Dax turned around, very reluctantly.

Behind him stood an enormous creature whose breath was steaming gently in the cool air. Its skin was dark grey, but textured like stone – almost as if a huge Aztec guardian had stepped off its pedestal on great padded paws. The muscles along the spine glistened heavily, and the heavy hide was patterned in swirling stripes. In the gloom, the beast’s luminescent green eyes drew Dax’s own.

Except when it spoke again. Then his gaze was pulled irresistibly to the redness of its mouth, and the maw of heavy white teeth through which the monster was speaking.

“There are even humans who think to give me orders,” it continued. “I trust you would not be so foolish… despite appearances.”

Dax, never one to take an insult lying down, found his voice. “You don’t scare me,” he told the creature. “I know this is a dream. I can wake up whenever I want to. And what are you supposed to be, anyway? If you’re meant to be a dragon, my subconscious must be stuck between channels –“

The monster let out a low growl, a rich, thick sound coming up from its throat. “Your ignorance offends me, boy. I am Gothgorius, a lapidtalos of a noble line.”

“I don’t know what that is, and I don’t care,” said Dax. He nodded towards the building above him. “I’m going to that Tower. Find someone else to preach to.”

Gothgorius laughed. He had a good voice for laughing, and the echoes rolled back from the ruined buildings around them.

“What’s so funny?” Dax wanted to know, getting annoyed.

“You know so little,” the lapidtalos told him, his amusement visibly fading. “It seems I must educate you even in such simple things.”

With a rush of hot breath, Gothgorius bared his fangs – despite himself, Dax fell back a step, but what emerged wasn’t fire or a battle cry, but something else entirely: a chant, almost a song –

 

 

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