“I thought you said Dorday was fun,” said Arilash in a rather whiny voice, in Petty Draconic. She was draped artistically over Csirnis in the lobby of the Grand Hotel Dorday Elysium. They had been up to something more appropriate for a mating flight than what I had been doing with Tarcuna, from the smell of it.
“It was fun, the first time I was here,” I protested. I was myself again, or rather the small-sized version of myself that I was using for this leg of the trip.
“I’m afraid that it’s coming off as a bit awkward socially,” said Csirnis. He gave me a big golden smile, with barbels spread.
“Your display of beauty will not help you!” I hissed at him. “I still recognize that you are not pleased with my choice of city!”
Osoth crept from behind a potted fake tree. “Indeed, a strange restlessness has fallen thickly upon us all, with you as the sole exception. Now, the phantoms of departure beckon us onward, forward, farward to some distant realm wherein we may, perhaps, find something closer to the heart’s desire.”
That earned him a lightning bolt. Just a tiny one, but the accompanying thunderclap sent the hoven hotel staff scurrying away and even got Tarcuna to frown. ”I’m supposed to be your heart’s desire. Or Arilash if your heart desires sharing.”
Osoth looked hurt. “One may acquire the occasional misconception about what is desire for me, and what is tactics. Case in point: I desire to act honorably; thus I hold to promises made for tactical reasons in a very different situation.”
“He said ‘no’,” Arilash translated.
“It is far from obvious that I did. Indeed, it is far from obvious what ‘no’ might mean, under the circumstances,” Osoth clarified. Unclarified, actually.
“Dorday’s not going to get much better,” said Nrararn, on the hotel’s registration desk. “The Magic Horn said that tourism is down by 90% from this time last year.”
“How much is that in real numbers?” asked Arilash.
Nrararn tightened his wings to concentrate on the math. “Ten and three-quarters twelfths. The whole country is scared, and people don’t want to go away from home in case some extra disaster happens. By ‘disaster’ they mean ‘dragons’. Especially they don’t want to come here, since according to the Magic Horn, Dorday is crawling with dragons.”
“More room for us, then,” I said.
“More closed attractions, and more resentment from the hovens running the ones that are open,” said Csirnis softly.
I had obviously gotten outmaneuvered again, with the whole rest of the mating flight deciding on what to do next without mentioning it to me. Getting out without bleeding fiancée points all over the Grand Hotel Dorday Elysium lobby was going to be hard. I wrote a quick urgent note to Ythac, and got back a quick urgent answer. “Patthakadu, then?”
Arilash peered at me. “What does that mean? What language is that, even?”
“It’s a big city in northern Damma. Also it’s a big forest and game preserve,” I said, sounding just as if I had investigated the whole of Damma thoroughly and picked the best place after much careful consideration. Actually I had picked the best place, I just didn’t know why. «Thank you, Ythac, for your finding spell!»
Everydragon blinked at me. “You want to go? We thought you’d want to stay in Dorday.”
“Dorday’s only a good tourist spot if you’re clever and skillful enough to blend in with the hovens, to win their trust and lull them into complacency!” I explained. “As I did last time.” I count that as winning a few fiancée points, or at least losing fewer.
Tarcuna gave me a very odd look. “What are you say you are hoven?” She was trying to speak Petty Draconic, and making a total hash of it.
“We’re going to leave Dorday. I am trying to talk the others into going to Patthakadu, in Damma,” I said. The other dragons nodded — yay, I had my fiancée points! If anyone else was keeping any score anymore, which I don’t think they were, since I’m the only one who had even started out doing it.
What I gained in fiancée points, I lost in loyal minion points. Tarcuna looked rather hurt. “I haven’t seen Kangbok yet.”
“Then stay and see her,” said Nrararn. “This isn’t your mating flight, after all. If Jyothky wants a servant, well, there are grands upon grands of people in Damma, most of them terribly poor and eager to get hired.”
“She’s not my servant exactly. More of a minion,” I said. “If I wanted a servant, I’d get one with two working arms.”
“If you were better at healing magic, I’d have two working arms,” said Tarcuna.
“If I were better at healing magic, I’d start by fixing your broken psyche, so you’d have the least bit of caution back. And better sense about insulting dragons.”
Tarcuna shrugged. “It’s all borrowed time anyways. Do I get time to pack at least?”
“Go pack now, if you want to come with us. We’re still deciding where to go.”
Patthakadu, of course.