This is probably time for a lesson in creative truth-telling. Since veriception is a primary sense, as intense as sight or scent, we do not lie to each other very much. Oh, we all wear veriception-blocking spells, so we could in principle lie to each other all we like, especially the little convenient social lies like I’m so very sorry that your child didn’t survive when what is actually meant is I wish to console you for the death of your child, though, as most children die during that procedure and he wasn’t my child, I didn’t actually meet him and, being a less than wholly empathic monster, I don’t care about him as an individual. I do however care about you, and you have my sympathy. One does not want to forever be trying to negotiate such truths, especially when one’s friends have just lost a child.
But the ordinary veriception blocks do not cut off the sensation of one’s own lies. That convenient social lie is the vericeptive equivalent of belching after a meal of fermented sausages: however delicious they were the first time, they are a bit noxious the second. Bigger and wickeder lies are correspondingly nastier to perceive. One rarely sniffs one’s feces closely, not because there is a moral or honorable issue with doing so, but because it is unpleasant. One rarely tells a lie, not because there is a moral or honorable issue with doing so, but because it is unpleasant.
So one gets creative with the truth. I said “I was furious with you for a few weeks, but that was years ago.” Every bit of that was true. The implication is that I am not furious with her now. And that implication is largely true too: often two or three years will go by before I remember her betrayal, and even then I will snarl once or twice and go on enduring and/or enjoying the aftermath of the betrayal, rather than raging. But I could just as easily have just as truthfully and non-disgustingly meant that I was still just as angry with her now, but with occasional breaks in the rage.
Remember that if you’re ever having an intimate personal conversation with an astral dragon, and you’re not one.
Roroku took my words at face value. Maybe not all of them, but certainly the ones that said that she was forgiven if she didn’t do it again. “Oh, I’m glad to hear that, Jyothky. It was very ill-done of me. I’ve regretted it a grand of times since then.”
“And not you alone,” said Gyovanth.
“Ah, Gyovanth of Chiriact — Duke-spawn Gyovanth, am I correct on your title?” Of course I was correct on his title; I had looked it up and confirmed it. I was being just as insulting as he was. In ordinary casual speech, one freely bestows the high title of “prince” on everyone closely related to the king, and nobody would have bitten anybody if I had called Gyovanth “prince”. If one were being precise, which nearly never happens, Gyovanth’s parents would be duchess and duke. (Grand Draconic doesn’t even have the word “duke”; we stole it from some small people.) Nobody would bite anybody if Gyovanth were called a duke either. But I gave him his proper and technically correct title, rather than either of the higher ones he usually uses.
I grinned Roroku too.“And Duchess-spawn Roroku, on both sides! Does that make you a whole duchess? I think it might!” Titles are fairly cheap, for dragons. Every married couple rules at least a province and could reasonably be called countess and count, or whatever your system of titles puts one rank below duchess and duke. Roroku’s parents, like Ythac’s, were reasonably important.
(But the real point was to jab an etiquettical claw into Gyovanth’s eye. I didn’t much like him. And giving the wife he obviously despised a higher title than him, even in jest, was an insult of sorts, though one that he could not actually take offense at without looking ridiculous. )
(This is the sort of combat I’ve been learning lately, rather than anything worthwhile. I couldn’t attach myself to the exploring company — which, in retrospect, was probably fortunate for me — but I ought to do something that’s not at court at some point.)
“Queen Jyothky! My wife speaks intensely of you from time to time!” he said. (I would translate that into clear speech, but I do not actually know what, if anything, he meant by it. I presume he was insulting me back just as obliquely.)
(Now you know how to understand court messages — as well as I do, anyhow — so there’s no point in translating them further, unless it’s fun.)
Roroku leaned over and bunted her head against mine, as if to say that her intense speech was not to be thought of as offensive. A friendly gesture, perhaps a bit childish and informal for the circumstances. But she cast a chat-secretly spell when she touched me. «I’m so sorry to talk this way, Jyothky, but I need to say a few things without Gyovanth hearing, and I don’t know how to pry him off my tail.» When one is the subject of that spell, one sees one’s correspondant’s letters in one’s mind, written however one thinks of the person. I seem to think of Roroku as a child, claw-scratching her words in big shaky letter in a wax tablet.
This made for two conversations at once, which is always challenging. One was a spoken, three-way conversation with courtly multiple meanings, and the other a quiet intimate one. This sort of situation would be much easier if I had multiple heads, but, unfortunately, that’s not easy to endure for any great length of time.