One of the most fun elements of writing a story is doing background research to ground your tale in some level of reality that allows the reader to trust you and willingly suspend their disbelief.
When you stumble across an item that perfectly fits into the world you’ve created, it’s a strange intersection between an AHA! moment and the spooky sense of having a stranger walk over your grave. In this particular instance, my long-time fascination with “out of place artifacts” had me doing random Internet research for something that could exist in the central Russian region that would have some kind of hidden, mystical power.
When I found the story of the Dashka Stone, it was almost too good to be true: An ancient piece of worked rock that shows a map of the region from an aerial perspective that shouldn’t have been available thousands of years ago, when scientists believe the artifact to have been created.
Of course, all that back story is deadly to a narrative flow, so you’ll have to read Blood to Fire to see how I’ve appropriated the stone in my story–and how it relates to dragons.