If I have a personal enemy from my childhood on Mhel, it should by rights be Roroku. Roroku was officially part of my mating flight, and, being a doughty dragoness with ferocious fire breath and incisive magic, she was expected to be first. (Arilash would have been second.) But she quit the flight before it started, trading to a mating flight on Chiriact. She traded herself for a drake: an easy trade since there are so many more drakes than dragonesses, and one that was greatly in Chiriact’s favor by the usual calculus. The drake turned out to be Csirnis, the beautiful but honor-crazed former crown prince of Chiriact.
And so it was that Roroku married Gyovanth, a great nobledrake of Chiriact, as beautiful and elegant as ever a drake was. His eyes like twin sapphires, his horns like crescent moons, his crest like gleaming silver, his scales like silver diamonds, his claws like scimitars of ice. He does not walk or fly the way ordinary dragons do; every motion is a dance of elegance.
Roroku is a dull green hulk.
This is nothing strange for females. Arilash is a dull tan hulk. I am a dull black hulk, or maybe a mini-hulk, for I am not very big. Hyxy is a dull reddish-brown mini-hulk. Dragonesses are very plain. We compete in many ways, because we are dragons, but we do not compete on the basis of beauty. We are rather like, say, cardinalesses or pea-hens to cardinals or peacocks. The boys want us — oh, how they want us! — but they do not particularly want to look at us. In this matter us girls are far superior. We want the boys just as much as they want us, but we do enjoy looking at them.
(Exceptions include: me, I don’t want anyone (though I do like looking at boys); urnings, who want other drakes (and presumably also like looking at boys). Hove is all about the exceptions so I have to keep mentioning them.)
I received them in the Banners-Far-Above-The-River Potato Shipping Warehouse And Royal Diplomatic Palace, which had been repaired slightly since the last meeting there. Someone, perhaps Tarcuna, had bought a quantity of incense, and let it smoulder on a heavy bronze brazier, and the scent of burning resins and heated metal compensated for the potatoes.
Rather, I sat comfortably against one wall (or maybe uncomfortably — I have, more than once, sat with my claws digging into my tail, and no clue of that until I smelled my own blood. Not this time though) and waited for them. I heard their wingbeats thudding through the air, the worried whispers of dangersense explaining that there were two powerful beasts coming, each rather stronger than me, the heavy thumps as they landed. And the whispering.
“I’m sure she hates me!” Roroku’s voice was dark and rougher than usual.
“What could possibly induce her to hate you?” jeered Gyovanth. “You fought her and defeated her constantly throughout your childhood, and then ruined her coming-of-age party by announcing that you didn’t think enough of her as a rival to find her a worthy opponent in a mating flight. Of course she hates you. Did you expect to earn back your honor by going to friendly wine-lapping afternoon garden parties with delicate little lizards whom you could crush with a stray footstep?”
“She’ll just send me away,” said Roroku. “If she doesn’t have me chivvied and hunted off of Hove altogether. We should just leave.”
Gyovanth snorted. “You are such a little coward! Suppose she does send you off? Then you are merely six minutes behind where you would have been if you turn tail and flee right now. Suppose she breathes on you? You have the Ulthana’s Targe set about you. You may take that as a dismissal if you must, though if you were to think for a moment that you might ever be respected in the courts of Chiriact, you would stand your ground at least to the second breath. Suppose, by all the hypothetical hapacious hells, she were to insult you? Why, I suppose you might die from the shame of it. You’re so shame-ridden as it is I can’t see how you ever get off your bed, or even live.”
(I had heard that Roroku and Gyovanth had made a scene like this around the corners of my wedding, but I was too busy getting married, defying the King of Mhel, and otherwise being ridiculous myself, to notice. So it wasn’t wholly unexpected, though I was sorry it hadn’t gotten any better.)
So I blundered up and trotted to the doorway, and chirped, “Roroku! Welcome to Hove! I am ever so glad to see you!” and, with a measuredly less excited voice, “And you too of course, Gyovanth.”
Gyovanth immediately performed an elaborate Chiriactian curtsey, as is due to royalty but not very often actually done to royalty, at least not on Hove. Csirnis used to do that and make my heart flutter and my claspers spread. Gyovanth is as beautiful in body as Csirnis, but far less flutter-and-spread-inducing of character.
Roroku stared at me and squeaked incoherently.
I trotted over and bunted my head against hers. “I was furious with you for a few weeks, but that was years ago. Don’t run off from any of my mating flights again, and you shall stay forgiven as far as I’m concerned.”