Greshthanu’s Feast (Day 6)
Inevitably, we took a tour of Plaga Point. “Inevitably” because it’s Arilash’s favorite mountain range on all of Mhel, and she’s sort of in charge. I didn’t have any better ideas; nobody else wanted to go to the Indigo Desert. “We” means Arilash, Csirnis, Greshthanu, Osoth, and me. Ythac and Rankotherium were going to come, but they got into a huge fight over he-wouldn’t-tell-me-what and they went to visit Dessvaria instead.
Of course the drakes got into a bicker or two, as soon as we were in the air on the way. That’s good manners even if they’re not technically on the mating flight yet.
Greshthanu shouted at Csirnis, “And what good is a prince and heir, when he is a dragon? Are your parents so weak that they fear death?”
Csirnis flicked his left barbels. “Oh, not much use at all, truth to tell. I imagine I live a more worthwhile life now that I have abdicated.”
“Hah! You know nothing, prancing prince!” roared Greshthanu. “I may not be royalty, but I have done mighty deeds already, while you were playing with your dancing-masters and poetry-masters in the court of Chiaract!”
“My poetry-masters were never fully satisfied with my performance. An odd thing, for a royal dragon to be chided by distinctly non-royal chirs. But my parents were never fully satisfied with my performance either. Especially yesterday,” said Csirnis.
“Just what I would expect, from a prancy poncy prince! Why, only recently, I settled a war among my parents’ small people!” laughed Greshthanu.
“That is surely a valuable thing!” said Csirnis. “I have done a few minor things here and there, but never that.”
“I hadn’t heard all about it either,” I said. That’s just barely true enough not to make me vericept unpleasantly to myself: I had heard a lot about it, just not all about it. Everyone knows something about it. I am not precisely one of Greshthanu’s intimates, not since I refused to be intimate with him a few years ago, so I hadn’t got details. (I officially cannot complain about being intimate with him starting in a few days, and before Csirnis showed up Greshthanu was pretty much my most attractive fiancé, but I didn’t want to start early. Like, not before my first egg.) “Will you tell us now?” That’s the traditional invitation for a drake to boast — not that they mostly need to be invited very much — and it’s a polite thing to do and a good way to keep conversation going.
“Surely I will tell!” roared Greshthanu. Yes, surely he would. “In my parents’ territory is Cartharn, a small kingdom rich in rice and mustard, whence comes the strongest fish sauce in all of Mhel. Next to Cartharn is Kbrench, slightly larger, wherein is grown rice and cotton and a fish sauce flavored with mushrooms. The two are old enemies from before we came to rule them. My parents fixed the border between them as the shallow Rumzu River, all set about with bullrushes, and ruled them fairly and well. From afar.”
“Ruling from afar is certainly the best-loved form of rulership. If you have the misfortunate circumscription of the intellectual facilities to restrict yourself to living subjects, that is,” enunciated Osoth. (Most dragons talk. Osoth enunciates.)
Greshthanu hissed at Osoth, and swatted at him with a hindclaw. “Lout of a necromancer! You know less than the prince about governance!”
“I make no pretense of rulership! Unlike one or two dragons, who pretend to it with great determination,” said Osoth, dodging badly. He healed the long shallow score on his flank.
“Well! When the floods came very heavily, the Rumzu River leapt away from its traditional banks, and Cartharn and Kbrench were all aswim and adrown for a while. And when the water receded, the river found a new course for over eight miles: a course that snipped half a mile’s territory off of Cartharn and gave it to Kbrench. Or, if one were to listen to Cartharn’s description of the situation, the river simply moved half a mile over, so that it now flowed entirely through Cartharn territory for eight miles,” said Greshthanu.
“A shame to rely so heavily on autonomously mobile landmarks,” said Csirnis. “Though rivers do make wonderful boundary markers for the most part.”
Greshthanu glared at him angrily. I don’t think Greshthanu could find any actual insult in Csirnis’ words — I certainly couldn’t — but we’re both sure they were mocking somehow. Greshthanu snorted a thick frore fog. “A shame my parents didn’t have your advice when they set up the boundary. They could have chosen both to have it there and not to have it there.”
“Your parents are mighty indeed, if the laws of logic fall before their breath and fangs!” said Csirnis, and flipped his tail-sting. “I am tolerably skilled at fighting, but I know not how to challenge such a foe as that.”
Greshthanu glared at him a bit more. “Well. Mighty they were, mighty they are! But distracted they were, too.”
“Right, distracted. I remember. Your father was having an affair with Dessvaria, wasn’t he?” said Arilash.
I hadn’t heard about that. I certainly didn’t see Dessvaria around very much when I stayed with Rankotherium and Ythac, and less afterwards. Certainly Rankotherium and Dessvaria aren’t on the best of terms. I’ve never heard that she behaved improperly. Dragons don’t do that sort of thing.
“So naturally they sent me, their son and trusty vicar, to settle the border!” roared Greshthanu. Which rhymes and scans pretty well in Grand Draconic. Classy of him. “So I descended into the disputed region, where angry farmers faced angry farmers with bill-hooks and spears, and I commanded them to peace!”
“I imagine that a few gross of poorly-armed mhelvul warriors could feel themselves overmatched by a dragon,” said Osoth. “Even an unimpressive one. I trust they belayed their bulbinating battle and bowed before you?”
Greshthanu glared at Osoth. “They stopped! They did me obeisance, in the bloody mud of the battlefield! But I know these mhelvul. They are wicked and evasive; they are sneaky and subtle. They might not fight that day, while I was present, but later? After I left, they would surely fight again, unless I took measures to bring about some unity! Some commonality of purpose, some agreement, some cooperation!
“And I found a clever plan for that. I commanded them to lay down their arms and build me a palace, working side by side, in the center of the disputed territory!”