Metal and Stone, Prologue
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summer, 666 BCE, prydein

“Gurgastius is but one of many, good wyrms,” Baalhalllu said, his platinum scales shining in the midday sun.

 “’Tis true,” Graayyyavalllia said. “I hear tales from the mainland of the chieftains in Gaul and Rome, the kings in Greece and Persia, and the lords, earls, masters, chiefs, kings, and emperors of the hundreds of nations in-between. They all think to command us, to rule us. To force us, often by threat of violence, to do as they wish.” She thumped her glittering, garnet tail as she finished.

“Dragon slayers are becoming a larger and larger problem with each passing season,” said Jorrduliannsa, a pale, celestine wyrm from the far north.

“The problems are mounting,” Kwallindauria said. “But what we need is not a recounting of the problems we face, but solutions.”

Baalhalllu smiled. For one so young, she shows surprising wisdom.

“Here, here,” called dozens of metallic wyrms together. Baalhalllu’s glow of pride shattered and he barely stopped from rolling his eyes at them. Did they truly think their rehearsed praise for his daughter’s words would help? Wisdom was what was needed here, not some foolish attempt at feigned acclamation.

Not yet, he thought. Others need to make their suggestions first. If my plan is the first they hear, they will dismiss it out of hand.

“It is time to strike!” said Vordillainsura, a powerful agate wyrm from central Gaul, his black scales sparkling. “Not the foolish one-dragon-against-an-army battles that have been occurring in haphazard fashion throughout the world, but a concerted attack against the Humans! We are not the only ones being threatened! The Sidhe, the Gnimshei, the Famorians, the Firbolg, the Tuatha, and scores of others are being threatened by the Humans as well! They will all join with us in a war against mankind! It is time! Who is with me?”

A few stone dragons cheered, but the sound was muted and gained little support.

Thank for you being the idiot to speak first, Baalhalllu thought.

“Are you insane?” Graayyyavalllia asked in earnest.

And thank you, Graayyya, Baalhalllu thought. Another stone dragon speaking out against him will go a long way.

“Coward,” Vordillainsura shot back.

“Not in the least,” Graayyya said. “But I prefer not to destroy the Earth. I suppose you don’t much care?”

“What would you know? You were practically raised by the cowardly platinum.”

“Cowardly?” Kwallindauria said. “In what way, exactly? Where there is injustice, I fight it. Where there is unnecessary conflict, I eliminate it. Where there is warmongering, I silence it. Where the weak are oppressed, I defend them. Where the truth has been obliterated, I restore it. When battle is needed, I will never hesitate to fight. But much more often, there is a better way. Do not let your violent nature get the better of you, Sura.”

The agate scoffed and turned away from her. Addressing the mass of stone wyrms behind him, Vordillainsura roared, “RALLY BEHIND ME, WYRMS! BATTLE COMES, AND WE WILL NOT RUN FROM IT! WE MUST FIGHT AND WE MUST DESTROY THE HUMANS ONCE AND FOR ALL!”

“Do not be an idiot,” Jorrduliannsa said. “You know the destruction we have wrought in the past when we have warred openly. If we do this, if we go to war, one and all, there will be no Earth left by the time we are done. Nothing will survive.”

“If that is what is needed.”

“Can you hear yourself?” Graayyyavalllia asked, her voice stern.

“All I hear is the bleating of a coward,” Vordillainsura said.

Graayyya shook her head. “How many times have you come to me to arbitrate, Vordillainsura? Korathroonllea? Dreerovadia? Thrunndiaun? Briteillaun? Viritriain? Cukhorilai? How often have you all come to me for my wisdom, to settle disputes, or to facilitate talks with the other races? How often have each and every one of you come to me and listened to my counsel?”

That’s cowed them, thank the gods.

Even Vordillainsura looked abashed, head bowed. For a moment, at least.

Then he looked up into her eyes, his look hard. “What do you suggest we do, then?” his voice was bitter.

“Can I at least convince you to accept that war is not the answer?” she asked.

“If you can show me a better solution,” he said stubbornly.

Graayyyavalllia nodded, as though that settled everything.

Which, of course, it did. He would listen. He would follow the plan.

And now, Baalhalllu thought, to settle the others.

Kwallindauria looked around the standing stones to all the dragons massed there. She met the eyes of each and every one of them in turn. The process seemed to take ages.

“If you will all listen, the Council of Elders has a plan which will ensure both our own continued survival as well as that of the Humans and Mother Earth herself.”

Baalhalllu looked about the circle to meet the eyes of each of the dozens of wyrms which had come together for this meeting. In each and every one, he found at least acceptance if not willing compliance.

Nodding to the group as a whole, he began to speak of his plan for their future. It wasn’t an ideal solution, he knew. The Watchers would have their work cut out for them, especially for the first few centuries while the dragon slayers would still come searching for them. But it was the only course of action open to them which would not result in unacceptable loss of life as well as the potential destruction of the Earth itself.

If we destroy the Earth, we destroy ourselves anyway.

Are you certain this is the way? Dauria’s voice spoke within his mind.

It is a good plan, he said. Not the best, but we don’t have the luxury of a plan which will please everyone. We don’t have the luxury of a method which will allow us to live in peace with the Humans. Not anymore. The moment they stopped revering us, this became inevitable. They are stubborn, willful, ambitious, and greedy creatures.

Yes, Sire, she said.

She was displeased with the answer, he knew.

By the tails of his ancestors, he was displeased with it too. But what choice did they have? When left with the choice between going to sleep, possibly forever, and destroying the Earth, sleep had to be his choice. Anything less and they were no better than the Humans.

That’s a sobering thought.

What happens if they find one of us while we sleep? Dauria asked.

They will not.

How can you be so sure?

That is part of the reason for the Watchers, my dear. For the first few centuries, while they still remember us, they will search. They will hunt with reckless abandon, I am certain. The Watchers will keep them from finding us, or, barring that, keep them from returning to their people.

So we are going to end up killing humans anyway? Dauria asked, incredulous.

By the ones or twos, it is unavoidable. It will be no worse than what we’ve been doing for decades. When one of them threatens us and will not listen to reason, we have been forced to kill. This will be no different.

Except that they will be killed out of hand, with no chance for talking them out of it.

Better that than letting the stones have their way and entering into a full-scale war with the humans. You know as well as I how destructive that would be. I don’t like it any more than you, but we must do what we must do.

But to kill them without provocation, Dauria protested. How is it any better?

As I said, we will do what we must. This is a necessity, Kwallindauria. It cannot be avoided. It is better to kill a few of them who wander too close to our sleeping forms than to make all-out war with them.

I suppose you’re right, she said glumly.

It is the lesser of the evils, he said. Do not sulk. This is what must be.

I know, Sire. She paused, then added, we will wake someday. I pray it is to better circumstances than we now face. I eagerly await the day we can go back to living in peace with the Humans. Watching over them. Caring for them. That is what I was made for.

I know, my dear. I know. You will have it back. Someday.

Although he couldn’t see her, Baalhalllu felt her glowing smile in his mind and he smiled back.

He wasn’t sure he believed what he’d told her about the future, but he hoped it was so.

The Humans can’t possibly be foolish enough to continue on their destructive path throughout all the ages, can they?

Such a thing seemed preposterous.

Next: Metal and Stone, Chapter 1

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