“We need to talk, privately,” said Ythac. “There’s a lot for us to decide.”
“We need to fuck, publicly!” said Llredh. “There’s a lot for us to display!”
“That too,” said Ythac.
“That’s for you two. But what all of us need to talk about is, what are we doing about the fact that we’ve rather stirred their armies against us?” said Arilash.
“Bah, we destroy bits of one city, or two, a few planes and tanks,” said Llredh. “Plenty upon plenty have they!”
“Plenty upon plenty is the issue, yes,” said Arilash. “I imagine we could spend the whole mating flight doing nothing but battling hoven armies. And hopefully not get any injury we can’t heal ourselves. Their weapons are not very good, but they are good enough to hurt.”
“I’d rather just fight you,” I said to Arilash.
“Then you shouldn’t have destroyed all those warplanes and burned up half of Port-of-Zom. You’ll probably have more battles coming. Soldiers don’t give up so easily.” said Tarcuna. She was sitting crosslegged, her back against my foreclaws, polishing her hooves, and mostly being ignored. I realized then that she was eating a sandwich from the pile we had bought, a pile of food which I was ignoring too. I was obviously very upset if I wasn’t eating.
The other dragons had forgotten about her too. “Which brings us back to the minor question of just what pure, virginal Jyothky is doing with a female hoven whore whom she lets ride on her back?” asked Arilash. “Especially given her opinion about same-sex coupling, and, I should think, inter-species as well.”
I stripped off my deceit spells. “I never coupled with her, I never had the least bit of lust for her, I didn’t know she was a whore when I hired her. I thought she was a … professional friend. Like a tour host.”
“The very naïve girl, Jyothky is she!” crowed Llredh. “Fortunate and happy am I that my mate is bright with clues and sense!” Ythac beamed, and squirmed over so that his flank rested against Llredh’s. Disgusting.
Tarcuna glared at Llredh. “And don’t you go teasing Jyothky! She’s clever and powerful and kind and brave!” Well, I guess I had one ally there, even if she was a hoven.
“And rich, she is also!” crowed Llredh. “Your loyalty she buys by the hour!”
“Rich enough to let me die and hire another public friend! Or even chor-chor, a real tour host!” shouted Tarcuna. “Instead she worked all night to save me. And if she had not done, guess what? You’d still have a little cup in your mind, and a worm dripping his will into it.”
Llredh was taken aback. I don’t think small people shout arguments at him very much. “This is what happened?” he asked Ythac, rather uncertainly.
“Yes, that’s all true,” said Ythac. The next sixth of an hour was all full of my adventures in Dorday.
“Brave, I don’t know about,” said Arilash. “Powerful, well, she could do better on that too. Clever, maybe adequate. But Jyothky certainly does her Uplifting rather thoroughly.”
“Except when she’s blasting warplanes out of the sky,” said Ythac. “Jyothky, have you picked Uplifter or Downcrusher yet?”
“Not really,” I said.
“No Uplifter, no Downcrusher, is what we talk about now! The worms, the worms, the hateful worms!” roared Llredh. “Upon the cyoziworms I will have my revenge, a greater revenge than just the little one of the day in Port-of-Zom!”
“And how are you going to manage that, Llredh?” asked Tarcuna.
Llredh answered her with fire. He breathed a great column of flame into the sky, so bright that Virtuet seemed dim beside it. It rose and rose, and hung in the sky for a full minute.
Tarcuna yawned. “Right. You can kill one of us — a wormridden I mean, I need to remember I’m not wormridden anymore. No problem, you can kill any hoven, or any thousand hovens, without half trying. What are you going to do? Go visit some poor hoven city … how are you even going to find the wormridden? They look just like normal hovens. You need an intrascope to tell, I suppose. You’ll what? Parade the whole city in front of an intrascope to pick out ten or twenty wormridden?”
Ythac said, “No need, not while I am his …” He fussed for words a moment. “His ally.” He lashed his tail. “His true love! I’m going to live it, I want to say it! Anyways, one wormridden person in Dorday lives at at 18 St. Spello Street, apartment 37.”
Tarcuna stared. “How do you know?”
I told her, “He’s good at finding things. Remember how I was complaining that he knew my hotel room in Dorday?”
“Oh. So … do you want revenge on the worms?”
“Yes, the worms, I hate the worms more than you can possibly imagine!” said Llredh.
“Not more than I can imagine. I was wormridden for much longer than you were, fruity little lizard,” said Tarcuna.
Llredh stared at her hard. “Small people rarely insult me and live,” he said.
Tarcuna yawned again. “Whatever.”
I stretched a forewing between them. “Tarcuna, please be polite to Llredh. Llredh, don’t you dare kill my rental friend.”
Tarcuna shrugged, and said, “Sure thing, Spotty.”
Llredh said, “Your whore, she is practicing to be a great hoven hero who challenges dragons?”
“Just foolhardy. There’s a crack in my mind, right where any sort of fear should go,” added Tarcuna.
“Which is to say, she’s braver than you are,” I added.
“Yeah, well, maybe I’ll get better someday,” said Tarcuna. “If Llredh doesn’t kill me first. Anyways, we’re talking cyoziworms. You hate them almost as much as I do, right?”
”… right …” Llredh was a bit intimated.
“But not the wormridden. You were one for a bit. Killing wormridden wouldn’t be a very good revenge on the worms, now, would it?”
“Not so bad,” he said.
“Killing people like you were, like I was?”
Llredh allowed as how that might be a bit less than perfect.
“Let’s torture the worms,” said Tarcuna. “They’re not very smart, but they know fear and they understand a little of what the wormridden do. Let’s go and find them, starve them maybe, take them out of their hosts, and kill them. And keep the hosts alive. They’d hate that more than anything. You killed yours fast, but Spotty killed mine more slowly. The last thing it dripped in me was how glad I was going to die with it.”
“Please don’t try to lie to a dragon, Tarcuna,” I said. “We can tell when you are.”
“That was a lie?”
“That bit about how glad it was that you would die … not a lie, quite, but shading the truth a lot.”
“OK. Here’s the exact truth. Bopo sort of clutched at me and tried to take me with it in death. Definitely it was bodily, when it poured out its poison. Maybe it was spiritually too, I don’t really know exactly. I’m sure it wanted me dead though. I’m sure it would hate more than anything if it knew I would live.”
“There’s a truth, fine. I like that revenge,” said Llredh.
“I don’t. It’s a huge amount of work, if we’re going to be rescuing hoven after hoven,” said Arilash. “We’re not here to conquer Hove. We’re sure not here to save it.”