The lizzies of Yessonarah lined the streets and watched in fascination as the embassies from ten nearby villages paraded down the central avenue. Each consisted of a village king, a witch doctor, and some fifty or more warriors, all wearing the paint and feathers of their people. As they passed the great temple pyramid, each looked up to the top. Tokkenoht stood at the top of the steps, her bright blue form standing out clearly in front of the granite and stone structure behind her. She didn’t mislead herself into thinking that they were looking at her though. They were looking at the god.
She peered back at the scaly form draped over the building, just as he gave a great snore. Yessonar had been asleep for more than a week. Occasionally he would snore, exhale a cloud of smoke, or roll over, but otherwise he was just like a giant statue of himself.
Walking around the corner of the vault, she looked out away from the city, past the lake, to the woods through which the lower portion of the River Ssukhas flowed. She could see, rising up above the trees, smoke from the camps of the humans who were searching the river for gold.
“How many are there?” came a deep rumbling voice from behind her.
“I do not know, Great Yessonar.”
“I count about five thousand. Are they causing any trouble?’
“Not really, Great Yessonar. Our king suspects they are not paying all their taxes. It is hard for our warriors to collect the king’s share of gold, because the humans all look alike to us.”
“Then perhaps you need some way to distinguish them.” He rose up on his four legs and stretched out his great wings. “I’m going to eat and then I must visit Tsahloose before I can fly back to my fortress. I will return in a few weeks time.”
“As you will, Great Yessonar,” said Tokkenoht with a bow.
The dragon usually shot into the sky so fast when he took off that it was impossible for one’s eyes to follow him. Not this time. He pushed off the top of the temple and glided over the forest, with only a couple of lazy wing beats. Flying over the lower river, he gracefully turned and headed west, before suddenly shooting up into the clouds. Only when the magnificent beast was no longer visible, did she turn and make her way down the great staircase.
When Tokkenoht reached the palace, it was a swarm of activity. A line of a hundred lizzies was carrying in great quantities of food through the side gate, and just inside, a makeshift kitchen was preparing that food and placing it on great platters to be brought into the throne room. The high priestess followed the line of servers carrying the platters into the largest room of the palace. It had been converted to a great dining hall. The king, his wives, and his advisors sat at a long table up on the dais, while the visitors from ten villages filled the rest of the hall. All four walls were lined with warriors of Yessonarah, each holding an upright spear. Already the assembly was becoming loud and boisterous.
“More ssukhas!” shouted Hsrandtuss, raising his cup.
Tokkenoht lifted a pitcher full of the intoxicating liquor from the platter of a food bearer, and carried it the length of the room to the dais. She filled the king’s cup, sat the pitcher down in front of him, and then reached up to straiten his gold crown. Then she sat down in the empty chair between him and Ssu.
“The king has had much wine already,” said Ssu, leaning over in confidence. “Perhaps you should not have filled his cup.”
“You will tell him he’s had enough then?” countered Tokkenoht.
Ssu hunkered down in submission.
Leaning back, Tokkenoht looked at Szakhandu, seated on the other side of the king. She rarely wore paint, but she was completely made up this evening. Her right half from the waist up, was bright red, while her left half from the waist up, the side facing Tokkenoht, was tar black. Her bottom half was reversed. She wasn’t wearing the gold necklace that she usually had on, and the priestess thought she saw it around Kendra’s neck. Instead, Szakhandu wore a necklace of gorgosaurus teeth, a symbol of strength that few females would have been allowed.
The king stood up, leaning over his table.
“What say my friends?” he shouted out, and the noise of so many voices slowly died down. “More food and more ssukhas?”
“We have food and ssukhas!” a voice shouted back.
Tokkenoht stared down from the dais as one of the village kings slowly got to his feet. He was a young, muscular male, with a very handsome tail.
“We have food and ssukhas at home!” Several lizzies around the village king hissed in agreement. “What we want is what we came for!”
Szakhandu stood up.
“What is it you came for, King Thikkik of Ar-kussthek?”
“We came for our females!” shouted the king. A dozen warriors around him stood up and hissed.
“What in the name of Hissussisthiss’s whiskers are you talking about?” demanded Hsrandtuss. “I haven’t raided any of your villages.”
“You have lured away our females with your unnatural, soft-skin inspired ideas about child rearing.”
“The way we raise offspring has nothing to do with humans!” growled Hsrandtuss. “It was my idea!”
Raising their own offspring, rather than leaving them to the mercy of predators, had in fact been Szakhandu’s and Kendra’s idea, but Tokkenoht certainly wasn’t going to contradict the king.