Vaareng and his Mother
“I suppose you could have found some way to dishonor yourself more,” said Vaareng’s mother to him. “You could have attacked the king, say, or attempted to rape the queen on the balcony of the Grand Pyramid.”
“I did no such thing!” Vaareng mewled.
“No, but when you did no such thing, did you do no such thing because you have the manners to comport yourself in a proper way even when circumstances turn against you? Or did you do no such thing because dragons who were ranked, as you say, far below you in the mating flight, had just defeated you? In an undeclared duel whose terms had not been agreed to and which did not match anything in Rhedosaur.” She scowled at him. “An undeclared duel in which you disputed the results of your mating flight. Actually I am not precisely sure just what you hoped to accomplish with that duel, since the marriages had been made official.”
“I was angry.”
“You were angry,” said his mother, rather as if he were a hatchling again. “Were you angrily trying to, say, kill Tyozangi? Do you think that the other married couples and royalty around would have let you get close to that? Even if the newlyweds hadn’t cut off your tail, stir-fried it with garlic and leeks and fermented bean paste, and fed it to you. Or they could have done, given how handily they defeated you.”
“Well, not kill him. Remind him why I defeated him so soundly in the mating flight’s rankings.”
“One does not forget matters of such great personal importance. Not even a full quarter of a day after the events have happened,” snapped the dragoness. “You succeeded in reminding him quite clearly why he came off better at the business of actually finding a mate — which, I’m afraid I must remind you, is ultimately the purpose of a mating flight. Or were you trying to kill this Melivras who refused to marry you?”
Vaareng blinked stupidly at her by way of answer.
“H’m, perhaps you were. Do you think that killing her would somehow encourage her to marry you? Are you secretly an expert necromancer, able to cram life into a dead dragon?” She frowned at him. “I hope you are. You will be needing a trade in your new life as a bachelor.”
“I could get a second mating flight,” mumbled Vaareng. “Some drakes do, we’re cousins of the king, and the end of this one was quite unfair.”
His mother breathed a jet of flame that scorched his muzzle. “You stupid, stupid boy, what do you think I was discussing with him all afternoon? I nearly had it arranged and worked out! It cost me my Ponderance of Thamille and seven superb sapphires, but I deemed it worth it to give you a chance at finding a wife, and a better one than that pallid Melivras! Then you go and show the king and everyone just what sort of a drake you are. A decent boy would have smiled and congratulated the happy couple and behaved himself. A well-mannered boy who needed to fight would have found some excuse for a duel and conducted it after Rhedosaur. A mighty boy would have won the duel instead of, shall we say, being ignominiously defeated. If you had been any of these things, you would have your second mating flight! But no, you are so uncouth and ridiculous as to make a second mating flight out of the question. And will the king give me my Ponderance back, and my seven sapphires? What chance of that, I ask you?”
(Speaking as royalty, I’d certainly give back the Ponderance, and probably some of the sapphires. But the king and queen of Mhel rule by politics and by force, and I rule mostly by getting all the local dragons to think I’m less annoying than anyone they could replace me with. The king of Mhel is said to enjoy his hoard.)
Vaareng had little to say in his own defense, and was dazed with half-healed injuries in any case.
Mhel thus ceased to be a habitable place for Vaareng. He had few enough friends before. As a child he had always been aggressive and combative, which had seemed sensible enough on his mating flight, but it had not ended well. After he had made himself the contemptable subject of the best gossip of the year on Mhel, what dragon would make any attempt to be any sort of company to him?
He emigrated, of course. I never asked him why he chose Hove, but we tolerate a great deal here that is not permitted elsewhere. Perhaps he heard about Arilash.