Tourist (Day 49)
The zeppelin to Dorday was all commercial. That means that I could look like a hoven woman dressed like one of the farmers, and give a hoven at a desk two hundred-thurney notes (I hate decimal!), get eighteen thurnies back, and a bit of paper which entitles one to sit in a hot little brick room for an hour, then climb a steel tower and sit in a lightly swaying and very long gondola full of chairs for two hours and peer at scenery and wonder, nay, marvel, at how boring flying is when it’s not with your own wings. While lightly uniformed hovens bring you little paper plates of bad olives and paper cups of lightly fermented watermelon juice, in case any spare delight is needed.
Which left me climbing down a steel tower down to the Top Tourist City of Trest, with lots of money that wasn’t looted locally, and no dragons around.
So, Dorday. Nine islands in a bright blue-water lagoon, with thirty-one bridges of gleaming stone between them. Many tall spires in gaudy colors, which would be so much fun to fly through if it weren’t for the strands of lightbulbs strung between them. (Maybe I’ll be a bird for a while later on.) Five vast parks, full of: metal and wood sculptures for hoven children to climb on, a zoological and botanical garden, games, slides, wheels to ride, carts selling any number of snacks. A huge oval stadium made of glittering stone topped with metal arches. Wide avenues of shops and cafes lined with aromatic trees.
Plenty of hotels, too, but the first three that I went to were full. I got a reservation for the following night at the Pozarde Hotel Dorday, and got annoyed with looking, and planned to spend the night in a tree in crow-form or some such. It’s not as if a bed feels any better to me than lying on a rock.
Dragons do not take terribly well to being thwarted, especially by the snivelling mechanations of small people. The natural thing to do would be to kill with terrible lightning and frost those who stand in my way. (Not fire. Fire would burn down the hotel.) That didn’t seem right, because (a) the hotel would probably be full of police and detectives and reporters and such and I still wouldn’t get a room, and (b) those who stand in my way are not would-be dragonslayers, but innocent tourists. Like me but better organized and with better local connections.
So, I decided that I needed better local connections.
I bought a copy of the day’s Magic Trumpet of Dorday, and looked around for advertisements of local guides. There weren’t any. (Many advertisements were cryptic, but after the Word-Fox told me that the first of the odd words, ‘TUSS’ was an acronym for ‘Temporary Until Someone Special’, viz. a companion to tide one through a breakup, I stopped trying to translate them.) But there was an establishment called the Red Spire of Rented Friends, on the seventh block of St. Alacord street. I was on the tenth block of St. Alacord street. Renting a friend would probably do.
Three flights blocks and two flights of stairs in a slightly shabby tall building with a predictably red spire brought me to the slightly shabby front door of the Red Spire of Rented Friends. The lobby wasn’t shabby exactly. It was baroque. It was full of gilded statues of hovens embracing each other, dancing under arched boughs laden with with berries, playing harps and violins, or … well, I suppose you can do that to your lover if you don’t have lots of sharp pointy teeth. I should have figured it out then, but on Mhel they all wear special hats to show what they are, and on Hove they don’t, so I didn’t realize.
“I’d like to rent a friend, please,” I said to the receptionist.
She smiled a mouth full of very white and very symmetrical blunt flat teeth at me, and twirled a lock of long black hair around a finger. “This would be your emporium! What sort of a friend would you like? And what name shall I give for you?”
“I’m Jyothky Meragathium,” I said. I was not concerned with secrecy, except from Ythac. If Ythac tracked me down to Dorday, he’d find me in a few minutes no matter what name I gave. “I’d like someone who knows the local entertainments. And hotels. Hotels especially.”
“All of our associates know the local entertainments and hotels in great detail,” she said, which should have been a clue. “I take it you’re thinking of an overnight rental?”
“No — two weeks, I think. Maybe more, maybe less. I was planning to pay today for two weeks. If I need to go home before then, I won’t be asking for a refund.”
“That does limit things a bit — not all of our associates are available for quite so long at once.” She shuffled through some papers, and spread five on the counter. I looked. Each one had a picture of one of the rental friends, all beaming and beautiful hovens dressed for the beach, and a few none-too-specific sentences about how Trabundo was cheerful and compliant, Elesma was enthusiastic and energetic, Tarcuna was sweet and spunky, and so on. That should have been a clue too.