Love and Peace
We landed at the Prevalian Catacombs. The archaeologists swarmed around Osoth, glad that he had not been slaughtered in Ze Cheya, hoping that he was back to invoke the spirit of this or that mummy who might (if yesterday’s discoveries are to be interpreted cleverly) have been St. Ovolo in life.
Osoth scattered them. “Not for long shall I linger; soon my wings shall carry me hence. Nor should you wish for me to stay. The hand that turned the Peace Everywhere Array against us at Ze Cheya might well turn it towards us at the Prevalian Tombs. And that would destroy all, beyond any hope of archaeology to recover. For the moment, bring me the mask and the sceptre which were my prizes — you have photographed them fully, have you not? — and bring my sweet fiancée her sweet concubine.”
Mask, sceptre, and concubine were duly acquired. The mask and sceptre were old and grotty and dusty, not very beautiful and not magical at all. I hope they’ve got some sort of historic interest, or they’re pretty mediocre treasure.
The concubine was yawning, rubbing her eyes, and dressed in loose blue pants and an oversized baggy shirt that didn’t flatter her all that much. “Hi, Spotty,” she said. “You survived somehow, I guess.”
“Most of us did. Greshthanu died, though … we’ll talk more about that in the air.”
“Oh? Where are we going? And are we going to be blasted by the Peace Everywhere Array while we’re flying?”
“I’m not sure where, I’ll ask Ythac after we’ve started flying. And we didn’t get shot at on the way here. I think our aerial invisibility spells are good enough,” I said. “How have you been enjoying yourself?”
“I’ll tell you that after we’ve started flying,” she said with a bit of a smile.
Half or seven-twelfths of an hour later, Tarcuna was roped securely to my back, and we were flying off to, as it happened, our original camp in Ghemelia. The drakes wanted to pick up whatever they had managed to hoard there. Drakes have a great deal of trouble giving up anything they’ve collected, even if it’s not very much and getting it back is some risk.
“Well, that was a nice little vacation. Kind of odd for a sex worker to not have sex on her job, but have some on the vacation!”
“Oh? What happened?” I asked.
”… I … suppose I should have asked your permission, shouldn’t I have done? Since you’ve got my privates rented. But you weren’t using ‘em, nor the rest of me,” said Tarcuna.
“I don’t mind. Just tell me what happened,” I said. I didn’t mind, after a bit of thought. Tarcuna had seemed a touch obsessed with me since I fixed her. Bad enough that she’s having a passion with another female — actually I do mind some — but at least that female is not me.
“Oh, I had a lightning-fast affair with Macra,” she said. “Smiles across the room to tongues between the legs in ten minutes flat.”
“Macra the Ozgrani seminary student, or Macra the wife of Director Viliwr?” asked Osoth.
“Macra the wife of Director Viliwr,” said Tarcuna. “Viliwr asked her to find some clothes for me, we went to her tent, and next thing you know I was giving away free samples and then some. Probably good that I got out of there when I did, though. Secrets don’t stay kept in that sort of camp. And Director Viliwr is a strict Regulator.”
“A Regulator. A very orthodox sect which has very orthodox and very strong opinions on who can do what to whom. They don’t approve of adultery, or prostitution, or girls who prefer girls. Or lots of other things, but those are the ones that would probably get him to divorce Macra.”
“You haven’t told me much about Macra,” I said. “But why would she want to stay married to someone like that?”
“Maybe two parts love, five parts love for their son, and three parts not wanting to get despised. You can do worse for yourself than get divorced for invert adultery — I managed to do worse for myself — but she’d really not have a very good status after that. Not even in Trest, and we’re relatively progressive about it. Definitely not in Vlechinse, where she’s from.”
“Well. Did you enjoy it at least?”
“Oh, yes. Having free will and a non-commercial fling is such a treat, I can’t tell you the tenth of it. How’s your own erotic voyage? You’re engaged to that big grey dragon over there, aren’t you?”
“We could stop, at need, and demonstrate our amatory prowess to Tarcuna. It is not beyond draconic comprehension!” said Osoth.
“Beyond mine. I don’t have any oil,” I said. “I’d probably strip all the skin off your hemipenis.”
“Marital prowess, martial prowess — these are never far apart for dragons, but rarely closer than for Jyothky,” said Osoth philosophically.
“Let’s worry about surviving first. We can figure out the twining after that,” I said.
“An optimistic attitude!” said Osoth. “For if we should fail to survive, we would also fail to, as you put it, twine.”
“Like Greshthanu,” I said. “I never got to couple with him, did you know? My mother told me to make sure to. Now I never will.”
Which was a good argument for doing it, I suppose, but neither of us felt much like it after I had invoked his name.