False Negatives (Day 650 and 651)
“And how was your visit to Dorday?” I asked Tarcuna, as she clopped out of the armored car that had brought her from the airport.
“Miserable. My family still thinks I’m a traitor. My ex-girlfriend still thinks I’m a traitor. My former friends from college don’t want to talk to me at all. My former friends from the Red Spire and such are mostly in protective quarantine camps and wormridden and I don’t want to talk to them. I can’t think of anything I’d say to them. The one that’s out didn’t want to talk to me either. Having an honor guard of the dragon’s most trusted soldiers to protect me didn’t help one bit.”
“Poor hoven,” I said, and patted her on the head. She glared at me, so I stopped. “But didn’t you expect that when you set off?” Since she had said as much.
“I expected everything but meeting Ailenne in the street,” she said. “Ovor, please put my luggage in my bedroom? I should be safe enough with Spotty around.” The guard was not pleased at being ordered around, but he didn’t argue.
“You. You’re Spotty, right?”
I puffed winter fog at her. “Only to people who haven’t learned to talk right. Who is Ailenne?”
“An occasional worker at Red Spires.”
I asked, “One of your former lovers?” since I am trying hard to act like a grownup.
“Half of Dorday are my former lovers,” lied Tarcuna. “I thought she was wormridden. She certainly knew all about it, and seemed quite sincere. You didn’t heal her?”
“No, just you and Bthera. I wanted to check with Llredh about it. After a bath and a nap. The driver went out of his way to find rough roads whenever I nodded off, or turn the radio on high.”
Considerably later, after a dinner and a pencil-and-paper game of tsheriaf (scores too low all ‘round for me to want to record), Tarcuna did ask, “Llredh? Are there any more wormridden loose in Dorday?”
“The worms, they are gone from Dorday, I have sent them to camps! A small triumph over them, but a triumph!”
Ythac said, “Well, a very small one. We’ve been putting them in prisons here and there across the country. We’re trying to build more camps, but the hovens are so clumsy and incompetant that it’s happening very slowly.” He glared at the mottled walls of his palace.
Tarcuna shook her head. “Wrong. I saw one on the street yesterday; a woman named Ailenne.”
“A worm, free? I do not permit this revolution!” roared Llredh.
Ythac cast the Draft of Direction or something, and then a scrying spell. “We missed one … actually that’s a man, so we missed at least two.”
Llredh breathed jagged orange flames across Ythac’s flank. “Your spells, your spells, your finding spells! Why did you cease to cast them?”
Ythac dipped his head. “I’m sorry, but we discussed this already. The questions get trickier and trickier to pose with each one I find, and there’s only so many I can seek. And I do have other things to do than finding worms all the time. Just like Jyothky won’t do surgery constantly either.”
I chirped, “Besides, one berserk hoven with an unsatisfiable crush on me is quite enough.”
Tarcuna nodded seriously. “I’d be jealous, and Spotty can’t handle that.” The first half was true. “Bad enough that I can’t marry her and have to let someone else do it.”
“I’m sure that the someone else isn’t looking forward to it any more than you are,” I said, which didn’t make anyone feel any better. I healed Ythac’s burnt flank, though, since nobody else was doing it.
“The worms of Dorday, they must be caught, they must be imprisoned or destroyed! All the worms, they must be!”
Tarcuna nodded grimly. “Perhaps I can come with you and see how your people are finding worms? They clearly have to do a much better job.”
”‘Better job’ is not the style of Trest nowadays,” said Ythac.
“Now! We shall go now!” clamored Llredh.
“I just got back from there,” whined Tarcuna.
“Now! Come with me!” He made a grab for her. So I bit his foreleg to stop him, and Ythac scooped her out of the way as Llredh ripped bits out of my wings and slit my belly open while I tried ineffectually to do anything much more to him.
After five hits, he glared at me. “The Caramelle, do we fight her?”
“I think that’s enough to prove your point,” I said, and healed myself in case any of the wounds was serious, which they didn’t seem to be very.
“Tonight, that is the time when we go!” proclaimed Llredh.
“How can you stand getting bitten like that, even if you can’t feel?” asked Tarcuna.
“How can you stand having the weakest dragon on Hove as your defender?” I snapped back.
“Bah, Tultamaan, Ressal, even Nlirei, they are weaker than Jyothky. My victory over you, you must not insult her, Jyothky! You are slightly competent!”
I glared at him. “Fine, but I’m coming with you anyways.” In Petty Draconic, using the right forms for someone who had just lost a fight.
“Tarcuna, you may carry her yourself!”