When my claspers released him, he grunted to me, “To the desert of succulents, come with me, Jyothky.” I was about to complain that I had only offered one copulation, not all three, and if I was going to do more after all I sure wanted everyone to know that I could handle it. But he didn’t sound particularly lustful … more worried or something.
So I flew by his side out to the desert. That part is pretty nice, actually, flying off with someone you’ve just mated with, racing to see if you can get there before the bright sun is swallowed by tentacled pinkness (we couldn’t). Scattering the unhappy scavenger birds with our presence and the sound of our wings, and hearing them hoot imprecations that we absolutely are not allowed to steal their carrion, even if we are immeasurably more powerful than any number of them. (We didn’t.)
“Our mating flight, are they listening to us now?” asked Llredh.
“I don’t think anyone’s listening, unless they’re following us in a very well-disguised form indeed. No scrying spells.”
“My magioception, she is not so keen. My dangersense, my lluyception, my theoception, they are even worse. Of this concept, you must understand as I do, or even more.”
“I do. I’d offer to trade, if I could. Theoception’s pretty much useless … the only god I’ve ever spotted is Osoth’s god-in-a-bottle,” I said. “I miss touch every day, and never more than when I’m with a pretty drake.”
You might think a drake would be happy when a dragoness (1) mates with him, (2) flies off to the wilds with him, and (3) tells him that she had a good time, in however backhanded a way. He wasn’t, though. “Yes, yes. The important thing I will tell you now, may I? You will not like it. But who better than I to tell you? There is none, there can be none.” Yes, he really did echo the words of the victor of the mating flight.
“I suppose so…”
“The rage at missing senses, I know her well. When Osoth and Nrararn praise the sublime lluyew of their gemstones, that is the hour I challenge them both at once and in my fury to defeat them at once. Sense-deprived am I, but strong. Sense-deprived are you too, but still a dragoness.”
“So this is a feeling-dragon sort of thing I need hear about, then?”
“Say it. I won’t bite you too much for it.”
He stretched his wings and climbed a few dozen tail-lengths or so, as an extra precaution. “The copulation with you, she is dry, and dry is painful. Painful to the drake, maybe painful to you too.”
“I wouldn’t know,” I said. “How painful are we talking here? Compared with what Csirnis did to you in your fight?”
“Not so painful as that. But the worse time she is at, this pain. In a fight, the pain, even the rest of us can ignore her. In love, she is not so expected, she comes to me more insistently.”
“So you’re telling me I’m a bad lover.”
“You do not move so nicely as Ythac or Arilash, how could you, they have much more practice. Expertise, I do not expect her here. She will come in time. The dryness, the chafing, I do not expect her here either,” said Llredh. He looked so apologetic and helpful that I roasted a scavenger bird with lightning instead of him.
“It’s not my fault!” I shouted.
“The revenge you are making not, when you bring yourself to copulate! Your fault, he is not. Your hemipenis losing skin, also, he is not,” said Llredh.
I did what any reasonable person would have done under the circumstances, viz., I flew lower and started melting a sand dune into a glass pond with a terrible rage, all at myself. “I am the worst fiancée ever! I barely even manage to want a drake, and when I do that, I hurt him!” And on like that for several minutes while Llredh was trying to get a word in sideways.
Which he finally managed by landing on my back and sticking his head in front of mine. Which meant that he got a full firebreath right in the face, and even with the Small Wall and a very strong vô set to take it, it must have stung a good deal.
After I breathed on him, while I was recovering, he said, “The answer, she is not so troublesome.”
I’m fairly sure I said something about the answer being that I go off by myself and never bother to so much as look at a drake ‘cause it’s hopeless. I don’t remember exactly what I said — I mean, I usually make up half of everyone’s lines anyways, but this time I really would rather forget everything I said.
“Not that. The holes that are not slick, now and then and often I twine them. Oil! The oil of olives or seeds, she is your ally.”
”… what? …”
So he explained about how the slipperiness doesn’t need to come from me to satisfy the drake, it just needs to be there somehow. A slosh of oil in the right place will do just fine.
“So how do I manage that in the air?”
Llredh allowed as how his relevant experience hadn’t been in the air.
“Where did you learn it, anyways?”
“Arilash, she is the true expert among us in knowledge of the joys of the body. Second place, he is me perhaps.” Which I understand to mean, roughly, “none of your business”. Or that I, as ninth place in that contest — no, last place — probably wouldn’t understand or approve of whatever it is that he does.
“So where do I get oil? We’re in the middle of a desert. We’ve only got one slave, and he’ll be shot in sight if he goes to a market,” I whined.
“The drakes, they are the raiders among us. The loot, the prizes, those things the drakes should bring to the dragonesses.”
“I’d be so embarrassed, telling you all to bring me oil to do what I can’t do for myself. I’m sure some of them would figure out why I want it.”
He gave me a very innocent look. Well, of course they’ll find out when I go to mate with them and slosh them with it, anyways.
“Llredh, thank you for telling me. Telling someone bad news is not so easy.”
“It is the important thing to say. Next time, I have a better time! Also next time, you are the confident dragoness, the happy dragoness. The better for both of us.”
“Still, thank you much…. get some oil and we’ll try it out.” I wasn’t actually eager to mate with him again — or anyone. I’d rather forget about that part of my body and my life entirely. I was trying to act brave and responsible, like someone could imagine that I’d be a 1/12-of-the-way decent wife.
“The cowards, you will remember them!”
“The drakes who do not tell you the thing you need to know, who take their little pain and hide it. The drake who tells you, and lets you breathe your terrain-melting fires in his face to tell you more. Which drake is the mighty one, which is the brave one?”
“Well, if you phrase it that way,…”
“To me, you must not answer. To your little book where you write every day, there, you must think about what is the truth, and write it down, who is the better husband for you.”
So I will.
Coda: Judgment of the Day
I don’t like Tultamaan a bit, and I don’t really like Llredh that much either. But they had a lot of truth for me today. I should be a responsible dragoness and do what I’m here for, it’s not fair to any of the drakes if I don’t. And Osoth and Nrararn really should have told me. They were probably thinking of some sneaky way to let me know.
Maybe Osoth was going to animate a mummy of a legendary ancient courtesan to slip into my cave and offer me aromatic unguents of love, or something. Probably she’d have gotten the firebreath, not Llredh. But probably I’d have gotten the point… I hope.
But they didn’t get to do that. And Llredh did, and was pretty nice about it, and brave.
Is it OK if I give him some points, but still don’t really like him that much? He’s rather a vicious bully.
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