Where Are We Going? (Day 7)
“Where are we going?” asked Csirnis, as we flew across the Vorey Sea.
“Pdernuz. Ythac’s home. You’ve met Rankotherium and Dessvaria, big dragons who don’t seem to like each other very much? Their capitol, too,” I said.
“Please forgive me, Jyothky, but my mind was elsewhere. I was wondering where we were going for the mating flight. Roroku’s messages might have said, but I did not get to read them myself,” said the golden prince.
“It has been planned for many years to be at Chregony Point,” said Arilash.
“It’s not going to be there now!” said Greshthanu. “Don’t be a fool, Tultamaan! Do not keep your mind in your forepaws!”
“Pray forgive me for keeping my mind in my forepaws, or at least not having it in my head,” said Csirnis. “I did get the impression that there might be some change of plans necessary, but of what sort?”
“Roroku’s parents own Chregony Point,” I said.
“And a diplomatic solution to the current crisis of letting us have the mating flight there, and construing that as her parents’ apology…” Csirnis mused.
”… Is rather more apologetic than they seem to be at the moment, and rather more forgiving than anyone else wants to be,” said Arilash.
“If you were the girl your name implies, this would be much simpler,” said Greshthanu.
“The politics might be simpler,” said Arilash. “But we don’t have much to do with the politics, not exactly. We’d need to find another place to go, no matter how girly Csirnis is or is not.”
“It is pleasant to find a practical topic which does not depend on my gender!” said Csirnis. “And which I may be able to provide some assistance as more than a sacrificial victim, at that.” But he wouldn’t explain until we were all together.
Rankotherium had given us his private garden for our private discussions. By “private” he means “every dozen years or two he doesn’t let the mhelvul use it for a day or two and doesn’t apologize.” I’ve never seen the garden empty before, and I must have been here a gross of times. But today, Rankotherium’s mhelvul had worked for a day or more to arrange things for us, and then left, and put up barricades to keep all the other mhelvul of Pdernuz out.
Rankotherium is not a subtle dragon, not that he needs to be. He had arranged nine couches in a circle, with barrels of our favorite beverages by them: fish broth for Arilash, ginger and garlic and seagull soup for me, plain water for Ythac, and so on. In case that was too subtle, each couch had a circle of paper with the dragon’s name on it. Ythac was to my left. Tultamaan was to my right, in case I needed a readily-available drake to compare Rankotherium’s son against. Arilash was on Ythac’s left, and Osoth on her left. (Fortunately, there aren’t two Tultamaans in our group. One is quite enough. Osoth isn’t impressive husband material, but he’s perfectly good company. Arilash flirts with him sometimes, I’ve seen it.)
Csirnis was as far as possible from either dragoness. Behold the subtlety of Rankotherium!
Ythac, our host, crashed his forewings on my back and Arilash’s to call for quiet. “As Csirnis is reported to have asked, we must choose a new place for our mating flight. I recommend Fohhona.”
“Fohhona may, arguably, perhaps serve us poorly,” said Osoth. “It is a great metropolis of the mhelvul, to be sure. There are fine restaurants abounding upon the edges of splendid avenues. There are operas in elegantly-carved opera houses, and opera-boxes strewn with iron coins for the comfort of size-shifted dragonic spectators. One may lounge in parks which are both spacious and gracious. There will be a great deal to divert us from the business at hand.”
“And we’re supposed to go somewhere without any other dragons,” said Nrararn. “Bad enough that we traded a dragoness for a drake. We don’t need competition from all the drakes who live in Fohhona, too.”
“It is the drakes who visit that concern me the most!” said Osoth. “They are a dissolute and luxury-seeking lot, of poor moral character, given to the most vile of habits. Some, it is said, visit the brothels of Fohhona in mhelvul form. The others, I should worry about.” Which got a few tails twitching: Llredh and Ythac and Arilash.
“Ythac, the Boundary Conditions of our situation are more Dire than you account for,” said Tultamaan. “Our Continued Presence on Mhel would serve as a Sort of Irritant to the senior dragons. My uncle has explained in the Very Strongest of Terms that we must Depart from our dear home world and learn about each other in an Idyllic Setting far from the Potential Political Instability that might trouble this poor innocent sphere should we Stay.”
(Tultamaan speaks with capital letters a lot, in Grand Draconic. Actually he just uses the emphatic particle “xhéè” a lot — it’s a word that means “the next word is the most important one in the sentence, even if you might not expect it to be based on the grammar.” Most dragons don’t use “xhéè” very often. I’ve never met another dragon who ever used it xhéè twice in the same sentence — there, I just used it properly, but for the first time in my diary. When Tultamaan says it it comes out sounding just about like “xhê”, which you sometimes say if you’re talking formally — “xhê” means “Here comes a sentence which is just a plain statement and not a question or command or anything special”, and we usually don’t even say it. (But if you’re not a dragon you shouldn’t be learning Grand Draconic, so I won’t say anything more about it. Not that we’ll kill you for knowing a few words, especially those, but best not to learn too much. You can learn Petty Draconic instead. (And, if you do and if you care, Tultamaan pronounces and uses Petty Draconic’s “shéè” and “shê” just the same way he does Grand Draconic’s “xhéè” and “xhê”. [In translation, “xhéè” is rendered by putting the emphasized word in italics, as above, and “xhê” is simply not translated; Jyothky only uses it three times in the document. -bb])))
“Your absence, that is what the king craves! The politics, of this he is master. The idyllic setting, this is his court without you!” growled Llredh. (Llredh, in case you’re reading this in translation, never uses “xhéè” at all, and puts the word he wants to emphasize first in the sentence a lot. That also sounds funny but somehow not as pretentious as the way Tultamaan talks. (Though nobody can top Osoth for pretentious speech forms.))
“That’s not true!” hissed Tultamaan. “I am a Trusted and Favored Advisor to the King, despite my Relative Youth!” (Six xhéès in one sentence!)
“Whose advice is so valuable that he is happy to send you away for years at a time, for more mating flights than anyone else gets,” said Arilash.
As the two of them hissed at each other, Csirnis flared his shoulder-scales and shook out a length of chain holding a dozen engraved steel ovals. “In service of the mating flight, and in deference to the wishes of the King of Mhel, I suggest we go to some other world. I happened to bring with me the copy of the summary of Quel Quen’s latest surveying trip. They’ll be published in a book in a few decades. Until then I doubt that many other dragons will know about any of these worlds.”