Finally one worked, at least a little. The forks of my tongue felt as if they had been dipped in fire.
There’s no describing it. Not the sensation itself, you can probably understand that unless you’re one of the pawful of dragons injured the way I am. You’re probably thinking, “Ow, pain.” But you are too used to pain, too used to feeling anything.
This was the best thing I had felt in five dozen years. (Yes, also the worst, but that didn’t matter.) It was all I could do not to roll around in happiness. Not pleasure, just happiness.
«Remind me that I should marry Osoth, so he can raise up a tame paingod for me,» I asked Tarcuna.
«I don’t much like paingods,» she said. «Aren’t they dangerous?»
«Probably it’s a bad idea,» I wrote. I grinned a huge grin at Xolgrohim. “Well, that one worked, a little bit.”
“A little bit!” he exclaimed. “I have no stronger spells!”
“You couldn’t impose pain on a stone,” I said, “And my body’s not much more than a stone, as far as sensation goes. But my tongue is a bit less broken than the rest of me.”
“I am sorry, then, that that spell is the only one that works! If, at some future time, you wish to ransom my non-life, I offer to try to develop a spell that provides more pleasant sensations,” he said.
So I yelled at him about how this was the best thing I had felt in five duodecades, and all of that.
“This is not a usual reaction for a paingod’s powers!” he said. “But if you proclaim yourself satisfied, far be it from me to argue with you.” He looked at me hopefully. “So, now I have provided my best attempt at what you have requested?”
“You have done admirably,” I said, and I meant it. “So here is my promise. I shall not attempt to leave the Pit of Despair for so long as this spell lets me feel.” I spoke the ancient formula which binds us to our word on pain of dishonor. Though I did say ȑṳsṡ instead of ȑṳṡs, making the vow on pain of dumplings instead. If I ever get in the position of arguing about whether I were dishonored or not, that classic bit of sneakiness would count just a little in my favor. That wasn’t my real trick.
Xolgrohim beamed. “I am delighted that we have found a basis for temporary cooperation! I was not hoping for such amity!” He is not any sort of fool though, even if he doesn’t speak Grand Draconic, and he added: “You will, I hope, understand and forgive me if the means of imprisonment that are already in place remain in place. It would be impractical to remove them at this late date.”
Tarcuna, who maybe has picked up some Petty Draconic, looked horrified. “Jyothky! How can you make such a deal with that!”
I grinned the vicious draconic grin to her. “It’s not quite the deal he wants. I promised not to leave the Pit of Despair: nothing more. I will go kill his gods and destroy his projectors, if I can. From inside, as long as I don’t leave.” That wasn’t my real trick either.
Xolgrohim stared Murghal’s square eyes at me. “Oh, dear. I did not expect a great deal from a few words, but this is less than I might have hoped. I should have insisted on a vow of greater passivity.”
“The vow was not yours to insist upon, foolish paingod!” I thundered. Where by “foolish” I mean “clever enough to catch me in quite a nasty trap” of course.
“Well, of course. Forgive me for the suggestion that it was… and forgive me also, but I would like to remind you that the walls, weapons, and warriors of the Pit of Despair are just as deadly even though you have your vow. Indeed, the reduced flexibility of motion may make them just one bit the deadlier. So I fear that I must recommend that you stay inside of the metal prison of the Pit of Despair, even though it is not strictly required by your vows.”
“For now, I am going to enjoy being able to feel!” I roared. I can play arrogant, short-sighted, and self-centered extremely well. It’s not very far from the truth.
“I am pleased to have been of some small service to you, even though I have done a greater disservice.”
I rolled on my back and enjoyed the pain in my tongue, as long as I had it. And traded a few notes with Tarcuna and Ythac, and completely ignored Xolgrohim. After an hour or two, he politely excused himself, and departed, leaving a rather worried and utterly undefended Murghal with us in the Pit of Despair.
The next thing to do was the hardest thing I have done this whole mating flight. The last sixty years, even. I wrapped my vô around the painspell and crushed the life out of it, as if it was a baby goat in my paw. Well, breaking the spell was easy. Persuading myself to do it was hard.
And the dull blank prison of unfeelingness was back on me again.
«Did it work?» asked Tarcuna.
«Yes. No pain spell anymore. No vow anymore. And no alarms either. I don’t think Xolgrohim can tell when his spells are broken.» I wrote to her. That was my real trick. «Now, tell me about how you planned to get us out of here?»