Yuah found herself suddenly struggling to keep up with the reptilian who usually, like all members of her race in the colony, moved like cold molasses. She was also conscious of the fact that she was following in Cissy’s footsteps, therefore in the inferior position. They walked briskly to the point at which the street ended and the wild forest began. Cissy continued, but Yuah stopped.
“Follow,” said Cissy, turning around.
Yuah looked around, though whether for help or to make sure that no one saw her, even she didn’t know. She then stepped off the gravel road and followed Cissy into the low bushes between the redwood trees. The brush tugged at the bottom of her dress and the melting snow soaked the hem. They walked and walked. The air seemed to become darker and thicker with each step away from the realm of humanity and into the hidden reaches of the primeval forest.
“How far are we going?” asked Yuah.
It was far though. At least Yuah thought it was far. They walked more than two miles in the shade of the gigantic redwoods and large maples before they came to a clearing. About one hundred yards across, the clearing seemed to be nothing special at first, but as Yuah followed Cissy out of the trees, she noticed that the ground had changed. Looking down to where to where her dress hem dragged along, she could see between the small patches of snow and the creeping roots that she was standing on a smooth surface of stone slabs that had been fitted together. She scanned the area and could see steps here and there, breaking the clearing up into several areas of varying height. In a few places there were piles of stone that might have indicated that a wall had once stood there, but there were no buildings. A loud squawk startled Yuah and she jumped over to where the lizzie stood, but it was only a small group of eight or nine buitreraptors skirting the edge of the trees.
“Look,” said Cissy.
On the other side of the clearing from where they had entered were a series of seven large stones. Each stood about eight feet tall and they were roughly oval in shape. At either end of the row were the remains of other similar stones that had once stood in the line, but had long ago crumbled, either from exposure to the elements or from ancient vandalism. Though the remaining stones were weathered and worn, Yuah could see as she stepped up to them that they had been carefully carved and must have once been very detailed. At first she couldn’t quite tell what they had been intended to represent, but after examining them for a minute or two she could just make out the features of a dragon. Each stone was slightly different as though each was portraiture of a unique individual.
“These lizzie gods,” said Cissy.
“They’re dragons. You worship dragons?”
“Lizzies haff dragon gods.” The reptilian pointed first to the statue directly in front of her and then to the right. “This is Setemenothiss. That is Hissussisthiss. I not know the others.”
“Do you think dragons are gods?” asked Yuah.
“Dragons are gods. They not like God in Scritchers. Dragons not create whorld. Not create Cissy. Not create Yuah.”
“Well then they can’t really be gods can they?”
“You see this city?” asked Cissy.
Yuah looked around. “I see the ruins of what might have been a city, I suppose, countless generations ago—hundreds, maybe thousands of years ago.”
Cissy pointed at the dragon stone on the right. “Hissussisthiss—he old then. He is still here.”
“He can’t still be alive.”
“Your wise elder; he see Hissussisthiss.”
“Yes, my father said that he was rescued, or was it captured, by a dragon. But he was out of his head at the time, wasn’t he? It didn’t really happen. Did it?”
“He is still here.” The words had barely left Cissy’s large alligator mouth when her clawed hand shot out and grabbed Yuah by the shoulder, dragging her to the ancient stones on the ground and pulling her behind the stone image of Setemenothiss.
Cissy hissed her to silence, then pointed around the stone. Standing in the middle of the clearing, scarcely fifty feet away was a monstrous tyrannosaurus. Even bent over at the hip so that the massive, blood red, scarred head was balanced by the long tail, it was sixteen feet tall. Its body was so black that it looked as though the horrendous face was floating atop a shadow. Its ridiculous little forelegs were barely visible. Slowly turning around and sniffing loudly, the great beast took a step forward. Yuah was sure that her heart would leap out of her throat. She wanted to get up and run, but Cissy’s body pressed her to the ground. The tyrannosaurus took another step and another sniff, and then made a peculiar coughing grunt. Suddenly it wheeled around and stalked quickly and surprisingly quietly back into the woods.