Sneaky Night Visit
Osoth knocked over a chair with his tail by mistake.
“Help! Guards! Assassins! There are assassins in my bedroom!” shouted Vimenti.
A dozen soldiers charged in, pointing a dozen twistor pistols at Osoth. “A dragon! A dragon! Damma sends a dragon against us now!”
Nrararn and I destroyed their guns with delicate lightnings. (It’s so fun fighting by his side! We’re starting to learn to work well together!) “Osoth, you were supposed to turn into a cat before you got into the bedroom. Not after,” said Nrararn.
“I see no particular reason to multiply the indignities of the situation,” said Osoth.
Vimenti was a vast barrel of a man, red-furred, dressed in an elegant silk nightgown. He fell on his knees in front of Osoth and begged for his life.
I prowled over and nuzzled my black-furred cheek against his ankle. “Actually, we’re not here to kill you at all. We just wanted to have a private conversation about the situation in Katayay, and in Damma. You might even be happy with the result.” And eventually the guards and pistols were gone.
The Bishop’s chefs brewed him a very large pot of very strong spiced tea, and brought us saucers of cream, and a cauldron of cream for Osoth, which didn’t make any sense but perhaps the cook’s instructions were confusing. The Bishop attempted social nicities, but mostly proved that he hadn’t much been paying attention to dragons. Out of respect for the Bishop, let’s skip that part.
“Damma is about to invade Katayay,” I said.
The Bishop nodded. “They are determined to. This is the same approach that they have taken in conquering many other states. Our soldiers are fierce and expert, and will drive them off.”
“You can’t lie to a dragon,” I said. “On this matter, you can’t even lie to the international news agencies. Your armies are small, inexperienced and poorly equipped. Damma’s armies are huge, used to this game, and far better prepared.”
“I have read the same reports,” said the Bishop, and didn’t deny it further.
“Katayay has few allies,” I said.
The Bishop huffed, and listed seven countries who promised to send support. We interrogated him a bit. Four were tiny neighbors who probably had the next places in line; I hadn’t even heard of one of them, and I’d been studying the region some. One is Trest, but that alliance is pre-draconic and very limited. Two were significant — Vlechinse was one of them — but distant and unlikely to send more than a few advisors.
“Without further help, Katayay will cease to be a country within the month,” I said. “And no hovens can help and will help stop that.”
The Bishop acknowledged that my claim was not entirely outside of the realm of the possible.
“Some time ago, four dragons duelled the armies of Trest, back when Trest was the mightiest country on Hove and its armies the mightiest armies on Hove. The armies of Trest could do nothing to them. Only the surrender of Trest to another dragon saved their armies from defeat on the Quenjo Wastes,” I said.
The Bishop smelled desirous and hopeful, but he kept his words calm. “I am aware of recent history,” he said.
“Katayay could have four dragons defending it,” I said. “Damma will have none.”
The Bishop blinked. “The gratitude of Katayay to the four dragons would be considerable!”
“The gratitude of Katayay to the four dragons must be expressed in specific terms. It will not be cheap.”
“What terms? How expensive?”
He was in my mouth now, and it was simply a matter of biting off whatever flesh I wished to eat. Which was going to be a small snack. “One part in twelve-to-the-fourth of your national budget, this year and every year. We may impose certain laws and edicts on Katayay. Dragons and our servants may come and go as we wish in Katayay, and the government will help us if we wish it. We may pick three mountains as our homes, though Katayayans may continue to live there, and we will not choose either of your two sacred peaks. And we, not you, get reparations from any peace treaty that is concluded with Damma.”
The Bishop rubbed his face. “One part in what of our budget?”
“One part in 20,736. Last year that would have been…” I named a sum. In Dorday, you could get a reasonably nice house for that sum, but not Tarcuna’s parents’ mansion.
“That is not very much money. I would expect to pay more for a small company of hoven mercenaries,” said the Bishop.
I grinned viciously. “It is not very much money. We are not trying to discourage you from hiring us. The reparations from Damma will be larger. We are trying to discourage hovens from defying us.”
The Bishop smiled a bit. “I feel no great obligation to protect Damma’s budgetary process. What about the laws?”
I curled my tailtip and spready my claws. “The price is not so low in terms of laws. There will be several. You may not fight any nation whatsoever that is under our protection. This will put an end to your hopes of invading Trest.”
The Bishop didn’t grin, but Osoth and Nrararn did at least, so I know it was funny. “We have not engaged in military adventures for several decades,” said the Bishop.
I smiled sweetly. “This law may be more relevant for some of our other clients. We simply wish to have a uniform fee structure.” Actually this was a trap for him. He was a military dictator. A gentle and well-loved one as military dictators go, but he did sometimes use force against political problems. With Katayay under draconic protection, his political problems would be under draconic protection as well. If we felt like being Uplifty, (and I certainly do, I’ve got a ton to apologize for and, unlike some other dragons, I want to apologize), and had any idea what else to do, we could interfere.
The Bishop didn’t realize the trap. “That one broadly seems acceptable. What of the others?”
“The most troublesome one will be laws about the cyoziworms infestation. We’re still working out how to do that, mostly in Trest. When we figure out what to do there, we’ll try to do it everywhere we have influence,” I said. Which lead to a longish discussion, and I don’t think the Bishop believed our answers. At that point in his upcoming defeat, he was prepared to sacrifice plenty of his subjects to us in any case.
“Oh, and one more law, requiring severe punishments for any hoven who tries to kill a dragon, or who even plans it, or discovers plans and doesn’t tell anyone.” Not many of us like killing their families and friends. Maybe we can get out of that most of the time, if the hovens do a good enough job preventing some and punishing the others without us needing to. Which isn’t a perfect agreement with draconic law, but nothing else we’ve done on Hove has been either.
By the morning, the exhausted Bishop agreed to our terms. He was sure we had somehow cheated him, or would turn around and conquer Katayay ourselves, or some such wickedness. Which wasn’t our plan at all. We just wanted an easy income for life — Katayay’s life, probably — and a chance to do some gentle Uplifting without all the doom that comes with conquest.
Oh, and of course reparations from Damma should make a nice hoard for Nrararn to give to me.