“But we wish to make one further request of you,” added Ngassith.
“We do?” asked Hyxy, blinking at her mate.
“We wish that you exile us from Hove for a period of a few years,” said Ngassith.
“We do?” asked Hyxy, spreading her wings in alarm.
“Do you want a vacation?” I asked. “You can travel without being exiled. You are not being bound to your new territory, forbidden to leave it. You can go where you will, as long as you don’t murder anyone.”
“We would like to join your exploring company. This will serve you well. You get to add another aspect to our punishment when you explain it to hovens. We have useful skills: I am a treasure-mage, and Hyxy is a mighty warrior. For our purposes it works well too. It eases the loss of one territory if we are away when it happens. There may well be battles in the wilds between worlds, giving Hyxy a chance to exercise and satisfy her violent side. Any dishonor attendant on losing territory and requiring a royal reprimand will be forgotten in the aftermath of the exploring company. So you see that it is a matter of your royal mercy, and not a thing that we demand by right.”
Hyxy’s eyes were glowing. “I didn’t think you were going to ask for it!”
“I have no immediate answer for you. I certainly do not deny your petition, but neither do I approve it. I must consult the leaders of the exploring party. There are certain considerations to be considered. Will it be troublesome to have a dragoness around, in a party consisting largely of bachelor drakes, on an adventure which somewhat resembles a mating flight in purpose if not precisely in character?”
“I won’t be twining with anyone but Ngassith,” said Hyxy.
“Of course not,” I said. “Which is another issue — can Hove afford to lose its one and only non-adulterous married couple?” Which is not true, but worth laughter.
Rather later, and in the middle of a long discussion of practicalities and participants, Osoth said, “Fourteenth. Hyxy and Ngassith. A strange and squamous sort of acceptance.”
“What do you mean by that?” I asked.
“I mean that they can come if they behave themselves in a specific way,” said Osoth. “No massacres of small people when we don’t need it. No public copulation. I would not deny that the expedition shares certain aspects of a mating flight, but the already-mated dragons and the determinedly-celibate dragons should not participate in those aspects. Hyxy and Ngassith can twine all they like, but they should not pennant their triumphant dragoness-and-drake-ness in the sky above the rest of us.”
I scratched notes in my seventh wax tablet. “I will see if they can accept those terms.”