New version, edited according to feedback, at Post #7. :)
New, much leaner version at Post #5.
754 words. I also have a 700 word version, if anybody would like to see it. :)
Professor Raoul Deguchi has a problem which could destroy his career as a palaeontologist: he has uncovered a piece of metal-working technology on a feathered theropod dinosaur fossil over 67 million years old, an armband inscribed with tiny characters similar to Sumerian cuneiform. A colleague called in for a second opinion accuses him of fraud, but his anger is forgotten when he accidentally touches the armband and is suddenly pulled into telepathic communion with the device, overwhelmed with memories from the body and mind of a creature long extinct…
Love and violence, war and lust, secrets and betrayals — even intelligent dinosaurs fell victim to such savage impulses, more than 67 million years ago.
For over two centuries the primordial Tribes of the Inspiration and the alien-enhanced Culture of the Word have been locked in relentless conflict. Now the Tribes are threatened with destruction when Girn'ash, a shrewd and secretive slave girl of the Tribes, falls in love with the dashing Culture fighter Tir'at~Esk (the wearer of the armband), a military prisoner of her people — and she will do anything in her meagre power to set him free.
But there is little hope that he can escape his captor, the Most Potent Chieftesss Ev'ora, who intends to coerce the handsome young warrior into her harem. Unless his fresh seed stimulates her failing fertility, Ev'ora will be cast down from her position as leader of all the Tribes and summarily executed. The stakes couldn't be higher, and she will crush anyone who stands in her way.
Tir'at~Esk, who loathes the Chieftess and longs for freedom, nevertheless ignores Girn'ash's pleas to escape without his new lover, the beautiful Tribal poetess La'leet. When Ev'ora learns that he has impregnated her rival, Tir'at is in danger of being murdered — or far worse, telepathically broken and turned into a mere mindless toy for Ev'ora's pleasure.
In despair, Girn'ash flees to Tirat's homeland and begs his Shogun to send an army to save Tir'at from Ev'ora's cruel designs. The little slave girl can't begin to imagine the consequences of her actions, or that the Shogun's intentions in finding his lost soldier are anything but benevolent.
When Girn'ash guides the Shogun through the battle-wracked settlement to Tir'at's prison, the Shogun announces that he will execute Tir'at himself for genetic crimes against the Culture of the Word. Nobody expects Girn'ash to leap upon the Shogun, wounding him badly but being mortally wounded herself in the process. In a telepathic Touch through his armband, Tir'at realizes how deeply Girn'ash loved him… but his overriding concern is to find La'leet and escape before the Shogun's death triggers a nuclear grenade hidden somewhere in the Tribal settlement.
He locates La'leet but is captured by Ev'ora's guards, and can only watch helplessly as Ev'ora advances upon the poetess to murder her for her sexual dalliance with the male Ev'ora had marked for her own — until a Culture missile, exploding the roof overhead, sends the Tribal fighters scattering in panic. Tir'at and Ev'ora face each other one final time; Ev'ora invites Tir'at to join her in escaping the settlement, but Tir'at scornfully throws the offer back in her face. Another piece of the ceiling crashes down between them — and after roaring a final curse Ev'ora makes her escape, leaving Tir'at to get La'leet out of the settlement as best he can.
Girn'ash's uncle appears to guide them across the settlement to the branches of a tall tree, leading to a cliff beyond the settlement's walls where they can leap/fall/fly to freedom. No sooner have they done so than the nuclear grenade detonates, bathing the entire area in deadly radiation — and dooming them both to a lingering death.
Together Tir'at and La'leet manage to make their way to the desert beyond the mountains, where they lie down to die in the shadow of a dune. A sandstorm is coming as Tir'at closes his eyes for the final time…
… and Deguchi returns with a shock to his human body, released from the telepathic grip of the alien armband. Looking down into the face of his colleague, he realizes that the Codex has infected him just as it infected the dinosaurs of the Culture of the Word — and that he now knows where to find the Source-Forge which was the basis of their tremendous power on Earth.
Tenderly he kisses his colleague's forehead, infecting her in turn — and scribing the first word on the first page of a new chapter in human history.