Nightmares [20 Hispis 4385]
Many people at breakfast this morning looked rather haggard. Some had an excellent excuse for it, having been killed the day before. Grinwipey, killed more than once, was floating in the corner, too exhausted to move much. Not too exhausted to swear, of course. "'morning, lizards. You look punch-soaking pleased with yourself this morning."
"And do we?" asked Vae. She did not. She was wearing a heavy bovine body very poorly supported by five thin arms, so that she was walking on hands that really couldn't hold her weight. Her dozens of udders, each bristling with inflamed and scarred teats, dragged on the floor beneath her. Even her tail was a little bovine paintbrush sort of thing. Her fur was marked with the symbols of doom and mourning. The only part of her that actually looked like her was her head, as if she couldn't think of any way to make it look worse.
"Nah, you look like a lump of cud someone horked up," Grinwipey said.
"Which should not be ta'en as a great startle," said Yerenthax. "For it is how I feel this morning." Jyondre refilled her kathia chalice, and got a tired smile from her.
"I know why you're so shaky, Yerenthax, and Rheng and Kantele, and certainly why Wipey is," I said, trying to get people to stop insulting the monster who had saved them. "Arfaen, did you get killed and I didn't notice?"
Arfaen shook her head. "I got nothing worse from the pirates than words, really."
"I know evasive when I hear it," I said. "What are you not telling me?"
Arfaen shook her head and tucked her tail between her legs. "It's nothing really, not compared to Grinwipey, or Yerenthax and Rheng and Kantele."
"I continue to know evasive when I hear it," I said.
"I'm not evading! We just didn't sleep very well last night," said Arfaen.
(Note to self: while I do know evasiveness when I hear it, sometimes it's perfectly fine and proper for the evader to evade.)
"I had a nightmares!" said Quendry proudly. "I had a nightmares that Dad had hired pirates to make Mommy do too much sex with Cani. So she would forget Mellilot and me. Then we'd have to go back home and I wouldn't have affan in anything and they'd put liver in my bed and make it go all stinky and wormblown. Then they'd make me cut up my favorite tree so they could carve it into insect dolls and they'd put those into Mommy too. And ... "
Arfaen hugged Quendry. "You don't need to tell the whole dream."
Quendry wagged his tail. "It was awful! Mommy let me sleep between her and Mellilot."
"I had a nightmare too," said Kantele. "I dreamed that the pirates killed everybody on board."
"Even me?" asked Quendry. "Why did the pirates kill me?"
"I don't remember very clearly. I don't hold on to my nightmares to enjoy them later! Something about some birds that we were trying to hide from them," said Kantele.
His mother wagged her tail, "Because you were too cute to live."
"In dull despair, and dream-distracted / we are too weak for poem protracted," staved Yerenthax. "Not one of my best."
Jyondre rubbed his girlfriend's ursine head. "For your saving my life yesterday, I will gladly listen to a thousand such staves." (I'm pretty sure that the pirates killed Kantele as soon as Vae teleported off, and then Yerenthax and Rheng held them off briefly while Jyondre, Zascalle, and Umbers fled.) Yerenthax leaned her head tiredly against Jyondre's forearm.
"I had a nightmare too," said Umbers.
"Oh, no! What was it?" asked Inconnu.
Umbers shrugged her mid-arms. "Nothing worth going over. I dreamed I was back in the underground clubs, servicing ... never mind who. And they made me cultivate mushrooms in between customers. I hate growing mushrooms."
"I'll never make you grow mushrooms! I don't even like mushrooms!" chirped Inconnu.
Umbers tapped him on the muzzle. "You won't make me do anything. Just because of last night with you doesn't mean we're married, or even that we're going to have a next night. It just means I was lonely and sad, and you were handy and entertaining." Inconnu looked so sad and wide-eyed that Umbers had to flatten her antennae and say, "Doesn't mean we won't have a next night either. But we're definitely not married." Inconnu brightened.
"It was a bad night of dreams," said Zascalle. "Having your children attacked by pirates and you not even there to protect them can do that."
"Why, what was your dream about?" asked Kantele. "For nothing shows a dream to be a harmless and evanescent phantom more than explaining it in public."
"My dream wasn't a harmless devil-scent phamtom!" barked Quendry. "It was a nightmares! It smelled like a burnt pig trotter with mustard and jam and poop on it!" Which might be true, for all I know.
"I dreamed I was doing the books for Castle Wrong -- I dream about that quite often," said Zascalle. "And nothing added up right, and the charges for apples kept getting higher and higher every time I looked at them. And V..." She looked around. "Well, someone said that Ochirion was getting cut in half by pirates, and I couldn't come save him until all the sums were done and staying done." She shook her head. "Nothing much of a surprise there."
"There's a sorrow on me for troubling you so, even in your dreams, Zascalle," said Vae.
Zascalle flattened her ears and tail. "You didn't ... it's all right ... Actually it's totally unfair of me to dream that, since you actually saved the children."
"The children of Strayway I saved, to their terror. And did I kill many children in Dossimar, think you?"
I bated between them. [That means, I hung on to the tapestried back of a chair and flapped my wings hard. My translator suggests I define that for some reason.] "Though there is an accounting sort of question I had for you, Zascalle: will we be able to pay for the repairs of Strayway, do you think? Or will we need more money?"
Zascalle didn't raise her ears a bit. "A few spells and a bit of cheap carpentry, and it will keep the rain out. We can board off the broken parts of the interior, so that the children don't fall through the floor or some such. We can at least get to Srineia that way."
"I know evasive when I hear it, really," I whined. "And I don't want a boarded-up sky-yacht. I want a fine one."
"It's been an expensive trip so far, Sythyry, and we didn't bring as much cash as we intended to," said Zascalle. "You cannot afford to fix Strayway back to her original beauty with just the money you have on hand."
Inconnu wiggled his tailtip -- he had somehow insinuated himself into Umbers' lap. "Can't you use lots of Healoc Herbador to put it back right?"
Phaniet shook her head. "The underlying enchantments are shaken and wrenched; they need to be repaired simultaneously, or the skyboat will never fly properly again."
"Can't Sythyry do that?" asked Inconnu.
I picked up a spoon and pretended to hammer a nail into his head with it. "I am not much of a carpenter. I can do part of it, but not all."
Inconnu stared at Este. Este shrugged. "I'd be glad to try if that's what you really want."
"Meaning no insult to my husband ... my husband is no crew of shipwrights. He and Sythyry could do a fine job in a pinch, considering that they are only two people and the job should properly require two dozen," said Phaniet, curling her tail with Este's.
"Also it would be a bit of a waste. Sythyry can earn more in a week than we'd spend on the two dozen shipwrights," added Zascalle.
"If I find the right customer," I noted. "I can earn a million lozens in a month, but not every month ... and not every decade, even. I've only done it once. And, for what it's worth, my nightmare was that the city I sold it to sent the pirates by way of complaint."
Jyondre looked up from behind his pink barbarian. "I'm sure that a city on Srineia will want better walls: Bephengy or Heleshario, if not Eigrach. Our best sorcerers are not much for wall-building."
"How are they as shipwrights?" I asked.
"Adequate, I should think. Eigrach has a modest shipyard, and Heleshario a specialty maker of racing-boats," said our native guide and expert on all matters Srineian.
"Well, we're not that far away. I suppose we're better off limping to Eigrach as quick as our emerald antelopes can carry us, and seeing how we can repair the boat there," I pronounced. "Arfaen, you were chief amongst those who wanted to return to Vheshrame earlier. What say you?"
Arfaen said, "I ..."
Kantele pricked up her ears, interruping. "If we head straight for Vheshrame, we will be passing close to Dossimar Mene, where we have recently stirred up the pirates and rendered the general populace amazingly displeased with us."
Arfaen said, "Yes, but ..."
Phaniet added, "Only, this time, we will be flying a crippled and sluggish skyboat, and the best of our warriors recovering from a bit of death."
Arfaen said, "Yes, but I ..."
Kantele stood up, her tail all a-bottlebrush. "To be sure, the nendrai would be eager to fight." Vae did not look to be eager to fight: she was curled up backwards on the floor, chewing on her tail, her udders poking out, in a position that surely would have been impossible for anything with an actual spine. "I daresay she won't stop with ruining one city-state this time."
Arfaen said, "Yes, but I think ..."
Quendry wailed, "I want to stay with Mommy and Mummy! I don't want to go back to the longhouse!"
Yerenthax stood up, with some difficulty, and said "I should like to hear Arfaen's actual opinion before trying to argue her out of it."
Arfaen said, "Thank you, O Gormoror. I think that I would rather have some city walls around me soon, more than Vheshrame's walls around me rather later. I would rather travel in a skyboat that Sythyry has properly armed and armored -- more than in a broken one, and more than any mroe precipitous means that may be available. I would rather not explain to my husband what became of his son and his tail just now. I am not feeling any braver than yesterday, but my cowardice is less tightly focussed. I will stay with us through Eigrach."
Hops brought out a cauldron of soup made from dried shrimps and garlic. "Hey, m'lordres, Calla the exhausted Herethroy night cook made this for your breakfasts." She glared at Arfaen. "Calla's having nightmares about having to cook every meal for the whole crew for the whole trip, zie is, and that nightmare is coming out real."