Quara turned a questioning gaze towards Ausfela’s as they waited for the water dragon to continue her explanation. She was so stunned that she could hardly put two words together, even in her thoughts. Although she could hardly be blamed for her silence and confusion, with her boots melted to her feet and a steady, excruciating pain growing as the adrenalin that had sustained her in the previous trials wore off. She realized that the smoke was much less pervasive in the crater and that while she could still feel a slight rattling in her chest with each breath, she was no longer struggling to force air into her lungs.
Marella was an enormous creature, and as Quara counted the number of coils that held her sister, and added them to the length that was unfurled and snaked through the water, she guessed that she was at least three times longer than Ausfella. She was much narrower though, and her scales were a smooth shimmering silver that blended, one into the next. She had wings of a sort, although they looked as much like fins as they did wings made for the air, and Quara suspected that she would not be able to fly all that far out of the water, if she could take to the air at all.
“She swims, very, very quickly and then at full speed, she expands her wings and sort of skips across the surface, touching down now and then very briefly before gliding further along. She has another set of smaller wing-fins further down, somewhere underwater.” Quara frowned at the dragon, who seemed to be hearing quite a few of her thoughts as the day progressed. “It’s not my fault if you’re thinking loudly constantly now. And most of the time you’re thinking at me. Haven’t you noticed.”
“Follow me.” Marella snaked through the water, still holding Lina aloft as she headed towards the island.
“She is breathing, right? Will she be okay?” Quara spoke loudly so that the creature could hear her, and wondered if it could also read her thoughts if she spoke them at the serpent.
“Sea dragons communicate just as we land dragons do. And she will be okay. She has to be okay.” Ausfela offered the answer to her unspoken question yet again, but the second part of her statement sounded very much like she was trying to convince herself that her words were true.
“She’s breathing steadily, although she took quite a blow to the head.” The serpent’s voice was clear and crisp. “If I had to guess I’d say she won’t be feeling all that well when she wakes up. But she will wake up. She was lucky. Not many have walked away from a battle with Grislingham in one piece. Well, to be entirely honest, not many have walked away from battles with him at all. I’m not entirely certain, but I don’t believe he’s ever been defeated. He was and still is the nightmare of many strong, capable soldiers. And what this child did today will cause many to give more weight to the prophecy than they have in many years.”
“Grislingham?” Ausfela made a choking sound, and stopped so suddenly that Quara lurched forward in her seat.
“You didn’t know?” Marella’s expression was amused, but then she cast another glance at Lina and began to speed more rapidly through the water.
They reached the edge of the island in a matter of moments. Ausfela was flying low, so they were only a few lengths from Lina at any given moment. Every few flaps of her wings she would tear her gaze from Lina to look up at the red dragon, still thrashing and disoriented in the sky, although it appeared that he was trying to find a place to land on the rim, perhaps to reconsider his options.
Two women emerged from the dense forest that covered most of the island and lifted Lina from Marella’s coils. They were dressed in light blue linen fabric and both had hair dyed to match their brightly colored clothing. After peering into their faces for a moment, as they busily worked to set Lina upon a sort of stretcher that they quickly lifted and began to carry away from the water’s edge, Quara realized that they didn’t seem altogether human.
“Naiads.” Ausfela explained. “And their hair isn’t dyed. It comes in all sorts of shades of turquoise and blue and sometimes even purple. They weren’t always on the friendliest of terms with humans and dragons, even water dragons, but this war has forced some unusual friendships upon us and after a few centuries, it doesn’t even feel that unusual anymore.” Quara hardly realized that her fingers had undone the buckle on her harness and that she was about to swing her leg over to slide down off of Ausfela’s back, when the dragon stopped her. “You will regret that if your feet touch the ground. I know that they hurt now, but they will hurt a hundred times more if you actually try to put weight on them. Stay on my back for as long as you can. It’s better this way. And you can see Lina more clearly from up higher, at least for now.”
Quara shifted her weight and settled back into the saddle, but she didn’t buckle the harness again. She wanted to be ready to slide down to the ground if her sister needed her, regardless of the red hot throbbing from the bottom half of her legs that came and went in steady waves. Moments after entering the forest she was bent forward with her chest pressing against the cantle of the saddle and her arms protecting her face and head from branches. She knew that it was far better for her up in the saddle than it would have been struggling down below through the underbrush, even with Ausfela clearing a path for her, but she still found herself wishing she could slide down the dragon’s side and run ahead to walk beside her sister and make sure she was alright.
When she could lift her head, in places where the trees didn’t bend their branches as if they were trying to block the path and turn back intruders to the island, Quara kept her eyes focused on the naiads. They seemed to slide over the road with smoothly graceful steps, their every movement a sort of dance. Lina, on the cot suspended between them, benefited from this immensely, since she lay quite still as they flowed across the land. And it almost appeared that the trees leaned away a bit, out of their way as they moved forward, although they made no such efforts to help the dragon and her charge along.
The twelfth time a branch raked through her hair, Quara gave a small whimper of frustration, and Ausfela looked around at her to see if she was alright. “The trees here know that they’re to let the naiads through, but they aren’t quite so bright that they realize that we’re with them and so they give us the same hard time that they give everyone else. Don’t take it personally and try to keep your head down. This island isn’t all that large, so wherever they’re taking us, we should be there soon. And convincing them that we’re friends, even with the naiads help, would take us far longer than we have at the moment. Lina needs help from their healers now.”
They came around a large bend, past several enormous groves of trees that gave Quara the distinct impression that they were standing guard and their eyes were met with a sight that seemed rather out of place. The ground had been rising steadily since they began their inland hike, with occasional dips and gullies here and there, but overall the path tended towards a gradual increase in elevation. In the midst of the forest, hidden amid lush foliage, a wide, arching stone wall rose abruptly from the forest floor. The face of the rock was entirely covered with rushing water and in the few places where the water was trickling there grew thick, lush moss.
Quara thought that the oddest part of the entire waterfall was the noise. She had hardly heard it at all as they approached, but the moment she stepped into the clearing that surrounded the pond that the waterfall emptied into, the sound of the noisy stream made it nearly impossible to hear anything else. Staring at the pond Quara tried to find the stream that drained the water into the larger lake that filled the crater, but after scanning the line of the water from one side of the waterfall, around the pond and back to the waterfall’s other side, she found nothing. She was just about to ask where the enormous amounts of water cascading down the rock wall disappeared to, when she saw that the naiads had walked around the right hand side of the water fall and stopped. Both naiads turned and glanced at Ausfela and Quara, obviously waiting for the two slower members of their party to catch up.
Ausfela lumbered over to where they waited and the naiad closest to the falls turned back so that she was facing the rock wall and waved her hand, making a movement that looked quite a bit like she was pushing aside an invisible curtain. Her hand didn’t touch the water, but the rushing liquid followed her finger tips as though she had, curling back as she brushed it aside and revealing an enormous cave that had been entirely hidden by the rushing water only a moment earlier.
This cave was wet and slick and cold. Still, Ausfela walked forward, following the naiads without hesitation, and Quara went along willingly, for there was no place else that offered any sort of shelter and it was clear that she and her sister could not continue the journey in their present state without taking some time to heal. The waterfall closed behind them the moment that the entire group was safely inside the cave, and in the softer light the two naiads instantly seemed more relaxed.
“Come, it isn’t far now. The most trying part of your journey this day is already long past.” The naiad who had led the way, spoke in a voice that reminded Quara of drops of water falling from the sky on a spring day, although she was never able to say exactly why, for when she later concentrated on that same naiad’s voice she would realize that there was really nothing to distinguish it from an ordinary human voice, and yet the perception remained.
The deeper they walked into the cave, the darker it became and then suddenly they were moving down and down and down, so that Quara had to sit back hard in the saddle to keep from lurching forward against Ausfela’s neck and shoulder. The warm summer air was rapidly replaced as they were enveloped with a damp coolness. After a minute’s walk the light, at least to Quara’s human eyes, was entirely extinguished, although Ausfela seemed to have no problem navigating the twists and turns that they were traversing.
“This system of caverns was created to protect our fine city.” The voice of the naiad who had spoken outside by the waterfall made its way to Quara’s ears through the thick darkness. “There are hundreds of tunnels that lead off into other parts of the volcano, some of them quite deadly. We advise you not to try to find your way here alone, or uninvited, although now that you have been our guests you will ever be welcome here and you need only ask to be brought below the surface to look upon our fair towers and enjoy the perpetual spring time that is Calesque.”
The silence settled in around the little group again and the descent became more gradual. Just as Quara began to wonder if they would ever come to their destination a small blue light began to glow far down the corridor ahead of them and as they drew closer it grew larger until it turned into a doorway, large enough even for Ausfela to squeeze through if she dipped her head crouched a bit and furled her wings tightly against her enormous form, protecting Quara from even brushing against the walls as she moved with great care.
The sight that met Quara’s eyes as she rode through the doorway was like nothing she had ever seen before. They were inside of an enormous dome hidden far down in the depths of the crater, far beyond the point where sunlight penetrated the murky waters in the depths of the great lake. The crater was deeper than Quara would have imagined if she’d had the time to think of such things when they’d been up above the ground. It must have extended nearly to the bottom of the dormant volcano. And the dome made up a sort of false bottom to the lake above it, only instead of sand the water filling the crater gave way to an enormous clear egg that appeared to be made of thick curving glass. Below the glass, what the naiad had referred to as a city was really more like a village, not unlike the Caverns that the girls had grown up in.
There was a castle with towers, although it was far smaller than the one they’d been trapped inside of a few days earlier. It was made of a pale golden marble, and had four towers and walls and what appeared to be a keep in the center of the structure. Each tower, and the keep itself, were crowned with thin aquamarine silk flags, that lay still in world that would never know any sort of wind. The windows and doors were arched and a market came almost up to the doors of the palace, where two guards stood, one on either side of a gateway, which was smaller than the doorway that they had just passed through. Behind it a large door leading into the palace stood wide open.
Beyond the market behind the palace, there were at least a dozen large homes and between two of the largest there was an open area with benches where several dozen children appeared to be learning their lessons from a frail looking elderly woman with neat purple hair bound back in a bun on the top of her head. She flitted about in front of the class, animatedly gesturing as she told a story that Quara felt immediately was immensely interesting.
Closer to where they had entered the city there were rows and rows of small, neat brightly colored houses. They appeared to be made of stone, but they were colors that Quara had never seen outside of gemstones, which these clearly weren’t created from. They looked quite a bit like river stones, they were solidly opaque, but they were blue and green and a few were purple and one was the most outrageous shade of pink that Quara had ever seen. If it hadn’t been for the serious circumstances that they had found themselves in, and if it weren’t for her concern for her sister, the sight of the houses would have immediately brought a smile to her face. Glancing down Quara saw that the ground was covered in small, brightly covered stones. It was entirely unlike the Caverns.
As they approached the castle her eyes were drawn upwards to the light source and she saw that on the other side of the dome, suspended some feet from the curved surface, there was a large golden light, identical to the Heart and to the little light that Ausfela had forced them to leave back in the Hall of Lights. The light filtering down through the water gave the light within the dome a slightly bluish tint.
The dome was large enough that she couldn’t take in the entire city at once and before she had a chance to observe anything else they came to the gates of the palace and were waved through, trailing behind the two naiads that led the way, still holding Lina between them. Ausfela and Quara barely fit through the door of the keep. Very carefully so as not to unseat her rider, Ausfela bowed, and Quara attempted to follow suit from the place where she sat, still high atop the dragon’s back, without yet being able to see who she was bowing to. She had the distinct feeling though that if Ausfela bowed to someone, she should as well.
As her eyes adjusted to the dimly lit room, Quara realized that the person that they had come to see was a human. She wasn’t sure why this surprised her, but she realized after a moment’s reflection that she hadn’t expected to see any humans living in this world beneath a lake. The woman was tall and slender, with a smooth pleasant face. Her hair was almost entirely dark, and it was tied in a knot at the back of her neck, but her most remarkable feature, from a distance at least, where two thick strands of white that began at each of her temples and disappeared behind her head. Ausfela dipped her head again, in a movement that was not quite a bow, and a man that Quara hadn’t noticed when they first entered the room, armed with a spear, came forward from the shadows and extended his hand.
She slipped down the side of the dragon, her attention divided between her sister, who had not yet stirred and the woman before her who she now realized stood before a throne of sorts. The chair was enormous and turquoise and looked as though it was made of spun glass.
Quara’s thoughts were so firmly fixed on everyone other than herself that the dull, constant throbbing of her feet had been pushed to the very back of her thoughts, until the moment when the soles of her feet touched the floor and she let out a piercing scream. The woman, who had walked forward to the place that they had set Lina, still lying upon her stretcher with the naiads standing beside her, straightened and turned towards Quara again, her features showing concern for these two girls who she hadn’t yet formally been introduced to. Quara collapsed in place, tears rushing to her eyes as she felt a wet sloshing inside what had once been her boots and felt her legs immediately give way beneath her.
“Lanal please help her. Formalities are unnecessary here for we shall be allies, and more than that, I hope that we will also be friends. We can leave the throne room, and retire to my chambers. Natiana, if you please, send for as many healers as they can spare from the hospital. Both of these girls need to be looked at, and quickly. Tell whoever is coming to be prepared for burns, from dragon fire, and a blow to the head.” The naiad who had not spoken disappeared from the room as the guard scooped Quara up and began to carry her past the throne away from Ausfela. Before Quara could object the woman, whose name she hadn’t yet learned, held up her hand. “You will see your dragon friend again soon. But there are questions that she can answer and aid that she can still give to those who are battling up above. Dragon, if you will return to the outer edge of the dome I believe you are needed.” Ausfela bobbed her head a second time and disappeared out the door she had come in through, into the bright light of almost-day that filled the underwater city.
Quara bit her lip as she was carried across the room by the broad shouldered guard. She thought at first that he was human, but as the lantern light bounced off his hair she realized that it was not entirely black, as she’d first thought, but also held the faintest traces of blue. He had a straight, narrow nose and a strong jaw, although Quara hardly noticed that as she stared in the direction of her feet, which weren’t as intensely agonizing now that she was no longer on them, but which hurt immensely just the same.
The woman whose name Quara still didn’t know, held the door open for them as they entered a smaller room with couches and cushions, all made of fabric that was the color of the sea. The floors were thick with rugs piled one on the top of the next, although Quara couldn’t appreciate the softness as she would have if she had been able to stand. The walls were made of the same golden stone as the buildings outside of the palace.
Quara watched as her sister was laid on a large couch and the young guardsman who carried her placed her on another couch near the first. She winced as she adjusted her feet as best she could so that they weren’t touching anything at all, with her ankles and legs hanging over the edge of the couch while she leaned back on the softest pillow that she’d ever touched.
“I am Henel, the leader of the human contingent of the city, and at the moment I also hold the position of the head of the leadership council that makes sure that the city runs smoothly. Our healers will be here soon, to help you and your sister, although Natiana is rather adept at healing in her own right, especially at the reading of injuries, and she did not seem overly concerned. I’m certain that you have many questions, and I know that we certainly do as well. But I must begin by asking how you came to be in the unfortunate position of being hunted by Grislingham, the chief of the Emperor’s dragons, and whether that means that we should expect more of the enemy’s spies and scouts searching for you in the coming hours and days.”
As Quara thought of an answer to the question that had been put before her, she noticed that her head had begun to throb along with her feet and she raised a hand to her temple and closed her eyes for a moment before she began to speak. “He wasn’t searching for us when he found us. He was burning the forest, from the Walemont Caverns heading east, so that anyone who tried to hide in the trees and brush wouldn’t have cover, I think. The army is there, by the Caverns, waiting for something.” Quara paused and took a deep breath, wondering if Henel knew of the Caverns.
“We were trying to walk to Za’Reek, under cover of the forest, but the flames were too fast and the fire caught up with us. At first we just thought that the wind was against us, pushing the fire, but then after we took to the skies to escape the raining embers. we saw the red dragon behind us, just coming up over the hill, spouting fire down at the woods as if the flames that he’d already spread needed any help destroying everything in sight.” Quara sighed and shook her head, remembering the morning and thinking that it seemed much further away than a few short hours. “And then I fainted. I think I fainted. I was having trouble breathing down below in the smoke and then I saw him and the world began to spin, faster and faster and then everything went black. The next thing that I remember was waking up above the crater-”
“We know the rest,” Henel interrupted kindly, before Quara began to attempt to retell and to relive the moments that followed. “And here come the healers.” She made a sweeping motion with her hand a moment before a small group entered through the door, three of them, a man and woman who appeared to be human and an elderly man whose pale blue hair gave away his identity as a naiad, heading straight for the couch where Lina lay, unmoving. A small woman with hair the color of emeralds, plaited and wound into two buns on the top of her head, entered the door behind the group and came to sit beside Quara.
Henel stood and moved away from the couches, making room for the healer to sit as she walked quickly from the room, as though she had been called away on urgent business, although no one had said a word to her about being needed elsewhere. Quara knew that it was likely that she had left to check on the situation with the dragon, who the people of this little city apparently felt was now their problem.
“I heard that you two fought off a dragon. How incredibly brave!” The green haired naiad was small, smaller even than Lina, with remarkably round blue eyes. She had spent the previous five minutes thinking about the two young girls battling one of the most dangerous dragons in the history of the world and winning and she could hardly believe what she had heard.
“I didn’t do anything really, other than sit strapped to the back of our dragon, unconscious. My sister did something and I woke up when he breathed the fire that hit Ausfela and of course, it hit me too since I was on her back, although most of it was blocked by her body, otherwise it would have been much worse.”
“You wouldn’t have survived.” The naiad said the words seriously as she set a small sky blue bag next to Quara on the couch and tugged at its draw strings. She removed a rather flat silver cylinder from the bag and unscrewed the lid until it was loose, and then set it beside her, a small distance away where she could easily reach it but it wouldn’t be in danger of being knocked over. “Now, we need to get those boots off to have a look at your feet. I’m afraid that this isn’t going to be pleasant. But it could be worse. Leather doesn’t melt.” Pausing she glanced around the room. “Lanal,” she spotted the guard standing by the door, watching the healers work. “Can you bring me a large bowl of water, neither hot nor cold, that we can soak her boots in before I try to pull them off?”
“Do you deal with burns often?” Quara had a feeling she knew the answer before she asked the question, but she asked it all the same.
“Not very often. Our city is so well insulated that we don’t have much need for heating of any kind. We do cook though and so it happens occasionally.”
Lanal appeared after a few moments carrying a wide, shallow clay bowl filled with water. He carefully placed it on the spot that the healer had pointed to before returning to his place by the door, turning his back on the room this time as he gazed out into the throne room beyond.
Carefully Quara lowered her boots into the bowl, trying not to rest them on the bottom of the dish, or do anything that would apply any sort of pressure to the soles of her feet. It hurt all the same. Every movement that she made hurt. Leaning back against the chair she stole a glance over her shoulder and saw that Lina had not yet awakened. Still she was somewhat comforted by the fact that the healers who were surrounding her did not look overly concerned.
“So humans and naiads live together in this city?” Quara managed the words through clenched teeth as they waited to remove the boots until they had soaked a bit longer.
“You could say that. Some of us naiads, like those of us who work as healers, sleep here inside of the dome. We do it to help and because there is safety in numbers, and safety in being hidden so far below the surface of the lake. Do you know anything about naiads?” When Quara shook her head she continued. “We don’t need the dome. We don’t really need a city at all. Naiads live beneath the waves, much like mermaids, and we don’t need to breathe air to live. And that is why, when the fighting started, we believed that we would be safe from the violence and that there was no reason to get involved. We were wrong.”
“The Emperor’s violence extended past the shorelines of the rivers and lakes and oceans that make up Charcha’s waterways. Land, air, sea, it didn’t matter a bit. No one was safe from his all-consuming anger. His wrath. He would be avenged on all of us, whether we had played a role in his sorrow or not.”
“How’s the boot removal coming?” Ausfela’s voice interrupted the naiad and both Quara and the healer glanced at the entrance from the throne room, where the dragon’s massive head was resting, waiting for an update.
“I’m thinking that perhaps we should just leave them on forever.” Quara was half serious when she said the words, although she knew that leaving them on wasn’t a practical solution or a real possibility.
“Once they’re off though I can apply that balm and then you won’t feel a bit of pain. You’ll have to be careful of course to let them heal. Lots of rest and relaxation for more time than I imagine any of you will want to spare. But before I say more I need to see them, so let’s give those boots a pull.”
“I could feel something squishing inside of them when I got down off Ausfela. I think they’re full of blood.” Quara pressed her back hard against the couch and tilted her head back so that she was staring up at the ceiling.
“Alright, here we go.” Quara pressed the back of her hand against her mouth at the word “go” and waited expectantly for the feeling of pain that was inevitable. The boot stuck to her foot for an excruciating moment and then pulled free of the burnt skin. Quara managed not to scream when the first boot off, but when the action was repeated she let out a whimper and left teeth marks in the back of her hand, squeezing her eyes tightly shut. When she opened them again she glanced down, expecting to see her feet stained with blood, but instead she found that the tops of her feet looked absolutely ordinary.
“You were really quite lucky that it wasn’t worse since you were burned with dragon fire. This will hurt for a while, a month maybe, but it should heal nicely. As I said before, you’ll need to be careful and we’ll have to watch it to make sure that an infection doesn’t set in.” Pushing the lid aside from the container the healer slathered Quara’s feet in the ointment and as she had promised, within moments of the cream’s application an icy numbness overtook the pain and it faded away into nothingness.
Quara moved her feet carefully so that she could peer down at the bottoms and evaluate the damage for herself. When she finally managed to twist her leg around so that she could see the sole of her foot she gasped. At least a dozen blisters covered her foot, beneath the salve. In a few small places the skin was burnt black, but for the most part it wasn’t quite as bad as she had expected and after getting a good look at the damage she carefully let her legs relax, still hanging off the edge of the couch as she tried to think of what this would mean for the journey that they needed to take to get to Za’Reek.
“You really will need lots of rest. And staying entirely off them is the best way to make sure that the wounds don’t open, which will make infection more likely.”
Quara nodded and tried to relax, but her thoughts remained fixed on her sister. “Can you find out for me what’s going on over there? Is she going to be okay?”
“Let me see what I can find out.” The healer moved smoothly across the room to the group surrounding Lina and knelt down by her side. Quara couldn’t hear their whispers, no matter how she strained her ears. After several minutes the naiad returned, looking quite serious, and the other healers lifted Lina on the stretcher she’d been carried in on and walked towards the door.
She quickly sat down again beside Quara, closer this time, and patted her hand in a motion that Quara was certain was meant to be reassuring. She doubted that anything other than her sister sitting up and beginning to recount the parts of the tale that Quara had missed would truly make her feel better though.
“Your sister needs rest. We naiads are quite good at sensing what is going on within the human mind, not specifics but a general overview, and we think that Lina will be fine, but her mind needs rest to heal from the blow that she sustained. We have many medicines that we can give her to help her sleep and heal in the coming days, and only time will truly tell if she is herself when she wakes. The human mind is a strange thing and even when it seems that all is well it sometimes holds surprises for us. But right now rest is the best thing for her and so they’re taking her to her own room in the hospital where she’ll be well tended. Because it seems that right now this isn’t going to be one of the quietest places in the kingdom.”
The healer tilted her head towards the door and Quara turned her gaze in that direction. She could only see the guard, but in the silence that followed the healer’s answer, she could hear the sound of voices drifting through the doorway and realized that the adjacent room was now filled with people.
“I must take my leave and return to help tend our patients, but I’ll be back to check on you after dinner, and I’ll bring you an update about your sister’s condition. Don’t expect her to wake for several days though. She needs to sleep and you need to rest.” Quara nodded and thanked the healer as she disappeared out a side entrance, following the others.
Henel swept into the room and Quara realized that Ausfela was no longer lingering in the doorway. “The counsel has assembled, both to give you an update on where things stand, and to come up with a strategy for our plans going forward. I’m not entirely clear on how much the dragon has told you, she’s been incredibly vague every time I try to get any answers out of her, but now that we know who you are and why you’re hear I think that you have the right to know it too. I’m guessing that you don’t know much, because she’s interrupted me every time I’ve even come close to beginning to touch upon the story and the few direct answers that I’ve managed to extract from her have pointed in that direction as well.”
“So I’ve taken the liberty of also inviting one of our teachers. She is a renowned poet, who for the most part has retired and now teaches the children. Still, sometimes she can be called upon to perform as she once did in the great halls of Za’Reek and she has agreed to come before the council today to tell you the story of how we have all come to be here, which is also the story of who you and your sister are and why you are so important to our world. Since your dragon seems so intent on protecting you from your own history.”
“She’s not really my dragon.” Quara muttered the words as she absorbed everything that Henel had said.
“She certainly does act like it. She was out there in the main room inspecting every member of the council who came in. She’s gone over to the hospital, insisting that they put your sister in a room large enough for her to fit inside of and she’s insisting that she won’t leave her side. I can only hope that they find a room that meets her requirements before smoke starts coming out of her nostrils and filling the entire dome with the wretched smell of dragon fire again. Now we have important matters to tend to, beginning with your history and time has, at long last, grown short. Quara of the houses of Charcha and Za’Reek, Princess of the true royal family, I present to you the Counsel of Calesque. Come forward council members and meet your princess, long may she reign.”