Persuasions, 2. (Mating Flight 206/240)
I petted Nrararn, and smiled at Sporthen. “What did you want to talk about today?”
“Simply this: you wished to join RARU. We would happily accept you — as we would any true-spirited Trestean, make no mistake. But all of our members have sworn a promise to oppose the dragons. So, we were wondering if you would like any further discussion or information that might make you more comfortable joining us.”
«He’s asking us to spy on him!» wrote Nrararn.
“Well, yes, I do have a few. The biggest one is, what sort of chances do RARU have?”
Sporthen scooped soup. “I wish I could answer that with complete confidence. Of course, we do not know. But it seems the best approach. Violence has not been particularly successful, and shows no great promise for the future. Ordinarily, if we disliked our rulers, we would elect new consuls to replace them. That was well on its way to working to remove Shuvanne. The dragons seem unlikely to care. What else might work? Grovelling and pleading?”
“You make a strong case that it is the best way. But do you think it will work?”
“I have more hope than some in RARU! Consider this: the dragons seem to mix the personal and the political. RARU’s official publications say that the dragons are anti-consular, that they particularly hate our system of government. I do not think so. They have not dismantled it; they have simply plopped themselves on top of it. They seem to care more about each other than they do at all about us. They might simply fly away in frustration, if sufficiently frustrated.”
“Or they might burn up a few cities on the way. Llredh is not the most peaceful of dragons,” I noted.
Sporthen clinked his spoon on his bowl twice. “Definitely a risk. I fear that it will happen regardless; they seem always on the edge of a massacre. We might as well get something for our burned-up cities. Let me turn the question around: would you rather live under the invaders’ rule, or die removing them? Or — suppose they kill ten thousand of us before they go, but there are a billion. Would you accept, what is that, odds of a hundred thousand to one in your favor? Which is what we are actually asking of you.”
“Those are certainly good odds of surviving,” I said.
“Phrased in those terms, fear of death in rebellion seems simply ridiculous. The chance that you even see a dragon is not that great, unless you travel to Perstra in person,” he said.
“I’ve seen them in Dorday,” I said.
“Does that intimidate you?” he asked.
“I think the Quenjo Wastes battle was a bit more intimidating,” I said, after a bit of a pause to think of something true.
“Also an unusual situation,” he said. “And here, I believe, is your omelette.”
The presentation of the omelette was less than perfect. The waiter tripped on nothing in particular, and sent omelette, sour sauce, cocoa, and their suitable condiments showering towards my lap. So I caught the tray in one hand and set the sauce and cocoa upright with the other, before they were completely turned over.
The waitress curtsied, “Very sorry, miss. Nothing lost, I hope?” She smelled rather nervous, probably because half the restaurant was staring at us.
I looked at the tray. “Not much. The cocoa sloshed a bit.”
“I’ll bring you another cup straightaway,” she said.
“Just into the saucer.” I poured it back into the cup. “No harm done.” She headed back to the kitchen anyways.
Sporthen nodded. “You’re quick.”
“Did you have any sort of special training?” he asked.
Which took a bit of thought. “Nothing in particular,” I said, since most dragons had at least the training I did, and mostly more.
“I see… what did you say your last name was?”
“Meragathium. Spelled how it sounds,” I said.
“Joffinet Meragathium. How is your omelette?”
I tasted it. “Delicious with sour sauce. Better being eaten than worn!”
He grinned, and ate more soup. “I am told that you have unusual opinions about the punishment camps and the reality of cyoziworms.”
“Not so unusual among people who have seen the horrible things,” I said.
He looked interested. “Ah, you have seen them? Most of us regard them as a trick: an imaginary enemy for us to fear, to lure us into accepting the dragons as the lesser of two evils, and accepting the punishment camps. What did you see?”
“I was in the operating theatre when Spotty and Dr. Grauzeng removed the worm from Bthera. I saw it myself.” I described it as best I could.
“I see,” he said. “And the camps?”
“As far as I know, they are just what the dragons say they are. Dragons have few virtues in hoven terms, but they are not liars. I do think you shouldn’t get distracted by the worms or the camps though.”
“There is something to your point of view,” he said, and changed the conversation to non-seditious topics some while.
«Well, that was useless,» I wrote to Nrararn.
«Next time, tell Ythac to find a group that doesn’t have an entrance vow,» he answered.
«Tomorrow, or the day after. I want to finish seeing Tublier while we’re here,» I replied.