“And down to me. Despite being Eloquent and Far More Intelligent and Sensible than Any Other Drake, I am somehow seen as Whiny and Cowardly. Even without consider the unfortunate matter of the forelegs. Yes. Your mate may not be Wholly Satisfactory. He may have a few Endearing Flaws. My mate will not have any Endearing Flaws. She will, simply, not exist at all.”
“Well, what do you want me to do about that?” Which was the stupidest thing I can imagine saying. I can do something about it, I just won’t.
He didn’t take that opening, though. “And, furthermore, this is my third mating flight. There will not even be time for a fourth, such as happens to one drake in a grand of grands. Because for Some Unsaid Reason this mating flight was unaccountably delayed for a dozen years or more.”
“I won’t take any responsibility for that. I wanted to get started as much as anyone else did. My body wasn’t cooperating.”
“Exactly!” he beamed. “You see the Unpleasant Situation which ‘your body not cooperating’ has put us into. And me, in particular.”
“I see that I’m not getting breakfast any time soon, at least.”
“Oh! I will happily cooperate with you getting breakfast. I ask only that you Cooperate With Me in exchange,” Tultamaan said.
I sort of glared at him.
“Let us consider what will become of me after we return. Naturally I am far too decent a drake to indulge in the Activities which remain open to Unfortunate Elderly Bachelors, such as are available in Fohhona and other such Places of Much Repute. I do not consider mount-fighting to be an activity in which Decent Drakes take part. Neither is the occasional affair with Small People at all to my taste.”
I generally try not to think about what bachelor drakes do; that’s their business, and Arilash’s I suppose. Except for ones like Quel Quen, who make quite a name for themselves by exploring new worlds and, I’m sure, make the dragonesses who chose other drakes over them rather embarrassed.
“So this flight is my final remaining chance for Sexual Congress. There is, in fact, no other real reason for me to stay here even a few more weeks. I might just as well return home and start to enjoy the humiliations of being Ranked Last In Three Separate Mating Flights. Except that that would deprive the rest of you of my Brilliant Insights, and of course, leave me no further chances to enjoy the Company of Dragonesses. Ever.”
“I haven’t seen a lot of Brilliant Insights,” I said.
“You’re seeing one now. And I haven’t seen a lot of Company of Dragonesses,” he answered.
“Arilash has been pretty busy, hasn’t she?” I said. Unwisely, as if I needed to ensure that I’d come in last instead of second. I was rather rattled and upset at Tultamaan.
“Arilash has not found me Wholly To Her Taste. Not to put too fine a point on it, after two Experiences she has told me not to ask her again. Which is an Unfair and indeed Repugnant way to treat a fiancé. I think she does not like my forelegs. This is a popular opinion. I, myself, hate them with a passion that dwarfs even Arilash’s distaste for them.”
“Can’t you wear a shape that doesn’t have them? Like, oh, a bird or something?”
He spread his spikes. “Is that your Opinion of me? That I am more of a Scarlet Grebe, or a Hargreve’s Lesser Puddle Duck — or, if you are being generous, perhaps a Pileated Kingfisher — than I am a Dragon of Honorable Lineage and Substantial Rank At Court?”
I have no spikes, but I can sure hiss. “I’m just trying to be helpful! I like being a bird!”
“Perhaps it is just as well that you have no Matrimonial Intentions towards me. Your suitability for the Royal Presence is not Entirely Peerless,” he said acidly.
“I haven’t decided who to marry yet! And I’ll be a better wife than that!” I wailed.
“You are Practicing for this ‘Being a Better Wife’ sort of thing by being a Worse Fiancée? This strategy has both short and long term flaws. For one long-term instance, it will limit your fertility in the future. Unless you wish all your dragonets to have two, or, even worse, One sire?”
“I’ve got a dozen years for that! I don’t need to do it all today!” But he was perfectly right about that, clawrasp it. If I don’t get my ova partially fertilized during my mating flight, well, either my husband will have to supply all three parts himself (which is a bad thing for several practical and theoretical reasons), or, um, the alternative is simply not done by any sort of respectable dragoness — pace Dessvaria.
“But today will soon become Yesterday, and, in due course, Three Months and Eleven Days Ago, and then Quite a Long Time Ago. If you do not get take care of matters today — for some choice of ’today’ — they will remain uncared-for indefinitely. A Truism, but True nonetheless.
”… well, yes …” is all I could think of to say.
“Now that you see the Inescapable Logic of my position, I do expect that you will Fulfil Your Premarital Duties.” He stared at me with eyes like frozen coals.
I breathed a tight hot fireball into his face, and leapt (viz. waddled) into the air, and flew off downriver. I expected he would follow me, but he didn’t. I suppose he has a lot of experience at rejection.
I curled up on a hilltop, and
moped meditated. Which is totally unfair of me, since he’s completely right. Most of my fiancés won’t have much of a chance with dragonesses for most of their lives. Arilash and I should be as nice as we can to them, shouldn’t we? And Arilash is doing her part, and Roroku’s, and some of mine.
So: today’s resolution. I will couple with all of my fiancés this week.
Except for Tultamaan. He may be right, but he’s horrid. Fairness only goes so far.