Conquest of Damma (Year 4, Day 1477)
Vimenti’s new allies made him confident. Or at least we insisted that he act confident. He sent Damma an unendurable ultimatum: they must withdraw all their charges against Katayay, not make any more in the future, move their armies away from the border, and so on. On pain of losing the armies. Also on our command, he did his best to keep the rumors of dragons quiet.
So the hoven diplomats burbled at each other for another day or so. Then Damma pronounced the situation untenable, and sent jets to Katayay to destroy supply stations and assorted big weapons, and scare infantry.
We are wicked beasts. We let them.
This morning, Damma started with the rest of their army. Tanks and artillery and armored busses full of soldiers drove down the three main roads and two agricultural regions. Zeppelins carrying medium-sized twistor cannons drifted over the land. Airplanes patrolled this way and that. The armies of Katayay retreated in a hurry.
Vimenti complained about that. “Why must we retreat, when dragons are our allies? Why do the dragons do nothing?”
Osoth explained, “Their translocation allows, or rather ceases to inhibit, our brighter exhalations and darker sorceries.”
Nrararn translated, “You’re not retreating. You’re getting out of the way.”
And we waited three more hours, until enough Dammans were in Katayay to satisfy anyone’s sense of justice.
And then we destroyed them. Hyxy, our fourth, did most of the work. She’s quite a vicious little monster. By “little” I mean, about the same size as me. By “vicious” I mean that she despises small people and very much enjoys killing and tormenting them. She zoomed around, belching corrosive vapors at soldiers and weapons, letting them choke and die slowly, or giving them huge suppurating wounds that are tremendously hard to heal even with good spells. She got to play today.
Which is fine, for all that she killed some grands of hovens today. If all goes well, she will get few more chances to play this way on Hove.
The rest of us fought without any such joy, except I suppose for the joy one takes in exercise and skill. Nrararn built a vast hurricane that dashed the Damman jets to the ground. I punctured the zeppelins with lightning and sent them tumbling, and roasted some soldiers in their own tanks. Osoth called forth armies of ghosts, whose touch rusted and ruined the artillery, and whose hideous explanations left soldiers crying and scoring their own chests with knives.
We worked for, oh, three hours or so. Damma had actually intended to surrender after the first hour, but didn’t manage to tell their armies about it. So the armies kept attacking, or not surrendering in any case, and we kept killing them. Next time we’ll have to be more emphatic about communications. Perhaps I’ll get Ythac to go sit at the enemy parliament and write to me when they actually surrender. Or I’ll do that, and have dragons who actually enjoy slaughter do the slaughter. Hyxy and Vuuthon and Llredh.
But Damma finally managed to surrender. A third of their invading army was dead, and a sixth of the part of the army that hadn’t gotten to the border yet. A sixth of the survivors were wounded, poisoned by Hyxy’s breath or driven mad by Osoth’s ghosts mostly.
Katayay, for those who care, lost a few dozen soldiers, mainly those who refused to retreat, or got caught by long-range attacks while they were retreating. And some gross of innocents, farmers and villagers on the border.
And that was the end of Hyxy’s fun. She flew off, eager to couple with Ngassith. The rest of us presented our demands to N. V. Satthara, prime minister and head of the Mother Spice Party.
N. V. Satthara was the only hoven who managed to inflict any sort of injury on us. She harangued us about how we had been guests of Damma for so long, how they had given us the Imperial Patthakadu Cavalry Academy, and see how we repay them?
To which the answer might have been, “Friendship is one thing; permission to wage unjust wars is a somewhat different thing.” But I don’t want to have that discussion with anyone but Ythac, and that only in private.
So we stood in a triangle around N. V. Satthara, our heads arched high in the air, and the sparky precursors of our breath weapons crackling over her head now and then. (Which is rude — it’s like belching in public — and we generally don’t do it.) And when she finished her polemic of surrender, we presented our terms.
And our terms amount to the ones we demanded from Katayay, except for two things. The first thing is the reparations, of course. (We’re calling them “reparations” even though there’s not much to repair, and the money is going to us anyways.) A twelfth of Damma’s income for one year; then one hundred-and-forty-fourth of it for a dozen years, then one part in 1,728 forever.
And the second difference, of course, is that Katayay is nominally hiring us, and can nominally fire us, and Damma, as a defeated enemy, is stuck with our terms and whatever vae victis we choose to give them, forever. I’m sure that Vimenti has figured out that he shouldn’t fire us, now or ever. At some point we should probably encourage him to change the national charter to make our hiring permanant. But if Katayay ever fired us, we would be honorable and simply leave. And cease to protect Katayay. And allow other hoven countries under our protection free rein to do whatever they wanted to Katayay. I imagine Damma — which is now under our protection, as well as under our hindpaw — might want to do something.
But this serves our end quite nicely. When Damma starts paying us, we’ll have no end of money. (Which will be distributed among all the dragons, by the way, though double shares for the ones who did the work.) And when we figure out how to dispose of the cyoziworms, we’ll be able to do that to Damma.
And if we ever figure out how to construct any justice, without a greater measure of wickedness behind it, we’ll be able to do that too. But we will be more careful than we ever have been, doing that. We’ve never managed to get it right so far.