Tultamaan’s Charm and Charity
“I wish to involve Myself in this Adventuring company that you are causing to exist,” said Tultamaan. This was the third topic he mentioned while we were en route to Damma. The first topic was how we that reject the Dammese plea to have their tribute reduced from “the ‘not very much’ that conquered countries pay” to “the ‘rather less’ that countries that hired us to defend them” pay, which they ask for every year and which we need to deny so that breaking the pax draconis brings an actual punishment. He is right: a bit of mercy on hoven budgets this year could well grow into grands of hovens killed and grands of grands displaced and miserablized in a war a dozen years from now. The second topic was that we should build a monument making much easier the travel to and from Graulfnir, the first dragon-world. Graulfnir is old and powerful and quite full of itself, and will not pay much attention to a new frontier world like Hove — even leaving aside Hove’s reputation as a realm of perverts, weaklings, and wrong-wayzards, which is entirely deserved. But a certain association of influential perverts on Graulfnir might well be willing to build a travel monument there, if we fund it. It will not be cheap, but it will be worth it over the next grand-year. Tultamaan was right about that too.
Tultamaan is generally right, especially in matters of politics. This makes him one of my most valuable advisors, and entirely worth listening to. It doesn’t make him pleasant to listen to, because he is approximately the most annoying dragon on Hove, or possibly anywhere. I pay him largely in being willing to listen to him and take him seriously.
“What would you like to do with the exploring company?” I had to ask.
“I would like to go on it. I find that I have a reputation as a Weakling and a Coward. These are not particularly useful reputations for a Dragon of Much Importance to have. They do not contribute to the Respect which generally ought to be due from one dragon to another, especially when the other is a Dragon of Impressive Ancestry and High Stature. These reputations instead are the source of Amusing Snickerings among Lizards of Little Wit and Minimal Personal Deeds of their own. While I am sure that amusing such people is an entirely worthwhile professional career, it is not the professional career I am attempting to follow. It is that of a Clown. I do not think I would make a particularly good Clown, do you? While I could probably amuse an audience by making Pronouncements in my usual idiom, which they could mock for my Pomposity, I certainly could not Juggle. I believe that Juggling is essential.”
He certainly can’t juggle. His forelegs have been paralyzed since he was six, in the same sort of iatrogenic non-accident that cost me my sense of touch.
“But Tultamaan, you are a weakling and a coward,” I said. Tultamaan accepts no flattery or illusions, or not when he is having important conversations with the few dragons he trusts.
Tultamaan was not insulted. (Actually he was insulted, but he regards the entire cosmos as a personal insult directed at him, with his own body and personality the fang-tip of it.) “I cannot see why those Facts, albeit Indisputable and the cause of much Unfortunateness in my life, could possibly be relevant to the situation. Except, of course, that I shall use them to Great Advantage.”
“How is that?”
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