(My role in this chapter is: I was back on Strayway, running around frantically, trying to contact Vae, find the children, keep Arfaen from exploding in a burst of upset mother energy that would rip the tails from everyone in Srineia, etc. I was not notably successful.)
(Which is to say, we had no idea of any of this at the time. We heard reports from those who survived. I trust it is not too much of a spoiler to hear that not everyone involved died.)
Even Vae can’t teleport all that far at once, though her concept of “all that far” is much farther than mine. So, she does what any sensible person would do. Well, what any insanely powerful and powerfully insane person would do. She teleports into empty air far from anywhere in particular in the general direction of her intended destination, falls a few hundred yards, and teleports again, closer.
I don’t particularly mind, when I’m travelling with her. I have wings, after all, and suddenly finding myself in the middle of the sky is no great fear after I have spread them.
Cani and Rassimel children do not have wings.
Quendry:“Oh, no! We’re falling! We’re up in the sky and falling and falling!”
Ochirion was not nearly so eloquent. He grabbed Vae’s foreleg and started punching and biting her.
Vae is a monster. Which is to say, she cannot trust that the mere constraints of civilization and basic morality — or, more practically, city walls — will keep either primes or other monsters from attacking her at any given time. So, naturally, she wears defensive spells. Layers and layers of defensive spells, some of them decades old. Specific ones and general ones; strong ones and weak ones; simple ones and elaborate ones; purely defensive ones and ones that retaliate. They buzz around her in no particular order or structure. There is no telling which one will first attempt to protect her against any particular attack.
This time, it was specific, weak, simple, and retaliatory. Ochirion’s muzzle became a crude blunt cone of wood, looking more like a beak than a proper muzzle.
Ochirion flailed around frantically. The spell must have hurt him greatly, but with his mouth turned to a lump of wood, he couldn’t talk.
Windigar howled as he fell, “Turn him back! Turn him back, Vae!”
Vae crossed her arms and hissed at Windigar. “Not until he apologizes! Not at all should he be attacking me and striking at me!” Vae is sometimes somewhat fussy about these matters. I don’t think it’s a designed compulsion, the way her opinions of helping primes and getting things from us are. I think she just doesn’t like to be attacked, and can’t distinguish perfectly between microscopic (to her) assaults like a child biting her and a pirate sorcerer blasting away with his best death spells.
Falling out of the sky, thirteen miles over the Dullogmarn, is perhaps not the best place to give a lesson in etiquette to a pack of young boys whom one has just (arguably) kidnapped. A more experienced parent would, perhaps, have realized that a certain amount of time and effort must be expended in calming the children down, or at least bringing them to a place where such calmness was possible, before the lesson would have much chance of success.
Perhaps, after her child hatches, Vae will be able to get such experience. Or perhaps not: I don’t know if Oixe will let Vae participate much in the childrearing. For that matter, I don’t know if nendrai hatchlings find falling out of the sky to be particularly terrifying.
In any case, such experience is decades and decades in Vae’s future. We have, on the whole, kept Vae from taking an active and extensive part in child-care on Strayway, for reasons which, based on the events of the morning were wholly justified and entirely correct.
We have also tried to get Vae to wear those blasted earmuffs all the time, but sometimes she forgets.
Windigar attempted to educate Vae on this point, with words along the lines of, “He is but a child; he is unfamiliar with the ways of the great beasts, and with the ways of proper etiquette. You must grant him a certain amount of leeway in your reprimands.” Windigar, as a sky pilot, is less unused to falling out of the sky than most people.
Vae sounded a bit sulky. “Not a bit of cause has he for going biting at me. The favor am I doing to him! The buying of the wedding present for him is the quest I am coming along on!”
Windigar pointed out, “While this is true, and, indeed, quite kind of you from certain points of view, it is also to be noted that all three children are quite petrified and howling from fear at suddenly finding themselves plummeting towards what, if I am not mistaken, is the Dullogmarn. Perhaps you could bring us to some still and safe place, where, I am certain, the children will be as polite as you could possibly desire — as polite as they are nearly all the time!”
Vae, with less good grace that she sometimes exhibits, transformed something or other into a vast kite sort of thing. The primes and monster were perched on a small and tippy wooden platform. A fringe of long green glowing tentacles lurked around the edge of the platform. The platform was suspended in the sky — not by a levitation spell, such as anyone reasonable would use — but by a vast kite that appeared to be the skin of a flayed and expanded Rassimel, with Ochirion’s own coloration. Its head caught the wind with an expression of comical anguish. Its tail flopped uselessly behind.
“The apology let him make now, and not a bit more shall I remember the incident, nor shall aught keep us from our quest!” proclaimed Vae.
Ochirion said nothing.
Quendry curled up in a ball on the platform. A gust of wind rocked the kite, and he nearly fell off. Two glowing green tentacles grabbed him before he could fall further. He was not greatly comforted by this provision for his safety.
“Ochirion! Not so greatly angry am I at you, for a monster lives for little but to be the biting-ball of primes and I cannot expect much better even from my closest friends. The apology I do wish from you, though, for I do love you and I do feel the disrespect you have presented to me as a sting in my heart.”
Ochirion said nothing.
Windigar said, “He can’t talk. You’ve turned his mouth into a lump of wood.”
“Not I was it who thus transformed him, but merely one of my vast congeries of protective spells!” protested Vae.
Windigar nodded. “An important distinction, surely, and one which eluded me at first. Nonetheless, he cannot speak, so he cannot apologize.”
Vae scowled. “The illusion spell, the mind spell — these things he could do. The writing — this thing, too, he could do! Not every word that is meant needs to be spoken!”
“His magic is neither strong nor reliable. I imagine he started with Healoc Corpador, being Rassimel. I doubt that he has any but the least power at either Illusador or Mentador; we do not generally teach these to such young boys,” noted Windigar.
“Oh, very well,” snapped Vae. She swatted Ochirion’s beak with her tail, moving the spell to one of the tentacles, giving it a vicious wooden tip.
Ochirion apologized profusely, if incoherently.