When You Interact with a Lot of Leaders, Certain Personality Types Tend to Repeat
“I’m not a fucking packhorse,” Sam growled as he lifted a large hunk of rubble off the ground.
“You are, however, the only sorcerer in the castle,” Henry reminded him. “It would take ordinary people weeks to move this much rock and you can do it in five minutes.”
Sam was well aware of that, and it was still stupid. “Should be making those fucking dragons and their idiot fucktoys haul it all away by hand for the rest of their lives.”
“Yes,” Henry agreed. “But then they’d never be able to do anything else for you and the reconstruction effort would take years longer, and you’d hate that.”
“Don’t tell me what I’d hate.” Reconstructing the castle was already going to take a long-ass time.
“Right, I forgot how much you like strangers, mess and noise.”
“Shut up before I drop the castle on you,” Sam muttered, wondering just how much of the castle he was lifting. It felt like a lot.
“Hm,” Henry said, moving closer to Sam. Sam liked to pretend it was because he was scared and trying to get away from the floating rock, but it probably wasn’t. “Hey, why can’t you just put it back?”
“Back where?” Sam demanded. He could easily put it on the fucking ground.
“Back where it was. The healing spell you like does something with time that convinces my body that it’s yesterday, right? So why can’t you do a bigger version of that on the castle and just make it think it’s still two weeks ago?”
“Because…” Sam trailed off. Why couldn’t he do that? “I would have to figure out how to do that.”
“Maybe we could put our heads together over it?” Henry asked. “It might be worth it—especially when we go to Jdinrma-Hash in a few days.”
Sam made a noise. He didn’t want to go to Jdinrma-Hash, but he’d already agreed to go. “You want me to just rebuild the cathedral all at once?”
“If it’s possible, you’d save the crown a lot of money.”
“And put a lot of sad Ech’kent people out of work,” Sam added. “They’d have to go back to building roads.”
“You could build those with magic, too.”
“Why’d you bother getting into politics if all you wanted was to be an architect?” Sam asked in a grumble.
“What can I say, I’m being supportive of my husband’s interests.”
“I’m not interested in politics either.”
Henry snorted. “Which is why I have to be, so you can pursue your own interests in maiming people. Speaking of which, Todd’s coming.”
Great. Sam hadn’t maimed Todd in ages, and wasn’t really interested in doing it again. He was boring. “Todd,” Sam called. “Go stand under all those rocks.” Maybe Sam should try to do something to make him interesting again. Cut off his arm or something.
Todd made a small noise, but Sam heard footsteps. “Your Majesty, I have a report.”
“A report,” Sam repeated, loosening his hold on the rubble so it would fall just a little. Todd didn’t make a sound. “How very professional of you. What is it?”
“Guards have spotted dragons approaching the castle, your Majesty.”
Sam paused, a spike of anger moving up his chest. “Dragons. How many?”
“Four, your Majesty.”
Todd didn’t even sound scared. That was unlike him. “Come over here.”
Todd did, and Sam dropped all the rubble. “If I’m going to try putting it back, it’s going to have to stay here. I can’t do anything with if it I’ve thrown it off a cliff,” he said to Henry. “Go get the dragons, bring them here.”
“Okay. I’ll be back in a minute. If they attack…”
“I’ll be fine, Henry, stop being stupid,” Sam said, pushing him away. Magic couldn’t hurt dragons, but Sam had a pile of rocks that he could toss at them. Most things died if enough rocks hit them in the face.
“Okay.” Henry kissed Sam’s cheek and then left, going inside. Sam took a breath. “Why did they send you to deliver the message?” he asked Todd.
Todd made a noise. “I don’t know.”
“Because they thought you’d get mad and kill the messenger.”
“Good guess,” Sam said, smiling. Todd didn’t sound upset by that. “Do you care if I do?”
“Not really,” Todd said, letting out a sigh. “I can’t stop you.”
“That’s true. Have you thought about killing yourself?”
Todd was quiet for a minute. “Yes.”
“You should, you’d be doing the world a favour.” Killing himself would actually be about the most boring thing Todd could do. But it would bother Derek.
“I’d also…” Todd didn’t finish.
Now Sam was interested. “Also what? Don’t turn coward now.”
Todd sighed again. “I’d also be giving you what you want. You’d like it if I did that. It would prove you right. So I won’t.”
Sam processed that for a second, then snorted, which was followed by a whole laugh. “You’re staying alive just to spite me?” That was kind of similar to what Henry had said about it, actually.
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Careful,” Sam warned, reaching out and hitting Todd’s arm. Todd didn’t even flinch. “You’re suddenly dangerously close to becoming interesting.” It had taken him long enough to grow a spine.
“The dragons are coming,” Todd said. “I can see them.”
“Tell me when they’re close enough to throw rocks at. And Todd? If you’re thinking they’ll kill me, just remember that Henry will get away.”
Todd didn’t say anything, just stood there beside Sam, waiting. A minute later, he said, “They’re just about to be over the castle.”
Sam could hear them, gusts of air above him. He lifted some of the rubble up. How he was going to hit them was a new question, since he didn’t trust Todd to tell him where they were like he would Henry. But unfortunately, Todd spoke again. “They…they don’t look like they’re going to attack.”
“What does that mean?” Sam demanded.
“It means that they’re not breathing fire and junk,” Todd said. “They’re just kind of…flying around the castle.”
Why would they be doing that? If they weren’t here to attack, then… “They’re searching for something,” Sam decided. “Which is the other dragons, or their corpses.”
“Uh…they’re coming down here.”
Sam didn’t need Todd to tell him that. A rush of wind filled what was left of the courtyard, and Sam stood, letting his power crawl up him, putting a shield around himself, and around Todd, but only because he was standing so close.
The rush of air disappeared all at once, and something—four somethings—hit the ground not far from Sam. Sam tried not to demonstrate any particular emotion. Todd ‘eeped’ beside him, so that was enough emotion for both of them.
A female voice, full and loud, said a lot of something that Sam didn’t understand. Fucking Chez’n. Even the dragons spoke fucking Chez’n.
So Sam decided to just pretend that hadn’t happened. “Among humans,” he said to the dragons, “simply coming to someone’s home without an invitation is called trespassing.”
“Among dragons,” the dragon said, in Sam’s Kyn, “disregard for human notions of property is considered normal.”
Ah, good, a normal language. It didn’t seem like they were going to attack, at least not yet. “I suppose that’s why your friends thought it prudent to destroy my castle.”
“Your castle is an eyesore,” the dragon said. Sam already didn’t like her much. “And they are not my friends, they are my offspring.”
Sam paused. “You’re their mother?”
“In human terms, yes. I am the matriarch of dragons in this region. You may call me Ramona. Are you the human called the Sorcerer King?”
“Yes.” She said it in such a way as to make clear that Sam was to respect her, which he did not. But it meant that she was in charge—the dragon queen. Which meant the other three dragons were her entourage and Sam didn’t have to worry about them. “I presume you’re not here to apologize for the behaviour of your children.”
“You presume correctly. I am here to collect them. Did you kill them?”
She didn’t seem worried or angry, just curious. It was a similar tone to how Solomon had talked about Sam and his siblings. “No. My husband has gone to get them.”
“Ah, excellent,” said Ramona. “I shall take them and go, and there need be no conflict between us.”
“No,” Sam said.
“I won’t be returning them to you. You may have noticed the state of disrepair my castle is in.”
Ramona was silent for a moment, and Sam assumed she was surveying the damage. “What?” she asked. “It doesn’t always look like this?”
“I’m told it doesn’t.”
Making an indistinct noise that might have been approving, Ramona moved closer to him. “My offspring are my problem, not yours, human.”
“They made themselves my problem when they attacked me and my people. I have the right to punish them for that.” This wasn’t so hard. It was just some asshole who thought she was in charge. It was no different from talking to Hans or Jocelyn.
“Humans have no rights when it comes to dragons.”
“And dragons don’t have rights, people do,” Sam shot back. “Your kind are supposed to have a non-interference policy in the plateau.” That was what the dragons had told him. “And yet you let these two run amok even after they attacked a large city and destroyed a building. Someone has to have some control over them since you obviously don’t.”
“Two.” Ramona didn’t sound impressed by that. “Three of my offspring are here.”
“Ah, you don’t know about the one who turned tail and ran?” Sam asked, smiling. “If you find him, do thank him for leaving the others unprotected, will you?”
Ramona growled, which grew more strident as footsteps approached. “M-matriarch,” one of the dragons muttered.
Henry brought them over. “Well, guess we won’t need them to fight anyone off,” he said.
“Ramona here is their mother,” Sam told Henry, curious to see how this would play out.
“You two,” Ramona growled at the two dragons, “are a crying disgrace. At the beck and call of a human?”
“You were not instructed to speak. You were instructed, very carefully, to stay away from humans, and what did you do? You interfered in their affairs, attacked their settlements and were captured! You are lucky I don’t rip out your bowels through your anuses and make you eat them!”
That, thought Sam, was a good one. He’d have to use that sometime.
Ramona wasn’t done. “Now you may speak, but only to answer this question. Where is your siremate?”
“We don’t know, ma’am,” one of the dragons said. Sam hadn’t asked their names. They probably had names. “He left us.”
“And you didn’t go after him.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am.”
Ramona did not answer that. “I shall find him myself. He was warned. There are laws. You two will come with us and we will decide an appropriate punishment.”
“No,” Sam reminded her. As amusing as this was, he was done listening. “They will stay here.”
“I do not recall asking your opinion, human.”
“And I don’t recall caring about yours. I was injured during their indiscretion, not you. Besides, they’d rather I punished them, wouldn’t they?”
Neither dragon spoke, but the amount of unimpressed Ramona sounded when she spoke again told Sam what he needed to know. “It would scarcely be a punishment if they preferred it, now would it be?”
“It would benefit you,” said Max, and Sam was surprised to hear Max here. Why had Henry gotten him? Were all the rebels here? “If they stayed here.”
“Oh?” Ramona said. “I see no benefit.”
“We used to worship you here,” Max said, words a jumble. “And we stopped. We could again, people were starting to. If you let Castor and Claudius stay, they can help the king reinstate you as Ech’kent’s gods.”
Where, Sam wondered, the fuck had that come from?
Ramona was quiet for some time as she considered this. “And why should I believe that will happen? We removed ourselves from your affairs with good reason.”
“The building your idiot sons destroyed was a cathedral to the god that replaced you,” Henry told her. “Seeing dragons destroy it will have reminded people what they really believe in. They can be further reminded if we’re careful.”
“Aren’t you tired,” Sam asked, getting where they were going with this now, “of having to hide from us? Of having to act like you’re our equals, or worse, our lesser?”
Ramona growled. “There is no acting, human.”
“So that’s a yes.”
“I will hear the details of this…suggestion,” Ramona said, after a very long pause.
Sam smiled. “Come inside. We’ll eat while we talk.”
And he led her into the castle, Henry at his arm. “Good call bringing Max,” he muttered quietly.
“He wouldn’t take no for an answer. That was well handled.”
“She’s no different than a human. Power hungry and arrogant and not as smart as she thinks she is.” It was easy to manipulate people like that.
“Still, you did well,” Henry said, arm around Sam.
“Tell me that after this lunch is over,” Sam grumbled, and they went inside, to discuss the plateau’s new state religion with the gods it would be worshiping.