Patthakadu (Day 169)
Damma wanted us.
Also, of course, Damma didn’t want us.
Damma is a very big country, larger and more diverse than Trest. It has the Chidana mountains, huge and vicious, against which the Khamrou range would be small and very innocent foothills. It has the flood plains of the Mumtarry river and its many tributaries, so green with corn and mustard, beans and cabbages and the thousand spices of Dammese cooking that they can be seen from the other side of the sky. Patthakadu and Tethettha are cities as urban and sophisticated as Dorday and Perstra, at least in the wealthier quarters. Bhalata is ancient and holy, and the huts of the gods are unchanged since the earliest days.
And the politics is just as messy. The Mother Spice Party is more or less on top of the country, ruling with occasional stunning flashes of adequacy. The SNKVhH — a few people told me what that stands for, but I can’t remember — opposes Mother Spice at every turn. Fifty-eight registered minority parties swap back and forth between the two main poles at their convenience. Then there are the religious parties. Damma has lots of religious parties. Damma has lots of religions, each of them with lots of gods, some of whom are the same as other gods. I don’t think that even the Dammans have a very good idea of everything going on in Damma.
Fortunately, we’re not trying to understand Damma, or even rule Damma. We’re just trying to get official permission to use Patthakadu and environs for a few years.
Our approach was straightforwardness itself:
- Fly from Dorday towards Patthakadu.
- Realize halfway there that we might want to warn them first.
- Ask Ythac to have what’s left of his Diplomatic Brigade send them a message.
- Spend two and five-twelfths hours trying to calm Ythac, apologize to Ythac, and otherwise get Ythac to understand that we’re not actually tossing him into the volcano of his husband and his country all by himself.
- I (carrying Tarcuna) fly back to Perstra, while Arilash and the drakes go to Patthakadu.
- I stay up very late talking with Ythac about nothing in particular. We actually sleep together, in a somnolent but not adulterous sense. Llredh, according to Ythac, finds something else to amuse himself with.
- Csirnis somehow talks the Spice Mother Party and the SNKVhH into provisionally letting us stay in Patthakadu with official blessing. I do not think that anyone specifically points out quite how imposing it will be to have five of the seven dragons on Hove living in their country. The official blessing is conditional on some sort of religious test, in which the nation’s gods get a chance to reject us. Since they’re not real, we are not particularly worrried.
- Tarcuna, smelling considerably of soap and perfume, and I, smelling considerably of tired drake and no sex, fly on to Patthakadu. Of course Arilash’s the Melismatic Tempest has worn off, so the trip takes over a day and many broken ribs thanks to the utterly cursed the Dozenwing Dozentail.
Which, unfortunately, makes it one of the best-conceived and best-executed plans we have ever devised.
We have been given the Imperial Patthakadu Cavalry Academy as our home for the next few years. Convenient, I suppose, because cavalry hasn’t been used in the army in over a century, so they had just started shutting the academy down. (Damma doesn’t make changes over-hastily.) By the time I got there, the others had voted four to zero that everyone would look like themselves, with none of the size-changes that satisfied absolutely nobody in Dorday.
“That’s fine,” I said.
“So we’re sleeping in the buildings that are big enough for us to sleep in,” said Nrararn apologetically.
“I can concede that there might be some advantage to that approach, compared to the possibility of sleeping in buildings that we do not fit in,” I said.
“Well, you might want to sleep out of doors for a few weeks, even though it rains every night,” said Nrararn, as he showed me to my sleeping chamber. Which was a stable, again. The Royal Stable in Strobland had had a floor of mighty flagstones, tilted and drained, and washed every day by heroic Stroblander stable hands. The Imperial Patthakadu Cavalry Academy was built and maintained to different standards. The floors were dirt. Dirt packed by centuries of hoven hooves and horse hooves, to be sure. Dirt cleaned by Dammese peasants, who, as far as I could tell, had not been heroic. I didn’t dare go in.
“I’ll either sleep outdoors, or bite my tongue off so I can’t smell it,” I said. “Can’t you use some sky magic to air it out a bit?”
Nrararn’s tail drooped. “I tried most of yesterday.” He pointed a wing to the other side of the parade ring. “That is no longer a stinking barn.”
“It is no longer a barn at all,” I pointed out. The boards of its walls and roof were scattered over a hundred yards, and a dozen peasants were gathering them.
“Yet, it still stinks,” said Nrararn sadly. “Csirnis is trying to arrange for some tents.”
I flomped on the well-horsed ground. “Csirnis should arrange to bite off the prime minister’s toes. This isn’t much of a place to live, compared to the Grand Hotel Dorday Elysium.”
Nrararn trickled his foreclaws over my head tenderly. (I thought for a while and decided to take it as a comforting gesture rather than an utterly unnecessary and inexcusable bit of ignoring my basic flaw. I was too tired to have a proper fight.) “I’m sorry, Jyothky. Csirnis is arranging to get new buildings built, actually.
“I suppose that’s more practical than biting off toes,” I said.
By eveningtime, two big tents had been procured. Nrararn and Arilash shared one of them, vigorously. Csirnis and Osoth shared the other, chastely. I turned into a seabird and slept on the back of a chair in Tarcuna’s dorm room, also chastely.
We should have stayed in Dorday.