Etiquette of Csirnis (Day 1241)
I flew around the Golden Pagoda in Ze Cheya, and shattered the lower sky with lightning. “Csirnis! You must stop hiding from me!”
He peeked his head out from the middle of the temple. “Oh, good morning, Jyothky. Please stop scaring the natives.”
“Then wake up when another dragon comes on your territory!”
He slithered all the way out of the pagoda. “Ze Cheya is not my territory. Indeed, as a single drake, I have no territory.”
“You’re not quite a single drake, though. You’re on your mating flight. Or so it is said,” I yelled. I am not the most subtle dragon ever.
He smiled at me. “In any case, I do not wish to be a rude drake. May I offer you a grilled ox?”
I rarely refuse such things.
As we flew to the Royal Racecourse, I looked around the city. Big swaths of it were still in ruins, but ruins scabbed over with scaffolding and protective fences, or pink with new construction. “Your hovens have been busy,” I said.
“As have all the Ze Cheyans,” he said pointedly.
I do speak draconic. “You are emphasizing that most of the locals aren’t yours. But you have some?”
He smiled. “I have eighty-three at the moment, more or less. I am splitting them with several local surgeons, and some of them have mixed loyalties or confusing situations, which we largely ignore. You will meet several of them shortly.”
“That’s a very strange and precise number,” I said. “I’m sure you haven’t been conquering — Oh! Have you been unworming them?”
“Exactly. We do not have any excellent way to find the wormridden. But when we do, we extract the worm immediately.”
We landed at the racetrack. “That’s very nice of you. I wish I could manage it, but I’ve only done a few so far. You always do everything right… Can I marry you?”
He flattened his ears. “I do things right when I can, which happens occasionally. May I introduce you to some of my hovens?” He avoided my question, which was very undrakely of him.
So he did introduce me to a dozen of them. They’re a rather haphazard lot. Many of them are rather poor, being ex-prostitutes who left their families when their worms took them. Csirnis is still taking care of them to a large extent. “Or rather, the royal family is taking care of them, as a personal favor to me. Several of them have been given jobs as my grooms, cooks, and secretaries.”
“And you are taking care of hundreds and hundreds, and us all!” said an extremely loyal former wormridden prostitute or something, sounding a lot like Tarcuna.
“I hardly think that Damma would conquer Ze Cheya, even if I weren’t here. They simply have a demanding style of negotiating,” he said calmly.
His cooks are, if anything, better than last time. They have had three years to learn how to serve dragons. They’re not making as much as before (lunch was somewhat skimpy, split between us), and they’re using their spices more effectively. Oh, and they’re not taking the entrails out of the cow when they roast it. Actually they did take them out, and cleaned them, and stuffed them with onions and turmeric and chili peppers and cloves and oily fresh cheese, and packed them back in. Delicious, when the flavorful juice permeated the whole cow. And more nutritious too. I should eat more liver, but most hoven cooks don’t cook it.
Three dozen more hovens wandered over for lunch. The chefs fed them out of different pots, giving them lentil stew and rice and vegetable porridge, and a little slice from the roast cow each. (I got tastes of the hoven foods, which were delicious.) Csirnis introduced me as the dragon who had figured out about the cyoziworms and freed the first hoven from them, and they were thoroughly grateful and enthusiastic at me. Some of them brought out xylophones and harps, and played traditional Zeanese music for us. It was a delightful little luncheon.
I was ready to bite Csirnis’ tail off by the end of it.