash’s first expansion. Arilash and I hopped out of the way. Getting lava on your feet is awkward, and probably painful. “Oh, not at all angry, but I did promise.”
“So who are you going to marry? Have you decided yet?”, asked Arilash.
I laughed, and boiled more stone. “I haven’t. Only Nrararn seems to be staying around to court me. Csirnis sounds like a better choice, but I don’t think he much wants to marry me.”
“He doesn’t. He wants a female version of himself.”
“The only way he’ll find that is by shapeshifting,” I said, melting more rock.
“And he wouldn’t change sex, not even when I asked,” said Arilash. “I think that’s big enough. Now we wait a week for it to cool down.”
“If we’re not competing for drakes anymore, maybe you won’t tell me what you had in mind when you asked him that?” I begged. I glared at the molten rock, and started breathing cold on it delicately.
Arilash laughed. “You’re allowed to stop being a prude now, Jyothky. Oh, ice breath. I should have remembered you know that, you used it on me often enough.”
“If you don’t stop teasing me about that, I’m going to ask you the clawsome questions!”
“I’d just answer them. Do you want to risk that?”