Etiquette of Arilash (Day 394)
I was asleep in one of our large temporary tents in Damma when Arilash’s roaring woke me. We have four more solid buildings built by now, though they are a bit rickety and haphazard in spots. They are covered with big enthusiastic paintings of imaginary gods, at least. Usually I sleep in one of them, but Chevethna and Arthane were visiting and I had given them my usual bed.
Arilash was treating them quite rudely, though. “Get out of here! You’re not supposed to be around! This is the mating flight’s land, and the mating flight has important things to discuss!” Which was news to me.
Chevethna hissed at Arilash. “Well, the queen herself invited us, if you’re going to be pissy about etiquette. Take it up with her.”
“Where did Jyothky get off to, anyways?” roared Arilash. “If she’s gone back to her pervert of a not-quite-boyfriend and his not-quite-husband today of all days, I am going to rip her wings off!”
I waddled out of my tent. “He’s not my boyfriend. Chevethna and Arthane are here on an utterly ordinary and dignified visit. They were reassuring me about getting married, if you must know.”
Arilash glared at everyone at once, which is pretty impressive since she has only one Head. “They need to leave. Now. I may be coming in last in the mating flight, but I will be more polite about it than Roroku at least.”
Chevethna yawned. “Well, we’ll leave. Though I’m a bit mystified by what you mean by ‘polite’, exactly.”
“The important word there is ‘more’, not ‘polite’,” hissed Arilash, and crouched spitting sparks in the middle of the field until my friends were gone, and my fiancés had shown up.
“Each of you deserves to hear this first, so I’m afraid you all get it at once,” she said. “Anyways. I have enjoyed myself — you might prefer to say ‘defiled myself’ — with Nlirei, Psilia, and Boruu. What are you going to do about that?”
Four furious dragons glared at her.
“She certainly doesn’t waste any time, does she?” said Nrararn in a light tone. “I was sure she was going to wait ‘til at least a month after the wedding.”
“Our dear sweet Arilash has all the patience of a three-day-old infant. She has saved her claim to maturity for another topic altogether,” said Osoth.
Csirnis belched sparks at both of them. “This is no time for banter. This is a serious breach of honor. We must consider some form of atonement, so that the shame of the matter is contained.”
Arilash laughed harshly. “You thought I was going to apologize and stop? Half right. Jyothky, why are you biting your tail? You can’t even feel it.”
Well, if none of her fiancés were going to attack her, I wasn’t going to breathe the first bolt. “I am shedding tears of blood for the sanctity of our mating flight.”
“From your tail?”
“Why are you trying to goad me into attacking you?” I asked her. “I think the drakes get to go first. After that, let’s fight a Caramelle. With just healing spells; you’ll need that many.” I waved my bloody tailtip. “I’m preparing for that, you see.” (Well, I thought it was clever at the time.)
Csirnis was lashing his tail in a fury. “Arilash! We have made every endeavour to behave with honor and punctilio in what have become increasingly complex and entangled circumstances! We have accommodated your needs, your demands, your whims, your pets! We have accepted vast measures of ill fortune: one dragoness lost, one drake dead, one departed and betraying, two others sunk into perversion! We have fought side by side against a world of small people and a horde of dragons, and we have triumphed! And now, what? Will you shit upon your own saga?”
Arilash snarled back, “If I were a drake, I would simply be gone. I would have left before Tultamaan, and with less compelling a reason.”
Csirnis arched his head. “You are not, in fact, a drake. You are, in fact, a dragoness. Ythac and Llredh have perhaps paid less attention than they ought to basic draconic biology and sociology. You have no such excuse. Dragonesses are so far outnumbered by drakes that you have an obligation to marry.”
“Just like your obligation to assist your parents as crown prince of Chiriact ‘til you inherit, or, more likely, they tire of your sanctimonious hypocracy and have you quietly disposed of into some convenient oubliette?”
Csirnis winced, but shook his head. “Replacement princes are easy to come by. Replacement dragonesses are rather less so.”
“I’m sure you can marry Jyothky and own a nice manageable territory,” she said.
“The mating flight is hardly over. Though, at this rate, there won’t be anything left of it by next year,” said Nrararn. “Osoth, who do you think will be next to go? Csirnis or Jyothky?”
Csirnis snarled. “That is beside the point, Arilash! Married or bachelor, I wish to compete and live with honor!”
Arilash dipped her head. “Then you’re better off not even thinking about marrying me, Csirnis.”
Osoth puffed graveyard dust. “By which I take it you plan to content yourself with Nrararn and myself, and our arrangement to tolerate a most limited and careful degree of adultery? You illustrate this plan most acutely with your fornications with, if I am not mistaken, one bachelor drake, one married drake, and one married dragoness. At least the latter two are married to each other. In this way you illustrate your careful and dedicated concern for the noble institution of marriage.”