Cafe Du Treme
Versley paid for a table and a pot of tea. (Restaurants here seem to charge for space, not just food. I don’t know why.) After a moment, a dignified man with a scale pendant on his flat-cap asked if he could join us.
«That’s Magistrate Turquoise,» my cat wrote.
“Certainly, Sporthen,” said Versley. “Do you know this young woman, Joffee? She’s got a very pleasing hat.”
“I certainly must admire it!” he said. “A pleasure to meet you, Joffee.”
“And you as well, Sporthen.”
“She’s interested in more than just wearing that hat,” said Versley.
“Wearing hats never changed anything,” said Sporthen. “Except for the dryness and stylishness of one’s hair. Perhaps you could tell me a bit about yourself, Joffee?”
“Well, I was in Dorday for some while, not that long ago. I saw the first dragon there. It blasted a fighter plane, you know. I saw it explode. Three soldiers, killed, and not a bit of mercy or even concern from the beast,” said the beast in question, quite truthfully, and with more than a hint of concern and even displeasure for the incident in its voice. Of all the hovens I’ve killed, I regret them second-most, unless I’m forgetting someone, which I probably am. (The most being the cook that I dropped a wall on in Ze Cheya.)
“A terrible incident.”
“We’ve all seen the torture of Shuvanne, and the destruction of the Stone of Merraro, and all of that, on television. But when you see the dragons killing and destroying so casually with your own eyes, you begin to realize what wicked monsters they are,” I said. I remembered to say “they”.
«Wait. Jyothky, was that true?» asked Nrararn.
«Yes, if you take that ‘begin’ seriously. It took me a while.»
«I’m not a wicked monster!»
«You’re a very nice monster. We’ll discuss this more later. I need to be a very insidious monster and trick some hovens now.»
We chatted for a while. I think the closest I got to an actual lie was, when Versley asked me what I was doing in Tublier, I said, “I don’t have a regular job at the moment. The tourist industry in Dorday is in the midden. Tublier ought to better; it can’t be worse at least. I’ve got some savings, enough for a while. And Ythac is paying a dole to people who’ve lost their jobs. It doesn’t make me any more grateful to him, mind you.” Still all true, but anything you might infer from it is wrong.
After a certain amount of interrogation, Sporthen said, “I wonder if you might excuse us for a moment, Joffee.”
“Actually, if you could watch my cat for a moment … where’s the toilet?”
“Of course. It’s over there, under that sign that says ‘toilet’.”
So I plopped my
very nice monster fiancé cat in Versley’s lap to spy on her while I took an unnecessary and smelly private moment. Nrararn got very much the better part of the arrangement.
«They’re saying that you seem like a straightforward and motivated young lady, and if you were a spy they’d probably be arrested already,» he reported. «Also three-quarters of the gendarmes in Tublier are in sympathy with RARU in any case, and dragons never come here.»
«Pity they’re wrong. I’m sure this will end with them in the flames,» I said, because I really am a wicked monster who destroys hoven lives by the grand and plots to take their world from them, even if I try to be nice about it. I turned a finger into a claw and scratched a warning to Tublier about myself in the mirror. Only I wrote it in Petty Draconic, meaning that only Tarcuna of all the hovens on Hove would have a hope of reading it. In retrospect, this makes no sense whatever — Nrararn is standing on my head and reading this and making cute feline incomprehension noises. My only defense is that, at the time, it made no sense whatever either.
When I got back to the table, Versley smiled. “Well, Joffee. I’m holding a small party of sorts at my apartment tomorrow evening. Hot chocolate and cookies, nothing terribly fancy. Sporthen will be there, and a few of our other friends, some of whom also have very fashionable hats. Would you like to attend?”
“Oh, that would be wonderful! I have so few friends in Tublier so far!” I exclaimed.
They smiled and nodded, glad that I had figured out how to speak their language of light evasion. I smiled back, having penetrated their quite haphazard security.
«Well, they are rather the casual end of the spectrum,» Ythac wrote. «At the other extreme is Quarters, which is your friend Branner’s organization. Eight members only, and they’ve known each other for years in the army. They’re trying to build a big twistor beam without my noticing it.»
«They haven’t been that careful.»
«Pretty careful! But I do cast finding spells for the most dangerous threat in Trest to me, which is them.»
«Why don’t you kill them?» I asked, because that is how monsters think.
«There will always be a most dangerous threat. If I kill them and cast the spell again, it will get the previously second most dangerous threat. If I thought they were actually dangerous, I would do something. If they get anywhere on their gun, I will do something,» he wrote back. «Besides, my the Hoplonton is the best on Hove. Family specialty.»
«I don’t want you to get hurt, Ythac. Even with the new imports, I am low on friends.»
«I will not get hurt, I promise. But I won’t not get hurt by killing every hoven I can. That couldn’t possibly end well. Besides, Jyothky, how many hoven lives is one dragon’s life worth?»
«That’s a horrible question. We live at least, oh, a dozen grand years, with astral magic. I don’t think anyone has died of old age since we got it, have they?»
«Not that I’ve heard either.»
«So, um, we live a dozen grand years, say, and they live a gross of years, say, to make the math easy. By that, say a gross of hoven lives equals one dragon. I don’t think that calculus makes any sense, but it’s a number for you, anyways,» I wrote.
«If you can’t make sense, at least make nonsense, I guess. So if a gross of hoven lives is worth mine, that’s about how many I get to kill to protect myself. I shouldn’t go killing eight just now just because I know they’re trying to kill me. I’d use up nearly my first grand’s allowance of murders before I got to a gross of years,» I wrote.
«You’re about to make my head fall off with that kind of mathematics.»
«I just don’t want to kill anyone unless there’s some good reason. I refuse to be the tyrant they’re painting me! Besides, if I’m decent at them for long enough, they’ll figure out that I am, and then things should be easier.»
«Not this year, Ythac.»
«Not this generation, I think. I’ve got time. Though I do want to do what I can to speed it along and keep the misery down along the way.»
He’s a monster too. A kind-hearted ruiner of countries and destroyer of lives, like me. A good bit better about actual murder, though.