“What did you get, Osoth?”
“Let us torment it and discover, O my fiancée!” he said.
I wasn’t sure how to torment some dust in a sapphire bottle, since claws don’t really work very well on dust. Osoth knows how to torment dust with words, though. Heavy little words that landed on the bottle like a rain of mercury. They looked rather pretty. I can’t work spells with words in them yet, so I was jealous.
The bottle howled as they fell on it. “Depart, and let the dead sleep in peace!” it mewled, in a voice like winter wind blowing through ashes.
“Not likely!” said Osoth. “Who are you?”
“In the grave there are no names,” said the bottle.
“You’re not in the grave. You’re in a little gemstone bottle in my claw,” said Osoth. He added three more quicksilver words which I refuse to try to write down.
The bottle moaned at Osoth’s incantation, and surrendered. “When I lived, Xolgrohim was my name. Mighty was I among the gods of war and pain.”
“Now you’re mighty among the gods in bottles. Did you have any treasure?”
“Wealthy was I when I lived, wealthy beyond measure. Seven palaces of jade and chalcedony had I, and a thousand priests did me homage, and ten thousand warriors brought me tribute. All fell to the dragons, all was taken or destroyed. Now let me sleep.”
“Reeeaaaly? If I open that jar up and dump you out, you’ll be gone for good. No more sleep for you!” said Osoth.
“Is that how it works?” I asked Osoth.
“Indeed it is, O my fiancée, in the simplest of instances. But there are subtleties to the practice of necromancy, subtleties within subtleties. His actual status would be worse than that: not asleep, yet not wholly destroyed. Necromancers could still call him up and torment him. Yet I have means of granting him a less tenuous existence: not life, but considerably more than death,” said Osoth, back to his usual style of speech now that he was talking to a live person. “But more proximately, are you ill?”
“How would I know?” I grumbled. I cast a very direct spell to tell me my general health. Nobody else I know needs to cast that on themselves. “No, I’m perfectly healthy, except for minor abrasions.”
He looked nervously at my hind legs or so. “Are you sure?”
I would have breathed ice on him, being suddenly in a surprisingly and uncharacteristically terrible mood, except that he actually looked worried. “No, I’m not sure. You know that. Don’t ask me such things.” He looked even more worried. “What’s wrong?”
“You’re laying an egg.”
“I am?” Which is about the stupidest thing to say — how could he mistake it? I stuck my neck between my forelegs and looked. Yes, indeed, there it was, forcing its way out of my cloaca: the tip of a gleaming amber blob big enough to fit a dragonet. Or a medium-sized lionness, say. One was about as likely as the other, since I was a virgin. I have protection spells on to keep me from relieving myself at socially awkward times — and I will kill anyone who tries to dispel them! — but of course they don’t cover eggs.
Well, that was embarrassing. Having one of my fiancés see me at a very intimate time is bad enough. Having him notice it before me was hideous. And having the ghost of a conquered god staring also … Well, I suppose every dragon has to do something so remarkable that no other dragon has ever done it before. I’d rather have had something a bit more glorious for myself, though. Like, oh, being killed by a rabbit.
Osoth naturally didn’t realize that. “You are, indeed. Allow me to be the first to express my congratulations on your attaining maturity.” Of course he would say that. The whole mating flight had been waiting for years for me to grow up.
“Better you than that horror in the bottle,” I said. I wished I could have come up with something caustic.
“May I help you back home?” asked Osoth.
Right. I couldn’t just lay the egg in the Tumult Sands and breathe it to ashes. I needed to take the cursed thing to show my parents and and my fiancés and everyone else who might care that I was now sexually mature and the long-delayed mating flight could finally get going.
Without anyone bothering to teach me any adult magic, for one disadvantage.
“I can get there myself!”, I said. That was worth a breath, at least a small one. An ice breath, which is more annoying but easier to heal than fire. (Yes, I’ve got both, and lightning too. I had a long time to study child’s magic.)
Of course, he was wearing the Hoplonton I had given him, so it didn’t touch him. He blinked innocently at me. “Jyothky, I beg your indulgence. Forgive me for whatever insult I have offered to you. But be aware that it was inadvertant, and, indeed, I do not know what it is.”
So I tried to dart at him to bite him. As I write this, half a day later, I don’t think that biting him would have been at all polite. It seemed to make sense at the time. Laying an egg makes a dragonness crazy, everyone says. Even if she can’t actually feel it.
When Arilash darts, it’s beautiful and elegant. When I dart, usually it’s just sort of massive on a small scale. This time, it was all waddly and awkward. Why having something going on behind my hind legs gets in the way of something that’s mostly forelegs and neck, I don’t know.
So I didn’t successfully bite him that time. Just as well, I guess.
He didn’t complain. “O Jyothky! Shall I command the liches of long-dead mhelvul to bring you to your parents’ home, wherein you shall be given a festival commensurate with your new status?”
“What a horrid thought.”
“Perhaps, O Jyothky, you do not appreciate the value and utility of necromancy. The dead are not mighty, but they are many, and with proper spells they are obedient.”
(Which is a point against marrying him. Animata are fine when servants are scarce, but would I want to have animated skeletons all over the house doing the housework?)
“No, I don’t. I’m going home now. Stay and play with your sapphire bottle if you like.”
Well, it was a horrible trip. I tried to fly, but I was too awkward. Whenever I flapped my wings, my protection spells screamed that I was being attacked by a dragon. The dragon being me: flying while you’re laying an egg is likely to rip something important inside of you. So I wound up levitating rather than flying. Dead slow.
Also, it gave all the peasants a chance to look up at me and see me with an egg hanging halfway out of me. Until I realized what they were pointing at and why they were screaming. I wrapped myself in the Esrret-Sky-Painted so that nobody would see me. I did a really bad job of it. Osoth could see me. Not just magioception or dangersense, but out and out see me. I guess I actually was in serious pain or something.
Xolgrohim, in the sapphire bottle in Osoth’s claw, couldn’t see me. And the mhelvul stopped looking so terrified. So that part worked at least.