Camp had been made some fifteen miles outside of town, where the river used to meet the sea. The mud on the dry riverbed was still soft, even now, almost a year since the dam opened.
The old woman stood on the spot she claimed her and her friends used to swing into the water from when they were kids. The others who brought her here, that is to say, the family she could stand to be around, waited some distance back from the edge of the small cliff, waiting to be told why they had come here.
“Look,” the old lady croaked and pointed upstream along the riverbed.
“What is it, Grandma?” one of the young children asked.
“The guard,” grandma replied smiling her first real smile in almost 15 years.
Some 300 meters upstream from where they had made camp, buried in the mud and silt up to its nose, was a huge marble head sticking out of the ground.
“This is what kept us safe as kids,” the old lady explained, almost to herself.
“Where did it come from?” one of the younger group asked, echoing the thoughts of everyone else.
“The guard was always here. Even if you young’uns don't know it.”
“Is it a whole body?” someone else asked, digging around the intricately carved stone.
“Oh yes, perfectly preserved.”
No one really questioned the way she said that; to them, it was all a part of her decline as she aged. In fact, this little trip was just a way to keep her happy in her final days, it was just coincidence that she always went on about coming up here.
“This is why you wanted to come up here,” her son, the oldest of the rest of the group, said coming up next to her. “The statue.”
“It’s been here my whole life, and it’ll be here their whole life and until today none of you knew it existed.”
“The flood,” was all she needed to say.
It was common knowledge that the city they all lived in was a rebuilt version of one that had stood on the same spot for tens of thousands of years before.
The Great City, The Shining City, and a dozen other epithets had been used over the years but about 80 or so years ago, there had been a massive earthquake which had caused a massive wall of rock and ice to cascade down the mountains letting loose an unparalleled deluge which ripped the old dam out of the river, letting even more water and debris straight down the riverbed and straight into what would now be known as The Drowned City.
For the next few decades whoever was left and their descendants worked from dawn until dusk every day to rebuild the city into the metropolis they all knew it could be.
The new dam being opened was one of the final things that the residents were waiting for before declaring the city rebuilt.
“And in the rebuild scramble,” grandma concluded, “everyone just forgot about the guard. But I never did.”
“But why is there a massive statue outside the city in the first place?”
“Oh dears,” grandma said. “That’s my final story to tell you all. Gather around and let me speak.”
“As if we could get you to stop,” one of her other children said playfully and caught a clip round the ear for their troubles.
“Quiet you. Now, the story of the guard...”
Before the days of the city, when this was nothing but swamp, there was a trade route down the river and across the strait to Esmela. This route was, of course treacherous and lengthy, especially through here. Many people had considered settling a layover town but they had always been pipe-dreams – no one had the money to drain enough of the swamp to put down foundations.
The trade route was raided constantly and each companies that used the road came up with their own way of dealing with it, the most effective, albeit more expensive, was to hire soldiers to sail the line with the cargo and use them to deal with any bandits or anything else that caused issues.
Eventually, the bandits moved on and the traders were able to relax, trading was easier and money came quickly, and then came the idea which allowed the city to be founded. A dam was built high in the mountains which diverted the river out to sea two or three hundred kilometres away. With the swamp dry, foundations were laid and the trading town which would grow to be the city I was born in was founded.
Long before my birth, in the few years between foundation and stability, the bandits returned, hoping to catch the early settlers at rest. They were moderately successful too, almost destroying the city on a number of occasions, however, the settlers knew what they were doing by then, and even though the city was never overrun, it never stopped the bandits from trying again.
Then for reasons which aren't really relevant to the story, except in a tangential way, the capital was to be moved from the castle in the hills, which still exists, by the way, to Esmela. Everything went according to plan and the final convoy of caravans carried the royal family, including, as you may have guessed, the floral princess Rose.
Onboard her caravan was her personal guard, the mute and generally immovable Lorix. The two of them were inseparable and he had protected her in every way since the day of her birth, so it was simply assumed that he would ensure her arrival in Esmela in one piece.
But you all know those stories. Rose never arrived and weeks after everyone else had made it through the gates, Lorix arrived, beaten, bloody and disarmed. He stayed long enough to heal, rearm himself and gather the fittest fighting unit he could and returned to continue the search for the princess.
After a year of nothing, the family sent an envoy to our city to find out what happened. The envoy returned with the Tale of the Dragon, a story I have told you all as a bedtime story for years and years. The story that the city was besieged by a baleful dragon and only Lorix and the princess had stood before it, in protection of the settlers. The dragon had killed or kidnapped Rose, depending on which story you like best, and had moved to strike down Lorix and his men, only to have his magic deflected back at him, defeating him and ensuring that Lorix, he who never wavered in his duty to the floral princess, would always stand guard over our home.