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A Dragon at the Opera

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The cavern is the biggest single enclosed space Perle has ever seen, with a rainbow of dragons lining the craggy walls. She and Hiram talked for a while about how to best translate the term for the place in Spanish, and settled on "opera house" (after Perle got all five confused heads to understand what "opera" was).

She has a printout of the script for tonight's show back home, and is working on a translation. It's only half done, so Hiram gave her a summary of the parts she hasn't finished; she and her leopard gecko daemon will try to follow it by ear from there.

Other dragons in eveningwear catch Hiram's eye as he passes their aisle, and gasp, and ask if they can get a picture of the creature riding on his back. Sometimes it's just one head out of several, other times it's three or five or eight all swerving in simultaneous awe. Perle may not be the total novelty she was a year ago, but plenty of dragons are still charmed by their tiny soft-skinned visitor with her even tinier lizard-shaped soul.

Hiram's grey head says something glum in the local language, his blue head negotiates, and his violet head snaps at the brick-red head of a four-headed dragon to back off. Perle frowns at the red head. "It sounded like she just called me a 'snack' instead of a 'creature'."

"We will char his feathers from his bones if he tries to follow through on it!" shrieks Hiram's green head in reply.

"So my translation was right?" asks Perle. "That was all I wanted to know."




The opera is amazing. The lead singer, a soprano/soprano/alto/mezzo-soprano/alto in radiant shades of silver and crimson, is breathtaking. Every time she's on stage, she steals the show.

Hiram flies her to a quiet corner afterward and translates a phrase for her. It's one of those that you can't express without at least three heads, so Perle gets out her equipment (the producers gave her permission to record the audio for study purposes) and says the alpha phrase into the microphone, then practices the other two.

They meet the singer at the mouth of the backstage tunnel. Perle presses play on her recorder, says the beta phrase out loud in conjunction with it, and her daemon says the gamma phrase to round them out.

She gets lots of cooing and an autograph, and Hiram gets photos of Perle perched between the vermillion soprano and silver alto heads.




Later, Perle sits between Hiram's clawed feet to watch as he uploads the photos to his blog. Adoring comments start pouring in. Hiram's gold head translates the nicest. She knows there are flames, too, because why wouldn't there be, but Hiram's grey head is the only one who doesn't shush her when she points that out, so she doesn't bring it up.

Some are fans of the singer. Plenty are fans of Perle. Hiram's experience with blogging and publicity back in Perle's home universe has paid off; they get a steady income from advertising deals, merchandise with her face on it, plush versions of her daemon, and so on. Even after she leaves this world, Hiram will probably be set for life on the profits of managing his society's most unusual celebrity pet.

A macro shows up in the comment stream, a version of one of the photos with large black-and-white text pasted above and below Perle's digital face. "I don't recognize that phrase," she says. "Is it your language, or some other country's?"

"That's ours. It's a simplified font, that's all," says Hiram's gold head. He opens a word-processing program and types a series of characters, recognizably the same ones, but with extra serifs and flourishes that let her identify them.

The grey head nuzzles up next to her arm. Perle uses one hand to groom his crest as she parses the conjugations.

"WENT TO THE OPERA," she translates at last. "IT WAS AWFUL."

The grey head lets out a heavy sigh. "Sounds about right."