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.
She flew around for an hour, and then quite shyly came to Itharieth as he grumbled with Psajathrion and Gimuse. “Um … hallo?”
“Oh, hallo, Roroku.”
“Am I intruding, am I bothering you?”
“We are quite bothered already, by our mistakes on Uq-daq. Half the drakes are blaming us for them, and we have been bitten and clawed.”
“Could I help with the scrying, could I send analysis spells on the minikin?” asked Roroku.
“That depends,” said Itharieth. “Do you have long-range analysis spells, such as cross between worlds?”
“No, they’re all very nearby.”
“Then I do not see how you could help,” said Psajathrion.
“I could go along the cyclone and cast from close. Or the minikin could collect a jar of air to bring to me,” said Roroku.
“The former would put you in a place that many dragons contend for, so I think we could not do it politically, by the Snatter’s bladder! The latter … Well, in this case, sending the minikin through the portal would have told us that our sort of life cannot live there. In other cases, knowing that the air has no oxygen would be a quite useful thing, or knowing that it is a third composed of carbon monoxide,” said Itharieth.
“Bringing back samples will delay the first dragon visiting, and that may not be politically practicable either,” said Psajathrion. “Impatient lot of lizards we are. You’d think that our protracted lifespans would give us patience, but I can go for years without seeing a dragon with more patience than a six-year-old small-person child.”
“So it’s fine with me,” said Itharieth. “Come to the cyclone-head next time we visit a world.”
“What are you doing here?” snapped Jaraswat, the next morning, at the cyclone head.
“I’m waiting to analyze air samples,” said Roroku.
“What you are actually doing is putting off a very important research project!” hissed Jaraswat, lashing his tail on the ground. “Why do you think I sent you to analyze the air and water of Narethy? The fruit and grain and animals of Narethy? The food that we are eating of Narethy?” He snapped his fangs a foot away from her muzzle. “Do you think I am assigning you make-work to keep you away from the cyclone and from new worlds?”
Roroku whined, ”… no …”
“Do you think I am playing favorites, and you have somehow incurred my hazzish, as the Chwonna Dserra idiom has it for ‘wicked and unjustified displeasure’?”
Roroku whined, ”… no …”
“No! Of course not! I am above such things!” roared Jaraswat. “You proved quite well in the Khamrou ranges of Hove that you are able to find environmental dangers! I am sending you to do that on Narethy! Could subtle infusions of deadly metals kill our flocks? You must find out! Could trace solutes poison our small people? You must find out! Could evil fumes corrode our records and ruin our supplies? You must find out! You have shown that you can do this thing — and this thing you must do!”
Roroku whined, ”… yes …” and flew off.
Jaraswat glared at Itharieth. “And you! Are you chief scientist, or am I?”
Itharieth shrugged. “You are.”
“Indeed! I am he who assigns scientific duties! You must not vnorv away at my role! I have a wide and massive understanding of the scientific problems that our expedition faces! You see only the matters of a biologist!”
Itharieth shrugged again. “As you wish.”
“Itharieth! I expect enthusiastic agreement when I give you orders!”
“I shall be more enthusiastic when I have not been so much bitten and clawed for mistakes of the sort that Roroku was offering to prevent,” said Itharieth.
Jaraswat bit Itharieth on the shoulder, which is not considered particularly rude by dragons, given how Itharieth had just defied him. “There! You have now been bitten for the opposite reason as well! You are in equilibrium! Return therefore to your duties with absolute vigor and vigilance!”
“My duties are currently, to wait until the minikin arrives,” said Itharieth, healing himself.
Jaraswat glared at him and hissed dangerously. Itharieth curled up and waited, until the day’s minikin died in a Boiling Stone world. Roroku’s analysis would not have helped anyhow, in that one.