Four days later, a dozen cities of Cussa were aflame, their jewelry stores and treasuries emptied, their populations reduced by half or more. However ruined for colonization the world was before, it was twelve times as ruined now. The more bloodthirsty dragons, Hyxy and Vaareng and their ilk, were satiated. Every dragon who wanted an increment to the hoard had at least a nice pile of jewelry and gemstones and intricate art. (Ugly stuff — I saw a lot of it — but it is meant to be seen by echoes of sound, not by sight.)
Itharieth tried to get me to intervene. «This is mass murder! This is war, undeclared and unprovoked! This is pure slaughter for the sake of slaughter, by the Fyfrate’s pirate!»
«Yes, it is, Itharieth,» I wrote. «I rather wish your company-members were not doing it.»
«You are the sponsor! You can order it to cease!»
«I already spoke with Osoth and Tultamaan. We could not reasonably have prevented it: we have two dozen aggressive, unhappy, and bored drakes. Plus one Hyxy, who is more aggressive and bored than any three drakes. What we can do, what we have done, is limit their violence and viciousness to one world and a short period,» I wrote.
«Small consolation to grands upon grands of cushes, who are even now being slaughtered and robbed! It is one thing if we were conquering their world and battling until they surrender. But this — this is robbery and destruction for its own sake!» cried the biologist.
«Yes, exactly. Ššḁ and vriŕ.» Those being the Grand Draconic words for the urges to gather a hoard, and to do battle.
«Yes, but done in wicked ways, but the Krassil’s tassles! When ššḁ is upon me, I collect beetles and exotic trees! When vriŕ is upon me, I duel my friends! These things can be done properly! What they are doing is no better than eating small people to satisfy hunger, or raping them to satisfy lust!» Which are two other basic draconic drives, no more or less unusual than ššḁ and vriŕ.
«Which they may be doing too, for all I know,» I grumbled. «Here is a way to misinterpret the situation. As of a week ago, Cussa was about to be wrecked from end to end by a Quiet Lord’s world war. The Quiet Lord is now gone. As of a week from now, or a year from now, Cussa will be less wrecked than it would have been if we had not interfered. Now, this argument is specious! It will be far more wrecked than it would be if we had come in purely benevolently to kill the Quiet Lord and have done, and future generations of cush will dread and despise us.»
«You are working rather hard to come up with an ethical system which proclaims the Company to be merely partially evil,» Itharieth wrote.
«I am working rather hard to come up with a Rulership system which drives dragons to be merely partially evil,» I said. «One cannot simply order dragons about. At least, I can’t. One can attempt to limit and guide their — our — basic instincts, using them for better rather than worse purposes. So, on Hove we kill invading armies, which appeases vriŕ, and get paid for it, which appeases ššḁ. And behold! Mass military action on Hove is all but over. Nations are finding more subtle ways to fight each other, for hovens have their own version of ššḁ and vriŕ. But the vast massacres of the previous gross-years are gone, which is an improvement. For your own expedition: Osoth and I could hardly expect to be obeyed if we commanded two dozen dragons to be gentle. But if we allow a certain amount of rampaging, but limit it to a few days — it is the best situation we can achieve.»
«I am not entirely satisfied that you are exerting yourself to the fullest in this regard,» Itharieth snapped. «One might suspect you of taking a lax approach to massacres in order to not endanger your own reign.»
«I’m certainly taking a lax approach to borderline sedition! Actually, that’s a good proof of just how tight my talons are on the throat of Hoven dragons: you personally are willing to be just on the edge of insulting, and not even on your own behalf. I have to operate by persuading, bribing, arranging, compromising. I am, at least, doing so for the benefit of as many small people and dragons as I can. Or trying, at least, with some success.»
I don’t think he was entirely persuaded. I don’t think I was entirely persuaded either. Especially since he’s right, I am trying to extend my reign, or at least not get deposed this year or next. For one justification, if I am doing anything useful as queen, I wouldn’t be doing it if I wasn’t queen.
And for another thing, ššḁ. I’m not about to give up as big a treasure as a whole world. Getting myself to be a halfway ethical dragon seems to require as much persuading, bribing, arranging, and compromising as for anyone else.Support this project! Show that you’re reading it by exchanging notes with the characters, other readers, the writer, and occasional other entities at sythyry.livejournal.com. And/or buy Bard Bloom’s books on Amazon, especially Mating Flight and World in My Claws, the prequel to this story. Also: Glossary and Dramatis Personae.