“I don’t know. I suspect I’m going to come in last among dragonesses.”
She patted my face with fire breath. “I don’t know that it’s even possible with just one dragoness…”
“My mating flight has vastly expanded the frontier of what is possible. And I don’t mean that to sound the least bit encouraging.”
Chevethna ignored me. ”… but, first of one or last of one, you still get your choice of the remaining males. Nrararn and Osoth are adequate, I suppose. Csirnis seems splendid, if I’m any judge of drakes at all.”
Arthane smirked. “I know what you did when you had your choice! Jyothky, don’t trust her a bit. She picked me.”
“Shall I rush back and marry Splendorio straightaway?” she asked, with her own smirk. “Anyhow. What do you think of Csirnis?”
“He’s very good at everything a drake should be good at. He was pretty much the best fighter in the mating flight, and got all the notable victories. Like the time he gave Greshthanu the advantage of position, and won a Dominance five touches to zero. He’s quick and graceful. He’s charming; he and Osoth were the only ones who made hoven friends…”
“I do believe there’s a hoven woman who follows you around all the time, and whom you even rescue on occasion.”
“Yes, that’s Tarcuna, but the rest of them hate me. Csirnis made great friends of everyhoven in Ze Cheya. He’s elegant. Whenever he does anything it looks beautiful, even if he’s never done it before. He’s honorable. I can’t imagine anyone ever having anything bad to say about him. Except for friends of course; He’ll have to live down being on a mating flight with Ythac and Llredh and Arilash. If he’s got any hidden darknesses, they are well-hidden.”
“Dragons with light breath generally don’t have hidden darknesses,” said Arthane. “They would make us itchy.” He caught Chevethna’s eye, and scratched his neck on her spikes intensely. I almost breathed cold on them.
“Well, then! You must marry Csirnis! You will have the second-best husband on Hove, from the sound of it, and just half a scale’s thickness behind Arthane!” chirped Chevethna. “That should compensate for all of Arilash’s bad behavior, and everyone else’s too.”
It’s impossible to be too unhappy around Chevethna, so I let her cheer me up some.
The drakes weren’t so cheerful, when I got back. They were sitting in a triangle around a burning cinnamon tree, chatting or meditating quietly. I didn’t want to send them out to Chevethna. I’m not sure she could cheer three of them up at once in any case. Not in the same way certainly. Only one of them gets to marry now, and him to someone far, far less impressive and desirable than Csirnis.
“Did she put up much of a fight?” asked Nrararn.
“Not a bit. I healed her, as if we were fighting a Caramelle,” I said.
“I suppose the dignity of the occasion is somewhat compromised in any case,” said Csirnis. “Arilash did not prove to care that much for honor, in the end.”
I prowled around the fire, and embraced my drakes. “I’m sorry. I’ll try to do what I can to take her place.”
Osoth snarled, “Your place and hers are utterly different. Our needs for reprehensible behavior and shame by association are quite satisfied. You need not exert yourself in the slightest in that regard.”
I shrank back. “I mean, about being a decent dragoness for you.”
“I am unaware that Arilash ever was decent,” Osoth snapped.
“I believe she is offering to copulate more,” said Csirnis. “With us, I mean.”
“Well, yes. Sorry if I’m still a bit of a prude.”
“I thank you for your offer, Jyothky. I cannot fault prudery today, having seen the opposite extreme rise to icarean heights,” said Osoth.
“He said ‘yes, thanks’,” noted Nrararn. “I say ‘yes, thanks’ too. Because we’re trying to be decent drakes, that is, not out of any particular urgent need.” Which is how they smelled to my tongue too.
“It’s not urgent in the sense of overwhelming lust. You’ll never get that from me, I don’t think,” I said. They all nodded. “It’s urgent in the sense of, we ought to reaffirm that we’re a mating flight and not a total disaster.”
“Not a total disaster, no. 5/9 of a disaster.”
“Besides, I do want my eggs to be part-fertilized. That will be important to my husband and me in some years,” I pointed out. Which was calculated to say that I was going to marry one of them in the ordinary way, and hatch dragonets in the ordinary way, and never mind all the crazy things like flying off or getting killed that half the flight had done.
So we got out some ghee, and some male members, and behaved as we ought. The drakes were still rather grumpy, but I did have the sense that they’d rather mate with me than go off and be violent to Arilash. Just barely.