Osoth adjusted the grayness of his scales down by seven places. (His scales aren’t actually gray, they’re lavender with blue highlights. He turns them gray because colors are inappropriate to his mystique as a necromancer.) “There are many mysteries that fill the cosmos. I probe them in a certain tight bundle of directions, that of the past and the darker realms. Soon I shall probe their breadth as well as their depth. This we have agreed upon.”
”... yes?” I said. He had cornered me outside of a movie theatre in Tardalium. (There’s no reason you should have heard of Tardalium, or that you ever will again, but they have an outdoor movie theatre there that I can fit in without shapechanging, and it was playing Waze and the Lawyers, which Tarcuna had been trying to get me to see for duodecades.)
“One of these mysteries is particularly mysterious to me at the moment. Rather, it is a bundle of mysteries, closely entangled and entwined, rather like the bones of a parndoign which have been soaked in acid and then, unaccountably, braided.” Osoth smelled quite upset.
“Since you are talking to me about it, perhaps I could be the one to explain,” I said.
“Perhaps, indeed, though I have grave doubts about whether any explanation could possibly be sufficient. First, who is the leader of the exploring party: me, or you? I fully grant your right to appoint the leader, mind you; I do not dispute it. But I should like to know.”
“You are, Osoth. I’m not even allowed to go.”
“I suspected as much,” he said, tail swishing. Movie-going hovens scattered. “Second, who is granted the final voice in the selection of the participants in the expedition? The leader, or anyone else?”
”… that would be the leader,” I said. I realized what I had done, and flattened my ears and prepared apologies.
“I accept your apologies, albeit tendered through your ears and not yet through your mouth, under certain conditions, such as that it never happen again. But I have a third question. Why Roroku? There are many, many astral dragons: perhaps a gross of grands, if we have been prodigiously reproductive, spread across a gross of worlds. Of these, I would have chosen Roroku precisely last.”
“She’s not nearly as bad as Gyovanth seems to think,” I said.
“I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Gyovanth. But I have had the pleasure of meeting Roroku. She was to be on my mating flight, you see. But at the last minute, she chose to leave it for a mating flight on Chiriact. Her reasons and method of departure were not particularly flattering to the drakes of her flight, one of whom I happen to be. And one of whom Tultamaan happens to be as well, though he has not lately expressed his opinion of her to me.”
Oh. Right. I’m not the only one who she insulted.
“I will not deny her admission to the exploring party,” said Osoth. “It would be inappropriate and unfortunate if you and I appeared to be of different minds about how it will go, who will be on it, or any other essential facts. As a good means of ensuring that you and I do not, in fact, disagree, may I recommend that you do me the honor of discussing them with me before you simply decide them? Especially in cases, such as that of Roroku, about whom I might have some opinion.”
It seemed like a good time for a total surrender, on the theory that it is a royal prerogative to be allowed to fix your mistakes when you do something awful and didn’t intend to. “Osoth, I will do so. I was utterly in the wrong this time. I did not stop think that you and Tultamaan are at least as badly insulted as I was by her departure from our flight. I should not and will not again tell you what to do about the expedition. I will suggest things, but my suggestions will truly be suggestions and not royal commands. I will tell Roroku that I did not have the authority to make her the offer.”
Osoth curled his tail. “I continue to accept leadership of the expedition upon these terms. I do not require that you change your mind: that is unnecessary. If Roroku wishes to prove her courage and doughtiness and honor, I will be the first person in all universes to say that she needs it. And I will be glad to provide her with plentiful opportunities. Jyothky, do not look so horrified! I will stop short of actually murdering her! I have no plans more evil or vengeful than to assign her the most noxious chores. If I could not be a decent leader to her, I would reject her. She will be as safe as the rest of us.”
I apologized at him some more anyways, and eventually went to see the movie. Tarcuna was right about it.