Eddie D. Moore
Moran was given the title of Liaison ten years ago, after his predecessor was eaten for failing to reach meat production requirements. His heart beat hard against his chest as he descended deep into the freshly sculpted lair of the dragon overlord, Mendota. The other humans despised him for working with the dragons and to the dragons he was just another slave or tasty morsel. It was a thankless and risky job, but for the good of everyone, someone had to do it.
The dragons had been content to live in their caves and hunt for food until humans began hunting dragons. A few men in armor had a fighting chance against a single dragon, but when facing dozens of dragons that were working together, even armies fell before them. Castles crumbled, ships burned and the armies of men died.
It was three very brave women that presented the dragons with a flock of sheep and an offer of service, to save the lives of their children. Moran’s great grandmother had been one of the women to reach terms with the dragons and he took great pride in that fact. The dragons returned to their lairs and at first only required a monthly offering of a few cows or sheep. Over time, the dragons began to require more and more from the humans. The monthly offerings became weekly and soon they demanded that men carve out new lairs for them deep in the mountain sides.
Moran heard voices ahead as he approached Overlord Mendota’s throne room and waited to avoid interrupting the meeting. What Mendota called a throne looked more like a nest to Moran but if Mendota said it was a throne, it was a throne. He recognized the voice of Carey, the liaison of construct. Moran hoped that Carey did not upset Mendota before he had to face him.
“It has been done as you instructed, my Lord.”
Mendota gave a low hiss before speaking, “The assembly hall is a work of beauty, Liaison. I almost find that disappointing; you have lots of meat on your bones.”
“I live to serve.”
“And serve to live,” Mendota chuckled.
“The invitations have been received and the other Dragon Lords should arrive for the assembly in three days.”
The assembly hall had been under construction for years and was a work of art inside and out. Three large black spires, shaped like dragon talons, adorned the sides of the mountain, precisely one hundred and twenty degrees apart. Under the base of each spire was an entryway to the assembly hall. One of the entryways was nothing more than a slide to deliver meals. The other two entrances were wide enough for two dragons to walk abreast and like the assembly area, were supported with gold gilded columns.
“You may go human. I can smell Liaison Moran waiting. Maybe he will have bad news for me.”
Moran attempted a friendly greeting as Carey walked out but only received the usual flat stare and a half curled upper lip in return. He shrugged and then stepped into the throne room to deliver his reports.
“Moran, is today the day you fail me?”
“No, my lord, I have managed to fill the entire request. The pigs and cows were easy to acquire, of course. The trappers I hired managed to catch the last deer you requested this morning and the wagon train carrying the emus will be here tomorrow.”
“You and Liaison Carey will be at the entrance to welcome my guests as they arrive.”
The idea of spending the day with Carey gave Moran more trepidation than addressing each of the Dragon Lords, but he nodded his understanding.
“You may go Liaison, and have one of those deer delivered for my dinner. You have two days to catch another one or you can slide down the meal shoot in its place.”
Moran bowed and wasted no time leaving the throne room.
Three days later, Moran walked to the east gate of Talon Hall. Carey sat on top of a high platform built for the occasion.
“Good morning Moran. Climb on up and sit here beside me. The sun is just topping the horizon. You don’t want to miss this.”
Moran found Carey’s friendly demeanor surprising. So, he smiled and eagerly climbed to the top of the platform and accepted a warm drink as he sat. They watched the sun climb over the mountains in silence. The life of a liaison was lonely and the camaraderie of the moment felt good.
“Talon Hall is a beautiful work of architecture. I would like to offer my congratulations on a job well done.”
Carey sighed and glanced up at the spires. “Do you know how many people died to build this assembly hall?”
Moran shook his head.
“We lost one hundred and thirty four good men over the past four years. All to meet the deadline we were given. You see beauty but I see a dangerous rush to completion, without regard for the loss of life.” Before Moran could apologize or even reply, Carey stood up, “Our first guest arrives.”
Moran stood and shaded his eyes with his hands. A dragon with green scales led a procession of carts, cattle and slaves. A rider rushed ahead of the procession and announced the arrival of Tarrion the Green. The rider then turned around and returned to his post.
Just before Tarrion approached the platform, Moran heard Carey mutter under his breath, “Tarrion the Grub only accepts liaisons with children. If the liaison fails him, his children pay the price.”
The statement caught Moran off guard and left him leaving awkward pauses between his words when Tarrion approached the entrance. “Welcome…Lord Tar…Tarrion.” His heart pounded as he finished his salutation. “Overlord Mendota sends his greetings and looks forward to seeing you.”
Tarrion gave Moran a sideways glare as he walked by and went straight into the mountain.
Another rider announced the arrival of Saran and Danik. This time, Moran was not taken off guard by Carey’s mumbled indictments.
“Saran executed half of a village for missing a meat quota and commanded that the bodies be left in the streets. To this day, if you pass through the village, you will see their bones scattered around town. Danik demands that a child be left tied to the entrance of his lair every year as a sacrifice. He either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that the town pays someone to kidnap a child from another village in order to spare their own children.”
Carey stood behind Moran and continued his whispered monolog of atrocities with each Dragon Lord’s arrival. Moran grew accustomed to the list of accusations and let them slide from his mind as he offered welcome to each dragon. He had heard of the events that Carey spoke of but Moran had always found it easy to ignore anything he did not personally witness. However, being reminded of the terrible events and given a face to attach to them left him a little unsettled.
A tent city now sat at the foot of the mountain and a rider rushed through it to announce the arrival of the final dragon. Kaleth’s scales were pearly white and reflected most of the sunlight. Moran watched Kaleth strut through the camp until the caravan following him drew his eye. The caged wagons held people instead of sheep and goats. A lump caught in Moran’s throated leaving him speechless. Kaleth turned his red eyes upon the platform.
Kaleth hissed as he spoke, “Did Mendota leave a snack bar for me? I’m touched.”
Moran stammered, “We are here to welcome you and to see that your wishes are carried out, my Lord.”
With a deep long hiss, “Pity, I will not eat swine and grass eaters like the others. Send the contents of a wagon for each meal or I will return for the snack bar. Understood?”
“Yes, Lord. Yes.”
Moran shook uncontrollably as Kaleth slithered inside Talon Hall. He looked at Carey, “What no commentary?”
“I did not think one was needed.”
Moran noted that Carey’s hands were trembling as he flexed his muscles and made fists. He closed his eyes and slowed his breathing to steady his nerves.
Mendota was the last to enter Talon Hall and he gave the command to send down the first meal at the top of the hour.
Moran stood on the platform and watched as the wagons of caged people rolled out of sight. Carey leaned closer to Moran’s ear and whispered, “How can you give the order that sends people to their death?”
Moran looked at the ground and shook his head in resignation, “What choice do I have? People will die today no matter what I do.”
Carey laid a comforting hand on Moran’s shoulder and seemed to grow in confidence. “You are right. No matter what we do people will die today.”
Carey took a small mirror from his pocket and flashed it to someone higher up the mountain side. In the distance, sheep could be heard bellowing as they were dumped down the food slide. Moran wondered if he would hear the people scream as they were sent down the slide or if they were resigned to their fate.
Moran looked up the mountain side when he heard a loud crack. The mountain side began to move as large rocks tumbled down the side. The large rocks were soon followed by a wall of stones rumbling down the mountain. A large stone struck the base of the spire and Moran could see it fall as the platform began to shift and slide in the avalanche.
Moran and Carey rode what was left of the platform down the side of the mountain as the people below ran for their lives. They watched with horror and fear as the stones buried those in the path of the avalanche. When the ground stopped moving, they wiped the dust from their eyes and looked at the carnage around them.
“Carey? Are you okay? What happened?”
Carey nodded and released a deep breath, “The entrances are now buried under tons of rock. The only way in or out of Talon Hall is the slide and it is way too small for a dragon to use. Let’s go see what our guests have to say.”
The loose rocks were hard to walk across and Moran breathed a sigh of relief when they reached solid ground. Frantic calls for help could be heard below and Moran could see people moving to answer their cries.
The road to the slide was well worn from construction and cut around the base of the mountain. As they approached the entrance, the sounds of the raging dragons below grew louder. Moran opened the cages holding people as he passed those that were in line to the slide. The people thanked him for releasing them, but wasted no time fleeing area.
The dragons inside the mountain grew silent when Carey yelled down the slide.
“There seems to have been an accident! Are you okay down there?”
The unmistakable voice of Mendota replied, “You will begin digging us out now human! Or humans will take their place as livestock under every Dragon Lord!”
Carey took a few steps back and flashed his mirror up the mountain for a second time. Carey smiled then walked back to the slide. “Don’t worry we will take care of the situation! I’m going to send you down something to drink!”
A path leading down the mountain began to flow with water and pooled in front of the slide. Moran waved people back as the pool grew in size and persuaded them to regroup a short distance away. The pool became a small pond before the water spilled over and down the slide. The dragons roared in anger and offered more promises of retribution.
As time passed, more people began to gather at the foot of the only spire left standing. They stood in silence and watched as the water filled the inside of the mountain. The roars began to fade and then stopped completely.
Moran addressed the people that were gathered.
“I am as surprised as the rest of you by the events of the day, but this much I do know. It was worth the risk! It was worth the price! I can think of no one better to lead us in the days to come than Carey!”
Carey smiled at Moran, took the high ground and raised his voice to address the crowd.
“The time of the Dragon Overlords is no more! The plans for this day have been years in the making and it took many sacrifices to bring those plans to fruition. Let this lone spire stand in honor of those we have lost in our servitude. For now, Talon Hall will serve as a tomb for our enslavers, but I foresee a day when we will take even that from them. On that day we will rename this place Liberty! May it one day be the crown jewel of the kingdom of men!”
The crowd erupted in applause and celebration for several minutes. A lone voice rose above the jubilation and cried, “Long live King Carey!” Others began to pick up the cry and soon the entire crowd was alternating between cries of, “Liberty” and “King Carey!” Moran soon found himself chanting with the rest of the crowd, “Long live King Carey!”
Eddie D. Moore travels extensively for work, and he spends much of that time listening to audio books. The rest of the time is spent dreaming of stories to write and he spends the weekends writing them. His stories have been published by Jouth Webzine, Kzine, Alien Dimensions, Theme of Absence, Devolution Z, and Fantasia Divinity Magazine. Find more on his blog: https://eddiedmoore.wordpress.com/.