We — the mating flight, plus Tarcuna — have been staying in Perspeckle, by the Quenjo Wastes. The hovens here are not terribly happy with us. They are mostly soldiers, or the families and friends of soldiers. They hate the drakes quite reasonably and (uninvolved) Arilash and me quite unreasonably for killing so many of their comrades in our abortive war. They hate all of us (quite unreasonably) for the dragons who are not us conquering their country. Oh, and they hate me (quite reasonably) for destroying the Peace Everywhere Array, with which they could have won the war.
I am beginning to understand my parents a bit more. When they first conquered Mhel, all the mhelvul hated them too. I can smell the hatred when I fly low over Perspeckle. I have taken to flying with my mouth closed, which helps some.
They don’t dare disobey us, though. Not when they remember how easily the drakes destroyed their best-prepared army.
Darrir came to my barn this morning. Darrir is a former Social Warfare specialist of the former Army of former Trest. He regularly tries to make some of those less ‘former’. So I greeted him with, “Good morning, Darrir. What’s the sedition of the day?”
He looked a bit pained. “Today, you have a phone call.”
”I do? Not Tarcuna?” Tarcuna spends time on the phone each day with friends in Dorday. I have at most seven friends on Hove, five of whom are close at hand, the sixth can write messages on my mind whenever he likes, and the seventh is Llredh, who isn’t much of a friend and could get Ythac to write to me if he wanted to. So I’ve never gotten a phone call.
He held out a sophisticated technological telephone thing to me. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, since I’d probably poke a hole through it when I pushed the ‘talk’ button, so I made Darrir work it. It was awkward.
“Hallo?” Which is the traditional way you talk on the phone, I think.
“Hallo, Joffee. I’m Churdle, you ate a vask on the farm, then we gave you some chili and troublecakes,” said a scratchy little voice missing all the high and low tones.
“Yes, you had something wrong with your polysthegides and Fralian nodes. I put the Arcane Anodyne into you … did it work?”
“Well, it worked, I don’t have Moray-Lagrozo Syndrome any more, thanks for that,” he said scratchily.
“You sound rather miserable,” I said, because he did. “What’s biting your tail?” But of course he doesn’t have a tail.
“Well, you see, mister dragon, we’d taken some pictures of you and showed them all ‘round. And we spoke well of you, telling everyone all around what you’d done with the healing and all. We were grateful, me ‘specially,” he said. Which was mostly true, I think, though it’s harder to alethiocept over the phone.
“Well, that’s all fair, it sounds like,” I said.
“But then you go and smash our army and conquer our country…”
I motioned to Darrir to mash the ‘talk’ button. “I didn’t! That was Llredh. Except the Peace Everywhere Array.”
“Well, mister dragon,” said the farmer, who evidently didn’t get a very good look at me. I suppose it was dark in the barn. But if I argued with everything, I wouldn’t get much of a conversation. “My neighbors, they don’t quite fuss about which of you did which piece of it. And it’s not a friendly place to live when everyone thinks you’re a dragon-lover.”
Which was astounding. “Dragon lover? Just what have you been telling people that you’ve done with me? Or who was it?” But that’s not what he meant — for which I am very glad — he meant “partisan of the dragons”.
“Anyhow, my neighbors aren’t so happy with us now. Coming around with rifles and clubs, is how not happy they are. I hid behind the woodpile. They shot Looskie dead, though, and a few of the others are bad hurt. Basanne, she’s got a big hole in her belly. She’s the one who cooked that chili for you. And the doctor, he won’t come by our farm any more. Except he did last night, he was one with a rifle. Could you come here and heal her, like you did for me?”
Troublesome hovens. Always killing each other and then asking you to take care of things. Well, in a few duodecades Ythac will surely set things right. In the meantime … «Ythac? Mind if I go heal some farmers by Churry City?»
«Hi, Jyothky. Go right ahead.»
«I’ll owe you the tribute, OK?»
«If you keep insisting on the formal etiquette, I am going to bite your tail seven times,» he wrote.
«Just being polite, you prickle drake!» I told him. “Certainly. I’ll be there in, oh, perhaps five-twelfths of an hour.”
“Thank you kindly, sir dragon,” he said.
I got the Melismatic Tempest and a bit of teasing from Arilash, and flew for Churry City.