Roroku and Ro-Ro-Ku
«Kysps are very strange about getting married,» Roroku wrote.
«Oh, dear. What do they do about it?» I asked.
«Well. First of all there’s nothing like drakes and dragonesses. Kysps are cyclic hermaphrodites. That means they’re female for a few years, hermaphroditic for a year or so, male for a few years, and then neuter for a year or so, then back around to female. They don’t magically shapeshift their organs, like we would. They have both sets always, just one set is usually more active than the other.»
«I suppose they don’t get bored,» I answered after a bit of thought. I do get bored with sex, but that is because I am broken. Most people, dragons and small people, don’t seem to, even if they are confined to a single body-shape and even a single lover.
«I suppose not. So, marriages. They’re all arranged. The city elders look at an age-cohort — that’s all the kysps born in a certain span of time, like a year or two — and decide which pairs ought to get married. There’s all sorts of discussions and negotiations and calculations and conniptions about it.»
«I imagine so! I would have a great deal to say if I was being married up without getting a choice in the matter!» I said. Then I realized I had gotten married up with only a false choice in the matter: I was, approximately, allowed to pick my husband, but from a slate of it-should-have-been-six drakes that the king of Mhel arranged for me. I wasn’t allowed to, say, not marry, or to marry a dragoness, or such eccentric choices as to marry two drakes, or a small person, or a god, or something. I did what the king commanded in marriage, although defying him in every other way, and am happy enough about it, but — I had tried to be as conventional and obedient as possible, and if I hadn’t been in a mating flight stuffed with the romantic detritus of Mhel I would pretty much be in Roroku’s position.
«They do, they do. They pair up, oh, three-quarters of the kysp adolescents that way. The rest they try to marry off in other cities, which usually doesn’t work as well. Anyhow, my hosts Dze-Ts-Kwy and Ka-twu-thu are married. Or engaged, they say, since the marriage goes in five steps and they’re on step one. Step four happens when one gets pregnant, and step five when their first child is born.»
I had to admit, «That seems … well, like a highly organized system that I can’t think of anything witty to say about yet. I’m sure I’ll come up with something by morning.»
«Jyothky, they like each other.»
«Who likes each other? Your married hosts?»
«Yes! They’ve only been married less than a year, they’re both still female, and they like each other!» wrote Roroku.
I uninsightfully wrote back, «I don’t see what’s remarkable there. Arilash says she likes all her lovers, drakes and dragonesses. She won’t twine with someone she doesn’t like, in fact. Unless it’s part of a bet or something.»
«Arilash is a whore on a permanent mating flight,» Roroku answered. Despite this being loosely correct, it was a bit insulting to poor Arilash. Evidently Roroku and Arilash had not made up. Or, more likely, they had never been friends, even when they were in the same social circle. And Arilash’s utterly lawless and reasonably successful grab for happiness contrasted nicely to Roroku’s reasonably lawful and utterly unsuccessful one.
«I withdraw the comparison to Arilash,» I said, to avoid that particular dispute. «You were exclaiming about newly-married kysps who like each other.»
«I didn’t like my husband Gyovanth when we got married. He’s an excellent husband, lands and titles and all, and a first-rate lover, but when we’re not twining he’s a bit harsh. Actually he’s a bit harsh even when we are. Did you know that the children of the aristocracy on Chiriact get training in love-making before their mating flights? Several years of it? That’s why they’re so good. They study.»
«Oh, that makes sense! Csirnis, who you must remember is Gyovanth’s cousin, was certainly extremely beautiful and graceful about it. The rest of us wondered if he had some sort of princely blessing that made him so good. At that and at nearly everything else,» I said.
«Csirnis has talent, but he and all his cousins have training, too. But I’m not talking about Csirnis. … Do you like your husband?»
«Nrararn is my constant support, my partner in all things, the final fertilizer of my eggs when we get to that, and so on and so on,» I said. «He is an excellent husband. He works at it constantly, you know: he didn’t expect to do well enough in our mating flight to marry at all, so he is always trying to prove himself worthy of it. Even if I don’t think he needs to.»
«Yes, yes, but do you like him? Do you choose him for companionship, when you have a choice?»
«Oh, as a friend? Yes, definitely; he’s one of my best friends, and his company is pleasing to me. And I do mean company, since his twining with me brings me no pleasure.» I said. (Which is true. The only reason he gets so badly slighted in this book is that he wasn’t much involved in the Exploring Company, after he rescued the opening ceremony. And if I complain about him now and then, it’s because I live with him and have to endure his thunderstorm collection and such.)
«I don’t like Gyovanth. I’d rather converse with Itharieth, say, or Yarenton and Questhraum, or Psajathrion,» Roroku admitted, in the tiniest writing that the venstroma could manage.
«That just shows you’re still a sensible girl,» I wrote back, as if Roroku were a duodecade younger than me rather than a few years older.
«Jyothky … Can I get a divorce?» Which is to say, Jyothky, everything I have been doing for three duodecades has been a mistake, starting with that time I insulted you dreadfully at your coming-of-age ceremony, and I was wondering if you could fix it all for me?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.