Lunchtime in the command center was sandwiches from a deli across the street, gobbled by the officers while they watched their soldiers try and fail to hurt the drakes in any serious or lasting way. They refused to buy me any food, though I don't particularly blame them. I wanted to watch the whole fight. I could eat with the drakes later — I planned that I'd go hunt something for them, for once.
Midway through lunch, the officers got very, very nervous. Not at the battle,
which was dawdling along as it had been all morning. A message came in on a
special teletype, saying,
STAND BY FOR IMPORTANT CONSULAR
ANNOUNCEMENT ON PUBLIC TELEVISION. There was speculation, mostly
disappointed speculation that the army's performance was so bad that the
consuls would sue for peace. Which it had been.
A few minutes later, the communications specialist put the state television channel on the big screen. The picture showed the Hall of the Law, a big room where one of the secondary but very powerful branches of the Trestean government meets. Llredh, at half-size, was standing in the middle of the room, grinning hugely at the camera. Hovens sat or knelt or lay all about, well-dressed hovens who looked as if they had been extremely important until a few minutes ago and now just looked rather injured or occasionally killed. Hoven blood was splashed all about, and entrails, and fingers.
Llredh picked up one hoven, by the horrible expedient of ramming a claw into his ribcage, lifting him screaming into the air, pulling him off for long enough to show the wound to the camera, and then healing him. The hoven's clothes and fur had been burnt off, and he had the echoy scars of many recent and recently-healed wounds. He wasn't the only one in the room like that. Llredh had been having a torture party.
"Your time to speak, she is now!" said Llredh.
The officers around me gasped. "Shuvanne…"
Shuvanne struggled. Llredh tapped Shuvanne's head with a claw. Shuvanne turned to the camera. "My countrymen, I bring you the news of the ultimate catastrophe. The alien monsters …"
Llredh roared, "Not all of us! Just me!"
"… this alien monster has attacked Perstra while our army was busy elsewhere."
Llredh laughed. "The army is there, the army is here, what difference is it? Only who kills the army!"
"We have been forced to offer a complete and unconditional surrender to the dragons…"
"To Llredh only! The other dragons, if they want to share, it is me they must ask!"
Shuvanne scowled. Llredh scowled back. The two glared at each other a moment, and then Llredh said, "Your capitulation, your command to grovel, it is time for them!"
Shuvanne started to say, "I shall do no such…". Llredh must have brushed him with his hukuchô very gently then (television doesn't show the astral), for Shuvanne screamed and babbled and soiled Llredh's forepaw. Llredh transferred Shuvanne to his other forepaw, and wiped the dirty one on a few limp but clothed senior Trestean officials.
A moment later, Shuvanne was able to talk coherently, though hardly able to object. He was sobbing as he spoke, "Please remain calm and go about your business. Over the next several weeks we will be arranging the transfer of control to our new masters."
Llredh put Shuvanne down, and smiled a huge fangy smile at the camera. "The huge present, she is what Ythac gives to me, and that on the night before we become mates. The just-as-huge present that I can give back, she does not exist! The medium-sized present for my new mate, she is Trest. Lucky Trest! No better queen could any country have!"