Skip to Main Content
Someone wrote in
2012-03-21 01:52 am (UTC)
Sex & Vegetables
"Immortalis?" The voice had a tone to it that suggested secrecy, whilst belonging to somebody who had no real knowledge of what that was. Immortalis, who had been enjoying a doze, cranked open one eye.
"Yes?" he asked, with no great enthusiasm. The voyage back from Africa had been a long one, and he was enjoying the sensation of being home, aware that the great cure was being distributed amongst his fellows. Soon all would be well - for the dragons at least. Britain itself might be a different question, with the French massing on her flanks. That was tomorrow’s concern, however. For now they were simply to rest - or some of them were. One of them at least seemed incapable of it.
"Humans are strange creatures, are they not?" Iskierka, coils of steam dissipating in the late afternoon breeze, had alighted beside him. It was a warm afternoon, but even so, her permanent heat was not unwelcome. Immortalis stretched a little lazily at the feel of it.
"I daresay so," he answered in the end, and yawned faintly as a mild hint. Iskierka was not known for taking hints, but one could only try. He had as yet not had the opportunity to get to know her well, but even so he was not surprised when the hint flew far above her head, and disappeared somewhere into the drifting cloud.
"Very odd indeed," she said, and settled herself beside him. "Immortalis?"
"Yes?" There was a resignation to his tone now. She was not leaving. Instead she edged closer, as though determined to keep their conversation private. She did not diminish the volume of her voice in the slightest, but fortunately there was nobody much about. A stretch of trees separated them from most of the humans, and Immortalis had long come to the conclusion that humanity, on the whole, suffered from very poor hearing.
"They do not lay eggs, do they," she observed. It did not appear to be a question. Immortalis blinked, and looked at her askance. It was hard to imagine what could prompt such a comment. When he ventured no response, she continued. "What I mean is, they go about the business of making them readily enough, but there are no eggs produced as such. Some squally little pinkish things instead, which wriggle about all over the place, and look as though they would be quite easy to step upon - accidentally of course," she added a bit hastily, when Immortalis raised his head.
"Is this leading somewhere?" he asked. She sighed, and great swathes of steam issued from her spines.
"It is just that it all seems such a simple matter. The females grow large, and there is no hiding that; and then the squalling things arrive, and certainly there is no hiding
. And yet they insist on such secrecy about it all, as though nobody knows what they have been about. As though we do not all do it, all animals. It makes no sense at all, and it makes them seem quite foolish."
"It is a tradition, I suppose," said Immortalis, who still couldn’t see why it should be any sort of issue to Iskierka. Still, she was a very young dragon, and he supposed that the very young needed to ask questions. There had been a time when Little had called him a menace for his inquisitiveness. It was just a shame that she was not bothering Granby instead.
"Traditions are good. I like traditions." She sat up a little straighter then. "Prizes, for instance. They are a tradition. But I still do not understand why somebody should make a tradition of secrecy over something as simple as egg-making." She fell silent and, closing his eyes again, Immortalis settled back, hoping that the inquisition was over. It was not. A moment later she was leaning close to him again, her questions continuing at their less than subtle half bellow.
"Yes?" He did not open his eyes. There was still a possibility that she might eventually get the hint, after all.
"Little is not female, is he? Or I mean, is she? Or... I do not entirely know what I mean, but I do know that Granby is not female. He does not have the right pieces, when he removes his shirt."
"Um," said Immortalis, with the unpleasant suspicion that he had a notion where this was going. His eyes snapped open, in readiness for the storm that appeared to be brewing. "Iskierka..."
"And I did not think that Little was female either, although I only got the slightest glimpse of him, and he was mostly wearing a shirt. And I did not look too closely, as it was Granby that I had been looking for, and I had an important question to ask."
"Iskierka..." It was not easy to get her to listen, at least without bellowing, and he had no desire to do that. "Perhaps--"
"But then I suppose there is no need to always be making eggs, so it is perhaps not really an issue. Only, I am not at all sure how they go about it, and--"
"Iskierka!" It was not quite a shout, but nonetheless it set the tops of the trees quivering. Shrinking down slightly, a little startled by his own volume, Immortalis sighed. "Please, if you are to speak of such things, at least do so with a little caution. It is an... awkward subject."
"No it isn’t," she said, rather defiantly. "We have already said that it is something that all animals do, and that the secrecy is all nonsense, and a lot of bother over nothing. So I do not see why I should be quiet, and I do not see why Granby was not happy to see me." Her eyes narrowed. "He is
Granby." Her tone turned mildly accusing. "Not Little’s."
"Yes. Well." This was rapidly turning into something that Immortalis did not feel in the least bit prepared for. Why could she not have sought out Temeraire, the usual focus for her questioning, or perhaps one of the female dragons? Immortalis felt rather tempted to try burying his head in the ground, such as the ostriches of Africa supposedly did. "Humans have needs, much as dragons do. And you cannot expect Granby to turn to you for... for
. The logistics alone..."
"I do not mean..." She trailed off, and he was half sure that she had blushed. "I would not. I mean, I am too big, and at any rate, I..." She hunched up, in what was plainly embarrassment. "And anyway, you know that that is not what I meant."
"Then do not worry yourself about it. Allow them their secrecy, and there will be no further difficulty." He frowned. "And if it is not an indelicate question, in heaven's name what were you doing?"
"It is not as though I interrupted them on purpose!" Her voice had risen in volume again, and he cast a nervous look towards the humans on the other side of the trees. Some of them had looked up at his shout, but fortunately most were familiar enough with Iskierka to understand that it was sometimes necessary to shout at her. Certainly nobody had bothered coming over to see if there was a problem.
"I’m glad to hear it," he said, with a little amusement. She obviously noticed the humour in his voice, and glared.
"And now Granby is angry with me, and it is all so stupid. I had seen a ship, you see, and he says that I must check with him now, after the business with the fishing boat, so it is all his own fault really. But I could not find him anywhere, and I went down to the beach, and there he was, with Little, in a sort of cave. He was wearing almost nothing, and they said that they had been swimming, but they were not in the least bit wet, and they must think me a fool." Her shoulders hunched. "And I said that it seemed a strange sort of swimming, and then Little began to laugh, and Granby turned quite red and told me I should leave. He was quite insistent."
"I see." Much to his surprise, Immortalis was now experiencing a pressing urge to giggle. "You must not take offence so. It is just that it is not the best of times to be interrupted. When you are older, and have experience of such things yourself, you will understand better. Now settle down and get some rest, and try to put this business out of your head. Better for all of us if you forget all about what has happened."
"I can’t forget it." Iskierka sounded young now, and rather sullen. "It is not nice to be shouted at. And I did not entirely interrupt them anyway, as they did not appear to be doing very much, or I should have known not to approach."
"Thank heaven for small mercies," murmured Immortalis. He could see another question coming, however, from the look in her bright yellow eyes. Inwardly he cringed in expectation of it. How odd that an entire French fleet could be only a fraction as terrifying as one inquisitive dragon.
"At least, I think that I should have known," she said, and her voice was like a deep frown of thought. "But I am not entirely sure. Immortalis, how do they do it, exactly? I mean, I know how a man and a woman - or at least, a male and a female dragon, which I assume is much the same thing - go about it, but with two men surely there are—"
"Oh dear." The humour of before having ebbed away, Immortalis was once again experiencing a desire to become an ostrich. "It is not as though Little and I discuss these things, you know."
"But you are both male," she said, as though somehow this were important. He groaned.
"Yes, but that does not mean... That is to say, from what I have witnessed... Well, I think perhaps it is useful that their teeth and claws are so small and hopeless, only..." Being an ostrich no longer seemed nearly enough. He found that he would rather like to sink into the earth entirely. "Oh why can you not just be quiet?"
!" Her spikes seemed to bristle. "It is not as though any of this is
fault. And it was
Little that was on top of
"Yes, and for goodness sakes will you please not speak of that! Or at least so loudly. The dragons will mind little enough, I imagine, and the Corps is for the most part understanding. The outside world, however, is a different matter."
"I know, I know. We are to pretend that we know nothing of how eggs are made." She sounded mutinous, and he shook his head, sitting up straight, and wishing for the first time that he was a bigger dragon. It was hard to be authoritarian towards a Kazilik when one was merely a Yellow Reaper.
"No, Iskierka. This is a different matter. The business of eggs is one thing. The business of... of matters between... That is to say, when Little and Granby spend time together, they must do so in secret. Such things are seen differently in society. It is... Well, it is complicated, and it seems foolish to me as well, I admit. It is illegal, however. If it was to become public knowledge that they are seeing each other in that fashion, they could be arrested and put into prison. Perhaps even worse than that."
!" With all pretence at secrecy gone, Iskierka reared back to her full height, great clouds of steam gushing forth along the entire length of her body. "Why, I would flatten anybody who tried to do that. I... I would set fire to the town. I would... I would... I would take Granby far away, where nobody could ever find him." She lowered herself down a little, some of the indignation leaving her voice. "And you and Little could come as well, I suppose. If Granby should want."
"Thank you," said Immortalis drily. "It is hard to understand, I know. Please believe me, however, that you must say nothing of this to anybody."
"Not even to Temeraire?" she asked then, and he sighed. Oh, how wonderful it would be if she really did take all of this to bother Temeraire with instead. Now that he thought about it, however, he could see that such a thing might put Little in danger - and he would never consider risking that.
"No, not even to Temeraire. Should it perhaps come to Laurence’s ears... He is not born to the Corps, you see, nor raised by them. There is no knowing how he would react. Iskierka, you must at least attempt to be circumspect."
"I expect I could manage something of the kind." She still sounded mutinous. "All the same, I do think that Granby should be a little apologetic. There am I trying to win us prizes, and he could at least warn me if he’s to be off doing things with other captains instead." Her voice suggested that she felt prizes to be a considerably more interesting pastime. Immortalis was beginning to feel rather sorry for Granby.
"Perhaps you should go and apologise to
?" he suggested, as much in the hope that it might give him some peace, as anything. "Then it will give him the opportunity to apologise to you as well. Let him think you believed that they really were swimming, and then we can all just go on not knowing what the humans get up to. It makes them happier, after all."
"Perhaps." She was clearly thinking it over, and seemed on the verge of another question, the potential horrors of which made him clench his teeth. In the event she merely sank down a little lower, and scratched at the ground with one claw. She seemed almost subdued. "Immortalis?"
"Would they really try to put him in prison?"
"Yes." Little had been quite clear on that issue, as had Berkley, when he had recovered from choking on his beer. Immortalis did not understand it, but apparently it had something to do with 'The Public Morality', a rather nebulous concept from what he could tell, that didn’t appear to have anything at all to do with what two grown men thought about each other. Iskierka nodded, evidently troubled.
"Then I will tell him that I am sorry for interrupting his swimming. And I promise that I shall not speak of this again."
"Praise be," muttered Immortalis, to the wind in the trees. Iskierka didn’t seem to have heard.
"I still do not understand it, though," she finished, and Immortalis, recalling once again how very young she still was, relented a little. He stretched out his wings, using one to nudge at her in a friendly fashion.
"They are very different to us," he said, as though somehow this explained everything. "I think perhaps it is all those vegetables that they eat. Come on. We shall find Granby together. He is probably still with Little. Then we can make it quite clear that we have no idea at all what they were doing, and all shall be well. Only next time, if you cannot find Granby, perhaps see first if you also cannot find Little. That way you might avoid blundering upon them again."
"I suppose I can do that. Certainly if it will keep people from trying to put Granby in gaol." She brightened. "And then, if he is not angry with me anymore, perhaps there will still be time to chase the ship that I saw? And perhaps it would be all right for you to come too. Would you like to come too? I suppose that I shouldn’t object to sharing my prizes with you and Little, if he and Granby are to be..." She trailed off. "Are to be absolutely nothing at all, and certainly nothing that we must never mention."
"Quite. And thank you. I think." Leaping into the air, Immortalis beat his wings to carry him upwards, to a height from which it might be possible to search out their errant humans. Iskierka followed behind, a thousand further unspoken questions somehow seeming to wreathe themselves about her, along with her steam. He was sure enough that she had got the message, but it remained to be seen whether she would remember it. One thing at least he was sure of - that he did not envy the humans in the slightest. Such strange laws, such strange traditions; and it was not as though they did not have the intelligence to see sense and make better laws. Such peculiar creatures, for all their apparent intellect.
There was no other way to explain it. It absolutely had to be the vegetables.
Reply to this
Thread from start
Post a comment in response:
If you don't have an account you can
create one now
HTML doesn't work in the subject.
Check spelling during preview
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.
Log in with OpenID?
Forget your password?
Site and Journal Search
Buy Dreamwidth Services
Gift a Random User
Site and Account