The next barrage included a peppering of little mortars and other whatnots. Some of the shells exploded in the air next to me, in tight little yips of mild danger. There were too many of them to circle. So I made up a new dance move, flying right under the shells and letting them explode on my back if they felt so inclined, and spatter on the Ulthana’s Targe.
Osoth and Nrararn flew up frantically, suitably fretful. “Jyothky! What, what is this? Why do you court danger and destruction under the guns of the hovens? You should stay home and court the drakes who desire you!” Guess which one that was.
“Come dance with me!” I hooted back at them.
Osoth’s look of offended dignity was worth all the earlier boredom. He circled up very high. Nrararn laughed, and flew over to me. He told his sylphs to whisper to me of the flight of the projectiles. That’s much more accurate and helpful than relying on vision and kineception, especially when there are so many of them.
And then Nrararn and I danced and play-fought through the next four barrages. We chased each other up and down the parabolas of heavy shells, pulling up into the sky as the shells crashed into this or that hoven neighborhood. (Which explains how the city is so demolished, if they always fight like this.) We circled each other in the paths of the silly little ray guns.
Then I play-snapped at his wing just as he was dodging several shells, and he missed, and one of them got through his the Small Wall (which isn’t much good against physical attacks anyways) and sort of wrecked his left rear wing. A great cheer went up from the watching hovens.
Well, some air spirits and I grabbed him and towed him up high high high! He healed himself frantically with the Put-Together-Now — he’s pretty good with it. Osoth took care to kill the soldiers who had shot that gun with his graveyard dust breath.
Five miles up, I tried to apologize. “I’m very sorry! I don’t want to hurt your wing when it’s not on purpose!”
“Oh, no problem, no problem.” He looked a bit shaky though, but he tried to be cheerful. “It’s all part of the testing, isn’t it? If the artillery could touch me without help from a dragon, then I should be ashamed.”
It’s so nice to hear him bragging properly. To say nothing of dancing nicely with me. And rushing off to rescue me. I wasn’t exactly eager to mate. (I’ve never been eager to mate in my life. As far as I know, which isn’t very far.) But I did have a duty to my fiancés — and to myself, really. And everyone’s supposed to enjoy coitus, aren’t they? So it seemed like a good situation to demand my prenuptial rights.
Then I thought of one more way to procrastinate, maybe for a long time.
«Ythac? Would you be horribly offended if I coupled for my first time with someone who isn’t you?» I wrote.
«Go ahead. I’m not expecting much physical affection from you. You know that,» he wrote back. I didn’t know that.
«Jyothky, I am sure. I will bite your left foreleg very hard if you come back a virgin,» he wrote.
So much for procrastinating.
“Nrararn, have you ever coupled with me yet?” I don’t actually remember what I said to him, and I really don’t want to remind him. It came out as something wrong like that, though.
“Not yet,” said Nrararn, who suddenly looked very hopeful.
“You’ve taken so many lovers that the memory of one blurs into that of another?” asked Osoth. “Could it be that you are Arilash, come disguised as Jyothky?”
I collected a few wits and a few manners. “I mean, will you couple with me now, Nrararn? … Then you, Osoth.”
“I’d be delighted to,” said Nrararn. It’s not like he’s in any position to refuse. But he sounded fairly pleased about it.
“I shall, of course, attend to our defenses whilst the two of you take delights in one another. Then I shall demonstrate to Jyothky of the great value of superior wisdom and deeper perspective,” said Osoth.
At which point I remembered that we were high in the sky, over an alien city, with lots of well-armed soldiers. They probably had flying machines. And telescopes. And light recorders. And mass media.
I am so glad we’re going to leave Hove pretty soon. Preferably without ever meeting any hovens socially. Their main impression of me will be as “The dragon who fornicates in the sky. Badly.”