Xearr soared across the mountains towards his uncle's den, tamping down resentment. He did not enjoy visiting Gilor, who had grown odd in his old age, but staying on good terms with him was the only chance Xearr had to inherit Gilor's hoard.
Gilor had claimed a magnificent den, long ago, when he had been younger, stronger, and more sensible. The entrance to the set of caves was set high in a cliff, hard to reach for the wingless little Builders. Xearr tucked his wings close to cross the hint of an updraft and slip inside. The caves within were vast enough to keep flying, down a tunnel towards deeper chambers.
Surprise threw Xearr off balance, making him flap and land gracelssly, when he saw his precious prize earlier than he had anticipated. Gilor had moved the his hoard--shining metal in all shades from iron to gold, polished gems--basically in his entryway. Even if the den was hard to reach for any would-be thief among the Builders, they could be remarkable stubborn, and anyway, there were other potential thieves--
"Nephew! It's good to see you!" Gilor stood behind a bend and only poked his long neck around the edge. "I have something to show you! Come on!" He turned without waiting for reply.
"Yes, uncle." The smaller dragon trotted behind, careful to not step on his honoured elder's swishing tail, and practiced being quiet.
The central cavern of Gilor's den, which should hold the most splendid part of his hold was bare, dark rock, sparsely lit from cracks in one wall, and even more sparsely decorated with a few smatterings of paper. Not even parchment scrolls, not grimoires with precious metal locks, just this newfangled paper that would rot in a few years.
Gilor pointed at the collection with his chin, excited like a cub with their first batch of fools' gold. "Look, Xearr, I've been studying how the Builders record music."
First words, now that? Xearr extended his neck and sniffed the paper, keeping enough distance to not accidentally suck a leaf into his nostril. "I don't see how they could record music without using magic. Or is theirs so different I can't smell it? Or so weak?"
"No, no, it's completely different! It's all convention. An agreement. Like the Song Of Home, or the Song Of Challenge. No words, but when you hear them, or in this case, see them, you know what it means."
Xearr looked at the papers, head swinging, slowly as not to send the papers flying. "I'm sorry, uncle, but I only see dots and squares."
"Yes, yes, you must know them. You were not born knowing the songs, someone had to teach you. And I found a human who could teach me these. And now I'm trying to work out a flame to turn them into sound."
Using magic to turn music recorded without magic into real music again. As ideas went, this one was very strange. Xearr could not say that, so he reached for something that might show he was trying to think along the problem. "But paper burns easily, doesn't it?"
"Yes, very. That's why I called you here. I would like you to go to the Builders' keep and ask for one of them to work for me, for a time, for pay."
Pay that would reduce his inheritance. The growl that wanted to raise from Xearr's belly was quickly swallowed. "If you really think it wise to invite one... another one of them into your home..."
"Well. Is it a particular human you have in mind?"
"No, just a particular profession. A stonemason."