“And The Watchers want, what?” Graayyya asked. “To start a war? To rain destruction down on the heads of the humans with no regard for the damage we will cause to Mother Earth?”

“So it would seem.”

“This is not good.”

“You always had a talent for understatement,” Dauria said with a sly grin.

“Better than the alternative,” Graayyya murmured.

“What are your thoughts?”

“It all seems awfully convenient.”

Dauria nodded.

“Have you confirmed any of it?”

“Some,” she said. “Japan still bears traces of the weapons they described. Many of the Earth’s national leaders are consumed with thoughts of war and conquest. There is undeniable damage to both the Earth and its natural defenses to the rays of Ryujin’s Blaze.”

“Enough to warrant what The Watchers propose?”

“I’m…” she hesitated. “I’m not certain. I feel that involvement in the form of leading them away from conflict in the guise of human advisors would be better. At least for now. I can’t help thinking that extreme actions the like of what The Watchers are proposing should be a last resort, fallen back on only after all other avenues have failed.”

“In that, we are in agreement,” Graayyya said. “Where are The Watchers now?”

“Waking the other Elders. I told them to assemble the Council.”

Graayyya’s head shot up, her blazing eyes burning into Dauria’s soul.

“What?”

“Does it not strike you as odd that no Watcher has come to me? Was I not counted among the wisest of the Elders before the Long Sleep?”

“And one of the–“

“Oh, no,” Kwallindauria cut her own thought off and leaped into the air, taking wing in a rush. She flew less than a wingspan beneath the ceiling of the cavern. She passed the edge of the island and tucked her wings tightly against her body, then plunged into the placid water at full speed.

She spent a moment of concentrated thought to morph her form into that of the more traditional platinum serpent-dragon, sleek and sinewy. She slithered through the water at blinding speed.

After little more than a minute, she reached the boulder sealing the water cavern.

She slowed only slightly before she slammed into the boulder with a mind-numbing thud. It didn’t budge.

Kwallindauria resumed her natural, almost humanoid, reptilian form. With its greater physical strength, she swam out several wingspans from the boulder and swam toward it once more, packing every iota of her immense strength into the motion.

Her shoulder crunched painfully into the stone, her teeth rattled in her skull. The wall of the cavern trembled, yet the boulder held its place over the hole.

Kwallindauria bared her teeth and growled deep in her chest. She roared her frustration, but the sound was obliterated by the sea water surrounding her.

What am I doing? she thought. Brute force is not the way wyrms do things. Use your head, foolish dragon!

Dauria closed her eyes, calming the rage in her blood, and focused her thoughts on the problem. She took several long, deep gulps of water, her body claiming the oxygen from it before expelling the fluid back into the cavern.

Opening her eyes, she summoned arcane strength from her Apex. Carefully, she weaved the power into a molecule-thin net and wrapped it around the boulder, with the open end on the outside of the cavern. She spent many minutes strengthening the net, ensuring it would not break regardless of how much strain was placed upon it.

With the construct ready, she finalized her spell and pulled the net with all her metaphysical strength, yanking the boulder from its place in the cavern wall.

The boulder shuddered, then leaned a claw-width from its place in the wall before it snapped back into place. The force of it thrust Kwallindauria backward, flipping her body end over end for nearly one-hundred wingspans before she righted herself.

Despair clawed at the back of her mind.

A reddish shadow passed over her head and Graayyyavalllia’s voice came into her mind. What is it, Dauria? What’s wrong?

She offered a telepathic huff and said, it is as I feared. We have been trapped here. I cannot move the boulder.

But why?

Can you think of no reason, Graayyya?

By the Astral Dragon, you cannot be serious!

Can’t I?

But why? Why would they want war? We nearly destroyed the Earth last time!

My guess is a combination of boredom and indignation at being forced to leave the fate of Mother Earth in the hands of a species they see as inferior.

Do you think they sabotaged all of the even-tempered Elders? Graayyya asked.

I’d say it’s a fair assumption.

Is there anything we can do?

I think it likely they planned for anything the two of us could manage, but we can try pooling our efforts. Perhaps together we have a chance.

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CHANNILLO

Metal and Stone, Chapter 12
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“I still don’t remember any of this,” Graayyya said in frustration.

“I know,” Dauria sighed. “How long were you awake before I came to you?”

Graayyya hesitated, then said, “I’m not certain. Weeks, perhaps.”

“Weeks?” Dauria asked, incredulous.

Graayyya briefly cocked her head to the left. I don’t know, the movement clearly communicated.

“I see. What woke you?”

“Rage,” the garnet wyrm breathed.

Dauria’s brow ridges furrowed. “I don’t follow.”

Graayyya stared, her expression blank. After several moments, she said, “I really can’t explain it.” She paused, then added, “Kwallindauria,” as though tasting the name for the first time.

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