Vaareng and Arilash
At the time (and now), we were accepting any dragon who wanted to live here. Bachelors of no particular interest or skills, like Vaareng, were granted a modest allowance, told not to kill any of the natives, and left to find something useful or amusing to do. This is Official Hoven Policy. Not because we think it’s a particularly good policy. It is because, first, we can’t think of anything better to do. And, just as first, there are about two or three dozen of us who have the awful suspicion that we have some responsibility to take charge of the immigrants, somehow, and that’s not nearly enough to take charge of two gross of them. (Ythac once had a policy of having them pay attention to each other. This was instantly misinterpreted as a policy that all newcomer bachelors needed to be in urning couples, and if they didn’t have a husband, they would be assigned one. Which was never even vaguely true, but we gave up on that plan.)
I didn’t even meet Vaareng until quite late. He petitioned Ythac to be allowed to immigrate to Hove: perhaps because he didn’t want to see a dragoness, or perhaps because he arrived during one of Ythac’s weeks on duty rather than one of mine. Ythac barely remembers him, save as a large orange-and-black drake with an intricate pattern of scales, scowling barbels, a spiky ridge, and, most notably, a half-regrown tailtip with a great many healing spells on it. He reports that Vaareng may have had a personality too, but didn’t care to show it.
The first I heard of Vaareng was from Arilash. Arilash has generally been keeping her lovers secret of late, after certain of them got into trouble. (All of my lovers, including my husband, are also her lovers. They deserve some fun for putting up with me. And it is hideously improper for a married dragoness to take lovers, especially ones she doesn’t want, and I am going to stop as soon as my doctor says that it’s no longer necessary. Except my husband.)
But Arilash has never been shy about talking about her non-lovers.
We were en route to the Merbh-Mvo-Merbh mountains. (If you must know, Nrararn and I were trying to see what sort of a territory they would be. Arilash enjoys mountains, especially ones without small people.)
“Have I been blazing my name and a schedule of fees into mountainsides and cliff-faces?” asked Arilash. “Or has your pet whore been giving me referrals?” (Tarcuna has had a complex and not wholly respectable history. I don’t know which is worse: her time in the sex trade, or her time with me.)
“You would know better than I about the former. Though if you have gone into trade and been advertising, you have doing it quite poorly, since I have not seen a single announcement,” said Nrararn. “And Tarcuna has retired; she is devoting herself to shoving me aside and winning Jyothky’s heart and genitalia. Which, I suppose, makes her more rather than less likely to send elsewhere whatever clients she has. Have you been being pestered by lust-crazed and overly-wealthy female hovens?”
“If a lust-crazed female hoven shows up at my cave, I will either eat her or eat her, perhaps both,” said Arilash. “I won’t say that I’ll never play with a hoven again, for I no longer make categorical denials of what might at some time appeal to that ever-hungry and variety-loving monster that is my genital region. But lately I have been a classicist: all dragons, and mostly drakes. Jyothky, stop blushing, for spreading your ears so wide ruins the airflow around your head. No, I am complaining about a drake named Vaareng.”
“I don’t know the gentlelizard,” I said, trying to get my ears under control.
“You’re not missing much! He showed up at my cave the other month in the middle of the day, hooting ‘Arilash, O Arilash, are you present? I come to you bearing sapphires, the fine sapphires of Mhel!’ Well, I wasn’t particularly busy at the time. I know everyone thinks I’ve got a constant stream of lovers, but I’m alone far more often than not. Anyhow, I call out ‘Who are you, and why are you talking about sapphires?’
“He answers, ‘I am Vaareng, a mighty drake from Mhel, victorious in many battles and mighty in matters of twining!’ So I stick my head out of my cave and there’s this big orange and black drake, standing on his hind legs so he can show me the tips of all three hemipenises.”
“Now, I like hemipenises as much as the next dragoness — actually a great deal more, since the next dragoness seems to be Jyothky — but getting confronted with three of them attached to a stranger isn’t really the best introduction. I said something along the lines of ‘Sit down and explain yourself’. Which wasn’t terribly witty, but I was actually a bit scared. He was a fair bit bigger than me, he was talking about his battles, and I was cornered in my cave and with only ragged old defensive magics on. I don’t usually need any defenses to speak of: I haven’t fought a duel since that one with Jyothky four years ago.”
“What was that about?” asked Nrararn. “Over me, I hope!”
“Over whether we’d eat the liver raw, like Arilash wanted, or grill it with hot spices and zangrel wine, like I wanted. She won. I was fighting badly ‘cause I was hungry,” I said. Which is to say that even a near-pacifist like Arilash needs to fight at times, the way a cat needs to hunt, or a hoven needs company.