As the door closed behind the priest, Alaric found himself in a sort of waiting room or parlor. He struggled to find a term that would bridge the gap between the room and his conception of a temple. The walls were lined with floor to ceiling sets of shelves, themselves covered in myriad knick-knacks and bound tomes. He assumed the former held some religious purpose, perhaps artifacts or relics. The scale tiled floor was covered by a matched pair of rugs woven with abstract patterns. When he stared too long, he felt a hint of vertigo and the harbingers of a headache. A small host of upholstered chairs were arranged in groups of three or four around the room, mostly on the carpets. They appeared as chairs everywhere at first glance, but there was something unsettlingly odd about them that Alaric couldn’t quite pin down.
He sat on the nearest chair that faced the door.
Alaric immediately shifted, trying to get comfortable.
After a few minutes of fidgeting, he gave up.
Instead, the sorcerer approached one of the sets of shelves.
He let his eyes roam over the artifacts as his mind wandered.
Jdal’s assertion that the wards and doors opened because they recognized dragon, or servitor, genes kept playing in his head.
The ancient man, he decided, had to be mistaken. Back in the War era, they couldn’t have known about genetics. Jdal had probably confused the word. After all, he’d only been speaking English for maybe half an hour. And he had been isolated from the world for millennia.
That had to be it.
Otherwise, he had implied that some, or all, humans, or sorcerers, were descended from the dragons or their servants. That couldn’t be. It flew in the face of all the histories recorded by mundanes, sorcerers, and non-humans. Plus, if any genes came down from the humans who had directly served the dragons, they would have to be trace amounts after hundreds of generations. Even if the families intermarried for a while . . . the genes would have to be too diluted.
He probably should have paid more attention as a novice. Surely one of the healing masters had covered genetics at some point. If they had said sorcerers were descended from dragons, he was certain it would have stood out. That’s not the sort of thing a person forgot, especially with the history both species had.
These thoughts kept Alaric occupied such that he did not notice the door open or his host return until he heard the scrape of metal on wood.
Turning, he found Jdal standing near the open door, next to a gleaming tray. A few plates and glasses, the former laden with unfamiliar foods and the latter empty, covered the tray. A crystal bottle filled with a red-purple liquid sat on the table.
“Our stores are well preserved, but somewhat lacking in variety,” Jdal said, waving toward the table’s attendant chairs. “But, we are happy to share what we have with our kin.”
The sight, and smell, of food reminded Alaric’s stomach that breakfast had been a long time ago.
He settled in the uncomfortable chair, noting that Jdal sank smoothly into its companion, and, at the other man’s nod, dug into the offering. At first, the unusual scents were off-putting and Alaric thought about spoilage, but as Jdal ate too and seemed to suffer no ill effects, hunger born of exertion won out.
A short time later, with the initial pangs sated, both men leaned back in their chairs.
Alaric continued to shift slightly, trying to find a way to relax in comfort. Jdal, he saw with a touch of jealousy, seemed perfectly comfortable and at ease. For a second, he wondered if the chair was bespelled, to keep him off-balance and unsettled. He dismissed the flashing thought, though. Thus far, his host had seemed entirely courteous.
The younger man set down his glass and seemed to savor the flavor for a moment.
“You say the crescent region is divided today, Al? It occurs to me to ask, when was it last united?”
Alaric thought for a few moments in silence. Mundane history was not his forte.
“I guess, maybe, Alexander the Great . . . he died . . . maybe 2400 years ago. Well after the War. Before that . . . I don’t think it’s been unified in over 6000 years. That’s the beginning of recorded human history. The War had been over for a long time before then. That, I do remember well.”
“So, at least six millennia have passed since the Great Ones went to sleep? That their preservation and protection spells have held so long is a testament to their greatness,” Jdal mused. “There is, I suppose, much that we must learn before waking them.”