Today I grew up. Finally. Everyone’s been waiting for me the last fifteen years. Naturally it happened in the most embarrassing way possible, right in front of one of my fiancés and a non-dragon.
I woke up and ate nine rabbits and flew to the Tumult Sands to clean up. The Tumult Sands are a little scrap of desert where indigo sand boils around. It’s never still. It’s like it’s being stirred by a huge wooden spoon from the sky, and like someone with about seven heads is underneath it puffing it up. It used to be sacred to the mhelvul’s gods, before my parents chased them off and gave the mhelvul something more worthwhile to serve. The mhelvul used to tie a spare child of the noble classes upside-down on a heavy iron scaffold there every spring and fall, and let the sands scourge them to death. The desert gods would gather around and lap up the child’s blood and spirit as he died. What good that did the mhelvul, I don’t know. Kept the desert gods from eating them more, I guess. Only, the mhelvul don’t go into the desert, and the desert gods didn’t leave it. There’s nothing there but stirred-up indigo sand and that horrid iron scaffold.
But it’s a good place for a bath. I perched on that scaffold and let the sand blast my scales clean. It doesn’t like me very much, that sand. It hates dragons for what we did to its gods. It leaps up and splashes around me and tries to flay my skin off, as if I were a mhelvul sacrifice and a half.
Everyone else thinks I’m being silly, taking sandbaths there. Everyone else says it hurts. The ichor of the ancient paingods is in those sands. The touch of them is like being raked with salted claws.
I wouldn’t know, though. I can’t feel.
Anyways, nobody else ever comes to the Tumult Sands. Except that morning, Osoth did.
I should explain about Osoth. He’s one of my fiancés. He’s not the oldest — Tultamaan has a dozen years on him — but he acts the oldest. I mean, like he was several centuries old, or sometime more, not just seventy years. He’s eighteen feet long plus head and tail. That’s a touch short — not that I can talk, I’m four feet shorter than that. His scales are patterned quite intricately, curling lines of deep grey and deeper grey on a background of light grey. You can see the spellwork making it grey, though. He’s just a gloomless pastel violet underneath it, quite pretty really, but not the necromantic style. (I’m just a flat black — girls always get dull colors and no patterns.) He affects eight small horns, four of which curl around his eyes. He thinks it makes his head look a bit skullish. I think it makes him look like he’s wearing goggles. And he’s got the same wing-shaped ears and the usual bulbous eyes that dragons always do and skulls never do.
Oh, and he’s a necromancer, of course. I said that before, right? His breath is a gust of some terrible poison dust that he excavated from a cursed grave. He’s got an ordinary fiery breath weapon too, from back before he discovered necromancy, but he never uses it.
Astrally, he’s perfect. I can see this of course, but small people can’t, because this part of him — of us — is in a slightly different world. A pert little whefo, pulsing with the essence of flame and poison dust for his two breaths. Around that a nice symmetrical four-lobed vo, nice and strong, good for breaking spells so well. Most of us have four lobes in our vo, from when the doctor performs the Great Separation, but often they’re not so symmetrical. (Well, the ones of us who survive usually do. Five-sixths or more of dragonets die from it, but we don’t count them.) His thezo is a perfect sphere, which makes sense ’cause he’s very good with magic.
Then his hukucho is perfect too, a big forward-pointing almond-shape twice the size of his body at least. Hukuchos are pretty useless really, though lesser beings cannot endure their touch, so they’re good if you ever need to make a bunch of small people run away or faint or something. I keep telling myself that a hukucho doesn’t matter very much, because mine has a huge jagged ugly rip in it that matches the rip in my mind that keeps me from feeling. I survived my Great Separation but not really very well.
It’s hard to see or aerocept or hear much in the Tumult Sands, so I noticed him as a growl of medium-bitter magic and danger first. Since the Sands are my family’s territory, good manners demanded that I fly up and get ready to drive him off. Which is all very silly. Nobody just flies in and attacks anyone anymore, not on Mhel. And if you’re poaching on someone else’s territory, you wouldn’t pick the Tumult Sands anyways, would you? There’s nothing there to poach.
“Jyothky! Behold, it is I, Osoth, foremost among your fiancés! I bring you tribute! Do not strike at me with your fierce claws, do not exhale upon me the depths of winter which dwell within your inner heart, do not rip at my breast with your deadly fangs!”
“Well, let me see your tribute. If it’s good, I won’t kill you,” I said. It’s good to be polite to your fiancés, especially if they’re polite to you first. Not that I could kill him in a fair fight, anyways. Especially starting out with him flying in high and me flapping like a frantic sow to get off of that nasty iron scaffold and out of the messy low winds of the Tumult Sands.