Seduction of Ythac (Day 42)
I didn’t take Llredh’s suggestion to have the drakes get me oil. Too embarrassing. I put on the Esrret-Sky-Painted, flew back to Drupe-ek-Kavash under cover of eclipse, and looted them myself. Drupe-ek-Kavash has three grocery stores. These are pretty unusual places, by my rather parochial Mhel-reared standards. I am used to a farmer’s market sort of place, a big public square where farmers (that means small people, of course. Dragons never go farming) bring their crops and sell them out of their carts, or piled in big pyramids on the stone benches.
Drupe-ek-Kavash doesn’t have that, probably because half of everyone is a farmer there. Instead it has a Magnificent Central Shopping District consisting of two blocks in the main street lined with shabby little stalls selling … well, in Mhelvul, they would be the most amazing wonders, but here they look somewhat battered and a little bit sad. One shop sells music. That’s music that’s been wrapped up and squished flat somehow and pressed into black circles. Which would be a most delectable wonder by itself, really. The music store keeps its music in battered dingy cardboard boxes with faded pictures of hovens with wearing Traditional Hoven Costumes using Traditional Hoven Instruments. Or maybe they’re radically unusual both, I don’t know. The cardboard boxes look so out of keeping with the miracles inside of them though.
I didn’t poke much at the music shop, just a little bit because it was so strange. I am a very practical dragonness. I went next door to Awolfo’s Fine Foods and Confectionary shop. The store was about as big as I am with my wings folded, so I turned into a hoven-sized verson of me. The store had a lame old hoven at the counter, who might never in a whole life have wished that he could run nearly as much as he could just then. A thousand scents prickled my tongue: spices, fermented vegetables, spices, preserved meats, spices, flour, alien candies, and spices. And, here and there, the sticky dull scent of old cooking oil — the treasure I sought!
Well, Awolfo wasn’t my hoven or anything, but he wasn’t anybody else’s either. No reason not to be polite. I asked him, “Hallo! Do you have any oil?”
He left off muttering his death-prayer, and blinked at me. ”… Oil?”…”
“Yes. Slippery oil from seeds, that you can use for, um, making things slippery.” I was embarrassed. I am not used to buying marital supplies.
“Cooking oil? I have cooking oil. Groanseed oil, mustard-seed oil, ghee…”
“Whichever is the mildest,” I said. Mustard-seed oil doesn’t sound nice for unarmored bits of dragon. It would probably hurt the drakes more than dry dragoness, and maybe injure me too.
“That would be ghee. How much ghee would you like?” Awolfo waved his hand at a two-gallon metal box marked “Marthu-ek-Krasnou Brand Supremmly Pure GHEE” with a picture of a a rather ridiculous Hove-style cow painted next to it. It was spelled wrong, but it smelled right: rich and buttery and only the barest touch rancid.
“That should do nicely!” I flickered my tongue about, and thought that I might as well do some shopping for myself too. “Oh, and some spices. Can I have some spices?”
“Yes, yes, of course, I have spices, many spices…” He indicated three battered wooden shelves covered with bags and boxes and jars and jugs, with many assorted labels.
“Wonderful!” I had no idea what they tasted like, and with all the scents in the room it was hard to tell which one came from which box, so I picked a dozen at random. Then I smiled at him, and said, “I don’t have any money today.” Which wasn’t true, but I don’t have much of a hoard and don’t want to use it for things like this. And it’s not any kind of Hoven money. “But you can ask me a favor and if it’s quick I might do it.”
Awolfo looked at me, smelling that complicated mix of scared and brave and devious that small people sometimes smell when they’re trying to trick or exploit a dragon. “You’re the monster who ate chickens from Blemia the other day?”
“Across town from here? Yes, that’s me.”
“You spit fire?”
“Sure! Want something burned?”
“There’s a big new building on the edge of town. It’s got a blue roof. It’s marked ‘Trestean Occupation Forces.’ I wouldn’t miss it if it were gone.” His words were tinged with the rotten lavender of understatement. I didn’t think that was much of a trick or an exploitation.
“It’s a deal!” I politely snatched the can of ghee, collected my spices, and waddled outside. I turned into my real size, so that I could
waddle more impressively hide my loot under my neck-scales and destroy the military base conveniently. One big fireball left the building burning nicely, with angry Trestean soldiers running around shooting inadequate weapons in my general direction. I decided that they were celebrating the liberation of Drupe-ek-Kavash, since Awolfo and his friends were. So I let them live, and flew home mostly wondering how I could use the ghee without my drake of choice — Csirnis? Ythac? — being any the wiser.