«Jyothky, are you there and have you a moment to speak with me?» asked Roroku.
«I am here, in the sense of wearing the venstroma. I am also here in the sense of curled up with my husband, resting my chin on his sleeping shoulder, kept awake by thunder. It could scarcely be a better time to speak with you.»
«You have such a gentle husband,» she wrote.
«He’s a fierce as a thunderstorm in a fury!» I answered, because “gentle” is not generally a good thing to say about a dragon, and because Nrararn’s collected and annoying thunderstorms were rather what I was thinking of.
«I mean, he’s gentle with you,» said Roroku.
«That’s true enough,» I said. «He sometimes has a bit of trouble keeping up with me.» Which sounds like sexual boasting if you look at it the right way, and hence, is a normal and polite way for one adult dragoness to speak to another. I don’t specifically know what it means in my case. Perhaps it’s literally true: when I’m wearing a speedy-flight spell and Nrararn isn’t, he can’t keep up with me. Or perhaps I’m admitting that I have too many projects and tend to call Nrararn in to help me at the most awkward times.
Roroku was not, however, seeking polite conversation. «I shouldn’t be complaining about Gyovanth. He’s a noble from Chiriact after all.»
«Well, Tarcuna has persuaded me that the right to complain is one of the most fundamental rights of all living things, and you’re welcome to say anything ill about Chiriact nobility to me. I won’t be offended.» Due to a minor political spat with Chiriact last week over contaminated whiskey (their point of view) or intentionally phenolated whiskey because hovens like it that way and dragons can drink it but chirs shouldn’t (our point of view).
«I mustn’t complain about my husband,» wrote Roroku. «I didn’t write to you for that.»
«Oh, I can start!» I answered immediately, because I am an utter idiot and thought she wanted permission from her social superior to complain, which me complaining would be. «He has a thunderstorm collection. We live in a cave complex some of the time, and he keeps thunderstorms in it. They go crashing and booming at all hours, and the thunder echoes all around, and it’s terrible for sleeping. Crazy sky wizard husband!»
«You’ve gone exploring in disguise, haven’t you?» she wrote.
«Not from Nrararn!» I answered. «He’d recognize me in any shape.» (As would any dragon. The astral parts of me don’t change shape with my material body.) «I’ve gone exploring with Nrararn once. Well, it was more undercover political espionage than exploring per se. That was a long time ago, during the conquest.»
«That’s what I mean. Going into a strange world in disguise and learning things,» she said. «I don’t know how to do it at all. What kind of training did you have?»
«Oh! Osoth has you doing scouting?»
«Jaraswat. I think he wants me to fail and to ruin Kyspert. Everyone hates me in the expedition anyways, I’m the least useful dragon here, and they just want an excuse to kick me out,» wrote Roroku.
Dragons do not ordinarily talk like that, so I finally realized that this was not a casual conversation. «That’s not actually true. Osoth and Tultamaan aren’t that happy with you from duodecades ago, but they have both said that your recent work is making up for it. They don’t like you but they don’t hate you either and generally consider you to be paying your debt to them. Itharieth and Evrath like you, for two. The only dragon I talk to regularly who has spoken poorly of you is Vaareng, and that’s more about him resenting married couples than anything actually about you; it was always HyxyandNgassithandRorokuandGyovanth, one word, and now it’s RorokuandGyovanth.» What the two-thirds of the dragons I am on less chatty terms with think of her is a mystery to me.
«Jaraswat hates me.»
«Jaraswat is not my confidant. I think he hates me too.»
«He’s my leader though,» wrote Roroku. «He wants me to go scouting, in disguise, and fail and ruin everything.»
«I rather he doubts he wants everything ruined. That would claw up his honor at least as much as yours,» I answered. «But I had a great deal of fun when I went scouting in disguise. Especially the time I did it alone, before we started conquering Hove. None of the hovens really believed in dragons then, so I barely had to work at it. I learned all sorts of important things —» (mostly by accident) «— and had a wonderful time at it, too.»
«Really? How did you do it?»
So I told her a bit, and eventually just transcribed that section of my diary for her. It is not the story of a brilliant and intrepid explorer. It is the story of a naïve, self-centered, and dragon-centered little girl who is just starting to get get the first little bit wiser. (She still ought to get a great deal wiser, as of the time of writing this book, but let us leave that embarrassing and shameful point aside.) She laughed at it here and there, like the time I hired a prostitute instead of a tour guide and didn’t notice for an hour, and never used her professional services at all. It is this sort of insightful wisdom and efficient economy that makes me suitable to be Queen of Hove.
«So if you don’t get written up in the Kyspian newspapers as having devoured a woman on the city street, and don’t leave the city with the Kyspian equivalent of war-planes chasing you, you’ll be doing better than I was. And Jaraswat had better not complain,» I concluded. «I think you can manage that.»
«Oh, thank you,» she wrote.
«Honestly if you just stay in kysp shape and don’t talk about the dragons lurking outside the universe, they might think you’re a stupid, confused, amnesiac kysp, but you won’t ruin the exploration,» I said.
«I can do that!» Which was the first non-morose thing I had seen her write in hours.
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