Ythac read the banner, snorted, and destroyed it with a quick snort. “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.”
I shrugged my wings. “Damma wasn’t nearly that bad, nor Ze Cheya. And Tarcuna’s as sharp as a claw.”
Ythac shrugged his wings too. “Well, mine aren’t very good. I have to do half of everything myself. Well, today’s event is important, to Llredh especially, and we’re going to do it right. Where is Llredh, anyways?”
“You’re the master of finding-spells, and of Llredh’s heart,” I reminded him.
Ythac threw his head back and bellowed ”Llredh!”
Llredh bellowed back, though not so loudly. He had shrunken to hoven-size, and was wrapped around Tarcuna, and behind a locked bus full of miserable hovens from the rest of us.
Tarcuna thumped Llredh between the horns with her fist. “Stop yelling. You’re hurting my ears.”
Ythac hissed angrily at the two of them, in Grand Draconic. “Llredh! This is your event! This is not a suitable time for adultery, and you must not be so public about it!”
Llredh hissed back at Ythac. “Adultery, she takes place in the forests and wild caves only! Tarcuna’s clothing, she is neither mussed nor disturbed! Tarcuna’s vulva, she is neither entered nor stretched! Your tongue, she can smell the truth!”
Ythac didn’t bother checking. (I did. Llredh was on the edge of concupiescence, as he often is when Ythac is nearby. Tarcuna was more emotionally intense than usual, but not in ways that suggested immanent adultery.) “Llredh, disentangle yourself from her at once.” He did. “Are you going give the opening speech, or am I?”
“The opening speech, you give her. The fine words, they are in your mouth. The roaring, the snarling, the half-formed threats of vengance, the broken grammar — these things pour forth from my mouth when I open it!”
Ythac glared at Llredh. “Very well. You will stand by my side though. Keep off of Kuro and Tarcuna.” He glanced at me. “Arilash, at least, couldn’t make it.” Llredh did as he was told, looking as contrite as he could manage, which is never very much.
Tarcuna wrapped herself around my foreleg. “What was that about?”
“I could ask you the same,” I said, but I summarized the conversation in Trestean for her.
“So Kuro’s on the list too,” said Tarcuna. “That’s interesting.”
“What list is this?”
“Llredh’s permitted extramarital lovers,” said Tarcuna, smelling rather afraid.
“There were three names on the list…” I started.
“And one of them is mine,” she finished for me. “Only twice. The first time was when you and Ythac were beating up the Peace Everywhere Array, and most of the other dragons were away, and Llredh and I needed more than you can possibly imagine to be distracted. The other was in Perstra, a month or so ago. You’d gone out flying with Ythac.”
I glared at her.
She glared back at me. “You said you didn’t care who I diddled. If you want me to be your devoted lover, chaste and faithful to you and you alone, you just have to ask. But you do have to ask.”
“No thanks! I am not glaring at you for inchastity or infidelity! I am glaring at you for injuring my best friend’s marriage!”
“Well, if Ythac doesn’t want Llredh playing around, he should tell that to Llredh. They discussed it a lot, I understand. There’s a short list of permitted adulterous lovers: me and Arilash. And Kuro, though that seems to be new,” said Tarcuna.
I glared more. I meant to be glaring at Ythac, only I was still facing Tarcuna, so some of it got on her.
“What? I can’t do anything about it now!”
“I think I want to bite Ythac. Maybe I’ll call in that debt from when he told me he loved drakes. He stills owes me a complete wing-gnawing.”
Tarcuna glared back. “So what am I supposed to do?”
“Remind me later. I can’t do it while he’s giving the speech.”
And it was nearly time for the speech.
Ythac destroyed the podium with his flames, and spoke standing on its ashes. “O my husband! O my allies and friends! O my subject peoples! Know that, today, we flap our wings for the first time in the direction of saving Hove from the terrible wickedness that is cyoziworms. This is the beginning of a course of treatment. And at the end of this course of treatment, no unridden hoven in Trest will ever need fear the terrible worm again! No more will a casual kiss or tight embrace risk the loss of blood to feed the wicked parasite! No more will you risk that, in some horrible day, you yourself will lose your free will, and be compelled to devote your life and your soul to the preservation of a monstrosity that coils around your heart and insinuates itself into your brain!
“To be sure, we have not yet found a wholly general cure for the worm. Our current successes, while crucial to the happiness and good governance of Trest, are not to be widely repeated. On this topic we provide hope, rather than victory. The wise and clever Prof. Wulpmegarn leads a mighty research team, and in time hoven science will surely triumph.
“But we cannot wait for the scientific victory. We must protect the uninfested! We must pinion the worm beneath our claw, so that it cannot escape, even if we cannot kill it!
“And thus, today’s part of the course of treatment. Magistrate Beanfeld has become the first of what will be many cyozi camps. In these protected halls shall dwell the worm’s current victims. They shall be provided with all necessities and comforts! Yet, they shall be denied exit. They shall not prowl freely among the uninfested! They shall never drink pure blood, nor claim pure souls!”
“Soldiers, unlock the doors of the busses, show the first of the quarantined to their new homes!”
There wasn’t much applause.