The Peace for the Heart of Hove
Everyone was healed, and everyone was washed who liked water, and everyone was lying in the red sand by our old camp.
“Well, that was rather clever of you, and rather brave too,” said Chevethna. “Are you going to chivvy us off immediately, or can we at least stay and see the world you’ve won for yourself?”
«It would be unconscionable if we made Tultamaan leave and let everyone else stay, wouldn’t it?» asked Arilash. But of course it would be.
“Not the first, and not the second, but neither!” roared Llredh. “The great dragons of Hove — you may stay as their viceroys and vicars, and rule vast domains of your own!” Which is how it commonly goes with a victory over too many friends like this. We couldn’t really compel them to do anything they didn’t want to do, or they would challenge us to another war, and, since we were out of tricks, they would win it. We had a useful and pleasant degree of dominance, as long as we were useful and pleasant about it.
“It’s more complicated than that,” I added. “But we’d be delighted if you were to stay here.”
“Speaking officially for very few of us, but informally for most of us, I imagine we will generally accept,” said Chevethna. “Though I am a bit confused about the formalities. I had understood that you are a mating flight, not conquerors. Who, in particular, are the king and queen of Hove? Since you’re not married yet.”
Which had us all staring at each other with considerable perplexion.
“I guess Llredh and Ythac…?” I said.
“I am not a girl!” hissed Ythac.
“No, but you’ve got territory and nobody else does,” I said.
“Jyothky’s the queen,” said Arilash.
So I blasted her with lightning. “How dare you vent your disrespect for me in front of these newcomers? Bad enough to refuse to treat me as a worthwhile rival in front of our fiancés, but in front of everyone?” In retrospect I admit that declaring me queen isn’t the greatest possible sign of disrespect, but Arilash has been avoiding contests far too often, which is insulting, and this is avoiding a very big and important one indeed.
“I am doing no such thing!” Arilash roared at me. “Which female has hoven servents aplenty to build mighty dragon-conquering weapons for her? Which takes days and days out of her mating flight to attend to matters of rulership and subjects? That one is acting like the queen already! And, conversely, which female pays hovens very little attention save when they get in her way? Which one never makes the slightest attempt to impose her will on anyone? That one is not acting like the queen!” (Not everyone would agree to her last point.)
“I won’t tolerate this!” I roared back in a fury. “I challenge you to a Krage’s Glory!” Because I absolutely needed to prove to all the newcomers how feeble a fighter I am, in case they couldn’t tell from the war we had just finished.
So we fought a Krage’s Glory with twenty dragons watching. Arilash was in fine form. I didn’t have any more twistor cannon surprises or anything.
Afterwards Arilash actually stood on top of me — she had knocked me completely over — and boomed, “By my right as victor of this fight, I declare that Jyothky is the dragon queen of Hove!”
Ignissa stared at us. Well, everyone did, but Ignissa was the first one who got unperplexed enough to talk. “Arilash won the fight, so Jyothky’s queen?”
“Backwards! On Hove, she is the best style!” said Llredh with a laugh.
“Certainly the way you talk, sweetie,” said Ythac.
“I’m pretty sure that the two females are competing misiere,” explained Nrararn. “To lose, you know.”
“I don’t really see, but I suppose I don’t have to see,” said Chevethna. “If Jyothky is queen, who is king?”
“Ythac! Ythac is king! Any who disputes that must fight me!” roared Llredh.
Ythac grinned at his husband. “I should challenge you. Then you can climb on top of me and proclaim me king properly, the way the girls did.”
Arthane said, “The customs of dragons on Hove are truly perplexing. Are we required to follow such things?”
Hyxy laughed. “Actually, since we lost the war, shouldn’t you be declaring us the rulers of Hove?”
Ythac snorted sparks. “By that logic, we should be declaring the hovens the rulers of Hove. No, Arilash and Jyothky were having an angry fight, not a contest for the queenship. Jyothky hasn’t quite figured out that Arilash is a would-be pacifist and egalitarian, and hates dominance contests and even rulership of all sorts. She thinks Arilash is avoiding fighting her out of unimpressedness.” I glared at him a bit from under Arilash’s wing.
“And Llredh? Is he a pacifist too?” asked Hyxy.
There was much laughter from everyone who knew Llredh. “No, no. I have taken Careful Precautions to avoid mentioning certain Troublesome Matters on Mhel. Some Unsavory Details of my former mating flight are best explained by those who are the Perpetrators,” said Tultamaan.
“I suppose I had better explain how matters stand between Llredh and myself,” said Ythac. And he did.
The newcomers were suitably disgusted.