“Hmm…sho, th’ fhck’s ’ll th’s?” Gali asked as she munched on a cactus pear.
Doug smiled right back, his mouth closed to avoid showing his teeth. Culturally sensitive there, real nice of him. Or he just didn’t wanna challenge her. Either or. “Letters, mostly, Lord Galinori.”
“Hm.” She crouched down beside him and glanced over all the papers spread out over the drink table in front of her couch. Which he wasn’t sitting on. Instead, he was sitting on his knees on the carpet. Least Tiz was bothering to use one of her comfy chairs… “All’a these are letters?”
“Oh, no, not quite, most of these are instead notes that Tisma and I have compiled regarding the authorities we are attempting to contact, the issues they may have, what sort of retinue they may bring to the meeting, so on and so forth.”
“Huh.” Those could be handy if she hung onto them… “So are you going to give me the details, or are you keeping it a surprise?”
“What details do you want?” Tiz asked, glancing up from whatever she was looking over. A book Gali didn’t recognize, so it wasn’t one of hers.
“The ones I don’t already have. I know you want Fritzy, the Lucene and Valondrac all at this little shindig you’re throwing on that half-Frosty island up north, but who else is comin’ along for this ride?”
“Well, I am sending a letter to the Cold Faith of the Frost Lands. It’s best to have some form of neutral party there to officiate, and I’m also sending one to Jules’s older sister; the archdruid of Chlora, since we probably shouldn’t make such large decisions about their land without a representative present and aware of what is going on so we can ensure such a plan works for them; and the Sollamavan sovereignty, since Tiz has some pull there and the chances they might be willing to help are more than zero.”
“So no ‘governors’ or ‘shoguns’?”
“For now, no. A majority of the Rosiavan Roses wouldn’t want to help us, and Gorokiva wasn’t willing to help its own when the shrine was under attack. But depending on how things go, they’ll have no choice but to agree to the treaty once every other country has agreed to it.”
“If it goes well,” Tiz cut in, “Even if everyone agrees to meet up, it doesn’t mean they’ll agree to this treaty.”
“And once they do, everything will go well! Peace will be established and I can freely study Dark Land magics.”
“And you get to try their cuisine.”
“And, most importantly, I get my own territory and tons of new trade partners,” Gali added in with a smirk, before giving Doug a glance, “Right?”
“Of course. It is the best solution for all of us here, and it does keep you on our side, so why not?”
“She could go crazy and try to conquer all of the Light Lands,” Tiz decided to say, like a downer, “Or her kids could decide to do similar when they come of age.”
“That’s a lotta ‘ifs’ there, Tizzy.” Gali grinned at her. “Are you that worried about the big scary dragon~?”
“Considerin’ the last ‘big scary dragon’ we had to deal with killed thousands, yeah, I think that’s a good reason to be worried.”
“Was it really just thousands?” Doug mused, tapping his pen against his chin, “There were a number of villages Kigalori wiped off the map entirely, and cities that were heavily devastated by her strafing tactics-”
“Alright, c’mon, don’t talk yourselves out of this,” Gali interrupted as she scratched at her horns, “I’ve already sworn a bunch to not go overboard. I already know I’m getting a damn good deal here, so throwing it away for short-term gain is just stupid.”
“And people tend to be stupid,” Tiz muttered, then glanced up at Gali again, “No offense.”
“What, was that directed at me? And here I was, thinkin’ I was way above just ‘people’.” She smirked as Tiz sighed. “If you’re really set on this, I could set up a contract, but being one hundred percent honest here, swearing right on the Arbiter himself–” She was more than a little amused to see Doug stiffen as she invoked a much bigger god for something so trivial. “–I’m waaaay more interested in the whole ‘economic conquest’ idea than mass murder. Fights are fun, but riches are fantastic and killing is boring. You can’t do anything with someone after you kill them, and if I really wanna hurt someone, I got a lotta better ways to ruin their life so they suffer instead.”
“…You’re fillin’ me with so much faith here right now, Miss Big ‘n Scary Dragon Lord.”
“Hey, that’s Queen Big and Scary Dragon Lord,” she promptly corrected with another smirk.
“Yeah yeah, whatever,” Tisma said as she went back to her book, “You’re not in charge of any lands yet.”
“Yet. So come on, hurry up with those letters. You already sent one to Valondrac, so just send the rest.”
“The only reason I sent that one was to let Julius know the plan, so I didn’t need to be as carefully worded there. Why, with Margrave alone I need to make sure she doesn’t try to kill anyone when she arrives.”
“Sounds like my kinda lady~.” Gali chuckled, earning a wary look from Doug.
“I…Hm. To…elaborate, Archduchess Margrave Brascul is Julius’s elder sister, Lord Galinori.”
“Oh, so definitely my type then. Well, if she’s also a hot, muscular blonde.”
“She is, and she’s also fucking terrifying,” Tiz stated in the bluntest voice possible. “I’ve only met her a couple times and I’m damn sure that woman could kill me.”
“In a straight fight?”
“No such thing if you’re goin’ up against her.”
Gali snorted and grinned. “What the hell did she do to you two to put the fear of her in you?”
“She gave us a ride home.”
“And a ride to the water temple,” Doug added, then shivered.
“…See, I feel like this is the type of thing where you’ll hype this ‘Archduchess’ up enough that I’ll wind up being unimpressed just by meeting her.” Gali raised a hand to hold off their responses, thinking for a moment. “…Brascul’s a name I’m sure I’ve heard, least from trade jobs. Orindaco, right?”
“Er, yes? What sort of trade jobs-”
“That’s proprietary information.” Lotta narcotics went down to that port, same for spices and alcohols. Was a decent distribution point, and if she was remembering right, Brascul had been decent with any tariff issues. Gali could definitely appreciate a leader who encouraged trade like that, especially when she was the one profiting. Might need to look into her more though, especially if Goldforge was her brother…
And as if on cue, the lounge’s doors opened and Boni walked in, bowing to her the instant he crossed the threshold. “Pardon my interruption, milord. However, we have received a response from Lord Valondrac.”
Doug blinked. “Already? I didn’t realize she had such quick means of communication-”
Gali held up a hand again, then took in a deep whiff of the scent she was sure she’d detected. A faint one, one she was positive Boni brought deliberately since it clung to his right hand, reeking of sweat from one unused to hotter climates. Funny how something as simple as a handshake could be so damn helpful.
Once she was sure she hit on it, a wide, sharp-toothed grin spread across her face. “So that’s how she’s playing it…Heh. Cute, very cute. Boni, how’s our ‘delegate’ enjoying the hospitality?”
“Two delegates, milord.”
Gali raised an eyebrow. “The dragon has a rider?” That was a revolting thought. Didn’t he have any damn pride?
“I am to understand they are equal in rank, milord, and traveling as such was easier.” Despite his words, Boni couldn’t hide all of his distaste at the idea.
She snorted and walked for the door, brushing past Boni. “Sure they are. Well, let’s go see those ‘equals’ then.”
“That gonna be somethin’ we’ll need to worry about?” Tiz asked, after a second, apparently thinking Gali leaving the room meant she was out of earshot.
“Most likely not. I am sure Lord Galinori will be a perfectly lovely host, won’t you?” And Doug obviously didn’t think the same. Heh.
“So, what kinda dragon is our guest, and just who would he consider to be equal enough for him to throw his pride away?”
“An ice dragon, my lady, and a warlock. It seems there was going to be a werewolf as well, but he chose to go by land towards Valondrac’s forces.”
“Ahhhh, that explains it.” Gali nodded to herself as they strolled out onto the landing platform directly connected to her palace through a wide enough gap in the mountain. She deliberately let her voice raise so it would carry to the blue-scaled fucker currently in a staring contest with her Ursi, while both happened to be in full dragon size. “Those icy wannabes from out East always were spineless fucks. Comes with their ‘patron’.”
“Ah, hello Lord Arancoda!” the wrinkly, bald, beared, light-skinned and one-eyed human in a hooded black robe greeted, instead of the icy fucker beside him, who had the absolute gall to ignore her in favor of continuing his staredown with Ursi. He bowed, his hands covered by the sleeves of his robes as he held them together. “Mine apologies, but mine compatriot appears occupied with your attendant, your grace.”
“As I can see. Are you going to call him off, or will I have to take this as a sign of aggression?” Not even holding back the grin that spread across her face at the slight twitch in his face, Galinori hummed to herself as the ice fuck broke the staring contest and shifted into his folkish form. Good, now she had the upper hand.
“Ursi, down.” And Ursiati went right back to bipedalism too, with only a little huff of smoke and embers through her nose signalling the aggression she’d been filled with. “So! What can I help two generals of the demon lord with? You’re here for a reason, yeah?”
“Indeed we are, however, we were hoping you would explain, in fact. Our lady must have received quite the message for her to send us here to speak with you rather than to our forces, and with nary a scrap of information on what disquieted her so, Lord Arancoda.”
“Is that so? Well, much as I would love to take credit for spooking your boss, I sadly have to hand it elsewhere.”
“Greetings!” As if on cue, Douglas walked up with a huge grin on his face and held out a hand to the old man. “You must be Hans Samore, accomplished warlock and author of a great deal of infernal studies that I still do not have the full collection for! In short, I have heard much about you and it’s an honor to meet you!!”
The old man–Hans, apparently–smiled back for some reason and casually took and shook Doug’s hand. “And you must be Douglas Yew. Your own exploits are quite something for them to reach me across the borders, young man. I can tell already, you have a bright spark of talent in your eyes.”
“Oh please, I still have much to learn. My knowledge of Dark Land magic is still quite limited, not to mention Sun and Frost Land magics.”
“You have no need for concern there. The joy of youth is the time it gives to learn,” Hans responded with an even warmer smile.
“Hans. You’re being too friendly with a potential enemy,” Icy growled, still glaring at Ursi, who was glaring right back. Probably a natural aversion there, considering one was fiery and one was icy.
“And to avoid making him an actual enemy, mine comrade Seth, being friendly is best.”
“We’re still here repr-…” Seth paused mid-scolding and stared right at Tisma as she walked out, his eyes leaving the staredown without any hesitation. Not that Tiz seemed to notice; she seemed more annoyed at Doug becoming friends with Hans so quickly.
“Doug, seriously? I know you have a big plan here, but don’t go grabbing some guy’s demon hand without even knowing if he’s–”
Huh. Well Galinori had to give the icy fucker one thing. He sure was fast when he wanted to be. She didn’t even notice him moving towards Tiz til he was kneeling in front of her, his hand on his scarred chest in some kinda show of bullshit sincerity.
Tisma blinked. She stared at Seth, looked up at everyone else, then looked back at the naked ice dragon currently on one knee and sincerely proposing to her. “Who the fuck even are you?”
“…” Tisma waited. She looked up at Gali. Gali just shrugged, honestly a little miffed that everyone seemed to be ignoring her but also really wanting to see where this hot mess would go. Especially since she could see Ursi’s eye twitching as she glared right at Seth. “…Right. Seth. We literally just met.”
“Call it love at first sight. I have seen your beauty and know I want to be yours.” Huh. Interesting phrasing there, but made sense the little twerp would be a submissive. Tended to happen with the lesser dragons.
“Hey! Leave Mistress Galinori’s guest alone!” Ursi demanded as she got between them and glared down at Seth, one hand on Tiz to keep her behind her. Notably, that hand happened to be right on Tiz’s abs, much to the minotaur’s visible annoyance. Well, good on Ursi for finally pursuing her suit. Gali was getting annoyed at all those little glances when Tiz wasn’t looking.
“Move aside, I’m not talking to you,” Icy snarled in reply, getting right back to his feet and glaring at her Ursi, which sent her right to growling too, her hair raising like spines.
Meanwhile, Tiz just had the single most unamused face Galinori had ever seen and it was getting real damn hard keeping herself from laughing.
“Oh ho. To think Seth would have that type of taste,” Hans mused, stroking his beard in apparent thought.
Doug just shrugged. “If that’s what he likes, I suppose, now, question, is that a demonic arm?”
“Eh? Oh, yes, she is, thank you for noticing.”
“You’re very welcome and ahh, fascinating, you’ve combined an Acedian soul with haerian ore, very very fascinating!”
“Doug, seriously.” Tiz frowned over at her friend, very obviously trying to ignore the agitated dragons in front of her. “We still have a ton of problems to take care of here. Could you save the magic talk for later?”
“Hm? Do I need to? After all, you have two easy solutions to your earlier problem right there.”
Tisma blinked. Then, for the very first time, Gali saw the minotaur turn a bright red. “N-NOT THAT PROBLEM, YA JACKASS!”
Yup, that did it.
“GAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA-!” And under Doug and Tiz’s amused and embarrassed stares, Gali just went right on laughing, because what else was she supposed to do around these idiots?
Though hey, at least she knew for a fact that it was a fantastic idea to throw her lot in with them. After all, joining up with morons this hilarious could never be a bad plan.
“Alright!” She clapped her hands together, beaming wide at all her guests, “Ursi, feel free to pursue your suit if you’re really going for it-”
“Yes mistress!” Ursi immediately replied, snapping to a salute while her intended stared at her in alarm.
“-and Tiz, you can use an extra room if you need it–”
“What?? Now hold on, why do I suddenly have a dragon harem!?” she asked, flabbergasted. Which was a fun word, but anyways.
“You need more than two for it to be a harem,” Gali corrected, then continued, “As for the rest of us, excluding General Seth too if she does take him up on his offer–”
“STOP DISCUSSIN’ MY LOVE LIFE!”
“–how about we head inside?” Gali grinned, ignoring the blushing minotaur in favor of looking to her fellow conspirators. Which, heh, she was a part of a conspiracy! Damn, that was a fun idea! “We’ve got a lotta planning to do before we can con two continents into peace.”