The problem with pyramids, Belle decided, is that they’re nothing more than large piles of stones. In the eyes of most people this somehow made them special. In Belle’s estimation it just made them lightning rods for weirdness and irresistible targets for the kind of things that loved to knock over large structures.
“I rise and the Age of Thunder shall return with me!” shouted the giant Crocodile in a language that had been dead for millennia before man ever walked the surface of the world.
Belle checked her phone. It was 2:45pm local time in Koh Ker Cambodia. That meant she had fifteen minutes before she needed to meet Jin’s mother in Sydney. As the avatar of Gaia, Mrs. Smith didn’t necessarily need Belle’s protection but Peri was going to with her.
Belle had a lot of jobs. Self appointed ones, but still tasks that she took seriously. Protecting Peri ranked in the top three on that list. Somewhere around number fifteen was “defend the planet from ancient god beasts”. That meant, if push came to shove, the Crocodile monster in front of her had fourteen minutes and about forty five seconds before something catastrophic happened to it.
“I shall scour the Earth of those who swarm upon it!” the Crocodile Beast said, lightning blazing from its eyes.
Belle checked her phone again. The trouble alert ticket she’d submitted had been prioritized as the number one local problem, but unfortunately the local Cambodian heroes had their hands full with two other Dino-Beasts that had awoken at the same time as the Crocodile.
Belle sighed. She liked her outfit. The blouse was comfy and the embroidery on the skirt had taken her weeks to get right. The chance that either article of clothing was going to survive a fight with an 80 foot tall giant reptile unscathed was essentially zero.
“Why?” Belle asked.
“So that my brethern may once again stride upon its vast and fertile surface!” the Crocodile Beast answered. Everyone else had very sensibly fled the area at top speed, so it was understandable that the Crocodile thought Belle was speaking to him.
“That’s nice but why scour the Earth? What does it gain you?” Belle asked. Speaking ancient Saurian felt odd. Too many sibilant sounds for her mouth to form naturally, but magic at least made it possible.
“This world was once ours!” the Crocodile bellowed.
The Crocodile looked at Belle and blinked its giant eyes in confusion.
“And it will be again!”
“Right. But where’s the part where you have to wreck the things that are here?” Belle asked.
“It’s…” the giant reptile paused, pondering its words and the reality that lay before it.
One advantage the Crocodile Beast had over some of the human (or near human) foes that Belle had faced was that its conscious mind was much closer to its subconscious awareness. The “lizard hindbrain” which dictates instinctive drives in humans had a greater voting stake in crocodile’s behavior, even giant, semi-divine ones.
This was an advantage to the Crocodile Beast because it meant that the part of it that was catching glimpses of what Belle really was could insist to the rational parts of the Crocodile Beasts mind that they not annoy the frowning black haired human-looking woman too much.
“It’s what I am supposed to do.” the Crocodile Beast said almost apologetically. “I am to clear the way for my brethern’s rebirth.”
“With the vermin that infest this world destroyed…” the Crocodile Beast paused again when it saw the frown on Belle’s face deepen.
“With the current inhabitants removed, there will be no danger in bringing back those who have been lost to the ages.” the Crocodile Beast amended his words.
Belle sighed again.
“I know whoever summoned you would be unhappy with this concept, but have you thought about any alternatives to that plan? Like ones where you don’t have to fight the people who are already here?” Belle asked.
“Conflict is the natural order of things. All beings must fight for their survival.” the Crocodile Beast roared. It felt like it was on solid ground with this argument. War, strife, bloodshed, these things were real. They were undeniable. They were how things were and how they were meant to be.
“I know what you’re thinking and you’re only half right. Fighting for survival is natural and its how things were, but it’s not how things necessarily are, or how they have to be.” Belle said.
“You speak the words of a naive hatchling.” the Crocodile Beast said.
“No. I’m more than happy with worlds where fighting is the only path to survival. I was built for worlds like that. More specifically I was built to end worlds like that.” Belle met the Crocodile Beast’s gaze. The two stared at each other for a long moment before a shudder rippled through the giant reptile and a small smile played across Belle’s face.
“Look at the world around you. Look at this temple.” Belle said, gesturing to the ancient pyramidal temple behind herself. “Cooperation is a vastly stronger force than competition.”
“Your path leads to the strong prospering. Conflict winnows out the weak and the unlucky.” Belle said.
“So you agree, that it is the superior path then!” the Crocodile Beast said.
“Not in the slightest. In your future, there is only the strongest. But how much can the even the strongest do on their own? No one human could have built this temple.” Belle said.
“Then they would be swept aside by someone strong enough to do so.”
“No, they wouldn’t. Because that’s the other thing you’ve missed. You think of survival as the only measure of fitness. There are so many different ways to be strong though. So many different gifts that people have, each of which does more than add to the other. They multiply in effect.”
“How can that be! All I see before me is an impressive pile of rocks. That is not so grand as you describe.” the Crocodile said.
“Lift your eyes. You’ve spent so long looking at the mud and the grime, that you’ve missed what the world has become in the ages since you walked on it.” Belle said, gesturing upwards.
Above them, a pair of jet contrails painted a brilliant white line across the blue dome of the midday sky.
“They’ve claimed the sky.” the Crocodile Beast said in a voice hushed by awe and reverence.
“More than that. They walk among the stars themselves. They are more than children of this world, more than you could have ever imagined being.” Belle said. “But if you ask nicely, I think they’ll be willing to share that with you.”
“Why? Why wouldn’t they destroy me. Compared to them I am small and insignificant.” the giant Crocodile said.
“Because no matter how small you are, your gifts are special.” Belle said.