Prof. Wulpmegarn adjusted his formal robes, resettled his glass medallion, and brushed at a spot of his grey forehead where the fur might have been infinitesmally out of line. “I suppose there’s no more delaying it,” he said. “You say that Lleredh is not here?”
“His name is Llredh, just one ‘e’, and he’s not.”
“A pity. He seemed relatively peaceful, at least compared to that tan monster in the surgery,” said Prof. Wulpmegarn. I stared at him; anyone who thinks Llredh is more peaceful than Arilash hasn’t been paying much attention. Wulpmegarn shrugged and added, “Or at least, inclined in my favor as well, while I am researching cyoziworms for him.”
Ythac’s court didn’t have very many courtiers. A dozen or so hovens: I recognized Rev. Dreyrey and Larella Spargee. A dozen gendarmes in fancy uniforms, I have no idea why. Ex-Archon Shuvanne wearing a quite soiled formal suit, swinging in an iron cage in the middle of the court. A dozen reporters from various Magic Horns. A big empty space where Llredh sometimes sits, which I took for myself.
And one rather nervous professor. “Well, your committee has asked me to deliver their report,” he said. “Please be aware that I didn’t have very much to do with it, though I was quite active in the sudden inclusion of item eight.”
“Perhaps you could start with item one? I am eager to start fixing the country that my true love has given to me,” said Ythac.
“Right.” He smelled terrified. “Item one. According to your select committe on the major troubles facing Trest, item one is, that Trest was just conquered by monsters from another universe.”
Shuvanne laughed, a loud and rather crazed laugh. “They got you pegged, Ythac! Of all the problems here, you’re the worst!”
I flicked him with my hukuchô. “Quiet, murderer of my fiancé!” He screamed and struggled to escape me, which only made his cage sway wildly.
Ythac reared ‘til his spikes brushed the tent, and hissed a terrible hiss. “All of you, be quiet! Jyothky, please do not torment the former regime any more. I thought you were here to protect hovens, anyways.”
Fortunately I can’t lose fiancée points with Ythac anymore.
Prof. Wulpmegarn looked at Ythac. “Shall I proceed?”
Ythac laughed. “You weren’t expecting to get past the first point? I know exactly what punishment to impose upon you.” Prof. Wulpmegarn whined and groveled. Ythac sneered, “Finish your list. Your punishment shall come after it is done. But don’t delay, or I will increase it.”
I hissed at Ythac in Grand Draconic, “I promised him safety!”
Ythac hissed back in Grand Draconic, “It’s not that kind of punishment!”
Prof. Wulpmegarn looked at me helplessly. I smiled at him — I hope he can recognize the gesture as friendly, it’s a lot fangier than a hoven smile — and told him to go on. So he did. “Second trouble is the increasing noxiousness of the lower air, particularly around our more industrial regions. The causes of this are straightforward: smoke from the burning of wood, dust from mining and milling, toxic vapors from bleaching, curing, and various other industrial processes. Cleaning the air without destroying Trestean industry has been a troublesome and difficult puzzle.”
Ythac nodded. “The air is, indeed, not as sweet as in the Khamrou Mountains in Ghemel. Jyothky, do you feel the need to defend the professor from my lack of a fury about that answer? No? Prof. Wulpmegarn, pray continue.”
“Third is a widespread economic weakness, which the recent troubles have done nothing to improve,” said Prof. Wulpmegarn. He didn’t have as much to say about economics as biology. “Fourth is military: our soldiers are arguably overtaxed by too many peacekeeping efforts in too many places. Fifth is also military: our soldiers are thoroughly demoralized by your war of conquest, and their losses in the Mystery Zone in Ghemel.”
Ythac chuckled. “It wasn’t a war of conquest, just a war of punishment. Llredh conquered you on his own, so we had to stop the war. And it’s not a mystery zone. It’s an undead paingod from Mhel.”
“I am a biologist, untrained in such matters,” the professor protested.
“You are, at the moment, reading a summary report, not lecturing in detail on any of the topics. Pray go on.”
“Sixth is the decrease in the intensity of the light of Virtuet, by approximately 1.28% over the last century. If, indeed, this is an actual decrease in intensity of sunlight rather than a measurement error of a century ago; I admit to some doubt about this issue. Still, if the main sun and the epicenter of divine light is going out, for whatever physical or religious reasons, we are in rather a lot of trouble. Or our grandchildren will be,” said Prof. Wulpmegarn. “Seventh is a joint problem, of increasing noxiousness in our rivers and seas, and a concomitant decline in the quantity and wholesomeness of fish and seafood. Eighth, of course, is the cyoziworms, though the precise dimensions and difficulty of the matter are far from certain. Ninth is the increase in apostasy and religious schism, threatening the religious foundations of the country. Tenth is resurgence of krasthic plague in the Estagnion region. Eleventh is the depletion of various raw materials worldwide, including tantalum, vrexium, and copper. Twelfth is the rising economic and cultural power of various other countries, including Damma and Vlechinse.”
Ythac nodded. “That’s quite a list. Well, I declare the first (dragons), fourth (military morale), ninth (apostasy), and twelfth (other countries) to be problems of hoven perception. You think they are bad. I think they are good, unimportant, silly, and unimportant, in that order. So here is your punishment: figure out the next-worst four troubles facing Trest, to replace the four that I have eliminated, and one more besides as actual punishment for being obnoxious about the conquest.”
He smiled benevolently, and spread his glorious wings. “And next, we must start thirteen studies on how how to solve these matters. These study groups must not be limited to hoven abilities alone. Llredh will surely assist with the cyoziworm issue, and perhaps the water toxicity issue as well, as he enjoys that sort of thing. We don’t need the sort of military that was necessary a few weeks ago: no country or countries in Hove can stand against two dragons. We might be able to persuade the sky-mage Nrararn to improve the air, at least for a few years.” He beamed. “And in a dozen years or two, these problems will be gone! Thus it is when dragons rule!”
I’m glad Ythac is ruling Trest. He’ll be the best overlord ever, I’m sure.