[I was pleased to hear from someone who usually reads but doesn't admit it. In honor of that person, have an extra entry! -BB]
I fussed privately about honor and etiquette, and decided to be sensible. We stripped the bed from Suite 406, and bought some rope and carabiners and a mountain-climber’s harness from a sporting goods store. We went to the top of the bank — the bloodstain was still there — and I turned back into me. We tied a couple loops of rope around my neck, snapped Tarcuna on with carabiners, and wrapped her in blankets. I cast the Scratch-the-Sky — I don’t know any better spells to speed up flight. It’s not really nice to leave big aching cuts in the middle air, so nobody uses that spell in a civilized world unless they really need to. But this isn’t a civilized world, there’s nobody flying around but hovens, and I was in a hurry.
I also put the Esrret-Sky-Painted on, but that doesn’t work very well if there’s a big aerial wound pointing right at an invisible me. The fighter planes from Dorday figured it out pretty fast. Also they figured out the practical way that flying through the Scratch-the-Sky‘s scratch would wreck their planes and they should fly to the side of it. I had to give up on the Scratch-the-Sky, and just fly along at a leisurely just-my-wings sort of pace, and watch the fighter planes zoom past me trying to find me.
After a while they gave up or got very far away, so I put the Scratch-the-Sky back on. Which upset a great many hovens, since I was flying near a big city — Tublier, according to Tarcuna. Many, many warplanes were already in the sky, and most of them started flying towards me as soon as they could see the wound. I tossed the Scratch-the-Sky away again, and landed, and caught and ate a horse and a half, in a barn, while the Trestean military worked exceedingly hard to keep me away from a city that I didn’t actually want to visit that day.
«Where are you?» screamed Ythac, underlining his letters three times in my imagination.
«In Tublier, in Trest. Not quite halfway there.»
«Well, Arilash and I have been her for two hours!»
«Well, Arilash has adult travel spells. I’ve only got a stupid little baby the Scratch-the-Sky, and I can’t even use it half the time.»
We snarled at each other, and promised to gnaw each others’ tails off after we’d rescued Llredh. Ythac is such an anxious mommy-drake sometimes. It’s not as if a wormridden Llredh is going to get any worse. He couldn’t hurt himself if he wanted to, not in any way that would be bad for the worm anyways. Ythac was unconvinced.
I took care of cloacal matters that I hadn’t wanted to deal with in hoven form — if it’s slow going in, it’ll be slow going out, and that’s not the fun direction. And raided the farmhouse for food for Tarcuna, who didn’t want burnt horse. I didn’t want her going hungry, she was still recovering. If Ythac wants my expert services — or my public friend’s expert services — he’ll have to have them on my terms.
Coda: Carrying Small People
Dragons are not zeppelins! We do not generally take passengers. Ordinary honor and politeness says, if you must carry a few small people in the air, is to hold them in your foreclaws. The theory is, that way you can carry them around and intimidate them at the same time. If they get annoying, you can start to close your paw on them, which will often scare them. If they get very annoying you can either crush them or drop them.
I’m not generally one to dispute the theory of honor and etiquette. This time, though, I really don’t understand. How often do you carry someone around who you’re willing to kill? Or someone who you need to intimidate?
I have only carried one small person in my paw flying, ever. (Verimet, which shouldn’t be surprising at all.) It was hideously inconvenient. I couldn’t tell if I was holding her nicely, or I had accidentally dropped her without realizing it, or I was crushing her. After a bit I stopped and made her tie herself to my fingers, so at least I couldn’t drop her so easily, and told her to scream if I started crushing her, which happened a couple of times. I had to heal her with the Great Titan Sanitarium, which didn’t work very well. We still got there in time, more or less. I got Rankotherium to teach me the Arcane Anodyne the next day. Anyways, I don’t like carrying people in my paws. Especially not for as long a flight as this was going to be.
Carrying someone on your back is considered to be (a) inconvenient and (b) a great honor for the someone. I will utterly vouch for (a) inconvenient! Especially when you have just accidentally rendered the someone’s right arm unusable, and you don’t have anyone to help you put her on.
(b) A great honor for the someone … I don’t think so, in this case. If anyone is wondering whether I am doing Tarcuna a great honor, well, I did a lot of work to heal her. Much more work than your average slave is worth. A public friend ought to be worth less than that even, by any reasonable measure: if someone’s just hired for a short-term job, you don’t have much of an investment in them.
So I think Tarcuna has some kind of hold on me. For one thing, it’s never a good idea to kill someone you’ve worked that hard to save. You look so foolish when you do that. So, if I were carrying her in my paw, I couldn’t drop her or squish her, not sensibly.
Under no circumstances is it the least bit acceptable to let the small person on your back rein you.
Anyhow, that’s why I decided to let her ride on my back.