CHAPTER TWENTY SIX
13 of Marpenoth 1371, Year of the Unstrung Harp
I was in a strangely disturbed mood after that conversation - both relieved and saddened for no particular reason. I hoped the girl would give me some breathing space now, and yet was afraid to push her too far away. Mirriam and her twin were my prophesied 'saviors', anchors to this new strange life, and maybe my good luck charms that would keep me alive long enough to recover my memories. Her appearance coincided with the sudden return of my arcane gift, and later led to my departure from Amkethran and all the subsequent adventures. Her affection was completely gratuitous and undeserved, it made me feel melancholic and contemplative of the feelings that I could not and would not have; and most disturbingly it had caused an unwanted inflow of emotions of the kind that I was carefully trying to suppress.
As if all these lingering doubts were not bad enough, her infatuation brought to my attention a highly curious matter - namely the fact that so far I was unable to feel any excitement of corporeal nature related to any male or female individual, whom I otherwise found aesthetically pleasing and psychologically appealing. Zaureen's little experiment with my carnal instincts was doomed from the start, simply because neither Kessen nor Mirriam triggered any erotic response in me, even though I admitted to myself that I liked both of the twins well enough to expect something of a kind. Not that I had lost my sleep over that embarrassing detail - it was way too frivolous and unimportant compared to my other problems, but it was an odd lack of reaction, considering the adolescent state and feel of my body, and the nature of my recent dreams involving beautiful elven women walking across aerial bridges in the strange tree city or calling me from the depths of the Abyss.
Taking all these disturbing feelings into consideration, and combining it with my already highly irrational and unbalanced condition it is perhaps understandable why Mirri’s overture was the last droplet that tilted my inner scale, and made me realize that the dreaded meeting with the dragon was, perhaps, inevitable.
I escorted the girl back to our campsite, which was located in the largest of the habitable caverns, and left her in the care of her slightly puzzled brother, who had greeted our appearance with a broad smile that was quickly replaced by a quizzically raised eyebrow, when he spotted his sister's wet cheeks and red puffy nose. I refrained from giving him any explanations and retreated quickly, noticing with some irritation that Omwo was still sprawled unconscious on his bedroll.
My next move depended solely upon Olphara's cooperation, and I braced myself for the halfling matron's initial reaction to my proposal, even as I slowly made my way between the dim campfires surrounded by the narrow stripes of improvised pallets, and the scattered piles of belongings brought inside by the crowd of unwilling refugees. It was a pitiful sight: bundles of clothes intermixed with pots, frying pans, tools of various trades, and children's toys. The latter were especially pathetic, strewn on the dirty cavern floor, or clutched by the tiny hands of their small owners. The hin children, with their huge dark-brown eyes and curly heads made me feel particularly uneasy, since they looked so small, even compared to the pesky human offspring that I had seen aplenty during my stay in Amkethran.
In addition to the annoying trait of looking touching and vulnerable, every one of them had stared at me as if I was some kind of a mighty hero, bound to slay the Evil Dragon, and relieve the citizens of Perch of their predicament. That sentiment was as superficial as it was preposterous. It was, as I later found out, brought about by Olphara' persistent defense of our actions during the first act of the draconic invasion, and particularly by her emphasis of mine and Omwo's roles in thwarting Iryklagathra's initial attempt to destroy the village by entangling him in the net of shadows, and summoning Adalon. Since I was not going to undermine her efforts by explaining that our actions were purely egotistic and were performed in self-defense, all I could do in response to their shining stares, was to nod, smile sourly, and proceed with my business of locating the hin matriarch.
Not surprisingly, I found her occupied. Olphara was traversing the caves followed by her usual tail of disgruntled helpers and eager messengers, recounting the supplies and matching them with the head count of the surviving villagers and their guests. I gathered, it was her permanent occupation for the last day or so, when she was not busy holding impromptu village councils. These in turn were filled with all the petty political arguments and subtle backstabbing that one can usually find in all crisis management groups, starting from the royal assembly and ending with the vampire coven. Olphara managed her so-called advisors surprisingly well, and I suspected that she needed this continuous squabble as a distraction to keep herself from falling into the darker, more melancholic mood that had consumed her husband, since she was perfectly capable of making all the decisions herself. As far as I could judge from their erratic and angry conversation the argument was mostly about abandoning Perch altogether, and moving the village to an entirely new location; a measure that was perhaps drastic, but not uncommon among the secretive hin tribes of the Marching Mountains that were continuously threatened by their various foes even in this remote, inaccessible location.
Unwilling to participate in the ongoing debate, I positioned myself a few steps away from the small group that surrounded the halfling matron, making an appropriate half-bow in her general direction. Since we had not had the chance to talk one on one ever since that strange meeting at the Bell plaza, I had hoped that she would at least be curious at my sudden appearance. Esteemed Dame Sixthtoe was still wearing her holiday attire of crimson wool, the one she had donned for the ill-fated festival, and her blue shawl trailed behind her like a royal mantle, yet I discerned the signs of tiredness, and maybe even desperation in the tight pale line of her lips, and the disconsolate, irate expression of her face. Her multitude of bead-stringed gray braids clicked discordantly as she turned in my direction. Deep, dark eyes, sharp as a falcon’s focused on my face.
“I assume you are here on business, fair one,” if anything, Olphara’s intonation firmly denied the half-hidden compliment of her chosen address. She was obviously quite displeased with me lately, and no wonder, since I had deliberately shirked any public display of sympathy and cooperation, and openly mocked Omwo’s relentless efforts. Her first diversion had worked - the very sound of that greeting made me cringe in distaste.
“I need to talk to you in private, venerable one.” I was fast enough to retaliate. “That is if you have the time for something more serious than going over the same topic for a thousandth time.”
“I see,” Olphara frowned in distaste, giving me a brief glance of her stormy eyes. “I wonder what can that be, young elf.”
She glanced in the direction of her followers, likely deciding for herself if my message was worth her time, then after a short pause dismissed them all with a few brief words. I suppose we presented a rather comical pair at that point, with my tall frame looming over the colorful but short flowering shrub of the halfling matron like a disgruntled scarecrow in bleak rugs, if such an abundance of agricultural similes can be permitted in one sentence.
“This better be good,” Olphara started ominously, “I have had enough of your despondent proclamations and venomous remarks lately, young master Jon. Your poisoned tongue almost succeeded in undermining my best efforts to stop the rumors of your possible alliance with the Blue Wyrm. You may become a decent wizard one day, but one thing you will never be is a successful leader.”
“You have meant a successful politician, perhaps?” I asked amicably. “I would end this miserable life of mine before I became one, this is true enough. But I am not here to lure you into another fight, madam, tempting though as it might be. Rather, I have a proposition.”
Olphara stayed silent and I have to give her credit - she had learned her lesson from our previous interactions, and realized that if she wanted to go anywhere with me she had to let me do it on my own terms. Perhaps the halfling matron was not as dull as I made myself believe after her tedious lecture on the matters of love and friendship.
“As you probably know already from your many personal spies,” I started tentatively giving her another mocking half-bow; “I took a reconnaissance walk through the caverns today.” Olphara’s brows connected into a single steel-gray line and her curved stick made a sharp rap on the stones, but she remained quiet. “I could not but notice that the caves we are in are all interconnected with the greater network of tunnels that permeate the mountain. Therefore I have all the reasons to believe there might be a secret connection with the Gaping Cave.”
“Even if it was true, and I am not about to deny or confirm this, why are you interested in this obscure fact?”
“I would not exactly call it obscure… considering that this hypothetical connection can be used to spy on the dragons.”
“Assuming that you are right, why would you be concerned with the matter?”
“You are asking the wrong question, matron, but I will let it pass. It is not me but you who would be primarily interested to find out if your so-called Guardian has survived the carnage.”
“And you in your turn are very good in evading questions by distracting your opponents. Very well, I will repeat myself once again - what is in it for you?”
“I am driven primarily by my selfish interests, of course.”
“Of that I have no doubt.”
“And in this particular case my selfish interests happen to coincide with yours - I want to get out of these mountains alive.”
“Pray do continue this most interesting discussion.”
“Yet to get out of here alive we need your help, obviously. Goats for pack animals, some provisions and a guide would be nice. That was our initial plan when we decided to visit your rather boring locale, excuse my blatant truth. All of which of course could not be obtained unless the village is safe again.”
“Oh, I can see your point,” Olphara laughed harshly, but there was no humor in her dark eyes - only the sharp awareness of my gaze locked with hers.
“Therefore it is in my interest to help you establish the truth, or to make my intention absolutely clear for you - to find out which one, if any, of the two dragons is still alive. The risk is not as high as it may seem, since by my estimate your old enemy would have been out of there already chasing your precious beasts across the ravine if he was in any condition to fly.”
“The goats are safe inside another cave,” Olphara answered absentmindedly then gave me another calculating look. “Why would you think we did not try to find our way in there already?” She asked after a while.
“If you did, o honored one, than most likely you have not had much of a success. Otherwise you would not have been having these inane discussions about abandoning your picturesque settlement.”
“I find your sarcasm most inappropriate at the moment.”
“That it may be, but it does not cancel the ultimate truth of my previous statement.”
“What is it that you want of me, young one?” Olphara’s voice sounded tired and displeased, making me worry about the final outcome of my entire enterprise. And while it felt rewarding to goad the halfling dame a little, by exposing the inner vulnerability of her current situation, in the long run making her overly annoyed with me was not to my advantage.
“I only want to help you find out the truth, and satisfy my scientific curiosity in process,” I replied lightly. “Believe it or not, but the inner arrangements of the dragon lair may be of interest to the mage in training such as me.”
“And I assume that the magical artifacts of Adalon’s hoard do not interest you in the least?”
That was the last thing on my mind, and despite my best effort, I could not hide the expression of genuine astonishment from showing on my face, as I looked at Olphara contemplating my next answer. The fact that she had recognized the silver dragon’s true name, despite it being mentioned only once by Adalon herself with both of the combatants speaking in hardly comprehendible Draconic language, did not escape my notice whatsoever, but I wisely decided to conceal my own knowledge from her. Perhaps I should praise myself for being a very bad actor, or wonder if the halfling was a much better judge of character than I was willing to admit. Nevertheless, to my utter amusement, my obvious ignorance and disinterest in Adalon’s treasure was the factor that decided the outcome of our verbal duel. I was made privy to the most well-guarded secret of the local hin tribe - their hidden alliance with the silver dragon that had showed up on their virtual doorstep about a year ago, and offered her protection in exchange for their watchfulness.
What was it exactly that she wanted them to look for remained hidden since they all obviously disregarded Iryklagathra’s threat, but I decided not to pry any further. Olphara herself volunteered to guide me to the secret passage in the upper galleries that supposedly led into the innermost recesses of Adalon’s cave. It turned out they had tried it before the other day. However, either Derk’s magic was utterly exhausted by his healing spree or his arcane talent was not as strong as he himself believed, but he was not able to locate the hidden door that was long known to the halflings as a secret way into the previously abandoned silver dragon’s lair. I suspected that Adalon was somewhat uncertain of her boisterous neighbors (the hin as a race are renown for their rogue ways, and even the best of dragons have strong attachment to their hoards), and put a good effort into concealing the entrance with her own magic, so that the halflings had to use the front door to call on her.
And so it was decided that I should be given a chance to detect the hidden door located in one of the ‘secret’ passages, known only to a few chosen members of the Sixthtoe clan. As to what we would do afterwards - it was not that clear, since Olphara wanted her best scouts to enter the lair first (which was no doubt a very reasonable thing to do), and I was quietly but firmly set on thwarting the halflings and getting inside by myself, to deal with Adalon on my own (which was total insanity, bordering on suicide, but at the moment looked like an extremely clever trick). The thought that the winner might have been the Blue dragon and not the Silver one never even entered my mind, and in retrospect, I find it quite amusing. Since the matriarch was a woman of action, and her words were obeyed as those of a miniature demigoddess, it did not take long before the two of us were trotting along the endless corridors of the caves network, following in the wake of the two silent and efficient hin militiamen, clad in soft goatskin boots and hooded jerkins of nondescript color. Our preparations were short and secretive, and I did not have a chance to talk with the twins before our departure, but perhaps it was for the better, since if Kessen and Mirriam had been aware of my plans they could have insisted on joining us, and I firmly wanted them to be left out of it, if only because confronting my past was my own business.
One of the hin scouts carried a heavy brass lantern with a sliding shutter, which threw a quivering halo of soft yellow light on the walls of the tunnel and on the uneven floor, strewn with stalactite fragments. It stank of burning oil, and I wondered idly if the dragon’s sense of smell was as good as mine. I could have sniffed our party from twenty feet away, but perhaps my senses were sharpened by the nervous excitement combined with rising fear that lurked just below my carefully faked serene facade. Olphara walked behind her two subordinates in the uncanny but steady gait that gave me an impression that the elderly dame could walk non-stop crossing entire continents, bottoms of dry seas, forests and great deserts, until eventually she would circle the sphere of Toril, and arrive from the opposite direction without ever losing her breath. For a very long time the only sound that could be heard in the dusty claustrophobic semi-darkness of the endless corridor, was the rhythmic thudding of her metal-shod stick on the stone floor.
Eventually, our path began to slope upward, and soon we had entered the nightmarish labyrinth of small grottos, narrow crevices, and almost vertical shafts bored through the soft limestone underbelly of the mountain by insentient but inexorable energy of water flowing down the hill. There we had to climb on our hands and knees, sometimes using a rope and a small iron grapple with three sturdy hooks (the halflings called it the cat’s paw). The younger of Olphara's two scouts, the one with reddish hair and a lot of freckles, carried it on his back, and could threw this exotic implement of his profession forward and fasten it in the least visible fissures with great skill and precision. The halflings pushed forward with agility of chipmunks or similar quick and nimble rodents; even the elderly matriarch herself showed a degree of stamina I never would have expected from someone of her age. To my remote amusement, Olphara's stick proved to be a tool especially designed for the avid mountaineer, both useful and ingenious, as its crooked end was reinforced with metal, and could be used as a pickaxe, and its sharp and pointy end was great for testing unsteady rock formations and suspicious-looking cracks.
Luckily for me, my reflexes were very good, and my body sufficiently slimmed and hardened by the weeks of our journey through the desert and the mountains, or I would have had trouble keeping up with my guides. Still, many of the crevices proved almost impassable for someone of my size, and my only salvation was in the sleekness and dexterity of my elven frame. On many occasions I was forced to rediscover the fact that I could fold up almost to the size of a halfling without tearing my tendons and snapping my bones, and squeeze sidewise through the cracks that looked impenetrable by anything but a small rat or an octopus. Alas, the reason behind all these amazing feats was not vanity or need to compete with the smaller folk, for I never considered mere physical prowess a quality worthy of recognition, but my burning desire to shed some light into the mysteries of my past, and the identity of the surreptitious voice that shared my skull with me. Joneleth had been quiet ever since the sudden bout of madness that had seized me earlier that day, yet now that I was aware of his presence I could not but worry of what would happen if he decided to take full control of my body. Was I even real? Or was my own existence an aberration, a quiet madness, a dream from which he would wake up one day to discover that his body and mind were possessed by a stranger? I was mortally afraid to learn the answer to this puzzle, and at the same time tempted by the possibility to resolve my doubts once and for all. But as my mind struggled with this dilemma, my body continued on its relentless quest through the labyrinth.
After a few hours of climbing and crawling through the dark tunnels I had lost track of time, and was acutely aware of the fact that I would never be able to find the way back without my guides. Not surprisingly, that was the smallest of my worries, since finding the magically hidden entrance to the dragon's lair, and approaching its inhabitants would more than likely make the problem of return irrelevant. Finally, after a particularly long and challenging trek up a narrow duct, abundant with bizarre stone formations and razor-sharp fragments thereof, we entered the wider passage that was distinctly different from anything we had passed before. For one, this segment of the labyrinth had illumination of its own: some weak influx of light poured from the lower end of an arched corridor that sloped downwards like a giant diving platform or a launching pad of a ship that would dare sail into the vast pool of grey fog below. The corridor itself was wide enough for a medium sized dragon to pass through with its wings folded tight, and was full of cold drafts and lingering whispers of ghostly wind. Judging by that continuous motion of air, the tunnel had an opening to the outside world.
“This end opens into the northern side of the mountain, with nothing but a few hundred feet of bare cliff wall below. It would not matter much if you can fly, of course. Used to be one of the exits from the lair,” the freckled scout pointed to the far side of the tunnel. “Before the ceiling collapsed,” he indicated the other side, and I noted the pile of stone debris that blocked the upper end of the wide corridor, turning it into a dead end.
“The barrier cannot not be that solid. The air is still flowing through,” I noted. The halfling looked at me blankly before concurring with a brief nod.
“There used to be a small fissure in the wall leading further in, too small for the dragon, but big enough for a single person to slip inside the lair.” Olphara suddenly said behind my back. “That is what we will be looking for, young master Jon.”
“I would greatly appreciate if you stop calling me that,” I replied dryly. “And I would like all of you to stay back and let me explore the wall on my own – some of the spells that I am going to use are sensitive to other beings’ presence.”
It was pure bluff on my part, since even if I had the ‘analyze portal’ or ‘detect secret passage’ spells in my spellbook, (and I did not) they could not be disrupted by anything or anybody once cast, unless the unfortunate meddler was accidentally sucked into the portal itself. But the halflings did not know that, and looked at me with discretion. They retreated back to the passage from whence we had came, taking their useless lantern and other equipment, although Olphara had a suspicious glint in her eyes. I suppose at that point she still believed that there was some rationale in my behavior, and that I would not dare to enter the dragon lair alone, even if I had designs on Adalon’s hoard. Or, perhaps, she thought that if I was mad enough to try my luck, it was not that important. Once the entrance was located, they could let me rush in and get myself killed by whichever of the two dragons that was still alive. As I walked forward, I could hear the halflings chatting quietly between themselves whilst unpacking the provisions in preparation for a long wait. My own stomach was empty since the early morning, but the mere thought of eating made me queasy, so I quickly moved away from them and concentrated on my task.
Given that I lacked the spells required to locate the portal by regular arcane means, the only way left open to me was to use my intellect and my senses, with possible help from a magical artifact or two. That was my master plan from the start: try locating the door by means of sensing the live dragon on the other side. I hoped that draconic presence would feel the strongest around the portal, if my assumption that Adalon had survived the fight were correct. And I was going to find the dragon by testing the temperature of the Dragon ring – the small wyvern-shaped brass ornament from the jahi’s cache of magical items that I wore on my little finger. The ring was crafted for the purpose of communing with dragons, and naturally, it was fine-tuned to the draconic magic. A crude and barbaric way to go about my business, but beggars cannot be choosers.
Initially, my chosen tactic did not seem to work. I traversed the mound of stones that barred the tunnel, only to confirm that the barricade was indeed impenetrable. A long time ago the ceiling had collapsed under the weight of the upper galleries, filling the passage with chunks of granite the size of a small house, mixed with smaller fragments about the size of a horse. That stone pile was dangerously unstable, and prone to sudden avalanches of dust and pebbles. I had my doubts about the cause and timing of the original disaster, but it did not change the ultimate fact: the resulting barrier was impassable. The walls of the tunnel on both sides of the barricade were solid and smooth to the touch – almost too solid for that feeling to be real. At some point in my explorations, I nearly thought I could feel the tingling of the ring, but it passed quickly, and was never able to locate the spot again.
After a half hour of repetitive failures, the urgency of my task faded, and I persisted in my search more out of sheer stubbornness than of hope. It felt quite useless, but I could not give up just yet, if only because it would have proved to the halflings yet again that my magic was as weak and inefficient as their wise man’s. But the stones looked impervious, and whether I touched the wall or not, the ring on my hand stayed cool as would have any ordinary piece of copper. Soon my thoughts began to drift, even as my fingers continued to rap on the cold surface exploring every crevice and uneven bump on the rough stone. The light coming from the distant opening was fading – soon the tunnel would be aswarm with shadows, and then the darkness of the coming night would fill it to the rim. There are many places below the thin crust of earth that are always swathed in its soothing embrace: places cold and quiet as the black stagnant waters of hidden forest wells, full of mysteries beckoning the greedy mind that is burning with insatiable passion for more knowledge.
“Why do you think the creature that is capable of threading on clouds, the being bright and luminous as the first star of the morning would hide her brilliance in the deepest hellhole of the Underdark? I find it deeply ironic, in the least.”
“Stop being ridiculous - you know the story behind this little oddity bloody well already! Your illustrious girlfriend bound her with an oath, and you were there when the bargain was sealed, as you well remember.”
“Did I ever tell you that I find your temporal pragmatism quite boring? If I did not know you better, I would have expected a more poetic answer from one of your persuasion. No matter, I have no desire to listen to the further spill of vulgarities.”
“Would you rather hear me spew a gush of bad poetry as I bite through your jugular? I thought not. Although I doubt your blood is any good after all those years of rotting alive. Your restoration had the strangest effect on you, brother dear. I find this weird combination of your old cynicism and newly found exuberance hard to swallow, forgive my bad pun. It makes me worry for the final outcome of our mission. Will you be able to keep your resolve when it would come to facing ‘her’?”
“Now this is a question I would not ask again, if I were you, ‘sister’. It is well within my powers to end your pathetic existence, undeath or not. You would not want to risk provoking my anger.”
“Ah! I like you so much better when you are your old self. We have almost reached the place. Another turn and she may hear us approach. What would you like me do when we get there? Our allies were adamant about her removal, and despite all your ‘powers’, I doubt you would like to face the pesky lizard alone.”
“You will stay out of my way, foolish girl. I am quite capable of dealing with the dragon myself, and this is my final word - I will tolerate no interference from you. There is no need to resort to brutal force. The solution to this little puzzle can be elegant, yet effective enough.”
“Now, you have my curiosity piqued. I have no doubt that your answer will be as brilliant as ever, and will await your return most impatiently. But would not you at least give me a hint as to what you are going to do?”
“You shall see the outcome of this game soon enough, impatient one. Yes, you shall see.”
The back of my skull hit the stone with an audible thud. Their presence was so real - I could almost see their shades sliding down the narrow path leading deeper into the gaping mouth of the cave. My head was spinning as I slid further and further into welcoming darkness, even as the wall behind my back flashed with faint glow of purple fire. The concealment magic was tuned to someone’s presence… But who was he, the tall dark stranger walking towards me from the shadows, smiling beatifically as an old trusted friend? His face was so familiar and yet so alien, it looked almost like a mask of fine porcelain or skillfully crafted leather – smooth, beautiful, and deathlike still. The lips painted a perfect shade of pink, pale cheeks with delicately crafted bone structure, and above all – the eyes, two terribly cold pits of glacial blue ice. One step back, only one step…
Even as I backed away, the man made a step forward, passing through my body as though I were a mere doorway, and for the briefest of moments, we became one and the same. The world collapsed in pain, and I saw myself falling backwards through the solid wall that out of a sudden became an empty space. I could hear the puzzled exclamations of the halflings, and the low rumble of creaking stones, then my head hit the rock hard floor of the cave inside the dragon’s lair, and I was swallowed by darkness. The last thing I saw was the dim outline of the narrow fissure, winking out of existence.
Adalon is restless today – her sleep was uneasy, and she is still weary. Through the whole night she kept seeing nightmares in which the figure of an angel shining with radiance of a thousand suns stepped into her lair and suddenly turned into an ugly demon, which tore her breast apart and pulled out her still beating and bleeding heart. The dragons rarely sleep, and it is certainly not in her habit to doze off when her precious eggs, the last legacy of her treacherously murdered mate, need her attention. There are only two, two perfectly shaped light-gray ovals, speckled with blue and silver, the color of her scales and of her deeply hooded, sad eyes. That repeating dream overcame her defenses filling her with dread and quietly seething anger. She would not allow her deeply rooted fear and grief to take over her mind. If anything, she has responsibility for her unborn children.
She is lonely. It is not in the nature of her kind to be alone in time like this. She should be surrounded by properly impressed female relatives, and pampered by her mate. But he is dead – his wings cut off, his body slowly tortured to death by the fiendish creatures… Adalon cannot make herself call them anything else, since even their surface cousins’ name for them – ‘the drow’ still has an echo of ‘an elf’ in it, and she cannot sully her tongue by using that word to name the cruel black demons of the Underdark that had tricked her foolish mate into entering their trap. They will pay. She has all the time in the world to plan her revenge, and she will be patient as time herself. Her alliance with the surface elves will serve this purpose as well.
The great dragon sighs, shifting her great weight from hind paws to the front ones, and stretching her great, sinuous tail. She would give anything to be able to jump into the sparkling cold stream of fresh air from the great height of her mountain abode, and spread her wings to the chilly caress of the wind. She has not enjoyed flight for what feels like eons, and it makes her feel old and hollow inside. The Silver Dragons are not accustomed to living in dark underground caves, and Adalon knows it only too well. But her oath binds her to the place, and for the last year or so - ever since her beautiful eggs were laid - she had not had a chance to escape this dark place even for a few hours. Even her food is delivered to the entrance of her cave by the surface elves. And although she has to give them their due: they are loyal and creative in their care for her, she still misses the taste of fresh blood in her mouth.
Her cave is drowned in shadows, as she does not need much light when she is alone - she knows her home by touch. Still, she always maintains the weak magical radiation of the walls, since she does not want her children to develop in total darkness, even inside their shells. Adalon closes her eyes only for a moment, but even as the semi-transparent, silvery film of her eyelids slides over the shiny surface of her orbs, her ears discern something unusual - a steady rhythmic sound that she always associates with bipedal walk. She snarls silently, and her gums pull back, slowly barring the sharp swords of her teeth, for now she is certain – someone is approaching the lair at a sure, leisurely pace. Even her surface allies do not dare to call on her without a warning, thus it must be an enemy, or a reckless, imprudent fool of an explorer, for who else would dare to enter the lair of a mother dragon nurturing her eggs? Adalon raises her head, and looks steadily at the entrance watching the distant glow of light in the dark corridor grow in radiance and acquire the soft yellow color as the intruder moves closer. She will meet him at the doors, as it befits the Mistress of the House.