Home Again (Day 4564)
There is a secret way into my parents’ castle, a passage that runs from the corner of the sea into the corner of the basement. It runs under stone and under water, enough to be opaque even to most dragon senses. Most of my senses, I mean, and I’m sure that nobody who can feel, can feel me through sixteen yards of stone.
Of course my parents noticed me creeping up to them instantly. Either I had gotten a great deal more powerful and dangerous, or my sneaky comings and goings as a dragonet weren’t as sneaky as I thought. I’m pretty sure it’s the latter. I don’t feel any more dangerous.
Mother was waiting for me as I wriggled a thin serpent’s body out of a crack in the larder. “I do seem to have a daughter after all. I was beginning to wonder anymore.”
“You do. Not the best one around, I’m afraid,” I said, and turned back into myself to offer her a large vrexium-and-steel box filled with various technological amusements.
She kindly snatched it out of my talon, and roared for Cterion. The two of them pawed over it for a full quarter of an hour, particularly admiring the solar orrery (useless off of Hove, but beautiful). Then they smiled in unison and said, “We have inspected your tribute and find it adequate. So we shall not drive you off with claws and teeth and breath. This time.”
Which is what you get when you come to your parents’ home as an adult.
And then I had to explain everything to them. I accidentally told them who I was marrying, which is supposed to be a secret, but they didn’t mind. They laughed in the right places (like my first mating, in the artillery-scored air over Ghemel). Also at the wrong times (like me hiring a whore without realizing it). And that lead to some questions.
“You did get married, didn’t you?” asked Cterion.
“Most of the way. Nrararn and I were hoping you and his parents would give us your blessing, to complete it,” I said.
Uruunma grinned. “We would be glad to. But why were you sneaking in? That’s for drakes who didn’t find mates, if I recall the etiquette I taught you so many decades ago.”
“And for dragonesses who came in last, right?”
Cterion blinked at me. “You came in last?”
Uruunma blinked at me. ”Can you come in last out of one?”
“I think so. I didn’t get my choice of drake, anyways.”
Cterion blinked at me. “Nrararn is not to your taste?”
“Nrararn is working out quite well, actually, but I still didn’t get to choose him.”
Uruunma flicked her tail. “That is not what ‘last’ means. ‘Last’ means that you did not put up a good contest against your rivals. If I were you, I would express it as, neither rival that you started out with was capable of completing an entire mating flight against you. Is that not true?”
I hissed twistor sparks. “It is technically true. But it would have been just as true if I had been a female Tultamaan, say. Or a butter sculpture of a dragoness. Arilash would have been twining around nonetheless.”
Cterion spread his ears. “Do I recall correctly that you conquered Hove — against our express instructions, you disobedient chit! — and defended your reign, successfully, twice?”
“Well, yes, but that had as much to do with Arilash sleeping around as anything else, too.”
“And she won’t twine Tultamaan, if I recall, and I doubt that she’d go for a butter sculpture either. So you must have done something right.”
I was feeling a bit browbeaten. “If anyone asks, I suppose I’ll say I came in in the middle of the dragonesses.”
Uruunma grinned. “Which is meaningless, so they are sure to ask for clarification.”
Cterion grinned too. “And then you can deliver your extended biography, which will confuse them mightily even if it doesn’t render them unconscious altogether. An extra weapon to your arsenal, in case four flavors of breath — you did stop with four? Good. — are not enough.”
“I suppose so.”
“Now come eat. There is a sort of feast upstairs. It is modest, because someone did not see fit to give us any particular advance notice.”
But meat baked with my childhood spices, and fibrous bones to chew, were all the feast I wanted.