“Well, as it happens, Hhreamsen and I have been partners in exploration for many duodecades. Yet not all the exploration has been external and cross-world. Some of it, and by no means the least important to our persons, has occurred within the confines of our home together. And, not to put too fine a point on it, within the cozy cavern in which we sleep — but not, as it happens, within which we just sleep,” said Quel Quen. His voice was rushy and ragged and nervous. He was not used to discussing it so openly. Especially to someone who didn’t entirely approve and was, despite her collection of extramarital lovers, was rather a prude.
But I am a prude who is used to dealing with dragons whose prudishness is weak. “And, if I may venture a guess, you wish to establish a similar cozy cavern on Hove, in which you dwell together and share all manner of …” Another dragon would have probably said “bodily fluids”, and I should have done, but I am a prude. ”… facets of life.”
“To start with. Do pairs of drakes hold territory on Hove?” asked Quel Quen. Which is to say: can they be married?
“The answer is complicated,” I admitted. “It was tried at first, with now-King Ythac and his husband Llredh, but it was not a notable success. It was also an attempt at conquest by direct force, which is the wrong approach to use on Hove. They still hold a small territory in the traditional sense, but nobody else does. Not even my husband and I: we have a substantial territory, but hold it by wing-claw.” Which is a complex legal term that indicates that we have various rights and privileges over it, but not some of the most important privileges of true territory-owners, like killing intruders and ruling the small people who choose to inhabit it.
“But all dragons on Hove hold their territory by wing-claw, is it not so? Except for Ythac and Llredh.” said Hhreamsen.
“Yes. Our dominion over Hove is a light burden on us, and a light burden on the small people.” Most of whom are not so dominated that they have even noticed being dominated, like the stagehands who yell at us constantly. They mostly pay us so that we prevent them from killing each other.
“But do couples of drakes hold territory by wing-claw, or only the standard and traditional drake-and-dragoness couples, such as your own?” asked Hhreamsen.
“Both, in fact. Drake-and-dragoness couples are not so common as all that on Hove, so we have to fill in with drake-and-drakes.” That sounded contemptuous to my ears as soon as I said it, so I tried to wash it away with: “Which is to say, nobody moves to Hove as a first choice. Drake-and-dragoness couples come here when they have experienced some slight or injustice to which they cannot get suitable recourse. Not so many of them, because they will generally have territory on other worlds, and giving up even a small territory is a hard matter. Drake-and-drake couples come here because we disapprove less of such things than anywhere else. Indeed, we hold that there is no dishonor in it whatsoever.”
“But no honor either, I take it?” asked Quel Quen quietly.
“Well, it’s a love match, not a proper marriage obtained by defeating other dragons in a mating flight. There’s not much honor to be had in simply falling in love, is there?” I said. “Which should hardly concern you. Your many adventures and expeditions will give you a great hoard of honor — more than my ridiculous and broken mating flight, to be sure! — and if you wish to spend some of it on a marriage together, nobody on Hove could do other than give you all possible respect.”
“We chose each other on our second expedition,” said Quel Quen casually. Oh, good, he sounded basically happy with the tentative arrangements.
“Well, that’s surely as good as a mating flight,” I said, just as casually. And, as I am a rather stupid lizard, I didn’t realize for several days that I had revised the heart of draconic marriage.