Servant of the Dragon

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Book: Servant of the Dragon by Drake David Read Free Book Online
Authors: Drake David
Tags: Speculative Fiction
pairs of banded travertine chosen for appearance rather than strength formed the uppermost range. The wooden casements and shutters of the upper-story windows had rotted to dust.
    The ground-floor entrance was recessed deeply within a pointed arch, but the door itself was small and so strongly made that it yet survived. Flanking the porch were fountains. Rains had left a stagnant scum in the orichalc basins, but the bronze statues from which water had once played were twists of verdigris which gave no hint of their former shapes.
    The city was silent save for the wind soughing through the walls.
    A broad helical staircase twisted from the ground to the building's roof. The pillared tower was styled to match the main structure, but the two were only connected at the top.
    Garric climbed the stairs. Their pitch was shallow, too shallow for his long legs, and should have been uncomfortable. In his present dream state he only noticed what he had no muscles to feel.
    He wondered if King Carus missed Garric's presence as much as Garric did his. Did Carus even realize that Garic was gone?
    As Garric mounted the stairs, his view of the city through the columns broadened. The streets were laid out in concentric circles centered on this building, though the docks of what had been a thriving seaport ate an arc out of one edge. The ships were gone, but the quays and stone bollards remained. The port didn't have sloping ramps up which oar-driven warships could be drawn to prevent their light hulls from decaying while not in use.
    At the very edge of his vision Garric thought he saw a wall of shimmering light like that which formed the bridge. It was too faint for him to be sure. Though daylight suffused the sky, there was no sun.
    Garric stepped onto the roof. It was covered with granite like the boulevard and esplanade, but these slabs were as nearly level as the common table in Reise's inn. The foundations must sink down to the bowels of the earth.
    The roof was a vast plaza decorated by a score of stone planters like buttons tucking the horsehair of an upholstered seat. Grass and weeds grew in them now, and from one sprouted a twisted appletree—the progeny many times removed of the tree placed there when the building was new. Roots had burst out the sides of other planters in the distant past, spilling the soil for rains to wash into a film of mud; only the lone apple had been able to reseed itself.
    The roof was an audience ground. At the end opposite the staircase was a chamber with a screen of pierced alabaster for its outward-curving front wall. Garric walked toward it, his feet taking him where he would have gone of his own volition.
    The translucent alabaster was no more than a finger's thickness. Light both reflected from and refracted through the milky stone, giving the air a soap-bubble sheen. The piercings were not simple holes or even a repetitive pattern. As Garric stepped close he saw a tracery of images, each as subtle and unique as the starlings of a flock wheeling in autumn.
    The cut-out shapes had meaning—of that Garric was sure. His conscious mind couldn't grasp what the meaning was, however. Would Tenoctris understand?
    The screen permitted citizens to see and hear their ruler close at hand, while still preventing them from touching him—or her, Garric supposed. It was carved from a seamless sheet of alabaster and had no door. A twig with a few dried leaves was caught in one of the small holes.
    In ancient Carcosa the King of the Isles addressed the people assembled in the Field of Heroes from a high balcony on the back of the palace. Since the Dukes of Ornifal had become Kings of the Isles, they'd practiced a cooler sort of kingship. The populace had seen Valence III in formal processions and at ceremonies before the great temples, but he'd never addressed them directly. Anything the king had to say to his people came through the mouths of underlings.
    That was going to change. It had already changed, beginning

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