Work in Progress

Just a little, unedited, scene I’ve been toying with

Scene—Outside Ruins (2018)

There had always been rumors, ever since the end of the Dragon War.  People started saying that some had survived, uncontained, within moments of the war’s end.  Everyone thought the stories were the delusional ravings of paranoids.  Everyone knew the weakest dragons had been slain in the war, and the strongest, the ones no one could kill, were imprisoned in an eternal sleep.

They all said the stories that some had survived, free, were flights of darkest fancy.

They all claimed that every site occupied by the dragon-lords had been located and destroyed.  The Houses and the guardians had books and maps showing every such location around the world.

Yet, here he stood a few yards away from ruins that did not appear on any of the maps possessed by the Houses or the guardians of the Dragon Caves.

Well, Alaric had to admit, it was the ruins of a human religious site.

He could see the worn, ragged, roughly phallic stone in the center standing on three semi-concentric circles of stone blocks.  Around it stood a ring of closely packed standing dark granite stones topped with matching lintel stones.  They were so tight that they formed a wall, pierced in four places by openings in the cardinal directions.  The lintels rose and fell as their standing stones ranged from nearly his own height to twice that, apparently at random.  A low earthwork encircled the entire site, behind him.  Lichens and stubby grass covered everything inside the circles.

Honestly, Alaric thought, it wouldn’t be unusual or out of place in most of northern Europe.  The grey sky and constant drizzle would be perfectly in line with parts of the UK too.

But, he was standing in an unnamed rainforest, in the mountains, almost exactly on the border between Washington and British Columbia.  And the site, according to his sources and a few basic detection spells, was pre-Columbian.  In fact, if he’d done the spells right, the site was older than the mundanes thought humans had been on the continent.

Alaric was certain that, despite appearances, one of the alcoves or possibly one of the ring steps around the central stone would recede.  If his research was correct, it would lead into the ground beneath the site.  The stories said that, in the last days of the war, a number of the strongest dragon-lords built hidden complexes in which to hide, in sleep or hibernation, and escape his ancestors.

Shifting the pack that rode heavy on his shoulders, Alaric strode toward the nearest arch.  His booted feet whispered over the low grass as his eyes roamed, trying to take in every possible detail.  Soon, he was passing under the lintel stone.  He paused a few moments to study the arch, ancient, massive stones planted upright in the ground with a third laid across the top.  As he expected, no mortar or other means of connecting them.  The ancient humans had relied solely on the weight of the stones to keep the structure in place.  The whole arch took three steps to pass through, then Alaric found himself within the grounds.

He looked around, confirming what he’d thought and seen from beyond the ring.

Seen closer, none of the alcove seemed deep enough to conceal stairs or other means of descent.  The vaguely phallic plinth appeared the more likely means of accessing any hidden complexes.  To be safe, Alaric walked the ring, looking into each of the five or six alcoves he could see.  He spared a glance at the moss sheathed conifers that towered over the site, and the weak sunlight that filtered through the overcast sky.

A vague sense for the weather suggested that the drizzle would get stronger before it abated.  Deciphering a combination on the plinth could take hours, possibly days . . . while reasonably dry.

He nodded to himself, “It’s sat for millennia, what’s another half day and night?”

His only answer came from a couple crows.

“Right,” Alaric smiled, aware of talking to himself.  “Shelter and warmth it is.”

He shrugged the pack off his shoulders and undid the straps holding a tent to the bottom of the frame.  The pack leaned against one of the arch stones while Alaric waved a hand.  The tent began pitching itself as its owner left the ring in search of firewood.

It only took a few minutes before Alaric shook his head.  Calling the deadfall “damp” would be a serious understatement.  Most of it was waterlogged at best.  With no other options, he gathered what he could and sent it floating along in a pile a few inches off the ground behind him.

An hour later, he was sitting in his dry tent, his pack laid on the floor next to him.  A modest fire was going a safe distance from the fabric, helped along by a tiny bit of wizardry, and a pile of fallen branches was drying nearby.  He’d rigged up a lean-to out of a tarp to at least attempt to keep the firewood slightly dryer.  The scent of a re-hydrated soup wafted into the tent from its small tin pan next to the fire.

Alaric pulled the pan off its hot rock and mostly closed the tent flap just as the drizzle began to be interspersed with fat drops of real rain.

As the light fell, the sorcerer unconsciously created a simple, fist sized ball of light.  The basic spell was familiar to all beginning wizards, one of the first things they learned to do.  He sent it to float near the apex of the tent while he ate and read through some notes he’d spread out on his pack.