Dragon Graveyard

Wednesday.

Not only the day of the week, but the name of a restaurant located in the center of the city. It opened ten years ago, but was still one of the most popular restaurants in the city.

Sitting at one of the high tables in the bar area was a man with fiery, red hair. He read the small placard at the center of the table, sipping his beer lazily. Leaning back in his chair, he checked his watch.

1:17 pm.

She was late. Again.

About to read the dessert special for the fifth time, his eyes caught sight of a woman wearing shades walking towards him. As she reached the table, he stood.

“Bout time you got here. I thought you were gonna ditch me.”

The woman took off her sunglasses and put her purse on the table. “Trust me, Dennis, if I wanted to ditch you I would’ve called.”

They hug, smiling happily.

“It’s good to see you again, Berry,” he said, squeezing her tightly.

“You say that every week.” She broke the embrace first and both sat.

“Is it annoying for an older brother to miss his younger sister?”

“Annoying is too strong a word.” She eyed his beer. “I see you couldn’t wait twenty minute before drinking.”

“Twenty minutes? I ordered this as soon as I set foot through the door. In fact, this is my second glass.”

A waiter appeared carrying a tray of appetizers and a second glass of beer. He placed the drink in front of her and the appetizers in the middle of the table.

“Glad to see you made it, Beryl.”

Smiling at the waiter, Beryl tapped the warm plate of food. “How long were you waiting to bring this out, Steve?”

“Not too long. Your beer’s still cold.”

“Thanks, Steve,” Dennis said.

Steve left the two alone. Beryl took a sip of her beer and released a relieved breath after swallowing.

Dennis watched his sister with a smirk. “Long day?”

“Something like that. I might be graduating this year, but that hasn’t meant less work. I thought senior year of college was supposed to be the easiest?”

“Depends on where you are, what your major is, and who’re your professors.”

“Guess I struck out then. Anyway, it’s your turn to start the traditional Wednesday Catch-Up Talk at Wednesday.”

Dennis grabbed a potato skin and held it high. “By the wrinkles on this potato skin, I call to order the weekly Wednesday Catch-Up of the Cowen Siblings!” He took a large bite of the appetizer.

Beryl kicked him under the table. “Smart ass.”

“Hey, now we’re official.”

“How was work A today?”

“Same old, same old. Couple of school groups so a lot of noisy kids running around. The simulator broke down again and as usual we don’t have any money in the budget for repairs. So, the head of the museum is trying to have me sweet talk the Council for extra spending cash.”

Beryl nearly inhaled her beer. “God! Why doesn’t he grow his own pair of balls and ask himself?”

“That’s what Maddie told him. Next thing I know, he’s calling me from the Council’s room. Apparently, they’re going to review the request some time next week.”

“In other words, humor the head until he forgets.”

“Oh, we got a new exhibit to replace the Dragon Egg Exhibition. An anonymous investor donated it. It’s supposed to have something to do with the Colored Cotta Dragons or something. Even Gran doesn’t know what it is exactly.”

Beryl’s eyes widened. It was rare for their grandmother not to know something about the Cotta Dragons. Especially a mysteriously donated exhibit about them. “She approved it?”

“You know Gran. She’s curious about things she doesn’t know about as much as things she does.” Dennis ate another potato skin before continuing. “We had a break-in last Friday. Happened during operating hours. Someone broke into the storerooms under the museum. They didn’t steal anything, but we found books scattered everywhere. It was the weirdest thing. None of the books pulled had anything to do with each other. The police think the culprit did it so we wouldn’t know what he or she had been looking for.”

“That’s exciting. Work B must’ve been blah in comparison.”

Falling silent, Dennis glanced out the windows of the restaurant to the green mountain range. “I heard you turned down Greg Fisher’s proposal.”

Glaring at him, Beryl held her beer close to her mouth. “He asked me on a date, he didn’t propose anything.”

“But you turned him down.”

“When did we get on the topic of my love life? It’s still your turn to talk about your week.”

“Yeah, well, I work with him at work B, remember? That’s how I found out. Berry, when are you going to go out with a nice guy?”

“When I want to. Can we please talk about something else?”

He stared at her before sighing, knowing he wouldn’t get any farther with her. “Fine. Work B. Same as usual. We worked at the new site for hours and only found dirt and rocks.”

“Really old dirt and rocks.”

“Doesn’t matter how old, dirt and rocks are still dirt and rocks. My superior’s thinking of moving onto a new site next week if we don’t find anything by Saturday. Everyone’s stressed.”

“Move? You’ve only been at that site for a month. It took three months for you to find anything at the lake site.”

“We told him that, but he still insists on the deadline. My thought is the Council’s giving him trouble since technically we aren’t supposed to be digging within a hundred yards of the Dragon Graveyard Cave.”

“And your superior happened to start digging before you got the proper clearance, right?”

Dennis laughed. “It’s like you know him.”

“Between the stories you tell me and the ones Gran tells me about him, I feel like I do. Why didn’t he wait for the Council’s go-ahead? They weren’t going to say no.”

“He thinks…he thinks there’s something big under the graveyard. Something big enough to change all we know about dragons.”

“That’s not too difficult. We don’t know much about them now.”

Dennis leaned closer to her. “I think he’s on to something.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Seriously?”

“Look, so far what we know about dragons is based on fossils, drawings, outdated books, and what the Council chooses to tell us. Even we, who lived with a Cotta and were exposed to a dragon for all of our lives, can barely say we’ve scratched the surface of what Dragons are. Aren’t you at least curious to find out why there are no more wild dragons?”

Beryl stared at her brother. She had always been curious why the only dragons left were those the members of the Cotta had. It didn’t make sense. The Dragon Graveyard Cave had the bones of thousands, maybe even millions of Dragons, ranging in size. Yet, the Dragons of the Cotta all remained at the size of house cats. Then there was the question of where do the Dragons of the Cotta come from? When a Cotta changed so did the Dragon. Where did they come from?

Dennis looked at his watch. “I’ve talked long enough. There’s just enough time for you to talk about your week.”

Beryl groaned. “Speaking of Dragon mysteries, my Dragon Lore professor has no fucking–”

“Language.”

“Sorry, my professor has no freakin’ clue about any of it. I swear, the University picked the only Ph. D. who couldn’t even tell you what a Dragon looks like let alone the stories written about them. I know more than he does, but when I correct him he fails me.”

“You’re failing?”

“No, but he isn’t making the class easy for me.”

Dennis laughed. “You know, a lot of professors don’t like being corrected about their own subjects. It makes them feel incompetent and no longer the superior voice in the classroom.”

She waved her hand at him. “Whatever, besides that class everything else is smooth sailing. I had another fever Sunday. Oh, did you know Jillian and Lee are engaged now? He asked her during the last performance of his band at the Black Fire Club.”

“Hold on, you had another fever? That’s the fifth time this month. Did you go to the doctor?”

She took a deep breath. “No, I didn’t.”

He grabbed her hand. “Berry, this is serious. You’ve been getting these fevers a lot recently. You have to get it checked out. What if it’s something serious?”

“Like what? Hmm? Like stress? I’ve just been stressed out lately and it’s messing with my immune system. That’s all. Once classes and finals are over I’ll be back to my old healthy self. Besides, I can’t afford to miss any more classes.”

“Miss any more? What have you been doing that has caused you to miss classes?”

“Nothing.”

His eyes widened. “You’ve been sneaking to the Black Fire Club to see Kingdon, haven’t you?”

She fought to keep her face from turning red. Kingdon was a bartender at Black Fire as well as the bass guitar player in Lee’s band.

“Why do you have to ask that way?”

“He’s too old for you, Berry!”

“He is not!”

“Yes, he is!”

“He is not! He’s only two years older than me!”

“He has a girlfriend!”

“Yeah, but it’s a horrible relationship! She’s only into him because Lee’s band is actually good! When the next big band starts playing she’ll move on to a new bassist!”

“That’s a little too desperate sounding coming from you. But that’s not the point! You can’t miss classes just to go talk to him or stare at him from afar or whatever you do!”

“Den! We have such great conversations together! I have more in common with him than that over-bleached bitch!”

A family with two kids glared at the two. They both smiled apologetically and sat in silence while they finished the appetizer plate.

“Speaking of over-bleached,” Dennis said after gulping down the last of his beer, “How’s Sal doing?”

Beryl shrugged her shoulders. “Okay, I guess. She’s slowly getting over you, but it’ll be a while before she moves on and starts dating again. What an effect you have on women.”

“I feel terrible, but it wasn’t going anywhere.”

Beryl noticed the time on a TV over the bar. “Unlike you. You should get back before the head of the museum finds out you forgot to kiss his ass before you left.”

He smiled. “Don’t worry. James is covering for me until I get back. We both have soft lips.”

“Just go. It’s my turn to pay anyway.”

They both stood and gave each other a hug. As he pulled away, he placed a hand on her forehead. She quickly pulled away.

“You’re warm. Is it the same fever?”

“God, you’re just like mom. No, I’m just a little flushed from the beer, now go!”

He hesitated before leaving. She watched him until she couldn’t see him anymore then looked at the empty plate.

Steve appeared and started to clear plates away. “Would you like anything else, Beryl?”

Beryl looked at him and smiled. “Some ice water would be fantastic.”

“You got it.” Before he left, he handed her the bill.

Pulling out her credit card, she placed it in the plastic pocket inside the bill folder. Then she stared ahead, placing her head in her hands. A shiver ran down her spine, but the goose bumps that broke out on her arms left her feeling hotter than before.

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