Friday, December 10, 2010

How about a little taste?

I won't be doing this very often, but as I craft this new series I think every now and then I will post a short segment. I don't even know where this scene is going, but it'll be somewhere in the Consecution Books:

At first, Jason thought it was a dragon.
He wasn’t sure whether to feel relieved or terrified that he was right. But when closer examination revealed what he was really looking at, he relaxed, if only a little.
It was a dragon, yes, or at least had once been. The form that dominated the icy cavern was the corpse of an adult male dragon. Most of it was badly decomposed and mainly just skeleton, but a few parts, like the head and limbs, were largely intact. The ice-cave was obviously cold year-round, but might not have always been ice. The body looked somewhere between badly freezer-burned and partial mummified.
Most of the torso was caved in and the ribs exposed, but preserved flesh still clung to the vertebra. The head was the most telling, resting where it lay on a small flat spot, eye closed and face twisted into a tired mask of pain.
Not knowing much about pathology, Jason couldn’t even wager a guess as to how it had died, or even when. But it was very distinctly dead, and since he knew nothing of dragon funerary traditions, he only said a small prayer and turned to leave the cavern.
That was when the eye opened.
Turning and pulling Excalibur halfway from it’s sheath, Jason breathed hard as he looked at the corpse again. The one visible eye was very definitely closed. A thin layer of ice covered the entire surface, proving without question that it had not just looked at him.
His heart pounded inside his chest, and his breath came in ragged, choking gasps. The entire scene felt uneasy. Every nerve seemed on-edge, every muscle and hair twitched until his whole body contorted with fear.
Unable to breath, Jason started for the mouth of the cave and tried to run again.
And again the eye opened.
Standing at the entrance to the large gallery, Jason stared at the preserved head. The eye was definitely closed, and had always been. The thing didn’t even have any internal organs! It was dead, it had to be!
A long time ago, he’s listened to his father rant about frozen dead things. He’d actually listened to this one because, well, frozen dead things. He said that large bodies, such as those of elephants, did not freeze all the way through under normal conditions. Stick an elephant in a freezer, and only about the outer twelve-inches of it would freeze. That twelve inches of frozen elephant, aside from making an awesome name for a metal band, would insulate the interior of the corpse, which would then decompose.
Dragons were really no different. High in the mountains, in this cave, the wind-chill in the dead of winter might reach fifty-five degrees below zero or lower, but in the shelter of the cave it would never reach the temperatures needed to full preserve the body. That much was evident in the massive, gaping whole in the corpseicle!
There was no possible way for this creature to still be alive.
So why did it keep looking at him every time he turned his back?
Struggling to draw breath, Jason turned and approached the head. It was around twelve feet long and sixteen high, with a series of large spikes protruding around where the collar met the neck. Based on the shape, Jason guessed it to be a Red Fire Dragon, much like Aden, though the wings were invisible. He could only hazard at the age, how quickly a dragon grew tended to have a lot to do with how much it ate. The body was clearly mature, and if he had to put a number on it, Jason decided he would settle on between two and three hundred.
Though considered firmly into adulthood by the age of around one hundred, a dragons body was still growing and maturing until they reached roughly two hundred. Developmentaly, this was the equivalent of around thirty-five in human years. It was possibly the curing caused by the ice, but the more Jason looked, the older the dragon appeared. Certainly not elderly, but closer to three, maybe approaching four hundred.
He just looked like a middle-aged man, really. Not quite old, not quite young, just right in the middle, somewhere…
And still, distinctly dead.
Fear gripped the heart of him as he took a step closer. The thing was dead, it was nothing but a dry, frosted corpse!
The fine hairs on the back of his neck tingled and stood on end as he moved closer still.
His heart felt like it would explode through the wall of his chest with each pounding thud, but he willed himself ever closer. Another step, then another, he leaned down and looked at it, his head only a few feet from that large, firmly closed eye.
And then it opened.

*                                                          *                                                          *

A cold chill seemed to comfort Jason’s aching back, but the wetness was really very uncomfortable. His head throbbed, his chest hurts, and his whole body seemed utterly and completely sapped of energy.
He had landed on Excalibur, and it was very uncomfortable twisted under him. The sword was obviously intact, but it was just generally not a comfortable way to land. The floor beneath him was hard and uneven, and covered in snow which his body head had managed to melt. The frigid water now soaked his clothes, but on the whole the cold bath felt mostly calming.
Struggling to flip onto his side, Jason finally made his way into a kneeling position, where he finally brought his head up and screamed.
Oh, right, the dragon-corpse.
It was more embarrassing than anything else, the scream he’d let out sounded about like what you’d expect from an eight-year-old girl, not a fearsome, battle-hardened Pendragon. But he knew he was alone on the mountain and so he wasn’t going to waste time being ashamed over having been frightened by a really big frozen dead thing.
He had just forgotten, in all the confusion of blacking out, falling, hitting something unpleasant buried in the snow, then laying unconscious for quite some time and now FINALLY coming to, that there was, in point of fact, a dead dragon in front of him.
They eye was still shut. The layer of ice over it was still there. It hadn’t opened, it couldn’t, the being it belonged to had been dead for centuries, possibly millennia! But the cave was still filled with an aura of foreboding, and as Jason regained consciousness fully, the old fear began to return.
Jason forced himself to continue slow, measured breathing, concentrating on the blue puffs of his breath in front of him. This was how he first saw it, the vapor from his breath sticking to an invisible form.
As he continued to exhale, it took shape. What it was, was like a thin sheath forming over the remains, a bit above the layer of ice, where the skin would have been while it was still alive.
The vapor-dragon finally opened its eye, and raised it’s mighty head to look down at Jason. The fear, very suddenly, was gone, to be replaced by familiarity. He no longer felt that he was treading on a grave, but that he was looking into the eyes of a venerated ancestor.
“Hi,” Jason waved. “How are ya?”

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