“He says he’s not dead. I believe him. If he were dead he’d be in a much better mood. I’ve never heard him so annoyed.”
“What, do you have a telephone inside your head?”
“A language spell. We can write words in each others’ minds.”
“That must be wonderful, being able to talk to your true love whenever you want.”
“True love? My best friend, maybe.”
“But you’re going to marry him, you said?”
“I don’t know yet!” So then I had to explain how mating flights work, which took another three plates of breakfast.
“So you’re supposed to go off somewhere and have a lot of sex?” she asked. “With the boy you’re going to marry, and five other boys too?”
“Exactly,” I said. “Six other ones for me, but that’s nontraditional and mostly a mistake.”
“What if you get pregnant?”
“I won’t get pregnant, that’s a mammal trick and I’m not a mammal despite that I’ve got an udder like yours today. If I lay any fertile eggs, I’ll burn them, of course. My husband should be one of my dragonet’s fathers. But that’s usually what we do anyways, burn fertile eggs I mean. We live a very long time, we don’t want to have many dragonets.”
Tarcuna waved her hands. “Back up, back up. You lost me at ‘one of my child’s fathers’. How many fathers does a dragonet have?”
“Three. Well, one to three, but usually we figure on three,” I said around a mouthful of steak and pea pie.
“I’m going to ignore the biology weirdness there. Any biology that has giant flying lizards that breathe fire is crazy. But I know sex. How does the sex part of that work?”
So I explained about how drakes have three hemipenises each, small, medium, and large, and I don’t but I have claspers. And when a drake and a dragoness love each other very much, or at least are willing to tolerate each other’s close company for long enough to assuage some lust, they can …
“I sort of get the idea,” said Tarcuna. “All three male members go into the same female member?”
“That’s why it’s claspers. I’d squeeze them closed on the smaller ones,” I said. “Or spread them wider for the large one.”
“Convenient, that, though I do pretty well for a wide range of sizes myself without any strange appendages. But I guess what I really don’t understand is … if a dragonet has three different men — drakes — as fathers, and you’re married to one of the three, do you go have adulterous sex with the other two?”
“Oh, heavens, no. Dragons don’t do adultery,” I said, reflexively checking my veriception blocks even though Tarcuna doesn’t have that sense. “My ova should be two-thirds fertilized at the end of the mating flight. That’s the real point of having sex with all my fiancés so much now. Well, that and trying all the drakes out.”
“You want three fathers for your dragonet? More to the point, your husband doesn’t mind sharing with two others?” asked Tarcuna.
I sighed. “It doesn’t matter that much for dragoness babies. But drakes with three fathers have a better chance of being all pretty and fancy than drakes with fewer. That’s very important. Pretty drakes have a better chance of getting married. So yes. My parents mostly hatch eggs fertilized by Cterion — he’s my father — and the top two drakes in their mating flight. Whom they haven’t seen for several grosses of years, in some cases. I mean, several-and-a-half centuries.”
“That’s pretty strange. Male people don’t like the thought that their wife’s children aren’t theirs. Besides, how do you even tell who the fathers are?”
“Analysis spells. Not very hard ones,” I said.
“Spotty, I don’t know that I exactly believe all your stories,” she said. “Maybe you’re a person. You’re a shape-changing lizard, I think I got that part the other night. But I do know love and jealousy, it’s part of my job, and what you’re saying makes no sense.”
“Why on Mhel — or Hove even — would love matter?” I had to ask.
“Well, on Hove, it is customary in most civilized parts of the world to get engaged to someone you love,” said Tarcuna. Then, a bit archly, “Should you be lucky enough to fall in love with someone to whom you can become engaged, of course. Not everyone does.”
“That’s utterly backwards. I need each of my children to have three fathers, and falling in love with one drake would only make that so much more awkward. Besides, I don’t have that much leeway about who I get to marry. It would be unspeakably awkward if I fell deeply and truly in love with Csirnis, say, and then came in second and had Arilash snatch him up first,” I said. “No, our way is best: marry first, and fall in love with the one you marry.”
Tarcuna rubbed her cheeks. “I suppose it sounds convenient if you can manage it. It doesn’t make much sense to me, emotionally, but I suppose it doesn’t have to.”
I couldn’t force the thought of loving someone to make sense to me either, so I pretended to have the secret wisdom: “Just act like they’re true and all will be well.”
Dragons shouldn’t swim.
Swimming is just like flying, except that it’s a lot more chilling. Also a lot more effort. Flapping your wings underwater is hard. And dangerous — you can actually break wingbones if you do it wrongly and strongly enough. Also you can’t breathe water.
Unfortunately, most dragons love to swim. I don’t know why. Osoth is the only other dragon in the mating flight who has the proper opinion of water. In his case I wonder if it might be a necromancer’s affectation. As if he’s saying “The dessicated liches of the animated dead can’t swim, so in solidarity I shall not swim either.”
I don’t care what his reasons might be. I’m going to award him a fiancé point, right now, in absentia.</p>