Tanya stands at the bottom of the valley that leads up to Fire Mountains, glad that she has finally made it after having been traveling by horse and foot for two days straight with very little sleep and food. She walks into the field, her horse prancing nervously behind her. She turns and looks at the horse, wondering if she should just leave the horse to roam the field here or bring him along but she isn’t sure what to do. She then pats the horse and tells him to stay close and enjoy the sweetgrass while she is gone. She doesn’t know how she is even going to carry the egg down the mountain let alone carry it while riding the horse or walking without the dragons catching her but she has to try to go through with it. She then remembers the bag that she was given by Morlock and hopes that the enchantment will shrink the egg and make it light so she can run away. She takes in a sharp breath and heads onto the trail that leads further through the field to the trail that will take her into the caves and caverns where the dragons live.
She walks until she comes to the first cave, pulling out an old lantern that her parents had stashed away in the back of their closet and lights it. Tanya sighs heavily as she looks inside, straining to hear for any signs of dragons. Not hearing anything, she heads up the trail to where there is another cave and she peeks inside, hearing the low rumbling of sleeping dragons somewhere deep inside. She ventures further in to see that there are no nests but only older dragons so she quietly backtracks until she is outside and back on the trail that branches off in three directions the first going to a cave to her left while the other two heads further up the mountain, one leading to the right, the other heading straight up. She decides to walk on the right trail, feeling that the nests will be in a bigger cave off in that direction.
Her gut feeling pays off and in no time at all, she is standing in a huge cave where the dragons have created a nursery, nests containing eggs and small areas set aside for the babies once they have hatched. She isn’t sure what kind of dragons live in the Fire Mountains, but she knows that there are two or three different species of dragons in that cave just then. She tiptoes towards the nests, seeing green, red, and blue eggs, wondering which should she take for Morlock. She glances around to make sure that she hasn’t been seen yet by any of the sleeping dragons who are standing guard over the nests and inches closer to the closest nest, the nest full of blue eggs.
She decides to just grab one of those and puts her arms around it, surprised at how warm it feels. She hugs the egg for a moment, feeling and sensing the little life forming inside, waiting for the right day to come bursting out to meet its mommy, daddy, and siblings. But sadly, this little one will not be able to meet his dragon family as she has to take him away from them and give him, or her, to Morlock. She looks down at the egg again, a tear splashing down on the hard eggshell and she pulls free the bag that Morlock has given her, opening the top as wide as it can go. She then slips the bag over the egg, watching the egg seem to shrink as the bag covers it completely. She sighs in relief, glad that the egg will be easy to carry as she puts the bag onto her back before she turns and comes face to face with a baby dragon who is curiously staring up at her.
She watches as the baby dragon sniffs at her, cocks its head to the side, and then moves closer to her, trying to figure out what she is, quietly screeching at her. She takes in a shaky breath and steps backward, holding her hands up as if that will make her disappear and the baby dragon will walk away. She hopes that the baby will lose interest in her if it sees her moving away, not wanting to play. But the baby only grows more interest and follows her, screeching louder as it tries to catch up with her. Not being able to see where she is going, she trips over something and falls hard on her back, making sure to not land on the bag or the precious cargo inside. The baby dragon screeches excitedly as it tries to jump on her once she is on the ground, catching the attention of two large adults.
The adults look over at their nursery and see one of the babies has escaped. Shaking their heads, they walk from their perch over to where the baby is playing, but they freeze when they see a human in their cave so close to their eggs and hatchlings. They growl, spreading their wings to grow larger, and they tap their claws on the rock floor, lowering their heads to glare at the human. Tanya gasps and stands up quickly, not sure how she will get out of this one as she sees them getting ready to spit fire at her, the intruder. She wonders if she makes herself into a small ball it would cause the fire to eat her faster, thus killing her faster but she knew that it will hurt no matter what she does. The baby notices the adults and makes what sounds like a laugh as it prances around, trying to get closer to them. One pushes the baby to the side, only concentrating on Tanya.
The baby sees them staring at its new playmate and instantly understands what the adults are about to do to her. The baby squeals and jumps in front of Tanya just as they are about to shoot fire at her to burn her to a crisp. Fire erupts from their mouths and sails towards Tanya’s shaking body. The baby screams and jumps in front of Tanya, the adults crying out when they see that their baby has jumped into the danger. Tanya catches the baby as it can’t fly yet and hugs the baby close, turning to shield the baby from the fire. The fire brushes her back, burning through the cloak and dress, licking at her skin on her back. She cries out in pain glancing over her shoulder and gasping as the fire burns her left cheek. The burning doesn’t last long as the fire is shielded from her by two giant bodies, those belonging to the adult dragons, their scales protecting them from the flames of their own fire.
Tanya cradles the baby to her chest as she turns to stare into four huge brown eyes of the adults. She is in searing pain but she hides it as she holds out the baby to them, “I am so sorry. I know I shouldn’t be here but I have heard tales of these mountains and of you. I had to see it for myself and to see the nursery makes me so happy.” She smiles, leaving out the part that she has stolen one of their eggs. “I will leave now and I promise to keep your secret so no other adventurers will come and bother you, especially those who seek dragons for their treasures or for their scales.”
One of the dragons take their baby gently in their mouth and walks away, taking the little one back to their sleeping area for a nap. The other eyes Tanya, sniffing at her for a moment then leans in closer, narrowing her eyes at the human. She then sniffs the bag but thanks to Morlock’s magic, the dragon cannot smell the egg that is hidden deep inside. The dragon nods towards the entrance of the cave, having smelled the sincerity of Tanya’s words and allowing her to go. Tanya thanks the dragons and without hesitation, runs out of the cave, pain surging through her back as she runs. She doesn’t know how long she can keep it up but she makes her way down the trail, heading past the other caves, and hoping that the dragons stay inside.
She hears movement from inside the first cave she had gone into and she holds her breath, freezing on the trail. Her breath quickens and her chest heaves, hoping that the movement is just the dragons settling down for more sleep and not waking up for a meal or to go out flying or whatever it is that dragons do when awake. After a few moments of listening to her own breath and the pain in her back causing tears to stream down her face, she dares to move again and walks out of the mountains and back into the field where she can see her horse grazing in the distance. She hears the sounds of beating wings behind her and she knew that there are at least two dragons heading her way. She can feel her burnt skin ripping from her back as she runs, her dress being the culprit to rip it off when each movement. She has to get to her horse before the dragons enter the field. The two adults who let her go may have realized that the egg is missing or haven’t told the others that she is free to go. She makes it to her horse just as three young dragons race into the field, their wings beating quickly as they dive and play, letting just the tips of their wings stroke the grass in the field. Tanya gets up on her horse and watches as the dragons ignore her but continue to play.
Sighing in relief, she turns her horse away from the field and begins her long trip home, hoping that the pain in her back will subside eventually. After a few miles of riding, the pain becomes too much and she has to stop. She looks at the map, finding the nearest stream or lake so that she can take the dress off and can wash her burnt skin off. She hopes that the cream will help but she remembers that she is almost out and wonders if she should chance going back to the other village to visit her friend, Lilly, to get more. But since she doesn’t know how long the spell Morlock has placed on her village to protect her, she decides against it and heads for the nearest stream she has found on the map.
Once she gets there, she slowly slips off of the horse and looks around to make sure that no one is near. Satisfied that she is alone, she carefully strips off her black cloak and dress, knowing that this time she won’t be able to repair it. She will have to leave it behind, burying it somewhere where no one will be able to find it. Of course, she knew that it didn’t matter if it is found since no one will know it is hers. She drops the clothes on the grass and tries to look over her shoulder to see how badly her back is burned. It may have just been a few seconds but a dragon’s fire can burn fierce and quick. She moves to the stream’s edge and looks down into the moving water, turning to see that her back is indeed bleeding and has some burnt skin still attached. She steps into the cold water and gasps as her skin instantly prickles with goosebumps. She slowly lowers herself into the water, sitting on the smooth rocks to get the water closer to her back since the stream isn’t very deep. Not wanting to do it but knowing it is the only way, she lays back into the water and lets it cold hands rush over her back, peeling away the last of the dead skin and rubbing off the blood. She fights against the screaming that she wants to do as the water works its magic on her back. She wishes that the magic would actually heal her but it doesn’t, only soothes the pain away along with the blood and skin.
Feeling that she has cleaned her back as much as she could, she slowly stands up and shivers once the warm air hits her. She kneels down beside the edge of the stream and places her hands in the cold water, cupping her hands to catch the water. She uses the water to wash her burned cheek, again washing off the burnt skin and cleaning the flesh underneath it so that she doesn’t risk getting an infection. She watches off the blood from her cheek and then her hands, glancing around nervously. She grabs her cloak and finds a part that isn’t bloody, drying off before she pulls out other traveling clothes from her bag. She dresses, gets rid of her cloak and black dress, and is back on the road in no time. She wants to get closer to home as much as possible before she has to camp for the night.
Along the way, she listens to the birds and the other creatures, hoping that the dragons aren’t stalking her as she has heard they do from time to time. She glances over her shoulder, hearing their wings beating in the sky but it is just her imagination. Finally, she felt that she is a safe distance away from the mountains even though that meant she and her horse had to ride late into the night with only the stars and moons as their light. She gets her bedroll out and finds a good quiet spot beside some trees not too far from the road, tying her horse to a low branch nearby. She sets up her small tent, her dad having shown her how when she was a young girl and they camped in their back yard or in the meadow and places her bedroll inside. She makes a fire and cooks the meat she took from home, staring into the flames feeling lonely. She knows that since she has finished this task that she must now complete the hardest task yet; killing the man she loves.
Tanya feeds her horse some hay and oats she had packed then eats her own small dinner before heading inside her tent to find some cloth to place on her cheek and back before going to bed. She didn’t want to think about the last task, she only wants to sleep and wake up early so she can get home sooner rather than later. She knew that she will get to her village by late afternoon tomorrow so she will have to hide out until night, sneak their horseback to the stables, unpack, wash up, and get to bed before the spell Morlock has cast on her town wears off. She closes her eyes, doing her best to ignore the pain she feels in her back and her face and listens to the sounds of the night, allowing it to sing her to sleep.