From the small hillock upon which he stood, he could see a long, flat plain, and beyond that a large hill with a rocky outcropping on one side and upon the other a gentle slope down toward the shores of the briskly flowing river. In the distance was the vast forest of pine trees and maples, as well as sussata, for which the humans had no name. A great herd of sauroposeidon roamed along the forest edge, while closer were huge numbers of iguanodons and triceratops.
“We can all see that we are here,” he heard someone mutter behind him. He thought it was Szakhandu.
“Shut up,” ordered Sszaxxanna, cuffing whoever it was with a clawed hand. “This is a great moment.”
They had left the dragon fortress a full thirty days earlier with a mission to found a new city to the east, not far from the ruins of Suusthek. Suusthek had been a great city, but its ruler Ssithtsutsu had overstepped himself when he had tried to wipe out the soft-skins. Even without the aid of the young god, the humans had wiped out his warriors, and their witch-woman had left nothing where Suusthek had been but a very large smoking crater.
It had taken Hsrandtuss a few days to recover from his ordeal beneath the ancient stones of the fortress. Afterwards he spent several more days in celebratory feasting and drinking, and it took a few days to recover from that too. Then Yessonar had met with him alone. He could still remember the heat radiating from the dragon as he stood beside the great head, which lay upon a huge pillow of tyrannosaurus skin.
“That was quite a show of bravery, and totally unnecessary, I might add.”
“It was nothing,” said the king, but he couldn’t help but flush his dewlap.
“There is no other of your race that I trust more than you. Did you know that, Hsrandtuss?”
“I don’t know what to say, Great Yessonar.”
“It is twice as important to listen as it is to speak. That is why you have two ears and only one mouth. I have seen something in the future, and I need your help to turn the events the direction I desire. I am sending you east on a great mission. It will be difficult, but you can succeed.”
“I will succeed,” Hsrandtuss had proclaimed.
“Is this where we are going to build Zis Suusthek?” asked Ssu, stepping close to her husband, and forcing his mind to return to the present.
“This is where we will build our city. But it will not be called Zis Suusthek. Ssithtsutsu ruined that name forever, may a curse be upon the eggs of all his females. We shall call our city Yessonarah after the young god, to show that we are favored by him above all others.” He turned to Sszaxxanna. “Have the captains bring their people to that hill. We will make our camp tonight on the site of our city.”
When they had left, they had taken almost every lizzie at the fortress, though Yessonar would not have to go without worshippers for long. The line of supplicants was just as long on their way out as it had been on their way in. Looking at the great dragon curled up at the base of the large outdoor amphitheater, Hsrandtuss thought that he looked pleased to be left alone if only for a few minutes. Of course even as they were leaving, Khastla the envoy was making his way down the steps to task the god with something else. Five thousand lizardmen had been divided mostly along clan lines into ten groups, each led by a captain who reported directly to the king. Yes, Hsrandtuss was used to hearing “great king” from his wives. Now he would hear it from everybody.
It was growing dark before the last of the great pilgrimage arrived on the hill. Huge bonfires had already been set up by the first arrivals to help deter any predators, though even the family of gorgosaurs spotted late in the afternoon would have thought twice before approaching such a large group of Hsrandtuss’s people. The king lay down near the largest fire and pointed his nose toward the flame. Soon Kendra and Ssu were on either side of him and he could see the other wives taking their places nearby. Except for Sszaxxanna. She was somewhere, bringing some plot or other into fruition, or starting a new one. Hsrandtuss didn’t give her a lot of thought. He just closed his eyes and went to sleep.
Then next morning, the king met with all of the captains. He assigned each of them a job to oversee. Some were responsible for locating the appropriate stone for wall construction and to start quarrying it. Others were responsible for felling trees and cutting them into logs, which would be even more vital. Still others organized workers to dam the river and to cut irrigation canals. A particularly large individual named Straatin was placed in charge of the hunters who would supply the meat necessary to fill so many bellies. Finally, an old and grizzled veteran named Hunssuss was held back to consult with the king on the layout of the new city. They discussed what buildings needed to be constructed where, while a group of warriors used shovels and spears to gouge out the outlines of the buildings in the earth.
By the end of their first full day on the site of Yessonarah, there were already huge piles of cut logs and hundreds of fires around the hill illuminating thousands of lizzies feasting on raw meat as they were warmed by the flames. Hsrandtuss was pleased.
After eating a pomegranate and a bit of iguanodon for breakfast, the king climbed to his feet and looked around. The only one of his wives nearby was Szakhandu.
“Come and walk with me,” he ordered her.
She fell into step behind him as he walked down the hill and toward the river. The trees on either side of the game trail had already been cut and it was easy to see the best spot for the dam, right where the two banks came closest to one another, just after the river had made a lazy turn to the left. Workers were already creating a roadway that would lead to the site.
“So what do you think, Szakhandu?” asked Hsrandtuss, breaking the silence.
“Think about what, Great King?”
“About the site of our new city.”
“It is not for me to say, Great King.”
“Stop dipping my tail in the lake with this ‘great king’. I know what you think of me. I’m just a half wild brute that took you away from your comfortable home in Tsahloose. I know you say as much when you are among the other females.”
He glanced at her. She opened her mouth, ready to plead her innocence, but then closed it and dropped her chin.