Avoiding Premature Detection
Osoth spread his wings. “And now that that is accomplished, I beg of you, O my stygian fiancée, to impel your courtesan to deliver us unto the divers disportments procurable in the vicinity!”
“He said ‘yes’,” said Nrararn.
“Well. I certainly didn’t say ‘no’,” Osoth affirmed, or, at least, did not deny.
I turned into my usual hoven shape. “Right! Let’s go!”
The other dragons stared at me, tails curled in distaste.
“We’ll have a much better time in hoven shape,” I said. In Grand Draconic, out of embarrassment.
The other dragons glanced at each other, not speaking, not changing.
“Really. Everything’s arranged for hovens here. Because, well, they’ve never had visitors who weren’t hoven before,” I said. “So, if you want a comfortable seat at a show, say, or a ride on the big wheel, or anything, you’ll need to be in hoven shape. And we’ll scare them less that way.”
The other dragons eyed each other.
After a moment, Csirnis put on his most diplomatic voice. “I wouldn’t say I’d never take a hoven shape on this part of the trip, but on the whole if I’m around other dragons, I’d rather look my best. It may be somewhat of a drake’s foible, or even shortcoming, and I freely admit that it is not a matter of dire rational necessity, but … forgive me. I shall assume, I have assumed, a smaller size for the sake of the natives. But the situation has not yet arisen in which I wish to give up my claws and teeth in front of my worthy adversaries Osoth and Nrararn.”
Osoth and Nrararn smirked a bit at each other to get called ‘worthy adversaries’. Nrararn said, “You know I’m not entirely averse to shapeshifting in the pursuit of tourism — I was once the gaudiest duck on all of Hove, if you recall — but for more than an hour or two, I’d rather be myself.”
“To say nothing of the risk of cyoziworms,” said Arilash. “You and Llredh both got menaced by them in a matter of days. Our drakes and you would probably be safe enough, but I don’t have any more dangersense than Llredh.”
“And no more ability to keep away from whores, too?” I snapped. In Grand Draconic, which Tarcuna never will understand. “That’s how Llredh got caught.”
“Right. Here’s your fiancée point. I think you’re still keeping score,” she said. “Though, for those who care, I haven’t mated with anyone but my fiancés since the mating flight started.” She glanced at the drakes as if challenging them to care. They did not meet her glance, though. “Or maybe I’m just as vain as a drake.”
I turned back into a hoven-sized dragon, and hissed, “And I guess there’s your fiancée point back.”
Arilash dipped her head. “Thank you. For not fighting, I mean. I’ve had too much fighting lately.”
Establishing a Beachhead
“We’d like five rooms, please,” said Tarcuna to the receptionist. “On the ninth floor, if you’ve got that many free.”
The receptionist looked at Tarcuna, and looked at us. “For … them?”
The receptionist preemptively curled up crying. Management had to be called, and further reassurances had to be made.
“This would be all much easier if we look like hovens,” I reminded nobody in particular, in Grand Draconic.
“Except, of course, that in that situation we would look like hovens,” said somebody in particular that I was engaged to.
“And watching hovens squirm and whimper is fun. It’s not at all appropriate to actually threaten them, much less hurt them, but nobody can really blame us for just looking like ourselves. Especially, like ourselves only smaller,” said somebody else in particular else.
I bit somebody else in particular’s tail. Some days I don’t like dragons very much.
Most of the Grand Hotel Dorday Elysium staff ran away at that point — three of the four who hadn’t already left, that is. Our rooms were delayed by another third of an hour.
Maintaining Amicable Relationships with the Locals
“A very important thing!” I chirped, after we finally had our rooms. “The hotel ordinarily sends hovens in to clean and tend the room. I got very upset about that at first.”
“I certainly won’t have hovens poking at my hoard. Or even my bedclothes,” said Nrararn.
“Tarcuna, could you arrange with the hotel staff so they don’t go in to Nrararn’s room?”
“Nor mine,” said Arilash. “I shall ask for them when I require them.”
“I shall not fret overmuch about servants. I have endured their attentions in a previous career,” said Csirnis.
“Spotty and Csirnis yes, Nrararn and Arilash no,” said Tarcuna. “Osoth?” The necromancer didn’t answer, being in the middle of an astral conversation with a ghost. “Osoth?” She rapped on his forehead hard with her Dragon-Taming Staff. “Osoth? Are you there?”
“I am, at least, currently found somewhere on Hove’s inner surface, at approximately the present time. What is it that you wished to speak with me about, good tour guide Tarcuna?”
She had to explain again. Osoth is used to servants too, it turns out, though he is only grudgingly willing to accept living ones.
Establishing Clear Lines of Authority
Each room had a big heavy brass key. It wasn’t difficult or even notable for hoven hands to use. It wasn’t easy to manage with claws, so I had Tarcuna do it for me. Then she had to do it for the others. Except of course that Csirnis didn’t seem to have any trouble. Some days I hate Csirnis.
And then Tarcuna walked into my room and tossed her backpack on the desk. “Same arrangements as last time?”
“Did we forget to get you your own room?”
“I thought you wanted me close by for your convenience.”
“You’re the one who usually needs help. We just forgot about your room.”
“Should I go get a separate one? There’re two more rooms on this floor free. By tomorrow I’ll bet that all fourteen are open.”
I was feeling distinctly low on friends. “No, don’t bother. Same arrangements as last time.”
“Thanks, Spotty,” she said. She was probably even lower on friends than I was.
Certain facets of this plan are not working as well as I might like.
- Nickname: If I am going to keep going by “Spotty”, I need to remember to have spots. Fortunately none of the other dragons have spots. Not so surprising, for spots are pretty rare. Chevethna has spots, six spots on each flank. Rankotherium has two spots on his cheeks. That’s about it for dragons close to me.
Actually, some of the older guests at my coming-of-age party had spots. It used to be high fashion for drakes to have a single stripe of spots from your foreshoulder to the end of your tail. Now it looks somewhere between frumpy and archaic.
- Inconspicuousness: We are simply not getting the degree of inattention as dragons that I got as a hoven. This is obvious. It is also not going to get fixed.
- Festivity: Last time I was here, Dorday was a city on the perpetual verge of a party. Not the whole city, really, but the tourist parts. This time, there aren’t very many tourists, and nobody is happy to see us.