A Bit from the Past

This never made it into a story, but should have. It is from the Cat Among Dragons series. Rada ni Drako, Lord Reh-dakh [iron fan], is the only sapient mammal on the planet. She commands the Defenders, the soldiers in charge of protecting the throneworld of the Azdhagi Empire. The Azdhagi are preferential quadrupeds. Rada has been Lord Defender for about 200 or so years, perhaps more, by this point (I’d have to look up the chronology in my files.)

Commander Rada Lord Ni Drako, also called “Reh-dakh” blinked at her second in command. “Let me make certain I understand you, Defender Sloi. While I was away, our request for a base on Shibo failed to pass the finance minister’s initial study, the contract and permissions for the weight-lifters finally cleared, and the Minister of War offered his resignation because of a succession crisis caused by someone else’s bad credit at a brothel.”

The dark grey-green reptile swung his tail, confirming the Lord Defender’s summary. “That is correct, Lord Mammal.”

Rada tipped her head back and stared at the ceiling. Damn, this office needs to be painted. I didn’t realize how much soot has built up over the centuries. “And how does this involve the Defenders?”

Sloi shifted his weight from side to side. “I do not know, Lord Mammal, only that I was told that we need to be ready for trouble from outside.”

“It is our job to be ready for trouble from outside. But far be it for me to tell Minister Great Lord Sheedak the duties of a soldier or war leader,” the mammal intoned. Shoi lifted two toes and his tail tip in the subtle version of a rather rude gesture, one with which Rada heartily agreed. “Very well. Thank you for the brief, Defender Shoi, and again, you have done an excellent job in my absence.”

“Thank you, Lord Mammal.” A loud and rapid clopping sound drowned out anything else he had to say and the two soldiers rushed out of the Lord Defender’s cramped office. A Palace servant, her robe bearing the trim of someone assigned to the Imperial Family, pounded on the doorknocker.

“Yes? Is there an emergency?” Rada demanded.

The servant froze, staring at Rada’s waist before tipping her head up to find the mammal’s head. “Ah, Lord . . . Mammal?”

“That’s me.”

The servant stared at the Wanderer, then stuttered, “The Archivist and Lord Ti-nuang request your presence in the lord’s workroom as soon as possible.”

Rada counted to five before inquiring, “Where does the Imperial Uncle Lord Ti-nuang keep his workroom?”

An unusually light voice came from the wardroom. “The Imperial Uncle Lord Ti-nuang keeps his workroom in the only office smaller than the Lord Defender’s.” Rada bowed as Ti-nuang limped out of the wardroom and added, “The wine ration tastes just as bad as when I was in the Defenders, Lord Reh-dakh.”

“Military tradition forms a living link between the first Defenders and their modern descendants, the current upholders of the honor of those sworn to protect Drakon IV, my lord.” Somehow Rada managed to keep her face straight as she recited the oft repeated and frequently parodied lecture.

Ti-nuang stuck his tongue out and made a rude noise. Shoi’s eyes bulged at the old prince’s behavior, and Ti-nuang smiled. “I lost my manners along with my leg, Defender. Lord Reh-dakh, we need your experience. Come with me,” and the green and grey blotched reptile limped out of the Defenders’ barracks. Rada grabbed her weapons belt and walking cane from her office and follow. Ti-nuang led the way into the Imperial family wing, past the King-Emperor’s reception room. He opened a door Rada had never noticed before and squeezed around behind a low writing table. Rada slipped in behind him and nodded to the Palace archivist. “Shut the door. I’ll open the window so we can at least have room to change our minds.”

The office really wasn’t that small, Rada noted. A very large sleeping platform at the back of the chamber, beside the opaque screened window, accounted for the “coziness.” Ti picked up a clawed stick and used it to slide the screen aside, then opened the window, letting in some warm early fall air. “That’s better. Ignore the relic,” and he pointed to the sleeping platform. “This was where my sire’s brother introduced his females to his, hmm, eclectic hobbies.” The archivist covered his eyes with one forefoot as Ti mock-leered.

“The brother who passed away after a short illness?” Rada raised her eyebrow and flipped the tip of her tail.

“Indeed,” Ti agreed. After a moment of rustling he settled onto the specially crafted bench, taking all weight off his mangled hip and prosthetic leg. “So, to business. Archivist?”

The slightly-built dark green male turned on a data pad. “Lord Reh-dakh, to your knowledge has an Imperial succession ever been challenged from outside?”

Rada leaned back on her cushion, surprised at the question. “Ah, challenged after it was declared or challenged before a successor was formally named?”

The two reptiles looked at eachother and then back at the Wanderer. “Either,” Ti hissed.

“As best I recall, my lord, master archivist, no one from outside has ever challenged a succession after a candidate was named Prince Imperial.” Rada tapped her claws on the iron war fan hanging from her belt. “A candidate’s competency has been questioned by the Planetary Council once that I remember, but that was before the King-Emperor formally presented anyone to the Court.”

Talons skittered across ceramic as the archivist took notes. Ti’s eyes narrowed. “Who was it?”

“King-Emperor Shar. The Council strongly suggested, to the point of almost insisting, that his second son not be considered for the order of succession.”

The archivist took more notes, then looked over at the mammal. “Why, my lord?”

Rada finger-groomed her tail tip, buying time as she weighed her words. “The second son, let us say lacked the self-control necessary to rule wisely. He failed to show the maturity expected in a future leader of men.” The mammal stared into the past, recalling the scene in crisp detail.

Lord Ti rubbed a talon under his long muzzle. “That was over two hundred years ago, Lord Reh-dakh. How can you remember it?”

“Because the situation was so unusual, my lord. I’ve never seen the like before or since. Even at the time those involved knew that the Council never made such a request of the King-Emperor.” Rada’s ears twitched. “And King-Emperor Shar agreed to the Council’s demand. Because really, they demanded that he disinherit his second son, not requested.”

Ti’s tail swished back and forth as he mulled over Rada’s answer. “Well, there is a precedent then, no matter if it is rather distant and tangential.”

The archivist finished his notes and put the pad into his carry-harness. “If your lordship will excuse me, this answers the minister’s question.”

“Yes, yes, you may go. Thank you for your time,” Ti dismissed the other reptile with a wave of his forefoot. After the archivist closed the door, the Imperial uncle let his body flop, boneless, doing a very good impression of the bench cover that Rada threatened to turn people into. “Well fewmets. That doesn’t help.”

“My lord, what in the blazes is going on?”

Ti shook his head, mimicking his former commanding officer. “While you were away, Reh-dakh, Prince Trae caused considerable embarrassment. Not only did he exceed his leave time, not only did he fail to pay his bills while on leave, but the bill he failed to pay was for services at a brothel.” Ti gave the mammal a knowing look. “And not a brothel on one of the colonies.”

Rada used the iron war fan to hide a lascivious grin of her own. “Ah. And the nature of the place of business has raised concerns about the prince’s judgment.”

The old reptile snorted hard enough to blow a sheet of calligraphy paper off the desk. “A member of the Imperial lineage consorting with,” he gasped in mock indignation, mimicking one courtier in particular, “female mammals! And alien reptiles! How can someone who stoops to such conduct,” and Ti broke character, “and you know the rest.”

“I’d be more upset that he skipped on the bill and didn’t tip than that Prince Trae got caught at an interspecies brothel, but I’m not the King-Emperor.” Rada shook her head, keeping the fan up to hide her even larger grin.

Ti raised a cautionary talon, sober again. “Nor are you Azdhag. Remember that and watch yourself, Commander Ni Drako.”

She bowed from her seated position, acknowledging the warning.

(C) 2013, 2022. All Rights Reserved.

10 thoughts on “A Bit from the Past

  1. Rada’s personal history seems to be like the history of Russia. Things only get better for a little while, so that they may get even worse later.

  2. Of course Rada will be required to save the throne, no matter how much of her personal anatomy gets spindled, folded, or eaten in the process. It’s the plot complications that bring out the humor (black and scaly), and the process server seeking to throw a prince in debtor’s prison — or claim the realm to discharge his debt and accumulated fees and interest.

    That’s a nice premise to build from. Time to comm her old associate and sparring partner, Jaime Retief? I can see that level of absurdity working in.

    • Rada would have been a lot happier (and less achy) if the Azdhag practiced a less “talons-on” system of personnel management.

  3. His amorous adventures didn’t stop Edward VII of England from becoming king. Of course he did pay his obligations, albeit with taxpayers money. The Azdhagi, however, are different than humans, and can be somewhat puritanical, especially concerning relations with mammals.

    Just a suggestion, but this might make an entry for what Lawdog calls “Moggies in Spaaace.”

    • A suggestion that Lawdog would ponder with due consideration, then guffaw mellifluously with multisyllabic descriptors. 🙂

      Ah, Edward VII would have continued receiving the blind eye for consorting with a mistress, but planning to marry the Baltimore Chippie (an already-divorced commoner and a foreigner) was out of the question in the 1930s.

  4. Cat Among Dragons. Another worthy escape from an otherwise increasingly crazy world. We won’t go into how crazy the world must actually be that I find interstellar fiction and stories about mages on Earth sanity inducing. Or maybe it is just me that is crazy?

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