I stared into Lliashatheny’s numinous home. Images came to me, each one explaining how it would grant my wishes. A globe of crystal, heavy with tradition, would let me scry between universes. But I cannot be all the time scrying on my friends, even if they don’t block it, so I waved it on. A massive book bound with golden chains would record each incident. Tempting, but it was brusque and ambiguous, and I want the delicious details to the point of making them up if they are not forthcoming. The venstroma, a set of seven nyxyliths and a nyxylith brooch, which allow me to write to them and them to me in the manner of the Horizonal Quill. I grinned, for I am well used to the Horizonal Quill and its ways.
Which meant that I had to go to Chiriact to buy suitable nyxyliths and have one made up into a brooch. And another cross-world shopping trip for the rest of the price: furs of the silver rat, the pear of the northernmost pear-tree in Aricien, so many perfect diamonds. The furs were the hardest to get, since I had to kill the rats without damaging their pelts.
I can’t really justify telling this story in any more detail: this book is only about me to the extent that I am an associate of the Hoven Royal Exploring Company. But the shopping-and-hunting trip was the most fun I’ve had in years.
I stood before the dwarf’s inverted bowl, carrying treasures and a pear. “O Lliashatheny, I beg your indulgence and your attention. I come bearing ingredients for one of your wonderful workings.”
Lliashatheny became next to me: a definite flicker of magic of some kind, but too fast for me to see, followed by a definitely ugly definitely dwarf dragon, flat-eyed and without wings. “The you would be number six hundred and forty-three in the grand roll of those who have done so. And what do you wish me to do?”
I held out the ruby bowl. Lliashatheny peered at it, rather than snatching it as a polite dragon would have done. “And what is that? Not any proper component of any of my offerings is it.”
“It’s a tribute for you. I am coming to your territory and asking you to work. There’s no reason not for me to be polite and treat you like any other dragon I am imposing upon. Besides, you’re not the only dragon or dragonish person who makes things.”
Lliashatheny took the bowl from me, and sniffed at it with its forked green tongue. “And did you make this yourself?”
I allowed as how I had a team of small-people engineers and artists, and that my own role was more by way of Patron, and of Sub-Engineer In Charge Of Magical Reinforcements.
Lliashatheny chuckled. “Not enchanted is it, and I suspect not enchantable is it either. Not a bit of competition exists between the two of us. The praise will I make for it then —” and it spoke well of the curves, and how they made the flaw in the ruby shape into a virtue of beauty. It clearly appreciated artistry as much as any true dragon! “The artists you hire are good artists, albeit challenged by this material.”
Hideously rude by dragon terms, to praise something given in tribute. I don’t know why it’s rude though. Something unpleasant having to do with the host’s pride, I’m sure.
I smiled, and chatted about various artists who work in ridiculous media. When we came to the mhelvul poet who composed original works and wrote them once, in invisibly-small letters on flecks of mica, it was clearly time to come to business.
“I’m the sponsor of an exploring party, including lots of friends of mine, and I’d like to be able to chat with the explorers no matter what world they’re on,” I said. “So I’d like to buy a venstroma, or the venstroma, or however it’s articulated.”
Lliashatheny nodded its hideous head. “The nyxyliths are needed, and certain other things. And did you say you had brought them all?”
“If I didn’t, I misunderstood something on the list,” I said, and dumped my price on the carpet. We were indoors inside Lliashatheny’s peculiar dome, by now.
“The things you have brought are the preliminary price, the price for me to make for you the venstroma,” said Lliashatheny. “The other prices are two: a price to use it, and a price to have owned it.”
“The wall didn’t mention those. What are they, and are they to be paid now, or later?”