New Rulers of Ghemelia
“I shall impose a penance on you and your tribe for daring to infringe upon my sovereignty!” I told Chevethna in an imperious voice, in somewhat more private, after everyone had eaten and such. “And never mind that I seem to have gotten sovereignified under rather questionable circumstances after you weren’t infringing any more.” Chevethna giggled. So I thundered, “Still I shall be Merciful!”
“Mercy is always the most important attribute of a tyrant queen!”, she agreed.
“Just so! That’s how you can tell they’re tyrant queens and not, oh, just aggressive archbishops or pompous potentates or what have you,” I said, which made her giggle more. She seemed much happier now that she was past her mating flight, not that she was ever a particularly miserable girl beforehand. “Who of your number are the most intent of Uplifters?”
“I imagine you’re going to set them to work reducing hoven civilization to ashes and dooms?” she asked. I nodded emphatically. “Arthane is a monstrous great Uplifter, of course, and Boruu does nothing but egg him on. Ressal too, Kuro, Ngassith, Ignissa, Mshai, to a lesser degree. I suppose I wouldn’t really try to stop Arthane, but I have to say I’m the Downcrusher in the family. A mhelvul unslayed is a mhelvul to be flayed, like I’ve always said, O tyrant queen!” Her eyes twinkled. Actually she’s always been more Upliftey than me. Drumet Academy does that to a dragoness, I suppose. Or maybe, only dragonesses like us are sent there.
“Hovens now!” I blinked a few times. “Actually, I did just slay a mhelvul — a dead one — and I’d like a dragon or two to clean up after.”
Chevethna giggled. “Oh, dear. Has Osoth been conjuring up undead hordes and letting them wander about? … No, you said it was a mhelvul. Is Osoth such a great necromancer that he can call the dead from one world to another?”
“Not that good. He’d summoned it on Mhel, and accidentally brought it here. One lich of a paingod, not an army of shambling mummies,” I said seriously.
Chevethna peered at me. “That doesn’t sound so good.” So I told her what had happened. She called Arthane and Boruu over to listen. I told them the details, and after it was all done, she said, “That really doesn’t sound so good.”
“It’s not very good. The city was mostly neglected for duodecades under the old regime. Then there was a war there. Then there was a civil war there, with foreign soldiers shooting at all the sides and all the sides shooting at foreign soldiers. Then a paingod who neglected all civic improvements that couldn’t be used to kill dragons. Now they’re free of him. But they’ve still got the painspells on them.”
Boruu frowned, and twitched his tailtip. “I do not know paingods and the history of paingods as well as those who grew up on Mhel. What sort of painspells are these?”
Chevethna said, “I don’t know exactly — Jyothky would know more, I don’t know why I’m not letting her talk —”
“Court etiquette. Comme il faut to interrupt the tyrant queen,” I noted.
“Hove is so much a mirror-land! Anyways, my parents talk about spending months and months breaking painspells on their new subjects, when they first conquered their part of Mhel. Most of them had never been free since they were four. The spells prickled and stung the neck and shoulders all the time, and got more intense as the subject hesitated to obey, or even thought about it. One of my parents’ cities was so miserable! The spells burned hot when the subjects didn’t try to obey their gods, and with the gods all dead, there wasn’t any way to try to obey. That was my parents’ first chore after the conquest, breaking all those spells.”
“And that’s someone’s first chore here, too.”
Boruu craned his head close to me. “How sane are these hovens anymore, do you think? Being oppressed, conquered, embattled, and mind-taken is not so good for the psyche.”
“I don’t know. My allies seemed reasonably sane at the time, but they were the strongest hovens there. I should probably go back now and pick up my …” I struggled for a word for Tarcuna. ”… my minion. I left her there. She’s probably seduced half the girls in the city by now.”
Chevethna gave me an odd look. “Is that ordinary behavior for hovens?”
“No, nothing like that. Tarcuna is as broken as anydragon in the mating flight,” I said.
“What’s wrong with Osoth? Well, aside from he’s a necromancer,” Arthane asked. So I had to be more specific and detailed, and give a full accounting of everyone. “Oh, sky of clouds, Jyothky, that’s really not very good.”
“Well, it’s not so bad if you don’t think of it so much as a mating flight as a way for the king to get rid of the most embarrassing children on Mhel,” I said.
“You poor tyrant queen! My mating flight was delightful,” said Chevethna. “Even if I only came in second. A long vacation on the Tgeriu Coast.”
“And we spent every weekend in the Loriaun, or Fohhona with travel spells. Splendorio guaranteed that he’d be last of the drakes by going to a mount-fighting club. The rest of us behaved well!” said Arthane.
“I should hope you didn’t have any thought for any other dragoness!” said Chevethna, and crunched one of Arthane’s spikes and healed it possessively.
They started crawling over each other, so I breathed cold on them. Not enough to harm, really, but enough to get their attention. “Will you go and cure some hovens in Ghemel?”
Chevethna stuck her head out from under Arthane’s left wings. “Do we get to rule Ghemel after?”
Which is a tricky question, after this morning’s epiphany. “I think we’ll conquer Hove by the method of insidious insinuation, or whatever it’s called. The one where we make ourselves useful and helpful and indispensable and beloved for a few duodecades.”
“Oh, then we declare that we rule the world, and everyone cheers?” said Boruu, a bit caustically.
“We’ll figure out the right approach when the time comes. Hove’s a huge world, anyways. We don’t need the whole thing just yet.”
Boruu nodded. “On Yyrclarian, for one world, we do not rule as tyrants. We rule as tycoons.”
Chevethna breathed a bit of fire on herself and Arthane to warm up. “So, we’re selfless and benevolent dragons of healing who are coming to help out in multiply-devastated Ghemel, without the least bit thought for our own benefit?”
“Exactly! … Oh, do you remember poor Greshthanu’s palace? Don’t do that to Ghemel. Make sure they’ve all got places to live and food to eat before you start them building things for you.”
Arthane folded his wings. “Do we have to sleep in a stable?”
“An airplane hanger, I would think,” I said, and had to explain what it was. “Oh, and I think you get to keep some of the Ghemelian national treasures. Xolgrohim looted them to his Pit of Despair Prison.”
Boruu said, “Psilia wouldn’t enjoy that very much. She’s not one for coddling small people. Do you need four dragons for this, or will two do?”
“Two should be plenty. One would, in a pinch,” I said. And let him go.
Chevethna and Arthane peered at each other a bit, and said, “We need to discuss this.” Arthane cast the Library in Scales. I’m sure that Ythac could have found some way to eavesdrop, perhaps even without them noticing, but I had to wait. I couldn’t even tease Ythac. He was having some sort of drama with Llredh and Kuro. He threatened to explain it to me if I bothered him anymore.
After well more than twelve minutes, Chevethna spread her wings. “O tyrant queen, we will do your wicked bidding! We will fly to this place you call Ghemel, and work our subtle sorceries upon the defenseless populace, until they lie helpless beneath us! Nicely!”
“See that you do, my minions! Or a terrible fate awaits you! Probably involving trying again somewhere else. … Actually, if you ruin Ghemel any more, I will be a bit upset. We already ruined it enough.”
“Wait, who did? You and Osoth?”
“Osoth the most, but all of us. Oh, and Trest and Uncle Holder before us.”
Chevethna reared her head and grew a few more blue spikes. “But now you have competent lieutenants! Fear not for your pet city!”
I didn’t quite fear not. But they can’t be worse than the last three rulers.