“Well, I’m glad you’ve been taking good care of yourself,” I said. “Was that what you wanted to talk about?”
“I’m afraid not,” she said. “I wanted to know how to get Csirnis to stop insisting on killing so many of us. We can’t agree to any deal including Shuvanne’s life, much less all the people you want.”
I blinked at her. “I suppose you could do something worse than death to them, if you’d rather. A cyoziworm maybe. You and Llredh could probably persuade us that that’s a sufficient punishment.”
Tarcuna shuddered. “We simply can’t have a treaty with any such thing in it. For one thing, it’s not how we do things anymore, on Hove. It’s barbarous.”
“It’s barbarous not to punish the hoven who killed many grands of hovens in Ze Cheya?”
“He’s got Immunity of Office. It’s not a crime if it’s while he’s a consul and he’s just setting national policy. His job is to set national policy. Sometimes innocent people get hurt by national policy, and that’s too bad, and we’re willing to pay money by way of apology for that. But not for the national policy as a whole.”
“That sounds barbarous to me,” I said, because it did.
“And even if he was responsible, his family and friends aren’t. He’s got a two-year-old son, Spotty! The baby probably can’t even talk, much less have any influence over his father.”
“All the more reason why Shuvanne shouldn’t be challenging dragons,” I said. “He’s endangering his innocent family.”
“No, you’re endangering his innocent family.”
“Well, after he killed so many hoven children, I don’t really see the problem with killing his,” I said. “Though technically that’s not why we’re insisting on killing his family. Anyways, we’re not punishing the baby, we’re punishing Shuvanne by killing his baby.”
“That’s simply horrible,” Tarcuna said. “What if we insisted that your parents should be killed for you destroying the Peace Everywhere Array?”
“I imagine you would quickly learn how mighty a pair of fully-grown adults at the height of their powers are, compared to a gawky half-trained one-third-grown girl like me,” I said, rather proudly.
“That’s a good practical argument, but totally shit as a moral argument,” Tarcuna said.
I thought about that a while. “I suppose so.”
She looked triumphant. “So you agree that your demand is immoral. Could you at least put it on the table for negotiation?”
“Well, Csirnis is the negotiator. You could probably make the same point with him — he’s a far more decent and ethical person than I am. But practically I don’t think it’ll work. It’s a very old and very practical law, and I wouldn’t feel at all good about violating it. Especially so publicly,” I said.
“I didn’t really think so. Oh, and as long as we’re being practical, the other reason we can’t do it is, Shuvanne can veto the treaty. That’s part of his job as a consul too,” said Tarcuna.
“This whole diplomacy seems pretty futile, then. I think we probably should negotiate a war treaty instead of a peace treaty,” I said.
“What’s a war treaty?” asked Tarcuna.
“An agreement about what we’re going to destroy if we can, but of course in this case we can.”
“What good is that?” asked Tarcuna.
“It’s mostly to be nice to you. We might, oh, say that we’re going to destroy Perstra in a week, as part of it. Then you have twelve days to …”
“Ten. Weeks are ten days.”
“If it’s our war, it’s our week. Don’t complain, you get more time that way. You have twelve days to get all the hovens out of Perstra who want to leave, or to put up whatever defenses you want, or if you’re sensible to take your military far away and keep it quiet ‘til we’re done.”
“I still don’t see what good that does for you.”
“Depends on the agreement! If you agree that you’ll take your military out of the way, then we can burn the city conveniently, and if that’s what we want to do, we’ll be happy. And your soldiers at least won’t be dead, so it’s a good treaty for you too.”
“Do small people ever break those treaties? Like saying they’ll keep their armies away, but reinforcing them instead?”
I had to think about that. “Oh, I’m sure it happens. Usually they’re treaties between dragons … we fight a lot more than you do, and for more reasons, so it’s important to keep the fights under control. But we can make war treaties with small people too. If you break the treaty, we will too, and that usually works worse for the small people. At the very least, you’d lose the soldiers who went up against us.”
“Or you might lose a dragon or two,” said one of the soldiers. I think Masha was her name.
“Possibly! You’d have to kill us all though, if that happens, or we’ll ruin the entire country. Oh! You can put something into the war treaty about that — that’s important! If you’re planning to fight us, demand permission to fight us. That way we don’t have to kill you and your family if you shoot us, Masha. That’s good for us, less work to do, and good for you too since we won’t kill your family and we might not even kill you.”
“Don’t be so cocky! We killed one of you already!” said Tarcuna.
I licked her head, messily. “I’m still sorry I broke your ability to feel fear, but you are so delightful without it.”
Tarcuna tried to clean her head with some hay. “That is horrible! Can we negotiate a Licking Treaty? Only appealing hoven girls can lick me, and only between the legs?”
Everyone blushed, or hid their eyes behind their wings, as appropriate. Except Markosh, whose profession demands unflappability.
Then it was time for the morning’s negotiations, but you already know that they went so badly it’s not worth talking about them.