The Prehistory of Vaareng
The Grand Pyramid on Mhel is quite grand indeed. It is not quite a pyramid, being a pseudosphere or horn-shape of stone, far taller than mhelvul technology could possibly build. It is set about with balconies for the various participants in the various rituals performed there. Vaareng’s mating flight was using it for the mate-choosing ritual, with the king and queen of dragons on Mhel officiating.
Vaareng, personally, was standing proudly on the balcony of the third-place male. Lergnance, on the second-place drake’s balcony, was ahead of him by just a scale’s thickness: the two of them had contended most fiercely, and watered the valleys with their blood. Tyozangi, on the balcony below him, was far below him indeed in any reasonable ranking. It was almost as if the mating flight had had two seconds and no third.
Meliavras was as good as married to him already. The ritual was simply going to confirm the obvious.
Sgerecs, second-place dragoness, roared “I claim the right of choosing a mate! Is there any dragoness who will dispute me? No, there is none — there can be none!” Once in a gross of flights the third-place dragoness would challenge the second, but Meliavras was a quiet and unaggressive girl, not the one in a gross.
“Then I take Lergnance as my husband!” she cried. “He will fertilize my eggs, he will guard my territory with me, he will strike my foes from the left as I strike them from the right!” All very traditional and all very expected. Vaareng wriggled in anticipation, and grinned at Meliavras instead of watching the second-place dragons fly their circles.
Finally it was the third-place turn. “I claim the right of choosing a mate! Is there any dragoness who will dispute me? No, there is none — there can be none!” Meliavras was softer than Sgerecs, as surprised nobody. Vaareng crouched, ready to leap into the air at the appointed time.
“Then I take Tyozangi as my husband!” she roared, at the top of her lungs, and the rest of the formula afterwards.
Vaareng yelped, “What?”, and tried to check himself in mid-leap. He slid for some yards along the balcony, almost falling off. The multitude of watching dragons tittered at him, and then turned their attention to the actual couple. Meliavras and Tyozangi circled the Grand Pyramid, greeted the royalty, and finished up the ritual.
Vaareng fumed and glared at Tyozangi, in the place that ought to have been his by any measure of justice or arithmetic. He was still fuming when the married and soon-to-be-married dragons drove him and all the other bachelors away from the secret part of the ritual.
At the foot of the Great Pyramid of Mhel is a wide meadow, and in the very center of that meadow is a circle of blue-pebbled ground that is reserved for the prime celebrants of whatever ritual is being performed. At the end of the mating flight and its wedding, it is for the members of the flight, and royalty. Meliavras and Tyozangi were there, sharing some quiet jest with Sgerecs. This was debatable ground, where some customs allowed bachelors at this hour of the night and some did not.
Vaareng, accepting no debate on the topic, dived from the sky to the center of the blue circle. He landed with a crash of wings that broke his dive in a single stroke, and scattered pebbles for dozens of yards in all directions, and altogether was beyond the strength of a mere fourth-place drake like Tyozangi.
“Oh, hallo, Vaareng,” said Sgerecs. “Lergnance is around here somewhere. I’m sure he’ll want to see you off.” She grinned. “I haven’t quite gotten the hang of how to keep track of a husband yet.”
The heat of Vaareng’s snarl melted pebbles to blue stone soup. “I am not looking for Lergnance.”
“For me, then?” asked Meliavras quietly.
“For you, yes!” snapped Vaareng. “Was the ranking of drakes somehow unclear to you? Tauto first, Lergnance and myself all but tied for second, and Tyozangi a quite distant fourth?”
Meliavras glared at him, quite rudely. “That would be the ranking of drakes by the criteria of combat, wealth, strength, and battle, yes.”
Vaareng spread his forewings high and his hindwings lower, and arched his back, and lashed his orange-spiked tail. Tyozangi winced a bit, having frequently felt the poisoned stinger on that tail. “Then how is it that I am not married now, but this quite distant fourth — a weak and cowardly lizard, barely worth being called a dragon — is now your husband?”
“It is not altogether rare that a dragoness will choose the drake one place below hers,” noted Sgerecs. “If you had come in second and Lergnance third, I might well have done so myself. Especially now that I see how you conduct yourself in imperfect circumstances.”
“Depart now, I command it, O vile female!” snapped Vaareng. “You have no call to insult me! Indeed, no dragon does, yet I have call to insult many of you, and more than insult!”
“Ah, you are doing that. I retreat; I yield the battlefield before you; I give ground; I depart with departing departingness!” Sgerecs took three small steps backwards, and sat on her haunches in the blue pebbles. “See?”