After the conquest was made official in the eyes of … um … I’m not sure that anyone but Llredh and Ythac would consider it official, if them … the rest of us took to the air and fluttered around and tried to figure out what to do.
“Csirnis found us a very nice city,” I said. “A shame it got broken.”
“They might take us back,” said Csirnis. “We didn’t entirely make ourselves unwelcome.”
“I have no great desire to spend every morning healing hovens,” said Osoth. “Especially if they are not my own hovens.”
I thought about Tarcuna, and Churdle and others. “We’ll get better service from the hovens if they think we’re good to have around.”
“I exemplify this principle more cogently than you, Jyothky! Do you not remember how eager the archaeologists at the Prevalian Tombs greeted me?” said Osoth. Obnoxious beast.
Nrararn laughed and shook sparks out of his mane. “Or better service still if they fear us. We could help Ythac and Llredh rule Trest for a while.”
“Llredh may be my spirit-brother in many ways. But I do not want to rule any country,” said Arilash. “Not that I will complain when Jyothky helps her spirit-brother.”
“I frequently engage in commerce — and, indeed, in repartée — with actual spirits. I confess myself unaware of the means by which two dragons may be siblings in a necromantic sense,” said the obnoxious beast.
Arilash puffed smoke towards Osoth. “Just a metaphor I picked up from some hovens.”
Osoth puffed deadly dust back towards Arilash. “A metaphor based on a wholly inaccurate understanding of their own spiritual nature, to say nothing of yours! Such a metaphor can do you no good. You must breathe upon it quickly!”
Arilash laughed. “You’d never have argued back when the mating flight started. Ready access to claspers is already distorting your judgment!”
“Bah. When the mating flight started, I had little hope of ending up with a mate. That is no longer such a bitter concern, for several regrettable but not in all instances regretted reasons. Obsequiousness is no longer a dire necessity!”
Arilash stared at him. “Does this mean you won’t be doing the hunting and cooking any more?”
Osoth coughed a poisonous cloud. “Cooking was never my greatest pride, also for several regrettable but not in all instances regretted reasons. I should hope that, for the remainder of the mating flight, grateful and slightly intimidated hovens will rejoice to provide us with provender.”
“He said no,” I translated.
Arilash smirked. “I’ll rejoice in that bit, at least. Does it mean you won’t be constantly challenging each other over who gets to mate with me next?”
“Perhaps you and Jyothky could challenge each other over who gets to mate with me,” said Osoth. “Or at least with the suspiciously silent golden-scaled abdicationer flying insufficiently far off to be utterly outside of the conversation.”
Csirnis turned his head to look at Arilash. “For my part, I shall observe the traditional forms as best as possible. I have no wish to be rude or dishonorable.”
I called to him, “I’ve never seen you be either one!” I can do mathematics, you see, and with three males to two females, mathematics calls for flirting and flattery. Besides, it’s true.
“Right. Well, where should we go now?” asked Arilash.
“Let us go somewhere civilized, where there are hovens who will provide good things for us without excessive effort on our part,” said Osoth.
“You really don’t want to do the hunting and cooking, Osoth,” said Arilash, flicking her tailtip in amusement.
“I do not. I further promise any prospective mate of mine a life painted with considerable luxury, provided by small people living and dead. And not, directly, by me,” said Osoth.
“You’re still acting like the females are in charge of the mating flight anymore,” said Nrararn.
“They are,” said Arilash.
I did more math. “I think Arilash and I each have three-twelfths of the authority, and the drakes each get two-twelfths. And in a standard mating flight, without perverts or purple rays, each dragoness gets two-twelfths. So our drakes are as in charge as dragonesses usually are.”
Arilash stared at me. “That makes nonsense, I suppose.”
“I shall not fuss in such detail about the numerology. I am fussing about cartography, or, in any case, navigation. I propose we go to Damma. Damma is a rich country, beautiful with ancient history, and fascinating with mountains and jungles,” said Osoth.
“Isn’t that the other way ‘round?” asked Nrararn. “Ancient history isn’t usually beautiful.”
“Not in this instance. In any case, I suspect that Damma would be happy to supply us with spicy delicacies and civic entertainments and mountain caves in exchange for a promise to destroy any Peace Everywhere Arrays used against them during our stay, and other such minor chores,” said Osoth.
The other drakes shrugged. Nrararn said, “How about the city that Jyothky found? Dorday, wasn’t it? I’d like to see more of Trest. Especially off the battlefield. Civilization’s nice, and Trest is supposed to have lots of it.”
“Dorday is delightful. I’ll show you around,” I said. “And what I don’t know, Tarcuna does.”
Csirnis flapped his forewings. “I should be glad to see Dorday.”
Which was three votes out of five, or seven out of twelve by my axiomatization, so that’s what we did.