Everyone knew what the boys and I had been up to. We could have gone for a swim so we didn’t smell quite so much like each other, the way that my parents usually do. But (a) Osoth and I have the right opinion of swimming, and (b) unlike any other time that any of us might have been sneaking around indulging ourselves, we are now allowed, encouraged, and even required to do such things.
So Llredh immediately challenged Osoth to a Caramelle. He distinctly amused himself by fighting Osoth very defensively, and only scoring hits on him with his spiky tail. He took a good three minutes to win the fight, and did not let Osoth touch him even once. After which victory, Llredh grinned a big fangy grin at me, and said, “The mating flight, finally you join her. The unhurried dragoness, she you are, but in time you get where you are going.” But he didn’t demand a turn right then, which is good.
Greshthanu, on the other hand, growled, “You finally start? You take the smallest member from one, the middle from the other.” (Yes, the three varieties of male organ do produce different sorts of seed, and they do smell different. And they smell a bit different from drake to drake, too, if what Arilash has come home wearing is any indication.) “Come now and try the full set!”
“Not now, please,” I told him.
“Jyothky, this is not fair! You make everyone wait years and years, then days and days more! Do not be so great a delay beast!”
So I bit him. Just the tip of his wing, so it’s borderline not hideously rude. He flew away in a huff.
Csirnis simply smiled a big barbelly smile at me. Csirnis is a drake with patience. Also, I think, he is Arilash’s favorite. I would happily take him away from her — but not today. I’ve used every scales-weight of courage and daring and manners that I ever had, already.
Osoth and Nrararn were very sweet and deferential. Osoth even got a couple packets of spice from a hoven village or something and sprinkled it on some dead birds for me at dinner. It wasn’t the best food I’ve ever had, but it was the best on Hove so far.
And I wasn’t at all sure how to behave back. Arilash is often seen with her tailtip twined with her consort-of-the-hour’s. I wasn’t feeling that demonstrative. For one thing, I was confusingly sad about not starting with Ythac. I kept thinking in circles: I had offered, he’d said no, and I didn’t expect to have the courage for too much longer.
For another, I didn’t really want to favor one of the two over the other. I should have just put a Y-shaped fork in my tail and held both, but I didn’t think of that until just now.
Tultamaan just looked morose and slithered off into the drakes’ cave.
That evening, when we were alone, Arilash grinned a big grin at me. “Well, how was it?”
“Not as good as for you, I guess,” I said. “Judging…”
“I’m not trying to have a dominance contest just now, Jyothky,” she said. “I’m just trying to congratulate you. If you want that.”
So I stole a trick from Tultamaan and mumbled “Right. Thanks.” and looked morose and slithered off into the corner of the cave. I didn’t want to talk to her about it.
Fortunately I am not without resources. I wanted to talk to Xolgrohim, who is the wrong species and too dead to be after my claspers himself. Sneaking into the drakes’ cave sounded like utter doom. I’d probably end up either coupling with someone again, or, more likely, insulting someone I like by turning them down.
So I scribbled. «Ythac? Are you awake?»
«Yes. I’m just cheating on you,» he wrote back.
«What?» Arilash was asleep in the dragoness cave, her head under her left wings, her tailtip twisted into a spiral.
«Not like that. I just played a round of tsheriaf with Llredh. We did not keep score. It is outside the mating flight.» Ythac wrote.
«So you’re not upset at me for, well …»
«[I laugh!]» wrote Ythac. «Hardly upset! I am glad for you.»
I was evidently obliged to chew his spikes from afar. «What was your first time with Arilash like? When was it, for that matter?»
«Third day on Hove, out behind Khamrou Ghanirma. It was pretty different than today for you. She knows how to squeeze pleasure out of a drake’s body,» wrote Ythac, risking his status as my best friend.
«I can’t do that!» I whined. «I can’t even begin to do that!»
«Nobody expects you to. It’s not even a good thing. Llredh maybe prefers a dragoness like her, and Csirnis is utterly unflappable, but I’m sure that Osoth and Nrararn find her awfully intimidating. Can you imagine either of them marrying Arilash and trying to keep up with her?»
«No, now that you mention it. How about you?» I asked. Today is my day for being very direct.
«There is absolutely no chance Arilash would choose me,» Ythac wrote definitively.
«Oh? What did you do to her? You’ve always seemed pretty friendly with her.»
«Oh, she’s not upset with me at all, nor I with her. We’d be a terrible couple though. I’d rather marry you than her.»
«Even if she’s a better lover than I am?» I had to ask.
«Even if that. Even if something more than that: even if it’s what my father wants,» he said.
Which is certainly worth something.
I don’t feel any more grown up than I did this morning. Or than last month, before we left. Or than twelve years ago, really.
Tsheriaf is a traditional and exciting dragon game. You take a few turns diving along a cliff face and breathing against it as you dive. You get points for making shapes: wobbly line = 1, straight line = 3, half-circle = 4, full circle = 6, equilateral triangle = 8, five-pointed star = 12, etc. You get to multiply the points some for having them related to your peer’s previous moves. Connecting two figures is ×2. Centering your figure on a point of someone else’s is ×3. Neatly circumscribing or inscribing is ×4. Oh, and you get some extra points for setting things up for your opponent, like leaving a point of one figure in the center of another one, so your opponent could potentially get the centering and circumscribing bonuses at once.
Actually it’s not just a dragon game. We played it in Drumet, in mhelvul shape, with pencil and paper. It’s a lot more exciting when you’re plummeting down a cliff though. I suppose that’s true of most things.
Make sure that scores make sense here!
I think I lost track of some scores. I’m not doing this very well. My Household Economics and Finance teacher would no longer be happy with me. She would just be afraid of me.
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