“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?”
“The price you must pay to use it is that you, Queen of Hove, shall become the servant of your friends. The friend in the red world shall urgently need to tell a thing to the friend in the violet world. The easiest way is for you to speak to red, and to speak to violet.”
I thought about that a moment. “Of course I’ll be running messages for my friends. Why wouldn’t I?”
“Not dragon-queen of Graulfnir, not the dragon-queen of Mhel, not the dragon-queen of Hasqueth would do chores for the guards they have hired,” said Lliashatheny.
“I suppose those queens have more adventurous lives than I do,” I said.
“Or fewer friends? The third price is the price for having owned the venstroma. The disasters and woes will befall your friends. Not all of them will you be able to save. Not always will you be writing to the one who needs to hear your words, or to send your words elsewhere. Not always will your words suffice to forestall the doom, even if you were wiser than any astral dragon. The forever sorrow will you have, when you fail to do that which you might have done. The loss of your friends, you will take upon yourself as your responsibility.”
“That sounds terrible.” I peered at him. “Will I be able to save any of my friends from whatever dangers they face?”
“Not any idea have I about that!” said Lliashatheny.
“A limited sort of prophecy you’re giving me, then,” I said. “Actually, it doesn’t sound like a prophecy at all, just a statement of what I ought to expect in the normal course of events. The exploration will be dangerous, I can’t talk to everyone all the time, dragons don’t always take advice. Is there some special mystical curse on the venstroma, or are you just pointing out my limitations?”
Lliashatheny grinned, a huge grin with too many too-short teeth. “The curse-work and the price-work are easier when there is no actual need to enforce them.”
(Which is Ambiguous Draconic for ‘Quite likely just pointing out your limitations, but you won’t be getting any clearer answer than that.’ Annoying lizards, each and every one of
them us. For what it’s worth, I had some good wizards look at the venstroma, and they couldn’t see anything on it that enforced any curses. But of course the curses came true anyhow.)
“How long will the venstroma take to make? I brought a cow stuffed with onions and cheese and rabbits and livers and rice and spices and other spices and things. I’d be happy to share that, if the crafting will take past dinnertime,” I said.
“The crafting is done already, but, by all means, stay for dinner!” said Lliashatheny. So I did, and overnight, in fact. No adultery was suggested or performed, just eating, and conversation, and eating. Lliashatheny has spices from nearly all the dragon-worlds, and we made a huge pot of cream sauce, and tasted the twenty-six putative hottest peppers from twenty-one worlds, sauced up.
The next morning, Lliashatheny sent me off, and told me that I could come back if I had more business with it, or for no reason at all, and that I should send Csirnis and Quel Quen to visit again. Which I did, though I don’t know if they went.