And not too long after that, I woke up to the sound of Tarcuna grumbling by my head.
“I’m not asleep, I’m awake,” I mumbled in Grand Draconic. I haven’t taught Tarcuna any of that (which is illegal by draconic law), or even much Petty Draconic (which isn’t).
“Spotty? Are you up?”
“More or less,” I said. “I didn’t know you were here. Llredh said nearly everyone had left.”
“No, no, how would I leave?”
“I should hope that Osoth or Nrararn would have taken you with them. I told them to protect you from Llredh.”
She shrugged her good shoulder. “I’m not leaving you, you should know that. Llredh’s not so bad. He was pretty interested in my life story: getting disinherited for the wrong kind of love, getting wormridden, and lots of sexual adventures. I’m ahead of him on all three counts, and never mind that he’s a lot older than me. He had to talk about his toxicology research. I couldn’t one-up him on that.”
“Well, I’m glad he didn’t burn you to ashes or something,” I said.
Tarcuna shrugged. “I suppose I am too. How much longer is our contract for?”
“It’s about over; I’d have to count to be sure.”
“After it’s over, I’d like to go back to Dorday for a little while … Unless you’ve destroyed Dorday.”
“Destroyed? Why would I destroy Dorday? I’ve enjoyed Dorday more than the rest of Hove all together,” I said.
“You and Ythac went on a big rampage all over Trest,” she said. “I don’t know what you might have ruined.”
“Just the Peace Everywhere Array. This wasn’t our revenge for Greshthanu, it was just pulling Trest’s fangs so they couldn’t kill any more of us.”
“I’ve been with you long enough so I understand that. Have you been with me long enough so you understand why it upsets me?” she asked.
“No, I don’t think so,” I said. She stared at me hard. So I had to ask, “Why does it upset you?”
She sat on my forepaw, and looked up at me. “First of all, I hope you know that I am very grateful to you personally, more grateful than I can ever say or do. You saved me from the worm. You worked all night, and that’s much more than a dragon usually does for a … small person, I guess you call us. So to the extent that I have any personal honor, I’m on your side. But that’s the you-as-Spotty side.”
I moved her off my foot and turned into my Spotty-the-hoven shape. She smiled and hugged me. “I didn’t really think I had two sides.”
“Well, there’s the you-as-Joffee-and-I-know-I’m-saying-it-w
“I don’t think Trest made it to kill giant lizard alien invaders which you didn’t know about before a few days ago, so, no, I don’t.” I sat on a rock, and she sat next to me.
“Hove had been full of wars for the last century or so. Well, always, but extra-bad since we’ve had the technology to fight big. Massive wars, nasty wars, bloody terrible wars. This country would find a bit of extnuvia and bring horror to its neighbor. That country had no deposits of horrid minerals, but raised a big army and invented some deadly new weapons and broke its neighbors with big guns and planes. The conquered country had no such power, but they trained a few expert assassins who killed the leaders, or destroyed just ordinary people with bombs or fires. The other country didn’t like tappu — no country likes tappu — and arrested them all and made them work in prison ‘til half of them died.”
“Lots of small people worlds are like that. Especially when they get some technology, but most manage some of it even without. We don’t allow such things on worlds we rule.” I said. It did sound a bit odd when I was in small person shape.
“We don’t either. Well, ‘we’ is Tresteans here, not all hovens. Trest is a federation, a lot of old countries who learned to live together and settle our differences politically instead of with guns and doom. When we federated, we became the biggest and most powerful country in the world. We worked pretty hard to impose peace on our neighbors. When Prof. Troubralane invented the twistor beam — he was Trestean, of course — we had a national referendum on what to do. We decided by a very famous 68% majority that we should impose peace on the whole world. So we built the Peace Everywhere Array.
“Nobody else was very happy about it, by the way. Half the rest of the world joined up as the Alliance of Freedom, to oppose us. Freedom meaning ‘freedom to fight each other in the most horrible ways’.”
“Anyways, we stopped a couple of nasty little wars in a hurry, and prevented … dozens I guess. It’s been a lot of work, we’ve had to remove a few really horrible tyrants. Like in Ghemelia. It’s cost us lots of our own blood, and huge amounts of money, and brought us the hatred of a lot of Hove. But we’ve kept the pax Tresteana for nearly two decades. The world’s far and away a better place for it.”
“Lots of your own blood? That sounds like you were fighting wars,” I said. “And Ghemelia must have been one of them — that looked like a war. A nasty one. I was there during the occupation, and it even smelled nasty.”
“No, those are peace actions, not wars. There’s a difference,” she said.
“I’m not sure I see, but go on,” I said.
“The heart of our ability to keep peace across Hove was the Peace Everywhere Array,” she said. She was quiet a moment, twisting her hair in her good hand. Then she added, “And you destroyed it completely yesterday, I hear.”
“I had to! Greshthanu…”
She interrupted me, “I know why you think you had to. I want you to know why it was a terrible thing. ‘cause I’m loyal to you, in love with you, remember? I’m loyal enough to tell you when you’ve done something awful.”
I had the best idea I’ve ever had. “Right. OK, your contract with me is over, we’re not renewing it. But I’m giving you another job.”
“I don’t really see that you’ve got the right to tell me what to do,” she said, smelling irritated. Which is silly of her — of course she’s one of my small people. But it was a good enough idea that I didn’t think I needed to tell her that.
“I want you to go to Trest and explain what dragons are like. They need someone who understands us so they don’t do stupid things like shoot at us and make us go destroy them. Also you should tell us important things too, preferably before we burn the city to ashes or whatever. But we’re just here to get married to each other, we’ll mostly leave hovens alone if you leave us alone. If you can explain that to the consuls, we’ll be a lot less annoyed and a lot fewer hovens will die.
She nodded and didn’t say anything.
“And you know us somewhat, I don’t think any other hovens know anything about us really,” I said.
She nodded and didn’t say anything some more.
“Besides, it’s a better job than being a wormridden whore,” I said.
“A lot less popular,” she said.
“What? You’ll be helping people. A lot.”
“I’ll look like a collaborator of the destroying alien monsters. That’s not going to make many friends,” she said. “I’d rather stay with you.”
“If anyone gives you trouble for it, I will kill them,” I said.
She looked annoyed. “That is a perfect example of the problem.”
Well, I thought it was a good idea, anyways.