From the story “Scales of Justice” in the forthcoming Cat Among Dragons collection.
Commander Rada, Lord Ni Drako, daimyo of Singing Pines and Burnt Mountain, wanted to go hunting, not to oversee the Azdhagi version of family court. Damn feudal system, she growled to herself as she took a seat in the meeting hall of Singing Pines village. She’d rather have held the hearing at the manor house, but the number of interested witnesses now crowding into the hall made that impossible. Rada tried not to drum her claws on the top of the improvised desk as reptiles filed in. Her guards were searching both the witnesses and the participants without regard to rank real or perceived, causing grumbling that continued until Rada pounded her dagger handle on the wooden table to call for order.
The plaintiff and defendants walked to the front of the room, followed by Helee, the village priest. He would administer the oaths. On Rada’s left, Assistant Village Headman Zhlee chivied his mate and daughter to the front bench. He glared at Rada, who glared right back. The merchant and craftsman Kikoree and his mate and their son took their places to Rada’s right. The priest and Rada’s guards stayed between the two parties. Father Helee administered the oaths as Rada wondered what in the name of the Blessed Bookkeeper she was supposed to do with the mess.
The night before, Zabet had read the complaint, peering over Rada’s shoulder. <<You’re kidding, right? If she doesn’t like him, and he doesn’t like her, then they marry someone else. That’s easy enough.>>
“Not for Azdhagi, and not with this much prestige and property at stake, silver dancer,” Rada had corrected her True-dragon business partner and “concubine.”
<<Hell, even in a House alliance if the two parties absolutely cannot stand each other, their families find a different way.>> Zabet slapped her tail against the bolster on the sleeping platform as she made herself comfortable. <<Just negate the contract and tell the parents to go soak their heads.>>
“The law does not permit me to do that, boss.” Rada raised her hand, forestalling a pungent description of the Azdhagi legal code. “I know, I know. We’ve tracked this prey before.”
Zabet just snorted, sending a mental picture of just what the long-dead nobles could do with their law code.
“Sorry to disappoint you, but Azdhag anatomy does not allow that.”
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© Alma T.C. Boykin 2014. All Rights Reserved.