In retrospect, it was unwise to hold a sending-off celebration for the Hoven Royal Exploring Company’s first exploration.
It was even unwise in prospect. As soon as he got his invitation (one of the big ones, in fancy Grand Draconic calligraphy, courtesy of the ever-useful and ever-decorative Nrararn), Quel Quen came flying to the capitol du jour to warn me about it. “Not that I have even the slightest wish to interfere with your most impressive and tumultuous celebration, but you mustn’t expect that the expedition will actually go anywhere on the first day, or even the first month.” And he told me why not, and he was precisely right about it.
But it would have been rather too embarrassing to cancel the event by that point. Invitations had been sent, caterers hired, oxen slaughtered and marinated! Plus, I wanted to have a celebration for it, as about my last official and effective act in the expedition. (I had mostly forgotten about the venstroma.) And if we were to celebrate, we could either celebrate on the first day, when the expedition members would probably sit around and not do anything, or on the day they actually depart, which could come at any time from the first minute on.
So I chewed metaphorically on Quel Quen until he agreed to speak at the sending-off celebration and explain why, though it was sending-off celebration, no off would actually be sent.
Queltza is a hot country, and a dry one. It shares a vast border with Ghemel. In that part of the world, dragons are worshipped almost as devoutly as the blessed(†) angels Bmern and Drukah, for we saved them from a terrible and wicked alien god. (We shouldn’t be. We had brought the thing ourselves, and if we had paid attention and cleaned it up when we scattered across Hove for a game of Hide and Seek, nobody would have needed any saving.)
(†) Or one of them is cursed, depending on your hoven’s theology. Neither of them seems to exist, so it’s probably fine either way.
Loved and worshipped we may be, but love and worship do not make good roads. Neither do the Queltza. Dragons don’t use roads much, but hoven dignitaries certainly do. And hoven caterers and stage-builders and all, too. A truck carrying half a stage, which was already late, overturned on a narrow mountain road, and the extraordinarily useful and sweet and beautiful Nrararn flew out in a massive flutter of wings to rescue it and help put the ceremony back on schedule. And to make there not be a terrible sandstorm, as the forces of nature had scheduled for that day. Air mages are so wonderful, there are no words. Or at least, air mage dragons who are one’s ally for life and will help out in emergencies are.
One might ask why we held the ceremony in what is more or less the least convenient part of Hove. One might, in particular, ask this after hearing that we could have put our end of the Pentagonal Cyclone anywhere that we liked. If it had been up to me, Quel Quen would have explained it in his speech, but fortunately someone with actual sense about what would upset hovens (Tarcuna, this time) told me not to tell anyone why.
I will tell you why.