Combat; or the Miracle of the Pirates
The next day, the Twinkling Jenny came to Nwa-Bher. (Strictly, it was called the Twinkling Dze-Ts-Kwy, but as a matter of literary politeness to our hostess with the very common name, we will not call it that.) The Twinkling Jenny was a floating tub of a boat, covered all over with twinkling levitation pods, and armed with four medium-sized ballistas and one huge one. She [I’m not going to roll to decide a ship’s sex] announced her presence and policies by sending a salvo of medium-sized ballista bolts into the Nwa-Bher market. Fortunately Dze-Ts-Kwy and Ro-Ro-Ku had had the foresight to get a spare melon the previous day, and were not there. A less-forsighted parent of three did get skewered and slain though.
Then a ferocious kysp leapt onto the bow of the Twinkling Jenny, and declared himself to be Nao-Kwu the Joyous, possessed of a letter of marque signed by Vem-Thu personally, and therefore allowed to loot and slay among the infidels as much as he liked. He would exercise these rights in defenseless Nwa-Bher, unless of course the burghers of that fine city would be pleased to pay him a certain substantial sum of money — in good nef-wa! — in a certain moderate amount of time. He commanded another ballista bolt be shot, this one soaked in oil and set ablaze, to underscore the absolute spiritual and philosophical correctness of his position. Or perhaps the relative armaments.
The city’s burghers sent runners from door to door to collect the requisite number of nef-wa. This was the first that Ro-Ro-Ku and her hosts heard of the matter.
“But why do you not fight against this Nao-Kwu?” asked Ro-Ro-Ku.
“He is a terrible monster, albeit a native one to this dimension, and of our size and shape!” exclaimed everyone else in unison. “Strictly, he is a monster in character, not in physical structure, in which he resembles every other adult kysp within a range of variation which kysps find quite significant but actual house-sized extradimensional monsters would not!” (Not their exact words.) “When he is defied, he works a great slaughter and blazing upon towns and cities! Better to pay him and have done.”
“When you pay off the pirate, you never get rid of the pirate,” said Ro-Ro-Ku. She handed over her three scanty nef-wa, and went to the kitchen to get a pair of cleavers.
Ka-Twu-Thu yelped in alarm. “Ro-Ro-Ku! What are you about with those cleavers?”
“I am going to kill this Nao-Kwu the Joyous, and his crew,” said Ro-Ro-Ku.
“They are fiends in kysp form, one and all! They are seasoned murderers! Every morning each of them beats yet another strong adolescent to death as a form of morning exercise!” exclaimed Ka-Twu-Thu, exaggerating considerably in her alarm.
“Then best that I dispose of them,” said Ro-Ro-Ku.
The straightforward logic of this point seemed to escape Ka-Twu-Thu and Dze-Ts-Kwy, who harangued Ro-Ro-Ku all the way to the market. Eventually an annoyed Ro-Ro-Ku gave them back their cleavers, and leapt (and levitated) bare-handed to the deck of the Twinkling Jenny.
Now, when a dragon takes the form of a small person, the dragon becomes clumsy and weak. This is perfectly normal and nothing to be ashamed of. However, the dragon is not nearly as clumsy and weak as an actual small person (pace certain small people, such as the graduates of Trestean enhanced agent program, whom the slowest and weakest of dragons (me) might have had to work a bit to defeat by simply physical means when in small-person form.) Roroku is considerably stronger and faster than me, by the way.
So, when a trio of amused pirates came with their doublespikes and their scrattling-knives to take unarmed Ro-Ro-Ku prisoner on their deck, she deprived them of their weapons and their skeletal integrity before they could finish the phrase, “surrender or die!”.
This scuffle caught the attention of many pirates, who took up mightier weapons and scrambled to confront the still-unarmed intruder. (Most dragons don’t like using weapons in small-person form. It feels undignified.) These many pirates were swiftly crushed, or bisected by their own choppers, or hurled into the marketplace to be slaughtered by vengeful burghers, or otherwise destroyed.
I tried to get Roroku explain the fight in her own words for this book, thereby giving her a chance to boast and to magnify her glory. She refused, saying, «I beat up a bunch of small people. Glory hardly enters into it. Then I spent longer than the fight scouring the ship for the ones who had run away and hidden, and still longer than that trying to bring it close enough for other kysps to get on. I’m not a stupid twinkle-boat sailor!»
The two halves of Nao-Kwu the Joyous were mounted on a pair of spikes, with a sign between them reading “Behold the fundamental non-integrity of the arguments of the disphasians!”
This event got Ro-Ro-Ku entered on a great many interesting lists, not just Dze-Ts-Kwy’s. Some of those lists consisted entirely of Ro-Ro-Ku.
But Ro-Ro-Ku was nowhere to be found. Roroku had returned to Base Camp to report.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.