“Fraxtseng! We must speak with you!” Tultamaan and Osoth were down to three companions, though their stories disagree on precisely who those companions were, and it doesn’t matter much, as the companions did approximately nothing but watch.
”… you may,” said Fraxtseng.
“Were you and Jaraswat Romantically Linked last night?”
”… that depends on what you mean by romance,” said Fraxtseng.
“A carnal encounter that lasted much of the night!”
”… less,” said Fraxtseng.
”… me + Yarenton + Questhraum are not exclusive, you must know that … Jaraswat certainly does … he pushed and pushed, demanded and demanded … a stone mage is pretty useless on this expedition … he promised me prestigious publications and deeds if i complied … three or four times a month … never told Questhraum or Yarenton …”
“No murders last night? Of small people in particular?”
”… just sex. one-sided sex.”
Osoth sighed, and turned to Tultamaan. “Jaraswat was telling the truth.”
“Jaraswat is a problem worse than the Murder,” said Tultamaan. “I do believe that he has made Mortal Enemies of two more drakes today — three, if Fraxtseng may be counted.”
”… i was trying to keep it private …” said Fraxtseng. ”… Yarenton would call it rape, but it’s not rape … it’s more of an exchange …”
Osoth said, “We are not concerned with your private life or whoredom. Mr. Norb was murdered horribly, and Jaraswat was briefly the prime suspect.” (Tultamaan reports that Fraxtseng’s reaction to the news was characteristic of an innocent dragon, or of course typical of a dragon who knew what an innocent dragon would do.)
”… Jaraswat didn’t, not last night …”
Tultamaan noted, “In fact he could have done, unless the Encounter with Fraxtseng took all night. But we have no longer any particular reason to suspect Jaraswat, save that he has the wixio and is Thoroughly Disreputable In Unrelated Regards.”
“Then we are back to having no suspects,” grumbled Osoth.
“Oh, our situation is Far Worse Than That,” said Tultamaan cheerfully. “Not only do we have a murder without suspects or evidence, we have an Incipient Vendetta of Fraxtseng’s partners against Jaraswat. If we are not careful and Far More Diplomatic Than You Have Been Today, it could well rip the expedition apart.”
Tultamaan was right, as always. The next week was entirely diplomacy. The murder, while it distressed and confounded the dragons, was a secondary matter. And, lacking all clues, it was not solved.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.