Lady Terra held the binoculars to her eyes and examined the battlefield stretched out across the plane. It was a truly horrible sight. The bodies of more than ten thousand lizardmen were strewn across the great field. Hundreds of dinosaurs, large and small, feasted on the remains. Along the nearer side of the war zone, a group of about one hundred lizzies made their way through the bodies, offering aid to any to whom aid would still make a difference. They were easy enough to spot, with their bodies painted half white and half sky blue.
“What do you think, Kaetarrnaya?”
The girl looked up into the cold-blooded eyes of King Hsrandtuss.
“It is a horrible victory, Great King, but you have turned back the enemy.”
“Very little is as it seems in war, my little soft-skin,” the king hissed humorlessly. “This was not a victory.”
“No? But Xecheon’s dead greatly outnumber ours.”
Hsrandtuss’s dewlap flushed.
“Yes, almost three to one,” he said. “This was not the enemy’s true aim though. It was a feint, a distraction, and not a bad one if truth were known. This tells me that their idiot king has found someone with a strategic mind. Where could he have gotten such a genius, Kaetarrnaya?”
“Maybe one of his people have a gift. Or it could be that a new group of lizzies have joined Xecheon. Hundreds arrive at Yessonarah each month. I wouldn’t think they would have as many immigrants, but they could have some. Perhaps one of them is a skilled warrior.”
“That is well-thought-out and very possible,” said Hsrandtuss. He waved and a male brought over two folding chairs, setting them up. The king took one and indicated with a wave that the girl should take the other. “Is there another possibility?”
“Xecheon could have advisors from the humans,” she said. “The Bordonians or the Mirsannans are both looking to expand their power in Birmisia, and there are a dozen other countries that might send weapons and advisors. For that matter, they could be human soldiers of fortune, beyond the control of any country.”
“Could it be the Brechs?”
“That wouldn’t make any sense,” said Terra. “We’re allies.”
“I am your king,” said Hsrandtuss, touching the tip of her nose with a clawed finger. “You must not lie to me. Might they not want revenge on me for defeating them on the battlefield?”
“I will not lie, Great King. I do not think it is the Brechs. Greater Brechalon seldom breaks treaties, though this would not be the first time. Also it might be more likely we would break our treaty with you than with other human countries, since many among my people consider the lizzies inferior.”
Hsrandtuss gurgled in anger.
“But the cost and the danger of destabilization is very great compared to the possible return. My people will often prefer a less than ideal situation to an uncertain one, even when there is a possibility of improvement. There is a much greater possibility that it is a lone Brech who is aiding Xecheon, but I find this unlikely too. You are known to be fair with humans and you have much greater wealth. A single treasure-seeker would be much more inclined to offer aid to you.”
“I am pleased with you, Kaetarrnaya. You have spoken true with me, even when it might not make your own people appear their best.”
“I am a noble female of Yessonarah.”
“Yes, you are,” said the king. “Now I want you to remember that. Who else could be helping our enemies?”
“I don’t know… other lizzie states?”
“No. What is it that makes us so great?”
“Yessonarah is great because it is the chosen city of the God of the Sky, and its people are his chosen people. But there are no other drag…”
Hsrandtuss leaned in close to her face and stared into her eyes.
“There can’t be… there can’t be another dragon leading them,” she said. “There can’t be. Can there?”
Hsrandtuss sat back and reached into his mouth to scratch around one of his back teeth. Then he spat on the ground. A male appeared and handed him a water skin. After pouring a long stream of water into his mouth and swallowing, he handed the container to the girl.
“You know the answer already,” said the girl. “Don’t you?”
He climbed to his feet and stretched himself up to his full height.
“Who do you think you are talking to? Of course I know.”
“Which is it then?”
“It is all three, little soft-skin. Xecheon has chosen as their general an old enemy of mine—a warrior of some skill. His name is Tokkenttot.”
“The one from the story!” gasped Terra. “You stole Tokkenoht from him. You stole his sister!”
The king hissed. “Yes, and he wants his revenge. He has taken twenty great war machines from the humans, the ones whose name sounds like salamander mating calls. They are designed to destroy to city walls and fortifications. They have also sent two hundred human warriors to help operate them.”
“Salamander mating… the Bordonians?”
“Yes. They are the ones.” Hsrandtuss stretched his right shoulder, still scarred from the dryptosaurus bite. “Of course, none of this is as troubling as the fact that they have themselves a new god leading them—a small blue female dragon. They are calling her the Goddess of War.”
“Goddess of War.” The words came out of Terra’s mouth as a whisper.
“Now, go get your gear together. You and I have quite a distance to travel, and quickly too.”