A reliquary in which the religious artifacts are ALIVE




....VIVIQUARY.... A Dragon Science Fantasy Series




Mike Voûte


1. Logath

It all started with a missing llama. The stupid animal was bleating away only a few metres down-slope from where Logath Powell and his son, Darren, were cowering inside the remains of a broken garden shed.

The old building hung on the ragged edge of the bluff, it's new occupants every so often daring a furtive peek from the gap where the door used to be. Around them, the gardens of deserted and ruined mansions also threatened to succumb to gravity, the ground corniced over a boulder-strewn slope beneath. Just outside the ricketty shed, Logath's partner lay where he'd dropped in the snow. Camoflauged in his worn ski suit, Bennel's breath puffed in sharp little clouds as he whispered.

"They must have seen us..."

Above them, four almost-transparent creatures circled the heights several more times before descending in a line leading straight over their position and down over the scarp. With a wingspan almost thirty metres wide, the dragon-creatures left no shadow- only a column of icy air and a hair-raising tingle as they passed overhead.

"Guess they've got something more important to attend to," Logath whispered back. He had his left arm around his son's back, trying to still the boy's shivering. "Shhh, Darren, it's OK. They'll be gone in a few seconds."

"Are those... the 'Being' dragons, Dad?" the boy quavered.

Everyone knew a team of scientists had tried to save the World a while back and discovered the dragons under the Earth. Hell, the planet was still in trouble, even with the dragon's help. Then those space-alien 'Custodians' arrived. Well, they couldn’t help either, but at least they'd taken the rich and famous to a better place. Now the Earth's orbit was so screwed up that an Ice Age was only a matter of generations away- and the few dragons that could exist on the surface still tried as best they could to help people survive the ever-longer winters.

That's what people said, anyway. But how many had actually seen a dragon? Talk and stories, maybe, but chances of spotting one? Logath couldn't believe it. Darren was only eleven... and there were dragons flying over his head- four of them!!

"Those were no birds," Logath stated the obvious and glanced over at his friend. "I was hoping I heard wrong down at the depot..."

"Yeah. And, you know? I heard 'em say 'Gruff' Johnie disappeared a few days ago," Bennel put in. "Bet he was doin' the construction site down there at the Church. Now the dragons are looking for someone else to eat," Bennel muttered under his breath. "Someone like us..."

"Bennel!" Logath hissed. He angled his head pointedly at Darren, but the boy seemed too pre-occupied watching the tail end of the last dragon dissappear down over the cliff edge. "OK, maybe... they're keeping an eye out for 'entrepreneurs' like us- but not to eat!"

Many fearful minutes passed, and they shivered silently in the 'Post Global Warming' cold, cringing every time their llama called out. A free spirit to the end, it had broken free during the night, still loaded with a week's worth of salvage. And that was the problem- any copper or aluminum was a valuable commodity these days.

But it soon became apparent nothing was about to happen, and our companions peeked out stealthily from the old shed... just in case. With a brushing of heavy gloves, more to warm up than to remove the frost that adhered to their coats, they looked at each other in relief.

They'd been lucky- breaking into the old mansions that once shared an expensive view out over Georgian Bay had made enough noise! And they'd been at it for over a week now, ripping anything that looked salvageable out of the walls. Not strictly illegal... but, of course, that depended on your outlook on life these days.

Crawling to a better angle through the snow, Bennel and Logath watched the winged things surround a lone man standing just fifty metres below their hiding place in a heavy coat.

"Well, they're down there all right- Damn, Logath, look how many of those things there are!!" Bennel gazed up from the poor guy below to all the boarded-up and ruined houses around him. "Sure glad that's not ME down there! Think he was ripping their construction site off like old 'Gruff'? Slim pickings up here..."

"Maybe. Since everyone went south, or left with those 'Custodians', pretty much anything valuable has been shrunk already... it's not much of a living, but it's all we have!"

"Huh. Hard to imagine this was a summer paradise for the rich, eh! But they left all their metals for us, wasn't that nice of them? Well, that guy's on our turf... just as well THEY found him."

"Awww, come on... he's just trying to survive like us. Stop being a jerk."

"You think these 'Beings' will eat him whole?" Darren asked in a small voice.

"You heard that, eh?" Bennel whispered with an evil grin at Darren. "They say this batch of 'em are particularly nasty..."

"Oh, come on, Bennel... knock it off." Logath watched the man below nod to each one of the creatures in turn. "Look. They're not eating anyone- this guy seems to know them; controls them even. See how those dragons watch him? Maybe we don't hear anything, but they're speaking... I know it."

"You think? No one can control those things, Logath! Except, maybe for those Custodians... but that was long ago. I say that guy down there doesn't stand a chance. They'll eat him. Then, they'll come looking to see if there are more of us around to eat.."

"For crying out loud, will you quit it already? And dragons don't eat people anyway... only electricity. And they're welcome to it."

"Yeah, right. Imagine a world without any technology! Since that accident last year, you never liked electrical stuff, did you? But sure, believe what you want. I've heard stories about these Beings that scare the Hell right out of me. Damn! A friend of mine went into one of those Recrudescence places and never came out. Not for me, man!"

"He was sick, Bennel! Recrudescence is supposed to make you 'dragonkind', but you've got to be DEAD first! And I was almost there myself- I never want to do that again!!"

"Amen to that! All for a measly chunk of copper... I TOLD you there's a reason hydro guys connect their stuff to ground! Hey! What's up Darren?"

"So, which is it?" Darren asked them, eye brows raised. "Are they good or bad?? Tell me the truth..."

"Well, not all these dragons are going to be the same, right?" Logath told Darren earnestly. "Sure, maybe they aren't the kindest things on Earth, but no one has ever claimed to have been harmed by a dragon so far's I know. My Grandad told me all about the ones in his time- how they greeted those 'Custodian' aliens when they came here. They're supposed to be friendly!"

"Well, they don't look all that friendly..." Darren started.

"And," Bennel finished fot him, "there's no way I'm going down there!"

"Fine. Stay here then, Bennel!" Logath spouted irritably. "But, I'm going to go get our llama. Stupid- we should've tied him up better. Now the dumb animal's run off with all our stuff! 'Salvage Charlie' is grumpy enough as it is... We better show up at the depot with some decent stuff this time..."

"Careful, Dad!" Darren worriedly gave his dad a quick pat on the back.

Logath nodded back and smiled. How often had he told his son those same words? "No problem..." Then he very carefully made his way around the rocks, just in case a loose one tumbled down, giving away his presence. He could see that the llama's pack had caught on a branch and a quick flip would free the animal.

Making small cooing noises, Logath approached gingerly downwind- already the llama was quieter. Reaching the distressed animal, he comforted it with a gentle caress and grabbed it's halter.

Then, from above him, he heard his partner's soft whistle.

"Hey! Logath! I think they see you!! That guy's gesturing and the dragons are raising their heads!"

Trying to stay as little of a target for whatever fiery blast might come, Bennel didn't dare to raise his head. "Damn, I can't watch... Logath! Please! Get down!"

Brazenly, Logath was in plain sight now. He waved up at Bennel and called, "They're not even looking my way, Bennel! Stop worrying so much."

"I wouldn't be worrying if they weren't about to start fighting, idiot! Wait... what the HELL? The damn things are zapping the ground or something! Logath! Do you see 'em?"

But Logath didn't see. As the ground suddenly shook from the enormous forces wielded by the creatures below, he slid down the slope with a landslide of rocks. He screamed once, long and loud, and rolled with the rocks while the dust choked the breath out of him. At a sturdy tree, the debris parted, leaving his body ragged against the trunk. The fleet-hoofed llama was already gone, bounding up the hill.

Logath's vision swam in and out as he lay, images of his friend and son sweeping down the scree more painfull than his own injuries. He saw Bennel's body submerge and resurface several times and then bang against another tree. And Darren was the second last thing he saw- relief spread over him as his son shook himself free and scampered behind a solid boulder.

And the last thing Logath saw, he almost expected. He was flying through the air! They had come for him--winged and shimmering--an Angel and a Devil. They were standing around him, piercing eyes gazing right into his soul. Voices spoke to his mind- one female, friendly; and the other distinctively male and self-serving. They promised he would see his son again, only he just couldn't stay awake long enough to comprehend what he was supposed to do.

2. Beings

Father George Lambert-the-Third didn't have time to worry about being watched. In all the seventy-some years he'd worn cleric's robes beside these dragon-creatures, he'd never seen anything like this! A perfectly good day's work on the Church compound suddenly turned every road to Chaos.

Running was hardly an option- not with four more of these powerful 'Being' dragons landing around him. Four more to join the three he knew all too well from the years they'd worked together. George stood stock still, dumbfounded.

Now, dragons had been around for generations already- only a few on the surface at a time, mind you, just ten or so. But George had never heard them to be anything but friendly- if a little distanced, perhaps. In all those years, even with the startling events surrounding their arrival, they had always appeared respectful and true.

After the confrontation between the Being-dragons and the alien Custodians so long ago, many blank pages of Mankind's knowledge had been filled in... Scientists were still drooling in the revelations brought forward. But knowledge isn't always a good thing. The Beings told Humanity the meaning of life: it was not good. Events were already set into motion which could only bring extinction to the planet's surface- ALL of it.

Since then, dragons had pledged to help Mankind, and as far as George could tell, they were willing and quite capable. Imagine being able to shape the planet at your will--George had seen some wonders in his time-- and not the least of which was that dragons could overcome death. Oh, a person's body would expire, right enough, but the dragons had a way to save the mind. It must be a wonder for each and every individual, for they returned here in form at the altar to greet friends and family, speaking of a journey more incredible than possible.

It was a journey not long away for George himself, and he had to admit to being a little apprehensive about it. But the cancer was growing worse each day inside him and the medics had no help to give him. Just like thousands of others- waiting until the body could take no more. That's what the Church of Recrudescence was all about...a place where one could die so they could continue living and a place for family to rejoin those who had. That, and a place where dragons could access their technology- something George could only begin to fathom.

The dragons ate energy- and there was not enough for them all. That was the reason relatively few dragons could be 'Awake' from statis at any given time. Apparently, they could absorb just so much power from the environment. For the rest they relied on a special room deep inside the church- a place where they might sit for a week, taking in sparks with their muzzles from crystals recharged at the altar. It was the first part of the Church the dragons had built with George's father's father- the year they'd first shared their plans with mankind. And since then, the Lambert family had been part of the wonders these Beings brought to men- at least, those this group of dragons had brought to Canada. There were other Churches--another in Canada, one in Mongolia and one in Australia--all with their own dragons. But wonders had limits- and rules... and somehow these dragons here relied on him for compliance. Whoever their rulers were, they were strict in their edict towards mankind. It harboured a dark relationship he'd never fully understood, and definitely not something the dragons wished to dwell on, either.

And so his thoughts were wrenched back to the present. Maybe now might be time for a revelation? Or... maybe now was a time for being killed?? The Elder Being who called herself Beryl, had fled into the Church before the newcomers even landed. She'd never seemed afraid of anything before. And her son--a young dragon named Fead--stood frozen in amazement. Staring at the larger of the newcomers, he bowed down low. "Father?? You escaped? You took hostages??"

All the while, the other Elder who called himself Varian was crouched low, his horns flashing a deep-blue corona towards the larger of the arrivals. He'd never done that before either. Throwing up his muzzle, he bellowed a mental barrage at Fead's focus of attention. "SEARATTUS!!!!"

George couldn't help it- he cringed. Oh my God. Searattus??

He could be quite safe with Varian right there- the dragon might well be protecting him... and then again, he could be watching the end of mankind- right here, right now.

After all, the story of what the Elders had done had been told by every dragon who'd ever arrived on the surface. They had wiped out their own race. They had actually caused the 'Big Bang', for crying out loud! Then, while every other adult Being died, these cowards had snuck onto their children's life-raft, trying to commandeer it. In the process of doing that, they had nearly exterminated all life on the Earth's surface!!

It was all ancient history now. A few mere men--men like Dave Heervan and his team--foiled the plans of these powerful things; allowed the Being children to humble these Elders into submission.

The 'repenting' the Elders were supposed to be doing right now seemed to be going well enough so far. Maybe a little too well. Had they only been waiting?? Had the ancient portal in Boothia now spewed the Devil out to land beside him with a thud?

George barely suppressed a shudder... moving might not be the best option here. Far better he become another of the statues lining the courtyard and just listen to the mental barrage going on around him.

"FEADDD!!" The growling force of Searattus's mental outburst rang deep into his mind. Fead somehow managed to cringe even lower and George could see Searattus actually begin to smile! Around him, the air literally crackled with tension, and with the weight of unease seeping out of the minds of the newcomers, it was easy to imagine poor Fead as the very next hostage.

Still, Varian stood his ground and stared Searattus down, instantly angrier as he noticed Searattus reaching out for Fead. Varian never even glanced at the other three of the newcomers who were backing away quickly. Seeing that, George figured it might be prudent to do the same. He slipped backwards ten meters and ducked behind a stone bust. At least the statue absorbed some of the volume of the mental barrage invading his head, but probably would do little as a shield.

"I WARN YOU!!!" Varian's mind-thrust shot out like a punch. "Leave Fead BE!! Release the others!!"

"THREATS, Varian???" Searattus called back in instinctive and escalating anger. "After all I did FOR THEM?? After all I did for YOU?"

"I know what you did!! For that you should EXPIRE!!!"

It only lasted an instant; Searattus obviously realized quickly that outrage might not be his best option at the moment. 'You misunderstand me, Varian! These are no hostages! No need for violence...' But he might as well have saved the energy.

Varian seemed focussed on blocking Searattus's voice out of his mind. George could hear him blithering some mental dialog that, in a moment, could have been a wizard uttering a magical spell; "Four ZMT lines running east and west- one across from the axis... that will do it. I trust the Node obeys me in this... Searattus, this is OVER!!"

A screech like swords being drawn from the ground underfoot brought George's face into a grimmace and his hands over his ears. My God! Now what??

"You cannot! Think what will HAPPEN..." Searattus was powerless to defend against it- he had absolutely no control over anything on the World-ship. Giga-watts of energy shook the ground around him as twisting spirals of deep-blue energy slowly tightened around his body- one false move and he could be dead. He couldn't even communicate through the barriers.

Varian's muzzle scowled a twisted grin, and he gestured with his talon to bump the tornado of power against Searattus's hide. Each contact burned instantly and brought a hiss of pain out of Searattus. Varian was obviously enjoying this far too much. "I could terminate you where you stand..."

Searattus stood defiant through the torment. "Yes, Varian. Kill me now. Kill us ALL..."

And that would have been the end of ALL of them, had not George heard a high pitched scream not far away. And, he knew it wasn't from himself- even painfully crawling back up on his knees from the quaking. Considering all the mental racket going on around him, George was amazed he'd heard it at all. Well, it was all going to hell anyway...

He began shouting at the top of his lungs. "HEY!! DRAGONS!!! FIGHT some OTHER time, OK??"

Varian obviously heard him; he was bound to obey the call of Mankind's life and death by the very conditions of his freedom... and George had never used that condition lightly. The dragon looked down at George in annoyance.

"Did you HEAR that?? It sounded like someone shrieking- in PAIN! Have a look around, will you?"

"Immediately..." Disdainfully raising up on shimmering hindquarters, Varian thrust a muzzle of metallic teeth in the direction where George heard the sound. Huge eyes flashed rapid pulses towards the slope- the E.M. 'vision' cutting through dust and rock like radar: Logath was located in seconds.

"There. Three of your kind appear to have fallen from the ridge behind us, George. They may be badly damaged. But..."

"Ahhh, damn!" George interrupted as he brushed off his clothes. "Did they have to get so bloody CLOSE? Why NOW of all...?"

"Very unfortunate," Varian forcibly continued, "but we have matters to attend to here." The impartial telepathic speech from Varian was just what George come to expected from him- the dragon might as well have been discussing a dinner plate.

"Varian, these are people we're talking about!!"

"Urr, yes, George," Varian blew him off. Turning to the Being he'd incarcerated, he snarled. "Now, Searattus... it is MY turn to force..."

But his mental block was down and the distraction had done it's work. The newcomers finally had a chance to communicate over all the layers of task and confusion, and a somewhat annoyed and somewhat amused mind-voice broke through...

"Urrrrr... Fathers?? Listen, can we have peace for just an instant?"

George blinked as he overheard Varian's bolt of surprise. The Being had only now begun to focus on the other three newcomers. "Gant?? Ahhhh." There was a pause.

"My son," Varian added tightly for George's benefit. "Searattus's son. Of course. Councillors Eriel and Pherlion would send him to escort Searattus- he would not harm his son..." Then he turned to the youngling dragon who had just spoken.

"Gant... urrr, Councillor Gant??" Varian broadcast the greeting humbly, not sure if there was any animosity between a displaced father and son anymore.

"And our honoured Councillor's siblings come as well, I see... Errol. Varios. All the more reason for my immediate concern."

"Ahhh, father," Gant spread his forearms out. "It's good to see you again. So much... but, our help is needed here. And Searattus is offering it. Can you let him go... please?"

And, just like that, the situation appeared to de-fuse itself. Varian nodded- very slightly. "Ahhh, then. So Searattus DOES have Council's leave to be here... By your command, younglings. My pardons..."

There was noticeable relief in Searattus's huge eyes as the sizzling snap of the barrier around him dissolved instantly. George watched Searattus send a shudder up and down his body and spring away from the spot he was imprisoned on. He quickly nodded at Fead and then at Varian.

Searattus'd actually been worried, hadn't he? George watched in wonder as Gant bowed to Varian in acknowledgement, then repeated the tribute to Searattus. They were acting like aggressive dogs; posturing replacing any need to fight to the death- and George should probably thank Heaven that large parts of these Being's minds were still distributed amongst the life on the surface!

Yet, it seemed the introductions had been made now. George wondered if the recent arrivals from Canada's north had expected this all along. Fead had made a big mistake, certainly, but right away Searattus found a little reminder that he couldn't just do anything he wanted. In the end, it couldn't have worked out better. And now that it was over, the young newcomers shook their muzzles and bowed amicably- greeting and mentally chatting up Searattus like he was a long-time friend. Well, all the better...

But the next item on the agenda pressed deep: George barely had time for a sigh. Three people badly injured... not good. "Dragons?? Searattus??"

If those poor guys were too far gone, their essence--the part of these Being's minds that every Human carried--might already be lost, and with it, the very reason a dragon might wish to serve. Yet, if the injured were still alive, they could be ready to join Recrudescence, their minds downloaded by the dragons into the wonders of the World-ship's intelligence. A far better outcome...

But Searattus helping those poor men on the slope?? From what George had heard, he'd as likely take their essence and be done with it- that's what he'd greedily done before he was discovered as a stowaway. And then, Beryl was still inside the Church where she'd retreated to... what was SHE doing? Making a panic call to the Council??

All of this was going beyond George's control. The young ones were busy pointing Searattus up the slope to where the quake victims might lay. He saw Searattus nod and the ten metre mass of the Elder's body impossibly just floated straight up into the air and headed away. Shortly afterwards, Gant followed on his tail.

That's when George felt the shift in attention towards him. Surrounded by dragons- a scary feeling. And they expected him to do... what?

"Soooo. You can help?" George offered hesitantly. "Those poor guys are going to be a little intimidated with a dragon sneaking up on them... especially if they're injured! And I'm not going to be climbing up there in a hurry..."

The mind voices babbled like a crowd at a party. Errol. Varios. Gant... Fead. Typical kids- they all had to tell it their own way; and all at the same time. George's mind bolted around inside his scalp as the thoughts piled up on one another, but he got the overall picture. Uh, Ohhhh...

"Here. This should help you, I believe." Searattus had popped off the ground and come up behind George in silence. The dragon sardonically extended one leg, grabbed George by the waist-band and shirt-back and spun away again.

It didn't even hurt as much as George expected- the same strange force that lifted these heavy beasts seemed to buoy him skywards. Fear aside and the ripping sound from his shirt ignored, he bungeed over the rocks on his belt. The thought didn't make him feel any better- People pay for rides like this!!

From above him he could hear the young dragons berating Searattus: "On your back Searattus!! I thought we showed you how we did it for Dave Heervan and his team? On your back!"

George felt a quick pang of indignance from his ride. OK, fine, George thought, as he swung over the boulder strewn slope like a rabbit under an eagle, it may take a while before he gets it right! That Searattus had a deep need to prove himself was obvious- and helping these men was fitting right in. The Elder'd had once learned a technique called 'electro-magnetic bionics'--whatever that was--from an ancient ruler they called 'Agora' and something far beyond anything humans could do. So far so good.

Then, the dragons would bring the victims back here to the Church. Presumably in a more... gentle manner. But most importantly, Searattus had absolutely promised not to take their essence- at least, not until the last possible moment. And, the rest of them were going with him to see that he didn't. Well, George thought, we'll see- here we are...

The five dragons thumped heavily into the rubble far up on the slope, each one sinking deep as if they weighed a hundred tonnes each. George could hear them speak as Searattus floated him lower down the scree where only Bennel's torso poked out of the stones and gravel.

Errol sounded worried. "That one looks very poorly. Remember seeing those three on the way in, Varios?"

"They did not seem to be in any danger at the time!"

"We were a little busy trying to keep Fead from getting killed," Gant stated solidly to Fead's annoyed look. "But look there... The little one is fine..."

Meanwhile, George was placed gently beside Bennel's unconscious body and Searattus floated off again, imbedding his huge weight into the debris a short distance away.

"Searattus, errr, thank you for that!" George looked at himself in dismay. His shirt was in shreds and the belt stretched an extra size.

"Of couse, George. Of course." In Searattus's mind-voice George amusedly felt the pride there- he'd helped!

George turned to the broken form. And that didn't look good at all... Damn! "Hello? Sir.. can you hear me?"

Bennel's eyes fluttered open once and fell closed. Feeling for a pulse, George found only a weak heart beat, halting as he checked the artery. Maybe the dragon...

"I'm too late. Searattus?? You're on..."

Searattus crunched down right beside the man. Beryl's eyes popped wide open at the sound; he shuddered and fell still. The dragon's eyes flashed a brief pulse of blue and Bennel's twisted body wrenched once more and he died.

"He was beyond repair, George." Searattus was very satisfied with his work and nodded his muzzle to George. "But thankfully, his essence has not been wasted!"

But then, Searattus's exuberance was quickly doused amidst admonishments from the others. With a frown, George could only ask, "What? What happened?"

"Searattus!!" The cry came at the same time from an aghast Errol and Varios. "You promised you would not take his essence!"


"Father..." Fead was already airborne, with the other dragons about to do the same. "You should at least have tried! With your skills..."

"Of course... certainly... I am shamed," Searattus grumbled. As he did, he touched George with the edge of a complaint he seemed wanting to share. There was nothing I could have done! Younglings! Such important work to do and we must listen to foolish younglings. How did it come to this?

George would ask him about that later...

Humbly, Searattus acquiesced to the rest. "I will see to the other one's injuries," he broadcast. "And no... I will not. However, I have learned that our appearance is deathly fearful..."

Below, Varian only huffed.

"Yes, I was afraid of that," George stated. As he scrabbled up the rubble towards where Logath lay, he called, "OK, dragons. It won't help this other guy any, seeing all of you around. Best stay there. Searattus, can you remain camouflaged?"

"Of course. So..." Searattus 'pathed as he arrived at Logath's position. "I am here. Let me analyse this one's condition."

Landing just above George with a thud, the infinitely heavy creature shook more free rock down the slope from above and the rocks just bounced off its dragon-body like pebbles. George dodged a few rocks that went over the dragon's body and managed the safety of the tree where Logath lie. He could see the other dragons below had settled now and were staring up at them carefully. Varian's horns were sparking again...

And there lay the poor fellow, unconscious against the tree and bleeding badly from a splintered leg. An ugly discolouration was building around his abdomen- Uh, Oh... may be a ruptured spleen.

Searattus analysed all this with his huge eye-slits, and sent the images to George's mind. "The damage is significant, George. His essence, though, is not yet lost, fortunately."

Varian was beginning to growl a deep mental force. Gant was unfolding his wings, his horns now sparking like Varian's.

"Wait!!" Searattus blasted a mental plea. "I AM trying!! Just watch..."

With that, his shimmering form blinked solid, and he swiftly scanned Logath's body with the strange visible X-ray these dragons used. Through the dragon's mind-vision George focussed with Searattus on the damaged and leaking organ. Logath had lost a lot of blood into his body cavity already. What George also felt was the dragon's failing energy--the energy that SHOULD have been there--the energy that just weakly pulsed and flickered. All because Council decided... Searattus suddenly blocked it from his mind.

The Elder concentrated on his task and George watched the leaky artery blossom in size to the cellular scale and then, where there were no cells, a metallic tube extended from the surrounding cells. The leak now sealed, George should have felt relief. But instead he shivered with a spike of fear- Logath was changing... from inside!!

"What's happening to him?" George called. "There's all that silvery stuff building up??"

"Oh. I may have gone a little further than I planned," Searattus said quickly. "But I have rebuilt all his life functions- his mind will continue. Beryl might have done it differently, but..."

"Beryl can do this?" Gant burst out with dismay. Why hadn't the dragons told him this in the first place??

"Beryl rejected bionics as heresy generations ago... she would not do this. Besides she would have to expend considerable energy."

George couldn't believe it. How many could she have saved?

"Can she UNDO it??

"Urrr... undo. Possibly. Why??"

"OK," George decided, "we take him to Beryl. She might not like it, but... What about the boy? Do you see him?"

Searattus was obviously in a flap now. "Of course. The little one of your race is in perfect order...no need to interfere."

"But where IS he??"

"Just up the slope to your right side. Concealed..."

"Of course. He's frightened out of his wits but doesn't want to leave his dad. Wait here, Searattus. I'll try to call him down..."

George wearily crawled up ten metres and squinted up over the rubble and broken trees. There, he spied the shadow of a head moving behind a clump of boulders. "Son?" he called. "I'm Father Lambert. Of the Church down there. I won't hurt you. Neither will the dragons..."



Darren dared a tiny sob. "My father?"

"He's hurt... will you help me with him? Please?"

"Well... OK, I guess. You sure they won't eat me?"

Searattus huffed a spark of electric flame. "Urghhh... I think not, boy."

"He talks?" Darren asked George with a growing smile.

"In a way," George said amusedly. "I think he likes you."

Another huff of electric sparks. "Beryl certainly will. Beryl always had a weak spot for younglings."

"Whatever," shrugged George. Then waving at the boy, he called out, "Coming? What's your name?"

"Darren." Darren bounded over the boulders like an antelope, "What can I do?"

"We're going to have to lift him to the Church. The dragons will do that part. With this blanket here, we'll make a litter for him. If I can borrow your belt and backpack? We'll want dragon talons as far away as possible!"

Below, Gant was already air-lifting Bennel's body off the slope as Darren and George worked quickly to prepare a simple hammock carrier for Logath; that part was easy. George knew Darren was about to have the ride of his life on Errol, and he himself on Varios's back- worrysome but not completely unnatural- George had riden horses plenty of times. But how the dragons would actually help Logath when they got to the Church was another thing altogether...

3. Logath's Demise

The Lady Beryl hunched down on the Church sacristy floor and allowed herself a brief interval of unblocked mind so she could listen to the commotion outside. Searattus!! In all Chaos! She could tell that Varian had freed her mate-of-necessity outside. How... could he DO that?? And already there was trouble. Should she interfere or wait for a reply to her message??

Meanwhile outside, Varian had just used up two rotations worth of his energy... he would be starving!! All for that ingrate of an... EX-mate!!

The last time she and Searattus had contact out of stasis, her mate had offered her up as a sacrifice in a bid to take control of the World-ship. Yes! Well that had failed miserably and the younglings had imprisoned them all.

Now, Beryl never really had a problem with submitting to the children- at least they had provided for the Elders. It had been Searattus who had forced them all into stasis inside this miserable ship in the first place- and they had relived the terror of their race's last few moments over and over. She and Varian were left with absolutely nothing to sustain on for millennia, while HE gorged on essence from the surface! She hated him!!

Beryl's massive body wagged as her tail flicked in agitation. She forced herself to concentrate on the crystal altar before her, into which moments before she had poured a half-rotation's worth of energy. It took all that to expedite her message into the depths for those lethargic Councillors in stasis to hear. At least the ship's Node should recognize the urgency of the matter... from the sacrifice, if nothing else.

STILL nothing! The whole affair around her seemed such a strange throwback from an ancient surface-life custom: The peaked surface structure- painstakingly constructed from tiny blocks of composite stone. An interior filled with fixtures made from tissue of deceased plants to sit and walk on. Quaint decorations and abstractions. Imagine! Rudimentary metals and elementary forces simply to provide light and ambience... Then, there were the collective gatherings- Mankind loved to make their vibrations in the air... Beryl sighed a mental sigh. At least that pleased her--the 'music'--it filled her mind with gladness.

So much had changed in her life- Beryl would much have preferred a regular Haven-style crystal dome grown by the World-ship's motivators from the baser elements of the hull. But that, of course, used the ship's energy... something she and Varian were limited in using. Only the energy required for sustenance and that needed for their work was allowed to be expended... and even that was rationed, rotation after rotation, from their meagre share of the power supplied by the star they orbited.

Ahhhh... to have the energy they once enjoyed when they'd first arrived in this universe! To once again be free to create whatever their minds desired... But that was only an invitation to disaster now- their kind had paid dearly for their excess.

Abruptly, her thoughts were ripped back to the present. A violet glow began from the crystalline machinery inside the altar- finally. The Nodal Link was online... the 'Reverend' spoke from the altar.

It was another quaint euphemism George would use; Beryl had tried over and over to explain how the technology actually worked. Still, the idea served the Church well- particularly for those who feared to see a dragon up close. Many sick and dying had agreed to join the essence of Dragonkind at this altar...

"Decoding in progress, Lady Beryl," the Reverend intoned. The stupid machine at least had her old title programmed in. Nice of Councillor Eriel...

"Stand by for a Consular message that preceded yours... apologies..."

"Of course," Beryl grumbled plaintively to a device she knew she had only limited access to. "Of course you wait until I have expended my energy..."

"Your timing was not perfect, Lady," the Reverend agreed almost indignantly. "But I have tallied your expenditure and will return...

"See that you do," Beryl interrupted angrily. But her irritation would mean little to the machine- it was only doing Council's bidding. And the message it was delivering was the reason for their freedom.

"Greetings, Lady Beryl. Greetings Searattus and Varian," the clear voice of Eriel spoke out of the column. "Pherlion and I have agreed to allow you five extra rotations on the surface in light of the work you are doing to bring us the energy from that probe.

"Use what resources you need, but only what you need. Understand when I say, Councillor Gant wields our authority on this. And... our siblings are there to learn, Lady Beryl. Put them to work with Fead.

"May your project succeed, Elders- this freedom that places you on the surface ahead of even our own time tells of how much this could mean to all of us. We wish you well!"

And then, the column went silent and dark, leaving Beryl to brood and ruminate. Great space! Five rotations with Searattus?? Perhaps stasis would be better...

As Beryl considered, the sacristy doors behind her banged open. She turned her muzzle quickly, rallying her defences, but then saw only George struggling to pull something in from the hall on a gurney. Gant entered right after George, pushing the rolling cot from the rear. "Lady Beryl... mother... greetings."

"Gant? Gant! Greetings to you, my son. And, a Councillor... what an honour!"

"Ah, mother... so much we cannot discuss right now." Gant gestured at the man in front of him. "We had best focus on the here and now..."

"What happened?" Beryl asked, dropping the subject.>/p>

Right behind them, the small frame of a boy darted furtively through the doors. His breaths were broken by huge sobs, "My father! He's hurt... the big dragon tried..." Darren shuddered from the memory. "My Dad's name is Logath... he fell off the cliff... Sea--the big one--carried him down..."

"Beryl," George began...

Beryl amusedly read his effort to think of Logath as being... 'repairable'.

"I do not plan to take his essence, George!" she mentally exclaimed. And then she saw the state Logath was in. "Oh Deity! I see Searattus has had a try..."

"Well, yes," George puffed. "I'd like to talk to you about that."

"He told you, did he? Bionics... I shudder to think."

"Then, you too can use the technique..."

"It is an unnatural thing! Just look what Searattus has begun in him!!"

George hadn't actually had the chance to look hard at Logath since the rescue from the scarp. But now he could see the metallic sheen that reflected light from within Logath's body. Blood that no longer ran red... He looked at Beryl in horror.

"You see?" Then, noticing Darren standing ready to run back out the door, Beryl called to the boy. "Hello Darren. This must all seem very strange to you... Dragons carrying your father. Were you afraid?"

George gave Darren a little pat on the shoulder but the boy was locked into silence. "Darren was pretty scared, but he never gave up following, eh jackrabbit?"

Darren ventured a tiny smile as George continued...

"The boy raced over boulders and rubble, never mind the monsters! I could hardly drag myself a few yards on that stuff... Still, dragons make a heck of a good EVAC team, no doubt about it. Now this boy's Dad needs your help, Lady Beryl."

"You can help my Dad?" Darren asked meekly. It occurred to him that this dragon somehow knew his name.

"I will not give you false hopes, little one. Your father is near death... he must enter Dreaming..."

"Oh no, Lady Dragon... Not yet! Please!"

"This," George put in, "is important to the boy. There is nothing you can do?"

"Great space, I must undo what Searattus has done! Impossible."

Noting George's raised eyebrows, she added, "Once I had to help our children this way. Death stalked them too- a horrible energy plague that threatened our existence here. We changed their genetics so they might be more adapted to this universe... It was desecration, but they survived. Look what they have become..."

George nodded pensively. "I see... well, that explains why you Elders look different. But your younglings seem perfectly happy and fit to me... is it really so bad?"

"Urrrr. I thought so. Listen, George. I will do what I can, but understand that we will end up killing him."

George shuddered as Darren made a tiny cry and burst into tears. It had to be the strain of trying to rescue the two men... George found himself with tears streaming down his cheeks. "Please, Beryl... do your best."

"He will survive but a few days as he is, George. But, there IS another way... We need to get him to the portal in Boothia."

"The portal??"

At that moment Searattus burst into the hall, all hero. "I saved him just in time! I carried him here without him even noticing! It is SO good to be free! My Lady... my mate... we will accomplish such things together!"

Like a block of stone, Beryl stood rooted to the floor, her jaw agape. There was absolutely nothing she could say. And so taken aback was she, her mind drew a complete blank. Searattus took that as a compliment.

"Urrr, Beryl" Searattus added hesitatingly, "Do you think you could just give the human a quick scan... just in case I missed something?"

Beryl turned tail and stomped out the sacristy doors, George rolling Logath on the cot behind her. Searattus and Gant followed, looking worried. Any attempt Searattus made to talk to his mate was firmly shunned and Gant just gave his mother space to vent.

As they exitted the Church, Logath shuddered awake- a dying man's last thoughts escaping his lips. He stared straight into George's eyes.

"Oh shit!" Logath cried, "it's the dragon-man! My son? Did your monsters get my son??"

George grasped the man's shoulders. "Calm!" George could see the panic in the man's eyes. How in the world am I going to explain this? "Your son is fine. Look behind me. But, I'm afraid your friend is dead- he was buried in the landslide and I couldn't help him, though I tried. You think the Beings would kill you? Not likely. It was the dragon here that rescued you. And, it will be the dragons that offer you entry into dragonkind."

Logath followed George's gaze and suddenly made out the ten metre tall monster beside him, it's form shimmering just enough to discern from the background. The sheer size and proximity shocked the man into a dead faint again.

"Weak creatures... will you take his essence, Beryl?" Searattus's thoughts held disdain as he and the other Beings squeezed through the doors into the hall with them. It seemed curiosity had tempered even Searattus's impartial mind.

"NO, Searattus," Beryl admonished. "I am at this moment speaking to his essence. He must know of his Destiny."

"A waste of energy," Searattus sent a mental grumble. He almost choked at the rest of his words. "So... what news from the Council? Are we, errr... authorized... to begin our project?"

"Yes, Searattus," Beryl told him warily. "We have the time and energy of five turns. Your own son will be in charge."

"Five" Searattus raised his eyeridges as he dumbly repeated the words. "Gant?? Not Varian??"

"You heard me correctly," Beryl said, looking over at Gant as Searattus glared at their son.

"Younglings! Gant, how do they expect us to do this under these conditions?"

"They believe," Gant suggested gently. "Just not in quite the same way as you do, perhaps..."

"Then they believe far too easily," Searattus 'pathed impatiently. "What I plan is not just a simple pastime! How am I supposed to finish this??"

"Errol, Varios and I will help where we can, father." Gant told him. "With all the Elder skills you possess, is this not an easy task? Just re-activating the Custodian probe and bringing the power to the surface?"

"You should know better," the Elder grumbled, "after all I have taught you. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems. I have very limited information and there is a lot of experimentation to be done. You and your friends have a lot to learn in a short time!"

"I wll do my best, father," Gant offered diplomatically, "right after I wave goodbye to my mother..."

"Where are they going? Beryl, I need us to begin as soon as possible!"

"Varian and I have... a small errand in Boothia to do," Beryl said. Seeing Searattus's visage darken, she almost revelled. Good. "Do not worry, spouse. We will not be long- please do not delay on our account..."

She and Varian swooshed out the door after George and Darren, Logath between them, leaving Searattus sputtering and grumbling in the room. But he had already committed himself, and finally stomped out in search of the other younglings. Gant stayed behind a bit more, looking down the hall through the door way. He held up a fore-arm to his mother's head shake from down the hall. Searattus did not look back.

4. Heros

Logath, apparently, was dead. All in all, he figured he was taking that rather well.

First, the fear... confusion... disorientation! Then, images and voices in his head: he remembered it now- they'd told him things. And now, he was beside himself- Ha. A pun. Logath would have laughed if he could...

Logath reached out to touch the tattooed arm that splayed out on the sand by some lake. No doubt that was his, all right. Then he reached for the body's abdomen and gave it a good poke. He could feel the heavy coat depress--the same one he'd worn that very morning!--but his own stomach felt nothing.

OK... he was no longer in that body- they'd said that. He was part of 'The Dreaming' now. An Avatar continuing a life he knew... Yup.

The dragons had done it. 'Lady Beryl' had zapped him with those huge eyes of hers, and he'd woken up here; here seeming to be wherever he wanted to be.

Seconds ago, he'd been back at his old house... a place he'd left in despair four years ago. A dingy two-room basement place with greasy curtains- yeach! There'd never been enough money and far too much screaming. 'Course, his wife was long dead now... a car crash on an icy road made her just another statistic to the growing global cold. Like so many others. His son'd never known her.

With a deep sadness, Logath realized his son wouldn't know him much either. Unless...

And somehow that'd brought him to this desolate lake, poking that cadaver that wasn't him anymore. And not a dragon in sight- so where were they?

Ahhh, of course- all around him! None of this would've made any sense, if it hadn't been for that freak'n dive off the cliff. Before he'd... Dreamed.

But now he could feel their presence, and the dragon voices in his head told him to see this 'Dave Heervan' guy... he'd help him to visit the outside world- talk to his son again! Dave Heervan. The same Heervan everyone called a hero.

What made the guy famous, Logath knew- he'd tried to save the world and found... dragons. But, why he'd give a damn about Logath, that was the real question now, wasn't it- Heervan was a dragon now himself. Even his kids were rumoured to be dragons... Weird and evil stuff.

Well, I never expected to go to Heaven, Logath figured, but if this lets me see my son again...

I'm hungry.

And so, Logath found himself at the city shopping mall. In the food court, as a matter of fact. And, that cheese burger-deluxe in his right hand was smelling pretty tasty right now. OK. And finally he found his dragons... milling through the crowd of shoppers, no less- no one seemed to care. OK too. But weird!!


"Papa? Papa! There you are..." A voice came out of the depths of Dave Heervan's mind. How can there be anyone calling my name in space?

An answer appeared in Dave's mind the second he thought it.

Right- the Node has been trying to locate me... Yes. I know.

The feeling of floating through the colourful clouds of the Crab Nebula disappeared. Dave imagined himself looking behind him and instantly his view careened back to Earth and narrowed to a shopping mall hallway. There, a young female stood, with startling blue eyes and a blond sheen.

"Corrine? My beautiful daughter! What brings you here?"

"Hurry up," beckoned the youngster. "It's your four hundred-fifty sixth birthday, after all! I bet the hobby store still has another one of those gyroplanes you always wanted!"

"Ohhh. That many?? They have?" Dave exclaimed in a haze. Had it been so long? His daughter was always so much better at adapting to this world of dragons... "I remember my seventieth... or was that my ninetieth?"

Suddenly his wife was there too. She blinked her huge eyes several times and swooshed around, taking in her surroundings. She grinned at Dave and then saw Corrine. "Corrine? My girl... you've grown in the time I was away!"

"Hi, Mama!" said Corrine with a huge, crocodile smile. "Papa is going to love the gift we're getting him. I hope he doesn't crash this one like the last time!"

"Hah! I think he just wanted to see what would happen..."

Dave could feel Fey's love deep through the sarcasm. Her body was close- metallic blue, long... winged. Dragonkind. This was all so amazing, he still tried to speak out loud- of course, that just sent little bolts of electric fire out of his muzzle. Yahhhh! For the love of...!

He quickly clamped his jaw shut and thought the words. "Fey! I'm Dreaming- aren't I? I know we're in the stasis pod, but for all I can see, I'm standing here on my own feet. So amazingly real, in fact, why can't I do this..."

Leaning over, he planted an enormous kiss on the ridge of Fey's long nose; the passersby in the crowded mall just ignored them like they didn't exist.

Fey was caught unawares. "I...Dave? Hey, knock off the silly stuff," Dave's wife's thoughts railed. "You're embarrassing her!"

Seeing his daughter's pained look, Dave projected his mental words to her pointedly, "Don't look, Corrine."

"What, me? Embarrassed?" Corrine laughed a tinkling mental chortle. "I'm four hundred and thirty-two, remember? 'Course... it seems like only a few days since you two went off exploring the data banks. Go for it!"

And Fey did. She wrapped a long tail around Dave's torso and pulled him in for a muzzle to muzzle plant. It wasn't until Dave pulled firmly away with a yelp that she noticed she was slicing Dave's hide with a hug full of sharp talons. "Ooops..."

Corrine's pained expression worsened. "Mother..."

"Let's do that again," Dave said sarcastically as he grinned at his daughter. "I like it..."

"All right, all right. It's all so strange," Fey sent, looking around. "A minute ago I was standing at the base of Mount St. Helens watching a cloud of ash with Sean and Jerri and their kids. Now I'm here."

"I know what you mean. So how are our old friends, anyway?" Dave asked. "Haven't seen them in a few hundred years, I think..."

"They're in the next stasis pod over, Dave," Fey decided to stay serious. "They haven't aged a day. But they're enjoying the ship's database just like us. Anyway, where's Etien?"

"Eating, most likely." Dave put in. "That's my boy..."

"Yup!" Corrine appeared to point down a path. "Stuffing his muzzle at the cinnamon bun place."

"Oh... and how long has my son been there..." Fey admonished. "Fifty years? How many deserts can someone eat in all that time? And besides... can we even EAT cinnamon buns??"

"Ah, Mam, it's all relative," Corrine adolescently bespoke a less-than-informed parent. "Listen, the Worldship's Node is putting this all together, just for us. Truely, people really are standing in some mall and we're just seeing it through their minds. If you put your hand in your pocket for a credit card, between a group of people, the action is being played out right now. One person may have his hand in his pocket, another may be remembering his card, the next may be reaching down for something. As long as you don't try to do something crazy, the Node just adds it up for you. I can only grasp part of how it works, but I'd rather not dwell on that. It's more fun to just play along."

Fey mentally looked down. She had a shopping bag in one hand that she didn't know she had a minute ago. "This box of cinnamon buns sure smells real. Do you want one Corrine?"

"That's more like it!" Corrine waddled closer. "Yes please, I'd love a bun. Did you get extra icing too?"

Fey thought a moment and smiled. "Of course I did!"

Dave suddenly had a coffee in his claws. He barely stopped punching a talon through the paper cup. "Damn! Tastes really good though... Hmmm. Urrrr- who's that..."

"Who?" Fey asked.

"That one staring at us... I keep thinking of Errol."

"You're right, Papa! I think I even know his name," Corrine told them. She called out over the typical buzz of a busy mall; "Logath?"

Corrine's call startled Logath enough to make him drop his burger. "You know me?" he called back.

"I'm Corrine Heervan," Corrine said, moving closer. "You know us through Errol, right? This is my Papa and Mam. My brother is out in the mall stuffing himself as usual..."

Dave sidled over to Logath and extended a fore claw in an instinctive greeting. "I'm Dave..."

"Urrr... Hi!" Logath suddenly seemed to realize he was putting an unprotected hand into the talons of a male dragon. "The dragons'd said to look for you guys so's I could find my way back to see my son. That's a coincidence..."

"Did they," Dave muttered quizzically. Then he took Logath's greeting carefully in a claw. "Logath, good to meet you... Sure we can help you- a friend of Errol's a friend of mine."

"Good to meet a friend," Logath replied brightly. "So. How did you end up becoming some kind of hero?"

"A hero? Huh- not exactly... it's a long story. But you first; how did you get to know Errol??"


Do they make it back to Haven? I'm working on it! Email the author for progress on the rest of the story... click on the contact link, or email kvoute@dccnet.com.

Viviquary / 'viv-e-,kwer-e / n defn:


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