«Very well. You may participate on the expedition,» I said.
«Please let me! I’m not a great warrior, but my fire breath is very good. And I know a lot of information magic. Analysis spells mostly, not the big things that Ythac had, but analysis could be useful couldn’t it?»
“Well, as queen, all honors and graces are yours to own and to command,” said Gyovanth, which must have stunk to his veriception. “Roroku has neglected to achieve royalty, and, accordingly, has neglected to achieve much by way of honor or grace. I can’t imagine how she could get more of either one. But she can always get less. Running away from a simple social occasion is an imposing, towering, monumental act of cowardice.”
«That’s useful! You can go!»
«I’ll be a good companion, I promise. I’ll pull my own weight and then some. I’ll stand guard, I’ll scout into danger, I’ll work very hard.»
«You shouldn’t have to be more than anyone else who is going.»
«I will though. If a god comes I’ll hurl myself at it. I won’t eat much, and I’ll go hunting every day, and twine if they want. Please, please, Jyothky, by our ancient friendship if that still means anything to you, change your mind and let me come!»
“Perhaps she simply doesn’t like it. I can imagine the royal court of Chiriact being an unpleasant place. The king and queen seem like truly caustic people, from everything that their son Csirnis has said. He might be biased of course.”
“What, how could it be unpleasant? It is in the very Topaz Palace itself! The walls are purest citrine! During the day the sun pours through them, turning everything within into luminous gold. At night seven dragons of the lowest rank who have light-breath provide the same effect, at considerably greater expense and much more labor! It is simply glorious!”
«Um, Roroku? I’ve been saying yes-you-can-come all along.»
«Oh, you have? I’m sorry, I was so nervous and upset that I didn’t quite read it right! I have been dreading this for days and days, and now you said yes! Thank you!» And on and on with thanks.
“But perhaps it is more beautiful without any dragons in it.”
“Oh, we are beautiful within it! You cannot imagine it, how a half-gross of the dragons of Chiriact appear, dancing and flying together inside of the great golden caverns!” said Gyovanth. “But Roroku dreads the sight!”
“Actually, Roroku is braver than you give her credit for. Perhaps the relevant emotion is not fear. It might be repugnance,” I said.
“No, no, cowardly little Roroku is definitely afraid.”
“Roroku, I am sponsoring an expedition to seek new worlds. It is tremendously dangerous. Quel Quen speaks of the terrible fates many of his companions by the horrors that dwell beyond the mild and milky worlds we choose to rule. I have an opening for an analysis-mage, which, I am given to understand, is your magical specialty. What do you say?”
Roroku raised her head up and said in a clear bright voice, “I say, ‘When do we depart?’”
“Four months or so,” I told her. I grinned at Gyovanth. “Prima facie evidence that she is not a coward, and, thus, it is not fear which leads her to shun the Topaz Palace at dance-time.”
Gyovanth’s head swayed back and forth between Roroku and me. “This is an unusual and uncharacteristic occurrence. Unless, of course, Roroku is attempting to run away yet again.”
“No, she’s simply trying to prove herself — or, more exactly, displaying the reaction to actual serious danger that I expect from her.” Which he didn’t particularly believe.
The audience was over except for politeness, which wasted several more minutes.