Indeed, every scout and scientist had met a Knight at some point that day. Itharieth was the only one who had met children, and the only one who had any sort of extended conversation with them. Yarenton had had a conversation of a different sort, the kind that involves snatching up the knight in a massive forepaw, and getting stabbed by that épée. It was as substantial a wound as Itharieth had expected, and charged with some special virulence. Yarenton’s best healing spells had not quite repaired it. Psajathrion was able to heal it entirely, but with some distinct effort.
There was considerable consultation and discussion, which may be summarized thus:
The more aggressive dragons, including most of the guards, said in unison, “This is a challenge to our honor and our might! We shall meet it, we shall crunch it between our teeth, we shall defeat it!”
The more long-sighted dragons, including Tultamaan and most of the scholars, replied in unison, “This is a prize-world of the sort we could put into a book — if we don’t ruin it by macho heroics now!”
Osoth listened to everyone, and managed to approximately agree with them all. “While it is a prize-world, we cannot now put it into a book. We cannot give any sort of accurate measure of how powerfully defended the world is. Do you need four dragons to conquer it, or four grand? Let us investigate — let us honorably investigate! Let us send an ambassador to Vorav, to the Knights of the Crown and the other knights, and challenge them to a joust — a contest of might against might, with no stakes save glory, and nonfatal on both sides. If they agree, we shall learn what we need to know in the contest. If they fear us — we have learned much from their refusal.”
Tultamaan scowled, which is to say, Tultamaan did not leave off his perpetual scowl. “If they accept the challenge and lay a Dishonorable sort of Trap or Snare to try to destroy us, we shall Learn More Things. Or the Survivors shall, at any rate.”
Vaareng muttered to Driaith, “This is the sort of dragon who has been chosen to lead the military half of the expedition? Why, oh why, do we not have someone brave in charge? Or even a little lambkin, who would surely be a bolder leader than Tultamaan!”
“Or a tastier one at least!” said Driaith. “Not that I have tasted Tultamaan. He might benefit from a proper tasting, don’t you think, Vaareng?”
Vaareng flattened his ears at the suggestion. “I prefer to, well, ‘taste’, only the, well, ‘dragonesses’ who have won my respect.”
Driaith chuckled. “Some year, perhaps, you will be actually able to talk about the joy-style that you have gotten yourself into, and in that year I will be delighted to have a conversation with you. Until then I must content myself with making you blush, in public, and making you do other things, in private.”
Vaareng tried to pry his ears off the sides of his head. “So long as Tultamaan and Mirinxan do not join us in privacy, I am pleased.”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.