One accepts the invitation of a monster cautiously, and with a backup plan if possible. I have no backup plan.
The rrôn faces me, smiling, and says, “I’ve been looking forward to this chat.”
“Why?” I ask. The question the mouse asks the owl, and the rrôn laughs, but does not give me an answer.
Unnerved, I fall back my questions, scrawled on an index card.
Where did the rrôn come from?
Rrakille. My homeworld hung a hundred worlds upworld of yours, wonderful beyond words. All the races of the rrôn filled it, spread from mountains to jungle to desert. We built great cities and hunting preserves; we sang at night from the clifftops and the city spires; we created art and science and literature and magic. We lived, we loved, we hunted . . . and then the old gods came, caught up in terrible battles they brought with them from worlds above ours.
In a day our shining home died, taking with it most of my kind, most of the warring old gods who used it as a battlefield, and all the joy the rrôn knew.
You fit many of our myths about dragons — are your people the truth behind our myths?
Of course. We are the dragons, bright and dark, from human tales and the tales carried from upworld. Your world lay in our path. We fled downworld ahead of destruction. Some of us stayed, some moved on. Eventually most of us moved on, when it became clear that Earth sat on the edge of annihilation. A few still remain, of course. A few always stay until the last.
There are still dra–ah, rrôn on Earth? Where are they now?
[The rrôn smiles, cocks one eye-rille, says nothing. I ask my next question.]
What do you and the other rrôn want?
We want our world back. There is no Diaspora more hellish than the scattering of a handful of survivors from their dead planet. We cannot hope to return; we hold in memory all that exists of the joy and the beauty that once belonged to us. And memory fades. Especially for the dark gods, memory is ever a traitor.
And yet, there are rumors. A plan — tried once before — now resurrected, to revive the dead upworlds and stabilize the chain. We’re . . . looking into those rumors. If things go well, I suspect the rrôn will be very busy for a while.
What are the rumors?
Secret. They pass only among the trusted, to those who know how to keep from telling secrets to the enemy. The rrôn want to stop the deaths of worlds — but not everyone shares our sentiments. There are names not even we mention, for fear of summoning evils too great to bear.
[Things that scare the rrôn? I switch topics.]
Are the rrôn obsessed with gold?
Obsessed? No. But precious metals have purpose in the hands of those who know how to use them. Copper shields against magic. Silver channels the magic of order. And gold . . . [He smiles at me.]
Gold channels the magic of chaos. The more gold you hoard, the more discord you bring to yourself. Not a good thing if you don’t know about the effect. If you do, though, you can summon tremendous power through a mound of the stuff.
That would mean that gold is . . . bad.
Gold is chaotic. It stirs things up. That isn’t necessarily bad — but gold can be used to create truly evil things. [He grins at me, and reaches forward, one talon extended, and I’m sure our interview is about to be cut short in the worst way, but then something glints. A little ring. Silver. Intricate wirework, no stone.] Here’s a parting gift. It holds a little magic of its own — it offers a bit of protection, to warn you about the approach of those forces that live by chaos. And it will remind you what’s important while you’re writing.
Why? What is important?
That you get our story right. Remember — we’re watching. We know where you live. And not all of us have moved on.
Then, with an agile twist, he launches himself into the air — the wind from the downbeat of his wing knocks me over. When I get off the ground, he’s gone, and all that remains is the rapidly diminishing thunder of his wings.
And a gleaming circle of silver in the palm of my hand.
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