“Very well. As it happens, I do think they tricked you and cheated you,” I said. He looked confusedly hopeful for the first time that day. “Not unlawfully, as I estimate these things. Dragons have been tricking dragons out of treasures for our whole history.” He drooped. “I don’t think that putting you back in this expedition would work: it is clear that they do not want you. But I shall start a list of dragons whom I think deserve a place on the next expedition, and your name shall be first on it.”
“That is a jasper for a ruby!” he snapped.
“Yes. Better than no gem, though,” I answered. “And the ruby is gone.” Meaning the opportunity to gain honor on this expedition.
“Yes. The ruby is gone,” he sighed, meaning Roroku.
“Which I suppose brings us to these claims,” I said. “You demand compensation of various sorts for the loss of your wife.”
“I do. I won her in a proper mating flight! She was —”
“I do know what she was to you,” I said. “She made that quite clear, and every other dragon who talked about you did, too. Now she is a ruby, but only when she is gone.”
“You worked to destroy her proper wifely affection for me!”
I dropped my veriception blocks. This is quite shocking behavior from a ruler, but has become a bit of a custom on Hove. “No, no, that was gone before I first spoke to her after your wedding. If it ever existed at all. She never told me that it did.”
“I object — I demand — I importune!” objected, demanded, and importuned Gyovanth. The ensuing conversation took approximately twelve years, though, technically, it was over by the end of the afternoon. Pofku fell asleep halfway through. I would have liked to do the same, but someone needed to uphold my side of the argument.
Finally — oh, finally! — I got to say, “So, I have listened to everything you have said about the ruin of your marriage, your honor, and your hoard. You have persuaded me that you and Roroku were a terrible couple who should never have married, but, given that you had, you should have been divorced as soon as possible. You demand compensation for her marital flaws and crimes, while not accepting that your own marital flaws and crimes would require similar compensation from you. You also don’t have a good reason why the royal treasury of Hove should compensate you, or anyone but Roroku herself, and you did have her entire hoard for about a day, until you got tricked out of most of it by means that most dragons would regard as ‘ingenous’ rather than ‘criminal’. The physical punishments are simply untenable, as she is beyond reach. I could ask her to chew off her own paws or something, but I’m not sure that I could be eloquent enough to persuade her to actually do it. In short, my answer to your demands is a concrete composed of ‘can’t’, ‘needn’t’, and ‘won’t’, with a substantial inpouring of ‘you haven’t evidence for that’. As always, if you want to bring further and more persuasive evidence for anything, you know how to do it.”
“That is, indeed, what passes for justice on Hove,” he agreed.
I let him have the last word, since he hadn’t gotten anything else of any value.Support this project! Show that you’re reading it by exchanging notes with the characters, other readers, the writer, and occasional other entities at sythyry.livejournal.com. And/or buy Bard Bloom’s books on Amazon, especially Mating Flight and World in My Claws, the prequel to this story. Also: Glossary and Dramatis Personae.