We got back to the camp at the base of the Khamrou Voresc. It smelled rather of recent dragons, and the desert was dug up here and there by claws. But it was completely deserted. Even Murghal had decamped.
«Right. Where is everybody?» I scribbled to Ythac.
«Oh, I forgot to tell you. We’re in a big cave under Khamrou Psulcho. Out of the desert sunlight, the thunderstorms, the tornadoes, and the purple ray guns,» he wrote back, and drew a map. So we lumbered back into the air and flew another six dozen miles, complaining about the rudeness of our fiancés and allies all the while.
Finally we were reunited. Nine dragons (one of them shredded and encased in stone), plus one hoven. It was a big cave before Tultamaan had gotten there, and he had made it much larger, and with stone magic sculpted a ring of eight stone couches around Greshthanu’s catafalque.
“The first Question we must consider is, are we presently in a position of safety? I would be willing to forgo the pleasure of another round of those purple rays. I daresay that one or two of you would even be willing to forgo the pleasure of Seeing Me In It if it meant that you would get hit by it too,” said Tultamaan.
“Seeing you — her I can live without. Shutting You Up, her I cannot live without,” said Llredh.
Tarcuna laughed. “None of you know the first thing about twistor beams, do you?”
“I know what it feels like to get hit by one,” said Arilash. “Can you say the same?”
“This must be your fearless whore, Jyothky,” said Nrararn.
“My fearless native who knows a lot about the local weapons!” I said. “I don’t think she’s a whore any more. She’s upgraded to ‘slut’.”
“Some upgrade,” said Tarcuna. “That just means I don’t get paid anymore.”
“Well, I’m going to pay you for your weapons engineering,” I said. “That should make up for it.”
“Well, I’m certainly not going to upgrade to traitor!” she said.
“I beg your pardon?”
Tarcuna stood up by my forefeet. “I do believe you’re about to attack Trest, right?”
“Yes, of course. Trest attacked us,” I said.
“And do you remember what country I’m from?” she asked.
“Right then. Do you really think I’m going to tell a bunch of alien monsters all the military secrets of my native country?” she asked.
“Alien monsters who saved you,” I said. “You owe me your life and more.”
”My life, sure,” said Tarcuna. “You have my life, my heart, and my pussy. They’re not worth very much anyways. My country, I don’t owe you.”
“Yes you do,” hissed Llredh. “Your military secrets, you tell them to us, or your death, she is very artistic but not very fast.”
”‘scuse me, I need to pee,” said Tarcuna. She walked over towards Llredh, unbuttoning her pants.
“Not on Llredh!” I said.
“Aww. You are such a boring one, Jyothky,” she said with a laugh.
“Your brave hoven, she is too brave,” grumbled Llredh. “She does not say what she should say, and she always wants to challenge me.”
“Well, if you’re thinking of killing her, talk to me first. She’s under my protection ‘til I tell you otherwise,” I said.
“Fine, fine. I do not kill her. If she pisses on me, I piss on her, and we see whose bladder is the mightier!”
“Jyothky, Llredh, please stop. Jyothky, either get your native consultant to consult with us, or put her outside. Llredh, if you wish to void excretions, use a side cave,” said Csirnis in a prissy voice.
I glared at Tarcuna. “Do you remember what Llredh did to the warehouse and its block at Port-of-Zom? The first huge fire?”
She nodded. “Yeah. I know he can kill me as quick as look at me. I really don’t care.”
“That was one fire breath. Just one. And it wasn’t a particularly large one, either,” I said.
“So how long do you think it would take, oh, three of us to destroy Dorday with fire?”
That got her attention, and made her do some mental calculations too. “Oh. Half an hour?”
“Close enough. Twelve minutes maybe, depending on how ruined we wanted it and who was breathing. How long would it take us to destroy every city in Trest?”
“Not very many days. Are you going to do that?”
“We’re deciding that now. The less we know, the more conservative we’ll be. That means, the more of it we’ll destroy,” I said. “So the more you tell us, the more we’ll know and the less we’ll burn. Your call.”
“You are a bunch of monsters!” she said.
“Except Csirnis, maybe, and I wouldn’t push him too far,” I said.
“Well … I don’t know any Trestean military secrets,” said Tarcuna. “For some reason, they don’t teach them to second-year engineering students very often, or whores even.”
“Just tell us a few basic things. Like, how do those twistor beams work?”
“I guess it’s not treason if it’s in all the textbooks, is it? And that museum you saw.”
“It just saves us from going and getting the textbooks, is all. And it’ll make us a bit more kindly disposed towards Tresteans, which will probably mean fewer deaths too,” I said.