This vignette deals with the content in the Dragon Gods, Part 1 post.
Roarke stared at the ancient bones embedded in the rock, feeling something cold slither deep in his guts. There was no mistaking the familiar curve of the skull, the distinctive flare of the crest. His eyes followed the exposed surface of the fossil down to where it disappeared into the uncut stone.
“Tell the men to stop work for the day,” he said quietly. “Send word to the architect. We have to reroute the road around this hill.”
“But sir, that will take months!” cried Tover. “And the cost—“
“Keep your voice down,” hissed Roarke. “And get Malcolm here. We need an Earthshaper to cover this up.”
“Ward is closer,” replied Tover, shaking his head. “And I can call a crew in here to help.”
“No!” Roarke grabbed Tover by the tunic with both hands. “No one is to see this without my say-so. And I don’t trust Ward to keep his mouth shut.”
Tover grabbed Roarke’s wrist as his face set in a scowl. “Are you mad? What is going on, Engineer?”
Emil, who had discovered the bones when his team had split a seam in the rock and sent it sliding down, had hustled his men away from the scene. Now he returned, taking slow, awkward strides like a sleepwalker. He passed the two men and stood before the skull, reaching out toward it with a trembling hand. He froze a fingertip away from the yellowed, daggerlike teeth.
“It’s one of them, isn’t it?” he whispered. “One of the Gods.” A few members of the foreman's team gathered a few paces behind him, worry flickering across their faces.
Tover’s eyes went wide as he let go of Roarke.
“Emil, get these men out of here,” said Roarke evenly. “You are confused.”
Emil ignored him and dropped to his knees, pressing his forehead into the dust and rubble. “I know what I see, Engineer. We have desecrated the resting place of one of the great ones. We are unclean. We must call for a priest to purify us.” He began to moan, a low, guttural sound soon accompanied by the other workers who joined him on the ground.
Roarke released Tover and backed away slowly. After a few moments he began to jog back to his tent, passing confused teams of road builders on the way, men who had stopped work and began to drift toward the hillside like moths drawn to a flame.
Inside the tent Roarke was throwing together key papers, his most valuable and portable tools, a skin of water, and what money he had lying about into his surveyor’s pack.
As he settled the pack on his shoulders, he found Tover blocking the way. “Why was the site not marked if one of the Great Ones was interred here?”
Roarke stepped closer, but Tover made no move to get out of his way. “I ask you again--what is happening, Engineer? You know something.” He stared pointedly at the pack.
Roarke fixed Tover with his gaze, then sighed. “I’ve seen something like this before. When I was an apprentice. My master was wise enough to hide the evidence before the word got out.” He rubbed his brow. “How old do you think those bones are, Tover?”
The man hesitated. “I couldn’t say. A few hundred years?”
Roarke snorted. “A few thousand at the least.”
Tover frowned. “But there were no Dragons here when the Gate was first opened.”
The Engineer nodded. “True. So those bones are from before. There were Dragons here once. Then there weren’t. And now they’ve come again, and we their humble servants have stumbled across something that is forbidden.”
Tover face went pale. “What do you mean? What could have . . .” his voice trailed off.
Roarke shrugged. “Who knows? Maybe these Dragons never mastered the ancient magics. Maybe they fell to warring with each other until too few were left to carry on. Perhaps something stronger than them came and wiped them out. Did you see the char marks on the bone where the right wing should have sprouted?”
He shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we have seen evidence that the Gods can be destroyed. That they are mortal, not just individually, but collectively. And this is not the only case. Why do you think there are Humans and Trolls and Goblins native to most worlds but Dragons on only a few?”
Tover was blinking, as if shaking off sleep. “The Great Ones arise but rarely, on blessed and chosen worlds.”
“Or might it be that they survive on but a few worlds? That where they did not learn to harness the efforts of lesser species, they could not endure? Or that an ancient enemy wiped them out where it could find them?”
Roarke tapped Tover on the chest. “I tell you again, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that everyone who has seen this is going to die as soon as the Wyrms or their priests find out. This site will be sealed off, perhaps studied in secret, and destroyed. Because if it becomes common knowledge that the Gods were wiped out once, then some will wonder if it can happen again.”
Roarke gripped the straps of his pack firmly and pushed his way past Tover into the afternoon light. “I, for one, will not be here when they come.”
Copyright 2009 by Doug Sims