Psajathrion flattened his ears and closed his mouth tight in a respectful denial. “A mystery remains, Itharieth. How did the toxic metals come to be present in the sick goat? Were it the Goat King, heir to a massive empire, living in a court full of intrigue, I should expect foul play by one prospective heir. I could be wrong, but these goats seem to be not so rich, and not so organized. Also several of them were poisoned, not just one. Whence comes the poison?”
Itharieth made a prissy face. “I didn’t do it! You surely can’t suspect me! Besides I have an alibi! My co-conspirator, I mean secret lover, I mean cousin, was with me at the time! I shall now sing an aria about this fact!” This cast Itharieth as the villainess of a popular murder-opera. Psajathrion giggled, and Roroku smiled nervously.
“Not to squelch any aria that is to come, but let us cast about for other suspects. Plants and brooks may be poisoned — the very air may contain a fine dust of deadly metals!”
The three investigated with spells and senses. At length Itharieth sniffed at a rill, dipped his tongue-tip gingerly in its clear cool water, and called the others other. “By the Freglant’s eggplant, I do believe I have our culprit!”
The the Tongue of Kurila Dthiaspur was duly cast. The water bore traces of mercury, thralsnium, and lead — and gold and iridium as well.
“Well, isn’t that interesting,” said Itharieth. “Gold and iridium would pass through the goat, resulting in the most valuable goat-dung ever I have imagined. The others would stay in the goat and work their wicked ways there.”
“Nicely discovered, both of you!” said Psajathrion. “It would not be a good thing if our own herds or small people got to drinking from that particular rill. They would not fare better than the ninnygoats. How did the metals get into the water, though?”
“I have a question if you don’t mind,” asked Roroku. The others didn’t mind. “Is there more gold and iridium around here? Perhaps in a mineable veins?”
“Ho, the practical dragoness!” cried Itharieth. “Here we are, seeking to cure a plague among goats, and she comes up with the treasure!”
Gyovanth roared down on the wing, hissing in a passion. “What betrayal is this? This is my wife, not some lust-drunk drake for you to capture and pervert!”
Doctor and biologist peered at Gyovanth perplexedly. “You wife is an effective and observant scientist, sir, and has, if we are not mistaken, discovered a gold mine. I fail to see, sir, what this has to do with lust, capture, or perversion.”
Gyovanth circled over the two drakes. “You are flirting! You are flattering! You seek her claspers! But no! They are my possessions! You shall not have them!”
“Our discourse concerns goats and gold, sir,” snapped the doctor. “What sort of dragon gets from there to genitalia, I do not know and refuse to speculate upon.”
Gyovanth had to think for a moment to understand that. “What is this? You call me a goat-fucker? Who pays the goat?”
“You have been the only one to mention the concept, sir. If anyone has called you a goat-fucker, sir, it must therefore be you,” said Psajathrion icily. The drakes made sure of their defensive spells.
“And who would know better?” added Itharieth.
Gyovanth reared his head back and vomited forth a huge cloud of flame over the two of them. The drakes were predictably singed. Psajathrion hastily threw a wing over the sleeping goats, who survived.
“And what have you done with Roroku?” Gyovanth howled. The drakes looked about. Roroku had taken the insult-exchange as a time to slink off secretly, and she was nowhere to be found. (Two minutes later, she was in a small crevice in a cliff-wall, exchanging notes about goats with me by means of the venstroma — I had given her one of the nyxyliths.)
Gyovanth whirled off to seek his wife. The two drakes peered at each other, and shrugged. “Some days I regret doing so badly in my mating flight. Other days, in the company of such married couples as that, I take it a stroke of undeserved good fortune,” said Psajathrion.
“True indeed. Though Hyxy and Ngassith seem supremely happy in each other. I do not condemn the institution altogether,” mused Itharieth.
They chased down the afflicted goats, and healed them of the poisoning. And then they assaulted them with roaring and fear-spells until the goats fled the region of the poisoned rill, perhaps never to return. “Which seems entirely fair to them, given that they lead us to a gold mine,” said Itharieth. “Not that we’ll get to mine it.”
At the end of the day — a nominal concept on Hove — Osoth gathered all the sentient members of the expedition around a hill, and flew to the top to speak. He praised those who had done their duties well, and gently chided those who had not. He particularly singled out the treasure-finders. Itharieth and Psajathrion grinned. Roroku crouched and made herself as small as she could without actual shapeshifting, and covered her fresh bitemarks with her wings, hiding them until Gyovanth would let her heal them.