History does not record who was chosen to convey the challenge to the knights, nor why the challenge was delayed by four days. I, rationally, think it was Katamerces, who was the company’s chief diplomat and lawyer, and it was delayed to work out the wording and discover precisely who was to be involved in the duel. Osoth told me at the time that it was Ngassith to deliver the challenge, and the delay was surprising. Tultamaan told me that Nrusco was to deliver the challenge, and the delay was so that the scholars could consolidate their learnings and explain what the duelists were to face.
After four days the diplomat was told to leave off, for Hyxy and Ngassith limped back to Base Camp, collapsing the cyclone with a sharp blow of her vô behind them. The “limping” was literal enough: Hyxy was missing two and a half of her four wings, and the entirety of her tail. Ngassith was bleeding from four wounds that went entirely through him. Actually Hyxy wasn’t missing her tail at all; Ngassith had it in his forepaw.
They had a gigantic ruby in the shape of a child-sized cupola, complete with a grilled Voravian child inside it, and they were laughing in delight as Psajathrion tried to arrange for them to get replacement wings and spleens.
“Oh, the Knights of the Crown are strong knights, I’ll never doubt that again!” chortled Hyxy. “Driaith had put the Hoplonton on us (Us!), and other defenses too, but the whirl-knives and scoriatic spells of the Knights have their own evasive powers, and they found a way to go through even the Hoplonton!.”
“This is valuable information,” said Osoth. “I am not sure that was two wings and a tail valuable. Also, whence cometh the cupola?”
“Oh, that. We (we!) flew over to the Palace of the Crown’s Platelet and burned it off,” said Hyxy. She flipped it over, shoving Psajathrion out of the way from treating her wings, and showed thick lines of burnt feathers. “The birdy part wasn’t so flammible, but it corroded quick enough.”
Psajathrion prodded her tail-stub hard enough to make her yelp. “And the corpse inside?”
“Oh, just some local who didn’t get out of the way fast enough,” she said. Psajathrion poked again, probably to indicate all the disapproval he could.
“Well, I do say, this may not have been the most convenient turn of events,” noted Osoth. “You have made it impossible for us to go back there in any sort of amicable way and arrange an enjoyable and informative mélée. Or for any other purpose short of conquest, even, and they may well be on the lookout for that.”
Hyxy shrugged, which must have been a very awkward gesture since it usually involves the wings. “I don’t think they were going to be easy to conquer anyhow. Tough as gods, are those knights.”
Osoth flicked his tail in annoyance. “Katamerces, O wise diplomat and lawyer, for you I have a question. Do you think there is any point to returning the child’s body with a note of apology?”
Katamerces sat up and curled his tail around his paws primly. “It is quite a delicate matter. I should prefer not to be the one to return the body myself. Perhaps the minikin could be expanded or replicated and induced to bring it. H’m, h’m … I shall compose a short note which is rather more ‘regrettable accident’ and ‘perpetrators shall be punished’, and rather less ‘ha-ha, we killed your child and escaped unscathed.’”
“Not ‘unscathed’”, said Psajathrion, working one of the more intricate healing spells on Hyxy. “It will take twelve or thirteen standard years before Hyxy can fly again on her own wings. And I have my doubts about whether she’ll ever have full use of her tail.”
The dragons became quiet then. Not very often do we take permanant injuries, and especially not from small people, no matter how mighty.
“I am going to kill them all!” roared Hyxy.
“Not without your wings and tail, now,” said Psajathrion.
“And not without a much better defensive array than we have,” said Ngassith reasonably. He was still bleeding from several tunnels through his body. “Perhaps, if an expedition is arranged to conquer Vorav, we shall arrange to be on it. As the experts, you know.”
Hyxy glared at her mate, and crouched, and let the physician treat them. The dragons admired the cupola — it is, indeed, the most beautiful and valuable cupola that anyone has ever seen — and decided they were just as happy leaving the cyclone to Vorav closed.
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