The obligatory scale patterned floor tiles were covered by rugs that put his rooms’ to shame. The walls were concealed by brilliant tapestries depicting what appeared to be the same five or six dragons in different poses. But the room was dominated by a heavy, ornately carved desk in a deep silvery-grey wood that Alaric could not place. The surface itself was at least the size of a double bed, he guessed.
Jdal stood, hands clasped behind his back, a few feet away, staring at one of the tapestries.
Alaric followed his gaze to see the woven art showed a dragon in flight. Its red-gold scales somehow managed to appear to shine in the setting sun’s light. The sorcerer was no art connoisseur, but, judging solely from the intricate detail and lifelike effect, he thought the weaver had to be a master. The beast had to have been, scaled, over a hundred feet in length, if it had been real. He guessed.
“This is Getorix, scion of Clan Thaliess, and the eldest and highest ranked of our charges,” Jdal said, as if discussing the weather. “Should, when, we wake the Great Ones, he will be the one who leads us. At least until his sister awakes, if she and her temple survived the ages.”
The priest turned and gestured for Alaric to take a seat.
“The questions that I find I must ask myself are: what kind of world are we in? And should I wake the Great Ones? If I do wake them, will the world be one in which they should be revealed immediately or in which they need to bide their time? The responsibility for these choices are ultimately mine, as Agrum.”
Alaric shifted in the chair, once again undefinably uncomfortable.
“The title means both head priest of a temple, protector, and advisor,” Jdal continued, apparently seeing the sorcerer’s confusion. “It is neither bestowed nor accepted lightly. And it comes with great responsibility as well as being bound to the temple for life.”
He sat opposite Alaric and leaned back in his own, rather more magnificent, chair.
“I lack necessary information, Al. About the changes, the races, and the politics of the world. Many things are unclear to me. And this disturbs me. For instance, I see the grey aura of low magic about you, but a stronger aura of green that is unfamiliar to any of our priests. There are also, it seems, new intelligent races in the world. And you have not been entirely honest with us.”
Here we go, Alaric thought. He finally got to the point. Without knowing exactly what the priest was speaking about, the sorcerer decided to remain silent. Better that than to accidentally say too much.
A wave of the priest’s hand summoned a woman clad in the same black robes as the servant who had brought his food. With a rush of concern, and some fear, Alaric recognized his collection of pocket notebooks as she set them on the desk and retreated.
“It took some time,” the priest said, after a moment, “by our standards, but we are not without our own magics. And spells related to language have always been a particular specialty of the Great Ones and their kin. One of our priests is especially skilled and interested in such things. The intensity and interests of youth, you see. He found the correct combination of spells to make these texts readable and has been studying them all morning . . . Perhaps you could clarify what happened at the end of the War and after? Just in case his translation or understanding is flawed.”
Alaric shrugged, “Records of those eras are sparse and fragmentary. Most of what has come down has been oral history, covered in myth, legend, and fable. We have no reliable histories of either era.”
“But, you have good guesses? You suspected this temple’s location and were correct. And you thought there could be ‘free dragons’ or ‘hidden dragons.’ What do you mean by this? Are we to assume there are, what, captive dragons?”
His tone remained level and calm, measured. But, there was a growing something, wildness or anger maybe, in his eyes that told Alaric he should run, fast and far.
Too bad the door was closed and he was stuck in a maze of a temple, underground.
The sorcerer sighed, “Ok. The dragons, the great ones, lost the War. Afterwards, as far as we can tell, many were hunted down and slain. The most powerful were captured and contained. Somewhere secret and safe. Magic and humans were left to develop and evolve unconstrained by dragon tyrants. Both have grown in a variety of ways since the War. Dragons were largely reviled as monsters, in most cultures and among magicians, for millennia. Only recently are those views starting to change a little, so my colleagues have said.”
“So the usurpers eventually won,” Jdal said, with a nod. “Or so they thought. The Great Ones were correct in their concerns. I sense the truth in what you say, perhaps not the whole truth, but more than before. And it fits with the little we have gleaned from your books. Unfortunately, that also means you are an enemy of the Great Ones.”
He rose and stood staring at the tapestry of Getorix again, his back to Alaric.
“We were constructed as a temple, with chambers for the reposing Great Ones added much later. As such, we have no official places to confine prisoners. That being the case, and because we cannot set you at liberty, you will be confined to the rooms assigned to you. Your door will open only for the senior priests and a single servant. Guards will be posted outside at all hours. They will be instructed to kill, should you try to leave the room.”
As he spoke, Alaric heard footsteps and turned to see two of the priests who had escorted him enter the room.
Each priest took an arm and led the sorcerer out of the room at their senior’s command.