“That’s really sweet of you, Jyothky,” he said, sounding a bit sad. “That is what my father wanted.” He grinned at me suddenly. “Have you ever tasted a bird killed by darkness breath?”
I know that he knows my secret weakness. (OK, everyone does. It’s not very secret. It’s not very weakness either.) I’m so glad he’s exploiting it. I’d hate for him not to get married because he didn’t like competing. I’m not quite sure what if he tries and loses, though.
Anyways, he breathed a needle of darkness on one of the scavenger birds. Not very many dragons study darkness breath. It’s not actually very effective. Fire’s best of course, very flexible and very destructive. Ythac has fire breath too for everyday use. Cold and lightning are popular alternatives. Cold’s not as destructive, which is good when you’re trying to kill the people and leave the priceless metal statues and rare books and plastic CD’s intact. Lightning is very sharp and very good at a distance, and, if you’re Nrararn, you can braid it into your mane. Darkness isn’t most of those. It only comes in a few shapes, like the line that Ythac used. It doesn’t go very far. It’s pretty easy for a small person sorcerer to block with a light spell. It’ll damage anything: it’ll leave flaws in metal statues and insert grammatical errors into the books and warp the CDs. Even dragons: it’ll leave any of dozens of minor medical problems which have to be dealt with individually over the next few weeks. It’s really not polite to use darkness breath on anydragon, unless you’ve got some quarrel with them already. Ythac used it dragons who teased him sometimes, and on his father a lot. He usually just uses fire breath like most people.
The bird died of course. Ythac dived, beating his blue-green wings hard, and picked it out of the air before either it or he hit the ground. I flew down more demurely. I don’t exactly understand the point of flying demurely after a drake whom one is engaged to and determined to seduce, but I did it anyways. He held the bird up. I snatched it out of his claws, landed on a patch of crazed crackled dry mud, and started nibbling.
“This is very odd, Ythac. It tastes a bit rotten already.”
“Darkness breath does that! Like it?”
“It’s savory!” I nibbled a bit more. “Not like your usual slightly rotten meat, either. The rotty bits aren’t just at the surface, they’re all scattered throughout. But they’re small, so it’s not like the whole thing is rotten. That would be a bit much.”
“Ever had anything like it?”
“Not with meat,” I said. Ythac looked proud. “Cheese, though. It’s like one of the very moldy cheese, with mold spread all the way through.” Ythac looked a bit disappointed. “Some of the best cheeses on Mhelvul were like that! Didn’t you ever have efforasze or neucca?”
“I don’t like mhelvul food very much,” he said.
“Well, I do. I don’t want to waste the senses I do have, y’know? They’re quite excellent cheese, and your darkened bird reminds me of them more than anything else. So I like it, and in a rather educated way.”
“Glad to hear it! I like it too. Llredh doesn’t much, he likes his food fresh. He challenges me every time I bring some dark-dead meat home.”
“You have done? It never got to the dragonesses.”
“The other drakes persuaded me you two wouldn’t like it. I should have known better.”
We had just finished up a game of tsheriaf, burning lines and arcs in the side of some Khamrou or other. (We’d tied, 282 to 282, which is a rather good score in a two-player game, and ties are pretty rare too.)
I made sure I had my box of ghee. “Ythac? Would you like to mate with me now?”
One rarely sees a drake in the fullness of his power quite as terrified as Ythac was. “Actually, I was going to make maybe a better offer,” he said.
“Arilash wouldn’t admit that there was any better offer,” I said.
“Nor would Llredh. You and I know better, I think,” he answered.
“What’s your better offer? And why are you refusing copulation to a willing — indeed, an offering — dragoness?”
“Willing, yes. Offering, yes. Interested, no. My tongue is as keen as any dragon’s. I know the scent of an eager dragoness well enough — most of the drakes have been wearing it regularly, from Arilash. You are not eager. You are nervous. You are on the edge of scared. You are touchy. You are not eager,” he said.
“More than just a bit willing though. I’m really trying to behave properly. Well, maybe not for Tultamaan. Certainly for you, Ythac.” I made a mental note to wear a full suit of illusion spells, hiding scent and everything else.
“What makes you think I’m pleased to couple with a dragoness who doesn’t want me? My hemipenises are not in charge of me,” he said. “How about this: Marry me. We’ll promise to each other to have sex whenever we want… I mean, whenever either of us wants. Waiting ‘til we both want at the same time would be a long wait indeed.”
“I’ll think about that in a dozen years,” I said. “For now, I’m going to try not to be insulted. It’s hard work.”
“I apologize for not pressing you to do something you obviously don’t want to do, and are only offering because your parents and Arilash and Tultamaan think you should,” he said. “And yes, I’m offering to stand by you against any or all of them.”
“That is very sweet of you. So sweet that I’m going to go melt another mountain,” I said. I started flying towards a likely-looking peak. Ythac tried to follow me, but I spattered lightning off his apotropaic spells. “Don’t you dare follow me.”
He tried to apologize some more.
“Don’t you dare apologize to me either. I accept your apology completely. Effective as of, oh, eclipse tomorrow.” I flew off, alone, though Ythac’s scrying spells whispered lavenderly around me. I snarled to them, “I am not going to get in trouble.” He didn’t stop watching though. I suppose that’s a good thing.
Let’s see. The Khamrou range has some eight hundred and twenty peaks. If I am really going to go through two a month, that’s two hundred eighty-eight by the end of the mating flight. There’ll be a lot left. No problem. No problem at all.
Unless someone else gets annoyed too, that is.
|Fiancé||Last Time||Change||This Time|