Another Useless World
Uq-daq was our biggest disappointment. It could have been a nice useful world if things had come out just a tiny bit different.
The minikin, or rather Itharieth scrying on the minikin, thought everything looked like a good place. It obviously had life! Tall frondy plant life, short shrubby plant life, long viney plant life growing strings of bright purple berries! Long-necked hexapods browsing on the tender upper fronds! Tiny buzzing insects zooming around the shrubs! Long-snouted hexapods stepping delicately around and slurping bright purple berries with their long snouts! All to be seen from the portal, which the minikin was not sent through, because Gimuse was there and she was eager!
The second scout, Gimuse, was delighted. She danced through the groves and through the tall frondy plants. She giggled when a pack of small vicious biting hexapods attempted to smallly and viciously bite her, and couldn’t. (Being able to move through solid things never grows old, though being unable to touch Mr. Norb does.) She hypothesized anatomical details and evolutionary connections between the various kinds of hexapods. She described the internals of a half-eaten berry to Itharieth and Psajathrion, and the three of them deduced intricacies of its life cycle that were beautiful and wonderful and might even have been true.
Then Nrusco, who had drawn the lucky lot to visit this world first, flew along the cyclone path. He bounded eagerly through the cyclone’s door …
And he whirled and bounded back, howling with seven parts of fury to one part of pain. The atmosphere of Uq-daq is not made of air. It is made of four vapors, one of which is hydrogen, and the other three are quite reactive exotic chemicals that only exist in worlds, like Uq-daq, have an extra variation on what an atom can be made from. This last feature wouldn’t be too terrible by itself — Spendularé has something similar, and one must simply take care not to remove treasures from Spendularé that can only exist on Spendularé. But the atmosphere of Uq-Daq is quite cold. The seas are liquid methane, and the bones of the animals are made of water ice.
Hence the name Uq-daq, which, if you add in the right accents and finish out the words, loosely means “Let it be penetrated intimately by a freeze-dried sea urchin seasoned with chili peppers.”
The drakes got into a number of fights that night, out of frustration. Not just the drakes: Rhosmanthus’s left hindwing needed a great deal of Psajathrion’s labors after Hyxy got through with it.
Gyovanth had opinions as well. “You won’t be winning any great approval for this failure, my darling wife.”
Roroku glared at him, just a bit. “Why are you saying that?”
“How do we tell what a world is made of without visiting? Analysis spells. What is your specialty, Roroku? Analysis spells. Where were you when analysis spells were needed? Far away from where they were needed!”
Roroku mewled, “Gyovanth, you know that Jaraswat had set me to analyzing the soil and stone of Narethy, looking for subtle poisons.”
Gyovanth coiled himself on a rock that he had melted to comfortableness weeks ago. “Roroku. Jaraswat is a scoundrel, a boastard, a cur-twunk! He seeks to expand his own importance. Does he set you to important tasks, like a noble leader? No, he does not! Does he set you to useless little things that keep you out of the way, like a skunkserie, a loutishman, a twidge-flebber? Yes, he does that! You must defy him, you must defeat him, you must defang him!”
Roroku crouched into a tight knot. “I cannot do that. He is the chief scientist, he assigns me duties.”
“Roroku!” roared Gyovanth in a rage. “You are a noblewoman of Chiriact. You must act like a noblewoman of Chiriact. I will not tolerate this stupid and petty little obedience to him! There is just a single dragon whom you must obey and worship on this expedition, and that is me! Jaraswat is a cheatist and a skank-deceit! Ignore him! Tultamaan is a spider-speaker and a gomowreck! Ignore him! Osoth is a velvet-tongued feeblement! Ignore him! Ignore them all!”
“What am I to do? Creep into the hangar with the hhejŝṧhyant and cast spells on the minikin beside Itharieth?”
Gyovanth slashed his claws at her unmoving face, missing by inches. (Hence, missing intentionally. Even I could hit her if she didn’t move, which she said she didn’t, and an expert warrior like Gyovanth would surely not miss.) “You! Must! Not! Creep! I see you creeping and skulking around camp, and you become loathy unto me so that my gorge rises and a furious sickness plies my limbs. Go forth boldly! When you enter a room, all must know: A great and mighty dragoness has come in here! Itharieth must give way before you! Jaraswat and Tultamaan and Osoth must give way before you! Be bold and triumphant for the sake of our family pride, if not for the sake of your own vermiculent honor!”
“Gyovanth, I cannot!” cried Roroku. She turned tail and fled. Gyovanth debated whether it was worth chasing her and dragging her back to camp, and must have decided that it was not, for he let her go.