Socially Orcward (Adventures in Aguillon #3) by Lisa Henry



Chapter One





“Oh, fuck my life,” said Loth, King of Aguillon, as he took his seat in the great hall. “This bullshit again?”

His husband, Quinn, also King of Aguillon, ignored him and smiled at Dave instead. “Dave, you’re here again? How many times have you seen the play now?”

“Seventeen,” Dave said. “Or forty-six.” He furrowed his brow in thought. Orcs weren’t great with numbers. “Definitely more than three. Pie likes it.”

Pie the fingerdragon trilled approvingly from somewhere in the vicinity of Dave’s wrinkled shirt collar, and dug his tiny claws into Dave’s collarbone, kneading like a kitten. Dave scritched him absently as he watched the curtains hiding the stage from the rest of the hall.

Dave loved the theatre. He’d always loved music and singing and tumbling, but plays were very much a human invention and Dave had only recently been introduced to them. The Ginger Princes, a presentation of the Callier Travelling Players, was the greatest play Dave had ever seen. It was also the only play he’d ever seen, but it was hard to imagine liking one more, especially when Dave wasn’t just a character in The Ginger Princes—he’d even played himself on stage for opening night! It had been the best night of his life, apart from the evening Pie had hatched from an egg, of course.

Loth wasn’t such a fan.

“Look,” he said in an undertone to Quinn, “you know I don’t like to wish ill on anyone—”

Quinn raised a single disbelieving eyebrow, but Loth carried on regardless.

“—but if something terrible and fatal happened to Scott, I would certainly watch with great interest.” Loth folded his arms over his chest and sighed. “Dave, back me up here.”

“It’s a great play,” Dave said, and Pie chirped happily.

Loth sighed again.

Quinn reached over and tugged one of Loth’s arms free so he could hold his hand. “I know I promised you’d never need to watch it again, but this is for the ambassadors from Falkirk. Lord Hawkesbury said he’d heard all about the play, and wanted to see it.”

“I don’t trust Hawkesbury,” Loth grumbled. “He’s a bastard.”

“A bastard who’ll be here any minute. Behave.” Quinn elbowed him in the side.

Dave watched on as they bickered. He liked Loth, and he liked Quinn, more so now he’d stopped sleeping with horses, but most of all, he liked the theatre. He wondered, if he asked nicely, if Scott would let him be in the play again, since there were special guests in the audience. It would definitely be better with Dave in it. But then, the problem with being in the play meant that he couldn’t also watch the play. It was a conundrum, and Dave didn’t do well with conundrums, or any other words with multiple syllables.

He settled in to wait for the play to start.

The last time Dave had seen The Ginger Princes, there hadn’t been much of a crowd because most people had already seen it a bunch of times. Even Benji, who liked to turn up just to throw peanuts at Scott, had stopped coming along. But tonight the hall was full of people, because of the important ambassadors from Falkirk. Because they wanted to see the play, a whole lot of other people had turned up to see them see it. Or something like that, anyway. Dave didn’t understand court politics. Apart from being pleasantly delighted when every evening meal turned into a five course feast because there were ambassadors visiting the castle, it was really none of his business and he was happy to keep it that way.

Dave had more important things to concentrate on: his dragons.

It turned out that when you rescued the true King of Aguillon and his future husband, they were only too happy to let you claim a whole tower to keep dragons in. Dave didn’t have too many dragons yet—although he would be the first to admit he couldn’t imagine a number that would count as ‘too many’ when it came to dragons—but he was working on it. So far, not counting Pie, he had two hatchlings, two eggs, and more than one shirt with scorch marks on it. Occupational hazard.

He reflexively touched one of the tufts of coarse hair on his head. It was growing back nicely.

Dave heard the murmuring of voices and turned in his seat to see a small group of people entering the hall. The ambassadors from Falkirk, he guessed, because they were escorted right up to the front row where Dave was sitting with Quinn and Loth. Dave shuffled his bum along the bench seat to make more room.

“Hello,” he said to the woman who sat beside him. He held out his meaty green hand. “I’m Dave.”