«Well, that was an odd little interlude,» Itharieth wrote to me, since of course a dragon queen has nothing better to do than to make small talk with far-flung biologists. (Which, in my case, is true about 11/12 of the time.)
A small and iridescent-furred and seven-eyed and quite fearless person manifested between two trees, in a quick flash of rearrangement magic and a quick yelp of dangersense. It was wearing armor that seemed to have been melted into shape from gemstones, and holding a gleaming épée.
Itharieth stopped writing at me, and turned to look at the newcomer.
“They do not fear you,” said the newcomer.
“They do not.” said Itharieth.
“They are innocent, and they do not know fear,” said the newcomer.
“I gave them no lessons in fear,” said Itharieth.
“I do not fear you either,” said the newcomer.
“Nor I you,” said Itharieth. “Indeed, I should be glad to converse with you about this world, which is a place of beauty and intricate construction.”
“I am not innocent, though,” said the newcomer in a cold voice, ignoring Itharieth’s suggestion. “I am skilled. In many things.”
“Very well,” said Itharieth, crouching and curling his tail over his forepaws, and peering enigmatically at the newcomer. Small people usually get to the point before the dragon is out of patience.
“I see the ghosts in your past, and in the past of your allies,” said the newcomer. “You have not offended our children — yet. But you plan to.”
“I have no such plans,” said Itharieth, which was true in a narrow personal interpretation. He says he had veriception blocks up in any case.
“You explore and study our world with the ultimate purpose of bringing here war and conquest,” said the newcomer.
“Know that war, though not conquest, already dwells here. Know that we are great in the arts of war, and that you shall find us no easy prey, no matter how mighty you may be,” said the newcomer. “Know that we, the knights of the Crown, will ally with the other Knights against you, and that you cannot stand against us.”
“Ah! Just the sort of information I was hoping to discover! Tell me more about these Knights, and I shall include in my report an estimate of your military prowess. If matters are as you say, my species may content itself with easier prey,” said Itharieth. He glanced at the castle, whose rubies and feathers were indeed beautiful.
The Knight of the Crown looked annoyed. He flourished his épée, and with a swift strike like mercury pouring, he stabbed a nearby boulder. The bright blade pierced the living stone deeply. “Matters are as I say. You shall not work your espionages upon me. Go hence now, in peace, and do not return in either peace or war.” He stepped between the trees and was gone.
«That was threatening and none too useful,» said Itharieth to me. «Still, let me see what sort of information I can collect.» He looked at the hole. The épée had been no longer than three or four feet, and not an inch thick, but the whole pierced the boulder’s nine and a half feet, and left a tunnel of not less than five inches.
«If it works the same upon dragon-flesh, it would be quite a substantial wound,» he wrote.
He finished up the day’s investigations, and returned to Base Camp with his story.
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