For those new to the Cat Among Dragons world, Zabet dar Nagali is Rada’s business partner, House Boss (it’s complicated), concubine (it’s really complicated) and after 600 years of working together, they are practically sisters. And Zabet always gets the last word.
<<Peeeett, what’s that around your neck?>> Zabet wanted to know. Rather than explain, Rada undid the clasp and handed it to her business partner. The True-dragon studied the grey gemstones, then flipped the necklace over, bringing the engraved mount close to her sapphire blue eye as she inspected it. <<Where’d you get this?>>
“It’s a gift from Joschka von Hohen-Drachenburg,” Rada admitted.
<<A gift, that’s all?>> The reptile’s tone suggested that she had some suspicions about the item in question.
“Yes, that’s all, mostly. Why the inquisition, Boss?” she wanted to know as she finished catching up their auction permits and lists.
<<Because this is a betrothal necklace and the markings show that it was made about a thousand years ago! Do you know how valuable this is?!?>>
Rada carefully retrieved the jewelry from her friend’s talons. “Very, because of who gave it to me and what it means. As far as how many credits it would fetch on the market, I don’t care to know, Boss.”
Zabet made a squeaking sound. <<Did Joschka say anything about it?>>
“Not really, only that his father gave it to his mother and they passed it on to him when he left home. Sounds like something out of a romantic fable, doesn’t it?” Rada grinned. Then stared as her “boss” literally fell over in shock, rather like a fainting goat from Earth. “That’s a first,” the mammal observed as she checked her partner’s vital signs.
<<Rada, there’s only one House that follows that tradition – House Trobak. It’s one of the oldest and most powerful of the Houses!>> Zabet’s whiskers alternately stiffened and waved with disbelief. <<Joschka’s from House Trobak!>>
The mammal thumped her friend’s neck. “Silver dancer, I don’t care, and neither does he. He left home a couple hundred years ago and hasn’t been back. He’s Head of Hohen-Drachenburg now and quite content with his position. And I love him for who he is, not which House he’s allied with.”
The True-dragon managed to recover from her theatrics. <<Pet, this means you’re going to marry him, doesn’t it?>>
“That’s the general plan, yes. First you get engaged, then married is the usual sequence on Earth.” Rada noticed Zabet’s eyes narrowing and could practically see a spreadsheet forming over her friend’s head.
<<Trobak is one of the few Houses that exercises political leadership of a world – Tromari, in the Veekdaf system. Because of its location, it specializes in exports of . . .>>
“No lectures, please!” Rada cut the speech off. “You are not using my marriage as a trade negotiations tool. No. Just drop any idea of that, Boss. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but your future brother-in-law hasn’t talked to his family in centuries. They probably think he’s dead, considering how long we were mercenaries together.”
<<Spoilsport>> the reptile grumbled, her whiskers drooping and tail flopping limply onto the cushion behind her.
Rada opened what looked like a box of fancy candy. “If you sulk, I won’t let you have any.”
<<I don’t eat choco . . . OOOOhhhhh!>> Zabet surged to her feet, poking her muzzle over Rada’s shoulder. <<Ooo, ooo, ooo, is that venison?>>
“Affirmative. And these are wild boar, this row is chamois, here’s smoked salmon, wapiti bites here, and don’t even think about touching the bison crunch,” Rada warned as she went through the flavors of dried meats in the box.
A pair of talons reached over the mammal’s shoulder and delicately selected a piece of venison jerky. <<OK, I take back everything I said about your prospective mate.>> She popped the meat onto her tongue and all but purred as she savored the gourmet treat.
Rada shook her head, then helped herself to some of the bison crunch. “You’re too much, Boss, you really are.”
(C) Alma T. C. Boykin 2016 All Rights Reserved