Title of Art: Dormientes Draconum (Sleeping Dragons)
Medium(s): Photo Manipulation
Character(s): John Sheppard, Rodney McKay
Preferences: Gen or Slash (McKay/Sheppard)
Notes: They both dream of bright-scaled wings soaring above crumbling, mist-clad towers or circling ancient ruins buried 'neath rusty sands; bugling calls to adventure.
Link to art: at AO3.
Title of fic: Childhood Dreams
Pairing/Characters: Rodney McKay/John Sheppard
Length: ~10,500 words.
Disclaimer: Unfortunately not mine and I always give them back after.
Summary: Dreams of an ancient city and dragons had haunted them since childhood, was this their chance to prove that it wasn't just a dream?
With many thanks to busaikko for her speedy beta and very helpful comments and suggestions, and to danceswithgary for the beautiful and inspirational graphics.
She raised her head and stretched her lithe, bronze-scaled body out over the sand, reveling in the heat of the day. With a flick of her tail, the current Guardian of the City sprang forward and launched herself into the air, circling gracefully until she reached the highest peak. Closing her eyes, she called on the collective minds of her kind and reached out across the galaxy, searching, as her kind had for hundreds of cycles, for the two receptive minds who would one day awaken the dormant city of Atlantis and bring her shining towers back to life.
Hoping for much, but expecting little, she gasped as twin subconscious minds connected and anchored themselves to hers, echoing through the minds of her kindred and waking those who slumbered. For the past ten cycles, the Guardian had connected with one mind, weakly at first but getting stronger over the cycles. This time there was no doubt or hesitation. The two minds were young but ready and receptive, and the Guardian sent her silent message across the stars, knowing from the prophecy told by the Ancestors that the message would not fail.
Rodney McKay glanced up as he heard the commotion of horses in the yard; visitors to the castle had been frequent throughout the week, although it was unusual for any to be arriving this early. Rodney himself had been woken in the early hours by a familiar dream; one he’d first had at age ten while he was recovering from a life-threatening virus. Weak and close to death, he’d received a transfusion of blood from his best friend John which had not only saved his life, but resulted in him gaining the ability to operate the Ancestors technology
Both boys had dreamed that night, a very similar dream, too similar to be a coincidence. Rodney had seen a city with tall sandstone towers and spires, surrounded by sand as if located in the middle of a desert. John’s dream had what appeared to be the same city but with shining towers and spires, surrounded by water, as if floating in the middle of an ocean. In both boys’ dreams the sky around the city had been filled with dragons, graceful creatures in shades of bronze, green, blue and burnished red, tumbling through the sky, circling the towers, their bugling calls filling the air with a cacophony of sound.
The dreams came regularly to both boys after that, always on the same nights. They had long ago decided that these were no ordinary dreams. The dragons were calling to them, and they made a pact that one day they were going to find both the city and the dragons. Whenever he had spare time, Rodney searched the archives of the castle library, through the old manuscripts and scrolls left behind by the Ancestors for any reference to either of the cities in their dreams or the dragons. His research had yielded vague mention of a city fitting the description of the one from John’s dream. It has been described as “the city of towers” which is how John and Rodney had referred to it thereafter. Mention had also been made of the Great Library of Pegasus, the description of which closely resembled the city in Rodney’s dream. For his part, John visited the historians and libraries of the worlds he visited, searching for any other information the Ancestors might have left on other worlds which would assist Rodney in his research.
Pale sunlight streamed through the open window as Rodney rose and stretched his back before making his way over to the window to see who the early morning travelers were. Poking his head out of the window, he was delighted that John, along with his team, had safely returned from their latest trading and exploration mission through the portal. He turned quickly and made his way down to the yard to greet his friends.
The younger son of Baron Patrick, John Sheppard had long ago given up trying to please his father. He’d always been his mother’s child. Upon her death when John was ten, his father had gladly passed the care of his wayward younger child to his dead wife’s lady-in-waiting. Meredith McKay and her husband Ingram, Baron Patrick’s advisor and head of the Caerwynnen’s guards, had gladly taken on Elizabeth’s favorite son and, along with her husband Ingram, had raised the boy alongside their own ten-year-old Rodney and his younger sister Jeannie. John had missed his mother terribly and grieved for her, but had flourished with Meredith’s patient love, the friendship of Rodney - his friend from birth - and Ingram’s stern but loving guidance. John blossomed from a shy, vulnerable child to a brave, confident young man, determined to lead one of the teams who traveled through the portal to trade with and explore other worlds.
A children John and Rodney had been inseparable, until Rodney’s love of science, inventions and knowledge had led him to the position of chief scientist and scholar while John’s sense of adventure led to him to travel away from Caerwynnen for many months at a time. Despite the long periods of separation, the two young men met up whenever John returned and it was as if they had never been apart, such was the depth of their friendship.
“Hey, Rodney.” John face lit up in a smile, and he crossed the yard quickly to pull Rodney into his arms for a hug. Neither man had ever been very tactile, so Rodney never ceased to be surprised that John always greeted him in that way. He hugged John back in welcome before John pulled away and caught him by the shoulders, excitement and anticipation clear on his face.
“Rodney, I think we’ve found your dream city where the Great Library of Pegasus was. Just by change - we thought we were just exploring an abandoned planet. It’s amazing - Rodney, you must come and see it. We’ll rest the horses overnight and start out early in the morning.”
Rodney stared at him, unable to take in the enormity of what John was telling him. Searching through all the books, scrolls and manuscripts that the Ancestors had left behind for references to the library and the city of towers had been almost his life’s work. It seemed unreal that, finally, its existence could be confirmed. He grinned broadly as the news finally sank in.
It was barely daylight when they met the remainder of John’s team the following morning. Torn between fear and excitement, Rodney mounted the gentle gray mare John had chosen for him with care. Breeze was a docile animal but swift on her feet, and she was familiar with travel through the portal. Rodney was used to riding around Caerwynnen and the short distances to neighboring villages but this was the first time he was journeying further. It was also his first trip through the portal, despite him being the person who had got it working again after almost two decades of disuse. John himself was on her darker grey son, Storm, with Evan and Aiden on their sleek black stallions Spirit and Firecracker.
They set off at a steady pace, with Evan and Aiden leading. The day was bright and clear, but it was already obvious that the sun would soon burn off the slight chill of the spring morning. Rodney and John followed, each pair talking quietly amongst themselves.
“I still can’t believe you found the library. I was beginning to think by now that it was just a rumor. It’s so hard to tell how genuine the writings are.” Rodney shook his head in disbelief, something he’d done several times since hearing John’s story.
“I know,” John replied with a lazy smile. “I’m just glad you shared your research with me or otherwise I wouldn’t have recognized it. Although just because the library is real doesn’t mean the city or dragons are, though. They may just be something our imaginations dreamed up,” John reminded him.
“Yes, yes, but why did we have the same dreams? You remember the first time. I was barely out of the coma I’d been in for five days, and we hadn’t been reading or talking about dragons and yet we had such similar dreams, pictured the same dragons circling such similar cities that they could have been the same. It can’t just be in our imaginations,” Rodney insisted. “And you want to find them as much as I do.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” John conceded. “I guess there must be something there. After all, it was your research after the dreams which uncovered references to the library, so there must be a connection.”
“Tell me about the library again?” Rodney begged.
“Rodney, I’ve told you three times already,” John replied with a laugh. “We’ll be at the portal soon enough, and then you’ll see it for yourself after that.”
Sure enough, within half an hour they were in sight of the portal. Rodney could feel butterflies fluttering around his stomach as he pulled up just before the terrace the portal was located on. John turned to him and smiled encouragingly before acknowledging one of the guards from the portal’s guardhouse as he waved lazily at them.
“Come on, Rodney. You’ve not been through before but you know how many of us have, and you know what happens - you did all the research.”
“Yes, yes, of course I know, but it could go wrong, there’s always a first time,” Rodney muttered, swinging his leg over Breeze’s back and sliding off, petting her absentmindedly.
“Positive thoughts, Rodney. Just think what’s waiting for you on the other side.” John raised an eyebrow and grinned, knowing that the lure of the library would win out over Rodney’s fear.
John dismounted from Storm and joined Rodney before the round pedestal set with the symbols for engaging the portal. Rodney was almost intimately acquainted with the pedestal after all of the research and tinkering he did whilst fixing it.
When John and Rodney were small boys, the portal was operational and used several times a week by travelers and traders going to and from Caerwynnen. They had memories of visitors from other worlds being entertained at the castle, and hiding at the top of the grand stairway, with its balcony overlooking the great hall, as John’s parents hosted banquets to impress the visitors. However, the portal had failed during their sixth year, and as there was no one with the skills to diagnose and repair the technology it had been silent for many years. This was much to John’s despair, as he longed for adventures through the portal, a desire he never grew out of. As Rodney grew older he swore that one day he would fix the portal so that his friend could achieve his dream.
Rodney conducted years of research in the castle’s library, perusing the fragile books, ancient manuscripts and scrolls stored so carefully in the private archives, carefully translating the ancient texts to ensure he was interpreting the Ancestors writings correctly. He didn’t undertake the task on his own, though. As a brilliant scientist and inventor himself, Rodney led a team of the brightest minds in Caerwynnen, all of whom found time to assist with the portal project in addition their own work. However, it was Rodney’s genius which had put the pieces together and worked out how to repair the pedestal, allowing the dark and silent portal to burst into life again, for the first time in almost twenty years.
Rodney had been terrified the first time John had led his team through the portal, and had literally sunk to his knees in relief when they returned safely, barely able to hide his true feelings for John which he’d kept hidden for so long. Many teams had ventured through the portal in the years since that first trip, visiting communities they had lost touch with so many years ago, trading goods and information. In return for Rodney fixing the portal, John always made a point to visit the libraries of the communities he visited or to speak to the historians, learning small fragments about the rumored Great Library of Pegasus and its twin city set upon the ocean. But until now, he’d never had enough information to actually learn where the library or the city were located.
But here they were, about to step through the portal to the abandoned world on which the library was built. Rodney looked over at John, who silently deferred to Rodney to initiate the portal.
Taking a deep breath, Rodney selected the symbols in sequence before pressing on the central orb; the portal sprang into life, the blue wave billowing out in front before settling into a vertical rippling pool which appeared to defy gravity. Grinning broadly at John, Rodney stepped forward at John’s side, Breeze and Storm following placidly well used to travel through the portal. Side by side, they stepped through the rippling pool and disappeared.
“Wow, this is a totally different climate from back home, but it certainly matches the one from my dream,” Rodney said in surprise, taking in the sandy dunes and desert surrounding the portal and stretching for miles in each direction. Far into the distance he could see green trees and vegetation, but it looked a long way away.
“Yeah, it’s almost desert-like here, but travel for a couple of hours and the climate changes completely,” John agreed. “The library is part of stone complex or small city that’s half-buried in the sand. My guess is there were storms here over the years and the sand has drifted higher and higher around the building on several sides. The towers have also crumbled, which is why the building doesn’t stand out as much as it probably once did.”
“How far away is it?”
“About a two-hour ride. We almost missed it. I only carried on because the terrain seemed to match your dream and what we’d learned about it. A bit further and we finally saw the buildings rising out of the sand.” John explained. “Come on, let’s get moving.”
They climbed back on their mounts and headed off across the sand. Rodney could feel his body almost humming in anticipation. His people called the people who had colonized their work and built its castle – with its strange futuristic technologies – and who had left so many manuscripts in their own ancient language, “The Ancestors”. All the historical research Rodney had done over the years on the Ancestors had all pointed in the direction of the Great Library of Pegasus. Piecing together the information held in the castle library with the scraps of information John had gathered on his travels was like solving a jigsaw puzzle. Rodney had determined that no one world held all the answers; each piece of the puzzle was located on a different planet and required someone like John to collect them so that Rodney could put them all together.
Most of the time the rumors from the historians John had spoken to were centered on the library, but many of them also talked about the people from the city of towers. Rodney was convinced that finding the library was the clue to finding the city.
After about an hour and a half of travel John pulled up and pointed into the distance.
“See that wall of sand there?” he asked Rodney. “It’s not all sand. Some of it’s the building housing the library. The stone is the same color as the sand, so from a distance it just looks like part of the dunes - pretty well camouflaged now that the towers have crumbled, until you get really close.”
“I see what you mean; it would be really easy to miss it if you didn’t look carefully enough.” Rodney peered into the distance. As John had said, if he didn’t know any better he would have thought it was just sand dunes.
They traveled for another half an hour before coming upon the building. As they got closer Rodney could see that rather than being one building it really was a small city, with various buildings and crumbling towers all joined to each other at the base.
“Is there an accessible entrance or do we need to dig our way in?” Rodney asked after some contemplation.
“Nah, don’t worry, no digging involved. The sand storms hit worse on this side; it’s not buried so deep around the far side. Come on, this way.”
He led the way in a wide arc around the building, navigating the horses away from the deeper areas of sand. As they came around the far side, Rodney could see entrances to several of the buildings, the main one being half way along the wall. As well as the doorways there were also several small, narrow windows in the brickwork but apart from that the sandstone walls were unrelieved.
“Evan and Aiden will stay out here and keep watch on the horses and make sure that the planet is as abandoned as it seems,” John said as he dismounted. “We can go in and take a look around. A lot of the rooms are empty. I guess people lived here at some time, but there’s no sign anyone’s been here for a long, long time,” he explained.
“Okay,” Rodney agreed, unstrapping his packs from where they had been secured behind Breeze’s saddle. They all had sleeping rolls and food and Evan and John carried the small two-man tents in case they were needed. Aiden had the cooking equipment, while Rodney had brought along some of his books and equipment.
Rodney felt the thrill of excitement and anticipation as John led him towards the main entrance.
“Aren’t we going to need lanterns?” He asked in surprise as John was about to walk through the stone entranceway.
“No, I’ve got them for backup, but these buildings are like the rooms in the older parts of the castle. They light up when you walk through them,” John explained. “It’s one of the reasons I’m so certain this is the Great Library of Pegasus. From the outside it looks very simple, but once you get into the heart of the building, the technology is very similar to that left at the castle by the Ancestors.”
“So how come no-one has found this place before? Surely someone else must have been interested in the stories?” Rodney questioned out loud, before answering his own questions. “I guess that’s all they thought they were, just stories and rumors. After all, you haven’t visited any other worlds with the kind of technology which we’ve found in the older parts of the castle.”
“No,” John agreed, leading them down a wide passage. “Unless they’ve been keeping it hidden, but why would they do that? The other worlds we’ve been to have always been keen to show off anything they think they’ve got that we may not have, and they’ve always been willing to allow me to speak to their historians and visit their libraries if they have them.”
There were no rooms off the passageway they were walking down, but eventually they got to a point where narrower passageways branched off both left and right from the wider, main passageway. John carried straight on.
“What’s down the other passages, have you checked?” Rodney asked with interest.
“Not all the way. Some of the passages around the outer edges of the city have caved in. It looks like there were living quarters, laboratories, workshops and possibly an infirmary. This main passageway leads back to a central control room with consoles and control panels far more technologically advanced than those at home, and beyond that is the library, full of books, manuscripts and scrolls. It’s a really unusual mixture of ancient and modern.”
“Hmm, I wonder if they were transferring the information from the written documents into the consoles. That would make information so much easier to locate, especially on the city of towers and the dragons,” Rodney exclaimed enthusiastically.
“Just because the library exists doesn’t mean the other city and dragons do, Rodney. Don’t get your hopes up just yet.” John grinned at him. Despite his words, Rodney could see that John shared his excitement.
“So, here are the consoles and this,” he led the way through the large room to a doorway on the other side. “is your library.” He turned and watched Rodney to see his reaction as he followed John through the doorway.
Rodney stopped and stared, lost for words. The doorway led to an open, circular room, the floor of which was far below them and the ceiling a high dome far above. Narrow walkways ran around the edge of the room on three levels, the walls of which were lined with shelves, all of them filled. Gallery-style railings ran along the edge of the walkways to avoid people falling to the ground.
From where he stood on the upper level, Rodney could see four spiral stairways spaced around the walkways leading to the levels below. In the center of the room were desks, spaced out as if the room was used for lectures.
“This is amazing,” Rodney exclaimed in awe. “It must have taken years to construct this place. Just look around, it would take several lifetimes to read and catalog everything here.”
“Let’s just hope that someone’s already done that,” John replied with a chuckle. “Otherwise centuries will go by before we find the information we need.”
“Yes, well, I have to admit it’s a little daunting.” Rodney replied. “Let’s see if we can get the consoles up and running. Hopefully they have everything cataloged in there. Oh, look at the shelves.” He pointed as he got closer to the wall beside him. “Each section has a code, so hopefully there is a catalog system here somewhere. All we need to do is find it.”
“That could be easier said than done,” John commented, staring around the room. “Even if you do find some kind of catalog it could still take days to find the right section of the library.”
“Huh, are you trying to put me off?” Rodney frowned at John. “I’m not giving up that easily. This place could answer all our questions, John. From what happened to the Ancestors, who built the old sections of the castle who left us with all the technology but with no instructions on how to recreate it to the location of the city of towers and the dragons, too. You know, some of the old folklore describes dragons as guardians of some sort. They could be guardians of the city for all we know and I’m going to find out one way or another.” He said this with determination, knowing that at times like this his stubbornness and persistence were a positive trait.
“Okay, well, we have enough provisions for a week. There is woodland and forest further inland a little way, so hopefully we’ll be able to hunt for food. There’s also a river, although we might find that access to water in the living quarters, like in the castle,” John mused.
“Is that what you normally do,” Rodney questioned softly. “When you stay away for so long?”
John reached up and scratched the back of his neck, grimacing awkwardly.
“Not always,” he replied eventually. “Some planets are inhabited and friendly. Those that have a basic level of technology are the best. We usually stay and eat at local inns while we look around and trade. Other planets are quite primitive, with groups of nomads or small villages which aren’t much more than farming communities. People live in crude timber shelters and cook over open fires, collecting water from streams or wells. Some places don’t like strangers or visitors and aren’t at all friendly. Other planets we’ve been to are like this one, and as far as we’ve seen have been uninhabited. We stay a few days and explore, mainly to see if there are any edible plants growing in the wild, or animals worth taking home for breeding. That’s how we found this place just by chance. But when we came inside and saw the combination of the technology and the library, I just knew we had to bring you back here,” John finished with a grin.
“I’m glad you did,” Rodney replied with a smile. “I’ve never really wanted to do what you do and travel through the portal all the time, but I wouldn’t have missed this for anything.” He took another glance around the large room and shook his head in awe.
“I think I’m going to start by trying out the consoles. If I can get them up and running it might yield some information, or at least give an idea of where in the library the information we want is located. Come on, I may need you to get the console initialized.” Rodney took one last look around the room and turned back to the adjacent room.
“There’s obviously still power to the facility otherwise the lights wouldn’t be working,” Rodney mused out loud as he stopped at the closest console, pulling off the rough sheet which protected the equipment from dust. “They obviously took time to protect the equipment, so I would imagine they would have powered them down so as not to drain all the facility’s power. Mind you,” he continued with a frown, “this part of the planet is obviously desert-like, so maybe they were able to harness the sun’s power somehow.” He swung his pack off his back and pulled out his own equipment.
No-one really knew when the castle was originally constructed, but additions had been made over the years. The older parts of the castle were intuitive, lights and doors reacted automatically to people as they approached. However, there was some equipment which only certain people, people like John and later Rodney, could operate. Rodney had spent the whole of his adult life, along with many of his teenage years, researching and experimenting with the equipment, referring regularly to the old manuscripts found in the castle library. All of his research had led to references about the Great Library of Pegasus and, in turn, very vague and sporadic references to the city of towers.
The fact that they had both dreamed of such a city for many years prior to finding references to it was something which they both felt was a sign; they saw it as their destiny to find the city. Each, in their own way, had been searching for it for many years.
Finally, their years of study and travel seemed to have paid off. As the console under Rodney’s hands bloomed into life, he saw the delight and amazement that he knew was showing on his own face reflected in John’s.
Although a real treasure trove of information, it was painstaking work trying to translate and navigate the data stored in the databank and Rodney was soon lost in his work. He was peripherally aware of John exploring the room further and on a couple of occasions pushing a drink or something to eat into his hands.
At first, Rodney couldn’t find any sequence to the database but after going back and forth over a few of the items he realized that it was in chronological order, not the easiest way to find anything if you didn’t know exactly what you were looking for. On reading further, he realized that it must be the history of the Ancestors. Headlines with a brief synopsis in the database were cross referenced with areas of the library, and Rodney was glad that once he found reference to the city it should be fairly easy to find the documentation which went with it.
Rodney only surfaced from his studies of the database when John tugged on his arm.
“How are you doing? Have you found anything useful?” John asked with a yawn.
“Mmm, there are several references to the city of towers. There appears to be quite a lot of information spread over various sections of the library,” Rodney explained, waving his hand absently at the pad he’d been jotting down notes on. “These are all sections of the library which may hold useful information, so I’m going to take a look and see what kind of information it is and whether it’s of any use in locating the city itself or giving us more information about it.”
“Not tonight you’re not, buddy. It’s almost midnight, so I think it’s time to have something proper to eat and get some sleep. You’ll work faster in the morning after you’ve had some rest.”
Rodney was surprised. “I didn’t realize it was that late,” he admitted. “This is amazing, though. There’s so much information here, so much research. My science team are going to think all their birthdays have come in one go.” He laughed as they made their way out of the building.
The night sky was dark and full of stars; two moons shed a silvery light over the campsite which Evan and Aiden had created a few yards from the entrance. A small fire was burning with a pot of stew simmering gently on top, and Rodney realized just how hungry he was.
“That does smell good.” He said as they joined the others by the fire. Aiden chuckled and dished him some stew.
“Evan managed to catch one of those rabbit-like animals, and it really does taste good,” Aiden replied, handing the dishes to John and Rodney.
“I’ll take first watch,” John said after taking his first mouthful of stew. “You two get some sleep now, and I’ll wake Evan in a few hours.”
Aiden and Evan nodded and stood to make their way to their tent. “Good night guys,” Evan said with a yawn. Aiden waved his hand at them as he followed Evan into the tent.
It wasn’t long after finishing his stew and his coffee that Rodney followed them into sleep, tired out by the adventures of the day.
The next few days followed a very similar pattern. Rodney disappeared into the library immediately after breakfast and stayed until late into the night, when John would drag him out for food and rest. John, Evan and Aiden took turns staying with Rodney, switching every few hours after the first day, allowing the other two to watch the campsite or hunt and gather fresh food. It only took around twenty minutes to ride to the distant forest and from there, game and recognizable root vegetables and fruits were easy to find, so they ate well. As they had thought, there was a water source available within the building they were in, so they didn’t have to worry about finding fresh water.
Early evening of the sixth day Rodney had a breakthrough. He’d been cross-referencing several books, scrolls and manuscripts for well over an hour when something caught his eye. He stared at the manuscript in front of him for several minutes, blinking and shaking his head before looking down and translating the ancient text several times, not quite believing what he was reading.
“John,” he called loudly, hearing the tremble in his voice but not caring. “Sheppard,” he called again, hearing nothing from his companion.
He stood and looked around, just as John ran through the doorway, sliding to a stop when he saw Rodney.
“The hell, McKay,” he gasped, clearly out of breath. “I thought something had happened.” He frowned at Rodney as he made his way cautiously down the stairs.
“Yes, yes, well something has happened,” Rodney explained somewhat impatiently. “I’ve found a portal code but this isn’t to another planet. The description is very vague, but it’s the portal to a city described as Atlantis. From what I can make out it’s the original home of the Ancestors. This is it, John. This is what we’ve been looking for.”
“So why did the Ancestors leave Atlantis?” John asked. “I thought the manuscript in the castle library said they all died.”
“Hmm, not so much died, I’m not quite sure what this means, but according to one of these texts,” he gestured vaguely to the many scrolls and manuscripts littering the desks around him, “most of them ‘ascended’ from the earth. A small number didn’t agree to this mass ascension and decided to leave the city and colonize other planets. I guess that’s how they ended up on our world. Those that remained interbred with the local populace, which I’m guessing is how people such as you have always been able to operate the technology they left behind.”
“So, you think I’m descended from the Ancestors?” John asked in surprise.
Rodney smiled. “It’s something I suspected a long time ago, with the way you’ve always been able to activate their technology. But reading through this has made me more certain. It’s got something to do with the bloodline, somehow you passed the ability you inherited to me when I was ill. He stepped forward and caught John’s shoulders in excitement. “John, I think we were made to find the city. The dreams started as soon as I received your blood. Although I suspect how they weren’t actual dreams but a message. Someone has been trying to get our attention and this city, Atlantis, this is where we have to go.”
They stood there silently, just staring at each other before John spoke.
“You want to go now, or is there more research here you need to do first?”
“I think we should go now. We can always come back here later if we need to, but if this, this Atlantis, is the city of the Ancestors we should find all the information there, too. I think this was just a repository built as a backup or a research outpost, just in case something happened to the city. There’s so much information here, and having it all in one place would be like putting all your eggs in one basket. If the Ancestors were as clever as we believe they wouldn’t have taken that risk,” Rodney explained.
John nodded. “Okay, so do we go now or first thing in the morning? It’s pretty late already, and we don’t know what we’re going to be facing when we walk through the portal.”
Rodney’s face dropped. John grinned in amusement, making Rodney smile in resignation.
“Okay, you’re right, it is getting late. I guess it can wait until the morning,” Rodney agreed with a sigh, as they made their way back outside to where Aiden and Evan were roasting some kind of local animal over the fire. Rodney wasn’t sure what it was but it smelled and tasted wonderful.
They set off at daybreak under the soft gray light of dawn, anticipation for what lay beyond the portal waking them all early. By the time they reached the portal the sun had broken through the early morning mist and was beginning to forewarn of the heat of the day.
Rodney stood by the dialing stone and looked around at his companions, the portal address for the city clutched tightly in one hand and Breeze’s reins in the other.
“Well, go on then, what are you waiting for?”
Rodney grinned at John’s impatience. The other man had been trying to play it cool, but Rodney had seen that John was just as excited in his own way. Atlantis had been part of their lives for so long that the thought of finally being able to see it firsthand rather than in their dreams had them both a little on edge at what they would find.
Rodney nodded to himself and turned to the pedestal, carefully pressing the stones to connect to Atlantis. As the portal opened he and John looked at one another, barely containing their excitement at what lay ahead.
Stepping through the portal into the unknown was always a risk, and it was with some trepidation as well as anticipation that they stepped through together, with Evan and Aiden following closely behind. They emerged into a cavernous room on the other side which wasn’t at all suitable for the horses they were leading.
They all stopped as soon as they were through the portal, wide eyed and speechless with amazement and awe.
Sunlight streamed through stained glass windows set high in the walls and cast colorful reflections on every surface. The room itself was easily two stories high, with a wide stairway leading up to a mezzanine level where Rodney could see consoles similar to the ones in the library.
Handing Breeze’s reins over to Aiden, Rodney ascended to the mezzanine, completely overawed at the sights around him and barely noticing John following him, each stair lighting up as John stepped on it. As he reached the top of the stairs Rodney stopped to look down into the room below, taking in the now silent portal and the beauty of the building around him. Shaking his head and wondering if it were another dream from which he would soon awake, he made his way over to the first of the consoles. It lit up the moment he placed his hand on it, a stream of data scrolling across the screen.
“This is incredible,” he called to John. “With the size of this room, how big is the building itself?”
“And this is just one of the towers. How many more did we see in our dreams?” John walked over to the multicolored glass doors, which opened as he approached. “Wow, Rodney, come and look at this!” John stepped out onto a wide balcony high above ground level. Rodney walked out to join John and gasped as he got to the edge and realized that the building they were in was one of many which had been built on a large platform floating in a deep blue ocean.
“What is…oh my, is the city floating? It doesn’t feel like it’s floating. Wouldn’t we feel movement like you would in a boat?” Rodney walked to the edge of the balcony and looked around. The building they were in was one of the tallest towers in the city. There were shorter towers around them and wide areas of decks leading to long piers. The surrounding ocean seemed to go on forever. Rodney squinted as he caught sight of something on the horizon.
“What’s that?” He nudged John and pointed. “If that’s a bird it must be a pretty big one.”
John turned to look where Rodney was pointing. As he did, Rodney felt something stirring in his mind, a feeling of peace and recognition swept through him and he looked at John in astonishment.
“You feel that too, don’t you?” he asked John who was already nodding his agreement.
“I can feel something in my mind, but I know it’s not my own feelings.” John agreed, “And it’s getting stronger.” He looked back out to where the creature flying towards them was getting closer.
“That’s no bird,” Rodney exclaimed, not quite believing what his eyes were seeing. “It looks more like…”
“A dragon-“ John finished softly, reaching out and grabbing hold of Rodney’s forearm. “Rodney. The dragon has been sending the dreams. I know it sounds weird, but I recognize the feel of its mind. It must have some form of telepathy.”
They both felt a sense of amusement from the approaching dragon, and Rodney grinned.
“I feel it now, it’s been leading us here for all these years. The dragon must have sensed us when we arrived through the portal.”
The dragon drew close and circled the tower, drifting gently on the air currents as it flew lower and lower, before finally landing on the pier below them and looking up.
“I think we’re expected down there,” John said with a grin as they turned back into the room. “Now just how do we get down there?” There was a set of stairs leading up but he couldn’t see any leading down, apart from the main staircase down to the portal level. He walked to the edge of the balcony and looked down to where Aiden was holding all four horses, Evan was nowhere in sight.
“Are there any signs of stairs leading downwards?” John called to Aiden. “We’ve got a dragon sitting outside apparently waiting for us, but I can’t see any way down.”
“There are stairs, but it also looks like there are transporters, like the old ones in the castle,” Evan advised him, appearing suddenly out of one of the side passages. “Look for a pair of ornamental doors. When you open them it looks like a closet, but the map appears as soon as the doors close.”
“Cool, thanks,” John replied, just as Rodney called to him.
“Over here, John. This looks like it could be a transporter.”
They stepped in, and as Evan had said, the map appeared on the back wall. They stared at it in amazement, seeing a representation of Atlantis for the first time.
“This place really is some size,” Rodney said, awed. “It will take years to explore all of it.”
“I guess we better go back home and get some help.” John shook his head. “This place is just incredible.” He pointed to one of the six piers. “I think this is the one we need.” John touched his fingertips to the screen, and a moment later the doors were opening on a new passageway, daylight at one end showing which way lead outside.
They walked quickly side by side down the passageway, apprehension as well as excitement thrumming through them, not really knowing what would happen when they came face to face with the dragon. They could still feel the dragon’s presence in their minds, and it was giving out a sense of peace and safety. John was wary; he’d been fooled in the past when on offworld missions, so past experience cried out that this could be a trap.
They stepped out into sunshine and a warm, gentle ocean breeze, both stopping to look around and up at the towers surrounding them.
“I just can’t believe this place, it’s just incredible. I don’t think I ever want to leave. There must be so much to learn here,” Rodney murmured.
“Yeah, I know what you mean. We will have to take the horses back, though. There’s no way they could survive here, and we need to get more people. We’ll have to go back and see which of your scientists would like to either live here or just work here for a few months. We could give people the option to stay indefinitely or tempt them with short projects so they can go back when they’ve finished,” John suggested as they walked along one side of the pier towards where the dragon was waiting for them.
“Hmm, good idea. I know which scientists I would like to have here, even just for a short time. That would work. How would we trade though. It’s not as if we could grow anything here or raise any animals. Our only trade items would be the technology.”
“We’d have to be careful what we traded. Most of the technology we’re used to is far more advanced than that of a lot of the societies we currently trade with,” John replied.
They turned the corner and finally came face to face with the dragon, her blue scales almost iridescent in the sunlight. Somehow Rodney knew straight away that she was female, and through the link that the dragon had forged he realized that John knew, too.
The dragon raised her head and studied them for a moment, before speaking directly to them through the telepathic link she had formed with them.
“Welcome to Atlantis, children of the Ancestors.” She lowered her head, acknowledging them. “We are pleased you are here. It has been a long time since the Ancestors rose to the heavens, charging us with guarding the city until their rightful heirs returned.”
“How did you know we would be coming if you’ve been waiting for so long?” Rodney asked the question out loud, unsure whether the telepathic link worked both ways.
“When the Ancestors left Atlantis for the final time, they told us that one day the minds of two children of their blood would link to ours when we searched, and that the vision we broadcast would lead them to us. For many hundreds of cycles we wondered whether the prophecy would ever come true. One day my predecessor found she could connect weakly to one mind. But although that mind grew stronger, it didn’t sense us properly until the second mind connected as well. Only then did both minds become receptive to the visions which led you here.”
“Wait a minute. You called us children of the Ancestors, what makes you think that?” Rodney asked cautiously.
“You both have the blood of the Ancestors running strongly through you. The city responds to you both.”
“You talk about yourself in the plural. Are there more of you?” John asked uneasily, already concerned as to their intentions.
“Yes, we are many, and our minds are all connected. Our kind can sleep for a long time, and we take turns acting as Guardian of the City for ten cycles. Once your minds connected to us, we reached out to you often. We sent visions of the city and the library, which we knew would be easier for you to find, and which the Ancestors knew would lead you here.”
“Which is why when we had the dream we always had it at the same time,” Rodney exclaimed triumphantly. “I knew it wasn’t a coincidence.”
John grinned, remembering Rodney’s insistence that the dreams were a message for them.
“Yeah, you were right, Rodney.” He turned to the dragon. “Do you and your kind have names?” John asked out of interest.
“Yes. I am known as Ceri. My predecessor, Nia, first showed you the visions of the city. The others of my guard are Eifion, Caerwyn, Maelon, Eira and Rhain. You will see them frequently flying around the city.”
“There must be land somewhere near here. You don’t live in the city. Do you?” Rodney questioned.
“No, the mainland is a short flight from here. The Ancestors made the journey in one of their small flying ships, although those who were dragonriders would often summon their mount if they wished to travel alone.”
“Dragonriders…flying ships?” John asked, his eyes lighting up with delight. Ceri let out an amused sound, as if laughing.
“Yes youngling, we can be ridden, although it has been many hundred cycles since any of us have had a rider. It is something we miss. It was fun,” she finished, her mind sending images of swooping and tumbling through the air via their connection.
“That’s amazing. What about the flying ships. Are they in the city somewhere?” John asked.
“Yes, they entered and exited the city by the top of the main tower,” she explained.
“They shouldn’t be hard to find, then,” John surmised.
“What’s expected of us here?” Rodney asked with a frown. “I mean, if the Ancestors all left then why did they leave descendents and how did they know we would return?”
“The Ancestors were a dying race,” Ceri replied sadly. “There were so few of them and they did not allow their kind to with outsiders. Eventually they became unable to reproduce. Most of them ascended but a small number of them rebelled and traveled to your planet, built your castle and joined with the local population, in the hope that one day you would return to the city and bring it back to life.”
“But why has it taken so long?” Rodney asked with a frown. “John’s obviously from the bloodline of the Ancestors, so why wait so long.”
They felt amusement from Ceri before she answered.
“There has never been a pairing with a strong connection as well as the required skills and understanding of the technology before,” she replied. “John is the first with a strong enough connection for many hundreds of cycles, and there has been no-one with your level of knowledge or understanding of both the Ancestors’ language and of their technology. The bond between you is strong, and you care too much about each other to do anything but work together to bring the city back to its former glory.”
“How much needs to be done to the city?” Rodney queried.
“I do not know. The city itself is not sentient, although it is able to connect to someone strong with the Ancestors’ bloodline. There is a chair in the main power chamber which will connect you to the city, although the city itself is run from the control room above the portal chamber.”
“Can you link to anyone, or just those from the Ancestors bloodline?” John asked.
“We can link to anyone with a strong enough bloodline, but in order to avoid confusion we usually only connect with the ruling couple in the city. The two of you have a strong pairing, you will do well leading the city. Our role is to guard and protect the city and its leaders by whatever means available to us.”
Rodney looked at John in concern.
“How do you define a couple?” Rodney asked cautiously. “We are very old friends but the definition of a couple in our language refers to two people pledged for life to one another.”
“You are not?” There was a sense of confusion in Ceri’s reply. “The impression both myself and my predecessor had was that you were soul-bonded to one another,” she replied in surprise. “The first impression we had of you was of John willing to give his life for you while you were dying. Since then, the impression has always been of two souls devoted to one another.”
Rodney felt his face grow hot. He’d had a crush on his best friend since they were young, something which had matured and grown into love as the years passed. He’d never had any indication from John that he was interested, but looking at John now, the sheepish look on his face made Rodney wonder.
Rodney knew John had never taken a female lover at any time while he was at the castle. There were stories of John’s conquests on other planets, but Rodney had quickly realized that these liaisons always led to a trade agreement, although he’d never had any confirmation that John was selling himself for the good of their land. Each time John came home from his missions, he returned to the apartment where Rodney and Ingram McKay still lived. He seemed content to spend his free time with Rodney, catching up as old friends did.
“How many are there of your kind?” Rodney questioned, keen to change the subject for a while. His thoughts were in too much turmoil to see things rationally. He looked out over the ocean as he caught sight of more dragons flying towards them.
John turned, as Rodney had, to watch the newcomers, burnished red, iridescent green and bronze. They swooped low over the water towards them, before breaking off and flying around the city.
“There are two hundred adult and fifty juveniles,” Ceri replied. “We live very long lives and do not breed often. With the city dormant and the Ancestors gone, there has rarely been any interest in this part of the galaxy, so my kind has been safe to breed and sleep in peace.”
“So, are you only here because the Ancestors aren’t, or will you stay?” John asked. “I know I’m not the only person who would like to get to know you and your kind better, and we really would appreciate you still being around to help guard us and the city.”
“What John means is that he would like to fly with you,” Rodney said with a laugh. “He’s probably not the only one, either.”
John looked down, sheepishly rubbing the back of his neck.
“True,” he admitted with a rueful grin. “I would love to fly with one of you if you are willing.”
Ceri gave her version of a laugh.
“I am sure that could be arranged. You must find the flying ship and come to the mainland. It would not be safe to attempt dragon-flying from the city, as if you fall it would be into the water. There will be plenty of time for that later. For now you must return to your people and bring more to get the city functioning again. There will be time enough for us to get to know one another better in the coming weeks.”
She shook out her wings and bid them farewell, taking off gracefully and arcing through the air to join with the others flying high above the city. With a final low swoop over the pier, the dragons headed back the way they had come, towards the mainland far in the distance.
“Wow. Just, wow.” For once Rodney was completely lost for words.
“Not very often you can’t find anything to say,” John said with a laugh. “But I agree, after all this time to find out that both the dragons and the city actually exist.” He broke, off shaking his head. “She’s right, you know. We need to bring more people here to explore properly. But first, we need to find the flying ships. Come on. Let’s go back to the others.”
They turned and made their way back to the control room, where Aiden and Evan were waiting for them.
“Thank goodness you’re back safely. We were watching just in case, but I’m not sure we could have done anything against a dragon,” Evan commented as they made their way down the stairs.
“Yes, well, she obviously liked us.” Rodney grinned. “Seriously, they knew we were coming. They were the ones who projected the dreams to us so we could find Atlantis. Apparently I have the required skills to work the technology, and John is descended from the Ancestors. He has the most powerful bloodline, which allows him to operate the technology. All in all we are, apparently, the best people to run the city.”
“But we need to get more people here in order to get the place working again and do any repairs,” John explained. “The dragons can be ridden. The Ancestors had dragonriders who had their own dragons in the same way we have our own horses. They also had flying ships, and that’s what I want to find next. They fly out of the top of the tower.” He turned and looked up to the mezzanine, remembering the flight of stairs which led upwards. “I’m going up to take a look.” He turned and ran, taking the steps two at a time with Rodney chasing behind, the sound of Evan and Aiden’s laughter following them up the stairs.
Unused to so much exercise, Rodney was breathing heavily by the time he reached the top of the second flight of stairs, where he found John just standing, staring in amazement. The stairs came out in a large room with a very high ceiling, and around the walls were parked the ships. There must have been at least twenty of them.
John looked at Rodney and grinned in excitement.
“You know, I’m guessing they’re built to travel through the portal,” Rodney mused. “Just look at the shape of them.”
“I think you must be right,” John agreed, walking over to the closest ship and pressing his hand against what looked to be a control panel. A ramp lowered in response allowing access to the ship. “In that case, we can take one back. It will get us to the castle a lot quicker than the horses would, and it can carry far more than a horse or a wagon,” John said, as he peered with curiosity into the back of the ship. “Let’s try one out.”
Rodney followed him into the small ship and closed the rear hatch, moving forward to the front of the ship where John was already seated.
“Just look at this,” John said in wonder, as a screen appeared in mid-air when he placed his hands on the controls. “Rodney, the ship is reading my mind. I think all I need to do is visualize what I want it to do and where I want to go. This is just incredible.”
Rodney grabbed hold of the console in front of him as he saw the walls outside the small ship move, and then let go in amazement. “I can’t actually feel the ship moving,” he said in surprise. “This is an incredible piece of technology.”
“Yeah, I agree,” John replied with awe. “The ship is so responsive, flying it is just instinctive and…” He broke off as the floor started moving, opening from the middle to allow the little ship to descend to the portal.
“Yes, yes, I knew it,” Rodney cried with delight, grinning at John. “I knew it was built to go through the portal. That’s why these buttons are set with the portal symbols. It allows you to dial the portal from the ship. This will save so much time.”
John laughed outright at Rodney’s enthusiasm. “I’m going to land down here and tell Aiden and Evan our plans. They will have to follow with the horses, and we’ll meet them back at the castle.”
They quickly sorted out their plans, and before long, Rodney was dialing the portal to return to Caerwynnen. Aiden and Evan went through first to warn the guards on the other side of the small ship’s approach, and then they were through, soaring above the ground and observing the land of their birth from a very different viewpoint.
“You know, seeing the castle from above must be very similar to viewing Atlantis,” Rodney mused. “The Ancestors must have built it with towers and turrets to make it seem a little like the home they left behind.”
“I think you’re right,” John agreed. “I wonder if they realized just how long it would be before Atlantis was found.” He slowed the ship and gently brought it down to land in the grassy quadrangle used for sporting events, while Rodney waved wildly to gain the attention of the guards who rushed out with weapons raised at their arrival.
Rodney heard John enter the room he had set up as his own personal lab since settling on Atlantis. It was late, but John knew how Rodney got carried away with his research, and Rodney had become used to being dragged away for a meal or to sleep.
“Come on, buddy, time to get some dinner and head to bed.” John came up behind Rodney and wrapped his arms around him, tucking his head into the side of Rodney’s neck, and Rodney felt John relax against him.
“Okay, okay, I’m coming.” Rodney closed down the screen he was using; he found it no hardship to leave his work these days. The time spent with John was well worth it. “What’s for dinner?”
“Stew and fruit pie. They’re keeping warm in our room and there’s some ale that Evan and Aiden brought back from their trading mission today. Apparently it’s pretty good stuff.” He broke off, rubbing his hand across the back of his neck. “It’s a nice night, so I thought we could eat out on the balcony,” he finished a little awkwardly.
Rodney smiled to himself. It was just like John to be a little shy at anything which could be construed as being romantic. But Rodney had discovered over the past few months John really did have a romantic streak. He was also very tactile and loved to be cuddled and held.
They walked through the halls talking quietly, walking close so that their arms and hands often brushed against the others. Six months on Atlantis and they had settled into a routine, with John busy running the city and Rodney leading the science teams in their research. Sometimes they would meet up for lunch, especially if Evan and Aiden were in the city. Other times they didn’t see each other between breakfast and their evening meal, but they were happy and content.
John’s father had been very offhand about his son relocating permanently to Atlantis when they had sought audience with him prior to leaving for good. In the end, neither John nor Rodney had been sad to leave Caerwynnen. To both John and Rodney’s delight, Jeannie and her husband Kaleb along with their small daughter Madison had decided right from the start to come with them, encouraging some of their friends with young children to also help colonize the new city. Jeannie was a scientist and Kaleb a teacher, and they immediately got together with the parents of the other children in the group and formed both a daycare centre for the very young children and organized lessons for the older ones, so there was always someone to look after the children while the parents worked in other parts of the city. Some of the parents mixed working with teaching, so all in all it was a system which worked out very well.
The biggest surprise had been Ingram McKay’s decision to leave the castle and join them. The death of his wife several years previously meant that his children and granddaughter were his only remaining family, and he was determined not to miss Madison growing up. John had been delighted to have his knowledge and experience in the day-to-day running of a city, as well as its defense and security.
John’s brother Dave had been a little more hesitant about John’s leaving, even though the two brothers hadn’t been close since Elizabeth’s death. Dave had promised to one day visit the city, however, his visit came sooner than expected, after the sudden death of Patrick Sheppard from a heart attack. Despite being frantically busy with the funeral arrangements and taking his father’s place, Dave had insisted on being the one to travel to Atlantis to tell John in person. It had done something to break down the final wall between the brothers and bring them closer. John and Rodney had both returned to the castle for the funeral.
As soon as John opened the door to their apartment Rodney could smell the food and he hummed appreciatively, much to John’s amusement.
“Go on, have a seat out on the balcony and I’ll bring the food out,” John said with a laugh, and Rodney didn’t waste any time.
As he stepped out he took a deep breath and smiled appreciatively at the sight. The last of the sun was just disappearing below the horizon in a fiery red ball. The first of the two moons was already visible in the sky, reflecting off the dark water below. He took a seat at the small table, already laid out for dinner with candles, cutlery and napkins. He smiled up at John as John placed a dish of the stew and a glass of ale in front of him.
“We should do this more often,” he said softly, as John returned with his own meal and drink. “We’ve been here six months, and already we’re forgetting to appreciate just how beautiful this is. We should never take it for granted.”
At that moment Ceri flew past, her lilting trill carrying over the water as if in agreement, and they both laughed.
“Yeah, it’s taken us all this time to find it, and to find each other,” John agreed, allowing Rodney to draw him close for a lingering kiss. “We should always remember how blessed we are.”