We Need To Talk (Day 32)
“We need to talk,” said Arilash.
Which was a bit odd of her to say, since we had been talking all morning. We had spent hours in the cave dissecting a spare slightly-killed pointy desert herbivore together. They’ve got about three stomachs, each connected to the other two. We were trying to figure out what went where when, when the animal was alive and eating. Arilash had even gone so far as to turn into a not-killed pointy desert herbivore and eat a few pointy desert plants. But she didn’t want to stay in that shape for long enough to try out even two stomachs, much less all three. I wouldn’t want to either. It’s not a very dignified shape to wear in the presence of your rival.
Actually, the whole dissection exercise isn’t really something you should be doing with your rival. Arilash and I are both finding the mating flight a bit tedious.
“No. We need to fight,” I said.
“I suppose we ought to a little bit, for form’s sake,” she admitted. “But let’s talk about what we’re fighting about.”
So I breathed lightning on her left foreleg. It barely got through her the Small Wall, but enough to make her scowl. She must have thought I was being careless, though, because I did it just after an astral heartbeat. Which ought to mean that I wouldn’t have any more lightning ‘til the next one, in twenty seconds, and dominance fights don’t usually last that long.
This one looked like it might last longer, unfortunately, because Arilash just blinked at me and looked hurt. Twice hurt actually. Distinctly offended, and slightly singed. She didn’t even riposte, she just said “Can we do this after we talk?”
So I breathed fire on her left foreleg. It poured through her Small Wall like a claw through a sheep. Oops. If she weren’t offended she’d have realized I was up to something.
That at least got her attention. She adjusted her Small Wall to block cold better, since that’s all I had left to breathe for eighteen seconds, and she darted beautifully and elegantly at me and bit my right wing.
So I breathed lightning on her left foreleg, just like I shouldn’t have been be able to do for seventeen more seconds. It wasn’t a lot of lightning. But with Arilash’s Small Wall tilted against cold, it prickled her left foreleg more than the first bolt. She looked very surprised.
“Right. That was tricky,” said Arilash, sounding all annoyed.
We scrabbled around for a while after that, clawing and biting and tailswatting. Before my next heartbeat I was on my back underneath her — on the dissected pointy desert herbivore, yet — and she’d clawed me once with her foreclaws and once with her hindclaws, and bitten my neck.
But I had clawed her belly and bitten her wing. That plus three breaths made five hits.
“Well, you win this one,” she said. “Another few seconds and you’d have been all clawed up, like usual.”
She didn’t get off me, so I turned into a meerkat and leapt out from under her and turned back. “Maybe, and maybe not. I’m more dangerous than you think!”, I boasted politely.
“Well, that was a good breath trick… how did you do it?” she asked. “I can’t squeeze that much fire out of my whefô.”
“Your Small Wall was loose on the lightning side. A half-sized bolt could get inside of it. Half of mine anyways, I’m better at breathing than you.” And if that sounds friendly, it was. I don’t win fights with Arilash very often, and I was in a good mood.
She started healing her left foreleg. “I can feel that — it stings! I wouldn’t trade adult magic for that, but it’s got its place.”
“I got you good!” I helpfully pointed out.
“You did. Now heal your belly before those wounds set,” she said.
I flapped my wings. “Much better!”
She gave me an odd look. “No, you didn’t heal yourself yet.”
I set to work on that. “I mean, that was a nice riposte. Poking me for being the worse fighter really, and broken too. I’m glad you’re taking me seriously as a rival.”
She flicked her tailtip. “I’m taking you seriously. I’m not taking rival seriously.”
“If Roroko were here, would you take it seriously?”
“Probably. But she’s not here. The drakes are stuck struggling for us, and mount-fighting each other like crazy from the sound of it. You and I at least can arrange the mating flight how we like,” said Arilash.
“I’m not going to let you choose your husband now. That’s silly and undignified. And what’s mount-fighting?”
“You’re such an innocent. Mount-fighting is a drake challenge, loser has to turn female and please the winner,” Arilash said. “There’s a whole mount-fighting club in Fohhona. You fly in, pay some, get sorted by size, and then it’s off to the valley to fight and twine. Lots of fun.”
”You did it?”
“Oh, yes,” said Arilash. “Annoyed a lot of drakes, too. They were all shouting, ‘If you want hemipenises, I will give you plenty!’. I picked one of those, and we flew off. He was so distracted, he only bit me once before I won the fight. Worse than you, even. He was the dragoness, I was the drake, and half the club was watching and cheering. You look shocked and offended, Jyothky.”
“I’m trying to figure out what I should be shocked and offended about first. Mount-fighting at all? The club? You doing that?”
She lay on her belly, her head on her forepaws. “Roroko was right about me, you know. And the club is in Fohhona — what do you expect all the bachelor drakes to do? Of course they’re going to want to fornicate, and most of them would rather do it in their real bodies. I mean, they could turn into mhelvul and rent whores, but that is so embarrassing ‘til you get used to it, and doesn’t feel half as good anyways.” I declined to ask how she knew; she’d probably tell me. “So if you’re going to be shocked and offended about anything, how about our fiancés mount-fighting each other?”
That seemed like a good thing to be shocked and offended about. “Are they?”
“Oh, yes. They’re not finding the dragonesses quite as satisfying as they might have hoped,” said Arilash. Which stung, even though she chose gentle words. Arilash was all they could have hoped for and more. I’m the laggard on that, even if I’m not completely useless like I was two days ago. “Ythac especially. He keeps challenging Csirnis, Llredh, and Greshthanu. Csirnis not for mounting.”
”Ythac does? He never mentioned that to me!”
“He does. I wouldn’t mention it to you either if I were him,” said Arilash.
I had to think about that a bit. It does’t make much sense. Ythac never asked for my favors “since we’re engaged anyways” when we were younger, the way that Greshthanu and Tultamaan did. He always seemed to have so much self-control, to me. “Does he win much? They’re all bigger and stronger than him.”
“Not very often. Well, Csirnis won’t mount-fight at all, but Ythac’s claspers are as familiar with Greshthanu and Llredh as mine are.”
“Boys shouldn’t have claspers. Those are girl parts,” I said. “It’s wrong.” I’m right. It is wrong.
“And dragons shouldn’t have hands, but that doesn’t stop you from spending years as a half-time mhelvul. We’ve got lots of power, Jyothky. Why shouldn’t we enjoy it in all the ways we can?”
I was far to upset to talk any more. “I’m going to go outside and enjoy it now. Alone.” Which I did by blasting the north half of Kuhankun Mountain with fire and lightning until it slumped and melted and flowed down into the river of the next valley over. That made a nice crackling and steaming. There’s no better way to calm down. And it truly alarmed my fiancés, to see me so angry.
Serve them right. They’re all a bunch of perverts. I’m going to have to figure out how to beat Arilash enough so get first choice, and marry Csirnis. He may be crazy, but he’s at least decent.