«You must remember the staff I won from the Quiet Lord, the great necromancer of Cussa,» Osoth wrote to me in one of our daily conversations.
«The one where you proved the superiority of dragons to small people?» I asked.
«That is too favorable a summary by half, Jyothky,» he answered. As the most frequent of my adulterous lovers, he certainly has the right to omit my title. (Unlike most dragons, who simply omit my title without explicit right.) «The battle did not proceed along lines that prove the superiority of often-distracted and partially-trained necromancers to those who have devoted sufficient attention and time to their craft. Ultimately, yes, I changed the terms of the battle so that it was not entirely about necromancy, and indeed that fire-resistance was, at times, an equally important topic.»
«You burned the Quiet Lord to ashes, and broke her extra-life spells. And claimed her staff,» I wrote.
«The staff, precisely. I was hoping to dissect its magics with the aid of Xilobrax. No more! Every last scrap of power in the staff is gone now.»
«What happened to it?»
«I do not know! I had wrapped it most carefully in the bindings woven from the silk of the tomb-bombyx, which of all cloths is the most preservative of things necromantical. No dragon touched these cerements! I know, for mine own seal was upon them, and I should have felt any touch upon it just as surely as I would feel a claw upon my flank. Begging your royal pardon for my unfortunate choice of metaphor!» (I pardoned him. Again. Some days — or lives — it’s barely worth the trouble to complain about one’s handicaps.) «Yet somehow, the staff is wholly empty. It is as if it were simply a bar of preserved cush babies glued together.»
I demonstrated my supreme mastery of physical magicology (or general magicology? I’m not sure.) by saying the very obvious thing. «Xilobrax warned that it was localistic magic, very limited off of Cussa. I wonder if its spells simply failed due to Narethy’s not-being-Cussa-ness?»
«That is possible. Though ordinarily such effects would degrade slowly if unused, leaving substantial magical relics for years after the spells were unworkable. And, to answer your next question, the C♯ Spear and the Minty Bow are unchanged. They have suffered no such catastrophic loss of majesty.»
«The Mintwall Shield, according to Roroku, is on its last legs, but not changed perceptably since Roroku brought it to Kyspert,» I said, since I talk to Roroku and Osoth doesn’t.
«Precisely. Were the spells on the Quiet Lord’s staff more fragile than those on the heroic artifacts — despite her impressive skill? Have I somehow broken them with my everyday practices of necromancy in its presence — despite its insulation? Is our Base Camp world of Narethy somehow imimical to necromancy — despite no trouble to my powers? None of these questions should need to be asked! They are all obvious! Yet, somehow, my staff is discharged.»
I replied with a teasing comment which is appropriately said to one’s male lover. I would describe it as a “childish” comment, for the humor was certainly childish. But the content certainly demanded maturity — physical maturity, if not spiritual.
«Nothing of the sort, Jyothky. I am in all regards faithful to you.»
«Well, you needn’t be, and you shouldn’t be. It’s not as if I’m faithful to you. Even after I finish this belated course of fertilization, I will certainly be my husband’s lover as well as yours.»
«I am not faithful to you out of a misguided hope that you will be faithful to me. Nor, yet, out of a hope that somehow I will win your heart and/or your genitalia for my own. Necromancy, for all its virtues, does not do wonders for the libido. I am satisfied with a one-twelfth measure of a dragoness. A full measure of a horny drake would be more troublesome and less appealing. Should you sever our arrangement, and should I find that celibacy is terribly challenging, I might track down a quarter-share of a drake, I suppose. I am not an urning by nature; perhaps I could learn.»
«The current arrangement stands,» I said. It is actually Nrararn’s arrangement, not mine, and Nrararn’s arrangement is simply to permit adultery with Osoth rather than to actually encourage me to it. But, informally, Nrararn has access to sexy, skillful Arilash, and my friendly but pleasureless tangling with Osoth balances that out. Somehow. I don’t actually understand it. (Or: in a traditional marriage, two people enjoy the wife’s genitalia. This is the case in my marriage, too. The difference is simply that, in the typical marriage, the wife herself is one of the two. I can’t, so I get Osoth to perform that chore.)
Which ended the conversation, without the matter of the necromantic staff being settled or understood.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.