Within three days of our conquest, sixty-one countries had hired us as mercenaries, for the same fee that we charged Katayay. They represented twenty minor wars, present or near past or near future. We were well pleased to accept them all. Hyxy got to play once more. After that, we had nineteen cease-fires or armistices or whatever you call it when all the sides of a war had hired us and were bound not to fight each other.
I told Tarcuna, “And that is my apology to you for destroying the Peace Everywhere Array.”
She didn’t look entirely persuaded. “What is it, the Peace Somewhere Array?”
“I think it’s better than the Array. For one thing, it’s voluntary. If hovens want to fight, they can fight.”
“Until the one that’s losing hires you,” she pointed out.
“Hovens sometimes feel obliged to fight other hovens, that is true. Yet, somehow, hovens do not feel obligated to lose to other hovens,” I said. “I prefer the draconic style. I expect to lose most fights with dragons I start. Anyways, if hovens would prefer small fees and enforced peace to losing a war, why should I refuse to indulge them?”
“You’re just doing it for your own advantage. You’re going to extract fees from every hoven on the world, right? And you’re going to do absolutely nothing to get it. You’re just going to build a mountain palace in Katayay or something, and sit there, and twine on Nrararn all day — or actually you’re going to eat all sorts of delicacies and complain that you ought to be twining on Nrararn — and study Hoven science, and have a perpetual vacation while every hoven in the world pays for it,” said Tarcuna, who knows me very well.
“To do nothing except prevent wars and miseries, but yes, we hope, without having to work very much to do it. You’ll be getting the single best part of being ruled by dragons, without the indignities and sorrows of actually being ruled by dragons. Just for a tiny fee, per hoven.”
She poked me with her staff. “You are pretending to be an honest monster, you horrid thing.” She grinned. “I’ll let you get away with it. I don’t think anyone in particular will be fooled, though.”
“I’m not trying to fool anyone! I’m just trying to get everyone to behave halfway decently. Starting with myself. I need it more than any hoven.”
“And be rich doing it. Better than what Ythac and Llredh did to Trest, at least… I don’t suppose Trest could hire you now?”
“Trest has different arrangements, and always will.”