And of course that’s where we got jumped. Three hovens were lurking in the doors of an ugly brick warehouse, trusting to eclipse’s shadows to hide them. But they smelled of sweat and excitement and their hearts were racing as we approached and their bodies whispered of feeble danger, so I’m not sure why they bothered hiding, except that they thought I was a hoven and unable to smell or hear very much. Two others had been following us from Billy’s. The last two were pretending to be engrossed in a game of cards.
And then they all got up or turned around or stepped faster, as the case may be, so that we were roughly surrounded. Two of them showed guns, little stubby things that whimpered “if you were really what you seemed, I’d be menacing” to dangersense. Three had knives, and two had leaden clubs or some such. “OK, you two. Hand over all your cash and you don’t get hurt.”
Tarcuna started squeaking “He—-”
I took the gun from the hoven who had talked, and one of his fingers with it, and the club from the hoven next to him. It turned out not to be a club, but a battered length of pipe. I don’t much like using weapons at all, and certainly not ugly ones, so I threw it through the other gunman. It left a big messy hole. For the sake of symmetry, I threw the gun at the other pipe-wielder, but it didn’t go all the way through. Unreliable, like all weapons. I’d rather use my claws and breath.
Tarcuna finished squeaking ”—-lp!”
I smiled very politely at the surviving muggers. “Same deal backwards. Hand over all your cash and you won’t get hurt. More.” They weren’t really listening to me, though. They were staring at their two dead companions, except for the first gunman, who was staring at the place his finger had been.
“Oh, never mind,” I said, since I didn’t think they were worth looting. I flopped at them haphazardly with my ripped hukuchô. They ran away screaming.
Tarcuna stared at the corpses. “You killed them… I’ve never seen anyone move so fast. You … you … are you a special government assassin, an enhanced agent?”
“No, just a dragon, like I said.”
“Is that like a cyoziworm … you’re a … something mysterious and powerful … who’s taken over a girl’s body?”
“No, I’m just a dragon. Oh, I know how to change my shape to look hoven, or animal, or whatever,” I said. “I’m not very good at fighting — most of my fiancés are much better.”
She looked at the corpses, then at me. “That’s not very good? It was as deadly as the Lady of Peppers in a fury. … Should we call the police? What do you do when you kill someone?”
“I’m not sure, with people who don’t belong to anyone. We could eat them if you want.”
Tarcuna was staring at me as if I’d said something ridiculous. “I don’t want to eat them…”
“I don’t either. They’re not my friends, and I’d rather find a good restaurant if I actually want a meal,” I said. So obvious.
“This isn’t the time for jokes. Do you want to spend the night in prison?”
“Why would I do that? I’ve got a perfectly good hotel room,” I said.
She was tugging me away from the bodies. “We’ve got to get out of here!”
“Tarcuna, I’m really not worried about fighting hovens. If seven come at me, seven will die. If twelve thousand and ninety-six come at me, twelve thousand and ninety-six will die.” Which would have sounded better in Trestean if I had said “seven thousand”, but I don’t like decimal numbers any more than I like weapons. Also it wasn’t true, since seven had come at me and only two died.
“If the police come, we’ll get arrested. We’ll go to jail. It would ruin my life!”, wailed Tarcuna. I evidently didn’t seem that impressed, so she added, “Oh, and cut into your vacation.”
I had to chuckle at her last point; she was obviously starting to understand me. Though I rather liked her, and didn’t want to ruin her life either. “Oh, right. I’d have to get you out, wouldn’t I? That would be awkward.” I put the Esrret-Sky-Painted on both of us, not that it’s at all the right spell for the ground, and trotted through the dismal streets under the eclipse with her.
We passed the maimed gunman, with one of the other thugs working hard to bandage his hand. I gave them a cheery wave. They didn’t seem to recognize me, so the Esrret-Sky-Painted must have been doing something. Tarcuna broke into a run, and I followed her, and after a few more turns we came to the bridge.
She wasn’t in the mood for shopping after that, though. I bought two bottles of spirits that she said were good, and four more that she didn’t say were good but looked interesting (but weren’t actually good — I should listen to Tarcuna). We ordered two hoven-long sandwiches, one mostly of roast cow and peppers, and the other an assortment of smoked sausages, brought to the room. And we locked ourselves in the hotel room, and I spent most of the afternoon comforting Tarcuna from being scared of muggers and being scared of me and being just plain scared.
Which was at just as pleasing as shopping for clothes would have been. I just realized that I’ve always liked being a shelter for small people. It’s a good hobby, and better than most. Even if it occasionally breaks my back, I suppose.