Getting It Wrong
“Cousin! That monstrosity — how did it catch you? How long had it been dwelling in you?” cried Dulac at the side of Elrique’s bed. The operation had been moderately successful, though Elrique’s legs were paralyzed. Tarcuna was properly sympathetic.
“Two weeks and two days, cousin,” said Elrique. “In the camp, I shared a cell with three other men. Twenty-two days ago I woke to find one of them holding my arms, his worm already touching my chest. I felt numb, I felt dizzy, I felt weak, I felt lost. A moment later or two, I was the worm’s home and its eager servant.”
“Wait. This happened at the camp?” I asked, and paid close attention to veriception.
“Yes — I had been at the camp for months by then!” he cried, truthfully.
“That’s not right,” I said.
“Spotty! Great dragon! I would not lie to you — I would never lie to you!” he howled, suddenly in a panic. He seemed very eager to please me. My own fault for saving him.
“You did not lie. But I wish to know more. How is it that you were put into the camp, when you had no worm?” I patted his head. He glowed happily, and Tarcuna scowled just a bit.
“I offended the mayor of Churry City, for I was the spokesman for her opponent in the last election, and I spoke quite strongly about her,” said Elrique. “When it was time to find victims for the camp, she chose to look heavily among her politicial foes, as well as those who exhibit Wulpmegarn’s symptoms. When the inspector shaved the underside of my udder to look for worm-scars, he cut me with the shaver. And swore up and down that I had done it myself to hide the evidence. I was not the only one whom he served thus.”
Llredh roared in a terrible fury, and Nrararn wrestled with him to keep him from damaging the hospital. The hovens had many questions for Elrique, and asked them all at once, and got few answers.
Sporthen stomped to face me. “This is roughly what we said all along!”
“Except that cyoziworms are real,” I said.
“Which simply makes it worse. You are not simply imprisoning your enemies — you are transforming them into legendary monsters of horror!”
“Not our enemies,” I noted. “Hovens are doing it to each other.”
“In a system that you set up for your own purposes! If it were not for you, Elrique would have been free, unimprisoned, uncolonized, un-horror-ridden! The fault is yours! Your rule is immoral, a vicious and cruel conquest, and even when there is some thought to doing good, you do it in such a way as this!”
Usually when someone harangues me like that and veriception says it’s true, I remind myself that veriception tells whether the haranguer honestly thinks that it’s true. Only great spells can find actual absolute truths. This time, he was right as far as I knew, too.
He tried to argue with me more, so I put my forepaw on his face and shut him up. For absolute truth, or thoughts at doing good, I have a friend to consult. «Ythac, could you please come to Churry City as quickly as ever you can fly? You need to hear this in person,» I wrote.
«Give me a hint? Are you going marry Llredh?» he answered.
«He’s all yours. The affairs of dragons have not changed. But there’s a bit of a problem with your cyozi camps.»
«That’s better, then. How much of a problem?»
«You might want to use the Dozenwing Dozentail,» I answered.
«Not that urgent. You could fly normally, or take a zeppelin, and the matter won’t get too much worse. But my advice is to come quickly.»
«I am out the window, I am over Perstra’s suburbs, and I have had to heal my ribs twice already,» he answered in a moment.
I smelled hoven blood and heard Tarcuna whacking me with a hospital chair, and realized that I had started to crush Sporthen’s skull. I healed him in a hurry, and curled up in the corner to listen to the details of Elrique’s story. I didn’t have much to say to anyone.
Lesser matters fall away under the truth’s inexorable breath, after all.
Defeat (Day 1133)
Last night we told Ythac about the innocent Elrique being tossed into a quarentine camp and getting infected. He had to investigate for himself. When an information sorcerer investigates a matter that he is passionate about (or that his husband is), great spells are cast and much truth is revealed.
So: of the three hundred hovens in Elrique’s camp, sixty-one had been infected when they were quarantined. Two hundred thirty-nine uninfected hovens were thrown in with them.
As of today, none remain uninfected.
We have fed the worms two hundred and thirty-nine hovens in the one camp alone, when we intended to deny them all opportunity to colonize anyone ever again.
And that camp is a fairly old one, among cyozi-camps. More recent ones have been filled by the No False Negatives decrees, which make the standards for avoiding the camp harder. We intended that fewer worms, no worms, escape the camps. But that meant that more uninfected people were thrown in there with them.
When we looked at the records and interrogated some laboratory workers, we estimated that about two-thirds of the mistakes were purely scientific in nature — people with under-udder birthmarks and naturally high Kia ratios and such. The rest seemed to have some political or personal element to them as well. The mayor encouraged the ‘very careful examination’ of certain of her political rivals, such as Elrique. She did not exactly say it, but it was clear to the laboratory workers that they should try particularly hard to find them infested. The gendarmes also made their recommendations: this hoven had fought fiercely against his arrest and afternoon of torture, so surely he must be wormridden. And that one had tried to bribe her way out of it, but the bribe was insufficient; ditto. And after a while, it was clear that the camps should be filled as quickly as possible, or the dragons would be upset and become destructive, so standards were relaxed somewhat despite Wulpmegarn’s publishing of somewhat stricter standards.
Such is our revenge against the worms.
“Llredh, may I summon Csirnis? I wish to behave with honor and justice, but I somehow seem to have utterly lost track of where they are. Csirnis knows about them more than most of us.” asked Ythac. “Actually, I ought to ask Nrararn and Jyothky too, since he’s in the mating flight still.”
“The mating flight, such as it is,” said Nrararn. “It would be polite to call Osoth, though I doubt he’ll come.”
“I would be happy to see the rest of my fiancés,” I said.
Osoth did, though it took him until this morning to get here. I had to fly out and give him the Melismatic Tempest.