Arilash stomped up behind Roroku, hissing like a thousand kettles, and prodded her in the flank with a clawtip. “You decide to take a wisdom path, Roroku! Competing with me is a fool’s deed.”
Roroku smiled a wicked smile, and said, “As you like, Arilash.” Which everyone who heard it understood as, “You’re wholly wrong, but you’re not worth arguing with.”
“I like the situation. I do not so much like the means by which you announce it. But I do not expect any very good manners from you, Roroku.”
“My manners are not to be questioned. Yours are another story, Arilash. Is it polite, the things you do? Is it ritually appropriate? For, know this: you have defiled yourself with so many drakes that there can be neither honor nor good fortune in a mating flight with you.”
“Hah — you attempt libel! If you had not abandoned all your honor just now, I would take offense!”
“Libel, you call it? The truth is not libel, Arilash.”
“Truth, you call it? You leave out so many of the people I have defiled myself with, and you dare to call it truth? And about the mating flight. That is superstition. You cannot theocept any truth to it, can you?” Arilash doesn’t have a good reputation really, as Roroku is hinting, but Arilash is quite well educated at least.
“It doesn’t need a god to bring bad fortune to a mating flight,” snapped Roroku.
“So, what is the governor of this cosmic principle which brings bad fortune to mating flights where someone starts a bit early and does a bit of investigative research? A god could do it, but there is no god involved. A spell could do it, a very intelligent spell with extensive divination and many forms of effectuator. A most mighty and puissant spell. A spell that is cosmic in scope and terrible to behold. A spell that we could probably magiocept from three universes over,” said Arilash. “A spell which is notably — even remarkably — nowhere to be noticed.”
“It doesn’t need magic, Arilash. It’s a matter of honor.”
“It is ever so fortunate that we have you with us to educate us on the topic of honor, Roroku. You break your engagement-oaths so honorably,” said Arilash in a voice as sweet as honeyed blood.
And that earned Arilash a gust of firebreath, right in the face. Arilash was only wearing the Small Wall. Roroku is good with fire; it must have stung. Arilash laughed while she was healing her eyes. “And your manners at a party are impeccable too. Offend the guest of honor, then scorch the guests. For an encore, perhaps you will try to steal Rankotherium’s enchanted bracelet.”
“I shall do no such thing,” said Roroku, stiffly. “But I shall be glad to have seen the last of you, and the boys as well.” She left me out. Probably she barely remembered me.
“I shall be glad to hasten that wondersome day!” said Arilash. “Shall I cast the Triangular Cyclonette for you, as a sign of my esteem? Or at least my pleasure at our final parting?”
“I have a correspondent on Chiriact who shall do the honors. Not that I think there is the slightest chance that you would miscast it and spill me and your soon-to-be-rival Csirnis into the void,” said Roroku.
“And when, precisely, will this delightful day occur? I would not miss the chance to confirm that you have, indeed, fled to Chiriact. Not that I doubt your words one bit, O most honor-teaching and custom-upholding oathbreaker,” said Arilash.
“Tomorrow. The third hour, at Ztesofaum’s Pyramid,” said Roroku.
“My wingtips quiver with pleasure at the very thought!” said Arilash.
“Better than what usually makes them quiver with pleasure,” said Roroku. She leapt into the air before Arilash could reply.
Arilash grinned at me and Nrararn, and Osoth who had joined us. “She does like to get the last word in, doesn’t she? I wonder what flaw this Csirnis might have, that Chiriact wanted to be rid of her, or she of them?”
The drakes didn’t want to speculate. If one of them was lucky, he would be marrying her. It really doesn’t matter what flaws a dragoness has (e.g., mine): she will find a mate. And a mate who considers himself luckier than half the drakes anywhere, at that.
I didn’t want to speculate either. I’d have been happier alone in the Indigo Desert, getting flayed by the sand, not feeling anything and not feeling anything.