"I've always enjoyed having you read the paper while I'm eating, Tarcuna."
So she fumbled with it, one-handed. "Here we are. It's yesterday's, but that's fine."
Our greatest enemies remain at large in Strobland, the Black Curse and his conspecifics!
"The Black Curse is you, I'm sorry to say," noted Tarcuna.
"It doesn't sound that bad," I said.
"It's a variation on 'Curset'. The anti-sun, the material manifestation of the evil principle. His anus, to be specific. It is not an overly flattering name. I'm sorry, Spotty. To keep reading,"
They threaten to attack our fair home! Churry City, the heart of Muld, is at peril! Henno has failed to stop or deter them — incompetant? Or traitorous? Shuvanne must find a better approach towards dealing with these savage beasts whom he has stirred up! When they leave Strobland and fly towards Trest, it is only our brave and noble military that will stop them! That will not be accomplished without great shedding of blood! Our soldiers have already had to endure far too much in Ghemelia and in the Peace Everywhere Array!
"Does Trest want Shuvanne to surrender himself and his family? We might accept that. Though the drakes are eager to show off in a real battle."
"I imagine that Churry City would prefer that. Unless they think the army can protect them. Anyways, there's more."
Meanwhile, the barely-intelligent brutes fly and fight and feed and fornicate in the mountains of Strobland! The perfect opportunity to strike them with the Peace Everywhere Array without unnecessary casualties! … But, somehow, Shuvanne has already lost the Peace Everywhere Array!
"They don't sound pleased anywhere. Who do they hate more, us or Shuvanne?" I asked.
"They've had more practice hating Shuvanne. Not the majority, but lots of people. He's very aggressive. Some people think that's a bad idea… I used to, when I care about politics."
I nibbled at a slightly monumental pyramid of cheeses and pickled fish and sweet butter on a whisper of brown bread. "D'you think Tresteans would take it as a kindness if we killed him, instead of Churry City?"
"No. You're alien monsters. Even people who want him dead wouldn't be happy if you killed him. Really, you killing hovens is just going to make the surviving hovens more upset. No matter how you do it," said Tarcuna.
"Including making you more upset?"
She slurped hot tea and stared at me over the cup. "Definitely including making me more upset. I wish you'd stop killing people."
"I don't particularly enjoy it," I said, and it sounded petulant to my own ears. "You've seen me kill, oh, muggers and that first warplane and then the other warplanes in Port-of-Zom, and then the Peace Everywhere Array. And not kill Shebra, despite how annoying she was. Do I seem to like killing hovens?"
"No, but you keep doing it."
"Well. All the drakes are telling me that I've had my turn demolishing Tresteans already. I can hardly promise never to kill any more Tresteans, or other hovens, but I can sit out of the next war and nobody's going to complain."
Tarcuna's eyes widened. "Would you?"
"I suppose so. Everyone would be happier if I did."
"I don't suppose you could get the drakes to sit out too?"
"There wouldn't be much of a war if they did!"
"I'd like that," said Tarcuna. "Think you can?"
"No. They're furious and haven't tasted blood yet. I'm furious too, but I've done somewhat about it," I said.
"Didn't you hate Greshthanu?"
"We didn't get along very well. I might have married him though. He was the second-best drake, after Llredh and Ythac were out. Now I'll probably be stuck with Osoth or Nrararn."
"You'd marry him even though you don't get along?"
"Why would I want an inferior mate?"
She started trying to talk me out of it — to explain to me why it's important to love your mate. Which is all very silly. Everyone figures out how to love their mate eventually. Except maybe for very inflexible dragons like Rankotherium. And nobody is in love when they get married. Except maybe for perverts like Ythac and Llredh.
Anyways, I pointed out that I wasn't going to marry Greshthanu anymore anyways, and that was her country's fault, and the next thing we needed to do was to make sure that they stopped trying to kill any more of my fiancés.
"So why not reject that war treaty, and not fight?" she asked.
"They're drakes. They're not going to not fight. Even wimpy ones like Osoth and Nrararn and Tultamaan are going to fight, they just don't enjoy it as much as Llredh."
"Well … I hope the army can drive them off, then. I don't see any way out of this that makes both of us happy, though," said Tarcuna.
"No, probably not. Sorry about ruining your country. I hope we don't have to wreck it more past this."
Nobody minded moving me to the "not participating" section of the treaty. So that was easy.
Tarcuna got credit for … well, it was a pretty minor diplomatic victory, but it was the first thing that the Trestean diplomats could call a victory. Getting one dragon fewer in the enemy forces is pretty big. Bonus points for most veteran dragon with the most experience destroying technology military things (which is me! Until day 104, when it will be the drakes.) Except when there are still five left.
Really, it shouldn't take more than one dragon to crush the army, should it?
Well, it shouldn't take more than one, that's axiomatic.
Why, then, did Ythac and Arilash and Llredh call me back to Port-of-Zom to help them fight? I can see a few ways to make that agree with the axiom.
- They were being friendly to me. This is pretty likely — Ythac knew how offended I was by his behavior, and didn't want me storming off alone.
- Arilash and Llredh aren't really whole dragons. They don't have dangersense, and when you're fighting an army and there are alarums and explosions going on all over, dangersense is very useful. (I'm not a whole dragon either — I might not notice that I need to heal myself, and die by mistake. At least I'll notice before I get hurt.)
- They weren't fighting the army per se. Llredh certainly wasn't. He was raging, he was trying to burn up the city or something. Ythac and Arilash didn't really want that either. Nobody was actually fighting the army for real.
- They, we, weren't fighting the army the right way. If you want to destroy an army, you fight vicious and sneaky. I speak from experience here! I destroyed the Peace Everywhere Array like that. We've got several distinct advantages over technology armies: healing magic to endure, apotropaic magic to defend, illusion magic to hide, travel magic to speed, big versatile breath weapons. These work better when you fly across the continent and burn up bits of the army that aren't expecting it. A big pitched battle like we're going to have is a showpiece. It looks impressive (I hope!) but it's not the efficient way to demolish an army.
- We're all pretty young dragons, just adolescents. Maybe the axiom is about grownups.
- Maybe the axiom could be wrong?