Camp Magistrate Beanfeld (Day 586)
Alarmingly, today did not start with Tarcuna getting clipped on my back and flown at a break-ribs speed to somewhere or other in Trest. Today, we were quite organized about it: we’d been planning this trip for weeks. Today, we had some extra hovens coming with us, Prof. Wulpmegarn and Dr. Grauzeng and title-less unimportant Bthera: they’d been planning the trip for weeks too.
Today, we took a zeppelin. An elegantly-appointed military officer zeppelin, like the one I rode to Trest a long time ago. It was pleasant to be able to walk around in it, instead of hiding mousedly under a couch. I didn’t take hoven form — I haven’t done that in months, and rather miss it — but hoven-sized dragon form works just as well unless I’m trying to open a door with a shiny polished brass doorknob with a forepaw. Or trying to sit, rather than crouch, on a stuffed and polished leather chair. Or trying to fill a plate from the officer’s buffet. We didn’t have any officers on this flight, but I insisted on the buffet anyways. The very dignified and important Prof. Wulpmegarn served me. Bthera served Tarcuna.
“Glad to be free?” asked Tarcuna, when I was distracting the more dignified hovens into explaining the bovine digestive system to me on the other size of the gondola. (It’s complicated. Arilash and I would never have figured it out. It’s also boring and somewhat unpleasant to think about, so I will not record it here.)
“You have no idea,” said Bthera. Tarcuna snorted. Bthera continued, “Well, you know, but nobody else seems to. Dr. Grauzeng certainly doesn’t.”
Tarcuna put a hand on her friend’s shoulder. “You’ve been following her, have you?”
“I’ve just been trying, but she doesn’t want me to. We had a huge fight about it in the hospital, with all the doctors giggling about it under their masks I’m sure,” Bthera snuffled.
“Did you get anything at all?”
“I’m allowed to clean her house, and help out in the kitchen. Their cook is old; I hope she’ll retire in a few years and I’ll be the new cook. Dr. Grauzeng and Himself don’t want me taking care of their children. They don’t want a reformed whore as a nursemaid,” said Bthera.
Tarcuna nodded. “That’s something, I suppose.”
“I wish I could do more though. I’ve never loved anyone like this before,” said Bthera.
“I know that feeling. Jyothky won’t let me do any more. Never did, even when I was her hired friend. Actually all I do is get her into more and more trouble; she’d be better off without me. Could you get me another couple of quail eggs? I’m sorry, I can’t peel them one-handed.”
Bthera helped with the eggs. “Dr. Grauzeng doesn’t want that either. I envy Llredh; he got to marry the one who freed him.”
Tarcuna took a dainty bite of an egg that was already too small to make a respectable mouthful, even for a hoven mouth. “What we need is a vast supply of unmarried expert surgeons who are looking for devoted lovers. Also, a vast supply of dragons who don’t mind spending all their time healing hovens. Then we could get rid of the cyoziworms once and for all.”
Bthera shrugged. “I’m glad to be free. I don’t care about the rest of the worms so much.”
“I’ve been with dragons too much,” said Tarcuna. “Their ways are starting to rub off on me.”
Much construction had been inflicted upon the Magistrate Beanfeld Array Site since Ythac and I had ruined it. Six squat morose apartment buildings huddled on the twistor-scarred plain. They were trebly walled, surrounded by tall panels of pressed stone, coils of razor wire, and a concrete moat tiled with scales. The weighing kind of scales, that is. Anyone walking across the bottom of the moat would be noticed by machines, and would sound warning klaxons. A dozen gangly metal towers with cabins for soldiers and guns on top, and a small barracks-house, provided a menacing overtone to break the otherwise purely dismal atmosphere.
Today, of course, they tried to be festive. Sloppy plastic banners reading “All Hail Our Draconic Overloads” and “Welcome Wormridden Victims” fluttered from two of the guard towers. A small sort of podium had been set up at one end of a half-filled parking lot, with the emblems and flag of Trest behind it. Several dozen hovens, Csirnis, and Kuro were already there. I duly embraced my golden prince fiancé, and exchanged casually friendly roars with Kuro.
Ythac, who flew in not long after we arrived, peered tenasensitively at the arrangements. “I think I will dispense with the podium. I’d crush it if I tried to stand on it.”
I tangled necks and wings with him in greeting. “Oh, maybe they did mean ‘overloads’, then. I thought they just couldn’t spell on those banners.”
Ythac read the banner, snorted, and destroyed it with a quick snort of flame. “I swear, hovens are such idiots half the time. I cannot understand how they put together a sophisticated and advanced civilization, the way they’re working for me. I cannot imagine how they could put together anything bigger or more impressive than a mediocre dumpling factory, and even that wouldn’t work half the time. Because they’d use flowers instead of flour to make them, or something.”